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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Prepare For A Photo Expedition

Tom Bol offers his insight on how to get ready when you’re going to be out for more than just a day hike

Labels: How-ToGear

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Guanacos: Torres Del Paine National Park, Chile.
I recently upgraded my smaller tripod to carbon fiber. Carbon-fiber models are significantly lighter than their metal counterparts. My tripod for use with small lenses and bodies is the Gitzo GT-1550T. It packs down to 14 inches and weighs just over 2.5 pounds with a lightweight head like the Really Right Stuff BH-30. If I’m shooting with bigger lenses, I use a larger Gitzo Mountaineer tripod.

Just Say No To Cotton
Okay, that may sound a little extreme. Who can leave on a trip without their favorite T-shirt? I can. When it comes to the backcountry, function always trumps fashion. While cotton is a comfortable fabric, once it gets wet, it sucks heat from your body, weighs a lot and is hard to dry out. In hot, sunny climates, cotton is okay, but if you’re going anywhere that’s cold or damp, wet cotton can lead to hypothermia and serious consequences in the backcountry. Better fabrics are silk, fleece and synthetics that are still warm when wet and dry out fast. Better yet, these fabrics are incredibly lightweight.

Down insulation is an excellent insulator and very lightweight. The only concern is that down loses its insulation abilities when it gets wet. So if you’re packing a down garment or sleeping bag, make sure it’s waterproof and air it out regularly to maintain the down’s loft and warmth.

Bald eagle: Geographic Harbor, Katmai National Park, Alaska.
Backpacking Gear Has Changed
Remember carrying the classic metal-frame pack with water bottles and sleeping bags strapped onto the outside? Then came the internal frame pack revolution, making it more comfortable to carry heavy loads. Now internal-frame packs have evolved even further by using lightweight fabrics for ultralight backpacks. Companies like GoLite produce multiday backpacks that weigh just over three pounds!

The same can be said for tents and stoves. Lighter, stronger fabrics, carbon-fiber tent poles and micro camp stoves take lightweight camping gear into a new dimension. MSR makes some incredible lightweight gear, including an 8.5- ounce stove and a 3.5-pound two-person tent. Numerous companies like The North Face and Mountain Hardwear make sleeping bags around 3.5 pounds.

Here’s a quick look at how much my camping gear weighs:

• Backpack
• Tent
• Stove
• Cook Set
• Sleeping Bag
• Clothes/Layers
3.5 pounds
3.5 pounds
0.5 pounds
1 pound
3.5 pounds
4 pounds

Sixteen pounds of camping gear, along with some food, fuel and camera gear, and I’m ready to head out on a weekend backpacking trip.

What’s On The Menu?
As many hikers can attest, happiness is a belly filled with warm, savory food. Rations can make or break a trip. You need nutritious food for energy and warmth, plus, good food just makes people happy. The challenge in planning rations for a backcountry trip is finding the right balance between weight and happiness.


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