My Hammock System (Version 1.1)

As a relatively new “hanger”, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the joys of camping in a hammock, but I know that I’ve still got a lot to learn. With only a few trips’ worth of hammocking experience under my belt, I’m not quite ready to dump money into a whole lot of flashy upgrades. However, I have found a few economically priced tweaks that could make my current system more functional and easier to use.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with my set-up, here is a quick list of the major components:

My hammock setup

My Hammock Setup (Version 1.0)

New Tarp Guys and Hardware

In true gram weenie style, I had immediately dismissed the need for any tensioning hardware in my original set-up. I also chucked the “heavy” cord that came with the tarp and replaced it with the much thinner, lighter ZPacks Z-Line cord that I already had at home. I learned a few fancy new knots and figured that I was good to go. I was wrong. Trying to tie knots in skinny cord with cold fingers turned out to be really hard. Things got even more difficult when it was windy and that skinny, light line blew all over the place. I had officially gone “stupid light”.

As I was perusing tons of hammock websites, looking for insulation ideas for the approaching winter, I discovered a simple solution to my problem: The Continuous Ridgeline. Instead of a separate cord at each end of the tarp, the CRL is a single piece of cord that runs between both trees. The tarp is then affixed to that cord via hardware or shorter cords using prusik knots. This setup makes it much simpler to center the tarp over the hammock because you can just slide it along the ridgeline, instead of having to untie/re-tie knots.

Being a generally lazy person, I opted to purchase a CRL kit from DutchWare (which, as it turns out, is located just one county over). The DutchWare Continuous Ridge Line kit is comprised of a 30-foot section of 1.75mm urethane-coated Dyneema cord (DutchWare calls it Lash-It or Zing-It depending on color) with a “Dutch Hook” connector spliced on one end and a “Tarp Wasp” near the other end. Two “Soft Shackles” (made of the same 1.75mm cord) act like prusiks to adjust the position of the tarp on the ridge line. Weighing 0.7oz, this kit is only 0.2oz heavier than my “Version 1.0″ guy lines. That tiny weight penalty is well forth it for all the hassle I’d be saving myself.

New Hammock Suspension

While browsing the DutchWare site, I came across something else interesting to tweak my hang. I currently use the stock whoopie sling suspension on my Warbonnet Traveler. The whoopie slings are girth hitched to the ends of the hammock. You clip the whoopies to the tree straps with carabiners, tension them, and you’re done. This system works well, but in an attempt to perfect my hang, I ordered something new.

DutchWare’s Whoopie Hook Suspension is only subtly different. Their slings come with a small titanium hook spliced onto the adjustable end. After removing the old suspension (just a matter of untying a few girth hitches), you girth hitch small loops of Amsteel to the ends of the hammock and knot the fixed end of the whoopie slings each to one end of a tree hugger strap. You wrap the straps  around the trees and then use the Whoopie Hooks to connect the whoopies to the Amsteel loops on the hammock. Tension, and you’re done!

At first glance, I saw two advantages of this system. First, the DutchWare Whoopie Hook is significantly lighter than a carabiner, so this suspension saves me 1.4oz over my old one. Second, the position of the hook creates a “break” in the suspension, where rainwater will drip off instead of running down into your hammock. I had my doubts as to the strength of these little hooks (supposedly rated to 1000lbs), but a huge amount of positive feedback online convinced me to give them a try.

Whoopie Hook Instruction Card

Whoopie Hook Instruction Card

Final Verdict

The new components worked very well. The Continuous Ridge Line was a revelation. I can’t believe I didn’t stumble on this earlier. I did make a small mistake using the Dutch Wasp in the field, but it didn’t cause any problems and was cleared up when I got home and looked at the instruction card. The ease of use alone makes the CRL a great upgrade. It only took seconds to center the tarp over the hammock. When I used separate guy lines and tied knots, the process took much longer.

The Whoopie Hook suspension worked as advertised, but that was more a weight savings move than anything. I like it, but it didn’t WOW me. It’s basically the same suspension I had before but laid out backwards and with different hardware.

I should have another hammock post up in a few weeks, as I attempt to transition my hammock kit into colder weather. Keep your eyes peeled to find out if I get a case of Frozen Butt Syndrome!

Dog Gear: Groundbird Gear Trekking Pack

Staring at a rock

A few weeks ago, Marie (AKA Bobwhite) over at Groundbird Gear asked if Pickle and I would take a look at the custom dog packs she’s been making. I’m always on the lookout for new and potentially better dog gear, so I agreed immediately.

Since the Groundbird Gear pack harnesses are custom made to fit your dog, I had to submit a series of measurements so that Marie could start building Pickle’s pack. This process was explained quite well on the GBG website, and went painlessly (except for getting Pickle to sit still for two minutes). You then have several choices for the harness color. At the time of publishing, 5 colors were available for the harnesses.

For the pack itself (which is removable from the harness), you have the choice between two different models: the roll-top Trekking Pack and the zippered Weekend Pack. Because I had never seen a roll-top dog pack before, I opted for the Trekking Pack. I was given the option to choose between Regular (8″x 9″x 3.5″) and Large (9″ x 11″ x 4″) bags. Customers are able to choose their own color combinations (up to 3 colors per pack), or pick from a series of pre-selected combinations. Since hunting season was approaching, I chose “The Dreamsicle”, which is a mostly blaze orange pack with white accents.

Since these packs are made to order, there was a bit of a wait (2 weeks) for the pack. Lead times like this are the norm for most cottage industry gear makers, so this didn’t take me by surprise and definitely shouldn’t deter you from ordering from small companies like this. The lead times are also posted on the GBG website, so you can’t say you weren’t warned!

When the pack arrived, I was pretty excited. I immediately cornered Pickle and put the harness on him. Instead of the harness just having straps that go around the body, the GBG harness has fabric both above and below the dog. I liked that right away because Pickle is prone to chafing under his pack straps. This also meant that there were no loose webbing ends that could work their way loose and end up dangling under the dog. The fit was pretty much perfect. The adjustments on the four straps that connected the top and bottom of the harness were right in the middle, leaving just enough room for moderate weight gain/loss. The straps on either side of his neck also fit, but had to tightened down all the way. Since Marie nailed the rest of the sizing, I’m going to assume that Pickle wiggled when I measured him and threw things off.

One day, Pickle and I had some free time, so we headed to our local stretch of the AT near Hamburg, PA. I filled Pickle’s new GBG pack with his typical 2-day backpacking gear and food. We hiked 8.7 miles to the Pinnacle and Pulpit Rock vistas. Pickle seemed comfortable in the pack, and there was no sign of chafing after the hike. The pack did show a few minor scratches, but  otherwise it held up very well to Pickle’s rough-and-tumble hiking style.

We got another chance to test the Trekking Pack the following week. Pickle and I headed out to the Allegheny Front Trail in central PA for a 2-day, 42-mile hike. Pickle carried the same load listed above. The pack performed well for us again. It earned a few more superficial battle scars, but nothing serious. It’s still too early to seriously comment on the durability of this pack, but it seems good so far. After two long days, Pickle still seemed comfortable in the pack and suffered no chafing.

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The pack and harness work together flawlessly. It’s lightweight, seems comfortable (Pickle didn’t complain!), and easy to use. Even though it worked well in the field, I feel that the zipper wasn’t really necessary to augment the roll-top. The roll-top would have functioned well without it, and would have been a fraction of an ounce lighter. The leash attachment point on the harness was a bit big and clunky. It did work perfectly well, but something smaller and lighter would be better.

As with most dog packs, it is important to keep the weight balanced on each side, but it seems that the volume of the items is also important with the GBG pack’s roll top. Tightening the roll top to different degrees on the two saddlebags can pull the pack down unevenly to one side. Even though it looked off-kilter, I don’t think that it had any bearing on the dog’s comfort.

Overall, I like the Groundbird Gear Trekking pack a lot, and think that the roll-top closure has a lot of potential. I’ll report back here if any issues arise, but so-far-so-good. I think it is going to become Pickle’s new go-to pack!

Disclaimer: I received this pack from the manufacturer for the purposes of testing at no cost to me. Groundbird Gear had no editorial input over this review, and all opinions stated here are my own.

Trip Report: 2 Days on the Allegheny Front Trail

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The Ox crosses Benner Run on a foot bridge.

The Allegheny Front Trail (AFT) is one of Pennsylvania’s many backpacking trails. For 42 miles, it wanders through the Moshannon State Forest while circumnavigating the Black Moshannon State Park. The AFT follows diverse, but mostly gentle, terrain as it follows streams, plunges into hollows, sneaks through red pine plantations, and boardwalks through swamps. I had done this trail twice previously as a 3-day trip, but this time I’d attempt to do it in two.

As usual, my trusty dog Pickle came along for the hike. We met Aaron (AKA “The Ox”), whom I hadn’t hiked with since our Presidential Traverse in June, at the eastern trailhead on Route 504 just after 9AM. I’d always hiked the AFT clockwise from here, so Aaron agreed to indulge me and hike counter-clockwise this time.

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Pickle hikes on a bed of freshly fallen leaves.

It was 9:30 when I finally had my gear out of the car, and we stepped onto the trail. We ambled along discussing everything from our favorite craft brews to my utter disdain for DIY home improvement projects. The gentle terrain lent itself quite well to conversation. We took a lunch break just afternoon and were pleasantly surprised to discover that we had already covered almost 10 miles of trail.

Soon after lunch, we made a short, but steep climb up to a Forest road, passing a trail register about three-quarters of the way up. After passing a hunting camp and a DCNR (Department of Conservation and Natural Resources) job site, we had our first wildlife sighting of the day: a fat porcupine lumbering down the trail. The Ox held Pickle so I could make sure it was safe to bring the dog through. With Pickle on his leash, we made our way around Porky, who had retreated up a tree. I kept the dog leashed for a while afterwards, just to be safe.

Upon reaching the end of the grassy road (the highest point on the AFT), we started descending directly to the trail’s low point on the shores of the Moshannon Creek (AKA the “Red Mo”). The Red Mo’s water has a distinctive rust color, which comes from the acid runoff of an old coal mining incident. Every rock touched by the creek is now stained orange. This water is, of course, unsuitable for drinking.

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The Red Mo stains this boulder a rusty red.

After following the Red Mo for a few miles, we climbed up over a steep spit of land and then descended to one of the Red Mo’s tributaries: Six Mile Run.

Six Mile Run is a nice little trout stream, with several nice campsites along the way. The Ox and I decided to press on a bit further and cross Rt. 504 before camping along the run. This would get us exactly to the halfway point of our hike. About a mile after the road crossing, we found our spot and settled in.

I was toasty warm in my hammock, and slept far better than normal. When I woke up and poked my eyes out from under my quilt, I was shocked to see that it was already bright and sunny. It was 7:30 and much later than I planned being up. I rushed through breakfast and packed up in a hurry.

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Snug as a bug in a… hammock.

The first few morning miles went a little slow. We lingered in a red pine plantation (planted by the Civilian Conservation Corps after the area had been clear cut by loggers) to take care of our morning “business” because our camp had been a bit too close to water. The trees in this region were replanted in perfectly straight rows, giving it a very unnatural feel.

After wrapping up our business, the miles went quickly for me. I felt good, so I started cruising along at over 3mph, stopping once an hour to let The Ox catch up. He was never too far behind.

As we entered Black Moshannon State Park, the trail became very swampy. We had almost no choice but to suck it up and power through the wet muddy mess. Once our feet were good and wet, we reached a long stretch of boardwalk, which traversed the swampiest sections of trail. After 3.5 miles, we left the park as unceremoniously as we had entered it.

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Pickle standing guard over my Gossamer Gear LT4 poles.

Before too long, we were crossing Underwood Road. With less than 4 miles to go in our hike, we were FINALLY making the gentle climb up to the Allegheny Front, an east-facing escarpment in the Allegheny Mountains that forms the border between the Piedmont and Ridge-and-Valley regions. The AFT, which had previously been smooth and pleasant, suddenly became rocky and angry.

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All the rocks came out to play during the last 4 miles.

Sliding around on the loose rocks was no fun, and this area also had the only challenging climbs of the whole trail. The combination of the two factors slowed our pace. On top of that, my feet started sprouting blisters like it was going out if style. The Ox took off ahead of me for the first time in 2 days. The AFT had a few small vistas in this area, but not enough to make up for the pain in my feet.

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“Ralph’s Pretty Good View”

We eventually emerged at our cars. In standard fashion, I stripped naked by the side of the road and changed into a clean set of “driving clothes”. The Ox and I shook hands and parted ways.

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Less than a half-mile to go!

Hike Prep: Two Days on the Allegheny Front Trail

The Allegheny Front Trail is a 42-mile loop in Pennsylvania’s Moshannon State Forest and Black Moshannon State Park. This trail crosses varied terrain, such as swamp, rocks, hollows, meadows, and forest roads. The trail follows many streams (Black Moshannon Creek, Moshannon Creek, Six-Mile Run, Brenner Run, and Rock Run), so water is readily available. I’d normally post this on Berks-Lehigh Hiking and Backpacking as a 3-day trip. This time I have a bit of a time constraint, so we’ll be doing it in 2 days.

Since my gear for this trip isn’t much different much different than some of my other recent hike and I’ll be posting a separate post about my hammock system, I’ll keep this short and mainly focus on my food selections.

My Complete Gear List

For the first time since April, I’m going to be carrying a stove on this trip. My Esbit Wing Stove and Zelph Fosters Beer Can Pot are perfect for boiling small amounts of water (2 cups or less) for coffee, dehydrated backpacking meals, and ramen. Including a homemade windscreen, the system only weighs about 2.2oz. This is extremely light and suits my style of hiking perfectly.

Breakfast

For my breakfast, I’ll be eating 2 tortillas with peanut butter, bacon jerky, and dried cranberries. I accidentally invented this on the Black Forest Trail and loved it immediately. Not only is this breakfast delicious, but it packs over 1200 calories and requires no cooking. There is also very little cleanup. I just lick my spoon clean, and I’m done. I’ll also pack a packet of Starbucks VIA Caffe Mocha for my caffeine fix.

Snacks

I don’t eat lunch on the trail. Instead, I pack lots of snacks and just shove them into my face every hour or so. Since I’m very health conscious (sarcasm!), I’ll be carrying almost an entire bag of fritos and a stash of dark chocolate-covered coconut. Two Chia Bars (Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter) and the leftover bacon jerky will round out my snack list.

Dinner

Dinner will be comprised of pre-packaged Thai spring onion noodles and a pouch of tuna packed in olive oil. I typically like to keep dinner simple, leaning towards one-pot meals or freezer bag cooking.

I still have to pack my gear, so I’m off! If you have any questions about my gear list, feel free to post them here. Thanks for reading!

Fitness and Training: Chipper Workouts

Chippers are a style of workout that I’ve been playing with for a year or two, although I only learned the name this week. What can I say? I’m a little slow. A chipper is a style of workout comprised of many different movements, which are performed in high volume sets. You complete all the reps for each exercise before moving on to the next. In essence, you “chip away” at this workout in manageable chunks, taking short breaks whenever you need them. The idea is to find a pace that is challenging but can still be maintained for the duration of the workout. Record your total time so you can challenge yourself to do it faster next time!

What does this have to do with hiking and backpacking? Chippers are often loaded with leg- and core-strengthening bodyweight movements, which will help you increase your muscle endurance. They will also get your heart rate up and give you a decent cardiovascular workout. I enjoy doing chippers both with and without weights. There are limitless variations of these workouts, so they never have to get stale or boring. I rarely do the same one twice (unless it’s as a benchmark to see if I’ve improved). Chippers can include bodyweight movements, weighted movements, and even running.

Example 1: Bodyweight Chipper

Example 2:Chipper w/Weights and Running – The weights listed are suggestions for those in good physical condition. You should adjust the weights up or down to fit your abilities. Use the heaviest weight with which you can maintain good form for the entire set.

Example 3: Bodyweight Chipper w/ Running

  • 100 Burpees
  • 100 Pushups
  • Run 1 Mile
  • 100 Squat Jumps
  • 100 Sit Ups

I often use chippers (especially Bodyweight Chippers) as just one part of a longer workout, but you don’t have to. This type of workout can be brutal on its own. Chippers can be used as part of your normal routine or just to mix things up when your workouts get stale. Remember to keep the tempo challenging, but not so fast that you burn yourself out early. Don’t overdo the weights either. You want to be challenged, but it’s also important that you are able to complete all reps with proper form. I’m sure you wouldn’t want to get hurt! Practice the form before your start using any new movements. As always, if you are unsure of your current condition, always consult a doctor or fitness professional before starting a new workout routine.

Enjoy!

Report: Susquehanna Super Hike

The check in table at Super Hike

This past Saturday, I participated in the 6th annual Keystone Trails Association Susquehanna Super Hike and Ultra Trail Run. Participants had the option of two distances (23.4 or 29.6 miles) on a course comprised of sections of the Conestoga and Mason Dixon Trails. At the close of registration, 454 people had signed up.

I’d never done any kind of race or trail challenge event, so this was all new to me. I wasn’t in any danger of winning the thing, but I signed up mainly to test my stamina under somewhat controlled conditions. Exactly how fast could I cover 23.4 miles, if speed was my goal?

Of course, 1 week before the race, I came down with a bad case of bronchitis. I started eating Mucinex like candy just to get through my days (don’t try this at home). I was truly worried about what effect this would have on my hike. By race day, I was feeling 80-90% better. Only a minor cough and a little chest congestion remained. I got lucky.

The check in table at Super Hike

The check in table at Super Hike

388 people started the race with me that day. Hiking with so many people made me apprehensive because I have a bit of enochlophobia (fear of being in crowds). I managed to suppress that anxiety and focus on something just as troubling: the heat. If i had to guess, I’d say it was in the low 70’s with a billion percent humidity at 7am (the temperature allegedly hit 90 at some point during the day). I was sweating before I even started moving.

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Me (far right) at the starting line with some members of DC UL. (Photo Credit: Jen Adach)

Right out of the gate, I decided to run for a bit. The trail started off flat, so I figured I’d take advantage of that. Of course the “real” runners pulled well ahead of me, but I was able to separate myself from the slower part of the pack. I wasn’t all that worried about getting ahead of people, but I really wanted to get out of the crowd. I ran about 3/4 of a mile until the trail and then slowed to my hiking pace when the trail headed uphill. I battled with the crowd for the first few miles, but everyone started spreading out after that. I’d never really be alone, but I often had a 100-200 yard buffer between me and the next hiker. I was OK with that.

The first ten miles looked like they were going to be the hardest. There were no truly brutal climbs, but there were a LOT of moderate ups-and-downs. My problems started around mile 3. While hiking downhill, I noticed that my insoles were sliding and bunching up at the front of my shoes. Before long, hot spots were forming on my heels and toes. I had to make an unexpected to fix my shoes around Mile 5. This problem would recur all day, but I decided not to stop again. I could power through blister pain for one day and nurse them back to health after the race. Normally I wouldn’t have such a cavalier attitude towards foot health, but I didn’t want to waste any time.

The first checkpoint was at the Holtwood Pinnacle. I decided not to waste time refilling my hydration reservoir, which by my best estimation still contained just over a liter of water. I grabbed a cup of Gatorade and a Clif bar and got back on the trail as quickly as possible.

After the checkpoint, the trail got a little easier. There were still a few climbs here and there, but not as many as before. I managed to regain a little speed. Around the 11th mile, we hopped on a road and crossed the Susquehanna River on the bridge. Shortly after that was the next checkpoint.

I lingered at the second checkpoint a bit longer than the first. The first order of business was refilling my hydration reservoir, but that was easy thanks to some young volunteers who did the work for me while I headed to the snack table. I enjoyed half of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a few cups of water (fortified with electrolytes from Elete). This checkpoint even had loaner trekking poles from Leki, but I had my Gossamer Gear LT4‘s and didn’t need to borrow a set.

Stopping at this checkpoint caused my muscles to start tightening, so I was stiff for the next mile or two. This was particularly painful when the trail started going back uphill. Luckily, I got warm again and loosened up before too long.

The trail meandered through the woods, along a dirt road and past the Holtwood Dam. Just before the third and final checkpoint, the race route took us up a long, grassy incline. The heat and humidity of the day had started to become oppressive, and this hill, which wouldn’t have been very challenging on a normal day, became brutal. Every single hiker slowed to a crawl and looked half-dead as they death-marched up to the checkpoint.

The checkpoint itself was very hot. I heard grumblings that it was 101 degrees in the sun there. I helped myself to water and a banana or two and then started walking once more. I heard that the next section included road walking, which I was not looking forward to. I imagined that the asphalt would be brutally hot, but it turned out that it actually gave me a bit of a reprieve. Even though we were exposed to the sun, there was a beautiful breeze blowing through the corn fields. The smooth road was hard underfoot, but the smoothness was a welcome change after hiking on rocks most of the morning.

The trail went back into the woods for the last 2 miles or so. By this point I had started hiking with 3 or 4 other people. I was nice to have someone to talk to. I was alone most of the morning, and the conversation made my brain forget how tired I was.

As the trail entered Otter Creek Campground, I knew that my hike was almost over. When I saw the finish line, I broke into a dead sprint. I wanted more than anything to finish this race strong, and I did. My final time for the 23.4-mile course was 7:30:21 and I placed 51 out of 205 finishers. There was tons of food for the participants at the finish, but I wasn’t very hungry. I only had a hot dog and an iced tea before boarding the shuttle bus and heading back to my car. Despite the heat, I had a great day on the trail, and I’m looking forward to coming back to the Super Hike next year.

On the shuttle at the end of the race.

On the shuttle at the end of the race.

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.