Monthly Archives: April 2014

What’s Ultralight All About, Anyway?

As I have been talking to many other backpackers from all walks and styles, I have run up against this question a few times now.  Okay so the question most often is “How did you get your pack so light?!”  But the root of how I did it is what UL is all about.  I thought I’d take a post off from my JMT prep and just talk about why I chose to be an ultralight backpacker and the philosophy behind the whole movement.

A Change of Necessity 

Looking back at my very first post, my reasoning for going UL are pretty much the same now as it was then; I just can’t enjoy myself with that much weight on my back.  More than that, I want to be able to pick up my pack and head out into the wild places when I’m 60 or even 70 and I know that if I take 40-50 lbs now, I won’t be able to do it then.  I know my body and I know myself and for me it’s a necessity to go light.  Beyond that, it has been really amazing and empowering to learn skills that allow me to leave some things behind.  After going UL, I just don’t understand why someone would take more weight if they didn’t have to and I’d be lying if I didn’t also admit that getting all nerdy about gear is a lot of fun for me. 🙂

Take Knowledge, Not Gear

I don’t know where I first heard that phrase or who even told it to me, but it has been the root of everything I’ve done in backpacking for a while now.  I take a quilt instead of a sleeping bag because I know that putting insulation underneath me and then flattening it with my body weight doesn’t add anything to my night and adds pointless weight to my back.  I take a tarp instead of a tent because I know how to optimize the natural protection of the wilderness I’m in and the best ways to set up a tarp to protect me from whatever I might encounter.  I also know how to read the sky during my trip and a weather report ahead of time to get a complete picture of what I might be in store for each night.  I don’t take a GPS because I work really hard to keep my map and compass skills sharp.  I test and try out my clothing in all kinds of situations so I can know with absolute certainty what I can leave at home and what really has to be in my pack.  Because of all the knowledge I have gained, I am more confident and self reliant not just when I’m out in the woods but in every area of my life.  I’ve gotten to do things I would have never had the guts to do if I hadn’t found that strength and confidence in myself.  For me this is the heart of what it means to be an ultralight backpacker.

There it is.  It’s as simple as that for me.

Gear Closet Cleaning – SALE

If you follow my Facebook Page, you’ll know I’ve picked up a few new to me pieces recently (first looks coming soon!) in preparation for my JMT hike.  Well there is one more thing I really want to pick up before I go and it’s a biggie.  Therefore to afford the last big thing I want, I’m selling off some things I don’t use/need anymore and one thing that I’m sorry to part with.  So the first people to post a comment saying they want one of these items, will get it.

1. REI Kids Sleeping Pad – *SOLD*

100_2287This is a 19 oz self inflating sleeping pad.  Measurements are 18″ x 60″ x 1″ with a 2.5 R value.  I picked this up when I first got started.  It was inexpensive, fairly light for the price, and pretty comfortable.  It fits well for medium to small women and pretty much all kids and would be a great first pad for someone wanting to start their kids off.  It’s still in perfect condition.  Used maybe 20-30 nights.  REI’s Page for this pad.






2. Kelty Cosmic 35 Women’s Synthetic Mummy Bag – $50 (shipping included)

100_2286This one I want to say right off the bat, has one thing wrong with it, the zipper pull fell off.  I’ve been using it opened out as a quilt so it never bothered me, but it’s a really simple repair or someone with some sewing skills could pull out the zipper, cut off the hood and turn it into a proper quilt very easily.

It is listed on Kelty’s website as maxing out at a 5′ 6″ woman and weighing 2 lb 6 oz.  I found that to be fairly accurate though the weight is off a little (It comes out to about 5-6 oz more on my scale).  The temp rating is fairly accurate but I always wore long thermals when it was going to be below 40 degrees.  This is again a good beginner piece for someone.  Used about 100 nights.



3. REI 16L Compression Sack – $10 (shipping included)

100_1196Weighs 3.1 oz and held the bag posted above.  Still works and is in great condition, just don’t use it anymore.  REI page for this item.






4. Sierra Designs Microlight Wind Jacket – $25 (shipping included)

100_1197They recently updated this jacket and so this particular model isn’t in stores anymore, but it seems identical to the newer version (can’t figure out what they changed).  This is a Women’s Large and is still in like new condition.  This is the new REI Page, but the sizing chart is still correct.  Weighs 8.7 oz in stuff sack.







5. Sierra Designs Microlight Wind Pants – $18 (shipping included)

100_1198This is the same situation as the jacket, it’s the older version but I still can’t figure out what they changed because it’s identical to this one listed on REI.  I’m going a bit lower on these because there is some paint that got on the leg.  It’s purely cosmetic and they still work perfectly and I can’t find the stuff sack.  Size is a Woman’s XL.  Weighs 6.6 oz sans stuff sack.  If I find the sack, I’ll add it in.





6. REI Sahara Long Sleeved Shirt – *SOLD*

100_1199This shirt saw minimal use, but is one of the first things I bought 4 years ago.  It has some very minor pilling on the shoulders and one of the pockets is loose on one side on the inside.  Still a very serviceable shirt that I’ve replaced with a newer shirt.  Women’s L with a UFP of 30.  REI Page.







And now for the Big Item!

7. Six Moon Designs Swift Backpack Medium – *SOLD*

This is the pack that Stick sold me and has been a wonderful pack for the best part of two years worth of trips.  It joined me on Catalina Island, in the woods of Georgia, and even a few times here in the deserts of Arizona.  This pack has been phenomenal through it all.  So why am I selling it?  Thanks to all my new purchases, it’s now too big for my gear.

100_1179 100_1180It is in the same condition that Stick sent it to me, aside from one minor tear in the mesh pocket put there by a less than kind airport employee.  Stick had replaced the side compression lines with I think it was orange Glow wire and that has worked very well.  I’m selling it with the Medium hip belt and the metal stay.  I’m also throwing in a blue CCF that Stick had made for a padded back frame.  The pocket that it goes in fits a Thermarest Zlite Small perfectly.  I used a regular cut down to the small size and then used the other length as a sit pad, storing it in the long side pocket.


The sizes and weights as listed on Sticks post about this pack are accurate and the same as my scale.

Swift Pack (medium): 14.7 oz

Wing Belt (medium): 4.1 oz

Aluminum Hoop Stay: 4.6 oz

You can check out Stick’s Post and Videos to get some more details.  Here is SMD’s info page with the measurements and details as well.  SMD recently stopped making this pack so if you really wanted one, here it is.


Sometimes Little Things Make a Big Difference

A few weeks ago I got some of the smaller things I’ve been wanting to get before my JMT hike this fall and thought I’d do a little first look post about two of the things I’ve picked up!

10174800_571856292913691_1227467963_nThe first thing I picked up was a couple of Aqua Clips.  First thing I’d like to say about it is that despite rising shipping costs, they send out these $3 clips with no shipping added.  I don’t know if they’ve figured that into the final $3 purchase price or not, but it was really nice to see my bill was only the $6 dollars that the list price said two would cost.  I’ve been avoiding getting a few of the smaller things because of the shipping costs of getting $10 worth of stuff to my house can end up being $15 or more, so that was a nice surprise right off the bat.  I wanted to try them because I’ve been thinking about my water system and how I might make it work better for me.  When we started out, we used bladders, but I like to add a little bit of flavoring and electrolytes to my water to make it a bit more palatable and to make sure I am staying hydrated.  These kinds of things just don’t do well in the bladder tubes so I started carrying bottles in the side pockets of my pack.  I quickly discovered that this didn’t really work for me either because my arms are too short to bend back and get the water or put it back.  I tried to attach the bottles to my shoulder straps, but that did not last long.  I do not like feeling weight on my shoulders, so that definitely didn’t work.  Then I found out about the Aqua Clip and I had an idea, a brilliantly perfect idea.  I could use them to attach two .5 liter bottles to my hip belt and let all of that weight ride on my hips, but still have good access and not have to worry about my drink mixes clogging up a tube.  I’ve been using these with two smaller Smart Water bottles and my Flash 18 on my training day hikes and so far I’m finally pleased with the water carrying method that I’m using.  These little things got to me so fast, my head was almost spinning.  I think I put the order in on a Friday night and they were at my door on Monday morning.  The really impressive thing about that is I live in a rural area and you can pretty much guarantee an extra day of shipping than if it were a big city.  When they got here, I was surprised to find there were three instead of the two and a letter explaining the third was a gift for posting about the clips on my blog’s Facebook page!  Between the high level of customer service and the fact that these little clips solve a big problem for me, I have to say I am one happy camper.


BkQda5ICEAAy4zyThe second thing I picked up was a pair of Dirty Girl Gaiters.  Here in the desert, I need breathable gaiters that still do a great job at keeping out dirt and debris from my socks and shoes and I was told that no one does a better job than Dirty Girl’s.  I’ve got to say, they were right!  I ordered the Spacin’ Out pattern because, aside from being bright, they look really cool and just like a picture of a nebula.   I’m a total space nerd and love that these are not only functional but really show off my personality and passions.  So far in my testing they have done a superb job at keeping my shoes dirt free.  There have even been times where I can feel my feel kicking up loose dirt and it hits the back of my heels, but stays out of my shoes.  The elastic bands at the top had me skeptical at first.  From pictures, they look like they might squeeze your leg.  When I got them on and realized that they didn’t feel tight at all, I was worried that they wouldn’t stay up.  I was pleased to find that after my 6 mile day hike, not only were my legs still un-bothered by their presence, but they were right where they were when I started my hike.  I’ve used them on several hikes now and they are still holding up to their reputation.

I’m really happy that it looks like I’ve solved two of my most frustrating hiking problems and I’m excited to see how they perform on my shakedown trip, but the real test will be in September… 🙂


Help Me Make a Movie! – My First Kickstarter Project

Most of you know by now that I’m thru-hiking the John Muir Trail this September, but I have also decided that I will be filming my first documentary during this trip!  I am looking for backing through Kickstarter.  I went to college as a media major concentrating in film in the hopes of working on movies and, as time went, specifically documentaries.  As I began preparing for my trip on the JMT and I started talking to the other women who are also planning on hiking the JMT this year, I realized that we all have an amazing story, goals, and reasons why we’re hiking.  If my project gets fully funded I plan on not only filming my own preparation process and my entire hike, but I also will talk to as many women as I can about their personal, physical and emotional journeys on trail.  My plan is to take one or two extra trips to California and hike a few days at different parts of the trail, during different times of the year to get a chance to talk to as many women as I can at different stages of the hike, as well as also hiking the whole trail with my hiking partner in September.

Because this is my first film, I am lacking a professional film camera or proper editing equipment.I also don’t have the things I need to charge the camera batteries on trail and the gear I need to get my weight to a place where I can carry the equipment for a project like this.  Even though I’ve set the budget for this project at the minimum I’d need to put out an amazing film, the more money I raise, the better equipment I can get.  I’m really excited about this project, but it can only succeed with your support!  If you want to support my project check it out here!

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