Monday, June 28, 2010


Blessings on Uncle Sam's soldiers! They have done their job well, and every pine tree is waving its arms for joy.
-John Muir

Buffalo Soldiers, 24th Infantry, in Yosemite National Park 1899

The United States Army served as the first "park rangers" for Yosemite and Sequoia national parks (as well as Yellowstone).  Their duties ranged from evicting poachers and timber thieves to extinguishing forest fires.  The troops essentially comprised a roving economy—infusing money into park and local businesses—and thus their presence was generally welcomed. The presence of these soldiers as official stewards of park lands brought a sense of law and order to the mountain wilderness.

Monday, June 14, 2010


A few weeks ago I was able to sneak away for a solo, one-night, backpacking trip to try out my latest purchase, the Jacks 'R' Better Shenandoah rectangular down quilt.  I have been doing a fair amount of research on summer-weight sleeping bags for the past year or so.  I was about to pull the trigger on a Western Mountaineering Caribou MF but went the quilt route at the last minute and I am extremely happy with my decision.  I saved some weight, money, and remorse.

Quilts vs. sleeping bags is a popular debate within the backpacking community.  The argument is mainly based on the fact that loft creates insulation.  When using a sleeping bag you crush the insulation beneath you, thus eliminating loft.  Quilt users see this bottom portion of the sleeping bag as a weight penalty and depend on sleeping pads for insulation from the ground.

I went with a JRB quilt, as opposed to a sleeping bag for 4 main reasons:
1. Versatility.  I get very hot in the summer months and a quilt's versatility was a perfect solution for me.  I can drape the quilt over me like a blanket.  I can use the omni tape and draw string to create a cozy footbox when temperatures dip down at night.  I can easily open it up and only cover certain parts of my body depending on the climate.  I can also tie the loops together and have it wrap around me like a full bag. (Don't forget your sleeping pad!)
2. Weight and compressibility.  The Shenandoah quilt weighs a remarkable 15 ounces and compresses down to the size of a melon with ease.
3. Price.  The price was right compared to a Western Mountaineering bag.
4. Customer Service.  I initially sent JRB an email before making my purchase.  They answered my questions but also asked if they could give me a call.  I sent along my phone number and I received a call the very next day.  When I picked up I was amazed to find out that owner/founder Jack Tier (aka Peter Pan) was on the other end.  Let's see if you get the owner the next time you call North Face or Osprey with some questions.

 So, as you would guess my first night out with my quilt was terrific.  I was hot for most of the night and the freedom of movement I had made a big difference.  Typically I would be using my North Face Cat's Meow sleeping bag, but I find myself sweating all night and leaving the bag wide open.  Now whenever I feel hot I can slide the entire quilt out of the way and get much more comfortable.  No buyer's remorse here.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


"one of our greatest, if not our greatest, painter of American outdoor life."
-Outing Magazine, 1907

The following are some personal favorites by N.C. Wyeth:

The Silent Fisherman

The Indian In His Solitude (1)

 The Indian In His Solitude (3)

Lewis & Clark

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


I am sure most of you outdoor enthusiasts have heard, but I figured I would still share.  Gregory Mountain Products and Black Diamond Equipment were bought and merged under the public company Clarus Corporation.  It looks like all current management will be left in place.  We shall see what happens next.