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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Weekly Book Review: Across America by Bicycle

Across America by Bicycle:  Alice and Bobbi’s Summer on Wheels, was published by Terrace Books in 2010.  Two friends decided after they retired to ride together across America, from the West to the East coast.  The women were experienced cyclist who had bicycled rather longish trips before, but this was, by far, their longest effort.  They had a web site but it is now down, and the domain is up for sale.  But, the book is still available.  Why should you read it?

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First of all this is an inspiring story  of two women who took on an awesome challenge and completed it.  It is an inspiring and hopeful book.  The book talks about how their already close friendship became more solid, and the many helpful people they met along the way.  As a matter of fact, the people they met along the way  who helped them or just had some kind of impact no matter how fleeting, are a major theme in this book.  Also, this is my third book in this genre (books about people who bike across the United States), and that is  a surprisingly common theme in all of them so far.  In the upcoming weeks you will hear more about the other two books.

If you are contemplating a long ride, solo or with somebody else, this is a book for you to read.  The antidotes, and stories they tell provide wise insight.  They were smart, well prepared, but also flexible.  They camped some, stayed sometimes with people they met along the way, but also used hotels or other lodging.  The book has a lot of explicit, and implicit, advice to give anyone thinking of undertaking such a ride including a whole appendix about what each of them carried on their trek.  There is even an appendix that provides a detailed packing list, down to what went where, which provides an example of two good templates for anyone to start with.  One packed more weight than the other, but they were both rather frugal about the ounces they carried.

Shoelaces: Part II

Okay. Last post about shoelaces but I could not end without completing what I had to say.  Last post I gushed about the cord lock as a way of not worrying about loose shoelaces flaying about and creating havoc.  I thought this week that I should mention another system which is popular.  One is a patented system called Lock Laces (registered trademark and all that) that is not pictured here but there is a web site for, and the other very similar system is pictured below:

Shoe lacing system using a locking mechanism and stretchy shoelaces.
Close up view on the same shoe.
Shoe lacing system alternative view.
Lacing system on a pair of my all-weather running shoes.

Personally I do not use anything but the cord locks I wrote about in my last post.  I don’t like the stretch style shoe lace which gives it a “cushy” loose feel,at least on my feet, nor the cost.  My own personal preference, but I do think this type of alternative is better than just tying the shoes.  You may like that kind of  system better though.  I have tried both, and find no fault with the lower cost alternative which has proven very reliable, but admittedly does not make a dashing fashion statement.

Coming up is a series on safety while running and walking. It will also apply to bicycling but I will leave biking safety to someone else with more experience.  I ride largely on the local trail system avoiding the streets whenever I can.

Get up, get out, and do something!

Shoelaces?

Yes, this is a post about shoelaces.  Sort of.

No matter how, or how well, I tied my shoes they would come loose whenever I walked or ran.  It did not happen all the time, but it happened often enough for it to be bothersome, and, I suppose, somewhat dangerous. I also had problems whenever I rode my bike and my right shoelace would get caught between the chain and gear.  Last year when one of our local athletic stores (the kind that is locally owned and caters to serious bicyclist, runners, and swimmers) had their annual shoe sale I made a discovery.  A bucket full of these little doodads called cord locks.  I think they started out being used on clothing and sort of migrated to shoes.  I thought I would try a pair during an upcoming 5k because I did not want to stop in the heat of competition to tie my shoes.  A rookie mistake like putting your number on your back.  I have been hooked every since.

Cord lock for shoestrings
Cord lock for shoestrings
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Cord lock closeup.

This is the original pair that I am still using. I now own four additional pairs in various colors.  At first I thought they might break, come loose, or somehow otherwise fail to meet my satisfaction. They have exceeded all expectations, to the point I keep them on my training shoes, my competition shoes, and my beater shoes I wear for everyday use or to do house chores. I can honestly say that I no longer have issues with loose or tangled shoelaces, and the shoelaces last much longer.  I also discovered it is easier, and faster, to get my shoes on and off.  Plus there is a bonus use.  You know those running shorts, with the tie string, that keep coming loose on you when you run?  One of these bad boys makes that problem go away too.

You can see how I put them on.  The trick is to not to cut the laces too short, but yet keep them long enough so you can get in and out of the shoes.  As a general rule I cut the cords short enough so I cannot step on them.  That seems to be short enough so that they do not get caught up in the bicycle as well.

I suppose the one drawback is they look kind of geeky.  I don’t care. There are fancier methods such as stretchy shoe strings, with fancier fasteners,  but this is a simple fix.  I love things that work.  I really love simple things that work well.