From start to finish, the one consistent thing about each year for me is that I use a variety of products to do a number of things. In certain ways, I am a creature of habit and I use certain pieces of gear until they unravel, break or otherwise need to be replaced, because they are either that good or I see no need to upgrade just to upgrade. Equally as consistent, I also receive a variety of pieces of gear to test for a variety of companies; and on occasion, I also learn about products that I want to purchase, or need to purchase for a number of reasons. At the end of the year, I look back on what I did, what worked for me, what didn’t, and make up a list of things that I’d recommend for a last-minute gift guide. As always, if the product made my list, you can be sure that it was tested in a variety of situations over a period of time. So, without further ado, here’s what I’d recommend for 2016 on a variety of fronts:
On one of my more recent camping trips, all that I brought was my sleeping bag, and a groundsheet. Last year, when backpacking, I carried a hammock instead of a tent. When I am mountaineering, generally, all that I bring to sleep in is a bivy sack. The reason that I can use all of these lightweight products and be fine in the wilderness is that I have years and years of experience. But the thing that I, and many outdoors experts sometimes forget – or don’t mention is that before we could use all of the super-cool hi-tech lightweight toys responsibly, there was a period where we learned how to camp; how to backpack, and in my case, how to mountaineer. In short, there was a point where we were beginners – and we used normal, beginner, every-day use beginner gear.
When I started backpacking, the one of the main – and critical issues was what gear would be left behind. At that time, backpacks were heavy, external frame affairs, and it was common to see even experienced backpackers with sleeping pads, metal canteens, and heavy and bulky sleeping bags lashed or strapped to various places on the backpack. This was before the rise of synthetic materials, and the ultralight movement that has come to dominate not only backpacking, but the outdoor industry as a whole. When I look back on the gear that I and many other people used to carry, I realize that it truly was the dark ages in terms of how the sport has evolved.