2019 “NEW DESIGN” Zpacks Sleeping Bag – GEAR REVIEW

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to participate in the 2019 TGO Challenge over in Scotland. But before I left out for the trip, Zpacks contacted me to see if I’d be interested in testing out a prototype of a new design of their sleeping bag. Of course I said YES!! But I wasn’t the first time I’ve tested gear out for Zpacks. Back in 2018 I tested out a prototype of the Vertice rain kilt while I was on my JMT thru-hike and in the Uinta Mountains of Utah as we filmed Highline. That rain kilt made it to production and has been a great option for those who don’t want to wear rain pains, but need more privacy than what the traditional DCF (Dyneema Composite Fabric) rain kilt provides.

When I received the 20 degree sleeping bag for the trip I visually inspected it. I noticed immediately they had introduced a new color, orange. The shade of orange resembles the same shade of orange that the University of Tennessee uses. It’s bright, but not too crazy like a fluorescent orange. Zpacks also told me they are introducing a Azure Blue and a Black. They still offer the Green, but no longer offer Slate Blue.

The next thing about the sleeping bag that captured my eye was the foot box. It looked enormous compared to the flat foot boxes on there older sleeping bags. And when I climbed in it I could definitely tell an obvious difference between the older models and this bag. The new design has more of a rectangular style foot box.

As I continued to research and talk with Zpacks about the sleeping bag I found out about the changes I couldn’t see. And they were big changes as well. They now use DownTek water resistant 950 fill power premium goose down. This is the same goose down that Ben Smith of Goosefeet Gear uses on all his custom down clothing.

Zpacks also fills each baffle with 30% more goose down. Between the extra down and vertical baffles. This helps keep the down from shifting and keeps it where you need it most and help keeps the loft of the down over time.

Now I used this bag on the TGO Challenge as I hiked from the west coast to the east coast of Scotland. Roughly 225 miles over a 14 night period. In addition to the TGO. I also used it in the Smokies a couple of times since. And every time I’ve used the sleeping bag it’s kept me very warm. So warm in fact that I haven’t even had to zip it up yet. I’ve just been using it in quilt mode. Even though we experienced a few night in Scotland that were in the mid to low 20s.

Another thing I noticed while using the sleeping bag was my feet weren’t getting cold like in my older Zpacks sleeping bags. I didn’t need my down socks or had to stuff my down jacket in the foot box just to give my feet extra warmth. It was so nice to have that extra room in the foot box as I flipped side to side as I slept at night.

So what are the specifications on this new design sleeping bag? Well, here you go:

MATERIALS, CONSTRUCTION & FEATURES

• The inner and outer shells are constructed from .59 oz/sqyd 7 denier Ventum Ripstop Nylon.

• There are 4 colors to choose from now. Azure Blue, Orange, Green and Black.

DownTek 950 fill power premium goose down with a “C6” water repellent to help the down to stay dry 90% longer than untreated down.

• Each compartment is overstuffed with 30% more premium goose down than necessary.

• Vertical baffles keep the down from shifting to the sides. Which keeps the down in place. And they don’t use sewn through seams.

• NEW rectangular foot box has more room, and fits your feet more comfortably when your lying on your side, your stomach, or on your back.

• 3/4 Length Zipper extends to your calves.

• No draft tube is necessary since the zipper is located on the back (underneath you).

• Elastic cord is located around the opening of the bag. It can be cinched tight around your neck to help keep out drafts, or it can be pull the bag up around your ears.

• A flat clip located at the top of the zipper keeps the zipper securely closed.

• A Roll Top Dry Bag is included with the sleeping bag and adds .9 ounces (25.5 grams) to the total listed weight.

• All Zpacks gear has a two year limited warranty against defects in materials or workmanship.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

THE PROS:

This NEW design is a HUGE improvement to Zpacks line of Sleeping Bags and Quilts. Having more room in the foot box along with a better quality of goose down including more down in each compartment makes this design more comfortable all the way around.

I could move around in my bag without my feet pressing up against the outer walls of the sleeping bag and getting cold. This was my biggest complaint about the older design. In the older design bag there were many times I’d put my down jacket or other clothing in the foot box to give me a little more loft around my feet. I’d also wear my Goosefeet Gear down socks to help keep my feet warm.

But I HIGHLY RECOMMEND this New design sleeping bag that Zpacks has come out with. In my opinion it’s a game changer for them. I honestly feel like they can be competitive with other companies like Enlightened Equipment. And weighing in less than their old design, but still giving you a larger foot box and more down is a HUGE PLUS.

THE CONS:

I really don’t have anything negative to say about the bag itself, but I would like to see Zpacks offer up more colors in the future. Having 4 colors is great especially since we use to only have 2 colors to choose from. But adding a few more would be a good idea in my opinion. Maybe add Burgundy, Gray and Yellow to the list of color options. I’d also like to see the Slate Blue be brought back. I really loved that color.

THE VIDEO:

Here’s a link to my video experience/review. If you don’t already follow my YouTube channel be sure to subscribe and click the notification bell so you don’t miss out on any new content.

Zpacks Sleeping Bag – NEW 2019 DESIGN – Gear Review

https://youtu.be/yDfQs8qO4pA

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My Favorite Gear – Zpacks Duplex Tent

Zpacks Duplex in central Scotland, United Kingdom
I’m starting out this series with the oldest piece of gear that I have…. the Zpacks Duplex tent. In fact I’ve owned 3 of them. I still have my first one that I bought in 2015 that has over 3,000 miles and over 200 nights. It’s still going strong with no rips, tears or holes. In fact I still use it a lot. I also had a 2018 version that I sold to a friend and a 2019 version that I took on my recent TGO Challenge in Scotland.
In 2015 I was getting back into backpacking. Until then my pack weight was on average 45 lbs per hike. All of my gear choices were NOT on the light side, but I began watching a lot of YouTube and found guys like Will “Redbeard” Wood and Chad “Stick” Poindexter. They were at the forefront of the ultralight backpacking gear phenomenon. Or at least they were on my radar then. That’s when I learned about Zpacks. A upcoming ultralight backpacking gear company based out of Melbourne Florida.
Zpacks Duplex Flex at Max Patch, NC in -14 degree temps
I began my research on them and began buying their gear. By 2016 nearly 95% of my gear was made by Zpacks. Tent, sleeping bag, backpack, dry bags and stuff sacks, rain gear and more. I began using this gear in every condition I could think of; sunny, rainy, windy, summer, winter, blizzard like conditions and even in tropical storms. I wanted to know if gear this light could actually hold up. And I wanted to gear I could depend on.
But the gear that took the most pounding by the elements was the Duplex tent. Now what attracted me to the Duplex was the ease of set up and break down, the weight and the amount of room it provides. I also love the adjustability it has. I could set it up higher or lower depending on the conditions present and the desired pitch.

Here are the current specs according to the Zpacks website.
The standard Duplex is made from .51 oz/sqyd Dyneema Composite Fabric other wiser known as DCF. It has a high strength to weight ratio, chemical free & PFC free, waterproof, stretch free, taped seams and easily repaired.
The standard Duplex weights in at 19. 4 ozs (550 grams). With walls and doors built out of the .51 ozs/sqyd for the standard, the .67 oz/sqyd for the camouflage and the .74 ozs/sqrd is used for the Spruce Green models. All floors are made from the 1.0 ozs/sqyd DCF. It’s more puncture resistant and can handle the abuse.
Eight tent stakes are required to properly stake the Duplex down. These are not included in the cost of the Duplex, but Zpacks does sell several ultralight weight tent stake options. You’ll also need two trekking poles to set up the Duplex or you can use the Flex option by using the optional Flex pole kit.

More Specs:

Exterior Dimensions:

•Peak height: 48″ (122 cm)
•Ridgeline width: 53″ (135 cm)
•Width including vestibules: 86.5″ (220 cm)
•Vestibule space: 20.75″ (53 cm) depth on each side
•Length: 100″ (254 cm)

Interior Dimensions:

•Peak height: 48″ (122 cm)
•Floor width: 45″ (114 cm)
•Floor length: 7.5 feet (2.3 meters)
•Zipper entry height: 36″ (91 cm)

Packed Dimensions:

•7″ diameter by 13″ tall (18 cm x 33 cm) / 520 cubic inches (8.5L)

THE LIKES & DISLIKES

LET’S START WITH THE DISLIKES
To be honest there’s a lot of things that I love about this tent, but only two things that I don’t. So let’s talk about the “DISLIKES” first.
For starts I guess my first dislike is the same criticism that everyone else has with a single wall tent….. the condensation. You simply can’t get away from it if you’re using a single wall tent like the Duplex. But the levels of condensation will vary depending on the location, temperature and weather conditions you’re camping in. I typically try to camp under trees, away from balds or meadows, away from streams and I leave two of the four doors open at night so I get a little cross breeze action. Doing all these things can help lessen the amount of condensation inside the tent. Sometimes eliminating it all together.
The other thing I don’t like about this tent is the length. Even with the tent being 100″ (254 cm) and me being 5’9″ (175.26 cm). Once I climb into my sleeping bag the top of the foot box sometimes rubs the end on the Duplex. Now this doesn’t happen all the time, but as I toss and turn in my sleep, I sometimes slide towards on end or the other. Now to be fair, this probably isn’t the tents fault. I use the Thermarest Neo Air and Uberlight. These two sleeping pads are known to slide around a bit…… especially the new Uberlite. But it would be nice if there was just a little more room on each end.
Now you can pitch the Duplex a little higher which can raise the end wall of the tent some. But that also narrows your width some too.
But that’s it. The only two things that I don’t like about the Duplex.
Zpacks Carbon Fiber Trekking Pole used to set up the Duplex

THE LIKES

Now there are certainly more likes than dislikes with this tent. After all I have own 3 different versions of the Duplex. Here’s what all I like about the Duplex.
•Lightweight: My camo Duplex weighs in at 20.4 ozs (578.44 grams). Having a two person tent that weighs this little has its huge advantages.
•Material: The DCF Material is easy to repair in the field. Having this ability can save a backpacking trip from becoming a nightmare.
•Waterproof: The DCF is naturally waterproof so you don’t ever have to worry about the material went out like you do with Silnylon.
•Easy To Setup: The Duplex sets up easier than any other tent I’ve ever owned. I can set it up and break it down within a minute. That’s pretty good in situations where you’re have to set up or break down in the rain.
•Durability: Even though the DCF material feels delicate, it can withstand a little abuse. I’ve had my Duplex in extremely high winds, hail storms with falling limbs and debris, I’ve had hickory nuts fall on it and still no damage. But I will also say that I do my very best to not expose it to that kind of stuff if I can help it.

SUMMARY

I’ll summarize this article by saying this. I’ve never once regretted purchasing any of my Duplex tents. They have out performed and exceeded my expectations. For me personally I absolutely love the camouflage version. It gives a little more privacy and blends in with the environment really well. And that is a huge plus in my book.
So if you’re consider the Zpacks Duplex, I honestly don’t think you’ll be disappointed… And you back will absolutely love you for it…

Benton MacKaye Trail Thru-Hike 2019

The Benton MacKaye Trail (BMT) runs from Springer Mt Georgia to the Baxter Creek Trailhead in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. That’s nearly 290 miles of trail and some road sections.
In 2018 me and my friend Will “”Redbeard” Wood attempted to through hike the BMT, but after both of us became injured we made the decision to call it. We bailed out at the halfway point. It was the single toughest decision I’ve had to make in a long time. But I had been dealing with my injuries since day 1 and I struggled with every step.
But when I got off trail I vowed to return and do the trail in it’s entirety. That would mean redo over 146 miles again. But my goal wasn’t just to hike the trail, I wanted to thru-hike it. There’s something very fulfilling about thru-hiking a trail. Knowing you hiked every step in a single trip.
Plus I get the added benefit of walking off some of my “mental junk”. Stress and all the mental baggage we carry with us throughout life. Not releasing this or decompressing can lead up to unhealthy levels of “mental junk”. Long distance hiking allows me to cope with my PTS (Post Traumatic Stress) and allows me to get rid of my mental junk and function without becoming a monster at home.

Mapping & Planning

Last time I attempted to thru-hike the BMT I was using the green guide book. It was good, but at times hard to figure out which direction to go at certain trail intersections which aren’t marked very well.
So this time I not only used that guide book, but I also used the new BMT Guthook App. It was spot on and very easy to use. The data seemed to be very accurate and detailed. And honestly it was what I used on trail. I used the guide book as part of my planning phase. I would highly recommend both to be used in that manner.

Georgia Section

Southern Terminus of the Benton MacKaye Trail on Springer Mountain,

I began my thru-hike on a soggy Sunday morning. My good friend Dewey Slusher gave me a ride down to Springer so I wouldn’t have to leave my truck unattended there. We arrived and took a few photos and I was on my way.
The Georgia section in general was in great shape. There were very few blow downs and the trail was generally well marked, but it could use a little better blazing near intersections.

Toccoa River Suspension Bridge is located 15.1 miles from the southern terminus at Springer Mountain, GA

Brawley Mountain Fire Tower locates 33.5 miles from the southern terminus.

Shallowford Rd iron bridge located 38 miles from the southern terminus.

Point of interest in near the Shallowford Rd Iron Bridge is the Iron Bridge Cafe. Located right across the road from the bridge, it offered fresh cooked meals with a southern flair along with snacks, ice cream and soft drinks. There’s also restrooms, water and electrical outlets at this location to use on your visit. Also as I was in the Cohutta Wildlife Management Area, I met another thru-hiker “U-Turn”. He thru-hiked the Pinhoti Trail and then proceeded NOBO on to the Smokies. But while I’m the Cohuttas, I was treated to some trail magic that a friend had left for me. Perfect timing too. I was pushing for miles and was mentally and physically spent.

Indian Rock Shelter is located 52.4 miles from the southern terminus. It is the only shelter in the Georgia section of the BMT.

Tennessee Section

Immediately crossing the Tennessee border you’re greeted with a steep climb with no switchbacks as you make your way up Big Frog Mountain. And to be honest, in my opinion I thought this was the toughest climb I did on the whole trail. But on the way down the mountain I was treated to some trail magic which came at a great time to lift my spirits.
Getting to Thunder Rock Campground makes it all worth it. It’s a great place to either camp or take a break and off load some trash. I spent 10 years on the Ocoee River teaching Swiftwater Rescue for the Tennessee Association of Rescue Squads. It’s where we taught our level 1 class. In that class we taught law enforcement, firefighters, ems and rescue personnel how to effectively and safely perform rescues in fast moving waters like ones experienced is flooding conditions.
The Little Frog Wilderness is pretty awesome too. Once again knowing you are about to enter the community of Reliance. It’s a great place to send a resupply shipment to and to take a zero. I stayed at Hiwassee Whitewater Co otherwise known as Flip Flop Burgers. They have amazing food, great atmosphere to relax in as well as a bunk house and shower house. Owners Bryan and Michele really make their guest feel right at home.
As you continue your hike north you get to hike along the Hiwassee River. We also taught a level 2 Swiftwater Rescue class on the Hiwassee. And being on the river banks really brought back some great memories.

North Carolina Section

The North Carolina section seemed to be a little more remote. I really enjoyed the Citico Wilderness. It was very thick and rugged which reminded me of some of my favorite places in the Smokies. But North Carolina also had some places that were truly epic and a must see.
My campsite at Whigg Meadows was amazing! A grassy bald that offered up a beautiful sunset made for a great ending to my day. And the next morning I was treated to so trail magic at Mud Gap.
The Topaco Lodge is another must stop location. My buddy Sean Kamp met me and treated me to a pizza and beer at the lodge. It was absolutely amazing. The next day I pushed on to the Fontana Village Resort which was another great place to mail a resupply to.

Smokies Section

Entering the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was like going home. It was entering familiar territory. An area I knew like the back of my hand. Also knowing I was going to be hiking on Lakeshore Trail meant that my elevation change was going to be minor compared to what it had been. It was a great opportunity to put in some big miles without killing myself or my feet. After just 1.5 days I was in Bryon City taking a zero and spending sometime with my friends and sponsors Bryson City Outdoors. Definitely a great place to resupply at and replace any gear that might become damaged along your thru-hike.

Also while in Bryson City I spent some time at Horace Kephart‘s grave. It’s because of his efforts and others like him that we have the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The land was protected and set aside for generations to come.
Other locations to checkout while in Bryson City is the Smoky Mountain Scenic Railroad, Anthony’s Pizza, Everett’s and the Relax Inn.

Once back on trail I kicked it into high gear and finished the Smokies in 2.25 days. I stayed at Smokemont Campground and at campsite 38 on top of Mount Sterling. The old fire tower gave me a 360 degree view and provided the perfect viewing point for the sunset the last evening and sunrise the last morning on trail.

With only 6 miles to finish my 289.7 mile thru-hike. I woke up early and proceeded down Baxter Creek Trail. While make my descent I ran into a couple of the Smokies Park Rangers Will and Nick. They were out checking trail conditions and picking up trash some irresponsible hikers had left behind. I certainly appreciate the Rangers and all they do for the park.
once at the bottom my friend Dana Parish met me with coffee and doughnuts!!!! She really loves me and understands what a bearded thru-hiker wants after a long hike…… FOOD!!!

But as much as I was excited to be done, I wasn’t quite finished……. Yes I finished my thru-hike of the Benton MacKaye Trail, but I had one more thing to do…..
A couple of days after I finished my thru-hike, I came back to the trailhead and picked up my friend Chris Smith aka U-Turn. The thru-hiker I met in Georgia. I gave hime a ride to Knoxville where he was able to rent a car and go back home to Florida. I really enjoyed my time with him and glad I was able to help him out the same way as Kristen and Clint from Vegas was able to help me out last year.

Final Thoughts

After completing my thru-hike of the BMT. I wanted to share my thoughts on this trail. Let you know what I liked and didn’t like about the trail. So here goes…….
Overall, I absolutely love this trail. It was tough and challenging, but then again I was doing low to mid twenties most days. I chose to go north bound simply because with me living about 1.5 hours from the northern terminus, it was sort of like I was hiking home. But this also created a few small issues for me. Number 1, the BMT has very few switchbacks. Therefore the trail usually goes straight up and then straight down the mountains. A lot of these are very steep which gave me very sore ankles. My feet, ankles, knees and achilles were extremely tender and sore the first few days.
I also was not too keen on the road walks, but sometimes that’s a necessary evil. Only problem spot I ran into was when I got on Boardtown Rd after the Indian Rock shelter in Georgia. I had a few dogs that were a bit aggressive…… as in a pit bull was literally nudging me with his muzzle on my calves to keep me moving down the road. Of course I didn’t give him any attention and just kept walking……
But I also liked the fact that I live roughly 1.5 to 2 hours from the entire trail. This allowed me to come home a couple of times to take zeros since I was moving so fast and was ahead of schedule.
If I could offer up any suggestions to make this trip any better. I would recommend more blazing at intersections. Some intersections were a little confusing and if it wasn’t for my Guthook App I probably would’ve made a wrong turn. So either more blazing or better signs at intersections (kind of the way the Smokies are).
Last but not least, I really appreciated the communication between me and the Benton MacKaye Trail Association. Anytime I ran into issues or seen areas on the trail that needed immediate attention. They were responsive and got it taken care of. Receiving this kind of response showed me the dedication they have to keeping the trail maintained and free of obstacles so hikers could have the best possible experience while hiking the trail. They also did follow ups insuring me those problems were being taken care of. Honestly that impressed me a lot. And made me proud to be a member of the BMT Association. You can become a member too. Here’s how.
You can also stay connected with the BMT Association through their social media.
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Benton-MacKaye-Trail-Association-125189563051/
Instagram: https://instagram.com/bentonmackayetrail?utm_source=ig_profile_share&igshid=146m4ewynm59f
Twitter: https://twitter.com/BentonTrail

Video Series

The video series for this thru-hike will be released later in April 2019. A link will be placed here to my YouTube channel when those are ready.

2018 JMT NOBO THRU-HIKE – (John Muir Trail , California)

It’s no secret that the John Muir Trail in California is one of the most scenic trails in the US. It runs 211 miles from Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states to Happy Isles in the Yosemite National Park. It’s so popular that sometimes it’s a challenge to even get a permit for it. Many try each year, but come up empty handed. So when me and my buddy Chad “Stick” Poindexter over at Stick’s Blog started talking about attempting a thru-hike of the JMT I was beyond stoked, but understood the challenge of getting the permits.
During the planning stage of our hike I was pretty busy hiking other trails. So Stick took the lead on all the planning and he did a phenomenal job. He also did an article on his blog about the process of abstaining the permits. Here’s a link to the article, JMT Summer 2018 Permits & Plans.

Getting There

Getting there was almost as much fun as the hike itself. Stick and I decided to make the nearly 2000 mile drive out there. But this gave us some flexibility and allowed us to do a little sightseeing along the way. We caught a sunrise at the Hoover Dam, went to the Badwater Basin the lowest point in the northern hemisphere. It’s located in Death Valley National Park, we spent the night in Mammoth Lakes and Onion Valley Campground so we could acclimate a bit. We were able to park the car in Lone Pine for a fee and we shared a shuttle with a family from Canada up to Horseshoe Meadow where we spent our final night before we officially began our hike.

The Thru-Hike Begins

We began our thru-hike on July 4th 2018 around 7:30 AM PST at the Cottonwoods Lakes Trailhead at Horseshoe Meadows campground. After only hiking 100 yards and trying to shoot introductory video. I could tell I was already getting short of breath. My East Tennessee lungs weren’t use to the 10,000′ elevation yet.
The trail was like nothing I had ever hiked before. I was captivated by all the beauty around me…… well minus Stick of course.. The rugged granite mountains, the clear blue lakes full of golden trout and the tall redwoods were absolutely amazing. I kept thinking this must be what heaven is like… or at least I hope so.

Weather

The weather was great. It was in the mid 50s at night and 70s during the day. We had mostly sunny weather the whole time with the daily obligatory passing thunderstorm. The thunderstorms we pretty fierce though. Lots of cloud to ground lightning and lots of pea size hail. Usually I would set my Zpacks Camo Duplex up when it would start raining. I would eat a little snack then take a short nap. Once the storm passed, I’d pack up and push for a few more miles. This was my daily routine that I’d sometimes repeat several times a day. Lightning is a real danger on the JMT.

Special Locations on the JMT

There are locations along the JMT that are more special than other. Locations that make you not ever want to leave them. I came across a few of those on my thru-hike. They were so beautiful and so majestic that I was in complete amazement that those place existed. Here are the locations along the John Muir Trail that were the most beautiful places in my opinion.

GUITAR LAKE

MOUNT WHITNEY

Definitely a sunrise I’ll never forget from the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states (14,505′). I was able to FaceTime my bride so she could see the sunrise too.

FORESTER PASS

GLEN PASS

RAE LAKES

Single handedly the most beautiful place I’ve ever been to in my life. I only had 8 miles in by 10: AM that day and I was pushing for more. Otherwise I certainly would’ve camped there.

VIRGINIA LAKE

DEVILS POSTPILE

HALF DOME

And to finish my JMT thru-hike with a sunrise on Half Dome in Yosemite National Park could not have been more amazing. It’s a definitely MUST.

The Videos

I shot video every single day of my thru-hike. I wanted to capture every thing I could. After all this was my “dream hike”.
I used my GoPro Hero 5 Session to shoot video and my iPhon 8 Plus to shoot stills. The GoPro stability wasn’t great and I destroyed my iPhone just after MTR. So in the end it turned out ok, but next time I go I’ll be using my new Hero 7 and iPhone XS Max.

THE VIDEOS

Here is the link to the JMT NOBO Series on my YouTube channel.

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLh1Yb_GDZwcWzbHkZXQ3Pg_o_xfeOrFSx

Long Trail Thru-Hike 2018

Sunset Ledge, VT

Back on May 30th I kicked off a summer packed full of some of the best hiking the United States has to offer. And what better way to kick this adventure off than a thru-hike on the oldest long distance trail in the US, the 273 mile Long Trail in Vermont. Built between 1910 and 1930, the Long Trail follows the main ridge of the Green Mountains from the Massachusetts-Vermont line to the Canadian border as it crosses Vermont’s highest peaks. This trail was the inspiration for Benton MacKaye’s Appalachian Trail.

McGee Tyson Airport Knoxville, TN

My journey began with a flight out of Knoxville, TN with a connector flight out of Charlotte, NC then on to Hartford, CT. Shortly after touching down Matt & Will from ZPacks and our friend Trystans flight arrived. We all picked up our packs and met up with our ride who generously took us to Walmart to get our food for the next 7 days.

The next morning we got a ride to the Appalachian Trail in North Adams, MA. where we geared up and began hiking the four miles in to the southern terminus of the Long Trail. Of course we signed the register and officially began our thru-hike.

Matt Favero and Will Wood of Zpacks, LLC

It was great to be on the trail again with the guys. We mesh well and honestly it’s good to hike with others that you are in sync with, same speed and mind set. Compatible hiking partners are hard to come by. And people change too. Someone you use to hike with my not match up we now. The more we hike, the more we evolve.

Over all our weather wasn’t bad. It was in the 40s to 50s at night and 60s to 70s in the day. We had quite a bit of rain a few days but we also had a good dry spell. Water was pretty easy to find on the trail. There seemed to be a beaver pond or stream every few miles.

Yellow Deli Hostel in Rutland, VT

One of the things I remember most about this trip was our resupply stops in Rutland and Waterbury. Those were two incredibly beautiful towns. The people were super friendly and it wasn’t too hard getting a hitch in and out of town.

We stayed at the Yellow Deli in downtown Rutland. It was centrally located to the grocery stores and post office. In Waterbury we stayed at the Best Western. It was close to the grocery store, restaurants and of course Ben & Jerry’s. It was the first time I had eaten any of their ice cream. It was pretty dang awesome. I would later have some in Burlington, VT.

Stratton, VT

I also remember the summits we made. Glastonbury, Stratton, Bromley, Mt Abraham, Burnt Rock, Camels Hump, Mt Mansfield and Jay Peak. Now don’t get me wrong, Glastonbury was cool, but Stratton to me meant more simply because of it’s history. Stratton Mountain was the sight where Benton McKaye envisioned the Appalachian Trail. So to stand on the same ground as Benton was very inspiring. Mt Abraham was our first alpine zone (above tree line). It was cool being able to see the Adirondacks in New York to our west and the Whites in New Hampshire to our east. We did Burnt Rock and Camels hump (both alpine zones) in perfect sunny weather. 360 degree views were amazing.

Summit of Mt Mansfield, VT (Highest Peak in Vermont)

But my favorite summits came on Mansfield and Jay Peak (also alpine zones). We did both of those during storms. They were completely socked in the clouds with rain and winds blowing in sideways. The most sketchy ascent was Mansfield. The rocks were wet and the wind was blowing us around. A Long Trail thru-hiker from Canada we met named Bulletproof nearly slid off the side of a boulder on the ascent. But in the end we all made it to the top completely soaked and exhausted, but safe. As if that wasn’t enough, it was time to descend off Vermont’s tallest peak and that’s were it got really sketchy….. There were some areas that you had to climb or in our case slide down the face of boulders with only a 2’ ledge to stand on near its bottom. Then traverse to the side just to drop another 20’ or 30’ between other boulders.

Stowe Mountain Resort in Stowe, VT

After this exhausting ascent and descent of Mt Mansfield, we all decided to go stay at Stowe Mountain Resort. We all needed to dry off, warm up, rest up and fill our bellies. It was at Stowe where the biggest impression was made on me. Us four dirty-smelly hikers showed up at a very high end resort. There were people pulling up in Porches, Lamborghinis, BMWs, Mercedes, etc. at the resort as the valet attendants would go and park their cars. At no time did the resort employees treat us less than the other guest. They were all polite and eager to help. In fact the next day the resort gave us a ride back to the trail in a Mercedes SUV. That is text book how you should run a business. Very impressive, some day I will have to take my beautiful bride there.

Jay Peak in Jay, VT
Summit of Jay Peak in Jay, VT

Near the end of our hike was the last summit, Jays Peak. When we got to the base of the mountain a pretty bad storm moved in. We found refuge in the emergency shelter that still standing. We were wet and cold once again, but we were determined to summit JP that day. Watching the weather closely on an app, we could see an opening about 2 hours long. That’s when we made a decision to make a run for it. Matt and my beardedself took off as fast as we could up the mountain. The trail was like a stream over flowing its banks, but we kept pushing forward. Before we knew it we were in the clouds and we started experiencing some of the highest winds we had ever hiked in. Once at the summit, the clouds were whipping by has if they were cars on a freeway. The visibility was down to about 40’to 50’ and the wind was so loud we couldn’t hardly hear ourselves yell at each other. After a few photos and videos, we began our descent off of Jay Peak. A short while after reaching our last shelter on this thru-hike, the storm quickly moved in for the night.

Water, moose poop, Dirty Girl Gaiters & Brooks Caldera
Lots of moose poop……

The next morning we were full of anticipation since we only had 8 miles to go to the northern terminus of the LT which was at the Canadian border. The trail was full of standing water and moose poop. Churned up by us walking through it creating a not so please soupy mix. But as the day went on it began to dry out and the sun actually came out to more less help us celebrate the completion of our thru-hike.

Time to “Lighten Up” and celebrate with Matt Favero and Will Wood
The border monument.

And just like that, the forest opened up into a clear cut area which looked like power lines would be there, but there were no power lines. It was the border. It was cut in a straight line as far as the eye could see. And then I noticed the monument, signifying the official borders of the United States and Canada. What a cool feeling knowing I just hiked 273 miles to the Canadian border. And to do this hike with my close friends made it even more awesome. I really appreciate Matt inviting me on this hike. It was absolutely awesome to hike the “oldest” long distance trail in the US. These are truly special friends that share the same passion for long distance hiking as I do and these guys get it done.

Journeys End sign, but we’re not done yet…

Once we were done at the border, we took the “Journeys End Trail”, a shuttle took us to Burlington where we stayed one night. Then it was off to Montreal, Quebec the next morning for a very quick tour of the city before heading home.

I honestly have to say that this was the toughest hike I’ve ever done. The LT is as rough as the Green Mountains are beautiful. This trip was filled with so many moments that I will never forget.

THE VIDEOS

Here’s the link to my YouTube Channel and the video of our hike.

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLh1Yb_GDZwcWTzXE7PPoVnd5QzcNKW-Q6

My Beardedself with my BlackRock Skully on the bus to Montreal
The Notre Dame Basilica in Montreal

My beardedself and the Montreal Skyline
Montreal’s finest. Montreal PD
Old Montreal

Lake Champlain, VT
Time to go home for a few days……. Next hike the JMT in California

The Gear List:

•Zpacks Arc Haul Backpack

•Zpacks Multi-Pack

•Zpacks Trekking Poles

•Zpacks 20 Degree Sleeping Bag

•Zpacks Camo Duplex & Tent Stakes

•Zpacks Stuff Sacks & Dry Bags

•Zpacks Zip Pouches

•Zpacks Vertice Rain Jacket & Pants

•Zpacks Trucker Hat

•GooseFeet Gear Custom Down Jacket

•Black Rock Gear Skully Beanie

•North By North Handkerchief

•Patagonia Lightweight Capilene Long Sleeve

•Uderarmer Stretch Running Shorts

•Darn Tough 1/4 Hiking Socks

•Brooks Caldera Trail Runners

•Dirty Girl Gaiters

•Thermarest Neo Air XLite

•Thermarest ZLite Seat

•Sea To Summit Pillow

•Vargo Outdoors Dig Tool

•Hygeinna Portable Bidet

•Anker 13,000 mAh Battery Bank

•Anker Double Wall A/C Charger

•Gua Sha Orthopedics Tool

•Message Ball

•Mini Tripod

•GoPro Hero 5 Session

•Extra Mini SD Cards & Holder

•Euroschirm Umbrella

The itinerary:

Day 1

•Southern Terminus to Congdon Shelter

•Miles Hiked: 10.0 (plus 4.1 of approach trail(AT))

•Total Miles Hiked: 10.0

•Remaining Miles: 263.0

•Total Elevation Change: 3,968.6’

Day 2

•Congdon Shelter to Glastenbury Tower

•Miles Hiked: 14.7

•Total Miles Hiked: 24.7

•Remaining Miles: 248.3

•Total Elevation Change: 6,741’

Day 3

•Glastenbury Tower to Stratton Mt. IF Road

•Miles Hiked: 18

•Total Miles Hiked: 42.7

•Remaining Miles: 230.3

•Total Elevation Change: 7,640.4’

Day 4

•Stratton Mt. IF Road to Bromley Ski Patrol Shelter

•Miles Hiked: 14.7

•Total Miles Hiked: 57.4

•Remaining Miles: 215.6

•Total Elevation Change: 4,840.5’

Day 5

•Bromley Ski Patrol Shelter to Little Rock Pond Shelter

•Miles Hiked: 16.8

•Total Miles Hiked: 74.3

•Remaining Miles: 198.8

•Total Elevation Change: 6,292.6’

Day 6

•Little Rock Pond Shelter to Governor Clement Shelter

•Miles Hiked: 19.7

•Total Miles Hiked: 93.9

•Remaining Miles: 179.10

•Total Elevation Change: 9,225’

Day 7 (Resupply in Rutland,VT)

•Governor Clement Shelter to US Route 4

•Miles Hiked: 10.6

•Total Miles Hiked: 104.5

•Remaining Miles: 168.5

•Total Elevation Change: 5,318.9’

Day 8

•US Route 4 to David Logan Shelter

•Miles Hiked: 13.1

•Total Miles Hiked: 117.6

•Remaining Miles: 155.4

•Total Elevation Change: 4,683.4’

Day 9

•David Logan Shelter to Snow Bowl Ski Resort

•Miles Hiked: 16.4

•Total Miles Hiked: 134

•Remaining Miles: 139

•Total Elevation Change: 7,324’

Day 10 (Halfway Point)

•Snow Bowl Ski Resort to Sunset Ledge

•Miles Hiked: 17.9

•Total Miles Hiked: 151.9

•Remaining Miles: 121.1

•Total Elevation Change: 9,243’

Day 11

•Sunset Ledge to Birch Glen Camp

•Miles Hiked: 14.4

•Total Miles Hiked: 166.3

•Remaining Miles: 106.7

•Total Elevation Change: 8,248’

Day 12

•Birch Glen Camp to Bamforth Ridge Shelter

•Miles Hiked: 12.9

•Total Miles Hiked: 179.2

•Remaining Miles: 93.8

•Total Elevation Change: 7,710’

Day 13 (Resupply in Waterbury)

•Bamforth Ridge Shelter to Route 2

•Miles Hiked: 5.3

•Total Miles Hiked: 184.5

•Remaining Miles: 88

•Total Elevation Change: 1,902.9’

Day 14

•Route 2 to Puffer Shelter

•Miles Hiked: 10.6

•Total Miles Hiked: 195.1

•Remaining Miles: 77.9

•Total Elevation Change: 5,506’

Day 15

•Puffer Shelter to Smugglers Knob

•Miles Hiked: 11.6

•Total Miles Hiked: 206.7

•Remaining Miles: 66.3

•Total Elevation Change: 8,435’

Day 16

•Smugglers Knob to Bear Hollow Shelter

•Miles Hiked: 10.9

•Total Miles Hiked: 217.6

•Remaining Miles: 55.4

•Total Elevation Change: 7,654’ (104,733.3’)

Day 17

•Bear Hollow Shelter to Corliss Camp

•Miles Hiked: 15.9

•Total Miles Hiked: 233.5

•Remaining Miles: 39.5

•Total Elevation Change: 7,748’ (112,481.3’)

Day 18

•Corliss Camp to Tillotson Camp

•Miles Hiked: 14.5

•Total Miles Hiked: 248

•Remaining Miles: 25

•Total Elevation Change: 8,031’ (120,512.3’)

Day 19

•to Laurel Woodward

•Miles Hiked: 14.4

•Total Miles Hiked: 262.4

•Remaining Miles: 10.6 (8.3)

•Total Elevation Change: 10,931’ (131,443.3’)

Day 20

•to Nothern Terminus aka Canadian Border

•Miles Hiked: 10.6

•Total Miles Hiked: 273

•Remaining Miles: 0

•Total Elevation Change: 4,965’

•Second Half Elevation Change:

•Total Long Trail Elevation Change: 136,4I0I 8.3

Review of Outmersive Films documentary “The High Sierra Trail”

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to preview the latest documentary by Chris Smead at Outmersive Films (formally known as Chris is Productions) called “The High Sierra Trail”. I consider Chris as a friend of mine and when he reached out to me to asked if I’d be interested in watching the documentary and tell others what I thought about it, of course I said yes.

The documentary is captured with the essence that you are on this backpacking trip on the High Sierra Trail with Chris and his friend John, but at the same time you’re receiving a history lesson about the different areas you’re entering along the way. Historian William Tweed, a 30 year national park service veteran does an outstanding job both narrating and explaining the significance of each specific area that Chris and John entered as they hiked the High Sierra Trail. He explained the history of the trail is such great detail. Honestly I could sit and listen to William all day. The tone of his voice and his unending knowledge of the High Sierras grabbed my attention and had me hanging on for more.

I was also quite impressed with the animation in this documentary. Chris made it seem that the historical photos were coming to life as if it were videos instead of photographs. It brought each of these old photographs to life right before my eyes. Matching these up with Williams Tweeds historical knowledge was a perfect match.

Now Chis is a great videographer in is own right. I loved that he was able to capture the real essence of every situation. The humorous situations (which there were many) along with the reality of life on the trail, Chris captured it all. I also love that he wasn’t afraid to be real in front of the camera. It’s so easy to be fake or not be our true selves when we’re being filmed, not with Chris. He seems very comfortable and very much himself when in front of the camera.

After watching The High Sierra Trail I honestly wanted to cancel my up coming John Muir Trail hike and do the High Sierra Trail instead. It looked absolutely amazing. Even though both trails join together for about 15 miles and summit Mt Whitney ( the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states) together. The rest of each trail are very different from one another.

The Team Behind the Film:

Outmersive Films is a newly formed arts collective founded by Chris Smead. He had previously operated solo, under the name “Chris Is Awesome Productions” when the direction of his hobby was unclear. As things turned more serious and other collaborators began joining in, it became obvious that it needed to be reinvented.

Soon after shooting the film and making the trailer, Chris was approached by Bruce Goodman, a professional colorist who had worked on countless Hollywood films as well as Mile, Mile and A Half. Shortly after, Bill Meadows and Alex Knickerbocker (of Mr Robot, Fast and Furious) reached out and offered their post sound talents. Long time friend Jacen Spector joined the show to save Chris from his notoriously terrible marketing skills, and Emma Massick recently joined to help lead marketing and social media management. Gordon Gurley, an experienced videographer and audio engineer has provided a lot of guidance during the project and will be taking a much more active role for the next project. The Outmersive family is growing and we’re excited to see what we can create together.

Here’s another teaser trailer for Outmersive Films newest film, The High Sierra Trail! Be sure to check out his page for upcoming showings of the full film… it’s worth watching!!

Want to know where and when you can get a chance to see this film? Here is all of Outmersive Films social media accounts. You can follow them to keep up with what all is going on with the High Sierra Trail documentary.

To stay up to date about how to see the film, follow Outmersive Films on social media, and subscribe to the mailer on http://www.highsierratrail.com

Official Trailer: Official Trailer: https://youtu.be/Dnkv1uFZuyI

Follow Us:

Official film website: http://www.highsierratrail.com

The group behind the film: http://www.outmersivefilms.com

Social:

http://www.Facebook.com/outmersivefilms

http://www.Instagram.com/outmersivefilms

http://www.Twitter.com/outmersive

http://www.Youtube.com/c/outmersivefilms

http://www.Vimeo.com/outmersivefilms

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