Friday, March 26, 2010

Around the Web, Some Reading For This Weekend

“Weather is a great metaphor for life - sometimes it's good, sometimes it's bad, and there's nothing much you can do about it but carry an umbrella.” ~Terri Guillemets

Here in the North East it looks like it could be a rainy weekend.  So for those of you that may be stuck inside, I thought I’d point you to some excellent reading about the outside.

  1. The best iPhone hiking apps.  What if your iPhone could act as a compass, a map, a GPS tracker, bug repellent, a weather reporter and a survival guide?
  2. 8 Simple Tips To Grow Active, Healthy Kid Kids can’t stare at a screen and their hands aren’t available to text or play video games when they are building a snowman, splashing in a stream, scaling a rock wall, digging in a garden or climbing trees.
  3. Animated Knots by Grog Don’t know the difference between a Bowline, a Clove hitch and a Rolling hitch knot? This web site will show you how to tie knots with short animations.
  4. The Wild Backpacker looks at energy bars.  Good analysis of different types.
  5. A new blogger The Smokies Whisperer, writes of her experiences in the Smoky Mountains.  The actual feelings and emotions. Different them most hiking blogs, I’m liking it.
  6. And last but not least, a video from www.minibulldesign.com using a fanny pack for ultra light backpacking:


Shop Campmor Today!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Walking into Spring…Mumbling

“I'm a slow walker, but I never walk back.” Abraham Lincoln

Yesterday I skipped work and went for a Spring hike. Such a satisfying feeling, walking in a T-shirt with the hot sun on my back and my boots in a foot of untouched snow.Intersection of AT and Long Path 

As I reach the top of the hill I hear my heart pounding. I stop to listen for the sound of a distant waterfall but it is not there – must still be frozen.  I hear the slight russelling trees, look up and see last falls dead leaves still hanging from the trees, as a slight breeze is brushing agents them they look like Christmas ornaments someone forget to take down.  I hear movement by my feet and catch sight of a tiny grey field mouse scarring beneath the brown fallen leaves. 

I continue on the trail over patches of not yet melted snow – around a curve in the trail I can see the still frozen Island Pond – my 1/4 way landmark.  I stop to sit, listen to the exiting stream run away and I have a snack.  The gentle wind on my cheeks and side feel like the touch of my wife.  The warmth of the Sun on my face reminds me why I love her.Along the Appalachian Trail NY

Ahead on the trail, as I approach the Lemon Squeezer a herd of white tail deer dash silently through the woods.  The clumsy noise of my boots has frightened them.  Oaf! I must sound like a Sherman tank to them.  I stand and the silence engulfs me.

A few hours later, this young deer walks right up to me.  I was lucky enough to remember my flop and took this short video:

Close-Up of Young Deer

Friday, March 12, 2010

The 10 Best Camping, Hiking & Backpacking Blogs

“"It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.”
- Daniel H. Burnham

I’ve searched the web over the past year or so to find good camping, hiking and backpacking blogs.  I thought I would share with you my favorite ones.  I venture to title this post “The 10 Best camping, hiking and backpacking blogs” knowing that I may have overlooked some.  If so, please go ahead and comment on this post with your suggestions!  Admittedly my list does have a distinct bias for blogs focusing on light weight backpacking and it omits camping blogs focused on “RV” camping.  Not that there is anything wrong with “RV’s” – I just have trouble calling that camping.  So here’s the list – in no particular order:

  1. Gear Talk with Jason Klass This is all about backpacking and hiking gear. It is primarily a video blog each video being just a few minute covering a specific piece of gear. It’s updated a couple time a week and is consistent.
  2. Section Hiker This blog has a good mix of both trip reports and gear reviews.
  3. Lightweight and Ultralight Backpacking Here the “Jolly Green Giant” is often the first to review new ultralight backpacking gear.  Filled with quality insights and information.
  4. BackpackBaseCamp A bit of poetic license here – it’s my list so I’m on it! The blog has a good mix of gear and equipment reviews and some trip reports.
  5. Compass Points This blog has expanded to include “Compass Points TV” – Videos on hikes.
  6. The Smoky Mountain Hiking Blog The blog focuses primarily on the SMNP but often includes posts on other parks and trails around the country.
  7. Mungo Says Bah! Canadian Bushcraft, Camping, Outdoors & Hiking - Skills, Equipment & Tutorials.  The Blog has a good mix of outdoor related posts with some family stuff thrown in.
  8. Pig Monkey Great hikes and fantastic photos with a few gear reviews thrown in.
  9. Ramblings Great hiking in the Alaskan Backcountry.
  10. Summit and Valley Good gear review and good trip reports, interesting places.  Also nice photos.

There are a few others I wanted to put on but the list is already up to ten. A couple of obvious blogs have been intentionally left off this list.  The BackpackingLight.com is not on this list because it require you pay for a subscription.  Also The Backpacker Magazine blog is not on the list because frankly I don’t think it’s very good, mostly just short teasers getting you to go to their web site.

Under Armour Logo 468x60


Saturday, March 6, 2010

REI Family or Solo Adventure Vacations; Hiking, Backpacking and Camping

Spring is making me start to think about planning some hiking trips.  With a family these vacations need to include more than a backpack and tent. REI, yes the outdoor outfitter store, offers some amazing trips.  They have a whole set of “REI Adventures”.  Normally I like to plan out and organize my own vacations, but sometime it is so much easier, and sometime cheaper to use a vacation package. 

REI has been rated one of the top ten “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth” by National Geographic.  They offer an amazing variety of destinations and activities.  Adventure trips to Ecuador, Arizona, France, cycling through the Loire Valley, hiking in Switzerland to the Matterhorn, hiking southern Italy’s volcano route, mountain biking in the Andes, snorkeling in the Galapagos Islands, kayaking the Edisto river, hiking the Grand Canyon, backpacking Superstition Mountains. Family adventures to Washington’s San Juan Islands, Safari adventures in Tanzania, rafting on the Amazon, rainforests in Costa Rica, hiking in Alaska and Kayaking in Kauai.

rei You get the picture.  REI has adventure travel covered. Backpacking, climbing, cruising, cycling, hiking, paddling, rafting – you name it. All with small groups, great food and expert guides steering you to a great experience. The prices seem reasonable for what you get.  Check out the schedule of upcoming trips on the REI web site here.  The schedule also offers much less expensive weekend “get-away” trips to look fun.

So I’m thinking about doing one of these trips and would love some feedback from anyone who had taken one of these REI vacation packages.

Note: In the interest of full discloser, BackpackBaseCamp.com is an affiliate of REI and we receive a minor commission for any purchased made through links on this site.  If you are purchasing a product from REI anyway, this is a great way to support this web site.

Outlet Sale - Up to 80% offMountain Hardwear Sale - Up to 60% off

Friday, March 5, 2010

Welcome to the new BackpackBaseCamp Blog

Effective March 3, 2010: The BackpackBaseCamp Blog is now at: http://backpackbasecamp.blogspot.com/.  The main web site continues at: http://BackpackBaseCamp.com 

This week we have been having performance/response time issues with the BackpackBaseCamp.com blog.  This was a technical issue with the host server which intermittently caused the blog to ‘hang’ so that the screens would not come up on a web browser.  Not a good thing.  The host server provider (GoDaddy.com) was unable to resolve this issue (no comment on the ‘service’ from that provider).  Therefore, it was necessary that I move the Blog to another host provider.  The Blog is now here at:  http://backpackbasecamp.blogspot.com/

The main web site BackpackBaseCamp.com Continues to remain at the same URL on the same server.  The technical issues were not effecting the main site, only the blog.

If you received this post via ‘RSS’, your subscription has been automatically re-directed to this new site and you need do nothing else. If you do not receive this post via RSS or email, you need to re-subscribe at http://backpackbasecamp.blogspot.com/. Depending on which RSS ‘reader’ you use, you may have been resent many of our old posts. 

Sorry about this inconvenience, some technical issues are beyond my control.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Interview with Blind AT Hiker Walking 2,175 Miles

“Make no little plans: They have no magic to stir men’s blood”
- Daniel H. Burnham


Mike Hanson, completely blind, will hike the Appalachian Trail this year with no guide and no guide dog. Just a white cane and using GPS.  He will be followed – but not interfered with (Mike will do all the navigation) by videographer, Gary Steffens.  Mike and Gary are making a documentary to help demonstrate that blind people can be independent and that their capacities are underrated by the general public.  It is his hope this will help overcome the perceived limitations of blind people.

Mike is starting the Appalachian Trail at Springer Mountain on March 3rd, he was kind enough to interrupt his preparations to answer a few questions for me via email:

1. What type of hiking and backpacking have you done to prepare for this journey?

I have backpacked in Colorado, around Mt. Rainier, tested my GPS system in Shenandoah National Park, and done a good many other hunting, fishing, and canoeing trips.

2. A few other blind men have done this, such as Bill Irwin, have you talked to any of them? Were they able to give you any helpful advice?

I will be the first blind person to hike the AT using only GPS and a white cane to the best of my knowledge. I have talked extensively with Bill Irwin and briefly with Trevor Thomas. I found their advice helpful, particularly concerning methods of resupply and difficult trail sections.

3. Did you consider bringing a guide dog? I understand that GPS will keep you within 10 feet of the trail or so, put from personal experience I know a many point on the AT a few feet from the trail can be sharp cliffs and GPS data can be out dated. You are OK with these risks?

I considered using a guide dog. Bill Irwin fell quite a few times.  According to Mr. Irwin's book, I believe this had something to do with him training his guide dog to avoid rocks and obstacles below a certain height. I opted for a white cane because I believe I can reduce the risk of falling by using a cane, as opposed to a guide dog. GPS will give me the location of points of interest, location of the trail, and similar information. My white cane will give me information about cliffs, rocks, and other obstacles or hazards close to me. I am aware that GPS data can be outdated. Maps can also be outdated, due to wash-outs and other things that occur since their publication. I experienced this while hiking in Shenandoah National Park. I understand there is an element of risk in any outdoor activity. I have done the best I can to minimize these risks and am okay with the remaining risk.

4. Will you be bringing a "SPOT" and /or updating you blog so we can follow along? What device are you brining to update your blog (if you are)?

I plan to activate a spot and will bring it with me, both for emergencies and so people can follow my progress. I will also update my blog at www.blindhiker.wordpress.com and a page for the Hanson Appalachian Trail Campaign on Facebook via either a smart phone or a small laptop.

5. What is your backpack base weight? How would you classify you self as backpacker - "Ultralight", "Light weight" or "I bring a U-haul"?

My backpack's weight when full will be thirty to thirty-five pounds. This is as light as I can make it, given the need to carry a GPS system and extra batteries. I am sure it will feel like I am pulling a U-haul at times, particularly at the start. I have been training for over a year but there is only so much one can do to get in shape.

6. Can you give us a glimpse of what is in you pack - Tarp or tent - what kind? What kind of stove?, what pack, bag, anything special?

I will be carrying a Granite Gear Stratus backpack. I will carry a Lost Ranger sleeping bag and Seed House tent. Granite Gear and Big Agnes have generously donated these items. Smartwool, Tilley Hats, Leki, Backpacker's Pantry, Sun Valley, Cloudveil, Primus, and Vasque have generously donated socks, long underwear, hats, trekking poles, food, rain-wind gear, a stove, and boots. Midwest Mountaineering has generously given us an expedition discount and a great deal of useful advice. I will carry a primary and backup GPS system and about ten extra batteries for these systems. I will also carry a charger that works off of a standard outlet, a laptop, or a 9-volt battery.

7. How much money have you raised? Do you have enough? Many thru-hikers try to do the hike on a minimal budget, Do you think there is added costs due to being blind?

I have raised about $10,000 in cash, commitments, and in-kind contributions. See above or visit the websites listed below for a list of sponsors and what they have donated. We estimate the cost of the hike and filming the documentary to be $25,000, including necessary electronics to allow me to use GPS, update my blog, and award-winning Videographer Gary L. Steffens of Fresh Images Video Productions to film the documentary. We hope to raise money as we hike the AT.  There are two factors that increase the cost substantially. First, electronics I need easily cost me $4,000. These costs are directly associated with my visual impairment and desire for as much independence as possible.  Second, Gary's camera equipment cost at least $8,000. This is directly associated with the message I want to communicate in my answer to your final question.

8. Many of us dream of taking six months to hike the AT but find it difficult to carve out time from work and family. How are you dealing with these issues?

I am grossly underemployed. I have a law degree from the University of St. Thomas, passed the Minnesota State Bar Exam on my first attempt, and am currently licensed to practice law in Minnesota. People who are blind face a staggering seventy percent unemployment rate according to conservative estimates. I am not immune to this high unemployment rate. Some of this unemployment might be due to the current state of the economy. I took a leave of absence from a part-time telemarketing job to undertake this hike.

9. Is there any specific message or something you would like to say?

I hope the hike and resulting documentary demonstrate the independence of persons with visual impairments and the increasing role of adaptive technology in our independence. I am trying to say that our capabilities are underrated by the general public, due to misconceptions about what we are capable of and how we overcome perceived limitations. I chose to hike the AT for two reasons. First, travel is a highly visible perceived limitation. Recent advances in technology, including GPS have made it much less of a limitation than it used to be. Second, the AT had the most complete data I could find for any major or minor hiking trail.

Below is a video of Mike discussing his plans:

Mike created the websites below to spread the word and ask for contributions. "$10 helps Mike walk another mile."  People are sending notes on Facebook to see our YouTube video and offering donations.

Please visit www.hansonatcampaign.com or www.blindhiker.com (accessible to persons with visual impairments) to learn about Mike’s sponsors and to learn how you can help.