Favorite Gear List Videos


Gear Videos. Love them, hate them. Most I come across are far too long – I have been guilty of that myself in the past, often making 30+ minute videos, it is no wonder people do not like them – but every so often a gear video comes along that really hits the sweet spot, and usually by experienced big mileage long distance hikers.

I have been sharing many of these videos with people on facebook, patreon, and via email, and thought rather than just copying-and-pasting each of them every time, I would just post these here at hikelighter.com and in the future just share the link to this page to folks. It will also allow me the ability to add additional videos in the future, as I come across ones that I really like.

Continue reading “Favorite Gear List Videos”

2 Favorite Items From My Sponsors!


Greetings Adventurers!

It seems it is time for the hiking blogosphere to start posting their “Christmas Lists” – I have already seen three or four just in the last week.

I had an article about 95% of the way written, and decided to delete it and do something different. The idea pop’ed into my brain to write up ‘my favorite piece of gear from my sponsors‘, but the more I thought about that, the more I realized I just could not decide on a single piece of gear from a couple of my sponsors. For instance, I have over 2000 days of use with the Montbell Dynamo Wind Pants and my absolute love for the Montbell U.L. Thermawrap Jacket would make it impossible for me to pick between the two. (opps, guess I just gave away that companies two favorites, doh!). The same could be said of companies like Six Moon Designs and ZPacks. So I figured the only way I could make this happen is if I picked two pieces of gear from each company that sponsors me!

So, here we go, in alphabetical order!

Continue reading “2 Favorite Items From My Sponsors!”

Review: Inov-8 Race Ultra Shell HZ

Inov-8 Race Ultra Shell HZ

Introduced to the mass public at the ISPO 2015/16, the Inov-8 ‘Race Ultra Shell HZ’ instantly become a ‘must have’ piece of gear for a whole lot of folks around the world. Initially, and still to some degree, the ability to acquire this shell was/is rather difficult, both in Europe and here in the USA.

One of my readers, who lives in Alaska, was able to acquired one from a store in Europe. After using and not finding it to work out for him, he contacted me and asked if I would like to have it, to which I said yes and a week or so later it showed up at my house — so many thanks to him!

Before I talk about how this shell performs, I think it is important to really address what this shell was designed for. More so than many other pieces of gear I have used over the years this shell has proven itself to me, and others that have reviewed it, to have a rather narrow POU (Purpose of Use) and in many ways, the POU that Inov0-8 seems to have designed this shell for is not where it seems to be performing all that well at. But that is far from saying it does not excel at other POU’s, or in different climates, because it surely does.

Continue reading “Review: Inov-8 Race Ultra Shell HZ”

Surviving a volcano eruption – what would you do?

photo credit: https://twitter.com/mori____mori/status/515706795797381121/photo/1
photo credit: @mori____mori

So hopefully most of you know that I place a lot of value in learning survival techniques related to hiking, as well as teaching hiking related survival techniques.

From complex topics such as thermoregulation (which most hikers seem to struggle with), too simple topics such as ‘never hit the trail without a compass’ (which almost every hiker I encounter on the trail and ask, does not have, and which I require for every person on my guided trips) to some of the more complex survival techniques such as compass navigation, when to allow yourself to get wet in the rain and when not too (which might sound simple but is a complex issue that is a key aspect of thermoregulation and highly variant upon other weather conditions) — all of these are topics I have written about and taught on over the last five years (and learned a great deal of myself by being out there and forcing myself to learn more and more about these issues).

Every so often, however, a hiking related survival issue comes up that makes me, if not downright forces me, to grab my extra small moleskin notebook (http://amzn.to/1ompW2P) and scribble some notes on things I have never thought about or encountered before while out hiking.

Earlier this morning I was reading an article that made me go “umm” and reach over and pull out my moleskin and jot down some notes. The article was this one: http://space.io9.com/violent-eruption-traps-hikers-at-mount-ontake-japan-1639813357 and it is all about a volcano eruption in Japan.

There was one specific video that make me cringe, knowing that if such a situation happened to me, I would have to proceed based on nothing more than some adaptation of SERE, rather than being able to evade and survive such a situation because I had already trained and prepared myself mentally and educationally on such a situation.

Watch the following video and from the very start think “what are the first five actions I should be taking at this very moment“.

Continue reading “Surviving a volcano eruption – what would you do?”

Signing off

Thank you to all of those who have sponsored me, supported me, and followed me, over the last few years!
Thank you to all of those who have sponsored me, supported me, and followed me, over the last few years!
For those who do not know, as it seems some folks do not understand this article, this article is not about me never writing again, rather it is about me taking a significant step away from writing highly detailed article over the 2014 hiking season. I have, and will continue to, write article.

The time has come for me to hang up my keyboard and step away.

The last few years that I have been blogging, writing white papers for the industry insiders, writing articles for the masses, and posting videos, has been a mixture of pure fun and intense focus on details.

Pre 2010 was learning all there was about UL hiking.
2010 & 2011 was spent learning all I could about SUL/XUL hiking.
2012 was me pushing the boundaries of XUL in every possible way.
2013 was about doing big mile days for 200+ days.
2014 is about expeditions!

What I have planned for the 2014 hiking season is just going to require so much of my focus and effort out on the trail, and here at home in front of a computer, maps, and reams of paper, that I just need to sign off for the foreseeable future. I might be back and start writing articles again, but at this point I am thinking the time has come for me to pass along the movement to other folks.

When I first started posting and writing about SUL/XUL almost nobody in the hiking community was talking about SUL hiking, and I only knew of 4 guys on the internet writing about XUL hiking – and none of them were still actively writing. Times have certainly changed over the last few years and that is just so great to see!

To the thousands of hikers, runners, adventure racers, rock climbers, summit baggers, and those doing huge expeditions… everybody that I have had the amazing pleasure of being able to help in some small way… keep going at it! Keep getting out. Keep learning. Keep learning both the hard way and the right way. Those who are able to, keep pushing the boundaries of both adventure and technology!

I have updated my hiking gear list to include the setup I will be using as the core setup for all of my 2014 expeditions. Each expedition will of course vary a small bit but it will be the core set of gear that I plan to use for most, but not all, of the trips. They are by no means going to be SUL/XUL adventures, but what I have planned is taking me into locations that are at the highest risk of the hiking world – and doing it all solo adds even greater risk to the already risky.

I am ready for the challenge. I believe the last few years have taught me what I needed to learn, have put me into situations that I needed to experience, and have allowed me to push myself and my gear to the point of failure and beyond – all things I am going to need for this next phase of my hiking life.

None of my trips will be the “OMG” type of hikes that guys like Nimblewill Nomad (my true hero in the world of hiking)  and Andrew Skurka (the modern day master of non-polar expedition) have done over their time out on the trail, but rather the type of shorter hikes that put you into very high risk places – and that really is all I am going to say for the safety of myself and those involved, beyond: One expedition involves attempting to hike a trail in one of the most deadly places in the United States, for a hiker, that has not been transversed in over 200 years, is all but lost and forgotten, and that I have spent the last 2+ years trying to piece back together. Another involves over 21,000 feet (6.4 km) of elevation change in just under 150 miles (241 km) and is something that has never been done before. And three other trips I am just not willing to share anything about until, and unless, I accomplish them and feel safe sharing about them – because all too often hikers without enough experience want to do what other hikers with far greater experience have barely been able to do – I have learned this the hard way the last two or three years while building a 500 mile trail in Northern California.

It was sometime in mid-2013 that I decided to put aside the big miles and massive amount of days out on the trail (223 days in 2013) and instead put my focus towards something new… higher risk trails that have never been done and/or are ones that all but forgotten about. If even one of the five I have planned succeeds I am going to hopefully be filled with joy by this time next year!

To all of those companies that have helped me out over the last few years, I owe you a lot of my success. Thank you for what it is that you do and thank you for helping me.

If you are on facebook I invite you to follow my HikeLighter page, as I will still be keeping it going and trying to post throughout the year.

If you are not on facebook and want to drop me a message, you can do so here.

Thank you so very much for all of the amazingly wonderful comments!

Signing off,
+John Abela

Does the ZPacks Arc Blast Have A Place In A Sub 5 Pound (2.2 kilo) Setup?

A ZPacks Arc Blast fully loaded for the winter hiking season.
A ZPacks Arc Blast fully loaded for the winter hiking season.

Greetings Hikers,

I got asked a question earlier today on my hikelighter facebook page asking what I thought about using the ZPacks Arc Blast (see my review here) in a sub-5 pound BPW setup.

It was a really good question and one I have thought about often myself so I welcomed answering the question to get my own thoughts typed out.

Here is what I responded with, posted here in an article format, for all of my readers to be able to read and share thoughts on.

My Response:

Well, as you know, weight does not always define bulk space (cubic inches/liter volume) so to answer the question on a purely numerical perspective, I would say the answer to your question could be “Yes”.

Continue reading “Does the ZPacks Arc Blast Have A Place In A Sub 5 Pound (2.2 kilo) Setup?”

Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber… using eVENT technology

Author and hiker, John Abela, wearing a Waterproof Breathable rain jacket made by ZPacks
Author and hiker, John Abela, wearing a Waterproof Breathable rain jacket made by ZPacks LLC in the Redwood forest of Northern California.
Photo Credit: Brian Doyle.

Greetings Hikers,

The topic today is the “waterproof breathable fabric” from Cuben Tech Corp.

The issue: that they have been using GE eVENT in their WP/B material.

Yes, that’s right… Cuben Tech Corp has been using eVENT inside of their breathable cuben fiber/laminate.

When I first learned about this information I have to say that I simply did not believe it. I thought the individual who told me about this was joking around with me. I quickly came to realize that my leg was not being pulled and I think my response was along the lines of “wow“. I sat stunned in my chair and it probably took me a good ten minutes to respond back to the person with that one-word response.

Why Is This Important, My Personal Thoughts:

This knowledge is important for a few reasons, and far more reasons than just what I plan to address today.

I believe this is an issue worth writing about, and the hiking community as a whole discussing, because for far too long there have been a lot of haters of the material that Cuben Tech produces. For some of these haters I believe they have total justification for having the opinions that they have, but for the vast majority of the ‘haters’ of the cuben fiber material it has all just been a bunch of puff and smoke with no real substance. It is not my goal here to change their minds, I might further validate some of their issues and I might further invalidate their issues, I have no idea and really it does not matter all that much, haters will be haters. But what I hope to do is to point out some facts that those of us who care a great deal about the gear we use, is that often times it seems that we, the end-users of gear, tend to be left in the dark about things and that sometimes can do more harm than it can do good.

Continue reading “Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber… using eVENT technology”

My thoughts on “stupid light”

There is a term in the hiking world that is becoming more popular these days, especially as more hikers such as myself in the sul/xul world are educating UL hikers in the ways of SUL hiking, that is called “stupid light”. It is a term that is being used by very experienced hikers (most of whom I greatly respect) and by HH/UL hikers who just do not ‘get’ what sul/xul hiking is all about. The term is taking on a whole new level of meaning as those of us in the sul/xul world strive to push ourselves and our gear further to the extremes and have started educating others about it.

In all but a few of the cases that I have seen some of the worlds top hikers use the term ‘stupid light’ I have found myself disagreeing with them. I fully and completely understand that their reader audience and followers are thousands and sometimes tens of thousands more than what I and other sul/xul hikers have, so they have the responsibility to their readers, to those who they are educating, to approach things from a “99%” rather than the “1%” such as what I do. By this I mean that the xul world of hiking makes up around one percent (probably less than half of one percent) of all of the hikers from around the world. Within sul hiking that number goes up a small percentage, but for the most part, when you take the millions of hikers that have hiking gear some where in their house, those who are going out for 10+ day trips with a SUL backpack are just not that large of a percentage. So I can respect these fellow hikers with massive followings and their need to write and speak to the broader audience at large.

I think that the problem that is being faced by those of us who are sul/xul hikers and who are doing these things that others consider “stupid light” is not that what we are doing is wrong, nor is it unsafe, nor is it stupid – but rather the term itself is wrong. “Stupid light” should more aptly be termed “very experienced hikers light” or something along those lines.

Many of these guys throwing around this term over the last year, that have huge followings, have been out there using exactly the gear that they now call “stupid light” – as can be easily researched when you look at their gear lists for previous hikes that they have done. This is not me being critical towards those hikers, but rather I think it is important to point this out because it shows that “stupid light” is not about being “stupid” – it is about being “experienced” and knowing exactly what your gear is, how to use it, how to keep it in good shape, how to repair it should something happen, and how to just use your brain in general when things do not go as planned. The exact opposite of being “stupid”.

For the record, I do not strive to have a massive following. My style of hiking, and the hikelighter.com website, is all about the sul/xul styling of hiking. I accepted the fact that I would loose 90+% of my followers when I went to only talking and educating others about sul/xul hiking, and that is exactly what happened, and I am perfectly fine with that. What it has done is it has allowed me to connect with a much larger group of hikers who are sul/xul hikers than I ever did when I was focused on UL/SUL hiking. It has also given me the amazing opportunity to help a few dozen hikers break through the UL levels of backpack and work their way down into the SUL world – and good for them!!

So here is my request to those hikers out there who are using the term “stupid light” in their course of communications: The terminology is simply not right – and most of you know that. To claim that those of us in the hiking world, who collectively have tens of thousands of miles as sul/xul hikers, are “stupid” because we have the experience to go out onto the trail with gear that the 99% have no right to be out there using, is not “stupid”. We are experienced hikers using gear that can keep us as safe as any hiker with a 20 pound setup. We are experienced hikers who are helping to revolutionize the hiking industry as a whole by seeking out new gear and new materials and new methods of approaching how to solve the problems hikers face. Stupid has nothing to do with it – it is all about experience.


Preparing For Shoulder/Winter Season, Clothing

Hello Hikers,

I figured with it being mid-June that I should probably start putting some thoughts into the 2012 shoulder and winter hiking season. If you have been following my articles for very long you know I am not a big fan of that white stuff that so many others seem to enjoy so much, and thankfully here in the Redwoods of Northern California we do not get a lot of it.

Earlier today I was catching up on some fellow hiker articles and one of my favorite hikers from New Zealand posted a article about his planned base-layer for the rest of the year, and that is what got me thinking that it is getting close to that time of the year where I need to start planning my own setup.

So below I will outline what I am planning at this point in time for my 2012 shoulder and winter hiking season clothing setup. I would love to have other hikers out there who are planning and writing up their own shoulder/winter gear lists drop me a comment with your own setup! Each year the hiking industry is getting larger and larger and I am sure there is gear out there that some of you are using that I have no idea even exists and could be better than what I am planning to use!! Continue reading “Preparing For Shoulder/Winter Season, Clothing”

2 Ounce Cook Kit

Greetings Hikers,

It has been awhile since I posted an article on a cook kit, and my good buddy Chad recently decided to post a blog on his cook kit, which he and I worked on a bit to finalize (and I think he really nailed his) so I figured I would go ahead and share with the world what cook kit I have been using lately. The difference between his and mine is somewhere around 0.1 ounces so these will be pretty close to identical. I also know four or five other hikers out there who have contacted me the last few months and are building themselves nearly identical cooking setups. Most of them SUL hikers, one I think was UL wanting to just have something light and simple.

I feel it will be important here to start off by saying I have typically been a “no cook hiker”, which means that my meals are able to be made without the use of any hot water. For 2012 I have told myself that I will not abuse myself as much as I did last year (in my quest to go hard core XUL, with sub 2 pound BPW setups) and so I have switched back to carrying a cook kit. This does result in an additional 8 ounces of weight per section of trail (1 ounce per day of fuel + cook kit, on average of 6 days between resupplies) but the ability to have a warm cup of coffee in the morning, or some eggs, or a hot meal after hiking in the rain all day, well it really makes up for those extra eight ounces, when it all comes down to it. Continue reading “2 Ounce Cook Kit”