Never Fear, We’ve Got Winter Gear

Feels like Winter is well on it’s way! For us down in Texas that means some chilly 40 degree temperatures (at night), but we know our northern customers might be getting some of that cold white powdery stuff called snow that we don’t see too often. Well, just because the snow doesn’t fall on us every winter doesn’t mean we aren’t familiar with how to deal with it. Of course, paddlers will need to start layering up and eventually (yes, we hate saying this) give your watercraft some hibernation time during the coldest parts of the season. Good storage practices will allow your kayak, canoe or paddleboard to be fresh when spring finally rolls around. But for those who are looking to enjoy some outdoor, off the water, fun during the snowy season, this article is for you.

Its All About Traction

Yaktrax Pro Winter Shoe Traction Device

Warmth is always going to be your primary concern during this time of the season but once you get the right clothes, sleeping bag, tent and whatever else you need to keep the feeling in all of your appendages (might we recommend some Grabbers?), your next concern should be traction. Just because the ground is covered in snow and ice doesn’t mean you have to be slipping and sliding all over the place! Whether you’re trekking through the snow, hiking up to your favorite ski/snowboard spot, making your way to your favorite paddling destination (before the water freezes up) or headed on a winter camping adventure, we’ve got the gear that’ll keep you and your tent, standing up right.

Traverse Snow Covered Trails & Steep Slopes with Ease

MSR Lightning Axis Snowshoe

Snow shouldn’t keep you locked up all winter, and we’ve got the appropriate gear for everyone, whether you’re looking to go on a long distance expedition during a flurry or just to jog through your snow covered neighborhood. The first thing you’ll want to consider is the severity of the weather and difficulty of your activity. Deep snow can become a big hazard as feet will sink and possibly ‘post hole’ (getting stuck like a post in the snow) and it can cover dangerous objects or uneven surfaces.

For activities that require you to face deep snows, you need flotation. Much like floating on water, flotation for snow trekking refers to limiting how far your feet sink beneath the snow. Snowshoes are the way to achieve this because they distribute your weight over a larger area. Not only do they provide flotation, but they will provide the necessary traction and stability you need to keep you on your feet.

On the other hand, if you’re simply planning a hike or run after a light snow then a traction device will suffice, ranging from things like Yaktrax for casual of outings and even everyday situations to Hillsound or Kahtoola traction devices and crampons for runners and hikers. These devices will all slide over your personal footwear and add the traction you need to continue doing what you love. These won’t, however, provide the flotation you can only get from snow shoes.

ToughStake Snow Tent Stake

Anchor’s Away!

It’s a phrase winter campers should become familiar with because anchoring down your tent in the snow is a lot different than doing it in solid ground. You should start with tent stakes designed specifically for the snow and then consider if you’ll need an actual snow anchor. Again, what you need is going to be based on the severity of the weather. In most cases, a set of good snow stakes are going to to be all it takes to keep your tent standing up right through the night. Specific designs from a variety of our favorite manufacturers like MSR and ToughStake will ensure your tent preforms as it should. When camping through a severe winter storm, it might be a good idea to use the stakes in tandem with snow anchors, like the MSR picket or fluke or Mountain Hardware snow anchor. These devices will provide extra support and stability to ensure you can get a full night’s sleep.

Carry Your Toys the Right Way

We couldn’t go without reminding you that we’ve been expanding our rack inventory a lot lately and even have added some Ski and Snowboard trunk carriers and roof rack accessories. This includes stuff from customer favorites like Thule and Yakima so you know you’re getting quality products. So if your winter season involves skiing or snowboarding, we’ve got the means to transport your toys.

This winter, don’t feel forced to hibernate. Instead, load up for camping gear and strap on your snow shoes because the best time to enjoy the outdoors is all year long! - Joseph@ACK

Garner State Park. Awesome. Colorful. Fantastic.

Bound for Glory

Those are just a few of the words that would describe my weekend camping in Garner State Park back in the fall of 2011. With good friends, gear, and kayaks in tow, we set off for the Hill Country for a gorgeous autumn weekend of camping, paddling and hiking. Although we departed a bit later than we had originally planned, we were still able to set up the campsite in the dark, lickity-split, thanks to our Princeton Tech head lamps. I had just recently purchased a Mountain Hardware Drifter 3 tent and was surprised, even in the dark, how easy it was to pitch. Not only was it easy to pitch but it was great to have for some of the inclement weather we experienced overnight. It was crazy windy and rained for a few hours just before sunrise but not a drop made it on our gear.

The View from Old Baldy

After the rain ceased around daybreak, I broke out the skillet and sent the smell of bacon frying on cast iron into the morning air. A short time later, not surprisingly, the campers started emerging from their tents and there was a call to arms. As soon as the grease was runnin’ hot in the pan we made some eggs and the breakfast tacos were born. With our hunger quenched and our spirits high, we began our ascent up Old Baldy. We reached the top after only about 30 minutes but boy did that climb get the blood flowing. Although the ascent was quite challenging at times, the view from the top of the Texas Hill Country is unrivaled, especially with the foliage during that time of year. We snapped some pictures and then it was time to head back to base camp for lunch.

Amazing Garner Vistas

We made it down the Old Baldy Trail and put a few Frankfurters on the barbie. By then the sun had burned off the patchy fog that was covering the campground and we were ready to put some roto-molded plastic in the Frio — the time to paddle had finally arrived!

I was anxiously awaiting this moment because I had the Bending Branches Navigator paddle with me for the weekend but hadn’t had the chance to use it yet. After a quick trip back to the campsite for some refreshments, I shoved the Necky Rip 12 into the Frio and we paddled the dammed up part of the river for about an hour. I had paddled the Rip 10 plenty of times previously but this was my first go ‘round with the 12 foot version and it did not disappoint. In my opinion, it is a better version of the 10ft because it tracks better, still has ample cockpit space, and is very comfortable. For as much as I enjoyed the kayak, the paddle was even better. The paddle strokes were effortless and I was very impressed with how light the swing weight of the paddle was. It was nice to have the Rockguard on the paddle blades as well because the Frio River’s water level was much lower than normal due to the extreme drought we’ve had here in Texas. There were quite a few exposed rocks in the shallow water so it was key to have the protection on the paddle blades.

The Crystal Clear Waters of the Frio River

As dusk approached I fired up the skillet once again and we had a fabulous meal of beef fajitas with all the fixin’s and topped it all off with a healthy helping of s’mores. We recounted the adventures of the day and carried on long into the night and then it was time, yet again, to retire to our tents. On this evening, however, I was sleeping in style with the Kelty Recluse sleeping pad. It took no time at all to inflate the pad with the hand pump, but I finished it off with the iron lungs just for good measure. Everyone in camp was jealous of the sleeping pad and for good reason, as it took tent camping to another level of comfort. I can honestly say I will not be camping without the Recluse after getting the chance to sleep on it for just one night.

One thing was for sure when we awoke the next morning, we will be planning another camping trip to Garner sometime very soon.

Have you been here before? What was your experience like?

Kyle @ACK

Quality Gear…Because it’s worth it.

Lately I’ve been on a binge of purchasing products THAT ACTUALLY WORK! For years, especially in this economy, I spent my money on bargain products only to discover that these products either didn’t work well or simply didn’t last.

One item that quickly comes to mind are my shirts. My closet is lined with clothes that I can only wear for specific activities because they got ruined or stained at some point. One of these activities of course is fishing which ironically is the root cause of many of those stains.

When I learned that we would be carrying Columbia brand shirts, I was quick to get some for myself and what better line than the Columbia PFG Blood & Guts Shirt. They repel liquid like nothing else — even the disgusting stuff like fish blood and guts (hence the name). Sure, I specifically bought them for fishing but quickly discovered that even after a long day of fishing and quick wash they are good as new! In fact, you’ll often see me wearing them while cruising around town, at family holiday events and yes, even as dinner attire. Nothing can stain these shirts as long as it’s less than 170 degrees Fahrenheit. The shirts repelling ability was actually tested in a tub full of fish blood and guts but don’t worry, we sell them fish-smell free.

Another product that comes to mind is a tent. I have at least 6 tents in my collection, however I refuse to use four of the lower end designs since they have a number of problems including inadequate pole structure, leaking seams and susceptibility to condensation. Instead, I rely on my Mountain Hardware Lightpath 3 as well as my Kelty Trail Ridge 4 tents. I’ve used the Mountain Hardware tent more times than I can count on both hands since I’ve had it for well over 6 years. Both of these tents have proven themselves time after time, which says a lot coming from me — I’m not gentle with my equipment.

Good equipment doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg but you’ll find that by spending a little more, you’ll save a lot in the long run. Speaking of good equipment, what higher-end products have you purchased that have proven themselves? Maybe it’s somehting we should be carrying. We want to know, comment below!

Dave Graves
Assistant Manager
ACK – San Marcos