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Saturday, August 29, 2015

When Good Gear Goes Bad

The good thing about working in the outdoors for along time is I really get to know my gear, what I need, what works, and what doesn't. I have systems set up for camp, for paddling, for bad weather, and cooking.

I tend to not lust over new gear, simply because I don't need it. It is nice to look at all the new stuff, but I usually have all the gear I need. However doing two major expeditions in less than 4 years took a tremendous toll on my gear, and several pieces didn't perform well this last trip to Alaska. We came home with gear that was in need of repair, or outright replacement. Some of it, gear I really loved. The list is as follows:

My beloved four season tent is leaking, and in need of all new bungies. All the deck bungies on my kayak need to be replaced. My sleeping bag is near dead, and my sleeping pad, while still working fine, no longer works fine for me. It simply isn't comfortable anymore  - I didn't even bring it to Alaska, I borrowed one from a friend. My Rain eVent rain shell is delaminating. My dry suit needs all new gaskets and to be checked for leaks, particularly in the feet. My beloved Werner Kalliste was nearing end of life, at least as a primary paddle, My beloved Delta needs a new seat back, and Finally my Kelty Noah's Tarp was leaking like a sieve. All of this gear would need to be repaired or replaced.  This is the equivalent of starting almost from scratch, and the only way to do it is one piece at a time when I have the money, I am still an unsponsored expeditioner!

Something to also keep in mind, the lifespan of gear - and gear definitely has a life span, it will not live for ever! - is not what you think. I regularly tell people this story about sleeping bag life span:

In 2006 I did two NOLS sea kayaking courses back to back. I ended up sleeping in my bag about 80 days in a row, in usually damp conditions. This doesn't sound like a lot, but think about it like this. We generally tell people that a synthetic sleeping bag will have a life span of 10 to 15 years if stored properly - Properly, is loosely in a cotton or other breathable bag, in a temperature controlled area. Not hanging, not in your attic. Not in the trunk of your car. But that 10 years is planning on "normal usage", meaning that of a normal person which is a handful of trips a year. 6 to 8 weekends? maybe more? But at that rate 8 weekends a year for ten years is 160 days. I did half that in two months. When I came home from Alaska my sleeping bag was showing serious signs of wear, and it was retired to use on the couch, on cold winter nights in front of a fire. It would never again be used in a serious backcountry environment.

If you watch my Facebook, or my instagram you know that Last fall I replaced my paddle - I bumped my Kalliste down to back up status - as an instructor there is always a spare paddle on my deck - and I purchased an all carbon Werner Camano, a slight downgrade which I will discuss in another post. I am also mostly finished replacing my deck bungies.

Today I took the first steps, I purchased a sleeping pad, and a new tent. The sleeping pad was easy. I purchased the same pad I had borrowed from my friend for Alaska, The Big Agnes Q core SL.


It packs small, in fact I found a way to pack it in Alaska that makes it smaller than its traditional packaging, and it is super comfortable. For years I have been against blow up pads, but this thing is so comfortable that I will pay the price, plus, I found a cheat.


This little pump works on the Big Agnes pad, it is what I used in Alaska. I haven't decided if I am going to buy this, or use the big agnes pump sac - which is a stuff sack that you use to fill pad. Yeah, it is a little glamping, but it was so easy. 

The tent was an even easier decision. I have had great luck with REI tents, and so I went with another. I will re-treat my four season tent, and re-string the poles, but the fact is I don't think I will need a four season tent all that much. I also think there is some backpacking in my future. So I went with a three person three season tent. The REI Quarter Dome 3


I like free standing tents, I tend to not worry about weight (because I am in a kayak), I like tents with two doors and two vestibules. This was a no brainer. I looked at the lighter Dash tent from  REI and It was very nice, but the material looked very thin and I am hard on gear.

The next piece of gear on the list, I am concerned about. I am replacing a very old REI Shuksan Jacket. It is made out of eVent, and I said at one point I would stop using eVent when it was pried from my cold dead fingers. Unfortunately, it is my jacket that is cold and dead being pried from my fingers, and I can't find an eVent Jacket that is reasonably priced. I am afraid that I am going to be forced to go back to eVent, and more frightening, I may have to buy an Arc Teryx. They make great jackets but they are very expensive, and frankly, Arc Teryx wearers are a little cult like! Sorry guys and gals, but it's true. Ill keep you posted on how that plays out.

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