Wednesday, September 10, 2014

BLOG 75. Four Things Worth Bringing on a Canoe Trip

 (EXPED or NEMO sleeping pad cover; NEMO Bugout tarp, Woolrich Bering wool shirt,
Fire Dragon)
Exped slip cover
Air-foam sleeping pads all have one thing in common--the plastic fabric that covers them is not breathable. If you sleep bare skin against the pad (and use your sleeping bag as a blanket), sweat will pool against your back. Lying on a breathable surface is much more comfortable.
NEMO Jersey sleeping pad cover
A porous pad cover will absorb insensible perspiration while you sleep, resist tears and punctures, and keep your pad from slipping on the slick tent floor. At home, it’s easier to wash the cover than the pad. Make your pad cover from a cotton or polyester sheet, or for decadent luxury, merino wool or light fleece. Or, if you have an EXPED or NEMO foam pad, you can buy a fitted cover from them.

Exped’s cover is waterproof on the bottom and porous ripstop polyester on top. It is very light, compact and comfortable. Two-way zippers provide access to the mat valves. Nemo offers two different covers—one made from luxurious  polyester microsuede (“Pillowtop”) and one made from ultralight, stretchy, jersey polyester. The ultralight jersey fabric is the clear choice when ounces count. It’s very light and it looks cool. But for decadent luxury, the “Pillowtop” rules. 


NEMO Bugout tarp--pitched as recommended
NEMO Bugout tarp: Lean-to pitch (to defy wind)
This new bug tarp from NEMO is very well made. Stitching and details are first rate. Here are the most important features:
1.  It sets up fast using lines off two opposing corners. Tie ‘em to a tree or use two poles.
2. The black-colored netting is cause for applause. In the early part of this century, Horace Kephart rallied for black netting, emphasizing that it’s the only “color” that doesn’t reflect light into your eyes.  Black absorbs the light and you see clearly through the netting. The tight-mesh noseeum-proof netting used on this tarp cuts visibility and air flow. But, it’s the right choice for a bug tent that may be used where tiny noseeums’s are common (south coast/Florida Everglades, etc.). 
3. The tarp is large enough to rig a hammock inside the tarp. A zipper allows rigging cords to pass through.
4. The tent comes complete with cords, stakes and even a repair patch.
5 The center roof is well reinforced for use with a pole. The pole patch is heavy-duty and has a loop to which you can attach a cord to secure the pole in high winds. This set-up works but it’s not as elegant as the butterfly arrangement, described in my book, “Camping’s Top Secrets”, or the double-loop used by Cooke Custom Sewing.
1. The roof is heavier than it needs to be: silicon-coated nylon would be lighter, more compact and absorb less water.
2. The tent bag is too small.  When this baby gets wet, you’ll need a gorilla to stuff it inside.
3. There should be a zipper at each of the four corners. In high winds you may want to pitch this shelter with one side staked to the ground, leanto fashion. A “leanto” pitch will eliminate one entry.
4. Zippers are the first thing to fail over the long haul and the smaller they are the faster they fail. I’ve never had long term good luck with zippers as small as the ones used on this tent.  
5 .The rigging cords are black (reflective). They show up well in shining light but they blend into a shady forest. Better to use something brighter that can be seen in dim light. Yellow glow-in-the-dark cord is my favorite.
6. The six-inch long “U pound ‘em” aluminum tent stakes that are supplied with this tent are very high quality but you’ll need a hammer or rock to pound them in. Aluminum pins which can be pushed in by hand on most types of ground would be a better choice.   
7. The green color of this tarp is soothing and beckoning. I love the color! The tent is very pleasant to be inside.
8. This 9’x9’ model supposedly fits four people. It easily accommodates six. It’s rare when a manufacturer underestimates crew size.

Bottom line? Darn nice bug shelter. Goes up fast and easy, lots of space. Can be pitched in a variety of ways.  Acceptably compact, high quality materials, reasonably priced.

Trail weight……..4.75 pounds
Floor size……108 x 108 inches
Floor Area…..81 square feet.
Number of doors………2
Fly fabric……Polyester Ripstop
Canopy fabric….Polyester Ripstop
Interior Height…….6 feet

In more than 40 years of canoeing and camping, I’ve never wavered from my love of wool. Except for wind and rain gear, long pants and sun hat, the clothes I wear on my canoe trips—even in the heat of July—are wool. My last longsleeve wool shirt wore out two years ago and I’ve been looking for a reasonably priced replacement ever since. I don’t like wool blends because the synthetic threads (which add shape and durability) allow rain to wick through. A pure wool shirt will ward off a shower for some time without soaking through.

Recently, I discovered the Bering shirt from Woolrich. It’s pure wool—there are no synthetic threads to wick water in rain—and it’s just the right weight for field wear. The fit is generous and the shirt looks and feels good.  I wore it every day on a rainy June, 2014  Kopka River (Ontario) canoe trip—and I was never wet or cold. Wool shirts have largely disappeared from the camping scene—there wasn’t a single one for sale at Canoecopia this year. Thank you, Woolrich, for sharing my belief that “wool works best”.

Home made "fire blower" (from "Camping's Top Secrets" by Cliff Jacobson
Fire Dragon
When I was a boy scout in the 1950’s, I built a home made “fire blower”. It was just a short copper tube with a length of rubber tubing attached. To get a stubborn fire going, I just blew into the rubber tube. The forced air created a bright blaze. It provided an edge when the air was still (no draft) and the wood was damp. This illustration from my book “Camping’s Top Secrets” shows how to make one. You can use copper or aluminum tubing or the barrel from an old metal ballpoint pen. If you don’t want to make your own fire-blower, there’s the “Fire Dragon”, available from Piragis Northwoods Compay. Its large wooden mouthpiece provides more air and therefore, more power than the homemade one I used as a kid.  It’s not a “must” product, but it sure is a fun one. Onlookers will be mightily impressed when a single dragon breath turns glowing coals into fire!


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