Pinch Points – Reviewing our ‘Problem’ Backpacking & Camping Gear

Packing up my Gear ready for a trip to Whitaker Point /  Hawksbill Crag in Arkansas

Packing up my gear ready for a trip

When we stopped hiking / backpacking, we didn’t mean to.

It started with a family wedding that coincided with our annual spring break trip, then work got busy, and all of a sudden years had passed.

We tried to get out last year. We managed three short day hikes. In marketing you look to removing resistance to a desired outcome – usually a sale. I wondered what was putting up the most resistance, preventing us from barging the door down in our haste to get out. We produced a list of all the little niggles that create resistance to us wanting to go out. We’ll ignore the Work issues, it is a very valid item, but it is also a whole other subject.

Once we had a list it was easy to do some research and see what, if any, practical solutions were available.

Here are our ‘Pinch Points’ and how we hope to fix them.

Joint Pinch Points

  • Water – purification
  • Food – cleaning up after eating
  • Cooking – Stove & food
  • Preparation Time – Getting ready for the trail

Water – purification

We currently have an MSR Sweet Water. And it works really well. But dangling the little floaty sucky thing in the water and successfully keeping it there while endlessly pumping is without doubt both tedious and boring. I dread it.

It didn’t take much research to find the immensely popular Sawyer squeeze, which can also be set up as a gravity filter. Just sit back and relax while gravity does all the hard work. And at around $22 for the filter kit it is priced at a point where we’d be daft not to try it. I also found an in-line carbon filter. It will slow down the flow, but should keep the water tasting good too.

Food – cleaning up after eating

We got into the habit of cooking in, and eating out of, the ‘Common Pot’. Most people seem to be eating out of food bags or Zip-lock bags, using little insulating bubble wrap bag holders. Sounds good to me. All we have to change is the food storage. Instead of one bag for both of us we’ll split everything into individual servings. Eating out of Zip-lock bags or the packaging removes the need to clean out pots full of caked on sticky gunk.

Cooking – Stove & food

Morning coffee and hot chocolate by Long Creek

Pocket Rocket and our rather large cooking pot

This one is easy. We have a MSR Pocket Rocket, and I just have to use it instead of dragging around the heavy Coleman Exponent stove – but I really love that stove! And I don’t trust a fuel I cannot easily measure (gas). Some research showed me that both Alcohol and Esbit solid fuel stoves are not expensive, and of course, as with the Coleman Exponent, you know how much fuel you have. In a fit of purchasing madness I bought one of each so we can compare them (they were around $20 each). Yes, you can make an alcohol stove out of beer cans, but I’ve read many tales of their fragility. You also have to empty out any unused fuel.

Esbit Stove and Titanium Pot

Esbit Stove and Titanium Pot

Our cookware while lightweight was purchased as we transitioned from car camping to backpacking. I’ve now bought an 850 ml titanium pot which may – or may not – double as my mug, we shall see. With that in my pack we no longer need to carry a big pot with its (relatively heavy) handle around. Ginger says she still wants to dehydrate, prepare and vacuum pack our food. The vacuum sealing machine is probably the most expensive single item we have bought to get us back on the trail (See also Ginger’s pinch list below for some expensive items). Today we bought a spare second hand dehydrator to work along with the one we have, or possibly replace it. I’m in favor of buying some of the backpacking ready meals if the preparation becomes too time consuming.

Preparation Time – Getting ready for the trail

This one is more difficult to solve. The main problem is that we try to double up on our gear, using the same items for both day hikes and backpacking. We have been keeping all the loose bits in one box where it gets all mixed up and sometimes we even forget what’s in there. Last weekend I found a dozen AAA batteries we didn’t know we had. Our solution will be to, where possible, get separate gear for day hiking and backpacking so that we can leave a lot of items packed ready to go. We are also planning on keeping our smaller items of gear in separate, personal storage boxes.

Ginger’s Pinch Points

  • Sleeping Pad – Something wide and warm that doesn’t bottom out. We thought the NeoAir would work for Ginger, but it didn’t. Gary loves it!
  • Trail shoes – shoes that are light, have a wide toe box and don’t leave her in agony after three miles on the trail.

Taking advantage of some new products, Ginger has two new sleeping pads winging their way towards us for her to try out.

The shoes remain a problem. As a test Ginger is going to wear her gym shoes on our next hike. If she can break that three mile barrier without pain we’ll know the problem is with her trail shoes and it is not a much more difficult physiological issue she has to deal with.

Gary’s Pinch Points

  • Camera – carrying and accessibility
  • Tent – finding the ideal spot
  • Sleeping pad – inflation
  • Weight and bulk – wet weather gear
  • campfire – Cutting wood

Camera – carrying and accessibility

I carry a big (and heavy – 3lb) DSLR camera. I’d like to invest in a smaller lighter camera, but that isn’t going to happen anytime soon [Update: between writing this and getting it ready to post a camera I’ve had my eye on for several years popped up on Massdrop at around 40% off. I’ve snapped (sorry) it up.] I’ve missed lots of shots because my camera was in my pack, including the very large rattlesnake I rather unwisely decided to chase into the brush in an effort to get a photograph. Keeping the camera around my neck gives me a neck ache, and it bangs around all the time. I decided to look more closely at what the people producing YouTube hiking videos were doing as they must face a similar dilemma. And that’s when I discovered a well kept secret. The Ribz front pack. This looks like a gift from heaven for a ‘pocket fanatic’ like me. It should also enable me to use a smaller backpack. I don’t know how well it is going to work yet – but I have one on order so we will see.

Tent – finding the ideal spot

I love our Mutha Hubba tent. Unfortunately I’m married to a princess who can detect the tiniest of stones and roots through a 2″ pad, and can tell the pitch and roll of the ground to .01°. I exaggerate – but only slightly. However, it makes selecting and preparing a spot for our tent difficult. I’ve been jealously watching people backpacking with hammocks. It is amazing how quickly they can be set up, and if I can get on with sleeping in one, that’s going to be the route for me – unless we’re going out in a tree-less desert. Fortunately we bought an inexpensive hammock several years ago. The hanging system needs upgrading, and it needs a tarp. But it should be good enough to try out and find if it will be worth investing in a good one. Ginger says she will be quite happy with our one-person tent, so that’s cool.

Sleeping pad – inflation

Setting up camp off the Trail near Lower Pilot Knob, Hercules Glades Wilderness

Let’s not think about the unfortunate appearance of this thing

I’ve been using the Instaflator and it does a really good job – but is is flimsy and the size of the thing can make it unwieldy anywhere where there is a lot of trees or dense brush. We’ll draw a veil over the fact that it looks like a giant condom. Of course switching to a hammock will provide a solution, but that’s not going to happen straight away. Inspiration struck while I was watching a pack-rafting video. I saw the inflation bags they use for the rafts and that was it. Alpacka Rafts please take my $15 – I want a raft inflation bag [Warning the Alpacka website is probably one of the worst I’ve come across – it took me 10 days to buy an inflator from them].

Weight and bulk – wet weather gear

My wet weather gear also doubles as my windbreak, but the darned things are heavy. I’d like to try out some Driducks – which everyone seems to rave about. They are light and inexpensive. Combined with getting rid of the MSR Sweet Water, dropping the Coleman Exponent or Pocket Rocket (with gas canister), the saucepan, the cooking cleaning-up stuff, it looks like we’ll be able to gain a lot of space and lose some weight. I’ve also picked up a second hand down jacket, which should save me some space and weight. Not taking chairs would save us half a pound each too; but one has to have some creature comforts.

Campfire – cutting wood

We’ve been using a folding saw, and I find it a bear to use. The blade bends, and it is large and heavy. I’ve bought a 36″ pocket chainsaw. It’s compact and light compared to the folding saw. We’ll see if it works. The little boy within me would love to buy a big knife that I could use to split wood. That’s something that’ll keep for later.


Once we’ve got the gear to address the worst of these pinch points, I’m hoping we’ll be able to find the time to get in a night or two on the trail. Researching new gear has got us both fired up. We’ve ordered a modest amount of gear to address some of the issues, and we’ve asked for our hammock to be returned (we lent it to our eldest daughter). Expect some gear reviews once we’ve put the new goodies through their paces. Now there is a very good chance that there is some backpacking in store for us very soon.

so, what are your Pinch Points?

2 thoughts on “Pinch Points – Reviewing our ‘Problem’ Backpacking & Camping Gear

  1. awalkthroughthemountains

    Has Ginger tried the Merrell Moab Ventilators? I had a long search for the right shoes and finally found these. They are comfortable right out of the box. No blisters or hot spots. No need for double socks or sock liners. Best of all…roomy toe box for wide feet and these shoes are light! I love them. I went through quite a few shoes trying to find one that fit, was comfortable and light. Keens, which everyone says are good for wide feet, were very heavy and slipped on my heel. I hope she can find some good shoes that work for her feet! I like buying from REI, because I can test them hard, but still return them if they don’t work for me. So many times, you can’t tell how a shoe is really going to work until you’ve had it out and walked in it.

    I look forward to reading about your new gear and your future hikes!

    1. Gary Post author

      Thanks for the tip. Ginger has a lot of hiking shoes due to arrive next week – I’ve no idea what she selected. If the Moab Ventilators aren’t in the batch that’s coming, and none work, I suspect they will be soon 🙂


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