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The importance of research

As a programmer with well over 40,000 hours I've learned a few things about continuing education and R&D. Through education I learn new ways to express my assignments so that my successors might benefit. Also removing complexity makes it easier to read and more reliable in execution. And importantly, the ideas could be converted to some new toolchain. On the other hand R&D directs the mind toward innovation which creates new opportunities or identifies false paths or high risks so that decisions can be made.

I hate to admit it but I've made some mistakes with respect to hiking gear selection. At first I thought I was just into bushcraft and that started me thinking about survival and then I shifted to distance hiking. All the while asking and executing on the wrong ideas.

In the beginning I did not know that Mora and Morakniv was the same company and I while I had been to Mora on vacation many years ago I had not connected all the dots. My experience with the website and google results offered no illumination. A month later I finally received a response to a question on Amazon that they were the same company. But in the interim I had made several knife purchases that I now regret. On the whole I regret:

  • buying anything with a coated blade
  • buying both axes
  • buying anything carbon steel instead of stainless
  • buying a 6" and 8" stainless blade
  • buying knives with serrations
  • buying those stupid folding gimmick knives
  • buying the light my fire + mora knive
  • victorinox folder with the pocket clip
  • a crappy saw
What did I really need?
  • victorinox farmer because it has a small saw and the awl is on the side and not the edge
  • victorinox classic SD (I just bought a new one with a LED light)
optionally only because cutting and processing wood is illegal or discouraged. And living in Florida fires are not very necessary
  • Silky boy saw
  • Mora 4" Stainless
And then there are packs. I purchased my packs through Amazon reading the descriptions and the price. The first pack was a folding pack that was more haversack than overnight pack. And that was how I used it until it developed some problems in the seam. I returned it and bought a new one but even thought it said it was 40L it was just about 20L. Looking at the specs in close detail the unfolded size was 20L and not 40. They took the bag back and then I found a true 40L bag. This pack holds just enough for a weekend hike which equates to about 20 pounds for absolutely everything. The pack is only 400g but does not have pads in the shoulder straps or a waist belt. It's not waterproof and I do not have a pack cover although everything inside is individually packed in a waterproof stuff sack or ziplock so I don't care if I put the wet tent or poncho back in the pack. (side pockets capable of carrying 1L bottles)

In the meantime I ordered a waterproof Yukon Outfitters El Capitain pack which in hindsight does not have much room outside the main container for wet things. As I sit here writing this article I'm wondering about the things inside the pack that needs to come out as to maximize functionality and volume. In total there are 4 pieces of gear that I consider wet/dry. [1] Tyvek footprint [2] Reflectix sitting or kneeling [3] poncho or rain jacket [4] tent. If I were to move all of these items to the exterior of my pack then inside would have that much more room. 40L might just be to much room. Practically speaking I need to be able to open the bag and access the contents in a "dry" way or else I risk getting the insides wet.

I've been looking that the Kelty PK 50. Some people keep referring to it as a beginner's pack. I like the setup. It's opinionated but not so much. When I look at my waterproof stuff sacks I see a similar distribution although a little less flexible.

And then there are tents and tarps. This has been a difficult subject. I have written about my 8P and 6P tents in the past. With my interest in in solo hiking I have been researching light and ultralight tents. There are plenty of good manufacturers out there and then there is crap. What is amazing is that most tents differ in materials but not design. In fact that seems to be a common theme. Overseas factories tool up to manufacture a single generic design and sell branding and manufacturing customization. This is particularly obvious in packs and hammocks. At the top of my list of preferred manufacturers are ZPacks, Tarptent, Big Agnes. Honorable mention goes to Six Moon Designs. I bought an ENO hammock although there were many cheaper choices. Hammocks can be very dangerous so I was not fooling around.

Sleeping bag, liner, emergency bivvy. So many choices. My first choice was a sleeping bag but occupies too much volume. My second choice was a blanket from home but it never worked well outdoors. The sleeping bag liner(s) are nice but untested in the Florida weather although the permethrin treated sea to summit is my favorite. But my new favorite is the Tribeca V2 as it is a bivy and a tarp. I have been able to reduce weight and volume with the Tribeca.

Lastly thee are any number of missteps. 
  • light my fire spork
  • that other folding spork
  • work gloves that melted
  • RUCAS alcohol stove
  • tinfoil windscreen
  • s-biners
  • not buying better fitting clothing sooner
  • not breaking in my shoes and choosing the right sock
Testing and R&D applies across the board regardless the endeavor. Spend time or money to save time or money. And practice your skills even if it's getting dressed in a hammock. Practicing and testing making water is probably the #1 thing to practice.


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