World’s Lightest Camping Lantern (and cheapest)

Discussing my Favorite (and cheapest) Ultralight Camping Lantern Option.

Just a quick backpacking tips video to highlight a technique that I actually showed briefly in a video years back. I recently read a list of “camping hacks” that mentioned a DIY way to turn your camping headlamp into a lantern. They used a 1 gallon water jug to diffuse the light. Clever, and it probably works well, but it reminded me of my preferred method – simply using a headlamp and a balloon to create a lantern effect.

Surprisingly, I haven’t really seen or heard of hikers doing this very often. Perhaps it’s because it’s just too obvious, but I figured it was worth sharing.

ULA Ohm 2.0 Review – My go-to Pack for Ultralight Backpacking

A Detailed Review of the ULA Ohm 2.0 Backpack.

Specs etc, as per ULA:

Volume Breakdown
Main Body: 2,100 cc
Front Mesh Pocket: 500 cc
Side Pocket: 400 cc each
Ext. Collar: 500 cc
Hipbelt Pockets: 100 cc

General Guidelines
Recommended Maximum Load: 30 lbs or less
Recommended Base Weight: 12 lbs or less

Pack Weight (Torso-M, Hipbelt-M)
32.5 oz (add about 2 oz for camo cordura version)
Weight includes all removable items, which is about 5 oz.

Total Volume
3,960 cu in (about 63 liters)

For more info visit ULA’s official website product page.

Link to my favorite pack cover, seen in the video: Dutchware Argon Pack Cover

 

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)

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.