Our Everyday Adventures

We are not adventurers by choice but by fate – Van Gogh

Sierra Designs Ultra Light Sleeping Bags

Post by:  Jake

Looking to trim some weight off your gear for your next backpacking trip?  Look no further.  The Sierra Designs Vapor 15 is the perfect sleeping bag for spring, summer, and early fall in the Rockies.  At 1lb. 15oz. the 850-down fill bag is super cozy, and packs down to nearly nothing.  Sierra Designs has been making sleeping bags, tents, clothing, and packs for over 45 years and their experience is perfected in the Vapor 15 bag. 

Pros: Crazy light weight; Super comfortable; Extremely packable.

Cons:  1/2 length zipper to save weight makes regulating temperature on hot nights a bit difficult; fairly expensive at $420 but if you’re getting 1 nice and expensive piece of gear, this is worth considering;  It’s down so keep it dry or else.

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Our Next Adventure

Post by:  Jake

Following the triathlon, we keep getting asked the question, “So what’s your next adventure going to be?”  Well here it is… drum roll please… Ultra Light and Fast hike deep into one of the largest wilderness areas in the lower 48, the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex.  At about 1.5-million acres, “The Bob” has more miles of trail than most people hike in a lifetime.  The Bob is home to one of the most completely preserved mountain ecosystems in the world.  When people hear the word “wilderness” The Bob is the picture that comes into their minds, jagged peaks, crystal clear alpine lakes, plummeting waterfalls, meadows packed with wildflowers, deep glaciated river valleys, and towering old growth forests.

The trip–57 miles in 2-days, 1-night. 12 miles on mountain bikes to the wilderness boundary, then 45-miles on foot.  We’ll be biking in near Gibson Reservoir near Choteau, MT, then taking the Moose Creek drainage to the Chinese Wall.  We’ll hike about 3 miles along the wall and take the South Fork of the Sun River trail back to our bikes. 

For gear, we’ll be going Ultra-Light, so only the essentials.  We’ll try to keep our TOTAL (including water) pack weight below 15-pounds.  Because we’ll be packing so light, we can use Gore-Tex trail running shoes instead of bulky, heavy backpacking boots.  The trail is fairly gentle and well traveled by horses, so it’s nice and wide and not overgrown.  We should certainly be able to cover the 22.5 miles on foot each day.  How is it possible to carry everything we need in under 15 lbs?  Well, Here’s our packing list:

 *Nylon Tarp  5 oz. (that’s right, no tent.)

Sierra Designs Vapor 15 Sleeping bag;  31 oz x 2

Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite pad; 14 oz x 2

* First aid kit: 8 oz

Go-Lite backpack 30 liter 15 oz x 2

Change of socks: 2 oz x 2

extra clothes (rain gear and fleece): 48 oz x 2

* AquaMira Water Purification: 1 oz.

* Garmin E-Trex Vista gps 8 oz.

map: 1 oz x 2

Brunton Compass 2 oz x 2

PureBot water bottles = 8 oz x 2

water .5 gal = 67 oz. x 2

Counter Assault Bear Spray: 10 oz x 2

* Cordage Rope: 4 oz

headlamp/batteries 4 oz x 2

*matches: 1 oz

*Primus Express Stove 2.9 oz

*Primus 1 liter titanium pot 4.4 oz

Food, energy bars and freeze dried. 16 oz x 2

Total weight for 2 people: 469 oz or 29.3 lbs.  split in 1/2 = 14.65 lbs. each.

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Sea to Summit Gear

Post by:  Jake

Sea to Summit makes some of the nicest and most useful accessories for backpacking/camping or pretty much any kind of adventure. From backcountry trowels to the kitchen sink, there’s not much they don’t make. Recently I got to try out a handful of Sea to Summit gear, and I must say, everything I’ve used rocks.

Although this Australian company has only been around for about 20 years, you’ll certainly find their products lining the shelves of any quality gear or travel shop as their product line has exploded in recent years. Their in-house person let me know that the company is still owned by the people who founded it, and both founders still work in the business, coming up with innovative products like modular travel bags, sleeping bag liners, and dozens of other types of travel accessories like clothes lines and umbrellas. Travel certainly isn’t their only pursuit though, as they make some bomber dry bags, super light weight sleeping bags, and piles of other camping gear.

Our gear test focused on some of the Sea to Summit backpacking products.
The Guide Map Case I used for the adventure race a few weeks ago proved to be invaluable. I chose the size small so I wouldn’t have a giant poster sized case dangling from my neck as I raced, and it was the perfect size. At 12-inches by 8.5-inches it’s perfectly sized to carry a folded map, compass, utm card, pen/pencil, race passport, ect…   Unlike many map cases which are made of PVC, this one is constructed of a high-tech film called Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU for short), which stays flexy down to minus 40 degrees and doesn’t yellow.  Even the Ziploc closure is made of TPU.  I’ll certainly be using this all summer for normal and super-light backpacking trips.

The Kitchen Sink and Trek & Travel Pocket Soap are a fantastic addition to your backcountry kitchen. The unique designed of the sink is engineered so that the weight of the water inside keeps the walls of the sink upright. Brilliant! The Trek & Travel Pocket Soap, at 1/2 an ounce is airport safe and is simply a necessity for light weight travel of any kind. A tiny plastic container dispenses 50 “leaves” of dried biodegradable soap. Very handy, and well worth the $3.95

The collapsible Pocket Trowel is another well engineered product. Built of glass-reinforces nylon, it’s super strong strong, light, and has a small amount of storage in the handle.  Because it collapses down to half its length, it fits easily in any tight space, and will certainly see lots of unglamorous use this summer.

Overall, we were excited to test such great stuff, and we will certainly be adding lots more Sea to Summit equipment to our gear closet.

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You Might be a Backpacker IF:


I Originally posted this to the TrailsEdge.com blog, but thought it was funny enough to post here too!

1. If what’s on your back costs more than your car.
2. If you’ve ever washed your clothes while still wearing them.
3. If you’ve ever passed a pile of fly-covered dung on the trail and the flies leave the dung to follow you.
4. If you own a $75 dress suit and a $1,000 Gore-Tex® suit.
5. If you have more summit pictures than wedding pictures.
6. If a homeless person gives you his change.
7. If you prefer a tree or a bush to modern flushing devises.
8. If you have a hard time walking past a dumpster without checking its contents.
9. If you pick up food in a grocery store and think: Dang, this is heavy and put it back.
10. If you collect single serving packets of ketchup and mustard whenever you’re in a café or gas station.
11. If you’ve ever slept on your Thermarest pad when there’s been a perfectly good bed available.
12. If you grab your headlamp to walk from your bedroom to the bathroom.
13. If the gear in your closet take up more room than your clothes.
14. If dirty talk means deciding who will clean all of the gear.
15. If your dog carries a pack with gear.
16. If your biggest fight/ disagreement with your spouse is a debate over the merits of different types of filtration systems.
17. If your dinner can be prepared with 8 ounces of water, two minutes of prep time, and only requires one utensil.
18. When asked if you want to zip your sleeping bags together, all you can think is, “that’s so thermally inefficient!”
19. If you are more likely to know how many miles you’ve put on footwear than on your car.
20. If a romantic gesture involves an old Nalgene bottle with a row of duct tape and “natural” flowers picked from a field or someone’s yard…

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Death Canyon ~ Grand Teton Nat. Park

Post By: Jake

Veronica and I just got back from an amazing backpacking trip in Grand Teton National Park. We have a parks pass this year and wanted to fully utilize it, so we picked a hike inside the park. We started at the Death canyon Trailhead, hiked up Death Canyon, across the plateau to Marion Lake, and down Granite Canyon back to the Death Canyon Trailhead. roughly 25 miles and roughly 4,000 vertical feet up, then back down. 2 nights, 3 days. If you haven’t been to the Tetons, they are gorgeous and totally worth a trip, BUT be prepared for LOTS of people. The park is fairly small (compared to Yellowstone, or Glacier…the next closest parks) and the trails are fairly limited so the MANY people are all concentrated to a hundred or so miles of park trails. We never made it more than a mile without running into other parties backpacking or day hiking. Most of the parties we ran into in the high country were very friendly and courteous. Several of the people we ran into in the lower country (mostly day hikers) were clueless to trail etiquette to downright rude and crude (more than a few parties were actively drinking cans of beer while hiking down the trail at 1:00 in the afternoon!!! On our last day, on the way out to the car, I got a little excited, thinking someone was handing out free cold beer at the trailhead!)

Anyways… wonderful weekend, gorgeous scenery, lots of wild (somewhat) game, billions of mosquitoes, and a lifetime of memories.


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Glacier Backpacking

Post By: Jake

Veronica and I have really been trying to make it a point this year to balance our free time between getting outdoors as much as possible and working on our little fixer upper home. In mid July we were able to get up to Glacier National Park (a quick 3 hour drive from where we live) to do our first real backpacking trip together. It was to be a 4 day trip starting at Essex, Montana and ending at Two Medicine in Glacier Park, about 31+ miles down the trail.

We spent our first 2 days hiking a little over 20 miles up the Park Creek drainage, another day hiking over the continental divide–Two Medicine pass, and another day hiking the final soggy miles out to the car at Two Medicine Lake. Typically while hiking it was 90+ degrees, sunny and VERY humid, and generally after we got camp setup a thunderstorm would roll in and soak everything thoroughly. The trail was completely overgrown with ferns and thimbleberry plants for miles making it very difficult to stay on the trail much less make any forward progress. The overgrown plants held all the rain water from the previous nights storm—that is until we hiked by. Needless to say, we were completely soaked for days despite all the Gore-Tex boots, pants and jackets. It’s amazing how well water can find its way into every corner of your body.

Despite the inclimate weather while hiking and at camp, we had an amazing time! It was my wife’s first real backpacking trip, and she was loving every minute of it! We saw some amazing scenery, ate some unbelievably good huckleberries, and most of all enjoyed eachothers company, life and nature. Despite the long grueling miles, our internal batteries were only recharged by the trail. The first 3 of 4 days we didn’t see ANYONE else on the trail. It felt like we were alone in the wild. If ever anyone has the opportunity to make a trip to Glacier Park, We’d both highly recommend this seldom visited southern area of the park.


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Backpacking Ski Trip

Post By: Jake

Last March, Veronica and I (suffering from cabin fever) got the itch to do some backpacking, however there was still quite a bit of snow on the ground. We broke out the cross country skis, backpacks, and yes…sleds.  Since we were bringing sleds we could pack a tad bit heavier than normal, and yet keep the packs on our backs fairly light by putting all the heavier gear in the sleds to be dragged. The system worked out VERY well at first, that is until later in the day when the snow started getting very soft, wet and sticky.


The skiing progressively became harder and harder throughout the day and I simply attributed the drudgery to the progressively steepening terrain and simply getting worn out by the end of the day. That is, until I noticed about 6 inches of snow stuck to the bottoms of our skis, covering the whole length of ski, It must have added a good 15 pounds per ski, not to mention it was being dragged and plowed through the fresh snow in front of us. I gave the sides of my skis a good whack to knock off the snow, and proceeded onward.  A few steps later I picked up my ski, and again saw a massive ball of snow stuck to the bottoms. It made forward progress VERY difficult, but not impossible, so we trudged onward for another 1/2 mile or so, until we finally decided to switch out to snow shoes. After switching out, I was kicking myself for not doing that miles ago as the forward progress was incredibly easy again. At that point we were too worn out to make any more significant progress so we stopped and carved in a camp for the night… Right in the middle of the road/trail.

The night was cold, but not TOO cold. lows were down in the teens, cold enough to freeze up any water bottles not in our sleeping bags. In the morning, we woke to 10″ of fresh cold powder. It was simply beautiful.

After breakfast we broke down camp and set off back to the car, this time, all downhill. Going in took about 6 hours to do 3 miles, going out took about 45 minutes to cover the same distance. In the end, we were completely wore out, but entirely thankful we live in such an awesome place, and are able to go for a quick overnight backpacking ski trip only 20 minutes from home.


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