GooseFeet Gear is a cottage manufacturer of handmade down backpacking gear. The company is run by Ben Smith, a 21 year old backpacker in school for industrial engineering at Georgia Tech.
I just completed a new site for Ben that now reflects the quality and simplicity of his creations. I'm so excited by what Ben is doing at GooseFeet that I took the majority of payment in trade. Now having used a wide variety of his gear, I can whole-heartedly recommend his work.
A bookmarklet I made for turning any website into a seizure party. Reading an arduous article about a country you can't even pronounce the name of? Annoyed that your bank balance isn't higher? Bring the party to the Uzbecky Becky Becky Stan Stan article or your overdrawn notice!
Ryan Jordan, founder of the online publication BackpackingLight and accomplished outdoorsman and backcountry guide:
While pondering the state of equipment innovation for wilderness travel, I've reached the same state of despair that I find myself in when questioning why economists have lots of answers and no solutions, why politicians (pretend to) have lots of solutions but no mechanisms for validation, and why consumers have an unquenchable thirst for more (innovation, newness, shine, and storage) or less (cost, weight, time required to acquire).
Oh sure, there will always be a small influx of brand new customers into this little ultralight niche that will keep the cottage industry in business just enough so they can write off their backpacking trips and make payments on their logo-emblazoned trade show campers, but their quest for pursuing innovation doesn't seem to reflect the availability and cheap costs of new manufacturing technologies, state of the art fabrics, and real design. Instead, the cottage industry reinforces that paradigm of gear that is "made in my garage with substandard equipment from sketches on paper scraps using an uncalibrated ruler and dull scissors."
He sure pissed off a lot of people in the ultralight backpacking community he had a large hand in creating by posting this diatribe of the current state of innovation with cottage manufacturers of ultralight backpacking gear and the rampant consumerism of what he considers increasingly subpar products.
Mainstream backpacking companies have come around to the idea of lightweight backpacking over the last few years, and the industry is beginning to see the results of years of product design from the major players. It's easy to see cottage manufactured gear as subpar in the face of true industrial engineers and designers creating products with real R&D budgets now using the same innovative fabrics the cottage industry has been using for years. Ryan Jordan could have written an article as a rallying cry for the cottage industry to improve their process and products or die in the face of large organizations zeroing in on their market.
But, he decided to piss in the campfire instead of throwing a log on.
On October 29th, I started what became my second annual backpacking trip around the Three Sisters near Bend, OR. This year, I went with a friend (who I met through my hiking site Went Hiking) Chris. We decided on an agressive schedule—we planned to do the 52 miles in two days with and one night. That meant we had a minimum daily mileage of 26 miles.
I'm happy to say we survived without injury or ruin, and it was an exhilerating trip. Check out my full post about it on my Went Hiking blog.
So much of our culture thrives on curation—the editing and selection of the constant stream of newness fighting for our attention. Within that stream, we congratulate and elevate those that find a way to edit down that stream to a personal vision, a curated view from the perspective of someone with good taste. Steve Jobs is just a single example of such an editor.
This video is an excellent call to action for everyone to embrace a more "edited" life and to be more thoughtful of its direction in regard to the things around you vying for your attention.
My wife Christy is a talented artist and film lover who has been working on a film blog for the last year. There is now a long history of insightful commentary on movies you've likely never heard of but are worth watching. Check it out.
More and more, the average life is spent in front of computers, televisions, and smart phones. People travel everywhere by car and it seems we are slowly approaching the condition of humans in WALL-E:
This may seem a bit over the top, but the human condition is devolving in its capacity to be a wild animal, to provide for itself, to survive on its own. You're reading this blog and so perhaps, Dear Reader, you are already acutely aware of the simple pleasure of walking to see things not ordinarily visited and of being self-reliant, but most are not. Backpacking is just one way ordinary people can reconnect with nature and our natural selves.
To those that haven't yet been on a backpacking trip of at least two nights, please let me fill you in.
Walking without a destination through forests and on the top of ridges and mountains, carrying your only options of survival on your back is exhilarating. You can exhaust yourself so completely that you get better sleep on rocks than you do in your bed, and wake up with the sun, completely filthy, and never feel more alive. You'll run across wild animals, overflowing with the anxiety and fear you're supposed to have toward these creatures, only to find them timid, happy, and majestic. You'll arrive at destinations few have seen, and bask in the absolute silence of miles of untouched world.
Backpacking is, essentially, now a sport; however, it used to be how people traveled and lived and explored. It is our roots. Walking and sleeping are such simple, base activities, but there's so much beauty in the world left unseen by your eyes that it'd be a shame not to go visit.
February of last year, Oregon was hit with a freak warm front that brought over a week of 50º weather and sunshine to the area. I took that opportunity to round up a backpacking trip of me and my friends, branding it "MANPING" to make light of the fact we were casually backpacking in winter, none of us with real four-season camping experience. The trip was a great success, staying at low elevations in the Mount Hood National Forest to avoid snow, we had a really enjoyable night in the wilderness, replete with a roaring fire and whiskey.
Naturally, I wanted to try to recreate such a fun trip this year. I set up a Facebook event and invited friends to come out for the second annual MANPING trip. I was particularly excited because I'd just upgraded a few bits of gear, notably a new ultralight backpack, tarp, and insulation layer. This year however, the weather didn't work out in our favor.
As the date got closer, the forecasted weather deteriorated from sunny skies and 45º to a 70% chance of rain and a high of 40º. Friends dropped like flies in the face of the unfriendly weather conditions. The count was down to just two of us—my friend Kevin and I. We tried to make the most of it now that it was just a duo; knowing we both had Friday off, we extended our trip to two nights, planning a loop in the Columbia River Gorge.
It was a beautiful day in Portland; but, it was steadily raining by the time we got to the trailhead 40 minutes away. We had roughly 5.5 miles of ground to cover and 3700' of vertical, and it never stopped raining. We stopped twice, and then only briefly, to grab water or a snack, before continuing on through the rain to Dublin Lake, our first night's camp.
When we finally arrived, the lake was encircled in snow and frozen over. Two campsites were mostly bare, though the top layer of soil was frozen, leaving water to stand on top of the duff. Kevin and I were both soaked through; no amount of Gore-tex was capable of keeping someone dry for that amount of sustained weather. A large rock was required to smash through the inch-thick ice on the lake to obtain water. We found the best spot we could, pitched the tarp, and huddled underneath. It was 5 o'clock and still very much light out.
I, naturally being an idiot, didn't bring an extra shirt, just my down jacket as extra clothing. After putting it on over my soaked Patagonia R1 fleece, the whole jacket collapsed, rendering it worthless. So too did parts of my down sleeping bag, the moisture introduced from my soaking wet underwear and fleece creating high amounts of humidity in the bag. For a couple hours while cooking and eating dinner, I was rather nervous about the night, having only deflated down insulation under an open-air tarp for the night, surrounded by snow and camped on frozen earth, rather chilled already.
After those couple hours—and multiple times venting the inside of my sleeping bag to let out the steam room microclimate I was creating inside my bivy—the down started to dry out, I started warming up, and I could relax into the evening and joke around with Kevin about how we actually elected to be stuck in the cold rain under a tarp in February. We also decided to head back to the car the next day, as it'd be foolhardy to continue on so wet. Needless to say, it was a cold night as much moisture lingered in my insulation, robbing me of precious loft while the rain continued to fall hard against the tarp above us.
We woke in the morning around 7, and by the time coffee was prepared and hard-boiled eggs consumed, the rain finally stopped. No longer oppressed by the sky, we sprang from our shelter to don our wet clothes, pack our bags, and head back to the Wahclella Falls trailhead. I couldn't find the willpower to put my pants back on, still dripping with rainwater, so I hiked out in my long johns and gaiters. Without the rain, it was a beautiful hike through dripping, foggy woods.
This year's MANPING was definitely more manly than last. It was also a good gear shakedown, to better understand what I'm capable of handling in likely the worst conditions I'll find myself in. I can't say I'm ever going to willingly go backpacking again through sustained rain in the winter (especially with so little rain gear and no spare clothes), but I'm now much more confident that I can still safely get by with minimal amounts of gear.
It just may not be comfortable.
For the gear whores among us, my base weight was roughly 12lbs and total pack weight of roughly 15
The Three Sisters Wilderness is one of the most beautiful and varied in Oregon. In July, I did a three-day loop around the North and Middle Sister, traveling cross-country over the pass between the Middle and South Sister. We covered the 40 miles in the three days, a casual pace that allowed us to swim in lakes, relax often, and enjoy some of the more unique aspects of the trail such as the Obsidian Limited Entry Area.
One of my favorite toys is a little camera mount called a StickPic. At less than a half ounce, it allows you to attach your camera to a trekking pole and take a photo of yourself from a much further distance. I used it to film myself throughout the three days, the results of which you can see below. Enjoy!
What a plague of retardation. Starbucks is one of the most ubiquitous brands in the world; they’re on every street corner, sometimes twice. Despite their immense popularity and growth and influence, they insist on using Italian names for sizes of every drink they sell, including milkshakes and tea, assuming that the average person will feel camaraderie with the brand or some such positive feeling or association. If not, then why continue the practice? Don’t want to rock the boat?
The inconsistency is what makes it worse—”latte” is now the defacto name for espresso with steamed milk, despite it being the word for just milk in Italian. When someone orders a “grande latte”, they are certainly not getting what they are ordering, and are in fact speaking a new language that only applies to ordering Starbucks drinks: I will coin this Starbuckslish.
Dear Starbucks employees,
It’s midnight. A young man walks in rather disheveled, red-eyed, still in business casual. He orders a “medium coffee.” Under no crazy random happenstance should you ever say, “you mean grande coffee?” That young man is me. I am still at the office working. I am running regular expressions over pasted in PDF jibberish to try and save myself some tagging busywork, to salvage sleep. I am hating life—don’t make me hate Starbucks more.