Thursday, December 16, 2010

If You're Not Part of the Solution, You Stay in the Filter

Though the Idiosyncratic Guidebooks boast the "clarity" of going without caffeine, sorry--not in the cards. Coffee is the world's most delicious addiction, and it just doesn't make sense to wean one's self off a warm, tasty, comforting stimulant just when you plan on doing a lot of trekking far from home. But coffee in the woods requires a strategy.

I refuse to do instant. It is not and does not taste like the real thing. Most regular coffee brewing systems are bulky or heavy or fragile or require electricity, and so are impossible outdoors. Lots of backpackers go for "cowboy coffee," hot water boiled right with the grounds, and then strained through some sort of improvisation, like a bandanna, or simply chewed. It's strong, but gritty and bitter, and almost demands that you carry sugar to take the edge off. (I don't normally put sugar in my coffee.)

The store-bought backpacking coffee kits promise amazing coffee through technical wizardry. Unfortunately, weight/bulk-wise, they don't give you much of an advantage over hauling your French press over the hills. They look like this:

Ignition... and lift-off!
p.s., Is that an antenna??
And they cost like 40 bucks. Doesn't that seem like way too big a deal for pouring water over grounds? Isn't there anything lighter, simpler, lower-tech?

I tested my coffee solution this morning. This entire blog post is to let you know what a resourceful genius I am. Here's the secret formula:


Or, to put it another way:

$4.99                           +                   $6.99

Just add water. Well, water and coffee grounds and a mug. As a bonus, this is the only way the coffee ultrasnobs at the snooty place up the street make their drip cups: one at a time, with freshly boiled water drizzled slowly over the grounds. If done right, it makes an excellent, full-bodied cup--one of which I'm enjoying right now. 

Coffee problem, PWNED.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Progress Report

Big milestone, you guys. I'm halfway done preparing my dehydrated food! Want to see what three months' worth of food looks like?

It sounds like this.
Four shopping bags. That looks almost... sad.

But this is, in fact, happy news. When I first began dehydrating food, 180 dishes was an unimaginable amount. Filling the first shopping bag seemed to make a negligible dent in the total, and I despaired of ever having enough room to store the stuff, even in the nifty chest freezer I bought. And how would I ever get it where I'm going, and then carry it around with me? But fitting 6 months' worth of dinners into 8 neatly tied shopping bags seems totally doable. That wouldn't top off the trunk of a sedan, much less the bed of a pickup. It'll also make it easier to enlist someone to store the stuff and ship it to me in installments.

I'm very glad I bought the dehydrator and went the route of making my own meals.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Goo Goo ga Choo

Even though it's currently mild in Moab, Utah, near where I plan to be a year from now, a bike ride in the cold and wind got me thinking about winter camping. (I'm also filling space on this blog, because there's not much going on right now.) As winter sets in, I'm trying to note how my body reacts to temperatures and conditions, to anticipate the cold-weather gear I'll want.

What I've observed is that I have the body of a walrus. This isn't about body dysmorphic disorder. Walruses live in the Arctic, and spend most of their time in the very cold water. A layer of blubber keeps them warm. Unlike other pinnipeds, they don't have thick fur as a final layer of insulation; instead, they have special skin. In the water, the blood vessels of a walrus's skin contract, drawing its warm blood down below the blubber layer. They look pale and clammy, like brining roasters.

But when they come out of the water and bask in the warm sun, their skin blood vessels dilate, and the blood rushes back to the surface, turning them pink.

Tyra says: Walrus brings it it H to T!
I can be out in the cold for a really long time before my trunk or especially my legs feel cold--I've got a pretty well distributed layer of body fat, and I seem to radiate almost no heat from my skin. It's not unusual for my skin to feel truly corpse-cold to the touch after coming in from winter activities, yet I don't feel uncomfortable.

The huge exception to this is hands and feet. I sleep in wool socks. My fingers quickly numb. The lesson of the walrus is: invest in mittens and those warmy packets.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Random Updates

Things, good and bad. Which first?

The bad: I somehow misplaced my backpacking cookbook, with all the dehydrateable recipes. This isn't too terrible: many of the recipes were sort of meh, I'm having great luck winging it, and the book is always available at the library.

The problem is that with the book went all my notes on how to un-meh the recipes. I bought a couple of key anti-meh ingredients (perishable ones) before I realized I'd misplaced the book. And I can't remember which vaguely Asian recipe was so improved by lemongrass, or which pasta dish tasted so surprisingly delightful with a handful of pomegranate seeds.

The good: I have a backpack! Hilton's Tent City finally called saying it was in. I picked it up, brought it home, and shoved the heaviest thing I had into it. It turns out that my new backpack is excellent at hauling around 22-lb. buckets of kitty litter. I'll have to test it on a long ramble sometime soon.

Intermediate news: I've acquired some apparel, including some good fleecy base-layer stuff, a nice wind shell, and a few other things. My dilemma is this: I sort of want to save all my expensive, fancy stuff so it's in pristine shape when I start, but some of it is just so damn nice that I can't resist the temptation to use it now. For instance, my wind shell (which is also good in light rain) is just too awesome for biking to keep stored in a closet. It's just so trim and toasty! And my fuzzy underlayers--hey, they're perfect for running in the cold! My worry is that I'll get them all funkynasty before I even leave. Some problem, right? My stuff is just too nice! Wah!