Gear

What’s in your first aid kit?

Better question: do you even have a first aid kit?

If so, is it store bought, or did you piece it together like we did?  Do you take it everywhere, or do you only pack it in certain situations? We take our kit backpacking and on the road with us.

If you don’t have a first aid kit, the list below should be a decent start.

Our kit contains the following materials, carefully prepared by my wife, the physician assistant:

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Gear Review: ENO SlapStrap

When I went to purchase a tree friendly hammock suspension system at my local REI, the sales rep in the funny green vest looked at me like I was high.

“What is it you’re looking for again?” she asked, as we circled the camping department once again.

“A tree friendly hammock suspension system!” Why is this so difficult?

Even my wife was chuckling under her breath as we searched aimlessly.

And there, appearing randomly right before my eyes, was the Eagles Nest Outfitters SlapStrap suspension system. We probably walked right by it a half dozen times. Let me tell you, proving two incredulous women wrong at the same time is a glorious—and far too infrequent—moment.

“Oh, I didn’t even know we carried such a thing as a tree friendly hammock suspension system,” green vest lady said.

Well, you do.

First, let me explain why I wanted a tree friendly suspension system. The guy who lived at my house before me hung a hammock as well, but he decided to drill a hole into the tree. The tree obviously wasn’t too excited about that decision.

Made of nylon webbing, the SlapStrap is the easiest solution to taking care of the tree you’re hanging from.You’ll keep trees the world over happy.

The SlapStrap comes in pairs, packaged neatly in a mesh carrying case. Each strap has 6 loops, allowing for flexible adjustment and creativity when it comes time to hang your hammock.

You could complete your lightweight backpacking hammock system with an ENO SingleNest Hammock, or do as we did, and bargain with a dude in San Jose, Costa Rica until he offers you a price on a plain ol’ hammock you can’t refuse.

So go ahead: ask your local outfitter for a tree friendly suspension system. Dance a small victory dance when they finally realize what you’re talking about.

Gear Review: Light My Fire Spork

It’s a fork.  It’s a spoon.  It’s a knife.  It’s a foonife. Or a Light My Fire Spork, for those of you lacking any sort of original creativity.

Pros

The big difference between a traditional spork and the Light My Fire Spork is that the spoon and fork are on opposite ends.  This means you can actually scoop a decent amount of liquid into your spoon without it seeping through your fork.

Scandinavian spork designer Joachim Nordwall must have been fed up with the old way of sporking, and thought “well, this is just stupid.”

Nordwall did a nice job with the Light My Fire Spork. I love the versatility of this utensil. Its lightweight, flattened profile allows for easy storage, making it perfect for backpacking trips.

You have a variety of “civilized colors” (as Light My Fire says) to choose from. And to top it off, it’s made of a heat resistant polycarbonate material.  Good news for people who leave their utensils near an open flame, I suppose.

Look at all those "civilized colors."

Cons

There is only one minor drawback to this utensil:  where’s the compass?  Joking.

Really though, its long-term durability remains questionable . I actually broke my Light My Fire Spork last time out.

To be perfectly fair, I put the poor thing under immense pressure in my pack. So unless you’re working on a frozen quart of ice cream, I’m sure this spork will hold up for a while.

The knife built into the side of the fork might be a great concept, but trust me, you’re not going to win a knife fight with it.  About the only thing you could cut with this knife is a hot stick of butter.

Should you buy it?

Well, that depends.  Do you prefer utensils with your meals on the trail? Or are you the kind of rude slob who eats with his hands?  If so, pass.

Otherwise, the Light My Fire spork is a sure bet if you’re in need of a reliable and transportable spoon/fork/knife combo.

Besides, you can’t possibly resist all of those “civilized colors.”

Have board, will travel

Update: To you people searching for some variation of ’80s snowboarding, I have one question for you. Why?!

Thanks to you I’ve been getting a ton of hits on this post, but please let me know why you’re searching for information on ’80s snowboarding in the first place. I can only hope the snowboarding fashion pendulum is not swinging back towards the ’80s. If so, I just might quit riding.

Just so you know, this post has almost nothing to do with ’80s snowboarding.

And hey, thanks for visiting. Stay awhile. There’s plenty of other good stuff here. Word.

OK, on to the post…

Traveling and snowboarding is easy.  You basically have one of two options.

One:  Rent gear at the mountain.  Or two: Fly with a board bag.

Let’s examine the pros and cons of each option.

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Gear Review: REI MultiTowel Lite

When it comes to gear, versatility is key.  Such is the case with the REI MultiTowel Lite.

Use it to towel off, mop up a mess, wash your face, dry dishes, clean your glasses—you name it.

The MultiTowel is a light, compact alternative to a bulky cotton towel. Not that you would be backpacking with a cotton towel, but maybe you’ve packed one when you’re on the road. Use the MultiTowel instead.

It’s made of a durable ultrasoft synthetic fabric, topped off with an antimicrobial treatment. Hey, nobody likes a stinky towel.

And the best part? REI claims the MultiTowel “absorbs up to 8 times its weight in liquid, yet 90% of the liquid can be easily wrung out to speed drying time.” I believe it.

Hang it up soaking wet by the quick-attach loop, and 20 minutes later it’s completely dry.  

The towel also comes with a clear mesh carrying case for easy storage.

The MultiTowel is a little on the price side (currently $26.50 for the x large, $19.50 for the large, $12.50 for the medium) , but it’s money well spent.

Gear Review: Gregory Z65

Perhaps the hardest part about backpacking and traveling is finding the proper pack.  Am I here to guide you throughout the entire pack purchasing process?  Nope. You’re mostly on your own, pal.

But I can speak from experience.

Up until my last backpacking trip in Rocky Mountain National Park, I’ve gone with the 2009 model of the Gregory Z65, a lightweight, well-built pack.  It’s fairly easy to load and unload, and it’s just the right size for multi-day treks .

The main compartment is roomy enough.  And like most modern packs, the Z65 is hydration compatible with a built-in reservoir pouch.

The Z65 also features the Jet Stream LTS suspension system, with an Aero-tech mesh on the pack panel.  The Aero-tech is meant to wick moisture away from your back, but I’m still not entirely sold on the concept.  Maybe I sweat too much. Gross, right?

One feature I surprisingly enjoyed was the dual mesh hipbelt pockets.  This is an ideal place to store random, readily accessible items like a compass, chap stick, field mice, blow darts—your call.

Being a top loading pack, the Z65 makes accessing gear towards the bottom of the bag a tad difficult.  It does have a horseshoe shaped zipper in the front that allows access to the contents of your bag, but I found I was digging around too much, longing for an accessible bottom compartment.

With the Z65, you sacrifice just a little comfort in the straps and the hip belt.  Gregory cut down on weight by reducing the padding in these areas. I really bought into the minimalist concept of choosing a pack, foregoing padded comfort to shed precious ounces. Over time, it just got annoying.

I never actually used the exterior side pockets for anything, though I can see them being useful.  The floating top lid was pretty rad, as I was able to stash all sorts of goodies in there.

Let’s face it, though. Sometimes you just have a bad trip with your gear, and this happened to be the case with my Z65 at RMNP.

I was considering looking into other pack options at the time, and the Z65’s performance on this trip sealed the deal for me.

For starters, the sternum strap snapped off halfway in.  Normally that is not a big deal if you can snap the thing back on, but this is impossible on the trail with the Z65. I tried just about everything. The spirit of MacGyver was not with me that day.

They say there are a million uses for bandannas. Add this to the list: bandanna sternum strap. Note: it doesn’t work with the Z65.

Proudly showing off my top of the line bandana sternum strap, available at your local outdoor store and truck stops.

Later on, I found a rip in the nylon of the zippered stash pocket. How it developed, I haven’t a clue, as there wasn’t anything sharp in there, nor was it packed too full.

To top it off, I was experiencing hot spots on my shoulders, hips, and tailbone for the first time ever with this pack, even after constant adjustments. And this was before my sternum strap took a crap.

So what the hell. Time for an upgrade.  Next time I’ll tell you all about my new Osprey Aether 60.