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