Exploring Equipment

I figured, since I’m not posting as much as I did in the warmer weather, I would do a post on some of the equipment I use, or will use, to get the most out of my treks into the wilderness.

I’m not one for owning a lot of stuff, in fact, I don’t even own any furniture.  All I have is the basic necessities so that, if I choose, I can pick up and leave without any trouble at all.  Everything I own will fit into my Ford Expedition aka mini RV.

Most of the stuff I do have is related to doing what I love to do, explore.  So, I’m going to go through some of these things and give a bit of a description of how and why I use them.

This idea actually came about because of my latest acquisition which will vastly increase my ability to penetrate the dense bush in this area.  I’ve always been an avid canoeist/kayaker and I’ve spent some of my most memorable times exploring in two canoes that I built myself and then a hard shell kayak that I purchased.

However, once I started my more mobile lifestyle, I couldn’t take those types of watercraft with me.  They were just too large for me to keep given my limited storage space for such items.  So, recently something else caught my attention.  What about a kayak that was portable in some way?  A take-apart, or an inflatable?

I did tons of research on these types of watercraft and I was very impressed with the variety and quality of what was available in the market these days.  After sifting through many different types and formats and checking user reviews for all of them, I finally decided on the one that both suited me best and was the best all-around quality for the money.  Here it is;

This is the Advanced Elements, AdvancedFrame model, inflatable solo kayak.  In all my researching, I never saw a bad review of this kayak and everyone remarked on the superior quality of it’s construction.  In fact, this is probably one of the most popular inflatable kayaks on the market today.

The kayak only weighs 36 lbs and it deflates and folds up into the bag you see underneath it.  Beside the bag, is the pump I use to inflate it.  It’s a double action pump, which means that you are pumping air in with both the up and the down stroke.  I was amazed at how fast this thing pumps up the kayak.

So, if you are like me and most other people, you might think that an inflatable kayak might be a bit risky, with the possibility of puncture always looming.  Well, after actually having this kayak to see and feel myself, I’m no longer concerned with the possibility of punctures.  When this kayak is fully inflated it feels and, as you can see, looks like a full fledged hard shell kayak.  The material is three layers thick and the only way I can see to actually puncture it is to take a knife and thrust it as hard as you can into it.

However, if the most unlikely event of a puncture ever did happen, there are a number of separate air chambers so there would never be a danger of taking an unexpected swim.  From all the reviews I’ve read, even if you try to tip this thing over it’s almost impossible.

I’m going to be adding a few of my own personal features to the kayak as I go along.  I’ve already added a retractable 20 foot 550 paracord line for multiple uses such as anchor, tie off, or who knows what else might come up.  However, I will be changing this to a 50 foot cord with a float on the end to comply with legal requirements for canoes and kayaks.

For anyone interested, more information can be found on this and other Advanced Elements kayaks here;

http://www.advancedelements.com/advancedframe.html

There are, literally, thousands of lakes in this immediate area and many of them are connected via a river or channel or even a short portage so the exploring possibilities that this piece of equipment provides certainly justified the cost for me.  Many people around here use ATV’s or snowmobiles to get around but my problem with them is the ongoing costs.  This form of transportation  was just a one time cost and virtually no maintenance and it just suited me best.

When the snow and ice melt, you will most likely see a lot of pictures of and from this kayak and it is a most welcome addition to my exploring stuff.

Next, we have what are probably one of the most important pieces of multipurpose equipment that I use out in the bush.

These are two of my walking sticks.  I made them myself so I know that I can count on them for many uses.

At the top of both of these walking sticks there is a short threaded steel stud sticking out.  You can see the one on the left and the one on the right is just covered by a rubber grommet.  These studs screw into the bottom of most cameras, which have a 1/4 – 20 thread pitch.  I use this feature when I want to eliminate the possibility of camera shake.  I just stick the pointed end of the walking stick in the ground and then screw my camera onto the top of it.

At the bottom of the walking sticks, you can see that there is a steel point.  These points are hardened steel punches from a machine shop I used to work in and they are drilled about six inches into the stick and epoxied in place.  These points provide a sure grip on slippery surfaces as well as a very durable end that will last indefinitely and they can be sharpened if required.

Some people I meet on the trail carry bear spray, some bring dogs with them, thinking erroneously, that this will provide protection in case of an unlikely bear attack.  I carry my walking stick and I feel very secure with it in my hand and at the ready at all times.  Bear spray is no good to you if you have to struggle to get it out and figure out how to fire it, hoping that the wind is blowing in the right direction.  In all my study of bear attacks I’ve found that they usually happen very quickly and very quietly, so there is very little time to react.  Granted, bear attacks are rare but I feel that I’ve done the most that I can do to be properly prepared.  Bringing dogs along is a very common mistake when in bear country.  Dogs will often provoke aggressive behavior from bears instead of providing protection.

Another interesting feature of these walking sticks is the actual wood.  I found this wood quite by accident and I still do not know the species of wood that it is.  One time when I used to own a piece of property near Sundridge, ON, I was searching for fire wood one night and picked up these sticks.  Some of them were a bit longer so I had to break them to put them in the fire.  Usually, I would just lean a stick up again the deck attached to the trailer I had there and jump on it to break it.  Well, there was absolutely nothing I could do to break these particular sticks.  I threw everything I had into jumping and pounding on these sticks and they simply would not break.  So, I decided to make, what I felt would be, a most useful tool out of them.  A virtually unbreakable walking stick.  I never go into the wilderness without my walking stick.

Here’s another means of winter travel that I recently acquired;

I haven’t actually had a chance to try these out yet but I thought that they might come in handy in these parts.  So far I haven’t needed them since the snow hasn’t been all that much of a problem in regards to walking in it but that will probably change so it will be interesting to try these out some time.

There are many types of snowshoes on the market and most of the newer kinds are made using an aluminum tube frame.  I liked these kind because they retain some of the old ways using a wood frame as well as incorporating new style webbing.  Also, these Faber Winter Walkers are a lot narrower than others styles and I won’t have to walk like I just got off a Harley.

Here are the two backpacks that I will be using for most of my hiking and kayaking trips.  The larger one on the left is a Canadian army surplus pack and it is very well made with heavy duty waterproof material.  It’s not a huge pack but I didn’t want a real big, cumbersome unit.  I figure that I can fit most of what I will ever need into this pack and I can also clip my sleeping bag onto the bottom of it if required.

The smaller pack will be just for day hikes where I don’t need to haul the extra weight and bulk of the larger pack.  It took me quite a while to find this smaller pack because they aren’t all that popular.  For the most part, I will just be putting a sandwich or some sort of smaller snacks plus maybe a camera and then this item;

This is called a CamelBak and it will go inside either backpack and will hold any fluids that I choose to drink.  The hose is routed out of the pack and over my shoulder so that I can have access to a drink any time I choose without having to stop and open anything up.   Short sips as you go are always the preferred method of taking  fluids while hiking or any other form of exercise, instead of stopping and gulping down larger amounts.  This is a very convenient way to handle drinking fluids while on the trail or in the kayak.  And, the best thing about this item was that I didn’t have to buy it, I got it from my son for Christmas.  A very thoughtful gift and much appreciated.

Here’s my GPS setup.  The smaller item on the left is a bluetooth GPS receiver.  It sends my location via bluetooth signal to the item on the right, which is my 4th generation ipod.  I have found that this setup works extremely well and it has never failed to plot my location accurately.

I have all the topographical maps of a wide swath of this area downloaded onto my ipod and, since the ipod itself does not have GPS capabilities, I found this small CoPilot GPS on ebay for twenty bucks.  They work very well together and can do anything that a regular handheld GPS can do, along with all the other features of the ipod.  Again, this is a multifunctional piece of equipment and I love multifunctional.  When one item can do the job of a number of items it saves space and weight.

Here’s another means of exploring that doesn’t have any ongoing costs.  I’d like to do some camping trips with this setup at some point.  I could carry just about anything I would need in the trailer.  I purchased the Peugeot bicycle  used for $15. and rebuilt it all, including new flat-proof tires.  I got the trailer off ebay from a dealer in BC.

So, that’s an overview of  some of the equipment I have for the sole purpose of exploring.  As I go along, I may decide to add items if I feel that having any particular item will enhance my experience without causing any undue hardship, either financially, or bulk and weight.  There are also some other smaller items I might add to this post at a later date.

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