Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Sleeping Pad Rant

I split my camping between tent camping and hammock camping. That being said, I am in the market for a new sleeping pad. Over the years I have used a number of pads. The first pad I used was an surplus military closed cell foam pad, the pad was cheap and kept me warm but provided little to no comfort. I then picked up a surplus therm-a-rest inflatable pad for $12. The pad was slightly more comfortable and kept me warm enough for 3 season trips (I still use foam for winter). Then I moved on to the Big Agnes Insulated Air Core. I purchased this pad on a whim for a two week backpacking trip. I like the thickness of the pad. I can fully inflate the pad and let air out until the pad is at just the right level for my comfort. I like that it has some insulation. What I would change about the pad would be the width and the length. When I purchased the pad I was worried about weight, bulk, and comfort I chose to get the regular sized mummy pad. This pad was not wide enough and I found myself sliding off of it in the night. I also noticed that my feet were off the pad more then they were on it. The insulation in the pad is starting to come loose and bunch in the baffles. This leads me to researching a new pad option.

Looking at the current pad market I would love to go with something like the NeoAir Xlite. I think the combination of the pads weight and R-value make it a good contender. What I don't like about the NeoAir is the price, and the point of this post... it's width. Why can't manufactures make a short wide sleeping pad. Cascade designs already makes a 20" and a 25" version of the NeoAir. The 20" version comes in two lengths and the 25" version only comes in extra long. I want a short WIDE pad. If you already make a 25" pad and already make a short pad, how hard would it be to cut the wide pad short? Something to think about.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Cook Systems

I have been working on stove systems for a while. Honestly, I think there is to much hype and focus given to the stoves and cook kits that everyone caries. In the grand scheme of things, stoves and pots have very little impact on my enjoyment of the outdoors. The biggest draw for me has to be the amount of personalization and overall fiddle factor involved in picking out your favorite. Right now I have three basic setups that I like using. I will list the three systems and their contents and then explain why I think each system has merit for the given application.

Group system:
-GSI Dualist Set (Pot, 1x Cup, 1x bowl)
-REI Ti Spork
-MSR Pocket Rocket
-Stove box
-4-8 oz fuel canister (depending on trip length)
I use this system when I backpack with a few people or with scouts. I really like the ease of use and that it follows BSA guidelines. It has accompanied me on many trail miles, on my largest trip to Isle Royale National Park. It is a bomb proof set that I know is reliable when it needs to be. The downside to this set is that it is heavy (to me) and doesn’t function well in the cold.

Wood System:
-IMUSA Grease Pot
-DIY Paint Can “BushBuddy”
-Pressurized Soda Can Stove
-Stove bag
-Cut down GSI Lexan Spoon
-Cotton Balls in Ziploc
-Reflectix Pot Cozy
This is the systems I take when I want to play with fire. It works well for solo use or possibly for two. I like the fact that I built the entire system. Its heavier than my other light weight systems but its just fun to play with. It gets black soot all over the bottom of the pot, but the cozy helps to minimize it coming off on other gear in my pack.

Esbit System:
-2” of soda can bottom
-Snow Peak 600 Mug
-Bottom of Gatorade Bottle
-REI Titanium Spork
-Esbit Fuel Tabs
-MBD Al Lid
-Trail Designs Al Caldera Cone
-Mesh Bag
I am liking this system more and more every day. Esbit fuel has proven to be an efficient and simple fuel. The cone has shown to increase efficiency and is just darn cool. I really like the benefits of the weight of this system, the durability of the pot, and ability to use the Esbit on the ground with tent stakes if I damage the cone or soda can “stove.” This system like the wood system does soot up the bottom of the pot a bit, and the fuel smells up the pack and gear room even through a Ziploc snack bag. There is no smell when burning, however.

UL Beer Can System:
-Heineken Pot w/ Wick Wrap
-Ziploc Screw Top Case
-Pot Support
-MBD Mini Atomic Stove
-Wind Screen
-Cut Down GSI Spoon
What list of backpacking stoves and pots would be complete without a beer can in the list? This system has become near and dear to my heart. It has evolved over a year long period into something I have grown to really enjoy. It’s small size and low weight are its greatest benefits but it suffers from durability issues and requires a case to help keep it from damaging. This system requires a lot of care to keep it from becoming damaged on the trail, and unlike Esbit, if the stove becomes damaged, it would be hard to make the systems work. The durability issues are taken care of by being careful when packing and unpacking the stove as well as paying attention to where you step when cooking in camp.

Its safe to say that if you ask 100 backpackers what their favorite cook system is you will get a slightly different answer from each one. I know that I will probably continue to experiment with different stoves and pots. That’s part of the fun for me.