Maroon Bells Pt 2 – The Hike! – Backpacking in Colorado

Join Mike & I on Colorado’s Four Pass Loop for 3 days of hiking, backpacking & hammock camping.

For this multi-part adventure, we’ll be faced with two challenges.

Phase 1 (seen in the prior Pt 1 video): Driving on a substantial time crunch from the east coast to Colorado, without any hotels or road food purchases.  This will not only keep the budget low, but will also save us a ton of time by not having to check-in/out, be tempted to sleep in, decide where/what to eat, stand in lines etc.  Sleeping will be done in the car (while the other person drives) and all meals will be comprised of cooler-stored left-overs and pre-purchased beverages.  The only stops allowed: bathroom breaks and gas pumps.

Phase 2 (covered in this video, Pt 2) will be a multi-day hike of the Four Pass Loop, within the Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness, located just outside of Aspen Colorado (about 3 hours west of Denver).  We chose to do the loop in a counter-clockwise direction.

Trailhead Used: Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness Trailhead N39° 05.979′ W106° 56.260′

Full GPS track data and waypoints for various POI’s on this trip are available for download on the Trip Data Page.

Trails Used, Day 1 (in order)
Maroon Snowmass Trail
Camp near Snowmass Lake

Maroon Bells Day 1 Elevation Profile - Sintax77

Maroon Bells Day 1 Elevation Profile – Sintax77

Day 1 Mileage: 9 miles
Day 1 Gross Elevation Gain: 3,202′

Trails Used, Day 2 (in order)
Geneva Lake Trail
North Fork Cutoff Trail
North Fork Trail
West Maroon Pass Trail
Camp near West Maroon Pass Trail

Maroon Bells Day 2 Elevation Profile - Sintax77

Maroon Bells Day 2 Elevation Profile – Sintax77

Day 2 Mileage: 15 miles
Day 2 Gross Elevation Gain: 4,488′

Trails Used, Day 3 (in order)
West Maroon Pass Trail
Maroon Snowmass Trail
Return to vehicle at Maroon Snowmass Trailhead

Maroon Bells Day 3 Elevation Profile - Sintax77

Maroon Bells Day 3 Elevation Profile – Sintax77

Day 3 Mileage: 4.8
Day 3 Gross Elevation Gain: 305′


Mileage Grand Total for Trip: 28.8
Gross Elevation Gain Grand Total for Trip: 7,995′


Renovo Trio – Filter Stages & Replacement Parts Identification

I misidentified some parts in my Renovo Trio Final Thoughts video, so here’s a proper rundown of the three stages of water filtration.

  • Stage 1: Pre-Filter (paper disc)
  • Stage 2: Renovo Trio UF hollow fiber membrane
  • Stage 3: Renovo Trio Activated carbon tip (replace after 12 months or 1,000 liters)

Renovo Trio Water Filter – Final Thoughts & Detailed Review

My final thoughts and a detailed look at the pros and cons of the Renovo Trio water filtration system for backpacking and survival situations.

As discussed in the video, the Renovo Trio water filter is a solid and capable system for water filtration while in the field.  Whether or not it’s the best filter for you depends on your personal needs and environment, which we discuss in the video.

It should be noted that this video wasn’t intended to be a “versus” between the Renovo Trio and the Sawyer Squeeze / Sawyer Mini water filter systems, but it would leave a pretty big void if those systems where ignored.  As you’ll see, the Sawyer filters are the most similar, and yet different in many ways, systems to the Renovo Trio.  Ultimately, I would say that if your in the market for either, you’d be cheating yourself not to investigate the merits of both and choose which is right for you.  Hopefully, this video helps make that decision at least a little bit easier for someone out there who’s on the fence.

But hey, even if you could care less about these particular water filters, this video makes for a perfect excuse to nerd out about microns, viruses and bacteria along the way, so at the very least, we’ve got that going for us.

Specs and Water Filter Description as per Manufacturer:

UF Filter Pore Size: .05 Microns
Dimensions: 7.1″ x 1.4″
Weight: 3.5 oz.
Capacity: 1000L
Flow rate:= 200 ml/min

1. Pre-filter:

Similar to a coffee filter, the purpose of the pre-filter is to remove large particulates in the water. This enables the Trio to be used in turbid water sources. This filter element is rated at 5 microns. The Trio comes with 4 replacements of the pre-filter.

2. Renovo Trio UF hollow fiber membrane

The Ultra Filtration (UF) hollow fiber membrane is unique in a couple ways. First, it has a large surface area that enables a high flow rate. Second, the membrane has a smaller pore size than most other hollow fiber membrane filters. When the hollow fiber membrane has reduced flow, simply back flush the filter with clean water and continue use. It is recommended to back flush this element before putting in storage.

3. Renovo Trio Activated carbon tip

The last filter element is a carbon impregnated fiber. To be effective, water must be in contact with the carbon so the carbon can absorb the contaminates. Many water filters use a granular carbon that can develop pathways or channels through the medium which reduces exposure. Block carbon is by far the best method of exposing water to the medium but has a significantly low flow rate. Using a carbon impregnated fiber, the Trio is able to maximize exposure while minimizing the pathways or channels that can develop in other filters.

A note on the Packaging

The innovation does not stop with the filter technology. The Renovo Trio is packaged in a hermetically sealed bag that extends the life of the filter. Activated carbon, when exposed to air can begin the degrade and lose the effectiveness of the medium. Because of the unique packaging of the Trio, it can be stored for many years and retain the effectiveness of the filter. Each replacement filter elements come in a hermetically sealed bag as well.


A Taste of the Appalachian Trail – Hiking, Hammock Camping, & Amok Draumr 3.0 Hammock Testing

Join Sara &  for some backpacking, hiking and hammock camping along the Appalachian Trail in Virginia’s James River Face Wilderness Area.

For this fall backpacking trip we’ll be dipping into the world of the Appalachian Trail while testing out some new hammock camping gear – most notably, the Amok Draumr 3.0 Hammock system.  The Draumr is a rather unique flat hammock that I touched on in a previous blog post and video, ‘Amok Draumr 3.0 – A Super Flat Hammock? – First Look‘.  As discussed in that video, the Draumr works in conjunction with an inflatable sleeping pad to create what is essentially a floating bed.  It can also be used in a chair configuration for lounging at camp.  In addition to testing out the Draumr, I’ll be trying out some whoopie slings rigged up with some Dutch Whoopie Hooks.  The hooks allowed for a really quick and simple way to attach and detach the whoopie slings to my trusty Darien Dream Hammock.

With our shelter and sleeping methods squared away, we were ready for some exploration of the east coast’s most fabled long distance hiking path – the Appalachian Trail, the “AT” as it’s affectionately called by those of us who prefer a nice acronym now and the.  While I’ve incorporated pieces of the AT into many of my trips before, this particular hike seemed to really capture the spirit and flavor of the Appalachian Trail.

James River Face Wilderness - Route Overview - Sintax77

James River Face Wilderness – Route Overview – Sintax77

Along the way, we bumped into and chatted with some friendly southbound Thru-hikers (or “SoBo’s” as they’re commonly called), checked out a classic example of an Appalachian Trail Shelter  (Matt’s Creek Shelter), got some great laughs and stories out of the shelter’s trail journal, and got a healthy dose of rolling ridge line views.  While it was obviously no comparison to the experience of actually being out on the AT for five to seven months over the course of it’s roughly 2,200 miles, it was a great little 2 day crash course of what life might be like for the some of the 12,000 or so alumni who have hiked the Appalachian Trail since it’s inception back in 1937.

Who knows, maybe some day Sara and I will be among those dedicated hikers as well, but for now, the occasional appetizer version is quite tasty too!  Below is are some details on the section that we did.  GPS track data, along with waypoints for our campsite and other points of interest are available for download on our Trip Data Page as well.

Trailhead and Parking: James River Footbridge  N37° 35.819′ W79° 23.474′

The James River Face Wilderness Area is a protected area located within the Jefferson National Forest, about 1 hour north of Roanoke, Virginia.

Route Taken and Trails Used, Day One

  • Access the James River Foot Bridge by heading out of parking lot and passing under the railroad trestle.  SinFact: This is the longest pedestrian ridge on the entire Appalachian Trail
  • Leaving the foot bridge, turn left to continue following the AT along the banks of the river for a while.
  • The trail will eventually turn away from the river and and head deeper into the woods,following along Matt’s Creek.
  • Arrive at Matt’s Creek Shelter for a snack break at the picnic bench, and an entertaining peek at the shelter log.
  • Leaving the shelter, head up the ridge to continue on the Appalachian Trail and get some views of James River, flowing below.
  • 5 miles into the hike there will be a decent lunch spot (marked in my GPS data) with a nice, flat sunny area for lounging before ascending further up the the ridge. This spot was also the last flowing water source we encountered for the rest of the day.  If you plan to camp up on the ridge in the same area that we did, make sure to stock up on enough water for the rest of the day, as well as tomorrow for breakfast and the hike out, to be safe.
  • Continue on the AT until arriving at the three way junction with Balcony Falls Trail and Sulphur Springs Trail.  This is where we departed the AT and headed down the Sulphur Springs trail in search of a campsite for the night.
    • Note: Sulphur Springs trail does not appear to be officially maintained and may be quite grown in and harder to navigate in the summer.
    • Trip variation Option: If you continue on the Appalachian Trail for another half mile you will reach a junction with the Belfast Trail. About a half mile or less down the Belfast Trail is a possible campsite near the intersection with the Gunter Ridge Trail. It’s important to note that I haven’t personally been to this site, so I’m not sure how legit it may be. It’s location is approximated based on comments I’ve seen posted online, combined with topo map data and may not actually be a suitable site. We chose not to venture that way, but from looking at a photo I found online, it looks like a rather flat, alternate site for camping. Approximately a mile beyond Gunter Ridge campsite is the Devil’s Marble yard, a potential side trip that I hear has very nice views.  Nearby is another possible site, marked in my GPS data as well.
  • Continue along the Sulphur Springs trail for a little less than a mile.
  • Camp at either of the site’s listed in my GPS Data.  We chose the smaller spot labeled “JRF CS Night 1” for it’s better views off the ridge for sunset.  On the other side of the trail there is also a larger potential camping area labeled “JRF Hickory Stand CS”.  This spot lacks the views down the ridge, but is larger and offers potentially better wind protection, depending on conditions.

Day 1 Total Mileage:  6.8 Miles
Day 1 Total Elevation Gain:  2,297′

James River Face Wilderness - Day 1 Elevation Profile - Sintax77

Sintax77 – James River Face Wilderness Loop – Day 1 Elevation Profile

Route Taken and Trails Used, Day Two

  • After packing up camp, you have two options. While it’s possible to continue down the meandering Sulphur Springs Trail for a couple until it runs into the AT, we chose instead to immediately start our day back on our old friend, the AT.  This was possible by doing a very small “bushwack” west from the campsite until you run into the adjacent campsite then head south on the AT by turning left.  The campsite is literally right smack between the two trails, so the AT should be super easy to spot.
  • Continue along the AT until you hit the triple junction with Sulphur Springs, the AT and Piney Ridge Trail.
  • Head down the Piney Ridge Trail, towards Hunt Club Road, which will eventually bring you to Rt 501 Lee Jackson Highway.
  • Turn left (north) to do a road hike along Lee Jackson Hwy for a short bit, at which point you have two options:
    • After a mile or so, the Highwater Trailhead (the old AT) will appear on the left side of the road.  The sign will actually be for Matt’s Creek, where we were the day before.  You can take this trail all the way back to the shelter, then backtrack to the parking lot on the AT, the same way you came in on day one.  From trailhead to car looks to be about 4 miles.
    • We chose to make a more expedient route back to the car, by continuing to walk along the road, over the auto bridge’s pedestrian sidewalk.  This route gave us a pretty cool view of the man made waterfall, as well as an alternate view of the rail trestle and footbridge that we had traveled over the previous day.
    • Arrive back at the Jame River Foot Bridge Parking lot and prepare yourself for cheeseburger time.

 Day 2 Total Mileage:  8 Miles
 Day 2 Total Elevation Gain:  486′

James River Face Wilderness - Day 2 Elevation Profile - Sintax77

James River Face Wilderness – Day 2 Elevation Profile – Sintax77


Trip Mileage Grand Total:  14.8 Miles
Trip Elevation Gain Grand Total: 2,783′

Notable Gear Used for Sara:
Dream Hammock Darien Ultralight Hammock (see my video on it here) w/ Whoopie Slings Dutch Whoopie Hooks
Hammock Gear Cuben Hex Tarp
Hammock Gear Burrow 20° Top Quilt
Hammock Gear Phoenix 30° Underquilt (3/4 length)
ULA Ohm 2.0 Backpack (See our discussion video on this pack here)
Thorfire BD04 USB rechargeable LED Flashlight
Princeton Tech Byte Headlamp
ThruNight Titanium Keychain LED Flashlight
EMS Knitted Hat

Notable Gear Used for Shawn:
Amok Draumr 3.0 Hammock – See my first look video on it here.
Amok Stock Tarp for use with Draumr Hammock (30D Double Silicone Coated Ripstop Nylon, Fully taped seams, Reflective guy lines)
Hammock Gear Burrow 40° Top Quilt
Hammock Gear Incubator 40° Underquilt w/ Epsilon 1.5 Multicam Fabric (see my video on it here)
EMS Longtrail 70 Backpack (older 2011 model)
4Sevens Preon 2 LED Flashlight
Fenix HL21 Headlamp (watch my review video here)
Generic Canister Stove (watch my review video here)

Sara Goes Hammock Camping …Again! – Hiking & Pancakes in Virginia

Join Sara and I for some hiking, trail cooking, and backpacking on  a hammock camping trip in Shenandoah National Park.

For this hiking adventure, Sara and I will be revisiting Shenandoah National park for Sara’s second dose of hammock camping out in the wild along with a healthy dose of backcountry cooking and camp food. We did a previous backpacking trip not too far from here in Shenandoah a mere two weeks before, and it went quite well.  It wasn’t, however, exactly the experience that we had set out to do.

You see, for that particular trip, I may have sold it as a rather relaxed excursion.  And depending on your perspective, it very well may have been just that.  But for Sara, who’s most recent backpacking memories prior to that trip were that of a grueling elevation-fest through the White Mountains, it wasn’t quite the reprieve we were looking for.

The required prescription was a high dose of low mileage, potent lounging, and dense pancakes.  Thankfully, the trip seen in this video hit the spot.  Below are some details and trip data for the trip, although there isn’t much of it.  But that’s exactly what we were going for.  Check out my Trip Data Page to get full GPS data for this trip.

Parking:  Meadow Spring Trailhead (Mile 34 on Skyline Drive)
N38° 38.304′ W78° 18.823′

Day 1 Trails Used (in order):
Hazel Mountain Trail
Turn Left on White Rocks Trail
Camp along White Rocks Trail (see my GPS Data for potential campsites on either side of trail)
After setting up camp, take a half mile round trip down to Hazel Falls, for happy hour.

Hazel Falls Day 1 Elevation Profile - Sintax77

Day 1 Stats:
Mileage: 3.2 miles (includes half mile excursion from camp down to Hazel Falls and back)
Gross Elevation Gain: 390′
Gross Elevation Loss: 1,175′

Day 2 Trails Used (in order):
Wake Up, Eat Pancakes (this is important – trip will not work properly without this step!)
White Rocks Trail
Right on Hazel Creek Trail

Hazel Falls Day 2 Elevation Profile - Sintax77

Day 2 Stats:
Mileage: 2.5 miles (not nearly enough to burn off those pancakes, you’re gonna go to the gym tomorrow…)
Gross Elevation Gain: 699′
Gross Elevation Loss: 75′

Total Mileage for Trip: 5.7 Miles

Hazel Falls 2 Day Trip Route Overview- Sintax77

Notable Gear Used for Sara:
Dutchware NylonD Hammock with Aluminum Cinch Buckles & Nylon Tree Straps
Hennessy Deluxe Tarp (10′ x 12′ 70D Polyester)
Hammock Gear Burrow 20° Top Quilt
Hammock Gear Incubator 0° Underquilt
Osprey Hornet 46 Backpack (See my Gear List using this pack here)
Thorfire BD04 USB rechargable LED Flashlight
Princeton Tech Byte Headlamp
ThruNight Titanium Keychain LED Flashlight
EMS Knitted Hat

Notable Gear Used for Shawn:
Dream Hammock Darien Ultralight Hammock (see my video on it here)
Hammock Gear Cuben Hex Tarp
Hammock Gear Burrow 40° Top Quilt
Hammock Gear Incubator 40° Underquilt w/ Epsilon 1.5 Multicam Fabric (see my video on it here)
EMS Longtrail 70 Backpack
4Sevens Preon 2 LED Flashlight
Fenix HL21 Headlamp (watch my review video here)
Generic Canister Stove (watch my review video here)
MSR Flex Skillet w/ cheap dollar store utensils for cooking

Notable Backpacking Food for this Trip:
Bisquick Shake ‘n Pour Pancake Mix
Packit Gourmet Dehydrated Maple Syrup and Blueberries
Packit Gourmet Queso Dip with a regular ol’ bag of Tostito’s Scoops (wheat, because we’re obviously healthy and stuff)
Packit Gourmet Texas State Fair Chili (I lost my mind eating this stuff on this winter video, after climbing Mt Washington)


Hiking the Grafton Loop – Camping in Maine

Come along for 4 days of hiking, backpacking and camping in Maine.

For this trip, we’ll be backpacking a loop hike of the Grafton Loop in Maine’s Grafton Notch State Park.  Full GPS track data along with points of interest (campsites, water sources, etc) available for download on the Trip Data Page.

Grafton Loop - Route Overview

Grafton Loop – Route Overview

The Grafton Loop is a roughly 39 mile, 9 summit hiking loop formed by connecting a portion of the Appalachian trail with the Grafton Loop Trail.  Portions of the trail traverse both Maine’s Grafton Notch State Park as well as a good deal of private land.  For this reason, designated campsites are mandatory for most of the loop’s route, along with a restriction on campfires.  For those of you who like to stealth camp, you’ll have to do a bit more planning for this trip.  It took several years to come to an agreement with all of the land owners the that trail traverses, so it’s best to stick to the script and keep them happy so we can continue to enjoy this route.

The four of us chose to do the loop clockwise over the course of 4 days.  Many people choose to do it in 3 days, and a rarer few do it in 2.  Don’t be deceived by the rolling beauty of the photos you see though – the Grafton Loop is still in the White Mountains region and has it’s fair share of strenuous elevation and steep inclines, littered with roots and rocks.  If rain is expected, be prepared to move carefully on the many sections of solid and potentially slick rock faces on the balder summits.  We stacked up nearly 13,000 feet of elevation gain over the course of our trip.  Not too shabby.  For comparison, that’s almost 3,000 more feet than the Pemi Loop.  Be aware of your group’s capability, as well as desired amount of relaxing versus mileage, and plan your number of days accordingly.

Summits: Bald Mountain, Puzzle Mountain, Long Mountain, Lightning Ledge, Old Speck, West Baldpate, East Baldpate, Miles Notch, Sunday River Whitecap

Parking: 985 Maine 26, Newry, ME 04261 Near intersection of Rt 26 and Eddy Rd

Hike approximately one half mile south from parking lot to the Grafton Loop Trailhead located at 44.530831,-70.825252.  Note: Parking is not allowed here at this trailhead, hence the road hike.

Trails Used Day 1:
Grafton Loop Trail
Setup camp at the Slide Mountain Campsite
Day 1 Mileage: 10.86 miles
Day 1 Gross Elevation Gain: 4,094′

Elevation Profile Day 1

Elevation Profile Day 1

Trails Used Day 2:
Old Speck Trail / Appalachian Trail
Grafton Loop Trail
Stealth camp in col between West Baldpate Mountain and East Baldpate Mountain
Day 2 Mileage: 11 miles
Day 2 Gross Elevation Gain: 4,364′

Elevation Profile Day 2

Elevation Profile Day 2

Trails Used Day 3:
Grafton Loop Trail
Setup camp at Stewart Campsite
Day 3 Mileage: 13 miles
Day 3 Gross Elevation Gain: 3,596′

Elevation Profile Day 3

Elevation Profile Day 3

Trails Used Day 4:
Grafton Loop Trail
Return to parking lot and Graton Loop Trailhead on Rt 26
Day 4 Mileage: 4.5 miles
Day 4 Gross Elevation Gain: 843′

Elevation Profile Day 4

Elevation Profile Day 4

Trip Totals:
Distance: 39.36 miles
Gross Elevation Gain: 12,807′

Elevation Profile for Entire Route

Elevation Profile for Entire Route