(M) Gear Guide: Packrafts

Review the current offerings in the packraft market and find out which boats are most appropriate for a variety of purposes including alpine lake fishing, incidental river crossings, flatwater boating, expedition packrafting, and whitewater paddling. by Ryan Jordan | 2014-07-22

This report:

  • Provides an overview of packraft types, terminology, and design principles;
  • Identifies specific brands and models and compares their key features and specifications;
  • Suggests specific packraft models for various applications.

This report features open boats (i.e., packrafts without integrated spray decks or skirts) designed to be paddled with a double-bladed kayak paddle, where gear (i.e., a backpack) is secured to tie-down loops affixed to the outside of the tubes. However, many of the packrafts featured in this report can be rigged with add-ons that add functionality to the boat. Examples include:

  • Rowing frames and detachable skegs for more efficient flatwater paddling with dual oars;
  • Self-bailing floors, spray decks, and/or spray skirts for whitewater use;
  • Zippered cargo bays that allow for storage of gear inside the tubes;
  • Additional tie-down loops that can be glued to the tubes for increased gear attachment options, or grab lines;

In an attempt to normalize the comparison of packrafts in this report and distill the market to its core designs, packrafts specifically featuring these add-on options have been omitted from the comparison table. Where appropriate, however, the availability of these add-ons have been noted, and packrafts featuring them will be highlighted in the "Applications" section later in this report.


  • Introduction
  • Packraft Types & Applications
    • Water Type
    • Nature of Access
    • Trip Duration
  • Design Features
    • Material
    • Seams
    • Inflation Mechanism
    • Tube Size
    • Chamber Redundancy
    • Cargo Storage & Rigging
  • The Seat
    • Dimensions
    • Weight
    • Compactibility
  • Gear Guide: Specifications Table
  • Performance Comparison
  • Applications: Which Boat?
    • Alpine Lake Fishing
    • Incidental River Crossings
    • Long Distance Flatwater Paddling
    • Flatwater River Running
    • Expedition Boating / Trekking
    • High Performance Whitewater Boats
  • Directory of Manufacturers

# WORDS: 4130
# PHOTOS: 13

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(M) The Updated Foot-Care Kit

While moleskin still is an effective means to treating hot spots and blisters, new technology is emerging that is far more effective at treating sore feet. by Darin Banner | 2014-07-22

In the summer of 1978, my dad took his scout troop into the High Uintas for a week of hiking and fishing. He brought along my brother and me. We were eight and six years old respectively. The scouts and the leaders carried their equipment in their big external-frame backpacks while horses carried in the heavy canvas tents and food. My brother and I had small daypacks with our warm clothes inside. We carried official Boy Scout canteens strapped over our shoulders.

We packed in to Granddaddy Lake, a trek of six miles. It rained off and on throughout the day and my Keds shoes got wet. After a few miles, I started to get sores on me feet. During one of the rest stops, my dad had me take off my shoes and socks and inspected my feet. No blisters yet! He broke out the trusty Moleskin. This was new to me. It was fuzzy on one side and sticky on the other. He put it over top of the red spots on my feet and claimed it would make it so they didn't get more sore. Lo and behold, it worked! Despite having this miracle fabric on my feet, my legs got tired and I finished out the last couple of miles to Granddaddy Lake on the back of a horse.


  • In the Beginning
  • The Age of Enlightenment
  • The Present
  • How I Use the Kit

# WORDS: 2050
# PHOTOS: 20

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(M) Beyond Our Boundaries: Episode 11

Follow the story of a family of five as they backpack over 2000 miles from Georgia to Maine. by Damien and Renee Tougas | 2014-07-15

The Tougas Family is embarking on an exciting journey; their ambitious plan is to backpack the Appalachian as a family. This episode introduces their plan, gear, and the individual skills brought to the production by each of the family members. The beauty about this project is that the family is learning how to do this sort of trip from scratch and the end product will be something that others families can use for similar endeavors.

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Jetboil Joule Review - Part 1, Overview

The Jetboil Joule is a high-volume cooking system that performs very well in ambient conditions; however more testing in cold conditions is needed to asses its overall performance. by Ryan Jordan | 2014-07-15

The Jetboil Joule cooking system is a liquid-feed canister, high-volume cooking system.

Liquid feed canister systems take advantage of the canister in an inverted configuration to deliver liquid fuel to the burner, in contrast to upright canister systems, which deliver fuel as vaporized gas to the burner.

The primary advantage of a liquid feed canister system is that it offers better cold weather performance, since the vapor pressure in the canister isn't changing while the stove is operating.

In upright canister systems, as the vapor pressure in the canister decreases, the canister temperature decreases, and the rate of fuel delivery to the burner decreases.

Thus, upright canister systems don't work so well in the cold, or for boiling large volumes of water at cooler ambient temperatures.

The Jetboil Joule attempts to solve this problem not only by inverting the canister, but also by preheating the liquid fuel before it hits the burner, which allows it to maintain power in cold temperatures.

In addition to the inverted canister configuration and the preheated liquid fuel delivery tube, the Jetboil Joule pot has an integrated heat exchanger, which allows for more efficient heating of the pot, and greater fuel efficiency.

The other unique feature of the Jetboil Joule is that it's an integrated system that consists only of two parts - the stove base and the pot - which connect to each other to make one solid unit during operation.

There are no separate parts such as windscreens, fuel pumps, or external heat exchangers, and the entire stove unit - with an attached fuel canister, nests neatly into the pot for space efficient storage.


  • Overview
  • Features & Specifications
    • Table 1. System Specifications (Comparison of Jetboil Joule & MSR Reactor 2.5L System)
  • Using the Stove
  • Baseline Fuel Efficiency
    • Table 2. Baseline Comparison of the Jetboil Joule and MSR Reactor: Boil Time & Fuel Efficiency
  • Observations
  • Preliminary Assessment

# WORDS: 1270

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(M) Beyond Our Boundaries: Episode 10

Follow the story of a family of five as they backpack over 2000 miles from Georgia to Maine. by Damien and Renee Tougas | 2014-07-08

The Tougas Family is embarking on an exciting journey; their ambitious plan is to backpack the Appalachian as a family. This episode introduces their plan, gear, and the individual skills brought to the production by each of the family members. The beauty about this project is that the family is learning how to do this sort of trip from scratch and the end product will be something that others families can use for similar endeavors.

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Delmar's Poll

Delmar O'Donnell conducted a poll of BPL readers and teamed with Roger Caffin to relay the results which tell a lot about the BPL demographic and their backpacking preferences. by Roger Caffin and Delmar O'Donnell | 2014-07-08

On the 23 of June 2014 Delmar decided to run a simple poll of BPL readers on what they actually carried. Over 170 responses were received: more than expected. This article summarises the responses.


  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Gear, in all its glory
    • Pack Size, Liters
    • Pack Base Weight, lb
    • Shelter Type
    • Quilts and sleeping bags
    • Cooking arrangements
    • Rain Gear
    • Water Treatment
    • Navigation
    • Toilet paper
    • Sundries
    • Trekking Poles
    • Food safety
  • Locale etc
    • Locale
    • Travel time
    • Trips length and times
    • Conditions
  • Cross Correlations
    • Shelter and sleeping gear
    • GPS usage

# WORDS: 4030
# PHOTOS: 17

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(M) How One High Sierra Trip Turned Into Permanent Nomadic Travel

Getting outdoors often makes all the difference, and a long expedition can go a long way to transforming your life. by Brock Delinski | 2014-07-08

All it took was one long distance hike through the High Sierras to change the course of my life forever.  I went from climbing the corporate ladder, to climbing through the Sierras, to traveling the world indefinitely.  My preconceived ideas about what life was about were challenged in a very big way.

Every story has a beginning, and mine was on the shores of Lake Tahoe.

As I sat digging my toes into the sandy beaches, I turned to my friend and exclaimed, "There's more out there that I want to experience.  I want to sail around the world, I want to through-hike the AT.  There's just more out there for me to do."

My friend, a little perplexed, stared at me with wonder.  He had known me my entire life and knew that this wasn't that path that I was on.


  • Introduction
  • Let the change begin
  • Author Bio

# WORDS: 1370
# PHOTOS: 10

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(M) Technical Canyoneering for the Ultralight Backpacker

Canyoneering is challenging as it offers an opportunity to tackle a variety of terrain using new gear. Combining canyoneering with backpacking is a recipe for a legendary trip. by David Chenault | 2014-07-01

One of my favorite places to backpack is the Colorado Plateau, in the southwestern United States. Folks with much broader and wide ranging experience than me agree; it's one of the coolest backpacking destinations on the planet. Part of what makes the Colorado Plateau (CP) so enthralling is the variety of terrain, and the often shockingly vivid contrasts found within an outwardly monolithic desert landscape. While the massive vistas are as good as those in any mountain range, the most striking and unique places within the CP are the most narrow and tortured canyons. They define the CP and set it apart from any other place. Travel through these canyons often requires extra-ordinary approaches and techniques, things not well replicated by any other backpacking environment. This article will outline approaches for multiday travel in the most rugged and iconic places within the CP, and suggest methods and places for further information and training.

The article will restrict itself to technical and semi-technical canyoneering, the peculiarly American sub-genre of canyoning, which has evolved specifically for the CP. Canyoning, as practiced in places like Europe and the mountain ranges of the American Rockies and Cascades, is most often done in relatively broad granite or limestone canyons. Canyoning often involves flowing water, a rarity on the CP. Also, CP canyons (and thus canyoneering as it most often conceived) are most often sandstone. Dryer sandstone canyons, often in serious wilderness, demand a different approach than flowing water canyons cut from harder rock. A separate treatment and term makes sense, and thus this article will restrict itself to canyoneering techniques, which are quite distinct from canyoning. Technical canyoneering has a simple definition; it is canyon hiking where ropework, 5th class climbing moves, or both are required to negotiate the route in question.

Extended Scenes from Dan Ransom on Vimeo.

What does technical canyoneering look like? These outtakes from Dan Ransom's Last of the Great Unknown show a lot. Ransom et al's film is well worth the purchase price.


  • Introduction: Canyoneering defined
  • The demands of technical backpacking
  • Canyon backpacking gear
    • Table 1: Clothing considerations for Canyoneering
    • Table 2: Camp gear considerations for Canyoneering
  • Backpacking canyon gear
    • Table 3: Rope weights for Canyoneering
    • Table 4: Gear weights for Canyoneering
  • Resources
  • Trips
    • Pseudo-technical Canyoneering
      • Zion Narrows
      • Buckskin Gulch and the Paria River
      • Deer Creek to Kanab Creek loop
    • Baby technical Canyoneering
      • Grand Canyon- Royal Arch Route
      • Zion- Lower Kolob
      • Robbers Roost- South Fork of Robbers Roost Canyon
    • Moderate technical Canyoneering
      • Escalante- Full Neon
      • Zion- Right Fork of North Creek
      • Grand Canyon- Tatahatso Wash loop
    • Full bodied technical adventures
      • Zion- Heaps Canyon via Phantom Valley
      • Grand Canyon- 150 Mile/Matkat/Olo/150 Mile lollypop
      • Cedar Mesa- Long and Gravel Canyon loop

# WORDS: 7050
# PHOTOS: 11

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The Yellowstone Paddling Dilemma

Hand Propelled Vessels are banned in Yellowstone National Park. This is in direct violation of the Park's founding principles. Not only should HPVs be allowed on Yellowstone's waterways but their presence will improve the health of the ecosystem. by Chase Jordan | 2014-07-01

In 2012, several kayakers illegally attempted a run of the Yellowstone River. This endeavor lead to a helicopter, horseback, and foot pursuit through the Yellowstone River's Black Canyon. The kayakers were fined $5,000 each and were banned from Yellowstone National Park (YNP). After the appeal to the District Court of Montana, their sentence was twenty-five dollars apiece, a lifetime ban from YNP and the closing statement, "Do not bring this frivolity into my courtroom again" (Ammons). Doug Ammons and the rest of the kayaking community are not the only groups unjustly affected by the ban. The canoeing and packrafting communities also suffer. This "frivolous" ban on boating on the rivers of YNP is contrary to the legislature governing the administration of the Park and is a violation of the principles on which YNP was founded.

The prohibition of paddling is inconsistent with legislative documents promoting the principle of the enjoyment of the populous. The earliest document demonstrating this principle was the Dedication Act of 1872. This act created and described YNP as a "pleasuring-ground", and states that one of the purposes of the Park is to provide "for the enjoyment of the people" (Dilsaver; MacDonald). Additionally, this same goal is stated in YNP's Strategic Plan, which says that the Yellowstone is set aside for the satisfaction of the current and future generations (Menard, et al 4). The prohibition on Hand Propelled Vessels (HPVs) is in direct violation of this principle which is expressed in each document because of the rarity of conflicts resulting from multiple user types and rarity of discrimination.

Social scientists have determined that user conflicts occur rarely and when they do occur, they seldom have a detrimental effect on the enjoyment levels of recreators. In a study conducted in Rattlesnake National Recreation Area, near Missoula, MT, where high instances of conflict between hikers and mountain bikers were thought to occur, less than 20% of the perceived conflicts resulted from actual behavior. In fact, both the backcountry cyclists and the hikers agreed that the perceived conflicts rarely affected the group or person's experience and their enjoyment (Watson, Williams, and Daigle 68-69). Therefore, it is sensible to reach the conclusion that conflicts between paddlers and fishermen while floating or trail users during portages would only be perceived and would not negatively affect the enjoyment of the populous of Park users. In fact, this data suggests that paddling is not inconsistent with the Park's goals, and allows paddling to be considered for recreational purposes.

However, because this ban is in place, a significant segment of recreationalists feels discriminated against. In fact, 10.2 million Americans kayak and 20.6 million Americans canoe (Vonk 26). This segment of the American populous totals over 30 million people, not including packrafters and Adirondack paddlers, among many other types of paddling; and the discrimination against this large group of users should be minimized. The allowance of HPVs on Park rivers would minimize this discrimination and would enhance how YNP administers the Park based on the values and legislation governing the Park.

Allowing HPVs on the rivers of YNP would not cause severe biological impacts, as claimed by conservationists and park rangers, but instead it would be consistent with the legislation in place to protect the Park's biotic resources. Yellowstone's mission statement states that its purpose is to protect the Park's natural resources including, but not limited to, the grizzly bear, wolf, elk, bison, and its prolific aquatic species: the Yellowstone cutthroat trout (Menard, et al 4).

Permitting HPVs would not reduce the stability of populations in comparison to other allowed recreational activities, such as, snowmobiling. In fact, over two thirds of passes by snowmobiles results in either injury or death (Davenport, and Switalski 347)! This is a severe loss of energy producers in the ecosystem and is a major negative effect of snowmobiling. Another negative effect caused by snowmobiling is a decrease in native wetland plants and an increase in noxious weeds of the sedge family (Davenport, and Switalski 347; Watson, and Dalwitz). Native wetland plants are shown to suffer a 23% decrease in density and a 12% decrease in size. These decreases are coupled by a 44% increase in noxious sedge weeds, resulting in severe ecosystem disruption. Additionally, botanical disruption is caused by compacted snow which reduces the insulating air pockets in the snow and conduct cold air towards the ground. This causes a decrease in plant density and biodiversity while furthering the reduction of winter growth of perennials and evergreens, further delays seed germination, as well as negatively affecting decomposition rates of organic material, humus formation and microbial activity (Davenport, and Switalski 348). Each of these biological processes is important because there is a direct quantitative correlation between those processes and many aspects of forest growth (Chavat, Ponge, and Wolters 625). A final way that snowmobiling damages botanical life is via carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon (HC) emissions. Snowmobiles emit 54 tonnes of carbon monoxide and 20 tonnes of HCs on the peak day in YNP. This carbon monoxide reacts with the hydroxyl radical in earth's troposphere to form CO2, which has a severe detrimental effect on the environment (Feilberg, et al 4867). This increase in CO2 causes a decrease in botanical health and efficiency through heat stress, an increase in anaerobic microbes producing toxic metabolites, and a decrease in the groundwater table (Perry, et al 826-9). The HCs produced by snowmobiles, after diffusion into the soil, inhibit plant growth and seed germination. These HCs, such as benzene, toluene, styrene, and naphthalene, increase the toxicity of the soil to inhibit the growth and germination (Pascale, et al 968-9). These effects, in conjunction with each other provide for a major impact to the biological producers of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem inside YNP. There are no consequences as severe or drastic that occur because of paddling.

In comparison to snowmobiling, hand-powered paddling does not have as drastic consequences for the biotic populations of YNP. Other than the trampled riparian vegetation at backcountry launches and take-out sites, which would be nowhere near as drastic as vegetation destruction caused by snowmobilers, hand-power paddling may actually improve habitat of one of the Park's most prolific species: the Yellowstone cutthroat trout. The cutthroat trout requires habitat with both riparian and lotic vegetation in order to filter ultra-fine sediments from the water in order to keep gravel beds in good condition for survival, with gravel ranging from seventeen to sixty-two millimeters in diameter (Machtinger 4.) Unfortunately for the cutthroat trout certain rivers are becoming overgrown with lotic vegetation (United . . . Boating 55-104). Studies show that boating could potentially improve habitat for cutthroat trout and other similar species because boating can be correlated to the reduction in lotic vegetation (Sandström, et al; Hilton, and Phillips). Therefore, the allowance of paddling would enhance the park's ability to provide for its prolific species and as a secondary consequence provide for the species consumers, fulfilling its goal to stabilize and improve the biotic community of YNP.

Unfortunately, the detrimental effects of snowmobiling in comparison to paddling are not the only discrepancies seen in YNP, there is also a discrepancy with the effects of motorhomes and RVs in comparison to paddling. These effects include CO2 emissions more than twice that of camping with an automobile and tent or automobile and tent trailer (PFK 3-5). Similar to CO2 emissions from snowmobiling, the increase in CO2 from motorhomes causes a decrease in botanical health and efficiency through heat stress, an increase in anaerobic microbes producing toxic metabolites, and a decrease in the groundwater table because of warming induced drought (Perry, et al 826-9).

But increased CO2 in the air is not the only detrimental effect to the environment. Formaldehyde, which is found in many motorhomes and RVs, has serious health consequences to the Kingdom Animalia (Odendahl). At temperatures greater than 70F, where formaldehyde is released into the atmosphere from commodities where it is used as a preservative, its inhalation is a cause of nasal lesions, damage to the epithelium of the nasal cavity, damage to pharynx and larynx, while also having carcinogenic properties. When formaldehyde is ingested, commonly through plants in areas where formaldehyde is present in the troposphere, it may potentially cause gastrointestinal lesions, papillomatous hyperplasia, hyperkeratosis, atrophic gastritis, and focal ulceration in the forestomach and hyperplasia (United Kingdom). Though governments make the claim that formaldehyde is not harmful at normal emission levels, the large number of motorhomes and RVs driving through YNP every year makes formaldehyde a concern for the animal kingdom (Scotland). All in all, the inhalation of formaldehyde and ingestion of formaldehyde containing plants, negatively affects the biotic realm in a degree much larger than the negative effects of paddling while not having any probable consequential improvements to the environment.

Additionally, park rangers and conservationists argue that the allowance of paddling would have severe consequences for the abiotic factors of the environment inside YNP, especially the geothermal features, which are affected in a greater degree by erosion. This concern comes especially from Yellowstone's Dedication Act of 1872 which provides "for the preservation, from injury or spoliation, [. . .] natural curiosities, and wonders [. . .] and their retention in their natural condition" (Dilsaver; MacDonald).

Though the concerns are legitimate, they are avoidable with simple training. The American Packrafting Association's PACKRAFT Code of Ethics may diminish this problem with only training on the fourth and eighth points of their code. The fourth point, "keep an eye on our traces" means to simply observe the impact you are making on the environment. With the institution the eighth point of the PACKRAFT Code of Ethics is apply those observations to "tread lightly", in a way that minimizes the impacts you produce on the environment ("Code."). Additionally, environmental impact reduction by minimal teaching on two of the principles (second and fourth) of Leave No Trace. The second point is to "travel and camp on durable surfaces"; would mean for paddlers that travelling would be limited to the waterways and any foot travel should be limited to established trails, rock, dry grasses and snow. When the paddlers camp, this point means that paddlers should spread campsites in pristine areas throughout the area in order to prevent significant and possibly irreparable impacts. If possible paddlers should try to camp in areas devoid of vegetation and should always camp at least 200 feet from riparian zones. The fourth point of Leave No Trace states "leave what you find." This not only means to leave natural curiosities where they existed but to also leave the rivers in as pristine of a state as possible and to not transport invasive and aquatic nuisance species into the areas ("Leave."). The spread of aquatic nuisance species is caused by the release of live bait, the release of aquatic species from one body of water to another, and the failure to clean one's boat before launch and after takeout ("Aquatic."). The institution of codes of ethics similar to the PACKRAFT Code and Leave No Trace would eradicate concerns about negative effects on abiotic factors of the environment, especially those concerns regarding terrain.

The ban on river paddling in YNP is additionally not necessary for the retention of validity of the 1972 Wilderness Designation. A total of 2,032,221 acres of land has been set aside as recommended wilderness and is currently being managed as a wilderness area under the Wilderness Act of 1964 (United States . . . Wilderness.; "Yellowstone."). The Wilderness Act, which instituted the National Wilderness Preservation System states that in order for land to be eligible for continued recommendation and to be a wilderness area, that there must be "no use of motor vehicles, motorized equipment or motorboats, [. . . and] no other form of mechanical transport" ("Act."). The permission of paddling in YNP would not disrupt Yellowstone's 1972 recommendation by not introducing motorized usage into those areas.


  • The Yellowstone Paddling Dilemma
  • About the Author
  • Works Cited

# WORDS: 2990

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(M) Still My Favorite Cook Kit

An Esbit cook system is very lightweight, fuel efficient, and ideal for warm-weather, solo cooking. by Darin Banner | 2014-06-24

Compromise is inherent in lightweight backpacking. To save weight, you have to sacrifice something. The question is, what are you willing to sacrifice? Many years ago, on a trip to the Grand Teton, I sacrificed a stove, pot, and fuel.

At the time, my cook kit consisted of an MSR Whisperlight stove (9.82 oz.), fuel bottle and pump (6 oz.) with fuel (7.8 oz.), a two-liter pot with lid (7.68 oz.), and a plastic insulated mug (6.7 oz.), for a total weight of 38 oz. or 2.38 lbs. My plan was to save weight by leaving this all at home and only eating no-cook meals.


  • Sacrifice
  • My Ingenious Plan
  • The Esbit Stove Kit
  • Using the Esbit Cook Kit
  • Alcohol Stoves
  • Tips
  • Where You Can Get It
  • Summary

# WORDS: 1850
# PHOTOS: 11

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(M) The Timberline Trail

Similar to its cousin, the Wonderland Trail which circumnavigates Mt. Rainier, the Timberline Trail traces the shadow of Mt. Hood and makes for a spectacular journey. by David Pex | 2014-06-24

Both Mount Rainier and Mount Hood have wonderful trails that circle the mountain. Typically, I have hiked these trails clockwise. One of the reasons is the Tibetan belief that you should walk around holy sites (stupas or mountains) in a clockwise fashion.  Counter-clockwise is said to "unwind your karma".  Well, if it works for them, why not?


Mt. Hood and Mt. Rainier are similar geologically (shield volcanoes), and thanks to prevailing rains from the west, are similar geographically.  Both mountains, on the west side, are cut with significant river canyons.  On the east, thanks to the rain shadow, both mountains still have most of their shield intact.  And the north and south sides have both canyons and shield portions.  These mountains are huge, but are simple in their basic structure.  And it is really great to walk through!


  • Introduction
  • A lovely trail

# WORDS: 1910

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Unseen Africa: Francis Tapon’s Four Year Journey Circumnavigating Africa

Taking an ultralight mindset to Africa requires an adjustment, but the lessons learned and the experiences had in Africa are rarely matched. by Ryan Jordan | 2014-06-17

I've always admired long-time BPL Member Francis Tapon's thirst for adventure that leaves most of us well out of our comfort zone. In the face of adversity, including the burden of carrying an ivy league education and the unexpected death of his father, Francis has a unique ability to meander his way through trials by facing adversity gracefully, patiently, and without surprise.

Francis is currently on a four-year mission to visit every African country (54 of them!), document their unseen culture, and develop the media into a TV series. Francis is currently raising money for the pilot episode via Kickstarter, check it out:

Please consider contributing to Francis' ambitious campaign.


  • Introduction
  • An Interview with Francis Tapon
  • What's in My Pack?
  • Francis Tapon's African Gear List

# WORDS: 4220

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(M) Beyond Our Boundaries: Episode 9

Follow the story of a family of five as they backpack over 2000 miles from Georgia to Maine. by Damien and Renee Tougas | 2014-06-17

The Tougas Family is embarking on an exciting journey; their ambitious plan is to backpack the Appalachian as a family. This episode introduces their plan, gear, and the individual skills brought to the production by each of the family members. The beauty about this project is that the family is learning how to do this sort of trip from scratch and the end product will be something that others families can use for similar endeavors.

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(M) Wonderland Trail

As it circumnavigates Mt. Rainier, the Wonderland Trail offers some stunning views and excellent camping spots. by David Pex | 2014-06-17


    The walk around Mt. Rainier is an adventure, no matter how many times I do it. It is a privilege to get to know this mountain so intimately.

    The first thing you need to know is to be flexible in your planning. It is best to fax your reservation request between March 15 and March 31 to the Longmire Ranger Station. On the reservation request, you need to indicate your campsite preferences. If a particular campsite is full (like Indian Bar) you will be assigned different campsites if available. There are also backcountry permits available, which let you stay just about anywhere, as long as you are more than 1/2 mile off the trail. In any case, get your permit request in, as soon as it's received it will be accepted. My last itinerary was South Pullayup, Eagles' Roost, Granite Creek, and Nickel Creek. I requested Indian Bar, which is one of my favorite spots on the planet, but it was unavailable on my dates.

    Another thing to know: the full length of the trail is between 90.5 and 96 miles. Calculating from trail signs will give different mileage than the distance indicated on trail maps. No matter, it is a long way. Fully worthy of five days of your life. Some people take two weeks to do the trail, which is rather leisurely. Most folks can easily do this trail in seven to ten days.

    I typically do the Wonderland Trail in early September. It is cold enough at night to reduce the mosquito population, still enough daylight to hike ten hours a day, and the snows haven't started falling. And the weather is generally good.

# WORDS: 6170
# PHOTOS: 11

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(M) Montbell Down Hugger 900 #2 Sleeping Bag Review

Great water resistance, loft, and warmth makes the Montbell Hugger an ideal sleeping bag. by Will Rietveld | 2014-06-10

An ultralight sleeping bag in the 20 to 25F (-7 to -4 C) range is a good choice for backpacking in the shoulder seasons, and a good mountain summer bag for cold sleepers. If you were to buy just one ultralight sleeping bag, one in this range would be ideal for many hikers because it keeps extra weight to a minimum while providing extra warmth. Montbell, a leader in down-insulated garments and sleeping bags, has introduced the Down Hugger 900 #2 for spring 2014. As the name implies, its insulated with 900 fill-power down and features Montbell's Super Spiral Stretch System (described below) which contracts the bag around your body and expands to provide loads of girth when you need it.


  • Introduction
    • Specifications and Features
  • Description
  • Field Testing
  • Comparisons
  • Evaluation

# WORDS: 2260

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Yosemite Adventures

Yosemite is a wild place and has incredible wilderness opportunities for hikers, climbers, and skiers. by Matt Johanson | 2014-06-10

Tuolumne Meadows to Sonora Pass provides a rugged yet rewarding stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail, definitely worth experiencing for backpackers who enjoy great scenery and don't mind a fairly committing route.

To shed a few pounds, many travel without tents. Be wary of mosquitoes and thundershowers, though. Bear cans are a necessity, hiking poles are strongly advised and fishing gear will improve meals and morale.

Food, camping and lodging are available in Tuolumne Meadows and Lee Vining near the southern trailhead. Nothing but the road and a parking lot awaits at the northern trailhead. Many finishing trips there meet a driver or hitchhike either west towards Sonora or east towards Bridgeport.


  • Introduction
  • Author Interview
    • How much weight do you carry when you backpack?
    • What are your favorite pieces of gear?
    • What is your style of Backpacking?
    • What make Yosemite so unique?
  • Chapter 29: Pacific Crest Trail: Tuolumne Meadows to Sonora Pass (pp. 144-155)
  • Overview
  • Hiking the hike
  • Insider tips
  • Distances and details

# WORDS: 1420
# PHOTOS: 11

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(M) Beyond Our Boundaries: Episode 8

Follow the story of a family of five as they backpack over 2000 miles from Georgia to Maine. by Damien and Renee Tougas | 2014-06-03

The Tougas Family is embarking on an exciting journey; their ambitious plan is to backpack the Appalachian as a family. This episode introduces their plan, gear, and the individual skills brought to the production by each of the family members. The beauty about this project is that the family is learning how to do this sort of trip from scratch and the end product will be something that others families can use for similar endeavors.

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(M) Onto The Shelf

Extremely rare conditions led to a once in a lifetime opportunity to explore the stunning ice shelf on Lake Superior. by Ari “Ike” Jutkowitz | 2014-05-27

We began our long walk toward the gas station, pausing occasionally to cock a thumb at the rare passing car. I wasn't too put out by our situation. Doug had been an insightful and humorous listener on the ride up and, as we hadn't planned on hitting the trail till morning, I had nothing more important to be doing at the moment than spending time with him on this little pre-adventure. Besides, with each passing car, I was learning how to string together profanity in ways I had never even considered before. Eventually, the kindness of Michiganders (and one loquacious Canadian on his way home from a hockey tournament) came through, and we were soon back at the car with a very expensive gallon of gas. We spent the night in at a motel not too far from the trailhead, staying up way too late talking as Doug packed and re-packed his backpack.

Morning dawned on a beautiful day. The skies were a clear blue with the kind of fluffy clouds that landscape photographers dream of. From my vantage point by the hotel balcony overlooking Lake Superior, I noticed that the ice shelf extended as far as I could see. Not even a trace of open water. Out in the distance, a train of snowmobilers headed across the bay on the frozen lake, and my heart gave a little lurch. I began to suspect that something awesome might be about to happen.


# WORDS: 2490
# PHOTOS: 32

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Deejo UL Knives

A very lightweight and practical backcountry knife. Useful for food prep with good hardness for its price. by Roger Caffin | 2014-05-27

For reasons best known to themselves (i.e. they haven't told me), gear-maker Baladeo recently spun off a small company called Deejo in France. Deejo's products (at the time of writing) are a range of ultra-light knives in three different sizes. These were mentioned in Matthew Pullan's report on ISPO 2014 in Germany, and given their very light weight and minimalistic construction it seemed we should take a closer look at them.


  • Introduction
  • Basic Technical Details
    • Naked Series
    • The Colors Series
    • The Wood Series
  • More Technical Details
    • Blade edge
    • Pivot Details
    • Liner Lock
    • Pivot
    • Belt Clip
    • Steel
  • Field use

# WORDS: 1970

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(M) Bikepacking at the Cusp

Nice gear is an added bonus, but don't get distracted by the research or gear hunting - the main goal is to get outside often! by David Chenault | 2014-05-20

It's been two years since I last wrote about bikepacking in these pages. A lot has changed in that brief span of time. Not about bikepacking itself; riding-focused multiday bike travel off pavement is as fun in 2014 as it has ever been. Not about the term bikepacking; which was used by as staid a publication as Backpacker back in April of 1995 (Mark Jenkins. "The Cycles of Nature" p. 80-86). What has changed about bikepacking is that it has become very cool. How-to articles have proliferated, and companies use the word as a major fulcrum for marketing. When an REI brochure combines a recently esoteric term with spick and span models in order to sell stuff, you know the activity has jumped the shark.

Unfortunately, this proliferation of publicity has followed the quintessential internet age phenomenon, where "look at this nifty thing you might like to do" has morphed into "how can I use up a ton of your free time to get you to research things you don't need." People locked away in office jobs (without which internet culture would not exist) are prone to fall more in love with the idea of the activity rather than the activity itself.


  • Prelude to a diatribe
  • What bike?
  • Just go ride, dammit

# WORDS: 1770

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