Current Gear

I have started to research and collect data and opinions on gear that I will need for a successful Thru Hike.  As such, I figured it would be good form to list out the gear that I currently have, along with some of my thoughts on it.  My goal in preparing my gear is to make sure everything has as many “uses” as possible, while limiting my base kit weight (without food and water) to less than 25 pounds.  I am sure this will all be tweaked as I hike.  Obviously, a lot of this list is incomplete or outdated, but you have to start somewhere.  Also, keep in mind that most of my backpacking experience was done with a group of 4-12 people, so some items here are too large or heavy for a single hiker, but when not so bad when spread across other hikers.  Try not to judge just yet, this is still evolving, but here is what I have in my gear box as of right now.

Backpack – Jansport Middleton external frame

Weight:  Unknown

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This pack has seen a lot of miles.  And it shows.  Unfortunately, the bag is starting to break down and crumble, so a new pack is certainly in my future.  But I will miss this old hauler.

Backpack – dad’s Jansport Klamath 75 Internal Frame

Weight:  4 lbs. 13 oz.

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This is my dad’s backpack, which he has loaned to me.  I plan to try it on a short hike soon, to see how well it suits me and my needs.  I have never really used an internal frame pack before, so the actual stuffing of it has me a bit intrigued.

Tent – Eureka Timberline 2

Weight:  5 lbs. 13 oz.

Eureka Timberline 2_small

This is a great 2-person tent.  I first used this style while at Philmont.  It has great interior space,  is very quick to set up, and is freestanding, which comes in mighty handy in rocky areas.  However, at over 5 pounds, it is a pretty heavy tent for a single hiker.  Two people can easily split the tent and tent poles, etc.

Tent – Eureka Solitaire

Weight:  2 lbs. 9 oz.

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I bought this tent with the intentions of using it when I was hiking solo, but the interior feels so small, that I tend to only use it on short trips.  Other than how small it is, it is a good tent.  It is a little heavy for the size, though.

Sleeping Bag – old Slumberjack (Unknown temperature rating)

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This bag has seen more miles and nights in the woods than most people can imagine.  It has been on every backpacking trip I have ever taken, including all preparation trips for both Philmont Treks.  And it still works, albeit it should come with a nose plug if you plan to burry your head inside.  I would like to retire this old bag, but my heart strings are wrapped tight.  But my nose may win.  Phew!

Sleeping Bag – Slumberjack Superpacker 20-Degree Bag

Weight:  3 lbs. 6 oz.

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This bag was a gift from my dad, years ago.  I have used it a few times as a non-backpack bag, and it is comfortable and warm.  It is stuffed with synthetic fillers, so it is a bit heavy, and does not compress down as small as a down bag would, but with the addition of a bag liner for a few extra degrees, this may be my starter/finisher bag when it is colder.  I will most likely try it once on a weekend backpack trip, so see how it packs and carries.  But I do have my eyes on a nice new winter bag from Nemo.  If I win the lotto.

Sleeping Pads – ThermaRest and RidgeRest

ThermaRest Weight:  30 oz. +/-

RidgeRest Weight:  14 oz.

ThermaRest on the left in orange; RidgeRest on the right, in black.

ThermaRest on the left in orange; RidgeRest on the right, in black.

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Yep, I have two pads.  No, I do not normally carry both.  I used the ThermaRest self-inflating pad for both of my Philmont treks, and pretty much every camping trip since purchasing it.  The RidgeRest was a cheap pad used as extra insulation during cold months.  I have backpacked with both, when hiking in the winter, but do not foresee that being the case for my Thru-Hike.  I am still considering purchasing a new ThermaRest, as they fold down much smaller and lighter than this “original model”, which only rolls up and would need to be strapped to the outside.  Since it is a non-essential upgrade, I will most likely wait until closer to my trip to see how the funds are flowing.

Stove – Coleman Exponent Feather 442 Dual Fuel Stove

Weight:  24 oz.

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Again, this was a stove that we first used at Philmont.  Yes, it is big.  And yes, it is certainly heavy.  But it is the most reliable stove I have ever used.  Plus, it is a dual fuel stove, which adds to its versatility.  There is a small capacity fuel tank on the stove, but most people carry a red MSR bottle with extra fuel.  Unfortunately, that is more gear and weight to carry.  This stove would be great for canoeing trips or car camping, but is a tad heavy for backpacking, especially if you are a solo hiker.  It was used with good outcomes during a Philmont trek, when there were a dozen people carrying all of the “shared” equipment.

Stove – MSR WhisperLite International

Weight:  11 oz. (not including MSR Fuel Bottle; 6 oz. plus fuel)

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Another Philmont item.  We used this stove a lot on our prep hikes and on the actual trek.  It is small, lightweight, and uses the same fuel as the Exponent, so together, we had two stoves.  The one thing I do not love about this stove is the “bottle on a line”, as the fuel bottle has a habit of tipping the stove if it is not on level ground.  Easily overcome, but was a learning experience.

Stove – JetBoil Sol

Weight:  10.5 oz. (not including fuel canister)

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This is a recent purchase, based on lots of reviews and feedback.  I have not used it, and am not sure if I will take it on my Thru Hike, but ultimately, I wanted to see if the product was worth the hype.  It uses canister fuel cans, which offers some convenience as long as you can find replacements when needed.  The mug holds 0.8 liter of water, and reportedly boils that in 4 minutes.

Stove – MSR Pocket Rocket

Weight:  3 oz. (not including fuel canister)

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I bought this stove about a year ago… mostly because it is a 3 ounce burner!  It uses the same canister fuel that the JetBoil stove uses.  I have used it once and was impressed with the output from such a small little thing.  Reportedly, it can boil a liter of water in 3.5 minutes.  If the JetBoil does not work out, this will most likely be my Thru Hike stove.  Plus, it offers a bit more flexibility as to which cup/pot I use than the JetBoil does.  Ironically, the JetBoil mug can be used on this burner, it just does not lock in like it does on its own burner.

Pot – GSI Halulite Minimulist Pot

Weight:  6.3 oz.

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I bought this a while ago for use on the Pocket Rocket.  It is a nice lightweight single person pot that can double as a cup.  It comes with an insulating sleeve to keep food warm, and a travel cup style lid to minimize spills.  Again, if the JetBoil does not make the trip, this will be used with the Pocket Rocket.

Utensil – Sea to Summit AlphaLight Long Spoon

Weight:  0.4 oz.

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Seriously, this is feather-light.  At 0.4 ounces, I could carry a dozen of them and not notice.  Do not worry, I am only going to carry one.

Hydration – PUR Hiker Pump Filter

Weight:  11 oz.

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I was first exposed to this filter at Philmont and shortly after returning, bought my own.  I have used this throughout Michigan, including a week-long backpack trip on Isle Royal National Park, where it was used to supply all three hikers with all the water needed.  It still works like new and shows no signs of wear.  But it is a bit on the heavy side, so I am researching a few other options, just to see.  I am not against using this pump, though.

Hydration – Water Bladders vs Nalgene Bottle vs Gatorade Bottle

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I have always used a water bottle for all of my outdoor adventures.  Recently, I acquired two different hydration packs, one from Osprey and one from Camelbak, and am learning how to drink from them without choking.  I also like the no-cleaning-required Gatorade Bottle option, where you just toss it out and buy a new one at a resupply when one gets nasty.  Still not sure what will accompany me on the trail.

Hiking Boots – Unknown Vasque Hiking Boot

I have long been a Vasque fan, and have owned easily a dozen pairs of their boots.  This pair is ok – not too heavy, but still offering me some ankle support.  But they are old and need to be replaced pretty much as soon as I find a replacement.  I am just undecided on whether I want to stick with “hiking boots” or if I want to try the lighter trail shoes.  More testing required before that decision is made.

Camp Shoes – Holey Crocks

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Yep, I own a pair (two actually, but the other does not have holes so does not count here.)  Yep, they are ugly.  Yep, they are the most comfortable after-hiking shoes I have ever found.  And they are lightweight, waterproof, float, and can be strapped to the outside of the pack, if needed.  And since fashion is not one of my fortes (just ask my sister…), these WILL be in my pack.  So there.

Socks – Lots of them…

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I have not found a specific sock that I am in love with, and am enjoying trying the different brands and styles and lengths.  I am sure I will settle on one or two, but for now, I have a box full of socks to pick from.  Not really.  I have like 4 pairs.

LEKI poles

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These are a new addition to my gear closet.  Following surgery, my physical therapist recommended I start using dual hiking poles when taking day trips in my local area.  She said it would help ease the stress placed on my still-recovering knee muscles.  I have used them a few times, and can already see the benefit.  Just wish she would have written a prescription for them so health insurance would actually pay for something.

Headlamp – Energizer

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This is a Wally World special, bought as a quick solution to some nighttime motorcycle maintenance I was trying to perform.  It worked perfectly for that, using three AAA batteries.  It has a red light, and three different brightness settings for the white light, but it is a bit heavy compared to other headlamps out there.  Again, since it is only a weight issue, I will consider this category filled for now… unless someone wants to donate the funds for a new Petzl.  Please.  My knees will thank you for every once saved.

 

This is just a starting point.  Obviously there are some key components missing or undecided, and a few items that could be upgraded to something newer and lighter.  This list was something I created more for me than for you, so I know what I have and what I need.  I just decided to post it here to feed your curiosity.

I would love to hear your thoughts on any gear you have taken with you or have any direct feedback on.  Please use the comment box below or the Contact Me page up top.

Until next time, remember to “Spin the Compass.”

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CigarFest

WARNING:  This is an off-topic post.  If you are only interested in backpacking-themed posts, then ignore this one.  This post is also out-of-order when compared to other posts, but the other posts were more time-sensitive.

CigarFest

For those that do not know, which is probably all of you, I have many hobbies that I enjoy.  One of them is cigars, both the collecting and the smoking of.  To me, cigars are a relaxing experience, forcing me to sit still for upwards of an hour or two, often allowing me to pair a cigar with some nice bourbon or craft beer.  Cigars are very similar to wines, in that each one has its own distinct flavors and nuances, which change with time, and are delicately sensitive to storage temperatures, humidity, and light conditions.

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CigarFest 2014

I was lucky enough to obtain tickets to the always sold-out CigarFest event held by Cigars International at the Split Rock Resort in the Poconos.  The ticket got me into one of two days of the actual festival event, but there were also numerous “open to the public” events at the resort including concerts, a special pipe smoking seminar, and giveaways all over the place!  Simultaneously, all of the CI stores had events going on throughout the weekend, with some major cigar makers on site for meet and greets, along with some great deals and lots of swag.  And boy, did I collect a lot!

 

Source:  www.cigarfest.com

Source: www.cigarfest.com

 

Source:  www.cigarsinternational.com/hamburg

Source: www.cigarsinternational.com/hamburg

The day before my “ticket entry”, I stopped at one of the main stores for Cigars International, a place I have come to know quite well.  The staff is always very friendly and extremely knowledgeable there, and I always feel at home when I visit.  One of the best things about this store is that the lounge has TWO fully stocked bars on site, with a couple big televisions at each, giving that portion of the shop a sports bar feel.  And the shop has agreements with the restaurants nearby that you can call in a carry out order, and the restaurant staff will bring it to the cigar shop for you.  I have spent many lazy weekend afternoons there, drinking craft beers and smoking cigars while watching whatever sports are being broadcast.  This day, I was there for the Drew Estate Cigars event they were hosting.  For those that do not know, Drew Estate is one of my favorite makers.  Now you know – I suggest writing it down, as my birthday is coming soon.

 

Owner Jonathan Drew, handing out major prizes.  Not to me… Source:  www.cigarfest.com

Owner Jonathan Drew, handing out major prizes. Not to me… Source: www.cigarfest.com

Back on topic, I spent a good few hours there, people watching, eating lunch, enjoying a few adult beverages in child size cups, and just relaxing.  Then I headed up to the resort to check into my hotel room.

That evening, I attended a concert sponsored by Alec Bradley cigars.  I am not a huge fan of A.B. cigars, but a few are ok.  The concert, though, was outstanding.  The band played inside the circus tent-turned food tent for a good long time, and was even doing some requests from the crowd.  Throughout the concert, the staff of CI was giving away Alec Bradley swag, and numerous boxes of cigars.  Did I win?  Nope.  Never do.  Good thing the music was good, though.  And the tent made the chilly night air tolerable, so we could be outside and enjoy a cigar without having to be bundled up to the nines.

My ticket included a breakfast feast prior to the main event opening, so off to wait in line I went.  Thankfully, I am normally an early riser and was able to beat the majority of the crowd.  Once suitably stuffed, we all transitioned to the line to get into the main arena.  There were over 50 vendors there, mostly cigar makers but also a few accessory manufacturers.  As you entered, you were given a nice duffle bag with the event logo on it, and a humidor and ash tray already inside.  I would find out later that there were over 40 cigars inside the humidor.  As you enter the main hall, you are given a “coupon book” with numbered pages.  As you go to a booth, there is a booth number displayed, to which you trade the corresponding numbered coupon for a cigar.  At the end of the main event, prior to me purchasing anything, I had well over 100 cigars.  And there were great deals on samplers going on, for which you could collect even more free cigars by showing your receipt to the vendor.  Pretty sure I do not have to buy any cigars for at least a year!

They even raffled off a customized Jeep.  With every sampler purchased, you were entered into a drawing for lots of free cigars, accessories, gift certificates, “Man Cave” setups, and such.  The grand prize was a new Jeep.  Obviously, I did not win.

Source:  www.cigarfest.com

Source: www.cigarfest.com

There was another concert that night, but my knee was aching from being on my feet most of the day, so I skipped out on it.  As the day progressed, I found the slow “shuffling” walk to be bothersome to my knee, although walking around the lodge at my normal gate did not irritate my leg at all.  In hindsight, I should have broken the day into sections a bit more and did a little less random wandering around the event.  Live and learn.  The resort’s pool and hot tub made for a nice end to the day, especially since I was the only one there.  Solitude is such a nice thing.

One thing that I did not like to a degree was that the event organizers were treating the festivities as if it were a rock concert, always screaming into the microphone trying to get the crowd “pumped and excited”.  I understand they want to increase sales, and excited people buy lots, but for me, cigars are supposed to be a relaxing, enjoyable experience.  I suppose the focus of the event was more on the acquisition of cigars rather than the enjoyment of cigars, and that is well and fine, it just was not what I expected.

If I go next year, I will do it differently, too.  There were people who planned ahead and brought pop-up tents and grills, and were tailgating in the parking lot.  We were able to go in and out of the festival all we wanted, and because I had gotten there so early for breakfast, my truck was pretty close to the main entrance.  It would have been more enjoyable if I was with a small group of friends and we were grilling out, sitting around in chairs, smoking and talking.  Instead, I was walking around solo, talking to vendors and some random people, but mostly doing my own thing.  Next time I will do it better.

All of my loot from the weekend.

All of my loot from the weekend.

All in all, I cannot complain about the weekend, though.  I had a good time people watching, I walked away with a lot of good swag and cigars, many of which I have never tried before.  I was even able to get a short walk around a pond to exercise the leg a bit.  With the exception of the distance I had to drive to get there, there is not much I would complain about.  Now I just need to find some time to sit on the balcony and enjoy all of these new smokes… and figure a way to protect them in my backpack, so I can take some with me!

I promise you that I have more backpacking-related posts coming.  I am working on a few different posts, but they are taking longer than I had expected.  Go eat some Oreos and be patient.  If you have any comments, advice, or topic suggestions, please use the comment box below or use the Contact Me page up top.

Until next time, remember to “Spin the Compass.”

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Book Review: Timberrr!!!

(Note:  I was unable to find the link for this book again, although I know I got it during one of the “special free offers” from Amazon.com.  You may have to search for it…)

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I just finished reading the ebook version of Timberrr!!!  Or, How I Fell Down the Appalachian Trail by Amy “Timber” Hiusser.  This was an interesting book to read, as it is essentially a copy of the author’s travel journal while she attempted her Thru Hike of the A.T.  Yes, I said attempted.  More on that later.

The book is a bit odd to read in one respect, though.  It starts out with a journal entry, which introduces you to the author’s style of writing and a bit of her personality.  Then the book ventures off into the realm of the how-to, as Timber describes her preparation tactics, choices she made (or did not make…), and some of the factors she considered when selecting her gear.  Note to self:  These chapters, while interesting, do not really apply to me, as I do not live where she lives and have more access to stores than she had.  Then there are a few chapters on each item of gear – one on backpacks, one on sleeping systems, one on shelters.  An entire chapter on her clothing choices, and the difficulty she had in finding suitable items.  Some of it was interesting and informative, but again, it seems it was aimed at a complete newbie.  Nothing bad to say about it, just not what I needed.

The book then takes you through its guidebook course, covering pretty much every topic from first aid and flora/fauna to weather and crime.  I will be honest – I skipped through much of this.  I have never liked reading page after page describing animals, plants, bugs and such, unless I had a need to learn one specifically.  Timber does do a good job of researching and describing each item, but this information was not what I was looking for.  Perhaps later, I will reference back to it.

Finally, after about half of the book, Hiusser starts to give her account of her hike.  This was the “meat and potatoes” I was looking for!  I hope I am not alone when I say that reading other people’s travelogues is very similar to living vicariously through them.

As I mentioned earlier, this book covers an attempted thru hike.  The author is up front and honest about not making it the entire way, which is very refreshing.  Not that there is anything wrong with the books out there, but many are books of success.  Timberrr! is an account of a valiant effort of which the ultimate goal changed, resulting in a shortened hike.  It was thought provoking to read the mishaps and thought processes that she underwent, bringing forward a few of my own insecurities and, dare I say, fears that I have for my own Thru Hike attempt.

The next book on my “read now” shelf is Appalachian Trials by Zach Davis.  I have been anxiously waiting to read this, so I am sure I will zip right through it.  Probably more than once, before my Thru Hike is started.

I would love to hear from you, whether it is about this book or another one you recommend.  Please send me a comment below, or use the Contact Me page up top.

Until next time, remember to “Spin the Compass.”

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