What is it about gear?
What I don’t know, the owners of L.L. Bean, Cabela’s, R.E.I., Eddie Bauer, Epic Sports, or the Ski Rack know too well.
Like Imelda Marcos and her infamous shoe collection, those of us who fancy ourselves outdoor types can collect an inordinate amount of stuff, can’t we? Of course the marketing managers of the sporting goods stores know us all too well.
Is there really a need to have four or five tents? A like number of stoves? Cookware? Just how many breathable waterproof raincoats do we need? One? Two? Four? Or floppy-rimmed hats? What’s with that? I think I have at least four, and a few more with long brims and neck curtains to keep out the sun.
I used to think one of each item would be enough – a paddling jacket, a paddle, a life jacket, a spray skirt, a paddle float, a kayak. The basics would satisfy, for sure. The years passed.
Then that first paddling jacket I bought became outdated by a new waterproof and breathable material. One that would let the perspiration moisture out, one that would leave me comfortable and dry after a day of paddling. Gotta have one, I thought.
I got one. I still got wet from perspiration and was clammy after hours of paddling. Maybe a better base layer? I got one – no, two. I still got sweat wet.
Well, then, maybe a better paddling jacket. Something in a different material, a newer model. I got one – no, I think it was a couple over the years.
I still get damp on the inside. Even with a spiffy “dry suit.” So now I’m convinced I’ll just take along a dry top and bottom base layer and have it to change into after paddling. I’m convinced nothing will keep me from getting sweat dampened, especially when you consider that a lifejacket worn over anything breathable foils that “breathability.”
Then there’s an endless list of accessories any self-respecting paddler must have. Deck bags, stuff sacks, dry bags, rescue gear, tow lines, a VHF radio, flares, markers, dyes, emergency shelters, first aid kits – the list is endless.
And when you then decide to combine your love of paddling and your love of camping, watch out. No longer are you bound by what you can physically lift and carry on your back.
You even begin to lust after another kayak, one with more storage space, one expedition-ready, one to take you far, far away. But why stop with just two kayaks, why not have one for sport, say rock gardens or surfing? And then you might need one just for exercising. Heck, there’s room in the garage for another boat hanging from the rafters.
Now you have a cavernous space into which you can stuff seemingly endless amounts of gadgets and camping goodies. Filling the space are candle lanterns, tiny gas lanterns, headlamps, flashlights, cooking gear, food, self-inflating mattresses, collapsible wine glasses, multi-tools, water bladders, collapsible sinks, collapsible buckets, and dry bags.
Then you must have shelter, no? That bivvy sack just isn’t going to hack it with your fellow paddlers, is it? No way. You gotta have a hammock, or a two-person ultra-light, free-standing tent that stuffs down to a grapefruit size so you can have extra room for that Crazy Creek chair. Why not? You’re not carrying it on your back. Be extravagant!
And there’ll be plenty of room for food, especially if you go for the dehydrated type. But why, when you have plenty of storage space? Why not pick up that portable blender you saw in the catalog and impress your friends with Margaritas during the evening meal? Whip out that new self-firing butane lantern, clamp the blender on a stump, and watch everyone turn green with envy.
OK, I confess, I’m almost that marketer’s dream. Almost, because my wallet isn’t quite big enough to satisfy my big eyes. But I’m always working on it. Show me a bargain, and I’m thinking hard about it. I’ll latch onto something, like I did the other day in the L.L. Bean outlet store in Bangor, and walk around the store for half an hour, justifying in my mind why I really need it. Truth be told, I can recognize a bargain and there was only one of those Brunton Glob lanterns in the whole store! Besides, I had $10 in leftover crazy money to offset the cost, so it really was a bargain.
A bargain just like the set of roof-rack kayak saddles I bought a few weeks ago. I saw them and I knew the price was right. So what if a part was missing, I could make do. Sure enough, I plunked down the money (it was less than $20) and I was the proud owner of a $70 set of saddles! They’ll replace the foam blocks I use when I carry my second kayak around on those days when I can’t quite decide which one I want to paddle.
I’ll probably have to sit beside the lake or ocean on one of several Crazy Creek chairs and contemplate the weather before making a decision on which boat to launch with which paddle and what paddling jacket to wear….
Trip set to track Canada lynx
Maine Audubon is hosting a trip to track Canada lynx in northern Maine Jan. 26-28.
The Canada lynx has a mottled gray coat, prominent ear tufts, a short tail, long legs, and large, furry feet to travel over snow. The species is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, and Maine is the only state in the East where it exists.
Led by Mark McCollough, endangered species biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Laura Sebastianelli, ecologist and professional wildlife tracker, trip participants will travel by snowshoe into lynx habitat, looking for tracks and other clues wildlife leave behind. The group will also learn about lynx and other North Woods species, including the pine marten and snowshoe hare.
Participants should be in good physical shape and comfortable walking in snowshoes in heavily wooded terrain.
The trip is $395 for Maine Audubon members, $425 for nonmembers. The price includes lodging and meals at the Evergreen Lodge in Greenville.
Advance registration is necessary; to register, call at 207- 781-2330, ext. 215.
This fall, the federal government denied protections that Canada lynx need to survive in Maine. Maine Audubon is calling for those protections to be instated so lynx do not become extinct in the state.
For more information on Maine Audubon programs and trips, visit www.maineaudubon.org.
Jeff Strout’s column on outdoor recreation is published each Saturday. He can be reached at 990-8202 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.