Gear & Clothes That Can Make the Difference For Your Wilderness Packraft Adventure
Text by Moe Witschard // Photos by Moe Witschard & Mike St. Pierre
Maurice “Moe” Witschard is an experienced explorer, photographer and a filmmaker who loves packrafting and adventuring. Like all adventurers and packrafters he knows that it is key to stay safe and dry. In this blog post he shares 10 tips for your packrafing attire that will make your packraft adventure as safe and fun as possible.
Making smart choices as to what to wear often means the difference between joy and misery on a packraft trip. After packrafting extensively over the past 10 years, I have tried many different clothing systems. My present strategies are based on principles that I have taken from years of whitewater kayaking and backpacking. I apply them to my trips in what I believe is the most elegant of wilderness watercraft: the packraft. Here, I share my tips.
After 57,000 Miles & 56 Countries, Cam “Swami” Honan Knows Inclement Weather.
Photos & Text by Cam Honan
Tasmania’s Arthur Range is arguably Australia’s most spectacular mountain chain. Unfortunately for hikers there’s a catch. It’s called the “weather.”
Backcountry trips in the Arthurs are a meteorological roll of the dice at any time of year. When it’s fine you’ll be treated to sublime views of jagged quartzite peaks, hanging valleys and glacier carved lakes. If a big storm front rumbles through, all you will likely see is horizontal rain, thick fog and the brim of your baseball cap pulled all the way down over your forehead.
When coupled with the fact that much of the hiking is done on open rocky ridges exposed to the full brunt of the Roaring Forties (i.e. gale-force westerly winds found in the Southern Hemisphere, generally between between 40° and 50° latitude), the Arthurs is not a place you want to be without good backcountry skills and the right equipment.
If faced with these sort of extreme conditions, a hiker’s #1 priority should always be safety. Preset itineraries and/or mileage objectives should run a very distant second.
In such circumstances, I try to focus on core temperature management and sound choices. In regards to the latter, I find it helpful to put myself in the role of “objective observer” rather than “subjective participant.” In other words, take emotion out of the decision making process. Admittedly, this is sometimes easier in theory than it is in practice, however, in my opinion it represents one of the most important, as well as most overlooked, wilderness skills that a hiker can develop. Click here to learn about Cam Honan’s tips.
The only thing you have control over is yourself, your perspective and your actions. The elements couldn’t care less about your first ascent, your time record or your worthy cause. In thru hiking, as with all adventure sports, adaptability can determine whether you live or die. It means backtracking when you fought hard to get there. It means swallowing your ego.
Adventure athletes are a bull headed breed. We are out there to whet our mettle, pushing forward into new territory, testing limits–this all takes determination. Yet sometimes we have to turn around 300 feet from the summit. It means not dropping in if the snowpack is weak. It means not shooting that sick Go Pro video. Because before all else, Mother Nature demands humility.
Have I made the point about baseline safety, yet? Okay, now let’s talk about how adaptability comes into play at every stage, from planning to after-action review. Find out more about adaptability
3 Explorers Embark on a DIY Multisport Adventure to Alaska’s Mountains using Packrafts, Skis & Their Feet.
Not everyone can handle spending three weeks camped out on an Alaskan Glacier putting up first ascents of rock, ice and snow routes on unclimbed spires and peaks. Even fewer can then handle skiing out on handmade skis with 100-pound loads, over high mountain passes and across unknown terminal moraines to a river of unknown difficulty. But the trio of Craig Muderlak, Drew Thayer and David Fay did. Supported by the American Alpine Club through the Copp-Dash Inspire Award and various sponsors, including Hyperlite Mountain Gear, they climbed, skied, hiked and packrafted on the adventure of a lifetime. We recently chatted with Muderlak about their wild, multi-sport adventure and the reasons for their success.
What did you do exactly?
In the second week of May we flew into the North Fork of the Pitchfork Glacier in the Neacola subrange of the Aleutian Range in southwestern Alaska. We established a base camp and explored climbing routes on neighboring peaks, including two attempts on the NW Ridge of Citadel Peak, two new rock routes and an additional attempted route on Dogtooth Spire on Peak 7235, a new route up an unclimbed mountain adjacent to Peak 8909 that we call ‘Spearhead’ at the head of the North Fork of the Pitchfork, and a new route to the summit of a rock spire we call ‘The Wing’ on the W side of the Neacola Glacier across from Triangle Peak.
After spending 21 days climbing, we made a human-powered return to Cook Inlet via ski, foot, and pack-raft over six days. This part of the expedition proved to be very arduous and fraught with uncertainty. We descended the Pitchfork glacier with 100-pound loads on skis and reached the terminal moraine the second day, which we crossed by shuttling loads. The next day we descended the Glacier Fork of the Tlikakila River on pack-rafts; this eight-mile river was flowing strong with Class II and III whitewater and we ran all but one rapid. Read the rest of the article.
Bike/Pack/Raft/Climb: Steve “Doom” Fassbinder’s Recommendations for Aspiring Multi-Sport Adventurers
“You’re almost always making it up as you go”, says Steve Fassbinder of his multi-sport exploits. “Doom” embarks on long-distance, backcountry adventures that typically include two to four of the following sports: packrafting, thru hiking, rock climbing and mountain biking.
“I’m figuring it out as I go,” he says. Fassbinder started racing mountain bikes, but eventually, the constant riding took a toll on his knees. When he discovered packrafting he realized he could take his bike and do these routes that were never possible before. Learn more about multi-sport adventure.
The vast Escalante Grand Staircase National Monument is arguably best true wilderness in the lower 48. The beauty of the desert canyons and the mesas in the Monument is breathtaking—challenging the the best the planet has to offer. It is the perfect setting for a bona fide adventure filled with jaw dropping beauty.
The Escalante was the last river of its size to be discovered in the lower 48 states and the area was the last to be mapped in the lower 48. In the vast expanse below Highway 12 there are no trails (actually there is only one trail in the entire park). Many of the side canyons are so remote and inaccessible that only a few people every 10 years reaches them, if ever. Only a few canyons see regular use.
A light tarp is usually all you need in the desert. Note: While I could have camped higher up on the canyon wall on a slickrock shelf with better views… I discreetly camped out of sight, away from the trail and in the cottonwood trees as a favor to others sharing the canyon with me. It is also a warmer and more protected location than exposed on the slickrock. And this is far from a bad view!
Alan Dixon runs the popular website, AdventureAlan.com. He regularly uses our 3400 Southwest Pack. Stay tuned for Dixon’s future blog posts, including the second in our series of, “Why You Won’t Freeze or Starve Going Ultralight” blog posts, in which he discusses good camping skills, utilizing gear that’s appropriate for the conditions, and being prepared in terms of weather and calories needed. “I’ll wager that with my 5-6 pounds of ultralight gear I’m more comfortable, sleep better, and eat as well or better than most campers carrying 20 to 30 pounds of conventional/heavier backpacking gear,” Dixon says.
Not All Technical Appalachian Trail Hiking Clothes Are Created Equal
By Tyson Perkins
A little catching up…
Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and into Pennsylvania. Looking at the maps in the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s main building in Harper’s Ferry made it apparent that we have put a solid dent into our journey. Lays’ parents joined us for a short stint through the Shenandoah National Park, where it rained more often than not, but it was okay because of the waysides offered at almost every 15 miles. There, we fueled up on their bounty of affordable cheeseburgers and tall beers. Since then we have done a 26 mile slack pack in eight hours, sweated profusely in the humid air and caught up with some old friends we lost during our Trail Days endeavor. After making it just about halfway on the Appalachian Trail I thought I would take a good look at the technical hiking clothes I use day in and day out. Read on to find out what clothing you should bring on your Appalachian Trail thru hike.
The CDT: Stay Hydrated, Oriented, Warm & Dry on the Hardest, Most Remote of the “Big Three” Thru Hikes
The Triple Crown of hiking is an almost mythical endeavor. These three trails take thru hikers and backpackers to some of the most scenic, remote and illustrious landscapes of the United States. The Appalachian Trail is full of history, tradition and lore. The moss-covered New England rocks and gnarly roots are emblematic of the long and deep culture of this famous footpath. And the Pacific Crest Trail winds its way through desert, climbs its way to the High Sierra and John Muir’s fabled “Range of Light” and onward to the volcanic peaks of the Pacific Northwest. It is a land of biodiversity and enchantment. And then there’s the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (CDT). Read on.
One-Quarter of Aspiring Pacific Crest Trail Thru Hikes Succeed:
These Tips Can Make The Difference
The Westernmost trail in the infamous “Triple Crown” of hiking, the Pacific Crest Trail stretches from the US-Mexico border to the US-Canada border and runs through California, Oregon and Washington. Despite being the star of the hit book/film, “Wild,” it’s not nearly as well known as the famous Appalachian Trail (AT). A very difficult thru hike for even an experienced adventurers, it’s also very different. According to the 2013 statistics from the Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, out of the 1041 people that attempted the PCT, only 273 of them reported completing the trail (26% completion). Meanwhile on the Appalachian Trail 2586 people attempted a thru hike in 2013, and 875 completions were recorded (34% completion). So hikers taking on a thru hike of the PCT should be prepared for any eventuality. We talked to Trail Information Specialist Jack Haskel of the PCTA about nine things you can do to succeed on your Pacific Crest Trail thru hike. Plus, we asked him a few additional questions about trail life. Find out how to thru hike the PCT.
I’m used to having limited gear options for my long-distance thru hikes. With hikes over 2000 miles, you essentially pick one kit for five months of travel and hope it works in everything from the desert to the high alpine. With day hiking or quick overnights, I have been able to modify what I carry throughout the seasons for maximum comfort and minimum weight. I have “standard items,” which I always carry, along with the “conditional items” that I need for the season during which I’m traveling in the backcountry.
Regardless of the time of year or type of trip I’m doing, the first items I throw in my Daybreak pack are a medical kit, ditty bag, snacks, water and an insulating layer.
Remote Camino de Santiago Routes To Challenge the Most Experienced Hikers
A network of ancient pilgrim routes, The Camino de Santiago (the Way of Saint James) leads from different parts of Europe into Santiago de Compostela in Northern Spain, believed to be the resting place of Saint James the Apostle. Between 200,000 to 300,000 people from all over the world follow the famous signs of the yellow arrow and the scallop shell on the Camino routes each year. Camino pilgrims who hike at least 62 miles can get their “passport” stamped and then apply for the pilgrim certificate, the Compostela, once they arrive to Santiago. People hike for religious or spiritual reasons, to discover new places and to meet new people. Others hike because they want to experience the remoteness and difficulty of some of Europe’s most ancient trails. Though many people go on the Camino’s various trails for the cultural experience or for religious reasons, long-distance hikers can also have a true outdoor adventure. Special thanks to the folks at CaminoWays for helping us answer these questions. Read on to learn more.
Streamline Your Consumables to Carry a Lighter Pack & Enhance Your Adventure.
Text by Philip Werner
Ultralight backpackers spend a great deal of time and effort reducing the weight of their gear, or base weight. But reducing the weight of your consumables, (food, water and fuel) is just as important and can lead to significant weight savings with little extra expense.
For example, when I started hiking the Vermont’s Long Trail eight years ago, I filled a three liter hydration reservoir with water every morning, carrying six liters of water, even though water was plentiful along the trail. It took me about 100 miles, but I figured out that I never needed to carry more than a liter at a time, shaving four pounds off my pack weight just like that, without spending a cent.
It takes a little bit more planning, but this is a good example of how to skills and experience can help you reduce the weight of your consumables.
Here are a few more strategies that I use to reduce the weight of my food, water and fuel: <!–more Check out the 3 tips to carry a lighter load.”
Remove all excess packaging.
Replace low-calorie foods with calorically dense foods like nuts, olive oil or ghee.
Bring less food per day. There’s no need to pack 5000-6000 calories per day like a thru hiker if you mainly take overnight or weekend backpacking trips. Try bringing 3000 calories per day instead. This should still be sufficient to keep you satisfied and alert, and you’re unlikely to starve to death, even if you burn more energy than you consume. The goal is to come home with an empty food bag every time.
If not the most difficult, a hike below the rim of the Grand comes close.
Learn about Ambassador Rich Rudow’s thru hike & Hyperlite Mountain Gear CEO Mike St. Pierre’s planning & prep for his 2 section hikes.
More than four thousand people have summited Mt. Everest. Two hundred and fifty people have walked 7,900 miles to complete the triple crown of hiking (walking the PCT, CDT and AT). Twenty-four astronauts left the Earth’s orbit for the moon. But only 12 people have ever walked the length of Grand Canyon in one continuous push and just a handful have done it in sections. Why? There are no towns for resupply, no base camps for logistics support, and in fact, no trails for the vast majority of the 700 miles. Traversing Grand Canyon is like walking a complex three-dimensional maze with delicate routes that include hundreds of thousands of vertical feet of scrambling and climbing up to low class five terrain. There isn’t a guidebook, and beta is sparse. To most people, this thru hike seems impossible. But for people like Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ambassador Rich Rudow, the foremost expert on slot canyons in the Grand, Hyperlite Mountain Gear Chief Adventure Officer (aka CEO) Mike St. Pierre, and a handful of others it’s not only possible, but one of life’s most exciting challenges. Rudow finished his thru hike late in 2015; St. Pierre has achieved the first two sections of the hike, and plans on finishing the entire journey within the next few years. Read more.
On June 4th we’re celebrating National Trails Day! Occurring the first Saturday of June, this American Hiking Society-sponsored day celebrates America’s magnificent Trail System. According to AHS: “The event evolved during the late ‘80s and ‘90s from a popular ethos among trail advocates, outdoor industry leaders and political bodies who wanted to unlock the vast potential in America’s National Trails System, transforming it from a collection of local paths into a true network of interconnected trails and vested trail organizations. This collective mindset hatched the idea of a singular day where the greater trail community could band together behind to show their pride and dedication to the National Trails System.”
Day Hiking Is Important, too: Stay Ultralight, Even if You Aren’t Going Overnight.
At Hyperlite Mountain Gear, we usually just let our gear just speak for itself. But sometimes people have such nice things to say about our stuff that we feel we just have to share. Check out these daypack reviews from some of the biggest names in backcountry gear, plus the Seattle Times.
Seattle Timeson the Daybreak Pack: Washington’s finest publication recently included our Daybreak daypack in its “Great Father’s Day gifts for dads who love the outdoors” article. “The new high-tech Hyperlite Daybreak Backpack ($220) is a seamless ultralight pack — weighing 19 ounces — that will get you through any long hike or trek without weighing you down.”
National Geographic Adventure Magazineon the Daybreak Pack: “Hyperlite Mountain Gear has built the Daybreak out of Dyneema® cloth, which is known for its extremely light weight, durability, and natural water resistance. Although it holds 17 liters, enough for a full day on the trail, it weighs just 19 ounces. But it isn’t flimsy: The Dyneema® has a structure that helps hold its shape, which lets it sit upright on its own and makes it easier to organize or find your gear. Like we said, sophisticated.” Read the full review.
A Master Cartographer Digs Deep to Find the Navigational Skills Needed to Succeed on One of the World’s Most Extreme Thru Hikes
By Clay Wadman, photos by Mike St. Pierre & Clay Wadman
Once I’m oriented, a map is nothing but a close-up of that mental image I form before every trip, an overview if you will, from space. I marvel at how far these maps have come since Major John Wesley Powell first came to the Southwest with pencil and paper and tried to make sense of these great cirques and valleys. To glance up at the cliffs and huge amphitheaters of the Grand Canyon’s Red Wall and then back down to the impossibly high tech orthographic projection of these features I hold in my hand, they are perfect and these images help me see their scale and shape even more clearly.
In this blog post, I recreated notes from the journal I took on the below-the-rim section hike of the Grand that Mike St. Pierre and I embarked on, March 2016. The section we did is part of what Rich Rudow calls, “The Grandest Walk“—a thru hike that traverses the Canyon below the rim. Mike plans on doing it in three sections; he invited me for the second leg of his journey. Though a mapmaker with decades of experience, I dug deep on this adventure. It was one of the most difficult of my life. Strong navigation skills and tools were integral to our success.
On day four of our trip we awake to grey—grey skies, grey fatigue, a grey attitude like fog from last night’s sand storm and bad water. Everything above the 6,000-foot level is washed in fresh snow, including the rim above us. In the Crystal Creek wash, clear alkaline-poison water laps at our boots. I want to see something good in everything and think to myself: “At least in the weeks to come, the potholes will be full on the Esplanade…” From the streambed, our escape route out of the Crystal is unobvious. We just descended from Shiva Saddle, one of the highest saddles on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, and dropped all the way to the river. Now we need to climb back up through five or six of the major geologic groups in the canyon, this time to the Sagittarius Saddle.
If you’ve ever seen a photo looking down on the Grand Canyon from outer space you can see the dark, almost black looking boreal forests that cap one of the biggest “oxbow” bends on the planet. This immense arch stretches from Nankoweep at River Mile 53 all the way to Tapeats at River Mile 137. In the scorching desert of the American Southwest, this part of the geologic up-thrust that created the canyon itself, has become a forest of huge conifers and moisture, rising to an elevation of 10,000’.
I hold onto this mental image as I study the maps of the inner canyon. Not just a random sweep of bends and corners, the river has purpose and direction; from its genesis to its evolution, modern topographical science magically reveals each of its secrets. Read the rest of Wadman’s story.
Stripped Down Thru Hiking Gear List for Extreme, Lightweight & Extended Backcountry Adventures, By Mike St. Pierre
“I used this thru hiking gear list for my Grand Canyon section hike, but minus the technical climbing and canyoneering gear, it’s basically what I’d bring on any long-distance section, thru hike or weekend backpacking.” -Mike St. Pierre
Photos & article by Mike St. Pierre
As an ultralight long-distance adventurer, I dial in my systems to conserve energy with every step I take. The lighter my gear, the further I can go; the less weight I carry, the less the strain on my body and the less food I need. Going light just makes sense. And it absolutely doesn’t mean I’m uncomfortable when in the backcountry. I’m always warm enough, well fed and hydrated, and I sleep well at night. In this blog post, I share my thru hiking gear list from my recent 200 mile off trail section hike below the rim of the Grand Canyon. This extreme adventure incorporates long-distance hiking, rock climbing, canyoneering and serious map and compass skills, and is one of the most difficult thru hikes in the world. Water is scarce, established trails nonexistent, and the terrain is steep and difficult to navigate. It’s a trip that fewer than three dozen people have done (consider that 40 people summited Mt. Everest in one day in May 2016!). However, despite the specialized nature of some of the technical gear I carried, the basic equipment I bring on any thru hike or long-distance backpacking is the same. And my pack base weight is typically 8-15lbs., depending on the discipline. Check out my full gear list below.
Our ultralight packs are meant to be used hard. Adventurers across the spectrum agree. Read the gear reviews…
We make gear that is meant to be used. Hard. And no one puts our gear through its paces like these top-tier reviewers. These guys and gals push our gear to the limit so they can provide you with a fair and accurate review of our packs. Check out some of the reviews we got this year from some of the best in the business.
SectionHiker and the 3400 Southwest Pack: Last year the 2400 Southwest Pack earned SectionHiker’s 2015 “Gear of the Year” Award, so it is no surprise that Philip Werner also loved the 3400 version. “The Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest Backpack is a bomber multi-day backpack geared for tough adventures that will rip most other ultralight-style pack to shreds. It you’re rough on backpacks, but still want one that only weighs two pounds, the 3400 Southwest pack probably has your name on it.” Read the full review.
The Appalachian Trail under his belt, photographer Nicholas Reichard is on round #2– thru hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.
Nicholas “Click” Reichard didn’t grow up hiking or exploring in the woods. He had a passion filmmaking, and wanted to be one of the best. So he attended the Savannah College of Art and Design where he obtained a BFA in filmmaking. But despite his skill and talent, he found his options limited. So he sought a change–a new perspective on life. And what better way to do it than hike the “big three” long-distance trails in the United States. He planned to become a Triple Crowner, hiking the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail and Continental Divide Trail. It didn’t matter that he had little backpacking experience, he would photograph his adventure with a film camera. So in 2015 he got some gear together and began thru hiking the AT. Six months and 150 rolls of film later he completed the first leg of his journey, and he was hungry for more. Currently Click is partway through the PCT. We caught up with him on a day he had phone reception and asked him a few questions about how he balances ultralight with photography.
How did you discover thru hiking?
So the funny thing is I never wanted to hike the AT, or even enjoyed going on day hikes. But I knew undertaking such an epic adventure would change who I am as a person and as an artist. Boy was I right. Now I sleep better outside than I do at home. I think the challenge of covering so much ground over the span of a few months is also really appealing to me.
How do you plan for a trip like the Pacific Crest Trail?
I’m not sure there is a right answer for this. I’d say it’s fun to plan the trip but I’m more of a figure it out as I go which seems to make things happen more naturally. Read the rest of the Q&A.