First Look: Gossamer Gear Type 2 Utility Backpack

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Those of you who read UL Weekend Warrior may have noticed a “Mystery Pack” popping up on my gear lists, and now I can proudly be the very first to unveil its identity. The Type 2 Utility Backpack is the newest pack from Gossamer Gear. With 1400 cubic inches(23L) of volume, this pack is nearly identical in size to their Quiksak model but is built to be much tougher and have more features.

 

Straight from the Horse’s Mouth

Get out your pocket protectors and Casio calculator watches, gear nerds! It’s time to run through the tech specs and features of this new pack. This info is straight from Gossamer Gear, but I’ll give you a little color commentary along the way.

  • Weight: 15.65oz, but 11.5oz can be achieved by removing the hip belt(3.4oz) and foam pad(0.8oz). My cheap-o WalMart scale puts it at 16.5oz. If you factor in manufacturing variances and scale uncertainty, that’s close enough for me. The version I tested was also a prototype, which may be slightly different than the final production model.
  • Volume: 1400 cubic inches (22.94L) in the main compartment and a total of 162 C.I. (2.66L) in the other pockets.
  • Fabric: The majority of the pack is made of 100D Robic Ripstop Nylon. Hyosung, who makes the fabric, claims that their Robic nylon is abrasion resistant, high tenacity, and has a high tear strength. Personally, I think the stuff looks great, too.
  • 6 External Pockets: 2 hip belt pockets, 2 water bottle pockets, a zippered lid pocket, and a vertical zippered “Napoleon”-style stash pocket.
  • Inner hydration sleeve and two hose ports: This sleeve very large, so that it can accommodate a laptop for traveling and commuting (although it isn’t padded). My 11″ Macbook Air does fit with room to spare.
  • Other Features: Ice axe loop, Removable 3/16″ foam back pad, a single daisy chain, multiple attachment points (for lashing gear or threading compression cord), Air Mesh breathable shoulder harness, sternum strap, and rib strap (Like a sternum strap but about 6 inches lower. Created by using the slack in your shoulder straps).

Field Testing

I figured that this pack would be wasted on my style of summer day hiking. With only water, snacks, a first aid kit, and (maybe) a shell inside, the pack would be mostly empty. Luckily, I had a few opportunities, which did allow me to more thoroughly put the Type 2 through its paces.

The first time I carried this pack was in the Presidential Range in New Hampshire. I would be staying one night in the AMC Huts (Lakes of the Clouds Hut, to be specific), and I needed very little gear or food. My usual day pack would have been too small, and my usual backpacking pack (a Gossamer Gear Murmur) would have been a bit too big. I had carried the Murmur on a similar hike the year before, but it was only about two thirds full. The good folks over at Gossamer Gear offered to let me test a prototype of the Type 2, and it turned out to be the right size for this trip.

Volume-wise, the Type 2 was a nearly perfect fit. The pack was full enough to prevent the contents from shifting around, but not so full that I had to really stuff things inside. I carried a pretty light load (4.5lbs of gear, 1lb of food, and 2L of water) on this trip. With just over 10lbs inside, this pack carried quite well. I barely even knew it was there.

Me carrying the Type 2 as we hiked out of Crawford Notch

Me carrying the Type 2 as we hiked out of Crawford Notch in New Hampshire.

The shoulder straps were comfortable and breathed well. After a few miles, I had already decided on my favorite strap configuration (hip belt closed, rib strap closed, sternum strap open). As a larger guy, I feel that sternum straps can sometimes be too small for me. If I really start huffing and puffing, having a tight strap across my chest can hinder my ability to take deep breaths. Using the rib strap instead of the sternum strap solved this problem. The rib strap kept my shoulder straps in position without squeezing my chest.

We hit some pretty bad weather on this hike. Low visibility, sideways rain, and hurricane-force winds plagued us the entire second day. I fell flat on my back a few times, and the Robic nylon fabric never showed a single scuff or scratch. It seemed to be as tough as they claimed.

Me and the Type 2 on one of the summits (I think it's Mt. Jackson)

Me and the Type 2 on one of the summits (I think it’s Mt. Jackson)

In August, I was planning a 2-night backpacking trip on the Black Forest Trail in Pennsylvania. I wanted to go as light as possible, targeting a Base Pack Weight of 6-6.5 pounds. I remembered that I still had the Type 2 prototype and thought that this would be another good test. This pack isn’t really designed for backpacking, but there didn’t seem to be any obvious reason to rule it out completely. If it could survive a weekend with me, it would be worthy of my two-thumbs-up. I loaded up my gear and headed out for my hike.

The Type 2 fully loaded for a two-night trip.

The Type 2 fully loaded for a two-night trip.

The Type 2 is a little heavier than my usual backpacking pack, a Gossamer Gear Murmur, but it still helped me work my total pack weight down. Being over 10 liters smaller than I’m used to, packing in the Type 2 forced me to re-evaluate the importance of each item in order to make everything fit and hopefully not go “stupid light” in the process. Since it was summer, I didn’t really need too much, and the packing went easier than I thought.

This small-wonder of a pack worked out great for this 42-mile, 2-night trip. With food and water factored in, I carried about 14lbs. The Type 2 rode comfortably and did an all-around good job. Much like in the Presidentials, I hiked with the sternum strap open and the rib strap closed. I had no regrets using the Type 2 on a hot-weather trip, and would definitely consider it for similar hikes in the future. For one-night hikes, which require less food, I’d even consider pressing this pack into 3-season use, if I can cram my 10-degree top quilt and hammock under quilt inside while still have room for everything else.

Overall Impressions

Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Durable Robic Nylon Fabric
  • Comfortable, breathable shoulder harness
  • Two external pockets for organization and quick access
  • Comfortable hip belt with integrated pockets

Cons:

  • Water bottle pockets are a bit too tall, making it difficult for me to get bottles in or out while walking
  • Sternum strap is not removable
  • Fabric is not terribly water resistant. I’m a very sweaty guy, and my moisture did eventually soak through the back/bottom of the pack. On the other hand, the rain in New Hampshire didn’t seem to penetrate the fabric much.

The Type 2 is very well-designed pack. Apart from a few nit-picky complaints listed above, it performed admirably for me on the trail. The pack was a great choice for my hut trip and can hold its own for short backpacking trips with total pack weights of 15 pounds or less. With versatility being the name of the game, there’s no reason why the Type 2 wouldn’t work well for peakbagging, dayhiking, climbing, commuting, or traveling, too.

Gossamer Gear President Grant Sible is fond of the phrase “type 2 fun”, and I think it has lent itself well to this pack’s name. The Type 2 will take all the dirty, miserable fun you can throw at it and come back looking for more.

1. An activity that is fun only after you have stopped doing it.
“Ouch! I hurt everywhere! That was some type 2 fun.”
-Urban Dictionary

Disclaimer: I am a Gossamer Gear Trail Ambassador and received this pack for free to test during the prototype phase. Gossamer Gear asked me to write this review, but they did not have any editorial control over its content. Other than the pack itself, I received no compensation in exchange for this review. All opinions stated here are my own.

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The Type 2 hanging out on the Black Forest Trail.

Hike Prep: Susquehanna Super Hike

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The Susquehanna Super Hike and Ultra Trail Run is a challenge event hosted by the Keystone Trails Association. This is a timed event, but meant to be an individual challenge more than anything, as there are no prizes for winners. The goal of the event is simply to challenge yourself and have a good time. Participants have the choice between a  23.4-mile option and a 29.6-mile option, and they are allowed to either run or hike either course depending on their preference. In order to be considered a “finisher”, participants must complete their chosen course in less than 12 hours. The course has a few aid stations along the way, so water won’t be a worry.

When I signed up for this event several months ago, I must have been feeling lazy because I chose the 23.4-mile course. I’m glad I did. Although I’ve been completing some very ambitious gym workouts lately, I haven’t been able to hike very many training miles in the weeks leading up to the event. A 30-mile day is still very much in my wheelhouse, but I have a feeling that my time would be abysmal and that it wouldn’t be much fun. I believe the 23.4-mile route will serve well as a benchmark test of my current physical fitness and hiking ability. 

My workout regimen has kind of been a mixed bag lately. I attend a Boot Camp class at The Gym in Kutztown, PA as often as my schedule allows. They have several very good instructors who mix things up and keep the workouts challenging and interesting. We do everything from bodyweight exercises to barbell power movements to TRX training to agility work, and I am generally wiped out by the end of a session. When I can’t attend class, I often attempt to emulate those same type of workouts, but there are also days when I focus on heavier lifting, too. The gaps get filled in with 3-5 mile runs and sessions on the elliptical machine. This may sound like a disorganized and poorly planned “program”, but my fitness level has spiked dramatically since I’ve started constantly mixing things up like this. My hiking has improved by leaps and bounds.

Gear-wise, there isn’t really a ton to talk about. I’m going to carry my Gossamer Gear Quiksak. This is the lightest pack in my arsenal, and I am going to want to keep things light for the sake of speed. Instead of my typical water bottles, I am going to bring my Platypus Big Zip hydration system out of retirement. A hydration system like this will help me be extra sure that I’m staying hydrated as I hike, will fit well in my pack’s hydration sleeve, and will also be faster than trying to fiddle around with water bottles on the fly. I am going to pack a very basic first aid kit, in case I would need to treat blisters or minor cuts along the way. Finally, rounding out my kit will be my Gossamer Gear LT4 Trekking Poles

Even though snacks are provided at the aid stations, I am going to bring a few hundred calories worth of snacks with me. If I’m doing well on water as I pass a station, I may choose to hike on without grabbing a snack. This may only appear to save me a few seconds of time, but it will save me the extra energy expenditure of getting back up to speed after the stop. I hate stopping unless it’s absolutely necessary. 

My apparel will be a pair of synthetic running tights over synthetic compression shorts. Long days like this can often lead to chafing, so these articles, although unflattering, will help prevent that problem. On top will be a simple sleeveless wicking workout shirt (a Russell or Champions or some such thing). It was cheap but has actually become one of my favorite workout shirts. On my feet, a pair of thin, low wool running socks and a pair of La Sportiva Ultra Raptor trail runners. These shoes are still fairly new, but they treated me well on a few 20-mile hikes, so I have every confidence in them. Capping the whole thing off (HAHA) will be my trusty Gossamer Gear/Headsweats Visor. It keeps the sun and sweat out of my eyes and is very comfortable. What else could you ask for? 

If you are interested in participating in the Super Hike, you still have until 9PM on Sunday 8/31 to sign up. I’m confident that this will be a fun event, and I look forward to hiking with a great crowd of athletes. Wish me luck! 

Super Hike Route Part 1

Super Hike Route Part 1

Super Hike Route Part 2

Super Hike Route Part 2

 

Trip Report: Backpacking the Black Forest Trail

Let me open with a piece of advice to all the hammockers out there. This should go without saying, but here it is anyway… When you wake up in the morning and begin to break camp, always make sure you take your tree-straps off the tree and pack them away properly. Having a panic attack 15 miles down the trail and tearing your entire pack apart isn’t good for morale, and it’s tough to hang your hammock at the next site without those pesky straps. I’m a relatively new hanger, and succumbed to a rookie mistake. Lesson learned. 

I reached the trailhead of the Black Forest Trail (BFT) shortly after 6PM on Wednesday. Surprisingly, Amy’s car was absent from the trailhead. She was going to drive up and get an earlier start with Bob and Jerry. Since cell phone signal was nonexistent, I chalked it up to some minor change in plans and assumed everything was still OK. Pickle (my trusty trail dog) and I would have to hustle to hike 6.6 miles before dark. 

MY group had decided to hike the trail in the reverse of the typical direction in order to avoid a wet crossing of Slate Run on the first day. The trail started out with two smooth miles of hiking parallel to Slate Run before making a small climb up to Slate Run Rd. As I crossed the road, I spotted Amy’s car pulled off to the side. That question being answered, I hiked on. On the other side of the road, I was treated to a killer climb (1000′ in a mile), which is pretty rare for a Pennsylvania trail. Before reaching camp, the BFT would drop me into a few dark hollows, which definitely helped explain how it got it’s name. Even though I should have had plenty of sunlight left, the topography and tree cover made these areas very dark. Once you climbed back to the ridge, it was light again. 

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My first vista on the BFT

I arrived at our rendezvous point along Little Slate Run, relieved to see that my 3 comrades had already arrived and set up camp. With the last remaining natural light, I managed to get my hammock hung. We all ate dinner by headlamp-light, agreed to get an early start in the morning, and were in bed shortly after Hiker Midnight. With the temps dropping to around 48, I got a little cold without bottom insulation on the hammock, so I shoved a small bit of closed cell foam pad under my butt and lower back. It worked well enough, and I managed to get some sleep.

We woke up Thursday, ate breakfast, packed up, and hit the trail around 7:30AM. (This is where that whole hammock strap fiasco began.) We had a short steep climb out of camp, but were immediately rewarded with a stunning vista of the Pine Creek Gorge. The early morning sun lit up the foggy valley, and it was truly energizing. From there, we almost immediately started a steep, switchbacked descent into a deep hollow along Naval Run. I filled an empty water jug, waited for the others to catch up, and then started another one of the BFT’s signature steep 1000′ climbs. We were all tired, but were revitalized by another vista at the top. 

A view of the Pine Creek Gorge.

A view of the Pine Creek Gorge.

 

A few miles later: Callahan run and another 1000′ climb. This climb was different. It wasn’t a gut-busting steep climb up the side of the gorge, but rather a long, drawn out hump that followed the run upstream. The climb wasn’t as steep, but I think it actually ended up taking a lot more out of me. Luckily, the trail leveled out after this. 

About 12 miles into this 20-mile day, I had a sinking feeling in my gut. I immediately stopped and tore my pack apart. As I suspected, my hammock tree straps were nowhere to be found. I began calculating the logistics of finishing the trail that day. A 36-mile day would be tough, but not impossible. As I was running the numbers, the other members of my group started to catch up. We decided that we had enough utility cord between us to make me some temporary straps and still hang proper bear bags. Feeling a bit relieved, we continued our walk. 

We rolled into a huge campsite around 6PM. There were four college-age kids already there, but the site was big enough that we all had plenty of space. Turns out those kids were scouting campsites for a freshman excursion for Bucknell University, and we were lucky they were there. Amy was pretty beat up after our 20 mile day, and Friday morning she decided it would be in her best interest to bail. She hiked a mile with those kids, and they gave her a lift back to her car. 

I overslept a bit on Friday morning, so Bob and Jerry hiked out while I was still eating my breakfast. Since I was the faster hiker, we all just assumed that I would eventually catch up. 20 minutes later, Pickle and I were on the trail. After a while, I started noticing that the blazes were very worn out and difficult to see in the morning light, and then I hit a wall of wineberry and thorn bushes. After tearing my legs to shreds, I finally found a landmark clear enough to find my position on the map. I was nearly a mile and a half off trail. I turned around, grumbling to myself about those blazes. As I came up to one, I walked over to it. It was very faded, but I quickly realized my mistake. This blaze was red. The BFT is blazed orange. In the morning light, I couldn’t tell the difference and followed the wrong trail (which wasn’t even on my map). 

After losing an hour, I was back on course. Luckily, I had smooth trail ahead of me. Except for a steep rocky climb halfway through the day, I was able to average between 3 and 3.5mph for a pretty long time. By lunch time, I still hadn’t caught up to Bob and Jerry. With less than two miles to go in my 16(now 19)-mile day, I finally heard voices. There were my partners. We descended down into the valley together, forded Slate Run, and walked back to my car. Amy was there waiting for us. Mission accomplished!

The BFT seemed to be a bit bi-polar. When it is hard, it is VERY hard. Those 1000-foot climbs were no joke and were almost as tough as some that I have done in the Whites of New Hampshire. The easy sections of the BFT were also VERY easy. I ran parts of them, and I’m not much of a runner. All-in-all, I liked this trail and will probably hike it again sometime in the future. 

Hike Prep: The Black Forest Trail

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I’ll soon be hiking the Black Forest Trail. This 42-mile loop is considered to be one of the most challenging and rewarding trails in the state of Pennsylvania. Named for its dense hemlock groves, the BFT includes several steep, rocky climbs that are paid off with beautiful vistas. I plan on completing this in 2.5 days. 

Rather than carrying my usual backpacking pack, the Gossamer Gear Murmur, I’ve decided to attempt to fit all of my gear into what is essentially a day pack. As this pack is still in the prototype stage, I will not divulge any details beyond the weight, and will henceforth refer to it as “Mystery Pack” (I will reveal the mystery and provide a full review if/when this pack ever goes into full production). This pack is actually a little heavier than my Murmur but offers a few luxuries that my Murmur does not.

Another change from my recent gear lists will be my choice of trekking poles. I’ll be leaving my Black Diamond Distance Z-Poles behind and testing my brand new pair of Gossamer Gear LT4 poles. The LT4’s are over 4oz lighter (per pair) than my Z-Poles. I haven’t been using my poles as much lately, and I felt a lighter pair was in order because they were spending so much time strapped to my pack.

After several years of hiking in La Sportiva Wildcat trail runners, I just wasn’t happy with my last pair. They were relatively new going into my New Hampshire vacation and completely shredded after. I decided to try something new. I went into East Ridge Outfitters (my favorite local shop), and the manager Amberly pointed me toward La Sportiva Ultra Raptors. They felt good on a 100 yard hike around the store (the girl always knows what shoes I’ll like), so I figured I’d give them a whirl. They are a bit heavier than a lot of trail runners on the market (29.9oz for the pair), but they are almost a full ounce lighter than my Wildcats were. 

August in Pennsylvania is usually hot and sticky humid, so I’m hoping to be able to leave my puffy jacket, hammock underquilt, and most of my rain gear at home. My 40-degree Enlightened Equipment ProdigyX top quilt will be in the mix instead of my 10-degree Enlightened Equipment RevelationX quilt. Since it’s doubtful that I’ll be in the mood for hot food, I plan on going “No Cook”, which means no stove, fuel, or cook pot. These changes alone will shave over 2 pounds off my base weight. There will also be a significant reduction in pack volume, which will allow me to squeeze everything into this slightly smaller pack.

My food selections for this trip don’t exactly add up to a well-rounded diet, but they are calorie dense and will keep me fueled for my hike. The bulk of my calories will come from Power Butter (a fortified peanut butter intended for body builders). I got this for free as a promotion, so I figured I should use it for something. I packed a few tortillas to act as a Power Butter delivery system. I also packed some Justin’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups, almonds, Back to Nature Bar Harbor Blend, and Chex Mix Muddy Buddies. When I go no cook, I’m always on a lookout for fun new ways to get my caffeine fix. This time I decided to try Awake Caffeinated Chocolate. Each square contains the same caffeine as a half-cup of coffee. Like I said: Not exactly nutritious, but it will get the job done.

My complete gear list for this hike is available HERE!

All-New Gossamer Gear Mariposa

Gossamer Gear released the new version of their popular Mariposa pack. The weight is similar to the old model, but the new one looks much slicker. The Robic nylon fabric should be a bit tougher than the old Dyneema for similar weight (but it looks way cooler!). I’ve tested other packs that use the material, and I love it so far. I fell hard on some rocks, and the Robic doesn’t show a scratch.

The shoulder harness has also been upgraded. It should be more comfortable for everyone, but women will see a huge improvement over previous GG models.

I haven’t laid hands on this pack yet, so don’t necessarily take this as an endorsement. Check it out and judge for yourself!

DISCLOSURE: I’m a Gossamer Gear Trail Ambassador. They did not ask me to post this notice. I just thought I’d share because the new pack looks cool.

A Very Quick Hike to Dan’s Pulpit

Wednesday morning, I came right home and hit the sack after my last night of 3rd shift. I fell asleep around 8AM and woke up around 10AM, packed a lunch, and hopped in the car. My dog Pickle and I headed for the Appalachian Trail crossing at Hawk Mountain Road near Eckville, PA. The bottom part of the trail was moderately rocky, but the climb to the ridge was relatively smooth. Trying to hike after 2 consecutive leg workouts at the gym was probably a mistake. I was pretty sore and my quads were burning as I worked my way up the hill. They trail on the ridge alternated between very rocky and very smooth, with the majority of the hiking falling somewhere in the middle. Dan’s Pulpit is a modest little vista, and the views were hazy. I still enjoyed my hike though! This hike took be about 2 hours, including a little lunch break at the vista.