Pile ‘o Discount Flashlights

So, right after I reviewed the $110 Surefire Defender para military device, this full page ad from Ocean State Job Lot with dozens of deals shows up in the Bangor News-   “6 Pack of 9 LED Flashlights”  for $10- “Batteries Included”. You can see it below,  on the right side under the ” Halloween Glow Items”.

Ad in Bangor Daily News

I was headed up to Belfast anyways last night, and picked up a pack. Here they are:

They appear to have the same rubber end switch as the Surefire. The packaging material reads, ” 9 LED aluminum” ( yep, not plastic),  LED bulbs never need replacing last up to 100,000 hours ( verbatim) , and 18 AAA batteries included. Made in China”.

I tested a sample of batteries, and they all appeared fresh, reading 1.57 volts.  Loaded with 3 AAA’s, and with supplied lanyard attached, one flashlight weighs only 1.5 ounces.

So?  Does it even work?

I have no idea how many lumens the 9 LED units put out, but it sure ain’t 200!

When we blackened the house last night and I switched one on, ” That’s pretty bright!”  Auntie Mame exclaimed.

These things are definitely worth $1.66 each (complete with batteries).

Want one?  I’ve got a few extras.

Gear Review – Surefire E2D LED Defender

Weight: 5.6 oz.     Price  $110

The Surefire Defender was loaded to me by my friend Chris, who is usually right on with his gear recommendations.  I didn’t know why someone would pay over $100 for a palm sized flashlight, but was immediately intrigued by the brilliance of the beam, and questioned the function of the scalloped ends of the unit.

This is a full-on, aluminum anodized model that has no filament to burn out, throwing out a staggering 200 lumens from a single LED. I used the light in the woods, and was really impressed by the illumination, which clearly out distances any flashlight that I’ve ever used, and I have used some big boys.

The down side is that when initially turned on, the unit default to the high setting, but one more push of the rubber switch give the user a low (5 lumen) beam that was fine for most work outdoors. If the light were accidentally switched on while in a backpack, the heat generated on the high setting would melt plastic. Rotating the end cap disables the push switch, a habit that you’d be advised to develop when the light is transported in a suitcase or backpack.

The printed material about the flashlight notes that it is waterproof to a depth of 33 feet, however I didn’t test that capability.

The light uses two CR123 batteries, which sets you back about $10 if purchased in a two pack in a store.  These batteries are much cheaper when purchased in bulk from internet vendors.

Make no mistake about it, this unit is primarily targeted at military, law enforcement, and aviation personnel. Note that the “ Crenellated Strike Bezel® and scalloped tail cap provide enhanced self-defense capabilities”.  Translation:  You can hold this thing in your fist, flail away,  and gouge the flesh out of any bad guy that proceeds to violate to your personal safety zone.

I wouldn’t buy this light for my personal use, which generally favors a hands-free headlamp light that allows me to use my hands to bring in firewood, backpack at night, or read a book in my tent.

Alternatively, I’m headed up to Belfast tonight , where I‘m going to detour to Ocean State Job Lot where I can check out the “6 Pack of 9 LED Flashlights” that are currently on sale for $10- “Batteries Included”!  Maybe if I cluster those half dozen lights with duct tape and keep them out of water I can blaze the landscape with 200 lumens ? I’ll let you know !

PCT Completion Medal

I met Eric Ryback on April  25th this year while I was attending the 2009 ADZPCTKO .  Eric was the first person to thru hike the PCT, back around 1970 when he just graduated from high school. Prior to his hike, it was considered impossible for a person to hike the whole thing in a single season. Eric had also contributed a chapter about his AT thu hike in the classic, now out-of-print,  two volume Rodale Press set about people who had completed the AT. After that story inspired me, I applied for and received a grant that funded an outdoor exploration/ backpacking program that was targeted at potential high school dropouts.  I credit that program with saving the lives of several young people (who are now old ) whom I still visit with in Rockland, ME.

At the gathering in April, the  PCTA made public mention of a completion medallion that  would be available to those who had completed the Trail.  Eric himself put up the funds to produce the medals, as a way of honoring those of us who sacrificed time, money, blood, sweat, and tears to walk 2,656 miles. Mine arrived in the mail today. I wept when I held it.  I’ve never been above average at any sport in my life, but after 60 years, I feel like I’m king of the world.  Thanks, Eric.

9.3 ounces of beauty
Personal Inscription - reverse side

Improved, Better Posts

I’m thrilled with current testing my new 4G IPod Touch, which now gives me the ability to take video and photos with the device. In the future, I can record HD video and still shots from the device and post them to the blog immediately.

Here’s a photo I just took of the page entitled For Running Shoes, It’s Fit First and Price Last in Today’s NY Times. It’s a must read for lightweight backpackers. This article sheds some light on why most folks wear shoes that are too small , and explains why buying two sizes larger could be necessary.

I looked like a clown in my over sized 14’s out there , but this clown never had to suffer through any blisters.  Anyone on the PCT who wore light running/ trekking footwear had blisters. It seemed to be a given. I credit my size 14  OTB Boots for keeping me blister free.

[Disclosure:  I was sponsored by OTB on my 2010 PCT thru hike.]

Warrantee service from Arc’teryx sucks!

Back in July, in Mammoth Lakes, CA,  I shelled out $325 for an Arc’Teryx Altra 65 backpack .  It appeared to be just right for me, with enough features to earn it Backpacking Magazine’s 2010 Pack of the Year award.  What sold me on it was watching a Backpacking Magazine video where it was reported to have the best waist belt ever.  I loved the fit and comfort, but even on the first day wearing it, I had problems with that waist belt. It was repeatedly slipping through the large Fastex buckle snapping it in place.  No matter how tightly I snugged it up, within 5 minutes it was slipping loose, and shifting the load to my shoulders.  In desperation, I was tying the extra material from the waist belt into a knot each time I carried the pack , which sometimes was tight enough, but then I’d have to untie that knot each time I  had to take the pack off.

To make a long story short, the manager of warrantee/returns verified that the much ballyhooed waist belt was defective, with inadequate ( too thin) material used as well as a snap buckle system that was not right for that application. The good news is that he informed me that both problems would be addressed in the next production run, when  I’d have one of those packs.  On the positive side, Arc’teryx sent me an upgraded pack to replace it, but after hauling around the 7 plus pound Bora on the PCT, I also sent that back.  It was just too damn heavy for my liking.

So here it is almost three months later . I have yet to receive my replacement for the $325 I spent on an  Altra 65 with a bogus belt.

I called the company yesterday, using the exact same 800 number, extension, and Return Authorization number that used to work for me.  The recording would not forward the extension number to the agent, saying” I don’t recognize that number”.  So I eventually left 2 messages for ” the next available agent” and we eventually talked after I received a message on my machine,  informing me to  ” Go to the website, and use the online form  that will set you up for a return authorization”.  I eventually actually spoke to an agent, who appeared to have no idea about the prior number that I had left with my message.

The agent informed me that the pack was still not in production. When I told him  that the pack was listed on the Web as ” in stock” from several vendors, he replied that the policy is that a warrantee return has to be issued from the main office and not involve any store.  I declined to have him send me an orange replacement sometime in November, because in my use of the pack, the light “Copper”  color showed dirt immediately, so I requested it in the “Raven”( dark) color.  He told me that Raven color Altra 65’s will not be available until sometime in January. He requested me to contact Arc’teryx again in December so that he would process the replacement.


I’m Back!

Today marks the official transition back here from the six months of backpacking California, Oregon, and Washington that is documented in my Pacific Crest Trail Journal .

I’m going slow today, and enjoying my re-entry. It’s not all easy, but I’m not complaining. After all, I get to eat better. Here what my wife made me last night.

My KInd of Omlet !

Expect the start of several gear reviews in the next week.

My first one will be a report on the cooking system that I used on the trail.

I have to drive down to Portland, ME today to have my feet checked out at my podiatrist. They are not doing well. So, the foot report also coming your way.

I’ve got my bullshit detector sharpened up, and here’s the first culprit to bring to light. It’s straight out of a recent issue of Outside magazine.

What Came First ?

So here’s a freakin’ camera that Outside has chosen as ESSENTIAL to hiking a fourteen thousand foot mountain. Really ? We could stop right there, but let’s go on to the shameless hucksterism. Outside didn’t even try and hide the ad somewhere else in the magazine. A full page advertisement for that very same camera on the very next facing page of the issue? Think about it. Which came first? Could it have been the Panasonic advertising account that generated this product placement ?

Back from 2,650 mile thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail


1,000 miles: ripped, cut , torn- next step= trash can


It’s been almost a week since I’ve arrived home.
My backpack is still partly full, sitting right beside me. My inability to completely empty it and put it away is diagnostic of my reluctant, part-way re-entry into what Birdlegs has so aptly dubbed the “shower world”.
I do not miss the end of the trail.  I’m clearly happy here. The last two and a half months of the PCT hike were tough, not only in daily mileage, which was dialed in each morning at 25, but also the very taxing progress through the Glacier Peak Wilderness, where a week of cold and rain pummeled MeGaTex into a wet pile of humanity wrapped up in wet taco sleeping bags. We each fought hypothermia several of those days, which would have been very serious if any one of us were alone. We needed each other survive. It was that simple.
I have yet to muster the courage to view my photos from the Great Snow Walk of the high Sierra.  I still get a sinking feeling in my stomach when I even think about revisiting that section.
I do best here if I stay home, out of town.  Town was also my downfall on the PCT where I lost my wallet, money, checkbook, passport, earphones, gloves, and even my shirt.
I have visited with every one of my neighbors, who each presented me with a coming home present.  The best one was from my neighbor Bill, who informed me that he was buying a 25+ acre parcel that abuts my land on two sides.  He plans to put it into conservation trust. Now, I will only see woods and fields, as long as I live here.

Let me give you a taste of how quickly one of my town excursions ended.
Last Sunday I drove my son down to the Portland, ME airport so that he could get back to his life in San Francisco. After I saw him, I went over to the Maine Mall where I planned to use my debit card to withdraw some money, get a dinner, and stop at the Apple Computer store to see what new stuff came out  while I was gone.  (Speaking of Apple, one of the few objects that did not tear, break, or fry on the hike was my iPod Touch.)  I was not able to get my pin number right, so eventually the ATM rendered my card void.  I had no phone, no money, and it was getting dark.  Somehow I also activated the anti-theft alarm on my 1999 Jetta diesel, which has never happened before. I was not only unable to start the car, but when I did try and turn the key in the ignition, the very loud loud alarm activated and the lights blinked on and off.  Luckily I went on the internet with my Touch and MiFi and was able to locate a key turn code that disabled the alarm.
Yesterday, more snafus. At the counter at the Hope General Store I knocked my large coffee over spilling the contents into an open drawer in back of the cash register.  Later at lunchtime, the person in line in back of me at the Brown Bag pointed out to me that I dropped a wad of cash on the floor.  I appear to be sorely lacking several skills that must be re-activated if I am to be a functioning member of society.
On the other hand, I love the unstructured time, which has been mostly devoted to fixing things that have broken while I was gone, like the garage door opener,  the DVD player, the trailer I use to haul things in, my bicycle, a broken window, and several pieces of gear.  There is a crate full of mail that has to be dealt with.  I dig vacuuming, and plan to wash some floors this afternoon.
I have received several calls from people who have wanted to talk with me about the PCT.  Auntie Mame and I had a great time visiting with my friend Andy and his wife last night. Andy lives here in town and just completed his own thru-hike of the Appalachian trail a few weeks ago.  He’s pumped!
I am trying to avoid paid work until Nov. 1.
Last night I even got to watch my favorite movie, Hoosiers, wrapped up in my sleeping bag on the couch, sitting right next to Auntie Mame.

Again,  a huge thank you to my sponsors.
First and foremost is Don Kivelus of Four Dog Stove , who supplied me with the multifuel Bushcooker LT 1 titanium backpacking stove, two cases of Coghlan (hexamine) tablets, and twelve cases of Mountainhouse freeze dried dinners.  Don believed in me, early on.  I consider him my outdoors guru, whose specialty is fire building and know how about efficiency in subsequent heat transfer.  His company has been a treasure trove of survival and back country tools and resources. I used his stove every day, sometimes multiple times a day.  I consider it the ultimate backpacking stove. There is nothing more I can come up with about the stove that would improve it.
On The Beach/ New Balance provided me with  Bushmaster boots for the whole hike.  I have REALLY bad feet and would not have been able to complete the trip without the benefit of composite mid-sole of this boot.  I also never had even one blister on the hike. It wasn’t easy to make deliveries to me where I most needed new boots, yet Dan came through for me when necessary.
Rock City Roasters supplied me with two huge bags of Dark Star drip grind coffee, for those many days where I was jonesing for caffeine.  I had enough to supply General Lee as well.  I will miss the owner, Pat, who died after I started hiking.
The Freeport, ME Patagonia store supplied me with a Houdini jacket. It was one piece of gear that never failed or ripped, a rare situation.

I would also like to thank my faithful and primary support team, the Speedy Sisters.  V8 not only transcribed and posted all my daily entries, and she encouraged me to label each and every photo posted on the Trailjournals site. People loved the photo section, I heard about it.   Auntie Mame primarily sent me love and her unwavering faith that I would finish.  She also provided me with 11 mail drops, each more thrilling than the last. It is very tough work being at home while a partner hikes.  I know, as the Sisters hiked almost half the AT in 2008, when I was Mr. Stay At Home.  Craig, thanks for making the pemmican that got me through northern Washington.  Chris, thanks for the earphones.  Mom, thanks for being my mother, being proud of me this time, and sending me all the home made bars, granola, and treats that sustained me.  Brad, your instant Curry In A Hurry mix and your Brad bars were so tasteful. They powered me up numerous uphills.  Roy, thanks for the New Balance socks and Powerbars.
Readers, thanks for writing in my Trailjournals Guest Book.  Your kind comments were what cushioned my steps when the ground was the most frozen and rocky. David H., thanks for your voluminous pipeline of inspirational quotes and encouragement, my Friend for Life.
I also want to thank Water, Heathen, Larry, Dusty Roads and the dozens of  trail angels who went out of their way ( often WAY out of their way) to bring me food or supplies.
If there is anyone else that feels they deserve thanks let me know so that I can suck up an apology and list you here too.
Lastly, I am forever  indebted to my fellow members of MeGaTex for all that they did for me, all the times they waited for me, all the food, pain, laughter, and adventures we created for ourselves.


Original MeGatex at Canada border


I would NOT have completed the PCT without their personal power and  energy. We were the strongest group of the Class of 2010,  all proud matriculates of The University of Adversity.