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Preview: Gear Talk with Jason Klass

Gear Talk with Jason Klass

Backpacking blog about gear and DIY gear projects

Updated: 2017-12-11T08:52:19.031-08:00


Win a Free Copy of "The Ultimate Hiker's Gear Guide"


I know, I know. It's been a while since I've posted. As a mea culpa, I've giving away 3 copies of The Ultimate Hiker's Gear Guide by Andrew Skurka.  This is a great read for any gear junkie and is full of tips from one of the world's greatest long distance hikers.

To enter to win, all you have to do is leave a comment on this blog and post your #1 gear tip.  Only one entry per person.  3 winners will be chosen at random on Wednesday, March 28th 2012 at 6:00 PM MST and will be announced on this blog.

Good luck everyone!  I can't wait to see your favorite gear tips.

Katadyn Hiker Pro Water Filter Review


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And I'm off...


All packed up and ready for my trip to Mt. Whitney tomorrow! Will have lots of new content for you when I get back: gear reviews, videos, and some surprises. See you when I get back...

Gear Gathering Rituals


So, I'm heading off to Mt. Whitney next week with Brian Green and Ben2World and have been procrastinating/flip-flopping about which gear to bring.

There's a scale at the trailhead where everyone takes pictures of their pack weight so I could shoot for the lightest pack.

On the other hand, I've been to Whitney before and have a pretty good lay of the land.  It's not that difficult of a summit so I could bring some luxury items like a video camera, small tripod, etc. and bring back some good content.

Or, on the third hand (need to see a doctor about that), I also have some cool gear to field test that would add to my pack weight but would be fun to try out.

Hmm...questions, questions.

In the course of assembling some of the gear I think I want to take, I realized something:  I don't have a gear gathering ritual.  Some people make detailed gear lists, some people always start with the same basic stuff and go from there.  I have nothing.  I feel like I start from scratch every time and carry a completely different set of gear based on memory and whim.
So, I ask, do you have a gear gathering ritual before a trip?  What is it?

The Flat Cat Alcohol Stove


The Flat Cat Alcohol Stove is a very unique and efficient system with a really clever windscreen design.  Here's a quick review and test burn.

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Elevation:  5,700 ft.
Ambient temp:  78 degrees F
Water volume:  16 oz.
Water Temp:  60 degrees

Gear Grams Gear List Calculator


I've never been that into using software to create gear lists (mostly because I fear the daunting task of entering all the data on all of my gear).

Many people use Excel spreadsheets and it works but it's not as convenient to slap together a gear list for a specific trip.  You have to do a lot of cutting and pasting.

I recent came across a really cool gear calculator called Gear Grams and have been playing around with it this morning.

It's a free, very user friendly program that allows you to quickly build specific gear lists with a simple drag & drop interface.  You simply enter all of your gear into your "gear library", then drag individual pieces of gear into a list.  I like this a lot because you can easily build lists for summer, winter, ultralight, or even specific locations or conditions.  And, of course, every list automatically calculates your total weight.

One feature I really like is the ability to quickly shift between grams, pounds, ounces, or kilograms.  That makes conversion simple for the mathematically challenged (like me).

Once you make your gear lists, you can easily share them by generating links and sending them to friends or posting them in a forum.

Overall, this is a very intuitive program and if I can get over my data entry phobia, I might just use it and become a gear list person.

Here is a video showing how easy Gear grams is to use.

Do you make gear lists?  What program do you use?

Golite Tumalo Rain Jacket Review


I suppose it's fitting that it's raining while I write this.  I'll be climbing Mt. Whitney for the second time at the end of August and am slowly putting my gear together.I recently upgraded my rain jacket to a Golite Tumalo and have been testing it over the last week to see if it's the one I want to bring.  Verdict?  It's definitely the one I'm bringing.The Tumalo is extremely compact and lightweight yet still offers full protection.  The Pertex Shield DS fabric really is waterproof, breathable, and stretchy making for a comfortable ride even in a downpour.Last weekend, I wore mine on the Maid of the Mist beneath Niagara Falls.  While everyone else who wore the disposable plastic raincoats they hand out was soaked with sweat, I was bone dry wearing my Tumalo:Golite Tumalo vs. Niagara Falls.  The Tumalo won.Here's a quick video I shot just a few minutes ago in my backyard showing how well the jacket sheds water without wetting: allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="286" src="" width="450">Waterproofing and breathability aside, I also like the cut of the jacket.  It's very comfortable and not confining like many other rain jackets I've had for backpacking.  The sleeves, hood, and torso all have ample room to give you freedom of movement without feeling like you're wearing an oversized garbage bag.  BTW, I'm 5' 10" and a size medium fits me perfectly.For a 10 oz. jacket, they sure did pack a lot of nice features in (some that are missing from many much heavier jackets).The hood is just the right size and has a nice cinching system that isn't too complicated or that adds a lot of weight.  It has a visor though it's fairly small and isn't reinforced.  They probably did that to save weight and it's fine with me since I usually wear a baseball cap anyway to keep the rain off my glasses:Pit zips with a minimalistic zipper are a nice touch and are rare in a jacket of this weight:Hand pockets are water resistant with ergonomic, yet light zipper pulls:Two huge interior mesh pockets are large enough to hold a Nalgene bottle.  This gives me lots of internal storage for glasses, a camera, or anything else that I want to keep dry, yet close at hand:Overall, I'm very happy with this jacket.  I think Golite did a great job keeping the hardware minimalistic to reduce weight but still be functional and comfortable.My only nitpick is the elastic cuffs.  They aren't tight enough to seal around my wrists so if I have to raise my arms to adjust my hood, water can trickle in:It's not a deal breaker by any means but it would be nice to have adjustable cuffs to prevent this.  I'm sure they could do it for another ounce or so.If you're looking for a lightweight rain jacket for backpacking, the Golite Tumalo is definitely worth checking out.  For the $150 price tag, I haven't found an ultralight rain jacket I've been this impressed by.  So when I post my pictures on Mt' Whitney, you'll see me sporting my ocean blue Tumalo--that is, if it rains.What are you currently using for your UL rain jacket?[...]

North Face Recon Backpack Review


Last Sunday, I bought my 3rd North Face Recon Backpack.  The Recon has always been my favorite multi-sport pack and every year, they seem to dial it in a little more to make it even better.  Here's a quick video review of some of the latest features I like.

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What is your most versatile pack?

The Patron Pole: A Combination Hiking Staff and Fly Rod Case


How to pack your 2-piece fly rod while backpackingI'm always on the lookout for interesting multi-purpose designs in backpacking gear and when I came across the Patron Pole, I had one of those "why didn't think of that" moments.The Patron pole offers a simple solution for those who want to bring their 2-piece fly rods with them on a backpacking trip.  If you've ever tried to carry a 2-piece fly rod in your backpack, you know it doesn't really work.  It sticks out so far above the pack that it easily gets snagged in tree limbs, running the risk of losing--or worse--breaking your rod.The Patron Pole is hiking staff that solves this problem.  It's a hollow, powder coated aluminum tube that doubles as a fly rod "case".  Simply unscrew the cap, slide in your 2-piece rod, close it, and your fly rod is completely protected while giving you a nice hiking/wading staff at the same time.The tip of the Parton Pole can be easily switched out with different tips (they even offer a snow basket option).  What's good Solid, near indestructible construction to give your rod maximum protection and on-trail/in-stream stabilityIt floats so you won't lose your rod and hiking staff if you drop it in the river!It's multi-use:  hiking staff, wading staff, rod case (maybe bear defense too?)What I'd changeThe cap is plastic and is a little bulky.  I'd like to see a smaller aluminum one and maybe add a multi-use function to it like a built in compass or camera mount to turn it into a mono-pod.The powder coated finish looks great and is durable but it can get slippery when wet.  I'd add either some kind of knurling or wrap to improve the grip in wet conditions. Overall, this is a very clever design and I have to give kudos to the inventor, Tim McCabe.  The Patron pole isn't for everyone.  Some people prefer trekking poles to hiking staffs, already have pack rods, etc.  But if you've already got a lot of money in a bunch of 2-piece rods that you might want to take on a backpacking trip, then it will save you a lot of money by not having to replace them all with pack rods.The Patron Pole comes in different sizes to accommodate different length fly rods and weighs in at less than a pound. To learn more and see a video, visit the Patron Pole website.[...]

What Gear Heads Sound Like to Normal People


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Materials for Alcohol Stove Windscreens


A question I often get asked is which material is best for making a DIY windscreen for alcohol stoves.  This is a big question as there are many types of materials that could be used (including natural windscreens made of rocks or found objects); however, there are some that are better than others depending on conditions, packing style, and budget.  Here are 3 of the most common types of windscreen materials and their advantages and disadvantages.1.  Aluminum FlashingThis is probably one of the most widely used windscreen materials.  Flashing is used in building construction as a weatherproofing material but can be used to make a great looking windscreen.AdvantagesProduces a nice, perfectly round screenDurableLightweightEasy to findDisadvantagesYou usually have to buy it in large rolls that can be expensiveAlcohol stove flames turn it brown (see picture above).  To remedy this, you can either bake your completed windscreen in the oven at 350 for about 30 minutes to burn off the coating or simply sand off the coating of the raw material with extra-fine sandpaper.Somewhat difficult to work with.  You will need tin snips to cut it (or patiently score it with a sharp knife against a metal yard stick).  And, it's very "springy" making it somewhat of a pain to deal with.Produces very sharp edges when cut.  All cut edges should be sanded down and you should work with gloves to prevent injury.Must be rolled for storage which can limit packing optionsWhere to get itAluminum flashing can be found at any hardware store such as Home Depot or Lowe's.  2.  Aluminum Tooling FoilThis is my favorite material hands down because it's so easy to work with. Since it's so malleable, it doesn't product a perfect shape like flashing, but you can always smooth out the kinks with your hand.AdvantagesExtremely easy to work with (you can cut it with scissors and easily bend it by hand)Doesn't brown like flashingCan be bought in small quantitiesCan be rolled or folded for storage to give you more packing optionsComes in different colors if you want to get fancy and pimp out your windscreen!DisadvantagesMore expensive than flashing (per quantity)Crinkly looking after use (not a problem if you don't care about that sort of thing)Less durable than flashing though still more than durable enough in my opinionSlightly more difficult to find.  Depending on your area, you might have to order it online.Where to get itIv'e had my best luck at finding tooling foil locally at craft stores like Michael's or Hobby Lobby (where it is sometimes called "embossing foil").  You can also usually find it on Amazon or eBay.  Just make sure you get aluminum tooling foil and not copper or some other metal.3.  Aluminum Foil (Tin Foil)Some people make windscreens out of the everyday aluminum foil they have in their kitchen.  Basically, all you have to do is roll out the length you need, fold it over itself, and make a fold over each end to take care of the sharp edges and you're done!AdvantagesCheapest optionExtremely easy to findInsanely lightCan be either folded or rolled for storageYou probably already have someCan build a functional windscreen in about one minuteDisadvantagesLeast durable optionCan melt with exposure to alcohol stove flamesSo light that it can easily blow away in the windVery crinkly look after use (much more so than tooling foil)Where to get itYou probably have some in your kitchen drawer right now.  Go look!For the ease of construction and flexibility, I really think aluminum tooling foil the best.  To me, it's the ideal compromise between cost, durability, and packability.  What is your favorite material for alcohol stove windscreens?  Any tips or tricks for using it?[...]

Coast LED Pro Pocket Pliers Contest Winner Announced!


Thanks to everyone who participated in the contest.  The winner is Jeff East.  Congratulations Jeff!  You've been notified by email.  More gear contests are on the way so stay tuned!

High Desert Survival School Knife


Just got my High Desert Survival school knife and WOW, this is a serious knife!  Warning to ultralighters:  this is not a UL blade.  It's a hardcore survival knife for hardcore bushcrafters.  Those of you that think you only need to carry a razor blade as your main cutting tool...move along.  There's nothing to see here.  But for you Crocodile Dundee types... Let's get some specs out of the way, shall we?Blade Length: 6 1/4″O/A Length: 11 3/8″Cutting Edge: 5 1/4″Thickness: 1/4″Blade Color: Black Traction CoatingSteel: 1095 High Carbon Alloy RC-58Handle Material: Black G-10 with New Tuff Grip DesignSheath: Combat Ballistic NylonMfg. Handcrafted in the USA The knife is heavy (13.6 oz. on my scale) but balances extremely well in the hand.  The contours and jimping in all the right places of the handle give you excellent purchase and control with the comfort for sustained work.  Your hand won't slip even when the handle is wet:  The spine of the blade is an astounding 1/4" thick and is coated with traction coating making it ideal for batoning and other bushcrafting chores.  Compare the spine thickness of the High Desert Survival knife (left) with my SOG Seal Pup Elite (right): Above the handle, there is a choil (an indent for your index finger) and jimping (ridges that improve grip) to choke up on the blade for more delicate work: Choking up on the blade is still comfortable (and safe thanks to the finger guard):  The drop point tip is strong, yet sharp thanks to a tri-grind design: The knife comes with a very nice ballistic nylon sheath that has a lot of features including a leg strap and sharpening stone pocket (sharpening stone is not included):  All in all, this is one of the best designed-knives I've ever used.  It's razor sharp, ergonomic, and solid.  I would trust my life to this knife.  I wouldn't carry it on easy hikes and overnighters where a smaller, lighter folder would be more than adequate and this would be overkill.  But if I were on a hard core trip in Alaska or doing some serious bushwhacking where my life depended on my knife, this would be the one I would choose.  I'm happy to now have one in my aresenal.Do you have a "beast" knife?  What is it? [...]

Gear Giveaway: Coast LED Pro Pocket Pliers


I'm giving away a free Coast LED Pro Pocket Pliers Multi-tool.   At first glance, this might look like a lot of other multi-tools, but check this out:  It has TWO built in LED lights!  One illuminates the area in front of the pliers, and the other illuminates the area in front of the knife (probably the two most used tools in a multi-tool).  This feature makes it great for nighttime camp chores or repairs.  

Definitely a unique feature and it even comes with a sheath!  Read more specs here

How to enter:  Simply leave a comment on this Gear Talk blog post (posts on Facebook, Twitter, emails, etc. will not be eligible) stating how you would use this multi-tool and why the dual LED lights might be particularly useful for you.  Winner will be chosen at random and notified by email.  If you post anonymously or without your email, I can't contact you if you win and I will choose another winner.

Deadline:  Thursday, June 2nd, 2011 at midnight MST. 

Win a Free Hi-Tec Hiking Shirt!


Speaking of clothing...The Hiking boots blog is giving away a Hi-Tec Salt Creek shirt for the best comment left on their post.  Contenst ends April 19th.  Sorry ladies, looks like they're only giving away a men's shirt.  Enter the contest here

The Dus-T: A Good Shirt for Desert Hiking


A few years ago, I was on a backpacking trip in Canyonlands, Utah. On the second day, a strong sand storm moved in. It was so powerful that it turned the entire sky red and even snapped one of my friend's tent poles like a toothpick! The most annoying thing was that sand was flying into our mouths and it was difficult not to breathe it in. I think I had sand in my mouth for 3 days after. I tried blocking it by putting a bandanna around my face but the wind was still pushing it in on the sides. It would havebeen nice to have had a shirt like the Dus-T.

The Dus-T basically looks like a regular shirt, except it's got a hidden dust mask in it. It fits much tighter than a bandanna and will keep the sand out if you're ever in a situation like the one above.

They offer several different styles and materials but I got white cotton one. Wait, did I just say the "C" word? Yep. In the desert, I like to wear cotton during the day because it's cooler (at night, I switch to a synthetic). I also like to wear light colors to keep the sun off so this was a natural choice for me.

If you do any desert hiking, you might want to check out Dus-Ts. The next time you're caught in a sandstorm, you won't have to put up with that annoying crunching noise in your mouth all day.  Plus, you'll look like a desert ninja!

Insta-Fire Fire Starter


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I'm always looking to play around with new types of fire starting materials and I've recently stumbled across a very interesting one.  Insta-Fire is a unique tinder that uses a blend of volcanic rock and wood pellets to produce a long burning, water proof fire starter. In the video above a small handful of Insta-Fire burned well over five and a half minutes under windy conditions and kept a steady flame (more than enough to start a campfire with even wet wood).  One thing I like about this fire starter is that even though it's water proof, it's all natural and non-toxic. Also, they sell it in various volumes--everything from a 5 gallon bucket to small packages.  I'd say most backpackers with decent fire skills could easily get a fire going with about a teaspoon or so making it very economical (both money and weight wise).  If you're looking to try something new, you might want to check out Insta-Fire. 

ULA Camino Panel Loading Backpack - First Impressions


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Get the specs for the ULA Camino panel loading backpack

I'm now on Twitter!


Just a quick note to say that I'm now on Twitter.  This is where I'll be posting about gear deals, contests, blog updates, and other neat backpacking gear stuff.  If you want to subscribe, click the button below:

Tell Us Your Favorite Outdoor Quote, Win Free Gossamer Gear Stuff!


UPDATE:  The winner is Killerbee938.  Congratulations!  Please email me with your address so we can ship your swag.  The contest is now closed.

The lucky winner of this contest will receive a nice little package from Gossamer Gear including:

1.  One Thinlight 3/8" sleeping pad

2.  One Medium Polycryo Ground Cloth

3.  One Lighten Up DVD

RULES:  Winner will be chosen at random Friday, March 11th 2011 at 6:00 PM MST.  To be entered in the contest, all you have to do is reply to this post (no emails please) with your favorite quote about the outdoors.  Good luck and I look forward to hearing your quotes!

Am I Missing Something?


While I try to be good about keeping up with good outdoor blogs, there are so many it's impossible to not let some slip through the cracks.  I'm trying to update my blog roll and need your help.  Please let me know if you have a blog (or know of a good one) that's not currently in my blog roll.  I will add it to the list (as long as it's about backpacking and of good quality).  Just leave a reply to this post with the URL. 

DIY Traction for Hiking Boots


The Spring hiking season is coming and I've been thinking a lot lately about traction options.  Spring hiking here in Colorado often means slippery, muddy trails with patches of ice and snow.  There usually isn't enough snow to warrant snowshoes or enough ice to warrant big, heavy crampons but most ordinary hiking boots just don't cut it.  I've used Yax Trax in the past and they work great but was wondering what other options are out there that are lighter.  I was also looking for something that you don't have to put on and take off.  Grip Studs seem to be a good alternative.

Grip Studs look like little cleats you would find on a golf shoe.  You can install them yourself with a special tool and pattern guide that is included.  They're great for trails with mixed surfaces and bite into with a nice, solid grip.  In case you're wondering, they are removable so you can take them off in the summer when the trails dry out.  I haven't done it enough to notice yet but I imagine you can only install and remove them so many times in the same place before the hole is stripped (I suppose you could alternate the location if you think you'll be removing them often).  

For those of you looking for a simple "install and forget" traction solution, Grip Studs might be the way to go.  Oh, and if you're an angler, they work great on wading boots too!  Click here for more info.

Firesteel Giveaway! Win a Free Gobspark Armageddon!


Update: The 2 winners for this contest are Carl Lenocker, and Wakis85. 

I recently did a post about the Gobspark Armageddon firesteel and many of you seemed very interested in trying one out.  Well, now you have a chance to get one for free with this hot (couldn't resist) contest!

The Rules:

1.  Simply reply to this blog post describing your most successful technique for building and starting a fire.
2.  Two winners will be chosen at random on Sunday, Feb. 27th 2011 at 5 PM MST (no submissions will be taken into consideration after that).
3.  The winners will be announced in this blog post.
4.  The winners MUST email me in order to claim their prize.  Please include your shipping address in the email.  If a winner does not email me within 72 hours of the end of the contest, a new winner will be chosen.

Good luck everyone and I look forward to hearing your fire starting techniques!

Brooks-Range Field Organizers


@font-face { font-family: "Cambria"; }p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal { margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; }div.Section1 { page: Section1; } If you’re a map monkey, journaling junkie, or note-taking nut, you might want to check out the Brooks-Range Field Organizers.  These lightweight organizers pack a ton of features to keep all of your pre-planning and on-the-trail navigational and record-keeping tools in one place.There are two models:  the Field Organizer and the Field Organizer Pro.  Both are made of 1.9 oz. water-resistant ripstop nylon and cleverly store your maps, pens compass, and other gadgets in a convenient, compact package.  They come in bright yellow and red colors to so you’ll never leave one behind on the trail, in the car, or at your pre-hike breakfast table in the local café.  The main difference between the two is size.  Here is a quick rundown.  The Field OrganizerThe original field organizer measures about 4 ½” X 7 ½” with 3 outside penholders and is held closed by a Velcro strap.When opened, there are 6 pockets on either side to accommodate maps, documents, or an optional Rite in the Rain waterproof notebook.  It should be noted that standard size maps will not fit in this organizer and only smaller ones like this Mt. Whitney map (4 ¼” X 6 ½”) will fit.  It also features a strap that can be used as a bookmark in your notepad.On the interior right side, there is a pocket that holds a compass quite nicely.  The Field Organizer ProAt 4.625" x 7.375" the Field Organizer Pro is a much larger model that can handle more bulk.  It features 4 penholders on the outside and a more secure, zipper closure.  Like it’s little sister, it has 3 map pockets on each side but they will accommodate standard sized trail maps.  On the left, there is a very shallow pocket with a Velcro strap that could be used for a variety of things:  to hold ski cards, a ruler, your most frequently needed map, or a few flyers about local attractions you picked up at the visitor’s center.  The right side also has an accessory pocket for you compass or other navigational tools.ConclusionWhile I’m not a compass master or diligent note taker, I think these field organizers are extremely well designed and can see that they have great potential for a wide variety of uses on the trail.  I like the fact that they’re versatile enough to customize to your particular data collection and document storage needs.  Since I usually carry just one map, I don’t really need to carry a backcountry office with me; however, the best application (personally) would be for pre-trip and on-the-road planning.I like to gather different versions of maps, brochures, and flyers on my destination hike and sprawl them out in the hotel or table of the local greasy spoon to go over my hike.  I like to mark up the maps and make notes about points of interest.  I can see the Field Organizer Pro as being perfect for this and to keep everything together.  The smaller Field Organizer would be better suited to someone wanting a more compact size that allows for note-taking, and organization of smaller maps.  What system do you use to organize your maps, notes, and other resources for a trip?[...]

The GobSpark Armageddon FireSteel


As an amateur pyromaniac, I'm always on the lookout for new fire steels.  I recently got a Gobspark Armageddon Fire Steel and am impressed with it's performance.  While it's a little bigger and heavier than others, it truly lives up to it's name by raining down fire and brimstone mercilessly on helpless tinder.  If I were going somewhere where I would be using a fire steel as my primary method for lighting stoves or fires, this is the one I would want to have with me (especially in rainy conditions).  Here's a quick video comparing it to another popular fire steel:

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What do you carry for a fire steel these days?