Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Gear Product Review - Dorcy Headlamps

I sent out one of my staff to try the Dorcy headlamps for use in backpacking and regular camping, and this is what he had to say about the products.

(From Dorcy) The new 41-2096 lightweight headlight is loaded with features and brightness. The small headlight produces 120 lumen of light output in a broad beam. With 12 hours of run time and 3 brightness modes makes this headlight the perfect light. Weighing in at only 2.9 ounces with batteries this light will not feel heavy after wearing it for hours. The LED panel has a 50 degree adjustment to allow for pin point focusing. 3 brightness modes. Full power, half power and strobe mode will allow this light will meet all of your needs.

Product Specifications
Lumens: 120
Run Time: 12 Hours
Beam Distance: 48 Meters / 157 feet
Bulb Type: LED
Batteries: 3 AAA Included
Product Material: Plastic
Product Dimensions: 2.75" W X 1.50" depth
Bezel Diameter: 1"
Product Weight: 2.9 ounces
Available Color(s): Black / Silver bezel Ring
Switch: Push button top

Additional Features: Lightweight weather resistant, 3 light modes
full power, half power, strobe

Our Review - The broad beam headlamp was a simple on & off model that is good for around the house use but the brighter light and hence shorter battery life (12 hours on 3 AAA's ) do not lend it to backpacking especially on extended trips. At 120 lumens, this is great for looking around a dark engine or seeing  and being seen when  walking  the dogs around the neighborhood at night. I'd use it for backyard or car camping. It seems a good, sturdy-made, reasonably priced headlamp.

Dorcy 20 Lumen Headlamp

Product Specifications
Lumens: 2 Run Time: 18 Hours Beam Distance: 28 Meters
Bulb Type: LED Batteries: 3 AAA Included Product Material: Plastic Product Dimensions: 2.75" W X 1.50" depth Bezel Diameter: 1" Product Weight: 2.9 ounces Available Color(s): Black
Switch: Push button top
Additional Features: Lightweight weather resistant, light modes
full power, half power, strobe, Red On, Red Flash Green On Green Flash Red green on Red/green flash - 

Review - I used the Dorsey headlamp on a few backpacking trip and found it work well.  I love the green reading and the ease of battery installation.  It has a nice solid battery door and sturdy construction over all.  A Few things did not like was that there were to many multiple settings. There was way too many buttons to push to go from on and off especially with the colored lamps. You go from on green to blinking green, then on red then blinking red and then both colors. From on to off it took about 7 button hits. The diffuser lens was interesting in that it took the beam and would light up the tent area like a lantern light but I don't think it was that useful. The weight on this headlamp was around 3 oz., seems similar to other ones I use. It seemed reasonably made and a decent headlamp.

NOTE - This headlamp is only $10 via the Dorcy website!

Related Websites

That Beacon of Light - review of other headlamps

Product Reviews

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Creature of Comfort – What is Your Luxury Item Backpacking?

I like the rigors of a good hike. Meeting a goal. Seeing the awesome scenery. Catching a sunset or sunrise. The great friends I meet, some for life even after just a day on the trail. I've seen hikers carry musical instruments, a stuffed animal. One even had these huge butterfly wings strapped to her backpack! Some carry special food items in from town. I must admit I also like some comfort by way of carrying a few luxury items in my backpack. So these are a couple of the items that I tuck away.

A Seat Cushion 

The picture shows an old Thermarest orange seat cushion I actually picked up at a yard sale for fifty cents. Talk about a stellar buy! I used it for my entire northbound hike of the AT. Then suddenly, part way through my southbound venture, the seat cushion sprang a leak. We were unable to repair it. I ordered another Thermarest seat cushion  to be delivered to New York while on the Appalachian Trail.

A Thermarest Lite Seat Cushion

Just the idea I have something to sit on when resting my sore legs or after a full day's hike gave me a sense of being at home in the wilderness.
Thermarest Z Lite

I never left home without it. The seat also helped cushion sore knees when arranging the inside of my tent at night or packing up in the morning. I've used it to elevate my air mattress under my head, r for your feet, too. You can also get one like the Z rest pads, only it’s a seat cushion. Or make one yourself from an old foam sleeping pad like the blue ones. And get this, I saw a thru hiker this year write on it - Hiker to Town - and the reverse - Hiker to Trail - as a sign for hitchhiking! Talk about multi purpose!

A Pillow to Sleep on

No, not the gargantuan ones we use at home. I never have been able to get comfy stuffing some stuff sack with clothes as a makeshift pillow. To be honest, I usually never have enough clothes to use for a pillow, or if I do, they are my stinky hiking clothes. And who wants to put that under your head and smell the aroma all night? Not me. At first I opt for Cocoon’s fluffy pillows, and used them on both my north and south hikes. But they were fairly bulky and a little weighty. Just recently a hiker introduced me to the Exped inflatable pillow. What a fantastic invention! Boy, do I love this thing. It’s lightweight, collapses flat, and has two ports for inflation and deflation. It works like charm and satisfies my need for a place to rest my head.

The Exped Air Pillow
So what are your luxury items that you take on a backpacking trip? Who knows, your idea may end up in my pack like the Exped pillow did! 

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Speaking Engagements!

Check out my List of Speaking Engagements for the latter part of 2014 into 2015. Some great programs at Shenandoah National Park, at the Gathering, and other places! Learn about ridgerunning, trails in Shenandoah and 4000 miles on the Appalachian Trail!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Guest Blog - Dehydration

A follow up on the previous blog about heat related illnesses is a guest blog on dehydration from a medical standpoint and what it means in your body.

Don’t Get Dehydrated This Summer! 

With summer temperatures rising high, it is critical to keep in mind what may be causing you to feel dehydrated and also how you can spot dehydration before it becomes a serious hazard.

The first tip is to know the signs and symptoms of dehydration. Usually, the first signs are neurological; headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion, increased thirst, and dry mouth. After that, if dehydration has not been treated, the signs may progress on to GI symptoms such as nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, and cramps. Medical signs physicians look for include tachycardia, fever, tachypnea (increased breathing), decreased urine output, and hypotension. On rare occasions with severe dehydration coma, seizures, and death can occur.

In order to avoid dehydration, prevention is key. Especially in preparing for any long outdoor physical activity, you should decrease alcohol, coffee, and tea, intake. The common factor in many sports drinks and sodas is caffeine, which is also a big contributor to dehydration. They are diuretics and diuretics will cause inhibition of ADH (antidiuretic hormones) made in the pituitary gland, which is needed for the sodium active transport system in your kidneys. When the transport system is blocked, water does not get reabsorbed by the kidneys and is lost through urine. This is the reason for the frequent urination when drinking these products.

Even more important than knowing what can make you feel dehydrated, is knowing ways to help you stay
properly and fully hydrated. When choosing a beverage that will keep you hydrated, the two main ingredients to look for are Salt (NACl) and Water(H2O). Plain water will be absorbed via the GI Tract but is very inefficient. Have you ever drank plain water and still felt dehydrated? It is the active transport system, specifically, the sodium (Na) active transport system in the kidneys that is the most efficient system in the human body in reabsorbing water. When we drink a high sodium drink in the form of NaCl (salt) and H2O (water) during dehydration, the kidneys will actively transport the sodium (Na). When this occurs, the H2O will follow passively into our body. This is why when a patient comes to the ER (emergecny room) for dehydration issues, they are given a Normal Saline IV. 1 Liter normal saline has 9000mg of Salt (NaCl) and Water (H20). The only ingredients found in a normal saline is Salt and Water.

Don’t short yourself of fluids you need to stay hydrated. While this is difficult to measure, generally for non-active consumers, 2-4 BANa’s per day will keep the doctor away. 4 bottles of adult BANa is similar in salt content as a normal saline IV bag. When hydrated, your body will naturally filter out out the excess salt and water. Doctors also tell non-active patients in clinic the 8x8 rule. Eight - 8 oz glasses of plain water per day. Have fun this summer, but stay safe by staying hydrated!

For more than a decade, Benjamin Yoo, MD has treated patients in the emergency room for dehydration. Dr. Yoo is the founder of BANa Bottling Co., an industry-leading rehydration beverage company. Born in South Korea, Yoo moved to the U.S. at the age of six and was raised on his parent’s farm in western Kentucky. Dr. Yoo earned his medical degree from the University of Louisville in 2001, then began working in emergency rooms across Georgia and South Carolina. He moved to Charleston, S.C. in 2004 to work at HealthFirst Rapid Care in North Charleston. It was there that Yoo had the idea for BANa a rehydration drink inspired by saline IVs given to patients in the ER or urgent care for dehydration

Related Blogs

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Heat-Related Ilnesses while Backpacking and Hiking

It’s the height of summer and time for great hikes. But it’s also time that heat-related illness can affect you while exerting yourself in hot temperatures.

The two heat-related illnesses one needs to look out for are heat exhaustion and sunstroke. Heat exhaustion can be managed on the trail, but sunstroke is a life-threatening emergency where the hiker must get to a hospital.

Heat Exhaustion can occur in hot, humid temperatures when the body becomes depleted of fluids necessary to cool itself - (severe dehydration). There may be heat cramps involved. The skin may be pale, cool, clammy, the hiker slightly anxious, pulse and breathing are basically normal. However, if the hiker is not cooled down, it can advance to the life threatening sunstroke as the core body temperature begins to rise.
Seek rest in a shady, cool spot. Sometimes resting on rocks that are in the shade or beside stream beds are cool. Or find an area next to water or in a wet environment. Breezes can also help you cool down by allowing convection to happen. Drink! – Especially replace lost salt and water. Having an electrolyte type mix in your hiker bag is crucial to helping replace sodium and potassium lost during sweating. Gatorade is also a favorite choice. When you get to town, eating a banana helps with cramping.

Sunstroke occurs when the mechanism to keep yourself cool begins to fail and your internal body temperature rises. Your skin becomes red, hot and dry. You can become disoriented, confused, and irritable. Pulse is rapid and there may be a seizure. Cool immediately by immersing into a cold stream or river or pouring water over the body. Give fluids if still awake and you can massage limbs to draw out the heat. Call for help.

How to prevent these illnesses from happening on a hike: 

  • Take frequent rest breaks in cool, shady areas
  • Drink plenty fluids and eat salty foods. Carry electrolyte replacement granules to add to water. Be sure to carry plenty of water in desert environments
  • Wear lightweight clothing and bright colors. Wear a lightweight hat
  • If you feel hot, dry, your urine output is low, that means dehydration is setting in. Stop and rehydrate. 

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

To Treat and Not to Treat, Water That is...

Water purification trailside is one of the many concerns hikers face when planning a long distance hike.  A water-borne illness can wreck havoc with a hike and at times had forced hikers to discontinue their trek. I recall a reunion with  two southbounders back in Massachusetts who I originally met in Maine. One of them contracted the dreaded “beaver fever “ in Vermont and was still battling it with weakness and fatigue, despite antibiotic treatment.  As taken from the USGS site : “Waterborne pathogens are disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and protozoans that are transmitted to people when they consume untreated or inadequately treated water. Two protozoans in the news today are Giardia and Cryptosporidium. Their consumption can lead to severe problems of the digestive system, which can be life-threatening to the very young, very old, or those with damaged immune systems.”

There are several methods one can use when it comes to water and hiking:

  • Do nothing. I know of a few in this class who merely take their cup, dip it into the stream, and drink it straight. I have only done this once myself. I was in Pennsylvania at Peters Mountain shelter, and as anyone can tell you, the journey to the water source is quite an ordeal – like a 300 step ordeal. By the time I got there, I was so hot and thirsty, I filled my cup with the water raging cut of the pipe and drank it straight. But I also knew that above the source, there was nothing that could contaminate it. So I was fairly sure I would be fine, and I was. In the Smokies I was also without purification and did ok. But in many cases you are rolling the dice with regards to picking up diseases. And one thing's for sure, relentless diarrhea is no fun on a hike! 
  • Chemical treatments such a Aqua Mira, Polar Pure, iodine tablets or even straight iodine or bleach via droppers.  Long ago I used iodine and still have bottles tainted by the color. Nothing is worse in my opinion than the taste of iodine. Aqua Mira had been the choice on all my hikes until I found the Sawyer this past year (see below). On the website it states: 
“Chlorine dioxide, a well established disinfectant is the active ingredient in Aquamira® Water Treatment Drops. Chlorine dioxide is iodine and chlorine free. The unique formula works by releasing nascent oxygen, a highly active form of oxygen, which is a strong oxidant and a powerful germicidal agent. Chlorine dioxide has been used by municipal water treatment plants to kill a variety of waterborne pathogens since the late 1940s. Unlike free chlorine (familiar as household bleach) or other halogen chemicals (such as iodine), chlorine dioxide does not create potentially harmful by-products. “

I had no issues with using Aqua Mira for 4,000 miles of trail. It was easy to use, left very little aftertaste (unless you use too much) and provided effective treatment in that I suffered no water-borne illness.  The only time I showed care with it was in highly infective waters such as beaver ponds and pasturelands, of which I did not use or take water sources from it. It is readily available along the trail, and nearly all outfitters carry it. my main issue - I can taste a bit of the chemical in the water.
  • Other treatment by the use of simple bleach, filtering and steripens. I have also used both filters and steripens. This site, Hiking has a good overview of these various methods  There are many filters out there, though prices can vary. Unfortunately more than once after a few weeks of use, I have seen fellow hikers struggling to pump water out of clogged systems, gravity systems slowed down to trickles (or like me, when I dropped a ceramic filter and it smashed),  or dealing with parts breaking in mid hike (my son had this happen to him after only a few weeks of use). While they do deliver potable water instantly the moment you pump, I feel some of the concerns of  breakage and clogging can outweigh the advantages. SteriPENS tend to run heavy with the batteries they use, and can also eat through batteries. They use UV light to destroy pathogens, and for short hiking durations can be quite. For long trips, I am not sold on their durability.  Many hikers have to take Aqua Mira or other purification pills as a back-up to these devices, and then you have extra weight in your pack. So why not just take one type of purification you know will not fail you?  Kind of the way I look at it.
  • The treatment hikers are using most often esp on the AT. Sawyer Squeeze Filter System.
    This newfangled system delivers treated water up to .1 micron (which means just about everything but viruses) by using a squeeze system through a filter. It comes in two sizes - the mini and regular size. I have seen hikers attach the mini squeeze to their drink tubes and drink right through it. I happen t use the regular size, squeezing water into my water bottles. This system appears to function well, providing water fairly quickly, but there are a few issues. Main thing is the bags that come with the system are not sturdy enough for prolonged use. After about 6 weeks of use, my large 64 oz bag just split apart at the top, rendering it useless. Also, if you tighten the filter too tight to the bag containing the dirty water, you can easily split the "washer" of the filter, breaking it. You must tighten it gently.    
          On a side note, I also am very picky where I get my water. Maps are crucial for this, to tell you where the sources come from.  If I see an overly cloudy water, for example, I will not use Aqua Mira. For water, it is important not only to carry the purification, but to carry maps and up to date guides as well to make sure you know where the sources are and where they are coming from (like upstream cow pastures and beaver ponds).  
Good water is essential not only to your health but to the success of your hike.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

When to Use the Phrase “Hike Your Own Hike” (HYOH)


I have seen the phrase Hike Your Own Hike (or HYOH) used quite frequently on hiker forums and Facebook groups when it comes to various hiking issues. It appears to be the pet phrase of choice whenever there are issues that crop up, including anything from water treatment to bear bagging to camping illegally or using drugs trailside. There is a reason to say “Hike your own Hike” (HYOH) and a reason not to use it as an excuse for something illegal, immoral or downright dangerous. It would be akin, I suppose, to saying – “Hey do whatever you want.” 

But you can’t just do whatever you want if it restricts another’s enjoyment of the woods, if it will destroy or harm wildlife and or the trail or wilderness, if it will endanger your life or someone else’s, or it’s just plain against the law.

I once saw this phrase used when someone, for instance, instead of following the white blaze of the Appalachian Trail, decides they feel like a wander down a blue blaze trail to see other scenery, or they decide maybe they would rather canoe the river instead of hiking or bicycle or road walk a portion. In that instance they are doing their journey the way they want without the legalistic approach following a white blaze or the trail. They are hiking their own hike.

Contrary, a hiker says he’s going to forgo Maryland’s rules of no camping between designated areas and set up his tent wherever he chooses. That is not HYOH. That is disobeying a posted regulation which is put there for a purpose. It’s not to restrict but to protect both the hiker and the wilderness experience from the multitude of other hikers also looking for a pristine place to wander. Or a hiker plans not to bear-proof food from wildlife which is against the ethics of Leave No Trace and protecting wildlife. This is also not Hiking your own Hike.

It is hoped people will use the wisdom of HYOH the way it is meant to be used – to enjoy the trail and the journey that best suits your needs and plans. It should not be used as a catch-all phrase and excuse that can potentially harm you, another hiker, or the wilderness.


Thursday, June 05, 2014

Some Safety Tips - Parking Cars at Trailheads

I have posted on this in the past but it's good with the hiking season in full swing to reiterate safety tips.

On parking areas -

Some things to keep in mind to avoid possible theft and car damage.

  • Check with other clubs and their specific trails for parking issues. Don't hesitate to contact these groups ahead of time for parking advice. Facebook also has many groups related to specific trails that can give advice on safe parking.
  • Take your oldest, beat-up vehicle to leave at the parking lot. Or get a ride to and from the trailhead (better to pay someone for the ride then to pay lots of money for a broken window or lose money to stolen items). Another option is to look for alternative parking near to the trail and get a ride up or walk to the trailhead. A place of business, for example. 
  • Consider leaving the car unlocked to avoid windows being broken (though most safety sites advocate locking it). But with that said, if you do choose to leave it unlocked, leave NOTHING valuable in the car! Take ALL ID, loose change (conceal change under a rock at the trailhead if you forget to take it out at home), and take wallet, cell phone, etc with you. Better yet, leave everything at home you can't carry with you in your backpack or day pack. Locking items in the trunk doesn't mean the thieves can't force the trunk open or break a window to get at it. 
  • Leave some unsavory items on the seat and / or back window to discourage thieves. Underwear. Dirty socks. Grungy clothes, etc.
  • If you see vandalism or are a victim of vandalism, report it immediately to the local authorities. If it occurs on the AT, go to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy website and file an incident form. A park ranger evaluates it and contacts appropriate authorities along with making the hiker community aware. Also on the AT - The Appalachian Trail Conservancy posts on its website trouble spots with parking. Be sure to find out where there have been incidents and avoid parking there. 
  • In all honestly, one does park at their own risk, no matter where you are at.