Gossamer Gear Umbrella Review

Rules for Backpacking Rain Gear

  1. There is no perfect solution.
  2. If it rains long enough and hard enough you will eventually get wet.

I don’t mind getting wet. What I do mind is getting chilled, or getting drenched, and getting miserable. Keeping your gear dry is the first priority because you should always be in a position to call it a day and set up your tent, tarp, or hammock to shelter in. To wait it out. I am absolutely fanatical about that.

But when it comes to rain gear which allows you to keep moving there are so many variables. It does matter though. It can be more than being miserable, it can mean hypothermia and maybe even death. We actually had a father and two boys die when day hiking the Ozark Trail in Missouri because they got wet on a day when the weather turned cold and they were unprepared. Only the dog survived.

For commuting on my bike the answer is easy. I wear a poncho. It doesn’t restrict my movement, air can get inside so I am not drenched in sweat, and the one I use, a cheap Coleman poncho, does the trick. Besides, it is 34 minutes from door to door. Hiking and backpacking is more complex.

When hiking the AT my wife and I outfitted ourselves with Frogg Toggs, and ultralight umbrella’s from Gossamer Gear. We had pack covers, and we used contractor bags to put our sleeping bag and extra clothing in. Why the umbrella?

Although it not so much an issue on the AT the umbrella has material on the outside to reflect the heat. I understand it is pretty popular on the Pacific Crest trail for that very reason. I have only used it in light to medium rain, not a downpour, and can report that it works great for that. But your feet will get wet. What about that?

There are two schools. One is to try to keep your feet dry. The other is to acknowledge they are going to get wet and use quick drying shoes and socks. Experienced people do one or the other but most of the people I follow and respect just take it for granted that their feet or going to get wet.

We kept our umbrellas outside the pack and within easy reach. Our drill was to prioritize putting on the pack cover, and then having done that don the umbrella. It worked well as long as the wind wasn’t high. If the wind is blowing hard, or in the wrong direction, you are going to have the thing flip.

The conclusion? For anything less than a downpour the umbrella is a good idea, and for limiting sun exposure it serves double duty. At around $40 bucks it is reasonably priced. There are probably other suppliers, but Gossamer Gear sells one branded for them that is made in Germany.

I do not know if I am going to stay with Frogg Toggs or not. Frankly I do not have enough experience yet to make a determination yet. I am an avid reader of what other experienced people have to say about gear though. I was impressed with a review from the Section Hiker blog on the LightHeart rainjacket. I recommend reading all of what he has to say, not just about this one rain jacket, but especially about waterproof breathable jackets. Spoiler alert. They are not reliable over the long run.

By the way. I am fascinated with the Gatewood Cape. It provides shelter and acts as a poncho. If I was backpacking by myself I would already have one.

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Update on the Bicycle Wrist Mirror

See the post just before this for background. Bike mirrors, even the best of them, take getting used to. It took me several months to get used to this one. I did not wear it religiously, but I did continue to use it from time to time. So… I got used to it. I also learned a few tricks. So this is a followup after it was thoroughly tested.

Glare. Given the angle of the mirror on your wrist glare is an issue, and a few reviewers mentioned that on Amazon. I learned you can simply close the mirror, placing the mirror face down, and the problem goes away. It is designed so that there is velcro to keep it from flapping around. If I am not in traffic I fold it down hiding the mirror. I use it mostly for high traffic areas, but don’t need it on the extensive trail system here in Columbia, MO., where there is no motor vehicle traffic.

Angle. The effective angle is a bit odd, and probably changes depending on the geometry of your body (length of arms, etc.), and that of the bike. For me I have to hold my hand out to the left angled up, and cock my wrist to the side. If I do that I have a great view of what is behind me.

Blind Spots. Learned where to place the mirror. Problem solved.

Magnification. Still an issue. Would a bigger mirror with different optical properties help? Probably.

Practice. Practice helps you learn how to judge the distance and look into the mirror. I have found that most things with a bike take practice. How many of you have feel over in the process of learning to use toe clips, or step in pedals. Over the years I have abandoned both, and after a long while taken them up again and I either fell over once or had a real close moment. When I purchased my new touring bike I had two keel overs due to learning the geometry and fit of the bike.

Perfection. Ain’t gonna happen. I have tried many of them over the years and all have flaws.

I bike commute and tour. I want every reasonable, and practical, safety feature I can get. I know many still go with the turn the head and look approach. Which is fine. I just want to augment it.

Hand Held Bicycle Mirror

I am actively looking for a bike mirror to use on my commute.  I saw this one on Amazon and was intrigued.  In the picture below the flap is closed concealing the mirror.

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Here is is with the mirror opened. This is the standard way to wear it with the mirror sitting on your wrist.

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This is the way that worked for me.  I have it on riding over the backside of my palm and canted at an angle.

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It works but it does have issues.  I have a huge blind spot no matter how I angle or wave my arm around in an effort to try to see what is close behind me.  I had one big delivery truck thirty feet in back of me and couldn’t see it.  I could hear it though.  I could only see it using the old school method of simply turning my head.  The mirror definitely needs to be a little bigger, and it also needs to magnify the image more.  Stuff looks pretty far away back there.

Tomorrow I am riding my hybrid.  I am anxious to see what happens without the drop bars.  Will the straight bars, and the geometry of that bike make a difference?  Useful, but not the solution I was looking for.

I have one intersection that is very busy when I come home, and cars drive fast.  There is a bike lane, but I to make a left turn in front of whatever is behind me, and whoever is oncoming as well as deal with people merging one direction or the other from the street I am trying to turn onto.  Often I just pull to the side and look.  Turning the head doesn’t work so well in this situation.

The other area where I would like a good mirror, which  has lots more traffic than the aforementioned intersection, is downtown.  Other than that, except for a detour while there is some bridge construction, is the trail.  Most of my ride is on a trail that is free of traffic except for other bikes, and people on foot.

I used a helmet mounted mirror years ago and I was not a fan.  I am going to try it again, and just work with it until I get used to it.  That is the plan anyway.

 

Bike Commute Redux

I had tried my hand at bike commuting but never committed to it.  Just the occasional attempt now and then. When we got down to just one car an opportunity presented itself.  Something that could have been a setback turned into an opportunity.

Two years ago we had an old Toyota Corolla which was a fantastic car, and what was then a new Toyota Rav.  The Corolla burned oil, and had certainly seen better days.  My wife used it for her job which requires her to spend most of her day driving from one home to another, from one appointment to another, as part of her work as a parent educator.  All city driving.  But, it was a beater car with dints and dings, and the kind of car that you didn’t care if somebody dented it some more.  Which did happen.  And it certainly was not the kind of care that somebody would break into.  It was also reliable until it just wasn’t anymore.  When our mechanic informed us that it was time for a new engine we knew it was time to put it down.  What to do?

She asked me if we should go car shopping and I suggested that we try car pooling instead.  So she inherited the Rav. On Tuesday and Thursday when I went in late I would ride my bike.  Or I would have her drop me off sometimes and I would hike home.  However, this last May I decided to try my hand at bike commuting, and with one week to go I only caught a ride with her for one and a half trips to work. One day both ways, and one day I walked home.

I had ridden my bike to work a time or two before, but could never gather the courage to be regular about it.  It is pretty hard to roll out of bed in the morning, especially when it is cold, and ride 5 or 6 miles to work.  I decided to post pictures from my ride the day before yesterday.

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The pictures are looped but in order. The first picture in the series is my bike in the garage as I prepare to leave, then outside on the drive next to the Rav, and ends with a picture of my closet at work.  Two things that make this whole project possible is that about two thirds of the ride is on the Katy Trail so I don’t have to deal with cars, and I have that closet at work. It is a small closet and kind of rough but it gives me a place to keep clothes to change into.  I have about six pairs of paints, and as many shirts.  Two pairs of shoes .

My normal ride is 33 minutes there and 33 minutes back.  Just this week a main section of the trail was closed off for several months while four old bridges are replaced. So I have to make a detour.  Most of it riding next to traffic.  It makes it 6 instead of 5 miles and includes a pretty big hill.

In some future posts I want to review my evolving gear closet, and discuss what I have learned.  I love using the bike. I hardly drive anymore which is fine with me.  Driving has lost its allure with the demise of REAL super cars.  Like the 40 Dodge Magnum, GTO, GTX, the Shelby Mustangs!  It saves money, and it is free exercise.  So now I don’t have to worry about finding time to exercise.  I have to in order to get to work and then get back home.  I miss running but this is a fun, and practical, replacement.

I would love to hear from anybody who commutes, and how they handle things.  Gear, dealing with weather, and dealing with traffic.  I will be sharing what I am learning.

 

Katy Trail Trip Revisited & Knee Problems

Bent but not broken I ventured back out onto the Katy Trail this past June, and lived to tell the tail.  Here is some photographic proof:

On this solo trip I spent the night in Hartsburg Missouri and then came back the next day.

I do not think I am sticking with the trailer, but I need to try it on my new touring bike to make sure.

Knee Woes

Well, running ugly got ugly.  At least for my left knee  I could probably count on my fingers, maybe without having to use the toes, how many times I ran last year.  I tried it again the week before last and I made two miles with no problems.  I could have ran a lot faster.  I laid off for a day or so and thought I would try it again.  My left knee kept bothering me a bit but I decided to give it a try.  Maybe it was the weather (that would be the denial kicking in).  I did not make it fifty yards.  My knee is now much better.  Biking, walking, and stairs don’t seem to bother me.  I did some boxing bag work last night and that was fine.  Weight lifting is fine. For being 60 I think that is good enough but I sure miss running.

Did running cause that knee problem? No.  I think not.  I did martial arts for  years and my kicking leg was my left leg, and it has “nagged” me for  years.  Little tweaks hear and there.  Hyperextending it with kicking, and maybe aggressive stretching, did it.  That I am sure of.

If, and until, I have to get a knee replacement I am most likely done with running and maybe a new knee wouldn’t even help.  The pain is very tolerable.  I just want to retain mobility.

Katy Trail Camping Trip Turns Bad

The Katy Trail is 200 plus miles and expanding.  A converted rail line turned into a trail for biking, running, and walking.  It is a great resource.  Over spring break my son-in-law and I decided to go camping. I mentioned that in my last post.   As it turned out the weather was horrible.  It rained, and stormed with lightning,  for days, without much of a break, and the weather was cold.  We scaled down our effort from 50 miles out to camp, and then riding back the same way, to just  25.  The weather report kept showing a break in the weather, but it never came.  Even the much less ambitious distance wasn’t possible for us.  We  had a tight schedule and we would not have been able to make it to our campsite before dark under the trail conditions, and get back on time.    We had to turn back without completing our trek.  What went wrong?

The surface of the trail, which I failed to get pictures of, was boggy and our speed was down to 7 mph or less.  And that with hard peddling.  I was in shape for the ride, having practiced with a fully loaded trailer, but it was a no go.  The combination of wet, despite pretty decent rain gear, the chill, and facing having to set  up camp in the dark under those conditions was too much for us.  So, here are some pictures of a the expedition that failed.  But, I am training to do it again.  The next obstacle?  Ticks.  I found my first this last Sunday.  Not from this jaunt, but from doing yard work.

Getting Ready for Bike Camping 

Why not integrate fitness into a lifestyle?  If you are going to camp backpack or bike instead of driving. I purchased a Burly trailer for my bike for camping, and it is time to use it.  No excuses.  Time to hit the road with it.  No more lollygagging.

I thought that the trailer would be easier than having a bunch of overloaded  panniers on my bike. Since I’m going camping next week with my son-in-law  I decided to go on a training ride tonight.  I will take another one or two rides with it before we leave next Monday.  Next week is my spring break.

 I read a bunch of books about people who rode cross-country and a good number of them used a trailer. I figured if they could do it so could I, and then I found some people online that were traveling across whole continents that had the very  same trailer. The trailer was also cheaper than new panniers as well as more racks, and I think they have less balance issues.

 I’ve been on a couple of errands with the trailer but nothing over maybe a quarter of a mile. The trailer was attached to my wife’s Diamondback comfort bike,  and I would go to the store and the the recycle center Both near my house. Tonight I switched it over  to my hybrid, packed it up with camping gear,  and took off.  Actually it was easier to pull than I thought it would be. That was a nice surprise.  Here is a picture at the halfway mark.  More to report later on my preparation, and the actual trip.