Afghanistan Pre-Deployment Training Plan

scrambling (Small)

Rough terrain hell on hip flexors.

Everyone has heard of P90X and Insanity, and they are highly recommended by hunters. Except anyone can see progress if they have never trained before. After reading a bit more about strength training, high-intensity interval, and low-intensity steady state, it was time to give one of the sport-specific regimes a try. The only issue is not being experienced enough to design a specifically-tailored program.

Enter Rob Shaul of Mountain Athlete, or now known as Strong Swift Durable. He was once famous in the CrossFirt circle but then started seeking out more general conditioning and sport-specific training of mountain athletes. He launched his new gym in 2007 based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and quickly gained traction by posting free online training plans and sessions. Upon request, military-specific training soon followed the year after. In 2009, the gym introduced a fee structure for their training plans.

At first, I was going to order the second edition of Backcountry Big Game Hunting Program and was going to modify it to include sandbag maneuvers loaded two times the bodyweight. Except it wasn’t clear which exercises can only be done with a barbell and which can be substituted with a heavy sandbag. This was back in February before a new version was updated to exclude gym-specific equipment. Dropping nearly $60 USD on a program with only a few samples wasn’t a wise gamble.

Upon contacting Shaul and explaining how the local gyms don’t have access to Olympics weights due to not having faith in their clients for safety reasons, or are inconveniently located on the second floor where structural integrity is a concern. The only gym which has serious equipment belongs to a CrossFit organization which doesn’t rent out time slot or space to people who don’t wish to participate in the classes and seminars. He, then, recommended the Afghanistan Pre-Deployment Training Plan.

The Afghanistan Pre-Deployment Training Plan offered by Strong Swift Durable for $29.00 is a six-week, five-times a week training program requiring about 45 minutes of dedication a day to two hours for endurance events using only sandbag and dumbbells.

At first glance, much of the training regimes is quite similar to the one endorsed by the Canadian Forces shortly after the country committed itself to ousting the Taliban. Canadians who follow their own country’s military preparations should not be surprised at the resemblance given the context.

The program was specifically designed for NATO troops deployed in Afghanistan. There is some transferability for western hunters as well as mountaineers and alpinists. Upon looking at the exercises, it is easy to understand why a wide variety of people benefits.

The only equipment required are:

  • a backpack;
  • a watch with stopwatch option and countdown timer;
  • 40 cm to 45 cm bench or box;
  • a pair of 7 kg dumbbells, or 11 kg dumbbells for men; and
  • a 27 kg sandbag for women, or a 36 kg for men

There are a few details left out, for instance, the rucking scheme calls for carrying body armor (7.4 kg — 15.9 kg), a helmet (1.1 kg — 1.6 kg), and a rifle.  Instead of carrying a real firearm, rubber rifle or sledgehammer (4.5 kg) is recommended. The rest (8.5 — 17.5 kg) can be added on top of the 11.3 kg load prescribed. In lieu of combat weight, a 30 kg concrete mix bag do just fine. A weighted vest would distribute the load more evenly.

With apps like Runtastic Timer or RunKeeper with decent sound quality, there is no need for a stopwatch. Just string the smartphone around the neck or throw it in the backpack. Having a wristwatch is less clunky and don’t require looking at the screen as often.

In regard to weights, look for dumbbells with wide bases. A wider bottom will assist in being able to stabilize while doing the weighted pushup. For a sandbag, go with a set which are filled with landscaping bark or rubber mulch. If sand is the only option, let it shift around the bag loosely and not compacted down. Using adjustable weights will feel like being slammed into the wall by a hockey player.

The quality of the backpack makes a huge difference in the ability to ruck and perform step ups. Some internal frames and frameless cannot handle having concentrated weight acting as hypergravity and thus should be packed more carefully to distribute the weight evenly. Strong Swift Durable recommends using sandbags, dumbbells or barbell plates for loading the backpack, but most backpacks don’t handle them well and require an external frame. Fortunately, most backpack hunters already own a good external. If nothing else, ALICE, Kelty and Jansport frames can be found easily off of eBay in surplus stores for less than $50.

For the step up and rucking routines to work with internal frames, knowledge of how to distribute the load of the backpack equally is a must. Otherwise, the backpack feels very unnatural and uneven.

Keep in mind, the plan was last updated in 2012 and did not really include much for building the shoulders other than the get ups, dips, push ups, and pull ups. Complexes for the upper body using sandbags or dumbbells would squeeze nicely into this program for better transferability to backpacking.

Most importantly, the program hammers the leg and increase the VO2max. It calls for: running two or three times a week; lunges, loaded step ups and ruck once a week each; strengthening of the spine with a variety of planks and building the core muscles, lengthening the spine and strengthening the stabilizing muscles by borrowing concepts from Pilates and yoga; basic calisthenics with push-ups, pull-ups and dips along with weighted versions; and improving total body strength with a variety of Turkish getup with a sandbag.

Watching the YouTube videos, and several productions from the same team, is must as without an experienced person spotting, one can easily injure themselves. For instance, during the sandbag get up, it is easy to pull several muscles encasing the scapula if they don’t plant their feet or the pivoting arm in the right position. Do a refresher once or twice a week to maintain proper form.

There are a few complex maneuvers which do require having a good solid spine before being able to perform them. For instance, the variety of pushup into row listed in the program can be split into doing horizontal bent rows and pushups separately. But if one really wants to do the push up into row correctly, they should strengthen their core and spine with holding a plank for 60 seconds. So, if one wants to squeeze the most of the program, having a good solid base of bodyweight training is a prerequisite.

More importantly, one must follow the program to the letter or they risk overtraining if the exercises are prescribed in random orders. Skimping on the mobility drills based on the perception they are mere warm-ups is erroneous. The drills ease the downhill motions during backpacking, and assist with the more complex exercises.

The progressions are simple and one will see significant gains with the. If they are too difficult in the first couple of weeks, just cycle the first week a few times before moving on. Most importantly, do not skip a routine. Doing so usually knocks back a person for a week, and delaying the peak performance.

The most noticeable transferability to real life are the lunge and squat complex known as “leg blaster”, calf tabata, sandbag get up, hip mobility drill and real-world rucking. The other exercises in the program are crucial for building up the stabilizer muscles and major groups which aid in progression at much faster pace. Given the program was designed for immediate deployment, Rob Shaul has done an excellent job of preparing a person at a moment’s notice.

If one was to do the plan again, then investment into weighted vest and rubber rifle instead of improvising with a 4.5 kg sledgehammer and heavier sandbags would be worth it. Additionally, ankle mobility drills would contribute to the program as well and oversee much greater progression.

Overall, the Afghanistan Pre-Deployment Training Plan is a very simple program which sees more gain in a short amount of time compared to more complex programs available on the market. For athletes seeking to return to the basics, one cannot get any simpler.

By |July 31st, 2015|Reviews|0 Comments|

Pre-season Hunting 2015 Updates

Earlier in the year, several plans were made. Naturally, plans change or are dropped over the course of time.

Over the summer, since my personal fitness was questionable, the elk draw went to priority and the same for goat and moose. Placed a request in the mule lottery, but was not fortunate enough to draw a permit. All that is left over is two tags for black bears which are given away liberally in Alberta for mere $50 each. Decisions have yet been made if the hunt will be conducted this autumn or roll into the next spring. Spring bears taste better anyway.

The Afghanistan Pre-Deployment Training Program from Military Athlete established a baseline for the start of the Backcountry Big Game Training Program. The latter is intense and shows potential for lots of growth.

So what’s left? Grouse-hunting, goose-hunting and capercaillie hunting are still on the table. This year will be my girlfriend’s first hunting season, and she is looking forward to working with our West Siberian Laika. In the past few years, he has been maturing as a grouse dog and is just starting to show promise.

To avoid the hassle of going through Finnish customs, my girlfriend’s shotgun borrowed from her father will be used. Using a shotgun will be an interesting challenge as using a rifle, usually in .22WMR, .222 Rem or .223 Rem, is the most common way of hunting. Several hunters in Nordic countries will often carry both a shotgun and a rifle, or if they could afford it: a combination rifle or a drilling. Armed with only a shotgun, the experience will be similar to 18th or 19th century Siberia.

Meanwhile, a backpack from Stone Glacier was ordered. The Solo showed great promises for ultralight hunting, and held up well to 30 kg. For the 60 kg ceiling, the frame is not at fault but rather my own fitness. The only thing left to do is to devise a game bag for grouse hunting. Except the said grouse will be the size of a turkey. One could always sandwich the carcass on the load shelf, but it would not breathe easily. Neither will hanging the bird on the outside will be a pleasant experience while bushwhacking.

But while I am over in Finland, we will see about picking up some hunting skis and a traditional bearded axe similar in specs to the the Gränsforsbruk Small Forest Axe. Hopefully, we can salvage a  Billnäs No. 12 or a similar type. Bearded axes are still common in eastern Europe and across Siberia, but has largely been phased out in Nordic region in favour of American-style axes.

Traditional skis or axes may not be ultralight, but there is nothing light about winter hiking and a pulk or tobaggan is almost always involved.

8 weeks left until October, the main hunting season for capercaillie.

By |July 28th, 2015|Log|0 Comments|

30 Days: Stone Glacier Solo



All Stone Glacier backpacks have a 30-days grace period before they can no longer be returned to the manufacturer for a refund. In contrast to the first impression, one begins to understand the in and out of their choice of backpack.

Kurt Racicot, in the note attached to the package, asserts Stone Glacier KRuX is a technical pack, and there is a learning curve associated with it. Unlike backpacks which be readily purchased off the shelf, it does take times to learn the in and out of the system. Like any minimalist set up,  some experience is required to learn how to pack the rucksack properly to maximize space and balance the load.

For instance, since the curve of the spine varies from person to person, one might find themselves having to remove pieces of foam from the lumbar pad to reduce the aggression. Some with very straight and strong spine might instead opt out of the lumbar pad altogether. In this case, one piece was removed after four weeks of rucking, loaded step ups and a three-day hiking trip in Monkman Provincial Park.

The lumbar pad itself is quite abrasive which eats away at the skin, and noticeable if one is wearing tightly-knitted clothes under 150 g/m². In most circumstances, this issue is non-existent except while rucking in middle of the hottest days. To avoid this slight, simply hike in normal clothes during the cooler hours or invest into quick-dry synthetic t-shirts for the extreme temperatures.

In regard to the frame itself, there is no ventilation unlike the other competitors.  The KRuX is essentially a sheet of X-Pac which is not well-known for its ability to breathe. During autumn and winter, the breathability is less of an issue but definitely one must compensate for in the height of summer.

The bag easily becomes disengaged from the fork of the frame if the load is not packed properly. While in an upright position, the distribution is not necessarily noticeable, but while crawling under deadfalls sometimes the bag falls off. This is the user’s error, and not the manufacturer’s. For instance, if one insists on using a closed foam sleeping mattress, the burrito should be opposite of the frame, and not against. If the foam is resting against the frame, then the tension makes it difficult for the bag to sit on the frame.  Once one learns how to pack, the problem does not reoccur.

Since bags are independent of many external frames, especially hunting-quality ones, one must get into the habit of making sure the bag is securely attached to the frame before putting on the backpack. Oftentimes when they are set on the ground, they lose the tension and becomes detached from the frame. Some may see this as a design flaw, especially those who are habituated to internal frames, however, this design is the result of the necessity of having a frame independent from the body. Anyone who wants to be able to put meat on a frame designed for interchangeable bag must accept this reality.

The Solo is advertised being for weekend hunts. With a minimalist kit plus 300-weight fleece (530 g), polyester zipped sweater (430 g) and generic rain jacket (530 g), there is enough for 3 or 4 days worth of food and 2 litres of water. Sub-300 gram clothings, a week or two worth of food can easily be packed; or even more with sub-200 gram clothes. For extended trips, one can use the load shelf, but then they have to contend with the weight of the dry bag and packing it out.

One can choose to have gears on the outside of their pack, as some do use the load shelf as a compression for storing storm gears as well as sleeping bags and mattresses. Bushwacking through the thickest forest quickly reveals one is wise to keep all of those items inside the pack. The only gear which is stored on the outside, other than wet socks, are trekking poles. Naturally, ice axes and felling axes would also fall into the same niche.

The external frame system is a hassle while doing every day recreational hike.. Every day, one must tighten the bag to the frame and sometimes can be time-consuming when one is trying to break down camp under 15 minutes. The system will come into its own while hunting, doing trail maintenance, packrafting, bikepacking or hiking where carrying heavy loads are mandatory. Comparing an external frame to an internal or frameless would be unfair as the functions are different.

The morning hassles, however, is offsetted by the ability to use the bag as a pillow at night and the frame to supplement a 1/2-length or 2/3-length mattress to minimize space in the tent. This kind of arrangement minimizes the total pack weight and space inside the backpack as well. There is no reason to pack a pillow or carry a full-length pad.

For most early season mountain hunts as well as for bear, elk, deer and sheep in late autumn lowlands, 54L is sufficient for a minimalist hunter for all three seasons. Hunters who want more camping luxuries other than a simple tarp and bivy, winter travelers and those who are facing unforgiving mountain weathers later in the  year should consider a larger pack.

For those who are planning winter trips, 70L would be the bare minimum. The margin for safety is set much higher and the clothes are bulkier. If one is hunting in the more violate alpine regions during autumn or using a packraft, they must take the volume of the pack into consideration. Hunters recommending 130L or 140L for goat hunts in late autumn, early winter are not unusual. There are too many factors to consider for the perfect volume: type of tent, the size of the tent, clothes and luxuries as well as technical gears.

From a recreational hiking point of view, the load shelf is excellent for carrying a week or two worth of food which proved worthwhile during a week-long wilderness trek in Willmore. Any dry bag up to 40L would do, however, rectangular ones conform to the frame better than a cylindrical. The benefit of having a dry bag separate from the main bag is the ease of using it as a bear-bag and caching it somewhere safe.

For those who are wondering, the frame carries well whether the load is a mere 6 kg, or up to 30 kg ranging from 8 km to 100 km. Loads higher than 30 kg has not yet been tested.

The logistics regarding 60 kg loads which is the upper-end of most backpack hunts using concrete (1500 — 2400 kg/m³) instead of being closer to the mass of flesh and bone (985 kg/m³) is a bit problematic. Finding a flat dry bag, and stacking it flat against the frame vertically instead of horizontally across the load shelf would balance the load much better.

When the load test is carried one, one must remember anything above 13 — 14 kg is uncomfortable for unconditioned humans, and even the fittest finds anything more than 30 kg to be awkward. Once one exceeds the 45 kg threshold, a comparative test between several brands is no longer about what is comfortable but which frame is the least painful.
Photography is not the main focus while hunting, in practice, however, there are a few instances where an extra $16 — $22 USD was forked over for a hip pocket or two for better organization, access to snacks and a point and shoot camera. Each pocket is a minor 35 g ding for a minimalist.

Additionally, in the dry mountains during the summer, a hydro holster ($19 USD, 50 g) to hold water bottles for quick access instead of putting the pack on the ground every time would quicken the pace of a long distance trip.

There is a hydration port along the top of the Solo bag, however, for the past year or two, the bladder and hose system has been abandoned largely due to the tendency of not being able to pace oneself and having backpacking performance decline due to mild water intoxication. In practice, the hydration system is best left to biking.

The best part about the Stone Glacier brand is one chooses what kind of features one want to add to the system, instead of the manufacturer responding to popular demands. The company does an excellent job of placing the power back into the consumers’ hands.

Overall, the product is satisfactory based on backyard performances and a few hiking trips. A real test would be actually packing out the meat and having to descend down tricky terrains. Based on the hip belt and lumbar pad, there are very few alternatives for the body type which I possess. A comparison to Paradox Evolution would be most fair and just.

Disclaimer: Not technically a 30-day review, since the package was received on May 22, 2015. The review was postponed several times due to summer vacation plans. The title is named after the return guarantee of the product.


By |July 24th, 2015|Gear, Reviews|0 Comments|

Foam Rollers

In recent years, deep muscle (or tissue) massages and self-myofascial release techniques became all the rage in physical culture, especially amongst those who do not have the disposable income to visit a masseur on a regular basis. There are very few peer-reviewed studies on the subject and health agencies around the world said there is insufficient evidence of their effectiveness or safety. The existing literature on the subject is sparse, and the studies are deemed low quality. On the other hand, many athletes, physiotherapists and coaches swear by SMR.

So let’s procure one of the most common tools used in SMR: the foam roller. Off the shelf, one is expecting to pay $30 to $80 for the finished product. A close inspection of the construct reveals one can easily make one for a quarter of the price or even less by going to their local home improvement store.


  • Saw (optional)
  • Measuring tape (optional)
  • Scissors


  • Duct tape or double-sided tape
  • Athletic or kinesiology tape (eg. KT, leukotape, optional)
  • ABS or PVC pipe, 4″ — 6″ (10 — 15 cm)
  • Pipe insulation foam

The most common foam rollers on the market are about 15 cm (6″) in diameter, and 30 cm (1′) wide. The home-made varieties are more commonly 10 cm wide (4″), and 60 cm (2′) long. Lengths up to 90 cm (3′) are not unheard of. Part of the reason for the smaller diameter is the difficulties of procuring 15 cm tubes; 15 cm PVC or ABS, however, do exist. Try to find the bigger ones if possible.

One does not need a saw or measuring tape if their local home improvement stores allow pieces to be cut. With staff layoffs and gearing toward more wholesale approach, these stores are becoming far and few.

C360_2015-07-19-16-37-14-919For some, PVC pipes are too aggressive, and some cushion is required. For this, we use pipe insulation foam. Others use neoprene. These materials vary in thickness from 1 cm to about 4.5 cm. The greater the thickness, the less aggressive the finished product will be.
To adhere the foam to the pipe, use either duct tape, double-sided tape or both. Do back to back duct tape for fairly strong adhesiveness. Some tutorials on the Internet advocate for glue, however, since foam breaks down over time and hardened plastic generally don’t, in the long run, the ability to replace as needed becomes necessary.

After the foam is taped to the tube, wrap the nearly finished project with some kind athletic tape. Foam, or straight PVC or ABS, can be slippery and sports tape will increase the friction between the floor, the tube and the body to reduce accidents.


To minimize chances of injury, don’t roll over a joint or bone. The lower back is also a region not to be messed with. Instead, use less aggressive methods such as lacrosse balls, racquet balls or tennis balls to address these areas. One’s health should not be placed at risk just because someone refuses to have a wide variety of different tools at his or her disposal.

By |July 19th, 2015|Tutorials|0 Comments|

Loaded Potatoes

loadedpotatoesThis recipe is actually inspired by Andrew Skurka’s Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide, but loaded potatoes is a common enough recipe to be posted. So far, it is a camp’s favourite. The bacon and butter seal the deal.


  • Ziploc snack bags
  • Freezer bags (optional)


  • Instant potato, 85 g
  • Crumbled bacon, shelf stable, 30 g
  • Butter, 30 g

Measure out the potato flakes for the Ziploc bags, then package the crumbled bacon and butter seperately.

Add about 350 — 400 mL of water. If using a cat can stove, add the content of the pouch to the water and by the time the fuel runs out, the meal should be ready. If using gas stove, bring to a boil, then add the potatoes. Set aside for 10 to 15 minutes. Add more water if needed for better consistency. The meal will be gruelish, but if one stays hydrated before going to bed, they will stay warmer throughout the night. Add butter and crumbled bacon while the meal is resting.

For the freezer bag or insulated mug style of cooking, boil about 120 to 150 mL of water, add to the container then set aside for 10 to 15 minutes. Add water if needed.

The recipe is very easy and cheap to make, and one begins to wonder why they even bothered with Mountain House brand. Use real bacon which are shelf-stable such as Hormel or Kirkland’s, and not the bacon bits commonly found in bulk stores. Vegans and vegetarians are free to use soy substitutes.

Some recipes will add about 15 g to 35 g of powdered cheese and powdered whole milk for better taste. Others will add chilies as well as salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes or Italian seasonings such as basil and oregano. Experiment and find out which appeals to the taste buds.

By |June 21st, 2015|Tutorials|0 Comments|

First Impression: Sea to Summit Nano Mosquito Pyramid Net – Double

The first line of defense against mosquitoes and black flies was to simply just wear a simple bug net over the head and relying on a tight quilt system to keep out the critters. Except Halla remains skeptical and asks for a mosquito netting. In hindsight, the Locus Gear Khufu Mesh should have been ordered as part of the complete package.

To keep our relationship intact, we were planning on ordering the Sea to Summit Nano Pyramid Net from Valhalla Pure Outfitters. Ordering complete inner mesh with bathtub floor from Japan or America would take too long to arrive. Then Live Out There, based in Calgary, Alberta, happened to have an online special with 25% discount for two days, guaranteeing free shipping and return. The receipt came to a bill of $48.74 CAD or $51.18 after taxes. The package arrived in about two days.

Sea to Summit is an Australian company popular with thru-hikers due to their relative lightweight and availability in outdoors retail. If something tears while on the trail, then it is easy to find a replacement at the next resupply point. As the result, there is a wide assortment of products designed for lightweight backpackers.

Since the products are targeted toward the mainstream, Sea to Summit is not necessarily popular with gram weenie section hikers or weekend hikers who can afford to wait for a shipment from the cottage industry. However, short of homemade, one would be hard-pressed to find a l mosquito net for a tent or tarp.

The Nano is a floorless mosquito protection addition for any pyramid-style tents or tarps. The manufacturer claims a weight of 137 grams and a dimension of 279 cm × 168 cm × 130 cm (LWH) made from 15-denier gray nylon mesh with about 80 holes per cm². The stuff sack is made from Cordura.

Of course, any experienced outdoorsperson would begin measuring out each component:

Items Weight (grams)
Suspension cordage 9
Spreader bar 35
Mesh (with drawcord) 116
Stuff sack 10
Total 170

The elastic drawcord around the bottom was not removed due to the complication of adding it back in, so the component was not weighed.

First off, the manufacturer’s claim is a little off. It is not entirely certain how they came up with 137 g if they meant without the spreader bar (135 g) or the whole package. There should have been a bit more clarification. Otherwise, the weight is true.

C360_2015-06-05-14-59-39-557The mesh itself without the spreader bar or stuff sack is about 125 g, or 116 g without the suspension cord. Since the stuff sack is made from the typical mainstream bombproof material, there is no reason not to substitute it with cuben or a grocery bag. Just look for one with a length of 17 cm and a diameter of 8.5 cm.

The cordage for suspending the pyramid net is excessive, but the product is designed to catch all the customers within its base. After all, the diagram of instruction  does show being able to sleep underneath a tree. Since the cordage is knotted instead of sewn, they are easy to remove.

The reason why the Sea to Summit is lighter than lighter inner mesh for shelters is two-fold: no bathtub floor and no zippers. To enter the shelter, one must crawl underneath.

There is not much to say about the spreader bar other than it is made of aluminum alloy and functions like a quick-snap tent poles which can easily become a projectile weapon. At 35 g, one has to wonder if spending a pretty penny on carbon fibre is worth it.

Ideally, the elastic around the edge is to tighten the net around the sleeping mats for better security. Since two people and a dog will be sharing the shelter, it is dubious this feature will be useful. We will have to see once the Nano actually gets used in the field.

Each corner has a stake-out loop to keep the mesh taut. Two corners are blue and the others red. The side with the red loops has more headroom. One might find they need to use rocks instead of stakes to avoid carrying extra.

Since the material is generously loose, it acts more like a drape than a true pyramid net. This inevitably means one must make modifications at home or address these issues in the field on a day to day basis. If one is creative, then the net will be a perfect solution for most functions as long the shelter is not too low to the ground.

C360_2015-06-06-22-14-22-291 (1)Now, there is a limitation with the product:

  • It’s not treated with Insect Shield (permethrin), which would keep most creepy crawlies at bay. Sea to Summit does offer treated and untreated options. Permethrin has been demonstrated to be toxic, but for some the sanity is worth the trade off.
  • For noseeums, the mesh should be around minimum 155 holes/cm². Some Scots recommending in excess of 380 to 390 holes/cm² for midges. Site selection is key as oftentimes in the West, they are associated with livestock, buffalo or caribou herds, and sandy areas.
  • Since the mesh is 15-denier, and not 75-denier typical of most mosquito nets on the market, the material is much more flimsy. One must take precautions not to let dogs’ nails tear up the net.
  • There is no sewn-in floor, so there will be an inevitable mosquito or two which manages to crawl in. One must make a decision about the weight-to-comfort ratio.

There is one feature the designers should had added: reinforcing the center of the apex so a sole trekking pole can be used for the pyramid without resorting the inverted V. Sea to Summit assumes would buy both nets for situational uses which is a wise move since it saves them the production cost of three different configurations.

Given the price and weight, the Nano Pyramid Net is a difficult product to beat. At 116 g for two, or roughly half that for one, it pushes the limitation of how light an aftermarket add-on can be. For better protection, one would be looking at a bug bivy or a complete inner mesh.

C360_2015-06-06-22-03-08-036At the end of the summer, the Sea to Summit Nano will be going with Halla so she could use it for their fantastic trail networks of raised wooden laavu (Finnish trans. “leanto”) which makes it the lightest shelter one can have, other than the Single version for roughly 82 g, or less if the suspension cordage is shortened or removed.


By |June 12th, 2015|Gear, Reviews|0 Comments|

Weight Training on the Cheap

Staying in shape for outdoors activities is at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Hunters, skiers, kayakers, ultra runners, and backpackers are constantly practicing or training every day to stay prime for the big day. So how can be tiptop for less than $50 or even free? After all, not everyone can drop a half a month paycheque on the King of Strength: the Olympic barbells. So, what’s the magical, inexpensive solution? Simple: construct some sandbags!

Now, those who do manual labour don’t really need these lying around the house as they are usually too tired at the end of the day; but the desk jockeys don’t have that blessing of using their muscles every day carrying odd objects such as logs, steel beams, bales of hay, garbage bags or lifting stones and slabs of concrete. and slugging away with the sledgehammer. The tutorial is really more for all the white-collared folks out there.


The project does not require much.


  • Weight-scale (eg. postal scale, food scale, luggage scale)
  • Groundsheet (optional, eg. polypropylene tarp, window shrink, Tyvek)
  • Bucket (optional)
  • Permanent marker (optional)


  • Linen, canvas, polypropylene bags, duffel bags, dry bags, stuff sacks, sea bags, or military surplus deployment bags
  • 3-mil or thicker bags such as compactor bags, construction bags, industrial plastic bags, innertube, feed bags
  • Filler such as sand, rubber mulch, landscaping bark, wood pellet, newspaper pellets, rice, pea gravel, river rock, link chain, manilla rope, cement mix, zircon, lead shots or salt
  • Fasteners such as twine, zip ties or clamps
  • Heavy-duty tape such as duct tape or packing tape (optional)

A sandbag is a very simple concept and a very low cost option. One of the reasons why they are rarely mentioned in fitness magazines is they don’t sell, inexpensive and anyone can make one at home. It far more common to read about this equipment on sport-specific websites.

However, a sandbag is an excellent way of starting a home gym and should be a valuable asset to anyone’s training regime. Some weightlifters might even say all that is required is some sand bag, climbing rope and or gymnastic rings.

So what is a sand bag and what it consists of? Very simple. It has an inner bag with filler and an outer bag. The inner bag prevents leaks to keep the gym tidy, and the outer bag allows for gripping.

First thing, first. Since the project will be messy, it is best to do it outside or lay down a sheet in the garage. If it is being done indoor, then a vacuum cleaner and a broom will be handy.

There are a few factors to consider while selecting filler. One would be your toes. Everyone drops weights sometimes. The denser the material, the more the accident will hurt. So, sand is preferable to chain and gravel or river rocks. On the other hand, the finer the material is, the more abrasive it is. Some prefer pea gravel because they last longer. Others prefer mulch, either cedar or rubber since they can last for years.

The other thing to consider is the more weight required, the more volume the filler takes up. The more volume, the more awkward it is to lift something as the outer bag will have to be more enlonged or wider. 130 kg worth of pellets or mulch is much more awkward to hoist than 130 kg of sand. Likewise, 200 or 300 kg of sand is more awkward than 200 kg of cement mix as the later as sand is very loose and cement or zicron is very compact. The denser the material, the easier it is to keep the weight equally distributed.

On the other hand, one does not get the advantage of sandbag training if there is not enough filler. If the person doesn’t have the upper body strength but still want to take advantage of an unstable center of mass, wood pellets or landscaping bark will fill the volume with relatively low weight. For many backpackers, 36 kg of wood pellet or cedar mulch feels very natural compared to other fillers of the same weight simply because it resembles more closely to the weight of the gears.

In most cases, the sand will do as even power lifters find 130 kg of loose weight difficult to grip. The reason why they can lift or press in excess of 225 kg because plates are fixed, solid and stabilized at both ends of the bar. Shifting weights recruits more stabilizer muscles and thus difficult.

Since we want to replace the function of barbells, in this tutorial, we will be using regular sand. This is the most accessible material anywhere in the world.

Now before grabbing any plastic bag, consider how abrasive sand and rocks are. Grocery bags, garbage bags, and food storage bags would not suffice as they are thin. Most of those items are 1-mil or less in thickness. What we need is about 3-mil or thicker.

Now there are a variety of options for durable inner bags. At  the local hardware store, compactor bags and plastic construction bags are easy to find and are affordable. At the local butcher shop, some of them will freely hand out industrial food-grade plastic bags which are very strong or they will sell them for 25 cents to a dollar a bag depending on the volume. Alternatively, one can go to auto-body shops and workplaces to ask for used innertubes from old tires, and many would be happy to get rid of them for free. At 6-mil, innertubes would be one of the thickest materials one can come across.

Before filling them, decide if one want more shifting weight by allowing more air in the bag, or denser by packing it down. Wrapping the bag in duct tape or packing tape will add more life to the bag as there are less wear and tear on the plastic. If one wants the benefit of shifting weight, then it would be unwise to tape the bags, but one should be aware loose weights have shorter shelf life than packed weight. The reason for this is the more sand shifts around, the more the abrasion erodes the liner.

At this point, one might want a bucket if they only have a food scale or postal scale. Many of them have a limit set at 5 kg or 11 lbs. So, one might have to zero the bucket and add the filler to the sand in increments.


A sample of the collection. The rest of them (not shown) are being used for rucking, get up et al.

Now there are two approaches. One can use a singular bag with all the weight. Many backcountry hunters, firefighters, and military personnel use 18, 27 or 36 kg, and backpackers use 11.5 kg in their training programs. For the fireman’s carry, 90 kg is sufficient although some will strive for 130 kg to 140 kg. Try not to have a single bag weighing more than 36 kg. Anything more seldom will be used.

For incremental strength training purposes, it might be easier to have adjustable weight. For a complete set of 160 kg, it might be beneficial to have a pair of everything: 2.5 kg, 5 kg, 7 kg, 11 kg, 12 kg, 13.5 kg, 14 kg and 16.5 kg. Others might want twelve sets of 11.5 kg sandbags.

A weight scale is very useful for estimating how heavy the final product will be. It will be your most valuable ally.

Finally, twist the bag and tighten it with a fastener of some sort. Here, zipties are used as they happened to be available freely around the house. Twine or jute will suffice in most circumstances and are easy to find at the local craft store or dollar store. If you are aiming for loose shifting weight, we are done.


Filling up and twisting the bag.

If one wants a densely-packed bag which doesn’t leak, go ahead and wrap the bags thickly in heavy-duty tape.

And finally, write the bag with a permanent marker so remembering how much each individual bag weigh is not necessary. This is not required.


Three layers of duct tape to minimize spillage.

Now, for an outer bag, it can be anything from canvas to duffel bags and dry bags. 60 cm × 90 cm will fulfill most applications. It would be wise to line the outer bag with a large volume garbage inside to keep the fabric clean and free of impregnation in case your weights leak. The landlord will be very grateful if the house is kept clean.

Bags with handles are handy for certain kind of lifts and squats which is why those products are emerging in online fitness stores. Bags without handles are more difficult and excellent for grip training and strengthening the core.


Heavy-duty construction bag as liner to avoid an irate landlord.

Canvas and polypropylene bags found on construction sites are wonderful as one can simply twist them off and tie them instead of having multiple bags of various volumes.

The cost of all this? It depends on availability and location. If one lives near construction sites and beaches, then the project costs nothing. If one lives in a sprawling city in middle of nowhere, then materials should not cost more than $100.

By |June 6th, 2015|Tutorials|0 Comments|

Gear Review: Osprey Ariel 65L

483327_10150999372467088_2057808464_nThis year, I will be retiring the Osprey Ariel 65L after three or four years of use. After finally saved up enough for a Stone Glacier Solo which is lighter by almost a whole kilogram and twice as expensive, it is time to write a long-term review of the previously-used pack.

Now, Osprey Ariel wasn’t an intentional purchase but rather an accidental one. Departed from Finland using a frameless Tracker which was relatively lightweight and got for $5 at a garage sale. The Tracker pack carried the gear, folding soft crate, and a 13 kg dog well. Prior to departing from Canada, the Tracker carried everything.

Except, I ended up half of an expedition tent and other assorted gears which are now long forgotten by now. The Tracker wasn’t able to cope with the additional load. So, we went to Partioaitta in Turku and found an Osprey Ariel 65L on clearance for about 200 Euros in 2012. The Ariel didn’t fit perfectly due to the hip belt, but adding an internal frame carried better than any of the other packs available at the store and was a last-minute purchase.

The Osprey Ariel was awkward for my sharp and bony hips. There was no flesh to grab onto and needed a proper contour full wrap to make full use of the rucksack. This is not the fault of the pack or the manufacturer but simply my anatomy. After all, it is a product designed for women with wider hips and more curve.

For the last three years, the Osprey Ariel did what it was asked of. The times where it failed when I overpacked or underpacked. As long the load was more than 7 kg and less than 25 kg, the backpack served me well.

The backpack itself weighed exactly 2.23 kg on the scale to the last gram. There is an onerous amount of webbings which can be trimmed to lose some weight. Instead, I opted to keep them for the resale value.

There are a numbers of things I did not like about the pack. First, it was overbuilt with pockets and other features initially appealing off the shelf. There are sleeves everywhere which are not always necessary, and strange ribbons all over the place which were only understood after watching YouTube videos. To make full use of the Ariel or Aether, it is high recommended to watch the videos since they are not intuitive.

Over time, those additional features were never used. Water bottle access was difficult and ended up using a hydration system which added more weight. It would be better to use a slanted access for ease. Since the side pockets are awkward, it forces the use of a bladder and hose. None of these perks enhanced the hiking experience.

The sleeve for the bladder should be made optional. Other manufacturers allow the user to add or remove when needed.

Now, the backpack is not a bad design but marketed toward the mainstream to cast a wide enough net as possible. Gutting those features would result in about 1 kg reduction. In fact, it is not uncommon for hikers to modify their packs to suit them. Personally, I would had done the same. Unfortunately, DIY projects reduce the resale values of the packs.

What are the features? Well, there is a load self, a bottom compartment with zippered access, top compartment with zippered access, lid shelf, access side pocket, gear loops, hydration pouch and port, front mesh pocket, and too many webbings to count. Unlike today’s models, mine did not come with hip belt pockets. Most of these, while necessary, were not convenient to use due to where they were located.

Personally, there is no real need to have more than the top access as the other two access ports complicate how the load is carried since gears shift when one tries to access them from the bottom. Others might like the bottom access for storing cooking sets or sleeping bags. The front panel access might be useful for some for storing jackets. The old adage “hike your own hike” plays a factor here.

Not all of these features are useless. The gear loops are necessary for storing trekking poles and ice axes. The hip belt pockets would had been a welcoming addition to store snacks and a camera for quick access. Unfortunately, the company introduced the hip pockets a year or two later.

The bags are made of the following fabrics: 210D nylon dobby, 75D ripstop nylon, and 500D woven nylon. Even though the fabrics are tough and durable for bushwacking, the use of the fabric in the design is fundamentally useless as the excess webbings and pockets cause the pack to snag constantly while bushwacking. For on-trail hiking, there are a number of more suitable fabric which are lighter or thinner and would still last for many years. I suspect the reason why the fabrics are used is due to the manufacturing cost and cheap labour to meet the customers’ demand for high quality at a mid-range price.

532354_10150999372807088_1459584305_nFor a casual weekend backpacker, who is more interested in camping than hiking, the Osprey Ariel makes all the right clicks, and for many the pack is all they ever need for a lifetime. For a long distance hiker, I would look more toward ULA Catalyst or other similar packs for the same load-bearing ability, price range, volume all with less fat. Those who do more bushwhacking or trail maintenance probably would be seeking out older designs from the 1980s and 1990s when packs used to be individually fitted rather than the one-size-fits-all approach typical of today’s productions. Unfortunately, many of the alternatives to Osprey are not brands which can be bought off the shelf and must be ordered through the Internet or catalogue. The ones which are available on the shelf such as Arc’teryx are oftentimes more expensive.

Perhaps the bias in was unfair since the purchase was not done with serious research and happened to be incidental in an impromptu trip. Not to mention the review is based on a man’s experience of wearing a pack designed for a woman.

Osprey is still a reputable brand and well-liked in the canyoneering, bikepacking, and fastpacking communities. It is important to remember, however, many of the backpacks are designed  to appeal to the people who are halfway between hiking and car camping.

By |June 5th, 2015|Gear, Reviews|0 Comments|

B.C.’s Hunting Course Online   British Columbia Home-British Columbia originally offered the hunting program as an elective course in high school for free. However, hunter recruitment struggled for about two decades after the Liberals government privatized the courses. At least, until the 100 Mile Diet book came out, then being a locavore became trendy; everyone and their grandmother wanted venison.

Alberta has their online courses for a while now through the Alberta Hunter Education Instructors’ Association and it is not very clear why British Columbia with its repeated budget crises and periods of economic depressions have not made the same move. As of April 24, 2015, B.C. Wildlife Federation announced at the annual convention that there would be an online course.

Now, residents of British Columbia over the age of ten years of age can take their CORE program online through Just pay the one-time fee of $78.00 CAD plus GST, take the online course, meet a CORE instructor in the local area for the final exam then get the Graduate certificate and Resident Hunting Number.

Now, not having the time to allocate time to drive to the nearest classroom, take the course and passing the exam will no longer be an excuse.

Next stop: applying for tags online.


By |June 3rd, 2015|Editorial|0 Comments|

Dog Porridge

10273219_10201956539027134_919297103126746357_oKibbles are preferred because it is more convenient and calorie-dense. For a hiking dog, performance kibbles or pemmican are the densest with the least volume. Some of us, however, don’t have the time to make pemmican nor have dogs that can digest kibbles.

Riley, the Swedish Vallhund, did well with Acana for the first year and a half of his life before Champion Petfoods changed the formula as the result of the gluten-free or grain-free trend. The problem with the changes in ingredients is that he couldn’t digest starches from tubers such as potatoes and yams. Unfortunately, tubers are very common as binders in dog kibbles, and the brands which still use rice or other grains are low quality.

A few books on home cooking were recommended including K9 Kitchen and Optimal Nutrition by Monica Segal who is well-respected. Now, home-made recipes are risky, and many authors don’t know the nutrients dogs need and should be required to know the Association of American Feed Control Officials’s guidelines as well as European Pet Food Industry Federation’s and the National Research Council’s. like the back of their hand. Most recipes out there will lead to long-term deficiencies and owners won’t recognize the symptoms.

The recipe listed here e is a derivation of a popular Finnish recipe of home-made dog food ”Yrjölän puuro” [Finnish: “Yrjölä’s Porridge”] developed during the 1950s by J.A.U Yrjölä, a judge, a former Chairman of Finnish Kennel Club’s Board of Directors and chairman of Suomen Rottweileryhdistys ry.

Adapted from and courtesy of Rovaseudun Pystykorvakerho ry:


  • 1 litre of water
  • 1 ts of salt
  • 1 dL of powdered milk
  • ½ dL short-grain rice (eg. sushi rice, Arborio, or Nordic pudding rice)
  • ½ dl whole pearl barley
  • ½ dL whole millet groats
  • ½ dL whole buckwheat groats (eg. kasha)
  • 300 – 500 g ground pork and beef
  • 2 — 3 carrots, grated


  • Grease the baking pan with margarine
  • Add a litre of water to the pan
  • Add salt and powdered milk
  • Add rice, grains, ground meat and grated carrots
  • Mix the ingredients in the pan
  • Place the pan in the oven and bake at 200°C for 1 ½ to 2 hours
  • Cool the porridge and place them aside in containers as single-serving portions
  • Freeze for later


  • 1 L is 10 dL, 4.2 US cups or 34 fl. oz
  • 1 dL is 100 mL, 0.42 US cup or 3.4 fl. oz
  • 100 g is 3.5 oz
  • 200°C is 392°F

This recipe is fairly easy to make and is a time-tested one. Yrjölä’s Porridge is one of the most popular home-made recipes for dogs in Nordic countries.

The nutrients for this one has not been calculated yet, but nevertheless fairly easy one to make and can be adjusted.  During hunting season, it might be wise to have very fatty cuts; during the off-season, lean cuts.

Now, it’s traditional in British Columbia and Alberta to make dog food out of bear meat and rice. Unfortunately, in Yukon and Northwest Territories, the act of feeding game meat to dogs is considered as want-and-waste and aboriginals have long criticized this law as a form of imperialism.

But to pull off using bear meat as the staple, it requires calculating the zinc content, which bear is very high in, and compensating for the imbalance. One of these days, I will post a recipe.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
By |May 31st, 2015|Tutorials|0 Comments|