What I Shed Today

lightening up a little at a time

sierra cup

on June 30, 2014

When, in my early twenties, I rose to the lure of backpacking and took the hook that would pull me deep into the Blue Ridge mountains, I didn’t know anyone who practiced the art. So I went to the library and checked out Colin Fletcher’s The Complete Walker. Fletcher was a good teacher, not only for me but hundreds of thousands of other backpackers—now in a fourth edition, “the hiker’s bible” is still in print. Fletcher had strong opinions about techniques and equipment, acquired through his considerable experience. Because my wilderness was the southern Appalachians, I compared his recommendations carefully to those of Ed Garvey (the first Appalachian Trail thru-hiker to write a book about his 2100-mile journey). Generally, however, if Fletcher packed it, I decided so would I.

Thus, for over 30 years, my outdoors cup, bowl, and plate has been a stainless steel Sierra cup. When I inducted Nimue into the wonders of backpacking, I got her one as well. A third was added to our collection kind of by accident.

Sierra cup, just like the one John Muir used (wink)

Sierra cup, just like the one John Muir used (wink)

The basic idea of the Sierra cup (and its association with the wilderness club that shares its name) is a hundred years old. In the western mountains of the United States, streams are often swift-running but shallow. A short vessel, considerably wider at the lip, made it easy to scoop up a cool, clear drink. With a wire handle, it could be clipped to one’s belt. In that time and those places, the Sierra cup was a near-perfect tool.

Decades later, few except the desperate or untaught would risk drinking untreated water. Yet some still choose the Sierra cup for its versatility and because not even an enraged bear could damage one. We who do so put up with food and drink that go cold in cool weather, if it doesn’t get spilled first … but so, we tell ourselves, did generations of outdoors-women-and-men before us.

That said, times change, and tech should with them. I suspect Nimue and I could shave ounces and increase utility by replacing the Sierra cups with small cups and plates. In any case, we certainly don’t need three. I’ll take the extra to the thrift store, where, I hope, some reader of The Complete Walker will recognize it and say, “Hey, a Sierra cup! Just what I’ve been looking for.”

shedding style: give away
destination: thrift store

Comments welcome … has the stream of time made you re-think choices you happily made some years ago?


3 responses to “sierra cup

  1. Interesting piece of American history… I have never heard of them or seen one before!

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