Black Diamond Equipment Transfer 7 Shovel

A snow shovel is a useful tool for winter camping in the backcountry.  It can be used for a variety of tasks:

  • Making snow shelters.  A shovel can be indispensable for making a quick emergency shelter or building a quinzee, snow cave or igloo.
  • Clearing a tent site.  A commonplace use of snow shovel is clearing a level space for your tent when snow camping .  You can carve out a windscreen or dig a kitchen area.
  • Drinking water.  A  shovel comes in handy for digging fresh snow to melt for drinking water.
  • Avalanche rescue.  If you travel or camping in avalanche areas you should carry a shovel for self-rescue.
  • Shoveling out your car.  Last but not least, when you return to your car after a winter camping trip a shovel is useful for ensuring you can get your car back on the highway.

Snow shovels are made of aluminum or Lexan® polycarbonate. Lexan is favored for lighter weight, while aluminum is used for strength and durability.

Small shovel blades are easier to handle but less efficient at chopping and moving snow while larger blades can move more snow but may weigh more, take more space and require more strength to operate. The shovel blade should fit easily in your backpack or pulk.  Some shovel blades are flat others have serrated or pointed blades that help cut through snow and ice.When digging snow pits and making smooth walls the angle of the shovel blade is a factor to consider as a flat blade will help you create a smoother pit wall.

Most backcountry shovels have telescoping or segmented shafts that can be made compact for carrying on your pack. They fit together with spring-loaded buttons that pop into holes in the connecting sections. Longer handles provide more leverage for digging.

Handles come as either a T-grip or D-grip. The T-grip, which is gripped between the fingers, is lightweight but can be awkward if you’re wearing mittens. The D-grip is usually bulkier and slightly heavier, but it is easier to use with mittens.

I have used a small, light  Lexan shovel for the past few years.  For a change I sought a larger aluminum shovel from Appalachian Ski & Outdoors (AppOutdoors.com).  My choice was a Black Diamond Equipment Transfer 7 Shovel.

Characteristics of The Black Diamond Equipment Transfer 7 Shovel

The Black Diamond Transfer 7 Shovel has a trapezoidal shaft to increase strength.  By moving away from the traditional round shaft, Black Diamond created a handle that extends with a simple pull and cannot be rotated on accident.

Component

Description

Blade Material

6000 series aluminum

Blade Size

15.75 x 10.3 inches

Blade Volume

2.65 L or .7 gallon

Length: Packed

16.3 inches

Length: Deployed

33.9 inches

Weight

770g or 1 lb 11oz

Features include:

  • The shaft extends in length from 16.3 inches to 33.9 inches.  This  long rigid shaft is one of the longer shovels available.  As a tall person I appreciate the longer reach.
  • The trapezoidal bent shaft deploys quickly via a quick squeeze of spring pins.  The shaft shape prevents rotation so the spring pins engage every time.  You never waste previous time adjusting the shaft trying to  get spring-pin holes to align and lock.
  • The hybrid  T-grip handle feels like a D-grip and is  mitten-friendly.  The triangular handle doesn’t flex  and stays rigid even under heavy wet snow.
  • It has a  large, flat, smooth, steep-walled, anodized 6000-series aluminum 10.3″ x 15.75″ blade. The slightly pointed blade enables effective chopping and the flat sides smooth snow walls.
  • The anchor holes through blade can be used as a dead man anchors.

Criticisms include:

  • Any extendible shaft can get snow/water inside. When this moisture freezes the small metal spring-loaded connectors sometimes freeze up and have to be cleaned out. This is true of this shovel as well.

Summary: There are shorter, lighter shovels on the market but if you are tall and want to reduce the amount you have to bend over; if you want a shovel that is simple, easy and fast to deploy; if you want a shovel that moves volumes of snow then buy this shovel.  You can find it online with prices ranging from $29 – $49.

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Stumbin’ Thru

A. Digger Stolz has written a very funny and accurate to life on the Appalachian Trail.  The hiking characters that crisscross his path early on may or may not turn out to be major players, but they have real depth and I became curious what becomes of them.   Of course, everyone has a nickname on the trail.  The book is driven by the characters as the plot is simple and pre-ordained.

Book 1 – Stumblin’ Thru Hike Your Own Hike

Welcome to the world of the Appalachian Trail. Every year, thousands of pilgrims arrive at Georgia’s Springer Mountain and set off with hopes of reaching Mt. Katahdin in Maine. Roughly ten percent ever complete the journey. It’s more than likely that in the AT’s long, storied history, Walter is the first person to thru-hike against his will. He is out-of-shape, out-of-sorts and, now that his wife has decided enough is enough, he’s out of the house too. It’s that classic scenario: Hike or ELSE! Since the poor, morose Walter can’t figure an ‘ELSE’ he sets off on the longest walk of his life.   While braving the great Eastern woods, Walter meets an eclectic cast of hopeful thru-hikers. As they journey northward, this rollicking band suffers through every hardship that America’s premiere hiking trail can throw at them. It isn’t long before Walter is looking at life through new eyes and just maybe for the first time in forever, starting to feel better about the world and his place in it. But no way is that alone going to be enough to get him to Maine.

Book 2 – Stumbin’ Thru – Keepin’ on Keepin’ On

After his big epiphany in Damascus, Bartleby resumes inching his way northward along the Appalachian Trail with a newfound determination. Despite struggling beneath the unresolved weight of his previous life and a too-heavy backpack, he still somehow manages to keep moving forward—step after step, mile after mile. Joining Bartleby on this journey is an ever-changing crew of oddballs and outsiders, the wandering men and women of the Appalachian Trail. With white blazes marking the way and little adventures around every corner, Bartleby & Company push through the Mid-Atlantic States and climb into the mountainous wilds of New England. Here concludes the story of a middle-aged man thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail against his will, against his better judgment and against all odds.

A work of fiction, but a great winter time read.

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Frostbite

Frostbite occurs when an individual’s skin or those tissues beneath his skin freeze. Frostbite most often develops in the face, ears, nose, feet, and hands of someone who is exposed to the cold for a length of time or even severe cold for just a few minutes. Frostbite causes the fluids that exist in the body’s tissue to freeze up and crystallize. This can damage the blood vessels in the area and deprive the area of oxygen. Children and the elderly are more vulnerable to the effects of frostbite than other populations. There are steps that can be taken to prevent frostbite from occurring.

Layers

It is essential to be properly dressed if you are going to be exposed to the cold for long stretches or very cold temperatures for shorter ones. This means dressing in layers of clothing that can protect you against the elements, insulate your body against the cold and yet still allow any perspiration to evaporate away from your body.

Synthetic fabrics such as polypropylene are recommended for those layers closest to the body as they will not absorb your perspiration but rather let it evaporate. Wool and polyester layers should then follow.

It’s better to wear loose-fitting clothing as that can allow for superior ventilation. Water repellent outer layers can keep you much drier than garments that are heavier and may seem warmer but that will absorb water if exposed to rain or snow.

Extremities

All of your extremities must be protected against the cold and potential frostbite. The neck and the head can be protected against this by wearing hoods, hats, earmuffs, scarves and even face masks.

The hands are particularly at risk from frostbite. While gloves with individual fingers may permit you to do more things with your hands mittens are better since they are warmer. Ideally, you should wear a pair of light gloves under your mittens in case you do need to take the mittens off.

The feet, especially the toes, are also in grave danger of frostbite under the right conditions. Wearing two pairs of woolen socks and insulated boots that go up to at least your ankles is important. The boots should not be tight since this may decrease blood flow and give frostbite an opportunity to set in.

Other tips

Know the signs of frostbite so you can be aware if you or a friend are beginning to exhibit them. A mild case of frostbite will first affect the skin’s outermost layers. It will make the skin look whitish and the region will feel as if needles are being stuck into it. The area may swell, burn or itch and if it is warmed up it will become extremely painful.

Frostbite that is more serious will make the skin take on a waxy appearance and it can be white, gray-blue or gray-yellow. The region that is frostbitten will feel numb and the tissue when it is touched will feel frozen and hard. More acute instances will precipitate blisters that are filled with fluid that can be either milky colored or clear. The worst cases of the condition will turn the skin black from gangrene.

It is prudent to avoid nicotine and alcohol when facing prolonged exposure to the cold as these can slow down blood flow, making frostbite more easily possible. It is advisable to consume sports drinks or sugar water that has been warmed up and snacks that are high in calorie content while out in the cold.

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Murphy’s Law Applied to Winter Camping

  • The need to urinate at night increases in direct relation to the hour past midnight, layers of clothing worn, occupants in your tent, and inches of new snowfall. Curiously, it increases in ‘inverse’ relation to the decreasing outside temperature.
  • Sticks emerge through the snow at a rate proportional with the time.
  • The weight of your backpack increases in direct relationship with the length of your hike and the depth of the snow.
  • Your warmest item of clothing will be the one that is torn, wet or forgotten.
  • Tent stakes come only in the quantity ‘N-1′ where N is the number of stakes necessary to stake down a tent.  The quantity of N-1 tent stakes will all be of length L-1″ where L is the length needed to reach solid snowpack.
  • All food assumes a common taste and color when freeze-dried.
  • Divide the number of servings by two when reading the directions for reconstituting anything freeze-dried.
  • The person hiking in front of you will randomly dislodge snow from  all tree branches above your head. If you remain a safe distance behind the person in front of you, then the person behind you will randomly tap those same branches with their trekking pole, dislodging the snow before they reach the branch.
  • The actual comfortable sleep rating for your sleeping bag is 15 degrees more than what was advertised.
  • When sharing gear with a group three will bring  stoves and no one will bring a cooking kit.
  • Your backpack’s weight will not be affected by the amount of food eaten out of it.
  • The loudness of your tent mate’s snoring during night grows in direct correlation to your need for sleep.
  • The sun sets 47% faster than normal when setting up camp. It sets another 28% faster if freezing rain is eminent.
  • Of a 25% chance of freezing rain, 100% will fall in your campsite.
  • When snowshoeing you take half as many downhill steps as uphill.
  • 30% of a backpack’s contents could have been left at home.
  • The number of times the trip is described in a story is directly proportional to the misery experienced during the trip.

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Four-Season Tents

BackCountry.com published a Tent Buyers Guide to help de-mystify walls, seasons and vestibules and seasons for 3- season tents, 4-season (winter) tents and family tents.  I extracted the relevant Winter Camping information below.

Defining Features

- All vents can be closed during storms.
– Tougher materials than three-season tents.
– Multiple guy-out points for anchoring.
– For mountaineering and winter backpacking.

Description – Despite what the name implies, four-season tents are actually one-season tents: winter. Both the canopy and body feature stronger materials than three-season tents, and the body shape maximizes resistance to high winds and heavy snow loading. Take these tents on winter camping and mountaineering trips.

Size – Get a tent for the exact number of users on alpine routes and backcountry ski tours where weight is an issue. Some weight-obsessed alpine climbers even use tents that are too small to save weight, but you don’t want to spend more than one night in a row packed together like sardines. If you’re planning for a glacier base camp or spending a week skiing laps in the same cirque, then consider a larger tent than you need. Every extra inch counts when you’re sitting through winter’s long nights.

Single or Double-Wall Tent? Get a single-wall tent for long backcountry ski tours or lightweight alpine climbs.  Get a double-wall tent for trips where you will be in the same camp for several nights (base camp).

1 Door vs. 2 Doors? For winter tents the door question usually gets answered when you think about how much time you’ll be on the move. In base camp, a second door can be pretty key. On a steep alpine route, a second door just adds weight. However, some find the convenience of a second door to be well worth the extra few ounces, especially for tents that hold three or more people.

Vestibule? Vestibules provide a place to store gear and put on your boots without exposing the inside of your tent to the burly snowstorm brewing outside. When camping on snow, you can dig out the below the vestibule to create a plush porch and storage area. Four-season single-wall tents often do not have an integrated vestibule because the people using these tents tend to focus on saving weight.

Venting. These tents include just enough venting to reduce condensation, but every speck of mesh can be sealed to keep out the snow during a storm.

Footprint: Footprints add extra water resistance and durability for long stays in camp, but they usually get left behind if you plan to move camp every night. Get yourself one and use it whenever you can afford the extra weight.

Backcountry reports their leading four season brands are Marmot, Mountain Hardware and Black Diamond.

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Len at Long Pond

This is Len – our famous FIREMASTER.  He talks about specific heat while carefully pre-warming carefully selected pieces of firewood for a fire.  With few exceptions Len has always had a successful fire. A number of years ago we hiked into Long Pond in November to watch the meteor shower.  Len agreed to pose for this photo.  (We also have some photos of Len that he didn’t agree to pose to, but since Len is a High School teacher and still our friend we are keeping those in the archives.)

Len posing in front of Long Pond

Later in the day we tried to teach Len the mechanics of a bowline knot.

The rabbit comes out of the hole, around the tree and back down the hole!

Rob explains:  The rabbit comes out of the hole, around the tree and back into the hole….  Len strangled the rabbit, tied himself to the tree and never really got the hang of tieing a bowline knot.

Instead he resolved to “if you can’t tie a knot – then tie a lot”.

Part of our entertainment was trying to teach Len to tie a bowline knot.

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