Sunday, August 9, 2020

Mountain Laurel Designs Duomid Pyramid Shelter: Cesar's First Impressions Review

The usual disclaimer: I bought this shelter with my own money and I am not sponsored by MLD or any gear company.
This is one of my favorite UL shelters that I have slept in to date, and a welcome addition to my go-to shelters.  As I have been exploring more and more of Scandinavia, I've been going into the mountains all the more.  And after trying a few different options together with my wife, we fine tuned our couple's kit, but my solo mountain trip kit was lacking.  I considered just taking my Nemo Hornet 2 to use as my solo palace.  But after using it in some rainy mountain conditions and having a bit of leaks inside the tent, and having to do a few minor repairs to it, I wanted something with better coverage and that was all around more robust.  
After much research on various pyramid shelter options, I settled on MLD, which is a company that happens to have made some of my all time favorite gear, such as my Burn pack. So here's my current list of go-to shelters:

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Cesar's Guide to Hiking Värmland: Charlottenberg to Röjden

This section is a continuation of my alternate Swedish E1 trail called The Troll Trail/Trolleden.  Click here for more information on this trail system.  The southern end of this section is the town of Charlottenberg, which has a train station, public library, hotels/hostels/B&Bs, and resupply options.  At the northern end of this section is the big lake Röjden, which has campsites with trail shelters on both the north and south shores of the lake, and about 4km down the highway to the east in the hamlet of Röjdåfors there is a bus stop.  Note that this bus stop does not have service on the weekends, and that you may have to call to book a bus at certain times.  But if you manage to catch a bus way out there, you can take it southeast to the village of Östmark or the small town of Torsby further on to resupply, get a hotel/hostel/B&B, or a train/bus elsewhere.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Cesar's Guide to Hiking Värmland: Älgå to Charlottenberg


This section is a continuation of my alternate Swedish E1 trail called The Troll Trail/Trolleden.  Click here for more information on this trail system.  The southern end of this section at the village of Älgå connects Glaskogen Nature reserve to Pilgrimsleden Värmland.  Pilgrimsleden can then connect to another trail called Kyrkleden past the village of Koppom, which in turn then connects to the border town of Charlottenberg.  

Here is the official site of Pilgrimsleden, which is maintained by the Swedish Church.  It has some PDF maps and info, but only in Swedish.

Kyrkleden doesn't really have an official site, just some bare bones info on the local county website.  Best if you just have a good map of the area.

There are a few different ways one can choose to hike this route, but in total it's about 75-80km long from Älgå church to the train station in Charlottenberg.  After exiting Glaskogen, you can also choose to take a bus from Älgå to Arvika to resupply and check out the city--it's a cozy place with cafes and shops and such.  Then from Arvika you can take a bus back to Pilgrimsleden in the village of Sulvik, and the only thing you'd miss would be a 5km asphalt walk from Älgå to Sulvik.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Common Pro vs Con Gear Debates in Ultralight Backpacking


I first wrote this text as a brainstorm over on the Ultralight subreddit, hoping that it would be added to the information side bar or wiki section. But it didn't seem to pick up enough steam and it would have given the moderators there extra work when they are busy enough as it is. So I figured that since I put some work into it anyhow, why not post it here on my blog. Not everyone is on Reddit and some of my followers might find this useful, or better yet maybe someone new to UL that is Googling info on UL pros and cons might stumble upon this and find it helpful.

I will include some improvements and more solid info from some of the feedback I got from the UL forum. So thanks to anyone that gave constructive criticism that might be reading this! Unfortunately, I also got trolled by one rather mean spirited member of that forum, and won't be getting into all the absurd semantics that were thrown my way that were neither constructive nor helpful for someone trying to understand the basics of these UL issues. 

What was lost on this troll is that this pro vs con list and discussion was/is intended for general points (as most pro vs con lists are), and should be helpful for those who are not as familiar with these UL debates. This was never intended to be an exhaustive meditation on each and every aspect of these issues and points. Yes, there is quite a bit of nuance for veterans to jump down the rabbit hole and get into. And yes things like UV radiation and its effect on fabric can be quite complicated. But that is a story for another time, not for an easy to read introduction to common UL pros vs cons when it comes to certain common gear choices.

Which brings me to my next point: this list is also for UL gear intended for use by UL or more lightweight backpackers. For example, there is no need to bring up say 70D fabric for a tarp when it comes to UL backpacking. The grand majority of UL backpackers and UL cottage gear manufactures stick to 7D to 40D when it comes to tarps and tent rain flies. That's not my opinion, that's just a fact that anyone can confirm by checking out the current state of affairs of UL tarps. Nor do I think bringing up heavier and more robust stoves meant for deep winter/cold backpacking is very useful here--one should start with 3 season before moving on to more advanced conditions, like say alpine trekking in Alaska in the winter.

Thus the point of this text is to cover some main points that are the most relevant and useful for someone that has little to no knowledge of UL backpacking. While it can be interesting for UL veterans to read as well, and maybe a few vets could learn a thing or two as well, again, this is mostly for noobs. So with all that being said, below is the final version of the text that was originally posted on Reddit. I will go through and edit it to make some improvements and such, and may do more updates on it in the future. Feel free to email me with constructive feedback and if I have time I'll be happy to get back to you.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Best Gear of the Decade and Long Term Reflections on Ultralight Backpacking

*First let me get the same old disclaimer I've been giving over and over again this past decade out of the way: I am not sponsored.  Never have been.  I get no free gear, and never have.  There are no ads on this blog, i.e. this blog is not monetized.  I am not a Youtube partner, i.e. no ads on my channel and I make/made literally no money off of it. 

Introduction and Reflections

The beginning of the 2010's saw me discover and then quickly transition into ultralight backpacking.  It was a pretty fast transition because I saw and felt the benefits of UL for myself in practice right away, and I was soon a die-hard UL convert.  The problem was that at the same time I went back to university and was a struggling student again, so I didn't have much spare cash to put into my rediscovered hobby.  But that didn't stop me, of course.  I had been backpacking well before that, and had used a lot of old army gear and traditional and heavy K-Mart camping gear--both of which are pretty cheap.  I was determined to go UL.

By 2011 I designed and had my wife help me make my first key piece of UL gear, a MYOG backpack that only weighed 445g/15.7oz.  And while of course it had its shortcomings and was pretty minimalist or even a bit crude, it actually worked--and I put it to good use as well.  And it only cost around 10 bucks.  That same year, and for a few years to come, I rocked a cheap but decent MYOG tarp, and my instructions on how to make this tarp still remain one of the most popular posts on my blog.  And I was happy with my makeshift but fully functional UL gear, and went on plenty of great overnighters and section hikes.