Jim's Gear!

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 the wilderness!

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 type.
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 816 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.