Posts Tagged ‘gear’


Saturday, December 3rd, 2011

I admit it, I love reading about gear. My life is pretty busy these days and I spend lots more time thinking and dreaming about outdoor adventures than actually having them. Thinking about gear is just another way for me to think about future adventures outside… I was feeling a bit guilty while searching for some information on a potential gear purchase and decided it was about time to get off my lazy butt and put up some gear talk about some of the stuff I have been using in the summer (no winter gear here, that will come sometime later) and am particularly enamored of.

After the twins were born I knew i had to do something different about our tent setups. Our normal two person 6 pound tent was just not going to cut it, and neither was our four person 9lb tent, as there was no way to carry either of them in addition to the twins and not end up crippled. After a bunch of research, I ended up getting a Tarptent Rainshadow 2 . It’s a three person tent (the two in the name apparently means version 2 rather than two person) that weighs a little less than three pounds.

Its pretty spacious and all four of us can fit in it without trouble.

It holds up pretty well in the wind, and I have had it in rainy windstorms above treeline without trouble, though it does require care setting it up (stake out the sides low in wet windy conditions).

I liked it so much I started taking it on trips without the family and sleeping in it by myself. I often end up as the third man out on trips, and as no one I travel with has a three man tent, I end up packing my own tent and sleeping solo. This is not a big problem for me, as I like having my own space and a little quiet time by myself. However, after a while the small zipper on the door started having problems, so I decided to keep that tent only for family trips, and got a Tarptent Moment for trips where I was going to be sleeping solo. This is a fantastic tent – it’s very weather proof, spacious, light, and easy to set up.

I have used it in windy conditions above treeline in the rain, and its handles that wonderfully.

I am super happy with it. Hopefully by the time the twins get too large to share the larger tarptent with Nancy and me they will have a four person Moment-like tent! Both these tents are single walled, are made of thin fabric, and have small zippers, and require a bit of care. In calm damp conditions you have to be careful to make sure they are well ventilated to prevent moisture buildup. The zippers need to be kept clean, as the teeth are very small and easy to damage. It would be worth while for Tarptent to use a larger toothed zipper and gain a oz or two for a more durable zipper. Its not that big of a deal though, so long as one is careful, and is a small sacrifice for such light, roomy tents. They are made in the USA too, and the owner of the company actually personally responded to a handful of questions I emailed them about the Moment before I bought it – a very nice touch!

Rain Gear
I found a OR branded jacket on closeout several years ago, which they called the Zealot Jacket It weighs a little under 8oz, and is full on waterproof. Its the nicest rain jacket I have ever used – so light that I take it on all my summer trips, and very breathable. It packs down very small, about the size of a large apple.

Alas, it appears to be discontinued, which is a shame, as it is a wonderful jacket. OR has something similar that replaced it, but it is quite a bit heavier and does not pack down as small. I attempted to find something similar for Nancy and was quite annoyed to find that finding waterproof breathable jackets in a similar weight class (sub 8 oz) is pretty hard. For whatever reason they seem to have disappeared.. I don’t know why, as this jacket works as well as any traditional jacket, but weights a lot less. The thin fabric breaths better than a lot of standard weight jackets too. It is also great for class II and lower packrafting.

I have been using the same pair of float pants for most of my packrafting – a pair of goretex paddle pants from Kokatat . They work very well, and unless I swim I don’t get wet. When I swim I get more or less wet depending on what top I am using and if the cuffs on the ankles stay closed or not. I have found that the Velcro and neoprene cuffs don’t leak if I close them up, then pull my socks over the tops of the cuffs.

It looks a bit funny, but keeps everything tight and leak proof. These pants also work great as standard rain pants and on trips where weight is a concern these are the only pants I take.

I have been using a Arc’teryx Naos 65 for the last three years, and it is a wonderful pack for packrafting. It is completely waterproof, with a roll top closure, and keeps everything nice and dry. Even after going though long swims everything still stays dry, which is a major plus. The fabric of the pack also does not absorb water, which is nice as you can put on the pack after packrafting and not have to carry extra water weight in sodden fabric.

It is a bit heavy, but the lack of fiddling and waterproofness more than makes up for this. It is fairly free of weird extra widgets and straps too, which is nice. It is a great pack. Alas, Arc`teryx appears to be no longer making it, but has lots of similar looking packs. The downside is they appear to be tremendously expensive. I got mine on closeout for a reasonable price, but the new ones that Arc`teryx seemed to have replaced it with appear to cost a bit (perhaps a lot?) more than they should. On the upside Arc`teryx is quite good about handing problems – I partially ripped the hip belt off and they repaired it quickly and without fuss. It has room for packrafting gear and a week to a week and a half supply of food.

Other Stuff
I like to have my snacks ready while hiking and now have two “chub packs” as I call them that go across the shoulder straps of my pack allowing me to easily access snacks while hiking or skiing. The small one is made by Osprey and works pretty well – its is called the Grab Bag . It converts to a small fanny pack, which initially I though was pretty silly, but recently I started using it while packrafting and using a light pfd without pockets. The light pdf I have works ok, but does not have any pockets, leaving no place for me to carry survival gear and snacks. I have started using the small chub pack as a fanny pack, with it turned around so it is in the front instead just bellow the pdf – great for storing snacks while packrafting. I had a similar gadget made that is large enough for a water bottle, snacks, a gps, and random other stuff (hats, gloves, etc).

This works wonderfully for winter ski trips, allowing me to store just about everything I need in it for fast access while skiing. It is very nice to get snacks, water, etc without taking off your pack. I had it made by a local custom outdoor gear shop Apocalypse Design.

I am a big fan of Hydropel , an almost magical anti-friction and anti-maceration/pruning cream. It slows down the rate at which your skin aborbs moisture and is very nice when you are going to have wet feet for several days. It is also very good at preventing blisters. SportSlick also works pretty well but does not last quite as long, however it is a fair bit cheaper.

For the last two years I used a SteriPen to treat water. It works very well, treating about a quart in under two minutes. It appears to be effective, as I have not been on the receiving end of any waterborne pathogens. It is also possible to treat water while walking, though it requires a bit of coordination – nice for those moments when you want to keep moving or when the bugs are super bad. Or both.

Ski boots, the saga..

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

So, I should preface this discussion by saying this post is about gear.  All gear, nothing else.  So, if thats not your cup of tea, please move along.   Or run screaming, if you like.  Try this site perhaps for writing and pictures of actual skiing, because there is not any here today.


During the last couple of years I has switched from skiing with back country skis and boots to using lighter touring skis (and lately low end race skis) and combi boots for most of my skiing.  I spend most of my time on snow machine trails which are mostly pretty well broken out so the lighter, stiffer skis allow for longer days with less effort. Earlier this year I got rid of most of my back country boots as I was just not using them all that much. Nancy was quite amused by my collection of 7 pairs of back country boots, most of which ended up going to the Northern Center for their annual auction.

I was pretty happy with my first pair of combi boots, which was good, as they where the only ones the local ski place I got the boots from, Mountain Sports, carried. They are Alpina SP45s, and alas don’t seem to be made anymore.

They lasted me about 2 years before they started showing enough wear and tear that I had to do something, which in this case was slather a bunch of  Freesole on the areas on the sides receiving the most abuse.

This made them usable for another 2 months of skiing before a large crack opened in the sole, which relegated these boots to only occasional use as having the sole rip off on a trip would be a major bummer, as it would mean a walk out.

So, the search for new boots began. The fellow at Mountain Sports carries a newer version of my original boot, which I tried out but it felt funky, so I moved on. I ended up with a full on skate boot (Fischer RC5s) due to some hard selling from a sales person at one of the other local ski outlets, Beaver Sports.

I was somewhat worried about the “skate” nature of these boots, as the soles are very stiff and I seldom skate in the back country. The boots ended up working quite well and I am very happy with them, except for one problem – after about 8 hours my feet start hurting. Not too big of a deal, as most of my longer trips are under 8 hours, however – I have a super long ski planned in March, which will probably be >20 hours of skiing, so I started looking for another pair. Eventually I got a pair of the updated version of my first boots, mainly because I got them cheap and they fit as well as the other options I had tried – they felt a little funky but would do. Initially I was quite happy.  I should say by “cheap” I mean they where $145, which most people would probably not think is cheap for a pair of boots.  I  purchased them at Play it Again Sports and used the credit I had for trading in two pairs of used back country boots to buy them.   I saw them marking prices on the boots I traded in, and strangely the price on one of the pairs was more than I paid for them new – go figure.   They don’t have as stiff of a collar as the Fischer skate boots do, so they don’t have quite as much control and they are not fun to skate in, but they are comfortable even for long 10 hour classic skis. One major problem arose however – after about 2 months of skiing, they are now in worse shape than my original boots. Much sadness. I had even  wore over boots just to protect the boot for most of those two months, but this did not stop the cracking of the outside of the boot…

I really don’t understand it, as the boots are not cheap, and should last much longer than just two months. Its not like I am all that high of a millage of a person.. What if an actual “hard core” skier purchased them – they might last all of a week.  Its hard to tell from the photos, but the cracks go all the way though the side of the boot to the lining.  Its only a matter of time before the lining goes and then I will have a nice, large hole.

So, the boot search is back on. Hopefully this time I can find a pair that is comfortable for long days and will last at least one season. That does not seem like too much to ask..

The boot collection: