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Gear Talk, The Lowdown

Great New Outdoor Adventure Product for 2012: Slat Grill

December 23, 2011

Here is one of the great new products for your outdoor adventures in 2012. The Slat Grill designed by Chris Weyandt of St. Paul, MN and built in the USA is perfect for camping, hiking, or any other trek into the woods. This grill is simple to set up and use, extremely versatile in heat source and configuration. It is also extremely portable, packing down to just 18” by 5” by 2” in its handy, canvas carry case. When packed it will easily slide into the outer pockets on a #3 Cruiser or the Kitchen Pack.

The Slat Grill debuted at the Midwest Mountaineering Winter Expo in Minneapolis last month. That was the first chance I had to see it, and for me it was an instant hit. Chris had two different stoves going under the grill and was cooking up a storm. The Slat Grill will not only accommodate gas-fired stoves, but charcoal or a wonderful open campfire will serve as heat sources. The half moon cut outs allow for a remote fuel source such as the MSR WindPro and they also serve as vents to let fire breathe as needed.

Set up is amazingly easy and requires no tools. Assemble the expedition grade box, (measures 18″x12″x4″) lay in the slats, or skewers, and use the chains to move it into position over the fire. By configuring the nine slats in any way you like a variety of pots, pans, or griddles can sit on top. Made from hard-anodized, lightweight aluminum the grill will take on a nice patina over time, but it is corrosion resistant, and clean up is easy with a scrubbie and some Bar Keepers Friend. And best of all, it is guaranteed for life.

As you make your plan to head into the Quetico next summer, you must have the Slat Grill on your gear list. Remember there are no fire grates in the Quetico. And, just imagine after a long hard push across the Yum-Yum portage sitting back and watching steaks sizzle on the Slat Grill. Great meals make for great canoe trips.

Keep checking in with the blog during the next couple of weeks as I bring you more great outdoor adventure products for 2012.

Cheers and Happy New Year!

Gear Talk, The Lowdown

Holiday gift guide from Duluth Pack

December 8, 2011

Wool stocking on the fireplace at the Duluth Pack Store

The “12 Days of Christmas” is upon us. And, while many of my favorite items will be sliding down the chimney of your email inbox soon, there are other wonderful gifts worth telling you about. Please let me share with you some of our most popular gift items for Christmas this year.

1. Wool Christmas Tree Skirts and StockingsBrand new for this holiday season are the Duluth Pack wool tree skirts and fireplace stockings. Both are made in six colors of wool; three plaid patterns and three solids. So keep your tree warm and your little elves on pins and needles as they wait for Santa with nice big stockings hanging over the fireplace.

2. SmartWool Socks• Toes get cold this time of year and the perfect gift to keep them warm are SmartWool socks. Made of Merino wool from New Zealand these socks are as soft as they are warm. To see the biggest selection of SmartWool in the north woods head on down to the Duluth Pack Store in Canal Park and gaze upon our wall.

3. Collared Logo 1/4 Zip Sweatshirt • One of our most popular sweatshirts is fresh this season with two new colors. The 1/4 zip sweatshirt now comes in a black and a navy. Perfect to add as another layer when the fire just isn’t warm enough.

4. Bison Leather #100 Purse • Having premiered this fall, our entire American Bison Series takes the quality and tradition of Duluth Pack and blends it with the rugged luxury of the American West. Give the #100 Purse this Christmas and be guaranteed that you have given something truly unique.

There they are, four great gift ideas from Duluth Pack for this Christmas season.

Naughty or nice, everybody deserves a Duluth Pack this year.

Gear Talk, The Lowdown

How to Pick Bindings for Your Snowshoes

December 1, 2011
Snowshoes in the Woods

In the last blog post I talked about the different styles of snowshoes and which style would fit your snow trekking needs the best. In this article I would like to examine three styles of bindings that will match up well with your new American Made wooden snowshoes by Iverson’s. The two primary concerns with snowshoe bindings will be the ease of getting them on and the amount of control they give you while shoeing.

First snowshoe binding is the rubber, Bob Maki style binding. It is very easy to mount on the snowshoe, and being flexible rubber it is very easy to pull on over your boot. These features make it ideal if a lot of different users are going to be going out in the snow on your shoes. The downside to this style binding is the lack of control once the boot is in the binding. Not a lot of stability in the rubber binding, sometimes making it tricky to turn in tight quarters.

Second is the “A” or “AA” style binding.  This style is a heavy vinyl or leather forefoot piece, which holds the boot in place with a compression strap. The advantage with this binding is that it goes on and off easily. So again, if multiple people will be using your shoes adjustments can be made quickly no matter the boot size. One disadvantage that I can speak to is that this binding can be a little more difficult to mount to the shoe. However, you always have the snowshoe pros at the Duluth Pack store in Canal Park to assist you.

Third, is the “H” style binding, probably the most recognizable of all the bindings. The strapping system is usually made of leather or neoprene and mounts very easily to the shoe. This binding gives you great control of the shoe in all conditions, whether in tight spaces or in a straight line down a lake. It works best when only one person will be using a pair of snowshoes; therefore multiple users might find the adjustment process a bit cumbersome.

You’ve got classic, wooden snowshoes, and you have your bindings, now go out and play in the snow! If you have any questions or concerns about snowshoe bindings, or getting them mounted head on down to Canal Park and check in with the outdoor experts at the Duluth Pack store. They have trod many snow-covered trails in the north woods, and know their stuff well.

Let it snow. Let it snow. Let it snow.

Gear Talk, The Lowdown

How to Choose the Right Snowshoe

November 29, 2011
Iverson Snowshoe

Winter in the north woods is on the way. Don’t let this mild weather fool you, before you know it we will be up to our knees in the white stuff. And like true Minnesotans once winter arrives we will be ready to go play in the snow.

Last February I posted an article on the differences between wood and aluminum snowshoes. As you are looking to buy snowshoes this season it might be a good idea to go back and review a few of the pros and cons of each type. In this article I would like to examine the wooden shoes from Iverson Snowshoes a little more, and talk about how to choose the right pair for you.

As with anything, examining how you will use your snowshoes is the primary factor in determining the best style for you. Is this a recreational snowshoe that might be used in tight spaces or wooded trails? Or, are you a pretty serious snowshoe traveler that will be going great distances on primarily open terrain?

Let’s start with the former; you are a recreational snowshoer who will be traveling wooded trails on a regular basis. A smaller rounded shoe like the Green Mountain will give you great maneuverability in the tight spaces. It is also an excellent shoe if you plan on carrying it as a back up on your snowmobile, or dogsled.

If you are going to be breaking trail and headed into deep snow there are two good choices. The Modified Bearpaw and the Michigan are both good straight-tracking shoes for the deep stuff. The Bearpaw will be a little bit more maneuverable at 35 inches long with the Michigan at 46 inches creating a nice blend for use in moderate wooded areas as well as wide-open spaces.

And for the adventurer who is going to travel long distances with deep snow the Alaskan or the traditional Ojibwa will be the shoes for you. The Alaskan was built for Artic Adventurers going out to trek across the tundra in deep powder and drifted snow. The Ojibwa is similar to other cross-country shoes, but the long pointed nose will cut through deep snow and any underbrush that might get in your way.

Of course if you want to talk to somebody about the difference between a Bearpaw and an Ojibwa, the snowshoe experts at the Duluth Pack store in Canal Park can answer all your questions. They have been all over the north woods on many types of snowshoes and will find the pair that’s right for you.

Next time: which binding is right for your new snowshoes?

Gear Talk, The Lowdown

Stormy Kromer: History of a Great American Made Hat

November 23, 2011
Wear your Stormy while you fish, and stay warm

Imagine your “real” job is the engineer on a train screaming down the frozen tracks of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. You stick your head out the window to try and get a glimpse of something…of anything. Suddenly, your hat is stolen away by the swift, invisible hand of Njord, god of the wind.

This cruel scenario played out more than once for our hero George “Stormy” Kromer. He would peek his head out of the window on the train engine, and his hat would be stolen away.  Stormy knew there had to be a better hat; the fedora design just wasn’t well suited for hanging out of a train engine.

Having been a semi-pro ball player, spending time on more than 30 teams, Stormy was partial to baseball hats. He asked his wife Ida if she could modify his favorite ball cap to help keep it on in the windy weather. She came up with a hat, which incorporated a soft canvas visor with a six-panel design that stayed put in the wind.

The men who worked the railroad with Stormy liked the hat so much they wanted one for themselves. After a very, short time Ida was unable to keep up with demand, she hired a few workers, and in 1903 the company was born. Demand was ever increasing, and in 1919 the Kromers moved production to a facility in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

In 2001, Bob Jacquart, owner of Jacquart Fabric Products purchased the rights to Stormy Kromer caps and the production was moved to Ironwood, Michigan. Today, the company produces more than 50,000 caps annually, in a variety of colors and styles. Of course Stormy Kromer is more than just hats. Stormy Kromer jackets, shirts, and pants are all made right here in the U.S.A.

Have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Gear Talk, The Lowdown

The Voyageur, the Canoe, and the Hudson’s Bay Point Blanket

November 4, 2011
Hudson's Bay Point Blanket

The Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) is the oldest commercial corporation in North America and one of the oldest in the world. Begun under English royal charter in 1670, the Hudson Bay Company made its name and reputation as a fur trader, but today owns and operates retail stores throughout Canada.

The founding of the Hudson Bay Company coincided with the era of the voyageur and the fur trade in North America. These voyageurs were using large canoes to transport 90 pound bales of fur pelts over the trade routes of the Great Lakes and as far west as modern day Manitoba. The typical interior river canoe was 25 feet long, paddled by five or six men, and carried 25 to 30 of the heavy fur bales.

In the 1700’s European demand for fur grew, as did the number of voyageurs and the success of the Hudson Bay Company. The HBC held a near monopoly on the fur trade and employed hundreds of voyageurs that were once independent contractors. At the peak the HBC was trading in an area greater than 3,000,000 square miles, and had 1,500 contract employees.

The Hudson’s Bay Point Blanket was born in the 18th century as a currency of exchange with First Nation Tribes. The blankets were traded to Native Americans for beaver pelts, buffalo robes, and other goods. The wool blankets were coveted because they were easier to sew than bison hides and retained their ability to hold heat even when wet.

The “points” or small lines stitched into the side of the blanket have led to a common misconception. Many believe that these points denote the number of beaver pelts it would take to trade for a Hudson’s Bay blanket. In truth, these points were sewn into the fabric to denote size of the blanket. On display a merchant would immediately know the size of the blanket without having to unfold it for the customer.

The four colored stripes of the Hudson’s Bay blanket have become a North American icon. Today the blankets are made in England by John Atkinson, with Woolrich Inc. of Pennsylvania holding the official license to import them into the United States. When you see that familiar tag with the red, green, yellow, and indigo stripes you know you are looking at a long and storied history.

Gear Talk, The Lowdown

Duluth Pack premieres the American Bison Series

October 20, 2011
American Bison Series

New, high-quality leather is introduced to Duluth Pack’s venerable line of products.

Introducing the American Bison Series from Duluth Pack. The American Bison Series blends the quality and tradition of Duluth Pack with the rugged luxury of the American West. Beautifully handcrafted of full-grain, premium Bison leather, these bags are both robust and replete with style.

Our craftspeople, which create these pieces, pay significant time and attention to every detail as well as to the elegance of their art. The bags in this series are sewn from full hides, which are soft to the touch and durable for life. Elements such as rolled leather handles, hand-pounded solid copper rivets, and interior linings come together to embody these high-quality bags.

With traditional styling in mind, we have taken seven of our most in-demand leather products and adapted them especially for bison leather. The series includes: the Bison Leather Kit Bag, Bison Leather #100 Purse, Bison Leather Traveler’s Portfolio, the Bison Leather Sportsman’s Tote, Bison Leather Gun Cases, Bison Leather Pistol Rugs, and the Bison Leather Sportsman’s Duffel.

Reminiscent of expeditions across an untamed American West, these pieces will become time-honored adventure gear. Reward yourself with something truly unique from the American Bison Series by Duluth Pack. Made in America, guaranteed for life.

About the American Bison

For hundreds of years the natives of the North American plains relied on the bison for their existence. The bison was hunted to near extinction in the 1870’s, their numbers dwindled to as few as several hundred remaining. A reintroduction of bison to North America began in 1899, and today free-ranging bison in conservation herds number approximately 30,000. For many people living in North America the bison is symbol of strength, stability, and prosperity.

About Duluth Pack

Duluth Pack established in 1882, is dedicated to making quality canoe and camping gear as well as purses, luggage, messenger bags, gun cases, and portfolio bags.  These products are manufactured in Duluth, Minnesota, using time-honored techniques.  All products manufactured by Duluth Pack offer a Lifetime Guarantee on craftsmanship and hardware.

Gear Talk, The Lowdown

Women’s fashions for fall

September 30, 2011
Petal Pusher

The wind is blowing, the leaves are turning color, and it feels like fall here in the north woods. It is time we starting thinking about pulling those warm clothes out of the closet. Better yet, let’s talk about what’s new and looking good for women this fall.

Stormy Kromer Petal Pusher Hat • Good, old Stormy Kromer, his ears would get cold while wearing his baseball hats and steaming down the rail line. His wife, Ida added ear flaps to one of those time-tested hats, and the Stormy Kromer hat was born. The Petal Pusher not only looks good but it’s stitched with the same last-as-long-as-you-will, six-panel-crown-construction as the original Stormy Kromer cap. Made in America.



Filson Women’s Wool Timber Jacket • Like Stormy, C.C. Filson was a railroad man who knocked around Nebraska for a time before he settled in Seattle, Washington. The gold rush came to his neck of the woods in 1897 and C.C’s destiny in wool was forged. This jacket is reminiscent of the original Filson wool jackets designed to protect timber cruisers. Built for warmth, the Timber Jacket is made from Filson’s heavy weight 100% virgin 24-oz. Mackinaw Wool. And, it is as durable as it is good looking. Made in USA.


All-Leather Rucksack • Our comfortable wrap-around Classic Rucksack, redesigned as a women’s backpack/purse. The All Leather Rucksack is made with our luxurious Serengeti leather and has been sized down for everyday use. Take it on the hiking trail with you, to a football game, or wandering around Canal Park. Guaranteed for Life. Made in USA.


Heim Made Minne-Skirt • Here is a great down insulated skirt from right here in Minnesota. Perfect for staying warm while being
active in the winter time; hiking, snowshoeing or skiing. Also great to have with you for those fall football and soccer games when you need just one more layer to curb the chill while you cheer for the hometown team. A “jacket for your behind” as the Heim ladies like to say.




Minnetonka Three Layer Fringe Boot • In 1822, two 17 year old boys paddled up the Minnehaha Creek to make the European discovery of Lake Minnetonka. While we are not sure of their footgear, one thing we are sure of: this Three Layer Fringe boot is going to be a very popular one this fall. Minnetonka likes to say these are “more than just boots, they become a part of you.”  Calf high, in natural suedes with a thin rubber sole.

This season is shaping up to be a really nice one for color in the trees of Minnesota. Looking forward to getting out and enjoying some great walks through the woods. Here’s hoping you have a great fall season no matter where your hiking boots may land.

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!

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