People ask why I’m always pushing MEC products!

Yes, it’s a fair question!

During most, but not all of my posts, I tend to make recommendations of equipment to do with hiking, climbing, walking etc.

And most times, my recommendations come from my favorite equipment company, MEC.

Why do I recommend them? Well, it’s a little difficult to fully explain….reminds me of what my grandfather used to say about things he was comfortable with….”Son…it’s like an old pair of slippers…sure theyre worn out, but I feel comfortable in them…!”

So it’s not to say that I haven’t used other suppliers for my stuff, but I keep coming back to MEC time after time.

Not only do they supply a whole load of comprehensive equipment, and have been for coming up to almost 50 years or so now, but they have such enthusiastic people working there…often times, I get a whole lecture about whatever I may be into, be it walking, climbing etc. But that’s not to say the employees are over-bearing..far from it…they are simply enthusiastic, all of them being outdoors people themsleves, too!

And the advice I get is not over-the-top like in some places, where any fool can tell that the salesperson is out to nab a sale!

Then there’s MEC’s interaction with the community. And this for me, and countless others who use it, is the final decider.

It’s what is the core of MEC that brings a smile to everyone who finds out…it is a co-operative, which means that everyone who buys a share in the company is entitled a voice in the running of it. Like myself…I bought a share in the place because I like what they’re doing, which means giving back to the community as well, not just making a quick buck and running away!

So that in a nutshell are just one or two reasons why I use MEC and always heartily recommend them. Over the years, I hope to talk a lot more about the company and how it works etc, but for the time being, if you want to know more, click here to go to their website….and happy reading!

😉

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A New Year….a pair of new boots…!

With the start of a New Year, what is the one most important items for an outdoors man or woman?

Boots, of course!

Without a sturdy, waterproof pair of boots, any hike or outdoor pursuit can rapidly become a soggy nightmare…trust me, I’ve been there!

Before investing my hard-earned cash in a decent pair, I spent and wasted so much time and money on inferior but cheap products…I’d buy a fabulous-looking pair of boots for a knockdown price, and during the first trip wearing them, I’d destroy my hike…the boots that looked so strong and invincible in the shop, now belaying their true nature!

It’s only after several such forays, that I learnt my lesson, and just in time too.

So, what do we need to look for in a pair of boots?

Here’s a short but comprehensive checklist for you:

 

  • Lightweight. Backpacking experts say every extra pound on the feet is like carrying 5 or 6 pounds on your back, so purchase the lightest boots that fit your needs.
  • Comfortable, yet supportive. There should be plenty of room for your foot to swell after a long day of hiking, but not so much room that it slides around inside the boot.
  • Non-slip in varied terrain. A good hiking boot or shoe should be able to maintain a firm grip in rugged terrain, on scree, in mud and, most important, on wet surfaces.
  • Designed to release mud. If mud builds up in the lugs of your boots, it can severely compromise your traction. Look for boots with widely spaced, aggressive lugs that shed mud with little to no effort on your part.
  • Waterproof. If you frequently hike in wet or damp conditions, a waterproof boot or shoe will help keep your feet dry and comfortable.
  • Breathable. Summer hiking requires your feet to breathe so they don’t get too sweaty. Some hiking boots and shoes have uppers made of mesh to allow airflow. Some heavy-duty boots have breathable liners to keep feet comfortable.

What’s your hiking style? Your preferred hiking destinations, style and season will determine your choice of footwear.

How sensitive are your feet? The more sensitive your feet are, the stiffer a sole you’ll need to protect them from rugged terrain. This goes double if you’re backpacking; you need the stiffness to protect your feet under the extra weight.

Do you need a waterproof membrane? If you often hike in wet or cold conditions, a breathable waterproof membrane will keep water out and release sweat as it accumulates. However, when water gets in it can’t get out and the boot can take a long time to dry when emptied. It also tends to be hot in warm weather, so look for this feature only if conditions warrant.

Shop later in the day. Your feet tend to swell throughout the day and on long hikes, so shop once you’ve already been on your feet for a while; otherwise, your “just right” boots may turn out to be too small.

Err in favor of a larger size if you plan to hike long distances. Your feet may swell a half-size to a full size larger than usual during these trips. This doesn’t mean you should size up from a perfect fit, but if you’re in between sizes, going up is usually the best choice.

Wear the socks you intend to wear while hiking. They can make an enormous difference in fit, especially since wool hiking socks tend to be thick. If you don’t already have socks to hike in, purchase them when you try on your boots.

Test hiking boots while wearing a loaded backpack. This is especially important if you carry a heavy pack. It’s the only way to be sure the boots will remain comfortable and supportive under your typical load.

And here is a pair of excellent boots, available from MEC stores in Canada:

Scarpa SL Active Backpacking Boots (Men's)

Check them out now..click here

Backpacking, climbing, walking and hiking safety

While nothing makes a more memorable backpacking, hiking, or mountain climbing trip that a genuine emergency, ending up dead is not a good story for those involved.

Growing up in the sticks and spending a lot of time outside, I have had a few real emergencies in my life.

I’ve been lost once. I’ve overreached on a hunting trip in cold weather and ended up huddled over a fire to thaw out myself.

Fortunately, I knew where I was as the only thing that I had to start a fire with was my map! However, I am not an expert on mountain climbing, but these tips will work for those brave souls who do participate in this sport.

The first thing that all backpackers, mountain climbers and hikers need is a first aid kit. While most of the stuff in a first aid kit purchased at a large retailer is junk, you do need some antibiotic ointment, sterile bandages, and other first aid items.

You also need the knowledge to make splints for broken legs, treat hypothermia, and more. Knowing the signs of problems and addressing it before it gets out of hand is indispensable, especially in the outdoors.

The second thing that all backpackers, hikers, and mountain climbers need is a way to signal for help. Cell phones are unreliable in the middle of nowhere. Not only can there be signal problems, but also batteries die and phones can become broken.

A pocket sized signal mirror is a great item to have in case of emergency. Signal mirrors only cost a few bucks and take up very little space in a backpack or pocket.

The third item is a note. Yes, a note. Not only should people back home know where you are going and when you are coming back, but first responders need help finding you as well.

When going on a mountain climbing, hiking, or backpacking expedition leave information on your route and planned return with a park ranger or other responsible person. If this is not an option, leave this info in plain sight on the dashboard of your vehicle. If theft is a concern (you might not want everyone knowing that you won’t be back to your car in three days) only leave location information in plain sight.

Backpacking, hiking, and mountain climbing are all great ways to enjoy the outdoors, but you want to come home safely. Remember these three items along with the obvious ones to assure a safe return.

This is not a definitive article by all means, but if the information given here can save even one life, then it is worth it’s weight in gold.

A copy of this article also appears in the “Safety and First Aid” page of this blog.

Hiking the mighty Himalayas

Of all the best hiking or climbing venues in the world, the Himalayas rank supreme.

Even though in this day and age, the mystique of the place has been dampened somewhat, with everybody and his aunty having been there, the area still has that certain je ne se quois about it.

And though Everest has now been scaled by an 80-year-old man, Japanese climber Yuichiro Miura, people the world over still want to go there.

However, there is the slight problem of the fee required for access to the mountain…..$70 000 at present!

But today, we’re going to talk about hiking the area around Everest, not to climb it.

The place is absolutely huge…..approx 5 times the size of Spain, France and Portugal put together! Go anywhere in the region, and you’re guaranteed to come back with having been in the deepest gorge, highest mountain, wildest forests etc.

So much of it is still untouched and talked about in mysterious words.

Some places there are devoid of people, and some have people living there who have adapted in strange ways to the hostile environment. Those people are vastly different from the Indians you meet at lower down south in India. They have different languages, different customs, different religions and even look different.

Anyway, hiking here is no different from anywhere else. The only thing you have to be careful about is altitude, and all of the tour organisers are well-versed in this. Certainly, all the operators I checked with, have accommodation at the correct altitudes, so you can be sure of being ok altitude-wise.

Depending on what you want to see, you can choose from mountain areas, scenic villages, trekking areas, wild forest, canyons, gorges, you name it.

The main concern aside of attitude is your health. I would always get myself checked out by my doctor before leaving, as he/she may be able to tell if you have any underlying problems that may cause hassle when you get there.

Other than that, if you are generally otherwise healthy and have no heart or breathing problems, you should be good to go.

Prices range from around $2000 to over $4500, so you can see that it is reasonably affordable.

Places to see are all based around Nepal, with Katmandu, Makalu, Pokhara being the main ones. Then there is Bhutan, another very interesting area which has only just opened up to tourism.

One of the best operators for not only this region, but the whole of India, are Royal Rajasthan Tours.

These guys have arranged hundreds of tours over the years, and the beauty of going with them is that they can set you up with a group tour, or tours for people who prefer to travel alone with a guide.

All in all, if you have an idea of travelling to the Himalayas, do it now….don’t do like I do sometimes…think about it and leave it at that. The place is being commercialised as we speak, and in a few years time, it will be no different from any other touristy place in the world.

 

 

 

 

 

Always buy the best equipment you can afford….

I was just watching that film about the guy who fell down and trapped his arm in a rock fissure in Colorado whilst walking alone in the desert…guy called Aron Ralston.

If you look past the gory bits and the movie scenes, you can learn an awful lot from that film I think.

Like always letting everyone know where you’re going, when you’ll be back etc. That guy, in his self-assured manner, failed this first essential of going out walking, hiking or climbing in remote areas. So when he fell into trouble, nobody knew what had happened to him ro where.

The second very important point is to try and have a partner with you if at all possible. I’m afraid I must put up my hands here on this one, as I rarely have anyone with me; my reason, silly as it may seem to you, is that having someone with me somehow robs me of the solitude, the silence I am constantly seeking. The funny thing is, it is that silence and solitude that could, if things went wrong, work against me one day. having a partner can be of enormous help if you get into difficulties.

Thirdly, Aron didn’t have a cellphone with him. Much as I hate the relentless march of technology and how it continues to intrude into our daily lives, a cellphone is a virtual necessity these days, and if you are injured or stuck in dire circumstances during a hike or climbing session, a phone call can mean the difference between life and death. So always, always, always try and carry at least one working, fully charged cellphone. I know of friends who carry 2 cellphones with them, in case one fails.

Finally, regarding what happened with Aron in that rocky fissure. Because he was unlucky enough to get his arm trapped between a falling rock etc, he had no choice but to actually hack his own arm off….yes, you read right…he made the agonizing decision to cut his arm off, or face certain death within days.

And when it came to carrying out the grisly task, he used the only thing available, the knife in his multi-tool. that unfortunately proved to be of inferior quality and he had a lot of trouble cutting through his flesh, as he joked about his in a recording he made with his camcorder, “..always make sure the multi tool you buy is not Made in China!

The moral there of course is to buy equipment that has proven reliability and is durable. Again, talking about Aron….if his tool had broken up in use, and he had failed to sever his arm, he would not be alive today.

 

 

Some superb reading for you!

 

I’ve just finished reading a few books that I think you guys will like, especially as we are all like-minded folks here, into hiking, camping, wilderness etc.

I won’t bore you with the details of each book, just a title and author is enough to whet your appetites, I’m sure!

Here they are:

Cabin fever — Tom M Fate

Ranger confidential — Andrea Lankford

Grizzlies and white guys — Clayton Mack

Happy reading!