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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Field Testing - just get out there and do it!


I managed to get a few days off and took the time to get out and do a couple of things. I wanted to accomplish a few things on my way to Rockwood Conservation Area; geocaching, enjoying the sights and field testing some of the gear I've acquired.

It's not difficult to test the gear - all you have to do is get out and use it. I took all of my hiking gear and all of our camping gear. We got a new MEC tent, the Tarn 3, along with some new lightweight cookware and a few other odds and ends.

I was absolutely blown away to find success rate of our dollar-store stoves. I found them at our local Dollarama for a buck and a half each. They are made of some kind of medium grade metal and come with 12 tablets that fit the description to be hexamine fuel, but there was no labelling to determine exactly what they were.

When used in conjunction with my army-surplus-store canteen set, I was actually able to boil water in about the time it took for the tablet to use up it's primary energy. Once it was burning a little flame, I poured the water into some hot chocolate mix and was thrilled for the utility I had found in this little purchase. Now, the water wasn't boiling so much that I would trust this method alone in disinfecting any pollutants in the water, but it's absolutely perfect for cooking. Given the price, I'm ashamed to have not bought 5 or 6 of them.

I'm not sure exactly what the fuel is, but I'll surely be buying a few boxes of hexamine tablets for the future use of this stove.

I also got the chance to test the limits of my new knife, the Ontario Rat 1. It performed very well and was called upon to actually help a neighbouring campsite get some wood shavings ready for a fire. I used the knife in unison with my axe to prepare firewood for them, as they had nothing to use to split open the wet wood they were using. The knife performed well and will easily supplement my current wilderness EDC.

My Columbia raincoat stood well against the rain until the very end. I had wet arms because of rain getting in through my wrists, but overall, it was very secure. I felt a little hot wearing it as we packed up camp, but over all it was great protection from the elements.

I tried to start a fire with one of my homemade paraffin wax firestarters.

Overall, I wasn't very impressed with the use of this item. I could have made it wrong, but I could have built a fire quicker without relying so heavily on it's use. Sure, in the bush with nothing else to light, this would be a godsend... but on the campsite with a bunch of cardboard in the back of my car - I would skip the use of a homemade wax-based firestarter. Maybe to add in, especially after a rain or while using wet wood, but overall just an 'extra'.

A homemade tool that did work, however, were the two vegetable oil lanterns I had brought along. Both burned very bright and actually provided a little source of heat under the lean-to tarp I had tied above our picnic table. Lit up, they both provided an excellent source of light at night time. Enough so that my wife and I could play cards on the table. They did produce a distinct odour and you'd have to keep that in mind if you wanted to use them indoors - but besides that, I won't go camping without them again.


Sure. It can be difficult to get out there sometimes. We all have lives that get in the way of the 'extras'.

It's important though, to know you're gear. It's also important to know your limits.

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