Saturday, April 23, 2011

37 Miles With Just Me & Molly (my Black Sheep)

Nothing special here - it was just a good day and I thought I'd share. The weather jammed up my plans to take a 2 night hike with dad in the Foothills earlier in the week so I've been a little bummed. Saturday made up for it, though. I was able to pop off 37 miles of asphalt, single track & jeep trail and I had lunch on the trail while I was at it. Good stuff.

 Grind grind grind... it never takes long to remember why I hate road riding.

Happy Meal (ramen noodles made with my Caldera Cone)

Miles and miles of gravel jeep trail... alone as it should be

Take time to smell the flowers dandelions

 Lazy bike... wanted to lay around and frolic in the flowers all day

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Boilerwerks Backcountry Boiler

I recently had the chance to test Devin Montgomery's Backcountry Boiler. His new system is the first truly backpacking worthy boiler on the market. Boilers like this are an interesting alternative to traditional backpacking stoves because you don't carry fuel with you. Boilers burn small twigs so in most circumstances the next campsite will have the all the fuel you need.

The Boilerwerk's Backcountry Boiler

The boiler comes with the fire bowl, the boiler, a neoprene insulation sleeve, a silicone stopper and a stuff sack. The entire system weighs 9.7oz (277g) on my scales and is only roughly twice the size of a SnowPeak 600 mug.

Fire bowl, boiler & stopper

 Size compared to a SnowPeak 600 mug

So how does it work? Water in the boiler is heated by a small fire in the base of the unit. The heat is transferred to the water via the conical chimney (see illustration below). After getting a fire started, you place the boiler on top and feed the fire through the chimney as needed until you reach a boil. I was able to bring 2 cups of 50F (ish) water to a rolling boil in about 6.5 minutes. The Boilerwerks website states that a skilled operator can get a boil in under 5 minutes. 

Anatomy of a Boiler. Courtesy of Devin Montgomery 2010.

The design and construction quality of the Backcountry Boiler are very good and far better than you'd expect on a first production run. It includes thoughtful features like hard coat anodization for increased durability. Devin even chose to laser mark his logo and a safety warning on top of the boiler. Nice touch.

 A view of the inner surface of the boiler
Laser marking on top of the boiler

Naturally, burning wood creates a coating of creosote on the surfaces exposed to fire. With the boiler's design none of this is on exposed surfaces meaning its unlikely that you'll get the mess on your hands and other gear. It does carry a heavy woodsmoke smell after use so I'd want to carry the boiler on the outside of my pack to prevent soaking my gear (bag, quilt, tent, spare clothes) with that campfire smell.

Fire bowl after a good scouring

The neoprene sleeve does a good job of insulating your hands from the heat of the boiling water. I expected it to offer very limited hold time based on the thin neoprene that Devin used (approximately 2mm). This turned out not to be an issue at all, fortunately. Pouring the boiling water into a typical boil in a bag meal pouch was a learning process for me. If you commit to the pour you won't have problems. Pouring slowly was a little problematic as the water tended to run down the side of the boiler making the process a bit messy.

As mentioned earlier, this is well thought out gear. It works as advertised and will last a lifetime. Getting water to a boil is dead simple and it uses fuel that is typically very easy to find. Devin should have a second round of boilers available soon. You can keep track of his progress on Facebook or Twitter. will let you know when stock is available to ship if you sign up for the notice.

Remember, support cottage gear manufacturers!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Caldera Cone Packing

I stumbled onto a nice gear revelation while packing for a recent trip. You can fit a LOT of cooking kit into the Caldera Caddy if you're using a small mug. Photo evidence:

Everything packed together

Cone in with Evernew EA355 mug on top

Mug & lid, stove, fuel, cone, measuring cup

Stove & cone - very efficient cook system

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Adventures to come...

I'm already looking forward to taking Friday off to take a two night walk in the woods with dad this weekend. I'll apologize in advance to everyone at work for being distracted.

More kayak fun planned this year...

Whitewater Falls

Thompson River
SC Foothills Vista
SC Foothills Vista

Friday, April 1, 2011

Revelate Designs Frame Bag!

The best part of this post first - Support cottage gear companies whenever you can. If you work with people that are active in the market they're serving, you'll get infinitely better product & support compared to people that don't.

This week has been a tough one for me. Over the weekend I managed to separate one of my ribs in a silly accident playing with Kate. I picked up a nasty stomach virus that wiped me out Monday & Tuesday. Apparently I didn't pay my dues with the stomach virus so I followed that up with strep throat. That put me at 102F fever and general man flu conditions for the remainder of the week. I'm sitting upright now but still feel bad. With all of that said, I'm upbeat because my new frame bag showed up in the mail today!

After breaking my Lynskey frame, I had to sell my last frame bag. They're custom to the frame itself so when the frame is gone the bag is useless unless you get a very similarly designed bike. As soon as I had the Black Sheep in hand, I contacted Eric at Revelate Designs (formerly Epic Designs - thanks for being evil, Specialized) to get one made for this frame. The workmanship and design of my first pack was great and this one is even better. Eric has added a few new features that are worth mentioning - but first the pack on the bike!

The pack fits the frame perfectly. The main storage compartment on my new bag is divided into two sections by a velcro wall. Each compartment has a separate waterproof zipper that is protected by a zipper flap on Revelate's new bags (great addition for gritty & rainy rides). The separate compartments allow me to keep fuel and other gear separate or open the storage up into one large compartment for more flexibility. The double top tube design of the Black Sheep significantly reduces my storage volume so this bag tapers larger as you move down and forward. 

There is a full length map pocket on the left side of the bag. My last bag's pocket only went down half way or so. That keeps the maps from going square to the bottom but it limits what you can store in there (particularly gears). I don't mind digging a little so I asked for a full length pocket. The velcro pull tabs were left a little long for me to tailor them to suit my needs. I may lop them off completely and add grosgrain pull tabs. I'll ponder that for awhile before doing anything drastic. (clever ideas are welcome)

The velcro tabs have a new tapered gusset to take up the stress from the tension in the bag. This bag also has ultra-rugged material on the sides of the pack where it meets the frame. This is where the worst abrasion is because of dirt accumulation and the constant rattling associated with me picking horrible lines on the trail. I'm not sure that this is a new feature for Eric's bags but its an upgrade over my last frame bag and I'm a big fan.
Eric has added bright yellow liner to the inside of the pack for visibility when digging around for your whatzit. Admittedly, its minor but it shows that the guy that's making the gear really uses the gear and is very close to the community that uses his gear. If you take anything at all from this post make it this - Support cottage gear companies whenever you can. If you work with people that are active in the market they're serving you'll get infinitely better product & support compared to people that don't.