Photos by Jessica Kelley
Today is the 50th anniversary of the designation of the country’s first two National Scenic Trails – the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails. It’s impossible to measure how much enjoyment they’ve brought to the millions of people who have sought adventures big and small on them. And likely just as difficult to know how many people have put in countless hours of work into advocacy and maintenance on their behalf. The Pacific Crest Trail Association is one such group that’s done a lot of heavy lifting over the years.
The PCTA is a non-profit of route stewards who monitor, care for and promote this 2,650-mile trail that wanders from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon, and Washington. They tirelessly work to ensure that it’s available for hikers long into the future. That sounds pretty good to us, and we’re happy to have partnered with them again for the third year.
And, just like we did with the Continental Divide Trail Coalition, we’ve teamed up to make special PCTA stuff sacks that feature the association’s emblem. Our ultralight Drawstring Stuff Sacks can find a home and use in any pack, and they’ll be available with PCTA memberships and other promotions.
Join the PCTA and ATC for a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the designation of our nation’s first two National Scenic Trails: the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails. With host Jennifer Pharr-Davis and special guest Cheryl Strayed.
Date: October 2, 2018
Time: 11am-3pm PDT (2pm-6pm EST)
Rebroadcast: 4pm-8pm PDT (7pm-11pm EST)
Webcast Link: ATPCT50.org
And if you haven’t, consider contributing to the PCTA mission as well at PCTA.org.
Our new REpack freezer bag cook system will elevate your dining experience out on the trail.
Some might argue that the most significant side-effect of backpacking, thru hiking, and multi-sporting is being able to eat like a pelican. But we don’t all do it as well as we could with nutrition, caloric intake, or even just the pure enjoyment of eating some food the way it is intended to be consumed – hot for starters! When your home and kitchen sit on your shoulders in vast, disconnected expanses, goals like these aren’t always easy to achieve.
What to eat, however, isn’t the only consideration for the meticulous hiker and explorer. Ponder the size and weight of pre-packaged food bags and containers, times that by the number of days you’re out or between resupply, and subsequently, how the size of your garbage bag grows. That’s a lot of wasted space.
Enter our new REpack freezer bag cook system. How many ways will it improve your life in the great outdoors, you ask?
Walk with us.
As a guide for Alpine Ascents International, he’s helped quite a few fellow climbers rack up some unbelievable sights of their own. We asked him where the drive upwards comes from, why he believes going ultralight is a great way forward, and what’s on his horizon.
“Trail Magic,” for the uninitiated, is an action that is, in so many ways, precisely what it sounds like. It’s an unexpected gesture that can positively change the dynamic of a thru hiker’s day. It should be positive anyway. I doubt a surprise offer to wrestle would go as far with a weary traveler as food or a free shower, but who knows. These are interesting times.
Words by Bjorn Olson
I wanted to introduce myself along with the rest of the small team that will be joining me this fall on a previously un-attempted fat bike and packraft trip through an intriguing and rarely visited corner of Alaska. Our little cadre of three will be made up my girlfriend who is, amongst other winning traits, my principal trip-partner, best friend, a naturalist/artist and well-versed wilderness adventure bum, Kim McNett.
Daniel Countiss, a veteran to rowdy and remote fat bike expeditions, a former Georgian and now fellow Homer, Alaska resident, will also be joining us. Daniel is a professional welder and is owner/operator of the custom bicycle company Defiance Frameworks. His personal bike is a customized reflection of the terrain we regularly find ourselves traversing – light but strong, simple, big tired, and capable.
For my own part, I am a born and raised Alaskan with a life-long passion for exploring the Great Land by human-power. My original appetites were for mountaineering, climbing, and expedition kayaking, but over the past dozen years I have been consumed with the bottomless joy of finding my limits on a fat bike, often with the aid of a packraft, in the backcountry. Photography, filmmaking, and writing are the secondary excuses I proffer to justify time spent in the hinterlands.
Words by Brad Meiklejohn // Photos by Tim Kelley
In June 2018, Tim Kelley, Gunnar Cantwell, Tom Diegel, and Hyperlite Mountain Gear ambassador Brad Meiklejohn paddled and walked from Haines Junction in the Yukon, Canada to Yakutat, Alaska, completing the first packraft descent of the Alsek River. The Alsek is one of the legendary rivers of North America, in a league that includes the Stikine, Colorado, Columbia, and Susitna, and was the last major river in North America to be navigated.
Much of the Alsek remained terra incognita until 1971 when Walt Blackadar completed the first full descent, including a solo run through Turnback Canyon. Blackadar, the boldest kayaker of his generation, wrote: “I want every other kayaker to read my words well. The Alsek is unpaddleable! I’m not coming back. Not for $50,000, not for all the tea in China.”
Every year, the nonprofit Mount Washington Observatory in New Hampshire hosts a fundraiser titled “Seek the Peak“. With the reasonable request that participants raise $200 to help support the important work up on that mountaintop, hikers are treated to special prizes, drawings, good vibes, and camaraderie. There’s also their world-class afterparty to look forward to when everyone returns to sea level. Organizers seem to have tuned into the most primal and otherworldly “carrot” to chase – a full-blown Thanksgiving style meal at the finish. Make no mistake, this is hands down the most refreshing gravy you’ll ever have.
For the second year, a group of our employees headed to the event to take on whatever challenges the notoriously moody mountain put forth. This time around, that big pile of rocks was more than happy to have hundreds of people of all stripes climb all over her. With hardly a cloud in the sky, everyone who got above tree line was treated to unreal views in every direction – a rare but very welcome occurrence.
The Hyperlite Mountain Goats got an early-ish start at Pinkham Notch. Our team’s pace would be dictated by the blend of experience in it – accomplished thru hikers to new-to-the-region individuals (not to point any fingers in my own direction) that had no idea what this iconic New England trail can do to naïve knees and ankles. Despite this, we were cookin’ pretty well on the ascent up our chosen route on the Tuckerman Ravine Trail. Collective spirits were high with everyone we encountered, and the determination to reach the peak was palpable. It was hard to think about anything else but getting up and over the chaotic expanse of stones to boulders, and the siren’s call of pizza and hot dogs in the Visitor Center.
Reloaded and stoked, we decided to pat ourselves on the back for the speed of our climb with what we were told was a far more relaxed and leisurely stroll down Boott Spur. Although it’s a somewhat longer route, the opportunity to get some moderate sections where we could get into a less jarring and smooth cadence would be well-received. Blow the jets out, loosen up, and go faceplant some much deserved turkey.
This pleasing scenario was entirely of our own making and in reality, non-existent. Not only was Boott Spur longer, but it also seemed to be even more highly concentrated with rocks and roots. And steep crevasse and ravine hand and butt slides. Straight down. Forever. Payback for our somewhat aggressive scaling of Mount Washington was being doled out with time and a half. Some folks in this squad (again, not to point fingers at myself) were making sounds upon ground contact that they had never made before. But we made it down, group intact, with an abundance of respect and reverence for New England’s highest peak.
The dinner was exceptional, and by all measures, the event was a winner. As is the case whenever there’s a chance to be immersed in a community of people who share your passions, the takeaway was that we hikers, backpackers, thru hikers, and general outdoor gadabouts care about and celebrate good things in the natural world around us. Whether people signed up for this gala for personal enjoyment of the mountain, or to support the research that helps us understand it, we wish the organizers of Seek the Peak continued growth and success. Thanks for having us!
For more information about Seek the Peak, head to the event page here.
One of the biggest differences between mainstream brand backpacks and ultralight backpacks is the amount of bells and whistles. Removable brains, sleeping bag compartments, built in rain fly, and trekking pole carry straps might work for some people, but for a lot of backpackers, these features are over-designed and under-used, which in turn becomes unnecessary weight. Each extra zipper adds grams and another weak point for water to enter the pack, which is why a weather-resistant, roll-top style pack is the preferred design for a growing number of hikers. With only one entry point at the top, gear can be a little harder to organize but there are some tricks to make packing easier.
Every year we’re inundated (and frankly honored) with hundreds of requests for supporting someone’s dream thru hike. Unfortunately, it’s simply impossible to hook up everyone with gear, but there are always a few stand-outs that grab our attention for any number of reasons. This year is no different, and we’ve got folks using our Windrider and Southwest pa
If you’re like us – and you are to some degree – living the trail life vicariously through social media updates, we’ve rounded up a list of our favorite trail characters to keep an eye on this summer.
Words & Photos by Nathan Shoutis and Thomas Kinsley
Thomas and I started packrafting in the early days of Alpacka Rafts – around 2005- when it was still a one-woman operation working out of a garage in Eagle River, Alaska. We first met on the south end of Kodiak Island, Alaska, working at a remote field camp for Fish and Game. From there we embarked on a two-week gentlemen’s stroll across the length of the island’s glacially carved mountainous spine from our camp back to the town of Kodiak. That was our first joint expedition, and this 2017 packrafting trip to Kamchatka was the 10-year anniversary mission, which made it even more special.
Words by Dulkara Martig // Photos by Ben Weigl & Dulkara Martig
It was mid-August, and fall was fast approaching in Alaska. Locals were squeezing in their last summer trips before the winter set in. Bears were munching on the last of the berries. Bursts of orange, yellow, and red danced across the tundra, and fresh snow blanketed the mountain tops most mornings. Along with two good friends from Australia – Ben, and John – I set off into the Brooks Range in Arctic Alaska where we found spectacular granite spires, endless seas of boulders, and a surprisingly strong connection to that wild expanse.
When our design intentions and your reactions line up, that’s the sweet spot. We don’t always nail it on the first try, though – case and point, the dimensions of the original hip belt pockets on our popular 2400, 3400, and 4400 packs. The common theme in the feedback we received was that they were a tad small for some of the items you wanted easy access to throughout your days. We listened, it was all valid, and we’re pleased to announce a change. Introducing the new hip belt pocket size.
The CDTC’s goal to protect the countless breathtaking natural resources along the 3,100-mile trail is a noble one, and it’s work we believe in supporting. In 2017, this ever-growing organization was the conduit for nearly 39,000 hours of trail maintenance from a community of over 1,000 volunteers. That’s within range of nearly one-million dollars’ worth of work. And this is just one example of the myriad ways the CDTC focuses on safeguarding the future of this route that travels through public lands from Canada to Mexico.
Additionally, this year we’re pleased to have collaborated with the CDTC on a special run of small Drawstring Stuff Sacks to commemorate the 40-year anniversary of the trail. These ultralight and supremely useful drawstring bags are perfect organizational tools in any pack, and they’ll only be available from the CDTC store, included with memberships and at events throughout the year.
Head to www.continentaldividetrail.org to learn more about the organization, and if you haven’t, consider contributing to their mission as well.
First off, right now, you’re an “Aspiring Thru Hiker.” Until you finish your trail, you’re not yet a Thru-Hiker. You are certainly “thru-hiking”, but stay humble, the trail is hard for more than a few reasons, and you may not finish what you intended to start. Enjoy the journey with it’s challenges, and should you finish, enjoy your new title. You earned it. In the meantime, I’ve compiled a few insights that I found helpful throughout my quest to earning my own title, and that of a Triple Crowner.
Every year, we make the pilgrimage to Damascus, Virginia for the annual Appalachian Trail Days festival. Three days in Appalachia amongst some of our favorite people on Earth: accomplished and aspiring Thru-Hikers. The sheer number of people from every walk of life that pass thru Trail Town over the weekend never fails to amaze us. If you’re in the area and want to meet a colorful crew of Appalachian Trail hikers, this is the place to be.
This year we’ll have a trailer full of gear for sale (with event-only discounts), gear shakedowns, and raffles to cap off Friday and Saturday. Sign up early, and come by the booth at 4:00 P.M. for chances to win items from an assortment of great swag – including a 3400 Series Ultralight pack. See you there!
Damascus, Virginia is a small town is Southwest, Virginia that’s home to the convergence of seven hiking trails, including the point 470 miles in from the beginning of the Appalachian Trail. The regular population of just over 800 swells to nearly 30,000 when the town hosts the annual Trail Days Festival – a gathering of thru-hikers who are currently on trail, veteran hikers, and fans of the trail community. For more info check out the Official Trail Days 2018 brochure.
From deep in the Grand Canyon backcountry, ambassador Rich Rudow demonstrates his preferred way to mix up some ultralight margaritas while offering personal speculation into what ancient agave roasting in the region was really about.
Words & Photos by Tommy “Twerk” Corey
I got home tonight around 1AM, and after a long day of fake smiling and clearing dirty plates, I was ecstatic to take off my grease stained work clothes and seclude myself from the outside world. I open my bedroom door, set my backpack down, take my work clothes off and immediately put on my short, black Nike hiking shorts and my new Hawaiian button up which I will wear on the Pacific Crest Trail.
A perfected ultralight set up results in more time to enjoy the experiences of your endeavor. Our Dyneema® Composite Fabrics (formerly Cuben Fiber) Stuff Sacks and Pods let you achieve that perfection with myriad ways to dial in, organize, protect, and even lighten the system that works best for you. Every piece of your kit is as important as the last. Pack discipline starts here.