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  1. #1
    Registered User foodbag's Avatar
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    Default The dizzying array of gear choices

    Hey everyone, it's Friday and I just feel like posting something rambling and incoherent while goofing off on the company's dime, so please bear with me, or not.

    I'd like to begin with this quote, familiar to many: “Who has not felt the urge to throw a loaf of bread and a pound of tea in an old sack and jump over the back fence." - John Muir

    As one of my favorite quotes of all time, it causes me to reflect on just how much gear is out there to choose from these days, and to realize just how spoiled we very well may have become, as members of the modern hiking community. It's not such a simple thing anymore to make the "right" gear selection. Many times I'll think to myself that I've "got it down" when it comes to my gear list, then all of a sudden something "better" comes along.

    All those different "D's" of rip-stop nylon, cuben fiber aka Dyneema in a half-dozen thicknesses, sil-nylon, LiteSkin, eVent, Gore Tex aluminum, titanium, stainless steel, goose down, water-resistent goose down, Hollowfill and a zillion other different synthetic fibers, lithium batteries, regular batteries, a hundred different manufacturers of tents, backpacks, shoes, headlamps, quilts, knives sleeping bags, what size pot should I use, alcohol stove, canister stove, tuna can stoves, Jet Boils, Pocket Rockets, Nalgene, CNOC, Platypus, Camelback, Smart Water liter bottles, Tyvek, polycro, cottage industries, mainstream manufacturers, tarps vs. tents vs. hammock vs. bivy sack - a veritable dizzying cyclonic, tornadic, whirlwind of information and choices, choices and MORE choices!

    Enough already I say! Curse you REI and Patagonia and the other early starters who launched an outdoor gear revolution! How do I wean myself away from all of this? A rhetorical question, but feel free to answer anyhow, as it is always good to gain other perspectives on topics like this.

    OK, now that I have that out of my system I'm going to sneak off to YouTube and look at gear reviews - I don't want to miss out on anything. Have a great Friday everyone!
    Long-distance aspirations with short-distance feet.... :jump

  2. #2
    Registered User colorado_rob's Avatar
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    Yep, it's a zoo out there! Tough navigating for some.

    My all-time favorite gear review site is "outdoorgearlab.com" Check 'em out. I personally don't have the patience to watch most of those YouTube gear reviews, too much unrelated talk about their dogs, mothers, whatever, plus a lot of those folks just talk too slow and don't get to the point quickly enough. All reviews have some bias, of course, I just find that the gear I've bought has accurate reviews on outdoorgearlab. Check 'em out.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by foodbag View Post
    . . . a pound of tea in an old sack . . .
    First, I'd like to note that a pound is a ridiculous amount of tea!!

    Second, like in the world of computers, at some point you just have to jump in and use what you can get now, knowing there will always be better tomorrow. At some point, we learn to realize that what we have is enough and the best is completely unnecessary. As we embrace the minimalist in weight, we can alternatively embrace the minimalist in complexity or technology (tea and bread as you quoted above). We just have to pick the esthetic that puts the healthiest smile on our face and the not let the drive to have the best overpower and distract from the other often more important priorities we have, eh?

    . . . yeah, I spent 10 years in Canada. ;-)

    Personally, as a minimalist, I like the idea of nothing but the cloths on my back, a loaf of bread and my poncho. For me shelter is a higher priority than caffeine. But then, if I'm taking the trouble to haul around a loaf of bread and minimalist shelter, why not add a few other minimal items in my pack to make my trip more comfortable, like more food variety, some cordage, a foam pad, some water . . . suddenly reality just aint the same as that dream.
    I'm not lost. I'm exploring.

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    Choices, mmmm! You don't need as much as you think you need. You sound hooked. Welcome to the addiction.

  5. #5
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    One reason we buy is because it reminds of the feelings we experience when we are outdoors, on the trail. Get out more and you'll feel less urge to buy.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by OCDave View Post
    . . . Get out more and you'll feel less urge to buy.
    I like that approach.
    I'm not lost. I'm exploring.

  7. #7

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    Yes, having many manufacturers and retailers in this industry tends to make it progressive and constantly introducing new materials, equipment, and accessories to the market. I remember what it was like 50 years ago when it was cotton in summer, wool in winter, and leather boots for all seasons. Not a lot of choice then.

    Now we have the benefit of competition driving research and development and choices abound. There is gear for the family going on a weekend camping trip, the long distance trekker, and all-season hiker that can be accommodated with different types and quality of products. I too tend to keep an eye on new gear announcements and reviews, however I have been pretty well set for the past several years with the choices I have made and only keep an eye on garments or equipment I know are starting to wear out and will need replacing soon.

    A great time to be involved with this activity!

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    The best gear is the stuff that Just Works, and that I'm so familiar with that I don't need to think about it.

    The best example I can think of is my soda-can stove. It isn't even the lastest, most efficient design for a soda-can stove. But it lights every time, and boils my water, and pretty much never needs servicing. I have canister and gasoline-fired stoves, but they mostly stay in the garage at home except in deep winter or if I'm cooking for more than just me. Sure, I look like a hobo, cooking in a Grease Pot over a soda can. So what?

    My grubby old REI sleeping bag. I could spend a few hundred bucks to shave a few ounces. Would I sleep as warm? Dunno. Would it be as durable? Dunno. What I have works. Mags uses a similar bag that's a lot lighter than mine, but he's 'vertically challenged.'

    My trekking-pole-supported silnylon tent. I could spend about six hundred bucks to get one in UHMWPE. It would be a few ounces lighter. Maybe if I were planning to spend months on the trail, and needing to make big miles. I'm not, and I don't, and I can pitch the one I have quickly because I've got a few dozen nights in it and it's familiar. It replaced a much more conventional dome tent from REI, and was well worth it because I'd made the transition to using trekking poles and it was a weight saving of a couple of POUNDS. In fact, my next move in shelter might be to go a little heavier, and take to the trees.

    My middle-of-the-road backpack. It was about the lightest that REI sold in the year that I bought it. I wanted to go with one of the smaller manufacturers and perhaps go lighter still, but I had an REI gift card burning a hole in my pocket, and nothing better to spend it on It's sixty litres. That's 10-15 more than I need on most trips, but when you need the space, you need it. I can't justify to myself having another pack cluttering up the place, so I just suck it up and carry the big one.

    All of the stuff is pretty battered, but still serviceable. I'm not going to worry about what the cool kids have.

    My summer Big Four weigh 8 pounds, 13 ounces About a pound of that is accounted for by the fact that I'm kind of a big guy, and need big-guy sizes of everything, so my bag, mat, and pack are all larger than someone a little smaller than me could get away with. I'm right on the edge of needing extra-large sizes of things, but I'm deuced uncomfortable in the regular-sized ones, they're just a little bit too small. I could still get rid of about half a pound on each of tent, bag, and pack, but that would cost me well over a thousand bucks, I'm guessing, unless I made some serious tradeoffs about personal comfort. About the only way I could save any weight on the sleeping mat would be to cut it down to thigh-length, and I don't sleep well on a short mat.

    The hikers that I see hiking successfully with base weights more than 2-3 pounds lighter than mine (allowing for hiker size)) all have quirky, fiddly, and individualistic systems that work only for the hiker in question. I'm not rushing to emulate them. 1azarus's setup is freaking awesome - but it would take me a LONG time to learn to work it, and I'd probably break things trying.

    I can walk through a brick-and-mortar outfitter, look at the gear, and say, "what I have is better for me." It's only the cottage-industry exotica that tempt me at this point, and they just don't look enough better for me to want to jump at them.

    I don't know how I've escaped 'gear envy', but it's just not that much of a problem for me.
    I always know where I am. I'm right here.

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    I don't mind agonizing over food and gear so much. After all, while the details are different, at least we know John Muir packed food and gear. But it is a safe bet he didn't pack anything that plugs in. I REALLY hate stressing over electronics: Apple or Android, Sprint or Verizon, InReach or Spot, real camera or cell phone, JPEG or RAW, ear buds or headphones, solar panel or battery pack, etc... If everyone else in the world can't get along with knowing exactly where I piss every day, that's their problem, and if you think the rest of the world cares, then that's your problem, and if you are bored being by yourself, then you must be a boring person.

  10. #10

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    In fact, my next move in shelter might be to go a little heavier, and take to the trees.
    Whoa! If it's any consolation, there are hammock options that are as light as ground options, depending of course upon what is being compared to what.

    My summer setup for hanging — including hammock/suspension, tarp/guylines/stakes, under- and top-quilts — weighs 2.66 lb, which is right on par with my similar ground setup.
    UL, because nobody ever asks "How can I make my pack heavier?"

  11. #11
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    “Who has not felt the urge to throw a loaf of bread and a pound of tea in an old sack and jump over the back fence." - John Muir


    We can still do this...safely and enjoyably. We don't need as much as marketing and the U.S. cultural standards wants us to believe. Remember when we were kids? We'd get on a bike ramble to new places to explore. Sleep out in the woods. We'd get wet, dirty, scraped up, etc and yet we survived AND BECAME STRONGER FOR IT. We didn't need a to anal - ize every thing, including gear or technology.


    Take a Primitive Survival Class. Tim Brown's Class taught me much about what we truly need.


    Barry Shwartz's Ted Talk was about having too many options it leads to being a perfectionist in our choices; it overwhelms us. It nestles well with your thoughts. https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/s...7&action=click


    I hear some folks ramble on, showing pics, etc about gear. Offering up extensive pics and lists of extensive gear collections...basically bragghing about their Materialism. To me it's nothing more than women with over 100 pr of shoes, purses, etc that rarely to never get used or those "tool guys" or man toy accumulations.


    Going on very long distance hikes - "thru-hikes" - OUTSIDE OF U.S. CULTURE, SOBERING UP FROM U.S. NORMS, the first two things many become aware of is the spoiled highly consumptive materialistic money oriented nature of being a U.S. citizen. We don't fully realize how we've bought into this culture by ceding our critical thinking and decision making to others until we get outside of the culture for long periods.


    Then, we can choose different paths, a more self aware path, that is not based on consumption, Materialism, or an expectation of having to know everything.


    As an UL LD hiker I've greatly pared down the amt of gear I primarily use. Adopting one main kit that is slightly tweaked and getting off that typical UL merry-go-round always seeking UL Nirvana was huge for me. UL philosophy has led me to build and live in two different Tiny Houses.

  12. #12

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    Seeing all the gear out there sometimes makes me want to throw much of my gear away in order to have a "simpler" hiking experience again. The paradox of choices is overwhelming for sure

  13. #13

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    LOL at the consumerism disease - simply stop buying the latest crap and go hiking with what you got(less is usually better) - more money to spend on trail food and gas to get to more trail heads. Most any gear will work fine just go and stop trying to spend your way to happiness.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by nsherry61 View Post
    First, I'd like to note that a pound is a ridiculous amount of tea!!

    Second, like in the world of computers, at some point you just have to jump in and use what you can get now, knowing there will always be better tomorrow. At some point, we learn to realize that what we have is enough and the best is completely unnecessary. As we embrace the minimalist in weight, we can alternatively embrace the minimalist in complexity or technology (tea and bread as you quoted above). We just have to pick the esthetic that puts the healthiest smile on our face and the not let the drive to have the best overpower and distract from the other often more important priorities we have, eh?

    . . . yeah, I spent 10 years in Canada. ;-)

    Personally, as a minimalist, I like the idea of nothing but the cloths on my back, a loaf of bread and my poncho. For me shelter is a higher priority than caffeine. But then, if I'm taking the trouble to haul around a loaf of bread and minimalist shelter, why not add a few other minimal items in my pack to make my trip more comfortable, like more food variety, some cordage, a foam pad, some water . . . suddenly reality just aint the same as that dream.


    It wasn't a dream. It was, and still can be, the reality. In pics of Muir he was unencumbered by "baggage" - shelter, food "variety", clothing, etc... because he was aware being less encumbered - ensnared - by the entrapments of an over civilized humanity he would better appreciate - be focused on - wilderness - Nature. It's analagous to why many people fast, to take the focus off food, and connect to something else, perhaps something spiritual perhaps something offering a different clearer perspective.


    You're "minimalism" being from the U.S. and having lived in Canada for 10 yrs is extravagant - excessive - by many cultural standards. Most often we're not aware of how excessive it is and the consequences.


    Consider what Muir said in the late 19th century more than 100 yrs ago.


    “Only by going alone in silence, without baggage, can one truly get into the heart of the wilderness. All other travel is mere dust and hotels and baggage and chatter.” - Muir Sounds like Muir depicting WhiteBlaze and BPL user mentalities?


    “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.” - Muir

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    ... inadvertent duplicate post ....
    I always know where I am. I'm right here.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cmoulder View Post
    Whoa! If it's any consolation, there are hammock options that are as light as ground options, depending of course upon what is being compared to what.

    My summer setup for hanging — including hammock/suspension, tarp/guylines/stakes, under- and top-quilts — weighs 2.66 lb, which is right on par with my similar ground setup.
    Yeah, I know I can get there ... but I think I'm going to run heavy while I'm learning. Not ready to drop major bucks for all the hammock-specific items I can try stuff out with a sleeping pad and a top quilt (or even a sleeping bag thrown over me as a top quilt) and then lighten up from there. Still need to make or buy a bug net.

    Also, I've seen your hammock setup only once, and the conditions were, uhm, less than ideal for a lesson. The other times I've hiked with you, you've gone to ground.
    I always know where I am. I'm right here.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dogwood View Post
    It wasn't a dream. It was, and still can be, the reality. . .
    My reference to the dream was an attempt at appreciating the difference between the dream and reality. Sure, you can go out over the fence with nothing but a loaf of bread and a pound of tea (I'm still at a loss as to why anyone would carry an entire pound of tea - roughly 200 servings!). And yeah, Muir strikes a cord in a lot of us with his prose. However, what I'm suggesting is that this dream of simplicity and being close to nature, as wonderful as it sounds, and frankly as awesome as it can be for short periods of time in moderate conditions, is NOT a great experience for an extended period of time. Heat, cold, bugs, uncomfortable terrain, starvation, it all starts to add up to a reality that is vastly different than the dream of being at peace with nature in your simplicity.

    Don't get me wrong, I've spent multiple days and nights out in the woods with nothing but the cloths on my back, foraging for wild edibles and making little nests to sleep in. It makes for a great adventure for a limited amount of time in the right conditions. BUT there is a reason that the vast majority of us that spend time outside embrace some creature comforts. And, there are times and places you just cannot be one with nature without enough gear to allow you to survive doing so. Our gear allows us to push the limits of being naked and simple. Not to take anything away from being naked and simple, but IT REALLY IS LIMITING.
    I'm not lost. I'm exploring.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dogwood View Post
    . ...You're "minimalism" being from the U.S. and having lived in Canada for 10 yrs is extravagant - excessive - by many cultural standards. Most often we're not aware of how excessive it is and the consequences....
    All the more reason to travel overseas. There's no better way to get insight into your own paradigm than to experience another's. I just finished reading the new edition of the guide to trekking in the Everest region. The recommended gear lists you sometimes see are so over the top. Yet a porter will haul the gear of two trekkers, plus his own gear. You can bet the porter gets by with almost nothing.

  19. #19
    Registered User foodbag's Avatar
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    SOBERING UP FROM U.S. NORMS - If there is a phrase that sums things up in a nutshell, this is it.

    If you have a moment, Google "poverty in the Third World" and then look at the images. Somehow my choice of titanium pot over aluminum doesn't quite seem as important as it once was....
    Long-distance aspirations with short-distance feet.... :jump

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    Not so dizzying when you realize that 99% of it is stuff you don't need.

    And tea is nasty.

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