Sunday, August 16, 2009

Carson-Iceberg Wilderness Backpacking Trip - Heiser Lake / Bull Run Lake

Backpacking trip report for our most recent trip to Carson-Iceberg Wilderness here. We found this trip in the Sierra North: Backcountry Trips in Californias Sierra Nevadabook (great book for backpacking trip ideas in the Northern Sierras). Anyhow, I highly recommend this trip for the beginner backpacker, a day hike, or a quick weekend getaway!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Review: Thermarest Neoair, Montbell Spiral Down Hugger, Invo8 Terroc 330's, Gossamer Gear Mariposa Plus pack

I've been trying to join the likes of these ultralight backpackers who have super light gear (and carry less than 20lbs) and hike in trail runners. So I dragged a bunch of friends out for a one night trip (report later) to try out the Thermarest NeoAirand Montbell Spiral Down Hugger 30F and Inov-8 Terroc 330and Gossamer Gear Mariposa Plus backpack. Long story short, I liked everything I tried. It was nice backpacking with a pack weight of <15 lbs including water!

I was extremely pleased with the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Air Mattress.On our last few trips I've been using a Z-lite (also by Thermarest), which just does not have enough padding for the side-sleeper. After long trips, my hips would end up being bruised from the hard ground. The NeoAir was happily thick, extremely comfortable, and I didn't feel any bumps on the ground. It also kept me warmer than the Z-lite by quite a margin, even though I was using my new sleeping bag that was rated 10F warmer. The durability does worry me, since the material feels sort of thin, so I did pack a Therm-a-Rest Fast & Light Repair Kit as recommended. The non-self inflating part wasn't a big deal, it took ~25 breaths to inflate the Medium sized one. In summary, I love this pad, for 13oz + 1oz (patch kit), it really can't be beat for the comfort. For the price, I do wish it at least came with a stuff sack and/or patch kit.

I also bought the Montbell Spiral Down Hugger 30F sleeping bag, which also turned out to be a good buy. The spiral down hugger is cut quite a bit narrower than my old Mountain Hardware bag. It was much easier to warm up and stay warm, as there's less air to warm up inside the bag. I have no complaints about the bag, the night we were out the temperature probably got down to 35F or so at night, and I stayed warm with long underwear (pants) and my NeoAir. In fact I started sweating in the middle of the night, so the long underwear wasn't necessary.

The Inov8 Terroc 330 Trail Running Shoealso worked really well. It was grippy, I had no traction problems. In fact I almost felt like I was wearing rock climbing shoes. The toebox is comfortable for my wide feet (granted I did buy a pair of men's shoes, and I went up a size compared to my usual men's shoe size). Only complaint here is that the lack of cushioning in this shoe. I would not carry more than 20lbs and try and wear these backpacking!

The Gossamer Gear Mariposa Plus is also highly recommended. Grant (the owner, I presume) was extremely helpful over the phone. I explained that I was sort of a "smaller boned" person, and he told me ways to narrow the pack such that the straps were more comfortable. The pack carries 15lbs extremely well, it felt like nothing on my back. The back panel with the sit pad was comfortable enough. Coming from an Osprey pack with awesome ventilation, I didn't really notice my back feeling "hotter" than usual. Although when I took off my pack, it was definitely sweatier, compared to my Osprey. The width of the straps also didn't bother me. I really liked the large outside mesh pockets that allowed me to fit all the odds and ends in. A size small had plenty of room for me to carry sleeping pad/sleeping bag/BV-500 bear canister, a bit of clothes, plus some misc items inside the pack. This is going to be my backpacking pack from now on, unless I need to carry loads of 25lbs+.

This trip for trying out gear proved to be a great success. Especially since I liked every piece of gear I tried!