Tested: The Best Apps for the Outdoors

from Outside magazine

from Outside magazine

Hot off the digital presses on Sept. 29 is Outside Magazine’s  filtered review of 23 of the thousands of outdoor/hiking related Apps that are coming at us for consideration.  Thanks, Outside !

My neighbor and hiking pal Ryan Linn’s Guthook’s Hiking Guides, made the cut.   [ Disclosure: I have purchased my own Guthook's AT Hiker App.]

>> Tested: The Best Apps for the Outdoors <<<

Did they miss any that you readers have liked?

My Packing List – 1 Week/ Baxter State Park

Still working on streamlining my current backpacking gear.  My “kit” is now down to 15 pounds without food or water.  Since all but one night will be under shelter ( 3 sided lean-tos ), I will probably ditch my 2 pound tent and be down to 13 pounds.  Comments, suggestions , and questions welcome.

“The more you know, the less you carry”- Mors Kochanski

Uncle Tom’s Final Packing list  (rev. 8.14)

1. Pack Group:
1 Backpack – Granite Gear Leopard AC 58…………………   49 .0 oz =3.06  lbs.

2. Shelter Group:
rain wrap                                                                                          2.4 oz
rain jacket                                                                                        8.0 oz
1 Tarptent -Moment —–                                                            32.0 oz.
Total…………………………………………….                                      42.4  oz  = 2.65 lbs

3. Sleeping Group:
1 down bag, Western Mountaineering/stuff sack, 40°F        26.0 oz.
1 Ibex wool long sleeve zip T                                                       5.8 oz.
1 Ibex long tights                                                                            5.4 oz
1 socks wool                                                                                    2.6 oz.
1 headlamp w/ batteries  ( Princeton Byte)                              2.1 oz.
1 stuff sack sil-nylon………………………                                        1.3 oz.
1  Neo Air  inflatable mattress                                                   13.0
Total……………………………………………                                        56. ounces  = 3.5 lbs.

4.  Spare Clothing :
1 pr. wool socks                                                                              2.9 oz.
1 pr. Manzilla Windstopper gloves                                            2.2 0z.
1 Ibex wool hat                                                                               2.1 oz.
1 pr.  Patagonia mid weight stretch tights                                8.6 oz.
1  wool Patagonia midweight long sleeve hoodie                    9.4 oz.
1 Patagonia Puffball  jacket                                                         11 oz.
1 pr. New Balance Minimus shoes                                               9.0
Total……………………………………………                                       45.0  ounces=  2.8 lbs.

5. Kitchen Group:
1 Steripen  Utra                                                                               4.8 oz.
1  “Four Dog”  Bushcooker LT1 multifuel stove,  titanium
windscreen, titanium cook pot 700 ml w/ lid                         10.0 oz.
2 lighters…………………………………………….                                 1.2 oz.
1 water bottle – used Gatorade bottle…                                       1.7 oz.
1 qt. water bottle ( “Triple Crown Tiki Mon”)                           5.4 oz.
1 Ursak Minor – food bag………….                                                2.7 oz.
abrasive scrub pad, Bronner’s soap                                            1.0 oz.
1 titanium spork……………………………………                               0.3 oz.
1 cup, bowl=Orikaso                                                                      4.2 oz.
1 MSR coffee filter                                                                          0.6 oz.
2 bandannas………………………………………..                               2.0 oz.
1 length cord – 50’……………………………..                                   2.5 oz.
Total………………………………………….                                          36.  ounces     =  2.25  lbs.

6. Hygiene Group:
1 small pack towel……………………………..                                   1.0 oz.
1 bottle hand cleaner                     …………                                   1.3 oz.
1 small zip lock………………………………….                                   1.3 oz
w/ floss, vitamins, ointment, emery boards
1    toilet paper……………………..                                                   1.0 oz.
1 Baby wipes                                                                                    2.0 oz.
1 chap stick                                                                                       0.2 oz.
1 disposable razor                                                                           0.1 oz.
1 small child toothbrush……………………..                                  0.5 oz
1 small tube tooth paste…………………….                                    0.7 oz.
Total……………………………………………..                                       9.4  ounces  =  0.6 lbs

7. Electronics:
1    iPhone with headphones                                                            5.1 oz.
1    Olympus Stylus Tg-830 waterproof digital camera/video  7.1 oz.
1      Anker portable charger for camera, iPhone, Steripen       4.2 oz.
Total……………………………………………..                                          16.4 ounces =   1.0 lb

8. Navigation:
Map, compass                                                                                            3.9 oz.   =    0.2  lb

9. Wearing:
1 cap                        1 pr. On The Beach/ boots
1 pr. sunglasses                1 pr. gaiters
1 pr. Leki poles                1 pr.  socks
1 Ibex wool zip-t        1 pr. synthetic underpants     1 pr. Patagonia shorts

Total packed weight  without food, or water                                   15    pounds

How to get into ultralight backpacking

Lightening your backpacking load can have dramatic implications, particularly for aging hikers who have followed the techniques in Colin Fletcher’s “Complete Walker” hiking bible.

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    Last summer, when I was hitchhiking in Colorado, I met a 63 year old hiker who gave me a ride. He taught a course on Ultralight Backpacking at the local college. Bob said that the easiest way is go ultralight was to scrape up $1250, go to the zpacks.com website, and order their most popular cuben fiber pack, solo tent, and down sleeping bag.  This gets the “Big Three” on your back for total weight of three pounds. Expensive, but efficient.
For the rest of us, it’s best to start with keeping the big 3 under 10 pounds, which would lead to a fully loaded backpack of 15-20 pounds if you leave that Rambo knife at home.
Once you have cut the weight on your Big 3, you enter the “ we pack for our fear” zone.  Anxiety about what might go wrong on a hike may lead to placement of unnecessary items in that light pack.  For example, I once saw another backpacker pull a cast iron two foot long lawnmower blade from his pack and place it by the side of his sleeping bag at bedtime.  I asked him about it and he said, “ Wild hogs here in Georgia can attack you when you sleep.”  I used to carry a heavy ankle brace, “just in case” , but after lugging around-unused for 3,700 miles I now leave it at home.
I hike with three pair of thin socks, two for walking in, one for sleeping. Ultralight hikers don’t generally carry spare clothing like underwear.  Some give up long pants in the warmer weather, adding thin wool tights and rain pants if it gets too cold.
Another popular option to ditch weight is to go stoveless, and forget the cooking pot as well, opting for foods that don’t require cooking, or that can be rehydrated with water in a plastic container.
A Katadyne-type pump filter for water purification is not a typically in an ultralight pack- instead we see the Aqua Mira solution, or a Sawyer Squeeze gravity system.
The best resource for a quick lesson in learning about ultra and lightweight backpacking is the book “Lighten Up ! A Complete Handbook for Light and Ultralight Backpacking” by Don Ladigin. It’s inexpensive and filled with all you need to know. 51VeNaJAHsL._AA160_
Of course if you have $1250 bucks, you can get there quickly, but I would rather take that amount and use the money for a one- month backpacking trip.

Triple Crown, elevation gain, and Maine

I’m stoked at receiving this bandanna! 

Yogi's Triple Crown bandanna

Yogi’s Triple Crown bandanna


At first I thought it was a misprint- 1,000,000 feet of  elevation gain?  That’s only 189.4 miles of uphills.  I thought it was more!

I’ve been thinking about walking on the Applalchian Trail  again this season, soon.  For readers who poo-poo the difficulty of hiking the AT, here’s a mess of facts from Whiteblaze.  The AT is tough.  There are 286.6 miles of AT in Maine, with an average of 242 feet per mile of gain and loss.  The article from Whiteblaze hot-linked above blew my mind.  The author took all the USGS 7.5 minute topographic maps for the entire trail and actually counted the contour lines the trail crosses, going both up and down.  New Hampshire is the hilliest, followed by Georgia, which might surprise some. 

While Maine’s state average is not #1, one must consider that doing the AT in Maine  is not a uniform task. The Northbound gain is 59,000 feet.   The 151 mile eastern most portion of the state is more moderate ( 5,200 average for that first four sections) , while the 50 mile portion from the New Hampshire state line to Rangley is a brutal 18,800 feet, and is the toughest part of the whole Trail.  

Order a set of Yogi’s for the Triple Crowner in your life!

From:  Triple Crown Bandana: Set of 3 – Red, White, and Blue — Yogi’s Books.

Still Space to Build Your Own Multifuel Backpacking Stove

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Class runs one night on Tues, first week in March.  As of today-  4 spaces left.
Make your own multi-fuel backpacking stove! Have fun and learn how to make a lightweight stove that you can use on day hikes and on backpacking trips. Created from metal cans and fasteners, these downdraft stoves are compact and efficiently burn wood, alcohol,  and solid fuel tablets. Each participant will be assisted in drilling, cutting, and fastening component parts to make their own stove, and receive practice in lighting and tending the stove. Class size is limited. Registration $20, plus $10 for materials to be paid to the instructor. 1 night 6:00-8:30 p.m. Class Tues 3/4 CHRHS Rm 112

adulted@fivetowns.net • 236-7800 ext 274

Click here to learn more about the stove and it’s history.

Tom Jamrog lives in Lincolnville, and has extensive backpacking and stove construction experience.

How To Live In A Heated Tent

Three buddies are heading up with me to the Jackman, Maine wilds next week for a five day winter camping trip.

Photo by Paul KIrtley

Read another superb blog post from UK’s Paul Kirtley, blogger, wilderness bushcraft instructor, and general expert in outdoor skills.

Paul’s blog entry has loads of info about how we will survive, in style.

Click it!  – How To Live In A Heated Tent.

Basic GPS setup via Starman

I carried a Garmin eTrex 30 for 5 months over 2500 miles in 2013 on my Continental Divide thru hike.

Garmin eTrex 10, 20, 30

Garmin eTrex 10, 20, 30

I was not alone in relying on the device to find my way.  When I was preparing for the hike  I quickly became frustrated with the poor Garmin documentation. Their web support was no better. This stuff is  not easy to understand.  Nothing is intuitive about it.  I needed to learn lots, and fast.

One great source of hiking information, specifically about that trail,  is via the CDT list serv.  The following GPS set-up information has been just listed on the CDT-l by Frank Gilliand, AKA Starman.  He’s known in long distance hiking circles as the guy who knows about GPS.  He’s also one of the rare individuals who is able to communicate how-to-info about GPS that’s understandable by ordinary people, like me.  Thanks, Starman for letting me share your info on this blog!

Here are the facts from Starman himself:

There seems to be a lot of general confusion about the set up and operation of GPS units (Garmin Etrex in particular)
In the next couple of days I will put together a basic breakdown of step by step procedures to load data (waypoints, POIs, Maps and tracks)
I will post NEW set-up info on my “Web Site” soon:      https://www.sites.google.com/site/frankgilliland/

Go to my Info page for some basic definitions:  https://www.sites.google.com/site/frankgilliland/information

For purposes of setting up a handheld gps for CDT hiking you need:

1)  Purchase a GPS unit (I prefer a Garmin Etrex 20 or 30)
2)  Purchase a Micro SD card (4 or 8 gb)
3)  Purchase a Garmin topo map DVD (either the TOPO 24k West or the TOPO 100k US)
(you can purchase the SD card version but it complicates things IMHO)
4)  install Gamin’s Free software on your computer:  BaseCamp, MapInstall, and WebUpdater
5)  update the GPS units Firmware using WebUpdater  (need to do this at purchase and check once a year)
6)  install the needed Garmin topo maps on to your GPS using MapInstall from your computer
7)  download and install the FREE Bear Creek POI file.
8)  Optional: install Tracks I have posted

Some definitions for clarity:

1)  Waypoint is a stored point.  (name, coordinates, elevation, etc) It can be downloaded from another source usually saved as a .gpx file
(the Etrex 20/30 is limited to 2000 of these loaded or field created points)

2)  POI point is an un-editable “waypoint” that can be loaded on to your Garmin GPS
(I have not found the upper limit of the total number that can be stored on a GPS)

3)  Loaded/stored TOPO Map:  A USGS based map that is installed and viewable on your GPS screen and Computer.
(You must get the Garmin TOPO 24k west or 100k US)

4)  Tracks are no more than “line segments” between “track points” that are drawn on software or they can be “active” tracks created in the field.
(I turn off the “active” track creation feature on my GPS)

( For the purpose of hiking the CDT if you choose to load tracks I would only use the tracks I created roughly following the Bear Creek Waypoint/POI points)

5) Routes are generally reserved for lines showing “routes” on roads.  So, for hiking purposes using the phrase “routes” only confuses the conversation.

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Garmin does a really poor job of documenting basic operations of there handheld units and instead focuses on the bells and whistles…..
I feel your pain on the jumble of words and operations.  Call Garmin on their Help line and ask for better documentation.

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If you just can’t figure it out the set-up of your GPS I am willing to set up your Etrex 20 or 30 sent to me via USPS Priority mail.  I have done several setups already.  Contact me for mailing instructions.  (You need to have the TOPO map file loaded onto either the GPS internal memory or the SD card)

Contact me off line at     frankgilliland    <@>    gmail   <dot>     com

I am in the middle of planning my own Summer hikes, so I am busy and can not walk you thru “BASIC” GPS loading operation questions.
I would prefer to just load your GPS up with data and set it up once.  But, you need to decide soon……

If you prefer Bear Creek will also do some GPS or SD card set-up for you for a nominal fee:

http://www.bearcreeksurvey.com/Reroutes.htm

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Bottom line: this is what I do in the field (on-trail) once I load the TOPO Map, POI point file and optional Track files:

1) Turn on your GPS and and you will see your location on your GPS screen as a digital USGS topo map
(this is helpful by itself and then you can find or verify your location on your paper map)
2)  you should also see the loaded Bear Creek Way-point or POI point(s) near you.
3)  if you have loaded and turned on the track viewing feature you will see the trail location as a line(s).
4)  If you are “Off Trail”  walk towards the closest or most logical Waypoint/POI point.
5)  Walk to the next Waypoint/POI in your direction of travel
6)  If it is obvious that you are on the trail then turn off your GPS to save your batteries until the next time you are “Off Trail”
(or you just want to see what the next POI point is and your physical location on your paper map)

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Final Words of Wisdom:

You are responsible for learning the operation of your GPS.  In the field in the Middle of Montana is to late…..
GPS units are known to fail, batteries die and you should always have Paper Maps and the skills to use them.

Get an Etrex 20, load your TOPO map, load the POI and Track files…….Stay Found!

StarMan