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.



A Weekend To Save Your Life: Avalanche Level I Training

I have been told that learning to backcountry snowboard in Colorado is like learning to swim in shark infested waters, or learning to hike on everest.  Basically, we’re in expert territory as noobs.  It IS the most deadly state in the US for backcountry enthusiasts.

Basically, we don’t want to see this and then decide its time to learn something:

Not where you want to get your experience about avalanches

With that in mind we decided we really have to do this “right.”  What is “Right” you ask? Well from our research it goes something like this:

1. Read, read, read as much as you can on avalanche safety.  This book is awesome, if not a little advanced.
2. Attend a few free Avalanche Awareness courses and Backcountry/Winter education classes.  (Lots of shops have these like REI, check your local shop)
3. Buy the gear you plan to use in the field so you can practice with what you will be playing with.
2. Take a multiday avalanche course – (This is the step we’re talking about now!)
3. Find, travel and learn with experienced mentors
3. Start in low consequence, low danger terrain
4. Continue to progress in your avalanche knowledge and education

Jess and I made a rule that we would not go into the backcountry until we had our level I class done and we stuck to it.

First you have to find a reputable course.  That’s where AIARE comes in.  They are the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education, and they set the curriculum for avy education throughout the nation.  If you are interested in a course go to their website and find a provider near you.  They do one just about every week somewhere in CO.

After some research we decided to go with the fine folks at Colorado Mountain School.  They were very professional and highly knowledgeable, plus they were just cool guys to spend a day in the backcountry with AND the course is set in beautiful Rocky Mountain National Park… win-win-win!

Jess Outside CMS Estes Park

Day 1 started with some classroom time followed by a little companion rescue practice.

Our fearless guides showing us how its done.

"How does this thing work again?"

Day 2 started via classroom but by the afternoon we were out in the field digging pits and observing conditions.

Jess in the Pit

Day 3 was the culmination of everything we had learned and began with reading the avy bulletin and doing some trip planning.  After that we headed back to Rocky Mountain National Park to do a full day tour with the objective of assessing and possibly riding some terrain west of Bear Lake.

Our group touring in RMNP

Overall, an awesome weekend out in RMNP and on top of that we got a ton of really useful info on making decisions in avalanche terrain.  Thanks to Mike and Nate (our guides) for the awesome experience.

Nate making some earned turns

Now, the snow is flying, time to plan some backcountry tours! …safely of course.

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.