Backpacking and Hiking

Tom demonstrating the Anti-Ray Way in 2005
Tom demonstrating the Anti-Ray Way in 2005
I’ve been thinking about backpacking lately. A lot. And I’ve been spending inordinate amounts of money on it too – or preparing to spend inordinate amounts of money anyway.

As it turns out, it has been a embarrassingly long time since I’ve gone backpacking, and I’ve just realized how much I miss it. It isn’t that we haven’t been getting out at all. Last summer we were pretty excited about getting into some longer runs, and we started getting a little more serious about collecting pictures, but as activities that take only part of a day, we were getting pretty comfortable returning home to the miracle of modern appliances, hot showers and a comfortable bed. No longer.

This winter, we thought it might be fun to ski out to Sentinel Dome to try to catch the light from the Horsetail Fall Firefall from the rim, far from the zoo-like scenes in the Valley. We cooked up a plan to ski out and camp – maybe with a plastic sled for some backcountry sledding the following morning, and then realized that our camping gear was in utter disarray. It would take days to find all our stuff, and Tom thought that some of our old stainless steel camping pots had been co-opted into impromptu lacquer containers when he was in a hurry to get the kitchen cabinets lacquered. Snow camping in February isn’t really the time to try to figure out your system again – the consequences for forgetting things is a bit more serious than in August in the Sierra. That, combined with the storm that rolled in over the days that we had set aside for the venture convinced us to stay home instead.

But the seed that was planted, started to sprout again as the weather got warmer, and Tom and I started to dig through our old equipment and began thinking about upgrades. So far?

Calipidder’s review of bear cans convinced us that the BareBoxer bear canister is the best (cheap) option for the short weekender trips that we will take most of the time. Small enough to fit more easily into our smaller packs, and lighter than our big clunky Garcias.

Gear Time with a neighbor, whose closet is so much more interesting than your average REI showroom, led to: New 1.3L Titanium pot from EverNew. New origami bowls from Orikaso, and a Caldera Keg stove – the amazing 3oz alcohol stove by TrailDesigns – a present from Neighborhood Gear Guy.

We also got a try before you buy deal on a DoubleRainbow TarpTent. Set it up in the backyard and slept outside for an evening. Boy did that get the I-want-to-go-backpacking bug going! We pitched it in semi-darkness, using the back porch lights instead of headlamps, so I’m not sure we really have that dialed yet, but even so decided that it was a great tent for the Sierra. Maybe I’ll talk more about it later. This is in definite purchase territory.

PS. Camping in your backyard is pretty cool. All the advantages of car camping – except you have a house full of stuff to choose from, and the kitchen sink – literally. The dishwasher too.

Plus, we are also re-evaluating our sleeping pad situation. The backyard camping test included a trial of the Women’s Pro thermarest which I found surprisingly comfy for sleeping on the ground, and unsurprisingly less comfy than my bed. Since I have the luxury, I may try a few other options before making a final decision on that one.

In the category of Other Really Cool Things, that we’re probably not going to get right away: the MÜv Aquastar UV water purifier – light weight, good for clean Sierra water, and the recharging system rocks. The PolyCryo ground cloth from Gossamer Gear is also amazingly light and packable, and although it’s only $8 for two, the shipping more than doubles the cost. Think we might stick with the rolls of 6mm poly or the extra Tyvek we have around from house building. At least for now. Lastly, kind of a cool modular sleeping pad system from MontBell is worth a mention, but ultimately not thick and comfy enough for us.