Post-PCT Echo I and II review

Hi, my name is Dave. In September 2010 I completed a thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). For about 1,300 miles of the hike I used Hyperlite Mountain Gear shelters:  the Echo I Tarp and Insert for 650 miles (from Agua Dulce to South Lake Tahoe) and the Echo II Tarp and Beak for 650 miles (from South Lake Tahoe to Ashland). The Echo II was shared with another person for 450 miles.  The following is my review of both shelter systems.

Echo I Tarp and Insert

I used the Echo I tarp and insert in the southern California desert and the Sierra Nevada mountains from mid-May to late June (note that I did not have the beak, as the prototype version I was testing at the time was not compatible with a beak). Overall the weather was good for the duration of use, with only a few sporadic showers, one half-inch snowfall, and one night-long drizzle. The shelter did face a lot of wind in the desert and condensation/frost in the mountains.

The Echo I sets up quickly and easily with a minimum six stakes and two trekking poles (or sticks) and can be very easily tightened and adjusted. It is by far the easiest tarp I have pitched in the wind. The catenary cut is excellent and sheds wind beautifully, provided the tarp is pitched drum tight. If it is not pitched tight in breezy conditions, the tarp will make an interesting but rather obnoxious vibrating sound all night long. This was never an issue when pitched tightly. Staking out the guy lines in the center of each side helps prevent this as well, so if you’ll be camping in windy areas, do yourself a favor and carry the two extra stakes (meaning eight stakes in total). This tarp will pull very hard on the stakes, so use something strong, such as MSR Groundhogs or 9” Easton Aluminums. The tarp comes with linelocks for each guy line, which I really liked, as they make tarp adjustment incredibly easy. If linelocks are not your thing, they can be easily removed.

As far as coverage, the tarp by itself covers one person with gear well enough to stay dry in a light or moderate storm, especially if the beak is used, but plan to get damp in a wind-driven rain. The tarp by itself would work great with a bivy sack. Using the tarp with the insert provides much better weather protection, stops the wind almost completely if pitched right, and protects better against pooling water than many tents. The insert is designed to fit no more than one person, so bringing gear inside is pretty cramped but possible. Gear stuffed under the tarp outside the insert will probably get damp or wet, unless it is placed under the beak. If stormy weather is likely, I would highly recommend using the beak, which will protect the user from getting soaked if the wind changes direction (without it, I felt somewhat vulnerable, as the user’s head is not far back from the end of the tarp and the door at the head of the insert is mostly mesh). I never had condensation issues under the tarp with or without the insert, although air flow was noticeably better without it.

One minor issue I did have involved the foot of my sleeping bag getting wet due to a very light drizzle drifting in through the mesh at the foot end of the insert, despite my having pitched the foot end of the tarp low. While this was not a big deal in the SoCal desert, it would have been a bigger problem had it been in Washington, where I hiked through several consecutive days of 40 degree rain and drizzle and keeping my sleeping bag dry was critical. A couple simple solutions would have prevented this: 1) replace the first foot or two of mesh extending back along the sidewalls from the foot of the insert with cuben, or 2) offer a second beak for the foot of the tarp.

Predictably, what I liked best about the Echo I shelter system is its modularity, which makes it versatile to a range of conditions and personal preferences. I was able to use the two components I had (tarp and insert) in several different combinations to match a variety of conditions (note that the insert by itself can be used as an excellent and durable groundcloth or can be pitched independently as a bug tent or even used as a bivy sack for bug protection in a pinch). Using the beak would allow even more combinations and therefore more versatility. I’ll discuss this a bit more later.

Echo II Tarp and Beak

I switched to the Echo II Tarp in the northern Sierra Nevada mountains along the PCT and carried it until southern Oregon, a distance of about 650 miles, from late June to late July. I switched to the Echo II in part because my girlfriend would soon be joining me on the trail, necessitating a two-person shelter, and in part because I was interested in trying a slightly different style of shelter (larger tarp with a beak but no insert). Weather conditions were good most nights this tarp was used, with some wind and a few sporadic showers being the worst of it. Since the Echo II shelter system is simply a wider version of the Echo I, most of the comments I made for the Echo I also apply to the Echo II.

To date, the Echo II tarp with beak (and without the insert) is my favorite three-season shelter for one person, provided bugs are not a major issue. Before the bugs hit, it made the perfect PCT shelter, and a simple lightweight bug bivy would have made it useable in the worst of the mosquito swarms. The Echo II tarp weighs only 1.0 oz. more than the Echo I tarp, provides far more coverage, and sheds wind just as well. For one person there is plenty of room to spread out gear and cook, or to recede away from the edges of the tarp during a heavy storm and stay dry. This also means it has a large footprint, so be sure to have lots of room to pitch. Because of the wider coverage, the tarp can be pitched higher in a storm without fear of getting wet, allowing the user to sit fully upright. For a single person, I do not find the insert or a bivy necessary, and would prefer to use the Echo II tarp with beak and no insert over the full Echo I shelter system (again, provided bugs are not a concern).

For two people, I found the Echo II tarp with beak was adequate if very little severe weather was expected. At 14 oz. (including guy lines but not stakes), it is certainly the lightest two person shelter I’ve carried. Space under the Echo II tarp for two people is about the same as it is under the Echo I tarp for one person, meaning in a wind-driven rain with changing wind direction some part of at least one person is likely to get damp (again, that’s without the insert). Bivy sacks would have been appropriate for this kind of use. Without them, and with the tarp pitched low my girlfriend and I were able to fit comfortably underneath, with gear under the beak, and be fairly confident we would stay dry in a moderate rainstorm with little wind or wind only in the direction of the beak. If I were to use the Echo II for two people in areas with high potential for rain, I would definitely want the insert. After 650 miles of use the Echo II still looks almost new, with no visible signs of wear or damage.

I found that when I pitched the tarp with the beak, it was far easier to enter and exit through the open foot end of the tarp rather than through the beak. This made the zipper on the beak pointless when used without the Echo II insert. To save weight, this zipper should be optional.

For the record, the reason we stopped using the Echo II tarp in southern Oregon was because we were being devoured for weeks by a massive cloud of mosquitos every night (sounds dramatic I know, but trust me, it’s an understatement). This was no fault of the tarp, it was simply time to switch to a shelter with full bug protection. Based on my experience with the Echo I, the Echo II insert would have been fine protection against this.

Why would I buy this shelter?

In my opinion, the major selling point of the Echo shelter system is its modularity, which allows the user varying degrees of protection from the elements depending on his/her preference on any particular night. This will be especially beneficial to tarp users, who tend to like a higher level of exposure to nature when it is safe and practical, but on occasion require a higher degree of protection. For instance, most nights that I pitched a shelter along the PCT (with the exception of Washington), the weather was very predictable and I only needed protection from condensation (pitch just the tarp), mosquitos (pitch just the insert), or a possible light shower (pitch just the tarp with beak). For me, a fully-enclosed tent would have been an unnecessary and unwanted barrier between myself and nature; as such, I really enjoyed the versatile nature of the shelter along the trail. Furthermore, switching between these degrees of protection is very quick and simple—the insert can be pinned up, tarp lowered, and beak attached in bad weather in the dark all in a minute or two.

This modularity also allows versatile use of the gear from one trip to another, which is great for people who don’t want to own lots of different shelters. In other words, the three components (tarp, insert, and beak) compose one complete shelter system, but not all three parts need to be used on every trip, depending on the expected conditions. So while a 22 oz. Tarptent Sublite Sil might be well-suited to rainy Washington, for me it is overkill for simple protection from condensation or a fairly unlikely rainstorm in northern California in July. With the Echo I shelter system, I could carry all three components (24 oz.) in Washington and just the 8 oz. tarp in NorCal, thus adapting a single shelter system to multiple conditions and allowing me to shed unnecessary weight. I think of this as a lot like dressing in layers rather than using a heavy parka while hiking in cool weather.

Other thoughts/suggestions

The following are some additional thoughts on the Echo shelter system:

I would recommend replacing the stock guy lines with something lighter and more reflective.

If I was going to make one suggestion to Hyperlite Mountain Gear, it would be this: offer an optional second beak for the foot end of the tarp. With only one beak, the head end of the tarp (and therefore the entrance) gets pitched into the wind. I don’t like sleeping headfirst into the wind, especially when I have to use the bathroom at night during a wind-driven rain. Having a second beak would eliminate the need to carry the insert in many cases and address concerns over changing wind conditions. Additionally, make the beak zipper optional. If using just one beak, it is generally easier to enter/exit through the open end of the tarp, making the zipper unnecessary weight.

If I was going to make one other suggestion to Hyperlite Mountain Gear, it would be to offer a lighter, cheaper bug bivy. The Echo Insert is a very sturdy and well-constructed piece of gear that is great for storm protection, but too heavy and expensive just for simple bug protection. It would be nice to see an additional insert offered that is fully mesh on the sides, has a lighter bottom, and is intended for bug protection only (which is not really worth the cost of more cuben). For me, a single person lightweight all-mesh bug bivy with a silnylon floor would work great with the Echo II tarp.

This was the first cuben fiber equipment of any kind that I have used. I have avoided cuben in the past because I assumed it had a poor cost to durability ratio, and because I failed to see significant benefits over fabrics like silnylon or spinnaker. However after 650 miles of use on two different cuben products I was sold on the durability (I felt the material was slightly more durable than my old silnylon tarp) and came to appreciate the full waterproofness (no misting), lack of sagging, lack of loud crinkling (compared to new spinnaker), and very taut pitch of the cuben fabric. Whether these factors are worth the high price tag is a personal choice of each individual consumer, so I cannot speak to that.

Echo 1 Review

Hendrick from Hiking in Finland product tests the HMG Echo 1 Shelter System while on a trip to Russia. Read the review here.

Hiking in Finland interviews Mike St. Pierre from Hyperlite Mountain Gear

Hyperlite Mountain Gear is a fairly young cottage manufacturer from the USA, with some very innovative cuben tarps and packs and a great looking and very user friendly website. I managed to get in touch with Mike, the founder of Hyperlite Mountain Gear, and he took the time to answer my questions in order for us to get to know Hyperlite Mountain Gear a bit better. It is a great interview and I enjoyed reading Mike’s answers and stories heaps, and I hope you do as well – Enjoy! Read the full interview here.

Echo I and Windrider Pack Review

Hi everybody Straight Jacket here, back to do a review of the Hyperlite Mountain Gear pack and shelter I used for my Pacific Crest Trail Thru Hike.

Echo 1 Tarp I used the Echo Shelter for the whole trail

Durability: Started the trail with this shelter and used it the whole way through, all 2655 miles of it, and it held up great with no major issues affecting the durability at all. The only problem at all in fact, a small hole in the tarp (not sure how it happened) was very easy to repair with a patch of the cuben bonding tape. As for the insert the floor especially was bombproof, I used it the whole trail without a ground cloth, camping many times on gravel, rocks and other not so nice surfaces and never had a problem with it. All the zippers and hardware held up fine, and with the exception of one frayed guy line from snagging on a rock the lines to held up great.

Setup/Versatility: Overall the setup of the Echo proved to be quit straight forward and the versatility of this shelter came in very handy. The line locks on the tarp and clip in bungees on the insert made setup simple, it was very nice to be able to place the stakes and then adjust them later without having to constantly move them around to find a rock free spot at the right tension. The tarp is also very easy to get crazy taught, a common problem with many silnylon tarps and since it was cuben it stayed taught, retensioning was never an issue. With a wide range of setup options I was always able to have exactly the setup I required, a full shelter with beak for stormy nights, a tarp and bug net to provide bug protection but still vent well when both condensation and dew were an issue, just a bug net when I wanted bug protection and maximum ventilation or when there was no room to set up a full tarp, or a ground sheet to put my pad and bag on top of when i just wanted to cowboy camp. The one catch 22 with all this versatility however proved to be that when setting up everything setup can take a good bit longer then it would with a normal fully integrated shelter, this never really proved to be a major issue, since it does lessen the setup time when only using parts.

Size: The Echo was a very nice compromise between being large enough to provide good storm coverage and small enough to keep the weight low. It does feel a little bit a bit on the small side when huddled in there trying to stay out of the bugs or rain, but any other shelter in its weight class is just as small. Although I had insanely good luck with the weather, (it hardly rained at all) the few times it did rain the Echo provided very adequate protection as long as I set up the beak. The two big storms, the one on the first night of the kickoff, and the thunder and hail storm i got hit with at Drakesbad just past the halfway point, I stayed totally dry, and thanks to the sizable vestibule provided by the beak so did my gear.

So all in all the Echo performed very well, it was everything I needed and nothing I didn’t, I would certainly recommend it to others and will definitely use it again for future hikes.

Windrider Pack I used the Windrider for approximately 1500 miles from South Lake Tahoe until Canada.

Durability: Despite my initial doubts about how a cuben fiber pack would hold up (having seen other packs made with lightweight cuben shred in no time) it held up quite well and I was very glad for the heavier 3 oz cuben despite the weight gain. The construction proved to be top notch with all the stitching staying intact. In addition despite all the overgrown trail and blow downs throughout the northern half of the trail the pack stood up to the constant abuse of being snagged on branches, dragged over blow downs, and forced through some very thick overgrowth, very well with no tears in either the main body or even the side and rear mesh pockets.

Comfort: Although I felt and still feel that aluminum stays are the best way of supporting a pack’s load, the plastic stays of the Windrider carried well after they had a few days to mold into shape. I also tend to like my hip belts and shoulder straps to be a little bit on the wider side, but this is purely personal preference and I have met many people who like the skinnier straps more. This pack did quite well when loaded with my 8lb or so base weight combined with up to 5-6 days of food and 1-2 liters of water, putting it at around 28 lbs. So for the part of the trail I used it for it was great, I think for the Sierras where I was carrying 12 days of food, I would prefer something with a more substantial frame, more volume and definitely an ice ax loop, the next pack Hyperlite Mountain Gear is designing specifically tailored for the western trails sounds like it would fit the bill perfectly.

Size: The volume of the Windrider fit in everything I needed not problem for the full time I used it, the main pack body fit most of my gear and then my non water sensitive items (having a waterproof pack was very cool, i even seam sealed the rear seams, the only ones that weren’t already taped, so I never had to worry about getting my gear wet) and stuff i wanted to have readily available in the mesh. The side pockets each fit a 20 oz Gatorade along with some bars sunglasses or other small item no problem, and the back mash had plenty of room for both my rain jacket and fleece along with some other small stuff stuffed in between. The hip belt pockets were a perfect size allowing me quick access to my spoon (a thru hikers most important piece of gear) headlamp, ipod and other important items quickly. The one caveat though, although it worked great for the north half of the trail, again I would want something different for the Sierras, fitting a bear canister in here along with 10+ days food would be difficult at best.

Overall I think this would be a great pack for anyone to hike the AT with (due to the lower weight and volume of significantly shorter resupplies) and parts of the PCT with, but for more remote sections of trail without resupply access every 5 days or so I would look for Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s next pack.

Thanks again to all the guys at Hyperlite Mountain Gear for all your help and I look forward to seeing what you have in store for the future.

Oops, He Did It Again (3rd time finishing the AT)

Hyperlite Mountain Gear gear tester Bama finishes the Appalachian Trail for the third time, taking only 92 days.  Holy Crap! Mike St. Pierre was on the summit of Mount Katahdin to share in the celebration.

187 Miles To Go!

Hi everybody, I’m here at the Dinsmore’s Hiker Haven in Skykomish WA with only 187.2 miles to go, which given my pace recently I should be able to do in 6 days. Washington has been beautiful with Goat Rocks and Knifes Edge being the highlights so far. Haven’t had to much rain just some mist most mornings but even that’s been clearing off recently, and after recovering from the bout of giardia I dealt with for the southern few days of the state (was able to keep moving unimpeded by the best trail magic ever in the form of some antibiotics I received from another hiker) it has been some very enjoyable, although hilly, hiking. Kinda reminds me of the Appalachian Trail. I’m looking forward to the Glacier Peak area and the northern half of Washington which is supposed to be the most beautiful part of the state and can’t wait to get to Canada. Success is nigh, Onwards!

Another State Bites The Dust!

Just got into Cascade Locks OR, lowest elevation the trail at 200ft, the end of another state, and the 500 mile to go mark. After 2 weeks of amazing views that were tarnished by the most demonic, pure evil, run through the woods screaming obscenities, god awful mosquitoes I’ve ever seen in my life (think swarms of hundreds following you all day then waiting for you outside while you sleep, seriously I’m not exaggerating here) I’m ready for a new state. A state which hopefully will be a nice relaxing problem free end to an awesome trip. All signs suggest that it will be, the mosquitoes seem to have ended, I’m still hitting some patchy snow (yes even in august) but nothing too bad, I might end up being too early for the infamous Washington rain, and the sub 4 month finish time I had hoped for from the beginning seems quite attainable now. The next milestone is Canada and I can’t wait! Onwards!

Then There Was Maine

I am laying in a park in Gorham, NH. Just finished my favorite section of the entire trail. It was amazing. Making the prior two and half months all worth-while. The winds were gusting up to 70 mph. The temp got as low as 32. Made you feel like you earned every mile. I’m very excited to be entering the last state; the one that I’ve called home for the last 5 years. 11 more days till my proposed summit day. Stayed tuned to see if I achieve my goal!

Good Bye CA!

Alright gotta make this quick. Crossed the Oregon border a few days ago and the state the never ends finally ended. It was great, I’m in Ashland OR now with 900 miles to go, so I should be done by late august. Snow has basically completely cleared out and been able to do some big miles. Cant wait for the next border. WA here I come!

Outdoor Retailer Trade Show 2010

Hi there,

Just a quick update about what’s been going on. Mike, Rich and I are heading out to Salt Lake City this week for the Summer 2010 Outdoor Retailer Trade Show. It should be an exciting show with over 1,100 exhibitors and we are really looking forward to it. Should be great access to meet new suppliers and potential new industry customers.  We’ll keep you posted on how it goes.

We have some other exciting news as well. Backpacking Light Magazine ( will be including Hyperlite Mountain Gear in their Outdoor Retailer Trade Show coverage of new ultralight product releases. This is awesome news. We have only just launched our business a little over a month ago and we are gaining traction. Being covered by Backpacking Light is an honor as they are the premier online source for the lightweight and ultralight backpacking community. Story should run on Monday, August 2nd. Check it out!

In addition, Hyperlite Mountain Gear, and Mike in particular, will be a featured interview on a blog site from Finland called, Hiking in Finland ( this interview should appear within the next few weeks.

Hope you are all well and enjoying the beautiful summer.

Be in touch soon,


Reporting from the PCT: Halfway!

After a month and a half of slogging through snow I finally passed the halfway point just south of Chester, CA a few days ago. I’m now enjoying the hospitality of the Old Station trail angels the Heitmen’s and trying to decide whether going out on to the Hat Creek Rim with the forecast calling for thunderstorms is a good idea, might be time for a zero.

The snow does seem to be finally coming to an end, just some patches here and there, nothing like the 15 mile trail-less stretches we encountered in the Sierras. Although I hear there is still a good bit of snow up in the Trinity Alps near Etna, the forest service has in fact closed the trail due to “dangerous cornices”. Why they would do that here and not in the Sierra is beyond me. Due to my stubbornness and lack of money or time to flip flop I will be going through anyway, there’s no way it can be any worse than what I’ve already been through.

I’ve also started using the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Cuben Fiber pack recently and it’s been great, it seems the fact that it is waterproof will come in handy since Northern California is insisting on welcoming me with daily afternoon thunderstorms. The one two days ago produced marble sized hail that I thought was going to rip through my Cuben shelter, apart from some sagging from the additional weight though it was absolutely fine and was a slightly unnerving but safe place to ride out the storm.

Back to the trail!


Hitting the Trails to Celebrate The 4th

Hello Everyone,

Hyperlite Mountain Gear would like to give a very happy 4th of July shout out from all of us to all of you.  Dan and I will be hitting the trails up in the Whites for the weekend until late Monday night.  We hope to see everyone out and enjoying what looks to be an awesome weekend.  Cheers to the guys on the Appalachian Trail carrying the new Hyperlite Mountain Gear Cuben Fiber Windrider backpack and Echo I Cuben Fiber Shelter System in completing that 57 mile day this week.  Hats off to you.

Have a great weekend.  We’ll let you know how ours goes!!

Beyond the Lazy Dixon Line

Hey y’all.  Brian of Pittsburgh, PA. here, and I bounced over the 1,000 mile marker a few days ago and had a pleasant 5 day visit in Gettysburg with my loving parents and lovely girlfriend. What wonderful way to rest the weary legs and celebrate the 1,070 miles now in the rear-view.  With more than half the trail still ahead I must thank all those who have assisted me along the way. A hearty thanks and handshake to the guys at Hyperlite Mountain Gear. For more than 600 miles the marshmallow pack has, ironically, carried me. It has been quite excellent being able to keep stride instead of having to stop to wrestle on a pack cover in the rain.  Especially through the shenanigan’s. The Cuben Fiber pack has performed as great as the ticks have been plentiful and I will be lucky to leave the trail this year free of lyme’s disease. Looking forward to trying the new pack with all the new innovations and I think the pack is excited too. But it told me its kind of nervous in a “first day of school” kind of way.  I’m sure it’ll blow its classmates away.

Anyways, thanks again Hyperlite Mountain Gear.  Thanks mom and dad.  Thank you Rachelle. And thank you Bama, for remaining as loyal as a black fly. Thanks all. Expect another update a little further north.

Throwin back the miles like theys light beer,

Brian (my mom thinks my trail name should be, as Bama has proposed, “Jedi.” whaddya think?)

Goodbye Confederacy

Hello all, Bama here with an update. I have completed half my journey thus far. It has been an incredible experience, full of ups and downs… I’m certainly not a religious man, but I find myself humbled by the glory of nature, on a daily basis. Ive hiked 1100 miles since may 13th. That, is a lot of miles. I’ve climbed several mountains, explored beautiful balds, crossed rivers, and I am now getting accustomed to the boulders that make up the Pennsylvania section. I have met some wonderful people along the way. Id like to take a moment and thank all those who have supported me thus far.

As some of you know, I am responsible for helping to develop the gear that we offer here at Hyperlite mountain gear. Which is a great opportunity for us to acquire true field-research data. As anyone, who has met me on the trail will tell you , I put my gear through the “ringer”. I can confidently say that we have developed my perfect thru-hiking pack. Sorry to the guys back home, but I refer to it as the stormtrooper! It is the combination of simplicity and innovative woven cuben fiber laminate material that produce this impressive back-pack. What can I say about my tarp-tent… other than, it rocks! I truly consider it my refuge. I climb into my Cuben Fiber Echo I Tarp System almost every night, providing comfort despite the relentless bugs and ever changing weather conditions. I have pitched it in a variety of campsites requiring some trying methods. There has never been an issue with this product. This is my home for 3 months, and I couldn’t be more pleased with my ultralight shelter! Stay-tuned for more info on the hike.

P.S. I have seen a ton of bears this year! Its been an awesome experience.

Here’s What’s New with Hyperlite Mountain Gear

Okay…We’ve officially launched and welcome to Hyperlite Mountain Gear and the Blog.

It’s been an exciting and challenging few months.  We have been working hard on product development and production and we now have one of the lightest and most durable one-person, and two-person, shelters on the market.

Feedback has been awesome.  Our ambassadors on the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail are using the shelters every night and say they are well exceeding their expectations.  The shelters are versatile, easy to pitch, and incredibly comfortable.  The guys are dry and insect free.

The Windrider backpack is proving to be a big hit on the trail as well.  It’s trimmed down to the essentials, but has everything you need to roam the planet.  We’ve already sold several packs to Appalachian Trail hikers who have met Bama on the trail.

Having reached a milestone with the web launch, Mike and I got out into the White Mountains this weekend.  It was great to be out.  We did thirty miles on Saturday and met a ton of great people.  There were literally thousands of visitors to the National Forest on Saturday and Sunday.

We want to give a special shout out and congratulations to the gang from Montreal who summited all of New Hampshire’s 4,000 footers in twenty-four hours.  Great job!!

Mammoth Lakes CA

Well we (myself, Dave, Wander, and Smile Train, with Sandman a day or so behind) made it through the first and hopefully most difficult part of the High Sierras in one piece. However, not in one 12 day push as I had hoped for, we had to go into the town of Independence to get more food since breaking trail was a little more exhausting than I had thought it would be and burnt way more calories (just to give you an idea between the four of us we ate 240 Chicken McNuggets upon arriving in Mammoth). The conditions were about what I expected they would be, everything above 9500-10,000 feet was covered in snow, but there were some sections in the valleys that were clear. The major fords were all very doable, with the exception of the south fork of the kings river which was uncrossable, but an easy walk around. The only surprise was how sketchy some of the smaller fords were. There were some unnamed tributaries that were very fast and if you went down you would instantly be dragged into a bigger river where it would be almost impossible to survive.

On the whole though it is very doable and well worth the hard work. The views of miles and miles of snow capped mountains from atop Mt. Whitney and Forester Pass were some of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen, and I’m glad I was able to see it in those conditions. Breaking your own trail, despite being hard work, is also very rewardin, and being able to be the first group through and see tracks behind us and nothing but miles of untouched snow in front was a very cool feeling. We also lucked out with the weather, there was one night where it snowed a little bit but the rest of the time it was sunny and relatively warm. I’m looking forward to the next stretch through Yosemite and the rest of the Sierras and especially the wide range of buffets in South Lake Tahoe.

Summary Of First 700 Miles Of Evan Ruddell’s 2010 PCT Thru-Hike

This is Evan Ruddell and I’m posting from Kennedy Meadows 702 miles in to my 2010 Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) Thru-Hike. It has been an awesome trip so far, I’ve meet some cool people, seen some awesome views, and eaten large quantities of unhealthy calorie rich food. So here’s the summary, I guess I’ll start from the beginning, the Mexican border near Campo, CA.

After a series of flights and shuttles from my home in Philadelphia, I arrived at the house of Scout and Frodo, two trail angels who put up hikers at their home in San Diego, and then shuttle them to the border. It was a super cool place, they have everything absolutely dialed in (you have to when you have 25 or so hikes at your house every night). Had some tasty food, and got all my last minute chores done. It was great to be back among my fellow hiker trash again, it had been over 5 months since my Appalachian Trail hike ended and I had definitely been missing the hiker hostel experience. The next morning a convoy of five cars packed with hikers left for the border. It was not at all what I had expected, I had been warned of extremely hot sections of trail with temps in excess of 100 degrees, what I found at the border was fog, 30-40 degree temps, freezing rain, sleet and snow, not the blazing hot desert I had expected at all. After a cold but relatively easy day of hiking I arrived at the Lake Morena campground, the site of the 2010 ADZPCTKO (Annual Day Zero Pacific Crest Trail Kick Off). I set up my shelter during a brief break in the rain and promptly crawled in and remained immobile for the rest of the afternoon. During the time spent sitting in the shelter it handled the rain and wind quite well, anything that slipped past the tarp was stopped dead by the bathtub floor. I woke up the next morning to ice all over the tarp, it had obviously dropped well below freezing. I was quite pleased to find that it had finally stopped raining and I could actually enjoy the Kick Off now. The ADZPCTKO was an awesome event all the lectures were super helpful, the food was great, the videos and gear contest very entertaining, and of course the people were awesome.

Following my 2 zero days at the kickoff I continued on my hike, crossing the pine forests in the Laguna Mountains and many sections of chaparral and high desert (where my tarp came in very handy for providing some much needed shade). After five days or so I arrived in the tiny resort town of Warner Springs (named for the hot springs that reside there) and took the best zero day I have ever taken, relaxing in hot springs and eating is an excellent way to spend a day off. After a very relaxing day I regretfully left Warner Springs and started the two day hike to Idyllwild.

The terrain in between Idyllwild was much the same as it was the previous week , a lot of chaparral and high desert environments, reptiles, mostly lizards were very abundant. In addition due to the large amount of recent rain the dessert was in full bloom with many beautiful flowering cactus and yucca plants among others. I arrived at the road into Idyllwild and was greeted by a man named Doc who had set up a big tent for shade and was making tacos for hikers (trail magic is a wonderful thing). After indulging in all the tacos I could eat I headed into Idyllwild. I stopped in to the outfitter to make some gear changes and check for updates on the snow in the San Jacintos. I was told that they were completely snowed in and there had been many reports of “near death experiences” and I should road walk around it. I decided that rather than skip a section of trail, I would go see it for myself and if it was bad turn around. The next day I started the climb up to the ridge line, and saw no snow until the north side of Apache peak, where there were a few 50- 100 foot long patches of snow, nothing terribly difficult, these conditions continued until the next morning when 4 miles before saddle junction we started hitting the real snow. Having no experience on snow fields I was a little worried at first, but I was hiking with an experienced mountaineer so I learned quick and had no trouble crossing the 15-20 mile long section of snow covered trail. The next day I got a glimpse of just how quickly environments can change in SOCAL, we went from heavy snow pack to 100 desert heat in less than a day. This turned out to be the only real hot section of the trail I would experience in SOCAL (it’s been a very odd year weather wise here, lots of precipitation and not a lot of heat). After two days in the heat we once again climbed into the mountains, the San Bernardino’s where there was not nearly as much snow and the Jacintos. A day or two later I arrived in big bear and took the second zero of my trip. It was not nearly as relaxing as the first, Big Bear is a very spread out town so most of the day was spent hitching and taking buses back and forth to get resupply done.

After the zero we left big bear and started heading towards the next resupply in Wrightwood, between the two we encountered more snow more desert and a 20 mile fire detour. By then I had both my hiker hunger and hiker legs, so my pace quickened and the amount of food I was consuming grew alarmingly higher. We arrived in Wrightwood after four days and started trying to figure out what to do about the snow covered Mt Baden Powell and the 50+ mile station fire detour. After once again hearing “you will die if you attempt this” (I was getting quite sick of hearing this by now) we again decided to go see how the conditions were for ourselves. I was very glad we did because the day over Baden Powell turned out to be my favorite day of the trip so far, lots of snow but it was a blast and saw some of the best views  so far. Got in to camp exhausted but hungry for more snow crossings. The fire detour immediately after that was definitely one of the less interesting parts of the hike so far, but after walking 40-50 miles on the road and camping under a billboard between an interstate and a railway that ran all night, and being mistaken for homeless people (actually not really much of a stretch at all, it’s a fine line between thru-hiker and homeless) by the locals who were not used to the PCT running through their backyards. We arrived the the infamous Hiker Haven, a hiker hostel run by the Saufleys.

Hiker Haven has been described as an exercise in “corporate efficiency” in that is very true, Donna Saufley has the Hiker Hostel routine 100% dialed in. Everything is done in a very specific way in order to simplify having 50 or hikers around as much as possible, although at this point we were a few days ahead of the big pack so there were only 15 or so other hikers there. It was a great place I was able to get all my resupply done and also get boxes mailed out for the Sierras and pick up some different gear such as heavier boots for kicking steps in ice. I cannot thank the Saufleys enough for their hospitality and i recommend that every PCT hiker make an effort to stop there.

After a zero we left the Saufleys and made a two day hike to the next house hostel, Casa De Luna run by the Andersons, this was a totally different but also very enjoyable experience. While not nearly as organized the Anderson’s are great people and do so much to help hikers, including Terri Anderson’s famous taco salad dinner, which was delicious. Eager to get back to hiking and camping after all time spent indoors we decided not to zero at the Anderson’s and headed back out onto the trail.

The next stretch was a combination of pine forests in the mountains followed by the famous aqueduct crossing of the Mojave desert. The Aqueduct stretch is a 20 mile long section of trail that follows the LA aqueduct, it is flat as a pancake and usually hellishly hot. However my crossing was quite the opposite it was 65 degrees with a very cool very strong wind all day, which lead to a relatively easy 34 mile day (once again the weather this year has been very odd). Following the cold windy stretch past the aqueduct it stayed that way and the large amount of windmills we passed was evidence that the wind (30-40 mph sustained with gusts up to 70-80mph) was not going to let up anytime soon.

After a quick resupply and breakfast burrito (best breakfast burrito I’ve had in my life) stop in the town of Mojave we continued into the Tehachapi Mountains (which is actually geologically the start of the Sierra Nevada’s). The wind and cold continued, including waking up to snow one day despite the fact we were in the desert and  it was nearly June, all the way through the Kennedy meadows. although the cool temps for the most part made hiking very enjoyable camping was made much more difficult, all though my shelter stood up to the moderate wind better than all others stakes do not stay in the ground for any shelter with 70+mph wind gusts, and I had to cowboy camp a few times, thankfully I was able to use bug insert by itself to keep the lizards and insects off me.

So now you’re up to date, I have been very happy with my Hyperlite Mountain Gear shelter so far and have enjoyed the versatility and light weight of the product very much, it handles rain and wind as good or better than any other 3 season shelter I have used before, and I am excited to see how it performs in the Sierra especially with the added protection of the beak. So now after a zero day tomorrow we will be heading off into the snowpack of the high Sierra’s, where there will be no visible trail for 150 miles, not a single road or bit of evidence of civilization for 200 miles, everything above 10,000 ft (most of the trail) will be covered in 15+ feet of snow, and where most people have said we will surely die (despite the fact that people have been going through sporadically for about 2 weeks). Anyway I will go and see the conditions for myself and not be swayed by other’s opinions. I am psyched for the challenges that await and expect this to the most enjoyable and most beautiful section of the trail. See you on the other side.

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