Gear review after camping

I went on a 50 km (40 km if straight along the roads) hike from home to a camping site to stay for a week. Here, I’ll describe the experiences with various pieces of kit on the way there and on-spot.

The whole trip took me 1,5 days, with getting lost two times in two forests, in both cases due to bad maps (and, perhaps, only rudimentary navigation skills). The first time the satellite map I had was so bad that you couldn’t distinguish a road from a river. The map was from Google Maps and looked pretty decent on-screen, but, printed with a monochrome printer, lost a lot of details due to gray colors being composited from black and white pixels. The second time I used a photo of a “tourist route” map I found near a train station. This map was a disaster; for example, it had a straight line where a road was zig-zagging like crazy; a rather big lake was completely missing from it; and stuff like that. At this point, I ran out of water. Imagine the rest.

Finally, sorry for the lousy photo quality. I didn’t want to waltz around with proper lightning.

1. Backpack and boots

"Mountain" backpack and BW2000 boots

"Mountain" backpack and BW2000 boots

The very basic stuff. The backpack was marketed as “BW Mountain Rucksack” (€37.90), although I have doubts this is an issue Bundeswehr piece. Anyway, it’s rather good, with a total volume of 100 litres (80 main compartment, plus two detachable side compartments 10 litres each). It has a tube metal frame, two belt pairs to attach stuff on the top, an additional top compartment, and can be opened/loaded both from the top and bottom. There are more belts between the side compartments and the main body, which allow carrying an axe or other large instruments outside the bag. All in all, a very good item. The downside is weight: completely empty, it weighs around 3 kg.

Attached to the top of the backpack is an Austrian mat. It’s pretty fat and long, compared to civilian mats, but not a lot heavier.

The boots are an issue Bundeswehr 2000 model. Leather, padded on the inside. Replace the laces. I wear them with woolen socks.

(One word on cotton socks: never. Ideally, you shouldn’t have any cotton underwear on you at all. Cotton is death. You can sometimes wear cotton socks over woolen ones, but I would recommend against, especially with these boots. The socks will become wet, slip against the boot walls and give you sores. That’s what happened to me when I wanted to reduce the wear on wool.)

2. Bundeswehr tent and sleeping bag

Bundeswehr tent (left) and sleeping bag (right)

Bundeswehr tent (left) and sleeping bag (right)

The slipper is for size comparison.

Both the tent and sleeping bag are heavy (4 kg and 3 kg respectively), and the sleeping bag is quite bulky in addition. Put in the backpack, the latter takes up most of the main compartment, so I prefer to carry that with a hand instead. The tent can be attached to one pair of belts on top of the backpack, but that’s not very comfortable, so I prefer to put it inside instead.

The (two-person) tent is single-layer, but didn’t leak water even in the strongest rain (like if pouring from a broken pipe). The tent includes 10 aluminum pegs, of which you need 8. When packed, the pegs are held in tubes. The tubes are assembled into poles to hold the tent up while on-site.

The tent has no bottom. However, the backpack includes a sturdy waterproof sheet of plastic. The sleeping bag is quite warm, I was never cold in it (although the temperature never dropped below 10-13 Celsius). It’s not waterproof.

3. Axe

Cheap civilian axe

Cheap civilian axe

A disaster. The handle came off during the first day of intensive wood-chopping, and kept flying off ever since, no matter what. Eventually, it resulted in one guy taking a hit in the forehead (luckily, with the blunt “hammer” side). We had another axe there, so this one was mostly unused.

4. Water containers

Water pouch with canteen cup (left) and Soviet water flask (right)

Water pouch with canteen cup (left) and Soviet water flask (right)

The left one is a classic US model plastic container which fits in a canteen cup (the latter proved very useful). The right one is an old Soviet aluminum flask (volume unknown, but smaller than the first one, around 400 ml) with a comfortable leather belt/strap. The most comfortable way to carry this one, as I’ve found, is on the front of one’s leg, not on the side or the back.

I also had 1,5 litres of beer in the backpack. Any alcohol is a bad idea to drink, because it dehydrates, but I didn’t really have any choice when I ran out of water. I later refilled from a sort of lake/swamp that had a very high content of acidic growth.

Take 1,5-2 litres for every day of walking. Do not overweight the backpack. Remove miscellaneous items or even food if you can’t pack enogh water.

5. Bag of electronics

Soviet gas mask bag with electronics

Soviet gas mask bag with electronics

A portable minidisc audio recorder inside, with spare batteries and discs. Ironically, I forgot the wire that connects my D.I.Y. microphone amplifier with the recorder. Dead weight.

6. Monocle

Cheap 10x monocle

Cheap 10x monocle

A somewhat useful item when traveling along roads and rivers (a part of my route was that). Sadly, I put it too far back on the belt. The pouch was torn by the weight of the backpack, and the monocle itself lost one tiny screw that holds the lens. Put your beltline kit on the front, not sides or back.

7. Spare clothes

1x woolen socks, 3x cotton socks, 1x cap, 1x cotton T-shirt, 1x cotton underwear

1x woolen socks, 3x cotton socks, 1x cap, 1x cotton T-shirt, 1x cotton underwear

The woolen socks were very useful. The cotton ones didn’t even make it out of the backpack. Neither did the cap. The T-shirt was my main wear in-camp (en-route I wore a polyester long-sleeve). The underwear was useful, too. If you have to wear cotton underwear, make it loose. Luckily, I did.

The last item in the picture is a bag of cottonballs. Quite lightweight, but was completely unused.

8. Book

Forrest edibles

Forrest edibles

A total success both in usability and entertainment value. Provided information on a few mushrooms no one knew were edible, lots on medicine plants, and gave a lot of laughs around the campfire reading the names and looking at pictures of shrooms with a dangerous resemblance to a penis. The mushroom was eventually found in the forrest.

9. Top compartment stuff

Sewing kit, ropes, containers, chess

Sewing kit, ropes, containers, chess

The sewing kit got a lot of praise. It’s a pouch from an old backpack, and contains sews re-wound on pieces of paper for smaller volume, needles stuck into the latter, a pair of nail scissors, a thimble, buttons, and safety pins on the outside.

The ropes are good-quality, but not paracord. Very useful.

The cylindrical containers are from vitamin tablets. This time they were salt, sugar and vitamins. Sometimes there’s also instant coffee and spices. Got used by everyone within the first three days, then we switched to less comfortable containers.

Nobody wanted to play chess.

10. Side container stuff

Trash bags, sharpening stone, aluminum foil, chemical fuel, broken drum stick, square metal file, super glue, solid wire, boot polishing kit, paper, soap

Trash bags, sharpening stone, aluminum foil, chemical fuel, broken drum stick, square metal file, super glue, solid wire, boot polishing kit, paper, soap

Trash bags – unused, others brought plenty.
Sharpening stone – used to sharpen all axes and a few knives. A little too heavy.
Aluminum foil – took to make a solar cooker, never did. Got used to bake stuff.
Chemical fuel – unused, had enough spruce twigs and paper.
D.I.Y. tin can wood burning stove (not in the photo) – extremely useful and efficient, boils 3-4 cups and still has lots of wood left. Use coniferous woods to start fire.
Broken drum stick – for the stove if there’s no wood around, wasn’t used.
Square metal file – unused.
Super glue – others had some, so these ones were left unused.
Solid wire – was very useful when making arrows for bows.
Boot polishing kit – used it once, didn’t have time to do it again before leaving the camp site.
Paper – started a few camp/stove fires.
Soap – never used.

11. Not in the photos

The belt-line kit and the cheap chinese webbing.

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