Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Borah Gear Down Vest: First Impressions and Short Term Review


Recently I got a package in the mail that I had been eagerly awaiting.  In it was the brand new on the market Borah Gear down vest, which as of now is one of the very lightest down vests commercially available (if not the lightest).  Over a month ago John from Borah Gear asked if anyone was interested in a down vest over at BPL, and I along with several others expressed interest.  I contacted him shortly after to ask him more about buying a vest from him, unsure if he was going to go through with putting out an official Borah Vest on his site.  He let me know that he was in fact going to start producing them, and that if I wanted a vest, that I would get the very first one.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Cesar's Complete Gear Combinations for 2014: 4 Season


If you haven't already, please make sure to read my introduction to this series of posts related to my full 2014 season selection of gear and clothing for backpacking.  It gives a lot of relevant background information and details regarding all six of these gear lists in general.

These two gear lists cover the coldest weather conditions I plan on experiencing throughout winter and early spring, and cover what I consider to be "frigid" and "very cold"--both of which fall under the 4 season category for me.  Also note that these temperatures also reflect the lowest predicted temps (i.e. typically at night and at dawn) in weather forecasts for a given trip. I personally define these terms as follows, and the final weights are listed for the restless:

Frigid = -15 to -9 C / 5 to 16 F
  * On trail - BPW 4708g / 10.4lbs, CW 3276g / 7.2lbs
  * Off trail - BPW 5017g / 11lbs, CW 4079g / 9lbs

Very Cold = -8 to -3 C / 18 to 26 F
  * On trail - BPW 4264g / 9.4lbs, CW 2824g / 6.2lbs
  * Off trial - BPW 4573g / 10lbs, CW 3134g / 6.9lbs

Please feel free to check my math and let me know if I have made a mistake.  It's easy to make mistakes when dealing with so many numbers.

4 Season general pros: No bugs, chance of full trail shelters very low due to less people, dry--or at least dryer than temps that stay above freezing--usually always snow around to melt for water (water filter stays home).

Cons: Need to have lots of good, warm clothing as well as very insulated sleep system (all of which will add lots of extra weight), not much sun as it goes down much earlier--though hiking through moonlit snow is a lovely experience.

Cesar's Complete Gear Combinations for 2014: Introduction

It has been several years since I began going through a kind of backpacking metamorphosis.  Now, however, it feels more or less complete.  I have very few items on my wish list, and only minor upgrades and changes in mind for the future.  Having an Ultralight and/or Super-ultralight perspective can really open up doors and potential when done properly.  And let's just face it, aside from all the abstract hippie theory ("It's like, a state of mind dude--not numbers and stuff,") sometimes found in the lightweight backpacking community online, having good UL/SUL gear and clothing is a part of this process too.  

I now look at maps with much more excitement than I did several years ago, knowing that not only do I have the experience and knowledge to take on most of what nature can throw at me, but hiking up all those hills and putting in more kilometers is easier and more fun than before.  Backpacking for me is better now than it ever was before, and I have been at this for nearly two decades now.

Last year over the winter holidays I sat and ruminated over the ways I could polish and improve my gear for my most active season, roughly from May to September.  I made some adjustments, got a few upgrades, and my 2013 +1 season gear list really served me well last year.  This past winter holiday, as I again sat around after eating a bunch of pickled fish from the Julbord, my daydreams of the adventures to come were much the same.  As was my perhaps somewhat obsessive deconstruction of what would make the best combination of gear for a given set of conditions.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Confessions of a Barefoot Shoe Convert

 
*Note: this post has since been updated with and addendum below containing more info since it was published to address some concerns and offer additional details.

About two and a half years ago, I went on a great trip to Spain where I suffered a minor stress fracture after a lot of hiking on very hard/rough/rocky ground with a pair of slip-on Vans sneakers.  This inspired me to write a post "In Defense of Boots," as I wished I had been wearing a pair of sturdy boots so that I could have avoided the pain and inconvenience of my injury.  Shortly after I reflected on and wrote about footwear for hiking, I decided to dig deeper into the issue to try and gain a better understanding and perhaps find good alternatives.  I quickly found out, and was a bit perplexed, that a significant number of Ultralight backpackers hiked in barefoot and/or minimalist type shoes.

I was new to UL, and never owned a pair of barefoot shoes made specifically for long distance hiking/running.  Since I was a kid and up until about a year and a half ago, I did the same routine with shoes: Vans or Converse All Stars for the warmer half of the year, combat boots for the colder half of the year and also for hiking.  Yet after having altered my perspectives on backpacking and going from fairly heavy to UL and even SUL trips, the idea of wearing these barefoot type shoes was on my mind often.  In short, I didn't buy it.  I thought it was a fad.  Sure, I loved minimalist shoes with no arch support like Vans and Chucks, but not for backpacking.  Yet I kept on seeing blogs and articles written by people that claimed to have done a lot of long distance hiking with these seemingly crazy barefoot shoes.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Cesar's Guide to the E1 Trails in Sweden: Introduction


Welcome to my companion guide to the Swedish trails of the E1 European long distance path.  The path goes from the city of Varberg in south-west Sweden, to roughly the middle of Sweden past the town of Idre.  The Swedish path ends at the lake Grövelsjön, which is on the Norwegian boarder, and on the other side is the huge Femundsmarka National Park.  In the summer of 2013 a newly created and marked extension of the E1 trail was officially opened in Norway, and continues north through Norway all the way up to the very top of the country--a stark contrast to the southern most point of the E1 in sunny Italy!