Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Gear

This is for anyone who's curious and so I can look back in the future. I decided to make this writeup of the gear I've been using on hikes. This is not a guide or recommendation of gear to use. I don't receive any benefits or promotional items from the manufacturers, and any opinions are my own.

Flashlights
On Oʻahu, most trails can be completed in half a day or less. Assuming you keep a good pace and start in the morning, you rarely return from a trail in darkness. The longest hikes I've been on were about 8-9 hours, which means that if I started at 8:00 or 9:00 I would still have a couple hours of daylight left at the end of the hike. From what I've seen on other sites, some people are minimally prepared or unprepared when it comes to hiking at night. After learning about flashlights and modifying one of my own, I've got a lineup of lights that meet different needs. When I know what's planned, I can grab a light or 2. I hardly ever carry all of them at once. I would probably only have all my powerful lights for a cave or night hike. I use rechargeable batteries in my lights to avoid adding waste and to save on costs. I prefer to use 18650 lithium ion batteries in all my lights, but some lights only take cr123a/lfp123 batteries.

The Lights:
• Jetbeam 3M XM-L - This is my all around light that can handle most tasks. If I go running at night, I take this along. I also have an attachment intended for use as a traffic wand that turns the light into a torch.
• Jetbeam BC40 - I have the warm tinted version of this light, which means that the color of the beam is closer to a halogen style light instead of the typical bluish-white LED color. It's a thrower light in case I need to light up far objects or areas. I hardly use this, but it's pretty cheap, so it's good to have just in case.
• Jetbeam RRT-3 XM-L - This light is my all-out bright as day light. It's very convenient in power outages. I hardly use the max brightness, which helps conserve battery life.
• Surefire Minimus Vision - This milspec headlamp has a warm tinted LED that helps to show colors better at the expense of brightness. It comes with a red filter for night vision preservation, is lightweight, and is easy to use.
• Surefire EB2T - I have a couple other Surefire lights, but the EB2 is the only one I hike with. I picked up the desert tan version with the tactical style tailcap. I like the tactical style tailcap more than the click style because it's easier to switch brightness levels with the tactical style tailcap. With the click style, one click is full brightness, then another fast click is low brightness. On the tactical style, a light press is low, and fully pressing down turns on the high mode. With the tactical style tailcap, it's harder to blind yourself with by accidentally turning on full power brightness than it is with the click style.

The only downside to the tactical style tailcap is that Surefire is the exclusive manufacturer and doesn't sell it independently of their lights. Basically, the tactical style tailcaps have resistors that contact when you lightly press and a circuit that bypasses the resistors when you fully press. Before, when Surefire lights used xenon/halogen bulbs, the tactical style tailcap worked simply - it limited the voltage, which directly limited the brightness. With today's LED lights, limiting the voltage doesn't always decrease the brightness, so the lights now have microcontrollers in them to sense the lower voltage and adjust the light accordingly indirectly. This means that the tactical style tailcap may not be interchangeable with certain models. Here's an example: I have an E1B and an EB1 - the names may be a little confusing, but the EB1 is the newer version that's available with a tactical style tailcap. The E1B is more compact but only comes with a click style tailcap, so I figured I could change the tailcaps out for the functionality I wanted, but with the tactical style tailcap, the E1B only comes on at a sort of medium mode no matter whether I press lightly or fully. When I put the click style tailcap back on the E1B, I get the regular functionality back, so it seems that brightness is not directly affected with the tactical style tailcap.

Knives/Tools
Although not often as necessary as on mainland trails and environments, knives and tools should accompany you on hikes. You never know when you need to cut some rope or chop a tree for a splint (I've done both and more). It would also help to have a defense weapon, even if it's a basic one, in case you run into wild and unpredictable animals on a trail. Encountering animals is not common, but it could happen, as we've seen pigs and stray dogs on some trails.

The knives & tools:
• Spyderco Paramilitary 2 - This knife is always on hand when I hike. It's a good size, and I can rely on it to get most tasks done. My para2 has a plain edge on S35VN steel.
• Spyderco Assist II - This knife was created for rescue workers, and I keep it in my pack in case we need a serrated blade knife. It has a glass breaker (which you probably wouldn't use when hiking), a whistle, and grooves in the handle for making cutting rope easier. The VG-10 steel blade is very sharp and reliable.
• Fallkniven S1 - I picked this up to have a fixed blade knife in case I needed it. It's better for tasks that could break a folding knife and is also larger, having a 5 inch, specially made VG-10 blade.
• Leatherman Wave - One of the most popular Leatherman tools. This gadget has 17 tools, from a saw to the iconic pliers and everything in between.
• SOG Fasthawk - The Fasthawk doesn't always come along on hikes. It's good for taking down a tree or two, but heavy trail maintenance requires something larger. There was a promotion at Sports Authority, and I got this 1/2 off, so that was another good reason to pick one up.
• Condor 14 inch Machete - After traveling through overgrown trails, I decided to pick up a cheap machete. The condor machete is just the right size, not being too unwieldy. It's constructed of carbon steel, which will ensure its durability.

Packs
For easier hikes, I would take my small pack that holds water, my phone, and my keys. For longer hikes, I'll take a larger bag that holds much more. • Camelbak Rogue - My first camelbak ever; I got this when I was still in elementary school and going on kid hikes. I always considered this first generation rogue better than the subsequent generations since it's compact, only holding the essentials. Later versions include more space, but that means they're also slightly bulkier.
• Camelbak Blowfish - This was the second camelbak I picked up after I started to bring cameras and food along on hikes. The rogue could pretty much only hold a phone, keys, and water, with a little space left over for a nature valley bar. The blowfish has a zippered expandable compartment that can come in handy when loading up the bag.
• Source Assault - My largest bag in terms of storage space and water capacity. The source bag is a milspec bag that I got from the outlet site for about 1/2 price. The bag can be kept compact with clips on the sides and bottom, and there are easy-to-access pockets. The water pouch that comes with the bag is a 3L source brand pouch, and the bag has a dedicated compartment for the pouch.
• Source Rider - Pretty much a Source equivalent of the Camelbak Rogue. It's about the same size as the Rogue, and I got it for a good price, so it will probably replace the Camelbak Rogue. After using the Source water bladders, I found that they are difficult to dry, so I picked up a Camelbak milspec water bladder and use that with my Source packs. The Source water packs themselves are very robust and functional. The Rider includes a high visibility vertical fluorescent yellow strip that can be tucked in when not necessary.

Camera
• Nikon D300 - I bought this DSLR used after shooting with a D40 for a couple years. I like the fact that it has reasonable sealing against the elements, and it also produces nice pictures. I try to use the camera in full manual mode as often as I can and for two reasons: I can get the pictures to come out the way I want, and I can practice getting used to the camera and learning the functions. I wouldn't really feel like I'm getting my money's worth if I own a DSLR and it's in automatic mode all the time. It does take a little longer to compose each shot because I use the light gauge to make sure the exposure will be ideal. For those times when I rather have the camera do some work, I can set it to a aperture only or shutter speed only setting where I can modify one setting and the camera adjusts the other. The big plus about using a DSLR is being able to use different lenses. I usually carry the two lenses below when I have my DSLR. The DSLR also saves pictures as RAW files, which means if I want to piece together a panorama, I can do it on the computer and mostly maintain the original quality of the pictures. RAW files are like the digital film negatives, and you can makes lots of changes to the RAW without ruining the quality of the original pictures. RAW files are uncompressed, as opposed to a JPEG or PNG, which are compressed to save space. RAW files aren't unusually large (normally about 15-20 MB) but when you start shooting more pictures, the space required starts adding up. Since I try not to process my pictures unless absolutely necessary, I set the camera to save each picture in RAW and JPEG formats so that I can quickly save those that don't need processing.
• 10.5 mm fisheye - This lens is a cheaper alternative to a wide angle lens (you may be able to find a fisheye for 1/2 the price of the Nikon wide angle lens), and I have a program that can remove most of the distortion from the fisheye effect.
• 35mm DX lens - This lens is a good standard lens to have and can be found for a pretty reasonable price.

Apparel
• Atlas Nitrile Tough Gloves - These gloves are made of neoprene and dipped in nitrile for grip. I think they're intended to be glass handling gloves, but they are very form fitting and have come in handy when climbing. The nitrile does start to crack and dry out after a couple years, but the gloves are so cheap that replacing them is not a problem. I got a 5 pack online for under $20.
• Mechanix Original Gloves - These cloth gloves are the standard for many professional applications, and they are very useful when hiking.
• REI Sahara Cadet hat - This hat has a built-in neck guard, which can come in handy on hikes where you spend a large part without any shade. The neck guard can be tucked in to a pocket in the hat when it needs to be out of the way.
• Standard issue marine long pants - I got these from a family member and only use them if I know there will be dense brush on a hike. They can get hot because they're thick, but when you're walking through ferns or thorny plants, these pants make it very comfortable. You can find military issue pants at any surplus store, and many stores will have a selection of designs if you want a certain type.
• Vibram Fivefinger Komodosport shoes - These shoes are supposed to simulate being barefoot while giving adequate protection on the bottom from sharp rocks or other obstacles. Since they are more form fitting than regular shoes, the fivefingers have come in handy when climbing, and I find it easier since I know where I'm stepping or placing my feet.

Miscellaneous
• Blastmatch - Just in case we need to start a fire. This can be used one-handed as opposed to most other fire starters that require using two.
• Marathon Navigator Quartz Watch - I used to use a general purpose marathon watch, but switched to the Navigator and am enjoying it. The watch has green tritium vials at the 1-11 o'clock positions, green tritium vials on the hour & minute hands, an orange vial at the 12 o'clock position, and a small green vial at the 12 o'clock position on the rotating bezel. I would rather have a mechanical watch so I don't have to worry about the battery, but Marathon doesn't make a mechanical Navigator; they only make mechanical watches for their diver line, which is more expensive.
• Garmin GPSMAP 62s - This GPS device comes in handy more on the hikes where we make our own trail. On most of the known trails, there is a tread-in path that is easy to follow.
• Lifeline waterproof first aid kit - You never know what's gonna happen on a hike, and I wanted to have a first aid kit with me. The pack I use only holds basic first aid supplies, but it's better than nothing.
• MRE Packs - Standard military issue meals ready to eat - very energy dense, but not always the best tasting. I carry these along on longer hikes if there's a possibility that I may spend longer than I plan on the hike. That did happen one time where Kevin and I spent the night on a trail and split the 2 MREs I packed.