Lighter is Better

There are two types of camping in my book, car camping and backpacking. Both are fun to do, but if I had to choose one over the other it would be backpacking. Getting away from the crowds, not camping at a “pay” campground, being out in the vastness of the Colorado Rockies and knowing that the destinations you reach you did so by using your own two feet. Those are the things that keep me packing up my backpack every year and heading into the mountains.

Over the years I have been trying to upgrade my backpacking gear, better and lighter equipment to make it a little easier on my aging back. One of my favorite things to do while backcountry camping is cooking. Everything you eat tastes better when in the woods. One of my purchases this year was a new titanium cook set from Keith. This was my first titanium set and I can honestly say I wish I had gotten this sooner!

The set I am using this year includes a large and small pot, and a frying pan. 1200ml/800ml/400ml. They all nest perfectly inside each other and come with a nice lightweight mesh bag. The handles of all three items are covered in a rubber material and fold out nicely for cooking so you never have to worry about them getting too hot. While I was boiling water in the large pot, I used the small frying pan as a lid and also warmed up a bagel in the frying pan while boiling water for my morning coffee. Simple, easy, and when everything is done they are a breeze to clean.

Along with the cook set I also purchased a set of utensils from Keith. I honestly can not believe how light the knife/spoon/fork combo is and how comfortable they are to use. For stirring and for eating, I never had to worry about them getting too hot or breaking them off while mixing up some freeze dried food.

If you are going to make one purchase this year to lighten up your pack, I would highly recommend the Keith titanium line of cookware. Affordable and lightweight, these are a must have, whether you are backpacking or car camping.

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Photos of the Day: Timing Is Everything

More fishing around town. And also probably the smallest fish ever featured as a photo of the day.

Photos of the Day: Timing Is Everything

Orvis Trout Bum of the Week XXVII: Jon Hill

I can say I have been called a bum a few times in my life, but this particular time I am pretty excited about it! Thanks for enjoying my various ramblings, hopefully there will be more to come!

Trout Bum of the Week

Photos of the Day: Father-Son Time at the Trout Pond

Originally post @ Orvis

Spring has gotten off to a great start here in Colorado, unlike the situation for some of my friends and family on the East Coast, where winter doesn’t want to end. To take advantage of the nice weather, I took my five year old son, Brennon, to a lake across the street for some fishing. As with most five year olds, my son’s attention span is roughly three and a half minutes. To make things easier for the both of us, whenever I take him out on the water, I make sure that the day isn’t about me fishing, it’s about him having fun. On this day he packed his backpack with things he wanted to bring to the lake—cars, superhero towel, construction paper, scissors and markers. I brought the fishing gear, pb&j, snacks, and water. We spent four hours having a ton of fun! He is getting great at casting his fishing rod with the fly/bobber setup, but he missed a handful of bites. Even though he has yet to actually catch a fish on his own, he loves to net the fish that I catch and had a blast when I handed him my H2 and he got to reel in the trout, as I netted them for him. When he wasn’t actually fishing, he was playing in the mud, sitting in the shade drawing, climbing on rocks, and playing with his cars. It was a great father and son day at the lake!

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Photos of the Day

This year marks 40 years that I have been able to walk around on the Earth, and I must say I am having a pretty decent time. I called in sick to work and Tom and Matt and I got into some HUGE trout on the Dream Stream.

The Perfect 40th Birthday Present

The Last Bushwhack

Originally posted at Deuter.

You can never be sure how much you’ll see of the fall season in Colorado. Sometimes it seems like it jumps straight from summer to winter without the crisp, colorful season some states get to enjoy. Not this year however. Fall this year has been perfect – minus a couple of snow flurry days. So, my friends Tom and Matt and I decided to take full advantage of the weather and make a trek into the high-country.

For a long day hike like this, my Deuter Futura Pro 42 holds everything I need to take. Stuffed full with my fly-fishing equipment, camera equipment, and my lunch, the pack still feels light when it’s on my back and I’m bushwhacking over trees and boulders.

When I met up with Tom and Matt, I had to laugh because I didn’t realize that they too had Deuter packs stuffed to the brim and ready for the hike. What we didn’t realize was how long and strenuous a hike it would turn out to be. Tom had been studying up on this particular section of water for a few years, gathering all the information he could on how to get down to the river and where on the river to fish. But, there wasn’t a ton of info on this area so we headed out with what little intel we had.

Getting to the river turned out to be the easy part – it was downhill the entire way and only took about an hour. Once at the river, we put our waders on and decided to head upstream. The section of river looked perfect but we didn’t see any signs of fish, so we kept on wading.

The first section was flat and open, and we soon came upon a canyon section. We had to take a detour straight uphill and around the steep section of water to get to more fishable water. Once up on the canyon wall we stopped to take in the scenery and decide what our next move would be. Upstream seemed to be even steeper and less fishable so we decided to head back the way we came and try to fish downstream.

We returned back to where we had started and then headed downstream in hopes of better luck. We immediately saw signs of trout! Matt and I quickly hooked into some small rainbows and it felt good to catch some fish.

But our joy soon melted away when we had to again hike straight up and around yet another canyon. Once that was accomplished we were back at some flat open water – but again, like earlier, no signs of fish. We knew it was going to take a bit longer to hike out than the hike in, and it was getting later in the afternoon, so we decided to call the adventure a success and head back.

It wasn’t the Shangri-La of trout water we were hoping for, but it was a perfect day for a bushwhack. Catching a few choice fish, seeing signs of mountain lions, bear and deer and enjoying the remoteness of the area, still made for a good fall day in Colorado.

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Photos of the Day

More from the BWCAW in Minnesota.

Into the North Country

A Canoe and a Camera

Originally posted at Mountainsmith.

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area of Minnesota is a beautiful place. If you have not had the opportunity to visit I highly recommend going at least once. But I warn you, once you do, you will want to keep going back – at least my good friend Randy Wilson and I have found that to be true.

Packing all the essentials for a weeklong trip into the boundary waters is a challenging task. For this most recent trip – my fifth into the north country of Minnesota – I packed and repacked at least six times. Everything you will need to use for the trip has to fit inside a canoe. Not only that, you also have to take into consideration the portages and the water that inevitably makes its way into the canoe. One pack however was an easy choice – the Spectrum camera bag by Mountainsmith. Designed in Colorado by professional photographer Andy Mann, the Spectrum was the perfect camera pack for a week on the water.

Taking an expensive camera and a couple of lenses on a trip like this can be nerve wracking. Throwing things in and out of a canoe and of course the possibility of getting everything soaking wet, is always in the back of your mind. The Spectrum pack has just the right amount of padding and space and even its own rain jacket so you don’t have to worry when the weather turns wet on you. The pack held its own, as it was dropped and/or placed heavily into the wet canoe at least 50 times.

Another nice aspect of the pack is its size. I mentioned it is perfect for a camera and couple of lenses but it also held a handful of batteries, maps, knifes, lunch, a compass, a cutting board, bear spray and a few other things that most people would normally not put into it. Even with everything packed away, it felt light and sturdy on our backs, even while carrying a canoe.

After six days of portaging, paddling and fishing we headed back to the lodge and put up the canoe and put on the hiking boots. We had an afternoon to do a little hiking and fishing the scenic Brule River. Again, the Spectrum was in tow – packed this time with only the camera equipment and a water bottle. The afternoon was spent catching rainbow trout and snapping more great photos.

Lucky for us that Randy is a professional photographer and was able to capture some amazing images from our weeklong adventure.  You can view more of his work at www.rhwilsonphoto.com. You can also find more information about the Spectrum pack and all the other great products that Mountainsmith creates at www.mountainsmith.com.

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Our Playground – 2013 Vol. 3

Another video I put together from my trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Minnesota. One of the most fun trips I have had the pleasure of taking!

—Featured on the Orvis blog: The Boundary Waters and the Brule

Outdoor Gaming in the Centennial State

sequoia entrance

Las Vegas and Atlantic City have made a mark as America’s undisputed gaming destinations. Sprawling and grandiose casino complexes in these two cities have, consequently, defined how poker, blackjack and other casino games should be played – splashing chips and winning green bills in style. But in other parts of America, new forms of gaming are taking shape, and card sharks are increasingly turning to an entirely different way of gaming – that is, playing it outdoors.

Playing casino games outdoors is a new concept being introduced in many parts of America, where one can trek, fish and camp while at the same time betting one’s stakes in a card game under towering sequoia trees or in a lake yachting cruise. This idea has become viral that even the biggest names in the casino business are beginning to bring their gaming tables outdoors. Atlantic City’s Golden Nugget Casino, for instance, has literally thought outside the box by opening an outdoor blackjack area in front of its famous bay area.

Outdoor gaming is especially appealing in Colorado, with its breathtaking landscape of mountains, forests, mesas, canyons and rivers providing a vivid backdrop for the Centennial State’s outdoor- and game-loving residents. Colorado’s wide array of natural parks such as the Rocky Mountains National Park, the Eleven Mile State Park, and the Spinney Mountain State Park offers not only mountains to climb or vast lakes to fish, but also picturesque spots to play blackjack, baccarat or any casino card game. It is played best every after a mountain trek, a biking trip or a fishing expedition, when one needs to rest and seeks to do something for amusement. Of course, one can’t bring heavy casino equipment such as roulette wheels or craps tables in a national park, the same way that Castle Jackpot’s water dragons can’t exist in Colorado waters.

It is hoped that playing outdoor casino card games will lure more people to visit the wilderness and gain a deeper appreciation of nature. It won’t be a surprise if outdoor- and casino-loving Coloradans will lead the initiative and convince more Americans to visit the countryside and commune with nature.