Friday, September 12, 2014

First Look: TWO New Gossamer Gear Day Packs!

Gossamer Gear just released two brand new day packs just in time for some fall foliage hiking! I already have big plans for these small packs!

Both packs are made with 100 Denier Robic ripstop nylon for the main body and have new air mesh harness. The material of these packs are made to be more durable than the 50 Denier ripstop nylon previously used on many Gossamer Gear packs.

Up first is the Type 2 Utility Backpack

The Type 2 is 1400 cubic inches (23L) and the ultimate multifunctional pack.

MSRP $99.00

15.65 oz  (444 g.) complete
  • .80 oz (23 g.) removable foam pad
  • 3.40 oz (95 g.)  removable belt
  • 11.50 oz (326 g.) pack only

Here's a closer look at what the Type 2 has to offer:


The Robic fabric on the body of the pack has a slick feel to it. It's tough and is made to shed water. Definitely a perfect combination for those in wetter conditions like we see in New Hampshire. Anyone up for some UL bushwhacking?

There is a Daisy Chain and an Ice Axe Loop. This will extend my pack us into winter when I know I won't need to store snowshoes as I can carry an ice axe and use the Daisy Chain strap my crampons to the outside of the pack.

  • There are two integrated hydration hose ports so you can run your hose right by the shoulder straps
  • Breathable shoulder harness with sternum and rib strap
  • Removable hip belt with two large pockets (weighs 3.40 oz) 
  • Velcro back pocket can hold a laptop for commuters. Note- there is not padding

Top lid features a large zippered pocket and a draw cord to secure your gear.

Closer look at the hip belt

The two large mesh side pockets are the perfect size for water bottles.The mesh has been redesigned to be stretchy and tough.

The Rukus is a whopping 2400 cubic inches (39.32L) and can swallow a lot of gear. If Mary Poppins was into UL hiking, she'd get this pack.

Up close with the Rukus:

MSRP: $65.00
11.8 oz  (335 g.) complete
2400 c.i. (39.32 L)

The Rukus is a minimalist pack without a ton of features. It's simple and has a large volume capacity for such a lightweight pack. The main body has an 1800 Cubic Inch capacity. slant top mesh big back pocket for easy access. There is an additional 600 c.i. (9.83 l.) of volume between the slanted and side pockets.

Air-mesh fabric on new unisex shoulder straps for less friction, more cushion and more comfort

Removable exterior foam back pad- 80 oz (23 g.)

Close up of the Air-mesh fabric and Daisy Chain

Internal zipper pocket for small essentials.

Both packs are great for day trips, but can you really use them on a multiday adventure? I packed what I would typically bring on a two day, one night trip in the White Mountains during the summer to see if I could fit it all in.

I included the following items:

32 degree Sleeping bag (in stuff sack)
Sleeping pad
Hammock and tarp
Additional clothing (long underwear, down jacket, rain jacket, extra socks)
Ditty bag (first aid items, headlamp, batteries, toiletries, etc.)
Food: Snacks for 2 days, breakfast, lunch, and dinner
Cookpot and MSR Pocket Rocket Stove
4 oz fuel canister
2 liters water (bottles or bladder)

I was very surprised with how it all fit. With the Type 2 everything fit perfectly. There was no additional room so I would have to alter my gear to possibly squeeze another day in (just camping with a tarp, going stoveless, etc.)

With the Rukus everything fit into the main body with room to spare! I could definitely go on a long weekend trip with this pack. I will be testing these two packs in the field in the next week and will have an update about how they perform.

Disclaimer: Allison is a Gossamer Gear Trail Ambassador and received these packs for testing. The above review is her own opinion.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Day 12: In Suspension

*This post is from my 2014 JMT thru hike. I began 7/25/14 and finished 8/9/14. Missed the beginning? Read it here!*  

My legs are folded, knees against my chest as I wake. My sleeping bag's hood is cinched tight over my puffy's hood. The sun is not yet up. I slowly unzip my tent and peek out at J Bench Lake. It's one of the coldest mornings on the trail, but also the most glorious campsites. Our tired bodies were too busy with camp chores and getting to bed before more rain last night to really appreciate it.

I make my way out of our camp to use the bathroom and see a familiar face. It's Eric! We hadn't seen him since before Evolution Lake where he was meeting with a friend. We last hiked before the creek and before we lost John. We catch up and then walk to camp. Eric had started his day over an hour ago, but decides to hang with us at camp until we get going.

Andy reminds us that we have oatmeal from our Muir Trail Ranch resupply. Kayla and I are excited to have a hot, stick-to-your-ribs kind of breakfast. Unlike many hikers, we hadn't eaten a single packet on the trail. We use extra peanut butter to give our breakfast a little boost.

Shortly after breakfast the sun makes an appearance and motivates us to get moving. I spend the morning attempting to keep up with "Eric Long Legs". While I'm tall, every one of my steps is merely a half step for him. As we gain elevation, I feel myself breathing harder and having to take more frequent micro breaks. The trail is gorgeous and the terrain isn't bad, but it is noticeably more difficult to breath at this altitude compared to New Hampshire's 4000 foot peaks. Breathing aside, I feel great.

Pinchot Pass (12130') although a new highpoint on the trail, ended up being one of the easier passes on the trail. The climb is a little over 2000 feet, but it's steady. The views are incredible per usual and this helps with the ascent.

 Once down from Pinchot, our goal is to camp as close to Glen Pass as we can hike. I stop and pull out my map. The Harrison map set contains 13 pages. Happy Isles is page 13 and Whitney is 1. Today we're hiking on page three! I begin to think about our journey so far. How it had been vastly different than what I ever imagined but exactly what I was hoping for. Only a few more days until Whitney!


 As I hike, the sky becomes even more blue. The trail makes a dramatic change to meadows and really interesting wetland landscapes with towering mountains in sight.

 As I made my way on yet another switchback, the Woods Creek suspension bridge came into sight. This bridge was one of the sections I had been looking forward to. It's quite a treat to see a suspension bridge in wilderness. Especially one this long.

I climb up the steps to the bridge and as I take my first steps, I feel the planks wobble under me. The bridge sways gently as I pass over the gaps where wood once was. Once I reach the other side a group calls me over.

"Hey, are you the girl that's with John?" a camper asks.

"Yeah, there's a few of us." They recognize my purple skirt I assume.

"He asked us to pass on a message. I guess he doesn't have much food left. He's kind of freaking out. He said he wasn't going to slow down. Said something about you guys needing to find him. I dunno, he sounded a little crazy."

"Thanks," I reply. "We've been getting messages the last couple of days as we got separated by a creek crossing when we had all that rain."

Eric, Kayla, and Andy join, but before we head off we see a ranger. We are hesitant but Eric asks about the weather.

"It looks like there's going to be afternoon showers, but generally clear skies. More typical Sierra weather," the ranger informs us. A smile comes across all of our faces. "The rain we've been having was classified as a monsoon. That's something we normally don't encounter."

After our chat, we begin down the trail again. It's crazy to me that we had a monsoon. To me it was what I'd expect to encounter on a multi-day hike in New Hampshire or Vermont. I guess that's why it's so green there!

While I hadn't seen a bear on the trail (I was really hoping to!) I did run across a great deal of other wildlife including dozens of Mule Deer. One of the biggest features that differentiates them from other species of deer is their large ears. Their ears are always moving and do so independently of each other.

This mule deer was less than fifteen feet  from me when I rounded a corner. Instead of running off immediately, she simply turned her head toward me as she sat. I take a photo and drop my trekking pole to see if she'll run off. She doesn't move. After a few moments she stands up, gives me one last glance and begins to amble away. I doubt she's ever seen a firearm living here.

Around the next corner I come across some actual mules and a man camping out to deliver some provisions for a group of hikers. I chat with him for a while and Eric does when he catches up. The man tells us all about his job and seems to really like being out here. I learn that if you pay for a pack service and don't arrive when they are expecting you, they will wait for a bit, but then carry it out. Due to wilderness regulations they will not leave it. You are able to alter meeting times if you can reach them, but to me it seems like a risk to take when you're paying so much money for the service. I'm glad I opted to just carry more food at once.

The last few miles to camp are frustrating. Every few minutes someone recognizes my purple skirt and must give us an update from John. The other day he had separated from us with seven dinners and many snacks. He had no stove (Andy and Kayla carried their stove) or a rain jacket, but refused to take a half day and wait. The story transformed to him having seven days of food to three and now suddenly he has no food at all.

Only a few steps later a group asks us how we got lost. Lost? I inform them that we were never lost. I feel confused and annoyed from what I hear. John crossed the creek and made the decision to not wait for us. Suddenly we're being asked how we got lost and being told that John is freaking out and has no food.

A mile from Arrowhead Lake we decide to filter some water. A boy scout troop leader makes his way toward us bearing trail bars. He explains that he heard we were out of food. We chuckle, thank him for his kindness, and explain that we have plenty of food. Kayla decides to grab one for John. Moments later more groups try and give us some food. I explain the situation and it begins to make sense to them. Every single person we encounter has talked to John.

I appreciate how concerned everyone is, but just want to hike. I'm tempted to grab my leggings and take off my purple skirt. I don't want to hear anymore updates about John's location or his mental status. We talk it over and decide to not make a big deal of the situation, but divide the food better.

Minutes later I round the corner to Arrowhead Lake and see John's hat mounted on a trekking pole.

"Hey guys!" John exclaims feverishly. "I thought I wouldn't see you again."

A simple "Hi," was all I could mutter. I was annoyed that I was so close to John multiple times in the last few days but he refused to slow down or wait despite his growing concern.

Kayla greets him as cheerfully as she could and explains that we were concerned, but glad he's okay. The conversation goes from making sure he's doing alright and has eaten to trying to understand his logic. John believes that every decision he made was rational and we try to explain that he wasn't thinking as a group and wasn't making right choices.

"I wasn't sure if you had left the trail since just about everyone else did that day. I figure I had to make it to Whitney with the food I had," John explains.

"But that doesn't make sense. You can't hike that many miles with the food you had; especially without a stove," Kayla counters.

"I didn't hear from any of you! I kept passing messages down to people because I never got a message passed back to me.

"There wasn't a single person who passed us going Southbound. No one was hiking faster than us so we couldn't pass a message to you," I chime in.

Eric sits nearby while we confront John. I feel bad as it's his last night camping with us. We end the conversation by explaining we're just happy he's okay. We agree that John can hike ahead if he needs to even though he drove up in Kayla's car which is parked in Lone Pine.

John retires to his tent and we begin dinner. I decide after that we need some cheering up and grab my "Lakeside Cheesecake" from my bear canister. It's a Jello instant cheesecake mix in a Ziplock with powdered milk. You add water and let it sit in a cold lake for a few minutes. Once you give it a couple stirs it's ready! It is such a treat on the trail. I had been talking about this cheesecake for days and it tonight it lives up to the hype.

Arrowhead Lake

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Trail Humor From Boots Mcfarland

I've been seeing some really hilarious (and always accurate) hiking cartoons on Facebook. I did a little digging to find out more behind the cartoon gal in Boots Mcfarland's "adventurous outdoor-loving cartoon character".

Boots Mcfarland is Geolyn Carvin's trail name. She is a Pacific Crest Trail section hiker and seems like a pretty awesome person to hike with! Like many hikers she keeps a journal documenting her hikes. She decided to turn these humorous journal entries into cartoons. Check her out on Facebook or her own website

I'll leave you with a few of my favorite cartoons. Have a great week!


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Day 11: Mather Pass and Pika Sass

*This post is from my 2014 JMT thru hike. I began 7/25/14 and finished 8/9/14. Missed the beginning? Read it here!

The fifth time I wake up, it's to finally begin my day. I startled myself a few too many times last night thinking I'd end up in a flash flood. Yesterday when I made camp, I took one of the few spots available for camp where I could see Kayla and Andy come down the trail as well as stake my tarp down. The entire area was flooded from the day's rain and the creek ahead would have been extremely dangerous to make an attempt of crossing.

As I crawl out of my shelter, I look left and right. The surrounding water looks lower. The puddle nearby has shrunk into a half inch circle. Things are beginning to look up. I yell over to Kayla and Andy to inquire about their sleep last night. They fared well.

I begin to pack up and realize today is the climb up The Golden Staircase and Mather Pass. Today is going to be a big one. I grab a few snacks out for the day and place them into my mesh Sea to Summit bag for safekeeping and screw the top of my bear canister shut. A small group makes their way to my tent, stepping on the stones peeking out of the stream with ease. They don't pause. There is no second guessing or deliberation between them. It's a wonder what eight hours can do to a trail. Yesterday I had to find an alternative route to bypass that very crossing as the water level was that high.

I realize I recognize these folks, but they verbalize they recognize me at that instant. Before my trip, I had posted on various forums and online groups about this hike to prepare. Brian and Julie were actually Gossamer Gear Ambassadors like me. I knew they would be starting the day after me and we may cross paths. Having to stay only 4.6 miles in at Little Yosemite Valley and planning on being on the trail an extra two days more than them did assist with this run in.

After talking with Jen, Brian, and their group (DC Ultralight) before they make their way down the trail. 

"You guys ready for a big day?" I ask Andy and Kayla excitedly. I really am feeling good about today and optimistic about the weather. 

"We still have to get a lot of stuff together, you can go ahead. We'll meet up with you in a little bit," Andy tells me.

"Ok. I'll meet you guys at Palisade Lakes. For real," I respond.

Palisade Lakes is where we were supposed to meet yesterday but we couldn't continue because of the affect the rain had to the trail. I get moving quickly and attempt to catch up to John who we assume is at Palisade Lakes now camping.

Yesterday's raging creek crossing had mellowed out a bit, but more importantly, rocks magically appeared to cross. Yesterday, those very rocks were covered in at least seven inches of water. They weren't in sight.

After a few minutes, I catch up to the DC crew. We chat about hiking, ultralight gear, and our trip so far. Their group splits into two with a few people falling behind to take up the steeps at a slower pace. I soon see a family including two young children bouncing down the trail. Their little girl is grinning ear to ear as her blond hair swooshes back and forth with each bounce. I chat with the mother for a couple minutes and she informs me that they're actually heading off the trail early because of all the rain. She explains that they were going southbound and actually went over The Golden Staircase yesterday and just came back over it again to make their exit. Her daughter was very pleased with this feat. I tell her of our situation of us being separated from John because of the crossings.

"Oh, you're with John!" she exclaims. "He told me to give you a note, but it got buried in my pack. It said that he's going to go over Mather and Pinchot pass and he'll see you in a couple days I guess... I was a little worried about him. He doesn't have a rain jacket or anything. He mentioned he doesn't have a stove too."

"Yeah, we were supposed to meet at Palisade Lakes. I don't know why he doesn't just stay put. We're almost there," I reply.

As we continue to make our way up The Golden Staircase, we spend time asking each other, "is this part the staircase? Maybe it starts here?" I also think about John. Why would he do TWO passes in a day when we have the stove? Didn't he think that we wouldn't cross the creek? I tell myself to get up The Golden Staircase quick to try and catch him before he breaks camp. Maybe he decided to stay put and wait for us this morning.

The staircase isn't the "StairMaster of the trail" that I heard it was. It was steep, but it was a lot of fun. Between the water flowing down the trail and the fog surrounding us, it was pretty surreal. I feel like the sections of trail I was worried about because of what I had heard always end up being the most fun or the most worthwhile. The physicality of hiking is there, but being able to mentally push yourself forward because you know your hard work will shortly pay off in a picturesque vista is something else.

At the start of the climb I was quite warm and delayered. However, as I continue to ascend, it becomes rather cold. Brian checks his thermometer and it reads forty degrees Fahrenheit! I hope Kayla and Andy won't be too far behind and Brian shares the same concerns for his group members. We discuss whether to wait here or continue up toward Palisade Lakes. When we stop it will be much colder.

We take some smaller breaks and attempt to locate where we were yesterday. It's motivating to not be able to see the pass or meadow you traversed the day before.

We continue toward Palisade Lakes and much to our surprise, it gets warmer. Once atop, we take a seat and grab our snacks. Brian begins to make coffee. I give their Sawyer Squeeze a try to filter some water. It's light and versatile, but I am glad to have the updated Sawyer Mini.
Upper Palisade Lake

As we rest, I look for signs of John. If he's not in sight, maybe his pack or LEKI poles are. No such luck. Before long Andy and Kayla catch up and mention how nice The Golden Staircase turned out to be.

Mather Pass, here we come!

Mather Pass (12,096 ft) is the next challenge and we still have another 2000 feet of elevation gain to get there. We follow the switchbacks up a scree covered trail to the top of this beast. I notice myself breathing harder as I make my way up. The air is thinner than my East Coast lungs are used to. I feel someone behind me and step aside to let a group of California Conservation Corps members by. They are sporting brown long sleeve button ups and brown pants, yet they seem to be floating up the trail. I stop to rest and watch the group go by. I take out a Gu and a snack. Kayla and Andy catch up and we rest for five.

I point up ahead. "See those tiny people?" They look almost as small as ants at this point. "That's the group that passed us not too long ago."

We continue up and swing left and then right following the steep switchbacks. Out of the corner of my eye I see a ball of fluff. dart by us. It scampers by again, but this time right over Kayla's foot. It's the first time I've ever seen a Pika! Pikas are very small mammals, closely related to rabbits that live on high altitude mountain sides, making burrows in crevices.

The final five minutes before reaching the top are actually easier than the rest of the ascent. It never levels out, but being able to see others make it to where you need to go not too far before you is motivating.

At over 12,000 feet, I don't feel any signs of altitude sickness and I continue to feel good on my way down.

The John Muir Trail is known for allowing pack animals on much of the trail. I was surprised to see two alpacas at the summit of Mather Pass!

In four hours I hiked up 4,000 feet of elevation gain between the Golden Staircase and Mather Pass. Not too shabby! The descent, as one might expect, is steep. After all that progress up, I made my way down toward camp. Everyday there was a sense of going two steps forward and one step back. The elevation profile below shows outlines the dramatic ups and downs of the trek. Every single day I climbed up only to hike down. I loved it.



As I hike down I hear a boom. This time it's not thunder, but a sonic boom. I look up but don't see a plane in the sky. We continue to hear these booms are we hike in the afternoon. Once we make some significant progress toward camp, we decide to stop for lunch. We are actually very excited for today's lunch. Kayla bought some milkshakes we've been wanting to try and today is finally the day to have them! The trail is completely flat at this point and it's easy to trek far and fast.We settle down and notice the sky has opened up just over us and we enjoy the sun as it warms us.

We filter water and stir in the milkshake powders. I examine the packet and notice the word "Spirulina" in small print. I shake the concoction in my cup and attempt to break up the clumps. I take a sip and it's horrid. Kayla fishes out a packet of honey, but it doesn't help. Kayla and Andy choke down the rest of theirs, but I don't make much progress. It's far too disgusting even after all this hiking. I opt for a bar. This disappointment is followed by another. I find a miniature rock monster which is cute, but I realize that pushing through the rain yesterday caused me to walk right past the larger rock monster (or whale?) along the way.

Late in the afternoon we pass a handful of very suitable campsites. Some were very beautiful, but we want to get a head start up Pinchot Pass before the real climbing starts tomorrow. Our short and steep 500 foot climb is worth the effort and we reach J. Bench Lake. We are quick to set up camp and choose dinner. We devour hearty meal of mashed potatoes and vegetables drizzled with olive oil and hot sauce before crawling into our tents. I scribble down notes from the day and listen to the rain fall once again.

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