Friday, August 30, 2013

The Best Night's Sleep I've Ever Had Camping in the Boundary Waters

When I find something comfortable I tend to stick with it.  I've used different sleeping pads over the years and I tend to go with the thicker the better because I have a bad back.  Scoliosis doesn't play nice with flat on the hard ground, so I go big, because if I have to splurge on space in the pack, I'm o.k. with doing it for the sake of a great night's sleep.

So… inflate assist or not, by the time you're finished blowing up a 3 inch thick pad, you are red in the face and you feel like you might just pass out.  Especially if you've waited until you're too tired to think straight anyway.  Then you do it for the rest of the crew, because your a good dad and pretty soon everyone wants to know if they should call in the lifeline helicopter.

You know what I mean.  Even after all of that and even if you've got a bag that fits the pad perfectly and won't slide off your neck never seems to be at the right angle when you shut out the last headlamp and call it a night.  Come on, I know how particular most of you all are about your pillow, your preferred position, your eight or nine hours.  Most nights I average 5 or 6 hours and I need them all.  Coffee to follow.

My solution?  Well, first don't be afraid to try new things.  And number two?  Try new things from NEMO.  Nemo is a fantastic company.

Their Cosmo series of sleeping pads blow everything else away.  Did you get the pun there?  Three generous inches thick with an integrated foot pump that -- wait, what?  Stop, you had me at integrated foot pump!!!  That's right.  Super easy to use.  A dozen or so steps on the pump with my foot while standing and eating a Peanut Toffee Buzz® CLIF Bar and my new sleeping pad was nearly effortlessly ready to crash on.  The opposite end of the pump area is elevated and serves as nice pillow rise pad like a second pillow under your favorite pillow at home.  It also has a fine tune valve right at your fingertips.  I'm never and I mean never going camping again without a Cosmo pad.  Nemo even makes them with a Pillowtop Combo that is so soft you'll think you're laying on a mattress collection in your local furniture store.

This is the product description of the Nemo Cosmo Air Pad:
No more blowing until you're blue! Ultra-comfy sleeping pad with internal foot pump.  The Cosmo™ series of pads take inflatable comfort to another level. Cosmo Air™ is a lightweight sleeping pad with an integrated, super-easy to use foot pump. Dual air intakes on the integrated foot pump make inflation fast! This pad has generous 3" thickness. Horizontal I-beam baffles eliminate any bouncy feel and also tend to support body contours better than vertical baffles. Cosmo™ Air offers a lot of comfort in a small package!

SPEAKING OF YOUR FAVORITE PILLOW… Nemo's Fillo Luxury Pillow insures that I don't wake up with a stiff neck.  You gotta get one of these!
For $205 you'll sleep like a baby in the woods from now on!

p.s. One of my least favorite things to do is try to roll up a sleeping pad tight enough to fit it back into its original stuff sack.  It seems to take almost as much effort as it does to blow it up.  These are the kinds of activities that I don't relish repeating 5 times when it is time to go home.  The Cosmo pad deflates even easier that it inflates, just pull the dump valve at the head of the pad and fold the sides in and roll up nice and compact.  All the air is gone.  No fuss, no muss.

The COSMO Air Pad:


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Fire in Boundary Waters results in Closures on South Arm of Knife Lake

From Yesterday:

Ely, MN
Update August 27, 2013

The fires listed below are both within the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) but they are affecting a very small portion of the BWCAW. All entry points remain open. Closures of campsites or portages will be listed as needed. Nearby visitors will see and hear increased arial and crew traffic.

Both BWCAW fires are under full suppression.Visitors are asked to give aircraft landing on lakes a wide berth for their own safety and the safety of firefighters. Closures posted on campsites and portages are for the safety of both public and fire fighters.

Current Fire Activity:

· Knife Lake Fire: fifteen to twenty acres burning north of the South Arm of Knife and south of Amoeber Lake: Township 65, Range 6 West, Section 18. Three foot flame lengths, creeping, occasional torching, light west winds. Fuel type is mix of balsam, Jackpine, and blowdown. The fire area received no appreciable rainfall last night. Sixteen fire fighterswill be in place today. Campsites and portages on the South Arm of Knife Lake will be closed. A closure order and map will be provided soon. Forest Service Beaver floatplanes will be shuttling crews and assisting with suppression. More aircraft resources may be used. A public safety crew will use a square stern with motor on the South Arm of Knife Lake. All BWCAW entry points remain open.

· Un-named fire near Sedative Lake, north of Ima: Township 64, Range 7 West, Section 17. A single tree was burning when discovered. Staff will be on site today. More resources may be ordered.

Contained and Controlled Fires:

· Disappointment Lake Fire: quarter acre, discovered Saturday evening, August 24, 2013. Controlled as of 8/26/13.


· Two smokes were discovered in Canada yesterday afternoon—one near Crane Lake and another one north of Knife Lake well into Canada.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

BLOG 52. Ten Top Camping Innovations

By Cliff Jacobson

I’ve camped for more than 60 years.  Looking back, here are some of my favorite camping items:

Patented in 1892 by Camille Poirier, the "Duluth" pack, as it would come to be known, combined strength, endurance and elegance in a soft, appealing package that was easy to construct and repair.  
Duluth Pack--tradition for a reason!
Picture a canvas pillow case with leather shoulder straps, brass buckles and a long closing flap.  Add a tumpline and you have a Duluth pack.  Unlike modern packs which must be laid flat in a canoe—their mouths in contact with bilge water--Duluth packs sit upright, out of the wet.  They are as comfortable to carry as any modern pack, if you use a tumpline.  They are less expensive too—important to the canoeist who may need several packs for a long trip. Space counts on a canoe trip; an empty Duluth pack can be folded and stored inside another pack.

I discovered Nalgene® bottles in the mid 1960’s while teaching high school science in Indiana.  Most of the chemicals we purchased came in them. When the bottles were empty, I scrubbed them out and zealously saved them for canoeing.  They were the most air-and- watertight bottles available at the time, and their thick plastic walls made them virtually indestructible. What really made them special was the thread design of the cap, which absolutely, positively, never leaked.  When Nalgene discovered that campers hoarded used bottles they began producing them for the outdoors market.  Colors and varied shapes followed. Today, there are lots of competitive containers that work well for canoe tripping, but in my opinion, Nalgene ones are still the best.
Nalgene bottles--best in the business!
Silicone-coated fabrics are much lighter and stronger than those treated with polyurethane. Rainwater beads rather than pools, and the surface dries almost instantly. A sil-nylon tent will consume less pack space than an identical one treated with polyurethane. Silicone-treated nylon has been around for some time, but because it doesn’t meet North American “fire-retardant” standards, it’s used sparingly on U.S. and Canadian tents. The coating may be used for exterior tent flies but not for inner canopies where people reside. An “approved” fire-retardant, polyurethane-coated nylon tent won’t burn but it will drip hot liquid nylon onto your skin! The resulting burn may be worse than that from an open flame!  All the best European tents are built from sil-nylon so the fire-retardant ploy is probably just an attempt to keep ultra-light foreign tents out of North America.  Call your government reps and tell them that Americans are being left in the dust!
Syl nylon tarp (Lean 3 by Cooke Custom Sewing)

The Primus stove was invented in 1892 by Swedish machinist Frans Lindqvist. It was basically a blow-torch with a brass plate that evenly distributed the flame.  Lindqvist’s invention quickly earned a reputation for reliability and durability. It was used by Roald Amundsen, Admiral Byrd, Mallory, Tensig and virtually every 19th and early 20th century explorer. Primus stoves have been in continuous production for more than a century and in my opinion they are still the best. They feature all metal—stainless steel, brass, aluminum—construction. There are no plastic parts to burn or break. Field maintenance is simple. For example, the aluminum pump consists of just two parts—the shaft and easily replaced pressure cup. For solo trips, I often use my ancient (1952) M71 Primus (photo) which still runs flawlessly. Mostly, I rely on a Primus “Omnifuel” stove, which runs hotter than my ancient Optimus 111B.  
L) Primus 71, R) Primus Omnifuel
Conventional rain gear is waterproof but not breathable—sweat may make you wetter than rain! Gore-tex®, invented in 1976, is both breathable and waterproof and therefore much more comfortable to wear in rain. Most of the best garments, hats and boots feature Gore-tex in their construction.

Early Gore-tex garments leaked when they became soiled, but this problem has long been solved. Today, the major shortcoming is inadequate ventilation—the tiny micro-pores just can’t eliminate perspiration as quickly as uncoated nylon. For this reason, many paddlers rely on a porous nylon shell for wind and a Gore-tex parka for rain. This is a good plan because any garment that’s worn all the time will ultimately develop holes. Some Gore-tex jackets have arm-pit zippers for ventilation, but these work better for hikers than for canoeists who raise their arms when they paddle. Parkas that have fully waterproof (wet-suit style) zippers are best for paddlers. 

Hang a candle lantern in your tent on a cold, dreary night and watch the flickering shadows dance around your tent.  The tiny flame warms your tent—about ten degrees—enough to kill the chill. If you have young eyes, the little flame provides light enough to read a book. 
Brass candle lantern
The Stonebridge folding candle lantern, patented in 1900, was the first folding candle lantern that could be easily packed and safely used inside a tent.  Originally built from brass, with mica windows, it folded flat  (just one-half inch thick!) for storage. But it’s mica windows were fragile and the base leaked wax. The tubular candle lantern, which appeared in the 1950’s, was more rugged and compact; it had sliding glass windows and it didn’t leak wax.  Like most modern paddlers, I rely largely on an LED headlamp to illuminate the night.  But for warmth and ambience, my candle lantern rules the night.

LED lamps get brighter and less expensive every year.  The “bulbs” last almost forever and, when powered by Lithium batteries, they’ll light your camp for several weeks. I threw out my old flashlights years ago!

Thermarest® started the revolution, now there’s lots of competition.  NEMO and EXPED insulated models are my current favorites.  Why? Because they’re super thick and comfy, even when sleeping on base ball size gravel.  And they have optional breathable covers which absorb sweat and add durability.

These hand-forged Swedish made axes are unoquivocably the best in the world.  Hardened to 56C Rockwell, with double-peened lugs, the head can’t come loose.  Superb edge geometry encourages split wood to literally fly apart when struck.  Expensive and worth it!
Gransfors axes

10.  SteriPen
The SteriPen ( is my favorite water-purification device. It is a pen-like product that uses ultraviolet light to purify water.  No chemicals are involved so the treated water has no aftertaste. I’ve used it from the Boundary Waters of Minnesota to the Alaskan tundra, and when traveling abroad. It has never let me down. All you need are batteries and you’re good to go!

Cliff Jacobson


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

BLOG 51. Review: aLOKSAK Waterproof and Odor-proof Bags

BLOG 51. Review: aLOKSAK Waterproof and Odorproof Bags
by Cliff Jacobson

Many paddlers rely on zipper-lock plastic storage bags to waterproof small items like money, matches, toilet paper, etc.  But zip-lock bags are at best, marginally reliable, less so if they’re over-packed or compressed by a load. aLOKSAK® bags (, which are constructed from a tough, resilient plastic, are far stronger and more waterproof. They have a triple seal that holds even when the bags are substantially compressed. aLOKSAK’s are certified “waterproof” to 60 meters (197 feet!). Ordinary zipper-lock bags can’t compare.
 SPLASHSAK Phone Caddy and Navigator Map Case
LOKSAKS come in many sizes, ranging from 3.4 x 6.4 inches (a snug, smart phone fit) to a giant 12 x 48 inches—large enough to accommodate a sleeping bag and pad. I’ve been using aLOKSAK bags on my canoe trips for many years and I have found them to be extremely reliable. They are quite inexpensive.

I am also fond of the company’s odor-proof OPSAK” bags which keep odors in and water out. OPSAK’s are government-approved as long term biohazard bags, so you know they really work. I’ve used them on canoe trips to transport raw and cooked fish fillets and I’ve never had a problem with varmints. The plastic film does not contain BPA or leachable chemicals so you can safely store food inside. OPSAK’s are flexible and shatterproof and they won’t wilt if you add boiling water to rehydrate food. Important: You will compromise the odor-proof feature if you touch the outside of the bag with contaminated hands. When in bear country, it may be wise to wear vinyl medical gloves when loading smelly edibles into these bags. Note: Although OPSAK’s are reliably waterproof, they are not as strong and flexible as aLOKSAK’s.  
Used WAG Bags will remain odor-free much longer if you insert them in an OPSAK bag
Some, mostly western U.S. national parks require that human waste be packed out.  Some campers bring a dedicated toilet system, such as the PETT®, but paddlers are better off to stick with lightweight, disposable WAG bags® or Biffy bags®.  My experience with WAG bags is that they become foul-smelling after about three days; Biffy bags (which utilize an odor-proof Mylar foil bag) stay smell-free much longer.  We place used “potty bags” into a 12” x 20” OPSAK bag, which in turn goes into a waterproof nylon dry bag. This belt-and-suspenders procedure ensures reliable odor-proof protection over the long haul.
Biffy Bags ( utilize an odor-proof mylar bag and stay odor-free for a week or more
LOKSAK makes a number of different “SPLASHSAK’s”, each designed for a specific function: I especially like the “phone caddy”, passport caddy” and the clear plastic NAVIGATOR  map case which has a carry strap and snap-hooks and is sized right for Boundary Waters maps. There are other map cases too, including a military version that has a pocket and tri-fold cover.  aLOKSAK and OPSAK bags are widely used by adventure racers and the military. I highly recommend them. 

Cliff Jacobson