It may as well be a brick

October 3, 2007

ibrickBruce Lewis at LightBackpacking.com suggests that an iPhone makes a great backpacking accessory.

The new iPhone is the ultimate backpacking tool. It weigh just six ounces and includes a phone, digital camera, music player, DVD player, Palm pilot, photo library with a web browser, email program and Google maps. How long before it adds GPS? You can buy a 1/2 ounce, 1.5 inches square iPod shuffle if you just want music. But during storms when your confined to your tent for a dozen hours or more, it’s a great companion.

Just one problem. You can’t get dozens of hours of use out of it if you try to use it for more than just music.

From Apple’s tech specs:

  • Talk time: Up to 8 hours
  • Standby time: Up to 250 hours
  • Internet use: Up to 6 hours
  • Video playback: Up to 7 hours
  • Audio playback: Up to 24 hours

I’m as much of a geek as the next guy and I must admit I’ve entertained the idea of buying an iPhone. And maybe it does weigh less than 5 ounces. But once the battery dies it’s worthless.

Besides, there’s no way I’m taking a $400 gadget in the backcountry.

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I wish I had thought of that

September 10, 2007

measuring cupOver the weekend I joined some Boy Scouts and a couple other leaders on an easy and relaxing backpacking trip in Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area.

At dinner time I was confronted by a problem I’ve faced many times: Trying to estimate the amount of water needed for my dinner.

The obvious way to do that is to use a measuring cup. Ah, but that requires carrying a measuring cup.

My double-walled titanium mug doesn’t have measuring marks, but I’m not about to give up that. And I don’t want to add the weight of a second cup just for the purpose of measuring water.

So what’s a gram weenie to do?

Jason Klass came up with a great idea. He says, make a measuring stick.

It’s nothing more than a strip of paper with measurements for different volumes of water in my pot. To make it waterproof, I simply sandwiched it between 2 pieces of packing tape but if you want to get fancy, you can laminate it.

Brilliant! You just stand the stick up in your mug and pour water to the correct mark.

But then I had a better idea. I’ll etch those markings on the handle of my spork. Then, I won’t have to carry (and lose) the measuring stick. And the sporkto hot water.

That’s not only one of those why-didn’t-I think-of-that-before ideas, it’s a why-didn’t some-backpacking-gear-company-come-up-with-that idea.

UPDATE: Chris at A reader named Chris pointed out to me that purebound.com demonstrates the idea here.


Light on the wallet

April 3, 2007

masons-line.jpgI think it’s neat when someone finds a new use for a common product, especially when it involves lightweight backpacking gear.

For example, someone discovered a long time ago that a cheap grease pot sold at Wal-Mart for about $5.00 makes a pretty good backpacking cook pot.

Some ideas are better in theory than in practice. Some are just silly.

Jason Klass came up with an idea that I need to try: Using mason’s string for a lightweight, multipurpose rope for guylines, quick repairs, and such.

I wouldn’t expect it work for hanging a bear bag, but there are a lot of uses for which it could work.


Hot deal on a cool product

March 25, 2007

Littlebug stoveSeveral months ago I wrote about a unique backpacking stove: The Littlebug. I thought it was neat then and I still do, though I have to admit I never bought one.

Today I received an email from its inventor, Kent Hering.

I ask for your help to spread this invitation within and beyond your circle of friends. In return, I offer a 25% discount to you and those you share this with, on all products purchased at The Littlbug Store. To receive this discount, enter Cutter when asked for your discount code. This offer ends July 31, 2007.

If you’re a reader of my blog I guess that makes you within or beyond my circle of friends, right? So I’m passing along this message to you.

I should note that Kent didn’t offer me special consideration for mentioning his offer and I wouldn’t accept it if he did. As I’ve written before, I don’t blog to get deals and freebies.

I’m just relaying the information because I think it’s a neat product and I like how they are made by people with disabilities and other employment barriers.

If you buy one let me know how you like it.


I smell a rat

March 16, 2007

Human Powered AdventureSocial networking and user-generated content are some of the hot buzzwords of the Internet these days. New sites pop up every day trying to duplicate the popularity of MySpace and Digg, the success stories of today’s Internet.

So it’s no wonder that consumer product companies want a piece of that action. The latest of these companies is Outdoor Research, which makes a variety of niche gear and apparel.

A couple months ago I wrote about OR’s Lab Rat program, an admirable Web effort to listen to customers. Too bad the same effort put in that site wasn’t put into the company’s new community Web site, HumanPoweredAdventure.com.

The intent of the new site is to let outdoor enthusiasts share in discussion forums, trip reports and gear reviews. But sadly, OR left out some key ingredients in a successful community-driven site, like allowing members to comment on posts and ways to express their identity.

In the publicity OR sent to Lab Rat members they said it is still in beta, so I guess I shouldn’t judge it too harshly. I’ve released sites in beta before and know that’s the time when you need to test them and collect feedback.

But phew, this one reeks.

The problem isn’t that it’s light on content, which it is, or that it has some navigation that doesn’t work right, which it does.

The site is dull and uninspiring. And that’s pretty much the opposite of what you want in a community site for outdoor enthusiasts. Dull and uninspiring tends to deflate the community and dampen the enthusiasm.

OR needs to set a trap for this rat and start over.


Commando tracking

February 22, 2007

It shouldn’t be a surprise that bloggers crave an audience for their words. We all want to know that someone is interested in what we say.

I’m sure I’m no different than every other blogger in the world when I admit I often check the stats of my blog to see how many people visit. I also check a feature offered by WordPress.com that shows the keywords people type in a search engine that provides results leading them here.

Scanning the list can be informative. It can also be baffling.

I’m still trying to figure out this one: a seach for “no underwear” hiking.

Wordpress search terms

Let’s think about that a minute.

Okay, think about it if you can without too graphic a mental picture.

Is there a reason why someone wants to know more about hiking without underwear? Do they really need to read up about it?

Perhaps a better question would be, what did I write that would lead a person wanting to hike without underwear to my site? To answer that, I did my own Google search.

Google search

Turns out, my site was the third item in the search results, thanks to a comment made in a post I wrote on preparing a packing list for last summer’s trip to Colorado. For whatever reason that person was searching for “no underwear” hiking, I’m sure that result was a disappointment.

But if someone wants to go commando on a hike, I’m not offended by that. I can turn the other cheek.

Uh, never mind.

Maybe it’s best I stop checking the search keywords list. It might be better to not know too much about my readers.


That ultralight backpacking stuff is over-rated

February 20, 2007

22-lb sleeping bagWhen weight is no object, here’s the ultimate item for your kit: A 22-lb. sleeping bag.

Buy it now for just $429.00!

The forklift you’ll need to carry it is not included.

(Thanks to Doug Matthews via AT-L for the link.)