Sunday, June 24, 2012

Commentary – Gear Lists, Friends and Traditions


Mrs. Bill – “Got the list?”

Me: “Yep.”

Mrs. Bill: “I’m going to the store, we need anything?”

Me: “Nope, I’ll get packin’.”

And were off . . . . Our destination is Rock Island State Park off the tip of Door County in Wisconsin. We’ve been doing this for a while – our 25th trip in 27 years (official determination of years coming was completed around the fire ring over brats!). So Mrs. B heads off to the store and I go to the gear room and grab the equipment for our trip from the Rock Island Gear List. We take items that turn a simple hole in the woods into the camping equivalent of the Hilton – a well equipped kitchen, large tarp and plastic table cloths for the picnic tables, two cook kits, plates, bowls, “plastic ware”, large dome tent, garden cart, multiple 5-gallon water jugs . . . . a larger-than-usual camping list (that all has to be schlepped to the camp site BTW – hence the lawn cart) that turns a cleared site, on a well wooded patch of island into our own private retreat for 4 “too short” days.

I have grown to appreciate gear lists over the years. I adapt each to their specific task. I have them for my “Backpacking Load-Out”, a weekend Scouting trip, a ten day canoe trip, my range bag, gear for my Wrangler, my “toy bag” (the day bag I carry with books, spare power supplies, snacks, crescent wrench, pens . . . . it’s a “complicated” bag). These lists perform a number of functions for me – they allow me to insure I have what I need/want along on trips. They let me mentally visualize each trip – with respect to the individual gear list – to see if there are any modifications I may need to make for “this” specific trip. They let me estimate the age of gear in case items need replacement/updating. (we will be upgrading our tent, tarp and cooking stove before next year’s trip). And, they help avoid the “Well SHIT” moments of forgotten items when they are desperately needed.

As a change of pace, I took a little Kodak Zi8 Video Camera to play with some video for the blog. As an aside, I chose this camera because of the ability to connect an external microphone. I have a couple wireless mics and a mixer that I use and that gives me a bit more flexibility. HOWEVER, the price of this camera is now ridiculous. I think I paid around $250 when I bought mine, now it’s OVER $450 – they are outta their frickin’ mind!!!!! There are other good video cameras out there that fill the bill. My only real recommendation is that you find one with and external mic, it will give you options in how you film things.

So, rather than ramble on about gear lists even more, I will simply drop in a video right here:

Gear Lists

One of the reasons Gear Lists are important it that they help in camp setup.  As you build the lists, you can visualize how you want a camp set, what precautions to take and how you would handle really bad weather . . . such as this . . . . .

Yep, bad weather happens!!

On Friends:

Words mean specific things to me when I use them – and “friend” is no exception. If I have to “bottom line” it, a friend is a person that, if I would call them at 2 AM and say; “I really need you to come right away . . .”, they would simply get up, get dressed and come – regardless of their location on the face of the earth. Yeah, yeah . . . I know, kinda a stiff test – and yet, there it is. The folks that went on this trip with us are those kinds of friends. Deep, soul-connected, loved. We have raised kids, buried parents, cried, held each other, laughed and generally survived life, in part, because we are friends. They, and all friends, are precious commodities. They provide bedrock, a foundation that supports our lives that is there regardless the chaos that surrounds us. Bottom line . . . . Love your friends with all your heart, bonds like that are rare and precious.

On Traditions:

Our Rock Island trip is a tradition – followed each and every year with only two exceptions to date (birth of children if memory serves). We make reservations on New Year’s Day of each year after spending New Year’s Eve reflecting on the past year and enjoying each other’s company with snacks, good wine, old movies and finding the comfort found, again, in the presence of friends. This year was truly different, the first year without kids along. It was both lonely and peaceful. The three young girls that first went 27 years ago have blessed us with a total of 8 grandchildren, most of whom have visited the Island with us. Our daughter’s newest little was only 2 months old, frankly too young to be that far from emergency care. But, plans are afoot for next year and Ms. L’s introduction to this family tradition.

Traditions provide cornerstones to our lives. They can be those traditions common to our lives – weddings, baptisms, funerals, parades, annual community gatherings . . . . or they can be individual – vacations, trips such as this one was, date nights, New Year’s gatherings with friends. Traditions provide context, texture, definition to who we are, where we are going, what we believe. They give us a future to look forward to and a past to enjoy and reflect on. They provide “stories” to share and tell our friends and acquaintances. I would encourage you to build your own traditions – your children and grandchildren with remember the stories they create long after you have passed . . . . with love and humor.

Moments in Time:

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I love cooking on an open fire. Gear can offer a number of things, a solid tool for preparing food, multiple ways to do that task, and good memories along the way. The cast iron griddle with the brats was a new addition by our son-in-law last year. He’s a very good cook and has taken on many food prep duties over the last dozen years. He wanted something new for pancakes last year hence the griddle. This year we expanded it’s duties to open fire cooking of brats and also pan-fried steak. MMMmmmmm – meat!

The image on the right falls into the “long lived with lots of memories” category. To you it is a simple cooking pot, to us it is the first pot, purchased in the mid-70s on a trip out to the north east. Our tent was a $27.95 JC Penny, 5x7 pup tent. It was our very first camping adventure as a married couple. Stories, traditions . . . . geezz, turning into a sappy old fart. Heavy sigh.

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Our friends and Mrs. B. It always pleases me how easily we all fit together, how deep the friendship is and how we can sit all evening and still find things to talk about.

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Brunch duties – left over brats, steak and 3-egg meat and cheese omelets. Does life get any better?? I love cooking on these trips. Mainly because when you are camping absolutely everything tastes good!!!

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Tarp, tent, pack cover . . . yep, looks like a base camp site to me!!

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One final tradition – “picture tree” photos (we have these from very nearly every year) and the real reason we journey to this spot each year, spectacular sun sets.

So there you have it; make your gear lists - they will insure you are well equipped on any journey. Make true friends and love them with your entire soul, they are your foundation. And build traditions - they will leave little bits and pieces of you long after you continue your journey.


  1. Man...I can taste the brats exploding with flavor (and grease...can't be a camp-out without grease!), a few expertly-placed ashes sprinkled throughout, and the lingering hint of bugspray on the tongue. *sigh* Been too long since I went camping.

    And hold on to friends like that. When you find one, its a rare thing indeed in today's world. When I grow up, I want to be considered that type of friend.

  2. I love camping!! I love it more with friends. Thanks for the tips on the gear bags.

  3. Rabid - yep, brats on an open fire, food of the gods . . . food of the gods. And you are certainly right, a true friend is a treasure. I suspect you fit that catagory quite well.

    AGirl - yep, camping is nice - better with good friends. No prob on the gear bags, as you well know by now, I have opinions on pretty much everything!! :)