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 KUIU Warehouse

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We have been shipping a high number of orders over the past few weeks, so with the warehouse firing on cylinders I thought it would be a good time to highlight our pick and ship process. KUIU has been using the same warehouse located in Vacaville, California since day one. While the team, floor space, and volume has grown considerably over the past four years, the simplicity of processes has remained the same. Efficiency and attention to detail are the keys to success in our warehouse, even though we still do many things the old fashioned way. At the helm of the operation is Laura Ojeda, who has been running a tight ship in the KUIU account since 2011.

A couple months ago I posted Following a Pack Order which focused on the pack section of the warehouse, and this week we will take a look at everything else. While the warehouse operation of any business is almost entirely behind the scenes and rarely glorified, it plays a huge roll in the customer experience. As a result of the consumer-direct business model, our warehouse team members are the last ones to touch each and every KUIU purchase before it reaches the customer. This ensures consistency in the quality of packaging and accuracy of fulfillment, but at the same time it leaves little room for error. While mistakes do happen from time to time, we feel that our warehouse crew does a remarkable job at creating a positive customer experience through timely shipping, accurate and thoughtful packaging, and prompt processing of returns.

Orders From KUIU to the Warehouse

Twice each day Laura loads a new batch of orders from KUIU’s order management system to her warehouse software. Each batch produces a printout of every new order in the system that’s ready to be pulled, packed, and shipped. As soon as a new batch of orders is printed out, they begin getting filled. Below we see an order as displayed on KUIU’s system, followed by the format in which it is printed at the warehouse.

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A day’s batch of pack order tickets ready to be filled.

Receiving Shipments

With three dedicated bay doors in the KUIU account, new shipments of product are dropped and checked in very quickly. Once a new shipment arrives Laura and her team sort, count, and check the cartons for damage or shortages. This process can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the size of the shipment. As soon as quantities and quality is confirmed, Laura relays the message to the KUIU office, at which point the inventory counts are loaded to the online system. At the same time, KUIU employees begin processing any backorders for the product. Many times, backorders for the newly arrived items begin getting filled before the cartons are even transferred to their permanent storage location on the warehouse racks. We understand that customers want their items as soon as possible, and we do everything we can to expedite fulfillment as soon as shipments land.

Below, Cecilia is pulling a Yukon Jacket to fill a backorder within hours of last week’s Chugach NX and Yukon shipment arriving.

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Picking/Packing

Each order is carefully picked by hand by a warehouse employee. The worker typically takes a cart and a small stack of tickets and efficiently cruises up and down the aisles pulling multiple items for multiple orders at a time, until the cart is full. From there, the cart full of organized items and orders goes to the shipping table for packing. We use a variety of different sized grey bags and boxes, depending on the volume and contents of each order.

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Vicki carefully checks off items before packing an order to ship.

High Volume Shipping

Once orders have been bagged or boxed, they are placed back into a cart and wheeled to one of the four shipping stations. Each station is equipped with a scale, shipping label printer, computer, KUIU packing tape, and paperwork. This is the point at which invoices, return forms, ride-along ads, and sometimes coupons are inserted into each package. With all four stations running at once, we have the capacity to ship up to 1,200 orders in a day.

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After labeling and sealing, orders are placed in a bin at the end of the table, sorted by FedEx or USPS. As soon as a bin is filled, it rolls off to the pickup area in another section of the warehouse.

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We have received some criticism over the years for restrictions in making changes to orders after a certain amount of time has passed since initial placement, but many times an order has already been packed, labeled, and delivered to the parcel pickup area of the warehouse by the time a customer requests a change. Once a package has reached this stage- sometimes as soon as within an hour after placement, the order is as good as gone.

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A day’s orders ready to be loaded onto the USPS truck.

Returns

If you’ve made a return to KUIU in the past year and a half, you were likely instructed to send the item(s) to our warehouse address. Up until the Holiday season of 2013 we processed all returns at our Dixon headquarters location. As the company grew, so did the pile of weekly returns- until it was too much to handle. By having a dedicated returns employee (Carmen) and section at the warehouse, we are not only able to get refunds processed quickly, but product doesn’t need to be driven anywhere to go back into inventory. On average returns are opened, inspected, re-bagged, and labeled within 24 hours of arrival. Credits are typically issued within 48 hours of return arrival, a process that is finalized by Brenda back at the KUIU main office. Returned product is placed back into inventory in a large batch once per week.

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Carmen carefully inspects a pair of Chugach NX Pants while processing a return.

 

I hope you enjoyed this behind the scenes look into KUIU’s warehouse setting. It’s a very fast paced and hard-working portion of the business, and we hope that their dedication to accuracy and detail helps you enjoy a quality experience on your next order or return.

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