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Sunshine Coast Trail (plus canister fuel story/warning)
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Brian James
(bjamesd) - F

Locale: South Coast of BC
Sunshine Coast Trail (plus canister fuel story/warning) on 07/08/2009 18:41:57 MDT Print View

Hi everyone,

Here's a hastily-written email trip report, for your enjoyment. Despite the first paragraph, the Sunshine Coast Trail is a backpacker's mecca; if you want to try a rainforest hike I would highly recommend it! Shoot me an email if you'd like to save half an hour finding the start of Tony's Trail; I'd be glad to pass on this knowledge. :)

You can check out the trail here if you're interested:

http://www.sunshinecoast-trail.com/

Cheers!
Brian


The first day was spent tramping through the coastal rainforest in an icy drizzle, looking for an overgrown trail using an out-of-date guidebook, and getting torn up by thorns. Fortunately we found a logging road that eventually intersected with the trail, and despite everyone but me taking a tumble we managed to get to camp in one (wet) piece.

Despite walking quite a few backcountry miles to get there, the camp was in a car-accessible provincial campground called Inland Lake. A Conservation Officer (like a Ranger/warden) came by, and we expected him to collect fees. Instead he "forgot" the camping fee with a wink, and fetched us a mountain of dry wood from his private stash. We had a big dinner next to a big fire and that drove the dampness out and cheered us all up. Walking first through wet ferns all day left me looking and feeling like I'd been dipped in ice water up to the chest!

It happened to be the birthday of each of the girls on the trip, so I applied a little old-school BPL kung fu and baked up a chocolate cake in my AGG 2-quart plus AGG 3-cup set. It was a perfect end to the day, and we all immediately retired to get some much-needed rest. Now came the important part of the trip: the acid test of my new (2006?) TarpTent Squall 2.

Having read Ron Moak's primer on lightweight tents, I knew the drill: pitch it as high as practical, leave the beak open if possible, and leave the bug netting open if possible. The first pitch was a disaster: the ground was ever-so-slightly off-level and the painter's plastic groundsheet became a skating rink. I couldn't even kneel on it to spread it out without sliding off to the side! Note to self: look into Tyvek.

The second pitch was good: perfectly flat ground, not as elevated as I would have liked, but on absorbent peaty soil so I wasn't worried about it pooling. We crawled inside and my girlfriend raised an eyebrow right away: leave it wide open? Are you serious? Yes I was, and that's what we did.

The conditions were foggy, humid, in the 35-40 degree range, with intermittent rainstorms all night. This is probably the worst type of condition for single-wall shelters, but to my surprise we fared better than okay. I kept waking up to check for condensation, double check the pitch, and scan for bruins (yes the open front felt really weird...) but to my surprise there wasn't a single drop of condensation all night. Not even a sheen -- the inside of the tent remained bone-dry. I had succeeded at summer rainforest "tarp" camping on my very first attempt. (Yes I know it's very cush for a tarp, but hey...)

We were traveling with heavyweight backpackers, and they didn't fare as well. Their North Face tent vents very poorly, and I estimated that it had gained 3-4lbs by the time they packed it up. (i.e. it weighed 10lbs on the second day; yikes!) It rained condensation on them inside, and the urethane-coated fly soaked up rainwater all night. Fortunately, the next four days were composed of brilliant sunshine and the trip went swimmingly. (As trips tend to do when they're in the glorious sunshine of July day after day...)

On the last day I had an adventure with the better part of a pound of butane: my Brunton Crux canister stove managed to punch the Lindal valve right out of the Primus 16-oz canister, and when I unscrewed the stove I got a geyser of butane about 10 feet from the campfire I'd thankfully just extinguished. It's the second Primus 1lb canister I've had valve trouble with, and the last one I will ever buy or sit within 10 yards of.

(By the way, I brought that much butane because it was a luxury trip to try to entice my girlfriend into backpacking. It worked too well: we got back Wednesday and she wanted to go again on Saturday! I baked cornbread, made lentil stew from scratch, simmered dumplings, and of course baked a birthday cake. Success!)

If you're interested, here are some gear highlights:

Shelter and sleep system:
~Tarptent Squall, no floor -- awesome, perfect, amazing, and probably going in the closet after the first snow in September which is about what I expected. Should have brought a Tyvek groundsheet, but the performance was fantastic.


Kitchen:
~Brunton Crux -- always performs immaculately, fried bannock, baked cornbread and cake, and simmered soups and stews to perfection
~AGG 2-quart and 3-cup pots -- no lids
~Ikea frying pan with the sides cut off, 4oz, as lid for AGG pots and frying pan. (Holding bannock in one of the pictures) Only weighs 2.5oz more than the stock AGG lid, and does so much more.
~LMF Sporks -- the best sporks known to humankind
~Home-made windscreen -- hastily invented 30 minutes before we left, worked flawlessly, and bumped my efficiency through the roof. Pretty ghetto and rough-looking though


Packs:
~Cilogear 60L Worksack -- my pack of choice for every adventure. Left the frame in as I was carrying most of our stuff, but I didn't need it.
~GoLite Pinnacle -- with RidgeRest rolled up inside as frame. Fits my girlfriend, and is shockingly comfortable. I loved the rolltop closure and the compacktor system. Not as versatile as my CiloGear pack, but I still secretly wish it fit me!


I would recommend the SCT to absolutely anyone. It was ideal for me: incredible rainforest, not a soul around, and barely used so it was not worn down to the rocks or hard packed in the least. On the contrary, it was like walking on spongecakes the whole way! It was easy to navigate due to a devoted local trail crew who places and replaces markers in the spring, and there are even a couple of cabins along the way! For a lightweight/UL person, the whole 111 miles could be done end-to-end in 5 days. Section-hiking it is just as beautiful, and may afford a bit of time to take in the local culture as well which is unique and magically laid-back.

Some photos...

imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage

PS Thanks again to Dennis Jordan and Jim Colten for sending me the Tarptent and Pinnacle respectively. Those items made the trip!

PPS I spent almost 4 hours spreadsheeting our food, then weighing every ingredient for every meal to make sure we'd have enough but not too much. I gave us 4250 calories per day with plenty of fats, and it was perfect. We had about 1 days' worth of reserve calories by the end, which is exactly what I wanted.

Edited by bjamesd on 07/08/2009 18:49:33 MDT.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Sunshine Coast Trail (plus canister fuel story/warning) on 07/09/2009 00:49:31 MDT Print View

Hi Brian

> my Brunton Crux canister stove managed to punch the Lindal valve right out of the Primus
> 16-oz canister, and when I unscrewed the stove I got a geyser of butane
?????
I have used many of these Primus canisters without any hint of a problem. I have also used the Crux without any problem.
Would there be any chance of getting *any* more details about your problem? Photos (close up?) of the canister top and the mating part of the Crux would be really appreciated, if possible.
Another question: how long had the stove been running that time, and what pot was on top of it?

Cheers
Roger
roger@backpackinglight.com

Edited by rcaffin on 07/09/2009 00:50:33 MDT.

Steven Evans
(Steve_Evans) - MLife

Locale: Canada
Re: Re: Sunshine Coast Trail (plus canister fuel story/warning) on 07/09/2009 06:19:30 MDT Print View

Hey Brian, sounds like a great trip! I didn't know about this trail and it looks great! No animal sightings out there?

so I applied a little old-school BPL kung fu

Oh man, that made me laugh :)

Brian James
(bjamesd) - F

Locale: South Coast of BC
Re: Re: Sunshine Coast Trail (plus canister fuel story/warning) on 07/13/2009 14:20:08 MDT Print View

Hi Roger,

Unfortunately I returned the canister for a refund as soon as I was able. Interestingly, the co-op I bought it at had a return code for valve problems with this particular canister: they said that the valves become jammed closed more often than blown open, but both situations happen.

I inspected the threads closely, and in my estimation there was nothing to see. It didn't look any different than the threads on any of my other canisters. No damage, not taller or shorter or otherwise aberrant to my eye.

I used the Crux at an extremely low setting for about 45 minutes a couple of times during the trip. In total, the stove was probably on and off the canister about a dozen times before the problem. I'm sure there wasn't a heat issue, however, as I used a massive radiation shield to keep the canister from heating up. It was effective enough that after 45 minutes of baking, the canister was cooler than at the beginning.

You can see my (cobbled-together) windscreen setup in my photos above: in the one with the Bannock (fry-bread,) the rad shield is in place and the windscreen is sitting loose. In the one with the aluminum foil visible, the windscreen is fully deployed.

Finally, I forget whether I mentioned that the valve was actually rattling around in the bottom of the can after the disaster. Somehow the valve actually broke off and fell inside!

Has anyone else had trouble like this? As I mentioned, the Primus cans have given me trouble before with a different Crux stove. Could it be a bad combination of stove/fuel, or a bad lot of canisters? Could Primus be building their canisters to slightly different tolerances than the others?

I, for one, will never attach or remove a stove from a canister in a confined space after this event. The image of a geyser of butane shooting into the air was pretty intense.

"No animal sightings out there?"

There was so much black bear dung that we almost had to be careful not to slip in it. Travel is so hard in the rainforest that the hiking trails become superhighways for the local fauna. Not a single sighting, though. This I didn't mind: I would have loved to have seen a bear on the trail, but I was less keen to have one curiously sniffing my head as I slept through the open front of my TarpTent.

Edited by bjamesd on 07/13/2009 14:25:43 MDT.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Re: Sunshine Coast Trail (plus canister fuel story/warning) on 07/13/2009 15:36:15 MDT Print View

Thanks Brian for the extra info. I am going to make some guesses based on some other knowledge, but they are just guesses.

> the co-op I bought it at had a return code for valve problems with this particular
> canister: they said that the valves become jammed closed more often than blown open,
> but both situations happen.
> the valve was actually rattling around in the bottom of the can after the disaster.
> Somehow the valve actually broke off and fell inside!

I know that many stoves are made in China by some manufacturing companies which do not know a lot about the actually science of stoves. The Brunton Crux is made in China for instance. It is reasonably well made, but the factory making it does make some less reliable(!) stoves as well.

I also know that there are some Chinese manufacturers of gas canisters, and I suspect they are NOT using genuine Lindal valves, but Chinese copies. There is a lot of careful polymer chemistry going on in the bits of the Lindal valve to get the required strength. There is no guarantee that the Chinese know what plastic to use.

I suspect from what you have written, but DO NOT KNOW, that Primus could have flirted with Chinese canisters, and been badly bitten. The Primus canisters on my bench have 'Made in Korea' written on them: it would be interesting to see what the labelling on the ones which failed you say. If they still say Korea ... then there must have been a bad batch of plastic components get through. That would be a bit unexpected imho, but anything can happen.

Cheers
roger@backpackinglight.com

Brian James
(bjamesd) - F

Locale: South Coast of BC
Re: Re: Re: Re: Sunshine Coast Trail (plus canister fuel story/warning) on 07/13/2009 15:47:56 MDT Print View

Flirting with disaster indeed!

Imagine the liability to Primus if a canister jammed on a mountaineering trip. A mountaineer might suddenly find himself less two days' water! And I shudder to think of what would happen if one blew its' stack and vented its' contents inside a tent...

Thanks very much for the info; I shall check the "made in" labels. I was always partial to the Brunton ones anyway: they just seemed to have higher gas pressures or flow rates. Not that this is likely true, but it's a nice idea :)

Brian