Camping gear cost vs. performance

Discussion in 'Camping' started by dave, Jun 17, 2000.

  1. dave

    dave New Member

    I am new to this forum (father of three in law school and daydreaming about getting another bike after graduation). I just replaced a lot of my personal camping gear this summer so I can get back outdoors. I have done tons of research (geeky law students get into that habit pretty quick) on what is out there and most of the reliable gear is the same stuff I used to use on Baja trips a couple of years back (anybody had some Dos Equis at Bar Miramar in San Felipe?). This list is limited to camping gear because I need to graduate before I buy a bike/bags/ etc.

    First the credibility part, I did four years in the Navy as an Aircrewman where you learn to appreciate good quality functional gear and you also learn that "pretty" don't mean jack in the woods. Lots of camping trips in Baja. And way too much time on the internet researching new gear before I committed my meager $$'s to a purchase. This doesn't make as knowledgeable as many out there, but like you I am just getting back into it, and hopefully I understand a little of what you are looking for.

    This list of gear is balanced with cost vs. performance. When I had to choose between the two I went for performance, still I was able to keep cost low. Comments follow each item of gear. I can't comment as to a tent because lack of funds prevent me from purchasing a new one this summer. I have been borrowing a Kelty from my brother and it seems like a very good tent. After using his tent and a couple of other Keltys in the past I would trust this brand, and the price seems competitive for quality gear.

    I saved a lot of $$ by shopping at department store for stuff before heading to a sporting goods store (or website). Check the automotive sections and house wares sections for "gadgets" and other sundry items that are priced way too high at sporting goods stores.

    First aid Kit

    Get a good one, and buy this first. After you get it buy some aspirin, ibuprofen or other painkiller, some Day-Quil and Ny-Quil liquid caps (use with caution when riding) to put in the kit. A few over the counter symptom relievers can save what would have otherwise been a horrible trip. Use caustion when riding and medicating. Trying find stuff like this in the middle of a desert with green stuff leaking out of every hole in you face is less than fun, I don't know from experience, a friend told me . . . yeah, that's it, a friend told me. I do know that I, I mean he, would have willingly paid about $75,000 for a tab of Benadryl at the time.

    Campingaz Turbo 270 - less than $30.00

    It is a iso-butane stove (propane/butane mix to improve cold weather performance). Lights easily and every time. Fuel is readily available at any major sporting goods store and can be purchased online from REI (ground shipping only so order in plenty of time before your trip). You will hear people talk about the poor cold weather performance of this fuel, unless you are camping out in less than 15 degrees Fahrenheit you will have no problems (I haven't). When everyone else is still trying to prime their neat-o looking Whisperlite you will be munching away on some yummie Ramen (or whatever, see below for camp food ideas). I think there is more written on stoves than any other piece of gear, but this thing is the Jeep of camp stoves; not the prettiest, not the coolest, but it has been around along time, it is proven, it does the job well and with a minimum of fuss.

    Campingaz compact lantern - less than $30

    Campingaz makes a nice compact lantern that runs on the same fuel as the stove mentioned above, and works nicely. I carry one big canister for the lantern and one small one for the stove (stove tips too easy on tall one). The fuels goes quicker in the lantern but last a long time on either. I always carry one small spare can of fuel. They weigh ounces so weight is no problem.

    Around $20.00

    I was at Lowe's (same thing as Home Depot) and saw a little butane torch that looked like an oversize lighter. It takes an ordinary butane lighter (those cheapie Cricket brand you always see at convenience stores) and turns it into a high intensity butane torch, it comes with a refillable "fuel cell" that is just a lighter without the flint wheel. I bought it for the hell of it not sure what I would do with it. The brand name was "Solder-it" so I assume it was a cheap version of those mini-butane soldering torches. I have used this thing a million times. It lights wet tinder, it is easier to use than matches to light a propane stove or lantern (the jet of flame extends into the globe or under the burner where a regular lighter would not), it does indeed solder, it can melt insulation off of a wire, and makes one hell of a pipe/cigar lighter.

    Sleeping pad
    Thermarest discovery series full length - $50 and a Ridge rest foam pad - less than $20

    Buy the Thermarest and don't settle for less than it. It is the first, and the best. The cost savings with other brands are insignificant and they don't measure up. Don't get fooled into buying the ultra light models. They just don't work as well as the regular models. Go for the full length. Waking up with cold wet feet sucks a lot more than spending the extra twenty bucks. I add on the Ridgerest foam pad when car or motorcycle camping, and it helps out lots on the comfort level.

    Sleeping bag
    Too personal choice to call but get the best you can afford.

    Down is the best, but if gets wet it loses its loft and thermal properties with it. Synthetic bags work well even wet but don't pack as small. A mummy bag is best for heat retention, but if you are "two-up" it will not usually zip to another bag. If you are doubling up at bed time get rectangular bags. All thermal ratings are optimistic at best. In the Summer I just use a fleece bag. Fleece bags can be had for less than $20

    2 Mini Maglites AA batteries - $10 each with Nite-Ize accessories (head strap and pocket) - $15

    There is no better all purpose light than a Maglite. This size twists on so it doesn't get accidentally turned on in your bag draining the batts. The AA version puts out plenty of light to manage most campsite activities even without the cool little Campingaz lantern mentioned above. I carry a spare light and spare batts.

    The Nite-ize accessories are a $5.00 headband that hold the light like a miner's lamp on the side of your head (a lot cheaper than a $40.00 Petzl headlamp and just as good) and a pocket that hold a Mini-maglite, a multi-tool, and other miscellany (two spare batts, a small pocket knife, my mess kit utensils and a St. Christopher medal). Get them from a hardware store and save a couple of bucks. Also cheaper at Wal-Mart than most other places.

    Leatherman Original - about $40

    Leatherman, there is no substitute. I have used mine to fix everything from a 1976 Honda XL350 to a brand new Jeep, to spread peanut butter, to clean a wound (without the peanut butter), to pull a stinger out, and to pull, pry, twist, and/or wrench my way out of trouble more ways than I can count. Next to duct tape or a good lawyer, a Leatherman is the best friend a guy who just screwed up can have. You can even use a Leatherman as a tool kit now. The Leatherman website offers a tool adapter that lets you use 1/4 drive bits and sockets. The Cabela's website has a tool that turns the tool onto a ratchet. Either can be had for about $25.00.

    Nylon Zip ties
    Less than $8.00

    Head for the hardware isle and get some of these babies in varying lengths. They solve problems you will never anticipate. Add these to the duct tape/good lawyer/Leatherman list.

    Duct Tape

    I can't say anything someone else didn't already say better. Just get some. It is a pain to pack though. A friend showed me a cool trick; take a straw and use it as a spool to wrap the tape on and you can pack a whole roll of tape in less than 1/3 of the space of a regular roll.

    Compass Silva or Brunton less than $30.00 GPS - Garmin eTrex - $119.00

    I bought a GPS for the gee-whiz factor as much as anything else. GPS is a back up plan. There is no substitute for a compass and good nav skills. I got the eTrex as a nav supplement so I did not need downloadable maps. It is the cheapest model out there and short on features but it will give you a good position quick, and is waterproof (and runs on the same batteries as the maglights, see there is a method to the madness). When a budget permits I will upgrade though, GPS is too cool.

    Cookset -
    Just get a Coleman set for cheap - less than $20.00 Nylon utensils - $5.00

    There are a ton of cooksets out there, but a cheap old aluminum cookset that can boil water and comes with a 6 inch skillet will fry fish, make soup, boil water and let you make whatever pretty much whatever you want without spending a small fortune. I got my spatula. ladle and spoon for less than five bucks and I just cut the ends off so they would fit in my cookset (this cost less than half the price of the sporting goods store version already short enough to fit in the cookset sack).

    Double wall aluminum travel mug ("Nissan" style)- $10.00

    Not much beats a cup of hot coffee in the great outdoors while you watch the sun come up. You can get one of these mugs almost anywhere, but be sure to get a double wall mug or you will give yourself a nice burnt lip on that morning coffee if you have a cool looking enamel camp cup (I claimed to be a little bit experienced, just not very smart). Burning your lip while watching the sun come up leads to a profanity based alarm clock that none of your buddies will appreciate. Target has some nice ones called "Migo" in their house wares section that are a lot cheaper than what you will find at a camp store. They cost about 1/3 what a Nissan cup costs and are of similar quality.

    Stainless steel hip flask

    Man does live by bread alone. For the truly dedicated you can get a 1 liternalgene flask.

    Platypus or CamelBak - less than $30.00 (more expensive models available)

    These are just too cool, low tech, no maintenance, and they do the job. They are flexible water bladders that can be boiled or frozen (freeze about 1/4 of a bag of water prior to leaving and have cold water for the whole ride, unless you are heading out for Iron Butt, then freeze the whole thing, stay home until it melts and hopefully you will have forgotten you entered in the first place). The bag goes into a nylon pack that goes on your back or in a tank bag and you drink through a hose that has a bite valve on it. Drink while riding/hiking!

    Camp Coffee
    Maxwell house filters - about $3.00

    Gotta have the coffee man, how else would you find out about the enamel mug being able to fry your lip. There a lot of nifty ways to make camp coffee, but these filters, available in the coffee aisle of almost every grocery store, are by far the easiest to use and the easiest to pack. They look like tea bags but have coffee in them, and they taste a lot better than regular old instant. Boil water, drop in bag, wait (so you don't burn you lip on the water in your new safe to drink out of double wall mug, . . . don't ask) and then drink you coffee while you watch everyone else at the Rally still making coffee in their neat-o coffee contraptions.

    Camp food

    Stay away from sporting goods store and use the money you save to buy your wife a nice little gift for letting you go off and be manly for a couple of days.

    Head for the grocery store. You can find lots of cool stuff in the soup isle that is really good. I have found gourmet type dehydrated soups that I buy for about $2.00 that make camp dining a real pleasure, just add water and boil. You can find all kinds of good stuff if you just wander the store thinking about what would make good camp food the next time your significant other makes you go along to the store. If you are motorcycle camping, and not hiking, you can always stop at a store just before stopping to camp so you don't have to worry about packing cans for more than a mile or two.

    This is long winded list, but not a long one, I hope it helps. If it helps a lot then you can buy me a beer someday in a little bar on the road less traveled.
  2. KenM

    KenM New Member

    Some other things to add to the list :

    Emergency Space Blanket from the sun or rain

    20 ' of Nylon String tie up the space blanket / tieup loose gear after a spill, etc

    1" Black Vinyl Electrical Tape...I use it as a tear-off sunshade on my helmet faceshield for early morning / evening riding.

    Chemical Ice Packs ..for the First Aid Kit

    5' each of 3 or 4 Different Colored 16 Gauge Wire & a Bag of Mixed Connectors ...the wiring harness on my Beemer K75 fried once & that would have been sufficient to save me a $110 towing/service fee

    10' Coil of Bailing Wire or Stainless Steel Wire 18'll find all sorts of uses

    Socket Set ...take only the socket sizes that fit the bike...wrapped in a rag large enough to lay out parts on.

    Tire Repair Kit...learn how to do it BEFORE you need it

    CO2 Filler Kit, or Tire Pump ...for above

    Spare Fuses & Bulbs

    A Good Waterproof Bag for your tent /Thermarest/ sleeping bag...available at better camping stores / marine supplies.Don't put the tent in it until it's dried out if rained on .

    Bungie Cargo Net to fold your wet tent / laundry under...will dry out while riding if you turn it regularly

    Mylar Liner from a "bag in a box" wine or juice box...1 gallon size ...after years of riding in the desert, this became self-explanitory...wet cooling / drinking / cleaning scrapes , I fit mine inside a fanny packwrapped around my tank bag...will muuush up to fit almost anywhere.

    Large Safetey Pins & Sewing Needles...use with dental floss to repair everything

    Chain Lube Stuff...your choice, use it every evening.

    Forget the lantern if you want to... think about tying 6" of that nylon string to your Mini Mag Lite & put one of the safety pins on the end. You can hang it anywhere & if you unscrew the lens end enough, it becomes an electric candle

    Make sure you have an empty pop can / tin can with with the lid cut off by the tent door...saves getting up to trot to the outhouse @ 4 am. BE CAREFUL MAKING SURE THERE'S NO SHARP EDGES INSIDE.

    I'll bet your bike is starting to look pretty heavy now.You can cut down on the quantity of some items, but if you plan to get away fron the highways, this is the absolute minimum you should have.The single best safety item you can have is ...

    A GOOD BUDDY. This is just a bit that I have learned over the last 15 years / 80,000 miles between Alaska & New Mexico. I'm sure others will have more ideas that I would like to hear about also.

    Feel free to visit me on a shakedown tour of you like...I'm 1/2 way up Vancouver Island...lots of back roads around here, with a guide.
  3. Lauren

    Lauren New Member

    See my other post about stoves, but the two main fuel types are either a compressed gas or a liquid fuel. I mentioned in my other post that Primus makes a stove that burns both. This could be a good thing - or at least I think so; I am always on the lookout for multi-use items or items that have redundant systems, hence my preference for multi-fuel stoves. Most of the time you are going to be using one fuel (either propane, butane, a mixture of both (Gaz) or white gas), but it is really nice to know that you can burn anything you want.

    If you want to try out an MSR XGK and it is not too far you can come up to Everett and try mine. I also have a Coleman Peak I white gas stove you can try.

    I don't do that much camping anymore as my back just can't take sleeping on the ground, but I usally only take just a small flashlight with me when camping in the summer, as if it is dark I am probably going to be hitting the sack and will not have that much of a need for light after dark, but if you want/need a lantern you can go with anything from a candle lantern on up to a full sized liquid fuel lantern. The electric (battery) and butane/propane lanterns are going to be smaller than the liquid fuel lanterns.

    Again, go to <> and check out what they have if for no other reason than they have good comparative info on camping gear.

    > Also I better get some kind of sleeping pad (for these 46 year old bones).

    Thermarest - but get the extra thick one and the ones with the non-slip surface. I noticed during the last rally that mine has developed a slow leak and I had to reinflate it about every hour - which got old real quick, but Thermarest is the standard most other pads aspire to.

    I am looking for a decent folding cot that will fit on my bike, not stick out too far, not weigh a ton and yet have enough room to to thrash about - but haven't found one yet. Anybody have any suggestions? I think combining a cot with a pad would probably allow me to go camping again.

    >How about tents? I would need a 1-2 person, and rain is always possible here in Washington State.

    Tents - tents? We don't need no stinkin' tents! ;-)

    How much do you want to spend (the salesman asked as he rubbed his hands with glee, sensing a pigeon ;-)?

    Seriously, there are a *lot* of tents out there - and what you get will depend on how much you want to spend and what features you want. Generally, the lighter and more robust you desire, the more you are going to pay. I prefer single wall tents such as the Bibler because they are much easier to put up, and are often lighter than a tent with a rain fly - also, you don't have to worry about the rain fly, and you don't have to worry about whether it is going to rain or not.

    > Also a super compact sleeping bag( for summer and maybe some spring time use).

    For summer I use an thin REI outer liner meant to add warmth to a winter bag - but it works well as a summer bag on all but the colder nights (below 45-50) and then I would just wear more clothing. I don't think REI sells this bag anymore - but maybe somebody makes something like it. What bag you use will depend in part on how you sleep - do you need warmth or is just a little insulation enough, do you thrash about - then a larger bag would be better.

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