Backpacking – The Gear

17 10 2010

Here’s a list of all the gear that I went out with. (See this post for specifics on my pack, shelter, sleeping pad, sleeping bag.) And here’s the gear report:

The Awesome

  • CamelBak – Having a good deal of experience doing long-term travel out of a day pack, the decision to use my CamelBak Fourteener as my pack was a nice challenge. I didn’t climb any fourteeners, but nevertheless the bag served me well at 9,000 feet. I packed snugly its 1,650 cubic inches of capacity, and it had no trouble handling a couple of full carabinered-on Platypus 1L water bottles. (Another great piece of gear.)
  • Sleeping BagREI +10 Halo Mummy Bag for the win! This sleeping bag is compact, light, warm, and comfortable. One night was in the mid-20’s and I had to take off some clothing because I was too hot. That’s definitely the way it should be!
  • REI Men’s Mistral Pants – This is where quality shined. The pants were very comfortable, warm, light, compact, clean-staying, water resistant, breathable, protective, and all with excellent freedom of movement. Everything I could ask for. I never thought I would say that about a pair of pants.
  • Cell Phone – When combined with powerful MapTool software, my phone became a super-accurate GPS unit with offline topo maps and other goodies. I used it to send my location to my faithful watchers back in the city and to confirm my location on my (paper) map. Happy.
  • Collapsible Cup And Spork – Both were compact, light, and were fun to eat from / with. And the cup had measuring units labeled, so it did double-duty as a measuring cup.

The Less Awesome

  • CamelBak Bite ValveI got lucky and unlucky here. Unlucky: The bite valve sprung a pinhole leak. Lucky: It started leaking when I only had about four miles to go on my way back to the trailhead.
  • Black Diamond Spotlight BivyA perfect bivy shelter at only 18 ounces! It couldn’t be true. The Spotlight was great for two nights, but on the third night, condensation – a known problem in single-wall tents – became an issue. I slept fine and dry, but the bivy’s fabric isn’t as breathable as its manufacturer claims. Separately, while it’s by no means a deal-breaker I would prefer to have a freestanding shelter. The Spotlight needs to be staked out for it to stand upright, which restricts campsites to stake-friendly places. It was dumb luck that the stunning but rocky overlook that I chose for my third night had a few inches of dirt right in the spot I wanted.
  • MSR Windpro Stove – An awesome ultralight stove, but mine had a weird ‘feature’ where it shot huge flames out of its base. Hard to describe, but whatever. Key points: It was safe to use but was less efficient than it should have been. Its blowtorch also burned a few holes in its metal windscreen. [Note: I’ve only heard good things about this stove and haven’t heard or read of any similar experiences. I’m replacing it with the same model.]

I Wish I Had…

  • Water Treatment Substance In Liquid FormWhile I always had at least 3 liters of potable water handy, there were one or two times where I didn’t want to have to plan my water treatment four hours in advance. Chlorine tablets –> four hours to treat. Chlorine drops –> a half hour.
  • Long-Reach LighterMy BIC lighter did its job just fine, but its lack of reach made it a total pain in the ass to use on a campfire. (I used the sparking insert on my magnesium fire starter to light my stove.) I would grudgingly accept an extra two ounces of weight for a long-reach lighter.
  • Nothing ElseSeriously. Nothing. There were definitely times where I thought things like, “Oh, another pot would be great right about now,” but I always concluded that the inconvenience of carrying in that [whatever] would outweigh its benefits. This is what I was hoping for.

I Didn’t Need

This one is tough, because cutting something now inevitably means that the instant I head out again I’ll need that – and only that – thing. Nevertheless, I’ll go through this exercise with that in mind.

  • Food – Of course I need food, but I brought too much! Each day I eagerly looked forward to eating down my pack weight, but I was both pleased and horrified on my last day to find my remaining food supply sufficient for another two days. Not cool. Another day is cool. Another two days is an entire day of extra weight. ::Cue evil laughter:: Dunn dunn dunnnn!
  • iPod – It’s not on my list, but I brought a thick novel with me. The novel was a great companion (and provided free tinder as I read through it), but the iPod didn’t get used. I like hearing nature when I’m in it.
  • Toilet PaperI’m not Jack Bauer. I do use the bathroom. But… I read through a couple hundred pages of my book each day. That’s more than enough tinde r and, I didn’t try it, but yes, toilet paper.
  • Multitool – Dropping this is going to cut a nice chunk of weight from my pack. My knife is a super-cool blade that swivels between saw and knife. I didn’t touch the multitool and can’t think of a case where I would have needed to.
  • Camp Towel – I’m hesitant to drop this and probably won’t, but over four days I never once thought about, saw, or touched my towel.

Follow Up

  • Replaced The Stove (Same Model) – The new one doesn’t do the blowtorch thing. Good. It’s not supposed to.
  • Exchanged The Bivy For A Tent – Yes, a tent. Ayo wants to have the option of joining me out in the forest. Fine by me, especially because I found a spacious two-person freestanding tent with a trail weight under three pounds. Our second home on the road is the Big Agnes Seedhouse SL2. (Our first home on the road is Arvie the RV.)


The Big Agnes Seedhouse SL2 (Without The Rainfly)

The Big Agnes Seedhouse SL2 (Without The Rainfly)


All in all a big success, both in being happy with my gear and in learning more about what I like and don’t like, and what I need and don’t need.

posted by jay




7 responses

17 10 2010

I would be so mad if you dropped the towel. Hasn’t Douglas Adams taught you anything?

But otherwise, this is really interesting info, and someday when I get the opportunity to go camping I’ll keep this in mind. (Incidentally, I’m going to Bolivia & Peru over winter break, but I dont think we’ll have time to camp out, sadly.)

17 10 2010

Okay, okay. I need to defend myself.

1. Towel Day is May 25th, not all year. I promise that if I go hiking on Towel Day, I’ll take my towel. Happy?

2. Here’s the more important part: Adams suggested that an interstellar hitchhiker to carry a towel to wrap himself in, lay out on, sleep under, etc. I think you misunderstand my “towel”. Look here and you’ll see why.

17 10 2010
barbara j. levy

i remember a story my dad told us when he was a kid and poor. everyone ordered the sears catalogue (free) to use as toilet paper. back then it was a very soft paper. so, using your already read book doesn’t sound crazy to me. hopefully, it was soft paper or i suggest you take Butt Paste with you. You may be laughing but hospitals use it all the time. Available in drug stores.


19 10 2010

Thanks for the story. It was certainly educational. (Yes, I just googled “Butt Paste”.)

The next time I see a Sears catalogue, it will most definitely make me smile. Poor Sears models – ick! 🙂

18 10 2010

Here’s a father’s take on this terrific, informative post. You never know when that extra food will unexpectedly come in handy.

18 10 2010

True. But you can say that about ‘hike length + any number of days of food.’ The question isn’t whether or not to carry extra food. It’s how much.

19 10 2010

Fair point. I’ll secretly convince Yair to keep bringing extra food, but shhh – don’t tell him I told you so. 🙂

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