Posts by Ryan Mueller

Ryan is a web developer who counters the sedentary nature of his profession with outdoor adventure.

Ascend Dry Bags

Keep Your Gear Dry

Mt. Fork RiverHaving a dry bag opens up new possibilities for what kind of gear you can pack out into nature. Whether you’re on a river or ocean or hiking through a desert, a good quality dry bag will save your gear from the elements.

Becoming a Fan

Every year my brother and I head over to Mt. Fork river to do some kayaking. It’s great fun, one of the best workouts I’ve ever found and a great stress reliever.When I first started going several years ago, I’d pack my food and gear in a backpack, strap it to the kayak and subsequently drench it all at the first rapids we found. Newbie me just figured that was par for the course.

The next year I’d learned about dry bags and after some research found that there are many kinds with different properties. Thickness of the material was of paramount concern to me since my bag would be strapped to my kayak and smashed against rocks and tree stumps. After stopping by Bass Pro I decided on their Ascend™ Heavy Duty Round Bottom bags.

Bag Construction & Quality

The heavy duty dry bag from Ascend at Bass Pro ShopsThese bags are made of thick PVC fabric. There are only two seams; the first runs the length of the bag, top to bottom, and the second runs the circumference of the round bag joining the bottom. The seams are over lay seams — meaning the pieces overlap each other — which means they’re very strong due to the surface area that’s welded together. The welded seams are joined by electronic-welding which excites the molecules in the PVC and literally fuse the two pieces together. This creates a very strong bond resulting in a leak proof seam.

The bag has two handles / tie-down patches on either side of the bag. While these are welded to the bag just like I described above, they’re not seamed into the bag, they’re applied to the outside only. This makes a lot of sense since it reduces the number of seams in the bag construction.

The roll-top design is very cool. Along the top of the bag is a bonded webbing strap that’s sewn into the PVC. On each end of the strap are male and female quick-release buckle ends. To seal the bag you simply place the sides of the bag opening flat together and roll it down the bag 3-4 times, then pull the two buckle ends together in a circle. The end result is a sealed bag that’s held closed by the mechanical lock provided by the folded fabric; it also doubles as a nice handle.

Final Thoughts

I have two of these bags, the 10 Liter and 20 Liter. In the smaller bag I usually place a first-aid kit, phone and camera and food. The larger bag gets filled with bottled water. My brother and I each take a bag and strap it to our kayak using a bungee cord.

I’ve submerged these bags going over falls, I’ve thrown them from kayak to rocky shore and now I’m recommending you get at least one. They’re made well, durable and work as advertised.

Your Thoughts

I’m interested in how you use, or would use, your dry bags. I’ve not had the opportunities yet but I when I go camping in bear county my food is going in one of these bags for sure.

Lloyd Anderson: Founder of REI

REI had it's humble beginnings just outside Seattle, Washington, USA. It was a series of small events which caused Anderson, his wife Mary and their climbing friends to form the co-op. It all started because of a $12 climbing axe.

Lloyd and Mary Anderson.
Thanks Jonathan Colman via Google+

Lloyd Alva Anderson was born in Roy, Pierce County, Washington August 4th, 1902 on his uncles dairy, to parents of Canadian and Scottish ancestry, John and Marry Anderson. Growing up he would chop wood and worked in a creamery. He obtained his BS in electrical engineering in 1924 and began amateur climbing as a young man in the late 1920’s. In 1932 he married Mary Gaiser and they remained partners, on and off the mountain, till Lloyd’s death in 2000. Together they had two daughters, Ruth and Susan.

While Anderson retained his position with the Seattle transit system as an electrical engineer from 1924 to 1971, when he retired, he’s most known for being an avid climber — he scaled 428 peaks in his career — and founding America’s largest retail cooperative, Recreational Equipment Inc. or REI in 1938.

REI had it’s humble beginnings just outside Seattle, Washington, USA. It was a series of small events which caused Anderson, his wife Mary and their climbing friends to form the co-op. It all started because of a $12 climbing axe.

It was 1936 when Anderson ordered a climbing axe from a Seattle distributor, an axe he expected was Austrian. When the axe came in several months later though it was in fact from Japan — Japan’s metallurgy was known to be inferior in those days — and at a cost of $12. That was a full day’s wages for Anderson, the city electrical engineer. Anderson ended up ordering the axe he actually wanted directly from Austria a short time later, it arrived at a cost of $3.50 including shipping. He ordered several more for his fellow climbers and in 1938 a lawyer suggested Anderson and his cohorts form a co-op to formalize the arrangement.

Anderson and freindsAnderson and his pals each paid in $1 and by the end of 1938 there were 82 card carrying members, Lloyd and Mary carried cards numbered one and two. That year the co-op divided a $212 profit, generated by $1,361 in sales. For the first half of the co-op’s existence, the Andersons managed all shipping from their home, becoming the Seattle post office’s largest customer. The warehouse was in the attic, Mary ran the office from the kitchen and Lloyd tinkered with product development from a shop in the garage.

Anderson on right.

Anderson on right.

Early REI product tag.

Early REI product tag.
via History of Gear

Anderson remained president of REI till 1971 when he retired from both REI and the Seattle transit system. After his departure REI headed quickly towards providing a more generalized outdoors inventory at the over 77 retail stores. While Anderson personally didn’t care much for the fancy gear, choosing to remain true to the old-school climbing gear and apparel, he still patronized the REI stores. It’s said he got a real kick from providing his #1 membership card at checkout to employees with shocked expressions.

Further Reading

Thomas Hiram Holding: Father of Modern Camping

Thomas Hiram HoldingThomas Hiram Holding was, in 1908, the worlds leading proponent and practitioner of camping. It seams strange to me now to think that there was a time when humans didn’t camp for enjoyment. But up until the late 1800s people camped out of necessity not sport.

Oh sure there were folks who camped while undertaking a sport, say hunting, but camping was a given for the long distance traveler and so not something one did for enjoyment.

Travel was in fact the reason for Holding’s first experiences camping. In 1853 the British tailor was only 9 years old and in the process of crossing the vast American plains with his parents. At the start of their 1,200 mile journey they camped along the banks of the Mississippi river for 5 weeks, the longest encampment of his life. Subsequently, they camped every night on their journey west upon finally leaving in the spring of 1853 until the end of their journey in August of that same year.

The following year, he took another wagon train East, from Salt Lake City, through the Rockies and back to civilization.

Jump forward another 24 years and the now 33 year old Holding found himself with a canoe. He wrote that the canoe led to camping, then to a multi-day canoe cruise and camping through the Highlands of Scotland.

He continued to camp, canoe and added in cycling as well. He was quote proud of the Cycle-Camping epidemic which spread through the British country side. In 1878 Holding, and others, formed the Bicycle Touring Club, and some few years later he and four friends managed a cycle-camping expedition through Ireland.

Cycle and Camp in  Connemara_smlAfter the Ireland adventure, Holding published the book, “Cycle and Camp in Connemara” in which he described his trek through the Irish country side and invited readers to contact him. There was enough interest in the endeavor that a new community formed as the Association of Cycle Campers in 1901. This organization later became the Camping a Caravaning Club, the largest camping enthusiast club in Briton today.

In 1906, he found himself declared the “greatest known authority on Camping” which started him down a path towards authoring the “Campers Handbook” which was published in 1908. You can still find a copy of the Campers’ Handbook for your own reading pleasure. Many of the tips and tricks still apply today, and the author’s humor make the read quite enjoyable.

Further Reading

Pack In, Pack Out

 

We’ve all been taught not to litter. At least in the United States there have been several major public initiatives to counter the onslaught of littering along road ways. And while many folks will never litter, there are some who’s lack of respect for their world and fellow residents causes them to just not give a damn and throw trash all over the place.

In 2009 there were over 51 billion pieces of trash thrown beside US byways. We spent nearly $11.5 billion in clean up initiatives. If you’d like the gory details, check out the 2009 National Visible Litter Survey… I’ve not taken the time to look for more current statistics, but you can imagine they’ve grown.

While littering along roads is bad, it’s contained geographically enough for society to at least attempt a clean up. The impact that littering would have on America’s back country, parks, and wildlife would be far greater.

If you’ve been involved with experienced campers or hikers you’re probably familiar with the concept of Leave No Trace, or at the least the idea of Pack It In, Pack It Out. These concepts became necessary during the post World War II era.

Prior to WWII American the outdoors man focused on woodsman ship and conservation. We didn’t have access to the plethora of man-made materials that we do today. Packed lunches were wrapped in paper, packs were made of cloth or leathers which would decompose somewhat naturally if left on the land, and anything else was constructed from the resources found in nature.

After the war ended and the strange reintegration of society had finally completed, families became one again, expanded most often, and “benefited” from the excess materials produced by the war time manufacturing machine. Nylon, Rayon and other man-made materials began appearing in consumer products. Plastics soon eased the work load of housewives everywhere packing lunches and weekend pick-nicks.

$1,000 Littering FineAmericans also began rediscovering an affinity for the outdoors. But unlike their fathers, these Americans trudged out into the wild bringing the trappings of the modern age. Items so foreign to the natural world that nature literally doesn’t know what to do with them.

The onslaught of litter that followed raised the ire of many a conservationist. Soon individuals began teaching new principles of conservation. The idea was simple, since the material being brought in couldn’t be handled by nature, you must carry out what you brought in.

My first introduction to the idea of pack in, pack out, was during my teen years as I started mountain biking. The MTB community is incredibly conservation minded. It appeared to me, at the time thinking in very black and white, to be a strange juxtaposition. Here were folks bringing destructive bicycles into nature, riding them at great speed on trails sometimes barely wide enough to walk down, yet if you were seen littering you’d vary likely be taunted and driven out of the woods by pure peer pressure.

What I leaned from that community of bikers was, nature is meant to be enjoyed but fearlessly protected. Yes the bikes would erode the trails fast, but the bikers would rebuild the trails. Yes the temptation was there to take your bike off through the woods, off the trails, but you just didn’t; you stayed on the trails to protect those inviting woods. And you sure as hell packed out everything you brought in, period.

Today, the need to pack out what we pack in is still important, perhaps more so than ever before. Fortunately, there are concerted education efforts on going by many organizations which teach adults and children alike how to enjoy nature while keeping it safe.

The Leave No Trace campaign, is probably the best known public outreach offering guidance and courses on conservation and principles for leaving a light foot print on nature.

Their seven principles are what I try to follow and think you should as well.

Plan Ahead and Prepare

  • Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you’ll visit.
  • Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
  • Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use.
  • Visit in small groups when possible. Consider splitting larger groups into smaller groups.
  • Repackage food to minimize waste.
  • Use a map and compass to eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns or flagging.

Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

  • Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow.
  • Protect riparian areas by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.
  • Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site is not necessary.
  • In popular areas:
  • Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites.
  • Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy.
  • Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent.
  • In pristine areas:
  • Disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites and trails.
  • Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.

Dispose of Waste Properly

  • Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food and litter.
  • Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.
  • Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.
  • To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.

Leave What You Find

  • Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
  • Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
  • Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
  • Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.

Minimize Campfire Impacts

  • Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry. Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light.
  • Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
  • Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
  • Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes.

Respect Wildlife

  • Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
  • Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
  • Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
  • Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.
  • Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter.

Be Considerate of Other Visitors

  • Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
  • Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
  • Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock.
  • Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors.
  • Let nature’s sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises.

– See more at: http://lnt.org/learn/7-principles#sthash.l4cemn0r.dpuf

The member-driven Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics teaches people how to enjoy the outdoors responsibly. This copyrighted information has been reprinted with permission from the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org

My Every Day Carry Knife: The Kershaw Ken Onion Leek

kershaw_black_leek_textWhen looking for a daily carry knife I look for three things,

  1. durability,
  2. ease of use,
  3. and size.

So when I received the Kershaw Leek, designed by the legendary Ken Onion, as a gift two years ago I was quite pleased.

My knife has been through it all, paper, wiring of all kinds, meat, vegetable, wood, plastic, and even sheet rock. I’ve carried it in mundane spaces like the office and through rides down rapids swimming beside an over turned canoe, and it’s weathered it all.

blackleek_1660ckt_3__760x298

The Leek does require some maintenance, especially if you pocket carry the knife. It has a lot of crisp edges which are wonderful for maintaining grip, but also great at gathering pocket lint. I find myself blowing out the lint every week.

It’s pretty good at keeping an edge, but if you’re consistency cutting material known to dull knives, you will find yourself sharpening this blade every other week or so.

I mentioned grip earlier. I’ve somewhat large hands — can palm a basket ball most of the time — and this knife feels better in hand than any other knife I’ve had.

The Speed Safe assisted open operates just as advertised allowing you to open this folder with one hand; either hand.

Tech Specs

  • Made in the USA
  • SpeedSafe® assisted opening
  • Frame lock
  • Reversible (tip-up/tip-down, right) pocketclip
  • Steel: Sandvik 14C28N, DLC coating
  • Handle: 410 stainless steel, DLC coating
  • Blade length: 3 in. (7.5 cm)
  • Closed length: 4 in. (10.3 cm)
  • Overall Length: 7 in. (17.9 cm)
  • Weight: 3.0 oz.

As of this writing you can pickup this knife for $75 – $100 which is more than fair for the build quality. At that price I’ve not been hesitant about using this knife every day. If you’re an Amazon Prime member it’s going for $38.38 right now.

More Info

Multi Tool on a Budget

Tim Leatherman

Ever since Karl Elsener  started producing the Schweizer Offiziersmesser, “Swiss Officer’s Knife”, in 1891 human kind has been producing multi-tools. Today, everyone from adventurers, military types and do-it-yourself enthusiasts have found various multi-tool configurations have become essential parts of their packs and tool kits.
While the Swiss Army knife has always been centered around the knife, Tim Leatherman chose to make pliers the core of his multi-tool platform and a new legend was created. He started production in 1983 and new models have been produced every year since.

I’ve owned several Leatherman models and every one has been stolen. While that’s very frustrating for me, it certainly says something about the tool’s image and desirability. I’ve certainly been happy with each model I’ve had and keep purchasing replacements.

Today there are about 30 different models of Leatherman so you’re sure to find one that will fit your need and wallet. Today we’re going to take a look at one of the more economical models, the Wingman. As of this writing you can pick one up from Amazon.com for about $35.

L_Wingman_ADThe Wingman was created in 2011 and has 14 tools. It’s a little heavy at 7oz. so you ultralight backpackers probably won’t want this model. However, the diy person or casual camper or backpacker on a budget will love this model. It’s put together well with very little play allowed in the joints. In fact when you first get yours you’ll find the tension and friction of the moving parts to be just slightly to tight. Leatherman’s are known for this and will loosen to be just right with some use. I personally think this is indicative of Leatherman’s attention to detail.

Like all Leathermans, the primary tool is the plier assembly. This model effectively gives you needle nose pliers, standard pliers and wire cutters. The plier’s are spring loaded which makes single hand operation pretty easy. Other tools included are a knife, file, wire striper, bottle opener and the list goes on. See Below.

While Leatherman has other models which have more tools, and some with tools more suited for camping, the Wingman is an excellent starter / budget conscience model.

Tech Specs

Measurements
2.6 in | 6.6 cm (Blade Length)
3.8 in | 9.7 cm (Closed)
7 oz | 198.4 g (Weight)

Tools Included
Spring-action Needlenose Pliers
Spring-action Regular Pliers
Spring-action Wire Cutters
420HC Combo Knife
Package Opener
Wood/Metal File
Spring-action Scissors
Small Screwdriver
Medium Screwdriver
Phillips Screwdriver
Ruler (1.5 in / 3.8 cm)
Bottle Opener
Can Opener
Wire Stripper

More Info

Choosing Gear for Beginners

There are some essentials you’ll need to take. As you gain experience camping you’ll modify your list to suit your camping style.

Tent

kelty-tent-amazonIf you’re primarily camping in cold weather you don’t need to worry about windows, you won’t need them. For everyone else though, the tent you choose should include lots of vent windows. These windows are made out of a tightly woven screen to keep out bugs but allow air flow. Managing air flow is important; during sumer months you’ll want as much free flowing air as you can get, but during winter you’ll want to close those windows to block the wind and hold in heat.

There are two types of window coverings.

  1. Zippered windows sewn into the tent on one side and zippers on the remaining side. This style works great, but the extra material is always attached to the tent which could matter if you get serious about backpacking.
  2. No built in window covers at all. These tents instead rely on the rain fly to cover windows. This is nice on those mid-summer backpack trips where you want to save a few ounces of weight by leaving the rain fly at home.

Rain flies are important for more than just covering your windows. Their primary purpose is to protect the tent from moisture like rain or dew. Even with a light dewing you’ll find that touching the inside of your tent’s wall will cause that moisture to wick inside. But, with the rain fly installed, that moisture collects on the fly leaving the tent wall dry underneath. Some tents include a rain fly that extends out from the tent’s doors allowing you to stow gear outside the tent, but under the fly. This configuration is my favorite. I stow items like chairs, and other gear under the fly leaving more room in the tent.

Sizing a tent can feel misleading. When a manufacture says a tent will sleep three, what they mean to say is it will sleep three 5′ 2″ guys spooning. So, subtract one from the manufacturer’s suggested count and those two guys will be snug, bumping elbows. A manufacture suggested four person tent will sleep two 6′ guys comfortably.

The Kelty Trail Ridge 4 is a great tent for two large guys. Kelty makes a 6 person version of the same model as well.

Sleeping Bag

sleeping-bag-colman-amazonBags are rated for temperature. Pay attention to these ratings because their spot on. Taking a bag rated for 60 degrees on trip in Minnesota in November just might ruin your camping career forever. Likewise a 30 degree bag during July in Texas can have the same effect.

There are two styles; square and mummy. The mummy bag is shaped, just as the name suggests, to be as form fitting as possible. The pros are this means less material so less weight and it will warm up quicker since there’s less air to heat. On the negative side though some folks just can’t stand to be that snug.

The square style far more comfortable (a statement of personal preference if there ever was one). I prefer the square bag for two main reasons:

  1. You don’t feel like you’re in a cocoon,
  2. and you can store your shirt and pants in the bag with you in the winter months so they’re warm in the morning.

The Colman Dunnock is a great starter bag.

Camp Kitchen

The camp kitchen you build will be based on your cooking style. Generally, you should consider including:

  • Camp plates — these are flat dishes with high sides for serving soups, chili and stews.
  • Cups — Tin coffee mugs are a favorite since they’ll handle any beverage you can through in them, even hot coffee.
  • Various utensils — include knives, spoons, forks, serving utensils.
  • Pots and pans — you should have at least one small pot and one fry pan.
  • Camp stove — If you’re going to camp in a burn restricted area, you’ll need a camp stove. These stoves use propane bottles.
  • Soap — Bring some bio-degradable soap.
  • Trash bags — Pack in, pack out is the old adage and you should adhere to it. Bring a sack or two for collecting your camp trash in. Large plastic bags can also be used for rain ponchos.
  • Food — Plan each meal before you go and take exactly what you need.

Camp Furniture

colman-chair-amazonDifferent types of camping allows for different kinds a camp comfort. If you’re camping with easy access to your car, bring along some folding chairs and maybe even folding camp table.
If you’re backpacking then bring a tarp for sitting on.

For those car camping trips I like the canvas folding style chairs like this one from Colman.

First Aid Kit

You don’t have to be a super paramedic, but you should have a decent first aid kit along. Things happen when you least expect it and help is not just a phone call away. If one of your party cuts themselves you need to be able to at least disinfect the wound. Worst case you’ll need to know how to get the wound to clot so they don’t bleed out as you carry them back to civilization.

fitst-aid-amazon

At the least your first aid kit should include some disinfectant, antibiotic cream and band-aids. You can get a more comprehensive kit fairly cheaply though so purchase the best bang for your buck.  Mountain Series from Adventure Medical Kits are highly recommended kits. Walmart also has some decent kits that will work in a pinch.

Knowing CPR and the Heimlich Maneuver is important as well. Check with your local Red Cross or hospital, they’ll usually have a course or two every year.

Putting it all Together

Experience and common-sense will help you decide what gear to take on your next camping trip. Think about each part of your day, what activities you’ll be doing and the weather. If you plan your trip before hand you’ll have time to enjoy your trip without worry.

MSR MiniWorks EX Microfilter

I’m doing some research on micro filters in preparation for some hiking / camping trips planed for 2013. If funds allow, the MSR® MiniWorks® EX is one I intended to pickup and field test — I’ll update this post with my experiences. In the mean time, here are some reviews that have convinced me this model is one to try. If you’ve used the MiniWorks EX, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Made in the USAThe founders of Cascade Designs® setup shop in 1972 to produce Therm-A-Rest® sleeping pads. By 1991 they had released the first MSR® water filter, the WaterWorks®. Today we’re looking at the WaterWorks grandkid, the MiniWorks® EX Microfilter.

Specs

Weight 1 lb / 456 g
Width 2.75 in / 7 cm
Length 7.5 in / 19 cm
Filter media Ceramic Plus Carbon
Filter pore size 0.2 microns
Flow (L/min) 1 liters per min
Flow (strokes per liter) 85
Cartridge life ~2000 liters
Cartridge replacement indicator Yes

More Info

Reviews

Worth every penny!

November 8, 2009 By R. Zamudio from Amazon.com

[editor’s note: Corrected some spelling errors. Possibly the best review I’ve ever seen on Amazon and a major factor in my decision to try this filter.]

I researched filtration systems for almost a month before settling on the MSR miniworks. I figured I could just go pick one up at the local Cabela’s or REI, but BOTH retail stores were sold out of these, while there was still a good supply of the other MSR and Katadyn filter systems on the shelf. I took this as a sign that this is the filter to have and ordered it from Amazon, and it has been worth every penny. Read on….

 

MSR MiniWorks EX

 

In Camp:
The filter is very simple to use and has a good output-per-pump ratio. You never really feel like you are doing more work than you should for the amount of water you are pushing through, especially if you take into account the fact that every pump is worth about one gulp of nasty water that you WON’T have to drink. If you do see a diminished output, simply unscrew the filter housing and give the element a light scrubbing. We were taking water from a brown lake that is loaded with tannins and we would get about 2 liters through (about 2 full-size nalgene bottles worth) before we noticed the filter could use a cleaning. Tannin-loaded water is supposedly some of the worst for clogging these ceramic filters, so if you have cleaner water sources at your site than we do, your element-cleaning cycles should be farther apart. The water came out crystal-clear and almost tasteless. It didn’t taste like Dasani bottled water, but it definitely didn’t taste like tea-colored lake water either. Pretty much neutral. More importantly, it tasted CLEAN and nobody got sick. Also, the MSR Miniworks requires no chemical additives but still claims to filter everything but viruses. The chance of contracting a waterborne virus from a U.S. lake or stream (think Polio, Hep-A, SARS, and a few others which you have probably had vaccinations for) is far lower than getting sick from bacteria or parasites. If this still bothers you, you can still boil your clear, clean-tasting water just to be sure.

Out of Camp:
The maintenance on this filter is very simple. The unit breaks down into 4 major parts, and the wrist pins on the pump assembly are quick-release squeeze-and-push types. You can literally have this thing stripped down and cleaned completely in about 5 minutes, and that includes the sterilization of the filter element. A couple dabs of silicone grease or chap stick is all you need to lube it up when you are reassembling the unit.

The Hidden Bonus:
$80 may seem like a lot for a water filter, but the MSR miniworks pays you back exponentially…
Prior to buying a filtration system, everyone in our backpacking party hauled their own water needed for the entire trip. We would calculate what we needed for hydration and cooking each day, plus a bit more just in case, and we strictly stuck to these rations. We would have enough water, but never enough to truly quench one’s thirst. Having this filter in our party allowed us to drop about 15 lbs carried, per person! Plus, we didn’t have to pack out a bunch of empty water bottles anymore. One filter supports 4 of us and we now drink as much as we want. When you think about how important hydration is to your body’s systems (Read Cody Lundin’s “98.6 Degrees” book and you will know more about the subject than you ever wanted to), shelling out $80 to have clean, safe water on-demand anywhere you can find a water source is a small price to pay.

Tips:
-Put a coffee filter over the hose inlet and secure it with a twist-tie, rubber band, or fishing line. This will make your MSR filter pump more efficiently for longer without as-frequent element cleaning. Every time you clean the element, you are scrubbing away some of the element’s overall diameter. When it gets too thin, you have to get a new element. Fewer cleaning cycles = prolonged filter life and more money remains in your pocket. Filter element, $40. Coffee filter, 3 to 4 cents.

-Bring a spare filter element if you are going on an extended trip or are going to be absolutely dependent on this filter for your drinking water while you are out! Meaning: hiking back to your vehicle and driving like a madman to the nearest 7-11 for a drink before you go into a coma from dehydration is not going to be an option! The word is, these ceramic elements are fragile. Finding this out at the wrong time and being caught without a spare would be a very bad thing. If you spent the cash for the filter and other people in your party use it, have them pony up the $40 and buy the spare element for you. It’s only fair…. right?

-USE A NALGENE BOTTLE WITH THIS UNIT (or other similar one that will attach to the adapter). The motion created while you are pumping is far too violent for precision-aiming the output stream into any loose container, except for a bucket. You can also attach another length of rubber hose to the outlet and run that to your container, but we have not tried this yet. The Nalgene bottle seemed like the simple solution to use with the filter and we filled our other containers from this bottle.

{Product use update} – Our party of 3 did a 4-day back country hike in the Grand Canyon (search: Tanner Trail) this past winter. This is definitely NOT a tourist trail, and the first 2000-3000 ft of elevation is not much a trail at all. The noted only water source along this entire route is at the very bottom of the canyon, the Colorado River. We were able to augment our hike-in water supply by searching for pools of water trapped in depressions of the rocks near the places where we made camp, and pumping water from them using the MSR Miniworks. I don’t even want to think of what was in those water pools, but what came through the filter was clean and refreshing. We made notes of the larger water pools, which allowed us to lighten our water load on the hike-out and stop by the pools for a top-off when we needed it.

 

 

Your First Day and Night

Your First Day and Night

In my previous post I wrote that you should not plan your camping trip out in to much detail. That’s true, but conversely you don’t want to be totally unprepared either. There are some tasks that simply have to be done at every camp site. If you’re going with a group of folks, you’ll want to distribute tasks according to your camp-mates’ abilities. The goal with distributing the tasks is to have many tasks being accomplished in parallel so you can start relaxing as soon as possible.

  • Tent Setup
    When setting up a tent you first need to survey the campsite. Choose the smoothest plot you can find and walk over every bit of the land removing sticks and stones. Leaving this debris will give you a rough nights sleep and could possibly puncture your tent’s floor.Depending on your experience, personality and complexity of your tent, you should allow yourself 30 minutes to one hour to get your tent setup. Event the simplest of tents will seem complicated setting it up for the first time. Do not attempt a first setup in the dark. Having an assistant to help setup the tent can be helpful; but you’ll quickly find it takes communication and team work.Traditionally tent raising is the responsibility of the tent owner and possibly an assistant. You might however offer to put up the tent for the person in charge of the meals though.
  • Camp Fire and Meal Preparation
    You need one person in charge of the campfire and meal preparation. If you’ve taken my advice you’ve started with something small like charcoal fire with hot dogs and chips. In that situation you only need one person on this task. Once you’re more experienced and cooking over a wood fire, you might assign several assistants to assign with wood gathering, fire stoking, food prep. etc. But, even with assistance, there should be only one person in charge of meals.
  • Clean Up
    Having a clean camp site is critical for your enjoyment and safety. As you’re cooking keep utensils and dishes out of the dirt and covered. It’s traditional that everyone help clean up after a meal by cleaning their own dishes or assisting the cook in some other way.Left overs should be stored in air tight containers and stowed in your car or suspended high in a tree where wildlife can’t get at it. Extra caution should be taken in bear country, but that’s another post. If you need to dispose of excess food (burnt, leftovers, etc.) do so some distance from the camp site.If you’re at an established camp site there will probably be some restrooms available. Be a good neighbor and make use of these. If you are primitive camping, establish a latrine area at the outset of your camp setup and make sure everyone is aware of it’s location.

The Next Morning

You’ll be surprised at how early the sun comes up the next morning. Rule of thumb, whomever is in charge of breakfast is the first one up and out of the tent. Fire is the first priority since you’ll need it to make coffee and the meal; and possibly to stay warm.

By the time the meal is eaten you’ll find folks break up into work teams naturally. Someone will assist the cook with clean up and the others will move on to prepping the tents for take down.

When prepping your tent, make sure it’s as dry as possible before you start rolling it up. I’ve actually spread a tent out in a sunny spot and waited around for it to dry before rolling it up. If that’s not an option due to time limitation or weather, wring it out as you roll and remember to unpack it when you get home to dry it out. Leaving a tent rolled wet will guarantee mildew which will harm your tent and possibly you the next time you use it.

An Introduction to Camping

First Time for Everything

There’s always a first time for everything and that includes camping. Whether you’re an adult or a young person your first camping trip might feel a little overwhelming. There appears to be a lot of tasks and tools to be considered before trekking into the great out of doors.

I remember my first “camping” trip quite well. I was about 12 and my folks agreed to let my younger brother and I take our tipi inspired tent in the backyard and sleep outside by ourselves. I’m pretty sure we had a couple of flashlights, some books, a canteen of water and some sleeping bags.

Early Camping by Marcia Wright

We were just kids who did what seemed fun; we didn’t put to much thought into our actions. As a new camper you should do the same. To many times new campers get bogged down in trying to plan for every eventuality and “needing” — read wanting — to buy all the coolest gadgets. But that makes camping a chore; chores are not fun!

The instinct to prepare for every eventuality while away from home is a good thing, it helps keep you safe. But new campers need to remind themselves that they simply don’t know what those events will be, they have no experience to dictate for what they should prepare. The key is keep it simple and build on your experience as you go.

  1. Choose your first camping location close to home. If the camp fire just won’t start in the morning you can always just drive home for breakfast, and that’s OK.
  2. Choose simple things for meals. Bring charcoal, bread for toast and sausage links to cook in the camp ground’s provided grill. Do you really expect trying to make pan biscuits and gravy over a wood fire will be “fun” on your first trip? Probably not.
  3. Keep your plans simple. There may be a lake for swimming, trails for hiking, lots of dead trees for gathering firewood, but you’re not going to get to all of those in one day. You will just get frustrated if you try to plan every detail of the day out. Instead, formulate in your mind what tasks will be essential (see below) for providing a safe and happy camp site and make those must do’s happen. Then just let the fun stuff happen as they may.