Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Is Relite a good material for a wall tent?

It's wall tent season again and we have had lots of people calling to order their wall tent in time for late summer camping and hunting season. We have also had lots of people asking, as they do every year, about the Relite fabric option in our wall tents. So here is some information to help you decide about which fabric will best serve your needs in a Montana Canvas wall tent:

Montana Canvas Wall Tent Material Comparison
Montana Canvas Wall Tents are available in two materials: 100% Canvas and 100% Relite. Both materials are pretreated to be flame retardant, water resistant and mildew resistant and meet the California Fire Marshall specifications. Montana Canvas also offers a Montana Blend wall tent where the roof is made of canvas and the side walls of Relite.
Canvas. Canvas is the traditional material for wall tents. The canvas used by Montana Canvas is available in 10 oz and 12 oz weights (10 oz is the most popular). Because it is 100% cotton, canvas is especially good at absorbing some of the interior condensation created by drying clothes or boiling water, while also retaining heat well. The weight of canvas helps it billow less in a stiff wind. A canvas wall tent provides excellent shelter, but needs to be taken care of properly. We recommend completely drying your canvas wall tent after each use to avoid mold and mildew growth.
Relite. Relite is available exclusively from Montana Canvas. For many outdoor camping purposes, Relite is the perfect tent fabric choice. This unique polyester-based fabric is extremely lightweight, which makes it ideal for packing in on animals and environmentally friendly, low-impact camping. Soft, pliable and easy to clean, Relite offers a tear strength and longevity as good as canvas. Because Relite is so highly durable and more resistant to destructive ultraviolet rays than other commonly used materials such as nylon, it is the choice of many outdoor enthusiasts. Relite does not grow mold or mildew. However, we do recommend that you dry your wall tent out before storage. This takes only a few minutes with Relite and keeps it from smelling musty when you use the next time. Relite does not need to be retreated for water resistancy, but we advise you to reseal the seams as needed. All-Dri is provided with your Montana Canvas Relite tent or can be purchased from us.
Montana Blend. Montana Blend offers you the best of both worlds. With the majority of the tent made of lightweight Relite, the overall weight of your wall tent is substantially reduced from that of a canvas wall tent. The canvas roof provides you with a more breathable material overhead to absorb the condensation from breathing, cooking and drying clothes. Although we recommend setting up your tent to dry it out before putting it away, with a Montana Blend tent, the tent could be set up such that the roof was exposed to dry. The canvas roof gives your wall tent a more traditional look than a 100% Relite wall tent.
When choosing Relite fabric for your wall tent, we highly recommend the tan. It allows plenty of light to penetrate the tent without being too bright inside or out. It blends well in most environments and does not show the dirt as much as the white or spring green.

I have used a Montana Canvas Wall Tent made of Relite for 15 years. I chose Relite because I pack into the backcountry to go camping and hunting and like to keep the weight of my equipment down. I have used this tent in all types of conditions from early spring to late fall and have never had an issue. I heat my tent with wood and use a fly, which I strongly recommend to all tent users regardless of the material they choose. After 15 years of hard use, I have no reason to believe that a wall tent made from Relite will not last as long as any canvas wall tent.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Wendy's last notes

Here's the last bit from Wendy's emails:

After leaving Woodstock, we rode through Pomfret to S. Royalton, where the newspaper came and took photos of me tacking and packing up. Then E. Randolph to Williamstown, Williamstown to E. Montpelier where we're having a rest. Sunday we'll head toward Groton State Park on an old railbed that is flat and easy going. I think we'll camp there for a few days because it's supposed to be a great place to ride. I have spent a lot more time with people than I thought I would when I planned this trip. In fact one of the reasons why I wanted to go out by myself was to experience some deep quiet and solitude, to travel slowly and develop a partnership with my horse. However people have come out of the woodwork to participate and help and so I'm am grateful for the goodness I've been shown.

I'm really happy with the saddlebags, by the way. They're easy to put on and take off and feel like trusty friends. Jolie has no sores or back troubles, I'm happy to report. She's a wide horse and I do think that helps. We're using a flexible tree saddle which has also served well.

After tomorrow, I'm not sure when I'll be near a computer again. If I get any reasonable pictures, I'll have my husband send you some.

Best, Wendy

I imagine a few of you might be interested in what kind of saddle Wendy is riding and what gear she has packed along. We have asked her these questions, which hopefully she will have time to answer when she gets another break near a computer. If you have any other questions for Wendy, please email us at and we will be sure to pass your questions along.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Wendy Copp rides into Woodstock

I rode into the Woodstock region on July 3 and was immediately impressed with its horse friendliness. Besides the very excellent trail system they have around those parts, in choice places along the road someone has stationed beautiful water troughs. While Jolie and I rested beneath a tree in a very rich pasture, a fancy carriage drove by pulled by a pair of Oldenburgs, and as we made our way toward our night's destination we came upon a fellow in a cart driving his Morgan. We chatted for a bit and his eyebrows flew up in his head when I told him where I was staying for the night.... A woman from the Vermont Horse Council had arranged for me to stay with someone named Steve Leninski, who I learned was quite a controversial figure in town. He's a Ukrainian fellow in his 70's- an avid polo player who decided that he wanted to make a polo field on the mountain behind his house -- so he proceeded to dynamite the top off until it was flat enough to play on -- this took a whole year! Among other things he told me that the way to cure a horse from biting is to stick road kill in its mouth. The way to cure colic - give the animal a mixture of diesel oil and garlic. When his daughter was learning to drive, he jumped his horse over her moving vehicle. In any case he was a great character and a gracious host, who has permanent for sale signs on everything inside and outside of the house....

I stayed in the Woodstock area for five days, spending one night outside under the first clear skies in weeks, and one night in an incredibly outfitted barn and a few nights with Gina Lancaster who was my tour guide in the region. We rode up to the top of Mount Tom in the Marsh Billings Park, where horses are welcome and where Jolie had an unexpected attack of terror after staring down at the town below. Suddenly out of nowhere she wheeled around and took off with me down the trail. It was a good half mile before she settled down again. Was she in a rush to go shopping? Did she want to get her hair done? What?

Over the July 4th weekend we finally began to get a string of dry days, and so everywhere farmers set to work cutting hay (I learned that years ago July 4th was the traditional time to cut hay here -- I guess before mechanization -- now in a good year its normal to get 3 cuts). So the smell of grass was in the air and in every field there were wind rows or wagons being loaded with bales. It's a relief to see the hay piling up because we've all been worried that there would be no horse hay available this year. Corn is another matter. I've seen only one good field in all my traveling- most have scrawny plants or no plants at all -- which is why they've declared a state of emergency for the farmers here. The early rains just ruined everything.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Notes from the Trail -- more from Wendy

Here is the rest of the second email we received from Wendy:

We ended our first day out of Jamaica at Andover, at the house of some friends of a friend. At dawn the next morning, as I was leaving, the man of the house followed me across the fields playing a hair-raising tune on his fiddle... He was striding through the tall grass wearing red suspenders... quite a brilliant start to what proved to be a difficult day -- mostly because the weather was miserably hot, stagnant and humid and stuck in a state of impending storm. All through the day people offered me shelter from what looked like imminent storms-which never developed-and it seemed as if we were progressing at about 1 mile an hour. Both Jolie and I would have been happy spending the afternoon snoozing under a tree, but we found ourselves in a busy area around Ludlow and it felt like we needed to get farther away from civilization. So we kept moving, until finally the storm we'd been expecting caught up with us on a little road near a couple of summer cottages. As it hit we caught sight of a man making for his garage and when he turned around he was surprised to find us right behind him. We squeezed in with his tractors and other machinery and waited while everything outside went haywire...branches falling, power knocked out, etc. While chatting with the owner of our shelter I was able to identify an odd animal I had spotted that morning. As we were following a wooded road an animal stepped out of the trees that looked from a distance like an awkward black German shepherd sized puppy. It had incredibly beautiful black fur and a fluffy tale, and when it turned to face me had ears and muzzle that resembled a large weasel. It was the famed Fisher Cat -- a very ferocious creature that eats cats! In any case the storm cleared things a bit and we set off on another trail that took us up and across some fabulous farms and down the other side to the longest stretch of tar road we've traveled on yet. However the road had no shoulder, was very busy and seemed to harbor every nutty driver around. Meanwhile I was not feeling well, Jolie was reaching new heights of crankiness, and it was getting late. As I stepped off of the road to let a particularly ferocious driver pass , I looked up and noticed a Bed and Breakfast sign. "O.K. Jolie"I said, "we're splurging!"

The agreeable couple who owned the place set Jolie up at a farm close by and then invited me to have dinner with them... Well in the course of our conversation we discovered that the couple in question -- Jim and Ellen Parrish -- had been close friends with my husband's parents in Virginia Beach, Virginia! !!!!! How could this be? An impossible and random coincidence! That night they took me for a drive around the region and we startled a healthy looking bear out in the road... The next morning as I was getting ready to pay for my extravagant splurge, Ellen refused to take any money saying "John and Dottie (my husband's parents) were such a huge help to me when my father died, that this is one way I can pay them back!! It's Fate
you've come here," she said. Needless to say, I wept.

With their good wishes in my ears, I set off toward Woodstock -- a place famous
for its community of horse lovers and owners....

Bye for now

Wendy has sent us another email with more stories from her ride, so check back again.

Friday, July 14, 2006

More from Wendy Copp, Riding around Vermont

We heard from Wendy Copp again yesterday and she has very generously provided us with great details about her trip, which sounds quite eventful. She has given us so much, we need to blog it in installments. Enjoy and check back again for more!

I'm giving Jolie a rest for a few days in East Montpelier and am finally near a computer again ... upon which I just wrote a long account of my travels and then they vanished as I mentioned. I've looked everywhere on the computer and am now going to start again. Wish me luck!

After spending three days in Jamaica in the little octagonal house by Cobb Mountain Creek --more a river really -- during which there were floods and endless thunderstorms, Jolie and I were finally able to resume our travels. (Jolie spent her days at a very posh stable owned by a strikingly tall and robust German woman named Teeney Hamilton) We headed up through Jamaica State Park on a beautiful old railroad bed where they don't allow horses, but when I asked the park ranger if they would let us pass, just this once, he thought about it a minute and then said "well your horse's hooves can't be much worse than moose hooves". So we agreed to avoid the sleeping campers and "crept" by in the early morning fog, following the West River up to Hamilton Falls - a very dramatic spot with a 150' drop, where over the years a few very optimistic people have jumped in and died.

I have been using the Vermont Gazateer as my map on this trip, because it indicates dirt roads, class 4 roads and trails, and has proven very reliable -- in fact often more reliable than the locals -- though when we came out of the state park at the top of the falls the map was very confusing -- so we headed in the wrong direction ... until we came upon an imaculate farm and a very old and tiny man standing by the side of the road. He was so short and so still I nearly missed him -- in fact, I had to do a double take to be sure I was looking at a person. He couldn't hold his head up and was very hard of hearing, but when I yelled my questions at him he was able to tell me how to get to the trail I needed and where to make the necessary turns once in the forest. And he was correct!
Wendy leading Jolie into town on July 4th.
We headed up and over a mountain on the treacherously, muddy, steep and rocky trail in question, and made our way over to the next valley where we hit a road that could carry us north for a while. Most of these roads are very deserted and a pleasure to ride upon -- most too, in this part of the state are in the mountains and are not straight like they are through the flatter farmlands near Lake Champlain. So we do a lot of winding up and down hills and almost always next to a wonderful river or stream. Because of the copious rain, these are swollen and loud rivers, but it's a music which is soothing, and finding water for Jolie is very easy. She has taken to drinking out of puddles -- something she wouldn't have done before this trip -- but she's learned fast that if she's thirsty, she needs to drink what's available. She's
learned to take care of herself really. If she tires while climbing a hill, she'll pause for a bit in the shade and then carry on when she's ready. She is also quite adamant when it's time for a grass break and I try to oblige her within reason. Some days, however, we'd never get anywhere if I let her stop as much as she'd like. She's not a horse with a huge work ethic, but she has been fairly open hearted about the journey. One very helpful thing is that she doesn't care when we walk away from other horses, or barns. She seems to be happy to be on her way...

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Another Distance Trail Rider...Wendy Copp

We have received a letter from another distance trail rider we met, Wendy Copp. Wendy is a Vermont native who is riding 1,000 miles around the state of Vermont (and a little bit in Canada). Wendy began her trip in late June and sent us this email last week.

I had a great start to my trip last week -- with the exception of a few monstrous thunderstorms -- one of which found me on a mountain with a woman who was attempting to show me a shortcut, who instead got us quite lost. The weather was clear and the riding was fabulous. Along the west side of Vermont, paralleling Lake Champlain is a beautiful expanse of farmland bisected by wonderful dirt roads, old stage coach roads and trails. Early in the week it was hot, so I got started each morning around 4:30 and was able to pull up for the
day by early afternoon.
For the first few days I rode with various people who took me on trails I never would have found myself, and who kindly put me up and supplied accommodation for my horse as well. Because we got lost on the aforementioned mountain one day, riding on deeply muddy trails, my horse was exhausted and my schedule was set back a bit. I was hoping to reach Manchester on Wednesday-having started from Burlington on Saturday. Instead I found my way down to the small town of Wells on Thursday-with two loose shoes and a tired horse, wondering what my chance of finding a farrier were on short notice at the end of the day, and wondering also where I would find a place for the two of us for the night.
In the midst of mulling these thoughts I passed a house with a wonderful pair of people who called out to me -"Hey ,where are you going? Do you need water? Does your horse need water?..." Needless to say, they absorbed us into their backyard, put me up in their camper, found me a place for my horse, and most amazing of all had a neighbor who was a farrier...who upon seeing my horse's feet, went home to get his equipment and turned up with another farrier in tow. So not one but two farriers went to work...unheard of anywhere. Finally in Manchester the next day, I gave Jolie, my horse, a few days off and then hit the trail again on Monday with another friend.
We headed down to East Arlington and then turned to the east and headed into the mountains where the rains began...and only got stronger and wilder as we climbed. We rode for about 12 hours all the while looking for a suitable campsite (it being the forest and without much meadow) and finally found one where Daniel Webster addressed a crowd of 15,000 back in the 1800's. What? we asked ourselves. Why here in the middle of nowhere? We found out later that the road we were traveling used to be the main road to Boston. It was a wild night of rain on the mountaintop, coyotes calling, a bear hooting and water everywhere. The horses were fine in their little speed fence and seemed alright with the wild animal ruckus. We were not particularly happy with our soggy selves, but yesterday (Tuesday) was beautiful, and we rode down to Jamaica to stay with a friend until the weather decides to clear a bit.
I have to say I seem to have picked a bad summer to be riding like this. It's been raining constantly in the east, farmers haven't been able to plant corn or cut hay. The volume of precipitation has been setting records. All the equipment has been working fine.
Hope all is well in the west,

We don't have a lot of background information on Wendy just yet, but she told us that she likes to do distance rides every now and again because, as she described it, she "needs a little adventure in her life." We aren't sure how old Wendy's mare is, but she is a Canadian and apparently well-suited to the task at hand. If you are not familiar with this breed, you can find more information on the Canadian Horse home page. Like Bernice, Wendy does not have a pack animal and is carrying everything she needs on Jolie. And also like Bernice, Wendy chose our TrailMax Original Saddlebag System to carry her gear. We will certainly keep you posted on Wendy's progress as we receive updates.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Good Fishing!

So our pack trip into Black Bear went well. The weather held and the fishing was great. It was a pretty interesting experience for Kevin to go over the bridge at Meadow Creek. It’s a solid bridge, but the railing is at hip height when you are walking across it. So when you are riding, the railing is at the top of your foot. The bridge is narrow enough that you can look over either side to see the river raging 50 feet below you. The crossing can be tough on those who have a fear of heights.

We camped in Black Bear on the South Fork of the Flathead River. We had one problem in camp because I had somehow forgotten half the legs for my HorsePac panniers. The lids on these panniers can be set up to convert them to a table and the legs raise the boxes to a nice height for working. Without the legs, we still had a flat working surface, just not at a very convenient height. Thank goodness we also brought a Roll-A-Table. That camp table with a pair of Roll-A-Chairs was perfect for eating, prepping meals and playing cards and visiting at night.

We took a ride up the east side of the river one day, which was quite enjoyable. The horses behaved themselves for the most part, although Marley, my new trail horse, was startled by a dog at one point. He jumped, spun 180 degrees and started off the other way. Kevin got him under control pretty quick and he was fine after that. Marley has always been a pretty level-headed horse, so I suspect he just didn’t expect to see a dog where we did and it spooked him.

The next day, we hiked up the west side of the river for a while. On the way back, we saw that the Forest Service had stopped their string at the Black Bear cabin, which is a lay over point for them between Meadow Creek and the Administrative Center at Big Prairie. We went up and knocked on the door, which surprised them more than getting visitors, because they said they don’t remember anyone ever knocking on the door. We visited with the packers for a while. They were bringing in just general supplies – food and propane – this time, but they are working on a big project right now that they occasionally bring supplies for as well. The last remaining remnant of the original phone system between the lookout towers in the Bob Marshall Wilderness runs for 22 miles between Black Bear Cabin and Big Prairie. There was a fire in that area last year and the dead trees are now falling down on the phone cable in parts. The Forest Service has a big job ahead of them to repair that line and keep it running. But tradition and usefulness make it worth their while.

Other than those two side trips, we really spent most of the time fly fishing and visiting with the other folks camping on our area as we knew most of them. One of our neighbors in there owns the fly fishing shop across the street from us at home. Bob came down at one point to tell us that we were using the wrong flies. Fortunately he volunteered some of the right flies to match the hatch and our catch greatly improved. It was all catch and release for Cutthroat trout and we caught some nice ones with Bob’s flies.

Bob also chased a black bear out of his camp, which then proceeded to visit ours. We were very diligent about keeping our food in the bear-resistant panniers we brought so the bear was not rewarded for his trouble. Our supplies were a little scrambled, but otherwise he did no damage to the camp.

Kevin and I tried out a new lightweight canvas tent that we had found and it worked great for the two of us. Gave us plenty of room for both of our Roll-A-Cots and we still had room to get dressed and store some gear. I was pleased with it so far, but would like to try it in some more adverse weather conditions before I really make up my mind.

Overall, it was a terrific trip – really relaxing and loads of fun. Makes it hard to come back to work! Now, we just have to start planning our next one.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Leather Tools for Do It Yourself Saddle Repair

Well, we got back from our trip a few days ago, but have been so busy that I haven't gotten a chance to write. While I was gone, we got in our new shipment of leather tools. We have added a line of basic leather working tools that any horseman could use for basic saddle repair. Knowing I might get asked which ones a person should have, I put this blog together.

There are a few leather tools and hardware that every horseman should have to do minor saddle repair. These leather tools will help you do your own minor fixes on broken straps and parts, do your own adjustments to tack and saddle parts and, with more serious problems, help you make emergency repairs to get you by until you can take your saddle to a saddle repair shop. The most basic leather tools and hardware that every horseman should own include leather hole punches, rivets and rivet setters, hoof nippers to cut rivets and Chicago screws.

Many horsemen already own a revolving leather hole punch. This is fine for most holes that you need punched in tack and if you only need to punch a half dozen holes per year. However, the revolving leather hole punch will only go up to a number 7 hole. Anyone who needs to make repairs to saddles will probably need a number 8, 9 or 10 leather punch at some point. Below I have outlined the most common uses for each number leather hole punch:
Number 2: Curb straps and chains; throat latches
Number 3: Curb straps and chains; throat latches
Number 4: Headstall cheeks, crowns and nosebands; rivet holes, breastcollar tugs and straps
Number 5: Most pack saddle straps; crupper straps; breeching straps
Number 6: Chicago screw holes on reins and bit ends of headstalls; holes for tie ends of reins and headstalls
Number 7: Chicago screw holes on reins and bit ends of headstalls; holes for tie ends of reins and headstalls
Number 8: Latigo tie straps; off billets, flank/rear cinches
Number 9: Latigo tie straps; off billets; holes for Blevins buckles on stirrup leathers
Number 10: Holes for Blevins buckles on stirrup leathers
Rivets are a very useful for repairing broken and torn tack and saddle parts. For those of you not familiar with a rivet, you can see them in action if you look at the connection point of your fender and stirrup leather. Rivets can be used to hold together broken straps on headstalls, reins, pack saddles, cruppers, breechings, etc. You can use them on your saddle and pack saddle accessories if you need to. To use a rivet, you need a punch, a rivet setter, a maul or some type of hammer and a set of hoof nippers. For instructions on using rivets, see How to Set a Rivet.

Many horsemen already have a set of hoof nippers in their tack room, barn or trailer. Hoof nippers can also be used to clip off the excess end of a copper rivet.

Chicago screws are also useful hardware for connecting tack and saddle parts. They are perfect for connections where you may need to take the connection apart later on, such as the bit end of headstalls and reins. Chicago screws also commonly “go missing” if you haven’t hit them with Lock-Tite or nail polish to make sure they do not work loose. Once again, you can use the number 4 leather hole punch to make the hole for the Chicago screw.

If you have basic leather tools and hardware that include leather hole punches, rivets and rivet setters, nippers and Chicago screws, you should be able to perform emergency saddle repair and tack repair yourself. If you are in the backcountry, this may mean the difference of riding out versus walking out or making a second trip to go back and get your gear.