Saturday, December 5, 2015

Late 2015 Gear List #2

So, I've already done a Budget Gear List. But let's say quality of gear is more important than low prices. I still stand by my recommendations on the above list, and it'll probably be a LIGHTER list than this one, but I'm somebody who wants durable equipment, and I've learned that it's often better to buy a piece of gear that lasts, once, than to buy cheaply and have to buy again.

Backpack: Gregory Baltoro 65
Store: REI $299
Notes: I've got the 2014 version of this pack, and the worst thing I can say about it, is that the pockets on the belt are too small. the 2015 version of this pack remedies that, and even comes with a built-in rain cover. I would not hesitate for one moment to recommend this pack. Try one on!

Trekking Poles: REI Traverse
Store: REI $90
Notes: Another piece of gear I own, these poles have not been PERFECT, but they've been darn good. If I had one complaint, it would be the need to periodically tighten the screws on the locks. If I were thankful for one thing, it would be that I have the ability to tighten the screws on the locks.  They've got cork handles, they've got fliplocks with user-tightening screws, and they've survived a year of my abuse.

Tent: REI Passage 2
Store: REI $159
Notes: More gear I own, though I picked up mine for a third of the price at a garage sale. I considered more expensive tents but honestly, they all looked more complicated to set up. At the end of the day, with my energy spent, and my body aching, I'd rather have a simple tent. The Passage 2 is a two-pole X configuration, and it's hard to get simpler than that.

Sleeping Bag: Kelty Cosmic Down 20
Store: Amazon, $137
Notes: The slightly warmer version of the bag I recommend for my budget list. I got a 2014 closeout version of this for cheap at Scheels Sports in the Fox River Mall, but Amazon's price is the best I saw tonight. I'm a cold cold sleeper, and the Cosmic Down is so warm that I'm reluctant to leave it come morning.

Sleeping Pad: Therm-a-Rest Trail Scout
Store: REI $60
Notes: The first gear on this list I don't own. I'd like to have an inflatable pad for the cushioning it would provide, though my Blue Foam Pad has done a fine job of insulating.

Cookware: Snow Peak 900 Titanium Pot
Store: REI $53
Notes: an awesome lightweight and durable pot, perfect size for cooking and eating the trail meals I've been listing on this blog. I'm quite sold on titanium, even if it commands a premium.

Stove:  Canister Stove
Store: Amazon $7
Notes: I love this cheap canister stove so much.

Water Filter: Katadyn Gravity Camp 6L
Store: REI $90
Notes: Only design I've found that has a standing cylinder for the filter. I believe that this combination of standing filter and gravity feed is the best option available.

Food Bag:  10L Food Bag
Store: REI $9
Notes: Combine with Paracord, Carabiner and Stick and you can use the PCT Hang on the bag and prevent Yogi from getting into your pick-a-nick basket. Yup! Same one from the other list. Some items there's just no need to spend more on.

Knife: Buck 110 Folding Knife
Store: Amazon $42
Notes: Buck Knives are my go-to for blades, and I'm quite happy with both my 110 folder, and 105 pathfinder fixed blade. When I'm hiking though, I prefer the 110. it fits better in my pack.

Utensil:  Sea to Summit Alphalight Spork
Store: REI $9
Notes: I'm still quite happy with mine. Puts up with a good deal of my abuse with nary a sign of wear.

Chair: REI Camp Stowaway
Store: REI $31
Notes: a camp chair is one of the few things I don't have, that I might like to. For now, my blue foam pad will serve, if I need to keep off the ground. But, it'd be nice to have a proper backrest in camp on the trail

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Bug Spray

So, our hike in the Harrison Hills region was a real wakeup as to the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of DEET, the most common active ingredient in bugspray. I sprayed myself up good, but it wasn't effective in the least. Not even with periodic reapplication from the travel-size 100% DEET sprayer I had in my bag. I don't know if it was NEVER effective, or if it's possible for insect populations to build a resistance to it, but whatever the reason, whatever it's history, it was clear to me that those familiar green cans weren't going to cut it.

See, I intend to go back into those hills, and I believe in preparedness. So I did my homework afterwards, and I tested a combination of two different sprays. Permethrin, which is used to treat clothing and equipment and Picaridin, which you can use on skin like DEET. Permethrin is safe to get on your skin, it's just ineffective on it. It only works if you get it on your clothes and boots and pack and tent. The upshot is, Permethrin doesn't just repel insects, it kills them. It's a chemical they derive from chrysanthemum flowers. But, a word of caution, it isn't safe for cats. So if you've got cats, make sure to throw your hiking clothes right in the wash.

Picaridin I know relatively little about. It might be made out of space captains. Nah, I did look into it and it's derived from a plant related to where we get black pepper. It was developed by Bayer in the 80s, but only approved for use about a decade ago.

Permethrin can be effective for up to two weeks. Picaridin's effective time is around 8 hours.

They can be used together, and they're what I used for the rest of the summer. They're relatively low odor, and not nearly as unpleasant as putting on DEET can be. Presumably you could all three, I haven't seen anything warning you not to. But just the combination of Picaridin and Permethrin was enough to prevent me from seeing another tick all summer long.

If you'd like to pick some up, this handy, portable pump of  20% Picaridin from Sawyer is as high a concentration as you'll find, the stuff I got from Fleet Farm in a red can was only 5%. And this spray can of Permethrin is what I've been using through out the summer. Fortunately, with that, you don't need to carry it on the trail. You can leave it in your car, or back at home.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Restless Wilderness' End of 2015 Budget Gear List

Backpack: Jansport Klamath 55R
Store: REI Outlet $107.73 
Weight: 57oz

My previous gear list had a phenomenal deal on the Katahdin 50L pack. The Klamath is the katahdin's external frame brother. Yes. Let me be clear. the Jansport Klamath packs are External Frame. As always the BEST things you can do for a backpack are to try them on with a load before you buy, and check the REI Garage Sales, but I can't really link to that on a blog.

The Klamath 55R is twice the price that the Katahdin 50, and since it's a 2014 closeout, I'm surprised that it's still so pricy. But, it's the cheapest pack I've been able to find at the moment. If you MUST buy a pack right now and you're on a budget, this looks like one of your best options. Yes, I did see smaller packs for lower prices, but I'm loathe to recommend lower than 50 liters for multi-day trips.

If you can hold out until say, Late Febuary, you might be able to get a better deal on things, or a newer revision. Personally, since it's winter, I feel like I can afford to wait. But, if you're gift shopping or looking to outfit yourself before spring rolls around, you could do worse than this.

Trekking Poles: Cascade Mountain Cork/Flip Locks
Store: Amazon $47
Like I said here Trekking Poles are a must. Cork is good. Flip-locks a must. $47 is hard to beat.

Tent: Stansport "Scout" Tent
Store: Amazon $23.88 
Weight: 60.8 oz

I'm just enamored with the idea of this tent. It's remarkably cheap and weighs less than my Passage2, and it reminds me of the LL Bean backpacking tent that my dad bought decades ago. You could shave off even more of the weight by leaving the poles at home, and using your trekking poles in their place. I think I'd rather be in my Passage2 if it were raining cats and dogs out, but this should keep the raccons from cuddling with you and hopefully keep you dry outside of monsoon season.

This is the same tent that was on the last iteration of my list, and I don't think you're going to find a tent cheaper than this. If you want to go cheaper and lighter, we start talking make-your-own gear shelters out of Tyvek and Dropcloths. which IS an option, there are ultralighters who do entire scenic trails with little more shelter than that.

Sleeping Bag: Kelty Cosmic Down 41 Long
Store: Amazon $87.17
Weight: 35oz

Same essential bag I recommended last time, but now for cheaper!  Where weight and warmth are a premium, Down is a must. Kelty's Cosmic Down line is a great entry level option, and my own hiking bag is a 2014 closeout Cosmic Down 20 Long I picked up at Scheels Sports in the local mall. I can vouch for these bags, and the 20 is almost TOO warm for me, particularly in the summer. the 41  ought to cover most people's three-season camping/hiking needs.

Sleeping Pad: Blue Closed Cell Foam Pad
Store: Wal-mart for roughly $10
Notes: Cannot find online
Weight: 7.5 oz

For whatever reason, Wal-Mart's online selection and their camping section at every store I've been to, have been in no way similar. I can't in good conscience recommend any of the ones I see on Amazon. I use one of these myself. My car camping self inflating insulation pad is a lot nicer to sleep on, but it's far far more bulky.

Item:  Bacon Grease Strainer used as Cooking Pot
Store: Amazon $9.69 
Weight: 3 oz (w/o strainer part)
Notes: Lightweight and Inexpensive, I keep seeing this popping up in people's gear lists. Up a few cents from before, but still quite affordable. Bring a pot lifter

Item:  Pot Lifter
Store: REI $1.93
Notes: Goes with the Grease Strainer. Needs a handle. Marked down since last time! (might be clearance now)

Item:  Canister Stove
Store: Amazon $7
Notes: Same stove I'm using. Wholly endorse this. Highest price to satisfaction ratio of almost anything I own.
Weight: 3.7 oz
Weight: 2 oz

Item:  Sawyer Mini Water Filter
Store: Amazon $19
Notes: Save on shipping by buying locally if you can find it for a comparable price. If you're in appleton, try the east side wal-mart. Consider pairing with Aquamira or Potable Aqua for thorough purification.
Weight: 6.4 oz

Item:  10L Food Bag
Store: REI $9
Notes: Combine with Paracord, Carabiner and Stick and you can use the PCT Hang on the bag and prevent Yogi from getting into your pick-a-nick basket.
Weight: 1.7 oz

Item:  Morakniv Companion
Store: Amazon $16
Notes: a basic, reliable, inexpensive knife. If you want something heavier duty, I recommend the Buck 110 folding or Buck Pathfinder 105 fixed blade knife.
Weight: 4.1 oz

Item:  Sea to Summit Alphalight Spork
Store: REI $9
Notes: I'm still quite happy with mine. Puts up with a good deal of my abuse with nary a sign of wear.
Weight: 0.4 oz

Gear Research: Inexpensive Trekking Poles

So, if you saw my last post, you can see one of the many reasons why I'm a fan of trekking poles. I also like my ankles to stay unbroken and functional. Those of you who know me offline know that this is a battle I do not always win. Those of you just tuning in, take my word for it, it's hard being my ankles. Certain Tent Designs, like the A-shape tent I link in my Cheap Gear List (which I intend to update for next season!) can actually replace it's poles with trekking poles. So, I really am a believer in trekking poles, and I don't regret a single cent I spent on my REI Traverse Poles, but at the same time I can see how someone might balk at $90 for a pair.

I've been thinking of pestering some friends with Costco memberships to sneak me into their walled garden, to get a look at the fabled $30 trekking poles reputedly sold there. But, I did a little research, and you can get them just as cheap on Amazon. Woah, woah, slow your roll, the $30 pair is basically a no-go. $30 gets you foam rubber grips, and twist locks. The handgrips are fine if you're snowshoeing or something where you're wearing gloves, and I suppose they'd do in a pinch, but take my word on it, you want cork grips. Meanwhile, twist-locks are just a cardinal sin and no mitigating circumstances exist to justify them other than "they cost less." But if I'm spending good money on poles to keep me upright, they damn well better keep me upright.

So, all is not lost, but they'll cost you a little more than that initial $30 pricetag. $48 on amazon will get you a set of Cascade Mountain Tech Flip-lock Trekking Poles. They have cork grips, for which your hands will thank you. They're carbon fiber, so they're possibly even lighter than mine. You get carbide tips inside of rubber stoppers, so you can choose what's appropriate for your use-case. Flip-locks are that much less likely to betray you when you need them most, and they're half of what I paid for my entirely reasonable REI branded poles. Especially at the entry level there's no need to lay out the $160+ that some of the brands can run.

The only thing I can think of that'd be cheaper, and still worth using, is to find some used ski poles at a garage sale. But then you don't get the cork grips.

This isn't exactly an endorsement per-se, but it is a heads up on something that I've heard other people endorse. If you pick some of these up, I'd love to hear how they work out for you. I'd be glad to link to, or include your review of them here.