Tag Archives: ExOfficio

From www.bigagnes.com

Gear Updates

I realized it has been a while since I discussed my gear purchases, and since I know how much everyone likes to talk about gear, I figured I would fuel the conversation some.  Here are a few of the decisions I have made so far.

Water Filter

After a long day hike where I had need to pump two bottles of water, I decided to replace my existing PUR Hiker water filter with a lighter (and slightly faster) Sawyer Squeeze.  I debated between the two Sawyer products – Squeeze vs Mini – and made my decision based on numerous online and in person reviews.  While the Mini works just fine, I was told it has a slightly slower filter rate.  Quite a few people also told me that the Mini clogs up a lot more than the Squeeze, due to its slimmer design.  For less than an ounce of weight, I decided to go with the larger of the two.

From www.sawyer.com

From www.sawyer.com

Those same reviews also told me to find a replacement for the Sawyer water bags that comes with the Squeeze, saying that they do not hold up to the rigors of the trail.  I have heard mixed results about the Platypus bags, some saying that the threads are different than those on the Sawyer.  However, I did find a YouTube video exclaiming high praises for the Evernew Water Carry bags, so I purchased a 2-liter bag from Amazon to use as my dirty-water collection bag.

Let me tell you this – these Sawyer filters are GREAT!  So much easier to fill a bottle than the old fashioned pump filters.  Think of it as going to the garden hose vs having to use an old cast iron well pump to get a bucket of water.  No real comparison.

Tent

There really was not a decision to be made when considering whether to buy a new tent or not – the two tents I had were either very confining inside, or extremely heavy.  After a lot of review reading and visiting a few different stores to actually see specific tents, I decided on the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2.  I considered the UL1, but the weight penalty for the two-person version was negligible to me, and was outweighed by the comfort given with some extra space.  Besides, if someone I am hiking with needs a dry place to sleep (or needs to escape the bugs for a while), I will have space for them.  Regardless, compared to my existing tent, this one saves me over 5 pounds!  Yeah, that old tent is heavy…

From www.bigagnes.com

From www.bigagnes.com

From www.bigagnes.com

From www.bigagnes.com

I have set it up a couple of times, to familiarize myself with it, but have yet to spend a night in it.  Soon, though.  One noticeable difference between old and new was the material used.  This new tent uses an extremely thin fabric, and I would be lying if I said I had no hesitations about it.  But numerous people have told me that it is far stronger than it seems it could be, and the sales figures show that it is a popular model.  Nothing stays popular without a good track record for quality.  So we shall see.

I SPOT You

Thanks to an early birthday gift from my mom, I have purchased a SPOT device.  There really was not a debate with this, either, as I know it will help calm her down while I am out in the woods.

From www.findmespot.com

From www.findmespot.com

For those that are unaware, the SPOT device is a GPS enabled device that sends a predefined message to your personal network page, a private website on the SPOT site, dedicated to you.  This message includes your GPS coordinates and a web link to view your location on Google Maps.  It can also send a text message with this information to those whom you deem worthy of tracking your progress.  Where this device shines, though, is when you have an emergency.  When you activate the distress signal, your GPS coordinates are sent directly to the GEOS Rescue Coordination Center, who then arranges to get help to you as quickly as possible.  As is typical of modern technology, though, the service contract actually costs more than the device.  But if it makes mom feel better, it is worth the money and the 6 ounces added to my pack.

Clothing

Anyone who knows me knows I despise clothes shopping.  Even for my hobbies.  I hate trying things on and due to my height vs weight, I inevitably either end up with something made for floods (pants too short but fit in the waist) or for someone twice my weight (decent length, but enough space in the waist to put two of me).  But it is a necessary evil, I suppose, so I sucked it up and tried on a few things.

For pants, I have purchased and tried out a pair of The North Face Silver Ridge convertible cargo pants.  While I will probably not use them as shorts much, the pants are made of a thin material that breathes nicely, moves easily and feels cool and comfortable.

I found a nice Patagonia Down Sweater (aka my puffy jacket) on the clearance rack, so I grabbed it.  Just wearing it around the store, I am guessing this jacket will become my winter jacket this year.  I just hope I do not wear it out before I even get on the trail!

During the same clearance sale, I was able to pick up some Patagonia Capilene 3 mid-weight long-sleeve and long-pant base layers.  I have not used them personally, but have a friend who swears by them, and since they were on clearance, they were no more expensive than the store brand I was planning to buy.

As I wrote about in a previous post, I am nearly committed to the ExOfficio boxers for my underwear.  I will most likely throw a loose pair of boxers in, for in camp, too.  I am still trying out all the different socks I have out there but I will most likely not be buying anymore.  I have two pairs of Point6 socks, three pairs of Darn Tough socks, and a pair of REI hiking socks.  I think I am set.

Still in the Works

Obviously, there are still a lot of things I am not decided upon.  Or just have not purchased yet.  While at REI, the salesman showed me a nice summer sleeping bag that was real inexpensive, which may be my solution for the middle of the hike, but I am still contemplating what to do about a winter bag.  I own a 35-degree bag, but it is older and heavier than what is out on the market now.  While I hesitate to spend the money for something new, I like the thought of shaving of nearly two pounds with just one purchase!  (Update:  Since originally writing this, I have gone on a quick overnight trip… and my current sleeping bag does not even fit in the sleeping bag compartment of my backpack.  Fail #1.  So it MUST be replaced…)

Similarly, I am still looking at all the different sleeping pads out there.  Mine still works, but I am trying to not have anything strapped to the outside of my pack, and my current pad will not fit inside, even with summer gear packed.  Maybe Santa will be kind to me this year.

My last big purchase item under review is a camera.  I am still contemplating what system I want to bring, and whether I need to upgrade before my trip.  I have an old digital SLR camera, but it is heavy and not always the most reliable camera I own.  If I decide I want a dSLR with me, I will most likely need to upgrade before I leave.  But if I am content with a point-and-shoot camera, I already have a decent one, and would only need to buy some more memory cards.  Decisions, decisions.  I am trying to get a sponsorship with a local camera shop, and that deal may make or break my decision of camera.

If you have any comments, advice, or suggestions, please use the comment box below or use the Contact Me page up top.  I would welcome anything you can offer!

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

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Love this tree I found on the trail!

Sugarloaf Mountain

With a three-day weekend for Labor Day, I decided to spend a full day focused nearly entirely on preparing for my thru hike.  This included some extended trail time, a little gear testing, and shopping spree at my local REI.  I will cover the trail here, as I am still sorting through the shopping bags.

Sugarloaf Mountain

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Sugarloaf Mountain is an impressive hill, at least for this area of the country.  It is a privately owned park and is open to the public for much of the year, at no cost.  There are four trails, designated by colored markers, which circle and climb the mountain at different points around it.  While each of the trails is a loop trail, they cross each other at many locations, letting you jump from trail to trail at will.  Each trail is marked frequently with painted blazes on trees, and a numbered post marker every half mile, making it near-impossible to get lost as long as you stay on a trail.

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The day was predicted to be about 80-degrees, and mostly sunny, so I filled my hydration bladder, packed up my daypack and headed out the door.  For this hike, I decided to do the Yellow Trail, a 7-mile loop that circles the base of the mountain and has only moderate elevation gain.  I figured this would be a good trail for the day, letting me cover some new ground and trying a trail I had never been on before.

Hiking solo is a great time to get lost in thought.  Here are some of the random thoughts that passed through my head that day:

  • I need to check the humidity, not just the temperature forecast.  80 degrees is fine, unless there is 95% humidity.  Wow.
  • I remember the woods having more song birds.  The constant drone of insects is deafening without the birds to break the noise.
  • Squirrels are sneaky bastards.  I was hit in the head by 3 acorns on this hike – and after each one, a squirrel started chuckling.
  • I hate being tall on a trail with lots of spider webs.
  • Sweat in your eyes hurts.  Sweat with bug spray hurts more.
  • I am pretty sure my trekking poles are trying to kill me.  They help me when I truly need the help, but when the terrain levels out and they are not as critical, they always seem to find a way of tripping me up.  Probably invented by a squirrel.
  • I need to find a strap to keep my sunglasses on my head.  It is hard to pick them up while carrying a small daypack, and I imagine it will be impossible with a full pack.
  • When a trail map says “minimal elevation gain”, the person who wrote it is likely lying.  Sure, there was lots of flat ground, but the “minimal elevation gain” was all found in a one-mile section.  Killer.
Love this tree I found on the trail!

Love this tree I found on the trail!

Gear Testing

This hike also gave me a chance to really try out some new gear, namely a pair of ExOfficio boxers I picked up from REI and my relatively new Oboz boots.  I had used both on my evening hikes around town, but this was the first I was able to put serious miles into a trail hike.  And both passed with flying colors!

I have had a difficult time finding a pair of boxers that kept things where they need to be but at the same time let things air out.  Guys understand the need to avoid swamp ass.  ExOfficio may very well be my answer.  These boxers were comfortable, protected my delicate parts, kept me cool and dry, and did not allow any chaffing at all.  In fact, had I not thought about this post while hiking, I probably would not have thought about them at all.

Same with the boots – at one point, I had to look down to make sure I actually put them on!  These Oboz boots are as comfortable as my daily athletic shoes, and just as lightweight.  The traction they offer is amazing, too, letting me hop from rock to rock without any fear of slipping.  I did have to stop twice to tighten my laces, but I mark this up as breaking them in and expected a little stretching.  These boots might be the only reason I actually get out and hike on days I am not feeling up to it, they are that comfortable.

These boots rock!

These boots rock!

I was feeling so good when I finished the loop that I decided to turn around and do the same loop backwards.  As you can imagine, it was quite a different hike!  First, the quick uphill was now a quick downhill, and the gradual downhill that I did not really notice on the first loop was a never-ending torture hike uphill on the second.  Ok, so it probably was not that bad, but it felt it.

I am glad I did the second loop though, as I learned a few things I would not have learned if I had stopped after one loop.  My first learning lesson was that while bug spray may say it works for 4-6 hours, sweating negates that.  Reapply often.  Secondly, I learned to stop for lunch.  While I ate a Clif Bar while hiking, it was not enough and I was feeling out of energy by the end of the second loop.  I should have stopped to eat a decent lunch like I had planned to, whether or not I felt I needed it at the moment.

One thing the extra distance allowed me to identify is that I still have some residual foot problems from my surgery I need to work out.  While my injury was strictly knee-related, I have had some issues with my left foot after being non-weight bearing for so long.  My doctor said it would work itself out, but I noticed a slight discomfort behind the ball of my foot that extended into the arch of my foot a little.  It was not enough to make me stop hiking, but if it is a concern at 15 miles, it will certainly be an issue with 2,200 miles.  Another thing I need to look into was that after I was done hiking, and had sat down, I developed an ache at the top of my foot across the top of where the foot arch is.  I have felt this before, so it was not new, but it got my mind thinking.  Perhaps a checkup with a podiatrist is in my future, just to ensure there is nothing larger looming there.  To be honest, I never really had my foot checked after the accident, as it was my knee and wrist that hurt, but maybe there was some small injury to my foot, as well.  Something to look into…

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Relaxing and cooling off in my ENO hammock after nearly 15 miles!

I will not be getting a chance to hike this coming weekend, as I have a motorcycle club fundraiser event and then need to spend some serious time on homework for a fire/rescue class I am taking, but after this hike and my gear preparations, I am feeling a bit more relaxed about where I stand.  Still more work to do, for sure, but not as far off as I had thought.  For anyone in the Frederick area of Maryland, I highly suggest checking out Sugarloaf Mountain, but be warned, the weekends can be crowded and parking is limited.  If you have any suggestions about my foot issues, feel free to use the comment box below, or the Contact Me page up top.

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

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