Backpacking in the High Sierra is one of the overpowering joys in life. Luckily I get a chance to do it now and then. My trips mostly include hiking in a little ways and setting up camp for a few days. Usually I’m only gone for up to three nights at a time, so traveling deep into the wilderness is out of range. Also, as you travel higher up the hill, campfire restrictions begin to come into play. Mostly with no fires at all allowed above 9,000 or 10,000 feet. And I sure do enjoy a camp with a fire to raise the spirits.
So what I do is head in and set up a base camp from where day trips are set out from. This is a good way to get a feel for and explore an area. Really immerse yourself in the place to let the mountains soak in and flush out whatever ails you.
Usually these day trips are fine and I am able to return to camp by dark to enjoy the campfire life and everything it entails. But what if something were to happen where I couldn’t make it back to camp that night. I don’t know, say a slip and fall, broken limb, severe rainstorm, chupacabra attack! Whatever. I would surely like to be able to carry enough gear on these day hikes to ensure my returning home.
Summer in the Sierra is usually still fairly hot. Even at elevation if you’re not in the shade. So sweaty backs are the standard, especially with a daypack to hold in the heat. So I’ve been leaning more towards a belt pouch setup that might keep me cooler, thus reducing the water loss from my body due to perspiration.
I’ve also found that at the end of the day, my shoulders are in some amount of pain from the burden of the initial hike in with a full backpack. And I know the modern packs have hip belts that are supposed to take some of the burden off the shoulders and transfer the weight to the hips. But I have just not found that system to my liking. Another reason to go to a belt pouch system is to ensure more weight on the hips, allowing a smaller, lighter load in the backpack, and keeping the items in my pants pockets to a minimum with only a map and compass.
And as my time in the woods has progressed, I’ve found I like to carry my Canon Eos Rebel in a pouch on the hip. That allows for a quick draw and shot if I see something that lights the scene. Then back in its protective pouch, and onward up the trail. It’s near impossible to have that camera on my hip with any kind of backpack with a hip belt. This, combo’d with a canteen or water bottle on the other hip for easy access, helps balance things out rater nicely.
As I ponder these questions in life, as I often do, I came across an elk hide Longhunter pouch that Mike at MRC Custom Leather had for sale at a really good price. It is made of a combo of soft elk hide, and stiffer leather on the backside to keep its form. Top quality indeed. After receiving the pouch and being satisfied with Mike’s craftsmanship, I checked out his website and the other gear he has listed there.
He also talks about the stuff he creates along with some very nice info on leatherworking on his You Tube channel
Or search for Agile Woodsman on You Tube
He makes very nice custom leather gear like the Longhunter Pouch, but he also has a series of belt pouches which he calls the Bushcraft Budget Series. He explains the concepts and design of these pouches on his You Tube channel, so I won’t go into depth here on that. Their titles fit them well though as they are high quality leather belt pouches at very reasonable prices. I ordered two of the larger Wanderer pouches to round out my belt pouch combo idea I’ve been playing with.
Here’s my setup. Camera case, MRC leather pouches, canteen kit, and belt knife. Just under 14 pounds when all loaded up. Again, this kit will most likely enable me to stay alive until I can make it out on my own, or sit and wait until Search and Rescue can find me. I attached these to a Condor tactical belt that has a little bit of extra padding compared to a regular leather belt. Maybe someday I’ll round it out with a leather camera case and leather or canvas canteen pouch, but for now, this works comfortably. The oil stain on the elk hide is my fault for leaving it on the kitchen counter where cooking oil gets tossed about ;)
One of the Wanderer pouches contains lunch for the day, tea, extra water bottle, and tins with various accoutrements. Sharpening kit, fishing kit, tool kit, tin with three candles for warmth and light, whistle, random tinders and MRC tinder pouch.
The other Wanderer pouch contains a fire steel, 3 hanks of 80 lb bank line for shelter building mostly, head lamp, bug head net, buff , tp, bug spray, reflective blanket, 2 mil 55 gallon trash bag, and a saw with detachable blades. This blade is small, but other larger attachable blades will be back at base camp.
And the Longhunter pouch is just the right size for a synthetic fill insulated jacket.
Canteen kit with iodine tablets. Camera case with Sawyer Squeeze water filter, poncho, 5x7 BCUSA mest, and first aid kit in the front pocket round out the rest of the kit.
I must say I am very pleased with the comfort of this setup, and the quality and function of the MRC pouches. High grade, top notch leather gear for those who wander the wilds. Thanks again Mike.