Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Right Stuff

I hiked without my camera on Monday. It was about 4 miles of relatively easy terrain covered comfortably with old friends. No need for a big pack with room for 2 water bottles, lunch, binoculars, GPS, whistle, map, compass, a field guide or two, the thermal blanket pack, a LaraBar, extra batteries, lip gloss, Sudafed, Excedrine Migraine, eye drops and whatever articles of clothing I might need to remove as I went along.

Just the ergonomically angled bottle-key-ID holder and my poles.

Daddooooo made hiking sticks out of fallen limbs from the pin oak in his backyard, and they're sentimental and pretty and functional and every once in a while I take one along just to feel that Daddooooo's by my side. But there are no two of them which are exactly the same height, and they're impossible to attach to any pack I want to carry. Like Daddooooo himself, their hearts are in the right place, but the execution is somewhat lacking.

Wally-World is a great place to shop for hiking gear if you know exactly what you want. You're not going to be presented with a wide array of competing brands or models or options. There won't be any salespeople offering to help you choose. But if you know that you're looking for SwissGear collapsible poles because you don't really want to invest in carbon fiber and titanium spring-loaded-shock-absorber-equipped-almost-weightless-and-wildly-expensive sticks, head right over to Wal-Mart and pay less than $20 for either the red ones or the blue ones. They shrink right up to nothing-ness and fit neatly in the straps on all my packs. I can adjust them and re-adjust them and collapse them and as long as I am careful not to over-tighten them there's nothing that can go wrong. I don't even mind taking the time to think about being careful; I try to tread carefully when I'm out communing with Mother Nature and the poles seem to fit right in. Yes, I love my poles.

I'm having issues with water bottles. My favorite ones were made with ingredients that turned up on some kind of destroy-it-before-it-kills-you list and once they were gone (I had to throw them out.... I couldn't donate something that toxic, could I???..... and they weren't really pretty enough to become flower vases) they were gone. Of course, the dangerous ones were the ones I liked the best. They didn't leak. They were light. They kept the ice cold for a long time. They were distinctive in shape/color/texture/design so that I could easily recognize mine on the picnic table as we stopped for lunch. And, most important of all, I could drink from them.

Do not laugh. Haven't you had your lip pinched or your teeth abused or your shirt-front drenched or worse, stared impotently at the container you've just filled, unable to extricate the water from its depths? I know that I have. And I know that one of the hikers on Monday has, too, because she was taking the blue top off the mouthpiece of her Camelback waterbottle in order to get at the water inside. Nope, she didn't know that you had to bite the blue thing gently between your teeth while holding the bottle perpendicular to the ground. That's right, you don't tip this one up the way you drink everything else "from the bottle". This puppy has a real live straw! No squeezing the sides or tilting.... just nip and suck.

Watching her amazement when I suggested that she try it my way was very reassuring. I'd spent 15 minutes that morning trying to figure the damn thing out myself, until I noticed that the tag which was annoying my nose contained the operating instructions. At least I wasn't the only one.

(We never bought Capri Sun packets for just this very reason -- none of us, Cuters or parents or sitter, could get the straw in the hole without bending and breaking the sipper or spraying ourselves. Some things should be easy to use or not used at all.)

Now that I don't feel like the only fool in town, I think I'll get a somewhat larger Camelback. I took it when I walked to the gym today, and it made the transition nicely. I think I may like them as much as I like my poles and my packs.


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