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October 19, 2014

New Toys

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m like most men----forcing me into a clothing store doesn’t quite violate the Geneva Conventions, but it’s close.  On the other hand, I do shop.  It’s just that I shop for sensible things, toys.  Of course, also like most other men, I call them gear or tools, but they really are toys.  I’d add that, in my case, these include clothes for the outdoors, gear by any definition I can come up with. 

Among the pieces of gear I looked for in vain last year was a pair of pants using hydrophobic down for insulation.  I eventually bought a pair of pants that use very high quality standard down, and have been quite happy with them.  Still, they’re way to warm for skijoring or sledding with a small team.  I wanted something equivalent to my Nitrous jacket.  I used this most of the time I was out on the trail.  I just recently ordered a pair of custom pants that are essentially that.  They’re very light and do use hydrophobic down. 

Last year, while on the Iditarod trail, there were a couple of times I just put my down pants on over the clothing I was wearing.  Unlike the softshell pants, the down pants had full side zippers and this made taking them on and off easy.  Had the softshell pants also had full side zippers, I would have taken them off, put the down pants on, the put the softshell pants on over them.  Based on this experience, I’m trying to find reasonably priced softshell pants with full side zipper---actually any breathable windpant will do---but I haven’t found any so far.  If my failure continues, I will see if I can have a seamstress add side zippers to the softshell pants I have.  There are several seamstresses in Missoula who do custom work, so I do expect I’ll be able to get this done.   

It hasn’t just been this year’s fall fashions that I’ve enjoyed dealing with.  I’ve been having a blast trying some new headlamps.  When I started climbing, a standard headlamp was good for a few hours, ran on a couple of D cells, and carrying extra bulbs and batteries was a given.  Sometime later, the lights switched to miniature florescents and the lenses became somewhat better.  I own a nice milled aluminum headlamp, the lens probably being a near perfect paraboloid.  These still needed four D cells to last eight hours.  The first generation of LED headlamps appeared just a few years ago.  These were either very expensive or only just barely powerful enough for a long string of dogs.  We’re now on generation two.  I bought my first of these, a Lenser SEO5, as a backup for my Mammut for my run at skijoring the Iditarod Trail.  It was only after I got home that I realized how much better it was than the old headlamp.  It’s lighter, more comfortable, and brighter.  I’m not sure about all the technical details.  I’m guessing that several advances have made LED’s much more efficient at producing visible light.  I do know that the headlamps I now own run for 7-10 hours on three or four AAA batteries. 

This summer, when I visited with the salesman from Lenser at their booth at the Outdoor Retailer’s show in Salt Lake City, I tried on the new model of the H7.2.  The salesman was appropriately proud of how comfortable it was, no small feat given that I have no hair as a cushion.  It didn’t take long for me to decide to buy one of these as well.

One of the nice features of my old Mammut was that by adjusting a lens, I could change the beam from a spot to a flood.  The Lenser headlamps, using a reflector and adjustable front lens that moves forward and back, do an even better job of this.  They also both have a continuous adjustment for the beam intensity---I can have it at any level from the lowest to the highest. 

Right now, I really like both headlamps, and I’m not sure which I like better.  My guess is I’ll end up using the H7.2 for a lot of things near home, but the SEO5 out on the trail.  We’ll see.

Finally, there’s the side loading washing machine I bought just before the summer started.  The first thing I did after it was delivered was wash everything I owned, from all of my clothing to all of my dogs’ harnesses.  Now, I get to use it during the season.  Clean clothing lasts longer and, most important, handles moisture better.  Side loading washers generally have a faster spin dry and this, along with using gravity rather than an agitator, gets clothing cleaner. 

While an undergraduate, I was faced with the decision between becoming a theorist or an experimentalist.  My best guess was that I had the capacity to do theory.  The big thing that had me choose experimental work, however, was that I’d be working with others rather than spending hours on end alone in my office.  What I didn’t know at the time was that, while I would have been an okay theorist, I had much more of a knack for experiments.

Now, while trying to be an adventurer, that knack, along with the joy in trying new things, is serving me very well.  Hopefully, over the next year, I’ll start talking to kids about what it was like to be a professional scientist and, in particular, all the cool big toys I got to play with.  Of course, I can mention the small toys I play with on a day to day basis as well. 

 

   
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