Backpacking Fee

I’m not a lawyer; I’m educated in accounting. It has came to my attention that a non-profit organization has threaten to sue the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The basis is that the new fee imposed on backpackers is highly illegal. This is the organization: . They mentioned on their site that the fee is an “entrance fee.” They are indeed correct about the deed stipulation and the Smokies continues to not charge such fee. I have done some reading and I believe I have found the legal cause for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to legally collect fees from backpackers. Here a link to FAQ for the GSMNP: and here a quote from the same link:

“6. Will I be able to purchase an annual backcountry camping pass?

Backcountry fees will be collected under authority of the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA). FLREA permits the creation of annual passes for park entrance fees but not other fees, such as backcountry use fees. Great Smoky Mountains National Park does not have an entrance fee.”

So, that lead me to reading about the FLREA, again here the link:

Here the key quote from FLREA:

Expanded Amenity Fees are fees that provide direct benefits to individuals or groups. They include things like developed campgrounds, cabin rentals, highly developed boat docks and swimming areas. They may also include services like hookups, dump stations, special tours and reservations services.:”

The keywords from the above quote is “reservations services.” Which is essentially the primary purpose of the fee. I believe this is will be the government main argument and they did indeed follow through with a lot better reservation and planning services that were resulted of the fee.

The previous reservation system wasn’t broken, but it could have been improved and I actually like the new system. So, I will be gladly pay the $4 to enjoy such convenience service. I also live in an area where there are much more places to go backpacking that doesn’t cost money other than gas and food.

Feel free to share your opinion in the comment section.



Okay, this is going to be one of these rare post that I make about social issues. Let me preface: I believe in the 2nd amendment to an extent. I believe hunting rifles & shotguns, as well as handguns should remain legal. I’m for the ban of assault rifles and other automatic weapons. My dad has a CCW license here in Tennessee. My family has lived off hunting and fishing for a long time. I believe hunting and fishing in legal manners should be preserved for generations to come. What I cannot stand is: some prick telling me I’m Anti-American for saying assault weapons should be banned. I’m going to get this off of my chest.

I want the NRA, gun advocates, insensitive assault rifle owners, etc., to all give me legit stories of how an assault rifle, that fires ungodly amount of ammo in less than a minute, was the perfect defense gun. You need a gun that can unload 100 rounds in less than a minute to defend your home from a burglar? Wow, you must be a better shot than the LAPD.  There are law enforcement agents and security guards that has giving 30 years of services without firing a single round. And you tell me you need an assault rife that you cannot take out in public to defend your house? You see, here in Tennessee, my dad isn’t allow to carry his conceal handgun at the mall, school property, or even the movie theater. If you don’t understand this point, it’s because there has been shooting sprees in schools, mall, movie theater, and other places you cannot even carry a gun. So, let put assault rifles in the hand of an insane man with a clean record and wonder where the next public shooting will take place. And a law abiding citizen with guns will be powerless to help because he will respect the laws of where he can and cannot carry.  You don’t NEED an assault rifle, you WANT an assault rifle. You were conned into a marketing scheme to sell more guns.

So, now, do you understand?!?


Future Trip: Give Me Idea(s)

I sit here daydreaming where I want to go next as far as backpacking is concern. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has now imposed a $4.00 fee per person per night for anyone who wish to backpack here. I can live with the fee since it’s not completely outrageous, but it will take some getting used too. The only fees I think about when going backpacking in the Smokies is food and gas money.

Anyway, I want some idea(s) for my next trip. This trip can be in the Smokies on the southern side of the park around Thunderhead Mountain, Gregory Bald, etc. Or the next trip can be at any of the following locations: Roan Highlands, Nantahala Headwaters Loop, Shining Rock Wilderness, and Panthertown Valley. The last three are located in Western North Carolina while Roan Highlands is on the Tennessee and North Carolina state line. I already have the Nantahala Headwaters Loop mapped out, but the other three areas I have no idea what loop to do. If I go back to the Smokies, I want go somewhere I haven’t been. I have not explore the southern end of the park other than Cades Cove and the Little River Trail. I may leave Gregory Bald alone until June when the rhododendron are in bloom. Of course I’m not the only one who is thinking about this. There is a lot of places within two hours of driving from my house and I have no idea which locations to explore next, so help me out bloggers!!! 🙂

My Hammock Got a Liposuction

I was sitting around in my hammock over the weekend thinking how freakishly huge this bug net is on my hammock. It also has extra fabric attached to the main body. I’ve been wanting to make a new hammock for some times; the new hammock would have been single layer with no attached bug net. This is the bug net I would have used for the new hammock:

Anyway, my hammock weighs 2lbs on a scale. After lounging for a few minutes I had a brain fart and said to my self: self, why not modify this hammock? So, I decied to take a bold move of giving my Grand Trunk Skeeter Beeter Pro hammock a liposuction. This is what the hammock looked like prior to its operation:Hammock

As you can see from the picture above, the bug net is freakishly huge compared to its competitors with similar designs. Due to my short thought and poor research at the time of the purchased, I learned real quick to set up the bug net as shown above with a tarp was nearly impractical. The shock cords interfered with the tarp in a big way, and it also had too much potential to create drip lines in a good rain storm. I made some mods to leave the bug net suspended in the air under the tarp without the potential for drip lines. It wasn’t perfect since the bug net still dangled close to my face and made the hammock feel small. I ended up cutting the brown fabric, zipper, and bug net completely off.

Here is the excess: IMAG1410

Here what it looks like now: IMAG1412Obviously I need to do a little more trimming. Also, I don’t sleep like this. The hammock can achieve a flatter lay if I stretch it out some more. It’s just hanging in a banana shape solely for the picture.

This is what it used to look like while stuffed: IMAG0951 It’s on the right, by the way. The small looking stuffed thing on the left is my tarp.

Here what it looks like while stuffed post-op: IMAG1411 It’s slimmer and nearly the exact size of a 1 liter Nalgene water bottle. This stuff sack used to be the stuff sack for my foot print for the Big Agnes Seedhouse tent. I leave the footprint in the same stuff sack as the tent.

I need to add a ridge line going from one end of the hammock to the other and I hope to procure the bug net I posted above. The ridge line will keep the next bug net off of my face and give me a place to hang a light and a storage pocket. The entire set up at pre-op (with tarp, ropes, stakes, etc.) was right around 2.9 pounds. I weighted the stuff sack post-op without the Amsteel Blue ropes, and my scale registered it at 11oz. With my tarp, the bug net at the top of this post, and modified hammock I’m looking at estimated weight real close to 1.15lbs. Factor in an extra few ounces for ropes and stakes, I’ll be slightly over 2 pounds. It’s still a lot lighter than it was before the operation. This projected achieved nearly a pound loss (for the hammock itself) and increased volume in my pack! I might be a little crazy. 🙂

Alcohol Stove Result

This isn’t my first experiment with my homemade alcohol stove. It just the first documented one, if you will.

I cannot remember the specification of the can, but I can tell you it has 10 jets and one center hole. After denatured alcohol is poured into the center hole, I cover the hole with a penny. (Don’t bother asking me why, the explanation is beyond me. I just followed instructions from a guy who knows a guy that knows a guy that knows his stuff.) It takes roughly 2-3oz of alcohol for the liquid to seep out of the jets and when it does, I light it! The flame is large in the center at first, then it’s eventually coming out of the  jets. There is a bottom piece to capture any liquid that runs of of the jet so that it doesn’t burn the ground. Then finally I have a pot support that I made from a can that once housed baked beans. Just enjoy the pictures:

Alcohol Stove 4

Alcohol Stove

Alcohol Stove 3

Alcohol Stove 2

For the statistical results: It took 14:34 minutes for 2-3oz of alcohol to completely burn out. I got 2 cups of cold, cold water to boil at the 9 minutes mark. Overall I was pleasantly please with the result. I’m working on an idea for a windscreen, and I’m thinking of another pot support idea that will be shorter to the jets to increase heat. I’d love to have a new titanium mug with a lid to cook with as well.

Instructions to making your own penny stove can be found by using YouTube or this website:

Thanks for reading!

Warning: playing with flammable alcohol is dangerous! I have burn marks on my porch! It will be better to store and pour alcohol out a container that will not drip down the bottle onto the ground.. You cannot see the alcohol flame in broad daylight; dark lights will reveal the blue flame and table salt will show the flame as well.

Alcohol Stove

Sorry for the lack of posting lately. I’ve been having computer issues and I’ve been working on an alcohol stove for backpacking.

I been working a DIY Penny Stove using alcohol to boil water in the backcountry. I been struggling to get a consistent boil time. I think most of my issues may be the seal of the stove. (Uneven edge from cutting the aluminum.) As well as some other variables such as: the mug. The one I have doesn’t have an easy on and off lid to trap heat in the mug as it cooks. Another could be windscreen, well lack thereof, blocking wind and reflecting heat back to pot to increase boil time. Of course amount of fuel I’ve been adding has been in different amounts as well.

Why am I going through all this trouble? I’m just bored. Of course it’s kind of cool having a stove system barely weighing an ounce using lighter, cheaper, hotter, and less fuel than canister stoves. All the cool kids are doing it these days. Ha! I could just buy one, but what fun is that?!?! Pictures and experiment results will be coming soon!!!

Choosing a Tent


The funniest thing for us gearacholics: is brainstorming criteria we seek in selecting gears. Recently I have been engaged in an online discussion with a group of veteran backpackers with combined experience well north of 100 years, maybe 200. It was so fascinating learning how everyone is different (it not new to me but bear with me here) when it comes to needs. I used to think tents were universal. What I mean is that I thought you would select your tent base on statistic involving its weight, price, and size. (Not in any particular order.) Of course the company’s reputation played into the decision making.

The criteria has now evolved. With more companies making a wide range of tents loaded with features that cannot be accounted for with numbers, the decision making has became more in-depth and personal. My criteria does start out with numbers.  My next non-mountaineering tent will not weigh over two pounds. The next step is to look at the price and see if it friendly for my budget. Once I have found several tents in the weight and price range that I can live with, I start comparing its size using square footage, vestibule size, and height as the primary data. Here where the complication comes into play, or you could call it insanity: all the data in the world can be irrelevant if you do not account for your primary backpacking locations and tent features you can live with or without. I think locations and the seasons you do most of your backpacking can be self-explanatory for the most part. I will focus on features in this post rather than climate and location.

Ventilation is every veteran backpackers first observation. Certain tents cannot breath very well. You could have two tents that meet your weight, price, and size requirements, but one of them does not vent as well as the other. If you live somewhere in the south or on the east coast where humidity is rough you’re going have major condensation problem if your tent vent poorly. Single wall tents are notorious for condensation, and winter months can be just as bad or worse in regard to condensation. I’m currently using a Big Agnes Seedhouse and I have more condensation problem in the winter than summer months. My condensation is very minimal in the Seedhouse in the winter; this is not big enough of an issue to completely change tent for winter use. You could be very hot in the summer months if the tent doesn’t have ways to allow fresh air to flow through.

A popular feature I have found among veterans is the door. This may seem odd, but a door can make or break a tent. My Seedhouse has a door that you would call an end entry. When I backpack in the Smokies, I hang up my backpack on the steel bear cable. I quickly learned at places like Linville Gorge and Grayson Highland why I now dislike end entry door. I was at Linville in the dead of the winter so I kept my backpack in the vestibule, and I only hung up my food sack to keep small critters from attempting to gnaw into my tent. At Grayson Highland, heh, I kept everything in the vestibule. (Not a smart move, but I had no ropes and it was storming hard.)  The same storm system that destroyed Tuscaloosa in April of 2011, I was at Grayson Highland when Tuscaloosa was about to be destroyed.So, I kept my craps in the vestibule to stay dry. It was a pain in the butt, getting in and out of my tent with stuff in my vestibule. It’s also kind of awkward trying to cook with a end entry vestibule. One way is to sit with your legs crossed while facing the opening of the door, but I cannot do this anymore with a plate in my leg. These are the primary reasons why I want my next tent to have a side entry. Dual side entries would be even better! One side you can put excess gears, and you get in and out on the other side. If you have to cook a meal in the vestibule due to bad weather I find it easier to sit and cook with a vestibule that has side entry.

The next popular feature is about take down and set-up. You want a tent that easy to set-up in the rain without getting the interior wet. Tarptent (This is not an endorsement, just an observation.) took this feature to the heart. A feature for one of his tent, you can set up the rain fly first then climb into it to clip the bug net and tent floor on the inside. He has another one where the bug net and tent floor are connected to the inside of the rain fly; the loop for the poles are on the outside of the rain fly. This design makes it easier to set up a tent in the rain without getting the interior wet. My Big Agnes tent the pole goes between the rain fly and the tent body. This makes it very difficult to set-up in a down pour without getting interior wet. I have a trick to getting around this and it requires another piece of equipment, but it unrelated to this post.

Lastly, is how it’s set-up. For example, is it a freestanding tent (meaning it can be set up without stakes.), can you use trek poles, how many stakes require, etc. Some people hate tents that has too many stakes. Some minimalist like to carry tent or tarp using only their trek poles as support and stakes to set up. Some may consider the wind at certain elevation and see where all the anchor points are on the tent to be confidence it will not blow away due to design. (Human mistake(s) causes tent to blow away as well.) My personal thought is that I love the idea of having a tent where I use trek poles, but I plan to use tent more in the winter months where I’m expecting snow at any time. While I have no personal experience using trek poles as the primary support, people have said poles crossing over the entire tent is better suited for heavy snow. I trust their advice and this is one of the criteria I will use for my next tent. I’m using my hammock more often, but I will use a tent for snowy conditions or places where there are no trees.

Bottom line is, you need to understand every features. There is NO product designed for backpacking that is perfect for every locations in the U.S., or for every individuals. EVERY piece of equipments has a tradeoff. Accepting this and being able to live without the tradeoff(s) is how you choose to buy your gears. If you don’t believe me, try me. I can find tradeoff(s) in every products known to the backpacking community by comparing it to similar products.

Thanks for reading and happy trails.