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Summertime / Camping in the Winds

Flickr photoWhen I start a camp­ing trip, the Van Halen song "Pana­ma" [Video on YouTube] often pops into my head — I wish I could rep­re­sent Eddie Van Halen's rever­by gui­tar open­ing in words, but I was hum­ming it and singing the cho­rus — Pa-neh-ma … Pa-neh-ma-ha — as this pic­ture was tak­en. That's the Wind Riv­er Range com­ing into view beyond my friend Nick. For the next 10 days, it would dom­i­nate us. In fact, this pho­to rep­re­sents the last few moments of peace­ful hik­ing. Our packs were real­ly, real­ly heavy, and soon enough the hurt would begin. Then, we would get rained on pret­ty often, and (for my part) suf­fer too many black fly bites and a few alti­tude-relat­ed headaches. Still, total­ly, total­ly worth it.

Flickr photoI could go on and on here, but my pic­tures on Flickr real­ly tell the sto­ry bet­ter than I can.

I'm a shame­less suck­er for gear, so here's some shout-outs:

  • Bridgedale socks. They were real­ly wet, real­ly often. But they stayed warm and they main­tained some spring, even when soaked.
  • Tarptent. I vis­it­ed Tarptent design­er Hen­ry Shires at his house on the Penin­su­la, and I bought the Squall [PDF] last spring. Since then, I've put it to the test in the Gila Wilder­ness, Yosemite, and the Yuba Riv­er. I was still skep­ti­cal about its abil­i­ty to real­ly keep me warm and dry, but I must tes­ti­fy that, even when it rains hard all after­noon (and even when the rain real­ly comes down), the Tarptent abides. Every­thing peo­ple say is true: It's a real­ly good, rea­son­ably light back­pack­ing shel­ter, and it's got every­thing you need to anchor and adjust it to respond to chang­ing weath­er and wind.
  • Blis­to­ban. Part of the rea­son for the shout-out to Bridgedale was that, halfway through, I switched to thin­ner Smart­wool socks, and they absolute­ly killed my feet in the mat­ter of a cou­ple of hours. Nick loaned me some Blis­to­ban strips, though, and they ruled. How does Blis­to­ban com­pare to my old back­pack­ing blis­ter-con­trol rem­e­dy: antibi­ot­ic oint­ment cov­ered by bandaid which is then cov­ered by duct tape which is then smeared with Vase­line? Jury's still out here.
  • Patag­o­nia Drag­on­fly. They call it the Hou­di­ni now, and it's a lit­tle dif­fer­ent, but I bought one of the ear­ly mod­els in 2003, and it still impress­es me. I wore it almost every­day, and it admirably repelled rain with­out ever becom­ing oppres­sive­ly warm.

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