Monthly Archives: March 2011

My Birthday Present!!!

So my birthday present is our upcoming trip but my husband also wanted to give me something physical too.  So we went to REI with our dividend and he let me pick out my first pair of trekking poles!  I’ve always had a hiking stick but these are my first poles and I am so excited about getting to use them next week!  I purchased the  Leki Khumbu Aergon SpeedLock Trekking Poles.  It is a discontinued 2010 version of the new 2011 poles from their Performance Mountain Trek line.  The SpeedLock doesn’t seem to be a popular feature for a lot of people but I personally am inept when it comes to using the internal twisting kind.  No matter how hard I try it never seems to work.  So I prefer the external lock design.  I’ve tried them out on several day hikes already and love them!

These poles are made of aluminum with rubber handles that feature air vent holes that allow cool air to reach your palms to prevent over sweating.  This is good since I’m hiking in humid Ga and I went with aluminum as I am planning on using these poles till they break and we are intending to go off trail in the future.  They collapse to 70 cm and extend to 145 cm but I’m 5′ 2.5″ and so far I’ve never had to take them past 125 and only then when going downhill.  As with any multi-sectioned pole you can put either section as any length you want to achieve the overall height you’re looking for, but as with most of the poles I’ve seen there are markings that make getting to your adjustment easy and quick once you know the length that is right for you in the terrain you’re hiking in.  On more or less level terrain I leave them at 110 cm which is the lowest marked length.

I got the white pair for a bit more of a feminine look as well as because they were $20 off.  If you don’t know anything about REI membership let me explain a little.  It’s a co-op store and you get 10% back on all full priced items you buy called a dividend, as well as access to a super members only used gear sale twice a year.  When the dividends come out in March you also get a 20% off members only one use coupon that has to be used on a full priced item.  So when I found out that the poles were 20% off anyway I used my dividends on the poles and still get to use my yearly coupon on something else (hopefully a sleeping pad).  So the poles were originally $100.00 and I paid $57.00 for them which was one of the only reasons I was able to get them.

Right now the adjustable wrist loops are stiff, but that is good since it means they probably won’t slip without some real effort and I can keep them at my desired length.  The loops themselves are very cushioned and comfy.  The fact that they are adjustable is something I didn’t consider important until I got them home and started playing around with it.  Having the loops set just right increase the comfort noticeably.  Another thing I didn’t consider important is that these poles are Unisex.  I just picked the poles I liked best in our price range.  I wasn’t necessarily determined to get one or the other.  I am naturally wide in my shoulders, hips and wrists and have frustrations with many things that just don’t accommodate a woman who is short and stocky at a healthy weight.  The wrist straps being adjustable and unisex let me decide what is comfortable to me and have a much wider adjustable range than the women specific poles I have tried out in store.  Also I noticed that the handle grips are also more comfortable to me and my fingers don’t feel as cramped in the finger grooves.  I never noticed the difference till I got them home, but I am sure glad I went with the unisex poles.

The last thing I wanted to mention is the weight.  They are listed at 19.4 oz but I weighted them at 22 (I don’t really trust my scale though).  A lot of UL Backpackers seem really concerned about the weight of their trekking poles and while I agree it’s good to be weight conscious about it, I’m not entirely sure I feel that it’s something I will worry too much about.  My requirements for a trekking pole was 1. a brand I trust 2. a length that was going to work for me 3. a comfortable handle and wrist strap 4. overall durability.  If I came in under a pound doing that in my current price range then all the better, but weight is something I feel willing to sacrifice on for a pole I love.  I coddle and baby a lot of my gear, but I need a pole I can really beat up and for me that means getting a Leki Aluminum pole.  I do wish I could have gotten cork handles but the price was just not in our budget this time.  For trail only hiking (aka my AT trip) I’d love to have the Leki Cressida Aergon SpeedLock poles which also feel a little better suited for larger hands despite being a woman specific pole, but I’m really happy I got a set of poles with rubber hand grips for my all around poles.

I’ll be posting a proper review in a few weeks under the Gear Review section.  So far I’m really happy with these poles!

MYOG – Make Your Own GORP!

Joslyn’s Kroger GORP Special

So for my first MYOG, I am making my own GORP.  Some people may not think of food as gear, but I think it’s probably the most important thing in my pack next to my insulation items.  Food is hard for me since I am an extremely picky eater and don’t usually like any of the pre-made foods that one can buy freeze dried.  I absolutely HATE all the store made trail mix/GORP choices out there, specifically the flavor powder and the types of nuts available.  I originally went to the store in an effort to find some cheap backpacking food for our trip that I could buy in store since most of the dried food items I can buy are things I’m going to have to order online.  It was on a whim that I started grabbing things for some homemade GORP.  Part of my reason for putting this mix up here in it’s current state is because everything I put in it is easily attainable at Kroger.  That is something that makes a big difference to people who don’t have a whole foods on every corner.

To start these are the things in their packaging that I put in my mix.

Now Kroger did have some very nice granola options in their organic section and they looked quite tasty if you liked the things in them, but I went with a Kashi cereal base for several reasons

1. Price, this was much cheaper than the all natural granola options

2. I did not like the options at all mostly due to I dislike cranberries and didn’t want blueberries in the mix though there was a strawberry one I think I’ll try soon.

3. The Kashi was already baked with honey and had a good variety of grains I like as well as just the right amount of almonds already mixed in.

4. And this was a big factor for me, Calories.  The Kashi has 200 Calories per cup!  I got 14 cups out of one box.

I started with the Cereal.  For mixing and recording a specific mixture I put two cups in a mixing bowl.

Then in went 8 Apricot slices.  When I do this again I will probably slice these in half or quarters even.  Apricots, though very sweet and wonderful and a little tough and chewy once dried and when whole like this not really great for just popping in your mouth.  I am slightly concerned that slicing them will expose the inside, which is juicier than the exterior, could mean they lose some days worth of shelf life, but I will probably experiment with that.

Next I threw in 4-5 dehydrated apple slices.  I’ve broken these up into bite size bits.  I have a feeling even if I had not done that, being in my pack would have done it for me anyway.

Then in went 1/3 cup of banana chips.  The apple and banana are probably my favorite part! 🙂

I added 1/3 Cup of the R part of the GORP next and…

finished up with one serving size of my favorite M&M’s, Pretzel M&M’s.

This is what it looks like all mixed together.  I have left out the P part of GORP in this mix.  I tried it and it just didn’t work for me this mix.

This is one bowl worth of mix and I got 7 baggies out of the box of cereal with left overs of everything else.  But my favorite part about this mix is not it’s sweet flavor and cruncy texture or the fact that it is made up of some of my favorite snacks but that after adding up the calories from the serving sizes, each bag averages 500 calories each!

I would love to try a lot of different things with my GORP including chocolate covered raisins, vanilla yogurt bites strawberries, blackberries and more, but I was surprised at how hard some of those things are to find at Kroger without being one step away from a diabetic coma in a bag.

PMT – April 2011

As you may have read from my earlier post, Richard and I are planning our first backpacking trip the second week of April, and I am getting quite excited about it.  I thought I’d just give a little info on where we’re going.  We will be going to the Pine Mountain Trail here in Georgia.  It is a 23 mile point to point trail with a nice low elevation change to start off with and some great scenery.  My plan is to hike 6 miles the first day, 9mi the second and 8mi the third.  My reasoning for this is the first day I wanted to give ourselves more time if we got a late start out of town, or if we hike slower than I think we will since we’ve never had loaded packs, or if we just wanted to take more time since the first part of the hike is full of waterfalls and cascades.  Also if 6 miles kicks our butts worse than I think it’s not too much to still turn around and hike out.  I think we’ll be able to hike 1.5-2 miles an hour since we average 2-3 with 10-15 lb packs and our estimated pack weight is about 20-25lbs.  but if we hike slower than I think, we still have reasonable goals in place… hopefully. 🙂  I’m still gathering all my info so some of this might change but I feel like we have a pretty good start!

Tent vs. Tarp

This is probably one of the biggest discussions I have come up against in my search of the Ultra Light.  So far here’s my break down of the two…

Tent: heavier, cramped, and a bad weight to dollar ratio (aka to get the weight down you have to spend a lot more with tents than tarps), and you pretty much have to purchase one, but more fool proof weather and setup wise, and they add a degree of extra warmth as well as a layer between you and bugs.

Tarp: Harder to set up and can be really miserable late at night/early in the morning if you set it up wrong, they tend to be a tad colder, and you have a higher chance of bugs if no bug netting layer is added; but much lighter, a great dollar to weight ratio, amazing weather protection if you know how to set it up, and the best of all they are really easy to make and even if you buy one they are really easy to customize without destroying.

For me personally I like the idiot-proofness, bug security and the little extra heat of a tent but HATE lugging it everywhere and can’t stand pay so much for something I don’t actually need unless the bugs and weather are bad.  Fortunately for people like me there is a great and amazing third option that I’m quite fond of; the tarp-tent.  Low weight, low prices, just the right amount of bug and weather protection and several of them make setup very easy.  They are still heavier than a good silnylon tarp but most are under a 1.5lb for two people at right at to just a little over 2lbs for three.  My favorite brand is Henry Shires Tarptents, but there are many good brands including some of the ones I liked, Alpinelight Gear, Light Heart Gear, Bear Paw Wilderness Designs, and Mountain Laurel Designs.

There is of course the other option that many people choose which is Hammock camping but I find they are WAY too heavy for what you’re getting and if you’re backpacking with more than yourself not worth it at all, but I can see the advantage to it since you never sleep on the hard ground!

Right now I’m having to live with the Kelty Grand Mesa 2 due to it was the cheapest best backpacking tent we could get and still come in under our self imposed 6lbs for 2 people limit for our first tent.  Our next tent is going to be the Henry Shires Cloudburst 2, which will be 2lbs 6oz, easily beating our goal of 3lbs for 2 people.  I considered the Squall 2 for quite some time since we really don’t like hiking with a lot of gear on day trips without trekking poles, but in the end Richard is just too big a guy to try and fit through the opening that the Squall 2 had to offer and we are too concerned that he’d knock the poles down in the middle of the night or whatnot.  Besides I just prefer the setup and vestibule area of the Cloudburst.

Hey Everybody!!

Hello All,

My name is Joslyn and I hike with my husband Richard (we are still looking for our trail names 🙂 ).  We live in North Georgia and love getting outside.  We have two dogs, Dakota and Jäger, but they don’t get to come with us as much as we’d like on our outdoor adventures.  Dakota is my 13 year old dog I have had since I was a little girl and Jäger is our 3 year old Miniature Dachshund which is why neither of them come with us very often.

Richard grew up here, but me, I am west coast born and raised.  In my life I have done a lot of back country camping and off road adventures.  My family has been actively Civil War Reenacting once a month for 10 years now and it is a whole ‘nother world from the big city I spent every other day of the year.  It’s a world where dinner came out of a dutch oven; sleeping with nothing more than a canvas tent, two wool blankets, and a bed of straw was normal; and a Port-a-john was a luxury.  It never occurred to me to complain though or want to stay home, I was having way too much fun!  I was seeing some amazing places and spending time with some of the most unforgettable people I have ever met.  So when Richard and I moved to Georgia in 2009 and I found out that a majority of the population I was now living with thought camping was getting in the RV, heading to the local state park, and taking the kids down to the pool; I couldn’t do it.

Now don’t get me wrong, the people I lived with in my big city probably thought the same thing, but it just wasn’t the attitude I was accustomed to at all.  So I went searching for something that felt familiar.  I’m sure you can guess what I found.  That Christmas, Richard got a seasonal job at REI, a store that was completely new to me since the things we bought for my last hobby usually came from a store operating out of a caravan canvas tent.  I stepped inside and discovered a whole new world not so different from my own.  I was as giddy as the proverbial kid in a candy store; every piece of gear was a new adventure and another thing I just had to try.  Now I don’t have to tell most of you there is really nothing so special about REI and I have walked into it and many other backpacking stores since then without so much as a twinkle, but as I’m sure you are also probably aware, it had very little to do with the store itself.  It was the magic of coming face to face with the hobby of my dreams.  That thing I could throw myself into, daydream about at work and strive to do as much as possible.  I was hooked from the moment I saw that first pack hanging on the wall.

Thus began my love affair with backpacking.  It was realized in the skip of a heartbeat and wholeheartedly embraced in seconds.  The idea of ultralight backpacking came much slower.  I was nervous and a bit skeptical at first; many are.  But the more I learned, the more I just knew; I never wanted to set foot on a trail loaded down with a traditional pack.  I didn’t want to see the world with heavy, begrudging feet, and I couldn’t stand the thought of looking at my pack with disgust not wanting to put it on, or deciding not to check out what was on top of an unplanned mountain because I’d have to lug my gear up it.

2008 hit us hard and we are in no way rich.  In fact most people would classify us as poor.  Every dollar counts and we don’t have any just laying around.  Still we are refusing defeat and are fighting for our right to enjoy our free time in the manner we choose.  It’s not been easy.  We have been squirreling away gear and pestering family to give us nothing but backpacking equipment.  I have been yelled at more than once “Joslyn could we just not talk about backpacking again!?”.  Now, a year and a half after our dream was born, we are preparing to take our first steps, those essential, beautiful baby steps on our first backpacking trip. I can’t wait…

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