098: Seeing Beyond the Marketing Hype

Show Notes: Episode 098

Today on the First 40 Miles: New! Improved! Ultralight! Waterproof! Breathable! And loaded with functionality!  These are words you might read on the packaging for backpacking gear—but where does the hype end and the honesty begin?  Right here.  Then on today’s Top 5 List, the top 5 pieces of gear that ensure that you won’t get flustered on your next blustery trip.  For today’s Backpack Hack of the Week, Gilbert from the Patagonia Worn Wear program shares a hack for revitalizing a corroded zipper.  And we’ll wrap up the show with a little trail wisdom from the son of an organist and an anarchist.


  • You’ll see stoves that boil water in two minutes, sleeping bags that will keep you warm in sub negative 20 degree weather, shoes that let the moisture out but won’t let the moisture in, duck down that floats on water—like a duck, repair tape that gets stronger with time, communication devices that use alien spaceships or satellites to communicate with people back home.
  • Incredible innovations in outdoor gear! But how do you separate the hype from the truth?
  • It’s your money—it’s OK to ask questions!! You can ask on backpacking forums or in some cases you may even want to contact the customer service department.
  • Look for the data to back up the claims. Lots of sleeping bags have temperature ratings on them, but the EN Ratings are a European rating system that is based a little more on data and less on marketing. Who are the regulating/governing agencies that can back up these claims?  When a water filter claims it can filter 100 gallons of water, you may want to ask, “What kind of water—tap water or wilderness water?” and “Is an outside agency testing this or is the testing done in house?”
  • Ignoring all the claims of what the product does, what does the product NOT do? You may find an incredible pad with a 5.1 R Value, but after taking it on a trip you discover that it takes about 45 breaths to inflate the pad…leaving you wondering if you shouldn’t have just stuck with your cheap blue closed cell foam pad.  Walkie-talkies are another example of this—they claim a certain number of miles, but for every boulder, tree or switchback, you’re decreasing the number of miles they’ll actually cover.
  • Is it gimmicky? Osprey came out a couple years ago with heat molded hip belt that could exactly conform to your hips after they put it in a special on site oven…Is it a useful feature or simply a gimmick? CRKT HomeFront knife, can be fully taken apart to be fully cleaned… Is it a useful feature or just a gimmick?  You decide.
  • Is it a good match for me, or is it a good match for the trail ambassador who is recommending it? Buy gear that is a good fit for you.
  • Outdoor gear is improving each day and there’s always going to be something out there that’s newer, lighter, stronger, and cooler, but all of us have finite resources. It’s your money—ask the questions, do the research, and don’t get sucked into the marketing hype.

Top 5 Pieces of Gear for Windy Trips


  • Perhaps preferable over a hammock (if hammock then tarp and closed cell foam pad)
  • Thoughts from hammock campers?

 Windscreen for pot

  • Even more important for windy trip
  • More fuel since wind cuts fuel efficiency

 Water flavoring

  • Drink more water (which is sometimes hard to do—so the flavoring helps)
  • You can become dehydrated like a dried fruit without even realizing it!

 Buff or hat

  • Especially for ladies and gents with long hair
  • Buff keeps hair out of the way when worn like a tube hat

Wind breaker

  • Wind chill
  • Wind breakers are a lightweight way to add warmth without adding weight in windy conditions

SUMMIT Gear Review: Patagonia Houdini Windbreaker Jacket


  • 100% Nylon
  • Zippered
  • Water-resistant
  • Breathable


  • One pocket that fits a house key, a whistle, a pocket knife and a credit card.
  • Oh, and it also fits the entire jacket when you’re ready to stuff the jacket.
  • Water-resistant, but that’s just because of the DWR, which will eventually wear off.
  • Hood—the hood doesn’t cinch where it normally does. It cinches in the back, so it tightens around the top of your head. Most hooded gear cinches round your face, which can block visibility.
  • The Patagonia Houdini cinches in the back of your head, so the hood tightens around your cranium instead of around your face.
  • This windbreaker has a handy elastic cinch at the bottom of the jacket
  • Elastic cuffs (the elastic goes half-way around)
  • The back of the jacket is a little lower than the front


  • Weighs 3.4 ounces or 99 grams


  •   Handwash / air dry


  • $99 on Patagonia’s website
  • But, there’s a good chance you can find it for around $50-70 on REI’s website


  • It truly cut the wind, but the nice thing is it really cut the bulk.
  • It’s a slim-fitting jacket so it’s not going to fit over multiple layers—and it’s not meant to. It’s simply designed to be a windbreaker, and to cut the chill.
  • Nice shoulder season addition to the pack. A great basic shell, lightweight, water-repellant, very compact, basic layer
  • Very versatile layer—and so lightweight.

Backpack Hack of the Week™:  Corroded Zipper Fix

Gilbert from Patagonia Worn Wear Program.

Clean corroded metal zippers with rubbing alcohol and an old toothbrush.

Trail Wisdom

“The longest journey begins with a single step, not with a turn of the ignition key.  That’s the best thing about a walking, the journey itself.  It doesn’t much matter whether you get where you’re going or not.  You’ll get there anyway.  Every good hike brings you eventually back home.  Right where you started.”

-Edward Abbey