Apogee: Gear Shopping Made Easy (Mostly)

Way back in the late Triassic Period, when Apogee’s directors were but lads and participating in their own adventures, getting the equipment list for our adventure always felt a bit like Christmas:  “look at all the loot I get, and I get to go on this cool trip to see the pterodactyls, too!”  We never realized, however, how overwhelming that list could be for our long-suffering parents (who were footing the bill for said loot, no less!).  Now that we’ve sent out our own equipment/gear lists for this summer’s Apogee adventures, we thought it might be a good idea to provide our own unsolicited advice regarding gear selection.  So – without further ado – our very own tips for parents preparing for their teen’s summer adventure.  Enjoy!


Waterproof/Dry Stuff Sack – As much as we might like to think otherwise, rain is a real possibility on many of our trips.  And sleeping in a sleeping bag that is slightly damp or wet is never an enjoyable experience for anyone.  We list a waterproof or “dry” stuff sack as “optional” on many of our equipment lists, but feel it’s a worthwhile investment.  The alternative is wrapping a sleeping bag in a garbage bag that our leaders provide.  And although this usually does the trick, those garbage bags often rip (and create unwanted waste, too).   A Dry/Waterproof stuff sack can be as inexpensive as $20 through L.L. Bean or Campmor, http://www.campmor.com/outdoor/gear/Product___83030.

Clear H2O Bottles – When you go into your local REI, EMS, or gear store, you’re more than likely to see a veritable smorgasbord of pretty water bottles displayed – they’ll be there in aluminum, plastic, and steel, decorated with ribbons, flowers, or hard-to-see camoflage.  What is an Apogee Adventurer to do?   We recommend a clear, or at least see-through, BPA-free plastic bottle.  Although we love the idea of stainless, they can dent when dropped (which is highly likely on outdoor trip), and they’re not see-through.  What is the benefit of being able to see through a water bottle, you ask?  Hydration.  It allows our students and even more importantly, our leaders, to easily see how much water people are drinking during the day.  Most clear plastic water bottles are BPA free now (but make sure you double-check when making your purchase).  Take a look at Nalgene’s 32 oz. assortment of water bottles for both hiking and biking based trips – these are available at most major outdoor outfitters.

Hydration Pack – Staying on the subject of water and hydration, another piece of equipment that we recommend but don’t require on all trips is a hydration pack.  For those of you that don’t know what this is, it’s essentially a plastic bladder with a hose for drinking that gets placed into a backpack.  As you’re biking or hiking, the hose sits on your shoulder and is a constant reminder to continue drinking water.  It’s a great thing, especially for our students who aren’t used to being active all day.  If you buy a pack for the water bladder to fit into, get one with as few bells and whistles as possible; ie. keep the pockets on it to a minimum.  Camelbak makes several great hydration packs that are worth looking at; http://www.camelbak.com/.

Sleeping Pads – When you get online or go into a gear store to buy a sleeping pad for your son or daughter’s trip you’ll be presented with two options; the first is simple foam and the second is air-filled (usually “self-inflating.”  Quotes are there because although we’ve never seen one that can actually live up to the self-inflating hype).  Go with the air.  It’s slightly more expensive, but it’s far more comfortable than foam, especially for the lanky young bodies that we often see on our trips.  Next question:  do you go with the full-length size or half size?  Go full.  If the bottom of a tent ever becomes damp or wet, the full length pad will do a much better job keeping your teen adventurer’s sleeping bag dry.  Another suggestion is to buy the sleeping pad from Maine’s own L.L. Bean.  It’s lifetime product guarantee is good insurance in case the pad springs a leak for some reason during the trip.

Bowl and Cutlery – Whether you’re hiking in the North Cascades, paddling through Isle au Haut Bay, or planting trees in a Caribbean Wildlife Refuge, food is a huge part of all Apogee trips, and mealtime during a trip is one way to share great stories and accomplishments from the day’s epic adventures. While what you’re eating your deluxe burrito out of won’t necessarily make or break your experience, having something that is functional, easy to clean, and just the right size will make things easier. There are many different “travel tablewear” products out there, including Orikaso, which folds flat, and Sea to Summit collapsable bowls. If you don’t like either of these, don’t worry because it doesn’t need to be fancy. A re-sealable container (such as a Tupperware the size that will fit a sandwich in it) will work great! As for the cutlery, keep it simple. Some of our leaders use the Lite My Fire Spork while others bring a spoon and fork from home.