Dec 29, 2013

My 3-Season Backpacking Packing List

Here's my backpacking pack list.  It includes my 25-deg sleeping bag and hammock, so temps need to be 40-deg or above.
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Oct 30, 2013

Water Treatment with Aquamira Drops

In my quest to lighten up, I've move from the heavy and slow MSR Miniworks filter (but very reliable), to the expensive Steripen UV sterilizer.  This is a great tool.  You can drink water 90 seconds after filling your bottle.  The problem is that it is battery powered.  While doing a 10 day hike in the Wind River range of Wyoming, my pen failed on the second day.  And the device takes CR123 batteries, which I didn't have spares for.  Thank God I had a small bottle of bleach for a backup.  And I didn't get sick using bleach for water purification drawing water from glacial lakes shared with pack horses.

So this experience prompted my to know more about chemical treatment.  One of my hiking partners uses Polar Pure iodine crystals.You can't buy this today because meth cookers use iodine and that put Polar Pure out of business.  Another hiking partner uses bleach.  Simple and cheap.   So I researched bleach and found that it was ineffective with cryptosporidium.  

Then I read Mike Clelland's Ultralight Backpacking Tips.  He recommends using Aquamira, and using a separate "mix" bottle to solve the problem of having to wait for the mixture of part A and part B to activate.
Researching chlorine dioxide, I see that this is the best of chemical water treatment.

Using Aquamira

Aquamira is a two part chlorine dioxide system.  Part A is a stabilized chlorine dioxide solution, and part B is the activator.  The standard $12 kit includes 1 fl.oz. (30cc) of each.  The kit says to use 7 drops of each and can treat up to 120 liters.  

Mike Clelland recommends using a mix bottle.  Normally you need to mix the 7 drops of part A and B and wait 5 minutes.  This is very inconvenient.  Instead, I put 35 drops of each in a "mix" 3cc dropper bottle.  When the solution is activated, it turns yellow.  The mixture will stay activated for over 24 hours (as long as its kept away from heat and light).  If its no longer yellow, it's expired. 

Mike Clelland also recommends using only 7 drops of mix for typical "good" water sources.  More up to 14 drops can be used for questionable sources.  Assuming 10 drops per liter which includes discarding bad mix, a kit should treat up to 180 liters, which is about 30 days of water treatment.  I typically hike for a maximum of two weeks, I only need to carry 1/2 oz of part A and B.  I got 15cc dropper bottles so I carry the proper amount of chemicals.  


2 (Two) 3cc black PET dropper bottles (1 spare)
2 (Two) 15cc white PET dropper bottles
      Labelled Part A and Part B


1. Repackage Part A and Part B into the labelled 15cc dropper bottles
2. Add 35 drops each of Part A and B into the 3cc mix bottle in the morning. 
(I keep the mix bottle in my pant pocket.  Wait 5 minutes for the mix to activate.)
3. Add 7 drops to each liter of water.  10 if water is questionable.

Note: I use the "Smart Scoop" to filter out sediment and floaties when filling my water bottles before treatment.  See post on my Smart Scoop.

Source of bottles

I get my bottles from US plastics.
15cc White Boston Round Bottle with Dropper Cap 
3cc Black Cylinder Bottle with Dropper Cap 

While ordering, I would get some 30 and 60cc natural dropper bottles for repackaging other liquids, and some fliptop bottles for alcohol, olive oil, etc.
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Oct 27, 2013

Using Bleach for Water Disinfection

10-28-13 Update: I've read more about the efficacy of bleach to sanitize water.  While powerful against bacteria and viruses, it is less effective against Giardia cysts.  In addition, Cryptosporidium cysts are highly resistant to bleach.  For this reason I have switched to Aquamira chlorine dioxide treatment.  Chlorine dioxide is much more aggressive to cysts and leaves less byproducts compared to bleach or iodine.

(From Greg Gressel @ BackpackingLight)
Here is some helpful information on using bleach as a water disinfectant against giardia. It comes from an leading expert in the field. Keep in mind that this applies to Regular bleach that has 5.25% sodium hypo.

1) Is bleach effective against giardia? Yes, but it takes a long time. (See below)
2) Effect of water temperature. Colder water will take longer than warmer water. He recommends 1.5x the time for very cold water to be on the safe side.
3) Water hardness and organic material will negatively impact effectiveness.
4) Bleach will destablize over time. Don't expect three year old bleach to be as effective as fresh. Light and heat will also negatively effect the bleach.
5) Organic or muddy water should be filtered as much as possible. They recommend in emergency situations to filter using a sock or other material before using bleach.
6) Recommended Usage.
    a) Filter water with a cloth to remove organics.
    b) Apply bleach 2-4 drops per qt.
    c) Let stand for 20 minutes (30 if cold)

Two drops of bleach in a clothes washing ziploc will kill odor causing bacteria as well.

A 0.25 oz eye dropper is more than enough bleach for most hiking.
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Oct 26, 2013

"Smart Scoop" Water Scooper

Though my hiking partner, Don, calls it the "Pooper Scooper", I prefer Smart Scoop.  I designed it after a backpacking trip during a dry spell. I use Aquamira and don't use a filter, so scooping water is a necessity.  Many water sources were nothing but a shallow pool of water.  After a few scoops with a coffee cup, it became muddy quickly.  Cleaning the water involves pouring bottle to bottle through a handkerchief, letting sediment settle, etc. There had to be a better way


I needed a scoop with good capacity that can easily fill a Platypus water bladder.  Being able to filter sediment was another requirement.  My designed takes a Smartwater bottle which I cut it in half.  I ripped off the drink top cover.  And the cut a piece of reusable coffee filter (mesh, not the paper type) to fit inside the cap.  That's it, but it works like a champ.  The drink top allows filling Platypus bladders.  Coffee filter removes sediment and floaties.  Perfect.


1. 700 ml Smartwater Bottle with flip cap lid
2. Permanent Coffee Filter - Can get one from Walmart for $5


1. I cut my Smartwater bottle in half, but may want it a little bigger for less scooping.
2. Crack off the plastic drink top cover.
3. Cut a circle of mesh coffee filter so it JUST fits inside the cap.
4. Screw on cap which will pinch in the filter.
5. Done
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Catwick Stove

10-25-13 Update:  I broke my GSI collapsible spoon.  Didn't hold up to scraping the bottom of the pot when cooking in the pot.  Also, got food in the "track" that was hard to clean.  Purchased an MSR folding spoon to replace.  It is much stronger.  Also, I have the thought of adding a second Little Friskies can to the setup.  By dropping the second can over the pot stand, I may be about to put the stove out.  Not simmering, but lets you put your dinner in the pot koozie and then reheat it half way through hydration.  Will test soon.

After using Super Cat and Yaas stoves, I wanted to find an alcohol stove design that heated my 700ml Backcountry Ti pot efficiently, without the need of a pot stand.  Efficiency is key.  After reading discussions on the backingpackinglight forums, I read about using a Texport stainless steel lantern globe for a integral pot stand.  After testing I found this just didn't work by itself.  The forum discussion said that you needed a wick to make this work.  I tried a few different wicks, and found a folded fiberglass cloth wick worked perfectly.  I tested the stove for 12 days on the trail, and I am confident that this is a superior stove design.

So here's the design:

Need the following materials:
1. Little Friskies cat food can - free
2. Texport stainless steel lantern globe or similar  $6
3. Fiberglass bodywork cloth  $6


Based on the Yaas stove design, I cut the stainless globe 1" taller than the cat food can, and long enough to create a cylinder inside the can without overlap or a gap.  Afterword, I think I would cut the mesh in half so I could make a second stove with the screen since the screen left wasn't tall enough for a second stove.  Not sure how much flame gap this would leave, but I'm sure it would work fine.
1.  Create a template with paper to create a cylinder inside the can and 1" about the rim.  See discussion above.
2. Cut the stainless globe mesh to the template with sheetmetal shears
3. Cut the fiberglass cloth the the length of the template but twice the height so that when folded in half, it's the height of the cat food can.
4. Fold the fiberglass and wrap around the inside of the can, fold up.
5. Insert the mesh, trapping the fiberglass wick between it and the inside of the can.
6. Make sure the fiberglass cloth fold is exposed all the way around the cat food can rim and the wick touches the bottom of the can to wick up the alcohol.
7. Done.

I put the folded edge of the stainless globe up to strengthen the part that the pot sets on.

I put in 3/4 oz of alcohol for 2 cups of water.  I use a flint and steel to light, lighting the alcohol in the center.  When the flame jumps to the wick on the rim, I drop the pot onto the stove.
If you use a lighter, you can wet the wick by rolling the stove then light the wick.

I use 1 oz of alcohol to cook a Knorr dinner.  I pick up the pot after it boils a put it 3/4 off the windscreen to simmer.  This stove does not simmer.  Only negative.

Windscreen Design

A critical part of the design is the windscreen.  The windscreen should leave a 1/2 gap all the way around your pot.  The taller the windscreen the better, but it is important (for me) that it can be stored inside the pot.

My pot has attached handles, so I like my screen to be just below the handles, but you can notch out a taller screen.  Also, I make sure my handles are fully outside the windscreen so they don't get hot.


I use aluminum roof flashing.  Left over from a replacement roof project.


1. Score the flashing with a razor knife and bend to cut.  The cylinder should be 1" wider diameter than pot.  Remember it's 3.14 x diameter for circumference.
Add 1/2 inch to the circumference to leave material for a fold to create a "hook" to form the cylinder.

2. Fold the last 1/4" up on one side and down on the other to create a hook to lock the screen into a cylinder.  I used a vice to get a sharp fold.

3. Punch holes around the bottom about 1/2" apart, about 3/4" above the bottom.  (Depth of hole punch)

4. Cut 4 or 5 slots, 1/2" deep, equally around the top of the screen.  Bend one side down to the inside to create a triangular tab that makes sure the windscreen leaves a gap between it and the pot.  See photo.  This is optional, but helps efficient heating.

Here's my complete cook kit:

I use a folding spoon, and put toothbrush, toothpaste, ibuprofen, aspirin, and vitamins in my cooking pot to keep them available at dinner and breakfast.  Current spoons is a GSI, but will replace with a stronger MSR folding spoon.

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Oct 15, 2013

Gear Review Summary

I've backpacked another 200 miles this year, and have new observations on my gear and the pros and cons.  Here goes:
1. I still love my Osprey Exos 58 backpack.  I worried about the hip belt, but its fine.
Pros:  mesh pouches on sides allows access to water bottles while moving! Big enough to carry 10 days gear and food AND a bear canister.  Love having a lid pocket.  Cons:  Wish the hip belt pockets were solid and not mesh.
2. I bought a used REI Halo 25 down sleeping bag.  I'm still very happy with this bag.  I covet a Montbell UL Super Spiral, but this one works well and is roomy enough for a good night's sleep. Light, compact, and fairly warm.   No longer sold.  If I could find a used Montbell, I'd jump on it.
3.  Still using my Tyvek traptent.  It would be nice if it was a little smaller, and NOT bright white.  Makes for hard stealth camping.  I purposely made it a little larger to sit up and have room for my backpack.  That means you need a larger flat spot.  After my last campout with no decent campsites, I've ordered a Warbonnet Outdoors Blackbird hammock.  Still can't beat the weight of my tarp.
4. As mentioned in another post, I wore out my hiking poles in New Hampshire.  The Mountainsmith Carbonlite just didn't hold up. I wore the tips totally out ant they can't be replaced.  First I lost the carbide, then wore the metal tips to the plastic.  One of the wrist straps also broke.   I can't recommend them for long hikes.  I've replaced them with Black Diamond Distance FL trekking poles.  Seems like great light poles at a moderate price.
5. Still like my Therm a Rest Ridgerest pad.  Warm and unbreakable.  Will work great in my hammock.  I cut the leg a feet area into a "coffin" shape to save weight.

I'll add more in a later post

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Sep 8, 2013

BodyGlide Liquefied Powder

Update 9/9/13: I used Bonnie's Balm Climbers Salve instead (recommended by Andrew Skurka) on my two week backpacking trip.  No blisters, and my feet felt great. This is more than lubrication.  It heals your feet.  Put it on at night and in the morning.  Highly recommended.

Update 9/10/12: I used BodyGlide every night on my week long backpacking trip.  No blisters, and my feet felt great. Highly recommended. 

To prevent blisters, many use a product called BodyGlide or the more expensive product Hydropel.  After researching the products, I discovered a little known BodyGlide product called BodyGlide Liquefied Powder, and its availability as pouches.  This appears to be as good as Hydropel for a fraction of the price.  BodyGlide Liquefied Powder comes in .135 fl.oz. packets that make carrying on hikes much simpler.  Will try them on my next trip and report back.

See Brian Green's excellent discussion:

Revel Sports has 9 pouch pack available for $3.95 with free shipping.

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Sep 7, 2013

Mountainsmith Carbonite Pro Hiking Poles

Update 9-7-13:  Did the New Hampshire section of the Appalachian Trail over 12 days, and I absolutely wore out my Carbonite pole tips and wrist straps.  The tips were worn to the plastic.  The tips are not field replaceable, so I will be contacting Mountainsmith on repair.  My partner's Lekis held up just fine.  I don't know that I can recommend for long distance use.

Update 9-10-12:  Just finished a week backpacking trip in the Wyoming mountains. Poles worked great.  One modification I did make before the trip was to trim down the mud baskets.   I trimmed them from about 3" in diameter to about 2".  The basket had a ridge, so I trimmed at this ridge.  Love the new size.  

The wrist straps worked great and were comfortable.  The shafts held firm and never had a collapse.  Held up just fine.  Very happy with them.

I love hiking poles, but hate spending serious bucks on things the are so easy to break.  I thought I found the best compromise in the Mountainsmith Pyrite 7075.  Stronger aluminum than the Walmart poles, yet still real cheap.  I've hike with them a lot, but had several gripes with them:
1. They are heavy!  Strong but heavy.
2. The mud baskets screw on, and I've now lost two of them on hikes.
3. The wrist straps are the nylon buckle types used on Walmart poles.

Getting ready for a week long trip, I've decided to upgrade my poles.  I just got a pair of Mountainsmith Carbonlite Pro sticks.  These are 9 oz lighter, and have a neoprene-lined wrist strap that adjusts at the grip instead of with a buckle.  The baskets have an updated two-pin twist-lock design to stop them from falling off.  The grips themselves are cork.  Best of all they cost about half of Lekis... About $50.
Can't wait to give them a try!  1.2lb
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Nov 17, 2012

Stoic Wraith Shell - Wind and Light Rain Shirt

 9-7-13 Update:  Backcountry no longer sells their Stoic brand.  This product is discontinued.  I think I would replace it with a Montbell Tachyon.

11-17-12 Update: After several trips with my Wraith windshirt, I love it.  I bring it as my rain jacket when the forcast doesn't call for much rain.  Others have said it will keep you dry for an hour in rain.  I believe it.  I bring an umbrella that would help out in a driving rain.  My only complaint is the narrow sleeves that would make it hard to fit over my Nano Puff.  I still bring my Frogg Togg jacket if I need protection over my Nano Puff or expect an all day rain. 

Just got in my new Stoic Wraith Windshirt from  Looks great.  They are eliminating a 2011 color for $27  at about 2.5 oz.  Actual weight is 73g or 2.55oz for the XL

3-19 Update:  After a week on the AT with the Stoic windshirt, I have to say I love it.  Light, packs into the zipper pocket.  Only improvement is to waterproof the seams to use as a rain jacket as well. (I added a post on seam sealing sil-nylon.)  The sleeves are a little long, but no big deal

The weather-shunning Stoic Wraith Jacket is so small, lightweight, and easy to smuggle, your trail-running partners will think you conjured it out of thin air. Weighing in at a mere 2.5-ounces and small enough to fit in a pocket, the Wraith Jacket puts an end to soggy days on the trail.
  • DWR finish repels light moisture
  • 3-D Ergonomic fit moves with you, not against you
  • Small and light enough to fit in a pocket

Fabric Waterproof Rating:
yes, full-time 
1 front zip 
2.5 oz 
Recommended Use:
trail running, hiking, going ultralight 
Manufacturer Warranty:
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Using GaiaGPS While Backpacking

I used GaiaGPS again on another backpacking trip.  On this test I turned on tracking, and tried to save waypoints at trail junctions and campsites.  I tried to record a voice memo to describe the point.  While reviewing these points at home, I discovered that you can save a picture as a waypoint.  This would be a better way to remind you of the point after the hike.  Cool feature.  I did post a feature request to add voice memo functionality to both waypoints and photos to help further document the point quickly while hiking.

GaiaGPS is a keeper!

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