Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Conquer the Mountains With Conquer!

Bleh. Cheesy title. Anyway, I just wanted to keep track of what I started collecting--hiking gear!

First is one of the items I deem seriously essential, the backpack. This device of synthetic material will contain everything else you need in order to survive convenently in the mountains. Take note, I said survive conveniently. Well that's because man can survive even without one. He needs a computer. Haha, bad joke!

Continuing, here is what I currently use--a Conquer Navigator 35! I bought this for just around ~Php2k in the Conquer Mountaineering Shop in Robinson's Pioneer. I used this in our weekend get-away to Anawangin Cove, Zambales.

Conquer Navigator 35 (front)

Conquer Navigator 35 (back)

Conquer Navigator 35 (side)

In looking for a backpack, here are the factors I take into account:

  • Capacity. This basically determines how much you can bring throughout your stay in the mountains. Think water, food rations, clothing, shelter, utilities, etc. Almost everything.

  • Convenience. How the bag comfortably fits your back is how I describe this. Check the shoulder straps, the pad that touches your back, the form factor. You won't last an hour climbing if you keep on fidgeting with your turtleshell backpack! It pays to have something you can just leave in your back without any worries. The key is to let the bag hug you to keep your hands free. You may need to use your hands for urgent matters like balancing along the trail, holding onto trees for support, or even holding your lover's hand for the emotional support! Hehe. Kidding aside, another thing to consider is accessibility. Reaching out for a sip of water from your tumbler shouldn't take long. The same goes when you need to munch on a few trail snacks. Remember, easy access is convenient. You would drag the entire troop down and cause delays if you didn't keep this in mind.

  • Material. It would really help if the backpack is durable enough to stand against the rocks and harsh vegetations in the mountains, and water-resistant/proof to protect the stuff inside from the rain. A water-resistant/proof bag will also spare you the extra water weight the bag absorbs.

The following are the good-to-have features I look for in a backpack:

  • Compressibility. Who wants to bring a bulky backpack anyway? For this, look out for the compression straps. These will prevent shaking and it will keep your backpack solid throughout the hike.

  • Sternum Strap. On rough trails, a shoulder strap falling off your shoulder is one thing you wouldn't want to happen. For one, this will force you to use your hands to hold your luggage while traversing the trail--we don't want that, do we? Another is, when you're carrying a backpack to last a few days, it sure will be very heavy and could probably throw you off balance. Just hope it isn't a steep slope. The sternum strap will do the job of keeping the shoulder straps on your shoulders.

  • Hipbelt. This thing will make your backpack hug you tighter. Remember, be one with the baaag...

  • Mesh Compartments. Getting stuff wet is inevitable. Mesh compartments are located in the outer parts of the backpack so you can put the wet stuff there to drip. Some bags have mesh linings in the bottoms of the side pouches, that's pretty useful too. I put my water containers there.

  • Utility Pouch. I'm what you can say an organized guy when it comes to utilities. I want them where I expect them to be when I need them. Most bags have lots of zippers/pockets/pouches in the outer compartment. That's good enough for my knife, flashlight, etc.

  • Easy Access Pouch. In big backpacks, they have what they call the top load. Daypacks don't have it. Instead, they have a small compartment in the top part of the bag, I call it the Easy Access Pouch. That's where I put the trail food, some first aid stuff, and other essential stuff.

  • Duffel-type Main Compartment. I grew up using a Duffel bag in school, so I'm accustomed to having something like this in a backpack. My reasons for wanting this is:

    1. you can easily open/close the main compartment

    2. it'll make the bag flexible because you can adjust the volume of the compartment

    3. zippers are easily thrown off the zipper-track

My Navigator 35 is a daypack, the 35 stands for "35L Capacity" that's good enough for 3-4days in the mountains. Before I bought it, I first checked how big it would be when stuffed. Then I inspected the manufacturing, it was water resistant and had durable layers. It was an internal frame-type so it had two aluminum bars in the backpad. Internal frame backpacks are most suited to fit you because they have the aluminum bars shaped just right for your back.

Then I tried the shoulder straps. It had S-shaped straps and was very comfy. The sternum strap was flexible and strong enough to hold the shoulder straps. To add, there were also load lifter straps! How convenient, you can adjust the position of the bulk of the backpack by adjusting the load lifter straps--adds to the comfyness. Hehe. After that, I tried the compression straps to see if it didn't strain too much. Two of the compression straps were connected to the bladder pouch, so it adds to the coverage being compressed. I don't use bladders anyway.

The hipbelt was already comfy by itself, but the lumbar pad was awesome! Everything fit right! So I then checked the outer compartment, to see if there were significant pockets I could put my utilities in. "Lotsa pockets!," I thought. It was what they call a technical backpack, for all the pockets to keep you organized. There was a small compartment right above the utility pouch, the thing I call the Easy Access Pouch, and it was spacious enough for the trail food.

Oh there was a secret compartment in the bottom too! It houses the bag's cover against strong rains. That's another bonus I appreciate well. Other bags don't have that, you'll have to purchase a separate one for approximately Php500. And as you can see in the back view of the bag, there's a "Hydro Hole" patch there. The tube to the bladder passes through that hole. But then again, I don't use bladders.

Right... Everything was just right, except for the main compartment. It was a zipper-type! Who cares? I just have to live with it. I doubt there are still backpack manufacturers who make Duffel-type ones. Besides, I'm getting used to it already. And the value? Very good. Other brands cost over 150% of my Navigator and still don't provide what my mine can. Daypacks shouldn't be overrated, don't you think so?

Here are the links to the pictures on the Anawangin Cove adventure:

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