The following content is comprised of personal opinions, and in no way reflects the opinions of the Peace Corps or the U.S. Government.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Scotland Gear: You Ain't Got No Alibi (But I Do!)

With only 4 days before I leave Duluth and start my Journey to Scotland, my brain is on overload and my body can;t take much more stress. I remember the six month mark, and even then I was worried about time. Not too worry, my brain can handle it!

However, I still have so much to do. Two group projects and a 20-page paper are still incomplete, and I have three finals to take on Thursday. In addition, it was recently finalized that I will be presenting a spotlight presentation on Scotland's Highland Culture for the Alworth Institute for International Studies here in Duluth on October 8th. Because of that, I have just another small stack of paper added to the slowly diminishing heap that is my desk.

I mentioned in my last post (nearly a full month ago!!) that I had two new pieces of gear. One was the Contrail Tent, which I already posted about, and the other finally made its way to my door. One of the minor oversights on made on the Superior Trail was not having a pair of gloves. In addition to warmth, gloves would have helped with the chaffing from the trekking poles (not very pleasant). Because of those two main reasons, I've spent the last few months trying on glove after glove, looking for one that is jsut what I need.

For this trip, I have decided to again go with a brand that is very familiar with the outdoors; Outdoor Research. While they make many fine gloves designed to keep your hands warm, they are all pretty bulky. The ones I settled on are the Alibi Gloves.

Pioneered for ice climbers, the Alibi has sticky palms that allow better grip rain or shine. Constructed Mainly out of Neoprene and Nylon, the Alibi hugs your palm and fingers tight enough to keep the water out while still allowing you to perspire and not feel waterlogged. The outside edge, along the pinky, is injected with a gel padding to cushion impacts and resist scraps. The cuff, made out of Neoprene as well, has been thermo-formed to contour tightly to the wrist, stopping water from entering there as well.

The Alibi Gloves also have pull-loops on the wrist to make them easier to get on. The velcro straps have a bite strip on the end, allowing you to still be able to put the glove on when your other hand is full. At 5.4 ounces, they are extremly light when compared to the 1 pound alternatives.

At first, I was concerned about their ability to keep my hands warm. However, I wore them for close to and hour in my apartment and my hands were starting to sweat. I suppose having the Neoprene that tight against your hand is what does it. After all, Neoprene isn't that thick of a meterial.

I'll make two posts before I board the place; one detailing my Route and another with the final farewell before I leave. However, both of these will ahve to wait till after thursday night so I can get my homework done!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Scotland Gear: (Tarp)Tent

Monday morning was a sight to see in Duluth; it was the last week in March, 25 degrees outside, and a fresh layer of snow had just fallen, recovering the brown grass for just a bit longer.

So much for out like a lamb.

None of that bothered me as I opened my mailbox to find the purple package slip was finally there. That's the sucky thing about living on campus; mail takes an extra day to reach me.

Success! I was first in line when the mail room opened at 2:00 and was quickly signing the dotted line. As I headed home, I had to resist the urge to rip apart the box and marvel at its contents. Not wanting to be stared at too awkwardly, I chose to wait for the privacy of my living room.

This was the piece of gear that I had never quite gotten around to getting... ever. In preparation to my Superior Trail hike, I never quite found a tent that fit my needs, plus my funds were extremely limited then. That led me to the tent I've been using since; a five pound bullet-proof Wenzel Ranger. While that tent is nice, it was/is WAAAY more than I will ever need for my style of hiking. I have to admit, I was rather disappointed that The One from Gossamer Gear wouldn't work out for me, but I think I found something just as good.

The Tent:

With no more crazy narratives, I give you Henry Shires' Contrail.

I discovered this tent a few months back, put wasn't planning on buying one because I had The One all lined up. However, after that situations change, this tent seems like my best bet.I know I've said that a lot, so I bet you want to know why...

The first good reason is because it's lightweight, weighing in at about 24 ounces. While a pound and a half isn't too remarkable, it'll be a lot better than the 5+ I was carrying. Another good reason I like it is because its a tent, but it also incorporates some great concepts from the tarp variety. Instead of having the traditional seamless four-wall and floor style, the waterproof shell is basically a staked-out tarp. The break-point in the front is created by pitching a trekking pole while the back is partially supported by two 12" struts. The bathtub-style floor is over 7 feet long and 30-42 inches wide, making it more than spacious. The bathtub floor then connects to the layer of big netting, which extend out to the shell. basically what this does is minimize the possibility of contact with the shell, which could result in water transfer.

The front also extends to act as a vestibule, allowing me to keep my gear there instead of at my side or feet. The picture above shows the foot-end open (did I mention it could do that?) as well as the shell has slightly off the ground. In windy, wet, or stormy condition (like Scotland), the rear struts can be lowered in order to bring the shell all the way to the ground, preventing water and wind from penetrating under the tarp. While the floor is 'waterproof,' I will still use a second layer groundsheet (Tyvek) to stop water and protect the tent itself.

The fabric for both the shell and the floor is a high-tenacity ripstop nylon that has been impregnated with silicon (commonly referred to as Silnylon). While not 100% waterproof, it will be waterproof under anything but high-velocity wind and rain (or if I pitch in a lake or river by mistake).

In addition, it does not need to be rolled, pampered, or babied like a normal tent does. It comes with a stuff sack that allows the tent to shrunk down to about 14" by 4" and dropped inside my pack.

normally, I would include pictures or the tent in action, or tell you how its better then it looks, yada yada yada. However, with the lack of space in my tiny 4-person apartment and a good 6 inches of snow outside, that hasn't quite happened yet. Hopefully within the coming weeks I'll be able to pitch it up and try it out for a night. Nevertheless, I fell very confident in this tent's attributes and abilities.