Wednesday, March 25, 2009

REI Dividends, Sleeping Bags & Ponchos

As a longtime, loyal REI member having attempted a thru-hike for the first time, it should come as no surprise that this year's dividend from the Co-op is my biggest yet. To my delight I have about 200 USD to blow on toys for my second attempt on the Colorado Trail. But two big obstacles stand in my way.

First, I have to spend or cash my dividend check by the end of the year, whereas I won't be back in the States for any length of time for at least 2-3 years. I could just sign the check and have it cashed, but this seems inconvenient, given my current location. Second, while its a very nice dividend check, 200 dollars just isn't quite large enough to get any of the three pieces of gear I'm contemplating buying: A lighter shelter, A lighter pack, or a lighter sleeping bag. I'm afraid I'll wind up just stocking up on incidentals like socks, freeze dried meals, or custom fitting shoe insoles. That's no fun either.

Anyways, I just wanted to comment on my ideas for my second attempt on the Colorado Trail. I'm debating changing out my trusty Mountain Hardwear Phantom 15 bag for something with a little less warmth, but more importantly, a little less weight. This might be difficult though as the Phantom 15 seems to be one of the lightest, warmest things REI carries. I've got my eyes on something like the REI Halo 25 bag pictured, or this other 20 degree bag from Golite (weight not listed). No real weight savings with either of these bags (as far as I can tell) so I'm not sure how they both won awards while my Phantom 15 clocks in warmer and didn't win anything :(. Somebody explain this please.

Still, I'm convinced that with the right sleeping bag, I can get away with a sleeping bag in the 25 degree range (Farenheit) and still be comfortable. If I find the right one, this should allow me to shave an extra few ounces there for my second CT attempt. Doesn't look as though REI carries anything that fits the bill though.

What I'm also considering getting though, is this Sea to Summit Ultra Sil-Tarp Poncho. The concept I'm thinking is to use this poncho to double as both a rain-fly, rain-wear, and ground cloth for sleeping. From the looks of it though, it lacks long sleeves, a must during windy rainstorms, snow, or a downpour. Why wouldn't they put a few more inches on the sleeves?

I could wear a more traditional waterproof/breathable rain jacket underneath during the worst rainstorms, and from the picture that seems to be what he's doing. Also, I sometimes liked using my rain jacket as an extra layer during colder nights, something I couldn't necessarily do if I'm using it as a ground cloth. Unfortunately, some of the weight savings disappear if I do this.

Still, if I'm going to carry a groundcover and a rain fly, I might as well have one piece of fabric that does both. Or I could modify my current rain jacket (cut off excess fabric) and shave a few more ounces that way, making the rain jacket/poncho combination a little less redundant. I certainly wouldn't be needing two hoods. Perhaps these ideas aren't completely ultralight, but they are certainly options.

Do I want to spend 79 of my dividend dollars and see if that's what I want to do with it though?

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