Comic: Be Prepared!

I’m still working on my new comic, but in the meantime I’ve been digging through the archives of my previous strip and realizing that there are dozens of stories about hiking, camping, and outdoor sports.

For example, after a particularly expensive outfitting trip to the local camp-gear store, I was inspired to draw “Be Prepared!

This comic was about a guy and his daughter...

What kinds of adventures do you think a guy and his dog could get up to in the Canadian wilderness?

I’ve been writing some scripts.

Drafting some art.

Preparing to post.

One Last Trek

During the summer of 2017 we travelled with friends just across the Alberta-British Columbia border to one of the highest peaks in Canada, Mount Robson and to climb the Berg Lake trail.

Lucky those friends came along, because they remembered to bring something we forgot: strong tape.

for whatever one photo is worth:

Good boots are one of the most important pieces of hiking equipment you can own if you are a serious backpacker.

Pictured are not my boots.

They were the boots that belonged to my wife.

And up until they crumbled on the trail they were good boots. They were, in fact, fantastic boots… when she bought them as a teenager nearly twenty years before that hike.

They were even reasonably solid pieces of equipment for the first three days of our adventure, hiking all twenty-some kilometers up the mountain, and then accumulating another twenty or so klicks on the day-hiking trails near the campsite.

The problem with old equipment though is that every day that you use it, more wear and tear accumulates, more seams are exposed to the elements, more aging glues and stitches weaken, and more chances loom for failure.

Her boots failed just as we started our downward hike back towards home.

At the top of the mountain, these boots looked like the good boots they had been for two decades. At the bottom of the mountain I took this photo and then we dropped them in a nearby trash bin.

Every couple of kilometers we would stop and I would sit at my wife’s feet wrapping them as tightly and securely as I could with a borrowed roll of tape. The glue under between the tread and toe had failed and like an ill-timed puppet show, began flapping open like a mouth at with each and every step.

The takeaway lesson of these fall-apart boots was not that equipment fails, but rather that you never know when equipment might fail, and being properly prepared means expecting failure and setting yourself up to avoid or mitigate the negative results of that failure…

…like carrying tape, or not hiking in twenty-year old boots that might fall apart.

Gear: Collapsible Cookware by Sea to Summit

This week in my Thursday Tuck & Tech post (where I’m making an inventory of the gear I use or would like to add to my collection) I’m looking at some of my essentially un-cast iron cookware.

…because apparently cast iron is too heavy to haul up onto a mountain on a four day backpacking trip.

Yet, we still gots-to-cook.

When I was in the Scouts in my youth our troop spent many weekends in the woods. Looking back we ate incredibly simply: oatmeal, sandwiches, hot dogs, and other things that could be boiled or suspended from a stick over a fire.

We had some go-to cookware that was worn and battered by years of use. It was a nesting-doll set of thin steel pots and pans that all wrapped up neatly into a pack a little smaller than a football, tucked into a mesh bag, and rattled around from the backs our packs as we hiked in and out. They were light(ish) and a simple way to get things cooked outdoors.

So, naturally, when I moved out and started buying my own camping gear, decades ago now, one of the first things added to my collection was that identical set of steel pots and pans. You go with what you know. And they followed me up more than one mountain in my twenties.

But they were pretty simple and underwhelming as far as modern backpacking technology.

We’ve since ramped up our adventure gear game and invested in a collection of much lighter, much more compact cooking pot… and matching cups, bowls, plates, and a pretty slick collapsible coffee strainer (which I’ll likely be writing about at a later date!)

This set has followed us up on a couple of long multi-day hikes. The pandemic put a cramp on our plans for 2020, but in the couple years since we built this collection I’ve had enough practice with it to give an honest evaluation.

The silicon design has a weight that is competitive with any metal pan, and while they’re not cheap, they’re not titanium-expensive either.

Our firefly stove was able to boil up a pot of cold filtered stream water in less than ten minutes (good heat retention!) though with the silicon sides not being flame friendly, I couldn’t run the stove at full blast else risk some side flames creeping up past the metal bottom plate.

One of the negatives is that it would have been nice to pick these up as a complete set instead of piece-by-piecing our set together (from three different camping shops.) Now that our set is relatively complete that was really a small thing that I won’t need to do again. I write that only because we opted not to buy the frying pan (which I assume would likely have been part of said set) as our go-to meals on multi-day hikes tend to be rehydrated food. A pot of boiled water and some bowls serve for nearly all our adventure meals. Yet, a reliable frying pan could probably inspire some backpacking-friendly ideas in those meal plans… especially for the cast iron guy.

Overall, this set can’t compare to camping with a cast iron dutch oven, but my back routinely thanks me for the lighter approach to our adventure cooking.

Note: this is a piece of gear that I have purchased privately and that I’ve owned for long enough to offer an opinion about. This post is not an endorsement (at least, it’s not a paid one.)

Overnight on Public Lands

The province where I live currently has over eleven thousand square kilometres of public lands that are available for a variety of recreational activities, including cross-country skiing, backpacking, and overnight camping.

Sadly, much of that land is at least three or four hours of driving away… so nothing is close enough for a quick weekend getaway, at least not without some substantial planning.

With everyone sticking closer to home due to lingering travel restrictions, it seems like a lot of the so-called official campsites are (like last year) likely to be booked up quickly by the RV crowd. We enjoy our share of backpacking, though, and it seems like it might be the summer to jump with both feet into the backcountry, random, boondocking-style of camping and see where that takes us.

I thought it would be useful for both my readers, and my future self, to write a post where I compile some resources and thoughts on the topic.

Resources

Public Land Use (an Overview for Alberta, Canada) is the official government website detailing many of the places, rules, and parameters of those who choose to stray from the well-travelled path and forge their own adventure.

Alberta Parks Random Backcountry Camping is a guide from another branch of the government with some more plain language guides, rules, and hints for where and how to camp outside of designated campsites.

Beginners Guide to Public Land Camping is an adventure blog where they have already done some resource gathering for this topic. I’m not necessarily saying go there and check their list first … but I did.

How to Camp Respectfully is another blog-like site with a great run down of how to get away from everyone else who is trying to get away from it all and find some backcountry camping solitude with respect for the land.

Permits in 2021?

I'll continue to add-to and update this post as I do more research on the topic.