Gear – Pt. 2

Most ultralight gear is hidden on the internet and not really available in brick retailers. You have to dig and listen to other backpackers weighing in, which is what I did. Thus most of my gear is pretty standard in terms of the ultralight approach.

Two items are, however, unusual and deserve mention:

stove disassembled crop

Stove Assembled crop

ITEM #1:

The Vargo Woodburning Stove- Most backpackers cook with some kind of fuel. It’s messy, heavy and, yes, has a tendency to run out. On the other hand, a chef can adjust the heat and cook along recipe lines. I figured I’d burn everything anyway, so why not do something fun? Dinner will go something like this: Set up wood burning stove in two seconds, add tinder and sticks thru door. Put cup of water on. Boil water. Pour over something and eat it. Sounds good from my sofa.

ITEM #2:

This one is a little more out there. Shitting in the woods is simple. Dig a hole out of the way and go shitting in the woods with toilet paper. It’s complicated. What to do with it? Bury it in the hole? No, as it often gets dug up by animals and then it gets blown around and always in your direction. Blowing TP in the wilderness is a damning statement on mankind. So you carry it out. Yeah, very pleasant ziploc bag on that one. So here is what I have come up with. Never go anywhere without it. Give them as a Christmas present.
Ass Blaster
What is it? The humble 9 oz. lavette bottle. Also known as the perineal irrigation bottle. A manual version of the heated Japanese toilet water jet. I just call it like it is – the Ass Blaster. Shit, squeeze and shoot from desired angle, eight ounces will clean you right up, and drip dry. Cover up a hole and get back to the trail. Weight: 0.9 oz. Cost: $1 -$2. Available on Amazon. No need for TP. A real game changer. Maybe a revolution is in order.

Steve Halteman
San Diego, California
Hiking the PCT for the Kids of Escuela Verde

If you’d like to help out and donate, please click here!

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Gear – Pt. 1

Or what to bring? Or how to bring angst into your life by dwelling on the unknowable? What do you need and what do you want are separated by a gulf of pounds. This is the angst.

Some background. Picture a banana. At one end of the curve is bring nothing. At the other end is bring everything. These are absurdist extremes. Every backpacker will land on the curve somewhere between. The current popular movement in backpacking circles is called ultralight. This refers to the base weight of your pack. The base weight means the weight of your fully loaded backpack minus your food, water, fuel and clothes you are wearing. To be ultralight, the base weight must be under 10 lobs. To be sub-ultralight, it must be under 5 lbs. On the banana scale that is moving toward the nothing end of the spectrum. In the past, I’ve carried packs with a base weight of over 40 lbs. I think there was a live animal somewhere in there. (The top laugh getter on a long backpacking trip is to secretly and steadily add rocks to your buddies’ pack over the course of several days. Get it?)

So where am I? I’ve spent days researching ultralight gear. As I want to move away from the bring everything philosophy. But I want to retain some measure of comfort over the next four months or so. The angst returns as the banana ride continues.

I won’t bore you with every detail of what I settled on, but here are the big four.

4 main pieces of gear_copy

Shelter:
Hexamid solo tarp
(weight – 1 lb. 2.3 oz)

Sleeping:
Jacks are Better down sleeping quilt
1/8″ thick sponge mattress
Full-length Thermarest inflatable air mattress
(weight – 2 lbs. 11 oz)

Backpack:
Gossamer Gear Mariposa
(weight – 1 lb. 11 oz)

Kitchen:
Vargo titanium woodburning stove
Vargo .9 liter titanium pot
Ziploc 4-cup mixing cup
chopsticks
Lexan spoon
mini lighter
mini swiss army knife
(weight – 14.5 oz)

TOTAL WEIGHT: 6.42 lbs

Add in the rest of the gear and my base weight settles in right at 14.5 lbs on the banana curve. I’ll let you know how that works out for me, but when food and water are added, I should end up in the upper 20’s pound-wise.

Steve Halteman
San Diego, California
Hiking the PCT for the Kids of Escuela Verde

If you’d like to help out and donate, please click here!

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Why?

Halteman photo 2 copy
The conversation runs along these lines. So what are you up to? I’m about to hike the PCT. What’s that? ( 3 out of 10 have heard of the PCT) Explanation. Then a fork in the conversation. One third of the responses generally circle around the word “awesome”. Two thirds of responses center on “why”. Which is usually followed by some measure of profanity, and then a brief analysis of my mental state.

The later response is a fair one. Why walk a long distance when you don’t have to? Funny thing is I haven’t really thought about it. I just know I want to do it. So my answer is usually something smart ass like ” I’ve always wanted to see Canada slowly.” But really, why? I’m going to go away for awhile and think about it.
Halteman photo 3 450@72

Back. Here is what I came up. Two reasons.

1) Simplify. I once read a suicide note that said ” I couldn’t simplify myself.” The guy had something and I hope he rests in peace. The modern world rams complexity into our lives. With every advance that promises to make our lives easier we feel more overwhelmed professionally and personally. Our efficiency increases but our free time decreases. We are constantly reachable but what about down time? Some people revel in the complex nature of our current world. I see a treadmill, ever faster.

To jump off for a while I’m going hiking. A return to simplicity. How so? Well first you stuff your world in a bag on your back. The lighter the better. All the clutter of your day to day life left and forgotten. Then you make your way toward something. A sample day from the simple life.

Get up. Dig a hole for morning constitution. Pack up. Walk for an hour. Stop for a cold breakfast. Walk until late afternoon, snacking constantly on garbage ( or in my case seaweed). Rest when needed. Stop an hour or so before dark and cook dinner. Walk some more. As dark arrives, set up camp and go to sleep. Get up. Repeat. Very simple.

To some that holds zero attraction, to me that is pure charisma in motion. My external day takes on a rhythm that is almost musical. Up and down, flat, high points and low all accompanied by a steady pace. But again and again the pace is disrupted by something sudden. An animal being chased through the brush or a lightning bolt hitting a ridgeline. At times you run into others and chat, other times alone for hours or even days. But overall a calmness settles over movement. Walking all day is the most relaxing thing I know how to do. The nomads have it right.

2) Alone time. Lots of it. Time for brain chess. Time for reintroductions and rebooting to and of oneself. Time to rethink my perspective and outlook. As I approach 50 I feel I’ve lost touch with who I am. Pretty normal for my age group. And my response of staying busy and productive pretty normal too. But not satisfying, not even close. I’m still pretty much who I’ve always been. And that has grown stale. What I’d like to do is figure out how to accept myself in my current state or evolve and change. Whether I succeed or fail it will probably be one hell of a brain workout. At a minimum it should push back the onset of Alzheimers by a year or two.

So why do I hike? See long answer above. Maybe I should just stick with wanting to see Canada slowly. Anyway at least I now know why. The walk is the destination, not the Canadian border.

Steve Halteman
San Diego, California
Hiking the PCT for the Kids of Escuela Verde

If you’d like to help out and donate, please click here!

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An Asian Approach to the PCT

Getting organized. Not my strong suit. Over the last month or so I’ve collected my gear, but put off the dread. That being food. Love to eat it, don’t love to make it. Nor do I enjoy figuring out how calories per ounce and thus how many ounces of this or that per day I must ingest. The PCT kindly requests that you consume between 4000 and 6000 calories per day. If you ignore this request you’ll be ready for a fashion shoot by the Canadian border. So I’m in a bind. Can’t cook, need to eat and wondering how many jars of peanut butter one can consume in a given day before the jaw joints are pulverized. Impasse.

My dilemma was solved by an impulse. As i drove down the road with my sisters and nieces one day I saw this sign. “Rancho 99 Asian Food Market” Enlightenment through advertising. “Right I thought, my answer is to shake things up.” So I pulled in, went in, and filled a cart. My young nieces assisted by gathering random products and saying “here uncle steven, eat this!” Why not, it takes a village. Money spent brings commitment. The first few weeks on the trail will be an Asian buffet. I’ve seen Asian meals prepared before, so my learning curve shouldn’t be too steep. Hands on, I’ve made ramen in school. I’m optimistic. Though some of the package instructions for cooking I’ve looked at are simplistic to the point of doubt. Twenty lines of Japanese characters followed by the word “boil.” And my metric measurement skills are shaky. I will persevere. And when persevering fails I will invent. And I will eat my Asian creations because there are no alternative food trees is the desert. Hunger will trump palet in every hiking situation (or fuckuation as my Aunt Pat loves to say.)

Steve Halteman
San Diego, California
Hiking the PCT for the Kids of Escuela Verde

If you’d like to help out and donate, please click here!

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The Countdown Begins

It’s definitely a challenge! I’m leaving in a couple of weeks and have been organizing everything from this site where I can log into a virtual journal and share my adventure with you, to food, water, maps, clothing, shoes and … well … basically shoving my whole life into a backpack!

This is for a good cause and I’m excited about it. The Escuela Verde school in Costa Ballena, Costa Rica, has been one of my life’s passions for many years. They’ve changed the lives of hundreds of kids and their families and if this trek can help raise awareness for them, I’m up to it!

Donations to the school are always welcome. If it moves you to do so, click here to help. They would appreciate it.
Halteman photo1 450@72 copy

I’ll start out from the Mexican border at Campo, California on May 1, 2013 and trek through the entire West Coast of the United States to the Canadian border at Manning Park, British Columbia.I figure it will take about four to five months to walk 2668 miles

One of the first destinations is the Mojave Desert. Luckily, I should get there before the weather gets too hot! But having grown up in various deserts I’m not that concerned. More daunting for me is the ice and snowfields of the High Sierras where i will be out of my element. Oh well, the path is long, I’ll just have to figure it out as i trundle along.

DSC01667_Mojave Landscape

I’ll need company on the road, so I look forward to your comments.
Tweet, share on Facebook and check in here often for more updates.

Feel free to check out the Escuela Verde school.

Steve Halteman
San Diego, California
Hiking the PCT for the Kids of Escuela Verde

If you’d like to help out and donate, please click here!

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