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Saturday, December 27, 2014

TESTED goes Camping.

I have mentioned a number of times how much I like Tested.com - and in particular that I am fascinated with Adam Savage. In part because the guy can make anything, I can make anything, but it never looks good. I am a good improviser, but he can really build beautiful prop replicas. Check out his one day build series, they are amazing. Just before Halloween they showed how to make a replica of your own hand, which prompted an idea in my head about a  prop for the wilderness medicine classes I teach. I will keep you posted.

I have learned many great things from this website. Most recently I upgraded to a sortimo case (alright, it is really bosch, but they make sortimo in the US, and the inserts say sortimo) for most of my GoPro gear. It is sensational.

The flip side, of my interest in Adam Savage is that we are polar opposites in terms of possessions. He has both an extensive shop - where he builds - and a largish beautiful home. Both of which are absolutely filled with props from movies, momentos, and keep sakes. And while the Italian Blade runner poster is cool, both his home and his office freak my internal minimalist out in terms of the sheer number of items present. One thing I would like to make is a Maltese Falcon to perch on my mantle. Adam has an obsession with these and has made several. There is a great talk about it here.

But all of this serves as an introduction, to get to the point that today, Adam is on my turf. He took his boys camping, and it sounds like it was a wonderful trip. But in listening to his podcast on the topic I realized a number of things he could do better, or things that had slight misconceptions tied to them. For the past 9 years my job has been steering people in the right direction to both have fun, and be safe in the outdoors. So without further ado, my comments on what Adam Savage has to say camping.

At the 6 minute mark, he talks about how all his gear is twenty years old, he spent some time and money upgrading, and at the same time built out packs for his boys - who I think are around 15. He built them alcohol stoves - I would expect nothing less from Adam - and he got them packs, tents, sleeping bags and pads, and Kelty packs. The only item he mentions by brand name.

Two important things to keep in mind here. "20 year old gear, and Kelty Packs for his boys". Every two or three years we see a big jump in one of the "big three" pieces of gear. Sleeping bags, Packs or tents. So Adam is right to upgrade from 20 years ago. His gear will be lighter, and perform better and he will be way happier. But, Kelty for the boys may not have been the way to go. 20 years ago, Kelty ruled the outdoor world leaving a lasting impact on the people who used their gear. The have incredible brand loyalty, even though their gear hasn't really improved in the last decade. Their packs are heavier, and don't carry a load as well as a more modern design. If Adams boys are still in youth sizes I would look at a youth osprey pack. If they aren't in youth sizes the options are large.

At the seven minute mark, they are both right. You should aim for your pack weight to be 1/4 to 1/3 of your body weight.

At the 8 minute mark, they start talking about food, and Will Smith - not that Will Smith - has it right when he says "if your going for a weekend you can cook whatever you want!" Adam is raving about Mountain house, which I do think is the best freeze dried food brand, but he mentions that the Pad Thai is shite. Mountain House doesn't make a Pad Thai, Back packers Pantry does, and he is right. Garbage. He loves the Mountain house Lasagna, he should try the Beef Stroganoff or the Chicken Ala King.

The third host, Norm says go with Ramen, and I think this is a remarkably bad idea.

He also makes grilled cheese sandwiches - because his producer says it is the best camping food - They are both wrong. I do believe Adam is a great cook, and makes an amazing grilled cheese sandwich, but Macaroni and Cheese - from scratch - is an amazing and easy backcountry meal.

Will Smith knows his shit. He talks about how everything in the backcountry tastes better, and he is right. This is one of the big take aways from my backcountry cooking class.

At 16 minutes Will is talking about the level of remoteness in California, a level you can't attain on the east coast - he actually says the appalachians which I agree with. If he thinks that level of remoteness is incredible, he should go to Alaska.

Then they delve into Canoe Camping: Adam bought the Oru folding kayaks. Interesting choice.
But he mentions that you can't get a 40 pound pack on the deck! Please. For all that is holy, don't ever put a pack on the deck of any kayak. You are dramatically upsetting the center of gravity, and even a stable kayak will be a nightmare.

At 25 minutes they talk about the PCT and the Lost cost trail. ( I would like to hear Cheryl Strayed on the Talking room)

At 30 minutes they start talking about REI/The Wirecutter. Since I have discovered Tested.com I have wanted an outdoor version. They mention the REI return policy. Adam says "now you only have a year" - This is incorrect. Here is the REI return policy:

You have one year for satisfaction. If within one year you are unsatisfied with a product you can return it. But you have the life of the product for materials and workmanship. (keeping in mind that things have a life span.) If something doesn't work for you, you can return it.

Yes. The Baltoro 80 is awesome, but a very big pack!

at 31 minutes, they talk about how to find good locations to camp/hike, check out all trails.com. I agree, you don't need titanium pots. Overpriced, and you don't need them (Adam, the only titanium I own is a spork as well!)

Water filtration (36 minutes). Will is wrong,  Giardia is not for life, you can be treated. Jamie (of Mythbusters) loves the steripen. Great product. bring batteries. Adam seems to like gravity filters, which rock, but I prefer the sawyer brand.

Headlamps (39 minutes). Yes. Do a headlamp. No flashlights. The black diamond Spot or Storm.

at 39:30 we start talking about footwear. Current boots - with a few exceptions - don't need a big break in period. Unless you are buying a heavy duty PU based sole mountain boot, you don't need to worry about it. Most Keens, Vasques and Lowas are good to go.

Finally, "REI will restore your faith in Humanity". I agree, they restored mine.

Here is the whole video.



We are better when we spend time in Nature. Thank you Adam Savage.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Happy Holidays From Paddling Otaku

It has been a very different year for me. I am currently working very hard to build an outdoor program for a major outdoor retailer. The by-product of that is I have very little time to write. I am hoping that changes in the spring when we are up and running full steam. But in the meantime, I wanted to talk about a few things that are going on.

Every year I have run this website, I have posted both a Stocking stuffer post, and a christmas list post. This year I started writing them a couple of times, but was feeling uninspired. In part, because these lists are generally driven by the gear I have added to my personal gear bag, and this year I have added very little, because I really don't need any gear. But for those of you interested, here are some previous Christmas suggestion posts, this is last years, and this is the year before.

One piece of gear that I have upgraded is my GoPro. I sold my two 3+'s and purchased a single 4 silver. So far I am very happy. They do a very good job of making wonderful cameras, which is probably why it is the second most popular camera in the world. Guess what the most popular is?

I am excited that someone came up with a replacement for Royalex. I am also really excited watching the development of the drone market, and curious to see what GoPro announces next year. The rumors are they are getting into the market, and I have been waiting to get into the drone game, but I am going to continue to wait.

I am really curious to see this new Kokatat 2 in 1 drysuit, that becomes single pieces. I love my drysuit, it has a lot of miles on it. I like my system for wearing it, but I am curious to see what this looks like.

I am very close - meaning I just need to find the time - to order a new werner paddle. After This years Alaska Trip I had to permanently retire my Carbon Camano, and that is exactly what I am replacing it with. In fact, my Kalliste will become my backup. Which means I am downgrading my paddle. Part of the reason I upgraded, was I felt to be taken seriously I had to be using the top of the line paddle, but I have since come to my senses. I no longer want to make purchase decisions based on other peoples perceived perceptions of me, and my skills as a paddler.

I am a little upset with Gearjunkie.com. I used to love GearJunkie, as I felt they did real reviews. Now I feel like it is a commercial for gear. I don't feel that they offer any real insight, and they never say anything bad. A review should have good things and bad things about the product, no product is perfect. I love my Delta Seventeen, but there are a few things about it that aren't perfect, and I have talked about it. Despite the fact that I am upset with Gearjunkie, I don't think they care.

As I am working a real job - my other jobs were real, but this is more real - and it has me thinking about my goals and where I want to spend my time. I think a very interesting post is coming, but I think it is still a long way off.

As I slide into a new year I am thinking about the things I am thankful for. I am happy to have had such an amazing year (and life really) and all the things I got to do. To go paddling in Alaska with two wonderful people. To paddle on quiet days here in central North Carolina. I am really a very lucky person. If you don't feel lucky, you should work on it. We only get one chance at this. Make it count.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Random Acts of Pasta

Just a human being, thinking of others. This sort of thing gets me every time. At the end he says "thanks Olive Garden, you just made those peoples lives a little better" But it wasn't Olive Garden. It was him.




Remember, The light at the end of the tunnel may be you.