This post is about the gear I’ve settled on for 2018 and the hike in September. As I’ve written about earlier, I’m learning as I go but that’s half the fun. It’s also about “daring greatly,” a book my friend Stephanie steered me toward when she put Brenee Brown on my radar during a great dinner she, Eddie and I shared at Barcelona at the end of Spring.
I picked up a copy of “The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide” during my last trip to Portland in 2016 on a stop at Powel’s. Right off the bat, it gave me a reality check. Talking about are you a camper or a hiker and what the differences are. Truth be told, I would qualify myself as 70% camper and 30% hiker at this point. But I have a giant leap coming up in September of this year as my best friend Doug and I are set to hike 50 miles through the Hoh Rainforest all the way to Hurricane Ridge in the Olympics.
As a result, I have put together a training plan, which I will write about later, along with taking a long hard look at my backpack and its contents which is the subject of this post. It turned out, that only a few things from my 2017 backpack survived. I donated the rest of my old gear to a local boy scout troop leader who said it would be put to good use. Following is a list of items, and some notes, that I’m currently packing for both camping and hiking trips through the Summer months to see if this is the gear that I will be taking with me to Washington in September.
I have two options currently. A one person Kelty Gunnison 1 tent and a hammock/tarp rig. Even with just one hammock experiences under my belt, I can already tell I am developing a preference for this mode of shelter over the tent style. Still, the Big Agnes Sleep Pad really does make for a comfortable nights rest and it’s not as bad to inflate as I thought it would be. The challenge though, as with all of this, is learning things. In the case of hammock, it’s tying knots.
Cook kit & food
I’m a JetBoil guy through and through. Still, I am intrigued with cooking over a campfire and a skillet but those are still experiences I have to learn. As far as dehydrated options go, my diet requires a low sodium, low sugar and as low fat as humanly possible track. Fortunately, there are a few companies who I am lined up with right now. Packit Gourmet, Out Door Herbivore and Good To Go. These folks do things pretty well diet wise and the food they make is pretty damn good for something you rehydrate in a bag over 30 minutes to cook. My guilty splurge however is the Chicken and Dumplings by Packit Gourmet. It’s not technically within my sodium guidelines but it’s so damn good.
I totally used Andrew Skurka’s guidance in his book “The Ultimate Hikers Gear Guide” here. He talks about four categories that you want to plan for. The “go suit,” “storm,” “stop,” and “sleep.”
For my go suit, I have one for three season use. The underwear I chose are from my running races days. I have a couple pair of these great technical boxer briefs that reduce chafing and promote dryness by 2UNDR. For colder weather I bought the Patagonia Cap MW Zip Neck long sleeve top, Cap MW long john style bottoms, and the Tropic Comfort Hoody II (which is lightweight enough for chilly nights at camp). Socks? I got the REI smart wool basics. The pants I chose are another Patagonia piece called the Quandry series. I like these because they are super lightweight and breathable. For warmer days I picked a sleeveless tank DAKINE Triplet Loose Fit Tank which breathes well, looks decent and feels super comfy. The boots I picked up are Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX Hiking Boots. For camp shoes, and river crossings, however I have a pair of pretty great sandals I picked up in Portland back in 2015 when Doug and I climbed up to McNeil Point on Mt Hood. And for really hot days, I usually bring a pair of “ranger panties” which I normally use for running shorts. Modesty aside, these things are amazingly comfortable.
My storm suit is by Frog Toggs and is the lighter weight rain suit they have for about $25. I’m not looking forward to wearing this but I imagine I will be glad to have when I need it.
My stop suit right now is again from my running days which comprises of a pretty great wind breaker from New Balance. While not good for Winter, and I definitely need to invest here as the temperatures start to drop, I think it will be good with all my other base layers on plus my hoodie and rain gear if absolutely necessary. That aside, I do have a warm skull cap, some wool gloves and a camo Outdoor Research Army cap for the sun.
Sleep suit? Um… I use the one my mom gave me. Naked. Just my preference.
I’m sort of tight on money right now so I am not sure if I will be able to get one the SOS GPS satellite devices I want to get this year. New car, tattoos, life and everything else there. But one of these things is definitely on my radar.
What I have though is a camp lantern with a built-in battery to charge from that Doug sent me. A Black Diamond headlamp from my running days. A solar charger and battery by Anker. A Samsung Galaxy 7 Active phone and, as a luxury, a Kindle. Well that and my Fitbit HR II to track my biometrics I suppose.
This of course varies depending on whether I am tenting or hanging in a hammock at the end of the day. For tenting I use either my Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest SOLite Sleeping Pad when I am going a little lighter or my new Big Agnes Insulated Air Core Ultra Sleeping Pad (which is super comfy). The sleep sack I chose was the Big Agnes Thunderhead SL Sleeping Bag: 30 Degree Down. This thing is great. No zippers just fasteners to secure the fit. Super light weight and compactable. This was a splurge for me money wise at $250 but, so far, it’s been damn worth the price. I’ve used it as a top quilt in the hammock and as a bag in my tent. I’m really impressed at how versatile this thing is.
For hammocking I will eventually buy an under quilt. For now however, I am using a wool Army blanket with a lightweight rubber exercise mat that is super flexible and conforms to the hammock and my body very well.
Some of us are not gifted directionally. I’m one of those guys. If it weren’t for GPS, and a sense of humor, I’d be a very sad hiker. Also, with my budget a little tight, while I want the Garmin inReach Explorer+ 2-Way Satellite Communicator, I will probably pony up the funds for the Garmin inReach Mini 2-Way Satellite Communicator (and a $40 off card). I can’t deny that I need to let people know where I am, that I can’t navigate worth a damn or that I may very well be in an SOS situation … which is kind of the point of all of this anyway. Facing fears and learning to live again. “Life is why” as the saying goes.
My brother has offered to try to teach me what he can about using a map and a compass so I plan to take him up on that offer at some point as a potential backup to my reliance on technology and humor.
This was kind of disappointing as I bought the REI Co-op Passage Trekking Poles – Pair, in pirate black mind you, and on my first use the fastener broke. Rude awakening here, that’s not covered under REI’s warranty but “satisfaction” is. Which made my husband laugh as he asked me if I was satisfied. Yeah, so I have one pole right now and I will be replacing these with something else in the near future. I definitely don’t endorse these.
Only people who really know me understand how absolutely phobic I am about germs. I can go from good to disaster in three easy steps when reading about viruses or bacterial or tick born diseases. So the prospect of drinking from a water source that does not come from a tap and gets filtered in my home purification system scares the shit out of me. But, When in Rome and on the note of facing fears…. here I am. I bought a Sawyer Mini which I am using with a couple Smart Water bottles to filter water on the path. This will be our backup system on the Washington trek as Doug opted for a much nicer system for his needs.
These include a stuff sack with my first aid kit, Swiss Army, the Deuce poop shovel, body wipes, small shammy style body towel, fire starting kit, toothpaste, toothbrush, medications and so on.
A note on heart disease
My aunt Lora told me once that a disease takes part of you away. But that it also gives you some gifts in exchange. Sort of like Lance Armstrong when I read one of his books. He talked about having a football player build but then cancer ate that part of him away and he ended up with a much slender version of a mans body as a result which helped him to achieve what he did as a cyclist.
Because of my heart attack, and daily battles with anxiety, I found the courage to go back outdoors. Am I green? Fuck yes. But it’s part of the journey that I am enjoying right now. As a volunteer moderator on the AHA Support Network I often times see people who have just had an event and ask the desperate question of “when will I find my new normal?”
I am in a golden place right now. My first heart attack was treated quickly and left very little physical damage. The emotional damage, however, has been significant. Choosing to run races was my first attempt to push back. Camping and hiking is now another. I want to have the same flexibility that I see in some of these bad ass men and women who have survived incredibly debilitating events where they find themselves one day strong and the next exhausted after a simple shower. That’s the fear that constantly sits beside me every day. It terrifies me. Yet, as my meditation practice is teaching me. I am striving to be a better observer and nonreactor. That’s my path toward living again.
Just the same, I am in contact with my family Dr and cardiologist in preparation for all of this. The advice is to listen to my body. But also to life my life the way I want to. It’s not just about the disease. It’s about quality of life and the purpose we realize. Which is the real reason I am going to hike through the Olympic Mountains with Doug. I am going to be with someone I love on a journey that will be difficult for both of us and something to remember.
Just like my tattoo work I am doing right now though, I have no idea if I will have life enough to finish the full upper body work I started last year. But it’s a damn good way for me to mark the passage of time. A day I didn’t have a heart attack. An experience that transformed how I think about the world and myself. Connection through story telling as it were.
One of my favorite songs is Marrakesh Express by Crosby Stills & Nash. It takes me back to the days when I was in forestry school while I was in my early 20’s. The idea of the line from this song though… “Hope the days that lie ahead bring us back to where they’ve led.” Well, it feels like a future tattoo. It feels like the hike up to Mc Neil Point. It feels like kissing my husband Eddie for the first time. It feels like the meaning of life to me. For now? I am drawn outdoors and this is the kit that I have put together. Rusty and not 100% prepared or not, here I am and ready to go.