Five Ounces

Five ounces. 5/16 of a pound, less than a third. I spent $35 for those 5 ounces, and very happy for it! What is that, $7 per ounce?!

To a long distance hiker, every ounce is at a premium. The less weight I have to carry, the more comfortable I will be. It’s then reasonable to assume that I will enjoy the hike just that little bit more. Each of my 5 MILLION steps will carry 5 ounces less than previously planned; for $35, that’s not a bad deal at all.

I’ve alluded to the weight tradeoff equation before. For a particular function, saving weight is a good thing, as long as it does not compromise quality or usefulness. Example: I have heavy, rugged boots that weigh 3 pounds, and could last the entire hike. To save weight, and be more comfortable, I will take trail runners, at 1.5 pounds. I may need 3 pair as they break down, but that is a reasonable compromise.

Money is also part of this equation. Technology permeates hiking as it does other sports. We have titanium cookware, ultra light nylon cloth for tarps and tents, new weaves of wool that reduce clothing weight substantially. It all depends how deep your pockets are, and what is “OK” if it’s a bit heavier.

My biggest compromise is my hammock, which weighs in at 3 pounds, plus another 8 ounces for a tarp. Many high tech tents now are just over 1 pound, complete (at $400 and up!). But, this hammock is rugged and comfortable, and I JUST LIKE IT. That’s the fun of this individualist sport: you get to choose what lights you up, as long as you accept your choices.

So… what was my big purchase? Camp shoes! At the end of a long day of hiking, airing out tired feet is a luxury. Many of us bring Crocs, slides, or the equivalent: waterproof, light shoes. They are also useful for river crossings and in town, in the shower, whatever. Inexpensive, yes, but at 14 ounces for the pair, on the heavy side for the one or two hours a day they get used.

croc

Enter Vivobarefoot, the company, that sell a variety of minimalist running and hiking footwear. I came across a discussion of these on Whiteblaze.net, my primary source of information about all things hiking on the AT. I can’t wear many shoes as I have a wide foot and a bunion on my right foot, but I ordered a pair of their “Ultra Pure”, and at about 9 ounces, they are great! So… my Crocs will stay at home, and the Vivo’s will take to the trail!

vivobarefoot

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Cooking Gear

Cooking equipment is one of the more debated areas of one’s hiking gear. The object is to provide a meal, taking into account the size, weight, and cost of the gear. Other factors are the type of fuel, speed to set it up, and how quickly and efficiently it cooks your meal. Lots of options, but where do you begin?

I started with fuel. The two primary fuels today are propane in a small canister, and alcohol. There are many articles on the pros and cons. I have a Jetboil system, an all in one canister system that works great, but is a bit bulky and heavy. I tried an alcohol system on my September hike, and though it worked fine, I decided to go back to the canister route, but something other than a Jetboil.

I did a lot of research over the past couple of months to find the perfect system, for ME. I wanted both a cooking pot with lid, and a coffee cup, which can double for eating cereal. With my alcohol system, I kept the fuel separate, in case it leaked. I carried a separate coffee cup, as it did not fit in the pot.

ECA278_img1My new system fixes those problems. I now use an Evernew titanium ECA278; I got it from Trail Designs for about $65. It is a stackable .7L/.4L pot/cup combination, 2 for the price of 1.

soto windmaster on canister

For a stove, I bought the new Soto Windmaster, another $65. Great reviews, and on a 40 degree day, I boiled 8 ounces of water with this setup in 2 minutes.Like the Jetboil, a small 100 gram canister, the Jetboil canister stand, and stove all fit inside the pot. I then purchased a cozy from George at Antigravitygear.com; great service and about $10!

Expensive? About $140. Weight: 10.2 ounces: pot, cup, lid, stove, canister stand, cozy, and bag. Add the weight of a canister, which again fits inside. Nice!

A Positive Experience

Are you aware of how you affect the happiness of those around you? Do you make it a point to praise performance, be it your workers or children, spouse or salesperson?

I really work on this. I’m not great, but I really try to smile, to be pleasant, and to offer praise, when deserved. As an example, if a transaction is involved, the money received is nice, but the smile, the “thank you” is what leaves us with that little glow inside.

So how does that relate here? I make it a point to respond to each sale I participate in. When I buy a product from an entrepreneur, I send off a quick note of thanks, and also acknowledge them publicly, if warranted. I believe that nothing works better than unsolicited, free, and heartfelt thanks to stimulate sales. If I buy from a larger site, most ask for feedback, and I am happy to provide it, to improve the next experience.

So, Adam, of Hammockgear.com, thank you, both for your workmanship and service.

Here’s the story.

I bought a 20 degree top quilt (like a sleeping bag, but for a hammock) from Adam. It is my first quilt, and I was a new hammocker. I asked about adding extra down, being the new guy. Adam said, no, should be fine, try it and we can fix it if you desire. 9 months later, last week, I decided after a few cool nights of hanging, that I wanted an extra 2 ounces of down. I call Adam. He says FREE. FREE shipping. Come on, ADAM! I want to keep you guys in business, and don’t mind spending a few bucks to do it!!! Quick turn around, of course, and it is now perfect.

He certainly did his part in this exchange. The quilt is one of the most important items for my hike, and I am confident that it will perform well.

Who have you praised today?

Travel Mug

I have a favorite mentor, Jim Rohn, who recently passed away. He was a premier motivational speaker, and had a wonderful philosophy on life. Well, one of his favorite words, which I have adopted, is “fascinating”. The trials in life are fascinating. The person who cuts you off on the highway is fascinating. You get the idea; turn a negative into a positive or take the glass half full idea.

So, yesterday I spent about 30 minutes stressing about the type of travel mug I should take on my hikes. Fascinating! This is all about counting ounces/grams, vs functionality. Being analytical (anal!), I developed a massive decision tree to come up with the perfect mug. Purpose vs size vs weight vs cost; how would I pack it; would it be just for drinking, or would I eat my oatmeal from it; should it be metal so I could heat water in it; you see my problem?

Fortunately, there must be many like me, for when I showed up at REI, I had an entire rack to choose from! I was in my glory! Titanium, plastic with a cozy, handle or no (extra weight now!), 8 ounces or 16, so many choices and so little time! Did I mention the lid???

The good news in my life is the word experimentation. I have a year to prepare for my hike of the Appalachian Trail, so I will have lots of opportunity to try out my new mug(s)! I do like a hot drink to start my day, whether coffee or tea, so I chose 2 mugs, one with handle, one without, both with lids.

Fascinating…

A Humbling Experience (Or how I lost an eBay auction)

I learned a $22 lesson on bidding on eBay yesterday. Ouch!

First, the item. My goal is to sleep in a hammock for most of my overnights on the Appalachian Trail, or AT. I will discuss my reasoning as I get some experience using the hammock. However, I also intend to stay in some of the many shelters on a hard floor, so I need a pad to sleep on. The pad can also be used in my hammock when cold.

For this item, weight vs. comfort were the major criteria. The lightest 20″x72″ inflatable pad at the moment is the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite, at 12 ounces. It wins by a bunch in weight. A close competitor is the new Big Agnes Insulated Q-Core SL, at 18 ounces for the same size. The Therm-a-Rest has one big issue for me when I tried it: it’s noisy! The high tech material used makes a crinkling noise whenever you move on it. The 18 ounce Big Agnes is still pretty light, has a higher insulation value, and is more comfortable (and quiet!). So, I am looking to buy the Big Agnes.

Now, Being new, the retail stores have yet to offer it for discount, so I decided to check eBay. Sure enough, there was an auction going on. This is for me!

eBay bidding: I rarely buy here, but know enough not to show my hand until the last few seconds. Part of the art of bidding…

HOWEVER… The price was about 40% off retail, so I was pretty excited. What a deal. I placed my bid, hit the send, and instead of entering it immediately, eBay comes back with a “Confirm your bid of $xxx”. In the couple of seconds it took for me to register the statement and hit the “Yes” button, the auction ended, and I missed out. I could not believe it!

This was a very humbling experience for me. Small, but intense failure to perform… The good news? About an hour later, the same dealer started another auction, for the same pad. Today, I won that auction, but for another $22. A cheap lesson.

I know that my hike of the AT will have many of these humbling experiences, and this is but one of the many reasons I need to go on this hike.

Thanks for reading!

Studying; added a new piece of gear

Image

Interesting day, today.

I am going to flight training in 2 days, and spent much of today studying. In my company, the FAA has approved a 9 month training cycle. Every nine months, we spend 4-5 days going through refresher training, where we attend academic classes, and then 2 simulator missions which put us through the wringer.

These simulators are state of the art, have full visuals, and move on all 3 axes, to simulate flight. Each of these 2 missions consists of 2 hours of briefings and questions, followed by 4 hours actually in the simulator, going through all the problems you can imagine a broken airplane may sustain. We usually come out of these sessions worn out and frequently wringing wet; the idea is to test us in an academic situation so that in the real world, any problems we encounter we have already dealt with and solved. Hard work, but satisfying…
During a break, I took time to order another piece of my equipment puzzle, this time on the clothing side. It seems that in hiking, like many outdoor sports, one has to layer his clothes to stay warm, but not too warm. The goal is to keep from sweating too much, so that when you stop to rest, or at the end of the day, you do not quickly get cold from the perspiration on your body.
I have done some research on the subject, both online, and at my local REI and EMS (Eastern Mountain Sports) stores. I could write pages on layering; for today, I bought a windshirt.
Lots of tradeoffs here. Weight is first; I wanted warmth first, followed closely by lightweight. Water resistance is nice, but waterproof adds a bunch of weight, and I have a rain jacket to take care of that.
I plan a wearing this windshirt a lot. For layering, I plan on a T-shirt or long sleeve lightweight top, perhaps a second layer, followed by this windshirt. That’s it, down to about 20 degrees F.
So…lots of information on the internet, and outdoorgearlab.com does some nice reviews. For this particular genre, their top 2 picks were the Arc’teryx Squamish hoodie jacket and the Patagonia Houdini.
windjacket
One big issue I am finding, is that most of the state of the art gear is hard to find at a retail store. I was not able to try either of these products. The Houdini was cheaper and 1 ounce lighter, and I was leaning that direction, but several recent reviews of the new model said that it did not stuff properly into its own pocket, an issue when packing it up. I chose the more expensive Squamish to avoid returns. I don’t mind paying a premium on something I will use frequently.
Buying online is also about the bargains. REI is good for this. Their latest incentives: a $20 gift card for purchases today over $100. Done. Also, through the end of March, if you get their credit card, you get an additional $100 gift card. So… this $150 jacket is really only $30 (rationalizing…), but of course I have to spend the gift cards at REI. Not a problem; it’s my adult toy store!!!