Thursday, December 31, 2009

AOTS - Support the Bears!!

If you’ve never heard of Olivia Munn this will introduce you to her unique, slightly sarcastic sense of humor.  She is a rapidly raising star (will be playing “Iron maiden” in the May 2010 release of the Iron Man 2 movie).  I couldn’t resist posting this “Save the Bears” video she made for Attack of the Show (G4 TV Network), aka the Every Brown Bear Gets A Sandwich Fund.





Saturday, November 7, 2009

Election Day Hike; New York Harriman State Park

The client I’m currently working with was closed the past Tuesday, November 3rd for the election.  We were voting for Governor here in New Jersey and my friends across the river were voting for Mayor.  Nice of my client to give their employees NY Palisades Regionthe day off to vote, I not being an employee don’t get paid but it is still a nice treat to have a day off.  My kids are in school and the spouse is busy, so I’m was free to go for a long day hike. 

I decided to go to normally crowded Harriman State Park in New York, I figured most people don’t get election day off so the park would be empty.  I was right. I spend about 5 or 6 hours hiking and saw no one, except a couple trail runners at the very start.  The park is only about half hour or 45 minutes from my house depending on which access point I use.  Harriman State Park is very close to New Jersey and New York City but is large enough to still give you a ‘wilderness’ feeling once you walk in a few miles.  The park has 31 lakes and over 200 miles of hiking trails.  Harriman connects to Bear Mountain State Park, so there are plenty of options.

This Tuesday morning I really wanted to do a long loop, so I started out at “Elk Pen” which is right off the highway, both the Appalachian Trail and the Arden-Surebridge trail have access points at Elk Pen. Even though I got a late start, it was still a cold fall morning, about 45 degrees.  This time of the year, the newly fallen leaves cover the trail completely, making it a small challenge to follow the path in a few spots .  I was in a bit of an odd mood and for some reason was listening to my MP3 player as I started to hike – this is something I never do.  It was only about a half hour later when i shut off the music that I realized how loud my walking was.  The constant rustling and crackling noise of the leaves beneath my feet was actually so noisy I thought about turning on the music again, but choose to just listen to the forest like I normally do.

I followed the white blazes of the Appalachian Trail up into the woods past Island Pond, through the “Lemon Squeezer” (Large rocks and boulders that the AT goes directly between – a tight squeeze and then a steep climb up the rock face) and up to Fingerboard Shelter.  Between the Lemon Squeezer and Fingerboard Shelter the AT goes through some swampy areas, but today they were mostly drR-D trail Blaze; smiley facey.  I did run into a small (2 1/2 or 3 feet) garter snake around there which got me to wake up a bit.  Just before Fingerboard Shelter along the ridge, the AT intersects with the Ramapo-Dunderberg trail.  I turned right and followed the R-D trail along the ridge, for the most part a pleasant walk on granite and soft earth along the mountain top. 

After a few miles the R-D trail reaches “Time Square”, the intersection of the Ramapo-Dunderberg trail, the Arden-Surebridge trail and the Long Path ( a 350 mile trail going from the George Washington Bridge up to Albany NY).  Since time was getting a bit short I turned right on the Arden-Surebridge trail and headed back to the Lemon Squeezer.  I startled a nice size dear on the way back but wasn’t fast enough to get a good picture of her.

Overall an excellent way to spend election day!  Time Square; Harriman State Park







Harriman State Park Location: Latitude 41.238095626099998 Longitude -74.101096325699999

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Walkin’ On The Happy Side Of Misery and Ten Million Steps

This summer I’ve been reading several books about thru hikes on the Appalachian Trail.  Two of these books have become my new favorites.  Walkin’ On The Happy Side Of Misery by J. R. “Model T” Tate - A 4 time thru-hiker and Ten Million Steps: The Nimblewill Nomad’s epic 10-month trek from the Florida Key to Quebec by M. J. Eberhart.  This is the story of walking the entire Appalachian mountain range from Florida to the far north of Quebec, Canada; a.k.a. The Eastern Continental Trail.  Both of these men have incredible hiking experience and a true talent for writing.  The differences and similarities between the two men make both books more interesting when read one after the other.  You would expect books about such long journeys to be long, and they are; Walkin’ On The Happy Side Of Misery is 554 pages and Ten Million Steps is 528 pages.  Actually i find many books about thru-hikes surprisingly short.

First; “Model T”, of the two I must say i prefer his writing stay the best.  Tate is a retired Marine Corps officer and you can see the Corps is a deeply engrained part of his Self.  Although some people may not appreciate it, Tate has a quirky sense of humor that made me smile all the way through the book.  It is easy to identify with some of his trials and tribulations throughout the book.  He comes across as a very ‘human’ kind of regular guy. Model T is not just his trail name but his alter ego.  After long periods walking alone many people sometimes find that they are talking to themselves – sometimes out load.  Walkin’ on the Happy Side of Misery is written in this way.  At times it actually seams like you are following two people walking the trail.  Model T is definitely a “people person” (as is Eberhart).  As often happens to thru-hikers, he forms intimate friendships with several other hikers along the way.  Tate is able to bring across the emotions and special moments of hiking the trail in a way that really makes you understand what it is like to be out there.

Ten Million Steps is written quite differently, much more in the style of a journal (as most thru-hiking books are).   “Nomad” starts out his ten month trek on the Florida Trail heading north (finishing the Keys-Everglades walk at the end of the trip).  This is the summer of 1998 and El NiƱo has flooded the trail and immediately we see that Nomad is no ordinary hiker. He is hiking in water and mud up to his knees, sometimes up to his hips, literally for miles and miles through the Everglades, having a difficult time just finding a dry spot or “island” to camp the night.  As Nomad puts  it; “..The most difficult, nerve-racking,and dangerous treadway that I would encounter… Dragging mud, water, and grass step after step, mile after mile…. The depth of the murk and slosh I’m pushing along climbs up and down my legs but stays below my belt as I stumble along in the dark.”  Not many hikers would continue to plod along in such a frightening, sometimes terrifying swamp.  This is no “regular guy”.  By the time Nomad reaches the southern start of the Appalachian Trail he is in extraordinary physical condition and the AT seems like a breeze compared to the wilderness he just hiked.

Both of these books, and both of these men inspire me. To hike, to push on when the going gets really tough, to appreciate the beauty around us, to see people as they are, to let our emotions be free.  These are two men that truly love to hike.  Tate has a wonderful way with words - in so many ways in the book he expresses “the happy side of misery”; “The Dawn came up softly, a soothing rose-colored potion that seemed to refresh aching muscles and listless bodies and renew languid ambitions. I breathed in deeply and exhaled, welcoming the morning aloud. “Ahh! The adversities on the Trail are wondrous to behold!”.

This is video interview with Nimblewill Nomad (Eberhart) and shows his true love of the trail.


Interview with Nomad


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Both Tate and Eberhart have web sites;

Model T’s web site is: http://modelt.homestead.com/Index.html

Nimblewill Nomad’s web site is: http://www.nimblewillnomad.com/

Friday, August 14, 2009

New Colgate WISP mini-toothbrush

Colgate has a new mini-toothbrush out on the market. I happened to see it in Walmart2009 June 013 a few months ago so I thought I would give it a try for backpacking.  I think the price was under $2 for 4 of them (they are also available on Amazon ) It is a very cute tiny little disposable brush, weighs less then a 1/2 ounce, 3 1/2 inches long.  You don’t need to use toothpaste with it – is has a small liquid filled bead in the center of the brush that takes the place of toothpaste.  You don’t need water or to rinse you mouth out when using it. The WISP also has a flexible toothpick on the opposite end which is very useful. So for those of us interested in shaving ounces off our pack weight this sounded like a perfect replacement for a toothbrush and tooth paste.  For a weekend on the trail it works out great, for longer trips I don’t think it is a good solution.

The WISP is a one time use item (you can reuse it but the liquid filled bead only lasts one time) so for a weekend trip you need to carry two or three.  For longer trips it becomes impractical to carry so many.  I also didn’t really get the felling that the WISP did as good a job in cleaning my teeth as the little fold-up toothbrush I normally carry.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Klymit Soon to be Shipping Argon Jackets and Pads

A year or two ago I heard of this crazy idea of using argon gas as an insulator for jackets and coats – the same gas used in windows as an insulator.  This was about the same time I heard some people were talking about using aerogels (super insulator invented by NASA) as a clothing insulator or for sleeping pads.

Well a company called Klymit has done it and will start shipping products in late August 2009.  They have a line of vests and a sleeping pad ready to start shipping soon.  Although it may be a long time before you see these in the stores, if you are adventuresome you can order directly from their web site (http://klymit.com).  The vests sell for $150 each as does the “Inertia Pad” Sleeping pad.  The vests are very lightweight weighing about 300 grams.  To get warmer you inflate the vest with gas from a tiny canister, to cool off you let some gas out by turning a dial on the jacket.  The “Kanisters” sell for $24 each.  One Kanister will fill a medium size jacket five times.

No detail information is out yet on the weight or size of the Inertia sleeping pad, but I’m guessing it also very light.  Argon is an excellent insulator so the R value for the pad should be very high.  This may give the Thermarest NeoAir some competition.  We will see, I’m still hoping for the aerogels.  In any case it looks like we will soon have more to choose from when buying jackets the just Down or Synthetic.  Check out this Klymit video explaining the product.




Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Ten Hiking Essentials – For Scouts and all hikers

About the Author: This Post is by Forrest Jones.  Mr. Jones  is an Eagle Scout, he currently serves in the BSA Scouting Program as an Assistant District Commissioner.  He has been a Scoutmaster or Assistant Scoutmaster for over 15 years. 

Scout Outdoor Essentials

Where do you find the gear that you need, at a price that you can afford and is durable enough to last? Don’t try to find it by yourself. Ask for help. If you have to “buy and try” every product yourself, you may run out of money before you find the gear that works for you. The Internet has opened up a whole new world when it comes to product reviews. There are manufacturers’ websites, consumer reports, blogs, review websites, YouTube videos of the gear in action, Wikipedia and Gear Review websites (such as BackpackBaseCamp.com). All of these can be accessed from your home computer and contain a wealth of information.

I have always loved the outdoors, and it is from the perspective of the Scouts, Scoutmasters, parents and Youth Leaders that I would like to share my knowledge. Some of my fondest memories are of the various times that we went fishing, sat around the campfire, went canoeing, took a picture of a wild animal, climbed a mountain or discovered a hidden waterfall. Although we think of these as simple activities, there always was certain gear and clothing that was needed prior to going on the trip. The Boy Scout Handbook lists “The Scout Outdoor Essentials” (page 207 of the Boy Scout Handbook) which are 10 items that generally are needed on hikes and outings. When I was growing up in Scouting, these were called the 10 Essentials. They are: Pocketknife, First aid kit, Extra Clothing, Rain gear, Water bottle, Flashlight, Trail food, Matches and fire starters, Sun Protection and a Map and compass. When you are packing, these are a great place to start, and then add additional items based on the particulars of the location, duration and situation. I don’t doubt that if we all thought for a little while, we could maybe replace something on that list of 10 Essentials, with something that we consider to be more important or useful, but overall, I think that those 10 are a good start.
Allow me to discuss each of those 10 items in brief detail. Each varies in value depending on the situation.

Pocketknife. Although every Scout loves to carry one, the plain, standard pocketknife is a little over rated. I see a lot of Scouts fiddling with their knives, walking with an open knife, and not necessarily behaving in a safe manner. I find it interesting that the same pocketknife that a boy would bring on a campout, could also get him expelled from school (no weapons on school grounds). It is also interesting to note that some of the first aid that is needed on campouts is due to cuts from whittling, or some other type of knife activity. The Scouting program has an achievement award called the, “Totin’Chip” award for learning the safe handling of knives, axes, saws and other sharp outdoor tools. I don’t know that I would recommend for the Scouts to bring knives on typical hikes or outings, but there is a need for a couple of knives when preparing a meal, for fishing and for some other activities. But, rarely do all of the Scouts need to have their own knives. My recommendation is to use a Multi-tool such as a Leatherman (with the needlenose head) or a Swiss Army Knife with about 8 or 10 tools on it. One of my beliefs is that the best knife for whittling and making kindling, is actually just a simple sheet-rock knife that you can buy at the hardware store for less than 5 dollars. It is lightweight, safer, has a retractable blade, a perfectly sized handle, a blade that won’t close on your fingers, and has replaceable blades. It is great for whittling intricate detail for a neckerchief slide or a cane, but somehow it is not as “cool” as an expensive knife, and you generally do not see them in the outdoors.

First Aid Kit. Every scout should have their own small “personal” first aid kit, and the Troop should have a larger one on every outing. Band-Aids, an alcohol towelet, an antibacterial ointment, a 2x2” square of Duct tape and personal medications are all that should be in the personal first aid kits. It should be kept in a small, dry, sterile container that should be about the size of a wallet. The Troop first aid kit should be about 10 times that big and contain many more of items, but still should be light and compact. Always bring a first aid kit on every outing.

Extra Clothing. Since Rain gear is covered in the next paragraph, there are 2 concerns here: blisters and body temperature. Probably the number 1 fear of the Troop is that someone will get 5 miles out on a hike and will get blisters bad enough that he will not be able to continue. For blisters, Band-Aids will not stay in place. Some of the better solutions are to use the Duct tape from the Personal First Aid Kit, to tape up the hot spots before they become blisters. From my experience, the places that blisters form are: the back of the heel, the ball of the foot behind the big toe, and the edge of the big toe and the edge of the pinky toe. Duct tape on the skin is good, because it will stay in place as the shoes continue to rub. Put the tape on both the hot-spot on your foot and also the corresponding place on the shoe. There are several products that have some merit in blister prevention too. The other solution to blisters forming, is to change shoes. This sounds pretty simple, yet rarely do people bring a second lightweight pair of shoes on a long hike. Blisters form from the skin rubbing against a projecting portion of the shoes over time. Do not go on a hike in a new pair of shoes that have not been broken in yet. And build up some calluses on your feet before going on the long hikes. As for the body temperature aspect of Extra Clothing, think in layers that you can put on to warm up, or take off to cool down. The extra clothing will help you regulate your body temperature better.

Rain gear. This is broad item since I would put the waterproof snow gear in this category also. Again, it does not have to be expensive. A waterproof jacket with a hood, a waterproof poncho, a waterproof pair of sweats, and a hat is all that is needed. Nothing takes the fun out of an activity more than getting wet. An activity can still be fun if you have a layer of rain gear that can be put on as determined by the weather. Some cloth shoes, jackets, hats and other articles of clothing can be made more waterproof by applying a clear spray coating of a waterproofing liquid such as 3M’s Scotchgard Heavy Duty Water Repellent, or similar outdoor waterproofing sprays.

Water bottle. A good water bottle should always be handy. My preference is to carry one that is relatively clear, at least a quart, has a flip top, a belt clip and has an opening size to fit on the bottom of the water purifiers. It is nice if it is clear so you can see to clean it easy and to tell how much water is left. Although it is called a “water” bottle, often lemonade powder, punch or other drinks may be put in it. I like to add just a touch of Crystal Light to my water bottle. It takes a little bit more effort to clean a bottle if fluids other that water have been left in them. The Platypus types of water containers are excellent also, since they are light and collapsible. I clearly remember one campout where the Scouts caught a bunch of 4” long newts and carried them around in their water bottles for several hours. I don’t think that they drank out of their water bottles for the rest of that camp, but it was memorable to see a little critter swimming around in their water bottles. Many of the Water filters/purifiers can screw right on to the top of a water bottle.

Flashlight. It is my belief that handheld flashlights have become obsolete now that the LED headlamps are available everywhere. The LEDs are light, long-lasting, cheap and durable. They free up both of your hands and shine in the direction that your head is pointing. You can just put them on your forehead, or over your hat. They are small enough to put in your pocket, or in a sleeping bag pocket. With branches, wild animals, slippery objects and logs, it is actually quite dangerous to be out in the dark woods at night without a light. I consider a headlamp to be absolutely essential for everyone on the overnight campouts. The LEDs usually work on small AAA batteries and seem to last forever.

Trail food. My preference is just a baggie filled with a granola cereal. Some of the Chex or other cereals are good too. Some of the chocolate fiber bars are nice. Don’t get something that tastes too good, or it will be eaten too early. Many of the dehydrated foods are fantastic, but can be a little expensive. We have a food dehydrator, that is very good at making great snacks from foods that may otherwise go to waste. It is perfect for apple slices, dried fruits, etc. I read in a survival book a while ago, “not to eat something dry, unless you have something to drink with it.” This is quite profound since your stomach needs liquids to go with the food into the intestinal area.

Matches and fire starters. What is really needed is a couple of cigarette lighters for the whole Troop. Matches are another item that are rapidly going obsolete. My preference is for the long stem lighters that are used to light a barbeque grill. These should probably be kept in with the cooking supplies, and may not even be needed if going on a hike. Not every Scout needs to bring his own matches or lighter. These should be a Troop item instead of an individual item.

Sun protection. Simple, but important. It can be purchased in small containers that take up very little space. Mosquito repellant should also be listed in with this item, since mosquitoes can take a lot of the enjoyment out of a hike, fishing trip or sleeping under the stars. Many people are sensitive to mosquito bites and should use additional precaution.

Map and compass. May I also add a watch and a copy of the itinerary to this list of orienteering items? Maps, a compass and a watch go together. In addition to keeping everyone on schedule, a watch is important because it lets you know how far you have hiked. If you know that you walk at a rate of 3 miles an hour, then you can measure that distance on the map and get a good approximation of where you would be on the map. Each person should have their copy of the map so that each one knows where they are, instead of just relying on the person that is the guide. GPSs are awesome but may be a little complicated for new users or younger people. The basics of maps and magnetic declination need to be understood by all, and orienteering is an important skill that needs to be learned and practiced regularly. Each person should have a copy of the itinerary that lists the proposed times, routes, destinations, emergency contact numbers, etc. I refer to it as the “flight plan.” It is easier for everyone to understand the outing, and they can respond to emergencies better.

These are the “Scout Outdoor Essentials,” and should be included on most outings. Nothing on this list is expensive, and many of the items can be shared. This brief list reinforces the Boy Scout Motto of “Be Prepared.” Outings should be simple but fun. Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of Scouting from Britain probably said it best, “Scouting is fun with a purpose.”


Other Scouting and hiking articles are at BackpackBasecamp.com

Friday, July 10, 2009

Reading to Inspire a Hike

Ever have some trouble getting the kids motivated for a hike?  How about your spouse?  Maybe you are married to someone that has a hard time understanding why you want to wonder around sleeping in the woods for weeks at a time?  Well, I was wondering around Campmor a few weeks ago and stumbled across this children’s book Halfway to the Sky by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley.  It’s written for pre-teens (of which I have two).  It looked interesting so I picked it up.  I read it first (Sometime ago I was under the misguided impression that I could read all the books my kids read – before them to make sure they are OK.  This long ago went by the wayside since my eleven year old daughter reads about twice as fast as me and has five times more time to do it).


Halfway to the Sky is the story of a twelve year old girl, Dani how is going through a tough time.  Her older brother died of muscular dystrophy and her parents are recently divorced.  Dani runs away from home.  So that her parents don’t find her, she plans to hike the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine.  Her mother figures out where she has gone and catches up to her on her second night.  Dani is able to convince her mom to hike with her for a while.

During their hike, the experience of the trail is a catharsis for Dani and she is able to let go of her anger.  In the process Dani and her mom have bonded together.  When my daughter finished this book I could see she gained both a better understanding of how to deal with grief and anger and a much better understanding of how hiking and backpacking can free a person from the day-to-day ruts we all get stuck in.  It is always hard to put into words and explain to someone why it is we really love hiking.  This book allows the reader to get some insight into what the trail experience is like. 

The book is written for children, but after my daughters good reaction to it, my wife read it also.  Same reaction. I highly recommend it.


BTW: The links for the book on this page go to Amazon.com; If you by this $5.99 book via one of these links, this web site gets a 24 cent commission on the sale!  All I need to do is get about 25 people to buy this book and it will pay for the copy i purchase at Campmor!


Friday, June 26, 2009

Mainstream Vendors Making Progress on Ultralight Backpacking Tents

Sometimes it’s a bit annoying to see backpacking technology change so quickly, especially when I just bought a new tent six months ago.  Never the less, it is great to see large outdoor manufactures continuing to make progress in making gear lighter.  Big Agnes is a leader in this.  They have recently come out with a new one person three season freestanding tent that is under 2 pounds.  It is the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1 weighing in at 1 lb. 14 oz. (trail weightflycreekUL1tent-zm – not counting stakes, guy lines, instructions and stuff sack, 2 lbs 3 oz. total “packed” weight).  I few features of this tent that I really like.  First the Fly Creek UL1 is freestanding, this is sometimes a big advantage and can make the tent much easer and faster to setup on a platform or a rocky area. Second, I like the netting, when the weather is clear, you can pitch it without the fly and get a nice view of the stars while still having some privacy around the bottom half of the walls.  On the down side the floor is ultralight rip-stop nylon so it may be necessary to carry the footprint – an additional 4 ounces.


Overall this is a great light weight backpacking tent.  Still a bit heaver then the non-freestanding alternatives and not as roomy as the Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo or the Tarptent, but definitely worth considering.






Iodine Water Treatment Banned in Europe; Alternative Water Purification Methods

Some of you may already know, as of October 26, 2009 the EU has banned the sale of iodine water purification drops or tablets.  The European Union has in it’s infinite wisdom issued a “Biocides Directive” (detailed bureaucratic document at this link) that prohibits the sale of iodine for water treatment or disinfectant in any of the countries in the EU.  Iodine will still continue to be legal in the United States.  The U.S. Center for Disease Control (link) has for a long time had a warning out about using iodine for wilderness water treatment.  Iodine can be extremely dangerous if used in incorrect quantities, if used over an extended period of time (more than a few weeks) or if pregnant or have a thyroid disease. The CDC recommends against using iodine as your main water purification/treatment method on a multi-week long distance backpacking trip.

There are several alternative methods of treating water when hiking in the wilderness.

  1. Boil the water.  Boiling water is the best method for making water safe to drink. Boiling water will kill bacterial, parasitic, and viral causes of diarrhea. Adding a pinch of salt to each quart will improve the taste. Although this is the safest method, most backpackers don’t use this as their normal water purification method due to the added weight of the fuel required and the time needed to boil and cool the water.
  2. Water filters. According to the CDC “Certain types of portable water filters can also remove some types of infectious agents from drinking water. However, most of the portable filters on the market do not effectively remove viruses, thus chemical disinfection of water is needed after filtering with such filters to make the water safer for drinking. Some portable water filters designed to remove parasites (Giardia/Cryptosporidium) have an "absolute” pore sizes of 0.1 to 1-micrometer and, therefore, may also remove most diarrhea-causing bacteria.  Viruses are smaller than 0.1 micron and will NOT be removed by filters with a pore size of 0.1 or larger. To kill viruses that may pass through these filters, ..use a chemical disinfection method.”  Many light weight backpacking water filters are available, check REI.com .
  3. Chemical treatment. There are three primary types of chemical disinfection used for water purification.  Effectiveness rates stated here are based on CDC study (CDC Water Treatment Study).
    1. Iodine; Iodine is not effective against Cryptosporidium.  It does have a low to medium effectiveness on Giardia and a high effectiveness on bacteria and viruses (Campylobacter, Salmonella, Shigella, E. Coli).  If water is extremely cold, less than 5° C (41° F), an attempt should be made to warm the water, and contact time (standing time between adding a chemical disinfectant to the water and drinking the water) should be increased.
    2. Chlorine Dioxide; Chlorine dioxide has a a low to medium effectiveness on Cryptosporidium and a high effectiveness on bacteria and viruses (Campylobacter, Salmonella, Shigella, E. Coli).  The Aquamira Water Treatment is liquid chlorine dioxide treatment that purifies water in 30 minutes.  Alternatively, tablets can be used made by both Aquamira and Katadyn.  Tablets take about 4 hours to be effective.
    3. Chlorine; Chlorine, similar to iodine is not effective against Cryptosporidium.  It does have a low to medium effectiveness on Giardia and a high effectiveness on bacteria and viruses (Campylobacter, Salmonella, Shigella, E. Coli).
  4. Ultraviolet Light.  Ultraviolet light can be used as a method against some microorganisms.  The technology requires pre-filtering due to to its dependence on the water not being cloudy.  The SteriPEN Adventurer Water Purifier is one of these ultralight ultraviolet water purifiers. Independent testing on specific systems is limited.
  5. MIOX systems. These use a salt solution and electrical current.  The MSR MIOX Purifier is an example of this.  Generally kills viruses and bacteria in 15 minutes.

More information on water purification will soon be available on BackpackBasecamp.com

Monday, June 8, 2009

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Now Available

Late last year and in early 2009 some backpackers were a bit frustrated that they couldn’t get their hands on the latest and greatest piece of gear – The Cascade Designs Therm-a-Rest NeoAir sleeping pad.  The manufacturer didn’t have enough to fill the early demand.  The delay may have allowed some to reconsider it they really wanted to spend $120 or more on a sleeping pad (versus $40 for a Z-lite).  For those of you that have decided it is worth it; REI now has them available at: REI.com

Compared to the Therm-a-Rest Z-lite the NeoAir is better in many ways. The weight of both is about the same, the Z-lite is 14 oz for the Regular size as is the NeoAir; Z-lite is 10 oz for the small size the NeoAir is 9 oz for the small size.  The Z-lite has an R-Value of 2.2, the NeoAir an R-Value of 2.5 (better).  The NeoAir has a much smaller pack size 4” x 9” (water bottle size), the Z-lite pack size is 20” x 5.5” x 5”.  The NeoAir is also thicker and gives you a more comfortable nights sleep.  On the down side, the NeoAir is an air mattress so you have to blow it up, then deflate it to pack it (this can be a pain) and there is the risk of a leak.


Overall I really like the idea of reducing my pack size so I think I will give this thing a try.  Below is video review of the NeoAir.


Friday, June 5, 2009

Backpacking and Camping in a Hammock

As the warm weather comes, it is time for Hammock Camping! In Hammack CampingThere is nothing like sleeping out under the stars in a hammock. Whether you are backpacking into the wilderness or “car camping” with the family, if the situation is right, consider using a hammock.

If you are with the kids I would advise bringing both a tent and the hammock.The children love to play and lay around in the hammock, but it does take some time to feel comfortable sleeping in a hammock. Better to have a tent as a fallback for the kids.

When you are backpacking solo or with a partner, if the conditions are right, swapping the tent for a hammock may be the best option. There are several reasons to use a hammock or not depending on the situation. Issues like weight, bugs, comfort and temperature.

a setup hammockFirst let’s consider weight. This is always a top concern with experienced backpackers. Compared to an average single person tent, hammocks are lightweight, mine being just under 2 pounds (a Hennessy Ultralight Backpacker Asym). But, compared to an ultralight tent – they are a bit on the heavy site (my Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo is 1 Lb. 10 oz.). On the other hand, if the weather is warm, with a hammock you don’t need a sleeping pad or ground cloth so there is a pound or so weight savings there and bit more simplicity to life. On the third hand (if you have one) – when you are hiking with a partner and sharing a tent, an ultralight 2 person tent is lighter that two hammocks even considering the sleeping pads.

Comfort – After a hard day of hiking you want sleep well. If you have never slept in a hammock before definitely practice spending the night in the backyard in it first. It takes a bit of getting used to. Some people like it almost immediately. I think it is more usual to struggle with it at first, maybe even have a bit of claustrophobia in it (this goes away). It takes a bit of practice learning how to get in and out of the hammock without a struggle. A little more practice to be able to easily be in the hammock and be able to crawl into a sleeping bag or put on a jacket if you are cold. The best way to sleep in a hammock is at a bit of an angle. Have your body 20 degrees or so off center to the center line (ridge line) of the hammock. This causes the hammock to be more flat reducing the curve under your body. When angled in this way you can sleep on your side or turn over more easily.

Generally I find hammocks more comfortable than sleeping on the ground. There are no rocks or sticks poking you in the back. You don’t have to worry about the ground being level and if the rain starts, you don’t need to worry about the ground getting wet and water seeping into the tent. As a bonus you do sometimes get a slight rocking which can help you sleep. The hammocks I’ve listed in the comparison chart in this article all have bug netting. This is a big advantage over tarps which are obviously lighter than hammocks. Most of the hammocks in my chart include a optional tarp to keep the rain off. This comes in handy if there are no trees around to hang the hammock, the tarp can be used alone or you can use the hammock as a bivy.

The main problem with hammocks is that they can be cold. You are surrounded by air, so as the temperature drops and the wind starts it can suck the heat out of you. There are various ways to deal with this, the simplest being – just use the hammock when it is warm out. If the temperature is going to drop into the forties you’ll need to take additional steps. Being careful to hang the hammock out of the wind makes a huge difference. You can add a sleeping pad under you or various other attachments can be added – I will list a few a bit lower in this article. The problem with adding things to the hammock is that it also adds weight; at some point is it more logical to switch to a tent.

The below chart is a Comparison of the camping hammocks available; It my not display correctly in this blog post depending on your computer;
to see a clearer view of the comparison table and with more details; go to the article on the web site: http://www.backpackbasecamp.com/Articles/Hammockcamping.html

Maker Model Weight Dimensions

Clark Jungle

North American

2 lb 15 oz

98" x 44"

Clark Jungle
Vertex 2-person
4 lb 14 oz
104" x 44"ea
Clark Jungle NX -250
3 lb 10 oz
110" x 50"
Clark Jungle Tropical 2 lb. 8.5 oz 98" x 44 "
Clark Jungle Ultra Light 2 lb. 6 oz 98" x 44 "
Hennessy Hammocks Expedition Asym 2 lb. 12 oz 100" x 65"
Hennessy Ultralight Backpacker Asym 1 lb. 15 oz 100" x 65"
Hennessy Explorer Ultralight 2 lb. 9 oz 110" x 66"
Hennessy Explorer Deluxe 3 lb. 6 oz 110" x 66"
Hennessy Safari Deluxe 4 lb. 2 oz 112" x 70"
Hennessy Hyperlight Asym 1 lb. 10 oz 100" x 65"
Hennessy Scout 2 lb. 11.5 oz 100" x 48"
Hennessy Survivor 2 lb. 15 oz 108" x 63"
Hennessy Desert Rat 2 lb. 10 oz 100" x 64"
Mosquito Hammock Jungle Hammock 3 lb. 117" x 48"
Mosquito Hammock Expedition Hammock 2 lb. 96" x 48"
Crazy Creek Crazy Crib w/Tarp 3 lb. 3 oz 94" x 44"
Crazy Creek Crazy Crib LEX w/Tarp 3 lb. 6 oz 94" x 44"
Lawson Blue Ridge Camping 4 lb. 4 oz 90" x 36"
Hammock Bliss No see um no more 2 lb. 6 oz 118" x 59"
Warbonnet Outdoor Blackbird 21.5 - 28.5 oz 120" x 72"
Jacks R Better Bear Mountain 1 lb. 10 oz 88" x 29"

There are more than a few camping hammocks on the market to choose from, some are more suitable for backpacking than others.  The above is a comparison chart of the best ones I have found.  If you know of others or see an error on this page, please email me and let me know. These all include bug netting and most include a rain fly.

There are several others I didn’t put in the comparison chart, either because they don’t come with a rain fly (you could always add a tarp) or their weight makes them too heavy for backpacking.  You may still want to consider these, especially for car camping. Particularly the Grand Truck Ultralight Skeeter Beeter and the Byer Moskito Traveller look interesting, both of these you can get at Altrec.com or Campsaver.comTreklightgear also has some interesting options.

There are several “accessories” that can be added to the hammock – various way to speed up hooking it to the trees, snakeskins to speed up the setup, take down and storage (Hennessy option), smaller hammocks to store you gear, and down blankets to keep you warmer.  A big innovator in this area is JacksRbetter.com. They sell quilts and ‘nests’ to keep you warmer in a hammock, self tensioning lines, clips and various other cool items.


Monday, June 1, 2009

Ultimate Slackpacking and Hiking in the White Mountains

I happen to live in the Northeast, the home of the Appalachian Mountain Club.  If you don’t life in this part of the county you may not have heard of it.  The AMC is an old hiking club started in 1876 and has about 90,000 members.  The organization does just phenomenal work including maintaining and running a series of ‘huts’ in the New Hampshire White Mountains.  The huts are spaced about a days hike away from each other and offer a nice place to sleep, meals and other activities.  This allows you to slackpack – even with children through some of the most beautiful mountains and wilderness.  This short video will give you an idea of how nice it can be.


The AMC has also added a few new blogs, one of which I feel looks very promising.  Kristen Laine is writing “Tips on getting kids outside” http://amcoutdoorskids.blogspot.com/ Take a look at it.