Hiking gear reviews for hikers with short attention spans.

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Contest rules (plus the Papertoy “Stick” template)

I’m  running a contest on the GearToons Facebook page in which I’m giving away not only a sweet Epicurean Titanium solid fuel stove from Flat Cat Gear, but also a custom papertoy. (The contest runs from Feb.24-March 3, 2014). If you’re curious what a papertoy is, its just a modernized form of origami. I love to draw just as much as I love to hike, so when I’m not outdoors, I’m sitting in front of a Macbook and Wacom tablet.


All that’s required to be entered to win is go the GearToons Facebook page, then LIKE and SHARE this picture: contest-papertoy

In order to get a good likeness for the papertoy, the winner will need to email me at least two good (read: not grainy or pixelated) pictures of their face. I use a combination of rotoscoping and plain ol’ comic book inking techniques to draw these, so a good photo is critical. To receive the papertoy, I will either email it to the winner, so they will be able to print it out on their own choice of paper and assemble it themselves OR the papertoy will be printed on thick card stock paper, assembled by me and mailed to the winner.

IMPORTANT: Continental US mail delivery only for the prizes. Sorry. Please don’t hate me. If you have any questions, just ask.

To get a better idea of what the custom papertoy will kind of like, here’s a picture of one I did for my buddy Chad (“Stick” of Stick’s Blog) recently. I used the logo I did for him a while back, as a foundation.


Designed in Photoshop & Illustrator. Printed on card stock paper. Stands about 5″ tall.


The trekking poles are made from bristles from my kitchen broom, tiny strips of duct tape (for the handles) and polyester cord I got from Zpacks.

If you like the ‘Stick papertoy’ above and want to print and assemble your own, click on the image below or download the template in PDF format here: ===> stick-papertoy-rev1.



If you are interested in having me design a personalized papertoy for you, email me about doing a commission. Or I’ll draw you a personalized comic. Heck, I’ll draw you as a pink Sasquatch beating up Spiderman, if you want. Give me a holla @



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“Evertime I Shop For Gear…”


Surely, I can’t be the only person who sees a piece of gear that makes my head spin with gearlust, only to be heartbroken seconds later when I see that it’s light years out of my price range. (Well, assuming I still want to be able to pay my mortgage, anyway.)  I heard a quote a while back that was something like ‘Cutting pounds is cheap, but you’ll go broke cutting ounces.’ And it’s kind of true. I mean, you can go to Dick’s Sporting Goods and get a Eureka! 4 pound solo tent for $100. For $25 more, you can get a 34 ounce solo tent from Six Moon Designs. Do that for your ‘Big 3’ (tent, sleeping bag, backpack) and you can spend a relatively small amount of money and cut several pounds off of your BPW ( that’s base pack weight, to the uninformed). But when you make the decision to start cutting weight on all your gear, every possible ounce, you gotta start switching from an aluminum pot to a titanium pot, from a heavy car camping Coleman air mattress to something like a NeoAir Xlite, from a sil-nylon tent to a cuben fiber shelter, etc. And that’s where you either start spending buckets of cash on new gear or you get used to disappointment. I’m very fortunate that I am able to get free gear from time to time, but so far, a 12 ounce cuben fiber shelter hasn’t shown up on my doorstep, so I just sit, looking out the window, wishing I had $400 I didn’t need so I could go buy one.

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Hypothermia: The Chills That Kills (featuring The Backpacking Banana)


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Hypothermia is serious business. It’s when your body temp falls too low and your breathing and heart stops. Do you know the signs? You do? Crap. Well, pretend you don’t and read this anyway. Then,  impress your friends with your knowledge on the subject.

  • The best way to prevent hypothermia is to keep warm and dry. This includes not only keeping yourself from falling into water, but also from wearing clothes that will cause you to be drenched in sweat and freeze. Synthetic, wicking base layers can help with that. Try to avoid cotton, since it doesn’t dry out quickly. As they saying goes, ‘Cotton kills’.  (Merino wool is the greatest thing ever, anywhere, at any time. It not only keeps you warm, but it also pulls moisture away from your skin to help keep you warm. )

Mild hypothermia may involve just shivering intensely, but severe (read: possibly fatal) hypothermia is what we want to concentrate on:

Here are some signs:

  • Intense shivering, which may become convulsions and eventually stop as hypothermia progresses, which is seriously bad news. Shivering is your body’s way to generating some fast heat, so when you stop doing that, your core temp may be dangerously low.
  • Loss of coordination, fumbling hands, stumbling steps. If you start getting clumsy, you are feeling the onset of severe hypothermia. I mean, more clumsy than you normal are, if you’re a klutz. This is especially bad if your fingers are too numb to work your iPod and ‘Baby, Baby, Baby’ by Justin Bieber is stuck on ‘repeat’.
  • Slurred speech. If you start sounding like you are intoxicated, this is a very bad sign. Slurred speech is a sign that you can’t think straight and then confusion may follow.
  • Confusion, memory loss and bad decision making (irrational behavior). A person who is becoming hypothermic may do crazy things like strip off their dry clothes or leave safe, warm shelter to wander off into the woods and abandoning common sense. This has killed many, many people. Often, hypothermia fatality victims are found away from their warm clothes and gear, having cast them off for unknown reasons.
  • Drowsiness or exhaustion. As your core temps drop and your pulse and breathing slow, you begin to lack energy. Victims of hypothermia often just sit down to ‘rest’ and never wake up.
  • Finally, apathy, such as not caring about your situation or needs, overtakes hypothermic people and they just give up.

It’s a good idea to prepare for the worst. When I hike in cold weather, I try to dress warmly in LAYERS and wear something that is waterproof or at the very least, water repellant. Wearing layers lets me pull of garments that may be causing me to overheat and sweat, without sacrificing all of my warmth, (such as would happen if I just wore one big heavy coat and an undershirt. ) I bring along something to start a fire even in damp conditions, such as an Esbit or Wetfire tablet and storm proof matches. Also, I try to pack an extra, dry base layer or two in a waterproof dry sack. Also, an emergency blanket, like this one, is a staple. It’s lightweight and reflects a great deal of your body heat back to you.

If you do get wet while hiking, the first thing you need to do is get out of your wet clothes.  Water has 25 times the thermal conductivity of air, so you’ll become hypothermic much faster by staying in wet clothes.

Seeking shelter from wind and/or rain is a smart move, next. Try to generate body heat by moving around a lot. Either by doing jumping jacks, running in place or dancing like a fool.

If you’ve brought them, get into dry clothes and wrap up in an emergency blanket. Drinking warm, but NOT hot, beverages will greatly assist in warming you up, as well, but don’t give anything to drink or eat to someone who is unconscious, as this may cause choking.

There is more useful information on the subject of prevention and treatment of hypothermia found here.


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Sea to Summit Pocket Trowel

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The Sea to Summit Pocket Trowel

The reinforced nylon trowel is constructed of Nylon 66, the alloy version is 6066- T6 aluminum alloy.  Both are very lightweight and telescopes down to a smaller size, taking up less pack space.The handle has a removable cap that lets you put a small roll of toilet paper inside (Emphasis on

SMALL amount) or anything else that will fit.  If you are like Andrew Skurka and can survive on two squares of Charmin a day or just use ‘natural’ TP (aka rocks, twigs, leaves and pinecones) you probably won’t care. Then again, if you are THAT ultra light, you will probably shun a 3oz poop trowel and find a lighter option or just use a tent stake or something to dig your cat hole.

Anyway, both are about 5.5″ collapsed and 9.75″ extended. The nylon trowel weighs only 3 oz (87 grams), compared to the alloy version, which is 3.5oz.  However, if you are going to be using it in tough or rocky soil, you may want to opt for the more durable Alloy trowel.

The alloy trowel is the best choice if weight and money aren’t a concern, and will run you around $20, twice the price of the nylon.



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Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Soap


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When i go out on the trail, i know one thing for sure: I’m gonna get freaking dirty.

There’s more than a few options out there as far as hygiene products go, but I myself prefer this one:
Dr Bronners liquid soap.

One reason is that its organic, so no detergent or chemicals and crap go into making this stuff. Its ‘castile’ soap, meaning its all vegetable based.

The other reason is that you can use this for lots of things. They boast that there are 18 uses for their soap, but here’s just a few:

Washing your hands.
Toothpaste: Peppermint doesn’t taste like peppermint, you should know. However, I am told that the ‘Baby Mild’ formula has a better taste. Please don’t accuse me of hating on Peppermint.
Mouthwash: Just add a dash into some water and gargle.
Shaving: Assuming you’d want to shave on a backpacking trip, you can use this. But….why?
Washing your dog: Assuming you’d want to wash your dog in the middle of the woods, mountain or desert, this will do the trick. But again…why?
Cleaning your food. I always feel awesome when I’m using a vegetable based product to wash a vegetable. (Not really.)
Cleaning your cookware: Use it full strength to clean tough grease. I carry a small sponge in my cook kit to help out.

Just about the only thing it won’t clean up is your language! Wocka wocka!

Dr Bronners makes several several different scents:
Baby Mild soap
Tea tree

There are several size bottles available:
2oz, 4oz, 8oz, 16oz, 32oz, 64 oz, 1 gal, and tanker truck. They also make bar soap.
The label has some weird writing on it about starship earth or something. i don’t know what that means. I’m afraid to read it aloud in it’s entirety for fear of opening up some kind of vortex, like when Ash was sucked into that strange dimension in ‘Army of Darkness’.

I like to repack my soap into smaller bottles like this to save pack space and weight. I never need a whole bottle when I’m out on a trip.

Also, some of these may smell like food to some animals, so be careful about using those if you are concerned about animals coming into you camp. I personally have not been attacked by hungry bears or raccoons, but it could happen. You never know. You never, ever, never know.


Boring Disclaimer: I bought this product with my own moolah and nobody forced me to say good or bad about it. I also drew this cartoon myself and I own it, so if you want to use or distribute it, just get my permission first. Okay?

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Billy Cathole’s Guide to Dropping a Deuce in the Woods

Here’s a little comic I did to help you figure out the proper way to blast a rookie in the woods. There’s more to pooping in the wild than just squatting down and letting it fly, ya know. And since there were no comics that I could find out in cyberspace that shows you how to go out amongst the trees and do your dirty, sinful business properly, I decided to make one.  You’re welcome.