Friday, November 10, 2017

A Hiker Gift List

While I was on the trail this year I got to thinking about Christmas, because, well it’s my favorite holiday :) I thought about the things I could get various family and friends...and about what I’d put on my list for myself. That train of thought led me to think, what would I recommend if someone was looking to buy a gift for a hiker? So I jotted a few thoughts down. Of course these gifts can be used for other occasions as well and as send off’s or welcome homes for family and friends embarking on a long distance hike.

My criteria for this list was simple: items should be either useful on the trail, benefit the trail, or be trail related to commemorate someone’s hike. Some of these came to mind because I am an ambassador with the companies, but I don’t get anything special from putting them in this list. Some of these are made by friends, who sell their creations to fund their hikes and I’d love more people to know about them. Some of these I just plain found on my own and think they are rad. I gave special consideration to companies that partner with trail organizations to donate some of the proceeds. It’s a great way to give back to the trails too.
The point is, here are some cool ideas (in no particular order) that go beyond the basic outdoor store gift card that I like and I think other hikers would too.

1: Tarma Designs Jewelry. They make a wide variety of pendants and earrings in different categories (running, biking, hiking, etc). They make pieces utilizing the PCT, AT, JMT, and Camino logos. Proceeds from the PCT and AT jewelry go to those respective trail organizations.

2: Point6 Merino Socks are long wearing and have a lifetime guarantee. While they make a wide variety of functional hiking socks, they also have something called the Wild Playground Series. These socks utilize the logos of the AT, PCT, CDT, National Forest Foundation, LNT, and Trout Unlimited. Point6 donates a whopping 25% of the profit of each of these socks to their respective trail and conservation organizations.

3: Salazon Chocolate also has a trail benefit series with sales of certain bars benefiting either the AT, PCT, or CDT.

4: Woolrich Blankets makes both a PCT and CDT version of their 40x60 soft wool blanket.

5: Arlette Laan Fiber Creations Backpacking Buddies. These handmade baby sock dolls are beyond adorable. Whimsical and ultralight, I carry one on my pack on all my hikes. They are fun little good luck encouragers to send with someone on their upcoming hike. She also makes an “Adventurers” version that comes with it’s own little backpack.

6: Triple Crown Hiker Shane O’Donnell filmed his hikes of the PCT (2008), CDT(2012), and AT(2015). And, unlike a lot of hiking movies you’ve seen, his are edited well and have more of a storyline than just “I walked a lot” without being overly romanticized or dramatized. I haven’t seen the Wizards of the PCT, which started the series off, but I have seen the other two. I can tell you that he really captures life and community on the trail accurately.

7: Trail organizations all have online shops and other ways to contribute to the trail while doing your shopping. Check out the organization for the trail your hiker has done to see what they offer. Here are a few:

8: Dirty Girl Gaiters produces affordable and colorful trail gaiters. They come in myriad designs and pretty much every hiker male and female wears a pair (or two). My recent favorite...the frosted donut patterned one.

9: The Amazon Smile Program allows you to choose a non-profit to benefit with a percentage of all your Amazon purchases. All the same products and prices are available. The CDTC, PCTA, and ATC all have accounts (along with thousands of other non-profits). Set up your Smile Account to benefit the organization of your choice at

10: Backcountry Ninja’s has shirts, hats, stickers, etc all trail and hiking related owned and designed by thru-hikers

11: Hikertrash is another clothing, hat, and sticker design site owned and designed by thru-hikers

12: Anish Hikes T Shirts: Ok, so I do have some vested interest in this one ;) Here’s the link if you still haven’t purchased an AnishT and know someone who would like one

Monday, June 19, 2017

Gossamer Gear "The One" Review

On my recent thru-hike of the Oregon Desert Trail I utilized the new single person tent from Gossamer Gear called "The One." Since it's a new product I wanted to write up a few quick thoughts.
This is GG's only enclosed tent. I haven't used their Twinn Tarp, mainly because of creepy crawlies. So, I was interested to see what their shelter system would be like. They used to make this shelter before, but due to manufacturing issues they halted production for almost a decade.

Here are the features I liked:

  • Mesh pocket on the wall to keep small items in (big enough to hold headlamp, phone, ditty bag, etc)
  • Clothesline(!) following the internal ridgeline. The perfect place to dry socks overnight (and keep them away from my nose.)
  • Large Vestibule that closes fully and goes almost to the ground. Coupled with the mostly solid rear wall (rather than bug netting) this tent is very private.
  • Vestibule is also very storm-proof
  • Can be set up with trekking poles, carbon fiber poles, or aluminum poles depending on your budget and preferences.
  • Comes with factory taped seams as well as fully tied and attached guylines which means you don't have to do anything to it before you hit the trail (although you should probably practice setting it up at home a couple of times first)
  • Roomy length which makes it great for bringing in your gear or for really tall people. I think someone over 6ft could sleep in this tent comfortably.
  • Tensioners on every guyline. This was helpful in getting a taut set-up.
  • A great price point for those looking for a quality UL shelter on a budget.
  • Retained warmth better than any single wall tent I've ever used.

What I didn't like:

  • Seemed more prone to condensation than other ultralight shelters I've used. Probably because of the solid rear wall and the more storm-worthy vestibule.
  • Stakes! can get away with 6, but if you want this thing fully staked out in windy conditions you need 10 stakes (or even more if you add additional guylines) Also, if using all 10 stakes you have to make 2 full rounds around the tent which means set-up takes longer.
  • Door was small and offset so some nights it was by my feet and some nights by my head. I prefer a whole front zip open tent.
  • Nylon Blended tent body material sagged overnight, no matter how taut it was at set-up. It wasn't a lot, but it definitely caused my bag to get damp from touching the walls more than once. 
  • Weighs more than other UL shelters I've used, but not by much. This is a con in fair weather, but for me the warmth and privacy made up for it.

Overall I recommend this tent if you're looking for a UL tent that is storm-worthy, retains warmth, and has privacy. You will deal with condensation issues when it's fully sealed up, so vent the vestibule to negate that in fair weather and carry a little sponge to sop up moisture in the mornings (dry it at your breaks). 

Specs from

Shelter Weight: 19.05 oz (540g)(includes factory-taped seams)
Lines (already attached):  .60 oz (18g)
Stuff Sack: .5 oz (14g)

Packed size 6” X 9”
Floor size 30” X 83” (17.3 sq ft)
Vestibule area 16.2 sf
Head height at peak 46” (using 125 cm poles)

Tent body: Custom-formulated 7d high tenacity nylon blended sil/pu coating waterproof to at least 1200mm.  
Tent floor:  Custom-formulated 10d high tenacity nylon blended sil/pu coating waterproof to at least 1200mm.
Guylines:  2.5mm reflective nylon sheath, 1mm dyneema core
Zippers:  First quality, robust  #4.5 double-pull zippers
ITW lineloc3 tensioners all main tie outs

On the bank of the Owyhee River

Monday, January 2, 2017

XoSkin Baselayer Review

Early last year the good folks at XoSkin sent me samples of their baselayer shirts to try out. Since then I've been wearing them in all conditions from the desert of Nevada to the alpine in Washington to my winter running training.

The shirts I tried out were:
1.0 Baselayer (loose fit v-neck with cap sleeves)
2.0 Baselayer (Form fit v-neck short sleeve)
2.0 Baselayer (Form fit v-neck sleeveless)
3.0 Baselayer (Light compression v-neck with cap sleeves)

A few things that set these shirts apart are the fact that they are engineered without many seams. They are sized based on height/weight. XoSkin uses a combination of PTFE and copper fibers to keep you cooler, reduce friction and odor, and promote a healthy environment for the skin.

Overall these shirts have been excellent. They wick well and are comfortable in a wide variety of conditions. I'm not sure that they really smell less than other synthetics after several days of wear, but I do notice that the odor washes out unlike the permastench in my other tech shirts. Even the heavier shirt is comfortable in warm temperatures. The main thing I'd like to see is more patterns.

Other thoughts:
I didn't find there to be much compression in the compression shirt. (Maybe I need a smaller size?)
The sleeveless form fit was my favorite for all factors. I love it for running and hiking.
The hand of the 1.0 was silky and I'm not a huge fan of that type of fabric feel. Otherwise the feel of the various weights is great.