OR Show — Day 3 Highlights

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This post by WildSnow.com blogger  

First, let’s talk Magellan GPS. I’m sure I’ll find some issues with their units once I dig in, but on the surface I’m impressed. First off, their Triton outdoor GPS series offers 4 units. That’s it. A quad of well thought out handheld GPSs, three of which are the typical form factor you see in something like a Garmin Etrex, and one, Triton 2000, with a larger 2.7″ LCD touchscreen.

Magellan Triton 2000

Magellan Triton 2000

The Magellan 2000 unit looked mighty interesting. Why? For starters, it’s got finger operated controls as well as the touch screen (for those times when you’ve got gloves on and perhaps one type of control works better than the other) and it HAS A CONTROL LOCK via a simple switch on the side.
 

Downsides? A dismal 10 hours of battery life (presumably with alkaline, meaning a set of lithiums will get you significantly past that, albeit expensively). Computer link cable has a proprietary end instead of mini USB, huge bummer but not a deal breaker (yep, one more cable to remember and carry, dang). Of more concern, one of their test units at the show crashed while I was panning the map. That simply should not happen so I have to admit it made me wonder how viable these Magellan units are for real-world use instead of playing games with geocaching and such. Ho hum, nothing is perfect, I can’t wait to test one anyway.
 

Enough of my GPS geekasm, moving along…

My wife Lisa is becoming quite the bikie, what with a beautiful 13-mile bike path shooting her straight to work every morning, and a classic Ibis mountain bike waiting for weekend fun. Problem is, our Jeep doesn’t have a bike rack. Makes me look bad, since “Rumble Bee” does have every other feature known to man and the gods. Not to worry. Next stop, Yakima. Sure enough, they’ve added a spare tire hitch rack to their line.

Backcountry Skiing

Yakima Sparetime bike rack will be available this fall.

Yakima’s basic but beefy “Sparetime” includes the adapter plate you need to mount the rack on your rear mounted SUV spare, and will even offset from side to side in case your spare isn’t centered. While using this means we have to shed the rally rack from our Jeep, it’ll work for most trips, so on the list it goes.

Noontime is rolling around now, my feet hurt, so time for food testing. Yesterday, Cache Lake Camping Food challenged me to taste their dried eggs (after cooking, of course). As most of you know, powdered eggs are more something you add to baked goods for texture, not “food” you mix up and scramble for breakfast. Sure, various backpack food companies make a stab at providing egg dishes, but they vary in quality and taste to the point where one tends to avoid them.

Backcountry Skiing

Cache Lake powdered eggs in the process of becoming edible. A-plus rated for taste!

The guys at Cache told me in no uncertain terms that “our eggs taste great.” So there I was, watching a friendly lady mix me up a batch like we were back home on the farm. Yep, they tasted great!

Story is that commercial egg production is in the Cache Lake family, so they had the opportunity to experiment and tweak the vacuum drying process until the taste was right. It worked. I’ll be acquiring a stash of these for camping trips. Ma mixed them in bowl with a wisk, they probably would have had even better texture if they’d been shake mixed in a water bottle to add some fluff. If you want to vary your backpack breakfast menu a bit, give these eggs a shot. Cache Lake’s other foods are excellent as well. Website here.

No OR show is complete without some book signings and stuff like that. Problem with books is lugging them around all day, so I tend to avoid those types of events. Instead, I noticed Outdoor Research was sponsoring a Cascades/Forbidden Peak print signing by climber/artist Jeremy Collins.

Backcountry Skiing

Forbidden Peak print by Jeremy Collins

Somehow I got number 1 of 100, it’ll probably be worth millons someday, but for now, just a cool reminder of what’s out there waiting for a visit.

While walking the isles I refreshingly came across sport and vitamin drink company Ola Loa. These guys are an alternative to the ubiquitous Emergen-C that lots of us gulp as regular as coffee. Looked at your Emergen-C label lateley? Turns out that stuff (other than their light and sugar free versions) has grams and grams of sugar, so when you prepare it you’re basically drinking vitamin laced sugar water. Yuk. Ola Loa has some sugar as well, though much less, and also uses fructose, stevia and natural fruit juice flavors so it tastes adequately sweet without loads of sucrose (be it sucrose from cane juice or whatever).

More, Ola is made in the US, while Emergen-C is made in China. Feel a little queasy after that hit of Emergen-C? Try an alternative that’s made in the USA with the FDA (at least occasionally) looking over their shoulder, instead of one or two steps removed in a country that’s becoming known for contaminated consumables. Good stuff, check it out.

Lastly, how about some wool products? Smartwool continues to build clothing that is way beyond their basic roots. If you’re looking for thin wool baselayer tops and truly nice ski socks, keep them on your radar. Likewise, keep your shopping eyes on I/O Bio Merino. These guys have one of the largest wool producers in the world behind them, and have a proprietary process of making yarn that’s said to be the least scratchy of all wools. Their garments do feel remarkably soft, and are nicely styled as well. Website here.

That’s all for now. Over the next weeks I’ll get into some specific product reviews, especially the GPS units and perhaps backpack/camp foods. In all, a good show that demonstrated the continued positive energy of the outdoor industry, despite our current economic situation.

Comments

12 Responses to “OR Show — Day 3 Highlights”

  1. Randonnee July 24th, 2009 10:23 am

    Cache Lake eggs are ordered for our upcoming 4 night backpack into the Enchantments. Thanks, I have always hoped to find decent eggs for backpacking.

  2. Jonathan Shefftz July 24th, 2009 11:42 am

    “First, let’s talk Magellan GPS. I’m sure I’ll find some issues with their units once I dig in, but on the surface I’m impressed.”
    - The ability to use National Geographic “Topo!” scanned USGS quads seemed impossible when first announced. And sure enough, it was: a major retailer (might have been REI?) pulled all the units from its stores, and the reviews on various internet sites were abysmal.
    - But maybe it’s been fixed over the past year or so?
    “Of more concern, one of their test units at the show crashed while I was panning the map.”
    - Okay, maybe not!

    The improved Delorme PN-30/40 seemed enticing for its map display capabilities, but then a Polish computer programmer reversed-engineered the Garmin code, and now 24k-level maps (albeit vector based, not raster) are available at GPS File Depot for any state in the lower 48 that has backcountry skiing.
    And the maps are all free!
    So I’m sticking with Garmin (GPS unit, that is, not their pricey proprietary maps – they should pay all those third-party hacks for making Garmin GPS units that much more useful).

  3. Simon Isbister July 24th, 2009 12:08 pm

    I don’t know about this newer line of Magellan units, but for what its worth, I was told two or three years ago by someone at my local gear shop (MEC, in Vancouver) that of all the GPS units they sell, the only ones that ever come back for repair are the Magellans. That sold me on the Garmins pretty quick.

    -s-

  4. Colin in CA July 24th, 2009 1:39 pm

    Simon,

    As a counterpoint to that, when I worked at REI, I saw many broken Garmins come in too. Even the tried-and-true eTrex series. This was between 2003 and 2006.

    That said, I’d still go with Garmin.

  5. Lou July 24th, 2009 6:32 pm

    Rando, you will NOT be disappointed in the eggs. They’re really something. Mix them up with a bit of powdered milk and cooking oil, then shake mix in a water bottle, then make scrambled or an omelet. Really cool. Let us know how your taste test turns out.

    Everyone, all reasons above are why I went with Garmin the last few years. By the way, I tried Delorme and simply liked nothing about their mapping software or their GPS unit. I want to give Magellan a fair shake. We’ll see… If they can’t even make one that doesn’t crash during real world use, then no dice.

    This is reminding me of avalanche beacons. At least they don’t try to include a crumby camera in an avy beacon, but just wait…

  6. Lou July 24th, 2009 6:39 pm

    By the way, once you get used to NOT using the scanned topo maps but rather a vector based contour map, the scanned topos are not that big a deal. At least that’s been my experience. Most of those old USGS topos are now fraught with inaccurate data anyhow… though the vegetation shading can be useful…

  7. Tim July 24th, 2009 8:41 pm

    Hey Jonathan, can you share some details with a GPS novice on how to make the Garmin units work with those maps at GPS File depot?

  8. Mark July 24th, 2009 9:39 pm

    Ibis mountain bike? Super aesthetic, carbon monocoque, high-tech perfection? Photos?

  9. Jonathan Shefftz July 24th, 2009 9:54 pm

    Super easy – just download the file to your computer and run the executable. Open up Garmin Mapsource on your computer, and now in the pull-down menu you have another option for whatever state or region you downloaded.
    Click on the map segments you want, then transfer them to your GPS.
    Caveats:
    – Map transfer from computer to GPS is slow. Copy everything you foresee yourself using, so you don’t have to do this the night before each trip. (You can combine map segments from different states and regions.) I keep a separate western and eastern chips, so that when I go out west for a trip, I just swap chips, instead of having to recopy maps. I also save my map segments in a gdb file that is separate from my various waypoint and tracklog gdb files.
    – I’ve found the third-party freebie maps are generally comparable to the Garmin 24k National Parks maps, although often the lakes don’t show up on the GPS (even though they show up on the computer).
    - Be sure to download the NW trails map set, which is an transparent overlay of trails. (Doesn’t show up as transparent on the computer, but can be viewed simultaneously with the maps on the GPS.)
    - The downloaded maps take up lots of hard drive space on your computer.
    - With a 2 gig chip, you can store the maps for pretty much anywhere you’re likely to ski in a season (or perhaps even lifetime). But a model with a removable chip is key. However, the eTrex Legend HCx is well under $200 now. Or Vista HCx if you want the digital compass (which still is not a perfect substitute for a traditional separate sighting mirror compass) and/or integrated barometric altimeter (which I prefer to keep on my wrist watch). Or the equivalent 60Cx/60CSx if you want a bigger screen. Otherwise, although Garmin has dozens of other models, those four are really the only sensible choices for backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering.

    Okay, so maybe all that wasn’t exactly super easy….

  10. Lou July 25th, 2009 6:31 am

    Mark, noooo, the Ibis is like serial number 150 or something, steel frame, nickel plated. Classic.

  11. Mark July 25th, 2009 6:53 am

    Lou, I commute on a Salsa singlespeed made of steel. Keep it simple, eh?

  12. Matt Kinney July 27th, 2009 7:24 pm

    Though GPS is an amazing navigation tool in todays wilds, I find fewer people these days know the basics of compass navigation. Even out on a sailboat a few weeks ago, the skipper knew nothing of compass naviagation and spent most the day staring at a tiny GPS unit versus looking UP at the coast with a compass . I think that may be a contributiing factor to unskilled people wandering into the BC with the latest GPS with bells, whistles and 5 minutes of instruction at the outdoor store.

    Always have a backup and knowing how to use a compass does not require a battery or a computer. A soaking wet compass still works!, I used a compass the BC this weekend and constantly got 3-point fixes. Hard to beat that kinda accuracy. Not preaching old school, just basic skills. I recall as a navigator in the USCG we were required to learn navigation by sextant, stars and sun before touching LORAN systems of the day. Just some thoughts and much like beacons and avalanches, basic skills with common sense are the best and safest ways to stay out ot trouble and your electronic gizmos in your pack.

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Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information opinion website and e magazine. Lou's passion for the past 45 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about backcountry skiing and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free back country news and information here, and tons of Randonnee rando telemark info.

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