THE PLACE TO GO WHEN YOU CAN'T GO BACKPACKING

Author

Erika Klimecky

Erika Klimecky has 98 articles published.

Editor’s Farewell

in Community by

Today is my last day serving as Editor and Content Director for SBM and I felt it fitting to let the SBM readers know, since you have been such a great source of enthusiasm, energy and support over the last three and a half years. In that time, we went from an idea and a bare URL to a team of over 100 contributors, several staff and a signifigant readership every month. I am amazed at what it’s become. Thank you for making my days exciting and fun, and for travelling this trail with us. I love that I have been climbing mountains, reading fireside stories and sleeping in tents as my work during this time. What a beautiful, fun challenge!

SBM is what it is today due in large part to the quality authors and photographers who give their time, knowledge and talents. I am honored to have worked with each of them and learned from them in a friendly, vivacious symbiosis. I’m proud to have provided a platform for so many grateful writers. I’ll miss working on this endeavor with all of them, but it is time for me to move on.

I wish SBM well as it continues down the path it is on. Cameron will oversee the magazine function for now. As for me, I’ll definitely still be out exploring the wild places around here, and still have my trusty backpack camera and journal along. Hopefully I’ll see you out there on a hike some time soon.

Happy trails,

-Erika

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PacSafe Camsafe V11 camera pack

in Gear by

PacSafe has a great small pack for camera-toting dayhikers and backpackers: The Camsafe V11. If you are a day hiker who always takes your DSLR camera, or a backpacker who likes to wear your camera up front, this might be the bag for you. I tested the PacSafe Camsafe V11 and this is what I found.

Camsafe v11

First, please note that I am a camera bag snob. My camera needs to be accessible at all times, without having to dismount my backpack. I shoot as I make my way up the trail, so if I have to stop and take off my backpack before I can take a photo, I usually miss the shot. Wearing a second bag on my front while backpacking is a necessity for me. I have been looking for the perfect camera bag for my backpacking setup. But this also works for day hiking and travel.

I like it for backpacking because:

-I can wear this as a chest pack in combination with my backpack, and my camera is ready for use without pulling the pack off my back to access my camera.

-Straps don’t interfere with my backpacking straps.

-It is just big enough for my mid-sized DSLR and extra lens. 11 liters.

-It is well padded and protects my camera very nicely without too much extra bulk

-It has a rain cover which is necessary for my camera bag about 10 months out of the year. Good call.

I know front packs are not all the rage in the US the way they are in Europe (it’ll catch on someday) but they are a great answer for backpacking photographers. PacSafe has gone one farther with this bag, and made it backpack worthy, too. That makes me happy!

I also like it for dayhiking because:

-It has water bottle holders on both sides, which makes it work for a dayhike bag, as long as you don’t need much more than your camera, a snack and water.

-You can wear it as a front pack in addition to your day pack, making your camera accessible at all times.

-I can slip an extra lens in the water bottle pocket if I don’t need two water bottles.

-Remove or reposition the camera dividers to suit your needs.

I like it for travel because:

-Like all of PacSafe’s products, it is designed to keep thieves out! Metal mesh, metal clip-in zippers, wire strap reinforcing and  two-handed clips all keep this pack in your possession and keep your camera safe.

This video gives a quick overview of their safety features:

-It also has a sleeve for a tablet or small laptop.

-It has dedicated compartments for ID, cash, credit cards and even passport which includes RFID protection. If you travel really light, this might be your only carry-on.

Cons:

-It’s a touch small to use as your only dayhike bag. it’s 11 liters, but the majority of that is camera space and padding. There is little space for jackets, gloves, lunch, etc.

-There is no waist strap. If you carry a heavy  load, you’ll miss the extra support on your waist.

Overall this is a great, very versatile bag. Backpacking photographers might want to check this out as a solution for trail shooting.

Technical Details

 

Manufacturer: PacSafe

MSRP: $160

Available: Early Spring 2014 Retail Release (Lat Jan to Feb in retail stores)

Weight: Just under 2 pounds

Dimensions: 34 x 31 x 14 cm / 13.4 x 12.2 x 5.5 in

Colors: Black or two-tone gray

PacSafe Camsafe v11

 

Orienteering

in Community/Skills by

Here’s a new outdoor challenge that you may not have considered: Orienteering. It combines navigation skills, map-reading, treasure hunting, and trail running. It’s great fun and has goals, like geocaching, but is more directed and is timed so you have the competitive aspects of a race.

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Starting line. Each box has a map of a different difficulty rating. Competitors choose their own difficulty level and begin their own course as the official certified their map.

You don’t have to be a marathon runner to start, and you don’t need any special skills aside from basic map reading, which makes this a great family sport. You’ll have to use both your head and your body for orienteering, and the way  you do it is up to you. Here are the nuts and bolts of how to begin orienteering.

What is it?

Orienteering is a sport where you use a map and compass to navigate through a race course to numbered checkpoints (known as controls). Terrain is usually through forested areas and over rough terrain. Race course check points (controls) register your arrival electronically and mark your progress through the course. At the end your time is collected and compared to others in the course. Starts are staggered, so you can run your own race without piles of people on your heels. There are usually a range of courses, offering different difficulty levels. Begin with a simpler course, and work up to a more challenging one. Routes between controls  are not defined and racers can choose whether they traverse a swamp, thorny field or wooded area, or navigate around it.

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A standard control with e-punch reader on top

Who can be an Orienteer?

All ages are welcome. Families can work as a team with one map and electronic punch (which registers you at each control). Anyone under 11 or 12-years old, may need a parent or adult guide help then through the course.

How competitive is it?

It can be as competitive as you make it. Organizations set up courses with everyone in mind. The most competitive course leaders usually run the entire course, stopping only to check their map and register at a control. Less competitive orienteers can walk the course and enjoy the natural surroundings, registering controls as they go. There is a wide range in between those two extremes.

What do I wear? What do I bring?

Dress for the weather, keeping in mind courses are often very much like hiking trails. Some are muddy, some are thorny or brush-covered, and some go off-trail completely. Good shoes or hiking boots are a must. And since you’re outside and running, bring water, snacks and clothing to keep you comfortable. You won’t wear a full day pack, but bring enough provisions to keep you happy for a couple hours outdoors.

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Registering e-punch at the finishline

How long does a course take?

That depends on the course, the speed of the competitor, and your  proficiency with navigation. Anywhere from 15 minutes to 90 minutes is average. You may run around a small lake, or follow a wooded trail, or navigate a swamp.

Where do I find out more?

If you are local, first check out the Cascade Orienteering Club. They have a wealth of knowledge on their website and have been around since 1979. The Orienteering USA site will give you the basics and a list of clubs and organizations nearest your area.

More nature-oriented than a street race, and more competitive than hiking or trail running, orienteering combines cognitive skills and athletics and the wild outdoors in a way that might just be perfect for you.

Orienteering3
Studying the route, ready with essentials: Map, compass, whistle, and e-punch which records your arrival time at each control.

Patagonia Super Alpine Jacket

in Community/Gear by
patagonia super alpine m_std

You’ve decided you want a premium, all-weather jacket for the worst of conditions. You’re in luck. Patagonia and Gore-Tex have teamed up with this amazing weather beater Whether you are a backcountry skier, or deluge lover, or alpine climber, this jacket will take what Mother Nature throws at it. I tested the Patagonia Super Alpine Jacket. Here’s what I found.

Pros:

-New generation Gore-Tex makes this jacket wind-proof, water-proof, spindrift-proof, and probably avalanche-proof (though I didn’t test that).

-Smart design allows for breathability wherever you need it. Pit zips, front zips and smart shaping make this jacket breathe and fit in all the right places.

-Well-designed drawstrings, pulls and adjustments  on the hood back and opening as well as the bottom are high tech and easy to use even with thick gloves.

-For such a rugged jacket, it is remarkably light. It won’t add much more than a pound to your total ensemble. That’s great, tough, solid protection for very little weight added. This jacket is a rewarding find for people who brave the worst of the elements.

-Tough shell exterior holds up to rocks and tree branches well. This jacket will take a beating. One of the reps mentioned that it would be the last high-performance jacket I’d ever need to buy. I believe her. Durable and solid construction as you’d expect from Patagonia.

-Wrist cuffs use a soft leather-like finish and taper to keep moisture out.

I saw a demo of this jacket in a water tunnel. Several people donned the jacket and then stood under a deluge for a couple minutes. Once the jackets came off, they were all crisp and dry, and smiling.

patagonia super alpine w_std

Cons:

-While the Gore-Tex is heavier than past iterations, it is also crunchier. The fabric is not at all supple. It is rigid especially where it is doubled on itself. This makes it loud and crunchy.

-Zipper pulls are tiny and require removing gloves to access.

Patagonia Super Alpine Jacket

Technical Details:

Manufacturer: Patagonia

Materials: Gore Tex, nylon

Weight: 18.5 oz

MSRP: $599

Available: Now

patagonia super alpine m_std

Miss Your Sleeping Bag

in Community by

I was laying on my living room floor in front of my laptop, trying to pick a topic to write about for this article. I was freezing because the weather has been less than kind and the heater doesn’t seem to know that it’s winter. Well, that and I spent some time in the tropics recently; everything below 75 feels freezing to me now, so I pulled a down comforter over me, then wrapped it under me and there I was, a fluffy pig-in-a-blanket in the middle of the floor. And I was warm! And you know what that made me think of? My sleeping bag. My fluffy warm down sleeping bag that I only use for camping (not just for sleepovers or when I am too lazy to make the bed). And I realized right then how much I miss my sleeping bag when I don’t get to camp regularly. It’s been about three months since my sleeping bag and I spent time together and that’s too long. I mean, a sleeping bag begins to feel ignored, lonely and like maybe you’ve left it for another sleeping bag when it’s been a quarter of a year.

If you had asked me two years ago about my sleeping bag, I’d have shrugged and said, “Yeah, I have one, so?” and moved on. I’d spent so much time with my sleeping bag that we were a bit tired of each other. We’d seen each other nearly every weekend all summer and we clocked time together every month that year. I took my sleeping bag for granted. I never missed it. So now I realize the error of my ways and realize how standoffish I must seem to my beloved sleeping bag, and as soon as I am done writing this, I’ll pull it out, dust it off and cuddle up to it and smell it to see if it has any remnant of last season’s outdoor smell. Then I’ll ask it where we should go next. Because if you have a plan, it’s easier to execute it, right?

I hope you miss your sleeping bag, too, but just enough that you appreciate it a little more. Then take it out on a trail and make good on that promise to your sleeping bag and yourself. That’s what I’m going to do. Get out there. Your tent and camp stove will thank you too.

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Mt Agung Climb – Bali

in Trails by

When the weather gets cold, the cold fly south. Well, this year we did. We went to Bali, an island paradise in the lovely South Pacific archipelago of Indonesia. This is where my husband and I did a night ascent of Mt Agung, the tallest mountain on Bali. Bali legend says that the Hindu god Pasupati split the spiritual axis of the universe (the mythical Mt Meru), and made Mt Agung from a fragment. It is a holy mountain for the Balinese and they have erected their most important temple, Besakih (Mother Temple) on the side of the mountain.

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Post dawn view of the rest of Bali’s mountains

At 9944 feet (3031 M) Mt Agung is the highest point on Bali and the 5th highest mountain in Indonesia. There are several ways to summit this active volcano. The most challenging is the seven-hour ascent in the dark, beginning at the Mother Temple, or Pura Besakih, a Hindu temple on the flank of the mountain. I’d love to tell you that we selected this route, but we knew we would not be acclimated for a seven hour ascent (plus five hour descent) in 85 degree weather.  We opted for the shorter route which leads to the other side of the crater (and therefore not the true summit, for you nit-pickers, it’s 100 feet short) but could be done in about four hours up and three hours down with time for a sunrise at the top. This route also has a spur that wraps around to the true summit, but experienced climbing is required. We opted for the direct, shortest route to a view from the top.

We left Pura Pasar Agung, the temple on the other side of the mountain from the Mother Temple, at about 2 AM and climbed steeply with headlamps cutting through the darkness. It’s essential to hire a guide for any of the climbs, as the night time ascent is not marked at all, and it is easy to wander off course in the rock fields. We used Amed Bali Tours and were very happy with their guide and their price. Ask for Wayan Botah. They were also convenient for us since we were staying in Amed. Drive times on Bali can be pretty ridiculous for the distance covered and a driver is well worth the missed hassle of car rental and navigation down thin mountain roads at night. Expect to pay up to $90 US per person for a guide and driver from your hotel regardless of where you are staying on the island.

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Pura Pasar Agung Temple from the bottom part of the trail.

Our guide Wayan is also a coffee farmer on the flank of Mt Agung, so he met us at the parking lot where our driver introduced us. We paused a moment and donned headlamps and backpacks, then Wayan wandered over to the steps of the temple and from the darkness we smelled incense and heard him chanting a prayer for a safe climb. Then we were off. Over 300 temple steps begin the climb. They are a warm up. A couple hours in, our guide let us know we had reached half way. We had come just over a mile, but had gained nearly 3000 feet of elevation. For reference, our local training challenger, Mailbox Peak, just off of I-90 is 4000 feet in 2.5 miles. Mt Agung doesn’t have switchbacks. It just goes straight up the side of the mountain, so don’t judge by mileage, but by elevation. This total climb is just short of 6000 feet elevation gained over 2.2 miles.

We managed to spot the elusive palm civet, or “luwak” as they call it, a raccoon-like nocturnal creature that is native to Bali. Monkeys live here as well and we passed scat on the trail, and remnants of their eating and foraging, but never saw any. The view back toward the city at night was pretty gorgeous though. We could even see Lombok across the strait in the distance. The stars were somewhat visible, though a light mist fell at times making the rock slippery. Wayan kept us entertained by telling us about being a coffee farmer and some of the history of the island.

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View back south toward the capitol city of Denpasar

Wayan marked the three-quarters point and we rested as he warned us about the steepest part of the trail coming next which continues to the top. At that moment it was a half hour before darkness would yield to the first pre-dawn light and we still had a full scramble across a quarter mile distance to go. We were 400 vertical meters (about 1200 feet) from the crater rim when I turned us around. It was a full scramble in the dark over slippery rock, and no ropes. It really could have used ropes. By my estimations it was a 5.6 or 5.7 ropeless climb in the dark. Going up wasn’t a problem, but I was concerned that especially if rains fell any harder that we wouldn’t be able to get back down off the black lava rock face without injury. So at 8700 feet we rested, thought it over and then descended to the nearest flat spot and waited for dawn. Wayan provided us with coffee and cookies as well as a special home made cake that his neighbor had baked. We were visited by adorable but very persistent mountain mice as we crunched our cookies.

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Flat spot where we had a rest and snack as dawn broke.

Though we didn’t summit, the views after dawn were amazing. The sun caught the water of the rice paddies below and all of Bali slowly lit up as the hazy sun cut through the mist.

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View from our rest spot.
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Looking up the trail from just below where we turned around.

The descent was grueling due to the relentless incline, but once we were back down to the beginning, we rested and wandered around the temple in the daylight before heading back to Amed.

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Temple at the beginning of the climb.

 

Osprey Pixel Port Pack

in Community by

Osprey Packs has a whole line of active everyday tech friendly packs for backpack lovers. I tested the Osprey Pixel Port pack and find that it is my top pick as a daily go-bag with my active essentials that take me from work to errands to trail without a hassle. Here’s where it worked for me.

Pros

  • Great size for my tech needs – holds my big bumbling laptop and a tablet and my iPhone all at once. It also has space for a jacket, slim water bottle and other small accessories you can’t live without.
  • Tablet access in the rain! With our wet Seattle weather this is a great feature for outdoor-loving Seattleite who needs quick access to a tablet. Get to your maps without anything getting wet!
  • Evenly padded throughout and still easy to move around.
  • Great build quality as I’ve come to expect with Osprey – comfortable back panel, great zipper pull details and strap shape and sizing.
  • Built-in organizer for office supplies, keys, etc

Cons

  • There is no waist strap so hauling heavy electronics up a trail is a shoulder exercise.
  • The center (largest) compartment is a touch slim to expect to take more than a half liter of water and light jacket or rain coat. Don’t expect it to replace your full day pack.

Final Thoughts

Works great as an update to your old laptop bag. All my electronics fit in one place and it goes in a slim line on my back. I can easily get to my tablet in Seattle rain! Great commuter bag. We even included it in our holiday gear guide in December.

Technical Details

Manufacturer: Osprey Packs

Available now

MSRP: $119.00

Osprey Pixel tech bag

Training for a Traverse

in Community/Skills by

The weather gets a bit challenging for hikers this time of year. All of our warm sun-filled days have fled and the lowlands are sloppy, while the highlands are avalanche prone and harder to access for most of us. So we turn to training to keep in shape for the next season. In the past we’ve shown some stretches and some strengthening exercises that any hiker can do to increase their endurance and abilities on the trail. But how do the more extreme adventurers among us train for their next challenges?

Polar Explorer Eric Larsen trains like this

But it doesn’t do any good to train if the training won’t help you in your endeavor. I know, I know: ballet for football players and all that, but stick with me. If you use the same muscles in your training as you will for your actual endeavor, you’re putting yourself ahead. Yes, do ballet and yoga too, but remember that it’s the strength of those quads and hams that will get you up a mountain.

Seven Summits summiteer AC Sherpa trains by playing basketball sometimes (because he likes it) but mostly by just going up mountains. When he’s not in the Himalayas guiding a group, you may find him on Mt Si with a 50 pound pack on his back, or on a quick jaunt up Mt Rainier. Practice, practice.

AC on Mt Si

What if you can’t even get to the mountains regularly? Get as close as you can. I don’t have a gym membership, so I run stairs and hills in my neighborhood. A set of bleacher stairs is usually pretty easy to find. And in the Seattle area, you’re probably not too far from a good running hill. Run up it a few times a week until it seems easy. Then find a harder one. Challenge yourself and above all, get out and do it often so when you are attempting your traverse or your summit, you’ll enjoy it that much more.

Just a little motivation for your New Year endeavors. Happy hiking!

Winter Wishes

in Community by
All of us here at Seattle Backpackers Magazine would like to thank you for being part of this lovely outdoor community.
We hope your holidays are merry and bright. We hope all your winter wishes come true.
 
And we hope all of your winter hikes end at a perfect view from atop a great mountain summit.
Shuksan BW (2)
 
 
Happy New Year!

Holiday Gear Guide

in Gear by

We knew you were just waiting to get your hands on it! Below are our picks for this season’s holiday shopping. Whether that certain someone on your list needs a jacket or a pack, we’ve got some ideas for everyone, and maybe a little something for you as well in this Holiday Gear Guide.

Keen Marshall Light Hikers – Great light hikers for everyday use. These took a few minutes to fall in love with, but are so light and flexible that they’re almost like wearing a tennis shoe with ankle support. Give them a bit of break-in time and they’ll be your go-to light hiker. No edges to catch, easy lace, great colors and quality like you’d expect from Keen.

keen marshall
Keen Marshall

Asolo Mantra Trekking Shoe – A stylish and comfortable all around utility shoe. This is a great pick for anyone who wants to go from city to hillside in a single pair of shoes. Water resistant, suede upper, great look. Compliments galore in these! Full review is here.

 

Asolo Mantra
Asolo Mantra

Osprey Pixel Plus tech bag – This is a great student bag for the light-traveler, or a light commuter. Perfect space for all of your electronic devices of any size, and enough room left over for a jacket, book and slim water bottle. Smart design like Osprey is famous for, with new colors and functions for the trendy trailblazer on your list.
Osprey Pixel tech bag
Icebug Anima2 BUGrip running shoe is the perfect choice for the dedicated runner on your list. These beauties take care of ice and slippery surfaces effortlessly! No more excuses to keep you indoors. Diamond carbide studs are permanently fixed to these shoes so all you need to do is throw them on and run on any surface. Except your wood floors. Outdoor use only. They’re serious technical grippers.

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Icebug Anima2

A photo climber’s gem, the Clik Elite Cloudscape daypack – Clik marries travel and trail for photographers in this day bag. Great for climbers, this pack stows your DSLR cmaera away for safe keeping while you climb, but provides easy access , since the padded compartment is fixed to the top of the inside of the larger pack. Plenty of room for gadgets and peripherals, and your climbing gear, too.

Clik cloudscape

Vasque Pow Pow winter boots are soft and tough. Both warm and waterproof, they give high support for snow stomping of all types. Snowshoes and crampons fit right on thanks to technical design details. Great grip in the snow, these are pretty enough to go caroling in and tough and warm enough to take to the mountains.

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Vasque Pow Pow

Looking for something seriously secure? The PacSafe CamSafe V25 camera daypack is perfect for the traveling, trekking, touring or day-tripping photo bug. With laptop compartment and removable padded camera compartment, it offers protection from impacts with additional room for your other day hike items. Padded throughout with well-thought out compartments, it can be used to hold anything you need to protect just a little more – video camera for the on-location shoot, or wine glasses for that special romantic hike. The CamSave V25 has a flexible set of compartments that allow room for several camera types and configurations with multiple lenses. But it also offers PacSafe’s signature security features which include locking zippers, embedded wire mesh throughout, and identity security (as in credit cards and passport). No one will get into your bag except for you. Not even the rain, because it comes with a rain cover, too.

PacSafe Camsafe_V25-2
PacSafe V25
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