Sunday, February 24, 2008

quick note

Sierra designs down booties = holy crap warm

Another successful night in the Hydrogen. Low temp was ~12 deg (F).

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Holy crap winter

It was the toughest weekend ever at scout camp. The recorded low temp was -17(F) with wind speeds somewhere up to 35 mph with gusts a few more, depending on your location. According to the National Weather Service, this was -51 windchill. That's damn cold. Two weekends ago it was -19 with 10-15 mph winds. This weekend just took the cake.

I knew it was going to be bad when I had to wear my mitts (REI ridgecrest) while we were hiking out to our campsite. I never have had to do that. Also, I was wearing my rain coat on the way out to the site. Again, I have never had to do that except when it has been snowing.

Almost as soon as I we got to camp I swapped the rain coat out for my down coat (older TNF Nupste) and I was fine; I was moving, doing things for the group, etc. I was not too warm (or cold!) when we were walking around.

I was cold two times - first, when I was sitting on my feet dealing with the stoves and supper; second, I had a cold spot underneath my middle back. I rolled around and it went away for a while. I could not figure it out. Anywho, I think my gear performed well. I did not reach a failing point for anything. This was a good and tough test for other clothes. It makes me wonder how much warmer expedition-grade parkas and down pants a la Feathered Friends, along with expedition-grade boots and mitts are. One can only imagine.

Gear note - I did not need, nor could I wear, my thin fleece hat. I'm going to leave it home next time. XL socks also were a big hit. I'm going with L liner socks and XL wool socks next weekend.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

New Pack

I bought a Granite Gear Vapor Trail from Midwest Mountaineering today.With tax, it was about $170. I got a small hip belt, so it should weigh in at just under 32 ounces. I tested it out in the store with approximately 33 lbs of weight. The hipbelt felt great, and the shoulder pads did a great job whenever there was weight on my shoulders. The pack, by the way, is rated to max out at 30 lbs. I'm curious how it will hold up after 10 hours on my back. Given it's proven trail record with thru-hikers (GG states that last season, (no year is given), roughly 40 percent of AT thru-hikers carried a the VT. I'm in good hands.)

The frame is interesting. It is a thin framesheet, like a flexible, dense plastic. Between be and the plastic is the foam padding. It conforms to my back and moves with me, unlike what a pack with aluminum stays would do.

The pack is listed at 3600 in^3, or 59 liters. It is slightly bigger than my sil nylon hand sewn pack. The volume comes from the main compartment and the massive extension collar. There are only two exterior pockets. Each is an elastic lycra-liek material. I can easily stuff my rain pants and rain jacket in one of them. The other pocket will be reserved for a fuel bottle (with the Dragonfly) or my water filter.

I think the selling point though, was the strap setup on the back of the pack. This is designed to strap shelters or sleeping pads to the outside of the pack. The straps are long and accommodate a larger packed shelter than the TarpTent Double Rainbow (4" x ~20") that I put in there. This is free up the massive amount of space a one's pack. It also allows for me to carry extra food for longer trips, should I need to. A quick check with my gear revealed that my stuff takes up very little space in the pack's interior. I should have no problem carrying two weeks of food in there.

I'll test it this weekend at camp.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Wind shirts and warm layer for May SHT

Every weekend save one this winter season, I carried a windshirt into the field. The weekend I left it at home, the high temp was neg 5 and I could not fit enough insulation underneath the shirt to warrant bringing it.

My windshirt is a Marmot Ion circa spring '07. I bought it on a clearance rack at REI for $15. I consider it a steal. It is a size small; normally I would wear a medium or a large, depending on the brand and cut. The cut on the Ion is narrow. The elastic wrist bands securely stick to my wrists and hold the sleaves in place. The jacket goes slightly below my waist. It has a full zip front. The hood is the best hood I have ever seen on a jacket, even better than my Marmot Precip jacket. The hood holds tight to my head and keeps wind out of my ears, even when I'm facing a headwind.

I have yet to use it though, in field temperatures above 40 degrees. Each weekend has been cold-weather camping. I often wear a long sleeve base layer underneath the shirt. This helps retain heat. Otherwise, the shirt is pushed against my skin by the wind and I lose heat through conduction.

When the temps rise though, I'm anticipating that I will need one of two things to happen to need the windshirt. It would either need to be extremely windy to the point where I would get cold, or so cold that even a minor wind would push temps into uncomfortable issues. I don't anticipate using it

On the SHT in May, I'm anticipating a temperature range between 30 and 70+ degrees. it creates minor difficulties on how to plan my clothes selection, specifically my warmth layer(s) and wicking shirt(s).

I don't want to carry a warmth layer that it too bulky for my needs. In past years, I have carried a wool shirt pull over. I going to switch this year to either a thin fleece jacket or a thicker fleece vest. For wicking layers, I need to decide if I need two shirts - one short sleeve, one long.

I'm probably going to go with the thinner jacket because it has sleeves. Although the vest is warm (and heavier at 200 wgt fleece), it neglects the arms. I have chilled my forearms in the past. For the same reason, I'm most likely going to go with two wicking shirts. When it is colder, the extra warmth of the sleeves is invaluble, plus, it gives me a dry layer to change into at night.

Similarly, I'm going to take two wicking layers on the bottom - spandex shorts and a poly-pro wicking layer. It should not be too bulky and I anticipate using all of it throughout the trip.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Successful gear test, and an insight

I recently picked up a Marmot Hydrogen off of the REI outlet. I tested it this weekend, and it performed fantastic.

I was camping with scouts. The evening temp was about 15 degrees and the low was 11. Note, the bag is only rated to 30 degrees. I was using the following gear in additino to the bag:

1" Thermarest
Full-length Ridgerest
Thin fleece balaclava
thin poly-pro base layer (tops and bottoms)
200 wgt fleece vest
100 wgt fleece pants
liner socks
thick merino wool socks
9 mm Sorel boot liners.

And I was warm. I wear the same above even when I'm in my -20 bag. The tips of my toes got cold, but I want to attribute that to socks that were too tight. I'm grabbing a size larger next time. Just in case the bag failed, I had my -20 next to me. I never thought of getting it.

As for the bag itself, it is very wispy. It is 850 fp down, and it feels like it. It requires little effort to compress the bag. It came with a 6" x 12" stuff sack. It easily fits into this sack, and I can compress it with my hands into about a 6" cube. It is small.

In the morning however, I sensed that there was some moisture underneath the shell. This is most likely from sweat and insensible perspiration. I was only out for one night, so I cannot relay info about that. However, this test leads me to believe that a vapor barrier is necessary whenever temps make drying a bag difficult. I can't put an exact temp on it without more testing. I plan on picking one up soon and reporting back.

Also, this was the first weekend this season that I did not use my down coat. I wore a thin fleece jacket, a fleece vest and a wind jacket throughout the evening. I was fine, moving and never needed to reach for the puffy insulation.