3,000 km on foot across New Zealand

A Note on Gear

Screen Shot 2014-09-28 at 10.12.36 PMThe previously gentle snow was really coming down now. Though we couldn’t see it, the sun would soon dip behind the mountains, leaving us to find our way back to the car in the dark. With only a 100 ft. to the top of the hill, my boyfriend and I skinned onward as fast as we could. At the summit, Rory ripped the climbing skins from his skis and was ready to ride down. I, however, began the process I’d been dreading all day: putting my splitboard back together. (For the un-initiated, a splitboard is a snowboard which breaks apart into a pair of skis, so one may ski up a mountain in order to snowboard down. An excellent idea, in theory.)

For what seemed like hours, I waged war with the splitboard atop a great and snowy mountaintop. First the split hooks wouldn’t align. Then, the tip and tail hooks wouldn’t latch. Finally, gasping for breath, I rammed my bindings again and again against the plastic pucks until, at last, they slid into place, and I collapsed in the snow, exhausted from my hard won victory.

In all likelihood, our situation was not so dire, and I was making my life much harder by verbally and physically abusing my splitboard. (“Be smarter than the inanimate object, Margaret.”) But that’s not really the point. It seldom is.

The point is that I hate contraptions and I want my gear to be simple, practical, and easy to use.*

Backpacking is a beautiful concept: liberation through minimization. With your home condensed into a matter of pounds, the weight of your material possessions takes on new meaning. Every item must have a purpose – if not many – leaving no room for redundancy. If only I could figure out how to do this in everyday life!

While the idea is quite Utopian, the reality of choosing the right gear for a 5-month Te Araroa thru-hike is slightly less so. I approached Ben Rockis, the owner of Backcountry Experience in Durango, with my criteria in mind.

Because of the parameters of the New Zealand On Foot project, I will be carrying a lot of unusual weight: an iPad Mini, a Nikon D7000, extra batteries, a solar charger, and microphone. (I can hear the screams of thousands of ultra-lighters worldwide.) Ben was quick to remind me that while I do need to compensate for the extra weight, it shouldn’t come at the expense of safety and a reasonable amount of comfort.

He set me up with soft goods and a sleeping bag from Mountain Equipment, a solo tent by MSR, a shiny new pack from Osprey, and various odds and ends. And because I’d yet to acquire a space-age piece of ultralight equipment, I bought a sheet of plastic for $12 from Gossamer Gear to serve as a footprint for my tent. (You can see the full(ish) list here.)

Up until this point, I’d never given much thought to footwear, but judging from the debates raging in hiking and backpacking forums, others have. I’ve been there, done that, with trail runners, and at the end of the day, I’m sticking with old-fashioned boots. Although, the Scarpa and Superfeet setup Ben fit me for, is hardly old-fashioned. The only thing more comfortable might be a pair of Hokas.

MHeddermanTent1

I haven’t calculated my base-weight yet – I might be a little afraid to – however, I’m happy in the knowledge that I fully trust my gear. There is not a single contraption in my backpack. And very few items that want to pick a fight in a monsoon or blizzard.

*Yes, the splitboard is completely antithetical to my views on gear. Everyone’s gotta have a few hypocrisies, right?

2 Responses to “A Note on Gear”

  1. Jill Schuman

    Margaret:

    Excited to keep track of your adventure….did not see eNZees Foot Soother on your blog with your gear list….so lightweight and takes virtually no space IF you are not taking the package tear off a piece and give it a try…can even have it in your pocket, your feet will thank you! Good luck, be safe and look forward to tracking your progress and stories. Your Dad is a lucky guy !!!!!
    Warm best,
    Jill :)

    Reply

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