Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Hardcore Hardwear

Hoist the black sail.

Would you trust your life to old-fashioned stuff?

Hey, the first stop on this road is: What are you worth, really?

This is a problem. Time magazine had an article in 2008 saying maybe $129,000, but that's if you're attractive and smell good. This leaves out backpackers.

But, also according to Time, the international standard for a random human is around $50,000.

Closer to home, if chopped, sliced, ground, and sold as cat food, how much are you worth?

Doing some rough calculations, let's say you weigh 150 pounds (OK, old-style, fruity English measurements, but we'll get past that in a sec). So that's 2400 ounces, and at 4 ounces per can, we get 600 cans.

Assuming half of that is waste, inedible (even for cats), or doesn't taste good enough to eat (even to cats), figure 300 cans worth of kitty chow. At a dollar a can, that gives you a retail value of $300, more if you are bigger and have a lot of that nice runny fat. (Which cats go absolutely ape over.)

So that's your value to a cat, but how much is your life worth, really?

Well, another way to look at is is how much you put into backpacking gear. Things get a lot simpler if you look at life from this end.

Say you make most of your gear. That means your gear is essentially worthless because it's crap. I know it's crap because I tried selling some of your stuff on eBay last year while you were on vacation and it all got returned as useless crap. Ruined my reputation too. Thanks for nothing.

So you have no value unless you buy your stuff from people who know how to make it, which isn't you. See where this is going?

OK, I understand. No, really. I don't mind explaining this. In fact I like nothing better than explaining the obvious to idiots. Seriously. It brings me great joy.

It goes like this. Your value as a person is only the value of what you own. Since you have no life and only go backpacking every once in a while just to relieve the intense agony of having such a boring existence, and do nothing else except eat, sleep, watch TV, and do those things in the bathroom that none of us wants to imagine, not even once, it becomes trivial to assign a value to you.

Here's the deal.

Buy stuff. Lots. Max out.

When you buy, get two. If it comes painted, get the two-tone version. If it's not painted, go for the rhinestones. If it's plain and simple, then make sure it's made of platinum. Or plutonium, which is even more expensive.

But you're a backpacker, right? So what about your pack then? Platinum doesn't work for packs, and you tried that whole do-it-yourself thing with sticks and a couple of rabbit hides with predictable results. So, what then?


Tweed, babe. Right here, right now. English tweed. It's even waterproof.

The perfect thing for you. A tweed pack.

Who cares how good it is? It's the price that counts. For you, only £565.00. In U.S. money, that's $899.49, which makes it even better.

Why? Because it's like your worth suddenly goes up 63% and you only have to sit there and click at the internet currency converter, and you can still eat chips with your other hand while doing that. So many things are so much better than sex, and this is way up there. One click does it.

Makes you feel good all over too? It does me.

Use a soft brush gently applied to remove loose dirt. Remove stains with water and mild soap. Fluff gently and let air-dry in a warm sunny spot while you sip herb tea and admire your cleverness.

But it gets better, because you can skip the backpacking and just buy gear. That way you won't ever find stains, or have any dust to brush off, and you can eat more chips, right there by your warm TV set. No stains or dust means your personal worth as a human will stay right up there, and will climb as you buy more and more, and shove it into your closet. Where it will remain safe. Forever.

So who said backpacking was nasty?

Probably some creep without a decent credit card.


Right here. Your Black Sail Rucksack.

Meet The £565 Waterproof Tweed Daypack

Your place in Time: The Value of a Human Life: $129,000

Friday, February 24, 2012

Wheels Within Wheels Within Dorks

Now, what I really like, and what you should get is...

Gear Head: A hiker whose main focus is backpacking and outdoors gear.

Gear Head: A thru-hiker who has hiked a thousand miles or two thousand miles, or more, and still talks about nothing but gear.

Gear Head: A hiker who talks about gear all the time, owns one of almost every piece of gear imaginable, and wants more.

Gear Head: A store rat. Someone who has all the catologs, knows all the web sites, and spends months on end poring over pictures and descriptions of hiking and backpacking gear. This person can tell you the difference between the 1980 Kelty Kumquat and the 2012 model, and all the variations in between. On the trail a gear head will generally talk about nothing but gear, especially to lecture you on why yours is lousy and theirs isn't. A gear head will spend hundreds of dollars a year to replace old gear with new gear even if the old gear was never used, and will have endless explanations of why this is mandatory.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Getriebekopf Hose, from Siemens.

I'm wearing intelligent pants.

Still breaking them in for now, so aside from an occasional beep you can't really tell they aren't ordinary hiker wear.

But fully operational they're rated at 140 IQ, a good 50 points above most people you meet on the trail. So I'm hopeful.

And that's just my pants. I've got other stuff too.

Being a gearhead means you need to stay ahead of the curve.

One thing you find is that, after you take that first step -- you know, crossing into TekSpace -- backpacking season becomes a constant series of upgrade cycles. This stuff isn't cheap either. I had to get a second job to pay for batteries. Luckily now I'm all solar.

But it's worth it. I'm in a class by myself.

Yesterday I downloaded all of Google Earth into my left cuff. Google Maps into the right. Today I'm working through Landsat's image database. This will take up both back pockets but the return will be huge.

This year I will be totally ready for hiking season. Ain't nobody going to have better intel than me.

I can visualize any feature on earth down to two meters in the ultraviolet, infrared, and visible wavelengths, and project contour lines at 5, 10, and 20 meter intervals on a heads-up display.

I've got high-res imagery on the Etosha pan, Eyjabakkajökull glacier, El Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve, the English Lake District, and everything else worth knowing about.

Though my hiking shirt is no slouch, the pants really carry me.

They have a phone with voice recognition dialing, a hands-free mic, and lots of apps including the hiker's favorite, Angry Bugs. Cool.

The MP3/AM/FM system automatically switches off if the phone rings, or flicks over to voice mail if I don't want to be bothered, or if I have a little business to take care of in person. Some things are still hands-on you know.

But all my gear is machine washable, just in case.

Once I get loaded up with a few hundred audio books, and lay in a copy of Wikipedia for laughs, I'll be able to hike anywhere, anytime, and know everything. And carry on an intelligent conversation with my trousers.

Hey. Maybe I'll throw in some MIT Courseware: "Unlocking Knowledge, Empowering Minds." Educating Your Pants. Take a look at architecture, or health sciences. Get a degree in management. Find out how to set up a windproof, waterproof-breathable shell corporation. There's no limit.

But first, while my pants are charging up, me too. Time for a power nap. No chance of oversleeping. Got the tingle alarm set for dawn, Babe.

I'm on it.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Winter Fuzz

What warms ye.

Fleece: A knitted synthetic fabric brushed on both sides to give a soft, almost fluffy finish.

Fleece: A wool or synthetic knit fabric with a deep soft pile that provides insulation without much weight or bulk.

Fleece: Fuzzy textile designed to keep hikers warm. Fleece comes in many weights and quality levels.

Fleece: Generic term for durable and insulating clothing material made from virgin or recycled polyester.

Fleece: Polar fleece or microfleece is a soft insulating synthetic fabric made from Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) or other synthetic fibers. Polar Fleece arrived in 1979 from Malden Mills, now Polartec LLC.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Where The Bushes Are Pointy

Like a perilous walk in Haberdasher Land.

Needleleaf Woodland: A conifer woodland.

A needleleaf vegetation with 10 to 25 percent crown cover by the the tree crowns. Conifers bear cones and have evergreen needlelike or scalelike leaves.

Conifers are the source of softwood, and of resins and turpentine.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Mt Sky Wiper

Hey. It's better than Twinkie Heights.

There is a move afoot to rename Mt Rainier in southwestern Washington State.

The name is currently Mt Rainier, as you might guess from the name, which is currently Mt Rainier.

But wasn't always.

Previous to Captain George Vancouver's float-by in May 1792, this massive massif, standing taller than anything else for miles and miles around, was known by several other names. Such as Tahoma, Tacobeh, Pooskaus, and the always-popular Tacoma.

But when Vancouver (who wore tight pants, a white wig, and was employed by the British Royal Navy to drift around and look at stuff) saw it, the first thing he thought of was his good buddy Admiral Peter Rainier, also of the tight-pants, British Navy, white wig set.

Rainier and the mountain were virtually twins: two 14,411 ft (4392 m) high, 500,000 year-old, glacier-covered piles of rubble. Gigantic, imposing, and likely to go off without warning.

"Make it so," Vancouver ordered, and lo, it was. The name has been Rainier for a pretty long time.

"That's part of the process I think when you conquer," says Robert Satiacum, a member of the Puyallup tribe, who used to, kind of, own the mountain. He prefers calling it Ti'Swaq', or Sky Wiper.

Soon though, Captain Vancouver quickly learned about the whole "branding" idea, and got a bunch of other things named directly after himself. Vancouver Island in British Canada, for example, and the city of Vancouver just next to it. The other city of Vancouver, now in Washington State. Mount Vancouver on the Yukon/Alaska border. And like that.

So now when someone says they're going to Vancouver all you think is WTF, get dizzy, and fall over.

Some of the other Northwest peaks used to be:

  • Mt Adams: Pah Do
  • Mt Baker: Koma Kulshan
  • Mt Hood: Wy'East
  • Mt St Helens: Suek

All hard to pronounce, and currently without strong brand identity. So how about some suggestions?

  • Mt Adams: Mt Samuel Adams - Take Pride In Your Beer.
  • Mt Baker: Mt Little Debbie Baker's Snack Cakes - Unwrap A Smile.
  • Mt Hood: Mt Red Riding Hood's Kinky Kostumes - We got the role. You bring the play.
  • Mt St Helens: Mt Mary Helen's Vegan Pet Chow - Tasty Bets For Your pets.

Hey, in these times of tight budgets the licensing fees could pay to bring more pro sports to the region.

So then we get back to Mt Rainer, but why screw with a good thing? No need to change the whole name when a little tweak will do, and it precedes Samuel Adams anyway.

Mt Rainier Hiking Fluid: "Hang on to youth while you can. We have the beer when you're ready."

We already filmed the ads decades ago:

While the Wonderland Trail and Mt Rainier Hiking Fluid go together like chocolate and peanut butter, please don't drink and hike.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Spoon Me With A Slight Dip

Only gently armored, if you please.

Ordinary Trail Dip.

Paved Dip: A paved or armored dip is protected by having a hard surface so water can run across a trail without eroding it. Otherwise it has the same characteristics as an unpaved dip.

Also known as: Armored Dip, Coweta Dip, Drain Dip, Drainage Dip, Grade Brake, Grade Dip, Grade Reversal, Reinforced Dip, Reinforced Drainage Dip, Rolling Dip, Rolling Grade Dip, Spoon Dip.

More: Trail

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Even the dull and ignorant have boring stories.

Go placidly to the trailhead, and do not fart in the car, no matter what you had for breakfast. Remember what peace there may be in fresh air, and that you are with others.

As far as possible be on good terms with all persons even if they do not hold it in, but take a window seat just to be safe.

Remember to pack the night before, and to use your checklist, for you are a child of the universe and are getting forgetful. Many errors are born of fatigue and carelessness, and stupidity also, so that's why you have a checklist, Dork Brain. Use it.

Do not expect others to loan you things on the trail, like food.

Or a sleeping bag.

Beyond this wholesome discipline, feel free to be a slob, and remain as much as possible to the downwind side.

And when on the trail do not whine. Whining is what you do at work. Remember that we have sticks.

Avoid being a loud and aggressive jerk. Loud and aggressive jerks are vexations to the spirit, especially if they whine, and they get whacked with sticks.

Overall, hike your own hike. Don't follow too closely. Bring your own toilet paper.

Let your achievements speak for themselves, and not the other way around, lest you wake some morning to find yourself all alone in a deserted camp with no map, and that we have left for parts unknown without you.

In other words, be yourself unless you are obnoxious - then be someone else. Seriously. You can learn to fake it.

But do not let all this blind you to what virtue there is in hiking with others. Many persons strive for high mileage, and everywhere trails are full of power-hikers and competitive buttheads with two-ounce packs and $300 sunglasses proclaiming themselves to be heroes. And though they may have their place, such as up against the wall, facing the firing squad, we prefer aimless wandering and mindless sloth.

Have a nap in the sun every now and then.

Ignore the bugs, for no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should, and you may only be here to provide them with essential nutrients.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune, such as explaining WTF to someone who sees you back in town six days before your trip is due to end. But do not distress yourself with imaginings - lying is a craft that you too can learn, and there is nothing so truthful as a really good lie, and there are books that can teach you how.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, for eventually we all get old and ugly, but the young are clueless, and deviousness always wins. So cheat. Know your territory and every shortcut therein. Practice guilelessness. Never share your secrets.

And every now and then you will meet a lovely willowy young thing who is attracted to mysterious geezers, even if only temporarily. Never miss an opportunity for it may be your last.

Therefore be at peace with God or Ray Jardine, whichever is more frightening, and no matter what kind of crap goes down on the trail remember this: With all the dust and dirt and hail storms and nasty food and bug bites and blisters and ripped tents it is still better than the cubicle back home.

Even if it pays so much less.

Though you are less likely to be eaten in your cubicle.




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