Monday, July 9, 2012

How To: Loading a Backpack

Getting ready for the trail...
Loading your backpack properly is an essential skill that every hiker needs to learn. It helps you learn your gear and how to organize it in the best fashion for easy accessibility on the trail. The best thing you can do before you start is make your very own checklist of everything you want to bring/own. Having the list saved so you can print it each time makes it hard to forget those little items like bug spray or toilet paper. I always load my backpack for the trail at my house. Doing it this way allows you to lay all of your items out on your living room floor so you can see everything and prioritize.

The following are the parts of a typical pack:

The first thing most backpackers do is shove their sleeping bag down to the bottom of their bag. It depends on the size of your pack but I carry a large 3-4 day pack on all my ventures. I insert my sleeping into the bottom vertically and then place my sleeping bag above that. These are my heaviest items. An important note is that you want to put your heaviest items near the center of your back and close to your spine. Another thing to remember is that the stuff at the bottom of your bag should be things you probably won't need until your at the campsite. After I insert these two items I put some clothes at the bottom of the pack. You want to have your heavy items ABOVE the hip belt to ensure your carrying your load on your hips and not your back/shoulders. Next, I insert items around my sleeping bag and tent to keep them from shifting around. Ensure you load the weight evenly on both side. The ensures one side isn't heavier than the other. After I load these items I load the more akward items like tent poles, crampons, or tent stakes. It is very import that all these items be protected so they don't puncture your pack. I usually wrap a pair of sweat pants or a shirt around the ends so this doesn't happen.

The last items I load are my “most used” items. This could include things like a map and compass, snacks, water, or a knife. You want to put these in a side compartment or top lid compartment for easy accessibility.

Lastly, it's important to remember that you won't pack your backpack perfectly the first time. You may realize you want access to one item sooner than expected and end up moving it closer to the top next time your head for the trail. You will adapt your packing techniques over several trial runs as you learn your gear. If it's your first time with a new pack or heavier gear practice carrying it around the mall or take it on shorter day hikes. This helps you get the “feel” of the pack before your long trip and see how it's going to impact your body. It's to late if you realize a day into a week long trip that your overloaded. Your pack should be an extension of you and feel like it move easily with you.

Got a packing tip that helped you save room or time? Like to put a change of socks at the top of your pack or maybe you carry your tent on the outside? Let me know what you think in the comments section.

Learn. Explore. Survive.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Rattlesnake Ledge - July 8th 2012

An Outstanding Day Hike...

Today, I headed out for a much needed delve into the wilderness. A friend of mine, Ben Shapiro, wanted to head out to Rattlesnake Ledge in South Bend, WA. All in all there were three of us who headed out, Ben Shapiro, Jesus Cantu, and myself. Late last night to agreed on going on the trip. I packed my backpack for a day hike. I didn't know much of the area when I agreed to go. We left early, around 7 AM, to beat the heat of the day. When we arrived I looked up at the ridge from the parking lot and was in awe of its size. It seemed much larger than what I expected and higher.
Rattlesnake Ledge from the parking lot.

 We reached the trailhead in a matter of minutes from the parking lot. The trail is incredibly well maintained. The trail is a decent climb, all three of us are in good shape and it was tiring. We started up around 8:30 and arrived and at the top of the ledge at about 9:45. The ledge itself offer amazing views of the surrounding area. We took some time on the ledge to rest before we decided to head for the Eastern Peak. The Altitude on the ledge was around 2100 feet. It was a steep rise from the parking lot below that lay at 900 feet. The eastern peak was another 2.4 miles up hill and was a rise to 3500 feet. We didn't know much about the peak but hoped it offered views comparable to the ones at Rattlesnake Ledge. It was early in the day so we decided to press on. The trail leading to the East Peak had FAR less traffic than the trails leading to Rattlesnake Ledge. We arrived at the Peak rather quickly. The trail leading up was more narrow than the earlier trails. When we arrived I was surprised that the views weren't that great. There was one sitting area that was occupied the entire time we spent at the Peak. There is an old radio tower located at the peak. We decided to climb the ladder leading up the tower to get better views for the camera. The structure is old and is easily 100 feet tall. You can only access the ladder as the top is locked. Jesus Cantu was the brave one that went up to check. I was to nervous to climb all the way up but went up far enough to see over the tree line. We decided ,after a nice rest, that we would head back down and stop at the ledge to get some more pictures since the sun was higher in the sky. We ran back down the trail quickly and cut our ascent time by nearly two thirds. We arrived back at the ledge and decided to look around. Jesus Cantu and I explored the cliff and surrounding areas to find a more direct path down that was “off the beaten path.” Most of the ledge was either an incredible drop or was to steep to attempt. Eventually we found an area that looked decent. Ben decided to take the trail since he had hurt his ankle earlier in the day and Cantu and I decided to take the more direct path. We headed back to the area we thought was manageable and started down. We went through what seemed to be an eroded trench where the melted water flowed during the spring. We descended extremely quickly since the side was steep in parts. Soon we broke into the forest treeline and found a “path” that led into the woods and back towards the lake. We climbed down and met the original trail trail when we were about 400 feet above the lake. We found another “path” at this point and quickly arrived at the lake. It took us roughly 20 minutes to descend the 1,200 feet to the lake from the ledge. We were worn out when we arrived and decided to take off our boots to give our feet a rest. We went into the lake to wash the sweat away and cool off. The water was amazingly cool after the long hike and it felt amazing. We got out after a few minutes and took some time to relax in the shade of a tree before departing. All in all the hike was nice and steady and offered an amazing spot to relax at after the hike.

View from the ledge.
Whats your favorite post-hike activity? Swimming, sun bathing, or maybe some napping with ice?
Let me know what you think in the comments section.

Learn. Explore. Survive.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Understanding Hypothermia

Hypothermia is a a real threat that faces everyone who enters the wilderness and it can manifest itself at any time. Hypothermia is underestimated by many hikers and many of those hikers fall for common myths associated with hypothermia. A few myths about hypothermia are as follows:

One myth is that a quick drink of alcohol will quickly warm a hypothermic person. The truth is that alcohol actually dilates the blood vessels causing a "warming" feeling but also causes accelerated heat loss.

Another myth is that you can develop hypothermia in a matter of minutes if the circumstances are right. The truth is that even a victim that falls into an icy lake would have up to 30 minutes before they developed hypothermia.

Myths like these could potentially derail any first aid efforts in the wilderness. It is important that everyone understands the early warning signs of hypothermia to help prevent a life threatening condition miles from help.

Hypothermia is generally described as a state in which the body's mechanism for temperature regulation is overwhelmed in the face of a cold stressor. Hypothermia is broken down into several categories and degrees including, intentional and accidental, primary and secondary, and by the degree of hypothermia.

IntentionalIntentional Hypothermia is used in the medical field to slow down the body during a trauma.

Accidental Accidental Hypothermia is the most common form of hypothermia and is typically caused by an unanticipated exposure by an unprepared person. Examples of accidental hypothermia include being caught in a winter storm, inadequate shelter in the wilderness, or even getting exposed to rain in a mild environment.

SecondarySecondary Hypothermia is generally not experienced by hikers since it is caused by an underlying illness that lowers the bodies core temperature.

PrimaryPrimary Hypothermia is caused by exposure to the environment and not an underlying illness.

It is important to note that even severe hypothermia can be reversed so the early recognition of warning signs will help prevent a medical emergency.

Moderate Hypothermia: Symptoms of mild hypothermia may be vague and can be easily overlooked. The following symptoms may occur:

  • Shivering
  • Rapid Pulse
  • Rapid Breathing (20+ breaths a minute)
  • Mental confusion
  • Cold or pale skin
  • Tiredness

Moderate Hypothermia: In moderate hypothermia symptoms become more pronounced and visible. It is important to get the victim warm immediately if any of the following symptoms occur.

  • Violent, uncontrollable shivering (at lower temperatures shivering may stop since the body can no longer produce heat)
  • Unable to concentrate on normal tasks
  • Loss of judgement (Some people try to push on since they stop shivering)
  • Increased drowsiness
  • Slurred speech
  • Slow, shallow breathing

Severe Hypothermia: Medical attention should be requested immediately if a state of severe hypothermia has been reached. A severe hypothermic person may appear to be dead but may be in a deep state of severe hypothermia.

  • Unconsciousness (Comatose)
  • Shallow or no breathing
  • Weak, irregular or no pulse
  • Dilated pupils

Treatment of Hypothermia: These treatments should never be used over actual medical treatment when available and should only be used in an emergency.
  • Insulate the ground
  • Get into pre-warmed sleeping bags
  • Start a fire to warm up near
  • Drink warm liquids with sugar (sugars help fuel shivering to warm the body)
  • Apply heat to neck, armpits, and groin (Use warm rocks or water bottles, warm but not hot to the touch)
  • Skin to skin contact with a warmer person (Get inside a sleeping bag together)
  • Seek medical treatment

Hypothermia is a life threatening condition that should always be taken seriously. Always seek medical attention no matter how confident you are about your state of hypothermia. Anyone in any weather condition can be sent into a hypothermic state. Always stop and address your situation regardless of your destination or plans. A comprehensive understanding of hypothermia could be the difference between life or death. I hope everyone takes the time to learn about hypothermia before adventuring into the wilderness. Learning the fundamentals of hypothermia can help you explore your surroundings safely, ensuring that survive another day.

Learn. Explore. Survive.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Family Outing to Boulder River Trail

Waterfall at our campsite.

I recently visited Boulder River Trail  with my daughter, Elizabeth, and loving wife, Ashley. It was our first family outing and we planned to stay overnight at the end of the trail. We started pretty early on a Saturday morning and arrived on the trail with plenty of time to make it to the end. The drive in was a bit rough because the road was full of potholes. The trail is supposed to be good for small children.

 My daughter is two years old and had an alright time walking on the trail and she listened well. We had to pick her up in various spots but all in all she was able to walk easily. The elevation gain was more than I had expected in certain areas. We moved slowly on the way in so we could enjoy the wilderness and our trip together. We reached the first set of waterfalls that were just off the trail quickly. It was an amazing set of waterfalls that flowed right into Boulder River. Boulder River follows the trail most of the time. My wife was having a bit of trouble with the trail since she has a knee problem so we agreed that we would set up camp at the first available spot. I was extremely proud of how well she did with her knee and how well she did on her first time. The first camping area was about a mile in on the trail, so it could easily be reached with small children. The camping area is directly in front of the second waterfall, which is four times larger than the first waterfall. It was an amazing camping spot on the trail, one of the best ones I've seen in quite sometime. Once we set up camp and pitched the tent I attempted to make a fire. The area was saturated from earlier snow and intermittent rain in the week prior to our arrival. I tried my hardest and was unsuccessful at keeping a fire going. There just wasn't enough dry wood in the area. I put out the small batch of coals that had formed from my attempt. I made some food on my stove and went into the tent with my wife and daughter to eat. The sun was on its way down and it was going to set in a couple hours. My wife was already cold and I was having trouble keeping her and my daughter comfortable. It was their first time in the wilderness so it was understandable that they weren't used to the weather. My wife and I made the decision to leave before the sun set since she wasn't comfortable. Even though I really wanted to stay I had to do what was best for my family. I wasn't upset that we had to leave since I knew my wife had given it her best. It important to remember that you always have to do what is best for the team and you may not always reach your goal. Even though it didn't go as planned I still had an amazing trip with my family that I will always remember while I'm on future hikes. 

I hope everyone has the opportunity to get out with their family this year.
My daughter riding on my backpack on the way out.
Elizabeth and Ashley as we enter the trail.

Learn. Explore. Survive.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

How To: Bug-Out Bag

A bug-out bag is a portable kit that contains the items one would require to survive for seventy-two hours when evacuating from a disaster. The point of the bug-out bag is that it is used to evacuate and not used as a long term survival tool. The bug-out bag also has been called the 72 hour pack, GOOD (Get Out Of Dodge), or the PERK (Personal Emergency Reloaction Kit). It is used to carry everything you would need to survive for 48-72 hours but with basic survival skills you could use it as a supplement and survive for much longer if you had to.

When designing your own bug-out bag you should consider your local environment, your skills, who you'll support, and other various details unique to only your situation. You want to customize this bug-out bag for you since your the one who will have to use it. It is also important to put you bag to the test by testing it on the trail or druing a mock evaluation. This helps your identify weaknesses in your bug-out bag.

Alot of people design thier bug-out bags using large duffel bags that can be transportsedwhile they excape in thier vehicle. I personally don't like this idea since there is always a chance that your car won't be available and your limited by fuel range. I personally like the option of using a typical backpacking backpack or similiar military pack from a gun store. It allows me the comfort of knowing that I can carry my pack as far as my legs will take me.

What you will bring in your bug-out bag is different what I'd bring in mine but the following is my recommended list for what I'd bring in the Washington State Area or United States Pacific Northwest.

Fire Making:
For this catagory you want to bring everything that would be needed to hep support fire making.


In this catagory you want everything you would need to boil water, carry water, and sterilize it. It is recommended that you bring 1 gallon of watrer per person per day.


This area requires that you bring everything you'd need to establish a shelter and everything needed for sleeping.
  • Backpacking Tent
  • Tarp for emergency shelter and to protect your tent
  • Tent Repiar Kits
  • Sleeping bags equal to the areas weather
  • 40-50 of 550lb paracord
  • Duct Tape Roll


You need to ensure you can navigate you desired excape route so great detail must be put into planning your route and ensuring you have a back up routes as well. Also, it is importtant to practice your routes so you don't get lost. It may seem easy to follow on your map but the execusion might not go off as planned and you don't want that to happen during an emergency.

  • Maps of your local city area
  • Topographic maps if you heading to the wilderness
  • Compass
  • GPS (may not work during an emergency but always good to have.)


A base set of clothes is a great start here that way if you can add to it during an emergency. Carry everything you'd need to stay dry and warm.

  • Wool socks (will still be warm even when wet)
  • Beanie or Hat
  • Gloves
  • Pants and shirts (not cotton since it takes all long time for it to dry)


Personal protection is always a personnal choice when choosing what to bring but I recommend some basics since during a emergency situation normal people could act quite crazy to be frank. People riot after teams win championships so it's not impossilbe to think that this will happen in an emergency.

  • Pepper Spray (Used to fend off less agressive individuals)
  • Fixed blade Survival Knife
  • Multi-tool
  • Gun (Carry extra ammo and a cleaning kit)
  • First Aid Kit with medication
  • Whistle to signal rescuers

Miscelaneous Items

The catagory covers anything that should be brought that doesn't fit into one of the main catagories.

  • SD Card with pictures of important documents (Social Security Cards, Birth Cetificates, Etc)
  • Toilet Paper
  • Cash (power may not be avaialable so bank cards will be useless)
  • Crank Operated Radio / Battery Operated
  • Flashlight or lanterns with extra batteries
  • Standard ID's (Drivers Liscence, Military ID, or the equivalent)

It's important to remember to bring everything you would need for your child or pet as well. Remember when building your bug-out bag that you can't take everything but you need to bring only what you'd need to survive for 72 hours using no outside support. What would you bring in your bag that might not be listed above?

Learn. Explore Survive.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Tree Identification Guide

Pacific Northwest Tree Identification Guide

I've compiled information on trees within the Pacific Northwest and made it into an easy to read PDF file. You can use this in the field if you upload it to your phone, ipod, or ipad. Its covers over 20 trees in the Pacific North West area. Knowing these trees could help you in a survival situation. Feel free to share this with your friends. I hope it helps you during your adventures.

Learn. Explore. Survive.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

How To: Fire Building Materials

In this brief discussion I'll explain the three essential materials needed for any wilderness fire: Tinder, Kindling, and Fuel.

1. Tinder

 Tinder is the most important material needed to ensure your fire started the way it should. For tinder you want to find dry leaves, grass, bark, moss, or paper. Your tinder must be completely dry since it needs to light with just an ember or spark. Spend a good amount of time gathering enough tinder to get a good start. Once you're ready to start you want to break up the material as much as possible so you have a lot of surface area. You want to make a tinder ball to catch your spark or ember so you can blow it into flame. A good tip is to collect tinder as your hike and put it inside your coat so it drys before you get to camp.

2. Kindling

Kindling is the next material you need to have on stand by. Kindling consists of small twigs and sticks. They should be no bigger than your pinky in width. You can also use wood chips from larger pieces of wood if dry twigs aren't available. Once your tinder ball ignites you want to start adding kindling to it. Start slow so you don't put out your fire. You want to have a lot of kindling ready before you start so you can get your fire started. Once you get enough kindling burn your coals will build up and your fire will produce a lot more heat. Start with the smallest kindling you have and move up until you get to the next martial: Fuel.

3. Fuel

The final material used in fire making is fuel. This material is one of the most important when it comes to sustaining your fire. Fuel should be around the size of your wrist or bigger so that it burns slower but also burns completely. If you use larger logs make sure your rotate them so they burn evenly and completely. A good source of fuel are dead trees, look for those along your path to camp. If you want to keep your fire going all night make sure you have enough fuel to make it through the night. The worst thing to do in a survival situation is for you to head out at night and leave your partner. Even the most experienced backpackers can get lost in familiar areas at night.

The time spent gathering and preparing materials will determine how successful your fire is. The more time your spend at the beginning will offer the greatest pay off in the end. 

Learn. Explore. Survive. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

How To: Double Layer Paracord Survival Bracelet

Double Layer 550lb. Paracord Survival Bracelet\

In this how to I'm going to show you how to make a Double Layer 550lb Paracord Survival Bracelet. With this bracelet you can easily carry an extra 15-20 feet of 550lb Paracord for emergencies. The following tools and materials are needed:

1.  (2) 10 Foot Lengths of Paracord (different colors if you want contrast like the one above.)
2.  Scissors or Knife
3.  Lighter

Step 1: Cut 10-12 feet of paracord depending on the size of your wrist. If you worried, it's always better to have to much. Once you cut it, use the lighter to burn the ends of the paracord so it doesn't fray. You can smooth the ends out while its still hot so you don't get giant blobs on the ends. WARNING:  Melted paracord is hot, smooth the ends with quick motions or use gloves.

Picture A

Step 2: Double up the paracord and measure your wrist with it. You should be able to loop it around your wrist and then fit 3 fingers under the band. Cut and burn the ends once you've measured it. Now tie a knot in the end of the paracord like in photo "A".  An easy way to be safe is leave extra to the right of the knot so you can loosen later if it to tight.

Step 3: Loop the first color around the backside of the wrist piece you made. 

 Step 4: Pass the left side under the wrist piece.

 Step 5: Pass the right piece under the left piece, over the wrist piece and then pass it through the loop on the left side. 

Step 6: Tighten the knot around the wrist piece to secure it. Leave about 1/4 - 1/2 inch from the top knot so it can swivel and secure correctly at the end.

Step 7: Now your going to make a knot on the right side so you can alternate the pattern. Pass the right line under the wrist piece. Then pass the left piece under the right piece, over the wrist piece and through the left loop. Tighten the knot.

Step 8: Continue alternating the pattern and stop once you get close to the end. Repeat steps 3-7 to get to the end. If you forget which side loop you just did just look for the lowest side loop (as seen in the left picture) and that's the side you just did so you need to start on the opposite.  Once you finish cut off any extra and burn the ends on the bracelet to prevent fraying. Again, push them in while still hot to smooth them.

Step 9: Repeat step 3-8 with the other color, just add it over the first layer. Once you get to the end of the second color and burn the ends just like before. Once you've finished the entire bracelet, size it one more time and adjust your knot so it fits to your liking and the cut off the extra and smooth it. 

Congratulations, You've Completed Your Survival Bracelet.

This bracelet will help ensure you always have rope when you need it. You don't even need to remember to pack it. This will help you survive the worst. Feel free to leave comments and thoughts on how to improve your survival bracelet. 

Learn. Explore. Survive. 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Gear Review 2: Storm Proof Matches

REI Stormproof Matches, Coleman Waterproof Camp Matches, UCO Stormproof Match Kit (Left to Right)

I chose stormproof matches for my next review since they are an excellent addition to anyone's pack. I reviewed three popular brands at home, Coleman Waterproof Matches, REI Stormproof Matches, and UCO Stormproof Matches. All three matches advertise that they will light even after being submerged in water. The following are my thoughts on each match set:

Coleman Waterproof Matches:

Strikers: The strikers on the side of the box are the only ones that come with the Coleman. Once your box becomes wet the strikers become utterly useless. Even when they're not wet the strikers feel very cheap.

Matches: The matches themselves are just as cheap and made of extremely flimsy wood. Also, the matches are stored loose inside the box just like a normal box of matches. This offers no protection from submersion or heavy rain.

Burn Test: During the burn test I was less than impressed by the burn time. During serveral burn tests the aveage burn time was 18.4 seconds even when I let the flame burn the etire match. Also, the flame produced was very small compared to the other two matches.

Submersion Test: In my submersion test I placed the matches in water for 15 minutes to see if they would light after heavy saturation. The coleman failed miserbly with this test. The tip turned to muddy match dust then just streaked acorss the striker when attempting to light it. 4 out of 4 matches failed to light and 2 of them borke in half from the cheap wood obsorbing water.

Overall: Honestly,  I wouldn't trust Coleman waterproof matches any more than I would trust normal matches in a wet enviroment. I wouldn't recommend these matches to anyone who is serious about a reliable fire producing backup.

REI Stormproof Matches:

Strikers: The match box comes with two strikers on the side just like a normal match box. It also came with 4 spare strikers in waterproof sealed plastic bags. The side strikers are thicker and of better quality than the coleman but would most likely fail if wet. If it wasnt for the extra strikers, the REI would leave you in the same situation as the Coleman.

Matches: The matches are signifcantly better qaulity than the Coleman. These matches are thick and made of qaulity materials and the burning portion allows for longer burn times and bigger flames. The matches themselves are stored in a non-sealed plastic bag inside the box to help safeguard them from moisture.

Burn Test: The burn test was successful with the REI matches, offering larger flames and a longer burn time than the Coleman. The average burn time for the REI match was 25.1 seconds.

Submersion Test: I submerged the REI match for 15 minutes and it lit easily and quickly with little problems. I submerged another match for 30 minutes and it acted just as the Coleman did at 15 minutes, turning into mushy dust when I attempted to strike it.

Overall: The REI stormproof match is a good match compared to the other matches. My only issue is that its not completely stormproof since the matches aren't in a sealed bag. These matches will survive a downpour but not a fall into the river.

UCO Stormproof Matches:

Strikers: The strikers are almost identical to the REI matches as they come in a fully sealed plastic bag. The only diference is the UCO strikers can be installed on the case and removed so they can be stored safely inside the case when not in use.

Matches: Again, the matches are identical to the REI stormproof matches. The matches are made of sturdy wood with a long burning tip. The only difference is that they are stored inside a 100% waterproof case that keeps them dry no matter how much water they're introduced to.

Burn Test: In the burn test the UCO was the best performer out of the three. It had a significantly larger flame than any other match. It had a slightly shorter burn time than the REI match at 24.9 seconds.

Submersion Test: The UCO acted exactly like the REI match test. It lit easily at 15 minutes but failed at 30 minutes. In the end the UCO matches are stored inside the waterproof case and would only be exposed to water for short durations.

Overall: The UCO stormproof match is a bright burning, exceptional match. It has a large, long burning flame that helps ensure your fire is started easily.

The Final Descision:

The best match out of the three is the UCO Stormproof Match. All three matches are under $6 and at that price the UCO matches is the best choice. For $6 dollars you get a waterproof case that keeps all your components dry. The removable striker pads are a plus as well so you can save them from the rain. Also the matches are sturdy and reliable even when wet. I would recommend this match set to everyone, this is a great choice for any survialist.

Learn. Explore. Survive.

Used these products before, feel free to leave your thoughts.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Gear Review 1: Primus Classic Trail Stove

The Primus Classic Trail Stove is an inexpensive and versatile stove. At a low price of $30.00 it easily lives up to the standards set by stoves twice its' price. I've used this from 1,500' to 6,000' and from 5°F – 80°F with no issues. I've been using this stove for over a year and would continue to use it for years to come. The stove is lightweight, weighing only 8oz and measuring a mere 5" x 2.26" fully assembled. It uses a unique blend of fuel known as Isobutane-Propane. This type of fuel comes in primarily two sizes of canisters 4oz or 8oz. These fuel canisters are inexpensive as well, costing about $4.00 or $5.00 respectively. I personally carry two 8oz canisters during 3-day backpacking trips. I use them for all my cooking as well as boiling all my water while on the trail. The stove is rated to boil 6.8 liters of water per 100 grams of fuel. The 4oz canister has 113 grams of fuel and the 8oz has 227 grams of fuel. This translates to about 7 liters of water boiled for the small canister and about 15 liters of water for the large canister. The average person needs 3 liters of water daily to stay fully hydrated. I personally have survived with less but always try to keep as hydrated as possible. One small canister would be enough for two days if you don't use it for cooking. I use 8oz canisters only because they are only $1.00 more and carry twice the fuel. An important note about the stove is that its says it only works with Primus canisters but they are hard to come by in the Pacific Northwest. I use MSR canisters because of their availability. Also, nearly all Isbutane-Propane canisters on the market today have universal threads. Another note is that this type of fuel is recommended for 5,000 an lower and also 32°F or higher. A way to help keep your canisters warm is to throw them in your sleeping bag once your camp is set up.

The MSR canisters (8oz and 4oz right/left)

I conducted an experiment on boiling times at home using 16oz, 1 liter, and 2.5 liters of water. The water was 45°F in all three tests to ensure uniformity. Below are the listed boiling times:

4.7 L cooking pot w/ 2.5 liters of water – 16 minutes 22 Seconds

1.4 L cooking pot w/ 1 liter of water – 7 minutes 40 seconds

18 Oz titanium mug w/ 16 Oz of water – 4.25 seconds

Its important to note that you should test different pots that fit what you need because the times will change depending on the type of metal, thickness, and color.

The stove has excellent stability because it has a cross section on the top, just be sure you put your can on something stable. It doesn't have auto-ignition like your grill does so a flame of any kind must be used to light it. Once lit you can control your boil rate easily by just turning the stove up or down using the side knob.

The stove is also excellent for the beginner because of its easy cleaning and maintenance. Here is a link to my dis-assembly video. Other than a small O-ring in the bottom of the stove, the rest is solid metal making it nearly fool proof.

All in all this stove is quick to set-up and highly efficient for it price and size. I would recommend this stove to anyone. I hope you enjoy your Primus Classic Trail Stove as much as I do.Feel free to add your experiences with the stove in the comments section. What's your favorite outdoor stove?

Learn. Explore. Survive.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Conquering West Fork Foss Trail #1064

West Fork Foss Trail #1064

I knew from the day I walked out of the Alpine Lake Wilderness that I would return to see it through. Again, I took the time and planned ahead, reading trail and weather reports. I invested in new gear, an inflatable mattress, a warmer sleeping bag, and an inflatable pillow just to name a few. I was prepared and I was determined. I planned my trip in mid August, nearly six months after my initial trip to the same wilderness. It was later in the season so I was worried that I might have missed something. This would be my longest and highest trip to date. My plan was to make it the distance to Big Heart Lake and then climb one of the highest ridges in the area which sat at 5,359 feet. That would put me some eight hundred feet above Big Heart Lake. My buddies and I set out early on a Friday with the same plan as before, head in and pack out on Sunday. There were three of us Ben Shapiro, Mark Mitchell, and myself. We got to the road leading to trail head once more but instead of snow we had clear roads and good weather. We made it to the trail head with no resistance. Once we got out and threw our packs on I saw that the trail was exposed and easy to follow. A few minutes into the trail we met the river and saw the trail end. We looked around and found some surveyors tape leading to a new crossing since a bridge was out. A downed tree crossed the river and had become a natural bridge. Once we crossed the bridge we continued on and found the trail again with no issues. It seemed like an eternity but we eventually reached Trout Lake.

Trout Lake
Realizing how far we'd come, I knew how far we'd been off on our first trip. We stopped for a brief breather at Trout Lake to take in our surroundings and check the map on our location. Our next stop was Copper Lake, from the topographic lines I could tell that we were in for a climb with an abrubt altitude change over a short distance. We decided we'd rest once we reached Copper Lake since we'd be at about half at that point. We set out towards Copper Lake and very shortly discovered what we were truly in for, switchback after switchback. It was difficult, like climbing stairs for miles with forty pounds of gear strapped to your back. It was an amazing experience but it was exhausting. Half way up we ran into openings in the woods ewhere we could see a huge waterfall. The waterfall, from our best guess, had to be hundreds of feet tall. 
Waterfall seen through the trees
We made the waterfall our goal since we knew we were going to the top of it. The woods continued to play tricks on us bringing us close to the waterfall then back away from it. It made us think we were getting closer than we actually were. After a few hours of climbing we reached the top of the waterfall and we were beat down. 
Me at the top of the waterfall

We continued on after a brief stop at the waterfall and continued to our designated rest stop at Copper Lake. We arrived in a few minutes and stopped Copper Lake. We adressed our situation at this point since the sun was low in the sky. Our knees and backs were tired and sore but we wanted to get as far as possible. We looked at the map again and saw Little Heart Lake was close and we would make that the stop for the night. A slight climb stood between Copper Lake and Little Heart Lake that we were dreading. The rest stop filled me with determination that quickly faded as my joints ached as I climbed up to Little Heart Lake. We passed a few people who were heading out that said we were extremely close which fueled my determination. I passed an old couple which made me really push foreward, if they could make it so could I. We caught the river between Copper Lake and Little Heart Lake and knew we were close. Soon Little Hear Lake came into view and it was amazing. We found a suitable location and set up camp for the night. After being there for bit we realized that the mosquitoes were going to be a problem. They were fierce and relentless since they were multiplying in the puddles of stagnant water all around us. We made a fire that kept them at a distance. We retired to our tents for the evening and woke up early Saturday refreshed and ready to trek the remaining distance. Once we headed back on the trail we ran into our worst nightmare, snow. The trail faded into oblivion and snow took its place. We made a choice at that point to map and compass our way to Big Heart Lake since we were close. We trekked through the unforgiving snow and made it to Big Heart Lake with little trouble. Once we arrived we realized good camping sites were few and far between. We saw a nice ridge directly next to the downslop to the lake as our only opportunity. There was already an older couple close to it so we made sure we asked if they minded our presence and they had no problem with it. Our old friends the mosquitoes quickly returned. I put on as many protective layers as i could and rolled a beenie down over my neck. We set up our camp for the night and ate some food to rejuvenate our systems. We then set our sites on the ridge, our true goal. We had brought some cheap box wine, enough for each of us to have a cup, with us for a celeabration at the top. We packed some food into smaller packs and brought water just incase. We headed out for the top of the ridge. The whole way was covered in snow and there was no trail to follow. We climbed over rocks and ledges in favour of the longer ways around. It took us nearly an hour of climbing but we reached the top. It was worth the climb as we sat "on top of the world" with our box wine. It was an amazing backpacking trip, the next day we packed up and hiked out. Even though it was a success I still learned a few lessons like bringing insect repellent. In the end we were safe and moved together as a team. We took the time to learn and explore so we survived and returned home with no injuries. It's up to you to make sure you make your decisions wisely and safely. 

Ben Shapiro enjoying his celebratory wine

 What's a sensible item like insect repellent that you've learned to never leave home without? Leave a comment.

Learn. Explore. Survive.

Composite image of Big Heart Lake as seen from the ridge, 800 feet above the lake