Because our Easter Bunny was in the Infantry …

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This is a week late, but Easter with five kids gets a bit busy, so better late than never …

I dearly love my children and this year I finally feel that my boys are old enough to handle some off-trail hikes and backcountry camping and foraging with me. The girls are still a bit young. Nevertheless, I’m extremely excited to be able to finally combine two of my great loves – the backcountry and my kids.

But as a parent, I had to have the terrible thought: what if they get lost or I get injured?

The answer: They’ll know what to do because I’m going to give them the tools and the knowledge to do the right thing. I’ve set up a whole training program for them that we’ll work through together to get their bodies and minds ready. It includes regular hands-on classes and instruction and several increasingly difficult hikes and camping excursions – culminating in what I hope will be an eye opening adventure for them in the Red River Gorge near the end of the season.

But first I needed to give them the gear they’ll need for a hike (camping gear comes later – when they’ve earned it). I wanted quality gear in hunter orange – both because it would make them (and it) easier to find and also because a lot of the best places to hike around here are also hunting spots.

What better time, I thought, to be given a bag of fun and wonder than Easter?!

So here’s what they got:

  • A small haversack by Rothco. I think the tag said something like Vintage Replica WWII German Bread Bag – which, I discovered, has backstraps that are compatible with MOLLE gear so they’ll be able to mount on the back of the backpacks I got them for the actual camping part.
  • Custom Orange Name Tapes which my lovely wife was kind enough to sew on.  Just a nice touch.
  • Stainless steel water bottle and 5 water purification tablets.  Doubles as a way to boil water.
  • Orange Mora Companion knife in carbon steel.  The knife is hair popping sharp, well balanced and has a rubberized handle and a small finger guard to keep them from slipping while they use it.
  • Homemade 5’x7′ sil-nylon ripstop tarp in orange, with grommets. Plus stakes and a bungee cord.  Either tarp can be set-up as single person hooch in about a minute and the two together can be combined like shelter-halves to make a tent.  I ordered the fabric, cut to size and sewed on the grommets – there will be no pictures of the results of my sewing.  Functional it is, pretty it ain’t.
  • 50 feet of 550 cord in orange (in two 25′ bundles).
  • Mini Bic lighter.
  • 10 tinder tabs in a waterproof container (Light My Fire and Coughlans)
  • Orange signal panel/handkerchief (generic, cotton)
  • Orange camp towel (sham-wow – cheap and effective)
  • Compass (kept it very simple and went with a Silva 1-2-3)
  • Rescue whistle (Fox 40)
  • Knife sharpener (nothing fancy, just something to help them get into practice of keeping the edge sharp).
  • A small first aid kit (Ultralight and Watertight .3 by AMK)
  • A set of pace beads (homemade)
  • A floating flashlight that also blinks SOS (the company is eGear)
  • A spork (Light My Fire – Jumbo)
  • A spade (generic from Walmart)
  • A package of wet wipes
  • A d-ring (light utility grade, not climbing grade)
  • A quart bag of Easter candy (which they quickly gorges themselves on and will be replaced by a meal on a normal hike).

So that’s fire, water, shelter, food, first aid, hygiene, rescue and navigation plus a tool or two. Not a bad kit.  It weighs about 4 pounds without water.  A little over 5 pounds with water and a meal.

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Why I Like Mac

I read once that on an EEG, a devoted Mac user’s brain “lights up” in the same areas when talking about Mac as a devoutly religious person’s brain when they talk about God.

I don’t know if that’s true and if it is, I don’t know whether that means Mac users are fanatical or religious people love their own “brand” of God.

Either way, I’m probably someone whose brain would light up that way. I’m a relatively recent convert to Apple. I grew up on Commodore and various PCs and bought my first Mac about 7 years ago. Within a day of the purchase, I was hooked. 7 years later, my household has two iPhones, an iPad, a MacBook, an iMac, Apple TV and at least two iPods. Moreover, I was instrumental in getting my division of the company converted to Macbooks (instead of Dell laptops), iPhones (instead of Blackberry) and iPads. Why?

It boils down to “I don’t want to have to regularly fix something I spent a lot of money on.”

I can. I can still build a PC from its component parts and I understand the purposes and processes involved with tweaking and maintaining an operating system. I’ve been playing with computers since I was 11 and I’m a self labeled technophile. I even enjoy tweaking and tinkering now and then, I just don’t want HAVE to do it. I have five children, a wife and a job; therefore, there are other things I need to do.

From 2000 to 2006, not counting the daily/weekly software/operating system tweaks I used to need to do as a PC user, I had to perform serious maintenance on PCs for hard drive failures, peripheral failures (graphics cards, etc), power supply failures, bad RAM, software glitches, driver conflicts, outdated operating systems, failed motherboards, outdated components, operating system crashes and instability, viruses, and in two cases I’ve had PC laptops physically catch fire due to overheating.

Compare that to my iMac. Know how many times I’ve had to do serious maintenance from 2006-2013? Once. Know why? Our house was struck by lightning.

Believe me, as a technophile, I’ve heard the objections – here are the big 4:

PC is better for business: Nope. I’m a business man and I work for a large corporation. There are simply zero times in the past 7 years where I’ve done anything on PC that I couldn’t have done on a Mac just as easily. What this objection really means is “I don’t want to learn anything new” (very common) Or “My IT people at work don’t support Mac” (common but on the decline) Or “There is a particular piece of software, unique to my industry that has no Mac equivalent” (Exceedingly rare). Those are all valid, but not the same thing as “PC is better for business.”

Macs are expensive. : Half true. If you compare high end PCs to Macs, this is just false. They are, in fact, quite competitive. If, on the other hand, you compare the cost of a Mac to a discount PC, then yes. The Mac is more expensive. Let’s be very clear what we’re talking about here … When you buy a Mac, you are buying top of the line hardware, made with quality materials and top of the line design with a top of the line user interface. It’s like you’re buying a Mercedes or a BMW. You wouldn’t compare the cost of one of those cars to that of a Kia would you? It’s not a fair comparison.

Furthermore, let’s say I bought a high-end custom PC that outperformed Mac in terms of processor speed, etc. I’ve still got to fix it all the time. Meanwhile, back to our car analogy, if I have the choice between a Mercedes and a BMW and the Mercedes never needed tires, gas, an oil change or maintenance – would I be willing to pay a little more even if the BMW was a second faster going 0-60? Yes.

My favorite – there is less software for Macs: This is almost always from a man and if you ask them to cite an example, they’ll almost always demur or mention a game. Why? Because that’s what they are talking about. “Less software” is a grown man’s way of saying “I can’t play my favorite game on a Mac!” This one may be valid for some people, but like I said – I have five kids, a wife and a job. I don’t play games very often.

Finally, Mac gives you less control: I never know what to make of this one. No one has ever shown me an example I couldn’t replicate on my Mac. Maybe it’s true, but I haven’t seen it. Usually they’re just repeating the PC lover’s mantra without knowing what they’re saying. Sometimes, it’s IT people who say this because they’re worried about their job security. Sometimes, it’s hobby tinkerers who enjoy fixing computers in their free time. Whatever, no one has ever proven it to me and I have never missed being a PC user. Not once.

So in summary, I’m a Mac guy because I want the things I buy to work when I get them. I will be a Mac guy until something better comes along. I have no reason to think that will be anytime soon. If you bring it up, I’ll probably wind up converting you too (having a law degree, almost 10 years in sales and a great product behind me helps with that a lot.)

No – I don’t work for Apple. But I’d like to.

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Gear Review: Gerber Curve

I picked up this little thing to keep on my keychain so I always have some basic tools while I’m at work – even in situations where my Leatherman Core is not appropriate; and also so that I have a basic cutting tool when I head to the woods for a trail run.  I’m not going to carry a more serious knife while running, but I also don’t like heading to the woods without some basic tools.

It was cheap at $8 and I trust Gerber.  So far, so good.  I really like the way it works and how compact it is.