Friday, December 19, 2014

Cesar's 2015 Shelter Systems for Solo Backpacking

I recently got myself an early holiday gift, which I spoke about in a first impressions video.  It's a 6ft x 9ft (1.8m x 2.7m) Zpacks flat tarp, and I opted for the 1.0 Cuben fiber in a nice translucent black for reasons I discuss in said video.  I finally got a chance to get out and test it out on a short day hike, and am very excited about what will be my new go-to shelter for the colder half of the year.  

Before I get into different pitches and configurations of this tarp, let me first explain the method to my madness for my two go-to shelter systems for the upcoming year.  One will be used roughly between late spring to mid autumn (the "warm" kit), and the other between late autumn to mid spring (the "cold" kit).

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Updates: Future Projects, New Gear, Etc.

Hey all, just wanted to write an update with what's going on, what's in the works, and briefly discuss some new gear I recently bought.  I am excited about both some new projects in the works and also my new gear, and looking forward to both.  First thing I want to get out of the way, is that as some of you may have noticed I have not been very active online as of late (this blog, Youtube, forums, etc.).  I've just been very busy with life at the moment, but mostly positive stress, so it's all good.  

I'll spare the boring details of why I've been so busy, but suffice to say that I was not so busy that I couldn't go on my usual one a month section hikes or do a lot of research on a few pieces of gear that I eventually bought for myself as early holiday gifts.  I have noticed that I have been getting a bit more views on my blog and subscribers on my Youtube channel, so hello, welcome, and thanks to you new readers/viewers out there.  And don't worry, new content is on the way, and here is what I have planned:

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Cesar's Guide to the E1 Trails in Sweden: Bergslagsleden Part 3


Bergslagsleden is the longest stand alone trail that is a part of the Swedish E1 trail system, and spans 280km.  As such, it will require a slightly longer introduction before the actual trail guide due to some complications it presents.  Its endpoint in the south is the campground Stenkällegården, and the endpoint in the north is the village of Kloten.  For more general information about the trail in English, Swedish, and German, here is a link to the official trail guide.

The trail is divided into 17 stages.  This report covers stages 11-8, or from Leken/E18 highway to Mogetorp.

The Leken area is right next to the E18 highway and has daily bus connections to the town of Karlskoga in the west and the city of Örebro in the east.  Örebro is about 28km from Leken (about 25-30min bus ride), is a bigger city (sixth largest in Sweden), has train connections to many parts of Sweden, and will of course have more to offer as far as resupplying and luxuries go.  The Mogetorp area is on the 50/68 highway and has daily bus connections to Örebro in the south and the town of Nora in the north.  There is also a restaurant and hotel near the bus stop.

Below are links to PDF maps and trail information in English for these four stages that make up this section of the E1:

Stage 11

Stage 10

Stage 9

Stage 8

These Bergslagsleden informational maps are very functional, having especially good symbols and information for useful or interesting things on the trail (shelters, fresh water, views, etc.).  The info maps are a bit sparse, and roads often lack much information and are mostly just black lines that intersect with the trail.  These are not the best maps to use on their own for backpackers that are section hikers and/or like to bushwhack/explore.  

Recently however (a few weeks before I began this trail), more detailed topographical maps were added to the trail's official website.  They are listed in the Swedish section that you can find here--you can find the links that say "Karta" next to the Swedish informational maps on the table to the right.  These terrain maps are of very good quality and I highly recommend you take both type of maps for each section.

Hiking southbound on the E1 you continue on Bergslagsleden, and you can check out my previous guide from stages 14-12 here.  Hiking northbound you continue on Bergslagsleden, and more reports on the rest of the trail are coming soon (December).

If you have not read the introduction to this trail guide yet, you can do so here, and there is also a list of links to other completed reports of the Swedish E1 trails.  Please keep in mind this is still a work in progress.

Now on with the show!


The gloomy weather from my last trip followed me and got even worse on this trip.  I don't mind gloomy weather that much, and in fact at times can really enjoy it (I like spooky things), but it does complicate things like navigation--especially at night, and nights are longer this time of year.  It also can ruin good views and vistas, which this area is full of, unfortunately for me.  So my photo documentation is not going to highlight the beauty of this area as much as I would have liked/hoped.  There were several times that I was at places marked on the map that apparently have nice views--there are 9 such symbols for viewpoints in total for these four sections--but didn't bother to take pictures due to the weather.

Yet as before, the conditions did not prevent me from having a successful, memorable, and overall enjoyable hike.  This marks yet another time I say to myself, "I need to come back here again."  Especially considering that I'd like to actually see the beauty of all these viewpoints!  Bergslagsleden has become one of my favorite trails now that I have hiked a fair share of it, and hope that it continues to impress me as I hike the rest of it.  As before, lots of interesting things to see, convenient things like fresh water taps and shelters abound, and mostly good trail markings and sign posting.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Zpacks Sleeping Bags Double Review: 40 Degree Long Term and 20 Degree First Impressions

Recently in Back to Back Episode 2, I briefly talked about my two Zpacks sleeping bags, and how I think that for my purposes (Ultralight and long distance backpacking) they are one of the best bags money can buy.  So I figured I would elaborate a bit on these excellent additions to my gear closet by writing up another double review.  I should note that before buying each bag, I did a lot--boarding on an obsessive amount--of research.  These are bags that have consistently gotten good reviews, like this one for example.  I gave it a lot of thought, which is reasonable considering that these sleeping bags are indeed a big investment for most people.  You can check out all the details on these bags here at Zpacks, but I will include my own measurements and specifications on my two bags shortly.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Back to Back Episode 2: The Cost of Backpacking

Just a quick update to let everyone know that another episode of Back to Back is up on Youtube, in case you have not seen it already.

Here is Part 1, where Ross sets things up and gives his thoughts on the matter.

And here is Part 2, where I reply to some of his points and give my own perspectives on the subject.

Ross is right to point out on his blog that we talk for a total of about a half hour, yet don't get into specifics on how to put together a gear list that won't cost you an arm and a leg.  But this is something he has written about in great detail before, so you can check out Ross' two gear lists here:

One is for three season backpacking, and weighs 12lb 7.2oz and costs $531.

The other is for winter, and weighs 10lb 11.2oz and costs $741.

I decided after I made my video that I it would be nice if I made a good and not too "expensive" Ultralight backpacking gear list.  It comes out to 6.7lbs and costs $650.  

It is intended for 1+ season use, and I wanted to include certain fancy/deluxe/durable gear--not to mention being pretty damn light.  With buying used, or making a few other minor changes, one could make my list even cheaper.  For example, you could buy a big (8 x 10 ft) silnylon tarp, no bivy, and cheapo (DriDucks) rain gear rather than go with poncho/tarp and bivy (you might have to wear your head net to sleep and maybe bring ear plugs, however); or switch out the titanium pot and tent stakes for stainless steel or aluminum ones, buy a generic, lightweight nylon backpack, etc.  One could also turn my list into a 3 season list without much more cost or weight, e.g. add a few more layers of clothing and make a thicker and thus warmer DIY sleeping bag.

Well, that's about it, just a quick update.  Hope you enjoy Episode 2 and our gear suggestions for a cheap but good kit, and as always feedback and questions are welcome and encouraged.

Thanks again Ross for your continued collaboration, it's been a pleasure having these virtual conversations, and looking forward to doing more episodes.

Our next topic will probably be on stoves, fuel, and all things related to cooking out in the field--so keep your eyes peeled.