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brian_heck2213096

brian_heck2213096

Brian's Passions

Camping

Brian's Bio

brian_heck2213096

brian_heck2213096 wrote an answer about on December 1, 2011

Howdy, Alan. I recently purchased a set of six gaskets from a seller in England. (I live in Utah; total cost was about $8, including shipping. Six are more than anyone needs, but that's the way the seller sells them.) These are the real deal: Viton gaskets, so they last a long time. I have trimmed other types of material (such as Neoprene gaskets, which are readily available from your local hardware store, but this material is not designed to withstand high temperatures). On eBay, do a search for "Viton" and then look for the seller "spiritburner."

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brian_heck2213096

brian_heck2213096 wrote a review of on November 8, 2011

3 5

I've been using the Black Diamond Apollo Lantern for backpacking for a few years now. It is one of my favorite pieces of lighting gear. I mention that because I purchased the Titan expecting similar--but so much brighter--results for our camping trips. Given its size (especially when compared to the Apollo), I expected the Titan to cast a bigger and brighter light. It's just not that bright for its size. It's rated at 250 lumens; however, the way the light is cast makes it seem quite a bit less brighter, and when you hang the lantern there is a large dark spot underneath. Replacing 4 D batteries gets expensive, and those batteries don't seem to last as long as they should! Setting the lantern on its lowest setting does extend the life of the light. I bought the Titan in part to replace having to hassle with our Coleman white gas lantern, so maybe my expectations were too high. To be sure, this lantern has a beautiful design, but that might be its bright spot.

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brian_heck2213096

brian_heck2213096 wrote a review of on November 3, 2011

5 5

I just happened across this info (that backcountry.com sells the Svea 123R) while searching for a replacement gasket for my Svea 123. I had to respond. I purchased my Svea 123 new in 1972. I still use it today. While I do own an MSR Dragonfly, the Svea is, from my experience, far more reliable. I have never had an issue with it (other than to replace the Viton gasket in the fuel cap). I have used my stove in the High Sierras, the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Arizona desert, all over Alaska (used it many times to cook freshly caught salmon and halibut), and Utah's desert and high country. The stove has NEVER failed to operate as designed. To be sure, there are lighter and more appealing stoves, but the Svea 123 has to be the most dependable backpacking stove ever made. I continue to use the stove partly because of all the good memories, but it's more than that--I never worry about the stove failing when there is no room for failure. It's that dependable. As far as priming goes, I learned early on that the best way to prime it is to pour some fuel on the tank and then light it. Sometimes in very cold weather I have to do this twice. I purchased the Optimus Mini Pump with this stove but have never used it, preferring to prime it as described. I paid $25 (if my memory serves me well) for this stove 40 years ago. There are few pieces of gear that function so well for that many years. Every decade or so I polish the stove with brass polish. I just bought a new one (just for the halibut) from backcountry.com for my 72-hour kit.

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brian_heck2213096

brian_heck2213096 wrote a review of on March 9, 2011

5 5

I've been using another name-brand tube-style snowshoe for five years here in Utah's high country. They've been satisfactory. I have 30-inchers, which can be a bit ungainly on narrow trails or when trying to climb over obstacles such as downed trees, etc. I recently purchased the 25-inch MSR Lighting Ascent showshoes. First I want to say that the 25-inch length is perfect for me. They are much more maneuverable than my 30-inch shoes. I am 5' 10" and weigh 165 without a pack. My winter hiking pack weighs approximately 15-20 pounds. These MSR shoes are dynamite! With the first steps they quickly became one with my natural stride, so much to the point that at first I didn't realize that I was nearly running in them. Compared to my previous pair of shoes, these have incredible traction. Whether I am hiking on a right slope or left slope or down hill or up hill, these shoes don't slip or slide. Speaking of hills, I was a bit skeptical about the Televator feature. It works! And it works well. It's also easy to pull up (and push back down) with a trekking pole. It works as designed. Just two negatives: In very cold weather, it can be very difficult (nearly impossible) to snap in or out of these shoes without removing my heavy mittens. The other negative is the price. These shoes are expensive. But like most gear, you get what you pay for. I am convinced that there isn't a better pair of snow shoes out there. MSR comes through once again. Zero regrets with this purchase.

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brian_heck2213096

brian_heck2213096 wrote a review of on August 7, 2008

5 5

The Black Diamond Apollo Lantern is a bright light that splendidly lights up your tent or camp area. If you want to read in your tent, you can do that. If you want to cook a late dinner, you can do that. And if you want to take that early-morning bathroom break without tripping on rocks, roots or a wandering skunk, you can do that too. On a recent backpacking trip I pumped water from a small stream using a Katadyn water filter late at night. It was a pleasure to be able to see everything in detail. The lantern's legs ensure a stable source of light that isn't going to tip over in a strong wind. This lantern really is a bright, well-designed piece of gear made with quality parts. It is a bit on the heavy side (it's 8 ounces without the 4 AA batteries). Sure, you can opt for the Brunton Lamplight, which is considerably lighter and more compact, but you don't get the bright light for reading or doing more detailed work (but it is an excellent light for the minimalist). It's a bit pricey at $50, but it does the job better than anything else I have seen out there. I recommend that Black Diamond provide a cover for the lantern to avoid scratches and a small hook to hang in your tent or from a branch. I carry the lantern in a sock and I added a small plastic snap ring to hang from my tent. Let the sun shine!

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brian_heck2213096

brian_heck2213096 wrote a review of on July 25, 2008

5 5

The Osprey Aether 70 (my wife has the Ariel 65) is a comfortable pack. The IsoForm Custom Molding hip belt is superb and adjusts easily. Simply pull the strap on each side of the belt to quickly and efficiently adjust it. (We did not find it necessary to heat mold the belt. I've talked to a number of people about this; most do not have their belt heat molded. Apparently, the belt will, with time, mold itself to your waist.) The shoulder straps also adjust easily and make a custom fit a snap, especially the ones at the top. We carried these packs fully loaded up steep trails to 10,000 feet with relative ease. There's lots of room. I'm not a big fan (or wasn't at first) of top-loading-only packs. However, if you pack carefully and with a plan, top-loading-only packs work well. I wouldn't complain about adding a zipper down the left or right side of the main compartment, nor would I gripe about the addition of a few outside access pockets (for a stove, fuel bottle, etc.). There are, of course, stretch pockets on each side of the pack, which are convenient and work especially well for Nalgene bottles. The top bag is hyped as a detachable fanny pack. I'm not convinced of its usefulness as a fanny pack--at least not yet. It's kind of a pain to detach. However, it is a great pocket as part of the pack and integrates well as part of the overall design. As with most Osprey packs, there is a plethora ("Jefe, what is a plethora?") of compression straps and more straps. At first I thought that this was a bit too much; however, as I get to know the pack better (How do you do? What can you do for me?) and work with the various features, it all makes sense--every last strap and pull has a purpose and does its job well. The packs appear to be well-made to high standards of quality and attention to detail is obvious. A few brighter colors would be a nice addition to the existing colors. I chose sunburst and my wife chose guava. Overall, we are very pleased with our Osprey Aether and Ariel packs.

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brian_heck2213096

brian_heck2213096 wrote a review of on July 22, 2008

5 5

The scene is a simple one and perhaps all too common: You're getting ready to leave the house for a hike or backpacking trip. Your packs are full (and heavy) and so are your CamelBak reservoirs. Someone places the pack down on the wood floor or carpet, the CamelBak hose is squeezed (between a pack and a hard place)--and water leaks all over. Did the dog pee on the floor again? Did one of the children spill water on the carpet? Is the kitchen faucet leaking again? Get one of these gadgets. Small item, small price, but wonderful modification for your CamelBak. No more blaming the dog, your children or your spouse for making a liquidy mess on the floor.

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brian_heck2213096

brian_heck2213096 wrote a review of on July 21, 2008

5 5

CamelBak reservoirs are superb. Yes, there are others that are good (for example, Platypus, of which we own three) and even as good. But for my money, I'm sticking with the standard. I've been using them for a dozen+ years without any issues. The 100 ouncer (3 liters) is our favorite for hiking and backpacking. Good quality, lots of wonderful accessories (such as the Hydrolock--I prefer the non-Ergo version) and a lifetime warranty. What more can a hiker want? Perhaps more days off from the grind at work to reach those summits on hot days.

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brian_heck2213096

brian_heck2213096 wrote a review of on July 21, 2008

5 5

The Marmot Arroyo is an excellent 30-degree sleeping bag. Truthfully, I would have preferred the Marmot Hydrogen (with its 850+ down compared to the Arroyo's 800+ down), which is a bit more expensive, but I could not purchase one with a right-side zipper. (The wife prefers a left-sided zipper, I require a right-sided zipper--together we are indeed compatible.) I tend to sleep on the warm side, so above 50 or so degrees, the Arroyo is a bit on the toasty side. My wife, who sleeps on the cold side, loves the bag at any temperature 30 degrees or higher. We found that the 30-degree rating is accurate. I would like to test the bag at under 30-degree conditions just to see how well it performs under pressure. The Arroyo is light--under two pounds. That's a very easy feature to appreciate. It really is a lot of bag for its light weight, and like all of Marmot's upper-end bags, the Arroyo is a joy to compress into a stuff sack or backpack sleeping bag compartment. Recommendations? Bring on some brighter colors! We highly recommend the bag. Eventually, we will purchase winter bags--they, too, will be from Marmot.

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brian_heck2213096

brian_heck2213096 wrote a review of on June 30, 2008

4 5

The Brunton Lamplight is exactly that: a lantern and flashlight, and that's what didn't quite work for me. If you're looking for a lantern AND a flashlight that's lightweight and well-made, look no further. The Brunton Lamplight weighs in at a mere 3 ounces, uses three readily available AAA batteries, and is rated to light the way for 200 hours. That's a lot to pack in such a small piece of gear. But be prepared for just adequate lighting. The LEDs are sufficient, but don't expect to do much reading--the lantern is not that bright. But it works splendidly in a tent for making those last-minute preparations just before you retire for the night. The flashlight is a plus; however, that's the feature that didn't quite work for me. Don't get me wrong; the flashlight works well. In fact, it's an excellent flashlight. The magnified lens really sends the light to outer darkness so you can see just where to do your business during the middle of the night. Unfortunately, the flashlight part of the Lamplight uses so much light that the lantern feature suffers. The lantern feature is just not bright enough for my needs. If Brunton could redesign this piece of gear with a highly reflective end (in other words, eliminate the flashlight feature) and redirect that light upward to increase the lantern light, this would be the perfect tent lantern. Of course, then you wouldn't have the flashlight. But since I carry a Petzl headlamp already, I really just need a lantern. I exchanged the Brunton Lamplight for the Black Diamond Apollo lantern, which is about $20 more. It's much brighter and perfect for hanging in your tent or helping you see what your're doing when boiling water for that late-night cup of hot chocolate. Of course, you must be willing to accept the extra weight (8 ounces without the 4 AA batteries). The Brunton Lamplight is perfect for the ultra lightweight backpacker. Let there be light--there's plenty to choose from.

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brian_heck2213096

brian_heck2213096 wrote a review of on June 26, 2008

5 5

We've owned our Osprey Kestrel 28 daypacks for a few months now. After many day hikes, I believe this is the best day pack I have owned. I'm no expert, but I've been using day packs for 25+ years, so I do have some experience with them. My wife thinks the pack has too many features, which I think she finds a bit overwhelming. I say if you don't need the features, they're there should you ever change your mind. The plethora of features don't add significantly to the weight, so all is good. The Airscape back panel is very good, though it is not as efficient (that is, cool) as the Osprey Stratos AirCore suspension. The integrated rain cover is a plus as are the hip belt pockets. The stretch woven side pockets are adequate; however, they really need to be deeper to more securely hold longer bottles. One feature that I didn't like (before using it) was the Stow-On-The-Go trekking pole attachment. This feature has proved to be one of my favorites. I use trekking poles. There are those times when hiking on treacherous areas of the trail or going over rocks and boulders that trekking poles get in the way. I have used the Stow-On-The-Go feature to hold the trekking poles and keep them out of the way while I maneuver through rough areas where the trail is too narrow or so overgrown with brush that using trekking poles becomes impractical. The hip belt and shoulder straps are easy to adjust and comfortable. For winter use, I can easily strap snowshoes on the back of the pack with belts I purchased from REI. The zippered top pockets are convenient for car keys, wallet, Clif bars and other items that you may want to access quickly. I didn't like the zipper pulls, so I purchased the O ring zipper pulls from Osprey and swapped them out.

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brian_heck2213096

brian_heck2213096 wrote a review of on June 20, 2008

5 5

I have to be honest: I purchased this tent because the Black Diamond Firstlight was not in stock. The Marmot Aura 2 was my second choice, only because it was about a pound and a half heavier than the Firstlight. I had plans to return it after a backpacking trip to the Grand Canyon and after the Firstlight was in stock. But the Marmot is a keeper. Sure, a pound and a half can be a lot more weight if you have trimmed the weight in your pack and need or want to trim more. When you decrease the weight of a tent significantly, something is going to suffer--or you're going to have to be willing to sacrifice some benefits and/or features. Here are the pluses and negatives. Yes, the Aura 2 is a two-person tent, but it is a bit snug. And with two people in the tent, you're not going to get your packs in there with you. However, the Aura 2 vestibules (two doors, two vestibules--nice!) provide adequate space for all of your gear. The Aura 2 proved itself to be tough in the wind, repel water well--and it breathes nicely. No condensation problems, which seems to be an issue for the Firstlight, according to other reviewers. The setup took me a bit longer to figure out (longer than I expected), but the second and third setup times were significantly faster. While heavier than the Firstlight, the Aura 2 is, feature for feature, still lighter than many other two-person tents. I have high praises for Marmot gear; the Aura 2 is no exception.

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brian_heck2213096

brian_heck2213096 wrote a review of on June 16, 2008

5 5

After all these years of sleeping on the old style bed rolls when backpacking or camping, I finally purchased two Trail Comfort sleeping pads. Oh, fool that I was for waiting so long to make this purchase! These aren't inexpensive, but after using them in Capitol Reef National Monument (Utah) for three nights and a month later at Havasu Falls (Arizona) for three nights, I am a believer. Yes, there are lighter versions from Therm-a-Rest, but these work well for us. I know they're designed to be self-inflating, and they are to a certain degree; however, I blow them up because I can get them to their 2-inch capacity much quicker. I didn't purchase the stuff sacks; instead, I purchased a few straps from REI and they easily strap to our Osprey packs. The horror of waking up in a cranky mood fills me with despair. Now, whenever we packpack or camp, I do not dread the end of the day. Bring on the night!

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brian_heck2213096

brian_heck2213096 wrote a review of on June 13, 2008

4 5

The Osprey Stratos 24 is a very good pack. The AirCore Suspension really does what it's designed to do: ventilate and keep you cool. However, the necessary curve required for the AirCore Suspension limits easy access to the bottom portion of the pack's main compartment. And as someone else has already mentioned, if you also use your pack for school or work in addition to hiking, it is difficult to carry a notebook computer. I returned the pack and replaced it with the Osprey Kestrel 28. I purchased two: one for my wife, who describes the lichen color as very fashionable, and one for me, who prefers the twilight. One other item: The Stratos has "O" rings on the zipper pulls; the Kestrel has a more simple pull. I prefer the "O" rings so I purchased a dozen from Osprey ($0.50 each) and replaced the pulls on both of our Kestrels. Nice. For the money, Osprey packs are among the best.

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brian_heck2213096

brian_heck2213096 wrote a review of on June 12, 2008

4 5

The Osprey Stratos is a very good pack. The AirCore Suspension really does what it's designed to do: ventilate and keep you cool. However, the necessary curve required for the AirCore Suspension limits easy access to the bottom portion of the pack's main compartment. And as someone else has already mentioned, if you also use your pack for school or work in addition to hiking, it is difficult to carry a notebook computer. I returned the pack and replaced it with the Osprey Kestrel 28. I purchased two: one for my wife, who describes the lichen color as very fashionable, and one for me, who prefers the twilight. One other item: The Stratos has "O" rings on the zipper pulls; the Kestrel has a more simple pull. I prefer the "O" rings so I purchased a dozen from Osprey ($0.50 each) and replaced the pulls on both of our Kestrels. Nice.

(0)

 

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brian_heck2213096

brian_heck2213096 wrote a review of on June 12, 2008

5 5

Originally, I purchased the Osprey Stratos,32 which is a very good pack. The AirCore Suspension really does what it's designed to do: ventilate and keep you cool. However, the necessary curve required for the AirCore Suspension limits easy access to the bottom portion of the pack's main compartment. And as someone else has already mentioned, if you also use your pack for school or work in addition to hiking, it is difficult to carry a notebook computer. I returned the pack and replaced it with the Osprey Kestrel 28. I purchased two: one for my wife, who describes the lichen color as very fashionable, and one for me, who prefers the twilight. One other item: The Stratos has "O" rings on the zipper pulls; the Kestrel has a more simple pull. I prefer the "O" rings so I purchased a dozen from Osprey ($0.50 each) and replaced the pulls on both of our Kestrels. Nice.

(1)

 

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brian_heck2213096

brian_heck2213096 wrote a review of on June 11, 2008

5 5

I have now used these poles in Capitol Reef National Park (Utah), Havasu Falls (Arizona) and many other trails in Utah. Zero complaints. I am 5' 10" and use these poles fully extended, which works best for me. If you are taller, the compact version of these poles may not be the best choice for you. My wife has a pair of older Black Diamond trekking poles (about 10 years old) and gives them two thumbs up.

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