Wednesday, August 29, 2012

BLOG 20. Ah...Comfort! By Cliff Jacobson

BLOG 20. Ah…Comfort!
by Cliff Jacobson

It’s the end of a rainy paddling day and you’re camped at last. The tent is pitched an a crackling campfire beckons you to sit and relax.  But where?  There is no stump or “sitting log” nearby, and the ground is wet from rain.  What to do?  You can:

a)    stand or squat near the blaze—hardly a way to relax.
b)   you’re tough—just sit on the wet ground.
c)     place a plastic sheet on the ground then sit on the sheet.
d)    set your “sit-back” folding canoe seat on the wet ground and sit on it.

When I was much younger I chose options a and b.  With age, I smarted up and brought a plastic “sitting sheet”.  When I discovered the Crazy Creek® camp seat, I ran right out and bought one.  It was acceptably comfortable and it didn’t weigh much or take up  much room in my pack. But the seat was packed away and a hassle to get to for snack and lunch stops.  And sitting on the ground had these serious negatives:

1.    When preparing meals and doing stationary camp chores, a high stool or chair is more comfortable than sitting on the ground.
2.    You are part way through a damp, sweaty portage; your back is killing you and you need to take a break.  If you have a folding stool with backrest (more on this later) you can just whip it out and sit.  Without it, you must crash on a damp cedar log.
3.    You stop for lunch at a gravel beach. The river reaches 50 yards into the beach. Your “sit-on-the-ground” folding canoe seat is no good here, but a stool that has legs that won’t sink into the ground, is ideal.
My favorite camp stool: It folds flat for packing, bungees to a pack, has a comfy backrest and storage pouch; the tubular aluminum legs won't sink into the ground.   Available from Piragis.
There are dozens of styles of folding chairs and at one time or other, I’ve tried them all.  Some take too much time to put together; others have heavy steel legs (they should be aluminum) or pointed legs that sink into the ground; still others are flimsy or have waterproof seats and backs (I prefer porous material) that are sticky when it’s hot.

When I was on the army rifle team back in the 1960’s, every shooter was issued a folding stool.  The stool had thick aluminum legs and a comfortable canvas seat.  There was a zippered compartment for shooting glasses, ammo and cleaning gear and a sling for carrying.  Years later, while leading canoe trips in northern Canada, I yearned for one of those stools.  I looked everywhere but couldn’t find one. Then, one day, while rooting around a military surplus store, I discovered some.  I bought two then shared my find with Piragis NWC, who rooted out the source and added them to their catalog—CLIFF's FAVORITE CAMP STOOL item # R0280002 / $36. My folding stool is the one thing I would miss most on a canoe trip, more so now that my tender teenage years have long slipped by.
Green River, Utah

I pack the following inside the zippered compartment of my stool:
·      A foot square piece of (rolled) closed-cell foam. The foam piece provides a warm, dry seat if the chair is wet. The foam will also float the stool in a capsize.
·      An extra insect head-net (one can never have too many head-nets on a canoe trip)!
·      Small bottle of bug dope.
·      Cigarette lighter in sealed Zip-lock bag.
·      Some parachute cord.
·      A lightweight plastic bag to place over the backrest if the backrest is wet.
·      My stool is camouflage color, which is hard to see in the woods, so I tie short streamers of brightly-colored plastic surveying ribbon to the frame.

Go light paddlers will rightly scoff at my stool which, when outfitted, weighs just under four pounds. But I think the weight is worth it for the “ah…comfort” it provides in camp.
Noatak River, Alaska
The beauty of this camp stool is that there are no parts to assemble. Just unfold it to sit, fold to store. A length of shock-cord secures my stool to a pair of carabineers attached to the side compression straps of my pack.  Simple and fast—the stool releases and “clips on” in seconds.



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