If you read the last post, Wilderness Edition Pt. 1, you are not only awesome, but you are also informed. I cut my Yosemite trip short mainly because I was too uncomfortable to think about writing – which was one of the main purposes of the adventure. The reason for my uncomfortable-ness can be traced directly to my gear. Frankly, I was unprepared to do battle with the Yosemite wilderness.
While it is summer, the majority of the trip was spent at an elevation above 7500 feet. Daytime temperatures were in the 80’s to 90’s but, at night, temperatures plummeted into the 20’s. Someone with proper gear, or even slightly above average gear, would have no problem with these temperature ranges. But, as I learned, tents and sleeping bags from Wal-Mart aren’t exactly ace.
Wal-Mart Sleeping Bags: Beat the Heat, Hold the Cold
So, with all this in mind, I’d like to present to you my ‘Gear List.’ This is some of the gear that I would like to have on future hikes. Some of the items are non-essential, and they’re labeled as such. But, for the most part, this is the equipment I deem necessary to maintain at least a certain level of comfort while on the trail. I should also mention, that I think light weight equipment is essential when hiking any distance at all. A couple extra pounds equals a thousand extra body aches.
1. The Tent – Necessary
Some people, especially ‘old-timers’ as experienced hikers call them, believe that a tent is not a necessity. A lot of ‘old-timers’ will camp cowboy style (without any shelter) when the weather is fair. When it’s raining they will string up a simple tarp to stay dry.
While I can see the value in this approach (a lighter pack), there are now tents available on the market that are under well under 2 pounds. I cannot see myself sleeping outside with nothing between me and nature, when there are tents like the Contrail by TarpTent on the market for only $200. It weighs 24.5 ounces and sets up in under 2 minutes. Can’t beat that.
A major step up from the 5-6 lb. beast I was carrying
2. The Bag – Necessary
The bag that I was using was rated at +40 degrees. Meaning, I should have been able to slip into it almost naked and still be warm down to 40 degrees. I bundled and layered with long underwear, thermal socks, and a jacket, which I thought would make up for the extra 10-15 degrees of cold. I was wrong. I still froze. And on top of that, the bag took up a lot of pack space.
For future adventures, I’ll go with something similar to the Alps Mountaineering Navajo +20 Sleeping Bag. It weighs about the same as the +40 degree bag I had, and it comes with a compression sack to drastically reduce it’s size in the backpack.
3. The Pad – Absolutely Necessary!
I say a sleeping pad is absolutely necessary because I went without one on my trip and I suffered severely for it. I’ve read that you lose 80% of your body heat to the ground. I know first hand that this statistic is no exaggeration. A sleeping bag placed directly on the ground is exponentially colder than a bag placed on top of a sleeping pad on the ground. I guarentee my nights would have been much more restful had I brought along a sleeping pad.
Sleeping pads are super light weight and can be had for relatively cheap. The Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite is perfect for light weight backpacking. It folds nicely and can be strapped pretty much anywhere on the outside of a pack.
4. The Pump – Necessary
There are no grocery or conviences stores in the wild. So, unfortunately, we must purify our own drinking water. On my trip, I used water purifying drops. I wasn’t too keen on putting mass amounts of iodine into my system, and the water tasted awful. They worked for the week, but for trips longer than this, I’d be a fool not to buy a water pump like the MSR MiniWorks EX Filter.
My friend has one and, within a few minutes and a little bit of pumping, we had a couple liters of delicious, fresh water. While we were pumping directly from a high Sierra lake, he told me of times when he’d pumped from much more polluted looking sources and had no problems with contamination what-so-ever.
5. The Pack – Necessary
Modern day hiking backpacks are absolutely unnecessary in all their frills. They are extremely expensive and the technological advances they boast can slow you down. My pack, a mid-range purchase from REI, is a perfect example. It is bulky, has a hundred different straps and pockets that I’m still discovering, and it weighs a ton.
Ray Jardine, who I call the ‘ultimate hiker’, recommends you accumulate all your gear first, then modify and build your own personal backpack. He can make a pack perfectly suited to hike over 2,000 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail for under $20. For any serious hiking I’ll be doing the future, I’ll picking up his Ray-Way Backpack Kit.
6. The Stove – Not Entirely Necessary
One of my friends hiked the Pacific Crest Trail with no stove. I admire that. However, I wouldn’t want to do that myself. I like hot food and tea. On my trip, I carried a propane stove by Coleman. It was fairly heavy and awkwardly shaped.
I’d love to have a Jet-Boil. It’s lightweight, boils water super fast, and it sounds like a jet taking off when it starts up!
7. The Headlamp – Not Necessary but Sweet
I carried a small, hand-held flashlight. While it got the job done, it was difficult to accomplish certain tasks with something in my hand. It was impossible to use both hands for cooking and still be able to see what I was doing. That’s where a headlamp comes in. Not only are they practical, you look awesome wearing one it too.
I’ll stop here. The list could go on and on. There are all sorts of gear out there that you can find to make your adventures a little more comfortable and easy. Once you have the essential items, the possibility for customization is limitless.
In the end I’m glad that I got experience doing some hiking before I purchased much gear. I now have a better idea of what items I would buy in the future. I would have hated to have bought a piece of gear only to realize that I didn’t need it, or that there was something cheaper and better out there. It was a great learning experience.
In August, I’ll be embarking for South America or Panama or Thailand. This trip wont be a backpacking trip in the same way, but I will have to buy some gear to bring along with me. I’m going to be putting in some time researching, but if my Yosemite trip has taught me anything, it’s that you don’t really know what you’ll need until you go. I think I’m going to try to limit my purchases until I’m actually there, and then buy what I think is necessary.