Hike Prep: Loyalsock-Link Loop

Loyalsock Canyon Vista in summer.

This weekend I’ll be leading a great group from Berks-Lehigh Hiking and Backpacking on a 25-mile, 1-night hike on the Loyalsock-Link Loop in Pennyslvania’s Loyalsock State Forest and Worlds End State Park. This hike will start at the eastern terminus of the Loyalsock Trail. When we reach Worlds End, we’ll pick up the Link Trail and head more or less back the way we came. We’ll rejoin the Loyalsock Trail and hike back to the cars.

Gear Choices

The weather forecast is still in flux. I’ve seen forecasted overnight lows ranging everywhere from 9-30 degrees, so I’m going to plan for 9 degrees. This might make me carry some things I might not end up needing, but I want to get my packing done early. My total bas weight will be right around 10lbs for this trip.The extra gear will also give me an opportunity to use my Gossamer Gear Gorilla pack, which normally has too much volume for my purposes. I haven’t really had the chance to give this pack a fair trial, and I’m looking forward to carrying it.


My Gorilla: Packed and Ready to Go

My shelter as (almost) always will be my Zpacks Hexamid Solo Tarp. In order to help cut the cold wind, contain a little extra heat, and add some extra protection from precipitation, I’ll be supplementing my tarp with a Katabatic Gear Bristlecone Bivy. The Long/Wide size only weighs 9oz, but provides enough space for me and my dog.

For sleeping, I will be using 2 pads. My Exped SynMat UL 7 is pretty warm but isn’t quite enough, if the temps drop into the teens. I’ll be adding a torso length Z-Lite Pad to provide a little extra insulation. I’ll be covering up with a 10 degree Enlightened Equipment RevelationX quilt. A balaclava and all my layers can provide a little extra boost just in case the mercury really starts to drop.

Since I’ll be freezer bag cooking, my cook system’s main purpose will be boiling water. For that job, the Trail Designs Caldera Cone Ti-Tri and Gram Cracker stove suit my needs perfectly. Esbit isn’t usually my fuel of choice, but I was out of alcohol. This decision was based on laziness, but it actually saved me about an ounce of weight. The Gram Cracker is lighter than my alcohol stove, and this way I won’t need to carry the weight of a fuel bottle.

Those were just the basic highlights, but you can check out my complete gear list HERE. As always, thanks for reading!


EnLIGHTened Equipment Quilts

These 2 quilts are hands-down the best sleeping equipment I have ever purchased. I really can’t say enough about this company. This is a cottage-industry company that makes your quilt to order. You choose the color, the size, and the temp rating, and then they create your quilt for you. They will even do custom work for a fee. If you email them with questions, the owner Tim will email you back promptly (sometimes within minutes). I have 3 quilts from them already, including a children’s size for my son!

In order to save the customer some money, they offer 2 of their models in “X” configurations. X-models use cosmetic second 30D nylon shells in lieu of the normal 10D and 15D shells. I’ve looked very closely and can’t find these cosmetic flaws on my quilts. The workmanship on these quilts is impeccable. Tim and his small army of home-based quilters seem to take great pride in their work. Definitely check out Enlightened Equipment!

RevelationX, 10deg, 6′ length, Extra Wide, $235


Let me open by saying that this is a 2012 model. There have been a few upgrades for 2013 that I will try to touch on as I go. As I said before, the “X” models use cosmetic 2nd 30D nylon shells. These fabrics are still completely functional, and the cosmetic flaws are impossible to find on my 3 quilts. A 10 or 15D shell would have slightly better skin feel, but at the lower price I can’t complain about the 30D.

The quilt uses around 18oz of 850 Down insulation, with a total weight of 27.3oz on my scale. This thing lofts up like crazy! Tim’s specs say 3″, but it’s more than that. The quilt uses a system called “Karo Step Baffles” to keep the down in place. This system creates a grid of boxes that are open in the corners. If you pat and knead the quilt, you can move the down around to create customized insulation zones. The “Karo Step Baffles” do keep the down in place while sleeping, but I’ve noticed that the down shifts a lot when you stuff the quilt into your pack. The 2013 model has longer baffles with smaller openings to limit this effect.

My quilt was is an “Extra Wide” in the 6′ height configuration. “Extra Wide” no longer appears as an option on the website, but Tim will make custom sizes for a small fee. HOWEVER, Between all the height and width options, you have 9 sizes to choose from already. There is bound to be one that fits. I had to get Extra Wide because I’m much fatter than your average backpacker, haha. The 6′ height is very generous. I am around 5’11” and I can get the quilt up over my head comfortably.

The footbox zipper, snaps, and drawstrings all function well. The 2012 model incorporates a system of grosgrain loops and shock cords to cinch the quilt around your body when the mercury really drops. I’ve never needed to use them because I have a 10deg quilt and haven’t had the chance to use it below 30deg yet. The system appears to be functional, but annoying. The 2013 uses a system of elastic bands to attach the quilt to your pad. This seems much more user-friendly (my ProdigyX uses this system). Other minor changes for 2013: A brand label and included stuff sacks.

I’ve used this quilt a few times in temps from 30-40 degrees. At temps near 40, I broiled under this quilt. I ended up unzipping the footbox to let some heat out. At temps closer to 30 I was still toasty warm, even without the shock cord system. I believe that this quilt would definitely be warm in the 20’s (and possibly below). If you sleep a little on the warm side, the 10deg rating is probably spot on.

Update: I used this quilt on a 17 degree night, and I was toasty warm (even without lashing it around my body with shock cord). I was pretty happy… until the condensation from my TarpTent wet everything out, haha. It got a little chilly at that point!

Sleeping bags have always been the biggest problem area in my backpacking system, but I think I finally found something that is perfect for me!

ProdigyX, 40deg, 6′ length, Wide, $145


Since my 10deg quilt is complete overkill for Pennsylvania summers, I decided to purchase something a bit lighter. This time I bought a 2013 40deg ProdigyX. This quilt is identical to the RevX model in most ways, but the biggest difference is the insulation. Rather than 850 down, this quilt uses 4oz/sq yd. Climashield Apex synthetic insulation. I decided to use synthetic in the summer because I’m usually a sweaty dirtbag during the hot season. I cowboy camp when possible, and an unexpected shower would be bad news for a down quilt. I chose the 40deg over the 50deg “just in case”. A 50deg quilt might not be quite enough for me because I tend to sleep on the cold side. My down jacket usually gets left at home on summer trips, so I don’t have anything for backup if it gets chilly on an exposed ridge. Hence, I decided on 40deg.

This quilt weighs in at 22.0oz without the elastic straps, which I don’t plan on carrying in the summer. The “wide” width was good enough in this case because I’m only going to carry it on warm trips and won’t have to worry too much about in-leakage of cold air. In my 60 degree living room, this quilt is almost too warm, but I haven’t had a chance to use it in the field yet. Update: With a little help from my down jacket, this 40-Deg quilt kept me warm all the way down to 29 degrees! I wasn’t super toasty, but I was comfortable enough to get a good night’s sleep. Very happy with this quilt!