Unlike a previous post of mine, to warn of ineffectual AND especially potentially dangerous gear/items, in this one you CAN nominate items you were pleased with from other sources, or good ideas you've seen online. NOTE: I'm guessing not all stores carry the same merchandise, but if it's not on REI's website, I'd say it's a good guess it's not in the stores.
In no particular order, my first nomination in this category is:
A few years ago, I bought two decks of cards on identifying wild edibles as gifts for a couple of backpacking friends. They were a hit! Instead of annoying... I mean, asking me, they simply shuffled through their cards in a hurried attempt to identify what we passed as we made our way into the backcountry. Maybe I'll go back this winter and show them how to get home.
Seriously though, pocket cards, books and laminated charts on a variety of things are out there on eBay, etc. They're great for kids and anyone interested in learning something about their surroundings. Be sure they are applicable to the area/s you'll be in.
Why body rappel? Toss another log on thee campfire and the Old Geezer will tell you another tale from times gone by.....
Once upon a time (1950s or so), the body rappel was the only technique available. We had only ropes, usually laid nylon, pitons, and carabiners to get us to the summit. Body rappels worked if you applied suitable padding in the right places. Folks even sewed leathers patches on outerwear to avoid burns.
Long ago, when hiking and scrambling in rough country, especially if unknown territory or on a SAR operation, I adopted the habit of including a bit of rope. This proved to be very useful on several occasions. Just call me Sam Gamgee (Lord of the Rings). On occasion, I have found it useful to accomplish a short, moderate dulfersitz - definitely minimalist and light weight.
My longest rappel was a 580 foot free rappel and for that I definitely went with gear - the rappel rack worked splendidly on my first encounter with the apparatus.
Actually, for vertical cavers, that is just a good beginning. There is a classic drop in Mexico, Sotano de las Golandrinas. (cave of the Swallows) which is a free drop of 1000 feet and you must ascend the rope to get home!
"There is a classic drop in Mexico, Sotano de las Golandrinas. (cave of the Swallows) which is a free drop of 1000 feet and you must ascend the rope to get home!"
And off to YouTube I go, to live vicariously through those who are far braver than I!
Well, that was... surreal.
Sewing pads for body rappels [for old timers] makes sense. However, while knowing about a body rappel is a nice thing to know in SHTF situations, TODAY it just means you're not prepared (and therefore not ready).
Meanwhile, and to get back on track, the Sqwurel is both a rappel AND belay device (so, not so "specialized"). But the advantage of the Sqwurel design, is that it has rappel rack functionality AND, unlike a rappel rack, you can add OR subtract friction ON THE FLY without stopping to rethread... not to mention it's a HECK of a lot smaller and lighter than a rack (or bobbin).
SNOW CLAW (snow shovel)
Well, it's not so much a "shovel" as a scoop, but it gets the job done. I've had mine for a few years now, and during the snowy season, I'm glad I have it. It's light, compact, durable, in fact it ticks all the boxes, but it's NOT a "shovel."
It doesn't have a handle, so it doesn't have the reach of a shovel or the reach. But if you are not sure you'll need/want a shovel (especially considering the bulk), then the Snow Claw is a GREAT substitute!
REI may have this in some stores, but I've yet to see it in any of the stores near me, so I thought I'd include it in this list... II wonder if it comes in BLUE! 😉