Here’s my summer round-up of new books, gear, and food for camping and hiking.
Emily Carr’s B.C. – Book One Vancouver Island from Victoria to Quatsino Sound by Laurie Carter
As a fan of Emily Carr – the artist – and Vancouver Island, it was with great pleasure I read Laurie Carter’s recent book. Laurie takes you with her as she journeys from Victoria to southern, western and northern Vancouver Island through places I’ve heard of, some I’ve explored and many I can’t even pronounce. Her goal “is to rediscover Vancouver Island by following Carr’s path.”
Emily Carr was born in 1871 and died in 1945. Over her lifetime she traveled more than 20,000 kilometres in British Columbia – at a time when women didn’t travel. Much of her travel was to small, out of the way native communities where she documented their lives and landscape through her art – some before it disappeared. Armed with a wealth of knowledge regarding Emily’s life and her artwork through research and conversations with local history buffs, Laurie is able to find the exact spot of many of Carr’s paintings.
Even if you have no interest in art or Emily, you will enjoy the journey to some of Vancouver Islands’ colourful outposts. And as Laurie states:
I’d learned about her own life in Victoria, about settler life in coastal communities and about the working lives of foresters, fishers and lighthouse keepers. I’d encountered wildlife on land, sea and in the air and felt the spirit of life in the primal forest. Most important of all, I’d gained an understanding of the changes to indigenous life wrought by contact and come to appreciate the awakening of pride in First Nations cultural life.
You can buy Laurie’s book on her website (as well as other’s she has written) for $Cdn 24.95.
Epic Survival by Matt Graham and Josh Young
There aren’t too many people like Matt Graham in this world. Living off the land, just as hunter-gatherers did hundreds and even thousands of years ago, he’s blessed with physical attributes that make hardcore outdoor living a little easier than for most of us. As an example he has run the 1,700 mile Pacific Coast Trail through California in 58 days. But its not running that keeps him alive when the temperatures drop; it’s survival skills he’s honed over the last 20 years. Now only does he make his own tools and clothes, he hunts his own food and find plants and water to survive. He can light fires without matches, and survive in frigid temperatures with very little in the way of supplies.
In this 293 page book Matt takes you on his life’s journey. I wasn’t sold when I started reading it, but I couldn’t put the book down after I was in about 50 pages. The reason – curiosity about why someone would choose to live like this in the 21st century – and admiration for someone who has studied hard to learn the skills and now teaches others.
Matt has his own set of survival rules – all learned from experience. For anyone interested in survival, the outdoors and the ability to mesh the two, you would certainly enjoy the book. It was published on July 14th, 2015 and is available in hardcover via Gallery Books for $US 24.99
Hillsound Trail Crampon
The Hillsound Trail crampon is a four season crampon – though it’s not the type you’d use for ice-climbing or for any sort of technical mountaineering. Rather it will take you up and down summer snow fields, on low-angle glaciers, on icy winter streets like we have in Calgary for months at a time and on backcountry trails like Prairie Mountain in Kananaskis Country that get snowed and or iced up.
I have bought several pairs of crampons from MEC – and none were durable enough to stand the test of time. These ones should as they’re far better built, yet light. Retailing for just $US/CDN 59.99, each crampon boasts 11 spikes so you get amazing grip, a flexible chain – which they’ve welded and a high tech elastic that works to -60°F.
They’re easy to put on and though they may be $20 more than what you normally spend, they won’t come off (I’ve lost several that way) and they’re made with stronger materials. Although I only need them occasionally in summer, these are something I would use many times a week in winter.
The company is out of Vancouver. You can find online dealers and international distributors if you visit their website.
I’m a sucker for warm, soft merino wool socks. And that’s just what I got with a pair of Torch socks sent to me to try out. I’ve worn them around the house and took them hiking with me last weekend. That’s where they shine – quite literally with a Scotchlight reflective logo built right into the sock.
They wash well and the nighttime visibility reportedly lasts for a minimum of 20 washes. I haven’t washed them that much so I can’t comment yet. They’re breathable with extra padding where you need it. And they don’t get smelly.
You can buy online or look for a dealer near you. They retail for $15.95 (ankle height) and $17.95 (crew height).
Milkman Lowfat Dry Milk
You might wonder how excited you could get by skim milk powder. I would have thought they were all more or less the same. But when I got an offer to try the best tasting milk product on the market I knew I had to try it – not so much for home use but for camping.
I use skim milk coffee as creamer in my coffee for camping – as well as on cereal and anywhere else you’d use milk. I tried this one at home first – and then camping twice so far. It is truly the best skim milk powder I have tried and the reason is the “kiss of cream.” It makes all the difference! John hates skim milk powder and pronounced this good enough for coffee. It dissolves quickly and makes my coffee feel rich, yet each cup has only 94 calories and 1.4 grams of fat. I will have to order more when I run out.
It’s available through Milkman – with free shipping in the US. They will ship to Canada too.
What’s the best new book or outdoor product you’ve come across in the last few months?