Sunday, November 22, 2009

Backcountry Coffee

As a self-diagnosed coffee addict I've tried a lot of different methods to get my fix in the backcountry. Hopefully summarizing my experiences will help you avoid a few mornings of bad brew and speed your path to coffee nirvana.

Instant coffees:

I've tried a few different instant coffees. They're lightweight, easy to adjust strength, simple to use and usually inexpensive. Sounds wonderful and perfectly suited for backpacking, right? Wait until you taste it. Its hot and easy... but its not coffee.


Coffee bags (commercial):

Until recently Folgers singles coffee bags were my go to solution for hiking. Similar to instant coffee, this is a lightweight option that can be scaled up or down for strength and the bags are relatively inexpensive. I typically use two bags for a 12oz cup of coffee. The quality is so-so but its far superior to standard instant coffee products.


Home made coffee bags:

At home I only drink coffee from a local roastery - Cashua Coffee. I've tried a few different methods of making the equivalent of the Folgers bags except with GOOD coffee inside. Theoretically this is the perfect solution, right? Great coffee, inexpensive and MYOG to boot? Perfection. Unfortunately, I never made good cup using this method. I'm sure there's a perfect combination of grind, fabric or paper and amount of coffee in the pouch but I couldn't find it. I was successful in making OK coffee using this method but not the great coffee I'm in search of.


Pressed coffee:

This is my method of choice at home. I have a press at work, a few presses at home, a cup with a press built into it for road trips... you get the idea. I'm addicted to pressed coffee. My sweet wife gave me the Snowpeak coffee press a few years ago and I love it. The only weakness of this system is that it only serves one function and its lighter than most presses but its still not UL. Still, I take it on some trips where I can afford the volume and know I'll have time to enjoy my coffee in the morning. Its hard to beat this.


Starbucks VIA

On my last trip I took a few pouches of Starbuck's new VIA instant coffee. I have to admit that I was pretty skeptical prior to trying this one even after reading a few positive reviews on the internet. I've had more than one horrible cup of coffee due to experiments with instant coffee gone wrong. Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised by the VIA Colombian blend. It even creates a crema that you would expect from freshly brewed. The only drawback to this the price at about $1 per 8oz cup.


Next experiment?

I've read that the Jetboil Coffee Press will work with the Snowpeak 700 mug . This could be the coffee holy grail - light at 0.8oz, low pack volume AND fantastic coffee.

Rating: TBD...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Table Rock to Eastatoe Gorge

I just got back from a two night hike from Table Rock State Park to Eastatoe Gorge via the Foothills Trail. This was a group hike coordinated by the SC State Parks program. We were blessed with great views and fantastic weather the entire weekend. The temperature never dipped below 45 F and the skies were clear all three days.

We started out at Table Rock State Park around 9AM Friday morning. We only planned to hike 9 miles each day so I was looking forward to taking time to enjoy the views and relaxing in camp both evenings.

Most of the leaves were gone but several of the large white oaks still were showing a lot of color.

Great vistas from just below Pinnacle mountain.

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The first night we camped at the Cantrell Homestead. There are still remnants of the old dry stack chimney at this site and there's plenty of room to spread out. Water is only a few hundred feet down the trail making this a great way-point on the FHT. Here's a photo of my MLD Grace Duo Tarp and Serenity bug tent.

One of the unique things at the Cantrell site are the stone recliners around the fire ring. They're a great way to cook dinner, enjoy good company and warm up by the fire.

We camped the second night at the Eastatoe Creek Gorge which is about a 9 mile hike from the Cantrell site. The Eastatoe Creek runs right by the camping area.

Just down from the main camping area is an impressive narrows. You lose the sense of scale in this video unfortunately. The narrows drop around 40ft in a 20 yard run that is never more than a few feet wide. Powerful!

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More great fall color along the FHT.