Archive for September, 2009

Bear Canisters

September 26th, 2009

You need to take some precautions with your camping and hiking gear if you’re camping in bear country. Bears have a tremendous sense of smell, and they are so strong they can rip out a car window or tear off a car door a lot easier than you might think. Don’t store any food inside your vehicle or tent.  Bears have learned how to get to food caches suspended from tree branches, so this old backpacker trick is no longer safe, either. Most parks recommend these bear canisters for all food, and some even require them. If you’re going camping in an area with bears, don’t take any chances.

What is a bear-resistant food canister?

Bear canisters are light weight (less than 3 pounds), cylindrical, high impact plastic, aluminum or carbon fiber containers designed to fit inside or on the outside of your pack.  One canister of this size can hold 5-6 days of food for one person or up to 3 days worth of food for two people.

Canister use is now required by many park agencies, including Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Inyo National Forests.

Reminders on using canisters

Besides being careful to lock all bear attractants in the canister you should store the canister a safe distance from your camp – 100 feet. However, do not hang them from a tree since ropes or bags attached to the canister will enable a bear to carry it away, possibly out of sight.

Remember, when you are using a canister ALL scented items – food, toiletries and garbage – must fit inside the canister throughout your entire trip unless you are in attendance or actively preparing your food.

  • Carry the first two meals outside of the canister: lunch and dinner.
  • At the trailhead, make sure that ALL food, trash, toiletries and scented items will fit inside the canister the first night.
  • Put the canister and your kitchen at least 100 feet from your sleeping area.
  • Leave the canister on the ground.  Do not hang the canister from a tree.
  • Never leave canisters open and unattended, rather leave them locked unless actively retrieving items or putting them away.
  • Likewise, never leave backpacks unattended along the trail while making a pit stop.
  • Remember to check pockets of clothing and backpacks for any forgotten scented items and place them in your canister.
  • When it is time to eat, take out only the foods that you need for the meal, repack the remaining contents, and re-lock the canister while cooking and eating.

Popular and approved models include:

Garcia Machine Backpacker’s Cache
Bear Vault

Additional resources:

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Podcasting and RSS

September 21st, 2009

VideoWaypoint is now is registered with iTunes and can be downloaded as a podcast. Keep in mind this only applies to video and audio content so be sure to also subscribe to the RSS feed.   If you like this website be sure to give it a high rating on iTunes, this will make it more visible. Thanks for all the comments on the videos, I really enjoy hearing from everyone.

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San Jacinto Peak – Video Trip Report

September 15th, 2009

Below is the video trip report for San Jacinto Peak via the Palm Springs Tramway.    I did this as a day hike, leaving early from San Diego and catching the first tram up.   I hiked this late in the season (November), but the weather was nice and the first snow had yet to fall.  I’ve also done this peak via the Devil’s Slide trail out of Humber Park , which I found to be a little more challenging.  The hike from the Tramway is still challenging, but does not have quite the elevation gain.  I also thought the Tramway was quite scenic and added an interesting element to the day.


Water Purification

September 15th, 2009

Giardiasis is the most common and widespread disease and is caused by microscopic parasitic cysts called giardia.  Giardiasis has an incubation period of seven to twenty-one days. Some of the symptoms for giardiasis include bloating, diarrhea, headache, vomiting, cramping, low-grade fever, and loss of appetite.  It’s a good idea to have purification tablets as well as a filter as a backup in case the filter gets clogged.     Here are some common methods of purification.

  • Boil the water – This is the good old standby. The main disadvantage of boiling your water is carrying enough fuel to provide ample water for your trip. It also makes the water taste flat.
  • Chemical Disinfectants – Iodine or chlorine dioxide. Some of the most popular and effective brands are Potable Aqua Tablets, and Aqua Mira.  One of the main problems with using iodine or chlorine is the taste they give the water. If using iodine, one effective method for reducing the taste of the iodine is a secondary tablet placed in the water after the initial treatment is complete.  The KlearWater treatment is a liquid that is made from chlorine dioxide, which doesn’t impart a chemical taste to the water.  One disadvantge is that you need to wait 30 minutes for the treatments to be complete.  Not as big of an issue if you plan ahead a bit.
  • Filtration – This is the method I’ve used for years. The flavor is maintained, or even improved, by the use of water filters. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as the perfect water filter.  Because there is no perfect water filter for every situation, be sure to compare and buy one suited to your needs. Where will you be using it most? How often will you use it? How easy is it to use by yourself? How comfortable is it to use? These are all very important considerations.  Another thing to think about is the ability to clean the filter in the field. Another thing to consider is the availability of replacement filter cartridges.  My personal favorite is the Katadyn Hiker PRO.
  • Ultraviolet (UV) Light – This is a relatively new process for treating water in the backcountry. Innovations in design have minimized the size and weight of these water treatment devices, making them an excellent choice for the backcountry.  The SteriPen Adventurer has some excellent features geared specifically for those of us who need something durable and lightweight as well as effective. It weighs only 3.6 ounces with the included batteries and will purify .5 liter/16oz of water in 48 seconds, or 1 liter/32oz in 90 seconds. It will destroy viruses, bacteria and protozoa, but it is less effective in murky water. If you will be treating water that isn’t clear, it is imperative that you filter the water through the optional SteriPEN Prefilter or fabric, such as a bandana or cheesecloth, before using the SteriPen.

Here are several more tips for water usage in the backcountry:

  • When brushing your teeth, be sure to use purified water.
  • Remember that you do not need to treat water used in cooking or hot drinks as long as it comes to a rolling boil before you drink it.
  • Filtering your water directly from a stream or pothole can be very difficult.  you can use a high sierra cup to scoop water into a nalgene with sill filter, then treat with iodine, or filter pump into another nalgene.   If you are in an area of stagnant water, try lifting up rocks or digging holes in the mud to allow water to come in.

I normally bring two nalgene bottles.

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San Gorgonio Peak – Video Trip Report

September 15th, 2009

This is a trip report of the Vivian Creek trail, the more popular route to the summit.  San Gorgonio Peak is the tallest peak in Southern California at 11,500 feet and is near Big Bear.  We left San Diego and hiked to High Camp, dropped our packs, then continued to the summit before heading back to camp.  This trail is very challenging, especially the last couple miles as you are at elevation.  Arriving at the summit later in the day allowed us to have the whole place to ourselves which was really nice.  We hiked on a Friday and High Camp was not that crowded.  On our way out  Saturday we passed a ton of people heading to that camp, so I’m glad we went on Friday.  You do need a permit to hike in the San Gorgonio wilderness, they are free and all the info you need is on the wilderness website.   Check out the links section for details.


Stove Types

September 15th, 2009

There are two types of lightweight stove:

1) Canister Stoves, which burn liquefied gas (butane or butane-propane mixtures) you purchase in ready-to-go sealed canisters found at outdoor stores and other outlets.  These stoves feature instantaneous lighting.   Best for: Weekend backpackers, pedalers, and paddlers who primarily camp in warm weather, at low elevations, and who would rather trade dollars and a few ounces for an extra measure of convenience.

2) White Gas Stoves that burn a gasoline-like liquid bought in quart or gallon cans, and poured off into the stove tank in the quantity you need. These usually require some form of priming to light properly.  Best for: Ounce-counting adventurers bound for long trips (5+ days) in a variety of conditions and topography, including high, cold places. Also best for people concerned about the monetary and environmental costs of using canister stoves.


Canister: Although canister gas provides really light heat for short trips, on longer trips with more canisters, the weight of the canisters soon mounts up and makes the stoves heavy overall. For example the small Peak 1 canister for 3.5 oz (100g) of fuel weighs (3.1 oz) 88g empty. That’s nearly as much as the fuel it contained! Larger canisters are not as inefficient.

White Gas: Although the stoves themselves are heavier than most canister stoves, the difference is not so large if you factor-in the following: 1. You can tell how much fuel is in the tank and can save weight by carrying no more fuel than you need. You don’t have the weight of the extra canister you must take when you aren’t sure how full the other canister is!
2. A fuel bottle carrying 14.5 oz (420 g) fuel weighs only 4.8 oz (140g). Compare that with the canister figures!

Running Cost

Canister: Running costs are very high compared to white gas. This becomes a significant factor on long trips or if you use stoves a lot.

White Gas: Very cheap to run — a gallon of white gas can be bought for little more than the price of one 8-oz canister.

Cold Weather Performance

Canister: Not great once temperatures approach freezing, better when fuel contains propane and uses iso-butane instead of n-butane as the main component of the mix.

White Gas: Performance unaffected by cold.

High Altitude Performance

Canister: Reduced exterior air pressure improves gas flow, even at low temperatures. Convenience and no need for priming are assets in cramped high-altitude tents, and when people are functioning below par due to altitude effects.

White Gas: White gas stoves seem to function at high altitudes if you have appropriate working conditions, such as base camps in which to use them. Not as nice to use inside tents as canister gas because of fumes and large flames during priming.

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Half Dome – Video Trip Report

September 15th, 2009

This is a very popular day hike in Yosemite.  Both times I’ve done the trail have been Fridays in July which made for rather hot and crowded conditions.  I would recommend mid-week and maybe not right in the middle of summer.  The first time I hiked it the cables were not that crowded, but this last time they were pretty packed.  As you will see in the video below it only takes one person to to freak out and bottle-neck the whole cable section.  You should give yourself 10-12 hours to finish the hike and make sure you have plenty of water.  I went through about 4.5 liters for the day.  I brought a pump which I used after Nevada Falls (going up and coming back down).  I recommend bringing a pair of gloves with the rubber gripping material on the palms.  Leather gloves do not work well.   I hope this trip report gives you a little preview of this unique trip.



September 15th, 2009

Often times people underestimate the amount of water they will need on a hike, or do not drink until the signs of dehydration are setting in.  Lets look closer at dehydration and what we can do to better understand and avoid it.

The Causes of Dehydration

There are many things that can cause dehydration, the most common are vomiting, diarrhea, blood loss, malnutrition, and plain old failure to replenish liquids lost from sweating and urination (Not drinking enough water). Many illnesses and diseases can trigger acute dehydration due to the increased body temperature and sweating that usually occur. This is why your doctor tells you to drink plenty of fluids when you are ill. Your body uses fluids to expel toxins as well as to keep your system flexible, lubricated and running smoothly.

Signs and symptoms

Symptoms of dehydration usually begin with thirst and progress to more alarming manifestations as the need for water becomes more dire. The initial signs and symptoms of mild dehydration in adults appear when the body has lost about 2% of it’s total fluid. These mild dehydration symptoms are often (but not limited to):  Thirst, loss of appetite, dry skin, skin flushing, dark colored urine, dry mouth, fatigue or weakness, chills, head rushes.

If the dehydration is allowed to continue unabated, when the total fluid loss reaches 5% the following effects of dehydration are normally experienced:  Increased heart rate, increased respiration, decreased sweating, decreased urination, increased body temperature, extreme fatigue, muscle cramps, headaches, nausea, tingling of limbs.

When the body reaches 10% fluid loss emergency help is needed IMMEDIATELY! 10% fluid loss and above is often fatal! Symptoms of severe dehydration include: Muscle spasms, racing pulse, vomiting, shriveled skin, dim vision, painful urination, confusion, difficulty breathing, seizures, chest / abdominal pain, unconsciousness.

Be aware that these are not the only symptoms of severe dehydration that may manifest in response to dehydration, these are simply the most common. Symptoms of dehydration will differ from person to person because the body is a complex network of systems and everyone’s body is different. When these systems are disturbed due to loss of fluids there will be several common symptoms shared by most bodies, but there may also be unusual or unexpected responses depending on the particular person in question. Age also plays a part in the manifestation of symptoms. Signs of dehydration in a child will not be the same as those experienced by a teenager, adult or in the elderly. Dehydration prevention is the best treatment for every age group.

Treatment for Dehydration

When a person becomes dehydrated they have also lost electrolytes so it is very important to replenish them along the water. The type of electrolytes needed for rehydration are sodium and potassium salts usually found in sports drinks like Gatorade and pediatric formulas like Pedialite. Electrolytes are needed for electro-chemical reactions within cells. A lack of electrolytes in the body can interfere with the chemical reactions needed for healthy cell operation and is known as water intoxication. This can become a serious condition and has lead to death in extreme cases.

If a person is showing minor symptoms give them plenty of water and let them drink it very slowly, in small sips. Electrolytes are also important to replace. Electrolytes can be readily had from Gatorade or Pedialite. They are also found in salty foods but eating any food while dehydrated will only dehydrate the body more since fluids are required for digestion. If Gatorade or Pedialite are not available, slowly replenish the bodies liquids with water and follow that up after symptoms have subsided with a small salty snack or a very light meal.

If a person is showing some of the more severe symptoms of dehydration as listed above, call an ambulance immediately. He or she may be past the point where ingestion of the proper fluids will help; get them medical attention immediately.

Prevention of Dehydration

The average person looses between two and three litres of water a day through the breath, sweat, and urine. This number can increase or decrease based on the types of activities that a person engages in. Heavy exercise can cause a body to loose more than 2 liters an hour. To prevent dehydration you simply need to replenish the liquids that are lost throughout the day. Many resources and sites will tell you to drink 8 glases of water a day, or give you a set number of litres to drink but the honest truth is that every BODY is different and only you will know how much your BODY needs.

Only YOU can know how much water YOU need to be at your best. Thats right, WATER. Not soda, not juice, not sugar-drinks. Pay attention to your fluid loss and take special care to replenish it as it is being lost. By the time you feel thirsty you are already dehydrated – you want to avoid becoming thirsty in the first place. Pay attention to the color of your urine, dark urine is usually an indicator that you are dehydrated. Drink more water.

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Mount Whitney – Video Trip report

September 15th, 2009

I took this hike in September of 2009 with a few friends from Southern California.  This was definitely one that I wanted to check off the list and was glad that my friend Pat had a permit.  I had tried to get a permit via the lottery but  did not have any luck for the dates that I wanted.  Overall the trip was a success.  We all made it to the summit and no one got altitude sickness.  One of our party, Amber, had a knee that was acting up so it took her quite a while to get back down on day two.   I ended up getting back to San Diego around 1:30am after hiking from Trail Camp to the summit, then back to portal.   Day one consisted of driving to the trailhead then hiking to Trail Camp.   Here is the video trip report, I hope you enjoy it.  If you have any questions feel free to drop me a line.  Best of luck if you try to make the summit, it’s well worth the effort.


The Ten Essentials w/explainers

September 10th, 2009

Below we will discuss the ten essential items (or groups of items) you should address before venturing out in the woods.  Many novice hikers do not take into account all of these and then end up getting into trouble.  Packing these items whenever you step into the backcountry, even on day hikes, is a good habit to acquire.

  1. Navigation
  2. Sun protection
  3. Insulation (extra clothing)
  4. Illumination
  5. First-aid supplies
  6. Fire
  7. Repair kit and tools
  8. Nutrition (extra food)
  9. Hydration (extra water)
  10. Emergency shelter

1. Navigation

Map and compass are now viewed as two components of a navigation system. Add a wrist altimeter and GPS.

A topographic map (in a protective sheath or case) should accompany you on any trip that involves anything more than a short, impossible-to-miss footpath or frequently visited nature trail. Handout maps, the type offered at visitor centers or entrance stations, usually provide only simplistic line drawings of trails and do not show the topographic details necessary for route finding. If, for example, you stray off the trail or need to locate a water source, you need a topo map.

A compass equipped with a sighting mirror can also be used to flash sunlight to a helicopter or rescuer during an emergency.

An altimeter is a worthwhile navigational extra to consider. It uses a barometric sensor to measure air pressure and provide a close estimate of your elevation—information that helps you track your progress and determine your location on a map.

2. Sun Protection

This involves sunglasses, sunscreen (for skin and lips) and, for optimized protection, lightweight, skin-shielding clothing.

When choosing sunscreen, health experts advise choosing 1) a formula that offers a sun protection factor (SPF) of least 15, though SPF 30 is recommended for extended outdoor activity and 2) one that blocks both UVA and UVB rays.

You should reapply as often as every two hours. And don’t overlook SPF-rated lip balm.

3. Insulation

Conditions can abruptly turn wet, windy or chilly in the backcountry, so it’s smart to carry an additional layer of clothing in case something unexpected (you get hurt or lost, for example) prolongs your exposure to the elements.

Common options include a layer of underwear (tops and bottoms), an insulating hat, extra socks and a synthetic jacket or vest.

4. Illumination

Headlamps are the light source of choice in the backcountry. Reasons:

  • Hands-free operation (their No. 1 advantage over flashlights)
  • Low weight
  • Compact size (so they occupy minimal space in your pack)
  • Long battery life (in models using light-emitting diodes, or LEDs)

Because LEDs can handle rugged use (no filaments to break), offer vastly superior battery life and are perpetually evolving to higher levels of performance, it is quite likely most, and maybe all headlamps will be LED models.

Many headlamps also offer a strobe mode. It’s a great option to have for emergency situations. Headlamps offer their longest battery life while in strobe mode.

Always carry spare batteries— Every member of a backcountry party should carry his or her own light.

5. First-aid Supplies

Any kit should include treatments for blisters, adhesive bandages of various sizes, several gauze pads, adhesive tape, disinfecting ointment, over-the-counter pain medication, pen and paper.

6. Fire

Matches headed into the backcountry should be the waterproof variety, or they should be stored in a waterproof container.  Storm matches from REI are good – take the striker panel with you. Mechanical lighters are handy, but always carry some matches as a backup.

Firestarter, as the name implies, is an element that helps you jump-start (and possibly sustain) a fire.  The ideal firestarter ignites quickly and sustains heat for more than a few seconds.    My favorite is WetFire, it comes in small white cubes from which you create a tiny pile of shavings.  These shavings are easily ignited with a Steel Scout striker and will create a flame that burns for a minute or two, plenty of time to get a fire started.  Other  candidates include dry tinder tucked away in a plastic bag, lint trappings from a household clothes dryer, cotton balls with Vaseline, Esbit fuel tablets.

7. Repair Kit and Tools

Knives or multi-tools are handy for gear repair, food preparation, first aid, making kindling or other emergency needs. A basic knife should have at least one foldout blade (more likely two), one or two flathead screwdrivers, a can-opener and (though some people will call this a luxury) a pair of foldout scissors.

If you carry a self-inflating mattress, you probably do not carry a repair kit for it. Typically, wrap strips of duct tape (the universal fix-it product) around your water bottle or trekking poles so you can repair who-knows-what in the backcountry.

8. Nutrition (extra food)

Always pack at least one extra day’s worth of food. It can be as simple as a freeze-dried meal, but it’s even smarter to include no-cook items with nearly infinite storage times: extra energy bars, nuts, dried fruits or jerky.

The process of digesting food helps keep your body warm, so on a cold night it’s smart to munch some food before bunking down—just don’t leave animal-attracting leftovers inside your shelter.

9. Hydration (extra water)

Mountaineering suggests always carrying at least one water bottle and a collapsible water reservoir. You should also carry some means for treating water, whether it is a filter/purifier or chemical treatment.

When beginning extended travel along a ridgeline or in alpine conditions, it’s wise to consult your map and try to envision possible water sources. Try to resupply at the last obvious water source before beginning a stretch of unpredictable water availability.

10. Emergency Shelter

Shelter is a new component in the updated Ten Essentials, one that seems targeted at day trippers. (Most overnight wilderness travelers already carry a tent or tarp.)  Options include an ultralight tarp, a bivy sack, an emergency space blanket (which packs small and weighs just ounces), even a large plastic trash bag.

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