Plein air hiking kit necessary

Bartc

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It isn't my habit to take workshops, but once in a while an artist whose work I admire has one within reach. These can be expensive even for a few days, because accommodations add onto the not cheap fees. That makes me very cautious in what I sign up for.

I'm a plein air painter doing mostly pastels. My pastel kit has grown so heavy that I'm loathe to carry it very far, and for a half mile distance I usually take it on a small hand truck. Not the best setup for more serious hiking in narrow, steep or rocky trails by any means. So most of the painting sessions I organize for folks like me don't involve those long treks beyond the parking lot.

Now I've shot my financial wad for a painting workshop in a region I like with an instructor whose work I admire. Then he sends out a prep list in the week before the session that suggests he intends half mile hikes and strongly recommends light gear.

Wish I had known this before signing up. Now I have to somehow trim down my kit for this scenario and I'm a bit concerned about my ability to do so. Plus, I do not have the best legs/ankles anymore for serious hiking, and he still hasn't shown his hand as to where the locations for 3 days will be.

Had I not already paid for everything without recourse, I would consider cancelling, but can't do that now. I'm learning another expensive lesson here, I think.

I don't want to waste the opportunity, so now the problem of how to trim down to a kit that I can back carry the distance. I do not have the budget to replace all my gear, BTW. Any thoughts here?
 
I don’t suppose you have one of those backpack-size Heilman boxes for your pastels, Bart? I think it’s a given that you can only bring a small selection of colors. I’ve seen some artists use jogging strollers to haul their stuff around - the kind with big, all-terrain wheels. Maybe you could find one at a yard sale. I wouldn’t be able to haul much on my back and have energy leftover for painting! Fewer pastels, paper that can be attached to a lightweight board, a lightweight easel, water and snacks - it all adds up. I hope you can find a way to make it work.
 
I don’t suppose you have one of those backpack-size Heilman boxes for your pastels, Bart? I think it’s a given that you can only bring a small selection of colors. I’ve seen some artists use jogging strollers to haul their stuff around - the kind with big, all-terrain wheels. Maybe you could find one at a yard sale. I wouldn’t be able to haul much on my back and have energy leftover for painting! Fewer pastels, paper that can be attached to a lightweight board, a lightweight easel, water and snacks - it all adds up. I hope you can find a way to make it work.
I don't but may be able to modify an old Guerrilla Painter pastel box. I'm going to work on it and pare down the number of colors and papers and "stuff" I carry around. Have a week to pull this together. Have been back in touch with the instructor who is a little more encouraging. We'll see, Donna. I don't want to miss this and probably needed to make these changes anyway. As the instructor says, and I'd have to agree, he doesn't want the gear to limit where we can paint comfortably. Guess I'm growing too comfy in my age with car packing!
 
I’m glad you heard from the instructor and he’s aware of your concerns. I’m sure you aren’t the only one who is deciding what to pack and what you can live without.
 
It wouldn't be any problem at all with watermedia, because I have a fanny pack with 6 media sufficient to travel with and have no worries. It's the pastel setup that's the problem for me. Bulk and weight, because you can't simply mix dry pastel primaries the way you can with many other media. It's also not the kind of painting I feel comfortable doing from my lap. Watercolor, ink, gouache, etc., sure, no problem.

There is a personal lesson there for me as well: Don't commit until you know both the painting locations and the carrying arrangements possible. In the past when signing up for a workshop I was well aware in advance. This time I missed a bet. I'll get over it.
 
I would suggest to pack all your gear in a backpack. So both hands are free. They have walking poles/sticks that help with balance and you can lean on some to rest. They also have packs that split the load between your back and chest. Take ibuprofen/Tylenol or meds of your choice in advance.

Also proper shoes that will allow for the inevitable swelling of feet. I often suck on a tootsie roll pop when I paint - I find the slow drip of sucrose from the pop keeps my mouth moist and gives a bit of energy - helps keep the mind off your aches and pains too.
 
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Sounds like cold feet to me. 😀
I’m sure you know what you would like, what you would need, and what is essential to getting a Plein air down.
 
Maybe that too, Wayne. Plein air is my specialty, so that part is not an issue. But I think I may have the kit worked out. We'll see.
 
I'm glad this already seems resolved now, Bart. It really would be a shame to have to back out because of this kind of surprise.

In the future, it could help if you contacted the instructor before committing, and air your questions and concerns. These folks want a full house, so it could be that THEY need to consider adjustments to accommodate as many students as possible. A lot of folks enjoy plein air within 50 yards of their cars - you're not alone.

Sounds like it's going to be a blast!
 
I knew Bongo would have good advice for this. Your concerns are a few of the reasons I don't do Plein air. Good luck! :)
Ayin, plein air is not actually hard. My concern is related to how this particular outing has been organized without apparent suficient regard for practicality of the participants. When I organize our plein air group's events, that's my first consideration after potential painting subjects. With my group, largely middle aged or seniors, some will walk miles, most will walk a few hundred yards, gear and health being the main determinants. But I make sure there's something for everyone's abilities, not just their tastes.

We had a zoom meeting. The instructor will be good. The participants, like me, with the exception of only one are all older adults, as in way past retirement age. The locations haven't even been settled; in fact they appeared not to have even been chosen, albeit with some concerns for local weather.

What I'm doing is paring it all down and altering an old box to fit the necessities into a backpack, as Bongo suggests. It is a struggle, however.
 
When I first started I had a box of Rembrants with the padding in it. I just took out the pastels of the set and used the box for my plein air box. I carried a lot of pieces without much weight. This might be a bit large but you get the idea. And it didn't cost anything and has lasted for years.

pastel-box.jpg
 
When I first started I had a box of Rembrants with the padding in it. I just took out the pastels of the set and used the box for my plein air box. I carried a lot of pieces without much weight. This might be a bit large but you get the idea. And it didn't cost anything and has lasted for years.


Yes, Jo, I did that when I first started. Original padded boxes, lapboard, etc. It was a fast way to re-learn the childhood game of "52 Pickup". LOL One false move and those fragile chalks are all over, lost or broken, and me being covered in the dust too. No thank you! Of course that's the easiest thing to do of all. Unfortunately, I found it to be a mistake for the way I paint. In a pinch of course, but not preferable by any means.
 
Curious to see your kit when you finish it.
I'll post it when done. It appears I'm having some success, but the rubber hits the road in 24 hours.

I've reconstructed an old Guerrilla Painter pastel carrier box with some hardware, ply and foam. Much lighter and more compact than my large setup. Bought a GP metal mounting plate for the bottom, as my past efforts taught me that this might best what I can DIY with wood, and it seems to have worked out ($20 on Amazon, and oddly over $35 everywhere else now - overpriced in any event.). Now to pare down my pastel sets and my papers.

Had to spring for a new backpack at Target, as nothing else we had around would work right. Was buying a new tripod anyway and the new one is very sturdy with this setup

Overall I think I'm going to like this new setup.

The organizer finally sent out 2 of the 3 days' locations, and so far I'm relieved that neither of these require truly extensive hiking.
As I said, I would have done this differently, but I tend to be obsessive about planning for groups (which I've done for a living over 50+ years!)
 
OK, it all worked out fine. My new kit, though not exactly light, was backpackable for about a mile. My DIY box worked fine as did my new lighter tripod. And now as it was suggested I have a better more portable setup, which will come in hand.

The instructor was terrific and we all had fun. The organizer was an interesting guy who finally did something to get us socializing, but otherwise did not organize the way I would have. Now I know. The locations were wonderful.

I got 6 pastel paintings done, at least 3 of which I really like. Learned some things.

Only mishap occurred when a huge wind gust tossed the setup over. I had closed the lids on the pastel box but hand't taken the backing board and the box off the tripod. So I do have some seriously broken pastels to replace. Another lesson learned!

This isn't the most illustrative picture of my setup, which I will get to, but this will give you some idea.
box on Carmel River Beach.jpg
 
I’m so happy it all worked out and that you had a good time, Bart! The piece on your easel is a beauty and that was a gorgeous painting location. Looks like perfect weather. At least the wind didn’t take your painting!
 
I like your setup and your painting. So happy it worked out. Sounds like you got a lot out of the trip.
 
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