A walker’s “web mall”
My little cheat sheet of where to get the goods
Finding great hiking equipment, clothing, footwear, books and know-how can take quite a bit of hiking across the Internet Mountains, through the Webworld Woods and down the Hyperlink River – sometimes seeking solutions, sometimes tracking down a specific piece of gear. It’s gets frustrating when source “A” doesn’t carry the brand I want, “B” doesn’t have the model I need, “C” doesn’t stock my size, “D” is out of the color I like, “E” only sells at list price… (more…)
Gear ~ Ultralight Trekking Poles
Stick it to me, baby
Most hikers don’t use walking sticks (also called trekking poles). However, many swear by them. I do. Anyone who does, or needs help deciding, should read the travel warning below. If you’re on the fence, here’s some information about the pros and cons.
Why do I like walking poles? Quite simply, it’s because I fall down less often! (Coordination and my name have rarely been used in the same sentence – but hey, maybe that’s just me). Walking with poles adds a lot of stability, particularly on uneven terrain and rough downhills. Rock hopping across streams is easier, too, as is squeezing along a narrow, bramble-bordered bank of a muddy lane. (more…)
Gear ~ Compass
Suunto Clipper – 5 grams
On my first grande randonnée, I started off with a compass that was inset on top of the grip of my walking stick. Although it was a very small compass, it was all I required to keep track of which direction I was heading. At unmarked trail junctions it was easy to determine which trail was most likely the one shown on the map, and it was very convenient, because it was always out there in front of me. I just stopped, observed the needle, and moved on.
Unfortunately, it proved not to be very robust (more…)
Gear ~ Single-edge razor blade
Generic Single-edge razor blade — 3.9 grams
One of the fundamental human tools – the wedge – doesn’t show off simple refinement better than this. Useful for trimming gear, First Aid surgery, and other basic tasks that need a super-sharp blade. Oddly enough, shaving is no longer one of them. They’re both delicate and dangerous, but when it’s the right tool for the job, a single-edge blade is indispensable.
Gear – Scissors
Victorinox SwissCard™ Scissors — 6.7 grams
These are the endlessly useful, remarkably sharp, effective, and durable scissors from Victorinox™, maker of the venerable Swiss Army™ knife. It’s the stand-alone version of the tool found on many models of Swiss Army knives that comes in the credit card-sized Victorinox SwissCard. (I also like the Swiss Army™ tweezers, but usually leave the rest of the stuff behind). (more…)
Gear – Tweezers
Swiss Army® tweezers — 0.9 grams
Tweezers are the right tool for the job, when the job is pulling some tiny sliver or thorn from wherever it’s painfully hiding. Fortunately, it’s a relatively infrequent little task, but I’ve rarely walked very far without meeting a brier patch along the way. This “insurance” tool should be considered for your first aid kit.
One of my favorites is the simple one-piece precision Uncle Bill’s (more…)
Gear – Whistle
Fox 40 Micro Pealess Safety Whistle — 4.8 grams
Here’s a nice little piece of insurance, a basic communication and signaling device. Like all emergency gear that you hope to never need, if you ever do, it has to perform reliably. A whistle is basic safety gear, an essential on remote trails for summoning help and rescue, but also potentially useful in any town or city in the world for warding off danger.
To make the most of your whistle, which has limited musical range, learn the International Whistle Signaling Code.
Gear – Digital Scale
Once you decide to lighten your load, the first essential equipment is something you’ll never carry on trail – a good digital scale. There are all sorts of them to choose from, but here are some basic features needed to weigh the various gear and clothing components of your ultralight (let’s hope!) packing list.
I use a scale that measures increments of a tenth of a gram, to a maximum of 500 grams. Ideally, get one that has grams and whatever other units are meaningful to you, such as ounces. Increments of .1 grams yield exceedingly precise measurements. For those who don’t think OBSESSIVE is always spelled in ALL CAPS, just round to the nearest whole gram.
Gear – Knife
Opinel® Folding Knife, N° 06 — 28 grams
A knife is among the most basic and useful tools and one of the essentials I carry. Say “pocketknife”, and you’re likely to think of the famous Swiss Army knife from Victorinox®. Though undoubtedly useful for one thing or another, they have never been my first choice.
A basic Swiss Army knife weighs 75 grams (2.7 ounces) and has two stainless steel blades – 55mm and 35mm (2 inches and 1.4 inches). It also has various screwdrivers, an awl, toothpick, scissors and tweezers. In my experience these last two are the most useful gadgets on board, but overall, these ubiquitous red tool kits are stuffed with too many little gadgets that I don’t need; the stainless blades are too short and they don’t hold a keen edge very well. And did I mention 75 grams?
My favorite is the little pocket knife made by French manufacturer Opinel®. (more…)