Equipment & Its Availability
Since this book is designed for beginners and novices so an introduction of the required stuff is also being included. Mostly the items required for trekking and camping are not available in Pakistan and the availability is only possible in the bazaars of Gilgit and Skardu where some second-hand items may be found. However availability of these items is not confirmed so it is a big problem to design a trekking program without the required material. The alternative option is to import these items from abroad, which is expensive and selection of an item without personal checking is quite difficult. However, few companies have started to manufacture some items of camping gear, which can be purchased from Lahore, Rawalpindi and Islamabad.
An introduction of these items is as follows:
A backpack is also called as rucksack or haversack. A good quality bag does not put the weight on the shoulders. The weight should be divided into the bag in such a manner that the lower torso remains in ease and comfort. So whatever the brand of a bag or price is, the basic quality of the bag should be its balance and durability, which should be kept in mind while purchasing it. Few quality bags have adjustment in their frames to be used according to the height of the carrying person (Liter is the unit used for the measurement of size and volume of rucksacks).
There are three types of rucksacks in common use:
- with internal frame
- with external frame
- without frame
- Internal Frame Packs
Usually there are two flat bars inside the back of the bag, which keep the balance of the bag and divide the weight to be carried easily. The waist belt supports the weight and the shoulder straps do not exert the shoulders.
- External Frame Packs
This type of bags is not very popular. They are usually large in size and good for trekking in low altitude areas.
There are several kinds and shapes of sleeping bags. The basic quality of a sleeping bag is its resistance against the cold. Quality manufacturers mention about the temperatures against which the bags are suitable, and this depends upon the filling material of the bag. Usually they are filled with cotton, hollow fiber, polyester, synthetic fiber or goose downs, with a covering of normal silky or any water resistant material.
Apart from its filling, shape of the bag may also be different. Some common shapes are:
- Rectangular Shape
According to its name it is usually rectangular in shape and could be utilized as a quilt or blanket. Three sides of the bag have zips for opening and closing. It could be termed as an indoor sleeping bag. This kind of bags is used in low altitude areas and is known as "one season bags". These are good for family trips by cars, boating programs or hunting expeditions.
- Mummy Shape
Its shape is narrow on the bottom and wide on upper side with a cap for head and after inserting the body inside it looks like a mummy. It is used on high altitudes and could be useful for two seasons to four seasons.
- Wide Body Barrel Shape
This is the most comfortable shape of a sleeping bag with relatively wider space, especially on the bottom side.
- Foam Pads
There are several kinds of mattresses. The lighter ones are foam pads usually one quarter inch thick. Another type of quality pads have a thick layer of upper surface but these are a little heavier. The most popular pads are closed cell foam pads in which neither air nor water moves through the individually sealed cells. Some trekkers prefer to use an open cell foam pad, which provide not only insulation but also cushioning as well, but this type may not resist against soaking.
This type has vacuum besides the filled portion, which becomes automatically filled on use and deflates on folding. In this type a foam pad of open cell is covered with an airtight skin of waterproof nylon, which is extremely durable and leak resistant. This type is a little heavier but more comfortable to use and at the moment has no competition.
- Air Mattress
Previously these were very common but due to their heavier weight and required energy for inflation plus the risk of getting punctured, these are now obsolete.
There is a great range of shoes available in foreign markets, while no quality trekking shoes are being manufactured in Pakistan. For easier tracks we can use common sports shoes but for glacier tracks good quality waterproof shoes are required.
The best trekking shoes are considered to be made of water proof material.
Gaiters are made by a waterproof piece of garment and fitted on the shoes. A gaiter blocks the mouth opening of shoes and usually covers the leg up to shin. This coverage restricts water and snow to harm the feet inside the shoe.
Tents have been developed into various shapes since their invention. Apart from shape there are tents of different capacity as well. Tents to accommodate a single person to a group of six or may be more as per its size are easily available.
A quality tent must be sturdy enough to withstand against high winds and snow dumped during night. Keeping above in view an aerodynamic shape helps out with the wind and steep sidewalls aid in clearing snow off the tent. Freestanding tents work well and so do the tunnel shape tents, which require only a few stakes to erect.
A shaped, dome shaped and star-view shaped are some famous designs of common tents. However for trekking purpose dome shaped tents are best to resist against high winds and are also good to keep the temperature tolerable. The most important factor is their free standing design. Though there are few designs which can not stand without guy ropes or pegs however usually we can erect them without any support.
Stoves also have different shapes and different fuels to be burnt e.g. liquid gas, petrol and kerosene etc. Few popular types of stoves are mentioned below:
- Gas Stoves
The best are gas stoves as they are light in weight and good in performance. They have several brands; GAZ - C - 206 is one famous brand, which could be purchased from Quetta or Gilgit. Similarly EPIGAS is also a very famous brand in gas stoves.
- Petrol Stoves
Optimus 8 R is a good stove as far as its size and performance is concerned.
- Kerosene Stoves
Optimus 00 are widely used stoves. Pumping the stove makes the pressure, transforming kerosene into burning gas. For some models, spirit or alcohol is also required to ignite the stove. Considering our local conditions and easy availability of kerosene oil even in far-flung areas, these stoves are the most popular among trekkers.
In a climber's kit this is the basic & most important tool for climbing vertically on the ice walls. It is also used for the cutting of steps on hard ice, for digging ice or ground. It could be used as a stick while walking or as a brake while falling down a slope or to make an anchor etc.
It consists of metal spikes and is fitted under the sole of shoes. It is used to climb up and down on ice walls and to walk on hard ice slopes. Crampons are available in different designs and in adjustable sizes.
As the name suggests it is used for climbing. Moreover, it is necessary to walk on glaciers & to cross crevasses. Harness & Karabiners are also required with rope.
Harness, Karabiner, Jumar & Figure of Eight
Although the above-mentioned items are not required for low altitude trekking but a brief introduction of these items may be of interest for the trekkers.
Harness, basically a waist belt, is a specialized item of climbing equipment made of wide nylon tape which is used to attach the rope to the climber and distributes the load in a fall.
There are different types of harnesses in market. " Sit or seat harness " is fastened around the waist. Some designs also include a thigh grip and some cover shoulders as well.
Karabiner or D-ring is a metal link with a spring-loaded gate in one side. It has numerous uses in climbing, the main one being as a connection between anchor and the rope.
Jumar is a mechanical device used to ascend a fixed rope. This device restricts one-way movement on the rope i.e. only for ascending and holds the weight and locks on rope to slide down.
Figure of Eight is a device for descending. Its shape is like the figure of 8, through which the rope passes in such a manner that one can stop sliding on the rope, if required and this action does not put weight of the load on the person holding or controlling the rope. There is a useful knot of the same name, which can be employed for a variety of purposes.