Stuff we’ve recently added to our hiking gear
SPF clothing, headlamps, Moleskin and more
We clip coupons. I quickly flip off light switches to save money. I’ll eat old, shriveled food in our fridge because I’ve already paid for it. And we shop at Costco and Marshalls.
In other words, we’re frugal. With one major exception – hiking gear. We buy often and favor a slight attitude of recklessness. Hopefully, you’ll glean some value from our bad habit.
Special clothing protects from sun and rain
Our long string of vacations uninterrupted by rain ended two years ago. We groused for five days on one trip while the skies dumped rain everywhere we tried to explore. We’ve always day-hiked with an emergency plastic poncho in our backpacks, but they’re not ideal for trekking any distance in significant rain. So we purchased lightweight rain jackets and pants that truly keep us dry and allow us to explore trails in relative comfort. We’ve also worn raingear along the Yosemite Mist Trail in spring because Vernal Falls was throwing off a spray deluge. I have an REI jacket and OR (Outdoor Research) pants – both provide great repellency.
And now, two key words: SPF clothing. Actually, that’s just one word and an acronym. You can make this decision one of two ways: 1) be proactive to protect yourself against skin cancer or; 2) get skin cancer and then decide to prioritize prevention. I suffered through the latter approach. Four skin cancers, two melanomas, my first one at age 33. Now one of my lines of defense is SPF clothing, which my physician says is worth every penny, especially the hats and shirts. Most of my early SPF clothing looks dorky, but many outdoor clothing brands are adding more sun protection styles that look nice. My favorites are Marmot and Columbia. And more recently Eddie Bauer introduced a few that are easier on the eyes.
Hiking gear to keep gear dry and light your way
I sleep when it’s dark out! And I don’t spelunk. But I still love my headlamp. First of all, today’s headlamps are reasonably priced, lightweight and they throw off an amazing beam for navigating trails. I’ve used mine twice in the last couple of years. Once, for hiking to Half Dome in Yosemite. To beat the 100-degree temps and the trail crowds, we started at 3 a.m. The second time, we wanted to see the sunset from Garfield Peak at Crater Lake, knowing we’d be descending at dusk. Was it worth it? The accompanying sunset photo came from that hike, enhanced by the forest fire smoke and haze during this summer trip. I bought a Black Diamond headlamp for $30; of course, they offer more expensive versions. Mine emits great light for navigating during dusk or dark. Petzl is another popular brand.
I added a dry bag to my hiking gear several years ago, to protect my “stuff” during any pop-up storms. They make lots of sizes; mine is small and can contain my good camera, phone and car key fob. The dry pack folds small and provides peace of mind when not in use. I bought an OR model and really like it. Sea-to-Summit and NRS are two other brands.
Comfort for your feet and protection for your eyes
We worship our feet, but not in a false idol sort of way. Achy, miserable feet ruin vacations. So we spoil them with good socks, boots and Moleskin. My wife first started using the stuff. Our backpacks always contain enough to cover our entire bodies (okay, that’s why the word hyperbole was invented). We also carry gel toe sleeves that slide over our little piggies. These have rescued me many times. You can find them in the foot care section of stores. However, I scored some really good ones that don’t shift around in my boots from my podiatrist. I call him “my” podiatrist even though I’ve seen him only once, in his office, not counting the time at the restaurant. He wouldn’t wave.
I love gnarly sunglasses. I used to flinch at $30, but not anymore. I now redirect my savings from other skinflint behaviors to very good sunglasses. My wife loves the Maui Jim brand and I prefer the more rugged Oakley models. We willingly invest in UV eye protection and, if we also look good, then it’s high fives all around. I bought my Oakleys online; they have great software that allows you to design your pair and pick the lens that accents your environment. For instance, I hike mainly in forests and wildlife refuges, so I chose a lens that’s best suited for greens and foliage.