“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 1)

This is a two-part piece on the super basics of mountain cooking and meal planning, written and co-developed with two of AMCI Mountaineering Club’s masters of supreme outdoor cookery: Dexter Macapagal and Hadjie Tecson. I shit you not—if you climb with them, you’re walking down a bit heavier.

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I was once a firm believer that you will survive a night up in the mountains for as long as you know how to boil water and shove a pack of instant noodles in a pot. And that, if it all came down to survival, there’s always an easy-open can of Century Tuna (and under the worst circumstances, a sachet of adobo-flavored Ulalammm and carinderia-bought rice).

Dekz and his sisig + booze. Hah!

It was only in June last year during the BMC season that I was able to taste tinola cooked from scratch—up on our Naguiling campsite, thanks to a batchmate. Lo and behold, a shocking revelation: you can eat well on high altitudes. Haha!

Here are some basic notes.

  • In the mountains, food is fuel. You’ll need to survive the next 90-degree vertical or the impending 1,000-meter ascent. If you’re not loaded, you’re not going far.
  • Meal planning. It’s that fun and tedious process of writing down and prepping up for what you will eat overnight or in the next couple of days. If you want to know how simple it is, let me summarize it: 1. count how many days you’d be up climbing, 2. count how many meals you will eat for that whole duration, 3. decide what to cook, 4. list down and buy the ingredients, 5. start packing, baby!

Ah, well, yeah easier said than done.

  • It’s actually dependent on a few factors:

Spoilage rate of the food. The quick guide is chicken before pork before beef—it translates to tinola, before sinigang na baboy, before kaldereta.

I kid you not. We make room for nice things when we climb. ❤ Photo by Rio Hernandez

Availability of water. It’s a wise decision not to cook too much soup when the water source is hours away and you would have to lug 4 liters of water on your way up.

Cooking and preparation time. Consider this—you are tired and you just want to crash right after you get to the campsite. Make the food prep as painless as possible and the eating quick. Haha!

Weight and bulk. I don’t like carrying a lot of canned things. They are heavy, they pack big (I’m small and I carry a 34+10L backpack, gets?) 😀

Preferences and restrictions of group members. Allergies, vegans, vegetarians, catholic friends on a no-meat Lenten sacrifice. Ask the members of the group what they prefer before meal planning. You don’t want a hangry person on a climb.

  • Allocating rice. There’s a simple and a complicated way to do it. Haha! The simple way is via guesswork: just to pack x kilos of rice, cook it up the mountains, and bring down what’s left. NOPE. Don’t do that. Hahaha! Here’s a better formula:

A = [(N/6) x M) x 0.5] + X

N = number of persons

M = number of meals with rice

A = amount of rice

X = margin of extra rice (1/4 or 1/2 kilograms depending on the group’s appetite)

Compute: 9 persons going on an overnight camp, three meals (dinner, breakfast, packed lunch on trail)

A = [(9/6) x 3) x 0.5] + 0

A = [(1.5) x 3) x 0.5] + 0

A = [4.5 x 0.5] + 0

A = [2.25] + 0

A=2.25 kilos of rice to be brought for the climb

Or .75 kilos to be cooked per group meal

Now you ask, can we not just make an estimate? Sure you can, but computing so that you have just enough will reduce the amount of excesses you’ll have to bring down.

  • Let’s try dat shit

So, how do we execute a meal plan? Let’s assume you’re going for an overnight hike at Mt. Tapulao. You are 6 in the group, and you will cook three meals: dinner (day 1), breakfast (day 2), lunch (day 2, which you’ll have to cook in the morning and eat on trail). Nobody has food restrictions. There is a water source near the Bunkhouse (alt. campsite).

Day 1 (Dinner) Day 2 (Breakfast) Day 2 (Lunch)
Rice Rice Rice
Tinolang manok Corned beef Bistek tagalog
Coffee Scrambled eggs
Vodkaaaaa ❤ Coffee
The Shopping List
Staples For the foodangs  
Camp Tissue Chicken breasts 1/2 kilo, cut to serving pieces and pre-cooked
Rollo Sayote 2 medium pieces
Cooking oil Garlic 2 cloves
Butane Onions 2 (for tinola and bistek)
Trash bags (for group trash) Pepper leaves 1/2 cup
Patis / fish sauce 1-2 tablespoons
Chicken cubes 1
Corned beef 2 cans
Eggs 6
Beef 1/2 kilo sliced thin
Rice 2 kilos, packaged in three at .67 kilos per pack
Coffee 10 sachets
All the damn seasonings (toyo, suka, salt, pepper, allspice, cumin seed powder lalalalala) (don’t buy, steal from your mother’s kitchen)
Juice 5 sachets (depending on how long the inuman is going to be)
Smirnoff Orange / Absolut Kurant 750 ml bottles x 2 (or more)

Now that’s super basic. I’ve seen friends cook prawns with gata and kare-kare. They are mountain cooking gods.

Part 2 is coming up in a few days. 😀

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