Monday, August 28, 2017


I am so saddened by the events in Texas, as I write this Houston is under 4 feet of water. I know several people whose families have been safely rescued. Fortunately no one I know directly has been effected.

But lets be honest. It's just a matter of time, isn't it? Major storms are just becoming more common. This was originally a 500 year storm, and now they are saying a thousand year storm. I hear very few people talking about why we have been hit with a storm like this.

The answer is simple, climate change. That is why it is inevitable that sooner or later someone I know will be effected. My family lives on Long island, my friends live in Manhattan. How soon until another super storm like Sandy hits New York again?

Until we come together and work to make dramatic changes in the way treat the environment things like this will continue. My sons children - at this rate - will see cities inundated with water permanently. Miami will be the first to go.

Today I had an interaction on twitter with someone. He said that climate change was a joke. To which I replied, that he was seeing the effects of climate change right now, in Texas (and soon Louisiana). He responded that there was nothing I could say that would change his mind, and then ended (he thought) the conversation by saying "now I am going to say something you're really going to hate. God created the heavens and the Earth" as if that was supposed to shut me up. I responded that I had no problem with him believing that God created the heavens and the Earth. But that I think God would be appalled at how we are treating his creation. He never responded.

I have paddled a lot of North America. I have seen the changes caused by climate change, first hand. I have read books. I have spoken to glaciologists, climatologists, and geologists. None of them had any doubt that we are seeing the effects go catastrophic global climate change every day.

"If you think things like 97% of scientists believe it, so if 3% don't believe it why should I?" you are fooling yourself. Chances are at some point in your life you are going to feel pretty stupid, and probably ashamed of your lack of action.

The signs are all around us. Hottest year after hottest year. Greenland loosing major chunks of its ice cap. Ice sheets the size of states breaking off of Antarctica. It is so obvious if you just open your eyes.

It reminds me of this scene from The West Wing.

My thoughts are with all the people on the Gulf Coast, and the First Responders.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Review - The Stern Pry

While I am hip deep in writing my next book, I thought it would be a good time to review some of the beginning stories we talked about. Amazed that These are so old.

This is the Stern Pry, which I use all the time as a little way to adjust course. Here is the original post.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Climate Change Denial - What I don't Understand

Okay, so..... Clearly, I have read, and for the most part understand the science of Climate Change. I have also been to Alaska and seen the effects in the form of Glaciers that have retreated massively. I have had conversations with climatologists who have worked hard to understand what is happening, and their repayment is being denigrated, and in some cases threatened.

Let me say for clarity, the only part of the science that is unclear is just how bad the effects will be, and understanding just how it will play out.

But, if you don't believe the science, keep reading. Because it is you I want to hear from. I want you to explain to me what you are thinking, and your responses to a couple of questions.

If you think the scientists are wrong, or you think that the scientists are in some form of collusion, to bilk the american people (or their own country if they do their research someplace else) out of millions of dollars, let me throw out some info for you. My wife is a public health researcher and has done work with grants from various sources. When a researcher - any researcher - gets a grant, they don't actually get the money. It goes to the institution they work for (in my wifes case a state university) and that institution controls the money. It covers the researchers salary, and expenses for the research. So the thought that researchers are doing this for the research money is ridiculous.

If you think that we have no choice but to use coal and oil and natural gas to power our cities, I would point out that many countries are making renewables work. China is spending billions to be a leader in renewables, and frankly is making us look bad. They are being the world leaders we used to be, and honestly, they will probably beat us to Mars, but that is a discussion for another day. But it isn't just China, Developing countries are spending money on renewables too, you know why? Because it's cheap. Cheaper than oil, coal or nuclear, and oh yeah, its cleaner too.

If you think it will put oil workers, and coal workers out jobs, it will, but not for a long while. Oil isn't going anywhere, it will be along time before electric cars take over, and it will take time for coal to be replaced. But by decreasing our oil use we could source it locally. (except we still need to buy it from the middle east, to keep those people happy so they buy airplanes, but like I said before, a discussion for another day.) But at the same time, it will create millions of jobs because someone has to install all that solar/wind/geothermal.

But, if by some chance, we are wrong about climate change. Then we are "stuck" with renewable power leaving us energy independent, with updated infrastructure and clean water and air. Wouldn't that be terrible?

So I am wondering who is against renewables, well, billionaires that own oil companies. that's who. If I were a billionaire with money tied up in oil or gas or coal, I would be scared too. That makes sense, I understand that. If it were me, I would pivot to solar, but that's just me.

But what about non-billionaires. What about regular joe's who work for a living? Why are you against renewable energy? Tell me. Do you honestly think it is some kind of con? Tell me.

Im not the smartest guy in the world, but I really want to understand.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

2017 happenings, ECPS, NWM, and a new book!

I am just going to gloss over how crap the last half of 2016 was, and slide right into some things I am excited about for 2017.

I was asked to represent WMI - sorry,  NOLS Wilderness Medicine, we have had a name change and new branding - at the East Coast Paddle Symposium in Charleston South Carolina. This is super exciting. I will be teaching four, one hour classes as well as manning the NWM booth for three days. During the process of setting everything up, I was asked to send them a Bio, and shortly after that, I got another request.

I was asked by the group running the event to do a fifth class. This time not medicine related. They wanted to hear about my book, and the trips I have done. Honestly, I didn't want host a talk directly about my book. Seeing an empty tent for that would be too depressing. So I told them I would talk about trip planning, and overcoming the obstacles to make big trips happen.

I am really excited to get to take part in a really wonderful event. So here's the deal. Ill be wearing something that says Paddling Otaku on it, or maybe you will just recognize my bearded face. Either way, come and say hi, and Ill give you a download code for a free copy of my book. How does that sound?

The other thing I have decided that I am excited about is I have made a new years intention. I hate the word resolution, lets try intention. My intention for 2017 is to finish the writing for my next book, which is titled "Expedition planning: From weekend trips to month long adventures" Initially my intention was to have it finished, but then I came to my senses and I know the writing will be a big enough challenge.

I am happy with some of the things I accomplished in 2016, but saddened that I wasn't able to make some things happen. It was a really lousy year. Going into 2017 I am particularly concerned about the environment and the state of our planet. I am worried that what little progress we were making on climate change will be quickly erased. The only thing on that front that I am optimistic about is that perhaps people will realize that we can't wait for governments and we have to make the changes ourselves. Renewable energy, way less meat eating, decrease waste. I think that is what we have to be faced with.

That is where I am as 2016 comes to a close. I hope you are doing well...

Ill be writing, and paddling. and teaching.

Let's go!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

GoPro Hero5 Black and Hero4 Silver Comparison.

Here is my first comparison video between the two. I simply held them next to each other, almost touching. Identical settings, 1080p (this is a 720 output from FCPX) 60 FPS, wide field of view. Protune off, video stabilization on for the 5. 

HERO Comparison from Brett Friedman on Vimeo.

I've barely used the five. I got one two days before release and had to return it. There was a power issue. I finally got one yesterday. Even though both cameras use the same chip, and lens, the 5 black has a better look. A bit more contrast. It is now waterproof without a housing, which is cool, but it makes a few things difficult to do.

Because the ports are behind a waterproof door, I can't power the camera externally. I also can't run an external microphone, which I only did a few times and I have a work around for. The mount it comes with, which is sort of like a frame housing feels a little fragile. These are the only negatives I have found so far.

I love the new user interface. I love voice control.

The voice control is a game changer. I used to take my GoPro paddling and turn it on and let it run. Because it would be mounted on the bow, short of using a remote this is the only thing I could do. Now, to have the ability to tell it what to do?! Amazing.

Ill put up a more detailed review when I have had a chance to really shoot with it. But so far I am pretty excited.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

The overuse of Epinephrine

It's pretty much the nightmare scenario. You are out for a lovely hike. Then, all of a sudden someone gets stung by a bee. a minute later, they can't breath. This has two outcomes. Outcome A) You have an epipen which you administer saving your friends life. Option B) you don't, and you witness your friend die in front of you while you sit helplessly watching. Scary right? Anaphylaxis is the last topic taught on the WFA classes I teach. We regularly get the question, well, can I just buy an epipen and have it in my first aid kit? The answer, as I am sure you know, is no you can't. It is of course a prescription drug, that you need an allergy and a prescription for. (You know this because the Epipen has been in the news for the last six months as the price has skyrocketed, and the manufacturer has come under scrutiny for essentially price gouging.)

I taught two WFA classes in the last month, and between the two of them, I got to thinking. How common is this scenario? I started looking, and I learned a lot. 

Now, for the record, I am currently certified at the Wilderness First Responder level. But I have been an active working Paramedic and EMT. I know a lot about this drug, and have pushed it a handful of times when working on the ambulance. A handful of times, meaning 3. 3 times in 5 years. Doing 8 to 15 calls a day. I have also been teaching in the outdoors for sliding up on 20 years. Okay, I am at 17 years. I have taught day long courses, and month long courses. I have had thousands of students. Outdoor programs always carry Epipens, to avoid the scenario above. I have never pushed epi on an outdoor course. I have never even come close. 

I really should title this post, the over fear of anaphylaxis. Because that is what we have. For clarity sake, Of course anaphylactic reactions to allergens are a real and scary thing. If you have an allergy you need to carry an Epipen and you need to know how to use it. But the problem is we have convinced the world - or at least the population of the United States - that this happens a fair percentage of the time when adventuring. The problem is, there aren't any real studies about deaths from anaphylaxis in the backcountry. 

But there are studies for the front country, and they are very interesting. There are three studies that people use, two of them lasted ten years, and the third was 4 years. They looked at death certificates and Hospital and ED discharge information. Here is what they found. 

The authors found that case fatality rates were between 0.25% and 0.33% among hospitalizations or ED presentations with anaphylaxis as the principal diagnosis. These rates represent a total of between 63 and 99 deaths per year in the US, ~77% of which occurred in hospitalized patients. Rate of anaphylaxis hospitalizations rose from 21.0 to 25.1 per million population between 1999 and 2009. However, overall mortality rates appeared stable in the last decade and ranged from 0.63 to 0.76 per million population (186 to 225 deaths per year).

The primary cause of Anaphylaxis is reactions to medication - usually antibiotics. These numbers are staggeringly low. This is just not something that is happening that frequently. Despite what we are told, this really isn't something we need to be worried about. 

But, those numbers are for the front country. What about us enjoying the back country where we are exposed to the elements, and more importantly, Bees! There just isn't data... 

Or is there? I work for two very large outdoor companies. surely they keep records? right? They do. I emailed them both, and I am not going to share whose information I am relaying, frankly because I don't know if I am allowed to. But here is what I was told. For the decade prior to last year, instructors pushed epinephrine 5 times. 5 times in ten years averaging about 4000 students a year. That is .0125%. But importantly, I don't know what the cause of anaphylaxis was. But why does this exclude last year? because last year was an anomaly. Last year there were 11 instances of epi being pushed on a course. 

Almost all were the students own Epipens being used. Again I have no data as to signs or symptoms of the patient. But 11 instances in one year is .275% - It is statistically impossible for that many students to have gotten Anaphylaxis in one year on courses. Which means, Epi was pushed when a life threat wasn't occurring. 

Why would that happen? Because we have made everyone afraid of Anaphylaxis, and we think it occurs all the time. We are confronted by someone telling us they are allergic, and had an exposure. They will get an anaphylaxis reaction, and they will die. So we push epi. The big give away, that they are worried about something that isn't going to happen, is they can tell us. If you can say "I need my Epipen", you don't need your Epipen. Here are signs and symptoms of Anaphylaxis


The first signs of an anaphylactic reaction may look like typical allergy symptoms: a runny nose or a skin rash. But within about 30 minutes, more serious signs appear.
There is usually more than one of these:
  • Coughing; wheezing; and pain, itching, or tightness in your chest
  • Fainting, dizziness, confusion, or weakness
  • Hives; a rash; and itchy, swollen, or red skin
  • Runny or stuffy nose and sneezing
  • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing and rapid heartbeat
  • Swollen or itchy lips or tongue
  • Swollen or itchy throat, hoarse voice, trouble swallowing, tightness in your throat
  • Vomiting, diarrhea, or cramps
  • Weak pulse, paleness

We also used to think that it was common to have what is called a biphasic reaction, meaning you have a reaction, get hit with Epi, then you get better and up to 24 hours later you get a second reaction. We used to think it happened close to 30% of the time. Now we know it happens less than 1% of the time. (though web MD says otherwise, I trust my medical directors more!)

We live in a culture of fear. We are told to be afraid of something, and then told what to do about it, which invariably leads to us spending money. I am not saying you shouldn't carry an Epipen if you have an allergy. But if you don't have an allergy, you don't need one. 

The other thing you don't need is quick clot or a tourniquet. But I will leave that for another day.. 

Link 1 for data
Link 2 for data
Link 3 for early evidence of the culture of fear we live in. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

Hard to believe it was five years ago.

Paddle North - Episode 2 from Paddling Otaku on Vimeo.

Five years ago today I posted this to this website.

The Inside Passage trip was conceived on 9/11, as I was sitting in my office trying to think of something better that a world literally collapsing around me. I thought about where I would like to be at that moment. It was Alaska.

I planned it on and off for a decade, and then got serious, and spent a year and a half almost full time making it happen. At one point, ten people were going with. For a little while no one was going with me. Then Sarah had a change of heart, and decided to make the trip. She was very trusting as I had done all the planning, she just stepped into the trip with blind faith. We planned on it taking us 30 days. We did it in 21 with 3 rest days (and the rest days were mostly because I got the flu!)

I came home and produced the videos (all shot on an original GoPro Hero HD, I am about to upgrade to a Hero 5 black) Then got to work on the books.

I wrote and produced Enlightened Kayaking which is available on iTunes, and then about a year later I realized I didn't like the forward stroke section, so I created Forward which is a free book that just covered the forward stroke.

I am in the planning stage for a third book about expedition planning. But I am having a hard time getting it started for real. I know from experience just how hard it is to write a book, and at the end of the day I don't make a whole lot of money from them.

I don't have plans for another big trip, though I am constantly flattered by the people who ask me. And a surprising number of people ask me. This past week I had a woman that I know only as an acquaintance tell me if I go back to Alaska, she wants to go. The problem is I know from experience that people say that, but then when they hear the sacrifices involved they end up changing their minds. But still, it's flattering.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

What I've been up to

I am actually still here. I am just not writing much lately.

I am teaching a lot, and surprisingly teaching a lot of stand up paddle boarding - which is only humorous because at the beginning of the season I was told to focus my energies on kayaking. I am teaching other things as well. Wilderness First Aid continues to be a big course for me, usually teaching one a month.

Much to many people chagrin, I don't have a big trip planned, though I am living vicariously through Gecko paddlers San Juan trips. I do frequently get asked where I would like to paddle that I haven't. The list for me is short, primarily because I have been good about making paddle trips a reality in the past. I would like to go to Patagonia. I would also like to paddle Iceland. Any of the Northern European countries actually, Finland, Norway, or Sweden. Nova Scotia? That is really about it.

Tomorrow I have an opportunity to paddle a newer version of my Delta Seventeen. Curious to see the changes.

But what I have really been working on is this:

the month from Brett Friedman on Vimeo.

About 6 months ago I realized it was time to jump into aerial imagery via an Unmanned Aircraft System - which is what the FAA calls a drone. Two days ago I passed my FAA Remote Pilot Airman certification test. I hope to do some commercial work, but right now I am just having fun. And shooting a lot.

I have a book I want to write, I think that will become my fall project as teaching season slows down.  That is what I have been working on. I am very active on Instagram, and that is really the best place to see what I am shooting at any given time. Check me out there, or on Facebook.

Ill keep paddling, you should do the same.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Pack and Go! or Hell NO! Sawyer Mini Gear Review

I think water treatment is one of the more important things we deal with in the back country, and it is one of the things that most people have misconceptions about. I wrote about it in great detail here.

But today, I want to talk about the Sawyer Mini. I have now been using the Sawyer mini for a couple of years, I used the sawyer squeeze before that (the squeeze is the mini's slightly larger cousin) and I used a sawyer gravity system even before that. I have a lot of experience with this filter and this review is way overdue. It may even be late, as the sawyer mini is one of the most popular filters on the market.

Weighing in at a mere 2 ounces, and with a lifespan of 100,000 gallons (that is around 275 years of use if you were wondering) The sawyer mini is a game changer. Filtering to .1 micron it gets all the nasties out of the water, and is simple to use.

Okay, you are on a hiking trip, your reservoir runs dry and up ahead there is a stream. You stop, take off your pack and retrieve your filter, and a small 16 ounce bag. Holding the bag under water, with the mouth facing up stream, it will quickly fill. Then screw the bag onto the bottom of the sawyer mini, and squeeze. Squeezing the bag forces the contents through the hollow fiber membrane and into what ever receptacle you choose. That's it. Your done.

It generally takes me about 45 seconds to squeeze out a liter. which is the traditional way to use the device. But if you don't want to stick with tradition, the sawyer mini is extremely versatile. It comes with a small straw so you could use directly in a water bottle (like a life straw with much longer lifespan) You can cut your hydration reservoir hose and put the sawyer mini inline and filter as you drink.

Don't want to use the bag that came with the mini, you can screw most non-reusable water bottles onto it, and squeeze that - I have been told that it is compatible with Pepsi brand bottles, and not coke brand. Apparently the thread pitch is different. With a little ingenuity you can even turn this into a gravity system, which is what I did with a pair of MSR dromedary's on our last Alaska trip. 

They sell a small box of adapter parts essentially turning this into the lego of filter systems, build what you want. 

But, it isn't without faults. In non moving water the bags can be hard to fill. There is no charcoal or carbon aspect which means the filter doesn't get out odors and flavors. But that is really about it. 

Pluses - Lightweight, long life span, adaptable

Minuses - Doesn't get out odors and flavors, the bags can be hard to fill. 

But at $24.95 this is a PACK AND GO! all the way. 

Friday, April 29, 2016

Pack and Go! or Hell NO! Jetboil Genesis Gear review

This past weekend I finally got my butt in a tent, and in the process I got to test out some gear that has been sitting for way too long. So here is the first gear review in a while.

I am a long time user of the Jetboil- I still have a Jetboil PCS (older than the current Flash) - and it is my go to stove when my plan involves just boiling water. I have an MSR whisperlite for longer trips or when I am cooking actual food. I have long been skeptical when jetboil tries to release a more cooking centric stove system. I think this may be the third attempt at such a project (the helios, the sumo and now the Genesis). Essentially this is jetboil trying to expand it's market base. They already have a huge presence in lightweight water boilers, time to expand into basecamp cookers as well.

The product I tested was the Genesis basecamp system and it is a beautiful package.  A large pot, a matching fry pan, and the two burner stove in a nice black carry bag.

The large pot has an associated lid with an integrated water strainer. The 10 inch fry pain is ceramic coated for non-stick performance. The massive 5 liter pot has the Jetboil flux ring to offer wind protection. The carry bag also has a spot for the fuel connection hose, making the entire kit fairly compact.

The stove set up in a breeze, and ignites quickly with the two separate igniter switches. You can run either burner separately or both together. The package I had weighed in at just under 10 pounds, but construction of the stove was meticulous and well thought out

This Jetboil is propane, unlike every other Jetboil I have used. Clearly attempting to compete with the large two burner campchef/coleman/everest/brunton two burner basecamp stoves. I set it up and got to cooking. Dinner would be Mussels in a spicy red sauce with linguini, and a crusty baguette for dipping in the tomato sauce. For starters I needed to saute a diced onion and pepper, and the stove offered great flame control. I flicked the igniter switch on one of the burners (after opening the control valve) and I had good flame control with easy to reach access. Once the peppers and onions were sauteed I added tomatoes and spices and turned my attention to boiling water for linguini. I chose to do this in my own pot - not the jetboil pot with the flux ring. I needed no adapter to do this - as you would in other Jetboil stoves. My 3 liter pot was dwarfed next to the behemoth that comes with this stove. 


With 1.5 liters of water in my pot, I cranked up burner two, to the maximum. I wanted to see how fast this would boil water, and it did not disappoint. I didn't time it, but it was pretty incredibly fast - they say a liter in 3 minutes 15 seconds but it seemed faster than that. I added my pasta and let it do it's thing. Both pots fit easily on the two burners, but the pot without the flux ring left me concerned for performance in high wind. Most two burner stoves offer some sort of wind screen and this one doesn't - though the burners are slightly recessed, which should offer some protection. Though there was no wind when I was using it, so this may be a non issue.

This stove offers a Jetlink, stove linking system, with an optional cable ($35) you can link two of these stoves together, or the genesis to certain eureka stoves giving you 4 burners. I am not sure when I would need 4 burners in the woods, but nice to have the option. There is also the option to add the Luna stove to the Jetlink port. The Luna is a $59 water boiler that looks like a jetfoil flash adapted to run propane. Initially I thought I could connect my Jetboil PCS (or if you had one, a Flash, Sol, Zip or MiniMo.) But this isn't the case, I was a little disappointed.

The remainder of my evening cooking was uneventful - though the following morning I once again had fun boiling water for coffee - with 10,000 BTU's of power it didn't take long! My overall impression with this stove was extremely favorable.

Actually, that is an understatement. I loved it. I have used a lot of two burner camp stoves. I used to do Thanksgiving every year in this same campground, and I would cook the big parts of the meal in Dutch ovens but all the sides on a two burner coleman. I wish I had this back then.

The Pluses - Beautiful design, and build quality. Fast boiler, with good flame control. Convenient carry case. Huge pot, and frypan. Great power output.

The Minuses - The potential for wind issues, as the stove doesn't offer a wind screen. Here is the big one. Price.

Lets talk about Price. This stove as tested is $350. It is available without the pots and pans and carry bag for $239. That is still $79 more than the next most expensive competitor on and that stove, while it weighs more, also puts out more power (12000 BTU's compared to the Genesis 10000)

I think this is a great stove, and may even buy one - this kit is a loaner - it is really wonderful. But also wonderfully expensive.

Based on the price alone, I am afraid I have to call this a....

Hell NO!

It is simply too much money, when you can get a $89 coleman two burner with push button start, running the same fuel and 11,000 BTU's of power. The Jetboil Genesis is without a doubt the best made two burner camp stove I have ever used. It is also the coolest looking stove I have ever used. But at $239 for the stove, and $350 for the kit I just used, for me, it is a Hell No!