Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Under $350 Ultralight Backpacking Kit

There is a concern often expressed by people that if they want to reduce the weight of their gear, they must spend huge amounts of money. Those concerns are certainly justified, as many of the ultralight gear lists obtain maximum performance through very expensive, top of the line gear.

It doesn’t have to be that way however. The current state of the market is such that by removing unnecessary gear, and making some smart choices, one can easily create a very light weight kit on a budget.

You may have seen my Beginners Guide to Affordable Bushcraft and Camping Gear, where I was focusing more on low cost than low weight, but the resulting kit was under 13 lb, including a hatchet and saw, and cost a bit over $400 with all of the small accessories.

Well, Lightweight Backpacking has put together another gear list, titled Under $350 Ultralight Backpacking Kit, which I think is well worth a look.

You can follow the above link to the full article. I probably wouldn’t have made all of the same choices. For example, I would prefer a DIY alcohol stove over an Esbit one, and I would rather have a tarp than a one person tent, but overall, the gear choices are solid both in terms of weight and cost.

Jam_35L_Pack_Unisex_Aspen

I think the choices for backpack, sleeping bag and sleeping pad are excellent, and surprisingly cost effective. Of course, this is not the and all and be all gear list, but it goes to show that with some careful gear selection, and by leaving behind a lot of unnecessary equipment, the weight of your pack can be brought down significantly without braking the bank.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Dual Survival Clarification by Cody Lundin and New Host Announcement

Many of you have seen the previews for the new season of Dual Survival which is scheduled to premier April 23, 2014, and have undoubtedly noticed that Cody Lundin is in the previews despite his earlier announcement that he has been fired from the show. The previews have also made it seem that Cody left because of irresolvable conflict with co-host Joe Teti. Well, Cody just released another statement to clarify the issue. In summary, he specifies that he only filmed four episodes for the fourth season of the show. He confirms that he was fired because conflicts with Discovery over health and safety issue, and that he will be replaced by another host for the remainder of the season. He announced the new host as being Matt Graham from the show Dude, You’re Screwed.

True, False Road Sign

Here is his full statement:

Dear Campers,

Unfortunately, flurries of season four press releases by Discovery Channel have caused unnecessary confusion. Initial press releases implied that I was returning for the entire fourth season of Dual Survival. Not true. Later releases featured quotes from a new Discovery executive producer implying that I quit the show. Not true. Further releases implied that I couldn’t “hack” the show anymore and that I was unable to handle the survival scenarios. Not only are these implications completely false, they question my professional experience, expertise and integrity in a manner that I will not tolerate.

Given the promotional approach chosen by Discovery, I am left with no choice but to speak out to defend my reputation and career as a professional survival instructor with 25 years of experience. To be clear, the implications of my involvement in, and departure from, season four of Dual Survival in the network’s public statements have been inaccurate, uncalled for, unacceptable and untrue. It’s shocking to me that Discovery would treat anyone in this manner, and I am disappointed that this media organization would put its own reputation at risk by choosing sensationalism over facts.

Discovery is well aware of the actual circumstances that led to my firing from the show – circumstances that in no way resemble the message that the network has chosen to present so far. While I have not yet felt the need to address our differences in a much larger public forum, I won’t hesitate to do so if that is what is required to protect my integrity and my career. If the network continues to put forth a narrative regarding my departure, I expect it to do so in a respectful, fact-based way that allows us to part in a professional manner that will not harm either of our future interests.

The network should be aware that programming of this nature must be produced and marketed in a responsible manner with the highest level of regard for the safety and health of the hosts, production personnel, and members of the viewing public. I have shared this message with them many times. Failure to observe this standard could have tragic consequences that, with proper precaution, can be avoided. There can be no compromise when dealing with people’s lives.

It is true that I was scheduled to shoot all episodes for season four, but as I was fired due to differences over safety and health concerns, I filmed only four shows. The shows I participated in were filmed in Sri Lanka, Oman, and Norway. Matt Graham, one of the people from “Dude, you’re screwed” was hired to replace me. As Discovery moves forward with launching the new season of Dual Survival, I hope the network will choose a different tactic for the presentation and marketing of the show that is not at my expense.

On a brighter note, my farewell post was shared more than 720,000 times on Facebook alone with thousands of supportive comments from fans. I very much appreciate the continued support and hope this letter clears up any confusion.

Stay true and never waiver.
Sincerely, Cody Lundin

I find it sad that Discovery keeps taking the low road when it comes to its hosts. They keep trying to cover things up and manufacture drama. I suppose that is what sells to the larger public, but it is disappointing for those of us who watch the shows for the information they provide rather than the stunts they show.

On the other hand, I am very happy that Matt Graham will be taking over. I like the guy, although I am sad that he will be entering the same drama factory as some of the now gone presenters.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

My Cook Kit

I’ve been asked a few questions about my complete cook kit, so I figured I would put together a short post about it.

IMG_8802

Over the years I have tried to simplify my cook kit and carry just the items that I need. My cooking is not complex. I usually just boil water and mix it with dry stuff like stuffing or mashed potatoes.

I wanted a cook system that was light and compact, but could also be used on an open fire rather than with a stove when the opportunity presents itself, and I needed it to be able to melt snow for water during winter, requiring a stove that can function in cold weather, and a pot large enough to melt enough water to fill my Nalgene bottle. The result was the cook system you see above.

My main pot is a SnowPeak 1L titanium pot. They don’t make this exact model any more. I’ve had it for at least five years now. The pot did not come with a lid handle because the lid was intended to be used as a plate, but I tapped it and put a handle because it is more important to me to have a good lid than a plate. I prefer a simple pot like this one when compared to ones with thermal exchangers like those you see on integrated pot/stove designs like JetBoil because I can use the pot directly on a fire without melting anything or having to clean sooth out of the heat exchanger. The pot weighs 4.7oz.

As you can also see from the picture, I have a cup as well. It is the 700ml Stoic Ti Kettle. It comes with a lid and some other accessories which I don’t use. It nest together with my Nalgene bottle. I use it to mix drinks, but I also keep it as a back up pot in case I damage my main pot. The cup weighs 3.1oz.

The next item is the stove. I use the Kovea Spider, which is a remote canister stove. It allows for inverted canister use, so I can use the fuel in liquid feed mode when the temperature is low. The stove is also very stable and relatively light weight. It weighs 5.9oz. I use it with the smaller 4oz canisters because they allow me to fit everything within the pot. An empty canister weighs 3.5oz.

The above are the main components of my cook kit. In addition to that I have a few smaller item. I have a bandana which holds everything together in the pot. It weighs 1.1oz. I also have a mini BIC lighter which weighs 0.4oz and an aluminum foil windscreen which weighs 0.4oz, although I am thinking of getting a slightly thicker windscreen. 

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Everything together weighs 19.1oz and allows me to take care of all my cooking needs in the woods. If this type of stuff interests you, you may want to check out my minimalist cook kit.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Gear Weight and Physical Fitness

I noticed an interesting phenomenon recently. It has been popping up all over the place, both on blogs and YouTube channels I follow. At first I brushed it off, but it is as if though there was some type of secret meeting where a party policy was set for how to answer certain questions. I guess I wasn’t invited to the conference.

What am I talking about? Well, it is the phenomenon of justifying the weight of a person’s gear by saying that the person is in good physical shape, so the weight doesn’t matter. “Does my 60lb pack look heavy to you? Well, if you were in as good of a physical shape as I am, you wouldn’t even notice it on your back!”; “Yes my gear is heavy, but that’s where physical conditioning comes in.”; “If you go in the woods, you have to be in good physical shape, so pack weight is not an issue.”, and so on and so forth. All of those statements imply, or outright state that if you are a burly woodsy type of MAN, then the weight of your pack does not matter. The only people concerned with the weight of their pack are out of shape girly-men.

Copy of Backpacker-BIG-pack

Once we get past their horribly offensive nature, all of those statements contain a grain of truth, but sadly they use that grain of truth to mask impractical gear choices and lack of careful planning. I strongly believe that physical conditioning is very important. Being in good shape minimizes injury, it lets you go further and do more, and many outdoor pursuits and terrains demand peak physical shape. Not all of us can achieve that, but it is a worthy goal none the less.

That being said, using brute physical force to overcome impractical gear choices does not actually make the gear choices any better. With the application of enough force you can use a completely dull axe to bash through a tree. That however, does not make a dull axe just as good as a sharp one, and neither does the choice to carry such a dull axe make the user more of a man, and it certainly does not make him more of a woodsman. It simply makes the user someone who either through hubris, lack of knowledge, or convoluted rationalization after the fact, has made an impractical gear choice. 

Physical strength is great, but using it to overcome poorly selected gear does not make those gear choices any better. It simply compensates for them, sometimes effectively, sometimes not, but either way you pay a price.

Just like carrying a dull axe instead of a sharp one is a poor gear choice from a practical stand point, regardless of whether the user has the physical strength to bring down a tree, carrying an unnecessarily heavy piece of gear is an impractical choice regardless of whether one can compensate through the use of greater physical force.

It is a fine line between a man with a backpack and a pack animal. The former can quickly turn into the later through the gear choices he makes. More weight on your back means higher risk of short term and long term injury, higher energy expenditure requiring higher water and food consumption, decreased maximum duration of your trips because of the higher food consumption and the decreased amount of food that can be carried, decreased speed and ability to travel over difficult terrain, and ultimately it means having to sacrifice additional equipment. Replacing your 8 lb shelter with one that is of equal strength and size, but weighs 3 lb, will free up weight for other items. With the 5 lb you saved, you can bring a full size axe, or a rifle, or an additional three days of food, or you can simply have a lighter pack so that with your manly physical conditioning, you can now move much faster, travel over harder terrain, hunt over a larger range, and do more while in the woods. The difference is considerable, especially when you imagine taking the same approach with respect to all of your gear.

Now, I know that at this point someone will jump in with a comment about how the gear they carry is their personal choice and is based on intangible factors like aesthetics, childhood memories, etc, so who am I to tell them what to carry. Please note that I have no interest in telling anyone that they shouldn’t carry a particular piece of gear just because the choice was based on aesthetics. I think that is great. There is nothing wrong with selecting gear based on looks, nostalgia, or any other intangible factor. What I am commenting on here is the inexplicable need people have to then try to justify those aesthetic choices in terms of practicality. In particular, I am addressing one of the justification strategies, i.e. “if you are in good shape, the weight of your gear doesn’t matter”. Here I am speaking to the validity of that justification, and am asserting that it is a very poor one.