Category Archives: Backpacks

Gear – Cold weather, sub 20lbs Base Weight


…and it all fits in my GoLite Jam 50L.

I’m one of those guys that will kill time on airplanes daydreaming gear lists. For a while I’ve been trying to get comfortable and condition-appropriate gear whittled down to under 20lbs and I’m geeked enough that I actually keep a library of all my gear (weighted with our little food scale if it’s small) to tool around with.

This is a sub-20lbs Gear checklist for hiking in the winter in the Ozarks and Smokies (my local ranges) where conditions can be very damp and drop below freezing at the night above 5000feet.

Add in 2L or water (4.4lbs) and four or five days food (about 5lbs) and I’ve got a total weight under 30lbs.

Which, I’m kinda stoked about. 🙂

Any other folks this gear obsessed? I think I’m going to give this a go in the Daniel Boon NF sometime in the next month or so.


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February 8, 2013 · 10:44 am

This weekend’s plan


So after last weekend’s aborted trip out east in Tennessee I took matters into my own hands for a Solo backpack this weekend.

I’ll be driving out tonight and grabbing a hotel room outside Gatlinburg, then up early the next morning to check in with the Ranger and hit the trail in the AM. Through Low Gap trail I’ll meet up with the AT to Mt. Camerrer. I’ll leave the AT 2.3 miles later and come back down via. Campsite 35, where I’ll overnight. Then it’s back to the car by noon the next day and the long drive back to Memphis.

Lets see if I can make it out there this time! More to come!

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January 25, 2013 · 3:03 pm

Books I Like – Andrew Skurka’s ‘Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide’


So my mother-in-law bought me some wonderful gifts for Christmas this year, but one of the most surprising and enjoyable has been a book on Backpacking!

Most of my family (and friends… and co-workers) humour my love of hiking and backpacking. They smile and nod and ask the occasional question about where I’ve been or where I’m planning on going, but most of them have vastly different outdoor interests (hunting, fishing, etc) and don’t really share my enjoyment of conquering a place just for the sake of BEING there.

So it was a really enjoyable surprise to get a book on Backpacking gear!

I’m usually skeptical of gear books. They tend to work best when tied to a particular place or time (How to pack for a day hike, or how to select gear for alpine summits). They don’t age well (technology moves quickly, as does innovation in construction). In particular though, they are often full of opinions (THIS is the best gear of the type!).

Gear selection is like boots. Buy the boot that fits, not the boot with the best reviews. Every hiker is different and what works for some doesn’t work for others.

My read-through of Skurka’s guide went from a quick flip-through to a full on read-in-one-day marathon, mostly because of the forward.

This is not the traditional gear-selecting catalogue I’ve read before. It’s more of a dissertation and instructional guide on gear categories, construction, materials and objective-based considerations.

Skurka’s stated goal in the guide is clearly explained from the beginning; Decide what your personal objectives are and select gear that supports you achieving those objectives. If the author makes a suggestion it is ONLY after the repeated caveat that this is only gear that meets HIS objectives in a GIVEN scenario (climate, conditions, season, etc).

What are the differences between different types of Nylon? Why choose between natural and synthetic fills? How does different sleeping pad constructions compare and what are the pros and cons? Skurka sets out to teach the reader how to make choices based on where they are and what they are trying to do.

The recommended gear lists at the end of the book do not use any brand names. They deal only in what type of items you COULD take. Selecting those items by cost and manufacturer is ultimately left to the reader.

I would highly recommend this book to ANY first time backpacker. While any and ALL of the information contained in this book can be learned from any of the experienced backpackers who frequent forums on the Internet or run backpacking Blogs, this book contains ALL of the right information to get you to make informed decisions on gear in ONE place.

Great resource and some entertaining anecdotes. This book definitely meets its objectives and anyone reading it should be able to make decisions in a much more informed way.

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December 28, 2012 · 11:39 pm

Hiking Trails – Rattlesnake Ledge, North Bend, Washington


Well once again I managed to squeeze all the advantage I could out of a four day trip to Seattle by making a second early AM excursion to visit a local trail and peak/overlook before the season got too snowy and the Parks service started shutting gates and trails down.

This trail by recommended to me by it’s huge number of ratings on, and also by a friend who is formerly of the Seattle area. It was known for its great overlook ledge at the summit, looking out over Rattlesnake Lake.

I arrived around 8am and was surprised that despite the drizzling rain, fifty degree temperatures and thirty mile per hour wind… there were at least two other cars parked at the Trailhead!

The reviews didn’t lie when it said this was a well frequented trail. It has lovely, well maintained parking and public access to chem-pot Commodes.


The trail itself is a standard out-and-back view. You gain about 1100ft of altitude from the parking lot to the ledge, all in around 2 miles of uphill. It is paced fairly well with switchbacks, but I’d say you’d be drenched by the end of the ascent in the summer. As it was, I was heated up enough that my softshell letting the wind in at the top gave me a chill, and I was glad to have packed my Patagonia Nanopuff just in case.


The return hike is quick, probably 40 minutes compared to 80 minutes for the ascent. Nice views, even in the rain. Even with a pack of tourists nipping at my heels I was able to achieve a sense of solitude for the climb and only really met folks on the way back down. I recommend going early and packing lots of water.


As ever, all shots are iPhone 4S!


November 30, 2012 · 7:28 pm

Hiking Trails – Tiger Mountain National Forest, Washington


Took a hike up into the old logging area of saddle mountains in Tiger Mountain National Forest, just to the north of Isaquah Washington.



I’m going to make an assumption as to the name. The forest looks as though it was at one time mixed Redwood and Douglas Fir with the Redwoods logged out many years ago and the Fir now overrunning the forest. The colours of the two trees would lend to the ‘Tiger’ striping of the woods and the name. If it’s named after something else, I’m not sure what as I haven’t seen a single great cat during my time there.


I clocked a nice leisurely 5.2mile hike through the foothills. Technically this trail isn’t open this late in the season but it was a nice dry morning clear of snow and I thought ‘what the hell’. The Upper parking requires a Discovery pass, so I suggest coming prepared if you ever make it out this way in season (April until October). Parking is still available on the Highway, with a 1k walk up to the main site off season.


Nice hike, low impact and with a nice selection of trails for all levels. There is a Rails to Trails system in this forest which is nice and wide for bikes and horses. Recommended for something 30 minutes outside Seattle but with a nice sense of solitude.


All photos iPhone 4S!

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November 28, 2012 · 8:31 pm

Things I Like – The Colour Run


My wife and I did the Memphis 5k Colour Run today! Nice breezy Memphis Saturday and a great crowd and ever. If it comes to your city, go!




Also, the Osprey Manta 25 worked great as a hydration bag… And the pack cover kept it from getting all colourized!

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October 13, 2012 · 5:34 pm

Packs I Like – MEC Alpinite 30L


Just picked this daypack, with removable foam back sleeve and pack-away pouch On Sale while I was in Victoria BC. It has one main compartment and top pouch for my liquids and gels etc. I’m going to try it as a multi use trip bag for a four day jaunt to Indianapolis this week instead of my 40L REI vagabond.

EDIT: It was fine for short overnight trips. As a daypack though; I wish it had a sleeve for a hydration bladder. It won’t unhorse my Osprey Manta!

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October 2, 2012 · 3:59 pm