Thursday, September 27, 2012

Green Springs

Green Springs
Green Springs is a natural spring in a park on the north shore of Lake Monroe in Volusia County.  Its light green waters are beautiful to see and it is a peaceful and quiet place to relax.  It is also a hop-skip-jump from the Orlando area and being adjacent to a rail trail, makes for a nice walk in cool weather.  Not that it is too cool yet, but it was 72 degrees an early Sunday morning in late September.  You could smell the sulfur spring when you first got on the trail, just a few yards away from the water.  That was the smell of money before the Civil War when Cornelius Taylor built the first hotel on top of a shell midden on the spring outflow.  The  hotel attracted riverboat tourists in the mid-1800's who were looking for recuperation along Lake Monroe.  Many years earlier the Mayaca and Seminole Indians considered the land sacred because they believed the sulfur water was healing.  Here's the link to the park.  The midden, or shell mound, like many others in Florida was hauled away for road construction and fertilizer production early in the 1900's.
This is my first post-summer (short) hike and I promised a weighed packing list for my day pack.  All weights are ounces except the total.

REI Flash 18 Pack 9.7
Bladder (empty) 5.5
Back Pad 1
First aid kit 3.5
Headlamp 1.5
Hand sanitizer 0.9
Carabiner 0.7
Bug spray 0.8
Pocket knife 0.8
Compass 0.5
Bandanna 0.8
Stuff bag 1.2
Book & pen 3.5
Marmot rain jacket 12.5
Hand Towel 1.4
Wet ones lg 3.3
Water/1 liter  35.2
Breakfast bars x2 2.4
Nuts 0.8

Weight oz/lbs 82.55.25

This is my REI Flash 18 with the reduced item list from a few months ago at a comfortable 5.25 pounds, a lightweight rig for day hikes with lots of room to spare!
It would be hot with an afternoon temperature of 93 degrees forecast this day, but Walt and I were starting the bike trail at 8:30 AM, when it was cool and finished a couple hours later when it was just 86 degrees.  Walt showed up with a smile and we began walking along the East Central Regional Rail Trail (click the name/link) adjacent to the Green Springs park.  The blue sky was framed with a few puffy white clouds.  We paused along the way to check out an Eagle's nest in a tree beside the trail.  The trail is well designed and is setup like the other rail trails in the area with occasional benches, painted traffic lines and lots of signage at road crossings. There was a cool breeze blowing through in a low spot and we took full advantage of it while we caught up on our lives.  We saw a woodpecker flitting from tree to tree.  There was a good amount of bicycle and walker traffic on the trail, and we struck up a good conversation about feeling healthy with a lady who passed us.  The walk back seemed much quicker, probably because we were going downhill.
East Central Regional Rail Trail
The rail trail has a lot of great possibilities where in the future it will reach across the state to both Cocoa in the south and Edgewater to the north, near Daytona Beach when it is finished.
I tried a couple of Walt's "health bars" when we got back to the car.  The pumpkin one was quite good for something made out of desperation.  Walt had made the mistake of reading the label on an energy bar a few weeks back and decided he could make something as good tasting but with no fat and way fewer calories.  Walt is good about stuff like that, he built my road bike (and several others) from tubes and can make just about anything with his hands.  He has made a great start with these "Walt's Bars"!  I brought my breakfast bars home to eat another day.
I'll be back to walk and bicycle this trail and the nearby Springs to Springs trail later this fall.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

All my new gear


Alpine Quilt

So, putting my ultralight backpacking kit all together, I have chosen an ultralight Gossamer Gear backpack, the Kumo.  A Thermarest 35 degree Alpine Down Quilt, and a Henry Shires Tarptent, the Notch.   That covers the "big three", except for number "four", the cooking system.  I already own a Snowpeak Trek 700 Titanium cook pot my wife gave me for the holidays (so cool), so what is left is the stove.  For the portable stove I have selected the Trail Designs classic Ti-Tri Caldera stove.  Much has been written online about this fine design, how it encloses the heat source with the pot to provide the most efficient heat and how well it all packs down small and light into its own container, and that it works at most any elevation!  I expect to cook with Esbit tabs on the gram cracker stove and have considered using some found wood to cook with if necessary.  I have also seen these stoves used as a "night-time-tv" at campsites when open fires are discouraged.
Caldera Cone
So now, what else?  Well, the list of stuff I still need, of course!
Remaining Camping List
I need a headlamp, several Op Sacs and a food storage bag, 50 feet of small orange cord, a larger pocket knife (about 1.4 ounces), a new sleeping pad, water filter and drinking bags, new trail shoes and insoles, a cooking cozy, a mosquito head net and bug spray, a new wide-brimmed hat to keep the sun off me, Body Glide, a slew of small containers to repackage things, freezer bags, trash compactor bags, Esbit tabs for fuel and some food.

Here's the Petzl Tikka 2 headlamp.  It uses 3 AAA batteries, runs about 90 hours on the high setting, has 3 light settings with flash, and weighs about 3 ounces.  There are many more lights out there, but this one works fine.  I'll also have a small backup light for emergencies.
REI has a smaller size than this one, but the LOKSAK OPSak is what you pack your "smellables" into.  I'll use them separately for food and toiletries and they sell a  handy 4-pack of smaller sizes I may be using.  It is expensive for 3 bags but nothing else seals as well and I'll reuse the bags on multiple trips.  The LokSak bagged food will go into a larger cloth storage bag like the medium-size Granite Gear Zippsack.
EZC2 line sells at Gossamer Gear for $14 for 50 feet.  This line is NOT for a bear bag, I'll make one of those when I'm camping in bear country.  This is for the short lines to retrieve tent stakes, extra tent line, clothes lines, pretty much as utility as you can imagine, plus it can be seen at night with its reflective braid.  I'll order some of this with my pack.
I think they discontinued the larger knife I was looking at, so here's number two, the Gerber LST.  It weighs 1.2 ounces, has a lock blade, and has a lanyard hole.  For something so light it actually fits in your hand, allowing you to use it for crafts and carving, just like with a "real" knife!
The sleeping pad I have is a short Thermarest Ridge Rest.  It has seen some use!  I would like to upgrade to a Thermarest Z Lite Sol, which I have slept on and I prefer it over the Ridge Rest.
For a water filter I'll get a Sawyer Squeeze filter.  They are highly rated and are the most simple solution for me.  Just squeeze to filter water!  Evernew makes some of the best water bladders/bags out there, and they even fit the Sawyer Squeeze filter!  They are hard to find in stock, so I'll have to hunt a little.
I found these shoes 10-15 years ago and New Balance keeps changing them a little, but the fit has stayed the same for years.  The New Balance 626 is what I comfortably wear on the trail daily and at home.  I need a set for trashing in the outdoors, and a "clean" one for home.  I'll add some new insoles like these and will be set for the year.
Cooking Cozy
Here's a cooking cozy, as good as homemade!  The cozy is how we cook (simmer) food "in the bag".  I'm not going to ruin my car's sunscreen and cut a larger than quart-size hole out of it to make my cozy!
A mosquito headnet is for those days and nights in Florida when the bugs will just not leave you alone.  I prefer no bug repellent on mine.  This also makes a good stuff sack for keeping the gloves and sleeping hat organized in the pack.  The bug spray I'll use is Repel Lemon Eucalyptus.  I won't use Deet, so the jury is still out on this particular bug spray.
The new wide-brimmed hat I have in mind looks like this, and it is called a Sunday Afternoons Adventure hat.   It has a flap in the back for shade.  I'll have to see how well it works with the mosquito net but expect it will be fine.  I have seen a few people wearing them while kayak fishing in Mosquito Lagoon.  There's not much more sun and bug exposure in Florida than that.
The Body Glide I plan to use on my feet can be found at REI also, I plan to repackage it into a smaller container for backpacking.
A slew of small containers would look like this, my old ones are all lost so it is time to update.  I won't use all of them, just a few for Body Glide, sun screen and food items.
Quart-size freezer bags are for cooking my dinners and carrying food.  Available locally at Target, maybe on sale.
Trash compactor bags are what everything goes into first inside my backpack for waterproofing.  There are only 4 to a box.  These are also at Target.
Esbit tabs for fuel.  I've been using these for 9 months now and I like them for simply boiling water.  I have read online there are now more outdoors people cooking with Esbit than with alcohol stoves.
Food will be covered in detail closer to the trip.
My clothing is otherwise taken care of (I'll buy new stuff later, on sale).  I'll wear a sweat-busting t-shirt, compression shorts, short socks, zip-off-leg nylon pants and a long sleeve nylon fishing shirt daily.  To sleep, I'll wear my lightweight long underwear with wool socks and my hat and gloves if needed.  Then there are my fleece pants and jacket if it really gets cold (can wear the rain coat on top) and that's everything I have.  The long pants and long sleeve shirt will keep the bugs and sunburn away during the day and as long as it is cool outdoors (70 degrees?), I'll be comfortable.  I've worn this stuff for years outdoors and it still functions.  New pants, new shirts, down jackets and new socks are very nice, but I'll be fine with what I have for now.
So, I still have to find these items online and available in my size, choose the color, order everything, unwrap it when it arrives and check it out when it gets here.  Then I have to weigh it and post the gear list.  Then buy and package the food for breakfast and lunch and dinner on the trail for the trip duration.  Then make sure I have the right batteries and medicines and figure how to pack everything.  And repack everything.  And listen to my wife ask why I'm repacking it while I repack it a third time.  Before you ask, here' a simple diagram I'll use on how to pack an ultralight backpack from Erik the Black's blog.
Do mouse-over the text for all the links I posted here.  I will begin price-hunting soon.  I listed many items at REI mostly for convenience, but there are many other online sources available.  Start with EMS, Campmor, Backcountry, Moosejaw, Sierra Trading Post, Amazon, and my wife's favorite, LL Bean.
Locally we do have places where we can touch items and talk to people who use them like Travel Country Outdoors, Gander Mountain, Sports Authority, Dicks Sporting Goods, Bass Pro Shop, and a local Army Store or two.  I'll be the one there with the confused look shopping with all the lists.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Tent Minutia

Remember the Tube Tent?
I've had some great tents!  And I have had some not-so-great tents.  In the years way passed, I began Boy Scouting as a child with a gift, a canvas army-type "pup" tent with no floor that weighed 10+ pounds with its wooden metal-jointed poles and wooden splinter-covered stakes.  That was "light weight" in the 1960's.
From that heavy tent I moved to a plastic tube tent in the early 1970's where I got soaked when it rained and eaten alive by bugs the rest of the time.  I didn't use it much but it was light!  After college, I purchased a small orange nylon "survival-type" tent. A two-person lightweight backpacking favorite at the time that lacked a screen door. The tent's cloth "doors" just tied closed.  It gave up the ghost in the Tennessee mountains, high in the Cherokee National Forest, during a heavy rain storm at night when a tree fell on me (no one was hurt except the tent).  I tried more tents while living in Tennessee but didn't come up with any winners, typically sharing my camping partner's tents for years.
After moving to Florida in the mid-1980's, I finally bought a 2-person Eureka Timberline tent with a center hoop and a vestibule at 7+ pounds.  It was a "5-star hotel" compared to my earlier purchases.  We could stand up to change inside (bent over) and we both had plenty of room to sleep and store our gear!  It worked great for the local, state and national parks where my wife and I camped by car, and it was dry no matter how hard/long it rained!  It even worked well under snow on our first Colorado trip!  My wife and I really enjoyed that A-frame tent and all the great tent camping and travel we did then.
Shortly after that, I purchased a Eureka Crescent tent, a 1-person, half-dome-type tent that became my favorite bicycling tour and single-person backpacking tent to date.  At 4-pounds, it was lightweight for the day, had aluminum poles and that great zip-open front screen door with wonderful ventilation!  It had a large hoop pole that held up the dome side of the tent with a short triangle overhang on top, just enough to leave the door open at night, with screen closed and no fear of bugs, or rain, but with great views.  This was part of my bicycle touring gear for over a decade!  It would disappear in the woods with it's light gray color, and wouldn't appear on the Internet this week no matter how hard I searched.  I used the tent from the late 1980's through to the early 2000's in the south, the eastern mountains, and the Colorado west until the waterproofing died.  I saved one long pole I still carry when snowshoeing in case I have to dig for anyone in an avalanche!  The Timberline suffered a similar fate about the same time and we used it for the kids in the Colorado back yard watching the milky way for meteors and other birthday "tent" celebrations until it failed.
Tarptent Notch
When my son joined Boy Scouts a few years ago, I used whatever tent was left over in the troop storage trailer or my 9-foot square "family" tent for the monthly camping trips.  We found the boys preferred sleeping 4-5 in the big tent we called the "Taj Mahal".  That's when I picked up my two Alps Mountaineering tents,  the 2-person Zephyr and the 1.5-person Mystique, and I used them for scouting, car and backpacking trips in Florida and summer Scout camp in Virginia and North Carolina.  I learned after I purchased them that they both weighed about the same at 4 pounds each.  They are well-designed and ventilated tents, but are just too heavy for ultralight backpacking.
So for ultralight backpacking what will I use?  A tarp or a tarp-tent?  While I'm experienced with setting up tarps outdoors, as long as I am camping in the south (read bugs, crawly critters, etc.) I'll be sleeping outdoors secure in a tent of some kind.  I like Henry Shires tarp-tent, the Notch.  It positively answers all my tent-type questions.  A one-person, two trekking pole, well-designed and breathable 1.5-pound tent.  It uses 4 stakes and sets up in about a minute, and won't get wet inside during the rain from setup.  Both sides have doors and make vestibules, and the interior separates from the fly.  I can cook in light rain from inside the tent!  Since my wife is allowing me to fend for myself on these ultralight backpacking trips, I won't be sharing sleeping quarters and will be in/out nightly and the occasional rain storm.  This tent will pack quickly and at just over 1.5 pounds (26 ounces), I'm very happy with the light pack weight.  There are several other ultralight weight and tarp tent companies like 6 Moon Designs and Big Agnes, but I like the way the ultralight industry has taken to Mr. Shires products, so this is my choice for now.  For a double-person tent the Rainbow and Scarp tarptents seem to also be winners and I may be considering one of those a few years from now for a possible AT through-hike with my daughter.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

More Backpack and Quilt Minutia

Gossamer Gear Kumo
I kept thinking about my previous Backpack Minutia post where I had selected a Gossamer Gear Gorilla, a 50 liter ultralight backpack, and I could not shake the fact that most of the time in the near future my backpacking trips would only last an overnight to three overnights, 5 nights at most, perfect for a 36 liter pack.  So what would I do with all that available through-hiker room in the Gorilla backpack?  So I kept looking for a smaller day pack that could easily handle a 25-pound load.
MLD Burn
I may have found just that with the Gossamer Gear Kumo.  Kumo is Japanese for "Cloud".  It is built on the Murmur frame but is made with lighter and tougher materials like 140 denier Dyneema Gridstop and is designed to carry the 25 pounds my scale and research says I'll need for up to a 5-day trip.  It also has a zipper pouch on the top pocket and 3 outside pockets.  Only the side-cut of the back pocket concerns me (maybe too short to securely stow my planned tarp/tent).  This is also mentioned by other reviewers but that may or may not be a real issue-we"ll just have to see.  Gear reports have been very good like this one here.  At 14.65 ounces for the large size, the pack weight is great and the load capacity is 2200 cubic inches or 36 liters.  The Gossamer Gear website says both "We recommend the Kumo Superlight backpack for total weights below 25 lbs." and "25 lb. maximum carry capacity, but 20 lbs, is better".  In my case, that 5 lb. difference before getting "better" being mostly estimated water weight for long trail slogs between refills.  Overall, the pack seems to be able to handle my planned gear load without lots of "empty space" to have to strap down and would be a significant weight savings over the 27 ounce Gorilla pack.  The cost is OK at $55 less than the Gorilla and when the time comes that I need the additional 15 liters of gear space for a season-long through hike, I'll just have to upgrade.  And who knows what the marketplace will have to offer then?
GoLite Jam 35
Other packs I'm looking at include the MLD Burn, a 2300 cubic inch pack in the same price and feature range as the Kumo.  Here's a review.  It certainly has a better main outside pocket, can handle much larger loads and appears to carry greater weight.  By adding two side pockets on the waist belt it improves the functionality and could act (for me) more like a Gorilla pack in a smaller package!
Also, the GoLite Jam 35 is a good pack for the money at $99 on sale.  I do not like the large fabric rear pocket as much as a mesh pocket, but otherwise the pack is a good deal.  At one pound 10 ounces it is a little bit heavy but I can surely use the $65 dollars to buy more gear! Here's it's review.  It is out of stock today but that may change soon.
There are a few packs in the 36 liter size from manufacturers like Gregory, Osprey, Deuter, REI and others, some at better prices, but none at one pound or less total weight.  And that is what I just have to have, an ultralight backpack.
So, on to Sleeping Quilt Minutia...My Florida backpacking experience has mostly been with 20 degree sleeping bags where I sweated year-round.  Once I left the south I found the bags worked better but were still too hot for me most nights in the southern mountains.  I have chosen the quilt because of the light weight, the open bottom and the fact it will sleep "just like at home" under the quilt at night.
Therm-a-rest Alpine 35 degree Quilt
So in this corner, I am looking at the Therm-a-rest Alpine. A 35 degree sleeping quilt, with no bottom, no zipper, and low weight.  This seems like what I am looking for down south.  I would rather wear more clothing at night and carry a lighter quilt if I could.  This bag was also rated at 40 degrees by a reviewer here.  The Therm-a-rest Alpine is $250 at Campmor.
In that corner, is the 20 degree GoLite quilt, with more insulation for cool nights in the mountains and higher elevations, and water proofing on the foot and head.  The GoLite quilt is on sale for $199, (usually is $400) a great price!  Check here for a review.
GoLite 20 degree Quilt
I do have a short Ridge Rest pad to sleep on but would like to purchase a Z-Rest pad since I have tried it and I found that I prefer folding it instead of rolling it.
We do camp during the winter here in Florida and in the summer anywhere else.  It can get cold but is usually in the 40's and 50's at night.  Most of my camping experience in the southern Appalachian mountains has been comfortable with 50 degree down to 30 degree nights.  In Colorado it was always colder and I rarely had enough insulation in my sleeping bag to keep warm.  I don't think I"ll be camping in the inter-mountain west any time soon, but you never know.  When I do it will be with a 20 degree quilt.
I have many, many more 'minutia' decisions to make just like this.  It would be interesting to hear your experiences in different temperature-rated sleeping bags and quilts "down south".  Please write in to let me know your preferences and why.  Much more minutia to come...