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Wyoming Gear Review, 2021

I suspect that some might think my gear prep was a bit over the top. But keep in mind I was headed solo to one of the most remote areas of the U.S., often 3 or 4 hours from the nearest facilities, on rough, high altitude roads where I might need to ford small streams and clear downed trees out of my way. I was prepared to spend a week in camp if I got snowed in or just plain liked where I was. I carried three weeks of food and the safety and extraction gear necessary for such a trip.

I had to consider gear carefully to make sure there was space for it all, and there would be few opportunities along the way to acquire anything I forgot. Much of my backpacking gear got pressed into service. I considered getting a roof top cargo box and ended up wishing I had. Shuffling gear to the front seats in order to sleep got real old. There were things I had to have along but never used that could have lived out of my way. I will have one for the trips I have planned for next summer.

Here's my thoughts on selected items:

The Truck

4Runner

The trail edition 4runner was perfect for the job. Great ground clearance, superb traction, short enough wheelbase to negotiate tight quarters, carried a load without breaking a sweat, and was fine for sleeping inside. I was delighted with it every morning when I started out. I cannot image a better combination of abilities for what I was doing.

The Bed

I made my own mattress from two different densities of foam cut to fit in the back of my 4runner and with advice from Todd and videos on the Sailrite.com website I sewed up a canvas cover with a full length zipper and side handles. It all came out very nice. For sleeping I doubled over a fleece blanket over which I placed my sleeping bag which has a zip-on bottom sheet yielding lots of leg room. That arrangement was as comfortable as my latex mattress at home. (Rating = home run)

Boots

boots

Even though the temperature hit 90 every single day, I wore boots and long pants the whole time and didn't mind it at all. With clouds of dust, scratchy brush, sharp rocks, and the possibility of snakes and ticks it was the best way to go. I was often climbing hills or bushwhacking to remote streams and the amount of dust was incredible, not to mention hidden rocks and sharp ended downed limbs. Flat open meadows were so riddled with gopher holes and the fluffy mounds they push up that low topped shoes would have quickly been overtopped. My boot brand of choice is Obōz because of the fit, sturdiness and traction. It's possibly the best boot I've ever had. YMMV! (Rating = Excellent)

Down Coat Pillow

For many years I have not carried a pillow but used a home-made fleece pillow case into which I stuff whatever fluffy clothing I have with me. In this case it was a thick down coat suitable for temperatures down into the teens. It was excellent and avoided bringing a regular pillow. Note that I have my own sewing machine and can make things like packs, mattress covers, etc. (Rating = it works for me)

Engine Battery Jump Starter

Jump Start

It's one of those safety things a person should carry when out of town and it's far more convenient than booster cables. Besides that, where I was going there would not be anyone around from which to get a boost. It can also power various devices using its many output ports. Even though it is small enough to fit in the glove compartment it carries enough power to start a V-8 several times. (Rating = it provided nice peace of mind)

Fairy Lights

Fairy Lights

Following the example of one of my favorite YouTuber's I velcroed a string of fairy lights (battery powered led's) around the ceiling edge of the truck. It gave nice diffused light and one set of 4 AA's lasted the whole trip. It provided enough light except for serious reading. (Rating = home run)

Jackery

Jackery

This is a solid product that just works. I got the smallest capacity model they offer and it was plenty. It can be charged with house current, auto 12 volt, USB, and by solar panel. It can output 120 AC, 12 volt DC, and USB. Since I never spent much time in one place it did not get used a great deal, but it was nice to have along. I could have made the trip without it but there would have been some inconvenience keeping my laptop charged. (Rating = outstanding)

Jack Extension

Jack Extension

It chaps my you know what that Toyota provides a jack with inadequate reach to get a wheel off the ground and worse, has a tiny little round pad that is supposed to be placed under a round axle tube. A person could have a serious accident trying to use that thing even if it could reach. So I got this jack extension set and it works perfectly. And boy was it expensive. Grrrrrr. It got used in the mountains on this trip to change out a flat tire. (Rating = does the job but does it really have to cost this much?)

Kiwi Chair

Chair

Chair

Being short on interior space I needed a chair with adequate back support that would fold up small and work for sitting at a short table. As far as I know this is the only choice. Comfort was great. However it is heavy, a bit fussy to set up, and expensive. I appreciated it a lot. (Rating = very very good but probably too narrow for wide butts)

Lucy light

Lucy Light

I bought this solar rechargeable inflatable waterproof light on a whim after seeing it used in videos. I found it perfect for reading in bed each evening. During the day it lived on the dash collapsed and recharging. It never ran flat on me. I liked the even light distribution for reading. (Rating = very good)

Magnetic Bug Screens

Get this: I never got a single insect bite on the trip! So the magnetically attaching bug screens I fabricated never got used.

MSR Cook Pot

MSR Pot

Three days into my trip I had already blown through a fuel canister cooking with my old car-camping pots and since my Jet Boil is so fast and efficient (but worthless for simmering) I decided when I got to a good outfitter I would acquire a modern pot with vanes and shroud on the bottom. The "Casserole" MSR model I found in Jackson turned out to be perfect and I finished the rest of the trip on one canister. That's amazing considering I was rehydrating dried food three times a day. Not only that the engineering was top notch. It has a sturdy, stable fold-out handle, a transparent lid (helpful when simmering) with a steam vent and strainer holes, and my stove fits inside perfectly. I couldn't ask for more. (Rating = home run)

ONX

Onx is a software mapping program that can be overlain with many kinds of important data. It shows the current condition of roads, active wildfires, the date and extent of old fires, and most importantly, the specific ownership of land. Wyoming has a great deal of public land but much of it exists in a checkerboard pattern intertwined with private land and trespass laws there are onerous. Without an aid like this it is hard to know where one can legally go fishing. Enforcement officers use this program to determine whether trespass has occurred. The cool thing is that maps can be downloaded to any GPS enabled device for use in the field where cell coverage is not available. I used it on an iPad mini and it was excellent. (Rating = invaluable for my journey).

Now that I have said all that, I have switched to Gaia Premium which is cheaper and has a more features, albeit with a less polished interface.

Optimus Stove

Optimus Stove

I've had this for years and it excels for me. Few stoves simmer well as this one, which is nice when not just boiling water for freeze dried food. It has a wide enough burner to prevent a hot spot and uses a fuel hose instead of screwing directly onto a fuel canister. This keeps the pot low to the ground and also allows use of tall canisters. I use it with a wind shield which improves efficiency and keeps the canister from getting too hot. (Rating = an excellent product).

QuickDry Socks

DryMax Socks

These socks did not measure up to the hype. I wanted socks that I could easily hand wash and then air dry quicker than my wool socks. Unfortunately they felt like wearing plastic and stunk to high heaven. I finished the trip with my wool socks which worked just fine thank you. (Rating = Big time fail)

REI Quick-dry Towel

REI Towel

It was just big enough to dry off but short enough that it did not drag in the dirt. In other words it was just right. Being synthetic and the Wyoming air being very dry it dried quickly. (Rating = very nice)

Salt & Pepper

Salt and Pepper Salt and Pepper

This set wasn't necessary but it is better designed than most. Identifying which is which is instantaneous. The two pieces nest together magnetically in a way that prevents leakage and were easy to use. I was delighted every time I used them. (Rating = most excellent)

Smittybuilt Air Compressor

Air compressor

I had this along in case I had to repair a leaking tire and then pump it back up. Even though I tested it at home, a fitting broke while in the Bighorn Mountains and I had to put on my spare tire. Then I had to waste time driving 60 miles out of the mountains to the nearest town. The compressor might be fine but the hoses and fittings were pretty much junk. I rebuilt the lines and fittings once I returned home. More testing will be required before I trust it. (Rating = it failed with a capital F)

Solar Panels

OK, I wasted my money here. The thought was that it would be nice for keeping things charged up if I established a base camp and stayed put for awhile. Only I never stayed put. I did use it twice just because I could and it worked fine. In the end it was just more stuff I would have been happier leaving at home. One curiosity is that it has no output when placed behind the windows in my sunroom. (Rating = too soon to tell)

Spot Satellite Transceiver

Spot communicator

Being alone in the wilderness and generally outside of cellular range I purchased a Spot and extraction/medical insurance to go with it. Thankfully it didn't get used.

Sprayer

Spray bottle

It was one of those "seemed like a good idea at the time" things. It was a small pump up sprayer that might have been useful showering or washing dishes. Nope, it required too much fiddling around. Worse, due to the near spherical shape it was always rolling around and under foot or rolling away inside the truck. It would not stay put. And the fragile extended nozzle required that it be disassembled after every use. Just how much time did I want to spend setting up camp anyway? I hated it. A typical bike bottle worked fine and I had that along anyway. Fortunately I was able to unload the sprayer and two unloved old pots in Jackson for a little bit of cash. (Rating = complete loser)

Todd Table

Folding table Folding table

I first saw this when Todd showed me his RV gear, except I got the slightly heavier aluminum topped model because I knew I was going to cook on it. It's very light and very compact when rolled up, and easy to set up. It worked out great. Even when I was in a campground I used this instead of the picnic table. (Rating = home run)

USB lighter

USB lighter

This little flexible necked electronic lighter is a wonder. It generates a tiny electronic arc that instantly ignites stove fuel but has no fuel supply of its own. It works in wind. One charge via USB lasted the whole trip. If it became lost or broken I would immediately get another. (Rating = home run)

20 L Water Jug

water jug

I messed up on this one. The quality and design were fine, but it was just too heavy to be lifting in and out all the time. And it was very awkward to carry from campground water pumps. I should have purchased two jugs that were half the capacity and that way I would have had a balanced load while walking. (Rating = poor choice of size)

Water filters

I had a small pump unit for use while hiking and a larger gravity fed model for use in camp. I only used the larger one once where the campsite water pump appeared to be broken. (Rating = too early to tell but I was prepared)

Window Covers

Window Shade

These are made from reflective bubble insulation, cut to window size, and then simply press fit inside the windows to block out light while sleeping. I used them on my summer trip to Oregon and they worked fine. But I sure did not need to carry them to Wyoming. I forgot due to the time of year that it got dark well before bed time. Oh well, they will get used next year or anywhere I want to ensure daytime privacy. (Rating = pretty darn good, and inexpensive)

Yeti

cooler

When shopping for a cooler I chafed at Yeti prices. There were other brands that looked as efficient and cost much less. However, none of the competition had latches that I could operate with one finger. They all irritated my arthritis. Furthermore, they all had solid space eating handles that would dig into the door panels on rough roads while the Yeti had a nice flat fabric carrying strap. So I bit the bullet and purchased a small Yeti. It worked as great as I hoped. It's odd though that it does not have a drain. (Rating = excellent but overpriced)

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