Words by: Jeremy McAllistar
Aside from individual skills, like sculpting the ground to make it more comfortable to sleep on, there were a lot of very significant things that I learned on this trip.
Being around people who are great at something makes you better: Glen Van Peski is really good at ultralight backpacking. He is a pioneer, a cottage company founder, and he has been doing this as long as I’ve been alive (sorry for the reminder Glen). Just watching him do what he does taught me so much and beyond that, it gave me silent permission to try it myself (if he can do it, so can I). Seize any opportunity you can to be around people who are good at backpacking and it will make you better.
You don’t need very much to be safe and comfortable in the woods: My total pack weight for this trip was hovering around 10 or 11 lbs. That included my food, my water, and everything that was going to keep me warm, dry, and safe. On this trip we had cold, rain, wind, changed climate zones around 5 times, covered 33 miles and at no point was I wet, cold, hungry, thirsty, or feeling unsafe. Fear had stopped me from trying a lot of the things that I got to try on this trip and it truly is amazing how little you need to be safe outside. On your next trip find someone with experience and try some of the things you have been reading about. I think you will be as surprised at I was with how little you actually need.
You can hike fast and still stop to smell the roses: I have always wanted to try and hike big miles, but the reason I go outside in the first place it to enjoy what God has made. I thought you couldn’t hike fast and enjoy the experience. I was wrong. As we hiked along, we would often stop to look at the geological markings on a cliff face or a lone pine tree on a desert wall and then we would start hiking again. It liberated my mind to know that I could hike big mile days and still stop and smell the roses.
One of the cool things about going on a hike with Glen is that he has spent his life amassing ultra-light gear and he is very generous with it. On this trip I got to try (and lust after) three pieces of Gossamer Gear. I got to borrow Gossamer Gears Cuben fiber SpinnTwin, their LT4 trekking poles, and their Kumo ultra-light backpack.
Even though the Cuben fiber SpinnTwin was a limited production run at Gossamer Gear, I still wanted to share a few thoughts. I was impressed with how quickly it set up and just how much coverage there was for my gear and me. I was also impressed with how simple the set up was. I had never set up a shelter like this before and I did it for the first time on the trail, in the sand, in the dark and it only took a few minutes. After I got the stake-in-the-sand issue solved it stood up to wind and rain with no problem. No matter what material you can find this shelter in, it’s a good one for first time tarpers or seasoned vets.
When Glen first handed me the Gossamer Gear LT4’s I seriously asked him if he had handed me all the pieces. These things are vapor light. I have a pair of Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork poles and these LT4’s are literally half the weight. The grips were awesome and let me change hand positions on the fly. Even though I had a bit of trouble with the locking mechanism in the cold at the beginning of the hike, and even though Glen broke one on the trail, I would not hesitate to buy a pair. They were that good.
Wearing the Kumo ultra-light backpack for this trip was like going from driving a Toyota to a Mercedes. It carried like a dream to the point where I barely recognized it was there at times. It had a hip belt that I kept buckled because it was flapping around, but I never found myself needing it. I think the wide straps had a lot to do with how well it carried. I generally feel that a large back pocket and even the side pockets are unnecessary on an ultra-light pack, and to a point I still felt that way, but man were they convenient. I kept my water in one side pocket and my rain jacket in the other. In the center pocket I kept my water filtration gear and some food for easy access. There might be some more Spartan ultra-light packs out there, but the Kumo has about every feature I feel that I would want with nothing I don’t think I would use. It’s a great pack.
In closing, I just wanted to say a special thanks to Glen. This great experience that I had hiking, testing new gear, and just enjoying the outdoors would not have been possible without his generosity. He was generous with his time, with his gear, and with his expertise and for that I am truly thankful. I hope you all enjoyed the report.
God Bless, Jeremy