Article by Anna
You have been walking all day. It's raining. It's windy. You are cold.
But, you were smart. You decided to book an awesome public use cabin with a wood stove instead of listening to a tent flap around you all night, hoping an extra strong gust doesn't blow it away with you in it.
Finally, soaking wet and exhausted, you see the cabin. You make a mad dash and open the door only to discover the last occupants were a** holes and didn't leave any fire wood. Not even tinder. And the communal saw at the cabin is dull. It might not even cut butter it's so bad. All you want is a fire and to relax. After all, if you wanted to be cold and wet, you would have just tented it, right? Never fear, you read this article and came prepared with a few novel life savers.
1) Pocket Chainsaw
When my friend whipped out a $5 pocket chainsaw from Walmart, I was suspicious of its effectiveness. However, 30 minutes later, the 5 of us were having a jovial time seeing who could cut the biggest branch the fastest. It worked almost as well as a real chainsaw.
They say that you should carry a folding saw, such as the Kershaw Taskmaster with you in your emergency kit. The pocket chainsaw weighs about the same, is arguably more compact, and gets the job done faster and more efficiently. As an added bonus, most come with a carrying pouch you can put on your belt to show off for extra cool points with your fellow hikers.
There are a ton of options out there on Amazon.com and elsewhere. I have noticed that the cheaper ones tend to bind up as you near the end of the cut. You have to work harder and keep the angle wide to prevent this. My $26 Liv Wild saw from Amazon performed well, even as the angle got narrow at the end of the cut. So spend $5 on a saw that will get the job done and last a while or spend $25 on a saw that gets the job done well and lasts even longer. Your call. Either way, it is cheaper than most folding saws out there and a hell of a lot faster.
Handles come in several styles. I have found the webbing loops to be comfortable and compact. The plastic t-shaped handles are also comfortable but not quite as pack-able. I would stay away from any of the ultra thin handles out there. I have seen some with what look to be wire hand holds. Just pick something that looks comfortable.
Unless you are one of those crazy ounce cutters, there is not reason not to carry a pocket chainsaw with you on your next outdoor adventure. After all, when you get to the cabin or camp site, do you want to be cutting wood with a flimsy folding saw or with a the speed and ease of a pocket chainsaw?
2) Down Booties
Maybe not as useful for tent camping (depending on how wet of an environment you are in), absolute life savers for a back country cabin trip. Down booties pack down small and keep your feet toasty. When you finally reach the cabin and want to kick off your soggy boots that your feet have been smothered in all day, you have four options:
- Barefoot (only good if you like having dirty feet-gross)
- Sock feet (only good if you like having dirty socks-again, gross)
- Hike out with extra shoes-not a bad option, but chances are they are rather heavy. If not heavy, they probably are not warm. Not a big deal in a warmer climate but in Alaska, we want warm feet.
- Down booties-The BEST option.
Why are down booties so great? They are warm and they are light. Throw them in the bottom of your pack and you are guaranteed warm and clean feet all night long. Most booties have a somewhat rigid sole that is mostly weather resistant for short trips outside (bathroom, etc.). Did I mention how warm they are? I have found NOTHING that insulates my feet like down booties. You know what they say, keep your dead and feet warm and the rest of you will be warm. Or did I just make that up?
There are numerous options out there for down booties. They range in price, weight, and warmth. There are also synthetic versions which are also good. (No need to get into the down vs. synthetic details here). A Synthetic pair will run you around $35 new, Down starts around $60 new. I picked up a pair of down booties from the REI garage sale for about $7. When selecting a pair, keep in mind that the sole material and thickness will affect how warm your feet are on a cold floor or on the cold ground. If you want more warmth or are planning on wearing these on snow, maybe sacrifice some weight and space for a thicker sole.
3) Sea to Summit Collapsible Cup
Sure, save the weight and just drink your coffee straight out of your stove pot. Or, for a few ounces and no extra space, bring a Sea to Summit Collapsible cup. It appears they designed it to perfectly fit in a standard size Jet Boil, filling that tiny space between the top of your stove/fuel/stand stack and the lid.
Sure, they aren't cheap ($10 retail), but when your friend brings surprise wine and you are looking for an appropriately classy drinking receptacle, you will be glad you have it.
Often for the casual backpacker, a camp stove is reserved for one purpose: boiling water. Sure, you can then use your stove pot to mix up whatever goodies you have, but then it is a mess for your next culinary venture. This is where the cup comes in so handy: mix your coffee, hot chocolate, cider, oatmeal, whatever in the cup instead and keep that stove pot clean for your next meal. After all, who wants coffee (or wine) flavored Mountain House? No one.