Category Archives: Backpacking Gear

Furoshiki Shoes

This isn’t a review…

My kids gave these to me as a gift. My son, Joe, is a runner so he picked them out knowing I have a preference for minimal shoes. I think they’ve been around for a couple of years, but I don’t spend my time reading about shoes.

Furoshiki is a type of wrapping cloth used in Japan for centuries to carry stuff, sort of like a poor man’s duffle bag.


But obviously more elegant

By katorisi – Own work, CC BY 3.0,

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Set Up Your Compass Faster & More Accurately With A Map Protractor

I am going to show you how to navigate quicker and more accurately with a map and any compass, by using a map protractor.

Few subjects elicit more debates among hikers and backpackers than the subject of map and compass. Nowadays the subject includes GPS units, smart phones, base plate compass vs. fixed compass vs. lensatic compass, what map to use, etc. Then there is the fact electronic solutions (GPS and smart phones) can fail or end up with a dead battery. Many of the electronic persuasion carry and map and compass as a backup, which means duplicate items to do the same task, meaning unnecessary weight. Some of the backup maps and compasses in use are less than optimal and in a no-shit-need-to-have situation might be poor options (think button sized compass and a large scale general map).

We need to keep in mind that the goal of using a map and compass is to always know where you are, not figure out your location because you are lost. Of course, with practice you can use a map and compass to figure out your location if you do get lost.

Most backpackers bring a map and compass whether or not they know how to really use it. One piece of navigation equipment I rarely see in use by backpackers is a map protractor. In this post the protractor will be presented as a serious tool that backpackers may want to consider, and for those who have used and then abandoned a map protractor, perhaps a re-visit might be worthwhile.

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How to Maintain Your Backpacking Gear

With proper maintenance you can reduce the amount of gear you need to purchase.

In January of this year I did a couple of trips using mostly 30-40 year old gear that has lasted.

There was a time when the average American maintained things. People did the required maintenance on vehicles, and instead of replacing simple things like household appliances they fixed them, often doing the work themselves. Today we are a throw-away society. If something breaks we simply put it in the trash and buy a new one. Our society has become insane. Plus all this trash isn’t good for our environment.

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Long Term Review: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Mattress

Normally this isn’t the place to search for gear reviews. Reviews are infrequent and I don’t claim to be an expert. There are blogs that do several reviews each week and generate a lot of traffic, but as I stated in The Business of Backpacking, buyer beware.

The best and brutally honest reviews are done by Dave Chenault at Bedrock and Paradox, but he doesn’t have hundreds of reviews in his archives. Another blogger you can trust is Paul Magnanti. Paul doesn’t get into the deep details as does Dave, and Paul is more interested in just hiking a lot and using the gear he already has, which means he isn’t doing many gear reviews because his kit is well established and doesn’t need constant upgrading.

There are two reasons why I am reviewing the NeoAir; first is I have been using it for 7 years, which to me seems like a reasonable amount of time of use to be objective and accurate, and secondly, I think the NeoAir is a game changer. But with anything in life, it is best to start at the beginning…

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How to Attach an Air Pillow to a Backpacking Air Mattress

Five years ago, at the age of 60 something and admitting I was getting older, I started using an air mattress on almost all of my backpacking trips. Prior to this I usually used a simple foam pad. I had, over the years, tried a few thin air mattresses but they were too bulky and heavy and always got relegated to the car camping gear inventory. With a foam pad or these older air mattresses a pillow wasn’t necessary. Spare clothing always sufficed. But in 2010, I purchased a Therm-A-Rest NeoAir mattress, which is 2.5” thick when inflated. Being a side sleeper this mattress, unlike the thin mats of the past, required a pillow placed on top of the air mat. So I bought an inexpensive inflatable pillow. Keeping it on the mat during the night wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t irritating enough to investigate a solution, until this trip…

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