The days grow longer, yet time still remains the same…
Another words, over the last few months, I have had a lot more stuff to do during the day, every day. Work is picking up, not to mention being on call 24/7, every other week, really takes up a great deal of my time. As well, after-school & weekend activities for the kids have picked back up. And over the last few months, I have made it a point to simply spending more time being active… whether at the gym, or at the park, or wherever.
The point is, between the stuff I have to do, and the stuff I need/should do, I have had quite a bit less time to sit and keep my blog & YouTube page updated to the same extent that it has been in the past. And I am ok with that.
However, despite all of this, I still plan to find time, here and there, to make updates to both, my blog, and my YouTube page. As I have been doing over the last few weeks though, it looks like I will probably update my YouTube page more often than my blog. Surprisingly, it is easier for me to make a quick little video, edit it, then upload it and let it be, as opposed to doing that, and sitting down to take the time to write up a few thousand word write up to go along with it. Besides, as some may realize, my videos usually say the same thing as my write-ups anyway…
So, today, sitting here on call (I did have to go in to work this morning), I wanted to take the time to explain this, as well as a few other things. And I also wanted to quickly mention a few (smaller) items I have picked up over the last few weeks (which I have highlighted on my blogs FaceBook page already), and discuss some things that I have had for a while which needed an update.
From here on out, I feel like most of my write up’s will likely be trip reports. I will still try to do a pre-trip report discussion, as well as a post hike gear talk discussion, but I cannot promise that all the time. And if I do get any big items, I will try to do my typical unboxing/first look video on those things as well… however, I don’t think that there will be many of those either. (More on this later.) As well, if there is anything that I feel is just “big” I will also try to get something up for that too. For instance, before I do my GORUCK challenge in December, I have all intentions of doing a write-up, with a video, in which I talk a bit more about the actual challenge, and the gear I will be using. (No, it is not UL backpacking… but it is my blog.)
Other than this, I will also try to do some more, long-term, gear reviews as I can. Over the last few years, I have spent a fair share of money on backpacking gear. Many items did not get tons of use, whereas a few other items have been used a bit more, and even fewer have been used every time I have been out since buying that piece. But, I have found pieces that I enjoy using, and want to continue using… basically, what works for me. Sure, there are other things that will come out that I will drool over, but hopefully, it won’t be quite as bad as before since I do have things I love and don’t want to replace… We shall see.
Honestly though, my biggest problem is just simply getting out for hikes. As I mentioned above, I have a lot of things I need to do with my time (as we all do), but that makes getting away for a hike a bit tougher. There are a few other things that add to that difficulty too… such as distance. I enjoy going to the mountains to hike, and to do that, I am looking at a minimum of a 6 hour drive, one way. That means 12 hours of driving, which takes a deep cut into free time I do get. Another issue I personally have is I have never enjoyed solo hiking, so I try to line up my hikes with times that others can go with me, which really makes getting out even tougher. (This is a whole ‘nother topic though… and I am trying to work on it… in fact, I have a hike coming up in which the first 2 days I will likely be solo… so, I will see how that goes…)
So, as you can see, between the amount of gear I have cycled through, and the amount of time I am able to get out and use the gear, it has been tough on me to write long-term reviews. But, this does not take away from the fact that I really enjoy first look type videos/write ups. Being 6 hours away from the mountains, also means I am a long way away from any type of outdoor gear store. I have no options of walking into a B&M and putting my hands on anything. For this reason, when I am looking at a new piece of gear, I search the net for any type of reviews I can find of that item. The stock photo’s on most items just aren’t worth much to me, and I want a better idea. Even if it is a new, out-of-the-box review, just watching someone handle a piece of gear will help me out. As well, sometimes, even these first look reviews will shed some light on some aspect of that piece of gear that I was not aware of. Now, that does not mean that I take that person’s “review” to heart… but, IMO, it usually isn’t too hard to tell when a review is “legitimate” or not. Also, even if someone loves, or hates, an item, I try to look past that and make up my own mind about it… The fact is, someone loves something because it works for them, or it doesn’t… We all have different needs, so that person’s experience with an item doesn’t really mean I will feel the same way about it. On the other hand, I don’t expect anyone watching my videos to expect the same thing, and for this reason, I try not to project my feelings onto others. I just cannot tell someone that they “will” or “won’t” like an item, because, I have no idea if the will or not. But, I can attempt to describe the actual facts to my viewers, and let them digest that on their own.
So… off of that topic… Regardless, gear reviews will still be a part of my blog, but won’t be as often as they used to be, and eventually, I will try to start adding in more long-term reviews.
I have also mentioned above that I have been spending more time off of my rear, and being active. Almost 5 months ago, I had decided that it was time to lose a little weight, and get a bit more fit. So, I changed my diet, and even started going to the gym and working out. As a result, I have lost around 43 lbs! Now, not only do I fit in clothes I haven’t worn in years, but some of those are even a little too big for me! However, just because I have lost this weight doesn’t mean I am looking to get static again… instead, it is my goal to get in even better shape. This is part of the reason why I finally decided to take up Gizmo Joe’s offer and signed up for a GORUCK challenge! The challenge will not be until December (although, they have them every weekend), but this is a great motivation to not only keep up with my goal, but to continue to push myself harder, to be in even better shape. (And yeah, to get some new gear too…)
And of course, loosing this weight will make my backpacking experiences all the better too! When I started out backpacking, I carried a heavy pack (right at 60 lbs to be exact). Despite the weight, I loved being out there though, but I realized that I needed to lighten up my pack. And while I knew it even then, I didn’t admit it, but I also needed to lighten up my body too. This is also how my blog came about too… not only was I using it as a journal to share my pictures, and trip report with my family, but it became a way for me to keep up with my transition from being a heavy weight backpacker, to an ultralight weight backpacker. And this was a way for me to share this transition with the entire world. I had (and still do) hoped that these entries would help others that were going through the same transition, as well as allow others that have been there, done that, to leave feedback for me to learn from as well.
Overall, at this point in time, I feel like my blog has met this goal on both ends. I get quite a few emails from folks asking me to help them out, and I have also learned a lot from others that have posted on entries in which I have shared my experiences. For this, I am very happy, and I appreciate all of my readers that have continued to watch, and read my content. I try to make it a point to express my appreciation when responding to all of the comments & questions, and will continue to do so….
Anyway, as I mentioned, I have lost some weight, and have overall gotten in better shape. And I highly encourage everyone to do the same. Learning how to safely loose weight in your backpack is important (I believe), but shedding body weight is even more so. Being in better shape will allow me to continue to go farther, faster, and longer.
So… to start wrapping this up some…
There are 2 new pieces of gear that I do have my eye on at the moment:
- Montbell Ex Light Down Anorak. I can sorta justify this… as I said, I have lost weight, and now my size XL Ex Light, and my UL Down Inner Parka are a bit baggier on me than before. So, I am debating trying to sell them, and putting that combined amount towards this new piece in a size Large. It is lighter than my UL Down Inner Parka, but still features a hood, a draw cord at the waist, and has a kangaroo pocket. All things that my Ex Light does not have…And honestly, at $219, it is not a bad price either…
- Jetboil MiniMo. I am not a huge canister stove guy, but when it comes to canister stoves, my Jetboil Sol is the best I have used. However, when I pulled my Jetboil Sol out of the gear closet a few weeks ago to boil water for some hot tea, I realized that the aluminum threads on the burner were worn out. (Picture below.) The burner wouldn’t screw onto a canister and stay on. So, I have contacted Jetboil and sent the burner in for inspection… At this point though, I don’t know if they will repair/replace the burner (even though it is quite obvious this is a product failure), or tell me tough luck. If they don’t fix it, despite this, I will likely want to replace the stove. My first option is to buy another Sol burner unit, however, for that price, I would rather catch the Jetboil Sol Aluminum on sale and spend a couple extra $$ and have the aluminum up that goes with it. (Then I would have both, the AL and the Ti cups.) However, Jetboils’ newest arrival, the MiniMo, looks like a better option. I could use the MiniMo burner with my Ti cup from the Sol, or the higher volume, MiniMo cup. At this point in time though, I am going to hold up and wait and see what Jetboil tells me about my burner…
Other than this, there are a couple of other items that I have picked up over the last couple of months that I want to mention. Nothing really big, but figure now is a good time to bring them up. As well, there is one item that I would like to give an update about. (I guess you could call this a “long-term” review.) I will start with that item first.
Just over a year ago I was looking for a tripod alternative to my Joby Gorillapod, and I ended up picking up the Velbon V-Pod. Initially, I loved it. It weighed in at 10 oz with a cuben fiber sleeve, yet stood about 40″ tall when fully extended. This was huge when compared to the 6″ or so I got out of the Joby Gorillapod. I have carried it on every hike I have been on since getting it and it has been handy to have. I have even recommended it to a few folks, however, on my last hike, it started having some issues. At first, I thought it was nothing, but after looking at it a bit closer a few days ago, I found that it was indeed, something.
The pins that lock the legs out have completely come up missing in one leg. This makes the tripod useless since one of the legs will not stay extended. As well, I have noticed that some of the little plastic covers that protect the pin, and releases the pin so that the leg can collapse, has broken off. So, this is a bit disappointing. And returning it is not really an option since I had to purchase it from Amazon.UK… as in, oversea’s. I can’t imagine trying to return an item on the other side of the world… Not to mention that I paid $77 for this item. So, for now, I am going back to my Joby Gorillapod, and will be on the lookout for another, actual tripod to carry with me…
And now to some new gear…
Greenbelly Bars. Chris Cage contacted me a little while back and offered to send me some of these bars to try. He crafted these bars after completing an AT thru hike. He wanted something that was a healthy, yet tasty, filling alternative to what is offered already, and these bars are the result. They are made from 100% natural ingredients, and pack a whopping 640 calories per serving! At the moment, they are offered in 3 different flavors, and can be purchased as a variety pack, or as a bundle of the same flavor. As well, if you use the code “ILOVEHIKING” when checking out, you will receive 15% off of your total order!
Bear Grylls UL Summit Day Pack. This purchase was the outcome of browsing the Gear Deals thread over on BPL. This is a 4 oz backpack that cost $11. That is shipped, to your door. It is a simple pack. The main compartment is accessed through a zipper on the front, and it has a single mesh pocket on one side. The straps are simply 2 layers of nylon material, and there is not frame to the pack. It is around 20L in size, and it really does weigh in at 4 oz on my scales. I am not sure what I will use this for, but at $11, with a zippered main compartment, I wanted to check it out. It seems well-built, and like it will stand up to a bit of abuse, but the straps may be a bit uncomfy… depending on how much weight is in the pack I guess… It will come in handy for something though!
Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Quarter Cube. A while back, I traded in my small, cuben fiber stuff sack from ZPacks, for the Eagle Creek Pack-It Quick Trip bag to use as my ditty bag. However, this turned out to be be a bit of overkill, as well as a bit heavier than I wanted. But, I like the quality of these bags, as well as the zippered opening, so I decided tp pick up one of the smaller Quarter Cube bags… and it turned out to be a good decision. It is still heavier than my cuben stuff sack (0.2 oz vs 0.45 oz) but it a bit larger, and as I mentioned, has a zippered opening. It actually unzips like a panel loader. The zip goes around about 1/4 of one side, along the entire top, and then about half way down the opposite side. So, it is easy to open it up and see everything inside the pouch. At this point, despite the fact that it is heavier than my beloved cuben fiber stuff sack, I plan to keep using it.
Therm-A-Rest NeoAir Mini Pump. This is not a new item as it has been around for a year or 2 that I know of, but it has been something that has been on my list for a while. I finally got around to picking one up off of Amazon about 2 weeks ago for $32 (and as of this writing, it is $29). First off, it is a bit of a LUXURY item, but it has a good purpose. Obviously, it is to blow up a NeoAir sleeping pad. Of course I can do this by mouth as I have always done before, but the nice thing about this is that it minimizes the amount of moisture being pumped into the air pad. Now, let me say that the insulation inside a NeoAir is not affected by moisture as it is in other pads with foam, synthetic, or even down insulation, but I feel like introducing excessive amounts of moisture into an air pad (such as when blown up by mouth) could affect the R-Value. Maybe I am wrong on this though… it is my own theory. Anyway, some other uses it could have is to help stoke a wood fire/stove and get it going faster, providing a bit of air movement on still, muggy, nights, and even speeding up the time to clear moisture off of camera lenses when introduced from a cool climate, to a warm, humid climate. But yeah, it is still a luxury item that weighs in at 2.3 oz with 2 lithium AAA batteries. I could do without, but I am quite excited to carry it along!
So, I think that pretty much wraps it up for now. As I mentioned a few times, I have a hike coming up in October in which I will be ticking off another 67 miles of the AT that I do not have yet, and I will try to get something up before hand on that, and I will definitely put a trip report up after I get back. As well, I am planning to put up a closer look at my GORUCK gear that I will be using before my challenge… but that will be closer to December as I will need to finish getting my stuff, and do some training with it all so I can nail it down. What is interesting here though, is that while carrying a lot of weight is a requirement, carrying only what we need is really encouraged. So, even though we are going heavy, we are also trying to go minimal… a lot like UL backpacking, huh?
So, for those of you still around, thanks for your time. I appreciate all of your support, and your feedback! Until later,
Disclaimer: I received the Greenbelly Bars free of charge. I do not make any money off of any sales of his bars though, even if you do use the code. He extended this code to my readers out of his own generosity. I paid for all other items with my own money, and am not being compensated in any way for writing about them.