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All the Gear a Guy Could Want

I like gear. I collect gear with an almost rabid enthusiasm, and I almost always have a place to put it.

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by Ryan Jordan | 2009-10-06 00:00:00-06

All the Gear a Guy Could Want

Editor's Note: This feature originally ran in Issue 3 of the BackpackingLight Print Magazine.
"Store your gear in a big plastic box," writes Matt Colón in his "Get Out Now!" article.

His favorite box: a 110-liter Rubbermaid storage bin. The presumption is that organization and tidiness of your gear store will decrease the time required to plan a backcountry trek, improving the chances that you'll actually take one.

I started out with one of these boxes, full of all the gear a guy could ever want.

But my duties as a product tester eventually moved me to two, and then three boxes, which eventually occupied a closet. Finally, I invested in a box caddy, which of course expanded to hold twelve boxes and now enjoyed its own space in the garage. It too, held all the gear a guy could ever want.

When the prospect of adding another twelve-box unit to the garage threatened Stephanie's ability to park her car inside on those negative-thirty-degree Montana winter days, I was demoted - no, wait, promoted! - to my very own off-site storage unit. This, of course, greatly simplified matters. When it came time to prepare for a trip, enjoy some time alone, read a book, or just kick back and drink a glass of milk, all I had to do was drive a few blocks to my storage unit and enjoy any one of these activities surrounded by, what else? That's right: all the gear a guy could ever want.

Until the storage unit got full.

Backpacking gear, day-hiking gear, winter backpacking gear, ski gear (randonee, tele, and alpine), pontoon boats, fly rods, sleds (and pulks - why, yes, of course there is a difference), and more.

So I moved into a warehouse. And then a bigger warehouse. At one point, my office occupied the top floor of the warehouse and I was again surrounded by... all the gear a guy could ever want.

And for 90% of my trips, I fit what I actually need into a thirty-liter backpack. And once I'm on the trail... it holds all the gear a guy could ever want.


"All the Gear a Guy Could Want," by Ryan Jordan. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2009-10-06 00:00:00-06.


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All the Gear a Guy Could Want
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Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
All the Gear a Guy Could Want on 10/06/2009 14:46:14 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

All the Gear a Guy Could Want

Kier Selinsky
(Kieran) - F

Locale: Seattle, WA
Free Storage on 10/06/2009 18:15:10 MDT Print View

Feel free to use my house for overflow storage, I won't charge you a dime ;)

Doug Johnson
(djohnson) - MLife

Locale: Washington State
Re: Free Storage on 10/06/2009 23:34:15 MDT Print View

AWESOME! I've been wondering how large your storage had become- I remember the storage unit!

My gear grew to a closet, then two, then 2 1/2 plus food storage in a big section of the pantry. Then babies were born and my gear got punted to the garage.

So now I have most of the garage for backpacking, mountaineering, and bike gear. The canoe is outside and the food is still in the pantry. Unfortunately, it took a WHOLE lot of eBay to "whittle" it down to this, but I'm proud that I don't have a warehouse. I guess...I really miss those extra 7 tents. Can I visit Ryan?




Edited by djohnson on 10/06/2009 23:38:40 MDT.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: All the Gear a Guy Could Want on 10/07/2009 01:36:04 MDT Print View

For quite a while I worked to tailor each trip perfectly. I had no where near Ryan's collection, but maybe approached Doug's. I slaved tireless over a multi-parameter spreadsheet. I was forever tweaking the spreadsheet based on what I learned on previous trips. "Ah, this bag + those clothing are good down to temp X so I could leave Y behind." Etc. I would enter expected conditions and it would tell me what to take. Unlikely Ryan... my job has nothing to do with the outdoors... so this fascination was taking away from my vocation.

After several years, I decided that managing all that stuff was taking too much of my energy and my money. I decided it would be OK to carry a light load rather than the absolute lightest load I would be happy with. I decided I wouldn't spend any "new money". Any new things had to be paid for by selling "old stuff" enforced by only buying gear using my paypal credit card that got refilled by my ebay selling. I started doing with my gear collection what I do with my packing list. I started asking "Have I used this in the last appropriate season? If the answer was no, then it was sold on ebay or here in the swap forum. I now do this quarterly. The slight exception is that I maintain a complete "loaner kit" to help introduce friends to a light weight approach.

I struggle taking the minimalist too far as well. I found myself searching for the one perfect X which would work in every condition and situation. For example, I have a Ghost quilt and a WM Versalite. Could I sell both and get the perfect quilt that would be adequate for all 4 seasons. And then I realized I was back to obsessing about gear rather than getting out and enjoying the wonders of the world. I know that I don't have this completely licked... For example, I still feel the drawn to replace my three most commonly used shelters with a MLD DuoMid + inner nest. So far though, I have been able to remember I have much to be thankful for life, to be content with a delightful kit, and to rejoice in the time I spent on the trail.

So now it's easy for me to take those opportunistic trips. I can be out the door in minutes if I learn that I am free for the next period of time.. be it 24 hours, or a week.


Edited by verber on 10/08/2009 23:08:31 MDT.

Jeff Antig

Locale: Pacific Northwest
The moral of the story on 10/07/2009 03:45:06 MDT Print View

The moral of the story here is not to see who could build the largest gear collection but rather, to speculate our wants and needs. As Americans, it is easy to be desensitized by our role of consumers in a way that buying new things is just a matter of expediency. It IS very nice to have a variety of gear and several models of certain items tailored for different occasions. However, there has has to be a change in the modus vivendi to acknowledge that wants are and will always be unlimited. The desire to buy new gear is unlimited. The need to buy new gear, however, could be determined by the condition of the preexisting article of equipment and whether or not it has been rendered obsolete in the development of more technologically advanced gear. Rather than sparking a debate attacking the points that I have addressed, lets take the time to speculate our habits.

Jonathan Ryan
(Jkrew81) - F - M

Locale: White Mtns
Re: Re: All the Gear a Guy Could Want on 10/07/2009 05:44:41 MDT Print View

1000% agree with your comments, taking the same approach on this end as well. My favorite items are the ones that see 4 season use. I as well cannot justify buying somthing new for the sole purpose of it taking 2 oz's off my back. I would rather go for a run and get in better shape to carry what I do have.

FYI, I was starting to feel bad about my tiny gear closet so you guys just made my day!!!!

Edited by Jkrew81 on 10/07/2009 10:43:15 MDT.

Damien Tougas
(dtougas) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Gaspé Peninsula
Backpacking Light - Living Heavy? on 10/07/2009 06:26:49 MDT Print View

Wow. There is some serious amounts of gear there. My goal when acquiring gear has been to minimize the amount of gear I have for all conditions while still attempting to maintain light-weight principles. Just like I don't want unnecessary gear in my pack, I don't want to have to store it in my home either. So, yeah, I end up with stuff being a little heavier than necessary but for me, going light is not just about backpacking but living too. Of course, I am not a product tester (actually, that isn't completely true, I am a product tester for minimalist footwear) so I suppose that makes a difference too.

Richard DeLong
(Legkohod) - MLife

Locale: Eastern Europe / Caucasus
Constraints on total gear volume on 10/07/2009 07:22:44 MDT Print View

I might find myself in a similar position, thanks to my gearophilia, but I am forced to keep my gear collection pared down to a minimum -- all my permanent belongings including current gear must be transportable by international airplane flight without incurring extra baggage costs.

I have cycled through a lot of different gear, sometimes helping people overseas buy it and thus getting to see a lot of designs. But I must limit myself to just 3 shelters, a few UL backpacks, 2 bags, 3 stoves, etc. that must suffice not only for myself, but for my wife and I as well. This has made me think carefully about which gear is the most versatile and practical. Thanks to the gear forum and eBay, one can try new solutions at relatively low cost (if you sell them back later).

IMO those garages and storage units are just crying out for a garage sale :)

Unknown abc
(edude) - F
"All the Gear a Guy Could Want" on 10/07/2009 08:57:05 MDT Print View

I wanna see some pics of Ryan Jordan's house so I can drewl all over my desk and keyboard, LOL =p

William Webber
(micwebbpl) - F
I keep thinking we'll get to the "perfect gear" level on 10/07/2009 12:03:19 MDT Print View

I certainly don't obsess about my polo shirts for work, my tee shirts, or my work slacks. LLBean and Lands End have been reliable sources for the last THIRTY SEVEN years. So I'm not obsessive compulsive.

Except I am about hiking gear.

But I'm not sure whether my obsession is due to me making poor choices, due to technological improvements, manufacturer/designer flaws, due to an evolving market, or due to different ultralight niches.


1. Poor choices: not knowing how to layer properly and what layers are ideal. Not knowing how important zippers are vs. how important saving weight is. Thus I have some layers that are too thick and too hot, some that are too thin and too cool, some that are just right but don't have a zipper for fine tuning, some that are just right for heat regulation but DO have a zipper when I don't want one in that particular set-up/combination. Fortunately I can wear the trail cast-offs as casual wear.

2. Technological improvements. Capilene to odor resistant Capilene to wool. Some improvements aren't really improvements, like Patagonia's obsessive changes to the fabric panels on their baselayer. Do we really need different fabric textures on different parts of our upper body?

3. Manufacturer/designer flaws. The biggest was years of short shirt tails from Patagonia, forcing me to buy one size larger so they wouldn't pop out of my pants, until finally they made the base layer shirt tails long enough. Also, light wind jackets with extra long "cylist" style rear tails, making them goofy for casual wear. The soft-shell craze in general.

4. Evolving market. Let's face it, a lot of us have a lot of ultra-light gear because it is a new niche and manufacturers and users are feeling their way into what works and what doesn't.

5. Ultralight niches. Divide weather into 30 degree niches and you will probably pack different kits for each temperature range. It isn't as simple as just summer and winter. Factor in likelihood of wind (and its chill); allow for rain while hiking vs. rain at camp; sun; camping without a tent; with a tarp; in a tent-cabin (High Sierra camps). There are a lot of factors and while everything may fit in a 30 liter pack, it requires careful forethought to choose the right items. To a bystander the items we choose may look remarkably similar, but to us we know how each item works together and whether the situation we anticipate is the one we bought it for, or not.

So my sympathy to those with big inventories that get whittled down to 30 liter bags.

And one tip: it's impossible to remember what you have. Make a master list on the computer by reasonable categories and use key words so you can use a simple word processing search function to find stuff. Otherwise, like me, you may spend more time sorting out the stuff you need - and still miss some items - than the drive to your trail head.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
THANK YOU! on 10/08/2009 14:13:44 MDT Print View

Thanks Ryan and all posters. Now I don't feel so guilty at being able to fully outfit four backpackers.

BTW, Those clear Rubbermaid boxes are great!

F. Thomas Matica
(ftm1776) - F

Locale: Vancouver, WA
Post Petroleum Gear????? on 10/11/2009 15:30:11 MDT Print View

I love all of this light gear and it is as much fun for me to fiddle around at home with it as it is to go out and use it.

I'm 63 years old and told myself years ago that I had to go lighter in order to keep going out at all and the new technology has made that possible in spades!

But one question that comes to me as I'm standing out in the wilderness is what would my camp look like if there were no petroleum based products in it. At least the barest minimum of them. Like trade in my polypro stuff for wool, use a wood burner or no stove at all?? Down is not petro, but mostly everything else is.

I guess if you ride in on horse it would not be a problem.

How much of all of our gear could evolve into non-petroleum based????? Would it be too heavy or not??

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Post Petroleum Gear????? on 10/11/2009 17:18:15 MDT Print View

> How much of all of our gear could evolve into non-petroleum based?
ALL of it.

The reason petroleum is used as a feedstock for many synthetics is purely one of cost. Other manufacturing paths are available, just dearer. Yes, they will happen.


Charles S. Forstall
(csforstall) - F

Locale: The Appalachian Foothills of TN
Ultralight Living on 10/12/2009 08:56:21 MDT Print View

I could never hold down that much gear. I have to make a lot of gear decisions based on reviews since I really don't have too much extra room for unused/ "tinkering" gear. The whole single guy in the Army thing puts a hurt on me for space.

Out of curiosity wasn't this "Ultralight Economies of Scale" run as a featured article? (

Kinda interesting to see the highbrow vs lowbrow ultralight gear fanatics go at it, makes for some fireworks at times.


Edited by csforstall on 10/12/2009 08:58:27 MDT.

Thomas Burns
(nerdboy52) - MLife

Locale: "Alas, poor Yogi.I knew him well."
Gear-o-rama on 10/12/2009 09:35:38 MDT Print View

I'd like to thank all the posters here, especially the ones who added images of their gear collections.

I showed my spouse the thread, and now I'm not so much in the doghouse for spending "only" $3,000 lightening up during the past two years or so. :>D



Thom Darrah
(thomdarrah) - MLife

Locale: Southern Oregon
All the Gear a Guy Could Want on 10/12/2009 10:23:06 MDT Print View

Many of the synthetics are now being made from, or partialy made from, recycled products which is a good thing. You can hold your head high knowing you are doing your part.

F. Thomas Matica
(ftm1776) - F

Locale: Vancouver, WA
Corny Pen on 10/15/2009 16:28:31 MDT Print View

Yeah, I have a pen from my credit union made out of plastic from corn stock! And who was it, Luther Burbank??, who made all kinds of materials from soy beans?? Even my diesel Jetta was originally Otto Diesel's dream of an internal combustion engine that could run on non-petroleum fuels.
There is hope in innovation.

Edited by ftm1776 on 10/15/2009 16:29:01 MDT.

Kathy A Handyside
(earlymusicus) - M

Locale: Southeastern Michigan
All the Gear a Woman Could Want on 10/18/2009 19:55:00 MDT Print View

I live in a small house - 750 square feet - so my limitation of storage space demands that I make my purchases with a lot of forethought. I spend time looking for things that will each serve several purposes. I guess that's in keeping with the lightweight philosophy. My space is devoted to music, books/movies, and the outdoors: my piano and harpsichord, my DVDs/CDs, books and my outdoor gear (backpacking, xc skis, and a mountain bike). Feeding my soul is more important to me than keeping up with the Joneses or trying to see how much stuff I can accumulate.

Just my own personal philosophy.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: All the Gear a Woman Could Want on 10/18/2009 20:02:23 MDT Print View

"Feeding my soul is more important to me than keeping up with the Joneses or trying to see how much stuff I can accumulate.

Just my own personal philosophy."

It's an excellent philosophy, Kathy. Rich in experience and spiritual development. Doesn't take all that much stuff, does it? May your journey be long and full. :)

Kathy A Handyside
(earlymusicus) - M

Locale: Southeastern Michigan
Re; All the Gear A Woman Could Want on 10/18/2009 20:20:48 MDT Print View

Thank you, Tom - you, too! :)

Scott Chandler
(blueklister) - M

Locale: Northern California
The closet on 10/20/2009 21:40:54 MDT Print View

I got lucky when we moved into a house with a couple of spare bedrooms and I got one of the closets and my wife got the other. I only have as much gear as I can comfortably fit in there, and if I adopt a new piece of gear that usually ends up going on trips with me, the old stuff heads for ebay or the Salvation Army. It's a great system. Get something new, put out something old to make room. That works for skis out in the garage too. Just enough hooks for all the different types of skis I need (one pair for when the barometric pressure is above 29.7 and another pair for when it's below... at least that's what I tell my wife when she asks.)

Michael Sagehorn
(msagehorn) - F
gear in a bucket on 10/25/2009 00:05:37 MDT Print View

When I moved I was confronted with a blend of gearfrom 28 years of outdoor hobbies, military equipment, outdoor education and Scout leading.

The Scout gear went to the troop, gave away a few things, and yes even tossed a few things. The system I have now is putting all equipment into a series of covered Home Depot buckets.

Bucket 1- Has everything for a trailhead camp in 3 season weather supported by my Subaru including spares and repair tools including fuel

Bucket 2-Has everything less food, water, and sleeping bag for backpacking that will be transfered from the bucket into my pack.

On most trips I throw both buckets in the back, select a sleeping bag and a pad, pack some food and a small cooler and steer the Subaru to the trailhead.

When I get back to the car, the two empty buckets filled with nearby stream or lake water hopefully near where I parked make a serviceable dump shower before getting into the car.