Tuesday, September 10, 2019

The Narrows on the Blanco River in Texas


Some friends and I took a trip to The Narrows on the Blanco River in Texas. It is a gem.

However getting there was no easy task. 

This trip is physically and logistically challenging. The Narrows is on the Blanco River, but is surrounded by private property. There is no trail. The route traverses dry riverbed, sand, rocks, brush and water. The journey can take between 12 to 16 hours, cover 6 to 8 miles in and 6 to 8 miles out and may require swimming 1 to 3 miles in and 1 to 3 miles out depending on the flow of the river. The route and conditions may vary at different times of the year. One must be prepared and equipped for self-rescue, there is no cellular service near the access points nor the entire route.

There are two ways to access The Narrows. 1. Obtain permission from one of the property owners with land bordering the river. Or, 2. Access the river via a public right of way and hike and swim the entire route.

Texas Navigation Law specifies access to inland and coastal waters as “public rights and duties” specifically recognized by the Texas Constitution. 

We chose option 2 - to access the river via a public right of way and hike on the dry riverbed and swim in the river to reach the section of the river called The Narrows. 

We had someone in our group scout the logistics in advance and identify some options. On the day of the trip our first option was not available, our second option was not available, but our third option worked out.

Here's our story... 





Warning:
Out of respect for the property owners I am not posting parking nor access locations.

DO NOT attempt this journey during the summer.

DO NOT attempt this journey prior, during or after a rain - the river may flash flood.

Tread Lightly and Leave No Trace principles should be practiced.

Consideration should be given to the property owners and their property rights.

For the Hike and Swim option, one has to 1. Park legally (or your car may be towed), 2. Access the river at a public right of way, and 3. Stay on the riverbed or river the entire way (or you may be ticketed for trespassing). Follow the law and you should have no problems. Stray from the law and you may have issues. There is no cellular service near the access points nor along the entire route.

Experience hikers should be able to locate the access points and route. If you are not able to locate this information on your own, you might reconsider attempting this trip. If you do attempt this hike be prepared with the proper gear, food, water, water filter, sun protection and self-rescue equipment. One must be prepared and equipped for self-rescue.

My gear list:
Gregory Inertia hydration backpack 3 liter capacity
Drybag
Nalgene bottle 16oz capacity for mixing electrolytes
Sawyer Squeeze water filter
Bluewater 8mm rope 30ft
Adventure first aid kit
Gerber folding knife
Midland two-way radios
Garmin inReach gps and location beacon
Black Diamond trekking poles
Black Diamond waterproof headlamp

OZ Outdoor Gear sun hoodie
OZ Trucker hat
Goodr sunglasses
Altra Superior trail running shoes
Darn Tough socks

Water 3 to 4 liters
Clif energy bars or Food
Nuun electrolytes tablets


Follow my adventures on Instagram @troyfromtexas



Friday, September 6, 2019

The Canyonlands - A Backpacking Journey in Utah



A car ride + airplane flight + car ride and we stepped into another world.


I found the perfect place to cowboy camp and sleep under the stars on this backpacking trip to Utah. During this trip we visited Dead Horse Point State Park, Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park. Inside of Canyonlands NP we hiked through The Needles district which is only accessible by foot.

What I used for cowboy camping:
Thermorest Parsec 20 sleeping bag
Thermorest Neo Air Xlite sleeping pad
Sea to Summit Ultrasil Nano poncho tarp
Canyonlands cave

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Skinners Sock Shoe Review



I recently acquired a pair of Skinners. What?

Skinners are a new type of sock shoe that the company claims are useful for traveling, walking, running, hiking, biking, workouts, yoga and water sports. 

I decided to put these Skinners to the test on a recent trip hiking and fly fishing. Check out the video.



Skinners are basically a sock covered on the sole with a durable polymer. They offer the comfort of a sock and the protection of a minimalist sole similar to an ultralight barefoot style shoe. 


The sock shoes are made in Europe with an inner layer that is a combination of natural and synthetic fibers woven together into a durable sock. The inner layer material is wicking, insulating and comfortable like a sock. The outer layer is made of a 2mm anti-abrasive polymer that forms a light thin grippy protective barrier.  Each pair weighs about 2.8 ozs. and are machine washable.


I first tried on the Skinners in the comfort of my home. I walked around on my hardwood floors and realized that they did provide good traction on my normally slippery floor. I immediately thought that they might come in handy in the winter as a sort of house slipper.


I then ventured outside into my backyard where I have a concrete patio often covered in pecan shells. I have a pecan tree in my backyard and squirrels love to eat the pecans and leave the shells on my patio. Squirrels have no manners. Anyways, the Skinners did protect my feet from the cracked open jagged pointy pecan shells. I could still feel the shells under my foot, but I could walk over them. 

Finally, I decided to wear the Skinners on a little hiking and fly fishing trip. 


Hiking from the car to the river I had to traverse some concrete, compacted dirt, sand and rocks. The Skinners held up well across most of the surfaces. When I was walking over the combination of sand and rocks the Skinners performed well. I would say that when I walked over a hard surface with small rocks, I could feel the rocks poking my foot. 


I ventured from the land to water. The socks are socks, so they got wet. The polymer soles were flexible enough to allow my feet to feel and move around the rocks. I was pleasantly surprised that the soles gripped the slimy surface of algae covered rocks excellent. I never slipped nor felt unstable. 


I passed by some natural springs where water emerged from the ground at a temperature of about 68 degrees to feed the river. The Skinners insulated well and my feet never felt cold. 

Overall the Skinners performed as expected while I walked over land and through the water. However, after departing the water I realized that I was wearing a pair of wet soggy socks. Hmmmmmm. I don't know if I'd use them for fly fishing again because it takes them some time to dry out. I would use them after fly fishing when my feet often crave something light, dry and warm. 


My final analysis is that the Skinners Sock Shoes are a unique offering that I will use for specific but somewhat limited use. I could not envision myself using them for extended hiking, running, biking or fly fishing. I don't think that my feet are strong enough nor conditioned enough for wearing the sock shoes for those activities. I could see myself using them for lounging around the house, chilling at a campsite or maybe wearing them inside a hotel while traveling. Perhaps my Skinners might be most useful as casual footwear around the house and to help strengthen my feet for outdoor pursuits similar to other barefoot style footwear.

To Buy:
Amazon - Skinners

For More Info:
www.skinners.cc




Monday, July 15, 2019

How To Save Money on Amazon Prime Day


Amazon Prime Day is promoted as an epic day of deals. The online retailer releases special offers throughout the day and posts notifications on their website and app. To get the best deals you have to follow along, check back often and purchase quickly before the deals expire.

Here are a few of my tips for approaching Amazon Prime Day.

1. If you don't need anything, don't buy anything. Don't visit the website. Don't open the app. And don't respond to other retailer offers that will try to match the frenzy. This is the surest way to save money. Instead, take a friend out to lunch, read a good book or go for a hike outdoors. You'll likely find more enjoyment in these experiences.

2. If there is one item that you have been waiting to purchase, only shop for that one item. Use the search feature and not the browse feature. This will hopefully help you to stay focused on the task at hand - to get that one item.

3. If you can't resist, join in. But set a budget based on what you can afford and do not buy more than your budget. Once you reach your budget, close your browser and don't reopen it.

4. Look on Amazon, but compare prices on other sites like Walmart, Target, Best Buy, REI, etc. Almost all major retailers try to compete with Amazon and offer deals on or before Amazon Prime Day. And don't forget to shop locally. If you find a great deal on Amazon, call your local retailer and see if they can match the price or come close to the price. You money creates more value within your community when you shop locally.

4. If you're all in. These are the deals to look for:

Amazon Branded Devices like Echo, Fire Tablets, Kindles and Ring Doorbells. Amazon is able to sell these items at discounted prices as loss leaders or gateway products.

      

Household Essentials like Coffee, Pans, Instapots and Vacuum Cleaners. It there are things that you use on a regular basis, it may be worth it to purchase it now. However, try to realistically assess if the item is an essential or a luxury.

      

Mens and Womens Fashion There are some good deals to be had, but this is one category where it is very easy to buy things that you may really want, but really do not need.

      

Travel and Outdoor Products There are some great deals in this category, but really all of these items could be considered luxury purchases. Be wise.

      

Have fun during Amazon Prime Day. Just remember, the best way to save money is to not buy anything at all. :)

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Campfire Alternatives - When you feel that burning desire, but...


Summer's here! Ready to create some memories of camping, roasting hot dogs, munching on s'mores and gathering around the campfire.

You feel that burning desire, but...

What! There's a fire burn ban! No campfire!

With many wilderness areas experiencing dry conditions and prime conditions for forest fires; some national, state and municipal parks have fire burn bans in effect during the summer months.

Here are some tips and alternatives when it is not possible to have a traditional campfire.


1. Prevent forest fires. Smokey Bear is 70 years old and still spreading the word about fire safety. There are fire burn bans for a reason. In recent years we've seen massive forest fires devastate wilderness areas as well as some towns. Take Smokey's advice, "Only you can prevent forest fires."


2. Go for a night hike and star party. Plan your hike in advance. Take a flashlight or headlamp (a light with a red light feature is even better). Use a navigational device like a GPS or navigation app to find your way. Carry a jacket or blanket because even in the summer, the temperature can drop at night. Bring a star finder chart or star app and gaze up into the night sky.


3. Hang fairy lights. Bring along a set of fairy lights and a portable power bank. Hang the lights in the trees. Place them around your tent. Or wrap them around some wood and create a simulated campfire. You might even try wrapping them around a water bottle to create a makeshift lantern.


4. Pass out glow sticks and bracelets. Kids of all ages love glow sticks and bracelets. As the sun sets and the moon rises, pass out some sticks and bracelets and let the fun begin.


5. Assemble a faux candle campfire. Have you even walked into a romantic restaurant and admired a display of flickering candles, only to discover that the candles were actually faux candles? Don't be afraid to go faux. Assemble a grouping of faux tea candles to make a fanciful flickering campfire.


6. Try a portable propane campfire pit. Although many parks ban traditional campfires during the dry summer  months, many of those same places allow propane campfire pits. Always check with the ranger station or park host to make sure that propane campfire pits are allowed. The Outland or Camp Chef propane campfire pits are highly rated.


Don't let a fire burn ban ruin your summer memories. Get out, go camping... and instead of a traditional campfire try some of these clever alternatives.






Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Durston X-Mid Tent - Setup and Overview


I'm pretty simple and typically enjoy hammock or cowboy camping. However, there are certain circumstances where a tent is simply more pragmatic or needed. Therefore, I recently acquired a new ultralight tent about which I'm pretty excited - the Durtson X-Mid Ultralight 1 person tent.

The design, production and distribution of this tent was a collaborative development between the online community commerce website Massdrop and hiker/designer Dan Durston. The full name of the tent might be the Massdrop Dan Durtson X-Mid Ultralight 1 person tent.

I have not had an opportunity to fully test this tent on an adventure, but I wanted to demonstrate the setup and provide an overview.


This tent has some unique features and specifications that I try to highlight in the following video. I stated some incorrect specs regarding the material (40D should be 20D) and weight (40 ounces should be 30 ounces), so please see the spec list below for the proper info.



Here's a detailed list of the specs:

Key Features
  • Double-wall design provides full protection from condensation
  • Twin pole structure provides generous headroom and living space
  • Ultra-simple pitch with just four stakes (eight in harsh conditions)
  • Polyester fabric won't sag in the rain
  • Dual doors and dual vestibules provide easy access and ample gear space
  • Tent pitches fly first so the inner stays dry even during setup in the rain
  • Inner is fully protected from falling rain during entry and exit
  • Interior ridgeline pocket provides handy storage
  • Large vents provide excellent ventilation and close solidly for harsh conditions
  • Vents and doors are easy to operate from inside or outside the tent
  • Includes peak guylines and eight stake points for harsh conditions
  • Packs into a short 12" x 5" package that stores horizontally inside a pack
  • Fully seam taped
Specs

Materials

20d 420T 100-percent polyester in desert sage
2000mm sil/PU coating
Peak reinforced with 210d black nylon
Titanium stakes
Dimensions: Typical Values (Ranges in Parentheses)

Fly width: 67 in / 170.2 cm
Fly length: 100 in / 254 cm
Fly area: 46.5 sq ft / 4.3 sq m
Fly peak height: 46 in / 116.8 cm (45.5–47 in / 115.6–119.4 cm)
Inner peak height: 43 in / 109.2 cm
Inner height at ridgeline midpoint: 41 in / 104.1 cm
Floor width: 28 in / 71.1 cm
Floor length: 86.5 in / 219.7 cm
Floor area: 16.8 sq ft / 1.6 sq m
Packed size: 12 x 5 in / 30.5 x 12.7 cm
Weights

Fly, including guylines: 18 oz / 510 g
Inner: 9.9 oz / 281.7 g
Fly + inner: 27.9 oz / 791.7 g
Stuff sack: 0.4 oz / 10.8 g
Stake sack: 0.2 oz / 4.6 g
Included

Massdrop's 1-year warranty
Self-fabric stuff sack
8 titanium stakes
Not included: 2 trekking poles required for setup

This tent can be compared to the Sierra Designs High Route tent, Six Moons Design Lunar Solo, Mountain Laurel Designs Solomid and the Zpacks Pleximid.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

The New Kammok Mantis and Mantis Ultralight Hammocks




I dropped by the Kammok store in Austin, Texas to check out their new Kammok Mantis and Mantis Ultralight Hammocks. 
It's an All-In-One hammock which includes the hammock, insect screen, ridgeline, bag, guy-lines, stakes, straps and rainfly. The Standard Mantis weighs in a 2 lbs 12 ozs and the Mantis UL weighs in at 2 lbs 3 ozs - crazy light!

This isn't a full review, because I haven't had a chance to actually test the hammock. It's more of an overview in which I highlight a few of the unique features of each hammock.

Check out the video...



For more information visit their website at www.kammok.com

Mantis Specs:

Best Use Case: Backpacking
Unpacked Dimensions (hammock): 120" x 56"
Unpacked DImensions (fly): 136" x 88" (tapers down to 72" at foot end)
Packed Dimensions: 10" x 6"
Packed ‘Compressed’ Dimensions: 8" x 6"
Packaged Weight (oz): 2lb 12oz
Minimum Trail Weight (oz):
*Trail weight w/out rainfly: 1lb 11.8oz
*Trail weight w/ rainfly: 2lb 8.5oz
Weight Capacity: 500 lb
Sleep Capacity: 1 person 
*What’s included in the trail weight?:
- Hammock Body
- Mesh Canopy
- Structural Ridgeline
- (2) Mini Kanga Claw carabiners
- Rainfly (including 6 guy outs)
- (2) Python 10' Straps
Product Fabrics and Material(s):
- Hammock Fabric: Gravitas™ 40D nylon diamond ripstop DWR
- Canopy Fabric: Dragonet™ mesh with Stargazer™ panel optimal contrast with night sky
- Fly Fabric: Patagium™ 15D nylon diamond ripstop nylon 1,500 PU/Silicone/DWR
- Stuff Sack Material(s): Diamond Shell™
> Stuff Sack Water Proofing Treatment: 1,500mm DWR/PU Diamond Shell™ fabric
- Warmth Rating: N/A
Other key specs:
- Mantis fly: 11.3 oz / 321 g (comes with 6 guy outs and 2 knotless hooks)
- (2) Python 10's: 7.7oz (no stuff sack)
- Mini Kanga Claws: 13g / 0.5 oz (1 oz total for both)
- 6 DAC Stakes: 2.3oz/ 66g (total for 6)
- 2 shock cord guy-outs with knotless hooks: 0.8oz/22.68g (total for 2)
- Mantis body w/ out mesh (with mini Kanga & continuous loops): 15.4oz/437g
- Mesh Canopy: 5.3oz/152g
- Stuff sack: 1.5oz/ 43g
- Ridgeline length: 115"

Mantis Ultralight Specs:

Best Use Case: Thru-hiking / Backpacking
Unpacked Dimensions: 120" x 56"
Unpacked DImensions (fly): 136" x 88" (tapers down to 72" at foot end)
Packed Dimensions: 8" x 6"
Packed ‘Compressed’ Dimensions: 6" x 6"
Packaged Weight (oz): 2 lb 3 oz
*Minimum Trail Weight (oz):
- Trail weight w/out rainfly: 1lb 2.7 oz
- Trail weight w/ rainfly: 1lb 15.5 oz
Weight Capacity: 300 lb
Sleep Capacity: 1 person 
*What’s included in the trail weight?:
- Hammock Body
- Mesh Canopy
- Structural Ridgeline
- (2) Mini Kanga Claw carabiners
- Rainfly (including 6 guy outs)
- (2) Python 10’ UL Straps
Product Fabrics and Material(s):
- Hammock Fabric: Levitas™ 20D nylon diamond ripstop DWR
- Canopy Fabric: Dragonet™ mesh with Stargazer™ panel optimal contrast with night sky
- Fly Fabric: Patagium™ 15D nylon diamond ripstop nylon 1,500 PU/Silicone/DWR
- Stuff Sack Material(s): Pataguim™
> Stuff Sack Water Proofing Treatment: Patagium™ 15D nylon diamond ripstop nylon 1,500mm PU/Silicone/DWR
- Warmth Rating: N/A
Other key specs:
- Mantis fly: 11.3 oz / 321 g (comes with 6 guy outs and 2 knotless hooks)
- (2) Python 10 Ultralight: 2.9 oz / 85.05 g (no stuff sack)
- Mini Kanga Claws: 13g / 0.5 oz (1 oz total for both)
- 6 DAC Stakes: 2.3oz/ 66g (total for 6)
- 2 shock cord guy-outs with knotless hook: 0.8oz/22.68g (total for 2)
- Mantis UL body w/ out mesh (with mini Kanga & continuous loops): 10.9oz/ 311g
- Mesh Canopy: 5.3oz/152g
- Stuff sack 1.0oz/ 43g
- Ridgeline length: 115"

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Sawyer Micro Squeeze Water Filter Overview


I recently acquired a new water filter - a Sawyer Micro Squeeze. I've owned the original Sawyer Squeeze water filter for a number of years - it's great! This new model is smaller and lighter, but still has a very similar flow rate as the original model. I use these water filters while hiking, backpacking or traveling international. I don't have to worry about finding bottled water, drinking the tap water or drinking directly from a source. I just use the filter and I instantly have clean drinkable water. 



To purchase: Sawyer Micro Squeeze


KIT INCLUDES
  • Micro Squeeze Filter with Push/Pull Cap
  • 1 – 32 ounce Collapsible Pouches
  • Backwashing Plunger
  • Cleaning Coupling
  • Spare Gasket
  • Drinking Straw
SPECIFICATIONS

MSRP:$28.99
LONGEVITY:up to 100,000 Gallons
VOLUME:Includes 32 oz pouch
FILTER MATERIAL:Hollow Fiber Membrane
REMOVES:Bacteria, Protozoa, and Cysts, including E. Coli, giardia, vibrio cholerea, Salmonella typhi
BEST USES:Hiking, backpacking, ultralight backpacking, camping, emergency preparedness
WEIGHT:2 oz

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