Risking banishment from the inner circle around the camp-Trangia, the OSD has purchased a new headlamp. This was prompted by his daughter stopping in at Paddler’s Haven on her way North on a camping/working holiday. The OSD gallantly gave her his Petzl Micro (along with a Eureka tent, an historic Trangia, a Thermarest and his faithful Toyota Corona.)
So, headlampless, the OSD purchased the new SOLO, a product of Princeton Tec, New Jersey, USA. (US$30 at REI, about A$50 in OZ) Obviously designed to compete with the French Micro, the SOLO looks fairly similar, if slightly smaller and lighter – 4.5 oz. versus 5 oz. for the Micro. Princeton Tec has long built waterproof flashlights, one of which the OSD has kept on his deck for night emergencies.
The SOLO, like all Princeton Tec gear, is supposed to be watertight to 2000 feet. The OSD feels he is never likely to attain this depth, but is reassured that the SOLO will let him know if he ever does – the light will go out. It won’t go out, however in heavy rain or spray. This is an advantage over the Petzl, which is water resistant. As Princeton Tec says, “Go ahead, get it wet! Swim with it, canoe with it, kayak with it – just don’t try this with other headlamps or you’ll end up with a headache, not a headlamp.” The OSD observes that rain has never dampened the ardour of his Micro, but the potential is there.
The SOLO differs from the Petzl Micro in another respect: The SOLO is fixed focus, or rather has two fixed foci. The SOLO comes with two interchangeable reflectors and bulbs. One is a halogen bulb focussed in a tight beam for burning holes in trees at 100 meters and the other is a Krypton bulb with a wider angle of illumination which is more humane and gives 8 hours of light from the two AA batteries. This is the combination the OSD uses. He leaves the halogen rig at home to avoid the hassle of carrying it around and trying to change over on a trip.
The Krypton bulb is a good compromise for cooking and general lighting. When the OSD first tried the Krypton bulb, he was very disappointed with the brightness, similar in colour to the sun viewed at sunset through dense smoke. However, he hearkened back to a stormy night on a racing yacht off the coast of Mexico in 1963 when a shipmate taught him how to scrape the corrosion off the leaden contact base of the bulb with a pen knife. Viola! The SOLO now shines with renewed brilliance and enthusiasm.
Which headlamp is better? The Micro is more convenient, with no reflector changeover hassles. It is also easier to turn on and off with one hand. The SOLO, with its “O” ring, is stiffer and requires two hands to avoid twisting the straps off one’s head. The SOLO is more compact and looks cleaner. The OSD reckons that if you already have a Micro, don’t bother running out to buy a SOLO (Unless you want to practice Eskimo rolls at 2000 feet.) If you are headlampless, well… the OSD thinks that the SOLO gets the nod, but only just. (His choice may be influenced by the sexy, Polartec fleece bag which the SOLO comes in.)
Another new gadget in the Gear Locker is a GPS. (Global Positioning System) Why, you may well ask, does the OSD need a GPS? The OSD has asked himself the same question and has had to admit that the device is absolutely useless on the coast of NSW. (“We are now 3 km from the Tollgates on a bearing of 298 degrees.” “Yeah, big deal. We’ve been looking at them for the last hour.”)
It is, however a very nifty toy.And not all that expensive anymore. The price for a Garmin GPS 38 has dropped to $US 150 at REI. In Australia, they are about $A 350. So, why bother? A GPS would certainly be useful in fog – or clouds, like for bushwalking in the Snowy Mountains. It is also good in a place like Alaska which has a lot of little islands which all look the same.
Then too, it can give you an idea of rates and directions of currents. Gary Edmond used his GPS on crossings of Bass and Torres Straits and found it reassuring, perhaps even useful. A GPS doesn’t replace maps, which are needed to enter future destinations or waypoints. Waypoints can be entered enroute at any location, however, so you can always get back to where you started, even without a map. The GPS will indicate a bearing and distance to any entered waypoint. There is a little route map on the GPS, but the OSD hasn’t figured out how to use it yet. Speed and times to destination are theoretically available on the GPS, but at the speeds travelled by kayaks, the data may be unreliable.
This is because the Yanks (who own the satellites) purposely degrade the signals so that a false position is given which varies randomly from 49 to 327 feet around the true position. If they didn’t do this, Saddam Hussein could use the GPS system to target his missiles with an accuracy of 3.3 feet. (The clever Yanks have black boxes which re-establish the accuracy for their missiles.) Since speed and distance are averaged over a minute or so, the random variations can cause problems at slow speeds.The OSD and his mates are taking the GPS up on the Barrier Reef for a month, where it may be of some use. He will report on the results later. One warning: The makers imply that the GPS is waterproof, with the electronics sealed in a nitrogen-filled capsule. However, the battery compartment leaks and even the electronics can get wet. Best keep the GPS in a waterproof VHF radio bag – which doesn’t seem to degrade performance.
OSD’s Tip of the day: Always use rubber gloves when handling epoxy resins to keep toxic substances away from the skin and to make cleaning up easier. The usual household washing-up gloves are too heavy. For the best sensitive, tactile results, a thin, disposable latex glove is best. They can be purchased in packs of 24 or so in supermarkets. Even better are latex examination gloves for medical use. They fit larger hands and are sturdier—often reusable several times. Ask your doctor or dentist where they can be bought. (Or, if you aren’t squeamish, ask for their used ones.) Sometimes they are also stocked by supermarkets.
Free! Free! Free! The OSD has located an inexhaustible free supply of white, closed cell foam – offcuts from a boogie board factory behind Batemans Bay Power and Sail. Ring me or BBP&S for details.
Keep Warm, and Dry.