“Do I really need a titanium spork?” and other poor-ish hiker problems

Why am I writing this? First, because there are days when I’d ogle at the ultralight, super-expensive gear of my group mates and wonder when I’d be able to afford those things. I borrowed a 1P Nemo Hornet and didn’t want to give it back. Haha! This brings me to #2: I’m perpetually on a budget, I cannot go gear shopping one day and just burn USD 500 for a tent. Whatever I have right now, I bought one by one by one.  So, this is for the people who are like me. LOL.

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I started this madness with an entry-level pair of Merrells bought after a spontaneous first hike chronicled here. Entry-level, yes, but I still didn’t find it cheap. That was Php 3,000+ on a pair of shoes I didn’t think I would use for the next two years.

Then I bought a pack (because it was Christmas and I just got my bonus haha), a Deuter Futura Pro 34 SL (at a sale price of about Php 4,000) as advised by that guy from Basekamp—he was dark and he looked toasted from all the hiking, ergo credible, so I followed his advice. I still use that pack until now. It has gone through multi-day hikes, tons of weather and trail abuse, but it’s showing no signs of falling apart.

Despite the ignorance from my early day-hiking days, I actually did one thing right: to buy two of the most important things needed by those new to the sport.

AND YES, mga bes, I am and would always be new to the sport. So learn with me.

Proper shoes and a proper pack, that’s all you need—in the meantime and because gear is expensive. I intend to list down the things you’ll have to beg, borrow, and buy as you progress, but let’s put it in categories first: 1. personal, 2. group equipment.

Also, this post is just part one and it talks about personal equipment. Buy them first, one by one

  • Shoes. There I said it. Each person would have his / her preference—high-, low-, mid-cut, level of protection, weight, aggressiveness of the lugs, etc. I say, choose what you want to compromise. I’ve maintained a taste for light and low-cut shoes because I want agility better than protection. Now, I use a Salomon S-Lab Sense for both hiking and trail running and I’m pretty darn happy with them. Truth, this shit is expensive, I sacrificed three weeks of gas- and beer- money for it. LOL.
Lugs, baby.

Other notes: Buy shoes at the end of the day, when your feet have already “expanded.” Try them out with socks, make sure your heel is in place and your toes are not jamming the toe box. I don’t want patay na kuko, they make me feel ugly. Lol.

  • Pack. Find the best fit. Try it out, make adjustments (hip, shoulder, sternum), walk around ROX to get a good feel of it. Wrong pack = nagmumurang shoulders = motherfucking upper body strain = very bad case of DOMS = VL = career going downhill. Haha. No seriously, spare your shoulders and let the hips do the work.

As for the size, mine is 34L+10. The longest I’ve gone with it is 4 days, 3 nights with personal and group equipment–and yes, including a tent. Just learn how to pack nicely.

  • Headlamp. My cheap TrueValue-bought Energizer headlamp works wonders. By cheap, I mean PHP 500 at 150 lumens, and it survived three days of rain in Kibungan, 4 days in Compostela Valley and about 5 trail races. But if you have money to buy those precious Black Diamond lamps, then by all means—pahiram and light up the trails with 300 lumens. If you are the type who does extended ‘day-hikes’ then this would come in handy.

Don’t rely on your phone’s flashlight, because my god, you need your phone to make calls in case shit hits the fan.

  • Sleeping bag, sleeping pad, malong. Nobody wants to sleep with you. Get your own “bed.” In truth, I never bothered to buy a sleeping pad, because my sleep system is uber simple.

Thermarest + malong / SOL bivvy / sleeping bag / liner? It depends, really.

Left to right. REI Vapor Black Travel Sack, temp rating of 13 degrees celsius, SOL Escape Bivvy, and malong. By sheer pack size, my favorite is the malong.

I would usually bring just one of these items to cut the weight and bulk. When I went to Pulag though, it was a (borrowed) pad + SOL Bivvy (USD 60). Okay na pag makapal ang balat. Besides, there are some nights when I don’t even reach the tent because of drunkenness.

When in doubt, check the temperature rating. 😀

  • Mess kit and knife. When I was a BMC trainee, I just use Lock&Lock. Then somebody gave me a generic collapsible bowl. Another person gave me a collapsible cup. That was it. And an aluminum spork from Basekamp that was just about PHP 175. My knife is hand-me-down Humvee.

Yung totoo, do you really need a titanium spork at the moment?

  • Water container / bottle. Bladder or a trusty Nalgene bottle. Useless note: I don’t use a bladder. It’s so hard to refill, so hard to gauge consumption. To date, I use a 400-ml Nalgene + 2 160 ml squeeze bottles that fit in my side pocket (sometimes, a 330 ml Gatorade)

And a 750 ml aluminum bottle for the alcohol! Hahaha!

  • First aid. Loperamide, mga bes, hahaha! In addition to the usual wound care shit like cotton, antiseptic wipes, povidone iodine (Betadine), gauze + bandage + dressing. In our BFA class, we were taught to use a triangular bandage, so it’s now my weapon of choice. Paracetamol, Ibuprofen, oral rehydration salts, anti-histamine, etc.

Bring your personal meds and leave the c-splints and scalpels to the team medic. Haha!

  • Others. Groundsheet, toiletries (please don’t bring a whole bottle of lotion), whistle, poncho, and well, clothes (remember cotton = death cloth, use synthetics, dri fit). And extra underwear, because wet brip x wet bra = miserable.
Cold weather clothing. Columbia packable shell, base layer, Uniqlo UL down, and Uniqlo fleece. The most expensive one is the shell at about Php 4,000, but I’m sure that’s with a hefty mark up.

So that’s that for personal equipment. I’ll write another post for group equipment soon (stoves, tents, etc.) and another one for UL with the help of Pops (Cecile Morella) but I’ll leave you with this:

My swim coach, Noy Basa, once said, you don’t have to buy the best, lightest equipment to drastically improve your (triathlon) time. Upgrade the athlete before the gear.

Same goes for us. Upgrade the mountaineer before the gear. Cheers!

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The making of mountain feasts (Part 2)

Sorry this took a while!

This is part 2 of the mountain cooking series first published here—written and co-developed with Hadjie Tecson and Dekz Macapagal. Bear with me because this is going to be a very long discussion. Ha!

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Pre-cooking meat

So you’ve done your meal plan, done the groceries, and you’re ready to pack. Wait, not yet—you really can’t throw that raw sirloin in your bag and expect it to smell good after 6 hours in the bus and 12 hours of walking. Gross.

There’s a ritual called pre-cooking and you have to do it to extend the life of your meats. I’ve seen many friends pre-cook and their methods differ in little ways. Here’s a simple way of doing it:

  • Cut your meat up to serving pieces and wash it thoroughly
  • Put it in a pot with salt and pepper (sometimes vinegar and all the seasonings you want in, including an old sock if it works for you lol) and a bit of water. Fire up the stove, let it boil, and let all the water evaporate
  • Let it cool for a bit, then pack it in a plastic bag
  • Freeze the damn thing
  • Once you take it out of the freezer, wrap it in old newspapers or brown paper bags

See! Easy enough to follow even for a kitchen idiot like me. Now this is as far as it goes, because the only person who can eat what I cook is, well, me. Yay to self-sufficiency!

Packing

Dry foods like rice, pasta, and instant mixes like Quaker oats, Nesvita, and Crab & Corn soups are so easy to load. Food from scratch—a bit trickier.

  • Rice. Don’t let one person carry the 2-kg load, please. When we buy rice, we usually ask the store attendant to split it into 500-gram packs. This is so we can distribute it among the members of the group.
  • Meats. See up.
  • Vegetables. I think it’s important to note that you shouldn’t refrigerate vegetables, because once you do so, they have to stay refrigerated. Mesh bags have always worked for me in terms of keeping the moisture out, but it does leave a weird vegetable-smell in my pack. Bahaha!
  • Eggs. Sometimes, not all of them get to the campsite in one piece. If they break, they also cause one big heck of a mess, so I still put them in a plastic before dumping them to the egg holder or before burying them in rice. That 6-pc egg-holder, I got from Daiso at less than a hundred.

  • Alcohol. I implore you, don’t carry that big ass bottle of empoy. Invest in an aluminum bottle, drink light, and drink happy.

Stoves

There’s a stove for every occasion—and a stove for every mountaineer for that matter. Because my friend Hadjie is a gourmet-type mountaineer (please, forgive the Tokyo Ghoul reference hahaha), he prefers liquid multi-fuel stoves that enable good flame control and the option for simmering. Samples are MSR WhisperLite, XGK, Kovea Booster Dual Max, etc.

Good, high-output stoves, of course, come with a price. They’re big and heavy—and they are also really pricey. Haha! So, some / most of us would rather buy those that run on butane (like our other AMCI friend, Cecile Morella, who’s a fan of Kovea Spider) and top mount stoves like the MSR Pocket Rocket.

Finally, if you really plan on cooking big meals, please drop the alcohol stove and your solid fuel stove. They are only good for boiling water.

We can discuss this all day long (I sat in AMCI’s 6-hour BMC lecture and practicals on stoves last year. This was a lecture on stove operations ALONE. Six hours. Tried all of the damn fire-making machines, while trying not to burn my hair. So far, okay naman, I lived to tell the tale). HAHAHA!

Special thanks to Derek Sta. Ana for the photos. That’s his collection–because he is an adik like that.

Practice Cooking!!!

Okay. This is it. When Hadjie asked what recipes I wanted to share here, he just had to qualify: may sabaw, sauce, or dry? Dry is easy because frying should be easy. Right? Right? Haha. So he gave sabaw and sauce recipes to practice on:

Tinolang Manok

Ingredients

  • Chicken (without bones, pre-cooked)
  • Sayote/Papaya
  • Dahon ng sili
  • Ginger
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Salt/patis
  • Pepper to taste

Procedure:

  1. Sauté ginger, garlic and onion
  2. Add sayote/papaya and water, bring to boil.
  3. Add pre-cooked chicken, continue simmering for at least 2-3 minutes, until sayote/papaya is tender.
  4. Add dahon ng sili, salt, pepper, to taste. You can use chicken cubes if you want.
  5. Remove from heat. And serve hot.

Kalderetang Baka

Ingredients:

  • Beef (Kalitiran)
  • Potato
  • Carrot
  • Bell Pepper
  • Tomato Sauce
  • Liver Spread
  • Coconut Milk
  • Tomato Onion Garlic
  • Salt/Pepper to taste

Procedure:

  1. Sauté garlic, onion, tomato
  2. add pre-cooked beef, potato, and carrots.
  3. Add tomato sauce, and pour in water, bring to boil.
  4. Add liver spread and continue simmering until vegetables are tender and the sauce is reduced and thicker.
  5. Add bell pepper, coconut milk, salt, and pepper, simmer for another 2 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat and serve hot!

Ready na? Whoooo p*t**na that was mahaba! Good luck mountain gourmets! And send me photos of your mountain feasts, please!

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