Prepare yourself for the Outdoors – Gear Guide

cropped-P1010799.jpgDISCLAIMER: The information contained in this write-up is a collection of facts gathered for more than a decade of being a mountaineer and outdoorsman. Topics will focus on common equipments/gears used in the outdoors. They may not be applicable to all. If you have doubts or questions, please feel free to post a comment. This serves as a guide and not a tutorial or an instruction manual or an endorsement for a specific brand of gear. The final choice is always yours to make.

So you are thinking of trying something different. The great outdoors is calling you. Where should I start? What should I do? What do I need? These are the common questions an outdoor newbie would ask and I asked the same questions 10  (well more than) years ago. I did a lot of research by reading books, surfing the net and watching videos. Once I got all the necessary information and was content of what I learned I started to buy the gears/equipment I will need. I decided to try mountaineering, trekking and hiking 🙂

BACKPACK

My first backpack was 80 liters!!! I thought having a larger pack would be “astig” but I regretted having such a huge pack. My climb mates would let me carry all the heavy things and I ended up being exhausted in most of the climbs.    My second pack was 60 liters. I was really happy using it and I had lots of memorable climbs with it. The day I wanted to pack-light came so I bought a 28 liter pack. It felt great to have such a pack but I usually forced my gears in it so I decided to sell it and got a 32 liter pack which I still use now.

So my suggestion is if you are going to buy a pack, get a small one first. You might regret having a large pack in the end. When the small one is not enough(since you will be adding more gear to your arsenal) then buy a bigger pack to accommodate all you need in overnight or multi-day hikes or climbs, but keep the small one for day hikes. For backpack fitting refer to this YouTube video from Eastern Mountain Sports http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X258hs7HHaw

TREKKING SHOES

I love my feet and the outdoors are merciless if we don’t provide adequate protection, so the first pair of trekking shoes I got were low cut ones made by Salomon. I loved those shoes so much that when they were worn-out I again bought Salomon pairs. My third was a pair of  low-cut Adidas which were great. My fourth pair was from FILA (Everest) and they provided adequate support for my feet until I got injured with a twisted ankle, so I decided to get high-cut shoes from Merrell. At first the Merrell’s were great but I ended up having dead toe-nails each and every climb and they were heavy… so I decided to buy high-cut shoes from The North Face which I still use until now (you can read my review HERE).

My suggestion in buying shoes is to make sure they fit you well, provide adequate protection (high-cut is highly recommended) and they are comfortable. YOU NEED TO BURN-IN **   your new pair of shoes for about two weeks before using them on a climb or long hike. This is to make sure that your shoes won’t cause blisters on your feet!!!

TENT

I wanted to be self-contained so I wanted to have my own tent for my outdoor adventures. My first tent was a 5-person dome-type tent. I bought it because I want my climb buddies and I to stay in one roof in our climbs which proved to be a pain as the tent was super heavy. My second tent was a 3-person tadpole tent which was really great and it served me well but again it was a pain to carry it as it was also heavy. My third tent and I still use it until now is a 1-person Ultralight Tent from REI (you can read my review HERE).

If you are buying a tent, make sure it is lightweight, sturdy and aerodynamic. Poles should be made of aluminum and there should be a flysheet that covers the whole tent. Having a groundsheet or footprint is a plus to protect your tent floor from sharp thingies in the outdoors.

STOVE

My first outdoor stove were pieces of candles that I used to cook canned-food (no joke!!!). I never bothered to eat rice or real food during a climb until I got fed up 😀 My first official stove was a kovea mini-burner which got lost before I got the chance to use it hahaha (part of SMB Mountaineers History). My second stove was a Kovea Moonwalker which served me well until the knob malfunctioned and I almost burned myself. I gave it away (after repairing the knob of course hehehe) and bought my third stove which was a multi-fuel type made by MSR (read my review HERE). I still use this stove in multi-day hikes. My fourth stove is an awesome one called BIOLITE (read my review HERE) which was given to me by dear friends of mine 😉

If you are buying a stove get the smallest possible one with sturdy legs and great quality build. Butane type stoves like the Kovea Camp 5, Camp 4 or Moonwalker are good. If you are the type that wants to cook for everybody in the team, the stoves I mentioned will suffice but there are gourmet camping stoves like the MSR Dragonfly that serve this purpose.  Just make sure you test the stove and check for malfunctions and leaks before buying it.

COOKSET

I only had one cookset in my more than a decade of outdoor adventures…………… the Kovea Solo 2. If you are planning to cook for the whole team then buy the bigger ones, but for you and your tent buddy, the Solo 2 will suffice. It includes two pots (large and small) of which the covers can be used as frying pans, plastic cups and scoop.

HEADLAMP

In choosing an outdoor headlamp, I had to consider my budget and how often would I use it. I had used several headlamps raging from the cheap to not so cheap and branded expensive ones. I ended up using the branded expensive ones. The cheap ones were great but they weren’t durable. The not so cheap ones were also great but again durability was the issue. My first expensive headlamp was the Princeton Tec Fuel. It was a great headlamp and its water resistance was a big plus since 50% percent the treks I did were during the rainy season. I used it for 2 years until the case started to crack. Oh well………… I currently use the Petzl Tikka Plus and it is my favorite. IPX4 rating, battery strength indicator, bright white LED with 3 lighting modes, red LED and good design makes it a delight to use.

It’s really up to you if you want a cheap or expensive headlamp. Just make sure it meets your requirement. You will never know when those night treks or climbs will happen or if someday you want to go spelunking.

WATER STORAGE AND FILTRATION SYSTEM

Potable Water is the most important element in every outdoor adventure.  An average person can live up to three days in the wild by hydration only, therefore before going out in an outdoor adventure, make sure you have enough water supply or have some means of gathering and storing water during emergencies.

Most water bottles and containers have their advantages and disadvantages so do your research before buying. You need to consider how you consume water specially when doing very strenuous activities. There is no perfect math to determine how much water you should bring that’s why you need to be familiar with the environment you are going. If you are sure there will be water sources then use that to determine how many liters you will need to bring. If there are no water sources then YOU MUST consider how long the trek will be, what the weather conditions will be and how much do you think you will need to drink and double that (as least that’s what I do).

Having a water filtration system is a big plus. My Katadyn Pocket Water Filter (click HERE to read my review) has been a big big big help in many of my outdoor adventures. It has benefited me and my outdoor group as well in many situations. Your group should have at least one before engaging yourselves in multi-day outdoor adventures.

The final thing is………………… YOU CAN’T HAVE ENOUGH WATER so do research and plan accordingly.

FOOD STORAGE

You need to have enough trail food. Again you need to determine how long you will be trekking in the wild. Having complete breakfast, lunch and dinner is a must in the outdoors. Storing food properly makes sure that your food will not spoil and will not make a mess inside your pack.

One thing comes into my mind when I need to store food in my pack. ZIPLOCK!!! You cannot go wrong with ZIPLOCK. There are also a lot of plastic containers available out there and they do a pretty good job but for me nothing compares to ZIPLOCK since I need to pack-light and I only have a small space to spare for food in my pack.

As mentioned above the information here is only a guide. The final decision is up to you. I hope by highlighting some points you will be able to prepare yourself and enjoy your adventures in the great outdoors.

See you in the great outdoors!!! ENJOY!!!!

** Use for walking, malling, jogging, etc.

Great Outdoors

SMB Mountaineer Member in full gear during the Mount Amuyao Traverse (Barlig to Batad) last 2012

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