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Why would you want to bring a tarp on the West Coast Trail? It’s a gruelling 75km hike up and down ladders, through mud pits and soft sand. That doesn’t exactly sound like a great place to take extra weight in that already heavy backpack of yours.
It is extra weight, yes. But weight that is very worth it.
The wet coast, I mean, the west coast of Vancouver Island can be a very wet place. There’s a reason why it’s called a rainforest. There’s plenty of rain to keep the ‘rain’ in rainforest.
When you’re hiking through those conditions, it’s nice to have a dry place to do things. Yes, you can set up a tent and get inside and then try to do everything from that small space. But have you tried to set up a tent in the rain, keeping it dry then getting inside to get dry clothes on and keep everything else dry?
It’s nearly impossible.
If you actually do manage to set up the tent and keep it somewhat dry inside, you have to get in there in your wet gear do tent yoga to change. And keep everything dry. Right.
Or… you can put up a tarp.
These aren’t your standard Canadian Tire special tarps that weight 10 pounds on their own. The tarps I’m talking about are the extra thin, extra light siltarps for backpacking. They don’t weigh much.
When I hiked the West Coast Trail, we’d roll into camp, select our spot and set up the tarp as soon as we could. It was my first big hike with the 10’x12′ MEC Guides tarp and I just thought it would be a good idea to bring. It weighs 792 grams.
After the tarp was set up, we could relax in a dry, protected area of the elements. Each of the tents then can be set up under the tarp out of the rain and then moved to it’s final spot.
If you have a big enough tarp, you can cover parts of the tents for a bit of extra rain protection. If not then it will be out in the rain but by that time, the fly will keep it nice and dry. We never pitched the tents far from the the tarp.
The tarp provides a dry community area to get out of the rain but not be stuck in your tent. The 2 person backpacking tents are getting roomier every year but they’re still not a huge amount of space when you have to change and cook and hang out for extended periods of time. Mountaineers weathering a storm might be fine being stuck in a tiny tent for multiple days but I’d prefer to have as much room as possible. The tarp gives a dry, spacious place to relax.
The tarp does weigh something and take up some space. If you are shaving ounces and just don’t have the space, it’s not absolutely necessary but if you’re looking for some level of comfort and want to get out of the rain on the “Wet Coast Trail” then you just might want to pack a tarp.
Canister stoves are the easiest types of stove to light. Just like a BBQ. Grab your lighter, turn on the gas and, woof, you have a lit stove. It’s still possible to burn your eyebrows off but much harder than with a liquid fuel stove.
Because you can boil water for your lasagna and still keep your eyebrows, I like to recommend canister stoves to beginners for that reason. At the end of a long day, you just want to savour your lasagna, not stop drop and roll.
Since you don’t have your giant BBQ lighter handy, what do you use to light a canister stove? What’s the easiest way to do without having to carry your backyard BBQ gear with you.
There’s 4 main ways to light a canister stove. A piezo igniter, matches, a lighter and fire steel.
You can use any or all of them. First a quick note about backups. Have at least 2 with you on every trip. That might be 2 lighters, a lighter and a fire steel or a piezo igniter and matches. They fail. They get wet. If you’re depending on that stove to eat and drink, then you need it to work. Besides, rehydrated food with cold water sucks. Crunch. Crunch.
Here’s a quick look at the 4 methods.Piezo Igniter
A piezo igniter are small tools that use a piezoelectric crystal to make a spark.
They can be attached to the stove or a separate igniter. You’ll never misplace the ones that are attached to the stove. If they do stop working, you’ll be stuck with it attached to your stove though.
The separate igniters are a button on the end of a stick. Turn the gas on and put the sparky end near it and press the button. It might take a couple click to light it but it will spark the gas and light it. Time to cook. They’re good to use in the wind.
Piezo igniters won’t run out light matches or a lighter will but they can stop working at some point. Some people report their piezo igniters not being very reliable.
Matches are easy to light and easy to use. Just don’t get them wet. You can get waterproof matches but they’re a bit harder to light.
To light your stove, light your match and hold it it close to the gas. Careful with your fingers. You get to hold the end of the match but it’s still not that far away from where the gas will light. Your reactions will be fast if your fingers are too close when the stove lights!
Make sure you have enough matches for the trip and watch the wind. A quick breeze and another one is gone.Lighter
Lighters are my favourite way to light canister stoves. Small Bic lighters are portable, reliable and easy to use. Your fingers have to be pretty close to the flame when you’re lighting the canister but when it lights, you can usually get your hand out of there pretty fast!
Unlike matches, lighters can usually be dried out quickly and work again. Even if the fuel isn’t working or it’s empty, it will probably still spark and light the gas. If you can get a flame, it will work better but all you need is a spark.
The flame you get with a lighter is easier to light wood for a campfire or other things if you need to. A piezo igniter is only going to give you a spark.Fire steel
You always need a backup way to light your stove. Fire steel is a perfect backup. You can use it in any conditions, any altitude. Fire steel sets are a magnesium rod and a chunk of steel. When you rub them together, sparks fly off in the direction you’re pushing. Eventually the metal will run out but you usually get thousands of uses with it.
Lighting a stove with fire steel is a little bit harder; you need 2 hands to hold the rod and the steel. If you have 3 arms or another person around, they can turn your stove on while you shoot the sparks at the stove burner. Or just turn on the stove and then start making sparks.
You may not want to use the fire steel all the time but since they work in any condition, they’ll give you peace of mind as a backup you’ll hopefully never have to use.So which is the best method?
It’s tough to say which is the best method flat out. There are pros and cons to each. Lighters are popular. They are nice and easy. Fire steel is a solid backup plan. Everyone has their favourites. Maybe you prefer to rub some wood together long enough to create fire and then cook on that. Totally up to you.
I think I’ll just use my mini lighter and canister stove so I can eat my lasagna.
P.S. If you’re looking for a canister stove to test out these lighting methods on but aren’t sure which one to go for, you might want to check out our new guide, Beginner Backpacking: Buying Your First Stove. It’s got descriptions of all the different types of canister stoves and why you’d want to use each. Use the big list of canister stoves to find links to all the current stoves and the best reviews for each.
This is Day 1 of my 5 day Cape Scott hiking trip in July 2015. I’ll be doing a post on each day with my favourite photos over the coming months.
Cape Scott has been on my list of places to hike for a long time. Lots of people I know have done it. You get to see the tip of the island. There are wolves and bears. There’s lots of mud. It sounds like the perfect place to get away for a week.
We left after work and headed up to Cluxewe Resort in Port McNeill. No one wanted to do the long drive and then break out all the tents and gear just to sleep in the parking lot so we started in an air-conditioned cabin on the water in Port McNeill. Not rustic at all but really really comfortable. The cool sea breeze and air conditioned kept it an almost-cold temperature, a welcome break from the heat in Nanaimo from the few weeks prior.
A 6:30 am start turned into a little later than we wanted but we still got out the door at a good time and on the road. One stop in Port Hardy to top up fuel and on to runner-up for middle of nowhere on Vancouver Island, Holberg.
After hearing about all the problems people have with their cars on the way to Cape Scott on the bumpy roads I was worried we might have the same issues. Justin’s trusty VW Jetta got us all the way there and back with no issues.
The parking lot was quite full when we arrived. As usual we had too much food packed for breakfast and had to either eat it or ditch it. We ended up giving the three last croissants to three girls that had just come off the trail from their hike. Good timing for them.
The trail starts easy, flat and wide. A nice warm up for what was to come. I knew Cape Scott was a relatively flat hike, which I was glad for. My preparation for this hike was short CrossFit workouts. They don’t translate directly into long slow hiking. Better than nothing.
The trail splits at 900 metres in. South heads to San Josef Bay. I recommend checking that out if you can. North heads to Eric Lake and then Cape Scott.
The south end of Eric Lake. It looks like a pretty place to hang out from the down the trail. This beach on Eric Lake is actually terrible. The water was brown and full of crud. There was no where to sit aside from a couple of logs above soggy dirty. The access by the campsite boardwalk 1.4 km north is much nicer.
The obligatory crossing a bridge photo. I seem to get these from every trip I go on and some of them are really nice photos. This one was crossing a creek by Eric Lake. Someone we were talking to before we left for the trip had run across a bear here and had to wait until the bear crossed the bridge and wandered off into the woods before they could cross.
Eric Lake campsite looked pretty cool. If you were coming in late in the day and could only hike the 4k to the lake, I would camp here. It’s inland though, near the lake but not on it, and apparently a nice place for bugs to hang out. The camping would probably consist of arrive, kill as many bugs as possible, set up camp, go to bed.
Fisherman River had a good amount of water in it. There was a small place to camp near the bridge with a toilet and 3 or 4 tent pads. They were hidden behind the toilet and hard to see from the rest of the boardwalk trail. I only noticed them on my way back.
Remnants of farm life from early dutch settlers.
The meadow and trail to Hansen Lagoon were one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. The strangeness of seeing this view in the middle of a coastal forest made it very memorable. In my head it still shouldn’t look like this. But it does.
The beautiful sand of Nels Bight.
The owner of Strategic, the company that manages the park for the province, was checking on the rangers working there. They hadn’t checked in because their satellite unit was broken. It was a bit surreal to be on the northern tip of the island, enjoying being as far away from home as you can get still being on the island, and having a helicopter cruise in and buzz the beach.
Good night Cape Scott!
Stay tuned for the rest of the photos from my 2015 Cape Scott trip. I’ll post links here after they’re posted.
I was told to leave the house this year for my birthday in January. I wasn’t going to complain. Things I wasn’t supposed to know about were to be set up. “Be back at 3pm,” they said.
So I went and hiked Heart Lake in Ladysmith.
It was foggy and we couldn’t see much. “We” being the dog and I.
I parked on Ryan Place off Davis Road and hiked up the hill. The first part is road along the powerlines.
The road goes into the woods.
Along the side of the road, clear signposts and a map show the way up to Heart Lake. From here on, this part of the route is well-marked. Up until now I hadn’t seen a sign from Ryan Place. I think the route from the Holland Creek side is marked better.
Then you pop out to a wonderful view. It was cloudy and foggy down below today so you couldn’t see much. This opens up in nicer weather to a really nice view. This view is almost at the top too. The grind is almost over.
The lake pops out of nowhere. You can have lunch here and head back down or go all the way around the lake.
Cool views of stuff around the lake.
Most of the trail around the lake is double track or old road.
I had some time to kill before heading back after heading down to the bottom of the hill and with only a short hike back to the car. This little creek comes down where the Heart Lake Trail comes down onto the road. I wondered up about 50 feet to find some beautiful mini-falls.
If you can stomach the grind up, I really like the Heart Lake Trail. You can go from Holland Creek and multiple entrances there or Ryan Place off Davis Road in Ladysmith. You can go to the lake and back or all the way around. For the ambitious and energetic you can continue around Stocking Lake as well to complete the whole loop back to Ryan Place.
What exactly is a backpacking stove? Why is one stove a backpacking stove and one not?
There are lots out there of all different kinds. A quick search on Google and you can find all these different types of backpacking stoves:
- Liquid Fuel
- Solid Fuel
Or not even bring a stove and just light a fire to cook your food and boil your water.
Or you could just bring food that doesn’t require a stove at all. Then you don’t have to bring any kind of fuel.
But a few questions come up when trying to pin down what makes a true backpacking stove.
- Does it have to be small?
- Does it have to be packable?
- Does it have to use a certain fuel?
- Do you have to buy them or can you make them?
- Do you even have to cook your food?
Does it have to be small?
You could say that all backpacking stoves are just small stoves. That might be true. Smaller stoves are lighter. They are lighter than bringing a 10 pound car camping stove. But what if someone really likes to cook and decides to pack a larger stove because they want more space. Is it a backpacking stove then? Where is the line to say one is and one isn’t?
Smaller usually means lighter and if you have to carry the stove with you on your backpacking trip, you probably want something smaller.
Does it have to be packable?
Often stoves pack down into parts or fold up smaller. Does this make it a backpacking stove? Large car camping stoves do the same thing. Some alcohol stoves don’t pack up at all, they are just small to begin with. Some stoves have to be put together before you can use them.
There’s limited space on a backpacking trip so you probably want it to be small and packable.
Does it have to use a certain fuel?
Stoves have one thing in common: a fuel that burns. They have to burn something, that’s how they cook. Until we get portable power that can run a portable hotplate, we’ll be burning some kind of fuel to get the heat we need.
Stoves these days are burning anything that can burn from combustible chemicals in a solid block to gas line antifreeze to propane to jet fuel to plain old wood. If it burns we can use it as fuel.
The stove does need to be set up to burn that kind of fuel. You can’t just light a bucket of kerosene and cook your food on it.
Do you have to buy them or just make them?
Most of the stoves out these days are purchased from a store but more and more folks are making their stoves. Wood and alcohol stoves can be made fairly easily. Most people don’t have the metal machinery required to make a liquid fuel or gas canister stove though. In the end though, it doesn’t seem to matter if you build it or buy it, you can get a backpacking stove either way.
Do you even have to cook your food?
Does it have to cook your food? I’m going to say Yes. That is the one requirement of a backpacking stove to heat your food to cook it or boil your water.
Of course, you don’t need to heat your food to eat it. You could just pack food that doesn’t require cooking. Or you could just eat rehydrated cold pasta salad for dinner every day.
Whether you need to bring a stove on a backpacking trip isn’t the question of this article though.
So what’s the only requirement of a backpacking stove?
A backpacking stove has to cook your food.
Is that it? Is that the only requirement for a backpacking stove? It doesn’t seem to matter how that’s accomplished as long as it’s going to cook your food.
What do you think? What makes a backpacking stove a backpacking stove?
P.S. Our new guide is all about different backpacking stoves, what the difference is between them and which on might be best for your next trip. If you aren’t sure what stove to get as your first or 5th, check out the Beginner Backpacking: Stove Guide.
With all our technology today, we still have problems communication when you go off grid, away from all the cell towers. It’s great when you’re in town but what about when you head out for a hike? What about when you head out a little bit farther from town or a lot farther into the mountains. How do you communicate then?
One options is radios. There can be issues with those though. Another is satellite phones but they are expensive. Why can’t we use the powerful computers we all have in our pockets? Why not add a little magic to it and poof, we have a nice easy way to communicate off the grid (or just outside the normal “grid”).
The folks at Roampod are putting together some cool technology to solve this. A “roampod” along with your smartphone connects you easily with anyone else with a roampod. You can send text messages and your location easily. The messages store up if you haven’t seen them yet. Putting together the advanced tech we have today in an easy package you can take on your adventure.
I had some questions about the Roampod so I got in touch with Youyi Kitson, one of the creators, to find out more about the neat little devices.
Here we go:
Q. Why is Roampod better than a walkie talkie for communicating outdoors?
There are many reasons why Roampod is better than a walkie talkie. Here are some of the highlights.
- Roampod is crystal clear, digital network means no missed words
- Delivery receipts tell you the message was received.
- Message history is great to keep track of a chat or get to it later if you are busy
- Secure – Roampod uses better encryption than most online banking
- Better battery life – digital network makes Roampod use less battery
- Roampod works with existing smartphones & tablets
- Location sharing – no need to explain where you are, just 1 click to send your location
- No interrupting, send/receive at the same time, let Roampod sort out which message first
- Invitation only – Invite only your contacts for 1:1 or group messages, encryption keeps your messages private
- Voice messages coming in 2016
Q. What is mesh network (what makes the Roampod coverage grow)?
Mesh allows Roampods to help each other get messages delivered over extended distances. Each Roampod can forward messages to help extend range. The more Roampods that are out there to help forward a message, the better the coverage.
Q. What devices work with Roampod?
Smartphones & tablets that have Bluetooth Low Energy (often called Bluetooth Smart) running iOS or Android. Apple iPhone 4S+, iPad Gen 2+ or iPod Touch 5th gen+ as well as Samsung Galaxy 4+, Samsung NoteII work well with.
Q. Why build something like the Roampod?
Smartphones are everywhere & they can do so much more when connected to a digital radio for off-grid. Walkie talkies have not really changed in 76 years. We think its time to disrupt that old technology and make it vastly better.
Q. Do you need line of sight for them to work?
No. Our radio technology will go through obstacles. We have tested in city centers, small hills & forests, where we expect 1-4 miles with lots of obstructions. Line of sight always helps and you can get 10-20 miles on a good day with Roampods.
Q. How do you see this working in emergencies?
We have been approached by a number of interest groups and agencies to pre-distribute Roampods to communities. In emergencies, the big challenge is that cell service is down and what communications are still working gets reserved for first responders. Roampod is about connecting the largest group of people on the front line in times of emergencies using the smartphone they carry with them all the time.
Q. Any plans to connect to the internet with a base station somewhere?
The Roampod app can be used when you also have an internet connection, connecting all the other Roampod’s in the area. We plan to offer a software upgrade that will allow a Roampod to be an internet connected base station in future.
Q. How do you know if the other person is in range and what the range is?
Roampod has a discovery system that searches for all other Roampods in range. We do allow each Roampod to also be set as “invisible” for privacy.
Q. Can they get overloaded like cell towers can?
Roampod is all about small data like texting and location updates, so sending is super fast with overloads and congestion not very likely. Unlike a walkie talkie, Roampod does give up and will keep trying to send your message if there is congestion or interference.
A kickstarter page will be launching soon to help with the first round of manufacturing. I’ll post more when I hear.
Find out more and sign up for updates at http://www.roampod.com/
I was looking around for a great resource on backpacking stoves. I wanted to know which one to get to go on a trip.
I didn’t want to know every single detail about every single stove. Just enough to get me started. Just enough to get to be able to make the decision of which stove to get.
The game with outdoor gear is always the same. I spent hours wandering around the internet looking for easy-to-follow information on stoves. I couldn’t find it.
I found the information I needed and put it all together myself and was able to make a decision about which stove but it took me hours to do.
I wanted to save you the hassle. I wanted to help you figure out which stove you want quickly so you can get back out on the trail, where you belong, out hiking.
Introducing Beginner Backpacking Guide to Buying Your First Stove.
The Beginner Backpacking guides helps you find the gear you need to start backpacking without the hassle. Simple, straightforward guides to the important differences between all the gear out there.
The Guide to Buying Your First Stove has a few things to get you going quickly:
– descriptions of each type of backpacking stoves and the differences between them
– pros and cons to each type of stove
– links to reviews and where to buy for every popular stove on the market today.
– glossary of backpacking stove terms so you know what you’re reading.
Buying Your First Stove doesn’t go into painful detail about how each of stoves work. It covers enough to get you started and able to choose which one you want. We didn’t want to bog you down with details but offer just enough to choose and stove and then get on with planning your hiking trip.
There are new photos of Bear Beach in the Juan de Fuca trail guide.
A couple of weeks ago I posted that there are new Mistic Beach photos in the Juan de Fuca guide. I’ve just added new Bear Beach photos as well. The new photos are twice the size of the old ones so you can see more detail.
They’ve all been edited to look as good as possible. You’ll be able to see clearly what you’re getting into as you plan your hike.
See all the other things the Epic Juan de Fuca Hiking Guide has here.
Here’s a quick sample:
Google Earth has become an indispensable tool for viewing hiking tracks and planning out your hike. You can see what kind of land you are going to be encountering, or see a birds eye view of the trails and land you just hiked.
I use Google Earth all the time to see GPS tracks and waypoints. The satellite imagery on the maps is so detailed in many places which makes it easier to see little features that may not show on a topographic map.
Garmin Basecamp has a great feature that lets you export your gps information straight to Google Earth with the click of a button.
One note about your Google Earth version. Unfortunately the export doesn’t work with Google Earth Pro but since most of us have regular Google Earth, that won’t matter much.
There are 4 different ways to view your info in Google Earth.1. View a track or waypoint
The first way to view one track or waypoint in Google Earth is to right click on the item and click “View in Google Earth” from the menu. This will open up the one item you selected in Google Earth. Using this option will only export one thing at a time to Google Earth.2. View the contents of a folder or list
The next 3 methods can display multiple tracks and waypoints in Google Earth. Right click on a folder or list in Basecamp and click “View Contents in Google Earth.” This will open up every track and waypoint in the list or folder in Google Earth. You can even go as high as the whole “My Collection” folder. It will take some time to open all the files if you have a lot but it will go eventually.3. View selected data
The third method to view your tracks and waypoints in Google Earth is to select multiple tracks and waypoints while holding the control button (or command button on Mac) . After you’ve selected all the items you want, go to the View menu at the top of the screen and click “View Selected Data in Google Earth”.
You can also use the Selector tool (the arrow) to select multiple items on the map by dragging a box around them all. This is a nice way to make sure you’ve got everything in a certain area even if they are in different folders in Basecamp.4. View current map area
The fourth and last way to view things in Google Earth is to use the “View Current Map Area in Google Earth” from the View menu. This option will take everything that’s displayed in your current map window and export it to Google Earth no matter what Basecamp folder it’s in.Temporary Places in Google Earth
Whenever you view anything from Basecamp in Google Earth, it will show in the “Temporary Places” folder. To keep the tracks or waypoints in Google Earth permanently, you’ll need to move it to the “My Places” folder.
That’s been 4 different ways to view your tracks and waypoints from Garmin Basecamp in Google Earth.
How do you use Google Earth with Basecamp?
The first thing I do when I go for a hike somewhere new is check out all the trip reports I can find. Others that have gone before often have great recommendations on what to see and do and what to avoid. Sometimes they’ll have gear recommendations or tips on what not to bring.
First a few official resources and then all the trip reports. If you know if any other trip reports that I don’t have listed, let me know.
Know of any more trip reports hiding online somewhere? Let me know in the comments.
The first thing you notice when you start researching backpacking stoves is there are 2 main categories. You have canister stoves on one side that are small and light and burn an iso-butane mix from a metal canister. The canisters can’t be refilled and often burn slower and slower as the canister empties. Often they don’t work well in cold temperatures.
On the other hand there are the liquid fuel stoves that use refillable fuel bottles and a liquid fuel of some sort, usually white gas (aka naptha or coleman fuel). These stoves burn hot and loud and are good for cold conditions or melting a lot of snow. They tend to be larger and heavier than their little canister cousins.
There are always trade-offs.
What if you could get the advantages of both without buying 2 stoves? You could get the simplicity of a canister stove (screw the stove on and light) when you want it and the cold weather performance and refillable fuel bottle of a liquid fuel stove. Now you can.
Some new stoves allow you to connect a liquid fuel bottle to the stove, then swap a couple parts and connect a iso-butane canister. You probably wouldn’t be taking both on one trip unless it was it was long enough but it still gives you the option to choose for each trip, without having to go buy another stove. One stove, 2 fuel options.
What stoves do this?
A modification on the old classic WhisperLite, the Universal has been updated to connect to iso-butane canisters as well. A quick change of the jets for each fuel and the fuel bottle attachment and then you’re using a different fuel. Uses MSR Shaker-Jet jet cleaning technology (shake it to clean it).
Weighs 329 grams.
Uses any type of fuel. Just change the bottle connection and jets. You can use diesel, kerosene or gas canisters in liquid feed mode for cold temperatures. Comes with a maintenance tool with a cleaning needle for cleaning the jet.
Weighs 350 grams.
Same as the OmniFuel but smaller and lighter. Burns the same things.
Weighs 239 grams.
The problem with most of the multi-fuel stoves is that you have to change the jet. Each fuel requires a different part in the stove to work properly. The Polaris Optifuel has changed all that. No more changing jets and possibly losing or breaking parts. Just hook up a different fuel and away you go. Use the gas canister upright for efficiency mode. Turn it upside down for liquid feed mode in cold temperatures.
Weighs 475 grams.
Burn white gas or butane gas canister without changing canister.
Weighs 530 grams.
Burns white gas and butane canisters, but not any of the other liquid fuels. Less expensive than some of the other brands.
Weighs 340 grams.
With the Hydra you can burn white gas and butane canisters. Save time and fiddling without needing to switch nozzles.
Weighs 422 grams.
Know of another stove that can do iso-butane canisters as well as liquid gas? Let us know!