This story featured in the 2012 June issue.

Photo: Aaron McKinney

Will my Taser stop a bear?

Eddy has never Tasered a bear, but he does know this: 1) a Taser definitely stops a person dressed in a bear costume; 2) because of this, Eddy is no longer welcome at his niece's birthday parties. As for actual bears, Taser sells a model built specifically for controlling wildlife as large as a 1,000-pound bear or moose. The Taser X3W features a higher charge and contact points sharp enough to penetrate thick animal hides. However, says Dr. Tom Smith, who studies human-bear conflicts at Brigham Young University, Tasers aren't the best tool for the job. "Tasers, like marine flares, have their place but I feel are far too 'close-range' to work on bears," he says. "For a Taser to work, one must be within 30 feet and the probes must penetrate the very dense fur of bears. Much too dangerous for me to rely on, and no, I would not recommend its use." You're much better off with bear spray, Smith says. In one study, he found that pepper spray worked for all but three of 156 people in 71 human-bear conflicts. Even guns are inferior to pepper spray—in 269 human-bear encounters that involved guns, he found 151 human injuries, not to mention 171 bear deaths. But hold on a second, Tom—did you say something about marine flares?

Can I patch my canoe with duct tape?
People, including the Discovery Channel's MythBusters, have made entire boats out of duct tape. No doubt the stuff can keep water out—the question is for how long. Oregon-based BCU coach Karl Andersson has successfully patched everything from Kevlar and Royalex boat hulls to drysuit gaskets with duct tape. "Duct tape sticks great to a dry gel-coat," he says. "Royalex is much easier to patch than polyethylene; the initial adhesion is much better. Polyethylene boats are fussy—if the boat is dry to begin with, it works fine—any dampness and the tape doesn’t stick." So important is dryness to the duct-tape patching process that Andersson carries a bottle of acetate with him on expeditions to prep boat hulls. (The bottle of chloroform that Eddy carries does not work as well). He also prefers black electrician's tape and has even been experimenting with roofers' asphalt tape. Others are less enthusiastic. Dennis Davidson, owner of canoe repair specialists Northwest Canoe in Saint Paul, Minn., says, "We avoid duct tape. It will stick, but doesn't last." The problem is the inferior adhesive and quality of the cloth. He recommends, and sells, ready made $20 patches of a flexible epoxy that, when heated, forms a bond as strong as gel coat. "If you don't have a heat gun with you, you can heat the patches by dropping them into boiling water inside a plastic bag," says Davidson. The patch will become, "as pliable as a wet lasagna noodle," for easy application. If you must use duct tape, says Davidson, apply it to a dry hull and use heat to improve the adhesion.

Did voyageurs have mullets?
Most people think the mullet—short hair in the front, long in the back—is just a sharp-looking hairstyle, but few realize its practical applications. (Full disclosure: Eddy has rocked a mullet since age 4.) See, the long hair in back protects the neck from sunburn and insect bites (and says, "I like to party"), while the short hair up top keeps out of the way when you are working under your truck—or portaging with a tumpline. Did the voyageurs realize this? According to Angela Gottfred's Northwest Journal article, "What Voyageurs Wore: Voyageur Clothing from Head to Toe, 1774-1821," some did. "In 1807, NWC clerk Willard F. Wentzel noted that voyageurs 'wear their hair long behind and short before,'" she writes. Other historians are less certain. Greg Sine, author of Making the Voyageur World, says, "Voyageurs spanned three centuries and an entire continent, so I'd bet that differences prevailed. That being said, I've seen imagery of 19th century voyageurs with medium-length hair, often between shoulder-length and Beatles mop-top. I think that a long ponytail might get in the way during the paddling and portaging, or even be a liability in a fight." That was certainly the case when Eddy took on that hippie Chip McGhee at the Voyageur re-enactor's rendezvous last summer. Final Score: Mullet: 1, Ponytail McGhee: dirt sandwich.