16 June 2015

Supernova Maiden Voyage

Back in the early part of the year I ordered a new canoe, I've been lake tripping in the cedar stripper for a few years now and got the hankering for river running. It has been many years since I ran rivers in a canoe, in fact it was before I moved to Minnesota. So with that itch I scratched it by ordering a Supernova from Nova Craft Canoes.

Supernova 14′ 10″
The Supernova was designed as the ideal solution for the paddler who loves to do solo wilderness river trips. While the Supernova hull characteristics do what you’d expect from a white water boat – like keep you dry and effortlessly surf a wave – where you really appreciate the canoe is the flat water sections in between the frothy stuff.
The Supernova would be most appreciated by experienced paddlers who enjoy messing around in rapids. Even though it comes to life in the rough stuff, it retains enough of a quiet nature that it won’t feel out of place for a casual paddle on the local pond. In the hands of a competent paddler the Supernova is an excellent dance partner.
TuffStuff Expedition: 53lbs / 21.8kg

Length: 14’10”/ 452cm
Width: 32″ / 81.2cm
Center Depth: 15” / 38cm
End Depth: 23″ / 54.4cm
Capacity: 850lb / 386kg

· Symmetrical Hull
· Shallow Arch Bottom
· Moderate Rocker

I'd spent some time researching canoes that fit my use, I wanted something that could do nearly everything,  be nearly indestructible, relatively light weight and with good capacity. The Supernova fit the bill. I ordered in March and took delivery on June 11th at Bearskin Outfitters. They are great folks to do business with, be it canoe ordering or outfitting for Boundary Waters trips. 

As she was when I brought her home.

With limited time, story of the year so far really, I set out for a 35 mile run down the Cloquet River. This would be my first river paddle in nearly a decade, it's mostly a mild river with some Class I, II, and III rapids, but more I & II than III. I figured it would be an easy go and that I'd knock the rust off without much trouble.

The upper portion of the Cloquet River just after the put in at Indian Lake is narrow and winding through willows and marsh, quite beautiful.

About two miles of that and it opens up a bit with more varied terrain, the wilderness aspect remains though. The Cloquet winds through the Cloquet Valley State forest and for the most part is devoid of human encroachment, you're not near roads or developments, very closed off from civilization.

There is some footage in the video of running the Camp G rapids which were Class I & II, fairly mild stuff but loads of fun.

Shelter for this trip was a Kifaru Megatarp covering a Bear Paw Wilderness Designs Net Tent 1.5. It is a pretty good setup that's as  bug proof as you can get and extremely reliable from a bad weather perspective. It's the same set up that I'll use on  the North Slope of the Brooks Range Alaska trip later this year.

The set up is very simple. The two ends of the net tent are on the trekking poles, the four corners are shock corded to the four stakes used on the Megatarp. I use two tarp hooks half way down each side that are also shock corded to the middle stakes on the Mega. This makes for super fast and solid set up with fewer stakes and more flexibility with the Net tent. No stress points either.

I sacked out around nine, it had been a long day and it didn't take long for sleep to come. I woke to the sound of wolves howling at around two in the morning. They didn't sound all that far off. The rest of the night was uneventful.

The amount of mosquito swarming me in the morning was insane, I whipped up a quick breakfast in a bag and broke camp as fast as I could. Back on the water the breeze kept them at bay.

35 miles later I entered Island Lake Reservoir where I paddled the 2 miles from where the Cloquet opens into the lake to my take out point at the farthest visible point in the image below. 

I'm very happy with the canoe, though I managed to scar it up pretty good in some places on rocks I could not see. I went relatively light and I believe it would have handled even better with some additional weight. Overall I couldn't be happier to be running rivers again!

The video is a simple affair with just some highlights from the trip.

06 April 2015

Bear Paw Net Tent 1.5 & BCUSA 10x12 UL Multicam Tarp

Last year I got to playing around with the tarp over a net tent concept. Initially I paired a BCUSA 10x7 with a Bear Paw 1.5 Net Tent. Eventually I moved from the 10x7 to a 10x12 to give myself a larger vestibule area to take refuge during inclement weather or to cook in.

It's a relatively small bundle, I carry mine in a large Kifaru KU pullout shown below with a GB Wildlife Hatchet for size comparison. My cordage and stakes along with the 10x12 tarp and the 1.5 net tent fit inside the pull out with room to spare.

Since I went to the 10x12 UL tarp the weight went up, the new weight with stakes (titanium) and cordage, net tent and tarp is 2.55 pounds.

When executing the setup I start by staking the four corners of the Net-tent.

Once that's done I'll get the trekking poles up and staked and the tarp over the net tent and staked out. In the image below this is the look of the 'vestibule' that is created by using the 10x12 over the tent. I do cut a stick to fit height-wise right in front of the door. This helps create some head room but also better defines and secures the 'vestibule' area.

The vestibule area is quite large, I haven't measured it but I think there is between 30 and 35sf of protected area to store gear, remove boots, cook over a stove etc etc. There is also some decent storage space along either side of the tent, between it and the tarp wall.

Space inside the 1.5 is more than enough for one person, below are some images that illustrate that.

Sometimes I setup with a taper from the front to the rear, particularly when I expect wind and have it coming from the rear, this channels the wind around me and is structurally better than having the wind against the side.

I keep the tarp walls tight to the ground in colder or inclement weather. Stake them further out on cord when there is fair weather, this improves air flow through the shelter.

The rear corners of the net tent are simply tied to the tarp tabs as seen below. This gives you the lift on the vertical walls in order to have the bathtub effect. When running a taper from fore to aft the high point of the net tent being less than the front causes some droop to the side walls. Doesn't hurt anything and there is still more than enough head room.

I believe I have about fifteen nights under this setup so far and learn something new every time I set it up. I think it offers an incredible amount of versatility while maintaining a lightweight and small packable size. It can be really opened up with the tarp high and basically more an awning type of setup or battened down during storms. It can be set without trekking poles as well.

Once I decided that hammocks weren't for me I started looking for something that could be used year round, bugs or no bugs, was very versatile, not too heavy, didn't need tent poles, could be used with or without trekking poles, this is where I landed. If you're looking for similar at a reasonable price and weight this is a great option.

29 March 2015

Whooo Buddy!!!!...?

You bet!

I've been a fan of Shug for a number of years, his youtube channel is entertaining and educational and just downright funny too! I know from his videos that we've been stomping some of the same terrain for a while now but never ran into each other, until the other day as my son and I were loading up to head into Crosby for the night.

We had a nice chat at the trail head about the various camps in Crosby/Manitou and backwoods loafing in general. It was a nice and unexpected highlight before we even got started.

Shug on the left, and my son.

He was as I figured, total nice guy, humorous and loaded with knowledge, good people!

The George H. Crosby Manitou park is one of the real hidden gems along the North Shore, a very rugged backpack only park, because of the challenges of getting to the campsites and general rugged terrain it isn't as heavily visited as some of the other more well known sites along the shore. I've written about the park several times and it is one of my all time favorite locations. Not only is it beautiful and physically challenging it is also a great place to break in new gear.

This weekend was really just about getting out though, with a tough travel schedule I hadn't had a chance to get in enough camping trips to satisfy myself.

Second son and I were on the trail after the impromptu meeting with Shug, we headed to Benson Lake first because we wanted to see the lake and if the ice was starting to break up.

It wasn't.

The terrain in the park is rugged, lots of rock, up and down, twisty paths, but this time of year it is even worse. In the shadows of the mountain the ice has not left the pathways such as they are, snow and ice over rocks on steep inclines and declines made the footing absolutely treacherous. Yaktrax or crampons are worthwhile gear here.

We took Yellow Birch out to Misqua and down to the river. The scenery was magnificent as usual. The trails twist down the mountain to the Manitou river, there are high and low vantage points but this time of the year most of the river is frozen solid and passable on foot for vantages you cannot get any other time of the year.

The Kenetrek Mountain Extreme boots were a pleasure to wear, I haven't been this excited about a pair of boots in a long long time. My Asolo Sasslong are not worn out but I wanted to break in a new pair before Alaska in August.

Once we made it to camp it was the usual, unpack, set up camp and then just enjoy the time.

The stove for this trip was a new Primus Omnilite Ti. I first saw it in a review over at Highing Finland, you can find the write up here; Primus Omnilite Ti.

Supper was uneventful but filling, anytime you burn that much energy pretty much any food taste good!

Some food in my belly I turned to piddlin'.

I often hear about how you can use a water filter in cold weather where the filter could freeze because if there is water the filter and it freezes then the ceramic filter will rupture rendering it worthless and dangerous to use. While all of that is true, if you handle it properly you can use one in cold weather. It's pretty simple, your goal is to keep it from freezing. After use I put mine in a zip lock bag and zip all but a corner, blow some air into it and then zip it completely closed. I keep it in a coat pocket until I'm ready to hit the sack and then I put it in my sleeping bag. I've been doing this for several winters now and have had no problems with this process.

Night settled on us and the wind came up, the temperatures dropped. I slid deeper into my Kifaru slick bag and welcomed the sounds of the night and the changing weather. In the distance an owl hooted.

Morning came with no clock blaring the demands of the world, I rolled over and listened to sleet hitting the tent, saw the clumps of ice and snow clinging to the outside. Our walk in had been treacherous enough in clear weather, snow and sleet meant the walk out would be even worse. I was thinking about this as I got water on to boil for breakfast and coffee.

On this trip I was testing  some of the gear I intend to use on my trip to the Brooks Range in Alaska later this year. The Omnilite stove, Kenetrek Mountain Extreme Boots, Kifaru pack which is a Highcamp 7000 on a Duplex frame. So far it is one of the most comfortable setups I've used. I loaded it up with 60 pounds of gear for this trip. It was comfortable throughout and handled well. I've been using it since November and have to say the Duplex frame has lived up to the hype.

We broke camp quickly and once loaded up made the decision to instead of backtracking our way in we'd head up mountain first. At the top of the ridge I knew there was a trail that ran north south and if we went north it would connect back to yellow birch and from there back to the trail head. The headlong climb straight up the mountain was strenuous to say the least but we made it up and connected with the trail.

Not long after we hit the ridge line the weather had turned worse yet and snow began to pound us.

Back at the trail head we snapped one more pic before firing the truck up and heading home.

Thanks for looking!