Thoughts on gear…and the new book

My recent trip through the Whites included my regular collection of tried and true gear and a few new pieces.  I’ve never done a gear review, but I thought I’d share my thoughts on a few of the things I use.

*As I mentioned in a prior blog about pack size, my primary pack is an REI Ridgeline 65.  Clocking in at less than 4 pounds, Old Red has been comfortable and reliable for well over a 1,000 miles.  He’s starting to show his age with fraying and wear from being dragged over rocks and mountains.  I wish they still made this pack.  I’d buy it again in a minute.  Instead, I have my eye on a sleek, 3 lb, Gregory Z65.

*My boots are from Asolo.  I don’t know the model….Flame or something.  They have the same mileage as Old Red.  The tread is almost gone, and there is a tear in the upper, but they have been stable and supportive.  They’ve hopped across 200 miles of rocks in Pennsylvania and tromped through rivers called trails during mud season.  I will replace them with the same boots.

*On this trip, I took a Sawyer Squeeze water filter.  At 3 ounces and smaller than a Red Bull can, it makes my old Katadyn filter seem like a train.  The Sawyer is guaranteed to filter 1 million gallons of water and filters down to 1 micron.  If there is a zombie apocalypse, you can get clean water from me…forever.  I tested it on some pretty skanky pond water, and it produced clean, clear water with no gross taste.  My only gripe is the squeeze bag with which one collects the water.  Trying to fill the bag in calm, shallow water requires waving it back and forth and takes a long time to even get a liter.  I solved this by carrying a plastic soda bottle.  It adds an ounce to pack weight but is easy to fill in any water conditions.  Also, carry an extra squeeze bag or a Platypus.  Without the squeeze bag, you no filter.

*The star of the new gear was a Goal Zero Nomad solar panel.  The BSW lets me go off on my solo jaunts but asks that I stay in touch.  So, I carry a solar panel to keep my phone charged.  On a weeklong outing, I also need to charge my GoPro. My old panel weighed double the Nomad and required a full day in the sun to get about two bars of power on the phone.  In a morning of hiking with the Nomad on my pack, I fully charged my phone, the GoPro, and Goal Zero’s Switch 8 battery.  None were fully spent to begin, but were all getting low on power.  During lunch one day, in full sun, I had a twenty minute conversation with the BSW and surfed the net for a half hour, and my phone had more juice than when I started.  Thumbs up to Goal Zero.  I put new batteries in my headlamp before every trip just to be safe.  The Nomad works so well, I’m going to get their rechargeable batteries to power that as well.

*My tent is an EMS 150.  I ditched most of the stakes so it weighs in a little over 2 lbs.  It has kept me dry in torrential rains and helped keep me alive in the unexpected blizzard adventure of Virginia, 2013.  I have slept in this tent well over 100 nights.  I can literally set it up blindfolded in less than 2 minutes (I did that one night on my AT hike).  It is free standing, and it is a true one person tent.  There is room for just me inside, and my pack doesn’t quite fully fit under the vestibule.  I have been lusting for a Big Agnes Fly Creek 2 which will provide more space and actually decrease pack weight and volume.

I organize everything in my pack in stuff sacks or compression sacks.  Compression sacks do add a few ounces over regular stuff sacks, but they make sleeping bag and clothes ridiculously small.  My pack is a bag full of bags.  They are color coded so I can go straight to what I need.  I am not an ultralight extremist, but I do pay attention to weight.  If I didn’t use something on a trip, it usually doesn’t go on the next trip.  There is one exception to this; what I call the Oh Shit bag.  It contains a first aid kit, duct tape, tenacious tape, and secondary methods of treating water (tablets) and making fire (waterproof matches).  A trip is extra successful when the Oh Shit bag is not opened.  The trip is an outright success when the Oh Shit bag is not opened and the BSW does not have to extract me (it’s happened.)

So, this trip sparked the idea for a new book.  I’ve been lost in the wilderness of my brain for quite a while about what to write next.  I have the start of a novel that I like but don’t love that I occasionally bang out a few pages.  I’m pretty jazzed about the new idea.  It will be narrative nonfiction, a field guide, and about walking around in America.  Think Bryson meets Abbey meets Steinbeck meets Childs.  That’s the goal any way.

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