Saturday, July 3, 2010

Pinchot Trail - Camping Gear Review

Since this was my first time out overnight, I had a lot of equipment that I was using for the first time. Overall, I was extremely pleased with my gear. I think I did the right amount of research, made good choices, and everything behaved pretty much exactly how I would have wanted it to.

Tent - Eastern Mountain Sports (EMS) "Velocity 1" with matching footprint. I absolutely loved it. This seems to be a very good design. It was as easy to set up in camp as it was to set up in the basement. The way the basic mesh tent, rain fly layer and footprint all clip together make for a very stable end result. There was room in it for my boots at the foot end, and a number of smaller items like valuables, water bottle, headlamp, journal etc to be placed up above my head, all without ever feeling cramped at all. It rained pretty hard at times our first night out and I never felt a drop of it. Everything stayed bone dry.

Backpack - Gregory "Baltoro 70". I loved this also. Good capacity, easy access, nice amount of side pockets, and most importantly it was extremely comfortable. Considering that this was my first time carrying a heavy load like this, I never felt any substantial discomfort in my shoulders, hips or anywhere else. I ended up with the expected minor tender spots, but no "hot spots" or painful points.

Sleeping Bag - Mountain Hardwear "Phantom 32" 800 goose down bag. I can't rate this yet. It was warm enough that I slept in my bag liner and only used this as a blanket over the lower part of my body. I never needed to get into it.

Sleeping Bag Liner - Thermolite "Reactor". This is what I slept in due to the warm weather. It was perfect on its own for giving just a touch of warmth. I need to have something covering me to sleep, no matter how light, and this fit the bill. Very compact also, as it compresses down to the size of a baseball and weighs virtually nothing.

Boots - Merrell "Mid Moab". These were exceptionally comfortable right out of the box, requiring no break in period at all (although I had worn them on a few earlier shorter hikes to make sure they were comfortable). Even on the long day when persistent rain soaked through my socks and penetrated the boots they remained comfortable. Squishy, but comfortable. I ended the trip with no blisters or sore spots. They were also very light, to the point that it was easy to forget that I was wearing boots, but still had enough stiffness in the sole to make the rocky stretches comfortable.

Water Filtration - Platypus "CleanStream" 4 liter gravity filter. This was easy to use and worked like a charm. It was easy to assemble and disassemble, and filtered a full 4 liters of water in a matter of minutes. Leo's Steripen was great for bottles of water, but this was perfect for quantity. What remains to be seen is how the performance on this holds up over time. Some negative reviews of various filtering systems (including this one) are that they are fine to start but quickly become clogged and harder to use. Only time will tell on that.

Headlamp - Petzl "Tikka Plus 2". A terrific little lamp for general use around camp. Very light and comfortable, with multiple beam settings, red light mode, and was easy to use.

Cooking - JetBoil "Flash" cooking system. This was Leo's not mine, but I used it and so it is worth reviewing. It was easy to use, compact, and did its job quickly and efficiently. Turn the fuel knob, press the ignitor button, wait a couple minutes, and you had boiling water.

Starbucks "Via" instant coffee. Given the limitations of what you can expect for a quality cup of coffee out in the woods, this was surprisingly good. It was the first time I have had it, and it was by far the best cup of instant coffee I had ever had. I should probably try it at home and see how much of that was because it really was good, of how much of it was because it was really nice to have a cup of coffee out in the woods.

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