From dust to tribe . . .

Dust and Tribe (D&T) is the experience of growth through adventure.

Our quarterly excursions are opportunities for men and women to push through the boundaries of supposed mental and physical limits into a new awareness of what we can be when we support one another.

It is where we discover what we are (dust) and what we become together (tribe).

Winter 2019: D&T Grind

On January 24th, 2019, nine men and nine women will head into
the mountains of Santa Cruz for three days and thirty miles of cold and grit. This is their story.

Friday, November 23, 2018

A Few Points About Gear

In order to pull off a three-day backpacking trip, we're going to need a few things, though we may want many things.

We resolve this by making sure we have the right things.

It's one of the interesting conundrums of taking to the wilderness in modern times. The right things can be expensive. We often spend money (a lot) in order to leave the conveniences of the modern world behind.

I do this, for sure. It's not necessary. It's my choice, and it's worth picking it apart for the sake of taking the deeper dive and giving us each an opportunity to decide just how we want to shape our experience.

Let's set a few guidelines.

According to several resources, your loaded backpack should not exceed 20% of your body weight. Any more than that puts you at risk for undue strain and fatigue. You can all do the math to come up with a target number.

(BTW- this is another reason I suggested calculating our BMI and cutting weight if necessary. If not, our heavier size will result in a pack calculation that is only going to aggravate the already substantial strain on our body systems.)

Celebrated naturalist John Muir is widely know for his austerity. He would embark on solo, multi-day expeditions with a couple of blankets, some bread, and tea.

You can totally do that, too. What is necessary is that we all bear in mind the rule of threes:
  • You can survive three minutes of severe bleeding, without breathable air (unconsciousness generally occurs), or in icy water.
  • You can survive three hours in a harsh environment (extreme heat or cold).
  • You can survive three days without drinkable water.
  • You can survive three weeks without edible food.
These conditions are assuming that the one(s) above it are met. For example, if you have a large quantity of food and water yet are exposed to the environment, then the harsh conditions rule applies. These rules are also useful in determining the order of priority when in a situation.

Regarding the first bullet point, I've been a nurse for over twenty years. Sama is a certified Wilderness First Responder. We'll do our best to make sure you're oxygenated and that you don't bleed out, may God protect us all.

On the second point about environment, we aren't expecting extreme cold. The Santa Cruz mountains average winter highs in the 50s and lows in the 40s, pretty mild by most standards.

Rain is another factor and we should plan for that and so shelter remains a priority consideration.

Most of us will want a tent. In addition to keeping wind and rain in check, we get a little privacy. But this needs to be said: a tent is not a necessity.

It's important to keep that in mind, because a good backpacking tent is expensive. Ideally, one would want the most robust and roomy shelter at the lowest possible weight. That's going to involve a lot of engineering and fancy materials. That jacks up the price.

I've got my eye on a new backpacking tent. I purchased my last backpacking tent nearly 20 years ago. Things have changed a lot and I see the new purchase as an investment.

But you may be of a different mind. If you think you'd like to skip the tent, you might consider a bivy sack or a tarp.

Just remember that your goal is to remain dry and to avoid getting dangerously chilled.

Referring again to the final points of the rule of threes, it is entirely possible to get through the trip without any food. We all have substantial physical reserves that would allow us to make this journey without any supplementation whatsoever, so long as we allow for a modicum of hydration.

We'll have a separate post about food, but I wanted to emphasize the above because it is a significant source of anxiety for a number of us. There isn't any physiological basis for this. It's emotional and we need to come back to that when we start to plan our meals.

So now that we've established that none of us really needs any more than a bottle of water and a way to stay dry, we're ready to talk about all of the TOTALLY EXTRA stuff that we might like to have. And we should also frame that extra stuff honestly.

Everything we are going to talk about from this point forward represents the possibility of making the trip more comfortable and more fun. But if it makes you miserable carrying it, then just don't bother. You'll be fine.


If you decide to carry a bunch of stuff, this is the easiest way to do it. Backpacks cost money, though. A good pack might represent an investment, and if you see yourself getting into the backpacking game, this might be your chance to dive in.

But keep your thinking realistic. This is a weekend trip. It's not Everest. Something with a capacity of 30-50 liters will be more than enough. If you see yourself doing longer trips in the future, a bigger pack might be the better investment. Just remember- the pack itself is part of the weight you'll be carrying. Balance all of that, read some reviews, ask some questions, and you'll figure it out.

Sleeping Bag

Personally, this is where I put my money. A good bag is a GREAT investment. You're looking for warmth and compressibility: you want a warm bag that rolls up small. Also, you'll find that some bags are cut for men and some for women. This is not a gimmick. Our dimensions are different and the idea is to have a bag that efficiently warms you without a lot of extra material that is just going to add size and weight.

If you pick up a sleeping bag, do not dismiss the importance of a sleeping pad. It's physics, some thermodynamic principle that says that two objects in contact with each other will exchange heat (and possibly venereal diseases, depending on the objects at issue) until they reach the same temperature. Or something like that.

What it means is that if you lay your nice warm body on that cold-ass ground, the heat will literally leave your body to warm up the ground. Nice for the ground. Sucks for you.

So we interrupt that process by sneaking a bit of insulation between us and the ground. That's your sleeping pad. You want one.

We've just discussed the Big Three of backpacking: Your pack, your shelter, and your sleeping set-up. Now we get into some even less-essential stuff.

Other Stuff

Heating up food or drink is not a necessity, but man, it sure is nice. Even austere Mr. Muir liked his tea (see above). My absolute favorite piece of kit in the whole wide world is my titanium mug, the Snow Peak Trek 700:

It may not look like much, but you can cook in it, drink out of it, and even store a small propane canister and burner in there, just like this:

That's a whole lot of awesome for around $35. It's probably the only gear recommendation I'll make. Add a nice spork and you are all set for mealtime.

Consider a headlamp (with some extra batteries). Really nice to have. We'll be under tall trees that could block out much of the moon/starlight. You don't want to be running into things. You will look a little dorky, but much nicer than carrying a flashlight.

You'll want to think about how you plan on carrying water. A refillable bottle or two is a good idea. If you're going to pick up a backpack, finding one that allows for a water bladder is pretty nice.

A related point is that I anticipate access to water along our route. Some of this may be from trail camps and some from creeks along the way. However, we should plan on all of these sources being spotty, poorly maintained, or non-existent. The upshot is that we want to carry at least a few liters for drinking and possibly cooking. This will be a large part of our packing weight calculation.

I'll leave off with a few final considerations.

While we probably all want our own sleeping bag and headlamp, there are many items which are more communal in nature. Not everybody needs to pack their own stove or fuel, for example. A tent can be shared. Somebody should bring gear to purify water, but we don't need everybody worrying about that.

We're going to work together. We're going to break into groups to get organized, and I'll share more about that soon, God willing. And for those worrying about money, we're exploring some really exciting rental options. I'll have more information via email around that.

We're also going to be talking about clothing and food in separate posts.

I will leave you with a nice, comprehensive backpacking checklist to help you get your head around all of the possibilities.

Leave your questions and comments in the section below. Or we can get an email thread started.

Until the next post . . .

No comments :

Post a Comment