Tuesday, June 30, 2015

How to Use the iPhone 6 (and 6 Plus) for Backcountry Navigation

The new iPhone 6 and 6+ (pictured) have larger and better displays for map use in the field and significantly better battery life.  Changes to Airplane Mode introduced in IOS 8.3 make it easier to manage battery life.  We are eaisly getting 6-7 days or more of normal backcountry use without recharging.  Photo from adventurealan.com
I use my iPhone for navigation.  With good mapping software (I use Gaia GPS), an external battery pack to extend the life of the iPhone, and maybe a spare iPhone as backup (my wife's iPhone),  I've never found the need for anything else.

This is a great article by AdventureAlan'sUltralightBackpacking, whose thoughts mirror my own on how to use the iPhone for Backcountry Navigation.  Click this link to jump to the article.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

3 Basic Nutritional Supplements for Expeditions and Adventure Travel

The first rule of supplementation is - Real food first.  This means you should try to get your nutrition from fresh, natural, whole food.  Supplementation comes in to fill in potential nutrition gaps, which could happen if you are travelling and not quite sure of what food is available, or on expedition where fresh, whole food may not be available.

Yumm!  Liver Tablets, Probiotics and Fish Oil
I'll tell you what works for me, but I'm not a doctor, or nutrition expert, so please do your own research or seek medical advice before consuming any supplements.  Here are 3 basic, but key, nutritional supplements I take, whether at home or traveling to some adventure:

1.  Fish Oil
Fish Oil is a common term which refers to Omega-3 Fatty Acids, specifically EPA and DHA.

The body uses fish oil in many ways, including: Development and protection of the brain; cardiovascular protection (also 'thins' the blood by making it more 'slippery'); balances out Omega 3 and 6 ratios (our modern diet contains an unbalanced ratio of too much Omega 6); has anti-inflammatory properties; and helps protect against skin issues (psoriasis) and allergies.

The human body cannot make EPA or DHA, so you have to get it from your diet.  The best sources are cold water oily fish, like sardines, salmon and anchovies.  A rising problem with consuming these fish is that they may accumulate toxins like mercury dioxins and PCB.  If you are far from the sea, grass fed cattle is another source.

Fish oil in supplement form is usually molecularly distilled for purity, then recombined to ensure a consistently potent product.  To ensure I get my quota of Omega-3s when I travel, I take a single capsule of Now Foods Ultra Omega-3 daily, which provides me with 500mg of EPA and 250mg of DHA.

2. Probiotics
The human body is full of bacteria, both good and bad.  Probiotics are the 'good' or 'helpful' kind.

Researchers are still figuring out the many uses of probiotics.  They not only help the digestive system, but it is thought they also enhance immunity by shutting out bad bacteria. They also easy symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Crohn's Disease, Eczema and other allergies.

Sources of probiotics include kefir, yogurt, miso, sauerkraut, kimchi and pickles.  Beneficial probiotics also exist in the soil which, with modern cleanliness, we no longer consume.

Because they are living foods, I supplement with 'shelf stable' probiotics that require no refrigeration and travel well.  I use Garden of Life Primal Defense which is a strong, broad spectrum probiotic supplement, which contains both colonizing and transient soil based probiotics which may be beneficial, but through modern cleanliness, we may no longer consume.

3. Desiccated Liver Tablets
Sometimes called "Nature's Multi-vitamin", the Desicatted Liver Tablets I take are made from pure, grass-fed beef liver that has been de-fatted, and then freeze dried.

Liver is a rich source of heme iron, which is a great blood builder.  Exactly what is needed on a trip to high altitude.  It is also a rich source of amino acids, minerals, B-vitamins and Cytochrome P-450.  It may also extend endurance as demonstrated in the following experiment:

Proc Soc Exp Biol Med. 1951 Jul;77(3):488-91
'Dr. B. H. Ershoff took three groups of rats and fed them controlled diets for a twelve week period. Group one ate a basic diet fortified with vitamins and minerals. Group two ate as much as they wanted of the same diet plus B vitamins and brewer's yeast. Group three ate the basic diet but had 10% desiccated liver added to their rations.
Then the doctor placed the rats one by one into a drum of water, out of which they could not climb, it was either swim or drown. The group one rats swam an average of 13.2 minutes. Group two, an average of 13.4 minutes. Group three, however, were still swimming at the end of two hours.'

I take 2 Universal Nutrition Uni-Liver Tablets each morning.  High on Mt. Everest when my stomach could not function well, it was one of two supplements that I would swallow with my instant noodles (the other was fish oil).  I'm not sure if that was enough to get the endurance boost, but it was worth a few grams of protein and enough for the summit.
I order these supplements from iherb.com.  For international orders, they are hard to beat for selection, price and shipping.  Get $10 off your first order with my discount code KOH756.

Sources: Web MD, Michael Colgan, Robb Wolf, Chris Kresser, Dave Drapper

Monday, April 27, 2015

Nepal In My Thoughts and Prayers

A photo posted by Ken Koh (@adventurenomad) on

I've been filled with a kind of helpless frustration watching the aftermath of the earthquake in Nepal.  I cant sleep and can't get the situation in Nepal out of my mind.  I just learned that a friend has lost his home.  I guess what is so disturbing is that for the past 30 years that I've been coming to Nepal, it has remained largely unchanged: The same buildings, temples, narrow streets, etc.  Kathmandu and the rest of Nepal have had a timeless feel.  While the rest of the world charges on towards the 22nd century, Nepal struggles to keep up with the 21st century.... and that was its appeal.  Returning each time to Nepal (well, at least outside of Kathmandu) has always made me feel at peace... grounded... my escape from an all too modern life.  The next time I return to Nepal, will it have changed?  Sure, ancient buildings will need to be repaired or replaced by modern structures, but its the heart of its people that will persevere, and their resilience which will see them through these difficult times.

If you want to help out, don't pack your bags unless you have a specific skill that is needed there, otherwise you will just be another person to feed and shelter.  It's not a bad idea to donate to an organisation like the Red Cross which can distribute funds to where it is needed most.  Another way to help out is to not shy away from Nepal when it has recovered.  Tourist dollars will be most needed, and the mountains remain a stunning landscape, and unforgiving beauty.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Specialized Epic vs. Epic WC

This is a discussion on the Specialized S-Works Epic vs. the S-Works Epic World Cup, and maybe help you to decide which one is right for you.  I'll be comparing older models and not the current 2015 bikes, but you might find the information still relevant.

My 2012 S-Works Epic is the best bike I have ever ridden (it's the bike that won Olympic gold in 2012), but it was heavily used, and I needed to replace the bike in 2015.  In 2014, Specialized split the Epic model into two sub-categories to fit different rider needs:  The normal Epic for marathon riding, and the WC (World Cup) for fast XCO type courses.  The WC is stiffer, has slightly less suspension travel (95mm vs. 100mm) and is strictly a 1x drivetrain as it does not have a mount to attach a front derailleur.I got a deal on a 2014 Epic WC and went with that.  The 2015 Epic WC hasn't changed much from the 2014 model that I ride, but the 2015 regular Epic has some pretty significant changes from the 2012 model that I rode, including a new upside down fork, 2x11 drivetrain and the addition of a dropper seatpost.
The late Burry Stander signing my 2012 Epic frame
The frame for the 2014/15 Epics saw a significant change from the 2012/13 models to intergrate what Specialized called SWAT (Storage water air tools) into the frame.  I really like this, especially the ability to hold 2 full sized water bottles, even on a size Small frame.  But in order to do this, they had to make some geometry changes.  My Specialized bike fit, (courtesy of Specialized Asia Pacific), saw me on a size Small 2014 frame, with a longer stem and offset seatpost, compared to my 2012 Medium frame Epic with a shorter stem and a non-offset seatpost.  The weight of my Size M 2012 Epic, with some tweaking was 10.0kg (without pedals).  My size S 2014 Epic WC weighs 9.6kg (without SWAT kit, without pedals).  Note:  My WC is modified with the 2013 S-Works crankset to enable me to fit a 30T  (or 28T) chainring. 

Specialized Asia Pacific's VJ Varada dialing in the fit on my 2014 Epic WC
I crashed my Epic WC the first time I rode it, as a result of an improper suspension setup and an over enthusiastic rider ;)  The 5mm difference in suspension travel between the WC and regular Epic doesn't sound like a lot, but you can really feel the difference in drops and rock gardens.  It is a much firmer feel, and combined with the quicker steering geometry of the WC, I find myself slower than my old Epic going down drops.  The WC shines if I'm blasting through twisty singletrack.  Compared to the regular Epic, I can feel better acceleration and power transfer from its shorter, thicker chainstays.  Its a flickable bike that favors an aggressive riding style.  The WC is built like a fighter jet.  It wants to turn.  Pressure on the handlebars or lean, and it will turn.  This is a bike that needs constant attention, and on days when I'm not riding well or had too much to drink the night before, I'll find it twitchy.   It's not really the bike for long days when you want to put the bike into auto-pilot and cruise.  
Specialized S-Works Epic World Cup 2014
I like to think of my regular Epic as a bomber jet.  It is stable, forgiving, confidence inspiring.  It is a bike that wants to go straight when something deflects it off course.  At the top of something gnarly, and I find my vision closing in on my front tire, I can trust my regular Epic to get get me out of trouble.  Yes, it is slower turning, and slower to accelerate, and if I'm racing on an XCO type course where I'm only riding for about an hour and a half, and every second matters, I would prefer to take my WC over the regular Epic.  
Specialized S-Works Epic 2012
The bottom line is that for most of my riding, I prefer the regular Epic.  The Specialized Epic for 2015 sees some very exciting changes, and look awesome.  Hopefully, I'll get to ride one over the next couple of weeks, and I'll update this post if I have anything to add.

Update Mar 19:  I got a chance to ride a 2015 S-Works Epic today.  Everything I said about my 2012 remains true with the 2015 version, except the 2015 is even more stable, and stiffer.  I don't know what it weighs, but it is surprisingly light, considering it has a dropper post, 2x11drivetrain and RS-1 fork.  

Friday, January 23, 2015

EVEREST: Realizing The Dream 2

Please join me at the National University of Singapore Mountaineering Club on Friday 30th January 2015 at 7pm at the SRC (Sports and Recreation Club) Conference Room, where I'll be giving a talk on climbing Everest.  I'll talk about gaining the experience you need, as well as how to physically prepare your body for the challenge in the most time efficient way possible to get you to the top of the highest mountain on earth.