Dan's Outside

I go, I see, I do, I walk, I think, I like…

Kudos to REI Customer Service

I just returned from a three-day pack trip out of Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park. While descending cross-country from a ridge above Vogelsang Pass (the ridge running between Fletcher and Parsons peaks) one of my REI Peak UL trekking poles simple snapped in two in the lower section. At something like $120/pair I was not looking forward to replacing them.

I took the pole to my local Saratoga REI this afternoon to enquire about getting a replacement section. The salesperson (sorry, I forgot to get his name) at the service desk found a pole section in the back of the store and swapped with me – at no charge!

Thank you, REI!

September 13, 2006 Posted by | Equipment | Comments Off on Kudos to REI Customer Service

An Advantage of Delaying Gear Lust Gratification

Every year lots of cool, shiny, new outdoor gear is introduced: clothes, tents, packs, lights, stoves, you name it. It is hard to keep in mind that this year’s newest wonder gear will soon be next year’s old stuff… and resist the “need” to upgrade right away. I try. Sometimes I succeed.

However, a beneficial side effect of this planned obsolescence is that throughout the year there are great opportunities to pick up gear that is just as cool as it was 6-12 months ago when it was announced… but at fire sale prices!

A lot of gear comes on the market late in the winter season (as in right now) and again at the end of summer as manufacturers reduce inventory on stuff that didn’t sell as well as hoped or that will soon be replaced by marginally “better” new models.

In recent weeks I’ve seen pretty good sales from Mountain Gear, REI, and Patagonia, and I think I’ve also seen some equipment from The North Face and Mountain Hardwear start to show up on the sale racks. Fortunately (or unfortunately?) I am not in need of much new gear right now – though I did pick up some half price deals on shirts recently.

Of all of the companies, REI may offer the most seductive timing since rebate checks come out close to the time that some of the best deals are available – and you really aren’t spending money if you are just using your rebate check, right?

February 28, 2006 Posted by | Equipment | Comments Off on An Advantage of Delaying Gear Lust Gratification

Another Lightweight Pack

“Cyberhobo” posted a comment on yesterdays reference to the Two-Heel Drive story on lightweight packs:

My MountainSmith Auspex is pretty tough for the weight. I think they nailed the perfect comprimise with it.

I have to agree. I also own an Auspex and it represents a very useful middle ground between the old school behemoth packs and the new wave of tiny, ultralight (and sometimes a bit fragile and underfeatured) packs. I wrote a bit more in my reply to cyberhobo (see the link to the comment above), and have even more to say in Dan’s Equipment List.

January 13, 2006 Posted by | Equipment | Comments Off on Another Lightweight Pack

New Sleeping Bag

For the past few years – actually, longer than I had realized – I have most often used my Marmot Arroyo sleeping bag on Sierra summer pack trips. This is a lightweight bag (1 lb. 8 oz.) rated to 30 degrees. It has been just enough warmth for typical summer use – as long as I was ready to reinforce it by wearing extra clothes during colder weather.

However, this summer I learned that a 30-degree bag (leaving aside for a moment the question of what that rating really means) is only a 30-degree bag when first purchased. As it is used it loses loft and, as a result, warmth. This summer I was a bit cold on a significant number of nights, especially at elevations well above 10,000. On a couple of nights I never did get comfortably warm.

I’ve been eyeing the Marmot Helium 15-degree bag for a few years. This bag uses “900 fill down” which lofts much more per ounce. (Typical down is 550-650 fill.) Because of this, along with the use of lighter fabric and a half-length zipper, it weighs only 1 lb. 13 oz. – only a few ounces more than my Arroyo – and stuffs almost as small.

Despite the gear lust induced by this piece of equipment, I have managed to resist, partially because the old bag had been performing OK, and partily because the Helium retails for about $380. (Careful shoppers can find decent down bags on sale for half this price.)

Last week I found the Helium on sale for about $250 and couldn’t pass it up. I’ll post more about this bag after I have a chance to use it in the field.

August 25, 2005 Posted by | Equipment | Comments Off on New Sleeping Bag

Saving Pack Weight – It Adds Up

I have a long pack trip coming up soon and I’ve been reevaluating and replacing equipment, as I always seem to do before long trips. In this case I’m not only succumbing to gear lust (though I’m not avoiding it entirely either… ;-), but I’m also trying to reduce pack weight a bit.

I have several reasons for this. First, it is always a good idea to remember that, as I believe Colin Fletcher pointed out, if you pay attention to the ounces the pounds will take care of themselves. In addition, I’m (surprise, surprise!) getting older and hulking monster 75 pound packs just aren’t realistic any more. On top of that, I have added better, and consequentially heavier, photo gear to my load and I need to reduce weight elsewhere to make up for this.

So, here are a few changes that I have made, along with estimated weight savings:

  • ***Western Mountaineering Flight Jacket
    – This minimalist down jacket purportedly weighs only 10 ounces. Hard to believe, I know, but it is amazingly light. This will replace a 1 pound light fleece jacket and perhaps another 8-10 oz layer, saving about a pound. (Taking a cue from my friend Owen, I will stuff the jacket into a very light Granite Creek compresson sack along with my sleeping bag, saving a few more ounces.)
  • ***No ground cloth
    – Since my tents last forever anyway – the waterproofing generally delaminates off before the rest of the tent dies – I can save almost a half pound by not taking the small nylon ground cloth that I usually carry with either my bivy sack or my one-person tent.
  • ***Mountain Hardwear zip-off pants
    – combined with a light pair of long underwear. This replaces the combination of a pair of light softshell pants, a pair of very light shorts, plus a pair of fleece The North Face tights. I haven’t weighed this but I would guess that it saves at least a half pound if not more. I also will plan the food much more carefully, with a goal of carrying almost no extra food besides a couple of servings of instant soup.
  • ***Carbon Fiber REI Trekking Poles
    – Supposedly about 11 onces, saving another half pound over my old “ultralight” poles.
  • ***Syl-nylon Pack Cover
    – Seems nearly weightless, saving perhaps 4 ounces over the lightweight coated nylon cover I used in the past.

  • ***Changes in my food plan
    – I now mix up some very tasty Quick-Cooking Oatmeal rather than carrying granola. It packs smaller (important with limited bear canister space) and is a bit lighter. The potential downside is the need for additional fuel, but this is minimal since this stuff cooks in about 2 minutes. (To anyone about to suggest even lighter pre-packaged instant oatmeal… don’t bother. I hate the stuff!)

All told, perhaps 2.5 or 3 pounds lighter? This should just about make up for the extra photo gear I plan to carry this year… ;-)

Some of my friends are now using extremely lightweight packs, mostly from Go-Lite. They seem to be doing fine with them, but I’m still not ready to trust the very basic design of these packs on longer trips – plus I like the excellent lightweight suspension system on my Mountainsmith Auspex, which weighs only slightly more.

July 26, 2005 Posted by | Equipment | 4 Comments

New Trip. New Stuff

Every time I take a substantial pack trip I end up buying new stuff – even though I thought I had everything I needed last year. Hmmm…

So far for this year’s trip the list includes:

  • Carbon fiber tripod and Acratech ballhead.
  • Syl-nylon pack cover and sleeping back compression sack.
  • Western Mountaineering Flight Jacket – though I actually bought this nearly a year ago.
  • Precip jacket – a gift from my academic senate colleagues.


July 25, 2005 Posted by | Equipment | Comments Off on New Trip. New Stuff

Flight jacket

My Western Mountaineering Flight Jacket arrived today. It is astonishingly light at something like 10 or 11 ounces. In makes my old (very old!) Sierra Designs jacket seem positively heavy by camparison.

September 20, 2004 Posted by | Environment, Equipment | Comments Off on Flight jacket

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