Archive for the 'Evaluations: Hiking & Camping Gear' Category

Feb 16 2016

Unbending Determination: Microwave Meals for the Backcountry?

What the Compleat Trekker Eats

It’s time for a little straight talk about provisioning and meal preparation. Food is fuel, and hunger really is the best of sauces, but cooking in camp is always something of a chore. There are no marble countertops or food processors in the backcountry. And then there’s the cleanup that inevitably follows the meal. Doing the dishes is never an easy job in a world in which the only running water is in the river. (No, it’s not cool to wash your dishes in the river. But I didn’t need to say that, did I?)

Which is why even young and supple paddlers often find themselves stiff and sore after a few days as camp cook. All that kneeling, squatting, and twisting takes its toll. And if you’re neither young nor supple? Then preparing the simplest meals becomes a painful exercise, something to be dreaded, rather than enjoyed. What are your options? Well, you just might strike up a partnership with a paddling gourmet, a happy cooker whose culinary enthusiasm is undimmed by five days of ceaseless rain and the sudden collapse of the kitchen tarp. Good luck.

Or you could instead do everything in your power to streamline meal preparation and cleanup. This, broadly speaking, is the goal of “man cooking,” and I suspect there’s no more skilled practitioner of that art than 74‑year‑old kayak‑camper Chuck Neubauer. We’ve met him before, in an earlier column. That column triggered quite a spate of reader mail, and you’ll be seeing some of this mail later. But first we’re going to spend a little more time with Chuck, as he demonstrates his approach to meal preparation. You could call it the chuck wagon method… Read more…

Questions? Comments? Just click here!

Feb 09 2016

Getting a Grip in Winter: Readers Share Their Suggestions

Still Putting My Best Foot Forward

Pratfalls were the stuff of vaudeville routines like the famous (or infamous) Three Stooges skits, and they can still evoke a laugh. But while a fall might be funny on stage, it’s no joke on the trail — especially if you’re carrying a heavy pack or a canoe when your feet go out from under you. At best, you’ll have a painful bruise. And at worst? How does compound fracture sound? Or concussion? Both are possibilities.

So it pays to keep your feet on the ground. That’s easily said. But not so easily done. Especially in winter, when trails often become icy ribbons. Of course, you probably won’t be portaging a canoe under these conditions, but you might well be returning from a winter hike or snowshoe outing. (It often happens that parking lots and connector trails are snowless and ice‑covered, even when there are deep drifts in the woods.)

What’s the remedy? In a word: crampons. But the classic climbers’ crampon, a steel frame bearing 10 or more sharp steel teeth, is a little out of place on rolling hills and lowland trails. These are the proper province of the crampons’ less aggressive cousin, the “traction device.” And as I explained in an earlier article, I’ve taken to using Yaktrax — Yaktrax Walkers initially, and later, when the Walkers let me down, Yaktrax Pros — for much of my winter rambling. Unfortunately, they’re not always up to the jobs I ask them to do, and as a result, I’ve been casting about for something better.

I figured that one or more readers might be able to help me, and I was right. My virtual mailbag soon filled with letters on the subject, and I realized I ought to pass along a representative sample. I can’t be the only paddler-turned-winter-hillwalker who’s looking for a better way to get a grip, after all. And so, with my readers’ kind consent, I’m going to give them the floor, beginning with one reader’s ringing endorsement of Kahtoola MICROspikes… Read more…

Questions? Comments? Just click here!

Dec 10 2015

Getting a Grip in Winter: Going the Distance With Yaktrax

Putting My Best Foot Forward

Now is the winter of our… What, exactly? Not discontent, surely. At least not unalloyed discontent. True, many northern streams and ponds are already sheathed in ice. So unless you live on the southern marches of Canoe Country, paddling is something that only the hardy (or the foolhardy) can enjoy. But winter has pleasures all its own. At what other season can we ordinary mortals walk on water, after all?

And yes, I know that the calendar on the wall tells us winter is still two weeks away. But a glance out any window will likely confirm that the wall calendar lies. The 22nd of December is midwinter’s day. It’s also the day when Sol begins his stately, measured return from his Farthest South. The upshot? Winter will be with us for many weeks to come, and we’d be foolish not to make the best of it. Of course, this means getting outside whenever we can. Therein lies the rub — or maybe the smash. Because the winter landscape, beautiful though it often is, is also a slippery place.

Snow is usually no problem. As least it’s no problem for webfooted wanderers. We welcome the drifts that afford us safe passage through the same thickets and marshes that defeated our best efforts in more temperate seasons. (Skiers once traversed these same royal roads — skiers of the cross‑country persuasion, at any rate. But nowadays most skiers seem content to follow in the wake of soot‑belching groomers. So much for “cross‑country,” eh?)

But ice… What about ice? Well, ice is something else again  … Read more…

Questions? Comments? Just click here!

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