Peace In A Tin Can

Peace In A Tin Can

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends…and REI!

I like to be prepared.  When my friend, Debbie, took that first step and joined me 4 years ago on my annual Fall Camping Trip, I promised her I would take care of her and she had nothing to fear.  Last year, when we ended up lost for eleven hours in the wilderness, she questioned my ability to keep her safe, but at the end of the day we were enjoying a campfire, safe in our campsite with the tin can.  Still doubting my survival skills, Debbie whipped out "The WORST-CASE SCENARIO Survival Handbook" by Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht to check my knowledge.  Seriously, who knew that the most important thing to do when plunging off a bridge is clench your butt cheeks?

Since that night, I decided that my wilderness skills needed a little brushing up.  That's when I discovered  REI.  A large retailer of outdoor apparel and equipment, REI also has free community classes, guided trips, and a wealth of information in published articles.  I recently attended a Winter Camping class at the REI store in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to brush up on my knowledge for my upcoming trip to the Porcupine Mountains.
I am confident with my winter camping skills, but since I am new to all this outdoor/wilderness adventure stuff, I figured it couldn't hurt to hear what REI had to say.  I am so glad I went, because I learned quite a bit.  Mostly, I learned how expensive my new passion is!  But the instructor, Tim, gave me helpful tips for how to keep the cost down.  For instance, I had been searching for a water filtration system, keeping in mind the requirements of 99.99% filtering capabilities, weight, volume, and ease of use.  The system I had chosen cost about $129.00  But Tim introduced me to REI's Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter Plus for $49.95.  It only weighs 3 oz. and takes up very little space, is easy to use, and filters up to 99.99999% of all bacteria and protozoa.  I can use bags for 16, 32, or 64 oz. of filtered water, making it versatile for filtering larger amounts of water in camp, while carrying smaller amounts on the trail.  I just saved about $80.00!
I also had questions about meal preparation.  I really don't want to carry camp cookware to prepare meals over an open fire.  Tim recommended a personal stove which uses white gas, because it still burns in colder temperatures, but I like the Jet Boil for it's compact size and included carafe for cooking.  Tim suggested that if I place the fuel pack in my coat for a short time, I can heat the canister with my body to insure ignition.  I settled on the Jet Boil Zip Stove and feel comfortable with Tim's recommendation.  As an accessory, I plan to purchase the Coffee Press.  No more instant coffee!

I also learned a few helpful tips about stuff sacks, packing for space and weight, and other helpful gear. The main reason I wanted to attend the class, though, was to learn more about layering.

Last year when I attended the Michigan Ice Fest to learn how to climb ice, I researched sites to learn the proper layers of clothing to wear.  Because I am always on a tight budget, I made do by borrowing and improvising items of clothes.  Big mistake.  Fortunately, the guys from Down Wind Sports recognized how ill-prepared I was to hike and climb in sub-zero temperatures, and introduced me to a Patagonia Rep who lent me the proper jacket for the weekend.  I was so warm and comfortable, I changed my mind about the whole winter gear situation.  It really isn't just about marketing; its about survival.  Frostbite and hypothermia are real, people.
When the class at REI ended, I tried on some different layering pieces, and fell in love with the Columbia Bugaboo 3-in-1 Jacket.  It fits my budget while still having the features Tim talked about: sealed seams,  windproof, waterproof, and a breathable insulated soft shell which can be removed.

My Christmas Wish List has been compiled and given to my husband.  With just a few additions, I can stay within a reasonable budget and still be prepared for winter camping.  Debbie may have taught me how to survive in quicksand, but REI is teaching me real skills to fit my adventure plans, helping me keep the cost down, and showing enthusiasm for my quest to become a real outdoor adventurer.  Next class:  Snowshoeing 101.  Maybe I will learn how to be graceful, but I'd say that's a stretch, even for REI.

How To Survive in Quicksand:

1.  Carry a stout pole.2.  As soon as you start to sink, lay the pole on the surface of the quicksand.3.  Flop onto your back on top of the pole4.  Work the pole to a new position: under your hips and at right angles to your spine.5.  Take the shortest route to firmer ground by pulling out first one leg, then the other.

Commit this very important tip to memory.  You never know when you might need it!