Monthly Archives: March 2009

Gear Review: Whiz Freedom

Reviewed by Nancy Kim (from the summer 2008 WCN newsletter)

When answering nature’s call, women in the backcountry often envy the
ability of men to simply about face, unzip and relieve themselves. The
ability to pee standing up is no longer the sole province of men with
the entry of numerous devices on the market which claim to liberate
women from squatting ignominy. Among these is a newcomer called the
Whiz Freedom that’s hydrophobic and collapsible.

For whatever reason, I had always scoffed at the Freshette, an earlier
entrant to this niche market. Then I started thinking about how nice
it would be to forgo the nasty pit toilets at popular trailheads. A
particularly gruesome encounter with a Honey Bucket in Olalla got me
really thinking. I was fly fishing on the South Sound and had to stop
and pee. Dropping my waders without soiling my suspenders or my bottom
in the nastiness was an exercise in bomb-defusing delicacy. I managed
to relieve my bladder and extricate myself from the horror chamber
without incident.

Browsing the store at BackpackingLight.com, I came across the Whiz and
decided to buy one. In February, I field tested it on a three-day
winter camping and backcountry ski trip. I had practiced using it at
home where the consequences of misuse could be remedied quickly with a
change of clothes. Holding the device in the correct position, with
the broad area up, and positioning it in the “sweet spot” are key. At
times I did not position the Whiz low enough which yielded disastrous
results. But once I figured out the Goldilocks spot-not too high, not
low-I was quite pleased with my $20 purchase.

The Whiz Freedom is ultralight at half an ounce (14 grams), small,
measuring roughly six inches, and collapsible rather than rigid,
making it easy to stuff in a pocket. While I haven’t used the
Freshette, the device carried by REI, IÕd say the crushable Whiz holds
the design edge. Whiz manufacturer JBOL Ltd. also sells an extension,
essentially a length of surgical tubing, that attaches to the nozzle
of the Whiz for use with a pee bottle. For anyone who camps in the
winter, or spends time at altitude in cold, windy conditions, learning
to use a pee bottle enhances quality of life. I used the Whiz and a
pee bottle on the Colorado River this spring to avoid trekking down to
the water in the middle of the night.

So what about the hygienic factor? Manufactured from medical-grade
material, the Whiz is anti-bacterial and liquid-repellant, so it’s
flick dry. Currently, there is scant retail distribution for the Whiz
in the United States. MEC in Canada carries it but REI in the US does
not. Backpackinglight.com sells the Whiz for $20. It’s available in
white and purple. For more information, check out whizfreedom.com.

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Puzzles on Mt St Helens

by Barb Buys (from the summer 2008 WCN newsletter)

Every year they let us, we climb Mt St. Helens. We climb on Mother’s Day even though Reg wants to change it to a different weekend. He says he doesn’t like the city of people going up, the crowds vying for a spot on the crest top. I think he doesn’t like how he looks in a dress. Nonetheless, he lets Colleen dress him in the parking lot with little complaints (maybe he DOES like wearing the dress) and off we trudge. (Colleen would like to note that WCN outfits were severely lacking this year, much to her disgust.)

I love this outing, but this year was the best. No, it wasn’t the grueling hike up, it took me longer this year than ever before, age I guess, or maybe it was that not getting in shape thing; it wasn’t even the ski down through the slog that had me grinning. It was the drive that I will remember for years. I was in my van with Nancy, Colleen, Reg, and Linda. Linda is my friend who joined WCN on this trip, her first one with our irreverent group. Reg had hoped to get some sleep, having just arrived from Europe. His mistake was riding in the same car as Nancy and Colleen. The two of them have not perfected the skill of silence. Why should they? Especially when such a ready target is snoring just one butt away. Imagine that there are three closed doors. Behind one of these doors is a car; behind the other two are goats. The contestant does not know where the car is, but the game show host does. The contestant picks a door and the game show host opens one of the remaining doors, one she knows doesn’t hide the car. If the contestant has already chosen the correct door, the host is equally likely to open either of the two remaining doors.

After the host has shown a goat behind the door that she opens, the contestant is always given the option to switch doors. What is the probability of winning the car if she stays with her first choice? What if she decides to switch? If you say the chances are 50/50, you are wrong. This is a classic statistical puzzle known as the Monty Hall Problem. Not batting a wide-awake eyelash, Reg whips out his cell phone, opens the internet and looks up Monty Hall and we have a
great discussion on the answer. You can do the same thing. Then Reg challenged us with the question he was asked when he interviewed with Microsoft: You are in a room with a light bulb hanging from the ceiling. You can reach above the light bulb but you cannot reach the ceiling. You have a ruler, a piece of paper and a pair of scissors. Tell me the procedure to calculate the height of the ceiling. You cannot touch the ceiling by holding the ruler either. Only a Microsoft want-to-be can figure that out. But, tell me this; why did this guy go into a restaurant, sit down, order Pelican as his main course, take one bite and fall over dead? Why, oh why? That little riddle took a good 45 minutes to solve. Don’t even try to figure it out, you need me answering your yes and no questions to find the answer. So don’t forget to take me on your next long car trip!

Oh yes, the mountain. The best outfit of the day went hands down to Michele and Bob, who both wore extremely bouncy tutus, Michele complete with matching veil. Colleen wore her usual gold lame skirt, gold beads, gawdy pink apron, and gauzy hat. Brian donned a lovely surfer-chick skirt that he surfed down the mountain in. This was by
far the most attended St. Helen’s trudge I have ever participated in: 17 of us altogether!

We were:
Nancy Kim
Linda Morton
Colleen Hinton and her mate, Reg Greef
Laurel Fan
Clare Parfitt
Mary Yocom
Lovorka Knezevic
Cris Smith
Kris Cummings
and Carolyn Blair
Brian Clark (their sherpa)
Kari Lyons (WCNer from Portland) and her boyfriend
Michele Dickson and her husband Bob del Gizzi (Colleen’s friends from Portland)

The snow conditions worsened as we descended; thick, slog. Clare, Nancy, and I struggled on our tele skis while the boarders rode with comparative ease. Clare finally just took her skis off and walked. Even so, it was a great trip, one I will always remember.