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Outdoor Gear Thread


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I am pretty big into the outdoors lifestyle and always have a hard time deciding what newest piece of gear to buy. Endless hours of researching is usually invested before I make my purchase and I am hoping to make things easier on anyone in the market by providing my thoughts on what I have. I am also looking for yours - go ahead, tell us what you have, provide some links if you like and share your opinions!

Starting at my feet, I wear Gronell Klondikes from MEC and I must say that, while expensive, these are awesome boots. They took me two months to break in but were well worth the investment. I have not read a bad review of these things yet and one will not be coming from me! They are heavy but when you are already carrying a substantial load for multi day treks you'll hardly notice these guys.

My socks are Wigwam Comfort Hikers which are very good for wicking away moisture and feel very good inside my boots. I like them so much I find myself wearing them almost all the time. They can be a bit bulky but I like that in a hiking sock. The Comfort Hikers come in a two pack with a discount applied.

I won't yap on and on about pants and shirts, suffice it to say that I have some Columbia, North Face and Arc'teryx clothing. I will mention some of my top layer things though.

For rain, sleet and snow I wear a North Face M Resolve Jacket that I can easily layer up underneath for colder days. I have tried soft shells and don't really like them. I am a proponent of the layering system in a big way and this fits in well with that philosophy. It's lightweight, compresses into a pack very well and stands up to some serious moisture while not making me feel all clammy inside.

I prefer a vest for warm wear and I am sold on the North Face Apex Elixer Vest which is about the best damned thing I have ever worn in defense of the wind. The vest is always with me for those cool mornings in the summer and, combined with the jacket, makes for one hell of a winter trekking top combo, only a long sleeved t shirt further required!

My tent is an MSR Elbow Room 2P. I went away from ultra light here and sacrificed more weight for more comfort and room. It was a bit more pricey than an ultra light but I find I get more use out of this. From treks to outdoor concerts, this thing goes to it all and is at home everywhere. Front and rear entrances make it easy to get in and out and the rain fly makes for two vestibules at either end which I like because I hate sharing my tent with my gear. It also is bathtub style construction which gives you added waterproofing as none of the seams are near ground level. I suggest buying the optional footprint to extend the life of your tent bottom. All of this being said I do know some guys who are very happy with MEC's brand of tents.

I bought Black Diamond Terra CF's for my trekking poles and have been in love ever since. Formerly an opponent of trekking poles, I have seen the light and won't even go on a short hike without them now. They're collapsible which makes them easy to lash to your pack when not in use. I find them invaluable when doing anything with hills, water crossings or in snow. These things have saved me more than one serious fall.

The stove I went with is an MSR Whisperlite Internationale. NOTE: There is a simple old Whisperlite model available which is one of the most popular selling stoves ever - the difference between this and the Internationale is that the Internationale will burn various different fuels. I believe that the price difference is about ten bucks and I thought better to have and not need than need and not have. About the stove? Backcountry gourmet's need back away! This thing boils water and that is about it! With some learning one can develop skills with simmer control but it's hard. It's pretty decent on fuel in my experience and boils water in about three minutes when you use the included heat shield. It's also very quiet in comparison to some of the other MSR stoves and it's really easy to light and holds flame in the wind with the shield.. Now, there is much debate about whether someone should go with a liquid fuel or LPG stove, here is my stance, take it for what it's worth: LPG stoves are only three season pieces as they do not work well in cold temperatures. As well, you have to pack more things, fuel cells and you have to get the empty ones back out. With liquid fuel you can have the thing work like a charm in arctic conditions (ask me, I know!) and the refillable fuel bottles eliminate the need to dispose of fuel cells.

My cookware is GSI Hard Anodized Extreme. It's a lightweight set that comes with a small pot and lid set (1.4L), large pot and lid set (2.4L), pot gripper and two cutting boards/pot protectors. Both lids double as fry pans. I like having the ability to take just one pot for fast hikes and when I am alone but having two of them helps for multiple course meals - not that I make them often  ;D. I think this is a pretty sweet set and is indestructible.

For a pack, well, I have had several over the years and just started using my newest one, a North Face Terra 60. I am not completely sold on it yet. It seems decent and is comfortable enough but has very little area to lash things to. I may just sell it and go get something from Arc'teryx. What I value in a pack are a couple of different spaces for storage, a good suspension system with well padded straps, ability to integrate hydration, gear loops, lash points and top loading.

I bought an MSR Miniworks EX microfilter. This thing is low maintenance and produces water at a good flow rate in poor conditions. One only has to scrub it after about every five litres and boil the ceramic filter after every trip out. It's pretty much bombproof and idiot proof - super easy to operate. Along with this piece of gear I picked up a 4 litre MSR Dromlite Bag which mates up to my filter and provides easy water storage capabilities for the trail. If you're going to buy one make sure you fill it and leave it for a while then empty and repeat a few times to get rid of plastic tastes in your water.

My sleeping bag is an Asolo Silva which is ultra light, ultra packable and rated to 0 Celsius. I only wanted a three season bag so this is what I went with. I used to have an MEC barrel bag but decided to upgrade recently and this is what I came up with after some research and asking some guys who have them.

I buy freeze dried food and am a fan of Mountain House, Alpine Aire and Backpacker's Pantry which are all good choices, IMO, and have wide ranging menus. If I were you I'd stay the hell away from Richmoor as I fins their stuff bland and it always gives me heartburn. Though they do have a line, Natural High, that has a couple of good entrees.

I'll edit this if anything changes.
We're roughing it for next year........going back to a tent trailer. ;)
Wish I had that sleeping bag on my canoe trip, Froze my butt off every night up in Killarney
I like the outdoors too but you got serious gear. I'm so tempted to buy some items but I got bills to pay like everyone else
I'm actually looking for some more camping/hiking gear for this summer. Need to look for a good ruck though soon. Anyone got any tips? ;)

Hey Scott, where do you get your food from? And about how much does it cost for say a week of food for a trip?

MEC covers pretty much all of my needs when it comes to food. You can get into the entrees for $5 to $10 each and I find that a serving is pretty decent, size wise. I also carry a ton of granola bars, pemican and dried fruit to break things up. One can't get by on nothing but freeze dried food.

You can also order direct from some of the sites I listed.

As far as packs go, Arc'teryx is like the Gucci of packs so far as I know. In the past I've also owned Granite Gear, Asolo and the North Face one I have now. MEC sells bags but I'd stay away from them, they're not as durable as they should be.
I had a pair of the Gronell's and I can provide you with negative feedback on them.

I found them to be an exceptionally comfortable pair of boots once broken in.  The break-in period is fairly long and uncomfortable but generally worth it.  I didn't find them overly heavy. The stiff leather was nice and the boots themselves didn't take too long to recover from sweaty feet.

I have an almost half-sized foot.  In the Gronell's, this produced a bit of heel slip that went undetected until after the break-in period.  The tiny amount of slip was enough to cause significant damage to the interior of the boot, and well before the season ended, the boot was useless for anything longer than a walk around town with the dog.  I've had similar damage happen with sneakers, but those are soft cloth and not hard leather. 

So, if you're the kind of person that finds yourself with holes in the back of your shoes from normal wear and tear, I wouldn't recommend these boots for you.
Baker said:
I'm actually looking for some more camping/hiking gear for this summer. Need to look for a good ruck though soon. Anyone got any tips? ;)

If you are going to be hiking allot, I suggest investing in a good one. I prefer Arc'teryx based on compfort and durability for myself. If you are going this route, find a good dealer and have them fit you. As torso length, shoulder size etc will matter on a 9.5 day excursion.

Also take size into consideration as for how long you will be living off the pack. I have a 80 liter Bora pack which does me good for the 1-2 week hikes.

But if not, Coleman's, I hear are ok.

As for boots I am fine in a pair of hi-teks all the way up to Scarpas. Depends on the terrain.  I like the Scarpas for a lot of schale and rock, but on nice soft ground, anything really. But that is my feet.

*edited for insert of additional info
Well...this isnt' so much camping/hiking but forestry bush work.

Canada West Boots....they're basically leather with a steel shank/toe.  But you can get them soaked, break them in in a day, and get a decent lifespan on them.  Pair #8 in use now.  By fall go with Bama booties, wool socks, and insulated rubber boots.  By winter add a pair of -80C work boots in lieu of the rubber boots and you're still good.  Cost about $150 to $250 depending on season.

Pants...go with Carhartt double fronted welding pants.  Stupid heavy but you can walk through 6 foot tall devil's club with minimal discomfort.  For winter operations look for either military wool issue pants or there was a Quebec company that you might be lucky enough to find old stock off.  If still cold add running shorts or longjohns underneath.  Cost about $85 to $150

Shirts...Helly Hanson Poly Pro Body Wear as base layer.  Add a Stanfield Polar Fleace top and you're good to about +5C with no coat.  Stanfield makes wool pullovers as layer #3.  Fleace Coat #4.  Windproof Winter Coat #5.  Costs range $50 to $700

Head.  Ball cap or choice of headwear in summer. Winter...Helly Hanson make some very thin, lightweight toques that are great for layering.  Add a full face bellaclava for winter and a pullover neck warmer that you can use to hold the belclava down and seal the neck gap.  Cost about $25 summer, $60 winter

Hands.  My personal favorite is mitts designed for ski-dooing with extra long cuffs and replaceable liners.  Cost about $50.

Rain Gear.  Can't remember the manufacture off hand.  Costs about $450 for pants and coat but I've worked weeks at a time in it and stayed dry.  Will update tommorrow.

Compass...Silva Ranger.  Thousands of kilometers done and still using the original.  Cost about $70.

Food.  Small thermos of hot water ($25) and either chocolate bars/beef jerky/nuts in winter when freezing is a concern.  Summer...4-5 sandwhiches, fruit, snacks, and 4-5 liters of water. 

The gear above has worked for me from +40 C to - 50C (pre windchill).  Costs a fair penny to get geared up but good gear is worth it.
Great thread so far. I was having issues trying to find a good small and light weight tent for taking backpacking. One thing I have to say though, is that I've got an MEC pack, and have had it for 7 years now. It might not be as durable as some packs out there, but for weekend adventures and medium range hikes it's great. Nothing has worn out or torn on me yet, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it doesn't happen haha.
For day hikers, I recently pick up a pair of Zamberlan Java's.  Having never owned a pair of mid-cuts before, I had actually gone to MEC to try on a pair of the Zamberlan Crest's, but found the heel cup was not fitted well to my foot with slippage just walking around the store.  The sales rep asked me if I had tried on the Java's, and reluctantly, I tried a pair on and was immediately impressed with the comfort and support on these shoes.  The lace-to-toe design as well lacing-up past around the ankle gives them an incredible fit while not having to have it too tight to achieve support.  Also, these are available in half sizes.  My first trek out in them was about 16 kms on mostly flat trail; I had packed extra mole skin in my backpack which is still in the package.  I am extremly impressed with these day hikers. 

My boots are Zamberlan Baffin's (mine are not Gortex lined) and I loved the boots from the moment I tried them on, so my footwear preference is biased.  I wear orthodics in my combat boots and wish they were as comfy as either of my pair of Zamberlan's are out of the box.

For socks with the Java's, I matched them up with a pair of Wrightsock Merino Trail 1/4 sock and these are by far the best light trail socks I have ever had on my feet.  Dry and comfy is all I can say.  No friction, hot spots, they wick away moisture, I can't say a bad thing about them, except at $14 a pair, they are not the cheapest ones, but worth the money to me.  I had been using Ultimax Ironman Triathalon's before, which are ok but not in the same league as the Wrightsocks to me.

I also replaced my hydration pack bladder from an older Platypus one which I found difficult to suck the water out of, to a Source C-2 3L bladder and I am very happy with how easily the mouthpiece supplies water.  I do find the fill opening alittle small, but it will easily accept standard sized ice cubes and I find the strap on top very handy as well.  The screw on cap is a 200% improvement over my older Platypus one that had a 'ziplock bag' type closing that leaked and was a PITA.

While not wanting to babble on about clothing, I am partial to convertible pants myself and own several pair of Sportif's that I am quite happy with for the spring/summer/fall here in Nova Scotia.  I am more likely to shop at MEC than anywhere's else as I feel I know their product line better and was disappointed with the kit I saw at TAO and a few other spots here in the city for quality/price comparisons.

Deadpan said:
Hey Scott, where do you get your food from? And about how much does it cost for say a week of food for a trip?


Though I'm not Scott, I think I should reply

You don't need to buy the 6-10 dollar, prepackaged light weight meals

You can do it yourself by getting stuff from the grocery store, dehydrate what you can, and just make everything as small as possible, cost wise, it cost us $140.34 for 9 people for 5 Days.
If your worried about cost, buy No name stuff instead, and have everyone pitch in money (If your a group)
Look for expiry dates, and keep things that need to be refrigerated (Like pitas) refrigerated until your trip, my group didn't do that and we ate moldy pitas one day, yuck!. Mix things up too, Rye Bread doesn't crush easily and its pretty good.
Dehydrate the meat, you can dehydrate vegetables, fruits, Sauces, anything that has water basically
Put meals in zip lock bags, put a straw in, and suck all the air out, saves lots of room
Read the cooking instructions on back, don't buy stuff that requires milk, or other things that need to be refrigerated constantly.

Oh, and get 5 second bacon, bacon goes great with everything on a trip :D
Does anyone know where I can purchase a compass in mils in the Halifax area?  I just returned from MEC and that have none there.  I already tried TAO, I am calling The Trail Shop but am running out of ideas.  If not locally, one that takes credit cards and ships to Canada?  The closer it is to the standard issue one, the happier I am.

I've got a pair of Gronell's and must say I'm absolutley in love with them it took me awhile to break em in but they sure are one tough boot.
I recently got myself a new pair of boots from MEC. I got myself a pair of Raichle Kootenay 5s. So far they have been exceptionally comfortable, though they aren't a GoreTex boot so they are not as breathable as some boots. The overall support is impressive compared to a couple types of boot's I've tried before. One review on MEC says that they fall apart under heavy use, but I'm a casual hiker/ trail goer who aspires to be more hard core about backpacking one day, but until I find a good group to go with, I don't think I'll have to worry about wearing out these boots.

I also picked up a new utility knife recently. I got a CRKT M16 standard. No serrations, and no tanto tip. I absolutely love it. Personally I'm a fan of a straight blade over a half and half because serrations take too much effort to sharpen. The double locking mechanism means the blade lock will never slip. Even with the double lock you can open and close it with one hand. Very nice tool in my opinion.
I am in the market for a water purtification pump/system, for now just for overnight/weekend hiking backpack kind of use.  Anyone own or recommend any?  I've read the descrip's of the ones on MEC's website but would prefer to hear from someone who actually has/uses one now.
Eye In The Sky said:
I am in the market for a water purtification pump/system, for now just for overnight/weekend hiking backpack kind of use.  Anyone own or recommend any?  I've read the descrip's of the ones on MEC's website but would prefer to hear from someone who actually has/uses one now.

I've used this MSR filter a fair bit and it's excellent. Beware of the 'lightweight' label though: less weight = greater fragility.

MSR MiniWorks EX Water Filter
Weight: 454g

The MSR® Miniworks™ EX water filter is lightweight, with the same easy pumping action and carbon-cored ceramic element as the MSR WaterWorks™ EX filter, but without the final membrane filter. The side-mounted lever is easier to use than bike-pump-type filters. The base of the filter is threaded to screw directly onto Nalgene® wide-mouth water bottles or all MSR Dromedary™ bags, reducing spillage and the risk of cross-contamination with unfiltered water. The over-pressure relief valve vents water back down the intake hose, so you don’t get soaked with untreated water. A gauge is supplied so you can determine when it’s time to replace the ceramic filter element.

Filters at 1L per minute flow rate using AirSpring™ air bubble technology.
Effective against protozoa, and 0.2 micron or larger bacteria.
Reduces concentrations of some chemicals (including iodine and chlorine).
Reduces odours and tastes.
Foam pre-filter included.