Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Christmas Season Sale December 1st 2008


Well it is that time of year again.  Man, I can't believe how fast the seasons have come and gone this year.  Seems like yesterday we were finishing off our last Christmas season.

We would like to jump into this year with a bang like we did last year.  This year our sale will be held on December 1st. from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. MST.

We think that this year's sale will be something for the whole family.  We will have our entire line of products on sale!  One great special this year is the SPOT PLB Messenger which is only $99.95 after a $50.00 mail in rebate from SPOT.  Time to get that peace of mind that your loved ones deserve while you are enjoying the outdoors.  We also have the new Canyoneering books from Dave Black and Michael Kelsey as well as our old favorites from Anchors to Rigging to Wilderness First Aid.  Don't forget, with the winter season upon us and Freezefest fast approaching, that it is the perfect time to upgrade your wetsuits.  Hyperflex wetsuits are the perfect suit to jump into to keep you warm and out of that hypothermia zone. 

Some of our new products this year include the merchandise line from Ultimate Survival Technologies (UST).  With WetFire, BlastMatch, and their Deluxe Survival Kit you won't be left in the dark when you accidentally get stuck outside after sundown.  Also as a way of saying thanks this year for your patronage, we will be giving away several of these items.  Any order over $75.00 will receive a FREE package of the WetFire.  Orders over $200.00 will receive the BlastMatch, and orders over $400.00 will receive a Deluxe Survival Kit

 SPOT PLB Messenger
Regular Price = $149.95
Sale Price = $99.95 after $50.00 mail
in Rebate.
Regular Price = $7.95 qty. 8
Sale Price = $7.16 qty 8
Free = Orders over $75.00
Dave Black's Canyoneering Book
Regular Price = $19.95
Sale Price = $17.96
 Kelsey's Guide to Slot Canyons
Regular Price = $19.95
Sale Price = $17.96
Regular Price = $25.95
Sale Price = $23.35
Free on orders over $200.00
 Deluxe Survival Kit
Regular Price = $94.95
Sale Price = $85.45
Free on orders over $400.00
 BlueWater Canyon Pro    
Regular Price = $268.00
Sale Price = $210.00
 Blue Water Canyon DS
Regular Price = $222.00
Sale Price = $199.80

We look forward to another great Christmas season, but more importantly we look forward to making your o
utdoor adventures as safe as possible.  If there is anything that we at North Wash Outfitters can do for you in your Canyoneering pursuits or any other outdoor recreational need, let us know. 

(All order tallies for the FREE gifts will follow the same rules as our Frequent Shopper Rewards program.  Those who are not familiar with these can find them linked out from our homepage of the store.)

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Flash Flood Awareness When Canyoneering

For those who have taken the Technical Canyoneering Course you will remember our discussion Flash Floods and Meteorology and how the roles of the canyon and area topography relate to the potential for flash floods.  As we have hit that time of year here on the Colorado Plateau for our flash flood awareness to be on heightened alert, a college from Zion Adventure Company in Springdale Utah, Dave Buckingham, wrote up an excellent piece on Flash Floods.  Being right next to the Canyoneering hot spot, Zion National Park, Dave has surely witnessed what the power of a good rainstorm is.  This article is an excellent reminder of the dangers posed to those venturing into the slot canyons.  What are some of the things that we should consider before going, and what are some things to look at and think about when we find ourselves in imminent danger of being swept away:

I feel like surviving a flash flood comes down to 3 things:

1. realizing
that there is nothing any of us can do to eliminate the

2. preparing / learning / studying as much as you can in
advance to
help you manage the risks while you are in the canyon /

3. being highly aware of everything around you during the trip,
taking prompt action to escape floods

What is flood water like?
Imagine a torrent of water, loaded
with sediment, sticks and debris that
feels more like concrete, than
water. Flood waters easily move hundreds of
pounds of dead logs.
They have been known to move houses off foundations,
and carry cars
hundreds of yards, and even miles.

1. How does flood risk change with respect to month, week, season

for your destination?

2. How many square miles, acres, etc. does the
canyon drain?

3. To what degree can precipitation be absorbed by the
area? (is the canyon rim made of rock? are there plants / grasses

that will absorb some of the falling rain)? In a canyon surrounded
by rocky, low-water-absorption

n terrain, there is often a
problem with water running down the walls and the
complications this creates
by adding more volume to the flood water,
complicating escape routes, making
use of escape routes more
difficult, washing rocks in on top of hikers off
the rim.

4. To what degree has it rained there recently? In the sandstone

areas, a lack of rain in May, June and July causes the sandstone to

become baked like clay, and not able to absorb falling rain in the

summer like it does when precipitation falls more frequently, in
amounts in the winter.

5. How committing is the drainage? Is the whole
hike in the
canyon? Does the canyon have wider, open sections, or is it
and slotted the entire time? Where is the most committing, least

escapable section? Can you identify escape routes on the map? Can
determine if there are escape routes by reading guidebooks, or
talking to
people who have been before, can you get info from
internet canyon groups?
What are the logistics / skill sets
involved in these escapes? Can you and
your group pull them off, or
do they involve equipment and skills you do not
or will not have?

6. Make sure you allow an appropriate amount of time
for your group
to complete the trip. Building in extra time can be very
Just because you read in a book that "the author completed the hike

in 7 hours" does not guarantee that you won't need 10 hours.

Choose a starting time for your event that helps you best manage
rain risk
and being seriously committed. Often, in the Southwest
Desert, the period
between July 15-September 1 brings the
possibility of a heavy, isolated
thunderstorm each day. Starting
early, and finishing the trip by 2-3PM helps
hikers avoid being in
drainages during the time of day when the storm risk
is highest.

8. Learn how high the water does / can get in the
during a flood.

9. Consult experts, Gather
information, and set a personal threshold
for a forecast that you consider
"more dangerous" than acceptable in
advance. This helps you avoid minimizing
real risk, succumbing
financial, peer, or logistical pressure and convincing
yourself "i'm
sure it will be ok" when the forecast is truly marginal or

unfavorable. Prepare yourself and your group for the possibility
weather can cancel the event at any point.

10. Check the forecast as
close to departure as possible.

11. Understand signs of flooding. These
could be:
-thunderheads building
-rain falling
-water starting to
-flowing water becoming discolored: red, brown, black, muddy as it

fills with sediment
-debris being washed down the drainage: trees, logs,
sticks, leaves,
other hikers
-sometimes folks hear a rumbling, thunderous
sound as flood water
approaches. I can tell you that people are often
unsettled when
they hear jet airplanes above them, while being in canyons,
as they
think this could be the sound of flood water.

While you are
in the canyon:
1. Continue to evaluate weather at all times.

2. Look
for signs of how high the water reached in past floods to
help you
understand how high you would need to climb to be above
flood water (wedged
logs, sticks, grasses and dead plants wrapped
around things in the direction
water travels).

3. Keep all group members informed. Discuss what you
might have to
do to escape a flood before you need to do it.

4. As
you travel, look for possible escape routes, store them in the
back of your
mind. Retreat back to a place you have been is
sometimes better, especially
if there is a known, useful escape.
Heading further into in the canyon into
territory you haven't seen
often brings no guarantees. If you travel past
major obstacles that
eliminate your ability to retreat back to an escape
route, keep this
in mind.

5. Look for signs of flooding described
above. Take action
promptly if you feel like a flood is developing. Avoid a
that is only one of many signs of flooding we are seeing, let's just

wait and see" approach. Work together with group members.
climbing a few feet makes a major difference.

6. Wait out the flood on
the high ground. This can take several
hours, and occasionally, even

Hope this helps,
Take the Best of Care

Zion Adventure Company

Thanks to Dave for permission to re-post this article here.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Staying Safe in the Outdoors

Watching our local (Salt Lake City) news last night, they had a story on there that brought out some good points that should always be thought of when heading out into the outdoors.  The story listed here on KSL's Website discuss several issues that we should think about when heading outdoors.

The first big issue is always tell someone where you are going, when you plan to return and I add in there, who you will be with and what you will be driving so this can help assist in finding you if the unfortunate should happen.  If you have been in Canyoneering long enough and have heard some of the horror stories you are quite familiar with the story of Aron Rahlston.  He went into Blue John Canyon by himself, which is not a terrible thing, but he ended up pulling a boulder on top of his arm pinning it to the wall of the canyon.  The bad thing is now he is stuck, and he didn't tell anyone where he was.  No one ever found him in the canyon, he amputated his own arm and finished the canyon before he found the searchers himself.  He had been stuck of about a week and the searchers had no idea where he was at becuase he told no one. 

Of course I am a big fan of the SPOT Satellite messengerand you can read about this in another entry here in our Blog.  The SPOT has been a great device to have and carry, and I have seen KSL do another story during the winter with the device featured also.  This device is starting to prove it's worth.  It has only been on the market since November 2007 and already has a couple of saves to its record.  I use my device all the time I am out in the canyons.  I also take it on road trips, and send it with my wife to the grocery store.  Since we live in an area where cell service is sketchy at best, it is great to know that the SPOT can summon help not only in an emergency, but also for a blown tire, dead battery, blown engine and everything else.  The KSL story also shows an ACR Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) which is also a great device, but they are only used to summon the Search and Recsue for life saving situations.  The SPOT does require a $100 a year service contract like a cell phone might, the PLB does not.  The SPOT retails in the $150.00 range the PLB in the $600.00 range.  Once you purchase the units, they are yours, only the SPOT will have a continued service fee, but it is well worth the fee for the extra services that it buys.

Another unit that is mentioned in the story is a simple GPS unit.  Although these can't summon for help, they can help in many instances to keep you from getting lost.  They are great for marking the location of your vehicle, camp etc. so you can find the way back to it.  They are also great for marking way points, or points of interest along your hiking route.  This can also be done with the SPOT messenger and sent to your computer.  GPS units are much more affordable and have no yearly service to use them.

Something that was not mentioned in the story but that is also great to have a long is a first aid kit.  You do not need to have a huge one, depending on the types of activities you are doing and your first aid knowledge, you can get by many times with something simple.  The main key is to know what you have in the kit and how to use it.  Also make sure that you are carrying it with you.  It does no one any good if it is left in the car that you can't find again becuase you don't have a GPS with you.

I carry my first aid kits in Nalgene water bottles.  It helps to keep them air tight and water proof should I take a spill into some water.  Some items that I like to have with me are:  Bandaids, Ointment Cream (Climb ON!), individual servings of Ibuprofen, Blister Treatment, Allergy medications, Spray on Bandage w/ antisceptic, Super Glue for cuts, Duct tape for splints (I have a bit of duct tape wrapped around a lighter for storage), and a lighter for emergency fire (or matches in waterproof container).

Also something to never leave behind is water.  Take some extra water, and some snacks.  If something happens out there and you may be gone longer than expected, it is nice to have some extra supplies with you.  Some things that I keep on hand also that are small enough to fit anywhere and will come in handy in an emergency are:  Headlamp, Emergency Blanket(Space Blanket), Emergency Water Filter, Hand Warmers, and a plastic rain poncho.  Also for the food and hydration area some Electrolyte supplements.

Whatever you do this summer.  Be safe and have fun out there.  This is a great country that we live in and we have a lot of area to get out and explore. 

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Black Hole of White Canyon

The Black Hole of White Canyon is probably one of the most renowned and most dangerous canyons in San Juan County.  This canyon is spectacular in nature, awesome in landscape and deadly if not treated with the respect that it deserves.  The White Canyon complex is a canyon extending approximately 40 miles.  White Canyon stretches all the way from Natrual Bridges National Monument, coming out of Dark Canyon, and extends into the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (Lake Powell). 

This spring, I decided to get into the Black Hole on a free day and see how it was.  Due to scheduling this year I was unable to attend the annual Freeze Fest trip of the Black Hole, taking place on January 1st.  The weather had been decent and was starting to warm up, this lent to a hope that the day would be nice for a trip through the Black Hole.  The day chosen was March 7th, having time off and the freedom to be able to go through was chosen.  Unfortunately the day chosen wasn't as free as I had thought.  It happened to be my oldest daughter's Birthday, and there was a party planned for 3:00 that I was supposed to be there for.  This required an earlier than planned start, fortunately Bluff isn't too far from the Black Hole. 

I left Bluff at 7:00 am and picked up Dave Black in Blanding and leaving Blanding by 8:00 we headed out to the Hole.  Arriving around 9:00 we, suited up and headed down the trail into White Canyon.  I think I'll let the pictures do most of the talking from here.  The trip was fun.  I didn't want to put my wetsuit on until absolutely necessary, and managed to hold off putting it on until just before the "Hole" itself.  This was accomplished with a lot of stemming, and a bit of wading.  We did encounter some ice in a few of the holes.  Once to the "Hole" it was tip top full with long swims as usual.  Needless to say the water was frigid as expected.  We got through it, and hit the sun as quick as we could.  We finished the trip around 1:00 and then headed for the cars.  Walking back to the car park took about 45 min. and we headed out.  I managed to make it home just before 4:00 and my daughter's party was waiting for me to get there to start.  A fun trip, a great canyon with some cooooold water.

Canyoneering Course Photos

For the past several years during our Canyoneering Courses, we have found it fun to take pictures during our courses for the students to have later.  Our students have also graciously allowed us to use these pictures for you to get more insight into the world of canyoneering training.  Our blog now allows us a better place to keep track of our online photo albums and for former students to view and make comments about the photos and courses.  We will be periodically adding new albums here as courses continue and taking off some of the older ones as we fill up our space.  Enjoy, and thank you to our students who make each class fun and enjoyable.

Technical Canyoneering
Ladies Canyoneering




Advanced Canyoneering
Canyon Rescue




Saturday, March 1, 2008

North Wash Outfitters is seeking part time Canyoneering Guides

As the 2008 season begins to get underway, North Wash Outfitters is looking for part time Canyoneering Guides.  We will be posting more information here as the process gets under way.  All those interested must have transportation to Bluff Utah where the trips start from and be competent in your rope skills, or a quick learner.  If you are interested in a position with us please contact us directly either via e-mail or by phone.

Jared Hillhouse

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Canyoneering Related Links

During the course of our Canyoneering courses at North Wash Outfitters, handouts are given to the participants to have something to review with, as well as some critical safety information.  One of those hand outs that is given out is a page of what I call "General Links."  This is a page of Internet links that I have collected over the last few years, and which I frequently find helpful in my Canyoneering pursuits.  Often I have come across a new link that I fill would be useful to our participants.  The problem is that our past participants won't receive this information.  I am posting this information here where former participants can check up on any new information we have come across.

Routes and General
information on Canyoneering:

ACA Canyon Database
ACA Canyons Booklet
Climb Utah
Todd's Desert Hiking Guide
Slot Canyons of The Southwest
Blue Mountains Canyoning FAQ Guide

Anchoring, Knots, Rope Work:

Alternative anchoring by Dave Black
Life on a Line
Considerations for Rope Rescue by Kenneth N. Laidlaw
Animated Knots

Weather and Maps:

National Weather Service
Geological Society
Topo Zone
Google Earth
World Wind
Weather For You

Canyoneering Social Networking Sites:

ACA Forums
Bogley Outdoor Community
Yahoo Canyons Group (Must have a Yahoo Account to view)
Yahoo Chick Fest Group(Must have a Yahoo Account and be Female to view)

If you have any sites that fit in with teaching information or connecting Canyoneers, let us know and if it fits, we will add it here.

Friday, February 8, 2008

North Wash Outfitters Attends Annual San Juan County Business Expo

A business tradition that is starting to take off in San Juan County is the Annual Business Expo put on by The Department of Workforce Services and spearheaded by Tim Chamberlain.  I attended the expo last year for the first time and was impressed with the presentations and business representation they had.  This year it grew into more business representation and just as equally in quality of presenters.  This year North Wash Outfitters decided to have a booth at the expo and I am sure glad we did.  We met a lot of great people there.

One of the hottest topics we discussed at our booth was the SPOT Satellite Messenger.  More and more people are hearing about it and realizing that it has a great potential to save lives and reduce the time it takes Search and Rescue teams to find lost parties.  We had some good discussions involving the SPOT due in part to the recent SAR effort in Cedar City, UT.  It involves a couple that had been lost for 10 days.  They got their truck stuck and were stranded for 10 days before a snow plow driver went down the road they were on and found them.  Searches had been on the ground and in the air for 10 days trying to locate the truck.  During the press conference with the couple, after being found, they stated that they had seen the searchers but had no way of contacting them.  The SPOT Satellite Messenger would have been able to relay their exact location to searchers turning this incident from a 10 day event down to a few hour event. 

Locally we had a similar incident a couple of weeks ago.  A cross country skier from La Sal went into the mountains for a day of skiing and did not make it home by dark.  His vehicle was located and a search began.  It was later found out that while skiing he encountered white out conditions, got disoriented and was unable to make it back to his vehicle.  He spent the night in a lean to, suffered from frostbite in some extremeties, and was found about 24 hrs later by one of the searchers.    One of the comments I received from show participants was, "why is this just coming out now, and no one has thought of this before?"  "This will save lives."

One of the presenters of the show is probably more familiar to some of you than he was to me.  He came to give a discussion on marketing and he is from the company Blend Tec.  With how much time I spend on the Internet I should know who this company is or at least have seen some of their marketing videos, but I hadn't.  This is the company that has videos all over You Tube of them blending items such as magnets, cell phones, light bulbs, full cans of food, and even an iPod and iPhone.

He spoke to us about his marketing strategy and how much PR the videos on You Tube have been for the company.  They went from a small company selling minimal amount of blenders on line to an overnight sensation with these videos.  He even brought a product demonstration for us and blended a hand full of cell phones and then a plastic lawn rake. 

The expo was a great time, and I look forward to going back next year for the 4th annual expo.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Feedback for North Wash Outfitters

At North Wash Outfitters we are interested in your experiences with us.  We want to know what you thought of your Canyoneering adventure or Canyoneering Training Course.  Please leave comments on the courses you have taken, on trips you have taken and on equipment purchased from the store.  If you would like to contact us offline, don't hesitate to do so also.  You may contact Jared Hillhouse at jhillhouse@northwashoutfitters.com or at 435-672-9942.  Let us know if you enjoyed yourself, or if you didn't so we can make sure to do better for your next visit.  Our customers are what keeps us going and we hope that our service shows that we care.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


North Wash Outfitters has, for several months now, been selling Hyperflex wetsuits.  The Hyperflex wetsuits are some of the best wetsuits on the market now.  There are many things to consider however when looking into purchasing a wetsuit.

Wetsuits are sometimes referred to as a necessary evil of canyoneering.  With the potential for hypothermia due to cold water encounters, wetsuits have become necessary to keep the Canyoneer warmer.  On the flip side, they are sometimes bulky and awkward to move and climb in, and they are frequently damaged from the canyon walls scraping them up during slides, stems, and swims.  A novice Canyoneer knows that the wetsuit will need to be replaced on a regular basis, and usually for someone that is out a lot, at least once a season. 

There are many types of wetsuits on the market.  Some of these are good and some are better.  Things to think about when looking at a wetsuit are going to be:  fit, size, thickness, length, construction, and cost. 

Fit:  You need to be comfortable in the suit.  You need to be able to maneuver and  function in the suit.  Often times a suit that has been designed for Scuba Diving is often too tight.  Suits that are built a little looser, usually for sports requiring movement such as surfing, are much better to use in canyoneering.  They are also made in Men's and Women's.  Men's sizes account for broader shoulder's where womens account for a potentially larger hip and chest area.

Size:  Again with movement and Fit, size is important.  A suit too tight will will be hard to move in, a suit too loose will be awkward and chafe.

Thickness:  The time of year and type of canyon you are going in to will dictate the thickness of wetsuit you should be looking at.  A canyon trip during the colder months will require a much thicker wetsuit than a canyon trip during the summer.  Another consideration is the amount of exposure you expect to encounter.  Exposure time refers to how long or how much time you are going to be spending in the water in a canyon.  Some canyons have only poos or pot holes where other canyons such as the Black Hole have large lengths of swimming.  Canyons by nature are deep and narrow and therefore the sun has a hard time hitting the water or is only on it for a short period of time.  This causes the water to stay a constant cold temperature without chance of getting heated.  Another factor created by the layout of canyons and the amount of sun exposure is how much sun you are going to be able to be in.  Some canyons allow you time to get in the water and then have a place to get in the sun and warm up.  Other canyons have no possibility at all for sun exposure.  Each persons body type is going to be different.  You need to know what your body type is and how much protection you need.  If a wetsuit is not enough protection for you, you may need to look into a dry suit.  Common thicknesses of wetsuits range from 2mm to 7mm.  They are often times listed in dual numbers i.e. 4/3mm.  This means that the part of the wetsuit covering the torso will be 4mm thick and the part of the suit covering the extremities is 3mm thick.

Length:  There are two basic lengths, but also several other options to add on.  Each one is a consideration again based on your exposure and your bodies tolerance to cold.  The two most common lengths are "full length" and "shorty."  Full length simply means that it covers the entire body except the head and neck, hands, and feet.  Shorty is going to be much "shorter."  It is a short sleeve on the arms and short legs, just above the knee.  Other options are a "Farmer John" or Farmer Jane."  These are full length legs w/ a sleeveless top.  Most wetsuits are built as one piece suits, but can be purchased in two pieces.  Add ons are also available in the form of hoods, vests or a combination of both.

Construction:  Some canyoneers don't consider construction of the suit to be a huge determining factor when purchasing the suit.  When talking about construction usually the best thing to look at is the sewing and the seams.  A well made suit is going to have good sewn seams and those seams are going to also be glued.  Having the seams glued allows less water exchange to take place between the inside and the outside.  Wetsuits keep you warm by trapping a thin layer of water between the suit and your body.  Your body then heats up that water layer keeping you warm.  If you have loose sewing or unglued seams it allows this warm water to leave the suit and the cold water to enter more often.  This does not help to keep you warm when your body is constantly being required to re-heat new water. 

Cost:  Unfortunately most people consider cost as the determining factor in purchasing a wetsuit for canyoneering.  As mentioned wetsuits get beaten up in the normal course of use and therefore a hugely expensive suit seems kind of overkill to be replacing all the time.  A cheap wetsuit will be less painful to the pocket book when it needs to be regularly replaced.  Also by cheap I refer to the construction.  A less expensive suit is going to be on the lower end of the quality spectrum.  A suit that is a bit more expensive may be a bit harder to swallow when it comes time to replace, but it may last longer with a better quality of construction.  Wetsuits are going to range in price from $50.00 to $130.00 for the most commonly used types depending on lengths and construction and with out any add ons. 

A wetsuit can make or break your Canyoneering day.  If you don't have the proper equipment it could not only make your trip uncomfortable, it could turn your trip into a disaster.  Many people have had to be rescued from canyons when they ended up developing hypothermia because they were unprepared with enough wetsuit protection.  Check your canyons, check the weather, and know your body type so that you can have the proper thermal protection to make your next trip an enjoyable one.

North Wash Outfitters is also looking for used wetsuits.  When most Canyoneers wear out their wetsuits they throw them away.  There are so many holes in them that they become practically useless.  We want them instead of having them end up in the dumpster.  We are offering a $15.00 credit towards a new wetsuit or equipment for each used wetsuit mailed in to us.  All you need to do is fill out our Wetsuit Rebate Form and mail it along with the used wetsuit(s).

Canyoneering Video's

Canyoneering is a fun and exciting sport, once you get past the possible dangers.  It is a sport that isn't for everyone, especially those with a fear of hights and Claustrophobia.   One of my hobbies besides canyoneering is playing around with video equipment.  I periodically carry my Cannon digital camcorder with me through canyons and am able to get some fun video.  Later it is even more fun to take those clips and put them together in a short video with music for added excitement.  I have posted here ones that I have done for you to enjoy and comment on.  Some are ones that I have shot and edited, a couple are ones that friends have shot and had me edit.  I will periodically add more to this  entry as I have time to make more.  You can click the link to view it streaming  in Windows Media Player format, or you can download them to your computer to watch.  I Hope You Enjoy Them.

Fun Videos

Saturday, January 12, 2008

SPOT Satellite Messenger

In my opinion the SPOT Satellite Messenger is the best thought out and most helpful device on the market to have in an emergency situation.  However, what makes it even better is to have it for non emergency systems.

We have for the last year been selling a Personal Locater Beacon or PLB.  This past year though in August I was walking along the beach during the Outdoor Retailer (OR) Show's Outdoor demo event when I stumbled on to the booth for the SPOT satellite messenger.  I stood there and listened to the sales pitch and a light just clicked on, no a light exploded in my brain realizing the immense impact that this device could offer to not only Canyoneer's, but to anyone who frequents the outdoors.  I was so impressed in fact that I didn't get much sleep that night.  The next morning I returned to the OR Show and immediately sought out the booth for the SPOT.  I sat down with a sales rep and placed an order for the device right there on the SPOT!  (Pun intended).

If you look at a comparison between the SPOT and older versions of PLB's the immediate difference may only be seen in price and service plans.  Most people get stuck here without comparing functionality.  Originally PLB's have one function, to call for emergency help.  Push the button and Search and Rescue (SAR) is sent out.  The older unit we sold cost around $650.00 to purchase and had no annual fee after that. 

The SPOT has this same feature of pushing a button and having SAR teams respond to your location.  The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) is $165.00 for the SPOT.  Quite a bit lower than the traditional PLB's.  However SPOT does have an annual service fee of $99.00 or on a monthly basis of $9.99.  You can also add on a $50.00 per year tracking service and a $7.99 a year insurance fee.  Here is where some people compare prices and don't like the idea of having to pay a fee every year.  Hopefully as more user's come on line the service fee's will drop, but for now this is still a GREAT price to consider for you safety.  I want to explain why before you get fixated on price alone. 

Where older PLB's have the one function, SPOT has this function as well, but it also has so much more.  This is where the traditional PLB's stop and SPOT continues on and earns it's "Messenger" title.  SPOT has the ability to communicate with your friends and family advising them of your location and your status.  Now it's not a telephone, cell phone, or SAT phone, but it does use a similar network as a SAT phone and is actually designed and marketed as a side company of Global Star Satellite Phone company.

If you take a look at the button functions of the SPOT you will notice it has a "help",
"ON/OFF", "OK", and "911" buttons.

These functions are what gave me that sleepless night the first time I saw the device.

The "Help" button is used for non-emergency/non-life threatening situations.  This is for when you don't need the National Guard or SAR teams called in.  Say you lock your keys in your car, or get stuck in the mud, or even have an injury that is obviously not life threatening.

The "ON/OFF" button I hope is self explanatory.

The "OK" button is what really intrigued me to lose sleep.  You push the button and your friends and family know that you are OK.  What does this mean, and why did I lose sleep because of it?  In Canyoneering 99% of the time we are away from any phone service at all.  What we have done (if we are smart) is left information about where we are going, what we are doing, and when we will check in with friends of family members.  What happens though, is that we spend a little more time in the canyon taking pictures, or we take a longer rest, or a rope gets stuck and we take more time pulling it.  There is a myriad of things that cause us to be a little late, but nothing serious.  We have now missed our check in time and we still have 1-2+ hrs of drive time to get to phone service to call.  Our family has now called the local SAR because we haven't checked in and they are pacing the floor.  With the "OK" button all we have to do is periodically push the button and a message is sent to our contacts informing them that we are just fine.  There is no need to have them pace the floor or contact SAR.  This feature itself is worth the expense.  How much do you pay per month for your cell phone, and they don't work in the outdoors.  You break down the cost on a per month basis, once the unit is purchased, the cost is $8.25 a month for the annual service.

The last button is the "911" button.  This one is your emergency button used to summon SAR and the National Guard.  When you push it, a signal is sent to the GEOS satellite system and transferred to the Air Force in Houston, TX.  They then receive the information and contact the nearest SAR teams to your location. 

A little more about how the unit operates and how information is received.  Once you purchase the unit and activate it you have access to a web based information form.  Each time you go out on a trip you can log into this site.  Enter information about your trip.  You also choose up to five contacts.  You enter either an e-mail address or a cell phone number for those contacts.  These contacts are placed under either "Help" or "OK".  You also enter a pre-determined text in these two fields.  In the "OK" field I would enter something like, "This is Jared checking in and letting you know we are OK."  Under the "Help" field I would enter something like, "We have had a situation and need some help, please contact the local authorities to my location." 

Once you have entered this information you are ready to go on your trip.  Now what happens when you push these buttons?  When you push either the "Help" or the "OK" button your pre-entered text is sent to your contacts cell phone as a text message or their e-mail inbox, depending on what you entered.  Along with you pre-entered text, a link is sent directing your contacts to a Google embedded map showing you location along with the Lat/Long GPS coordinates of your location.  These features are indispensable in the outdoors where cell phone service is few and far between if at all. 

A few more words about the cost.  The unit from our store costs $159.00.  Your yearly service fee to the company, not us, is $99.00 per year (broken down to $8.25 a month).  Or a monthly fee basis of $9.99 a month.  I anticipate that you pay more than this for you cell phone which won't work in most outdoor environments. 

I mentioned earlier the optional $50.00 tracking fee.  This is an add on feature.  If you opt for this it gives you the option to activate your unit for a 24 hr. period and it will automatically send out a notice to your contacts every ten minutes instead of having you activate it.  This function is optional and can be added at any time.  Once activated it will track your progress through the day.

The $7.99 per year insurance fee is something I would highly recommend.  For $7.99 per year it gives you $100,000 of insurance ($50,000 per incident).  This covers helicopter evac
s and such.  This feature is what you need to have rescue service outside of the continental United States.  If you are planning on traveling the world with this unit, you will want this insurance.  One other thing with this insurance is it is optional also, however it is only $7.99 per year if you sign up for it when first activating the unit.  If you sign up later it is somewhere around $120 - $150 per year. 

Our companies focus is on currently on the Canyoneering community, however this device is not limited to only Canyoneering use.  The SPOT Satellite Messenger is perfect for anyone in the outdoors.  Hikers, Hunters, Rock Climbers, Campers, ATV'ers, Fisherman, Boaters, Sailor's, Snowmobiler's, Skiers, etc.  It is also a great unit to keep in the glove box of a vehicle while traveling.  You never know when your car is going to break down out of cell phone service.  This past Christmas this unit was our number one seller which gives me great hope that we are going to have more people in the outdoors better prepared to receive emergency help.  I would entertain any questions about the unit as well as feedback on the unit from current customers. 

We will also be opening up units to be used as rentals as needed.  If you would like to try one out contact us for rental information.  $20.00 per day.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Website has a new look!

After a couple of years it was time for our website to under go a little bit of a face lift.  For those of you who are new to our company, and this site, we have just added a new photo header and modified the background color.  We have also added this blog to be able to offer updates and information that is continually changing such as photos from our courses.  I am in the process of trying to modify this blog layout a little more to my liking, but I hope that it will still share some good information for you.  For those of you who are returning to our site, we welcome you back and hope that you like the changes.  Let me know what you  think.

A little history on this picture.  Or better yet, how about a contest then I will share the history later.

Can you name the canyon in which this picture was taken?  $20.00 NWO Store coupon to the winner.

(Rules:  My family , employees, and the person who took the picture is ineligible.  Sorry need to make this as fair as possible).  Post your guess.  Happy guessing.

Jared Hillhouse
North Wash Outfitters LLP.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

2008 Canyoneering Courses Announced

After a
few busy weeks I have finally been able to sit down and put together a schedule
for our first 6 months of 2008 courses starting in March.  You can find the
listings on our website under courses or at the link http://www.northwashoutfitters.com/courses.htm

Technical Canyoneering

March 6-8, 2008
April 22-26, 2008 (scheduled with Advanced course immediately following)
May 22-24, 2008
June 5-7, 2008 ( Course Full )

Ladies Technical Canyoneering

March 13-15, 2008
May 8-10, 2008

Advanced Canyoneering

April 4-5, 2008
April 25-26, 2008 (scheduled to directly follow the Technical Course)
May 30-31, 2008

Canyon Rescue

March 10-12, 2008

We expect that the courses will fill
up, and it is encouraged to register early to secure your spot.  Courses are
filled on a first come first serve basis and class size is limited.  If you have any questions about the courses don’t hesitate to contact me.

Jared Hillhouse
North Wash Outfitters LLP

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Welcome 2008!

Welcome to North Wash Outfitters' newest addition!

As we move into this new year, we have added to our site a web log (Blog) to help organize many items we offer through our website.  We will be placing here photos from courses, videos, tech tips, gear announcements and discussions, course announcements, and much more.  We are also offering a place for you to log in and offer comments and feedback on courses and guided trips.  We are thrilled about this new addition and look forward to interacting and communicating more with our customers. 

Jared Hillhouse
North Wash Outfitters LLP.