recommended – Hydrophobic Down or HydroDown™

… down insulation has been treated with a durable water repellent that enables the down to dry quicker and resist water for longer.

While Hydrophobic down jackets are by no means waterproof, this is a big step forward …

The main benefits are:

  • Dries faster.
  • Repels water for longer.
  • Retains Loft even when damp, to keep you warm.

Get Outdoors Blog

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

Thanks Kraig.


my hiking jacket – Columbia OutDry Ex Gold

Top layer is the new Columbia Men’s OutDry Ex Gold Interchange Jacket

It’s fairly heavy with the removable Omni-Heat Reflective inner layer. For most hikes, I’ll leave that liner at home carrying only the 2 layer shell.

I tested it in the rain while cycling. With seam tape it feels entirely waterproof. And it’s reasonably light.

It has no pit zips.  Breathability is not nearly as good as Columbia claims. In fact, I’d say it’s breathability is LOUSY.

I paired it with the new Columbia OutDry EX Gold Down Hooded Jacket

For most hikes I will bring this along, replacing my usual down hooded parka.

The most compelling reason I decided to go this direction is the OutDry™ EX outer layer. It seems obvious to me that down jackets should be waterproof. The down is not hydrophobic, but doesn’t need to be as it won’t get wet.

I’m confident I’ll never be wet nor cold with this system. The hoods are excellent.

Some feel the fit is boxy. I’d agree. But I like the extra room for more layers underneath.

For warm hikes I also picked up the Frogg Toggs Men’s Ultra Lite Rain Jacket as an alternative.

This is what the cool thru-hikers wear. It’s not breathable at all. But at US $14.22 you can’t lose.

All in all I’m very happy with my new OutDry system. It has got some bad reviews, however.

Gortex` wets out. Starts to fail after a few years. It’s the fabric of deceit. I’ve never trusted it.

Here’s how Outdry is supposed to work. Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.


Trekking to Aconcagua’s Plaza Francia INDEPENDENTLY – Day 0

trip report by site editor Rick McCharles

day 0 | 1 | 2 | 3 | info page | video

The best hike (not climb) in Aconcagua Provincial Park, Argentina is to the Plaza Francia, I reckon.

Aconcagua is the tallest mountain outside Asia. Most impressive is the south face – a wall of rock and ice nearly 3000m high.

It’s steep.

Here’s my promised vista from Francia.

The French team of 1954 who made the first ascent, returned with severe frostbite, Imagine the terrible gear they were using.

Almost everyone treks to Aconcagua’s south face base camp — Plaza Francia — with a guide.

Inka Expeditions is one of the best.

But it’s relatively easy to do Francia on your own.

Cost for my independent trekking permit January 2018 was $160 plus bus ($19) plus food.

Aconcagua fees January 2018

Cost for the same trip with Inka Expeditions was — at the same time — to Plaza Francia $715 / person discounted to $470 / person + tip if you book in advance.

(Note – Inka Expeditions trekking to Plaza de Mulas was $1360 / person and trekking to Mt. Bonete $1690 / person.)

The other independent permit option is 7 days for $310. You’d easily visit both Francia and Plaza de Mulas (Mule Camp) with more time to acclimatize. But we’d recommend doing Francia in 3 days, instead.

There are a number of outdoors shops in Mendoza that sell camp stove fuel. Chamonix is the best I found.

First day in Argentina I had trouble finding a bank that would accept my Debit Card. They all take Credit Cards, but you get instantly charged a high rate of interest for cash advance on credit.

Finally I found a bigger branch of the Galicia bank where my bank card worked. Maximum seems to be 3000 ARG, just under $180. I put that cash in my pocket.

Tourist Information offices in Mendoza are excellent. They gave me a map and showed where the Park Office that issues trekking permits is located.

  • Centro de Informes, Parque General San Martin, Mendoza (Google map).

Not central, it’s in the gigantic Parque General San Martin.

On arrival employee #1 explained I’d need to pay in cash, Argentinian pesos only. Cost for the 3 day permit was 3080 ARG, exactly 80 pesos more than I had in my pocket. 🤨

I’d need to go back to the bank.

In addition, I needed the number of my insurance policy that covers hiking (not climbing).

I didn’t have the number with me nor was I sure my current policy covered hiking. I walked back to the hostel to get the number.

Second trip to the Centro de Informes employee #1 was gone. Employee #2 informed me no insurance was needed for the 3 day trek, only the longer permits.

He helped me make application online on computers in the office. The web page is not well designed. I was happy to do it there and in person.

The options and costs for different adventures on Aconcagua are confusing.

Application printed and in hand, he told me to walk to the nearest “Easy Pay” kiosk. Parks employees are not allowed to handle money.

Closest was about 1km away in the park. I walked there only to find out it was closed Mondays. 🤨 Retuning to #YouHadOneJob employee #2 quite irked, he blurted his lack of critical information was a 3rd world problem.

Ya. … Right.

I walked to the next closest Easy Pay.

That worked well. They do take only cash.

BACK for the 3rd time same day to the Centro de Informes.

My permit was processed and I — finally — had it in hand. It was good for any time over the next 3 weeks.

I picked up my camping food at the massive Carrefour grocery store. No peanut butter, however. I took inexpensive, calorie rich Christmas cake instead. Love candied fruit and raisins.

That night at Alamo hostel it was the old guys at the table late night. All the youngsters were out in Mendoza Bars. Two of the Argentinian gentlemen cooked up empanadas and pizza. Me and the social worker from Texas enjoyed their cooking while sharing Malbec.

I tried to go to bed early.

OK … I’ve downloaded Viewranger

Apps and maps. For the first time I’m going to try navigating with them on the trail.

First download was Viewranger. It’s free for basics. You pay to download specialty maps.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

Unfortunately their shop offers none for Chile nor Argentina.

I’m really keen on augmented reality showing me peaks, towns, lakes, cliffs, ridgelines, mountain passes, and even glaciers up to 20 miles away. That’s the Skyline feature available from within ViewRanger.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

It works with my Apple Watch too, though I may never use that feature.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

Click PLAY or watch Alastair Humphreys on YouTube.

Adventure Podcast – Episode 2: 10 Essentials of Hiking

Dave Adlard and Kraig Becker talk gear on their new audiocast.

Dave referred to his 2003 edition of Freedom of the Hills. The Ten Essentials first appeared in print in the 1974 version of that classic.

He and Kraig added 3-4 more essentials, only briefly touching on the non-essential electronics most of us carry.

Check it out:

The Adventure Podcast – Episode 2: The 10 Essentials of Hiking


  1. Navigation. Topographic map and assorted maps in waterproof container plus a magnetic compass, optional altimeter or GPS receiver.
  2. Sun protection. Sunglasses, sunscreen for lips and skin, hat, clothing for sun protection.
  3. Insulation. Hat, gloves, jacket, extra clothing for coldest possible weather during current season.
  4. Illumination. Headlamp, flashlight, batteries. LED bulb is preferred to extend battery life.
  5. First-aid supplies, plus insect repellent.
  6. Fire. Butane lighter, matches in waterproof container.
  7. Repair kit and tools. Knives, multi-tool, scissors, pliers, screwdriver, trowel/shovel, duct tape, cable ties.
  8. Nutrition. Add extra food for one additional day (for emergency). Dry food is preferred to save weight and usually needs water.
  9. Hydration. Add extra 2 liters of water for one additional day (for emergency).
  10. Emergency shelter. Tarp, bivouac sackspace blanket, plastic tube tent, jumbo trash bags, insulated sleeping pad.

The textbook recommends supplementing the ten essentials with:


MEC Spark tent vs Hubba

I first posted this in 2016. And did buy another Hubba. My third. I do love that tent.

Next time I will go for the MEC Spark, I think. It’s cheaper. And has far better waterproofing ratings.

___ original post:

I’m a Hubba guy. Hundreds of nights in the iconic one man tent and I’ve no complaints.


Slightly lighter, slightly cheaper is the new MEC Spark.