Posts made in May 2018

Ocala National Forest (Juniper Prairie Wilderness

My Overnight Adventure into the Juniper Prairie Wilderness (Jan 2018)

The American Backpacker

My overnight trip into the Juniper Prairie Wilderness located in the Ocala National Forest.  This adventure was in January 2018 and the evenings had temps in the low 40’s.  The Juniper Prairie Wilderness encompasses one of four wilderness areas in Ocala.

The Juniper Prairie Wilderness is one of the more scenic wilderness areas in the Ocala National Forest.  I enjoy backpacking this area and even though there are no mountains in Ocala the Juniper Prairie Wilderness has open areas where you can see the Sand Pine Scrub ecosystem Ocala is known for.

The winters can get very cold so make sure you bring the necessary clothing and gear.  Freezing temperatures can occur and when you mix that with rain Florida is noted for it can lead to Hypothermia.  The Summers are very hot and humid.  The best time to backpack the Ocala National Forest is during the winter months, (October thru February).

Arc’Teryx Bora Ar 63 Backpack

Arc’Teryx Bora AR 63 Backpack

THE AMERICAN BACKPACKER

The Arc’teryx Bora AR 63, is rugged and durable backpack ready for any outdoor Wilderness Adventure. The Arc’teryx Bora series backpack has been very popular since it was introduced 1994. In 2017, the Arc’teryx Bora was redesigned enhancing its functionality and performance.

The Arc’teryx Bora AR 63 is a multi functional backpack. It excels especially in mountainous terrain. The redesign of the Bora made it lighter and more weather resistant. However, the biggest change came on its hip belt. Arc’teryx incorporated a new concept called the Roto-Glide.  

The Roto-Glide mechanism allows the hip belt to rotate laterally, (side to side) and vertically (up and down).  The Bora’s new shoulder harness system can also  be easily adjusted using a Grid lock system built into the pack.

The Roto-Glide hip belt allows the pack to move with you making it easier to carry heavy loads. The benefit is that you are able to navigate rougher terrain more easily. The key is to insure that the Bora 63 is fitted properly and the hip belt is tightly cinched around your waist. When the Bora  63 is properly fitted it shifts a majority of the packs weight to your hips and not your shoulders.

The new Arc’teryx Bora AR 63 pack comes in Men’s sizes of 50 and 63 Liter volumes, and Women’s sizes of 49 and 61 Liter volumes. A 63-liter pack equates to approximately 16 gallons (volume). The Arc’teryx Bora AR 63 currently comes in (2) colors, Titanium and Blue.

I currently have an Arc’teryx Altra 75 Backpack and I enjoy using it. The hip belt on the Altra rotates laterally like the Bora but not vertically. My reason for purchasing the Bora 63 was to have a smaller pack for my 1 to 5 day Wilderness Adventures. Having prior experience with Arc’teryx backpacks the Bora 63 fit my needs. I am looking forward on using this backpack in an upcoming overnight Wilderness adventure into the Juniper Prairie Wilderness with some heavy weight.

The Bora 63 does have one negative. That negative was the price. The Arc’teryx Bora 63 comes with a hefty price tag. Online it is selling for $500 to $550 U.S. dollars. This price will likely deter many from purchasing it especially when you can find a good backpack for a half the price. I can understand those sentiments but you are not purchasing a good backpack. You are purchasing an excellent backpack. Much of my reasoning for purchasing this pack was because of my great experiences with a similar Arc’teryx backpack, the Altra 75. Stop by a local retailer who sell this pack and try one on.  I am sure that you will like the fit, feel, and comfort.

My Field Test

 

 

Pocket Shot

The Pocket Shot

THE AMERICAN BACKPACKER

The Pocket Shot is a small survival slingshot survival that I bring with me on my Wilderness Adventures.  The Pocket Shot is a survival tool that can help you get a meal if an emergency arises on you backpacking adventure.

The pocket shot is a very powerful and lethal weapon. It shoots steel shot bearings that travels at speeds of 350 feet per second.  It is a very portable piece of survival gear that you can carry in your pocket.

It is powerful enough to take down small game such as rabbits and squirrels, in a survival situation.  The pocket shot comes in different variations.  One of the design changes allows it to shoot an arrow.  It comes in different colors to include a mossy oak edition.   Below is a video of me using it in the Juniper Prairie Wilderness, (Ocala National Forest).


 

 

Klymit Static V Air Mat

Klymit Static V Sleeping Mat

THE AMERICAN BACKPACKER

I have read many good reviews on the Klymit Series (Air Mats).   I decided to buy one, Klymit Static V Camo, and field test it on an overnight trip into the Juniper Prairie Wilderness.  The Klymit Static V Camo is an insulated  4-season air mat with an r-value  of 4.4.  It weighs about 24.1 ounces, and it measures 72” L x 23” W x 2.5” H.  This air mat is made of a 75D Polyester material making it a bit heavier but very durable for rough Wilderness terrain.

The weight and r-value for this 4-season air mat is comparative to other more expensive air mats in the market place.  Klymit manufactures a variety of air mats to meet the needs of the outdoor adventurer.  Klymit also manufactures these air mats in a variety of colors to include camouflage.

The temperatures during my stay dipped into the lower 40’s.  For a Floridian that is cold.  I found a clearing off the Florida Trail and I set up my basecamp.  This air mat held up very well during my field test and it kept me warm.  The 4.4 r-value insulated me from the cold ground.   The V design air baffle system allowed me to have a comfortable nights sleep.  I slept both on my back and side. Overall, I was very happy with its performance and comfort.  I observed no visible signs of air loss when I awoke in the morning.

I purchased this air mat on Amazon for about $65 dollars (Prices vary online).  Klymit also manufactures sleeping bags and air pillows.  If you are in the market for a good quality air mat at an affordable cost try a Klymit.   I am sure that you will not be disappointed.


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The American Backpacker

Using Electrolyte Supplements In The Wilderness

THE AMERICAN BACKPACKER

Going into a Wilderness Area can take a toll on your body if you are not prepared both mentally and physically. Making sure you stay hydrated is very important but water alone cannot replenish those lost salts and minerals your body loses when you sweat and exert yourself on the trail. You need to replenish those lost salts and minerals with electrolyte packets.

Electrolytes are electrically charged substances that replenish the body’s water and electrolyte concentrations after dehydration. Electrolytes help maintain proper nerve and muscle functions. When you have an Electrolyte imbalance your muscles and nerve functions will be affected.

As a Wilderness Backpacker, I have experienced symptoms of Electrolyte imbalance. Those symptoms were leg cramping and fatigue after a long day of bushwhacking.  After some research, I began using electrolyte replenishment packets in my water.  I used these packets during periods of heavy exertion.  I found that I was less tired in the evenings and my leg cramps stopped.

Being tired is not necessarily a symptom of lost salts and minerals but using electrolyte replenishers did reduce a lot of my fatigue in the evenings.  Replenishing your electrolytes in cooler climates is just as important as using them when it is very hot. In cooler climates your muscles still need hydration with the right balance of salts and minerals.

Water alone will not be enough to keep your body balanced.  Electrolyte packets help supplement the water you drink.  I have found that utilizing these packets not only during my adventure but before you start helps tremendously.

Since I have been using electrolytes I find myself more relaxed at my basecamp in the evening.  Remember to take these electrolyte packets on your next adventure. There are many brands on the market.  They are lightweight to carry and they come in a variety of flavors, which is an added benefit.

Kalmiopsis Wilderness (Oregon)

Keeping Your Water Cool At Your Basecamp

THE AMERICAN BACKPACKER

Keeping your water cool at your basecamp is a very easy thing to do if you are near a stream or river. After you have collected your water from your source, tie some 550 cord to the container.

Tie off the other end of the 550 cord to something secure and let the container float in the water source you retrieved it from. This will keep the temperature of your water to be the same temperature as the water source.

This works great in the mountains where the creeks, streams, rivers and lakes are usually cold year round. Bringing water reservoirs back to your basecamp to early in the day will allow your water to warm up by the evening.

Keeping Your Water Cool At Your Basecamp
Wind River Range (Tetons)

Where to Place Your Basecamp

THE AMERICAN BACKPACKER

A basecamp is a temporary/centralized location that allows you to set up a shelter system in a Wilderness area.  A basecamp allows you to centralize your gear and equipment so you can conduct daily backpacking trips.  Improper placement of your basecamp can lead to injury or death.

Having your basecamp in the right location allows you to enjoy what a Wilderness has to offer. In real estate there is a saying, “location, location, location,” This is true when selecting your basecamp. I find that pre-planning plays a key role when it comes to finding the right area for your basecamp.  Prior to me starting my adventure I use a good topographical map to scan the area I plan on exploring.  Doing this to gives me the necessary information to make an educated decision on where to place my basecamp.

Unfortunately, you may have a topo maps that is outdated or incorrect. There may have been some environmental conditions, (Storm, Fire, Wind damage), prior to your trip, which may have changed the terrain you plan on backpacking.  It is a good idea to get with a local Ranger Station to ask if the area you plan on visiting has changed due to some type of environmental impact.

Once I have done my pre-planning and I am the Wilderness I have devised an acronym that I use when deciding on where to place my basecamp. That acronym is W.E.S.S

W.   Water
E.    Elevation
S.    Security
S.    Safety

WATER

Full view of mountain landscape
Wind River Range (Wyoming)

When looking for a good basecamp location first look for a water source that is close by. Having to walk a long distance may not be in your best interest and it could be dangerous especially if you need water in the evening and you are in a mountainous area.  Make sure that you don’t place your basecamp too close to a water source either.

Having a basecamp close to a water source can have its inherent dangers.  Rising waters from rain can flood out your basecamp.  Having it to close may also allow wildlife that drink from this water source to enter your basecamp.

ELEVATION

Elevated camp site
Superstition Mountains (Arizona)

Look for high ground when setting up a basecamp. Having your basecamp in a low point exposes you to cooler temperatures and other dangers such as flooding, landslides, etc. Being on the high ground allows you a better observation point to see what is coming into your camp, (i.e. animals or people). Terrain will dictate and you may have no choice but to put your basecamp in a lower elevation.

SECURITY

Campfire at basecamp
Kalmiopsis Wilderness (Oregon)

Place your basecamp in an area where you have a tactical advantage.  Make sure that you have exit points in case you have to leave in a hurry. If you are with a group of people have a rally point outside your basecamp so that you can all meet when the emergency is over.

SAFETY

Basecamp along the Illinois river in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness
Kalmiopsis Wilderness (Oregon)

Make sure that your basecamp is in a location where falling trees, rocks, or other environmental conditions won’t injure you. Placing your shelter next to a tree that is rotten or about to fall is not a good idea.  There have been incidents where trees have fallen on tents injuring and killing backpackers.

If you use the acronym W.E.S.S. you should have a safe and enjoyable basecamp on your next wilderness adventure.

Where to Place your Basecamp (W.E.S.S.)
Esee 6 Knife

Using A Rope To Carry Your Knife

THE AMERICAN BACKPACKER

One of the most important piece of equipment you need to have in a Wilderness Area is your knife. There are 2 types of knifes you can carry into a Wilderness area. There are fixed blade knives and folding knives. Each have their uses and it is a personal choice on which one to carry.

I prefer carrying a fixed blade knife in a Wilderness area. A fixed blade knife is stronger than a folding knife it can be used for a variety of tasks such as chopping, batoning, and cutting.  A fixed blade knife is stronger and more versatile than a folding knife. The knife I carry is an Esee 6, https://eseeknives.com.

When I carry my Esee 6 into a wilderness area I like to sling it around my waist with a rope. I like using a 3/8” inch thick rope used on boats. You can purchase them at your local hardware store or online.  I cut the rope long enough so that I can cross sling it around me or wear it as a belt around my waist.

Using a rope to carry your knife gives it the mobility to move with you freely. You can adjust it accordingly to accommodate and adapt to the situation or task you are performing. Having a rope also allows you to take off your knife quickly if you need to do so. Below is a video I did on one of my Wilderness adventures.  I discuss and show you how I carry my knife.


Carrying a Knife using a Rope

Updated Video Below discussing carrying a Knife while wearing a Backpack. 

Multi Purpose Hand Wipes

Hand Wipes

THE AMERICAN BACKPACKER

Wysi wipes are a multi purpose field wipe used for various applications.  I came across Wysi Wipes while I was doing some research on some field gear for my next Wilderness Backpacking Adventure.  Wysi Wipes are unique because they come in a small lightweight round tablet.

They weigh less than 2 grams and they are about ¾ inches in diameter.  They are made of a biodegradable plant fiber that has no scent and is chemical free.  For those individuals with sensitive skin this product will not irritate your skin.

Wysi Wipes need water to activate them.  Once water is applied they expand into a rectangular moist toilette about 9 inches by 12 inches.

Wysi Wipes can be used for a multitude of things.  You can wipe your face, clean your hands, or use it for your bathroom needs.  The web site for the company if you would like to do some more research is http://wysiwipe.com/index.html.I have attached a video below with a demonstration on how water activates it. The product speaks for itself and I will not be doing a field test on it.  I will be taking it with me on my next Wilderness Expedition to see if it is something I will use for future trips.


 

 

Thermacell Backpacker Mosquito Repeller

Thermacell Backpacker Mosquito Repeller

THE AMERICAN BACKPACKER

The Thermacell Backpacker is a mosquito repeller that any outdoor adventurer will be happy to have.  The Thermacell Backpacker is a small lightweight portable unit weighing 4 ounces, (without a fuel canister). It uses a fuel canister to heat up repellant mats that fit into the head of the unit. When these mats are heated up they offer a 15 by 15 foot protection zone. The Thermacell Backpacker comes with the unit, 3 repellant mats, owner’s manual, and a waterproof pouch to put your unit when not in use.

I have never used a system like this in the wilderness so I was interested in trying it out on my adventure into the Kalmiopsis Wilderness. My protection from insects, specifically mosquitoes, has been either a liquid or powder repellants that I manually apply to my clothing or skin.

Once I was at my first basecamp in the Kalmiopsis I brought out the Thermacell Backpacker and  fired it up. I used a 3.5-ounce jetboil fuel canister for my fuel.  Thermacell recommends that you wait 30 minutes for the unit to take effect.  I actually waited an hour before continuing my field test.

When I returned to where I had placed the Thermacell Backpacker I immediately noticed a dramatic reduction of mosquitos within that area. I still had some mosquitos landing on me but for the most part 70 percent of the mosquitos were held at bay. I estimated my protection zone to be somewhere around 10 feet and not the 15 feet stated by the manufacturer. There was a slight breeze in my basecamp during this application.

Thermacell Backpacker Field Test (Kalmiopsis Wilderness) Oregon

There are a number of factors that will affect the functioning of this unit. The most obvious would be the wind. If you are in a wide-open area with a moderate to strong wind you should expect a dramatic decrease in the effectiveness of the Thermacell Backpacker. During my application, I observed a small amount of smoke, (on occasion) coming from the grill portion of the unit.

I used the unit throughout my stay in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness, which consisted of 5 nights and 6 days. The 3.5-ounce canister lasted the entire trip, and I had fuel left in the canister when I returned to the trailhead. The mats that come with the unit lasted about 3 hours and I used 6 throughout my stay. When you handle the mats make sure you wash your hands especially before you eat.

Overall, I was surprised with the Thermacell Backpacker’s performance.  The reduction of mosquitos mad my basecamp stay more pleasurable.  My recommendation would be to always carry with you some other type of mosquito repeller such as a liquid or powder.  I wold always recommend that you treat your clothing before heading into any Wilderness.  Sawyer makes a product called Permethrin that you can spray on your clothing and it lasts up to (6) weeks or (6) washes. The cost of the Thermacell Backpacker runs between $30 to $35 dollars online.

The Thermacell Backpacker can be used on any outdoor activities. Remember there are limitations when using this unit and a lot of those limitations are environmental, (i.e. wind).

The Thermacell Backpacker for Mosquito's
The American Backpacker doing a field test on The Thermacell Backpacker

Below are my (2) videos I posted on my You Tube Channel for your review. These video give you a better perspective on the functions and features of the Thermacell Backpacker Mosquito Repeller.