About the gear

Saturday, 26th June 2010; 3:55 pm

Having the right gear can make or break a trip. I’ve been lucky enough to put together a set of gear that works great for me. Your needs and wants may be different, but here’s a description of what I’ve been using.

TENT – I use a Sierra Designs Lightyear 1. It’s a replacement for an earlier model I bought many years earlier, but which went missing in 2011. The first most wonderful thing about it is weight: less than 3lbs. That’s a bigger deal for backpacking (which is what I got it for), but less weight is always a good thing. It’s a 1-person tent, barely big enough to sit up just enough to put my socks on. It’s really quick and easy to set up, and even though its designed to use 6 stakes (plus one for the rain fly), you can get away with just 2 of them if that’s all you can pound into hard soil. It offers very little protection from the cold, but it’s kept me dry through some serious downpours.

SLEEPING BAG – I bought a Lafuma Warm ‘N Light 600 Down bag, also for backpacking and with weight as a major consideration: 1lb 5oz. It’s only rated to 40ºF, which makes it less than ideal for cold weather; my solution in those circumstances is to wear more to bed. It stuffs into a tiny sack that makes my dad’s old National Guard sleeping bag look huge. On the other hand, if I were camping in early spring or late fall, I’d take the Guard bag.

VEHICLE – My original scooter was a Buddy 50 from Genuine Scooter Company of Chicago. It’s manufactured by a company in Taiwan, which is pretty much the sweet spot for price and quality, between cheap unreliable scoots from mainland China and stalwart Japanese/European sources like Honda, Yamaha, or Vespa. Although 50cc scoots are licensed as “mopeds” in Michigan, mine was derestricted to go 40mph as it was engineered to do. It went 24,000 miles without any serious issues, but the 2-stroke engine was starting to show its age, so I upgraded to a nearly identical Buddy 125, with a more durable 4-stroke 125cc engine.

PHONE – For my first road trip I carried an original iPhone. Most places I went that year didn’t even have 3G coverage, so it was fine for the limited internet access I needed. I replaced it in 2010 with the iPhone 4, which added practical GPS and a decent backup camera. Plus a whole bunch of other apps, including the one I just used to update this page. I’m still using it in 2014, because I am old-school like that. 🙂

CAMERA – My “real” camera is a Fujifilm Finepix HS20-EXR. The image resolution is higher than the iPhone’s, but its main advantage is the glass: it has a real 30X optical zoom lens, not just crappy fake “digital zoom”. It also has full manual override of exposure and focus, which I consider essential for serious photography. Honestly I’d prefer a digital SLR, but this was less expensive and a bit more compact. This camera was new to me in 2012; in previous years I used an Olympus SP-570UZ and an older SP-500, which were similar in features, but earlier technology.

HELMET – Michigan state law doesn’t require wearing a helmet on a “moped”, or (as of 2012) even on a motorcycle (if you buy extra insurance). But having a brain inside one’s head does. My helmet is nothing fancy: a basic 3/4 helmet with face shield. A full helmet that encloses the whole head is harder to manage with glasses, and seems like overkill for a bike that rarely goes over 40mph. By contrast, a half-helmet is (ironically) less comfortable: the only thing keeping it in place is the chin strap. But 3/4 is “just right”. My helmet is the old standby Bell 500 series.

JACKET – Wearing some kind of gear beyond just the helmet is another common-sense measure. Leather is the traditional choice, but it’s too damn hot in the summer. I wear Fieldsheer’s High Flow II, which is a combination of titanium mesh and textile to let the breeze through, but hold up to any possible skidding on pavement, and a combination of padding and strategically placed armor to protect against impact and more skidding. I wear gloves too, any time I get on a two-wheel vehicle. All The Gear All The Time advocates would insist on riding boots and armored leggings as well, but I’m willing to take a little more risk on my legs than I am on my upper body, in exchange for comfort and convenience. (I could still make a living without the use of my legs… not so much without my arms, internal organs, and/or brain.) I almost never ride in shorts, though.

RAIN GEAR – I bought a set of Frogg Toggs years ago for backpacking. Although I sweat too much for them to live up to their promise of being fully breathable, they work well enough at keeping the rain off. They’re roomy enough to fit over my riding gear, and since scooting isn’t nearly as physically exerting as hiking, sweating isn’t a problem. When the original pair finally started wearing out in 2012, I bought another set.

BACKPACK – I don’t wear a backpack on the scooter: it just isn’t comfortable, and I’d rather have as much as possible attached to the scooter instead. I bought a smallish (30L) “daypack” (North Face Recon) for the short hiking sections of my 2013 and 2014 rides, however.

COMPUTER – I don’t bring a computer on these trips. Just the iPhone. You do understand the concept of “vacation”, right?