Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Titanium JetBoil Sol - research from Adventures in Stoving

Adventures In Stoving: Titanium JetBoil Sol -- CAUTION

From the article:
"The titanium version of the JetBoil Sol might have a problem.  A potentially serious problem. 

Please note that my concerns pertain to the titanium version of the JetBoil Sol only.

There have been some failures noted in the "flux ring" (heat exchanger) which is aluminum that is welded to the bottom of the titanium pot."

Apparently there is some unlikely cases where the newest JetBoil could potentially be rather dangerous. Anything that produces flames using condensed gases could potentially be dangerous, but this could be a design flaw. I'm sure JetBoil would make good on it if there actually is a problem. Hopefully they will post on this before it "blows up" on the Internet.

I don't use the JetBoil because of the weight and the lack of (in my estimation) versatility. But many people seem to really like it, and it works out great for them. I like my Pocket Rocket because of it's size and that I can use any pot on it natively, and use it to fry, boil, or even warm my hands if needed, without a proprietary pot, etc. Also JetBoil seems too expensive initially and continually with all their add-on gadgetry. Just my take though!

Be careful out there, with whatever stove and fuel type you use. Fire is hot. Tents and gear are flammable! 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Trail Hygiene

The Appalachian Trail. Where people go to not shower regularly for 4 to 7 months.

That might not be the reason people go on the Trail, but is certainly one of the side effects. From all I've heard, if you can get a shower once a week you are going really well. So six months of having a shower every week - 26 showers. Rather than daily life of having at least one shower a day - less than a months worth of showers in 6. Well, see, look at how good it is for the environment to take a hike!

But this brings up some interesting questions about... well, a lot of things. How can one have friends while on the Trail? How can anyone allow hikers in their businesses? How do people stay in the same shelter or tent? The stench really must be enormous.

Beyond just not showering for long stretches, add in more exercise and NO deodorant (you don't want to attract bears to your arm pits while you sleep, do ya?!). There is also the penchant of many male hikers to not shave or get haircuts the entire time, not my style! The smell must truly seep into everything. The sleeping bag, clothing, pack - everything.

The Plan
All of this being said - I am planning on general bodily maintenance and trying to be somewhat clean under duress. I am going to shave and cut my hair regularly - I want to be able to do a quick check for ticks with out much cover in which they could hide. Also, I figure walking through summer time I will want to be as cool as possible. And for all those ounce counters I am getting rid of unneeded weight! I will either get Cara to bring the clippers when she comes to visit, or I will bounce box the clippers ahead.

I am bringing a one gallon light weight folding bucket. I can fill the bucket from the water source after hiking all day, pull some water from it for cooking and drinking and leave the bucket in the sun so it can warm up a bit before taking a basin bath to remove some of the sweat. I am bringing a chamois towel to dry off with and Dr.Bonners soap for all my soapy needs. I will be especially careful with my feet, bathing them daily and making extra sure they get plenty of time to air dry. The nails will be checked and clipped and cleaned as well. And blisters will be taken care of, hopefully, before they start. I would love to be one of those people that doesn't get blisters, but only time will tell.

I am bringing alcohol hand sanitizer to use after bathroom breaks and before meal preparation. I would say that more likely than getting a water borne intestinal infection from a polluted water source that unsanitary outhouses and fecal cross-contamination are way more likely to make hikers sick. Gross, right?! I know it and really want to prevent that crap (ba-dum). So the sanitizer will be easily accessible on the outside of the pack.

I will be brushing my teeth daily, obviously. I had enough of those little tiny tooth-pastes to put them in the drop boxes with my food.

Cara brought up the very good point of sun screen. That is something that I had not thought about, but will need to get. Normally I don't wear it because I don't burn. But it doesn't matter that I don't burn, I really need to protect my skin from damage. I'm going to be out-of-doors for a very extended and continual basis, and protection will be needed. I want to get the sun screen that also has bug repellent to lighten the load. I will need to make applying the lotion ("It rubs the lotion on its skin ") part of the daily routine at camp break down time and again at lunch.

I will need to be disciplined. More-so than I am on weekend camping trip. Weekend camping trips I normally am not as hygienic as I should be. I figure I'm there for a short time so I don't check my feet as thoroughly as I should, if at all. I don't basin bathe. I don't apply sun screen. But I will be out there for 6 months, that is my house, that is my life. I will need to change my normal short-timer mentality to adapt to the new life style. There is no bathroom to remind me to clean up. It's all on me. I will have plenty of downtime, in the afternoons, as I plan on waking early and hiking until 4 or 5, giving me plenty of day light hours to fix myself up.

Being stinky for days on end will be a change. This is part of the experience, to show how much of the world always lives. Even the shower a week is completely outside the bounds of many cultures. The Western ideal of daily showers and ultra cleanliness is outside the bounds of the majority of the world. This will open my mind as much as hiking every day. This change in life-style is one of the reasons I'm going, not to specifically be dirty, but to just have a change. The tinting on the glass through which I see the world will be different. I hope to be better off for all of it!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Glencliff, NH Post Office closes

This changes at least one of my Post drops. Good to find out now.

More info here:

There's even the Appalachian Trail spin on it. I saw this posted on WhiteBlaze - always the place to go to hear the pulse and news of the Trail, it is a great resource.

The article does NOT state the exact date of closure, so it could theoretically be open when I go through there in August. This was only going to be a two day drop to get me to Lovette's Inn in Franconia - where Cara's parents own the B&B and it'll be like walking home!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


There is a part of me, a large part of me, that thinks the dream of hiking the Appalachian Trail is still unattainable.

I have 2 dozen boxes of food in the basement. I have my gear packed. I have blogged and written, and re-written the same thoughts from a logical stand point. I have planned and crunched and gotten time off and spoken to friends and family for hours about going for a six month mountain jaunt. But it doesn't yet feel real.

The 50+ days standing between me and the Approach Trail is a gulf wider than I can see. The Trail, though conceived and idly turned within my mind, is over a distant horizon. My mind hums in anticipation, like a child waiting for Christmas, I have not felt the days between myself and something so acutely. It is agony, the anticipation, but it is also sweet. Sweet to want something, sweet to have something in life that makes me so honed in on the future.I will feel this way in the days leading up to marriage, or the days winding down to retirement. I can think of nothing else with such happy anticipation.

And yet apart of me hasn't yet accepted that I am going. A part of me feels that something will happen to prevent me from going. Will I feel this until the moment my foot breaks the plane under the arch at Amicalola? Will it take days after starting the Trail to sink in that I am really really walking the secret paths of the world, where the lonely look for a companionable fire, where the pilgrims all search for something they know not what?

Will I feel this way at the end of the Trail? Will I be as eager to come back? I will be missing Cara fiercely, I will be anticipating life again, hopefully not dreading work. But I feel seeing Katahdin will be bitter sweet, the end of a thing I have wanted to start for so long. Here I am, unable to imagine the beginning of the journey, imagining how I will feel at the end!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Gear in Review - Clothing

The List
REI shorts
REI Convertible pants
North Face synthetic T shirt
Minus 33 T-shirt
Stoic Base Layer
Synthetic Boxer briefs
3 pairs of wool socks
2 pairs of sock liners

REI Down vest*

Long Underwear*
Turtle Fur knit hat*
Fingerless Mitten gloves*
Ear/Neck thingie*

Cold weather gear

The Story
I have expounded on the virtues of the Packa before. And I will do so again! This piece of gear will be used daily as a pack cover on the (hopefully occasional) rainy day it will also be my rain gear. In camp it can either be strung up like a tarp or sat on to keep me bum dry. I found the Packa at Trail Days and Cara bought me the gear for Christmas and it looks as if it lives up to the (self generated) hype. Now all I gotta do is actually get the chance to use it! Cedar Tree, the thru hiker that invented and sells the Packa, gives it a warranty of 2000 miles, and from everything I've heard stands behind his product 100%. Not only do I like the idea of supporting a small shop and a former thru hiker, the product itself is is totally a great idea. Every feature a rain coat has it has, every feature a poncho has it has, every feature a pack cover has it has - except it has none of the draw-backs of any of those products!

I will be starting in early April. The day rushes toward me! From all I have heard, people starting in late March into early April can expect cold weather and at least the possibility of snow until they hit Damascus, VA, north of the Smokies. If my schedule holds true I will be passing thru Damascus during the second week of May. I have plans to send home the items followed by an asterisk when I hit town. The climb up Mount Rogers should be easy breezy!

Warm weather Gear

Much clothing will be sent home when it warms up. I will be keeping a long sleeve shirt for the occasional chilly night and to change into while I wash my other clothing. Same with the pants (that can also be shorts). A change of clothes will be nice, and they are light. Also, having relatively clean camp clothing will be important, as well as having something to wear while washing my clothing is important.

I will be playing around with this the next few days to see how it fits into my pack, But this is generally what I take winter camping. I have been warm (or hot while hiking) with this gear into the teens. I may also trade out the sleeping bag once I hit Virginia, but that is covered in another post! I have packed what I want and left what I don't think I'll need. The dry compression sack with the clothes is smaller than a soccer ball and includes the chamois cloth that will serve as my towel. I left out from that the clothing on my back and a couple layers that I will be wearing or putting at the top of the pack for quick retrieval.

I have seen people wear hiking kilts, and some ultra-lighters with only the clothes on their backs. Then my brother says he would wear jeans because that's what he wears every day anyway, so why change it up? Clothing, like most everything else, is a matter of preference. This is one of the reasons I love the Appalachian Trail, there is no right way to do it. If you walk from GA to ME who cares how heavy/light fast/slow fat/happy you are?!

What are your experiences? Do you have a hiking 'uniform' you put on?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Money money money!

It makes the world go round. It takes quite a bit of preparation and expense to hike the Appalachian Trail. When I decided I wanted to hike the Trail I arbitrarily decided that I wanted a certain amount of money as a safety net. I have not reached that goal, which was quite high, though I have a comfortable amount, I think.

Money makes the world go 'round,
Money leads hikers to town.

I have read many many many ad nauseum posts on White Blaze of someone asking how much money one needs to bring on the Trail. This is a very important question. And I can understand querying the masses.... if there weren't many easily searchable threads already pertaining to the very topic! All the threads on WhiteBlaze range from $3000 to $8000 for on-Trail expenses. And each past or future thru-hiker is very adamant and expressive as to why that is their number, mingled with the folks that remind everyone to HYOH (hike you own hike). With all that in mind I set a dollar amount, and additionally I have some rules for myself and some money saving methods I am going to try out.

If Money is the root of all evil,
then Roots in the Trail are Money.

I will reflect heavily on these pre-Trail thoughts after I'm done. I may find all these to be completely ridiculous and lackadaisically simple minded. But it's not from senselessness that I spout these opines. I have thought and re-thought and these are the logically thought-out methods I have concluded, I am hoping logic has clouded my delusions! Of course, rose-colored lenses and the romance of the Trail may have clouded my conclusions instead.

I am doing this pre-Trail as well to get into the habit. Go to an ATM on a certain day and withdraw a certain amount, and X amount must last X days. Anything left over is a bonus for next time. If you are short, then either you get that much less next time, or just have some lean moneyless days. While driving back and forth to work it is more difficult to just have a moneyless day when the car demands fuel. On the Trail I will be allowing myself a certain amount every 2 weeks. Much of that time I will be in the woods with no one to exchange for services my hard won monies. In town's I want to limit myself the ability to splurge just for spending sake. It is very easy to swipe the card, but to have the cash in hand and see the pile dwindle makes it more real. I am looking for reality on this trip!

Tried an True Gear
The gear I have I have tried to test and use as much as possible. I also have purchased much of the gear from REI with an REI dividends credit card. REI allows you to return without question gear you can't use or don't like or begins to smell funny. While REI isn't the cheapest place in town, getting 5% back as well as being able to return anything for store credit forever saves money and space in my supply closet at home. Friends and family have been very accommodating and have really hooked me up with things I would not have otherwise thought that I could afford, such as boots, the Packa, SPOT, and good clothing. I would've "suffered" thru with more basic stuff - which would of had a chance of making me uncomfortable at the very least, or injured at the worst.

Pre-made meals
I have made all of the dinners for the entire trip in advance. I have nearly all of my lunches and breakfasts also made and ready to ship. Not only does this allow me to control my caloric intake, but I also have been able to buy in bulk and find deals on good quality highly nutritional meals. Not going into a grocery store in a small town while in the throes of the Hiker Hunger will save me money, and my meal diversity is substantial as well.
I have heard of others, including thru-hikers that are adamantly against mail-drops. Then I have also heard thru's just as loud for drops. So it is obviously a personal choice. Whether it's to spend a full day in town searching for food, re-packaging it into bags and then heading out, or my choice of hopefully grabbing what I need from the Post Office and tossing it in my bag before scooting out of town - it is a preference,  not a necessity one way or the other.

Limit sleeping indoors
I am trying to stay out of towns as much as possible. Much of the adventure is the camaraderie one finds on the Trail and in the Trail towns, I will participate to the fullest extent, but I will be sleeping in my comfortable secluded little tent 13 of 14 days. If there is a hostel on the Trail that has that magic allure I will stay. I have some mail drops scheduled for deposit at Trail hostels, and I will be staying at those places for comfort, recuperation, and of all the stories I've heard of these places. But I don't have plans to stay in hotels often! My drop stops are in towns either on the Trail or in towns that are as close as possible to the Trail. I want the ability to get places without relying on taxis, shuttles, or my thumb!

Self control
The AYCE. Once the hunger sets in, I've heard these joints are hard, neigh impossible, to pass by! My budget will cover eating meals from towns whenever I want, however I want to control my urges, and stick to my prepared meals. This goes back to staying out of town! This goes for beer too. I will definitely want to have a tall cold one from time to time! But even the cheap beers add up quick! Six later and you've spent as much as you had the past week in food.

Very Good News, indeed!
I was asked last week to write a letter of intent to the President of the company for which I work. With a bit of trepidation I wrote several paragraphs outlining why I wanted to take off for 6 months of unpaid leave. Would he understand? Would he go with my supervisors recommendation of allowing me to go? Or would this be alien to him?
I received word today that the Prez has followed my bosses advice (THANK YOU MIKE!) and he is OK with me going.
I am reassured that I will have a job when I get back, that I have not done all this planning to have a final and unassailable road-block within sight of the start date, the Day of Ascension of Springer's Approach Trail. I will not be paid to be gone, obviously, but I have enough in savings to carry me. This does give me a "finish by" date. I gave myself a full 6 months to do the Appalachian Trail, though I have every intention of doing it in a maximum of 5 months. I really needed to add some cushion into the dates so I didn't hear a ticking throughout the trip. If I am injured or there is a family emergency or whatever the case may be, I have a window that is slightly longer than I need it to be. Additionally I will be able to use my accrued leave at the beginning of the trip, about a week and a half, to give me a boost monetarily.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Gear in Review - Backpack

Osprey Exos 58

Size: 58 liters
Weight: 2 lbs 8 oz

Loaded Osprey Exos 58

The Story
I have had this pack for over a year. I purchased it from REI after trying several on and doing research online. I had every intentions of this being the pack for the Appalachian Trail. I have a Kealty Redwing, which I love, but it is too small of a pack. I would stuff things into it for a weekend trip and almost be short of space. I knew I would not be able to fit all my gear and then add 7 days worth of food on top of everything. The Redwing is very comfortable, very durable pack, however it is heavy as a result.
The Osprey is very light, and still comfortable. The frame design is minimalist, the pads not solid, instead full of holes to allow air flow and reduce weight. The two mesh pockets on the belt are also very beneficial to hold a camera and a few bars for lunch.

I have used this pack on several weekend hikes, with never being in any discomfort. The size is great, and the pocket on the back is large and stretch to toss in a bladder of wine or a shed layer of clothing.

On one of the first times I used the pack I hooked my finger into one of the rope and plastic zipper pulls and tugged on it to get it closed. It immediately broke. So as a word, be gentle with the pulls, and grasp them, don't tug them. Other than that the durability is not questioned. This is the pack for my back while hiking the AT!

The Redwing - a good, but small pack
I have tested out all my gear, plus 8 days of food and 2 liters of water. The pack is comfortable and fits snuggly on my back. The weight is not bad at all. The Packa fits perfectly over the packs, and is easily accessible to convert into poncho too. I have nothing hanging off the pack and I have room to stuff things in the outside pocket too. All in all I am very satisfied with how the pack fits, weight distribution, and room.

Appalachian Trials

Appalachian Trials

I have been following the The Good Badger for quite some time. Interesting story, and a really nice guy!

Well, I gotta show the love to a fellow blogger and a fellow thru-hiker and an entrepreneur too!

He just published a book, "Appalachian Trials" (as if you couldn't tell from the title of this post!!)

Anyway, so far it is available on eBook Kindle, which I have just downloaded. Once the print version is available I will be ordering that as well, and be taking it on the AT, and leaving it in a shelter somewhere. I have begun reading this already, and he had a surprise early on. I don't want to give away too many details, but there is a random turtle picture - and who can't appreciate that?! Also, eloquently written, sharp guy writing this with plenty of humor.

Anyway, I hope to have a chance to read some more this evening after work, and I am looking forward to it!

The Good Badger

Amazon Linkie


The print version is now available!