(M) Beyond Our Boundaries: Episode 15

Follow the story of a family of five as they backpack over 2000 miles from Georgia to Maine. by Damien and Renee Tougas | 2014-09-16

The Tougas Family is embarking on an exciting journey; their ambitious plan is to backpack the Appalachian as a family. This episode introduces their plan, gear, and the individual skills brought to the production by each of the family members. The beauty about this project is that the family is learning how to do this sort of trip from scratch and the end product will be something that others families can use for similar endeavors.

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Review of Fixing Your Feet: Prevention and Treatments for Athletes by John Vonhof

A very well-written book that is recommended for anyone interested in learning the best ways to take care of their feet. by Darin Banner | 2014-09-16

In 1997, John Vonhof published the first edition of Fixing Your Feet: Prevention and Treatment for Athletes. There are several foot books out there, but John's is unique because it's written for endurance athletes who travel by foot. John has been trail running and participating in ultra marathons since 1982. In 1987, he and Will Uher speed packed the 211-mile John Muir Trail in 8.5 days. In 1992, he made a career change to the medical field and has volunteered his feet-fixing services at numerous endurance competitions throughout North and South America.


  • Introdction
  • Book Review

# WORDS: 1350

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(M) The Evolution of a Winter Stove - Part 4 - Lessons Learnt

About 110 people bought the custom stove and served as beta testers. Their feedback highlighted some of the benefits and bugs of the stove. by Roger Caffin | 2014-09-10

Dissatisfied with what was commercially available at the time, the author has been working on the design of a lightweight winter canister stove since 2006. (OK, OK, a bit obsessive, but so what?) Several novel features were required of the design, in the interests of versatility, functionality and safety. The features were explained in Part 1; finer technical details about how the features might be implemented were given in Part 2, and the final design was presented in Part 3. A batch of about 110 stoves was made and these were sold to eager beta testers. This article covers the feedback received and the bugs found and resolved.

Were there in fact any real 'bugs' in the stove? Well, no-one was burnt to death, there were no explosions, and as far as I know all the stoves worked. Some got more use than others. But there were little hiccups.

What is clear (to me at least) is that despite spending more than 7 years developing this stove - by a long and very tortuous path mind you, there were still some small improvements which could be made in the design. Nothing major, but improvements nonetheless. Since the stoves were made in small batches of 10 or 20 at a time, the improvements could be put into production as fast as possible - like when the next batch was made. Yes, that does mean the stoves in the final batch are a bit different from those in the first batch. The only feature which might be noticed by the user is the design of the legs and the nut on the burner: we will address those further on.


  • Introduction
  • Helpful Feedback
    • Canister supports, spanners and pot lifters
    • Operation near -30 C
    • Operation with an inverted Caldera Cone
    • Other field tests
  • Not Really Faults
    • The stove skitters around or is unstable
    • Machining Swarf in the jet
    • Dirt in the jet or needle valve
    • The flame is small and blows out when the valve is opened & The flame is rather yellow
    • The tissue filter blocks the flow
    • I have stripped the screws out of the Main Ring
    • How do I connect to a canister with a spigot?
    • How do I undo the big nut on the burner?
    • The pot is a bit unstable
    • Variability in the height of the canister spigot
  • Faults
    • There's a flame at the stove connection (woo!)
    • The filler cord in the hose has jammed and broken
    • Not enough fuel comes out with any canister
    • The stove legs are wobbly
    • The O-rings get really hard at -30 C
  • Conclusion

# WORDS: 5020
# PHOTOS: 22

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(M) The Best Backpack in the Whole Wide World

MYOG: A pack that weighs less than a pound, carries 30 pounds while transferring load to the hips, and is ideal for multi-day ultralight expeditions. by Darin Banner | 2014-09-10

b>Question: What weighs less than a pound, supports up to 30 pounds of weight, has a volume of 2,000 cubic inches (32 liters), and has a waist belt? Answer: The best backpack in the whole wide world!

In my never-ending quest to lighten my pack while increasing my comfort, I had come to an impasse with a foundational piece of gear-my backpack. I wanted a pack that could be used for warmer-weather, week-long backpacking trips that weighed less than a pound. There were a few commercially-available packs out there that met those requirements, but most lacked a critical component-a suspension system that kept the pack's weight off my shoulders and transferred it to my waist belt.

The lightest pack I owned was a GoLite Jam 2. I liked it because it had a winged waist belt, side pockets, plenty of room (up to 3,000 cubic inches), and weighed just over a pound (22 oz.). Although it was a frameless back, I was able to transfer its weight to the ample waist belt by putting my closed-cell-foam sleeping pad inside the pack to act as a frame. My most-used sleeping pad since the '80s had been a ¾ length RidgeRest, which works great for giving support to frameless packs.

Then, a few years ago, it happened to me. I watched my revered scoutmaster go through it and even my dad, but I never thought it would happen to me. I remember clearly the morning I woke up and realized I was "that guy". I sat up in my shelter after a restless night's sleep and said, "This sleeping pad sucks!" I had come to the point in my life where a comfy air mattress outweighed the benefits of a super-light sleeping pad. From that point forward, my sleeping pad could no longer serve as a makeshift pack frame.

Some backpackers don't worry about carrying a pack's weight on their hips. They carry packs up to 30 pounds on their shoulders with no waist belt at all. Maybe if my pack was light enough, I could be one of those guys. Then it wouldn't matter that I didn't use a closed-cell-foam sleeping pad. I bought myself the now-extinct GoLite Ion backpack that weighed only 9 oz.

I used it for the first time on an overnight backpacking trip to Pine Flat along the Illinois River in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness of Southern Oregon. It was 5.5 miles and my pack weighed about 12 pounds including water. With limited success, I tried to put some of the pack's weight on my hips by fastening around my waist its 1-inch webbing waist belt. Although the hike was pleasant because my pack was light, I received a painful affirmation in my lower back that I was not made to carry a pack's weight on my shoulders.

Had I finally hit my lightweight limit? Had my desire for comfort relegated me to the world of two-pound internal-frame packs? It seemed that way. Then, one day, while shopping for a new pack for my wife, a solution presented itself in the form of a technological innovation touting itself as Granite Gear's competitive advantage. Granite Gear had partnered with Klymit (who are best known for their

high-pressure-air sleeping mats) to make the Airbeam pack frame.

This brilliant little piece of gear weights 3 oz. (including the pump bulb) and effectively supports loads of up to 30 pounds. Of course, I couldn't just relay on the testimony of the post-pubescent pimply-faced sales person, I had to test it for myself.

I loaded up a Granite Gear Crown V.C. 60 Ki (the pack I eventually bought for my wife) with about 30 pounds. I left in the plastic framesheet that comes standard with the pack, and put it on. Looking in the mirror, I could see the pack frame collapse under the load transferring much of the pack's weight onto my shoulders. Then I took off the pack, slipped out the plastic framesheet, and put in an inflated Airbeam frame. When I looked in the mirror again, I saw that the Airbeam kept the pack ridged, keeping the weight off my shoulders. Yureka!

I bought the Airbeam frame for $50 and started imaging up the best backpack in the whole wide world. It had to be capacious enough to carry my equipment and food for up to five nights. It had to have a waist belt that allowed me to comfortably carry the pack's weight on my hips. And it had to weigh less than a pound!


  • Introduction
  • The Quest for the Best Pack

# WORDS: 1720
# PHOTOS: 14

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(M) Expedition Blogging, Part 1: A Satellite Phone-Based System

A series of articles evaluating platforms for social media, photo blogging, and two-way email communications. by Ryan Jordan | 2014-09-03

This articles launches a new series at BPL that will address satellite communications technologies and systems suitable for the solo traveler who desires or needs reliable two-way data communications beyond simple text messaging (e.g., email), or the ability to publish long form text (and perhaps, photos), to a blog or other platform.

The idea for this series grew out of my own experience putting together a satellite-based data communications system for managing ongoing business while in a remote (not necessarily wilderness) location, and for publishing blog posts and photographs from expeditions that were being monitored in real-time by my family, friends, colleagues, and the occasional journalist.

Part 1 describes the use of a refined, and reliable system (including some of its iterations with respect to data communications and power supply) with a traditional satellite phone as its central communications unit (combined with external data router and data entry / read devices). Part 2, to be published later this fall, will address so-called "BYOD" (bring your own device) systems that include a satellite-connected data router combined with a smartphone, the latter of which handles all voice and data exchange with the router.

”Our snacks and water ran out on Monday as we reached the summit of Salt Mountain and cliffs that provided an impasse. We descended into the headwaters of the aptly named Cliff Creek, where we found water in a tiny snowmelt brook, and cooked dinner. We had a few hours of daylight remaining so after a lengthy debate of “Should we camp here?” we saddled up and starting trekking back up the hill. A few hours later we found ourselves in a tiny meadow just big enough for our shelters, and with feet starting to blister and legs getting tired, we’d call it home for the night. Another tiny snowmelt creek flowed adjacent to camp, which had expansive views of the massive Sphinx Mountain to our south. During the waning light of dusk, Andrew was pointing uphill and saying “bear…bear…bear…” It took a second to register but I grabbed my bear spray as I caught a glimpse of a large black mass happily jogging into camp. We came together to watch a large healthy black bear stand up, size us up, and then proceed to run off in a panic. Nobody went pee alone that night.”


  • Introduction
  • System Application
  • Basic System Components
    • Satellite Phone
    • Data Router & Router Power
  • Computer & Software
  • External Power
  • System Comparisons: Bob Marshall Wilderness vs. High Uintas Wilderness
  • Philosophy
  • Part 2

# WORDS: 4420

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(M) Beyond Our Boundaries: Episode 14

Follow the story of a family of five as they backpack over 2000 miles from Georgia to Maine. by Damien and Renee Tougas | 2014-09-02

The Tougas Family is embarking on an exciting journey; their ambitious plan is to backpack the Appalachian as a family. This episode introduces their plan, gear, and the individual skills brought to the production by each of the family members. The beauty about this project is that the family is learning how to do this sort of trip from scratch and the end product will be something that others families can use for similar endeavors.

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(M) Paramo Bora Fleece & Windproof Smock Combo

The Bora Smock is certainly not at the pinnacle of ultralight gear, nevertheless it is a versatile piece of clothing that maintains breathability while offering warmth and excellent waterproofing. by Matthew Pullan | 2014-08-26

At first, I wasn't sure if I should review the new Paramo Bora Smock combo; I was worried that it was not light enough to be of interest to BPL readers. Rewind six months and there I was at ISPO 2014 helping myself to Nikwax TX direct from a box by one of the exits. Suddenly, the rep (a nice Polish girl) came up and asked me what I thought I was doing. I said I thought it was a case of help yourself, seeing as they were left by the door unattended. I quickly flashed my press card and her expression softened: 'come with me' she said, and took me round to the Paramo stand. I said hello to everyone and got talking; I have been the happy owner of some Paramo Aspira salopettes and Viento zip offs for over 10 years, so I definitely dig the Paramo thing. We talked about the market demand for light gear, and they said that they were lightening their gear where they could. They brought out their latest offering in that respect, the new Bora Smock combo that weighed 694 g (24,5 oz, size small). It was definitely a step in the right direction as far as weight goes, and separating the two parts of the Nikwax Analogy system was a stroke of genius as far as I was concerned, but I still wasn't sure about putting it in the article. In the end I left it out, and in the event, that turned out to be a fortuitous decision.

Back in the Steiermark with the 'Hike n Fly' season fast approaching, I was fretting over what waterproof to use as part of my kit. I had been thinking of one of the really lightweight jackets under 150 grams, but, having used a GoLite wind shirt for paragliding a few times, I knew from experience that they were likely to be clammy in the height of summer. Normally, I use my trusty Patagonia Zephyr jacket for flying because it's so breathable, although the water repellent treatment is not what it used to be due to the very high UV exposure at altitude. I needed a full waterproof, but I didn't want to wear one whilst flying as the temperature can change so much. That meant carrying one in the harness on top of my windproof, which I didn't want to do either. Suddenly I remembered the Bora Smock, and the proverbial light bulb came on. And, why not review it for BPL? There were a few possible objections: Paramo gear is not exactly ultralight; neither is it imported into the United States. However, whilst Paramo is not imported into the States, the Paramo website states that they are working on configuring the store for sales to the USA. They have also set up a European store where customers on the continent can pay in Euros. If you can't wait that long, there are some online retailers in England who will ship stateside (and knock off the VAT), and Paramo themselves are willing to take orders from the states by email or over the phone it seems. Whilst the Bora Smock combo may not be ultralight, it is quite light as far as Paramo gear goes, although not as light as the Vista Rain Jacket. One should also remember that items like the Bora Smock combo displace more than just a waterproof in the rucksack. In this case, it has to be weighed up against a

fleece, a wind shirt and a full waterproof; so the numbers often even out better than you might think. Then of course there is the longevity. There are some other good reasons why you should be interested in the new Bora Smock combo: for one thing, being a two piece and not having a membrane, it is now customisable in a way no other waterproof jacket can be. As long as you don't sew through both layers (not much danger of that I think), you are pretty much free to do what you like; more on that later. In this article, I wanted to review both fleece and windproof together as a single entity, but in a way that encompasses their individual use should the conditions require it. That flexibility is, to my mind at least, an integral part of the whole.


  • Introduction
  • Paramo Gear
  • Paramo Bora Smock Combo
  • Purchasing Info

# WORDS: 3920
# PHOTOS: 10

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(M) Trekking the High Uintas Wilderness: Circumnavigation of the Rock Creek Shelf

Featuring the author's live journals as well as a detailed assessment of trekking gear used on the trip. by Ryan Jordan | 2014-08-26

Last week I returned from a trek in the High Uintas Wilderness of northern Utah with three friends, and my son Chase. Our objective was to complete a circumnavigation of the Rock Creek Divide primarily via a "high route" that avoided trails where it made sense, allowed us to camp and and trek by more remote locations, and enjoy a diversity of scenery by crossing high divides between a number of drainages.

Our final route was about 55 miles in length, and we crossed divides at Cleveland Pass, the west ridge of Explorer Peak, Red Knob Pass, Dead Horse Pass, and Rocky Sea Pass. Our pace was not intense (8 trekking days with 1 layover day = 9 total trip days), giving us plenty of time to lounge around in the mornings, and fish lakes where we were camped and lakes that we passed by while trekking.

Our route included about 16 miles of off-trail travel, most of it on easy tundra benches and ledges above 11,000 feet. Toes of major buttresses came with a bit of metasedimentary quartzite-talus-hopping in order to stay high and avoid bushwhacking through the deadfall and sparse talus below the treeline. The exception was our traverse across the west ridge of Explorer Peak, which involved a rather nerve-wracking late-evening Class 4 descent of steep loose shale scree through quartzite-and-shale cliff band ledges.

We established seven camps along the route:

  • Cleveland Lake (northwest shore)
  • Lake Fork Basin (at the base of Explorer Peak's west ridge)
  • Dead Horse Lake (northwest shore) - 2 nights
  • Reconnaissance Lake (southwest shore)
  • Margie Lake (southeast shore)
  • Dean Lake (east shore)
  • Rainbow Lake (south shore)

Our exploration of the fisheries in this region resulted in great rewards! Healthy and fat brook trout at Helen, Margie, and Dean Lakes; large cutthroat at Continent and Ejod Lakes; and Tiger Trout at Dead Horse Lake were some of the highlights. I'll leave the rest to your own exploration.

In addition to this introduction, I've included my complete journal from this trip. My journals were published live, and daily to my blog (see Uintas 2014 at with low-resolution photographs sent via a satellite phone, a data router, and iPod Touch (see the end of this article for a description of that system). Here, I've included more photos to help tell the story.

At the end, I'll present some gear notes from the trip, in the style of Backpacking Light's old "Notes from the Field" reports from yesteryear, highlighting the main gear systems I used on this trek as well as some of the processes.

Having made several trips in the Uintas through the years, including two complete traverses of the entire range via two different "Uinta High Routes" (approx. 100 miles ea.) and circumnavigations of virtually every major drainage, the Rock Creek trek described in this article remains one of my all-time favorites, and perhaps - may be the one trek I'd recommend if you could only make one trip to the Uintas in your lifetime.

I hope you enjoy reading about, and learning from, our experience in the Uintas!


  • Introduction
  • Acknowledgments
  • The Journals
    • Day 1: 13.Aug.2014 - Cleveland Lake
    • Day 2: 14.Aug.2014 - Explorer Peak
    • Day 3: 15.Aug.2014 - Dead Horse
    • Day 4: 16.Aug.2014 - A Sabbath Day
    • Day 5: 17.Aug.2014 - Walking the Shelf
    • Day 6: 18.Aug.2014 - Alone on the Rock Creek Shelf
    • Day 7: 19.Aug.2014 - A Cold Front in the High Uintas
    • Day 8: 20.Aug.2014 - Four Lakes Basin
    • Day 9: 21.Aug.2014 - Rainbow Lake
  • Gear Notes
    • Shelter & Sleep System
    • Cooking & Water
    • Other Clothes
    • Packing
    • Trekking Poles
    • Fishing & Photography
    • Communications Technology
  • Conclusion

# WORDS: 11680
# PHOTOS: 37

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(M) Beyond Our Boundaries: Episode 13

Follow the story of a family of five as they backpack over 2000 miles from Georgia to Maine. by Damien and Renee Tougas | 2014-08-19

The Tougas Family is embarking on an exciting journey; their ambitious plan is to backpack the Appalachian as a family. This episode introduces their plan, gear, and the individual skills brought to the production by each of the family members. The beauty about this project is that the family is learning how to do this sort of trip from scratch and the end product will be something that others families can use for similar endeavors.

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Cinnamon Monkey Bread

The winner of the BPL summer recipe contest made this tasty treat. by Ken Larson | 2014-08-19

Sidewinder Ti-Tri & 1.3 Evernew Ti Pot

Epicurean Stove (Wooden block shim is needed under stove plate (L 2in x W 1.7in x .433in) + one 14g Esbit Tablet; OR Fat Cat It's a Snap Windscreen without Wooden block shim OR KOVEA gas stove with either Sidewinder or Fat Cat It's a Snap Windscreen.

1ea Pint Ziploc bag, 2ea Sandwich bags

Fat Daddio's 5" round pan


  • Equipment
  • Ingredients:
    • Dough
    • Topping
    • Coating
  • Preparation

# WORDS: 390

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(M) Martin Titanium Knife

Weighing about the equivalent of half an ounce (16 M&M's) this knife has a 2.75 inch blade that easily guts fish and small game. Better yet it self-sharpens. by Ryan Jordan | 2014-08-12

Direct from Mike:

I got into knifemaking about a year ago. I became fascinated with "carbidized" edge technology where a layer of very hard tungsten carbide is micro-welded on one side of the edge. The softer substrate (e.g. steel or titanium) wears away more quickly, constantly revealing a fresh carbide edge. The result is a knife that is largely self-sharpening when used on some materials (e.g. cardboard), and has superior edge retention on just about everything else. It's modeled after a beaver tooth, where the enamel on the front of the tooth is harder than the rest of the tooth. Carbidized blades have kind of a toothy edge that excels in slicing, but is only mediocre for push cuts. But slicing is precisely the action you want in hunting, fishing, and river knives. It doesn’t work well for whittling, batoning, bushcraft, etc., especially with a soft Ti blade. And, the toothy edge texture means that it will never get razor sharp. I've carbidized a bunch of knives with various edge geometries, but the self-sharpening effect is optimized with a "chisel" edge, hence the right and left handedness of the knife. To make these, I designed and built my own electro-spark deposition carbidizer to micro-weld TC onto steel and Ti blades, tuning the voltage, current, pulse width, and pulse energy to get just the right deposition properties. I use 6Al4V titanium for my knives as that alloy generally has the best properties for a knife. Titanium usually makes a poor knife blade material because it is much softer than steel and is subject to edge deformation. But, by carbidizing a Ti blade, you can overcome this limitation, provided you limit the knife to slicing. If you try to chop wood with these knives, you'll damage the edge.

So there's the essence:

  1. titanium blade for ultralightness;
  2. carbidized edge for slicing trout, birds, and food prep;
  3. self-sharpening;
  4. made in a garage with an "electro-spark deposition carbidizer" which is just way, way beyond cool, even just to speak the words;


  • The Technology
  • The Application
  • My Experience
    • RJ: Was the main reason for doing this project the edge technology? Or something else?
    • RJ: What were you trying to accomplish with building the "trout" knife? Design goals? Anything quantitative?
    • RJ: Are you going to continue this project? If so, what's next in the evolution of the "Martin Knife?"
  • In Action?

# WORDS: 1280

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The Greatest Trip That Never Happened

Although the trip was never completed, the lessons learned were irreplaceable and the experience was very memorable. by Scott Morris | 2014-08-12


    An unfortunate consequence of my growing immersion in the world of running has been the nagging voice of others questioning my motivation for wanting to do the things that I do or the much more ominous and obvious question of my sanity. That question has never really bothered me much. My simple rationale behind running has always been simple; I enjoy running and it makes me feel good, so I end up doing it a lot. That’s always been enough for me. I first became interested in the concept of expedition trail running when I finished my first big solo backpacking trip - 280 miles in 10 days on Vermont's Long Trail. I was happy with the pace of my walking, but I had been running competitively for several years and after a big triathlon, I felt ready to apply the focused discipline of athletics to the world of long trails. A job in outdoor education had brought me to Australia, so I cast my gaze around Oceania for a long trail where I could explore the idea of expedition trail running. After a few listless weeks of clicking around on the internet I found the Te Araroa, a trail that ran the entire spine of the island nation of New Zealand. The southern island section was thirteen hundred kilometers of some of the most beautiful trail in the world. New Zealand was high on a short list of places that I wanted to explore while in Australasia, so it was an easy call. All that was left was figuring out how I was going to run eight hundred miles.

# WORDS: 2380

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(M) Beyond Our Boundaries: Episode 12

Follow the story of a family of five as they backpack over 2000 miles from Georgia to Maine. by Damien and Renee Tougas | 2014-08-05

The Tougas Family is embarking on an exciting journey; their ambitious plan is to backpack the Appalachian as a family. This episode introduces their plan, gear, and the individual skills brought to the production by each of the family members. The beauty about this project is that the family is learning how to do this sort of trip from scratch and the end product will be something that others families can use for similar endeavors.

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Where the Mountains Meet the Sea: Trekking the Olympic Range (Photo Essay)

Boy Scouts tackle the Olympic range - from rainforest to snowy divide - in lightweight style. by Ryan Jordan | 2014-08-05

Much of the Olympics remained unexplored until the early part of the 20th century. Many summits and off piste routes were pioneered by ambitious Boy Scouts and "Hikemasters" (i.e., trek leaders) walking out of Camp Parsons, situated between the deltas of the Quilcene and Dosewallips rivers.

In 1987 I would join the Camp Parsons Staff, and within a few years would carry the Hikemaster moniker with a later generation of Boy Scouts keen on exploring the range's glaciers, slide alder, and talus.

In 1990 I'd start dating the Camp Director's daughter, a fellow staffer. She ran the trading post, had a perm, and seemed strangely attractive ... in a Boy Scout uniform.

In 1991 Stephanie and I would embark on our second Olympic mountain hike together - a trip up the Quinault River valley to Mount Anderson and the iconic (and now-endangered) Enchanted Valley Chalet. A little over a year later, we'd marry.

In 1998, our first son, Chase, was born. In 2004, he'd join Scouting. In 2011, he'd visit Camp Parsons for the first time. In 2013, he too, would explore the Olympics with some of his pals as part of the Camp Parsons high adventure program, and follow in the footsteps of Boy Scouts from Parsons who have been walking the Olympics for more than 90 years.

In late June of 2013, we'd take a group of Scouts from Bozeman, Montana to a trailhead near Forks, Washington, and begin a trek through the Olympic rainforest. This photo essay presents a few highlights from the trek and hopefully, captures the spirit of Scouting, and the Olympics, in an inspiring way.


  • About the Author

# WORDS: 1680
# PHOTOS: 22

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(M) Evaluating outdoor gear with open source hardware

As customers of the outdoor industry we want to know which gear works the best. Using open source hardware is a great way to evaluate our gear choices. by Matthew Morrissey | 2014-07-30

In an academic publication, this space would be filled with justifications of the physical, mental and social benefits of outdoor activities and the importance of its associated clothing; this audience will be intrinsically aware of these benefits and keenly aware of the importance of good clothing for enjoyment, comfort and safety in the outdoors.

But what exactly does 'good clothing mean? In addition to effective design, fit, and aesthetics, probably the most important measurable properties of clothing are thermal and evaporative resistance. Thermal resistance might also be referred to as thermal insulation, or (a little incorrectly) - "how warm" something is to wear. Evaporative resistance is usually called 'breathability' or sometimes 'water vapour transmission'. Apart from factors beyond your control (primarily ambient temperature), evaporative resistance is the main factor deciding how much moisture condenses in your clothing system and how much can escape.

Thermal resistance is a particularly useful property to measure, because empirically-derived models exist which allow you to use metabolic rate (exercise intensity) and ambient conditions (temperature, wind speed, radiant temperature etc) to estimate what thermal resistance is required.

The quantitative measurement of these clothing properties is also crucial for quality control (e.g. for companies sourcing products from new manufacturers) and for product development (i.e. is the new Mk II product better than the Mk I). Although manufacturers often have good data regarding their products, consumers are usually bombarded with confusing information, skewed by industry-bias and marketing hype.

Thermal and evaporative resistance measurements are typically made by universities and research institutions. Thermal manikins and other devices have been used for many decades to measure the thermal resistance (insulation) or evaporative resistance (breathability) of clothing. The first thermal manikins were probably those used by the US military in the early 1940s - at a time when many troops were lost to cold rather than bullets. An interesting history of manikins can be found 202006/2nd%20publish%20Proceeding_all-in-one%5b061005%5drev02.pdf">here, written by Dr Ralph Goldman.

Online publications like, and their associated communities, seek to provide unbiased information which is more useful to consumers, and have developed quite sophisticated equipment with which to do this (see articles by Roger Caffin and Jerry Adams).

In this article the potential of relatively recent developments in open source hardware (specifically the Arduino platform) in developing equipment to quantitatively evaluate outdoor clothing will be explored. An example of a thermal manikin developed at a fraction of the cost of commercial equipment will be presented, and suggestions for future developments discussed. My aim is simply to share what I know with the people that are mostly likely to find this information useful. I hope it complements the work already presented on


  • Introduction
  • Development of a thermal manikin
    • Principal of operation
    • Introduction to Arduino
    • First two prototypes
    • "Working prototype"
    • Electronics
    • Temperature sensors
    • Climate chamber
    • Other limitations and scope for improvement
  • Case studies
  • Conclusions
  • Further resources

# WORDS: 3500
# PHOTOS: 15

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(M) MYOG: Backpack fabrics, features, and dimensions

Making your own gear is a frustrating and expensive yet very rewarding process. Making your own pack allows you to tailor it to your needs and is a fantastic way to learn about gear. by David Chenault | 2014-07-30

The article will not discuss harness construction or suspension design, save tangentially in a few places. These are complex topics which deserve (many) independent treatments. That said any pack project should begin with quite a bit of planning and contemplation. A clear and comprehensive consideration of the intended uses will drive all subsequent decisions, from harness and suspension type, to fabric and features. All my best projects began after weeks of off and on contemplation, and usually after several different sketches were put on paper. Paper drawings with dimensions will also help ensure you have enough material, and keep you on track once you get started. Packs gone wrong are rarely due to big mistakes, but rather 2 or 3 small mistakes or oversights which exacerbate each other (follow the seam allowance you planned for!).


  • Prelude and planning
  • Fabric: the prime mover
  • Features: as few as possible
    • Side pockets: the necessary evil
    • Compression straps and lacing
  • Front pockets
  • Daisy chains
  • Pack volume and dimensions
  • In conclusion

# WORDS: 7000
# PHOTOS: 12

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(M) Gear Guide: Packrafts

Review the current offerings in the packraft market and find out which boats are most appropriate for a variety of purposes including alpine lake fishing, incidental river crossings, flatwater boating, expedition packrafting, and whitewater paddling. by Ryan Jordan | 2014-07-22

This report:

  • Provides an overview of packraft types, terminology, and design principles;
  • Identifies specific brands and models and compares their key features and specifications;
  • Suggests specific packraft models for various applications.

This report features open boats (i.e., packrafts without integrated spray decks or skirts) designed to be paddled with a double-bladed kayak paddle, where gear (i.e., a backpack) is secured to tie-down loops affixed to the outside of the tubes. However, many of the packrafts featured in this report can be rigged with add-ons that add functionality to the boat. Examples include:

  • Rowing frames and detachable skegs for more efficient flatwater paddling with dual oars;
  • Self-bailing floors, spray decks, and/or spray skirts for whitewater use;
  • Zippered cargo bays that allow for storage of gear inside the tubes;
  • Additional tie-down loops that can be glued to the tubes for increased gear attachment options, or grab lines;

In an attempt to normalize the comparison of packrafts in this report and distill the market to its core designs, packrafts specifically featuring these add-on options have been omitted from the comparison table. Where appropriate, however, the availability of these add-ons have been noted, and packrafts featuring them will be highlighted in the "Applications" section later in this report.


  • Introduction
  • Packraft Types & Applications
    • Water Type
    • Nature of Access
    • Trip Duration
  • Design Features
    • Material
    • Seams
    • Inflation Mechanism
    • Tube Size
    • Chamber Redundancy
    • Cargo Storage & Rigging
  • The Seat
    • Dimensions
    • Weight
    • Compactibility
  • Gear Guide: Specifications Table
  • Performance Comparison
  • Applications: Which Boat?
    • Alpine Lake Fishing
    • Incidental River Crossings
    • Long Distance Flatwater Paddling
    • Flatwater River Running
    • Expedition Boating / Trekking
    • High Performance Whitewater Boats
  • Directory of Manufacturers

# WORDS: 4130
# PHOTOS: 13

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(M) The Updated Foot-Care Kit

While moleskin still is an effective means to treating hot spots and blisters, new technology is emerging that is far more effective at treating sore feet. by Darin Banner | 2014-07-22

In the summer of 1978, my dad took his scout troop into the High Uintas for a week of hiking and fishing. He brought along my brother and me. We were eight and six years old respectively. The scouts and the leaders carried their equipment in their big external-frame backpacks while horses carried in the heavy canvas tents and food. My brother and I had small daypacks with our warm clothes inside. We carried official Boy Scout canteens strapped over our shoulders.

We packed in to Granddaddy Lake, a trek of six miles. It rained off and on throughout the day and my Keds shoes got wet. After a few miles, I started to get sores on me feet. During one of the rest stops, my dad had me take off my shoes and socks and inspected my feet. No blisters yet! He broke out the trusty Moleskin. This was new to me. It was fuzzy on one side and sticky on the other. He put it over top of the red spots on my feet and claimed it would make it so they didn't get more sore. Lo and behold, it worked! Despite having this miracle fabric on my feet, my legs got tired and I finished out the last couple of miles to Granddaddy Lake on the back of a horse.


  • In the Beginning
  • The Age of Enlightenment
  • The Present
  • How I Use the Kit

# WORDS: 2050
# PHOTOS: 20

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(M) Beyond Our Boundaries: Episode 11

Follow the story of a family of five as they backpack over 2000 miles from Georgia to Maine. by Damien and Renee Tougas | 2014-07-15

The Tougas Family is embarking on an exciting journey; their ambitious plan is to backpack the Appalachian as a family. This episode introduces their plan, gear, and the individual skills brought to the production by each of the family members. The beauty about this project is that the family is learning how to do this sort of trip from scratch and the end product will be something that others families can use for similar endeavors.

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