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  1. Yesterday
  2. Window Insulation Film / Polycro Groundsheets

    I used package sealing tape for my repair.
  3. Within the Last week
  4. Pad Thai with Chicken from Backpacker’s Pantry takes their most popular dinner – the vegetarian Pad Thai – and adds chicken with a “meal kit” including a lime packet and Sriracha powder, so you can customize the meal to your personal tastes. Right off the bat, it stands out that the meal packs a punch in the calorie department (for a pre-made backpacking meal at least), at 840 calories total. As I’m personally a fan of a meatatarian meal for dinner when I’m on the trail (after all, breakfast and lunch are usually vegetarian for me just by accident), I’ve always passed on the previous vegetarian version of Pad Thai from Backpacker’s Pantry, despite the fact that it's always been one of their most popular offerings. With the recent addition of a chicken option however, I went ahead and gave the meal a go around in the TrailGroove trail kitchen. If you’re one that likes an easy to make pre-made backpacking meal but still likes to do a little doctoring, this might be the meal for you. Upon opening the package you are presented with the typical backpacking meal contents and oxygen absorber, but also inside is an additional bag containing peanut butter, peanuts, and the previously mentioned lime packet and Sriracha powder. The peanut butter is added when preparing the meal and the peanuts add some crunch as a topping later…and both help push the calorie count up on this one. After rehydration, the consistency of the meal is good – no soup here, just a hearty blend of ingredients that go together pretty well. For me personally, I didn’t find the lime packet to work too well with the meal and frankly, I think it could have been omitted entirely. The Sriracha powder however, is simply amazing and really packs the flavor with a little spice as well. The peanuts are a nice addition that bring the crunch factor that’s usually missing from these types of meals. Flavor wise, the meal is good – I would say it’s a little high on the tomato flavor for an Asian type meal for me however. With the spaghetti-like rice noodles that are ingredient number one, combined with the tomato sauce / powder that is ingredient number two, the meal was a little too reminiscent of spaghetti and tomato sauce for me…though with some other Asian themes mixed in. However, overall the meal does taste good, can be doctored as one wishes, and has a reasonable mid-range price at $11 MSRP and is on the high side of the calorie count at 840. While my favorite Asian themed backpacking meal from Backpacker’s Pantry, and one of my favorite pre-made backpacking meals of all time is still their Pad See You with Chicken offering, it's unfortunately just been discontinued. I wouldn't say that this new offering will replace it on my list of favorite meals of all time, but this will be a nice one to work into the dinner rotation every now and then. Backpacker's Pantry Pad Thai with Chicken retails for $11 and can legitimately feed a couple hikers with average appetites. Find it at Backcountry.com as well as here at REI.
  5. ULA Packs made in Utah

    I have the Circuit and the Ohm 2.0. I’ve used Gregory packs as well and Eberlystock. ULA packs are my go to packs. I’m out often. The Circuit is a great multi day pack or winter weekend pack. The Ohm is perfect for summer weekend trips. The suspension and its ability for adjustment handles loads comfortably, the pack storage layout is exactly how I like big inside and outside, not a lot of zippers and stuff.
  6. Tarptent Interiors: Mesh and Solid Fabric Options

    Tailoring the tent to specific trips and seasons definitely has its advantages! Thanks for sharing your impressions. Changing them out does require setting a little time aside for sure. I've seen Tarptent use several different designs on the attachment system, with the mitten hooks on the fly and the inner featuring either elastic webbing loops, plastic d-rings attached to elastic, or plastic d-rings attached to non-elastic loops. I think the d-rings are easiest to use and work really well by removing them with a twisting motion, and then attaching by pushing the d-ring onto the hook, but the elastic is workable and a similar technique can be used somewhat, although not as easily as with the rings. The inner I have that has only the elastic attachment loops (no d-rings) will often come off a hook or two when packing the tent up as well...easily fixed with a quick check upon setup however.
  7. Window Insulation Film / Polycro Groundsheets

    It's pretty tough stuff considering how light it is - those quick tape repairs can definitely keep them going for quite some time if needed as well!
  8. Tarptent Interiors: Mesh and Solid Fabric Options

    I'm also a fan of Tarptent inner tent options. I have the one-person Moment DW with both mesh and solid interiors. I really like having both for the versatility of being able to use whichever inner is best suited for a trip. The mesh version is my favorite for warm weather and ventilation. The solid interior is great for cooler temps, and for the Moment DW, its only adds 2-3 ounces to the weight of the tent vs the mesh version. It's also great for more privacy when you are camped with a group and you want to leave the vestibules open for ventilation. I used the solid interior for snow camping on two winter backpacking trips and it really helped to keep me toasty warm inside the tent. I also have the optional crossing pole for the Moment DW, making it freestanding with the ability to handle light snow loads. My only wish is that the mitten hooks were easier to open/close for swapping out the interiors.
  9. Three Night Backpacking in Texas Hill Country

    One year we backpacked at Enchanted Rock. We were just out one night, but you could push it to two by creatively linking trails. Very nice trip and great photo ops!
  10. Window Insulation Film / Polycro Groundsheets

    I have been carrying polycryo for a ground sheet for several years. I backpack often, and I have only had to repair one small puncture hole over the years.
  11. Backpacking the Eagle Rock Loop

    Loved this trail! Did it in 2012 and would love to return someday.
  12. Three Night Backpacking in Texas Hill Country

    If you wanted to head east a bit, the Somerville Trailway would have plenty of miles for you to do. I would check to see that the trail is completely open now after Harvey.
  13. Three Night Backpacking in Texas Hill Country

    Pedernales Falls SP has a backcountry campsite. You could use it as a base and then do day hikes through their extensive trail system. I've only been to HCSNA once but I do remember there being quite a bit of trails, just can't remember about backcountry sites. Ok, looks like there are some sites---maybe just have some short mile days to explore from camp?
  14. Illegal Camping

    My experience and opinion on illegal camping differs depending on the scenario. Like others have said I do regularly find A wilderness area or National Forest area that you can camp at without any fees and is legal. It's not that hard to find places. I do abide by fire bans when doing this. COOL: Once I had a Backcountry Permit not issued because the staff said it would be too cold. ( basically lazy and didn't want liability ), so we told them we would go "dayhiking" instead and camped there anyways well equipped for the "cold" 30's haha and we were well aware of the weather ahead of time. It was pathetic, the staff had no idea how to describe the trail (14 mi loop) because all were out of shape and never went back there. Time of day restrictions should not always be ignored due to safety, but don't tell me I can't camp there and won't give me a permit because it's too close to nightfall and I can't get back there in time on a non-technical trail. This was when it was 3pm and the trail was only 3 miles and sunset was at 6pm or 7pm can't remember but either way sorry but I'll be done by 4pm so we went anyways. I've also done some island camping that was "illegal" only because people trash it and make campfire rings and if a fire catches then there is no equipment/boats/helicopters for containing the fire and the whole island is in jeopardy. When I do this I actually destroy any campfire rings I find and scatter the rocks and I don't make a fire of any kind. I also leave no trace and pick up a handful or two of litter and pack it out. NOT COOL: If an area is closed for vegetation regrowth, wildlife protected habitat( ie sea turtle nesting, bird nesting area) or erosion control then don't be that guy that camps there just because you can get away with it. Respect and be a protector of wildlife and nature. If we abuse or ignore these warnings that site and/or wildlife may be affected adversely. If everyone thinks "I'm just one person, I won't damage anything" then it snowballs into a problem. If lakes/ rivers/ streams have restrictions on them like camping at least 100-200 ft away from water then abide by them. People overcrowd these scenic locations to the degree that erosion happens and wildlife finds new water sources if people are always crowding them. Plus, predators like bears or even just potentially dangerous animals like Elk frequent these areas and you'd rather have some distance anyways if one shows up.
  15. Window insulation film, often referred to as polycro in the backpacking community is a thin, clear plastic heat shrink sheeting designed to insulate the windows in your house to save on energy costs – but this material also works very well as an ultralight backpacking groundsheet to help protect your tent floor or for use when cowboy camping or under a tarp. As window insulation film is available for a wide range of window sizes, you’re sure to be able to find something to fit your backpacking shelter of choice, and I’ve used different sizes right out of the box for all my shelters from solo shelters all the way up to a Tarptent Hogback (where I use the 84x120” Duck Brand Large Window offering), and in all sizes you can usually pick up a solution for just $5-10. This stuff is extremely light – as an example the average window insulation film ground cloth even for a spacious 2 person shelter will easily weigh less than 3 ounces, with a groundsheet for a larger family or group tent in the 3-4 ounce range. Instead of cutting the groundsheet down to an exact match to my shelter floor, I always leave a little extra leeway all around when the sheet of material allows – this material is designed to shrink in the heat after all – just be careful that the groundsheet does not extend past the floor if it rains (rain can run on top of the groundsheet and below the shelter floor). In addition to providing abrasion protection a groundsheet of this type will also provide extra waterproofing for your shelter floor on soggy ground where it’s possible that an elbow or knee could provide enough pressure to surpass the hydrostatic head of a silnylon shelter floor for instance. While many commercially available, and specifically made groundsheet and footprint options are made that will work well, and Tyvek is another tough option, these choices can be more costly in the case of the former, heavier, and / or more bulky to pack (while however, offering more durability). It’s all about whatever balance you’re going for. Window insulation film groundsheets are remarkably tough for their weight – but they are to some extent semi-disposable. However, with a little care I can get many nights and multiple trips out of a single polycro groundsheet. I’ve found the main thing to be careful of with this material is to resist the temptation to anchor the groundsheet in any way, as most tears result when attempting to anchor the corners of the groundsheet using tent poles, rocks, shelter struts, etc. – when pulling an opposite corner tears can more easily occur. Thus, I’ve found it best to let the groundsheet float underneath the floor so it can move, and not tear. While the standard film has worked well for me, you can also find a heavy duty version that’s twice the thickness if you don’t mind the extra weight. Lightweight backpacking gear is always a balance of weight vs. durability, and over the years I’ve found that that the window insulation film groundsheet strikes a perfect balance in this regard. It offers more protection for your tent or shelter floor than going without a groundsheet at all, but weighs only a few ounces, and is light enough to pack even on high mileage and high effort trips. These groundsheets are also compact; no matter which shelter I use I’ve always been able to stuff these groundsheets directly in my tent’s existing stuff sack along with the tent of course. And perhaps best of all, a window insulation film / polycro groundsheet won’t break the bank at only a few bucks, and with care, offers sufficient durability as well. It’s a bit like a cheap pair of sunglasses – with care they will last you quite some time, but when they finally do break or get lost it's no big deal. You can find window insulation film in a wide variety of sizes here at Amazon, (Duck and 3M offer a good size selection) and you can also cut larger sizes down to size, or even tape multiple pieces together for the perfect fit. Lately I've just been getting whatever size is closest to the footprint of my tent, and calling it good.
  16. South Lake Blew Us Away

    With M's foot slowly recovering from tendonitis, we decided to push our luck a bit and take a hike out of Bishop via the South Lake trailhead. The weather was windy as heck (up to 70mph over the passes) on Wednesday, but those winds were supposed to die down on Thursday morning. Or not. We picked up our permit for the trail into Dusy Basin at the Mono Lake office with no trouble, and had plenty of choices for a campsite at the Willow CG below South Lake. Everything was perfect. But the next day the wind continued to blow hard. We took it slowly up towards Bishop Pass, hoping the wind would ease off in the afternoon. But by the time we stopped for lunch at Saddlerock Lake, it was blowing harder than ever. And so after lunch we dropped back down below into Timberline Tarns and looked for a campsite. We figured that we could hide out for the afternoon, and give it a new shot in the morning. The people we had met on the trail coming down from Bishop Pass looked shell-shocked by the experience, and told of really difficult conditions. Some had hiked from Happy Isles or Whitney and said that Bishop Pass was the worst experience of their hike. With a few days worth of food in our bear can, we thought it made sense to wait a day and let the weather improve. We had a nice exploration of the two Timberline Tarns in the afternoon--this is spectacular country. Late in the afternoon we stuck our head up again into Saddlerock Lake and got our hats blown off. That evening the temperature dropped to the low 40s, and with the wind it was chilly. We were in our tent by 7:30, snug in our bags. At least we were prepared with the right gear. That night the wind howled and gusted, and the temperature dropped to right around freezing. By the next day, the wind was still blowing hard, and clouds were moving in. We did not like the idea of going up over the pass, and so we headed back towards Ruwua and Chocolate Lakes, hoping that they would be more sheltered. The trail from Long to Ruwau Lake is really steep, and Ruwau is nestled in a dramatic granite bowl at the base of Cloudripper Peak. That was hard work But once we checked it out, we decided to continue on over the use trail to Chocolate Lakes. Our topo map showed a trail. It was optimistic, and made us reconsider what steep means. Straight up and straight down. M's foot was holding up, but barely. Chocolate Lakes are gorgeous. We really liked the middle lake best for camping. We thought about that, but the wind was still knocking us around, and it was still before noon. Maybe Bull Lake would be better. We ate lunch there in the shelter of some trees on the east side, but the gusts of wind blowing our food around convinced us that it was time to give up. As the great cyclist Eddy Merckx once said, "the hills are hard, but wind is the master." And on this trip, the wind was winning. On the way back down the trail we ran into quite a few groups heading in for the weekend. We were surprised to learn that none if them could tell us what the current weather forecast was. Amazing. I hope they were prepared for temps in the 30s and 30 mph winds...gusts to 50+. We were, and we still felt the conditions were not enough fun for us to continue. We also met a young guy who was literally running up the trail early in the day up by our campsite. We laughed with him and at him as he jogged by. Later the same day we saw him jogging back down, nearly done with his hike. It turned out he had promised a friend to carry a resupply load up into Dusy Basin. And he was seeing how quickly he could run the route, God bless him. He was still laughing as he jogged off down the trail. That night we slept back in the van in Willow campground. The wind shivered and shook the aspens all night long, and then next morning we drive into Bishop for a warm cooked breakfast. That settled it. We were going to the cabin, not back up into the wind. The wind blew hard all the way over Sonora Pass, and the deer hunters there must have spent a memorable and cold night waiting for dawn. The photos are here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/c7fFMevdGy1sCUZBA
  17. Hi Everyone - First post here, but I would like to plan a three-night backpacking trip somewhere in the Texas Hill Country over Thanksgiving weekend. Does this group have any advisce as to whether this is possible? There will be an 11 year old and 8 year old in a our group, but they are pretty tough - they went to the top of Guadalupe Peak last year. Our pace is likely to be a little slower as a result. Is Lost Maples just an overnight, or can it be done over a few days? What about the Hill Country State Natural Areas? I see lots of trails mapped there, so it seems like a three-day trip would be possible. We live in Austin but would like to keep this trip within the Hill Country. Thanks!
  18. Saddlebag lake

    still very nice pictures--don't give up on your camera yet.
  19. As one of the newest meals they've released, Turkey Dinner Casserole is a meal that's not so traditional when it comes to the Mountain House dinner lineup, but is one that's high on tradition on every other level. The new Turkey Dinner Casserole meal from Mountain House offers up a homestyle freeze-dried backpacking meal that’s ready to eat in just 9 minutes with just a mug-full level of 1.25 cups of water. I’m a fan of mixing in freeze dried meals with other backpacking dinners – but some days (many days perhaps) on the trail after a long hiking day I simply want to eat and sleep and get to both as quickly as possible. New meals are always welcome to prevent getting burned out on other favorites, but you can also run the risk of getting stuck with a meal you have to force down in the wilderness. However, after trying out this new meal from Mountain House first at home and subsequently on the trail on trips this past summer, this new Thanksgiving-inspired meal is one that is sure to occupy some space in my food bag on future trips as well. Turkey Dinner Casserole is a combo of turkey, stuffing, vegetables (green beans, celery, carrots, onion), broth, and Thanksgiving spices in a 2 serving pouch that has a 30 year shelf life. While I’m not the biggest fan (personal preference) of a couple of the vegetables included in the meal, everything seems to work well together. The meal goes for about $10, but from time to time you can find a deal or any time of the year, REI offers 10% off 8 or more freeze dried meals. Sodium is a bit high in this one, with the entire bag comprising about 2/3 of one’s suggested daily sodium intake. Overall this is a really tasty meal all on its own, with large chunks of turkey that will definitely remind one of a Thanksgiving meal, as with many recent meals from Mountain House they’ve really brought the protein to the table. While taste wise this is a new favorite among freeze dried meals that could earn it 5 of 5 stars in that category, I do think a couple things could be improved. First the consistency: the meal tastes great, but could use some crunch. If Mountain House had included a separate pack of crushed nuts to add to the meal after rehydration for example, this would easily solve the problem. The second potential drawback is the price to calorie ratio on this meal. When I consider the around $10 price tag at just 480 calories, it pushes this meal more into the splurge category for me. 25% more product in the bag would help greatly in this regard. Back to that topping idea, if a pack of crushed nuts was also included, boosting the calorie count by at least 100 and adding some crunch while keeping the price the same, and/or a packet of olive oil was perhaps included, this meal would be a slam dunk. Of course, one can feel free to doctor this meal as they wish on their own. Dried cranberries, anyone? Mountain House Turkey Dinner Casserole retails for about $10 for 2 servings, but I’d suggest one whole package for the average hungry hiker. You can get the meal direct from Mountain House, or find the meal here at REI and over at Amazon.com. Need some other ideas for great freeze-dried meals on the trail? Take a look at this post that details our top ten.
  20. Transportation: how many cubic feet per camper?

    Not exactly camping gear per se, but I live in NYC and am thinking about buying a crossover primarily for weekend travels, and with the hope of bringing as many friends as possible (this being NYC, most of my friends don't have their own vehicles). Overall my target goal would be to bring friends and their gear for two nights of mild-weather trail camping with relatively lightly-packed internal framepacks. Since many of my friends are not especially experienced, I'll have some variation in keeping packing size down. In terms of sizing when comparing different crossovers I'm seeing seat capacities from 6 to 8 passengers, and trunk capacities varying from about 10 to 24 cubic feet. The Toyota Highlander seats up to 8 (not especially comfortably, but my girlfriend and some of our friends are very compact) and has less than 14 cu ft of trunk space, or less than 1.75 cu ft per passenger. The VW Atlas seats up to 7 (comfortably) and has over 20 cu ft of trunk space, or nearly 3 cu ft per passenger. So the question is: for 2 nights of relatively light trail camping, what's a reasonable estimate for how much trunk space I need per camper? If packing very light my thinking is maaaaybe 2 cu ft? A more reasonable estimate may be 3 cu ft?
  21. Earlier
  22. Tarptent offers a wide array of 1-4 person shelters that all offer a nice blend of weight and functionality, and once you’ve decided upon the best model to suit your needs one additional factor will need to be considered if you’re going with one of their double wall models (now most of their lineup) – as these models are offered with your choice of interior tent type. Mesh, solid, or partial solid interiors may be available depending on the specific model and the conditions that particular tent is designed for. After spending some time with each type of Tarptent inner tent configuration, here’s my quick take on the pros and cons, and best use scenarios that I've found for each option. Mesh With a mesh inner the complete interior is no-see-um mesh other than the silnylon bathtub floor. The floor is the same no matter your interior of choice, and I always further protect it with a lightweight groundsheet made from window insulation film. As may be obvious, mesh is the best option for warm weather trips and locales and especially anytime you feel you might be spending time in the tent during the day, as any of these tents are greenhouses in the sun. This is also the lightest option – significantly lighter compared to a partial solid inner on Tarptent’s largest offering, the Hogback, in my experience. While mesh offers the most ventilation while keeping the bugs at bay, it’s also the least warm, and as I’ve experienced, doesn’t help much in a sandstorm. However, if most of your trips are in the summer or you live in the south this is a great option. Mesh inner with fly removed halfway (Hogback) Solid Tarptent’s solid inner tents are made with a water resistant and windproof nylon fabric, and this is without a doubt, the most enclosed (and warm) option, blocking nearly all wind and to be honest, sleeping in a tent with a full fabric inner is a different experience, almost cabin-like. While this option can feel a bit detached from the outdoors, a solid inner is great for winter nights and adds noticeable, significant warmth when the temperatures drop and the wind picks up outside with the most protection from exterior elements, and is quite welcome in those conditions. Solid inner example on a Scarp 2 Tarptent does offer a mesh ventilation panel at the top of each door here, but I’ve still noticed some condensation on the inner (forming into ice at the temperatures I use this option) using the solid inner on a Scarp 2. I have however, been quite warm regardless of condensation or not, and this has been a good option for Rocky Mountain winter trips when temperatures are very cold. This is the option that will block the most wind and retain the most heat at night. Small mesh panels at the top of each door offer some ventilation on this Tarptent with a solid inner tent. Partial Solid Now offered on many tents in Tarptent’s lineup, the partial solid interior is a compromise between the two above offerings, and if I had to choose is my favorite all around choice for 3 season backpacking here in the Rockies where nightly lows in the 40's are considered a warm night. The top of the inner tent is mesh, offering great ventilation, while the solid fabric extends about 1/3 to halfway up the sides (varying throughout the tent) to block wind, sand, a little shoulder season blown snow, and to seal in some additional heat at night. Even on my last trip with a cold front approaching, a partial solid inner was quite appreciated – there is simply no direct, straight-line path for wind to reach you, and while there was quite the breeze stepping outside the partial solid-equipped Tarptent Hogback, wind inside was virtually 0. Perhaps the ultimate compromise inner, this option is however a bit warmer in regards to a cross breeze on hot days, although a nice touch can be found with the Velcro-secured end flaps, overlapping no-see-um netting, that can be folded down to increase north-south ventilation. The partial solid inner is heavier than mesh as well, and I was surprised that it added 6 ounces of weight in the case of my Hogback, for instance. A blend of both types can be found with a partial solid inner. Whichever route you take on the inner tent, all of them are cross-adaptable to various conditions to some degree, and for the best of all worlds you can always get both types of inners as well and change them out based upon conditions – the interiors are simply attached to the fly with a set of plastic hooks and matching rings or loops on the inner. Although this will take a little yard time before your trip – you can twist the hooks to release each, and then push to attach the new inner. And if you’re adding a different inner tent to an existing tent, the seams on the floor should be sealed (as with a new Tarptent) – I use Sil-Net Seam Sealer and like to add some extra dots or a pattern on the floor as an anti-slip treatment while I’m at it. The inner tents are available separately for around $150 if you already own your tent, or you can simply select one or the other or both if you're buying new. In my case, having these various inner tent options available simply allows one to extend the tent of their preference further into the next season a bit, and has the ability to add a little more comfort mid-season at anytime of the year as well. For more in general on selecting a tent see our post on factors to consider when choosing a tent, and you can take a look at Tarptent’s full lineup here.
  23. Saddlebag lake

    As M's tendonitis in her heel continues to be an issue, we have slowly but surely begun to take a few trips this summer. We're way behind our usual average, but things seem to be getting better....and so we thought we would look for a trip that wouldn't put too much stress on her heel. That means not much uphill or downhill, and those hikes are hard to find in the Sierra. But Saddlebag Lake, just east of Yosemite, offered the perfect solution this past weekend. While the ferry across the lake no longer operates (sadly the lodge at the lake is closed, possibly forever) the trail around the lake is relatively flat. We took the trail around the west side of the lake first, mainly because it was shorter, and would mean a quicker return to the car if things didn't work out. This trail is full of chunks of scree and talus from the mountain above, and so the walking is a bit of a chore. But we were on the trail, nothing hurt (more or less) and the day was perfect. Once at the top end of the lake, we aimed left towards Wasco and Steelhead Lake. But we also noticed that there were a lot of people here. Not unexpected, as this is one of the few places you can hike out of the Tuolumne Meadows area with no trail quota. Greenstone Lake had quite a few groups, and the area between Cascade Lake and the outlet to Steelhead Lake had more than ten tents visible right away. Hmmm. Not what we like best about backpacking. So we went off trail up to little Z Lake, nestled in the middle of the loop trail, but about a half-mile from any of the loop trail itself. It was a smart move. We saw only one other person while we were there--a dayhiker who looked somewhat confused--and we had a peaceful, lovely afternoon and evening in the High Sierra. The views here are gorgeous, and sunset was spectacular. On the way out, we again went cross country to Hummingbird Lake, and then followed the much nicer and more scenic (but longer) trail around the east side of the lake. Fishing as Z Lake was dull---lots of tiny brook trout. And you may notice that we continue to have issues with our little camera putting bugs where no bugs belong. sigh. It may be time to upgrade... Thephotos are here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/v1KoaCTTpPv76ryY6
  24. Donnell Fire

    We're just back from a short trip into Saddlebag Lake, and we'll post a trip report on that soon. But in the meantime, we drove back to our cabin via Sonora Pass and Highway 108. It's really sad. They wouldn't allow us to stop along the way to take photos, but the section of 108 by the Dardanelles resort is total gone. The resort is gone, and the whole southern side of the highway up along Eagle Creek is a wall of blackened sticks. Further down, the Clark Fork Canyon is a single chimney of charcoal. This is home turf to us. We took one of our first backpacking trips up Clark Fork, and have hiked every trail along this road, from the short hop over to Sword and Lost Lakes, Arnott Creek, Disaster Creek, Boulder Lake, and even up through Paradise Valley to the PCT and beyond. All of that is burned to a crisp, and from the highway you can see the Iceberg of the Caron-Iceberg Wilderness through one long tunnel of blackened landscape. It is very sad indeed, and it will take years and years to recover.
  25. Meals from Good To-Go have always been intriguing from my point of view with their focus on delivering backcountry meals utilizing great, real ingredients – their newest meal, chicken gumbo stays true to this philosophy. I’ve always liked their meals as well, but haven’t relied on them too much for my backcountry dinners as all the original meals were vegetarian. Recently however, Maine-based Good To-Go has broken that mold and I had a chance to try one of their new meals with meat – dubbed “carnivore” meals by the company, their chicken gumbo offering made with antibiotic free chicken, rice, okra, along with a set of complementary ingredients and spices. After at least 15 minutes of rehydration time, Good To-Go chicken gumbo rehydrates nicely. With all the spices in the bag here, I was a bit surprised that the first bite tasted a little on the bland side. I was however pleasantly surprised that the heat level was indeed, good to go. As a guy that normally packs a spice rack in the backcountry that includes habanero flakes, I didn’t need to add any additional spice to this meal with the already included ancho chile powder, cayenne pepper, and black pepper ingredients. As Good To-Go didn't hold back with their seasoning approach on this backpacking meal, it indeed could be too spicy for some palates however. Crackers compliment the meal nicely, and for those that don’t like too much spice, an addition of this type will tone the spice level down a bit while boosting the calories up a bit as well. One thing I definitely did appreciate with this meal was an extra dash of salt that did seem to bring out the rest of the flavors in the dish, and if you're already bringing some salt along, it's always easier to add more than to take too much out. As a guy originally from the south who frequently gets a craving for a side of fried okra with dinners at home at least once monthly, okra in a backpacking meal is simply awesome. Even though it’s the first ingredient, I found myself wanting even more and searching for any hidden pieces of this vegetable popular in the south, which after eating this meal, I've learned apparently dehydrates and rehydrates quite well. For me at least, Good To-Go Chicken Gumbo definitely brings back some memories and is a great comfort type meal, and is very unique among the array of backpacking meal options available from many manufacturers. At $14 for 2 servings, this meal is quite pricey and I was surprised that the meal expired only one year after purchase...you’ll want to eat your Good To-Go meals quick, and look around for a sale or use REI’s ongoing 10% off 8 or more backpacking meals deal. For lunch, as just a component of a dinner meal, or if you're looking to test the waters a bit a single serving version, as seen here, for around $7-10 is also available. One great thing about the packaging is a “vaguely approximate” fill line already printed on the outside of the bag. While this wasn’t one of the best premade backpacking meals I’ve ever had, the meal is unique enough to earn a spot in the rotation to mix things up every once in a while without a doubt, and would serve up a nice lunch as well as working for a dinner time entrée. You can find Good To-Go Chicken Gumbo here at Amazon, as well as here at REI.com.
  26. Difference between reclaimed down and high quality down

    Some people like the assurance of balancing their insulation out with a synthetic bag and a down jacket or vice-versa. Of the two, I've found that over multiday wet conditions a down jacket will stay dry longer and dry out faster - it's not as often in direct contact with any interior shelter condensation, and your body heat is always working to dry it out more directly, it's the bag that seems to start to accumulate the moist moisture over time. With care I've found down to be quite workable, but synthetics do have their advantages and peace of mind is important as well!
  27. A week in the Sierra

    My wife took her kids to visit her parents in Upstate NY and I flew to Vegas and drove to the Sierra. I car camped for two nights to get acclimatized to the elevation and then backpacked for 5 nights in SEKI. I hope I can make it back next year. Bullfrog Lake Charlotte Lake Milky Way over the Painted Lady at Rae Lake My last night in the area was in a hotel in Lone Pine CA which is right next to the Alabama Hills Mobius Arch Lots more photos/details here http://backpackandbeer.blogspot.com/2018/09/seki-2018.html
  28. Kayaking in Sweden

    I was lucky and got to spend 4 nights/5 days kayaking around the Stockholm Archipelago earlier this summer. I paddled about 50 miles total and got very lucky with the weather and bugs, no rain, no bugs. An amazing sunset and a little bit of hiking. It was a great experience. Lots more details and photos here http://backpackandbeer.blogspot.com/2018/07/stockholm-archipelago.html
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