Gear Reviews: goTenna Text & GPS


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While backpacking the Appalachian Trail sometimes communication is difficult with a smartphone especially when you have a trail family down the trail that you want to communicate to right before an upcoming trail town or trail crossing and cell phone service does not exist. In the woods where you don’t have many cell phone towers or routers a goTenna Mesh device can greatly help in your adventure. 

PROS

  • One goTenna Mesh device weighs around 1.7 oz. Great to clip on the outside of pack and keep walking for long distances
  • The LiPo rechargeable battery life lasts around one full day. Add this with a Anker Power Supply and you could walk for at least a week on a steady power supply
  • Delivery confirmation when texting so that you know that the other party definitely got your message. 
  • Does not rely on satellite locations but a 1 watt UHF radio waves. I tried it in the field and got at least a 4 mile range with the device. This is highly dependent on topographic profile of landscape. 

CONS

  • Would be awesome if range was longer and worked off satellites so that you could talk to anyone anywhere kind of like an InReach or Spot Device. They are working on this idea with the “meshing idea” but the other people in your network have to have the device. 

 


Gear Reviews: Noso Puffy Patches

While on the trail for long distance hikers gear maintenance and repair is often overlooked as not being that important. When your shorts or puffy rips most thru hikers from what  I noticed went online to Amazon Prime to buy new gear or they just traded out there nice lightweight piece of gear for something a bit heavier at hostels in the Hiker Box. Instead of doing this I used NoSo Puffy Patches to repair parts of my sleeping bag and even used one when I had a downpour and the seam seal on my tarp wasn’t working properly. It worked like a charm. 

PROS

  • When you are hungry and tired after a long day of hiking the least you want to do is try to push a thread through a needle, just stick a patch on it. 
  • Works a TON better than duct tape which gums up on the sides of things and doesn’t stick after several dryings 
  • Save money on gear not having to buy a brand new expensive puffy jacket or sleeping bag, which breaks everyone bank
  • Design is much more fun and expressive than a boring rectangular piece of duct tape. The patches come in a variety of shapes and sizes including mustaches, stars, and even skull and crossbones! 


Gear Reviews: Give’r Gloves

While out on the trail I carried the Classic Give’r Gloves made by Give’r in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Before leaving, I tried to find a glove that would be semi waterproof and but also breathe while being on my hands and these gloves fit the bill very effectively. These gloves paired with my OR Versaliner mitts performed well on a cold rainy day for the entire day while using my hiking poles. I would definitely carry them in my pack every single time even on short weekenders.  I used them on rainy days but also for bouldering type conditions in the White Mountains as well as in parts of Maine where the rock was scraping the hands. Since winter is approaching Give’r also makes  a 4 season glove that has won the 2018 Backcountry Magazine Best of 2018

PROS

  • Shed the rain effectively when it was raining for long periods of up to 10 hours
  • Great for bouldering and hiking when trail is nearly vertical (ie Whites Mtns) and rocky
  • Used in collecting lots of firewood and processing firewood or doing some trail work

CONS

  • Bit bulky and heavy for the ultarlight backpacker. Look into the Lightweight Give’r Glove not Classic Glove if weight is a concern.
  • Did not dry that fast, but that is just leather in general. 

 


Gear Reviews: Scrubba Washbag

There were moments on the trail when my shirt and socks smelled so so bad that I literally smelled like garbage. No joke. I needed to wash my clothes ASAP. In came, The Scrubba Wash Bag, a built in washboard bag made like any other hiking stuff sack. I think while on the Trail I used the bag at least 7 times and every time my clothes came out smelling clean. That was a big morale booster at times. 

PROS

  • 6 easy step process that anyone can follow while out in the backcountry. Nice deflation of bag using a twist type valve at top of bag.
  • Using Dr. Bronners my socks always came out smelling wonderful and clean
  • Extra stuff sack that can be used to store other gear when not in use
  • Saved a bunch of money not using hostel/town washing machines which sometimes costs up to $6 a load. Everything adds up when hiking long distances.

CONS

  • As a lightweight backpacker the weight, 5.4 oz of bag was a bit heavy. If they could maybe use cuben fiber or silnylon it might attract more lightweight to ultralight backpackers. But I’m just being picky here

 


Gear Reviews: Gaia GPS App

As an Appalachian Trail thru hiker if you combine  Gaia GPS,  AWOL AT Guide , and Guthooks/Atlas Guides App on your smartphone device (total package will be around $100) this is all the navigation technology that you will ever need. Gaia GPS will allow you to view National Geographic Trails Illustrated Maps on your smartphone while you are hiking to get the big picture off the trail, log pictures of your hike to help you create a beautiful visual of your hike that is georeferenced, and also can track your data during the day to collect speeds/terrain of your hike.  I used Gaia GPS Pro while hiking the southern section of the Trail and liked how I knew exactly where I was on the trail without having to get a heavy paper Nat Geo map out of my pack and also the georeferenced photo feature. 

Pros

  • Many map layers including NatGeo Trails Illustrated, MapBox Streets HD, US Shaded Relief, Gaia Topo (feet) that can be downloaded while in trail towns before going offline 
  • Awesome to have nearby areas of interests including towns and roads in case of emergencies or for a better resupply of food 
  • Records photos, waypoints, tracks that are all georeferenced and can 
  • Power Saving features while in the backcountry. Between using this app, switching to Airplane mode and having an Anker powersupply I could go about 5 days without losing power. All depends on how often you use the App and your battery settings on your phone 
  • Doesn’t break the bank in costs and doesn’t weigh a single ounce since its all digital

Cons

  • No way of snapping to the nearest shelter or water source to give you distance to feature. Guthooks is used for this. As a thru hiker this is extremely important especially in dry areas such as Pennsylvania. 
  • Syncing large number of photos in folders through the cloud from my phone to internet took some time and was kind of annoying when I was really, really hungry or had other things to do in trail towns. 

For thru hikers, if Gaia GPS could combine all of their features with Atlas Guides/Guthooks distance/topo profile (how far water, shelters, campsites are from current location) and also include AWOLS trail town maps they would really produce something beyond this world in thru hiking world.  For weekenders or dayhikers with  full battery power and a backup, Gaia GPS is a great application to record your adventures in the great outdoors even while being offline. If you become a premium member for $30/year you will even get access to 250 National Geographic Trails Illustrated Maps, Expanded European Maps, US Hunting Maps, NeoTreks Premium Land Use Maps, and other specialized overlays for professionals. Tap into the wild by downloading the App today! 

 

 

 

 


Gear Reviews: Tree Tribe

While hiking the AT for 5 months I had the opportunity to try out some of Tree Tribes Wayfarer Bamboo Frames thanks to one of my sponsors, Tree Tribe . As a backpacker I absolutely loved them. On sunny days when I first started back in VA and GA they worked like a charm, feeling  sleek and almost weightless wrapping around the entirety of my head providing maximum sunlight protection. The cool thing about these shades is that they are made from handcrafted  100% real bamboo, float in water, and the company plants 10 trees on every purchase in parts of eastern Africa and even Nepal. To current date they have planted 115, 780 trees (See Tree Map)  Tree Tribe appreciates the planet and wants to make a difference in the world spreading positive vibes and representing the world in an eco-friendly way….which is different from many other companies in the world.  In the past I’ve used many kinds of sunglasses such as Oakley, Suncloud, Native but they were all plastic and they eventually broke. These glasses are completely wooden and  lasted a long time.

I was kind of surprised that even when water penetrated the surface ( I kept them in the top of my pack when I wasn’t wearing them) that the bamboo never faded or whitened as wood tends to do when wet. I highly recommend these sunglasses not only for their product but also for the environmental conscience effort they are making in trying to make the planet a better place by planting trees. If you don’t like sunglasses they also just came out with new line of teak leather bags and their stainless steel double insulated water bottles are one of the best out on the market.  Go check them out!

 


 


Few Things Learned on the Trail

Hey Everybody, 

So its been a couple of weeks since I’ve last posted a blog entry due to the fact that I have been trying to assimilate back into the “real world” and have been visiting family, friends, etc. A couple of days ago I headed back into the Great Smoky Mountains NP with my friend Peanut to hike a side trail off of the Appalachian Trail down Welch Ridge to campsite 82. As we came back the final day and climbed back to the ridgeline toward Clingmans Dome we made a lunch  stop at Double Springs Shelter. Here I met some SOBO hikers and some other friendly hiker faces which made made me miss my trail experience and reminiscing on the memories that I had made on the trail. Double Springs Shelter is one of the shelters I stayed at during the first week of May while on my NOBO through hike to ME. This is the place where I received my first trailname Whippersnapper and also where it snowed 8 inches causing Newfound Gap Road to close three times the next day. The memories came back and it began to stir all kinds of memories within me. 

I’ve been holding off on this last AT blog post to think deep about some things on what I’ve learned while being on the trail and how I could possibly use my AT experience in the “real world” for the better.  I will try not to sugarcoat any feelings and will therefore bring my thoughts as raw, and wild as I possible can  in a numbered format. 

  1. There are really good people in the world. The trail has really restored my faith in humanity and the goodness that people share. If you are constantly watching the news or reading the paper you always hear about the worst about society creating  fear that makes you lock up your doors, hold judgement with people in conversation, or even hide away from people. You need a sense of community in your life and people really aren’t all that bad. Yes, there are a few natural bad apples in the bunch but the majority of people are caring and just want the best for you. If they don’t they aren’t being real people. I can’t tell you how many people gave me trail magic along the way that boosted my morale to levels you couldn’t even imagine. Just a cold soda on the side of the street after a long hot day was one of the best rewards. Thanks to all that gave so much to me along the way.  I need to pay it forward in the future. 
  2. Having nothing but still being content. All I had was what was on my back for 5 months. That is all. You really realize whats important in life and what is just extra. Food. Water. Shelter. Some friendship/compassion with others. We get caught up in the “real world” and judge others by what we own.  I’ve noticed since being back that people  love to talk about gear/ things  we own…the next best thing. What I’ve learned is that if you have good food that comes from a good clean source, running water that is not polluted,  shelter/clothes from the elements, and some deep and caring  friends to socialize,  thats about all you really need to be really content. 
  3. Having goals are important and being patient. Since being back off the trail it has been really hard to focus on what is important in life because my life is distracted and pulled in so many directions. I’ve noticed that I’ve checked my cell phone numerous times every day and checked my social media page too many times. I feel like  the modern world is not teaching us a very good job of really connecting with people. Its getting too simple and unemotional with texting, snapchat, facebook, etc. As humans I think its important to have face to face communications which  happened daily on the trail. While on the trail as well, every thru hiker I met had the same goal of finishing the trail in their own fashion. Now that I’m back on the trail what goal am I trying to achieve? Even deeper what goals are society trying to achieve, if any?
  4. Hike your own hike. This is an overused phrase that many say on the trail but what does it really mean? For me and I’m trying to relate to the “real world” it means that we are all on different paths in the world and we are trying to just make sense of our own path. We sometimes in the “real world” get too caught up with other people and compare our paths with others. It really doesn’t matter because you are wired completely different than anyone else. You are you and it is beautiful and OK. I met some really weird people on the trail, but at the end of the day they are trying to get through their own problems and so am I. Its not a race to the finish in what the modern world tries to portray. 
  5. Mother Nature is nuturing but also ruthless. I had countless moments while on the trail where I was in the moment surrounded by gorgeous mountain tops all around and I was the only one at that location in time. It was freedom at its finest. Mother nature provides many resources for us including food, water, and materials for us to keep us comfortable. At the same time mother nature also throws in winds, torrential rain for days, snow, hail, flesh eating mosquitoes and even fire. It is scary in those situations. This is one of the reasons we as people have built up extravagant architectural buildings to protect and medicate ourselves from these types of conditions. In the end however, Mother Nature ALWAYS wins we just think we are better than her and that is one of our biggest problems as humans. We are not gods. I think we need to learn more from the natural world and hang in the balance somewhere in the middle. Not too much industrialism and not too much hippie-ism. Humility goes a long way. I guess this is a view on where you the environment fits into your worldview.

Listed above were just a few important things that I learned while being out in the elements for 5 months. I hope I can apply and teach others about my experience but I also understand there is so much to learn from anyone from any walk of life. We are all  in this world together just trying to find meaning and to feel comforted and be happy. Currently, I’m still trying to find the balance in life while in this crazy, fun world.

I’m hoping to continue my blog in the future and keep you updated on what I will be doing in my life down the road. I’ve had a lot of people express to me that I should write a book about my adventures. I’m still thinking about this one, its a challenging road to walk in writing a book when you don’t have steady income.  I’ve really connected with some of you along the journey on hiking the trail and hope to continue those relationships. If you would like to go hiking anytime soon in the Smokies or around the region (the closest region where I currently live) let me know. I’m always willing to get away and breath deep that sweet mountain air. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

—Red Hot 

 


Day 150, 151, 152 15.5 Miles

 

So it’s been a few days since I’ve update my blog since going to Bar Harbor and being home but I decided it was good time to catch up. I’m really missing the trail right now and will be taking a full blog post to write about what I’ve learned as a thru hiker and to also thank my many sponsors that helped me along the way. I will try to capture the last few days as vividly as possible since it’s been in the past a few days.

So I awoke from my stealth campsite near Abol Bridfe super early to get away from the area since I didn’t want to get caught trespassing. I walked past the Northern Restaurant toward Baxter State Park to begin the last leg of the journey before being picked up by shuttle driver into Millinknocket from Katahdin Stream Campground. The 10 miles was quite easy crossing a few streams and a couple beauiful waterfalls along the way. I was getting super antsy to get to the campground to see what friends of mine summitted for the day. I had to wait around for about 5 hrs for the shuttle when I arrived so I pitched my tent to get away from the bugs and ate some lunch in the meantime. I met a few parents and friends of a couple thru hikers as I waited and saw them giving hugs and congratulatory comments to the hikers as they crossed the bridge. Only if I was to that point. I got to see Zen and 007 as they finished and I asked them questions about the climb up the Hunt Trail. Very technical they said but it wasn’t too bad. The shuttle finally arrived around 4 and the ride back into Millinocket was bumpy fast. Grabbed bunk from the Ole Man at the AT Lodge then headed over to the local pizzeria with Zen, Hot Sauce, and Ziploc. I felt like I was in thru hiker purgatory because everyone around me summitted and were rubbing it in pretty harshly. Fell asleep pretty soon after that. Tomorrow I get to see my girlfriend! Finally!

I’ll leave out the details from the morning until my girlfriend arrived but it was fillled with a bunch of waiting and food. At around 5 or so she finally pulled up in Subaru crosstrek giving a full hug and kiss. Ahhhhh it was so comforting to be back in her arms again. For the night we grabbed some pizza east of town and then the next day just relaxed at the hotel. I did some more waiting as she had to complete some graduate level homework.

The final day has finally arrived, the climb up Katahdin! We both left the hotel early to arrive at the Togue Gate to pay our dues and get a parking spot at Katahdin Stream. Once we got a spot we walked across the bridge to register for a thru hiker permit with Baxter State Park. The permit is a blue card with your trailname and number hiker summiting the mountain. I was number 924 for the year. I asked about the weather and it was supposed to be a perfect day! The first bit of the climb was gradual along Katahdin Stream but eventually it became rocky like the Whites, then even rockier as you kept ascending. My friends a couple days ago were so right it was very technical. There was a spot with rebar for a handheld and a foot which made us both kind of nervous. We trudged forward with a bit of easterly wind finally arriving to the Tablelands where the trail leveled off completely until one final push to the sign! After about 5 hours we finally arrived to the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. Wow! Words cannot describe the feeling. I took my pictures, had a celebratory beer ontop, and even got interviewed while up on top. The views were spectacular in all directions especially of the Knife Edge on the eastern flank of the mountain. I AM DONE with the trail! After giving one last hoot I climbed down the Saddle trail back into the “Real World”.

 


Day 149 11.1 Miles

Day 149 11.1 Miles

Today marks the last day in the 100 Mile Wilderness and the last day of official tent camping. I decided not to go to Birches Lean-to which is the last AT Shelter on the trail but to hang back at Abol Bridge and find a stealth campsite somewhere out of the way. As I approached Abol Store I was told by a park authority not to to stealth camp anywhere in Baxter State Park. So after eating a late lunch of some fish and chips I headed around the area to find a place. It is really crazy this is the last night for me on the trail. Tomorrow I will be hiking the 10 miles into Birches inside of Baxter SP and then taking a shuttle/hitching into Millinocket to stay a night at the AT Lodge. The whole next day I will be waiting for my girlfriend to arrive on Tuesday and then will not summit until Thursday or Friday of that week. The anticipation is killing me. I’ve already seen some other thru hikers who just finished and their smiles were huge. One told me it’s like being a kid on Christmas again, the feeling you get when you finish. I have to wait a few days, but it so worth it. In the meantime I will take my time and take in the last few moments of being in the wilderness.


Day 148 17.8 Miles

Day 148 17.8 Miles

Woke up to a section hiker asking me if I wanted bacon and eggs on a tortilla. Heck yea! He even made 007 some and offered some to Zen. Too bad he was vegan. Got down to Nahmankanta Lake where a local resident who’d been canoeing for a few days offered fresh grown veggies and fruit and a wonderful conversation about our adventure. Climbed up Nesuntabunt Mountain where I ate lunch while having a 16 mile line of sight view of Katahdin in the distance. What a beauty! The profile of the mountain changed now from a tableland plateau into more prominent features. While there I ran into another Kentuckian that knew one of my childhood orthodontists. It’s such a small world. They asked a bunch of questions and wished us a congratulations for making this far. The rest of the day I hiked out with Zen and 007 stopping at Rainbow Lake Campsite. The spring water here was cold and the best I’ve had in Maine so far and the views of the lake were pretty spectacular. Overall it was a good day and I was way more social than most days which is good preparation before my girlfriend arrives on Tuesday. Had a large fire for dinner as one of the last major nights on the trail. Tomorrow, Abol Bridge and stuffing myself with food.

 


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