Somebody (I think it was the late Colin Fletcher) once lamented that one of the few downsides to backcountry travel was the scarcity of upholstered seats. And if a former Royal Marine like Fletcher, inured to wartime hardships and privation, thought this lack of home comforts worthy of note, what about the rest of us, who are accustomed to a much softer life? Well, speaking for myself, I spend too much time sitting as it is. But when I have to sit — and it’s hard to paddle a canoe or ride a bike while standing — I miss having a comfortable seat. Of course, one person’s idea of comfort is likely to differ from another’s. When my uncle saw the impossibly narrow (and implacably adamantine) saddle on Farwell’s “amphibious” bike, he prodded it gingerly, then observed that if he were ever forced to sit on “that thing” he’d have to have it surgically removed. So it’s obvious that notions of comfort vary wildly.
Still, there’s no denying that wood‑framed cane seats and granite rocks aren’t conducive to comfort. Not over the long haul, at any rate. And as I’ve just said, I spend a lot of time sitting down, both at work and at play. Moreover, I don’t share Farwell’s taste for the hard life, at least not in fundamental matters. I like my seats to be well upholstered. In short, I find myself keeping company with the spirits of Nessmuk and Colin Fletcher. I go to the woods to smooth it, not to rough it.
This mindset is reflected in my choice of bedding, among other things. And for quite some time I’d followed Fletcher’s lead in using my sleeping pad, suitably folded and trussed, as a lounge chair while in camp. But this was hard on the pad, and it didn’t lend itself to short lunch stops, let alone brief breathers along the portage trail. I needed something handier. And after a little looking around, I found it… Read more…
This article was originally published on October 27, 2011.
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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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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…