Overall, this trip left me feeling really good about my gear list. I’m really getting things dialled in! The list is heavier than I prefer, but I was getting to the point where I just wasn’t seeing places I was happy to cut. I figured the best option was to head out and see which items never left my bag. In the end, I actually ended up using every single thing I brought (except a few of my emergency items, but I was hoping not to need those!).
Seek Outside Flight Pack – This is the first time it has seen the ‘real world’, as all of my spring trips (and my GDT trip) were cancelled due to Covid. I wore it a lot around the neighbourhood, but it was time for the rubber to finally hit the road. On this trip I started with a total pack weight of ~24lbs.
This pack was fantastic! It carried great and was very comfortable. I never had any hot spots or tender points, which is a first for me with a new pack. The weight is transferred very well to my hips, with very little to no weight on my shoulders, while also not requiring the hip belt to be cinched super tight (I am a convert on the dual adjust hip belt!). I never had to re-adjust it, all the adjustment points stayed where I put them (with my other packs, I am constantly retightening my hip belt). It balanced very well during the scramble parts, and held up great to getting dragged against rocks, some impromptu bushwhacking, and one tumble down a small waterfall. And did I mention how comfortable it was?
I absolutely love the huge hip belt pockets! I could fit all of snacks and my lunch in one of them, and everything else I needed easy access to in the other. I knew I would have to change how I packed with the roll top style, as I am used to keeping things I use through the day in the brain of my other packs (I can reach into it behind my head). That ended up being a non-issue, as the hip belt pockets more than made up for the loss of the brain.
I was also a bit skeptical of the size of the front pocket, but it turns out my fears were once again unfounded. Due to the rain, my tent was often wet. Rather than putting it inside my pack with my dry things, I stuffed it in the front pocket; along with my rain paints, rain coat, garbage bag AND footcare kit! No lack of storage there.
This trip was a good test of the Xpac material in the rain. The Xpac is waterproof, but the seams are not sealed on the Flight, so I wasn’t expecting it to be totally waterproof. I used my homemade pack liner for my sleeping bag and dry clothes, which turned out to be the right call. At the end of the day on day 2, where I saw the most rain, the inside of the pack had some moisture in it but my things were still dry. The greatest thing about the fabric was how fast it dried out. Once it stopped raining, the pack was dry in an hour or two. A great improvement over my other packs, which take the better part of a day or longer to dry out. The inside of the hip belt pockets did stay dry (they are made of Spectra, not Xpac), however I’m not sure how long the waterproof coating on the inside of the Spectra fabric will last over time.
Overall, the Flight is half the weight, more comfortable, more durable, and more functional than my other comparable pack. Definitely a keeper!
Starry Night Tent- I waffled on which shelter to bring on this one. I nixed the tarp and bivy due to the anticipated bug pressure, which left me with the X-Mid and the Starry Night tent. I ended up taking the Starry Night tent for the extra space (its a 2 person, the X Mid is a 1 person) and accepting the weight penalty. This ended up being a decision I was very happy with! It gave me plenty of bug free room to change, take care of my feet, and dry out some of my stuff during the rain. The X-Mid would have worked well, but the extra space was a luxury I was glad to have with the amount of rain and bugs on this one. I would probably make a different call later in the summer.
While the Starry Night tent has seen some overnights throughout the winter and spring, this was its first longer trip, and the first time it was going to see rain. And boy did it ever see rain! It poured rain all three nights, and there was quite the thunderstorm on night 2. All the seam sealing held up, and it shed wind better than I expected it to given the shape. Despite the rain and high humidity I didn’t have any condensation issues which surprised me.
All in all, I’m so glad it is as functional as it is awesome looking.
Altra Lone Peaks– This was probably the piece of gear that I was most worried about. I wore these shoes through a bit of training this winter, but this was their first hiking trip. I haven’t hiked in trail runners before, let alone zero drop ones and I had two different foot injuries this spring that I was concerned would rear their ugly heads (dislocated cuboid in the left foot, and an Achilles inflammation in the right). I have never had any success with boots though, so I figured I would give it a shot.
I had no hip/knee/ankle issues on this trip at all, which is remarkable and my issues from the spring did not re-appear. Blister-wise, I had one minor one that was easily drained and taped. Compared to my previous experiences with my feet on trips, this is a radical improvement. I did however, have very tender feet. This tends to happen to me, so is not new, but it was the worst I’ve had it happen. Not sure if it was the terrain (lots of walking on sharp, pointy rocks), the shoes, or a combination. The shoes are a bit soft for the scramble-y parts, but were sufficient. They drained and dried fairly quickly when they had a chance, and I love the huge toe box and narrow heel.
Overall, I think I’m headed in the right footwear direction, as this was the most comfortable my feet have been on a trip (even with the foot tenderness). I definitely won’t be returning to boots!
Caldera Cone/Kojin Stove- This isn’t super new, as I bought it last summer, but I love it still. Super simple, fast, stable, and reliable. I just boil water at camp for tea and to rehydrate my dehydrated meals, so it is perfect for my needs. I have lost more than one dinner by my pot sliding off a canister stove, or knocking it off, but that is not a risk with this rig!
Pack Liner – a very minor change, but a good one! The one camp chore I detest is stuffing my sleeping bag in its stuff sack. By using a pack liner for my sleeping bag and dry clothes, and packing it last, I was able minimize how much sleeping bag wrestling was required. This led to 3 great things in addition to keeping my stuff dry: 1. I didn’t need to fight and wrestle my bag into a tiny space, 2. Once packed, the sleeping bag expanded to take up the available space, so there was never any issue with things shifting around, 3. Reduced the number of stuff sacks I carry. The fewer things I need to keep track of, the better!
More streamlined packing and dry stuff? Yes please!
Water Set Up- I also decided to play with my water access set up on this trip. Way back, I used a huge water bladder. I drank lots, but it was a pain to fill and stuff back into a full pack, and it was kind of heavy. I then dabbled with the lightweight hiker favourite of recycled water bottles in the side pockets, but I found I didn’t drink much when I had to reach for them and the high side pockets on this pack make bottles really hard to get in and out with the pack on (but make packing the pack so much better!).
So I tried combining the approaches: I carried 1 ‘clean’ bottle, 1 ‘dirty’ bottle, and a 1L soft bottle with a hose and adapter. The dirty bottle is used to fill the soft one (they won’t fill in non-moving water on their own), and for longer water carries. I drink out of the soft bottle with the filter placed in-line to the hose, and also use it to filter water into my pot for dinner, and into the clean bottle. The clean bottle could be left at home, but for the 0.8oz, I like to use it to make my morning iced coffee and my one flavoured water through the day. This set weighs less than my old bladder set up, and all fits in the side pockets of the pack (so no trying to stuff a full water bladder inside a full pack).
This turned out to work really well! The high side pockets of the Flight fit the 1L soft bottle with my water filter screwed on top perfectly, whereas my other packs’ side pockets are either too small, or so short that the filter flops around as the bottle empties. I had never used the water filter in-line like this before and thought it might be too hard to drink through, but it turned out to be fine. The only hiccup I had was failing to ensure that there was no air in the top of the bottle when I screwed the filter on. Air can’t be pulled through the filter, so I would have to bend over a bit, or squish the side of my pack to get water to the filter when I made this mistake. Easily fixed once I realized what I had done.
I usually carried 1L of water in the soft bottle, 0.75L of flavoured water in the clean one, and left the 1L dirty bottle empty. This covered me between water sources with a bit to spare for all of the trail, but I could have added another litre by filling the dirty bottle too.
I’m glad I played around with this, because I think I’m on the right track. I really like having the hose to drink from. I drank lots with no major annoyances, it was easy to manage and provided more than enough capacity. 3 bottles is a lot, but I’m not sure I’m willing to give up my dedicated clean bottle just yet.
Given how much of my kit was new or new-ish, I was genuinely surprised at how few changes I will make going forward. I only have a few minor complains:
My Underwear- Loved the wool for the low-stink on a multi day trip, but the specific cut was not working for me! The elastic was placed in such a way that I had horrible chaffing in unmentionable places. It was so bad that I ended up hiking au natural with my base layer for pants during the second two days. Those underwear are definitely not coming on another trip!
Inflatable Pad – This is more of an optimization than a flat out ‘didn’t work’. I have no complaints about the pad itself. The Tensor is quiet (no chip-bag sounds!) and objectively more comfortable than sleeping on 1/4″ foam. But ultimately, I still slept terribly. I have never slept well on trips, so thought I’d see if my mat was the cause. Turns out its not, so now I know! If I’m not going to sleep better, the pad isn’t worth the extra work of inflating/deflating every day, worrying about popping, carrying a repair kit, and the extra weight. If I’m going to sleep badly either way, might as well take my foamie which is lighter and bombproof.
Things to Tweak:
- In the future, I am going to ditch the spoon. The only thing I used it for on this trip was for eating my crushed up chips out of their ziplock bag. For dinner, I ended up biting the corner off of my bag and eating it piping-bag-style. I don’t really like eating my dinner out of a ziplock bag with a spoon because my hands get all gross, so as weird as it looks, the piping bag style worked for me.
- My old habits certainly do die hard. In the past I have mostly done no-cook food on summer solo trips. I generally have to force myself to eat dinner at the best of times when hiking so the fewer barriers to getting that done the better. Using the Caldera Cone/Kojin stove has helped, as it makes cooking less finicky, but on this trip with the rain and the bug pressure I would have rather just shoved food into my face and hopped in my tent as quickly as possible. The hot tea was nice though. I will probably move towards more no-cook again for these warm weather solo trips.