сряда, 26 февруари 2014 г.

Hiking Safety

Hey guys Lloyd back today to talk a little about something that has been nagging at me: Hiking and backpacking safety. I admit I am guilty of grabbing my pack and blasting out for a long weekend on the trails on my own, but I am not well known for my common sense. Seriously though hiking and backpacking is one of the most underestimated recreational pastimes safety wise and as such numerous hikers, experienced and not, go missing and die every year. The basic thing when it comes to safety on the trail and the easiest way to mitigate risks is through buddy teams. You hear it all the time, always have a buddy, well that doesn't end in the adult world. Checking that simple box is a great way to stay safe and sane on the trail. For example today I was out with a friend on a short hike and ran into some cool things and some possibly dangerous things. Lets start with something cool:

As you can see in the video I was able to come across some leftover steel pieces of an old logging operation that was in my area. The operation, Shaver Logging Company closed their eastern site by around 1903 and leftovers of the eastern site are relatively rare to come across. This was an awesome example of why I went out this weekend and a really cool chance to see history before it was swallowed back up by the lake, however due to the fact that this area is usually underwater there are some specific dangers associated with it.

As you can see and gather from the video the top soil appeared to be very dry. Literally 4 inches to my right the ground was perfectly stabile and dry however the patch I happened to step in I immediately sank to my ankle and could continue down very easily much like in this clip.

Again the surface appeared to be perfectly dry but the minute I stepped down I was immediately lost down to my calf. There are ways to mitigate these dangers, having a buddy is one, the chances of both of you getting trapped are very slim, another is to actually talk to guy's that burn those areas down. Hikers are talkative lot's and will spend all day reminiscing about good trails, get online and find a good sporting goods store, walk in, and ask questions. REI's are my favorite for this, also because the locals that burn those trails are going to be there buying kit and you can get some solid info on what's up. Experiences like these are worth it, I got to hold a piece of history in my hands today, however being safe while doing it is of tantamount importance.

Lloyd out from High Sierra Gear Junkies
Posted by lloyd beard at 6:20 PM No comments:
Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to Facebook
Labels: backpacking, California, Hike, hiking, How, introduction, Lake, Life, outdoor, safety, Shaver, skills, To
Tuesday, April 2, 2013
Condor Tool Greenland Axe
First impressions are always a hard thing to shake, for what it's worth this little ax has made a great first impression on me. The piece of equipment in question is a Condor Knife and Tool Greenland Pattern Ax with 1.5 pound head. This is an ax that a customer of a friend of mine ordered thinking it was the 2.5 pound head model, long story short the customer didn't want it and I got to take it home for around cost. I have been in the market for a good hatchet/boy's ax for a while and had considered some of the ones being sold through pathfinder school and some of the other line's like Gransfor's but after some hands on time with them all I was at a stalemate. In fact the only one that I had not had hands on time with by the end of last week was a condor.

Overall first impressions were that it was surprisingly well assembled for a non american and non Swedish Ax. I was very pleased with the head, extremely pleased with the staking of said head, and very pleased with the handle. the handle fit's my hand well, filling out into my palm enabling a very secure grip, However I do not like how thin it tapers for the head. It looks like they purchased these handles in bulk for both size heads (the ordering book lists both weight heads on the same handle) and simply narrowed the profile for the lighter one. This creates what I hope is not a weakness point in the system but only use and time will tell.

Here's a video with a little more detail enjoy!


Posted by lloyd beard at 5:34 PM No comments:
Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to Facebook
Labels: Ax, Axe, bushcraft, canterbury, Condor, dave, Fire, first, Greenland, Hatchet, impressions, kit, knife, Outdoors, pathfinder, review, school, Survival, tool
Friday, March 29, 2013
Tactical Kitchen V: Poached Eggs In Tomato Sauce
This dish is commonly referred to as "eggs in purgatory" among a slew of other things. Not to be confused with "Eggs in a Basket" this dish is a sauce heavy anytime protein fix that is about as straight forward as it comes.

What You'll Need:

The ingredient list is actually very short containing only the following:

Pasta Sauce (of any variety)
Balsamic Vinegar (optional)
Ketchup (optional)
Italian Herbs (also optional)

The first thing you will need to do is combine all wet ingredients except for the eggs in a container. I personally love balsamic vinegar (blame the middle east 8000 for getting me hooked on anything with pomegranate in it too) so I usually am very heavy handed with the stuff in what I cook. If you don't like it or only like a little then adjust accordingly. The idea here is you don't want the pasta sauce to bee too thick, you want the consistency to be loose enough for the egg to absorb the flavor while it poaches. I use the ketchup and herb's to also aid in the loosening of the sauce for the same reason.


The next step is to transfer the sauce to the pan. Just make sure there's enough to cover the bottom cooking surface and you will be fine. Warm the sauce until it simmers slightly then add the egg. The idea for adding the Egg is to push down creating a little pocket and the dipping the egg out into the sauce. Once all egg's have been added cover and allow to cook. For people who like runny center's I usually say between 3-4 minutes depending on how efficient the stove is, 4-4:30 for medium, and around 5 minutes and up for well done.

Here's a Video, sorry about the shakiness again I'm back one handed on the iPhone. Good news though a GoPro is coming so there will be glorious hi-def soon! Thanks for reading everyone and feel free to comment on in with any variations on the recipe,

Posted by lloyd beard at 7:58 PM No comments:
Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to Facebook
Labels: backpacking, Camping, cooking, eggs, How, idea, kitchen, meal, Outdoors, poached, purgatory, recipe, sauce, simple, tactical, To, tomato
Monday, March 25, 2013
Outdoor Diary 1: Learning Lessons
I'm going to start getting in the habit of doing a sort of diary review for outdoor lessons learned after each trip or weekend I go on. I often do something a little different and forget what it was (darn brain injuries) so this is my way to share and remember the little things I did different this time vs the last few times. Hope someone get's idea's from this or enjoy's it as an inside view behind the smoke and mirrors that is instructing a class.

so a quick write up and review of last weekend.

I ran my kit setup with a nylon tent material tarp over a pathfinder bed I made by foraging for good length logs and filling the made frame with gathered dry pine needles  Lesson learned here, when you think you have enough triple it. While I was comfortable and warm I noticed there was a lot of compression where my body was and it would have made the second night a little less enjoyable than the first.

second thing I was trying out as something new was the idea of a wool blanket to back up a lightweight sleeping bag and gore-tex bivy sack to extend the range of my bag to a lower degree. This was a huge success for me when ran inside of the gore-tex instead of wrapped around the outside. It is worth noting that not all wool blankets are created equal and the Czech surplus wool that I had was nowhere near as warm or nice as the filson Mackinaw blanket my buddy had. The mackinaw allowed him to stay as warm as I was but with just the blanket and a pathfinder bed roll made by duluth.

some personal notes from the weekend. It was nice to have a class full of people who were legitimately interested in the material being taught. This was a "mandatory" class that the BSA forces the incoming Scout Masters and Assistant Scout Masters to go through. The after class review was very positive of the experiences we put forth and the chance to get hands on with the extra equipment we brought. My buddy and I joked about the fact that this was the 8th month in a row where we just cooked over fire vs pulling out any of our multifuel or backpack stoves for anything other than an emergency "I'm starving need food now" snack. cooking over the fire is an intimate process that brings the experience closer to home for me and actually being able to sit there around the coals of a cook fire and laugh and joke vs the intense roar of burning fuel stoves is a huge plus to me. it really gives you the chance to return to a more communal approach, mindset, and vision for group camps that really does put you back in touch with the basics. The more basic I've made my kit the more fun I've had outdoors because it continues to challenge me in new ways that I was not prepared for initially.

Some musings about a great weekend outside teaching some mindset and skills to new adventurers.

Posted by lloyd beard at 1:55 PM No comments:
Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to Facebook
Labels: blog, bush, bushcraft, craft, experiences, grid, mind, off, outdoor, set, skills, Survival, the
Sunday, March 17, 2013
 The Tactical Kitchen IV:
Grilled Chicken Parmesan with Risotto & Vegetables

 OK, so it's been a while since we've had any cooking articles up. I decided to toss this one up for a few reasons. It was one of the first recipes that I learned to cook that made my room-mates say, "Damn, how'd you learn to do that?" It makes a great meal if you're trying to impress a date. It's really fast and easy to make if you stay organized and prep everything ahead of time. It works out that all three parts of the meal finish at roughly the same time, so you look like you really have your act together while you're cooking for your date. This recipe lends itself very well to experimentation, improvisation, and substitution. So get out there and start cooking!

Before we start with the list of ingredients and equipment that you'll need, I want to take a moment and discuss the concept of prep. It is crucial to verify that you have everything required for the recipe that you are about to undertake. If you're working out of a cookbook, make sure to read the recipe all the way through and break it down into individual steps. I like to prepare everything before I start my final assembly. That means that my veggies are washed, peeled, seeded, chopped, and measured out into the required quantities. My meat is thawed and marinated. All tools and utensils are clean, sharp, ready to use, and placed where I can reach them. My workspace is clean and uncluttered. My oven is pre-heated. Ready to go? Let's do this.

Chicken Breasts
Marinade (I'm using a "Homestyle" Italian dressing this time. Experiment and find out what you like)
Parmesan Cheese (or any cheese you want, really)
Marinara sauce (if you're lazy like I am, buy it in a jar. If you've got the time, make it yourself)
Instant Risotto (again, bonus points for making it yourself. I had this box sitting around, so I'm using it)
Olive Oil (I'm using garlic infused olive oil. Because garlic is awesome)
Veggies (I've got carrots & broccoli today. Use whatever you think will pair well)
Seasoning (personal preference, the sky is the limit. Just don't overdo it. I'm using a Tuscan Rub)

Grill (I'm using propane for convenience, but if you've got charcoal, that's even better)
Tongs and/or Flipper (a spatula spreads icing on cakes. A flipper flips things)
Veggie Grill (keeps the vegetables from falling through the slats on my BBQ)
Basting Brush/Marinade Spray (some way of keeping things moist on the grill)
Cutting Board
Mixing Bowl
Saucepan (I'm using my 1.1L MSR Seagull pot because it's what I use when I'm camping)

Step 1: Marinading
The day before you're planning to cook, combine your chicken and your marinade. I like to use name-brand quart freezer bags. The freezer bags are much more durable than the standard storage bags, and the name brands (Glad or Ziploc) seem to hold up better. The last thing you want is to come home from work and find marinade all over the inside of your fridge. This is even more important if you're marinading these to take on a camping trip. Durability is important for anything that gets transported in an ice chest. Spend an extra dollar and get the good stuff.

Step 2: Veggies
Chop your veggies. Place them into a mixing bowl with olive oil and seasonings of your choice. Toss until coated evenly. Set aside.

Step 3: Start the Risotto
I like using the boxed risotto because it's easier for me to concentrate on other things while the risotto cooks itself. The brand I use has the same directions as nearly every other boxed dinner: add water, oil and ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until liquid is absorbed and sauce thickens.

Step 4: Grease the Grill
Spray some olive oil on your grill and veggie tray to keep food from burning. I bought a pump that I can fill with whatever oil I want for spraying. I'm using garlic olive oil.

Step 5: Add Chicken and Veggies to Grill
Toss your chicken and veggies on the grill. I like to brush some of the extra marinade and seasoning on the chicken. Keep your veggies from burning by constantly turning and moving them.

Did I mention that you're doing all this on LOW heat? Cooking at low heat will give you a much larger margin for error. It slows the entire cooking process down and allows you to relax and think. Extra time allows you to catch little mistakes and fix them before they turn into serious problems.

Step 6: Grate Some Cheese
While you're watching your food cook (you are keeping an eye on things, right?) you can keep your hands busy by grating some cheese in preparation for the next step. Make sure you keep checking on your food. If you're not careful, a gremlin might come along and mess up all of your hard work.

Step 7: Moving Things Around
The risotto is thickening nicely. This crappy outdoor burner can't go any lower, so I'm going to transfer the pot to the upper rack of the BBQ. It's time to flip the chicken breast, and apply more baste and seasoning to the other side. Cook it on this side until it's 95% done. Then it's time for the next step.

Step 8: Cut the Hole
With a thin, sharp blade, insert a knife into the edge of the breast as shown, and then pivot the the knife counter-clockwise. It's just a flick of the wrist. The result should be a nice clean pocket as shown on the right.

If you're doing this for guest, now is probably about the time they should be arriving, so they get to see all the cool parts, and don't have to sit around watching any of that boring prep work.

Step 9: Mix the Stuffing
This should have been done during our initial prep, but it only takes a second in case you forget. Mix a little marinara sauce into your shredded cheese.

Step 10: Stuffing & Topping
 Cram the cheese mix into the chicken cavity. Any that's left can be piled on top of the breast. Sprinkle some more cheese up there, then back on the grill she goes.

That's pretty much all there is to it. Once  the cheese on top of your chicken breast is melted, make sure your risotto and veggies are done to your liking (adjust heat and grill positions during cooking if necessary to make sure that everything is progressing along at the proper speed). After everything is finished, then it's just a matter of plating and serving. Pair with a nice wine or a fine craft beer and enjoy!

Posted by J. VonKlopp at 5:28 PM No comments:
Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to Facebook
Saturday, March 16, 2013
GoLite Quilt, ThermoLite Reactor & NeoAir X-Lite

When trying to reduce the weight of your backpacking gear, the most significant reduction usually comes from upgrading your sleeping system. Recent years have seen impressive advancements in lightweight materials. Unfortunately, gear doesn't always come cheap. For me, a good night's sleep is extremely important. I want to be able to sleep as comfortably on the trail as I do in my bed at home. Therefore I don't have a problem spending a few extra dollars on quality sleeping equipment. It works, it lasts, and it pays for itself in the long run.

I bought this quilt when GoLite first introduced it 3 or 4 years ago. At that time, it was marketed as a  3-season quilt rated to15°F.  I've used it on nights where temperatures dipped a bit below 15°F. It wasn't the warmest sleep I've had, but overall it wasn't bad. My version  weighs in at 1lb13oz, and has what they call "800+” fill power goose down. The version currently available on GoLite's website is rated at 30°F, weighs 1lb 8oz,  and is  filled with 850 fill power down. They don't currently sell any 3-season quilts. They are now marketed as a “1+ Season” quilt. 

The first thing that attracted me to the GoLite quilt was its light weight. I was also intrigued by the novel design. There is no bottom to it like there is on a sleeping bag. With a quilt, you lay directly on your sleeping pad. There is no down or insulating material from the bag between you and the pad. The quilt goes on top of you. Most of the fill material on the bottom of a traditional sleeping bag will compress when you lay down on it. This effectively reduces its insulation value  to zero.Basically, that extra insulation and shell material isn't doing anything to keep you warm. You can get rid of it, stay just as warm, and save some weight. The quilt design also does away with the need for a zipper. Instead, there are two sets of loops and two lightweight straps that go under the sleeping pad. These straps keep the quilt and the sleeping pad together as one unit so that the quilt won’t go anywhere while you toss and turn.  It has a footbox just like a sleeping bag.

The foot of the air mattress can be placed inside the footbox of the quilt, but I've found that this significantly reduces the volume of the footbox, especially with a thick mattress like the NeoAir. This causes the footbox of the quilt to stretch tightly over your feet. The insulation compresses and you get cold. The set-up that I've found to work best is displayed to the right (I've turned the whole assembly upside-down to better illustrate what's going on). By keeping the air mattress out of the footbox, it allows much more room for warm air, and doesn't cause any unnecessary compression of the insulation.

Sometimes I used the included straps to help keep the quilt centered on top of the air mattress. Other times (especially in warmer weather) I'll do without them, and use the quilt more like a blanket. Try both and see which works better for you.

Another way that GoLite reduced the weight of their quilt is by doing away with the hood that is found on most mummy bags. Hoods require additional shell material and insulation. A hood isn't necessary if you brought a nice warm hat with you in your pack (and you probably did). Just wear the hat that you brought anyway and you’ll never even miss the hood on your quilt. If you’re prone to fits of claustrophobia while sleeping in a mummy bag, the hoodless design is worth looking into. I recommend that you purchase the long version of this quilt.  I'm 5'11" and I've found that the extra length allows me to pull the quilt up over my head just like a blanket if it gets really cold. The top of the quilt is equipped with a drawstring to help keep cold air out around your neck and shoulders.

A sleeping bag liner adds only 9.65 ounces to the weight of my sleeping bag, yet it can add perhaps 10 degrees of warmth to your sleeping system. In summertime, it may be enough of a sleeping bag by itself. The real reason to get a sleeping bag liner, however, is because it will significantly increase the lifespan of that nice, expensive sleeping bag that you just bought. It’s a lot easier to toss a $40 polyester liner into the washing machine, than it is to clean your $400 sleeping bag because it got all nasty.  After almost 4 years of heavy use, my quilt still doesn't have even  a hint of that classic sleeping bag funk.

And lastly, we come to the sleeping pad. I've finally obtained a Therm-A-Rest NeoAir X-Lite air mattress. I was in the marked for a new pad ever since my REI LiteCore 1.5 bit the dust a few months ago. I wanted something thicker, warmer, lighter, and more compact. The X-Lite meets all of those criteria. It is almost alarmingly lightweight at 13.85 ounces. It is not self-inflating, so you're going to need 16 or so good healthy lung-fulls of air to get it inflated. It provides 2.5" of padding, which should be more than enough for the hardest of ground conditions. .

My only real concern with the X-Lite is in regards to how thin the fabric is. I intend to be extremely cautious about where I set it up. The fabric feels like it could easily be punctured by a wayward stick or sharp rock. Therm-A-Rest thoughtfully includes a repair kit when you purchase the mattress. Another minor concern is the noise that the fabric makes. It is very crinkly when you toss and turn. I haven't found this to be a deal-killer, but I thought I'd at least mention it. A little bit of noise is well worth having a sleeping pad that is this lightweight and compact.

So there you have it: my complete backpacking sleep system (I do not recommend using a cat as a pillow. They squirm, they bite, and they may puncture your air mattress). The total weight breakdown is as follows:

    Quilt, stuff sack & straps: 28.80 ounces
    ThermoLite Reactor Liner: 9.65 ounces
    Therm-A-Rest X-Lite: 13.85 ounces
    SilWing + 6 stakes & lines: 16.25 ounces

TOTAL WEIGHT: 68.55 OZ (4.28 LB!!)
(For reference, the cat weighs 15 pounds)

An added advantage of this system, in addition to its light weight, is its compact size. I use a fairly small backpack for short trips (Osprey Kode 38, originally designed as a ski patrol pack). My 4-piece sleep and shelter system fits easily in the main compartment of the pack, with plenty of room to spare for clothing, food, cooking gear, and other equipment.

Posted by J. VonKlopp at 3:12 PM No comments:
Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to Facebook
Labels: 3 season, Air, backpacking, GoLite, minimalist, Neo, Neo Air, Quilt, Reactor, review, setup, sleep system, ThermaLite, Thermarest, ultralite, X-Lite
Friday, March 15, 2013
Integral Designs Sil-Wing

I bought the Sil-Wing to replace my old Siltarp1after it was stolen. After having used the Siltarp for a year or two, I decided that I needed something with more coverage, and more pitching options. The Silwing has fulfilled both of those needs.

The tarp is made of silicone-impregnated nylon. The material is very thin, very light, and very water-repellant. After a little over two years of hard use, the material has not even come close to losing its water-repellant properties. I feel that these properties give sil-nylon  a strong advantage over fabrics that rely on DWR-type coatings or finishes to make them repel water. These types of coatings always wear off over time. Sure, you can buy products to restore lost water-repellancy, but why go through the trouble when you don't have to with sil-nylon?

The manufacturer lists the Silwing's “packed weight” as 13 ounces, and that the “minimum weight” as 11 ounces. My old Cub Scout pinewood derby scale tells me that the tarp (with stuff sack) weighs 11.8 ounces. That's close enough for me. The tarp also comes from the factory with a tube of seam sealer for sealing the seam that runs along the centerline of the tarp. In 2 years of use,  I have never noticed any seepage through the seams holding the two halves of the tarp together.

Along with the tarp, I also carry six 10’ lengths of 2-mil Mammut climbing accessory cord (0.2 ounces each), and six aluminum stakes (0.45 ounces each) in their own stuff sack. I use the separate sack mostly to keep from puncturing the tarp while I stuff it into the same bag with the stakes. The total weight of all of the stakes and lines adds only 3.75 ounces. These items, coupled with trekking poles, trees, and whatever else I find, offer a nearly unlimited number of pitching options for this tarp. The total weight of the entire system (tarp, 2 stuff sacks, 6x10' guylines, and 6 aluminum stakes) comes in at 16.85 ounces, and it all crams into a package about the same size as a standard 32-ounce water bottle. Which means that the system fits perfectly into any container or pocket that was designed to fit such a water bottle.

The setup that I like to use most often is the one pictured at the top of this article. It is accomplished by staking three corners to the ground (this is the end that faces into the wind). The next tie-out point from each of these is suspended from a tree or trekking pole. The remaining tie-outs are guyed out with climbing cord. This pitching method is spacious enough for 2 people to sleep and stay out of the rain. It is tall enough for a person to sit upright, and there is adequate ventilation for cooking. The catenary cut of the edges makes it very easy to keep the tarp very taut, so there is absolutely no flapping or noise in the wind. When pitched tightly, the cut of the tarp prevents any ripples or ridges that can trap water.

Are there any downsides to using a tarp like this as your shelter? Of course there are. Sil-nylon melts very easily, so be careful to maintain a safe distance from any fires. Sparks landing on the tarp will melt through in seconds. A tarp shelter of any kind will usually take longer to erect than most types of tents. You will need to select a site that will not allow water to run off of the tarp and back under your sleeping area. They offer less protection from the wind than tents, and next to zero protection from insects and other creepy-crawlies. These are factors to consider when choosing a shelter system for any outdoor adventure. Sometimes I leave the tarp at home and bring a lightweight tent. Often, I will still bring the Silwing and use it to build an extended vestibule. This came in very handy on a trip to Saddlebag Lake where it rained every day while we were preparing dinner.We used to Silwing to build a vestibule that connected the entrance of two tents in order to create a common cooking and resting area that would keep everything dry during the daily downpour.

Why do I carry it? Basically, I enjoy the compactness, light weight, versatility and simplicity. I’ve found that I usually don’t need to carry the extra weight and bulk of a tent. A tarp forces me to be a little more creative when selecting my sleeping area each night. It makes me take a closer look at my surroundings, and think ahead about things like wind direction, drainage, and ventilation.   A tarp is also a very versatile piece of gear. I can use it to gather leaves for bedding. I often use it as a poncho in the rain (and save weight by leaving my rain gear at home). It can be hastily rigged as a shelter or windbreak during rest stops on the trail.

If you’ve never tried using a tarp for a shelter, I’d suggest giving it a try! You can buy a cheap 6’x8’ blue tarp at your local hardware store for less than $10. Grab some parachute cord and some stakes (or whittle your own on the trail) and see how you like it.