You are here
Scouts Canada, the leading youth organization in Canada, is searching for the right people to fill the roles of Venturer Advisor with a local Scout group. If you have experience with multi-day hiking trips, canoeing on flat and white water, cycling, or climbing, and are willing to share your skills and talents, call today. The time commitment is an average of 1.5 hours per week plus a weekend adventure roughly every 6 weeks.
It’s official, the first PureOutside newsletter will be coming out this Thursday, March 6th. You can sign up on the PureOutside Newsletter page.
The monthly emails will have great photos, cool links and new contests for free gear. I don’t like reading huge emails and you probably don’t either so they’ll be short and sweet with links to all the good stuff.
No more remember to check the blog for the latest, now it’s just straight to your inbox. If you’d rather just get blog posts automatically, you can do that too on the blog post signup page.
Sign up for the newsletter, and get all the good stuff happening on PureOutside.
The number of bridges on the West Coast Trail changes constantly as they build new ones, fix old ones and detour the trail around damaged sections. Estimates range from 130 to 150. There are many. Bridges were always a welcome change from the gnarled roots and mud pits that cover the rest of the trail. Until you find the angled, slippery, rodding bridges.
In preparation for this “winter” (those are big quotes), I’ve been reading through Backcountry Skiing: Skills for Ski Touring and Ski Mountaineering from The Mountaineers Books. They are awesome folks and sent a couple books to review. Since ski touring is my latest obsession, I aimed for a couple books with snow in them.
Interested in Ski Touring or Ski Mountaineering? Get this book.
Backcountry Skiing: Skills for Ski Touring and Ski Mountaineering is an excellent book if you are just getting into ski touring or ski mountaineering or even if you have some experience but want to have a good reminder and refresher each winter. They cover every aspect of ski touring and ski mountaineering from the gear, traveling in avalanche terrain, skiing and mountaineering techniques and emergency preparedness.
From Backcountry Skiing:
“This book arose out of a desire to keep pace with the recent evolution of the skiing population, the improvement and proliferation of gear, and the development of new techniques. Our aim is to provide an in-depth explanation of all the various skills, knowledge, and techniques that are so crucial to safety and success in the diverse activities of ski touring and ski mountaineering – all in one place.”
Table of Contents
I list the table of contents here just because it’s useful to see what exactly is in the book. It shows how well the book spans ski touring and ski mountaineering. It’s an excellent reminder of what you need to know to play with either of these sports.
Chapter 1: Gear and Equipment
Chapter 2: Decision-Making in Avalanche Terrain
Chapter 3: Navigation
Chapter 4: Uphill Movement
Chapter 5: Transitions
Chapter 6: Ski Mountaineering Techniques
Chapter 7: Downhill Skiing Techniques
Chapter 8: Taking Care of Yourself and the Mountains
Chapter 9: The Mountain Environment
Chapter 10: Rescue Techniques and Emergency Preparedness
Glossary and other resources
What this book is not
This book is not a complete replacement for many other books and manuals. Entire books have been written on the content of every one of the chapters in this book so you can certainly go deeper. Avalanche safety and rescue techniques are a couple of the big ones that you can never know too much or have too much training or experience. The more the better.
This book is also not a replacement for hands on learning and courses, especially with the avalanche and rescue training. Those skills need to be learned from experienced professionals and then practiced and practiced and practiced. Reading more books can help you uncover new ideas or areas where you might need more training, but it’s no replacement for hands-on learning and getting your body used to the skills out in the field.
On the other side of that, this book IS a great introduction to the sports and a great refresher each winter if you already know most of the material. The best thing you can do when you start something is new is read every resource you can get your hands on to introduce yourself to the what you need to know in the future. You can’t learn all of it right away but just knowing what you don’t know can help you in the long run.
Who the author’s are and why they know their stuff
I read a lot and I always wonder who the people are that are writing these books. How much experience do they have? How much training do they have? Between the three authors I think they have an incredible amount of both those things. Here’s the short and sweet intro to each of the authors.
- Owner of Pro Ski and Guiding Service in Bend Oregon
- IFMGA certifcation from Switzerland
- Guiding mountaineering since 1992 in US and other countries
- Several first ascents, ski descents and ski mountaineering traverses in North Cascades
- Been on cover of Outside magazine
- Involved in product development for K2 and Outdoor Research
- Examiner for American Mountain Guides Association
- Certified AMGA Ski Mountaineering Guide
- Guided extensively throughout States as well as Canada and Europe
- Instructor and Trainer for AIARE
- Former AMGA ski discipline instructor
- Former manager of Pro Ski Service in Seattle
- Usually has a camera with him and captures unique images as a photographer and mountain guide
- Ski, Alpine and rock climbing guide, led trips throughout Europe and North America
- Instructor for guide training for American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA), serves on board and is president
- AIARE (American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education) instructor and trainer
- Member of several women’s expeditions, several first ski descents in India and Altai mountains of Mongolia
- 2006 second women in US to complete international IFMGA/UIAGM guide certification
My Favourite Parts
I was very interested to see what they had to say about avalanches. I’ve recently started ski touring and avalanches scare the crap out of me. I try to read and pick up every bit of information and learning I can to refine my knowledge of the unpredictable beasts. A lot of avalanche safety is hands-on training but any edge I can get reading more is worth it.
The Threesome Packing Helper
The authors go over a great packing method they call the Threesome Method. It has nothing to do with the fact that there are three authors or doing something…else… while packing. Focus! Back to packing here.
They take the view that it’s safer in the backcountry when you remember all of your gear. That seems like a smart idea. Here’s an easy way to remember everything in 3′s.
From Backcountry Skiing:
Daylong Backcountry Skiing and Ski Touring
- Skis, boots, poles
- Maps, compass, altimeter
- Transceiver, probe, shovel
- Skins, ski crampons, repair kit
- Food, drink, extra layer
- Bivy bag, first-aid kit, cell phone
- Base layer, midlayer, outer layer
- Hat, gloves, googles
- Sunglasses, sunscreen, sun hat
- Threesomes from daylong touring list
- Harness, ice ax, crampons
- Rope, ice screws, rescue gear kit
Overnight Ski Tours
- Threesomes from daylong touring and ski mountaineering lists
- Sleeping bag, sleeping pad, shelter
- Stove, pot, fuel
These aren’t the only things you’ll need to take, sometimes it’s more, sometimes it’s less. You’ll need to experiment with how much you bring. More gear can be safer because you can use it if you get caught in an emergency but it’s also heavier, using up energy that you could be using for traveling farther and faster. The trick is in the 3s. If you remember one or two of the three then you’ll remember the third.
Avalanches are the scariest part of ski touring but a lot of training and learning around how you go about your planning before and during your trip will help immensely.
From Backcountry Skiing:
“Terrain selection is defined as the decisions we make about where we go. This is the ultimate application of our decision-making in the backcountry. You can’t get caught in an avalanche if you’re not in avalanche terrain.”
“Remember, good terrain selection is the key to not getting caught in an avalanche and correctly implementing travel techniques is the key to not having multiple people caught.”
These guys like their acronyms and rightly so, they make the important information so much easier to remember.
STOP is what they use to aid decision making pretrip, at the trailhead and throughout the tour. STOP stands for
Snowpack and Weather: Checking any avalanche bulletins and weather forecasts or snow reports. What are the concerns?
Terrain: Using any information you can find in books, photos, online or from friends or guides to aid you in your terrain decisions.
Options: What’s the ideal route? What are the alternatives or backups?
People: What are the skills and dynamics of the group? Ability? Fitness? Compatibility? Leaders?
Us humans aren’t perfect. A lot of decisions are made before and during ski touring trips and how those decisions are made and who they’re made by can affect the safety of your tour. We’re not perfectly logical. A lot of emotion and past experiences are involved in dealing with other people in your group. A variety of factors can come up when dealing with the other people in your group.
A couple common human factors can affect how your tour ends. Poor communication the group is a an obvious big one. If your group isn’t talking about important things between everyone and that information is just stuck in one or 2 peoples heads, there can be problems. Communication is very important with ski touring in mountaineering.
Other things like the “Blue Sky Factor” or the “Back to the Barn Syndrome” can lead people to misdiagnosing situations as safe when they’re not. The Blue Sky Factor issue comes up when the weather is fantastic. Everyone assumes the risk is lower when the weather is good. They are more careful when the weather isn’t so great. Risk can be just as high or higher when the weather is nice.
“Back to the Barn Syndrome” comes up when it’s time to head home. You’re almost home and you tend to focus on how good the beer is going to taste when you get back to the truck. The tour isn’t over till it’s over and the risk doesn’t go away until you’re safely in your car.
Dressing warm enough
One of the parts I was not expecting in this book was about caring for the mountains and dressing for backcountry travel. It totally makes sense to me now that I think about it. If someone were picking up a general ski touring book aimed at beginners or those looking to expand their knowledge they may not know a whole lot about how to dress most efficiently. When the cold temperatures out ski touring can make you extremely uncomfortable or worse, it’s important to dress properly.
From Backcountry Skiing:
“It’s a lot easier to stay warm than to get warm, and one of the best ways to stay warm is not to get too hot.”
Don’t get too hot. Don’t wait until it’s too late to take your layers off. Start touring when you’re a little cool. You don’t want your body to have to go to extremes to have to try and cool down by sweating profusely and then shock your system by taking all your layers off when you’re sweating too much. Then you’re body freezes and you’ll be trying to warm up then. Try and stay as even as possible, and not yo-yo up and down with your heat level.
The Mountaineers Books
If you think this would be a good book for you, swing by The Mountaineers Books and grab a copy.
You can download a sample chapter from the book. This an eBook version as well if you’d prefer to read on an eReader.
Imagine you’re out on a 3 day hike with some friends. The weather is good, the scenery is amazing and you’re making great time towards your destination. You have a digital SLR camera in your heavy multi-day backpack so you can show friends and family at home the myriad of colours you’re passing through. Every time you plod around the corner to another picturesque spot the same thing runs through your head.
“Wow, I should take a picture of that.”
“All I’d have to do is put down my 40 pound backpack, open it up, move things around to get my camera out, get it out of it’s pouch, take the lens cap off, turn it on, take a few photos, turn the camera off, put the cap back on, put the camera back in the pouch, put the bag back in your backpack, adjust your backpack, heave the 40 pounds over your shoulders, re-adjust your straps, make sure you haven’t forgotten anything on the ground and hustle to catch up with your friends who have already started moving.”
“Umm, on second thought, I’ll just remember this one and take a photo at the next stop.”
100 stops later and all you have photos of is camp and your friends eating lunch. Are those the epic photos you wanted from this trip?
That fancy digital SLR camera you bought to take amazing photos of scenery is sitting in your backpack the entire time because it’s a lot of work to take your bag off, take some photos and put it back on.
If there was only a way to keep your camera out all the time but your hands free so they can help you along the trail.
The Problem: That camera doesn’t leave your backpack
The Solution: The StrapShot
The Cotton Carrier Strapshot is a camera holder that easily attaches to one of your backpack straps. A small clip goes into the tripod mount on your camera which connects to the holder on your backpack strap. The Strapshot velcros around the backpack strap and clips or ties to the bag near your shoulder to prevent it from sliding down. The camera sits securely on the front of your chest to one side, ready for taking photos.
Your backpack strap is an ideal location for your camera because it’s so easy to access. There’s no taking your pack off, there’s no awkward stretching to reach behind you, and you’re not likely to smash your camera into anything.Every time you want to take a photo it’s a very quick process instead of the long drawn out endeavour that you had to go through at the beginning of this post to get your camera out of your pack.
It’s also nice and secure. When the lens on the camera is pointing down, it’s locked into the clip. When you turn it to one side, it unlocks and you can slide it out of the clip. This is the same kind of mount they have on their chest harness. A painless one-handed operation. They also include a tether just in case.
When you’re camera is accessible within seconds, you’ll be ready to capture anything that happens on the hike. Need a shot of that beautiful scenery before your friends start hiking again? Done. Need a shot of those animals scampering off into the wilderness? Done. Need a shot of your friends face-plant in the mud? Done.
I like the Strapshot because it’s lightweight and makes the whole picture-taking process much easier. Here are of the things I liked about the Strapshot:
- It’s small and light – It doesn’t add much weight to your gear. Some of the chest mounted pouches and straps are much heavier
- It’s secure – I never had a problem with my camera coming out but there is a tether just in case. The camera has to turn 90 degrees for it to pop out of the base and fall.
- It’s easy to set up – Just put the velcro around your backpack strap and attach the webbing to the shoulder on your pack. Done.
- It’s got small footprint – It doesn’t cover up any more space on your body than your backpack already does. I liked this hiking in the heat of the summer where larger chest mount straps and pouches take up a lot of room and trap the heat and sweat against your body.
- This mount fits perfect for the one strap, cross shoulder bags like some of the camera sling bags. The only place to mount a camera on those is on the strap.
There are some downsides to the Strapshot. They’re usually a result of the unique designs, and you won’t get the Pros I listed above without some drawbacks.
- It can be lopsided – Being on one strap and off to the side it can feel a bit lopsided. The bigger your pack and the smaller your camera and lens, the less this will be an issue. With my Osprey Talon 33 litre backpack and a Canon T1i with 18-200 lens, I didn’t have a problem with it. It was a bit awkward for my dad with a smaller backpack and Canon 7d camera with the 70-200 lens (a larger camera and lens).
- It comes off with your backpack – One of the benefits to the chest mount straps and camera pouches is they stay on after you take your backpack off. During breaks, you can take your pack off and still have your camera with you. With the Strapshot, your camera stays with the backpack. This is still a better situation than never seeing your camera because it’s hidden in your pack. Just don’t forget about it before you throw your pack on the ground!
- It can get in the way of your arm – Because of where the mount was on my camera, I could only put mine on one side otherwise the lens pointed out and I would run into it with my arm.
- No protection from the weather – You can get covers for the lens and camera though.
The Strapshot is a great little camera holder if you need something easy to set up and lightweight. If you have a one-strap sling bag, the Strapshot is definitely the way to go.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for chest mount options or better mounts for larger cameras, check out the Cotton Carrier 1 Camera Vest and the other options in 5 ways to carry a DSLR camera on outdoor adventures.Win a free Strapshot!
Contest time! Cotton Carrier sent a Strapshot to give away with this post so one of you is going to win a new Strapshot Camera mount. All you have to do to enter is submit your name, email and the answer to one question in the form below. The contest will be open for 4 weeks and we’ll draw the winner on January 7th.
The contest is open to anyone in Canada or the US.
Discuss in the Forums
There is a discussion in the forums set up for you to talk about the Strapshot and other camera carrying systems here http://pureoutside.com/node/277
If you’ve been anywhere near the shoe industry these days, you’ll notice lots of new shoes coming out. Some are huge and squishy and feel like you have 2 feet of foam attached to your feet (like the Hoka’s) and others so thin with no support they feel like you’re running around in your bare feet (like the Vibram Five Fingers). Some people are advocating no shoes and to actually run barefoot. Then some are saying it doesn’t matter what you wear.
Whatever your preference there is probably a solution that fits exactly what you want. Whether it’s cushion or control or weight or drying speed, the running shoe manufacturers have got you covered.
A new entry into the trail running market is Teva with their TevaSphere line. And remember it’s pronounced T-e-vah, not Teevah. I was blissfully unaware of how to say it properly until I started doing more research into their shoes and reading all the marketing material. I guess there are enough people out there that pronounce it wrong that they have to spell it out for us.
Ok. On to the gear review. Here’s what we’re going to look at:
- What is the TevaSphere?
- What I like about the TevaSphere’s
- What I don’t like about them, and
- Wrap-up: Who should try the new TevaSphere line
What is TevaSphere?
If you haven’t already caught on, TevaSphere is a new line of shoes from Teva. You’ve probably worn their sandals at one point in your life. I think everyone has had a pair at one point or another. They’re branching out now and they have some radical new running shoes. And I mean radical in the proper meaning of the word, not just, “It’s rad, d00d.” I got to review the new TevaSphere Speeds.
The “Sphere” in the name is all about the spherical heel they have. Most shoes have quite a sharp angle where the back of the heel comes down to meet the sole. When you put your foot down, the first part of the shoe to hit the ground is that point. According to Teva there are a couple issues with this. First, that point is too far away from your heel to be stable. The closer the ground your foot is the better. The second issue is that sharp angle forces your foot down onto the ground quickly instead of smoothly rolling onto it.
The second big innovation in these shoes are the “pods” on either side of the arch. They’re the first thing you notice with these shoes and they make them look a bit odd. The practical point of the pair of pods (too many p’s?) is to stabilize the shoe. They stick out farther from either side of shoe than the front or back of the sole, making them the widest part. This makes the shoes extremely stable.
The whole idea is having the rounded heel roll the foot into the stride, then the pods take over and balance side to side, gripping the ground, and giving you a more stable platform for your next push.
What I like about the TevaSphere shoes
Testing the TevaSphere’s I hiked the 42km Baden Powell trail over 2 days. It was a slow hiking pace so it took my buddy and I nearly all of both days. We went up and over several mountains. The trail was extremely rough in parts then easy double track in others. It was never flat. I thought it a perfect place to test out the stability of the TevaSphere’s.
One section was a massive rock field on an 35 degree slope. Not one of the boulders were small enough to pick up. Many were bigger than my car. There was not a flat, even surface to in sight.
The sharp edges of all the boulders and the incline slowed us down considerably. I noticed standing on the rock edges the pods were providing a lot of stability, much more than a normal shoe. Standing on the edge of a rock on the arch of a shoe would normally be pretty uncomfortable. The rock would dig into your arch and the throw you off balancing on the thinnest part of the shoe that has no tread. But it was quite the opposite with the TevaSphere’s. They were more than comfortable in that position. The nylon shank in the midsole offers good support in this situation as well.
Neutral foot position
No matter how you normally step, the rounded heel and pods on the TevaSphere will roll your foot into the right position. There is no other place for your foot to go.
The upper on the TevaSphere is all very breathable fabrics (unless you get the waterproof one). This lets them drain quickly after you’ve been tromping through puddles and streams. They are no sandal though. The shoes were a little squishy for a time after.
Grippy Spider365 rubber
The Spider365 rubber on the bottom sole is impressively grippy. On those rocks on the Baden Powell trail I never noticed that I was losing grip, even at high angles. I haven’t had a problem with other trail running on slick rock and trails.
From the front to the back of the shoe, they have a 4mm drop. That means the heel is 4mm higher than the toe. A lot of running shoes are transitioning to a lower drop in their shoes with some going right to a 0 mm drop, essential a flat shoe. That doesn’t mean the shoe doesn’t have support, it just means the heel and the toe are at the same height. The Vibram Five Fingers don’t have any drop to them (they hardly have any sole either!)
What I don’t like about the TevaSphere shoes
They aren’t very minimal
There was some talk online about how the TevaSphere’s are minimal shoes. I don’t think I’d call them that. They are lighter than other runners I’ve had in the past but when you are comparing them to Vibram Five Fingers, they don’t even come close. They are lighter than many runners though so if you are looking for something to transfer into from your heavy running shoes, these might be for you. The nylon shank adds to the weight, as do the pods. On the other hand, I’d imagine the rounded heel saves a bit of weight.
Forced neutral foot position
This one is a bit of a double edged sword. If your foot rolls in or out much when you step, it’s going to take a bit to get used to these shoes. You can’t roll them much with the pods. They keep you in place and stable while on the trail but if you have never run like that in your life, it might be be hard to stop cold turkey tomorrow. I pronate a bit with my right foot and I had no problem with running with them on the first day but I did notice the correction.
Who should have the TevaSphere shoes?
Hikers looking for a stable, lightweight shoe should definitely check these out. The stability and lightweight stiffness they have are a great option for hiking. There isn’t much thickness to the midsole though if you like thick-soled shoes.
If you’re a runner looking for a new shoe you’ll have to test these out a bit. The rounded heel and support pods aren’t for everyone. If they do fit with your running style, awesome, you’ve found yourself a solid pair of trail runners. If you roll your foot a lot in your step when running and won’t be changing that style, then I don’t think these are for you. My step is quite neutral so they worked well for me.
Also if you’re looking to transition into thinner soled, lighter weight shoes but don’t want to make the leap yet, the TevaSphere’s are a good stepping stone. They have a thinner sole than many shoes and a 4mm drop from heel to toe. They still have a good sole on them and a nylon shank for stiffness so don’t expect to be feeling every single rock on the trail yet. But maybe that’s what you’re looking for.
That’s it for this review. What do you think? Would you run with the Teva’s? Are they amazing? Do they have some work to do?
A huge thanks to Teva Canada for supplying the shoes to review.
Reviewing outdoor products is such a personal thing to do. Everyone has different viewpoints and uses their gear differently. I know you want as much good information as you can find about products before you buy. Here are some other reviews I looked through
to get a well-rounded view of the shoes. But, when it comes down to it, you never know until you try.
2013 was a big year for PureOutside and 2014 is going to be even bigger. This post is about a few of the great things that happened in 2013 and a new announcement.
I’ve got a busy article ahead for you so let’s get into it. Let’s start off with a big day that passed recently.Happy Birthday to PureOutside
November 25, 2008 was the first article on the site with the obligatory Hello World! It feels like ages ago. 5 years later, PureOutside is going stronger than ever. The site has a few new features as well.
PureOutside started with just the blog, stories about living an adventurous, outdoor life. That grew steadily over the past few years. Recently we launched 2 Epic Guidebooks. Hiking Mount Benson in Nanaimo and Hiking the Juan de Fuca trail are available now, with more coming soon. These new guides are all about taking guidebooks online, a much better place for guidebooks than paper.
The Trackr Trail Database is filling out with 20 trails now and lots more in the works. The Trackr Trail Database holds all the trail information for the MapVI Project. Every bit of trail information we can find for Vancouver Island will be going into Trackr.
Outdoor adventure isn’t going away any time soon so we’ll be sticking around to help you learn all you need to know to get outside for adventures of all sizes.Over 200 Articles
There are over 200 articles on PureOutside. This will be the 200th post that I’ve written. I can’t believe I’ve written that much. Adventurous friends have lent their hands at writing others. The site gets bigger every week with more and more information about adventuring on Vancouver Island.
If you want to write about your adventure for PureOutside, let us know.
Evoq is a new digital magazine on PureOutside that will cover the people, places and products that make our beloved outdoor adventure lifestyle happen. Each edition will have interviews, feature articles, how-to and great photos. Nothing is too big or too small to be covered in Evoq. From sleeping in your backyard on a microadventure to expedition spending weeks in the wilderness, we’ll look at it all. Everything will show up here on the blog for now but we’ll be exploring new formats in the near future to make it easier to take with you and read.
Now on to the meat of Evoq Edition #1. SUPing and hiking are the main topics of this edition.
New upcoming plans for trips, upcoming articles and features for the site. In this edition: what the new format for a set of regular articles on the PureOutside blog is going to look like, a couple of (now past) trip plans for 2013, and a brand new Epic Hiking Guidebook for a Vancouver Island coastal hike.
Where would we be without all our gear. Sometimes we we spend more time reading about gear than actually doing trips. Read more about the newest outdoor products in this Evoq column. In this edition we dove into reviewing the brand new crossover Hi-Tec Para Boot by dancing the night away at Mount Cain.
In this Evoq column we meet some interesting people doing cool stuff outside. Chat with Jennifer Vroom about the new sport of SUPing.
The reason we go outside, the places. We wouldn’t be outside if it weren’t for the places we explore. This edition of Place we check out the Juan de Fuca trail, a meandering coastal hike on Vancouver Island.
How-to. There’s a lot of it with outdoor gear. How do you do this? How do you do that? In the Process column we go over how to do the stuff we do. This edition covers an important tool in making food outside, the camp stove.
The best pictures from past PureOutside trips. Some of the sunsets (and sunrises) on sailing trips this year were incredible. This is one of them.
Read Sunset on the Salish Sea.
There can be a lot of time to think while you’re outside. We dive into some of these thoughts in the Ponder column. We try to tackle the question of how many sports you can do over the course of a year.
Read One Sport or Many?.
Upcoming stuff in the outdoor world. We find cool stuff coming soon in Pending.
The internet is full of cool articles, videos, pictures and website. In Picks we list some of the best we’ve run across recently. This edition we picked new watches, adventure cameras, and one excellent outdoor blog.
Read the October 2013 Picks.
Till next time
Evoq editions will be a regular(ish) occurrence on the PureOutside blog now. They’re in a very basic format right now but they’ll be getting better and better. Stay tuned for more.
Welcome to this edition of Pending. This is where we the best upcoming films, events and products.
Stand Film (premiered May 3, upcoming shows around the world)
An adventure documentary showing what’s at stake when oil projects go wrong.
The Spine Trail on Vancouver Island
The Spine Trail is a 700km trail that will run the entire length of Vancouver Island. The Victoria to Port Alberni section is scheduled to be completed in 2013.
Epic Juan De Fuca: The PureOutside Guidebook to Hiking the Juan de Fuca Trail
Looking to hike the Juan de Fuca trail in the next couple years? You’ll probably want a guidebook to show you around the trail. Epic Juan de Fuca does just that.
A beautiful new section attached to the MEC website telling the stories of the people who use the gear
Welcome to this edition of Process. This is where we get into the how-to of outdoor adventures.
Today we’re going to jump into some details about camp stoves and what you’ll want to consider when getting a new one.
Let’s get cookin’.
You’ve just spent all day hiking. You’re exhausted. All you want to is that giant burger to stuff in your face. But you don’t have a giant burger in your pack, backpacking food is all you’ve got. Chances are you need to heat water or food before you can eat it. And you probably want to heat things up anyways. A hot meal after a long day hiking, especially in cold, miserable weather, could be the best part about backpacking. The wait while you’re cooking can be excruciating but that warm satisfied feeling laying around camp after a good meal can’t be beat.
With so many stoves on the market right now, how do you choose one? We’ll walk you some of the basics of stoves and which one to go with for your situation.
First a few questions.
Questions to Ask Yourself
The first thing we need to do is look at how you’re going to use your stove. There are some questions you should answer before even looking at any stoves. The answers to these will direct you to the type of stove you’ll be happy with. Stoves are just like tents, there are many options but many not be only 1 best choice. Most of the time you can narrow it down to a small number of choices that will suit you best and then you can decide from there. So grab a piece of paper (or computer or tablet or phone) and write out your answers to these questions. These are also nice to remind yourself what exactly you are buying your stove for when you go looking at new shiny gear.
What are you going to cook?
How many people are you cooking for?
Where are you going to use it?
Where will you get fuel from?
How much weight do you want to carry?
How much space do you have?
Now that we’ve got those questions out of the way, we can move on to the features of the stoves and how they relate to your questions. Keep your answers from the questions above handy as you go through the features and examples at the end.
Major Features of Stoves
Now we’re into the major features of all the stoves. These specifications or features are different on every stove so watch for these when you are buying.Type of fuel and canister
There are a few different types of fuel on the market for stoves these days. Most stoves only have the required parts for one type of fuel. It may be important to be able to use different kinds of fuel because you travel or like different types for different applications.IsoButane Canisters
These are the small metal canisters you can get from outdoor gear stores. They are very convenient to use and light weight. These stoves are fast and easy to light. You cannot refill the containers though and it can be tough to see know how much you have left. Many backpackers have a pile of half-used canisters because they don’t know how much are in them. Some canister manufacturers are starting to put measurements on the canisters so you can float them in water and see where the fuel level is.Liquid White Gas
White gas has been used in camping stoves for a long time. It’s a mix of [what kind of fuel?]. The benefit to white gas stoves is that you can see how much you have left and refill the fuel bottles. These are heavier to carry though. Bigger, more powerful stoves are often white gas. White Gas stoves are great for big groups or melting snow.Alcohol
If you’re looking to go ultra lightweight, a small alcohol stove may be your best option. You can make one out of a pop can[link to instructions?]. These can be finicky to light [that true?] but are nice and light.Others
Some stoves are able to use fuels like diesel or other liquids that burn so it’s easier to find something you can cook with. Others, like the BioLite stove, are turning to wood you’d find on the trail to keep your fire going.Weight of stove
Always in the mind of every backpacker, the weight of the stove can be important. Do you want to carry a big stove around with you or a tiny little pocket-sized cooker. There are perks to each size. It just depends on what you want to do with it. If you’re going to be cooking gourmet meals for large groups then you’ll be getting a bigger stove with more space on top. If you need to be fast and light and are just boiling water with the occasional soup, then something tiny and fast might be the way to go.Boiling speed
Every stove has a different speed at which it can boil water. It all depends on the size of the flame under the pot, the intensity of that flame and amount of wind protection you can give it. If all the heat is going out the side with the wind, you’ll be waiting a long time for your food! Boiling speeds range from 3 minutes up to 5 or 6 minutes. The boil times will range with a given stove depending on the temperature, windspeed and fuel canister pressure. IsoButane canister pressure drops as you use the so your boil time will increase as you use the canister. White Gas fuel bottles can be pressurized whenever you use them so the boil times will stay more constant.Operation at Altitude and in Weather
These factors will affect how much pressure is in your canister and how much heat is getting to your pot. Some stoves like the MSR Reactor have a bunch of special parts and a special pot to conserve all that heat and direct as much of it as possible straight into the pot. Wind and bad conditions will slow that process down.Size of Pot
If you’re pot is going to be for 1 or 2 people then you can get a smaller stove but if you are going to be cooking giant meals for a group of 10 you’ll want something bigger. A small stove with a lot of people will work in a pinch but it’s much more convenient to get something bigger. Some stoves require special pots so keep that in mind. The MSR Reactor pot doesn’t fit on any other stove and you can’t use any other pot on the Reactor so keep that in mind if you get a specialized setup like this. Aside from a few specialized options, most pots and stoves work very well together.Type of controls
Some stoves have multiple adjustments on them to make it easier to simmer. If that’s important to you add it to your list.Location of Canister
The location of IsoButane canisters can be different on the stoves. Some are attached directly to the stove with the stove sitting on top of the canisters. Some canisters are attached remotely and connect through a gas tube.Specialized attachments
Some stoves have special features on them and other attachments that only fit with that stove. That can be good or bad depending on how you look at it. Some have special pots, battery chargers, or wind screens. The MSR Reactor, for example, has special pots that fit onto it’s burner. It’s very fast at boiling but you can’t use other pots with it.
It would be a good idea to order these in priority for yourself when you are picking one. Is the type of fuel more important to you than the size of the stove? Is the weight of the stove more important than the size of the pots it can hold. Think about your questions above and then prioritize the features to fit what you want to do.Stove Examples
Liquid White Gas
This article can’t cover the topic of stoves entirely so here are a few other good links about stoves
What did I miss? Is there anything else you’d add to the list of stoves? Do you have any good stove resources I can add to the list?
Bonnell Creek Falls - A short hike to a set of waterfalls in Nanoose
Mount De Cosmos - The mountain behind Mount Benson. An relatively easy hike when the gates are open.
Cable Bay Trail - A dog-offleash trail to Dodd’s Narrows in Nanaimo
Morrell Sanctuary - A network of single track for hiking in Nanaimo. Connects to Westwood Lake park.