Suluk46 “A-Pod” – an ultralight camera-pod!

The Suluk46 A-Pod, a 6 gram camera pod!
The Suluk46 A-Pod, a 6 gram camera pod!

Hello All,

I am very happy to announce that an awesome new product for the hiking community, that I have been co-designing since the middle of 2013, has just been made available for purchase!

It is called the “A-Pod” – and it is a 6 grams (0.21 ounce) ultralight camera-pod for those looking for the lightest of the lightest for their point-and-shoot camera or phone!

The A-Pod is used by placing it over the tip of an inverted hiking pole (or a stick off the ground) and using 3 (or more) pieces of cord that are tied onto the top stabilizing disc and using stakes (or sticks pick up off the ground or even tied to other surrounding objects) that provides stability for the upright hiking pole/stick/whatever!

It is a brilliantly simple camera accessory and designed to be the absolute lightest weight possible to get the job done!

Continue reading “Suluk46 “A-Pod” – an ultralight camera-pod!”

Trail-life Update & Updated ZPacks Belt Pouch

Greetings Hikers,

I am home for a little over a week and then off for more hiking! Love this time of the year.

I just got home from a great 5 day 120 mile hike and a package from ZPacks.Com was waiting for me, along with a shipment of freeze dried food food from Honeyville Grain which I badly needed to get myself resupplied with fruit, meat and refried beans. Showing up later this week will be a shipment from MontBell America with a replacement Montbell U.L. SuperSpiral #1 (my prefered sleeping bag) and the Montbell Mirage Parka, a new pair of Dynamo Wind Pants, the updated sub-2 ounce 2013 Tachyon Wind Jacket and a couple other small things. I am also getting a resupply of Probar Meals, and some FITS socks to give a try alongside my Wigwam socks. Oh, and I ordered up a new LiteTrail 550ml Ti pot that should be here before I head back out onto the trail, which I am going to give a go with, and let my Evernew 600ml pot a rest.

IMG_3301As for my most recent trail. It was an interesting adventure. Saw some beautiful country, pushed myself pretty hard, broke some gear, learned a bit more about dealing with people who are sitting at home and suppose to be helping out hikers yet utterly fail to do so when the hiker actually needs something, got to test out my new ZPacks Arc Blast (my second one, all black with all the extras, nicknamed “Darth Vader”), experienced some weather that was waaaay colder than what it was suppose to be, and all in all had a great time.

The first day out I was moving along at a good rate and snapped part of one of my Gossamer Gear trekking poles. After hiking for a couple of hours I found a spot with a very weak internet connection and I contact the guy that was suppose to be the ‘new guy’ in charge of handling requests from Sponsored hikers/Trail Ambassadors for Gossamer Gear and long story short, that went over very very badly. It is as if people do not understand that some of us actually spend the vast majority of the year out on the trail and when we contact them to help out, it is because we actually honest to God need help. I got a run around from this guy and eventually just decided to say screw it and not even bother trying to get a new pole piece sent out overnight to the next trail town that I was going to be at in two days. So I just had somebody else overnight me my Blackdiamond Alpine Carbon Cork trekking poles from home. I love Grant and Glen from GossamerGear, but whoever in the world it was that made the decision to outsource their Trail Ambassador program to somebody outside the company, needs to rethink that whole idea. We hikers out on the trail have limited internet and phone connectivity, we should not have to play a go-around-game just to get the gear we need. This whole event was a nice reminder that when your gear breaks out on the trail, it is always a good and wise thing to have somebody back home, be it family or a friend, that can handle resolving an issue for you. I am very grateful to my family, my friends, and those at my company, for all that they do to allow me to keep being out on the trail so much. Beyond that ordeal, the first day was good. Did some nice elevation changes, and thankfully had a good amount of water with me when I started as it was a day with only one water source, and it was around 14 miles in. Eat a crazy amount of food for some reason. Stupid me for not pounding a bunch of high energy food before I left my truck. Set up camp in a really beautiful spot, and was sure to mark it on the map for future trips. It was one of those odd days when you do not see, or even hear, any animals. I enjoy the sound of animals and seeing birds flying around, but there was not a peep or feather anywhere to be heard or seen.

IMG_3235The second day was hard, as they usually are. Body was aching, still pissed off by the aforementioned events of yesterday, and my feet were bugging me as this was the first hike of any distance that I have done with sandals. So many hikers I really respect, hikers out on the trail right now hiking the CDT or who hiked it last year, have made the switch over to sandals and I figured it was about time I gave it a try, so I ditched my much beloved Inov-8 shoes and went with a pair of sandals. Taking some getting use to. A lot stiffer than the crazy light trail runners I am use to, and the straps on the top of the foot are kind of bugging me, but the freedom of stretching my toes, and the complete breathability factor, and the knowledge I do not have to worry about foot-swell, are all things I am beginning to see as really amazing reasons for making the switch. I was able to have access to a lot of water on day two, so that was nice. Put my Sawyer Squeeze to a lot of use. Having added the small section of tube (see my previous article) was totally worth the extra few grams of weight. It just makes filling up water bottles so much easier. One of those situations where weight  for functionality is smart hiking.

The third day I was able to get into a trail town and get some supplies, but most importantly was getting the hiking poles. It was a very small town (one of those towns that is a store/postoffice) so not a lot to do there so I just grabbed my stuff and went on my way. I think one of the things I said about the Blackdiamond Alpine Carbon cork hiking poles when I reviewed them was something along the lines of them being heavy, but oh so worth it. The more I use these poles the more I love them. Yeah, they are heavy trekking poles (when compared to the Gossamer Gear trekking poles) but these are the most rock solid pair of hiking poles I have ever used. They also make setting up my shelter at night a bit faster and easier, because the locking systems on them is a lot easier than sitting there doing ‘the twist’. Yeah, I love the LT4 poles, but Gossamer Gear really needs to find a way to move away from twist locking mechanisms – please guys!! The end of day three turned cold and thankfully I had with me my Montbell Alpine Light Down Parka. It is my no means the lightest jacket out there, but it has saved my butt a few times. I am really looking forward to getting the Montbell Mirage Parka later this week! It has one ounce more down than the Alpine and weighs 1.9 ounces less! I was also seriously glad I had with me my Black Rock Gear Hadron hat and the Black Rock Gear Mitts. It thankfully did not rain but I had with me the ZPacks Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber Rain Jacket, at 4.7 ounces, it just makes sense to always carry it.

IMG_3261The fourth day was all about pounding the miles, and that is exactly what I did. Started off really cold, sub freezing and stayed cold pretty much all day. I hiked for about four hours in the dark until I was really tired and knew I would just go right to bed. Went to bed cold.

The fifth day I again started off cold but thankfully it warmed up a bit. Ended the 120 mile section of trail when it was almost dark and headed home. Made up some spaghetti and feasted.

My next trip out will be hiking the same exact section of trail, only this time in the other direction. One of the aspects of building a new trail is the joy of getting to hike the same trail multiple times in multiple directions, at different times of the year. It helps you make sure that you have enough GPS data to be able to properly build a map system that others will be able to use, and it helps you really learn where the water is at and when there will be a water source and when it will be a dry creek. I will likely be taking a camera with me on my next hike so I should have some photos and video to share. There is some really beautiful country up here in North Western California.

Gear Report:

IMG_3414Besides the already mentioned issue with the LT4 poles, this was a great trip to test out some new gear. My new ZPacks Arc Blast road like a champ. Really loving that backpack. It was way more then what I needed for this trip but I wanted to get some more miles on it. I also used the Lawson Ti-Hook Stakes for the first time. I gotta say I really enjoyed them over a traditional hook stake, the slightly more bent head really did make them noticeably better. I also took with me a Petzl TacTikka Plus for the first time. I gotta say that while it is heavier than any other light I have taken, it was kind of nice having a full power torch to use, it was the main reason I hiked for four hours in the dark. I also took with me the Klymit Double Diamond vest. I have been using one for a few months around the house and on short day hikes, so this was the first hike of any miles I have taken it. It is crazy heavy compared to my down vests/jackets, and it seems to suffer a problem of not drying out very fast, but I gotta say, it is really impressing me. Going to give it a lot more trail time before I make a verdict on it. I took with me the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm, size large of course. It is one beastly sleeping pad, but I gotta say, it is the most comfortable air sleeping pad I have ever used. Almost tempted to keeping lugging it around the rest of the year, regardless of the fact it is 570 grams – which makes it heavier than my entire shelter system, the Six Moon Designs Skyscape X, the Adventure Medical Kits Sol Emergency Blanket (groundcloth), and the 5 stakes that the SMD SX takes. For heating up water I took the TrailDesigns Caldera Sidewinder and the Evernew 600ml pot. For food I took mostly food I had made myself over the winter season, using the Excalibur dehydrator I got for Christmas, which all of my family pitched in together and got for me.

Anyway, I grabbed my camera a bit ago and decided to shoot a quick video on the updated ZPacks Belt Pouch, which I ordered while out on the trail.

I hope everybody out there is having an awesome, fun, and safe hiking season!

+John Abela
HikeLighter.Com


In accordance of USA Federal Trade Commission 16 CFR, Part 255: I hereby declare that the products mentioned within the content of this article were not supplied to me in exchange for services.

As of April 2013 I am a sponsored hiker of: Montbell America, Gossamer Gear, Black Rock Gear, Suluk46.

Montbell – A New Sponsor

Montbell - Light & Fast
Montbell – Light & Fast

Greetings Hikers,

I received word yesterday from the North American Operations of Montbell that I have been accepted as a sponsor of Montbell. This is a very exciting new sponsorship for me. Montbell is one of the leading companies in ultralight hiking gear and to be accepted by them is truly an honor and I want to extend a huge thank you to those involved in this decision at Montbell.

I have never made it any secrete that I have a special place in my hiking heart for Montbell. I have done extensive testing and publication on their gear over the last few years and their gear has continued to stand up to all that I have demanded of it.

One of the most popular articles I have written has been on the Montbell Dynamo Wind Pants – a truly amazing piece of gear that I have worn for over two thousands miles of hiking. Dozens and dozens of hikers have read my article on these pants and bought them and sent me an email saying thanks, and I have even come across a few hikers on youtube that have mentioned my article when talking about them buying these wind pants. I can honestly say that I have never encountered any other pair of pants I would prefer to be out hiking with… be it sunny and hot, raining like crazy, or even in the snow. These pants have been with me everywhere.

I have also written a Long Term Review: MontBell U.L. Super Spiral Hugger – a sleeping that I have over 250-nights of use with. I recently bought my second U.L. Super Spiral #1 sleeping bag and have been using it over the winter season with a huge smile on my face.

Just before the start of the 2012/2013 winter season I purchased the Montbell Alpine Light Down Parka. It has been one of the best parkas I have ever purchased. I acquired mine just before their Mirage Parka came out, so I look forward to giving it a go over the 2013 hiking season. Those I trust the most have been telling me the Mirage is a dream come true jacket for them.

And of course my long time readers know all to well my long standing love with the Tachyon Wind Jacket. It was the wind jacket that introduced me and a lot of other hikers I know to the fact that wind jackets have a serious place in a UL/SUL/XUL hikers backpack. Their new 2013 version has hit the scales at an insane sub 50 gram mark.

When talking with other hikers I have often said that Montbell is one of those rare companies that exist that have given me the means to reach the weight levels that I have over the last few years. As a primarily SUL hiker I have used a lot of gear over the last few years and there are very few pieces of gear that have made it from one season to the next season — and not because I am hard on my gear, far from it, but rather because so much of the gear made today by companies claiming to make SUL gear, have simply not been able to design, develop, test, and bring to market gear that actually meets the needs of my style of hiking. I can truly count the companies that I consider to be top end companies for SUL hiking gear on one hand. Montbell is among them.

To be granted the opportunity to be a sponsor of Montbell is a huge honor for me. I am going to keep using their gear that I have already proven to be solid, test their new gear to see how it holds up, and I will continue to invest the time to write articles where I share my honest thoughts about the gear I use from Montbell. I have never bought a piece of gear from Montbell where after using it I went “Hmm, I wish I had not bought that“. That alone pretty much says it all.

Again, to those of you at Montbell, thank you very much and I look forward to developing a further relationship with Montbell over the years ahead. Continue to strive to make the gear that you make!

Thank you,

+John Abela
HikeLighter.Com

Suluk46 Backcountry Team – Sponsorship

suluk46Greetings Hikers,

Today I am very excited to announce that I have become a sponsored hiker of Suluk46, joining their Backcountry Team sponsorship program.

The owner of Suluk46, Steve Evans, and I have been in contact with each other for a number of years now. He has traveled the world, lives in Canada, and is the maker of some of the finest gear that I have ever purchased.

Steve has a great YouTube Channel that I have followed since he started posting videos.

He is one of the very few hikers in the world that has a decent amount of miles using a 0.34 cuben fiber tarp, and I am not positive but I think he has the second most miles of anybody, after myself. He strives for everything that I strive for: intimate knowledge of your gear, having the finest gear that does what it is designed to do, and the experience to be able to go out there and push yourself without putting yourself at risk.

I have been a long time user of his gear and have never purchased a single piece of gear from him that I felt was sub-par in any way.

The Suluk46 Titanium Windscreen is an absolute vital part of my sub two ounce cook kit (see video).

The Suluk46 Collapsible Titanium Stove is without a doubt the best wood burning stove for sub 400ml cups that exists. (see my review)

The Suluk46 Titanium Trowel is unquestionably the toughest and lightest full size trowel that I have ever owned. (see my review)

I am presently testing his newest product, the Suluk46 Titanium Double-wall Wood burning Stove, and it has been truly amazing me. (full review coming after I get more testing in different weather conditions) It is a sub-three ounce dream for wood burning fans!

And one of these days I am going to end up buying the Suluk46 Titanium/Carbon Fiber Ice Tool. I almost bought it the end of last year but I was not sure of just how long of a handle I would want and have been testing different length handles on some cheap’o ice axes this winter. Still not sure to be honest… what a tricky thing it is, trying to pick the best length for an ice tool.

As a hiker, and as many of my readers know, I tend to really push the boundaries of gear. It has been this reason that I have sought out companies such as Suluk46 in order to find gear that allows me to push the boundaries without excessive risks. I demand the lightest weight gear possible, and at the same time I also demand that gear to handle situations that weekender gear would never be able to survive in. Not that I am abuse towards my gear, but rather because I carry so very little gear as a SUL/XUL hiker, what gear I do have has to perform without failure every time it is called upon. Suluk46 has become one of my go-to companies for gear that I know I can buy – and trust that it will perform without failures and be as lightweight as a piece of gear can be made with modern material.

I know that a lot of my readers have bought gear from Suluk46 and that is awesome – if you have not already bought some gear from them, I would really encourage you to check out what they offer.

I am truly grateful to Steve Evans, to Suluk46, for adding me as a member of the Suluk46 Backcountry Team!!

+John Abela

suluk46_sponsorship

Sawyer Squeeze – Updated 2013 Version

Greetings Hikers,

2013 Sawyer Squeeze
2013 Sawyer Squeeze

A few days ago, on January 15, Ron Bell from Mountain Laurel Designs announced on their facebook page that a new 2013 version of the Sawyer Squeeze had been released. (read my review of the original 2012 product)

The announcement included the fact that (a) Sawyer has redesigned the water bladder material, (b) they have reduced the included bags from three bags to a single bag, and (c) they have reduced the price a few dollars.

Ron Bell, like a few of us in the hiking industry, have been in contact with Sawyer since the release of the Squeeze filter, about trying to resolve the high failure rate issues with the original Squeeze bag. Thankfully Ron has a larger voice than some of us and has actually been able to get some direct input on these new bags.

I, and others, have been huge supporters of the Sawyer Squeeze filter. But we have not been able to support the bags that Sawyer produced. The Squeeze filter itself is the absolute best filter presently in the hiking world on a performance to weight ratio. As I try to make a key point of within my review of the Sawyer Sqeeuze it is the only filter out there that provides us with an Absolute One Micron filter – and that word “absolute” is a big issue. Do a search for the word “absolute” on the CDC page concerning water filtration if you do not believe me. If you do not want to believe both the CDC and myself, just do a google search for “absolute vs nominal micron” and research it yourself. Simply put, as a backcountry hiker, what I want in my backpack is an Absolute One Micron filter, and the Sawyer Squeeze is the one filter out there that provides me that level of filtration – and does so at only 93.64 grams (3.303 ounces) Continue reading “Sawyer Squeeze – Updated 2013 Version”

HikeLighter.Com Facebook Page

Greetings Hikers,

Well I figured it was finally time to put together a page over on facebook that is setup specifically for hikelighter.com – mostly for cross publication of my articles to be listed over there.

If you are on facebook and would like to join me over there:

https://www.facebook.com/HikeLighter — the new page for HikeLighter.Com

https://www.facebook.com/abela — my personal facebook page

I would love to have all of you follow my HikeLighter page and I welcome anybody that would like to become friends with me to send an invite to my personal account.

Thanks,
+John Abela

HikeLighter 1 Year Celebration!

Greetings Hikers,

Well this is a huge surprise for me… apparently next week HikeLighter.Com will have been online for a year. I will be having family in town next week for the holiday seasons so I thought I would write up an article now so I can stay away from the computer as much as possible while family is here.

Many of you may remember that I started off using redwoodoutdoors.com, which I started on  December 27th 2009 and I have made the decision to no longer use at the start of 2013, so I have actually been writing articles related to hiking for a number of years, guess that would be three years. Before that I exclusively did youtube video reviews for a couple of years under a number of different accounts. It has been fun. I have almost stopped a number of times, but each time I walk away (usually because I am out hiking) I came back with a renewed focus and start something new, which keeps me going for a couple more years.

Somewhere during my time of using redwoodoutdoors the online hiking community started to explode and really started seeking out bloggers and video reviewers, and like a number of other hikers, it was during that time that I really started to see a massive increase in readers, viewers, and other hikers getting involved. As my long time readers may recall I started struggling to keep redwoodoutdoors going. This was because I had become frustrated with the fact that the vast majority of my readers of those articles were weekend hikers and I had lost my zeal for writing about gear and news and cottage stuff that was just for weekend hikers… I needed something, a new outlet, that would allow me to really stay focused on what it was I had become, a long distance super ultralight hiker, that also enjoyed doing extreme ultralight hiking in the summer time while not on long distance hikes. If you have not already done so, I would encourage all of my readers to read how I define basepack weights, as I approach that issue from a much differently then everybody else. So after a lot of pondering on what to do, while out hiking of course, I came up with the idea to start a new website devoted to super ultralight and extreme ultralight hiking. Over the years there have been a few guys out there in the sul/xul world who have created websites focused on sul/xul, but I had never seen any website where regular articles were being published and in blog-style format where readers could share their thoughts.

Throughout the world there are only a half-dozen or so websites on the entire internet that really have substantial content that can help a sul hiker get down into the xul world. I wanted to bring what I had learned and share it for others. I have/had learned so much from those half-dozen or so other xul hikers that I felt it was sort of a responsibility to those guys that I also share what I had learned to try to help others.

When I first made the decision to focus on sul/xul hiking related articles I figured I would loose 99% of my readers that had been following me at redwoodoutdoors.com and my redwoodoutdoors youtube channel. For the most part I did loose a massive audience. What I also expected was that hikelighter.com would probably have no more than a dozen hikers actually follow what was being published – after all, the world of sul/xul is massively small compared to those in the heavy haulers and ultralight world.

However, I have been utterly amazed at just how wrong I was about that. It turns out there are actually a lot more hikers out there in the sul/xul world then I think most of us that are into hiking really understands. I simply cannot count the amount of emails I have received over the last year from sul/xul hikers around the world. Thousands and thousands of them. On average I spend around three hours of my day responding to emails that I receive from other hikers, and probably another hour on facebook (my profile) in the private message area corresponding with hikers (thankfully I do not have a tv to waste away my life sitting infront of) and the amount of knowledge I have gained from other hikers over the last year has been truly amazing!

It has also been amazing to be a part of helping other hikers break into the sul weight of hiking. And to help sul hikers go from sul down to the xul level is just mind-blowing – it takes such a huge change in thought process and experience to get to that level and be able to do so safely.

Over the last year I have had a lot of hikers from around the world ask if I would go in a specific direction with my articles. I have also gotten a lot of requests to write more articles. I have also gotten some complaints from hikers asking why hikelighter does not have a lot of articles, to which I kindly reply letting them know that hikelighter is not even a year old. I remember one guy a half year or so ago was trashing hikelighter.com on a couple of different websites because I only had 20 or so articles. Well, at that time I had been writing on average five articles a month! There are very few hiking blogs out there that have the kind of in-depth articles that I write, that push out five articles a month. The few that do, man do I love those guys and their ability to bang out the articles!

This one year celebration article is my 40th published article here at hikelighter.com – that is an average of 3.3 articles a month, for the first year of this websites history.

I had wanted to get to 45 articles by years end but I had a couple of articles where I invested a couple hundred hours of research into them – such as my SUL/XUL Solo Fully Enclosed Shelter Comparison and the Two-person Sub 900 gram Fully Enclosed Shelters articles, both of which have become the definitive go-to-resources for the lightest of the lightest solo and two person shelters. Each of those articles have spanned the globe, being talked about in forums and blogs in languages I do not know, but I am thankful that google chrome has an automatic translation tool built in so I can read what other hikers are saying about those articles.

My two part article on the ZPacks Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber Jacket has also been the go-to research for those looking and contemplating purchasing it. It is the third most read article on the website.

My article on the Sawyer PointOne Squeeze Water Filter has been the second most read article – it along with two other highly respected hiking bloggers have resulted in probably tens of thousands of those water filters being sold, and there is no doubt at all that when it was discovered that the Evernew Water Carry Bags worked on the Sawyer Squeeze that a mad rush of them being purchased ensued. Within four eight hours of my posting about that, three of the four main suppliers in the usa had sold out their stock. A day or two later a couple other bloggers posted about it and the last main supplier with some in stock sold out within 24 hours. Now every cottage company is doing everything they can to get their hands on both the Squeeze Filter and the Evernew Water Bags.

Those out there that think internet bloggers are not a driving force in outdoor gear sales need to either close up shop or move into the modern world. Here is my response to them: a single article I wrote, earlier this year, accounted for over ten thousand dollars worth of sales for a single cottage company. Another one of my articles caused a cottage owner to sale out of his entire supply in under 12 hours and brought him in over three thousand dollars worth of sales in the initial twelve hours and another two thousand dollars over the next week. One of my more recent articles caused yet another cottage owner to have to hire two additional part time staff in order to fill all of the orders they received in a timely manner. One cottage manufacturer has been totally unable to keep a product that I have reviewed in stock (and I am the only person on the internet that has a detailed review of the product) and each time they have another batch ready they sale out within 24 hours, netting them over six thousand dollars per batch – and they have easily sold over twenty thousand dollars worth of just that single product this year.  This might sound as if I am bragging, and I suppose in a way I am, but what it shows is that the hiking industry needs to wake up to the fact that super ultralight and extreme ultralighters hikers have a buying force behind them, and are willing to spend big big money in order to obtain the lightest and best gear that we can.

Over the course of 2012 I have designed two products that have been brought to the market and are being used by hikers around the world, and I have had the honor of becoming a sponsor of Black Rock Gear and a Trail Ambassadorship of Gossamer Gear – thank you to both of you!

I really want to say thank you to all of you out there, whether you are a sul/xul hiker, or a heavy hauler or an ultralight hiker, that have taken the time to read my articles and post your comments. It means a great deal to me when other hikers comment on my articles, as any writer does. Over the course of this first year of HikeLighter being online I have only had four submitted comments that I did not approve to be publicly viewable and that is just amazing. There will always be haters out there, just how some folks are, but the encouragement and feedback and amazing comments that I have gotten this year have really touched my heart, so thank you!

From a statistics perspective, I think the most interesting one that I have is how many times the different cottage companies have had people visit their website from here at hikelighter.com – to me that really shows what the focus is by those who read my articles. It is no surprise that ZPacks is at the very top of that list. Coming in at second place is Six Moon Designs. Gossamer Gear takes third place. Black Rock Gear takes fourth place. Montbell takes fifth place. Mountain Laurel Designs take sixth place. Hyperlite Mountain Gear is in seventh position. Klymit, Trail Designs, and Suluk46 close off the top ten. Simblissity, mentioned only once or twice all year, came out of no where and almost got into the top ten, probably a result of my end of the year cottage update article where I mentioned them as being the “biggest news” now that they have re-opened their doors. They are one of the cottage companies I mentioned above about having their entire inventory sold out within 24 hours of my article being published.

 

All in all it has been a fun year for me. I hope it has been for you too! As some of you may know I suffered a rather severe injury to one of my knees earlier this year that resulted in me having to cancel two long distance hikes and stopped all development of a 400 mile trail that I am developing. It has been a painful year and lots of hoping beyond all hope that things will be good enough for me to get back out onto the trails in 2013. This injury has allowed me to work closely with a number of cottage companies this year to develop products, to do prototype testing, and to be apart of bringing a number of new products to market, and refining existing products. I cannot mention names, but to all of you out there who I have had the honor of working with this year in those ways, thank you for allowing me to be apart of what you are doing! It is unbelievable fun to be able to sit down with cottage owners and manufacturer and hash out all of the issues involved in bringing a product to market – and perhaps even more fun to be involved in making changes to existing products to make them better, lighter and easier to use, for those who, like myself, are super ultralight and extreme ultralight hikers. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

 

Thank  you to all for an amazing first year of HikeLighter.Com!

John Abela

Black Rock Gear – Sponsorship

Black Rock GearGreetings Hikers,

I wanted to let all of my readers know that I have become a sponsor of the awesome cottage company “Black Rock Gear“, makers of the absolute best UL/SUL down hats, gloves, vests, and more.

For a numbers of years I have been using Black Rock Gear and have been a huge fan and supporter. Both here at HikeLighter.Com and my previous website, RedwoodOutdoors.Com, I have had the honor of announcing a few of their products to the hiking world.

To me, Black Rock Gear is at the very top of the list when it comes to the finest made specialty gear for hikers and runners. I have, honestly, never seen any clothing products made to such exact detail, precision, and quality. It is for this reason that BRG makes up such a large part of my gear lists in both the summer and winter hiking seasons. As a long distance hiker I demand high quality gear that can endure and be as light weight as possible with today’s fabric. A few years ago when I bought my first BRG hat I did not think a down filled hat could be any lighter weight, yet they have continued to push the edges and have been willing to invest the money in buying the leading edge material in order to keep producing even lighter weight hats and vests. Their cuben fiber rain mitts are the pinnacle of what it is I am talking about.

To me, becoming a Sponsor of Black Rock Gear means a great deal. Those who follow my articles know that I care a great deal about the hiking cottage industry. In my sponsorship letter to Black Rock Gear I made the point that the type of sponsorship I am after is not the type where I am asking for free gear, discounted gear, or gear of any kind. Sometimes sponsorships should not be about a hiker getting free gear and a company getting PR in exchange. The relationship and respect that I have had for Black Rock Gear has always been one where we drive each other to build the best that can be built (on their part) and I am out there on the trail using the gear and providing feedback on the gear. I value this type of a sponsorship more than any other – the type where a company is willing to listen to their customers and work with them to find ways to make their products better.

Over the last few years Black Rock Gear has sponsored a number of hikers, athletes and trips on Everest, K2, McKinley, the PCT, the AT, the Grand Canyon, the Machu Pichu trail, and trips to China, Pakistan, Patagonia and on both North and South Pole. A true testament of both their gear and their value to the cottage industry!

I would like to thank Black Rock Gear for trusting in me, for allowing me the honor of becoming a sponsor, and for being out there making the kind of gear that ends up in the backpacks of hikers such as myself.

-Abela

Cottage Updates: November 2012

Greetings Hikers!

First of November, wow. Thus ends another hiking season for me. A huge thank you to all that have supported me over the 2012 year – with a special thanks to the cottage companies that provided me so many unique, hand man, crazy light weight gear!

It has been awhile since I have done a cottage update and I have seen a few new updates from a few different companies so I figured I should put together another cottage update article! By no means an all-encompassing list, just a few things I have seen and thought I would pass along.

Black Rock Gear – They have put together a very limited run of a “Skittle Green” of their hat that is crazy bright green! BRG has also added a new version to their lineup called the “Nobul” If you are a fan of their Hadron and need something warmer, this could fit the bill.

Bearikade – Wow! A major update to their website has taken place!! Very very nice website. I was just browsing through their website and noticed they linked to a video I did a long time ago.

BushBuddy – It looks like the BushBudy Ultra is back in stock. Seems like every time I went to buy one they were not in stock.

Enlightened Equipment – Word on the street is that EE has started getting a lot of their back orders shipped out. Very good news!!

Klymit – I had somebody send me an email saying that Klymit was perhaps making a down-filled version of their “Static V” sleeping pad. I attempted to confirm this with the guys at Klymit but it appears that their kickstarter product is going so well they are no longer responding to requests about gear. Or, it could just be I have asked a few times to many for a T&E of their vest. Regardless, taking the Static V and throwing some insulation in it could be a rather interesting, albeit heavy, direction for Klymit.

Gossamer Gear – Looks like they have all of their primary backpacks back in stock including their “Murmur” which I reviewed awhile back.

HyperLite Mountain Gear – They have released a crazy amount of backpacks this year. I picked up their “Stuff Pack” a while back to see if I could use it as a summer XUL backpack.

LiteTrail – Just got a message that their updated Ti cooking system is now back in stock. There was a lively discussion over at BPL about their original setup having a non-tray winged esbit stove/stand. So they went and ordered up some with trays. They also custom ordered the stands with a concave to support the pot better – very nice move!! At ~83 grams this is one very sweet esbit setup!

MinibullDesign – Tinny has released a very interesting new lid called the “Gravity Cap” that I very much want to pick up for my new Squirrel Cages.

Mountain Laurel Designs – (post-publication update) MLD on Nov 13, 2012 made the following  announcement on facebook: “About two months ago we invested is a new foam for our pack straps and hipbelts. We spec’ed it and had it made for us… It is over 35% thicker than the previous foam. It is a lot more cush and rebounds faster, basically better at forming to fit your hips and shoulder bones without pressure. it will also last longer than the old foam. We even had to modify sewing machines to handle the increased thickness. It is the very best! … The new foam has been shipping in all packs for about 2 months now. In the whole pack {it adds} maybe + .3oz

Six Moon Designs – Awesome things going on over at SMD. Two nights ago they updated their website with this message, “Thanks to many of you, we’ve had an enormously successful 2012 season. As a result we’ve had to up production significantly. We expect to finish the products currently in the production queue by the end of November. At that time we’ll start up the Cuben Haven’s and Skyscape X’s. I apologize for the delay. However, we are working hard on solutions that should minimize delays between Cuben Fiber product runs in the future.” As a huge fan of the Skyscape X (I have bought two of them, read my review) it is really awesome to hear that word is getting out about these amazing shelters! SMD is ran by one of the best guys in the business. If Ron says he is working hard on solutions, you can absolutely guarantee it that he is! Check out this awesome video of how they are cutting the cuben fiber for their shelters!

ULA – In a move that shocks me, ULA has announced that they are now making backpacks in “Realtree Advantage Max and Realtree WP, also Marpat Woodland“.

QiWiz – Our good buddy over at QiWiz is continueing to evolve his FireFly wood burning stove. If you have a larger pot, this is a nice little wood burner.

Zelph Stoveworks – My favorite bear can pot looks to be back in stock. The “Zelph 2 cup flatbottom pot” is my favorite bear pot/cup/whatever of all times!

ZPacks – It appears that they have pulled their “Exo” from their backpack line-up due to the advancement in design of their “Arc Blast“, which I have finally ordered to see how it might work for a long distance thru-hike. ZPacks has also, recently, started offering their hybrid cuben fiber in a white material, in addition to their original tan. I have seen a whole lot of guys giving a huge thumbs-up for this white material. ZPacks, like a few others, are now also offering water resistant down within their hoodless sleeping bags.

Biggest news:  Simblissity is back!!! I honestly had all but given up hope that he was going to get back into making gear. Whatever changed, this is very awesome news! Those of us who are huge LevaGaiter fans can now rejoice and restock!! The unquestionable best gaiters I have ever used!

Everynew Water Bags: Everybody can just give up trying to find these. I have contacted every company I know that sells these things to see if they have any hiding in a back room and when they will be getting some more in. Everybody said they did not have any and only one person gave me a possible date that they will be back in stock here in the USA, and that is around March of 2013. It appears that myself and the two or three other hikers that discovered they work really well on the Sawyer Squeeze resulted in a massive move by hikers to buy them. I know of three suppliers that sold out all of their bags (including the largest supplier in the USA) within 72 hours after I posted my last article about them.

Speaking of which, Steve the owner of Suluk46 sent me an email that he is on vacation. Opps!! I try really really hard to never write an article when I know a company is going to be closed or when the guy making the custom gear is on vacation. With my recent review of the Suluk46 Ti Stove, it appears I failed to drop Steve an email before I hit the publish button. Sorry folks! The good news is that Steve said there were “a TON of orders”. I have no idea how many that is, he said he would drop me an email when it gets back from vacation with further details, but yet again, all of you out there reading my articles are doing your part to help the cottage hiking companies!!

Totally not new, and totally not SUL, but a product I saw at my favorite  local outdoor store and I just had to try it, and freaking fell in love with it… the “Grand Trunks Micro Stool“. Ten ounces, but wowzer comfortable, even for my big butt.

Anyway folks, this is probably the last cottage update until January when the Winter OR show happens and we get to see some new gear being released!

 

Updates:
November 13, 2012 -- Updated section on MLD after an announcement from the owner of
MLD that they updated their foam padding within their backpacks.