Friday, 14 August 2015

Lessons Learned: 10 Tips for Your First Portaging Trip - Part I

Hot off our very first portage trip Sam and myself learned some valuable lessons and want to share them with you. Here are 5 things I learned about what to do before, after and during your portage trip.

1. Ditch the Packaging and go All Ziploc

A bear canister fills up fast with less food than you’d imagine. My recommendation is to take any food that has air in it and put it into a Ziploc bag. This will save you a ton of space. After repackaging use a marker or painters tape and label each bag to easily identify your food. 

Bonus Tip: Load the canister or bag in order of your consumption plan (day 1’s meals at the top and your last days meals at the bottom). That way you don’t have to dig deep to get your eats or repack it daily.

Transferred food from original packaging to Ziploc bags
Food transferred from store packaging to Ziploc bags. Saves a ton of space in your bear canister.

2. Baby Wipes over Toilet Paper

Ditch the toilet paper and jump over to baby wipes. Not only do they pack up smaller but they can also get wet and are multi-purpose (washing your face, hands, wiping your butt, etc). The only concern is their scent, so save some room in your bear canister or bear bag. Trust me your butt will be much happier after crouching in the bush with these!

3. Invest in the Right Gear

Too often people buy an inferior product because of the price tag. The truth is you get what you pay for; you don’t need to run out and buy a $4000 tent. But think about this, do you want to spend $300 on a tent now that is built to last 20 years or do you want to spend $80-100 every 3 to 5 years on one at your local big box? The way I have approached gear is that I am slowly building up to having exactly what I want by making key purchases every season. I’m spreading out what I can deal with and what I need to purchase in order to maintain my budget. Make one big purchase (tent, sleeping bag or pack) and add on one slightly less expensive item and within 3 summers you will have a superb set up without breaking the bank.

Ed's Kelty Grand Mesa 2 tent set up with a starlight sky background
Ed's new Kelty Grand Mesa 2 tent. Lighter and easier to assemble than his old tent.

4. Aim to Pack Less but Pack Smart

Less is more, especially when you have to carry everything you will need on your back. The keyword there was what you “need”. Reduce clothing to items you can stretch out for the duration of your trip and pack layers. On a recent 4 day portage trip I wore the same shirt, shorts and sweater for the entire trip; I’m not trying to impress anyone. Also make sure you have only essential items that you are able to comfortably carry. Real Man Travels recommends laying out all of the gear you think you’d need on the floor of your home. Then start to pick out non essentials until you are left with about 60-75% of what you had. From there load up your pack and see how it feels. If it is still too heavy think outside of the box on how to reduce, or give weight to a partner that has a lighter load. Just remember that walking around the house for 2 minutes with a full pack is not the same as a trail for an hour or more.

Bonus Tip: Pack a bag with fresh underwear and other clothing and leave it in your vehicle for when you re-enter society. Fresh clothes will go a long way for the ride home, or that pit stop at a pub for a much needed beer.

5. Portage with the Right People

This may be an oversight but if you are going to be canoeing and camping out in the wild for an extended period of time, you better like the people you are going with. Let’s face it, a trip can be make or break depending on the people attending. Positivity is key so eliminate anyone who will be a negative strain; the last thing you want is a Debbie downer moaning and crying when the day is filled with bugs, rain or some other undesirable element. If you are blending groups of friends, choose wisely who can attend. Look for similar humour styles, similar attitude towards the outdoors, similar interests, etc.

Sam and Derek shore fishing
Fishing with a straw hat is an automatic in with our group. Sam and Derek doing some shore fishing. 

Those are my 5 things learned from this portage trip, be sure to come back later and check out part II when Sam will reveal what he has learned.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Real Man Tested: GSI Pinnacle Soloist

A few members of the Real Man Travels team recently went on a four day portage trip in Ontario's beautiful Massasauga Provincial Park. This was our first real portage trip together with no coolers, luxuries or special amenities, so we had to be smart about the items we packed. The decision to mostly use just add water food for our meals made the most sense for weight and convenience. Enter the GSI Pinnacle Soloist cook set to boil all of the water for my meals. I bought this set at MEC for $45.50 + tax and put it to the test. Here are the results I found:

1. What You Get

The GSI Pinnacle Soloist comes with a 1.1L pot with an attached handle that swings up and down, a lid with an integrated strainer and spout, a 590mL cup with a removable insulation strip, a “foon” (telescopic spork), a stove bag made for an MSR Pocket Rocket style stove (stove not included), and a stuff sack that can double up as a wash basin.

Included items in the GSI Pinnacle Soloist
Included in the set: A 1.1L pot, telescopic foon, cup with insulating strip, a wash basin and a strainer/lid.

2. Look and Feel

When I first went to MEC and looked at this set my initial reaction was that it is small... much smaller than I thought it would be. After unboxing it at home and seeing how it all stacks up within itself I realized that this was a well thought out product.

The pot feels sturdy and light and the rubberized handle sits firm in its locked positions. The plastic bowl has a little bit of flex but not too much to be nervous about squeezing out your contents while holding it. The pot lid is a hard plastic and I was skeptical about it not melting when in use. The stuff sack has a rubberized interior which allows it to stand on its own making it believable for use as a wash basin. The stove bag was a generic pouch made of canvas material. The telescopic foon (spork) felt flimsy and cheap in comparison to the rest of the superior contents.

3. Ease of Use

Unpacking and packing up the stove is a breeze as all the components fit into each other perfectly. As for actually using the product, it’s as simple as: fill the pot with water, set it on a lit stove and let the water boil, add food, fill your bowl with your cooked food, eat with the foon and clean up.

GSI Pinnacle Soloist on a MSR Pocket Rocket Stove
Simple stove to boil water!

4. Actual vs. Advertised

The GSI Pinnacle Soloist is advertised as a trail solution for one person, but I found that if anyone else in the group has their own mess kit it could actually be beneficial for two people. 1.1L of water is enough to make two Knorr Sidekicks or two of most Mountain House meals, two cups of coffee in the morning etc. And if there isn't enough water in the first boil, it doesn't take very long to boil another full pot.

All of the included components work as advertised, my only gripe is that the telescopic foon is flimsy, cheap feeling and retracts itself under the pressure of you scraping the edges of the bowl for the last little morsels of food.

5. Value

Priced at $45.50 CAD at MEC, I believe this was a steal as some big box retailers offer crappier products that are bulkier and don’t include everything you need for a similar price. This complete storage system allows for a small fuel canister and a stove to be packed into it so the space and bulk savings in my pack is well worth the price tag.

6. Practicality

500mL of water took, on average, three minutes to boil, and a full pot took about five to seven minutes (under perfect conditions). This meant I wasn't waiting too long to eat my meals. I ended up sharing the pot with a buddy and it worked well for the two of us. This set is small and took up very little real estate in my pack. I’d say this is a perfect set for a backpacking or portage trip where the luxuries are left behind. It could also be used on a car camping or “glamping” trip where you would want instant coffee or instant oatmeal in the morning.

Noodles in the GSI Pinnacle Soloist bowl/mug/cup
Ain't nothing like a bowl of noodles after a long day of portaging!

7. Overall Impression and Final Score

Overall I am very impressed with this set. The pot boiled the water quickly, the cup held a generous amount of food and was soft enough to grip yet firm enough to not spill contents. The foon, unfortunately, was junk and I would recommend grabbing something else that is a similar size to keep the integrity of the way the set packs up. I never used the stuff sack as a sink, but it is capable of the function, even if it seems a little small. The entire set packs up tiny, and is pretty cheap. I will definitely be using this set in the future for my adventures and would definitely recommend it for your next adventure.

4.5/5 rating for the GSI Pinnacle Soloist
A well deserved score of 4.5/5 for the GSI Pinnacle Soloist