Best Books – 2017 !

I’m a goal fanatic. One of my 2017 goals was to read more actual books rather than click bait and  fake news.

Goodreads helped me reach my goal of 25 books read in 2017 ( I ended up reading 37) . Goodreads is the world’s largest site for readers and book recommendations.  Some folks balked when Amazon snapped it up, but I still enjoy using it for cataloguing books that I have read, and books that I plan to read. 

Goodreads is also useful for book promotions by authors, and since my first book came out in October, I have learned  lot about selling and promoting books.

I have a renewed respect for local bookstores.  My Christmas gifts this year were books for family and friends that I purchased at local bookstores. The discounts that authors offer local outlets to present our books are less than the 50% discount we are forced to take at national chains, including the big A.  Please support local bookstores!   

 I am also learning about  the marketing outlets that are available via social media.  For example, I recently had a Goodreads Giveaway where I offered three free copies of my new book, In the Path Of Young Bulls.  The Giveaway ran for a week.  457 Goodreads readers entered the “drawing”, resulting in 457 “Want to Read”  results for me. I gave a way three Christmas presents for people that I hope will offer me reviews, hopefully positive!

Here are the best books that I have read, or even re-read, this calendar year, including a few comments about the books themselves:

I own both editions of this excellent gear guide.  The Second version is the one to get, with additional material.  Between editions, Skurka started up a guiding business. This book reflects the changes in gear recommendations that Skurka offers that were based on not just his own preferences but those of many hundreds of hikers that were on those trips.  I bought a new set of carbon fiber trekking poles based on his tips. The book also contains many useful planning lists. Skurka coined the term ” stupid light”,  which describes the pitfalls of excessively reducing the items in your pack, as well as the durability of those choices.  This is a seasoned backpackers best thoughts about gear.

 

Snorkel, AKA Liz Thomas, writes with authority here.   She’s a relatively young Triple Crown Award hiker,  writes for Backpacker magazine, and conducts online training for thru-hiker hopefuls. From her excellent blog:  “Former women’s speed record holder for the AT and veteran of twenty long trails, gives you the tools to make this dream a reality. Included is trail-proven advice on selecting gear, stocking resupplies, and planning your budget and schedule, complete with gorgeous photographs of life on the trail. Along the way, enjoy sneak peeks into not only the Triple Crown trails, but also lesser-known long trails throughout North America.  She’s also a graduate of Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, and is currently Vice President of the American Long Distance Hiking Association West.   The book’s writing is excellent and contains strong photos, and is filled with up to date gear recommendations.  With this book and Skurka’s Gear Guide i hand you can’t go wrong on any post-Holiday sales.

 

I really enjoy growing  much of my own food as I can here in the shorter season that we have in Maine.  That means Asian greens, onions, cole crops, carrots, and certain pepper varieties.  I’m increasingly interested in fermented preservation of these foods.  This book helped me turn the corner on not only kimchis of various types, but stir fry combos that are quick and tasty.  I absolutely love the comic book format of the book, which makes the cooking even easier when you can see the steps in the process.  Cartooning cookbooks work really well!

 

Maine’s Bernd Heinrich co-wrote this book.  He’s one of the strongest naturalist beacons in the universe, with a Polish pedigree that includes world records for ultramarathon running. All the illustrations in the book were created by Heinrich.  This is a book you are asked to write in, with 5 full years of blank pages at the end to list daily calendar events of animal, weather, and plant activity that one observes in the natural world .  I have found it  useful it on hikes and bike rides. It has assisted me in seeing more of what is out there.  For example, one of the things that I want to do in the next month is discover a barred owl nest in the woods near my house.  Plus, I have already learned that beech trees favor well-drained southern slops in this area of the country and guess what?  It’s true !

The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, and Disease is a book that I was exposed to as a Book on Tape, or rather on CDs.  I read it as a book this year, and gleaned much in terms of evolutionary biology.  It’s a gem of a book, and points the way to understanding how our primal tendencies are mismatched to our current modern society.  It also offers suggestions as to how to reconcile the dilemma. Readers of my blog will be pleased to know that brisk walking or 75-90 minutes a day paired with eating from the approach that Robin Ha’s presents in her cartoon cookbook noted above are parts of the solution.

 

improv wisdom changed my approach to long distance hiking.  I read this book for the third time .  I should commit it to memory.  Long distance hiking is about walking smart, rather than pushing  through pain and misery, although there is going to be plenty of that when you are dealing with the quirks of nature and the human body.

 

This book led me to explore the science behind  heart rate variability, which has been my daily three minute recording practice for the past three years.  I favor the Sweetbeat App. Heart rate variability (HRV) is the physiological phenomenon of variation in the time interval between heartbeats.  Heart Rate Variability is well researched and provides a quick and easy assessment of the Autonomic Nervous System function.It is measured by the variation in the beat-to-beat interval.   Greater Heart Rate Variability (a higher HRV score) at rest is generally indicative of better health, a younger biological age, and better aerobic fitness. Heart Rate Variability is affected by everything from your mindset, to air quality, to age, food choices and exercise patterns.  I use it to determine how much energy I have available each day to devote to specific workouts, as well as to let me know when I need a rest day.   A strap is placed around the chest that monitors three minutes of heartbeats, measuring the intervals between each heartbeat.

 

Ms. Proulx authored The Shipping News, one of the best American novels ever about Newfoundland, Canada. In 1993 it won both the Pulitzer Prize and the U.S. National Book Award. It was adapted as a film of the same name, released in 2001.  Her new book is historical fiction about the logging industry, starting off  along the banks of the St. Laurence River in Canada. Barkskins spans the years 1693 to 2013 in Canada, America and New Zealand.  Barkskins opens when two Frenchmen, Rene Sel and Charles Duquet, arrive as indentured servants. The novel traces the lives of these two men and their descendants including the inter-marriages with the local natives.  I would strongly suggest printing out the two family history charts from the book as well as having a map of maritime Canada and New England by your side as you move through the 700 page plus book.  I feel the book was too long. I loved the first half of this book but lost interest as the centuries unfolded and the action moved away from my geographical connection to the story.

 

I recommend this book.  I still have a earlier popular work on the man- Black Elk Speaks on my bookshelf.  That book was eagerly read by many of us counter-cultural types back in the 1960’s.  It is the bestselling book of all time about an American Indian.  It presented Native American spiritualism as a contrast to modern-day capitalistic excess and the military-industrial complex.   This book is research-based, with some critics reeling with the minutiae of detail contained within .   He participated in a minor role at the Battle of Little Big Horn, was present at the death of his cousin Crazy Horse, and was fully involved in the notorious 1889-1890s events at Wounded Knee.

 

Wow!  I put off reading this book too long.   The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries From a Secret World contains recent research that I have not seen anywhere, yet.  Wohlleben is a German forester who manages a forest in the Eifel Mountains and has uniquely perceived aspects of his beloved trees, animals and mushrooms that ally with them,  and dangers that threaten their survival. 

 

 

 

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 !

 

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

 

Ibex customer service rules!

Ibex does it right,  again .
Ibex does it right, again .

Men’s woolies tights -replaced, again.

I am hard on gear. I can find a company whose products are robust enough that I don’t break their stuuf, that’s great.

It’s even greater when I do break stuff, and deal with a company that comes through for me.

Ibex is on that short list.
Steripen, Four Dog Stove, and Patagonia are also on that list. [For full disclosure, I have received sponsorship donations from all three companies.] Leki trekking poles are on that list (But only if you stay away from their carbon fiber poles, which are apparently so breakage prone that their warranty is limited to just 1 year. The aluminum pole line is a much better deal, with lifetime replacement on any broken pole sections). Western Mountaineering (superb sleeping bags), and Cascade Designs (thera-rest-sleeping pads) both came through when their products failed on the trail. ULA Packs also backs up the hiker.

These guys are definitely off my list: Mountain Hardware, Arc’teryx .

I don’t think these Ibex tights are going to give me problems. I only use my Ibex tights to sleep in, or wear around camp at the end of a day of backpacking. I like to put a clean layer between my often grimy body and the interior of my down sleeping bag. The old tights were prone to tearing, which happened when I was squeezing into the tights after a shower, more than once. The previous model was ultra-thin, with a light thread weave that’s not used for tights anymore. The new ones look tear proof.

Thanks Ibex, and thanks to all the companies out there that back up the hiker.

‘North Pond Hermit’ a ‘model prisoner,’ bail set at $5,000 — Augusta — Bangor Daily News — BDN Maine

I’ve received numerous comments from my post about the arrest of Christopher Knight, now dubbed “The North Pond Hermit”. Here’s an update on his continued resistance to connecting to a society he walked away from decades ago.

Photo courtesy of Maine State Police
Photo courtesy of Maine State Police
The link brings you to additional new stories about this most unusual situation.

‘North Pond Hermit’ a ‘model prisoner,’ bail set at $5,000 — Augusta — Bangor Daily News — BDN Maine.

Big week of preparing for the CDT

There are exactly two months left before I’m actually walking on the Continental Divide Trail. Weeks go by where I don’t do much to get ready for this trip, but these past few days saw a major ramp up in my actions. Of course there had been a couple days worth of blizzard here in Maine to help keep me inside, but that’s OK. Here’s a glimpse of the CDT-hiking-related tasks I’ve addressed this week:

Trail planning:-
-plane ticket to El Paso Purchased for April 16.
-Found out that I’ll just miss the Sunset Unlimited Amtrack west (by an hour) from El Paso when I reach the airport. The next Amtrak west will be two days later. Plan B = the Greyhound bus to Deming, arriving early evening.
-Reserved room at Deming motel ( 1 block from bus station).
-The Columbus route starts south of Columbus. Arranged supports from Keith Schwarzer to drive us 55 miles south to get there.
-Contacted The Weatherman to confirm meeting at Yellowstone
-Did research to determine date we’d hit Doc Campbell’s
-Transferred the outlines of each of Ley’s Columbus route maps onto New Mexico Delorme’s pages for quick reference.
-Purchased Bear Creek’s SD cards to go w/ GPS. ( Already purchased map set in 2012, and the upgrade book 2013). Contacted Jerry Brown about eTrex30 details.

Gear:
-sprayed Vegigators with rain repellant.
-Ordered Exped comfort foam pillow (6 oz.) from Amazon
-Reassembled repaired Arc’teryn Altra 65 backpack
-Practiced taking photos with StickPic
-Tweeted a question about high capacity/low weight iPhone backup battery/case

Food:
-major order forwarded to sponsor Four Dog Stove– 50 Mountainhouse freeze dried dinners, assorted Mountainhouse lunches and breakfasts, additional map order (BLM and Delorme Wyoming), 2 cases of Coghlan solid fuel tabs ( hexamine).

Body:
-hernia surgery done on Friday
-scheduled podiatrist appointment

Arc’teryx Customer Service- Strike 3

It’s 2013- and Arc’teryx customer service continues to suck, just like it did back in 2010.
I wrote about my initial frustration with Arc’teryx in the fall of 2010, after I spent $325 for an Arc’Teryx Altra 65 backpack, a Backpacking Magazine’s 2010 Pack of the Year award winner. That story is a refresher course on what to do to disappoint a customer.
Backpacker didn’t talk to anyone who actually wore the pack on any backpacking trips, because the waist belt that came with the pack had a substandard material in the buckle area that caused the waist belt to slip after you cinched it up, and threw the pack’s total weight back onto one’s shoulders. You can bring yourself up to date on why I was without that pack for 5 months, while I waited for Arc’teryx to replace it.  I had a second warranty issue with the pockets on the waist belt experiencing wear holes after two weeks of use, which was replaced with a new belt. I also received a new sternum strap, after the original elasticized material ripped out.  I do thank them for that.
Unfortunately, I had to deal with Arc’teryx again in November, after I tore a water bottle pocket while bushwhacking around a blow down here in Maine.
Here’s the heart of the new complaint.

Torn water bottle pocket
Torn water bottle pocket

First, I sent them this picture of the torn pack in an email: I received a quick call from a customer service representative that informed me that I’d have to send the whole pack back to them for inspection. It was recommended that I ship the product using a carrier that can provide me with tracking information and proof of delivery (USPS = $22.50).
Within a couple of weeks, I received a call back from them informing me that the tear exceeded normal wear and tear, and that it be processed as an out-of-warranty situation. I asked what the cost would be and was told that Arc’teryx would get back to me with a quote. A couple of days later I was told the fee would be $80. I told the agent that the charge appeared excessive. I had already spent $22.50 just to get it to them. I asked to have the case reviewed, and waited a few days to learn they would now fix it for was $60. I still thought it was too much, and at this point decided that I was done with these folks.   I asked them to send me back the backpack, ripped and all.   I decided to either cut out the frayed material and slide an aftermarket Liberty Mountain water bottle holder onto the waist below to compensate, or I’d get some binding material and use my Speedy Stitcher to repair the torn pocket myself. A couple of weeks later I got the pack pack. (Arc’teryx warrantee/repair products go back to the mother ship in Vancouver, BC.).
At his point I came up with plan C, which was to walk the pack into Tent Repair Services,  right down the street in nearby Camden, ME. In business since 1994, TRS is an authorized repair center for Moss, Walrus, Armadillo & MSR tents. I have had several tent repairs done by the facility over the years and have always been impressed with their service and quality work. Pendra was willing to tackle the job.
Pendra replaced the stretchy mesh material with a solid piece of color-matched coated Cordura, and even retained the drawstring.

The new pocket
The new pocket
She advised me that the repair had taken some time and even required disassembling the pack in that area. Cost? $38.50 plus 5% Maine sales tax, and warranteed, as well.These folks have seen every type of outdoor fabric that’s in existence over the years, and volunteered that the mesh material appears inadequate for the function. It’s only a matter of time, before this $325 pack suffers a failure in those areas as well, but my next solution will be straight to Tent Repair Services. In addition to performing quality repairs to tents and tent poles, Tent Repair Services performs the following: tent and rainfly modifications, panel replacements, construction of replacement rainflys for many tent models, tent footprints, gear lofts, and a variety of custom work as requested.

Looking the pack over at home, I see that the stretchy material on the other pocket has multiple wear holes in it.  At least this time I know what not to do.

Adventure Cycling: Top 10 Most Popular Blog Posts Ever, 2012 Edition

This time of year, my Twitter feed is jamming up with “Top Ten” lists from 2012. While I think it’s great to compile the best from the avalanche of information that’s that’s cascading over us, most of it is just clever advertising.

That being said, I am filtering through and blogging up the good lists. Here’s one:

Adventure Cycling Association: Top 10 Most Popular Blog Posts Ever, 2012 Edition.

My last post, the “Cycling Eight“, came from this Adventure Cycling Association list. I can see where my interest in both bicycling and camping is headed. I am not a member of the ACA, but I just requested a trial issue of their magazine.

I really enjoyed three off this ACA list: The Cycling Eight, A Fat Tire Year-Touring on a Pugsley, and #4 Ten Things You Don’t Need.

I decided to modify the “10 Things You Don’t Need” to address backpacking.
1) You don’t need an expensive backpack. I have a pricey Arc’teryx and customer service has been a curse. Never again. Best to have something that fits well. Most packs hold up, even used ones.
2) You don’t need special Goretex/waterproof backpacking boots. They’ll plague you with blisters. Go with lighte, breathable alternatives.
3) You don’t need lots of money. In 2007, I thru hiked the AT with Lifetraveler, who also completed the trail in 5-and-1/2 months on just $2,000, and one pair of boots.
4) You don’t need “backpacking clothing”. You can outfit at a Goodwill. If stuff wears out go back.
5) You don’t need multiple sets of spare clothing. I use one set. When I reach a washer and drier, I change into my rain gear and wait for my clothes to clean and dry. If it is warm out, water sources can be a place to get water to wash, and the sun works well as a drier.
6) You don’t need a lot of stuff to cook and eat with. I use 1 pot, one spoon, and a cup.
7) You don’t even need to be physically fit. I just watched “Walking the Great Divide“, where three guys each lost at least 20 pounds in their first three weeks of backpacking. You start slow and get more efficient. Weekend warriors may need to be in better shape.
Time for me to get out and shovel away a half foot of snow.

Fresh powder out the front door
Fresh powder out the front door

Why Leki trekking poles rule the market

Way back in 2007 I purchased a pair of Leki Makalu aluminum anti-shock poles after I encountered treacherous ice, steeply descending into The Nantahala Outdoor Center in North Carolina on what turned out to be a successful Appalachian Trail thru-hike.
Since my purchase I’ve used these poles on 6,000 miles of backpacking trails.
They’ve saved me from falling hundreds of times, helped power me up climbs, and secured my safety while crossing hundreds of streams.

Unfortunately, I still fall, and have broken the poles 5 times. Replacement has never been a problem. I carry at least two bandannas with me when I hike. One was a freebee from Leki, which has a raft of imprinted information about how the poles work, along with a toll-free number for customer service.
Each time I call, I am able to speak to a friendly service person, who assists me in determining my exact needs. They make many models. I’ve never been grilled about any of my requests for new pole sections. They have shipped immediately, at no charge.
After five years, the poles had a catastrophic breakage that I felt was my fault, and called them again. This time I asked to purchase two replacement sections, but was requested to send both poles in for service and review.
Yesterday, my poles were returned to me. They could not be repaired. My old friends were cooked!
However, There was more something else in the box, wrapped up in paper. A brand new set of Leki Khumbu antishock poles, Superstrong series, with the new Speedlock adjusting system!

Yeah!

Unbelievable!

[NOTE: Leki has a lifetime breakage warranty on their aluminum line . The carbon fiber pole breakage is limited to one year breakage replacement. ]

Hiking On The Cheap part 1

Yesterday we saw Trauma’s metamorphosis from overloaded to stripped-down backpacker. Today, comes a most useful, watchable, and amusing 10 minute YouTube clip about real-world hiking, on the cheap, and still light, bypassing the thousand dollar plus expense. Don’t let the low key , California laid-back intro put you off. There’s some real hiking gold to be mined here: