Backpacking Brands That Stand Tall in My Book

With a month and a half a backpacking scheduled for this coming season I’ve been going through broken and worn gear and replacing it. I am one of those people who are rough on gear. Every piece of gear and clothing that  I started out with in 2007 when I hiked the AT as been replaced, worn out, or broken with the exception of Tiki-mon,  my Triple Crown water bottle buddy, and I’m checking him out for a possible leak tonight..

Here’s the latest item I replaced, a pair of Point6 light hikers. I purchased two pairs of Point6 light hikers that have been totally satisfactory. Point6 sock have a lifetime guarantee, as do DarnTough socks.  When a pair sprouted a hole, I washed and sent them back. Point6 replaced them in 2 days, no questions asked.

Point6 is a company that shines in customer service

In the past month I have replaced or had gear repaired from MSR (Lightning Ascent snowshoe binding), Princeton Byte ( sending me a replacement cover for my headlamp (plastic broke on battery door), Patagonia (new zipper on my down sweater), and LLBean (replaced a pair of biking gloves).  I have two sets of  Leki trekking poles, and advise hikers to purchase the aluminum models since they carry a lifetime breakage warranty (Leki carbon fiber poles are only covered for a year).

I understand that companies don’t typically provide this level of customer service.  Here’s my policy: I don’t deal with any gear or clothing company that gives me crap about their product quality.  When I hear it starting on the other end of the phone , I thank them right away and that’s the end of it between them and me.  I’m one of those decisive older guys who does not like to waste time with unnecessary burdens of any kind, be it on my back on in my head.  It is for this reason I stopped dealing with Eastern Mountain Sports, Mountain Hardware, and Arc’teryx.

When you spend weeks to months at a time every single day outdoors using these products they have to work, and when they don’t, the company better assist this hiker in replacing that often essential item as soon as possible.  Some of the companies that come to the front here are noted above.  Tarptent and ULA have sent me loaners overnight in exchange for me sending them back my gear to be fixed ASAP.  I like it when that happens. I rebuy from them in kind and it goes on from there.

It’s interesting that I have so little interest in checking out newer tents, sleeping bags, pads, and stoves, even though I am out frequently and even find myself guiding others along the path.  I hear the same thing from other experienced long-distance hikers- that gear that works well tends to start settling in in a comfortable manner, better or worse.

One thing has changed though in my gear deal.  I’m not shopping around much .  I stick with these companies because they respect me as a customer.  And I respect them for producing quality service, AND quality products.

My recommendation to this year’s batch of thru -hiker hopefuls is to be sure to have those 800 numbers written down somewhere when your gear fails you.  If you pay the bucks up front and purchase from a vendor that has a replacement guarantee, you should be all set. In any case,  be polite, and maybe you too will be a repeat offender when it comes to putting out the bucks for new stuff.

I also need to call Leki about a broken pole. They once gave me a bandanna with their customer service number on it, which is answered by a friendly human !

 

Space available for “Make Your Own Bushcooker Stove”

One-night stove building workshop in Camden, Maine, 6-8:30 pm.

screenshotHere is a picture of the stove in action:

p1020899

Further details about the stove itself are in this updated blog post from 2012. This post feature a video clip of the stove in action, and illustrates the steps involved in constructing this tidy little unit.

The evening will include an introductory talk about some of the science and history of the stove. You will learn how to get the most efficiency out of the unit. This double-walled, gassification chamber type stove burns denatured alcohol, solid fuel tablets, and biomass (wood, dung, or charcoal). Because of the hands-on nature of the class it is limited to 8 people. Sign up today!

 Register Online

Or call to register- see info below:

screenshot-3

My 10 Pound Camino Backpack Kit

Yes!  I am down 10 pounds on my back. Here’s the picture of all the gear that  I carried for the last 5 days of my 1 month, 250 mile ” backpacking” trip on the Camino Portugese this past June.

Stuff that mattered
Stuff that mattered

I started this trip with fourteen pounds of gear.

I was able to experiment with ditching numerous items for the last 5 day of the walk in Spain, at a distance of some 50 miles from Santiago de Compostela to Finisterre. It was the perfect time to experiment with a minimally-prepared pack.

Ditching gear for this leg of the journey was not my idea. It was suggested to me by the “Irish Hiking Machine”,  AKA David Rooney, an important contact that I spoke with for just one hour on my pilgrimage.  After we parted ways I  never saw Rooney again.  Rooney was a three time repeat on the Portugese Camino, and knew the ropes.  At the albergue where we both had bunks, Rooney made a call ahead to his favorite hostel in Finisterre, the Cabo de Vila , where he helped arrange a private room for Marcia and I.  At his suggestion, we also booked an extra night there, in order to relax and enjoy the area.

Rooney encouraged us to further even plan ahead and reserve a night for when we take the bus back, returning from Finisterre to Santiago. We liked our room, and it was near the bus station, so we planned a return to the Hotel Cuidad de Compostela  (49.09 Euros), where we spent our last night before moving on to walk the “Camino Finisterre“.  Rooney’s reasoning was to leave any extra items from our packs at the hotel, where we’d be back in 5 days. The Hotel was very accommodating to this plan.

Even a fourteen pound pack has things one may not really need, and I decided to be ruthless about reducing weight.  I left my summer down sleeping bag at the motel. Sleeping pajama style in my thin merino wool tights and long sleeve jersey worked fine. If I was not warm enough I was able to throw a blanket over myself.  Our lodging places had  extra blankets in the rooms.  It’s been perfect weather here in June, with just two successive days in the month bringing light intermittent rain, and with the five day forecast for clear skies,  I left my warm jacket, rain jacket, and rain skirt behind as well. Other extra items were souvenirs, pamphlets, guidebooks, a Portugese phrase book, and maps we didn’t need any more but wanted to keep.

So how did it work out for me with just 10 pounds on my back?   The bottom line was that I didn’t miss a thing. I had no spare clothes, but it was so warm and sunny during the day that I was able to wash out my shirt and underwear each day, and easily dry them on a laundry line out in the warm sun that lingered here past 10 pm each night.  I’m inspired to  keep my weight down when I return to backpacking at home as well.  It’s a welcome  experience with 10-15 pounds on your back, however, the move requires trusting that things will work out, or that it won’t be so bad if I’m lacking something that I might have brought along.

“The more you know, the less you carry”- Mors Kochanksi ( inscribed on the face page on my copy of BUSHCRAFT)

As for my final packing list:
1. Pack Group:
Backpack – Granite Gear  —-Leopard AC 58                49 oz.
1 Pack cover                                              3 oz.
Total……………………………………………..                            52    oz

2. Sleeping Group:
1 Ibex wool long sleeve zip T                                        5.8 oz.
1 Ibex long tights                                                      5.4 oz
1 headlamp w/ batteries                                        2.1 oz.
1 stuff sack sil-nylon………………………                                1.3 oz
1 pillow case                                               4.0 oz
Total……………………………………………                                   18.6 oz.

3.  Packed clothing :
1 pr. wool shortie socks                                           2.6 oz.
1  wool midweight long sleeve hoodie                             9.4 oz.
Patagonia Houdini wind jacket                                4.3 oz.
1 pr. New Balance Minimus shoes                            9.1 oz.
Total……………………………………………                             30.2  oz.

4. Kitchen Group:
1 qt. water bottle ( Tiki Mon)                                     5.4 0z.
1 1-liter Platypus                                        1.5 oz.
1 spork……………………………………                             0.3 oz.
1 cup, bowl=Orikaso                                             4.2 oz.
1 bandanna………………………………………..                   1.0 oz.
Total………………………………………….                          12.4  oz.

5. Hygiene Group:
1 small pack towel……………………………..                        1.3 oz.
1 bottle hand cleaner                     …………                    1.3 oz.
1 small zip lock………………………………….                                      1.3 oz
w/ floss, vitamins, ointment, emery boards
1 partial roll toilet paper……………………..                                        2.0 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……………………………………………..                                 8.5  oz

6. Electronic Group:
1    iPhone with headphones,  wall charger and cable              6.6 oz.
1     Anker Charger                                        5.8 oz..

Europe Electrical converter box                                6.6 oz.
1     Wahoo Ticker heart rate monitor                          2.0 oz.
1    Kindle reader                                            6.7
Total……………………………………………..                        27.7 oz

7. Navigation Group:
Map/guidebook                                                   6.0 oz
compass                                                 1.6 oz.
pen                                                        1.0 oz.
Write in the Rain notebook                                    1.5 oz.
Montbell “chrome dome” umbrella                            5.8 oz.
Total                                                    15  .9

8. EXTRAS:
Passport                                                    1.4 oz.

Checkbook w/ credit card ( stripped)                        3.0 oz.
Flowfold Wallet                                            2.0 oz.
Total                                                    6.4 oz.

(wearing):
1  sunhat
1 pr. sunglasses
1 Ibex wool shirt
1 pr. synthetic underwear
1 pr. zip leg synthetic pants
1 pr.  socks
1 pr. On the Beach/  boots
1 pr. Leki poles
total packed weight, dry, without food                 10 pounds, 8 ounces

Desperate Steps: Life Death, and Choices made in the Mountains of the Northeast- my book review

images-2   Desperate Steps is the late 2015 book release from the Appalachian Mountain Club. The subtitle is “Life, Death, and Choices made in the Mountains of the Northeast”.  I just finished my second close reading.

The book is a sobering account of twenty hiker, swimmer, canoeist, and camper tragedies.  The earliest dates to 1963, when the first of 22 known fatalities was recorded in Baxter State Park.

When I was a young man, and an active member of the University of Massachusetts Outing Club during 1967-1971, I faithfully read accounts and critiques about the latest mountaineering and caving tragedies in the pages of Appalachia, a twice-yearly magazine published by the AMC.  The magazine continues a regular feature – “Accidents: Analysis of Incidents in the White Mountains”.  In the Accidents section, experts dissect the actual sequence of events that led to rescues, and frequent death.  I read those stories in order to learn from the mistakes of others in the hope that I would not become an updated statistic.
This book follows that same successful format. The first part of each story includes photos and annotated maps of the actual events. Each account concludes with an Aftermath, where the author, Peter W. Kick, deconstructs, analyzes, and examines the details.  Most of the individuals that survived their ordeals were willing to be interviewed for the book.
Being from Maine, I paid particular attention the four reports of deaths in Baxter State Park.

The publication of this book was timely for me.  In the depths of winter, sitting by the wood stove, I like to read adventure stories that outdoor folks post online.  In fact, it is often difficult to read between the lines and see who is smart, and who is just spouting dumb.

For example, this past winter, I was on a quest to put together the perfectly outfitted day pack. I wanted be ready for most any accident or emergency, even the possibility of having to spend the night outdoors. This book’s Appendix features an updated list of the Ten Essentials, the proven, must-have items for safe back country travel. My own day pack’s final contents were guided by this list.  However, not everyone who ventures into the outdoor world of mysteries and pitfalls believes in carrying a well-stocked day pack.
There is a subset of wilderness adventurers who have taken the concept of going fast and light to extremes. Andrew Skurka came out with the term “stupid light” to describe the practice of sacrificing crucial survival items and comfort levels to shave some weight. Skurka has been named “Adventurer of the Year” by both Outside and National Geographic Adventure, as well as “Person of the Year” by Backpacker.   Here’s Skurka’s original article:  Stupid Light.

I was stunned to read some of the reader comments that I encountered in my research about a proper winter day pack. Here’s one of the most misguided statements, ” I know a lot of people who go out to travel in the wilderness.  Not one of them has even had any serious problem.  You don’t need all that stuff if you know what your are doing out there.”
History permeates the book. The earliest fatalities occurred before many of modern supports were in place, before there were any organized search and rescue (SAR) organizations, when hurricane forecasting was just starting, and when communications were much more limited than today.

One story from 2003 was about the first private person in the USA to buy and activate a personal locator beacon (PLB).  Despite his good intentions, the protagonist ended up requiring not one, but two helicopter rescues out of Adirondack Park in November, while deer hunting out of a canoe. He ended up spending $10,000 after his arrest and imprisonment for two counts of falsely reporting an incident.

The book is grouped into 4 chapters: Unprepared, Know the Route, Taking Risks, and Unexpected.    The final chapter is about Inchworm’s mysterious death 3,000 feet off the AT near Sugarloaf Mountain.  An editor’s note from Oct. 15, 2015 brings the reader to date on locating her skeletal remains, found in a tent within 100 yards of where cadaver scent-trained dogs searched previously.

What’s the take from this book?

Fatigue reigns high. Baxter’s records indicate that most exhaustion cases occur while descending, with the majority of fatalities resulting from medical emergencies. The age group most requiring Search and Rescue is 60 and above.

The book was required reading for this Maine Guide, and should be studied by any person who puts a pack on their back or in their canoe and ventures out into the wilds of the Northeastern USA.

5 spaces left for my “Make Your Multifuel Backpacking Stove” workshop

One-night stove building workshop in Camden, Maine, 6-8:30 pm.

screenshot 13Here is a picture of what the stove will look like:
Further details about the stove itself are in this updated blog post from 2012. This post feature a video clip of the stove in action, and illustrates the steps involved in constructing this tidy little unit.

  The evening will include an  introductory talk about some of the science and history of these stoves. You will learn how to get the most efficiency out of the unit.  This double-walled, gassification chamber stove burns denatured alcohol,  solid fuel tablets, and biomass- wood, dried dung, or charcoal.  Because of the hands-on nature of the class it will be limited to 8 people.  Sign up!

Online registration here.

Return to The Bike

Any December that I can ride my bicycle over the trail and ledges that head up to Mount Pleasant is fine with me.  When that ride includes two old friends like Craig and Rigger and we are riding on four-inch wide tires churning mud and gripping rocks both up and down it is even better.  Today’s ride up to Mt. Pleasant was punctuated by encountering three  four-wheeled drive vehicles right at the summit:  a jacked up off-road pickup truck and a couple of guys riding all-terrain vehicles.  Here’s a photo of Rigger, powered by his less than one horsepower legs going around the truck as he worked his way up to the Peasant summit.

Rigger moves along
Rigger moves along

There was a lot of mud that got churned up by our four wheeled friends today.  I got stuck in this rut heading up to the always challenging ” shit chute” .

Yup. Stuck standing.
Yup. Stuck standing.

The temperature dropped to below freezing last night, so this morning there was still ice to be avoided on the higher segments of trail, and everywhere the path was still in shade.  If  bright sun hit the earth, we were good to go.

I am so ready to put November behind me. Right at the start of the month on my first night ride of the Fall season, I went down hard and bashed my left knee on one sharp rock while crossing a stream bed in the Rockland Bog.   I suffered a deep gash, reaching down to the top of my shin bone.   I waited too long to visit the emergency room. It would have been stitched  if I went in before I went to bed that Tuesday night.  I was forced to take the next five weeks off the bike.

Six weeks later, a thick, unsightly scab is still lingering, and the bruised bone still hurts. I learned an important lesson six weeks ago-  wear my G-Form knee pads every time I am on these rugged midcoast Maine mountain biking trails.  Protective gear doesn’t help when it is  left in the van.

Here are some more photos and one video of what I call the Sunday morning Church of Two Wheels.

Nelly schooling Rigger overlooking Penobscot Bay from summit of Pleasant.

Mountain to the Sea
Mountain to the Sea

 

IMG_5373
Rigger and Nelly ready to head up the power line

Here’s a 40 second clip of Nelly and Rigger clearing Nelly Falls while heading back up to Backside Blueberry Field on the north side of Pleasant.

Here is the map and the profile of one great ride anytime you can get it, but particularly so in December.

screenshot 6Good call, Nelly !

Uncle Tom’s EZ Gift Guide for Hikers

Wondering what gift to get that walker, hiker, or budding adventurer at this giving time of year?  Here are my suggestions for ten things that might be just the ticket, choices which won’t stress the pocketbook too much.

First off are some great books, the first three, brand new,  released in 2015:

#1-  Microadventures: Local Discoveries for Great Escapes by Alistair Humphries

Microadventures
Microadventures

“Refresh your life with a tiny little adventure that’s close to home and easy on your pocket. Inspiration is abundant in this brilliant and beautifully-illustrated guide.”

This is my top book recommendation in 2015.  With the ideas in this book,  I have walked away my gym membership, and put so many more miles and smiles into my life, that I have kept myself 10 pounds lighter through the whole year.  It is British-based, with parts unknown to me, but the ideas transfer so well to Maine, except for the ones that involve a public transportation infrastructure.   Who would even think of loading up a dry bag in the summer, putting on a bathing suit, and swim down a river rather than hike? $20.

#2- Cabin Porn by Zach Klein

Cabin Porn
Cabin Porn

Some people yearn to have a little place of their own where they can get away from it all. This book is a natural outgrowth of an online community that has existed over the past six years. I frequent the Cabin Porn website where photos of  12,000 handmade cabins have been posted. This book contains pictures of more than 200 of those cabins , as well as ten stories about featured cabins. I particularly liked “How to Live Underground”  and “How to Craft an Off- Grid Bunkhouse”, about a 17-acre  settlement over the bay from here over in Deer Isle, Maine.  The book brought me back to 1977, the year I finished  schooling up at the Shelter Institute, and then spent a very special couple years crafting timbers out of red oak trees that I cut down and built our own “four sided, insulated lean-to”  on 4.5 acres where we still reside. Hardcover only- $30.

#3- Camping In The Old Style by David Wescott

Camping In The Old Style
Camping In The Old Style

David Wescott is the author of Primitive Technology: A Book of Earth Skills. He is an expert in primitive technologies and a leading figure in wilderness education for more than forty years.  In 2000,

From Amazon: “Back before the days of RVs, nylon sleeping bags, and all the other modern camping conveniences, people still went camping. This updated and newly designed color edition of Camping in the Old Style explores the techniques and methods used during the golden age of camping, including woodcraft, how to set a campfire, food preparation, pitching a tent, auto camping, and canoeing.  The book is loaded with nuggets of wisdom from classic books written by camping and outdoors pioneers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, such as Daniel Carter Beard, Warren H. Miller, Ernest Thompson Seton, Horace Kephart, and Nessmuk, and author David Wescott includes his own methods, techniques, and philosophies as well. A generous addition of color photos of present-day classic camping enthusiasts supplements many of the fascinating archival black-and-white photos.”

A thorough book, and interesting as hell, howeer the photographs of modern folks engaging in old school camping in modern times are slightly off-putting.  Everyone is too damn clean.  Every single one of the unused canvas tents and bedrolls are pure unblemished white.  Things look overly staged, and some of the pics are positively wrong.  For example, on page 119, there is a pic of a man resting on a “stretcher bed”.  What woodsman would choose to put their smelly boots a few inches under their noses rather than as far as possible down toward the foot of the bed? Hardcover only – $30.

#4- Journeys of Simplicity: Traveling Light with Thomas Merton, Basho, Edward Abbey, Annie Dillard & Others

Journeys of Simplicity
Journeys of Simplicity

My friend Brad Purdy gave me this and the next book on this list.  The books are permanent residents on the night stand beside my bed, where I refer to them often.  Journeys of Simplicity has the tone of a religious  book.  Certainly, here are numerous religious leaders who let us know what they carry with them when they travel through life:  Merton, Basho, Ghandi, and even Jesus, but it is the others who really interested me.  I particularly liked the references to Bilbo Baggins, Grandma Gatewood, and of all people Marcel Duchamp, whose was allotted two whole pages  that contain just forty words (and that include his biography).  And just wait until you see what is listed under “Baggage for the Arctic Tern’s 22,000-Mile Migration” !  $13.

#5- Improv Wisdom: Don’t Prepare, Just Show Up

Improv Wisdom
Improv Wisdom

I wrote about this book in a post last year.  The gist of the book is that mistakes are blessings.  There is plenty that will go wrong when we are out in the wilderness, and this book gets your head straight to the point that you might take a big bow when people discover your ” fail on the trail”. Hardcover only- $17.

#6- The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen

The Snow Leopard
The Snow Leopard

This is my favorite adventure book.  I have read it numerous times.  I am thrilled to no end that it finally was an e-book a couple of  years ago.  I have it on the Kindle app so I can read passages on my iPad, iPhone, and MacBook.  Matthiessen is gone now, and this is a huge gift to us from him.  I read a little bit of it,  a lot.  The journal reflects Nepal, on a hiking journey that Matthiessen takes just as Fall is folding into Winter.  It’s bleak, sad, deep, and huge. $17.

#7-Fenix Flashlight E05

Fenix e05
Fenix e05

This flashlight came my way from my pal Chris, AKA G-Man. Chris is on a apparently life-long search for the perfect outdoor gear.  Do you know Everyday Carry?  If not, you may find it interesting.  EDC is a website where people form all over the world expose the contents of their pockets or shoulder bags and lay out what they use everyday.

The Fenix is in my pocket now because it is small and useful.  It’s  just lots of long nights and short days up here in Maine right now, and I love using the little light (with 85 lumens) to brighten up my evening trips to the woodpile or to tend the chickens.  Plus it uses just a single AAA battery, that’s been good now for over the three weeks.   $20.

#8- Glo-Toob AAA Waterproof Emergency Dive Light, Green

Glo-Toob
Glo-Toob

From the manufacturer: “The Glo-toob AAA is a three function, waterproof, reusable light with hundreds of applications. The AAA Glo-toobs are virtually indestructible and can take knocks and bumps in almost any environment. Glo-toobs are perfect for diving, camping, road side emergencies, action sports or any extreme situation including covert Military operations. Its compact design allows you to easily carry it in your pocket, on your belt, or in a glove compartment.

I use it hung on the lanyard attached to the bottom of the back my reflective walking vest on my night hikes.  If I am on the road, I look like a gigantic Christmas ornament.  It is the brightest warning light I’ve found, and again, uses just one AAA battery.  I also hang a clear one in my tent at night.  $20

$9- Energizer Smart Rechargeable Charger for AA/AAA Batteries, with 4 AA Batteries

AAA/AA battery charger
AAA/AA battery charger

Now that I have whittled down my outdoor electronics ( including my eTrex 30 Garmin GPS to just AAA or AA battery usage, it make so much sense to use rechargables instead of throwing away batteries.  It took me a while to figure out that my AA charger also handles AAA’s, I just had to notice the alternative metal AAA battery tab in each slot.  These chargers only come with 4 AA’s, so you have to purchase a set of AAA’s to make this gift complete.  $16.

#10- Gift certificate for weekend vacation at Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Hobbs Pond in Hope, Maine)

Uncle Tom’s Cabin

UT's cabin
UT’s cabin

Reserve a two-night stay at UT’s cabin before Dec. 31, 2015 for the 2016 season for just $100.  Centrally located in Midcoast Maine.  Eight miles to Camden and 11 miles to Rockland. 2 hours/75 miles from Acadia National park.  Minutes from local hiking and mountain biking trails.  Personally guided adventures available by arrangement. Photos and details on hotlink above.  To reserve, email me at thomasjamrog@me.com

 

Still Slots Open for your Local October Adventure !

Uncle Tom’s Guided Adventures Trip- Camden Hills State Park, Camden, Maine–Dates: October 23-25, 2015
We’ll hike into the Ski Shelter scenically set amidst birch, maple, and balsam forest on a Friday afternoon.

Ski Shelter
Ski Shelter

We will hike out on Sunday.  The shelter is located approximately 2.5 miles inside Camden Hills State Park. While the focus of this trip will be on backpacking cooking, the weekend will also serve as an opportunity for anyone without backpacking experience to “taste” what it’s like to walk on some beautiful trails and spend a couple of nights in a back country setting in a tidy spot in the woods.

I will be giving a more in-depth course in cooking with home made multifuel ( wood, alcohol, solid fuel tablts) stoves on Saturday night. I will provide the tools, materials, and fuel to allow each person to to make, cook on, and then go home with their own multifuel backpacking cook stove, complete with custom titanium air mixing base plate.

Home made multi-fuel backpacking stove

Camden Hills has 25 miles of excellent trails, including the summit of Mount Megunticook (1,385’). Megunticook is a nearly three mile long mountain ridge extending out to Ocean Lookout which overlooks the expanse of Penobscot Bay. During the day, participants will be on their own to explore the park, or we can group up, if folks choose that option instead.

I am most familiar with the Park’s trails and can provide participants with insight about my personal favorite hikes.
I encourage folks who have iPhones to acquire the $3.99 Camden Hills Hiker app, which is also available in an Android application. We’ll become familiar with the App’s features, and use it to stay “found”.
This trip is permitted for up to 5 participants.  The wood-stove heated shelter has 6 bunk beds, but no mattresses, so participants will need to bring their own sleeping pads, sleeping bags, and personal gear. We will purify water from a stream, and there is a clean outhouse adjacent to the wood-heated shelter.  I can help provide items, like packs  and sleeping pads and bags, if necessary.

Price drop! $100.  Includes lodging/usage fees for 2 nights, and food for Saturday night’s dinner that we will prepare on multi-fuel backpacking stoves. I will send you a packing list.

Contact Information:
thomasjamrog@me.com
207-230-4156 cell, texts.  Your  reservation can be secured with a 50% deposit via mail (to Tom Jamrog, 290 High St., Lincolnville, ME 04849).

ABOUT ME:   I am a Registered Maine Guide.  As a Maine Guide, I adhere to a code of ethics, provide quality service, promote safety, and have trained to be prepared to handle any potential problems.   My professional credentials include Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor and Nationally Certified School Psychologist. My background and training has prepared me for assisting clients to engage in a successful wilderness experience by bolstering mental preparedness as well as advising clients about gear selection and on-trail techniques.

IMG_2896 I am a Triple Crown Backpacker who has thru-hiked  the three major long distance US National Scenic Trails:  Appalachian (2007), Pacific Crest (2010), and Continental Divide Trails (2013).

What’s It Like to Sleep in a Bivy Bag ?

It’s interesting !

With no success from posting my requests to borrow someone’s bivy sack- via blog, Facebook, Twitter I finally bought my own.  I have been intrigued about ditching my tent for certain brief outdoor overnights.  You’ve read about my keen interest in following up some of the ideas of the most interesting book Microadventures, by Alistair Humphreys.

photo 4Humphreys includes a chapter entitled The Glorious Bivy Bag, where he extolls the benefits of sleeping on the ground, inside your bivy sack.  I did a little research and found a huge price difference in what is essentially a sleeping bag raincoat.  You can spend close to $250 for a top of the line model.  I went for the bottom of the line, and selected  a $58 (with shipping) bag on Amazon.

Here’s the bag- it’s advertised as “Waterproof GORE-TEX© Bivy Cover is produced utilizing waterproof, moisture-vapor-permeable material with all seams heat sealed.”  It weighs 2 pounds, 3 ounces.

mhjnvNBsEOoqZ7OUgc866HQ

General Lee and I launched our impromptu overnight in the woods by throwing  minimal kits together.  I packed just a headlamp, sleeping bag, pad, quart of water, axe, lighter and my pack on my back. We hopped in the car after supper and before it was dark and left the car in the Stevens Corner lot .  We made quick work of walking up the Multipurpose Road, taking a left at the Frohock Trailhead, then veering up to the backside of Bald Rock Mountain.

We had originally planned to sleep right on top, up at 1100 feet, but that idea got ditched when we experienced the refrigerator wind flowing up the rock face overlooking Penobscot Bay.

Fogbank moving in
Fogbank moving in

We located a flat area between the dilapidated lean-to and the rock ledge leading up to the top where we laid out our sleeping pads and bags.  Lee was going pure cowboy, but I put my bag inside the bivy sack and rested that combo on top of my Neo-air mattress.

My set up with Lee in the background
My set up with Lee in the background

I  had planned to start a warming fire, but when the real dark hit at around 9 PM, we headed right  into the bags anticipating a great undisturbed night of open air sleep.

How did it go?

The thick fog was so laded with water that when I awoke in the night to pee, it sounded like it was raining.  It wasn’t rain. It was the accumulated fog drops falling off the tree branches overhead onto the ground.

This was a good initial test of the bivy sack.  While the cover of my bivy was absolutely soaked with water, the outer cover of my down bag was barely damp. I liked the big teeth of the heavy duty zipper that extended half way down the bag.  This bivy is huge.  I did not cinch the drawstring at the top of the bivy, but did extend the ample hood over my head.  It’s definitely good to be wearing a head cover- I had on a wool hoodie, so put that over my head for warmth.  One thing to think about when sleeping out in a bivy is what to do with all the gear you have with you.  If it’s great weather, you just put your stuff in your pack and let the whole package just sit there overnight.  But if it rains, or the trees are dripping water all night, you want that gear to be dry.  None of this matters much if you are just dirt bagging it for a night then packing up and going home, but if you are out for more than one night, you’d better be packing a large waterproof bag to put your gear in.

Humphreys admits that the bivy is sort of silly, but it’s fun if the weather and the bugs cooperate.  I think he’s right in that, ” When inside a tent, you are basically in a rubbish version of indoors.” If rain were predicted, I would not be choosing the bivy- I’d pack my tent which weighs the same.

We were up at 5 for the 5:08 AM sunrise, which was just a thin orange band sandwiched between grey washes of clouds.

I’m looking forward to spending my next night within my new bivy, soon.

Be carrying these things! Snow/Winter Day Hike Packing List

After taking advice from some readers, I put together some much needed items for my next winter day hikes. With four feet of snow and more coming, It’s serious business out there, especially on trails that have not been packed down. Thanks to Bruce Bicknell, Blaine Curtis, Andre LeBlond, Rick Fowles, Craig Macintosh, Eric Olds, and Jason Buck for contributing useful suggestions.

What's in my winter day pack
What’s in my winter day pack

Snow/Winter Day Packing Checklist

Clothing
( wearing and in pack)
Golite light wind jacket
Patagonia Puffball insulated pullover
Frostline down vest
Patagonia midweight wool hoodie
wool hat
boiled wool mittens
Gaiters
Softshell hiking pants
silk tights
balaclava
midweight gloves
synthetic liner gloves
spare wool socks

Pack:  
ULA Catalyst

Food, including electrolytes

Gear:
insulated sit pad
SOL Escape Bivy Sack
bandanna
trekking poles
3 fire sources: lighter, waterproof matches, magnesium striker
Mora knife in sheath w/ lanyard
headlamp w/extra batteries and bulb
32 oz. water bottle with insulated cover
compass with neck lanyard
Maine Yearly Parks Pass
eTrex 30 GPS  with fresh/spare batteries
map
sunglasses with retainers ( Chums, etc.)
first-aid kit
chemical heat packs
stuff sacks
assorted zipper-lock bags
sunscreen (SPF 15+)
lip balm (SPF 15+)
toilet paper
loud whistle
extra reading glasses
magnesium/ potassium tablets in case of cramping
iPhone, Lightning/USB cable, Anker external battery

Total weight:  9 pounds (without food or water).