Philip Werner never wanted to be a thru hiker. While he respects thru hikers and their achievement(s), he prefers to hike his own hike, which, to him, means hiking and backpacking both on and off-trail on journeys of his own design. People often equate hiking and backpacking with thru hiking. However, the vast majority of hikers and backpackers don’t hike on National Scenic Trails. Werner estimates there are probably 10,000 or more non-thru hikers for every Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail thru hiker. We recently chatted with this influential hiking blogger and owner of SectionHiker.com about what “hike your own hike” means to him.
Hiking new routes, to new places and in new ways. My favorite mountain is the mountain I have yet to climb. To find new routes, I look at maps a lot and work off trail lists and peak lists. For off-trail routes, I mainly use caltopo.com to plan my bushwhacks and a map and compass to hike the routes. I really enjoy planning unique trips to places I want to visit. I can’t think of a time where I’ve used someone else’s route on a trip on purpose.
What are some of the “new ways” you have hiked over the years?
Winter backpacking, mountaineering, bushwhacking, peak bagging, waterfall climbing, day hiking and nature viewing. There are lots of styles of hiking and combinations of these styles.
Plus, I’m constantly learning new backcountry skills and folding them into my adventures, adding endless new facets to my experiences. I’ve incorporated backcountry (cross-country) skiing, Tenkara fly fishing and traditional Flycasting with a reel into my adventures lately. This summer, for example, I’m doing a series of backpacking trips to remote alpine ponds in New Hampshire and Maine to fly fish from a packraft. That’s just one example of a trip that includes numerous activities—backpacking, fly fishing and packrafting. And this coming winter I plan to combine winter backpacking and backcountry skiing on some trips into the Pemigewasset Wilderness.
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.
It’s never too late to change your gear. Ambassador “Tenderfoot” alters his lightweight Appalachian Trail gear kit one month in.
“Aches & Pains? I thought it was just walking on the AT?!”
Photos & text by Tyson “Tenderfoot” Perkins
Over 100 miles in, and I already feel like I have 100 years worth of stories. We’ve met more than 100 people, and we have over 100 aches and pains. The trail has taught me more in the last 10 days than I’ve learned in all my research of it over the last couple years. Sure you can figure out who the first person to hike it was, or how many steps it takes to the end. However, it’s almost impossible to learn something like this so in depth without actually being there and living it. A couple days ago when we took our zero day (on my 24th birthday), I answered a few questions for my co-workers at Hyperlite Mountain Gear about my lightweight Appalachian Trail gear kit, what I’ve changed, added and dropped. Here goes… Read More
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Partners with the Pacific Crest Trail Association & the Continental Divide Trail Coalition
This February, we partnered with the Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) and the Continental Divide Trail Coalition (CDTC), key organizations that support two of the “Big Three” thru hiking/backpacking trails. Why? Because we are committed to getting you—the passionate outdoor adventurer—into the mountains and onto the trails where you can achieve your most optimal self. Our goal with these partnerships is to ensure these iconic and inspirational trails are preserved, protected and enjoyed by all types of hikers for decades to come.
With 11,000+ members and donors, the PCTA empowers more than 1800 volunteers to work 96,500 hours on hundreds of projects. A major partner of the US Forest Service, this nonprofit advocates for hikers, thru hikers and backpackers, responds to and manages wildfires and other closures, responds to threats on the trail (logging, illegal trespass and development proposals), and acquires land and easements to further enhance the trail. Discover the trail.
Though smaller and newer, the CDTC fills an important niche, empowering those who love the Continental Divide Trail through community engagement, stewardship and trail outreach and education. With a goal to build strong community of volunteers, enthusiasts and supporters who want to see the CDT completed and protected, they’ve constructed 9.3 miles of new trail and mobilized 194 volunteers to work nearly 15,000 hours. Join the CDTC.
Together, these two organizations successfully mobilize tens of thousands of donors, members and volunteers to protect and preserve two of America’s most iconic trail systems. But creating better, strong trail systems requires teamwork, partnerships and collaboration. We hope that by joining their communities that we can help raise awareness of the important work they do.
We’re excited to report that SectionHiker.com’s Philip Werner announced that the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest Pack won his annual “Gear Of The Year” Award today. Every year Werner recognizes the piece of gear that had the biggest impact on his hiking and backpacking experience. Werner highlighted the pack’s streamlined design, its “toughness” and water resistance as reasons it beat out the competition. We’re still in the early adoption consumer phase of our technology and ultralight philosophies; so we’re thrilled to be recognized by the thought-leaders and influencers in the industry. —Mike St. Pierre, CEOClick here to read more!
We go out into the wilderness to remove ourselves from modern society and experience the beauty of nature in its untouched, finest self. I was drawn to the Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT) for that very reason; resources weren’t readily available, and it is still widely unknown in the hiking community. In fact, I met many rangers overseeing its terrain who hadn’t heard of its existence.
#1 Main Challenge: Mosquitos
There were three main challenges I experienced on the trail: mosquitos, keeping dry and navigation… especially when it came to my new proud vocabulary word “bushwhacking.” Let’s start with the mosquitos. They were so horrible at one time that I considered quitting my hike. You can’t do anything about the bugs… I carried three types of repellent, (100% DEET, aerosol spray, which I highly condone and eucalyptus lemon oil). Wait it out, and you’ll be fine. The mosquito issue only lasted about three weeks and will depend on each year’s weather conditions. Any thru-hiker can handle it, but it’s imperative to keep your moral high. Become one with the bugs! (Read more about how she dealt with bugs on her blog).
#2 Main Challenge: Staying Dry
Now, keeping dry is another story. Rain and river fords destroyed my feet. Even in record high weather temperatures, I still got soggy. I handled this struggle by purchasing improved rain gear, making mandatory stops on trail to dry my shoes and socks when the sun poked through and I ALWAYS kept my sleeping gear in a dry bag. If the rain stops at 8:45a.m., I’d be making hot cocoa on trail! Because the PNT is largely hiked in the summer months, there is more discomfort than danger regarding this issue. Hypothermia can occur in above freezing temperatures, so please remember this and use extreme caution.Read the rest of her article here!
Writer, photographer and adventurer Chris Brinlee recently returned from hiking/climbing the Sierra High Route with Gilberto Gil and Olivia Aguilar. The team used our packs, the Echo II Shelter System and the UltaMid, plus a bunch of stuff sacks. The route, Brinlee says, stretches 200 miles through the Sierra Nevada, and most of it is off-trail. It took them two weeks, and they had to navigate dangerous, unmarked terrain. Of the trip, Brinless says: “Brutal. That’s how I’d describe my experience on the Sierra High Route. Each day was a constant physical and mental barrage. We’d fight as hard as we could to stay on track — but often lagged one pass behind schedule each night; only to make up the time, distance, and elevation early the next morning.” Read his article and check out his stunning photos on Indefinitely Wild.
We love hearing about your big adventures. Please share your photos and stories with us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Also let us know your favorite piece of Hyperlite Mountain Gear. Right now we’ve got friends embarking on numerous backcountry trips, including:
David Weinstein and friends are heading to South Greenland to packraft and hike cross country later this summer. David is carrying our 4400 Southwest Pack;
British big wall free climber, Leo Houlding, and his climbing partners are packrafting and hiking through Renland in North East Greenland, with the objective of putting up a first ascent of a massive granite formation called the Mirror Wall. They’re using our UltaMid4 and UltaMid4 Insert, the Ultralight Stake Set II, a wide variety of CF8, CF11 and Roll Top Stuff Sacks;
Greg Hanlon just returned from a packrafting, mountaineering and thru hiking adventure through the remote Gates of The Arctic National Park and Preserve (see awesome photo gallery below; all pics courtesy of Hanlon). Greg used our 4400 Porter Pack; and
Author and adventurer Chris Brinlee Jr., Olivia Aguilar and Gilberto Gil are thru hiking the 210-mile Sierra High Route, which runs loosely parallel to the John Muir Trail, joining it for 28 miles. Chris is using our UltaMid 2, Gilberto is using our Echo II Shelter System, and the whole team has a full assortment of CF8 Stuff Sacks.
Stripped Down Ultralight Backcountry Travel, By Mike St. Pierre
People new to thru hiking and backpacking often don’t realize they need far less than what they think or what their local big box outdoor store salesperson tells them they need. They base what they bring on their fears. Don’t fall into this trap. Understanding what you need is the secret to knowing what you don’t. You absolutely need something to sleep on, to sleep in and to sleep under. Plus you need insulating layers, waterproof layers, some kind of water treatment, a knife, a headlamp and the right kind of food at the right time. Anything else is gravy. I’m not saying you must leave your nonessential, favorite items behind; I simply recommend you strip down to the bare essentials, and then rebuild your list from there with your wants.
These are some common fears or questions we’ve heard over the years:
How warm is that tent?
I’d better bring 2 layers of fleece in case I get cold!
What do you expect from a company that makes #WhitePacks?
In an effort to expand our “color” line, we’ve built the 2400 and 3400 Southwest packs in Black Cuben Fiber. We’re still partial to our #WhitePacks, but we know you want variety (and we love the black, too!). The black packs are made with 150-denier Cuben/Poly hybrid–the same fabric we use on all our 4400 packs and to reinforce the bottoms of our 50-denier Cuben/Poly hybrid white packs.
Black packs came about after we developed a handful of urban/commuting packs made from the 150-denier black Cuben Fiber alternative. After we released that product, customers immediately started calling and asking if they could get our standard line of packs in black. So we launched our 1800 Series of Summit backpacks in black in 2013 and have custom-built our standard line in black upon request. Read the rest of the Black Packs article now.
A good campsite can make or break your wilderness experience. When traveling long distances or through remote areas, I break the campsite selection process into two steps. At the macro level I look at maps and identify–based on my average speed and the desired time I want to bed down for the night–a general area to sleep. Here, I look for an area that is: off trail, so you don’t interfere with other people’s wilderness experience; flat, where you’re most likely to find a level place to lay down; near resources such as water and firewood; not buggy, in a breezy area away from breeding grounds such as swamps and slow moving water; not in the bottom of a valley, where the air will be colder and the dew and frost will be greater; not near animal paths or their ideal habitat, which might lead to an unwelcome nighttime guest; and finally, away from natural hazards such as flash floods and avalanches.
Large external frame backpacks protruded over their heads. Bungee cords lashed to them a frying pan, heavy foam sleeping pads and an extra daypack. A bulky backpacking shower, full books, and eggs, bacon and hash browns added to the unwieldy load.
This is how backpacking used to look for parents, Nancy and Cleve Schenck, back in the ’70s and early ’80s, before I was a twinkle in their eyes – and, for that matter, even once I became part of their outdoor adventures.
“Packs used to not have sternum straps, so we’d jerry rig the sternum straps,” my mom reminisced.