Gear

The World in the Palm of Your Hand

This post has been submitted by a guest contributor.

Written by Sally Writes

Remember the days when Global Positioning System (GPS) technology was new and exciting? Now, what once was a luxury is used in a variety of unique ways, from GPS tracking embedded into computers, to dog collars, to drones, and to planes flying through the air.

When exploring the Wasatch area of Utah, such as Wasatch Mountain State Park or the Wasatch Crest Trail, it is beneficial to have your own personal handheld GPS advice to maximize the range and scope of your venture. In recent years, GPS technology has proven to be especially  important for campers and hikers. Handheld GPS devices have   revolutionized the way that we explore, whether it be on a new hiking trail, in the mountains, or even in our own backyards. Knowing the coordinates, the location, and the direction of your adventuring in the Wasatch area will help you to become familiar with the landscape just like a Utah local.

You might ask yourself, “Do I really need another gadget?”

The difference between having a handheld GPS, and any other gadget while hiking or camping around Wasatch is that it can be reached by satellite from anywhere in the world. There is no need to connect it to a Wi-Fi network, or for that matter, any other network. It is trustworthy, it is dependable, and it familiarizes you with the mountainous parks and trails.

Furthermore, they are a safe option if you are exploring areas that are off the usual marked paths. Many handheld GPS devices incorporate a tracking function, which periodically lay down “digital bread crumbs.” or track points at consistent intervals. You can easily retrace your steps with this feature, and you can organize your overall trip data for the various locations in Utah that you wish to see.

Most handheld GPS units are also equipped with software programs that connect to your home computers. This means that you can synchronize any trip or route planning that you do online before visiting the Wasatch area with your handheld. Easily accessing such information while hiking out on the trails is another great benefit of these handy gadgets.

But which unit is best?

These handheld lifelines come in numerous styles and sizes, so it is important that you select the one that is best for you, and your impending explorations. Most handheld GPS devices are waterproof, durable, have an exceptional battery life, and have a distress signal. Be sure that the one you choose is easy to read in all sorts of weather conditions, including at night, in a storm, and in the bright sun.

There are a number of reputable exploration companies that sell quality handheld GPS devices for your trip. (See a list of some of those here). Many of these devices include outstanding features, such as the ability to simultaneously track GPS and GLONASS, another positioning system, satellites. Most important to your decision is that you can easily learn and use all of the handheld GPS’s features so you can gain all of its information benefits while exploring the Wasatch area.

A handheld GPS is a fantastic companion for a trip to the wilderness of  Utah. With tracking features and the ability to reach satellites far and wide, this lifeline will allow you to expand your knowledge and familiarity with the area of Wasatch, right from the palm of your hand.

Want to see your work here? Send story and photo pitches to c.koldewyn@wasatchmag.com.

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The Unlikely Trend of Trucker Hats

Trucker hats and their head-topping ilk are a staple outdoor style trend, one represented in force across the country. Trucker hats are the instant outdoor look creator — you can wear something inside to show people you do cool things outside while simultaneously looking like a classic, hard-working American. However, there’s a conflict though between being a hip, outdoorsy college student and wearing a hat that was made popular by blue-collar workers.

Of course the wacky outdoor niche would pick up on an old trucker style made popular in the late ’70s and ’80s. Originally adopted by flyover-country brands like John Deere, Bud Light, and Chevy — all of which handed out free logo-emblazoned caps at truck stops — this became an iconic look for the average Joe. Then, as a brief stint of research in style history tells me, the trucker hat made a comeback in 2000s mainstream style. In the 2010s or so, the outdoor industry and community finally picked it up in full effect. Patagonia trucker hats seem to be the go-to, with other outdoor brands following behind. They’re worn hiking, biking, skiing, climbing; hats go anywhere from underneath helmets to buried in thick parkas. The dirtbag culture has fully embraced the trend.

At least part of the trucker hat’s popularity can be explained from its functionality, the breathable mesh back provides adequate airflow for intense activities. But, it’s still a little bizarre. Just look at the accompanying dirty flannels, deteriorating jeans, and worn-out Chacos. The trucker hat is the key item to top off the bum look and show everyone else you like to climb rocks. Construction workers and lumberjacks wear flannels, truckers and farmers wear trucker hats. It’s American. Being outside is American, and the ’70s just seems like a classic American decade, right? After my thorough investigation, this is the only reasonable conclusion I can draw as to why trucker hats are so in right now with the out-of-doors crowd. In the end, it’s a simple unspoken rule that the addition of a trucker hat automatically steps up one’s outdoor style game tenfold.

c.hammock@wasatchmag.com

Photo by Chris Hammock

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Wet Your Whistle: Water Purifier Review

In a state like Utah, where most of the best outdoor opportunities are covered in sand and baked in hot sun, water is the most essential resource. No trip will be fun or successful without a few liters of this life-preserving liquid. Humans can’t drink just any water we come across like camel, but we can employ technology to make it safer for consumption. Here are a few of the most common ways to purify water.

LIFESTRAW

This neat little blue straw is by far the trendiest of water purification devices, and for good reason. It is incredibly simple, compact (just nine inches long and weighs two ounces), and allows you to drink from just about any water source. There’s no pre-filtering or skimming out silt. It’s just dunk and drink. However, the straw requires you to be at a water source or carry one with you. Pairing the Lifestraw with a Nalgene is not a bad way to combat this, but drinking out of a bottle with an oversized straw is more than just a slight inconvenience. Having to stop every few minutes, unscrew your bottle, put the straw in, then blow the excess water back out of the straw can quickly become tedious. Even worse, it can’t be used with water bladders. At $20 though, there is no reason not to pick one up. Lifestraw’s small size and versatility make it the optimal backup water purifier to keep in your pack at all times.

 

KATADYN HIKER

This is often the go-to filter for big group trips. It has the ability to purify large amounts of water reasonably quickly (only a few minutes per Nalgene), and does not require any wait time. You could drink the water right from the out-hose if you wanted. The downsides are that it requires some physical effort to pump multiple liters of water, and the filters are easily clogged. If this happens and there isn’t a replacement available, the pump might still work, but it will be painfully, infuriatingly slow. Be sure to check and double check the condition of the filter before leaving. Pumping in shallow, sandy areas or in very murky water is almost sure to stuff up the filter. While the most expensive filter on the list, averaging about $70, the Katadyn is still well worth it.

 

STERIPEN

Of all the water purifiers out there, this one is perhaps the least suited to backpacking. The UV light that the SteriPEN uses to kill all the harmful bacteria can only work in perfectly clear water. If there are objects floating around or silt obstructing the UV rays, the bacteria have a much higher chance at survival and you have a much higher chance of diarrhea. This filter is best for travel or a home preparedness kit. At around $60, it’s steeper than a Lifestraw anyways.

 

 

 

IODINE/CHLORINE TABLETS

Depending on the water source, this can be the most efficient (and painless) method of cleaning your water. All that is required is filling the bottles with water clear enough to not gross you out and adding the correct amount of chemicals. Instructions are on the package, but typically the ratio is one chlorine tablet or a few drops of iodine per liter of water. Allow the chemical the correct amount of time to work its magic (length also shown on product package) and remember to bleed the threads before drinking. This means turning the water bottle upside down and unscrewing the lid a little so some can leak out through the threads of the top. If not, you could end up getting Giardia from the little bits of unpurified water sitting trapped in the cap. Katadyn makes Micropur chlorine tablets that run for $20 for a pack of 20 tablets. Polar Pure makes an iodine cleaner for $20 that is able to purify 2,000 quarts.

 

n.halberg@wasatchmag.com

Feature Photo courtesy of Aquamira

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Product Review: The Bear Bowl

The Bear Bowl, from start-up company The Bear Minimum, is a lightweight, compact portable cooking pot designed for backpackers and campers. The pot is flexible and foldable, weighing in at 6.3 oz. with an aluminum base (4.5” x 4.5” x 1”), and PTF3 coated fiberglass making up the four sides of the pot. It folds up neatly and can easily be stored away, which is great for backpackers who want to save space. I brought it into the elements to test it out.

In the wind and rain on a pocket-sized stove, I was unable to bring the water to a boil even after 18 minutes. The metal takes time to heat the water because of the fiberglass walls. Cooking eggs, bacon, and asparagus with the Bear Bowl on a basic two-burner stove was a success. It only took six minutes to fully cook everything, and when it came time to transfer the eggs from the pot to a plate, I had no problems with the food sticking. After dinner, I unfolded the pot and easily wiped it down.

The last test I conducted was in my home on my kitchen stove. In this controlled environment, it still took quite a long time to bring water to a boil in the pot. While waiting for the water to boil, I set my teapot on the stove for comparison. My teapot was ready and whistled at me in under 5 minutes, but the Bear Bowl took another 10 to turn from simmer to a rolling boil. Then came the difficult part. Pouring water from the pot without burning myself with hot water or steam was a struggle. The flexible handle and plastic walls filled with boiling water complicated things.  I spilled quite a bit of water as I struggled to direct the stream of scalding water into my cup.

The Bear Bowl is a good concept, but it needs a few more tweaks before it’s useful in every camping and backpacking situation. The size and weight is great for backpacking and the removable paracord-wrapped handle can come in handy in  emergencies. If you have hopes of cooking cup-o-noodles, oatmeal, or making a hot cup of tea while camping, boil a small amount of water and take precautions so you don’t accidentally spill hot liquid on yourself or others. This is not a perfect product by any means, but as a prototype is works well and I could see myself buying one in the future. I’ll definitely plan on packing the Bear Bowl for future camping or backpacking trips.

Pros:

-Compact design, lightweight, and packs flat for portability.

-Plastic is high quality, does not melt even when subjected to extreme high heat.

-Non-stick surface makes it very easy to clean.

-Great for cooking/heating up food directly.

Cons:

-Because heat is only conducted through the base plate, it can take 10-15 minutes to bring water to a rapid boil.

-No pour spout, so it’s difficult to pour hot liquids without accidentally burning yourself.

-Paracord handle seems like a good idea, but the pot would benefit from a sturdier handle that doesn’t bend as much.

Buy it here: http://bearminimum.org

e.aboussou@wasatchmag.com

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How to: sharpen your knives

It’s always good to have a sharp knife. The better condition your knife is in, the easier it is to work with. Maintenance of your knife is important to keep you safe and preserve the life of your knife. Here are the three main stages of sharpening a knife.

The first stage is for heavy sharpening: when your blade is very dull or has damaged edges. This is when you use a coarse grit sharpener. Keeping the blade between 13 and 16 degrees, stroke the knife blade first across the grit. Repeat this process on both sides of the blade until the shape becomes a sharp “V.” When your blade gets too thick after repeated wear and sharpening, you know it’s time to retire that one. A thin blade is better than a thick blade.

The second stage is medium to final sharpening. This is for touching up dull blades. The sharpeners used in this stage can be a diamond sharpener or a natural sharpening stone, either of which can be used wet or dry. The steps to sharpen your knife in this stage are the same as stage one.

The final stage is fine sharpening a shaving edge. Sharpening fluid is a must in this stage. Use light strokes on both sides of the blade to remove any burrs left behind from the previous stages. The knife should be razor sharp after this stage. A razor sharp blade is necessary for the most efficient cutting with a minimum applied force. Remember that a sharp knife is a safe knife. Applying additional force to a dull blade is when injuries can occur.

p.creveling@wasatchmag.com

Photo by Peter Creveling

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Rack up on Secondhand Gear

One thing we all wonder when taking on outdoor activities: where am I going to find cheap gear? Gear is an expensive part of outdoor recreation, and the most valuable. Ever tried mountain biking without a bike or skiing without skis? Not possible. Online shopping is good enough for getting the random bits and bobs you need and can offer some competitive prices, but for those important purchases, like new bindings or a different pair of climbing shoes, nothing can beat in-store service.

Feeling and interacting with your gear is critical for checking the fit and functionality. Also, having an expert consult you on which style they prefer, or which brands to avoid is beyond helpful especially for new buyers. While major stores like REI have big selections and helpful staff, they have only brand new, full retail price equipment. Those of you not wanting to sell an organ or skip meals for a year to pay for that new kayak may want to start looking at gear consignment stores.

These are places where people, usually professionals in the industry, sell their gear through a third party. The store takes a cut and the seller gets the rest. This means that almost all the gear will be used, albeit in pretty good condition, and much cheaper. The selections fluctuate based on what the store receives at that time so it’s worth checking in a few times if they don’t currently have what you’re looking for.

Around Salt Lake there are a couple gear consignment stores worth visiting:

2ND TRACKS SPORTS

2927 E 3300 S, Salt Lake City, UT

2nd Tracks Sports, as the name might imply, specializes in used ski gear. They have enough boots to outfit an army of centipedes and an entire room designated to skis. The workers are very informed and can help you find what kind of skis you’re going to need. Depending on what style you get, prices for skis and binding can range from just under $100 to $700. They also offer services like waxing and mounting bindings. If you don’t want to buy skis, you can rent a pair for $130 for the season or $25 for the day. Racks on racks of parkas and snow pants take up the left side of the store. Sprinkled throughout are beacons, probes, and snow shovels for your backcountry set up. This is definitely the place to go if you’re looking to add a cheap pair of skis to your collection or just get started in the sport.

INTERNATIONAL MOUNTAIN EQUIPMENT

3265 E 3300 S, Salt Lake City, UT

Although IME is not a gear consignment store, it is niche enough to warrant mentioning. Packed into a single room strip mall store is everything you could need for climbing or mountaineering. As you walk in, you’ll immediately see coils of brightly colored rope lined around the top of the front desk area. To the left, a wall of climbing shoes. To the right of that a small collection of canyoneering specific packs and rope bags, which are hard to come by. The back counter blocks a display wall chock full of every kind of climbing anchor, crampon, and miscellaneous technical gear you could ever reasonably need. Finally, the right wall of the store is dominated by extreme cold weather gear for high elevation camps. The staff is incredibly knowledgeable and friendly.

THE GEAR ROOM

2258 E Fort Union Blvd, Salt Lake City, UT

The Gear Room is a local shop opened up by two brothers who love the Wasatch. The store lies on the spectrum somewhere between IME and 2nd Tracks. It is a consignment/used gear retailer so the prices remain relatively low. The selection circulates pretty regularly so you can either score a great deal or strikeout completely. Getting a deal here takes persistence, but new climbers can definitely score. $100 will get you shoes, a harness, a carabiner, and an ATC; everything needed to start hitting the gym. For more experienced climbers, used carabiners, quick draws, and climbing anchors dot the wall. Just make sure to double check the security before climbing on them. The whole left wall is covered in packs and skis. While the ski selection isn’t as big as 2nd Tracks, they still have a decent amount and the prices are competitive.

n.halberg@wasatchmag.com

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Gear Review: Aura Optics Nimbus Goggle

I tend to skimp out when it comes to the quality of my ski goggles. I’ve never thought too much about the plastic over my face and never wanted to drop big sums of money for a good pair, stubbornly sticking to wearing my scratched-up, lens-popping-out, constantly foggy $20 Bollé goggles. Aura Optic’s Nimbus Goggles were the first real “nice” goggles I’ve ever worn, and they held up far too well on the hill. Now, there’s no going back to the crappy goggles of my past.

What makes them so good?

Fog-proofThroughout a long ski day full of heavy breathing, fog never appeared despite practically breathing into them from the inside of a zipped-up jacket. I breathed directly on the anti-fog treated lens and watched as the fog disappeared almost instantly as air flowed through the surrounding five “Auraflow” vents.

Water resistance After a couple wipeouts — erm, I mean, face shots? — I inevitably ended up with snow all over the goggles. In my previous experience, snow would get stuck inside of the goggles and ruin my visibility for the rest of the day. With these goggles, barely any snow made it inside (thanks to the zero-movement silicone strap) and the snow/water that did wicked right off.

Better visibility– We’ve all had that feeling before — white-out conditions where you can make out zero distinct features in the snow ahead. Are there moguls? Maybe. Is there a little five foot cliff right there? Perhaps. Though not technically polarized (Aura has a polarized lens too, though) these goggles helped distinguish features on the mountain.

Wide field of view The goggle has a wide spherical shape, allowing a peripheral field of view to make out what was happening next to me. This great feature improves safety and lets you enjoy the view. The shape made the world feel more natural, helping me forget about the giant piece of plastic covering my eyes.

Adaptability Look up through the lens and you see yellow; look down, it’s blue. Like bi-focal glasses, these lenses adapt to whatever light situation you are in. The lens is easily interchangeable for other Aura Optics shades, depending on weather and light.

After my eyes were opened to this side of the visibility spectrum, maybe I’ll have to dish out some cash to enhance my skiing experience every time. At $120 the Nimbus isn’t too cheap, but worth the investment for well over six times the viewing quality than that of my current pair. Or you know, I could keep being way too stingy and suffer for the rest of my life.

c.hammock@dailyutahchronicle.com

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It’s Getting Hot in Here: Backpacking Stove Review

The slow leak of gas, the click of a lighter, and the steady roar of a hot blue flame. After a long cold day in the backcountry these sounds are as relieving as getting your acceptance letter to Hogwarts on your 11th birthday. These sounds mean food is on the way, the only separation being a few cups of boiling water and a little patience.

Backpacking stoves, although not the sexiest or flashiest piece of gear out there, are the beautiful contraptions that provide us with this oh-so-wonderful comfort. However, not all stoves are created equal. Some boil faster, some boil slower. Some boil lots, some boil little. Some even do more than boil water; they can cook real, non-dehydrated food. These have truly become sophisticated pieces of technology.

This sophistication can only happen with lots of little moving pieces, something that often spells disaster. Sometimes a single broken part can trash the stove for your entire trip, leaving you to consider just how edible a pinecone could be. A good stove is as critical to a successful trip as a backpack or water purifier.

Unfortunately, in the sea of tri-sectional windclips, fuel canister stabilizers, and other terms of jargon, it can be difficult to decipher just what constitutes a ‘good’ stove. Fortunately for you, many nights, hours, and even a set of eyebrows have been sacrificed to find the right stove for your needs.

MSR PocketRocket

Perfect for small cooking, the PocketRocket provides a smart option for your personal kit. At just three ounces (not including gas and cook set), this is by far the smallest and lightest stove of the ones tested. It packs into a convenient plastic case that really could fit in your pocket, so long as you’re not wearing skinny jeans. Utilizing this case when packing the stove is vital since its small stature makes it less durable. Its relatively bare-bones design means a separate cook set is needed, but this too can be relatively small and compact. Balancing a pot of water on the little tongs will make you feel like you should join the circus, however, the $40 price makes it hard to be too picky about these relatively trivial issues. If you’re looking for a lightweight way to boil water without spending tons, this is your stove.

Jetboil Flash

The ideal system for the non-ultra-lightweight backpacker, Jetboil has taken simplicity and ease of use to the max in their personal cook system design. A spark start removes the need for a lighter, and a built-in measuring cup and stabilizer make boiling water easier than using a stove and kettle at home. Furthermore, the entire stove can be quickly disassembled and stored in the attached cookset for very durable and safe transport. As the name suggests, the Jetboil boasts the fastest boil time of any comparably sized stove on the market (just about a minute for a liter of water). It is significantly heavier and larger than the PocketRocket at twelve ounces, but also resolves many of the issues the former had. A nifty heat dispersing coil near the burner spreads the heat across the cup removing hot spots and a stabilizing stand stabilizing stand removes the issues of balance. The Jetboil is assuredly the easiest stove to use on the market and comes with the most helpful features. However, at $80, you’ll pay for it.

MSR WhisperLite

The standard for most group backpacking trips, MSR has succeeded in creating an effective yet tedious cook system. This stove is complex enough to require a certain level of skill to use and, at times, a large degree of problem solving. It is also arguably the most dangerous as it utilizes unguarded white gas in its lighting process. If the intricacies can be worked out, however, this is a reasonable way to cook for a group. A very stable base and large burner allow for multifaceted cooking, not just boiling water. A separate cook set, fuel bottle, and pump to pressurize the bottle are necessary. At 11.5 ounces (without any of the previously mentioned necessities), it isn’t terribly heavy. A single stove could easily cook for three or four people at a time, and once it is started it burns hotter and faster than almost every other stove with the exception of the Jetboil. This is a reasonably reliable stove with a decent price of $90.

n.halberg@dailyutahchronicle.com

Photo courtesy of Brian Anderson

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Keep your gear ready to ride

It’s winter time again in Utah — snow has covered the mountain peaks, the mornings start with a skiff of snow on cars, and the air is quiet. This all means one thing: it’s time to hit the slopes.

Because winter sport equipment is so expensive, it would be illogical to purchase new gear each season, so it’s important to maintain the integrity of your boards. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to wax your skis or snowboard and keep them ready to ride any time.

Step 1­—Start by identifying where rocks have encountered the base of your boards. Such encounters range from minor scratches that are barely visible to major scratches that have actually removed part of the base layer. Don’t worry yet, though, because all of these can be fixed.

Step 2—Use a coarse-cut file to grind out the flaws in the metal edges. This will help sharpen and keep your skis or board gripping the snow even on the iciest of conditions. Place the file at a 45-degree angle from the board’s base and move it repeatedly from tip to tail. Repeat the motion at only an arm’s length to allow adequate pressure to grind away at the flaws in the metal edges. To sharpen the edges perpendicular to the base you’ll need to orient the board on the side and repeat the use of the file. After the metal edges have been ground down, you’ll know when it is sharp enough by brushing your finger on the edge — if some of your fingernail remains, it is sharp and ready to wax.

Step 3—Before you wax the base, you’ll need to fix any core shots or deep grooves on your skis or board. To fix the gouges, get a stick of P-tex plastic that matches the color of your base (generally either black or clear). Get a lighter and catch the end of the P-tex stick on fire. Hold the P-tex stick with the flaming end about an eighth of an inch above the defect. The melted P-tex will heat up the defect and will drip in to fill the void. Once it dries you can blow out the burning end of the P-tex and use a metal scraper to remove any excess.

Step 4—Using a brass or metal brush, you’ll want to first remove any built-up wax from last season. Do so by brushing from tip to tail and pressing firmly down to allow the bristles of the brush to remove the wax. Repeat until the brush doesn’t remove any wax from the base. After this, you’ll repeat the same step using a nylon brush.

Step 5—Press your desired temperature glide wax into a ski iron, allowing the hot surface to melt the wax while dripping onto the board. Move the iron and wax quickly over the base of the ski to allow for adequate coverage of the melted wax. After the wax has cooled on the board, press the iron flat on the base and allow the wax to completely melt. Once it has melted, slowly move the iron from tip to tail to smooth out the wax on the base. Do this three times, each time moving more quickly from tip to tail. Be sure not to hold the iron in the same place for too long because you can damage the internal structure of the skis or board.

Step 6—Using the plastic scraper, scrape the excess wax off of the bottom of your ski or board. Do so by angling the scraper at a 45-degree angle from the base and pressing firmly while moving from top to bottom.

Step 7—Using the nylon brush, remove the excess wax that wasn’t removed from scraping by brushing. Again, move from tail to tip. Repeat a few times until you don’t see any more wax being brushed away. Next, using a fine horse hair brush, repeat the same step. Once that is complete, you’ll be ready to go back on the slopes with ultra-sharp edges and a silky smooth base.

k.creveling@dailyutahchronicle.com

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Gear up for anything

The best way to fully prepare for the Wasatch is to have as much variety in your gear as possible. The weather changes so much throughout the year that you need to be ready for whatever Mother Nature throws at you.

The amount of things to experience in this mountain range are endless, and to fully grasp all it has to offer could take years or even a lifetime. Personally, I like to take part in as many activities as possible. In the spring and summer, you can find me riding my bike up the various canyons. In the winter months, I try to be on the mountain as much as possible with my skis, snowboard, or snowshoes. Recently I picked up cross-country skiing, and I will be doing my best not to look like an absolute beginner this year.

As far at the essential gear for every person goes, I’d suggest investing in a full set of camping gear. Your tent, sleeping pad, and sleeping bag often become your best friends. I prefer Marmot brand for most of these items. A compact stove is also a plus. Mine, a Coleman, does the trick quite nicely.

It takes time to build up your inventory, but over the years, you can acquire your gear to achieve days and nights that you will remember your entire life. You might need an entire garage just to hold all your gear. It is something any Wasatch veteran can be proud of.

p.creveling@dailyutahchronicle.com

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