THE GEARHEAD PAGE
Least Expensive Gear that Worked
Alcohol Stove - I made it myself! and it boiled water in a couple of minutes. The fuel (denatured alcohol aka paint thinner) can be carried in any plastic bottle (I used an emptied Poland Springs bottle marked profusely so that I didn't accidentally drink it). This makes it lighter than metal canisters and it squishes into places in the hatch that might not work for a stiffer bottle. The stove itself is tiny, fits into the cookpot along with the pot stand and a simple aluminum foil windscreen. It weighs about as much as air. I use the regular stove assembly to get water boiling, then refill the alcohol chamber and switch to the simmer can to continue to cook pasta or whatever needs long simmering. One bottle of fuel lasted me six days, cooking breakfast and dinner. I had no difficulty lighting the stove on cold days down to about 40 degrees (although the butane lighter had to be stuffed under my jacket before it would work). The whole stove assembly will set you back about $2 or whatever 3 cans of cat food cost these days. What a clever design!
Gear that Failed Almost Immediately
Platypus 4L plastic water bag - I bought 2 of these (which was total overkill but I didn't know how much water I'd use). I checked the seals before packing them, actually stood on the seal to make it lock tight, then put pressure on the bag to be sure it wouldn't leak. They were both tight. I packed them into the dayhatch along with various other bags. An hour later when I opened up the hatch at my campsite, everything in the hatch was floating. One of the bags had unsealed and spilled half the water into the hatch. The other bag never leaked through the whole trip, but I didn't trust them anymore. Plus they are so big, it's a lot easier to fit many small bottles here and there than to fit the big ones in. If I do use a large water container again, it won't have a ziplock top!
Gear that Surprised Me with its Wonderfulness
Teva Sunkosi Shoe - So comfortable that I wear them everywhere. Grippy spider rubber sole doesn't slip on rocks. Ingenious design gives great support. Without socks, lots of aeration. With socks, warm and comfy. Made to get wet and dry out again quickly, and it does. They squash down well to fit in the dayhatch. Only caveat is that the holes in the sole that let water out also let water in. If you walk across spongy moss, the water will come up through the sole. But it dries almost immediately too. I got them for a killer sale price through REI.
Gear I Didn't Think I'd Like But Then Did
NRS Deck Bag - Throw out the plastic "roof" and clip it onto the bow lines. I don't usually like a cluttered deck, but there was no room left to put essential items. It turned out to work exceedingly well and was great to have everything I might need quickly right at my fingertips. Sudden need for ibuprofen? No problemo, it's right there. Need the foghorn to alert other boats? Got it in the bag. Suddenly cold and want a hat and gloves? It's easy to grab. Also fits into a hatch as a safety gear bag if you wish.
Gear I Wished I'd Brought But Didn't
Fleece neck gaiter.
Gear That Was So Warm and Comfy that I Wore It All Day Every Day for the Whole Trip
Smartwool Undies - Jim gave 'em to me for Christmas. I thought they were for skiing but they are sublime under a drysuit too. Never got soggy, kept me warm in the sleeping bag, and didn't stink up like polypro or capilene. Expensive, but if you are good maybe Santa will bring you a pair.
Best Camp Meal
Hands down, Trader Joe's Thai Peanut Noodles with Knorr dehydrated veggies added, followed by a dessert of Cranberry Orange Cobbler.
TJ Thai Peanut Noodle package (contains one pack of cooked noodles and one of sauce)
Knorr Spring Vegetable Soup
Open the Knorr package and pick out the dehydrated veggies, leaving all the salty powder behind. Throw out the powder. (You can do this at home ahead of time.) Put the veggies in a pot, add the noodles and sauce (ignoring the instructions). Add enough water to rehydrate the veggies. Bring to a boil on the stove and let it simmer covered until the alcohol is used up. It's ready to eat!
Dehydrated Orange-flavored Cranberries (also from Trader Joe's) (or any other dried fruit)
Sugar (a tablespoon or so, depends on how sweet you want it)
Cornstarch (a tablespoon is plenty)
Biscuit mix (like Bisquick) with a pinch of sugar and cinnamon added if desired
Put the first three ingredients into a ziplock bag and the bisquick into another bag before leaving home. When ready to prepare the dessert, dump the cranberry mix into the cooking pot and add water enough to rehydrate. Don't overdo it or you'll have soup instead of cobbler. Bring it to a boil and let it simmer. Meanwhile, add a few tablespoons of water to the bag of biscuit mix to make it into a soft dough. When the fruit is simmering, uncover and add the dough in spoonfuls to top the fruit. Getting the dough out of the bag will be messy but fun. Re-cover and simmer five minutes, until the dough is cooked. Oh so good!
Worst Camp Meal
Are you kidding? Everything tastes good after a day of paddling. But okay, couscous gets old after awhile.
Gear to Take Along on a Day Trip from Base Camp
If you've set up a base camp and are taking day trips out from there, what should you take with you in an emergency bag in case you are can't get back to camp? Here's a list of suggestions:
energy bars, nut mix, other high-energy foods that don't require cooking
matches or other fire source
extra fleece clothing, hat, gloves, rainjacket or storm cag
first aid kit
flashlight and batteries