Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Walking Dead

 OK, so I have been wanting to watch this series "The Walking Dead" for a while now and just keep forgetting to record it.  Well over the Thanksgiving holiday and with the greatness of Netflix I had a chance to watch all of season one.  Then with on demand I had the chance to watch all of season two up to the mid-season finale which I caught on AMC Sunday night.  First, I have to admit that I am a fan of any zombie movie but was concerned how you make a zombie series.  Everyone tells me of how great "Madmen" is and that AMC shows are wonderful.
 After watching this series from beginning to current episode I must say it is truly a great series to watch and the zombies are just right.  The wonderful thing about end of world shows and zombie apocalypses is that you get to think about the "What if" situations.  Those situations are "What if" you were in their place and how would you handle it.  Being a camper that I am and having to know how to improvise and over come various situations when in the wild I love to see what they are doing on this show and think of better ways to do it.  Now I know what all of you are thinking out there is that, hey this guy is a diabetic and even if he survived the zombies how is he going to survive without insulin.  OK, so that part I am still working on in my head.  I do keep a solid six months supply of diabetes gear at the house.  So I have at least that long to live or find more meds.  The show is based on a comic book that you can read about on Wiki and see where the future might lie ahead for the TV series of our group of survivors.  Other "What if" situations are how would you fight off the zombies.  In the second series the main group we follow find a farm that is run by a man that does not like guns and actually captures the zombies because he thinks there is a cure.  This adds a layer to the show about are guns good or bad and are zombies really bad or is there a chance.  This is so much fun.
 What I have been thinking about is how to deal with these zombies just popping up at random times.  I came up with a solution to that by using the old Indian trick where they used to lure buffalo into narrow passes and either killing them with stones and arrows as they bottle neck or they run them off a cliff at the end of the narrows.  My thinking was to use a person to lure the zombies into the death area and once the person gets into the area the others can whop their heads off with knives and axes.  To protect them at night you could create a zone surrounding the base camp with zombie parts to mask the smell of the living.  Or you could just build platforms to sleep on at night.  Maybe even have a fresh area away from camp that would lure the zombies to another location.  Maybe an animal suspended in a cage above a giant whole and every morning the survivors can check the pit for freshly fallen zombies.  Have I gone to far with this stuff?  I then move onto water, food, shelter, and supplies but I use the parameters that the show gives us.  It is not fair to add an element they have not given me, kind of like cheating on a test.
This is just a little of what I think about while watching this show and well during the day while driving alone to and from work(I know how weird right?).  It all boils down to a fun experience of a TV show and the situation of survival and how we do it.  Either with zombies or if you are lost in the woods, knowing the basics of life that you can only survive 3 minutes without oxygen, 3 days without water, and 3 weeks without food.  Emergencies are limited with shelter, water, and food and how we deal with it. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

More ways to use it!

 Recently we had one of our fundraisers for our Boy Scout Troop.  Our troop does not sell anything to raise funds but instead we put out flags for local residents that are members of the Rotary Club and also we hand out directories for a local HOA.  Now this HOA is not your typical association.  They comprise of something like 8,000 houses and their phone book is the size of a small towns phone book.
 We pass out these directories twice a year.  I know what you are saying: "who even uses a phone book these days?"  Well the HOA has advertisers and they like to keep their residents informed and up to date.  Our scout group breaks the handing out of directories into routes for each boy.  Now each route consists of approximately 250 houses.  My son and I took on two routes and that consisted of a solid 500 houses.
 When my son and I pass out directories he usually has his backpack on and can fill it with enough books for about one side of a street.  I usually just grab a box and use my arm strength.  This time I had my son use the Mountainsmith day classic bag that I had recently wrote a review on
 He used the bag as a messenger bag by putting it over his shoulder.  The bag amazingly held as many books as I could carry in a box.  His only complaint was that the strap was a little tight due to the placement of the straps on the bag.  Besides the straps being a little close he loved the bag and was amazed how much we abused it and it just kept right on going.  The more and more we use this bag, the more I love it.  I would consider this the best bag in general I have ever had and also I would say it is the company to go with when purchasing your diabetes equipment bag.
The more and more I look to either replace or update my current camping equipment the same thing keeps coming up.  Diabetes companies either don't make their product for outdoors use or the equipment is not made to withstand the abuse.  Being a diabetic and seeing how activity helps maintain healthy living with diabetes I wonder why these companies miss out on this entire market.  There were diabetics that just ran across America, team triabetes are triathletes that are diabetic and the list goes on and on for active diabetics.  With this information I think my next years goal is to put together a list of diabetes equipment for camping.  From which meters, insulin pumps, bags, and flashlights work best for diabetics in the woods.  Please email me if you have a product you use that I have not looked that would fall under this category of best diabetes camping gear (  I must say that for a diabetic bag the Mountainsmith company is the best.  They do not pay me in any way but they did give me this bag for free to review.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Which is Better?

 Happy Christmas time everyone.  I think that is how we are supposed to say it.  People tell me we are only supposed to anounce one holiday at a time when talking to friends.  I am always told that "Happy Hollidays" is offensive because I took Christ out of the saying and I am also lumping together Christ's birthday with other days of celebration and that is wrong.  So I just tell people Happy Christmas time and not be offensive to anyone.  Of course this is just a fun little soap box I am on.  No matter what the holiday, diabetes rules the day.
 One of the greatest eternal debates in the backpacking and hiking community is which fuel is better?  Liquid fuel or canister gas fuel.  So liquid fuel has been around the longest, probably since early fuel was ever used to cook on.  The most common name for this is "Coleman Fuel" or "White Gas."  This fuel is lower on octane than pump gasoline and it also does not have the additives pump gasoline has.  Now, the argument for liquid gas is that it is cheaper than canister gas, it is easier to store than canister gas, and you know how much you have with liquid gas.  In a canister you have to go by weight and I am unaware of anybody that brings a scale on a backpacking trip.  The down side to liquid gas is that it is heavy, can leak and create a nice odor on all your gear, and it boils water slower than canisters do.  Personally I am a proponent of liquid gas.  I feel it is just more reliable.  Now my reliability factor is based on a stove my father had when I was growing up that ran on butane canisters and it just leaked and the flame was spotty most of the time.  That was my first experience with canister stoves.
 One of the most widely used liquid gas backpacking stoves is the Coleman 508.  The 508 has been around probably since the early 80's and is now still sold at Coleman as the 533 dual fuel stove.  The 508 is probably one of my favorite stoves because of its durability.  I used these same stoves as a kid and they are built like a tank.  Then if you do break something on your stove, all the parts can be replaced.  The stove in these pictures I picked up at a local pawn shop recently for ten bucks.  Pawn shops are great to search once every month or so for camping equipment because people bring in lots of camping equipment to sell.  The shop gets the gear at low prices for shelf filler pieces and they wheel and deal on them to any person willing to buy.
 Now all of this comparison I do is relative to my use of different stoves.  My canister stove use has been limited to the stove I mentioned earlier and old MSR windpro that leaked gas, and I felt was horrible in the wind (this was before the wind shields), and last it was hard to find a flat place to cook with it.  That of course is the past and MSR is a quality product then and now.  I just had a lemon and have felt burnt ever since.  The other canister I had was the one mentioned earlier and that was a pile of dog doo to say the least.  It was not a name I can even remember and just was plain old junk.
 Recently people I have backpacked with purchased the Jet Boil system and it really did impress me with their pots that lock to the stove and how the heat exchangers work.  The Jet Boil system really seemed like something I would like to see in action again.  The Jet Boil system uses the isobutane/propane canisters.
 The biggest thing about the Coleman 508 that puts it leaps and bounds above all other single burner stoves and backpacking stoves is its ability to control the heat and flame.  My friend Paul is an artist at making coffee and he uses his Coleman 533 with a peculator coffee pot.  The 533 can simmer, boil, and heat food all with the switch of the two levers.  That makes this stove the perfect backpacking and general stove on the market.
There are lots of other stoves that boil water faster and are lighter but none other has the ease of getting replacement parts and its versatility than the classic Coleman 508 or the exact replacement 533.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Food for Thought

 I have mentioned how my friend Ken is obsessed with backpacking now.  Well he is recruiting a loyal group of followers with him.  One of those people is another friend, lets call him Gary.  Our recent backpacking trip in the Oklahoma hills at Mcgee Creek park had Ken doing all sorts of everything.  So to help Ken out the other friend, lets still call him Gary decided to get the food for the trip.
 Gary came up with an amazing set of meals for our backpacking trip.  Since the trip was only two night and one of those on the trail "Gary" mixed shelf stable home products that were trail worthy.  Now if you have never been backpacking before you have to understand what trail worthy is and why.  The main part about backpacking is that everything is on your back and that includes your food.  Well most weight of food is made of water so to reduce your weight you reduce the water in your food and that comes in the form of dehydrated items.  The next part of trail worthy is that the food is safe at room temperatures.  You would not be able to backpack a half gallon of ice cream into the woods.  that is why you have astronaut ice cream, they take out the water and add something to keep it solid at room temperature. 
 "Gary" started our meals with a base camp breakfast consisting of scrambled egg burritos and coffee.  We had this because we knew the boys would take a while to get their gear packed up and ready to go.  Lunch was on the trail and the above picture and below picture are of my lunch pack which consisted of a bagel, package of shelf stable meat (mine was pepperoni), condiments, and 3 clementines.  Now this is not your typical trail meal but like I stated earlier we were using items from around the house that are kept at room temperature.  We were also playing with the idea of cost.  Your typical "backpacking meal" runs any where from two bucks a serving just for the entree to ten dollars for the meal.  With several more backpacking trips on our calendar "Gary" and Ken have been hard at work finding ways to avoid the dreaded REI purchases that cost a pretty penny and do the meals from grocery store items.
Our dinner Saturday night consisted of a "Gary" original meal which started with an appetizer of snap beans then the main course had ramen noodles (we did not use the spice packet it comes with), a home made pesto, and a package of chicken breast chunks all mixed together followed up with a rice crispy treat for desert.  This was a real delicacy for the trail.  Breakfast the last morning was oatmeal with dried cranberries, cherries, and raisins tossed in and made fancy with a couple of mini moos and two packages of honey.

Overall this trips meals were very diabetes friendly and the only thing I missed from our last trip were the boiled eggs.  I would recommend doing meals like this for any one trying to keep their backpacking on a budget.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tanka Bars

 The nice people at Tanka sent me a sample of some of their buffalo jerky treats to try and review.  I received these items about a month ago but wanted the right place and time to do an in the wild product review.  So I chose a backpacking trip to try these products out.  Now These are all natural buffalo cranberry jerky products.  I was worried about how they get these cranberries into the jerky.  The three products come in either original and spicy flavors.  The first I tried on the trail was the Buffalo Stick and I must say it was a little on the greasy side and a little dry for my tastes.  Also I shared these products with all the boys on the trail to get their opinions.  The stick was probably the least liked of everyone even though none of them hated it they just did not say they were planning on purchasing these when they got home.
 The next product and about a mile and a half down the trail I pulled out the Tanka Bar.  I was interested in what they constituted as a bar and jerky in one.  I would say this is more of a thick jerky that tasted similar to the Tanka Stick just without as much greasy texture to it and in this product you really got more of the cranberry flavor.  The cranberries were very juicy and burst in your mouth when you came across them.  The boys like this product but again they were not eager to go out and buy it for the next trip.  I would say it was good but the price would drive me away from buying it myself.
The last product we tried and about another two miles down the trail were the Tanka Bites.  These are nuggets of buffalo and cranberry just like the other two products just in another form.  I really loved these bites and the cranberry is amazing in these guys.  I would give good money to buy these bites if I were perusing the isle for store jerky.  They really are completely different than any other jerky on the shelf and I think if you are a jerky person you really need to get a bag of these bites and try them for yourself.  Also with diabetes all of these products are great for energy and low on carbs.  Jerky on the trail really helps give me energy without the spike of the usual carb snacks.  On my patented diabetes scale of one to five syringes with one being the lowest and five being the highest, I would give Tanka overall two syringes for their overall product lineup but, I would give the Tanka Bites four syringes because these snacks are different and taste great.  I would also say my friend Dustin was head over heels for the Tanka Bites.  He already wants a case for the next backpacking trip.

I have to give thanks to for allowing me to use their pictures.  They also have some great reviews on anything that deals with hot sauces.  Give them a look and see.  I think my wife needs the source hot sauce.  That stuff sounds so hot it must be battery acid flavored with peppers.

Monday, November 21, 2011

What every diabetic must have!

 If you have had diabetes for any length of time you have had at least one medical tote.  These are your bags for carrying test strips, meters, glucagon injection kits, glucose tablets, snacks, insulin, needles, keys, and so much more.  I have gone through at least 10 medical totes in my 24 years with diabetes.  Recently a friend of mine was out camping with me and I inquired about his Mountainsmith fanny pack.  He never camps without it and always seems happy with it.  He let me know that about seven years ago he purchased it for his marathon training and liked it so much that he converted it into his camping day pack.  Then one day I see on that they have several Mountainsmith bags on sale.  I emailed my friend and he instantly bought another pack just like his other one.  I asked him what he was going to do with two day packs and he let me know that he liked them so much that he could easily find a use for the second one.  So this gets me thinking about getting one for myself.
 I reached out to Mountainsmith and inquired about testing one of their packs for using as a diabetic camping tote.   They responded instantly and were eager to get product in my hand to test and review.  During the work week I use a briefcase for my papers, files, medical equipment, flashlight, knife, snacks and everything else.  This briefcase has been my diabetes tote for what is known as tailgate camping.  This is where you pull your car into a parking space next to a campsite and you have all your equipment in the trunk.  I switch to a day pack on other campouts.  Now my briefcase is getting rough around the edges I have been trying to retire it from campouts and just use it during the week.  It is more on the professional look and seems odd out in the woods.  The only thing is I have been very disappointed with what is on the market as a replacement until I have now been shown the light of Mountainsmith.
Recently we went backpacking in the Oklahoma hills and I thought this was the perfect first test for the Mountainsmith Day Classic.  Usually on campouts I take along my truck to pull our trailer.  I keep more diabetes backup equipment in my truck and I always have my briefcase in it as well.  This campout we loaded the scout bus down with everything we needed and did not need a trailer or follow vehicle.  So my truck and briefcase were left behind and I was on my own to haul my gear in my backpack and bus bag.  I loaded the Day Classic with snacks, meter, flashlight, jacket, water bottles, compass, lunch, soda, glucagon injection kit, glucose tablets, first aid kit, over the ear headphones, and lots more.  Even with all this equipment and junk I had plenty room for more.  The pack comes with heavy duty zippers with bright yellow pull tabs on them.  The pack is made of something called Cordura which feels strong and comfortable on the skin.  On each side there is a mesh pocket that can hold anything from water bottles to cell phone cables.  The mesh pockets have elastic draw strings like most packs do.  Just on the Mountainsmith pack they draw all the way tight and you can keep anything in the pocket from loose change to wet gear that needs to dry.  The first part I fell in love with was the side mesh pockets.  Then on the inside of the main compartment you have a red leash that holds your car keys.  I love having a place to keep my keys safe.  The other greatness of these bags are that they are large enough to hold a laptop computer.  They have an awesome waist belt that I have not had the chance yet to use and they come with a shoulder strap.  So you can use this pack as a briefcase, a shoulder bag, a fanny pack, and if you purchase the straps a day pack.  Just using this pack once I am in love and on a mission to tell every diabetic and person I know about these bags and this company.  If you are a diabetic then you must have one of these.  I will keep using this pack and post updates as I get the chance to review all parts of this bag.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The finished product!

I had written last week about making some beef jerky for an upcoming hiking trip.  Well, the results are in and I must say even with my mistake of having the meat sliced too thin it turned out really well.  My son took a generous amount to school with him.  I received text messages from him around lunch time with requests for a pepper version, and also a spicy version.  He also had so many students at his lunch period requesting a taste he decided to sell it for one dollar per piece.  I hope he used the money wisely at the end of the day.
My wife had to coach a basketball game on Friday night and my son and I headed to the Oklahoma foot hills.  I received a voicemail on my cell phone from her telling me how much she loved this jerky.  While on the trail I like to use jerky like cash.  You can bribe people on the trail with jerky and also once they know you make jerky yourself they become your friend.  I also like to reward people who are doing good and helping others and also if someone is having a hard time, a piece of jerky always seems to bring a smile to their eyes. 
As you can see from my pictures I took a bag to work with me so that I could try it out before heading into the woods.  I must say Scott's has a great taste and flavor.  The flavor has a smokey, slightly sweet, and salty taste to it.  I would say it has similar taste as the store bought jerky does but, with more punch of smoke and salt and less of the sweetness and prepackaged flavor.
Marty let me know that next time I could use half of all the cure and make two separate batches.  That is probably what I will do next time.  I also will play with pepper and other dry rubs to add to the flavor.  I wanted the first batch to give me the base flavors of the cure and adjust from there.

In the end making homemade jerky is simple, fun, and extremely cost effective.  I first would recommend to anyone to make their own jerky for the better quality of product and at a cost of one third what you pay at the store.  Then I would recommend Scott's Jerky Cure because of its great flavor.  Last I would make them give me a sample because just like homemade pecan pie every bodies taste just a little different.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Back in full service, sort of...

 Thursday after work I picked up my Kelty backpack from the tailor shop.  I could not wait to get home and put the pack back on the frame, load it full of gear, and head out for a weekend of backpacking.  Last time you saw my pack was at the tailor shop being stripped down for zipper repairs and some sewing work.
 The owner of the Tailor shop and I discussed how to fix the broken zippers.  She first ball parked that it would cost her at least one hundred dollars and about two months to get the right zippers in stock.  The idea of Velcro came up and that did not settle well with me.  I then came up with Velcro and also a toggle and loop system as a backup.  We both agreed that new zippers were not feasible and that she would look into something that may work.
 What she came up with was heavy duty buttons.  Now for all those non-backpackers out there, your side pouches are where you keep your needed items while on the trail.  Things that go into your exterior pockets would be first aid kit, water bottle, poncho, trail mix, sun glasses, sunscreen, and anything that you need to get at right away.  Being diabetic I need lots of glucose tablets, meters, needles, batteries, and insulin where I can get to them fast so lots of pockets on the side works better.
 The tailor just did a few buttons on each pocket so I could give them a test run before we went crazy with the snaps and find out that they don't work.  She also sewed a few inches of pocket at the bottom just as backup and to make me comfortable.

Above is probably the only button I found in the wrong spot.  It is really too close to the stitching to easily open and close.  Now that I have a feal for the buttons the pack goes back to the tailor to get fitted with more snap buttons.  I could not have been happier with the final result.  The total so far is just ove twenty dollars and that includes the snap buttons and the sewing work.

Look at that diabetic in the woods.  In this picture the right side is a cliff that the boys were climbing up and down during our lunch break until they almost stepped on a couple of rattle snakes sun bathing on a rock.  That really got them excited.  I know alot of people are saying to themselves that I should just buy a new pack.  First, this was my fathers pack and when I take it camping it just reminds me of him.  Second, did you not see how freaking big this sucker is?  I would easily put it at 6,500 cubic inches and then some.  Then the quality of canvas, belt, and straps (lets don't talk about the zipper quality) are not easy to come across or cheap.  They would be considered military grade in todays packs and ALICE packs of this size run a pretty penny.

Now I have used the pack with the broken zippers for the past 5 years without any issues.  With the world of diabetes changing to more computers and equipment I opt to cary more backup supplies for any emergency that may arise.  Also I am not a spring chicken any more and as a leader there is backup food and water for the entire group that needs a pack.  Then maybe I just like to take too much crap while out backpacking.  Who knows.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Happy World D-Day!

Today is what they call "World Diabetes Day" and so far no one has sent me an email or even a cake.  That is OK because right now I am on cloud nine from this past weekends camping trip.  I think that is where the Diabetic Camper should always be, in the woods. 
We had two groups hiking the Oklahoma hills of Atoka.  This trail was so nice and everyone loved the terrain.  Above you can see my backpack all loaded down before we head out on our two day journey into the woods.  Of course as you can tell I am testing my blood sugars before we leave. 
See my layers above?  Stocking cap, baseball cap (stocking caps make my ears hurt so the baseball cap helps keep them safe) then you see my wicking polyester undershirt and my cotton t-shirt on top.  Then there is my trusty compass I have had since the age of 11 when my father gave it to me.  He even scratched my name in it so no one else would take it.  I love that compass.  Do I look like diabetes has me down in this photo?  No, because I just finished peeing and was getting ready to load up and continue down the trail.
Do you think the spider thinks about life as it crosses the trail?  Getting out and about in nature like this my diabetes seem to be far behind.  I test regularly, and as my friend Ken says I suck down glucose tablets at a pace of one for every fifteen minutes of hiking.  This place had all sorts of hidden nature.
I wanted this fender so bad.  We had lunch down the trail from it and if I had seen it earlier this rusty gold would have been tied to my pack.  I wonder how long this has been in the woods.  Was I thinking about my diabetes at this time?  No, I was not because finding cool stuff like this takes priority.

These pictures were my attempt at getting a small milk snake that had crawled into one of the boys packs as we rested on the trail.  It took him a little bit to be convinced that it was not venomous, dangerouse, or that another snake did not crawl into his backpack as well.
I tried for five minutes to get a good photo of this guy and he just kept right along moving and crawling in the foliage.  Was I wondering what my blood sugars were at this time?  No, I wanted a good photo darn it.
At the end of each day, and well I guess during each day I do always think about my diabetes.  I had an old doctor once tell me that if you did not think about your diabetes at least seven times a day you are doing something wrong.  I would adjust that to at least 20 times a day and even then I am usually doing something wrong.  What do they say, just keep it between the lines and everything will work out in the end.  I think that is how diabetics do it.  We just keep it between the safe lines and check, test, and do it all over again the next day.  It is a depressing disease because it is not seen on the outside and I would non-scientifically say that 90% of people think that you just don't eat sugar and all is well. Then throw in the non-scientific 80% of diabetics are type two and well the rest of us just deal with it the best we can from childhood to the end.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Scotts Jerky Cure Product review

 This weekend we will be backpacking in the land of Oklahoma's Ouchita mountains.  We are starting at McGee Creek state park.  With some preplanned I had contacted Marty Blank with Sikes Enterprises to see if he would not mind sending me some jerky cure to try.

 When the package arrived it smelled of the best smokey, jerky aroma ever.  I opened the box and it comes with three items in it.  the liquid smoke, seasoning, and speed cure.  With this smell in my house I wanted to make jerky as fast as I could.
 Now the bad side to Scotts Jerky cure is that you can only use it once and you are done.  I have used the dry cures that you mix a little of this and a little of that, then you pat it down on the meat and put in saran wrap and let it sit overnight.  With Scotts you mix everything with a half gallon of water and it makes up to 12 pounds of jerky.
 My meat selection was some 4.99 roasts that I purchased from Albertsons.  Now if I had done enough preplanning I would have bought the meat when it was on sale and just kept it in the freezer till it was time to make the jerky.  From what I have done and have been told is that you want your meat with as little fat on it as possible.  When there is fat there is chew and if the meat has alot of marbling it will turn into gum when eating it.  I found these four, three pound roast packs that were really low on the marbling of the fat.  I took them to the meat counter and asked for them to be sliced 1/4 inch thick and all the visible fat to be cut off.  Now if you have another kind of meat or way you get yours please let me know.  I am always searching for the best meat for jerky and at the lowest price.  4.99 a pound is way too high.

 Above is my brine with the half gallon of water, liquid smoke, pink speed cure, and the seasoning pack.  Notice how I am using a plastic bowl.  I don't know why but you are not supposed to use metal when doing this. Place the eightish pounds of meat in the juice and let it sit for six hours.
Once the meat had soaked for six hours I rinsed it for 10 minutes to reduce the salt in the meat.  Then I broke out the dehydrator and started putting the meat on.  At that time I realized that the meat was sliced a little thinner than I usually like.  It came out at around an eighth of an inch instead of a solid quarter inch.  The thicker the slice the slower it dries out and helps give it more of a chewy texture.  With the thickness of the meat you get that dry brittle boot strap texture.  Next time I am definitely going to pay a little more attention to how thick they slice the meat.

Tomorrow I will show the final result.  Jerky is a great road snack, backpacking treat, and emergency food.  The only thing is that for 5 dollars you get five ounces of meat.  Very expensive so to combat that price doing it yourself with an oven set on low you can make piles of jerky at a great discount.  This stuff is so simple that buying it at the store almost makes no sense.  Plus you can pepper and season it to your taste.