Sunday, October 29, 2006

Gear - "you get what you pay for"

I often see the phrase "you get what you pay for" in discussions of outdoor gear and it annoys me somewhat. It implies that the more you pay, the better the gear, ignoring the issues of suitability for the intended use, niche uses, and that you may be paying extra for things other than quality. For instance, if you buy the most expensive tent, you will probably be buying an expedition, 4 season tent. Very useful if that is what you need, but too heavy and with too little ventilation if your intended use is for mild weather short trips. Boots, jackets, and a number of other hiking items have similar issues, you need to know what you need or have good advice.

Another issue are the very light items for ultralight packing such as titanium cookware which are much more expensive than aluminum or stainless steel. Yes, the light items weigh less and are functional but aren't necessarily better or more functional than other materials. And some ultralight gear must be handled carefully or they will break or tear, not items for a beginner.

Also, sometimes what you are paying for are name brands, fashion, or store policies. For instance REI has a generous return policy and many brick and mortar stores, very nice if you need it, but it does add a bit to prices over an Internet only store with less overhead. And in many cases by buying last year's gear, you can get a considerable discount. The gear isn't less good, just a discontinued color or style, possibly better for your needs than the newer item.

Basically when buying gear, you need to know what you are paying for and what you need. If you don't, you may end up paying a lot more than needed for gear which is not suited for your intended use. Some stores will help you sort out your needs but going to a store and buying the 'best', the most expensive, isn't the way to go.


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Trip Report - Twisp Pass trail

October 21st was a great day to hike the Twisp Pass trail ( . Once up on Lincoln butte, I had great views of the peaks and meadows. The day was clear and bright with fall colors at their peak. I met a few other hikers including 2 backpackers who were headed for Dagger Lake and 2 hunters. I didn't see any game probably because it was hunting season. At the pass, I climbed part way up Lincoln butte for some pictures of Dagger Lake and peaks to the north. This was the last weekend this year before snow started falling in higher elevations.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Losing gear

I hate it when I lose gear I use. Sometimes it isn't so annoying because I end up replacing the item with something better, like the Yellowstone hiking map I lost and the more up-to-date and detailed map I replaced it with. But sometimes it is hard to find a piece of gear that fits as well as what was lost. I haven't lost anything expensive so far but some things like silk glove liners are hard to find except by mail order, very inconvenient when I'm packing for a trip.

I've been lucky that I rarely reach for an item while hiking or starting a hike and find it isn't there, usually it is when I'm packing for a trip or unpacking I notice the item is missing. This allows me to replace it before I need it except that I don't know when I lost the item and tend to think it slipped down somewhere or I put it in an unusual place. So I spend a lot of time looking for it, sometimes for months, before I end up replacing the item.

I occasionally find items others have lost; my specialty seems to be flashlights. I have found 3 working flashlights on trails or at trailheads. Other people report finding hats or other items. I hope that whoever found the gear I have lost have a use for it or pass it on to others.


Saturday, October 14, 2006

Trail killings near Pinacle Lake

This summer 2 women hikers were shot on a popular Seattle area trail to Pinacle Lake, I have been on this trail and in the general area several times, although not recently. For the first couple of weeks after the killing I was more vigilant on the trail but soon stopped thinking about it while hiking. I suspect being more watchful did not make me safer, just anxious. I'm not sure what I can do to protect myself other than hiking in a group, something I don't want to do, see previous post on hiking alone. Besides, since no motive is known group hiking may not be safer.

I know that violent encounters in the backcountry or on trails are rare and I am probably safer hiking than walking around Seattle. Yet this killing seems more real to me than the average shooting in Seattle. I can better relate to the circumstances. I haven't stopped hiking since the killings and won't although I'm not sure I will hike alone in the area where they died for a while.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Hiking alone

I like to hike alone. I didn't always but had trouble finding hiking partners that were free when I was and at about the fitness level. I tried convincing non-hiking friends of the joys of hiking but found that most didn't appreciate it like I did. And hiking with someone who is a much stonger or weaker hiker is often frustrating for both.

Hiking alone can be scary. When I slip or fall, I think about what would happen if I became injured and unable to walk. So, I'm more careful about what I do, carry extra items, such as a space blanket, tube tent, and cord. I also sign in at trail heads and let people know in general where and how long I'll be gone. Still, it is sobering, especially as I get older and have health problems.

When I hike alone, I see a lot more animals than most groups do. I like hiking in Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks and really enjoy seeing the animals. Of course I worry about grizzlys and have twice had encounters with grizzlys at less than 100 yards. Fortunately, they didn't charge.

Occasionally I will hike with a friend and enjoy it but I have come to savor being alone. I may reach a state that is similar to meditation, something difficult to do while talking with another. I enjoy both days that I see no other hiker and also talking with other hikers along the trail.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Trip Report Specimen Ridge - Yellowstone NP

I hiked along the Specimen Ridge trail on September 19. Almost as soon as I was on the trail I saw a coyote "mousing" and a pronghorn buck. After I got up on the ridge proper, I saw 2 bull bison coming down the trail. I moved off the trail but apparently not far enough, they followed me for a bit as I continued to move up the ridge off trail. The weather was very nice after the cold wind and snow earlier in the week, sunny and with a light breeze. At the junction with the Yellowstone Picnic trail I looked over into the Yellowstone River canyon. I hiked up until I was tired and then cut off trail to the Agate Creek trail hoping to look over into the Yellowstone canyon. I wasn't able to see down into the canyon without going further than I wanted, so I hiked out back along the Agate Creek trail. I saw several elk antlers, skulls and bones of pronghorn, bison, and elk, and another pronghorn buck. I made it out about 3pm without having met another hiker on the trail. A couple were at the parking area just about to start up the trail.


Hiking in Yellowstone? Please take a map.

I enjoy day hiking in Yellowstone National Park and go for a week 1 or 2 times a year. During that time I have assisted 5 groups of hikers who were lost or didn't know what trail they were on. None had adequate maps (or perhaps any map) or a compass. Some might have been in real danger if I hadn't come along, the trail was not heavily used and the weather was changing. Some seemed to be close to panicking. I suppose that Yellowstone being a National Park may have caused them to think that the trails would be well marked, well used, and easy to follow but that isn't always true in Yellowstone or other parks I have hiked in.

Most Yellowstone trails are well marked and often well used for the first 2 to 3 miles but after that some trails are hard to follow. Animal paths confuse the main trail and the trail markers fall down and fade with time. I've hiked for several hours on some trail and not seen another person more than a mile from the trailhead.

I do a lot of hiking in the local Washington Cascade mountains and lesser amount in other National Parks, and I don't remember ever running into groups of hikers who were that lost. Yes, I often stop and exchange information with other hikers about distance, conditions, etc., but I haven't had to direct hikers to where the trail exits or tell them where they are.

Of course, you should always take a map and a compass on any trail you hike as well as the rest of the ten essentials (see Why hikers in Yellowstone, as opposed to Glacier or Grand Teton or other parks don't have them isn't obvious to me. Or maybe I have just randomly met more unprepared hikers in Yellowstone than other places.