By far the best place in Vancouver to buy new outdoor equipment is the member-owned Mountain Equipment Co-op [130 West Broadway.] Staff are extremely well-informed, prices are very fair and quality is excellent. Lifetime memberships cost a mere $5. Stores like the Army and Navy or 3 Vets [now closed] only sell outdoor trash that can cause real problems in the field. As a bonus, staff at the latter one used to yell at you if you walked into the store with a knapsack. No wonder they failed.

MEC also has a gigantic notice board for those interested in picking up their equipment second hand. Craigslist is another good bargain sources as well. For many newbies, the outdoor lifestyle becomes a consumer experience. They buy all the name brand gear, head out into the outback, despise it, then, after a hiatus of several years, sell off their equipment at garage sale prices. Look for these guys.

Renting is always a possibility but it does tend to be expensive, especially if you intend to take up the great outdoors as a lifestyle. Rental shops seem to find it difficult to survive in Vancouver. Until recently, about the only one that seemed able to make it in the local market is associated with the outdoor club at the University of British Columbia. Though inconveniently situated for most of us [6000 Student Union Boulevard, UBC; 604-822-1684] UBC Outdoor Equipment Rentals nonetheless has the goods if you need them.

In the last few years Mountain Equipment Co-op has stepped in to fill the rental gap on a more permanent basis.

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Rogue waves occur when the crests of individual waves from different wave-trains momentarily coincide. Hokusai's famous Tsunami, pictured here, is actually not a rogue wave at all.

Backpackers following the intertidal shelf should be aware of something known as "rogue waves". Unless seismic in origin, waves are usually created by the transferance of energy from wind to water. Three factors, wind speed, duration and fetch or the distance which a wind can blow, unimpeded, contribute to wave size. The energy moves wave-like through the water, displacing that water but not in fact transporting it. In other words the energy moves but the water doesn't.

Long wave-trains, waves marching in succession, can travel over great distances across the water. At any given time the waves from several wave-trains from disparate origins may come crashing on any particular beach. Rogue waves occur when the crests of individual waves from different wave-trains momentarily coincide. In short rogue waves occur when two or more waves displace the same water at the same time. When two wave crests come together they create a bigger than average wave. When a crest and trough coincide the result is a smaller than average wave.

Rogue waves occur when the crests of individual waves from different wave-trains momentarily coincide. Statistically the coincidence of two waves doubling up is thought to occur as frequently as one in 23 normal-sized waves. Certainly often enough to warrant caution whenever mucking about at the very edge of rocky shelves. When walking along the edge of metre high surf the margin of safety will rapidly disappear whenever a two metre wave hits the beach. Backpacker and knapsack may very well disappear as well if three crests overlap. Fortunately triple-sized waves are predicted to occur only once out of 1, 175 while four crests meeting simultaneously is as rare as one in three hundred thousand.

A further dynamic, not fully understood yet, occurs when coinciding waves are further pumped up by ocean currents. Though not a frequent occurrence off the B.C. coast, waves on steroids have been measured as high as a 10-story building from crest to trough. Coinciding troughs are known to create momentary liquid black holes from which an unlucky freighter or tanker would be unlikely to reappear. Every year a handful of cargo ships vanish from the oceans of the earth. At least a few of these are thought to have fallen prey to rogue waves.

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