From the AT to the PCT: Shifting Gear

(Spoiler Alert) Both trails require the essentials.

Word & Photos by Robin Standish

Robin Standish | PCT 2016

I finished the Appalachian Trail (AT) in mid December, 2015. Hoarfrost glazed the landscape, icicles lined the slick, frosty trail, and a damp, east coast chill seeped through ever layer I wore. It was time to be done, though it wouldn’t be for long. A few months later, when the feeling in my toes had returned, and my hiker hobble lessened, I headed for the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). I was confident in the hiking part, but was uncertain about how my gear setup would have to be altered.

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Bethany Hughes: Thru Hiking 20,000 Miles For a Cause

Ambassador Bethany Hughes Raises Awareness for Women’s Issues on major America-to-America Thru Hike

Bethany Hughes - Her Odyssey

When the rainy/winter season came, the two-woman hiking team of Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ambassador Bethany Hughes (aka “Fidgit”) and Lauren Reed (aka “Neon”) completed the first stretch of a 20,000-mile hike from the tip of South America to the top of Alaska. They finished the hiking season in Bariloche, Argentina after walking an estimated 1553 miles from November 23, 2015 to April 19, 2016, covering 13 degrees of latitude since starting in Ushuaia, Argentina.

Bethany "Fidgit" Hughes (Left) & Lauren "Neon" Reed (Right)
Bethany “Fidgit” Hughes (Left) & Lauren “Neon” Reed (Right)

“Taking a break will give us a chance to structure the next leg of our journey, which will run longer as we should, by next winter, be far enough north to hike through the winter season,” Hughes says. “Plus, it means I can put more time and effort into writing.”

As they hike, the duo has documented their journey on their blog, www.her-odyssey.org, and Facebook page, www.facebook.com/her-odyssey.

“We are particularly interested in highlighting the abilities and accomplishments of women we meet by featuring their stories,” Hughes explained. As well, she stated, with domestic violence recently becoming a more prominent topic of conversation in South America, their trek offers the opportunity for fostering discussion.

“Taboos are being broken just by having these conversations, especially with an outsider,” Hughes added.

Hughes began planning this trek, dubbed “Her Odyssey,” five years ago after hiking the Pacific Crest Trail and subsequently learning that it formed part of the longest contiguous chain of mountains in the world. Reed, a “Triple Crowner,” is accompanying her on the South American portion of the journey.

Learn more about Bethany Hughes.EDIT-P1010240

Escalante River, Escalante Grand Staircase National Monument

Escalante Grand Staircase National Monument
Escalante Grand Staircase National Monument.

Photo & text by Alan Dixon

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.

The Hardest Thru Hike in the World

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.

The UltaMid in Tuweep Valley as a snow and ice storm rolls in during Rich Rudow's thru hike below the rim of the Grand.
The UltaMid in Tuweep Valley as a snow and ice storm rolls in during Rich Rudow’s thru hike below the rim of the Grand.

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.

Take a Hike: National Trails Day

Get Out & Hike!

Mount Washington, New Hampshire

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.”

At Hyperlite Mountain Gear we are committed to getting outdoor adventurers onto America’s trails because that’s where they rise to their most optimal selves. In celebration of these paths through the woods, mountains and deserts, we recently invested in two of the most important non-profit trail organizations–the Continental Divide Trail Coalition (CDTC) and the Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA). As well, we continually bring you new information on trails around the world, hiked by our Chief Adventure Officer Mike St. Pierre and our ambassadors. And we are committed to bringing you the ultralight hiking packs and lightweight shelters you need to use to hike those trails.

Stay tuned, we’ve got some great articles being published in the upcoming months about the Pacific Crest Trail, the Continental Divide Trail, the International Appalachian Trail and more.

On this special day, we’d like to encourage you to do a couple things:

  1. Become a member of the AHS, the PCTA, the CDTC, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), or any number of other trail non-profit organizations;
  2. Check out a list of great articles on our blog that highlight trails around the world (see below);
  3. Let us know if there are any trails you’d like us to write about;
  4. Get out hiking!

Great blog posts about various trails:

Maps & an Ethical Compass For Grand Canyon Travel

A Master Cartographer Digs Deep to Find the Navigational Skills Needed to Succeed on One of the World’s Most Extreme Thru Hikes

Grand Canyon Backpacking
Which way do we go?

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.

Maps, mids and camping deep in the Grand Canyon backcountry.
Maps, mids and camping deep in the Grand Canyon backcountry.

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.

Appalachian Trail Days Roundup

Good times in Damascus, Virginia

For the fifth year in a row, we attended Appalachian Trail Days down in Damascus, Va., aka “Trail Town USA.” Every year, up to 20,000 tourists make their way to this tiny town of fewer than 1,000 people around the middle of May. And every year more and more folks visit our booth. Nearly 400 people attended the Saturday raffle, along with 20 hikers who gathered round for our first “How to Set Up Your Tarp” clinic with our Chief Adventure Officer (aka CEO) Mike St. Pierre and Ambassador and professional thru hiker Ashley “Bloody Mary” Hill.

“It was rad,” Hill said of the event. “Appalachian Trail Days is the largest outdoor, long-distance hiking event in the country, so there are a lot of veteran hikers and new hikers. People feed off each other; the veterans let the new hikers know they can complete this monumental task. And the veterans and other tourists get to be around the energy of people starting a thru hike; you can feel the enthusiasm and excitement! There’s so much community, culture and love surrounding this event.” Read the rest of the article.

Prepping For a Grand Canyon Thru Hike (a guide to multi-sport expedition planning)

Stripped Down Grand Canyon Thru Hiker Beta, Logistics & Route Finding, By Mike St. Pierre

Grand Canyon Route Finding & Logistics

By Mike St. Pierre, Photos by Mike St. Pierre & Clay Wadman

Planning and prepping for any major backcountry adventure, whether the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail or a section hike below the rim of the Grand Canyon, is logistically challenging. And unless you’re the first thru hiker, canyoneer or climber to map and explore the route, you must rely on information gathered from numerous sources, from Google Earth to the people who first explored the area. I prefer more remote trips as the lack of information makes them more adventurous. Plus, the fewer the resources you have to depend on, the more careful you have to be and the more you have to rely on your own experience to accomplish the feat (so you’d better have a lot of experience for bigger adventures). However, the popularity or the remoteness of your trip is relative; you’ll have a greater chance of success if you know what you’re getting into. You’ll also more likely succeed if you travel simply, use gear wisely and constantly refine and lighten your systems. This thru hiker approach is applicable whether you’re a long-distance backpacker or a climber, packrafter, skier, or passionate backcountry adventurer of any kind.

The Way of the Thru Hiker 

Experienced thru hikers have walking dialed. They know exactly what they need to be efficient and conserve energy because they walk all day long. I took a thru hiker’s approach in very carefully planning the second leg of my section hike below the rim of the Grand Canyon. I made sure to have exactly what I needed and nothing more. I dialed in my knowledge of the terrain, weather, water sources and resupply points by doing extensive research. And I reached out to more experienced Grand Canyon thru hikers, rangers and other experts.

Subsequently, when I embarked on my 200+-mile thru hike/canyoneering adventure this March, I felt ready to go bigger and further, increasing my mileage and distance. I had already done the first section over two weeks in the fall of 2015 with Rich Rudow, whose decades of experience make him one of the foremost experts of America’s biggest canyon. He spent a full year plotting his path, the gear and his caches for his 57-day, 700-mile thru hike below the rim (Read more). I joined him for his first two weeks. Despite the gnarliest terrain and harshest conditions I had every experienced (or maybe because of them), I caught the bug and immediately started planning the second leg of my journey. I also trusted my own 15 years of experience in ultralight backpacking techniques.

So how did I do it? Of course, I can’t download my life’s experience with ultralight backcountry travel and gear in one article, but here’s an overview of how I planned my trip. It’s not comprehensive, and you shouldn’t assume you can thru hike below the rim of the Grand Canyon based off what you learn from these articles. But in this three-part series of posts, I’ll share the most valuable things I’ve learned from my backcountry experiences. They culminated in this section hike, which was definitely the most difficult and challenging adventure I’ve embarked on to date. Read the rest of the article and check out photos.

America to America: Thru Hiking the Continent’s Longest “Trail”

Ambassador Bethany Hughes weighs in after 5 months of thru hiking the Americas

Bethany Hughes-2
Bethany “Fidgit” Hughes and Lauren “Neon” Reed thru hiking as far south as you can get in the Americas.

The scale at the international flight counter weighed each of our packs, full of everything except food and water, at 10 kilos (about 22 pounds). Planning to mostly thru hike the length of South America over the next three years, going lightweight is a must. Our route has taken us through National Parks and Preserves, and we have often marveled at the bulk of what many visitors carry. They shuffle and trudge, backs bowing under the weight of their packs as they frown at the dirt before their feet while giants such as the Torres del Paine, Fitz Roy and Cerro Norte tower above.

Bethany Hughes and Neon Reed are thru hiking from the south to the north tip of America.

Raised in a Scouting family, backpacking has long been a part of my narrative; lightweight, not so much. I’d never even heard of a baseweight until the night before starting the Pacific Crest Trail in 2010. Hanging my pack from a scale for the first time I thought 58 lbs. wasn’t bad. By the end of that trail my full weight was around 35 lbs.

But going lightweight has been natural and necessary development in the transition from backpacking to thru hiking. For Neon and myself, it has become essential, and being out of reach of easy replacement gear, durability is also an important component. It is a question of balance and simplicity, and it’s something we think about every day. We hike light for the practical reason of sustaining 20-40 kilometers a day over years to come.

Continue reading.

Lightweight Appalachian Trail Gear: “Tenderfoot” Drops 9oz

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

AT 2016
Lays at the summit of Max Patch Mountain outside of Hot Springs, NC.

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

Baxter State Park Soon To Register A.T. Thru Hikers

An Increase in Number of Appalachian Trail Hikers Leads Baxter State Park To Implement Registration Cards. Plus, Other Things NOBO Hikers Should Know.

Katahdin-BorisAT-45-Katahdin-1
Photo by 2015 A.T. thru hiker Austin “Boris” Clay.

 

A fitting end to one of the world’s most famous trails, Katahdin (5,267 feet) is Maine’s highest mountain and the centerpiece of Baxter State Park (BSP). Steep, tall and surrounded by forests, it’s also an icon for tens of thousands of aspiring Appalachian Trail (A.T.) thru hikers. It’s the northern-most 14 miles of the A.T. When NOBO or section hikers enter the Park at Abol Bridge, they’ve got just nine miles to the Katahdin Stream Campground, where a special campsite—the Birches—is set aside for up to 12 long-distance hikers (which happens to be the same number of hikers allowed to summit Katahdin at one time, as a group).

However, because of movies like “A Walk in the Woods” and “Wild” as well as increasing numbers of well-known athletes hiking the A.T., the number of thru and section hikers is growing fast, and the impact on Katahdin, the Park and its other users is being impacted, sometimes negatively. According to Tenny Webster,a trail information specialist at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, 2016 could be a banner year in terms of numbers of people summiting Katahdin.

“We’re waiting to see what happens this year,” Webster says. “We typically see about 10% growth in the number of thru and section hikers who summit Katahdin each year. But this year may be an anomaly. We’re potentially looking at even greater numbers.”

So what’s a State Park, that’s already very carefully managed for use, to do? For starters, they’ll begin implementing a registration system for thru hikers this year.  Read the rest of the post.

Ultralight Gear for Appalachian Trail Hikers: 2-Person Planning & Prep

Exactly what you need & nothing more: ultralight gear for Appalachian Trail thru hikers

Ultralight gear for the Appalachian Trail. Everything Tenderfoot is bringing.

 

Text & illustrations by Tyson Perkins

Early summer 2014, my girlfriend, Kendra Ultralight gear for Appalachian Trail thru hikes.Jackson, and I took on our second 5000-footer together—Mount Katahdin. Soon after waking up the day of our ascent we met a 20-something New York City-based mountain guide, Peter. A veteran thru-hiker, he had a wealth of knowledge about backcountry travel and the Appalachian Trail. He taught us about shelters that set up with trekking poles instead of your common tent poles, trail names, “Trail Magic,” “Zero Days,” “Nero Days,” “Hiker Hobble” and cleaning yourself with baby wipes. We immediately got overly enamored and stoked on this magically ridiculous world and decided to hike the “AT.” Fast travel to the summer of 2015, and Kendra and I began taking on adventures such as the Mahoosuc Range between New Hampshire and Maine in a weekend and returning to work on Monday.

On our first forays into the wilderness, we took awkward thrift store backpacks and a beaten-down double sleeping bag. We cooked dinner on a heavy propane stove right near our Walmart dome tent. Needless to say we had a ton of fun using terrible gear, but knew there had to be better options out there. Through my job as a tent maker at Hyperlite Mountain Gear, I gleaned a ton of ultralight knowledge from the owner, Mike St. Pierre. The more I learned, the easier our trips became. And, more importantly, we enjoyed our backcountry adventures even more. And now’s the time. We’re taking all that we have learned since 2014 and heading out for our Appalachian Trail thru hike. In this blog post I detail our planning, preparation and gear.

Planning:

We really enjoyed planning the logistics of this trip, regularly geeking out over Excel spread sheets and line art graphs (Kendra developed the one published to the right) and the ultralight Appalachian Trail Gear we planned to take. We’ve meticulously categorized and sorted all our mail drop supplies along the AT, and we’ve mapped out our post office stops and planned out how we will meet up with Kendra’s parents in Shenandoah National Park. Everyone needs to take breaks, and we have come up with a plan to take some without compromising our March 4th to July 22nd timeline. If we stick to the plan, we’ll hike 16 miles a day on average. We’ve developed a “bank” system. Essentially, any miles we do over the 16-mile average we add to the bank, and once we have a days worth of miles in it, we can take a full day off. Also, we built in two full Zero Days. And, we planned our food and gear very carefully…

Shakedown:

Home-made dehydrated meals or Mountain House? Nalgene® or a SmartWater bottle? Eucalyptus or almond soap?!?! There are so many choices, some of which are easy to make, and some that seem like you are perpetually leaving something behind. Will I need a footprint for my shelter? Will down be a superior sleeping bag choice? These are things that we will not find out until we really take them out and put them to the test. Gear is really fun. Planning what to take was actually my favorite part of this whole endeavor.

Here is a quick breakdown of our ultralight gear for Appalachian Trail thru hikes: Check out the full list.

The Grandest Walk: A 700-Mile Thru Hike Below the Rim

Chris Atwood eyes a fast moving storm from the moonscape near Fishtail Mesa. Photo: Rich Rudow
Chris Atwood eyes a fast moving storm from the moonscape near Fishtail Mesa.

Stories and photos by Rich Rudow

How 2012 Outside Mag “Adventurer of the Year,” Rich Rudow, achieved one of his greatest objectives–a rarely done thru hike of the full length of the Grand Canyon.

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. 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. Fortunately, Dave Nally and Chris Atwood, my hiking partners on this journey, weren’t like most people. They had thousands of Grand Canyon off-trail miles under their belts too, and most importantly, we had hiked together many times on difficult Grand Canyon expeditions. I could count on their judgment, strength and fortitude.

But, I wondered, “Could I do it?” Would my 50-year-old body hold up to the rigors of a thru hike on some of the most difficult terrain on the planet for 57 continuous days? I made sure to cover my bases. We spent a year planning the expedition. We defined a highly detailed day-by-day route, identifying water sources and bailout options. We placed eight caches throughout the length of the Grand to resupply along the way. They contained food, extra approach shoes and hiking poles, first aid supplies, clothes for the changing seasons, a warmer sleeping bag for late Fall, maps for each leg of the route, technical climbing gear, and of course, tequila, coffee and peanut M&M’s. Selecting the right gear was paramount for success. A pack failure would end the trip. A shelter failure could be life threatening. Read on… the Expedition Begins!

Pacific Northwest Trail Challenges: Mosquitos, Staying Dry, Navigation & More

Ashley Hill on the Pacific Northwest Trail.
Ashley Hill on the remote, widely unknown Pacific Northwest Trail.

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!

Leave No Trace Principles for Thru Hike & Packraft Trips (Part II)

This is the second in a series of two articles on Don Carpenter’s August 2015 expedition to the Arctic Wildlife Refuge and the Leave No Trace (LNT) principles he and his team of three practiced while there. (Read the first article). At Hyperlite Mountain Gear, we feel that the Leave No Trace principles are absolutely in line with our philosophy of stripping down your load on outdoor adventures and in life. Minimize your impact on the environment just as you would dial in your gear and your systems in as minimalist a manner as possible!

(Left to right) Scott Christy, Greg Young and Trevor Deighton drag their boats across a beach.
(Left to right) Scott Christy, Greg Young and Trevor Deighton drag their boats across a beach.

Photo & text by Don Carpenter

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern Alaska is a special place. A large and diverse ecosystem of rivers and spruce forests exists on the south side of the Brooks Range, while glaciated peaks lie in the heart of the range, and the coastal plain expands to the north, with rivers draining into the Arctic Ocean.

Marshy, spongy muskeg tundra made walking more challenging than it appeared from afar. Although obscured by fog, cold drizzle and wind, I could feel the large glaciated peaks of the Brooks Range to the south and the Arctic Ocean to the north. My team of three people and I had encountered only small pods of two to six caribou. But I imagined this plain brimming with the huge caribou herds that visit the coastal plain to calve and feed early summer. Many of the birds had already migrated south, but we encountered large numbers of geese preparing to move out, as well as falcons and harriers every day. Fewer animals, cold weather, and the vivid red and gold of the tundra made it apparent that fall was well underway by mid-August.

Though we didn’t see a lot of wildlife, we took great measures to be prepared for possible encounters. In part I of the series, we discussed Planning Ahead and Preparing for your trip. In Part II, we’ll discuss how to deal with wildlife and fires in the backcountry. Read the rest of the article now!

Leave No Trace in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge (Part I)

This is the first in a series of two articles on Don Carpenter’s August 2015 expedition to the Arctic Wildlife Refuge and the Leave No Trace (LNT) principles he and his three teammates practiced while there. (Read the second article). At Hyperlite Mountain Gear, we feel that the Leave No Trace principles are absolutely in line with our philosophy of stripping down your load on outdoor adventures and in life. Minimize your impact on the environment just as you would dial in your gear and your systems in as minimalist a manner as possible!

The seasons change quickly on the tundra. Fall approaches by August.
The seasons change quickly on the tundra. Fall approaches by August.

Photo & text by Don Carpenter

On my first ski expedition to the high peaks of the Arctic Wildlife Refuge in 2014, my eyes were constantly drawn north. In that direction, the glaciated peaks of the Brooks Range transition to the open coastal plain and the Arctic Ocean beyond. I knew I wanted to go there someday.

Just over a year later, I found myself walking across the Refuge’s coastal plain, en route from the south side of the Brooks Range to Beaufort Sea. My three partners and I were traveling by packraft and foot, linking four rivers over 12 days. Our goal was to explore a vast, pristine landscape, while minimizing our impact following strict Leave No Trace (LNT) principles.

We practiced all seven of the LNT principles on our trip. Here are some details on how several of the principles applied to our adventure.

Principle #1 Plan Ahead and Prepare…

You can’t take care of the environment around you if you aren’t prepared to take care of yourself. Expedition planning is an art form balancing safety, efficiency and pack weight. We wanted our packs to be light, but erred a bit heavier with a few items due to remoteness and anticipated weather. In an environment such as the Arctic in August, where winter conditions may not be far off, going light is a relative concept. Read the rest of the article now!

First Aid Lite: Ultralight Backcountry First Aid Kit

Bryan Carroll checking out 1000 Acre Meadows, an unknown area to most people, where a first aid kit would be necessary. It's roughly 23 miles to get there, you have to climb two passes, and then you'll find it tucked behind a few peaks.
Bryan Carroll checking out the remote 1000 Acre Meadows, where carrying a first aid kit would be highly advised. It’s roughly 23 miles to get there, you have to climb two passes, and then you’ll find it tucked behind a few peaks.

Photo & text courtesy of Andy Dappen of www. WenatcheeOutdoors.org, fact checked by Dr. Mark Shipman.

When trying to rid your pack of unnecessary pounds, the normal first-aid kit is worth putting under the microscope. With some scrutiny it’s actually pretty easy to shed nearly a pound of first-aid weight and a liter of first-aid bulk from your kit. Being rid of little-used items is a calculated risk–there may be rare occasions when one or two items you want may be missing if you follow the advice below. On the other hand dramatically lightning up your pack in all areas so that your total load is 20 pounds for an overnight trip versus 35 pounds will help you in many ways. You’ll not only travel farther and faster, you’ll travel this distance with less likelihood of injury because your balance will be better and you will be less fatigued and hence less likely to make a careless misstep. So while the recommends below may leave you slightly less prepared for emergencies, they’ll significantly reduce the odds of incurring injury. Welcome to yet another of life’s many gray zones.

The One Tape
The one item I now always carry for injuries, whether I’m out for a trail run, a long rock climb or a several hour day hike, is a partial roll (amounting to five or six feet) of Leukotape  P. This tape, made by BSN Medical,  is the best thing going for dealing with blisters (the adhesive is amazing), small cuts (make band-aids from strips of tape with a little toilet paper added where you want gauze) or larger cuts (cover the wound with TP or cloth and secure this firmly in place with wraps of tape). Read the rest of the article here.

Below The Rim: Extreme Grand Canyon Thru Hike

Giant life-saving water pockets on Pocket Point. Photo by Rich Rudow
A giant life-saving water pockets on Pocket Point. Photo by Rich Rudow

One of the seven natural wonders of the world, the Grand Canyon is enormous. Most people look over the rim convinced they’ve seen it all with a long gaze. The reality is much different; they’re looking at a fraction of a percent. Even the few thousand people who raft the Grand or backpack its trails have only just barely scratched its sandy, desert surface. But not so Rich Rudow. A 2012 Outside Mag “Adventurer of the Year” and a Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ambassador, Rudow is the foremost explorer of slot canyons in the Park; he’s descended more than 160, including over 100 likely first descents. His latest adventure is an entirely self-supported, 56-day thru hike down river, which he is doing with Dave Nally and Chris Atwood.

“Roughly 3,500 people have climbed Mt. Everest; 250 people have done the triple crown, but fewer than a dozen people have thru hiked the Grand Canyon all the way through in this way,” Rudow explains. “The terrain is just too difficult.” According to Rudow, an absence of trails complicates navigation, especially on the north side of river. While the Colorado river runs 277 miles through Grand Canyon, the hiking routes are between 500- and 700-miles long depending on the route chosen. Rudow’s route will require regular class 3 to 5 scrambling to transition up and down thousands of vertical feet of the different cliff bands. Read the rest of the article!

Food Prep & Recipes for Ultralight Thru Hike Adventures

Stripped Down Ultralight Recipes, By Mike St. Pierre

I live for adventure. I love owning and operating a growing ultralight outdoor gear company (even the stress and chaos!) But I thrive in the middle of nowhere. The backcountry is where I perfect our packs and shelters, come up with new product ideas and continue to hone my lightweight/minimalism skills. This fall I’m heading into the Grand Canyon for 16 days to accompany the foremost expert on that natural wonder of the world, Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ambassador Rich Rudow. Rich is thru hiking about 700 miles down river and then back up the other side, all below the rim of the canyon and all off trail. The route is roughly mapped out, but the terrain will dictate the path; some days we’ll be walking (or bushwhacking) by the river and other days we’ll be scrambling 4th– and low 5th-class terrain through the seven layers of rock that make up the cliffs of the canyon; we may hike up to 6000 feet on any given day, gaining 3000 to 4000 feet in elevation. In this Series of blog posts I’ll be focusing on what it takes to prep for a major expedition like this. This first post is about ultralight food preparations for a multi-day thru hike in the backcountry. Plus, I’ve included some of my recipes.

Table2

Read the rest of the article & get some backcountry recipes, including our favorite,

Ashley Hill on Thru Hiking the Pacific Northwest Trail

Ashley Hill on the Pacific Northwest Trail with her Southwest Pack.
Ashley Hill on the Pacific Northwest Trail with her Southwest Pack.

Meet Ashley Hill, a Hyperlite Mountain Gear Trail Ambassador. Born and raised in San Jose, Calif., she has traveled around the world, worked for both the United Nations and Amnesty International and earned BA in Peace and Conflict studies. At a young age, she decided to go abroad, and so bought a one-way ticket to South America, where she visited Colombia, lived with a shaman in the Amazon and traveled the Caribbean Coast. But, in 2012, her life changed when she learned her mother’s cancer diagnosis had taken a turn for the worse. She packed up and went home. But the wanderlust returned after her mother passed away, and despite having very little outdoor experience, she decided to do a thru hike. Hill figured walking in the wilderness would help her both grieve and grow. So she set out to hike the Pacific Crest Trail Southbound from Canada to Mexico on July 12, 2014. “It was the best decision of my life,” Hill says. “After hitting the Mexican border, I knew I would be a hiker for the rest of my life.” Hill is currently hiking the Pacific Northwest Trail. She recently answered a few questions for us on a zero day. Read our Q&A with Ashley Hill!

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