No Stove? Glad I’m Not The Only One

It is well known among my immediate family that I’m one of the world’s least picky eaters. To me, food is fuel. Not to say there aren’t lots of foods I enjoy *cough* cake *cough*, but in many circumstances I’m content to simply fill the hole at mealtimes. I’m the type that has kept and eaten a wrong meal brought to me at a restaurant rather than wait for my actual order to be made and served. And done so without complaint. And left  a decent tip for the server, too.

So it goes without saying that I’ve struggled with the concept of bringing a stove with me when I begin to do 3-10 day backpacking trips. I’m convinced that I could eat anything and be satisfied for that duration. Granted, if I was spending 4-6 months on a trail I might change my mind (more for that first cup of morning coffee than for food), but for a short jaunt up/down a trail I could easily survive without one.

Problem is, I’ve yet to find anyone else who thinks like that. I’m sure they exist; I just haven’t found any. The pro-stove people’s (entirely valid) argument is that while roughing it on the trail, a few creature comforts make the experience more palatable.

I can see that. Still…

I’m currently finishing up “Becoming Odyssa”, the (first) thru-hike memoir of AT phenom Jennifer Pharr Davis. And I was so happy to note that, after a brief foray into trail cooking, she abandoned her stove and went straight-from-the-pack. Yes!

On my first extended trip on the AT I’ll be sure to keep a sharp eye out for like-minded cold food eaters…

From Gossamer to Granite

I’m a product over-researcher by nature. And when I say over-researcher, I mean digging out every photo and every possible end-user review of every item I’m considering, from a USB-to-HDMI cable to a car. And given that I’m going to be spending several years with my first “real” backpack (with apologies to my trusty but day hike-sized Kestrel 28) I’m tearing up the web making sure I give myself the best chance at a solid first choice.

Because of my overwhelmingly positive experience with its little brother, I was originally considering the Kestrel 48, but I was afraid I might find 48 liters too restrictive for longer hikes. I’d rather have too much space than not enough. So I did a ton of research (surprise) and settled on the Gossamer Gear Mariposa, a fine pack that checks off all the boxes on my list at a fairly reasonable price.

Then I drifted over to Philip Werner’s site, and he had posted a review of the new Granite Gear Crown 2. His impressions of the bag were extremely positive. So I asked him, knowing that he has owned/reviewed the Mariposa, which one he liked better. And he gave the edge to the Crown 2. His recommendation, based on the return policies of sellers like REI, was to order and try both, then keep the one I liked best. That sounded like wisdom to me. Ultimately, user reviews and pro-level recommendations can only take you so far. Philip himself encourages people to not just take his word for it, but to try on every pack under consideration because everyone’s needs (and fit) are different.

So in April I’ll do just that. But I’m already leaning a bit towards the new (and cheaper; money matters too) Crown 2…

 

 

Treading the Urban Wilderness

“We need the tonic of wilderness.” – Henry David Thoreau

I had this week’s blog post pretty much ready to go when yesterday I decided, post-storm, to stop pacing the living room floor and pace outside instead. I mean, a post about backpacks that I won’t get to buy/use until spring can wait, can’t it?

It was nearing 30 degrees, a balmy day for these parts in February, so I tossed the usual poundage in my Kestrel and trekked a short four miles on just-plowed roads.

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Even with trekking poles and good traction from my All Out Peaks, I found patches of ice underneath that made for interesting footing for both man and pole. Still, I was aware of how much more enjoyable it was hiking on this surface as opposed to running on it. I’ve had runs on terrain like this where a poorly placed footfall has led to the best Warner-Brothers-cartoon struggle to stay on my feet. The focus of runs like that is survival, not pleasure.

I truly enjoyed this mini episode of slowing down to enjoy the view. The fresh air, physical activity and even the poor traction made the day for me. Admittedly, when I got to the main artery for a quick quarter mile jaunt to the next back road, passing drivers didn’t seem to enjoy me enjoying myself. They were focused on trying to stay in their lane and not hitting the itinerant wandering fool with the bright yellow jacket and red pack. Thankfully, a couple dozen of them pulled it off and we all safely reached our destinations.

Note: Those $5 tip covers have already paid for themselves.