Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Favorite Gear - Outdoor Research Chaos Jacket

A good puffy jacket is an essential piece of gear for mountaineering. Mine is kept in the top of my pack and goes on whenever I stop in cold weather and goes back in the pack once I start moving again. It’s also called upon to serve as an extra layer of warmth for unexpected storms or bivy’s.

Waterproofness is not usually a requirement for a puffy jacket because if it’s cold enough to need one any precipitation you might encounter will probably be in the form of snow rather than rain. The OR Chaos jacket has a water resistant shell that’s capable of shedding even warm slushy northwest snow. The filling is synthetic, which is my preference for use in the Cascades where it’s often wet. This works better than down which becomes a useless waterlogged sponge when wet.

There’s a large mesh pocket inside that’s sized to fit a 32oz Nalgene. This is great for keeping a waterbottle from freezing or defogging goggles. The fleece lined hand warmer pockets are cozy for warming bare hands.

My favorite feature of this jacket is the fit. The OR Chaos jacket was designed with climbers in mind, and as such is sized to fit a person with normal proportions, who happens to already be wearing climbing clothing.

In the past I’ve purchased jackets that were a size or two too big so that they would fit over my normal clothing. Typically the hoods are not large enough to accommodate a climbing helmet without stretching the jacket to the point you have to move your whole shoulders just to turn your head. The sleeves generally end up being a couple inches too long and the body often leaves me wondering who else I could get in the jacket with me.

When I put this jacket on over my normal fleece and Goretex the sleeves are just the right length, and there’s no extra maternity section in the front. The hood easily fits over a climbing helmet and still allows me to turn my head with normal motion.

The only downside I’ve found so far is that when I put this jacket on at rest breaks it’s often so cozy I just want to settle in for a long nap. : )

Summit Day Meal Plan

In town most of us are accustomed to eating three square meals a day. In the mountains sitting down for an hour to eat a big meal is not practical for several reasons:

• If the weather is nasty you will become uncomfortably cold if stopped for too long.
• On technical terrain there may not be a comfortable or safe place to stop.
• The gut-bomb that follows a big meal will impede your ability to keep going.
• You may not have time in your itinerary to cook or prepare food.
• Stoves and fresh ingredients are heavy.

I’ve developed a meal plan that I use for hard days that seems to work well for me. By “hard days” I'm referring to summit day or any day where I expect heavy exertion with few rest stops. This is all food that can be eaten on the go or during short breaks.

My standard summit day meal plan:
• Pemmican bar (400 cal)
• Two 5oz bottles of homemade gu (300 cal. each)
• 1000 cal. bottle
• Snack bags: one salty, one sweet (~500 cal. depending on what I put in these)
Total: 2500 calories

The snack bags serve to satisfy cravings if I get tired of eating liquid food. I find that having one bag of savory snacks and one bag of sweet snacks gives me options to suit my mood. Sesame sticks, Kettle Chips, Doritos, dried apricots, dried cranberries, Reese’s Pieces, and peanut M&M’s are some of my favorites.

In addition to the above trail food I’ll have a normal dinner in camp at the end of the day. I sometimes use Muscle Milk Collegiate mix as a recovery drink within the first hour of reaching camp. This is a high protein body building drink that helps muscles repair after a hard day. I’ll also have a good multivitamin some time during the day to make up for some of the vegetables I’m not eating.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Pemmican Bar

Pemmican bars (a.k.a. Mealpack ® bars) are a high calorie energy bar. There’s ~400 caloies in each of these, which is more than some dehydrated backpacking meals and twice as much as the ubiquitous Cliff-Bar. They’re made of all natural ingredients with no preservatives.

I like to eat these for breakfast on the trail when I’m not up for preparing food. They are made by Bear Valley and can be purchased at REI or Whole Foods. My favorite flavor is the original Fruit ‘N Nut.

Favorite Gear - Osprey Atmos Series Packs

This is the most comfortable carrying pack I’ve owned to date. I own the 65 liter version which has a separate sleeping bag compartment in the bottom, and a secret zipper inside one of the outside pockets which allows you to access the main compartment without opening the lid.

The waist belt is nice and wide and conforms to the shape of your body so it distributes the weight well. This is the best fitting waist belt I’ve used. Other large packs I’ve worn rely on very thick dense padding, which leads to pressure points because it doesn’t conform well to your body. There are two mesh pouches on the waistband which are great for keeping snacks and other small items handy.

The mesh back is also nice for keeping your back cool in the summer. One thing I did not anticipate before I bought this pack is that the mesh back fills with snow if you use this pack in a blowing snowstorm. For technical terrain the durability of this mesh back would definitely be a problem. I’m sure it would not survive being drug up a cliff face on a haul line.

I don’t trust the bungees that are used to secure an ice-axe to the daisychain on the rear. I always clip a carabiner from the leash on my axe to the daisychain on the pack in case the bungees fail.

The curved frame makes these packs a challenge to pack, and limits the use of all available space, but they are light weight and carry very comfortably.

Homemade Gu Recipe

For on the go calorie replenishment and electrolyte replacement nothing beats the convenience of energy gels.

My homemade gu recipe is made of maltodextrin powder, Cytomax, and water. The commercially available equivalent most similar to this recipe is Hammer Gel. I’ve found that it’s easy and much less expensive to make my own.

Cytomax is a powder that’s mixed with water to make a sports drink similar to Gatorade. It comes in several flavors and is readily available at sporting goods and nutrition stores.

Maltodextrin powder is a powder that can be purchased in bulk online or at home-brew supply stores. It’s the main ingredient in many commercially made sports nutrition products such as energy gels or body-building drinks. It’s also used during the bottling process to add body to beer.

Maltodextrin powder is basically broken down corn starch that serves the body as ready to use carbohydrates requiring very little digestion, so it can be eaten on the go without causing an upset stomach.

To make the gu I put one scoop of Cytomax in a ½ cup measuring cup, then add maltodextrin powder to top it off. I then add this mixture to ½ cup of cold water and stir it until the powder is mostly dissolved. Finally, I pop this in the microwave for a few seconds and then stir to fully incorporate the maltodextrin. This makes exactly enough to fill one 5oz sport flask.

There are a couple options for carrying your gu. I use a Hammer Nutrition sports flask. There are several types of these available; I like the Hammer Flask the best because it has small ridges on it that make it easier to grip with gloves on. Another option is Cophlan’s squeeze tubes. Others have had good luck with these, but the idea of one of them popping open in my backpack and squirting sticky sweet syrup all over everything is too scary for me. I like a good solid plastic bottle with a screw on lid, although I still always carry them in an outside pocket of my pack just in case.

One flask of gu has about 300 calories. I usually try to consume one of these every hour for the first hour or two along with my water. After the first two hours I’ll switch to a different concoction which includes protein to prevent my muscles from digesting themselves—The 1000 calorie bottle.

1000 Calorie Bottle

What I call the 1000 calorie bottle is basically a Nalgene bottle filled with a beverage that provides about 1000 calories.

In a 32oz Nalgene bottle add:
29g maltodextrin powder
1 scoop Cytomax
1.3c soy protein powder
Fill the rest of the bottle with water

The mix dissolves best in cold water, but I find that even if it clumps up at first it will end up well mixed after shaking around in my pack for a while.

This mix is intended to provide carbohydrates from the Maltodextrin powder and electrolyte replenishment and flavor from the Cytomax. The soy protein helps prevent the body from harvesting protein from muscles during sustained activity. One bottle is adequate to cover about 4 hours of activity without additional caloric intake.

Favorite Gear - Jetboil PCS Stove

My trusty Jetboil has found a home in my pack as a light weight, versatile, convenient, fuel sipping cooking solution. This is the stove I find myself using most often.

There are better options for simmering or foods that require a skillet like pancakes, but for boil-in-a bag cooking, hot drinks, and even melting snow the Jetboil is fast, simple, and functional.

The small Jetboil fuel canisters fit inside the pot, but for economical reasons I prefer the standard large fuel canisters which have twice the fuel and only cost about $1 more. If you want to save weight or space the small canisters have enough fuel to last for a very long time.

This stove has rather poor stability, especially when using the small Jetboil fuel canisters. Like most backpacking stoves this one tends to turn into a ball of flames and shoots boiling water everywhere if you tip it over. The optional stability stand is really an essential if you don’t like this kind of excitement in camp. The stability stand is a small plastic tripod that snaps onto the bottom of the fuel canister to provide a stable base. In my opinion this should come standard with the stove. I know the Jetboil is popular to use as a hanging stove, perhaps this is how many users get around the stability problem. I’ve never found it necessary or convenient to hang mine.

I noticed on the REI website that they’ve just come out with a new version of this stove, the Jetboil Flash. This new version adds a translucent lid, and a “thermochromic temperature indicator” that makes it easier to tell when the water’s boiling without opening the lid.

This stove has always been targeted at the technosavy backpacker. Adding the term “thermocromic temperature indicator” to their marketing literature should definitely increase its appeal to this segment of the market. It also comes in cool new colors to appeal to those who are simply attracted to bright colors and shiny objects. : )


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U.S. Antarctic Program Field Manual
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