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Archive for August, 2010

A Guide to Backcountry Water Treatment

Monday, August 30th, 2010

How to deal with creating potable water in the backcountry is about as debatable as purchasing used climbing gear. Some will tell you ‘always use a chemical purifier, after filtering through a media with a pore size of no less than 0.2 microns and from a moving water source… yadda, yadda, etc.’ Others can simply be seen dipping their sierra cups into stagnant ponds along the trail whenever they get thirsty. There are many factors that come into play when you are trying to stay hydrated, and healthy. In this post, I’ll try to break it down in the simplest way possible, so that you can make a decision on how you should treat your water.

Why treat your water? Water from your tap goes through a series of processes to ensure that it is safe to drink, and tastes as good as possible. The raw stuff from a lake or creek in the backcountry contains a plethora of microorganisms, many of which are harmless and will get digested with the rest of your food. There are a few, however, that will make your life back home very unpleasant if you down enough of them. Bacteria and protozoa make up the major concerns, while viruses are much less common in American backcountry water sources.

Filtration versus purification: Filtration and purification render different results when treating water. Unfortunately the terms quite often get used interchangeably. Filtration processes, such as pump or gravity style filters, use a media made up of porous material, or fibers, which catch waterborne bugs. The holes in this material allow for the water to travel through but are too small for most protozoa and bacteria. Viruses are usually small enough to make their way through, and this is where purification comes in handy. When you purify your water, you are killing all life forms that reside in it. Usually purification is done through chemical means, or by heating the water to a boil.

Product options for treatment: Pump filters like the MSR Mini Works use a pumping action to draw water through a filter media. Alternatively, the Platypus Cleanstream (pictured in lake above) uses two reservoirs, a filter unit and gravity to filter the water. With no moving parts, you don’t have to worry about a breakdown! Purification options include Potable Aqua iodine tablets, which must be left in the water for at least 30 minutes to kill all viral, bacterial and protozoan life. Iodine does not destroy cryptosporidium cysts, however. These cysts are a phase in the life cycle of protozoa (such as cryptosporidium or giardia) where they have a cell wall that is too tough for iodine to work. The water must be filtered to remove them, or instead treated with a chemical like chlorine dioxide. Katadyn Micropur tablets and Aquamira Water Treatment Drops will destroy cysts with a four-hour treatment, in addition to all other waterborne microorganisms.


Whitewater in the Dark: Full Moon Rafting

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

We knew our hard goods manager, Kevin O’Hara, was a jack of all outdoor trades, but little did we know he was adept at night whitewater rafting. In this Adventure of the Week, he takes us on a wild, full moon ride.

WHO: Myself, and a big group of my best friends

WHAT: Full moon whitewater rafting trip

WHERE: Truckee River in California, from Boca Reservoir to Floriston, CA

WHEN: Tuesday August 24, 2010, 8:00 pm to midnight


Morgan fell out, while playing ‘hood ornament,’ nothing unusual. However, it was probably due to the fact that we decided to run all of the larger rapids backwards. We did this under moonlight, and frequently our commands were called in Chinese. How’s that for exciting and unusual whitewater? Additionally, my good friend Chris was our guide, I brought my friends Lauren and Eric along, and hanging out with the Tahoe Whitewater staff always ensures a good time! I couldn’t have asked for a more awesome night.

GEAR: Icebreaker Tech T. This short-sleeve shirt was the perfect top under my PFD! The Merino wool kept me warm, even when it got wet.

Each week, Tahoe Mountain Sports takes a walk (or hike, bike, ski, surf, climb) in someone else’s shoes, from pro athletes to local Tahoe adventurers, in our Adventure of the Week blog series. Let us know if you’ve got an adventure to share.

Last Minute Burning Man Supplies

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

Burning Man 2010 is just around the corner and we want to make it easy for burners to get last minute supplies before venturing off to the Black Rock Desert. NOTE that this list is not all-inclusive and will not contain everything you need out on the playa, just a few things we carry at the store that will make your stay in Black Rock City more comfortable.


Burning Man is a lot of things to a lot of people, but first and foremost it is desert survival. Water is the single most important thing you can bring out on the playa. The rule of thumb is 1.5 gallons per person per day. Bring more if you are using a solar shower, mist sprayers or anything else that uses additional water. For in-camp water storage, check out 5 Gallon Foldable Water Carriers, 10 Liter MSR Dromedary Bag or the 6 Liter Platypus Water Tank. All of these water carriers can be folded up to save space on the way back. For hydration out on the playa, we carry a variety of hydration backpacks, hydration reservoirs and water bottles. Last year I took the 40 oz. Klean Kanteen stainless steel water bottle with a sling through the top, and it was plenty of water for long escapades. For electrolyte-enhanced water add Elete, Cytomax Recovery or Nuun drink mixes.

Bike Accessories

Bikes are an indispensable mode of transportation on the playa. You will be able to see and do more on a bicycle than you will traveling on foot and hopping on art cars or mutant vehicles. Need to carry some cargo? Check out our selection of bike bags and bike baskets. For nighttime riding, bike lights are a must. At the very least you will need a front light and blinky rear light, like the Planet Bike Beamer 1 Front and Rear Light Set. I also recommend some SpokeLites for some extra flair.

Sun Protection

The sun’s rays are very powerful in the high desert, and the reflection off the light-colored alkali ground amplifies the sun’s effects. Protect your skin with Sol Sunguard Altitude SPF 40 or Alpine SPF 25 sunscreen for non-greasy, sweatproof sun protection. Lip Balm is also one of the best things to have with you after a couple days in the desert. Sunglasses are a good idea as well, but will not protect your eyes against dust storms. Snow goggles, work well for keeping dust out of your eyes. A big hat like the Kavu Chillba Fisherman’s Hat is another great way to keep the sun off your face.


ContourHD Footage of Mountain Biking Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

WHO: TMS Owner Dave Polivy with Mike and Pam Lefrancois

WHAT: Mountain biking up to Armstrong Pass and down Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride

WHERE: Trails near South Lake Tahoe

WHEN: August 2010

GEAR: ContourHD 1080P Helmet Cam for capturing all the sick footage for later viewing, Zoic Ether Bike Shorts for comfort in the saddle, Deuter Hydration Pack for keeping my energy up and Smith Trace Sunglasses for the perfect optical clarity in all light conditions


Every year I try to get in one long epic ride somewhere in Tahoe. We wanted to ride from the Stagecoach area of Heavenly, across the Tahoe Rim Trail and over to Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride for the epic downhill. Because there were only three of us and it would have made a car shuttle a little annoying, we decided to try an alternative on this route. So, we parked at the Oneidas Road trailhead and road up that paved road pretty much up until the end. There is a short singletrack that connects from this paved road from the Corral trail and then meets back up again with the paved road at the end. Once at the end of the pavement, take a right and start up that singletrack until you reach Armstrong Pass. This will take about 1-2 hours depending on your climbing ability and is a fairly mellow, rolly climb that is quite enjoyable and not quite the torture as some other uphills around the Basin. Once you get to Armstrong Pass, you are not done climbing yet. There is about another mile or so climb up to the high point of this ride, but again, pretty mellow and not too steep. Once on the top, take a break and enjoy the views to the South of the Carson Pass area and to the north of Lake Tahoe.

After this, you are in for what I think is the best downhill mountain biking in the whole Lake Tahoe Basin. Start out riding the Tahoe Rim Trail down, through some amazing wildflower ridges and then in and out of small, well-spaced alpine trees and bushes. This section is fast and not too bumpy. After a few miles you will get to the intersection with Mr. Toad’s, which has the most awesome variety of riding you can ask for. It starts out with some fairly technical sections with big rocks and solid drops. After the first 20 minutes or so, the technical sections give way to open, fast curves that get you leaning into every turn and pedaling in between to really get the thrill and speed this ride can offer. All in all, if you are looking for the best ride in Tahoe, here it is, but make sure you are well prepared.

For now, enjoy the virtual ride from my ContourHD 1080p Helmet Cam footage:

Each week, Tahoe Mountain Sports takes a walk (or hike, bike, ski, surf, climb) in someone else’s shoes, from pro athletes to local Tahoe adventurers, in our Adventure of the Week blog series. Let us know if you’ve got an adventure to share.

Dakine Backpack Reviews

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

The new Dakine backpacks are here! The new Dakine backpacks are here! I feel like Steve Martin’s character in “The Jerk,” but he was excited about phonebooks. If you don’t get the cinema reference, don’t worry, what matters is that Tahoe Mountain Sports just got some awesome new Dakine Backpacks in stock. I am very excited about the ones I use myself.

The Dakine Sequence is a photo-specific backpack which can be put to work in many ways. I have personally used this pack as my go-to bag for over a year. What first attracted me was the bag’s ability to carry both my photographic equipment and my technical backcountry gear. What has kept it in service is that it is simply a great photo bag. It has now helped me shoot through nearly two wedding seasons, and a full winter photographing skiers at Squaw Valley. It has made my job easier, both during the rush and hustle of shooting a wedding, and the extreme environment on the mountain.

The Dakine Sequence makes it super easy to access my gear. The back panel zips open while the bag is lying on the ground (or the snow), which provides a great platform for changing and storing lenses and accessories without having to pull them out of the bag or set them on the ground to get wet or dirty. The shovel pocket also has organizers for your other avalanche gear, as well as water-resistant pockets to store photo accessories such as filters, memory cards and batteries.  I’ve used the deployable tripod carry numerous times to help capture low-light shots, and the ski carry works great for those steep ascents (there’s a snowboard carry too, for you single-stick riders). Perhaps one of the best features of the bag is the removable camera block. This makes it easy to put the block in a Pelican case for aquatic gigs. It also serves to create a second bag, making your backpack more versatile (i.e. main pack as a carry on backpack and camera block as a personal item).

To round it all out, the Sequence also includes an ice axe loop, daisy chains and a deployable rain cover. It is able to carry a lot of gear quite well. I’ve had it loaded down with 20 lbs of sand bags, plus a full camera block, a tripod and three light stands. The hipbelt took all the weight like a champ, and the pack stayed rigid. To check out how well the bag performs, take a look at some of the shots I’ve gotten with it:


Finding Solitude in Desolation Wilderness

Friday, August 13th, 2010

It’s the perfect time of year to head into Desolation Wilderness. It’s hot enough to make those high alpine lakes worth jumping in, and the summer crowds are starting to thin as schools get back in session. This Adventure of the Week comes from my own repertoire – a trip Chris and I took to Half Moon Lake last year. This year’s Desolation adventure is still in the works.

WHO: TMS web editor Lis Korb and her boyfriend, Chris

WHAT: Hike to Half Moon Lake and Jacks Peak

WHERE: Desolation Wilderness, CA

WHEN: August 2009

GEAR: 2-person tentChaco Flip EcoTread Sandals for hanging out at camp, Snow Peak GigaPower Stove and Snow Peak Trek 1400 Cookset for cooking our oatmeal and coffee for breakfast and pasta dinner


When we set off from the Glen Alpine trailhead at Fallen Leaf Lake, we weren’t even sure where we’d end up. Lake Aloha was an obvious choice, but we wanted to really feel alone so we headed for the less-beaten path to Half Moon Lake (about 5.5 miles in from the trailhead). It’s a dead-end trail, so most thru-hikers pass right on by it. There was one other solitary camper that night, but that was it. And we had a whole lake to spread ourselves out on. We picked a lakeside spot on the south end and set up camp.

The next morning, we decided to stay put at our desolate oasis and just headed up the closest mountain cross-country. It wasn’t the cleanest hike, but it sure is fun to go where not many have gone before! We summited Jacks Peak (9856 elevation) via some crazy talus and were treated to some stellar views of sprawling Lake Aloha and Heather Lake to the south and our campsite to the east.

Me on the last leg of Jacks Peak, with Lake Aloha and Heather Lake in background

Half Moon Lake and Alta Morris Lake

We hiked down between Jacks and Dick’s Peak alongside a trickling stream and then cooked up a good meal alongside our new squirrel camp friend. Can’t wait to go back soon!

Each week, Tahoe Mountain Sports takes a walk (or hike, bike, ski, surf, climb) in someone else’s shoes, from pro athletes to local Tahoe adventurers. Let us know if you’ve got an adventure to share.

Tahoe Rim Trail Thru-Hike Update

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

At Tahoe Meadows trailhead, where I joined the official TRT after hiking up from my house in Incline Village.

Two weeks ago, our Adventure of the Week featured Jim Hammerel, who was about to set out on an epic 5-day thru-hike of the Tahoe Rim Trail. Here he gives us the details of his trip, torn meniscus and all.

Coming into my 5-day Tahoe Rim Trail attempt, I knew one thing… it was going to be more a mental challenge than a physical one.  That was the only thing I got right.

On the first day, I knew I had to make my goal to hike from my home in Incline Village to the Kingsbury North trailhead in Stateline. That equated to around 42 miles, the longest segment I had planned for any of my five days. If I couldn’t hack it on the first day, I knew I wouldn’t have the mental fortitude to make it the remaining four. I’d be playing catch-up with no margin for error. Luckily, I made it to my goal that night. Despite the early onset of blistered feet, dry camping with no water and a horrible night’s sleep, I made it. I awoke on day two ready to tackle another 40-mile trek.

About halfway through the second day, somewhere below Star Lake, I crouched down to splash some water on my hot face from a stream that crossed the trail and couldn’t get back up. I felt the fabled burning, I felt the sharp pain radiating from my knee. I knew immediately something was wrong. I popped a couple anti-inflammatories to counteract the pain that was heading my way. My leg stiffened up like a board. I knew I had to get down to camp fast…


Raging Russian Rivers and Grizzly Bears: The Kamchatka Project

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

On June 28, a team whitewater kayakers set off from Seattle on an expedition to explore the Siberian mountain landscapes of Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula. They called their mission the Kamchatka Project, and partnered with scientists, the fly-fishing community and National Geographic to expose the complex relationships between Kamchatka, its people and its fisheries.

Lucky for you Tahoe Mountain Sports Blog readers, on the team was Jay Gifford (second from left in the above photo), a college buddy of mine, who took the time to answer a few questions for our Adventure of the Week series, just days before he returned home to Hood River, Oregon, in late July.

As part of the project, the team filmed an adventure documentary, collected valuable scientific data for researchers and are organizing a speaking tour. So look for big things from these guys coming soon!

Tell us about your travels…

We departed Seattle on the 28th of June and traveled for three days through 19 time zones via Moscow eventually landing in PKC (Petropavlovsk-Kamchatkiy).

What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen/done so far?

Where to start? Two things that pop in my mind first are our return from the Semiylicheck River and day four fishing on the Zhuponova River (seen from a helicopter in the photo above).

After spending four days paddling the Semaliyach from its source to the sea, we finally hit the north pacific where we met our sailboat and Russian crew sitting in the bay. After dinner we began our 24-hour ride back to PKC. Our captain explained that we would have wind to sail but no one was prepared for the next day ahead of us. We quickly had our sails filled with 40 knots as we were tossed in the 15-foot seas. Gear came crashing out the kitchen as the crew and captain continually looked for a place to dispose of their dinner. Being tossed through out the night made me feel as if I was stuck in a pin ball machine as we weathered the storm… 19 hours later we emerged and completed our voyage back to PKC.

We had been invited to film a segment of “Monster Fish”  TV show with IFA, a production company working for National Geographic TV, on arguably the most coveted fly-fishing rivers in the world, the Zhuponova. On day four of the Zhuponova we had ventured as far into the canyon as our veteran guide had ever been… As our group staged in the final canyon and peered downstream we could see nothing more than crashing whitewater with a small calm pool sitting several hundred yards below. Our crew of kayakers set off into the canyon planning to radio up to our guide and film crew providing them with information and hopefully a line through the first rapid. The rapid was straight forward, but in the middle of the rapid we encountered a massive brown bear fishing with her two cubs… At this point we had seen a handful of bears on the trip, which had all quickly scurried off (to our relief) as soon as they saw us. But, this mother walked away for a second and then quickly returned to her rock and continued to fish for Sockeye salmon on the edge of this rapid. We sat in amazement as this Kamchatka brown bear continued to fish as her three cubs waited patiently. After a few minutes we called down the rafts, and the mother continued to fish and provide course after course for her family. Sitting at one of the narrowest points of the river with steep walls on both sides watching this brown bear fish for her family is the most amazing scene I have ever witnessed. We remained on the bank for almost three hours watching her family fish, eat, fight and play. I still can not articulate the experience, but feel privileged to have had that time there.


An Ode to Deuter Backpacks

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

July 2010 was all about Deuter Backpacks for me at Tahoe Mountain Sports. It was a love-hate relationship really… working on making each of our Deuter products fabulous for your viewing, reading and buying pleasure took a lot of crossed eyes on the computer, opening of zippers, buckling of buckles and sifting through catalogs for mounds of technical info. But through it all, I began to realize how awesome, and versatile, these packs really are.

Everyone knows Deuter is famous for the Deuter Kid Comfort Carrier, which was the first child-carrying backpack to be safety certified by an international consumer safety organization (TUV) and is the only one to integrate trekking suspension. And I’m sure you’ve seen or used Deuter’s hiking and day pack backpacks, but did you know the brand also makes some of the best laptop backpacks around and dozens of bicycle backpacks (like the Race Air Lite), bike accessories and panniers?

And did you know that we’re one of Deuter’s top selling shops, carrying every item in their current catalog?! We even have the largest Deuter pack ever made, and use it as a tourist trap on our front porch (ha ha! see photo of rockstar TMS employee Sara for scale above).

So, in tribute to our fresh Deuter pages, we bring you excerpts of Deuter reviews from far and wide, from our shop’s gear guru, Kevin, to customers from Oregon, Washington and Nevada. Enjoy — and share your own Deuter reviews on our product pages if you’re a proud Deuter backpacks owner.

deuter trans alpine 30 backpack

Deuter Trans Alpine 30 Backpack: Posted on 7/9/10 by Bill of Denver, CO

I bought this backpack to use for a variety of uses. I wanted a hiking daypack and something I could use when I bike to work a couple times a week. This pack is really comfortable and has a ton of cool features, like the integrated rain cover, which is a great value. I really like it because it is a fairly small pack, but still has the separate zipped out compartment for my shoes and work clothes when riding to work and I use it for wet sweaty stuff when I use the pack as my hiking pack. Overall, highly recommended!

Deuter ACT Trail 24: Posted on 4/29/10 by Emily of Portland, OR

I had been looking for just the right size day hiking pack for the last year and I finally found it. This day pack fits my short torso and the adjustable straps allow me to fit it to my frame. It holds all my gear and flower books with easy access from the top and back. I highly recommend it.


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