Sunday, April 28, 2013

How To Choose Pants for The Trail

I found these Columbia GRT trail pants at a thrift store for $6. Of course I couldn't pass them  up. They are perfect for a long trail, or even just hanging out.
I'll take these on the CDT.
Ok, here's the breakdown in desirable qualities for trail pants.
Number one: They must fit! Too big or too small is no good when you're living in these, hiking 20 mile days, weeks on end.
Number Two: weight. These brand name pants weigh a mere 9 ounces. My fitted blue jeans weigh 18 ounces.
Number three: fabric content. Cotton will not dry, chafes when wet and fades. Hot sun destroys natural fibers. These Columbia pants are 100 % Nylonpolyamide- a strong ultralight fabric.
Number four: color. You can't pay me to wear pink on the trail, much less a baby blue, red or other non stealth color. Blending in to the scenery could be a life or death situations. Studies have proved that bears are attracted to bright blue. During hunting season, I will have something bright, but otherwise, no.

Number five: pockets. You need pockets for things like maps, toilet paper, chap stick, a small knife, maybe a snack or two. Pockets can save you from endless searching for the right tool, like a GI can opener (which I take on a knife ring) for times you find a little trail magic inside a sealed can.
Number six: and some will argue its farther up the list, but quality. You can replace clothing while on the trail, like in a mail drop, but there's nothing like dependable gear when your heading through wilderness. These pants are in perfect condition. All the zippers work and there are no holes or breaches in the seams, seat or knees.
Other considerations: While these pants have zip off legs, I seldom use that feature. Most zippers on a desert trail will eventually fail if sand and grit is not kept out of the teeth. To facilitate a difficult zipper, remove all sand and grit, then apply a wax based lip balm. I've sucessfully restored several zippers that way.
An elastic band assures the pants stay up if you don't want to wear a belt, and really, who wants to wear a belt hiking? The loops are handy for clipping your "ultralight" tool kit, kept on one lanyard, to prevent loosing it.
I have used North Face's trail pants for quite a few thousand miles. They look and feel similar to these olive green Columbia pants. I'm pretty lucky to find these perfect pants at a second hand store!
Always bring needle and thread/ dental floss for repairs. Check out my youtube videos for gear repair and other ideas at

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Good Winter at Lake Yellowstone

Looking back on my winter here, I feel pretty satisfied. We still have about a month to go cooking for the construction guys.

Xanterra employees are pulling in, getting the Hotel's kitchen up and running for pre-season cooks.

The floors are installed, leveled and ready for carpet.

During these 6 months, I've skied to Stevenson Island, skied up Elephant Back and down again, both things I thought were nearly impossible.

I've skied along the snow packed roads, scouted lots of griz prints, made survival shelters and practiced my fire building skills in snow.
I've learned all about "Wraps" from the chef. Basically, lots of good meats, cheeses, spreads and vegetables, even leftover breakfast quiches or "man scramble" can go in one of these over sized tortillas, ends folded in, rolled securely and served. Wraps are a great way to stretch meat and come up with tasty alternatives to the  basic grilled sandwhich.

I've come up with new dessert and home made bread recipes, learned to utilize the leftover grits or oatmeal in the morning for luscious yeast breads at supper. At man camp, all the food has been tediously hauled in. All the garbage is stored in a huge trailer (dump style, built while we were here) and hauled out in the spring. The smells can draw in wild creatures. We have kept garbage to a surprising minimum.

This week I made "Spring Fever Bars". I used a basic yellow cake recipe, but instead of milk, I substituted orange juice concentrate. I frosted it with a home made icing of powdered sugar, orange juice, butter, and orange zest. The guys loved it.

I've met a lot of nice guys, most are married, many are seriously conservative. Imagine in this day and age meeting a guy who thinks women shouldn't have the right to vote because they tend to be socialists. Amazingly, this same guy thinks vegetarians should be fired.

We have some that don't speak a lick of English. That's been fun, too. I get to practice describing the menu to these dudes . Bottom line, they eat everything, no matter what we put on their plates.

Right now, most skiing has to be done early or late. Mid afternoon the snow gets punky, like mashed potatoes, the chef says. I agree.

Hiking is basically only on the road. Trails are snow packed and deep. A body busts through foot by foot. Now, we need bear spray on expeditions. Seriously, though, I'm surprised I haven't met a bear on our back deck, scoping out the bacon cooking in the morning before daylight.

Its been great, something I've always wanted to do. But, who knows, whether I return for stage two, or go on to another adventure remains to be seen.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Four Onces Removed -Streamlining Gear

November 16, 2012 I wrote a gear review on this blog for the Lightning 50 backpack.
I'll test this pack for my upcoming CDT hike. I know all my gear will fit inside. Now that the extra strap length is removed, its a custom fit. I also removed the fabric sleeve at the bottom.
Its important to heat seal every strap you cut. Make sure to fold back the edge, too, or it could slip through the buckle. Leave enough for adjustment in case you are wearing a bulky jacket or gain a few pounds....not likely on the trail.
At 2 pounds 12 ounces, this 3000 cubic inch pack is sweet. Stay tuned for more gear choices.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Gear Selection for the Continental Divide Trail

Today I pulled out three contestants for the insulating top layer. This will go over my silk long sleeve hiking shirt when its really cold, and also under my silnylon Gram Weenie rain jacket, which I designed and used to sew for Dancing Light Gear.
Photos of the three contestants and weights -perks given below each photo.
This black Brooks-Range jacket has four pockets, two for the hands, one chest outside, and one inside. I wrote a gear review for it on this blog, March 24, 2011. Other than the zippers being a little too light (one has already separated forever and refuses to stay shut, its been a fantastically great piece of gear. Its down, weighs only 11.25 ounces. Feels like nothing. I could easy sleep in this jacket, as well as ball it up for a pillow. It packs down to nothing. The sleeves are extra long. I love that, too. When hiking with poles, you don't want wrists to freeze, sometimes gloves are overkill.

Second contestant is my Patagonia Fleece pullover. Only one chest pocket, weighing 15.25 ounces, it doesn't pack down as well. I used it on my thru hike of the Colorado trail and it was really warm and reliable. Old friends are hard to leave home. No hood, the sleeves are bound with a thin edge. Fleece dries fast, unlike the down. 

This Free Country jacket is so comfortable, I always wear it for my outer layer when skiing up at Lake Yellowstone. It does weigh 22 ounces however, but has a good collar and hood. I wished the down jacket had a hood, then it would be perfect.
This jacket is polyester-spandex. There are two inner pockets and three outer. Its sort of fitted and feels great. It packs down like the fleece. However, it doesn't breath that well. Sometimes its been damp after a ski, in spite of multiple wicking layers.
I used our kitchen scale which goes up to 2 pounds. I put each jacket in a clear sack to weigh it, check the compressablity for pack volume.

After work I took a walk in the cold snowy wind. Each contestant was layered over a think polyester long sleeve shirt, one I could take on the trail.
Amazingly, the Brooks Range won hands down. Warmer, much lighter, much more comfortable, I've decided that jacket will do wonderful. Now, I know at the end of the trail, I'll be washing it to restore the loft, just as I did with my Marmot 30 degree bag, bringing new life to this great piece of gear.
If the light zipper on the jacket would give out on me, I am prepared to sew it shut half way up and use it as a pull over too.
Stay tuned for more gear discussion for my upcoming CDT section hike.