A Road to the Sunshine Coast?

The BC government has decided to study a highway to the Sunshine Coast. Much like the recent Gabriola Island bridge study, I don’t see how a road route to Gibsons/Sechelt will be economically feasible. Let’s look at some of the options, and why I don’t think they’ll work. We’ll start with the route options, and focus on the southern portion of the Sunshine Coast.

  • Route A. The first route to consider, is the most visible, and probably one of the most costly. This would consist of three bridges across the mouth of Howe Sound.
    1. Whytecliff Park (area) in West Vancouver to Crippen Park (area) on Bowen Island. ~2.2km suspension bridge
    2. West side of Bowen Island to Keats Island. ~2.2km suspension bridge.
    3. West side of Keats Island to Gibsons. 0.8km suspension bridge.

    The route to the first bridge passes through some of West Vancouver’s most expensive real estate. This will either require very expensive land acquisition, or a tunnel, which would also be very expensive. The length of the suspension bridges is among the longest possible for that bridge type. They would have to be built to withstand very high wind speeds in a marine environment. These challenges all add to the cost of these bridges. Islanders on both Bowen and Keats Islands will vigorously campaign against this route (NIMBY). The west side of this route would end in Gibsons, which would again require land acquisitions – fortunately at a lower rate than the West Vancouver side of the bridges. My best guess for the total road distance to be upgraded to highway standard would be around ~20km.

  • Route B.
  • The next route is the most likely of all the routes to be built (in my opinion). This route has two bridges connecting to the Sunshine Coast via Anvil Island. These bridges would each be in the neighbourhood of 2km, so again they’re near the upper limit of length for a suspension bridge. This route would feature around 17km of completely new roads and 15km of upgraded roads. This route would also be very expensive due to the two suspension bridges.

  • Route C.The next route would be the all-land route from Squamish to Gibsons via Wood Fibre and Port Mellon. This route would connect Finch Road and Highway 99 in Squamish to Port Mellon. It would require around 43km of new roads constructed along the very steep cliffs of the north/west shores of Howe Sound. At a rough count, there are 40 stream crossings in this stretch which would require flood defences similar to those on the Sea to Sky highway. This route would be very technically challenging to build. While it would connect the Sunshine Coast to the rest of mainland, it may not meet the needs of the community that wants a route to Metro Vancouver instead.
  • Route D. There may be a possibility of building a road north from Port Mellon, up the valley and over to another valley to the north before turning east towards Wood Fibre. The elevations on the topographic maps show that this route reaches up to 1000m above sea level, so winter maintenance becomes a concern. The grades would be quite steep as well. Keep in mind that the highest point that the Sea to Sky highway reaches above sea level between West Vancouver and Squamish is around 180m at Horseshoe Bay. The second highest point is at Murrin Provincial Park at around 140m. So this would be more like a mini Coquihalla style highway. Also not cheap.
  • Route E. There is also talk of a route around the north end of Jervis Inlet to Powell River. This would be an approximately 180km route, with elevations up to 1400m above sea level. I really don’t see this being built in my lifetime.

Some of the other things to keep in mind:

  • The population of the Sunshine Coast Regional District is reported as 25,599 according to Wikipedia
  • The population of the Powell River Regional District is reported as 19,599 according to Wikipedia
  • The further south, and the shorter the trip from Gibsons to West Vancouver, the more the Sunshine Coast will benefit from a road/bridge. A connection to Squamish will be less valuable than a connection to West Vancouver. The route from Gibsons to downtown Vancouver via Keats and Bowen Islands would be around 40km which is about 6km shorter than the distance from downtown Langley (~46km)

I think that Route D can be outright discarded at this time. The length of the route works against it, especially given the small population it would serve. Route C, while requiring no major bridges, would be very technically challenging to build on steep hill sides, plus it requires a lot of bridges and flash flood defences. Routes A and B both require very expensive bridges. I strongly feel that the study will come back with the same verdict as the Gabriola island study – not economically feasible.

Mileage Tax – An Idea Whose Time Has Come?

Over on The Province, I read an article about bridge tolls and their perceived unfairness. Rather than try to fit my thoughts into a comment on that article, I’ve decided to write a blog post. Some things to keep in mind as you read my ideas:

  • These are ideas in raw form – There are probably implications I’ve not thought of
  • I’m open to constructive criticism
    • In addition to the unfairness of making those who live South of the Fraser pay bridge tolls, we must also think of the future. Down the road, as electric cars or alternate fuel vehicles come on the market, there will be fewer drivers to pay gas and carbon taxes at the pump. It’s time to start thinking about a fair replacement tax solution. I think we can all agree we need adequate funding to pay for the roads & bridges we all use. The only fair method to fund road building & maintenance is with a road-pricing system.

      I think both gas taxes, and the portion of income tax used for transportation projects should be eliminated and replaced with a mileage tax. Some thoughts & ideas:

      • Gas taxes and road funding from income tax would both be eliminated. All tolls would be eliminated. The goal is to create a revenue-neutral road construction & maintenance fund in the first year. After the first year, the fund should be indexed inflation.
      • A per-kilometer mileage tax rate would be set by the government.
      • The mileage tax needs to take into account vehicle size – motorcycles pay less than passenger vehicles, which pay less than transport trucks.
      • The Carbon tax would stay on the sale of gasoline as it is intended to reduce fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions, not fund transportation.
      • When a vehicle is registered, its odometer reading would be recorded. When it is re-registered the next year (or when its sold or written off), the mileage tax would be calculated and any owing the taxes paid. Alternately, an in-car mileage monitor could be installed when your car is registered.
      • The mileage tax would be payable monthly so people don’t get hit with a major tax bill at the end of the year. Drivers would need to have an idea of how many kilometers they drive in a year to set up their monthly payments.
      • The tax should apply to all vehicle owners in BC, no exemptions for any reason – if you use the roads, you pay the taxes to fund those roads. Transit operators will also pay the tax and fares will include the amount. Everybody who uses roads and lives in BC will pay the tax to some extent. I’m not sure how to handle Out-of-province visitors, but maybe they could pay a small per-day toll somehow. Not sure how to handle that.
      • The tax will become the sole source of funding for road construction & maintenance.
      • The majority of the road funding raised via the mileage tax would be used in the region in which it was raised. New road regions would need to be created to best-target the funding. (ie. Metro Vancouver, Eastern Fraser Valley, Capital Region, Central Vancouver Island, Northern Vancouver Island, Western Vancouver Island, etc…).
      • A portion of the road funding would be used to fund the province-wide highway system.
      • Any excess funding in the first year would be returned to the tax payers, and the mileage tax rate adjusted. From then on, the mileage tax rate would be indexed to inflation. The mileage tax fund would be required to bank funds to pay for replacement of existing infrastructure in the future. So a project to replace the Massey Tunnel with a bridge would be funded from the mileage tax replacement fund.
      • Each region of BC would then have a known budget for road funding every year. Where there are more drivers, there is more funding. Funds raised in one calendar year will be spent in the next calendar year.

      An example:
      Let’s say I drive 30,000km/year and live in Abbotsford. That means I pay 14.5¢/L in provincial gas taxes. Assuming gas prices of $1.00/L, there would be an additional 7¢/L in (7% PST). This brings the BC taxes to 21.5¢/L. I get 10L/100km in my small SUV. So, I use 3000 L of gas. All this means I pay $645/year in provincial gas taxes. Let’s say my income was around $50,000. My BC Income Taxes would be around $2200 (without any deductions). If I’m reading it right, the 2015 BC Budget says that 25% of the budget goes to transportation, which means $550 of my taxes goes to transportation. This brings my annual transportation tax for BC (not including the federal government) to $1195. $1195 in taxes divided by 30,000 km means an equivalent per kilometer mileage tax rate would be $0.0398. My monthly BC mileage tax payment would be around $100.

      It would be possible for the Federal Government to join in on this plan too. Going back to my example:
      I pay 10¢/L in federal gas taxes, plus 5% GST (5¢/L) for a total of 15¢/L. That means I pay an additional $450 in Federal Gas Taxes. According to the Department of Finance’s Your Tax Dollar document for 2013-14, 6¢ per dollar of taxes goes to the Gas Tax Fund. So, 6% of the budget. Federal income tax on $50,000 would be around $5700 assuming no significant deductions, which means $342 of my taxes goes to transportation. This brings my annual transportation tax for Canada (not including the BC government) to $792. $792 in taxes divided by 30,000 km means an equivalent per kilometer mileage tax rate would be $0.0264. My monthly BC mileage tax payment would be around $66.

      All told, my “road pricing” fees would be $166/month. There would no longer be any gas tax, bridge tolls, or income tax going to transportation. Instead, I would pay $166 amount each month to use the roads in this country. I would stop crossing the border to buy cheaper gasoline. My wife would save over $120/month in bridge tolls on the Port Mann Bridge. Her monthly “road pricing” fees would be higher since she drives further, around $177/month by my rough estimating. This works out to around $0.0607 per kilometer, combined BC and Canada Mileage Tax. This compares fairly closely with my example combined rate of $0.0662.

      My guess is that most people will fall in the 6¢ to 7¢ range outside of Metro Vancouver when performing a similar calculation. Inside Metro Vancouver it will be higher because they currently pay more in Gas Taxes, which also means more GST and more PST (taxes on taxes, GAH!). From these types of calculations, the government would be able to figure out a fair rate for all British Columbians to pay that would fully cover road construction & maintenance. Rates could vary per region, but any extra income from higher rates in a region would be expected to go back to projects in that region.

      When you eliminate the tolls on the bridges, people will go back to taking the most effective route to get to work as well, which reduced traffic jams which thus reduces carbon dioxide emissions. It also means less time sitting in traffic, which means everyone gets home to their families sooner. A mileage tax makes everyone aware of how much “road” they are using. If they don’t like what they’re paying, they can move closer to work. It also helps people figure out if they want to live in Abbotsford and pay the extra Mileage Tax to drive the extra distance, or if they could redirect some of their mileage tax into a mortgage or rent payment closer to work.

      Well, I hope you made it through my rambling. I think this is an idea whose time has come. What do you think?

    A Second Bridge for Kelowna?

    I read recently that the there is planning work underway for a second bridge for Kelowna. The current bridge is a weak spot in BC’s infrastructure – if a closure occurs (accident, weather) there is no reasonable alternate route. I can think of two purposes for a second bridge:

    1. Alternate Route in case of closure. In this case, a bridge close to downtown Kelowna would be more desirable.
    2. Bypass Route. In this case, the purpose would be to remove through traffic from Kelowna and West Kelowna entirely.

    There are several alternatives for a Alternate Route bridge near downtown, and I’m not going to discuss those here. (Read ) Instead, I’m going to suggest a Bypass Route to remove through traffic from downtown Kelowna route entirely. My suggested route, South to North:

    • Start at the current junction of Highways 97 and 97C and cross the lake to the southeast. This bridge would be around 480m elevation and would most likely need to be a suspension bridge.
    • The route traverses the hillsides between the 500m to 700m elevation contour, avoiding existing buildings, passing south of Cedar Mountain Regional Park, until in the vicinity of the west edge of Myra-Bellevue Provincial Park where it would turn north. It may have to cross some portions of the provincial park to avoid existing developments. I would suggest any land taken by the highway be replaced in equivalent amount of land elsewhere around the park.
    • From there, the route would drop down the hillsides to the “flat” farmland.
    • Next, it would cross existing farmland as best as possible given the existing housing in the area until it reaches an interchange with Highway 33 just south of  Springfield Road. Land acquisition and route planning will be most problematic in this stretch.
    • The last stretch of this new route could follow Gibson and Old Vernon Roads to the north end of the Kelowna airport where it would curve west to rejoin Highway 97.

    This Bypass Route would be called Highway 97C. This route is approximately 42km and should be built to full-freeway standard (90 to 110 km/hr).

    To be truly a freeway, this route would only allow a few interchanges/access points:

    • Chute Lake Road area
    • Balldock Road area
    • McCulloch Road area
    • Highway 33
    • McKenzie / Old Vernon area
    • Anderson / Bullman area

    Driving time on this route would be about 30 minutes from the south end of Ellison Lake to the Highway 97/97C junction with no red lights or stop and go traffic. This is a minimum savings of 10 minutes over mid-day driving conditions, and easily 20 minutes savings over rush hour.

    The biggest show-stopper with this whole idea would be the Suspension Bridge at the south end of the route. It would need to be 4km long. I don’t have a resource to tell me the depths of the lake in that area. The bridge support pillars will need to be very tall, and embedded in the water. It’s not an impossible project, but it will be very expensive.

    How To Make Cheap Homemade Munzee Stickers

    After my adventures in making cheap laminated Munzees to zap strap onto tree branches, or anywhere else I could hang them, I have started making my own Munzee stickers. I spent some time researching what to do in the Munzee Forums before I started. There are two prerequisites for making your own Munzee Stickers.

    Laser Printer

    The first prerequisite for making your own labels is a laser printer. You can make Munzees with an inkjet, and inkjet labels, but then you have to spray them with a fixative that prevents the ink from running when wet. If you miss a spot, your Munzee will be ruined by the first rainfall. By and large, ink jet ink is water-based and will not last outdoors very long. So, you need a laser printer, or access to one. If you don’t own one, your local office supply store probably has a print department where you can have your labels printed for a nominal fee. They may ask to see the package your labels came in to make sure they are laser printer labels. Non-laser printer labels can gum up a laser printer pretty bad. Print on a setting for a heavier paper type than standard paper. I’ve had good luck using one of the heavier Glossy settings on the HP Laserjet I have access to. People on the Munzee Forums often suggest the card stock setting. The heavier paper types cause the laser to heat up a bit more than what is used for standard paper, making for a better print on vinyl label.

    Sticky paper (aka Labels)

    The second thing you need is label paper. There were two main suppliers that I saw recommended over and over again in the forums. Label Outfitters and Online Labels. For my first order, I chose a pack of 20 pages of Label Outfitters Vinyl Laser Labels, 2-5/8″ x 1″, Laser Only, Waterproof and Weatherproof, ordered from Amazon. With shipping and handling and exchange rate, my order came to about $25 CAD. I also ordered some sample OL713LP – 8.5″ x 11″ 1 Labels per Sheet Weatherproof Polyester for Laser which were free.

    2-5/8″ x 1″ labels have two uses – a wide, not very tall single Munzee, or two smaller half label Munzees. I have made several sheets of these so far and am happy with the results to date. They don’t stick to every surface, so I’m limited to relatively clean, smooth metal or plastic surfaces for the most part. Rough metal doesn’t seem to work as well.

    8.5″ x 11″ labels can be sliced and diced in any manner you choose, and can accommodate up to 130 0.8″ square Munzees. I have not yet made any Munzees with this type of labels. I think I will probably experiment with some larger formats on this label stock.

    Getting the Codes

    The next thing I needed was a set of Munzee URLs to turn into QR codes. Back to the forums I went, and I stumbled on a method to mass-extract codes in Firefox. My browser of choice is Google Chrome, so I searched some more and found the Munzee Fix extension for Chrome. This let me easily copy my Munzee codes to the Munzee Skin Machine.

    How to Create Munzee Stickers

    • Install the Munzee Fix extension into Chrome.
    • Open a new browser tab or window and Create a number of new Munzees. With the labels I bought, I can fit 60 on a page of labels, so I started by creating that many. You can create up to 25 at a time. They’ll be on your Undeployed page in your Munzee profile. Name them whatever you want since you can change it when you actually deploy them.
    • When you’re finished creating, it’s time to start “printing” your Munzees. On your Undeployed Munzees page, scroll down to the bottom and click the Batch Print button.
    • If you’ve used the Batch Print feature previously, you will notice it looks different now. This is the Munzee Fix extension doing some work for you. To speed things up at this point:
      • Click the checkbox beside the first of your 60 newly created Munzees (ignore any older Munzees you may already have printed).
      • Enter 59 in the number field labelled “Check the __ next Munzees after the first one checked” (at the top of the window).
      • Click the Check button.
    • Scroll down to and click the To Skin Machine button
    • A new tab (or window) should open in your web browser with Munzee Skin Machine loaded.
    • For now, let’s go the easy route. Click the Easy button.
    • Choose All Skins from the category selector and click Next. There are over 200 designs to choose from.
    • For now, choose the Mini Skin by clicking the radio button underneath it. Scroll to the bottom and click Next.
    • On the next page, you will see a large white box filled with the codes you selected previously on the Batch Print page, conveniently copied here via the Munzee Fix extension.
    • The next few options I set like this:
      1. Supress Munzee numbers – depends on whether or not you want the tiny little number below your QR code. Given the small size we’re printing, it is best to leave to check this box to hide the numbers.
      2. Fill in your Munzee username in the Deployed by box if you want your username on your Munzee. Given the small size QR codes we’re printing, I’ve found it is best to leave this blank.
      3. Change QR Code Color – I would avoid doing so as the high contrast of black on white makes the codes easier to scan. Adjust this at your own risk.
    • Once you’ve entered all your codes, and set all the options. It’s time to generate some Munzees. Click Next. Then click Next again. Then, wait for the hamsters to complete your job.
    • When they’re done, click the PDF Creator button.
    • Select the label size you’re working with – in this case 1″ x 2 5/8″ Labels (5520) by clicking the appropriate tab.
    • Then select the option for 2 per label – 60 per page, which the Munzee Skin Machine will mark as Recommended if your selected skin is not too big.
    • Click Create PDF and wait while the server generates your PDF file which will open or download when it’s ready depending on your web browser settings for PDF files.
    • Personally, I prefer to download it and print it from the Adobe Reader software, but you can print just as effectively from your web browser.

    Time to Print your Munzee Stickers

    Printing your Munzees requires a few more steps and some due care and attention. I can’t give specifics here for every printer – there’s just too many. Here are the basics.

    • Open your PDF file in Adobe Reader and select Print.
    • Make sure you are printing at “Actual” size, and not at “Fit to page” or any other scaling setting.
    • Print a copy of your labels onto plain white paper. You can line this and a sheet of labels up to a bright light source or day-lit window to check the alignment before you waste a page of labels. Adjust the scaling settings if the printout doesn’t align with your labels.
    • Back in Adobe Reader, select Print again.
    • This time, dive deeper into your Printer settings and make sure you find the option for your printer to set the Paper type to a heavy Glossy or Card Stock.
    • Make sure you use the bypass tray (if your printer is so equipped) as that usually gives a straighter paper path. This means there’s less chance of your labels getting peeled off by the laser printer!
    • Print your labels.

    Once printing is complete, let the labels sit for a few minutes to cool down. Then, take a straight edge or ruler, and an sharp knife to the page. It’s time to slice and dice your labels up into useful segments. At the very least, you need to cut each label in half. You may also want to trim the curved ends. My preference is to also slice the resulting vertical strips of 10 into shorter lengths of between 3 and 5 stickers per strip as they fit in my pockets better.

    Here’s a sampling of a batch I made today. Since the pack of 20 sheets of labels cost me $25, each sheet is worth $1.25. Assuming printing costs of $0.25 for the page, and if I put 60 labels on that page, they’re worth $0.025 per Munzee. If I print at the larger, one-per-label size, they’re $0.05 per Munzee. Not a bad deal considering ordering Munzees online costs anywhere from $0.30 per Munzee and up.

    Homemade Munzee Stickers

    Enjoy your new Munzees, and Grow the Map!

    How To Make Cheap Homemade Munzees

    Last year, I checked out Munzee for the first time. There were very few Munzee locations near Abbotsford, BC, so I didn’t pay any attention for several months. I heard on the Caching in the North West podcast that two local Geocachers, LANMonkey and WetCoaster, were active Munzee players in my neighbourhood, so-to-speak. So I finally decided to check Munzee out again in January 2015. There are a lot more markers on the map now!

    My next step was to figure out how to play the game without spending a lot of money. WetCoaster was kind enough to give me some stickers to get started with. While reading the Munzee forums, and other websites, I discovered a way to make my own laminated Munzees on the cheap. Time will tell if they hold up to the wet coast rainy season.

    Homemade Munzees in two different sizes with two different skins from The Munzee Skin Machine

    Prerequisites to making your own Munzees:

    • Create a number of new Munzees. I started with 24. They’ll be on your Undeployed page in your Munzee profile. Name them whatever you want since you can change it when you actually deploy one.
    • Learn where to find the Print tab on each Munzee page – you’re going to need the URL from each Munzee to complete this tutorial.
    • Advanced technique: learn how to add a browser extension to grab all your Munzee URLs at the same time (I may make a future blog post on that subject).
    • Access to a laser printer. Color laser printing is a bonus. You can have printing done at your local office supply store if you know how to save a print job to a PDF file.
    • Cold Laminating pouches – I got 3 for $2.50 at my local dollar store. Alternately, a hot laminator and hot laminating pouches.

    Here’s how I made my laminated Munzees:

    Munzee Skin Machine seems to be the best place to go for creating your own homemade Munzees.

    1. Go to the Munzee Skin Machine and start by clicking the Create a Skin button. Then click the Easy button.
    2. Choose All Skins from the category selector and click Next. There are over 200 designs to choose from.
    3. For my first batch, I chose Default Green (click the circle below the name of the skin). Then scroll to the bottom of the page, and click Next.
    4. On the next page, you will see a large white box. You need to paste in all the Munzee codes you want to print. Back on your Undeployed page the Munzee website, you will need to copy the “Barcode Value” from the Print tab for each Munzee. Paste each Munzee URL into the box on the Munzee Skin Machine website, one per line. Once you have them all, we will proceed with the next step.
    5. Oh, are you back? Good. The next few options I set like this:
      1. Supress Munzee numbers – depends on whether or not you want the tiny little number below your QR code. If you are obsessive over details, you might want to deploy your Munzees in order.
      2. Create front side only – Leave this unchecked unless you want to print single sided Munzees.
      3. Fill in your Munzee username in the Deployed by box if you want your username on your Munzee.
      4. Change QR Code Color – I would avoid doing so as the high contrast of black on white makes the codes easier to scan. Adjust this at your own risk.
    6. Once you’ve entered all your codes, and set all the options. It’s time to generate some Munzees. Click Next. Then click Next again. Then, wait for the hamsters to complete your job.
    7. When they’re done (hopefully you didn’t wear out the hamsters!!), click the Print button. A new tab will open in your web browser showing your Munzees, and after a few seconds, the print dialog box shows up. Cancel the print dialog for the moment.
    8. Next, you have to decide how big you want your Munzees. If you chose the Default Green in step 4 above, then you will want to set the Munzee Width to be 2″ wide. You can go a bit smaller, but if you go too small, they may be difficult to scan. Set the Munzee Padding to 1px (pixel). Click Reprint. The page will reload, and the print dialog will pop up after a few seconds again.
    9. Now, print your Munzees on your printer. Or, if your computer is setup to do so, you can save the output to a PDF. You can take a PDF to your local office supplies store for printing if you don’t have a laser printer.
    10. Once you get your printed Munzees from the printer or the office supply store, you will need to slice it up. Use an X-Acto knife & ruler, or scissors, or a paper cutter – whatever you have. Straighter lines look neater! The 1 pixel border you chose as few steps ago is just wide enough for any of these methods to leave minimal (if any) white space around your Munzees. If you’re using the knife and ruler, maker sure you have a suitable cutting board under your work area.
    11. Once they’re all cut up, you will need to fold them in half. I used a dab of glue from a glue stick to hold them closed. Ideally, you will then let the glue dry before continuing.
    12. Now you have a stack of folded Munzees, you will be laying them out on your cold laminating pouch. I left a 1/4″ margin around each munzee to make sure they stay as waterproof as possible. On the top side, I tripled that to 3/4″ so as to leave room for a hole to slip a zap strap through. I printed a page of 1/4″ Graph Paper to put underneath the laminating pouch (not in it!) to help keep things lined up neatly. I used a tiny dab from the glue stick to hold each Munzee in place on the laminating pouch since the slightest bump sent everything sliding around.
      1. Important Note: Do Not punch a hole through the munzee itself. This will allow water in, and your Munzee will have a very short life in the wild.
    13. Once I got as many in the pouch as I could, I removed the paper from the laminating pouch and slowly, carefully pushed the two sides together, working from the fold to the opposite side. It’s important to try to get rid of as many air pockets as possible while doing this. You probably only have one chance to do this as the laminating pouch is very sticky and very hard to “undo” this step – even though the packaging says it’s possible for up to 24 hours.
    14. The next step is to take your X-Acto knife & ruler, or scissors, or a paper cutter to the laminated Munzees and trim them up as neat as possible. Use scissors to round the corners so you don’t injure anyone who finds your Munzees. I left the 1/4″ graph paper under mine while trimming with the knife and ruler which made it very easy to get straight cuts.
    15. The last step was to take a hole punch, and put a hole centered above the Munzee in the 3/4″ top section. This left lots of room to make sure the Munzee was safe and secure in its plastic shield and not let any water in.

    Time will tell how these hold up in our west coast rain-forest environment.

    New Backpack

    Thanks to generous cash gifts received for Christmas, I managed to save enough for a new backpack. So while I was in Edmonton around New Years, I went into MEC to see what they had – it’s always easier to shop for gear when you can touch it. I settled on a Gregory Contour 70.

    Gregory Contour 70

    This pack is 1.93kg (4 lbs 1oz) which is lighter than my old backpack by at least 1.07kg (2 lbs 6oz). My old pack was either 3kg or 3.3kg, I forget which.

    Soon, I’ll write another post on how much my total pack is – before food and water.

    New Backpacking Gear!

    Christmas 2014 brought a couple of new items of gear for backpacking and camping.

    I now have a MSR Hubba Hubba NX tent.

    MSR Hubba Hubba NX

    I also have a Mountain Hardwear Ratio 15 sleeping bag.

    Mountain Hardwear Ratio 15

    Here’s some of my new gear compared to older stuff.

    Item New Old Savings
    Tent vs Tent MSR Hubba Hubba NX 1.54 kg Old tent 3.40 kg 1.86 kg
    Tent vs Hammock MSR Hubba Hubba NX 1.54 kg Hammock setup
    hammock, ropes & straps, bug net
    2.14 kg 0.60 kg
    Mat vs Underquilt Thermarest NeoAir XTherm 0.43 kg Arrowhead New River Under Quilt 0.85 kg 0.42 kg
    Sleeping Bag vs Sleeping Bag Mountain Hardwear Ratio 15 1.14 kg MEC Raven -7 sleeping bag 1.50 kg 0.36 kg

    If I go backpacking with my new tent, my new sleeping bag, and my new(ish) sleeping mat, I have a weight savings of 2.64 kg (or 5.82 lbs). The Hubba Hubba NX lets you use just the rainfly, poles and footprint (0.19 kg), to lighten the tent weight to 0.97kg from 1.54kg. A further weight saving of 0.57kg (1.26 lbs).

    My next gear purchase: A lighter backpack. My current backpack is 3.3kg, so something lighter would be nice.

    Pocket Lenses

    Sonny from Podcacher has started a new website called Pocket Lenses.

    Pocket Lenses

    I’ve already picked a good tip for using my flash in daylight situations to fill details on faces. Something I usually forget I have the capability of doing! I’ll be watching the site carefully in the future to see what other tips & tricks get posted.

    Win a GPSr!? I’d love to!

    I ran across a contest on podcacher.com

    podcacher

    They’re giving away a GPSr! More specifically, they’re giving away a Garmin GPSMAP 64. I think it might be better than my Garmin eTrex 30, but it’s worth entering the contest whether it is or not.

    Using Camera Flash In Daylight

    I never remember to use my camera flash when taking photos during the daytime. Watch Sonny from Pocket Lenses shows how to best bring out faces by using the flash during daylight.

    Stuff I do, or stuff I find interesting

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