This list has changed much more often than I care to admit! As of early 2001 I have dumped nearly all the new stuff I so eagerly acquired a short year ago, so this is as much a confession as an equipment list. Still, it may prove useful to those who wish to hear an opinion before picking up an item or two, and we can all look back and laugh at what I choose to call my 'thought process' that has led me to where I am now. Having an REI store nearby appears to be having an effect!
- Tent - REI Clipper
- I have tried several different shelters over the years, including a large tarp and one fiberglass pole on the '96 trip. I became sold on freestanding tents, and in '99 packed just fly and poles from my cheap Stansport 3-pole tent. In '00 I used a North Face Pebble, but its tall, narrow profile made me claustrophobic. The Clipper is larger but similar to the Stansport, itself a variant of the original North Face Tadpole tent - tall and wide in front, tapered in back. In gentle, bug-free climates the fly will travel alone.
- Pack - REI New Star
- While I still have my external pack and Alpenlite frame, the internal is plenty comfortable and works well. My original Lowe internal bag from '99 was top-loading only, had no day-pack lid and made too much space available for me to fill; the New Star allows me to revert to my external-frame loading from the back. While I don't understand the Backpacker magazine comments about comfort and stability, I'm no expert.
- Stove - Coleman Feather 400 (white gas)
- Although it did let me down in October 2000, this workhorse has held up for years now, when others were slower or more stubborn (or flaming out, or just not lighting) nearby. It's an odd shape, but strong and stable and fast to boil. When it finally did fail me, a $10 repair kit and 15 minutes made it as good as ever. Its descendants now are the Feather 442 and Apex.
- SleepBag - REI DownTime DL
- My high-altitude summer camps often drop below freezing, and my frostnipped feet chill quickly. My original duck-down mummy got wet once, and that switched me to synthetics for my adventures. My huge Dacron II bag of the 70s was replaced by a slimmer 30° bag, then a Kelty 20°, and now it's back to down. Thirty years of technology improvements and a little caution should get me through any moisture issues -- I hope. [I've noted that several people have posted web reviews noting that Kelty was very optiistic with their 20° rating - I agree.]
- Boots - Vasque
- I picked up these at a mall shoe-store, and I don't even know their name - I just know they work. Sturdy, comfortable and moderately light, these jade-colored leather-fabric boots have taken me on good trails and no trails without slipping, twisting, or otherwise making me work harder than the minimum. Everyone I knows who has owned Vasque boots said good things, and I've joined the chorus.
- Water Filter
- While the First Need filter of the '80s still does a fine job, it doesn't clamp on to my bottles and cartridges are rare and spendy. My Sweetwater Walkabout is ultralight, effective and reasonably swift, and as long as I don't lose the brush again (as in '97) it treats me very well.
- Walking Pole(s)
- I am a one-pole person, keeping one hand free for camera, snacks, water bottle, swatting, removing my hat, etc. Nonetheless I now own two very different poles - a sturdy Tracks aluminum pole with camera-socket on top and a newer lightweight REI twist-lock 3-segment design. I used the latter in 2000 with no complaints, but I'm glad I had the longer and sturdier one for the '99 x-c extravaganza. Its ability to stretch to nearly 5 feet helped me descend a few mean boulder fields, and its button lock seems more psychologically reliable to hold my weight than the twist-lock type. Each has its virtues, though, and I'll keep 'em both.
- Bear Canister - yes
- I accepted the inevitable before my '99 trip and picked up an 8×16 aluminum canister from the sierrawilderness.com store. By purchasing one quickly I have more trips to lower its per-trip cost, and by getting a large one I can be out for a week with no trouble. Sure hope the bears appreciate this.
Other Items of Note
I heartily endorse the collapsible gallon water bucket for a great many uses. The most obvious is to keep water trips down to one, pumping from the bucket at the camp instead of making a path to the local creek. It's also handy for rinsing one's head, body or clothes after a cleaning. My mess kit is a simple one, due mainly to the 1-quart teakettle that makes measuring and pouring water so simple. In the clothing department, my local army-surplus store has plenty of t-shirts, but I always pick out the 50% poly/cotton blends - these are lighter than cotton, dry faster and keep me warmer in all circumstances. The matching bandana is nice as a fashion statement, but even more as a damp cloth, flyswatter, and worn in French foreign-legion style to keep the sun off my ears and neck. The same store sells thin spandex glove-liners that are excellent for early mornings and cloudy evenings, and much I own a tough pair of Adidas sandals with a covered toe, great for stream crossings but comfortable for home and work as well! I use a cheap poncho for a ground-cloth under my tent, and to save weight I just might make that my primary raingear as well. My GoreTex parka and pants are not holding out the rain nowadays without a twice-annual bath, and that is getting a bit tiresome. I picked up a fleece vest recently that's thin and light with a nylon outer shell - not waterproof, but more windproof and easier to stuff than my previous one. For imaging, I heartily recommend the digital camcorder, though, and a spare battery - an hour of great memories in motion and sound!
What didn't work
My luck with a felxible canteen and drinking-hose in 2000 wasn't pleasant: the bite-valve dripped on me several times and drained half my supply once when my pack was resting against a rock. I found a holster that velcros onto my hip-belt for my plastic bottle, and that works very well. The '96 tarp and fiberglass pole was optimistic but silly. Other than that, most of my gear has done nicely - except my cameras. My batteries failed in '96 with no feedback, another SLR rolled into Fish Creek in '97, and yet another camera body failed utterly two days short of the end in '99. I believe my days with a single-lens-reflex in the wilderness have ended; I will miss the 24-50 zoom lens, but little else.