Video: DIY Ski Waxing Tips

Temperature, temperature, temperature.


How to Keep Your Puffy Jacket Clean

Puffy coats are an essential part of every outdoor adventurer’s wardrobe. Whether you’re a hiker, skier, climber, or backpacker, one (or more) of these synthetic and down-filled jackets probably regularly finds its way into your pack. But with winter now upon us, you’ve also probably been wearing it so much that it begs the question: is your puffer clean? Because keeping your puffy clean improves its performance and increases its longevity, read on for a few tips to keep your precious puffy in pristine condition and, if it happens to get dirty, clean it up.

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1. Top of the Line

Stashing your puffy at the top of your pack offers a handful of advantages. Most notably, it keeps it easily accessible for when you stop—which is always a great time to add a warm layer for sudden shifts in temperature. From a longevity standpoint, stowing your puffer on the top of your pack keeps it out of harm’s way when shoving items in and out of your backpack. It also helps it avoid absorbing moisture from wet items in the pack, or from being doused by a leaky water bottle.

2. Hang in There

Speaking of storage, while many puffies on the market come with stuff sacks or stow in their own pockets, keeping them bundled up is not a good long-term solution. Keeping an insulated jacket compressed can cause flat spots and negatively affect how insulation lofts. Instead, hang your puffy up at the end of the day. It’s good for the disbursement of insulation and loft of your puffer, and also ensures that your jacket dries thoroughly between uses.

3. Look Sharp

Another easy way to keep your puffy jacket at peak performance is by simply being careful when handling sharp objects. Tuck ice axe picks into pick pockets or cover their sharp edges with Black Diamond Pick Protectors. When storing crampons, make sure to pack them with their points facing one another, or use the Black Diamond Crampon Bag to avoid accidentally puncturing your puffy. Carrying skis on your shoulder? Watch those edges!

Pro Tip: If you’re planning on wearing a puffy for a considerable amount of time—and conditions allow—consider adding a more robust layer, like a softshell, on top of the puffy for an extra layer of protection.

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4. Don’t Dig Yourself into a Hole

Despite our best efforts, it seems holes are inevitable on puffy coats (especially lightweight ones). Patching holes early is a good way to keep expensive insulation inside your coat and add years to your jacket’s lifespan. Duct tape is the old standby for many outdoors people, but it can actually do more harm than good since it can further tear the coat when removed, leaves a residue behind, and pulls the insulation out when removed. Instead, use a pre-cut Gore-Tex Patch or Gear Aid Tenacious Tape, both of which are easily stored in a repair kit.

Pro Tip: To avoid losing insulation or further damaging the outer lining, patch any holes on your puffy before washing it. Of course, if the material around the hole is truly filthy, spot cleaning it can go a long way to ensuring that the patch stays put.

5. Clean Up Your Act

No matter how careful you are with your puffy, the time will come when it needs a wash—dirt, oils, and, in some cases, beer all have a way of winding up on your jacket. Keeping your jacket clean is for more than mere aesthetics—it also improves the loft of insulation and revitalizes Durable Water Repellent (DWR) shells, keeping puffies functioning at the pinnacle of performance and extending their lifespan.

While cleaning a puffy can feel daunting, it is actually quite easy:

  1. Most companies advise using a front-loading washing machine for cleaning your puffy coat and warn against using top-loading washers. However, many newer top-loading machines do not use agitators—which can snag and rip delicate items like puffies. If you have access to a newer top-loading washer without an agitator, feel free to use it. No matter if its a front- or top-loader, use the gentle cycle. No washer? No problem, a bathtub or sink also works great.
  2. Get a cleaner designed specifically for your garment, such as Nikwax Down Wash. Traditional laundry detergents can strip down feathers of their natural oils and leave a residue on your jacket’s shell, both of which will negatively affect your coat’s performance. If you are washing a synthetically insulated puffy, a product like Nikwax Tech Wash both cleans insulation and restores the jacket’s water resistance, all without leaving a soapy, performance-inhibiting residue behind.
  3. After your puffy is done in the washing machine, throw it in the dryer on low heat. At low heat, drying a puffy can be a time-consuming process and it often requires a few cycles to get a puffy completely dry. Fight the temptation to speed up the process by jacking up the heat—too much heat can melt everything from the jacket’s outer shell to the synthetic insulation. It’s also possible to air dry a puffy, although it can take anywhere from a couple of days to a week. To air dry, simply lay your puffy on a towel in a warm, dry spot out of direct sunlight and occasionally flip the jacket over.
  4. To help your jacket maintain its loft, throw a few clean tennis balls into the dryer with it, as they aid in re-fluffing your puffy. If you’re hand drying, manually pulling apart insulation clumps can help restore your puffy’s fluff and speed up the drying process.
  5. While everyone loves a nice, clean puffy, it’s advisable to only wash them as needed. Washing can cause extra wear and stress to a jacket and shorten its lifespan.

Do you have any tips for keeping your puffy pristine? We want to hear them! Please leave them in the comments section below.

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How to Tell How Much Fuel is In Your Canister

On a cold, wet, and windy morning in late October, our party huddled in Stony Clove Notch, the halfway point of the Catskills’ infamous Devil’s Path. We were sitting, shivering in the lee of a boulder, and watching a pot of water try to boil when, without warning, the fuel ran out. We checked it, shook it, tried again and again to light it, but that was that—it had kicked. There would be no hot breakfast this morning. There would be no coffee. No. Coffee.

We’d walk off the cold on the climb out of the notch, but we learned two valuable lessons that day. One, nothing takes the wind out of your sails quite like running out of stove fuel, and two, always bring enough.

Because canister stoves use stock container sizes—a common knock when debating the merits of liquid versus gas backpacking stoves—it’s not super easy to tailor the amount of fuel you’re bringing into the backcountry. Short of hauling extra canisters (heavy), or only packing-in full canisters (wasteful), your only option is to measure just how much fuel actually remains in that used canister you’ve got hanging around.

Here are a couple of ways to do just that.

Credit: John Lepak
Credit: John Lepak

1. Weigh It

To measure a fuel canister’s contents, weighing it is a reliable and fairly accurate method. This is optimally performed with a digital scale. Kind of a specialty item, these scales aren’t crazy expensive and are a fantastic tool to have in the kitchen if you’re the cooking type. They are not, however, ultralight or especially useful in the field. So, you’ll need to do this exercise at home, before the trip.

Gather two fuel canisters of the same brand—one with some gas left and one empty. Since the exact mixture, manufacture, and packaging vary from company to company, it’s important that the canisters be of the same brand.

This is when you’ll need that digital scale, and since there’s a bit of math involved here, it couldn’t hurt to grab a scrap of paper and a pen—or to open up that calculator app. 

Weigh the empty canister, and record its value. This measurement gives you a baseline for what the container weighs by itself.

Credit: John Lepak
Credit: John Lepak

Next, weigh the semi-full canister and record this measurement. Now for the arithmetic: Go ahead and subtract the weight of the empty canister from the semi-full canister. The resulting value tells you how much gas you’ve got left.

Fuel weight to burn time ratios vary from stove to stove, however. So, a little research on your specific setup will be necessary to find out how long those ounces will last. Measure that against the needs of your trip, and you’ll have a good idea of what to pack.

Side note: If you’re using Jetboil canisters, the Jetboil JetGauge Canister Weight Scale offers accurate weight measurement in the field. It’s small and packable, and goes one step further for you, converting the weight into a percentage value to represent the remaining fuel. 

Credit: John Lepak
Credit: John Lepak

2. Float It

At home, a digital scale is a luxury, but in the backcountry, it’s an impossibility. Fortunately, thanks to physics and the fuel canister’s natural buoyancy, there’s still a way.

The principle is simple: A full canister weighs more than an empty one. Ergo, the more fuel in the canister, the lower it will float. Start at home with two canisters of the same brand—one full and one empty. You’ll also need a permanent marker and a pot or bowl large enough to hold your canister and a sufficient amount of water to float it.

Fill the vessel with just enough water to submerge a single canister. Then, gently add the full one, tilting it slightly to free up any bubbles that got caught in the concavity underneath. Also, be sure not to get any water in the little area around the valve, as this will skew your reading.

Let the canister settle, and check the water line. Once it’s not moving around as much, take it out of the vessel, and mark the water line with a permanent marker. For accuracy, a good move here is to eyeball a feature printed on the canister that lines up with that water line.

Credit: John Lepak
Credit: John Lepak

Now, repeat the process with the empty canister. At this point, you’ll clearly notice the difference in where the water line hits.

Finally, line up both canisters on a flat surface and copy the marks from one to the next, so that each has an approximate “full” and “empty” line. Provided you’re using the same brand of fuel moving forward, you can keep one of these marked canisters to use as a template to mark future ones.

Some companies, like MSR and Jetboil, have taken to printing “fuel gauges” on their canisters. This cuts the advance work out of the picture and allows you to measure your available fuel on the fly.

Credit: John Lepak
Credit: John Lepak

Honorable Mentions

There are no doubt hordes of OGs out there who swear by the shake method, and that’s cool. For reference, this is when you shake a used canister to see if there’s anything left and make a judgement by touch and heft. It can work, too, but only to a very rough degree of totally subjective accuracy. The method also relies heavily on experience. So, if you’re new to your camp stove, keep away from this approach.

You can also combine your knowledge with the information provided by your stove’s manufacturer. For example, an MSR Reactor stove set up with a 1L pot should—according to the manufacturer—burn through an 8 oz. canister in approximately 80 minutes, producing 20 liters of water in the process. Unless you’re on a trip that requires melting snow as a water supply, that’s enough to last a single person for a week—10 days if you’re stretching it. If you can keep track of just how many times you took your canister out, and roughly how much you used it each time, you can get a decent estimate. Unlike weighing or floating, though, you’re still essentially making a guess rather than taking a measurement.

No Substitute for Experience

At the end of the day, preparedness relies on experience, and there’s no way to get that but to spend the time. The more you get out there, the more you’ll know about which type of stove fits your needs, and how much fuel you’ll need to bring along. Waking up without coffee is a bummer, but when you’re really out there, a working stove—that you know how to use and are comfortable with—can be the difference between a good trip and a serious situation.

So, give these methods a shot and let us know which works best for you.


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DIY: Pegboard Gear Storage

When your early-morning alarm doesn’t go off in time and you’re forced to frantically rush around, trying to get ready and out the door for your adventure, having your gear organized instantly becomes more important. Of course, right before a trip is when you realize you don’t know where half your gear is. If only you had taken the time to set up some kind of organizational system, you’d know right where everything was, and you’d be on your way already.

Just like the power tools in your shed, your adventure gear deserves a home worthy of its beauty. And, there’s nothing quite as nice looking (or as organized) as hanging everything up on a pegboard. It’s easy to sort and customize, simple to look at, and totally Instagram-worthy. And, thankfully, it’s easier to get organized this way than you might realize.

Materials & Tools

  • (2) 2 ft. x 4 ft. pieces of pegboard
  • (2) 1 in. x 2 in. x 8 ft. furring strips
  • 1 lb. box of Grip-Rite 2 in. construction screws
  • Everbilt 47-piece Locking Peg Hook Assortment
  • Tape measure
  • Level
  • Power drill
  • Circular saw

Directions

1. Find a room or space where you want to organize your gear.

For me, this space turned out to be my garage. Adding a pegboard here allowed for quick, easy access to all of my gear in a central location whenever I packed my car up for an adventure.

2. Find the wall studs to get an idea of exactly where your pegboard will go.

You can use the tried-and-true method of light pounding with your first and then measuring with a tape measure, or you can use an electronic studfinder. However, most studs in residential construction are 24 or 16 inches apart. So, you can use these measurements to figure out exactly where you will be attaching the furring strip to the wall.

In my garage, the studs were 24 inches apart. So, I used this figure to frame the backing furring strip, as shown below. If yours fall 16 inches apart or even 12, you may want to play around with how you center the pegboard over the furring strip.

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The pegboard accessory kit I used does come with spacers, which you screw through the pegboard and into the wall behind. But, I chose to use the furring strip instead, because of the weight I would be placing on the pegboard. It’s better to be safe than sorry, and this method provides a much sturdier and solid support system that connects your pegboard to the studs and utilizes the strength of the wall itself. Since the pegboard is 2 ft. x 4 ft., and the furring strip comes in eight-foot lengths, you’ll need to cut it in half (at 48 inches). This is where you’ll need the tape measure and saw.

3. After cutting the two pieces of furring strip, it’s time to mount them to the wall.

Make sure you use the level to line everything up nice and straight. As an alternative, your iPhone may have a built-in level based on the accelerometer’s functions. To attach the strips to the wall, I used three screws in each piece: one in the center and one near each end. But, don’t place them too close. Furring strip tends to be a dryer wood and is therefore more susceptible to cracking if you try to add screws right at the edge.

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4. After the furring strip is up, it’s time to hang and attach the pegboard!

You’ll want to make sure you center the pegboard’s side edge on your furring strip’s center piece and make the top edge flush with the upper piece of furring strip. Placement is fairly straightforward if your studs are 24 inches apart. If they are 16 inches apart, however, you may have to play around with this.

I used two screws on the longer sides of each edge, between the locations of the furring strip’s existing screws. Once the first piece is up, the second follows quickly. Keep in mind that it’s often easier to do this step with the help of a second person to hold and guide.

5. Now, it’s time to use the hook accessory kit to start arranging and hanging your gear.

I like the accessory variety kit, because it comes with quite a few different shapes and sizes, which can be used for specific items of gear. So, play around to see which pieces work best for your supplies.

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Organization Tips

When it comes to organizing your gear, you want to try to distribute weight as evenly as possible. Take the heavier items and spread them out, and fill in the spaces in between with smaller, lighter items. For my pegboard, I try to keep all items in the same category grouped together—headlamps, water bottles, jackets, etc.—in order to save time looking for them. Since backpacks and jackets tend to take up a lot of volume, a good tip is to hang them on the pegboard’s bottom hooks. Doing so creates more space for other items.

For larger items, camping gear especially, I’ve found that they were just too big and bulky to organize on the pegboard. Instead, I keep them stored and organized on a five-tier plastic storage shelving system. When it comes to grouping smaller gear, you can use stuff sacks, small plastic totes, or similar bags to keep like items together.