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A Pencil for the JMT -- Solution Found!
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Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
A Pencil for the JMT -- Solution Found! on 06/03/2013 12:45:37 MDT Print View

I few weeks ago I post a thread Which Pencil for the JMT. This thread created a lot of controversy using such words as parody, irony, satire, elitism, and making fun of BPL members.

Just to set the record straight, I found a solution and recently field-tested it. Click the link below for my article.

Here is my solution for a very difficult piece of gear selection. Enjoy the read.

edited to fix links.

Edited by ngatel on 06/03/2013 12:47:15 MDT.

Gregory Stein
(tauneutrino) - F

Locale: Upper Galilee
:D on 06/03/2013 13:12:06 MDT Print View

OMG Nick!
You took it that seriously!

Anyway it's a good read. I'm glad there are really quality items even so simple as pencils. I admit I buy a Chinese cheapos that is total junk.
That pencil is fine. However I wouldn't take the sharpener into the wild. Have you tested tiny UL knife as sharpener? How does it work?

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: :D on 06/03/2013 13:24:11 MDT Print View

Hi Greg -

The sharpener weighs .8 ounces, about the same as a Swiss Army Knife classic, which is probably too small to sharpen the pencil. I normally just bring a razor blade that only weighs 0.14 ounces.

My research indicates the best utensil to sharpen a pencil (other than the long point sharpener) is a box cutter type utility knife, the thicker ones like this:

utility knife

However, this utility knife is too heavy for the JMT.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: MidAtlantic
Re: A Pencil for the JMT -- Solution Found! on 06/03/2013 13:28:51 MDT Print View

“HALF THE PRESSURE, TWICE THE SPEED”

I've lost a lot of dates that way....

(Hey! Blame Dunkel. He said I should get involved....)

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: A Pencil for the JMT -- Solution Found! on 06/03/2013 13:35:04 MDT Print View

You know Doug,

Maybe you should consider moving to the left coast... might have better luck with the women :)

Ike Jutkowitz
(Ike) - M

Locale: Central Michigan
re: pencil on 06/03/2013 13:48:47 MDT Print View

Nick,
I really appreciated the thorough writeup of your pencil solution. You seem like a person who approaches life with excellent attention to detail. Since I've been contemplating a JMT trip as well, I was hoping you could help me with a question I've been struggling with. Should I use toilet paper on the JMT, and if so, what kind?

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: re: pencil on 06/03/2013 14:21:46 MDT Print View

Ah, the old paper versus no paper controversy.

I am tired of seeing all the used rocks laying around the wilderness with dried poop on them that the environmentalists use to save paper. I think they are too cheap to buy toilet paper, and due to this false economy are zealously trying to get us civilized folks to go primal.

We also need to be sensitive to folks who suffer from hemorrhoids. Paper is best for them.

I recommend a biodegradable, non-scented, single ply toilet paper.

Dig a hole. I prefer to use a QiWiz titanium cat trowel for the hole construction. Much more precise than a snow stake, stick or trekking pole. With this tool you can get precise measurements without digging up a bunch of extra soil.

Leave your deposit.

Carefully place the used paper in the hole.

Burn paper. A true outdoors person will not start a forest fire. I have been doing this for nearly 50 years without causing a fire, other than complete combustion of said toilet paper.

Now add water, or preferably urine.

Mix contents thoroughly, reaching the consistency comparable to a properly prepared Mountain House Spaghetti and Meat Sauce dinner.

Fill hole with previously excavated soil.

Wash your hands.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Wrong approach on 06/03/2013 14:39:31 MDT Print View

You are overlooking the OBVIOUS double use potential of said pencil. Tucked away with a tube over the tip it is WORTHLESS as an implement of bear defense. INSTEAD you should have made a holster that is attached to your hip belt allowing quick draw speed in the likely event of bear defense. (You know hikers are always getting attacked by bears on the JMT). So nick, you provided an amateur solution and I am highly disappointed that a man of your hiking stature would have such a glaring omission. I want to return your blog entry and get refunded my shipping.

Bear
Beware of Smokey!

Ian B.
(IDBLOOM) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: re: pencil on 06/03/2013 14:45:38 MDT Print View

Internal Memo from Mountain House dated 6/10/2013----

Dear Staff,

While sales continue to rise, we are deeply concerned that we are not moving (see how I slipped that in) any of our Spaghetti and Meat Sauce dinners in the past week. REI staff are bewildered and have observed many customers who spontaneously dry heave when presented with this meal and run out of the store screaming "Damn you Nick!"

If anyone is aware of a Nicholas Cage/Nolte movie with a Mountain House reference, please advise management so we can take appropriate counter measures.

Jason Elsworth
(jephoto) - M

Locale: New Zealand
A Pencil for the JMT -- Solution Found! on 06/03/2013 15:02:16 MDT Print View

Nick - I really enjoyed reading your blog entry. I have been searching for many years for a decent pencil sharpener that actually works. It seem as though the solution may be, as it so often is, to spend some money and get the best.

I always take a pencil and paper hiking and now look forward to carrying not just a pencil, but as they would say in marketing a writing experience:).

I will be ordering my pencil and sharpener today.

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: A Pencil for the JMT -- Solution Found! on 06/03/2013 15:26:14 MDT Print View

Another enjoyable read! Thanks, Nick.

But you missed an obvious secondary benefit ... onion paper is edible ... multi-purpose!

However ... I ask this with dread in my heart ... are we to infer from this series that you have discarded your dislike for "boutique backpacking" in favor of following the herd down (or up) the JMT? (please say it ain't so)

p.s. I used the word parody ... but purely out of admiration

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: A Pencil for the JMT -- Solution Found! on 06/03/2013 16:11:31 MDT Print View

Jim,

No I won't be hiking the official JMT this summer. However I will be crossing it a few times, it is "in the way" of a few places I like.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Wrong approach on 06/03/2013 16:14:13 MDT Print View

"You are overlooking the OBVIOUS double use potential of said pencil. Tucked away with a tube over the tip it is WORTHLESS as an implement of bear defense. INSTEAD you should have made a holster that is attached to your hip belt allowing quick draw speed in the likely event of bear defense."

Excellent point (pun intended). The correct holster should probably be made from leather. However, that would upset my base weight. If I wear it on a belt loop hanging from my trousers, can I remove it from my spreadsheet as base weight?

Gary Dunckel
(Zia-Grill-Guy) - MLife

Locale: Boulder
JMT pencil solution on 06/03/2013 16:35:33 MDT Print View

Great work, Nick! Of all the great minds here on BPL, I just knew that you were the only one that could posssibly come up with the definitive answer to this age-old dilemma.

For quick access during the inevitable bear attack, why don't you ask Lawson to make a svelt cuben sheath to slip onto your sternum strap. You'd still want a safety tube to protect the sharp lead point, and to prevent poking your stomach when you sit on a log.

As for you, Idester:

<“HALF THE PRESSURE, TWICE THE SPEED”

I've lost a lot of dates that way....

(Hey! Blame Dunkel. He said I should get involved....)>

Well, you seem to have the pressure thing figured out, Doug, and now we have work on your speed. I bet if you moved to some small town in the Midwest, the problem would solve itself. Things really slow down in places like that.

And don't forget about the C in my last name, it's "Dunckel." You know, John and Edith's little boy?

Walter Carrington
(Snowleopard) - M

Locale: Mass.
RE: A Pencil for the JMT and immortality. on 06/03/2013 16:37:49 MDT Print View

An Amazon search for the BLACKWING 602 pencil, shows the following on the same page:
A Beginner's Guide to Immortality: Extraordinary People, Alien Brains, and Quantum Resurrection by Clifford A. Pickover

Surely this is more than coincidence.

I currently use a fountain pen, but have previously carried a crow quill pen and holder on hikes. The onion paper I can find is not very good for fountain pens or steel nib pens.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Locale: MaxTheCyclist.com
Ugh on 06/03/2013 17:30:01 MDT Print View

Just when I thought the Backpacking forums couldn't make me buy anything new... I'm ordering 12 Blackwing 602 pencils. The addiction grows stronger.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: RE: A Pencil for the JMT and immortality. on 06/03/2013 17:40:54 MDT Print View

"I currently use a fountain pen, but have previously carried a crow quill pen and holder on hikes. The onion paper I can find is not very good for fountain pens or steel nib pens."

Walter, that is certainly a dilemma. The good news is that an inexpensive Cross Century II Medalist Fountain pen has a nib that won't catch on the thin onion skin paper. Although you may not like the rather thick ink flow compared to other fountain pens. A gel roller pen does a fair job on onion skin, but not as nice as a fountain pen of course.

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: A Pencil for the JMT -- Solution Found! on 06/03/2013 19:36:45 MDT Print View

Good work Nick. However I for one will not be satisfied that this is the definitive JMT pencil without quantitative JMT field metrics - with controls of course. It is one thing to make a theoretical suggestion, but what *experience* do you have writing on the JMT with this pencil, and if you don't, why should we take you seriously?Now I'm not saying that you have to exhaustively quantify all possible pencils on the JMT - such a pursuit would take a lifetime, or possibly be the subject of a PhD thesis or BPL official review article.

I propose that during you next JMT research expedition you determine various parameters of interest, such as rate of shortening, by writing a selected phrase a certain number of times a day on your control paper. I suggest writing "I will never carry unnecessary weight" 100 times per day. You will want to do this each day on the trail in order to get valid results averaged over the whole trail - you wouldn't want to have the results skewed by only writing near lakes where you may wax poetic (in script, if not in text), or only near higher elevations where your energy or blood oxygen may be low.

Since results will vary from pencil to pencil (and indeed from individual to individual) you will need to repeat the experiment using a control pencil such as a Dixon Ticonderoga Wood-Cased #2 Pencil. I would be willing to supply a pack of these as a grant-in-aid.

You should measure the final length of the pencils on Mount Whitney (if you are going north to south). With these measurements in hand you should be able to determine the main quantity relevant to lightweight backpacking, namely inches of text per oz. (ITPO) of the pencils. While bits of information per oz. (BIPO) might be a better measure in some cases, I think ITPO is less judgmental. I don't wish to bias the experiment against people who just want to doodle, or those that just don't have any actual information to convey.

Using the control group you should also be able to measure the relative ITPOs on the two pencils for comparison, as this quantity might be expected to be independent of the individual writing styles, and will allow people to calculate the required pencil lengths depending on the total inches they plan to write during their trip (or trip segment between resupplies). The ratio of the ITPO of your pencil to that of the control pencil will need to be > 1 before I will believe you. However nice the more fluffy properties you describe above, if this is not the case we will have to write this off as just another (possibly corporate sponsored) attempt to bamboozle us into buying something expensive and needlessly heavy we don't need.

Personally I would like to see data from other, non-JMT trips for comparison in order to substantiate your bold claim that the pencils in question are the true best-JMT pencils qua JMT, and not just qua pencils.

I am also aware that a few others, including yourself, may say the other factors such as "low pressure" or "speed" of the writing may, under certain circumstances outweigh the ITPO. While this may be so, the ITPO is critical in order to understand what we are giving up for these vague and qualitative features. Are these non-quantifiable features something we actually NEED, or just WANT?

Edited by millonas on 06/03/2013 21:44:27 MDT.

Tanner M
(Tan68)
Re: A Pencil for the JMT -- Solution Found! on 06/03/2013 21:35:30 MDT Print View

Every time I read here that someone is using a naked razor blade to short stroke a twig for kindling, I cringe.

In addition to the heavy metal razor blade holders, there are things like this plastic razor blade scraper. They are usually sold with wall papering supplies.

I have no idea how much it weighs. It certainly weighs less than a box cutter. Just a thing to consider. It might make using the razor blade a bit safer...

The first link is to a picture of the same yellow kind I have in a box somewhere:
http://www.razorbladeco.com/images/image/scraper-handle.jpg

This one is available at Home Depot for a few bucks. It is ergonomic and green so it probably weighs more:
http://www.homedepot.com/p/t/203014052?productId=203014052&storeId=10051&langId=-1&catalogId=10053&MERCH=REC-_-product-1-_-203181011-_-203014052-_-N#.Ua1fysUXJv8

If it needs to be dual use, I suppose it could be loaded with a leaf and used in place of a rock.

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Re: A Pencil for the JMT -- Solution Found! on 06/03/2013 22:12:16 MDT Print View

"Every time I read here that someone is using a naked razor blade to short stroke a twig for kindling, I cringe."

Yeah, me too. Especially as I'm pretty much a klutz.

Mike Clelland says he carries a pot grabber because he is worried about burning himself in the back country, yet he carries around one of these things. This works for him, apparently, because he preps so well he never actually needs to cut anything. I'm sure on the rare occasion when he is tempted, the wise course is to do without - and so the razor blade is not only the lightest way to mentally convince yourself you are covered in the sharp thing department, but also encourages you to find an alternative to every possible use - a brilliant UL training device!

This is true multi-use zen, as far as I'm concerned.

Master Joshu asked Monk Clelland, "What is the thing of no use, and yet of infinite uses?"

Monk Clelland silently raised his Red Devil 3270 Single-Edge Razor Blade in DIY cereal box cardboard case.

Master Joshu nodded.

Koan 23, from my soon to be published book of koans entitled "The Gate to SUL".

When I was looking for some razor blades to try out as "sharp thing" in my kit I found this listing on amazon that I found a bit disturbing:

http://www.amazon.com/Bloody-Razor-Blade-Case-Pack/dp/B00BRL0X8A/ref=sr_1_2?s=baby-products&ie=UTF8&qid=1370318930&sr=1-2&keywords=wmu+razor+blades

Now I don't really even want to carry an unused one.

Edited by millonas on 06/03/2013 22:19:27 MDT.

Tanner M
(Tan68)
Re: Re: Re: A Pencil for the JMT -- Solution Found! on 06/03/2013 22:29:16 MDT Print View

As long 'SUL' is pronounced 'Zool'

Oh, Amazon. I find I am much less likely to lose my blade if I stuff it up into the webbing between fingers and make a fist.

There is no Dana Designs, only Zool.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: A Pencil for the JMT -- Solution Found! on 06/03/2013 22:42:17 MDT Print View

"However I for one will not be satisfied that this is the definitive JMT pencil without quantitative JMT field metrics - with controls of course."

---------------------

Now this sounds like a good idea for a BPL article. But who can do it? I can't. I get quantitative and qualitative mixed up all the time, so I am not qualified.

Maybe we can get Roger Caffin or Will Rietveld to do it. I especially like looking at Roger's pretty hexagons with the connecting lines and all the little C's and H's sprinkled about. Of course I don't understand most of it. If he would just say the GigaPower is one damn good stove (which I think it is based on personal experience), I would be happy with that conclusion.

Or maybe Richard Nisley could come up with something. I still can't figure out the CLO thingy. He could have just said the Fugu is the warmest freak'n jacket per ounce, which it seems to be in my humble experience.

I don't know if Dave Chenault could do it. He seems to lack some of the scientific methodology in his articles, which is probably why I like most of them. But I would really be more interested in what was in Ed Abbey's backpack, and I think Dave might know -- he just isn't sharing. One thing we can probably surmise about Abbey is that he was not a Blackwing 602 aficionado. In Desert Solitaire, he wrote:

----------------------------------------------------
"There was only one thing I could do. I had a tiny notebook in my hip pocket and a stub of a pencil. When these dried out, I could at least record my final thoughts. I would have plenty of time to write not only my epitaph but my own elegy."
----------------------------------------------------

We can't have Clelland! do it, because he would probably use the pencil as a toilet paper replacement.

Obviously Skukra can't do it, he doesn't even stop to pee... to save time he pees while walking.

Besides, if I even remember to take a camera on a backpacking trip, I usually forget to use it. How can I deal with testing a pencil?

Maybe we are taking this backpacking stuff too seriously? It is just walking, you know.



P.S. Apologies to Roger, Will, Dave, Mike, and Andrew. I do enjoy your writing.

Tanner M
(Tan68)
Re: Re: Re: A Pencil for the JMT -- Solution Found! on 06/03/2013 22:58:56 MDT Print View

Qualitative is like quality of life and that is subjective. Some. Quantitative is like a gross of pencils is a quantity of 144. A thing you can count.

I did read the other thread. I was late to it and figured there was no reason to reply there. Since this thread is active and you are still here, I will say I don't think a pencil will make a good tent stake.

It is likely to be driven successfully into only soft soil or snow but then the shape isn't really quite right for soft soil or snow.

I think the pencil could be a good tool. It shouldn't be used outside its design threshold. Pencils are good for scratching various bits. The ends are often used by people to help them think. 'Should I use the razor blade?', 'where's my rock', etc. They can be used to remove ear wax and make nice little splints. On the other hand, they make a poor weapon unless you can avoid any deflection. At all.

Edited by Tan68 on 06/03/2013 23:01:17 MDT.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Re: Re: A Pencil for the JMT -- Solution Found! on 06/03/2013 23:12:41 MDT Print View

"On the other hand, they make a poor weapon"

In the movie, The Dark Knight, a pencil was used to kill a bad guy. And didn't Jason Bourne kill an assassin with a pen? Seems a pencil could be substituted for a pen.

You're probably correct about using it as a tent stake.

Derrick White
(miku) - MLife

Locale: Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada
Great Piece on the Pencil on 06/04/2013 08:38:10 MDT Print View

Thoroughly enjoyed your pencil musings. Good karma. Thanks

Derrick

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Re: Re: Re: A Pencil for the JMT -- Solution Found! on 06/04/2013 20:04:45 MDT Print View

As long as any multi-use functions do not nullify or reduce the pencil's ITPO they would be more than welcome.

What multi-use might nullify the ITPO you ask? Well, as Nick has already implied, never lend your trail pencil to Mike Clelland!

I'm thinking a titanium pencil might improve its multi-use potential as both tent stake and weapon.