Friday, October 29, 2010

Interesting New Products

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""I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself than be crowded on a velvet cushion." ~Henry David Thoreau

I came across a few new interesting things:

JetBoil CrunchIt

Finally an easy way to recycle those metal gas canisters. The device screws on to gas stove canisters then punctures a whole in the empty canister like a can opener. So far I’ve only seen it for sale as part of a Jetboil set at REI.com but hopefully they will be around in stores soon separately.


Bear Grylls Survival Series Ultimate Knife

This new Gerber Knife, tagged with the logo of Bear Grylls “Man vs Wild” fame; will start shipping November 15, 2010, you can get is on Amazon.com for $59.99 (retails at $79.99).


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Cheap Quality Rain Gear

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"Well done is better than well said.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

So this past week I was on a family vacation, part of which included a few days in Ocean City, MD at the beach. The first full day there we wake up to pouring rain.  I think my wife may have been secretly happy about this as it created an excuse to go to the factory outlet stores.  Having left anything that resembled rain gear at home, I agreed and off we went.

After looking around in various outlets and not finding anything reasonable I decided to opt for an umbrella and spotted the “Totes” outlet.  I knew I could find a good quality small micro umbrella in there.  But what surprised me was top quality light weight rain jackets for the entire family.marmot

Normally when I backpack I bring my Marmot PreCip Jacket which is a great piece of rain gear.  It weighs about 12 ounces (336g), has a “breathable” coating, big zipper pockets and pit zips. It sells for about $99 (REI link on photo).

I know lighter rain jackets are available, some as light as 7 or 8 ounces made of Gore Tex Paclite or Event.  But so far I have not been able to bring myself to spend the additional hundreds of dollars to save 4 or 5 ounces. 

I was pleasantly surprised to find such high quality rain jackets at the totes outlet.  I purchased one that felt ‘light’ – turned out to be 11.5 ounces (medium).  It has a nylon shell and polyester lining, netting on the inside top half, vented back. Velcro wrist and rain pocket closures, a nice hood and a waist tightening cinch pull.  Unfortunately no pit zips. But guess the price? $14.

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Sunday, August 8, 2010

Bug Hunting With Kids

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"Be who you are & say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind. - Dr. Seuss

This is a guest post by Debi Huang; Check out her blog at:
Go Explore Nature

Bug Hunting With Kids

While it’s true not all kids like bugs, going on a bug hunt is still fun – especially if you take along some friends. After all, the more eyes looking out for critters, the better! Here’s how to make your next adventure a success, even for the most squeamish among you.

Bug hunt container

1. Bring the right tools.

A bug container, bug tweezers and a magnifying glass are pretty much essential. The kid-sized tweezers make grabbing fairly simple, even for little ones. Store your catch in a bug container long enough to examine it close up without fear of it crawling or flying away. Just be sure to release it before heading inside!

Bug hunt worms[1]

2. Know where to look.

Backyard bugs can usually be found under things, like potted plants or other heavy items. If you’re on the trail, look for bugs in flowers and trees or near water.

3. Take your time.

Bugs are easy to miss if you’re walking too fast. Most are small and many have the gift of camouflage, making them tough to spot at first glance. Take it slow and let your eyes roam the area for anything that moves. You might even want to pick one place and hang out for a while.

4. Search for signs of bugs, too.

Finding bugs is thrilling, but so are signs of bugs or bug homes. Spider webs and vacated cocoons are good examples. My kids are also enthralled with dead bugs, so don’t be too quick to discourage curiosity in whatever form it comes.Bug hunt damselfly

5. Try to stay quiet.

I know what you’re thinking – how is staying quiet possible with kids? But you’d be surprised how willing kids are to listen and be still when looking for bugs and other wild critters. And once you’ve spotted one – and you will, trust me – even the littlest of kids seems instinctively to know to be still and enjoy their new toy. At least for a little while!

Debi Huang is a Los Angeles-based wife, mom and adventure guide for two young boys. Her blog at Go Explore Nature is all about getting kids and families outdoors and connected to nature.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Evernew DX vs Trail Designs Caldera Cone; Comparison tests

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"I like long walks, especially when they are taken by people who annoy me." ~ Noel Coward

For a couple years now I’ve been using the Trail Designs Ti-Tri Caldera Titanium Cone as my main backpacking stove.  It is an extremely efficient light weight design.  For those of you not familiar with the Caldera Cone; it is an ultralight alcohol stove with an aluminum (or in this case titanium) cone.  The cone drastically increases fuel efficiency and is both the pot stand and the wind shield.  With the titanium version you can burn wood as well as alcohol (you can also burn Esbit, thus the ‘Tri’ in the name).  This design allows the hiker to carry much less weight in the from of fuel. 

Ti-Tri-Alcohol-Mode Caldera Cone

Overall I’ve been happy with the Caldera Ti-Tri system.  There are a few things that still bug me about it and caused me to look for better alternatives.  The first is that it takes up a lot of space in my backpack.  There are a few ways to store the thing, Trail Designs sells it with with a plastic container (food quality that can double as a cup).  The trouble with the plastic container is that it is not light and the second time I used the stove I ripped a slit in the top (good bye usefulness as a cup).  The edges of the titanium cone are very sharp (that’s how I ripped the top of the container) and so I need to be very careful not to cut myself.  Not something I want to be worried about in the wilderness.  On my particular cone the pot gets stuck in it, giving me trouble getting the hot pot out of the cone.

The stove I’ve picked to use now is the Evernew Ti DX set.  Again it is made out of titanium and can burn alcohol, word or Esbit.  It packs down much smaller than the Caldera Cone (I store it in my pot).  The Evernew stove has no sharp edges and has a very high quality ‘feel’ to it.  Unlike the Cone, the Evernew is not fuel efficient. It burns hot and fast.  Boil time for the Evernew is 4 minutes, 30 Seconds (2 cups 68 degree water) versus the Caldera Cone boil time of 6 minutes, 5 seconds.  So you can get your water to boil fast – an advantage.  The disadvantage is it burns hot – burn out time on 20 ml of alcohol was under 5 minutes whereas the Caldera Cone burned for over 8 and 1/2 minutes on 20 ml of fuel.

Evernew Stove

The Evernew wins on weight; The entire DX set is only 3.2 oz. (92g); My Caldera Ti Tri is 2.4 oz (68g) but including the plastic container it is 5.0 oz (143g).  Note: Each Caldera is a different weight depending what pot they are made for.  Mine is for a 700 pot which weights 3.2 oz (92g).

The Pot I use for the Evernew is a 1 Liter Evernew Pasta Pot that weights 4.1 oz (116g).  Since the Evernew is not custom made for specific pots I have much more flexibility here, which is another reason I now prefer the Evernew DX. 

So my entire setup including the larger pot with the Evernew is now 7.3 oz (208g); The Caldera was 8.3 oz (234g); so I also save an ounce by switching.

Here is a video testing the two stoves side by side:

Related reviews:

Evernew DX Ti Alcohol Stove Review

Evernew DX Ti Stove Burning Wood

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Eight Year Olds and Fire-Belly Toads

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“You have to kiss a lot of toads before you find a handsome prince.”

On at least one morning each weekend I try to go on a fast paced hike up and around a mountain and reservoir that’s about 20 minutes from where I live. The whole hiking loop I normally do is about 5 miles. I attempt to do it and get back before the family is 100% up and about. It’s a little bit of quiet alone time for dad and it helps me clear my head. Usually I make an insincere offer the night before or that morning asking if anyone would like to come with me. Normally no takers, but this past Saturday for some reason (I was suspicious already) my son decided he would love to join me. fire_belly_toad

So my pace dropped to the stride of an eight year old boy. A boy who was apparently in the mood to talk a lot (so much for quiet time), to talk a lot about Fire-Belly Toads. The hike went something like this:


“Dad, did you know they sell Fire-Belly Toads at Petco?”
“No, I don’t think I know what a Fire-Belly Toad is.”
“They are really cool toads, they eat crickets, could we get one?”
“Live crickets?”
“Ya, you can buy the at Petco, they come in a box.”
“You want to keep live crickets in a box in your bedroom, aren't they noisy?”
“You have to feed them every couple of days”

Time goes by, as we walk along…

“Dad, did you know my friend Mary won a national art Contest in school.”
“Oh, that’s great, she seems like a nice girl.”
“She’s interesting. She doesn’t eat meat. They eat worms too, you have to give them live food (the toads, not Mary) ”.
“What did she draw to win the contest?  She’s a vegetarian?”
“She draws pictures of airplanes.”  “She’s a Muslim, she’s from Portugal.”

Time goes by…

“My one friend, Nick, he is a model. I think it might be better to be an actor”
“You, want to be an actor?”
“No. You have to keep them between 72°F to 78°F degrees, can’t let them get to hot, but they can get colder sometimes”
“Anyway, there aren’t any actors my age.
“Sure there are; what about Cassady, she’s an actress, you know her.”


“She’s Nickie’s age (12).”  “Toads are amphibians, we need to have a pool of water in the cage.”

“What about Annasophia Robb (continuing to try to change the subject), she was about your age when she made “Winn-Dixie”

“Ya, I like dogs too.”

“Hey, Look Connor, there’s a Frog!”
”Why don’t you pick him up?”
"Dad, I don’t want to touch him.”
”Won't you have to touch the toad to pick him up to clean his cage?”
”That’s different. That is  a WILD frog!”

Time goes by…

“How long do these toads live?”
"About 10 to 12 years”
“So is it final we are getting a toad?”

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Too Short Visit to the Rocky Mountains

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“Faith, indeed, has up to the present not been able to move real mountains . . . But it can put mountains where there are none.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

This past weekend I went to Denver to be at my nieces’ wedding. I was lucky enough to be able to take a few additional days off work and do some hiking in the Rocky Mountains.  My brother and I, both being sea level people, decided to take Sunday to do a day hike and acclimate ourselves to the altitudes.

Sniktau Mountain View










We chose Sniktau mountain on the Continental Divide at Loveland Pass.  To get there from Denver, use I 70, exit at Loveland Pass just before the Eisenhower Tunnel onto Highway 6.  This mountain has an altitude of 13,234 feet at its’ summit.  This is a good hike to start with for us low landers.  At the bottom of the mountain the temperature was about 75 degrees.  The trail head starts at about 11,900 feet and goes up fairly steeply.  Having a bit of trouble getting used to the thin air, we just took our time.  The trail ascends steadily as it reaches the first knoll.  The temperature dropped to about 50 degrees at the summit, with some serious winds.  Sniktau mountain ridge

The views of the surrounding Rocky Mountains are extraordinary and breath-taking (couldn’t resist that pun).  The trail then follows a ridge line descending and ascending from Knoll to knoll. The partially snow covered trail (this was June 6th) continues to give fantastic views well worth the hike.  At the fifth knoll you reach the summit and are rewarded with picture perfect panoramas.

View from summit of Sniktau mountainOn the way back down the ridge line, winds picked up significantly, somewhere between 60 – 90 miles per hour winds, giving us a go feel for the power of nature.



Some video clips from the hike up Sniktau mountain:

Monday we went to Rocky Mountains National Park.  About 2 hours from Denver, RMNP is a national treasure.  If offers over 350 miles of hiking trails, many drive in camp sites and over 200 ‘backcountry’ campsites.  Permits and bear canisters are required for backcountry camping.  We visited the parks backcountry permit office, were greeted by an attractive young ranger, Megan.  She was helpful and efficient.  Walked us through the rules and paperwork, and issue us a permit to camp at Spruce lake.  We were on the trail minutes later.  No problems whatsoever.

I only wish I could have spent more time exploring the trails and mountains.  That will have to wait for a longer next visit.


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Vargo Triad Titanium Alcohol Stove

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“Contentment consist not in adding more fuel, but in taking away some fire.” ~ Thomas Fuller

I really love this little Vargo Triad stove, I don’t really use it much but maybe I will start again.  It has 3 folding legs that are intended to be pushed into the ground to hold the stove steady.   It has another three ‘arms’ that form the pot stand.  It weighs practically nothing, boils 2 cups of water in about 7 to 7 1/2 minutes.  It is VERY sensitive to wind, so you must use a good wind screen.  One unique thing about it, you can blow it out when you are done and easily pour the remaining alcohol back into you fuel canister.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Hiking & Backpacking First Aid Kit

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“For safety is not a gadget but a state of mind.”  ~Eleanor Everet

So if your like me you have some sort of a first aid kit in your pack, and probably only look in it when you are on the trail and need something, then discover you used your last one (of whatever it is your looking for) on your last trip.  Tomorrow I’m flying to Denver for a wedding and following the wedding will be doing some backpacking in the Rocky Mountains.  Since I have to check my backpack on the plane, I figured I better look what’s in the first aid kit and make sure it is OK to bring on the plane.  It’s  good opportunity to refill it and replace any old stuff anyway.  I sometime leave out a few of these things to reduce the weight.  If I’m hiking with a group, I can sometime bring much less.  Solo or with my children, I feel comfortable with this.

So here is what I have in mine:


  • Ibuprofen tables (Motrin)
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
  • Nasal decongestant (Sudafed)
  • Diphenhydramine HCI (Benadryl)
  • Tylenol Cold
  • Zantac 75
  • Pepcid
  • Gas X
  • Cough drops
  • Burn gel (1 blister pack)
  • Chloraseptic strips
  • Anbesol Toothache pain killer

Basic Care & Wounds:

  • Sunscreen lotion (2 blister packs)
  • Neosporin (3 blister packs)
  • Benzoin Tincture
  • Antiseptic Towelettes
  • Moleskin
  • Blister bandages
  • Sting Relief Pad (Benzocaine)
  • Ace Bandage
  • Medical tape
  • Small magnifying glass
  • Dental floss
  • Tweezers
  • Safety pins (2)
  • Contact lenses
  • Aquamira water purification tabs
  • BreatheRight stips
  • Assorted bandages

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Alcohol Stove Fuel Comparison – Part 2

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“Contentment consist not in adding more fuel, but in taking away some fire.” ~ Thomas Fuller

My prior post “Alcohol Stove Fuel Comparison”  did a few tests comparing different backpacking stove fuels such as HEET, Iso-HEET, denatured alcohol and grain alcohol.

When comparing HEET (methyl alcohol) in the yellow bottle to Iso-HEET (Isopropyl alcohol) in the red bottle, Iso-HEET showed itself to be a much better performer.  Although it is an extremely sooty and dirty fuel.

This surprised myself and some of my readers.  One viewer suggested the performance issue of HEET might be related to the height of the pot stands.  In the below video of this follow-up test, this indeed proved to the case.  I varied the distance between the stove and the pot and at the medium distance HEET performed well.

Here’s the video of my results: 


Saturday, May 29, 2010

Backpacking Alcohol Stove Fuel Comparison

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“Gain may be temporary and uncertain; but ever while you live, expense is constant and certain: and it is easier to build two chimneys than to keep one in fuel.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

So many people use alcohol stoves as a way to lighten their backpacks, myself included.  Yet we still have to carry the fuel, which is one of the reasons I use stoves that can burn wood or alcohol, sometime reducing the fuel weight or as a backup fuel (I’m currently using the EVERNEW Ti DX stove).

Most hikers use either denatured alcohol or HEET to fuel their alcohol stoves.  I was curious which of these performed better as well as other alternatives.  In this video (below) I compared the four most likely choices:

  • HEET (yellow bottle)
  • Iso-HEET (red bottle)
  • S-L-X Denatured Alcohol
  • Everclear Grain Alcohol

The price difference between HEET and denatured alcohol is minimal and varies depending on where you are buying it.  At the local LOWES HEET is $1.79 for 355ml (about 1/2 cent per ML).  Denatured Alcohol is $6.68 for 946ml (about 7/10 cent per ML).  Everclear at the liquor store is $15.75 for 750ml (about 2 cents per ML) – far more expensive.

When looking for HEET competitors, the marketing people make it very difficult to tell what is actually in the bottle.  Some companies put the chemical abstract number in the ingredient list (the number starting with CAS#…..) others like “STP” don’t (by the way STP is not a good fuel).

HEET in the yellow bottle is CAS#67-56-1: Translation – This is 100% Methyl Alcohol.  Iso-HEET is CAS#67-63-0: Translation – This is 90 – 100% Isopropyl Alcohol.  Iso-HEET is not the same as “Rubbing Alcohol” sold in drug stores which is only 70% Isopropyl Alcohol.  Denatured Alcohol is “ethanol” a.k.a. Ethyl Alcohol plus an additive that makes it poisonous to drink.  It is not clear what percentage of S-L-X Denatured Alcohol is Ethyl.  Everclear Grain Alcohol sold in liquor stores and drinkable is 95% “Grain Alcohol” which is Ethyl Alcohol.

All that said I compared these four options.  The Iso-HEET performed “Best” in my test bringing the water to a boil first.  Denatured alcohol was a close second, nearly the same as Everclear.  HEET (yellow bottle) did the worst boiling the water last and the flame going out first.

However, Iso-HEET also burned very ‘dirty’ covering the pot in soot.  I often use my pots on a wood burner so you wouldn’t think this would bother me, but this soot was much dirtier than you get from a wood fire, getting all over my hands and making everything dirty.

It was also pointed out to me by one of my viewers on my Youtube channel that the height of the pots my be effecting the results.  That I may have inadvertently placed the pots at the optimum height for Iso-HEET and the worst height for HEET (flame temperature varying by it’s height). Hmm.  This could be.  I will need to redo this test with the pots at different heights – I’ll see if I can make some time for that.  In the mean time, here’s the video of my results:



Thursday, May 27, 2010

“Live Free or Die” – Review of Dead Men Walk No Trails by Rick McKinney

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“A vigorous five-mile walk will do more good for an unhappy but otherwise healthy adult than all the medicine and psychology in the world.” -- Paul Dudley White


Dealing with suicidal depression after a friends suicide, the author’s self prescribed treatment is to hike the Appalachian Trail (GA>ME 2004) writing this book as he goes uploading a bit at a time.

Blue blazing, aqua blazing (a canoe trip through Shenandoah) , yellow blazing. listening to the radio most of the way.  The author writes more about heavy drinking, ‘self-medicating’, and taking weeks at a time ‘off-trail’, than he does about the actual hiking - not your typical Appalachian trail thru-hiker.  White-blaze purist would be incredulous. And yet, even though in large parts of the book he spends obsessed with chasing this girl or the other girl (some parts more like an adolescent romance novel than a trail journal) there is still deep insight into our motivations and desires to be ‘free’.  At times, freedom from loneliness seems to be his main concern.

His writing style at first appears a bit choppy, jumping about through time and from subject to subject. After a few chapters it takes on a certain rhythm and it holds the readers interest.  He has a humorous way of ranting about life, fits in meaningful discussions and gives us some understanding of why people choice to go on long distance hikes.  For Rick is it mostly about freedom. 

The author is a talented writer who hiked the AT, not an AT hiker who decided to write a book.  The difference in the quality of the writing is clear.  And as this writer walked he came to grips with the boredom of long-distance hiking and developed a love of the trail.

Rick is currently walking the PCT (2010); is blog on the PCT hike is at: http://whodaresdomoreisnone.wordpress.com/

Free Shipping (Everything you need for the outdoors)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Synchronous Bioluminescent Fireflies / Lightning Bugs in the Smoky Mountains

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"The fireflies o'er the meadow In pulses come and go." ~ James Russell Lowell Source: Midnight (st. 3)
A natural wonder is about to take place in the Smoky Mountains.  One of only two places in the world where fireflies will, for a short time, synchronize their blinking.  This is an amazing natural light show that takes place each year for about a week in mid-June. (June 7th – June 14th).  If you are near the Smokies you want to get to the Little River Trail at Elkmont (via park trolley service from Sugarlands Visitor Center).
synchronized-fireflies-1-284x350 use
An except from the National Park Service website:
Synchronous fireflies (Photinus carolinus) are one of 14 species of fireflies that live in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. They are the only species in America whose individuals can synchronize their flashing light patterns.
Fireflies (also called lightning bugs) are beetles. They take from one to two years to mature from larvae, but will live as adults for only about 21 days. Their light patterns are part of the adulthood mating display. Each species of firefly has characteristic flash pattern that helps its male and female individuals recognize each other. Most species produce a greenish-yellow light; one species has a bluish light. The males fly and flash and the usually stationary females respond with a flash. Peak flashing for synchronous fireflies in the park is normally within a two-week period in mid-June.
The production of light by living organisms is called bioluminescence. Many species of insects and marine creatures are capable of it. Fireflies combine the chemical luciferin and oxygen with the enzyme luciferase in their lanterns (part of their abdomens) to make light. The chemical reaction is very efficient and produces little or no heat.
No one is sure why the fireflies flash synchronously. Competition between males may be one reason: they all want to be the first to flash. Or perhaps if the males all flash together they have a better chance of being noticed, and the females can make better comparisons. The fireflies do not always flash in unison. They may flash in waves across hillsides, and at other times will flash randomly. Synchrony occurs in short bursts that end with abrupt periods of darkness.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Hiking with Powdered Drinks, Lemons and Powdered Butter

“Life is not lost by dying; life is lost minute by minute, day by dragging day, in all the thousand small uncaring ways.” ~ Stephen Vincent BenĂ©t

A few odds and ends in this post, first something about these powdered drinks mixes – Am I the only one that thinks they just might be repackage, over priced cool-aid?   If you hike with a hydration system in your backpack like a Camelback or a platypus you probably don’t get as much use out of these things as I do.  I never really got used to drinking out of a bladder in my backpack.

So I find these powdered drink mixes quite useful, for when I just get bored with plain water or when the water along the trail might taste a bit nasty.  I started out using Gatorade mixes, but have found several others I like better, especially just plain pure lemon juice.  Often you can pick up a few these little packages of lemon juice no charge and gas station convenience store – normally where they have the sugar for you coffee.Lemon Juice @ Wilderness Dining

If you can’t find it, you can buy the packets on-line  from “WildernessDining.com” our newest affiliate advertiser. Click on the picture of Lemon Juice to buy it on-line.

I ran across Wilderness Dining a couple weeks ago and was impressed enough to have BackpackBaseCamp.com become an affiliate of theirs.  I found them because I was searching for dehydrated powdered butter for backpacking.  This dehydrated butter comes in a package of 36 tsps, weights just 2 ounces for the entire package. Each teaspoon of it can make a tablespoon of butter.  I found a few suppliers for dehydrated butter, but that all wanted to sell in very large quantities (for the survivalist and emergency food markets). I didn’t need a lifetime supply of powered butter and didn’t want to spend that much.  Fortunately I found WildernessDining.com, they have reasonable price on a great variety of dehydrated backpacking foods and camping cookware supplies.   

On a completely unrelated subject; If you have a few more minutes, this is an excellent article on the REI web set on Ultralight Backpacking.

BackpackBaseCamp.com is now an affiliate with Wilderness Dining:






And…Since we just got a new puppy at home…Check out the dog gear at altrec.com – They are having some great sales:

Columbia Outdoor Sale - Up to 55% off

Memorial Tent Sale - Up to 30% off

Friday, May 14, 2010

Bug Repellents for Hiking and Backpacking

”Some days you are the bug, some days you are the windshield.”

OK so finally the nights are starting to get warm now in the Garden State.  Overall that’s great except it also means – BUGS!  Lions, Tigers and Bears my scare the novice backpacker or hiker, but anyone that’s been backpacking for awhile knows that bugs are the ones that can ruin your trip and drive you out of the woods.  I’ve tried a few different repellents, personally I still find DEET works the best.  Spray on seems to the best way to reach various body parts and it keeps you hands from getting sticky.  I have found that some containers leak.  You don’t want leaky bug spray all over your hands or worse spilled in you backpack.  For a while I as putting the container in a plastic zip-lock bag as insurance, but that is a bit of a bother.

This year I’ve been using “REPEL Sportsmen Max pen” which comes in a light weight 14ml tube (weight: about 1.0 ounces).  What I like about this item is that in addition to being an affective repellent –it has a plastic cap over the spray head that clicks tight – no possible leaks.  I got mine at Target but it is also available via Amazon. 

I’ve also tried and still sometimes use disposable wipes / Towelettes that are treated with DEET.  These weigh practically nothing but then you also have the remaining trash to carry out.   Currently I have a box OFF! Deep Woods Towelettes I’ve been using which are 25% DEET. The Ben’s Wipes on the on link below (click on picture) are 30% DEET.

If the bugs are really bad I also have a small bottle of Ben’s 100 (which is actually 98% DEET). This little bottle holds 2 1/2 times more than the REPEL pen – 37 ml (1.25 fl oz) and weighs 1.8 ounces.  It also has plastic cap that slips over the sprayer – so far it has not leaked – but the plastic cap does not “click on” so I’m not feeling it is quite as leak proof as the REPEL pen (click on photo for link).

  An alternate to the REPEL pen is a similar Coleman product – photo below. 





Monday, May 10, 2010

Backpacking with a Tween

” We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today. ~Stacia Tauscher

I’ve finally managed to get my pre-teen daughter out backpacking. Actually it was due to my wife joining in the conspiracy so that we could surprise her with a new puppy when we returned the following day.  She’s almost twelve and in good shape so we could have gone on a much longer hike, but the timing of my wife picking up the puppy required that I keep her out of the house from after school on Friday – then having her back late Saturday afternoon.

For those of you in the New York/New Jersey area that might like to duplicate this hike; I decided to take her up to Bald Rocks shelter in New York Harriman State Park.  We started the hike on the White Bar trail just of RT 106 (off 17 N) about 1/2 mile past Lake Stahahe (small parking area on the right).  We hiked a flat 1/4 mile then turned right on the Nurian trail (marked with White with “N”).  The Norian trail soon goes up steeply and terminates into the Ramapo-Dunerberg trail at “Black Rock” (very large boulder).  We turned left onto the “R-D” trail and followed it along the ridge to Bald Rocks Shelter.  The entire hike is under 2 miles with some intense steep parts.  Just the right distance considering how late in the day we started and that this was the first time Nickie had hiked with a backpack of any real weight (12 LBs).

We found we were the only ones at Bald Rocks, very surprising since this is one of the most popular and most accessible camp sites in the park.  I’m guessing the threat of thunderstorms that night kept people away.  But we were lucky and only got strong winds and a slight rain.

We were able to setup our tent before dark, relax and cook a nice meal.  Normally backpacking I bring my one man tent ( a Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo – see prior article) but having Nickie with me, that wouldn’t do.  So a packed in my L.L.Bean Micro Light two person tent.

Video of hike to Bald Rocks and L.L.Bean Micro Light tent:

I purchased the Bean Micro Light tent a few years ago when I first thought my kids were old enough to go camping.  Its gotten minimal use up to now but it looks like it will be getting much more exercise this year.

The LL Bean Micro Light Two-Person Backpacking Tent (non-affiliate link). Sells for $149, weights 3 lb 12 oz (respectably light for a two-person tent). Without the fly, other than the floor it is complete no–see-um mesh – fantastic for ventilation and for seeing the stars.  It’s made of 30-denier ripstop nylon.  The rain fly is coated with 1,500 mm silicone on the outside and a polyurethane layer inside. It has a 2-pole hoop-style construction, making it great in the wind (was proved this weekend), easy to setup although not completely free standing. Very good head room – two people fit very comfortably.


So I’m very happy with this tent and will continue to use it with my children and wife (if I can every get her to go backpacking!).  That said, if I was to buy a two-person tent today, I might bypass this one and choose the Big Agnes Fly Creek Ultralight 2 (see previous review of the UL1). 

The Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 is over a pound lighter than the Micro Light and is free standing (well almost).  The down side of course is the price - $200 more than the Bean Micro Light.  I know, that’s an expensive pound.  It also packs smaller (19”L vs 6.5”W versus 23”L x 6”W).  You do loose a bit of head room with the Fly Creek also (Been peak is 3’6”, the BA is 3’2”).  On top of that it is hard to find to find the Fly Creek UL2 in stock anywhere.Flycreekul2

At  the time of writing this, I found it at Ramey Outdoor (Affiliate of BPBC) and on Amazon.com.

OK, enough about gear – the really good news is that Nicole loved backpacking and wants to go again (so back to gear - I’m going to have to find a decent backpack that fits a 12 year old girl).  We made it back to the house Saturday afternoon with zero problems, a happy kid – and then an ecstatic kid when she was surprised by a new puppy.




Sunday, May 2, 2010

EVERNEW Ti DX Backpacking Stove Burning Wood

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“"Backpacking is the art of knowing what not to take." - Sheridan Anderson

Last week I tested the new Evernew titanium alcohol stove. (see Related post testing the Evernew Ti DX with Alcohol).  This weekend I tested the stove in wood burning mode.image

The stove did well bringing 2 cups of water to a boil  (slightly less than 500 ml) in about 10 minutes (water starting at 62 degrees, ambient temperature about 80 degrees).

Watch the short video below to see how it performed.

The stove alone sells for $46, the DX set including the stove $87.  Backpackbasecamp.com has become a distributor for Evernew America. We don’t yet have a web store setup, but I have a small number of these stoves; email me at:
RMorris AT backpackbasecamp.com if you are interested.

Related post testing the Evernew Ti DX with Alcohol

REI Members get free shipping on orders $75 or more! Patagonia - Try Swimwear That Stays Put

Starbucks VIA Instant Coffee for Backpacking

OK, So people have been telling me for a year that Starbucks VIA Ready Brew instant coffee is really good and since one pack of it weights only 4 grams (0.2 ounces) it’s pretty much perfect for hiking, camping and backpacking.  Problem was:

A. I’ve tried all different kinds of instant coffee and they all pretty much suck.

B. I don’t like Starbucks: I don’t like their coffee, I don’t like them being so overpriced and don’t like their urban / yuppie marketing.

Herevia-readybrew’s the thing though, I been hearing it so much, when I saw it in Target last week I figured I would risk the $3 bucks and give it a try.  Actually I tried both the Columbia (medium) and the Italian Roast (Extra Bold). 

I think what made be buy it was that Starbucks used a normal English word like “medium” right on the label.  Usually at Starbucks I think the word “Grande” translates to “medium”. 

Anyway, all the marketing B.S. aside, the stuff actually tastes like real coffee.  Best instant coffee I have ever had by far. So I’m reluctantly going to bring it on my next backpacking trip, which happens to be with my daughter next weekend.

It looks like Starbucks is now selling this stuff in various grocery stores and Targets all over the place.  If you can’t find it you can get it from REI Click HERE.



Sunday, April 25, 2010

EVERNEW Ti DX Alcohol Stove

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“How is it that one match can start a forest fire, but it takes a whole box of matches to start a campfire?  ~Christy Whitehead

Evernew America has come out with a new titanium alcohol stove. The thing is slightly heavy (and expensive) as alcohol stoves go weighing 1.2 oz.  But it is built to last a lifetime and creates a flame that is, as far as I can tell, unbeatable by any other alcohol stove.EBY255_img4

The exciting thing about it is that it fits into a titanium stand, the “DX” (weight 1.8 oz) that can act as a stove pot holder and wind screen and be used to burn Esbit or wood.  The total set, on my scale was 3.2 oz (92 grams).

In my tests so far it was able to boil 2 cups of water (slightly less than 500 ml) in under 4 minutes (water starting at 65 degrees).

EBY255_img2I have not yet tested the stove with wood, hopefully I will get to do that next weekend.  I also plan to do more comprehensive testing, comparisons and timing in using it as an alcohol stove.

The stove alone sells for $46, the DX set including the stove $87.  Backpackbasecamp.com has become a distributor for Evernew America. We don’t yet have a web store setup, but I have a small number of these stoves; email me at:
RMorris AT backpackbasecamp.com if you are interested.

In the mean time, I thought you might appreciate this short video:



Saturday, April 24, 2010

Hiking Pyramid Mountain

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” So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for everything one has a mind to do.” ~ Ben Franklin

Most of us who hike often have a place close to us where we go to hike when we have a few hours but not enough time to go far.  Some place close to home but still away in the woods. I’m lucky to live 15 minutes away from Pyramid Mountain Natural Historic Area in Morris County, New Jersey.  I know, those of you not from around here are probably thinking - “A forest in New Jersey?”.  Yes, believe it or not, most of New Jersey is not like the New Jersey Turnpike.  I’m within an hours drive of the Appalachian Trail, many state parks and some wonderful county parks.Tripod rock

Pyramid Mountain Park is over 1300 acres of trails, forests and wetlands. It has several unobstructed views on the New York City skyline. A unique glacial erratic known as ‘Tripod Rock’.  This is a many ton boulder balanced a three smaller boulders.  It was deposited here by the Wisconsin Glacier over 18,000 years ago.  The park also has ‘Bear Rock’, one of the largest glacial erratics in New Jersey and a fun rock for kids to climb.

There are old stone ruins that are fun to find and explore. There is also a nice season waterfall, more than 100 species of birds and 30 species of mammals including black bears, beavers and (some say) bobcats.  You can sometimes see eagles, herons, egrets and vultures.  Also in the park are scarlet tangers, yellow warblers, indigo buntings, red-bellied and pileated woodpeckers and black-capped chickadees.

The woods you walk through are quite varied depending on the part of the park you are in.  It could be blueberry patches, paths through rhododendron, chestnut oaks, American beech trees, or holly shrubs. Like most parks in this populated area, once you get 1/4 or 1/2 mile up the trail, the people become few and far between.

These two video’s (below) show you some highlights of what to expect in the park.   To find Pyramid Mountain, follow the directions on the county web site here.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Picking Hiking Boots That Fit

“Always watch where you are going. Otherwise, you may step on a piece of the Forest that was left out by mistake.” -- Winnie the Pooh

So spring is finally here, for many of us that mean hiking and backpacking. For some of us it also means we need new hiking boots. So often people buy new boots, trying them on in the store even walking around in the store for a few minutes, then when they are out in the woods for a few hours they may find out the boots don’t really fix correctly. This can lead to being just slightly uncomfortable for a few hours or it could mean painful blisters and an unpleasant backpacking experience.

The first thing to do when picking out new hiking boots or walking shoes is to think about what type of hiking you normally will be doing. What type of terrain will it be – dry desert, muddy trails, wet bogs, flooded plains, rocky, etc. Besides the terrain, are you going to be day hiking on nice trails or bushwhacking through the woods? Is it a weekend backpacking trip or will you be out there for weeks? This type of background information will lead you to some common sense decisions about the type and quality of the boots, particularly – do they need to be waterproof? How much support does the boot need to provide – the more weight you are carrying in your backpack, the more support the boots need to give your ankles.

It may be tempting to just get the “best” boots you can afford, the trouble is more (i.e. waterproof, more support, leather) is not necessarily better. You want to pick boots as light weight as you can that will still fit your needs. Remember, you are picking up your feet each time you take a step. An extra pound over thousands of steps will make the hike much more difficult than it needs to be. Boots that provide a great deal of support also weigh much more. If you are just day hiking or carrying only a light backpack – you are better off with lighter boots or trail running shoes. There is a similar conundrum with waterproof boots, particularly in the summer waterproof hiking boots might not “breath” as much as the manufacturers would like you to think. If your feet get hot, they sweat; this can lead to blisters or other problems. Also to be considered is what materials the boots are made of; all leather boots can survive abuse much better – but are heavier, especially when they get wet. Boots made of a fabric-leather combination tend to be lighter weight and will dry faster if they get wet.

Once you’ve narrowed it down to the general type of boot you are looking for, the most important thing is to be sure you get a proper fit. It is best to try on the boots after you have just gone for a hike or long walk. Your feet tend to swell up in size a bit after walking for a while. When you go to try on the boots, be sure to wear the type of socks you intend to hike with. Generally a medium thick sock made of a blend of mostly merino wool with nylon and Lycra (example: 80%/18%/2%) is best for hiking (yes, wool even in summer). There are a bewildering number of different types of socks, some can be quite expense. Just remember one important thing – Don’t hike in cotton socks. Never go for overnight backpacking trips in cotton socks. When cotton gets wet (even from sweating) it takes a very long time to dry and can be very uncomfortable causing blisters, heat loss and can even lead to hypothermia or frostbite. If you tend to often have trouble with blisters, you might try hiking with thin sock liners under your socks. This disperses much of the friction that causes blisters between the sock and the liner, sparing you skin.

Don’t worry too much about the shoe size, different brands have variations in sizes, plus you will be wearing heavier socks than normal, so expect the size to be larger than your normal shoes. Women sometimes have more trouble than men getting boots that fit, women shouldn’t hesitate to try on men’s hiking boots. The important thing is getting the right fit. To know if the boots fit, put on the boots without tying the laces, you should be able to fit your finger into the back of the boot pushing your foot forward without your toes touching or just barely touching the front of the boot. Now tie the laces and walk around. The boots should feel comfortable and hold your foot snuggly but not tight. You should be able to wiggle you toes freely. The heel of the boot should move with the heel of you foot with no slipping or friction. Once you purchase the boots, remember to break them in for a week or so be for you hike. Wear them around the house and around town on short walks before you go for extended hikes.