Monday, April 26, 2010

Gear and Gadgets

i guess you could say i'm a pretty well geared vagabond. i have spent the past couple years building and refining my gear sets depending on whether i'm mobile or stationary, the length of trips i will take, the weather, and if i'm traveling with a partner or solo.

this is a pretty broad subject with many determining factors. what you will need in the gear department will depend on exactly how and where you are living nomadically, whether or not you have a vehicle, your funds, what you left your house-dwelling lifestyle with, and what kind of storage you have access to. stuff and storage will be the next topic i cover.

i can't sit here and tell you what exactly you will need, because that depends on you and your level of comfort with or without certain things. after my first big trip across the country i learned a hard lesson in what i need, or think i need. less is more. carrying less and lighter gear means more freedom to move further, and have less things to worry about. these things come mostly with experience, and you can add and remove pieces as you go along and get a feel for your nomadic style.

there are key pieces that i'd like to always have in any situation such as a knife, preferably a multi-tool one, and a small first aid kit. some kind of bandages and sterilization pads are key. there are pocket sized emergency first aid kits at pharmacies and camping stores for around 5 bucks.

i'm thinking the best way i can cover the gear topic is to divide it up into the various nomadic lifestyles i have encountered. this will encompass city living and urban camping, in the trees, and on the road.

City Living/Urban Camping

if you plan to stay in one city for a while, then finding storage and carrying minimal is the way to go. especially if you are employed, carrying everything you own to a job could prove to be problematic. free storage is always the best storage. if you have a friend or fams that has a spare closet in their house or maybe some room in their garage, this could work well. if you don't have access to free storage, seek out cheap self-storage units or lockers.

food, water, warmth and shelter are always the key factors to consider when picking what you will carry. i like to always have a small pack towel and self-cleaning supplies on me too in case the opportunity arises. i carry always a bottle for water, extra layers, and dry snacks in my pack. shelter can be easy to find in a city, but you may carry a tarp or bivy just in case. if you don't have 24 hour access to where your gear is stored then you will also want to carry a blanket and layers for warmth. cardboard is always easy to find to lay out for ground warmth if you don't have a foam mat.

now that the needs are covered, i'll elaborate on the gadgetry. i never used to be such a tecky nomad, but over the years communication and photography as a hobby has become such a key part of my life, i choose not to live without it. i keep my big camera gear in storage when not in use, and carry a pocket sized adventure camera on me wherever i go. i also keep a netbook in my storage closet, which i take out to the library or over to a friend's house to take advantage of free wireless internet. and of course, a cell phone. all of these things can be charged at my work, in my storage closet or wherever i find a couch to surf.

In The Trees

sometimes it's just more fun and comfortable to take off and hit the sticks for a few days or weeks at a time. this is where having some camping gear makes life easier. not much more is needed than what i mentioned under the previous header, but if you'd like to have warm food then a small camp stove is an awesome investment.

for some a tarp or bivy may be enough shelter, but for me, i need a little more. bugs love to eat me, so i'm sure to have a small shelter that's equipped with bug netting. i also definitely like to have a sleep mat and a lightweight sleeping bag. proper footwear is key as well if you plan to hit the trails or the back country. also, a small trowel for digging catholes is something i like to have, but not absolutely necessary.

you should carry a water filter or some sort of water treatment if you plan to be camping out for a while. a camp stove is much safer and convenient for cooking food than building a campfire, and of course more reliable. i have a stove meant for groups that one of us will usually carry to share, but an MSR pocket rocket and a camp cup will suffice.

i still make use of my storage when i am out and about, it's best to have for different gear sets so that i can switch out what i need depending on the conditions i will endure.

On The Road

i could go on forever about what to have or what not to have when traveling, but the list is different for everyone depending on their style and comfort. since being on the road is basically both of the previous sub-topics put together, the best and lightest gear selection from both is what you want to have.

one thing i can say from experience, don't take too much. have what you need, a little of what you want, and never ever more than you can carry. there were some journeys that i manned out of because i was carrying much more than i was willing to lug up a mountain or down a long forest trail. i'm glad i learned this so that i can tell others. however people tried to tell me the same thing. once again, sometimes these things can only truly be learned from experience.

living in a vehicle is something that i don't have experience with, but this could make your experience completely different in any of these living situations, i'd imagine more so on the road. some see it as an advantage, a mobile home and storage unit, and some like myself still see it as yet another big thing to be responsible for. if you'd like to read more about living from a vehicle, check out the Survival Guide to Homelessness listed in my links.


  1. I noticed the picture of a person with a water filter by the sea. Can water filters convert salt water to fresh water? I mean hand held ones like that guy has.

    1. that shot was taken at Lake Huron [in Ontario Canada].. this filter is for fresh water only. as far as i know to get a 'handheld' salt water converter you'd be paying a grand or so.. the MSR filter can clean up some pretty dirty water, but i always try to find the cleanest water possible to keep the filter itself from clogging up.

  2. I keep coming back to this web site because it is so well written and I love it so much.

    1. thanks for coming back! i hadn't been to the forums in a while, and they're no longer there.. any idea what happened??