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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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!

Update: Gear Review – Blue Desert SmarTube Hydration System – Inline System!

I did a gear review recently for the Blue Desert SmarTube Hydration System, that was very favourable.  I decided to go ahead  and order a second one to modify for use as my inline system for my upcoming Big SEKI Loop (which I have now dubbed the Big Sexy Loop 🙂 )

I measured the tubing so the portion in the bottle would fit in both my 1L Platypus and my 1L SmartWater bottle (used and recommended because it is super light and the shape fits very nicely in packs, as well as durability), all the way to the bottom.  I then left a small amount to go through the bottle cap thread connector, and made my cut there.

The tubing fit easily over my Sawyer Mini, on the “dirty” side, and then I shortened the tube so that the distance from the Sawyer Mini to my mouth was reasonable (it’s a bit too long to start).  The mouth piece side of the tube slid easily but firmly over the Sawyer Mini clean side.

The beauty of this set up, is the ease of just grabbing “dirty” water and continuing on. The suction through the Sawyer mini is perfectly fine and sipping water has no issues. Removing the hoses from the Sawyer Mini can be a tad challenging (I use the non sharp side of the knife to pry it down).  Fortunately, if you keep your water sources choosy, you shouldn’t need to back flush too often.

I have tried it now on a couple weekend hikes and day hikes with no issues. I will be taking this setup with me on a 10-14 day trip to really test it out.

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!

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