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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2019 TGO Challenge (Scotland)

Sunset over Loch Morar. Photo By Benny Braden aka Plug-it In Hikes

This past May, I had the opportunity to do my very first international hike. I was completely excited and honored to participate in the 40th annual running of The Great Outdoor Challenge aka TGO Challenge in Scotland. It’s a self-supported, Scottish west coast to east coast backpacking adventure taking you through some of the most remote parts of the Scottish backcountry.  Challengers are not allowed to get any assistance such as motor vehicles once they begin the challenge. Camping in the backcountry is a large part of the experience, but if you plan your route out right you can stay in hostels, B&Bs or hotels along the way.

Looking down at Loch Nevis. Photo Taken By: Bigfoot

Speaking of routes. Each challenger designs his or hers own route. The route can consist of road walks, established trails and off trail crossing private properties. You can also hike as a team, but no more than 4 members per team. Also challengers have two weeks to complete the challenge and must check in with mission control (TGO Challenge coordinators) as the reach certain points along their routes. This is to insure the safety of all challengers.

This year I was apart of a four person team that involved some names you probably recognize from YouTube, Darwin and Bigfoot. If you don’t already follow these guys then you should. They have a wealth of knowledge and are a huge asset to the backpacking community. The Blackalachian also joined for a good part of the hike.

Our friends over at Zpacks and a couple of their guests were also there and we spent most of the time hiking together in some sort of fashion. Even though we were two groups of four, we all only camped together one night. We all had different hiking speeds and styles so it was a treat to get us all together in one location for any length of time.

Both groups on the western coast of Scotland. Photo By: Benny Braden aka Plug-it In Hikes

Our hike began on the banks of the Atlantic Ocean in the coastal village of Mallaig. A small fishing port on the west coast of the Highlands of Scotland. We had typical Scottish weather for our start, cold and wet. But by the end of the first day that would change for a while.

The weather during the first week was unseasonably warm and dry. At times it felt like I was hiking out west like in Arizona or California. This type of weather definitely made hiking through the peat bogs a little easier. And our route coupled with the great weather gave us a lot of opportunities for great views.

The boat dock at Oban Bothy at the end of Loch Morar. Photo By: Benny Braden aka Plug-it In Hikes

As for our route, we began in Mallaig after we signed the official registry at the West Highland Hotel. We all dropped back down to the banks of the ocean, touched the water and began our journey east.

Our route then took us by Tarbet and along the banks of 310 m (1,017 ft) deep Loch Morar, the deepest Loch in Scotland. The first night a few of us stayed at the Oban Bothy while the others wild camped. Bothys are old abandoned houses that folks can camp in while they are out in the wilderness. Some are maintained while others are not.

Photo taken by: Benny Braden aka Plug-it In Hikes

The next day we all continued east through a valley as we followed the River Pean. This gave us an opportunity to stop at Glenpean Bothy for a break. We finished our day with a 13 mile road walk along Loch Arkaig and we made camp on a lot along the banks of the Loch. This was the only night that both groups would all be in the same place for camp.

Loch Arkaig Photo taken by: Benny Braden aka Plug-it In Hikes

The next day we continued east as we made our way through Achnacarry, Gairlochy and traveled along part of the Great Glen Way on our way towards Fort William. We took a break at Neptune’s Staircase, a series of locks that boats must travel through in order to get into Loch Lochy. Neptune’s Staircwase is located in Banavie which is just outside of Caol. We did our first resupply at a Co-op (a small grocery store chain) in Caol. They had everything we needed to continue our journey east.

We ended our day at the Ben Nevis Inn, located just outside of Fort William. It was more like a hostel type setting with a very nice restaurant and bar. Plus the inn was nestled at the foot of Ben Nevis, the tallest Munro (mountain) in the whole United Kingdom (1,345 metres (4,413 ft) above sea level. That would be on our agenda for the next morning.. Munros are mountains in Scotland with a height over 3,000 feet, and are listed on the Scottish Mountaineering Club official list of Munros.

The Summit of Ben Nevis, the tallest Munro (mountain) in the United Kingdom. Photo By: Trystan Bostwick

The next morning we made our climb up Ben Nevis. It was cold, windy and still had plenty snow on top. What an epic summit! On top there was a small structure used to house personnel who would observe the weather on the mountain back in the day. Ben Nevis is a very popular mountain. Once an active volcano that collapsed in on itself. Nearly 125,000 walkers hike up to the summit every year.

Photo taken by: Benny Braden aka Plug-it In Hikes

After summiting Ben Nevis we continued our journey east through Allt Criche. Along our route were several concrete faced tunnels going back underneath the mountain. ADIT No9,10 and so on are carved in the concrete on the face of each tunnel. Each tunnel had a 24″ pipe coming out of them and the tunnel openings were gated off by iron rod gates. These tunnels were used for drainage and ventilation for a main mining shaft. There’s a gold mine near Fort William that these may or may not be connected to. Either way, very cool find.

Our route then took us through Fersit, along side Allt Cam, Loch Pattack and Loch Ericht. We took a break at the Snack Shack in Dalwhinnie. The food there was absolutely amazing. It was nice to sit down for a while and get a warm good meal.

Zpacks Duplex with a sunrise view just outside of Kingussie. Photo taken by: Benny Braden aka Plug-it Hikes

After our break, it was time to push for a few more miles. We hiked along a river for a bit till we made it to Loch Cuaich. We were planning to camp there and had even set up our tents, but we began experiencing extreme wind gusts which were blowing the tents down. So a few of us decided to push on to a lower elevation just outside Kingussie.

The next morning we pushed on into Kingussie and had breakfast at a little coffee shop called the Sugar Bowl as we waited for the others to catch up. The food was amazing and the owners of the coffee shop were super friendly. While in town we also resupplied at the local Co-op.

The Ruigh Aiteachain Bothy inside the Caringorm National Park. Photo taken by: Benny Braden aka Plug-it In Hikes

Kingussie was the last town we would hit before entering the Cairngorms National Park. It would be one of the most remote areas we would be in during our whole trip. Both Matt Favero aka Details and myself stayed at the Ruigh Aiteachain Bothy. Recently restored it was by far the nicest Bothy we stay at while in Scotland. But the next morning we would make our push through the Cairngorms. The forecast was for weather to move in. So we weren’t sure what to expect.

The Cairngorms. Photo taken by: Benny Braden aka Plug-it In Hikes

The next morning as we got up on the plateau we were met with fierce winds and much colder temps. Our plan was to hit the 4 tallest peaks in the Cairngorms, but we could see rain in the distance and chose to take the bad weather route and make our way out of the mountains. But by the time we got back down to the valley the skies were clear and sunny…. go figure.. So we decided to go ahead and push our way in to Braemar and take and extra zero as we waited for the others to catch up.

Photo taken by: Benny Braden aka Plug-it In Hikes

Braemar was absolutely the most beautiful town we went in. The locals were very friendly and there were plenty of places to eat and grab a few souvenirs. The Princess Royal and Duke of Fife Memorial Park in Braemar is the home of the oldest running of the Highlands Games. Even the Queen has been know to attend these games.

After the rest of the crew caught up and a few days of R&R in Braemar. We all continued our trek east to Ballater. Another town with opportunities to resupply and get local lodging. But before we made it to Ballater we had one more Munro to summit, Lochnagar. Ranking only 20th tallest Munro, Lochnagar stands at 1,155 meters (3,789′) above sea level.

Munro Lochnagar. Photo taken by: Benny Braden aka Plug-it In Hikes

Our route took us up the western side of the Munro which was steep and treacherous. As we approached the summit, a light rain and low cloud ceiling had moved in which made our visibility very limited. In fact there were several moments I couldn’t see the other guys who were less than 50 yards from me. But once we got to the summit it was time to celebrate. We had earned this one……

After a very brief celebration, we all began a quick descent off Lochnagar and continued our journey to Ballater. Once there we got a room at the Glenaden Hotel and resupplied at the local Co-op. The next morning was gonna be a gonna be a special treat as we would begin our next leg of our route on the DeeSide Way.

The next morning, before leaving town. I purchased a couple pastries to have for breakfast and to carry with me to eat later that day. But these just weren’t any pastries. There were made by Chalmers Bakery which has a Coat of Arms displayed at the business. This means the monarch (Queen Elizabeth II) grants the business to supply the Royal Household with goods or services. This also entitles the business to display the Royal Arms on their packaging and stationery by way of advertising. In short, Chalmers Brakery makes pastries for the Queen and the Royal Family. Now that’s cool!…….. While I was in the shop I also met Pamela Chalmer, the owner of the bakery.

The DeeSide Way. Photo taken by: Benny Braden aka Plug-it In Hikes

If that wasn’t cool enough we left the beautiful little town of Ballater via the DeeSide Way. It’s a “Rails To Trail” path which runs around 41 miles from Ballater to Aberdeen. We would find ourselves hiking the full length of this trail for the next couple of days. But this day was gonna end on a very wet note. Before we could make it to Banchory. It began to rain very heavily. It would be the only time we would hike in heavy rain though.

Banchory was a nice town with plenty of options for lodging and resupplying. The locals were friendly and inviting. A few of us stayed at a The Stag. A small hostel positioned above a bar much like the Glenaden Hotel that we stayed at in Ballater. We were looking forward to the next morning. It was going to be a little dryer and it would be our last day on trail. But I had no idea what this next section had in store for me. In fact it would change everything for me for the next couple of months.

Photo taken by: Benny Braden aka Plug-it In Hikes

The next morning we all got back on the DeeSide Way and headed east. Early on that day everything was good. It was just another day on trail. But as we approached the little town of Peterculter I began getting a cramping sensation in my left tibialis anterior muscle. I simply thought I was dehydrated and needed to drink something. We still had eight miles to go to the coast and our final destination.

So after a short break we pushed on. I noticed immediately that something wasn’t right. It hurt with intense pain with every step I made. So I backed way off my speed and limped the rest of the way. The guys noticed something was up and hung back to finish the walk with me so we could all finish together. I can’t even begin to tell you what that meant to me. Details, Bigfoot and Darwin made the decision that they were not gonna finish this epic hike without me and we’re there when it mattered most. Now that is true character.

My Beardedself on the bank of the North Sea. Photo taken by: Benny Braden aka Plug-it In Hikes

But after those eight painful miles we all made it to the Lighthouse Girdle Ness. We all walked down to the banks of the North Sea and took our pictures and videos. What a feeling of accomplishment. This felt so different than any other thru-hike. I just walked coast to coast across Scotland, completing my first TGO Challenge and my first ever international hike. Oh, and to add to that I just completed the DeeSide Way as well. Wow!!! Even in immense pain, I was filled with so much joy.

Official TGO completion photo of the two groups. Photo taken by: Plug-it In Hikes

Now since the other guys wouldn’t get there till the next day. We went into Aberdeen and got a hotel room for the night and rejoined the others at the light house the next day for the official group photo and make our way to Montrose to sign the official completion registry. It was great seeing some of the other challengers that we met along the way there and knowing they had a successful completion too. And hanging out for the banquet and hearing all the stories was certainly a treat.

I’d like to thank all the folks who put this amazing event on. From the veters and mission control to all the other volunteers. It was nice knowing if something went wrong, they had my back. So thank you!!!!!! I’ll certainly be back to participate in another challenge again someday.

What an incredible hike.

LET’S BE TOURISTS

Getting to tour all the villages, towns and cities along the way was as much fun as the hike itself. We traveled my plane, trains, buses and automobiles on this trip. Seen amazing sights and architecture. Scotland is stunningly beautiful from coast to coast. Every town and city had something to offer. I made sure to eat local foods like Haggis and drink local beers. We made stops at Dunnottar Castle, The National Wallace Monument, Stirling Castle and more. Every location was filled with beauty and tons on history.

Donnottar Castle. Photo taken by: Benny Braden aka Plug-it In Hikes
Inside the Donnottar Castle grounds. Photo taken by: Benny Braden aka Plug-it In Hikes
The streets of Edinburgh. Photo taken by: Benny Braden aka Plug-it In Hikes
West Highlands Rail Steam locomotive going through Fort William. Photo taken by: Benny Braden aka Plug-it In Hikes
The flight to Glasgow Scotland. Photo taken by: Benny Braden aka Plug-it In Hikes
My Zpacks Duplex tent and Zpacks Sleeping Bag. Photo taken by: Benny Braden aka Plug-it In Hikes
Rhododendrons along Loch Morar. Photo taken by: Benny Braden aka Plug-it In Hikes
The bridge in Braemar. Photo taken by: Benny Braden aka Plug-it In Hikes
Evening walk in a Loch Pattack. Photo taken by Benny Braden aka Plug-it In Hikes
Photo taken by: Benny Braden aka Plug-it In Hikes
Abandoned train trestle. Photo taken by: Benny Braden aka Plug-it In Hikes
Ben Nevis. Photo taken by: Benny Braden aka Plug-it In Hikes
Sunset over Loch Morar. Photo taken by: Benny Braden aka Plug-it In Hikes
Matt “Details” Favero resting by a Loch Cuaich. Photo taken by: Benny Braden aka Plug-it In Hikes
Darwin and Details share some trail time. Photo taken by: Benny Braden aka Plug-it In Hikes
The DeeSide Way. Photo taken by: Benny Braden aka Plug-it In Hikes
My Beardedself riding the trail from Montrose to Edinburgh. Photo taken by: Benny Braden aka Plug-it In Hikes
My Beardedself and Bigfoot in Edinburgh. Photo taken by: Benny Braden aka Plug-it In Hikes
The Blackalachian taking a break and enjoying the view. Photo taken by: Benny Braden aka Plug- it In Hikes

details enjoying his time in the peat bogs. Photo taken by: Benny Braden aka Plug-it In Hikes

Me and my buddy Trystan on Ben Nevis. Photo taken by: Benny Braden aka Plug-it In Hikes

Me Beardedself enjoying a Tennent’s Lager up on Ben NevisPhot taken by: Benny Braden aka Plug-it In Hikes

THE VIDEOS:

The videos for the TGO Challenge Series are at these links:

TGO Trailer: https://youtu.be/Z_lmMvvHG0k

Episode ONE: https://youtu.be/Z5H0ns-e6jo

Episode TWO: https://youtu.be/ozHeiv1s5Dw

Episode THREE: https://youtu.be/iO_iFostfx8

POST HIKE REPORT:

Treating my shin splints with Astym Therapy at Cora Physical Therapy. Photo taken by: Benny Braden aka Plug-it In Hikes

To update everyone about the pain I had in my left leg. It ended up being shin splints. I feel there were several elements that contributed to this. 1st- I took my insole out of my left Brooks Caldera due to it floating and bunching up in the shoe when I would cross a stream. 2nd – the DeeSide Way is a very flat and hard surface. And 3rd- I was pushing as hard as I could go without actually running. Those three things combined contributed to my shin splints.

Now since I’ve been back home I’ve made a big change in my footwear, switching to the Altra TIMP 1.5. I’ll go into that detail in another blog post. Ive also started treating my shin splints with some Astym Therapy at my physical therapist Cora Physical Therapy. So far we’ve made great progress and feel I’ll be back to hiking by late July.

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…

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

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