Author Archives: Dave

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About Dave

Dave Buckingham guides, outfits, and waxes poetic on all things canyoneering at Zion Adventure Company. When Dave isn’t exploring desert canyons or waterskiing on Lake Powell, you might find him fixing his boat, walking his dog, or tooting his own horn (it’s a trumpet) here in Springdale.

Filling Sandbags to Prepare for the Flooding Virgin

“Sand bagging” is a term climbers use when a given route’s difficulty rating belies the actual, more serious difficulty of the climb. While I have been on a few sand-bag routes before, my experience with real sand bags today was less figurative and much more literal. I laid in bed this morning, half-awake, before sunrise, noticing an above-average amount of vehicle sound and light activity behind my house. The service road there by the cemetery had become a staging area for flood preparation, and a few moments later I got a text message shedding more light on the situation. “Virgin River expected to exceed 8000 cfs (cubic feet per second). Filling sand bags at the cemetery. All kinds of help needed.” I fixed some food, donned raingear, and headed over. The rain was light , but steady. Ambient air temperature was in the mid 40s. Thankfully, it wasn’t windy. When my wife and I arrived, forty people were already filling sandbags. The sand had been sitting in the rain, making for lots of slop. Soon, all who were working were soaking wet and covered in the slop up to their ankles, and from fingertips to elbows. They didn’t seem to … Continue reading

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Food Recommendations for the Trails or the Canyons

Every week, Zion visitors bound for adventure on the trails and in the canyons ask me the same question: “What should I take with me to eat?” It seems these visitors are trying to sort through the matrix of what friends, outdoor enthusiasts, the media, and mom have told them about trail food, and how any of it applies to what they are about to do in Zion. They ask: “Do I need bars? Can I take a sandwich? Can I bring fresh fruit, or does it need to be dehydrated?” This is what I tell them… I like eating. And because I like eating, I like to enjoy the food I eat. The degree to which I enjoy food enhances the entirety of my day, in this specific case, my day in the outdoors. For this reason, my advice to departing adventurers is simple, but important: Bring food you will enjoy eating. If you are not enthused with the PB&J your mom would have insisted upon, I say save yourself the disappointment and leave it at home. The same holds true for food bars or energy bars; if you don’t like ‘em, leave ‘em. So what do I bring on my own … Continue reading

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Sizing Five Ten Canyoneers for Really Big Feet

Each year, I get several questions from curious Sasquatchian Canyoneers wondering, “What is the biggest foot that fits in the Five Ten Canyoneer 2?” As a person with a size 14 foot, I empathize with fellow men and women who struggle to find shoes that fit. I have been fortunate to see what does and does not work in dozens of rental situations where folks with large feet tried on the Canyoneer2, so I thought I’d share this admittedly esoteric knowledge here for the world to enjoy. First, let’s lay out the important facts to consider when planning a large foot fitting: 1) Foot width is often describes as foot “volume”. A narrow foot is considered “low volume”; a wide foot is “high volume”. 2) The largest Canyoneer 2 size Five Ten makes is 15; the next smaller sizes are 14, then 13 (no half sizes). 3) The sock a person wears inside the Canyoneer 2 greatly affects the fit. Thicker socks offer more warmth in cold water, cushion for hiking, and help low-volume feet fill the width of the Canyoneer 2. Thinner socks provide less insulation (good for summer), but offer less cushion. Here are a few popular sock … Continue reading

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Gear Review: NeoSport X-Span Wetsuit for Canyoneering

Tired of freezing your tush in icy-cold canyon water? Not excited about the precision of movement requried to keep a drysuit safe and sound? If this describes you, then you might be in the market for a canyon wetsuit. I was, then I found the NeoSport X-Span 7mm fleece lined jumpsuit. To my knowledge, nobody currently makes a canyon-specific wetsuit, since the market is so small. So we must turn to the water sports industry for help, which is where I found my latest discovery. The NeoSport X-Span jumpsuit is a one-piece, fleece-lined, back zip wetsuit. By far, my favorite quality is its stretchiness, which allows me to move athletically, with a full range of motion, while providing more than enough insulation during cold canyon swims. The stretchy fabric cooperates very well when canyoneering temporarily adjusts its location on my body. If you’d like to canyoneer, surf, dive, swim, or waterski in a great-feeling, form-fitting wetsuit, check out the Neosport X-Span. They are available as one-piece jumpsuits, shorties, and farmer john/jane on the Neosport website. Dave Buckingham guides, outfits, and waxes poetic on all things canyoneering at Zion Adventure Company. When Dave isn’t exploring desert canyons or waterskiing on Lake … Continue reading

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Help Your Lunch Survive Until Lunchtime

Nobody enjoys potato chips soaked marinated in stagnant canyon water. So we test assorted strategies for protecting our grub: different bags, boxes, and containers… carrying our goodies in our pack lids, or hidden inside our helmet during the hike in… I have even used the small space above the webbing in my Ecrin Roc helmet to keep food (and cameras!) dry during swims. But ultimately, what we really need is a tough, reliable, and preferably mindless protection strategy for our food. If you are weary of fretting over your vulnerable food, check out Snapware. Guide certified and Costco approved, these sealable, clear, plastic containers are reusable, durable, and waterproof. They come in variety of sizes and are great around the house, on the trail, and, of course, in the canyon. Check out their “Food Storage” family, and the “Airtight” products within that family. If you are an aggressive pack-chucker, please be aware not even Snapware can always hold up to the abuse you dish out – but it usually can! Also, keep in mind throwing your pack into a pool of water creates a momentary vacuum when the pack enters the water. Both dry bags and Snapware are susceptible to … Continue reading

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Canyon Rope 102: Choosing The Right Materials

In my last post, I shared thoughts on the utility of dynamic climbing ropes versus static canyon ropes in the canyoneering realm. To bring newcomers up to speed, both dynamic and static ropes will keep you alive whilst rappelling, but static ropes are undeniably lighter, stronger, and less expensive. Take-home message? Use static ropes whenever reasonably possible. In this follow-up article, let’s discuss the varied types of STATIC ROPE out there, specifically, the materials you’ll find in static ropes. Basically, you’ll see three different fabrics out there: 1. NYLON Nylon is a low cost material from which most dynamic climbing ropes, and some canyoneering ropes, are made. It often stretches 10-12% when weighted, meaning a 100 ft. piece of rope becomes as long as 112′ when someone is rappelling on it. Nylon also absorbs water, which has significant weight disadvantages. Nylon can absorb up to 150% of its own weight in water, so your 5-pound 100 ft. rope can weigh as much as 12.5 pounds when soaking wet. In addition, load-test studies show wet nylon to be 20-40% weaker than dry nylon. Do you really need to worry about a 40% strength loss when your tensile strength is 5,ooo lbf. … Continue reading

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Canyoneering Ropes 101: Static vs. Dynamic

ROPE is one of the flashier and more expensive tools in your canyoneering tool chest. Because most canyoneers aren’t made of money, they want lots of great canyon days for the cash they shell out on a rope. Ropes are made from different fibers, for different purposes, and each one carries advantages and disadvantages. Here’s my two cents on canyon ropes and the materials used to make canyoneering ropes. Static (Canyon) Rope vs. Dynamic (Climbing) Rope Dynamic rope is built for elongation, stretching somewhere in the 6 – 12% range when weighted. Dynamic ropes are essential for protecting a rock climber’s vertical fall; the “unwinding” of the interior rope twists disperses energy, reducing the force on the climber’s body. To achieve this carefully controlled stretch, climbing ropes are made of nylon, with the interior rope core (kern) twisted tightly, and the sheath of the rope (mantle) woven more loosely. Static rope, on the other hand, is built for low-elongation; it stretches in the range of 2-4% when weighted. In a static rope, the kern strands are twisted less tightly or are straight, and the sheath is woven more tightly, reducing the rope’s elasticity. Static ropes do not protect a climber … Continue reading

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