Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Vagabond Loop Cartoon Map

Vagabond Loop Cartoon Map:

For the readers who prefer a visual representation of the Vagabond Loop I decided to try my hands at being artistically creative, as I am technologically illiterate. I couldn't quite get the photos out clearly but I think you can get the perspective of the distance I hiked with the outline of the Four Corners drawn out.

Here's some numbers:

*AZT Mileage: 795m
*HDT Mileage: 822m
*GET Mileage: 731.5m
*Moab to ABQ Mileage: 643m
*CT Mileage: 484.5m

*Vagabond Loop Total Mileage: 2991.5m

*Total Hiking Distance from 4/4-8/27: 3476m

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Sysytem Check: Gear Review

System Check: Gear Review

I stuck pretty well to the Gear List that I started out with, with a few minor adjustments. I feel very fortunate to have had such wonderful sponsors who provided me with outstanding gear. Here's my thoughts (and I might as well throw in some photos from my recent trailrunning excursion with Raven Rests Hostel owner Lucky and his dog Chitto!):

Clothing Worn and Clothing in Backpack:

+Shoes: Although I never wore the Pendulum on trail, I stuck with Vasque, in particular the Mindbenders. I frequently attained 600-650 miles on a pair. On the last half of the VL I began to pronate severely. The Mindbenders withstood the rigors of my gait, and especially withstood the rigors of desert and mountain terrain. I will be using them for my hiking next year.

+Heel Cups: My buddy Larry custom-crafted my heel cups. The gave my heels wiggle room as well as provided me with arch support. I would think in disbelief at how I had no heel pain. On the PCT and CDT my heels were my biggest discomfort. On the VL I had no foot pain and I attribute it to the heel cups, along with the Mindbenders that suited my feet well.

+GoLite Kensing Short Sleeve: Bomb-proof! From the metal snaps, which helped me hike in a cooler state, to the durability and dry-ability of the fabric, I rocked the Kenting with confidence that it would up-hold its integrity in a gritty hike.

+MontBell Dynamo Wind Parka: I wore this item consistently. It provided me with warmth, comfort, and some precipation protection. A great piece of gear that replaces a long sleeve shirt for desert hiking.

+MontBell UL Down Jacket: This is my luxury item. One of my favorites that I had to carry. It warmed up the degrees in my sleeping bag and kept me warm in a pinch when things got chilly.

+Arcteryx Incendo Running Tights: Multiple usage, comfortable and versatile. I used the tights especially in the beginning of the VL while sleeping to increase blood flow to my legs that were getting used to hiking daily. I also used them to keep warm on chilly mornings and during heavy rain pours. The material kept me warm in cold and wet weather.

Sleeping System:

+YAMA Mountain Gear Cirriform Tarp: It is tough to decide between the Kumo Superlight or the Cirrform as my favorite piece of gear. The first half of the VL I hardly set up the tarp at all and slept under the big, giant sky. During the monsoon season, the Cirriform was my place of refuge where I felt safe from the elements. Many nights the heavy sky would open up in torrential downpours and soak everything around me but me. The Cirriform is easy to pitch, dries within minutes, can be pitched low to avoid wind, and at 6'5" has ample space for me to sit straight up. I even dug the cuben fiber's color as it enhanced the morning's sun rays as it climbed up the eastern horizon. At 7.5oz it is probably the most important gear I had in regards to weight-to-usage-to-durability-to-comfortablility ratio.

+Marmot Plasma Sleeping Bag: Once I got this on trail, my nights of uncomfortable sleep were over. With the vertical baffles it kept the down where it is supposed to be which in turn kept me snuggled and warm. The mummy hood kept my mind at ease, providing some protection from bugs. The bag also seemed to keep dry during heavy condensation nights. I recall hardly ever taking it out to dry while on trail. I should also note the weight of the Plasma. Being an ultra-lighter and having a base weight of roughly 7lbs, the Plasma is light enough while providing comfort and warmth without sacrificing mental stability, so much so, I didn't feel the need to 'downsize.' I thought the weight of a zippered sleeping bag would affect me mentally but the weight is negligible. They've hit the nail on the head with this product.

+Gossamer Gear ThinLite Insultion Pad: The pad is thin for some hikers but with my minimal comfort hiking style it suited me perfectly. At 3/16 in. I modified the pad to a 3/4 body length. The pad doubled as the backing for my Kumo which fit snugly into an outer mesh sleeve. I could whip it out and use the pad as a cushioned seat. Even though it is really thin it kept the cold from the ground out and kept me comfortable even in the most knobby ground.

+GG Polycryo Ground Cloth: I went through 2 of these in 3500m of hiking. Now, I believe one should diligently take great care in their gear, I was surprised at how durable the Polycryo was in the environments I hiked in. Minor tears would occur over time but the integrity of the plastic sheet was never compromised.

Food, Hydration, and Backpack System:

+GG Kumo Superlight: This pack is as solid as a turtle shell, though despite at first glance one would suspect something less of its flimsy stature. I put this backpack through the wringer. It endured tangles of bushwhacks with sharp and spiky needles grabbing and tugging at it. The Kumo endured the coarse rigidity of salt which could loosen sticthing. Other than a few minor tears in the outer mesh pocket the Kumo is in just as good a shape now as when I started hiking the VL. I have the utmost confidence in this backpack. It is the one I choose to use.

+YAMA Stuff Sacks: Gen at YAMA is producing products that are reliable, durable, and functional. His stitching is upper class. And the stuff sacks proved it. I've seen other cuber fiber stuff sacks from other companies thread out within a short period of time of heavy usage. I still have the same 3 stuff sacks I started out with in the beginning of the VL. 3500m of rugged hiking and Gen's stitching is holding up! Very impressive.

+Aquamira: This chemical water treatment works just fine and is a lightweight option. However, I switched to bleach which proved to be a water purifier just as much as anything else. I used a 1 oz. water dropper for approximately 3000m while drinking probably the most putrid, shitty, tainted water you can think of.

Other Gear:

+LRI Photon Freedom Micro Light: I ditched my handheld Fenix and stuck with only the Photon. It hung around my neck and never left its perch. I only had to change the battery out once in all of the VL and I used it on a regular basis. Although I didn't do much night-hiking, it managed to illuminate the trail and surroundings when I did. For the size of it you would be surprised at how bright the mini-light is. In fact, I would put it up against other larger, bulkier lights that others use on trail. Great little piece of gear!