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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Chasing Ice

As a paddler that likes cold, wet places, I have been inundated by global climate change, and I have posted about it here a few times. I apologize if this isn't why you come to a paddling blog but it is impacting me, personally, enough that it feels important enough to talk about. A lot of the trips I plan, and in fact the trip I am planning now, are timed to coincide with the times the shore is 'ice free', and so I become more and more aware of those times, and their lengthening periods. It also affects wildlife, and how I have to plan around them. The details of which I can't go into yet.

I feel strongly that this has become simple science, and yet people deny it. In part because a large population of the US vilifies science. People like Bill O'Reilly who claims there is no way to explain the tides. For the record Bill, I can teach you about tides if you have an open mind, and can accept the fact that Earth is not flat, and gravity exists.

I was touched to see on Reddit this morning a woman whose world view was changed by seeing a movie. She was a climate denier, and now believe in the science - I wonder what made her go see the movie in the first place - This needs to be a larger part of the our countries discussions. For that people need to have an open mind.

Here is that video.




And here is the trailer for Chasing Ice.




Please spread this trailer around. The film is currently in limited release.

While a lot of the information about global climate change is saying that we are already past the point of no return, I am hopeful in one sense. As we see people like the woman above wake up, and realize what is happening, we will at some point reach a tipping point. When that happens you will see great changes occur. When we work together there is nothing we can't accomplish, and that will be a sight to see.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The 2nd Annual Kayaking Christmas

Well, it's the day after Thanksgiving, and I hope you had a great day. Last year - much to my surprise - one of my more popular posts was a list of gifts for the kayaker in your life. Since people liked it so much, I decided to update the list for this year. So from least expensive to most expensive, here ya go. Your kayaking christmas list for 2012:

Seal Line Map Case $26.95 I have used every map case imaginable, and they all stink. Either you can't open and close them, or they aren't waterproof.... or you can't read through the material. Seal line finally gets it right. Easy to use velcro/folded closure, completely waterproof, and soft pliable material.

Black Diamond Cosmo $29.95 You have to have light, and this newly updated head lamp has a very bright 70 lumen punch for a very reasonably $29 bucks!

Timbuk 2 tool shed $35.00 Yup! it's made for cyclists. Deal with it. It is the single best kitchen tool kit in the world. Easy to clean, holds a lot, and packs flat in your kayak. Bar none, the best!


Kokatat Seeker $62.00 Last year the shoe I listed was the NRS desperado sock. It has since been discontinued. While I am still wearing a pair, when they die - which by the smell is not far off - I will switch to this nice looking shoe by kokatat

Liquid Logic Speedloader $78.00 The beauty of this speedloader is in the name. easy and fast to reload after use. The front of the bag opens wide, almost flat. This will be my next throw bag. 


MSR Whisperlite Universal $139.95 Why choose between liquid fuel and canister fuel? They both have their advantages and disadvantages, so get both with one stove. Plus Kerosene and unleaded. This does it all.

GoPro Hero 3 Black edition $399.99 Don't mess around with the silver or the white. You are just going to end up upgrading. With the addition of a remote control you can mount your camera on your bow and turn it on when you need it.

Garmin Fenix $400 Navigation is key, and with this watch it is never further away than your wrist. It has all the functions of an ABC watch (I swear by the barometer on my suunto vector), plus the added benefit of GPS. Not much bigger than the watch I wear now, it offers a lot more usability with a basic moving map. You can even set the units to Nautical. (and if you think this is a lot of money, the Suunto ambit has the same feature set for $100 more!)

The North Face VE-25 $619 Expeditioning this summer? This is THE expedition tent. roomy and bombproof. I have spent a bunch of nights in this tent and she is a winner!

Necky Looksha Carbon $4400 I love my Delta but I have a craving to paddle carbon. There are very few options out there, and since the Looksha was my second choice, might as well try it in the carbon version.

A couple of additional items that came close to making the list - This is the Roll - the best rolling DVD ever made. It helped me this summer nail my greenland roll. $29.99. Level Six's hydrophobic shirt, it is going to change paddle clothing and I can't wait to get my hands on one, BUT they aren't available yet, and I don't have a price. Finally, I love this lantern from snow peak, but it is $89.00, which is a lot for a compact lantern. The cool thing about it is that when there is sound (think wind) or it moves (again, think wind) it flickers like a candle. A friend of mine has one of them, and I made fun of him for spending so much on a lantern, but now I want one... It is very materialistic of me, I know.

So that is my list this year. Last years list is here, and in a week I will have this years version of the 'stocking stuffer list', and on that list everything is under $25.00

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The four season tent dilemma

I frequently talk to people that tell me - adamantly - that they need a four season tent. I generally ask them a few questions to determine why they need a four season, as opposed to a three season tent, and the answers are rarely the correct answers.

"I need a four season tent because it is going to be really cold where I am going, and four season tents are warmer." while this is true, sort of, it isn't the reason to buy a four season tent, and there are actually a number of reasons not to buy a four season tent.

The first and most important reason not to buy a four season tent is weight. My three person tent weighs right around 10 pounds. Your average three season, three person tent weighs around 5 pounds - a quick search showed me a 3 person tent that weighed 3 pounds 15 ounces! - so more than double the weight.

The second reason is ventilation. Three season tents are loaded with mesh - which is one of the reasons they are so light - but the real reason for that mesh is airflow. You keep airflow moving through the tent even with a rain fly on, and that means you sleep dry. Four season tents have done away with all that mesh - because they are really designed for mountaineering, and all that ventilation isn't as big of an issue.

Four season tents are a bit warmer than three season tents. But it is a by-product of the lack of ventilation. Think of your four season tent as a rain shell jacket. It's job isn't to keep you warm it's to protect you from the elements - wind, rain, snow. If you want to be warm under your rain shell you add a fleece jacket or other insulating layer. If you want to sleep warmer in your tent you don't add a warmer tent, you add a warmer sleeping bag (the insulation layer!)

So why does anyone buy a fore season tent? Why do I own a four season tent? Most of my gear was purchased planning the inside passage trip - and other trips -ahem- that may be in planning now. I like paddling in places with extreme weather. Places where it can be beautiful when you go to sleep, and at three in the morning you are awakened by freight train winds. That is where a four season tent is worth its hefty weight in gold. This is why you buy a four season tent.

By definition, a four season tent is a one that can withstand winds in excess of 70 miles per hour. (a well made three season tent can do this too) and remain structurally sound under a heavy snow load. Try and visualize this, you go to sleep at 12,000 feet, and tomorrow morning is your summit push. Before you go to sleep you step outside, and marvel at how clear the night sky is, you can see more stars than you have ever seen before. Tomorrow should be a great day. After you get in your bag and drift off to sleep though, the weather changes. A storm front rolls through bringing, heavy wet snow with it. You awake to a foot of new wet snow and perfect avalanche conditions. Time to retreat down the mountain. If you had been sleeping in a three season tent the poles wouldn't have supported the heavy snow, and you would have woken - if you were lucky - to the sound of the poles snapping and nylon pressed heavily against your face. Good luck trying to find the zipper to your bag, and tent.

For most people a good three season tent will suffice, unless like me, you like to paddle in places like Alaska, or Patagonia. My four season tent is my only tent, and in the summer in the south it isn't ventilated enough. But on a beach in high winds it doesn't move, and that is why I like it. I don't mind the weight because it is going into my kayak and I am not carrying it in a back pack.

A final word about three season tents, when you buy a tent its rain fly should cover almost all of the tent. It should come all the way down towards the ground, stopping just 6 inches or so from the ground. Half rain flys and rain flys that just cover the very top of your tent are useless. You shouldn't have to pitch a tarp over your tent to keep you dry.



good camp from Paddling Otaku on Vimeo.

Monday, November 5, 2012

In august, I posted one of my rare editorials

I talked about the overwhelming evidence that global climate change is real, and my confusion when so many people choose to ignore it, or say it isn't man made, or say 'so what?'

I recently discovered that there are 928 peer reviewed journal publications by climatologists that draw undeniable links between global climate change and mans activities. There are exactly zero that refute the connection.

Then Sandy happened, and the questions started. Is this because of global warming? The answer is actually no. Though the fact that the northeast US got two 100 year storms in two years does seem a little puzzling, global climate change did not cause this. But what it did was make it worse. The oceans and the air are warmer than they have been before, warm air and water are what make hurricanes. I really like these two analogies for what global climate change did to Sandy.

It didn't cause it, but it was like the steroids that made it possible for someone to achieve seven Tour De France victories, or hit a record number of home runs in one season.

But cut through all the science, and I think Bloomberg says it best:


CNN had a great article as well. please check it out.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Forgive my absence..

I have been very busy. I have spent most of the past month teaching, in one form or another.

I am thrilled to be an instructor for - in my opinion, the best wilderness medicine school in the world - The NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute. (the name was just changed and I hope I got it right. I teach two day wilderness first aid courses. This month I taught two of them a week apart. I became a lead instructor for the school in March, and so each course still offers a number of challenges.

The first course I taught, I was thrilled to be teaching with Eli Helbert - The Canoe Guru - that is right, A paddling otaku and a canoe guru working on the same course. Eli is a two time world champion freestyle canoeist, a hell of a good guy. We had a lot of fun teaching, I don't care what he is teaching, he is good at it!

Here is Eli in thick of it.




The guy has a heck of a beard too!

















This month I also had a number of private lessons (Eli charges more than me, but he is a two time world champion!), a couple with recurring students and one with a pair of new students, I hope to see them again soon as they were a lot of fun. I finished teaching last Sunday in Atlanta and headed immediately home, because the following afternoon I had to head to Montreal.

That is right, as Sandy was bombarding the east coast, I flew to the great white north. I think I had the only flights that didn't get cancelled. I took off in 30 knot winds, and landed in winds gusting to 45 knots. For reference I heard them close the Cleveland airport because the wind was in the high 20's. So while I am not sure why my flights kept going, I am glad they did.

I will say the flights were pretty boring, but the landings and takeoffs were a bit scary. However, if you are a pilot, and you flew in the weather last weekend, thanks. You did a great job.

I hope to squeeze into a kayak this week at some point, and that means that it is time for the dry suit. Keep paddling people!