Mountain Equipment Wins!

Mountain Equipment wins Georgia Straight 15th Annual Best of Vancouver 2010  in 6 Categories:
(Link)

#1 Best outdoor goods store
#1 Best sporting goods store
#3 Best kayak/canoe rental store
#3 Best local bike store (chain)
#1  Most Environmentally responsible local company
#1 Best Sports Apparel Shop

Mountain Equipment Co-Op

After a month of surfing, hiking, camping, kayaking, and Paddle Boarding, I figure it’s time to find a job, and thus, I submitted my resume to Mountain Equipment Co-Op today.  I figure I should say something about them since MEC is where I get most of my outdoor gears.  I will be including other outdoor sports aside from snowboarding from now on so I will be mentioning MEC quite a bit more.  They don’t really have too many selections of snowboarding gears in the shop because they specialize in back country equipments such as split boards.  I know lots of smaller stores such as Ecomarine and Deep Cove don’t really like MEC, but it’s still the most inexpensive place to get quality gear for outdoors people on a budget.  They also hosts several events through the year such as Paddle Fest and Bike Fest, which gives people all over Canada a chance to learn and test out equipments before purchasing them as well as to talk to designers and store owners.  Whether they hire me or not, MEC will remain my go-to store for outdoor equipments.

MEC Blog

MEC Twitter

Starting a Camp Fire in the Rain (Kawkawa Lake, Hope)

After Teapot Hill hike, we got to Kawkawa Lake and found out the province has lifted the fire ban so we decided to start a camp fire.  At first I tried to built a pile of small wood chips and some rolled up paper to try and start the fire, but it didn’t work because of the rain.  It was pouring rain so we decided to get Jessica the professional camp-fire started to help us start the fire.  Last summer Jessica worked at a summer camp where her job was to start the camp fire every night for the camp.  She had experience starting camp fires rain or shine, even in the snow.

She started by assigning jobs to each person: Chris started chopping wood; Al used a Swiss Army knife to cut out dry tinder for the fire; I was to find fuel (Paper and lighter); Some of the guys went and found fire wood while others prepare the food to be cooked on the fire.  Jessica start off by building a little rectangular fort using wooden sticks, she put some rolled up paper at the bottom and put cut up tinder on top of the paper in the shape of a pyramid, then she put the bigger chopped up wood around the fort so it can cover the fuel from the rain as well as dry out the bigger tree trunks.

She lit the paper on fire, then after several blow of oxygen to the paper, the fire went out.  She decided there weren’t enough oxygen so she took down all the bigger tree trunks and laid them on the side instead, this time after lots of patience, she finally got the fire going, and within 10 minutes of constant blowing, the bigger tree trunks finally got lit and the fire became pretty big.  This is definitely a skill that will come in handy in the wilderness, but for now eating smores around a camp fire ain’t so bad either.

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Here is a video by Nutnfancy showing viewers how to build a fire in the snow

Tea Pot Hill

This morning before our camping trip at Kawkawa Lake in Hope, we decided to stop by Teapot Hill in Chilliwack to go for a little hike in the morning.  Teapot Hill is located in Cultus Lake Provincial Park.  The trail head is right next to the lake and has a parking lot at the entrance with a big sign saying Teapot Hill.  The trails is relatively easy, it has wide open trails which takes about 45 minutes to get to the top for a relatively fit adult (5 km round trip).  It is a perfect trail for getting to know your fellow hikers because it has a nice scenery of Chilliwack when you reach the top.  Kids and dogs were passing up running up the hill as we hike along.  It’s definitely a good trail for a beginner hiker or tourist to enjoy.

Paddle Boarding at Windsure

Today my friends and I finally decided to try Stand Up Paddleboarding at my friend’s shop Windsure at Jericho beach in Vancouver.

I love surfing but hates windsurfing.  Stand Up Paddleboarding is a blend between the two.  Windsure is a windsurfing shop therefore they use Windsurfing boards without the sail for paddleboarding.  I tried windsurfing with them a couple of years ago but got stuck in the middle of English Bay without any idea how to get back to the beach upwind.  The instructor had to come out and rescue me.

Paddleboarding is actually from Hawaii.  The instructor said to find the sweet spot on the board, which is basically in the centre.  The day we went paddleboarding the weather was rainy and windy.  The shop owner kept telling us not to go out on the water because it will ruin the first-time-experience.  My friends and I wanted to try it anyway, figured it will be easier on calm water if we mastered SUP in wind and waves first.  BIG MISTAKE !! ok. maybe not so bad, just much harder to stand up since we had no idea what we were doing, I fell in a couple of times, the water was unusually warm.  My friend Josh was able to paddle the whole time without falling in.  Everyone else all fell in the water several times that day.  We actually saw 2 seals popping up beside my friend Belinda’s SUP board, one 6 feet behind, and one 2 feet in front, which is really close.  Good thing I got it all on video.

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If you want to give it a try, I suggest going onto this youtube video first to learn the basics before you get on the board, it will make your learning curve that much faster.

Power Hungry

As technology gets more and more advanced, we tend to start bringing more and more technology with us on hikes.  Unlike Compass & map, almost every piece of equipment requires power.  Some turns to Solar Power as a source, but it is very unreliable in South Western BC where overcast skies rules the day.  I personally brings a battery pack for my HD Camcorder and my digital camera,  an iphone battery – case-mate fuel (which will charge the iphone 3 times), lots of AA batteries for my Garmin etrex GPS & flashlights, as well as all the cords needed to charge all these gadgets.

How do you keep your gadgets charged on backpacking trips? Please leave your comments below.

6 Bailing Devices for Kayaking

A Bailer or Bilge-pump is one of the Minimum Safety Equipment outline by the Canadian Coast Guard.  Below is a list of 5 Bailing Devices that I have used.  The gears included a sponge, a bailer, a manual bilge pump, a foot pump, a electrical bilge pump, and a battery operated bilge pump.  These are my favorite outdoor gears I have used over the years in sea kayaking around Vancouver, B.C.
Note: I am not paid by any of the stores to recommend these products, it is simply the favorite products I have used over the years and where I bought them from. Use them at your own risk.

6. Sponge

This is one accessory I always keep in my boat, after you bail most of the water out with the pumps or the bailer, you can use the sponge to bail the extra water stuck at the bottom of the kayak out.  You also use this when cleaning out your kayak from gravel/sand that you accumulated from your footwear.  This Stohlquist Boating Sponge was purchase at Mountain Equipment Co-Op (mec.ca)

5. Bailer

This is another device that one should always have in the kayak, tied by a rope to the kayak and stored behind the seat.  In case you lose your pump in a capsize, the milk jug will be a great bailer to get the water out.  It might take longer then a hand pump, but it is definitely something that can empty the water from your boat. The best thing about it is that it can be made at home and it’s FREE !

4. Manual Bilge Pump

Most Kayak Rental Shop in Vancouver has a Manual Bilge Pump as part of their kayak rental.  Not only is it a Canadian Coast Guard approved pump, it is also the most efficient pump.  It will get the water out a lot faster than a Milk Jug.  The down side to it is that it is really tiring.  After pumping out the water a few times, you will probably not have enough energy to keep paddling. It is also useless in rough conditions because you have to use two hands to operate this pump.  When the kayak is full of water and unstable in rough sea conditions, it is very likely the kayak will capsize again before you have a chance to get all the water out.  This Scotty Marine 13.5″ Pump with Float was purchased at Mountain Equipment in Vancouver.

3. Foot Pump

This is a much better option than a Manual Bilge Pump because you can have your skirt one while operating this pump.  You are using less effort because you are using your legs and not tiring your arms out for paddling.  The downside to this pump is that you have to install it into the kayak, meaning you cannot install it into a rental kayak.  For someone like me that only rents kayaks, this solution will not work because you have to screw the pump in front of the feet in the cockpit so it doesn’t move around when you step on it, and you have dig a hole on the deck of the boat and attach the pump to it for water to come out.  This Scoprega Foot Pump was purchased at mec.

2. Electric Bilge Pump

This is a great solution for pumping the water out because it requires no effort on your part to get the water out.  But batteries do run out.  We all have experiences when we forgot to charge our phone before going to work and end up using a public paid phone to do business calls.  It can be life threatening if you forget to charge the battery of your bilge pump and you capsize out in open water without any way of getting the water out of your boat.  We all know what happens when water gets in contact with electricity… we get shocked ! Even though it’s only a small battery, if any of the wires get loose and you touched it by accident, it’s not going to be pretty.  I personally wouldn’t use this option though I know many people who swears by them, there’s even a few tutorials showing you how to install your own instead of hiring a kayak company to do it for you.  Adventure Kayaking magazine has a great article on it in the Early Summer 2010 magazine.

1. Portable Battery Operated Bilge Pump

This is my Favorite Pump because all the wires are contained inside the waterproof unit. I just purchased this portable battery operated Bilge Pump this summer, and it’s been great, I can bring it onto a rental kayak, tie a rope to it and attach it to the back of the seat, and when my boat capsizes, I can turn on the pump while I am still in the water, the boat will be half emptied by the time I get into the boat doing a self rescue.  I also wrap a Foam Noodle around it so it will float and be more visible in case the rope tying it to the boat comes loose.  This Attwood Water-Buster Battery-Powered Pump was purchased at West Marine in Vancouver.

Of course, I still carries a Manual Bilge Pump (Hand Pump), a Cut-up 4L milk jug, and a sponge with me, just in case the batteries run out of juice.

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