Tag Archives: Cigars

Questionable Gear

As I have started to evaluate and chose my gear, I have run across a few items that I am questioning whether to include or not.  I thought it might be humorous to share some of these off-the-wall thought processes with you.  Enjoy… and feel free to laugh at me.  I do all the time.

Camera Selection

I am jealous of this person.  Source:  http://www.photostocknotes.com/psn/index.php?catid=53&blogid=1

I am jealous of this person. Source: http://www.photostocknotes.com/psn/index.php?catid=53&blogid=1

Yes, a camera will be going with me, no question about that.  My issue is WHICH camera.  First, let me explain – I love photography.  I rarely go anywhere without some sort of camera with me.  When I say I need to “choose” one, that is because I probably own somewhere around a dozen cameras.  I have a film SLR Nikon, an old digital SLR Nikon, a digital handheld point and shoot Sony, a newer digital handheld point and shoot Canon, three or four completely manual-function film SLRs, and a medium-format film camera, not to mention my iPhone’s camera.  Yeah, I have a lot.

The manual cameras are easily eliminated by the bulk of the film I would need to carry.  I love them and the pictures that they capture, but I would need an entire backpack full of film for the hike!  Easy choice there.

There is a huge part of me that wants to take the fully customizable dSLR camera with multiple lenses, so that I can capture every imaginable image I come across.  But I really do not want a pack that weighs over a hundred pounds… and pack mules are not allowed.  SO… I must decide.  I could probably swing the dSLR with ONE lens, but that is still a hefty camera.

I have a nice handheld digital point and shoot, my Canon, and the limited pictures I have taken with it seem to be of good quality. It does not weigh too much, and the battery seems to last a decent time.  But I worry that it will not be adjustable enough for me capture all of the landscapes that my mind thinks I will run across.

I know lots of people just use their iPhones, and while I will most likely bring the phone (emergencies, calls home FROM TOWN ONLY, MOM, and solitaire…) I do not want to rely on it for my photographs.  First, it is not nearly as adjustable as I want a camera to be.  It has zoom, but any picture taken with zoom tends to be very grainy.  Not acceptable.  Will I use it here and there?  Probably.  But it will not be the primary picture-taker.

Verdict:  Completely torn.




I am not sure I can give up my cigars for six whole months!  While I do not smoke every day, I do enjoy a good premium, hand rolled cigar from time to time.  And summertime is the perfect time to do so!  I keep thinking about how nice it would be to sit around a small campfire after a long day of hiking, watching the sun set with a favorite cigar in my mouth.  Bonus:  Cigar smoke is a known bug repellant!

I thought about bringing a few with me, and just replenishing as I run out, but it is very hard to even determine if there are any reputable cigar shops along the A.T.  I suppose I could stash a full box in a “Bounce Box” and just replenish my small travel humidor as I hit towns, but then there are heat and humidity control issues, especially while my bounce box is sitting in the back of a ratty old USPS truck.  In order to protect the fragile sticks, I would also need to bring a small travel humidor box, which is not too big, but adds more weight.  Do not forget that I would need a lighter and cutter, too.

Another option would be to take a pipe.  While not exactly the same, I also do have a small pipe collection, and a pipe is certainly more sturdy than a cigar is.  But then I would need to bring a bag of tobacco, a tamper and a lighter, and at least a couple pipe cleaners.  So again, a lot of bulk to the simple hobby.  If I am going to have this much hassle to deal with, I would rather have the cigar.

Verdict:  Still on the fence with this one.

Deck of Cards

Source:  www.freeimages.co.uk

Source: www.freeimages.co.uk

When we hiked through the mountains of Philmont as young Scouts, someone always carried a deck of cards.  It was part of the “Crew Equipment” that was divided out each morning.  At the end of a long day’s hike, we looked forward to setting camp, taking the boots off, and playing a few games of poker while dinner cooked.  I cannot remember a single backpacking trip that did not have a deck of cards present.  Then again, we were not walking over two-thousand miles.  And we had no problems eating two or three Big Macs in a single seating… just shows how poor our judgment was back then.

Verdict:  Leave them home.

Flip Flops


I am one of those people who wears flip flops pretty much every chance I get, year-round.  This habit started in college, after I had done most of my early backpacking, so I am not sure whether they are appropriate for modern backpacking.  I realize they are not the most supportive camp shoes, but do camp shoes “need” to be supportive?  Is not the point of camp shoes to help air out and rest your feet from the constantness that is your hiking shoes?  And if I am willing to carry the extra weight, and have the space, would it be wrong of me to take both camp shoes AND flip flops?  Ultimately, I realize that flip flops are not the most logical gear to take along with me, and will most likely be left home.  But they will be missed.

Verdict:  Leave them home.  (And bribe family to bring them when the visit me along the trail!)



My bundled up hammock next to a Nalgene for comparison.

My bundled up hammock next to a Nalgene for comparison.

This one is quite the quandary.  I have never taken a hammock with me while backpacking, so I am not sure I would miss it.  After all, if you never experience it, how would you know what you are missing?  But that said, I do know of hammocks.  I have used them before.  And I read online that a lot of people like to relax after a day of hiking by swinging in their hammock, even if they do not sleep in it at night.  I know that I am a tent-sleeper.  When not utilizing the shelters along the trail, I will have a tent with me, which means I would not need a fully sheltered hammock.  To me, that equates to less weight and less bulk.  I suppose I worry that it would be something that would not get used often enough to justify its small weight/bulk, though, and it is not the cheapest thing to be giving away.  I suppose I could mail it home, if I had to.  Maybe I will try to test this piece of gear out during some of my prep hikes.

Verdict:  Not sure yet…


Source:  www.encyclopediaofappalachia.com

Source: www.encyclopediaofappalachia.com

This one I think is more of a novelty.  I vaguely know how to play the harmonica, and by vaguely, I mean I can blow and suck air through it to make it produce something close to a harmonic note.  I can even impersonate a third-string blues riff that will make the deafest dog howl.  I like the idea of being able to play a little music along the trail, but since what I can do would most likely not be considered music, I wonder if it is even worth it.  As I do not want to be duct taped to an outhouse in the middle of the night, I suppose this one should stay home.

Verdict:  Safer to listen to nature instead.

Kindle eReader

Kindle Paperwhite_small

I keep going back and forth on this one.  I am definitely taking my cell phone with me, which has the Kindle App on it.  I could always use my cell to read books if I am in need of some mental entertainment.  However, this will drain my cell battery faster, potentially making it a useless paperweight when I need to call for a life-saving rescue… or a pizza delivery.  Same thing, right?  Plus, the battery on the Kindle lasts exponentially longer than my cell.  And honestly, I prefer reading on the slightly larger Kindle over the small screen of my iPhone.

Verdict:  Still debating.  This may come down to a coin flip…


Well, as you can see, I still have some thinking to do about what will go into my pack.  Maybe I will go smoke a cigar and get lost in thought process…

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

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




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.


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.


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.”