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#176045 - 03/27/13 07:45 PM gear choices/life style
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3967
Loc: Bend, Oregon
A buddy of mine loaned me "Ultralight Backpackin Tips" by Mike Clelland. This is not a review of that book, however while reading through it I was struck by the thought that the gear choices people make have to do with their life style and their imagined relationship with where ever it is that they camp.

For example, if you imagine yourself fighting off wild animals with your Bowie knife, you will most likely think a Bowie knife is required. Don't laugh, a huge percentage of campers, especially men, carry knives with no real purpose because it has to do with their image of themselves.

You may imagine yourself the ultralight woodnymph running past all of those over burdened campers with your TINY UL pack, but the reason you have that tiny pack is that it makes you feel superior, smarter, sexier, than someone with a larger pack. it looks carefree, and unencumbered, like the atitudes of the users. In all fairness I look at them and their tiny packs and I know what they are carrying and I laugh inwardly at how much they will be suffering when I'm in my tent on my down filled air mattress in my big down sleeping bag. You see, I imagine myself the master of camping comfort through being properly prepared and having good gear.

The extremes in gear are very user/usage determined. I may need clothes that can stand up to extreme because my life may depend on it, or I may only need a tee shirt and shorts for my trip.

I have a buddy who always carries surplus German army gear because he says its the only gear rugged enough to last a lifetime. Even the cook-kit. I also know people who carry a paper cup to drip from and use a ziplock for a pillow. I personally dislike alcohol and carry compressed gas stove and I don't own no stinking "tea cozy" - I actually cook my food with the abundance of energy avail to me from my compressed gas stove.

Some people love to fuss with alcohol stoves, but like kites, fire striker sticks and yes Bowie knives, they're just another camping fetish that people enjoy doing with their time. I drink a lot of coffee and I want to just turn a knob and have 10,000 BTu and then have it turn off completely when I turn the same knob. But heck I'm a retired engineer, I'd rather carry a nicely turned piece of hardwar than trying to stand my pot on top of three tent stakes with an esbit.

What you will want to carry has to do with how you imagine yourself camping. Because of this, everyone will attach a different value to their gear. I imagine myself as a lone intrepid soul hiking around cross country just checkin things out, so I place a high value on boots, tough clothes, GPS and gear that works in rain and cold. Others imagine themselves carrying little but their swimsuit and towel, and that may be about all they require.

Another serious consideration is the length of time that you pack for. Do you only carry the things required for an individual trip, or do you carry a seasons worth of first aid, creamer, etc etc. Will each piece if gear have to survive the entire season? Will it be able to survive multiple seasons, or will you replace it each trip?

But your opinion about other peoples gear is probably as dependent on your atitude about why you camp, as it is about the gear.
Jim grin
_________________________
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.

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#176048 - 03/28/13 08:29 AM Re: gear choices/life style [Re: Jimshaw]
LoneStranger Offline
member

Registered: 02/01/13
Posts: 23
Loc: Maine
As a newbie here I've hesitated to say some of the very things you touched on here. Gear, like backpacking itself, is very user specific. What is too much for one person is not nearly enough for another. We each do what we think is right, but we should remember that what is right for us is wrong for someone else. I'm not going to tell someone else they have to do it my way and I hope they understand why I laugh when they insist I should do it theirs.

Thanks for posting this. I'm headed out for a long weekend but I'll be curious to see the response when I return.

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#176051 - 03/28/13 12:01 PM Re: gear choices/life style [Re: LoneStranger]
Glenn Roberts Offline
Moderator

Registered: 12/23/08
Posts: 1910
Loc: Southwest Ohio
Don't hesitate to say it! Sometimes the gear discussions take on a tone of "this is the right way," but that's only because many of the folks have been interacting for a long time - the parts about "you have to decide whether this is right for you" and "there are no absolutes" is implied in the discussion.

One of the reasons I was drawn to backpacking originally was the idea that I could develop my own techniques, goals, and agendas, and at most be "different," which is a whole wide world away from being "wrong." The only judgment I make about other people's gear is whether it might work for me, too.

I tend toward the light end of the spectrum, but not for the reason Jim attributes to ultralighters (at 63, I'm in no way a "wood nymph" sprinting past anyone!) Instead, my decision to go lighter was in part an attempt to offset some loss in abilities (I'm no longer quite as nimble as I was, and a lighter, smaller pack helps with balance and bending when scrambling over boulders or under blowdowns, for example.) I've simplified technique and decided I could do without some things in order to maintain comfort in others (again, an example is that I've gone with a less roomy solo tent so I could use the "saved" weight for a cushier sleeping pad.)

Does that mean I think you should go light? Nope. You should hike happy, however you define that term.


Edited by Glenn Roberts (03/28/13 12:12 PM)

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#176052 - 03/28/13 12:25 PM Re: gear choices/life style [Re: Jimshaw]
billstephenson Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3917
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
Great post Jim, there is a lot of truth in the author's observations, but honestly, I don't feel I fit in there very well.

I don't really think much at all about what others are carrying and never about rather my gear is better and more impressive, or that I'm smarter or they're stupider because of my or their choices.

I can sure see how the author concluded that gear is very closely related to one's perception of themselves, and his breakdown of those personas feels dead on to me.

As for me, I just want to be out in the forest and be comfortable. I always feel lucky to have the gear to do that, and a place to do that.

Stoves are an interesting item to pick on, and I think you can draw some conclusions about the personas of some of their users. As for me, my exponent extreme stove sits on my shelf. I use a super cat stove now. The reason I use it is because it's too simple to fail, to cheap to care if it gets stepped on, and lighter than any other stove I know of that performs as well. I'm well aware that there is close to zero "wow" factor with that stove. I've used it enough to know.

I showed both of my stove to my neighbor the other day. First I showed him the super cat stove and told him it's what I use. He looked very disappointed and told me about our buddies stove (an old svea stove). We talked a bit more and he told about a stove at the Coleman store here so I broke out my exponent extreme stove and lit it up for him. "Wow! Now that's a stove!"

Yeah, you can smelt ore with it, that's for sure... cool
_________________________
--

"You want to go where?"



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#176054 - 03/28/13 12:56 PM Re: gear choices/life style [Re: Glenn Roberts]
skcreidc Offline
member

Registered: 08/16/10
Posts: 1590
Loc: San Diego CA
Interesting topic. I am responding to Jim's OP, but I liked this quote from Glenn;

Quote:
One of the reasons I was drawn to backpacking originally was the idea that I could develop my own techniques, goals, and agendas, and at most be "different," which is a whole wide world away from being "wrong." The only judgment I make about other people's gear is whether it might work for me, too.


Amen brother! I find it great that there are all these other pieces of equipment out there, which in all likelyhood I will NEVER purchase (because unlike Glenn, I am not a gearaholic. Not that there is anything wrong with that.... grin ) If I have the gear that works for me and is reliable (this is a big one for me), I see no need to change. Take what you need to do what you want to do while you are up there, that is what I say. I've got gear for winter, desert, for fishing, for hunting, for mountaineering, whatever. I think you get the idea. This is because the bottom line for me is that I love the sense of independence and self reliance feel I have going out there. I took this line really far in my 20's. But THAT is MY illusion. Heck, the differences in gear just give you something to talk about around the campfire (if you can have one) laugh

I do have to say that I seem to like a bit of misery in my adventures. Not sure why...definitely so though. I was just watching these guys aid attempt on some mid-winter Eiger route. As I was thinking how much fun it looked(beyond me, but still fun), I released how demented that line of reasoning was. My wife would be appalled. Oh well.


Edited by skcreidc (03/28/13 01:27 PM)

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#176056 - 03/28/13 01:42 PM Re: gear choices/life style [Re: skcreidc]
Glenn Roberts Offline
Moderator

Registered: 12/23/08
Posts: 1910
Loc: Southwest Ohio
Yeah, I know, some of your best friends are gearaholics... smile

Actually, the addiction may be weakening a bit this year. For several years, I've chased that elusive ideal set of gear for me (the set that is so convenient to use that it fades into the background of the trip), and I think I'm almost there. It's actually been almost two whole weeks since I changed anything. The trip I took last weekend found me using everything I brought, except the first aid kit, and not wishing I had brought anything else. It all fit in the pack, just filling it nicely, and nothing hung out. It carried lightly and balanced well, and I wasn't tired (or filled with leftover energy) at the end of the day. I kind of felt like Red Riding Hood all weekend: not too much, not too little, just right.

Of course, I did see a tent the other day that would save a whole 3 ounces at a trifling cost of $450... smile

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#176057 - 03/28/13 02:26 PM Re: gear choices/life style [Re: skcreidc]
OregonMouse Offline
member

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6738
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
While I'm definitely drawn to the light end of the spectrum out of necessity (age and decrepitude), I always take what keeps me warm, safe and comfortable. I've experienced enough truly nasty weather, especially in the Rockies, that I won't risk going without what's needed to cope with it.

I certainly will never get to the "ultralight" level (base weight under 10 lbs.) category, nor do I even intend to try. I am down to 12 lbs. base weight (that includes camera and fishing gear, items noticeably absent from "ultralight" gear lists) and I'm happy with it.

I do own an alcohol stove and have tried it--it's really not that inconvenient. However, for some reason, when I'm packing for a trip, I invariably grab a fuel canister and my little Primus Micron. Force of habit, maybe. For a longer trip (like a week or more) the combination of stove and fuel are actually lighter for the canister stove.

At my age, I absolutely must have a nice thick, cushy, well insulated air pad if I'm going to get any sleep at all. Otherwise my nights are spent in constant pain. One thing my experience with the NeoAir (horrible!) reminded me of is that what works for one person may not work for all.

While I enjoy Mike Clelland's cartoons, there are a lot of areas in which I disagree with him. The same is true for a lot of other "experts." On the other hand, I've learned lots of good ideas for reducing pack weight and just for enjoying my trips more from Mike and other lightweight backpacking advocates. The important thing is to try any new techniques or gear out in the back yard, car-camping or on very short backpacks close to the trailhead to be sure they work for you before committing to a longer trip.

My original foray into lightweight gear started with a three-week car-camping trip from Ohio back to Oregon, spent mostly on the trail of Lewis and Clark with a few side trips. I encountered enough weather extremes on that trip to know that most of the new lightweight gear was going to work just fine. The few items that didn't have now gone, such as the 32* sleeping bag with silk liner. The silk liner was gone after two nights of getting thoroughly tangled up in it; the sleeping bag was sold and replaced by a 20* bag (heavier but warmer). A few of my original items have been replaced by lighter items--the fleece jacket by a puffy jacket, the aluminum pot by titanium (which actually didn't save that much) and the 2-lb. tent by a 1-pounder (and a much lighter wallet laugh ). My sleeping pads have gotten thicker--and actually lighter--as my hip and shoulder joints have become more sensitive, and I think the next step is to a down-filled pad so I no longer have to worry about warmth in marginal temperatures. That's going to up the weight several ounces over my current pad, as is extra down fill for my sleeping bag, but since my body's thermostat is becoming less functional as I get older, I need more warmth.

On the other hand, I wouldn't be backpacking at all if it weren't for the articles and information on this site and others. While in my 40's I was able to stagger around the North Cascades with a 50-lb. pack for a 9-day trip, those days were gone forever after a severe knee injury. It wasn't until I discovered this site that I was once again able to backpack more than a mile or two. Now my 9-day pack weight is less than half of what it was back in the "bad old days." It's about half the bulk, which also makes it easier to carry. Even if I were still able to carry that weight, it wasn't fun then and it would be even less fun now!

I strongly believe that (within reason, and up to a point), lighter is definitely more comfortable and more fun, but normally I just refer folks to the home page of this site, add a "YMMV" or two and leave them to decide. At least people starting out backpacking should know that they have the option of lighter stuff if they want it. In many cases, the lighter stuff (unless it's cuben fiber) is less expensive, too. If someone specifically asks for a gear list critique and something on their list jumps out at me, I'll give it, but it's up to them if they want to accept the suggestions. I've been through a couple of these myself. I originally said "no way" to most of the suggestions but, after a while, tried them and found some of them just fine.

Conclusion to all this rambling: We are never too old to learn and to try new ways of doing things! We just need to make sure they fit in with what keeps us safe and comfortable!
_________________________
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey

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#176059 - 03/28/13 04:29 PM Re: gear choices/life style [Re: skcreidc]
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3967
Loc: Bend, Oregon
skredic, mouse, bill, etc

Interesting that skredick admits enjoying a bit of dangerous thrill in his outdoor adventure but thinks his wife would be appalled. Mouse's signiture "may you have - what crooked dangerous paths - something like that. I can attest to the fact that out of hundreds of awesome camping trips, mostly in the Sierra, I remember the ones where I rescued someone, was hit by a blizzard, ran out of water, ran out stove fuel in the winter, or those where I went rock climbing on some nice scary rock.

My outfit comes from alpine mountaineering gear. I spent a night out in 40 below in the Alps and ever since then I have taken the clothing to allow me to walk (ski) out through any weather and the gear to stop and camp in any storm at any altitude. My clothing had to be rugged enough for climbing, that means triple thickness goretex bibs with reinforced knees and a drop seat, etc. [of course I don't wear that where its not needed]

I don't take a lot of items that many people do. I do like my Xtreme (ore melter) stove especially for use in winter especially for cooking in the tent where the instant on and positive off are required, and the lack of priming prevents flare-up. My titanium alcohol stove stays at home along with my knife collection, map, compass, etc...

Note to beginners - after a couple hundred trips, especially sort of extreme trips, you will know what you need to take, what you have always taken and never used, and what to leave at home. After exhausting all of the camping fantasies and owning WAY too much gear, I find it interesting that I leave 90% of my camping gear at home. I do love my huge backpack and would never give it up. My Kelty Cloud 6500 (6500 cubic inches)is modular and will strip down to a 29 ounce bag with padded shoulder straps and a lightweight waist band, or I can add any of a number of accesories - heavy duty waist band, spectra side pockets etc etc, and of course it has full iceaxe loops and daisy chains. Let me put it this way - a certain rather shy climber, one of the leaders of the American K2 expedition of 2000, begged me to loan him my pack for the climb. The fact that I still have the pack means he didn't get it - I told him I figured some sherpa kid would end up carrying his books to school in it.
Jim eek
_________________________
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.

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#176061 - 03/28/13 05:14 PM Re: gear choices/life style [Re: Jimshaw]
finallyME Offline
member

Registered: 09/24/07
Posts: 2710
Loc: Utah
Jim, why don't you just tell us what you really think?

By the way, I have decided to make my own down air mattress. 3.5-4 inches just sounds so goooood.
_________________________
I've taken a vow of poverty. To annoy me, send money.

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#176065 - 03/28/13 05:44 PM Re: gear choices/life style [Re: finallyME]
OregonMouse Offline
member

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6738
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
Too thick a sleeping pad means your head will bump the tent roof when you sit up, creating nice wet spot on hood of your sleeping bag. Been there, done that!

Of course I never blow my pad up more than halfway; I like it squishy!
_________________________
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey

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#176066 - 03/28/13 06:01 PM Re: gear choices/life style [Re: OregonMouse]
finallyME Offline
member

Registered: 09/24/07
Posts: 2710
Loc: Utah
Originally Posted By OregonMouse

Of course I never blow my pad up more than halfway; I like it squishy!


Me too. smile
_________________________
I've taken a vow of poverty. To annoy me, send money.

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#176074 - 03/29/13 12:22 AM Re: gear choices/life style [Re: Jimshaw]
billstephenson Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3917
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
Jim I love that stove. I think Coleman has an adapter for it to use the same canisters most other stoves use now. I have to get that.

If I were with a group I'd carry it if I could leave something else at home, but when it's just me, I don't bring it. If I cook I'll do that over a fire. I have some small pans that work good for that.

I don't do much extreme weather or hard hikes, at least not compared to you and some others here. I go when it's nice out and meander around and take it easy. I stop and look at big cliff faces and it never even occurs to me to try and figure out how to climb it. I bet that never happens to you laugh

So, I can see how Jim's, or anyone's, choice of gear would reflect their style and personality. You choice of stove does say something about that.

I guess mine says I'm lazy, cheap, and boring blush

_________________________
--

"You want to go where?"



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#176078 - 03/29/13 07:29 AM Re: gear choices/life style [Re: billstephenson]
DTape Offline
member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 666
Loc: Upstate NY
Nah Bill, your gear is just the right tool for the job based on your experience.

I don't give any thought to what others are carrying. Some pass me on the trail with lighter packs, other with heavier packs. I pass others with lighter packs and some with heavier packs. I don't believe that my choices make my experience better than theirs, or that I am somehow deriving more benefit than they are. I assume others have there own experiences, likes and dislikes and make gear choices based on their own needs, desires and expectations. To me, what others use makes no difference to me. I am happy to share my experiences and show others my pack if they inquire.
_________________________
http://ducttapeadk.blogspot.com

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#176079 - 03/29/13 07:46 AM Re: gear choices/life style [Re: DTape]
Glenn Roberts Offline
Moderator

Registered: 12/23/08
Posts: 1910
Loc: Southwest Ohio
What DTape said - and said very well.

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#176091 - 03/29/13 03:28 PM Re: gear choices/life style [Re: Jimshaw]
OregonMouse Offline
member

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6738
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
Re my sig line--perhaps I should change it because now I pretty much have to avoid the more "crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous" paths "leading to the most amazing view." There are lots of those in the Columbia River Gorge, and 15 years ago I hiked a number of them. Ruckel Ridge, Rock of Ages, Munra Point....

Hiking is an intrinsically dangerous activity, and should be recognized as such. The attitude, though, should not be one of fear, but of respect for the forces of nature (such as temperature and gravity). Or, for that matter, traffic on the roads leading to and from the trailhead! Alertness, knowledge and common sense are all important.

I originally picked the Edward Abbey quote for the exact reason that he made it: we are so concerned with wrapping everything and everyone in a cocoon that we are losing the sense of adventure.

For those not aware, Jim's pack and stove are both considered classics, worth many hundreds (if not thousands) on the used gear market! They're also proof that lightweight gear is perhaps not as new as some think!


Edited by OregonMouse (03/29/13 03:33 PM)
_________________________
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey

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