Friday, March 23, 2012

A Backpacking Aficionado's 3 Season System, Part 3: The Little Things

Yes, it's the little things in life that can make all the difference, and I would say this is especially true with backpacking.  In part three of my complete examination of my 3 season gear, I will cover the small details that really add to or aid the experience of temporarily living out in nature.

In case you missed the rest:

Here is a link to part one, here is part two, and here is what my current 3 season gear list in question looks like on geargrams and/or on paper.  And one last time, full disclosure: I am not paid by any brand or company, nor do I get any gear free.

I will start with what I carry not in my pack, but on the front of my pack, worn on my hip belt.  It ends up resembling a mini fanny/hip pack while I hike, and contains the things I usually need the most or that I want to have easy/quick access to, which are: cell phone, flashlight, lip balm/sunblock, compass, Swiss Army Knife (Nomad model), and tissues.  Total it's 190g.  The small ziplock bag is in case it rains heavy and I need to protect things (most importantly my phone) from getting soaked.  I will also store snacks and gum in the hip pack, or a camera if I choose to take one (I usually don't, plus my phone has a camera anyhow).
I will switch out my Swiss Army Knife for a Mora Knife (the "basic" model with a plastic handle) at times, especially if the weather is good and I expect to have several campfires.  I use my Mora to cut and split wood by batoning (which is when you drive the blade through wood by hitting it with something else, like a strong stick).  The weight of the SAK and Mora are nearly identical, the SAK coming in at 100g even, and the Mora only 5g more including a plastic sheath.  The Mora doesn't fit in the hip pack, so I either wear it with a string around my neck, or keep it in the outer pocket of my backpack.

Some ultralight purists will nix tissues in favor of natural materials to take care of their hygiene needs.  I have used natural materials before, but for me it's just so much more easy and convenient to have a small pack of tissues.

Next is my repair and note kit, which I store inside of my first aid kit: pen with duct tape wrapped around it, a few small pieces of paper, mini sewing kit, mini scissors, sleeping mat repair patches, super glue, extra mini spool of thread.  Pretty straight forward kit, stuff can break, tear, rip, etc. so you should have something to fix your stuff, especially if you are many kilometers from civilization.  At 35g for this whole kit, it's hard to complain about bringing it, even if I rarely use it.

My general health/hygiene/safety kit has changed a lot over time.  Here is the most current version: small plastic bag, strong plastic string, concentrated biodegradable soap, mini toothpaste tube (good for about 10-12 uses), spare batteries, hand towel, tin foil, firestarters (more on this soon), matches.  The weight of this kit fluctuates due to the amount of consumable materials like toothpaste and soap.  If there are a lot of bugs out (this is not as common in the spring and fall), I will bring a tiny bottle of bug oil that is only around 20g.  The whole kit is between 110-140g.  Last time I weighed it, before my last overnight trip last weekend, it was 118g. 
I used to take a full sized towel a long time ago, which is heaver than all my small kits combined.  But now I find that a small hand towel is all I need.  I usually only wash my hands and maybe my face; and if I choose to go swimming, I can air dry for a few minutes and shake off water, and then just finish up drying with the hand towel.  

The tin foil has several uses.  For one, it stores my firestarters, which are made mostly of wax, so they can rub off on things.  I also use the tin foil if I catch a fish and choose to cook it in a foil pack in the campfire.  I usually just grill fish on a stick over the fire, but sometimes it's nice to add other ingredients to the fish (like some seasoning, chopped up veggies, and in the fall wild mushrooms).  I can also use the tin foil to make a temporary container for whatever reason.

Now more detail on my firestarters, which I am a bit proud of.  I came up with the idea on my own last year after many years of building campfires.  I have used all sorts of firestarters: cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly, dryer lint, pieces of fatwood, tampons, small dropper bottle full of tiki-torch oil, etc.  Plus all sorts of natural materials (birch bark is one of the best natural firestarters).  

Problems is, a lot of firestarters you bring with you (i.e. non-natural) are messy, bulky, burn up too quickly, and hard to use under wet conditions or if they get wet.  Then of course if it is wet out, natural materials can get soaked making it very difficult or impossible to make fire.  For many years my firestarter of choice was small candles, like birthday cake candles or tea candles.  Candles are an excellent firestarter, and are already waterproof, plus they are cheap and easy to find.  Then one day I figured out a way to improve on this choice.

My wife and I enjoy burning big candles at home, but I found that there is always left over wax stubs from these big candles.  I thought that it would be good to recycle all these candle stubs somehow, maybe melt them down into small bars of wax.  But that seemed too tricky.  Melting the wax was easy enough to figure out, and I soon came up with a nice little DIY wax melting station made from an old alcohol stove experiment.  After I melted the wax, then what?  Well I got an idea to take a single sheet of toilet paper, roll it up into a tube, then dip it into the liquid wax, and presto: the paper soaked the wax up, and then all I had to do was set it aside to dry.  

Each wax roll firestarter is only about 5g each (some are 4g, some are 6g, but 5 is a pretty consistent average), and are one of the best firestarters I have ever used.  All you do is set up your kindling and twigs for your fire, put the wax roll in the middle, light it, and then feed the flame.  It burns longer than a lot of other firestarters, it's waterproof, not messy, easy to pack and use, and of course very light weight.  

Plus they are very, very cheap (next to nothing, really--recycled wax and a bit of toilet paper), and easy/fun to make, which is essential because I go through a lot of them, as I usually have a campfire or two on my trips.  I did a quick experiment in my backyard with a wax stick to see how long one would burn.  It burned for 4:40, not too bad for a 5g little wax roll.

Here are a few pictures of my wax roll production facility, first from above: a candle stub, stove is a tin can with holes punched through it, tea candle inside the stove, a few nails to hold a small tin in place to put the wax to melt.  Then a piece of paper for the finished product to cool off, and three fresh wax rolls.
 Side view with the tin on top of the stove:

I won't include a breakdown of my first aid kit, which I have already done in previous posts, and everyone has different needs as far as first aid kits go anyhow.  If you are a veteran backpacker, you already have a FAK (you ought to, at least).  If you are new to backpacking, fine, fine... here is link to a picture of my FAK, which has changed very little over the past few years and served me well.

Well that about does it for the little things I bring with me, and also the final chapter of my series breaking down my preferred 3 season backpacking system.  I mentioned this before, but worth repeating, that my gear list is never static. Depending on conditions and many other factors and variables, what I take with me backpacking changes.  Last week, for example, there was a very low chance of rain, so I decided to sleep under the stars in a bivy rather than under a tarp, along with my buddy Red Alex still asleep on the left:

In the future I plan on doing a review of my brand new Zpacks Zero custom made backpack which I got recently.  Took it out for an overnight trip (same trip as the picture above), and it exceeded my expectations and performed exceptional.  So it will be a positive review, if anything.  Then of course in the summer I will do a breakdown of my summertime system, and as mentioned in my last post, maybe, just maybe, a XUL trip report.

As always, I welcome any questions, comments, and feedback.  So leave comments or send emails and I will be happy to reply :)

Peace out girl scout.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Backpacking Aficionado's 3 Season System, Part 2: Trip Report and Gear in Action

This is part two of a report on my new and improved 3 season backpacking system of gear with a base weight of 8.4lbs/3.8kg and clothing worn weight of 5lbs/2.3kg.  Here is part one, and here is a link to a detailed list of just about everything I might choose to take with me in the most challenging conditions (i.e. rain/snow and maximum low temperature of -4C/25F).  Same disclaimer as before: I am not sponsored and did not get any gear free from any company or anything like that.

My backpacking systems--which are: 3 season, winter, and summer--represent the culmination of many years of experience along with many hours planning, researching, and experimenting in hopes of making improvements to my systems.  An improvement in my system of gear translates into an overall improvement in my next adventure backpacking, and the more I go out into nature, it has been almost always a more positive and enjoyable experience as time goes on.  Sure, in the past I have made a lot of mistakes, but I have tried to learn from them, and as time goes on I seem to make less mistakes and things seem in general to be better.

For the second part of this report, I didn't want to just take pictures of all the rest of the junk I haul with me out there.  I thought it would be both more fun and useful to write a trip report, and highlight some of my favorite pieces of gear and how it works in the field.  So a few days ago I decided to go on a solo overnight trip in one of my favorite patches of woods about an hour outside of the city I live in.  

One of the great things about Sweden, if you love the outdoors, is that there is no shortage of beautiful geography to explore.  From a long coast line and many islands in the sea, to the vast stretches of woodland, a backpacker ought not to be bored living in Sweden.  And with only around 9 million people living here (much less than some big cities in the world like Mexico City and Tokyo), it's easy to share this large and gorgeous bounty as well.  On my trip I didn't hear or see anyone once I got deep in the woods, which is almost always the case.

The weather was excellent--low chance of rain, and about 8C/46F during the day and 0C/32F at night--which meant I could leave a few layers at home, making my base weight dip under the 8lb/3.6kg mark.  I left the windbreaker and my rain pants, but kept my rain jacket to use as a windbreaker, and there were some clouds in the forecast, in case of light rain.  No rain and lots of sun, so things worked out rather nice.  I also left my fishing kit, as the lakes are still (mostly) frozen over, and ice fishing isn't my thing anyhow even if the ice was safer.  Now on to lots of pictures!  Click on them to make them bigger, and that goes for the rest of my blog as well, in case you didn't know.

Here is a lovely little waterfall I crossed shortly after hopping off the bus.  I was full on water, otherwise this would be a great place to refill.  The creek is fed by a pond (still pretty frozen) close by that is somewhat isolated and itself is fed by a spring.

A view from a hill I climbed up after a few more hours of hiking.  Still frozen over, though pretty thin ice at this point, so I didn't risk walking across.

Down at the shores of the lake.  Note the cliffs in the distance.

A lot of the hiking I did on this trip (and most of my trips) is off-trail, AKA "bushwacking."  I decided to turn around and take a picture of an example of the thicker stretch of woods I was navigating through, and here is what bushwacking often looks like:

Here is a view of the woods I was hiking through from the top of a ridge I had just climbed.  I had to be a little more cautious here, as one time I camped out close to this spot, I ran into a boar.  I was able to scare it away, luckily, but now every time I move through here, that event is on my mind.

On top of the cliffs, facing the spot I was at earlier on the shore of the lake.

Another example of how thick it gets where I like to roll.

Finally, after getting down from the cliffs, an actual trail, and through a wonderful example of Swedish trollskog, no less.

Here I am a little deeper into the trollskog, almost time to find a nice spot to make camp.

This is the spot I settled on to make camp for the night.  It is on top of a hill near a lake.  The cold air will sink down, making higher elevations more desirable to sleep at, and if it were heavy rain, no chance of being flooded.  Being near a water source is always a plus too, not just to refill your bottles, but also to wash up and/or swim in too.

From another perspective, and with the tarp set up.

Dinner time.  My complete kitchen: collapsible plastic mug, cuben fiber food bag (with 3 meals, 2 snacks, sponge, plastic clip to attach to a rope to hang in a tree overnight), titanium long-handle spoon, alcohol fuel, matches, titanium Clikstand stove inside of titanium pot.  
While I also have a worth while DIY alcohol stove (made out of a cat food cat and tin foil windscreen, which I have written about in other posts) that is lighter weight (144g total for whole system), my Clikstand stove is overall my stove of choice.  The ease of use, excellent boil time (between 4:40 and 5 minutes for half a liter of cold water), and decent fuel efficiency (I use about 25ml of fuel each time and it is more than enough--on overnights I bring a 100ml bottle) all for only a total of 245g for the full system.  The DIY stove has a 6-7 minute boil time, plus uses more fuel, is fragile, and set up is a bit more involved.  Still not a bad choice, though, especially for the very low cost.  But if you want to go deluxe, this titanium beast is the way to go, and only a 101g weight penalty. 

Stove is set up and ready to go, and on the left is my meal (ramen noodles plus a pack of cup-o-creamy-chicken-soup to give it more substance) in a ziplock bag, waiting for boiling water.  Above my meal bag is my cozy bag.  After I pour the hot water into my meal bag, I seal it up and then put it inside of my cozy bag to stay warm.  My cozy bag only weighs 20g, and is just an envelope of space blanket I made myself (with duct tape) inside of a bigger ziplock bag.

I had heard of cooking in ziplock bags for a while, but was skeptical and just stuck to cooking in my pot and then washing it out afterwards.  Then I saw a video by Stick, another backpacking blogger, on youtube where he cooks and eats out of ziplocks with ease.  He made it look so easy I had to try it myself, and turns out it really is a great alternative to cooking out of your pot if you don't want to clean up.  Here is the end result, and it worked out great.  After 5 minutes inside my DIY cozy bag, I transferred my dinner to my pot to continue to keep it warm, and enjoyed an excellent backwoods meal pipping hot.  Helps to have a long handle spoon if you choose to eat like this.

After dinner I had tea and marveled at this view of sunset.

My shelter all set up, from before dinner, just to see how it looks up close.  The ground sheet is double layered, as I mentioned in part one of this report, to protect my inflatable sleeping mat.  My shelter even has a welcome mat, which is my back support of my backpack, and also my sit/kneel mat as well.  Very handy to have, plus in the morning it also acts as a place to put my socks and shoes on without getting dirty (or wet if it had rained).

Just before bedtime, what the inside of my tarp looks like.  Plenty of room for me (I am about 183cm/6ft and 83kg/183lbs) and all my gear in case it rains.  If it was windy and rainy, I could pitch the tarp lower to the ground, and location is also a big help.  You may have noticed above that I pitched my tarp right next to a log on one side, and a big pine tree on another side, which helps shield me from wind and/or rain.  If you are lucky or look hard enough, you can actually find natural shelters that are nearly wind and rain proof.  I have slept in a cave before and that was very cozy, but you can also sleep directly under a very big, thick, healthy pine tree and it's branches act pretty much as a tarp.

The morning, airing out my sleeping bag, just after a nice hot breakfast (oatmeal with berries, chopped almonds, and coconut) and cup of tea.

One last picture of a part of the trail going back towards civilization that I thought was very beautiful.  It's the kind of spot I would expect a hobbit or an elf to be smoking a pipe, seated there on that rock formation.

This was one of the best solo overnight trips I have ever been on, everything just seemed to fall in place and feel "just right."  All my new clothing and gear performed equal to or exceeded my expectations, for example this whole new realm of ziplock bag and DIY cozy cooking.  My running pants, which I was a bit concerned about their durability, pleasantly surprised me.  Not only did they take no damage from the harsh bushwacking that I do, brush and branches seem to slide off of them better than my regular hiking pants or jeans.  

I didn't feel like taking pictures of my new water filter (kinda boring), but that also worked great and saves lots of time.  In my youth I relied on iodine pills, which work fine, but had to be bought and replaced, plus gave water a funny taste.  Then for many years I just boiled all my water to purify it, if needed.  Economical and reliable, sure, but takes time and energy.  So last year I finally broke down and got a great little filter to suit my needs, and only weighs about 100g for the filter itself plus a folding plastic flask that's about a liter in volume.  Water here in Sweden is very clean, and if you are careful you don't have to treat your water at all and just drink it straight up.  But sometimes if I am thirsty and there is questionable water around, say a big puddle, rather than get a fire going and boiling it, in less than a minute I have potable water.

In total I hiked about 13km on my first day in, about 8km the next day coming back out, and enjoyed every step pretty much.  I could have easily hiked further, but time constraints (school) prevented me from doing so.  Looking forward to more trips like this, and to summer where I will switch over to my summertime backpacking system, which is even lighter and minimal.  

I am even strongly considering doing a XUL overnight trip, which is the very limit of the entire school of lightweight backpacking.  My summer base weight will be under 5lbs/2.3kg, which is considered SUL (super ultralight) backpacking.  XUL is 5lbs/2.3kg of weight for your base weight and clothing worn combined.  If I do go for it, I will be sure to write up a full report here.

*EDIT: I did end up doing a XUL trip!  You can read about it here. :)

I hope you liked my trip report and part two of my 3 season system report, and as always I encourage feedback, either below in a comment, or in an email.  Thanks for reading, and get out there and take a trip of your own and soon!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Backpacking Aficionado's 3 Season System, Part 1: Clothing and The Big Three

An aficionado is, to paraphrase Hemingway, one who has passion.  

Before I begin to breakdown in detail my entire 3 season backpacking system, I would note a few things for context.  I don't play any musical instruments, as many of my friends do, and hence own no guitars or drum kits or amplifiers.  I don't care really care about cars, other than to get my family and I and our stuff from one place to another.  As such, I own a 7 year old station wagon that we bought used.  I not only don't care about fashionable clothing, I harbor a certain degree of antipathy towards the fashion industry and people who are devoted to constantly buying trendy, expensive clothing.  

I honestly don't do all that much, and live a simple and happy life most of the time (or try to at least).  When I am not focused on my family, I am focused on my post-graduate studies, and whatever time is left over after that I like to backpack as much as reasonably possible.

Thus, I spend the majority of my free time and money on going out into the woods, which I deeply love; and to go there for extended periods of time and distance, I have endeavored to master the art and science of backpacking.  So yes, some of my gear (which is of high quality) might be a bit expensive to some, but as I have observed here on this blog in the past, backpacking compared to other outdoor hobbies can often be much cheaper--for example, next to kayaking, nature photography, hunting, skiing, etc.  If you are looking to save money but still get good gear, I wrote a whole other post about backpacking on a budget.

The style of backpacking that has served me best and allowed me to have the greatest amount of pleasure out of the experience of being in nature has been ultralight backpacking, which if you have been reading my blog at all you already know, if not check out the archives (or Wikipedia) for more information.  My backpacking system has changed a lot over time, quite drastically if you were to compare it my system a decade ago.  But even now, maybe once a month or season, I will learn a new trick from myself or others to improve my system.  What follows is the most current version of my backpacking system, and therefore what I consider at the moment to be "best" for my wants and needs for 3 season use.

What is 3 season use?  Depends on who you ask and where they live, and as of now even Wikipedia has nothing to define it.  My own personal 3 season is from roughly March to November, meaning I could use this gear list anytime during these seasons.  However for summer time (June to August) and winter (December to February) I have different, more specialized systems, which is why I will often call this my "spring and fall list."

The total weight of literally everything I bring with me (full skin out): 8045g (17.7lbs)

Weight of clothing worn: 2299g (5.06lbs)
Base pack weight (no food, water, fuel): 3806g (8.37lbs)

Click here to see a detailed report from the wonderful geargrams website.

Now keep in mind that this gear list, like any gear list, makes some assumptions.  For one, it includes rations for just 1 day (3 meals and 2 snacks), and 1 day of fuel (though if conditions are right, I can always opt to use a campfire).  The above list is more or less the complete list for the most challenging conditions normally present in the earliest and latest parts of the seasons in question, which means rain and/or snow in chilly early March or late November.  Taking this entire gear system, I would feel comfortable going out in nearly any weather (I am not going to risk my life in a storm if I can help it) down to low temperatures of around -4C (25F).  When it is warmer, or say if there is very little or no chance of rain, then I can leave some layers at home, of course.  So this represents the heaviest possible combination, and is by no means a static list.

I very recently updated my clothing system, and made sure to go out and test it to ensure it worked properly.  The test was pretty straight forward, on a chilly night of -3.6C I went out on a long walk, then came back and sat in my backyard with my night layers for awhile to simulate sitting around camp.  I was warm and comfy during both experiments, and only shivered for the first few minutes going out into the cold at the beginning.  With this new system of clothing, I was able to shave nearly a whopping kilo (2.2lbs) of weight of clothing worn compared to my old system.  Efficient warmth does not have to mean thicker, heavier clothing!

Here are some pictures of all the clothing and some reasoning behind my choices.
Wool socks, 88g.  I could go lighter here with shorter synthetic socks, but don't feel like it is worth it.  These are very warm and comfy socks, for one, plus I find that synthetic socks tend to get smellier and get smelly faster.

Cotton underwear, 92g.  Again, could go lighter here, but this is good enough. This is the only piece of cotton clothing I take with me now.  Like socks, I found that synthetic underwear gets stinky, and not as breathable for a part of my body I'd like to be very breathable.  These boxer briefs also double as my swimwear if I want to take a dip, and dry easy either hanging off my pack or near a campfire.  I don't mind going commando, though with the base layer bottoms, it's not as big a deal anyhow.

Merino wool base layer pants, 196g.  Very warm and comfy, worth the small amount of weight over synthetic bottoms, and for some odd reason I don't find bottoms as itchy as tops.  Maybe because I have very hairy legs?

Synthetic base later top, 175g.  I also have a merino wool top, but after trying both on, I found the synthetic one to be more comfortable.  Wool, even merino wool, can be a bit itchy, though it is warmer.

Mexico football jersey, synthetic, 135g.  I wear this over my base layer, or if it is warmer out I can leave the base layer top at home and use the jersey as my base layer.
Synthetic running pants, 155g.  I am a bit concerned about how durable these will be for my needs, as I am at times literally crawling and climbing around rough stretches of nature.  But very light, comfy, and cheap.

Synthetic sweater, 265g.  I'd like to switch this out for a down-feather sweater, which are warmer, lighter, less bulky, and very comfy--but very expensive.  Until then, this is a decent layer, especially for the low price you can pick one of these up for.  This would be the first thing I would leave at home if it was not as cold out.

Windbreaker, 207g.  Very comfy, and my most "stylish" piece of backpacking clothing, even though I got it for very cheap at a clearance sale.
Rain pants, *0g (165g, but noted in my base pack weight, not my clothing worn, as I usually don't wear this unless it's raining/snowing).

Glove liners, synthetic, 35g.

Leather gloves, 105g.  Could go lighter here, but these gloves have not only good warmth value, but also good utility value, e.g. protecting hands while collecting/breaking up firewood, and pot holder.

Rain jacket, waterproof/breathable, *0g (380g in base weight).  I can put this on over everything for a solid amount of added warmth.

Merino wool scarf/buff, 55g.  One of my favorite accessories, can also be used as a balaclava

Baseball hat, 77g.  My least "stylish" piece of clothing with redneck camo, but I love it, good buddy.
Synthetic vest, *0g (210g in base weight).  This is worn at night when it is colder, or as an emergency layer if there is a sudden change in the weather and it is windier/colder than expected.

Synthetic socks, *0g (26g in base weight).  For sleeping, or if my hiking socks get wet, a spare pair of socks.

Synthetic beanie, *0g (50g in base weight).  For nighttime and sleeping.

Not pictured are my shoes, which are a pair of New Balance tough trail running sneakers, which come in at 714g.

And there you have my new and improved 3 season full clothing worn.  Now on to my choices for the big three: backpack, shelter, sleep system.  I should also note that I am by no means sponsored or paid by any of the companies below, nor have I received any free gear for review purposes.

After trying many backpacks out over the years (my go-to backpack for years in my youth was an old army issue ALICE pack), I have finally settled on my favorite for my 3 season requirements.  It is the Mountain Laurel Design Exodus 50 liter frameless pack, and mine comes out at 445g without any shock cord or pockets.

I use a big rectangular strip of generic foam mat as back support, which only adds 40g of weight, and when I get to camp the foam strip acts as my sit/kneel pad.  I was also able to buy this great pack used from a backpacking website for nearly 100 bucks less total than brand new, which goes to show you that you can save money and win out on used gear.

Next, my shelter of choice, the amazing Zpacks Hexamid solo tarp:
At its longest and widest, it is 2.7m x 1.3m (9ft x 4.5ft), and when it is all folded up it can fit into a one liter stuff sack.  With guy lines, titanium tent stakes, and stuff sack the total weight for this shelter is a mere 180g.  To finish off my shelter, I made a ground cover out of a garbage bag and space blanket that only weighs 85g.  I opted to go for a tougher double-layer ground cover to give added protection (and a tiny amount of added warmth) to my sleeping mat, which is often inflatable.

Which brings us to sleep system.  I'll start with the mat, as I just mentioned itIt is the brand new 2012 Therm-a-Rest Neoair Xlite.  With an R rating of 3.2 and a weight of 360g, this sleep mat is hard to beat.  Very comfy, and not slippery either, a common issue with sleep mats.

For my sleeping bag, I opted for the warmth and light weight of a down feather bag.  After buying my first, mid-rage down bag last year, I was very happy with it and wanted to go deluxe and spoil myself a bit.  I say if you are going to spurge anyplace on your gear, it's your sleep system.  Behold, the most awesome sleeping bag I have ever used, the Marmot Plasma 30.

I love pretty much everything about this bag, from the weight of 645g for a temperature rating of 0C, to the colors, to the build in draft collar inside the bag to keep you extra warm and cozy inside.  I don't like the price, but lucky for me, this was a X-mass gift from my dear old mama.  Thanks again mama!  So if you are crazy about backpacking and can hold out until your birthday and holidays, sometimes your family can jump in and hook you up.  Just be sure to try and hook them up too, as best as you can.  Many parents are happy with a hug and more time spent with them.

Well there you have it, a complete run down of my clothing and my big three for this gear list.  You can read part two of this breakdown here, where I go into even more detail, plus you can see the gear in action.  

Looking forward to enjoying yet another year of stomping around the woods with a new and much improved gear system.  Good luck finding the right set of gear for you, and remember that this can and will change ;).