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My New Year’s resolution for 2016 is going to be trying to realize that I actually do have everything I need to be more than comfortable when I get out in the woods.

“…but I really do need to get a….”

Reducing Pack Weight After The Big 3 – Bag Of Magic Potions

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Lion Heart [>> https://pctlionheart.wordpress.com/ <<] is an Appalachian Trials Blogger** who is planning a NoBo AT hike this year and was nice enough to let me share this post on how she is managing to take some of her “smalls” down to “micros”.

You don’t have to be a gram-weenie to appreciate the thought that she has put into getting some of the unnecessary weight off her back. You can count on the fact that I certainly will be starting to save some of my o.5ml Visine squeeze-bottles to repurpose with some EVOO and Worcestershire, and squishing some sunscreen into contact lens cases.

She writes: “It’s a well-known fact that the easiest way to reduce your base weight is by scrutinizing your Big 3. Tent, Sleeping Bag, Backpack. You might have just dropped $1,200 on the lightest, most badass Big 3. But then what? Are you just going to throw bulky clothes and giant tubes of sunscreen in your pack before hitting the trails?

It’s taken me years to refine the little tubes of magic potions that I carry.”….

To read her full post, >>CLICK HERE<<

Many thanks for your generosity and acumen Jennifer… G’luck on your NoBo!

**Appalachian Trials is a site dedicated to those who are through hiking the Appalachian Trail and other long-distance trails. Composed of posts from a lot of individuals who have been invited to contribute, it’s a great place for tips and tricks, gear successes and failures, and, of course,  you can follow the adventures of individual bloggers throughout the duration of their hikes. I highly recommended that you add it to your RSS feed.

A Hot Tip For Cold Feet

There is a “hammock hang” planned for out in Western Massachusetts in a couple of weekends, and making sure that people come with proper footwear is a great concern for the responsible, and experienced, old-timers. Frostbitten tootsies equal hospital visits. And the E.R. is a less than optimal way to have your weekend turn out… the whining is also pretty annoying. You just can’t count on keeping your feet warm by holding them out toward a fire.

So, I just cherry-picked a great tip from my friends SkyPainter and Nighthauk over on HammockForums.

It is the simple genius of cutting a couple of pieces of Reflectix insulation to the shape of the liners for your pakboots like the Sorels, Kamiks, Bogs or LL Bean Ducks, and placing them underneath the felts. These will help reflect both the warmth back upward to your feet, and the cold back toward the ground… Thanks guys!

ImageUploadedByTapatalk1451102038.744847 [photo from Nighthauk]

A Quick Note on International Buying

If anyone is looking to buy from the overseas sites, and here I am speaking most directly about the Hong Kong/ Shenzhen vendors, be prepared for long shipping times and drastically frustrating delays.

My 11/11 purchases are still staggering in, and one that included tracking info has apparently not budged form the “Shenzhen Transit Station” since Dec 4th. It shows as scanned for customs departure four times over those next ten days, but nothing since Dec 14th at all. This about par for the course. Don’t ever buy thinking that you will have it for use by a particular date, even if that date seems quite reasonable to you. [EDIT-Dec28th: to their credit, after three separate email exchanges over 10 days, the vendor did agree to reship my items]

 

That much said critically, sometimes, your stuff will show up quickly enough that you can’t believe it made it all the way from the other side of the world. I have had things beat Amazon purchases from the same day.

And in ten years or more of buying from the Chinese jobbers I have only had one package actually fail to ever arrive, and only one come damaged beyond repair or use. Both of these were made good… it just took a bunch of typing with the “help desk”s. Others that were simply less satisfactory were also compensated.

The main sites you will commonly come across, DX, AliBaba [actually part of Yahoo], BangGood, frequently, or standardly, outsource the actual sale and shipping to other vendors, but remain your go-to for satisfaction on issues. They badly want your business. You just have to wade patiently through a lot of “stock answers” and not be put off.

Oh, yeah…. and they take two or three weeks off late January for their New Year Holidays. NOTHING moves then.

Utensils

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I just got a nice, matching/nesting, titanium eating utensils set.  As with so much of my stuff, it came out of Hong Kong. While it was discounted over buying the same set here from a US vendor, it was no where near my 90%-for-50% criteria… more like 25% off regular pricings.

Apparently, back in September when I unexpectedly broke camp at 3AM and vamoosed, due to a drunken/coked-up screaming match in the next campsite, I must have left behind my SnowPeak spork, and a light-weight, WallyWorld ABS fork and knife that were all clipped together.  I had especially liked that spork, and I would frequently use it right here at home because it was a great tool for breaking up stews and the like. Good size, good “heft”, fun to eat with… just a nice piece of gear. Because of the loss, I was in the market for a new set of eating utensils. When I saw these at a reasonably good price, I decided to treat myself to the expense, and added them to that 11/11 deals cart. They finally came on Friday.

These are KEITH brand,and are available stateside, but nearly identical sets are also available from other well-known vendors. These sets actually do differ slightly in features, design and execution, unlike much of the camping stuff that seems to be just a change in the logos. I liked the KEITH because it was more sturdily made, and included a nice, microfiber pouch for toting the set around. I hate having stuff jangling noisily in my pack.

In the center of the second photo you can see the long-handled spoon. [I use it to replace the military issue [brown] MRE spoon at top-right. MRE pouches are quite deep, and that longer handle makes eating right from the bags much easier] The point here being the spoon is just stamped out of a thin piece of titanium with a ridge down the handle to add strength. Despite the great material, it makes it “seem” flimsy. I was disappointed with its feel in my hand once I put it to use. Several of the other available cutlery sets were made in the same manner, and I did not want to repeat the disappointment.

The KEITHs are of a thicker gauge metal and have a much better “hand”. The fork, and especially the tines, are a bit shorter than I would truly like, but the spoon is nice and deep, and the knife has some rugged serration for cutting. The set looks to be pretty good at the price. I gave $16.45 US shipped.

 

Just a quick run-down of the other pieces in the second photo: across the center is a US military issue field fork that also came Friday as a gift from one of the guys over on the MRE Info Forums [sadly, it is the match to a large field spoon, also USDOD issue, that has gone missing… they would have made a good pair for base-camping] /the set of breakdown SS chopsticks, also originally from China, are handy for cooking chores, and I just have always loved eating with chopsticks/the titanium double-ended spork and the green ABS one live in my range-bag and lunch box respectively and the little Buck neck-knife is my camp-cooking slicer and steak knife.

It should be obvious to anyone who has read this blog with any regularity, that I LOVE to eat. And I love to eat well in the woods. It is a way of enjoying your end-of-day time and taking care of yourself that makes the outdoor experience more rewarding. I don’t go camping to be miserable and eat bad food. Having some really nice utensils along is one of the luxuries I allow myself. With this kit, I have enough choice to pick and choose variously appropriate combos to go out on various trips, but I suspect the new titanium set and the long MRE spoon are going to be my “go-to”s from now on.

Verdict: this KEITH matching utensil set is dite pricy, but probably worth it as an infrequently-to-be-bought luxury item.