‘Worth the weight’

worththeweight3thingsAs we age, sometimes gear list ‘Wants’ turn into gear list ‘Needs’ .

Some odd things become worth the weight in our packs, when years before we would have considered them heavy luxuries.

Here’s three of mine:

Backup Glasses / Magnifier

I’ve worn glasses since starting grad school, but only recently did I really, really need them to read small print; as in, I can’t read map details clearly without them.

A map you can’t read isn’t much better than no map at all.

So I need a backup.

I have always carried a map and a compass, and now I carry something to magnify with too. Having a backup to glasses on the trail could mean the difference between being lost and found.

For several years now, I have carried and used i4ulenses.

i4ulenses are lightweight but strong plastic, fit on the bridge of your nose like old-fashioned Pince-nez, and come with a small protective case for storage. You can order them in different magnification strengths.

Worth the weight? At 1/2 oz (14 g), to me, yes.

(And that’s the weight with case; if you are willing to skip the case and store them without, then half that weight.)

Foot Massage Ball

To help with some issues caused by a bruise on one of my feet, I recently got a Trigger Point Massage Ball as suggested by my PT.

It’s the perfect end-of-the-hiking day tool to help you massage those tired puppies.

Here a nice video showing some “Therapy Ball Exercises to Release Your Fascia”  and I find these good exercises for my hiking feet.

The ball also works great on other muscles as well. I massage my legs with it after a hike, too, especially the calves.

Worth the weight? At 3/4 oz (23 g), to me, yes.

The Uribag

The Uribag, aka the urinal bag, aka the better pee bottle.

At a certain point in a man’s life, the most important organ in the crotch area, the one that since puberty has been the focus of all his thoughts and life, ceases its role as the man’s master; a role then usurped by the humble prostate gland.

I first got a Uribag for road trips, where it works great, and then used it car camping in my tent to replace my traditional pee bottle.

For years I used a pee bottle for car camping, just a large plastic jar I found at Goodwill. It has a wide opening and a tight lid. When you live in the Pacific Northwest, you live with rain. And so you learn to stay dry in your tent at night. Pee bottles rule.

For backpacking, I use a tarp and bivy usually, and the Uribag is the perfect answer to not having to get out and get wet at night to pee – or, in Summer, to get out and get bit by bugs. And I really, really hate bugs, esp. mosquitoes.

The Uribag holds one liter. It packs small, expands and contracts easily, and the rubber balloon container is tough. It’s easy to clean, too: put in some water, maybe a tiny squirt of soap, shake it around and dispose of it properly (ie dispersed, not near a water source of any kind!)

Best of all, it is pretty easy to pee into while lying on your side: no more getting up on your knees to pee down into a bottle.

Worth the weight? At 2.0 oz, to me, yes.


UTM tool for Half-Mile’s PCT maps

Half-mile’s maps of the PCT have an unusual scale: 1:31,680, so that one inch on the map equals a half mile on the ground.

Like any decent map they have UTM coordinates on them, so you can find where you are if you have those coordinates. I use the MilGPS iOS app on my phone for that.

MapTools is the site I first used to get me into UTM format and how to use it. I can do math based on tens much easier that our clung-to clumsiness of the sexagesimal math of the Babylonians.

But UTM grids on maps are still a kilometer wide. Sometimes, I like to have a bit more accuracy than that when looking at the map (and estimating). That’s where grid tools come in.

Documenting last weekend’s lunch spot on Half-mile’s PCT map with Maptools grid overlay tool

The basic function of the grid tool is to extend the precision of your map to match your GPS UTM coordinate more closely.

The grid tools they make are simple to use. It is a small plastic square that you place on the map over the grid you are located within, and then it allows you to pinpoint your location to within the grid to within a hundred (or less) meters of accuracy.

The grid tool must of course match the scale of your map and Maptools makes a grid overlay tool for the uncommon 1:31,680 scale of the Pacific Crest Trails maps made by Half-mile.

And at 4.5 grams, while I admit it’s more of a WANT than a NEED, given my style of on trail hiking an eyeball estimation within that square kilometer is usually close enough to know where I am on the trail, I do enjoy my maps and navigation, so it’s light enough to take. And of course, when you are off-trail, location specificity can be vital.