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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Favorite Gear from the Triple Crown: The Big Three

With a combined weight of 2.6 pounds, I have used this combination of pack, shelter and sleeping bag in temperatures ranging from 20 - 100+ degrees Fahrenheit.

Pack: Gossamer Gear Kumo

With the 7-8 lb. base pack weight  I use for my thru-hikes, this is my perfect pack. The Kumo is made of extremely durable Dyneema that has withstood a lot of off-trail use in alpine and desert ecosystems. The back mesh pocket is the only part of this pack that has really shown any signs of wear. However, repairs on the mesh are quite easy and any hole that forms doesn't tend to expand.

With a total volume of 36L , 28L in the main pack body, the Kumo was the perfect size for my Continental Divide thru-hike this past summer. My longest food carry was 165 miles (5.5 days) and with the addition of the optional hip belt, this pack handled the load with grace. Pretty impressive for a 13 oz. frame-less rucksack. I've used this pack for over 4,000 miles now and plan to use it for pretty much every trip that I do.

Disclosure: I am a Gossamer Gear Trail Ambassador. However, I only accept sponsorships from companies that make products that I believe in. Gossamer Gear did not ask or require me to write this review as a part of my sponsorship agreement.

Shelter: Mountain Laurel Designs Cuben Solomid

My MLD Cuben Solomid has over 6,000 miles on it and hasn't gotten a single hole. This is the first cuben shelter that I've used extensively and I was reticent about the durability but I've been very impressed. The pyramid shape of this shelter is very easy to set up and it sheds wind very effectively. Without any broad sides, there isn't the surface area to turn the tarp into a sail.

This tarp has performed extremely well in snow, sleet, rain and hail. Paired with a Gossamer Gear Polycro Groundsheet, and a Sea to Summit Bugnet, this shelter can handle any three-season condition. Plus, it only weighs 11 oz.

Sleeping Bag: Zpacks 30 Degree Bag

I switched to this bag, from a warmer one, during the course of the southbound Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike. I also used this bag for the entirety of my Continental Divide Trail thru-hike. With all of my clothes on, I was able to to use this bag inside my shelter down to 20 degrees F.

When I hiked the Appalachian Trail, I used a full quilt style bag but being a side sleeper and one that rolls side to side quite a bit throughout the night, I switched to a hood-less bag. This bag is the perfect hybrid for me. My long model is only 17 oz and I would recommend going with a longer than normal model since the bags tend run a little short. I have over 4,000 miles on this bag and it is my go-to for most three season hikes.

I pair this bag with a Zpacks down balaclava and a Gossamer Gear beanie.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Rim to Rim to Rim of the Grand Canyon

April 13, 2014

The moment I read Liz "Snorkel" Thomas' article Taking trail back from the runners: Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim, I knew I wanted take on this challenge. This is classic ultra run for trail runners and at approximately 42 miles, it looked like a very doable day speed hike. When badass hiker Casey "Siesta La Mona" Mangnall told me she was up for joining me on this adventure, I quickly committed to flying directly from the Lowest to Highest Route to Siesta's home in Salt Lake City. From there we drove down to the Grand Canyon.

Siesta and I had met briefly, north of Ashland, on the Pacific Crest Trail in 2013. She seemed very cool and her pace impressed me, so I decided to take a chance. I'm glad I did. Our first time hiking together was a 14 hour double traverse of the Grand Canyon.

Route and Details

Siesta led the charge that morning, jogging down hill, plunging into the darkness all the way to the Colorado River. By the time we reached Phantom Ranch, there was plenty of light and temperature rose quickly. The sights were stunning and the red rocks cast long shadows until the sun finally broke free over the tops of the towering cliffs. The climb up to the north rim concluded with an inverted tree line and a beautiful pine forest. It was chilly and I put on my jacket as we broke for some snacks and water.

The shuffle back to the river seemed to go by quickly, but the last climb back to the south rim, that's where I found out how much gas was left in the tank.

I didn't know what time goals to set my for myself for this challenge. I just knew I wanted finish in a single day. I feel pretty good about the time of 13:52. That's right around a 3mph pace. Siesta finished a little bit after. We stuck together until the last climb back up from the Colorado River.

I was really happy to have such a great hiking partner along for this adventure and I hope that we get to hike together again in the future. I also hope to return to the Grand Canyon someday with a better sense of what I can do on a trail of this length and incline.