Why you should always test your gear
Having had to do more than one overhaul on both all of my gear and then also some individual pieces here and there, I have learned very quickly the importance of thoroughly testing every piece of gear that goes in to your pack. There is nothing worse than hitting the trail with a stove you can’t figure out how to use, a sleeping bag that isn’t warm enough or a pack that fits incorrectly. These are all mistakes that I have made.
On my first big backpacking trip (read that as the first time I’d done anything other than car camping) I hiked for 2 weeks with a pack that was most likely meant for a six foot tall linebacker. I’m 5’9 and while I’m not the thinnest thing in the world, I’m most definitely NOT a linebacker. But I soldiered on for those two weeks, despite injury and discomfort, not knowing any better. It wasn’t until we met a guy on trail who used to work for REI, who took one look at my pack and said “No, just no.” that I realized I had made a mistake. The day I got back I went and bought a pack that fit me the right way. And then switched that one out for a different one after I broke my back, because the Gregory Deva I had bought the first time around was no longer going to cut it.
I did quite a bit of experimenting with various stoves as well. Wood stoves proved to be stupid. Completely stupid.
I couldn’t figure out pop can stoves despite multiple attempts and designs. I made a cat food can stove, and while that one worked well, I quickly found out that the flames get too close to the handle on my cup which makes it difficult to remove when your food is done cooking.
So many fails.
My latest issue is in my tent. I started out with a 2 person marmot. I love it to pieces, it’s great when camping with a friend, it’s great when camping with a dog, it’s way to freaking heavy when you can’t split the weight. One weekend in Georgia with that thing and I quickly realized that that wasn’t going to work out. Before I got Quinn, I bought a Tarptent. It’s the easiest tent I’ve ever set up, but it’s just barely big enough for me, there’s no way my 60 pound dog is going to fit as well.
So, back to the drawing board. A six moon designs Lunar Solo was then suggested so I decided to give that a try. It’s more than big enough for me and Quinn; in fact there is room for her, me and my pack. And it’s lightweight! This tent is the coolest thing to come around since sliced bread and dinosaur egg oatmeal!
One problem though, I am most definitely putting it up entirely incorrectly and I can’t figure out the right way to save my life. The walls sag a little more than I feel that they should and the “bathtub floor” on the inside lays almost flat with no discernible way of curling it back up the way it should. It would never stay dry in any kind of rain. If anyone can point me in the direction of detailed instructions (a YouTube video would be fantastic) I would greatly appreciate it.
Again, please test everything. EVERYTHING.
Stand in the shower in your rain gear, if it passes that test, hike in it in the rain to make sure your coat/poncho/whatever doesn’t ride up when your pack is on or that it doesn’t tear so easily that you’re better off without. Break your boots in thoroughly before any major hiking, use the blisters you will inevitably get to test your first aid kit and blister healing methods. Sleep in your tent in your backyard when it’s rainy, windy, cold and sweltering hot. Use this as an opportunity to make sure your sleep system is comfortable, your sleeping bag keeps you warm and your tent can hold up to strong winds and heavy rains and snows. Think you’ve got your gear squared away? Do a section on the AT to find out for sure.
How does the weight feel? What pieces of gear are unnecessary? What didn’t you use? Did you pack too many clothes? You probably did.
You don’t want to get out there are realize you’ve got it all wrong. Don’t set yourself up for failure, buying gear on trail will get super expensive, better to do that at home where you can shop around and take advantage of black friday deals, REI garage sales, and the used gear forum on WhiteBlaze or Bearfoot’s Hiking Gear Flea Market on Facebook. I’ve used both sites with great success.
Most likely you will end up buying some piece of gear before you are done with your hike, but why have to overhaul everything on trail? Save that money for a glorious hotel room with a real bed and shower or the bar.
I’ll post a gear list when I get it locked down
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