How To: Waterproof Your Own Topo Maps

There you are – out backpacking, biking or touring in “sub-optimal” (read WET) weather and need to pull out the map for a quick direction check.  If you are using a non-waterproofed map it’s pretty much game over at this point.  Soggy maps and folding do not mix, and before long your trusty lifeline back to civilization is deteriorating before your eyes. As a backpacker, splitboarder, backcountry skier or mountain biker, if you haven’t been there yet, you will.

A ton of maps come in durable, waterproof versions, and National Geographic makes “Adventure Paper” to print your own, but there are still many maps that are not.  Key among these are the standard USGS topographic maps that are key to anyone who ventures off the beaten path.

The solution: DIY waterproofing.  Here’s how to do it:



TIME REQUIRED: About 1 hour to apply, 72 hours for full drying


COST: $6-12 depending on size of sealer product purchased (plus an ~$8 map)


The first step is to rig up a hanging apparatus for your map.  Mine consists of two twist ties tied to two paper clamps tied to the chandelier.  Get creative and work with what you’ve got.

Layout your map on a flat surface, gently stir the map seal and quickly brush on a thin coat using the provided applicator (some versions have a foam brush which is much easier to get an even coat). Make sure you cover the map evenly.  It can help to have a light shining at an angle to easier see where you have and have not applied the sealer.


After applying a coat, hang the map up using the clips and ties or clothes pins for about 5 minutes.  Once tacky, repeat the procedure above on the SAME side making two coats. Again, hang to dry, this time for about 30 minutes.

After the first side is dry, repeat the process with the back side by applying one coat, hanging for 5 minutes and then applying a second coat.  Finally, hang the map making sure it does not contact any other surfaces or fold over on itself (it will stick) for at least 72 hours before using it.


Once complete, not only will your map be waterproof, but much more durable and foldable.  Now go get out there and use it.



Ortovox Haute Route Backpack Gear Review


All in all, the 35L Ortovox Haute Route pack, with its versatile equipment carry options and great detailed features, is a solid choice for the day touring backcountry skier or splitboarder.

This review is from a splitboarders perspective – which means that this pack has been put through its paces.  We splitboarders use the heck out of our packs.  Every lap we are taking it on and off, taking things in and out, strapping on and off poles, placing our board in ride mode and/or ski mode, so it has to hold up and it has to be versatile.

My main first impression of this pack was not good… I told Jess: “this thing just looks too small for even a day pack.”  Other than that, this pack is well put together with rugged reinforced nylon throughout.  The pack is clean looking too, with waterproof zippers and sturdy zipper pulls.  Overall, it’s a nice looking pack but just does not LOOK like it would fit everything I would need for a day of backcountry splitboard touring.


The Haute Route line from Ortovox comes in 3 sizes including a women’s pack, a 35L and 45L option.  I have the 35L version and it really has everything you could ask for in a ski/ride pack*

  • Dedicated – easy to access avalanche rescue gear compartment
  • Board and ski carry modes
  • Gear and ice axe loops
  • Handy hip belt pockets
  • Hydration Bladder sleeve and hose routing
  • Rear Access to the main compartment
  • Helmet attachment system


Overall, the Haute Route has impressed me in use.  It looks small and it feels small on your back but it has held everything I have needed for a day tour.  The helmet attachment and ski and board carry options are pretty sweet too.  The only negative so far is that there is ONLY rear access to the main compartment which makes it hard to get to gear when you just want to sling it off one shoulder.  Also the rear access zipper has a tendency to catch and can be a pain to open up- especially with gloves on.

All in all, the 35L Haute Route pack, with its versatile equipment carry options and great detailed features, is a solid choice for the day touring skiier or splitboarder.

*Detailed specs can be found at ortovox’s website.

DIY Board Repair: Base Patching – Part II

This is part II of a DIY tutorial on Base Patching.  If you haven’t read it already, read Part I then come on back here.

Alright, so you’ve let the epoxy dry and your ready for the next steps.  Well, it gets easier from here so don’t worry.
Step 5: Flatten the Patch

This is where a certain tool that I don’t have but would like would come in handy.  If you can, get something like the Surform Versaplane Tool (less than $10).  If you can’t, then do like I did and use some sandpaper, a metal scraper and a dremel tool to flatten and smooth the patch until it is flush with the rest of the base.

Step 6: PTex the surrounding flaws

So the pesky rock probably wasn’t considerate enough to make a nice little isolated gouge on your base.  Now is the time to fix up the non core shot scrapes that are probably surrounding your big patched area.  There is a lot of info on DIY Ptex out there so check out a site like this or wait a while and I will be doing a post about that soon (just have to go ride some more and work up some more dings to PTex).

Step 7: Wax and Tune your board

At the very least, rewax the area that was effected by the repair and overspray from the base cleaner.  The beauty of a patch is that it (unlike some other repairs) should hold wax, so wax it up, run a file down the edges.  There you are.  A base patched and ready to shred.  As you can see, it’s not the prettiest thing, but my board is not quite white and not quite black anywhere so any repairs stand out.  Plus, when they say “clear” they don’t really mean transparent so whatever, I’m not trying to win a board beauty contest, I’m trying to make my board rip especially since tomorrow (1/22/12) is going to be a POW day in CO!

DIY Board Repair: Base Patching – Part I

Alright, let’s get this out of the way:

1.  I am not a qualified or “expert” ski/snowboard technician, just a guy who likes to figure things out, do it myself and then share it with others.  2. I am not responsible if you totally jack up your skis/board.  3. Your local ski/board repair shop will be MUCH better at this and if you are uncomfortable with the possibility of botching your repair take it in to one of your local places.

Okay, glad we got that over with.  On to the fun stuff:  Base repair, if you haven’t had to do it yet then 1. YOU WILL or 2. You aren’t riding hard enough 😉  Point is, it’s gonna happen sooner or later especially if you ride early or late season (or mid season with this dismal snow year).  With this being my first in this series you might expect something simple like a small ptex gouge repair, well, sorry, we’re diving right in head first with a core shot requiring a base patch.  This is what we’re working with, a ~4″ long by 1/2″ gouge received when doing some “guided ski compaction” at A-Basin (SO WORTH IT!)

Some background, there are many ways to make a repair on a board, some better than others.  I am showing you one way and the way I am showing you is based on someone using just some simple tools that I already have.  There are special tools for just about EVERY repair/tuning task you can think of (See here for pages and pages of “stuff”).  While that stuff is awesome and great for shops, I’ve found it can mostly be labeled as “Nice to have” and not completely necessary, but if you have hundreds of dollars to spend on tuning/repair equipment then have at it.  For this repair, here is what you will really need:


  • P-Tex Sheet Material – Comes in Clear(ish) and Black
  • Base Cleaner – Denatured alcohol or acetone can work too
  • P-Tex candle or ribbon (For touch ups afterward)
  • Epoxy – Slow setting is preferred but use what you can find
  • Cellophane or wax paper


  • Razor Blade
  • Dremel – Nice if you have one, otherwise can be done by hand
  • Clamps (C Clamps or any other wood clamps will work)
  • Metal Scraper
  • A piece of flat plastic or metal to clamp your repair down while setting
  • File
  • Sandpaper
  • Piece of paper and pen/marker
  • Typical tuning tools to wax and tune after repair

Step 1: Prep the base
Using a combination of  a razor blade, a straight edge and your metal scraper, notch out a square around the effected area.  They make templates ($40) to make this easier using a more rounded shape but rectangles are going to be easier for a DIY.  Try to cut at an angle to make the groove look more like this: /__\ instead of straight or \__/ so you can “keyhole” your repair material later.

Clean out the old base material and any scraps from your rectangular groove.  A dremel can help here.

Step 2: Making your patch – With your rectangular groove cut out of your base, you can now start making your base patch.  First step is to create a template.  If you were super precise and made a perfect rectangle (Good on ya!) then just take measurements and use them to cut your patch.  If, like me, one end is slightly larger and the sides aren’t exactly parallel, then use a sheet of paper and your scraper (a small screwdriver works too) and push the edge of the scraper through the paper and into the groove.  This should give you a pretty good outline of the shape you need.

Tape the small cut out piece of paper or the paper it was cut out of over the P-Tex sheet material and use a marker to draw the outline of the shape you will need.  Tip: Try to go slightly larger than the template at this point since we can always sand down and can’t add material.  Use your razor to cut out the base patch from the P-Tex sheet.

You will then need to tweak your patch slightly to get it to fit snugly.  Using a small piece of sandpaper, sand off the sides until you have a good snug fit.  Once you are close be sure to sand the piece at an angle like /–\ around all the edges so that it will fit more like a puzzle piece once inserted.  Test the fit and remember which way it goes/which side is up for the upcoming steps.

  Step 3: Epoxy the Patch in Place – The first part of this step is to ensure that the epoxy will have a nice clean bonding surface.  Use your base cleaner/alcohol ect to get both the patch and the area to be patched free of any oils/wax or other contaminants and then try to touch the area as little as possible.

Once it is all clean, it’s time to take the big step and set that patch.  I put some masking tape along the base just in case I dripped any epoxy outside the repair area.  Be sure to read and follow all of the instructions on the epoxy package as they are all slightly different for amounts of resin to hardener and set times ect.  In general though you will put a thin layer of your epoxy compounds into the area to be patched, ensure it is mixed well.

Once your nice even layer of epoxy is in place, put your snug fitting patch into the groove.  Some epoxy paste may squeeze out the sides while you do this, that is fine (especially if you put the tape down).

You will then want to take your cellophane or wax paper and cover the patch, next take the metal/plastic scraper or a flat piece of wood or metal and place it over the wax paper.  Clamp this piece down providing even (not crushing but firm) pressure over the patch.

Step 4: Let it Set – Probably the easiest step.  Let your epoxy dry and harden for the recommended amount of time based on the type of epoxy you used.

Step 5: To Be Continued

You’ll have some time to kill so go watch a ski or snowboard flick while it dries.  Or better yet, go grab your non-jacked up board and go enjoy some turns.  Come tomorrow your board will be ready for the next steps.

Climbing [how not to] Crash Course

It seems everywhere I look I find out that Boulder, Colorado is the mecca of something or the best of something else.  Recently we’ve been thrust (willingly) into the massive climbing scene that is Boulder. While our friends have been nothing but helpful and totally willing to share their immense knowledge base, we knew we had to increase our climbing IQ and quick!  So in typical Jess and my fashion, it was time for a (how not to) crash course in climbing.  Like everything else we get into, it always starts with some background research.

Step 1.  Learn the basics of Anchor systems and the foundation of climbing outside starting with Toproping

Toproping by Peter Lewis is a great intro to toproping and climbing outside with a nice layout and emphasis on safety.  After reading this one it became obvious that knowledge of setting anchors is vital, so we picked up Rock Climbing Anchors: A Comprehensive Guide by Craig Luebben to get a good comprehensive look at that aspect.  While some of it is a little advanced for our current needs, it is definitely a great book that we can grow into once we start leading 5.12 trad routes 😉Finally, we had to get an idea of where to go practice these skills so we came across the Front Range Topropes book by Fred Knapp.  Great resource for toproping hot spots in Boulder and the rest of the Front Range.  I really like how it describes the type of anchors and what kind of gear is required to set them up.

Now, based on these books we’ve got a gear list we need for toproping and skills we need to practice while sitting in front of the TV at night.

  • Rope, Carabiners, Slings, Webbing, Cordalettes…
  • Pre-equalized 2 and 3 point anchors
  • Self-equalizing 2 and 3 point anchors
  • Self-equalizing 2-3 point anchors with limiting knots

Now back to the books… we’ve still got to learn uphaul systems and mechanical advantage problems for this weeks RMRG meeting/practice.

GOing PRO for Christmas

Jess and I did something a little different this year.  We typically aren’t all that crazy with the whole suprise gifts for each other thing and we will usually spend that money on some kind of fun trip or adventure, but with things as they are with me saving up my leave to get to Colorado ASAP we decided to get each other a secret santa type gift this year.

So mine ended up being totally awesome!  Jess got me a POV camera called the Hero by GOPRO. 

It comes with a ton of mounting options and a waterproof housing so you can even surf with the thing on.  So after reading up on how to use it, we had to go try it out.  Rogue, Jess and I with a backpack full of bungie cords, a ski pole, a tripod, and my skateboard headed across the street to a closed parking garage to check out some angles.  Jess also got me a book on using Final Cut Pro to edit movies and this is my first try at it.  It seems like a very functional program but I just need a little practice to smooth it all out.  Here is the result:

Thanks Jess, can’t wait to have some awesome places to use this thing to its full potential.

Super Sick Setup

Well, it took months of stalking Steep & Cheap and REI during the off-season but Ryan and I managed to piece together almost entirely new setups before 2010/2011 snowboarding season! I have a super sick setup now – one that I don’t feel worthy of – and all my latest additions are brand-spankin’ new.

When the 2009 season ended, Ryan and I put together our Dream List for snowboarding gear. We printed out pictures of what we wanted and tacked it up on our 3’x5′ Dream Board. And before we knew it, our dream gear kept popping up! I feel awful for having Burton‘s top-of-the-line Feelgood ES board when I’m stuck on hard-packed groomers because PA never gets enough good snow to scout out any backcountry rides! But, the deals we got on these were just too good to pass up. From my Oakley Stockholm goggles for just $49 (reg $100) to my new $4.99 Giro helmet (reg $110 at the time) to my $16 Burton Lexa bindings from REI over the summer, I’ve got quite the Gucci gear for a Walmart price!

I knew I wanted gear that I wouldn’t even have to think of upgrading for atleast another 7 years so my strategy was to get classic, timeless-looking pieces. So, almost everything is either black or white in color.

My best upgrade? The Norrona bibs (sooo comfy!) and the Burton Supreme boots – warm toes make ALL the difference! I’m definitely glad Ryan and I had the foresight to shop off-season!