Monday, June 25, 2012

Invisible Zipper

Gives the phrase no-see-um a new meaning.

Invisible Zipper: A zipper with its teeth hidden behind fabric tape, which matches the garment's color as does the slider. Then, except for the slider the zipper is "invisible". This is common in women's wear, and some newer packs. The zipper mechanism is usually a coil zipper, which doesn't bite so hard if you get your whodunit caught in it.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Definitions: Choke

Grab your trail and squeeze

(1) A slight narrowing in the trail tread usually because of rock or logs. Sometimes deliberate, when used to control user speed. A "choke point". A "choker". A "gateway".

For example, a series of logs might be staggered on opposite sides of the trail to narrow the route. This slows trail users at scenic points or before dangerous areas. The narrowing should blend into the trail naturally or users may simply go around it. On multiple-use trails, a choke slows faster travelers like cyclists in congested areas, and can help to avoid injuries or conflicts among users.

(2) A narrow place in a trail where your competition gets scraped off (if you are still in that elite and crazed group trying to set land speed records on foot).

(3) Otherwise, it's a place (possibly natural) where you need to slow down and go in single file (if you've learned to play nice). Remember, nice guys finish last. And so do losers.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Backpackers Mistaken For Neanderthals

Primitive technology gives them away.

"We dint mean no harm," said Bert Stench. "We was just wipin our hands off after supper and that there rock was all we had."

He was referring to the recent kerfuffel in the scientific community over whether evidence of Neanderthals had been found in North America.

The site? A small cave near Colorado's famous Weepen Hovel National Monument, which is well-known for harboring evidence of peoples from the Paleo-Archaic period. This far-distant time reaches back as far as 12,000 years.

Until recently this was considered pretty darn early for North America.

But one day that suddenly changed, or seemed to, when anthropologists from Colorado State University entered this unnamed and previously-unknown cave during a routine survey of the area.

"We found hand prints similar to but cruder than those from Spain, which date to over 45,000 years ago," said CSU's Dr. Thaddeus Specter.

"My first thought? No way! And then, on closer inspection I thought...Way! My hair literally stood on end, and I'm almost bald, so that says something right there."

"Stone Age artists were painting red disks, handprints, clublike symbols and geometric patterns on European cave walls long, long ago. But in North America evidence of human presence generally goes back only a few thousand years, and there's nothing like this at all. Nothing. We were stunned. This resembled Neanderthal work, but is decidedly more primitive."

Mr. Stench and his buddy Merton Thredbare, both backpackers, were not intending a hoax, according to them. They were simply doing what backpackers do.

The cave looked like a good stop for the night. A few stray twigs gave them fuel for a cooking fire. But there was no water, and so no way to wash up after their meal. Hence the greasy, sooty handprints on the cave walls.

But how could scientists have made such a mistake?

"We used a new uranium-thorium dating technique," said Dr. Specter. "It gave us a date of 78,400 years, B.C.E. Obviously that was wrong. Either our technique was off or their food was stale. Right now we suspect the latter."

The backpackers admit that the food they got at an Army-Navy surplus store in 1992 did taste a little funny, "but when your out backpakin you allays end up hungry so you dont mind none a that," Mr. Thredbare volunteered. "I tasted worse, plenty worse. It staid down, an thats OK," he added.

"I guess we shoulda stuck to wipin off on bushes," said Mr. Stench, "but we dint have none, so it was the cave wall or go to bed dirty."

"Yeah, right," Mr. Thredbare confirmed.

As for the scientists, they have retracted their earlier claims about the antiquity of the "cave art" but are attempting to get DNA samples from the two backpackers.

"I'm no medical expert," Dr. Specter continued, "but although the handprints these two left are clearly modern, we now suspect that the backpackers themselves may be, in fact, a previously unknown remnant of a pre-human species, and we want to get a closer look at them. We have promised to treat them with respect and release them back into their native habitat once we run a few simple tests."

"Huh," was Mr. Stench's reply.

"Diggity," agreed Mr. Thredbare.

More: With Science, New Portrait of the Cave Artist

Monday, June 18, 2012

Sternum Strap

An implement Frau Blücher would understand.

Sternum Strap: A narrow piece of webbing that lies across the chest, connecting the shoulder straps and enabling loosening or tightening for comfort and fit.

Sternum Strap: A strap that connects the two shoulder straps together. It helps to bring the weight of the pack towards the torso.

Sternum Strap: A strap that connects the two shoulder straps together. It brings the weight of the pack toward the center of the hiker's center of gravity.

Sternum Strap: An addition to a pack which allows it to hug the hiker as tightly as a tick hugs a leg hair. As tightly as an alien face hugger wraps around a head. You get the idea.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Definitions: Layering

Apparel lamination.

Layering: Generally accepted as the best way of dressing for outdoor activities. There is the base layer, the insulation layer, and the outer shell which work together to ensure maximum protection against cold temperatures, moisture, and general weather.

Layering: Using various combinations of garments to maintain a comfortable body temperature. Usually consists of a next-to-skin base layer, a middle layer and an outer shell.

Layering: How to make a decent sandwich. For traditionalists: put slices of cold meat between bread and eat while gambling. For the average person: Buy one. For hikers: put layers of anything edible between slices of bread, add spicy goop if you have it, and eat while scanning the landscape for anything that might be gaining on you. If you get any goop on your clothes you'll have to peel off a layer and bury it or else something will come out of the dark and eat you.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Students Survive Days In Hell

Bright, spooky, has mole people.

Two 21-year-old students visiting Nevada as part of a foreign study program recently turned up after being lost and presumed permanently weirded out after nine days in downtown Las Vegas.

Adele Bauer and Gutav Klimt, both Austrian, were disoriented when found but otherwise appeared to be in good shape, police reported.

"We had no idea," Bauer said. "It was so overwhelming. Absolutely, like from another planet. It took us days to realize we were not having the hallucination. And even then we could not find a way out. The laws of the real world, they do not seem to exist there."

Bauer and Klimt have been studying environmental science at the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point, but wanted to hike and camp in a desert landscape to get a better feel for the variety of "the real America".

"We have no desert country in Austria," Klimt said. "Just trees and mountains and a few mutants like you see with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Nothing at all like this though. We had the great fear."

"Ja," said Bauer, "this is the very spooky place. Lizards and snakes we handle OK, snowstorms and so on, but we could not believe a place like this can exist."

Rescuers speculate that a sudden dust storm may have disoriented the hikers and steered them out of Red Rock Canyon and into a nearby suburb, from where they were sucked straight into the Las Vegas Strip, possibly dazzled by the lights.

Although ill prepared to survive in downtown Las Vegas (the couple had little cash, and no line of credit at all), they did have some carrots, peanut butter and trail mix, according to Police Sgt. Sam Judd, who coordinated rescue attempts.

These meager rations, and the lucky break of finding a discarded copy of the "Las Vegas Direct Buffet Survival Guide" gave them time enough to find their way to a food source.

"We sat through a timeshare presentation and then they gave us the food," said Klimt. "We did this over and over, to eat. It was like hell, but we managed to keep up our strength this way. We would not do this again. Better to die maybe."

Night after night the two students wandered aimlessly under buzzing neon signs, wondering if they would ever make it home again, until finding temporary refuge among the estimated 14,000 Las Vegas tunnel people.

Mike, who's hooked on meth, says tunnel life was an adventure at first. But eight years later? "What a big mistake I made," he said. "I wanted Adele and Gutav to make it out alive."

With a crude map Mike drew on a scrap of paper, and after being pointed in the right direction, the two students were able to hike out to safety.

"I believe for going into the bush you need the proper preparation," Bauer said. "We paid the price for our mistake, but in the end we walked and now we are free again."

This incident comes just one month after three Oxford University students visiting New York were devoured by a credit default swap that broke out of its cage in the Wall Street area.

More:

U.S. Students Survive 9 Days Stranded in New Zealand Backcountry

Homeless People Live in Tunnels Under Las Vegas

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

Las Vegas Direct Buffet Survival Guide

Monday, June 11, 2012

Svea

Brass & Gas.

Svea: A brand of Swedish camping and backpacking stove now owned by Optimus. One of the most popular models was the Svea 123, a brass model that burned "white gas".

Svea: A Swedish female name, popular during the first half of the 20th century. Also Mother Svea, the Swedish national emblem.

Svea: The sound you make when you want to cook your first supper of a two-week trip and realize you forgot to bring stove fuel.

Svea 123 since forever.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Bothy

Adventure in a bag.

I admire the British. Robust, adventurous, stout-hearted people. Able to live successfully in a disadvantageous climate due partly to their character (stiff upper lip, never say die) and their clever use of woolens and abundant body hair (especially some of the women).

You could say that Britain's "temperate maritime climate" is, well, tentatively temperate. With an average yearly low at 1°C (34°F), that doesn't seem bad. The average high of 21°C (70°F) doesn't seem bad either. But add 800 days a year of lead-gray skies and blowing mist, and you have a problem.

This is hypothermia country.

It is also a country of inveterate walkers.

The British (Welsh, Scots, English, Leprechauns, and so on) have an almost unnerving desire to abandon their cozy spots by the hearth and go tromping around here and there. This may be why they once ruled every part of the world worth stealing.

If you've seen pictures of the British Isles you may have noticed that the countryside is at least 99% grassland, and something like 27% rocky outcrops, with small groves of stunted shrubs standing in for what used to be endless medieval forests.

All now, all of it, incessantly whipped by gale-force winds carrying countless stinging droplets of icewater.

Ben Nevis, the highest point in the British Isles, is typical. You can look it up. A gigantic heartless lump of barren rock. Yearly precipitation: 4000mm (161 inches). Constant howling frigid wind.

And yet people persist in tramping all over it.

Still, with all their tweeds and mittens and furry legs, the British require a bit more protection from the elements, especially when sitting down for lunch, on bare ground, in a gale, in blind fog, on a mountain which has no inherent scenic qualities or redeeming virtues whatsoever.

So, what would you do? I mean, if you had to be there and couldn't get away.

Well, the British decided to put bags over their heads.

This seemed like such a nifty idea that they kept doing on it.

The bags got bigger and bigger until a person's whole body fit inside, and then someone thought "Hey. What about my friends?" And so the bothy bag was invented. Some of these are now large enough to seat 12. Think of it.

For a measure of this invention's romance, consider the bothy bag's inspiration: "I lived in a broken down long-deserted shepherd's hut, known as a bothy, out on a windy Scottish mountainside, without electricity." (From a work titled "To The Hilt", which may have been about suicide.)

The idea is that you and your friends, all freezing, damp, and shivering, unfold this big fabric bag and pull it over yourselves. Then you sit inside it, all facing each other, and breathe each other's breath and get wetter from condensation, and possibly stinkier, and then you break out your cold damp lunch and eat it, listening to everyone else chew, swallow, and wheeze.

There is no frame to a bothy bag. There are no stakes or guy lines.

There may be vents, and a plastic window or two so you can see what misery surrounds you, but the whole thing is supported by the bodies of the occupants, who stay inside the bothy bag until realizing that quick death out in the open is preferable to a suffocating death by re-breathing re-breathed air heavy with wool-stink. Not to mention being solidly wedged in foot to crotch and nose to eyebrow with everyone else.

So there you have it. A nearly perfect solution to dealing with life outdoors in a tricky climate.

The other solution, of course (which the British can no longer afford), is moving somewhere decent.


More:

Bothy bags

Bothy Bag

Ben Donich in a Bothy Bag (good pics)

At MoonTrail: Terra Nova Superlite Bothy 2

At Brooks-Range: UltraLite Alpini Shelter 200