Tag Archives: equipment

Bushwalking Equipment | Can I Really Do Without a Smartphone?

As a bushwalker, can you afford not to own a smartphone? Which smartphone apps can replace dedicated equipment? What are the limitations?

Over the last few years technology has made smartphones invaluable to bushwalkers, replacing many of the devices, which previously had to be bought and carried individually.

Probably the first device carried by bushwalkers to be incorporated into the iPhone was the still and movie camera. Today’s smartphone has a high quality camera which can take video and stills, including panoramas, mark each with the location at which the photo was taken, and then upload it to the web using wifi or mobile (cellular) data.

Next, the GPS became available, allowing routes to be mapped live, waypoints determined and marked, and distances accurately determined. Recently, apps which allow the viewing of calibrated digital maps have become commonly available, and some apps now incorporate the navigation features found in a dedicated GPS. High resolution colour screens make viewing these maps and navigational features easy. Modern smartphones have built-in compasses which can be calibrated and are accurate enough for the day walker, but not accurate enough for bearings over long distances.

Then high quality heart rate sensors came on the market which could pair with a smartphone, initially using a “dongle” plugged into the earphone socket but more recently using low energy interference-free Bluetooth.

Some apps even use the smartphone camera and built-in light to measure blood flow pulses in a finger, without the need for an independent sensor. Fitness training had become more scientific!

The next advance was the ability to measure heart rate variability (HRV) (see previous post), using the powerful analysis capabilities of modern smartphones. Initially measuring HRV was only possible with expensive laboratory based equipment, but soon Polar had incorporated this ability into some of their top-of-the-line wrist computers. In the last few years, this technology has migrated to the smart phone, allowing bushwalk training to be fine tuned.

Bush walkers visiting remote areas often feel the need to take emergency devices with them to obtain help if an emergency occurs. We are all familiar with personal location beacons (PLBs) which can transmit a message, including location, to an overhead satellite, and from there to emergency rescue services.

SPOT gen3 s can send a message via satellite to your emergency contacts or to the same rescue service. Version three is much better functionally according to the reviews, but has a more expensive subscription.

Recently smartphone apps (GetHomeSafe) have become available which can send an SMS or email, if a bushwalker fails to return on time, without the need for any action by the “injured” or “lost” person or instantly in a critical emergency to a contact list or even rescue services directly, including the current location, participant details and a route plan. “You don’t need a working phone (be within range) or even to be be conscious for an alert to be sent.”

Bush walkers on day walks and within range of a mobile tower, up to 70 km from a high enough vantage point, can add weather and tide apps  and the ability to visualise routes or places in 3D using Google Earth.

We now have GPS, fitness, navigation, mapping, emergency notification and weather services available at low cost in the one device! The only problem is a lack of battery capacity, but even this can be overcome to some extent with a solar charger.

What is next?
How do you overcome these limitations?
Where will the future take us?

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Bushwalking Fitness | Pt 2. Using a Heart Rate Monitor and a Smartphone to Measure Fitness Variables

Knowledge of which heart rate variables can help you to plan your training? Can a heart rate monitor help you decide whether you are over-training? How do you know if you are getting fitter? How can measuring heart rate variability (HRV) help you decide?

Disclaimer:  I am not a trained sports medicine professional, and therefore the advice given here needs to be checked with your doctor or fitness professional before application. Values vary enormously from person-to-person and depend on your health, age, gender and fitness level. Sometimes a value which would be excellent for a very fit person can indicate a heart malfunction for someone who has a sedentary lifestyle.

As mentioned in the previous post, there are now a number of low cost, high quality smartphone (both Apple and Android) apps which allow you to very accurately measure, and store, many of the heart rate variables of interest to bushwalkers and other athletes.

Aerobic Capacity (VO2 max)

This is one of the most reliable measures of your cardiovascular fitness, and measures your body’s aerobic capacity ie  ability to take up and use oxygen.

Some smartphone apps such as Polar Beat and many of the Polar wrist computers with OwnIndex®  can estimate this with 86-93% accuracy by measuring your heart rate (255 beats) over 3-5 minutes, when you are lying flat at rest.  The watch takes into account your resting heart rate and HR variability, along with body weight, height, and activity level. Care is needed in taking measurements in a consistent manner, usually as early in the morning as possible, before any activity, to allow day-to-day comparisons.

The improvement you may observe in as little as 4 weeks of aerobic training, is more important than the absolute value, and tells you whether your training program has been successful. I have used an F11 Polar wrist heart rate monitor for many years, and find that measurements taken every week give a very reliable indicator of my fitness trend.

You can download a copy of the Polar OwnIndex® chart,  which gives you an indication of your level of fitness, based on age and gender.

More…

Heart Rate Variability (HRV)

Overtraining is a major worry for those who train hard and often, as it may take many months to years to recover. Fortunately, overtraining can be predicted (controversial) by some high quality heart rate monitors and appropriate apps, which are able to sense small variations in resting heart rate and heart rate variability, the variation in the time difference between peaks,  from day to day. In general, HRV decreases with overtraining and resting heart rate increases.

These apps (see previous post)  can measure your HRV, in a few minutes prior to each day’s training, and advise whether you need a rest day for recovery, or whether you are making real progress. They are sensitive enough to be able to detect an approaching illness, changes in stress level, over-training and even variation in diet, if coupled with a high quality heart rate sensor (eg BlueTooth Polar H7); far more reliable and sensitive than the Tanita body composition scales I had been using until now to measure fitness trends.

These apps are widely used by athletes and professional sports people and have a lot of sports science research to back up their reliability claims. In the few days, since I have been measuring HRV, I have found these apps  easy and quick to use and that they produce results consistent with my subjective assessment.

While trends on their own are useful, they are much more valuable if the trends can be correlated with changes in activity, diet, stress, training load etc. and several of these apps allow this “environmental” data to be logged simultaneously. Other apps such as Precision Pulse, allow training load to be calculated objectively, using the TRIMP method. Without an accurate measurement of your training load, a meaningful assessment of the trend is difficult.

More….

Maximum Heart Rate (HRmax)

 If you are using a heart rate monitor to adjust your training load then you need to know your maximum heart rate (HRmax), as it is essential measurement to determine your training zones. This can be estimated by a formula, but the actual value (as measured by a heart rate stress test) will vary in the range ± 20 bpm for most people.

Many smartphone apps use one of these formulae to calculate your HRmax, but usually offer the opportunity to enter a user value, if you have had it measured accurately.

During my training sessions of about 4 km, which include a 200m climb and a similar descent, my maximum heart rate reaches an average of about 82% of my HRmax (162 for myself) and my average heart rate is about 63% of HRmax.

More…

Resting Heart Rate (HRrest)

This is usually measured after 15-20 minutes of lying down, before your day starts. If you are using a HRM, wait until it stabilises. The value depends upon fitness, stress, diet and health status, which varies on a daily basis. Very low HRrest may indicate a heart abnormality in someone who is not an athlete.

 As you get fitter your resting heart rate should get lower. My average HRrest is 44, but varies daily  between 40 and 49. An increase of more than few beats can indicate that your are over-training, but there are many other possible explanations, hence this measurement on its own has limited value.

Heart Recovery Rate (HRrec)

Heart rate recovery, a measure of the drop in heart rate when you stop exercising, is considered an excellent measure of fitness, with a more rapid drop indicating a higher level of fitness. After 30 minutes, your heart rate should have returned to its pre-exercise value, and if greater than 120 after 5 minutes, you have probably pushed yourself too hard. Walking slowly (cool down) for 5 minutes after stopping exercise is advised to increase recovery and reduce heart stress.

An alternative method involves taking your pulse during exercise and then again 1 minute after cessation. Divide the difference by 10 to get the Recovery Rate Number.

  • Outstanding greater than 6
  • Excellent 4-6
  • Good 3-4
  • Fair 2-3
  • Poor less than 2

You should consult a doctor if it is 1.2 or lower, as there is a potential heart risk.

The recovery rate is independent of age, but is linked to fitness and heart mortality.

More….

Orthostatic Heart Rate (OHR)

Your heart rate increases when you stand, and this increase is usually in the range 15-20 bpm. If it is greater than this you have probably not recovered from training the previous day, are under stress or have an illness approaching.  This can be used as a rough guide to your fitness, as the lower this figure, the fitter your heart.

Measurements should be made after 15 minutes resting in a supine position (HRrest) and then again 15 seconds after standing, or alternatively just take the maximum reached after standing.

Alternatively, the difference between the your resting HR and standing HR  can be recorded over a few weeks and the average used as a guide to decide the meaning of each day’s measurement and how to vary your training. My average difference (OHR) is 14 but varies widely between 6 and 31 depending on whether I have over-reached or have an illness approaching.

More…

Heart Rate Training Zones

There are many apps and web sites that allow you to calculate your heart rate zones, if you know your resting pulse and maximum heart rate. If you don’t already know this, you can allow the app to estimate it from your age. Polar have a free app Polar Beat which can monitor your training while it is actually happening and store the results, but I prefer to use Walkmeter, as it gives excellent voice (Australian) feedback during the walk and  can be controlled with the remote.

Typically 60-70% of HRmax is your fat burning and recovery zone, 70-80% is your aerobic zone, 80-90% is your anaerobic zone, and 90-100% is reserved for interval training. Depending on your reasons for training, it is important to keep within the correct zones, otherwise all your efforts can be wasted

One of the main limitations of this method is that heart rate varies depending on dehydration (+ 7.5%), heat and humidity (+10 bpm), altitude (+10-20%) and natural biological variation (± 2-4 bpm). BrianMac

More…

Related Posts

Bushwalking Fitness | Pt 1 Smart Phone Apps to Fine Tune your Bushwalk Training  
Bushwalking Fitness | Pt 3 My Choice of Smartphone Apps for Fitness Training
Other Fitness Posts

Some more references

Bushwalking Fitness (14)
Training with iThlete
Maximum Heart Rate (BrianMAC)
Heat Rate Training Zones (BrianMAC)
More about the Polar Fitness Test 
Heart rate training limitations 
What Makes a Difference in Heart Rate Recovery Time After a Workout?
How Long After Working Out Does Your Heart Rate Return to Base?

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Bushwalking Fitness | Pt 1 Smart Phone Apps to Fine Tune your Bushwalk Training

Have you ever wondered whether you’re actually getting fitter for bushwalking? Are you over-training? Should you skip a training session due to illness or stress? Would a heart rate monitor (HRM) help? Can a smartphone replace a wrist HRM? Which smartphone apps are available to help?

Most of us judge whether we are getting fitter by subjectively assessing our level of tiredness/soreness/shortness of breadth after a strenuous walk or by trying objectively to beat our PB (personal best) on a fixed route. We may even use a smartphone app such as Walkmeter, Polar Beat, or Precision Pulse to record our training sessions, and hopefully progress.

Polar Beat

 We may think that spending more time training and climbing steeper slopes (ie increasing volume and intensity) will help, but that is not always so. Sometimes we can over-train which will be detrimental to our performance, sometimes setting back our progress for months. There are affordable smartphone apps than can help prevent over-training. (eg HRV4training, iThlete, bioForce HRV)

iThlete

Heart rate monitors have recently become affordable, with iPhone and Android apps costing only a few dollars now, replacing expensive wrist watches worth hundreds of dollars. All your need is a smart phone with a camera, and with some persistence, and a lot of trial and error, you may not even need a chest belt with heart rate sensor. (NB: some user comments, supported by my own experience, suggest that this method is often inaccurate, so I would recommend using a Bluetooth HR sensor such as the Polar H7.)

Heart rate monitors are able to measure a wide variety of heart variables that are very useful indicators of your fitness:

  • heart rate variability (HRV); time variation between your heart beats
  • resting heart rate  (HRrest): your minimum heart rate, when lying down, at rest
  • heart rate recovery (HRrec): the number of beats  your heart rate drops in a minute after reaching a peak, following intense exercise.
  • heart rate orthostatic (HRortho): measures the difference between HRrest and the maximum rate achieved on standing (or after 15 seconds)
  • aerobic capacity (VO2max): can be estimated by doing a Polar “fitness test”

The measuring of these variables was once solely in the domain of exercise physiologist using equipment worth many thousands of dollars, but then in 1983 Polar developed a chest strap with heart rate sensor (transmitter) and wrist receiver.  Heart rate monitoring (HRM) became relatively affordable for most athletes, with the cost dropping to a few hundred dollars.

In the last few years, with the development of the iPhone 4S or 5, which both have Bluetooth, wrist worn receivers are no longer necessary, with the smartphone taking over this job. iPhone apps able to perform as well as equipment once worth thousands of dollars, now cost less that $10 with some even free. Equivalent Android apps are coming on the market at a rapid rate. Chest sensors to monitor heart rate cost less than $100.

We have all seen professional athletes wearing heart rate and GPS transmitters, during sports. The science is well developed and much of this knowledge is now applicable to bushwalking.

The next post (Bushwalking Fitness | Pt 2. Using a Heart Rate Monitor and a Smartphone to Measure Fitness Variables ) in this series looks in more detail at the important fitness variables which can be measured by a smartphone and heart rate sensor and how they might be used to fine tune your training.

The final post Bushwalking Fitness | Pt 3 My Choice of Smartphone Apps for Fitness Training answers the questions:

Which apps should I choose to monitor my fitness? How should they be integrated? How should I fine tune my training, using the data collected?

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Bushwalking Equipment | Boiling Water on a Wood Fire

Want to quickly boil water on an open wood fire? Tried a traditional Stockman’s Quart Pot yet?

History

Boiling water on an open fire is a tradition that is fast disappearing as “Stoves Only” signs become more common in our parks and campgrounds. While the opportunity remains, why not try a traditional method that has been around for well over a 100 years and was used by the cavalry in the Boer War and by our early drovers and stock men?

Traditional tin
Modern stainless steel

On my last few bushwalks to the Flinders Ranges, I have used one of these traditional pots and found it to be excellent. I have listed some advantages and disadvantages to help you decide.

Advantages

  • Steeped in history
  • No wire bail (handle): fold away handles make it easier to pack
  • Fast boil, as it can be placed directly in the coals
  • Dual purpose, as it includes a cup, which also acts as a firmly fitting lid to keep out ash
  • Space saving, with matches, gripper, tea bags, sugar inside
  • High efficiency, as flames surround the pot without any possibility of melting the handles
  • Easy to hold, as wire handles cool quickly
  • Maintains shape and packs easily, due to strength and oval shape
  • Easy to remove from fire with a stick placed through the wire loop on the lid and wire loops on main container (not shown)
  • Large size (1.1L): large drink (500ml) and water for freeze dried pack (400ml)

Disadvantages

  • Weight: heavier than titanium
  • Cools rapidly, compared to a plastic mug
  • Rusts, if you don’t dry before packing, unless you buy the stainless steel version
  • Dangers: don’t let it boil dry or the solder will melt on tin versions (stainless steel versions available)
  • Health Risk: traditional tin version has lead solder

Alternatives

There are a variety of titanium kettles available but they either lack the bail to lift from a fire, have no integrated cup or have plastic coated handles. They are also much easier to damage while packing.

Some Links

Bushcraftoz 

Related posts

Campfire or stove?

What do you use in your campfire?

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Bushwalking Boots | Preventing Blisters in Poorly Fitting Boots

Ever found that perfectly good boots are giving you blisters? Too expensive to throw away? Discover some solutions to this problem.

Leather boots often take ages to break-in. Some brands of expensive leather boots, with a full thickness hide, can take months, before they feel comfortable.

Some  solutions I have tried include:

  • wearing multiple socks to increase the padding ( eg two thick or one thin inner and one thick outer)
  • wearing the boots for a few months, for short durations, until your feet toughen
  • soaking the boots in a bucket of water, and then wearing them until they dry
  • preemptive bandaging of your feet, before beginning your walk
Blister location

The outline sketch on the left shows where I usually got blisters after an extended pack-carrying walk, with my old leather boots. HINT: To help you remember where the blisters occur, make a sketch by standing on a sheet of paper, immediately after your walk
If you have a similar blister pattern, it may be related to where the toe of your boot bends, just below the lower end of the tongue, which often produces a ridge, which can rub on the top of your toes, causing blisters. Try stretching the boot to get rid of the ridge (see below)

Stretch boots
  • add extra padding to your boots eg inner soles (gel are best but expensive and have a shorter life)
  • stretch the boots, by soaking thoroughly and then jamming something like a bottle or log of wood inside the boot and waiting for it to dry.

Don’t forget that:

  • your feet are often different  sizes, and that this can vary depending on the temperature of your feet. Don’t be surprised if you need two socks on one foot and three on the other.
  • leather doesn’t like intense heat. It will crack, if placed too close to a fire. 

Related post

Bushwalking Boots |Selection and Fitting Criteria

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Bushwalking Equipment | Keep Your Camera Working in the Cold and Wet

Ever tried to take photos in the rain on a cold day or come inside from the cold to a nice warm hut/car/tent and wondered why you couldn’t see through the lens? Worried about what will happen when you go outside into the cold and wet?

These are universal problems for outdoors photographers and can be incredibly frustrating, as I recently experienced on the Routeburn Track in New Zealand.

Fortunately the cold itself is not usually a problem for a warm camera ( NB the same applies to your smart phone’s inbuilt camera), as condensation does not form on warm objects and cold air is usually relatively dry. There are of course the dual problems of the rain or snow falling on the lens or getting into the camera electronics and then there are the  batteries, which often fail when cold. No batteries, no photos!

Solving the battery problem is relatively easy. Just keep the camera warm, next to your body, along with a spare set of batteries which you can use to replace the non-functioning cold batteries if needed. Swap them back with the newly warmed batteries, if you need to repeat the process. While they are much more expensive, Lithium batteries last longer and perform better in the cold than NiCad.

The difficulty of shooting photos in the cold and wet is that you often get water on the lens or viewfinder, which either makes it difficult to compose the shot or ruins it completely. Pull your rain jacket hood over your head and use a  peaked cap to keep the water off the lens and camera. Keep the camera inside your jacket near your body, where it’s easy to find, not inside your cold backpack, where both the camera and the pack contents will get wet every time you want to take a photo.

The alternative of course, is not to take the camera out of you pack during rain, but then why bring your camera at all, if you’re not going to use it. Wet weather photos are unique and mountain scenery with rain and snow falling, cascading waterfalls, racing creeks and swirling fog is magical.

If it’s particularly cold and you are wearing gloves, then you have another problem. Take your gloves off and freeze while you operate the buttons or use a camera that is fully automatic. Even better, buy a waterproof fully automatic camera or a single use waterproof camera.

Coming inside after a long day in the cold is the most problematic. The greater the temperature difference between your camera and the warm moist air produced by all those wet clothes drying in front of the fire, the greater will be the condensation on your lens and electronics. The solution of course is to minimise the temperature difference by either pre-warming your camera or slowly letting it warm in the coldest place you can find inside.

Placing your camera in a waterproof bag before you come inside, will make sure that any condensation is on the outside of the bag not on your camera. Then its just a matter of waiting until your camera warms up before you take it out of its bag.

The same applies to your camera card and batteries, let them warm up next to your body before changing them in your camera.

Acknowlegement

Thanks to Bill S from Trailspace and the New York Institute of Photography for the inspiration to write this article. I needed reminding that condensation only occurs on cold surfaces.

Read more
Related posts
How to Use Your Camera in Cold Weather (RitzCamera.com)
Cold Weather Photography (Trailspace)

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iPhone App Review | Tide Prediction

Have you ever wanted to a walk safely along a beach, across a tidal estuary or around a rocky headland? Well of course you could check the BOM website from home before you left, but what if you had forgotten and only had your iPhone with you?

Sometimes knowing when high tide is going to be can be critical to planning a safe bushwalk. There are many locations where part of the walk will be along a beach, around a headland or across a tidal estuary. Often the guide book will warn that if the tide is high you must take and alternative inland route or even camp and wait for the next low tide. Being caught on an exposed headland as the tide advances is not much fun.

In Australia, I have used this information to safely plan walks along the Great Ocean Walk in South West Victoria and along the South Coast Track in Tasmania.

The following list of iPhone apps includes one that is actually a weather app which includes tides as one of its features.

AU Tides Pro

AU Tides Pro Screenshot

Contains downloaded database for 2010-2012, which means you don’t need to be connected to the internet

World Tides 2012

Contain downloaded database for 2012 only, which means you will need to buy a new version at the end of 2012. This app only allows access to tide predictions 6 days ahead. World Tides uses the Simply Harmonic Formula and harmonic constants provided by the UKHO to give 7 day tide predictions without the need for an internet connection. Features: Moon/Sun Rise/Set times, large slidable tide graph, recent locations, built in zoomable map, gps sensor, search, and details page. 

Pocket Weather AU

Pocket Weather screen shot

I have used this as my weather app for over a year and don’t see the need for an additional tide app. It does need internet access which makes it useless in remote areas, unlike the other three which actually download the tide database. Weather is sourced directly from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) – an Australian Source for Australian Weather! #1 Weather Application in Australia, Best Australian App winner, Staff Pick in iTunes Store many times –

Shralp Tide (FREE)

Shralp Tide Screenshot

No network connection is required, so you can check anytime, anywhere. ShralpTide displays the current tide along with the high and low tides for the current day and the next 4 days. Includes an INTERACTIVE FULLSCREEN TIDE GRAPH in landscape mode. Turn the device on its side then touch the screen to see the tide at any time in the 24 hour window. Shralp Tide does not include all of the tide stations in the world. It has good coverage of the US and Canadian coasts as well as Australia, New Zealand and Japan. Beyond that there is spotty coverage of international locations.

The benefit of an iPhone tide app is that the calculations are done automatically for you if you select one of the non-standard ports. Of course, your iPhone probably has a GPS, in which case the app will work out what is the appropriate location on which to predict your tides.

You can of course use the Bureau of Meteorology’s tide predictions available on their website, which are based on a series of “standard ports” around Australia. In Tasmania, Hobart is one of the five standard and one secondary ports with calculated tide predictions available. Time differences for a limited number of other secondary ports are provided so you can work approximate tide times yourself by adding or subtracting the time difference.( see map below)

From BOM

I don’t know the technical side but my iPhone app Shralp Tide gives the following for Wednesday 28 December for the first high tide.

  • Maatsuyker Island (south of the bottom of Tasmania) high tide at 1.31 am as 0.69m
  • Hobart: high tide at 12.34 am of 1.05m
  • Bramble Cove : HIgh 3.17 am 0.78m

Bathurst Harbour is not listed nor Port Davey; you must use Bramble Cove.

BOM Tasmania gives Hobart as the nearest standard port and lists tides at secondary “ports” as a time difference from Hobart

Hobart HIGH at 1:02 AM 1:07m

  • Maatsuyker Island +0:25 H:M
  • Bramble Cove, near Port Davey is -0:48 H:M
  • Hobart 0:0

Using these differences the iPhone app gives a pretty close estimate except for Bramble Cove which seems to be way out!

PS Don’t forget to allow for daylight saving if not done automatically by the app.

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Bushwalking Equipment | The Ideal Camp / Hut Shoes

There is nothing like stepping out of you hiking boots at the end of a long day into something more comfortable. Need to go outside in the middle of the night? What are the alternatives?

I’ve just come back from a few weeks in NZ, and during this time decided that, despite what others might think of me, the time was right to buy a pair of  Crocs.

Crocs Yukon Sport

NZ huts require that you remove your boots before entry and either leave them at the entrance or in the drying area. In the middle of the night, “the call of nature” may require a 25m walk through the bush; hardly something you can do in your socks, and without waking the whole hut, putting on your heavy wet boots is not an option.

What should you look for in the ideal hut/camp shoe?

  • comfortable
  • lightweight
  • compact
  • non-slip sole
  • adaptable for emergency use
  • waterproof
  • drain easily
  • quick drying
  • reasonably thick sole
  • long wearing
  • stop on your feet

I want to be able to wear my camp shoes on the trail,  cross rocky creeks in them if needed, AND use them in the hut or around my tent.

What are the options?  

Thongs/flip-flops, Crocs, neoprene or fleece booties, thick socks, Dunlop Volleys, Vibram FiveFingers shoes…. I’ve seen them all and each has their supporters. Unfortunately, none of these will satisfy all your needs and so each becomes a compromise, decided by personal preference and your environment.

Dunlop OC Volleys

I have used neoprene boots in the past. These are lightweight, compact but have thin soles which make them unsuitable for rocky ground and they don’t dry or drain easily.

Fleece boots are great in a hut; warm, lightweight, reasonably compact, but unsuitable for outside use.

Thongs are compact, lightweight, cheap but lack grip and slip easily off your feet.

Volleys have their ardent supporters and meet most of the criteria, but are reasonably heavy, get dirty easily and don’t dry quickly; not really what you want in a hut.

Vibram FiveFingers (VFFs) are new on the scene, lack a thick sole or heel and imitate barefoot walking, which is something that most of us don’t often do. Take care, they use muscles and parts of your foot that you have probably neglected. They are not the sort of shoes you can put on and walk for kilometres without previous experience.

Crocs meet almost all criteria, except they are a little bulky!

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Bushwalking Equipment | Do closed cell foam sleeping mats absorb water?

You’ve probably heard comments that closed cell sleeping mats don’t absorb water, but is it true?

Intuitively, most people don’t trust the sales talk that closed cell foam pads don’t absorb water.

Thermarest Z Lite

On any track you will see that most people carry their closed cell pad in a plastic bag, strapped to the outside of their packs. If it has rained heavily, you will see them drying their mat in front of the fire.

Well what do the gear review websites say? Anything from they don’t absorb water at all, to they absorb very little. What is the truth? Well this depends on the quality of the mat you have and how much contact the mat has had with water.

My closed cell foam mat absorbed about 17- 25% of its weight in water, depending upon how I exposed it to the water. Deep submersion along with squeezing absorbed more than a superficial sprinkling from the garden hose

My advice would be to keep your mat inside your pack, where it will not be exposed directly to water, perhaps even using it as a pack liner.

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Tramping the Routeburn Track in New Zealand

Tramping (bushwalking, trekking, hiking for non-NZanders) the Routeburn Track recently showed me how variable the weather in the South Island can be….sunny one moment, foggy and raining the next, with snow falling a few hundred metres above the tree line. What fantastic scenery!

I’ve just come back (mid-November) from tramping the Routeburn Track over three days starting from the Routeburn Shelter and finishing at The Divide, with overnight stops at Routeburn Falls Hut and Lake Mackenzie Hut.

While not a difficult walk,  full wet weather gear and winter clothing is essential for safety reasons, even in summer. Waterproof boots make the days much more comfortable.

This was a most enjoyable walk despite the fact that it rained for most of the time, as the alpine scenery was awe-inspiring with the mists swirling into the valleys, the snow capped mountains towering hundred of metres above and thousands of waterfalls, which are often non-existent in drier months. Sometimes the sun would break through the clouds revealing the majestic scenery and the glacial valleys with their braided rivers. It’s no wonder that the South Island is the location for the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings movies.

I did not regret having booked a bed in the huts through DOC, as enjoying the camaraderie of fellow walkers, often from distant parts of the world, along with the evening talks by the hut wardens were highlights. In wet weather, there is nothing like a warm fire to dry out your clothes, and a comfortable mattress at night, without the sound of roaring winds and pelting rain. Of course, there are disadvantages, such as a lack of privacy and the disruption to sleep by snorers and those getting up in the night to go outside.

The DOC huts (pdf brochure download) offer a touch of convenience and comfort not available to those who pitch a tent.

November is at the beginning of the walking season and as such the risk of avalanche is often present to the extent that the track is either closed or helicopter transfers necessary to avoid the danger. This proved to be true in our case, with a heli-shuttle operating past the overhanging snow cliffs from Lake Harris to the Harris Saddle shelter, ……at our cost of course!

I never cease to be amazed by those who attempt such walks without even a waterproof jacket and sand shoes, which offer no protection against the freezing cold rivulets crossing the track. No wonder people have died from hypothermia on this track before!

Some more closely related posts: Routeburn Track (8)

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