|Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Brooks Range, AK|
|The book! Yes, I have an autographed copy!|
- Gear is a commodity. This clinic is not an infomercial. Sure, Andrew brings the exact gear you see in the photos all over his website, but he won't mention brand names unless you specifically prod him for it. He's more interested in educating the audience about the type and purpose of each piece. I really appreciated this approach to his clinic because I feel that adventure athletes often fall into the trap of purchasing fancy gear to make them faster when really all they need to do is train (and learn how to nav!). Here, the emphasis was on learning why the properties of each material/item make it suitable for certain conditions.
- There is no such thing as waterproof/breathable. Further: there is no such thing as waterproof, period (as it relates to outdoor gear). Andrew has written about this previously, but he's even more adamant in person. I was first keyed into this fact by Jill Homer, but hearing Andrew speak really drove things home. Basically, even if a material can keep 100% external water off of your skin, you will still get wet from internal water...sweat. Marketing copy promises otherwise, but it's wrong. More nerdy detail here and here.
- The lightest gear is the stuff you don't carry. Andrew brought a full kit of gear to each presentation to show the audience exactly which items he uses regularly. I was rather surprised - there wasn't anything fancy (well...except the custom packraft). Sure, his A-frame tarp was lightweight, and his cooking pot was titanium, but in general everything was pretty normal. Where Andrew really excels is not bringing things he doesn't need. Which brings me to my next observation...
- The more you know, the less you carry. Sure, it's fun to throw a bunch of stuff in a car, drive to the nearest state park, and have a good ol-fashioned sleepover under the stars. But for trips on the magnitude of thousands of miles, "I might need this in case..." will not cut it. Andrew uses extensive pre-trip research to whittle down his kit to exactly the items he will definitely need, and nothing more. He then further augments this pre-trip research with on-the-trail skills, such as campsite selection and route choice, to compliment the gear he is carrying.
- The things you carry should have more than one purpose. For example...Andrew's soft-sided water bottles serve as water storage, pillows, PFD-inserts, sleeping pads, and probably 6 other uses he didn't mention. Packrafts can double as shelter. Trekking poles are tarp/tent supports. Foot salve is also lip balm and body lube. There are no one-trick ponies in a Skurka pack.
|Kenai Fjords National Park, AK |
Another huge thing I learned on Saturday came from the audience. Early on in the presentation, Andrew asked the crowd to develop a hypothetical trip which he would use throughout the evening to illustrate gear selection. Being in St. Louis, we picked a 2-week hike of the Ozark Trail in November. Being from Colorado, Andrew wanted to know environmental conditions we were likely to encounter (temperatures, precipitation, useful daylight, ground cover, vegetation, sun exposure, water availability, wildlife & insects, remoteness, & natural hazards), so he asked us, the "locals". The answers he got back from the crowd were incredible in their variation. One person claimed temperatures in the 10s to 40s. Another claimed it could be 30s-60s. When asked about remoteness, one audience member said "it's pretty remote, the closest roads are at least 4 miles away" (the look on Andrew's face here was priceless). The disturbingly large variation in these responses underscored the necessity of proper research before packing for a trip, instead of relying on vague memories. In short, do your homework! (For the record, here is a link with historical highs/lows for November in Centerville, MO which is near the mid-point of the OT.)
If your city or surrounding area are close to a stop on Andrew's book tour, I highly recommend getting your butt in a seat and learning a thing or two. Even better, read his book beforehand so you know some non-redundant questions to ask!Pin It