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Camping still an option for city slickers

By Lisa Schumaier
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, November 13, 2003

There is something completely new available for every Tucson hipster and scene-ster. It does not take place downtown. The fun does not end at 1 a.m. There will not be a feature performance by some indie rock band because the music of the outdoors is constant melody, and also less whiny than any touring group. The Southwest promises incredible outdoor experiences. The best part is that tons of adventures are only miles away from the university. Many of us could benefit from sleeping on solid ground. Without the heavy Indian tapestries that conceal our bedroom windows, we will wake with the sun. Forget the urine washes we call sidewalks in the city and begin at a trailhead with the goal in mind to reach the summit by noon.

First-time camper's checklist:

  • Water and/or Water Purifier
  • Camp Stove or Matches
  • Layers:
    • Non-cotton undershirt (Patagonia long underwear)
    • Fleece mid-layer
    • Rain Proof Outer Shell
  • First Aid Kit
  • Sleeping Pad (also offers warmth on a cold ground)
  • LED Head Lamp: Princeton Tech's Aurora, $29 Pots/Pans
  • It will take a little preparation, but this guide is designed to get you started. Just like the limitless amount of hiking trails, there is also a limitless amount of hiking gear. But, since I have worked in outdoor retail for over four years, I have learned to separate the bullshit gear from the "you will die if you don't pack this" gear. I am not offering options here because I believe this stuff is the best in the West. I do give some advice on gear in general so that when you are shopping around you will be able to call out sales people if they attempt to scam you. Everything mentioned can be bought at Summit Hut. The store does not offer all of my favorite brands, but most of them. It seems like it is biased about certain gear as well, leaving the rest of the imposters out in the cold.

    Since it is getting a tad more nipply outside, you will want a three-season tent. There really is no such thing as a four-season tent, but some tents will say "three seasons convertible four." This just means that the three-season holds snow better if you get caught in a storm. I recommend Mountain Hardwear's Lightwedge 3. It sleeps three comfortably and, for all the couples out there, it allows for romance with room to roll around. The setup is simple. Most tents have adapted a clip design, which means that you do not have to shove the poles through nylon sleeves. Instead, the poles are on the outside of the tent and rely on carabiner-style plastic clips. Two sky vents make for excellent stargazing, and also the fly is longer in the front so you have extra rain protection when entering and leaving the tent. It is a very affordable tent in its class at $250.

    As winter takes over, a warmer bag is necessary as well. I recommend Mountain Hardwear again. The Tallac 20 degree down bag is well worth the $150. Do not settle for anything other than a down bag. People will try to tell you that synthetic is better if it gets wet, but you are screwed for the night if your bag gets wet anyway. Also, so many down bags have excellent water repellent fabric. If a down bag says "20 degrees," it will be warm in 20-degree weather, which is not true for synthetic bags that state the same. Down bags will pack tighter and generally weigh less, too. You don't have to worry if you are vegan either. Using down feathers does not harm animals; it just rips every single hair from their bodies.

    It is time to pack your gear and head for Prison Camp. This is a developed campsite located at the base of Mount Lemmon, around mile marker eight or nine. Offering great four-mile hikes like the Bug Spring or Milagrosa Ridgetrail, the site is good for beginners who only have their Converse sneakers to hike in. Now that you have a sleeping bag and a tent, you are ready to spend a night out in the wilderness - only to realize that you need more than a sleeping bag and a tent. But camping is about roughing it, and, even though you have escaped the academic environment, you are still in an environment that incites you to learn skills that so many lack, like how to survive outside the coffee shop.

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