A few posts ago (on Sept 30th) I promised that we would continue the discussion on elements of successful backpacking planning and preparing. I said that some key elements of planning and preparing are; gear, physical conditioning, skills, and attitudes. I suppose it is no surprise that gear is listed first in the order, after all I am a gear junky. So in this post we will talk about gear.
Its all about basics. What is it that you need, want, can carry? Always start with NEED.
Shelter, Food, Water, Comfort.
What type of shelter so you want? Tent? Tarp? Bivy? There are great choices out there that offer many options for you. Tents that provide shelter from the elements, tarps that are light weight and easy to set up, and bivy’s for quick shelter with out the hassle of set up.
I personally use a tarp. Not your off the self at BiMart tarp but a light weight Sylnylon tarp from Hennessy Hammocks. It weighs in at 18.6 oz. It can be set up in many configurations and works well in every weather condition. I have used it in high winds, driving rains, and cold weather, oh not to mention the beautiful days and nights too.
The other piece of my shelter is a hammock. I have two kinds. The Hennessy Expedition which is my first hammock. I like it, but my new hammock is more comfortable and roomy. It is the Warbonnet Blackbird. Hammocks are not for everyone, but I will not sleep in a tent again. Most concerns are that you do not lay flat.. well you actually do lay flat. I am a belly and slide sleeper and because you lay at an angle across the ridge line of the hammock, you get a nice flat lay. The Blackbird hammock has a built in footbox that automatically places the body in a position for a flat lay. The hammock provides a no pressure sleep platform. The built on bug nets keep the nasty’s off. Hammocks give you the same exact sleep every time. You never have to worry about level ground, rocks, roots, or dry ground. Just a place to hang. And I have never been out when there was not a place to hang.
The biggest concern with hammocks is staying warm. There are options for this, but keeping it real simple a closed cell foam pad will do the trick.
So lets talk about sleeping bags.
I use the Big Agnes Encampment. It is a 15 degree bag that has a big box shape giving me lots of shoulder room and foot space. The Big Agnes sleep system is unique in that there is no insulation on the bottom side of the bag. It has a sleeve to insert the insulated pad, but when using the hammock I do not use the Big Agnes pad. There are basically two types of sleeping bag insulation, Down and Synthetic. Down is lighter and warm, but once it gets wet.. it is not a good option. Synthetic on the other hand, is a little heavier but retains it’s insulation wet or dry. Synthetic is easier to maintain. I recommend our Scouts have synthetic bags.
So that pretty much takes care of my shelter. The tarp, the hammock, and sleeping bag. I should mention that instead of the Big Agnes pad, I use a RadiantDouble bubble Pad . The hammock has a double layer bottom and the pad slides right between layers. The Radiant pad reflects about 95% of the body heat back at you.. so you stay real nice and warm in the bag.
Moving on to Food. I won’t discuss the actual meals we covered some of that in our last post. What we are going to discuss is how I prepare my food. I have a few stoves, but the go to take every time stove is the MSR Whisperlite. I have had this stove for about 15 years and love it. It is always reliable and works in every condition. My day hike stove is the Snowpeak Giga Power. Nice little stove that works real well.
The pot I use is the MSR Duralite. I don’t use both of the pots that come in the set. I use the bigger of the pots with the lid. It does not take many dishes to cook great meal out there. With my stove I can find a good simmer level when I am not just boiling water, so a single pot does the job.
Using a single pot requires some planning and prep work though.. If its chilly I need to get water boiling before I cook, the mug that I use is the Sea to Summit Delta Insul mug. This mug keep stuff hot for a long time, so I have a warm beverage when I eat my meal. The mug hold 2 cups of whatever pleases you and is great for soup also.
I keep a piece of MSR microfiber towel in the pot for cleaning up and providing a buffer for my pot holder.
I use a REI Titanium spork. Really the only utensil you need. Not sure you can buy the one I use anymore, but the Snow Peak Spork looks just like it. Its long enough to stir up food in the pot, wide enough to mix, and practical enough to be the only thing I need. Couple it with my pocket knife and the kitchen is complete.
Water and comfort will be coming up in a future post. Water is a big subject and needs some attention on it’s own.
The gear I have listed here is the stuff that is currently in my Backpack. I have gone through many variations and different types of gear. What I have shared here is the gear that I am in love with now and plan on using for a while… until something real cool comes out. That’s what makes me a gear junky.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
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