This list has changed much more often than I care to admit! I turn over my
gear far more often than most of my fellow hikers, so this is as much a confession
as an equipment list. Still, it may prove useful to those who wish to hear an
opinion before picking up an item or two, and we can all look back and laugh at
what I choose to call my 'thought process' that has led me to where I am now.
Having an REI store nearby appears to be having an effect - although Portland's
Next Adventure is catching up!
(Date of first use in parentheses)
purchases in pursuit of a lighter load are shaded red
- Tent - MSR Ventana (2004)
- I have tried several different shelters over the years, including a large
tarp and one fiberglass pole on the '96 trip. I
became sold on freestanding tents, and in '99 packed just fly and poles from
my cheap Stansport 3-pole tent. After several near-misses I broke down, took
what I had to a resale store, and swapped much gear for the MSR tent. This
thing is light (mostly mesh), freestanding, and has a Huge rainfly / vestibule
arrangement. The fly and pole combo (plus footprint) treated me well on the
2004 Sierra trip.
As part of the light-weight plan, in 2005 I purchased a 1-Pound Tarp online, made
of super-light slilconized nylon. This is about the size and weight of a thick
paperback book!! It shall receive its first use in 2006, so no report just yet.
- Pack - REI DL-45* (2006)
- While I still have my external pack and Alpenlite frame (1979), the internal
design is plenty comfortable and works well. As an aging packer I had begun to
seek lighter alternatives beginning in '05, and the DL-45 was on sale and
cut 3 pounds off my pack weight! *The large is in fact 50 liters, not 45 as the
pack name implies. While my gear is a bit more snug, everything seems to fit - and
it forces me to be more conscious of the preceived value of a 3rd change of clothes in
- Stove - MSR Simmerlite (white gas) (2006)
- My faithful Coleman 400 stove has worked well over the years, but with the new
pack (above) I continued to seek fewer ounces and less bulk. The Simmerlite fits
the bill perfectly, shaving several ounces and folding up into a tiny space.
First tests had it working well on my front porch; time will tell, but the MSR
stoves generally have a good reputation. Just don't tell my brother; his MSR
mistreated him once too often!
- SleepBag - REI DownTime DL (2001)
- My high-altitude summer camps often drop below freezing, and my frost-nipped
feet chill quickly. My original duck-down mummy got wet once, and that
switched me to synthetics for my adventures. My huge Dacron II bag of
the 70s was replaced by a slimmer 30° bag, then a Kelty 20°, and now it's back
to down. Thirty years of technology improvements and a little caution should
get me through any moisture issues -- I hope. The 10° rating is compensated by
its DryLoft cover, which seems to vent the potential extra heat. [I've noted that
several people have posted web reviews noting that Kelty was very optimistic with
their 20° rating - I must agree.]
On lighter, warmer trips I have a Sierra Designs REM 35° bag.
- Boots - Vasque (1998)>
- I am now on my second Vasques, again on a quest to save weight. My 1998 models
were showing some age, and a local sporting-goods store had some that were just as
comfy but far lighter. I've heard that saving weight on the feet is even more
important than in the pack, so I'm looking forward to those fewer ounces! They also
use thinner socks, saving bulk and bit more weight.
- Water Filter - Sweetwater Guardian (2004)
- I was not desperately in need of a new filter in '04, but the fast pump
action and closeout price sold me in a hurry. This too served me well in the
Sierra that year. I also occasioally carry a Bota of Boulder squeeze-bottle with
filter, a great convenience for hit-and-run water refills.
- Walking Pole(s) (2006)
- I have been a one-pole person, keeping one hand free for camera, snacks, water
bottle, swatting, removing my hat, etc. I've used a Tracks aluminum pole with
camera-socket on top; I'm glad I had the longer reach and sturdiness for
the '99 x-c extravaganza. Its ability to stretch to
nearly 5 feet helped me descend a few mean boulder fields, and its button lock
seems more psychologically reliable to hold my weight than the twist-lock
On the other hand (is that humor?) .. the new tent option requires two poles to
stay up! So I now own a pair of Leki Makalu Ti ultralight poles. These are short and
absudrly light, but do not have the shock mechanism that's popular nowadays. Assuming
that I won't miss what I never had, this should work out nicely..
- Bear Canister - yes (1999)
- I accepted the inevitable before my '99 trip and picked up an 8×16 aluminum canister
from the sierrawilderness.com store. By purchasing one quickly I have more trips to
lower its per-trip cost, and by getting a large one I can be out for a week with
no trouble. Sure hope the bears appreciate this (and so much for lighter loads?).
- Camera - digital w/video capability
For imaging, I often used a digital camcorder and a spare battery -
an hour of great memories in motion and sound! For the big blow-ups I still needed
high resolution and good optics; my Panasonic 4M-pixel camera with Leica lens and
manual setting had served me well since 2004.
In early 2007 I picked up a bargain Casio P505 camera that will replace the camcorder -
another victory in the battle against size and weight! It's tiny and has no wide
zoom, but it does have threads on the lens; with a $10 adaptor my camcorder's .6x
adaptor lens provides me with about 23-90mm equivalent focal length! This plus the
mpeg-4 stereo video capability means a near-perfect feature set in a small package..
we shall see how it holds up in the wild. It's a mere 5M-pixels, small for some -
and when this one fails, a larger sensor and HD-quality video will be high on my list.
Other Items of Note
I heartily endorse the collapsible gallon water bucket for a great many uses.
The most obvious is to keep water trips down to one, pumping from the bucket
at the camp instead of making a path to the local creek. It's also handy for
rinsing one's head, body or clothes after a cleaning. My mess kit is a simple
one, due mainly to the 1-quart teakettle that makes measuring and pouring
water so simple. In the clothing department, my local army-surplus store has
plenty of t-shirts, but I always pick out the 50% poly/cotton blends - these
are lighter than cotton, dry faster and keep me warmer in all circumstances.
The matching bandana is nice as a fashion statement, but even more as a damp
cloth, flyswatter, and worn in French foreign-legion style to keep the sun off
my ears and neck. The same store sells thin spandex glove-liners that are
excellent for early mornings and cloudy evenings, and I carry a tough pair
of Adidas sandals with a covered toe, great for stream crossings but
comfortable for home and work as well! I use a cheap poncho for a
ground-cloth under my tent, and to save weight I just might make that my
primary raingear as well. I picked up a fleece vest recently that's thin
and light with a nylon outer shell - not waterproof, but more windproof and
easier to stuff than my previous one. On the Ruby Mts '03 trip I descended in
a snowstorm wearing nothing on top but a Polartec fleece top, made shiny-side
out - very nice!
What didn't work
My luck with a flexible canteen and drinking-hose in 2000 wasn't pleasant: the
bite-valve dripped on me several times and drained half my supply once when my
pack was resting against a rock. In spite of this.. with
the new pack I have returned to this method and will carry no other water;
I have never run out while hiking, so to save 5# I will carry what I need and
no more. The '96 tarp and fiberglass pole was optimistic but silly; later
use of rainfly and poles that were in fact made to do this task work far better!
Other than that, most of my gear has done nicely - except my cameras, which failed
me in 1996 and 97 = twice too often.
My final issue relates to my diagnosis of gluten intolerance. I still seek foods
that pack light and tight yet contain no wheat, rye or barley. Several companies
do in fact accomodate this ailment, and as time marches on awareness has risen and
I expect to find more variety in the future. In the meanwhile, cream of rice soup
and plenty of veggies, rice, potatoes and corn are in my future! One of my wedding
presents is a food dehydrator.. I won't expect perfect results the first time, but
this item should prove valuable in the future.