There may be a slight, continuing delay in the new posts…

There may be a slight, continuing delay in the new posts...

I have survived and returned from several days with the extended family down in one of the the old-line, Maine coastal “cottage” communities.
However, I am left with a bit of work to do.
The photo shows what you get to take home if you live in Maine and have lobster dinner with people from California who are clueless on how to pick over a lobstah…  [Now admittedly, I did stuff them full of clam chowder, steamers, corn, and homemade bread as well. By the time we got around to the lobsters, stomachs were getting full. … I will leave the degree of premeditation involved to your imagination.]

Yes, there is a bit of labor involved, however, there is probably between two and 3 pounds of lobster meat there for the taking. And then you boil the shells down for lobster bisque. With this much unexpected lobster bounty to be dealt with, I may even have to breakdown and try the ridiculous sounding, but trendy, “lobster mac & cheese”.


onecoolbackpack IS One Cool Backpack!

I am headed into a long weekend of family madness as my brother-in-law and his clan visit from San Diego, we try to get my wife out from the nursing home to visit with them up at the cottage they’ve rented, my daughter and the dog come up from Boston, and we try to fit in all the activities [and food] that everyone wants.

Before I possibly drop off the radar, I really did want to get up a post and a few photos of the backpack I’ve been experimenting with. I was given the go-ahead by Bill Ridley, the pack’s developer at He told me that this is an idea that had been lingering in his mind for nearly 20 years. Hopefully you’ve had a chance to glance over his site, and have read my previous posts about the pack [scroll down and you’ll find them].

Since it was delivered quite literally 15 minutes before I left for our camping trip upstate, I was unable to utilize it that weekend. The canoe was already strapped to the top of the car, and we were already packed and prepared for canoe camping. But over the last week I have been trying out a few different loads and taking brief walks right here at home to get used to the feel and adjustability.




This is pretty much what the frame looks like straight out of the bag it was delivered in. The only things I added were the black pouch snapped to the waistbelt, and the two ball-ended bungee cords. The only things not in the photograph are a pair of black buckle webbing straps that can be used in any place on the frame that they are needed. [that silver aluminum carabiner is actually attached to the support post behind the packframe].

A very unique feature is that the curved sections of the top and the bottom of the frame are made of coiled polycarbonate “springs” covered in a Cordura nylon sleeve. This allows the body of the frame to flex with your own body motion.

Since the entire point of this frame is that you can attach any kind of gear bags that you already have, [without having to go out and purchase a specialty “camping pack”], all the straps, bungee cords, and attachment points are adjustable. For instance, I rethreaded the silver bungee cord and it’s attached straps to a point higher on the frame to better accommodate the compression sack I intend to use for the majority of my own gear. Those red stick-on dots are to remind me of the original attachment points if I want to revert to the package as it was delivered. The ball-ended bungee cords that I added on are to hold my sleeping pad at the very bottom of the back frame. The logo-branded strap can be pulled down all the way from top to bottom, and either on top of, or behind all the other straps, to further secure several different bags to the frame. The variability and ease with which all kinds of different gear bags can be secured to the frame is astounding.

Image     Image  Image        Image

I got up a number of totes, packs, and luggage bags that I had right around the house and then took all of these pictures within 10 minutes, [the loads are all fakes… I just stuffed all the bags with couch cushions] but it shows the ease with which anything can be turned into a useful “pack” for camping. The largest gray bag is actually my airline luggage. I can fit an entire week or more of the things I will need inside.

The last photo that I’ll show you is what I have settled on for my actual usage. Is simply a 31 L compression bag that I picked up on Amazon for under $20. No pockets, pouches, or straps of it’s own. Everything I will want to take can just fit inside in individual ditty bags. Then, I’ll just un-snap three buckles and the whole deal will just come off the frame and sit upright for easy access once I get to camp. No need to hang the frame on a tree or worry about it tipping over and everything falling out the top. And a standard trash bag with a slit down the backside will cover it all, top to bottom, for wet weather. I could even unbuckle things for a minute and use the whole trash bag un-slit. All the strapping would just wrap back around the whole watertight package. There is no need to go out and drop yet another $25 on a rainproof cover that is custom fit to only one size/model of a dedicated pack.


[…the main thing that I find the best about this bag, in particular for my own needs, is that it has a rectangular profile rather than cylindrical. This makes it easier to both pack other, smaller bags inside, and to attach the bag to the frame.]

There are a lot of other nice little touches to the pack frame. A pair of padded tubes extend from shoulders to waist to cushion your backbone. The waistbelt consists of two parallel, padded webbings with separate attachment points. The shoulder straps are provided with a nice, soft neoprene tubing that cushions well without being excessive, and each has a number of webbing loops to accommodate clipped on items like the hose from a hydration bladder.

I found that I was easily able to adjust the fit to my torso size, and every load I have tossed on has seem to be well distributed and easy to carry. While I will know more in a couple of weeks once I have been able to take it out on an extended hike, the only suggestion I made to the developer so far was for some kind of zipper storage on the waistbelt for convenience with small items. That’s why I added the small black pouch you saw in the first photo.

Onecoolbackpack weighs in at quite a bit less than 3 pounds before you add your own packing solution. This might not make it the ideal frame for “gram-weenies”, however, for the vast majority of people, I believe that this would more than fit their needs. I think that Bill Ridley has achieved a lot of the basics of his goal. This is a frame that can be passed around among a number of people, or members of a scout or camping group, and satisfy the requirements of each individual person, on each individual trip. Experienced hikers and campers can customize it to their hearts delight, but a “noob” could pick it up and be out the door in 10 minutes with just what they had around the house already.

With Bill’s permission I even recommended the frame to the folks who supply the hike-in mountain cabins over in the White Mountain National Forest. Their “sherpas” [I think that probably means that they’re the ones who lost the coin-toss that day] have to carry 50 to 80 pound loads of groceries and staples in on steep and rugged trails, twice a week, to maintain the facilities for their guests. With onecoolbackpack a 50 pound bag of groceries or potatoes can be strapped on and carried just as easily as a school kid’s bookbag and that unwieldy, fiberfill sleeping bag for car-camping that you’ve had out in your garage for years.

I hope this gives you some idea about the features of this fairly unique concept in pack frames. Keep checking back in here on the site. Once I have had a chance to get out for an extended trip, I will put up a new post about my actual experience with it… On my back, and on the go.


Before we took off for the lake a couple of weeks ago I put together what turned out to be probably the best trail-mix combo I’ve ever had. Most of the store-bought mixes are pretty much “Meh” in my opinion. They’re always padded out with raisins and cheap peanuts, or that “healthy stuff” that I’m not fond of, like sunflower seeds.


This is what I ended up with, from left to right:

1-4~ Dried pineapple, mango, raisins and date… These were all leftovers in a canister. They were part of some bulk package of dried fruit that I had picked up at Sam’s Club at least a year ago, and that I had sealed up in a screwtop container. I disremember exactly what right now, but part of the mix had dried out really badly. I tossed that part out. And as I mentioned above, like most mixes, it had been padded out with way, way too many raisins. A bunch of them went in the bin too. But I left some of the largest, and juiciest ones behind.

5~ Last Christmas the Dotter had given me a bag of dried cranberries that had been soaked in orange syrup as part of their processing.

6~ One of my favorite all-time parings is to have quality dark chocolate, like 70% cacao, paired with crystallized, candied ginger. I had some ginger slices that it gotten badly dried out, so I broke them up into fingernail size pieces.

7-8~ Honey roasted cashews and peanuts.

9~ When I went looking for the M&M’s I also found some pre-shelled, salted pistachio nuts.

10-12~ And lastly the M&Ms, because no decent gorp is worth it’s name without some kind of the ubiquitous “candy-coated chocolate discs”. Let me make this perfectly clear… In my opinion, “candy-coated chocolate discs” are no substitute for an honest to gawd, Old-fashioned, All-American damn M&M!  With this in mind, I bought three of the small bags of M&Ms in the checkout lane. M&Ms have started coming in some weird combinations recently. They even had one called “birthday cake”… that one frightened me just a little bit too much with visions of HoneyBooBoo staggering around my campsite, so I left it behind at the check out. What I grabbed were Pretzel, Jumbo Peanut, and best of all, Coconut. The Coconut M&Ms are unbelievably good. An ideal blend of chocolate and coconut flavors. Like having a micro Mounds Bar, but without the coconut fibers sticking between your teeth. They were the perfect finishing touch to the trail-mix.

This turned out to be an incredible over-all combination. A lot of variety in tastes and textures, and just a small handful at a time is more than enough. This one is definitely a do over.


[BONUS LINK: if you ain’t got the time or inclination….]



WoodGas Stove Instructable [clik-thru link]


WoodGas Stove Instructable  [<<<clik-thru link]

Break out the marshmallows and the Lil’ Smokies!

One of the real drawbacks to most camp stoves and all of the little pop can alcohol stoves that I’ve seen instructions for is that, because of the petroleum-based fuels, you can’t cook directly over the flame without using a pot. That’s why I’m looking forward to getting the “FireAnt”  stove that I sprung for on KickStarter. It uses smallwood found around your campsite… So does this little stove. It may not be made out of titanium like the “FireAnt”, and it may be quite a bit bulkier, but it looks like it would definitely do the job. And it certainly means that you can grill and cook over the open flame.

Eat up a can of baked beans, use up a can of cheeze-dip or corned beef hash, and put them together with a $1.98 sterile paint can from Home Depot. Bingo, bango, boingo! I have seen very nearly the same stove done as a YouTube video and have always planned to try making one. These seem to be very clear and concise instructions for the same thing.

It strikes me how convenient it would be to put together a couple of these stoves and stash them in the couple of the places that I go regularly to get back to nature. No need to carry in a stove or a bottle of fuel, just scrounge up some smallwood and light her off.

Looks like I will be checking out the empty paint can display down at the hardware store this morning…

edit: since I posted this earlier today I have already determined that it is possible to make it using a coffee can in place of the paint cans that you have to buy. The secret seems to be that the coffee can has to have the “peel-off”, vacuum-sealed top, not the typical poptop-pulltab. The “peel off” is a super heavy duty aluminum foil rather than actual aluminum metal. It leaves a much wider edge. This edge just needs minimal filing/flaring for a bean can to slip right down inside.

Versailles? …phtpfh!

Versailles? ...phtpfh!

My friend totally nailed the classic “view from Versailles” in this photo of a classic Maine day up near Eastport on the Canadian border…

We just like to do without all the tacky marble buildings and stuff… attracts less tourists. [and…  we do tend to hide these views out back of somebody’s pasture, too. … Like I said, keeps out the riffraff]


Click-thru on the photo to see more of her stuff…