Nevada Mule Deer Success

Late last week we concluded our final out-of-state hunt for the year, a successful trip pursuing high country Mule Deer in Nevada. This hunt was in an area that we have some history with: my dad started hunting it in the 1980s, then took me there for my first backpack hunt in 2003 at age 13. My dad and I have now hunted this area four times together, and Ben Britton has been on the hunt the past two trips (2012 and 2015). Over the years we have taken some very nice bucks and made a lot of memories in Nevada, and this year was no different- aside from our bucks being on the small side compared to seasons past.

On the hunt this year was Ben Britton, my dad Mike, our good friend Ken, and myself. Ben and I had just five days to hunt while my dad and Ken allowed themselves nine days in the field.

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As has been the case on most of our hunts this year, we were once again dealing with warm temperatures and a big moon to start out the hunt. For the first three days, Ben and I packed into an area where I took a 31″ wide buck in 2012. The conditions had the animals moving only in the first and last 10 minutes of daylight, and the bucks we did see were not shooters this early in the trip.

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On the third night (second night with the season open) a heavy storm rolled in bringing rain, thick fog, and a dusting of snow to the highest elevations. We got out of the tents momentarily at daylight, but a constant rain and visibility that stretched no more than 50 yards forced us back into our Ultra Stars. We ended up spending 17 hours out of an 18-hour stretch inside our little tents.

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On the bright side, the moisture allowed us to stay on the ridge that night and the following morning, rather than having to hike way down and back up for an over-due water refill. Sucking standing water from the rocks gave us just under 2 liters to filter.

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The ceiling finally lifted that evening, exposing some beautiful sunset lighting on the mountains. Unfortunately, even after a long day of bad weather, we still couldn’t get eyes on a good buck.

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By this time we were ready to see some new country and make a move. We packed out mid-morning, drove a short distance to another trailhead, and hiked in to meet back up with my dad and Ken. We reached their camp about an hour before dark and did some glassing from there. We were pleased to glass over 40 deer that evening- a night and day difference from what we’d seen in the first area.

Before leaving our first camp we made this quick video showing our pack contents:

Just after dark, Ken and my dad showed up in camp and we swapped reports on our hunts thus far. They had passed on many small bucks in the first three days, but like us, had yet to see anything big. Ben and I set our tents with theirs and we enjoyed a Mountain House dinner together.

Ken (far right in the photo below) has plenty of experience in hunting by horseback, but this was his first real backpack hunt. We had some hard laughs when he asked us to go through his pack and point out the things that he didn’t need… a process that had to have put at least 5 years life back onto his back and knees. Ken’s attitude was perfect for this kind of hunt and he learned a lot in short time. No doubt he has what it takes.

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The next morning we were once again socked in with fog, which would lift or open for a few minutes of glassing about every 30 minutes. Late in the morning we caught a glimpse of a few nice bucks up high about a mile and a half away and feeling the time crunch, Ben and I took off after them. A couple hours later we were in position for a shot if any of them were to feed out of the last aspen patch they were seen going into. We could see the does they were with feeding in the brush, so we had a good feeling that the bucks were close by.

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I continued glassing our surroundings while Ben laid in wait for the bucks to come out. After four hours of nothing, I located a small group of bucks on a slope back over toward camp where we came from. These new bucks were in a very stalkable location and we had time to make a move on them. It was either keep waiting for bucks that we “think” are there, or make another big move on bucks that we know are there. We chose the latter.

Close to an hour of hiking as fast as we could later, we found ourselves within 350 yards of the now bedded bucks. A dense stand of pines below and across the bowl from the bucks hid our movement as we set up for a shot. The best two bucks in the group were a 4×4 and a 4×3, while the others were small forks. Ben adjusted the turret for a 340 yard shot, settled on the 4×4, and squeezed. He never left his bed.

Amidst the excitement I decided that I would be happy taking the 4×3 if presented a good shot. The remaining bucks banded together for their escape, but actually started running toward us. To make a short story even shorter, I settled when they stopped and squeezed the trigger. The fork buck fell in a case of confused identity, and the nice 4×3 and his only remaining running mate continued on with their evening.

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My buck was smaller than the coastal Blacktail I took two weeks prior, but to my surprise I really wasn’t disappointed. As a matter of fact this deer helped me refresh my perspective on what I personally value in a harvest: memories, stories, hard work, and getting to care for quality meat. Field dressing with great care and packing heavy loads of clean meat are events that I enjoy immensely- and they have nothing to do with the size of the antlers. This isn’t to say that I won’t continue trying to take above-average animals on each outing, but for one hunt filling my tag on a small buck was surprisingly gratifying.

We got our bucks back to camp around midnight, hung the quarters and loose meat in the cool night breeze, and hit the sacks for some much needed sleep.

The following morning after glassing with my dad and Ken, we enjoyed our coffee while boning out the quarters and packing up camp for our last-day hike out to the truck.

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Meat care is something that we take a lot of pride in, and we have no problem sharing the condition of our meat and cleanliness of bones after de-boning. The hind quarters and shoulders were taken off the bone in single pieces to minimize meat loss. We prefer to take slabs of neck meat even when not required by law as it grinds up great for burger and sausage.

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SCARPA Charmoz Pro GTX x2

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Dad and Ken needed to re-stock food at the trailhead for the rest of their hunt, so they were generous enough to help us pack meat off the mountain.

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My camp and pack (Ultra 6000)

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Ben’s pack (Icon Pro 7200)

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The evening after Ben and I headed home, my dad took this nice 4×4. He spent the off-season putting together and new rifle, scope, and loads to extend his effective range. It paid off big time when he made a perfect 616 yard broadside shot on his buck. “I couldn’t have hit him better from 100″ he told me over the phone the following morning.

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Upon arriving home we like to jump straight into processing any meat that we plan to grind. By not letting the meat age further and build a hard outer crust, we’re able to get a higher yield on the product with minimal trimming.

For long drives (8 hours in this case) we mix 30 pounds of wet ice with 10 pounds of dry ice in the bottom of a large ice chest. The dry ice keeps all moisture frozen. Half way home we rotate the meat, so by the time we arrive most is beginning to harden. This makes it really easy to cut into chunks for grinding.

This meat came out exceptionally clean for being skinned and processed on the ground, hung on trees, carried in packs twice, and driven a long distance.

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On the to-make list was burger, bratwurst, spicy Italian sausage, sweet Italian sausage, regular breakfast sausage, and maple breakfast sausage. We did both links and bulk/patty in all sausages. Ground bacon ends were added to reach a 20% fat content.

 

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Natural hog casings.

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Finally, we made 3 lbs of Jerky with the leftover lean grind that was left once we ran out of fat for burger/sausage.

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As always, thanks for reading and don’t hesitate to post questions or comments below if you have them. Or, email me at toddh@kuiu.com. Ben Britton can be reached at benb@kuiu.com.

-Todd Harney

Merino Zip-Off Bottoms: Function and Efficiency

Last week while browsing a few different forums I noticed more than one question surrounding the design and use of our Merino Zip-Off Baselayer Bottoms. Like they used to say in school, if one person has a question, then there are likely others wondering the same thing. The Zip-Off Bottoms have become one of my favorite layering pieces over the past year, so I’d like to make sure everyone is clear on how they work and why they were designed the way they are.

 

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The first thing that most potential buyers notice and question about the zip-off bottoms is the length. They are obviously different in that regard from traditional long underwear that ends around the ankles, and it’s a normal instinct for potential buyers to initially shy away from a product that appears to fit differently than what they’ve become accustomed to wearing for years. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t have my share of eyebrow raising moments as Shaun catwalked the halls of the KUIU office in his mid-calf length baselayer bottoms during the developmental stages of the product. Fashion sense aside, the shortened length concept makes sense and works in the field. There’s really no reason to have a baselayer insulate the lower leg within the upper of the boot… that’s what socks are for. Furthermore, the beauty of the zip-off feature is that the user doesn’t need to remove his pants or even touch his boot lacing to add and/or remove this layer. Lastly, the garment weighs less without the excess fabric.

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The functionality of the easy-on, easy-off design could not be better. Gone are the days where you tough out the bitter cold in the mornings to avoid having to basically change clothes later when the sun came up in order to shed my traditional long underwear. It’s not that we don’t have time on a hunt to take our boots and pants off and then put them back on again, but let’s face it… it’s an inconvenience that’s typically avoided until the heat of a baselayer bottom becomes completely unbearable. The zip-off bottoms change all of this. It’s a no-brainer to put them on in the morning when it’s cold, and it only takes about 15 seconds to remove them, put them in the pack, and continue with the day as soon as it gets too warm.

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This image provides a better look at how the zip-off bottoms work.

A couple frequently asked questions are how does the zipper feel against the leg, and how do the upper closer tabs feel against the waist? The answer is pretty straight forward- you really don’t ever feel either of them. The size 3C YKK zippers are small and soft, and have an inner trim that closes off contact between the skin and the zipper teeth (detailed photo below). Though slight in size, these zippers have proven to hold up very well. We have yet to receive a single warranty claim against the performance or longevity of the zippers on the zip-off bottoms.

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Next to skin side of leg zipper. Notice how no zipper teeth are exposed.

The upper velcro closure tabs are designed in a way that keeps all of the hook and loop material out of contact with the body. Additionally, there is almost no bulge or change in thickness along the waistband that would create an uncomfortable pressure point while wearing a pack waist belt over the top.

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The velcro side tabs create a very smooth and comfortable transition between the front and rear panels.

 

I hope this helps clear up some questions surrounding this baselayer piece. The Merino Zip-Off Bottoms are undoubtedly KUIU’s most under-the-radar innovations of the past year.

GIVEAWAY (Update Below)

SUBSCRIBE AND SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS AND/OR EXPERIENCES WITH THE ZIP-OFF BOTTOMS IN THE COMMENTS SECTION BELOW, AND I WILL PICK ONE COMMENTER AT RANDOM NEXT FRIDAY AT 10AM PST TO RECEIVE A FREE PAIR.

JAMES PARMER, your name was drawn as the winner of this Giveaway. I have emailed you with instructions. Thank you to all who took the time to comment on this post. Your responses are invaluable to those who come across this post down the road while researching this product.

On a side note, it was brought to our attention yesterday that the previous SUBSCRIBE feature used for this blog has sent a some unrelated emails to our readers. We immediately deactivated and removed the problematic subscription provider, and have replaced it with a new one that will not send any unwanted emails. Thanks to those of you who notified us of the issue.

Todd Harney

Wilderness Athlete Seminar at the KUIU Garage Sale

During our Garage Sale event here in Dixon back in May, we had a number of guest vendors put on short seminars to talk about their products and services. Mark Paulsen, founder of Wilderness Athlete, gave a great talk that touched on a number of overlooked nutrition fundamentals that apply to backcountry enthusiasts of all ages and experience levels.

I hope you enjoy and learn something new from the video.

As a reminder, we are offering a couple Wilderness Athlete products in the KUIU Gear Shop. Visit the links below to learn more:

Gear Shop: Wilderness Athlete Hydrate & Recover

Gear Shop: Wilderness Athlete Energy & Focus

On a side note, our Archery Blacktailed Deer season opens here in California this weekend. With any luck, someone here at the office will have a success story and photos to share on The Hunt next week. Stay tuned and best of luck to all of you who will be out scouting or hunting this weekend!

Todd Harney

Raingear Packability Comparisons

One of the most frequently asked customer raingear questions around here is: How small does it compress? It’s a very valid question, and one that people rightfully expect an accurate answer to.

The question came up over and over again in the live feed for yesterday’s Teton revealing, so I’ve decided to put this together here today to help provide a quality response. Below are photos and dimensions of each of the KUIU rain sets, compressed (folded and rolled) as if they were to be stored in a pack. We will begin with the smallest (Teton) and work up to the largest (Yukon).

Teton Rain Jacket and Pant

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Dimensions/ Size Large

Jacket: 14 cm long, 27 cm circumference

Pant: 15.5 cm long, 22.5 cm circumference

Ultra NX Jacket and Pant

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Dimensions/ Size Large

Jacket: 16 cm long, 26 cm circumference

Pant: 21 cm long, 23 cm circumference

Chugach NX Jacket and Pant

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Dimensions/ Size Large

Jacket: 20 cm long, 32.5 cm circumference

Pant: 22.5 cm long, 26.5 cm circumference

Yukon Jacket and Pant

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Dimensions/ Size Large

Jacket: 28 cm long, 32 cm circumference

Pant: 30 cm long, 29 cm circumference

 

That’s it! Quick post this week, but this but a long overdue one.

Todd Harney

Capture the Adventure to Share the Adventure

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“I wish I would have taken fewer photos…”
-Said no one ever.

Taking photos on every outing in the field is something that everyone should be doing. Whether they are used for personal reflection down the road, or immediate sharing with social media following an adventure, photos capture moments like nothing else. Hunting takes us to incredible places with the people we hold the closest, and unfortunately it’s never a guarantee we’ll get to visit the same places twice. Even more grievous is the fact that we never know how many adventures are left in the book between us and our closest hunting partners. If you’re not already in the habit of taking photos (and lots of them), please start this season. You’ll be glad you did.

The number one reason many people dismiss taking more photos is simply because when they get home and view them, they don’t feel their photography did the trip justice. Our time spent hunting gives us a feeling that’s hard to put into words. When our photos don’t follow suit with the mood of the trip, they just aren’t as inspiring to share or look at down the road.

So without further adieu, here are some simple ways to begin upping the quality of your final photos:

Focus on the adventure, not just the result.
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Un-staged camp photos are always interesting to look at, as it’s something everyone can relate to yet every camp is different.

When it comes to photo documenting a hunt, the old saying of “It’s about the journey, not the destination” is spot on. The effort put forth, the scenery viewed, and the elements endured are all important factors that make a hunt unique. Pay attention to these factors and get the camera out when all three can be captured in a single photo. You will soon realize that this type of photo opportunity comes up often, so be ready!

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Photos of cooking freshly harvested meat will help paint a vivid conclusion to any hunt photo storyline.

Furthermore, it’s important to understand that what may seem like a dull moment when it’s happening can still be a great time for a unique photo. Cooking beneath the light of a headlamp, packing up a pack, filling water, taping up a blister, or even napping under a tree are all common occurrences that provide chances to capture the journey. If photos like these are taken frequently throughout a hunt, you will have a great storyline of the adventure by the end of it.

Use a quality camera.
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Scenery shots like this don’t happen without a good camera. This kind of view is too good to only keep as a mental photograph.

It seems rudimentary, but in order to follow through with the tips below you will need to have quality photos to start with. There are countless options from the couple-hundred dollar compact point and shoots, up to interchangeable lens DSLRs that will get the job done. The pros like to look at features way beyond Megapixel count, but we’re not splitting hairs here… nor am I qualified to speak on behalf of the pros. In my past experience with point-and-shoots, 9 Megapixels seems to be about the minimum for producing good editable photos under a range of conditions.

Not only will colors and definition be better with a good camera, but it will also buy you some extra room for cropping and editing photos without losing quality. The bottom line is this: Invest in a decent camera and put the cell phone away.

Multiple shots from varying angles and settings.

So you’ve spotted what looks like a good photo opportunity, pulled out the camera, and taken a picture. Don’t stop there! Take some additional time to move around and shoot the photo from different angles, using various amounts of zoom. Additionally, shoot with and without the flash engaged- even if it’s a sunny day. Your hunting partners may think you’re going overboard at times, but they will likely thank you later. The more shots you take, the better the odds become that one turns out just how you want it. If passing the camera off to a buddy to do the shooting, don’t be afraid to look at the photos and ask for something different if you don’t see what you had envisioned.

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Getting a good skyline shot almost always takes a number of attempts from various angles.

If and when you are successful with a harvest, take this tip to the extreme. Spending an extra 15-30 minutes on harvest photos isn’t going to hurt anything under most conditions. Remember, this is a moment you’re going to reflect back on for years to come- do your best to get the shots you’ll be happy with. Again, look at the photos as you go and make sure you’re getting what you want if someone else is pushing the button. They will probably appreciate the feedback and learning experience. In my opinion, the top three things to keep in mind when it comes to harvest photos are as follows: 1) Animal should be posed in a respectful manner. Tuck in the tongue, clean excess blood, etc. 2) Avoid cutting off any portions of the animal and hunter in the frame. Err on the side of being backed out too far- photos can and should always be cropped later. 3) Avoid taking photos from too high or too low. The camera should be aimed from a height that falls somewhere between the hunters chin and 12″ off the ground.

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The best of at least 50 takes on this solo bear hunt.

To provide an example on quantity, I typically come home with anywhere from 750-1,500 photos after each extended trip in the field. Of these, I usually am happy with 5-10% of them- which brings us to our next step below.

Narrow down and edit your favorites.

Even if you come home with 1,000+ photos upon the conclusion of a trip, it won’t take long to sort the keepers from the throw-aways once they’ve been loaded onto the computer. Discard the bad ones, keep the okay ones, and flag your favorites.

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Lots of similar photos, with just a couple keepers.

What you do from here really depends on how and when you want to use the photos. If the plan is to just look at them every now and then and nothing more, then the editing phase probably isn’t all that important. But if you’d like to put together a bundle of favorites that really capture the overall feel of the adventure for sharing via email or social media, then some editing really should be done to ensure the best response from your audience.

Editing doesn’t have to mean spending hours or even minutes on a single image. If you want to get into the finest details in that regard, then you’ll find better info than what I can provide elsewhere. For most intents and purposes, simply using the crop, exposure, contrast, and saturation features on any standard photo program will do the trick. 90% of the photo editing I do is conducted in iPhoto- Mac’s basic platform that comes free with every computer they sell. These editing features are so fast, effective, and easy to use that there’s really no reason to explain them here. Simply playing around with these adjustments on a few photos is all it takes to learn.

To quickly show the power of Crop/ Exposure/ Contrast/ Saturation, take a look at the before and after comparison below:

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Unedited.

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Edited.

 

I hope these quick and simple photo tips come in useful for you this season. Photography is a fun and rewarding additional hobby to supplement hunting trips. As with anything, if you practice, your skills will improve. If you have specific questions on anything covered here, please feel free to email me at toddh@kuiu.com. If any questions are too technical, I would be glad to forward them to Blaise, our in-house photo/video manager.

-Todd Harney

Wilderness Athlete

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Earlier this year some of us here at the office began trying out a variety of supplements from Wilderness Athlete during our indoor and outdoor training activities. While we have used and been more than satisfied with most of the supplements they make, the items highlighted here will be their Energy & Focus and Hydrate & Recover products. Having drawn our own real-world conclusions on the performance of these items, we are excited to bring them in as the newest offerings in the KUIU Gear Shop.

The Company

Wilderness Athlete’s founder, Mark Paulsen, has a long working history in Strength & Conditioning and Sports Nutrition at the collegiate level throughout the US- which can be read about here. Through Mark’s education, career, and professional networking he has built a strong expertise on knowing what the body needs in order to perform at the highest level during physical activity- whether it be on the playing field or in the backcountry. Wilderness Athlete is a company who’s products are the result of over 100 years combined experience in athletic science between Paulsen and his team.

Hydrate & Recover

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Many times we find ourselves rationing water in the backcountry- even in areas where re-filling sources are readily available. Topping off on water is both time and energy consuming, often requiring daily drops in elevation to fill up before climbing back to prime glassing points. None the less proper hydration is critical to performance, especially on long duration hunts. Hydrate and Recover is not a product that allows you to get by on less water, but it does improve the performance per sip of the fluids you ingest.

The jargon on the label may be of value to some but when it comes to supplements, most potential users prefer to hear a personal example on how the performance is “felt”… so here’s one example: My main means of fitness training this year has been by road cycling- anywhere from 120-170 miles per week for the past number of months. I ride pretty much the same 20-25 mile route every afternoon during the week, always pushing to hit higher average speeds in different portions of the ride. Hydrate & Recover is almost always in one of my water bottles. To jump to the point, the only times I’ve experienced severe leg cramps have been during rides when I did not use the product. While this example is far from scientific, I personally feel that Hydrate & Recover produces noticeable results on a daily basis. Others here at KUIU have agreed wholeheartedly based on their own uses.

For backpack hunting purposes, Hydrate & Recover is a good drink to start or end each day with. If you find yourself cramping up in the sleeping bag after a hard day, this would be a great supplement to take before bed. The single-serve packets weigh 0.55 oz each, making them a convenient part of the daily consumables portion in the pack.

Energy & Focus

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This product provides similar results to some of the hyped up pre-workout products found in big box supplement stores, but without the jittery side effects or questionable ingredients. Furthermore, Energy & Focus doesn’t seem to have the crash effect after it wears off like many pre-workouts or energy drinks do. This formula uses no simple sugars and contains less caffeine than what’s found in a 16 oz Starbucks ‘coffee of the day’. Instead, the main energy boost is derived from neuroactive nutrients that promote mental clarity and focus.

To relate the performance of this product to the cycling example used above, it’s simple: miles seem to go by faster, and mental focus and resiliency reach another level for hours after drinking this stuff.  To be quite honest, we even drink it around the office as an afternoon pick-me-up.

Just like the Hydrate & Recover product, Energy & Focus comes in 0.55 oz packets for easy single-serve use on the go. In the mountains, this is a good drink to take in the morning before a big climb or during slow midday glassing sessions when it’s easy to lose focus.

Altitude Advantage

One new Wilderness Athlete product that we have not yet tried is Altitude Advantage, an intriguing pill-form supplement that’s formulated to reduce or eliminate the effects of acute mountain sickness. As with anything we sell in the gear shop, we plan to perform our own testing before selling it at KUIU.com. A few of us will be climbing Mt. Whitney (14,505′) in a couple weeks which will be a good starting point in evaluating the effectiveness of Altitude Advantage. If it works as advertised after a few trips, this will be our next Wilderness Athlete offering.

In the mean time, if any of you have tried Altitude Advantage, I’d like to hear what you think in the comments section below.

In The Gear Shop

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To shop Wilderness Athlete Hydrate & Recover and/or Energy & Focus, follow the links below. We are offering their newest flavors, which won the ‘best taste’ vote here at the office.

Link: Wilderness Athlete Hydrate & Recover $29.95

Link: Wilderness Athlete Energy & Focus $29.95

GIVEAWAY

UPDATE 5/18: EDGAR AND PETE, YOU TWO ARE THE RECIPIENTS OF THE GIVEAWAY! I’LL SEND YOU BOTH FOLLOW EMAILS TO COORDINATE THE TRANSACTION.

Just like with previous Gear Shop product announcements, subscribe and leave a comment below for a chance to win a free box of Wilderness Athlete. On Monday, May 18th at 12pm PST I’ll choose two names. One will receive Hydrate & Recover, and the other will receive Energy & Focus. Whether you’ve used these products or not, please comment!

Lastly, Mark Paulsen from Wilderness Athlete will be at KUIU in Dixon, CA on Saturday, May 30th from 10am-4pm to take part in our Open House event. If you live close by, please feel free to attend and take advantage of having such a great Sports Nutrition resource in town. He will be giving a seminar around 1pm.

-Todd Harney

Customizable Headlamps For Long Duration Hunts

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Lighting is one of the most overlooked categories of the backcountry kit. All functioning flashlights and headlamps produce light, and in most nighttime or low-light circumstances, any amount of light is usually good enough. But lets not forget the fact that roughly one-third of our time spent on any given backpack hunt is in the dark. Spur of the moment nighttime camp relocations, water filling trips, field dressing, pack outs, etc. are all times where quality lighting is heavily relied on- some of which require more lumen output, some of which require less. The bottom line is that proper lighting allows us to get work done safely and efficiently.

The classic drawback to using high-output mobile light sources on longer trips where weight matters is the issue of carrying extra batteries, or the fear of a rechargeable battery losing power at the most inopportune time. Variable output lamps help conserve energy, although it’s hard to predict just how much. Unless, of course, you are able to customize it to the exact intensity and duration settings necessary for a given hunt. This may sound like an outlandish idea, but with select Petzl headlamps it’s entirely possible and actually quite simple.

Petzl OS Lighting Software

One of the main reasons we chose to offer the Petzl NAO and RXP headlamps in the KUIU Gear Shop is for the ability for the user to fine tune the settings using Petzl’s free OS software. By customizing the headlamp settings, one can fine tune the balance between battery duration and lumen output depending on the hunt.

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Screen shot of Petzl’s OS software.

Once you have a Petzl NAO, Tikka R+, or Tikka RXP, you can download the Free Petzl OS software from there website. The link is here in case you are eager to visit the page now. After the download is finished, the program will request that you connect your headlamp to the computer via the included USB cord. At this point, you will come to the page seen in the screen shot above.

Reactive vs. Constant Lighting

Displayed above in the previous screenshot are the default settings for the Petzl NAO. At the top under Active Profiles, you’ll see two operation categories side by side: Reactive and Constant.

To clarify, Reactive Lighting is when the lamp senses the distance at which the user is looking. While looking at close up objects or the ground, the lamp lowers the lumen output and uses a flood beam. Once the user looks up at a distant object, the lamp immediately increases its lumen output and throws a narrower long distance beam.

Constant lighting is pretty self-explanatory: a constant beam is cast no matter what distance the user is looking. To change lumen output and/or beam focus, the user must toggle through settings on the headlamp.

Reactive Lighting comes in most handy for situations like blood trailing or traversing rough country at night when you’re constantly looking down and ahead at different distances. Times where the Reactive feature becomes less desirable is around camp or in foggy/snowy conditions. Friends don’t seem to appreciate a 350+ lumen blast in the face each time you look up to talk to them, and fog has a way of reflecting a lot of the high output light back into your eyes. Luckily, switching back and forth between Reactive and Constant lighting can be done in the field.

Customizations

For extended backpack hunts, the most important customizations that the OS software provides are battery life and number of different stored output settings. Below you’ll notice that the default (out of the package) Reactive and Constant settings only offer a max battery life of 8 hours at 98 lumens. 8 hours may seem like quite a while, but that’s only an average of just over 1.5 hours per night on a 5 night hunt. Furthermore, 98 lumens is overkill for general camp use and even on the high side for night hiking in mellow terrain.

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Default battery life / lumen output settings for the Petzl NAO.

 

In order to make the settings more user friendly for our intended purposes, we want to dim down the light on the lowest setting to extend the battery life, and also adjust the higher intensity settings for specific scenarios. By clicking “Create New Profile”, you are able to program all of your own settings within both the Reactive and Constant Lighting categories. Below is a new screen shot displaying the custom settings I’ve chosen.

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Customized “Long Hunt” settings programmed for the Patzl NAO.

 

As you can see there are now four different settings in the Reactive category, and three under constant. Take a look at Reactive level 4 highlighted in the photo above. The + and – signs next to the battery life are what’s used to adjust the brightness and battery life of each level. If I wanted to add a fifth custom level I could, but four seems to provide plenty of options. Also, notice how the battery life of each level increases in a (somewhat) 4, 8, 16, 32 pattern. This is by design in order to easily memorize the life of each setting while in the field. The same can be done over on the Constant Lighting side. Below is a quick explanation on the levels I chose.

Level 1, 4:40 @ 355 Lumens: Best reserved for looking for a downed animal, navigating treacherous routes, etc. This is not a setting that should be used very often.

Level 2, 8:00 @ 98 Lumens: Good for general active use, field dressing, setting up camp, etc. Still, this setting should be used wisely on a long hunt.

Level 3, 16:00 @ 26 Lumens: Should be the most frequently used setting while hiking on a trail, cooking meals, getting dressed, etc. 26 lumens is typically plenty of light for these purposes.

Level 4, 31:00 @ 9 Lumens: Best to use for extended low activity periods, reading, or down time at camp. This setting still provides plenty of light for eating, cooking, organizing a pack, etc. on hunts where battery life is critical.

Additional Advanced Settings

The OS software offers some additional settings to further refine the performance of their lamps. These setting are found by clicking “Expert Setting” on the main setting profile page. The expert settings allow the user to fine tune parameters such as wide and narrow angle beam power percentages, and most notably, reading beam threshold. This adjustment dictates the focus of the beam while looking at close up objects such as maps, notebooks, or GPS units. Furthermore, battery life settings can be tuned to very specific times within expert settings- although your really just splitting hairs at this point as far as hunting purposes go.

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The reading threshold setting seen upper-right is a quality tool. Adjusting the reading beam coverage does not affect battery life.

 

Lastly, Expert Settings is where you will find the toggles which allow the customization of how settings are changed during use. This is located under the “Other Parameters” tab.

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Expert Settings: “Other Parameters”

While there are some additional specifics to this software not mentioned above, this should provide a close enough look into Petzl OS for readers to decide whether or not its a tool worth using this season. For more information on the headlamps that are compatible with the program, please follow the links below.

Petzl NAO Product Page

Petzl Tikka RXP Product Page

Petzl Tikka R+

Best of luck if you choose to pursue these tips, and thanks for reading.

-Todd Harney

The Trekking Pole Advantage

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I began utilizing trekking poles on my hunts early in 2014 after noticing a growing trend in their use among backpack hunters over the past few years. As I read more and more about their effectiveness in various backpacking articles and hunting forums, two groups seemed to emerge: Those who swear by trekking poles, and those who have yet to try them. A couple months ago I wrote about the Bino Adapter becoming your secret weapon this season; the same can be said for trekking poles.

Advantages of Trekking Poles

As one would imagine, the most obvious benefit that I quickly realized on the first outing with trekking poles was the reduction in leg strain during gradual ascents. While the result of less weight on the legs with each step means more weight on the arms, arm fatigue from trekking pole use has (personally) never been an issue. Without even thinking about it, the body seems to find a happy medium on its own between load reduction in the legs and load bearing on the arms. This is especially noticeable while trekking through varying inclines and declines. As an ascent steepens, the body shifts weight heavier onto the arms and poles. On the contrary, I’ve found that on flat ground or slight descents the poles and arms carry very little weight. During steep descents, the arms and poles once again carry more of the workload- particularly with a heavy pack. This really helps ease the prevalent strain and aching we feel in our hips, knees, and feet during and after long descents.

Aside from reduced weight and strain on the legs from a pure load bearing standpoint, trekking poles truly shine when it comes to balance and sure-footedness. During a September high country deer hunt last season I had watched a buck bed a few hundred yards below me on a nearly vertical granite hillside. The only way to get in range out of his view was to drop into a narrow avalanche chute, which was chock full of loose softball sized rocks. One slip of the foot and not only was I headed down the mountain, but so was everything underneath me. Trekking poles in hand, I was slowly but surely able to make it down through the chute by “testing” each next step with a pole before trusting an edge of boot sole on it. Without having the trekking poles to stabilize and support this backcountry ballerina act, I would have never made it into range undetected. Unfortunately, trekking poles don’t cure buck fever… I missed.

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Shaun Ayers relies on his LEKI Micro Vario Carbon to help him safely traverse a knife ridge.

I’ve found trekking poles to even help ease the mind on long, monotonous approaches- especially in the dark. Having the poles in the hands and on the ground out in front on each step adds a more lively rhythm or tempo to the walking pace. Lastly, and again particularly with a heavy pack, I feel that the additional workload and movement in the arms and shoulders promotes blood flow- minimizing the tingly feeling and soreness that can show up in the hands and shoulders during a long pack in or out.

A Scientific Study

I mentioned earlier that there seem to be two groups; those who swear by trekking poles and those who haven’t tried them. Clearly there are a lot of people who have found it worthwhile to pack these things around trip after trip based on results from prior experiences. But is there any scientific data to support or reject the notion that trekking poles actually increase efficiency in the mountains?

The best support I’ve been able to turn up is an academic study (1) performed in 2008 by Northumbria University (United Kingdom). To summarize, this study examined the effects of heavy hiking on heart rate, perceived exertion, and muscle soreness at intervals ranging from immediately after to 72 hours after the climb and descent of Mount Snowdon in Wales. Two groups of 18 people with similar fitness levels, wearing similar gear and pack weights, and who ate the same meals leading up to and during the climb took part in the study. One group used trekking poles while the other climbed unaided.

The results showed convincing evidence that the trekking pole group experienced less muscle soreness, and faster recovery immediately after the hike. Additionally, creatine levels (which indicate muscle damage) in the non-trekking pole group were much higher 24-hours post climb than the trekking pole group which showed creatine enzyme amounts that nearly matched pre-climb levels.

To relate this study back to our mountain hunting interest, faster recovery and less soreness in the leg muscles after each day of hiking translates to an increase in sustained bodily performance over the course of long, physical hunts.

(1) Northumbria University. “How trekking-poles help hikers maintain muscle function while reducing soreness.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 June 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100602121000.htm>.

Additional Uses

Outside their use as a hiking aid, I’ve found trekking poles to be useful for a number of different tasks in the field. Throw some parachute cord and a bit of ingenuity in the mix, and you’re sure to come up with uses that would make even MacGyver take note.

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Here we used trekking poles to create additional support for the side of our tent that was caving in due to 60+ mile per hour winds.

 

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When you need to air dry clothes but there are no trees in sight for miles, poles can be structured into a clothes line. The same principle can be used if times called for an emergency tarp shelter.

 

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A single trekking pole provides the structure for KUIU’s Ultra Star 1P tent.

 

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Trekking poles are a solid base for short glassing stops while on the move, when taking off the pack and breaking out the tripod is too time consuming.

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Here we beefed up the center pole in my pyramid tent, again to add extra support against high winds.

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By crossing the sticks and wrapping each wrist strap around the opposite handle, you get a bipod that’s as sturdy as any collapsible shooting sticks on the market.

Introducing: LEKI Micro Vario Carbon

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While attending Outdoor Retailer 2014 I made it a point to look at and learn about everyone’s top end trekking pole offerings. To make a long story short I walked out of there with a set of LEKI Micro Vario Carbons. Shaun Ayers (director of KUIU product development) and Jeff Short (KUIU program coordinator) each brought home a set of these as well. Later on, Ben Britton (KUIU warranties) picked up a pair of the Titanium model for comparison before our Alaska Caribou hunt. Between the four of us over the past year, we have logged well over 1,000 hiking miles with our LEKI poles without a single issue. I can recall more than a few falls and incidents when I could not believe they didn’t break.

The handles on these poles are high density foam which provides plenty of comfort, moisture resistance, and insulation in cold weather. Furthermore, foam grips are lighter in weight and slightly more durable than cork grips. Some say foam absorbs more sweat than cork, and if it does, it’s not an issue I’ve deemed noticeable or problematic- even in hot weather.

A folding style break down designs achieve lighter weights and smaller pack down sizes than telescoping poles. Additionally, each segment of the pole remains the same diameter for consistent strength throughout the entire length- as opposed to the need for tapering segments in a telescoping design. When folding trekking poles first hit the market there were issues surrounding durability, a problem that has since been resolved due to improvements in fitting materials and design between segments.

Now Available in the KUIU Gear Shop

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This week we received our first shipment of LEKI Micro Vario Carbons to sell through the Gear Shop, and they are now up on the site and ready for purchase. If you are ordering an Ultra Star 1P tent and don’t have trekking poles, these are the ones we’re recommending. The pair weighs just 14.6 oz and the breakdown length is an impressive 15.5 inches. Extended length is adjustable from 110-130 cm to fit a wide range of user heights. The price is on the upper end of the trekking pole market as a whole, but as with anything you get what you pay for.

Follow the link for more information: LEKI in the KUIU Gear Shop

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GIVEAWAY!

WINNER! CALEB PARMENTER, YOUR NAME WAS PICKED OUT OF THE HAT FOR THE NEW SET OF POLES! CONGRATS, AND CHECK YOUR EMAIL FOR DETAILS. THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO COMMENTED!

Subscribe to The Hunt and comment about your Trekking Pole experiences (or lack-thereof) below for a chance to win a free pair of LEKI Micro Vario Carbons. By subscribing to The Hunt, you will receive an email each time a new post is published. Subscriber emails are not shared or used for any other purpose than to keep readers up to date on the content of this page.

A winner will be drawn at 3pm PST this Friday, April 10th.

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If you’re in the “haven’t tried them” group, I highly recommend picking up a set of trekking poles this year. This is a piece of gear that’s sure to improve your performance and abilities in the mountains regardless of age or experience level.

Best of Luck,

Todd Harney

The Benefits of Routine Raingear Care

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Waterproof-breathable garments are the most complex, expensive, and often important pieces to our layering system. They are relied on heavily as the first line of defense when the weather turns bad, and performance or lack thereof can make or break a hunt. Quality raingear isn’t something that needs to be babied, but there are steps that can and should be taken to ensure the highest performance is achieved on each outing. Furthermore, proper care for these garments goes a long way in promoting their longevity.

Before jumping into preventative measures, we first need to understand how and where raingear performance drops off due to neglected care.

The photos corresponding with each category below are of an original 2011 Chugach Pant that was worn heavily for four years, and only washed a couple of times with normal laundry detergent. Although the performance of these pants had deteriorated over time, you will see how NikWax was able to bring them back to life. While it’s possible to rejuvenate neglected raingear, routine care is a much better course of action.

Water Repellency

Every waterproof-breathable rainwear on the market comes standard with an exterior DWR (durable water repellent) coating on the face fabric. This coating causes water to bead up and roll off the garment, which in turn minimizes the workload of the waterproof membrane itself. While some DWRs are surely better than others, none last forever. Abrasion, dirt, and prolonged moisture are all unavoidable culprits that lead to the reduction in a given DWR’s effectiveness. Once a DWR has lost its potency, the face fabric will absorb more water (photo below). More water in the face fabric equates to a heavier garment that takes longer to dry, and also contributes to a loss in breathability.

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DWR Care and Re-Application

DWR treatment should be re-applied about once per season for frequently used items. It’s pretty easy to tell when the DWR has worn off, as it has a very visible affect on performance (see photo above). While it’s normal for some moisture to wick into the face fabric during prolonged exposure to water and friction or abrasion, the majority of water should roll off. When this stops happening, you know the DWR has lost some of its potency.

Fortunately, DWR rejuvenation is relatively cheap and easy. Simply machine wash the garment with a tech-specific detergent like NikWax Tech Wash (more on washing in the next section), and follow with an additional wash cycle with a wash-in DWR. You don’t need to dry between washes. We use and sell NikWax Softshell Proof as the go-to DWR for our raingear. Why Softshell Proof? Because our raingear is made with a 4-way stretch fabric, a standard Hardshell DWR is too brittle to handle the stretch in the fabric. If you are performing these steps on raingear with little to no stretch, then you want to use a true Hardshell DWR solution.

Below is our sample pant after undergoing Tech Wash and Softshell Proof DWR treatment. The difference is night and day. Notice the location on the pant is the same as the photo above.

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One more photo after 8 hours of standing water.

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Breathability

The breathability of a storm shell is one of the key factors that differentiates “top of the line” garments from “the rest”. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the first things to diminish as a garment gets used and abused. In addition to the negative effects of a wetted out face fabric explained above, sweat, skin cells, dirt, and oils from the body clog the backer and the membrane from the inside out. Likewise on the exterior face fabric, the buildup of soil and grime acquired over the course of a few hunts has a real affect on ventilation at the microscopic level.

The discoloration from years of sweat and body oils is obvious on the inside of our sample pant before washing:

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Maintaining Breathability

Breathability is maintained by routine washings with a technical detergent. NikWax Tech Wash is designed to cleanse the pores on the inside and outside of waterproof-breathable fabrics, without leaving behind invisible breathability inhibiting residue like a regular mainstream clothing detergent will. While it’s not as powerful as a full-on DWR reapplication wash, Tech Wash will also help prolong the water repellency on the face fabric. Raingear should be properly washed after every couple long, hard-use hunts.

Our sample pant after one wash in NikWax Tech Wash:

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Components

In the production of waterproof breathable fabrics, multiple layers of thin and fragile material is carefully bonded together using light layers of specialized adhesives. Once a garment has been sewn, all seams are taped for waterproofness through a process that requires even more heat-sensitive glue. Over time, bacteria buildup from body oils and dirt can eat away at these chemical adhesives that play an important role in the performance of raingear.

Note: Not all seam tapes are created equal. Obvious quality differences in seam tape can be seen throughout the industry upon visual inspection of the inside of different raingear garments.

The seam tape and laminated layers have held up well to the abuse in our sample pant, which likely wouldn’t be the case with cheaper components. KUIU raingear uses Bemis seam tape, a brand known for making the highest quality seam tape available. Seam tapes of lower quality are typically thin and transparent- sometimes so thin that the stitching can be seen raising up through the tape itself. If the stitching becomes fully exposed due to wear-through on the thin tape, steps must be taken to re-seal. Gear-Aid Seam Grip is a good product in this situation.

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Ensuring the longevity of seam tape and lamination bonding agents is achieved through a regular washing routine, as described above in the breathability section. Refrain from using extremely hot water and drying methods, as some seam tapes are heat-sensitive.

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NikWax: Additional Information

NikWax Tech Wash and Softshell Proof can be purchased as a bundle kit in the KUIU Gear Shop. One bottle of Tech Wash provides 2-3 washes worth of solution, while one entire bottle of Softshell Proof is required for DWR application. Click the link below for more information.

Link: NikWax DuoPack

Whether you’re planning on purchasing a new set of raingear this season or you’re still getting use out of an older set, the same rules apply: keep it clean and rejuvenate the DWR as needed. Without question, taking these steps throughout the season will pay dividends in the day to day performance and season to season longevity of your waterproof-breathable investments.

-Todd Harney

DIY High Calorie Bars

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In preparing for a backpack hunt there aren’t many places where we can increase our performance:weight ratio and save money at the same time. Luckily (since it’s an expendable or one-time-use item) food is one area where with a little extra at-home preparation and research, one can increase the calorie density of their consumables while saving money over the course of a season.

The most simple way to start is by making your own calorie-rich snack or energy bars. We burn so many calories in the mountains that persistent re-fueling is essential to maintaining our drive day in and day out. Keeping convenient trail food handy is the only way to assure frequent eating on the go. Unfortunately, altitude, physical exertion, and fatigue have a way of curbing hunger, making proper eating habits easier said than done. This is where the calorie density of our food becomes incredibly important: when we don’t feel like eating, every bite we take matters.

Some type of store-bought bars, whether they be Cliff Bars, Power Bars, etc. can likely be found in nearly everyone’s pack at any given time. You can do better though… read on to learn how.

Making the Bars

Making your own high-calorie bars that put the store-bought stuff to shame is quick and easy. You might spend more time wandering around the store looking for Dried Dates than you will making the bars. And don’t worry, there’s no oven involved so this isn’t considered “baking”. The only kitchen supplies you’ll need are a food processor, a bread loaf pan, measuring cups, and some wax paper. If you want to accurately calculate the calories in each bar, a kitchen scale will come in handy.

  • Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 Cups Dried Dates
  • 1 1/4 Cup Dried Cranberries
  • 2 Cups Dry Roasted Peanuts

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Chop the two cups of peanuts in the food processor until they look like mine below. Consistency should range from sand-like to pea-sized. Pour the peanuts into a bowl and put the cranberries and dates into the processor. Run these together until a thick paste forms.

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Put everything together in a bowl and mix evenly by hand.

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Line your loaf pan with wax paper and spread the mix evenly on top.

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Add a second sheet of wax paper on top and press mixture into the bottom of the pan by hand or with some kind of roller. The tighter you can pack to down, the better your final product will hold together.

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Once pressed hard and tight, the mix will keep its shape. Take it out of the pan and lay it in the freezer for 30-45 minutes to harden.

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Once hardened in the freezer, take it out and cut into bars. By weighing and adding up the calories of the entire batch, you can cut your bars to any desired per-piece calories by weighing them out.

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Wrap individually with saran wrap and you’re done. Store them in the freezer, fridge, or wherever you want. They’ll last a few weeks unrefrigerated, and much longer if frozen.

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Caloric Analysis

Now let’s look a little deeper into what we just made, and compare it to what we would usually buy at the store.

  • 1 1/2 Cups Dried Dates (792 Calories)
  • 1 1/4 Cup Dried Cranberries (660 Calories)
  • 2 Cups Dry Roasted Peanuts (1,642 Calories)
  • Total Weight ~1.4 lbs (22.4 oz)
  • Total Calories ~3,094
  • Total Protein ~74 grams
  • ~138 Calories/Ounce
  • This puts the 3.15 oz bar pictured above at 434 calories!

By Comparison, a 2.4 oz Peanut Butter Crunch Cliff Bar supplies 104 Calories/Ounce, for a total of 249.6 calories. Sure, if the Cliff Bar weighed the same as the homemade sample above it would be closer at 327 calories… still 107 calories short, and you’d have to buy another Cliff Bar.

For the sake of another mainstream comparison, PowerBar’s latest Performance Energy bar weighs 2.01 oz and offers 220 calories, for a less than stellar 109 Calories/Ounce. At least they have catchy packaging.

Lastly, while not necessarily apples to apples, Mountain House’s most calorie-dense dinner entree option is Mac and Cheese, coming in at about 130 Calories/Ounce.

So just how much difference does it make to eat the homemade 434 calorie bar on the go vs a 250 calorie store-bought bar? According to a popular online calorie estimate calculator, the extra 184 calories in the homemade bar is enough energy to allow a fit 175 lb man hike about a mile while wearing a 30lb pack.

Substitutes and Additions

One could easily add and substitute ingredients to the recipe. Apparently orange zest in the mixture enhances flavor, although I have not tried it as I like the taste as-is. By using Macadamia nuts instead of Peanuts, the calorie density would increase slightly, although the protein would drop significantly.

Whether you decide to stick with the recipe above or play around with ingredients on your own, rest assured that you’ll end up with a final product that adequately addresses your backcountry nutritional needs. Good luck.

-Todd Harney