Category Archives: Gear

My gear favorites

Gear Review: Yana Trekking Poles

Ah, a gear review.  Well, I tried, but how do I critique a piece of gear I’ve grown to love?  Living with something for a while you tend to get used to the quirks.

So let me tell you a story about my carbon fiber yana trekking poles. And maybe that will give anyone gear minded a picture about how well this equipment works.

I waltzed off from the monument at the US/Mexican border with my fancy carbon fiber Yana trekking poles strapped securely to my pack.  Wasn’t sure quite yet what to do with them. Not much experience with trekking poles.  That evening, I encountered a hill and I figured I ought to start playing with them…  they stayed in my hands for the next 2,600 miles and seven months.

‘Toy Poles’ some would say with a laugh. I’d shrug and keep walking. The poles held up, through more than I would have expected.  I weigh about 130 pounds, so I put a decent amount of weight on these poles over months and miles.  Add some snow to push through and we’re talking about some hardy walking sticks.

Every hitch, I’d shrink them down to half size, and stick them in the pocket of my pack, before putting it in the trunk.  Always doing the double take when removing my gear from a vehicle. Seven ounces I proudly never lost.

Daydreaming while walking, a pole would occasionally drop out of my hand. Or stick in the ground and stay behind me as I kept charging on.  A few steps later I’d turn around and retrieve it. Still standing, right where I left it.  ‘Silly’ it would seem to say to me.  ‘No, we’re not stopping here’ I would reply.  I never bothered making wrist loops.  I preferred the freedom in my hands to switch poles, set them down and grab and go again without the fiddling of attaching them to my wrists. Drop a pole now and then.  A quirk I got used to.  A quirk that helped me notice more things every time I picked a pole off the ground again.  Pause.  Look at the rocks or the earth. See.  Walk on.

Through sand, and rocks, and streams, and lava fields.

Through a couple months using them to set up my tent.  And pulling them rather taught to keep the rain sliding off my tent.

And then I got to Washington, and then October turned into November and the snow got deeper.  I would look at my trusty poles and wonder.  Hoping for the best we could make it to the end.  ‘Just a little further’ I would coax them. Please don’t break yet.

This was no longer walking on a nicely cleared trail.  Up, down, and around on dirt.  This was full on digging a stick in the ground with every step and trusting my weight on this tiny ‘toy stick’ to gain a little elevation when climbing up a pass.  This was shoving a stick into the snow as far as I could hoping it didn’t hit anything slick and trusting my weight on it to ease my way down a pass. This was kickstepping and digging deep along an icy, steep traverse needing each step to hold.

They always did.

And in the end.  It was only user abuse that damaged them. Wore them out in every way a trekking pole could be used..  In the last two weeks, I couldn’t shrink them down anymore.  Too cold.  Something expanded.  After one time I almost couldn’t lengthen my pole again, I let them stay just how they were.  Through car rides and all.  They eventually got frozen into position. But still did their job and helped me through the snow.

Dig and kick and dig and ooh, I found a couple rocks to wedge my stick between, and kick, and dig again.

Got some water that froze in one pole.  Made a crack, the crack split up half the pole. Then it froze a little more, and the pole held.  ‘Just 50 more miles’ I’d whisper to it.

And my trusty seven ounce carbon fiber yana trekking poles and me made it.  And those poles were quite thankful to be put in the closet.  One tip broken off, the other with a hairline stress fracture.

I’d take these poles with me anywhere. But maybe doctor them up a bit before the next adventure.

(Oh, and I danced with them too. Very versatile piece of equipment.)

Trekking Umbrella

My silver umbrella has quickly become one of my favorite items I carry.

It is a saving grace really.

I carry a Euroschirm trekking umbrella (found on sale at Campmor)

It folds up smaller than the Golite umbrella and the weight difference is neglible.

I walk degrees cooler through the hot desert under my umbrella.

A shady area is magnified by adding my umbrella. Where no shade exists, it provides some comfort.

The first time I popped open the umbrella on a hot, dry, shadeless day, I did feel momentarily ridiculous. However, the instant relief from the pounding sun changed that thought to delight at the inventions of humans.

http://www.campmor.com/euroschirm-light-trek-umbrella.shtml

Goodbye to Trail Pizza

or

Food- and the particular piece of gear that makes great trail food possible.

Firebaked pizza with the Holden Trail Crew at Domke Lake

I am a NOLS alum. Anyone who has been a NOLS student will understand my love of MSR Whisperlite stoves, a frybake, and trail pizza.

On a NOLS course, they joke that you’ll spend a semester outdoors and will learn to cook.

I came back from NOLS New Zealand and I knew how to cook. (and do a few other outdoor leadership things).

I have become locally famous with coworkers for my trail pizza, and trail cooking in general.

And yet, I apologized to my trusty whisperlite stove as I put it in storage, and unpacked my brand new alcohol stove.

For my thru hike, I am trading gourmet trail cooking for a ‘boil water only’ stove.

I hope it treats me just as well as my whisperlite.

It certainly is ten times lighter.

The cooking will be in the pre-mixing of dried foods in a quart freezer bag- which I will add the boiled water to- and hope my tastebuds are satisfied.

I will continue to be obsessed with pizza. (But I hear this is a normal thru-hiker condition.)

 

It’s a Wool Thing

My woolly flockI love wool.

Perhaps this is because I was raised by sheep.

(Or was it with sheep? Sometimes it’s hard to tell).

In the dance studio or out in the wilderness, I’m wearing wool- and loving it.

I grew up on a small sheep farm. We’d sell the lamb meat at the farmer’s market, and work with the wool; spinning, knitting, selling it to other spinners and knitters. We raised Targhees, which produce a fine quality wool (just below Merino on the quality scale), and Colored Corriedales, medium quality wool in gorgeous shades of gray to brown to black. The Corriedales were my particular favorites, and my show sheep at fairs.

I was raised by sheep, and I hung out with the black sheep. They had a lot to say about life.  The most important lesson I got from my woolly friends was: Wool is Good. (The other important one was: get to the food first).

I love how soft my hands get from working with wool, or petting a sheep, and I love how cozy it feels to wear wool.

Wool is an amazing natural fiber. Forget the common myth that wool is itchy, and delve with me into some woolyness.

The top brands that sell wool products: Smartwool, Icebreaker, I/O Merino, Stoic, Ibex, Minus 33 are using the finest quality wool a sheep can make. Merino wool from Merino sheep. The softest wool there is.

Wearing wool works in most weather conditions. It keeps you warm when it’s cold out, and cool when it’s warm out. Even though sheep do enjoy being sheared for the summer season (they don’t necessarily enjoy the shearing, but they like the fresh feel after). I think everyone would agree that being covered in 7 inches of wool on a hot day is a bit overkill.

Another great thing about wool is it’s resistance to odor. Often after a lot of athletic wear of synthetic clothing, it’s hard to keep the smell out. After a while, even when freshly washed, the synthetic clothes just don’t smell good. Wool continues to smell fresh while wicking away sweat.

And wool works when it is wet! Cotton kills in the same conditions, and while some synthetic clothes are made to be quick dry or water resistant, they don’t have the insulating layer included. One great way to cross a cold stream a little happier is to wear wool long underwear and wool socks. They’ll get wet, but you won’t be freezing on the other side.

Wool follows me everywhere I go. Every Christmas, I’m asking for wool socks. (I don’t think it’s possible to have too many wool socks.)

In the dance studio, I love dancing in wool socks. When it’s cold I dance in a wool vest and wool legwarmers.

On the trail, it’s wool all the way. Wool socks, wool briefs, wool sports bra, wool long underwear (top and bottom), wool hiking T, wool liner gloves, wool beanie. (usually not worn all at once, except for the occasional frosty night).

I wear a mix of products from all the leading wool brands. From my experience they all work well. My decision on brand is based on the usual mix of what is: available, in stock, on sale, fits my body just right. My socks tend to be Smartwool, I like the fit of Icebreaker tops, I’m trying out Injiji socks, Stoic boy shorts and an I/O merino sports bra. Wool is wool. If it fits right, feels good and is in my price range, I’ll gladly wear it.

Some of the wooly items I’ll be wearing on my PCT hike:

It feels good to wear a natural fiber. The production of wool (growing on a sheep who is happily chewing cud in a pasture) is good for the environment too. Sheep are also multi purpose, while they are growing their wool, they are also mowing the lawn or munching down on unwanted brush.A very sheep sunset

I feel good about what I’m wearing knowing it comes from something the sun helps produce, and because it just feels good.

 

Sheepish Facts:

Wool can be woolly or wooly.

Sheep can count 1, 2 and many.

Sheep recognize faces (human, dog, cat, other sheep), both ones they like and dislike.

The best sheep story: Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann. A sheep detective story. Originally written in German, this book has been translated into 30 languages. It is highly entertaining and enlightening about our woolly friends.

Ruta Locura- Yana Trekking Poles

Locura LogoMy first sponsor for Hike My Hike Dance My Dance

RUTA LOCURA

This company was founded by Josh Leavitt as a spin off from Titanium Goat where he was a founding partner.  The company specializes in providing ultra light gear.

Why I chose this company?

Ruta Locura provides the lightest trekking poles on the market.

The Yana Trekking Poles

 

“Carbon fiber Yana Poles are the original UL adjustable trekking poles. Still the lightest!

Yana Trekking PolesThey were formerly known as Adjustable Goat Poles, sold by Titanium Goat. As such, their components and accessories are completely interchangeable with the early versions. The only difference is some improved construction over the previous versions.” Quoted from their website.

These trekking poles have received some of the best reviews from long distance hikers.

Top marks for:

functionality, adjustability,

and half the weight of its competitors.

Ruta Locura provides a whole array of light weight gear for the pack weight conscious hiker. Including instep crampons for those early summer snow drift crossings, and a line of carbon and titanium products.

They are a small cottage industry which (from my experience with small gear companies) translates to excellent quality gear and customer service.

Here’s a link to an interview with Josh from the blog Hiking in Finland about the start up of Ruta Locura.

I’m excited to take their gear on the trail and thrilled to have their sponsorship for this project!