What was meant to be an exploratory mission bikepacking in British Columbia with a seasoned crew of altitude-hungry mountain bikers could easily have doubled as the ultimate ‘Google Earth Sandbag.’
The plan was to travel by bike along the northeastern border of Canada’s Glacier National Park, venturing through a maze of tectonic uplift in search of steep, scree-filled chutes that had never before been ridden. The total distance would be about 200 kilometers, and the team reckoned it could be completed in six to eight days. This was easier said than done. These mountains boasted some of the most technical terrain any of them had ever seen. Every morsel of purchase was parceled with sweat equity. It was do or die. The mountains would take no prisoners. They would offer no quarter.
Most of the expeditions I have been on during my 35 years as an alpinist have involved trudging up from the foothills into the mountains under a massive pack. I was often loaded down with 75+ pounds of climbing gear, camping supplies and food for up to two weeks. However, from a basecamp or road head I had also experienced going fast and light in the mountains, especially in the Winds. And after setting the FKT speed ascent of Mt. Gannett, my eyes started looking out across the range for a bigger objective. Why not try and traverse the entire Wind River Range in a single push?
I stood at the Northern terminus of the Continental Divide Trail, amid the acrid haze of the wildfires that had filled my lungs for the better part of a month. My dirt stained fingertips hesitantly touched the cold, coarse granite monument that gave my Triple Crown a sense of finality after three years of life on the trail(s). While the moment was both powerful and precious, I felt suffocated by the question of what now?
Salt Lake City, UT (January 15, 2018) – The family and close friends of the late Kyle Dempster, with the support of Outdoor Research, Higher Ground Coffee, Black Diamond, CiloGear, Keen Footwear, PROBAR, La Sportiva, Liberty Mountain, Hyperlite Mountain Gear and Duct Tape Then Beer, are excited and proud to announce the first annual Kyle Dempster Solo Adventure Award.
One of America’s great young alpinists best known for first ascents of big remote peaks around the globe, Kyle Dempster was a passionate climber, adventurer and friend who fully lived his 33 years before he and his climbing partner Scott Adamson disappeared while attempting to climb the North Face of the Ogre II in Pakistan, in August of 2016.
Though Kyle loved climbing, traveling and going on adventures with friends, many of his most memorable and creative trips were done alone, traversing wild corners of the world by himself and under his own power. From kiteskiing hundreds of miles across Baffin Island, to his biking and climbing trip across Kygryzstan that was made famous in the short film The Road from Karakol, Kyle found a deep sense of meaning and joy in exploring the world on his own.
Each year, the Kyle Dempster Solo Adventure Award will be given to an American solo adventurer embarking on a journey that embodies Kyle’s passionate spirit and love of exploration, with an emphasis on storytelling and leave no trace ethics. The recipients are by no means limited to climbers, and the trips awarded by no means must involve the big mountains Kyle loved—on the contrary, we encourage applications for human-powered solo adventures of all kinds—big or small, remote or urban, cold and icy or hot and sunny.
Applications will be accepted from January 15 – March 15, 2018 for trips taking place between April 1, 2018 – March 31, 2019.
Words & Photos by Paul Burbidge // Videos by Dylan Stewart
We’d made the Mackenzie River and the trip was over. We still had 100 kilometers of river to paddle but the unknowns were behind us and we started paddling by ourselves, in our own heads. We were already partly home and tied up with future activities, work, spouses etc. Or maybe this was just me. I struggle with being able to see my future. The Mackenzie River is wide, slow and straight. Wide means two kilometers wide and straight means sections long enough that the river has a horizon line- like the ocean. There is no unknown. Our next few hours were laid out in front of us. They would be long and hot and we’d have to paddle to make up for the lack of current. Our paddling didn’t seem to have any effect but we moved along.
“I don’t think a thru-hiker would much enjoy the Greater Patagonian Trail,” Neon, a Triple Crowner and my hiking partner in tackling the length of the Andes, mused. We were taking a yerba mate break about a month after hiking the Greater Patagonian Trail over the course of two seasons. “Thru-hiking is a balance between total suckage and astounding beauty and there are some long, sucky sections,” she completed the thought around long draws on the metal straw.
The Greater Patagonian Trail is a succession of routes created to enable distance hikers to immerse themselves in Patagonian landscape and culture. You can’t fully appreciate one without the other. This means you have to know how to handle yourself on long, remote distances AND communicate in Spanish while being able to adapt to Patagonian social standards. Any combination of these and you will enjoy large segments of the various routes but a straight thru-hike kinda sucks.
Video by Luc Mehl // Photos by Luc Mehl + Eric Parsons
The Nulato Hills are a relatively unknown area of Western Alaska, even to experienced ambassador Luc Mehl, who has grown up in the state and is well versed on what it has to offer. But, after researching any satellite imagery he could find, he decided that the region looked ripe for a bikepacking route. So, Luc teamed up with Revelate Designs founder/owner Eric Parsons to come up with a ~100-mile route along Muskox trails from the village of Nulato. We recently caught up with him for a quick chat about the trip and some insight into exploring such an untravelled wilderness.
Our first foray into the world of backpacks (circa 2010) was the Windrider Ultralight Pack, which has since become the pack that has helped us refine our goal of building durable, ultralight gear that excels on any backcountry mission. And after repeated testing over the years, it is still our go-to pack suggestion for anyone looking to go lighter.
With mesh pockets that are perfect for drying out gear, and three volume options (40, 55 and 70L), the Windrider is ready-to-go on anything from weekend overnights to a 2,000-mile thru hike or Alaskan expedition. But you don’t have to take it from us. We receive tons of customer feedback and work with an experienced group of gear testers to help provide honest feedback to anyone exploring pack options on the World Wide Web, and below you’ll find a few of our favorites snippets.
Taking care of and storing our outdoor gear is an art we’re still trying to master. After all, outdoor gear is an investment, and for the sake of the environment (and your bank account), you want it to go the distance to avoid repeatedly replacing items. Here’s a break-down of a few of the essential things we consider before packing gear away for the season.
Alaska’s Arctic Wildlife Refuge is awe inspiring- it is big, wild, remote country. Mountains are stacked upon mountains, interspersed with free flowing rivers. The Refuge stretches from the south side of the Brooks Range, over the glaciated high peaks of the range, and across the coastal plain to the Arctic Ocean. I often marveled at the remoteness, as I realized how far we were from the nearest village or road.
To celebrate the launch of our newest product, the River Rescue Throw Bag, we asked Hyperlite Mountain Gear ambassador Mark Oates to put together a comprehensive guide to technical paddling—call it packrafting 101. A certified whitewater instructor and outdoor educator, Mark regularly leads trips through the remote Tasmanian wilderness near his home zone. Ever detail-oriented and meticulous, Mark produced a thorough treatise on how to get the most out of any day on any creek in your boat, and get home in one piece. Huge thanks to Mark for sharing vital expertise that is sure to make us all smarter and safer as packrafting continues to blow up.
Words by Mark Oates // Photos by Dan Ransom + Mark Oates
You’ve got the latest and greatest packraft, you’ve got the cool hardcore creeking helmet—call it a complete kit—and you even have some decent river miles under your belt. So, now you want to take it to the next level. But wait…
Is there something else that you still need? Why do others make paddling hard rapids look effortless, while you come close to swimming? Why can some packrafters hit that particular eddy every time but you consistently struggle to catch it? How come your friends can easily surf waves for ages, yet you find it challenging to simply paddle across strong currents?
Is it the boat? Is it the river? Is it you? Do you simply need more time on the water?
Your daily food intake should include a mix of complex carbohydrates, simple carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Breakfasts are no exception. Breakfast is commonly believed to be the most important meal of the day because you need to resupply the calories that you consumed while you were sleeping. Of course, if you’re on a trip, you also need to lay a solid foundation of calories for your upcoming aerobic endeavors. That means finding backpacking breakfast recipes that are delicious and pack a nutritional punch.
For me, not every trip needs to be epic, #sponsored, or Type 2 fun.
In fact, they rarely are.
Often just being there, outside, feeling small and exposed to the elements, with nothing more than the belongings on my back, is all I need to be filled with satisfaction. I’ve been lucky enough to spend months in the wilderness, both domestic and abroad, all months of the year, and now I’ve developed a strong infatuation for my backyard. Some of my favorite trips include nothing more than a Daybreak daypack filled with the essentials, a headlamp, and 12 hours. I wish I had weeks, months, years to wander, but the critical part is that I still wander.
Stripped Down Backpacking Stuff Sacks for Waterproof Redundancy & Organization
Most backpackers and thru hikers use stuff sacks, sometimes almost by default. A lot of gear comes with them—tents, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, and even stuff like stoves. More often than not, what comes straight from the manufacturer is more of an after thought than anything else. Most backpacking stuff sacks are out of the technological orbit of the products they are made to contain. Cheap-o nylon, poorly constructed, outdated: they aren’t as light as they could be or as water resistant as they should be.
So I always recommend that people who are just getting started with ultralight stuff sacks begin by replacing the less-than-ideal standard stuff sacks they’re already carrying. It’s a great way to drop sometimes up to a pound of weight, just by switching materials from nylon to Dyneema Composite Fabrics (DCF, formerly Cuben Fiber). If you’ve already invested in a high tech product like an ultralight sleeping bag, quilt or pad, why not protect it from the elements and wear-and-tear with an equally high tech product that is lighter, waterproof and will also last longer than any other alternative?
The May long weekend is the year’s first real chance to get out in the mountains and paddle. In 2016 our plans had been thwarted by a faulty river gauge that was reading 10 times the actual flow. In 2017 our plans weren’t looking good due to too little water in the rivers we wanted to paddle and too much snow in the mountains we needed to cross.
Our last minute substitution was to paddle the Kaskawulsh River in Kluane National Park. Access would be up the Slims River Valley and out via the Alsek River Trail. None of us were really excited about the amount of flat hiking involved in this route and we knew the Kaskawulsh would be pretty tame, so we decided that we’d use fat bikes in addition to our pack rafts.
Dave Gonda, Dylan Stewart and I got out of town on Friday afternoon, stopped in Haines Junction to register our trip with Parks Canada, and were underway at the Slims River by 6 pm.
When you’re first learning the ins-and-outs of how to pack light for backpacking, it’s important to understand that it’s a process. I still constantly refine the gear I take on trips, and learn something new every time I pack my pack. That’s because I aspire to adhere to what I think is one of the most important precepts of ultralight backpacking, one I learned from Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ambassador Roman Dial. His philosophy is not just to buy and carry lighter stuff, but rather to travel as simply as possible and use gear for multiple purposes (you can read more about how another of our ambassadors, Forrest McCarthy, applies Roman’s ethic in our previous post, “The Soul of Minimalist Backpacking“).
Generally, the more skill and experience you have, the less gear you need. Similarly, the more information you gather pre-trip, the better prepared you’ll be when you set out. Know where you going and what you’re doing, and you’ll be able to choose exactly the right gear for the conditions (and leave behind what you don’t need). For example, if I’m going for an overnight trip in the fall in New England and the weather is clear, there won’t likely be bugs. So I might not need to bring a shelter, or I might take something very minimalist like a Flat Tarp. It’s a versatile option that can be pitched in an amazing number of configurations, and can also serve multiple purposes. It’s also very, very light (10 oz.).
A critical component of every trip into the wilderness is food. Whether going out for a couple of hours or a couple of months, some attention needs to be paid to nutrition in order for your physical output to be sustained for the duration of the activity. With that in mind, I’ll share how I developed my own personal nutrition strategy and pass along some lightweight backpacking food ideas that satisfy my cravings and metabolic needs.
My personal approach to backcountry nutrition is system driven. As Steve House said, “eating with a purpose is key to increasing your capacity for any sport.” My strategy is built upon a set of modular menus that are pre-prepared, scale-able and simple. They are primarily made of readily available ingredients that can be procured in bulk from stores online or in most major cities. My menus are rotated, combined, and modified to meet the caloric and nutritional needs of the trip objective, season, activity, and duration. I definitely don’t reinvent my menus every trip and I don’t recommend that you do either.
How does one determine the right amount of food, with the appropriate type of calories, for a trip? Below I will outline three strategies for determining your baseline nutritional needs. This will be your starting point for all trips into the wilderness. Ultimately, I would recommend combining these three strategies to determine a tried and true baseline that works for you.
Each spring, the global hiking community converges on a tiny town in southwestern Virginia. Day hikers, section hikers, thru hikers past and present crash like a wave on Damascus—seemingly all at once.
Overnight, the population of “Trail Town, USA” multiplies many times over. Tents appear, mini, mobile gear shops interspersed among them, with enough food carts slinging enough high-calorie grub to cure all the hiker hunger in a hundred miles.
Trail Days, like the Appalachian Trail itself, is a celebration of humanity in its many forms. There’s a how and why and reason for everyone who hikes, a story behind every pack. It’s joyous and solemn, wholesome and debaucherous, entirely sane and yet a little bit out there.
As much as possible, we tried to grab time with people who stopped by the Hyperlite Mountain Gear booth–especially when they were carrying our gear. Learning a little bit about them and their hike helps us all complete the circle on why we do what we do, in turn.
Here’s what we gathered from a random assortment of thru hikers (a lot of whom ended up being from our home state of Maine):
York, ME—On the trail since April 4th
AT Highlights? Pretty much all of it. That’s why I’m here; living it, adventuring it.
Forrest McCarthy seeks big adventures in remote, wild landscapes. He learned to rock climb, eventually going on to work for Exum Mountain Guides, so he could more completely explore the Grand Tetons; he learned to packraft so he could wander the Colorado River Basin and Alaska’s backcountry; and he combines sports—alpine climbing and ski mountaineering or thru hiking and boating—so he can travel across wide open landscapes. Minimalist backpacking principles are the ties that bind his adventures together.
“Curiosity has been the driving force throughout my life,” he says. “What’s that river like? What’s over that next mountain range? What’s that ecosystem like?” In order to travel to ever more distant places in a world where untrammeled landscapes have become rare, McCarthy brings only what he absolutely needs on his adventures to stay warm, dry and protected from the elements. For example, he uses his dry suit as rain gear and his throw bag, trekking poles or paddle as hardware to put up his UltaMid. He even shares a toothbrush sometimes, though only with his wife, he adds with a laugh. And he uses the most technologically advanced equipment he can find.
“Often I see manufacturers trying to out-design each other,” he explains. “They are trying to sell end users gear with too many bells and whistles because that’s what the magazines tell the end users they need. There’s a certain level of dysfunction in this. How do we educate people that they don’t need the super high-tech suspension systems? It comes back to keeping it simple.”