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Monday, August 31, 2015

Another step into minimal

Last year as I was working a stressful job, I think I was struggling to have more connection to my disappearing simple life. About three months into the year I decided to make a change to my wardrobe. I had often read about capsule wardrobes, but I think those work best for women - who have much higher wardrobe demands than men - and men who work in an office. My work, and lifestyle is pretty much  world of simple clothes and t-shirts I had gotten for free - the nature of my work is people give me T-shirts, frequently, and they comprised a large part of my wardrobe. I decided I wanted a uniform. Something I could wear every day, making little or no changes.

I first got the idea of having a uniform when I read the Isaacson Steve Jobs Book. Jobs got the idea of a uniform from SONY, who after the war had to clothe it's employees. They literally didn't have anything to wear. Over time it became a signature of certain japanese companies, and also created a bond between the employees and the employer. Jobs loved the idea, and tried to implement it at Apple. But his people hated the idea. He still implemented it for himself with the now famous Levi 501's, New Balance Sneakers and Issey Miyake black mock turtleneck shirt.

Actually, that wasn't when I first got the idea. I first got the idea from the 80's David Cronenberg film "the fly" with Jeff Goldblum. He is asked by his girlfriend played by Geena Davis why he never changes his clothes. He says "what do you mean? I put this on clean this morning." She goes to his closet and sees that he has 7 identical suits, shirts, and shoes. All hanging next to each other in the closet. He says he got the idea from Einstein, so he didn't have to expend any extra thought on what he was going to wear.

there is another reason to simplify your wardrobe. Decision fatigue. It is why Einstein did it, and probably why Steve Jobs did it. There is a lot of research that says the more decisions you make, the harder it is to make them.

A quick google search will tell you that many successful silicon valley CEO's wear the same thing everyday. There are countless links to things like "why successful people have a uniform", or "want to simplify your life, wear a uniform". And so about 7 months ago I decided to take the plunge.

But first, I did some local market research. I started asking people if they saw me in the same clothes everyday if they would think I was A) weird B) disgusting because it would appear I wasn't changing my clothes or C) well... weird. Unanimously, no one thought it was weird or disgusting. A few people wished they could do it. So I took the plunge.

Naturally it started with a purge. I needed to get rid of the things I wasn't wearing, and boy, I wasn't wearing a lot. Already being pretty minimal my wardrobe wasn't that big, but I did have about double what I needed. So a quick purge and then off to find the right Uniform.

The shoes and pants were easy. I already wear a minimalist running shoe daily. The Merrel Trail Glove. It is a lot like being barefoot without being barefoot. My Jeans, were Levi 501's - Like Steve but not because of Steve. The shirt was a problem. I couldn't spend near $200 a shirt like Steve, I need something versatile and inexpensive. I settled on a simple Grey T shirt. I am very happy with my uniform.

In total this is what my "closet" looks like covering both winter and summer.

3 short sleeve grey T shirts
3 long sleeve grey T shirts.
4 black Long sleeve mid weight base layer shirts - this is my winter uniform shirt
3 pairs of blue levi 501's
6 pairs of grey running socks
3 pairs of wool hiking socks
6 pairs of underwear
4 pairs long black base layer bottoms
2 pairs tan hiking shorts

I do have about 6 random t shirts I haven't parted with yet for either sleeping in, or working around the yard or house. These will slowly get whittled down.

I do have some oddball things I have kept.
A pair of Carhartts for working around the house.
A pair of hiking pants I wear when I teach land courses
2 pairs of running shorts
A pair of fleece pants used for expeditioning

Of course a couple of wool beanie hats for winter, a couple pair of thin gloves. A buff which I wear when I teach. A couple of pieces of outdoor specific clothing - shell jacket, puffy jacket, etc.

A pair of teva sport sandals, a pair of hiking boots, a pair of running shoes, a pair of dress shoes. In a closet I have a 3 nice dress shirts, a pair of black dress pants, and a couple of blazers.

All told, my wardrobe is around 50 pieces. I wish it was fewer, but my general rule is if I haven't worn it in six months I get rid of it. I usually go through things when the season changes, If I didn't wear it this summer (which is coming to a close) it is donated.

This is what works for me, it may not work for you. I have some special work considerations, that both make it easy for me to wear the same thing everyday, and necessitates some very special clothing like a rain shell and a dry suit. If you are delving into a minimalist lifestyle for the first time I think wardrobe is a good easy way to get started.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

When Good Gear Goes Bad

The good thing about working in the outdoors for along time is I really get to know my gear, what I need, what works, and what doesn't. I have systems set up for camp, for paddling, for bad weather, and cooking.

I tend to not lust over new gear, simply because I don't need it. It is nice to look at all the new stuff, but I usually have all the gear I need. However doing two major expeditions in less than 4 years took a tremendous toll on my gear, and several pieces didn't perform well this last trip to Alaska. We came home with gear that was in need of repair, or outright replacement. Some of it, gear I really loved. The list is as follows:

My beloved four season tent is leaking, and in need of all new bungies. All the deck bungies on my kayak need to be replaced. My sleeping bag is near dead, and my sleeping pad, while still working fine, no longer works fine for me. It simply isn't comfortable anymore  - I didn't even bring it to Alaska, I borrowed one from a friend. My Rain eVent rain shell is delaminating. My dry suit needs all new gaskets and to be checked for leaks, particularly in the feet. My beloved Werner Kalliste was nearing end of life, at least as a primary paddle, My beloved Delta needs a new seat back, and Finally my Kelty Noah's Tarp was leaking like a sieve. All of this gear would need to be repaired or replaced.  This is the equivalent of starting almost from scratch, and the only way to do it is one piece at a time when I have the money, I am still an unsponsored expeditioner!

Something to also keep in mind, the lifespan of gear - and gear definitely has a life span, it will not live for ever! - is not what you think. I regularly tell people this story about sleeping bag life span:

In 2006 I did two NOLS sea kayaking courses back to back. I ended up sleeping in my bag about 80 days in a row, in usually damp conditions. This doesn't sound like a lot, but think about it like this. We generally tell people that a synthetic sleeping bag will have a life span of 10 to 15 years if stored properly - Properly, is loosely in a cotton or other breathable bag, in a temperature controlled area. Not hanging, not in your attic. Not in the trunk of your car. But that 10 years is planning on "normal usage", meaning that of a normal person which is a handful of trips a year. 6 to 8 weekends? maybe more? But at that rate 8 weekends a year for ten years is 160 days. I did half that in two months. When I came home from Alaska my sleeping bag was showing serious signs of wear, and it was retired to use on the couch, on cold winter nights in front of a fire. It would never again be used in a serious backcountry environment.

If you watch my Facebook, or my instagram you know that Last fall I replaced my paddle - I bumped my Kalliste down to back up status - as an instructor there is always a spare paddle on my deck - and I purchased an all carbon Werner Camano, a slight downgrade which I will discuss in another post. I am also mostly finished replacing my deck bungies.

Today I took the first steps, I purchased a sleeping pad, and a new tent. The sleeping pad was easy. I purchased the same pad I had borrowed from my friend for Alaska, The Big Agnes Q core SL.


It packs small, in fact I found a way to pack it in Alaska that makes it smaller than its traditional packaging, and it is super comfortable. For years I have been against blow up pads, but this thing is so comfortable that I will pay the price, plus, I found a cheat.


This little pump works on the Big Agnes pad, it is what I used in Alaska. I haven't decided if I am going to buy this, or use the big agnes pump sac - which is a stuff sack that you use to fill pad. Yeah, it is a little glamping, but it was so easy. 

The tent was an even easier decision. I have had great luck with REI tents, and so I went with another. I will re-treat my four season tent, and re-string the poles, but the fact is I don't think I will need a four season tent all that much. I also think there is some backpacking in my future. So I went with a three person three season tent. The REI Quarter Dome 3


I like free standing tents, I tend to not worry about weight (because I am in a kayak), I like tents with two doors and two vestibules. This was a no brainer. I looked at the lighter Dash tent from  REI and It was very nice, but the material looked very thin and I am hard on gear.

The next piece of gear on the list, I am concerned about. I am replacing a very old REI Shuksan Jacket. It is made out of eVent, and I said at one point I would stop using eVent when it was pried from my cold dead fingers. Unfortunately, it is my jacket that is cold and dead being pried from my fingers, and I can't find an eVent Jacket that is reasonably priced. I am afraid that I am going to be forced to go back to eVent, and more frightening, I may have to buy an Arc Teryx. They make great jackets but they are very expensive, and frankly, Arc Teryx wearers are a little cult like! Sorry guys and gals, but it's true. Ill keep you posted on how that plays out.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Rack Madness

I've written before about my thoughts on racks, you can read them here, but the gist of it is that I don't think J type cradles work well on tall vehicles like SUV's. I think they work better on low cars like mine.

But in the past few months I have seen some things that really puzzle me. Let's start here:



So this is a nice Jeep with a pair of J cradles, unfortunately the low side of the cradle, where you would load the boat is facing the inside of the vehicle, meaning it is almost impossible to use this mount correctly. I suppose you could slide the boat forward from the back, but the pads are going to fight you the entire way. Maybe this person just mounted them, and hasn't used them yet, and haven't realized they are supposed to go on the vehicle facing the other direction? Let's hope. But then what is this persons excuse?




They must have realized that something was wrong? If you can't tell, the cradles on the right are mounted correctly, but the cradles on the left are facing the wrong direction. Waiting in customs coming back from Canada when I did the Inside Passage, I saw a van in front of me with the low side of cradles both mounted on the inside, and there were boats in them! They must have realized something was wrong.

Is there some alternate use for J cradles I am unaware of? If so, please let me know.

The nightmare scenario is that the owners of these racks aren't at fault, and they were installed by a retailer this way. While you would think that a retailer would know better I once paddled with a lovely woman who bought an expensive yakima Showboat, but with out the actual cradles to hold the boat. I told her to go back to the retailer, and say "Hey, you sold me half a rack!" (I actually saw her months later and she told me she did, and the person said that no, it was designed to work that way. I then showed her a picture of system on Yakimas site, and the next time I saw her she had some cradles.)

The worst offender of rack madness is this poor fellow.


Okay, there is a lot going on here. First, I should point out, that while it is hard to tell in this photo, the front cradle is actually not contacting the hull of the boat. The 60 mph wind is pulling the nose of the kayak to the left, and there is nothing holding the nose in place, because the front strap is too lose and not properly securing the boat, and there is no bow line. Oddly though, there is a stern line - I think this is so that when the kayak finally breaks free it will tow behind the truck! It is hard for me to tell exactly how he has the straps securing the boat, but they aren't doing a very good job, and there is an inexplicable third strap in the middle of the kayak, that as far as I can tell is just going around the boat. Hey, at least the cradles are facing the correct direction!

The advantage of a J cradle is that it maximizes bar space. But this gentleman doesn't have anything else - currently - set up on his roof. They are also one of the less expensive options, but judging by the aero bars, and the somewhere in the neighborhood of a 60K truck, I don't think cost was an issue. The boat is also an expensive thermoformed recreational kayak.

I tried to get this drivers attention, I would have gladly helped him re-strap this boat, but alas, HE WAS ON HIS PHONE! I gave up and continued my drive.

Most of this I think is pretty humorous, but I highly recommend that if you buy a roof rack for your boat, and don't know how to use it, or what straps to use, please seek out help. You can even email me here, and I will be glad to help you out.

But here are some tips.

J style cradles work well on cars, but if you are going to use them on an SUV be careful you don't fall while loading the boat. Always put the straps on the cradle first, then load the boat. Loop the straps through the top of the cradle so you have both ends in your hand. Walk the back one to the rear of your vehicle (so it is over the trunk or the hatchback), and the front one to the front of your vehicle (so it is over your cars hood). Put your kayak in the cradle, and now you can slip the doubled straps over your boat. Make sure they aren't twisted, and can be pulled easily in both directions with the top of the cradle as the "pulley".

Pull the non-buckle end, so the buckle is hanging down, about halfway down (across) your kayak. Pass the non-buckle end behind your rack tower, and then back up to the buckle. Now pass the non buckle end through the buckle, and pull it down to make it tight. (This way is much easier so you don't have to pull it up to tighten it.) Repeat for the second cradle.

If I am not getting on a highway, I don't use bow and stern lines. If I am I use both. If you are going to use only one, use a bow line, as that is where most pressure is coming from.

There are many ways to rack your boat, this is the way I do it. Not necessarily the best, but it works well for me.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The what ifs

I think a lot about the "what ifs". What if something really bad happened? I don't really worry about medical emergencies. Being a WFA instructor, and having worked as an EMT and a Paramedic I know that I am either going to be able to handle a bad medical situation, or not. But I know I won't panic. I have treated hundreds if not thousands of patients. The what if  that keeps me up at night is this...

I am in rough water. Ocean. White Caps. I somehow end up out of my boat, and the water is too rough to get back in. She is also flooded. Here is the odd part of this particular what if scenario, they are looking for me. Maybe I got off a mayday call on the VHF. Maybe I hit 911 on my spot device. They are looking, and they don't see me. When it is really bad, I see them, and they still don't see me. The Cost Guard jet flies overhead low enough that I can smell its exhaust. Or when I am at the top of the swell I can see the Coast Guard Cutter. But they don't see me. No matter what I do, they don't see me.

I first started thinking about this close to thirty years ago when I read Adrift:76 days lost at sea by Steven Callahan. His sailboat sinks, unexpectedly in the middle of the night while crossing the Atlantic. He has time to evacuate. He launches his high end life raft, designed for 6 people. He grabs a survival ditch bag. And he waits. I forget at what point he sees his first ship, and uses 6 of his 9 aerial  flares, which the crew on the container ship never see. He estimates they are only a couple of miles away. He thinks he is saved, and they never see him. The problem is modern ships have very small crews. Particularly at night, there may only be one person on the bridge of even a supertanker. At the end of Cast Away with Tom Hanks, a container ship slides past him in the water. Close enough to hear the PA system on board. They see him, and bring him to safety. In reality, they would have gone right past him. They never would have seen him. It's a fairytale.

I am viewed as somewhat fanatical about the gear I carry when I am kayaking. In the front pocket of my pfd is a rescue strobe, a chemical light stick, a compass, a mirror on a string, a really loud whistle and a Buddhist good luck charm. I also always have a dry bag in the cockpit with me. It contains sunscreen,  another chemical light stick, power food, and a water additive. My cell phone is powered off, in a hard pelican case. Waterproof. Crushproof. No matter where I am paddling I have this gear with me. On a lake, I have a rescue strobe. Many call it overkill, but I like to know I never have to repack. I grab my PFD and it is there. ready to go. I would like to upgrade from a spot connect, to an ACR PLB. I like how robust it is. How prepared for the what ifs it is.

My brother texted me recently. He sails, and is in the process of buying a new boat. The boat is in St Martin, and a hired crew will bring it to Florida, and then up the coast to where he lives in New York. He asked if I wanted to meet him in Florida, and sail the coast to North Carolina. Sailing the coast didn't really interest me, but the thought of sailing from St. Martin to the US did. Twenty years ago I spent two weeks sailing in the British Virgin Islands, but I haven't sailed on open ocean and would really enjoy that. I immediately started thinking about the gear I would pack. All of it fell into the what if category. Dry suit, PFD, SPOT, VHF, GPS. I would have to stand watch, and if I had to stand watch at night, I would do it wearing this gear. People get washed overboard all the time. In the book the perfect storm they talk about a fisherman whose hand gets hooked on a long line being let over the stern of the boat. It is rolled out from a  large drum. A man connects a drop line to the main line, the drop line is covered with hooks and chemical light sticks. He then throws the drop line over the side. The main line is miles long with a radio beacon on both ends so they can retrieve it hours or days later. One of the thousands of hooks went through his palm and yanked him off the deck. One second he is on the deck, the next he is in the water. It happens so quickly that not a sound is made. You could just turn around to say something to him, and he is gone. You might think he just fell overboard until you retrieve the line a couple of days later, with your friend on it.

I don't know where my fear of being searched for and not found comes from. I grew up on boats. Father had boats, when I was fifteen I had a boat. I have always loved the water. But somewhere this fear of being searched for and not found surfaced.

Years ago I had a scary realization. When a kayak is upside down in the water, particularly rough water, with white caps, the white overturned hull would look just like a wave. Despite the fact that my boat is 17 feet long and red, searchers would probably only see its overturned hull, which is bright white. Just like surf. And even though I am wearing a red dry suit, with a red pfd, all that would be above the water would be my head. When they are searching for a swimmer, they are looking for something about the size of a volleyball. In the water. The open water. Miles of open water. They could fly right over you, and never see you. It is like looking for a needle, in a pile of needles.

Trapped on a  desert island is a walk in the park compared to lost at sea. It rains in the tropics, there is food and trees on tropical islands. Survival is easy. One of the islands I stopped on when I was sailing in the BVI was Jost Van Dyke. It is three square miles of lush beauty. Yeah, a tropical island is easy.

A few months ago I read a wonderful book that brings the "stranded on a tropical island" theme to a new realm. What if you were trapped on a desert planet. Mars. Not only isn't there water, or shelter, there isn't even air. Ironically, it probably wouldn't be that hard to find an astronaut trapped on a Mars. The problem is getting to him. I have been reading a lot of Sci Fi lately, and I learned that getting to something in orbit, isn't like on a boat. You can't point your nose at something and fire an engine, because your orbits altitude is dictated by your speed. It takes heavy math to get from one orbiting location to another. In the film Gravity, when they go from the ISS to the Chinese space station it wouldn't be as easy as point and go. Which means if you were trapped on Mars, it is conceivable that the rescue ship could make it to you, and screw up the orbit, and go right by. Almost close enough to see you. It would go right by at 18,000 miles an hour. If it skimmed the atmosphere you might even see your rescue ship, as it raced away without you.




This was all brought back to me when I saw the second trailer for The Martian. It is the ultimate survival scenario. Alone, on a  planet, with no air, water or food. Now I have something new to keep me up at night.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

A little Light Reading

As I am getting into the grove of writing again, I realized that there are a bunch of new readers here. I thought perhaps I should point out some good things to read. On the right hand side you will notice popular posts. Some good ones, there, but there are some that are missing. So I thought I would point some additional ones out, One of my favorite bloggers asked me a question a while back. Here is my response. I am really impressed with the way his skills have blossomed, and always enjoy reading his posts. I think this is one of the most important lists for any outdoors person, and this is my kayaking specific version. This used to be the most popular post on my site, which irked me based on the subject matter, but hey, everyone does it and you need to know how to do it in the backcountry. The Trick to make your whisperlite do what your whisperlite wasn't designed to do - use this info at your own risk. A simple little post about something we should all know more about. The great debate, I love the people that say you aren't a real kayaker if you have a particular one of these. Get over it, I use one, and I think I am a real kayaker. Super important post, but I am not a huge fan of this one, in fact I kind of cringe when I look at it. For a much better version of this lesson download my free book, which also has a link on the right. The simplest thing we do, with the oldest tool in the world. What to wear this fall on the water! Fall really is right around the corner.

I have a few things I am working on for you, a build project (all right a simple build), and I am starting work on a new book, which I am really excited about. I have a video I will post in a few days, a behind the scenes from Alaska last summer, and a couple of other tricks up my sleeve.

Is there something you would like me to write about? A post that needs updating, a stroke you want explained? Let me know.

I am curious what my friend Gecko thinks about these? He is an avid flyer and a GoPro user, how come he hasn't picked one up yet?


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Outdoor Retailer Summer - 2015

Every year in Utah at this time we have Outdoor Retailer, when the gear makers show us all their new gear. I thought I would point out a few pieces of new kit that look interesting. 

The First item worth mentioning is the New MSR Guardian water purifier. It is a pump purifier that looks like an updated MSR mini works. Except besides filtering it also purifies, you may recall from earlier posts here the difference is viral removal, but the guardian goes one better and also gets cholera and e coli. So if you are headed to a third world country this has some features for you. It also promises 2.5 liters per minute and a 10,000 liter capacity for the cartridge, which is years of use. One feature you might not like is the price, $350, available January. 

A second piece of gear that is getting a lot of attention is the new jetboil Genesis. Promising to be the best car camping stove ever made. 10,000 BTU's per burner, it can be chained to run another stove like a more traditional jetboil or another Genesis to make a four burner camp kitchen. It also offers amazing simmer control and is priced at $240, available 2016

I searched long and hard for paddling specific products released this, year and I found very little. Wilderness systems is releasing two fishing specific boats. I was hoping for something new from Astral but didn't see anything. Kokatat had its new and expanded SwitchZip technology which allows you to use a single product as either a drysuit or a stand alone dry top. I haven't had a chance to try this out yet, but I look forward to it. 

In general I am a little disappointed by the offerings at this years show. Hopefully more items will find their way to press. If you saw something that I missed, please let me know. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Tips for outdoor educators

Having spent the last year, working hand in hand with many instructors, I have given a lot of thought to what makes a good outdoor educator, as well as "best practices" for outdoor educators. In no specific order, here are some of my thoughts.

The boy scouts - who I am not a huge fan of, but that is a topic for another post - have an expression. Be prepared. There is nothing more true for an outdoor educator. Have your shit wired is another way to say it. Which translates to, don't be doing prep for a class two hours before start time. Know what you are teach and know it well. If you don't know it, learn it. Seek out other instructors who can help you prepare. We live in an age of unlimited information. Use it.

For instructors teaching day long classes - as opposed to my previous world of NOLS and 30 day courses - your car, or your work vehicle is your base of operations, I keep a lot of gear in my car, and I make sure at least once a week I take some time, to clean and organize. Here are things to have on hand - now granted, a lot of what I teach is water based, but these things transcend paddle sports. There is always an opportunity to get wet. Have extra paperwork, release forms, soap notes, maps, what ever. Have extras in a folder of some sort that will keep them clean and usable. Always pack a  change of clothes, sometimes just being able to put on a clean shirt post course is a really nice thing. But sometimes after a day soaking wet, it is nice to put on dry clothes. Particularly socks. In the hot days of summer, keep a small cooler with cold drinks. In the winter (I always keep a gallon of water in my car. if you are dehydrated even warm water is awesome.), a stove with the makings of Hot chocolate or coffee. Always have extra insulation layers in large sizes, regardless of season or expected temperatures. I find that people don't know how to dress. You can make someones day by giving them a layer to put on, this can be an old fleece or puffy jacket. More importantly, someone can't learn if they are cold. Always have rain gear handy, tops and bottoms. When buying gear for yourself, buy high quality. It will perform better,  and last longer - and no one will be as hard on gear as you will. You will become expert in what works and what doesn't. Always have a headlamp, a chemical light stick, a whistle, and a massive first aid kit. I am a firm believer that the best way to guarantee that you need something, is to not have it. If you have a massive first aid kit, you are less likely to need it. Don't use ziplock bags or garbage bags to keep things dry, use an actual dry bag - even if you are a dry land instructor. Zip locks and garbage bags will eventually leak. Mentor, the best way to be sure of your skills is to teach them to someone else, not positive you can teach a map and compass class? Teach another instructor. Watch other instructors teach - particularly if they teach he same things as you. You will see different ways to teach the same things you teach. You can steal - I mean borrow! - what you like from there process or style. Find systems that work for you, need to work from a lesson plan? print it on waterproof paper. And if you do need a lesson plan? don't feel bad. I have been teaching Wilderness first Aid for 5 years and I still use note cards. Find systems that work for you, and what was that other thing? HAVE YOUR SHIT WIRED! Learn to predict the weather, which guess what, can be an awesome Weather app (or six like I have on my phone). Keep it simple Can you teach a concept in one sentence? There is no reason to use more. You are really smart, you don't have to prove it by making things more complex than they are. If you teach in the same area frequently, like most of us Learn 5 local floras and faunas so you can talk about them with confidence. Role model They will learn as much from what you say as what you do. Always be doing it right. Use sunscreen, check for hotspots. You have to role model good behaviors for them to follow in the future. An important thing to role model is Self Care which means keeping your self fueled and cared for. Make sure students see you taking care of yourself, so they can emulate it, but also do the little things that make your life easier - get to the venue early so you have some quiet time to plan they day, that special snack, whatever it may be, make it happen for yourself.

Continue to learn! -  at least once a quarter be a student, take a class. Learn from another instructor. Learn something new.

Most importantly, Love what you do! if you don't love it, do something else.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Why I quit my dream job

I have been dreadfully absent for most of the last year, and for this I apologize. I took what my wife and I were referring to as "a big boy" job. For the first time in a decade I am working real hours, with real responsibilities. As I write this I am the Senior Instructor, for a large company that does outdoor education. And while the company is well established, the market I am working in is new. I am helping to build a new program, training instructors, scheduling classes and creating systems so at some point it runs well. I have 13 field instructors, and 20 something instructors that teach indoors - If you know who I work for please don't mention it here.

I am responsible for these people. I am responsible for their safety (along with the safety of their students), I am responsible for making them the best instructors they can be, and along the way, I want them all having fun.

I said "as I write this" because by the time you read this, I will have resigned my position after a year - I honestly had planned on doing two, and finding another challenge. There were a couple of factors that led to my resignation. The biggest, was my wife got a large promotion that would require a lot of her time. So much so, that I won't be able to work the 40 to 50 hour weeks I have been, not to mention my 1.5 hour commute each way - did I not mention the commute? All big boy jobs have a commute.

My wife and I discussed how for us both to keep working, and shortly after the beginning of the discussion we realized we were working hard to figure out a way for me to keep a job that I wasn't really enjoying! I was making huge sacrifices for a job, and I didn't like it! That is a huge mistake, and I think way too many people do it.

I spent years building myself a simple, practical minimalist lifestyle. I wasn't a slave to my phone, or email. I had three keys on my key chain - I know that is a bizarre measure of how complex life can be but it works - and I loved it. When I left work, I was done with work. I paddled for fun. I was on my feet and going constantly, and it was wonderful.

Then one day I looked at my key chain and it was full of keys. I looked at my computer and I had over 1000 unread emails. My phone beeped and buzzed at all hours of the night. I got sucked into a life I spent years avoiding.

Instead of spending my days on my feet, interacting with people, I spent my days in front of a computer interacting with windows - and really as a life long apple user having to use windows was the last straw, when they tried to upgrade me to windows 8 I hid my laptop! And all this computer time had a negative effect. I gained 15 pounds in under a year, and I am terrified to know what happened to my blood pressure.

There is a reason that I chose to not have a normal work life for many years. There is a reason I work hard to live a peaceful stress free life. The reason, is my father. My father was a wonderful man who died way too early at the age of 58. He lived a sedentary life, was a long time smoker, and a lot of the time ate food that was bad for him. Add to this that he worked most of his life doing a job he hated, and it was incredibly stressful. When I was 15 I asked him if he hated his job, why didn't he do something else, to which he replied "this is what I know how to do." He was also very good at it, and made a great living - he actually put his older brother through dental school. My brother and sister went to college (as would I if I had cared to) and my parents lived in a big house and they drove nice cars. But in my head this is the formula for an early grave. So I worked hard to live a different lifestyle. To eat well, exercise, and be as stress free as possible.

All of this collapsed this year. I got sucked into a cool title, and more - but still meager - money. The hallmarks of the 'successful' life we have all been taught to want. The problem is I didn't want it. I just got stupid. Stupid, and scared. Scared that as I aged I wasn't going to be viewed favorably by my contemporaries. That my friends with successful careers were talking about me. "Can you believe that guy? He gets paid hourly! works like 30 hours a week! Doesn't have a couch in his living room! What a loser!" I should have realized none of that was going on, when I went to New York early last year, and met up with a friend of mine who is a Judge. An actual NYC Judge. She asked if I was going to Alaska during the summer and I told her I was. But I felt I needed to add "but I'm not making any money." to which she replied "you are living the dream!" The issue, the judgement was all being done by me, and at the end of the day it was that fear within myself that caused me to judge my place in the world, and decide that a cool title would fix it. I was wrong.

So August first I will drop the word Senior from my title, and just be an instructor. I will limit the hours I can work, and spend time getting my life back in order. I need to get my cardio fitness back, eat healthier and essentially undue a year of knots that worked their way into my body and my psyche.

First on the list, deleting a lot of unread emails.

Monday, June 8, 2015

I've been away.

I have been working very hard.

I have lost sight of some things that are very important.

But I will be back.

Soon.


Monday, January 26, 2015

Survival Gear

When I am prepping for a big trip do a lot of thinking about the gear I am packing. I have this fear, which is almost completely unwarranted, that I will be in the water with rescuers looking for me. They will fly right over me, or move past be in the water and never see me. I will see my rescuers slide off into the distance, having missed their goal - me - by a few hundred meters, and never know it. I will then die, slow, cold, and alone, bobbing in the water.

To fight this fear there are some things I do. On big trips I carry a spot device - if I do another big trip I will switch to an ACR personal locator beacon. I am also a big fan of strobe devices, which live in the pocket of my PFD. I am not a big fan of flares, because I have read too many times about them being discharged and not noticed. Also in the pocket of my PFD is a Fox 40 whistle, which is just ridiculously loud. I of course always leave a float plan with someone trust worthy, and in the cockpit of boat there is a dry bag, with power bars (of some sort, not actually powerbar brand) a headlamp, a compass, a chemical light stick... little stuff like that.

People are obsessed over survival gear. A quick peek at Gearjunkie.com and you will find links to "the ten best pieces of survival gear" and knives designed by navy seals. (everyone wants to be a Navy Seal!) Head over to Reddit, and you will find r/survival with 60k subscribers and links to dozens of other related survival subreddits. This is from the sidebar of r/survival

r/survival defines Wilderness Survival as the philosophies, knowledge, techniques, and actions applied in a Wilderness environment, in a short-term survival scenario, which serve to increase the likelihood of survival of the individual or group.

So, the scenario is, your small plane crashes, you are lost at sea, you inexplicably get lost in the woods, or your cars satnav leads you of course on your way to your weekend getaway, and then the snow starts. By study, and patience, and what you read online you will be prepared to survive. 

There is another scenario, one that I saw frequently at my last job. The preppers, or as I prefer "end of the worlders." These are people preparing for the apocalypse, the government collapses, a dirty bomb is detonated, an EMP is detonated destroying all electronic equipment, or of course, we can't possibly forget... zombies. 

I think a big part of the reason for all the doomsday prepping we are doing is a combination of the culture of fear we have created, along with our rampant consumerism. I am afraid of this problem, therefore I will fix it by buying something that will make me feel safe. A $200 survival  kit, a glock 19 and 200 rounds. Better make it 300... Well, how about 500. Okay 1000. 

The Outdoor School I am working with has an amazing instructor. He teaches a wilderness survival class, and it is almost always full. He really is a great teacher - former US Military and taught survival for decades. The class is wonderful, and people really enjoy it. I think for most people it is a fantasy role play kind of thing - now, when the unthinkable happens, I will survive, and be famous... maybe for a few minutes. 

Here is the thing. I hate anything that begins with the word survival. I hate large impractical fixed blade knives, I hate paracord bracelets, and necklaces and bikinis  I hate any number of fire starting devices - if you can remember to pack a flint and magnesium, why can't you pack a lighter? 

I hate survival kits, that focus on weapons, but don't have any system for filtering water. I hate the whole concept of the bug out bag. If you buy a survival kit, or a bug out bag but don't know how to use any of the things in the bag, then it is useless weight. Likewise for first aid kits. You don't need that much, and you can improvise a lot with just a little knowledge. Take a Wilderness First Aid class. Please. 

I have spent a lot of the past 30 years in the woods or paddling on the water. I have never really been lost. I have dealt with cuts, and scrapes, and blisters, and one puncture wound - that's what you get for bushwhacking! - in the back country. You are never going to need quick clot, or a tourniquet, or even sutures. 

Want to be prepared for when things go wrong? Become skilled in the backcountry. Get to know a map and a compass. Learn to understand the weather, and terrain. Learn to dress appropriately for any environment. If you have gear for a weekend backpacking trip, you have the ability to cook, filter water, sleep warm, produce light, and just about anything else you will need to do. 

Spend some time in the woods, and you will learn the skills you need to make sure you never need a survival kit.