Sunday, March 08, 2009

Tested some gear last night

Me in my Golite poncho tent
I went for a gear testing overnighter last night. I hiked up the Romero trail and over to Blue Canyon. I camped in Blue Canyon. In the morning I hiked up the trail to Forbush Flat and then up and over the Cold Spring trail. Tony dropped me off and picked me up, finding me ambling down Hot Springs road, having been unsuccessful in my attempt to meet the Sierra Club on their hike. I was going to try to Yogi a ride from them.

Gear I tested:

Gossamer Gear G4 backpack

I put most of the gear I would theoretically take on the PCT (theoretically since I was testing some other gear, too) and only one day of food and water in the pack and set off. Measured unscientifically on the bathroom scale, my pack weighed about 9lbs without the food and water. It felt like nothing. It was relatively small, too. Nobody once asked me where I was going as they would if my pack had been more obviously a backpacking pack. Going ultralight is actually a bonus for the single female backpacker. I ought to get an even more stealth-looking pack than the G4.

I put the foam that comes with the pack in the shoulder straps instead of extra socks. I didn't want to carry any extra socks. I don't see a need for padding in the waist straps. They feel fine without it.

I did not like how my back got all sweaty. I tried putting my pad in the sleeve and then inside the pack but either way, it was just too sweaty. Then I thought what if I put my camelback bladder against my back instead. That worked great! The cold water cooled my back and it only pressed against a narrow strip of my back, meaning I got much less sweaty. I will try to fashion something to hold the camelback in place.

One thing that definitely was bad was cutting my z-rest in half. It doesn't work with my sleeping quilt having two halves to try to keep together. I would have stayed a lot warmer with a whole pad. I had cut it in half so it would fit in my pack in the sleeve, but since I don't like it in there, I can go back to a whole pad.

Golite poncho tarp with a bivy sack and A16 bug bivy

Many ultralighters swear by this system of carrying a poncho to do double-duty as shelter and rain gear. I decided I would try it out to see if I even like it.

Well, I really liked it. The poncho formed a cozy little hidey-hole for me to sleep under. It felt pretty spacious. If it had sprinkled a little light rain, I would have stayed dry. If it had rained some real rain with wind and everything, I think I would have gotten miserably wet. I could set it up differently for that kind of situation and probably survive, but that's what it would be: survival.

Still, it felt freeing to not need a tent at all and know that I was protected from most of the elements.

The bivy sack was nice to have. It was unexpectedly cold last night. Below freezing. I used my down quilt, which is rated to 20 degrees, but if there are any gaps, the micro-breezes get in and make me cold. The bivy helped add a little warmth and protection from the micro-breezes. Not a lot, but enough. I was cold a few times, but most of the time I was toasty warm.

There weren't any bugs to speak of. A few spiders and beetles and a cute little inchworm ambled around my stuff, but no mosquitos. I tried the bug bivy anyway just to see if I would be happy in it.

I was able to read my book in bed for a while, so there was enough room for that. Sleeping under it I never even noticed it was there. But if that was the only space I could have relief from the swarms, I think I might go nuts. I think in the heavy mosquito country my The One tent is a better choice than the poncho/bivy/bug bivy option.

So, I think I will start out hiking with the poncho and send the tent to myself for the mosquito months. I am not sure what to do about the rainiest parts of the trail. Perhaps the Equinox tarp would work for that. I will have to see if I can wear it as a poncho somehow.

Why even bother to go without a tent? I just really like the feeling of not having a tent, not being inside, and being closer to nature. In truth, I thought the poncho was too much between me and nature, but I did want to test out the whole enchilada, and it probably helped keep me warm on what turned out to be quite a chilly night.

Homemade alcohol stove

I made an alcohol stove out of red bull cans the other day. I tested it in the back yard and it worked. I got to use it in the field and it worked great. The only downside to it is that it's hard to see if I've put too much alcohol in it until the alcohol is running out of the holes in the side. Maybe I will learn its capacity after a while.


Nido is powdered whole milk. I have always used Milkman, which is powdered 2% milk. Milkman is just palatable enough with that little extra fat in it. But they are no longer making it.

I found Nido at a grocery store in a latino neighborhood. Oh my god! It's delicious! I think I will stop putting soy milk on my cereal and use Nido instead. It's good enough to be real food, not just backpacking rations.

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