Jun 25, 2012

Rain Gear and Hiking with an Umbrella

Backpacking in the rain is always a drudgery.  Hiking up a hill while a whitewater rush flows down the trail and over your boots. Yuck. So you try to carry enough gear to make rain bearable, but not weight you down on a sunny day.  A tough balancing act.  The combo I've come to is:

1. Put all my dry stuff in a trash compactor bag inside my pack.  I close it with a velcro tie-wrap.  Pack covers never seem to keep my pack dry, so now I just keep my dry gear dry (including sleeping bag).

2. I carry a Frogg Toggs ProAction jacket, as the "Tyvek" doesn't feel clammy and is lightweight (11oz) and $25.  Unfortunately, it doesn't  pack very small.  I may replace it with a DryDucks jacket when it wears out (only 6 oz)

3. I carry an Eagle Creek Nimbus SL umbrella.  This was a  tough call since it weighs 5.5 oz.  However, I find that it is perfect for off and on showers, and around camp.  Great for getting in an out of the tent in the rain.

4. Red Ledge Thunderlight Rain Pants.  Only carry these if its going to be cold AND a possibility of rain.  I hate to be cold.  8.9oz and $30

5. Nitrile Gloves.  Rain gloves for less than $1 per pair.  Free from your local medical provider!

Hiking with an Umbrella

I got interested in hiking with an umbrella after reading an article on BackpackingLight on the subject.  Seemed like a good idea, but I didn't like the price.  However, I found a recommendation for the Eagle Creek Nimbus SL.  The product description lies, however.  It's 5.5oz not 3.5, but otherwise a good umbrella.  Some reviewers complained about the clip that holds it open, and I can see why.  Not very secure.  But if you are careful and don't force anything it works fine.  Is cost $15 and can be found here:

A forum thread on umbrella use from BackpackingLight can be found here: http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/forums/thread_display.html?forum_thread_id=9799

Also, a good umbrella article from same source: https://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/backpacking_and_hiking_with_an_umbrella

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Jun 15, 2012

Make a Packing List @ GearGrams

I've been using a great website for maintaining my packing list.  It's an awesome flash-based website that allows printing lists, downloading spreadsheets, and reporting by category.  Awesome.  You have to give it a try...  www.geargrams.com.

You can also post your packing list.  Here's my list for my last warm weather AT hike: http://www.geargrams.com/list?id=6646
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Jun 13, 2012

MontBell Alpine Light Down Jacket

I hiked the AT from Fontana Dam to Clingman's Dome last October.  Snowed the day before we hit the trail, and got down into the 30's each evening with stiff winds.  I brought the warmest lightweight jacket I own, my Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket.  I froze.  I love my Nano Puff, but it wasn't enough jacket.  I've fixed this problem.  This winter I bought the MontBell Alpine Light Down Jacket.

MontBell Alpine Light Down Jacket
When looking for an affordable down jacket, I narrowed my choices to either it or the Marmot Zeus.  Both are currently about $105 at backcountry.com.  I was able to find a slightly used MontBell Alpine Light at gearswap.com for some additional savings!  The owner said he has owned both and prefers the MontBell.  Several reviews I read said the same thing.  Only issue I saw in reviews was that the MontBell ran a little small, thus I chose the XL (I'm 6.0 x 205lb)

So I'm the owner of an almost new MontBell Alpine Light Jacket.  I will try it out this August when I hike the Wind River Range in Wyoming.  Will update with my findings.

Here's the specs:
Mont-Bell created the Alpine Light Down Jacket for backcountry explorers who want insulation and compressibility. The combination of ballistic nylon and premium 800-fill goose down means the Alpine Light is both warm and durable so you don't have to worry about wrecking this shell when you're really roughing it. You also won't have to worry about uneven insulation or down bunching thanks to cross-stitching.

ripstop nylon 
800-fill down 
(medium) 11.5 oz 
Recommended Use:
cold weather, casual 
Manufacturer Warranty:

Note: My size Extra-Large (XL) weighs 16.0 oz.

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Sea to Summit SilNylon Nano Drybag

6/13/12 Update: I did a three day, 35mile AT hike using my new Ultra-sil Nano sleeping bag stuff sack.  Worked great!  It is very thin however, so I wouldn't want to stuff anything that isn't soft.  I'm happy with it, but don't know the long term ruggedness of it. We will see.  Will do an 80 mile hike in August which will give it a better test.

I was using a standard 20L Sea to Summit Silnylon Drybag for stuffing my REI Halo 25 down sleeping bag and Cocoon silk liner.   The sack was way to big.  Mice got into my bear bag, so I'm using the 20L for my bear bag and ordered a 13L Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Nano Dry Sack for my sleeping bag.  www.seatosummit.com/products/display/170  This new sack is  1.0oz vs. 1.4oz for the standard Ultra-Sil Dry Sack.  Most of the weight is lost the the rolltop band and buckle.  A really nice looking sack!  I think the 13 liter will make my bag be longer and narrower which will fit my backpack better.

I use a Cocoon slik liner since I sleep in a tarp with no screens.  The silk allows me to lay outside my sleeping bag without worrying about bugs.  Also keeps my sleeping bag clean... to state of obvious.
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Jun 7, 2012

AT Hostel Review: Standing Bear Farms Hostel

Wow.  Very different place.  Convenient location just down the road the AT crosses leaving Davenport Gap heading east.

  • Very basic bunkhouse.  Some had foam rubber cushions without a vinyl cover... Funky smell.  
  • Pit toilet without TP.  No TP?  Really?
  • Honor system pay system. Very well equipped commissary.
  • Kitchen available, but no breakfast OR COFFEE in the morning.  No Coffee?
  • Didn't try the showers, but I understand they were the best part of the stay.
  • They have a washer and drier, but didn't try them.  
  • Curtis was not around, so missed the opportunity to interact with this colorful character.
Stop for the supplies, camp on the trail.
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