New Year – New Plans!

As the 2017 year comes to a close, and we are full on into the dead of winter, I feel it is time to reflect on a few things, and maybe check in and see what we have in store for 2018.  Do you ever stop and think “Holy Crap, its 2018… Y2K was 18 years ago!!??”  I do 😛

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So… what have I been up to while we wait for hiking season to begin again?  Well my last hike was around the Thanksgiving weekend (the Canadian one, late October),  we were graced with about 8″ of snow while camping.  Our plans to summit Mt John Carter were squashed, so move that adventure to next year’s bucket list. This is the photo when we first arrived at our tent pad in Kokanee Glacier Park.  We still had a fun time in the snow; it’s always fun to do some colder weather camping!

 

We also managed to do some nice local day hikes, as the shoulder season was upon us.

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But now, as temperatures are commonly hitting around 1°F/-17°C over the various mountain passes, it’s ski season!  I picked up a pair of on-piste ski’s and boots for $50 in the classifieds – perfectly fine shape to learn on! Me, enjoying some time on the hill:

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Looking into the new year, I have a few big plans in the works.  I’m going to try my hand at getting a Wonderland Trail Permit for later in the summer/early fall.   Also, I am looking at hiking the Chilkoot Trail in three days in late summer.  This trail connects Skagway, Alaska to Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada.   I have already scheduled one half-marathon for the end of May, and probably will do another one later in the summer, as well as a 10K trail run.  I look forward to providing posts surrounding planning to the bigger hikes.

In the gear front, I have gotten some pretty awesome stuff over the past month!  I cannot *wait* to have a few nights in my new tent to review the Six Moon Design Lunar Solo – this tent will be my first single wall and the price point is really decent!

I also bit the bullet and just ordered an Enlightened Equipment Enigma Quilt for 0F (I had a -20F bag, and a 20F bag – felt I was missing that middle range).  This bag is my first quilt ever and I look forward to reviewing it after several nights.

Happy New Year and Happy Hiking!

Let me know what you have planned for 2018!

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Review – ULA Circuit

At one point I had five packs.  I have finally paired it down to three, but there is one pack I keep going back to over and over again for day hikes, weekends and longer trips.  The 55L ULA Circuit.    This pack looks a bit different, especially if you typically buy the standard Osprey, Deuter or Gregory packs at MEC or REI.  I love my Deuter 70L and my Deuter 35L but this is the one I keep reaching for…

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What makes this pack unique?

  1. 41oz (1100g) – most packs you normally find in this size are 50-70oz.
  2. Roll top closure – most packs cinch and have a bran that sits on top.
  3. Lots of straps and huge side pockets.
  4. A front pouch that seems at times to be a  bottomless pit.
  5. Option at purchase to pick size and hip belt shape.

This bag is not for everyone, it does not have a frame.  Instead it has a carbon fiber hoop and an aluminum stay that is curved.  Also, it has a weight limit suggestion of 35lbs which means you should be a pretty light packer.

For my big twelve day trip recently, I went over the recommended weight limit of 35lbs as I had 12 days of food at 16lbs.  Day one, 12 miles, 4500ft and 41lbs of gear, was it comfortable? No.  Did I make it? Yes.  By day two, I had figured out that packing my inflatable sleeping mat folded between my back and my bear can prevented the discomfort of the bear can poking into my back.  By day three, I was probably around 38lbs and was feeling no discomfort.  Every day after that, I had zero issues and I became the master of packing that pack.

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How I Packed my bag changed as I learned what worked, here is my final system with a full Bearikade Expedition:

  • Put all my down gear, sleep clothing, and down bag loosely in a garbage bag and stuff to the bottom.
  • Slide in the canister but ensure to position it in the middle (there will be a lot of space on either side.
  • Take the sleeping mat and fold it into a large rectangle and slide it down the back of the bear canister to keep it off your back
  • Slide different gear down the sides of the canister (like rain gear etc;) taking care to make sure the canister stays center.
  • Tent in one side pouch
  • Tent stakes in other side pouch with 1L smart water bottle and optionally filled 1L platypus also fits there.
  • Every other odd and end in the front pouch (fuel, map, first aid).  Foam mat and flip flops were under the para-cord
  • Solar panel tied using back up laces to the roll top enclosure to hang off.

Note: Future me has switched from a two person tent to a one person Six Moon Lunar that is a) smaller and b) uses a stake.  I might try to put it in the bag.

Note 2: Future me has procured some ultra light smart water bottle holder that can hang off the front straps of the pack.  Again freeing up one of the side pouches – so many possibilities!

As I go lighter and lighter in my gear this pack is everything I ever wanted ❤

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Review – GooseFeet Gear Balaclava and Booties

Love love love!  If I had to write three words to describe this purchase.  If I had to choose only one, down booties easily!  The feeling of slipping into a pair of down booties after wiping my feet with a wet wipe and feeling the very soft shell on them after a long day’s hike was just exceptional.  Eleven days in the high sierra and they are now a valuable part of my regular cold weather gear packing list!

The booties: I purchased here

Goosefeet Down Booties

I went with 100% overfill and a bright purple colour to find them easily in my pack.  They have an elastic around the ankle and feel thin but silky soft and comfortable.

They weigh a measily 2.68oz (76g) and compress to almost nothing.

The balaclava weighs 1.97 (56g) – I really like it as well, especially if you sleep with a quilt or a bag that is not a full mummy bag.  Those cold mornings you can cinch it real tight when you are getting ready.  Definitely not a fashion piece but is super warm!

Here is a silly picture from when they first arrived to my house… I cinched the drawstring up real tight and was channeling my inner Kenny from South Park 🙂

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Preparing a College Style Menu for a 12 Day Bear Canister Trip

I have this trip coming up, in the Sequoia King Canyon National Park.  I am planning 10-12 days depending on the miles, over 250km (155 miles).  I need to carry a bear canister which is a whopping 41oz (1.16kg) and definitely not conducive to ultra light:

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Use #3 for the bear can: Keeps the cat out of the basement…

 

This bear can has been the bane of my existence lately, see that small grocery bag, some of that also needs to fit in the can along with all my toiletries/smellies. Though the shopping bag powders are huge jars and I only need a fraction of it, it’s still going to be a royal pain in my butt.

To make matters worse, I need to drive to the United States from Canada before boarding a flight and flying to Fresno.  So I need to keep everything in it’s original packaging until the night before so I can cross the border appropriately and not look suspicious when my dehydrated potato flakes, fibre powder, protein powder, electrolyte powder all in zip locks show up at the border.  Then spend the evening looking like a weird drug dealer portioning out all my ziplock bags in the hotel room of Spokane!   I might bring a mallet to powderize everything as a last resort 😛

To make the most of my weight, I decided to channel my inner college student and go back to the days of eating very simply.  I can eat and prepare high end gourmet meals like pistachio encrusted frenched rack of lamb with truffle oil mashed potatoes *OR* I can eat ramen every day for a week!  Both are fantastic in their completely separate set of ways.

I calculated how many calories I burn a day.  I am 5’6 and when I am doing absolutely nothing and channel my inner sloth, I burn a whopping 1600 calories a day, which is basically one slice of chocolate cake.  I estimate I will be burning 3000-4000 calories a day, but can stand to lose a couple pounds (a pound is about 3500 calories).  I estimated I should bring around 3000 calories a day in food for a 10-12 day trip.

I broke down each of my food choices into calories per ounce/gram.  This ruled out a lot of things and kept me choosing higher fat items.  Of course we cannot eat a diet purely of fat (my poor digestive system isn’t as strong as college me).  So I decided to add in a daily ration of fibre powder to my breakfast to keep everything, in place…

To limit the amount of fuel for the trip, I am going with boil only meals (no cooking). Not included here are packets of different spices for different mashed potato nights (red pepper flakes, parsley, garlic, pepper, onion) and I did buy 3 different kinds of Idahoan mashed potatoes for variety. Also the pepperoni has different kinds including very spicy, honey garlic etc;  If I have room I will be carrying some baby bel cheeses as well (will cram them in the night of, if I can).

Everything from this photo will be repackaged into thin ziplocks.  I feel guilty with the all the plastic but I need to carry this for 12 days and it all needs to be inside that can.

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Day 1 does not have to be in the bear can, I might treat myself to some fresh sandwiches, or splurge on a mountain house meal.

If you would like to see the full calorie break down and the weight, here is my spreadsheet: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1kCFPreTrCBBynJ4eCIxIVeICfkl42Qkgse1Tqk9xiSw/

I will do a follow-up post trip to see how much I never want to eat mashed potatos again. Though I have been eating these meals all summer on various weekend excursions and am still enjoying it.

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Happy Hiking!

Gear Review – Blue Desert SmarTube Hydration System

This past weekend I was able to review the Blue Desert SmarTube Hydration System

This was a relatively inexpensive piece of gear that I think deserves a good review.   At only $23 CDN, and available on Amazon Prime, this is an easy way to add a hydration tube to your gear without dealing with a bladder.  I really like the fact that it comes with different attachments, a bite valve and a on off switch.   It is manufactured in Israel, and seems to be well made and didn’t have a funny taste.

The three different sized lids fit Nalgene bottles, and regular water bottles of different diameters.  A very simple setup where each lid ultimately stacks.   One thing I wish the kit included was a few inches of velcro material to secure it to your pack.  It works with my current ULA Circuit but it would be just a nice little bonus.

Here is what is included:

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Suction wasn’t too difficult and I found I stayed much more hydrated.   One thing I would like to try in the future is cutting the tube and hooking it up to my sawyer straw, and having it as an in-line filter.

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Happy Hiking!

Gear List 1.0 – The Big Three

The big three.  Pack, Shelter, Sleeping Bag.   The evolution of how these items change is, in my experience, due to uncomfortable trips.

I used to have this Kelty synthetic sleeping bag, however I froze my ass off in New Zealand during December 2014 when it snowed on us in the mountains.  First thing I did was sell it on Gear Trade (great site if you are in the U.S, unfortunately after moving back to Canada I don’t get the luxury of this site).

I researched and researched and went with a 20 degree ZPack bag I am fairly happy with this bag, though I wish I did the 10 degree version.  I also found a 0 degree REI bag on craigslist that had been used once for 100 dollars.  I haven’t actually used it yet as my 20F was fine for Rainier and Peru, however I did give it to my husband once when we went camping and he died of over heating 🙂 but I digress.   The ZPack’s bag is super light and fits so small.  I will do a full review on it soon.

My first tent that wasn’t a piece of crap Canadian Tire monster car camping tent was a four season Terra Nova I got on Craigslist for 100 dollars.  It has an issue where the inside of the fly sticks to itself and you have to gently peel it open for it to be spread out, but other then that, the price was a steal.  I am in love with free standing tents at this point in my backpacking adventures.   I know one day I will get a solo ultra light tent but currently free standing is my luxury, as I don’t have the extra cash for a super duper tent.

I sometimes backpack with friends that visit, as I live in the mountains, so I went with the MSR Hubba Hubba NX.  I was really on the fence between it and the Big Agnes Copper Creek UL2 but in the store I made a snap judgement by the feel of the MSR material, it just felt stronger and more durable.   I liked the two doors/vestibules and room to store my gear inside.

Packs – At one point I had 5 packs.  I have recently downsized that list.  A Deuter 35L, Deuter ACT 65+10 and a ULA Circuit pack.    The ULA is by far my favourite of the three, and I will do a review of it at a later time.   Shaving off the weight, and looking super rad!

 

 

 

Well that is out – where to go next?

PCT Section, OCT, Timberline Trail, JMT, WHW, TCT, WCT – alphabet soup!  I have read so much information on each of these treks some of it starts to mix together.  They are all on my bucket list to complete.  I wanted to pick something that would be personally challenging, not too difficult to get a permit, and fairly safe/easy access.

Time of year.  I got two weeks to play with in September, this limits some of the hikes

Pacific Crest Trail section – I was looking at doing some of the sections in Washington.  One was to hike towards the Canadian border then start heading SOBO.  Two reasons this seemed like a good idea – 1) my husband could drop me off and pick me up  2) If I ever wanted to section the whole thing, that one is kind of a pain to start.  I chose against this route though as it would be later in the season, and I wanted a loop if possible.  I was also looking at Section J in WA but some logistics with rides was daunting and I knew my husband did not want to drive 8 hours just to drop me off.

Oregon Coast Trail  and West Coast Trail – I decided I felt I was more longing for a mountain trek and wanted to stay away from the coast.  September can bring more rain, and being on the coast was not what I had in mind.

West Highland Way – Is definitely on my short list of treks to do, but the urge to keep air fare low, and there is so much to do on this continent.  Adding it to the bucket list though!

Teton Crest Trail – This one is also on my short list!  I believe I passed on this one just purely due to accessibility and I will be honest I wouldn’t be able to tell you where Wyoming was without looking at a map.  I hope as I learn and grow as a backpacker that this is one I will be able to one day see!

John Muir Trail – After going through permit anxiety, I did not want to deal with that all over again.  Such a high snow year in the Sierra I knew that there would be more pressure on late season permits.  Yes there are always walkups however I don’t like the idea of buying a plane ticket and not knowing if I will be able to do the hike (see my post about permits :P).  While looking at options in this area around the JMT I stumbled on this beauty of hike:

Big Seki Loop – this trek is around 155 miles and is a full loop,  no need for pesky drop off/pick up shenanigans!  Permit system is easy, and a chunk of the route is on the JMT! I was sold!

 

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