Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Occasional Definitions: Bear Bag

1 - Bear pinata.

2 - A bag that a hiker carries food in. The bear bag is suspended from a tree branch at night in order to keep bears from getting into it.

Some high-tech bear bags are made from space age Kevlar fabric to make it harder for bears to rip open (if a bear does find the bag). Some have reported that this can result in an intact, saliva-covered and well-chewed bag containing food crumbs.

The usual bear bag consists of a bag (clever choice there!) and rope or cord long enough to hang food and supplies out of the reach of bears, usually from a tree branch. The bear bag and rope are used while in bear country, and wherever other annoying animals could get to the food.

Mice, skunks, raccoons, woodrats, chipmunks and anything else with teeth and an appetite are honorary bears. Items that must be protected include toothpaste, soap, deodorant, sunscreen and anything else with a scent. Some claim that anything carrying a human smell qualifies, including clean, scentless odor proof plastic bags.

Savvy critters frequently exposed to campers are known to have learned that anything associated with humans may contain munchies, and some of them are rumored to be attracted to the smell of new, clean, ostensibly scentless plastic bags.

3 - Property of a bear: what your food bag becomes after the bear gets it. If this happens, then give up already.


From: Fire In Your Hand

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Knork Difference

So what do you do for eating if you don't like the spork concept?

Back up, is one thing. Hang onto that fork, and your knife, and a separate, free standing spoon.

This works. Drawers in restaurants and homes are full of these. Everyone knows what they are, what they are for, and how and when to use them. Using a spoon, fork, or knife is like knowing your name. You don't have to think about it. You do it, is all.

So you might not like a spork. A spork makes you think, it stops you. You want to get some food from the plate to your mouth and you look down at your hand and there is this thing there and so you have to stop and remember what the heck it is, and how to use it.

Not so with the big three, but the spork and other implements have advantages, as noted.

But hey, that's not all.

You've heard of reinventing the wheel. "Reinventing the wheel" is a phrase used by people who don't like to think for themselves, which is fitting because they're talking about being lazy, which can be good or bad. Reinventing the spoon can be dumb, but it's been done often, as has reinventing the fork, and reinventing the knife, and reinventing something to replace one or more of them at one go.

Reinventing can be lazy and stupid or it can be clever and useful. Even surprising.

One thing is sure. If you don't try reinventing a thing you'll never improve it. Mostly you won't do much improving no matter what, but it's worth a try every now and then.

You might think that the spoon has been around forever but even it hasn't. The word started out meaning something like a flat piece of wood or a wood shaving, and the meaning of spoon as eating utensil didn't show up until about 1300. OK, so? Well agriculture goes back about 10,000 years. It could be that people used wood shavings for 8000 or 9000 years before reinventing the wood shaving and coming up with the spoon.


Fork first shows up as a word in 1463, in the sense of table fork at least, but its ancestors were implements of torture. That one got reinvented.

Knives go way back to the beginning, before even metal, when they were sharp rocks, but they are still being reinvented.

In case you think there's nothing left to do, check out the 2001 patent application from Michael D. Miller of Wichita, Kansas for his "universal fork", combining knife and fork, and throwing in some spoonlike capabilities, while reducing its value as a weapon and increasing its utility as an eating implement for various kinds of disabled persons.

The universal fork is a lot like the knork, in case you've seen a knork. A knork (KNife-fORK) is a fork with a dull knife on the outer edge, and is the same as the knirk (KNIfe-foRK). The knork's two edges (or maybe only one of them) are sharpened to allow food cutting, but other than that it looks pretty much like a fork, or a pastry fork, which is similar.

The knork, knirk, and Splayd might even be hard to tell apart, and you could get confused. The Splayd (a brand name: SPoon-blADe, with a "Y" stuck in there, or just named after "splay", to spread apart) is an implement invented by William McArthur from Sydney, Australia during the 1940s. Not that long ago. His Splayd does triple duty by deliberately combining the functions of knife, fork, and spoon.

If you were ever in the Scouts, a surplus store, or even some contemporary outdoor shops, you might have seen a knife-fork-spoon set that sort of hooks together for storage. Something like that set is the luha, or lusikkahaarukka. Never heard of it, eh? Well it's a fork and spoon set permanently joined by a riveted hinge in the handle so the two implements can swivel like scissor blades.

In case the name seems funny, it's Finnish.

Lusikkahaarukka tend to be stainless steel, are still used by the Finnish army, and apparently most stocks date from World War II. They are made by Hackman, a cutlery and cookware company founded in 1790.

Going back over to the spoon side, we have spifes. They combine spoons and knives, and play well with fruit, though they'd serve most backpacking needs as well, but then again maybe you'd prefer a bamboo foon. With spifes the knife part is in the handle, which could make holding one tricky, but if it's plastic anyway, who cares?

Want to go farther?

Try clothespin chopsticks. Like long, colorful plastic clothespins with a spring hinge at one end and grippy parts at the other. Fun for kids. Long. Goofy. Probably breakable.

Or try forkchops. No spoon function. Sort of stiltlike. Long plastic gizmos that come in pairs, one member forklike and the other knifelike, to be used as ectoplasmic knife and fork, or turned the other way round and used as plastic chopsticks.

Rad chopsticks.

I still prefer squeezing lunch out of a plastic bag's corner. Second choice: using my fingers. Third choice: using a clean stick. Or spending a few minutes whittling a pair of chopsticks. I never eat soup or runny things on the trail, but could just as well drink from my cooking pot, especially since it is a 16 ounce (475 ml) measuring cup. With a civilized handle.

Works for me, but you can go weird if you want.


Clothespin chopsticks


Knork Flatware

Kramer Knives




Universal fork patent

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Daring Feets: Parade Of The Five Piggies

Backpacking is a fool's paradise of cruft.

Ultralight backpacking is supposed to cut through this but I don't see it, only more cruft.

Cruft is what got me into the ultralight end, and one of the things that got me into backpacking. So many cute little toys to dink with. I'm trying to learn my way out of it.

I know someone who gets tingly near any REI store, and I can understand that. That is, I remember when I could understand that.

Outdoor shops are stuffed with cruft. They sell it. The more they have the more likely you are to come and look. All the pretty, shiny things. The more you look the longer you stay, and the more you buy.

This has nothing to do with hiking or backpacking or bicycling or kayaking or skiing. At all.

It's marketing. They make money when there is a transaction. You decide that what they have is worth more than your money, and they decide that the money in your pocket is more valuable than what they are selling.

Think about that for a while. It doesn't really work unless you lose.

But that's another story.

Right now I'm thinking of feet and what I have to do with mine. I'll have more to say later sometime. It will take a while. Some experiments have to be run. Data digested. Calipers calipered. Hanenframies hanned and frammed, then fine tuned. The usual.

Tweakage must take place.

My thoughts today are with streams and water and rocks, and how to cross streams full of sharp rocks and cold water. And what to do, midnightish, when watering the flowers.

One thing is clear. I'm happier, freer, and more comfortable since I quit wearing boots. Trail running shoes have brought a lot of freedom, but I still want a supplement. Something to wade streams with. Something to slip into briefly around camp for short trips on dewy nights.

Shoes are much friendlier than boots, given. Even after a huge hiking day I no longer need alternate footwear to recover in. But it's nice to have something for those other times.

There are several options, but I want to mention something odd and new. It's footwear put out by Vibram (the people who invented gnarly rubber boot soles in 1935). They call it FiveFingers.

Shoes like armored toe socks.

They're light enough. All models in size 42 (U.S. 8 1/2) are well under a pound (454 g) per pair. But that isn't the key.

They have toes. Each shoe has five little bays, one for each toe. They are meant to be worn without socks. The uppers are stretchy and flexible. The soles are a thin variety of Vibram (smooth, not lugged). They are recommended for pretty much all moderate outdoor activities including running and climbing. Cost is currently $75 to $85, depending on model.

I'd bet that these are great for feeling the way across a tricky stream bed. No need to worry about stony points, sharp sticks, or abrasiive edges. Or nails, or broken glass. They come in a variety of colors. They look like fun.

I won't buy them. Too big, too expensive, too heavy. For me. More cruft, by my definition. I could eat for two weeks on $85. So I'm still looking for something I can buy or make that weighs almost nothing, costs almost nothing, can be bought or made easily, anywhere, and discarded without regret, and works. And packs down to nothing. Still thinking on that.

So I'm still hooked on my own kind of cruft then. How about that? Didn't realize it until just now.

Anyway, FiveFingers probably work really well. Your choice. Nice to have choices.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Lace Me Up, Ian!

Hike? Wear something on your feet? Has laces?

This might be for you.

No need to stuff a bunch of words in here, except to make a couple of notes.

  • Such as, if you are looking for a one-handed knot, look here.
  • Such as, if you are looking for quick-to-tie knots, look here.
  • Such as, if you are looking for secure knots, look here.
  • Such as, if you are looking for decorative knots and lacing patterns, look here.

Massively illustrated. Masterfully illustrated.

Learn how to teach your kids, or someone else's.

Wallow in the FAQ.

Find shoelace accessories.

Learn the truth, the whole truth, the history, the entire meaning of aglets, and how they affect absolutely everything else on earth, all of it, everywhere.

Read shoelace news you never expected: "A 6-year-old student at an elementary school in Tennessee fell on a pencil when she tripped over her shoe lace and put a hole in her trachea...School officials said the girl was carrying the pencil when one of her laces became untied." (Yeeg!)

Find shoelace books. "Tie A Bow, Ben Bunny", by Mavis Smith looks good. I'd buy it. I happen to like bunnies as well as, if not more than, shoelaces.

"The Neddiad", by Daniel Pinkwater, about shoelace heiress Neddie Wentworthstein, who "Took the train, went to Hollywood, and saved civilization". Yow! Can't beat that!

Site has: Ian's illustrations. Info on lacing shoes, tying shoelaces, dealing with slipping or crooked shoelaces, managing shoelace length. News about the shoelace market. Links. And on. And on. Take control of your life through proper shoelace management.

Gotta go look, you.



Ian's Shoelace Site