Oct
27
2012
0

Sometimes you get what you pay for.

My trekking poles are feeling their age. They’re twist-locking springy poles from REI and have (as long as I periodically clean the mechanism) served me reliably for 4 years or so (and something like 400 miles of backpacking or walking). However one pole received a slight bend at Philmont, trying to hoick down a bear bag line, and it has gradually increased to where it interferes with opening and locking. (It took more than a few more miles to happen – so the pole worked very well).

So it is time to replace them.

I’d read good things about some of the relatively cheap poles found at places like W******t and C****o. So I took a look. They looked the part and were about 1/4 the cost of an REI set. The locking mechanism felt a bit sloppy – so I read the warnings on the package. There was a warning in slightly larger than normal fine print – these poles should not be expected to hold your entire weight. In other words, they look the part, but aren’t likely to be reliable. It really is important that the poles hold most if not all of your weight, at least transiently, because you will put a lot of load on them on the downhills.

Disappointed, I looked at some of the other gear. The 48-cent lexan spoons were good value, and I like their inexpensive water-resistant bags, but there were other traps for the unwary. Water filters that “improved the taste”, but didn’t filter microbes. Water purification pills that were not particularly effective. Steel tent pegs, heavy tarps and inadequate tents. (on the other hand if you know what you’re doing these can form the basis for re-engineered gear).

So it is critical to look carefully at the gear – sometimes it’s good, and sometimes it isn’t.

Written by Rob in: backpacking,gear lists |
Oct
17
2012
1

Fast and Light cooking system

Based on a review from section hiker, I wanted to test out the olicamp heat exchanger pot. While I’ve found esbit stoves to be the lightest for a solo weekend, they just won’t work as well for a group. In my hands alcohol stoves have been too touchy, and white gas – while very good – is a bit complex and heavy. I’ve never been keen on canister gas as the canisters are a pain when empty and the stoves I’ve seen have been, to put it politely, rubbish.

I was wrong.

The combination of an olicamp heat exchanger pot with an MSR microrocket worked extremely well. It took about two minutes to boil 3/4 of a liter of water for dinner – on the trail. It took less than a minute for smaller amounts for tea. Everything folds up and can fit into the pot. (though I did wrap the stove in a bandanna rather than the case MSR supplies).

The pot itself is not particularly expensive (about $20 from Amazon), nor is the stove. There are less expensive stoves than the MSR one that have similar heat outputs, but I needed a stove and it was what REI had.

This system is robust enough to be useful for scouts and is safer and lighter than white gas.

Written by Rob in: backpacking,gear lists,scouting |
Oct
17
2012
0

Another Pinhoti Trip with the scouts

Last weekend I helped lead a backpacking trip for scouts from my son’s and my new troop (which is much better run than the old one – but that is the subject of a different post). This troop, being huge, splits up into patrol-based or crew-based activities occasionally and this was one of them.

The younger scouts and most of the adults base camped at the chief ladiga campground which sits astride the intersection of the chief ladiga bike trail and the pinhoti trail in north east alabama. Another crew (mostly the Moose patrol) went backpacking on the pinhoti.

We walked just about 6 miles (5.92 by the GPS) to a campsite by the Terrapin creek flood control lake. There is a big field for camping there – so that several crews could camp at once. Fortunately, since we had a scout injure himself with a knife, there is good road access in an emergency.

Trip map.

Trip map.


It is not an insignificant climb as is shown in the profile.
Profile of the trail

Profile of the trail

This hike is a good simalcrum of the trails in Philmont, although it is generally less rocky and a bit more of a single track. There is a fair bit of poison ivy and poison oak so some care is needed – though I wore shorts and didn’t get any so it isn’t too bad. There are a couple of places to pump water.

There were no bears, despite seeing plenty of “sign”, but we did see a yearling timber rattler perched on a small hickory.

Written by Rob in: backpacking,outdoors,scouting,trail map |

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