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.
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
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.
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!)
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…
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.
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.”