Tents and Bivi Shelters

Tents and Bivi Shelters.

I hate em!

I love to sleep in them but I hate to carry them. Most trail campers feel this way. If you camp near your car then a twenty pound six man base camp tent with full vestibule and canopy isn't bad, when you carry everything you own over Mother Earth herself you need something else indeed.

Hikers want the smallest shelter they can possibly carry thus the resent popularity of tarp/hammock arrangements. More on that later.

When I was teaching wilderness skills I spent allot of time in the Hudson river gorge area of the great Adirondack mountains, very rough terrain. The ground there was so rocky it was just not friendly to "ground" shelters. The Tarp/Hammock combination was the only way to go and if you do it right it just can't be beat for three season camping. But for ground shelter in my beloved Catskills it is almost always a Tent or Bivi. I camp with my son allot so the two man Bivi is better then fine, it's perfect. It might be a bit too close for non family types but for Father and Son or Husband and Wife it's the way to go.

As always I've looked into the features of some of the best big name manufactured shelters to see just what they are advertising as top shelf, then I take a look at discount catalogs and cross match features in the price ranges more suited to my lifestyle. Where once I carried a 6.5 Lbs dome tent I now haul a three pound (3Lbs) you heard me right Bivi that I purchased from Sportsman's guide. I reinforced the seems (I do this with all my shelters) and up graded the suspension lines and voila! the boy and I have done three trips with this rig and love it. It's about the size of a loaf of Wonder bread all packed up and is suited for three season trips.

Price you ask?

How about less the $50. Compared to the big name brands asking $300, call the cops cause it's a steal. Now here's the hook, if you look very closely at the big name brand shelters (most equipment period) you will see very small print at the end of their description, after the logo, after the size, color, special features and of course the price, you'll see these words..............."imported" yup that's right and guess what folks? so does mine. I guess mine is no better or worse then theirs. Hey if it quacks like a duck...................

If you feel you must pay top dollar for the same half micron of nylon the other guys make, please send your money to me. I'll see you get what you pay for and I'll still have cash to burn on whiskey and sharp cheese.

Now expedition equipment is a different duck. We know its stronger and made to a different standard so lets not compare apples to artichokes, but for the casual or weekend camper you need not take out a loan for good gear.

Safe Travels


Sam and I starting out for a snowy trip up Mt. Slide

Check in time:
Always let someone know your intentions and route plan. That starts at home and is marked at the trail head as well. Local Rangers and or Ranger's assistants will check these sign in stations once or twice each day to see that those who are expected return on time. If travelers are over due a search may be organized.

On the summit of Mt. Slide the Hudson valley to the North and East.




Walking sticks are like old friends, someone you can lean on when the going gets tough. I have used all types and of course this blog would always recommend making one instead of buying one but lets look at the facts.

The stick my son is holding is one of four I made from a single sapling. The small tree was damaged and was sure to be rotten on the forest floor if left untouched, so I touched it. It yielded two adult and two smaller walking sticks. The damaged section of the sapling was cut out and the bark partially stripped off to help dry it but still allowing it to keep some natural gripping surface and character. The tops or thick end of the sticks were cut on a slight angle to give it a semi sharp edge for both fending off trail dogs and to give the stick that rough rustic look. I like to cut walking sticks long enough to come to my shoulder or so. Some may think this too long but the first fumble that has you landing chin first on your stick will wise you up...but fast! The added length helps with stream crossings and boulder jumping as well.

As a family, we are in the habit of naming our walking sticks (old friends as they are) giving your stick a name ensures it wont be left behind at some trail side rest stop or watering hole. You just don't do things like that to your friends.....WILSON! I have a rafter full of retired old friends that I now use as loaners for guest hikers, it saves us from having to cut new sticks. Always treat your walking stick with respect, they are not for swinging at underbrush or using as ball bats to send stones out over the valley, and especially they are not for sword play. I put rubber bumpers on the bottoms of my walking sticks for three really good reasons, it protects the bottom from splitting with use, it improves their grip on smooth/slippery surfaces and it keeps em quite. I hate that tap tap sound in my head all weekend.

If you must move up to a "Trekking pole" you are indeed on a slippery slope. These things come in so many colors and styles it can drive you nuts.

I've seen poles that have price tags that would make your head spin, $80, $100, $150 dollars and for what? Lets look at this a bit closer. What we basically have here is an aluminium pole either one piece or in sections, with a comfortable grip and a toughened contact point such as hard rubber at it's base. Most of these are removable to expose a metal (usually carbide) bit that can dig into the ground/rock/ice without dulling too quickly. A simple leash completes the package to keep you from dropping the thing as you maneuver over broken terrain.

Some have snow baskets like ski Poles (ski poles make nice walking sticks, x-country is best) to retard the pole penetration into snow pack. Some have twist locking section while others have clamping parts. I've even seen one that sported an ice axe head for self arrest..........as if. They all have the same use, balance and traction! That's it!

Really that's it.

If you want to claim they give you better radio reception or make good tent supports .....go for it. I guess they might. They might do a load of things they were never really designed to do but so will the tire iron in the trunk of my car, lets not over think one of the no brainer tools you could buy (make) all the extras like "shock absorbers and Compasses are Kool but truly unnecessary..........balance and traction, that's it.

My telescopic poles cost about $25 a pair and are great for moving over snow/ice and do a nice job at that price. So they came from a no name company sold in my local MART store not Switzerland or England. They sport no big adventure internationally recognised name. Its about function people not a fashion show.

Unless you are in a survival situation, you should never super load your collapsible trekking poles. They are not meant for that, remember balance and traction. If you need more then that from a walking stick either cut a bigger one or go back for the tire iron.

Safe Travels

Drinks on the go........


A short day hike is always more enjoyable when properly dressed and equipped. A comfortable hat and stout boots help keep your top and bottom ready for the trail. A small pack with rudimentary safety items like a flash light and whistle and a means of starting a fire are a must, as is water.

Water for a short trip is best carried. There are some great portable filters on the market that can make the most questionable water potable but bringing water from the safety of your kitchen tap is by far the easiest and most affordable. The canteen has been a standard issue item for all travelers for eons. Roman soldiers carried crocks of water that would stay cool through capillary action. Bedouin tribes have used goat skins as water vessels, and Viking Norsemen used both not to be out done. Canteens have been made of wood, metal and plastic but until recently they were almost always carried on shoulder or hip. It worked but was not always conducive to the rigors of the day.

Sam filters water with a Katadyn Microfilter

Modern man had a simple and effective solution, "hydration packs". Really just a new age version of the fore mentioned containers. Companies like PLATYPUS and CAMELBACK produce sophisticated hydration systems well suited for any outdoor activity and in a choice of colors and styles to keep you hanging cool and trendy with the over dressed wanna bes.

The systems I use are equally tough and versatile (and good looking) at a fraction of the price.

A trip to your local MART store's sporting goods section will reveal a number of hydration packs-bags-bladders that are equally well thought out but for a fraction of the price. You will of course have to get over the fact that the fancy name brand is missing but hell, when I'm thirsty I'll drink from a muddy puddle if I must (and I have).

# 1 Son and me sippin from hydration tubes.

Look for these features in any hydration system regardless of price:

1) The water carrier itself should be generously sized.

2) The filling end should have a wide opening to accommodate easy and fast filling, cleaning and addition of ice cubes.

3) The drinking valve should be positive closing and not leak. Bite style valves will leak if you bite so hard as to eat them. Be gentile with these soft cushy ends and they will give you years of service.

4) Hoses should be removable for cleaning.

5) The bag should be made of material that can withstand extremes of heat and cold.

Now to the carrier pack:

1) It should be made of Strong material but be soft and comfortable where it contacts the body.

2) It should fit, don't laugh I've seen many bags that were made for children only, TRY IT ON!

3) extra pockets are a plus, make sure anything you put in these pockets wont puncture the bags integrity.

4) Never...Never...Never use your hydration system to carry such sticky mixtures as Kool-Aid or Ice Tea mix. The sugar is very hard to clean from these bags/tubes. WATER ONLY!

I must have five or six different styles and sizes of hydration packs One for anything I have in mind to do, from hiking, camping to fly fishing or just tooling around on my motorcycle. I have no reason to go thirsty or broke. Compare systems in person, ask sale persons about the differences between styles and TRY THEM ON. You'll find a hydration pack that suits your needs and your pocket book.

Safe Travels