Friday, February 20, 2015

Cesar's Shelter Flow Chart

I've been meaning to make a flow chart like this for a while now, but never got around to it until today.  With all the different shelters that I have owned and written about on here, I get a fair amount of questions related to shelters.  Why I have several, which one is best for what, how do you pick a shelter, etc.  So now I have this handy little flow chart to show people.  Feel free to use/share it if you think it is helpful, and as always feedback is always encouraged.

So that's about it, I'll keep it short and sweet and let the chart speak for itself:

 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Cesar's Guide to the E1 Trails in Sweden: Bergslagsleden Part 4

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Bergslagsleden is the longest stand alone trail that is a part of the Swedish E1 trail system, and spans 280km.  As such, it will require a slightly longer introduction before the actual trail guide due to some complications it presents.  Its endpoint in the south is the campground Stenkällegården, and the endpoint in the north is the village of Kloten.  For more general information about the trail in English, Swedish, and German, here is a link to the official trail guide.

The trail is divided into 17 stages.  This report covers stages 7-5, or from Mogetorp to Uskavi/Lindesberg.  This will be a unique report in that there I hiked quite a lot of off-trail and/or alternative routes in these stages, perhaps the most dramatic example was skipping stage 6 entirely--more on this later.

The Mogetorp area is on the 50/68 highway and has daily bus connections to the city of Örebro in the south and the town of Nora in the north.  There is also a restaurant and hotel near the bus stop.  The Uskavi area is somewhat close (~12km) to the town of Lindesberg, and is also close (~2km) to the 50 highway to the east, which has daily bus connections (e.g. Fanthyttan bus stop nearby) going north to the town of Kopparberg or south to Lindesberg if you don't want to hike all the way there.  The trail also passes close to the quaint town of Nora, which is on the western shores of the big and aptly named lake Norasjön.  Both Nora and Lindesberg offer basic but good resources for hikers, such as cafés, pubs, restaurants, supermarkets, hotels/BBs, public transportation, etc.

Below are links to PDF maps and trail information in English for these three stages that make up this section of the E1:

Stage 7

Stage 6

Stage 5

These Bergslagsleden informational maps are very functional, having especially good symbols and information for useful or interesting things on the trail (shelters, fresh water, views, etc.).  The info maps are a bit sparse, and roads often lack much information and are mostly just black lines that intersect with the trail.  These are not the best maps to use on their own for backpackers that are section hikers and/or like to bushwhack/explore.  

Recently however (a few weeks before I began this trail), more detailed topographical maps were added to the trail's official website.  They are listed in the Swedish section that you can find here--you can find the links that say "Karta" next to the Swedish informational maps on the table to the right.  These terrain maps are of very good quality and I highly recommend you take both type of maps for each section.

Hiking southbound on the E1 you continue on Bergslagsleden, and you can check out my previous guide from stages 11-8 here.  Hiking northbound you continue on Bergslagsleden, and more reports on the rest of the trail are coming soon.

If you have not read the introduction to this trail guide yet, you can do so here, and there is also a list of links to other completed reports of the Swedish E1 trails.  Please keep in mind this is still a work in progress.

Now on with the show!

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After weeks of planning and keeping a close eye on the weather, things did not go as planned for this section hike--but my friend Tomas and I still had a great and very memorable trip.  Rather than one day of light snow and two days of clear skies and sun, with low temps going down to around -6C to -8C, instead we got lots and lots of snow, hardly any sun, and low temps only around -3C.  When I mean lots of snow, I mean roughly 50cm of snow total--and that's on top of snow and ice that was already there beforehand.  It made for an interesting if not difficult set of conditions for hiking through the woods.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

2015 Winter Section Hike Gear Breakdown

*Update 02/02/2015: I have since come back from my section hike with the gear described below.  I will add some additional notes such to this post and give some additional thoughts below.

In the past I have done several gear list breakdowns by season, and I have been itching to do another one for this winter's kit.  However it has been a warmer winter than usual, plus I was forced to push back my January section hike to the end of the month, so I had not finalized my gear until recently.  Early spring is often nearly or just as cold as winter here--especially further up north, where I will be continuing my E1 hike--so this set up should still get put to good use in spite of the warm start of the year.  

As usual, I will note that this gear list (as well as any other gear list of mine) is not static or set in stone.  I always keep a keen eye on weather reports, which of course can have a big impact on what I may or may not take with me.  This particular section hike the estimated low temperatures were supposed to be around -6 to -8 C (21 to 17 F), but this of course can change significantly (and did!).  In the end the lows only got down to around -3C, most of the time temps hovered around 0C, and rather than one day of snow flurries and two days of sun there was steady snowfall nearly the entire trip.  There was at least 50cm more snow by the time we left than when we started the trip.

Please note that I have rounded to the nearest 5 grams to make math easier and have nice, round numbers--just a personal preference now after creating so many gear lists.

First, here is all the base gear all packed up in my pack of choice, a Zpacks Arc Blast 52 with two hip belt pockets.


Monday, December 22, 2014

Back to Back Episode 4: Knives for Lightweight Backpacking

Hey all, in case you haven't seen it yet, just a quick announcement to let everyone know that Back to Back Episode 4 is complete and up on Youtube.  The topic is one that I find fascinating, as do many outdoor enthusiasts, which is knives.  However this discussion is from the perspectives of two lightweight backpackers, with one having the unique (and very cool) distinction of happening to also be a knife maker.  

I kicked things off with Part 1 

And Jason recently responded with Part 2.  

You can also check out Jason's wonderful text on the subject in question here, which he wrote at the same time as we were doing the planning of this episode.  The knives you see in his video are the ones he documents in the text.  It's a great companion to this episode, and I highly recommend reading it if you are at all interested in knives and especially the finer details of how they are made.  The passion he has for this craft really comes out in the text (and video too), and as I mentioned to Jason via email after reading it, to me it almost reads like a short story.  Readers get to closely follow a narrative of a dedicated craftsman transform a piece of metal into a knife, and Jason makes some bold choices in his unique version of a knife to have while out in the wild.

Thanks again to Jason, it's been a pleasure working with him, and hope that we can collaborate again in the future.

That's about it, go check out another episode of the Back to Back series, and I hope that you find it helpful and/or enjoyable.  As always, please feel free to give feedback via email, comments below, or on the Youtube comments.  And let me know if there are any subjects related to backpacking that you would want to see explored in a Back to Back episode.

Peace out and happy holidays!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Cesar's 2015 Shelter Systems for Solo Backpacking


I recently got myself an early holiday gift, which I spoke about in a first impressions video.  It's a 6ft x 9ft (1.8m x 2.7m) Zpacks flat tarp, and I opted for the 1.0 Cuben fiber in a nice translucent black for reasons I discuss in said video.  I finally got a chance to get out and test it out on a short day hike, and am very excited about what will be my new go-to shelter for the colder half of the year.  


Before I get into different pitches and configurations of this tarp, let me first explain the method to my madness for my two go-to shelter systems for the upcoming year.  One will be used roughly between late spring to mid autumn (the "warm" kit), and the other between late autumn to mid spring (the "cold" kit).