My Wish List

I like lists.  Lists to tell me what I need to do.  Lists to tell me what I have done.  Lists of my lists.  Lists make my stressed out over-analytical life a little less chaotic.  So here is a list of the items I still need to purchase or re-evaluate.  Some are just general titles, as I have not started looking into them yet.  Some are specific models I am looking at or may even have decided upon.  I welcome any and all feedback and suggestions you might have.

Pack (with appropriate Pack Cover)

Pack – Considering:  Osprey Aether 70 (5 #; $275)

Pack – Considering:  Osprey Atmos 65 (3# 10 oz; $250)

Pack – Considering:  Gregory Z65 (3 # 6 oz; $230)

If my dad’s pack does not work out for me, I am looking at an Osprey Aether 70, but the five pound empty weight has me a little concerned, so I might look at the Osprey Atmos 65, as well.  I have looked at the Gregory Z65, but found the Aether to be more comfortable… but at two pounds less, may be a front runner.

Sleeping System

Sleeping Bag (Summer) – Considering:  Montbell 40-degree Super Stretch Burrow Bag (2 # 3 oz; $135)

Sleeping Bag (Winter) – Considering:  NEMO Nocturne 15-degree Sleeping Bag (#3 3 oz; $400)

Technically, I have a winter bag.  While it has worked on an overnight trip, it is a bit short and I worry that I will tire of the cramped space for a long trip.  I have read numerous reviews and like the idea of the NEMO Nocturne’s “peanut” shape, which would allow my feet to move a little more than in a traditional mummy bag.  Either way, I am quite certain I need a summer bag.  My current bag is a 20-degree bag, and I am thinking that in the heat of the summer, it will be far too warm for me.  The Montbell was recommended in a Backpacker magazine, but I am still searching for the right bag for me.  Some have even suggested just using a fleece blanket, and that very well may be an option.

Sleeping Bag Liner – Considering:  Sea to Summit Silk Stretch Mummy Liner 10-degrees (5 oz; $75)

Sleeping Bag Liner – Considering:  Sea to Summit Reactor Thermolite Mummy Bag Liner 15-degrees (8 oz; $57)

I am considering one of these sleeping bag liners for multiple reasons.  First and foremost, I think it will be a lot easier to wash a liner in town than a full sleeping bag, and let’s face it, any help to minimize hiker stank is a welcome addition.  Secondly, if I decide to use my existing sleeping bag, this liner will help give me a few more degrees of warmth in the very beginning, when I expect the coldest weather.

Sleeping Pad – Considering:  ThermaRest Prolite (16 oz.) or Prolite Plus (1 # 6 oz)

Sleeping Pad – Considering:  Big Agnes Insulated Aircore (1# 4 oz; $90)

My sleeping pad still works, but it is the old fashioned “original” ThermaRest, which only rolls up.  As I am trying to minimize how much gets strapped to the outside, I am thinking about one of these pads.  It is amazing how small they pack down!


Need, no.  But a small addition may mean the difference between sleeping well and tossing and turning.  Honestly, I would probably use this between my knees when I am side-sleeping or under my knee when I am on my back.  A stuff sack of clothing will work just fine under my head.


Water Storage – Considering:  Nalgene Wide-Mouth Canteen 2.8 L (2.25 oz)

Water Storage – Considering:  Evernew Water Carry Hydration Pack 1.5 L ($12) or 2 L ($18)

Water Filter – Considering:  Sawyer Squeeze Filter (3 oz; $30)

Ultimately, if I decide to ditch my pump filter and go with the Sawyer Squeeze, which is MUCH lighter, smaller, and longer-lasting, I will get the Evernew hydration pack to use as a dirty-water bag, as it has the exact threads the Squeeze uses.  I plan to have two water bottles, or perhaps one bottle and one hydration pack, for my filtered water.


I am just beginning to look into clothing.  Things have really changed since the last time I bought backpacking clothing… there are SO many options!  So if you have something you really like, especially if it is budget-friendly, PLEASE post a comment or send me an email!  Thank you.

Underwear – Something to prevent chaffing and assist in wicking to keep me as dry and comfortable as possible.  Any suggestions?

Wool Bottom – Merino Wool Midweight Bottoms

Pants – Considering:  North Face Paramount Convertible Pants ($60)

Shorts – Considering:  North Face Class V Board Shorts ($45)

Short Sleeve – Synthetic t-shirts

Long Sleeve (x2 during cold) – Merino Wool Midweight Long Sleeve Top


Jacket – Considering:  Montbell U.L. Thermawrap Parka (10.7 oz)

Jacket – Considering:  Patagonia Down Sweater (12 oz; $200)

Rain Coat – Considering:   Montbell Versalite Jacket * (7 oz; $150)

Rain Coat – Considering:  Columbia Rainstormer (12.2 oz; $120)

Gloves – Considering:  North Face Apex Gloves ($55)


Shoes / Boots – Still searching

Socks – Still evaluating

Misc. Items

Compression Sacks / Stuff Sacks – Considering:  Granite Gear Uberlight Drysacks (0.7 oz; $40)

Headlamp – Most likely something from the Petzl line

Shammy Micro Rag – Dollar Store special (1 oz)

Gaitors – Considering:  Outdoor Research Crocodiles (9 oz; $65)

SPOT Device, to calm my mother’s nerves (5.2 oz; $150, plus a 1-year subscription service)

Knife – Leatherman Juice S2 (4.4 oz; $60)

Rope – 50 ft. w/ Quick Link (taking suggestions for proper rope type)

Bandana – 2 Buff Bandana (1.6 oz; $21)

Maps – AWOL’s AT Guide for 2015 (8 oz)

Journal / Pen

Luxury Items  (All are up for discussion)

Backup Power – Brunton Inspire (5.4 oz)

Phone – new iPhone 5 Life Case, assuming I keep the iPhone

Camera – Still considering my options

I would love to hear your thoughts on any gear you have taken with you or have any direct feedback on.  Please use the comment box below or the Contact Me page up top.

Until next time, remember to “Spin the Compass.”


Sylvan Sport Go

WARNING:  This is an off-topic post.  Sort of.  It is not specifically backpacking related, but more of a general outdoor sports topic.  You have been warned, do not complain to me.

DISCLAIMER:  I was not given a Sylvan Sport GO trailer to review for this.  I used my own motorcycle and my own gas money to traipse across three states in order to see them.  So do not go about thinking I am only praising the company because of some gift they gave me.  (Note to Sylvan Sport – I would GLADLY accept a donated trailer if you had one you needed to get rid of.  Or a t-shirt.  Just sayin’…)

What is it?

When I was at Trail Days, I had a brief encounter with an alien trailer.  It reminded me of a spaceship, or something stolen from a NASA warehouse.  It was not like any trailer I had ever seen before.  At its core, it was a flatbed utility trailer, but the sides were made of thick aluminum “bars” that arced through space, looking like something that landed on the moon.  Then I watched it being “deployed”.  All of a sudden, this utility trailer transformed into a large and comfortable pop-up camper trailer.  I was amazed.

The person setting it up told me the trailer was the GO model by Sylvan Sports.  Unfortunately, the magical transformer trailer was actually being used by a vendor, and was not a demo trailer.  The look on my face must have shown the disappointment, as the gentleman setting up camp stopped what he was doing and found a brochure for the trailer in his duffle, suggesting to me that I should check out their website and YouTube videos.  Apparently, every trailer comes with a supply of brochures to hand out.

The brochure actually amazed me even more, showing me that the GO trailer is a multi-functional platform.  It can be a utility trailer, a toy hauler, an anything hauler, or a deluxe tent-on-wheels.  The platform can tilt down, negating a need for a ramp if you wanted to carry an ATV or motorcycle. The large aluminum bars will support any of the popular rack systems, whether for bikes, canoes, kayaks, or whatnot.  The website shows the trailer being used to haul firewood and construction materials.  In camper mode, the trailer is a moderately sized sleeper trailer, with an adjustable layout to fit your needs.

YouTube Preview Image

Sylvan Sport was founded in 2004 in the heart of eastern outdoor country – Brevard, North Carolina.  The Go trailer was conceptualized when founder Tom Dempsey realized that camper trailers had to be modified to be a true backwoods tool, and even then, were often not right for the job.  He set about to design and eventually manufacture a trailer designed around that outdoor lifestyle, making sure each trailer is built solid and right here in the good ol’ U.S.A.  This is one of those products that truly is “built by outdoorsmen for outdoorsmen.”


Though the website, I learned that Sylvan Sport does not have any dealers.  They make direct sales to customers, and rely on a network of owner-demonstrators, where owners of the GO trailer agree to demonstrate it to those in their area who are interested.  As it happened, there were two owners somewhat nearby, so I emailed them both.

I first meet with Karen M., from Lebanon, Pennsylvania.  She gave me a quick walk-around of the trailer, answering all of my questions, and showing me how the trailer sets up and stows away, right in her front yard.  Yes, the neighbors were watching.  She even allowed me to assist with the setup and take down.  It crossed my mind that maybe if I broke something, I would get to buy it from her, but alas, she was on to me and kept a close watch.  I was so excited to see the trailer up-close that I completely forgot that my camera was in my saddle bag!

Thankfully, the next day I was able to meet with Keith B., from Herndon, Virginia.  Keith and his wife are co-owners of their GO trailer with Mary R., of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, sharing the trailer and passing it back and forth as needed.  Like Karen, Keith was great – he answered a few more of my questions, allowed me to completely set it up and take it down (yes, with his guidance and supervision…).  And this time, I remembered my camera!  (Too bad the sun was in a bad spot for some of the pics…)  Seeing and using the trailer for a second day was really nice, as I had a basic knowledge of how it worked and could focus on some of the details I had missed the first day.  All in all, definitely worth the drive through rush hour traffic.

The GO in compact travel mode.

The GO in compact travel mode.

Unfolding the GO.  The “walls” of the trailer fold down to become the platforms of the bed.

Unfolding the GO. The “walls” of the trailer fold down to become the platforms of the bed.

Raisin’ the roof.

Raisin’ the roof.

The massive awning adds some shade in front of the door.

The massive awning adds some shade in front of the door.


Ultimately, I want one.  Now.  I have visions of week-long trips into the mountains, kayaks or canoes atop the trailer, with my mountain bike, camping gear and a grill stashed in the trailer.  Road trips through the western mountain ranges, varying the daily activities and using the Go as a base camp.  But I know that the responsible thing to do is to wait until after my thru-hike, when I have more stability in life.  Then again, when have I ever been responsible?

YouTube Preview Image

An informative walk-thru of the GO.

GO Testimony by Gareth Tate.

Special thanks to Bonnie Chiles at Sylvan Sport for going back and forth with me to find local trailers to view, and to Karen, Mary and Keith for working with my crazy schedule and allowing me to drool all over their Go trailers!

I would love to hear about any experiences you have had with the Sylvan Sport Go trailer.  If you have any comments, advice, or topic suggestions, please use the comment box below or use the Contact Me page up top.

Until next time, remember to “Spin the Compass.”



Book Review: Appalachian Trials

DISCLAIMER:  I bought my copy of this book with my own paycheck.  In fact, I bought two – one paperback, and one eBook.  And while I am scheduled to be a blogger on Zach’s blog by the same name during the 2015 season, I am quite certain he would prefer I give my full, unbiased opinion of his book here, rather than simply feeding the herd.


If you have been around the Appalachian Trail at all, I am quite certain you have at least heard rumors of the latest book I read, Appalachian Trials by Zach “The Good Badger” Davis.  If you have not actually read it, I urge you to do so!

In short, Appalachian Trials is a mental preparation resource for thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail.  While there are stacks of books on the physical preparation, the needed and unneeded gear, how to plan your food menu, and even how to poo in the woods, very few of them, if any, discuss the mental aspects of such a large undertaking.  During his own hike, Zach sat down with other hikers and support teams, discussing why so many attempts fail, and developed a working plan for the different scenarios that an aspiring thru-hiker should think about before hitting the trail to ensure success.  Using his own humorous experiences, with his unique writing style, Davis lays down a course of action to prepare your mind for this strenuous task.

I will admit, I was a bit skeptical when I first picked up the book.  After the first chapter, when I realized I had been highlighting and underlining and noting the margins a tad too much, I was sold.  I also decided maybe the eBook version would be a better match for me, as it would allow me to highlight without making the pages unreadable, make extensive notes wherever I pleased, and add multiple bookmarks for sections I want to go back to.  The paperback will be my loaner book and keepsake (note: no loans of this book, since I got it signed by Zach at Trail Days!), while the eBook is most definitely my “working version.”  Having read it twice – back to back – I can attest that this book, while aimed at Appalachian Trail thru-hikers, has many applications to the real world, and I have already seen some changes in the way I approach tasks at hand.

Taken from Amazon:

In Appalachian Trials readers will learn:

- Effective goal setting techniques that will assure you reach Mt. Katahdin

- The common early stage pitfalls and how to avoid them

- How to beat “the Virginia Blues”

- The importance of and meaning behind “hiking your own hike”

- 5 strategies for unwavering mental endurance

- The most common mistake made in the final stretch of the trail

- The top method for staving off stress

- Tips for enjoying rather than enduring each of the five million steps along the journey

- Strategies for avoiding post-trail depression and weight gain

In addition, the Bonus Section of Appalachian Trials includes:

- A thorough chapter on gear written by thru-hiker of the AT and Pacific Crest Trail, and professional backpack gear reviewer

- Information about the trail’s greatest and most unknown risk and how to guard against it

- 9 tips for saving money before and during your thru-hike

- A thorough FAQ section including information ranging from how to obtain sponsorship, to the best stove for the trail, to avoiding chafing, and much more!

The absolute only criticism I could find about this book – other than it was too short – is simply a pet peeve of mine:  The editing of the eBook was a bit lacking.  There were misused or misplaced words, and while you were still able to understand what was being said, I hope (and would volunteer to assist!) that the next edition would clean these up a little.  I have not compared the eBook to the paperback, so perhaps the errors were made when the book was being converted to digital, especially since Zach’s website is very clean and refined.  Accidents happen.  And again, this is not a big criticism, just a pet peeve (thanks to parents who were teachers!).

That said, I still give this as many stars as the judges will allow me!  Pick up a copy.  Borrow a copy.  Do not steal one, because Zach would not get royalties that way (not to mention the legalities…), but any other way you can obtain a copy, do it.  You will not be disappointed with Appalachian Trials at all.

I would love to hear from you, whether it is about this book or another one you recommend.  Please send me a comment below, or use the Contact Me page up top.

Until next time, remember to “Spin the Compass.”


General Updates

It has been a while since I have given any sort of updates, and as I do not really have a full post ready to go, I figured it was a good time for one.


I have not been hiking as much as I had wanted to lately.  It seems like life is just in the way again.  Between working EMS shifts and riding the motorcycle to events, and everything in between, my weekends have been filled with lots of other tasks… just not hiking.  As we start the “hot and humid” season here in Maryland, part of me expects my outdoor time to be limited.  No sense in getting heat stroke before I need to.

I have been getting in a lot of walking, though.  Mostly at lunch, on the sidewalk, but I figure a cardiac workout is still better than nothing.  While I would not say I enjoy these lunchtime walks (mostly because I hate going back to work sweaty and stinky…) I do notice a difference in my day when I do not take this walk, though.  I also have some hikes planned – I just need to find some openings in my schedule so I can get out and do them.  I am still working on it.


Umm, none have been made.  Yet.  I am going home to see my parents soon, and plan to tell them in person at that point.  I also plan to tell them individually, because I know they each process new information differently.  I figure they will have a lot of questions, but hopefully I can pull enough answers out of thin air that they will not freak out too badly.

Actually, I jest a little, but in reality, I know they will support me at the end.  There will be a lot of questions, for which I can almost predict what they will be, but when all is said and done, I know that my parents will be right behind me.  They always have been, even if they do not agree with my decisions.  Who is a lucky bastard?  This guy.

Once my parents are “in the know”, then I can start disseminating information.  My boss will need to be notified at some point, but probably not until closer to the actual hike.  Not sure on the reaction I will get there.  Ultimately, I am not sure I will have a job to come back to.  A lot of my friends will laugh at me, saying I am crazy.  That is fine, I am.  I need to let my bike club president know, and he will probably need some talking and coercing before he buys into the idea.  We have some pretty major events coming up shortly after my thru-hike, and I am quite certain he will want to make sure everything is in order for those before he gives me his support.  No worries, Ron, it will be.


As you may have seen, I have put together a listing of the current gear I own.  (If you missed it, check out my Current Gear post and my Questionable Gear post!)  There are still some big ticket items to be looked at, and some smaller things I know I need.  Here is a short list of what is still up in the air.

- Pack.  Testing coming, to see if my dad’s loaner will work.

- Summer Sleeping Bag.  I have a 20-degree bag that should work for winter – I hope.  Thinking I might need a 45 or 50- degree bag for June, July, August and September, so I do not die of heat exhaustion at night.

- Sleeping Pad.  My pad still works, but it is not the lightest and it does not fold up, just rolls, which would require strapping it to the outside of the pack.  Contemplating the newer, lighter, smaller-packed pads.  Not a required purchase, I suppose.

- Water Filter.  Looking at the Sawyer Squeeze, which is much smaller and lighter than my current pump filter.  The same way a car is smaller than an aircraft carrier.

- Boots.  Or shoes.  Or whatever.  I need to find something that works.  Soon.

- Headlamp.  Mine works, but it is heavy and does not hold a charge very long.

- Clothes.  Yeah, need clothes.  Pretty much need to buy everything I need to take.  Except socks.  I have socks.  Then again, I probably need more socks.

- Stuff Sacks.  I do not even know how many I need.  I am guessing at five.  Need to research this one a little more.

- Lots of odds and ends.  You know, a rope for a bear bag.  Bug spray.  A new journal.  A case of snickers.  That sort of thing.

As you can see, I still have quite a ways to go before I am ready.  There are also a lot of the planning items to prepare for:  North vs South?  Will I have a job or be able to find a job after?  How will I fit all of my junk into a single storage garage?  Yeah, I am going to be quite the mental case soon… (quiet, no comments from the Peanut Gallery, please!)

If you have any comments, advice, or topic suggestions, please use the comment box below or use the Contact Me page up top.

Until next time, remember to “Spin the Compass.”



Questionable Gear

As I have started to evaluate and chose my gear, I have run across a few items that I am questioning whether to include or not.  I thought it might be humorous to share some of these off-the-wall thought processes with you.  Enjoy… and feel free to laugh at me.  I do all the time.

Camera Selection

I am jealous of this person.  Source:

I am jealous of this person. Source:

Yes, a camera will be going with me, no question about that.  My issue is WHICH camera.  First, let me explain – I love photography.  I rarely go anywhere without some sort of camera with me.  When I say I need to “choose” one, that is because I probably own somewhere around a dozen cameras.  I have a film SLR Nikon, an old digital SLR Nikon, a digital handheld point and shoot Sony, a newer digital handheld point and shoot Canon, three or four completely manual-function film SLRs, and a medium-format film camera, not to mention my iPhone’s camera.  Yeah, I have a lot.

The manual cameras are easily eliminated by the bulk of the film I would need to carry.  I love them and the pictures that they capture, but I would need an entire backpack full of film for the hike!  Easy choice there.

There is a huge part of me that wants to take the fully customizable dSLR camera with multiple lenses, so that I can capture every imaginable image I come across.  But I really do not want a pack that weighs over a hundred pounds… and pack mules are not allowed.  SO… I must decide.  I could probably swing the dSLR with ONE lens, but that is still a hefty camera.

I have a nice handheld digital point and shoot, my Canon, and the limited pictures I have taken with it seem to be of good quality. It does not weigh too much, and the battery seems to last a decent time.  But I worry that it will not be adjustable enough for me capture all of the landscapes that my mind thinks I will run across.

I know lots of people just use their iPhones, and while I will most likely bring the phone (emergencies, calls home FROM TOWN ONLY, MOM, and solitaire…) I do not want to rely on it for my photographs.  First, it is not nearly as adjustable as I want a camera to be.  It has zoom, but any picture taken with zoom tends to be very grainy.  Not acceptable.  Will I use it here and there?  Probably.  But it will not be the primary picture-taker.

Verdict:  Completely torn.




I am not sure I can give up my cigars for six whole months!  While I do not smoke every day, I do enjoy a good premium, hand rolled cigar from time to time.  And summertime is the perfect time to do so!  I keep thinking about how nice it would be to sit around a small campfire after a long day of hiking, watching the sun set with a favorite cigar in my mouth.  Bonus:  Cigar smoke is a known bug repellant!

I thought about bringing a few with me, and just replenishing as I run out, but it is very hard to even determine if there are any reputable cigar shops along the A.T.  I suppose I could stash a full box in a “Bounce Box” and just replenish my small travel humidor as I hit towns, but then there are heat and humidity control issues, especially while my bounce box is sitting in the back of a ratty old USPS truck.  In order to protect the fragile sticks, I would also need to bring a small travel humidor box, which is not too big, but adds more weight.  Do not forget that I would need a lighter and cutter, too.

Another option would be to take a pipe.  While not exactly the same, I also do have a small pipe collection, and a pipe is certainly more sturdy than a cigar is.  But then I would need to bring a bag of tobacco, a tamper and a lighter, and at least a couple pipe cleaners.  So again, a lot of bulk to the simple hobby.  If I am going to have this much hassle to deal with, I would rather have the cigar.

Verdict:  Still on the fence with this one.

Deck of Cards



When we hiked through the mountains of Philmont as young Scouts, someone always carried a deck of cards.  It was part of the “Crew Equipment” that was divided out each morning.  At the end of a long day’s hike, we looked forward to setting camp, taking the boots off, and playing a few games of poker while dinner cooked.  I cannot remember a single backpacking trip that did not have a deck of cards present.  Then again, we were not walking over two-thousand miles.  And we had no problems eating two or three Big Macs in a single seating… just shows how poor our judgment was back then.

Verdict:  Leave them home.

Flip Flops


I am one of those people who wears flip flops pretty much every chance I get, year-round.  This habit started in college, after I had done most of my early backpacking, so I am not sure whether they are appropriate for modern backpacking.  I realize they are not the most supportive camp shoes, but do camp shoes “need” to be supportive?  Is not the point of camp shoes to help air out and rest your feet from the constantness that is your hiking shoes?  And if I am willing to carry the extra weight, and have the space, would it be wrong of me to take both camp shoes AND flip flops?  Ultimately, I realize that flip flops are not the most logical gear to take along with me, and will most likely be left home.  But they will be missed.

Verdict:  Leave them home.  (And bribe family to bring them when the visit me along the trail!)



My bundled up hammock next to a Nalgene for comparison.

My bundled up hammock next to a Nalgene for comparison.

This one is quite the quandary.  I have never taken a hammock with me while backpacking, so I am not sure I would miss it.  After all, if you never experience it, how would you know what you are missing?  But that said, I do know of hammocks.  I have used them before.  And I read online that a lot of people like to relax after a day of hiking by swinging in their hammock, even if they do not sleep in it at night.  I know that I am a tent-sleeper.  When not utilizing the shelters along the trail, I will have a tent with me, which means I would not need a fully sheltered hammock.  To me, that equates to less weight and less bulk.  I suppose I worry that it would be something that would not get used often enough to justify its small weight/bulk, though, and it is not the cheapest thing to be giving away.  I suppose I could mail it home, if I had to.  Maybe I will try to test this piece of gear out during some of my prep hikes.

Verdict:  Not sure yet…




This one I think is more of a novelty.  I vaguely know how to play the harmonica, and by vaguely, I mean I can blow and suck air through it to make it produce something close to a harmonic note.  I can even impersonate a third-string blues riff that will make the deafest dog howl.  I like the idea of being able to play a little music along the trail, but since what I can do would most likely not be considered music, I wonder if it is even worth it.  As I do not want to be duct taped to an outhouse in the middle of the night, I suppose this one should stay home.

Verdict:  Safer to listen to nature instead.

Kindle eReader

Kindle Paperwhite_small

I keep going back and forth on this one.  I am definitely taking my cell phone with me, which has the Kindle App on it.  I could always use my cell to read books if I am in need of some mental entertainment.  However, this will drain my cell battery faster, potentially making it a useless paperweight when I need to call for a life-saving rescue… or a pizza delivery.  Same thing, right?  Plus, the battery on the Kindle lasts exponentially longer than my cell.  And honestly, I prefer reading on the slightly larger Kindle over the small screen of my iPhone.

Verdict:  Still debating.  This may come down to a coin flip…


Well, as you can see, I still have some thinking to do about what will go into my pack.  Maybe I will go smoke a cigar and get lost in thought process…

I would love to hear your thoughts on crazy gear you have taken with you.  Please use the comment box below or the Contact Me page up top.

Until next time, remember to “Spin the Compass.”