Darn Tough Socks. Are they REALLY “Unconditionally Guaranteed for Life”? A personal experience.

Before I get into my unsolicited review of Darn Tough Socks, let me tell you a story about a younger and less experienced version of myself.

When I first got into backpacking and hiking, I went and spent a lot of money at upscale outdoor outfitter. I purchased some leather waterproof ankle height hiking boots because that made sense to unexperienced me. I paired that with a pair of medium thick wool socks to “fill any void” and “provide lots of cushion”.

It went exactly as many of you expected. My boots got wet mid-day on the first day of a 2-day trip. My leather boots seemed to stretch just a bit in all of the wrong places when they got wet (and NEVER dried out). My wool socks suddenly bunched up and caused hot spots. I thought I could “tough it out”. It was ugly. I had fully developed blisters and still had about 8 miles to go.  While I WAS near a road crossing, I was the “leader” of the trip and I had wool socks and I was tough! Let’s just say I had blisters on top of blisters when it was over. I promise you it wasn’t pretty at all!

After that HORRIBLE experience that took me weeks to recover from physically, I thought there had to be a better way, so I started researching. I discovered Darn Tough socks on an online forum for people that hike the Appalachian Trail. I figured if they were good enough for someone hiking non-stop for over 2000 miles, they were good enough for my weekend trips.

If you have been into hiking or other outdoor activities, you have probably heard of Darn Tough Socks (https://darntough.com). If not, Darn Tough is a company in Vermont (USA) that specializes in merino wool blend socks. They make socks for EVERYTHING including socks for hiking, running, ski, snowboard, hunting, work, tactical, and everything in between.  IF that isn’t enough, they offer a product that is “Unconditionally Guaranteed for Life” (https://darntough.com/pages/our-unconditional-lifetime-guarantee).   

After that horrible experience, I used Darn Tough sock exclusively when hiking. I started out wearing them hiking and backpacking. I liked them so much, I bought more to run (THAT didn’t last long) or wear to the gym – or at least with my running shoes. Then I bought a few more pair and now that’s almost all I wear.  I will only wear something else when all my Darn Tough socks are dirty. They are that good. They are good, but they aren’t particularly cheap at an average price of around $20 USD a pair. That is a lot of money for a pair of socks. 

I have written about it before, but I have put several hundreds of miles in a combination of Darn Tough Socks and Altra Lone Peaks. I don’t take my shoes or socks off at water crossings and I have NEVER had a blister that needed any attention on the trail. I am not guaranteeing this experience for everyone, but it has worked for me for many years.

If it’s not obvious, I love Darn Tough Socks. That company has a lot of my money and I REALLY like their products. I also believe that even though they are expensive, I have more than gotten my money’s worth out of every single pair of Darn Tough Socks I own.

So, OK, you get it. I like their socks. So what? Remember me mentioning “Unconditionally Guaranteed for Life”?  Well, I had a pair that I hated wearing. They were crew height like many other pair I owned, but the stretchy property of the sock wasn’t stretchy in the top section of the sock.  The result was that the sock would slide down and bunch up in my shoe.

I made this a “wear only at home” pair, but even then, they bugged me. They were constantly sliding down into my shoe or trying to slide off my foot whenever I wore them without shoes. I was wearing that particular pair of socks one day and during a meeting they FINALLY got the best of me. 

Luckily, my company does not require our cameras on when we are in a meeting remotely.  While paying attention to the meeting, I pulled up www.darntough.com on my other monitor. There was a chat icon in the lower corner of the screen so I clicked on it.

Using the chat feature, I was able to communicate with a customer service representative. I explain to them while the sock wasn’t “worn out” why it had become a pair of socks I didn’t like to wear. Without question, they started a warranty claim and told me that “unconditional” really meant that – except for a few exclusions (pet damage, being burned, or lost). Basically, if you didn’t think the socks no longer meet the Darn Tough standard, the guarantee applies. While I’m not super thrifty, I also don’t like to waste money, either. They quickly sent me an email with the information. I paid to have my clean socks mailed back to them using the warranty information. About a week later, I received an email. They were giving me a code to apply to a new pair of socks of my choice up to $25 USD and it also included free shipping back to me. I placed an order and the socks were shipped the next day.

I debated about using the warranty because I had this pair of socks for many years AND I still had to spend money to have them mailed back. I COULD just throw them away and buy a new pair OR I could spend less than half of the cost of a new pair of socks and use the warranty. I chose the warranty.

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New Day Pack – ALPS Mountaineering Baja 20 Review

After using the same daypack for approximately 10 years, it was time for a new one. On my old day pack, the elastic on the side pockets had worn out, so every time I bent over, my water bottles would fall out and it was larger than what I really needed.   I also learned a few things from experience that I wanted to change.  I wanted a smaller capacity for day hikes because I don’t carry much more than the essentials, and I wanted a brighter color to be seen off trail in the fall/winter when I do most of my hiking. I REALLY like a bargain, too!

After much Internet surfing, I finally selected the ALPS Mountaineering Baja 20 pack in “Chili/Gray”. It checked off a LOT of my wants. It features include an internal frame, 20 Liter gear capacity, relatively light at 2 pounds, hip belt, suspended mesh back panel (BONUS!!!), a couple of pockets, an integrated rain cover that I’ll never use, it is NOT a neutral color, and is reservoir compatible.

The regular price was $139.99, but I bought it for $84 (on sale and I had a coupon) back in November of 2022 (about 3 months ago) from REI. https://www.rei.com/rei-garage/product/151561/alps-mountaineering-baja-20-pack

I have used this pack on a couple of short day hikes with a total distance of around 20 miles. Overall, I have no complaints so for. One of the biggest differences is that I had to change is my water system. When I’m using my overnight pack (ULA Ohm 2.0), my side pockets sit low enough I can reach my water bottles in the side pockets on either side without assistance. I prefer having two 1 Liter bottles because I think it’s easier to monitor water consumption, and I can put a drink mix (electrolytes) in one of them. This pack does have side pockets, but they sit VERY high, and I could never get a water bottle out on my own. The other reason I carry a 2L water bladder is that it’s a requirement for the Alabama Make-A-Wish Trailblaze Challenge (https://secure2.wish.org/site/TR?fr_id=4503&pg=entry). 

Other than the change in water system (which IS growing on me), I really like this pack.  It is very light and suspended mesh back panel is very comfortable. The hip belt is small (1 inch webbing), and doesn’t have pockets, but it is very comfortable for the weight (10 pounds or less) I am carrying on day hikes.  Instead of using hip belt pockets, I use my Thrupack by Summit Bum to store snacks, my phone, chap stick, and any other items I need to get quickly without stopping. I have used the Thrupack by Summit Bum for the past few years, and I really like it. Here’s my review: (https://jnunniv.wordpress.com/2020/03/20/initial-impressions-of-the-thrupack-summit-bum-pocket/)

Picture: Body side

This is my pack fully loaded for a typical day hike in the 10-mile range. I don’t carry much. I’ll cover what I carry as I go through the review.  I REALLY like the color.  While it isn’t “Hunter Orange” it is in the same family of colors, and I can be easily seen and not mistaken for a deer or other wildlife as I hike typically in the Fall and Winter months.     

Picture: Back side

One of the things I ALWAYS carry is what I call my “poop kit”. It consists of a trowel (http://www.thetentlab.com/Deuce/number2.html) and a waterproof bag that contains wipes and a small bag of hand sanitizer. I keep it stored on the outside of my pack, so it is easily accessible when needed.

Picture: Small outside pocket

This pack does have side pockets for water bottles, but they sit very high and unless you are VERY limber, you will not be able to access them by yourself without taking off your pack. This is another reason I’m using a water bladder. Since I am doing hike support this year, I carry an extra water bottle in each side pocket in case I come across someone that needs additional water.

Picture: water bottle

One of the only “real” pockets on this pack is on the top of the pack. I usually keep my rain jacket in here – even if it isn’t going to rain. I’ve used this jacket as a windbreaker (dual purpose).  At 6.2 oz, I ALWAYS bring it. I’ve done a review of this jacket, and did I mention I wanted the ability to be seen since I do a lot of solo hiking? (https://jnunniv.wordpress.com/2019/09/10/lightheart-gear-rain-jacket-initial-impression/). The other thing in the top pocket that I use is a clip for my truck keys.

Picture: Top pocket

The main compartment is plenty big enough for day hike. I don’t think it would be big enough for even the most ultralight overnight trip – at least not with the gear I have!  The water bladder does bubble out when full which gives you an empty area at the bottom and top of the pack. On a typical day hike, I won’t have much in here other than maybe an additional layer I discarded as it warms up and my water filter (https://wordpress.com/post/jnunniv.wordpress.com/1980) in the bottom if I think I may use more than 2 Liters of water.  

Picture: Inside main compartment

The pack does have a pocket on the very bottom of the pack. It contains an integrated rain shell.  I’ll probably NEVER use it because everything I take on a day hike can get wet. I currently use it to store my First Aid Kit where it is accessible, but out of the way.

Picture: Bottom Pocket

This is me wearing the pack with a full 2-liter water bladder, a water bottle in each side pocket, and my rain jacket/wind breaker in the top pocket. For reference, I am about 5’10” and weight 220 (and hopefully less soon), but it will give you an idea how the pack fits.

Overall, I really like this pack. It carries what I need comfortably, and I have no issues or suggestions for improvement.

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Updated (again) Water Filter System

My water filter system has been improved and simplified. Again. Here is what what I have have been been using for the past couple of years. I don’t know what I would change EXCEPT bringing the backflush syringe for longer trips. I think this system is the best combination of capacity, speed, and weight. I believe I spent around $100 for everything including shipping a few (pre-COVID) years ago.

I use the CNOC 2 Liter 28mm Vecto Water Container for my unfiltered water. FYI: The 28 mm pertains to the thread size and they make a few different sizes. Make sure you order the correct size thread for your filter.

I REALLY like the CNOC bag for several reasons. First, the top (long orange bar) opens the full width of the container and makes it super easy to fill with water from creeks, streams, and nearly any flowing water. Second, drying out after use very easy since you can remove the cap AND fully open the other end for air flow/drainage. Third, my water filter will securely attach directly to the bag containing my unfiltered water. Lastly, the CNOC bag has a bit of “stretch” to it but has a breaking point of 220 pounds.

I prefer the Sawyer Squeeze (2.5 oz) filter. I had a friend use an identical setup but used the Sawyer Mini (1.4 oz). While the Sawyer Mini is over an ounce lighter AND cheaper, the Sawyer Squeeze filters water over twice as fast. I’ll take that ounce and $ penalty! Here’s a video that supports the speed at which the Squeeze and Mini filter performs in an identical gravity fed system.

After attaching the female end of the Sawyer Squeeze water filter to the CNOC Water container, an adapter will be needed. (I didn’t have one included, but the one linked does).   I don’t remember where I bought mine, but I found these on Amazon. I only used the blue one.  To the male end of the blue adapter, I attached approximately 4 feet of food grade silicon tubing with ¼ inch inner diameter.  I think I bought mine here and you can buy the tubing by the foot.  

I don’t usually hang my CNOC Water Container when using it for gravity feed.  I hold it up when actively filtering or put it on a rock, tree, or another object that is higher than my water bottles. In camp, I will put it in the fork of a tree or another elevated object. One thing I DID discover is that the hose has a tendency to drop and all of the water will then drain out (due to gravity, of course). THAT is a surprise when you are thirsty, so I added a clamp a friend gave me, but here is one similar.

I store the CNOC Water Container, Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter, adapter, tubing, and clamp in an extra drawstring bag. I just confirmed my setup will filter 2 Liters of water in 2 minutes and 10 seconds.

There is one note, however – especially if you are new to filtering water.  The Sawyer Filter needs to be kept from freezing. If water freezes inside the filter, the pores will permanently enlarge, and the filter will be unreliable against protozoa and bacteria. If temperatures dip below freezing, keep the sawyer water filter close to your body while hiking, or in your sleeping bag during the night. It also will need backflushed occasionally. How often depends on the quality of water you are putting through it, but I ALWAYS check that it is working properly before a trip and backflush after a trip. I didn’t do that one time and luckily a buddy also had a water filter.  I now carry some Aquamira as a backup. I also keep it in the same Ziploc bag if the temperatures dip below freezing.  

Posted in Backpacking, Beginner Series, DIY, Gear Review, Hammock Camping, Hiking | Leave a comment

Blue Ridge Overland Gear Tool Bag

I purchased a 2020 Toyota Tacoma SR 4×4 last year and I’m loving it. I have run into a few instances of other people not being prepared with basic tools or “self recovery” type of items. Over the past year, I have purchased some basic items to keep in my truck for myself or others.

Here are a few examples of things I have stored in the cab of the vehicle: First Aid Kit, flashlight, Leatherman, small knife, spare fuses, a small fire extinguisher, extra water, jumper cables, a portable (plug in) air compressor to fill up tires low on air, a recovery strap to have myself pulled out or to assist others, some extra food, and things to stay warm and dry.

I noticed I don’t have ANY tools with me and the more I’m out and about off the beaten path (the truck IS four wheel drive), I DID think it was a good idea to carry some basic tool for me and others to use should the need arise.

First off, I’m not a mechanic or much more than an entry level handyman. I’m confident where my comfort level ends and calling someone else begins. I’m not going to pull the engine or rebuild the axles in the mud. However, I should be able to tighten things that have come loose or do some basic repair to get me to cell coverage where I can call in reinforcements.

I found the Blue Ridge Overland Gear Tool Bag on YouTube – actually from a Jeep channel. I was intrigued and REALLY liked how modular and convenient it is to carry everything I should need with one set of handles. It is made from really heavy duty material and I don’t see it falling apart anywhere in the near future!

The tool bag is a bit pricey ($169.99 as of 11/28/2022) but I think it’s worth every penny. . Here is a link to the Tool Bag: https://www.blueridgeoverlandgear.com/products/tool-bag

Here is a video review of what I currently have in my Tool Bag: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xL3bP8VWVVI&t=2s

As covered in the video, the tool bag fully loaded weighs just over 25 pounds, but has most any tool I would need.

Have I forgotten something? Tacoma owners or anyone else more experienced than me – what would you add or change? I would appreciate your feedback and input.

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How I quickly set up my hammock tarp

In this video, I demonstrate how I quickly set up my hammock tarp.

Here is a list of the items discussed in this video:

Tarp: Hammock Gear standard tarp with doors (camo): https://hammockgear.com/dyneema-fiber-standard-tarp-with-doors/

Dutch hook (used on one end of ridgeline): https://dutchwaregear.com/product/ti-dutch-hooks/

Tarp Flyz (used at one end of ridgeline): https://dutchwaregear.com/product/tarp-flyz/?attribute_pa_tarp_flyz=77-hardwareonly

Split rings (used to attach Flyz and cord loop to ridgeline of the tarp): https://dutchwaregear.com/product/titanium-split-rings/?attribute_pa_size=26-34inch

Tie out line (I used a total of 50 feet between all tie out points): https://dutchwaregear.com/product/reflect-it/?attribute_pa_color=29-green

Corner tie out with shock cord and tarp worms: https://hammockgear.com/dyneema-fiber-standard-tarp-with-doors/

Shock cord (used for tarp doors): https://dutchwaregear.com/product/shock-cord/?attribute_pa_shock_cord_diameter=34-332

Shock cord hooks (used at end of line for door line): https://dutchwaregear.com/product/shockcord-hooks/

Titanium stakes: https://dutchwaregear.com/product/ti-burly-hook-stake/

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Sipsey Wilderness Map

Here’s a shout out to Carto-Craft Maps, Inc. They have the best map and I didn’t feel like driving to get a copy. I called them [(205) 822-2103] and spoke to Chris. He mailed me a waterproof version of the Sipsey Wilderness and also a laminated version to hang on my office wall. He said to mail a check once they arrived. Awesome!

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2nd attempt with video (what and how I carry when backpacking for an overnight trip)

I recently upgraded to an iPhone 12 so i thought I’d try to upload a video. This video was recorded and edited solely on my iPhone.

In this video, I show my typical load for a moderate weather overnight trip. I share what I use and how I store everything by showing everything by slowly unpacking and showing each item.

For this trip, everything (including food and water) weighs only 20.8 pounds.

I do realize I say “ummm” WAY too much. Suggestions and feedback are appreciated!

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Initial Impressions of Big Agnes Air Core Ultra Sleeping Pad

I recently had my first recent section hike of the Appalachian Trail. A portion of the trail (over 70 miles) passes through the Smoky Mountains and section hikers are required to make reservations and sleep in the shelters. I’m primarily a hammock camper, so I did not have a sleeping pad and borrowed one from one of my fellow hikers. While I was grateful for his generosity, I quickly learned a few valuable lessons. First, I need to purchase a thicker pad for the occasions I need to use one. The second lesson I learned was it needed to be comfortable. The final lesson is that using the top quilt I use in the hammock has some challenges when using a sleeping pad. After lots of research, trying several different makes and models at the local REI store, I finally purchased the Big Agnes Air Core Ultra Sleeping Pad in a Wide Regular size. (https://www.rei.com/rei-garage/product/169362/big-agnes-air-core-ultra-sleeping-pad-wide)

Here are the basic details according to the package: the measurements of the pad are 25” x 72”, the thickness is a maximum of 3.5”, stored (rolled) size is 4” x 8.5”, and the weight is 23 oz.  According to the package, this model is for “warm weather” and to be used above 35 degrees Fahrenheit. It includes a storage bag, a spare inflation valve, and a small patch kit. After several naps inside and one overnight use in the back yard, here are my initial impressions of Big Agnes Air Core Ultra Sleeping Pad.

There are quite a few things I like about this pad. This pad is comfortable! I primarily sleep on my side and this pad allowed me to sleep on my side without feeling the ground through the pad. It is long and wide enough for me to sleep comfortably with worrying about rolling off. I can lie in a more normal sleeping position instead of being pencil straight due to the 25” width. The pad deflates quickly allowing for quick folding and storage when packing up. I used to hate trying to squeeze all the air out of an inflatable pad and that is not a problem with this one. The reason is there are separate openings for inflation (one way valve) and deflation (just a hole without a valve). For the size and thickness of the inflated pad, I think the stored (deflated) size and weight are more than appropriate – especially for the size and price. I purchased this pad on sale at REI for just under $60 including free shipping with an additional 20% off coupon I received in my email.  It is easy to deflate this pad slightly for a “softer feel” while using it by using the one way valve on the inflation hole and using a VERY light touch.

There are a few things I don’t like about this pad. Because of the volume, it does take quite a few full breaths (30 or so) to inflate. Take your time or you will feel light headed. I found that breathing normal (inhaling through nose and exhaling into the pad) worked best for me, although it still took a few minutes. On the model I purchased the storage bag is not designed to assist with inflation as some of the other Big Agnes models, although I think all the new (2020) versions come with one. This would be a great improvement in my opinion. I wish it was rated for just a few degrees lower. According to their website, the R rating is only 1.4 for the new and improved Air Core Ultra 2 (https://www.bigagnes.com/Air-Core-Ultra_2). I should have done more research and may end up purchasing the insulated version of this pad.

While this sleeping pad isn’t absolutely quiet, I didn’t find it especially noisy. It is definitely NOT “chip bag crinkly” like some of the other models I have tested. I didn’t find this sleeping bad especially slippery, either. But I did cheat a little.  Since I was at home, I inserted the sleeping bag into a spare sleeping bag liner I had in my gear bin. I don’t know if I would carry this extra weight on a long trip, but it seemed to work well at home to reduce movement noise and slipperiness of the pad.

On my last top quilt and ground pad experience, I had issues with the top quilt wanting to wander off during the night. To assist keeping the top quilt from slipping off the pad, I also purchased a set of ground pad attachment kit from Hammock Gear (https://hammockgear.com/ground-pad-attachment-kit/). It’s basically a set of mitten hooks on adjustable shock cord loops that go around your pad and attaches to your top quilt. They worked brilliantly and cost a $2.99 for a set of three. It was well worth the money since I did not have any of the items to make these at home. If you have the right materials, it would be very easy to make a set.  I HIGHLY suggest using something like this if you have a top quilt instead of a sleeping bag.

Am I overall pleased with my purchase? Yes. It is not the lightest, warmest, or least expensive sleeping pad on the market, but it will allow me to sleep comfortably on my side, with my top quilt, while not breaking the bank or being too heavy for my personal pack weight. I will pack it on trips that I know it will be used and look forward to being comfortable and having quality sleep when using it.

Here are the pictures from the item I actually received.

Weight of package as received (pounds and ounces)
Storage bag, sleeping pad, patch kit and spare inflation valve
Weight of pad only (pounds and ounces)
Rolled size compared to 1 L Smart Water bottle
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Initial impressions of the Thrupack Summit Bum – Pocket

One of my goals in the past few years has been a lighter pack weight and to hike more efficiently.  I am pretty happy with my pack weight and gear. My base weight (everything except food and water) for cold weather (a little below freezing in my area) is around 16 pounds. I have been eyeing a Dyneema hammock tarp that will save me nearly 10 ounces, though…. My pack weight can be a little lighter or heaver depending on the trip and weather conditions. Now I’m working on more efficient hiking.

One of the keys to efficient hiking is keeping a steady pace throughout the day.  I found that every time I had to stop and take of my pack to access something, I ended up stopping for longer than I really wanted. I’ve also transitioned from convertible pants to shorts in warmer weather and when hiking maintained trails. By converting to shorts, I lost the storage space from the cargo pockets I used to store a few items. I also wasn’t crazy about the feeling of items “swinging” in my cargo pockets as I hiked. Because of these reasons, I recently purchased several items from Thrupack. The main item was the Summit Bum – Pocket which includes a 1” webbing strap. I also ordered the small white Thrupack zip to use as a trail wallet, and a set of Thrubiners that enables various carrying configurations. The total cost was $63 USD with free shipping.

I received these items recently and thought I would share my initial reactions. My intention is to wear the Thrupack – Pocket as a fanny pack either by wearing the included belt, or using the Thrubiners to attach to the waist belt on my ULA Ohm 2.0. I have not decided which method I will use. In the Summit Bum – Pocket I plan on storing items I will need throughout the day hopefully eliminating the need to take off my backpack. Planned items include food/snacks, water treatment, gloves, hat, camera, or any other items I readily need throughout the day and will not fit in my hip belt pockets. I’m sure as I actually use it the items it contains will evolve until I find the perfect fit. This is my initial impression only of the items.

A few days after my order, I received an email with tracking information and the package was delivered in a standard black plastic envelope. All of my items were shipped and included was a small Thrupack Sticker and a small blue dinosaur. After receiving my package, I visited Thrupack’s website (www.thrupack.com) and didn’t see any reference to this small addition or a back story. Do any of my readers have a reference for the blue dinosaur? Since I’m kind of boring, I ordered the Summit Bum in the Black Gridstop with the black mesh pocket.

Upon arrival, I inspected all items and they were top quality items. The stitching was perfect with no obvious defects. The Summit Bum – Pocket by itself came in at a weight of 3.2 oz.

Including the strap (1.3 oz).

The total weight of the Summit Bum – Pocket and strap weighed 4.6 oz.

The Summit Bum – Pocket, 1” webbing strap and buckle, and small Thrupack Zip weighed 4.8 oz.

The small Thrupack zip came with a separate Thrubiner and weighed 0.4 oz.

The 2 Thrubiners weighed a total of 0.3 oz.

All items (Summit Bum – Pocket, 1” strap with buckle, and 2 small Thrubiners weighed 5.1 oz. This does not include the Thrubiner that is included with the Thrupack zip.

The additional dinosaur weighed 0.01 oz just in case you were curious.

Here is everything I received minus the packing material.

There is a mitten hook and two pockets inside the Summit Bum – Pocket.

I plan on using the mitten hook to attach the small Thrupack zip to use as my trail wallet. It is just large for my ID, debit/ credit card, and some cash.

There is plenty of room inside. This is the interior with one Talenti Sorbet container stored inside horizontally. There is still plenty of room on top of the container.

Two Talenti Sorbet containers will fit inside horizontally.

Here I have attached the two Thrubiners to the small loops if I attach to my hip belt.

The hip belt is easily routed through the padded slot in the Thrupack Summit Bum. Since the hip belt isn’t n attached, the buckle can be placed under the padded section for comfort.

So far, I’m impressed with the quality of this product and I look forward to using it to keep me organized and prevent me from removing my pack at short breaks. I’m a bit OCD when organizing my backpacking gear and for such a small item, there was a lot of thought put into the design.

The main reason I preferred this item over several other models was the design. The Summit Bum has several compartments instead of just having one large pouch. There is a mesh pocket on the front which is designed to prevent items from falling out. The main compartment also has two pockets stitched on the inside for storing small items. In addition, there is a large storage area on top between the padded area and the main storage compartment.

I can now separate items i need while hiking between my hip belt pockets and the Summit Bum and be more organized. By not removing my pack, this will give me more hours to hike per day.  It will also make having my essentials easily available – both on the trail and in town. Just like ounces make pounds, minutes make hours. The fewer times I have to remove my pack is the more hours I have to hike which means the more miles I can hike per day.

I will have an updated review of this item after I use it for a few miles and I will compare my perceived usage versus actual usage.

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How to put in higher mileage days when backpacking

I will never set a speed record for long distance hiking, but I am always looking for ways to improve my overall hiking speed. I will share a few of the things I have learned in my years of backpacking and maybe it will help you, too.

There is only one way to know how far and fast you are able to hike. That is by repeated hiking. I would suggest doing a couple of things when you go hiking. First, know make notes of how many miles an hour you typically hike. This is a great starting point to know how many miles you are able to cover in any given time frame. Second, become comfortable with your skills and gear. This will typically give you the confidence to either know your gear will perform as intended and/or know what items you can live without while you are on the trail. Hopefully during this process you learn what gear works for you and you are able to find shoes, socks, and clothes that are comfortable and prevent/reduce chaffing and blisters. The third thing that hiking does is getting you in “hiking shape.” While working out or going to the gym is great, nothing really prepares you for hiking but going on training hikes.

When planning a trip, research and know the terrain you plan on covering and compare that to mileage covered on similar terrain on past trips. This will be a starting point. Please don’t go hiking blindly without doing your research ahead of time. Climbing uphill or challenging terrain (very rocky, slippery, and going off trail) will require more time, energy, and calories to cover in relation to easier terrain.

How much weight are you carrying? Generally speaking, the less weight you carry, the faster you are able to hike. Less weight makes hiking more enjoyable. More weight makes camping more enjoyable. Decide which is more important before you leave. PLEASE ensure you are carrying the essential items you need to survive. This is different for every person and the conditions, but don’t lighten your pack too much and put yourself in danger or needing to be rescued for the sake of having a lighter pack weight. If you are doing a multiday trip, do you plan on carrying all of your food (more weight) or are there resupply points along the way (require more time)? If there are resupply points, what are the operating hours and what do they offer in resupply options? How far are the resupply points from the trail? All of these will affect how many miles you are able to hike in a day.

Let’s assume you have done all of the things listed above. What else can be done to increase the mileage you cover in a hiking day? To me, it comes down to being efficient. The less time I spend NOT hiking is more time I can be adding miles to my day. Let’s assume you also have your backpack, shoes, clothes, food, and water treatment dialed in to near perfection. What are some practical things you can do to increase the miles per hour (mph) or miles per day (mpd) that you typically cover?

The first thing that will help you put in higher mileage days when backpacking is to get an early start out of camp. Instead of sleeping in and taking your time leaving camp, try to leave as early as possible. For some people this could be before sunrise while others it is midmorning. I prefer to leave camp just after sunrise. This allows me to have more hours of daylight for hiking. By doing this, it is easier to have half (or more) of the mileage completed by lunch instead of being in a rush or reaching camp after dark.

The second thing that will help you put in higher mileage days when backpacking is to plan for efficiency. There are several ways to easily do this. For example, I know where everything is in my backpack (and always pack it the same) so I don’t have to spend time looking (and not hiking) for something. I also pack in a way to avoid taking off my backpack to access something I know I’ll need as I’m hiking. When I put on my backpack every morning, I have access to everything I need throughout the day without requiring assistance or removing my backpack.

Can I access and store my water bottles without assistance? A surprising number of backpacks don’t allow this. I prefer 1 liter water bottles instead of a water bladder. There are several reason but the most important one is that I can easily monitor my water consumption and/or water remaining until the next water source. This is difficult when using a water bladder stored inside the backpack. I also use flip tops on my water bottles. I can drink on the go without worrying about dropping the lid. It seems silly, but I have spent many frustrating minutes looking for a water bottle lid I dropped in the leaves before I converted to the flip tops. My Sawyer Squeeze water filter (gravity system) is also secured on the outside of my pack.

I am also considering using Aqua Mira for hiking and my Sawyer squeeze for camp. I am comfortable with premixing my Aqua Mira for each day and have it easily accessible in a pocket after researching the quality of water and the pros and cons of this method. If I choose to do this, I can easily fill the 1 liter bottles at a water source, treat with liquid Aqua Mira drops and continue hiking without ever taking off my backpack. You will be amazed how much time this can save if you only need water. I have found that when I plan on only filtering water, I end up having a snack, taking off the backpack, etc. A quick water break turns into a much longer than needed break. It may seem unimportant, but any time spent not hiking is mileage not covered.

Another way to be efficient is what and when you eat.  All of my snacks and daytime food are easily accessible. Often, I snack and eat while I’m moving. This saves time and fuel because I rarely cook my lunch. Sometimes I plan for a prolonged lunch and I will do a “cold soak” lunch. I’ll add water to whatever I plan on eating for lunch midmorning and continue hiking. A short time later when I’m ready to eat, I will take a short break for lunch and eat the now rehydrated meal. Ensure you have enough liquids and calories for your body to burn. If you are doing a challenging hike, you will need more calories than when you are not hiking. If you don’t eat enough, you can burn out and not have the energy and feel overall too tired to continue.

The last efficiency tip is know the route, the mileage to the next water source, trail intersections or points of interest. I can look at the mileage I have covered and the time it has taken me without taking of my backpack and pulling out my map. I can quickly know if I need to speed up to cover my planned mileage or if I can slow down. This can be done without looking at a map. I should also be aware of how the trail is marked (or blazed), and if there are any reroutes or closures to avoid going down the wrong trail and/or in the wrong direction.

The third thing that will help you put in higher mileage days when backpacking is to keep moving. I know, that seems too obvious, doesn’t it? I have found that when facing a large uphill climb, smaller steps win the war. I “put it in low gear” and take smaller steps and really try not to stop. It is really a mental game. I learned this lesson recently in the Smokey Mountains of Southeastern United States. The uphill climbs were kicking my tail. As long as I was moving (even if it was slow), it was better than stopping. To make up time, I often speed up on the downhill descents. It’s like putting your car in neutral and letting it coast. It was easy walking and I made great time. It also felt good to stretch out the legs.

Not stopping is much easier to type than practice, but go further than you think you can. Your body will whine and complain and it will want you to stop. You didn’t begin this trip to stand in the woods, you are here to walk in the woods! Pick a time interval such as 10 minutes (or more), a landmark, POI, or a point visible in the distance and don’t stop until you pass it. You can slow down, but just don’t stop.

Determine if you want to stop or need to stop. Always ignore the wants. Seek discomfort and challenge yourself to do more. This is one area I’m really challenging myself to improve. When you do stop hiking for whatever reason, pay attention how long you spend on breaks. Several short 5 minute breaks (for a total of 15 minutes) in an hour can cut your hiking time by 25%. I’ll often plan for longer lunch breaks and set an alarm on my watch (or phone if I have it) to help me not stay still too long.

The fourth thing that will help you put in higher mileage days when backpacking is actually done when you are not hiking. On the trail, this is often done after reaching camp. To help recover from the hiking today and to prepare for tomorrow, you must spend some time in recovery. Sure, calories and hydration are important, but so is stretching and addressing any problem areas. Spend some time massaging and stretching out sore muscles and allowing your feet to air out if at all possible. Address any problem areas because the chances are they won’t improve overnight. I stretch at night and in the morning to loosen everything and to help my sore muscles feel better.

Do you want to hike farther than you are currently? Practice makes perfect. Know your gear. Set realistic goals based on terrain. Reduce your pack weight if possible and safe. Leave camp early. Plan for efficiency when packing, drinking, treating water, eating, and navigation. Keep moving and time your breaks.  Have a recovery plan to prepare you for sleeping well and hiking far the next day.

What tips do you have to help you hike farther?

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