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  • Naturehike Tents: Silent Wing vs Ultralight Cycling

    Posted on July 5th, 2017 admin No comments

    I wound up with two light-weight single-person tents:

    Both tents were supposedly available for under $100, though I ended up having to order the Silent Wing from another warehouse and paid about $110.

    Rather than list the specifications side by side, I’ll just give a quick comparison.

    Naturehike NH18A095-D without storm skirt

    Naturehike NH18A095-D without storm skirt

    Size

    The cycling tent is a little larger.  Its rectangular floorplan gives a little more room inside for a wider camper or a bit more gear.  The Silent Wing’s tapered footprint skimps on floor space but cuts down on weight.  Both tents have roughly equal height from floor to peak, but the crossed poles of the Silent Wing seem to give more headroom.  The cycling tent has an A-frame and when I sit up, the sides of the peak seem pretty close to my head.  Doesn’t really bother me, but the Wing definitely feels roomier up top.

    Silent Wing 1 by Korean manufacturer Naturehike

    Silent Wing 1 by Korean manufacturer Naturehike

    Gear Storage

    Both tents have a little (barely adequate) storage pocket; for the SW it’s in the roof, for the Cycling tent it’s by the door.  Both were handy to keep my glasses safe and out of the way.

    The narrow tapered design of the SW means there’s room in the tent for a sleeper and not much else.  I’m short and not too broad, so was able to stow a little gear at the head or foot and a little in the vestibule (boots and bar bag) but the panniers had to go outside under a little tarp.

    The rectangular orange cycling tent is far more roomy.  In the one heavy rain this tent was in, I was able to get all my gear under cover in the tent or under the vestibule without feeling crowded.  A taller, broader camper might not find it so roomy.

    Weatherproofing

    The two tents are similar in density, and waterproofing, with the SW being just a bit lighter fabric.

    I initially had a concern that rain would come in when the vestibule was open.  With the tents  oriented so the vestibule was 45 degrees to the prevailing wind, this turned out not to be a serious issue.  Sure, a little rain got in whenever I went in or out.  It wasn’t much.  Before my entry/exit I pushed the sleeping bag back so rain wouldn’t hit it.   Then I mopped up the moisture with my towel.  Let’s face it, by the time that storm was over, almost everything was a bit damp.

    There was a minor issue of water getting under the fly on the SW during one of two heavy extended rainstorms, but I fixed that by adjusting the fly.  Not the fault of the tent.  I think if I were to use this tent more I’d add another strap to peg the foot end of the fly further out from the tent.

    On the other hand, the storm flaps on the Cycling tent work really well at keeping out rain.  Combined with the A-frame structure, they’d also keep out snow, making this a possible three-season tent. Unfortunately, they also keep out air circulation, and the little triangular vent (similar in both tents) is not sufficient to keep moisture from building up inside the tent.  Condensation on the inside of the fly is common in all tents, but in the SW there is enough air circulation to cut down on condensation a bit.    Both tents were fine with one side of the vestibule left open.

    I used some glue-on Velcro dots to hold the storm flaps up when I want them up.  I can just detach them if I want them down. We’ll see if that vents a bit better.

    Conclusions

    I like them both.  The Silent Wing is a bit more technically advanced, is has less floor space but more headroom, and less room for gear storage.  It definitely makes some minor sacrifices to be light and compact.  The Cycling tent is roomier on the floor but has less headroom when I sit up.  The storm flaps may offer some weatherproofing but reduce ventilation.

    Since I will be doing more cycling than backpacking, I’m keeping the orange and will sell the blue.

  • Weekend Bike Tour Review

    Posted on June 18th, 2017 admin No comments

    Earlier, I posted a gear list for an upcoming overnight bike tour. The tour’s over and it was a good experience.

    Setting Out

    On day 1 we had sunshine but brisk NW winds, I think 30 kph.  This was a fine tailwind for the first leg of my run, 20 km from Leduc to Millet, to join the Circuit Cycle club for this Meetup.  From there, we — hosts and trip organizers/leaders Brian and Teresa, with riders Roger, Melissa, Tanya, I — set out about 10:30 and the first leg was south, so we had the wind at our back then.  On turning west, however, we started a long tough slog.  Tanya has medical issues so part-way along arranged for a ride to the campsite.  The rest of us ploughed on into the wind, followed by a few kilometers of gravel.

    On a 27 km test run on Friday, just after a brief but heavy rainstorm.

    On a 27 km test run on the Friday before the tour, taken just after a brief but heavy rainstorm.

    The wind had delayed us considerably, so some of us stopped on the side of the road for lunch.  The rest of the group caught up to us too soon, so I packed up hastily and we moved on into the wind.  Total distance from Millet to camp was 29 km.

    At the Camp

    Once at our destination, we set up our tents.  One interesting observation:  All the others faced the door of their tents towards the center of the clearing where the firepit was.  Without thinking, I angled my tent with the vent downwind and the door facing away from the campfire.  A bit odd, because the surrounding forest mostly protected us from the wind.

    We played Frisbee (using my cloth disc, which the others dubbed “the flying underwear”, and a couple of others), sat around the fire and schmoozed, played “What’s that Song” on Brian’s phone, and consumed a number of coolers and weiners which our hosts had thoughtfully stowed at the site in coolers the day before.

    A few people woke up cold at 5 am and started the fire for an early breakfast. I noticed that Melissa and I slept the latest, I’m guessing because we had the most experience with our gear.  But that’s just conjecture.  More about gear in a bit.

    Camped in the clearing.  My orange tent at left.

    Camped in the clearing. My orange tent at left.

    Heading Home

    Partly because of the possibility of storms in the afternoon, but I think also because several people were tired and wanted to get home, we changed our departure time from after lunch to ASAP.  The 5am risers were pretty much packed, so the rest of us decamped and we took off at  9:00 am.  The weather was cool and cloudy but the wind was light.   We took a different and much easier route home, 24 km to Millet.  Roger took a short cut to his home (his knee was hurting).

    Four of us returned to Circuit Cycle, then went to a local restaurant for a tasty Chinese buffet.   From there, I returned to Leduc, a trip which has previously taken 45 minutes.  I met a freshening headwind that dragged that 20 km trip out to 75 minutes (toting 15 kg of gear didn’t help, you bet!).   By the time I got home, I was one tired old dawg!

    Gear Analysis

    On the whole, I think I packed well, even though I appeared to be carrying more gear than the others.

    What I was glad I took

    • My crushable hat (I was the only one with a hat. Guess I’m weird.)
    • The “flying underwear”
    • the tent, sleeping bag and mat that I had purchased and pre-tested
    • a 710 mL sports drink that I bought in Millet, extended my water supply.

    What I will take for next trip

    • A moist microfiber facecloth in a ziplock bag to make for easier hand/face wash

    What I may not take on the next trip

    •  Deck of cards (heavy and maybe not needed?)
    • The cute little Light My Fire lunch set
    • So many spare clothes — could easily have aired and worn things again

    What I took and didn’t use

    • Binoculars
    • Tent footprint
    • Nylon tarp
    • Rope and parachute cords
    • Sleeping Bag Liner
    • Hydration pak — forgot to even fill it up, but would have needed more water if Brian & Teresa hadn’t brought coolers
    • Disposable razor

    Looking at that list, I think the first five are useful.  I could have left the footprint because I knew we’d be in a grassed area.  I’d have used the tarp and ropes for gear storage and to cover the tent entrance if rain had threatened.  In warmer or cooler weather, I’d want the liner. I’d have used the binocs had I been on my own, but pressure to keep up with the group made some stops shorter than I’d have liked.  And different destinations might make them good to have.

    What Worked and What Didn’t

    Being familiar with my gear, having tested it out in my back yard and at our acreage, was a big help

    The tent, pad, and sleeping bag all worked well.   I was snug and warm and comfortable all night (except 4:00 am when my prostate insisted I needed to get up  and go).   There was condensation in the tent but it was not too much problem as I left one vestibule door open, only waking up to close it halfway during a brief rain shower (love the rain on a tent!  Went right back to sleep).  I will make some mods to the tent to improve ventilation.  My gear under the vestible and inside the tent stayed dry.

    Organizing things in stuff sacks worked well.  Things didn’t shift around or get jumbled.  I knew where to look for things for the most part. The sacks do add a few grams of weight but I think it was worth it.

    Stowing snacks was okay if I stuck to side pockets and the handlebar bag. Putting my food in a big plastic shopping bag didn’t.  I’ll need a better system for stowing food.

    The little Trangia spirit stove worked well.  Water on, then go pack up.  Make coffee, make oatmeal, put bacon on to cook.  Finish oatmeal, eat bacon, use remaining warm water to clean up with toilet paper that then goes into the firepit (it would go into a bag to pack home otherwise).

    I was underhydrated on the way home, even though I drank two glasses of water at the cafe with lunch.

    In Review

    All in all, it was a good learning trip.  A big thank you to the organizers and to my fellow cyclists for fun and fellowship (and even if I’m quiet, I am still enjoying!)

    I’m all set to go on another self-supported tour.

    Further Reading

     

     

  • Google Adsense and My Blog

    Posted on June 16th, 2017 admin No comments

    This is in the LOL category.

    I have ads on my blog, arranged by Google Adsense.  When people visit my blog and click on one of the ads,  I make a little money.

    Google pays me when my ad income reaches $100 USD.

    The ads on my blog bring in roughly $2 a month.

    It will take 50 months, or over four years, to reach that total.  Whee!

    There is hope.  My best month, May 2012, hit $8.32.   On the other hand, there are many months with $0.02 or $0.04 to bring the average down. Fortunately, there are more months  with $1 or more than there are months less than $1, making the average $2.14/month.

    So maybe I’ll hit a payout by 2022!

     

  • Naturehike Silent Wing One-Person Tent

    Posted on June 14th, 2017 admin No comments

    I wanted a tent for short-distance bike touring and maybe some overnight backpacking. I didn’t need expensive top-end gear for occasional and casual use.  I researched NatureHike and found their products well-reviewed, and in the end wound up with two of their tents for under $200 combined.

    Specs and First Impressions

    This tent, the Naturehike Silent Wing 1,  is promoted on GearBest.com for $69.73 CAD plus $8.74 S/H.   Unfortunately, it’s out of stock at that price.  When I got it, it cost me C$105.12 with shipping.  There was no extra duty or tax.  I thought that even this was a reasonable price for the tent.

    It’s a bit more technical than the Naturehike Cycling tent I previously reviewed (a comparison is elsewhere).  Here are the specs, according to GearBest and Naturehike:

    • GearBest product number 487874
    • Tent inside material: 150D oxford cloth; waterproof index: more than 3000mm
    • Tent outside material: 210T plaid; waterproof index: more than 3000mm
    • Tent pole material: 7001 high strength aluminum pole
    • Footprint material (Wind Wing 1): 150D polyester oxford cloth
    • Rainproof, waterproof and windproof, three seasons design
    • 1 person tent size : 225 x 95 x 110cm / 88.58 x 37.4 x 43.31 inches
    • Product weight: 1.705 kg
    • Package weight: 1.730 kg
    • Package Size(L x W x H): 45.00 x 15.00 x 15.00 cm / 17.72 x 5.91 x 5.91 inches

    Silent Wing Close

    Package Contents

    The tent came from GearBest with the following:

    • 1 x Tent
    • 1 x Fly Sheet
    • 1 x Cinch strap
    • 8 x Aluminum Y-profile Pegs with storage sack
    • 4 x Guy lines
    • 1 x Set of Aluminum poles with storage sack
    • 1 x Storage Bag for all of the above
    • 1 x Wind Wing 1 footprint (fits the Silent Wing) with storage bag

    The tent itself, with bag, poles, pegs, guys, and fly, weighed 1554 grams; the footprint and bag were 162 g; total mass 1716 grams or 1.716 kg, very close to the stated mass (this is not always the case).

    Wind-Wing 1 by Korean manufacturer Naturehike

    Wind-Wing 1 / Silent Wing 1 by Korean manufacturer Naturehike

     

    Silent Wing vs Wind Wing

    Wind Wing Mat

    Silent Wing 1 tent with Wind Wing 1 mat (footprint)

    The Silent Wing is not even listed on the Naturehike web site.  The current model is the Wind Wing, which based on the specs at Naturehike is more waterproof (4000 mm vs 3000 mm), with reduced weight (1360 g).  In terms of layout and design, the two tents appear to be highly similar, to the point where a Wind Wing mat was included with the Silent Wing tent.

    Impressions:  The Good

    There are some technical features I like that remind me of higher-level tents such as those by MSR; I find these atrractive in a product at this price point.

    •  The crossed-pole design gives lots of headroom and a feeling of spaciousness inside.
    • It has a tapered floor, wide at the head end and narrowing to the foot.  This cuts down on mass, but also reduces floor space.  Don’t plan to take much gear inside, especially if you’re tall or broad.
    • There is a well-fitted, full-cover fly without a storm skirt.  Some people fear that this design can allow wind and rain to blow into the tent, although with other tents of similar design I have not found this to be an issue.
    • All guys and tethers are 1 mm cord, with lightweight plastic locks on the guys.
    • There are reflective strips on the fly clips — they show up quite brightly in a flashlight beam so you don’t trip on them in the dark
    • The stuff sack is roomy and I have never had trouble packing up the tent, even wet.
    • The aluminum pegs are y-beam, similar to MSR (Mountain Safety Research) Mini-Groundhog stakes.
    • The tent ground attachments are  strap-and-cord, a few grams lighter than plain straps, but still with grommets for the poles.  Compare the MSR method which puts the pole into a small tab attached to the cord and shaves off a few more grams per attachment.
    Red poles to the gold grommet (top), grey poles to the silver grommet (bottom)

    Strap-and-string.  Red poles to the gold grommet (top), grey poles to the silver grommet (bottom), peg thru the string

    Impressions:  The Bad

    I do have some reservations about the design.

    • Better quality tents generally have a ridge-pole across the top that extends the fly over the door.  This little roof peak provides additional headroom and helps keep rain out of the tent when the vestibule is open.
    • The vestibule is quite small.  There’s not a lot of room for gear storage there.

    The Silent Wing appears to be an earlier version of the Wind Wing, and I expect the latter to have some changes/improvements to reduce the mass even further.  Perhaps the grommets are red, for better color matching with the poles.

    Tapered footprint cuts down weight, but reduces floor space

    Tapered footprint cuts down weight, but reduces floor space

    Impressions:  The Ugly

    It’s not something I’d considered before, because my previous tent had a front entry.   The Silent Wing is a left-handed tent.  When you are inside, looking out the door, you are laying on your right side.  Your left hand is free, so that is the easiest one to use to unzip the door.  I’m right-handed, so this is just a bit awkward.    I can push myself up with my left hand and open the door with my right.  Not impossible, just awkward.

    My sleeping bag has a left-hand zipper.  When I am lying on my back, the zipper is on my left side.  It’s never bothered me before. I turn that way and undo the zipper with my right hand.  But in this tent, the zipper is on the side away from the door; unzipping the bag puts me with my back to the door so I have to undo the bag further and roll over to access the door.  Not impossible, just awkward.  A sleeping bag with a right-hand zipper would make this easier…but am I prepared to buy another sleeping bag just to make the tent easier?

    Conclusion

    My first impression is favorable.  This light-weight Naturehike Silent Wing tent appears to be well-made and quite suitable for bicycle touring and backpacking or to toss under the back seat of the pickup for emergency use.  I expect that it would wear well and last several seasons of occasional, casual use. The greatest drawbacks are the small vestibule and a fly designed to let rain in when you enter or exit the tent. And the awkwardness of the left/right thing.   We’ll see if actual use confirms the first impression.

    Read More

  • Cycling Red Deer to Lacombe and Back

    Posted on May 29th, 2017 admin No comments

    One Saturday, as part of a Meetup bike trip, I rode the Trans Canada Trail from Red Deer to Lacombe and back, roughly 55-60 km.  The trip was a training ride for the Leduc-Camrose MSBike, one of many such events to raise money for MS research.

    It was the longest ride I’ve done so far — and I survived!

    We Meet Near Cronquist House

    We — Susan, Mesut, and me — started at historical Cronquist House beside Bower Ponds in the Red Deer River valley.

    From https://www.ehcanadatravel.com/gallery/index/category/1891-bower_ponds_park

    Cronquist House:  From https://www.ehcanadatravel.com/gallery/index/category/1891-bower_ponds_park

     

    The ponds themselves are a delightful park, and I had come half an hour early to bike around the ponds and to wait for the others in the group.  Bower Ponds Map

    We took off on time at 10:00 am, and stopped briefly for photos at the Trans Canada Trail Pavillion, which is just a bit south and east around the first pond.CTC Pavillion

    CTC Pavillion Close

    Mesut and Susan

    After our photo stop, we rode out for the long uphill that is Taylor Drive.  The ride through the city is not bad, a wide paved route though residential, green, and industrial areas.  There was a 20 kph headwind to cope with, but it mostly just kept us cool.

    At the northern end of Red Deer, the trail moves onto the old CE Trail.  We biked around a bit before reconfirming that our route was straight across the highway.  The Calgary-Edmonton Trail is a paved but shoulderless rural road that  I enjoyed thoroughly.  This scenic route passes through fields and forests, past ponds and acreages; there was little traffic, flat travel, and open vistas.

    Blindman River Bridge

    We had one little blip at the end of the CE Trail, when a traffic sign read “No Exit, Subdivisions Only”.  There really should have been a TCT sign on that post!  Fortunately, both the TCT app on my phone and my travelling companions (who had done the route before) said that was the way to go.  Sure enough, there was a little footbridge at the end to get us across the Blindman River.   Fran, the fourth member of the group, met us there.

    Photo by Mesut

    Fran, Tom, Susan.  Photo by Mesut, obviously.

     

    Blackfalds and Abbey Centre

    The four of us set out for Blackfalds, where the trail took us through some residential areas and eventually to the Abbey Centre, a 41,000 sq. ft. recreation complex.  The Trans-Canada Trail runs right through the building.  I think we entered at the treed area in the upper left as shown in the photo below, rode a ways, then came down a flight of stairs to emerge in the parking lot, lower left.

    Photo by Town of Blackfalds

    Photo by Town of Blackfalds

    We didn’t take much time to explore the fitness centre, but did pause to have our photo taken by the big trail sign:

    Photo by Fran M.

    Susan, Tom, Mesut, Fran.  Photo by Fran M, courtesy of a passerby.

    A brief pitstop at the centre’s washrooms, followed by a quick (and slightly confused) circumnavigation of the Centre saw us en route for Lacombe.   This stretch of trail, the County of Lacombe Trail, was another wonderful and scenic stretch that meandered through fields and forests and took us past the Lacombe Agricultural Research Station into the city.

    Tom on a stretch of the Lacombe County Trail.  Photo by Fran

    Tom on a stretch of the Lacombe County Trail. Photo by Fran.  Shows you what wonderful weather we had.

    Lunch at Ugly’s Pub & Grill

    Fran led us downtown, to Ugly’s Pub and Grill for lunch, at about 12:20 (a little later than estimated.  Oh, well).

    Ugly's Pub & Grill

    Here we are, all filled up with beverages and pub grub:

    Lunch at Ugly's

     

    And Back to Red Deer

    After that, there was nothing to do but go home.   The trip back always seems shorter, and this time we had the wind mostly at our back.  Even so, some of the little hills just south of Lacombe seemed pretty nasty to tired legs, and at least one cyclist walked a bit (not saying, but not me).

    We stopped at a picnic area just northwest of the Blindman bridge for a rest break and to say ‘bye to Fran.  Then back along the CE Trail, as pretty coming as it was going.   Finally, we finished with the long downhill on Taylor Drive, varied with a little hop across the road on a pedestrian bridge and straight down into Bower Ponds, a more direct route than we took on the way out.

    Who, Me, Tired?

    I had had a big beer and a big glass of water at lunch, and still by the time I reached the Lions Campground, some 6 km downstream, I had sucked my water bottle dry.  I guess that where the group did roughly 55 km, I must have added another 12+,  which is almost the distance I have to ride for MS Bike from Leduc to Camrose next month.    A little nap after supper, followed by two rum-and-Cokes and a lot of peanuts and potato chips (must have been short of salt!  Next time I’ll remember to have a sports drink) and I was fine.

    So what did I do the next day?  After my meetings at the Kerry Wood Nature Centre, I went for another hour and a half bike ride.  But that’s another story.

     

  • Americans Scientific Illiterates?

    Posted on May 23rd, 2017 admin No comments

    “Though the discourse of science is metric,” writes Elizabeth Kolbert in a note to her book, The Sixth Extinction, “most Americans think in terms of miles, acres, and degrees Fahrenheit.  All the figures in this book are given in Englisn [Imperial] units…”

    This unfortunate observation implies several things:

    America is Scientifically Illiterate

    First, the average American is scientifically illiterate.  A scientific paper that mentions centimetres, or joules, or kilograms is incomprehensible.  A hectare  is meaningless.  Symbols like  kPa or kWh might as well be hieroglyphics.   Even my spell-checker, set to American English, marks “centimetres”  — the official Système International spelling — as incorrect; it expects “centimeters”.  Americans don’t even spell like the rest of the world, let alone speak the language of international science.

    America Gets the Kindergarten Version

    Second, reporting or explaining scientific terms or achievements or research to Americans thus requires an additional layer of translation or simplification.  To Americans, even more than to citizens of other countries, science is a foreign language, as incomprehensible as French or German (as when they write Voilà! as Wallah! or zaftig as softig).   This puts them at a distinct disadvantage in trying to comprehend the modern world: they can only grasp the kindergarten version, the watered-down summary, the oversimplification.

    How Many Pounds in 328.7 Kilograms?

    Third, it leaves average America open to errors of conversion, mistakes in translation.  Many examples of conversion error disasters exist; some of them are no doubt apocryphal, others are apparently well-documented.  Such famous errors have cost the US millions, perhaps billions of dollars, as well as lost time and international embarrassment.

    • 1998, a joint NASA/ ESA project, the Solar Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) lost all communication with Earth.  A conversion algorithm from English to metric units had been omitted from some of the control files.
    • 1999, the Institute for Safe Medication Practices reported a case where a patient received 0.5 g (grams) of the sedative Phenobarbital; the prescription was for 0.5 gr (grains; a gram is about 15 grains). Medication errors cause at least one death every day and injure approximately 1.3 million people annually in the United States, says the FDA.  How many of those errors are due to misreading of units?
    • 1999, NASA lost the Mars Climate Orbiter ($125 M) after a 286-day trip to Mars.  Miscalculations due to the use of English units instead of metric sent the craft slowly off course.
    • 2004, Tokyo Disneyland — The Space Mountain ride was derailed due to a broken axle.  The axle was the wrong size, due to a conversion from English to metric units
    • Probably hundreds of minor errors go unreported each year.

    Doesn't Use the Metric System

    You Have to Wonder Why

    One has to wonder why America ties itself so firmly to a version of the Imperial system.  After all, they fought a revolution to be free from England.  Why cling so tightly to the past?

    As early as 1866, metric measures were legal in the USA, with various acts and agreements passed during the succeeding century and a half (see 150 Years of Legal Metric Usage in the USA for the sorry history) yet today even Britain is more thoroughly metric than  America, according to that article.  The USA is woefully behind the times and most other countries, choosing alchemy over science, the past over the present, the antique over the modern.

    Okay, it’s not quite that bad, and America has managed to become a world leader in science and technology despite their handicaps.  Their trade deficit, on the other hand…

     

  • Naturehike Ultralight Cycling Tent: Specifications and Impressions

    Posted on May 15th, 2017 admin No comments

    Naturehike Cycling Silicone Ultralight One Man Tent

    Purpose of Purchase

    I bought this tent for entry-level bike touring and maybe a little weekend backpacking. I figured that I didn’t need expensive top-end gear for occasional and casual use. It’s hard to tell from photos, and ordering online can be a bit of a risk.  However, I researched NatureHike and found their products well-reviewed.   I’ve also had good results generally from the place where I bought it, Banggood.com.

    The tent and footprint before first opening

    The tent and footprint before first opening

    Specifications of the NH Silicone Ultralight

    • Banggood Product ID: 1020476
      Color: Orange
      Brand: Naturehike https://www.naturehike.com/cycling-ultralight-silicone-one-man-tent/
      Model: NH18A095-D Cycling Silicone Ultralight One Man Tent with skirt
      Capacity: Single person
      Color: orange
      Package size: 400x150x150mm
      Size: 2050x1550x1100mm (exclusive of storm flaps)
      Weight: 1300g (excluding pegs and guy lines)
      Flysheet Material: 20D 380T rip-stop nylon, waterproof to PU1000, UPF30+
      Inner tent material: 210T ripstop polyester fabric* + B3 high density breathable mesh
      Floor material: 150D ripstop plaid oxford*
      Poles: 7001 aviation aluminum

    Package Contents

    This Banggood product came with the following:

    • 1 x Tent
    • 1 x Fly Sheet with optional storm skirt
    • 1 x Cinch strap
    • 8 x Pegs with storage sack
    • 2 x Guy lines
    • 1 x Set of Aluminum poles with storage sack
    • 1 x Storage Bag
    • 1 x Footprint with storage bag

    Good First Impression

    The tent arrived surprisingly quickly from a Canadian warehouse (ordered April 21, 2017; arrived May 10, 2017; only 19 days!).

    The whole package struck me as being compact, light, well-made, and well-presented. It also came with the footprint in a separate bag. On opening, I found all parts present and in good packaging. By this I mean that the tent bag has handles and snap-straps to cinch it up; the aluminum pegs and guy lines were in a plastic ziplock bag inside a cloth sack; likewise the aluminum poles. The tent itself was bound with a little cinch strap. Eventually, I’ll probably be getting rid of some of this to cut down the weight by a few grams. But it does make a good first impression.

    Set up in my back yard for first impressions

    Set up in my back yard for first impressions

    Initial Conclusions

    This looks like a well-made light-weight tent for backpacking and bicycle touring.  I expect that it would wear well and last at least one season for occasional, casual use.  However, this is only a first impression.  The tent has yet to be tested in actual use.

    *Note:  Physical examination and measurement with calipers suggests that the fly and inner tent are made from the same material.  They look and feel the same, and a double fold of each measures 0.004 millimeters.  The floor material is heavier (thicker): a double fold measures 0.006 mm.

    Read More

     

  • MEC and COBS: Camping and Bread

    Posted on May 8th, 2017 admin No comments

    A meeting of the Edmonton & District Callers & Instructors Association (EDCIA) and the Community Dance Capital Dance Association (CDCDA) on Sunday ended around 4:00.  The venue, Queen Mary Park Community League, happened to be a few blocks north of Oliver Square in Edmonton.   Oliver Square happens to be the home of

    1. The new Mountain Equipment Coop store, which happened to be having its grand opening that day
    2. COBS Bread, a well-known bakery chain from BC
    https://meccms.imgix.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/17_CM_0006_StoreEdmondton_Store_OPEN_Post_Phase_Hybris_5x2_FA.jpg?v=1493682555&w=1000&h=400&auto=format&q=40&bg=0FFF

    Concept design of the new MEC store in Edmonton. It actually looks pretty much like this! Image from MEC.

    First, we toured MEC.  It’s huge.   I’m not sure, though, that there are more different items than in the old store.  There are certainly racks and racks of each item.   Great fun to walk around and look, as MEC specializes in good-quality gear.  So much has changed since I was backpacking  and camping with my sons in Scouts twenty or so years back .  Equipment is lighter, more compact, more technical.   There seem to be a lot more choices.

    I wound up buying three little gel-snacks (Clif  Shot Energy Gels, @ $1.50) a Swedish Trangia mini-stove with cookset (4000-918, $48; a bargain compared to $116 plus shipping at Amazon.ca!), and a nifty little MSR folding spatula ($6.95).  The gels are for my MS Bike this June, and the other items are for future planned bike touring.  But they’ll be handy just to throw in the truck with a pack of freeze-dried food to have for emergencies.  Maybe we’ll carry it in the RV to be tossed into the daypack for hot soup or tea on a cool hike.

    The Trangia alcohol stove has been around for at least 40 years, I think.  We built tin-can alcohol burners with the Scouts, so certainly this is old and low-tech.  What is new (to me, at least) is the little cookset, which is light and compact.  The 15 cm aluminum frypan is non-stick coated.  The burner and pot handle fit inside the 0.8 L bowl and the frypan clips on top to hold everything together.  The stove is said to boil 750 mL of water in about 6 to 10 minutes.   Didn’t get fuel, but looking forward to testing this out; it will bring back memories.

    Trangia mini-cookset and alcohol stove.

    Trangia mini-cookset and alcohol stove. Image from amazon.ca

    There are offshore versions of the Trangia for about half the cost — such as this one from TVCMall for $15 CAD plus $5 S/H — and they would probably serve.  I could have purchased one of those, plus an inexpensive cook set such as the NewStyle 8-piece, which might even have room for the stove, for about $20 from amazon.ca or even less from a place like Banggood or GearBest.  This is cheaper than the Trangia Mini from MEC, and would include more items, two bowls, a spoon, and cup, a pot-scrubber and a rice ladle.   Every camper needs a rice ladle!  Benefit of buying from MEC was that the item was on the shelf and I could examine it before purchase, and at least some of my money stays in Canada.

    The Newstyle 8-piece cookset from Amazon.ca

    The Newstyle 8-piece cookset from Amazon.ca

    Our second stop was COBS Bread, just across the parking lot from MEC.   Delightful place.   We bought fresh-baked filled croissants: one ham and cheese for me, one spinach cheese.  They were warm, flaky, and tasty and a wonderful ending to our visit to Oliver Square.

  • Ride in the Rain, Cycle in the Snow

    Posted on April 23rd, 2017 admin No comments

     

    Or, I Wish You Had Been There!

    Our Meetup ride around the Leduc Multiways was a great ride — too bad nobody came!

    I biked from home to the parking lot that was the trailhead, and  waited from 1:45 to 2:20. My apologies to Joan, Deloris, and Catalina if they arrived after I left . I was dressed warmly enough that, with everything zipped up, I was not cold as I waited in the wind shelter of a dugout at the ball diamond, in sight of the parking lot.

    After it was clear that no one was coming, I went for a ride by myself, and  was a nice enough ride.   By then, the multiway paths had been either cleared or had melted clean, and the wind had died down enough not to be much of a nuisance.  I had one fewer layers than I wore this morning, and was totally toasty but not too warm for the entire ride.

    Test Your Cycling Gear

    Deliberately riding in inclement weather is excellent training for both how you dress and how you ride.

    You get to test your gear, to see how things work.  Too cold?  Maybe one more layer.  Too warm?  Open the neck or pit zips, or strip one layer.   Wet feet?  Maybe better footwear or rain booties needed.   Cold head?  Maybe a skull cap, or masking tape over the helmet vents.  Getting wet?  Either you are sealed up too tight in waterproof gear (aka portable sauna), or something leaks.

    What about your bike?  How does it handle snow or puddles?  Are you comfortable with how it handles?  Can you manage the gear changes required?  How do your brakes hold up when wet (stopping takes a lot longer!)?   How wet will you get from splash back from the front wheel?   Does your back fender or trunk bag stop water from giving you a wet stripe up the back?

    Test Yourself

    You also get to challenge yourself, to learn how to handle adverse riding conditions.  It’s important to know what you can stand and what you can stand up to.  It’s better to do this deliberately — as a training exercise, on a local ride where you can head for home or the car quickly if something is amiss — rather than run into bad weather on a longer trip where you’re unprepared and have no easy out.  Knowing that “I’ve handled worse than this in training!” makes it easier to cope with what the sky throws at you.

    If you’re packing your gear, this is a reality check — how quickly can I access my rain gear and get into it?  Is what I need readily accessible?  In this as in most things, practice and experience pay off.

    Conclusion

    Personal experience:  a ride like today’s, in +2C with light snow and wind, is far more pleasant than riding in light rain.  Riding in heavy rain, even if you’re well-equipped and properly prepared, can be kind of a drowner.  Uh, downer.

    Other Ideas

     

  • Bicycle Touring Workshop with Ed Weymouth

    Posted on April 9th, 2017 admin 1 comment

    Bike Touring Workshop

    Hosted by Circuit Cycle & Sports, Millet
    April 9, 2017
    Featuring Ed Weymouth, Trip Leader for Edmonton Bike & Touring Club

    Ed jumped around a bit during the course of his interesting and entertaining presentation; these notes represent my attempt to organize the material. Any errors or omissions are mine.

    Ed Weymouth

    Presenter Ed Weymouth (Image from LinkedIn)

    General Considerations

    • Regardless of type, duration, or destination, any bike tour will be constrained by three considerations: time, cost, and health. The tour must fit your available time and budget, and must be doable in terms of your age, experience, and ability.

    • Always advise people of where you are going, whether it’s a group tour, a solo tour, etc.

    • keep notes of some sort — a blog, a diary, a trip log

    Types of Touring

    • Supported vs Unsupported riding – a supported ride has a vehicle (SAG wagon, Support and Gear) to carry heavier gear such as sleeping and cooking equipment. In an unsupported ride, the cyclist carries everything.

    • Group vs. Individual Organization – a tour group sets the itinerary, overnight stops, etc. and may provide bikes and other gear for a fixed price. An individually organized tour means the cyclists can adjust their schedule, stay longer in some spots, etc. Tour companies may also assist in self-directed tours.

    • Camping Tour – — the cyclist totes everything for overnight camping, meals, etc. at a campground. A common and inexpensive way of touring

    • “Credit Card Touring” — cyclists simply carry spare clothing and maintenance equipment, but stop at a hotel or B&B for the night. Often the most expensive option.

    • Free Stay Touring — sites such as couchsurfing.com and warmshowers.org assist cyclists in finding hospitality stays with local residents. Free on a “pay it forward” plan. Sounds like fun.

    • Stealth Camping — the cyclist sets up camp at any convenient spot, rather than in an actual campground. Usually fine if you clean up. Perfectly acceptable in some ares, perhaps considered trespassing in others. Another low-cost option.

    • Radonneuring — sometimes considered to be a type of touring. Also known as Audax in some countries, this is a sport where long distances (200 km up) must be cycled in a specified time.

    Preparing for a TourCircuit-Cycle-logo-final

    Once you’ve decided on your destination, route, budget, etc. there are many things to do before the actual tour

    • Get yourself in shape — ride enough that you will be able to handle the tour — “toughen your butt” to the saddle

    • Get your bike in shape — new tires & tubes, have it tuned up, gears adjusted, chain cleaned & lubed and all that

    • Acquire the equipment you need, including racks, panniers, clothing, etc. (discussed elsewhere)

    • Field test your setup and do some practice runs. If you’re camping, do some local overnight trips.

    Gearing Up

    • What to take depends on your type of touring, but gear good for a three-day trip is also good for three months or more

    • Check online for kit lists — see the online resources section.

    • There are three factors to consider: weight, volume, and cost. Light, small, and compact all cost money. Big, bulky items are harder to pack. Heavy items mean harder pedalling and make hills a greater challenge.

    • Places to carry include handlebar bags (easily accessible for oft-needed items such as camera), front rack & panniers, rear r1ack & panniers. Include frame bags, underseat bags etc. for small items. A “trunk bag” may ride atop the rear rack separate from the panniers.

    • It’s important to have waterproof storage (not just water repellent). A dry-bag such as used by kayakers and canoeists is useful, but plastic bags inside the panniers work okay too. Waterproof pannier covers are also available. Tuck your passport [or your dry socks] into a zip-lock sandwich bag.

    • [Ed didn't mention it, but I think suitcase packing systems (nylon compression bags) and stuff sacks look useful for organizing your gear in a pannier]

    • A BOB (“beast of burden”) trailer may be useful if you need to carry more gear.

    • Balance is important. Weight needs to be properly distributed between front and rear and side-to-side. An unbalanced bike may be hard to steer and difficult to manage. It may take several re-packings and test rides to get this right.

    • Take spares — Things will shake loose, fall off, get lost… Take nuts, bolts, a tube, a brake cable.

    • Have repair tools and know how to use them. Know how to replace a tube, adjust your gears, adjust your brakes. [Take Brian's repair courses!]

    • Clothing selection – look for items that will wick perspiration, go lightweight, use layering. Again, there is a trade-off between cost, weight, and bulk.

    • Rain gear is a challenge and often acts as a sauna. Gore-tex may not “breathe” fast enough for a hard-pedalling cyclist.

    Navigation: Old vs New

    • Old-school navigation uses paper: bike tour books, maps, activity guides and such. Handle bar bags still have waterproof see-through top pockets for these materials.

    • New-school navigation involves electronics: GPS units, smart phones, tablets, and internet sites. It’s a wireless world, and these methods work reliably even in many “third world” locations. Euroveloroute.com is a site Ed recommends.

    Banjo Bros.  saddlebag panniers.  Image courtesy Circuit Cycle & Sports

    Banjo Bros. saddlebag panniers. Image courtesy Circuit Cycle & Sports

    Overseas Touring

    Getting your gear overseas can be a challenge. Airlines limit the size, weight, and amount of gear you can take on board. For bike touring, there are five choices:

    1. Pack your bike (and other gear) in a bike box for air freight. Boxes are available at bike shops and moving companies. This involves removal of seat/post, pedals, and sometimes front wheel as well as loosening and rotating the handle bars. Be prepared to have Customs open the box to examine it; carry duct tape and use nylon straps to re-seal the box. A recent alternative to the box is a heavy plastic bag; because customs officials can see into it, it needn’t be opened; but some feel it does not protect the bike as well as a box.

    2. Have your local bike shop pack the bike into a box or bag. Ed says the cost is around $50

    3. Rent a bike at your destination. [Many bike rental shops will also rent racks, panniers, tool sets, helmets, and other gear; will adjust the bike to your body; will perform a pre-trip tuneup.]

    4. Travel with a group tour that also provides bicycles and other equipment as part of the tour price.

    5. Buy a bike at the tour start, and either take it home with you at the end or arrange to sell it at trip’s end.

    Plan Your Dream Tour

    Ed asked us to think of our dream tour — where we would love to go with our bikes.  I guess mine would be Europe (I had booked a bike tour in Copenhagen as part of a cruise last year, but the tour company came to the wrong dock and I had to miss it).  Maybe another time.

    Online resources mentioned by Ed:

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