This was a good one. Trips this long are rare, so I tried to be conservative on overall trip mileage to ensure time for some side exploring, picture taking, and maybe a nap or two.
I’ll let route specifics be vague, though many won’t have any trouble figuring it out. Route creativity can be one of the more rewarding aspects of wilderness travel. Trying to find unpublished routes in and out of canyons, dealing with water problems with no beta, and having to wander around or turn around every once in a while makes things more fun.
I recently got back from a six day trip in the Escalante area and have too much going on right now for a full report, but here’s a bit of gear geekery in the meantime. Prior to the trip I picked up a used Sigma DP2 Merrill. (more…)
We finally bought packrafts this winter for Christmas; two Scouts that had their maiden voyage last weekend. We opted for Scouts over the bigger boats for some weight savings on trips where they’re carried a lot (like this one) and because they seemed like they’d be adequate for most of the water we have in these parts.
The Pinnacle. We had planned to make it all the way to the river, but Happy ended up being a bit longer than expected and we ended up camping a mile or so above the narrows. No rain in the night but we did have a few drops later the next morning.
We had flows around 175 CFS, which seemed pretty good. Higher would definitely be better; lower would probably get frustrating.
It was funny having no idea how quickly we were going to be moving. It was a bit concerning after putting in that we immediately had to carry the boats around a super shallow, rocky, woody bend when we were already behind schedule. That ended up being the only really bad spot and the rest of the day was a blast.
By early afternoon, it was becoming apparent that I had pretty badly underestimated the mileage of the canyon. I was thinking 18ish to the top, 5 to our bikes that we’d dropped, then a couple miles ride back to the truck. That ended up being quite optimistic. It was starting to look like it was going to be a late one…
It was almost dark by the time we got to the top of the Big Ridge. We had some nice views of the Henrys on the way up…
The finishing miles were a bit arduous, but it’s a small price to pay for trips like this on a three-day weekend. Total miles ended up being about 60 hiked, 20 boated. I’m pretty smitten with the boats. The amount of fun for function is insane.
Making a loop out of these canyons has been on my to-do for at least a couple years. I’ve spent a decent amount of time in the area, but never backpacking. Saturday morning was pleasant walking in splendid early March weather.
I was able to follow the trail intermittently as I gradually continued to climb. On top, rotten snow and clay mud made the going quite a bit less fun than the canyon floor. I laughed out loud when I stepped onto the soils of this short section; it was like hiking through Crisco.
I didn’t mind the mud as much as I minded the fact that the upper bench was completely decimated by cattle. Adding soggy cowpies and the fields of dense prickly pear that are often a consequence of heavy disturbance made the afternoon increasingly not fun. After about eight miles of of this, with probably another eight to go to the top of the other canyon (and a big chunk of that on old jeep roads), I decided I’d had enough. I took my time walking towards the sandstone rim of the inner canyon and made camp.
In the morning I walked the rim until I found a break in the cliffs that looked like it would go to the bottom. The canyon floor, which I expected to be a thrash (the main reason I had taken the rim route), had enough game trails to make brush a non-issue. I was somewhat disappointed I hadn’t just taken the floor all the way up the canyon, or done the route the opposite direction. My camera battery died (with no backup) the previous afternoon, so I only was able to squeeze out one last pic on the way back. Out of focus because I fired the shutter as soon as it powered up, but above are Sclerocactus glaucus, endemic to western Colorado.
On Saturday afternoon I felt somewhat bitterly satisfied; I had spent enough time in the area that I didn’t really care that I didn’t finish the route, and the new parts I had seen were ugly and disappointing. After a couple days of more level-headed reflection, though, I’m sure I’ll be back. Canyon floors all the way this time, though.
My goals to improve on the quilt I’ve used the past couple years were primarily a bit more fill and some shape tweaking. Shell and liner are Nobull2 from Tigoat, which is probably the best balance of weight, cost, breathability, wind/water resistance, and hand/feel that I’ve used. Dimensions are 52″ wide for almost the whole upper half to accomodate my knees-up side sleeping, tapering to 38″ at the footbox. ~73″ long. Fill weight is right at 11 oz and total weight is 16.5 oz. The aim was 30ish degrees with a couple ounces of overfill.
There’s a pretty hard curve in at the shoulders. On my previous quilt, I rarely adjusted anything. I had the drawcord pulled in so it was tight over my shoulders and left it. On this one I tried to shave some weight by just shaping the quilt that way. I also used a two piece, top-bottom design rather than one single large flat quilt with a sewn footbox. This allows for a bit more precise shape and, at least in theory, makes the quilt tend to stay on top of the user and less likely to roll off. It’s not really any more difficult than a single piece: cut out four pieces of what you want the final shape to be, cut two of those pieces in half lengthwise (this will be the bottom), sew those bottom pieces to the top pieces at the sides, and proceed as normal. Feel free to ask questions if that doesn’t make sense.
As for the colors, lets just say I was out of black thread, rolled with what I had, and it almost got much more out of hand than this (think dangerously close to a quilt in the more traditional sense).
The last big project for the winter will be a ‘mid. Stay tuned.
We had a forecast for snow this weekend, which I quite like hiking in. Unfortunately I sold both of our shelters recently and don’t yet have a replacement. A 60″x60″ piece of silnylon with some corner tieouts and a bivy would have to do.
The original goal was to try to find some arches above one of the nearby canyons, but I underestimated the amount of snow on the north-facing climb, or maybe just overestimated my current fitness. 15+ miles with a 1 pm start just wasn’t happening, which was fine (I don’t particularly care about arches anyway).
Great rim views…
Late afternoon between canyons I decided to abort the arch mission and head back to the rim of Rattlesnake Canyon. Lots of snowy looking clouds but still no snow…
Back to Rattlesnake. Now’s the time to be here because the upper access road is closed. Gotta love cherrystem roads in wilderness areas…
I set up camp under a pinyon, started a little fire, and was generally enjoying myself until the snow finally came, but with lots of wind. I waited it out a bit, fumbled with my silly tarp setup, and eventually decided to pack up and start hiking again. I of course left my headlamp in the truck, so hiked by the light of my steripen. A few miles later I found a bunch of junipers against a wall and pitched the tarp low to block the blowing snow (like crawl in, 6″ above my face low). It wouldn’t have been a good idea for more than a night, but worked fine. It was snowing (without wind) when I woke up, but not much accumulation. Morning…
The hike home made up for any previous frustration…
While I’ve been mostly happy with the last couple packs I’ve made, I’ve been wanting something more simple and durable. Climbing in and out of canyons is especially hard on packs, and I’ve been getting about a year out of VX21 before it’s pretty patched up. Canyon walls, especially while traversing ledges, has been the most frequent cause of damage, along with the occasional haul in scrambling sections. I received some samples from Cubic of some of their hybrid Cubens and was pretty impressed. The laminates with the heavier face fabrics come in around 5oz, are impressively abrasion resistant, and absorb basically zero water. I would have probably gone with one of these had Cubic had any small pieces in stock to avoid a minimum order.
DX40 is really good stuff and would have been fine, but I feel like the face fabric could be better constructed. It’s surprisingly easy to tear along the 125d polyester fill and the X ply and ripstop could be done away with if there were some dyneema in the fill.
I ended up with a full dyneema/high-bias cuben laminate. It was pricy, but still quite a bit cheaper than buying a new pack and with careful planning and combining with other fabrics, I could get two packs out of a yard. Simple and adaptable design means it should last a very long time. It’s a bit over 5 oz/sq yd and was super easy to work with. Aside from price and the mandatory white, it’s hard to imagine a better pack fabric.
Measure six or seven times, cut once…
The big one: 34″circumference at the bottom up to the shoulders, 38″ from there to the top, 39″ tall, 11″ wide back panel. Daisies are about 9″ apart. 26.5 oz with stays and foam sheet, without hipbelt. I made a hipbelt but the shape needs some work.
Harness is DX40 with VX42 in the hipbelt/lumbar area for added stiffness/sag resistance.
Hipbelt attachment is via velcro behind the lumbar pad. Lumbar pad is a sandwich of 3d mesh, 1/4″ evazote, 1/8″ 12lb density CCF, VX42. The evazote and 1/8″ foam are both from North Shore Inc. I was looking for some good stiff foam for hipbelts and harness components and requested samples from any foam suppliers I could find who would do small orders, and North Shore was by far the winner. The 12lb is great stuff, as is the evazote.
Inside out to show inside of lumbar section. North shore mistakenly sent me the 1/8″ with a backing adhesive, which turned out to be be pretty good and gives even better structure to a critical area of the pack. The top part looks like a rodent got to it because it was a bit high and dug into my back so I tore some away.
Rest of the inside. Pad sleeve goes to the lumbar section. I decided to not have it go all the way so I could attach the lower stays directly to the pack body/lumbar section.
I’ve used flat stays on the last couple packs I’ve used, but this is the first time I used 7075 aluminum (from Online Metals). The difference from 6061 is substantial. Stays are 1/8″ x 1/2″ and weigh about 5oz for the pair.
I don’t have too strong of feelings on closures. I generally prefer roll tops that attach to themselves (as opposed to the sides), whithout velcro or anything to snag on things, and with a good stiffener (webbing doesn’t cut it…I used cheap thin cutting boards).
Shoulder strap attachment and load lifters. Straps are 2.5″ wide, spaced 2.5″ apart. We’ll see if the load lifters stay. Between excellent fitting shoulder straps, the tapered side, and stays that extend above the shoulder strap attachment, even a heavy load is remarkably stable and comfortable and the pack sits basically where the load lifters would adjust it to. In other words, they aren’t doing much.
The little one:
The smaller pack is 28″ circumference at the bottom, 31″ for the upper part, 34″ tall, 9.5″ wide back panel. 16.4 oz with foam framesheet.
The harness on this one is basically the same, minus the stays and dense foam inside the pack.
Inside showing full length pad sleeve. The daisy bartacks are backed by extra fabric at the compression straps and all of them Seam Gripped.
Pfaff 138 in action. This machine is about 75% ideal…I also have a walking foot head for this table, which is nice for packs, but the Pfaff still gives a pretty good stitch through lots of layers and can bartack.
I added looplocks to both packs for easy strap attachment.
Overall I’m quite pleased with both. Even without a to-be-made hipbelt, fit and carry is excellent and I’m itching to break ‘em in. Questions and comments are welcome.