Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Michigan IceFest

Climbing... in Michigan? No way, you might say--it’s all flat and/or snowy. That is not entirely the case, however: at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, there is world-class ice climbing to be found.

It is true that most of the state is geologically unsuitable for climbing. The entire Lower Peninsula (and parts of the eastern Upper Peninsula) is dominated by a large limestone basin centered on the ‘palm’ of the Mitten. This is topped by a heterogenous mixture of gravel, boulders, sand, and dirt washed out from the glacial advances and retreats which created the Great Lakes-- it’s great for farming, but certainly not climbing. The Upper Peninsula is very different. It is geologically more similar to the Canadian Shield, a formation of mostly igneous and metamorphic rock which includes the oldest rocks found in North America. These rocks and their minerals are what make the UP such good mining country; some of the most spectacular copper deposits in the world are found up there. Parts of the central UP include sandstone beds which date to around 500 million years old, known as the Munising Formation, named for the town on South Bay (“Munising” itself is derived from an Ojibway word, “Munisii”, meaning “near the island”): these are the aforementioned Pictured Rocks. In the summer, these cliffs grace Lake Superior with breathtaking beauty, delighting hikers and boaters alike, and in the winter, they provide some of the best ice climbing in the United States.

I asked Black Diamond athlete Dawn Glanc why the ice climbing up here was so good: she told me that “the shittier a rock is to climb regularly, the better it is for ice climbing”. Regular rock climbers would not want to climb sandstone, or any sedimentary rock for that matter: these tend to crumble apart due to the fact that they are cemented together by one or several minerals. Igneous and metamorphic rocks like granite or basalt make for much safer rock climbing, because they were forged together by heat and pressure rather than low-temperature chemical reactions. These don’t make for good ice climbing, though, because there is no space for water to go, much less to freeze into ice. Sedimentary rocks, especially sandstones, make for excellent ice climbing: the spaces in between the grains of sand hold water, and these spaces are filled up all year by rain and snowmelt. When the temperature drops (as it particularly does in the UP right on the shore of the largest body of fresh water in the world), this water freezes, and as you might remember from intro chem, water expands when it freezes; it has nowhere to go but to seep out of the cliffs. This means that climbers can experience spectacular routes without damaging the rock, of which the National Park Service highly approves.

Photo from Michigan IceFest’s Facebook page.

IceFest was started around 25 years ago as a pretty small and low-key affair. In contrast, this year’s festival had over 200 people registered. The festival was originally been held in a local restaurant, Sydney’s, but this year American Legion Post 131 was generous enough to tolerate an incursion of a bunch of people nuts enough to climb frozen waterfalls.

The festival was February 10-14, but the Biv Crew didn’t make an appearance until very early Friday morning. Being an outdoor gear shop we, of course, intended to camp. Thursday evening after work, Beniece, Hunter, and myself (Helen) headed north. In the face of the windy, snowy weather, we made fairly good time… however, we still arrived in Munising at about 2:45 in the morning. We found a spot on the side of Sand Point Road and set up camp: Hunter in his Hilleberg Nammatj (and a bivy sack), and Beniece and I in the borrowed North Face VE-25 Summit Series mountaineering tent. She and I were also very comfortable (surface-wise) on some borrowed ExPed MegaMat, however, still cold. She had borrowed a -20* The North Face sleeping bag from our manager Kate, and I was double-bagging it in two 15* North Face Cat’s Meows. We both wore many layers AND gloves to bed.

Friday morning we were greeted by a snowplow driver with a very thick Yooper accent, who admonished us to “get movin, eh, afore the rangers show up”. It turned out that we were behind the Ranger Station… whoops. Protip: you need a backcountry camping permit for Pictured Rocks, since the regular sites are closed during the winter, and parking lots are not legal campsites. We therefore hightailed it into town.

Thankfully, there was coffee and bagels waiting for us at the American Legion. We registered, though Beniece and I were disappointed to learn that the Ice Climbing Teaser (geared towards people who had never before ice climbed) had filled up. Hunter and Beniece got their climbing demo gear provided by Downwind Sports (of Houghton and Marquette), and I looked into finding a real campsite. Because our class had filled up, we had the morning free: we went to go check out the campground which an IceFest volunteer had recommended to me. Walking back to the car, we came upon two guys around our age next to our car, with their stove out and cooking pancakes in the windbreak created by the cars. “You guys have the right idea, “ I remarked. We all introduced ourselves, and pancakes were exchanged for homemade granola bars. Brian and Eric, it turned out, worked at Downwind Sports in Houghton, where they went to Michigan Tech. They were also planning on camping, though in their car (Sasha the Ford Focus station wagon). They planned to go climbing at the Three Sisters that afternoon, so we exchanged numbers and figured we’d meet up after lunch.

We thus headed out into the worsening weather to look into the Furnace Bay Campground. That turned out to be Very Closed: it looked like it hadn’t been plowed yet this winter. Hunter got out to see how deep it was; he was itching to drive his Jeep Rubicon into some exciting terrain, but the snow was a bit too deep. We then headed to the Park Headquarters in town to ask more specific directions. It turned out that the Park Service ranger was stuck in the whiteout conditions on the road, the Forest Service ranger couldn’t issue the right permit, and looked pretty skeptical when we said we wanted to camp. It was barely ten o’clock, so we figured we’d just go outside and play and figure out lodging later. Hunter decided to take a nap, and Beniece and I decided to check out the hall with the various vendors and representatives where we  saw our regular Patagonia representative Erin! While refilling on coffee, we ran into Brian and Eric again. They were about to take the shuttle out to Sand Point Road where the climbing was going on, so we decided to join them. Beniece grabbed her climbing demo gear and I grabbed the snowshoes I was demoing from MSR, and we headed out.

setting up to climb

Unfortunately throughout the day, the weather continued to worsen. Beniece had been hoping to meet up with Chelsea, a former Biv staffer who lives in Marquette, but the state police were about the close M-28 between Marquette and Munising. Another Bivouac staff member, Emily, had been celebrating Valentine’s Day with her boyfriend Steve, and they were trapped in Christmas (a tiny town between Marquette and Munising). The wind was picking up and the temperature dropping. And even after lunch in the nice warm restaurant, Beniece was still freezing. Hunter, being certified in Wilderness First Aid, brought up that he thought Beniece was exhibiting signs of hypothermia. She was upset, because she wanted to climb some more, and I was alarmed, because how on earth would we safely camp this evening? As we sat drinking cocoa and looking out at the view of whiteout conditions, we called it. We would give up camping and try to find somewhere to stay in a hotel that night.

Beniece and I posted up in the Legion while Hunter went climbing, and I called every hotel in town. We managed to find the only accommodation available: a cabin on the bay with room for our whole party (if the weather allowed them all to get here). We secured the place, and now that the main worry of alcohol-induced hypothermia had been alleviated, had some delicious Ore Dock Brewing beer. That evening Beniece and I attended a boot-fitting clinic run by none other than Henry Barber, a pioneer in the world of free-solo climbing. He is now in his 60’s and works as a representative for Asolo. We asked a couple of questions about fitting boots on other people, and told him that we worked at Bivouac. “Oh, I know Ed and Randy,” he chuckled. He also declared at our feet were “perfect”, that is, both of them are the same size.

Beniece and Henry Barber, getting fitted for some Asolo alpine boots

After the clinic, we continued to be amazed by Henry Barber in his presentation about two of his more famous solo first ascents. He talked about his still-unrepeated climb of the Vettisfossen, a 900-foot frozen waterfall in Norway, and his dangerous ascent of Korea Peak in what was then the USSR. We were also blown away by Dawn Glanc’s presentation chronicling her many first ascents in Iceland. She had decided to look into that country because her grandfather, “Grandpa Kono”, had been stationed in Keflavik during WWII with the Nav and had an interesting perception of Icelandic geography.

After some delicious free beer from Ore Dock Brewing, we decamped to the cabin, and it was glorious. There was a gas fireplace, a big kitchen, and it was generally the sort of thing you might see in a Pure Michigan ad.

Hunter demonstrated rappelling techniques off the rafters, Beniece finally declared that she was warm, and I poured myself a drink and relaxed. We did contact our new friends, though, as they had declared that they were car-camping and the temperature had dropped (before the wind chill!) to -14. They eventually joined us, and we spent a convivial evening pretending to camp by sleeping on the floor in our sleeping bags in front of the nice cozy fire.

Hunter demonstrates rappelling techniques

After a much clearer drive than they expected, some of our other friends arrived around 9 in the morning. Beniece went climbing with our new friends. They snowshoed about 6 miles to their climb and had a good afternoon of climbing. After a nap, Matt and Hunter headed out as well. I, being into staying on the ground, decided to snowshoe around Miner’s Falls. I got a little bit stuck on the side of the road and got pulled out by some nice gentlemen with a very interesting vehicle.

An interesting vehicle indeed. They had been ferrying climbers out to the falls. Apparently they made this contraption themselves!

Hunter and Matt get the prize for the most exciting afternoon: they rescued someone! They were at a real waterfall, not just a seep, so some liquid water was still flowing down a sort of ice pipe. The belayer of the other climbing pair had somehow managed to throw the rope down the hole without either of them noticing, so the guy rappelling down had a wet and frozen rope in his belay device, and wet, frozen gloves. They threw some gloves up to him while they and Armaan, a former Biv staffer, got ready to climb up. They ended up having to cut the frozen rope and replace his with their extra. All in all, we made some friends and used some cool new gear. Bivouac highly recommends IceFest!

The Base Camp tent from MSR.

  • Helen DeMarsh (salesperson)

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Places We Want to Visit


Thailand! Inspired by a friends recent decision to go to Thailand, we decided to add it to our bucket list too, and we found some tips and tricks to help make the trip a little bit smoother.


*Check our Instagram for "Places We Want to Visit" every Sunday night!


Monday, April 11, 2016

Cool (Trends) for the Summer (by Demi Lovato)

Cropped Flares

Every summer trends list I’ve seen, from Harper’s to WhoWhatWear to InStyle, has one item at the top: cropped flare jeans, your newest go-to jean. Stars, like always rock-chic Alexa Chung, the eternally cool Zoe Kravitz, and even America’s Sweetheart Reese Witherspoon have been spotted sporting them, and for good reason. This funky amalgamation of two classic trends is notable in its simplicity. It’s the new retro: Audrey Hepburn with a ’70s twist that comes off as distinctly current.

The beauty of the cropped flare is that it can be worn in many ways; premium denim brands have highlighted styles with fringed bottoms, heavy distressing, ones with edgy pockets, and others with an exaggerated flare. They work in all washes, which means that there isn’t just one standard way to wear these flares. They can look chic with a heel that pops or casual with a fashion-forward sneaker, like the platform Superga.  

While this style is versatile, there are certain rules for rocking it. The crops should hit right above the ankle, distinguishing them from a traditional flare. Luckily, the popularity of this style means that, depending on the brand, you can find the length that’s right for you, whether you are 5’1” or 6 feet tall.

This trend is already on its way to becoming a staple in everyday wear, because it offers a little bit of everything.


The stripe has gone through countless iterations throughout fashion history. In medieval times the pattern was seen as evil, and reserved for prisoners and clowns. Centuries later the sailor suit came into fashion, and every beachgoer looked their best in jaunty striped bathing costumes. Then again in the ‘30s, Coco Chanel co-opted the sailor’s stripes for her own line, loving the minimalism of the style, and stripes became a staple of every fashion-forward wardrobe.

No more are stripes reserved for the country club or the yacht; this season stripes are making a resurgence, as fashionistas are putting away their fall flannels and searching for the perfect tops to pair with their new cropped flares. Horizontal stripes are making their way into rompers and basic tees as the new neutral, worn with anything from ‘70s-inspired white flares to bright florals. While this trend can be an opportunity to resurface your classic Gap boatneck stripes, brands are developing updated versions of this tried-and-true staple. Designers like Armani and Prada featured the trends in their spring shows, showcasing wild striped trench coats and sequined striped draped dresses. But the resurrection of this classic style isn’t just coming from fashion’s elite. Brands like Free People and Philanthropy are coming out with striped tanks that tie, open in the back, or feature delicate keyhole cutouts in the front. Clearly, these aren’t your grandma’s stripes.

The beauty of this trend is its simplicity; there are endless options for finding the stripe that fits your style, and there is no wrong way to rock them.  

Denim Dresses

All-denim looks are no longer just for the farm or Canadian prom — this season  denim dresses are the perfect throw-on piece.  This style is usually worn casual; a light-wash or chambray shift dress paired with sandals or peep toe wedges is both breezy and fashion-forward. Although denim began as the working class pant of the ‘40s and ‘50s, as the style has evolved, so has the way we wear denim. The denim dress is a classic iteration of this life cycle, and this season there are many ways to wear this trend.

For a Nashville vibe, pair a brown belt and suede booties with Rag and Bone’s Barcelona chambray shift. For a more retro ’90s look, throw on Mink Pink’s wraparound dress with platforms and round Rayban’s. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can follow Alexa Chung’s lead and rock a dark-wash shift with pastel heels. Really, there isn’t a wrong way to wear this style...let your imagination soar!

*Check out all of these great summer trends in products that we have in store!

The cropped flare by 7 For All Mankind

A striped tank by Philanthropy


A denim dress by Blank NYC 

  • Natalie Gadbois (salesperson)

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Brand Spotlight: New Kiehl's Products

Between paper writing, daily sun salutations, and campus jobs, it seems almost impossible to find time for a healthy skincare routine. However, that is exactly why self-care is necessary—just because you’re running on coffee and two hours of sleep doesn’t mean your skin has to show it, right?

The not so secret solution at Bivouac is Kiehl’s, and we are loving their brand new products. The most recent launch is the Nightly-Refining Micro-Peel Concentrate. This is perfect for you if you want a quick and efficient defoliant. Use this concentrate nightly to speed up the cell turnover process to have restored radiance by morning. Over time, your skin texture and tone will be refined and your fine lines will disappear.

This product is perfect for even the most sensitive of skin. All you do is apply one drop of the concentrate  onto cleansed and toned skin before you moisturize.

The key ingredient is Quinoa Husk Extract sourced sustainably by Kiehl’s from 13 communities in Bolivia to prevent over-farming and depleting the soil of its nutrients. This is product is not only amazing for your skin but also great for the environment.

Tip: Use along with the Midnight Recovery Concentrate for maximum radiance.
If you have more time and are looking for more of a spa-like experience to exfoliate your skin, and are looking for an extra boost of energy, the new Turmeric & Cranberry Seed Energizing Radiance Masque is perfect for you. This mask brightens and energizes the look of dull and tired skin to restore a healthy and rosy appearance.

This product contains the natural ingredients of turmeric and cranberry seed extract, which team up to provide the skin with necessary antioxidants, improve the brightness of skin, and provide natural exfoliation.

I love using this mask on Monday mornings to start the week off right or any day I need an extra boost of radiance. This mask is best used on cleansed and toned skin. You apply a visible layer to the skin and allow to dry for five or ten minutes. I always apply the mask and brush and floss my teeth to be time efficient in the mornings. Then, my favorite part, you rinse with warm water and gently massage the skin to allow the cranberry seeds to exfoliate the skin. Recommended for use up to three times per week.

To maximize brightness, pair this product with the Daily Reviving Concentrate!
This last mask I would recommend to anyone that lives in a busy city like Ann Arbor. The Cilantro and Orange Extract Pollutant Defending Masque defends and replenishes to reduce the visible effects of pollution such as dullness and not only leaves the skin protected, but radiant and renewed as well.

The natural ingredients of Cilantro and Orange extract help replenish the skin’s barrier and add the necessary antioxidants to protect the skin by blocking the damage caused by pollutants.

This mask is a night-time mask to be used up to three times a week (feel free to use with the Turmeric & Cranberry Seed Energizing Radience Masque, just not both in the same day!). It should be used as the final, leave-on step of your nighttime routine. You apply a visible layer to skin and let the skin absorb the mask for five minutes. Then, tissue off, pat in excess, and leave a thin protective layer on skin. This will work into your skin overnight.

Make sure you make time to pamper yourself with Kiehl’s, your skin will thank you!
  • Bailey Jenkins (Assistant Manager, Women’s Fashion)

Monday, March 28, 2016

Ultra Lightweight Cooking Systems

When backpacking, space and weight are determinant in how your body performs and feels, both at the end of day and the beginning of the next one. Carrying bulky gear makes your hiking days more challenging than they otherwise need to be. When considering possible ways to drop weight from your gear, lightweight cooking systems and accessories present one of the more affordable options when compared with the cost of ultra light tents and high end sleeping bags . There are a few things we carry in the store that I have personally tried out in a variety of circumstances, so I'm going to take this opportunity to describe how these stoves and pots perform in different scenarios.
MSR Microrocket:
At 2.6 oz. and designed with three folding legs, the Microrocket is a favorite of lightweight enthusiasts. The stove comes with a Piezo starter in case you forget a lighter or matches, and it can boil 1 liter of water within 3.5 – 4.5 minutes, depending on the type of pot used and, of course, the weather conditions. This compact cooker is super versatile, and allows for control that ranges from a simmer to full power without losing fuel efficiency. It can work for car camping trips as well, depending how many people are being served. The burner features mini wind screens to improve the efficiency of the flame, however an extra wind screen could come in very handy in open areas where the wind is blowing more intensely. ALWAYS REMEMBER, HOWEVER, THAT SYSTEMS IN WHICH THE BURNER SITS DIRECTLY ABOVE THE FUEL SOURCE CAN CREATE AN EXTREMELY DANGEROUS SCENARIO WHEN PAIRED WITH ANY WINDSCREEN THAT FULLY SURROUNDS THE SYSTEM. Windscreens that attach to the system above the fuel source and only protect the burner and flame are safe to use. I will discuss a windscreen like this later in this blog post.

Olicamp: Vector Stove + XTS Pot
We'll start with a look at the pot portion of this system, called the “XTS” (Xcelerator Transfer System). This fancy acronym simply means that a radiation rim on the bottom of the pot maximizes heat dispersion, directing all the heat towards the pot and reducing cooking time by 40%. Besides saving fuel and time, you are also saving some cash with this system compared to other similar mechanisms from Jetboil or even MSR's Reactor cooking systems. One thing that I always found tricky about using ultra light stoves is stability. Yes, they are super packable, light, durable, efficient, etc. However, they often present a significantly smaller support area for your cooking pots/pans.

Optimus Clip on Windshield:
Lightweight, hard anodized aluminum increases stove efficiency and substantially reduces fuel consumption. It fits every gas canister according to EN417 and pots with max. diameter 13 cm (5 in). Compatible with standard pots and high profile heat stoves.
Sea to Summit: X Set 21
I wanted to leave this particular system for the end. This is because it is probably my personal favorite for its practicality. Usually the greatest concern for backpackers about cooking systems is the space it takes up in the backpack. Old school thru-hikers used to carry a regular 1L pot attached to the outside of the pack, leaving the interior of the pack for other, less bulky gear. However, the weight and bulk associated with this size system is no longer an issue. With the collapsible option that Sea to Summit offers with their X-line, you have the choice to take a 1.4L X Pot, X-Bowl (22 fl. oz.), and X-Mug (16 fl. oz.) for a total weight of 14oz. The pot itself combines the heat distribution and fast boil time of aluminum with the flexibility of silicone, the lid also works as a strainer. When it is time to wrap up the camp site, it will fold back down to an inch tall “disc”. If your hiking crew consists of more than just you, there is also the X-Set 31, with a 2.8L pot and a couple of bowls and mugs as well.

There are always new options, and brands are always trying to improve the efficiency, weight, size, and materials used in cooking systems. However, it is my opinion that this category of outdoor gear has changed the least over the years when compared with the way backpacks, hiking boots, and apparel have changed and improved decade after decade. Their transformation has been huge compared to cooking systems and technologies. The industry has certainly been working to come up with ways of making fuel efficiency better, and I'd say the next challenge/goal is to come up with less harmful materials to use when developing new products, especially related to the residues of metal left on food, how to make product more durable (in a sustainable manner), and also ensuring that these systems perform more consistently in wide range of elevations and conditions.

-David Ames (Manager)

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Trotting Around in Turkey Run State Park

Over the last long weekend I had the opportunity to hike in Turkey Run State Park in Indiana. This was the perfect chance to try out a bunch of the newest hiking gear that I purchased from Bivouac. I had on my Prana Halle pants which were amazing because of the quick dry and super durable material (I fell while climbing a bit and nothing tore!), my icebreaker bolt top, which in merino was great to ward off any chill and allowed for high visibility on the trail and quick drying when a bit of rain hit while on the trail, and my Oboz Yellowstone in B-dry. The shoes were the best thing I could ask for. They had traction where and when I needed it; they more than proved themselves “true to the trail”. The gear was amazing and worked out to my advantage throughout the entire weekend.

Hiking in Turkey Run State Park was amazing. It had scenic overviews and rock formations that I could clamor up. The park was founded in 1916 by the Indiana state park system. It is complete with a suspension footbridge over Sugar Creek  and a trail (#3) which hosts multiple ladders to traverse through the narrow deep gorges.  (see image below)
The park features were mainly formed out of sandstone, and as you hike deeper into the park you will come across Falls Canyon which consists of a series of canyons complete with a seasonal waterfall.
As it was a bit on the colder side, many of the waterways were frozen over so it made walking the trails a bit easier and less wet. Just watch your step! During the summer months, parts of the trails may be impassable due to high water, so I would recommend using trekking poles.
Turkey Run consists of eleven marked trails that run from ‘moderate’ to ‘very rugged’. The park is not meant for those that are looking for an easy day hike. The only drawback that I, as an avid hiker, could determine from this beautiful location was the fact that there is no backpacking or backcountry overnight stays  allowed in the park. Visitors either need to stay at the park inn or at the electric campsites.  If you are looking for an easy day of a few hikes or just to relax, the park offers fishing, and various other organized activities including bird watching, and stargazing. All in all, my weekend trip to Southern Indiana was a blast and the highlight of that trip was my visit to Turkey Run State Park in Marshall Indiana. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Bivouac Eats: Parents & Family Weekend Restaurant Guide

    If you're a ramen-adjusted college student like us, this weekend represents the once-a-semester chance at culinary tourism past more than just MoJo cookies: November 6-8, 2015 is the University of Michigan's Parents & Family Weekend!

   Wondering where to go when your Mom asks the all important "where do you want to try tonight?" Bivouac Eats has your back. Click the links below to check out out restaurant review series highlighting some of Ann Arbor's best! Restaurants listed in no particular order.

1. Lena.

2. Sava's Restaurant.

3. The Black Pearl.

4. Aventura.

5. The Raven's Club.

6. Mani Osteria.

7. Frita Batido's.

8. The Jolly Pumpkin.

9. Babo.

Happy dining!


Bivouac: Where Outdoor Passion Meets Indoor Fashion.