Wednesday, April 27, 2022

HEET: It's not just for cars!

HEET it's not just for cars. If you're bikepacking in Vermont or the Adirondacks finding stove fuel might not be easy due to lack of towns, stores and service hours in the Adirondacks and the bucolic nature of Vermont just not having many large towns that you generally plan to bikepack through.  Isobutane (MSR, Snow peak, Jetboil, etc) also are often out of stock even in sprawling metropolitan areas and suburban big box stores. 

It's also tough to cook like a gourmet chef while bikepacking because it's essentially ultralight backpacking. Just add water is about as gourmet as it gets if you aren't eating at a restaurant or -more often usually- a gas station or hopefully fast food. For this reason an alcohol stove makes the most sense. Just one setting: high. Six minutes to boil a half liter. Super compact, light, cheap (you can even make one yourself from a soda can) nothing to break. 

Most importantly (and the reason for this post) is fuel is easy to find at any gas station in America. HEET is always available at gas stations, convenience stores, big box stores, grocery stores, hardware stores. HEET is cheap, burns clean, and it's sold in a size you can manage to use on a route. It only takes 1 minute more to boil 16oz using HEET over denatured alcohol but every Stewarts shop in Vermont and the Adirondacks stocks it. You'll always have a hot meal and coffee or a cuppa.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Tarps are Integral to Camping Enjoyment

Independence weekend camping setup

The lowly polyethylene tarp, not as popular as an Ez-up or as cool as a nylon parawing. But on a rainy weekend absolutely dry and makes rain nothing more than an afterthought. The plastic tarp is a perfect example of function over form. I used to think these were trashy but it's really all in the setup. I noticed most people using poly tarps sort of last minute buy them with no knowledge, plan, poles or sometimes even proper line. I own a nice wing and a nice rectangular silnylon tarp that I take backpacking and canoe camping, but I realized that nice nylon (and don't even think about silnylon) aren't really designed for the rigors of car camping or even paddle in and camp (vs paddle and portage) canoe camping.  Rigors? Being packed wet, sitting in the sun for days on end, and just generally no need for a light packable tarp unless you are using Smart car as your vehicle. 

Colvin in Dolly Sods Wilderness. It mostly rained overnight on us, but the gear pile was completely dry under the well setup silnylon tarp. We only had to spend about an hour under it over 3 days. 

You will miss out on your friends commenting how nice your MSR or even Kelty Noah's tarp is compared to the brown heavy duty polyethylene (every time I pull out the Noah's Parawing, people comment on it and it's all of $70 new), but unless they are paying you to replace it every year (depending how often your camp, and if you camp infrequently enough it doesn't matter save the money and buy a plastic tarp), just shell out $50 for 2 polys once every 5-10 years. In fact, you can buy enough polys, high strength/low stretch cord, and tarp poles to cover the biggest site in the world for less than the cost of one big backcountry tarp (before poles). 
Enjoying the fire from the cover of the tarp. In total we had 22x10ft of coverage. Including access to the fire. 

While I am a big fan of the ridge line for a lot of reasons, it's not the only setup. The big advantage of the ridge line is its like a cordalette/webolette in climbing, it gives you a master point to work off. With proper line you can hang clothes, lanterns and even multiple tarps stacked (shingled) across a site or multiple tarps separate. I highly recommend learning about climbing pulley systems. Sure you can buy some cam straps or some friction devices. But a 2:1 or 3:1 system or even a simple munter with MMO will get your ridgeline ultra tight. You can do all this with some quick links or the cheapest (real) caribiners you can find. No need for a ton of gear. You don't need pulleys or progress capture devices. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Spring 2017: Whitewater Paddling and Camper Van Build

It's been a busy Spring, not so much on the water, where I was hoping we'd have had more time to progress this year. Unfortunately, most of our free weekend days -the days we can paddle- have been eaten by the albatross of van life. Well, at least for a few more months, and then the van will be complete and we'll have a bit more freedom to roam and explore new places to paddle, climb,hike and just tour around.

Along the way, we've had a few days that we got on the water and definitely had some fun. And while the Deerfield, an old favorite and our home river is back in the mix. Most of the rivers we've run we first descents for us. Much like onsighting in climbing, you only run a river once blind, and those are the most fun descents. Of course, unlike rock climbing, the nature of rivers change with the flow, so to some extent, every descent is a first descent.

Here's a little slice of our Spring 2017...

The van (aka. Henry Van Hoevenberg):

Factory denim being reinstalled over the 1/2in polyiso board.

The inside of the van was stripped to the sheet metal to get the insulation and flooring installed.

Polyiso with 3M or Loctite contact cement in the center and Great Stuff Pro Gaps and Cracks on the edges. The contact cement allowed the board to attach to the van without elaborate bracing while the Great Stuff cured, forming a moisture tight bond.

$8 swap...replaced the factory incadascent bulbs with LEDs. 1/4 the power consumption for the same lumen output.

JBL and Infinity Speakers all around. Not the most high end system but good enough for a 16 year old van.

Templating out the cockpit headliner sound deadener. Every little bit helps.

The core of my power system. Noco Genius Gen4 40amp AC charger, and 4x100AH (400ah) AGM batteries. I'll also be charging off a CTEK DC/DC converter off the alternator and a solar panel on the roof.
6x9 Infinity's in the doors.

Rusty bolts under the seats. Seats were removed to install insulation and sound deadener in the cockpit floor. Also we'll be replacing the passenger seat base with a swivel seat and we swapped out the factory vinyl seats with OEM fabric seats with arm rest.

EZ-Cool unerlayment being installed.
Cargo area insulated. Poly iso on walls, EZ-Cool + polyiso + 1/2in plywood  + Vinyl flooring is the rear floor. Walls are poly iso, thinsulate and the factory denim.
Rear side windows don't open, so now they don't exist.We sealed them with Reflextix, Thinsulate,Polyiso foam board and FRP board.

Finished sealed windows.

The fun stuff (aka. whitewater paddling):

We found some bigger water this Spring, bigger than even the Dead River at 3500. We ran some old summer favorites at Spring high water levels and a new run, the Schroon at what appears to be a not often run 7ft. It seems most folks are spending time paddling more seasonal stuff and usually hit the Schroon at around 3.5-4ft during the summer months.
Permanent Rapids on the Saranac River. Our first run in an OC in 2017.

Big hit in Zoar Gap at 1500cfs. Notice how calm Colvin (our dog) is.
Little Missy aka. Big Drop at 6.9ft on the Schroon. This was a blast to run and at this level around a IV.

Take a look at the vertical gain over those waves on the wave train following Big Drop. I'd guess the waves were in the 4-5ft range.