Some time back (OK, a looong time back), I wrote a piece for Paddling.net that I subtitled “The Virtues of Simplicity.” It concluded with a ringing call to arms, in which I argued that, since “self‑reliance and simplicity lie at the heart of what we [paddlers] do,” we should “heed the warning implicit in the note, ‘Batteries not included.’” The unstated implication, of course, was that we’d all be better off if we left most of our electronic gadgets at home. Good advice, that. Or so I thought at the time. But times change, and change comes increasingly fast. Today, it’s almost impossible to imagine any right‑thinking paddler heading out to the backcountry without a small arsenal of electronic aides: cell phone, GPS, e‑book reader, personal locator beacon…
And I’m no exception. Which is why I figured it was high time to revisit another topic from the past — water disinfection. Here, too, change has come fast. A for‑instance: In my most recent foray into the subject, a column optimistically titled “Water Purification Brought Up to Date,” I pooh‑poohed the idea that portable ultramicrofiltration (0.02 μm) systems would soon become available. But now, only five years on, they’re … well, not commonplace, exactly … but widely advertised. It’s true that field reports are mixed, with some users complaining that flow rates are dishearteningly slow. Still, the technology to filter even the smallest pathogens from water has indeed left the laboratory and ventured out into the backcountry.
Me? I’m not likely to embrace this particular advance any time soon. You can put my hesitancy down to impatience, if you like. Or simple laziness. In my experience, filters are fiddly things, and I blanch at the prospect of maintaining an ultramicrofilter in the field. I do use a gravity‑feed microfilter for bulk‑treating water in camp, but even this comparatively coarse (0.2 μm) filter requires a certain amount of coddling. Which is just one manifestation of a larger problem…Read more…
This article was originally published on June 16, 2011.
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With the exception of the models hired by the hour to pose for catalog photos, few canoeists or kayakers care how they look. We care about what we wear, of course. In a hard chance, the right clothes can even make the difference between life and death, and enforcing this survival dress code is one of the many burdens borne by the brave folks who lead group outings, particularly when their charges are comparative novices. But most old hands don’t give much thought to appearances.
Which is why many paddlers look as if they’re off to a fancy‑dress ball with a thrift shop theme, at least during the more temperate seasons. Baggy shorts of the sort once worn by Chindits, cable‑knit sweaters that might well have seen service during the Cod Wars, even the odd kilt… Any and all of these can be seen somewhere on a wild river. Yet there’s one traditional garment that’s conspicuous by its absence: Breeches… Read more…
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Some years back I retired my last pair of rubber wellies. And what took their place? A pair of NEOS Trekker overshoes. I made the change with considerable reluctance. In fact, it was Hobson’s choice. The inexpensive L.L. Bean Wellies that were a mainstay of my backcountry wardrobe simply disappeared from the catalog. In the stead, L.L. Bean offered only pricier branded boots, many of which offered “improvements” that I didn’t need, like insulation and camouflage color schemes. Moreover, I was — and still am — reluctant to spend a hundred bucks or more on a pair of boots that probably wouldn’t see me through more than a couple of seasons.
The upshot? If I wanted rubber wellies I’d have to take what was offered and pay the price. Hobson’s choice, like I said. Take it or leave it. So I left it, opting instead to buy a pac in a poke: a pair of NEOS Trekkers. They cost more than my old L.L. Bean Wellies, but less than the Wellies’ branded counterparts, and while I had doubts that any pair of fabric boots would stay waterproof through even a single season, I decided I’d give the Trekkers a fair try. And I did — for going on four years now. With this result: Two thumbs up!… Read more…