Monday, December 26, 2011

Alternative Menu Planning(Stove-less)

     I'm piggybacking a great post from Hendrik Morkel at I am usually loathe to do such a thing, but he actually encouraged me to. Well, it's a post, and not just a comment. In Hendrik's post, he actually did some analysis on the efficiency of menu planning without a stove. Weight vs. weight.
     Mine is much less scientific. It's more about what you can gain from ditching your stove on an overnighter. Look at it like this; we need to eat on the trail to survive. Not to get fat, or to pamper ourselves.  To a lightweight hiker, these types of questions have answers only gained through trial and error. And no two participants will answer the same.
     I just need calories delivered in a form I can ingest. Sure, there's a difference in what my mojo requires for a week-long hike than for a quick solo(warm) overnighter. For a week long hike, it's coffee and oatmeal in the mornings, GORP for lunch, and a freeze dried dinner at night. Unless companions cook differently. There's no sense in holding up a group while I make coffee if they only want a cereal-heavy GORP for breakfast. If they make Ramen for lunch, then I might as well join them. Call in conforming, or call it accommodating.
     When alone, it's about my wants and needs only. And it's an ongoing experiment in what works. By looking through my collection of ziplocs in my pantry, I have deduced that I don't end up eating the oatmeal every day of the trip anyway. I invariably have 1-3 packages left each trip. I also never eat all of my snack foods. Sometimes a Mountain House meal will be leftover. But the GORP is always eaten and the coffee is always gone as well.
     What could be gleaned from this very un-scientific analysis? I eat GORP and drink coffee. Hmmm. I can live without the coffee. Could a man live on GORP alone? Yes. It has been proven. By a guy with 2 thumbs. This guy!

     I admit to stealing the idea from my good friend Scopa. He is fond of grazing GORP all day long. He usually eats a hot dinner, but why not steal the idea that struck me? By playing with the recipes, you can make it carb laden in the morning and at lunch and pack it with protein for dinner. It worked, but left me feeling like I was fasting a bit.  So I needed a better idea for a no-cook dinner.....

Creative Commons Image

     Why not? A sandwich(even a big one) will still weigh less than many cook systems. But let's get around to why I really wanted to pursue a stove-less menu in the first place. Time. I haven't enough of it. In my case, days off are split apart. Which leaves me little time to do what I want. So I can leave work at 3:00 P.M. on a Saturday and drive straight to a trailhead. But where? Where can I get my hike in. Trailheads require a bit of driving for me. Sometimes shuttling as well. But if I can use an additional 20-30 minutes per meal actually hiking, then my range of destinations opens up completely. Not to mention that I can save weight sometimes. It's not the most comforting of hiking trips, but it's more comforting than staying home and sleeping in. I still get outside.
     There's other options as well. The GORP for lunch can be replaced with a MetRx Meal Replacement Bar. Fresh fruit for breakfast. Anything that a hiker would actually eat. We won't die of starvation in 24 hours. Just take a good look at what you need, and what you've just convinced yourself that you need. I think you'll find that you've been sold a bill of goods by the gear manufacturers. Keep in mind, this is for 3 season weather in the Mid-South. I'm not burning calories keeping my body temperature up. I'm not melting snow for drinking water. Just figuring out how efficiency gets me and keeps me in the woods. Please let me know your angle on this discussion. We need to share our ideas.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

It's not MYOG, It's CYOG(CUSTOMIZE your own gear)

I had been searching for the perfect gaiters for years. Probably the stoutest, most commonly used gaiters on the planet are the OR Crocodiles. But they seemed like overkill in terms of weight and sturdiness. They are as close to bombproof as a wearable fabric can be. And they are expensive. For what they are, anyways. So I kept my eye out for something similar, but lighter and cheaper. I stumbled upon a set made by Outdoor Designs, called the Tundra. I found them at a local outdoor gear store for $24.95. At that price, I was willing to give them a try. 

The listed features:
Waterproof breathable rear zip lightweight gaiter
Waterproof breathable 2 layer Watergate technologies fabric
Rear entry zip with jetted storm flap
Webbing underboot strap
Lace calf adjustment

This isn't a review, but I played with them on multiple weekend hikes and on a 4 day trip into the Bob. Also, I watched their performance on one of my hiking buddies for even more miles. In the meantime, I was able to observe the performance of the aforementioned OR Crocs on two other hiking buddies. What I decided was that in this case, you get what you pay for. The Tundras were very finicky, while the Crocs were robust and easy to use. The Tundras like to slip down on your leg, while the Crocs stand tall. The Tundras were a pain to remove and reinstall for wet foot crossings, while the Crocs wearers were waiting for us. Sure, the Tundras were lighter, but were giving up a lot of the versatility of the Crocs. I still think that the Crocs are a bit of overkill for what I need to protect my legs, though. I'm compelled to state that I am not really comparing "like" items here. Outdoor Designs makes many types of gaiters. But what I had in my possession were the Tundras. So, what could be done to gain some of the features and ease of use of the OR product? How about replacing the calf laces with shock cord and the zippers with velcro? That's what I did. Here's how I did it.

Outdoor Designs "Tundra" Gaiter

Showing Calf Lace

Showing Rear Mounted Zipper and Storm Flap.

These seams had to be removed, non-flap side.

View from inside, non-flap side.

It's not really Velcro!

It's not as easy as it looks, but I used a seam ripper to remove threads.

A bit trickier at the top, when zipper panel meets lace channel.

Dismantling the lace channel to remove upper end of zipper.

Who needs to measure?

The horizontal tab at the bottom of gaiter.

First seam.
I used a full polyester thread and had to be very careful with the needle on the "Rocketeer" in order to sew through several layers of fabric and a layer of Velcro. I had to hand sew the junction of the 2 pieces of Velcro. It was just a bit too many layers of fabric for my skimpy needle. Below, you can see already how difficult it was to sew a straight seam with the machine on Velcro sections.
I wasn't happy, but it got the job done. My mom wasn't available!
I used 2 seams on each piece of velcro, and an additional horizontal tab at the bottom of the gaiter to attach one side to the other. The picture shows this tab before I trimmed it to length.
Cutting off zipper teeth, leaving the rest of the panel.

After finishing the sewing, I tied a piece of shock cord to one end of the lace and just pulled it through. Using a toaster style cord lock, I secured both ends. This means that now, the wearer has to put a foot through this loop before installing the gaiter. I think it's a small price to pay for a more firm calf mount and better adjustability.

I tested one gaiter with these adjustments vs. the factory produced gaiter on section 6 of the OHT. I was pleased with the adjustments. The only observation my hiking partner had was that seeing one blue piece of Velcro showing on only one gaiter drove him crazy for almost 20 miles. I will now complete the other gaiter. It worked. But, I will admit that I asked for a pair of OR Crocs for Christmas. I guess I'm a hypocrite.