Whazdis “90%/50%” Buzz On Here…?

Since there are often references to this, and previous explanations are now buried deep in the archive, I wanted to do a quick post, and actually link it to a new “tag”.

I have been living on a very reduced income for quite a long time now. Currently, things are a little bit better, but when I started this blog I didn’t have much in the way of disposable income. As a result, a lot of these posts concerned finding alternatives to higher priced items.

Whether it’s by DIY, $$-store finds, scrounging, substituting, or buying a lower priced version of a  high-end item, there are a lot of ways that you can “make do”.

My guideline throughout my gear posts has always been, “if you can get something that provides 90% of the utility for 50% or less of the cost you got a good deal” … I frequently make reference to this as “the 90%/50%”. *

~A symbol of balance made of stones on a sea cliff~

 

For me at least, figuring out ways to make do is its own reward. Sometimes this could mean doing without, or settling for less. Nearly everybody could throw out about a third of the stuff in their pack and never miss it. Some things are just a luxury that you really want, and you are willing to pay the cost whether it is monetary, weight, bulk, convenience etc. Part of “hiking your own hike” is finding your own balance in that equation.

 

Most of you’re probably aware of the term “gram weenie”. I’m not one; I am a money weenie. My own parents grew up during the American depression of the 1930s. They knew what it was like to do without. Some of this ingrained frugality passed on to me, and it was increased by my severely reduced income. If you want to cut the tags off of your clothing and gear, hack off the handle of your toothbrush, reduce the weight of your tarp a few ounces by purchasing one made of Cuban fiber… great! [for you]. If that’s what you want, and that’s what you can afford, Go for it! In essence, I do exactly the same thing with my expenses. In everything from my utilities to my “spree” spending, I try to trim every corner I possibly can.

I have the handicapping “luxury” of being 67 years old. I am not going to do a PCT through hike. When I go out, I’m either camping out of the back of my SUV, hiking a limited way into the woods to hang up my hammock, or heading off in my canoe or kayak down a lake. That means I don’t have to worry about that couple of extra pounds. I do worry about having enough money left over to pay for the travel expenses and to provide myself with a few luxuries and comforts to make my time as enjoyable as it can be. Do I have a 27 ounce backpack to carry my gear…? DUH!… but I bought a discontinued model when it went on closeout. This is what 90%/50% does for me.

I buy some of my stuff out of Sham Shui Po in Hong Kong’s Kowloon section. I can find items that are for all intents and purposes identical to those sold by the Cabela’s, Walmarts, LL Beans, and all the other stateside gear outlets…. They just won’t have that branding tag. I might have to wait two weeks or a month for delivery but they mostly come with free shipping included, and at far lower prices. I have almost never been disappointed in the quality. The same thing goes for dollar store finds. I can find sturdy, non-loadbearing, Aluminum carabiners priced at $.69 over at my Fell-Off-A-TruckStop. They are every bit as good for their uses as anything else on the market. I don’t need some fancy, twist lock carabiner to put on the end of a rope and hook up my Bear bag… Why, you know… I could just tie the line right through the handles on that plastic bag the stuff I grabbed at the grocery market came in. It would work just as well.

Like I said, my 90%/50% criteria works fine for me…. Now you know what I’m mean by it.

 

[ * Just recently I violated my own guidelines by buying a pretty darn expensive 30° top quilt (when it comes, I’ll do a review and explain why I made the exception). I’ve violated those guidelines previously when I bought my AMOK Draumr hammock. In both these cases however, I waited until the items went on sale. But I have also consistently saved money on other things that have made these splurges rationalize-able/ justifiable in my own mind.]

Laguiole “Picnic” Knife

Last fall I got a wild hair and finally bought a Laguiole style knife. I say “style” because these are one of the most heavily cloned knives out there. “Laguiole is like “Kleenex”… It has passed into common usage for any similar sized, folding pocket knife with a similar sweeping blade. I was under no illusions when I ordered this that it was an actual, handcrafted knife from the village of Laguiole, France, or even the adjoining town of Thiers. For one thing, the Shepherds Cross detail on the handle is upside down, and the rivets are not perfectly aligned. While it actually did ship from France, it is certainly a generic version. And, quite frankly, there is nothing wrong with that.

Here’s a quick link to the Wikipedia entry, and it contains other links at the bottom if you want even more information>>  The Laguiole knife

I have quite a number of what I consider to be decent knives suitable for a variety of purposes, but I lack the money to do any serious collecting of fine blades. This is where my 90%/50% criteria is often used.

The classic Laguiole pocketknife was what you took along to cut up your  fruit and cheese, your baguette and sausage on a picnic in the French countryside. If you had one of the units with the corkscrew, you could open your bottle of cheap vin ordinaire.

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One of the hallmarks of Lagouile knives is the semi three-dimensional bee on the spine of the knife over the ferrule. A second is the engraving along the spine. [the photo at the left is clipped off the Internet, but shows both of these features] Even on the non-handcrafted knifes, the the finer the detailing of these, the better chance of the entire knife being higher-quality. These were two items that I looked for when I started shopping around and comparing the offerings. I was lucky, and the knife I purchased was even more finely detailed than the one shown.

 For my purposes, that is quite enough. This one comes branded “Laguiole L’ Eclair”. It is reportedly made in China of an unknown quality of stainless steel, but takes a very fine, sharp edge with minimum effort. Certainly fine enough for preparing food, and use as a “picnic” knife. The blade opens with a satisfying “snick”, but this is not a locking style knife. However, it does take a firm push up against the back of the blade to disengage the back spring.

The slim blade makes it ideal for slicing. This is why I chose to add one to my camping cutlery. I have big, heavy knives; I have pocket knives and pocket tools. I can dress out a deer carcass, hack up some kindling, and take care of most ordinary camp chores. But none of them have the long, thin blade to finely slice an onion, or to make it a real pleasure to deal with that plate-sized, porterhouse steak that just came off the flaming hardwood coals of your open fire and render it into thin, juicy morsels. The Laguiole does.

It it is also the perfect size to go with my titanium dining set, and carries around perfectly in their mesh bag. Together with the SnowPeak spork, I’m covered. I can prepare and consume in perfect grace, dignity, and high style… while out “roughing it”.

I like using “nice” stuff. That’s how I roll.

YET(i) More Bang For Your Buck

If you have spent any time in the big-buck camping stores in the last few years you have probably encountered the brand name “Yeti™“. I believe they started out making extremely high-end coolers primarily for use in the yachting and deep sea fishing worlds. Whatever, they achieved a great brand name recognition, and have diversified out into many smaller coolers and beverage containers.

The problem has been that Yeti™ also continued to have pricing that only someone who owns a yacht can afford. Sorry, I simply draw the line at spending $400 for a cooler, up to $35 for a vacuum tumbler, or $25 for a beer-coozie… no matter how good it is. However, I will freely admit to drooling over them when I have picked them up for a quick look down at Cabela’s and the Bass Pro Shop.

I already have an extensive assortment of stainless steel vacuum coffee mugs, cold drink tumblers, Thermos™’s, and my can-coozies run the gamut from neoprene sleeves and foam rubber with souvenir place names on them, all the way up to one made out of the same material as L.L. Bean duck boots.

[here comes the “but”…] But, when I saw my friend Chazz sipping single-keg bourbon out of his 10 oz. stainless steel tumbler from Yeti™ I got the jeeloozies….

Then I found this one for sale on Amazon.

From RTIC™, but same size, same construction, slightly different snug-top… and at $9 [sale price] I could [sorta] afford it!

Filled with just ice and covered with just the lid, it took over 18 hours to melt out. I can now understand why Chazz was so enjoying his and thought it worth every penny… It was about 94° that evening.

[at a tiny bit over 9 ounces including the lid, it isn’t something to take backpacking, but for my usual kit, it is perfectly acceptable]

 

Looking at the photo, I realized that I probably ought to clarify that this is a straight sided cylinder. The photo does make it look as though it might be tapered.

We will call this one another 90%/50% win. Especially since it works just as well for hot beverages.  Indeed, overall I am going to have to give RTIC™ the BigWin! in this entire category. Consistently coming in at 50% or less on the price for nearly identical units makes it a no-brainer unless you just want to show off your brand loyalty.

[while I was researching whether or not to go ahead and grab this tumbler, I found this brand comparison>>>> http://www.thecoolerzone.com/rtic-vs-yeti-cooler-ultimate-guide/

I also watched a video on YouTube comparing a full-size Yeti™ cooler with the comparable unit from RTIC™>>>>https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OZA7IRXf_k0 ]

More Bang For Your Buck

At one point last summer I was passing through the EMS store down Babylon. I courteously allowed them to relieve me of some of my money [about $10 bucks] and picked up the orange Sea To Summit Delta plate. Together with the green “squishy” bowl, this made for a fairly nice dining kit to go with my titanium utensils.

Then, a bit later in the season. TOG and I were in Walmart on our way to go out on the lake upstate. We grabbed complete the red and gray set there… total cost?… about SEVEN BUCKS! StS sells a single set that includes a matching bowl for $30 over on Amazon.

Both versions of the plates seem to be made from the “food grade Nylon 66, BPA free” that StS advertises. Both have a nice honeycomb pattern on the bottom; I assume that this adds strength. However, both kinds have developed a slight upward bow in the center after use. The only major difference is that the StS version has the thumb grip on one edge… I do have to admit that that is a feature that I greatly appreciate. You get grimy enough in the woods without sticking your thumb in your stew.

The Walmart kit of two plates, two bowls and two sets of Delrin utensils all came in the nice nylon and mesh drawstring bag which is plenty large enough to also carry a bunch of small food or condiment items. Is a really decent extra and also makes it easy to hang up your cook gear with your bear-bag to keep the critters away. I am not too excited about the collapsible cup/bowls, but they are nice enough I guess… it’s just that they seem like they would be awfully easy to somehow collapse during use, the ridge-rings don’t make them that utilitarian as actual bowls, and I always have something else to drink out of.  Now, the utensils are really nice. I already had one of the knives, and it is easily sturdy enough to cut into a steak. The spoon is also quite exceptional as it has a large, deep bowl, and is also long enough to reach down into most freeze-dry pouches and MRE retorts. WallyWorld used to sell these same utensils at $.89 each piece, so you can see that $7 was an excellent deal for this entire kit. [I believe they currently sell the knife/fork/spoon as is set for about a $1.89… I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend you pick up a set as a spare].

I was certainly not displeased with my existing combination of the orange plate and green bowl, so they will continue to be my “go to”.  They come in at just over 8 ounces, which is perfectly acceptable given my usual car and kayak camping circumstances where a couple of pounds extra weight is not particularly problematic. As for the others, the good news is that the WallyWorld set will just stay Upptacamp, so that it is always there if we get a whim to take the kayaks out on the lake

This is a really classic case of discovering that you can get 90% of utility for 50% or less of the cost.

[BTW- I subsequently purchased a second WallyWorld set for elfLiza and I to go in our picnic tote down in NC. I have a dreadful feeling that the price at that time ended in $o.*1… and I am fairly certain that is their code for clearance items]