Some friends of Bryon and me got into a lengthy discussion via e-mail today about backpacking gear, specifically water filters. It reminded me of a bigger issue of how important the right gear is in general. People who live in Colorado generally love to partake of the great outdoors, especially hiking, camping and backpacking. But if you’re new to this kind of thing, and you just opt for whatever is cheapest, you may end up hating the experience and be soured on the idea of spending time in the wilderness.
I was reminded of this when I first lived a bit about camping and hiking while living in the Sierra. Though I grew up in a family that liked being outside, and took many trips out to Colorado, we never really did much camping or backpacking of any sort. So when I started to get into it a bit more, I didn’t have much experience to draw upon. I remember being so excited to get my first tent when I lived in the Bay Area (San Francisco). I pitched my brand new tent up in my sixth floor apartment and sat inside watching TV. Something positive came out of that, as I learned it’s always good to learn how to set up a tent, before you really need to.
However, when I later moved up to Sequoia National Park, I learned about how one can really suffer when you don’t spend the money for quality gear. Being new to camping, I bought a sleeping bag made of a synthetic fill that was supposedly rated to 25 degrees. As I lay trying to sleep in a campground high up in the Mineral King Valley, I learned that I did not in fact have a bag that would keep me warm at 25 degrees, since I was clearly shivering at 35 degrees. I ended up putting on just about every layer of clothing I had that night as well as a wool hat to keep myself warm — not exactly optimal sleeping conditions!
Later, I did a little research and ended up buying a North Face down sleeping bag, that I still use today. It’s rate to 10 degrees, is light, compacts into a small stuff sack and most importantly is toasty warm. I also found out something about companies like The North Face, which is they make a quality product and stand behind it. I had heard they would reloft my sleeping bag for free, but was skeptical. In fact, I took it to a store, they relofted the entire thing, mailed it back to me, and it is still going strong after almost 18 years.
I’ve found the same things to be true of backpacking stoves, packs, and even clothing. Patagonia is another store that makes fantastic clothing for the outdoors and stands behind it. I’ve had long underwear I bought from them over twenty years ago and it is still warm and has stayed durable through all that time. I’ve found it’s worth the effort to not only research products, but to spend some time at a reputable outdoors store whether it’s an REI, or a local independent outfitter to really try on things, walk around the store, spend some time figuring out what works for me. I recently bought a Gregory day pack specifically designed for a woman’s build, and it’s so comfortable and rides on my hips so well, I hardly know I have it on. That’s a good fit and good product.
In short, what I’ve found is that I enjoy my time spent outdoors camping, hiking, skiing or whatever if my gear is good quality and fits me right. I’ve also found that most things that are of good quality and long-lasting cost a bit more. But for me, it’s worth the money and time to find the right fit, so that I can really enjoy all this great state has to offer in terms of outdoor recreation.