Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Video content this week, on Instagram

This week I am releasing 7 15 second videos on instagram. All comprised of footage from the last Alaska Trip. The best way to see these are on my instagram account, though they will post on Facebook. You can see the first 3 right here!

getting there from Paddling Otaku on Vimeo.

Packing from Paddling Otaku on Vimeo.

Here We GO! from Paddling Otaku on Vimeo.

I am toying with producing a short film for each month of the year looking at my life as an outdoor educator. Still not sure what that will look like as I am not a fan of really being on camera. But I might just suck it up and make it happen.

But I would love for you to join me on Instagram. I am really loving the simplicity of the environment, and the greater control I have over what I see. Stop by.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Post incident debrief

In the outdoor recreation and education industry, accidents - or incidents if you prefer - are inevitable. It is a standard practice to debrief an incident to see what in your risk management program is effective, or where there are holes in safety creating areas of potential risk, and most importantly what can we learn from the incident to prevent similar incidents in the future.

You can never remove all risk. These are inherently risky games we play, but we can work hard to mitigate the risk.

This morning I read Rick Ridgeways account of the Doug Tompkins fatal incident, and my brain immediately slipped into debrief mode. When assessing a situation like this - and you should always assess a situation like this, there is always something to learn - here are some of the questions I start to ask myself. I need to stress, I am not questioning Mr. Ridgeways or Mr Tompkins actions. Merely trying learn from a tragic accident.

What was the cause? I want to know about the gear involved and the gear worn. Weather. Experience. Hydration and Nutrition. Other risk factors. Think about those while you read Mr. Ridgeways account:

The trip started as a four-day paddle along a remote section of Lago General Carrerra, in Patagonian Chile. There were six of us on the trip in two single and two double kayaks. Between us we had well over a hundred years of combined experience. But Doug and I also had a double kayak with a finicky rudder. On the third day of paddling a growing crosswind created challenging conditions, and with our faulty rudder Doug and I were unable to avoid a broaching wave that capsized us.
We knew immediately we were in a grave situation. As the wind and current pushed us toward the center of the lake, we had no way of knowing whether our companions in the other boats—who were ahead of us and out of sight around a point we had been working to round—knew of our predicament. We realized we had about 30 more minutes to survive; the water temperature was perhaps 38 or 40 degrees Fahrenheit. We tried and failed four times to right the boat and paddle it, but the wind and waves were too strong for us to maintain balance and the boat was too flooded. Eventually, we had to decide whether to attempt to swim or to stay with the capsized boat. The boat, pushed by a perpendicular current, was drifting towards the center of the lake. Staying with it was putting us in an even more difficult if not impossible position.
We decided to abandon the boat and began to swim toward the point. It was tough and I realized, against the current, it was likely impossible to reach the point. Time was also against us. I was slowing and even with a life jacket I was pushed under by the larger waves. I could see Doug and assumed he was in the same situation. I was hypothermic and I was starting to drown. For a few minutes I gave in—just let it go—but then snapped back. Then I saw our companions paddling towards us against the wind—now at about 40 knots with gusts much stronger to 50 knots and more (later confirmed from weather measurements for the lake that day).
Two of our companions, Jib Ellison and Lorenzo Alvarez, reached me in a double kayak. I hung onto the stern loop, still in the water, while they paddled into the wind to reach an eddy behind the point. Between the waves and the wind, there was no point for me to try to get onto the boat. I had to dig deep—I think as deep as I’ve gone. It seemed to take forever. I remained focused on my hands and holding on to the loop until I realized I was on a rock. Then I lost consciousness and my next memory was of lying in front of a fire.
Doug was not so lucky. Our other companion, Weston Boyles (who had been paddling with Yvon Chouinard but left him in order to attempt Doug’s rescue), gave a supreme effort—attempting to paddle Doug to safety but unable to overcome the power of the wind and current. Doug held on for another half-hour, kicking as much as he could, but lost consciousness. Weston risked his own life to keep Doug’s head above water as he fought to reach shore. By the time they landed, Doug was too hypothermic to survive.
Okay, in the first paragraph we learn that they are in a remote location, as a group they have a lot of experience. Rick and Doug have a double also called a tandem kayak with a finicky rudder. Because of the rudder the kayak turns sideways to the waves and rolls. Here are the follow up questions I would ask if I had access:
When did you know the rudder was finicky, before the trip? before that day? When you discovered the rudder was finicky, could you have found another beach to land on, short of your destination to fix the rudder or wait out the wind? Was the boat checked before the trip began? 
In paragraph two we learn that because of their finicky rudder they aren't able to keep up with the group who are now out of sight and around a point, this is a tremendous error in leadership and judgement among people who know better. Staying with the boat is generally a good idea, as it offers much better visibility, but if it is getting pulled away from a safe location it is a crap shoot. Here are my follow up questions. What exactly were you wearing (though even a drysuit in 40 degree water is cold) Did you have bilge pumps and paddle floats? (could the boat have been outriggered with a paddle float for stability and then bilge pumped empty?) Could you get on top of the boat to get your body out of the 40 degree water? With wind in 40 to 50 knot territory, did we hear a weather report before hitting the water? Did we have an opportunity for weather updates while paddling? 
Paragraph 3 The remainder of the group realize something is wrong and come back for them. The tandem rescues Rick - by the way, this is what the handles on the ends of your boat are for, I have written about this in the past! - but a single can't make headway with Doug against the wind. We know how this plays out. 
There were unfortunately a number of mistakes made that started with a finicky rudder. Then a failure to make a "no go" call when faced with high wind, or a bail out call when that wind was getting worse. Then the group getting separated. There are still a lot of questions to be answered and we probably won't get them (Clothing, weather reports, what was actually wrong with the rudder, bilge pumps)
I wasn't with them, but I suspect the biggest issue was that a in big group of highly skilled adventures, no one wanted to say "these conditions are too much, lets find a beach and call it a day". 
In fairness, and because I have a lot of respect for the people involved, my questions may all be unfounded. Maybe the rudder didn't act up until they were paddling that day? Maybe they were in drysuits with ample insulation. Maybe in bad conditions they told the group not to wait, so fewer people would be at risk. Maybe in the rough water they couldn't set up an outrigger, or pump out the kayak. Maybe they had weather information and it was wrong - though I know that is a stretch, the weatherman is NEVER wrong! Maybe earlier in the day they realized they needed to get off the water, and couldn't. 
The point of this exercise is to look at the incident, and see what could have prevented a fatal outcome. So we can learn, and next time prevent something like this from happening. Think about your own trips, and near misses. Have a solid plan for future trips, and think about the what if's. What if the weather goes bad while we are on an exposed coast? Have you ever practiced getting into a kayak in rough water? When you are cold? When you are tired? 

Friday, December 11, 2015

Kayaking Courtesy - Don't use boat ramps

I spent the last year teaching for a major outdoor education company. We offered both kayaking tours and lessons, to groups and individuals. On many occasions we would end up at a put in at one of the beaches we worked from with 15 kayaks, waiting for people to show up.

Not uncommon in my life. 

While prepping gear and boats for a group to appear, I would watch the boat ramp. Boat ramps are designed for power boats. the idea is you have a boat on a trailer which you back into the water. You then either get in your boat and take it to a dock, or just line it to a dock. Then drive your trailer to a parking space. Total time on the ramp, 3 minutes or less.

I would also see kayakers use the boat ramp. It seems obvious. A kayak is a boat. It is called a boat ramp. I should put my kayak in the water utilizing the boat ramp. The problem is, we are slow. We carry our boat from our roof to the water line. Then go back to the car to get paddle, pfd, and whatever else we need. Then make another trip to park the car. Then we can finally get on the water once we put on paddle, and secure everything else. This never takes less than 10 minutes. If the person involved is a kayak fisherman it takes even longer. (I'm not knocking kayak fisherman, but you people have a lot of gear!)

What I suggest is this, find an area adjacent to the boat ramp with a beach like appearance, and stage your boat and gear there. It is courtesy not to block the ramp for an extended period of time, and it is also better for your boat, as the ramps are almost always concrete. Because they are concrete they are also usually slippery, and more than once I have slipped and fallen.

While the above reasons are valid, they aren't the best reason. The best reason is courtesy. We all want to get on the water and have a nice day, and if you can't get on the water because some kayaker is taking forever on the ramp, you are going to be in a foul mood. I don't want anyone on the water in a foul mood.

Another option is to do a dock launch. I don't really like them, but a lot of people do them all the time. It is something to think about, and there are times when you don't have an option, so it is a good skill to have.

I have a third option that is my favorite. I used it extensively when my boat lived on Long Island, New York. I kept in my truck a copy of the Gazetteer for New York. I spent a fair amount of time examining the coast line of Long Island looking for places where road, ran to, or along the water. I would then drive that road looking for an easy put in. It was crazy fun to explore dozens of small dirt roads and find a secret spot to put in. I would then highlite the put in so I had a quick reference for another time. Today we can do the same thing with Google earth or Google Maps. Boy do I miss that book. It was a great resource, and as much as I love digital maps, there is something about a paper map.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Goodnight Doug.

Yesterday we lost Doug Tompkins, founder of The North Face and Conservacion Patagonica in a kayaking accident in Patagonia. Doug spent the last 20 odd years of his life founding parks and protecting land in Patagonia. While renowned as a climber he was also a skilled Kayaker. There are few details as to how the accident happened - he was with a  group that is a veritable who's who of the outdoor world - but I am sure with time we will find out what happened.

I am saddened anytime someone dies in a kayak, but particularly someone who had such a big impact on the planet.

This is a good time to check out the film 180ยบ South which he is featured in prominently.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Water Treatment - "I'll just use drops"

Yesterday I heard that sentence. "I'll just use drops" she said. This is not a good sentence when you are advising someone on gear for an extended trip. There is a lot of misconceptions about water and water treatment for the backcountry. I would like to dispel some of them now, or...

Everything you wanted to know about water treatment for the backcountry but were afraid to ask!

What are we afraid of? If you are adventuring in North America, in regard to water, you have two things to worry about. Giardia, and Cryptosporidium. Both are intestinal parasites, that give you gastrointestinal distress, which can actually be life threatening. There are many ways to take care of these two water born nasties. Lets talk about how pervasive these are later. We will also talk about viruses in your water later.

You can outright kill them, with chemicals or ultraviolet light. Or you can remove with with some form of filtration. Here is a rundown on all three methods.

Chemicals: Drop a tablet or drops into a liter of water and wait, or create a solution of some sort, drop it in a liter of water and wait. this is the chemical method, but there are different types of chemicals for this process and they have varying degrees of success.

Iodine is the most common, and the least effective. It is cheap, which is why it is so common. Simply add it to your water, wait 30 minutes and you are good to go. Sort of. It only kills giardia. Cryptosporidium has a hard shell, that Iodine can't penetrate. DO NOT USE IODINE!

Chlorine or Chlorine Dioxide. These work well. They kill both Giardia, and Crypto, and depending on which you use, it can only take 30 minutes, but depending on the brand it may take up to four hours. MSR and Aqua Mira are the brands I look to, if I choose this method. NOLS uses Aqua Mira. Great product for long trips. Also kills viruses which we will talk about later.

UV Light: UV light systems made by steripen or camelback use light to kill giardia, crypto and viruses. It is quick, 60 to 90 seconds. It is theoretically effective. I have had chemists tell me when they do the same thing in a lab they use a much longer 'dwell time'. They don't understand how these devices can work in 90 seconds. There is also the problem that the water has to be clear. If there are floaties in the water, the light can't get to the things it is trying to kill. Which means you may be pre-filtering the water so the water is clear (though this could be as simple as a bandana or a coffee filter) Let's also not forget that they require batteries and electronic devices can break.

Then there is filtration. Filtration uses some form of pressure to force water through a material. This material has to have .2 micron holes or smaller, to allow water molecules to pass through without letting giardia and crypto pass through. Add something like charcoal, or carbon to the process and you also remove odors and flavors. Historically, this pressure was created by pumping. If you have been active in the outdoors for along time you know the Katadyne Hiker and Hiker Pro, as well as the MSR Waterworks, and MiniWorks. Later MSR released the Sweetwater which was smaller and faster then the other filters i have mentioned. All of the filters I have mentioned with the exception of the Waterworks is still in production.

All of these filters utilize some form of replaceable filter cartridge, so when you are shopping, think about how fast it filters a liter of water, how much it weighs and how long the filter cartridge will work. They are generally in the range of 1000 liters or 200 gallons.

About ten years ago people started to say they hated pumping water. It was hard work, and it was slow. Various companies released gravity fed systems, where you fill a bag with water, and hang it in a tree, and gravity forces it through a filter into a receptacle. No pumping, but they tended to be bigger and harder to pack.

Then about five years ago, we saw a big change. Sawyer and MSR released Hollow Fiber technology. Here is how hollow fiber works.

I am a big fan of Sawyer filters, I used them on both the Inside passage and the AGAP PWS trip, and we had exactly zero problems. I love the versatility of the sawyer squeeze and mini. They can be hand held, used in line with a reservoir. In a water bottle like a Lifestraw. Or you can turn it into a gravity system like we did. No filters to change, just periodic cleaning. An important thing to note, Hollow fiber technology doesn't get out odors and flavors. If your water tastes like poo, after filtering with hollow fiber, it will still taste like poo - but be safe to drink. We did experience this once in Alaska. We had questionable water as our only option. We drank it with a drink mix until we found better water.

The lifestraw is incredibly popular and it is also a terribly flawed product. It can really only be used as a straw, from either the water source or a water bottle (that is now contaminated with unfiltered water). It is popular because of amazing marketing, that went viral, much like the biolite stove, something that is also amazingly flawed. The lifestraw has lifespan of 200 gallons, versus 100,000 gallons for the sawyer mini or 1,000,000 gallons for the sawyer squeeze. The lifestraw costs 4 dollars less than the sawyer mini.

There is one thing I left out of this equation. Viruses. Viruses are even smaller than Giardia and Crypto, and historically have been hard to filter. Though every year there are more options for filtering viruses, as sawyer even makes a filter that will do it. Viral level filters tend to be harder to pass water through, as you have to pass it through an even smaller hole. It is important to note that Chlorine and Chlorine Dioxide both kill viruses and can be used in conjunction with a filter if you are in a location with questionable water. When water has been treated for viruses, it is referred to as purified. Filtered water still has the potential for viral infection, Purified water doesn't.

How common are viruses in our drinking water? Not very. At least in North America. If you are backpacking or paddling in North America it is a non-issue. While we are talking about how common things are, how common are Giardia, and Crypto? Great question, and there is no definitive answer.

In the 80's a hiking club decided to take it upon themselves to find out. They sent sterile water bottles to hiking clubs in all 50 states. Asked them to fill the bottle with water from a popular hiking destination in their area and send it back. They paid to have all the water tested. They found about a third of water was contaminated. This is a very unscientific test.

This doesn't mean, you don't have to filter your water. You absolutely should. Particularly considering how small, light, fast and inexpensive filters have gotten.

The final thing I want to talk about is this. I have heard many times "this filter doesn't work, because I used it, and the next morning I had diarrhea." This isn't a water filter problem, this is a hand washing problem. After going to the bathroom the person didn't practice good hand hygiene, and then ate dinner with their hands. Yuck, but all too common.

You probably won't see effects from Giardia or Crypto for 10 days. Both have to get into your digestive tract and have time to reproduce. Giardia is the slowest, 7 to 14 days. Crypto is technically listed as 1 to 14 days, but 7 to 10 is normal.

A couple of final questions I get asked:

"What about boiling?" Boiling works great. The water just needs to come to a full rolling boil - temp of 212F or 100C - you don't need to let it boil for X minutes. But it does use up fuel, and you have to wait for it to cool.

"What about bleach in my water?" Go for it. I don't know the ratio, like 3 drops per gallon, and 30 minutes? Find a reliable source online for the ratio.

"Can I cook with untreated water?" if you will be using high heat/it will have opportunity to boil, absolutely.

"if I shower in the backcountry do I have to use treated water?" No. Just keep your mouth closed. I would however brush your teeth with treated water.

I think that should cover it.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Kayaking Christmas 4 - The stocking stuffers!

Part two of the Christmas post season here at Paddling Otaku is the Stocking stuffer list. This is a less expensive list of little things for the kayaker in your life. It started in year one when someone complained about the $10,000 kayak on the list.  So here is a list of 10 items all for under $25.00

Safety is key and nothing says your loved one is important like apiece of gear that can literally save their life. In the previous list I mentioned first aid kits, and WFA classes, but here are another couple of items that can make a difference before and after something bad happens.

#1 - The Fox 40 Whistle. You can blow a whistle much longer than you can call for help, and this whistle is designed to be heard over great distances and isn't impeded by water. It should be on every PFD.  Get it in orange, for around $5, and while we are on the topic get them a rescue signal mirror also. Better to be prepared. 

#2 - After you have had something bad happen, you have helped rescuers find you by blowing your whistle, you have rendered aid with your First Aid Kit, and the skills you got from your WFA course, it is time write down all that happened to your patient and what interventions you took. We use the SOAP note format for that, and for decades we have done it on paper. No more, now you can do it with the Wilderness Medicine Institutes app, available here for free.

Two items that make any campsite more festive, particularly around the holiday seasons, #3 try the Eno Twilights for $19.95. Guaranteed to make any campsite more fun.

I also like #4 the Festy Flags from Eno, Also $19.95 which are kind of like tibetan prayer flags, which always look nice in a campsite. Maybe you should just get those! Available here for $14.95

A couple of other apps I couldn't live without, #5 Dark Skies is a micro weather app that gives very accurate (usually) very localized weather reports like "Rain stopping in 8 minutes, starting again in 22." Get it here for $3.99. If highly localized isn't right for the situation, how about just looking to see what is to the west with #6 the MyRadar weather App. This one is Free.

#7 Just as GoPro cameras are always on the list, I also have GoPro Batteries on the list. If you ask me they don't need to make the camera any smaller, just make the batteries bigger. In the mean time, stock up, they are only $20.00

#8 Coffee is key, right BeardedCanadian?! Those Yeti Mugs are getting hard to find, try this one. Yeti is what everyone is using. The cool people are using HydroFlask, add a closing sip lid for a few bucks more. Pair it with this for best cup of back country coffee you have every had.

Speaking of Snow Peak, do yourself a favor and just slide over to their website. They make the most amazing gear - I love this Titanium Sake cup. There is almost nothing one their site for under $25.00 but all their gear is amazing.

#9 I know I have mentioned this before, but Gordon Brown Sea Kayak for intermediate to Advanced paddlers is the best kayaking book on the planet. Bar none. I hope he is working on a second book. Get it here for around $15.00

#10 I don't have a link for, but encourage the person you are shopping for to do something epic. It is a skill builder, a confidence builder, and a story generator. Buy them maps of someplace cool - the IP, the UP, the OBX (lets see how many location specific abbreviations I can come up with!) On the East Coast go to Maine or PEI. Tell them to paddle safe and have fun. You could do this with non-kayaking picture books, or videos too.

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Ultimate Adventure Vehicle

For a long time I dreamed of the perfect adventure vehicle. I started rock climbing at 18, and I knew then I would spend a big portion of my life in the outdoors. I needed a vehicle that could get me where I needed to go with all my gear. I envisioned something like this.

But it turns out these aren't too practical. Hard to find. Generally in bad shape when you find them, and they require a lot of work. They are also expensive, and when you decide at an early age that the outdoors is going to occupy a large part of your life, there isn't a lot of money left over.

When I bought my first kayak I still lived in Manhattan. My boat lived at my sisters on long island. I needed a way to get myself out to the boat, and then the boat to the water. I settled on this.

If you squint at this blurry photo it looks a little like the land rover in the photo above it, but in reality it is a 1992 Isuzu Trooper. Everyone who rode in this truck loved it. It was inexpensive, reliable - with a pretty bad leak in the transmission - but it ran fine. It went everywhere, snow, sand, dirt roads to reach a put in. I loved this truck, and I died a little when its engine went. She was named Trucky by a dear friend, and is still referred to with affection.

There was a brief period with a Toyota forerunner. To give you an idea of how much we liked that truck, I have no photos of it. Everyone hated it. The last trip the forerunner made was to get my boats and my dog down to North Carolina. It literally died in the driveway, and not a single tear was shed.

I lived vehicle free for a few years, and didn't make a purchase until it was time to paddle the inside passage. I needed a way to get myself and my gear to Alaska.

Behold the Toyota Yaris. An unlikely candidate for the Ultimate Adventure Vehicle. It isn't four wheel drive, or have great road clearance. It was purchased for two things, a round trip to Alaska, and to get me to and from Wilderness First Aid classes. But over time, she has proven herself to be worthy the title. My son named her Yin - as in the white half of a Yin Yang. She is understated and quiet. Yin is featured pretty prominently in Paddle North - Episode 1

Paddle North - Episode 1 from Paddling Otaku on Vimeo.

This is her in Dawsons Creek, BC. with three boats on the roof on her second round trip to Alaska. She did those Alaska trips asking for little more than oil changes. Carrying gear for three, on a 4700 mile trip (one way!). Chugging up over the rockies and almost hitting a bear on the Alaskan Highway. She took a rock to the windshield on both trips. The crack is pretty annoying, but it is kind of like a scar. A road map of a well lived life. 

We drove into a hurricane to go kayaking at the coast last year, and she never complained. She told me on that trip it was time for new tires, her second set. Tires, oil and fuses are about the only maintenance she has taken - I tried to get the brakes done a while ago and my mechanic said "she doesn't need them yet!" The fuses are because I seriously overwork the power port in the dashboard, charging phones, cameras, radios and just about anything else I can think of. If you look closely, you will see three other Yaris's. Yin was such a hit my wife, and both grown children bought yaris's.

She is my office when I am teaching, keeping any amount of gear, for however many things I am teaching, safe and out of site - I prefer a trunk to a hatchback for visibility reasons. You don't know I have $1000 in paddles in the trunk but you would see them in the back of a hatch back.

This week she turned 100,000 miles. Thanks for everything Yin. Maybe when you hit 200K I will get you that new windshield.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Kayaking Christmas 4

I was too busy working last year to make Kayaking Christmas happen which is too depressing for words. This is one of my favorite posts to do each year - because when you get right down to it I am a gear head. So without further delay, here is your kayakers holiday wish list for this year. Listed from least expensive to most expensive.

I have become a huge fan of this Yoga Studio App - it doesn't replace taking a class but is wonderful when you want to practice alone. it is only $3.99 and worth every penny. If you aren't doing yoga already, start. It will dramatically increase your comfort in the cockpit - in both flexibility and strength.

I love sea to summit dry bags. Sorry Seal line, they stole me away. They did it subtly, with lower prices, a more diverse product line. Quality is great from both brands, but I prefer the selection from Sea to summit. They are awesome for paddling as well as hiking, or backpacking. Starting at $14.95

A first aid kit, any first aid kit. People don't like buying them for themselves, do it for them. I like the REI kits $24.50, but these are good too. When you are done with that, recommend that your loved one and paddling partners take a Wilderness First Aid course. Who knows, maybe I will be your instructor.

If you don't have a sawyer mini (or squeeze) you are missing the boat. 3 ounces, no filter replacements needed. Usable in just about any manner - inline, gravity fed, squeeze right into your mouth. A steal at $25.00

Headlamps are always on the list, and they are always Black Diamond, because Black Diamond just keeps upping the ante. This year they increased the Black Diamond SPOT to 200 lumens - which is a little ridiculous - and made it waterproof which was the reason I changed to the Storm. To make it even better it is still only $39.95. I will not paddle without a headlamp. You never know.

These wicked cool titanium chopsticks. okay, why chopsticks? A number of reasons, they slow your down when you are eating, which is good for your body and mind. I am also all about adding a layer of civilization to our outdoor adventures, and even if you are eating packaged ramen, when you eat those noodles with chopsticks it just makes the day seem better. $60.00

You slide up onto the beach, set up camp, and then create an amazing dinner. Dine like a civilized person - we're not backpackers after all! - and sit in a chair that keeps your bottom of the cold ground like the REI Flexlite chair $72.50, maybe even add a little table like this one.

SPOT Devices are FREE! Okay, not exactly. Spot is offering a rebate for the cost of device when you pay for a year of service. Tell your loved ones you don't want them to end up like this guy. $99.00 a year.

Want to chill around camp, maybe you're not ready to slide into your bag? Set up your eno doublenest with Atlas straps and enjoy the starry night. (Around $100 for both) - so there was this campsite in BC with an improvised rope hammock... amazing.

The Werner Camano (all carbon version) is the best, lightest, all-around paddle for touring kayakers. I like the kalliste, but prefer the Camano and it is less expensive to boot! $349.00

Another frequent visitor to this list is GoPro Cameras, and this year is no different. This time however I am not recommending the Hero 4 Black. Take it back a notch and go for the Hero 4 Silver $399.00, Amazing camera, and not too expensive. Unless you are a professional film maker, you don't need the 4k resolutions.

Pick any number of Goal Zero product, and they will help keep your phone, go pro, and whatever else you need charged. I swear by my Sherpa 50 and Nomad 13, but tech wise it is getting a little old. Now there is a Sherpa 100 and Nomad 20! Yikes, that should power just about anything you have in the field, just turn the phone off. We get out here to get some separation from our hectic lives. $599.00

Stay tuned for the less expensive Stocking stuffer list, coming soon.

And if this isn't enough, previous years lists are here, and here, one more here.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Pulling the Plug

I returned from Alaska, and the Alaskan Glacier Awareness Project over a year ago. In that time I spent a great deal of energy working on turning the 40 or gigabytes of video into a coherent film, that I could submit to film festivals.

At the moment I have a 28 minute rough cut, complete with music. I am fairly happy with the rough cut, and feel with two or three more passes I could have a fairly good finished project. We got some amazing photographs - which I have carefully kept off the internet (with one exception)- to add a layer of suspense to the film. The final step was finding a Glaciologist to look at our photos and tell us what we are seeing.

It took a while, but I finally found a glaciologist who would tell us what our photos said, and the answer is... Nothing.

It seems tidewater glaciers - which are glaciers that terminate (or end) in the water are incredibly complex. There are many factors that speak to the health of a glacier, and when that glacier terminates in the water it is even more complex. She said that when they study tidewater glaciers, they need to work with several other scientists at the same time. Oceanographers, geologists, meteorologists, etc, etc.

We spent so much time planning the expedition, we didn't think about talking to a scientist before we went, which in retrospect was really stupid. What we saw was this.

About half the glaciers were unrecognizable from their 1957 selves. But some seemed unchanged. We hoped a glaciologist would be able to tell us why that was, and they can, but the photos themselves don't tell the entire story. So with that in mind, I am pulling the plug on the film.

There is no doubt that the glaciers are unhealthy and dying, but our photos don't prove that. It is a much more complex situation. 

The footage will get used in some form, and it will be making appearances on this site. The photos will be finding there way to Instagram and Facebook soon.

Barry glacier from Paddling Otaku on Vimeo.

As you are looking at the transformation above, keep in mind the original photo was taken at the end of the season when it should have been the smallest. Our photos were taken in June when they should have been the largest.

I sincerely apologize to the people and sponsors that worked with us. You will continue to be spoken of highly on this site and in other social media, so for the record, a great contact at starbucks got us a ridiculous amount of coffee and other products for use on the trip (including a large gift card to keep us Caffeinated on the drive up and back). I also want to add, if you are driving through Minot, North Dakota, stop at this starbucks and find a guy named "Joosh". We are still talking about Joosh today.

Honestly, there is no other reason to stop in Minot. Sorry Minot, I call it as I see it. 

Another great supporter was Delta Kayaks, who got us our third boat, and they all - even the nearly destroyed by a forklift Delta Fifteen - performed amazingly. Like zero problems amazingly. I stand by my earlier comment that the Delta Seventeen is the best expedition kayak on the planet. Period. 

Our final sponsor was Lazy Otter Charters who comped us a month worth of parking in Whittier Alaska. If you are going to Prince William Sound, please look them up. They Also make great coffee!

The final supporters I need to thank are our Kickstarter Supporters. It is you that I feel I have let down the most. We set a small goal that we blew out of the water, and probably couldn't have done the trip without your help. 

If you donated to the trip, in any manner and you want a copy of my book, please send me an email and I will make that happen. 

A special thanks goes out to Adam Forgash, who was our largest kickstarter backer. He is a great photographer and becoming a great film maker. Thanks for your support Adam. 

Thank you so much to everyone who supported this trip, particularly my amazing wife who lets me undertake crazy things like this from time to time. Stay tuned for photos of the glaciers. And as always, thanks for your support.