High above and downpour below

MEC Tonquin Goretex jacket

Backstory – I had a pretty kick-ass goretex jacket made by Outdoor Research. Because of a manufacturing flaw, I had to warranty the jacket. Sadly, they don’t make it anymore and I resigned myself to finding a replacement by any means necessary.

That’s when I happened across the Tonquin jacket by MEC.

A rather inexpensive but well-made 2.5L goretex, this jacket is pretty damn sweet. Comparing to other goretex shells, I found it to be on-par with OR’s Foray, albeit with a few differences that aren’t normally important enough to discuss in a review post. However, they are: the front chest pocket, the collar height, and the cuffs.

PROs
1) Crazy cheap Goretex jacket
2) Well-made for the price point
3) Fits very well, works with mid and base-layer system

CONS
1) Limited colours
2) Pit zips have limited opening
3) Made from Goretex Paclite, but doesn’t stuff into own pocket
4) Cuff hook&loop strips too narrow.

The last con being stupidly minor. I don’t really need that feature, but it’s nice to have. Keeps the clutter to a minimum and protects the jacket when stowed in your pack.

As mentioned, the key differences from the Foray are noticeable, but minor. Foray has a external chest pocket. I find these to be great for stuffing things you need inconsistently, but often. Tonquin’s chest pocket is internal and opens the user up to getting their base/mid layer wet from trying to get at items in that pocket.

The collar, I find to be superior, as it rises higher. This can be annoying for some, but it’s great to have as a stormshield in s****ier weather. Couple it with a neck gaiter and you’re golden. (In colder weather, I would insist on this.)

The cuffs, are pretty good, but the hook and loop closures are far too narrow for my liking. Nevertheless, they work and that’s all you can ask for.

All-in-all, I’m quite pleased with this jacket and would recommend it to anyone. Considering it’s price point and where it falls in MEC’s lineup, it’s a better option than the Synergy jacket, which I find too stiff.

I got mine in the Ocean Cruise colour, so there was an additional saving for me. But, were I to buy this jacket again, I’d go for the Deep Red version.

Now here’s the thing with Goretex. It’s a waterproof breathable fabric. Cool, right? Except… yeah. Cool. Goretex only works if there’s a marked temperature variance between the trapped air and the external ambient. It’s through mechanisms of heat and pressure, that goretex does it’s magic. To work, it needs to be trapping air that’s warmer than the external environment and to work really well, that variance needs to be on the cooler end of the thermometer. 

Here’s where goretex starts to suck – when that variance is severe. After a certain point, the cold freezes any water vapour that would normally pass through the membrane freely. End result? The inside of a jacket slick with ice. 

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*wolf whistle* Hubba Hubba! (NX2)

©Earl Harper Starting from its silvery-white fly, down to its red tub-style flooring, this tent has all the right curves.

Weighing in at a scant three pounds and 13 ounces, this tent is close to being the perfect backcountry accommodation one (or two) will need. Inside, you can easily fit two standard (regular) backcountry air mattresses.

Or, if you’re solo – one mattress, your pack and all the contents of your pack because of kit explosion. Hey, I’m being honest!

One thing you’re going to want to have with this tent is the footprint. ESPECIALLY IF IT RAINS. Unfortunately, this tent can suffer in heavy downpours. Not so much as the rain goes through it freely, but rather, the moisture will work its way through the fabric. This is more of a concern from below than above. If the water does get through, then you can always wipe it down. Better yet, give the bottom a good coating of TX-direct spray-on.

The GOOD
1) Lightweight
2) Spacious
3) Easy and quick to setup.

The BAD
1) Waterproof to a certain extent
2) Could be made lighter if poles were carbon instead of DAC aluminum
3) Vents aren’t large enough

The UGLY
1) MSR tent poles are prone to connector slippage
2) Footprint sold separately
3) Provided stakes are two too few to fully stake out the tent

When I say it’s easy to set up, it really is. However, you need to forget about how previous tents worked. This one can be tricky for the unfamiliar. But once you do it once or twice, you’ll get the hang of it.

All in all, it’s a solid little tent for backpacking excursions. It’s small enough that you can shove it into almost anything. In my case, both backpacks and a kayak. Just be careful with how you handle it. It is a lightweight tent and therefore prone to easy damage.

I need a hero… a Guardian!

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BEHOLD, IN ALL OF ITS GLORY!

THE MOUNTAIN SAFETY RESEARCH

GUARDIAN!

 

Fear no particle, protozoa or virii.

For the guardian is your shield in the water; your molecular sword; your knight in shining red and gray plastic armour.

 

There are a lot of water purifier and filtration systems on the market. But few can do what the Guardian does, which is BOTH. It filters and purifies, thanks to a crazy two-hose system that I cannot begin to explain. This device has been reviewed time and time again, and many are long winded. So, I will cut to the chase with a few points. Or save yourself the trouble and skip to the bottom of this post for the real advice.

The Good
1) Flow-rate = 2.5L/min
This makes it faster than MSR’s Miniworks EX.
2) Longer handle than Miniworks
Less effort and awkwardness
3) Easy to maintain
Requires only the occasional flushing with a mild bleach solution

The Bad
1) It’s expensive ($400+!)
2) Cannot be maintained without precautions (filter can hold onto live virii/bacteria)
3) The hose isn’t long enough

The Ugly
1) As fast as it is, it still requires effort
2) The float sucks and prevents the filter trap from sitting on the surface of the water properly.

Nice thing is, the issue with the hose length and the float are easily fixed.

********** THE USEFUL INFO IN THIS POST **********
Hose – position yourself better at source of water.
Float – remove the filter trap then slide the float up the hose by about 10cm/4”. Reconnect filter trap. Doing this will allow the filter and hose to sit close to the surface properly.
********** THE USEFUL INFO IN THIS POST **********

Final Judgment?
This pump is everything you could ever want/need. At it’s price point, it’s a bit spendy for a lot of people, but this your health we’re talking about here. The last thing you want, while miles from civilization and ample amounts of toilet paper, is diarrhea caused by unclean water.

Source Widepac 2L hydration bladder

This will be a quick one.

You need water. It’s the most basic needs for life. When you go out on adventures, whether they be by bike or on foot, you need to stay hydrated. Rather than go into the science of how much water you need to take with you, I’ll just say that you need to take water with you. Minus 10 and in the mountains? Take water. Over 30 and humid as balls? Take water.

Source makes a great hydration pack for all kinds of adventure. Three features make this one particularly better in my mind than competing brands. But I will also cover one feature it lacks.

The PROS
1) Taste-free PE and Glass-like TPU
Really, this is two features of the bladder, but the combination of the two results in a great water carrier. The Taste-free material is exactly that. Brand new out of the box and hundreds of liters later, I’ve yet to detect a taste imparted on my water. I’ve even thrown Nuun tablets in my Source bag and they did not affect the taste later. The glass-like technology likely helps with this, as vapor and residue have no real chance to stick. Do a flash fill from a sink, dump, then refill with fresh water and you’re good to go!

2) The Widepac closure system
It’s perfect. Seriously. Slide off, unfold once and do what you need to. Refill, fold and slide. Done. This system is far easier to use than those on Platypus or Hydrapak bags.

3) Mouth piece
Armed with a shut-off and hard cap, the helix valve wins in preventing unnecessary water loss and by staying clean. Sure, it’s hard, bulky and likely to hurt you if you crash while mountain biking, but at least it’ll be clean.

THE CONS
1) Filling port
Widepac is great and all, but because this bag lacks a 63mm screwcap, it’s not ideal for backcountry use. Strangely, Source’s WXP LP does have this feature, but it’s top opening isn’t as large.

Regardless of what you do – the Source Widepac hydration bladder and it’s sibling WXP bladder are a great choice for your water carrying needs. Just be mindful that, if you’re going camping and you want to use a filtration device, you’ll need to transfer the water from a Nalgene to the Widepac. If you have the WXP, then you’re all set.

Gregory Baltoro 75

Big trips need big bags to handle big loads.

When you’re going on a big trip and you need to carry a big load, go for this big (yet still reasonably sized) bag.

The Baltoro 75 is your typical backpacking/expedition pack in many ways. It has separate internal sections, multiple pockets, tie-downs and lashpoints. All of which, are very well thought out by Gregory and equally well-executed.

Starting with the bottom – it has your typical bottom-access hatch that lets you stow a sleeping bag and mattress pad. There’s a small little patch of webbing that lets you keep the items in this bottom compartment separate from the main section. The shape of this area is typical. It’s functional and it works.

The next section is the main compartment. This is where I feel the baltoro75 both wins and loses. In the main section, you have a mini daypack – perfect for a hydration bladder and couple items, should you have the desire to go off on a side trip. Under this daypack, is the frame – it’s a simple keyhole hoop that doesn’t impede much on the storage.

As mentioned before, the bottom of the compartment has that divider. I feel that the execution here is a major fail for the pack. The webbing of the divider is not complete and smaller items can easily slide down and into the bottom section.  Because the main section can be accessed by either top or front, this makes the divider somewhat of a concern. If you don’t care where stuff is, so long as it stays in the pack, then you can disregard what I’ve said here.

The front access has three pockets on it – two zipped and one kangaroo. This is great as it lets you organize the gear you don’t need to necessarily protect. In my case, it was my tent and poles. But also the zips are well placed for a hiking partner to get at, should you be carrying something that they need to get out for you.

And lastly, the top-lid. It’s designed very well, with corner lashings for anything you might need/want to attach. The lid itself has three compartments. On the top, you have two, equally split down the middle. Great for stuffing quick access items like a rain coat or first aid. The fact that it is split, allows for these sort of quick access items to be separated period. Underneath, is another pocket that serves as the rain-cover stow.

Seeing as how amazing this bag is, it’s hard to find anything on it to criticize, but the rain-cover storage is that one thing. I cannot emphasize enough how poorly this was thought out. It feels like an afterthought. Like “Oops! We forgot to put a raincover in this bag!”. Cause that’s exactly how it feels.

For me, this one factor is enough for me to look elsewhere, except that the next closest equivalent in a backpack that I’ve tried, doesn’t even come with a raincover.

Nevertheless, Baltoro 75 is a recipient of a few awards for its design and capability. You cannot go wrong buying this bag. Unless you’re extremely unlucky and get hit by freak storms all the time when you’re out.

For my american friends – you can get this bag at REI. For my Canadian friends – MEC.

Filthy Water, Clean Filter

Last summer I set out on an insane solo backcountry adventure. After renting a kayak from MEC and then setting off to a small provincial park north of Kingston, ON; I was completely on my own. No family members to help me. No friends to join me in the adventure. Just me, the water and the haunting calls of the common loon. Continue reading

Shifting schedule == energy drinks

As far as I can recall, I have never worked nine-to-five. Not, in the exact, traditional sense at least. I have worked a variety of schedules over the past 10 years or so. But none have been nine to five.  I have worked 14:30 to 22:00. I have worked 06:00 to 14:30. I have worked 08:00 to 16:00. Now, I work 22:00 to 06:00.

These hours, for the most part, are less than desirable for the greater population. I work them, because I have to, want to and need to.

I recently started a new job with an amazing Canadian outdoor/lifestyle company that specializes in healthy active living. They even go so far as to incorporate green features into their operations. Being a retailer, most employees are ecstatic about the awesome discounts and deals we’re privy to. Me, being more mature in my needs, prefer the greater scope of the company’s dealings with regards how the conduct themselves and treat their employees and clientele.

As a result of my taking on this new job and it’s hours, I have gone back to tried and true, store-purchasable liquid stimulants: Energy drinks.  Discussing my options of how to use my free time, I’ve decided to write in my blog, reviews of each drink that graces my taste buds and digestive tract.

First should be Red Rain Sugarfree. redrain

Assessment: Oh my god… why did I try this one first? What the hell is wrong with me? I’d like to lose some weight, but is this really the way to do it? I can taste the plastic! Wait? This is in a metal can! Dear god… why? Maybe I should try this one again later.

Next up: Monster Ultra Red