I recently ran across a post discussing cam straps for camping. These are essentially webbing straps with cam buckles instead of ratchets. I wish I had known about these handy little straps 45 years ago when I was a Boy Scout going on monthly camping trips with my troop.
The cam straps of 45 years ago were a bit different from the products now on the market. But they existed, nonetheless. I didn’t know about them at the time. So whenever I needed to secure something, I turned to rope and those tried-and-true knots I learned to tie in weekly troop meetings.
Ropes and knots served their purpose. But looking back, my life would have been a lot easier with a bag full of cam straps. One particular trip spent hiking Pennsylvania’s Black Forest trail for three days offers a perfect illustration.
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My foray into the foothills of the Appalachians was a new experience for me. No doubt I had done my share of camping and hiking in the years prior to this trip. But this was my first multi-day trip during which I would be carrying a full backpack on my shoulders while hiking through the mountains. I was young, inexperienced, and ill-prepared.
For starters, I had an old backpack from the 1950s. It did not fit my body well. Its biggest problem was that the hip belt was too big for my early-teen frame. I couldn’t pull it tight enough. Thus, I carried most of the weight on my shoulders. Bad move. I sure could have used one or two Rollercam tie down straps that weekend.
Roller Cam didn’t exist as a brand way back then. But there were other brands of tiedown straps I could have gone with, had I just known they existed. But let’s move on.
A hip belt I couldn’t draw tight enough was just the start of my problems. Being completely inexperienced, I tied my tent and sleeping bag to the backpack frame with a piece of rope. Guess what? No matter how hard I pulled that rope, I couldn’t get tight enough. Every hour or so I had to stop and tighten things back up.
The rope is also what attached my mess kit and canteen to the backpack frame. It worked well enough, except for the fact that I let the two pieces dangle. They clunked and clanked with every step taken.
Cam straps would have been a better choice than rope. But alas, I didn’t know they existed. I only knew about rope and bungee cords. And for some strange reason, my father felt that real Boy Scouts didn’t use bungee cords. So rope it was.
In fairness, there was one job for which rope was perfect: tying my food up in a tree. That’s what you do when there are bears around. You put your food in a secure bag, throw a rope over a high tree limb, and hoist the food up so that it ends up suspended out of reach. Cam straps would not have worked well for that job.
Other than the food though, my decision to use rope was an ill-advised one. I should have put up a fight and insisted on bungee cords. Better yet, I should have done more research into rope alternatives. Had I known about cam straps at the time, they would have been my first choice. They would have saved me an awful lot of trouble on the trail.