Saturday, April 6, 2013

BLOG 42. FAQ: Stuff You Trust

BLOG 42. FAQ: Stuff You Trust
by Cliff Jacobson

Here's a frequently asked question:

We’re planning a wilderness canoe trip and want to be prepared with the best equipment. I hear there’s a great new trail stove (tent, rain parka, canoe pack etc.) on the market that is absolutely terrific. It was top rated in the last issue of “Fun Camping Magazine”.  What do you think of this hot new product?  Should I buy one?
            Hightech Harry

Cooke Custom Sewing (CCS) tundra tarp--worth its weight in gold on buggy trips
Dear Harry:
Don’t take magazine product tests too seriously.  Writers work on deadline and are usually paid by the length of copy they produce not the time they spend researching and field-testing.  Time is money, so research and product testing are kept to a minimum.  Bad reviews irritate advertisers, which are a magazine’s life blood.  For this reason, writers are encouraged to tone down criticisms.
Hilliberg Katum 3/Norway

For example, many tents and garments have small zippers that won’t take much abuse.  But you’d better not write it that way.  Ever notice how often the word “may”—as in “may fail”—appears in equipment evaluations?

The term “expedition-proven” doesn’t mean much any more.  Most modern canoe “expeditions”  don’t last long enough to prove anything. For example, I once made a 17 day canoe trip where the only rain was a short drizzle.  Needless to say, my rain gear worked perfectly!
Gransfors axes:  My favorites!
The best advice is to carefully examine everything before you buy.  If a zipper looks weak, it probably is.  If there’s a plastic knob that can burn or break, it likely will. How will the product perform in high winds or when it’s caked with mud or sand or soaked with rain?  Will it break if you drop it?  Can you repair it in the field without special tools?

The original and always reliable Nalgene bottles
Be aware that some of the most highly touted products which work flawlessly over the short haul, fail miserably when the weeks turn to years. So be wary of advertising claims and the testimonials of individuals whose experience is limited to a few trips. Instead, seek the advice of those who travel wild places year after year. These are the real experts even though their opinions are seldom seen in print.

All this can be summarized in one word—trust!  Why change to something new if your current tent, trail stove or whatever,  has never let you down?  However, if it is well worn, or you are sure that something better has come along, try the new thing for a time—a long time(!)--before you commit to it for a lengthy expedition where your safety is at risk.  Trust doesn’t come in a few days or even a few weeks.

Cliff Jacobson

1 comment:

Ashley Hawke said...
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