Having the good camping gear makes a world of difference when you are out in the wilderness. I get my daily fix for all things outdoors from one of my favorites, Cold Splinters and the site’s author Jeffrey Thrope was kind enough to put together a special round-up of his ten favorite camping / hiking / outdoor items, exclusively for ACL. Check out his picks and thoughts below.
Practical for camping? No, not really. I wouldn’t recommend stuffing a pair of Round House yalls in your pack (I use an Osprey Aether 70) for a huge trek. But if you’re not going that far and you’re looking forward to the lounging time more than the hike itself, get to your campsite, throw down your stuff and change right away. There aren’t too many things as comfortable.
I prefer the metal to enamel, but both work real fine. Here’s why you need one. You’re not going to drink your morning coffee out of a water bottle and waiting for the liquor to be passed around the circle after every sip takes longer than expected, especially if the storytelling starts early. Plus it doubles as a bowl for your “just add water” oatmeal, grits, and mashed potatoes. GSI Outdoors makes both the metal and enamel, but if you’re living in New York, you can run on down to Chinatown, go to the back of any grocery and find them cheap.
Sure, cans of beer are real light on the hike out, but they couldn’t be heavier in your pack on the way in. I usually only bring beer if I’m going on a smaller hike, but every time I do, I’m reminded that nothing beats a beer around the campfire. Nothing except for a cold beer around the campfire. With that in mind, figure out ahead of time if you’ll be camping near a river or some type of water source for natural refrigeration. I know the people in these parts are partial to High Life, but I went to college in Colorado and have yet to kick my nasty Coors Light habit. Bummer? Nah.
If you’re camping where the weather is going to be a little cold when the sun finally goes down, heat up some water and throw it in your metal cup with a healthy amount of bourbon and pine needles.
Running shoes and hiking boots are never easy on the eyes because most brands only care about them being easy on the feet. Rightfully so. If you feel comfortable wearing your Red Wings on the trail, then do it. Edward Abbey hiked through the desert non-stop and he swore by a cheap pair of Army Surplus boots. But if you’re after a perfect combination of looks, durability, support and comfort, then go get a pair of brown Vasque Sundowners. Replace the laces with thick red ones, and you’ll be on your way. Nothing’s better.
Powdered milk I can do. Powdered eggs? Fuck that shit. My New York City camping/hiking partner-in-crime, Tim, and I each bought one of these things on a whim for a low key trip a few years ago. We were at Paragon in Union Square buying who knows what, saw these yellow beauties on the way to pay, and the next morning had fried eggs, tortillas, and green chili for breakfast. Tim and I were recently camping on Slide Mountain in the Catskills when he took a big fall, face forward, down a very steep scramble. His face and memory were a little screwed up but the eggs were fine. Wrap some clothes around the egg holder before you put it in your pack and you’ll be good to go. I’ve never had a single egg break while in the gentle arms of my Coghlans, so if it happens to you, you did something wrong.
You know why you need a Leatherman. Like the majority of Leatherman owners, I’ve got The Wave, and it does just what I want it to, which is basically everything.
7.) Desert Solitaire
You don’t have to be in the desert to enjoy this book. If you’ve ever spent any time over at my blog Cold Splinters, which I’m assuming you haven’t, you know about my adoration for Edward Abbey. Published in 1968, Desert Solitaire is one of Abbey’s first and most famous books, chronicling his life as a park ranger at Arches National Park (which was Arches National Monument at the time of his tenure). Abbey was a sarcastic, angry, eloquently outspoken critic of the government’s public land policies (“Of course I litter the public highway. Every chance I get. After all, it’s not the beer cans that are ugly; it’s the highway that is ugly.”) but he lived and breathed the American Southwest and had more appreciation for a slab of rock than most of us have for our own mothers. You’ll love this book and all of them that came after. I promise. Reading it before bed with a Petzl headlamp will keep your feet from hurting.
I’m not a car guy but the first generation of 4Runners make me weak at the knees. It’s the #1 way to head for the hills. The backs of these beasts come off, exposing your passengers to the elements and, fuck it, I’ll just say it….HOLY SHIT ARE THEY COOL LOOKING. Do I own one? No, I don’t. Do I want to own one? Oh my lord, yes. I’d like a yellow one with a black top. Just like the one that roams my neighborhood. The big bumblebee. The love of my life.
Two of the main concerns you often hear while discussing backpacking are weight and comfort. A lot of the time, the two don’t go hand in hand. For comfort, more often than not, you have to sacrifice weight and vice versa. I kept a Crazy Creek in the back of my car growing up after my discovery of the chair at summer camp in Bemidji, Minnesota. But I never really thought of strapping it on my pack when I’d go camping. It was an awkward shape and seemed like a ridiculous luxury. Crazy Creek recently sent me the HexaLite, their lightweight backpacking chair that rolls up to fit perfectly on the outside of your pack. Last weekend I went on an overnight to the Ten Mile River lean-to on the AT in Connecticut. I was by myself and, after a ten mile hike, I sat in my 14.8 oz chair and watched the river do its thing. Life was slow and good.
10.) And how about one thing not to bring?
Don’t bring your iPod. And definitely don’t bring your iPod speakers either. Not a gentlemanly thing to do. Especially if you happen to be sharing a campsite. You have wind, rivers, birds, crickets, and things that go bump in the night to listen for. Blast Highway 61 in your ’88 4Runner on the drive out and then talk about how fucking good that album is while your kindling is catching.
And always leave your campsite better than you found it.