Thursday, December 19, 2013

Next Big Purchase?

I haven't had a chance to hike lately, although I am taking walks as the time allows.  So instead of writing about a hike, I will write about gear.

I've been thinking about 2014 coming up, and realizing that one goal for the new year will be to replace something major I have now with a new piece of equipment.  And I have narrowed it down to three possibilities, since in the last few years I have replaced my boots, water filter, and sleeping pad, and bought a tent and camping stove.  I also bought a warm sleeping bag, good to 15 degrees, and was very glad that I did on two trips in particular when the mercury dipped to or below that point.

My three possibilities for gear replacement in 2014 are: a new backpack, new rain gear, and yes, a new sleeping bag.

I list the backpack first because that is the most likely.  I've had my current backpack about six years.  I bought it without a lot of thought for a backpacking trip in New Hampshire, and it has served me well.  It has a lot of nice features.  But it just never seems to have enough room for bulky stuff, especially the sleeping bag.  When I packed up a month or so ago for the overnighter that I cancelled because I hurt my back, my bulky sleeping bag took up most of the room in the main pack.  I had to cram my other gear around it.  I am somewhere between the ultra light hiker and the guy who carries everything but the kitchen sink, so I do have a challenge getting everything into the pack.

A couple of trips ago, I think the Mount Rogers trip with my friend Hawkeye, he let me try his fully loaded pack the morning we left.  I hoisted it on, and without any adjustments, it was so much more comfortable and balanced than my pack.  We were both carrying about the same weight.  That has made a lasting impression, and I've had "pack envy" ever since.

But if I don't get a pack, maybe I should replace my rain gear (not my reindeer, my rain gear!).  It is at least a dozen years old, fairly heavy, and seems to have lost its water proofing.  The last time I hiked in the rain, up at Savage River State Forest, I got soaked right through my rain gear.  So, replacing it would be useful on both day hikes and backpacking trips.  But there also may be a way to restore the water proof characteristics.  Still, it might be better to replace it.

Which brings me to my sleeping bags.  I have two, neither of which is a down bag.  The first is comfortable to about 40 degrees, and although it is heavier and bulkier than a down bag, it is not bad.  The other is just a few years old and is a comfortable bag even in 15 degree temperatures - field tested by me twice at those levels up in the mountains.  But a down bag that has the same temperature rating would shave maybe a pound off the weight and significantly free up bulk.  When I camped at Mount Rogers, I used my lighter weight bag so I would have more room in my pack, and suffered a bit that first night when the mercury dipped into the upper 20's.  On the other hand, a roomier pack would mean that a somewhat bulkier sleeping bag is less of a problem.

Pack? Rain gear? Sleeping bag?  One of those three is likely to be replaced in 2014.  But which one?


  1. I go for the rain gear. It's no fun being wet!

    I need to get a good pair of hiking boots that are water proof and comfortable.

  2. Very good point. You are starting to make me think the same way, especially if I can get lighter weight gear.

  3. Yup, nothing sucks more than being wet! But hard to beat a good-fitting pack. Perhaps your pack can work with a bit more adjustment or different way of packing things in? I have a whole collection of packs. I've tried to make a smaller pack work for bigger trip with add-ons. Never works very well.

    Maybe check all 3 out, and see which one gives you the biggest gains. Good luck & have fun. Will be curious to see what you choose.

  4. Hi Julie. I am starting to lean heavily towards a new rain jacket and pants. Art