Thursday, August 14, 2014

All of Cesar's Ultralight Backpacks: Specifications, Comparisons, and First Impressions of a New Pack


What you see above you are all of the backpacks that I own and use for wilderness backpacking.  What will follow below will be a full analysis/breakdown of each pack, with specs, history, pros, cons, and when I (or my wife) would use them.  The shinny new green pack in the middle is my brand new custom built Zero from Zpacks, and at the end of this text I will have a video I did with my first impressions of this pack, as well as a brief comparison to my old custom Zero (second one on the left above).

For me having these five packs is a complete collection for all my wants/needs when it comes to wilderness backpacking.  As I have noted before, I go on trips regularly at least once a month all year round, and trips range from overnight to a week.  Plus I intend on if anything, going backpacking more as my children get older and I regain free time.  But not only does this cover all my bases, these packs on occasion are used by my wife.  

I currently have no interest in buying any other backpacks until I run one of these five into the ground, or if one somehow gets very damaged, etc.  And I'd probably just buy an identical or very similar replacement.  Of course things and minds can change, but I doubt that I am going to want/need another pack for a long, long time.  I must admit, feels pretty good :)

I'll begin with the smallest pack by volume (#1) and work my way up to the largest (#5)--or left to right as you can see them neatly arranged above.  If you are interested in reading a long-term review of pack #2 and a first impression of pack #4 from last year (September 2013), you can do so here.  

I'll begin with telling you the name of the packs you're looking at, in case you are unfamiliar with them:

Monday, July 21, 2014

Summer Updates

Just a quick post with some updates on what's going on with my blog.  

The big change as of late is that I have started to upload some videos onto Youtube, and have put a link to my channel in the tabs above.  I have several more videos in the works, but right now I have been too busy to create them.  But there will be more on the way eventually.  I was reluctant to do the whole Youtube thing, but so far I have to say I have been plesantly surprised by the experience, and it's a great addition to my blog.  

My next video will probably be all about the often challenging issue of shoes for long distance hiking, and I'll also go into more detail on my past and current shoes of choice for a given situation/trip.  As of now, my most popular text on this blog is still my exploration of minimalist/barefoot shoes, which you can check out to the right along with the rest of my most popular posts.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Cesar's Guide to the E1 Trails in Sweden: Västra Vätterleden Part 2

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At 189km total, Västra Vätterleden is one of the somewhat longer stand alone trails that is a part of the E1 trail system.  This report will cover roughly half of this trail, from stages 4 to 2, which goes from the town of Hjo in the south to the town of Karlsborg in the north.  The trail goes along the western part of the area surrounding the massive lake Vättern, but doesn't follow the lake directly.  There are points where the trail does intersect with this mini-sea of fresh water, such as the end point of this report in the town Karlsborg, which is directly on the shores of the lake.  

I was not able to find a good connection to public transportation at the northern end point of this trail (stage 1), or I would have hiked the last stage of the trail on my trip--and indeed, had intended on hiking the entire trail in my initial planning of this trip.  Hiking to the end of the trail would have essentially stranded me in the middle of nowhere with no way of getting back home in the time I could afford to travel on this trip.

Karlsborg has good bus connections as well as other good conveniences for hikers, so for me I think that for all intents and purposes Karlsborg is a better end/start point to Västra Vätterleden.  Hiking from Hjo there are a few different paths and short-cuts one can take, and can range from about 40km going the most direct route, or about 65km going a longer and more scenic route.  I opted to mix in both shortcuts and scenic hikes for a hike that was roughly 53km.

In preparing for hike, I quickly found a Swedish website called Skaraborgsleder, with many different maps and reports on trails in the area--including the entire Västra Vätterleden.  I printed out and used their maps for this trail and was generally quite pleased with them.  You can read/print the maps for yourself here (in PDF format and with info in Swedish): 

Stage 4, Hjo-Röå

Stage 3, Röå-Mölltorp

Stage 2, Mölltorp-Forsvik

The E1 trails before this going southbound go from Hjo to Mullsjö, and you can read about them here in part 1 of this trail report.  Going northbound on the E1 you continue onto stage 1 of Västra Vätterleden, which directly connects with the next trail system, Bergslagsleden (report coming around September 2014).

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 to the guide!

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Summer 2014 Gear List Breakdown


For some time I have been thinking about doing some videos to compliment my blog, and finally got around to it today.  I filmed a "what's in my pack" video that I will post below, but first wanted to elaborate on some things that slipped my mind while I was speaking in the video.  It's hard to cover everything you want to express in a short amount of time, and after watching my finished video there were several times I wish I would have said more.  Then again, if I would have said more, it would probably been way too long.

I really wish I would have said "Uhh" much less--but hey, it's my first video that I've posted online, so cut me some slack.  And after doing several takes I don't feel like going back and re-shooting at this point, so it is what it is.  While editing I cut out a lot of pauses and rambling to try and make it flow better, which explains all the cuts in the video.

Before I forget, here's the gear list in full, with all the weights and more details, via Gear Grams.  

The total weight is 3283g / 7.2lbs for both my base pack weight plus items carried.  The only thing not included (excluding consumables) is my clothing worn, which in case you are interested is 1460g / 3.2lbs.  So what you see is pretty much everything I take with me minus my hiking outfit, food, and water--though I of course didn't include the weight of my alcohol fuel on my gear list, but you get to see it anyhow.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Cesar's Guide to the E1 Trails in Sweden: Västra Vätterleden Part 1

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At 189km total, Västra Vätterleden is one of the somewhat longer stand alone trails that is a part of the E1 trail system.  This report will cover roughly half of this trail, from stages 8 to 5 in their entirety, which goes from the town of Mullsjö in the south to the town of Hjo in the north.  The trail goes along the western part of the area surrounding the massive lake Vättern, but doesn't follow the lake directly.  There are points where the trail does intersect with this mini-sea of fresh water, such as the end point of this report in the town Hjo, which is directly on the shores of the lake.

In preparing for hike, I quickly found a Swedish website called Skaraborgsleder, with many different maps and reports on trails in the area--including the entire Västra Vätterleden.  I printed out and used their maps for this trail and was generally quite pleased with them.  You can read/print the maps for yourself here (in PDF format and with info in Swedish):

Stage 8, Mullsjö-Fagerhult

Stage 7, Fagerhult-Semesterbyn

Stage 6, Semesterbyn-Baståsen

Stage 5, Baståsen-Hjo

The E1 trails before this going southbound go from Mullsjö to Ulricehamn, and you can read my report on them here.  Going northbound on the E1 you continue on roughly the second half of Västra Vätterleden from Hjo to Karlsborg, and you can read that report here.

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 to the guide!

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