Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Why I No Longer Buy Under Armour Products

This post is an opinion piece, done to express my disappointment in Under Armour as a company and make clear my intention to stop purchasing any of their products.

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For those of you not familiar with the controversy, it began when on June 5, 2016, Josh Bowmar, posted a YouTube video, showing him successfully hunting a bear with nothing but a spear.

The hunt was conducted in Alberta Canada around May 15, 2016. By all accounts, the hunt was perfectly legal, and all appropriate permits were obtained and applicable regulations followed.

The video has since been taken down due to death threats from “peace loving” animal rights activists, but it features the hunt, filmed by Josh Bowmar’s wife Sarah. The hunt took place in a forested area. A bait pile was used to lure the bear to the location. Bait piles are legal in some jurisdictions, and not in others, both in Canada and the US. It was legal in the area of this hunt. Bowmar, who was standing on the ground, waited until the bear was approximately 20 to 30 feet away from him (my approximation based on the video), and speared it with a spear which he threw at that distance. He registered a near perfect lung shot. Reportedly, the bear ran for about 60 to 70 yards before dying.

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By all measures, the hunt was legally and ethically conducted by a skilled and well trained and prepared hunter.

Almost imediately, the usual uproar rose up from anti-hunting groups and people. Numerous of false facts were manufactured, including allegations that the bear was trapped, that it was a cub, that it was left to suffer for an extended period of time, etc., and hilariously, that Josh Bowmar is somehow a “coward” for facing a bear with nothing but a spear.

Of course, none of that is accurate. The bear was legally hunted. It was not trapped. The animal died less than 70 yards from the area where it was speared. The bear was an adult, measuring 7.1 feet in length. For those not familiar with hunting, large game animals, particularly bear, rarely drop where they are shot, even when a high power rifle is used. The adrenaline rush typically propels them to run for a notable distance before collapsing. Under normal conditions, a hunter would not pursue immediately, but give the animal a chance to stop and die without being disturbed, only then beginning the tracking process. There is nothing in this hunt which would distinguish it in ethical terms from any other hunt, taking a bear with a bow or rifle, other than the melon-sized balls required to get that close to a bear with nothing but a spear.

Anyway, all that was background for the actual reason for the post.

Not long after the video went viral, an anti-hunting activist from Illinois started a Change.org petition, seeking to have Under Armour pull their sponsorship for Sarah Bowmar, Josh’s wife, who is a hunter in her own right. The petition gathered 4,000 signatures.

Shockingly, Under Armour caved, and pulled their sponsorship, even openly condemning the hunt itself.

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For those of you who do not hunt, Under Armour is a large producer of hunting gear. For that reason, their lack of loyalty to the hunting community and their speed in caving to anti-hunting lynch-mob mentality perpetrated by a small group of people who don’t know the first thing about hunting or conservation efforts, is alarming, disheartening, and deeply disappointing.

For a company to punish the wife of a hunter because he conducted a legal and ethical hunt, in a manner which our ancestors used for millennia, is very upsetting to me. As such, I will no longer purchase any new Under Armour products. I encourage all people in the hunting community to do the same.

I truly hope that hunters can come together on this issue. Unfortunately, as a community, we are horrible in terms of coming to each other’s defense, even in the most clear cut cases. We turn on each other at the drop of a hat, and in a desperate attempt to show the anti-hunters (or perhaps to convince ourselves) that we are one of the “good hunters” and gain their approval; we stab other hunters in the back. Everyone defends their chosen, specific style of hunting, and then dismisses every other style as “not real hunting”.

The irony of course is that anti-hunters couldn’t care less about how you hunt, how ethical you think you are, or how readily you sell out other hunters. They simply want an end to hunting because somehow, in their minds, it is more ethical to raise an animal in captivity and electrocute it to death on a production line, than to shoot a fully grown animal in the woods. Or, that chemically castrating whole populations of animal is morally superior to allowing sport hunting for conservation reasons.

The only good part of this most recent batch of contrived, flavor-of-the-week outrage, has been that anti-hunters have finally come full circle in their critique of hunting, revealing the disingenuous nature of the usual arguments that are levied against hunters.

See, typically, anti-hunters claim that they are outraged by the lack of sportsmanship when it comes to hunting. People who hunt with rifles are attacked because hunting with a rifle is too easy, and “real hunters” use a bow. Bow hunters are attacked because bow hunting is too easy, and if you were a “real hunter”, you would be going after the animal with a knife. Literally, a week ago I had that argument with a guy regarding wolf hunting, who was explaining to me that a “real hunter” would go after the wolf with a knife, because using a rifle is just extermination. Well, here we have a guy killing a bear with nothing but a spear, from about 20 feet away, on the ground. So, are those same people happy? Nope! Now all of a sudden, it turn out (according to them) that real hunters use rifles because it is more humane. Hmmm…

Of course, these are people who know nothing about hunting or conservation efforts. They don’t know the first thing about what it takes to complete a successful hunt, what it takes to kill an animal, or how to maintain a balanced ecosystem. Most importantly, they maintain their moral superiority by remaining willfully ignorant of the way their own food gets to their table, or how ecological balance is maintained. The arguments are disingenuous. They are just a tool designed to eliminate hunting. Thankfully, this hunt by Josh Bowmar, and subsequent contrived outrage, has brought that to light, more clearly than ever before.

I strongly believe that we as hunters, need to stop the Uncle Tom routine, exemplified by the disappointing actions of Under Armour, and come together as a community.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Trip Report: Classic Backpacking 6/18/16–6/19/16

As you guys saw in my last post, I’ve been doing a bunch of fishing on my more recent trips. I have also been doing some Clasic Backpacing. I haven’t posted much about the trips because they are fairly standard. The challenging ones were during winter, but now that the weather is nice, they are pretty standard, evin with century old gear. In case anyone is followign though, here is one from last weekend.

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It was a very warm day. Temperture was supposed to be up around 85F (29C). I figured it would stay warm enough for me to bring Rhea along. It’s hard to bring her when it’s cold because I can’t keep her int he blanket with me, like I do when I’m carrying a sleeping bag.

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This particular route required a lot of climbing. It was a quick ascent to above the tree line, and a bit down in elevation to the area where I wanted to camp.

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For my summer Classic Backpacking trips, I’ve decided to wear cotton clothing. I had on a cotton shirt and corduroy pants. Reading through original sources, it appears that they wore wool year round, but it’s not practical for me. It is just too warm, and if you get some thinner wool clothing, it wears out way too quickly.

In the early afternoon, I reached my destination. I took my time setting up camp.

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The tarp was mostly there for the shade. I didn’t make any type of brush pile for under the blanket. I didn’t need the insulation, and it doesn’t bother me sleeping on a hard surface.

The big benefit of doing Classic Backpacking in warm weather is that you save huge amount sof time both building a sleeping surface, as well as gathering fire wood to keep you warm through the night.

The down side however is water. I’m trying to keep true to the primary sources, and while writers like Kephart mention the existance of rubber bladders for water storage, and several of them talk about canteen, many carried no water storage at all, or just a single canteen, as I am doing. I have to say, they must have been very limited with respect to the terrain were they could travel. In this type of weather, I wanted to be far away from water sources, as well as higher in elevation. It’s the only way to survive the mosquitoes and the humidity. That however, combined with my single water bottle, necessitated that I make two lengthy trips down the mountain to a water source. I then had to boil it, which wasn’t fun in the heat.

The water trips took up most of the day. I used the time to check out the blueberry bushes in the area. Another month and they should be ready.

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I was also lucky to spot a turkey. A month too late, and it appeared to be a hen, but still, it’s rare that I can get close enough to one to take a picture.

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I kept the fire small; just enought to boil the water.

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I fell asleep on top of the blanket. During the night however I got a bit chilled and had to toss it over me. I didn’t do the usual wrap, but just folded it over me. The night was short, and I got up bright and early.

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I packed up and headed back. I tried to make my way down the moutnain before the heat really kicked up.

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So, that’s that. A pretty uneventful trip. It’s how they have been lately. The weather has been very forgiving.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

What Has Wood Trekker Been Up To?

Hey guys. I know I haven’t posted in a while. Nothing to worry about. I’ve just been very busy with work. I still go out on my usual trips, I just haven’t had time to write about them. It is a very time consuming process.

This past month I have mostly been focusing on trout fishing. I’ve been hitting the local spots with some friends.


Lower end of the Neversink River:






The Ramapo River:



West branch of the Croton River:







Even though water levels have been low, fishing has been half decent. I hope to get some more free time soon, so I can start writing posts again. Unfortunately, they are more time consuming than the trips themselves.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Classic Backpacking Gear: Stoves

The issue of stoves when it comes to Classic Backpacking can be a bit complex. The reason is that we have to look not only at the options available at the time, but also at how and if they were used.

In this post I want to discuss the use of small stoves which would be portable in a backpack by a single person. The sources are very limited with respect to such devices. While stoves are indeed discussed at length, the discussions are almost exclusively regarding large wood burning stoves designed to heat tents, and which would be transported by pack train. There are however some small segments, and some peripheral sources which can give us usable information.

It appears that in the early parts of the classic backpacking period, the preferred backpacking stove was an alcohol burner. In the source materials they are typically referred to as spirit burners or spirit lamps. The below advertisement for a Gogau alcohol stove was featured in the 1904 Hardware Dealers' Magazine, Volume 22. The J. Picard & Co Spirit Burner circa 1873 and the W.J.D. Mast Alcohol Lamp circa 1896 are also good examples of small, portable alcohol stoves. Officer mess kits containing a similar alcohol stove were popular during WWI.


While open burner designs like the ones we see most often today, as well as pressurized versions like the one seen above were available in one form or another, the preferred configuration appears to have been ones using a wick. I’ve reached this conclusion based on the limited descriptions provided by Edward Whymper, Fridrjof Nansen, and Warren Miller. It is possible that other models were in wide spread use, but I have not been able to find any references.

The spirit-lamp was lighted, and the remaining spirits of wine, the brandy and some snow were heated by it. It made a strong liquor, but we only wished for more of it. When that was over, Macdonald endeavored to dry his socks by the lamp, and then the three lay down under my plaid to pretend to sleep.” Edward Whymper, Scrambles Amongst the Alps, 1872 p.26

For fuel there is, no doubt, nothing at all comparable with alcohol, which should be as pure as possible. In addition to other advantages, such as its cleanliness, it has the great merit of yielding more heat than anything else in comparison to its weight… At the bottom is the heating-chamber, containing a spirit-lamp with several wicks. The air enters by a number of holes at the bottom in sufficient quantity to insure complete combustion, and, as it must itself pass through or near the flames, it is either consumed or heated to such an extent that no cold air can enter the apparatus. Should it be necessary, owing to the overheating of the lamp, to let some cold air in, this can be done by holes in the sides of the hot chamber… Experiments made after our return home showed me that our cooker made use of only 52 per cent, of the alcohol consumed. This is, of course, a somewhat extravagant use of fuel, though previous expeditions do not seem to have been much more successful. Yet there is no doubt that further improvements in this direction will lead to a considerable reduction in the consumption of spirit.” Fridtjof Nansen, The First Crossing of Greenland, 1890 p.36-38

The above quotes indicate that up to the 1890s, alcohol stoves, and in particular stoves which used a wick to burn the alcohol, were used by climbers as well as polar explorers. The preference for wick based stoves over other burners which rely on vaporizing the fuel, is hinted at by Kephart on a later date: “In this instance it is an alcohol burner of common pad form, which is less likely to get out of order than an alcohol vapor stove.” Horace Kephart, Featherweight Camping in England, 1914

In 1892 however, a new stove design entered wide scale use, the Primus Kerosene Stove No.1. While it was not the first kerosene stove, the Primus stoves quickly gained popularity, and quickly started to replace alcohol stoves. The change is exemplified by the writings of Fridtjof Nansen, who in the span of only few years went from using an alcohol stove for his cold weather expeditions, to using a Primus stove. The below advertisement from 1897 references as this being the stove used by “Nansen the Explorer”.


For the heating was used a Swedish gas-petroleum lamp, known as 'the Primus,' in which the heat turns the petroleum into gas before it is consumed. By this means it renders the combustion unusually complete. Numerous experiments made by Professor Torup at his laboratory proved that the cooker in ordinary circumstances yielded 90 to 93 per cent. of the heat which the petroleum consumed should, by combustion, theoretically evolve. A more satisfactory result, I think, it would be difficult to obtain… Together with two tin mugs, two tin spoons, and a tin ladle, it weighed exactly 8lbs. 3ozs., while the lamp, the "Primus," weighed 1lb 12oz.

As fuel, my choice this time fell on petroleum ("snow-flake".) Alcohol, which has generally been used before on Arctic expeditions, has several advantages, and, in particular, is easy to burn. One decided drawback to it, however, is the fact that it does not by any means generate as much heat in comparison with its weight as petroleum when the latter is entirely consumed, as was the case with the lamp used by us. As I was afraid that petroleum might freeze, I had a notion of employing gas-oil, but gave up the idea, as it escapes so easily that it is difficult to preserve, and is, moreover, very explosive. We had no difficulties with our "snowflake" petroleum on account of the cold. Fridtjof Nansen, Farthest North Volume II, 1897 p.113

This early use of the Primus stove however was not exactly the backpacking application I am interested in here. The Primus No.1 stove is relatively heavy, and is better suited to group use, in particular when carried by sled as it was by Nansen, Shackleton, Scott, and Amundsen. Below you see such a stove used circa 1911 together with a “Nansen Cooker”, a pot system designed to maximize the use of the produced heat. 


Portable models started to emerge in the early 1900s. From what I understand, T.H. Holding used a specially modified Primus No.230, which could be carried on a bicycle. He called it the Baby Primus. 


Why I was so slow to take up the "Primus" for Camping purposes, was because of my hatred of paraffin. Experiments, begun fifteen years ago, both at home and Sunbury Camp, showed what a powerful and efficient thing it was, but too big to carry on a cycle. It took me three years to get a smaller size — 5-ins. across — made, and then it had projecting legs. So I devised a second model and had the feet set right underneath, the projecting pump shortened, and changed the valve from the side to the top, christening it the " Baby Primus," which is the best of all the "Primus" models. Still pursuing my Spartan notions re compactness, space and solid packing, I designed the "So-Soon" pans for taking the "Primus" stove inside. This, of course, for cycling… I unhesitatingly say that the "Primus" in its revised form, with these beautiful light pans, is the most efficient and suitable stove in the world for the average camper.” Thomas Hiram Holding, The Camper’s Handbook, 1908 p.310-311

However, in my opinion, a truly portable, commercially available, kerosene stove did not come about until circa 1908, with the Primus No.96. It had a half pint capacity, and weighed 1lb 1.2oz (on my scale, without additional items). 

Even so, the use of backpacking stoves remained extremely limited, especially in the US. References in the texts of the time are rare, and the average woodsman had no reason to use a stove rather than a fire. This attitude about backpacking stoves is exemplified by Horace Kephart when writing about the gear of T.H. Holding. “Since the English camper can seldom use wood for fuel, he is obliged to carry a miniature stove and some alcohol or kerosene.” Horace Kephart, Featherweight Camping in England, 1914

Until the mid 1950s, with the introduction of the Svea 123 and similar models like the Primus No.71, the use of backpacking stoves was largely reserved for people who traveled to areas where it was impossible to make a fire. In the US that was restricted to climbing above the tree line and arctic exploration, while in Europe stoves appear to have been more widely used, especially when camping in more populated areas. 

So, where does that leave us when it comes to the use of backpacking stoves when trying to do Classic Backpacking? To me, it appears that the use of backpacking stoves was reserved for times when it was not possible to make a fire. It seems the woodsmen of the time would rather use a fire whenever possible, and I imagine the average woodsman of the Classic Backpacking period might have never seen a portable stove of the type discussed here. However, backpacking stoves were available, and they were used when needed. In the US, where fire wood was abundant, the use was reserved for climbing and arctic exploration, while in Europe, where I imagine the use of fire was more restricted in some areas, the stoves had greater popularity. 

As such, I would say that when doing Classic Backpacking, a portable stove does have it’s place. To be period correct, one would want to primarily rely on a fire, but when that is not possible due to restrictions or unavailability of wood, it would be proper to pull out the stove. 

With respect to the actual stove designs, the choices would be either an alcohol stove, with a preference for a wick based design, or a kerosene stove. Warren Miller gives a good summary and description of the options: 

For work above timber-line, the camp-fire takes the form of a spirit or kerosene lamp. Denatured alcohol, or just plain kerosene, costing a tenth as much; both have one-hole and two-hole blue-flame burners available in light, folding explorer's stoves. The kerosene-burners work on the principle of the familiar gasolene plumber's torch, a little raw kerosene first being ignited to heat the burner, after which the affair is self-vaporizing, and the height of the flame is then controllable with a needle-valve. With these burners is supplied a sheet-iron radiating drum for tent-warming, after the cooking is done, and this drum serves as a packing-case for the lamp and its special kerosene-can when on the trail. With denatured alcohol the process is even simpler, the burner simply being lighted, when the hot blue flame of alcohol vapor is at once available, and, of course, it gives many more heat-units per pound of fuel than kerosene.

A rig similar to these which a friend of mine uses on his one-man hikes is nothing in the world but a short, extra-fat candle with a big wick, the only other apparatus besides the candle being a sheet-iron collar or spider, on which the bowl or frying-pan rests, held by it a short distance above the flame. A similar apparatus using solidified alcohol is on the market and gives much more heat for the weight carried.” Warren Hastings Miller, Camp Craft, 1915 p.93-94


Above you see a picture of what I consider two good examples of backpacking stoves from the Classic Backpacking period. One is a kerosene burning Primus No.96 (left), and the other is a wick based alcohol stove (right).

It may be tempting to just pull out a Trangia Stove, especially since the Trangia Company was established in 1925, within the Classic Backpacking period, but unfortunately, Trangia did not start making alcohol stoves until the 1950s. More accurate designs, either just open burners, or wick based burners can be found on eBay, or made at home.

With respect to kerosene stoves, the choices are tougher. The best approach would be to find an old kerosene stove like a Primus and restore it, like I did with mine. I will do a separate post on doing a basic restoration. The Primus No.96 was produced all the way through the 1960s. While there are small variations between different years, the design was functionally the same. Unfortunately, that is not a project everyone wants to undertake. A decent alternative would be to purchase a new Svea 123 stove. They have some significant differences from the early kerosene stoves, but are the closest I have found on the market today.

I'm certainly not a "stove guy", so this has been just a very brief overview of stoves for Classic Backpacking. I'm sure there are many other options available and approaches you can take.