We were able to spend 6 nights in the Sierra Nevada with the MountainSmith Mountain Shelter 2.
It was summer, windy at night, temps in the low 30s, and some cloudiness. The elevation of our trip was 8000-11,000′. This shelter is a tarp held up by two hiking poles and 13 stakes. I set it up 5 times, and it became easier each time. It weighs 1 lb 15 oz and costs around $100. It packs up very compactly, and sleeps 2 comfortably. Its a really good option for a light and cheap shelter, and I’d recommend it. It doesn’t have a floor, and you would need to get a ground cloth, which might add 6 oz to the total weight. Read more →
I had the chance to try out a Sea to Summit Escapist tent system. The tarp plus the inner bug tent weighs 2 lb 2 oz, and sleeps two. If using only the tarp, it is 17.6 oz, plus the weight of the ground cloth you chose. Below is Dave Litster with the bug tent holding two sleeping pads easily. Read more →
We took the MSR Thru Hiker tent on a trip in the Sierra Nevada in August. It got down to frost a few nights. There was no rain, no wind, low humidity. One person used the tent, and loved it. Read more →
I’m on about the 4th Caldera cone cooking system, and maybe the 10th stove I’ve used overall, so I thought I’d share what is the best of all the stoves I’ve used in 45+ years of backpacking. The Fusion Sidewinder Ti-Tri split cone stove system, made by Trail Designs, the maker of Caldera Cone stove systems. The Ti-Tri refers to the wind screen being made of TItanium, and the stove having the capability to use three different fuels: alcohol, esbit, and wood.
I finally got a chance to take the YKS headlamp out for a field test. It is a slick looking device and weighs in at a light weight 3.7 oz. That is a bit more than the Petzl Zipka at 2.3 oz. Maybe the added features of the YKS are worth the extra ounce over the Petzl. Both use 3 AAA batteries, so the battery weight is the same. Read more →
The folks at Dpower sent me one of their stoves to try out, and I had a chance to try it out this weekend. These are for sale on Amazon, for $19.99. I tried boiling water on this little stove, and it took less than 3 minutes to bring 2 cups to a rolling boil, and about 4.5 minutes to bring 4 cups to a boil. I often use an alcohol stove, and that is about twice as fast as my alcohol stove. Read more →
Its nice to have a fixed blade knife when backpacking, which unlike folding knives can be easily cleaned, won’t fold over fingers unexpectedly, and provides a sturdy but not overly large blade with a comfortable handle. A knife like that is handy for cleaning fish, making tent stakes, cutting sticks for roasting marshmallows, etc. However, fixed blade knives can be heavy, and a large blade is a little overkill for the small tasks that come up when backpacking. I thought I’d like to have a very lightweight fixed blade knife, with a substantial handle for comfortable grip. I made a nice little knife that fits that bill, and which weighs 2 oz, and actually floats. This knife also has a fire steel in the handle for emergency fire starting capability. Read more →
I got the chance to try out the Boot Jack 24 down sleeping bag, made by Big Agnes. This bag weighs a scant 2 lb 3 oz, and compresses to about the size of a volleyball. In the quest to lighten ones pack, a sleeping bag weighing less than 3 lbs is the goal, and this one weighs much closer to 2 lbs! Read more →
We did a hike in southern Utah called Grand Gulch a few years ago. Water in that canyon was always a concern. After a rain there would be pools of water held in solid rock basins, from 1 liter to swimming pool size. Where the stream bed was sandy instead of solid rock, the water might be in nasty pools as big as a bath tub or smaller, covered with an oily film, and stinky. If that was the only water available, you filter it as best you can, and drink it. Read more →
This is a guide for adults who are new to backpacking and want to get gear for this fun sport. This advice comes from me having started backpacking in 1967, been active in mountain rescue, nordic ski patrol, peak climbing, backpacking and mountaineering, and teaching college classes in backpacking for 12 years. I don’t do much climbing anymore, but have 48 continuous years of backpacking, and I still love to get out. Read more →
What blasphemy is this, taking a folding chair backpacking?! I can’t believe I am uttering these words. It all started in 2012 when I did a hike with the scouts in Grand Gulch, in southern Utah. George Walters and his son were with the group, and George brought a chair for himself, one for his son, and one for his friend Rachelle. After a few days, I tried it, and ended up carrying George’s son’s chair so George didn’t have to carry it. These were aluminum law chairs, and really weren’t too heavy to carry. Read more →
We had a chance on our 8 day backpack to do some comparisons between some stoves, namely my Caldera Cone with a 1.9 L Evernew titanium pot, an MSR Pocket Rocket, a Snow Peak Giga Power, and a JetBoil. The latter 3 stoves are canister stoves, and the Caldera Cone is an alcohol stove. Each of these stoves were cooking for 2 people. It should be noted that all of these stoves are reliable and they all work fine for heating water. Some are better in certain situations, and this review compares them for use on an 8 day trip fall, each of them cooking for 2 people. Read more →
I got an REI Flash 65 because I wanted to lighten my load, and I could save about 3 pounds over my previous pack by using the Flash 65. My friend Kevin Anderson had said he bought one, and really liked it. So I bought one for an 8 day backpack we did with the Boy Scouts of Troop 100 in 2009. Kevin’s Flash 65 was new that year, and mine was brand new on that trip. Read more →
I really like the Caldera Cone Tri-Ti Stove and Windscreen. Its great for cooking meals, heating water, and frying fish. I wanted to add baked breads and biscuits to our meals, so I got an Outback Oven and began experimenting with its use with the Tri-Ti Caldera Cone. The Outback Oven, ultralight version, comes with a thermometer, so all one has to do is control the heat output so the thermometer stays in the BAKE range, and out of the BURN range. It took some experimenting, but I finally got it to work in a reliable manner. The ultralite verson also comes with a scorch buster, and a heat reflector that goes over the stove, and an insulated cap that goes over the pot. Read more →
It is often assumed that you can’t use an alcohol stove in the winter, so I did a little test last weekend. The scouts were going on a winter campout, so I took my Caldera Cone to test in winter conditions. It was 21 degrees in the morning on Saturday, and the stove and fuel were stored outside my tent. I put a bottle of water down on the snow as I cooked breakfast, and big ice crystals immediately began to form in the water. It was cold! I cooked frozen Jimmy Dean hash with bacon and fresh eggs, and made enough for 2 people. Then I made a pot of hot water for coffee. Read more →
Having been a skeptic of alcohol stoves, I was pleasantly surprised with the Caldera Cone on a 5 day backpack in “cool to cold” weather, over spring break of 2009. I used the aluminum version of the Caldera Cone on that trip, and cooked solo. With cold mornings and occasional snowy conditions, the scouts compressed gas stoves were pretty punky, especially when they were half full or less. The Caldera was reliable and immune to wind. Read more →
One evening in 1935 outdoorsman Eddie Bauer almost froze to death in his soaking wet wool coat. Inspired by that incident, he designed a garment like a down sleeping bag, except that you wore it. Eddie Bauer’s coat of 1940 was the first down garment to be manufactured, and Bauer got a design patent on his design of downcoat. Bauer started with a store in Seattle, and now his company has 400+ stores in all 50 states. There is even an Eddie Bauer Ford Explorer. In the early years Bauer also patented a badminton shuttlecock, and was influential in popularizing badminton in the U.S. Thanks to Steve Nipper of The Invent Blog fame for this patent.
Here is a handy flask for small quantities of refreshments, such as liquor: a ski pole flask. After skiing for a while, you pop the top off a ski pole and have some warming rum, Gran Marnier, Schnaps, etc. It would have to be alcohol based, because anything water based would freeze.
This may be the mother of all free standing dome tents. It is a free standing tent, which uses arched poles attached to the floor of the tent, with the tent body attached to the poles along the length of the poles. At the top a line attaches the tip of the tent to the poles. The poles are made in sections for compact size when transporting the tent. The patent was filed in 1948.