Mon, 07 Mar 2005

Camping Gear

I am, on the whole, quite pleased with my current set of camping gear, so I figured I'd share with the Internet at large. This particular set may not necessarily be to everyone's tastes, but it works well for me.

I like travelling light, and I enjoy backpacking. Thus, most of my gear was purchased with an eye toward backpacking. It, naturally, serves me well in other venues; the reverse would not be true with bulkier stuff.


Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight CD. The specs say that this is a two-person tent. Even allowing for the traditional "that's how many people you can fit crowded, without any gear", it's small for two people. It works well for just me and my gear. It'll handle two people if they put their gear elsewhere and are very close. The vestibule is nice, and has room for approximately two pairs of boots.

While I like my current tent, if I had to get another one, I'd probably go for the REI Half Dome 2. At the cost of about a pound and a half packed weight, I'd get a freestanding tent with a little more floor space, more vestibule space, and an attic. The way I camp, I'd be willing to trade off that weight. Well, I'm happy enough with my Sierra Designs tent, at least.

Sleeping Bag

<mumble>. Something I got at B.J.'s for ~$30. Rated to zero degrees, works for me. Nothing really special about it.

Sleeping Pad

Therm-a-Rest standard. Popular choice with campers everywhere. Relatively light, self-inflating, comfortable. I've got my eye on the Therm-a-Rest Fusion EX, for overkill in flexibility, but this one serves my needs quite adequately.


Coleman Xpert Stove. This is a wonderful little stove. Very light, but very capable. It's got very good stability with its four-legged, four-armed design. The flame adjustment is very nice, being able to go anywhere from a light simmer to a roaring flame. Its main disadvantage is that it only works with Coleman's Powermax fuel canisters, which contain a propane/butane blend. It does seem that Coleman will be continuing to make the things for a while, but the fact bears consideration. Somewhat mitigating the existence of the canisters is their recyclability; when you're done with one, you use the Coleman-provided "green key" to puncture the canister, then collapse it and toss it in with your aluminum recyclables. Set at full burn, it took the stove about an hour to go through one of the 300 gram canisters. More practically, I typically get about two and a half camping trips out of a single canister.


GSI Hard Anodized Extreme 5-piece Cook Set. I love this pot kit. It comes apart into a large and small pan and a large and small pot. I generally use one or the other of the pans as my plate. The main thing I like about these it the nonstick surface. Cleaning them is generally a matter of wiping them off, and even burnt-on high protein foods come off with a bare minimum of scrubbing. On top of that, they're excellent conductors of heat and can get a pot of water boiling faster that most other kits I've seen.


REI Kitchen Essentials Lite. Nice, small kit. Contains enough utensils to cook and eat a meal for two, as well as providing some nicely sized containers for spices and similar things. I've supplemented it with a Backpacker's Pantry U.T.U. Spatula/Knife; the provided spatula had too much of a propensity to melt.


Coleman Xcursion Lantern. This lantern is a nice compliment to the stove, running off the same fuel. It has its own reservoir, so you just connect the canister long enough to fill the lantern. Fully filled, the light lasts about six hours. The lantern is light and small, so nicely portable, and the light is very bright--brighter than some propane lanterns I've seen. The mantles seem pretty durable--upon burning the first one I put on the lantern, I shook, hit, and dropped the thing rather abusively and the mantle remained happily intact.

Smaller stuff

Therm-a-Rest Pocket Pillow. Light and useful. Uses clothing (which is what comprises my pillow anyway), but gathers it together into a softer, more comfortable form that's very pleasant to sleep on. Other companies make these, too; mine just happens to be from Therm-a-Rest.

Toothbrush: Clever Toothbrush. It's just a neat idea. The handle of the brush is a reservoir for toothpaste. Very convenient, and allows me to pack smaller and lighter.

Lighter: Zippo Lighter. Tried and true. This thing has seen me through I don't know how many years of camping. The penchant for the fuel to evaporate is probably its main problem, but it's minor compared to the durability and functionality of the thing.

Knife: Swiss Army Cybertool 34. I always carry this with me, camping or not, and some of its features, like the torx bits for the screwdriver, aren't really applicable to camping. But the whole thing is a nice, generally useful device. There isn't a single piece of it that I haven't put to good use at least several times over the years.

Knife: Spyderco Endura. I first got this thing for cutting rope. It's more of an explicitly-for-camping knife than the Cybertool, but while out there it's very useful. The one-handedness has been helpful numerous times, and the knife has been put to a plethora of uses.

Pen: Fisher Bullet Pen. Collapsible enough to fit in my pocket and durable enough to last through numerous camping trips and quite a few abuses of the pen to be a long-pointy-thing.

Store: REI. While not gear per se, REI is where I get most of my stuff. I've liked the store for a while, but one particular encounter sealed it as my store-of-choice. I'd been having trouble with my stove. I bought it at the store, got it home, and opened it only to find that it had been assembled with one set of legs backwards. I returned it for a replacement, waited for things to get shipped back and forth, and picked up the replacement only to find it had the same problem. I talked with a store employee and he agreed that I would probably be better off talking to Coleman directly. Barring that, he said, it should be possible to take the thing apart and assemble it properly. Regardless, he continued, REI would take it back and give me a refund, even if I disassembled it and couldn't get it back together. In other words, REI would back me up even if the manufacturer wouldn't and even if I broke the stove beyond all repair. That's the sort of place I like to spend my money.


I probably won't type up most stuff from this weekend, but I figure I'll add an entry describing my bout of stupidity for later perusal.

This was on Saturday night. I'd finally decided to wear my loincloth, so that and my boots were all I had on as I headed up to the fire stack. We were burning a bunch of pallets and I helped several others carry them from their location to the fire area. When the stack was about halfway done, Rob dumped a bunch of white gas over the fire to prepare it for being lit.

We finished adding pallets. I put a bit more white gas on, fearing that much of the previous stuff had evaporated, and we were pondering ways to light it. Troy was going to use a fire staff, but I said I'd light it myself. I failed to remember the volatility of white gas, thinking of the manner in which kerosene-soaked fires light.

Troy handed me his lighter. I went to the fire, crouched down, and extended my right arm, placing the lighter up to the piece of wood that was sticking out most from the fire.

I then remember three distinct things. All of a sudden, there was fire all in front of me--the vapors in the air had ignited--and my sole thought was, "Away!" I pushed myself away from the fire and it followed me as I moved backwards. The next thing I remember is lying on the ground on my back, some distance from the fire.

Several people came over to me and asked very anxiously, "Are you okay?" I mentally checked myself, realized that my whole right side was hurting in a manner that suggested it had been burned and said, "No. Is there a wet towel?" There wasn't, but Rob and someone else got jugs of water, which we proceeded to pour over my body to cool it off.

(I was later informed that several of the women, among them Suz, Amy, and Christie, found the sight of people pouring water over my loincloth-clad body while backlit by the fire very sexy.)

I talked with someone about first aid stuff in the area, concluded that there wasn't any in the immediate vicinity, and set out with Suz toward my tent, with my first aid kit and its burn cream. We got down there, I got out the kit, opened it, and dumped out everything. I barely wanted to use my hands, because flexing my fingers hurt. Sean (Burning Sean) cut open the burn cream packets and I applied them to the places I felt most burned. Suz then used Sean's spray Bactine over everywhere I felt burned at all. I noticed that I had at least one blister on my left index finger, and it had already burst. I felt like my lips were blistering and had Suz (and, later, other people) check it, but everyone said it looked okay, just red and swollen.

After finishing the initial first aid, I felt my body feeling a lot weaker and realized that the adrenaline had just worn off, and said as much to Suz, as I sat down. When the dizziness and nausea continued, I realized that my body was starting to go into shock, so I went and lay down on the bench of one of the picnic tables. I kept babbling to Suz and Rob and Troy, who were there by then, just to make sure I stayed conscious and had something to focus on. Rob and Troy dressed the blister on my finger while I lay there.

At this point my memories blur together a bit. I remember seeing the bright orange glow from the fire reflected off the trees around me. I remember getting up and walking with Suz to see the thing (it was very big and very bright). I remember apologizing to Suz for being hurt and worrying her and for her having to essentially ranger me. At some point, Rob, Suz, and Troy left while Jill arrived. I recall having Jill check my forehead temperature, which was closer to normal when she checked than when Rob and Suz had (so I was coming out of shock).

That's most of the tale. After that, I tried going back up to the fire, but even at a distance the heat was causing my burns to hurt more, so I went back down. I sat around for a bit, just breathing and half-meditating to lessen the pain. Other people showed up, and I talked with them. As the night progressed, the burns hurt less and less, and after a number of hours (four or five?) I could wear a shirt without it hurting too much. A bit after that, I went to sleep, which my body gladly welcomed.

Phil! Gold