gearing up #5

This is number five.  Sort of anti-climactic.  I probably should have counted down from #5 to #1.  Lots more suspense that way.  Dang.

Nonetheless, here it is.  The final thing to round out “the essentials.”  Drum roll…

A rain jacket.

This does exactly what you think it might.  Keep you dry in the rain.

Now, knowing what kind of rain jacket to get is – as always – a bit of a guessing game.  If you are going to be out there a lot, meaning weeks every year, then something like what is pictured above is probably the ticket.

For the rest of us, there are lots of sub-$100 options.

And then there is always this.

For real.  If you are just looking to keep the rain off you and don’t care how you look or getting clammy, this will work just fine.

Ok, we’re done here, but one final word.  I hope one isn’t left with the impression that they can’t go play outside unless they have all the right stuff.  If you add up a “middle of the road” collection of gear, you could easily find yourself dropping $500 or more.  Not sounding all that middle of the road.

The best strategy I can recommend for getting the gear you need is borrowing someone else’s stuff.  That way you get to try things out.  Figure out if you are really going to be spending much time outdoors.  What stuff is going to work for you.  And so on.  Who knows, I might even let you borrow some of my stuff…  might.

gearing up #4

After you’ve gotten your super nice and warm sleeping bag, what’s next?  A sleeping pad, of course! It is the thing that goes between your sleeping bag and the ground and selecting the right pad can be the difference between a great night of sleep or a less-than-average night of sleep.

Pictured below is what I would consider to be the current Cadillac of sleeping pads.  It is the perfect combination of everything you want out of a pad… thickness, lightweight, small rolled up size, and insulating power (the ground can get cold).  Of course, the perfect sleeping pad comes with a hefty sticker price…  $15o!

While I don’t think I could bring myself to drop that kind of coin on a pad, I would stay away from what many of us started out on.  Thin strips of foam.  Some people still swear by them.  They are lightweight and don’t get holes poked in them.  But they just can’t deliver when it comes to sleeping comfort.  If I were looking to get one right now, I’d probably pick up something like this…

Therm-a-rest has been making these things for years, and has a reputation for putting out a quality product.  Get one, take care of it and it will take care of you for years to come.

As a bonus…  if you go backpacking at all, then you can get a “chair kit” that converts your sleeping pad into a downright comfy chair.  Not a top-five, but nice little creature comfort for out in the middle of nowhere.

gearing up #3

So we’re back with the top five essential outdoor gear items.  Number three is sort of a no-brainer.  However, it is only required if one ever plans to actually sleep in the outdoors.

You guessed it…

a sleeping bag.

Again, the choices are mind blowing.  And the Zen like mantra of “middle-of-the-road” applies here too.  However, lot here depends on what sort of outdoor sleeping you are going to end up doing.  If you aren’t going to ever be more than 50 feet from your car, then just about any old bag will do.  If you are interested in making an investment in a decent bag that will do pretty much all you could want it to do, then follow these guidelines.

1)  Mummy instead of rectangular.  Less space to heat.  Less weight to carry.  Some would say less room to maneuver.  I would say to check-in to a Motel 6.

2)  I generally favor down over synthetic.  Lighter.  Packs smaller.  Lasts longer.  But not that big a deal.

3)  Temperature rating of 20 degrees or lower.  There’s some confusion about this.  Some think if it rated to 20 degrees, then that’s the temperature you’ll be comfortable in.  In my opinion, that’s the temperature you can encounter inside your bag in which you’ll survive. Comfort depends lots on how you sleep…  hot, cold, fully zipped-up, arms and legs hanging out.  In my opinion, if you add 20 degrees to the bag’s rating, then you’ll discover what the coldest temperature you’ll be comfortable at.  So, you’d be fine in a 20 degree bag until the thermometer gets into the mid-thirties.  If you’ll encounter below freezing weather, start looking at a zero degree bag.

4)  Don’t choose a bag because of its color.  That’s silly.

Sleep is pretty important to me.  I’m sure it is to you.  Get a decent bag.  Here are some to consider.

gearing up #2

So yesterday, I got started on a series of posts on top five outdoor gear essentials.

Number two is sort of hard to nail down.  I could make a pretty good case for a number of things to fill this spot.  However, after a sleepless night, I’ve come to the conclusion that boots are next.  If you are going to venture into the wild once a year or less, then maybe you can get by on borrowing when necessary.  Much more than that though, and you are going to want your own pair of kicks.

Problem is that outdoor footwear makers are no dummies and so they manufacture and market a dizzying array of boots and shoes.  Of course, they would have you believe that you should probably own one pair of each type of boot so that you will have footwear exactly suited for whatever activity you’ll be engaged in.

Again, I’m a middle-of-the-road value-minded guy, so I would recommend getting something that is going to suit a wide range of activities.  Nearly anything on this page is going to be safe bet.  Or here for the ladies.

Few quick tips…

1) There is some debate over whether to get a boot with ankle support or low cut hiking shoes.  I’ve used both with satisfaction, but I lean towards getting something with ankle support.  I think it gives a wider range of possibilities.  Also, trail runners aren’t hiking shoes.  They look a lot the same, but do function differently.

2) Whatever shoe you end up with, wear it around town for a few days before heading out on a long backcountry excursion.  This does a couple of things… Breaks the shoe in a bit and helps it adjust to the shape of your foot.  Also, lets you figure out if there are going to be problem areas (read “big nasty blisters”) before you find yourself fifteen miles in.

3) Chacos and Keen sandals aren’t really meant for hiking.  They work ok around town, on paved walking trails, strolling along nature trail, or post hiking relief.  But anything with an ounce of ruggedness is going to pose some problems.

4) And last but not least…  just say “no” to these…

I just don’t get them.

Check back tomorrow for Number Three!

gearing up #1

I have something of a reputation for being an outdoor gear maven.  So I thought I’d share my top five essentials.  This list is up for debate, but I’m pretty convinced.  It is also in order of importance, so if you are slowly building your inventory for yourself or someone else, start with number one.

Can you tell that I’m running out of things to talk about on the thirty day challenge?

1) Headlamp

Really, if you don’t have one of these, you should probably quit reading and go buy one right now.  This isn’t just for outdoors.  It’s for everything.  I probably use it weekly, and if you count reading to the kids in bed, then almost daily.  Outdoors, the value of this over a standard flashlight… no comparison.  As with all things, you can spend next to nothing or ridiculous amounts.  I generally hit some middle ground that I’m comfortable with.

Genius just struck.  By sharing one item a day, I just turned one post into five.  My work here is done for today.