Importance of Lists

Some of the readers may have noticed older posts being published. Well, they are not really republishing. What is occurring here is some of the older handwritten notes were found. For chronicling purposes, I decided to publish some of them according to when those notes were made. For the curious, they may check out the wish lists from 20142013, 2012 and 2008.

Of course, they are materialist and are not essential. However, publishing these lists allow one to gain a perceptive of how their values change throughout their life.

List-making is one of the things which provided some kind of base or stability in life. With them, it becomes easier to track of the progress and stay on top of things.

One of the reasons why there were no lists prior to 2008 is because at the time, I went to University of Alberta for three years and spent an additional half-year in Edmonton after leaving school. Additionally, the year 2008 was when I began re-visiting the idea of taking up kayaking as a hobby with fantasies of going on 2-weeks expeditions. The interest waned when a room-mate who was struggling financially couldn’t pay the bills and felt bad for the animals. At the time, I didn’t like the idea of the room-mate’s pets ending up in rescue societies. So, supporting the critters became a priority. Once the room-mate moved out, I ended up with a dog and became a fur-daddy of the worst variety.

A few years later, I began becoming more involved with the locavore movement and embraced the idea of local carrying capacity. On the grand scale of things, this philosophy is actually a horrible idea since someone once calculated the needs of Vancouver metro actually exceeds the province’s agricultural production. However, what became attractive is the idea of becoming responsible for one’s own food. Taking control of the food-production into one’s own hands also mean acknowledging the limitations of Canadian geography. Hence the interest in hunting, fishing and growing one’s own vegetables.

In 2011, I met someone who had similar interests as me. We met up in Finland in 2012. We began doing a road-trip in Finland with some hiking excursion here and there in northern Finland and Lapland. We became boyfriend and girlfriend during the trip due to similarity in politics, social ideals, shared interests and perceptives on ecology and environment. We started planning hikes and road-trips together. Hopefully one day, we will plan our first multi-day hikes or perhaps a thru-hike.

Why is all of this important? Well, because the lists happen to be reflection of those activities and life events. As the interests change, so does the list. Also, through the list, one can see several epiphanies being made.

Early on, one can see the influence of living in a coastal community and the recommendations of the paddling community at the time. Once moving further inland, there is a transition to winter.  As time progresses, we see the hunting influence intensified then eventually became switched out for emphasis on smarter use of gears and lightness.

Would I recommend any of the items? Absolutely not. A great number of them are based on insecurities. For instance, there is no need for a -40 bag if layering with a -17 bag can take a person down to extreme temperatures. It’s nice to have on a snowmobile or a dog-sled, but not entirely practical for winter-hiking. Similarly, the idea of complete pot and pan cookset is nice, but they cater moreso for campers and military fanatics who don’t trust their own skills than to hikers or expeditioners. Also, a heavier backpack such as Mystery Ranch was chosen over Kifaru due to the lack of trust in the materials and wanting a more sturdier build even though the manufacturer has been established and reputable for many years. Similarly, one can note the ridiculous notion some kind of bear-gun is required when experience tells the appropriate calibre is not even carried during the most dangerous time of the year. However, as experience grows, we see priorities change.

So why are the lists published? So, others can see the growth and how a person evolve and grow over time.

I encourage others to do the same. Write them out. Put them aside. It doesn’t matter if those lists are fulfilled. They don’t have to be. However, a few years later and looking back, one begin to see a change in how they think and how their justifications change.

By |October 15th, 2014|Editorial|0 Comments|

Dog Drama Burn Out

Over the last few months, some people asked privately why dog-pundits cease writing at one point or another. A couple noticed very few actually has the grit to stay with it for years. A few days ago, a preeminent blogger publicly thrown in the towel. Well, here is my perceptive since the same thing occurred on this blog two years ago. An explanation is owed.

Writing about dogs has become mundane. Most of the existing institutes are based on a hierarchy of mentorship and maintaining the status quo. It is important to note most of the changes and reforms come from researchers, pet-owners and puppy-buyers; seldom from the breeders themselves. Usually when a trainer is willing to change the paradigm, it is usually because they come from an academic or scholarly background. It is a rather sad sight to see the activism comes from animal-welfare and animal-right organizations, many who relatively distanced from the process, and not from the institutes themselves who have the most at stake and the most invested.

One of the reasons why writing about hunting and hiking became an interest on this blog in the recent years is that the people themselves are tasked with problem-solving and addressing the limitations. Let look at this way:

  • Completing the thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail is difficult. Solution? Lighten the load.
  • The ultralight materials tear easily while bush-whacking. Solution? Use thicker fabric, or accept the weight penalty.
  • Bears keep tearing down the hang. Solution? Figure out a different hanging system.
  • The hang system doesn’t work, or the users are incompetent in setting up a good hang. Solution? Impose a rule mandating everyone should carry a bear canister.
  • Bear canisters are not light enough. Solution? Invent one out of carbon-fiber which meets the requirement of the Sierra Interagency Black Bear Group and/or Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee.
  • Forestry roads are gated off. Solution? Use a mountain-bike or dirt-bike to bypass the gate.
  • Motorized vehicles are not allowed due to environmental concerns. Solution? Use horses or mules, or go on foot.
  • Illegal motorized vehicle usage becomes a widespread problem. Solution? Advocate for designated recreational areas for legal use, and institute a licence-plate and registration system for all users.
  • There are too many residents for safe-shooting. Solution? Introduce laws which forbid the use of rifles, and insist on shotguns or archery.
  • It is unheard of for a dog to be hunted with without a rifle. Solution? Ask hunters from other countries which face the same constraints, look to the elders who remember a different time or turn to old texts for descriptions of a period before the technology was widespread.
  • The piece of wilderness is rendered inaccessible by a river. Solution? Take up packrafting.

As we can see, these are all concerns which are raised and solved by people who refused to give up their passions. These are the kinds of things I want to see on a daily basis when I open up the news-feed, check the inbox or log onto a forum.  Even when a certain hobby or field has been dead in the water for a few years, there are still people who seek to expand the scope and incorporate other closely-related areas into the project as mean of revitalization.

But instead, what we see in dog-world is transferring and reshuffling to other forms of mentorships. There is not a whole lot involved in testing the limitations. With these people, it is better to play it safe. Ideas are recycled.

For example, if hunting with a dog typically bred for a specific game is prohibited, then instead of acknowledging the breed was once more versatile and pushing for a return to the older lifestyle, these kind of dogs are pushed into agility or search and rescue while still insisting the redirected bloodlines are still fit for the original purpose. The lie has to be created to justify the re-purposing.

Or worse, still insisting the dog is fit for its original purpose when it has been rendered useless by a greater economic force. Many sledding and herding breeds have lost their jobs because of this. Refusal to acknowledge technological or cultural obsolescence is an insult to its legacy and a form of intellectual dishonesty.

Similarly, the same problem exist for other welfare issues such as genetic diversity. Not much has changed since Mark Derr, John B. Amstrong, Per-Erik Sundgren or J. Jeffrey Bragg first voiced their concerns and raised the alarm.

Occasionally, Devil’s advocates like Gina Spadafori, Andy Ward, Patty Khuly, Luisa Serrano, Jemima Harrison, Christopher Landauer, Janeen McMurtie, Shirley Thistlethwaite, Heather Houlihan, Patrick Burns, Joanna Kimball, Jess Ruffner, Scottie Westfall and many others translated these rich ideas into simpler concepts to produce some gems. However, their passions eventually waned. The only thing which changed are new faces such as Carol Beuchat and Caen Elegans who took over baton in the great relay race.

The average dog pundit usually quits after a year or two. Very few seldom makes it past three.  However, the opposition is still just as stiffing as it was decades ago.  The veterans who are still in the game are either neutered or tapered with the flame extinguished or reduced to a flicker.

However, the dog-fancy can’t entirely be faulted. It is far more convenient to adopt an existing frame or defend the old system than it is to innovate or become pioneers.

After all, adult-onset hunters is a relatively recent phenomenon and only in the last few years there are organizations such as EatWild B.C. which facilitate this and ease the learning curve. Similarly, some organizations such as the Rovaseudun Pystykorvakerho ry or Fan Hitch are working toward preserving knowledge. However, these are people who decided to tackle the issues head-on. The process is grueling and oftentimes ignored. There is no system in place to ease the transition of assisting pet-owners with hunting dogs to becoming weekend warriors.

Similarly, the whole concept of treating dog breeds like endangered species is a relatively new one which was embraced by Finnish Kennel Club and Swedish Kennel Club. If the breeders insist their dogs are unique and are unwilling to budge, then it is time to prescribe some of the same principles from conservation science which ushered by European Endangered Species Programme via the European Endangered Species Programme. All of this only came about only a few years ago. Again, these changes only come from a handful of people in the world of several millions dog-breeders world-wide and copying each others is met with great resistance.

The problem is, I come from a family of engineers, computer-techs and trade-related careers. We don’t have a lot of patience waiting for things to change. Nor do we like to spearhead movements since we work for other people and try to fix their problems as goods and services in exchange for monetary value. We make the changes happen for ourselves. Empathy stems from sharing these innovations with others.

Originally, I purchased a West Siberian Laika for bear-hunting in British Columbia. More on why in another discourse. However, financial situations forced me to settle in Alberta. There is only one other recourse to justify keeping the breed for its original purpose. Either I start hunting grouses, pursue one of the so-called “trash” species such as woodchuck or learn how to hunt cougars.

Similarly, finding a mentor became problematic since road-access is difficult. So, instead, it was time to turn to backcountry hunting community for answers. This in turn put me back at the root of lightweight hiking which was discovered half a decade ago.

So, fellow readers, some of you originally subscribed to the blog for dog-related issues. Some of you were hoping for photographic antics involving certain breeds. But lately, I am more intrigued by the problems raised and addressed in other fields.

I am much more fascinated by the mathematical explanations to why Condura is preferred fabric for off-trail hiking or why cuben fibre is chosen for on-trail hiking despite its issue with abrasions. Reading about certain strategies in role-playing games or board-games can be exhilarating. I enjoy reading people’s solutions.

Unfortunately, there is not much of that in dog-world. Almost everything new comes from research, which the scientific lingo renders conversation with the average dog-owner difficult; or they are mired in legalese in recently-passed legislations which cause confusions amongst the masses. Otherwise, it is a regurgitation of the same ideology which persisted since Victorian time.

In short, I rather learn how to sew my own pants, fabricate my own stove or experiment with different set-ups than to have the patience to explain why certain issues in dog-world is problematic. In order to keep going in this life, there need to be a sense of accomplishment with milestones and self-improvements. Dog-politics and the people involved with it do not offer the carrot, only the stick. Otherwise, one becomes browbeaten and burn out.

In face of uncertainty of my own future and others, there are much more pressing issues concerning human welfare and environmental rights than a byproduct of materialist entitlement which manufactured today’s pooches. The social model I prescribe to is if human condition improved, then the condition of the animals also receive the same treatment in turn. If we address our own problems, then everything else will follow and fall into place.

Much apologies to those who come here looking for sermons, cute pictures and philosophical discourses.  The anger, the sadness and frustrations are no longer the motivating factors.  The muse has been lost.

If one noticed while digging through the archives, a great deal many posts have been deleted since they no longer conform to the world-view I hold today. A few still exists since they are still representative of what I hold to be true. However, there’s nothing left of me to offer to dog-world.

The dog-drama is a relatively new thing in my life. The great outdoors have been there as the shadow lingering my whole life. The latter is much more dynamic and changes on a weekly basis. It’s no contest who will be embraced.

Of course, occasionally, I will write about the practical application of utilizing a dog. Instead, it is time to let the engineering spirit and the inner naturalist have a chance to express themselves.

By |October 12th, 2014|Editorial|1 Comment|

Practical Application of Bear Defence

This is not meant to be a discussion or a lecture on ethics. It is not whether or not bear-spray or firearm are superior to one another.The hot topic of lethal versus non-lethal method is one for another day. Instead, we should take a look at the practical application.

When I first took the hunter’s education course and firearm safety course, it was taught in case of bear, one should carry a shotgun with bird-shot or buckshot as the first load in the chamber and alternate between shots and slugs until the magazine is filled.

However, the guides, who are the most out in the field, often say if one is going to shoot a bear, it is best to kill it. To them, it is rather moronic to permanently blind a bear with pellets  which in turn could later become a problem-bear for the next unfortunate hiker or hunter.

gtr152So, what does this mean? Let us return to the data. According to a study, entitled “Safety in Bear Country: Protective Measures and Bullet Performance at Short Range” authored by William R. Meehan and John F. Thilenius  who were commissioned by the Pacific Northwest Division of the US Forest Service in 1983. The paper examined a number of calibres shot at point-blank range of 15 yards.

Out of all the handgun cartridges, only the .44 Magnum in the handgun category is recommended as a back-up.  Keep in mind, .454 Casull, .460 S&W Magnum and .500 S&W Magnum were not available at the time. However, no follow-up study was done to keep up to date with the latest developments. Even then, the author noted the handgun calibres are no substitute for the ones utilized by the long arms.

What we did learn is the high-velocity ammunition such as the .460 Weatherby Magnum are not well-suited for short-range defence. However, those rounds are still very capable. The conventional wisdom is to use heavy rounds with moderate velocity.

.458 Winchester Magnum receives the best score, however it was noted for its heavy recoil. The .338 Winchester Magnum and .375 H&H Magnum also received similar performances. Of all the medium calibres, only the .30-06 Springfield has a decent rating.

All of this makes sense since experienced guides usually carry cape-guns or double-guns in African calibres, pump rifles in a .30-calibre, leaver-actions in .450 Marlin or .45-70 Government, a reliable and fast bolt-action in one of the bone-crushing calibres or pump-action shotguns in 12-gauge. Alaska and British Columbia are full of hardened veterans who encountered dangerous bears who also share the same experience.

However, the report doesn’t really say anything mean anything much in practical application. Russians and Siberians made do with their ancient 7.62x54R and inadequate 7.62×39mm. The Canadian Rangers and other similar Arctic patrols has no choice, but to use the .303 Enfield due to the reliability of the rifle under harsh, frigid conditions. Also, many Scandinavians have successfully defended themselves with the 6.5×55 Swede. However, the report does affirm the experiences of Alaskans and British Columbians.

This sounds all fine and dandy for a trail-user. However, what does this mean for hunters?

Hunters are the most at risk of encountering a bear. The reason being is they are deliberately being quiet, following the game trails and occupying the same space such as berry-bushes which are food sources for every critter in the forest. To compound the issue, some hunters even deliberately mask their clothes with deer-musk. Most of them probably will do some calling which intimate a prey.

A worthy slug-gun for bear defence purposes is going to weigh 3.2 kg to 3.6 kg. The average bird-hunter or fur-hunter is not going to carry such a heavy long arm. He is most likely going to have a bird-shot in his shotgun, or a light round such as .223 Remington which doesn’t cause too much damage. Neither are sufficient to stop a bear. Similarly, the gun is probably going to be 2.4kg to 2.7kg. The average mountain hunter is is probably going to be carrying a .270  or some other medium calibre. Even if they carry a more powerful calibre such as .30-06, it is probably going to be a load which is going to cause the least amount of damage to the meat while still retaining its killing capacity for elks and goats. It is in his best interest to keep the weight of the rifle below 2.9 kg. The inherent problem is the lighter the rifle, the more difficult it is to do a repeat shot.

So what’s the alternative? One solution is bear-spray. Now, many outdoorsmen disdain these modernity. It is understandable why since there are reported failures in urban usage.

The reason why capsicum has a bad reputation is there are many people where sprays in law enforcement or personal protection situations do not work, and usually they are the ones who are mentally-ill, prescribed some kind of  psychotropic medications or they are hopped on drugs. Usually, with such people, it takes five to ten minutes for the effect to kick in. Factor in there are numerous products on the market which range from mild to potent, it becomes more difficult to distinguish which products are effective and which are not. In such situations, peace officers are trained to spray twice then switch to other means of pacifying the situation.

Luckily, there are two studies which is similar to the one conducted in 1983. One was authored by Tom S. Smith, Stephen Herrero, Terry D. DeBruyn and James M. Wilder entitled “Efficacy of Bear Deterrent Spray in Alaska” in 2010 which analyzed data collected records from 1985 to 2006. The other was “Efficacy of Firearms for Bear Deterrence in Alaska” in 2012 by Tom S. Smith, Stephen Herrero, Cali Strong Layton, Randy T. Larsen and Kathryn R. Johnson.

In the first study, the spray halted the actions of the black bears 90% of the time and the grizzlies 92% of the time. 98% of the people who utilized the spray escaped the incidents unharmed. Of the 3 (2%) which were mauled only suffered minor injuries. However, 7%, overall, reported wind-direction caused interference with the efficiency. At first, there seems to be a lot going for it.

Let stack it up against the other study which analyzed efficiency of firearms. The researchers scrutinized data obtained from records ranging from 1883–2009. The conclusion is 84% of sidearm users successfully thwarted a bear-attack, and 76% of long arm users were able to defend themselves. In 56% of all the cases, the user was injured or mauled. Of the failures, 27% did not have the time to draw their weapon, 21% was unable to use their firearm, 14% reported mechanical failures such as jamming, the bear was too close 9% of the time, 9% marksmanship was an issue, 8% could not reload their guns in time, 8% had the safety engaged, 3% tripped or fell and 1% reported the discharge triggered a bear charge. As we can see, firearms stop a bear attack most of the time, however there are numerous reasons for failure.

The only issue is the 2012 study does not control for the calibres used in the encounters, nor does it examine the type of firearms used. However, the 2010 study also did not account for the various brands of different sprays on the market either. Ease of use, potency and performance can do away with some of the failures in both cases.

What can be taken from these two studies conducted in recent years is the importance of firearm familiarity and proficiency. In the real world, very few people take the time to go to the shooting-range, and even fewer practice outside the bench-rest area. An even smaller number even take the time to complete a bear-defence course. Considering the adrenaline and stress, reacting in a bear-attack situation is most likely akin to a close-quarter combat situation. It would require having infantry training or experience in actual urban battles to build the nerves to be able to make the right snappy decisions at close range. However, this is not a case against using firearm in defence of life or property, but rather emphasizing the responsibility involved in carrying one.

The simplest explanation for the disparity between firearm and bear-spray is one requires more training, experience and skills than the other. The latter of the two methods is a near idiot-proof solution to the problem.

Like the study on different calibres done in 1983, I would like to see a study which compares the different brands of pepper sprays. It would be interesting to find out how the content, strength and range or the spread influences performance.

All of the studies listed here reflect my own personal sentiment on the subject. Very seldom I carry a bone-crushing slug into the field while hunting. My own hunting rifles and shotguns are chambered in 20-gauge, 7.62x54R, .308 or .222 for minimizing damage to game-meat.

dogrifle_zps654704b4

A .222 grouse-gun is not a practical choice for bear defense.

Out of the four choices, only the 7.62x54R stands a chance at stopping a bear charge. However, the rifle chambered in that round is more of a battle-rifle than a true hunting rifle and is quite heavy to carry. Even if I do carry it in the field, it is very unlikely I will be able to unload in time to switch to a heavier round capable of stopping the bear in its track. The same question is posed for the shotgun, regardless of the gauge.

At best, using such light rounds would only end up wounding the bear which would enrage it even more. Furthermore, it is better off to only temporarily blind the creature, rather than disabling it for the remainder of its life. Making the problem someone else’s should not be the objective.

After a few hunting seasons, I eventually came to the conclusion, if a bear-worthy rifle or ammunition are not carried during hunting season, then the same practice probably would not be extended to hiking. Regardless of the studies, the tradition of keeping a bear-gun around the camp-site or work-site will still continue in the backcountry amongst many people and for good reasons. However, these people are not seeking to cover large distances, nor are they subjecting themselves to difficult terrain and harsh weather. These kind of people are quite content to cover only a few kilometers per day or to stay in the same area in relative comfort.

So, my solution for now is to carry the bear-spray from UDAP. It’s light, non-invasive, minimal and proven to work. Supposedly the brand is quite potent compared to other competitors.

However, I can’t just seem to be able to justify bringing the extra 3.2-plus kg for mountain-hunting, bird-hunting or hiking, especially given the time and money to become proficient in handling a firearm in a high-stress situation. There is no tangible trade-off in bushwacking.

If I happened to be guiding for the hunting industry, on the other hand, it would be a different story since the responsibility of the clients’ safety is utmost priority. For personal use, carrying slug-guns only makes sense for homesteading, snowmobiling, short camping trips or road-trips.

By |October 6th, 2014|Editorial|0 Comments|

Gear Wishlist 2014

The list changes all the time. At one point, I was salivating over the Marlin 1895 for bear defence purposes, but eventually came to my sense the Remington 870 is more practical for other users; and then came to the conclusion, without combat training in high stress situation, UDAP bear-spray is more reliable. Similarly, the Enfield .303 was coveted for its rability iin cold weather and as bear defence. Likewise, I went through a phase of deciding between Black Diamond Firstlight and Stephensson’s Warmlite and ordered in a Locus Gear Khufu instead.

Aside from First Lite or Ibex, there is not exactly a whole lots of clothes which are “must-have.” Most of them are obtained on discount.

So, let see what is on my mind for 2014:

GoLite Jam 70L

Jam_70L_Pack_Unisex_AspenOne of the criterias I have is the pack must be light and durable, and withstand bushwhacking. Also, everything must be stored inside the pack instead of hanging outside it. This means looking for one without mesh or relying on extensive use of bungee or shock cords.

This by no mean light for a frameless pack, but half of the weight can be shaved off by removing features such as the hydration sleeve. The huge volume is moreso for the type of clothes and bulky sleeping bag which are demanded during hunting and winter.

If 70L is too much, then one can downsize to a 50L. The only issue here is they are bright blue or bright yellow. Whether or not this makes a difference during hunting season is up to debate, and one can always leave the backpack behind a few hundred meters behind to do a proper stalk.

Kifaru Bikini Frame + High Camp

Kifaru-High-Camp-Bag-Bikini-Frame-photo-1Ever since abandoning larger, heavier backpacks for smarter methods, at 2.23 kg, it is a bit difficult to justify keeping the Osprey Aerial 65L since it can only carry 50 to 70 lbs comfortably with an internal frame when Kifaru offers a pack which can haul 100+ lbs for 2.04kg for 115L or 1.95 kg for 80L. The only deterrent is the steep price tag of $225 USD for the bag plus $376 USD for the frame. Since it is only anticipated a framed backpack will be use for hunting big-game, it is safe to assume Kifaru would perform better in this area, especially one is hauling meat out of the bush

Other potential competitors to consider would include Paradox and Stone Glacier.

Ultralight Adventure Equipment CDT

pack-ula-circuitWhile it more practical to use the GoLite Jam all year around, the volume is too much and one is tempted into stuffing in more. A smaller pack reduces the temptation and carries better with lighter loads. Also, a smaller pack also contribute to the overall weight reduction. It makes no sense to use any other pack during the summer.

Additionally, the weight can be further reduced to 19 ounce from the original weight of 24 upon manufacturer’s recommendation. After-market alternations can reduce it even further.

Other potential competitors include Osprey, ZPack, Elemental Designs, Zimmerlite, Mountain Laurel Design, Hyperlite Mountain Gear and Gossamer Gear.

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm

5027-414_RFX02-ALT-ANGLE_view1_1000x1000While researching, I have not come across a winter pad which has a better warmth-to-weight ratio than the NeoAir XTherm. Ideally, this would be paired with the a full-length RidgeRest Solar pad from the same manufacturer to increase the overall R-value. However, the SOLite pads are easier to come by.

Kovea Spider

spider-500x500At some point, alcohol stops being efficient, and it is time to switch to a canister. There is no way around it. Technically, canister gas is more fuel-efficient than alcohol, but the latter is easier to find. While white-gas is more fuel efficient and some of the MYOG projects weigh less than an remote stove, the canister is nicer to cook with in low temperature inside the shelter. A white-gas stove on the other hand is best kept outside. At below -35, however, the performance becomes shaky, and LPG becomes more reliable. Which at this point, it is probably better to depend on the trusty XGK.

However, not any canister stove will do. To optimize performance, one must always keep the canister warm and keeps the can inverted with a remote stove and a pre-heated tube. The biggest con for canister stove is that they are not easily refilled and are essentially disposable. However, for $52 USD, the Kovea is a killer deal for only 186 g weight.

Kimber Model 84M Mountain Ascent

 

To be honest, I have a nice SAKO L579 Forester which I don’t want to ding or wreck dragging up and down the mountain. It’s old as heck, and it is considered as a family heirloom. It is best as a moose-rifle for the swamps. It’s preferable to have a different rifle for harsher conditions.

Kimber is the most readily-available mountain rifle weighing only 2.18kg They accomplished this by porting the barrel, fluting the bolt, skeletonizing the handle and utilizing aluminum instead for the trigger-guard. To go any lighter, one would have to start investing into specialized gunsmiths, which at this point if one has to ask, they can’t afford it. In other word, budget for at least $3 000. However, some have manged to do custom jobs which weigh less and costs less iin total than the lighest stock model.

Other potential competitors include Remington 700 Mountain Rifle, Winchester 0Stainless Featherweight, Blaser K95, Sauer 303, Ruger 77 All-Weather, Weatherby Mark V Ultra Lightweight, SAKO with the 85 Finnlight and Tikka T3 Lite Stainless. For more specialized works, New Ultra Light Arms, Weaver, Rocky Mountain, Montana Mountain Company, Rifles Inc., Christensen Arms  and many others.

One of the problem is pursuing lighter rifle is a fortunate which the quality of the experience diminishes as durability becomes questionable and perceived recoil increases. Knowing my budget constraints, the Tikka T3 Lite might be the best option. For a custom job, I have had excellent service at Corlane’s in the past, and wouldn’t mind dropping a few grands with them versus being sold one sight unseen.

Benelli Ultra Light

ultralightIt’s difficult to get any lighter than a single-shot 20-gauge. For this, there is the Baikal MP18 Youth 20-gauage at 2.44kg. The recoil is a killer, and with a recoil pad from LimbSaver, it brings up the total weight to 2.54kg. Benelli resolved the recoil issue by using a gas-operated system which reduces recoil at 2.36kg with the Ultra Light.

However, its hefty price tag at $1 669, it is a bit difficult to justify a weight saving of 180 grams, especially when semi-auto are more difficult to clean in the field. If I know someone who own one and lets me try it at the local shooting range, I might change my mind if the performance is worth the price-tag.

TOZ 78

Toz78-17

The CZ 452 is considered to be the gold standard in hunting-quality rimfires. There are certainly more accurate bench-guns out there. However, the CZ also commands a high price-tag for something only needed for target-practice in preparation for hunting season. After reading a few reviews, the TOZ 78 is considered to be slightly better than the CZ.  Since it’s Russian-made, naturally the price is lower. Unfortunately, the 78 is not easy to find and the other common model is a semi-automatic and not bolt-action.

When in Moscow, do what the Russians do.

SAKO Finnlight

WCB-SAKO85M-270_460

At the moment, I have a SAKO L46 in .222 which is lighter than the Finnlight at 2.6kg versus 2.8kg. The L46 is highly regarded as one of the best bird-rifle manufactured for grouse-hunting. It is also one of the most highly sought out rifle for coyote-shooting in North America and for foxes in Australia.

However, to shoot a grouse with a rifle is considered the epitome of marksmanship as well the highest form of fair-chase and ethical hunting. However, it is more common to see inexperienced hunters use combination guns and shotguns.

Technically, there is no need for such a rifle as the Vixen is the pinnacle of small-game rifles. However, I have lived in British Columbia long enough to be a little paranoid of the constant changing weather and includes stainless steel and synthetic in my requirement. Hence the SAKO Finnlight. Since I am left-eye dominant, purchasing a better-fitting rifle makes sense. Knowing my budget constraints, I probably will jump on a Tikka T3 Lite Stainless instead.

Other highly regarded brands amongst Scandinavian bird-hunters include Anschütz, CZ and Weihrauch. However, none of these offer stainless steel barrel or synthetic stock.

Any rifle can be used and calibres from .22 WMR to .30-06 are used; and even 7.52x54R. However, the .22 Hornet, .222 Remington and 7×33 Sako are considered to be the best bird-hunting calibres. Due to the declining availablity, it is more common to see .223 Remington, .22-250, 6.5x55mm Swede and .308 Winchester.

On the hierarchy of wants, this is down toward the bottom since many British Columbians and Albertan hunters as well the ones in Montana and Idaho gotten away with chasing blue grouses the good three-ought-six.

Haenel JAEGER 8.10

Haenel_Jaeger810__03

Many North Americans have a disdain for combination guns. The main reason for this is the Savage 42 or Stevens Model 24. Some of my European hunting acquaintances made the comment quality of the American voyage into the world of combination guns and drillings make their Baikals look like handcrafted guns. However, Tikka lines of 512, M-07 and M-77 as well as the Valmet 412 did not leave a lasting impression on American sharpshooters either.

Unfortunately, high-quality combination guns are expensive. Any under a grand feels like a half-assed attempt of making a compromise between a shotgun and a rifle. It should be no surprise German workmanship such as the Merkel B3, Steyr Mannlicher Duett, Krieghoff Ultra, Heym 55 BF and Blaser BBF95 are highly coveted. However, such quality command €2 250 price tag.

On the other hand, I could never afford a proper drilling such as Krieghoff Optima. At best, one can find a decent-quality used one such as Sauer 3000 at an affordable cost but they are highly prized and are quickly seized.

For many, Italian and Russian products such as Marocchi, TOZ, Baikal, Antonio Zoli, Sabatti as well as East European manufacturers such CZ Brno are considered to be within accessible price range, however for the quality, one might prefer a  rifle or shotgun which does a better job for the same price. They are not considered sportsmen’s gun, but rather working man’s.

At time, it is rather frustrating not to have both a shotgun and a rifle; and the weight penalty of carrying both render the trip impractical. So, a true combination gun is appealing.

Electro BearGuard UltraLite

Ultralite-289x391Normally, this is not required in smarter backpacking during normal seasons. However, I do have friends in the Kootenays who had close bear encounters while packing out an elk. Some bears are smart enough to charge through the fence to knock out the system. But any deterrent means being able to hike back and forward to haul all the meat out of the bush. At 1.1kg, one would be hard-pressed to find a lighter proven system.

This kind of thing is almost mandatory in the barrens if one wants to co-exist with the polar bears. However, plans to go hiking in Nunavut and the coastal Northwest Territories is far in the future.

Other competitors include: Hallman Deter 200, Gallagher B11, UDAP Bear Shock® Ultra Lightweight and YELLOW JACKET Back Packer/Hunter,

 GoPro HERO 3+

gopro-hero-4There is absolutely no need to have a camera like this. However, with more and more people staging pictures with their dogs with no evidence of hunting; and many are using such photographs as proof that their dogs can hunt, which eventually uncovered to be fraudulent. It eventually got to the point. where filming a dog’s ability becomes integral to “Proof or it didn’t happen.” The advantage the GoPro is that it stays flush to the body with a chest-harness.

Other contenders include Replay, Contour, Garmin Virb, Sony AS-series and Drift.

 

Bearskin Dogvest V2

40011r_2Along with the ongoing theme with the previously-mentioned product, Bearskin allows the option to mount a camera to the dog. It costs only 650 kr. It’s also compatible wiith Garmin DC30 and 40. However, GoPro cannot be mounted and instead Contour or Drift are recommended instead. However, an after-market basket would need to be purchased. Although it would not be difficult to do an alteration to accept any kind of camera through with access to a shop and some fabrication.

Other competitors also extend to KNP. However, one of my Norwegian Facebook friends advised against using vests with metal buckles.

SnowClaw Guide Snow Shovel

Snow-ClawThere is a bit of a learning curve how to use it, and many of those who adhere to the traditional snow shovel, it is rather awkward to use since to get any efficiency out of it, it requires having both hands on the device. There are avalance professionals who use the SnowClaw for emergency and building shelters, while others struggle and gets much more use out of a a full-length snow shovel, so one’s mileage may vary. For most people, they won’t use it for much more for landscaping and clearing. The SnowClaw just makes sense for lightweight winter-backpacking.

For travelling in high-risk avalanche areas, an aluminum shovel would be wiser to carry.

 

By |October 4th, 2014|Editorial|1 Comment|

Gear Review: Halti Metso [Wood Grouse]

First off, there are going to be some discrepancies since I have broad shoulders with a slim profile. I am about 5’7″ with a waist of 30″ to 32″ and inseam of 29″. Others may find this pack more comfortable than I.

So far, I tried carrying this pack with only a thermo and a lunch-bag and some dog-supplies in the winter outside of hunting season; and for actual hunting for one month.

1512775_10201050290851496_541688202_nLast Christmas vacation, my girlfriend ordered a Halti Metso from Oy Eräkontti Ab. In Germany, it can be found under the “Wood Grouse” name under the same brand. The backpack was purchased based on good reviews on Finnish hunting forums.

There are a couple of noticeable novelty aspects: a gun-scabbard, a ventilated game-bag and a single strap which leaves the other shoulder open for shooting. Each of these have their own perks, but also their own downsides.

However, it did not leave a good first impression. The waist belt and the size of the belt pockets indicated the pack is meant for a larger person, or someone with thick insulating layer.

Manufacturer's product preview.

Manufacturer’s product preview.

However, it is a fairly light backpack by most standard, and quite roomy at 30 litre. The website advertises it as 700 gram, but it’s actually closer to about 750 g for the rucksack alone, and 93 g for the mesh bag when weighed out on a postal scale. There are several things one can do to trim the weight. For instance, the shock cord (15 g) was removed since it kept getting snagged in the timber. If all of the puffies was put on appropriate to the temperature for the volume of the pack, one can probably trim off a few ounces by trimming back the nylon webbing back to their usable length. Also, removing the daisy-chains, which offer very little benefit in weight or stalking, would also reduce the amount of weight.

One of the strong-points of the pack is also its biggest downfall. The designer decided to go with a single-strap across the torso so the hunter can shoulder his firearm without taking off the pack. However, this also mean the pack is restricted to a certain weight. Once it goes over 7 kilograms or so, the pack becomes extremely uncomfortable and places the pressure upon the sternum and the pain becomes noticeable upon the afflicted shoulder. From a design point of view, it does not make a lot sense because many rifles and shotguns are about 2 to 3 kg and a bird weighs anywhere from several hundred grams to more than the comfortable carrying weight of the pack.  Many lightweight backpackers are able to carry about 11-15 kg of weight, including food and water, without a frame, but all of the packs have double S- or J-shaped straps. But making this design choice takes away from the novelty of being able to shoulder a rifle without taking off the pack.

To me, this is a particular concern in the foothills, the weather can change very rapidly and the rain can wash out the road and impede easy access out of the swamp. So, there are times where one would need a simple stove, shelter, a good parka, rain-gear and a sleeping bag to pull an over-nigher. Especially more troublesome when a base-pack for summer hunting without the hunting gear or the consumables is expected to be about 4 to 7 kg.

Perhaps the strangest thing is: this is a backpack marketed for capercailie-hunting, where a silent stalk is the key to success and the one of the product claims is its material made of velveteen to reduce noise. However, since the pack does not tightly conform to the body, it tends to be quite noisy when the stuff rolls around inside. If one tries to tighten the backpack, so it doesn’t dangle, then the wide shoulder strap becomes very uncomfortable.

10355009_10202545163182370_6350040493722135748_nLastly, the gun-scabbard, which is placed in middle of the pack, is interesting, and it protects the gun from being scratched. However, it hangs very low and for someone with short inseam, it might actually be a hindrance more than an aid. On more than one occasion, the barrel of the shotgun smacked into the log while stepping over. Additionally, one would have to learn to get into the habit of dismounting while sitting down to avoid dinging the firearm. It’s important to note, people reported having the same issue with Eberlestock packs.

The mesh game bag is a must for any bird-hunter, and weigh less than the Eberlestock BirdBag. Unfortunately, Halti does not sell it as a standalone item since it would be nice to cannibalize it as an after-market alteration to other backpacks without the fuss of make-your-gear approach.

Despite the Metso being a product designed by a Finnish company, the items are actually made in China. However, most of the high-quality backpacks are also made overseas in places such as Vietnam, so this point might not even be worth mentioning.

The other competitors are Eberlestock X1E, whose manufacturer also offer other similar products, Seeland Slimpack, and Vorn Lynx.  However, these products tend to have a frame with thick lumbar pads thus contributing more to the overall weight.

It’s a shame there is no left-handed version of this pack, because for the price-point of 50-70 euros, it’s difficult to find a better deal anywhere else. With all of the features, the Halti Metso occupies a very narrow niche and fills this quite well.

Considering most Finnish hunters do not spend a night in the field, and many goes home after a few hours in the forest, it is no surprise why this pack is highly regarded. So, this kind of pack is best suited for a few hours hike away from the truck. However, it shouldn’t be depended upon for anything more than this scope. It’s truly designed for a region which has predictable climate and where the nearest road is never more an hour or two hike.

For myself, instead, I will make the switch to Kifaru gun-bearer and try to seek out a frameless pack with double shoulder-straps. However, others may enjoy this backpack depending on the style of the hunt and might actually enjoy these features.

Another review of the Halti Metso can be found in Jagderleben.

By |October 1st, 2014|Gear, Reviews|0 Comments|

Lightening Up: Cooking and Hydration

The cooking and hydration mess-kit weighs about 2.18 kilogram or 4.7 pounds. This is grossly overwhelming since the tent is only half a kilo less. The biggest reason for this is largely because many of these items are meant to be bomb-proof beyond an realistic expectations.

Although not mentioned on the list, a Triangia 300mL plastic bottle (95 g) was borrowed which brings the weight of the kit up to 2.19 kg. However, it is more convenient to buy already pre-packaged bottles of fuel from the hardware store, so weghng them while empty never came to mind.

Cooking and Hydration
Cup GSI Infinity drinking glass 399
Filter Vestegaard LifeStraw 50
Fire Bic lighter, Colghan’s storm matches, Colghan’s fuel tablet, UST WetFire tinder 227
Pot Triangia 1.75L saucepan, 1.5L saucepan, frying pan, handle, 0.9L kettle 443
Stove Triangia 25 windscreen and burner 461
Utensil GSI Infinity knife, fork, spoon 27
Water Filzer Kewl 1L 170
Water MSR Dromedary 2L with hose / 2L 403
 Total
2180 g
2.18 kg

The fire-making is redundant and stored inside a tin-can. Some of the items such as the WetFire has a short shelf-life and most likely would expire before it would be used.  Many forum users indicated Vaseline-soaked cotton are more reliable and inexpensive. Also, chemical-based fuel tablets tend to give off an odor and leaves residues which are both difficult to remove. Additionally, there is no reason to keep the original container of the storm-matches, and they can easily be repackaged into smaller plastic bags for craft beading.

C360_2014-09-26-17-11-16-361

Impractical and heavy.

For the weight of the water-bladder, with a total volume of 4L, one can opt for a drink tube kit (57.5 g) and about 9 to 10 1.0L Platypus SoftBottle (35 g) for two and a half times more carrying capacity. Additionally, for the weight of one staleness steel bottle, one can carry 4 to 5 Platypus bottles. Alternatively, a reused thin plastic water-bottle, with the safety ring removed, is 20 to 21 g. A more durable Gatorade bottle with ridges to prevent accidental ejection from the rucksack weighing 50-51 g would also be a suitable substitute.

To be fair, the Dromedary came from the time period when kayaking was at the forefront of my interests, and the stainless steel bottle was meant to be multipurpose as a vessel for boiling water. However, boiling water in a kettle or a pot is more convenient, and the kayaking fantasy never came to fruition. In the context of sea-kayaking, these purchases made sense since the conditions are rough and it is not unusual to have damages from the reef. However, it rather asinine to expect the same while hiking or hunting.

wpid-c360_2014-09-27-15-21-29-198.jpgFor hydration, I chose to replace the bladders and the water-bottle with two 1.0L SoftBottle from Platypus. The blue one is marked as clean, and the purple one is marked as dirty for filtration. Since the LifeStraw is impractical due to its requirement for wide-lipped bottles or odd posturing, and the product actively encourage disposable consumerism with sub-par performance, it was replaced with MicroPur MP1 from Katadyn which weighs only 20 g for 30 tablets which can neutralize 1L each. Water is abundant in the interior of Canada, and there is no reason to carry extra if one knows how to read a map and incorporate streams and rivers while plotting the course. There is no performance difference between Aquamira and MicroPur, and the former is more difficult to find in Canada. An orange bandana (18 g) can be a useful multipurpose item which can filter debris,wipe condensation from the tarp and play a role in hunter’s safety.

wpid-20140926_164901.jpg

There is little wonder why the mess-kit is over 2 kilos.

The kitchenware is largely redundant. A spoon is the most versatile of all the utensils .Also, one pot is only needed. 550mL is sufficient for freezer-bag cooking, and 750mL is sufficient for cooking a meal and a coffee for one, or freezer-bag cooking for two. 900mL is sufficient for boiling water for coffee, then a meal right after, or for pot-cooking for two. While melting snow, 1.9L is more versatile. Also, a wider pot is sometimes more fuel-efficient than a taller one.

If a mug is required, then Mountain Laurel Designs and Firelite (shop closed) produced 475mL trappers’ mugs made of titanium weighing 39 g and 47 g respectively, with an after-market lid made of carbon fiber (6 g) from Ruta Locura. This combination makes the plastic 399 g mug from GSI a behemoth.

In hindsight, it was completely unnecessary to bring a bowl or plate, and one saves more water, spends less time cleaning and minimize bear encounters by eating out of the pot. One without non-stick coating makes scrubbing in glacial slit a breeze.

While home-made aluminum pots are lighter, inexpensive and can be fashioned out of keg cans and pop cans for mere 20 to 30 grams, these kind of materials are easily crushed and hot to touch. Titanium cools down more quickly and safer to handle.

In this mess-kit,  a fork was just taken out of the kit then snapped into quarter of the length and filed off to round out any sharp edges. Simple solution. The weight of the fork is only 7 g.

20140923_152759For the moment, an Evernew 0.9L pot was chosen without a non-stick texture for ease of cleaning was chosen. There are many ways to reduce weight. For instance, the pot without the lid (28 g) and handle (20 g) weighs only 60 g. With a bandana or a pair or liner gloves, it is not necessary to have a handle. If necessary, a 3 g bail handle can be substituted instead. A gram-weenie could even replace the lid with aluminum foil. Nevertheless, the Evernew 0.9L is with lid and handle is still the same weight of an aluminum Triangia pot of the same volume without a lid.

For winter-camping, a 2-quart Open Country aluminium pot (216 g) was chosen for its volume, material and being one of the lightest large pots on the market. Moreover, it is better for cooking with.

Coveting the Triangia’s screw-on lid for storing fuel is a rather silly notion, especially when Zelph sells a version of the Starlyte stove with a plastic lid for only 16 g. Also, since most of the meals are boiled, there is very little need for simmering. A cat-food stove (7 g) is wide enough for most small pots, and larger ones over 1L would be better suited for tuna-can set-ups which only weighs a few gram extra. By taking into account only 20mL of fuel a day is needed to boil water, wastage is minimal.

Also, for the same volume as 0.3L Triangia bottle, a reused contact solution bottle of equal volume is only a third of the weight. Similarly, a windscreen made of aluminum foil (9 g) is efficient and only need to be replaced once every two weeks of daily cooking.

Cooking and hydration
Stove (3-season) Home-made Fancy Feast SuperCat stove 7
Reservoir (3-season) Platypus SoftBottle 1L (x2) 56
Fuel container (alcohol) Generic 355mL contact solution bottle 31
Ignition BIC mini-lighter 11
Windscreen Home-made heavy duty aluminum foil 9
Pot (3-season) Evernew 0.9L (EAC252) 108
Utensil GSI fork (modified) 7
Filter generic bandana 18
Purification Katadyn MicroPur (x10) 8
Firestarter Mini-BIC, storm-proof matches, 800-grain sandpaper, petrolatum-soaked cotton in tinfoil, ferro rod 44
Total
299 g
0.299 kg
20140923_152558

Simplified.

As we can see, a 3-season setup weighs only almost 300 grams, the revised setup is only 13% of the starting weight. By taking realistic expectations into consideration, we can safely have survival tools such as fire-starting (44 g) as well as being practical (255 g). In the revised spreadsheet, the fire-starting kit is now under the header of “Safety”.

In a region like Yukon, the weight can be a mere 174 g just by dropping one SoftBottle, the filtration and purification and removing the handles from the pot. This sort of reduction can only be done under the assumption the water sources have not been contaminated by livestock or large settlements.

For a winter set-up, we can substitute a larger pot (216 g), with a white-gas stove (396 g) and a heavier 650mL fuel bottle (114 g) for still under roughly 800 grams, still more than 60% reduction of the original 3-season setup. An even lighter alternative good down to -30°C is a remote inverted canister under 100 to 150 grams.

From my pack, we see it goes from 18.44kg to 16.52kg or 40.65lbs to 36.41 lbs. If such a dramatic weight reduction could be made just by simplifying the kitchen, one would have to ponder what is in store for lightening the heaviest gears.

By |September 10th, 2014|Editorial|0 Comments|

Lightening Up

Learning to hike with less with a poorly-fitted backpack in Jasper.

Learning to hike with less with a poorly-fitted backpack in Jasper.

In the next following few posts I will be walking through how to lighten one’s backpack using the spreadsheet created for Northern British Columbia-Yukon 2014 trip. The last time I calculated the weight was in 2012 when I was getting ready for a trip to Finland. The initial list was inspired by Sam Haraldson’s list for the Pacific Northwest Trail. However, the list has not been revisited. Although, it feels like the pack has gotten heavier since the first Finland trip.

After doing a series of day-hikes, I realized the versatility of using a 11L backpack instead of a 65L and how almost everything except for shelter and sleeping system fitted into the pack. The calculation is long over-due. The weight reduction will stem from the combination of woodcraft, bushcraft, ultra-lightweight backpacking and knowledge about backcountry hunting.

woodcraft-cover

Historical texts such as this can be found under public domain hosted on websites such as Project Gutenberg.

Today, the average outdoorsman is expected to be self-sufficient, and the paradigm shift pioneered by George Washington Sears, Horace Kephart, and E.H. Kreps at the turn of the 20th century to be equipped with man-portable tools and skills to allow a person to to travel through the wilderness by himself. It is due to these early authors, people were able to survive in the woods without fire. Much of the equipment would undergo technological innovations thanks to periods of expeditions and military investment.

Beyond-Backpacking

Jardine’s book.

However, it would not be until after the Second World War, people when people had more time for leisure and began thinking about lightweight backpacking. Many attribute Emma Gatewood who made national fame and did a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail in 1955 with only sneakers, raincoat, a duffel bag, army blanket, plastic shower curtain, an umbrella and many simple gears. She would later to go on to do many other trails up until her death in 1973. The term was not coined until later by Ray Jardine in his 1992’s book PCT Hiker’s Handbook (now republished Beyond Backpacking) which kickstarted the movement which later became mainstream. Much of the innovations which allow someone to be self-sufficient out of his own backpack only occurred in the last decade.

However, the modern fantasy of living off the land can easily be dissuade by watching documentaries about the harsh life of the Russian taiga. Even today, the ones who still live off the land often adopt labour-saving technology such as motorized boats, snowmobiles, amphibious vehicles and chainsaws. Additionally, Ross Gilmore summarized 18th and 19th century woodsmanship and defined the modern woodsman. While it is good to acknowledge the value of bushcraft and other skills such as hunting and trapping, it is also important to acknowledge these preparations were done with the help of a community, through laborious work which takes months to complete or with pack-trains and canoes. Those who did not have such a system in place eventually perished or got lucky.

Paradoxically, Andrew Skurka in 2012 criticized the trend of competitive downsizing to the bare minimum by calling the “super ultra-lightweight” class (SUL) and “extreme ultra-lightweight class (XUL) “stupid light” when an individual who traded weight for efficiency, sacrifice comfort and puts himself at great risk by leaving crucial survival items at home. So, one must always match the gear to where one is hiking and the weather conditions expected.

Now that being said, the requirements for hiking changes circumstantially. For instance, the kind of gear one may carry in the Pacific Northwest is similar to Alaska’s coastal region, but still differ in some aspects. Similarly, what may be required in a constant changing climate is not required in a stable climate and vice versa. For those who live in a climate which changes on the whim, there is the saying: “There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing”. The same applies everywhere.

When I first got into light-weight backpacking, it wasn’t for hiking but rather was inspired by Ralph Diaz’s Complete Folding Kayakerand taking advices from Folding Kayaks and West Coast Paddler forums. Most of the gears were copied from Alm’s experiences which can be found at: https://sites.google.com/site/alexm221100/. Initially, purchasing a Feathercraft was in the work, but priorities changed and never came to fruition. While the kayaking community often borrowed ideas from the ultra-lightweight backpacking community, the base pack are often heavier since the risk factors are much higher and being caught after dark, capsizing or hypothermia are very real possibilities.

532354_10150999372807088_1459584305_n

Hiking in Lapland.

My first experience of lightening the load began the year before I left for Finland. While I was able to find a comfortable weight for the West Coast, those same weight became unnecessary in Finland where the climate was steady with hardly any winds. The gears only began to come into play only after we arrived in Finnmark, Norway. There was very little point in packing half of the stuff in my backpack. However, it was there I learned about the value of using a framed backpack for heavier load, and smaller frameless for lighter loads. A large frameless backpack is counterproductive without a packboard.

One shouldn’t let others dictate the pack-list. For instance, while hiking near Christina Lake, British Columbia, the heat became unbearable and the pack was too heavy. Most of the gear was contributed by someone else, and felt guilty about not taking them along. Ironically, most of the equipment donated could had been purchased for less weight at Mountain Equipment Co-op and other venues for equal or less value. Only one knows his own true comfort level.

Sharing a sleeping system between the human and dog works quite well.

Sharing a sleeping system between the human and dog works quite well.

In contrast, mostly due to the adverse reaction of being over-loaded in a hot climate a few months prior, I also under-dressed while staying in the forest in -20 overnight. The experience would not be so unpleasant if I had packed tighter gaiters, better boots and tighter woolen socks instead of two layers of thin woolen socks. Perhaps bear-paw snowshoes would had been more efficient than longer ones; or maybe it is more efficient to import skishoes from Siberia than to support one’s own backcountry-skiing industry Also, I know first-hand what is like to have an unexpected wildlife encounter in middle of the woods with a territorial bull moose.

So, there should be a relative balance between checking one’s own assumptions and the comfort of a lighter load. When one gains more experience, he gets a feel for what limit he can push and what he cannot. So the pack will lighten up in some areas, and become heavier in others.

While the skinned-out weight for autumn hunting differ from hiking, spring and summer provides excellent opportunity to test out new gears and loads. While the hiking, hunting and bushcraft communities tend to snub each others, there are lots to learn from each others. Backpacking North has an excellent guide to how to lighten one’s load and offered a series of posts entitled “Ultralight Makeover”:

Similarly, there are many forums available such as Folding Kayaks, Alaska Outdoors Forum, Long Range Hunting, Rokslide,Bushcraft Finland and Winter Trekking which are invaluable. There are also commercialized paid-subscriptions such asBackpackingLight. Also, there are many organizations which exist such as Backcountry Hunters and Anglers which try to merge the two lifestyles and are worth joining.

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Settling down on top of a Scandinavian fell.

For the purpose of the next few posts, the loads are divided into: clothes; cooking and hydration; first aid and toiletries; electronics; miscellaneous; packing, sleeping and shelter; and consumables. Micromanaging makes it far more convenient to evaluate each gear and their purpose and give one the time to rationalize the justifications, removing them or upgrading. The big threes which weighs the most and easiest to reduce are: the pack, the sleeping bag and the tent. After which there can be either significant weight-saving made, or very negligible.

Northern British Columbia-Yukon 2014
Gear Metric (kg) Imperial (lbs)
Clothes 3.22 7.11
Cooking and Hydration 2.18 4.81
First Aid and Toiletries 0.48 1.05
Electronics 1.18 2.61
Miscellaneous 2.88 6.36
Packing 2.87 6.34
Sleeping and Shelter 5.62 12.38
Worn or Carried 3.00 6.62
Base Pack 15.43 34.02
All Gears 18.44 40.65

 

My goal is to fit the entire system into a 30L backpack for the corner seasons. In the summer in northern Rockies climate, it would be nice to have all of the gears under 7 kg (appx. 15 lbs). For hunting and winter-trekking, 11kg (appx. 25 lbs) would be considered ultralight. Although an ultralight can be had for 4.5 kg (10 lbs) or less, it would be nice to have some wiggle room for extra insulation, rugged boots and more durable products.

By |August 10th, 2014|Editorial|2 Comments|

Juhannus

Yesterday marks the beginning of the biggest holidays in Finland which is the summer solstice. Traditionally, Finns get drunk, go to the sauna, eat atrocious sausages or makkara which is a class of its own then go swimming and drown.

midsummeralcohol

In traditional Finnish manner, we drank ciders and beer last night. There is no sauna, but at least there was the barbecue. My girlfriend got a taste of apple cider from Molson Canadian, which is generally considered to be a low standard for Canadian booze. Grainville Island and Unibrue were selected for taste-testing to determine which is the better beer to bring to Scandinavia to hunting hosts which is customary.

Unibrue La Fin Du Monde would be a hit amongst the ladies, but perhaps too fruity for men without sophisticated taste-buds. The maple ale was not sampled since 9% AV 750mL is equivalent to about 5 or 6 cans of 5% beer. However, we will bring a bottle on the road to be sunk into the lake before consumption.

Midsummer is perhaps the perfect time to start our journey on the Alaskan Highway. Today, we will depart for Dawson Creek to start at the Mile Zero. Updates to the blog for the next four weeks will sparse, but hopefully regular.

By |June 21st, 2014|Log|0 Comments|

Gear Review: Canine Equipment Ultimate Trail Pack Revisited

At one time, the Ultimate Trail Pack from RC Products was reviewed favourably and was purchased on recommendations from other deer-hunters.

Now, in most parts of Europe with a strong hunting culture, dogs must be kept on a leash for the duration of the summer. However, in North America, there is no such national laws and in the wilderness areas, dogs can be off-leash. The catch is the dog have to be under control and does not chase game or livestock. Now, there are two options for keeping a hunting dog during the off-seasons: keep it on a leash, or give an off-cue.

The best off-cue is to fit the dog with a backpack for those off-leash moments.

The problem with Ruffwear backpacks is they are produced in Vietnam. Likewise, Wenaha and Wolfpacks are produced in United States. Canine Equipment is the most readily available Canadian product which can be purchased off the shelf. Other ones on the Canadian markets are offered by the cottage industry within the hunting world.

image

First tear.

During the first winter in Finland, the Ultimate Trail Pack worked fine. At times it was unbalanced, but a minor issue. However, during the first summer in the Canadian Rockies, there were times where it is necessary to leash the dog on the trail. Unfortunately, the D-ring tore and the backpack became fundamentally useless for a hunting dog. Now, Gear4Dogs was courteous enough to send a replacement. However, the second one which was sent also tore under the same condition. Upon inspection, it became clear the stitching is not a defect but rather lack of foresight in the design.

image

A second tear on the backpack.

Now, it is an okay backpack if one wants a Canadian-made product and doesn’t put their dog on a leash. However, if that is the case, then Wenaha from Black Ice Dog Sledding Equipment is much better bang for the buck with better quality-control and doesn’t feature a D-ring. However, a backpack without a sturdy D-ring is fundamentally useless for a hunting dog.

In the end, a retailer took the two broken backpacks and exchanged a Ruffwear Palisades Pack with a $30 discount on kibbles.

Would this be purchased again? No, not unless the manufacturer brings its standard on par with Ruffwear and Wolfpacks. Someday, I would like to review the other Canadian brand on the market: Wilderness Wanderer Dog Packs which has favourable reviews from sheep-hunters.

By |May 30th, 2014|Gear, Reviews|0 Comments|

Preserving Functions

In North America, there is a drive to import exotic breeds for the affluent middle-class strictly for showing or as pets. There is also a drive to import better hunting dogs from Europe as more and more sportsmen move into urban centers. There is a wedge driven in-between the show-community and the hunting- slash working-community. Consequently, overseas kennels are uncertain who to export to. This often leads to confusion why some breeds are still hunted with or worked with and why others are only kept as pets. In many instances, there are many individuals and families who keep multiple kinds of dogs for different purposes.

Keeping one breed as pet and a different breed as hunting or working dog is not intellectual dishonesty nor is it cognitive dissonance. To understand this, let us compare and contrast the histories of two breeds.

Not much is known about Swedish Vallhund prior to the writings of Björn von Rosen. Despite the speculations by amateur breed historians regarding the connection with the corgis of Wales, the genetic evidence does not exist. Nor are the anecdotes of  Swedish Viking colonization confirmed as most of the colonizers were Norwegians or Danes and never managed to grab a foothold in England or Wales; only in Ireland and Scotland. Archaeological evidences are scant, and subjective to interpretation. However, there are still many elderly people in Sweden who still remember dwarf-like dogs on small farm-holds prior to World War II.

After World War II, rapid urbanization occurred and industrial agriculture began to take a foothold in Sweden in order to compete with the robust American, Australian and British economies. Although Border Collie was first imported to Sweden in 1927 and the first sheepdog trial was arranged in 1941, it was during the 1950s, Border Collies were introduced to Sweden as a working breed. Gradually, local strains of herding dogs began to be phased out and only survived as a collectivization in a handful of newly-created breeds such as Swedish Vallhunds and Norwegian Buhunds. Over the next decade, the native breeds were completely displaced by foreign industrially-bred herding dogs.

However, during the 1980s, Swedish Vallhund began being bred for the show-ring after Domarringens Frej won several Best of Show titles during the 1970s. This particular male specimen started the trend of breeding for shorter legs standing at 30.5 centimeters or 12 inches tall. According to old-timer Peter Erlandsson, this caused a strife between breeders and judges who disagreed on the ideal model. Those who remain loyal to the old type jokingly mock the shorter-legged varieties as “Västgötapembroke”. Effectively, Vallhunds fell into agricultural obsolescence and underwent gentrification.

In contrast, West Siberian Laikas are descended from dogs kept by aboriginals and indigenous tribes in northwestern Russia, the Urals and West Siberia. During the late 19th century, Russian hunters purchased these dogs from tribes and re-purposed them for their own benefits. In the aftermath of the October Revolution in 1917, newfangled Soviet Union began assessing its economic situation and and required a foreign currency which was not being boycotted to trade on the global market in which fur accounted for anywhere between a tenth to a quarter of the exports prior to World War II. To meet the quota, the government began developing four different types of Laikas for finding squirrels, martens and sables. After the Second World War, cynologists developed an assessment system with urban-hunters in mind. Those who live in apartments and small houses require universal dogs. Imports of dogs which are not  one of the Laika types into commercial hunting and trapping areas were forbidden and strictly observed up until the 1970s. By 1980s, West Siberian Laika became firmly established as a breed for Communist sportsmen. By this time, the breed was being exported outside the Warsaw Bloc as a hunting dog. Since the collapse of the Iron Curtain, Laikas have been widely enjoyed by sporting hunters world-wide.

While a handful of Swedish Vallhund breeders claim to sell to working homes, the majority of the gene-pool is still in the hands of breeders who do not breed for work. The fastest growing demographic for Vallhund-owners is young adults in urban areas.

In recent years, Sweden  and Finland have been hosting cattle-herding instinct tests for dairy-cattle. They are fundamentally different from the stockdog trials held in North America utilizing beef cattle which assess the functions of Australian Cattle Dogs, Kelpies, Hangin’ Tree Dogs, Australian Shepherds and certain strains of Border Collies re-purposed into cattle-dogs. Some Vallhund breeders who participate in these instinct tests regard sheep testing as merely livestock chasing and not symbolic of herding instinct. Since only a third show no interest and another third of the examined Vallhunds have good instinct, these kind of trials can hardly be called as preservation but rather restoration.

Even though West Siberian Laika have been removed from its original intention of being bred for commercial-hunting, they still very much remain in the hands of recreational hunters. Re-purposing of a breed for a similar function from commercial hunting to recreational hunting is a form of evolution and a reflection of a fundamental shift in society.

Some West Europeans managed to grab ahold of Laika breeds with the intention of keeping them as pets, however countries which do not have friendly hunting regulations are blacklisted for exports by hunting clubs. Effectively, a breed warden system is derived to ensure guardianship over the functions. To honor preservation and to gain respect from others, it is best keep the breed as close to the hunting styles practiced in countries where they are widely used.  The price for violating this unwritten code is being severed of accessing the greater gene-pool and forcing a few, select group of breeders to work with very few individuals and inbreeding on the existing dogs. In order to gain the privilege of importing Laikas from abroad, one must show sincerity of hunting with them. Simply being a supplier is not sufficient as many hunters are skeptical of unproven dogs even if they have pedigrees filled with outstanding champions. Hunting with the breeding stock is a true test of character and dedication.

There is a significant difference between a breed which lost its original function in the country of origin and a breed which still retain some kind of purpose throughout the world. One simply cannot compare working with a breed being bred as pets for almost half a century to a breed still being used for hunting.

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