Thursday, January 31, 2008
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
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).
Saturday, January 12, 2008
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
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.
North Wash Outfitters LLP.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
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.
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
April 4-5, 2008
April 25-26, 2008 (scheduled to directly follow the Technical Course)
May 30-31, 2008
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.
North Wash Outfitters LLP
Saturday, January 5, 2008
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.
North Wash Outfitters LLP.