The tactical training and survival corners of the internet tend to intersect at the retail counter, where a lot of the same gear you already have in your drawers at home gets painted tri-color camouflage and marketed to you as something you never realized you needed in your go-bag, bug-out-bag, get-home-bag, or pack lunch for cheerleader day camp. I’m not immune to the clarion call of simplicity, weight reduction, or field comfort. Admittedly, I sleep on my side at home (often on the couch because my wife is a light sleeper) with a pillow tucked between my metal pin- and screw-enabled knees, and almost every other couch cushion I can find placed strategically to support my bad shoulder, the slipped discs in my back, and whatever injury I managed to subject myself to this week simply by being a high-mileage model with an owner too busy to conduct regular maintenance (like sleeping, or eating a vegetable once in a while).

I pretend I’m hard when it comes to field time, but the reality of that matter is, once everybody settles down to get some well-earned rest, I find myself in my tent wishing I’d packed a dozen pillows and a queen-sized bed instead of that pesky canteen I’ve been drinking out of. I used to chastise myself for wishing I didn’t have to sleep on the ground, as though it meant that I was somehow less of a man than my tough-guy hiking buddies, but the best by-product of getting older is how little you start to care about looking “tough” anymore. Sure, I still sleep on the ground all the time, but I’ll tell you what: As soon as they start selling an expandable pillow-top that only weighs a pound and fits in my cargo pocket, I’ll be the first in line to buy two—I don’t even care if they only come in pink with “Ed Hardy” glitter on the sides. You can make fun of me while I’m snoring.

With that said, I’m also fiercely critical of adding weight to my pack, and even more critical of budget-busting field amenities that don’t have real value. A trip down the camping aisle at your local Wal-Mart can give you a sense of what I mean. Do we need a five-gallon field shower? Not unless you plan on going on a date while we’re out there. Do we need this 30-pound tactical ax/machete with a picture of Bear Grylls laser engraved into the handle? Probably not, but it does look sorta cool.

This past weekend, I set out on my first field excursion of the year. As I’ve discussed in the past, I divide my recreational time in the great outdoors into two separate categories: camping, and field excursions.  Camping usually includes folks like my wife who aren’t down to hike with a pack on or get dirt under their fingernails, so we find a spot accessible by vehicle, set up our tents, and play Mario Kart under the stars with all the creature comforts we can fit into our trunk. There’s nothing wrong with that kind of camping if it’s what you’re into, and it gives us all a great chance to unwind with our friends in a wooded setting.