What I have, what I need

Posted by Ryan Jerz on Tuesday April 1, 2014.

My first order of business is going to be to just get the heck out there and do a little camping. But despite what I would like my time to look like, I do have to go to work and earn money. So I can’t just up and leave whenever I want to do so. That means I have evenings and weekends to look around at possible gear and read up on what I need to have in my possession when I eventually do get out the door and experience the backcountry.

Some of the obvious basics include a tent, a sleeping bag, a backpack, a way to get water and a way to cook food. With those, I could theoretically just go out and do this stuff. Some more desirable things would include a way to keep clean and healthy water, something relatively soft to sleep on, a way to protect food from animals (around here, that is important) and a plan. A lot of this stuff, I have. Some of it, I don’t. So I have to complete my own list of items needed before I can really take off. Especially that part about the plan.

Being a person that tends to obsess about the stuff involved in any thing like this, let me tell you a bit about what I have and how I got it all. I’ve tried to be as efficient with my money as I could. I definitely have found some bargains in some areas and avoided them in others. I have also learned a lesson or two in the process.

The Gear

  • Backpack—I straight bought this one. I own the REI XT 85 and got it using a new member discount of 15% when we signed Christy up for her own membership. It’s a big one and I am completely fine with that. I wanted a pretty large pack that I could use for a longer trip now and bring with me later on when I need that high capacity.
  • Tent—I’m pretty proud of this one. I was scoping out a Marmot Limelight 3P after doing a lot of price comparisons and reading reviews. I liked the idea of this tent a lot, plus it came with a couple of things that would cost extra. It is the right size, a good weight, etc. Well, I was a couple of days away from pulling the trigger on it, but was going to wait until after the REI garage sale. I walked in and there was the exact tent I wanted for half the price. I snagged it and it’s in prefect condition.
  • Sleeping bag—Still working on this one. I have a bag that’s a crappy Costco synthetic thing that works well for car camping, but takes up about half of my huge backpack. It’s not going to work. I am currently eyeballing a few and might pull the trigger in a week or so with my 20% member discount at REI.
    Sleeping pad—I snagged two at the REI garage sale for $10 apiece. They were rentals that got phased out and are very nice. They self inflate and I can get them packed pretty tightly in the bag. There are much lighter versions out there, but the cost of those is pretty high—very high by comparison, actually. I will take these and see how they work out.
  • Water treatment—Another thing I’m still without. There are a couple of choices, but I think I’m going to go easy at first and grab a Sawyer Mini Water Filter. It’s small, inexpensive, has pretty good reviews and seems like it will be a very easy first foray into filtering water. I also plan on picking up a large hydration bladder for the pack itself.
  • Camp stove—A couple of people turned me on to this idea, so I decided to go with it. I built a stove out of a tuna can. You can find instructions everywhere. I will use denatured alcohol as the fuel. I tried it once in the back yard and it worked pretty smoothly. Plus, it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than buying something for $40 minimum.
  • Stuff sacks—These things are expensive! Without knowing a whole lot about how I’d properly use them, I couldn’t justify spending a bunch of money on them. So I found a way to build my own. I picked up the DIY kit from Yama Mountain Gear and made my own from cuben fiber. They are super easy to make. I got six bags out of it varying in size and they should do well to start out by holding patch kits and first aid gear and other small things.

One thing of note that I learned is that the REI garage sale is cutthroat. Not that people are rude, but you have to be really, really good at getting stuff. I wandered through there and a backpack caught my eye. I stepped away from it o look it up online and someone snagged it in that one minute I was gone. It turns out I would have bought the thing on the spot. You live and learn, I guess. I won’t make that mistake again.

With the addition of just a couple of things, based on this list, I will be ready to get out there for a weekend. Every time I look up at the mountains and see a storm making its way toward us I get excited to get out there. That cold challenge beckons me, I guess. I’ll talk more about that another time.

Ryan JerzRyan Jerz is an all-around good guy who wants people to eventually refer to him as "that dude who climbs mountains."