Wednesday, January 16, 2013

New Blog Home for Casey Fiedler

Casey Fiedler, author of The Adventure Lifestyle Blog, is now publishing a professional outdoor education blog here. The Adventure Lifestyle Blog will remain available to view but is no longer active. Thank you all for your views!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Best Lightweight Alcohol Stove for Backpacking?

Looking for the most compact, simple, cheap, and lightweight alcohol stove on the market? Look no farther than Zelph Stoveworks' Starlyte Alcohol Stove. Here are the claimed specs from Zelph Stoveworks' website:

Weight: .6 oz
Dimensions: 2" x 2"
Boil Time: 6.5 minutes for 16oz water (1/2 oz of fuel)

Here's how it is supposed to work:

Measure out 1/2 oz of alcohol (HEET brand fuel line treatment).
Pour this into the base of the Starlyte Stove.
Light with a lighter.
Place the windscreen around the stove.
Set your pot on top to boil.
Have boiling water in 6.5 minutes.
The Starlyte (center front) in contrast to
all the various cooking gear in my set.

Why go with an ultralite alcohol stove?

They can weigh (in this case) 800% less than canister stoves. This is pretty considerable as far as weight savings go. No other piece of gear in your pack (probably) can be modified to get an 800% gain in weight savings.

Alcohol fuel can be carried in exact amounts. For example, if you're out for 3 days and know you'll need one fl oz of alcohol to boil your water per day, you can carry only 3 oz of alcohol. With a canister stove, you're stuck with whatever amount (and weight) of fuel that happens to be left in your canister.

Alcohol stoves don't have any moving parts (usually) and therefore are highly unlikely to malfunction in the field. The Starlyte stove has even less components than most alcohol stoves.

They're super cheap. You can make your own for free out of an old soda can. Or buy the Starlyte for $23. Opposed to lightweight canister stoves that will cost you $50-$100.

It's much easier to find alcohol fuel in many remote areas than it is to purchase canister fuel. This no longer holds true for the Appalachian Trail, however. There is now ample access to fuel canisters at various suppliers along the trail due to the high demand by hikers every year.

What it's like in the real world:

Alcohol stoves are generally much more vulnerable to physical damage than canister fuel stoves. If you accidentally step on, drop something on, or otherwise abuse your alcohol stove that weighs in at less than an ounce, you can expect it to not survive. Don't take this to mean that these stoves won't hold  a pot. Alcohol stoves are made to hold a heavy pot of boiling liquid, but they're not forgiving to damage.

Starlyte (front center) compared to the
Snow Peak Giga Power fuel canister
stove (background) and a mini Bic
Alcohol stoves must have a windscreen to use. These stoves don't burn with the intensity of compressed canister fuel. The flame is very vulnerable to wind gusts. Even in a perfectly calm environment, a windscreen is still necessary to conserve the heat energy of the stove. Alcohol stoves don't put out the BTU's that a canister stove can.

It's either on or off with an alcohol stove. There's no simmer setting. Once you light the flame, it's going to burn at the same intensity until it runs out of fuel.

Some alcohol stoves have the possibility to spill burning alcohol fuel everywhere if tipped over. The Starlyte stove avoids this by including a fiberglass-like material in the base to soak up the alcohol so that it cannot spill once on fire.

They can be very precarious to use. The Starlyte has a diameter somewhere around 2". Put a 6" diameter pot will of 16 oz of water on top of this tiny base and you've got a recipe for spilled pasta dinner if you're not on a very flat and stable surface.

What I've found with the Zelph Stoveworks' Starlyte Alcohol Stove:

Disclaimer: I've only done one test so far. Expect to see more results soon, as well as a video.

So is the Zelph Stoveworks' Starlyte Stove the best choice for going ultralight alcohol with your backpacking stove? Here's what I've got to say so far.

The let down:

I used 1oz of fuel (2x the suggested amount) to boil 16 oz (2 cups) of tap water. According to the manufacturer's specifications, 2 cups of water should boil in 6.5 minutes with only 1/2 oz of fuel. My findings?

With the windscreen securely in place, on a mildly breezy day (~8mph winds), my 1 oz of HEET denatured alcohol fuel burned for almost 11 minutes. In my Snowpeak Trek 900 titanium pot, 2 cups (16 oz) of water never reached a full boil. After about 8 minutes the water had developed fish-eyes (bubbles on the bottom of the pot) but by 10 minutes the water was still barely bubbling.

This was very disappointing as I used twice the suggest fuel and still never got a boil going in almost twice the time claimed by the manufacturer's specs.
Starlyte windscreen (right) and alcohol fuel (HEET)

Other lessons in alcohol stove use:

I also learned that (as stated earlier) it's very difficult to balance a pot full of water on a 2" diameter base. I can easily foresee spilled meals and boiling water in the future with the use of such a slim stove base. There's also nothing on the bottom of the Starlyte Stove to be able to grind into the soil to add stability (as the rim on the bottom of a fuel canister might be used to gain stability).

Furthermore, with my Trek 900 titanium pot, the handles had to be folded in to accommodate the wind screen. This leaves precious little to hold on to when opening the pot lid to stir contents, increasing the possibility of tipping your pot of boiling water over. The windscreen does its job well, blocking wind and holding heat in. Unfortunately all that heat gets channeled up to the pot handles and the pot lid, making it even more difficult to handle the stove while it's on the already unstable surface.


At this point I've found out the hard way (as usual) some of the more subtle intricacies of using an alcohol stove. Considering the extremely cheap investment in a piece of gear that I've been curious about for some time, I do not regret the purchase. I plan to paint on some black grill paint to increase the efficiency of my pot and to conduct more controlled and numerous tests with the Zelph Stoveworks Starlyte Stove before giving a final "yes or no" answer as to how I feel about using this stove. For now, however, my canister stove will be staying in the backpack.

Read Backpacking Light's review of the Zelph Stoveworks' Starlyte Ultralight Alcohol Stove.

BP Light Forum Article on the Starlyte Stove. forum discussion and development of the Starlyte Stove.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Social Media Jobs in the Outdoor Market

What is Social Media and how can you find a  job in the industry?

Social media is primarily an interactive method of communication through web-based platforms. From your perspective that's talking to friends on Facebook and tweeting you life away. From my perspective that's "how do I draw readers attention and loyalty through social platforms"?

Have you ever asked yourself "why does this web business have a Facebook page?" No? Well, let me explain it in simple terms.

Websites are, almost always, businesses. As a rule of economics, businesses must provide a good or service that consumers want or need. Social media is the outlet by which businesses connect with, build, and keep loyal followers.

While you might be excited to see the latest discount email come through from REI with the week's hottest deal, I guarantee that REI is much more excited to see you click on the link and buy their product. By connecting with audiences through social media, companies and individuals are assured a more loyal and active viewing audience.

Social media jobs in the outdoor industry are huge news! Don't believe me, just go look for yourself. Scroll to the bottom of The North Face's webpage and you'll see the links for Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. REI has Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.

The social media pages for these companies do not create, manage, and update themselves. Most outdoor companies also use blogging as a form of social media. It's not terribly difficult to imagine that, with the thousands of outdoor websites out there, that the job market might be quite nearly endless.

Communications majors will find themselves quite at home with this sort of work. Use my outdoor job hunting resources to help find communications and social media jobs. Or start your own blog like me... although that's a rough way to go. Let me tell you!

Happy Trails, Friends!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Top Five Ways to Land Outdoor Recreation Jobs

So you decided you want an outdoor job? You have forsaken the cubicle. Good job, that's step one.

This guide will help you land any outdoor recreation industry job. These include, but are not limited to, guiding services, outfitters, experiential education, outdoor education, etc. Want to know how to become an outdoor guide?

Ready? Okay here's the five most important steps. GO!

Experience is the key to landing an outdoor job. 

Why don't I list "get a degree" first? Because in the outdoor industry, unlike many modern settings, it's possible to win a high-standing position using *gasp* skill. 

Narrow down your preferred fields of work I.E. whitewater guiding, and retail sales, and get experience doing them. 

If you're looking for an outdoor guide job, then make sure you have "expedition" experience in the field. Trips lasting more than a week are industry standard requirements on a resume.

Get Certified You went out and got some experience in the field. Good. Now it's time to get industry recognized.

Take courses from industry leading groups in your discipline. Here are a few industry-recognized associations:

ACA       (American Camp Association)
AMGA   (American Mountain Guides Association)
ACCT    (Association for Challenge Course Technology)
AORE    (Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education)

Don't forget, these associations can be invaluable in networking, not just certifications. I personally have landed a job through the ACA.

You're almost guaranteed to need a WFR (Wilderness First Responder) certification so you might as well get that done, too. Be aware; most outdoor companies do not recognize Red Cross certifications as valid. You'll need to go through NOLS WMI or something similar.

Get a Degree You've got some experience and maybe a certification or two? Good, don't forget your certification instructor's name, it will come in handy for networking.

Now you can start applying for some entry level jobs, and while you're at it, scope out outdoor education and recreation degrees offered around the world. In the US, there are actually quite a lot of options for outdoor education degrees. A simple Google search will do you more good than I can by providing links, so get started looking.

Consider this, however, NOLS (The National Outdoor Leadership School) offers outdoor education and recreation degrees partnered with several colleges that not only offer you a degree, they also offer you expedition experience and certifications.

What!? That's three of my top five ways to land an outdoor job, in one fell stroke. Yup. Check it out.

Network with everyone you meet! Keep lists and add everyone on Facebook (keep your profile professional if you're going to use it for networking).

LinkedIn is a pretty big networking tool, also. You might want to give it a look.

For your most professional references (bosses, managers, instructors) keep a paper file list. You'll need addresses, phone numbers, emails, the usual stuff. When you're mass-applying for that perfect job, you'll thank me.

Don't be afraid to call up these people when looking for job prospects, they might have some helpful leads. Word of mouth is always the most effective way to land a job.

You did build up a professional looking resume to mail out with that job app, and all those hard earned references, right?

Start low when looking for a job. Don't be afraid to throw out apps to any job that interests you, but don't be unrealistic. If you're new to climbing, don't expect to land a job leading multi-pitch expeditions.

Look for internships, and don't think that jobs are "below your skill". You will most likely have to start yourself in the industry by taking low, entry level jobs at first while your network and skills grow.

Looking for outdoor jobs? Check out my list of outdoor job search resources!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Best Au Sable River Camping Spots

If you live in Michigan and play in the outdoors, then you've heard of the mighty Au Sable River. 120 miles, from Grayling to Oscoda, this river winds through endless stretches of the Huron National Forest and drops through 6 hydroelectric dams.

Whether you plan to canoe the entire river (as I did) or simply go out for an overnight, you'll love the Huron National Forest camp sites along the Au Sable River. Most of these sites require backcountry camp permits and reservations. If, however, you plan to camp in out-of-the-way spots on the side of the river (non-designated camp sites) then you won't need any reservations or permits.

The best camping areas on the Au Sable are Cook and Foote Dam Ponds. Each of these "ponds" (they're more like lakes especially when you're trying to canoe thru them) has a myriad of potential camp sites. Paddle 20 minutes and you're sure to pass by a camp site with impeccable views over the ponds, a rope swing, and a fire circle. The tall pine forests and sandy soil in the area make a beautiful combination.

If you can only pick on camp site to use, choose a primitive camping site on either Cook or Foote Dam Pond.

Want permits? Contact the Huron Shores Ranger Station: (989) 739-0728.

Did I mention that there's no mosquitoes? I traveled the length of the Au Sable from August 16-20th and got, maybe, five mosquito bites the entire time. Leave the tent and bring a tarp to sleep out under the stars with views over glassy calm waters.

Expect to see lots of Great Blue Herons, turtles, Whitetail Deer, and Bald Eagles.

If you're looking to camp on the Au Sable River, I would highly recommend avoiding the touristy campgrounds and instead, find yourself a little slice of paradise on a sandy island under the stars. No permits, reservations, or fees required.