Wednesday, July 10, 2013

County Comm

Ever heard of County Comm?  I’ve purchased a handful of things from them over the last three years and they never cease to amaze me at how small and well made many of their offerings prove to be.  They imply, or outright claim, that they are a vendor of goods to the U.S. Government, many of which may very well be used by U.S. intelligence.  Therefore, of no surprise, what they sell is sturdy and effectively miniaturized.  The pictures on the site don't do the products justice as you can't get a real sense of size.
As a point of reference, take a look at this photo.  I purchased a couple of items for both backpacking and life.  The two items for backpacking were a mini signal mirror and a mini compass.  I also purchased a small hacksaw, a metal box the size of an Altoids tin and a small metal box that had a top which smoothly slid in a channel. 

The size and quality is what is important.  As a frame of reference for the signal mirror, it is literally half the size and weight of the one I typically carry which was previously the lightest one I could find.  I find a mirror immensely helpful to spot ticks and for general hygiene, not to mention being able to use it in a pinch for signaling is wonderful.

Now take a look at the button compass I glued to my orange whistle.  This is the whistle I typically carry with me around my neck and use the compass for quick reference while hiking in case I feel confused about direction.  Well, on top of the larger signal mirror is the button compass from County Comm.  It is encased in brass with a glass top.  It is 1/4 of the size of the already tiny "button" compass.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

In December I wrote an article about Dave Collins of from Portland Oregon who was working on a series of tutorial videos concerning lightweight backpacking.  If you are an avid reader of backpacking blogs, you’ve likely seen a handful of articles recently about his series.


So why does deserve any airtime, or more clearly, your attention and contributions?  This is a personal answer for which I’ll do my best herein to identify.


I’ve often described backpacking as “putting one foot in front of the other”.  In fact, I’ve used this analogy more than once to describe why I personally don’t often blog about trip reports.  I find it odd that people want to read what has been said a seemingly infinite number of times in other articles, “it was cold, it was hot, we didn’t get much sleep, there wasn’t much water, we saw animals, we saw mountains, etc.”.  I think my interest is in the photographs and gear, and I generally ultimately read more when the narrative deviates from the norm or discusses an epic journey of great distance, hardship or generosity.


But backpacking really isn’t as simple as describing it as “putting one foot in front of the other”.  I reflect on the number of times that I personally needed to end a trip early because of some injury, hardship or the fact that I was underprepared.  I also reflect on the fact that less than 25% of long distance hikers finish their journey.  Over the weekend I read an article which said that during a lifetime, the average American will walk the distance equivalent to three times around the earth.  Most of us walk each day and arguably we’re quite proficient at it.  Yet, strap on a pack of any weight or put a mountain in our way, and the very thing that we do on a daily basis becomes insurmountable to many of us. 


The more a person backpacks, the more I’m guessing they begin to think and even obsess about gear.  They quickly realize that the amount, type, quality, function and weight of their gear is often directly proportionate to their happiness.  Aside from all the weekend warriors and REI-outfitted hikers who come and go, I’m reminded of watching NOLS students going through their paces.  To me, they look no different than soldiers in boot camp where the payoff to them is the end of the journey and not the journey itself.  That seems a little odd doesn’t it?  I mean if the purpose was just to get somewhere – then drive and be done with it.  But backpacking is about the journey and lugging excessively large and heavy packs with an abundance of dysfunctional or unnecessary gear seems to make little sense. 


While offers more than this simple synopsis, the entire purpose is to encourage the lightweight backpacking style because less weight means less stress on the body and more energy enabling someone to hike further and faster in greater comfort while their pack is not only lighter, but the contents takes up physically less space.  To be clear, lightweight hiking is equally about being safe and compromises in safety is a misconception of lightweight backpacking.


Offering direction on how to become a successful lightweight backpacker is where shines.  It took me quite a few bad experiences and a lot of independent research over many years to gleam the same information that has bundled into a wonderful video series and eBook package.  If you want experienced opinions, tips, techniques, and fair gear reviews, then check out


To explain what is, I must first explain what it is not. 

·         It is NOT a video series shot with a camera phone in someone’s backyard with traffic whizzing by leaving the viewer left with grainy images and incomprehensive audio.  Instead, it is a high-quality, HD, professional effort with excellent scenery, sound, transitions and images. 

·         Secondly, it is NOT a rehashing of what is already available in blogs and on YouTube.  Instead, it is a comprehensive, thoughtful and fair review of gear, tips and technique from a team experienced enough to have an opinion worth hearing. 

·         Thirdly, this series was NOT put together overnight and dialogue does not exist merely to fill the air with anything that comes to mind.  Instead, it is clearly a thoughtful and scripted production carefully organized and prepared with a strong focus to the viewer’s experience. 

·         Fourthly, this series is NOT a compilation of anyone’s gear closest thereby limited in scope.  Instead, gear discussed is dynamic, comprehensive, broad and likely useful to most anyone.  More importantly, the tips and suggestions are beneficial to allow the viewer to pick gear of their choosing.  One key point is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution.  Basically, start with the heaviest gear and work your way lighter.

·         Finally, it is NOT a hope and a promise of questionable quality where you fail to receive a benefit from your investment.  Instead, the quality is top-notch, unsurpassed in what is already “out there” and it is a product that is already available and ready for your use.  The best part perhaps, is that there is more to come.


The eBook is a surprisingly thorough look at specific lightweight gear currently available right now offering direct size and weight cost comparisons which nicely complements the techniques discussed in the video.  It’s nice to see a broad range of options singularly focused on lightweight backpacking gear to expose the user to more gear than what may be available at their local REI or what they may know to exist online.  A separate gear checklist and suggested gear list is a good summary of what should be in a backpackers pack and always helpful to prevent from leaving something behind.


While these things are all good to know, the biggest benefit to me is how it can help others.  I’ve given a fair share of product reviews and tips to friends and groups trying to help speed along their learning curve by offering my own experience.  I’ve often wondered how I personally could improve this process dynamically without spending a ton of time developing a program myself or pointing someone interested to a stack of books, videos, blogs and webpages.  With my two young sons looking towards the Boy Scouts in the near future, I’ve often envisioned how to quickly set them and their troop in the right direction by putting to bed many unhelpful sentiments practiced by Scout troops nationwide who are often convinced that backpacking comfort requires every piece of gear one can get their hands on.  It’s fair to say that fills this need naturally, comfortably and cleanly. offers a 10-part video series on how to lighten your load which I can easily argue is a quick method to greater trail happiness.  The obvious topics are covered from sleep systems, backpacks, shelters, trail food, cooking, water treatment, clothing, first aid, etc. and most every other pressing topic.  I very much appreciate the spirit of the coverage which is instructional and non-judgmental.  While others may offer a “do-it-my-way-or-else” philosophy, encourages you to rethink your gear, habits and your perceptions of benefits, and to ultimately do what makes you feel comfortable which can be achieved without breaking the bank.  Going lightweight is a process of understanding gear, performance of that gear and gaining experience to feel comfortable.  If viewers take the time to review the series, they will likely save considerable time, money and effort.  Each video of the 10-part series is about 5-minutes.


Bottom line – whether you are novice or expert, consider making a purchase of the video or eBook.  Whether you simply want to help out a fellow backpacker gain traction in an industry which could use some professional marketing to get many of us off the couch, or to learn something new or offer others the same, this is a great product.


Lastly, and something you won’t hear of from anyone else that I’m aware of offering this kind of similar format, offers a 110% money-back guarantee.  Yes, that means they will return your money, plus “a little extra” just for giving them a try.  And other huge plus is that there is more to come.

For a preview, check out YouTube:

(Disclosure:  This product was provided to me free-of-charge and I am under no obligation to review it or make any claims about it.  Any information contained herein is my personal opinion without bias.)