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Words & Photos by Steve “DOOM” Fassbinder

Hi folks, Steve (Doom) Fassbinder here. The team over at HMG asked me to share a bit about my travels and thoughts about the new Junction pack, but it seems fitting to give a bit of a history lesson first. Because unlike this new pack, I didn’t just fall out of the sky all perfect and stuff.

I got my first Porter pack about seven years ago in preparation for a two-week bike-packrafting and climbing mission down in Mexico. The trip was sort of complicated, but the thought of a simple, light pack just seemed right. Without going into too much detail, that trip was a pretty full-on multisport blitzkrieg.

Animal skull sitting atop ultralight Porter pack
The Porter pack that started it all. Tajikistan // 2018

And it only solidified my notion of less is more when it comes to pack designs.

Since then, I’ve continued to seek out remote and hard to reach places, and I’ve used a mix of Porter, Windrider, and Southwest packs depending on the trips.

These packs have accompanied me on wild trips from glacial traverses by bike in Pakistan, a month-long solo bike and packrafting exploration through the heart of the Pamirs in Tajikistan, and a bike crossing from Chile to Argentina. There have been countless rugged bike traverses in Alaska from the Brooks Range, the coastal Southeast, and through the Wrangle St. Elias. Last but not least, the desert Southwest holds a special place in my heart, and as such, I’ve called the Four Corners region my home for 20 years now.

This past July, I had the pleasure of linking up with my two consummate adventure partners–Brett Davis and JONF***INBAILEY. Like any essential piece of gear, you choose your partners wisely, and Jon and Brett have been indispensable friends and trusted allies in life and in the field.

Ultralight bikepackers pose for the camera
Brett and Jon: Ripe Mountain Hams in their natural environment

Our mission, (mostly conceived by Brett), was to cross the San Juan Range by bike and packraft from the westernmost peak (Lone Cone) to the easternmost peak (Bennet). Of course, anyone can rent a car and drive around from this point to that, but as our old friend Ed once said:

You can’t see anything from a car; you’ve got to get out of the goddamn contraption and walk, better yet crawl, on hands and knees, over the sandstone, and through the thorn brush and cactus. When traces of blood begin to mark your trail, you’ll see something, maybe.” // Edward Abbey

The San Juan mountains contain some of the most iconic and rugged terrain in Colorado, and our path through them would have four distinct segments, all with specific gear needs. The fact that our trip would land solidly in our monsoon season was also a factor in gear planning. To add a layer of simplicity, we would each carry one pack for the duration of this trip.

Ultralight bikepackers on the trail

This is where the Junction came into play. With two durable outer pockets and one larger mesh pocket in the middle, the Junction can play the part of a great biking pack as it won’t snag on tight brush. It also functions perfectly as a packrafting pack for carrying paddles in those same outer pockets. The central mesh pocket is great for drying wet gear on the go, and also for help in organizing smaller day items like lunches and beers if you are lucky enough to have them! We chose the 2400 size, and although it was a bit tight on the hiking portion, we all appreciated the smaller packs while on our bikes for the much longer riding segments.

In addition to the biking and packrafting segments, we also had a three-day hike with llamas over the Weminuche. Yes, llamas. These pack animals portaged our bikes while we carried the rest of our gear like normal thru hikers.

Ultralight bikepacking gear loaded onto llamas

Like most trips, ours was not without its mishaps. At the end of our llama segment, we discovered that a small, crucial part of Brett’s front wheel had fallen off, lost to the three days of terrain we had just covered. Although this tiny part seemed so insignificant, Brett’s bike was 100% unrideable without it.

While checking through our other gear and carefully building up the rest of the bikes, Brett interrupted us with a “Hey fellas, we’ve got a problem.” Of course, we already knew that, but this was a new one. Our llama Vance was standing there with a long piece of fishing line coming out of his mouth. This did not look good, and I envisioned the worst. With some gentle tugging, coaxing, and regurgitating on Vance’s’ part we were able to pull the grassy knotted mess back up and out of his gullet, no hooks attached!

Ultralight backpacker leading a llama

Crisis averted, we defaulted back to figuring out this whole wheel problem. Our llama shuttle vehicle showed up at dusk, and we sorted out how to deal with Brett’s bike.

In the end, our angels took the bikes to the nearest-not-near town to be fixed and then dropped them at our packrafting take out 60 miles away. This was all a blessing in disguise as we were then able to paddle the Box section of the Rio Grande, which we had not been willing to do with bikes on board. The box is rated class III/ IV with reports of many strainers from the significant Spring run-off. It turns out this section was outrageously scenic and very manageable in our lightly loaded Alpacka Rafts, and was a highlight of the trip.

From the Rio Grande, we had one final push on bikes straight up to our 13,200 ft high point of Bennet Peak. A long day of riding found us perfectly positioned at a great bivy just below tree line for the night. Bennet was getting absolutely pummeled by the afternoon and evening monsoons, and our plan to crest the peak early the next day was critical to our success.

Bikepacker popping a wheelie in a field

With a combined 50 plus years of living and playing in the San Juan Mountains, our team was hardly new to the area, but I think we all came away from it with a renewed and deepened sense of respect and admiration for the wild place we call home. During our walk through the Weminuche we rounded so many new corners that I lost track of where I was, only to be snapped back to reality by a new view of old friends like Vestal, Arrow, and the whole Grenadier Range from angles I’d never imagined possible.

Wooden sign for the CDT

Looking back on this trip, with everything we threw at our gear and all the manhandling that resulted from this epic, the Junctions were just the next step in the right direction. Well designed, reliable, and trail-proven. I couldn’t ask for more.

If this testimonial about the versatility of the Junction isn’t enough to get you jimmy-jazzed, we’re stoked to announce that this ready-for-anything pack will be available in the color of DOOM starting August 14th.


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