Your Pack | Boots | Tents | Kitchen Gear | Miscellaneous
In response to all of you who asked or who just needed a refresher, here's the official list from the Mountaineers (who invented it):
1. Extra clothing - more than needed in good weather
2. Extra Food - enough so something is left over at the end of the trip
5. Fire starter
6. First Aid Kit
7. Matches in waterproof container
8. Flashlight w/extra bulbs and batteries
9. Map - the correct map!
10. Compass - be sure to note the declination
Every hiker, whether alone or in a party carries these items on an individual
basis. This is so that if a member of the party is separated, lost, injured,
trapped, blinded in whiteout conditions, or going for help, no-one will
be without their own survival equipment. There is no excuse for not having
all of them, in good condition, on your person at all times while in the
Have fun out there!
All the usual disclaimers apply...
I've used an REI
external frame pack for virtually all of my longer distance packing and
have been very pleased with it. Won't trade. It rides high on the back,
adjusts easily to handle loads heavier than what I'm happy carrying, has
lots of handy tie spots, and is built just damned tough. A couple of compadres
on the trail swear by their internal frame packs but I've never found them
to be as comfortable. Try 'em out. Everybody has different tastes; different
needs. There's a wide selection of packs to be had and some fine companies
External packs seem to have lost favor lately. For my buck, they're just fine if you spend most of your time not heaving yourself up cliff faces or winding along precarious ledges with severe drop-offs. There, the body-hugging configuration of the internal frames might be an advantage. Handy as hell, though, to be able to tie that wet shirt onto the frame for drying while walking, nice to lash the tent poles on the side where they don't get in your way.
I`ve got a bad back and rotten knees. My external is as comfortable as they get.
Although my main long distance pack will continue to be my REI external,
I do have a Mountainsmith internal frame pack that I tend to use for shorter
trips and those times that I know I'll be spending a lot of time portaging
my canoe. Mountainsmith has developed
an excellent suspension system for their packs that makes them feel like
they're a part of your body. They carry a lot, gracefully, and if you take
the time to learn the adjustments of the suspension system, you'll be plenty
comfortable on the trail.
Mountainsmith makes their packs so that you can attach a smaller fanny- or lumbar-pack to their larger packs, making a handy, ever-expandable system... though adding too much to the outside of your main pack may well throw your balance off. Nice packs, in any event. Again, I urge you to try out several before investing the couple of hundred bucks you'll end up putting into a pack. I have had some trouble with the stitching on my Mountainsmith, and the pleated pocket on the outside is, essentially, worthless as the opening is too small to get anything in or out easily.
Now we enter the realm of packs where Mountainsmith definitely excels!
Over the last couple of years I've bought FOUR of their Day Packs to
give to fine friends and an ornery brother. The first time I strapped one
on I was simply amazed at the comfort and control it offered. No fanny-pack,
this one! 1200+cu.in. that snugs up in the small of your back and sets there
without flopping around or being obtrusive in any way. Take it off, tuck
the hip belt into its velcroed storage place, slide out the shoulder strap
(a little slim on the padding) and you've got a fine musette bag. Tuck that
shoulder strap away and it's got a handy little hand strap to carry like
a brief case. If you've only allotted $80 to your gear acquisition fund
this year, this little pack earns 4 stars!
If you`re looking for something a tad larger, maybe to do an overnight, Mountainsmith also makes an excellent rucksack - the Bugaboo. The whole back of this pack opens up wide for loading and there's a plethora of cinching straps to pull the weight in to your back. Lots of loops for lashing gear on the outside, and if you're disposed to travel in more civilized circles, there's a luggage-type grab handle at the balance point on the side of the pack. This pack fits neatly under airline seats and will carry enough to get you through 3 or 4 days in some distant locale. This pack carries a heap, rides comfortably, and is built to last years.
For a handy advantage, strap your Day Pack to your Bugaboo, and attach an accessory pack on top! Lots of capacity in an easy to carry package.
Also check out the Gear Reviews!
A good pair of boots will protect your feet and ankles, not weigh a ton, last for several years, keep your feet warm in the cold and cool in the heat, and give you adequate support and traction while not tearing up the trails you hike. That's a tall order.
My first pair of boots were stolen from my brother when he went off to college; Peter's Cougar boots, they were and, to this day, they were probably the best boots I've ever owned. I remember the day we went down to Dobb's Red Owl Agency in Three Lakes, WI and he plunked down a couple week's earnings to take those boots home. They were 8" boots, sturdy, yet pliable, and a sole that would keep you going through anything. Wore those boots for years, oiled carefully every Sunday morning until they virtually fell apart but if I could find another pair of those today I'd scoop them up without hesitation.
When I took up backpacking in a more serious vein, I purchased a pair of Timberland boots. Again, I wore them for several years and put many hundreds of miles under those soles, but I probably wouldn't buy another pair. They were comfortable, though a bit on the heavy side. After the first 50 miles or so, they developed a click in the inner sole that stayed with me the rest of their days. Every step I took had that little click in it. The leather cracked at the ball of the foot early on and, eventually, the soles split clean across the bottom. Never saw that on any other boot, or even heard of that happening. I'm one to take care of my equipment, cleaned and oiled them on a regular basis. Should have lasted long after they did.
Crazy John, long time hiking & paddling companion, swore by Hi-Tec boots. They wore well, were extremely light weight and tough. He's been wearing them for a couple of years now and they're worth taking a serious look at.
Son Dave has been enjoying his Vasques for a couple of years now. He pounds down a trail with a lot of vigor - any boots that stand up to his wear have to be pretty good. For comfort and support, he says, he wouldn't give 'em up.
I'm currently wearing a pair of Merrell boots. Bought them simply because they were the only boots I could come across at the time that didn't have a heavy tractor-lug sole. They're lightweight and very confortable; warm in the usually nasty weather I tend to hike in. They're wearing well.
Several years ago in late September, while I was about 6 days down a trail with Crazy John, we noticed a young hiker coming from the other direction. As he got closer I noticed that he was hiking barefoot. We kind of stood off to the side of the trail as he passed and he looked up to us in passing and said, "Minimum Impact", and on down the trail he went. To this day I still think of him as totally loony, but that phrase haunts me regularly. Don't tear up the trails, folks.
Your Pack | Boots | Tents | Kitchen Gear | Miscellaneous
Virtually everyone I've ever met on the trail has had very strong opinions about what constitutes the best tent. All things in this life are trade-offs, but few things show that up more than your choice of a tent. This will be your home away from home for the duration of your journey. You'll swear at its weight while you're carrying it and want to have a larger one when you're escaping a late season snow storm. You'll want to have all the latest bells and whistles when your hands are cold and your tent is too difficult to set up, yet you'll admire the simplicity of minimalist you see setting up his tarp in the waning light of a summer afternoon. Every trip, unfortunately, is going to require a little different tent set-up...
What's the ideal tent? I've lusted after REI's GeoDome with that handy vestibule for a couple of years now. It sure looks like the ideal to me! But do I get the 2-man tent because I spend most of my time on the trail with either Crazy John or Son Dave, or do I luxuriate and get the 4-man so we've got lots of room during those long Wisconsin autumn nights? While 2-man tents WILL provide enough room for a couple of big guys (we're all big guys!), by the time you've got your packs in there between the two sleeping pads (the "fat lady", CJ refers to them) there's precious little room for manuvering... that extra room in the larger tent would be a treat, for sure. Of course, the extra 3 pounds for the larger tent is the trade-off. Maybe I can get one of the other guys to carry it! Understand, now, that we tend to do most of our camping in early May as the ice is just disappearing from the lakes, or in late September/early October, when frost is normal, snow is expected, and the sun goes down late in the afternoon. Summertime camping would be an entirely different stroke (never tried that, actually).
Between the bunch of us, we've got a wide assortment of tents. After my tirade about the GeoDome, I've got to say that it really hasn't made a whole heck of a lot of difference to us in the field. While the Sierra Designs Clip-Loc system looks to be a dream to set up and the tents, themselves, are inspiring feats of tent engineering, it's been awful tough for me to allot the funds for an expenditure of that magnitude... and it's really not all that much for what the companies are selling. We've spent time in Eurekas! and Campmoors and Marmots and US Camper tents, and other than some basic refinements, they're all adequate for keeping the rain off, the wind out, and the conversation in. The cheaper tents invariably have too short rain flies, not the heavy duty stitching that you'd like, and are more prone to leaking in a downpour, but that gives you something to complain about. Imagine how P.O.'d you'd be when your new "Hadda Take a Mortgage Out to Afford This Baby!" tent start to leak around the edges during a hard October blow!
As in all things... get the best you can afford, but don't forego the journey because you can't afford the latest and greatest. Take it slow, learn your equipment and your limitations.
Your Pack | Boots | Tents | Kitchen Gear | Miscellaneous
REI is a co-op that was founded in 1938. Back in the days before there
was a high-tech sports shop in every little town, REI was the source
for field-tested outdoor gear. Their catalogs were a treat, gear was superlative,
prices were excellent, PLUS you got a return of a percentage of your purchases
once a year, usually about 10%. They've always had an iron-clad guarantee
- [it] ensures that every item you purchase at REI meets your high standards
- or you can return it for a replacement or full refund. I've never
had to take them up on their guarantee. Although I`ve been reading some
negative feedback on Usenet lately about them, I'm still a strong
believer in the company. They've never done wrong by me, their REI brand
equipment has outlasted competitive brands, and they have always been knowledgeable
and helpful on the phone. If you're not a member of REI now, please consider
joining. I believe you'll be pleased, too. (return)
Dave`s Home | Backpacking | Books | Boats | Printing | Diet | Rural Life | Quotes | Waterfalls