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Archive for the ‘Gear’ Category

About those low-discharge batteries

“Low-discharge” is the latest craze in rechargeable batteries: old-fashioned rechargeables would discharge over time without even using them. Low-discharge batteries — many of which come pre-charged in the package — hold a charge far longer: weeks, months, up to a year perhaps.

They do this at a price: rechargeables are rated by how much juice they store, rated in mAh: 2,900 is the highest number I’ve seen. Low-discharge batteries are rated at around 2,000 mAh, which means they store about a third less power, but they store that power a lot longer. If you use your digital camera every day and always keep a bunch of high-powered batteries charged, low-discharge probably won’t matter and you’ll be able to take a lot more pictures.

But if your camera, like mine, sits on the shelf all week and you take it out on weekends, you’ll get sick of “low battery” messages resulting from your batteries losing their charge.
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Tom posted at 11:50 am August 27th, 2008

Compass basics

compassFor hikers, a compass is like car insurance: you never need one except when you do. Say you’re going uphill into a fog bank and suddenly you lose all visual references of your location. You’re flying blind now. Then the trail splits. Which way to turn?

Novices who’ve just tossed their shiny new compass in their pack think they’re covered till they break it out in the middle of said fog bank and realize they have no earthly idea which way to go, based on what that little floating magnetic arrow is telling them. So, it points north. Then what?
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Tom posted at 8:26 am August 27th, 2008

How to find gear made in somebody’s garage

The question answers itself: Why would gear crafted by hand be better than gear mass-produced in a Chinese sweatshop?

Over at my hiking blog, I amassed a nice list of links to folks who make packs, tents, gaiters, stoves and a host of other cool outdoor gadgetry. Most of it is price-competitive to high-end gear, though you can always buy a $19 tent at Wal-Mart (till 1 billion Chinese realize communism is supposed to help working people; then all bets are off).

Here’s my list of links (not all of these are specifically garage/basement/backyard built, but they are home-built businesses:)
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Tom posted at 5:28 pm August 25th, 2008

All you need to know about backpacking stoves

The Zen Stoves site has all you need to know, including tips on how to choose a stove, how different fuels work, how various stoves work, how to build a stove from a Pepsi/Coke/Heineken can.

Go there and get cooking.

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Tom posted at 10:30 am August 12th, 2008

Prevent AA batteries from exploding in your pocket

This almost happened to me: I had coins in my pocket and a couple of rechargeable batteries. I noticed a very hot sensation in my pocket, pulled out the batteries and noticed they were super hot. Apparently the coins touched the poles and created a closed circuit: eventually they could have exploded.

Easiest hack: put tape over the battery poles to keep this from happening. But better yet: avoid carrying batteries in your pocket (stow ‘em with your camera case if possible). Some brands of rechargeable batteries come with carrying cases, which are way handy and will prevent this too.

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Tom posted at 10:28 am August 12th, 2008

Wash your down sleeping bag

Dirt, grit and body oil ruin a sleeping bag’s ability go keep you warm, but they don’t ruin the bag. “Loft” is your bag’s giver of warmth: filth takes it away but a good cleaning and drying brings it right back. Down sleeping bags are washable and dryable, though it is a tiny bit complicated. (Don’t bother trying to get one dry-cleaned).

First of all, find a way to keep trail gunk out of your bag: use an interior liner as a barrier between your bag and your body funk, and an exterior cover as a barrier between your bag and campsite crud (backpackers who don’t want the extra weight will have to endure extra wash cycles).

Down is downright fickle: dirtiness reduces loft, but washing it too much has the same effect. Either way, your bag stops preserving body heat (if you liked shivering in your own stench you wouldn’t be here, right?)

So, don’t wash the bag a lot, but do launder it at the end of the season before long-term storage, or after your annual two-week backpacking trip. Read the rest of this entry »

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Tom posted at 10:25 am August 12th, 2008