My husband and I have recently started to buy all of our gear so that we can start our newest hobby, backpacking. You can read more about Starting New Adventures. Last week we bought a backpack for me, and we have slowly started to accumulate other things we will need to get us going. I guess you could say this is part of our Jumping motto for 2017. The plan is to have everything we NEED by the beginning of May. I am hopeful that we can make this happen. Once we do we can then worry about what the “wants” are. Backpacking is a hobby that makes you worry about the weight of your pack and items in it, so separating the “needs” from the “wants” is very important. I would also like to stop here to make the statement that we are novices and are just starting out. If anyone has any suggestions please comment below!
Right now we are sucking up a lot of information from websites, youtube, and anyone who has something to offer. My theory is that being over prepared is much better than being under prepared. We are not going to be climbing Everest or anything like that, but we want to have enough gear and enough knowledge so that if something does happen we are ready to handle it. Nobody wants to get stranded in the woods and have to cut off a limb or starve to death. I know there is a lot of information out there and for now I will continue to search for things to help us gain the knowledge we need to be safe and successful.
One of the things I was looking into was paracord. Now I know that we use parachord for camping. We use it to hang a clothes line, and we use it to tie the rain fly down on the tent , and there are a few other things we use it for. Paracord is something that is pretty handy to have lying around when you go camping, so it is no surprise that a lot of people have it listed on their backpacking checklist. So when we went to Wal-Mart on Friday, I bought a couple hundred feet of the cord to start adding to our packs. One of the things I found online was that some backpackers don’t add it to their packs, instead they have chosen to make bracelets or necklaces out of it. Now, being the (somewhat) crafty person I am, I thought this was a genius idea. By making the necklaces or bracelets, it takes away from the weight in the backpack and also saves a little room. Parachord does not weigh that much, but everything adds up very quickly in a backpack, so if I can displace some of that weight by wearing a bracelet, you can bet that is the route I will take!
Paracord is also what we will be using to hang our bear bag. A bear bag is a bag that you hang from a tree, somewhere around your campsite, and it holds the food contents you have brought with you on your excursion. There are rules to how high you should hang it, and how far away from your actual campsite it needs to be. You do not want to have something that the wildlife will come tear into while you are asleep at night. This can be very dangerous if you do not take the necessary precautions with the bear bag. You can watch videos on youtube that show how to hang one and will also give the specs for how high you want it to be and how far away. So again, something handy to have around if you are planning on being in the woods. My husband has also stated that it can be used to make a “lean-to” Now, I am not 100% sure what that is, but from what I (think I) understand it is a makeshift shelter if you get caught without the ability to use a tent or a hammock. If you have any experience with these, please comment below.
I never thought I would be so excited over paracord, but here I am, thinking about how many bracelets to make, and how many other uses we will have for it when we are out on the trails. I guess I will have to wait and see what I come up with.
The coolest thing, and probably the manliest thing, we have come across so far has got to be the stove my husband made out of beer cans. Yes. Beer cans. Who knew Coors Lite was actually a multi purpose product! There are plenty of stoves on the market for backpackers to take with them on the trail. They can be fairly expensive and they can also add extra weight to a backpack. You have to bring the stove and the can of fuel you will use. Most of the fuel products I have seen come in small cans that weigh about half a pound, give or take. So my husband took it upon himself to do some investigating, to see if he could make something lightweight, and more importantly…cheap.The stoves in the stores can start around $100 and go up from there. The fuel starts around $30-$50 per canister. The bill adds up quickly. So when he came across a video (or 20) of other backpackers who made their own stoves, he was very excited to try his hand at it. I have to say he did not disappoint!
The design is very simple and does not take a lot of time to put together. First you drink a lot of beer, the pint cans of Coors Lite is what he used, but I am sure regular cans would work just as easy. Just kidding about the drinking a lot of beer, that is optional. Anyway, he scoured the internet for ideas and he came up with his own way of production. So the one he made is probably around 2 inches tall, and it works like a charm. I was quite impressed when I came home for lunch today and he had this stove put together. It works pretty much the same way a gas house stove works. Now before the seasoned backpackers yell at me about our homemade stove, we understand that they do not hold up very well in the cold or in windy conditions. He is also making a wind screen and he is also making a wood burning stove out of metal nail plates. We are doing a lot of research, so I have no fear that this will work. I suggested that we buy one of those store stoves as a backup, but now I am not so sure we will need one.
We are not hiking the Pacific Crest, or the Appalachian Trail (yet) but we are gearing up like we have those plans in our future. Who knows, maybe next year we will be able to do something like that. For now we are excited about starting something new, and figuring out what works for us. The cool thing about backpacking is that it’s a self-taught hobby. Meaning that you learn as you go. We can gain knowledge of things before we hit the trail but once we get out there, we get to decide what works for us and what doesn’t. We are being very careful with what we are doing, and I suggest that if this is something you would like to get into, do as much research as possible. There is a lot out there to learn, and there are alot of different perspectives, use what works best for you. You might find that what you think will work does not and vice versa. There are cautions about gaining too much information and getting overloaded with tips and tricks, I do not think that is a bad thing for a beginner. I find it very helpful to hear other suggestions or input from others, I want this to be fun and safe. If you jump right in, it can get dangerous, so use your best judgment on how and what you learn.
I have big plans for us this summer, and like I said I want to have everything we need by the end of April and the middle of May. The paracord projects, and the stove he made for us, puts us one step closer to where we want to be!