Monday, March 31, 2008

Note on rain hats

It is snowing and blowing today in Minnesota - we're expected to get 6-8 inches here in the Cities. None of it should stay around longer than a day or two. The roads are mushy.

But I walked to class today. I wore my rainjacket (newly Nikwax'd, more on that in the future). I left my hood down and instead chose to wear a wide-brimmed hat (Pendleton wool). I was unimpressed with the protection. Yes, the hat caught snow. But it did not protect the side of my face from wind or blowing snow. If it was raining, I would expect similar a similar performance. Also, with rain, that water has to go somewhere. If the hat was leaning back, it would drain into your hood. And then what if you want to put that hood up? Splash, all that water would drain into down your neck. Yuck.

Why, oh why, would anyone want to wear a rain hat when a hood with a good brim is so much better? Also, I can wear a fleece hat underneath the hood. The hood protects from wind. Why should I carry a rain hat? I do can only think of one situation - I used a rain coat or a poncho without a hood. And that would be stupid.

-Briefly -

So far the new shoes, Saloman Comp 3 are amazing. I have put 20 miles on them with much comfort. They stood up to slush today. They are damp, but not soaked or full of water like a standard running should would be.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

New running shoes

My Adidas whatevers have died. After a one-hour, 8 mile run, my shins ached. Time for new shoes. Kohls, my stalwart shoe-store, had crap. Lots of brands and no way to distinguish what I need

So I went to REI. And bought the Salomon Comp 3. And I love it.

Here's just a short, non-exhaustive list:
  • Never tie your shoes again
  • Kevlar laces
  • removable, cushy inserts
  • all-synthetic matierals
  • absorbs less than one percent of its weight (24 oz) in water
  • To get water out of shoe, take it off, bang it against a tree, and go
  • Did I mention cushy?
So yea, great shoes. The sales person, REI Roseville's shoe bard, directed me to the comps when I told him I wanted to put on high miles but also wanted to be able to hike with a 25 lb load on.

Also, I tried the shoes on with SmartWool Adrenaline Hikers (light cushion). Those socks felt great. I may have to change my sock scheme around. My trekking socks (heavy cushion) just didn't do it for me. The Comps are narrow in the arch, so the heavier sock didn't help that predicament.
Anywho, I also gathered up my week-end stuff and headed to Midwest. I wanted to see ifit would all fit in the Mountain Hardwear Scrambler. To my surprise, it did, with room to spare.

I brought in three stuff sacks, my pot, rope and some stakes. I should have used only one stuff sack - that for my bag. I could have used the pack's volume more efficiently had I not used stuff sacks for my clothes and rain gear.

I got everything in with the lid closed to its max. I did not use either of the two lid pockets, and I did not use the external bungee.

The backpanel is a very dense, very rigid foam. My verdict is still out on it, but it did feel better than any other frameless pack I've tried on. The shoulder straps, which are made out of mesh with an elastic ribbon the edges, require the load to be kept small. My goal is to keep things under 15 lbs. That should be fine for the pack to handle.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Twin Cities marathon, round 2

I will once again challenge the Twin Cities Marathon. Last year, in the daunting heat, I quit after 13 miles at a time of 2 hours. Leg cramps in my quads and hips forced the drop.

This year, I will train better and know my opponent. I will finish.


On a quick gear note, I think I'm in love with the MH Scrambler. But alas, no use, no need and thus no purchase.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Tarp completed; quilt mostly finished

Well, my tarp is completed. It ended up being 116.5" long, 66.5" wide. That's almost 9' long and just over 5'6" wide. The initial fabric was 68" inches wide, much wider than I expected. The sil-nylon was listed at 59-60" wide. This makes life easier because it allows more coverage.

The ties were made with 3/8" gross grain ribbon. I attached line tensioners (courtesy of Henry Shires) to the ends of the ribbon by sewing two seams. The first held the tensioner in. The second was one inch toward the tarp. This held the trekking pole tip.

To attach the ribbon to the tarp, I reenforced the attachment by placing the ribbon between the sil nylon and a thicker cordura 2" x 2" square. I did this primarily for the corners. For the edges, I did a rolled hem, first 1/4" and then 1/2". I tucked the ribbon ends underneath the 1/2" roll (with tensioner then facing the middle) and then turned them out to re-stitch them when I placed the cordura square on the opposite side of the sil-nylon.

I haven't weighed it yet, however, I used ~6.18 yd^3 of 1.35 fabric, 1 ounce of cord, .4 oz of cord locks and some ribbon. I'm anticipating it weighing about 10 oz. This does not count stakes or groundsheet.


As for the quilt, I made it only 60" long. I need to add about a foot to it. In essence, the quilt is three pieces: a top (including shell, insulation and liner), a bottom (just shell) and a footbox (again, shell, insulation and liner).

The bottom is a trapezoid. It is 24" at the foot, 48" at the head and 60" long. The foot box is 12"x 24". The bottom of the footbox (24" side) is sewn to the bottom. The other three sides are sewn to the top. The top is 48" at the foot (thus, it can go around two 12" sides and the top 24" side of the footbox), 60" at the head and 60" long.

The liner is 0.9 oz/yd^2 Momentum taffeta, the shell is 0.9 oz/yd^2 Momentum Ripstop and the insulation is 5 oz/yd^2 Climashield XP (0.82 CLO).

To get the final length taken care of (up to a foot, maybe another 8 inches), I will canibalize my old quilt. It is made of Primaloft One, Epic and 1.1oz nylong ripstop. When it is all said and done, it should weigh ~24 oz.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Quick sewing note

I'm expecting to sew a two-person quilt and a 5x9 sil tarp this weekend. The quilt, made with Momentum and 5 oz/yd^3 Climashield XP, should weigh in at about 24 oz. The tarp (5x1.35), including guylines (1), 8 stakes (0.35/stake), line tensioners (8x.05) and 3x6 sheet (~4.3 of Tyvek should weigh in at 15.25 oz, not counting thread. Not too shabby, me thinks.

More details and possibly photos when the weekend is done.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Whisperlite (and others!) make no sense

The MSR Whisperlite makes no sense. It cannot simmer. You have little flame control. (Yeah, I realize that one can put less pressure in the tank and thus lower the fuel output, but hey, who wants to futz? Not me.) For what it does (or really, does not), it weighs a ton. According to MSR, it's minimum weight is 11 oz, whereas its International counterpart (designed to burn more fuels) comes in at a scant 0.5 oz more.

So what gives? Why is this the most popular white-gas stove of all time? I'm not sure. I need some research here. I believe it was the first stove with a remote burner.

Maybe it is the marketing approach to the stoves. The Whisp is billed as "Fast and Light" where as the Internationale is billed as "expedition." With regards to fast and light, has a brilliant rant about how "fast and light" is stupid. It's about steady efficiency. You're not traveling any faster, but you are traveling more efficiently. And you're doing it at a constant pace.

As far as the Internationale goes, the XGK tops it in everything it can do. Again there is a weight issue, but anything the Internationale can do the XGK can do better. The XGK is more stable, also, than the Internationale. The XGK also has the reputation as the classic blowtorch snow-melter.

Why is the Dragonfly billed as "gourmet?" Probably because it can simmer, not because it's insane snow melting abilities or cooking capabilities.

So why is these stoves still on the market? Demand, probably. If ain't broke, don't fix it.

MSR makes a large variety of stoves. However, If I had to pick one stove to cover everything, I would buy a DragonFly, as I did. Why? Why is it so much better than the venerable Whisp? The answer is simple: Flame control and pot support. I can do almost anything with the DragonFly. I can simmer, saute, do shore lunch, melt snow, boil massive quantities of water. The only area it lacks is multi-fuel capacity.

In addition, the Dragonfly has extremely wide pot supports. The six pot contacts guarantee that there is at least three points of contact with the pot, and it guarantees those points are on the same flat plane.
It all boils (s'cuz the pun) down to a simple, simple thing: MSR needs to make a multifuel version of the DragonFly. Thus, one stove could perform all of the function of four current white-gas stoves stoves (DragonFly, XGK-EX, Whisp and Internationale).

I have not used the Simmerlite, but have heard of its use in similar conditions to mine. I will say this: it is your lightweight white-gas stove. If you know what this is what you need, then go for it. It fills a portion of your system (see below).

And this is only for their white-gas stoves. MSR has multiple canister stoves: PocketRocket, SuperFly, Reactor and Windpro.

I have the PocketRocket: slight bias there. Each of these fill their markets, though. The PR is your ultralight solution. The SuperFly is designed to be used as a hanging stove. The Reactor is an alpine snow-melter (and if I had a use for it, I would pick it up fast!). The WindPro is just there. No need for it. Anything it can do, the others can do better. It's only claim is that it has a wide flame, but a good cook can deal with this (If only MSR designed the PR like the SnowPeak Giga Power and gave it a wide flame, perfection!)


I see a person's outdoor equipment (lovingly referred to as gear) as a system. Everything should work with everything else, and you should be able to cover all reasonable temperatures (Temps for me, being 100 F to -30 F). Naturally, as your individual specialites grow and your temperature range increases, your gear closet expands. For example I have three stoves, two (soon to be three) sleeping bags, three tents and two ground pads. And there still a lot of stuff I'd like to add to that collection.

Gear that does not fit this system should not be in it.

Looking back at stoves. Unless you need a stove for a specialized setup, I think one needs at least two stoves, maybe three. Here's what they are:

1. Winter stove: White-gas stove, capable of high heat output to melt large quantities of stove. Should have a fuel capacity for multi-day trips where running out of fuel could mean disaster (or cooking over a fire). This stove should also be able to be used for car-camping - i.e. you need to be able to simmer.
2. 3 season stove - This is your summer-weight stove. It should simmer to cook things delicately if need be, but it needs to be able to hit a hard boil. It should be lightweight. It needs to be able to cook for 2-3 people. The Fuel choice does not matter so much, but white-gas stoves will weigh more.
3. (optional) Solo stove - For many people this will be your three season stove (and probably a canister one at that). However, for the crazies out there, there are alcohol stoves of their endless derivations. These needs to be able to fit your cooking needs, and if you're cutting weight to the point of going with an alcohol stove, you've probably already cut your food weight down to dehydrated everything. Enter the Alcohol stove, which can boil and not do much more.

To fill the above slots, I have the DragonFly, the PocketRocket and a Gram Weenie Pro. I think they meet all of my needs. If I had to get one more, It would be either the XGK or the Reactor (alas, I do not have a use for either).
The Whisperlite does not fit into the above categories. First, it is not ultralight, so it is not in the third categoriy of alcohol stoves. Second, it is to heavy to be a three-season stove. 11 oz plus the bottle is too much. It also lacks simmering ability. Third, and finally, I would rather not use it in winter because there are better stoves, such as the DragonFly and the XGK.

So MSR, build me a better stove - get me a DragonFly that can run on the XGK's fuels.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Caloric needs experiment

I went walking this past weekend. 18 miles, in fact. Most was roads, some was boardwalk with an inch of packed snow.

It was msotly an experiment of caloric intake- I wanted to see how much food my body wanted over the miles. In the morning, I went to a grocery store and bought the following:

3x Generic poptarts, 420 calories per package (two tarts)
4x Snickers, 280 calories per 2.07 oz bar
Nature's valley peanut butter granola bar, box of six; 180 calories per 1.5 oz package (two bars)
32 oz Gatorade, 50 cal/8oz; 200 cal total. (only purchased b/c I needed a water bottle)

I was carrying a lot of food for how long I anticipated traveling. In the end, I ate one package of pop tarts, one snickers and three bars. I drank the gatorade and 1.5L of water. I consumed 1440 calories over 6 hours and 18 miles; that is 80 calories per mile and 240 calories per hour.

I ate the Pop Tart right away; the first granola bar two hours later; the next granola bar an hour after that; the next granola bar an hour after that; an hour later, the snickers, an hour later, third granola bar. At six hours, I was home and hungry, having not eaten in an hour. Had I been camping, I would have been ready to cook supper.

The 80 calories/mile seems in tune with Ryan Jordan's rough estimates of 100-150 calories per mile on trails. I knew I would be on the low end of that spectrum, but I did n't realize (though I should have) that I would be beneath the spectrum. It made sense - I was walking with minimal packweight (2 lbs, maybe), with running shoes and on roads with minimal hills.

So what should I figure for the SHT? Well, I'm going to guess at 125 calories/mile. Some days a hella-hilly (3K+ ft cumulative elevation gain), while some days have a minimal amount of hills (600 ft cumulative elevation gain). THat puts me at 2125 calories/day. That seems low, but I don't want to pack too much food. I've never, ever run out of food on a trip, and I'd like to push my food rations as close to minimal as possible. Once I establish a cushion for safety, then I need to be able to calculate what is a needed amount.

I'll probably pack 2500 calories/day @17 miles per day. That is a difference of 375 calories, about 3 oz of food. I realize that that is potentially two pounds of food extra being carried, but If I eat it and keep from bonking at the end of the day, so be it.

My idea is to have a calorie drip i.e. eat about every hour to two hours, depending on the last food consumption, and not stop for lunch unless necessary. The rests will come in stretch breaks, conveniently timed for when we eat.

The current setup is a package of opo-tarts; two hours later, a granola bar; one hour later, a candy bar; one hour later, "lunch," a calorie dense mixture of chocolate and nuts; two hours later, a granola bar; one hour later, a candy bar; one hour later, we should be at camp and cooking.

This leaves us with two four hour sections of hiking at 2 mph. at 2.5 mph, we're looking at 20 miles.
How far we hike is another questions; this one, appears, tobe settled. Our current time-frame leaves us with about two weeks; I'm planning 13 days - the first day is travel, the second is a three hour drive up to the northern terminus and then a full day; every other day is a full day.

If we do not resupply, the first six days will be 15 miles/day, the last six will be 20 miles/day. If we do resupply, we'll do somewhere in the middle, probably about 17 miles (17x12 = 204, the length of the trail).

Calories will also change with respect to the amount of miles we put in; 20 miles will require ~625 more calories than a 15 mile day would; that is about five ounces of food. We haven't decided what we're going to do yet.
- -
It's all going to get figured out; I think it's really a guess.

With the walk

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Bivy selection!

I bought a bivy.

I went to the Bloomington REI. It was huge, as it is the 3d largest REI in the country. The store is one building, but the sections of the store (camping, men's clothing) are partitioned off in a way that it can be hard to navigate.

In the store, they had a few choices: ID Bugaboo, Bibler Tripod, SD Sangori and the OR Alpine. I went with the Alpine. Here's why.

First, I looked at the ID. It did not have hoop on it; this would allow snow to press down on my face. It would be great for summer, but not great for winter snow. It did have a nice hood and vent, though. ID makes a bivy similar to the Alpine, discussed below, but it was $310, and for that price, I would have gotten a tent. The weight savings was minimal and I'm not sure on durability issues.

If I end up getting a bivy for summer use, I believe it will be the Ptarmigan bivy from Titanium goat. It weighs 6 oz and it would compliment a 5x9 tarp nicely.

Second, I looked at the Bibler tripod. This is the same pole design/dimensions as the BD lightsabre, so it was more bang for my buck. And they didn't have the Lightsabre in stock. Anywho, the hoop pole on the Tripod is not a hoop pole, but instead, is two straight poles connected by a pre-bend (about ~120 degrees). I have seen these before in an older Marmot tent, and the owner of that tent has to replace the prebend every two or three seasons. What happens is this: The upright poles insert into each end of the prebend (which is about 4 inches long, btw). However, the poles need to be secure and stay secure in the prebend, otherwise there is a gap. This gap weakens the connection and bends the upright and the prebend. I'd rather not deal with that. Also, the bibler was out of my price range and weighed more than I wanted it to. For that price, I would have gone with the BD Firstlight (on sale for $209 + shipping @

Third, I looked at the OR Alpine bivy. It is made with 3-layer Gore-Tex. This Gore-Tex is Labeled "Respiration" because it is designed to let oxygen and carbon dioxide molecules through the laminate. It is the same fabric as the OR Aurura bivy, discussed in a previous post.

The bivy has a single pole, a flimsy four or five section pole that is shock corded. It slides into a sleeve that creates the hoop.It also has a bug netting option. This way, I could push the hoop down on top of the fabric and another hoop comes up that supports the bug netting. This hoop is made of a flexible wire that seems foldable and malleable for packing. I'm curious as to how long it will last.

Again, the bivy only zips open to shoulder length. However, I could get in and out very easy. I also believe I could set this bivy up very easily if it was snowing and keep plenty of snow out.

The bivy also has sleeping pad straps in it. They are a patented design, but my first impressions are that they are superfluous. They might add an ounce or two, so I don't plan on cutting them offf. It just isn't worth it.

Anywho, I will be sleeping outside tonight, so I'll report back with the test later.

Ona side note, I returned my REI Alpine lakes full zip pants. The choice was simple really. A weekend or two ago, I spilled water on them. I stayed dry, but the fabric absorbed the water, much like the outer shell of a cordura fabric would. Well crap, I thought, I can't have that.

The shell fabric, although there is REI's proprietary wp/b fabric in there, is not like rain coat fabric, but it is more robust and seems to be more abrasion resistant.

The pants were fine in snow, and they breathed exceptionally well. The full zips were nice for venting and putting on w/o taking off my boots. This was a great feature in the morning. However, they just had to go. If I were walking around on a slushy day and got the pants wet, they would undoubtedly freeze if the temp dipped below freezing at night.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Bivy observations

I'm looking for a bivy for 4-season use. I went to REI and saw a couple of them, namely the REI minimalist and the OR Aurora bivy.

A couple of bservations:

1. The REI bivy is not suitable for winter, IMO. Portion covering the face is mesh and does not have a wp/b backing. I would get this, except for that factor. The bivy has four sliding zipps and thous I could create armholes, headholes, etc.
2. The OR Aurora's zipper goes only to about mid-chest. There are two zippers, not 4 and there is no drawcord to concealing my face. It is made with Goretex, which seems just fine.

I'm looking for all-weather protection that I can trust my life with. I would like to be able to fully-enclose myself, or at least minimize my face's exposure the elements. If there was a drawcord, similar to what is on a sleeping bag hood, for sealing up the bivy, I'd jump on the chance.

I'm currently looking at the OR Alpine bivy and anything else my local REI stores (3) have in stock. I'm heading to their Bloomington store, which is one of the national flagship stores and apparently is huge.

More report later.