Choosing the Best Gear

Whether you’re a family person spending the day outside playing with your kids, the adventurer who wants to accomplish an epic achievement, or simply in search of some solitude – the one constant in any outdoor activity is gear. As researched by the Outdoor Industry Association, the outdoor industry is a whopping 646 billion dollar industry, with over 120 billion of those dollars coming from gear and equipment. That is a lot of parkas and backpacks, to say the least. With a plethora of gear companies online and in stores, it is difficult to sift through them all. There are even membership stores such as TheClymb which offer you exclusive deals to low priced high quality equipment.

One of the biggest questions we get at The Dusty Camel is how to find the right piece of kit. Whether it is a backpack, footwear, or the right charging device for electronics, there are a few key factors to consider: the brand, the cost, the construction.

The Brand— 

This isn’t Prada or Gucci. The labels make more of a difference than the one on that $5,000 suit. It isn’t a sign of wealth or taste. Instead, the labels on your gear are signs of a commitment to creating and testing great equipment. The brands you’ve heard of you’ve probably heard of for a reason. People who either work in or enjoy the fruits of the outdoor industry profess the achievements (or lack thereof) of their gear full-heartily. The brands which extensively test their products, put care and dedication into the design and manufacturing, and overall just live the lifestyle they create are the companies you want to research. Their products will inherently be five steps ahead of the other brand that makes outdoor equipment on the side to make a few quick bucks and wouldn’t even consider stepping foot on a mountain to really test their products.

The Cost –

You get what you pay for. When it comes to gear, that statement has much more weight to it. The $50 tent from the local megastore is great on the wallet, but if you even attempt to bring it on a mountain, the wind will rip it to shreds in a heartbeat to be left exposed without shelter. Not to mention, it probably weighs 12 pounds. The $500 tent from that specialty company will give you a reliable shelter that will keep you safe and lighten your load. Not to mention the company which offers this type of equipment more than likely has a warranty and customer service department that is there for you no matter what. If you are torn between two items, 9 out of 10 times, the more expensive one will last longer, be more reliable, and if anything should go wrong with it – the company will be more than likely to replace it with ease. 

The Construction –

With a reputable brand and most likely (but not always!) a higher cost comes quality construction. There are a few things to examine though: the stitching, the buckles and the materials. The stitching should be tight together with a double stitch as often as possible. The buckles and webbing should be sturdy with a heavy grade plastic and not flimsy or easily bendable. The materials should be durable but not heavy and depending on the item, a rip stop grid helps increase the durability while maintain a low weight (that is the box grid patter on fabrics).

If you consider these three aspects of gear, you are in the right direction to begin your search for the right piece of equipment. Now the hardest part is finding where to buy it at the lowest cost. While trying things on in person is always a smart idea, I usually suggest buying online. Once you’ve found the right backpack or tent, play with it, set it up, put it on and see how it feels. Then go home, and noodle the Internet for a while. There are companies like TheClymb that you join and have incredible offers and discounts to quality equipment. The prices online and specials you can find will seldom be beat by brick and mortar stores. It does take some preplanning, so make sure you have ample time before your journey you’re gearing up for.

Remember the most important piece of advice I can offer: your gear keeps you alive; make sure it is something you love.

-- Ian

 

Company Spotlight: Fjällräven

Fjällräven worn (on left): Eco-Tour Jacket, Keb Trousers, Forest Friluft 30L Pack

As the Outdoor Industry grows, so does its accessibility. With all the great local brands like Gregory, NEMO Equipment, Mountain Hardwear, etc. we have never had to look abroad for gear, closing our eyes to all the incredible equipment small companies around the world have to offer. Enter Fjällräven, a Swedish brand which began in 1960, this company has been outfitting people for Nordic winters and harsh conditions since its inception. With their technical products, classic designs, and outstanding materials, Fjällräven stands out from the crowd.

Pronounced fee yall raven, the word means Arctic Fox in Swedish – an animal the company has sworn to protect. With their environmentally conscious state of mind, this company not only makes great products, but does what they can to leave no negative impact on the world which we all live in. Think of Fjällräven as the Swedish Patagonia – still family owned and operated small intimate teams of designers and testers, and the cool and calm personality we all associate with great outdoor brands.

The company is great, but how are the products? Outstanding. I’ve been gearing up to the nine with Fjällräven, and have yet to find a piece I don’t love. The classic design allows for a majority of their products to be worn in everyday life, and not look like you’re ready to go base jumping, however, it performs as well – if not better – than the highlighter yellow technical shell you’ve got from your favorite brand. The clean lights, attention to detail, and wonderful material makes for a highly versatile garment.

The best part of their products is the G-1000; a proprietary material made of 35% cotton and 65% polyester, ending the saying “cotton kills” for outdoor use. The cotton portion allows for the absorption of wax and increased breathability, where the polyester portion allows for the technical aspects we all require for outdoor use (quick dry time, retention of insulation value, lighter weight). Since there is no Durable Water Repellant (a chemical which nearly all technical products have applied to them for water resistance) it is much more environmentally friendly. The beeswax-paraffin blend allows for easy application even in the field. Just rub on the wax to the desired area and heat with any heat source. From a campfire, to camp stove – anything will melt the water resisting agent! This also allows for ‘body mapping’. You can wax the shoulders of your jacket for increased water resistance, but leave the back wax-free allowing it be more breathable.

I am excited to see the brand grow here in the states, and watch as the classic outdoor style makes resurgence into the Outdoor Industry. We all love our techy gear, but most of us enjoy looking good in it too; a specialty of Fjällräven. Remember, as Fjallraven says, there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear. 

Camera Equipiment on the PCT

As you know (if you follow our site) we aren't only lugging our house, kitchen, or fridge on our backs, but we are also carrying a filming studio. We will film the 2,660-mile long trail, and bring to you a story unlike any other. When picking out the equipment we needed, there were a combination of must-have requirements, and very helpful additions. With major help from Mountain Hardwear, we were able to get the equipment needed. Otterbox, and Rode Microphones were also a big help in this department.

Our major rig is a Canon Rebel t2i with the stock 18-55mm IS lens. In addition to that, we have a lens hood (to prevent glare) and the Rode VideoMic Pro. We picked out this camera because not only does it take stunning still photos, but it shoots in 1080p at 60 frames per second. This camera is light (for its class) weighing in at 18.7 ounces. But with 18 mega pixels, it is well worth the weight. The mic is a scant 3 ounces, and offers professional grade audio. It sits in the flash holder, and my favorite part about the mic is that it is completely suspended in air. With the help of soft, rubber band-like contraptions, the mic is supported by an exoskeleton preventing any internal camera movements, or vibrations to disrupt the audio.

After many tests, we found that we needed super highspeed memory cards in order to write all the data its shooting, and got to the SanDisk Extreme Pro. Thanks to B&H and their relatively cheap prices, we were able to get three 32gb cards for the Rebel (which write at 45 mb/s!). With an extra battery, and the Brunton SolarRoll/Sustain combo, this bad boy will be charged at all times.

With the need to keep the camera protected, but accessible, I had a long arduous search for a worthy bag. Originally, I had planned to rig up some strap system that could easily be detached, but low and behold, Think Tank Photo was already on top of this with their holster system. With multiple sizes, this holster has a nice snug fit on the camera. The best part is, I just attach it to the straps on the side of my pack, and its sitting there at all times ready for use. What about it getting wet you say? It won't be covered by the pack cover will it?

hazaa! Think Tank Photo thought of just that, and added a built in rain cover for the holster. When the rain is coming down, all I need to do is unzip the side pouch that holds the connected rain cover, and wrap it over the case. It has a bungee in the middle to keep it from flying off, and a tightener to make sure there are no open spots. With little pockets here and there, it can hold an extra batter, and remote with ease.

Since we won't want to pull out our Rebel all the time we have two GoPro's. With the help of GoPro, we were able to get a nice discount enabling us to get two set-ups. With an extra mount, and "vented helmet" mount, we got it to sit nicely on the pack strap, always ready to be turned on in an instant. Completely waterproof, and shooting in 1080p as well, these little guys will allow us to get those exciting shots that a relatively fragile DSLR wouldn't be able to capture. With the addition of the LCD BacPac, we can actually see what we are filming too!

With a total of 9 memory cards, (3 high-grade for the Rebel, and 6 mid-grade for the GoPros) we will be rotating them out, sending them home to be backed up on dual 2 terabyte harddrives, and then sent back to us. In order to protect them when on the trail, we are toting an Otterbox 1000, with a little foam insert inside. This crushproof and waterproof case will prevent any accidents from ruining all the hard work we accomplish.

With the help of all these great companies, and great products, we will be able to shoot some interesting stuff, and keep everything safe! Thanks to an awesome program at Think Tank Photo, when you purchase something with our special code, you get a free bag of your choice, so if you're interested in something, click here! We are looking forward to some fun shooting.

--Ian