check out our gear
We have been looking at a lot of hiking websites and since everyone is doing it, we decided to review our gear for you. Our reviews are not super technical. We are not taking ourselves too seriously. For example, we read some stove reviews on sites that have it down to how much weight of fuel is used per boil. We are not going to do that. We are hiking, not planning a lunar landing.
We are just going to tell you what we are using and what we think of it. We will mention what we've used in the past and why we decided to swap it out for something different. We will start out with a partial list of what we have and add to it as we use our gear and acquire new stuff.
2 min 15 sec to boiling
1 liter capacity
Self contained unit
When we first started hiking we were using the old burner on the far right, but it is pretty heavy and the folding arms are corroded and difficult to open. So we bought the Etekcity Ultralight Portable Outdoor Backpacking Camping Stove. It is small, portable, light and compact. It folds up neatly into a small plastic carrying case. I like it because it doesn't take up room in my pack.
But the folding and unfolding of the arms is tedious, it is Too small to provide much stability for a pot. I am always terrified that a a slight breeze will knock the pot off the burner and that the precious food or water will spill onto the ground. The flame flickers and burns unevenly, so we have to endure long wait times to reach boiling. This just doesn't seem very fuel efficient. I wanted something self-contained.
Thanks to a couple of Christmas gift cards from customers on my mail route, I ended up paying just $29.00 out of pocket for the $135 Jetboil MiniMo. This made it easy to try out this new camping stove cooking system, although I probably would have bought it anyway because in the long run, I think it will save time, effort and money.
At first, I was thinking that it is bulkier until I realized that the 100 gram gas canister fits inside of the cook pot and the stand for the fuel canister (YES! No tipping!) fits in the lid, and all this saves room. I do not like to wait to eat. As soon as we got home from Fisherman’s, I pulled the MiniMo out of its package and immediately tested it. I boiled half a liter in 90 seconds. I can’t wait to see what it will do at higher elevations. My goal is to get 12 1-liter boils for each six days on the trail. This would be awesome because we are hoping to resupply about once a week. If we are wrong, we’ll be eating cold meals for a day or two. No biggie.
TOP RIGHT: OLD BURNER
CENTER: ETEKCITY ULTRALIGHT
Benchmade Bugout 535
1.85 oz Ultralight Titanium
Made in Oregon
When we first started hiking together, Marea bought me a Sportsman Folding Knife. She bought it online because the website claimed that the knife is perfect for hiking & backpacking, fishing, bug-out bag and
falls just short of claiming to be the ideal knife for zombie apocalypse.
The knife has a stainless handle and a 3.7-inch blade with “non-glare titanium coated finish with liner lock design.”
The problem I have is that it mysteriously opens in my pack and it weighs 10.2 oz! Fine for car camping, I guess, but now so much for hiking.
I went to Fishermans Marine and asked about something lighter. They showed me the Benchmade Bugout, but they didn't have any in stock. They put my name on a waiting list, but when weeks went by and I hadn't heard anything, I called to check in and was told in no uncertain terms that if I was on the list, I would be called and should not check in. After that and a couple more weeks, I was happy to spend my money at REI instead.
When I carry the Benchmade knife, I worry that I might lose it because it is so light. I am constantly checking to make sure that it is still there because I can't feel it. It's ultralight, so it isn't designed to be abused. I wouldn't recommend it for heavy tasks, but it is great for light jobs like cutting rope and moleskin, making tinder, opening stubborn packaging etc. FYI, it's sharp enough to cut your finger off and Benchmade will keep it sharp for life, so that's cool.
There is nothing wrong with our current tent. It is so easy to set up, dry enough in the rain, stood up to a big windstorm on Mount Hood, stores body heat. It is certainly easy to clean, sweeping not required, we just pick it up with one hand and shake out.
Before you raise an eyebrow because we traded in our perfectly fine lighter 2-person tent for this much larger 3 person, read our account of our journey around Mt. Hood...I cannot sleep in our
current tent whose trail name is "The Burrito."
BRYCE ULTRALIGHT 2P TENT 3 LBS 7 OZ.
A.K.A. The Burrito
Tungsten 3P UL Tent
4 lbs. 1.3 oz
Floor Dimensions 90" x 66"
Peak Height 46"
3 P Ultralight w/2-Doors
As soon as Kirk and Misha are settled in & it begins to get dark, I feel like I am suffocating. Every half hour, I throw myself from the tent, into the open-air gasping for breath. The nights feel endless and I wonder how I can even hike the following day.
It always seems like Kirk sleeps through all my thrashings, but apparently not. No wonder he agreed to take on the additional weight, which is only .43 oz more and adds 5" to the length, over a foot in width and is 10" taller.
So far, we haven't been out for a night to try our new palace, but we set it up in our living room and I climbed inside with Misha while Kirk zipped us up inside closing the fly tight too. I felt okay inside. I believe that this is going to make all the difference for us.
When I talk about my panic, people ask why we don't just use a shelter instead of a tent. Since we hike with our Beagle, I feel more secure when he can’t escape. I feel safer when I am zipped up in the flimsy polyester and nylon enclosure even though I know it wouldn’t protect me from anything except light rain and mosquitoes. Misha loves tent time when he can get out of the dirt and curl up in a puppy ball in his sleeping bag.
Closed Cell Foam Pad
Thermal Reflective Film
Switchback Sleeping Pad
We have been through quite the evolution of sleeping pads starting with the comfortable puncture resistance Thermarest Backpacker Plus Self Inflating Sleeping Pad that weighed an astonishing 2 lbs 4 oz. We abandoned that for lighter inflatables. I currently have the TuTu Outdoors XL Ultralight Air Cell Sleeping Pad that weighs only 17.2 oz and packs down into a stuff sack just bit bigger than an iPhone. Marea has a Klymit Static V Lightweight Sleeping Pad that weighs 18.6 oz and claims to fill up with 10-15 breaths, although Marea thinks it’s closer to double that.
KLYMIT STATIC V SLEEPING PAD
I don’t want to blow up a mattress at the end of a long day of hiking. It also takes time to deflate the thing in the morning. Time is critical when you wake up and prepare to hit the trail.
You see most of the thru-hikers with their packs about a third of the size of ours with the accordion style sleeping pad strapped to it. We decided that there must be a reason for this. True, we must carry it externally, so the potential is there to get caught on things. The first time we attempted the Timberline Trail, the previous winter had left a minefield of blowdowns. I could barely get under some of them with my pack on. This pad could contribute to more of a problem with two feet of closed cell foam on my pack. With that said, I am willing to go there and sacrifice some comfort and compactness for something that is easier to deploy and pack up.
While my old body appreciates the comfort, these pads are slippery and noisy.
The NEMO Switchback weighs 15 oz and is insulated to keep you warmer or cooler depending on which side you lay on. Unfolded it is 72” x 20” x 0.9” inches, so my 6’ 2” frame should fit.
Once again, I will get back to you after I sleep on it for a night or two.
Adjustable Time & Temp
Up to this point, we have most often purchased Mountain House freeze dried meals for backpacking. I have found few that I like and there are even fewer that, as a Vegetarian, Marea can eat. These meals are rich, and a person can get sick of them in a hurry. They are high in calories and protein, but they are very expensive, running anywhere from $7-$10 depending on the meal.
I love to eat food. You will not catch me cold cooking on the trail, a method of rehydrating meals by soaking them in cold water for thirty minutes or so while you wrap up your hiking day. I want at least one hot meal a day.
My solution is to buy a dehydrator and get creative. I want to dehydrate a lot of chicken and beef along with vegetables and fruits to put together along the trail. Then I can customize meals to my liking AND save money. The downside is the meals are going to be heavier, but in this game of hiking everything is a give and take. I enjoy food, so in my opinion the weight is worth it.
“You need special shoes for hiking—and a bit of a special soul as well.”