Gear Review- Fjallraven Barents Pro Trousers

10 May 2014

With summer nearly here, and with my focus on the desert, this may not be the time to write about a pair of pants that are more cold weather oriented. The Barents Pro trousers are described on the Fjallraven website as “durable trekking trousers for many adventures in the mountains and forests”, which to me translates to cold weather desert treks. I have yet to try them in hot weather, but I will try them this summer in the heat. But after stopping in to the Fjallraven store again yesterday (they are right across from my own shop on the West End of Pearl Street in Boulder), I am once again thinking about the quality, durability, functionality, comfort, and color of Fjallraven products. And especially the Barents Pro trousers.

The Pants
I bought a pair of these pants last fall, and have used them on two trips so far. On the first, last November, I wore them for 8 days. On the most recent trip I wore them for 12 days. And when I say that I wore them I mean that I never took them off. I hiked canyons, through thick brush, climbed around in canyons and on slickrock, waited out a couple of rain storms, tracked and viewed lots of artifacts (on my knees a lot), and slept in them. In both cases not only did the pants show almost no wear, but they hid all the signs of having been out for so long very well. I should note that I have the olive drab colored pants.

The Fjallraven Barents pro trouser in dark olive

The Fjallraven Barents Pro trouser in dark olive.

These are some of the best fitting bush pants that I have ever owned. They have a low waist, and carry no excess fabric anywhere. The knees and seat are double thick, with the knees being pre-shaped so that you do  not notice the thickness. The double knee fabric also forms a pocket which accepts a knee pad- perfect for the tracker. Knee pads are available from Fjallraven, or you can simply cut up a piece of closed cell foam pad and slip it in.

The Barents Pro trousers are made of wind and water resistant G-1000® fabric which comes waxed and can be re-waxed when it starts to wash out. The pants have 7 pockets including a large map pocket (which I am really happy with), and an axe pocket (which I do not have a use for.) The pockets have large, easy to manage snaps for closing them. They come in European waist sizes and one length which they call “raw length”. This means that you will have to get them hemmed- a benefit as I see it since they will fit me exactly. Even with all the features, they are a lightweight pant.

Barents Pro trousers pocket configuration.

The Barents Pro trousers pocket configuration- right side and left side. The axe pocket is the long pocket on the left side, down the side of the leg.

Colors in the Bush
And finally, while color may not be important to most people, it is very important to me, and can set me off on a rant quite easily…. When I am in the bush I must blend in; I cannot and will not use red, yellow, or orange clothing or gear. To me it is a form of pollution, just like people talking in loud voices as they walk down the trail, or leaving their trash in a campsite. I do all I can to buy gear in subtle, subdued colors. My goal in the bush is to blend in, to mentally and physically become part of my surroundings. Wearing blaze orange or its equivalent, unless I am hunting, is not an option.

Most Fjallraven products, including the Barents Pro trousers, come in natural, subdued colors that blend in with nature. The Barents Pro trousers are available in dark olive, dark grey, and sand. Unlike the vast majority of gear makers who apparently make gear for the campus, the club, and the mall, Fjallraven makes gear for the bush, for hiking, for outdoors. Point of note- I asked a couple of different REI employees why clothing is so bright and was given the stock, ridiculous answer that it was a safety issue. Americans apparently get lost a lot and bright colors help them get found. (Does this mean that Europeans don’t really get lost?) I asked a few employees at Golite about the color issue as well. They were quick to say that, unfortunately, colors are what the market wants. The three people I talked to also stated that they had trouble with the colors themselves and wouldn’t use them in the bush! End of rant.

For more on our desert adventures, and the occasional rant, visit the Desert Explorer website.

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Gear Review- Primus Profile Propane Stove

8 February 2014

On nearly every trip we make to the desert there is usually a new piece of gear along. I often try to mention some of them, and write reviews about the gear if I have the time. The Swedish gear maker Fjallraven has recently opened a store in Boulder and I have acquired a couple of pieces of gear from them that are worthy of note. I have a pair of their G1000 Trekking Pants, which I will review in a future post, and a Primus Profile 2-burner propane stove, the focus of this blog.

Primus stove in action. Photo by Gerald Trainor.

Our new Primus stove in action at breakfast. The stand is our own- an old folding stool that fits the stove perfectly.

Th Primus Profile stove is something I have been thinking about for a long time, especially for river trips. Until its purchase, and for the last 25 years, I have been using a basic 2-burner Coleman stove. We are on the second one now; the first gave out after about 20 years. There is nothing wrong with the Coleman stove- it does its job- you fill it, light it, and cook. But it is a bit tedious with the pumping and lighting sequence, especially if there is wind. They are fairly inexpensive to operate, with a gallon of white gas costing around 12 dollars and the stove costing about 100 dollars. For reference, we use about 3-4 liters of white gas on a two week trip, depending on the time of year and how much time we are at the truck.

Primus Set Up
The basic Primus Profile 2-burner costs just about the same as the Coleman, right at 100 dollars. It is available at many stores, including NRS online. The Profile is the basic model stove; there are others in the line with additional features.  The Primus takes about the same amount of time to set up as the Coleman, just a couple of minutes, but lights much easier. Setup requires opening the top, swinging out and locking the side wings into place, and connecting a hose to the stove and to a propane canister. This is where it gets easy- there is no pumping or priming- just open the gas valve to the burner then twist the electronic piezo igniter knob and you have a flame to set your pot on. The Coleman requires preheating, longer in the cold and wind, and there are often flareups to deal with, taking more time before you can start cooking.

Basic Coleman stove and Primus propane stove. Photo by Gerald Trainor.

Basic 2-burner Coleman white gas stove and Primus Profile 2-burner propane stove side by side.

Both stoves are near the same size and weight, with the Primus being a little sleeker and thinner, a bit longer, and with rounded corners. It also feels a little stronger and better built than the Coleman.

Propane Canisters for the Primus
The primary, and really only drawback to the Primus has to do with the cost of disposable propane canisters, near 4 dollars each. On our fall trip we had just started on our fourth canister on our way home, so fuel for the trip was about 15 dollars, about twice the cost of using the Coleman stove. They feel a little bulkier than carrying a few MSR fuel bottles full of white gas. Also, they may not be recyclable, something I consider another negative.

But this problem can be worked around with the purchase of a refillable, one gallon (about 4.2 pounds, equal to 4 or 5 disposable canisters) propane tank. The initial cost is high, around 55 dollars. You will also need an adapter that will fit the disposable one pound canister hose end to the refillable tank. This will cost about another ten dollars. Now you start saving- instead of buying 5-one pound disposable canisters at near 20 dollars, the one gallon tank can be refilled for about four dollars, depending on where you live and where you get it refilled. That is considerable savings, and makes the Primus unbeatable.

End view of Coleman and Primus stoves for comparison. Photo by Gerald Trainor.

End view of both stoves for comparison- Primus is thinner and more rounded in design.

I have only come across one issue so far with the stove. On cold mornings during our November trip, with temperatures around 30 or 35 degrees, the piezo ingiter knob was almost impossible to turn, and lighting required the use of a lighter. Once the stove warmed, it would light with every turn of the knob. I am hoping this may have something to do with the stove being new, and that the igniter will work in the cold once it is broken in.

To summarise, the Primus Profile is quieter and easier to light than the Coleman stove. It is also considerably cheaper to operate as long as you buy a refillable tank. The simmer adjustment allows you to save fuel and really put a burner on simmer. The Primus Profile is sleek and thin, but strong and well-built. A final point of note that made me quite happy was that the Primus Profile doesn’t rattle constantly in the back of the truck the way the Coleman does.

For more about the gear we use and where we use it, visit the Desert Explorer website.


Escalante Trek, May 2011- Gear Reviews

29 May 2011

This post is a continuation of my post from 27 May, which outlined a recent trek down the Escalante River. In this post I will discuss some of the new gear that I tried out on this recent backpack trip. I should state that I am not paid nor sponsored by any of the companies whose products I am writing about. With the exception of Rokit Fuel, I purchased all products reviewed here and was not contacted by any of the companies. Rokit Fuel is a semi- solicited review- I received the products from the company for free for my own trial use.

Golite Malpais Trinity Rain Jacket
My most important piece of new gear on this trip, based on the cool and sometimes wet conditions that I encountered, was the Golite Malpais Trinity Jacket. In packing I hoped for warm weather, but was prepared for anything- and that is where this jacket comes in. Normally I carry only a silcloth poncho which serves as my rain gear, pack cover, and shelter. I also carry a Golite Wisp wind shirt to add a little more protection if it’s windy. On this trip, based on the potential for cool and wet weather, the amount of time I would be out, and the distance involved, I switched the Wisp out for the Malpais. I pulled the jacket out on about day 3 and I barely took it off until I got back to the trailhead. I even slept in it on one particularly cool night.

Golite Malpais jacket

The Golite Malpais Liteshell jacket.

I make every attempt to travel as light as possible and in doing so I haven’t carried rain gear in many years. But this jacket has changed my way of thinking, and I’ll keep it in my pack. The Malpais jacket weighs only 7 ounces, about 3 ounces more than the Wisp shirt. The jacket is made of Golite’s ultralight 3-layer Trinity material, a waterproof, breathable fabric and is the lightest that Golite makes. Besides the Trinity fabric, to get to such a light weight they did away with pit zips, most of the cordlocks, hood stowage, and made the interior pockets out of a super thin mesh material. After days in the jacket, and hour upon hour of rain on one occasion, I was comfortable and dry underneath. Without question, if you are looking for a lightweight rain jacket that will really protect from the elements, this is it.

OTB DesertLite Boots
Next on my list of impressive new gear is the OTB (Over The Beach) DesertLite boot. I needed strong, comfortable footgear for this trek that would perform well on land and not fall apart being wet for 4 or 5 days straight. These boots were designed by U.S. Navy SEALS and are engineered and manufactured by New Balance. Those two facts made me take a closer look at the boots.

The OTB line has in it two 8 inch boots that I looked at- the DesertLite boot and the JungleLite boot. The boots are exactly the same in every respect, except in color and leather finish. The DesertLite boot is available in a tan upper with suede tan leather finish, the JungleLite boot comes in olive drab or black upper with polished black leather. I chose the DesertLite simply because the color fits in better in my area of operation.

OTB DesertLite boots. Photo by Gerrald Trainor.

OTB DesertLite boots.

The boots feature mesh ventilation holes on the instep and the outside of the boot, 3 on a side. These holes function as drain holes when working in a wet environment. The uppers are mesh and drain extremely well and quickly when stepping out of water. I was concerned that the drain holes might let sand in, either in the water or when walking on dry land. I did find that a small amount of fine silt did make its way into the boot, but the amount was negligible. I was also concerned about drying. But each morning when I put the boots back on they were comfortably dry, enough so that if I were on dry land for the day, my feet wouldn’t feel wet. I did set the boots out in the sun on a slab of sandstone one afternoon to see how long they took to dry completely. In about two hours they were dry to the touch, inside and out.

I wore these boots for 8 straight days, they were wet for 6 of those days, and I traveled just over 100 miles in them. The only visible wear in that time is on the “reinforced climbing rubber” on the inside of the toes. A small piece tore off on the upper corner of both boots- I did do a large amount of scrambling up and down and over sandstone boulders and rocks. Other than that, it is hard to tell that I just put a very tough 100 miles on the boots.

As far as I know there are no other boots or shoes out there that are anywhere near comparable to the OTB DesertLite boot. I have tried other “water shoes” (see the reviews from the first part of the Escalante Trek) and found them woefully inadequate- fine for frisbee in the park, but nothing beyond that. The OTB DesertLite boot gets the job done.

Rokit Fuel Endurance Foods
I am constantly refining, amending, and otherwise changing my packing lists, the gear that I carry, and the foods that I carry and eat while in the bush. I make most of my own meals by the way- see our Backpack Foods pages for more on that. I was recently emailed by a representative of Rokit Fuel, a local, Utah company, and asked if I would try their products. As I am always happy to try any new outdoor product on the market, I heartily agreed.

Crystal from Rokit Fuel supplied me with three of their products in various flavors- Stud Muffin and Cherry Almond Cereal Cups, two prototype Energy Bars (not yet on the market- but coming soon as Booster Bars according to the Rokit Fuel website), and four flavors of their Cereal Pouches. I can summarise my experience with all of them in one word- delicious!

Okay, so good taste is obviously important, but what about the energy part of the foods? I have to admit that it is really hard for me to tell sometimes how an energy bar, or endurance food in this case, actually affects me. I can say that I specifically tried the products at a time when I needed a boost, on longer parts of the walk, and in between meals. Based on this I can say without a doubt that I got the boost that I needed. The highlight of all the products is the fact that they are made with whole foods- grains, nuts, seeds, and fruits- and that these foods in minimally processed form are better for you and are digested and absorbed faster by your body then processed foods. The products range in calorie content from about 250 calories for the Cereal Pouches to about 350 calories for the Cereal Cups. There are plenty of carbs, protein, fiber, and other good things you need when out there pushing yourself. See the Rokit Fuel website for a complete nutritional breakdown of all their products.

On to the products- the Cereal Pouch comes in a small bag and requires water. This could be an obvious problem if you are in a race or on your bike for example, but for backpacking it becomes a non-issue. In fact it only took seconds for me to tear the pouch open, squeeze water into it from my Camelbak tube, mix it up and enjoy it. I was concerned about how it might mix up, how long it might take. But again, it wasn’t an issue. Once the water was in it took a few seconds of massaging the pouch until all the ingredients were saturated. And the outcome- imagine a quick few bites of tasty granola cereal in milk right on the trail. Or maybe a liquid granola bar. Either way, it tasted great and I was on my way in a couple of minutes. My favorites were the pumpkin chocolate and the stud muffin.

The Cereal Cups come in some of the same flavors as the Cereal Pouches. If you are using those oatmeal breakfast packets from the grocery store shelf, the ones that require 3 or 4 to fill you up, and end up being a gooey mess, you should look into the Cereal Cups. I dumped mine into pint Ziplock bags. In the morning I poured enough hot water into the bag to moisten the contents, closed it up for a few minutes, and my breakfast was ready. Each cup makes a decent sized, filling, and not-too-sweet trail breakfast. Give the cherry almond a try.

Rokit Fuel Cereal Cup dumped into Ziplock bag for backpack breakfasts. Photo by Gerald Trainor.

Rokit Fuel Cereal Cup dumped into Ziplock bag for backpack breakfasts.

Finally, the Booster Bars were a welcome change of pace to my usual peanut butter Clif Bars, not that I will shun them forever. But change is good. The Booster Bars will come in four configurations- two chocolate covered and two without. I try to stick with bars that are not chocolate covered; the desert heat and chocolate in foil always ends up as a mess. But excluding this fact, the chocolate covered bars will please your taste buds and give you the energy to keep moving.

Unfortunately at this time these products are only available at a few outlets and online. But once you give them a try you probably won’t have an issue ordering a big box of them online. And I’ll bet we will see them in stores in the near future.

Part Three
Check back in a few days for part three of  my Escalante Trek post. I’m still planning to touch on the geology and rock art that you might see while walking down the river, discuss a bit of the flora, and relate my methods of getting in some tracking practice while hiking. I’ll also go over LNT, or Leave No Trace principles while backpacking. For more on ultralight desert backpacking and associated gear, backpack foods and making your own meals, water, and desert adventures, visit the Desert Explorer website.


Escalante Trek, May 2011- Moody Canyon to Coyote Gulch and Back

27 May 2011

Wind, clouds, rain showers, and cool weather- this summarises the eight days I took to “finish” my trek of the Escalante River. I know it is still spring, but I had hoped for more summer-like weather. I began on the 12th of May at the Moody Canyon trailhead, about 20 miles down the Wolverine Loop road from the Burr Trail. The road to the trailhead is well maintained, and if dry it is not really a problem for almost any vehicle, although a high clearance, 4WD is recommended in case bad weather does move in. From the trailhead I walked for 8 days to complete a loop back to my start point. Along the way I saw a few rock art panels, endless geologic marvels, was serenaded by flycatches and towhees, and had an overall terrific experience alone in the bush.

Swimming the Escalante
My first day took me down to the river. On day two I walked up river to 25 Mile Wash and back to “connect” this walk to my 2009 walk from the Highway 12 bridge down to and out 25 Mile Wash. After that the walk really got interesting. The weather grew cooler, wind blew, rain fell, and the river got rougher with every kilometer I walked down it. River crossings- there were at least 25 each day- were deeper, swifter, and colder as I got further down river. I had to swim on a number of occasions, floating my pack alongside me. A note on crossing rivers- as a safety measure when crossing swifter water always unclip your breast strap and waist belt and at least loosen your pack straps, or remove one arm entirely. If you should happen to lose your balance and fall in the current it is far better to swim out of it without a backpack strapped to you, which can become quite dangerous in some circumstances. By the last day of walking down the river the flow had peaked, and as I got closer to the mouth of Coyote Gulch, within a few kilometers, it began to calm and become shallow. This was mainly due to the height of the water in the reservoir below.

View of the Escalante River below Scorpion Gulch looking up river, photo by Gerald Trainor.

View of the Escalante River below Scorpion Gulch, looking up river. Note the boulders and tight margins along the water that must be negotiated. It gets tougher the further down river you get.

Floating the Escalante
Coyote Gulch is about where the Escalante starts backing up and the flat water below begins, although this year water was still flowing on past Coyote Gulch. I met a few groups of boaters along the way. All were in inflatables and two of the groups were taking the smart way out, floating all the way down and meeting a boat to shuttle them back to Bullfrog. I am told this will cost about 350 dollars or so per shuttle boat. Even if you go solo, you can try to link up with another group and split the cost of the shuttle boat out. The other option is to haul all your gear up and out Coyote Gulch, something not very fun with just a backpack, let alone a boat and river gear. Currently there is only one portage on the lower part of the river, a large boulder jam that has been there for years. Depending on the flows, there may be more than this one. The river was flowing around 100 CFS during my trip according to the USGS website, but apparently that number doubles once you reach Boulder Creek. Current river flows can be found at the USGS website.

The Loop
To finish out the trip I walked up Coyote Gulch to Dry Fork of Coyote Gulch, across the mesa to the head of Scorpion Gulch, back down to the river, up river to East Moody Canyon, and out from there. It all sounds fairly easy, but don’t be fooled. It was a long one, just over 100 miles, and although the bushwhacking wasn’t too bad as compared to conditions on the upper part of the river, the river crossings and negotiating the river banks more than made up for that. Navigation was not much of an issue- follow the water down to Coyote Gulch, walk up, cross the mesa, and so on. Of course there is more to the walk than this, but for the sake of rambling and spoiling the adventure for anyone else who might choose to do it, I will stop the narrative here.

A pool of fresh, clean water about mid-way down Scorpion Gulch. Photo by Gerald Trainor.

A pool of fresh, clean water about mid-way down Scorpion Gulch.

Trip Summary
It goes without saying- but I am going to say it- that you should be prepared for this hike. Carry the gear that you will need, don’t overpack, and be in shape. There was really nothing too technical anywhere along the 100 miles of the loop other than a bit of bouldering and crawling though a few cracks here and there along the river. There was no climbing or rappelling, no need for technical gear unless you explore further up some of the side canyons such as Fools Canyon. You can walk up Fools a couple of kilometers before you reach a pouroff that requires rope and harness to get around it. From there it’s anyone’s guess.

In my experience, May is a good time to do this walk, with the chance for cool weather and lower river flows.  Average river flows are around 10 CFS for May- but they could be at 200, 300, 400 CFS or higher. Temperatures should be around 75 or 80 with a sunny sky- they could be 35 or 40 with clouds and rain. Bugs were not an issue, but they certainly could be, especially if you visit later in the summer. A point of note- do keep your eyes open for poison ivy. It is all along the river, and up and down many of the side canyons, especially the lower sections of Fools Canyon and Scorpion Gulch.

Water was not an issue anywhere and excluding the river entirely, there was plenty of water in every canyon, just around every corner at this time of year. I didn’t have to filter any of it, I just filled my bottles and treated the water with the MSR MIOX purifier pen. You can read more about the MIOX at the Desert Explorer website. This fact helped to keep my pack weight down. For the most part I didn’t carry any more than a few liters of water on my back at any given time. Again, the water situation could change dramatically from year to year, and as it gets later in the summer. For more on ultralight desert backpacking, backpack foods and meals, water, and desert adventures, visit the Desert Explorer website.

Part Two
Check back in a few days for part two of this post, where I will review the new gear that I tried out on this trek including the Golite Trinity Malpais jacket, OTB DesertLite Boots, and Rokit Fuel endurance foods. You can also read our gear reviews from the first part of the trek– we tried out Sea To Summit pack liners, the Sealine HP  map case, and a Drypack case for the digital camera. I’ll also touch on the geology and rock art that you might see while walking down the river, as well as a little about the flora and fauna.


Gear Reviews- Sea to Summit, Sealline, and Dry Pak Bags and Cases, Merrell Water Shoes

7 September 2009

In a recent post I mentioned a few new pieces of gear that Robert and I used on our recent trek along the Escalante River. All the new gear had to do with water- waterproofing and walking in water. This included a Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Pack Liner and Dry Sack, a Dry Pak cell phone case, a Sealline HP map case, and the Merrell Waterpro Maipo water shoes. In this post I will give a quick review of each piece of gear.

Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil bags- Sea to Summit makes a full line of Ultra-Sil Dry Sacks and Pack Liners, and medium-weight and heavier-weight dry bags with various features including air evacuation material.  The bags are available from REI (Pack Liners are available online only), and at Amazon through the links below where they can currently be found a bit cheaper.

STS_packlinerIn a word the bags we used performed perfectly.  Knowing that my gear was safe and dry was worth the extra 4 1/2  ounces that both bags added to my overall pack weight. I used a 50 liter Ultra-Sil Pack Liner, which stayed in the bottom of my Golite Pinnacle pack and had gear packed into it. The 50 liter, their small size, weighs 2.6 ounces and costs about 35 dollars at Amazon or REI. The small is available in orange only. The medium, at 70 liters,  weighs 3.4 ounces, comes in green and costs about 28 dollars at Amazon (lowest price).

STS_drybagOver top of that I packed a 20 liter Ultra-Sil Dry Sack, their extra-large size, which I used for all of my small gear, maps, daily snacks, and essentials.  The Dry Sack came out of the pack for easy access to gear.  The two bags together were perfect for organising and packed easily.  I was in deep water a number of times with the pack submerged and there was no indication that water got into either one.  Of course this has to do with how you pack them- packing gear snugly inside, removing all the air, and rolling the tops tightly is essential to their function.

The 20 liter bag weighs just 1.8 ounces. It costs about 23 dollars at Amazon or REI, although is cheaper at Amazon if you order the orange color.  These bags are available in sizes from 1 liter up to 35 liters, and range in price from about 11 dollars to 25 dollars at Amazon.

The bags are very thin silcloth material and are light in weight. They were perfect for this type of trek. If you plan to be in water beyond an occasional quick swim across a deep pool, such as while canyoneering, you may want to choose something a little more substantial.

Sealline HP Map Case– If you are looking for a map case, look no further. This map case tops my list as my favorite over the years- and I have carried many.  Most recently I have been using freezer weight, one-gallon Ziplock bags as map cases.  These are a great choice for general hiking, but the Escalante with its possibility of swimming at any moment demanded something more secure.

The Sealline HP Map Case is made of very thin urethane material that is strong enough to survive hanging out of your pocket while bushwhacking along the Escalante. The material is crystal clear, the map inside is easy to read. I hope it stays this way- the previous version of the HP map case yellowed and hardened with exposure to the sun. The new version is a completely different material and I think this is one of the reasons for the re-design.

sealline_caseThe new version, just out this fall, has a roll top with a velcro strip that holds the roll tightly together.  I had the case completely under water many times and only once, after a long wade across deep, fast water, was there the slightest bit of moisture in the outer-most roll when I opened the case later.

The case has two buckles and a strip of web to hang around the neck. I removed the web and ran a piece of 550 cord through one of the loops to secure the case to my belt loop.  The case also has 4 tabs, one in each corner for tying onto the deck of your kayak perhaps, or the pack of the man in front of you. As I would never use them, I cut off the tabs straight away (extra weight).

The case is available at Amazon in two sizes, small and medium, at 25 and 30 dollars respectively.  There is also a large size that I have only seen at Moosejaw.com.  They are not sold at REI yet, but should be in the future. (REI sold the older version of the cases.) The small case weighs 2 ounces, the medium 2.5 ounces, and the large weighs 5 ounces. Inner dimensions are 9.5 inches by 12.25 inches for the small, 13 inches by 15 inches for the medium, and 14 inches by 21 inches for the large.

The small size accepts a USGS 1:24,000 mapsheet with the margins cut off. The mapsheet can be folded in half on both axes and slid right into the case. See the 11 January 2009 blog post for more on how and why I trim maps.

Dry Pak Cell Phone Case– This was my first experience with Dry Pak cases.  I needed something for my point-and-shoot digital camera. The Dry Pak Cell Phone Case was the perfect size.  The case performed as I had hoped, keeping the camera clean and dry, and providing a little bit of padding (designed for flotation). The only drawback is the closure-  it is a bit bulky with hard plastic strips at the top and two button closures. Once twisted to open, the button closures could, if pushed the right way, come out of the plastic strip and be lost. They are secure when new, but may be something to keep an eye on once the case is well used. I was worried that the bulk of the closure strips might be awkward in my pocket. But I did carry it in my shirt pocket and it was fine, being no thicker than the camera that I put inside it.

drypak_caseDry Pak cases come in many shapes and sizes to fit nearly any piece of electronic equipment.  All appear to use the same closure device. The Cell Phone Case comes with a lanyard and small snaplink, both of which I removed immediately (extra weight).

The small case which I used weighs 2.4 ounces and is 4 by 6 inches in size.  The material and the seam welds seem strong and durable.  I am guessing I will be using it on many other trips.

Merrell Waterpro Maipo Water Shoes– The final piece of new equipment on the trip was the Merrell Maipo water shoe. Both Robert and I used these shoes, and both of us returned them after the trip because of broken straps. We only put about 70 miles or so on the shoes and expected much more out of them. Since returning them, I noticed that they are no longer available at REI.

In my search for water shoes I read a bunch of reviews and concluded that none were very well designed, at least for our purposes. I ended up choosing the Merrells, based on the fact that they were one of the fullest shoes available, they were light weight, and because of my own positive experiences with Merrell products. I own two other pairs of their shoes at present and have never had an issue with these or any of the many other pairs of Merrell shoes I have owned.

merrell_maipo

Merrell Maipo water shoe

After using the Maipo shoe I can say with certainty that they need more design work.  The small straps wrapping all around the shoe, while they may add some support and a little bling to the shoe, are a very poor idea for many reasons. The straps are only about 1/4 inch in width. These straps wore through, broke in half, in two locations on my shoes, and the cord that the straps wrap around (near the bottom of the shoes) broke on Robert’s shoes.  On both of our shoes the straps and cord were wearing through in other locations.  I ended up tying the broken straps together to restore the support they offered, and to allow the laces to function (the laces run through these small straps at the top of the shoe).

Beyond the strap issue, the shoes were comfortable, as all Merrells are. They drained well; the mesh is large enough that it drains quickly, but also large enough to allow sand into the shoe.  I think this may be the case with any water shoe that has good drainage.

Merrell Ottowa water shoe

Merrell Ottowa water shoe

Merrell makes another water shoe similar to this one, the Ottowa, seen at left.  I have not used this shoe, but it seems to be a better design than the Maipo. On this shoes they only have the problematic strap at the top of the shoe. There is no cord through it to cause friction and wear through- the laces run through a plastic eyelet.

The mesh seems to be the same however, and there is more of it exposed.  You may end up with more sand in these shoes than the Maipos. But I am sure they would hold up better in the end. You can read more about them at Merrell.com. And if anyone from Merrell happens to read this review, I would be happy to try out a pair of the Ottowas and write about them. I am heading back to Utah in early October for a canyoneering trip in North Wash and will need a good pair of shoes.

For more information about our walk along the Escalante River, see our 22 August blog post or the Escalante Trip Pages at the Desert Explorer website. For more on the gear we use and ultralight backpacking, visit our Ultralight Pages.