Thursday, August 28, 2014

modern journalism

minimal info, white text on a black background

Backpacker magazine (AUG 2014) did a one page thing on going ultralight. I have strong pinions on this kind of highly art-directed "journalism" with it's incredibly short little bits of info. At least the info is accurate. This same magazine did a similar spread a while back, and that one really bugged me, they got almost everything wrong.  That previous "article" is linked HERE (one page imageand HERE (full text).

You can click on either image for a HI-rez view. The one below is the same scanned page, but it's  been reversed for easier reading

same image, reversed
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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

an instructional with cartoons


I'm an author now, just like 
Ernest Hemingway and Fyodor Dostoevsky!

Honestly, there is only one reason to write a book: to be taken seriously. And that's exactly what is about to happen to me.
How to get this super cool book:
It's available thru the creepy corporate giant mail-order book seller named after a river in Brazil (linked HERE).  
But, it's a whole lot more groovy to walk into you local bookstore with the title and this simple code: ISBN-10: 0762763841.
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Friday, May 9, 2014

The Teton Crest

pretty views and verbal camera directions

A short little video showing Pete and myself coming to terms with our middle-aged-ness, all while carrying ultralight backpacks.

We did the complete Teton Crest, from the Flagg Ranch road all the way to Teton Pass, 7-days and 6-nights. Out starting pack weights (with full rations, ice axes and bear spray) was 19 pounds for myself, and 23 pounds for Pete. That means I won!

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

how to get cute little dropper bottles

cute little bottles

One question I get asked over and over is - where do I get those cute little bottles?

  I order them thru this site HERE  

You can purchase these dinky little bottles on-line. If you do make an order, get a lot more than you think you’ll need because the shipping will probably cost more than the bottles. These things are pretty cheap. Your camping pals will be envious, and at 21 cents each, you can happily give them away.

See this post HERE for using the tiny MIX bottle for Aqua-Mira. For this job, I recommend the 3cc Black Cylinder Bottle with 8 mm Dropper Cap.
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Sunday, June 16, 2013

cartoon as technical instructional tool

Two boing marks, three happy marks.
From this book HERE.
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Saturday, May 11, 2013

download a simple GEAR spreadsheet

  very simple spreadsheet

This is a very simple spreadsheet for documenting your gear. You can download this from the links at the bottom of the page. Easy-Schmeasy!
Plug in these numbers:
a) weights of all clothing worn  
b) weights of all non-consumable items by category
c) weights of all consumables

Get these numbers:
1) Base-Weight
2) Pack Weight
3) Skin-Out Weight
         4) Weights of share items if you have teammates
       
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Excel spreadsheet linked HERE
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Mac Numbers spreadsheet linked HERE
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Friday, April 5, 2013

Andrew Skurka Guided Trips

Big trees and ferns in the Pacific Northwest.

I'll be working as a guide with Andrew Skurka on two separate 3-day trips in Olympic National Park.  I've worked with Andrew before and I'm excited to get out into the Wilderness with him for these trips.

There are several open spots on the June 11th - 14th trip in the Olympics. The schedule is linked HERE.

This will be a Backpacking Fundamentals outing with a focus on the basic skills required to camp and travel safely in the mountains.
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Friday, January 25, 2013

this warmed my heart

an excerpt from the amazon's book reviews

This review defines 
the very reason I wrote the book!

So I finally got in shape and decided I wanted to start some meaningful hiking trips again. So I made a trip to the hiking store to investigate new gear. And lo and behold ....I bumped into Mike's book by dumb luck while browsing at the book section of the outdoor store. At first I thought the book was totally weird and put it back. But something drew me to return to the bookshelf and I ended up buying the book - almost for more of a gag. I would read a section or two to my wife in the evening before drifting off to sleep and we would make fun snickering at all of the odd and screwey tips such as: use snow to wipe your backside, buy Dirty Girl gaiters, don't leave home with a backpack that weighs much over a pound (my Gregory pack weighed six pounds - empty!) weigh everything on a digital food scale and push for a "base weight" of ten to eleven pounds.

Well, three years on I find myself a full convert to ultralight hiking and I now really enjoy sharing these ultralight ways with others. What has changed? Gone are the four pound (each) Zamberlain leather hiking boots, 6 pound (empty) backpack and the 4 pound tent. My trail runners are now 12 oz, pack 22 ounces, tent 15 ounces, and at the ripe old age of 45 I now easily kick out 20+ mile days in tough terrain and approach 30 miles per day in the easier stuff. My base weight (pack, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, first aid kit, cooking pot, water purification, stove and all clothing) is about 12-13 pounds and with 8 pounds food and fule for four days of hiking i come in at a mere 20 pounds. Best yet, I am comfortable, dry and feel extremely safe with my simple gear. I am also well fed as ever as Mike's recipies (in his book) are healthy, hearty and fun to assemble and serve.

So I say give Mike's book a try and then let his ideas percolate one-by-one into your hiking kit. When you reduce your first hike weight from 45 down to 35 pounds (using just a few of Mike's tips) you will like it. When you then get your pack down to 30 pounds you will love it. When you get all your gear down to 20 pounds (food included!) you will be fanatical about it. After your first hundred mile four day hike (which you will easily complete) you will be eager to spread an appreciation of Mike's book to other overburdened fellow hikers.

For those of us that used to be able to do 20 miles a day with a 50 pound pack back in 1983, but then saw our distances fade to 18, 15, 12 miles per day over the years, this book is a real treat, because now 30 years later we silver foxes can now again easily do the same 20+ mile distances (and even more!) and arrive less tired in 2013 than we ever did in 1983. I expect to have some 30+ mile days in 2013 - all thanks to Mike's book!

          Happy trails!
          - James

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Hey, If anyone knows J. Magee from Tacoma,
 give him a HUGE thank you from me!


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

I get featured in a newspaper article!

From the Bellingham Herald:

The fastest way to backpack weight loss

By CRAIG HILL

From the article:
The first and most important step to lightening your load is purchasing a scale. When I told Clelland that I use my bathroom scale to weigh the entire pack, I got a scolding.

“Go get a scale — or the next time you call, I won’t even answer the phone,” he said, presumably joking. “I’m serious.”

 So I bought a $19 scale and started weighing everything in my pack. 
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Saturday, October 20, 2012

the revolution

there is a revolution happening

Lightweight and Ultralight backpacking are real, and it can change the way you appreciate the Wilderness.
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Thursday, October 18, 2012

ease of travel


 Tidy little video with an empahsis on the philosophical grroviness of utraight travel.
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Saturday, September 1, 2012

Liberate yourself from Toilet paper

 click on any image for a hi-rez view


TIP number 116 

I’m always disapointed when my camping team-mates walk into the woods for a dump run, and they bring along their toilet paper. Good grief, what kind of Wilderness experience is that? Mankind has been pooping in the woods since we climbed down out of the trees, and toilet paper (TP) is a pretty recent invention when you look at human history.

We live in a society with user-friendly toilets and they all come equipped with a wonderful roll of TP. There’s nothing for us to think about, we do our duty, wipe and flush. We’ve created a very nice convenience, but it’s separated us from what should be a very simple bit of outdoor know-how.

Why are so many campers so dependent on toilet paper? I would have to guess that they’ve never in their life used anything other than the store bought stuff on a roll. Or, they’ve had a bad experience with their one-and-only time with natural wiping material. It’s a sad truth, Natural Butt-Wiping is a lost art.

Too many people bury their used TP, or worse, they just leave it on the surface. We don’t have to deal with it in the bathroom, we simply flush. Sadly, this transfers to not dealing in the backcountry too. It’s left as trash out of an inability to deal.

The ultralight benefits? Not having TP obviously saves 100% of its weight. But beyond that, you are liberated from something that we think we need.

Over the decades, I have found an awful lot of used toilet paper in the mountains and it’s disgusting. (see tip <<< 44 > Practice Leave No Trace camping >>>) My heart sinks every time. And please know, I actually do something about it, I clean it up. Finding used toilet paper leaves me absolutely disgusted at all of humanity. I deal with these piles of white (and brown) toilet paper, I’ll either burn it or carry it out, and I don’t shy away from this thankless chore. Am I a weirdo zealot about not using toilet paper? Sure enough, but it wells up from dealing with other people’s laziness.

If you do choose to bring store bought toilet paper, I feel strongly that it must be carried out and not just left in the backcountry (for me to find). Triple bag it before it goes back in your pack. Burning is not recommended because this is an all too common cause of forest fires.



What to use?
Please know, the backcountry is home to a plentitude of wonderful wiping things. Any camper who wants to make fun of natural TP will immediately sneer and mention pinecones. Yes, just the image of a pinecone with all those pointy things makes my butt wince. With very few exceptions, pinecones do NOT work! But, if you find a batch from a Douglas Fir, you got the goods!

Snow
If you have snow available, you will have a stupendously clean bunghole! No foolin’ - snow has all the properties that make it the crème de la crème of natural butt wiping. Don’t use gloves, use you bare hand and make a snowball by squeezing. Don’t make round snowball shape, you want to create a pointy feature for the business end. Snow is the perfect combo of smooth and abrasive, it’s just wet enough for a little extra cleaning power, and it’s white! The whiteness will allow the wiper to accurately monitor any residue in the area in question. Plus, if you have snow, you usually have a LOT of it.

Here’s an insight into my personal wiping habits: I use a LOT of wiping material. I am never satisfied until I know that things are super-duper-clean. I encourage you to strive for the same high standards.


River rocks
Smooth and elegant, these polished beauties are the second best behind snow. Before visiting your private zone, collect a load of these rocks. Not to big, not too small, a little flat, a little pointy and definitely NOT round. Once again, grab a lot of ‘em.

Leaves
For the most part, leaves don’t work, they can be thin and easily torn. If you do use little leaves, use a small stack of them so your finger tip doesn’t poke through at the wrong moment. I’ve had better luck using the back side of leaves, where the raised veins can act as little scrubbers.

Please know, not all leaves are below par. Most of the Northern hemisphere has been graced with a gangly weed called Mullein (Verbascum thapsus), and a very similar plant called Wooly Lambs Ear (Stachys byzantina). These are both rather homely plants, but the leaves are like the wings of an angel. They are big, thick, strong, fuzzy and satisfying. These are pretty common, and they grow in clumps. If you are collecting these leaves, please carefully get them from a multiple plants, taking just a few leaves from each. Do not strip one of these cute fuzzy plants of all their leaves just to guarantee yourself a tidy butt. You don’t need to kill anything for hygiene!

Smooth sticks

A downed tree with dry weathered branches can be wonderful. Look for a collection of sticks about an inch in diameter, with minimal poking protuberances. Pick the smoothest side for wiping, taking advantage of the long featureless length of the stick.

Wooly lambs Ear

There is a fuzzy plant that is like being caressed by an angel. Also called Mulen.

Old Man’s Beard
Have you ever marveled at that weird electric yellow moss that hangs from the pine trees? This stuff is great. Once again, grab a little bit from multiple trees.


Grass
A goodly clump of grass makes for a pretty good cleaning tool. For a nice stiff set of bristles, you can fold the grass into a very tidy little brush. Grab the grass from a big zone, avoid stripping an area of all it’s green stuff.

Size required
For obvious reasons you'll want to keep your hands away from the contaminants that you’re trying to wipe away. So, whatever you use - make sure it’s big enough to keep your fingers a good distance from the working area.



The butt scuff on dewey tufts of grass
Sometimes you are in an environment with tufts of grass that look like little fright wigs. These will usually come in groups, and on a calm dewy morning, there is nothing more wonderful in the world. You can sit on one of these like a bicycle seat, and slide yourself along, letting the tuft do its scouring duty, if you find a row of these get ready to cry tears of joy. And if you have a little bit of downhill slope to work with, the job is a lot easier.

Plan ahead and prepare
Before the urge becomes a raging alarm, there are a few small things you’ll need to do. The act of collecting the wiping tools may take a little time and some searching. Start planning well before the need arises. Begin filling your pockets with nice smooth rocks, lots of ‘em (or leaves, sticks, etc). Keep an eye out for the perfect collection of broad leaf plants. Is it a short walk to a batch of snow still unmelted from last winter?

Do not - I repeat, DO NOT just squat down and expect to find the perfect wiping material within arms reach. It won’t be there, I know from experience. No need to describe this unpleasant dilemma.

The cat-hole
You will need to dig a shallow hole, and the UL tool of choice is a tent stake. The thin wire stakes won’t work, you’ll need at least one stake that is a little more stout. A trekking pole is a good tool too, just make sure to hold it low near the pointy end while digging. Other options are a sharp stick or a pointy rock.

The recommended technique espoused by Wilderness authorities says to take a trowel and dig a 6 to 8 inch deep hole. This is easy to draw (I know, I’ve drawn it in multiple books) but it can hard to actually do. There are a lot of places where the ground is too hard and it simply will not work, even with the best metal trowel. In some environments the soil is too rocky (or too dense) to get down that deep. If you can’t dig down deep enough, go wider, or create a shallow trench. No good answer here, my advice is to do the very best job you can do, whatever the circumstances.

The goal is to get the fecal matter to decompose in the organic soil near the surface. The micro-organisms will do their job and eventually change the dubious properties into something sterile, how long this might take is hard to say, but it will happen a lot faster in rich living top soil. It will happen exceedingly slow on the surface or under rocks. Please understand, there is the very real potential to contaminate water sources with human feces, so the simple act of properly burying your waist is a necessary undertaking.

After the bomb is dropped in the hole, take a little time to stir it up and mix it well with the organic soil. Yes, this basically means you get to play with your own poop. This important stirring process can dramatically accelerate the decomposition time. Please use a stick and not the tent stake.

At the end, refill the hole, and cover the ground in a way will disguise your job site. Take pride in this step, it’s a nice role to allow future visitors a pristine visual experience.

What to do with the used material?
After wiping you’ll need to dispose of the natural toilet paper. If you’ve dug a deep enough hole, depositing the wipers in there is a great solution. Re-fill the hole, and you’re done. But, sometimes you can only get the first few wipers in the hole because it’s too full (or barely deep enough) so you’ll have to toss the rest of ‘em. Carefully look around for a good place to deliver the contaminated post-wipe product. Avoid any spot a fellow camper may travel or step, and think about where water will run in the rain. Under a big bush is a good solution.



Hygiene

Wash your hands when you’re done, this is a vital part of the whole process. Don’t be a slob - fecal contamination is the cause of backcountry NVD! That’s Nausea, Vomiting & Diarrhea!

For the highest degree of success, employ your teammate as a helper. When you come back from your dump-run, tell ‘em that you’ll require their assistance. They can dig thru the pack (let them touch things with clean hands) getting the soap and a water bottle. They put the soap in your hands and they pour the water. Your contaminated hands touch nothing.

Hygiene tools
I always carry soap and alcohol hand sanitizing gel, both repackaged in tiny dropper bottles. These are essential safety components in my backcountry kit of dinky things. For soap, I am a devote of Dr. Bronner’s, and Almond is my favorite.

Time required
The humble act of pooping in the woods involves a goodly amount of busy work. You need to collect the wiping material, find a private spot, dig a cat-hole, fill it, wipe effectively, stir the poop, fill the hole back in, disguise the little area and wash your hands. Plus, you need to do a good job on each of these important steps.

If your partner says it’s dump time and then comes back after just a minute, do NOT let ‘em put their hand in your bag of gorp! To do a good job requires at least 10 minutes.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Monday, July 23, 2012

treating water using a tiny MIX bottle (video)


This is an advanced technique, so it requires a long and detailed video.

For more info, read tip number 106, How I treat AQUAMIRA. I advocate a system that doesn't quite match what is recommended on the packaging. The advantage is a profound time savings and an increased efficiency on the trail.

3cc plastic bottle, wheighs 2 grams

I am constantly asked where I get those little bottles.

My reply, I get 'em HERE.

You can purchase these dinky little bottles on-line. If you do make an order, get more than you think you’ll need because the shipping will cost more than the bottles. Your camping pals will be envious, and at 21 cents each, you can happily give them away.

Monday, July 16, 2012

nice review

Somebody goin' by the name B.A. just added a really nice review to the Amazon page.

Just get it. Worth every penny.
I wanted to get back into backpacking again but a low back problem was keeping from carrying the weight of my old gear. The information in this book (and Ladigan's book "Lighten Up!") changed my mindset about gear and pack weight entirely.
My friend still carries about 45 lbs of gear for our weekend trips. When he lifted my pack during our last trip he said, "You've gotta be kiddin me!" I just smiled and told him to get the books.

That someone with a 45 pound pack sounds like a graduate of a certain outdoor school. If they had lifted that pack and said "No, this is impossible, I won't allow this into my brain," I would suspect that they're employed at an executive level at that same school.

Just so you know, a 45 pound backpack is considered remarkably light at that school.

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