Gear Check - Special Service Sweater - Triple Aught Design

A package arrived this week from Triple Aught Design... I am not one to really ever use profanity, but HOLY SH%T!

In planning this hike I had a big concern: warmth in the smokies during winter because I know I am going to be slower just with the nature of my medical needs and the temperature regulation problems that my medication causes. I was positive I was going to have to move to a tent and heavy duty sleeping bag by September and continue through Late November.

I am not worried any longer.. TAD sent me the Special Service Sweater which is Merino wool and the best constructed piece of clothing I have ever put on. You know that feeling you get from a well made suit or a loving glance from your significant other after a night of intimacy? This sweater provides all of that plus pockets.

When I get to take action shots later on the trail with this sweater I will be looking like a British Special forces sniper.  TAD makes awesome gear and this sweater is just flat out amazing.

It is a little on the heavy side but it's primary use for me will be in that September - November range where I am going to need both warmth and breathability and this fits that perfectly

 

UPDATE: Looks like they sold out of the special service sweater check their other gear here www.tripleaughtdesign.com

Gear Check - Stoves

What did I pick:

I chose the Jetboil Sol Ti

What types of things did I look for in a stove:

At first I considered going stoveless but 95% of the people I polled said you will regret not having a hot meal at the end or beginning of a long day.

My plan for food is simple, dehydrate a bunch of meals and rehydrate by pouring boiling water into a freezer bag. EAT...

So here is the criteria I based my decision on:

  • Ability to boil water
  • Ease of use
  • Lightweight
  • Availability of fuel
  • Packability

What stoves did I compare:

There are a ton of options for the long distance hiker when it comes to the primary criteria of boiling water. If you read hiking forums and subscribe to the DIY crowd you are a fool if you buy a stove.

I am not one to ignore advice of grizzled hikers and wanted to make sure I covered all of the bases.

So here were my options and why they didn't make the cut for me.

Alcohol Stoves

There are as many DIY versions of Alcohol burning stoves as there are opinions about which method is best, which is to say thousands of them.

The one I liked best and saw most often was the "Frisky Stove" Made out of a cat food can.  The theme around these DIY stoves seems to be take a metal container, fill it with some version of alcohol (Rubbing, Denatured, Ethanol, methanol, grain, I even saw gasoline on the lists) and light it on fire, once you have a flame put what ever you want to heat up on the fire and presto..

The advantages are:

super lightweight, cheap to make, cheap to replace, easy to find fuel

The disadvantage for me and ultimately why I decided against this method was carrying around a liquid fuel container. For a short trip it makes sense you can pick the weather conditions, you can pull out the ol catfood can and impress your friends with your ingenuity.  The advantages of keeping a bottle of everclear with you is apparent. but I would rather not be slinging large amounts of flammable liquids on my back regardless if I could use the excess to get hammered.

 

Wood Burning Stoves

There are also several wood burning options out there like the bush buddy and zip stoves, I guess you can even throw the good Old campfire into the mix as well.  There is something primitive and romantic about sleeping in the woods and cooking your meal over an open flame you started by hand after gathering wood.  But honestly after walking long distances in unpredictable weather I do not want to risk having to find or carry dry wood with me, and then properly put out the flames.

 

Why I picked The Jetboil:

It all came down to simplicity, when you look at all the methods above it would seem that I picked the most complicated option, multiple parts small cannister of fuel, moving pieces that could be lost or broken etc.   but at 8.5 oz once I ditch the parts I won't use like the measuring cup or the pot stabilizer. it is among the lightest AND strongest stoves on the market.

Fuel for the jetboil is available just about everywhere, there is an ignition switch and it all packs into itself.  I don't have to worry about fuel spills, carrying separate cooking pots, gathering wood, wind, rain or snow it seems to have all the bases covered.  The cost is a bit much for boiling water at $150 bucks, but the warranty and the reviews were all positive.  I will risk being shunned or cursed at by the purist hiker, but I am not out to impress anyone with my stove making skills.

First Try Review:

right out of the box the pieces of the stove fit together exactly like you think they should.  No problems figuring out what each item did.  You screw on the fuel cannister, lock in the cup, fill it with water, turn on the gas and push the ignition.  We made fire!  The assembly process took all of 2 min out of the box and I had never assembled a stove in my life.

I filled the container with about 16oz of water and started the stopwatch.  1 min in I had steam, 2 Min in I had bubbles and 2:30 it was at a rolling boil.  I did this outside in wind and rain with a temp of about 45 degrees.

I poured my water over my oatmeal and chowed down.

breakdown was faster than setup and it was packed away in less than 1 min.

All said this is exactly what I wanted in a stove.