Getting outdoors promotes cardiovascular health and spontaneity. It tans skin, bleaches hair, and makes your legs look totally fabulous. Five out of five psychologists agree: if you're experiencing any neural blockage brought on by poor posture, the media, or the increasing financialization of the global economy, exposure to wide open spaces should suck it out the obstruction in a period of 24-48 hours.
It's not the 'why' of getting outdoors that's important; it's the 'how' and the 'how soon?' But hold on there Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Before you head deep into the bush, you're going to need to equip yourself with the most dangerous weapon known to man—knowledge.You're going to need to know how to start a fire and how to read a map. You're going to need to know what to do when staring down a grizzly. You're going to need to know how to make coffee without a Cuisinart that plugs into the wall. But perhaps most importantly of all, you're going to need to know what gear is best for you.
In our vibrant, modern age of efficiency and production, there are myriad options available to anyone equipping themselves with the tools necessary to hit the trail. When you're dealing with something like buying a new tent, or backpack, or stove, or thermal wine bottle sleeve, you better make sure to add a personal flotation device to your cart, because you're drowning in options.
Here at MyOpenCountry.com, we are going to baptize you in backcountry lore and fill your brain with insider knowledge, tabulated merchandise comparisons, and personal anecdotes. Whether it's tents and shelters, sleeping bags and bedding, hiking footwear, bags and backpacks, camp kitchen supplies, or lights and lanterns, we will put you on the right track toward the best gear available.
There are some who say that a man's (or woman's) home is his (or her) castle. If that is true, then your tent is your International Space Station. Your tent will keep you warm, dry, stave off bad vibes wherever you set it up. You'll bring your tent through forest, across mountains, and into deserts and music festivals. Tents are also often involved in apocalypse and/or bankruptcy contingency plans.
Of course, you're going to need a tent, but which one will you need? Are you going for lightweight backpacking tents or heavy duty? Are you going to use it just in the summer? In three seasons? In four? Are you looking for something free standing? How many people do you need to fit in? Are you going for a family camping tent? What waterproof rating should I go for? What's the difference between nylon and polyester? Do three people actually fit in a three person tent? Is the Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 really the cream of the cheese? Where does the word 'vestibule' come from?
At this point, you might just have the impression that tents and shelters mean just tents. You are wrong. The tent is a fine structure, but it's not the only one that keeps the rain off, the bugs out, or the heat in. Where, indeed, are you going to stake in a tent on the side of a cliff? We also have a lot to say in regard to bivouacs, shade shelters, and wind blocks. We've also got a team working on underground bunkers as we speak.
In our write-ups of tents and shelters, we will relate all this and so much more (and 'vestibule' was popularized in early 17th century France from the Latin word vestibulum).
"I don't like camping," says the average outdoor lifestyle hater, "I just want to sleep in my own bed." These ignorant troglodytes suffer from a crisis of imagination. Because you are sleeping on the ground, they believe, you a) cannot be comfortable and b) won't be in a bed. These haters have apparently forgotten that the word 'bed' also means the bottom of a body of water (warning: do not go to sleep underwater) and that the majority of the best sleeps in the history of life in the universe have taken place outdoors.
The recipe for an amazing sleep outside is simple. First, comes the sleeping pad. Some go blow-up, others go foamy, and some heroes of the wilderness go with a bed of pine boughs. Your sleeping pad can be your best friend or your worst enemy. It can keep you off the frozen ground, provide some well-deserved cushioning for your vertebrae, and it can float you gently down a river. Or it can puncture, provide insufficient back support, or take up way too much room in your pack. They say the sleeping pad chooses the trekker, and we are here to broker that friendship.
Next in the recipe for a great night's sleep in the great outdoors is the proper sleeping bag. Nothing says warmth and happiness as a good sleeping bag, and nothing else will graciously soak up your tears when it's been dumping hail and rain for days and you just want to go home. Let's hope it doesn't come to that.
There's so much more to say on this subject, like musing over what is the best camping hammock, or how comfy a lightweight sleeping bag can actually be. Read on to find out.
When the aliens who created us return one day to update our construction, they will undoubtedly give us four legs to distribute our weight more evenly, transforming us into centaur-like creatures. Until that day comes, we're stuck with supporting all our weight and whatever we're carrying in our pack on two feet. The soles of our feet are subject to some of the greatest stress endured by the body when your out on the trail. They work hard for you all day, so you better buy them something nice to show them you care … something like a fancy pair of hiking boots, perhaps.
If you're anything like the average outdoorsy person, you're going through a pair of boots faster than most other gear. Every time you need to get a new pair, you go over the same debate: should I get cheap ones that I'm going to replace every season, or should I get the best hiking boots that my accountant will allow, ones that I'm going to replace every four to five seasons. At MyOpenCountry, besides being outdoor professionals, some of us are also really good at mental math, and we're going to help you decide exactly what to do.
But when it comes to hiking footwear, that's just the tip of the ski pole. There are trail running shoes, mud boots, all-leather, vented, hi-top, low-cut, mid-cuff, laces, zippers, grommets, winter, summer, and so many other variations to choose from. We're not going to tell you how to live your life, but we are going to let you know what hiking shoe is best for you.
There is an old proverb of a lost pagan tradition that goes like this: one day an old man strode with the spirit of nature through desert. He looked back on his life and reflected to the spirit: "We have come a long way together." "You're right," replied the spirit, "I have walked beside you your entire life." And looking behind him, the man could see two sets of footprints that stretched on and on across the dunes all the way back to the town where he was born. "But what about the times when I struggled the most, spirit," asked the man, squinting into the distance "the times when you left me alone, and only one set of footprints appear?" "My friend," the spirit said, smiling "during your most difficult times, you were not alone: I was carrying you in my backpack."
Backpacks are special, spiritual items that beget emotional attachment between human and tool. They carry your patches, your carabineers, and the dust of the trail. You're going to want the best backpack, something that will hold your gear without breaking your back. A solid backpack will last you years, if not decades. It will carry your stuff through forest and city and desert and mountain and music festival. We're going to do nothing less than let you know which backpack is the one for you.
Questions abound in this area of outdoor gear. Should you go waterproof? Which is better: external or internal frames? What's ripstop? Is a 20-liter pack too small to fit a case of beer? (Almost.) What exactly does denier mean? (No, it's not about denying water trying to enter the fabric.) You've got the questions; we have the answers.
Getting yourself nourished is one of the most challenging and pleasurable tasks out on the trail. Some of you are putting down miles and miles every day, and while your doctor might advise you to eat 2500 calories on the daily, that's not going to cut it by half. Outdoor cuisine calls for commitment, creativity, vision, execution, knowledge of spices, coffee, whiskey, and some solid gear to cook it with.
Keeping the discussion just to the best backpacking stoves, you've got more options than ice cream toppings at your local parlor. There are gas stoves, white gas stoves, solar ovens, stick and feeders. There's even a stove that can charge your freaking phone.
Then you have your pot sets and your silverware (or plastic ware more likely), your coffee presses and pannikins, your thermal wine sleeves and your thermal whiskey sleeves. And that's just for backpacking.
We also cover things like the best camping cooler and some finer, fancier items that you get to bring along when you don't have to lug all your junk on your back.
Out on the trail, you've got a lot to do. You have to set up and break down your campsite; you have to read up on local edible flora (and fauna??); you have to write your speeches for when you enter politics, you have to go over your map and plan for the day ahead. The sun, life-giving force, and our favorite star does not, unfortunately, adhere to your busy schedule.
For those long days when you push it past sunset, we're here to tell you all about the best hiking headlamps, the kind that illuminates the trail and makes you feel like your driving your car with your high beams on. We haven't forgotten about car camping either. We'll tell you all about the best lantern to hang inside your tent to drive the mosquitos outside crazy.
In all outdoors situations, lights of any kind are an important safety feature to bring along, and for the disco dance party-minded, nearly everything has a strobe setting these days.
Let these lamps and lanterns cast their light upon you, for the night is dark and full of terrors.