Gear

XeroShoes Jessie Sandal - Gear Review

For those of you who have been followers of this blog or past clients of mine, you'll know that I'm a huge fan of a natural, zero drop shoe.  When I was given the opportunity to try out the XeroShoes Jessie Sandal this summer, I was super excited about the opportunity!   Here is my unbiased review of the shoe: 

Disclaimer: I received this shoe in exchange for writing the review.  All opinions are unbiased and are my own.  

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The first thing I noticed about this shoe, obviously, was the design. It's so incredibly different from any sandal I've seen before.  With only a toe loop for your big toe and an ankle strap, it's definitely eye-catching.  This super simple, casual shoe didn't just make me take notice.  The first time I wore it to work (At the AT Lodge - a hiker hostel) every single hiker and even my boss took notice and asked about the shoe.  The first question everyone asked was if I could walk in it!  With the unique design, they look like they'd flop right off your foot.  The answer is that not only could I walk in them, my feet were able to splay naturally and stay right in place just as if I were walking barefoot.  I also only experienced one "toe catch" of the unstrapped side of the shoe, but it was when I was getting into my car and quite honestly I catch my regular sandals there too.  

The first time I wore this shoe it was while walking my dog on pavement here in town.  I immediately noticed the barefoot feel of the 5.5 mm Feel True rubber sole underfoot.  If you've never walked in a barefoot shoe before it can be a unique sensory experience!  The sole is just thick enough to where you won't feel uncomfortable, but minimal enough to really let your foot flex.  The adjustable elastic heel and instep strap is super soft and isn't invasive feeling or scratchy either.  The soft toe loop doesn't feel tight. Other than feeling the sole on the bottom of the foot, I didn't even notice the shoes.  It's not easy to notice a sandal that only weighs 4.8 ounces (mine is a Women's size 7). 

 Yep - totally wore socks with sandals. I'm not ashamed!

Yep - totally wore socks with sandals. I'm not ashamed!

Walking on pavement can only give you so much of an example though, so on my day off I took a trip up to the north end of Baxter State Park for a little bit of R&R.  I thought with the ankle strap this shoe would be perfect for both easy walking and a little time out on the water.  Anyone who has tried to go swimming in a lake or pond in the upper part of New England can tell you that our soil is rocky.  It's always tough getting into or out of the water if you're barefoot or wearing a sandal.  The ankle strap really helped me feel confident I wouldn't lose a shoe to the rocks and it was perfect.  Since a little portaging was necessary with the canoe, I also got to use it out on the trail.  I wasn't sure what to expect being that I've never really done a barefoot style shoe before, but it wasn't terrible! It felt a lot more stable than I expected, even with wet feet.  Anyone who does any amount of backpacking can tell you that you sometimes get a long hike to your water source at camp.  Doing it in a camp shoe can sometimes be a real pain.  I would definitely make this a strong contender for a camp shoe on a backpacking trip in the future due to their secure feel.  

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To recap my thoughts on the shoe: 
Pros:
-Lightweight
-Stable with the ankle strap
-Comfortable
-Unique, eye-catching design

Cons:
-Wearing them all day made my feet and Achilles tendons tired (more than likely because I don't wear a barefoot shoe all the time!)
-Adjustment period for a barefoot and zero drop (or would it be Xero Drop?!) shoe can take a while for newbies

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In short, I'd recommend the XeroShoes Jessie Sandal to any outdoorsy chick who likes to have something eye-catching and fun to wear as a multipurpose shoe.  At only $44.99 MSRP with a 5,000 mile sole warranty, you'll really get your money's worth from this sandal. 

Have you ever tried a barefoot sandal before?  How do you feel about a minimal shoe?

  

 

A Mountains to Sea Trail Update

It seemed like spring would never arrive a few short weeks ago, but now we're midway through February!  I've been feeling like I'm doing a good job at my New Years' goal of unplugging more, but at the same time I always like to update my readers as to what is going on and what our progress is on thru hike prep.  Major progress is being made and I'm super excited to share it with you guys!

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Menus are finalized!

While for long hikes I'm a big fan of resupplying on the fly, for shorter hikes (1000 miles or less) I prefer to make our own meals.  It's a lot easier on a trail like the AT to resupply in towns or at gas stations, even for those with special dietary needs.  However, when you're on a smaller trail like the Benton MacKaye or the Finger Lakes Trail, doing your own resupply boxes ahead of time is pretty clutch to making your hike work better for you.  Since we're only doing about 45 days on this trek, I decided to go ahead and plan a menu and resupplies.  Here's a small sampling of what we'll be bringing!
 

Breakfast: Fig Newtons, Poptarts, and homemade granola with coconut milk for NoKey; breakfast rice, couscous, oatmeal, and homemade granola with coconut milk for Sprinkles. 
Lunches: Shelf stable bacon with mustard on bagel thins, pepperoni sandwiches, dry hummus and crackers or fresh veggies if we can find them. Homemade granola will work for a sweet lunch as well. 
Dinner: Staples like trail mac 'n' cheese and my favorite Thai Style Ramen always make an appearance, but this time I'm going to make some new dinners like Prosciutto with Peas and unstuffed peppers.  I'm even attempting a chicken piccata recipe!
Snacks: We are going with Lenny and Larry's cookies and RX bars on this trip, with an assorted mix of candy bars in there to keep it interesting!

Drop box locations are still TBD

I honestly just haven't done the research on where I want to send boxes yet.  I've got a pretty good idea of where we'd LIKE to send them, but I still need to narrow that down.  One thing we definitely know is that we'd like to stay at The Pisgah Inn if at all possible and will probably resupply there if we can!  We had lunch here for the first time last year on our 5th Anniversary and fell in love with the place.  It doesn't hurt that it's smack dab on the MST near Asheville. 

Mixing it up a little

The Mountains to Sea trail is so much fun to me because it's not a strict thru hike if you don't want it to be.  In fact, there's a paddling route you can do by kayak and you can bike the road sections (and beach!)  I'm having a lot of fun planning our canoe trip portion and trying to figure out where we can drop our bikes for the last section of trail.  

Planning a thru hike, since I've done it a few times now, is actually a lot of fun for me.  When I first set out onto the AT it was so incredibly overwhelming to plan even my resupply stop at the store, but now that I'm better at estimating my mileage and my appetite I find it almost exciting!  Being able to plan out a trip and know your needs is a great feeling.  

Have you ever planned a distance hike? Did you have to make any changes on the fly? What was your favorite and least favorite part of planning?

 

Holiday Gift Guide 2017

It's time again to start thinking about getting a gift for the outdoorsy person in your life! If you're at a loss for what to get the hikers you care about something unique, let my holiday guide help you.  

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STOCKING STUFFERS

GSI long-handled silicone spoon - VERY necessary for those who eat pre-made freeze-dried meals! This guy will get down into the nooks and crannies of even the longest bag meal. 
Hikertrash Stickers - I don't know a single hiker who doesn't love putting stickers on just about everything they own.  Help them rep their Hikertrash status proudly!
Sawyer Mini water filter - Being able to have clean water on the go is very necessary for anyone who spends any time outdoors.  These compact filters are super easy to use and easy to clean.
Klymit Pillow X - Makes a great pillow for backpackers and a good seat on a day hike too!
Therm-a-Rest Z seat - In case your hiker isn't a fan of things that can pop on the trail, consider this Z seat instead of the Klymit Pillow. 
MSR Piezo Ignitor - If your hiker uses a canister fuel stove, this thing is amazing! Lightweight and doesn't require fuel like a lighter.  Never worry about running out of fluid again. 

Under $30

Road ID - Have piece of mind when your hiking buddy is out solo. These bracelets (or shoe charms) can hold emergency info and some charms too. 
Darn Tough Socks - The only socks I've found that can keep up with the abuse I put them through - and that's saying a LOT! 
A Scratch-off Map of the US - for the hiker trying to hit every state (or every high point!) this fun multicolor map is a great way to keep track of your travels in the US. 
A US National Parks Scratch-off Map - Just in case you're trying to get all those parks in there too ;)
An Anker Portable Charger - A lightweight charger that won't break the bank. Great for those who use their phones to listen to music or podcasts in the tent at night. 
GSI Microflip Mug - This mug is vacuum sealed to keep your coffee or tea hot on the way to the trailhead on those early mornings. 

Under $50

MSR Pocket Rocket 2 - A new stove is never a bad thing! This guy can boil water in 3.5 minutes. 
Black Diamond Storm Headlamp - 350 lumens to keep the trail bright when you're night hiking or getting in those before dawn miles. 
A Mountain Ring - Let's face it, sometimes lady hikers want to look nice (and sometimes we even have to go to places in the "real world"). This ring will let her take the peaks wherever she goes. 
White Blaze Pendant - This unisex Appalachian Trail
pendant comes on polycord and is adjustable.  In fact, check out ALL of Tarma's jewelry. 
Dirty Girl Gaiters - Keep debris from your shoes and look good at the same time. 
Altra StashJack - A jacket that leaves room for your pack in the back, so you can put it on and take it off without stopping. Why hasn't this been thought of before?

Splurge Items

A Handmade Replica Trail Sign - Handmade to match nearly any sign, these will definitely make your favorite hiker's heart skip a beat. 
Suunto Traverse Series Watch - For the hiker who loves data and stats, this watch will leave a trail of breadcrumbs and show the trails in the area right on the wrist. 
Excalibur Food Dehydrator - For the hiker who loves eating well in the backcountry! This 9-tray dehydrator will make huge batches of jerky, meals, and more. 
Helinox Chair One - Because being comfortable shouldn't mean breaking your back trying to carry that chair to camp. 
Altra Wasatch Rain Jacket - A breathable rain jacket you can run in?! Yes, please!

These are just a few of the things I'd love to see as a holiday gift this year.  What are some of your favorite gifts to give? 

 

 

Gear Sale!

As an avid backpacker for nearly 10 years I have acquired my fair share of hiking gear.  However, I'm in the process of simplifying things right now and changing out some of my personal and guiding gear.  I figured what better way to clear out items than to offer them up for sale to people who would appreciate gently used, well taken care of gear.  Please check out all my offerings below. These pieces of gear I'm offering up would be great Christmas gifts for the beginning backpacker in your life!

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Prices are set and are firm and shipping is included in the price (local pickup will not get a discount - sorry). This isn't a flea market - No negotiating.  Gear is sold AS IS/ALL SALES FINAL and descriptions of any imperfections are included in the item description.  Payment is accepted through Paypal or by cash/check if you're local.  Local pickup in Knoxville, TN area only. Shipping is to the US and US territories only.  Shipping will be first class US mail with a tracking number provided (priority available - please ask for pricing to your zip code!).  

*SOLD*MSR Pocket Rocket (original) Stove - $10 (fuel can not included)

Click on the photos to scroll through them. 

I used this stove for several years and am upgrading to another version instead.  You'll notice some slight discoloration at the top tips of the pot stands.  Works beautifully and I've never had any problems with any canister fuel I've tried, including: SnowPeak, JetBoil, MSR, Coleman, and any other cheapie you find at a resupply spot.  Specs from the manufacturer: 

  • Weighs just 3 oz. (85 g), with palm-sized dimensions
  • No need for priming, pressurizing, or maintenance.
  • Boils 1 liter of water in under 3.5 minutes.
  • Glove-friendly controls allow precise flame adjustment, from a simmer to a boil.
  • Tri-sectional Windclip wind shield protects flame and boosts efficiency.

*SOLD*Sierra Designs Rosa 20-degree Sleeping Bag (Synthetic) - $45

Click on the photos to scroll through them. 

I used this sleeping bag a total of probably 10-15 times and don't have a use for it anymore.  It's clean and in amazing shape.  It comes with a stuff sack for packing in your backpack as well as a breathable cotton bag for storage.  Loft is in great shape.  It has a small pocket near the top of the bag for earplugs or headphones.  It also has a pocket in the back to stuff clothing to make a pillow.  It won't slip from your sleeping bag thanks to the straps on the back of the pad. Specs from the manufacturer are below: 

The Women's Rosa 20 Degree Sleeping Bag by Sierra Designs is rated to 20 degrees F/-7 degrees C. Continuous-filament synthetic insulation provides reliable warmth for the life of a sleeping bag, even in damp conditions. We build the Rosa with Climashield HL, and wrap the whole package in 70-denier nylon for a durable bag destined for seasons of use. Rated to 20 degrees, the Rosa not only provides warmth, but serious comfort, too - an ergonomically shaped foot box won't cramp your feet and Pad Locks mean you won't roll off onto the hard ground during the night. Will be compressed for shipping. 

  • Specifications and Features for the women's Rosa 20 Degree Sleeping Bag by Sierra Designs:
  • Insulation: Climashield HL
  • Material: Shell: 70D Nylon
  • Material: Liner: 75D Polyester
  • Trail Weight: Regular - 2 lbs 12 oz
  • Zipper Side: Regular - Right
  • Fill Weight: Regular - 24 oz
  • Stuff Size: Regular - 9" x 19"
  • Chest Pocket
  • Draft Tube
  • Ergonomic Hood
  • Pad Locks
  • Pillow Pocket
  • Snag Free Zipper Tracks
  • Two Color Options
  • Woman Specific Bag
  • Continuous Filament Insulation
  • Offset Layer Construction
  • Tricot Lined Footbox
  • Tuck Stitch

*SOLD*MSR Seagull 1.1 Liter Stainless Steel Pot - $10
*SOLD*MSR Seagull 0.75 Liter Stainless Steel Pot - $8

Click on the photos to scroll through them. 

These pots are great and durable.  Used on my AT thru hike and intermittently as car camping gear.  While they're a bit heavier than aluminum, they're durable and showing no signs of wear other than minor scratching - no blackening.  The 0.75 L pot does have one small spot on the inside on the bottom of the pan that can probably be scrubbed off.  I'm just lazy!  See manufacturer specs below: 

  • Dual purpose handle/lid lock flips up and over the fitted lid to securely lock the lid in place during transport
  • Fitted lid with a top handle
  • Scratch and dent resistant stainless steel stands up in the most rugged conditions
  • Rounded corners help heat travel up sides of pot more quickly, boosting efficiency
  • 1.1 L pot is 15 oz and measures 7.6 x 6.6 x 3.75 inches; holds 37 oz
  • 0.75 L pot is 13 oz and measures 6.75 x 5.75 x 3.5 inches; holds 26 oz

*SOLD*The North Face Rock 22 Backpacking Tent WITH Footprint - $65

Click on the photos to scroll through them. 

Taken out into the backcountry probably 20 times and it was mostly used as a car camping tent.  Comes with stakes, poles, footprint, original guy lines, and all stuff sacks.  Two of the stakes do have a slight bend in them from use.  The tent is freestanding in design and super easy to set up with color-coded tabs/grommets for making assembly super simple and newbie-proof.  Notice in the photos there is a patch in the floor and some red mud staining on one door.  Other than those two things, the tent is in practically brand new condition with minimal dirt.  See manufacturer specs: 

  • Versatile two-person, freestanding design has two doors each with their own vestibule
  • Continuous pole sleeve construction maximizes stability through even weight and pressure distribution
  • DAC® aluminum poles are lightweight, strong and durable for long-lasting use
  • Color-coded canopy and rainfly webbing provide clear and easy pitching
  • Internal prayer-bound floor seams increase user space with clean angles; taped nylon taffeta floor
  • Four internal pockets keep small items organized
  • In nice weather, minimalists can leave the tent body behind and use just the rainfly, poles and footprint to save weight
  • Packed Size: 7 x 25 inches
  • Floor Dimensions: 87 x 55 inches; 33 square feet
  • Vestibule Area: 8 square feet per side
  • Peak Height: 43 inches
  • Packed Weight: 5 lb, 11 oz

Leki Cressida DSS Women's Trekking Poles (with packaging) - $110

Click on the photos to scroll through them. 

I bought these poles to replace some ancient ones and the quick lock system just isn't for me. I wanted badly for them to work, but I just didn't like them. These are still on the market brand new for $159.  They have less than 40 miles (and some dirt) on them and come with a "free" strip of duct tape featuring kittens wearing bowties! (Ha!) See manufacturer specs below: 

  • Dynamic suspension system (DSS) antishock technology reduces peak impacts by approximately 40% to help protect muscles, joints and ligaments
  • Stable and durable aluminum HTS shafts with matte clear finish feature light, strong Speedlock 2 and Super Lock systems that offer extremely fast pole-length adjustment
  • Short carbide flex tips with interchangeable baskets deliver precise contact and traction on nearly all kinds of terrain
  • Edgeless, ultralight Aergon Thermo foam grips offer a soft feel and a fit designed for a woman's hands
  • Short, ultralight, breathable straps offer maximum comfort with minimum weight and bulk

For more info, you can see this exact pole on their website: https://www.leki.com/us/trekking/poles/2771/cressida-dss/?c=708

Deuter ACT Lite 28 SL (Women's specific) Day Pack with Cover - $50

Click on the photos to scroll through them. 

This pack has been used as my guiding daypack for one year.  It never did fit me right, but I never had time during the season to replace it.  I have a 15-inch torso and the frame hits me in the back of the head, that's the only reason I'm selling it.  This pack would fit anyone with a 16 inch torso or longer.  The pack is dirty, not gonna lie.  I haven't taken the time to try and clean it up, which is why I'm letting it go cheap.  It comes with a built in rain cover with it's own pocket at the bottom of the pack.  Also, the front zipper pocket has a tear, which I repaired with tape.  See manufacturer specs below:

  • Anatomically shaped, women-specific Airmesh harness provides maximum ventilation and weight savings while load adjuster straps reduce bulk and ensure proper carrying comfort
  • Compatible with a 3-liter hydration reservior
  • 2-way front zipper allows direct access to the main compartment for easier gear retrieval even while the lid is closed
  • Thin, mesh hipbelt fins enhance breathability and weight savings and easily stow flat when not needed
  • Lid pocket; internal pocket; valuables pocket on hipbelt; side zippered and mesh pockets; ice axe and trekking pole loops
  • Holds 28 Liters
  • Weight: 2 lb, 8 oz
  • Torso - 15-19 inches (Note from Sprinkles: I think 16 and up would be better)
  • Internal Frame with Delrin U frame
  • Ripstop Nylon

For more info you can see this pack on their website: http://www.deuter.com/US/us/hiking/act-trail-28-sl-3440215.html

If you have any questions about the gear you're seeing here, please feel free to reach out to me via messenger on Facebook. I'll answer any question you might have about the gear.  Also, if you're looking for an overnight pack, please message me there as well.  I have a few options I'd love to share with you!

Packing Mindfully

The Japanese use a word - Kaizen.  Simply put, this word means "change for the better" but can also mean "continuous improvement" when applied to business.  Kaizen is an everyday process.  You can't just make one change and expect it to serve you forever.  When it comes to hiking or backpacking, practicing the Kaizen method will never do you wrong.  Whether you've been backpacking for two months or twenty years, every hiker could use a gear improvement every once in a while!  For me, as a guide in the Smokies, practicing Kaizen on every single hike not only makes my load lighter, it also keeps me hiking happily.  Let's look at some ways every hiker can practice Kaizen on any hike!

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Pretrip

When you are packing for a trip, you will obviously be checking the weather and maps before you pack your gear, right?  When you're packing your gear, decide what is really and truly necessary.  Do you really need to pack a coat or can you wear a long sleeve shirt with your rain coat instead?  Will it be necessary to bring a winter sleeping bag or can you get by with your summer bag and a liner?  By taking a few moments to ask yourself these questions, you can whittle down your gear pile in no time!  Something NoKey likes to teach new hikers is to divide your gear into three piles - the first will be things you definitely need, the second will be things you need to decide on, and the third pile will be for the cast-off (or items you didn't bring on previous trips).  By making these three piles, you'll have a visual for the gear you'll be bringing before you start cramming your pack.  Being able to visualize what is going in the pack will help you realize how much you're carrying.  If you're new to packing a bag, check out my post about how to properly pack your backpack here. 

During the Trip

Whether you're out for an afternoon or a week, keeping track of gear you're using is easier than you think.  If you're simply out for the day, you may not be in and out of your pack as much as you are on a backpacking trip.  Since your pack is basically a giant tube you store things in, having to dig all the way to the bottom for more used items is a hassle.  You may find yourself practicing Kaizen by simply rearranging the way you place items back in the bag before you continue hiking.  

Post Trip

When you get home and cleaned up make note of the items you used and didn't use.  I'm a fan of keeping your day pack ready to go, but regularly replacing and maintaining the items inside will keep your gear in good repair.  For backpacking gear, it's a good rule of thumb to unpack everything and set it up to dry before you even hop in the shower.  This way, especially if you have muddy stuff, you won't make a bigger mess of yourself in the process!  Another trick I've recently learned is to take apart trekking poles to allow them to dry on the inside as well.  This will keep your poles in working order for THOUSANDS of miles!  Once your gear is clean and dry, repeat the three pile process and put away your gear accordingly.  If you have items you use on every few trips for example, you can keep these items all in one place.  You may find that they go from every few trips to no trips at all!

Bonus Points

Something fun I like to try and teach newbie and experienced hikers alike is how to think of two uses for every single item in their pack.  Basically, there should be very few unitasker items in a backpack.  For example, instead of carrying a bandana and a hat, why not carry a Merino Wool Buff instead?  Instead of packing a pair of gloves, why not bring a pair of socks you'll only wear as a second layer while you're sleeping?  By finding more than one use for items in your pack, you'll not only save yourself space, you'll also save yourself a few extra pounds in the process!

How do you decide what to bring on a trip and what to leave behind? What is one item you always bring on the trail with you, regardless of how silly others might find it?

The Evolution of Gear

I recently, as a member of the Green Mountain Club, read an article in their quarterly publication about a man who decided to thru hike the Long Trail using the gear early hikers would have used back in the 1910s (when the trail system was officially open for use). This interesting read got me thinking to how much gear has changed in the past 100 years.  I thought it would be fun to do a little research and share my findings with all of you guys.  I hope you find it as fun to read as I had writing it!  Since the article I read was replicating a thru hike of a trail in 1917, that's as far back as I decided to go.  Since the National Park System in the US was developed and created only a few years prior to this, I decided that many people were more than likely not camping recreationally before this period.  Granted, people were following their herds to the high country for the summer and camping out long before this, I find that those "headed to camp" accounts don't really make for good backpacking gear stories.    

The Early Years

 Catherine Robbins, Hilda M. Kurth and Kathleen Norris, 1927  photo (and great story) from  Seven Days.  

Catherine Robbins, Hilda M. Kurth and Kathleen Norris, 1927

photo (and great story) from Seven Days. 

One of the first things that stuck out to me in the article I read in Long Trail News about the gear was this paragraph: 

"For food, bread and bacon will keep you going with little weight." "No person should ever travel The Long Trail without axe, compass, and matches" "A tent is not necessary on most of the trail; it may be needed in the southerly part if the hiker desires to sleep out, in which case a very light, small tent of balloon silk is advised" 

Already the gear differences and advice are pretty fun to read about.  I also loved reading that Mike MADE HIS OWN PACK out of brown ash wood.  Yep, that's right.  A "pack basket" was all the rage back in those days.  For an example of gear you would have carried in those days in your pack basket see below (it's also worth noting that back in those days it wasn't uncommon for hikers to cut boughs off trees to make a bed for the night; since that is no longer done for obvious LNT ((Leave No Trace)) reasons, it's worth noting that the hiker here stuffed a pillowcase with leaves):
-Wool blanket
-Homemade waterproofed cotton tarp and cotton groundsheet
-Camp knife (hand forged) in a leather belt sheath
-2 Quart metal canteen
-Bug Net
-Alcohol stove with alcohol carried in a GLASS bottle
-Tin cup
-Matches
-Waxed cotton food bag
-Candle for nighttime
-Wool knickers
-Wool knee-length socks
-Leather hat
-Leather boots
-Rubberized poncho
FOOD: 
-Hardboiled eggs, rice, cashews/almonds/raisins, bread, cheese, cured meat, canned fish, and hershey's chocolate

I also love that for this hike Mike used birch and beech twigs to brush his teeth!

 Mike Debonis on his 2017 thru hike of the Long Trail, using 1917-style gear. 

Mike Debonis on his 2017 thru hike of the Long Trail, using 1917-style gear. 

1940's-1950's

I couldn't find much for the period in between our history hiker and the WW2 era, so I'm going to skip ahead to Earl Shaffer - the first ever thru hiker on the Appalachian Trail.  It can be said that Shaffer was the first ever Warrior Hiker - he took to the trail to "Walk off the War" in 1948.  Earning himself the name "The Crazy One", he was the first person to ever hike the trail all the way through in one year.  At first, even the Appalachian Trail Conference (later, Conservancy) didn't believe him!  He may also be considered the first minimalistic hiker, being that his tent failed in the first week on the trail and he got rid of it, saving himself an additional five pounds!  Back when Shaffer thru hiked in 1948, he was taken in by friendly fire tower wardens and fed meals; he even hiked hunting camp to hunting camp in Maine.  On his thru hike in 1998, Shaffer relayed via letter to Gene Espy (the second thru hiker of the AT) by letter that the trail had become much more difficult than when they hiked it decades before, the trail conservancy having routed the trail up to the higher and harder ridge lines instead of being down low near the hunting camps.  An example of his gear can be found below: 
-Mountain Troop rucksack
-Military issue poncho (which also served as his rain shelter at night!)
-A Daisy Mae Rainhat
-Match safe
-Compass
-Sheath knife and small handaxe
-Sewing kit
-Snakebite kit
-Mountain Troop cook kit
-Wool blanket
-Wool pants
-Russel Birdshooter Boots

 Earl Shaffer atop Katahdin in 1948 with his pack (photo from earlshaffer.com)

Earl Shaffer atop Katahdin in 1948 with his pack (photo from earlshaffer.com)

Gene Espy, our second-known thru hiker went through northbound in 1951.  He had some great gear as well, including one of my favorite luxury items - an inflatable pillow! His gear weighed in at a whopping 50 lbs and included the following (from gearjunkie): 
-Steel frame pack
-Lamb’s wool used as comfort under the heavy pack straps
-Tent (without a floor) and tent posts
-Down sleeping bag
-Watch; to know his time between shelters
-Guide books
-Hatchet and rope
-Inflatable pillow
-Camera
-New Testament Bible
-Diary and pencil
-Collapsible cup
-25 caliber pistol (which he claimed he used as protection from bears)
-Carbide lamp (this is what miners used back then as a headlamp - it requires chemical reaction to make it work!)
-Nylon poncho used for a rain jacket and as flooring in the tent
-Pants from the Navy to protect his legs from thorns
-Two long sleeve shirts
-2 pairs of hiking socks
-Hat
-Tin water cup
-Snakebite kit
-Boots
FOOD: 
Gene carried about a week of food at a time, and his favorite foods included chocolate pudding, loaves of bread, and Baby Ruth candy bars.  

 Gene Espy during his thru hike in 1951 (from geneespyhiker.com)

Gene Espy during his thru hike in 1951 (from geneespyhiker.com)

1960's and 1970's

With the 1960s and 70s came the "heyday" of the American National Park System.  More and more folks were able to get out and enjoy not only the national parks of our country, but also the backcountry and hiking trails provided by our parks!  Check out some of these vintage ads I found while scouring the internet.  Heck, I know some sleeping bags that weigh more than 3.5 lb have even tried to make their way out onto a backpacking trip I was leading!

During the late 1950s the AT saw it's first female thruhiker, Grandma Gatewood.  She would go on to hike the trail two more times during her life, making her the first multi completer of the trail.  While I couldn't find a comprehensive gear list, I did find a photo of her gear (circa 1960) (thanks, Reddit!) at the Appalachian Trail Museum.  It's safe to say she was the first ever "dirtbag hiker", hiking with a homemade denim sack, a rain cape made from a shower curtain, and was the first hiker to ditch the heavy boots for lightweight shoes, recommending Keds to all hikers she met! She was also the first thru hiker to "slackpack" her way along the AT.  She often wandered off the main trail to knock on doors to ask for a place to stay or to get a hot meal.  

 Photo Courtesey of the AT Museum and google images.

Photo Courtesey of the AT Museum and google images.

The 1970s is when backpacking really started changing.  Jansport and Kelty led the way in creating lightweight external frame packs with specially designed pockets for hauling gear ergonomically.  Also during this era we see the very first Therma-A-Rest mattress hit the market.  Now, instead of cutting live tree boughs, hikers can sleep on an ACTUAL mattress in the woods! Check out the weight of those "lightweight boots" by the way - only THREE POUNDS!

You also start seeing the commercial freeze dried and dehydrated food industry taking off.  Yes, America - you too can eat like our astronauts!

Click on the photo bar to scroll through! (Photos here are sourced from google images)

1980's and 1990's

Lightweight was the name of the game!  Ultralight was truly being developed during this time period, despite how many of us would think it was something more recent.  In fact, 2-lb packs were being developed during the late 1970s and early 1980s!  Nike was even on the forefront of developing a lightweight hiking shoe/boot hybrid - the Lava Dome! While many folks were still carrying external frame packs during this period, the frame during this time started moving to the INSIDE of a pack - something unheard of before now!  During this time period we also meet some of THE names in backpacking that many hikers still know today, the most famous of whom is Ray Jardine.  Ray and his wife, Jenny, began thru hiking in the late 1980s and can still be found out on the trail today.  In 1991, Ray wrote a book about his PCT thru hike, talking about how it was possible to hike much faster and lighter by making homemade gear.  In fact, he still regularly publishes and hikes today.  

During the 1990s we see many what we would call "Cottage Industry" companies starting to pop up as well.  Dana Designs and Gossamer Gear both got their start in the 1990s when regular hikers started getting fed up with not being able to find what they wanted in gear that was commercially available.  

During this time we also see people hiking in light athletic shoes versus heavy boots.  Laurie "Mountain Laurel" Pottieger (of ATC fame) switched to running shoes during her 1987 thru hike of the AT.  While she switched back to boots for rockier sections of the trail, at the time it was practically unheard of (and was done by the Jardines as well!)

(photo of the boots from google images and Jenny and Ray from RayJardine.com)

The 2000's and 2010's

These days, fast and light is the name of the game.  With more and more FKT (fastest known time) attempts on the trail and more hikers getting savvy to the "less is more" way of backpacking, it's possible to hike more than 2000 miles carrying little more than a daypack.  Some of the more famous names in the game right now include Anish, String Bean, and Lint.  For an example of what these ultralighters are carrying, check out Lint's thru hiking gear list.  

While not everyone is going ultralight, it's pretty unusual to see anyone out on the trail these days carrying more than 35 lb.  We know now that the average pack should be 25% or less of your total body weight.  With lighter packs comes the ability to wear lighter shoes as well. In fact, reading surveys of commonly used gear online you'll see that less than 20% of hikers are now wearing boots on trail, opting for lightweight trail running shoes instead.    

 An example of what a thru hiker would carry on the AT courtesy of @GossamerGear on Instagram ( @ryanshamy  original)

An example of what a thru hiker would carry on the AT courtesy of @GossamerGear on Instagram (@ryanshamy original)

And there you have it - a pretty comprehensive history of how gear has changed since the early days!  Gone are the days when heavy boots and 50-lb packs are the norm.  Here to stay are the lighter, easier to carry packs with quick drying shoes and gear to get you from point A to point B in relative comfort!

Would you have been able to thru hike Grandma Gatewood style?  When did you first start collecting your backpacking gear?  What piece of gear do you remember and miss the most? 

Backpacking 101

If you've been thinking about jumping into the sport of backpacking chances are you've done quite a bit of research on gear to buy or rent; however, this isn't always the case.  As someone who works as a guide and has done a number of distance hikes I can tell you while many people are doing the research there are still huge numbers of people who do absolutely no research at all.  Don't let your first trip take you by surprise!  Here are some common beginner mistakes a lot of people make on their first few backpacking trips and some tips for how to avoid making them. 

Carrying the Wrong Gear

We have all seen people out on the trail for the weekend carrying that backpack their dad bought back in 1979.  While the gear manufactured back then was truly built to last, sitting in the basement unused since the 80's means that your gear has a tendency to fall apart the minute you try to put it through the rigors of a backpacking trip.  As a guide, I've repaired numerous pieces of "durable and built to last" backpacking gear out on a trip.  Avoid this happening to you by heading to an outfitter and buying a new pack, getting fitted properly and learning how to use it.  Can't afford a new pack for the once-a-year trip you're about to take? There are plenty of gear rental companies out there to help you out!  Try looking online for a local place where you're headed into the woods, or check out a website like Get Out Backpacking for ultralight gear rental you can do online.  

Carrying Too Much Gear

Just because you bought it doesn't mean it needs to come out on the trip with you!  While many outdoors aisles have lots of fun and cool-looking outdoor tools you don't necessarily need to bring them on a trip!  Carry a small Swiss Army knife instead of that Leatherman multitool.  Leave the hatchet and saw at home.  A solar charger is useless under most tree canopies.  Cosmetics and deodorants will melt.  A full camp kitchen isn't necessary.  And last, but not least, you aren't going to need a different set of hiking clothes every single day.  By going through your pack and eliminating extra items you'll be able to shave a few pounds off your pack's overall weight.  By carrying less weight you'll decrease your chance for injury and have a more enjoyable trip.  Remember - a pack should never be more than 20% of your total body weight!

Carrying Outdated Gear

Now, I'm not saying that the gear you bought in the late 90's isn't any good any more.  I'm sure it's great!  But, what I am saying is that it might be time to retire that heavy gear to your front country camping stash instead.  Over the last several years backpacking gear has become significantly lighter and more advanced.  While it was common for thru hikers to carry 30-40 pound packs back in the 90's it is no longer necessary for hikers to carry that kind of weight.  By updating your gear piece by piece you'll save yourself quite a few pounds.  One of my favorite switches is a water filtration system.  Commonly weighing a pound or more, the old-fashioned water pumps are no longer necessary with options out on the market today.  Consider switching to a Sawyer Mini or Squeeze system and ditch that Nalgene bottle for a Smartwater bottle and you've saved yourself nearly two pounds and only spent about $20.  

Take More Breaks

As a guide, I teach people not only how to update, replace, or even buy gear properly, I also teach people how to hike properly.  Just because you did a 15-mile hike the last time you went into the woods doesn't necessarily mean you can still do 15 miles without any training time again!  By taking a slower pace and taking a few snack and stretch breaks along the way you'll not only get to camp in one piece, you'll also wake up the next morning with fewer aches and pains.  I recommend taking a 5-minute break every hour to take off your pack and roll out your neck (because looking down at the ground for an hour can really do a number on you) and stretch out your legs.  Snack breaks, even if you're not hungry, can help your body recover before you can even tell that you need to.  Taking small sips of water throughout the day will also go a long way against preventing dehydration.  

These are just a few of many tips I could offer to help make your first (or first in a while) backpacking trip go successfully.  What are some mistakes you made when you first became a backpacker?  What advice would you give someone who wants to try to go out on their own for the first time? 

Black Toenails - A Rite of Passage... or is it?!

When I first got into hiking seriously back in 2008 I joined a Meetup Group.  Before becoming a backpacker, I spent a lot of time on front country camping trips doing day hikes.  On one such trip, I remember sitting around a campfire with some veteran hikers and I found myself in a conversation that was borderline horrifying to me.  In fact, many of you who are hiking have probably heard a conversation very similar to this one: "You don't want to see my feet! I've lost so many toenails I can't even count them all!" "Oh yeah, I have two black ones right now - both big ones!" "My first backpacking trip I lost seven nails!" "I get so many blisters I'm pretty sure my trail name should be bubble wrap!" "Yeah, I don't think I've had a solid set of nails in 10 years!"  As I listened to this in slight horror I realized that yes, indeed, I was not a real hiker yet.  And thanks to this conversation, I wasn't looking forward to being a hiker either! 

A few years down the line I did join the real hiker club.  Thanks to a long day of hiking in boots that were too heavy, I got to camp and immediately shed the footwear to walk barefoot in a cold mountain stream.  The stream was in fact so cold that when I banged my toe on a rock I didn't feel a thing.  Later that night, however, a small purple lump showed up directly in the middle of my toenail.  Six months later, that nail had to be surgically removed thanks to the fact that the bruise never healed, nor caused me to lose that nail.  Finally, I had become a real hiker.  Honestly though, does losing or bruising nails REALLY make us a real hiker?  I'm here to tell you guys that NO, LOSING TOENAILS ISN'T NORMAL OR A RITE OF PASSAGE!  This post will deal with some footwear myths and facts to help you avoid the most ridiculous Rite of Passage hikers hear about.  

MYTH: You should Always Buy Your Boots a Full Size Bigger Than Your Shoes

If you need to buy your boots a full size bigger than your normal shoes, this tells me you're not wearing the proper size shoe in the first place!  In fact, most Americans are not wearing the correct shoe size for their foot.  A proper hiking, trail running, or backpacking shoe should not only be long enough, it should also be wide enough to accomodate your feet in both their swollen and normal conditions.  To get properly fitted for a hiking, trail running, or backpacking shoe I HIGHLY recommend going to a running store and not an outdoor retailer first.  Running store employees are properly trained to watch your gait, measure your feet (both width and length) and look for wear patterns on your shoes to recommend a corrective insole if you need it.  They'll ask you your daily/weekly mileage, terrain you plan on traveling, and even what your long-term goals are.  THEN, they'll go in the back and find the brands and styles that will work best for you.  

MYTH: A Heavy Boot Will Solve All Your Foot Problems

Which of these sounds better for a foot in normal conditions: A heavy, inflexible, non-breathable shoe; or a lightweight, breathable, flexible shoe?  Now, add in the rocky, muddy, wet conditions of a mountain trail.  While hiking boots definitely have a place in the hiking world, a lightweight and breathable boot or shoe will do you much better in most conditions.  In the past several years, many running shoe companies have expanded into a line of trail shoes and some even offer a high topped shoe to rival many hiking boots.  Other outdoor companies make heavy duty, breathable shoes with moderate ankle support.  Whether you decide on a boot or a shoe, light and breathable with some flexibility, not heavy and solid, will keep your feet happy.  

MYTH: Always Wear A Sock Liner And You'll Never Get Blisters

Just like one shoe doesn't fit all, one sock solution doesn't work for everyone either!  Sock liners do help prevent friction in high pressure areas of the feet.  Injinji toe socks also make liners to help separate your toes and prevent between-the-toe blisters; however, sock liners aren't your "quick" fix for blisters or black toenails.  Getting a properly fitted, properly breathing, properly weighted shoe is the first line of defense.  Secondly, making sure you're wearing a wicking sock, like a wool or bamboo variety, will also help pull moisture away from your feet.  Third, determining if your blisters are caused by pressure on your foot or debris in your shoe also helps! Some people can solve their blister problems by wearing a gaiter to cover the tops of their shoes or boots and prevent debris from rubbing their feet.  

MYTH: Buy A Pair of Insoles And Never Have Foot Problems Again

Are you guys noticing a pattern yet?  Hikers often have a "one size fits all" solution for foot problems, but just like the other myths we've covered, an insole will not help all hikers solve their problems.  Many insole brands you can buy off the shelf in a store will tell you that being uncomfortable is all a part of the break-in process because your body doesn't know how to walk on it's own (I'm paraphrasing here).  Not every hiker needs an insole to help solve their blister or toenail problems.  In fact, many hikers can avoid the insole by getting a properly fitted, properly cushioned shoe or boot in the first place.  

Have you ever lost toenails or gotten severe blisters on a hike?  What did you do to help remedy the situation? 

Aftershokz Sportz Titanium Headphones - Gear Review

I recently received a pair of Aftershokz Sportz Titanium headphones to try out and review for my readers.  Since many people enjoy running or even hiking with earbuds in I thought it would be great to review something that both the running and hiking crowds would enjoy.  Read on to see if Aftershokz Sportz Titanium headphones worked for me. 

Aftershokz headphones are different in that instead of going in your ears and falling out (am I the only one with this problem?!) they go over your ears and rest on your face.  These headphones use bone conduction technology to keep your ears open while you're out running or hiking.  This comes in pretty handy when you run in areas with heavy traffic or you'd like to hear people coming up behind you on trail.  So, what happens is the vibration is directed into your inner ear without blocking up your ears.  Here's a quick illustration:

 The orange lines represent where Aftershokz directs the sound versus the blue - where traditional headphones direct sound. 

The orange lines represent where Aftershokz directs the sound versus the blue - where traditional headphones direct sound. 

FIRST IMPRESSIONS:

The first thing I noticed about these headphones is that the plug isn't straight, but curved. Immediately I was unable to use these headphones with my Catalyst iPhone case.  Running without my phone case isn't ever going to happen - it's waterproof and shatterproof. If you've got a new iPhone that doesn't have a headphone jack, these won't work for you either.  The second thing I noticed was that they have to be charged.  ...What...? Well, the good news is they hold a charge for 12 hours.  If you're out hiking this might not be super impressive for you though, as that could be only one day worth of battery power.  

 I can't show you how this sits on the headphone jack for my phone because how else would I take a photo? haha

I can't show you how this sits on the headphone jack for my phone because how else would I take a photo? haha

USAGE:

Since I couldn't use the headphones, NoKey did.  We charged them up and then figured out you have to turn them on with the power button on the little battery pack thing.  The sound quality was really great and he could still hear me talking to him.  The downside, however, was that I could hear his music, haha!  Taking these headphones for a run, he said they were comfortable and didn't move.  They also come with a tiny clip so you can attach the wire close to your body (like on your collar).  This proved beneficial so the wire didn't bounce during a run.  The little battery pack is only a few inches away from the phone while they're plugged in, so it just went inside his pocket where he carried the phone.  The rear band of the headphones goes around the nape of your neck and has a reflective band for visibility, so that's a pro!

 He makes headphones look good :)

He makes headphones look good :)

Pros:
-They allow you to hear your surroundings with bone conduction technology
-Reflective strip on the back
-Clip included to keep wire close to the body
-If you need a microphone/call answering option on your headphones, this pair has that
-Lightweight with a carrying bag

Cons:
-They didn't fit me well. At all. 
-They need to be charged
-You have to turn them off
-Everyone around you can hear what you're hearing
-The plug is "sideways" and doesn't work with my phone case 

While these headphones we're exactly for me, you might find reviews from other BibRave Pros helpful if you're trying to decide if they're right for YOU!  Check out reviews by Jeannine, Mary Jo, and Mark David. 

Are these headphones right for you? Buy them and get a free water bottle!

Visit this link and get a free stainless steel water bottle with your Aftershokz Sports Titanium purchase. They're $59.95 and come in 2 colors (Onyx Black or Ocean Blue).  Free shipping to the US and Canada. They also have a 45-day money back guarantee.  

Do you listen to music when you're running or hiking?  What kind of headphones do you use?

Disclaimer: I received Aftershokz Sportz Titanium headphones for free to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

Stunt Puppy Running Leash - Gear Review

Disclaimer: I received a Stunt Puppy Leash to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

While many of you know I hike and run, a lot of you may not know that with the exception of going with NoKey, my OTHER favorite running and hiking buddy is my Gordon Setter Gracie!  When I was offered the opportunity to try out Stunt Puppy's Stunt Runner dog leash, I was so excited to try a piece of gear that other runners and hiker's might find fun too!  Check out my review of the Stunt Runner leash. 

Gordon Setters are active dogs who love to be outside and run!  It's always tough for me to find a good medium between a leash that keeps Gracie close and a leash that gives her enough room to roam while we're outside.  I love the fact that this leash stretches from three feet to just over four feet when we're outside.  Most places with dog leash laws do require their leash be less than 6 feet, so you definitely won't run into any problems keeping your dog close with this one!

 Gracie stretching the leash to about four feet in length. 

Gracie stretching the leash to about four feet in length. 

Another great feature of this particular leash is that you can hold it in your hand like many traditional leashes or you can extend it to go around your waist.  You get additional length if you're holding it, but the waist feature is great for when you're running a similar pace with your pup.  It's very comfortable around the waist, too!

 Going for the hand-held option when we're walking - it lets the leash be longer so she can get to all the things she wants to see!

Going for the hand-held option when we're walking - it lets the leash be longer so she can get to all the things she wants to see!

For running, I really enjoyed having the leash around my waist to keep her closer to me.  I always hate when I feel like Gracie gets too far away from me and becomes a hazard to others out on the trail.  The shorter length makes me feel like I've got more control and that she won't be in the way of others.  Hiking downhill with the leash around my waist proved pretty difficult though.  She's 3/4 of my weight, so when she really gets moving downhill that means I've got to pick up the pace!  For hiking, the leash proved to be a little too short for me!

 A photo from the Stunt Puppy website shows how the leash can be worn on the waist!

A photo from the Stunt Puppy website shows how the leash can be worn on the waist!

One other great feature of this leash that I like a lot is the quick release connector.  This allows you to get other products and use the same loop.  It also lets Gracie run free when she's back at the car after a long walk or hike.  I think she likes it as much as I do!

From now until March 15, 2017, Stunt Puppy is giving blog readers a 20% discount on their website with the code BIBRAVE217.  Check them out - I think you'll love them!

Thinking about a Solar Charger?

I was recently interviewed for an article about solar chargers.  Many who read this blog know that I'm not a fan of carrying them on east coast trails for one reason...  Check out the article below!

SolarPanel.png

Solar panels have become a popular way to charge devices on the go, whether hiking, mountain biking, or just spending time outdoors. But depending on the region you’re in, relying solely on the sun for power may not be the best option. What works in the real world? To find out, we spoke with two diehard hikers who have carried solar chargers in all conditions. Here, they share their stories about what works, what doesn’t — and how to choose the right setup for your own adventures.

Location and Climate

First, it’s important to evaluate where you’ll be using the charger. Not surprisingly, solar panels need direct sunlight. Without direct sunlight, the panel will turn on and off as it collects and doesn’t collect power.

Hiking on the East Coast typically means you’ll be in and out of direct sunlight throughout the day. Jennifer “Sprinkles” Kelley is a backpacking guide who has hiked the Appalachian Trail (AT), Long Trail, Benton MacKaye Trail, and half of the Finger Lakes Trail. She’s also completed the Great Smoky Mountains 900 miles, and documents her adventures online.

Throughout her adventures, she has attempted to use a solar charger a number of times. On the AT, Kelley sent her charging system home after the first 30 miles when she realized the tree cover wouldn’t allow for enough direct sunlight.

In 2013, Kelley worked at the AT Lodge in Millinocket, Maine—the closest town to Mount Katahdin and where most AT thru-hikers start or finish their journeys.

“Solar chargers were the number one item I took out of packs during pack shakedowns. Hikers refused to believe that the AT is called the green tunnel for a reason,” Kelley tells Digital Trends. “Often, when we picked hikers back up at Jo-Mary Road (approximately 50 miles south on the trail), hikers would then mail home the chargers.”

Now she guides backpacking trips in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and she still has trouble convincing people to leave their solar chargers at home.

“I’ll tell people to leave behind the charger and they’ll sneak it back into their packs,” Kelley says. “On the last morning of a trip, I ask: ‘tell me two things you brought with you that you’ll never bring backpacking again.’ People always admit to bringing the chargers.”

Read more: http://www.digitaltrends.com/outdoors/how-to-choose-a-solar-panel-charger-for-backpacking/#ixzz4TJkLrrIx 
 

Gear Review: Buff Headwear

While it felt like summer would never end for many of us, I'm super excited to start getting into the cooler weather here in the southeast.  With cooler weather comes gear change-overs and one piece of gear I love to use is my Buff (R) headwear!  With more than 10 ways to wear it, I can use it nearly every day!

Buff (R) products are a huge part of my life as both a runner and long-distance hiker.  When I discovered there was a merino wool line I definitely needed to get one.  Merino wool is definitely a smelly, sweaty person's best friend.  With it being a 100% natural product it doesn't hold in odors like synthetic fabrics do.  This is a huge selling point for me!  Another great feature of merino is the breathability factor.  In the summertime it can actually keep you cooler by wicking away moisture and in the winter time it can help you retain more heat.  Merino wool also has a super soft feel against your skin.  

 A great headband for days when it's not crazy cold...

A great headband for days when it's not crazy cold...

When I'm out hiking I've always got a Buff (R) product in my backpack.  I can use it as a headband to keep my hair out of my face when I'm guiding.  I also love wearing it as a hat when I climb into the higher elevations.  It also makes a great balaclava-style face mask for me at cooler temperatures too!

 ...and a great hat when it IS crazy cold!

...and a great hat when it IS crazy cold!

Buff (R) products are a great addition to my running and hiking wardrobe.  I've got several products from Buff, Inc. and while many other companies try to copy, I find they don't compare!

Do you own any Buff (R) products?  What's your favorite way to wear it?  

Disclaimer: I received a Buff (R) to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!"

Finding the Perfect Pack

Getting a backpack can be a daunting task - whether it's your very first ever backpack or a replacement to something you've beaten up to the point of no return.  It takes lots of research and testing before diving in and making the purchase.  If you're looking to purchase a new pack soon, here's my advice for you. 

Determine Your Needs

Not all packs are created equally.  Are you looking for something to take mostly on day hikes with an occasional overnight or two?  Do you need a pack that will last you the entirety of a long-distance hike?  By first determining exactly what you're looking for in a pack, you can immediately narrow down the field.  If you're new to hiking and want a pack that can do both overnights and day hikes, I recommend a pack in the 50-65 liter range for all uses.  A nearly empty 50+ liter pack can still serve you well on day hikes and carry the gear you'll need for overnighters.  

Start Reading Blogs

Many people who are new to backpacking will often just walk into a big box outfitter and start searching for a pack.  I highly, HIGHLY recommend you start reading blogs written by other hikers and pay attention to what type of gear they are carrying before you step foot into a store.  By seeing what packs other hikers doing the type of hiking you're looking to do are carrying, you'll get an idea of what brands might suit your needs best.  

Do Your Research

When it comes to backpacks, here are a few things I recommend you keep in mind while you're doing your research: 
- Does the pack have a lot of straps or pockets? Often times, packs with a lot of straps often come with a heavier weight.  Would you like to have a pack that weighs more than 4 lbs when it's empty?  The answer is no.  
- Does the pack come with interchangeable hip belts or shoulder straps? If you're looking to use the pack for a distance hike chances are you'll lose some weight and might need to change out some things.  If your pack doesn't have these options it might not be worth the investment
- Does the pack carry the load you've got?  If you're upgrading to an ultralight pack you might need to invest in some different gear.  Nothing will ruin a pack quicker than carrying a heavier load than it is designed to carry. 
- Do you need the features?  Some backpacks these days come with built in solar panels or have specially designed electronics pockets.  These are not often necessary for many people I've met.  Is it TRULY something you need?

Educate Yourself on How to Fit a Pack

I cannot recommend this step enough - watch this video and learn how to measure your torso. No backpack on earth is one size fits all.  Any big box store you shop in will try to convince you that an "adjustable" pack will fit you if you adjust it right.  As a small-framed female backpacker I can tell you this is absolutely not true.  Just because you're 6'5" doesn't mean you need a large pack either!  By taking this step into your own hands you can safely tell any store employee the size pack you want to try on. 

Try Out the Pack

This step is not always possible due to the numerous cottage industry pack makers out there these days.  If you've decided a commercially made pack is for you, I recommend you go to the store and try it on.  When you do this, they'll attempt to put weights or sand bags in the pack for you.  Refuse this option and go to the gear you'll actually be carrying.  Put ACTUAL GEAR inside the pack.  If you're buying a pack to replace one you already own, bring your gear into the store with you to try it on.  Not only will you see how the weight distributes, you will also see how the gear you already own will fit inside.  

Make the Purchase

If you're on the fence about a pack, I highly recommend you don't purchase it.  If something doesn't feel right, it won't magically feel right once you hit the trail - I know from experience! There are always other brands to try.  Again - nothing is one size fits all!  Many retailers have great return polices if you decide to try something from a website and it doesn't work for you.

Looking for recommendations?  Here are my favorite packs to recommend to people looking to buy their first overnight packs.  I highly recommend keeping your backpack's empty weight under 3 pounds if you can.  What is the point in carrying a pack that weighs more than this when it's empty?  It's just more weight you could be carrying in water or food!

Granite Gear Crown 60 or Crown 60 Ki for Women

Gossamer Gear Mariposa

ULA Circuit

These are the things I tell people who are looking to purchase a backpack.  What are some important things you think about when you're updating your gear?  

 

Gear Review: Legend Compression Wear

As many of you know by now I'm both a runner and a hiker - the running coming later than the hiking!  Since I've gotten more and more into running I've definitely started looking for products that can not only make the miles feel easier, but also can help me recover faster from my hiking. With my job as a guide and training to run my very first ultra in Decemeber, my legs need all the help they can get.  This is where Legend Compression comes in.  Through my partnership with BibRave as a BibRave Pro, I was given the opportunity to test out some compression gear on a few recent hikes and runs.  Here's my honest review: 

I recently learned Legend Compression had socks for both running and hiking and was super excited to be given the chance to test them both out.  The first thing I noticed when I received both pairs of socks is the fact that even though they're both compression, they aren't nearly as "stiff" or tight as a few other brands of compression socks I own.  The performance socks actually felt SOFT, which I have noticed is lacking in a few other brands.  From reading the letter they sent me, I could see there was a reason for this - these socks have much less compression than traditional socks, only 15-20 mmHg as compared to 20-30 mmHg for other brands.  This graduated compression is believed to be more therapeutic during performance.  I quickly decided to try these guys on. 

 My new Legend Compression performance socks!

My new Legend Compression performance socks!

Putting them on wasn't difficult at all, which is something I have definitely noticed with other brands!  These socks were soft and slid on easily.  I also noticed I had room for my toes to spread out inside of them as well.  It turns out that this is by design.  By giving you room to move your toes you're not only less prone to blister, you've also still got your same gait, which is important for running and hiking.  That's why I'm such a huge fan of wearing shoes that give my toes room to spread out!  I also noticed that the arch of the foot felt nice and snug.  I really like this feature in a compression sock.  

The first time I tried out these socks was during a 12-mile hike with my buddy, Morgan.  We had to hike 6 miles up a mountain to bring some tents to a group of our co-workers.  Due to heavy fall leaf peeper traffic in the park and a long drive, we didn't get on trail until after 2 p.m.  We hiked our six miles in approximately 2 hours and got to camp to start setting up tents.  Less than 20 minutes later, we were on our way back down the 6 miles and made it out in a total of 4 hours and 20 minutes.  I noticed that despite climbing the huge hill my calf muscles still felt alright, which is definitely not always the case!  The real test, for me, is getting compression socks OFF after a long workout.  It's safe to say with a tough hike like this we definitely worked up a sweat and if you've ever taken off a pair of sweaty compression socks you know it can be an Olympic sport!  These socks came off just as easily as they went on!  Another win for me. 

 Team Mo'Sprinkles stopping at an overlook to take in the view (and a few selfies!) on our way back down trail.  

Team Mo'Sprinkles stopping at an overlook to take in the view (and a few selfies!) on our way back down trail.  

As an athlete who does a lot of mountain hiking and running I consider myself someone who tries out a lot of gear and I'm super impressed with Legend Compression.  For those of you who aren't into the longer socks, they also make a hiking specific sock called Tuff made of Merino wool, which I can recommend just as highly.  

If you want to try Legend Compression I've got a 15% off code to share with all of you!  You can use the code "bibsave15" at http://legendcompressionwear.com!

Disclaimer: I received Legend Compression socks to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

Choosing a Water Filtration System

Working as a hiking guide I get lots of questions about water safety.  Frequently when I talk with clients on a hike regarding the spring water in the Smokies, where I work, people will inquire whether or not the water is safe enough to drink.  This is where my hiking guide hat goes on and I let people know with all water it is strongly encouraged to filter out contaminates or to treat it with a chemical drop/tablet.  With all the changes to gear on the market lately, I thought it would be helpful for newbie hikers to compare water filtration methods to help you decide which method is right for you. 

No Filter, No Problem

But this article is all about filters, right?!  Well, we can't talk about water filters without talking about the fact that some people just don't filter water.  And that's ok!  The no filter method was the most popular method I saw when thru hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2012.  In fact, I know many, MANY thru hikers who didn't treat their water after miles of hiking back then.  By not filtering your water, however, you are opening yourself up to contamination issues, Giardia being the most common here on the east coast.  With many, many options on the market, I highly recommend looking into some of the lighter weight filters or treatments on the market today. 

Aquamira Drops

Aquamira Drops were my go-to method of filtration back in the mid 2000's.  In fact, it's the first method of filtration I ever used.  With this method, all you'll need to do is mix together Part A and Part B in the provided cup, wait for it to activate, and add it to your water.  The upside of this is that these drops are pretty cheap in the world of water filtration.  They're also incredibly lightweight.  However, in my experience, Part A and Part B never seem to run out at the same time despite using the exact same amount of each drop.  You'll also be waiting 15 to 30 minutes for your drinking water after the drops have been added.  Another downside? Unless you're pre-filtering your water, you might find yourself drinking a little bit of sand at the bottom.  These drops, when they've sat too long in your hydration bladder or bottle, can also taste strongly of chlorine.  

Iodine Tablets/Drops

Ahhh, good old Iodine.  In tablet form or in tincture form, this stuff is great to carry in your pack.  On my guided trips I carry iodine solution in my first aid kit for disinfecting wounds and kitchen utensils.  In a pinch, I could use it to treat my water too.  Of course, the downside to iodine solution/tablets is the same as it is for Aquamira - waiting to drink water and also possibly drinking up some sand or dirt.  Unlike Aquamira, however, iodine doesn't taste like chorine.  It tastes like iodine - and it tastes like iodine all the time.  

Bleach Drops

Yes, I said bleach drops.  Believe it or not, the stuff you use to get your whites clean in the laundry can also be used to purify your water.  A few drops will do the trick.  Carrying a small dropper of bleach can be an extremely cheap, lightweight solution to keeping your water clean.  However, carrying bleach often means you've repackaged it.  Making sure you've got the bottle sealed up tight is crucial in your pack.  Spilling bleach on gear is never fun!  Like Aquamira and iodine, drinking sandy water is also a possibility.  Again, water that sat in your hydration bladder or bottle too long will also possibly have a chlorine aftertaste.  

A FILTER PUMP

There are many brands of water filter pumps out on the market right now.  NoKey has formerly owned an MSR Sweetwater Pump and the gear shop I worked at in Maine also carried Katadyn Micro filters.  Years ago, these filters were your best defense against not only bacteria, but also protozoa.  However, these days these filters can definitely have a few downsides.  First of all, these filters are pretty heavy, weighing in at a pound or more sometimes.  There are quite a few parts to keep track of, which can make cleaning difficult.  Also, the filters have what we would now consider to be an extremely short shelf life, sometimes as low as 750 liters of water.  Many hikers now find it cumbersome to have to find water deep enough to float your filter, pump your water, and hold your bottles.  However, on the plus side, your water won't have that funky flavor chemical drops tend to leave in the bottle!

Sawyer Mini/Squeeze

The first time I saw a Sawyer filter was in 2012 and I only knew three people using one.  In 2013, it was damn near the only filter I saw on the trail.  This tiny filter has a life of 100,000 liters and weighs approximately 2 ounces (the Mini, not the Squeeze).  It's a lightweight filter that I personally put right on the end of my Camelbak hose and drink right out of, eliminating the need to squeeze water altogether.  The downside of this filter is the fact that many people find the collapsable bottles that come with the filter to be cheap and low-quality.  It also does need to be back flushed regularly to keep it running at a decent speed.  Many people think these filters are too slow.  

SteriPen

This UV pen took the market by storm several years ago when they were first released.  Using UV light to treat water seemed like something straight out of science fiction.  By removing viruses, bacteria, and protozoa, this thing seemed to be the perfect water filtration solution.  The fact that it doesn't use chemicals to treat the water and, frankly, it looks cool, are big selling points to hikers.  The downside to this pen is the thing that makes it neat - it's electronic.  Taking electronics out into the backcountry can sometimes be disastrous.  The SteriPen needs batteries and I've seen these pens fail many times when it comes treating water.  While they're quick to use (1 minute for 1 liter of water) like other methods, you may want to pre filter water to avoid getting sand or debris in your bottle. 

Boiling Your Water

Of course, the tried and true method of boiling water to sterilize it never goes out of fashion.  Of course, if you don't carry a camp stove or maybe if it's been raining for a few days and you can't dry out any wood to build a fire, this can be a problem.  Also, this method will take a little while. Building the fire, boiling the water, and then letting it cool down to a drinkable temperature can take upwards of 20 minutes.  

Here are just a few of the most common methods of treating water in the backcountry.  What water filter method do you use?  What do you like and dislike about your preferred method?  

My Favorite Gear for Newbies

Backpacking gear can be daunting, especially for newbies!  When I first started backpacking several years ago it seemed like it was really difficult to discern what gear I wanted to buy and what could wait.  While I had many friends who were backpackers, not all of them were looking to get the same experiences out of a trip that I was.  While some backpackers are able to carry bigger packs and heavier weights, this was definitely not something I could do!  After a few years of trial and error with gear I've narrowed down what works best for me.  As a person who now leads guided backpacking trips for a living, helping people pick out some great essential pieces of gear is something I do on a constant basis.  Here are the five things I've picked as my favorite gear for new backpackers.  

1) Sawyer Mini Water Filter  This water filter is light, small, fast, and easy to use.  You can even use it inline on your Camelbak/Platypus/Osprey hydration pack to make water filtration fail proof!  I love using this filter inline while I'm hiking and I'll set it us as a gravity system for filtration in camp at night.  With filtration being this easy, you have no excuses to not filter water. 

2) JetBoil Flash Stove  While there are lighter stoves on the market, stoves don't get much easier to use than the JetBoil Flash.  This stove has a built in ignitor to make lighting the stove with a lighter/match/flint completely unnecessary.  Add to the fact that the pot has an integrated cosy, tight fighting lid, and a built on cup and you've got a pretty simple system that any newbie will appreciate!  I use this stove when I'm guiding trips due to the speed of the boiling and it's great when you've got hungry hikers to feed. 

3) Black Diamond Storm Headlamp  This headlamp has lots of neat features in a tiny package.  While you can definitely find lighter and cheaper ones out on the market, this one has all the features you've ever needed in a light.  The brightest setting is up to 250 lumens which makes it great for an impromptu night hike.  It also has the all important red light setting on it, which not only helps you keep your night vision but also keeps from waking up the entire shelter when you need to get up in the middle of the night.  My favorite feature of  all is the lock feature - you turn this feature on and your light won't turn on in your pack.  Stopping for lunch and discovering your headlamp has been on all morning is a real bummer - and battery killer!

4) Z Packs Cuben Fiber Stuff Sacks   Cuben fiber is expensive stuff, but great backpacking gear is an investment and take it from me, I wish I would have bought these a LONG time ago.  Cuben fiber is strong and light and practically indestructible stuff.  I currently have their food bag and a medium sized sack for my clothes.  They're great for keeping my stuff waterproofed, especially for those long rainy nights my food is hanging off my bear line.   

5) Thermarest Inflatable Sleeping Pad  I truly believe you'll get a better night's sleep on an inflatable mattress over one of the roll-up or accordion style foam pads.  After a while foam pads will start to break down whereas I've actually given away my old inflatables as hand-me-downs to other backpackers and they're still going strong.  In fact, the company I work for still has old Thermarest pads from the 1990s that we send out with clients today!  While there are many other brands on the market to chose from, I personally use a Thermarest and it's a brand I'd highly recommend to anyone.  

These are just a few of my favorite pieces of gear to recommend to newbie backpackers.  What is something you would add to this list?  What piece of gear was most beneficial to you when you were learning to backpack?

I'm linking up with CourtneyCynthia and Mar and some of the other folks who link up with us – and please don’t forget to link to your hosts if you are participating!

Milestone Pod - A Smart Pedometer! {and Giveaway!}

 

I've recently jumped on the fitness tracking bandwagon, but not in the traditional sense.  You won't see me running around constantly using my Garmin or wearing a tracker or anything like that, but during the course of my marathon training I started getting obsessed with the data my watch was giving me.  I loved seeing how my pace changed mile by mile.  I really liked watching how I progressed throughout the length of the training.  I also really liked watching my stats change on Strava and even getting a course record locally for a segment. Sure, I live in a small town where hardly anyone runs, but I OWNED that CR!  I recently heard about Milestone Pod through Twitter. It's a small device you can wear on your shoe while you're out running and it will give you not only your mileage, but also gives you feedback on your gait, stride, and even your leg swing!  When I heard about the fact that it didn't use GPS at all I knew I wanted to try it for hiking.  Here's my review of Milestone Pod and how it works for me. 

The first thing I had to do when my Milestone Pod arrived was download the free app and set it up. The app was easy to find and set up and I could use either an email address or my Facebook account to set it up.  Easy peasy! After answering a few questions about my height and weight, my Pod was ready to sync up and use.  The first thing that appealed to me about this device was the fact that it didn't need to be charged every day and could hold 20 hours of data.  It also connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth so I thought that meant it didn't need internet connection to get the data. Unfortunately, the phone does need some sort of internet connection for the device to sync to your phone so that's a strike for me.  I work out in the woods and 20 hours of data is only about 1.5 days' worth for me.  The good news was that it doesn't need to be charged (the battery can last as long as six months depending on your usage) and it can stand up to harsh conditions due to the pod being waterproof. 

 Setting it up is simple! 

Setting it up is simple! 

How Did it Work for Hiking?

The Milestone Pod does work for walkers, but you need to be walking at a decent pace for it to register that you're actually doing a longer walk.  The Milestone Pod actually doesn't register you're walking unless you're taking 100 steps per minute for six minutes or longer.  If you do keep your gait above 100 steps per minute, it will stop recording the data when you fall below that range for six minutes or longer.  I used the pod a few times walking my dog around the neighborhood and at the Greenway in our town and it worked well in measuring my distance.  It was also pretty close to accurate for mileage despite not using GPS.  I usually walk at a 3 mph pace with my dog, or pretty close to that, with few stops.  Leading hikes as a guide, however, is a different story.  Since I am walking at closer to a 1 mph pace on guided hikes with lots of stopping for interpretation and storytelling it didn't really register much of my hike.  In fact, I lead a 6-mile hike and the pod only registered two short segments, both under 1 mile.  I repeated the experiment several times on shorter hikes to see it didn't register any of my activity at all.  In the defense of the pod, I was moving INCREDIBLY slowly.  So, it didn't quite pick up all the data I was hoping for but it did perform well otherwise.  I wore it out on a day when it was pouring rain and the pod didn't short out.  It also went through some mud that day as well and cleaned up very nicely.  

How Does it Work for Running?

So, in true data nerd fashion I tested the pod out on a run recently and I was much, MUCH more impressed.  I ran a 5.1 mile route I run quite frequently to see how much information I could get from the device.  Even though it was laced up on my shoe, it stayed in place just fine and was light enough to not change my gait.  I didn't even notice the pod after the first quarter mile.  When I got home I was excited to sync it up and see what the pod could tell me about my running.  Since my pace was faster now that it was with a hike, it could give me more accurate information about how well I did.  It turns out I was toe striking 100% of the time leading to a 100% low-impact run.  It let me know my cadence was approximately 171 steps per minute, which I know to be true because I've actually done manual cadence work before and I this is close to what I've gotten when I counted myself.  The pod also let me know I've got a 40-inch stride and that my leg swing is always low, which is apparently the opposite of what I want to be doing!  Now that I have the feedback I can work on this. 

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NoKey is now training for the Millinocket Half Marathon and since he hasn't been running in a while I thought it would be fun to let him try the pod.  Since he's in the beginning stages of running now he's doing a walk/run method to build up a base.  Since his speed isn't consistent enough for specific analytics yet we can't get much info about his form, but we can get info about his speed, cadence, and even his "efficiency" score.  With this information, as well as using feedback from me during our training, he's finding that running is much more comfortable for him than it was in the past.  I know he has a history of severe foot pain when running and making a few microadjustments during his runs has really helped him a lot!

So, while Milestone Pod didn't work out as well as I had hoped for guided hiking, I'm super impressed with the stats it gave me for running and I'm sure it would work well for trail/ultra running as well!  I think for a beginner runner or someone who is ready to up their mileage and aim for a bigger goal this device could help you learn from your form and improve your running.  

Have you ever tried a device that can give you stats about your running form?  Would you be interested in trying one out?  Do you love data and competing with your friends on social media?

Disclaimer: I was provided the Milestone Pod for free in exchange for some feedback about how well this device performed out on the trails.  I was not compensated any other way.  

The SLS3 Foot Sleeve - Try Out Thursday Linkup Post!

Disclaimer: I was provided the SLS3 Plantar Fasciitis Compression Sleeves for free in exchange for an honest review.  I was not compensated any other way.  As always, all opinions are my own.  

I was recently given the opportunity to test out the new Plantar Fasciitis Compression Sleeves from SLS3 and, while I don't have plantar fasciitis,  I have been having some ankle pain since my marathon back in April.  It's been unseasonably warm for the most part here in East Tennessee, so when I saw these were ankle-length compression sleeves I jumped at the chance to try them out.  Here's my honest opinion about these socks: 

The first chance I had to test these sleeves out was going to be during an Appalachian Trail day hike with a client out to Charlie's Bunion.  This hike out and back is 8 miles and when I hike it with my clients it can be between 7 and 8 hours of trail time.  Since I hike slower with clients and I've been having the ankle pain lately, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to get in a good test!  I put on the sleeves directly underneath my Smartwool hiking socks before putting on my shoes.  They felt like traditional compression socks, but were much easier to get on and get adjusted due to the fact they had an open toe.  I was worried this would be bothersome, but it really didn't require too much extra work to slide on another pair of socks over them.  During the hike I had no ankle pain at all, despite the slower pace and cooler temperatures (it actually snowed up there in MAY!)  The only problem I did have was that my toes started to feel like they were swelling up after wearing these socks for about 7 hours.  Under normal circumstances, I wouldn't be running that long, so if you aren't planning on wearing them for that long, I'd say this wouldn't be an issue.  

 My favorite hiking shoes - Altra Lone Peak 2.5, with the Smartwool/SLS3 compression combo. Ready to hit the trail!

My favorite hiking shoes - Altra Lone Peak 2.5, with the Smartwool/SLS3 compression combo. Ready to hit the trail!

After washing and drying these compression sleeves, I also tested them out on a 4.2 mile run a few days later.  I haven't been running much since my marathon back in April, partly due to foot pain and partly due to having a physical job where my hours are erratic!  I'm getting better about running though and have since replaced my shoes since I've determined that is what was causing my ankle pain. Anyway, the run I tested these sleeves on was a route I was familiar with as I had run it many times during training.  It goes through an older neighborhood where I live and the sidewalks have lots of cutouts for driveways and walking from the street.  Since I was also running streets this meant I had lots of turns to take.  This was another reason I had avoided the neighborhood since my ankles have been sore - lots of extra movement for my ankles.  While I did have some minimal ankle pain in these socks still, for the duration of my 40ish minute run and cool down the pain in my ankles was significantly reduced - which I had totally expected due to the compression.  Even with the sidewalk irregularities and taking the turns on the streets my ankles still held up fairly well.  

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SLS3 has provided me a link to share with my blog readers to get these compression sleeves on Amazon for the discounted price of $17.90!  They're also Prime Eligible for shipping if you're a Prime Member!  You can get the deal on Amazon by clicking here.  (not an affiliate link!)  If you prefer shopping on the SLS3 website, you can use the code BLOG40 to save 40% off your purchase SITEWIDE.  Lastly, you can find SLS3 on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram as well.  

Have you ever tried compression socks or sleeves for running or hiking?  Did you think they helped with soreness or pain?  I'd love to know what you thought!  Leave me a comment below or find me on Facebook or Twitter to get the conversation started!

 I'm linking up with  Running With SD  for Try Out Thursday!

I'm linking up with Running With SD for Try Out Thursday!

Got Dirty Laundry? Clean it Up with Scrubba!

Everyone who has ever gone camping knows dirty laundry will pile up.  For us as long-distance hikers, we know dirty socks are the worst laundry offenders.  While we would often do what we call a "pre-rinse cycle" with our socks by washing them out in the shower with us when we were getting ready to do laundry, we always tried to think of an easier way to do it.  Enter the Scrubba. This dry bag has a built in "washing board" for scrubbing your laundry.  If you're using this bad boy in the backcountry, it's a great way to practice Leave No Trace ethics while cleaning up your smelly hiker clothes at the same time. 

I decided to give the Scrubba a try washing some of NoKey's hiking clothes.  The bag has a water fill line on it for dirty clothes and has two levels depending on how much you're trying to wash.  Since I would be primarily using this in the backcountry, I did it my way.  I put in a pair of long shorts, a T shirt, boxer briefs, a pair of socks, and NoKey's signature balaclava.  I poured in 750 mL of water (24 oz) and a squirt of Dr. Bronner's.  I let out air before rolling down the bag.  Then, I used the valve build in on the side of the bag to let out more air.  Then, I commenced to scrubbing!  The directions on the bag recommend washing from 30 seconds to 3 minutes, but with NoKey's clothes I opted for 3 minutes.  The scrubbing is actually not hard at all.  I bounced the bag around a few times and scrubbed some more.  The bag recommends dumping water out and then putting in clean water to rinse.  Since I'm a hiker, I like to preserve water (and nature) by only dumping one load of gray water.  I pulled each item out of the bag one by one and rinsed it and wrung it into the bag.  I think hung it all out to dry.  I then dispersed the gray water around the area away from the tent. 

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 Scrubbing away in my Scrubba! 

Scrubbing away in my Scrubba! 

I really liked using this bag. I like seeing the directions clearly printed on the bag and the window for checking on how much dirt comes off your clothes. I also liked that it can use much less water than it calls for depending on what you're washing.  It was easy to use very Leave No Trace friendly.  I also liked the fact that I can use the bag as a stuff sack for clothing.  At less than 5 ounces, it's comparable in weight to other dry bags on the market with a few extra features.  I would recommend this bag to anyone who does extending backpacking trips or even run-cations - a good way to pre-rinse those race clothes and keep them separate in your luggage!  As for water usage, I only used 48 ounces of water to wash and rinse five pieces of clothing - much less than I would have doing a rinse in a hostel or hotel sink during a hike. 

 Laundry drying in camp. 

Laundry drying in camp. 

Disclaimer: I was provided the Scrubba free of charge in exchange for a review. I was not required to give it a positive review and, as always, all opinions are my own. 

My Thru Hiking Gear

Hey everyone!  First of all if you're new to this blog and you're just here for gear list ideas, WELCOME!  I'm very glad you found this blog and I hope you stick around and use the search feature to find some helpful advice for newbie hikers or wanna-be thru hikers!  For those of you who are regular readers to my blog - welcome back!  This post is just an informational post to help you find a new page I've put on the website.  I am often asked on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and via email through this website what brand _____ I am carrying.  I have made a few gear posts, but I had an idea: Make a permanent page on the website showing the gear I carry.  Not only will it be easier for you guys to find, it will also be easier for me to update my gear as I switch out or replace certain pieces.  

You can click this link (sprinkleshikes.com/Gear/) and go directly to the page!  Or, if you want to look around on the site, you can find the gear I carry under the "About Us" tab.  Hover over "About Us" and you will get a drop down menu.  The option at the bottom is "Gear We Carry" and you'll find all Sprinkles' gear there.  NoKey's gear list will be added soon!