Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Creating a kit: Tent stakes

Tent stakes are the item that nearly always need upgrading. When you buy a new tent they always have heavy or second rate stakes. So I made a trip to several of my local outfitters to have a look-see. I saw a decent selection, but couldn't seem to find the individual stake weight on the packages. So, I whipped out my iPhone and snapped some pics for further home research. I found that there is a lot more options than the casual buyer might know about. I'll post some links and some options here.
     MSR: Most of us have seen a Groundhog in action, but you won't find the specs on the MSR page, so here they are:
                Aluminum, 7.5 inches in length, .71 oz
                Needle, it's: ALuminum, 6.2 inches, .35 oz

     Easton: They make great bats, and arrow shafts. The arrows are apparently good material for D-I-Y pegs. They also have several options for actual stakes:
                Easton Aluminum Backpacker is (Aluminum), 8.5 inches, .5 oz
                Easton Aluminum Nano is (Aluminum), 6.4 inches, .3 oz

                MH "X" stake: (Alum) 15cm, .46oz
                                              20cm, .71oz
                                              25cm, .78oz
                MH "Y" peg: (Alum)       ?   , .52oz
              MH Tube Stakes: (Alum), ? , .49oz       Appear identical to the Easton Aluminum Stakes 

     REI: Yep, they make a generic stake.
                REI Tri-Stake: (Alum), 7inches, .5oz     Only $1 apiece!
                REI Aluminum Hook: (Alum), ?, .35oz

     Vargo Outdoor: If you look at nothing else on here, check these guys out. Titanium specialist.
                VO Titanium Nail Pegs: (Titanium), ?, .5 oz.  About double $, but seem pretty cool.
                VO Titanium Nail Pegs Ultralight: (Titanium), 6inches, .3oz

     I like the idea of DIY stakes, but I am not creative, so here is a cool video link!
     If you'd like to see a comparison video, this one is my favorite.
     If you camp in extremely rocky terrain, here is a video for a cool stake driving tool.
     Fun video of things to do with tent stakes!

     There are all manner of steel or plastic stakes around, but as they are useless in my part of the country, I will refrain. There may be many other good ones out there, but this is a good starting point. I welcome comments on any stakes, or corrections on the specs here, as well as short reviews on your own. Throw me a bone here!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Creating a kit: First Aid

     Every outdoorsman plans on surviving whatever nature(or their companion) throws at them. But for some of us, nature is likely to throw more(or more often) than for others. Sure, you could reduce your pack weight even more by dispensing with a first aid kit all together. But that would eventually ruin a trip, or endanger lives. Yours, or your rescuer(s). Face it, you could be burned by boiling water from your stove(me), or slice open your finger. Break a nail while whacking downed firewood against a rock(Cory). Or any number of new and exciting ways of self induced pain and suffering. Or nature could attack you. Rabid squirrels, bears, falling rocks or tree limbs. Mudslides, tornadoes, high winds, etc. Or blisters, chafing, twisted joints, etc. I personally have to contend with allergies and Asthma. 
     All of these things have affected hikers for years. Although every person has their own way of dealing with things of this nature, the solution is preparedness. Preparedness is just like any other aspect of backpacking. You can do it through gear or knowledge. I recommend both. I learned a lot about these subjects in Boy Scouts. I earned First Aid, Wilderness Survival, Emergency Preparedness, and Lifesaving merit badges. Also, both a first aid and CPR certification at various times. All of these things help fill out a knowledge base that makes me more comfortable on solo trips into the wilderness. There are many good books available on the subjects(example), and in some places, classes are offered as well. Just contact the Red Cross for information on first aid and CPR training.
      As far as what physical items I carry into the bush, it varies. The length of trip, distance into the woods, or who and how many companions are with me all enter into the equation. If I am only 2 miles from the truck on a dayhike, I may dispense altogether with the extra poundage. But if I am headed 20 miles in the backcountry, I may be loaded for bear. If my son is with me, I may pack the spiderman band-aids instead of the plain ones. You get the drift. When I am in a group of experienced hikers, I prefer to carry only my share of the combined first aid kit if everyone is willing to do the same.
      For a solo backpacking trip into the backcountry I always carry the following: 4-200mg ibuprofen/day(for both pain and as anti-inflammatory), 3-2pack 4"x4" guaze pads, medical tape, 2 small band-aids, 1 zyrtec/day, 2 to 4 anti-diarhea pills, neosporin ointment, and 2-4 sudafed. These fit into a small ziplock bag. To this, I add my albuterol inhaler in a pouch on my shoulder straps. I always carry a plain red bandanna that has various first aid uses as well.  
     Other things that would be good in a (minimalist) personal first aid kit are an ace bandage roll, ace brand knee or ankle braces, moleskin, super glue(works as stitches), butterfly strips, needle/thread, calamine ointment(I prefer Ivarest), band-aid gel, tiger balm(I'm old), and aloe gel. There are many other things that would make sense, but this about covers what I have seen used in the field. I will say that I once participated in the rescue of a 11 year old who fell from a 15' bluff, and with exception of a backboard and neckbrace, these things did the job. But the kid got air-evacuated anyway, so those items were covered. And I'm not carrying them with me regardless.
     If you are too lazy to put together your own kit, there are some available commercially. Keep in mind that many resemble a smaller version of an EMT pack, complete with things you aren't wanting to carry. They could be stripped down and customized. Adventure Medical Kits are the most commonly found on the trails I hike. I advise all of you to read this blog(and subscribe). It is a good review of 3 of their kits that would work in my part of the world. I am uncomfortable with the small amount of pills included, though. That's an easy fix. My buddy Turtle was carrying one of these kits when I boiled my leg back in October. It got the job done, even though the burn cream was out of date. My point is that there are many things in there that you will never use. Turtle told me that he had owned the kit for many years, and the only thing that needed replacing was the butterfly strips. Well, and now the gauze and burn cream.
     This is not intended to be an expert guide. I only wanted to remind you all that this is neccesary, and hear your feedback. I welcome comments on what is missing. I know that at least one of my readers is WAY more qualified to speak on this subject. So throw me a bone here. What items am I missing? What is your field guide to first aid? What training is easily available?