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Gear Talk, The Lowdown

Gear for the canoe pack as the weather gets cooler

September 7, 2011
Leaves changing in the north woods

September is here and the sun is setting noticeably earlier now then it did just six weeks ago. The loons are starting to raft up and have begun consultations in preparation for their move to southern waters. And, over the last few nights there has been somewhat of a chill in the air, fall is on its way.

And while another season is drawing to a close, there will still be some great days and nights on the canoe trail. In anticipation of those chilly nights ahead I would like to share with you a few things you might want to think about adding to the canoe pack to stay warm.

Quicklace Mukluks from Chota are going to be a requirement especially if you have a Kevlar boat. Wet-footing the landings and takeoffs in cold water are much more pleasant in a neoprene boot that protects up to the knee.  The boots also provide some much needed support as you climb up and down the Yum Yum portage.

SmartWool PHD socks in the medium weight will be the perfect companions for your Chota Mukluks. These socks are Merino wool, therefore making them extremely soft, very breathable, and odor resistant, even in boots. Additionally, this sock is fully cushioned making long, cold portaging days a little more bearable.

The Duluth Pack Bedroll is an excellent addition to a late season pack headed into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness or the Quetico. While many canoe trippers may simply opt to go to a heavier sleeping bag, I would recommend the bedroll to provide some flexibility. In cool weather it can be used outside a bag to provide warmth, and in warm weather you can simply lie on top of the bedroll.

IceBreaker Bodyfit long sleeve tops and matching bottoms in the 260 weight are a must have when tripping late season. During the day the Merino wool breathes and keeps you comfortable no matter what the air temperature. And, at night they keep you warm and toasty, as it gets cool in your tent. IceBreaker is also great for multiple days on trail because Merino is naturally odor resistant.

Cache Lake fry breads are good at anytime of the year, but to have something warm on your stomach can make a cool, fall day much easier. My favorite is the garlic for lunch or dinner, but the cinnamon raisin breakfast bread is a perfect start to the day. Get the pan nice and hot with a little oil, stove works great a fire isn’t necessary, and cook it just like a pancake. Fry breads are easy to make on trail or in camp, add a little syrup if you like.

Great stuff to get in the canoe pack this fall, and enjoy those fall colors while you are out on the water.

Gear Talk, The Lowdown

Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, 2011

August 18, 2011
Salt Lake City

Twice a year, in Salt Lake City, Utah, outdoor retailers get together and share what’s new and what’s hot for the coming year. And while not lucky enough to attend this mammoth event on the Wasatch Front two weeks ago, I do have some great gear to share with you. This list is by no means all-encompassing, just a few cool items that caught my eye.

In one of my previous posts I shared with you Bending Branches new paddle the Black Pearl, $229.00. At only 14 ounces you have got to pick this one up to believe it.

The Vasque Taku GTX, $165.00 is a hiking boot for men that thinks it is a running shoe. This all leather, over the ankle boot takes just a few minutes to break in, and will be ready to go on an all day hike. With a breathable Gore-Tex lining, stiff midsole, and sticky rubber sole these boots are ready for the mountains.

IceBreaker for ladies has their Siren line of base layer tops and underwear. As with all Icebreaker, the Siren line is made from super soft Merino wool that is non-itch and extremely breathable. All the pieces look and fit great and have been designed with active, athletic women in mind. The line includes a cami ($50.00), a tank ($50.00), and a bikini bottom ($28.00).

For mountain bikers, Camelback is introducing the Charge LR hydration system, $100.00. For some time, the R&D department at Camelback has been working with a lumbar pack designed especially for the demands of mountain trails. And to listen to the testers they have got this one right. Low sloshing and great feeling should make this one a hit when it debuts in the fall.

Biking and high heels don’t really seem to go together, but leave it to Merrell to bridge that gap. The Evera MJ, $110.00, is high heel bike shoe with a rubber sole for grip, and a contoured bottom that fits right into the pedal. Expect to see these fashion forward Merrells sometime in February of 2012.

And never forget the Scout pack, the Wanderer, and all the canoe packs from Duluth Pack. We had an impressive booth there on the convention floor to share all our American Made products with both the initiated and the neophytes. From the feedback we are getting everyone loved the show and loved our gear.

See you next time, enjoy the new stuff!

Show me the way back to DuluthPack.com.

 

Gear Talk, The Lowdown

Bending Branches debuts their new Black Pearl carbon fiber paddle

August 11, 2011
The new carbon fiber paddle from Bending Branches

Hard charging, performance-touring paddlers are going to love the new Black Pearl carbon fiber canoe paddle from Bending Branches. Made from high tech materials and coming in at just 14 ounces this paddle will be a great addition for your lightweight Kevlar canoe. The company recently debuted the new Black Pearl paddle at the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, 2011.

American made Bending Branches (BB) was founded in 1982 by whitewater paddlers Dale Kicker and Ron Hultman. By building composite paddles with Kevlar tip guards, which became known as rock guards, they revolutionized the industry and changed paddling forever. This small, privately held company in Wisconsin has built more than one million paddles for canoeists and kayakers.

The Black Pearl was built as an answer to Bending Branches customers who own and paddle high-end canoes built of Kevlar or carbon fiber. They wanted a lightweight, strong paddle to match well with their lightweight boat. The Black Pearl gives them the ability to partner a high tech touring paddle with their high tech boat.

It starts with a carbon fiber touring blade paired with a carbon fiber composite shaft, a very stiff, light combination. The paddle is topped off with a carbon grip built to fit the paddlers’ hand. Dale Kicker has said he believes it to be the most comfortable grip they have built. At 14 ounces this paddle possesses an extremely high strength to weight ratio, and with the large touring blade it is maximum efficiency on the canoe trail.

This paddle will be ideal for the canoeist who likes to have the newest, fastest technology in their hands. And, has been waiting for a high-end paddle to pair with their high-end boat for outstanding performance touring.

Grab one of these paddles today, get your canoe pack out of the garage, and be ready for the Boundary Waters tomorrow. And don’t forget one for you bowman, too.

Portage me back to DuluthPack.com

 

Gear Talk, The Lowdown

My five favorite pieces of gear to fill my Wanderer pack

August 1, 2011
The best pack to take on your adventure to Costa Rica

You’ve been watching “Love in the Wild,” and have your favorite guy, girl or couple in which you are pulling for. Please always keep in mind that Miles is from Minnesota. You are really in the spirit and have stenciled your name on your Wanderer pack, making it ready for an adventure in Costa Rica. But what great gear are you going to use to fill up your pack?

Let me share my five favorites with you:

1. Leatherman Skeletool, $79.00. You can’t go into the woods without a Leatherman, and this is the coolest one out there. Not only is the frame cutout to keep it light, but you have all the tools you would ever need. One word of caution: never hold your Leatherman over the side of the boat to de-hook your fish. That’s not covered by the 25 year warranty.

2. Petzl Tikka Plus 2 Headlamp, $39.95. Having a hands-free light source is invaluable whether camping, night fishing or just reading a good book in the Adirondack chair on the deck. This headlamp is great because it has a couple different levels of light, and the light source tilts giving you extra flexibility when pointing the beam.

3. MSR Pocket Rocket Stove, $39.95. Lightweight, easy to use, and adjustable flame from boil to simmer. This little stove fits right on top of the canister and hardly weighs anything. Add an aluminum windscreen and you are good to go for hiking or canoe camping.

4. Brunton Military Compass, $19.95. This sighting compass has rugged case and is easy to use with all maps.

5. MSR MiniWorks Water Filter, $89.95. Two reasons why I love this filter: 1. it screws right on top of my Nalgene water bottles. And 2. this filter is field maintainable. Simply unscrew the pump, remove the ceramic cartridge, give the cartridge a good scrub and rinse, and back into the pump it goes. Keep it on top in the canoe pack, just under the flap or in a side pocket, and it is handy at any point.

Here’s an honorable mention: Sigurd Olsen, “The Singing Wilderness.” It is simply wonderful, old-school, Boundary Waters prose that will make you listen to the glide of the canoe, and revel in a fly line that is thrown with a perfect loop.

Enjoy the water!

Fly me back to DuluthPack.com

Gear Talk

Bent-shaft canoe paddles vs. straight-shaft

May 13, 2011
steve_21

“What’s the degree of bend in this paddle?”

As you may remember from the summer of 2010, I wrote a couple of articles entitled “My favorite questions as an outfitter.” And while the above question may have been in contention for inclusion in that list, it might be a good inquiry. My first reaction was to think this guy was some kind of gear geek, and had been reading too many canoe forum paddle posts. But in reality it is a question that should be answered.

Let’s start with the basic, bent-shaft canoe paddles vs. straight-shaft canoe paddles.

In the early 1980’s canoe racers discovered that they could increase their stroke efficiency by bending the shaft of the paddle between 12 and 14 degrees. The bend changes the mechanics, and creates a stroke where the blade of the paddle stays virtually upright through the arc. The transfer of power from the paddle to the water is almost entirely horizontal.

Through the arc of a straight shaft paddle motion you have three transfers of power. As the paddle enters the water much of the effort is pushing down on the water. In the middle of the stroke you are pulling horizontally. And at the end of the stroke you are lifting up on the water. Mimic the motion sitting on a chair and you can visualize the arc and see the transfer of power.

Therefore, when somebody asks about the degree of bend in a paddle they are really asking, “is this the most efficient paddle you have?”

How do I measure for a bent-shaft paddle?

All other variables being equal, the bent-shaft will be about four inches shorter than the straight shaft paddle. The quick and dirty method is to sit on a bench, turn the paddle upside down, and shoot to get your nose right to the bend in the paddle. Other factors like seat height will affect the length, but this is the best place to start.

Which paddle is right for me?

Bent-shaft paddles work well for a canoe team that is going to paddle with the hit and switch method. Which is taking four to six strokes on one side of the boat and then switching to take four to six strokes on the other side of the boat.

If you are a j-stroker, like myself you may prefer the straight shaft paddle. I have found the twist of the j-stroke with a bent-shaft paddle to be a bit too cumbersome. Yeah, yeah, I know. All you bent-shaft converts have no problem with the j-stroke, I am just stating this old guy likes to j-stroke with the straight-shaft paddle.

What if I was to suggest this? How about a 12 degree bend for the bowman and a seven-degree bend for the sternman?

In the end it is a personal choice. And who really cares how you propel your boat, just get out on the water!

Photo and Article By: Brad Putney. “Captain” Brad Putney considers himself an inland waters guru after spending 40 years on the lakes of Minnesota. The Captain likes to say he has been at the helm of everything from a ten-foot inflatable to an America’s Cup yacht. Mr. Putney can be found at the Duluth Pack Store, helpfully dispensing free advice. He has degrees from Gustavus Adolphus College and the University of Minnesota. Please contact at: [email protected].

Gear Talk, The Lowdown

Canoe or Kayak? Both! The Canak by Wenonah

April 19, 2011
hybrid

The popularity of the kayak is growing by leaps and bounds. The canoe is the preferred method of travel in the Boundary Waters and the Quetico. There must be a hybrid that tours like a kayak and hauls gear like a canoe. I promised you a curveball and here it is: the Canak by Wenonah.

The following is a review I wrote last August just after paddling the Canak prototype for the first time.

The first thing I noticed about the Wenonah prototype kayak/canoe blend was the stability. I climbed into the cockpit from a dock and the boat hardly waivered. Being built on the Prism this should have been no surprise. As I paddled out with a kayak paddle the boat gained speed easily, with no loss of stability.

At one point I did attempt to roll the boat up onto the shoulders, and while stability felt good, it is really a maneuver to be done while kneeling. And this is not a kneeling cockpit because it is made up of a tractor seat and rail.

The wind was blowing stiff the day I tested the boat, therefore I headed out into the whitecaps to check performance. The boat tracked well on flat water and did very well in the waves. Going straight upwind, quartering upwind, and even letting the waves take the boat broadside didn’t affect the ability to hold the line or the stability.

Some water did come over the bow and I made the mistake of taking the cockpit covers off before venturing out. Should have left that cover on to protect from splash. On trail in such a case the covers should be left on both the bow and the stern.

Additionally, I paddled with both the kayak paddle and the canoe paddle, but I have to prefer the kayak paddle. Using a Bending Branches adjustable I stretched it out to the maximum and was able to reach out for a nice stroke. The decks on this boat created a situation where I felt I was reaching out too much with the canoe paddle.

The seat felt tall, I would like to paddle another prototype in which the seat might be lowered to the hull, but still keeping the sliding rail and seat. I moved the seat on the rail and could feel the boat change favorably with the weight adjustment. After having spoke with the designer I now know keeping the seat high was a purposeful design trait.

Additions to the cockpit might include a foot bar or foot pegs to brace against. I was pulling hard upwind and would have liked to have an anchor for my feet.

There’s the Canak, a great blend, and the best of both paddling worlds.

By: Brad Putney. “Captain” Brad Putney considers himself an inland waters guru after spending 40 years on the lakes of Minnesota. The Captain likes to say he has been at the helm of everything from a ten-foot inflatable to an America’s Cup yacht. Mr. Putney can be found at the Duluth Pack Store, helpfully dispensing free advice. He has degrees from Gustavus Adolphus College and the University of Minnesota. Please contact at: [email protected].
Gear Talk, The Lowdown

Snowshoes: Wood vs. Aluminum

February 28, 2011
snowshoes

 

Minnesota has snow this season, lots of the white stuff. Going out and breaking trail in your boots will be hard work, and you might find some snow as deep as your waist. Snowshoes are your best bet to get out and enjoy hiking through the powder.

You have two primary choices to make when deciding upon a pair of snowshoes: wood vs. aluminum in the make up of the frame.  Wood will then have rawhide or neoprene lacing and aluminum shoes will have a vinyl body section, which provides flotation over the snow.

First, let’s look at aluminum shoes. The advantages of aluminum shoes are they lightweight and smaller than their wooden cousins. The smaller size makes them a better choice for tight spaces like heavily wooded areas. Many aluminum shoes will also have a crampon on the sole of the shoe designed for traction in the hills and slopes of the western U.S.

The disadvantages of aluminum shoes are primarily durability; in extremely cold temperatures the vinyl can become brittle and crack or break. Additionally, many users have found wooden shoes can take more bending or flexing over uneven ground or rocks. And lastly, those crampons have a tendency to collect slush and freeze into a ball on the sole of your shoe.

Second, let’s look at the advantages of wooden snowshoes. Wood shoes are more traditional and date back many years. We all have been to a cabin or outpost where there is a pair of wooden shoes, most likely Iverson Snowshoes, hanging on the wall. They are larger than their aluminum counterparts thereby providing more flotation and making crossing of wide, flat, open areas easier. They are perfect for the dry, light snow of the Midwest. And very well suited for the extreme cold of Minnesota.

The disadvantage of the wooden shoe is that they are heavier than an aluminum shoe, and are generally more expensive.

Best bet is to come to the Duluth Pack store in Canal Park, where there are plenty of snowshoes to choose from, and have one of the extremely knowledgeable staff help you with your choice.

Above all, get out there and enjoy all that snow.

Post By: Brad Putney - Captain Brad Putney considers himself an inland waters guru, having been at the helm of everything from a ten foot inflatable to an America’s Cup yacht. In the summer the Captain works as an outfitter in Ely and is presently a sales associate at Duluth Pack in Canal Park.

 

Gear Talk

Sleeping Bags – Down vs. Synthetic

November 16, 2010

eurekaAt Duluth Pack, we get asked this question a lot!  Should I buy a down sleeping bag or a synthetic one?

Both have advantages and disadvantages. Hopefully the pros and cons listed below will help you make that decision a little easier.

DOWN BAGS

Pros: Down sleeping bags are warmer ounce per ounce.  Down is lighter weight and easily compressed. However, when storing your down bag, store it open as possible. Down filled bags are great at wicking away moisture. With the proper care down bags can last for many years, even a lifetime, so the heftier price tag is often worth it for the longevity. Down bags are ideal for all aspects of camping except wet/damp areas like for example the Olympic National Forest in Washington.

Cons: It does have a few cons. It does not function well at all when wet, and takes a long time to dry. They are also more expensive and need more care.

SYNTHETIC BAGS

Pros: Synthetic bags then make sense when used in wet/damp camping situations.  It works well for folks new to camping, kids, and the fiscally conservative. It dries quickly and is very easy to care for.  After your trip you can toss your synthetic bag right into the washing machine.

Cons: Synthetics are heavier than down and they are also not as comfortable. They do not pack down as small as down bags can. Synthetics bags are also not as warm as natural down.

I would love to hear your thoughts! Which fill do you prefer?

Gear Talk, Techniques & Advice

Hawk Ridge – A gem in Duluth

September 20, 2010

sharp-shinned hawkThis past weekend, was Hawk Weekend in Duluth, MN.  A time when hundreds, even thousands, of migrating birds pass above Duluth each day, hesitant to cross over Lake Superior on their way South.

In the brief time I was there we spotted, Osprey, Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier, Sharp-Shinned Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk (3,939 that day) and my favorite, the American Kestrel.

Duluth Pack has been a fan of birders for years with our Haversacks (perfect for bird books and binoculars). Old and new fans alike are enjoying our  Binocular Cases and Binoculars by Steiner.

If you are in the area this Fall I would recommend a trip up to Hawk Ridge!

HawkRidge

Gear Talk

Superior Hiking Trail and the new Bushcrafter Pack

July 16, 2010

Bean Lake Overlook

The Superior Hiking Trail is a trail modeled after the Appalachian Trail and follows the ridge-line along Lake Superior from Duluth to the Canadian Border. For this hike, we chose a popular and scenic section, called the Twin Lakes Trail outside of Silver Bay, MN.

 

Trailhead

This section is a rugged up and down but the vista’s are beautiful.  After a hot hike, with plenty of mosquitoes, the two highlights were a much needed refreshing swim in Bear Lake and the luscious ripe June berries and Blueberries to snack on.  A warning, that in the Summer and Fall, this section is extremely popular, so if you plan on getting a campsite, get there early.

Swim in Bear Lake

Another unexpected pleasure was running into a couple on the trail out for a day hike. They noticed the new Bushcrafter pack and asked how it was holding up on the hiking trail. It was comfortable and carried all our gear. After they swapped stories about the history of all their Duluth Packs in the family it made me realize, when you buy a Duluth Pack, you become part of a community that supports the local economy and appreciates handmade lifetime gear. Thanks Scott and Cindy! It was great to meet new DP fans!