Mission Abort: Hike at Lehigh Gap

The intersection of the AT and the Winter Trail at the beginning of my hike.

I headed out today with plans on hiking the east side of Lehigh Gap. My route was supposed to take me up the AT, along a retired section of the AT, back onto the current AT, and then down the Winter Trail (forming a rough Figure-8). That plan wasn’t meant to be.

The intersection of the AT and the Winter Trail at the beginning of my hike.

The intersection of the AT and the Winter Trail at the beginning of my hike.

I began my hike on the AT as planned. The trail climbed through the woods for a bit before beginning an exposed rock scramble. This side of the mountain had good southern sun exposure, so the snow was minimal.

However once Pickle and I crossed over into the shade, the snow got deeper. The trail, which was mostly blazed on the rocks, disappeared beneath the drifted snow. I tried to climb up to the ridge, assuming that I’d be able to relocated the trail when I reached the ridge. After several near-miss incidents and hip-deep postholes, I decided to cut my losses and head back down to the car.

I’m not a huge fan of hiking in the snow to begin with, and the trail was simply not enjoyable today. We’ll try this hike in the spring after things thaw out.

Pickle enjoying his post-hike TurboPUP bar.

Pickle enjoying his post-hike TurboPUP bar.

Dog Gear: The Groundbird Gear Trekking Pack “2.0”

Pickle in his GBG Trekking pack.
Pickle in his GBG Trekking pack.

Pickle in his GBG Trekking pack.

Groundbird Gear‘s Marie “Bobwhite” Sellenrick was nice enough to send me an updated version of her Trekking Pack for dogs. I’d previously reviewed one of her earlier models, which quickly became Pickle’s backpack of choice, so I was excited to see what she did with the feedback she got from me and other testers. Since my last review, GBG has begun offering the Trekking Pack’s saddle bags in a size “Small”, instead of just “Regular” and “Large”. Because variety is the spice of life and Pickle’s current pack was a “Regular”, I asked for the new test pack to be “Small”.

Pickle in his GBG Trekking pack.

Pickle in his GBG Trekking pack.

The custom harness from Pickle’s previous GBG pack still fits perfectly, so Bobwhite made a pack to fit on that platform. After the customary 2-3 weeks of lead time (fairly standard in the Cottage Industry), the pack arrived. Pickle and I took it out for testing that very same day.

Top of harness.

Top of harness.

Underside of harness

Underside of harness

The very best improvement on this new version of the Trekking Pack is on the roll-top closure. GBG ditched the zippers on the saddlebags and went with a simpler hook-and-loop (AKA Velcro) closure. Since the bags would be rolled and clipped closed anyway, I always felt that the zipper on the earlier packs was overkill. It seems that my not-so-gentle complaining was heard, and this new closure is exactly what I hoped it would be! The change saves some weight, and even makes the roll-top function better. Without the chunky zipper in there. I think it rolls flatter and looks much nicer when the pack is closed.

One side of the GBG Trekking Pack, unrolled.

One side of the GBG Trekking Pack, unrolled.

Another nice addition was the optional shock cord attachment system, which can be used to fasten a sleeping pad or other small item to the outside of the pack. This was a surprise item that Marie added on for me, and I think it’s a good idea.

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The shock cord attachment system

I’m glad I ordered the small pack! The pack fit 8 TurboPUP bars (2 days worth of food for Pickle), a leash, and dog booties quite nicely. This means it would be perfect for summer weekend trips, when we won’t need the extra pack volume for Pickle’s coat.

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Overhead view of the GBG Trekking pack with the bags rolled closed.

All in all, this pack is a nice improvement on an already good dog pack. The changes listed above, as well as improved stitching and quality of construction, make for a beautiful and functional piece of gear. Coming in at 6.8oz on my scales (without the harness), this pack is about as ultralight as it gets.  If you’re in the market for a dog pack, the Groundbird Gear Trekking Pack is definitely worth a serious look. It’s price competitive with the big brands, chafe-free, and custom made by hands that care.

Disclaimer: I received this pack from Groundbird Gear for free, but I was not obligated to write this review. All opinions stated herein are my own, and GBG had no editorial control over this post.

Snowy hike to the Pinnacle

On Friday (1/30), My dog Pickle and I took a snowy hike on the Pinnacle and Pulpit Loop. This route uses the Appalachian Trail and a blue-blaze to form an 8.7 mile loop and goes by the two best vistas on the AT in Pennsylvania: The Pinnacle and Pulpit Rock. Check out this gallery of photos!

Gossamer Gear Jamboree

From January 16-20, I attended a gathering of Gossamer Gear Trail Ambassadors in Moab, Utah. Trail Ambassadors from all over the country gathered to hike and hang out for a few days, and it was a blast! Read my full write-up over on the Gossamer Gear Blog! Also, check out hashtag #GGUtahAdventures on Instagram!

TurboPUP to Appear on ABC’s Shark Tank

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My good friends (and Pickle’s hiking food sponsors) over at TurboPUP have made a cool announcement! They’ll be appearing on this Friday’s episode of Shark Tank on ABC!

For those who aren’t familiar with the show, people with business or product ideas pitch their plans to a panel of high profile investors (AKA Sharks). Their ultimate goal is to convince one of the sharks to invest in their company.

I wish Kristina and her dog Odin the best of luck on the show, and I urge you all to watch on Friday 1/16 at 9ET/10PT!

The New Gossamer Gear Gorilla Pack

I recently had a chance to try out my new, upgraded version of the Gossamer Gear Gorilla backpack. Typically a pack like this is a little too big (volume-wise) for my short weekend jaunts, but when colder weather rolls around I end up needing a bigger pack (cold-weather hammocking required a LOT of insulation). With expected overnight temps in the mid-twenties, I thought my 3-night hike on the Loyalsock Trail would be a great test for this pack.

My Gorilla loaded to the gills on the first day of my hike

My Gorilla loaded to the gills on the first day of my hike

With a Total Pack Weight (Gear + Consumables) of roughly 25lbs at the beginning of the hike, I initially thought that the Gorilla was very uncomfortable. I tried adjusting the hip belt and shoulder harness, but it never really got better. While taking a break near the end of the second day, I saw the problem: I had installed the aluminum stay backwards. This stay is meant to contour your back and transfer weight to your hips, and installing it backwards created a VERY uncomfortable situation. Once I fixed my mistake, The Gorilla became extremely comfy. The stay and padded hip belt kept the load resting nicely on my hips and off of my shoulders.

The new shoulder harness was much softer and more breathable than in the previous version of the Gorilla (the old shoulder straps used to rub my neck a little). The shoulder straps are also a more ergonomic shape. They were designed specifically with women in mind, as an attempt to create a truly unisex pack. I can’t speak to their success in that endeavor, but they did make the harness more comfortable for me (a burly, broad-shouldered, barrel-chested, fat man). My only complaint as a “wide” individual is that there wasn’t enough slack in the harness to give me a great range of adjustment options. I was plenty comfortable, but I had to keep the straps at nearly their maximum length. This made it impossible for me to utilize the rib strap, which was a disappointment because I love using the rib straps on my other GG packs. I did get a chance to briefly discuss this with Gossamer Gear, and it seemed like they were aware of the issue and planning to fix it in future production runs. Even though I was a little disappointed, this was not a deal breaker. I’m an odd shape for a backpacker, and I’ve become used to the fact that 99% of gear isn’t designed for a person of my body type.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhile the basic dimensions and shape of the pack remain similar to the previous versions, a few other things have changed for the better. The old shock cord compression system was replaced with adjustable compression straps, which (in my opinion) are much more functional. The cord and LineLoc buckles, which used to secure the Over-The-Top lid, were also replaced with webbing straps. The straps make the pack closure just a tiny bit simpler to adjust.

The new Robic Nylon fabric is a nice improvement over the old Dyneema Gridstop. Not only is the Robic nylon much prettier to look at, but it is also very tough and seemed to be fairly water resistant.

The new Gorilla also features trekking pole holders, which make it easy to secure your poles to the pack when you’re not using them. I used this feature a lot because I don’t use my poles that much. The system keeps the poles very secure while hiking, but you have to be careful when you set the pack down on the ground because the tips of the poles can get pushed out of the holders.

All-in-all, the upgraded Gossamer Gear Gorilla is a fine pack, and I plan on using it through the winter. If you liked the previous version of the Gorilla, you will love this one. It is a much more polished product, which I find to be more comfortable, functional, and aesthetically pleasing. If you get a chance, check it out!

Disclaimer: As a Gossamer Gear Trail Ambassador, I received this pack free of charge. I was not obligated in any way to write this review, and all thoughts and opinions contained herein are my own. Gossamer Gear had no editorial input into the writing of this review.

Small Business Saturday

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! With Holiday Shopping Season fast approaching, I just wanted to remind everyone to support small businesses this year. There are tons of them in the outdoors industry, and they need and deserve your support! Here are a few of my favorites:

Gossamer Gear – Ultralight Backpacks, Trekking Poles, and Shelters

TurboPUP – Complete Meal Bars for your furry hiking companion

Warbonnet Outdoors – Hammocks and Hammock Accessories

Dutchware – Titanium hammock hardware and other odds and ends

East Ridge Outfitters – My favorite local gear shop, located in Blandon, PA

ZPacks – Cuben Fiber Packs, Shelters, and Accessories

Hikertrash – Apparel for the fashion forward hiker

Ground bird Gear – Custom backpacks for your trail dog

Remember to shop small this holiday season!