Katadyn BeFree Upgrade! – Larger Water Bag & Gravity Filter System

Using the Katadyn BeFree Water Filter with a HydraPak Seeker 2L Reservoir and Gravity Filter Tubing Setup.

After my previous review of the Katadyn BeFree water filter, I discovered and acquired a compatible water reservoir bag that would increase my filtering capacity to 2L – the HydraPak Seeker collapsible water bottle (also available in a 3 liter version).  The main challenge with the BeFree filter is finding a water bottle or reservoir with wide mouth 42mm threads, which the HyrdaPak has.

In the video I go over my thoughts and experiences using the Katadyn BeFree in conjunction with the HydraPak Seeker 2L and Sawyer Squeeze 64 oz Pouch as part of a gravity water filter system, as well as a stand alone squeeze style system using just the HydraPak Seeker and BeFree.

System Components Seen in the Video

Katadyn Befree Water Filter With Hydrapak 0.6L Collapsible Flask
Hydrapak Seeker 2L Water Storage Bag, Mammoth Grey (for dirty water)
Sawyer Inline Adapters for Screw On Filters
1/4″ Food Grade Plastic Tubing
Sawyer Squeeze Bag – 64 oz Pouch (for clean water)

Winter Camping with a Sled

For this Backpacking Trip, we use a Pulk Sled to go Winter Camping in the Deep Snow of the White Mountains.

Mike and I originally planned to do a long overdue return trip to Mt Crawford for some winter backpacking and camping, but as is usually the case, the notorious weather of the White Mountains thwarted our efforts.  With a higher summits forecast from the White Mountains Observatory calling for -60° wind chills due subzero temps combined with high winds and gusts upwards of 90 MPH, we opted to stick to the lower elevations instead.  So we shelved our higher elevation idea to camp on Mt Crawford, and instead started scouting for a new location on the fly.

Basically, we were winging it in terms of trip planning, but fortunately I was armed with a full set of White Mountains AMC maps to keep up safely prepared on whatever trail we ended up cast upon by the winter hiking gods.

In the video we do some snow campsite selection and setup, tons of firewood collection, snow furniture building, campfire cooking, trail sledding on the rather steep Airline Trail, and overall just plain having a fun time out in the snowy woods of New Hampshire for a few days.

Downloadable GPS data for this trip and others can be found on the Trip Data Page.

Winter Sled Camping Route Overview – Sintax77

Time of Year
Mid February

Parking Location
Appalachia Trailhead Parking Lot
44°22’17.6″N 71°17’19.9″W

Trailhead
Appalachia Trailhead on Presidential Hwy (Hwy 2), Randolph, NH

Trails Used, Day One

  • Valley Way Trail
  • Randolph Path
  • Airline Trail
  • Setup Camp near Airline Trail
  • Located in the middle of the triangle formed for the Airline, Randolph Path, and Valley Way Trails.We used this campsite with significant snow pack on the ground so leveling out a decent platform for a tent was no problem. Based on my experience in this general area on previous summer trips, I would assume it would not make a very accommodating tentsite without snow, due to the steep and rugged terrain.

Day 1 Mileage: 2 miles
Day 1 Elevation Gain: 1,122′

Winter Sled Camping Day 1 Elevation Profile – Sintax77

Trails Used, Day Two

  • Airline Trail
  • Return to vehicle at Appalachia Trailhead Parking Lot

Day 1 Mileage: 1 mile
Day 1 Elevation Gain: 6′ (pretty brutal, I know)

Winter Sled Camping Day 2 Elevation Profile – Sintax77

Notable Gear Seen and Used in the Video

AMC White Mountains Full Map Set
Camp’ brand backpacking Snow Shovel
MSR Whisperlight Universal Stove (we were using white gas)
MSR Flex Skillet
Coghlan Camp Grill Grate
Nemo Losi 3p Tent
Z-Lite Sleeping Pad (Yellow pad used for bench, I stacked it on top of a Big Agnes Q-Core SUL pad for sleeping at night)
Therm-A-Rest Pro Sleeping Pad (Mikes sleep pad)
Hammock Gear Burrow 0° Top Quilt
Scandinavian Gear Backpack (my red pack)
Gregory Palisades 80 Backpack (Mike’s pack)
MSR Denali Ascent Snowshoes (my grey snowshoes)
Atlas 10 Snowshoes (Mike’s snowshoes)
Coghlan Fire Sticks (Fire starter used on day 2)
Sled – I’m honestly not sure what brad it was, but below is a pretty highly rated, heavy duty gear sled listed on Amazon.

Hiking the Grayson Highlands – Solo Backpacking Trip

Join me for 3 days of Solo Backpacking, Hiking, Hammock Camping, & Wild Ponies on the Appalachian Trail in Virginia’s Grayson Highlands.

For this backpacking trip, I’ll be hiking and camping solo in a section of the Mt Rogers National Recreation Area, within the larger George Washington and Jefferson National Forest.  I’ll be using a portion of the Appalachian Trail to create a 3 day, 2 night backpacking loop of around 20 miles or so.  The Grayson Highlands are known for their high winds and unpredictable, rapidly changing weather, so being that I’m doing the trip in March, I’ll be packing amount of warm weather and rain resistant gear.  If you’re interested in a detailed account of everything that I packed, check out my previous Winter Ultralight Backpacking Gear List blog post and video.  That will give you a look at exactly what I packed for the trip.

Grayson Highlands Backpacking Trip Route Overview – Sintax77

Below is a daily rundown of the trails and campsites used for each day.  Full GPS track data can be found on the Trip Data page.

Parking Location

Grayson Highlands State Park, Overnight Backpacker’s Parking Area at the Massie Gap Parking Lot.  N36° 38.012′ W81° 30.322′

Trails Used, Day 1

  • Depart Massie Gap Parking Lot
  • Rhododendron Trail
  • Appalachian Trail South
  • Wilburn Ridge Trail (it’s also possible to stay on the AT)
  • Rejoin the Appalachian Trail South
  • Setup camp about 200 yards past the Thomas Knob Shelter.

Day 1 Mileage: 4.25 miles
Day 1 Elevation Gain: 2,096′

A spring is about a 100 yards down the trail behind the shelter.

Camping options for tents and hammocks are available a few hundred yards past the shelter, heading south. Tenting spots are on the ridge to the left, hammock camping opportunities are in the trees to the right.

There are also some nice campsite opportunities about a 1/4 mile or so before the shelter as well (AT north from the shelter)

Grayson Highlands Day 1 Elevation Profile – Sintax77

Trails Used, Day 2

  • Continue on the Appalachian Trail South
  • Mt Rogers Trail Towards Grindstone Campground (not to be confused with the Mt
  • Rogers Spur Trail which hits the summit of Mt Rogers.  That trail is available shortly after leaving the campsite.  I’ve heard it doesn’t have any views, but it holds the distinction as Virginia’s highest peak).
  • Lewis Fork Spur Trail (turn here a couple of miles before hitting the campground).
  • Cliffside Trail
  • Crest Trail
  • Scales Trail
  • Setup Camp near the intersection of Scales Trail with the Appalachian Trail

Day 2 Mileage: 11 miles
Day 2 Elevation Gain: 1,320′

There are a number of hammock and tent camping opportunities on the edge of the field opposite from the AT intersection.

There is plenty water in several directions from the intersection. The particular campsite I used (tagged in my GPS data) has water right next to it within 20 yards or so.

Grayson Highlands Day 2 Elevation Profile – Sintax77

Trails Used, Day 3

  • Continue on the Scales Trail South (note: it is possible to continue on the AT
  • South and eventually make your way back to the Massie Gap parking lot as well.  I chose the scales route because it is considerably quicker and I had to do a long drive home upon reaching the lot.)
  • Seed Orchard Trail (this wasn’t on my Nat Geo Map, but after coming out of the woods, you’ll see a sign directing you towards the AT by turning right.  Instead, look left.  You’ll see a water crossing with a brown Grayson Highlands State Park sign listing various rules and regs.  The path along the fence over there is the Seed Orchard Trail)
  • Follow signs towards Hickory Ridge Campground.
  • Past the campground, there will be a large metal gate for a Horse Trail
  • Follow the Horse Trail (there doesn’t seem to be a fancier name for it)
  • Appalachian Spur Trail towards the Backpacker’ s Parking Lot
  • Return the Massie Gap Parking Lot

Day 3 Mileage: 3.5 miles
Day 3 Elevation Gain: 499′

Grayson Highlands Day 1 Elevation Profile – Sintax77

 

Trip Grand Total Mileage: 18.75 miles
Trip Grand Total Elevation Gain: 3,915′

Map Used for this Trip: National Geographic Map #318, Mt Rogers High Country

Katadyn BeFree Water Filter Review

My thoughts & review of the Katadyn BeFree Collapsible Water Filter Bottle – 0.6 Liter for Backpacking & Camping

The Katadyn BeFree is a backpacking water filter with a very small footprint and low overall weight.  In this video I’ll cover all of the bases from the initial unboxing, to specific features, individual item weights, test usage out in the field, pros and cons based on individual backpacking styles, as well as some thoughts of future improvements for the system.

Specs and Features as per the Manufacturer

  • Dimensions (in) 9.05
  • Diameter (in) 2.73 ∅
  • Output (gal) 2.11 quart/min
  • Technology Hollow fiber filter 0.1 micron
  • Weight (kg) (oz) 2.05
  • 0.1 micron water filter removes harmful organisms like bacteria 99.9999% and protozoa like Giardia & Cryptosporidium 99.9%, surpassing EPA standards
  • Collapsible 0.6L hydrapak soft bottle flask packs down small to fit in tight spaces (pant or jacket pockets, purses, cycling jerseys, fly vests.
  • Ez-clean Membrane is simple and easy to clean by simply shaking or swishing the filter to clean debris, no backflushing or extra tools required
  • Filters up to 1,000 liters of contaminated water without using chemicals or other devices and • hydrate quickly and easily with the free flow channels fast flow rate
  • Stay clean drink nozzle keeps the mouthpiece clean and sanitary (replaceable with standard plastic water bottle caps)

Update: After further research, it looks like there may indeed be a third party bag that works with the wide mouth threads on the BeFree filter cartridge.  It looks promising, but I have not been able to personally test it’s compatibility.  It’s called the Hydrapak Seeker 2L Water Storage Bag

 

HikingBear Trekking Poles Review

A Review of HikingBear Trekking Poles

In addition to checking out the Hiking Bear poles I also discuss my personal experiences with finding the the right trekking poles for ones individual needs in terms of balancing price, features, quality, etc.  For comparison, I compare to other poles to the HB poles, as well as go over the differences in how to use the trekking poles in terms of locking mechanisms, etc.

Other poles seen in the video
Suisse Gear Trekking Poles – my first budget hiking poles.
Black Diamond Ultra Mountain FL Z-poles – heavier grade poles for more rugged winter trips, mountaineering trips, etc. (no longer in production?)

Specs for the Hiking Bear Trekking Poles, as per the Manufacturer

Carbon Fiber Shaft for reduced weight with and increased strength vs aluminum
Weight: 8.1 ounces per pole (I confirmed this on my own scale)
3 section collapsible shaft.
Collapsed length: 25.6 inches.
Maximum expanded length: 53.1 inches.
Grip: Ergonomic syncork grip made of soft EVA material with strap, waterproof and anti-slip texture.
Tip options for different terrain: Each pole comes with a pavement and a snow basket to prevent sinking in a variety of hiking terrain, especially muddy basin, snowfield or grassland.

 

Grayson Highlands Route Planning – Solo Winter Backpacking Trip Pt 3

Creating a Backpacking Loop for my upcoming winter solo camping trip in Virginia’s Grayson Highlands.

For part three of this series, I’ll be going over my specific route selection for my solo backpacking loop, including trails used, potential parking / starting points, and expected camping areas for each night.  The map I chose to purchase for this trip, based on viewer feedback, was National Geographic’s Map #318 for the Mount Rogers High Country Grayson Highlands State Park region of Virginia.

A good portion of this loop will utilizing the Appalachian Trail, within the Mt Rogers National Recreation Area, as well as several other connecting trails within the Lewis Fork Wilderness and Little Wilson Creek Wilderness areas.

I will be doing continued updates throughout the whole process of planning this winter hiking trip. All the way from location selection, specific route planning, packing, food choices, getting there, doing the actual trip, and whatever else may come up in between, so check back for updates!