This past weekend we finally made it to our first REI garage sale. We became REI members and have spent WAY too much money there since moving from Arkansas to New Mexico. We really jumped back into hiking with the move to this awesome landscape. Plus there wasn’t a REI in Arkansas.
REI has had a couple of garage sales, which is where they sell off returned or demo equipment, since we have been in Albuquerque but they started at 7am and the only way I’m getting up that early on a weekend is to hike, end of story. The weekend after Christmas our local REI store did a garage sale that started at 9am which was right up our alley. Combine that with 11:25am tickets to see Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and we had our Saturday morning planed. For those wondering I thought The Rise of Skywalker was far from perfect but actually about as good of a job correcting episode 8’s numerous issues and bringing a mostly satisfying conclusion to the Skywalker Saga as could be hoped for.
I was actually really surprised how many items were at the garage sale and some of the awesome deals. I was almost sold on a new 15 degree sleeping bag that was over $100 off. But my steal of the sale was a new sleeping pad. I am going on an Introduction to Mountaineering course offered by Mountain Madness in the Pacific Northwest this summer. So I was really hoping to find an insulated sleeping pad before then. At the REI garage sale I found a Nemo Vector insulated sleeping pad for $25, full price is $130.
The Nemo Vector is rated by Nemo for 15-25 degrees thanks to Primaloft insulation. Dimension wise it is 72x20x3 inches which I am pretty happy with. The Nemo Vector does come in at 1 pound 4 ounces thanks in no small part to a built in foot pump for inflating the pad. So far I located one small hole in my $25 bargain purchase that I patched up. I have been unable to locate any further issues so it is currently sitting inflated for the next 12 to 24 hours to make sure it is holding air. If everything goes to plan then 25 bucks and 15 minutes of work got me a great sleeping pad for my trip this summer. If you are a REI member I would strongly recommend giving their next garage sale a look.
We have two dogs, Ripley a three year old German Shepherd (the Trail Doggo) and Lilly a six year old Siberian Husky. We love hiking with our dogs but there are a few things we have learned that can make the experience a lot more enjoyable. So here are some tips for hiking with dogs.
Similar to how we organize all of gear, you can read about How I Organize my Hiking Gear here, we have a Magpul Daka Pouch full of dog specific gear that we bring along with us anytime we take one or both of the dogs with us on a hike.
Gear You really don’t need a bunch of extra stuff to take your dog hiking but there are a few useful items and several must haves. First up poop bags. I don’t know if it is just the Trail Doggo or all dogs but someone poops on every hike. So we keep a roll of poop bags on her leash and in our dog hiking bag we carry a second roll so that no matter what we are covered. We also take a large gallon sized ziplock baggie. The purpose of the baggie is to put the poop bags in after they are full of poop. It is just a second layer so that there are no mishaps, that would be a shitty day, and you don’t end up smelling dog poop for the remainder of the hike. After the hike we stuff all of our other trash into the ziplock baggie and toss it.
After poop is covered the next thing is water. We carry a collapsible 400ml Sea to Summit bowl for watering the pups. Usually we just keep the bottom most bit collapsed so that it make the bowl a little wider proportionally to its’ height. Fill it full of water from a water bladder or bottle and the doggos are happy. Then collapse it back and it stows away taking up almost no room.
I also keep a locking carabiner in the bag that I attach to a metal d-ring on the Trail Doggo’s leash. This allows me to clip her to small trees, my pack’s hip belt, or my pants belt if I need to go hands free for a minute. It might not sound like much but the carabiner is extremely useful and they are pretty cheap. A lot of times it is just much easier to get things accomplished with two hands and a dog not tugging on your wrist.
Lastly, we carry a few items specifically for K9 medical care in addition to our normal first aide kit. This includes two soft muzzles and a K9 Quick Reference Guide from Ready Warrior LLC. Most people get kind of weird when you talk about pets and muzzles but they are extremely important for medical care. A soft mesh muzzle allows you to provide first aide treatment to your dog when they are not in their normal state of mind. After a dog sustains an injury they are in pain and might bite their owner especially if you have to cause more pain in the course of treatment. It is best practice for both you and your pet to apply a mesh muzzle prior to providing treatment. And for anyone who is concerned a mesh muzzle that is properly sized for your dog will not restrict breathing at all. There are a couple of circumstances when a muzzle should NOT be applied such as heat related illness so it is important to know some basic first aide for dogs.
The K9 Quick Reference Guide from Ready Warrior LLC is a medical quick reference specially for dogs and it is phenomenal. It covers literally everything related to medical first aide for dogs. It covers the treatment procedures for K9’s similar to TCCC for humans on catastrophic injury as well as treatments for bloat, snake bite, K9 CPR, vitals, and even drug doses for K9s. It is designed for working dogs but the treatment procedures are the same whether it is a police K9 or the Trail Doggo.
Trip Planning In addition to bringing a few items we take a few extra circumstances into account when choosing hikes to take our dogs on. The biggest factors are usually distance and elevation gain. Our Siberian Husky has arthritis so we usually cap any hike for her at about 4 miles. The Trail Doggo has no issues with distance but she is extremely strong and if she is feeling stubborn can unintentionally turn a difficult descent into something that is downright dangerous. So with her we usually try to either go after routes that are flatter or that include a more moderate descent. We also try to avoid large off route sections with either dog. Although we do them from time to time, it can be a pain trying to navigate brush while also keeping your dog going the right direction and not catching their leash on every single little branch.
For any trip that includes the dogs we usually up our water about a liter or so. They can go through a surprising amount of water so bring extra especially in a dry climate such as New Mexico.
Summary That about sums up our dog hiking kit. All of the items I mentioned above are easy to come by online, links to several are below, and can make a hike with your puppies a little more enjoyable and safer. Although it weighs 317g the convenience of having one bag with everything in one place trumps the weight. Not to mention 317g is definitely worth it for the safety of your four legged family member alone.
We have gone back and forth over our time hiking about how best to remember our hikes. Way back in college when I first started hiking I went out and purchased a black moleskin notebook. In it I wrote the stats of each hike and a little synopsis almost like a journal. It is safe to say that I was rather poor at keeping it updated even though I kept it for years. Then there was scrapbooking which my wife loves. She used to make scrapbook pages for all of our hikes but the more we hiked and the busier we became with life. It quickly became an unsustainable system. We have used digital systems like the All Trails app which is convenient but not a great way to look back on your trips.
The whole purpose of creating this site is to share how we manage to go hiking and outdoors while still maintaining a “normal” or traditional life. We both have normal full time jobs, with a mortgage, and car payments. So to that end the way we remember our hikes reflects that. We maintain a hiking photo collage.
Instead of it being on your traditional canvas print or in a frame we decided that it would be more fun to display them on a larger and ever evolving scale. Our gear closet is located under our stairs- think Harry’s room from Harry Potter- so we had the brilliant idea to install a roll of cork on which to display our pictures. After each and every hike we go through and pick out our favorite picture or the picture that reminds us the most of that hike, sometimes this can be difficult as we both take a ton of pictures. We print the winning photo and write on the back the trail we hiked, the date, elevation gain, and mileage. Then the picture gets pinned up on the board. So every time we go into our gear closet we can see all of the memories we have made out hiking.
The Canon MX 492 is a little pricier for a printer but we wanted one that supports wireless printing via iPads. The Canon Glossy Photo Paper on the other hand is super affordable at only ten cents a page. So after each hike we go through the pictures we took and do some editing. We then pick our favorite and directly from my iPad I send it to the printer. Then the wife writes the info on the back, I have crappy handwriting. The picture goes up on the board and in about five minutes we have a way to remember our hike or trip.
Our hiking photo collage just seemed like an economical, efficient and fun way to keep our memories somewhere that we knew we would look at on a regular basis, we even hang up our dog leashes in there so we literally get a look every night. We easily take 30-50 pictures per hike so even keeping the pictures organized on our iPads is starting to become a bit of a task. There are other ways that would better showcase all of our trips such as printed photo albums or scrapbooks but those would quickly become more time consuming than the hikes themselves. With our photo collage we keep the focus on the hiking and making the memories not memorializing them. Plus with our memory board in our gear room the best time to remember is as we are planning out our next trip to add to the college so the focus stays on making memories. It is a really fun, easy, and quick way to remember our trips.
Similar to my Survival Kits I have a water filter kit. This is all part of How I Organize my Hiking Gear, which you can read using the link to my older post. But basically I keep all of the gear I commonly use for hiking organized by use and in ready to go Magpul DAKA pouches. This lets me pick a pack based on the hike I’m going to do and then fill it up quickly with the pouches I will need. It makes packing a breeze!
In my water filter pouch I keep everything I need for filtering water while out hiking or camping. The kit is based around the Sawyer Squeeze filter system. I have had a Sawyer Squeeze for years but I recently purchased a Sawyer Micro Squeeze to try. A lot of people have had issues with the flow rate on the Sawyer Squeeze Mini so fingers crossed. I will write a review of the Sawyer Micro Squeeze after I’ve put it through it through some decent testing.
My kit includes these specific items (the links go to Amazon):
For those who haven’t used the Sawyer Squeeze water filter system I would strongly recommend it. If I can manage to work it anyone can. The Sawyer Mini and Micro are available for $20-30 and you can get the original Sawyer Squeeze as a kit with soft bottles and everything you need for around $50.
One must have addition to the Sawyer Squeeze is a better dirty water bag and I can’t recommend the CNOC dirty water bag enough. It has a huge opening on one end that allows you to fill the bottle from any source in seconds. Fold the opening over and close the slider and you can easily carry around 2L. To filter water from it you simply unscrew the other end and screw it directly into the Sawyer Squeeze. Then turn it upside down and you are filtering water. The included Sawyer soft bottles will work but the small opening can make filling them from certain water sources an act in patience.
I use a hydration bladder when I hike so I like to carry a Sawyer soft water bottle and the thread adapter so that you can filter clean water into the soft bottle. Then you can take the soft bottle and pour the water into your hydration bladder. I have found it to just be a mess to try and filter water directly into into a soft water bladder. Because I have heard of the issues with the Sayer Micro Squeeze jamming up I bring the included syringe with. It is used to backflush the filter by pushing water in the opposite direction you filter water. This is to clean the filter out and restore flow rate.
This whole system including the small Magpul DAKA pouch (6”x9”) weighs in at 259 grams. For those who are curious the Sawyer Micro Squeeze by itself weighs 66 grams. But the purpose of packing my gear this way is that when I want to have the ability to filter water while hiking I can simply grab my water filter pouch and I know I have everything I will need. One tip though is to keep the CNOC dirty water bag at the top of the pouch. This way you can get it out without having to take everything else out. So if you come across a water source but don’t want to take the time to filter water right then you can quickly fill up the dirty water pouch, throw it into your pack, and then filter your dirty water later when you stop for a break.
So I mentioned previously on my post about how I organize my gear that I keep everything I need for a certain task in labeled Magpul Daka pouches (read about my setup here). For example I have one for water filtering, survival, dog stuff, medical, etc. Basically this setup allows me to just grab the pouches necessary for a particular hike that I’m going on, throw them in my pack, and I’m ready to go. It is super efficient especially when hiking can’t take up your entire weekend because the house needs vacuuming and the yard needs mowing.
Today I’m going to cover what I keep in my survival pouches. I actually have two of these made up as my wife and I commonly hike together. Usually we only take one but if we expect a bit of a rougher hike or are planning to go off trail we will both take one.
There are commonly referred to as the 10 essentials of camping: Navigation, Light Source, Sun Protection, First Aid, Knife, Fire, Shelter, Food, Water, and Clothing. So my kits address most of these items and some extra stuff that I like to have.
My kit includes these specific items (the links go to Amazon and we get a small percentage at no cost to you):
Get a compass meant for use with a topographical map. I would also get one with built in declination adjustment and just set it for the area in which you commonly hike. Also, some idea of how to use it.
With headlamps it is important to get one like the Black Diamond Spot that has a button lockout or to remove the batteries when not using it. Otherwise the button could accidentally get pressed in your pack or in your gear room so that when you reach for your headlamp because your hike has gone late you don’t find a dead headlamp. I also carry a spare set of batteries for my headlamp.
For a knife I would just recommend whatever small folding pocketknife you have. Don’t carry a Rambo knife no matter how cool it looks!
For fire starting I like to have several options. My attitude is if I’m going for my fire starting materials something has gone really wrong. Cold, wet, or tired is not the time to test your fire starting abilities. So I always carry two methods of producing a flame/spark and some sort of fire assist. There are all sorts of them on the market. The Mini Inferno are small discs of cloth soaked in petroleum and hardened. They are easy to get going and give you time to start building up the fire.
I usually carry an actual water filter when I hike but no matter what I always have water purification tablets in my survival pack. They are there as a last resort.
I don’t really feel the need to carry a full on emergency bivy on most of my hikes. Maybe in the winter I would do differently. I do carry a small emergency blanket that can be used as some form of shelter in a worst case situation. I also throw a couple hand warmers in my pouch just to keep the mind happy with the ability to warm up extremities.
On top of the recommended items I keep an emergency whistle in my pouches. The noise can travel much further than a human voice in the event you take a fall or get lost off trail. I also have 550 or paracord which is just a thin diameter static cord. I have 30ft or so that is useful if you need to fix a pack strap or lash things together. I also have some string and metal wire just because they are small and easy to carry.
I didn’t address medical supplies because I always carry a dedicated medical kit when I hike. Really the only time I don’t have medical supplies is on a short trail run. But I did throw a few strips of KT Blister Tape strips in my emergency pouches because it works great when you start feeling a hot spot on your feet.
Some of the top 10 hiking necessities can’t be addressed in an emergency kit. Food is separate item but I will commonly throw a dehydrated meal in pack that I can always cold soak and eat if I get stuck out overnight. My medical kit has sun screen in it but I always put it on before I even start my hike. It is super easy to burn at 6k plus feet above sea level. Obviously you need to dress appropriately for the conditions and carry a rain jacket. In a dry climate like New Mexico carry more water than you think you will need.
So that is the contents of my survival kit. At least one of these pouches goes on every single hike that I do. My survival kit including the pouch weighs in at 665 grams. So at over a pound this is not really a “light” way to do things. I could definitely trim a few things or go with more expensive versions to save weight. But this is a simple and efficient setup. When I go to pack for a hike I don’t have to remember all of the individual items above but instead I can just grab the whole pouch, throw it in my pack and I’m good to go. The efficiency makes up for the weight in my book.
I actually organize most of my gear very differently than your typical hiker. The reason I do this is to make getting ready for a trip and cleaning up afterwards easier. I remember the days of when I would take a hour plus to get all of my stuff packed up the night before, spend a couple hours hiking, and then spend over another hour cleaning up and putting away the gear I took. It made it really easy to feel like it was more work prepping/cleaning then time I spent enjoying the outdoors. Which meant it really cut down on my desire to go hiking or camping.
Most organized hikers will have a gear room/closet where they will have some method of placing various like items of gear together. A lot of times you will see shelving with big plastic totes and if the person is super organized the plastic totes will be labeled with whatever kind of gear they contain. That is a solid way to do things especially if you have a bunch of different varieties of one piece of gear. However, I organize my gear so that I can most efficiently gather it together for a trip and put it back when I’m done.
I organized my commonly used gear for hiking by its function and put all of the items necessary to serve that function together. Then I placed all of the items for a particular function into Magpul Daka Pouches. The Daka Pouches are just an easy means of holding all of the items I would need for a singular task. I have one for my water filter, one for the dogs, two survival pouches, and a medical kit that all sits together. I plan to do some more detailed posts about what all I keep in each pouch but take my water filter pouch for example. Inside the pouch I have my Sawyer Mini water filter, CNOC dirty water bag, a clean water bag, and the syringe for back flushing the Sawyer Mini. That is realistically everything I would need to use my water filter and it is all in one place. The other pouches are set up similarly for their purpose. This setup means that if I have my water filtration Daka Pouch I have everything I need to filter water.
In my gear closet I actually use a shower curtain rode to hang up all of my various packs ranging from backpacking packs on the big end all the way down to my hydration pack on the small end. I then got some buckets and placed all of my food in one and all of my Daka Pouches in the other. This setup means that the night before I go hiking I can decide which pack would work best for the distance I’m going, then I decide which Daka Pouches I need, and how much food I want to take.
Example: La Luz Trail just outside of Albuquerque, NM. We were planning to hike up then traverse across to a cable tramway, eat lunch, and then ride the tramway down. Total distance was roughly 8 miles with 3,700ft of elevation gain. I grabbed my Osprey Daylite pack which is a 13L daypack. I then grabbed a Daka Pouch for survival essentials, water filter, and my medical kit. I grabbed a thing of freeze dried food and several Clif Bars. Threw all of that and a 1.5L Camelbak into my pack and I was done packing in literally 10 minutes.
The Daka Pouches are definitely not the lightest, I’m not really a gram counter, but the system is set up around efficiency and in that way it excels. I know when I grab one of the pouches it contains everything that I would need and I can grab various pouches based on the demands of my hike or trail run.
Below are links to Amazon for some of the products I mentioned above (if you click through the links we get a small percentage back on purchases at no cost to you)