The definitive lists of the tools we absolutely loved – and the ones we really hated – from this year’s big trip, Two Weeks in Temagami.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ughhhhh
1. The Happy Adventure, our Evergreen Prospector Kevlar canoe. Took on the Sturgeon River like a champ and made it through with only one really bad scrape to the gel-coat. The company is no longer in business, but word on the street is that they’ve bought the molds back from the bank, so stay tuned.
2. Reflector Oven. The possibilities are endless. Simple to use, easy to clean, makes the impossible possible. Will never camp without it.
3. Ostrom Packs. Caverns of opportunity! No fighting to squeeze in gear every day, distributes weight evenly and makes even heavy loads comfortable to carry. Unfortunately no longer available for purchase unless you luck out and find one on craigslist.
4. Platypus GravityWorks Water Filter. No pumping. Even after clogging ours with sand on the Sturgeon, after a few “burps” and backflows, still filtered quickly and efficiently. Coupled with the SteriPen for peace of mind, we never worried about our drinking water.
5. Thermarest self-inflating mattresses and Ridgerests. Yeah, it seems redundant to have both, but placing the Ridgerest underneath our mattresses really helped to level out the ground and provide another buffer from dampness and cold. And with our giant packs, the added weight was really nothing compared to a comfortable night’s sleep. The Ridgerests were also great for sitting on in the cool sandy beaches as they warmed our bums and didn’t soak up any moisture. In fact, my whole “sleep system” was incredible. I also have a Thermarest sleeping bag which attaches with soft, stretchy panels to the mattress so I don’t slide downhill all night, my silk sleeping bag liner weighed practically nothing and felt so much nicer than sweaty nylon on my skin, and our compressible pillows puffed up good and plump every time. Our Rumpl Technical Blanket was also very good. Although we didn’t use it every night, it is nice to have a lightweight blanket instead of a hot mummy bag in summer. I bought this for Andrew for his birthday this year. New company, excellent customer service, cool product. Excellent for lining a hammock with. The throw size covers both of us in our tent and weighs less than two pounds.
6. Eureka VCS 13 Backpacker’s Tarp. Lightweight and easy to set up, dries quickly, laughs in the face of hurricanes.
7. Clothing: Woolpower sweater, Fjall Raven shorts, and Hides in Hands Moccasins. This is my third sweater, after the first two I bought malfunctioned and fell apart at the seams. Canadian Outdoor Equipment Co. replaced them both times and told me to buy a lottery ticket. The third one is holding up very well, doesn’t get stinky, and is as hot or as cool as I need it to be. Andrew loved his new shorts. Repelled most rain and dirt, handy pockets, looked pretty cute in my opinion. There’s nothing like a comfortable, soft moccasin to wear around camp. Dry reasonably quickly and spring back into shape.
8. iPhone 6. Charged quickly from the solar charger, held battery amazingly well, took stunning photos, connected to satellite GPS even with no service.
9. Frank Body Scrub. Completely natural and biodegradeable, made from coffee and sea salt and almond oil. May attract bears if you dump your scrub all over the ground, so I recommend scrubbing away from your campsite. Relieves itch from bug bites, removes dry skin, cleans grit out of your fingerprints like nothing else. You gotta get dirty to get clean.
10. Silky Pocket Boy Saw. Andrew loves this thing. He said he was going to buy one for everyone he knows for Christmas.
1. Goal Zero battery pack chargers. Last year, when we didn’t have our battery pack and only the solar charger, it was impossible to charge our devices in the rain. This year we had lots of sun and the solar panel worked beautifully, but when we went to use the battery pack, my iPhone 6 got 10% juice before the batteries gave out. Are we doing something wrong? They were fully charged when we left. Irritating.
2. Vapur Wine Preserving collapsible bottles. We love the Platypreserve bottles, but we needed a couple extra, and on our last gear-buying mission we couldn’t find any and tried the Vapur ones instead. Leaked the first day. Had to tape them up for the duration of the trip. Probably contributed to the terrible flavour of G. Marquis Pinot Noir.
3. Ziploc reusable containers. Used one for our butter. Smashed the first day. Duct taped for the rest of the journey.
4. River booties. Useless for the slippery Temagami rocks. Heavy. Stinky. I’d much rather get my hiking boots wet in the river, thank you.
5. MEC Wanderer II tent. I’m sick of our tent. Yeah, it’s cool that you can take it down under the fly and all, but it is heavy, the vestibules and doorways are incredibly annoying to get out of, the zippers get stuck in the velcro constantly, and our interior is covered in the blood-stained cave paintings of a thousand squashed mosquitoes. Too hot in the summer, too cold for late fall. The tent poles got maybe a single grain of sand inside and gave us difficulties for days. We’ve used it heavily for the past four years and Andrew wants me to point out that it hasn’t ripped, it has stayed 100% waterproof, kept us from freezing to death in a snowstorm, and is still perfectly functional after throwing it through the wringer. I don’t care. I still don’t like it. I want a new one.
So, there you have it. A highly biased and personal ranking of things that we use while camping.