What to do on a rainy day in Seattle?
This is why Starbucks was invented here. As I look out our 6th story window across Lake Washington to Seattle, a cold, grey rain blankets the city. My optimistic weekend plans for a hike or kayak have been washed away. Normally, we do not let a little bad weather deter us, but this is on the verge of two competing seasons. I call it “sprinter,” not quite yet spring, but no longer winter. It is too warm for nice white fluffy winter snow, too cold for a pleasant warm spring rain, and just right for a miserable time outdoors. So, we are all stranded indoors trying to keep boredom from setting in while getting some needed stuff done and staying off each other’s nerves, mostly.
While family traveling, we have learned that not every moment is packed with thrilling adventures. You will have some down time. So, we use that time to mostly catch up on some of the more mundane necessities of life. The boys work on some chores, like cleaning, and of course school work. My wife sews, works on line, does laundry, cleans, cooks, and keeps the boys engaged (whether they want to be or not). The dog sleeps and periodically comes out of hibernation to scavenge for food. I write the blog, clean, work out, fix stuff, nap, and try my best to stay off the radar of my every vigilant wife on the look out to assign tasks. My “honey-do list” is ever ongoing.
Today, I am working on replacing my stolen day hiking pack. I was extremely upset that my pack was stolen out of my truck. Unfortunately, thieves are a universal problem, some places worse than others, but still everywhere. On the bright side, I get all new gear. So, I went to my favorite shopping place, eBay. I have always had very good luck with eBay, no matter where in the world we were. I bought a car while still in the U.S. that I picked up in England, a motorcycle from another state and had shipped to me across the country, numerous birthday and Christmas presents, items for work, camping equipment, car repair parts, furniture, and more. I much prefer sitting on the couch perusing on line than driving all over town. Remember, on eBay you do not pay tax and I rarely pay shipping. Plus, I have yet to get ripped off after 150 purchases.
Since the rain prevented me from enjoying the beautiful Pacific Northwest, I went to eBay and started my search for replacement hiking gear. Being a Boy Scout, I rely on the tried and true recommendations of the scout handbook on what to carry on every venture into the wild. I also rely on my military survival training and civilian search and rescue experience. A life-time of hiking and camping comes in handy too. My wife likes to tease me that I am an “over-grown boy scout,” but she also implicitly trusts me in the wilderness (just not navigating in the car).
My day pack is an essential item when we go hiking anywhere. I carry very specific items that I believe are very helpful in any circumstance while family traveling. I scoured eBay and found, of course, exactly what I wanted. Below is my personal list of essentials:
For load carrying, I prefer a fanny, lumbar, or waist type because on hot days your back will sweat with a backpack. I really like the Mountainsmith Day TLS Lumbar Pack. Mountainsmith made the original lumbar pack and is still the best. The Day TLS is as big as they get. You can buy shoulder straplettes to help with the weight if needed. It is very rugged and will hold all that you need. eBay price: $84.95 (same as retail but no tax and free shipping) Spoiler: on sale at Amazon for $65.81!
In the pack, I keep the following:
1. Water filter: You always need clean water. Even in some urban areas, the drinking water is not reliable. Trust me, I had cholera, it is not pleasant. The best on the market for the price is the Katadyn HikerPro. It works very well for individuals or small groups. Plus, it is field serviceable, which is very important when traveling. eBay price: $69.99 (retail $84.95)
2. First Aid Kit: Adventure Medical Kits are the best out there. I bought the .9 because it is for 1-4 people for up to 6 days. You can get the size you need. They are very comprehensive and packed with useful supplies. You may someday need more than a band aid and alcohol pad. Be prepared. eBay price: $29.70 (retail $49.99)
3. Compass: I think that Suunto makes the most reliable and accurate compass. I got the A-30L. I prefer orienteering compasses compared to lensatic types (but that is a whole other discussion). eBay price: $21.40 (retail $35.00)
4. Knife: I actually carry at least two knives, a rigid type and a multi-tool. There are many good rigid knives on the market. I am a Gerber fan personally, but there are many others. Get a well-known brand with 440 steel. For the multi-tool, I bought a Gerber Diesel. No matter where you go, these newer designs of multiple function tools will come in handy. You will end up not being able to go anywhere without one. eBay price: $53.38 (retail $69.00)
5. Emergency blanket: These are amazing additions to your pack. They can be used as a shelter to keep of rain and sun, a blanket for warmth, a giant signaling device, a load carrier, a water extraction device, and more. I recommend not going for the cheap “space blankets” They are also useful, but limited. I bought an AMK SOL Sport Utility Blanket, red. eBay price $16.00 (retail $25.00)
6. Rope: By rope, I do not mean a large spool of old hemp or nylon line. Parachord is one of the most useful items in the entire outdoor world. I prefer J-chord because it is like parachord but with a hemp center. You can use parachord or j-chord for a multitude of functions, like tying up things, lashing, makeshift pack, stretcher, or tent (with your blanket), and tethering. The smaller inside lines can be used for fishing line, sutures (ick), and dental floss. The paper center in j-chord can be used to help start a fire. eBay price: $7.50 for 25 feet (retail $.50 / foot)
7. Whistle: If you are lost, your voice quickly gives out from shouting. Any whistle will do, but there are some louder than others. eBay price: $2.00
8. Fire starter: I am not a big fan of expensive complicated lighters. I have bought them only to be disappointed with them in real-world use. Now, I prefer good-old flint and all-weather matches. They do not break or run out of fuel and if you lose or break them you are not out $50.00. eBay price: $5.00
9. Headlamp: I prefer a headlamp over a flashlight. With a headlamp your hands are free. There are many makes on the market. Get a LED with a bright light, preferably one that adjusts beam width and has a flashing and red mode. eBay price: $4.00 (yes!)
10. Glow sticks: handy for signaling, keeping track of everyone in the dark (especially children and pets), and light source for seeing at night. I even have used them as a night light while camping with our boys (I was a little afraid of the dark). eBay price: $1.00 each
11. Folding saw: If you need to cut firewood or timbers for building something, you will wish you had one of these nifty little tools. Like with my knives, I prefer Gerber. eBay price: $24.99 (retail $36.00)
12. Water bottle: Any will do. I actually do not like camel packs (why I am not sure) so I use just plastic sports bottles. eBay price: $2.00
I also carry as optional gear a GPS (Bushnell Back-Track D-Tour), hatchet (again, Gerber), venom extractor (The Pump), solar charger for my electronics, and small folding shovel. All totaled without filled water bottles, food, and extra clothing, my pack weighs in at 25 pounds and less than $300. This is an easy load to carry on even the most strenuous hikes and well worth the investment.
Remember, an old Boy Scout adage, “Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.” I also like the Boy Scout motto, “Always prepared.”
No one plans on getting lost (I hope), but it happens. When we went on a rescue mission in SAR to find lost hikers, we always took note that they were ill prepared for their adventure. Potentially disastrous situations can be averted easily if you plan ahead. You want your family travel to be a memorable experience (in a good way).
If nothing else, going through my day pack has made the rainy day go by faster and kept me out of my wife’s way. If you have any items that you think are necessary on a hike, experience with certain gear, or brands you like, let everyone know. Reply with a comment. Thanks!