Product Info and Reviews

Backpacker Lafayette

What’s new at Backpacker Lafayette

Fall is just around the corner for South Louisiana and for our Backpacker Lafayette store that means tailgating at ULL, kayak fishing at Cypremory Point,  and getting ready for ski season!

New product is arriving daily including Columbia and Patagonia!

The all new Yeti Flip is here! Perfect for your kayak!

 

New prints in Patagonia Snap T!

 

We have the largest selection of Patagonia trucker caps around!

 

Patagonia Better Sweater Fleece Vest and zips.

 

Show your pride with Louisiana Local tees!

 

Scarves from Toad&Co and prAna are great Fall looks!

 

We offer free accessory installs on all kayak purchases including Marine Mat decking kits!

 

Fall Olukai shoes and boots are here!

 

The Brooks Ghost is perfect for running the new trails!

 

We have new styles but you know we’ll sell out soon!

 

Darn Tough socks just arrived!

 

Stay dry and look good!

 

We’re now a Thule dealer! Let us help you find the right fit to carry all of your gear!

 

Who’s ready for ULL tailgating? We are!

 

This Osprey pack fits in your pocket!

 

No need to be cold and wet when you have a TNF Triclimate!

 

The North Face Venture rain jackets are great all year long.

 

We have Wind Pouch, the super popular inflatable, treeless hammock!

 

Did you know that prAna guarantees you’ll LOVE their pants? Try our best-selling Stretch Zion and you’ll know why!

 

Burton means ski season isn’t far off!

Backpacker 42nd Birthday Sale September 17th

The Backpacker is celebrating our 42nd year of bringing South Louisiana to the slopes and we’re celebrating with a HUGE sale!

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The Backpacker opened in September 1974 at the North Gates of LSU where Highland Coffees now resides.  Our founder, Dale Mathews, had been bringing his friends from LSU skiing, camping and hiking in the mountains of Colorado and now they needed a great place to buy their own gear!

We are unloading our Winter Warehouse for our Birthday Sale! Buy one Clearance Item at 50% OFF and get a second Clearance Item FREE!!! (Thats right!) Saturday and Sunday ONLY!! You don’t want to miss this sale!!

Choose from a huge selection of clearance apparel and footwear at 50% OFF and get another clearance item FREE!*

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*Selected free clearance item must be less than or equal to original retail price of 50% OFF item.

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What’s in my Pack: Music Festival Edition

by: Nicki Klein298498_10100350981462225_1754091_nLollapalooza 2013

As I was talking to my parents last night about what stove they should bring to Bonnaroo in a couple weeks (yes, I come from the type of family that goes to Bonnaroo together), I realized that packing for a music festival, especially a camping music festival, is very similar to packing for a backcountry trip. Sure, you may have your car nearby. And you COULD haphazardly throw all your stuff inside and hope to find what you need, when you need it, but if you pack only what you need, and do so in an efficient way, you’ll have more time to kick back and enjoy the festival atmosphere. So, in honor of music festival season, here’s What’s in my Pack-Music Festival Edition:

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A small (30L or less) pack, that has room for a hydration bladder. You want something that you can bring into the festival, that can fit all your stuff, but isn’t so big that you’re bumping into people as you dance and make your way through the crowds.

A hydration bladder. For camping, I love my 3L Platypus, but most festivals have water stations that are crowded, and the faucets can be leaky, and unpredictable (no water, and then boom, fire hydrant pressure). Because of this, I prefer a Camelbak bladder for festivals. The openings are large, and easy to fill. But, if all you have is a narrow-mouthed bladder, bring it. You’re going to need a lot of water, who cares if you hold up the line a couple extra seconds?

A tent. As festivals become more picky about the space they give groups, and as they start charging for parking spaces (in prior years, you brought a bunch of cars becuase parking was free, and you got as much space to camp as your cars took up), you’ll need to make use of the small space you have. That means it’s harder for each person to have their own tent. So, bring a couple big tents that take less room than a bunch of individual ones, and you’ll have more room for your group’s lounge space.

Sleeping pad. Sure, you’re going to be so exhausted you’ll probably fall asleep as soon as you lay down. But, you’re going to be doing a lot of walking, a lot of dancing, and not a lot of sleeping. You might as well make the time you are getting some zzzs enjoyable. This is essentially car camping, so bring a cot if you’d like, or just use a sleeping pad. I like the Thermarest NeoAir.

Sleeping bag. Most festivals are during the summer months, and it gets hot in a tent quick. You definitely don’t need a 4 season bag! Something like the Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed, or Sierra Designs Mobile Mummy, are nice options because you have the option to use as a blanket (Quilt), or stick your arms and lets out of the bag (Mummy). Some may simply opt for a blanket.

-Pop up canopy tent. A lot of your time will be spent in the center of the festival, but it’s nice to have a home base to return to, whether it’s for a quick meal, to meet back up with friends, or to relax in between shows. Having a canopy for all your friends to sit under lets you momentarily cool off before you head back out to the shows.

-Camp chairs. Set them up under your canopy. You’ll be happy to give your feet a rest. Try out the

-A cooler. You’re probably going to bring some food. And you’re probably going to bring even more alcohol. Keep it all cool for days on end with a Yeti or K2 ice chest.

Jetboil w/ Java Press. There’s food for sale at music festivals, but the lines are long, and the prices can be hefty. Save yourself a little time and money by bringing a camp stove and cooking a couple meals your self. Think instant oats in the morning, or ramen noodles at night. Or bring all the accessories and cook a 4 course meal. Oh, and having coffee first thing in the morning is a lifesaver.

-Plate, cup, spork, flask. Any trash you accumulate, you have to take care of. So don’t accumulate as much. Bring your own dishes and cutlery that can be reused.

-Pack towel. Good for cleaning dishes. Good for cleaning you.

-Camp suds. Good for cleaning dishes. Good for cleaning you.

-Bug spray and sunscreen. You’re going to spend days in the sun. Do yourself a favor and but on sunscreen. I can’t tell you how many people I see the second day of a four day festival and they’re burnt to a crisp because they didn’t apply (and reapply) sunscreen. And then they’re just miserable the rest of the weekend. Also, depending on what festival you go to, there may be bugs, so bring bug spray also. Or go with Sawyer’s combo spray that contains both sunscreen and bug spray, less to keep track of.

Hat. Use in conjunction with sunscreen. Try and get something wide-brimmed, to protect more of you. Plus, if you happen to come across ice, putting that into your hat feels like heaven after being in the dusty, heat for days.

-Sunglasses. Protect those eyes from the sun too.

Headlamp. So when you get into your communal camp site in the wee hours of the morning, you don’t walk through your friend’s tent. It’s nice to see where you’re going instead of guessing.

-Bandanna. Good to dip in cold water and put around your head, or neck. Good to use to cover your face if it’s dusty (think Bonnaroo or Burning Man). Good to use as a washcloth. Or a sweatband/headband. Etc. A bandanna is a very versatile piece of cloth.

Chacos. Your feet are going to go through a lot during a music festival. Mud. Dust. Grass. Rain. Chacos are easy to put on and adjust, and easy to clean. Even better, they’re recommended by podiatrists. They’re actually good for your feet, and you’re going to be on your feet. Your legs and back will thank you for wearing a shoe with support.

-Loose fitting, comfortable clothes. The clothes people wear to a festival vary greatly. You’ll see people in pink fuzzy bear costumes, wearing masks, and glowsticks. People wearing fringe, and feathers. Some people don’t wear much of…anything. I recommend wearing whatever makes you comfortable. I like quick dry and comfortable shorts made by companies such as prAna, Mountain Khaki, Patagonia, and Gramicci. I’ll pair that with a light tank (ExOfficio is one of my favorites), and I’ll carry a long sleeve shirt in my pack (in case it gets colder at night). I also opt for ExOfficio undies, because they’re ultralight and antimicrobial. I love people watching at music festivals, but I myself dress for comfort.

-Rain jacket. A little rain isn’t going to stop a music festival, but spending hours standing in the rain can still but a damper on your mood. I always have my Patagonia rain jacket stashed in my bag. It’s light, and folds into it’s own pocket. The North Face, Merrell, and other companies make similar and reliable products.

-Dry bags. Whatever I put in my pack, I first put in dry bags. Because if it starts raining, you may potentially be miles from your camp. Seriously, there are some big festivals nowadays.

-Solar charger. I’m all about living in the moment, and rarely use my phone during music festivals. With that being said, sometimes you need to get ahold of someone in your group to meet up, or you need to snap a couple pictures. You could always charge your device in your car, but that requires sitting at camp. Bring a solar charger with you and attach it to your bag. That way it’s always charged when you need it.

-Something to keep your phone waterproof. As mentioned above, sometimes you just need your phone. If you don’t already have a waterproof case on it, bring something you can put your phone in to protect it in case it does start raining. There’s nothing worse than having a worthless phone. Well, other than losing your phone and not having one at all (because that can happen too).

GoPro. If the camera on your phone isn’t enough, and you want a waterproof camera that, with the right accessories, can get your whole group in the picture, opt for a GoPro. They’re built to withstand tough environments, the way music festivals sometimes can be.

Of course there are some items on my list that YOU may not need (especially if you’re going to a music festival that doesn’t involve camping), and other items that I didn’t list that you can’t live without. But, in the almost 10 years I’ve spent going to music festivals, this is my go-to list. Pack right, enjoy the music, and as my mom would say, have a “groovy” time.

11538032_10205372613892938_5262398540613878778_nMy family at Bonnaroo 2015

Nicki Klein loves to run, especially in new places, and ESPECIALLY on new trails. She started running in 2011, ultrarunning in 2015, and can be found most days running around the LSU Lakes with her dog. Nicki also enjoys backpacking, hiking, rock climbing, cycling, SUPing, and generally spending as much time outside as she possibly can. Combining those activities with family, friends, and a good beer or two, and you’ve got her ideal day. Nicki Klein’s Instagram

 

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What’s in my Pack- Walter’s trip to Yosemite

My Girlfriend and I decided to take a trip to Yosemite Valley in the off-season. We decided that instead of backpacking we would stay in Hodgdon Meadows campground located right past the Big Oak Flat Entrance Station ( About 45 minutes northwest of Yosemite valley) and set up  a base camp and go off exploring from there.

 

We flew into Oakland International Airport April 26, 2016, picked up our rental car. We had some extra time before our campground reservation so we went to explore the streets of San Francisco.

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-Painted Ladies- San Francisco, CA  

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-Lombard Street- San Francisco, CA

 

We arrived at the park on April 26th and Stayed for 4 nights and 5 Days. The weather was Gorgeous with a high in the low 70’s and low of 22 Degrees.

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Big Oak Flat Road Yosemite Entrance- Yosemite, CA

 

What’s in the Pack?

 

My Pack

I packed a North Face Base Camp Duffel XL ( This was the Bag I checked at the airport)

  • Extremely durable
  • Zipper uses large teeth makes opening and closing easy
  • Easy to carry with built on backpack straps.

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I also carried a Arc’teryx Kea 37 for day hiking.

  • I was able to use this bag as my carry on.

 

My Girlfriend carried a Camelbak DayStar 18

  • Women-specific bag
  • Carries 70oz bladder
  • Multiple pockets, carrying goods easy

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Yosemite Valley- Yosemite, CA

Food and Water

I used these MSR products that are great when making meals out in the wilderness!

  • I cooked on a Windpro 2 stove with an  alpine stowaway 1.1lt. pot and a Quick Skillet. To cook I used a Folding Spoon, Spatula, Ultralight Cutting Board, Salt & Pepper Shaker, Squeeze Bottle.

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Hodgdon Meadows Campground-Yosemite, CA

 

Camelbak UnBottle 100oz water bladder for me and my girlfriend carried a Camelbak Antidote 70oz.

  • We had access to drinkable water at camp so no water filtration was necessary, but we did carry potable aqua iodine in case of an emergency.  

 

Sleep Systems

 

Tent- Big Agnes Rocky Peak 4 MtnGlo

Sleeping Bags- My Girlfriend was in a Big Agnes Encampment 15 and I was in the Sierra Designs Mobile Mummy 800 fill.

  • Mobile mummy was a great sleeping bag.
    • It kept me warm and being a side sleeper having the zipper in the middle of my chest instead of on one of the sides made sleeping on my side a whole lot easier.
    • Other benefits getting to warm in the bag you can stick your arms out to cool you down.
    • Best feature, when you wake up you don’t have to get out of the bag. Just stick your arms and feet out and walk around in the sleeping bag.

Sleeping Pads- My Girlfriend used the Big Agnes Air Core and I used the Therm-a-rest NeoAir Venture VW.

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Hodgdon Meadow Campground, Yosemite, CA

 

Stuff to Sit On

 

Grand Trunk Double Hammock with Trunk Straps

  • If the question ever comes up, “do I bring a hammock?” The answer is always, Yes.
  • Very packable and lightweight  
  • Can put up just about anywhere
  • Great place to relax

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Helinox Chair one

  • Very easy to set up
  • Lightweight and easy to pack
  • Super strong and durable

 

Alite Monarch Chair

  • Weighs less than 2 pounds
  • Great chair for uneven terrain
  • Easy to pack  

 

Boots and Clothes

I hiked all five days in Merrel’s Moab Mids

  • Great comfort right out of the box
  • These boots have Merrel’s M-Select technology which makes the boots waterproof using a built in lining.
    • This allowed for some ventilation and also kept my feet dry through all conditions including snow!

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Somewhere near the Taft Point Trail- Yosemite,CA

North Face FuseForm Dot Matrix Jacket- This jacket is one of the items that let me worry about making my trip great and not have to worry about being uncomfortable.

  • Waterproof
  • Breathable
  • Light weight
  • Great fit
  • Easy to pack

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Upper Falls Trail – Yosemite, CA

Prana Brion Pants– These pants are a part of the Prana Zion family and are cut slimmer than the more popularly known Stretch Zion pants.

  • My favorite pants
  • Comfortable fit
  • Starch guarded
  • Wrinkle free
  • Quick drying
  • Performance ready

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Hodgon Meadow- Yosemite, CA

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-Walter Paolucci has been with the Backpacker for a Year. He is the store manager for the Baton Rouge location. His favorite brands are The North Face, Hobie kayaks, and Prana. He enjoys rock climbing, being out on the water in any way, biking, and hiking. –

Exploring the Louisiana Bayou on the Hobie Mirage Eclipse

Paddling Bayou Fountain and Bayou Manchac on the Hobie Mirage Eclipse

#TeamBackpacker wanted to see how the new Hobie Mirage Eclipse would fair on the bayous of South Louisiana so we set out on an excursion of Bayou Fountain and Bayou Manchac in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

BREC Highland Road Park Bayou Fountain Access

 

An easy place to start is the BREC Highland Road Park.  You can park on the road and should aim for the far eastern corner of the tree line.

BREC Highland Road Park Bayou Fountain Boat Launch Built By Paddle Baton Rouge

There, you’ll find a convenient floating dock built by Paddle BR.  It really comes in handy, as the water level can fluctuate around 5 feet depending on local rains.  Baton Rouge had received 4 inches of rain just a couple of days earlier, so the bayous were really high for this trip.  This made it really easy to get our kayaks and the Hobie Mirage Eclipse into the water.Paddling Bayou Fountain

Here we go!

Bridge over Bayou Fountain

 

The high water made it easy to launch the Hobie Mirage Eclipse, but it also meant we couldn’t easily float under this bridge.  About 10 minutes into the paddle, we had to portage our kayaks over the bridge.

 

Bayou Fountain Paddle with Hobie Eclipse

However, we were back on the water in no time!

Bayou Fountain Cabin

 

You can Air BnB this cool cabin right on Bayou Fountain!

Bayou Fountain paddle with the Hobie Eclipse

 

With the water so high, the trees became a slalom course for the Hobie Mirage Eclipse.  It was a blast!

 

Bayou Fountain meets Bayou Manchac

 

After about 2 and a half hours, (and lots of fighting our way through downed trees because of the storm) we exited Bayou Fountain and were now on the larger Bayou Manchac.

Birdwatching in Bayou Fountain on Hobie Eclipse

It was smooth cruising from here with lots of chances to birdwatch from the Hobie Mirage Eclipse.

Paddling under I 10 on Bayou Manchac on Hobie Mirage Eclipse

 

Shortly after, we were making our way under the I-10 bridge.  Can you see the small alligator in front of the Hobie Mirage Eclipse?

 

 

Paddling under the railroad tracks on Hobie Eclipse

The Hobie Mirage Eclipse made it easy to maneuver between the pilings of the train tracks around the Santa Maria golf course.

 

Cool camps along Bayou Manchac on Hobie Eclipse

Lots of cool camps dot the bayous.  Be respectful and stay off the private property and don’t leave any trash behind!

Ward Creek meeting Bayou Manchac

 

At around 3 hours, Bayou Manchac meets Ward’s Creek which flows from Mid City Baton Rouge.  Stay to your right on Bayou Manchac and you’ll be at the end soon!

Paddling under Airline Hwy with Hobie Eclipse

 

Just a couple of minutes later, you’ll see the Airline Hwy Bridge.  Almost home!

Cruising Bayou Manchac on Hobie Eclipse

It’s an easy sprint to the finish on the Hobie Mirage Eclipse!

Bayou Manchac take out spot

 

Look for the old (not working) water fountain on the left side of the bank to find the path to the BREC Manchac Park where you should have a vehicle waiting.

BREC Manchac Park take out trail

 

The takeout can be tough whether the water is high or low.  If the water is low, it will be tough making your way up the banks.  Either way, it will be MUDDY!.  Once you get out of the water, you’ll follow this trail out behind the baseball fields.

 

BREC Manchac Park Bayou Fountain Exit

 

You’re finished!  It’s about a 15 minute drive from BREC Highland Road Park to BREC Manchac Park to leave your finish vehicle.  Make sure you bring your keys with you!

Paddling Bayou Manchac and Bayou Fountain is a beautiful experience!  However, because there are no official launches at either end, there tends to be a lot of downed branches to push through, and because high water demands portaging over the bridge, this paddle is not for beginners.  Be sure to give yourself plenty of time (around 3 hours of paddle time), bring someone who has paddled it before, and bring your sense of adventure!

 

Gear Review: TNF Women’s Specific Ultra Endurance Trail Running Shoes

by: Nicki Klein

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A couple weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to be given a pair of The North Face (TNF) Women’s Ultra Endurance trail running shoes to test out. Unfortunately, they were given to me literally minutes after I’d completed the 50 mile Forge Equinox trail race in Clear Springs, Mississippi, so I had to patiently wait a few days to let my legs recover properly before giving my new shoes a try. But, now I’ve finally tried them out, in various conditions, so I can give a balanced and true review. Here’s what I have to say about The North Face Women’s Ultra Endurance shoes.

Overview:

The North Face Ultra line of shoes consists of the MT; MT Gortex; the Cardiac; the TRI II; and the Endurance, which sits somewhere in between the former models in terms of weight, traction, and heel/forefoot drop. The Endurance is fairly light-weight, but has enough reinforcing characteristics that will get you through rock scattered and root covered trails. The toe box isn’t extremely roomy, but still provides enough room for toes to have a little wiggle room. More importantly, the front of the shoe is reinforced with a toe box bumper (for those aforementioned rocks and roots). The heel box is padded and holds the foot secure, without being too tight. The upper of TNF Endurance is breathable, dries quickly (more on that later), and is welded TPU with suede overlays. It has a gusseted tongue the helps hold the foot in place, and reduces the chance of debris from entering the shoe.  The outsole is Vibram Megagrip. Not all Vibram outsoles are the same—this one is semi-aggressive, which is good for a variety of terrains. Finally, the cushioning of the Endurance is single-density compression folded EVA—not too thick that you can’t feel the ground below, but not too thin to where you feel every detail underfoot.

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In Use:

The first time I wore these shoes, I tried them out on a “hike” at the West Feliciana Sports Park during a field trip with 7th and 8th graders from THRIVE Academy of Baton Rouge (a trip sponsored by The Backpacker). The trail at the park, commonly known as “The Beast,” has a number of roots, steep inclines and declines, and bridges throughout its course. Although we didn’t go far, and we didn’t travel fast, the TNF Ultra Endurances kept my feet well cushioned and in place while traversing the various topography.

IMG_5983West Feliciana Sports Park

A few days later, I headed to Tennessee for a long weekend. I hoped to hike in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, as well as run a couple times in various places, during my stay. I tend to travel as light as possible, and since I wasn’t planning a super technical hike, I decided my Endurances would be the only shoes I’d pack.

Within a couple of hours of arriving in Knoxville, TN, I headed to the Smokies for a 6.5 mile day hike with my 11-year-old godson and his grandmother. We started off on the old Sugarland Trail, and then branched off from there in search of an old cemetery and the “old rock house,” a dilapidated rock structure with an unknown history. Although this is probably one of the easiest hikes I’ve ever done in the Smokies (very little elevation change), there were small creek crossings, moss covered rocks, and man-made structures to scramble about, and the semi-rugged outsoles of my shoes kept me from slipping. Well…expect once when I was crossing a small body of water and trying to take a picture of my shoes for this blog. Then I fell. And got soaked. But I suppose I can’t blame the shoes for that. At least my godson got a good laugh.

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As soon as I finished my hike, I drove from Knoxville to Nashville to visit a friend. I woke up the next morning and decided to go for a quick run before breakfast. Tired of driving, I chose to simply walk out the front door and run around the neighborhood. Oftentimes, a trail-specific running shoe will have aggressive lugs that making road running uncomfortable. Although I probably wouldn’t pick the TNF Endurance as an everyday road shoe, they worked just fine for a few miles and hill repeats on the pavement I did that morning.

After one more night in Nashville, it was time to head back to Knoxville. The drive is only 2.5 or so hours long, but the number of signs for state parks between the two cities is impressive. I’d heard good things about Cummins Falls State Park, and since it was early morning, off-season for an area known as one of the best swimming holes, and Easter, I decided I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to hopefully have the park to myself. This was definitely the run that I put the TNF Ultra Endurance shoes to the test. Although the run/hike was only 4 miles round-trip, it included rock hopping, hill sprinting, ducking under and over algae covered tree limbs, creek traversing, and practically swimming on occasion. Yes, my feet got wet (these shoes aren’t magic, after all), but I didn’t get any hotspots or blisters, and other than some loose sand, no debris crept into my shoes, even when fully submerged. And I did have the park to myself!

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Conclusions:

After trying out these shoes, on hikes in Louisiana and Tennessee, a road run, and a wet and muddy run/hike/swim, I can say with confidence that the TNF Ultra Endurance trail shoes are a light-weight, true-to-size, comfortable option for a variety of situations and scenarios. My feet never got sore, I felt there was enough support to hold my ankles steady, and I had enough grip to tackle various terrain. And, with a name like “ULTRA,” it’s probably safe to say these shoes will also be great for longer distances. Lucky for me, I’ve got a 20 miler scheduled this weekend! Happy Trails!

 

TNF Ultra Endurance Features:

  • Women-specific trail running shoe delivers a stable ride and unparalleled traction
  • Upper: Welded TPU and suede midfoot support overlays
  • Molded-TPU toe cap for protection
  • Gusseted tongue for protection from trail debris
  • Sole Unit: 17 mm/9 mm heel/forefoot EVA underfoot
  • Ultra Protect™ CRADLE™ heel-stability technology
  • Single-density, compression-molded EVA midsole
  • Vibram® Megagrip outsole for durable sticky traction in all conditions
  • ESS Snake Plate™ forefoot protection
  • 8 mm offset
  • Collar lining has FlashDry

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Nicki Klein loves to run, especially in new places, and ESPECIALLY on new trails. She started running in 2011, ultrarunning in 2015, and can be found most days running around the LSU Lakes with her dog. Nicki also enjoys backpacking, hiking, rock climbing, cycling, SUPing, and generally spending as much time outside as she possibly can. Combining those activities with family, friends, and a good beer or two, and you’ve got her ideal day. Nicki Klein’s Instagram

A shot walking down a ski run in Telluride

What’s in my Backpack for Telluride, CO?

What’s in my backpack?

MSR Hubba– I purchased this tent because of its size, weight, and the craftsmanship. When backpacking, I am always carrying camera equipment and that equipment isn’t the lightest. I have to work hard to keep weight down where I can, and carrying a tent that weighs less than 2 lbs. makes a big difference. The floor area inside the tent is perfect for one person and the vestibule is large enough for camping and photo equipment. There is plenty of headroom which makes the tent feel much larger than it is. The UV treatment on the rainfly is another reason I purchased this tent. The last thing you want is for you and your gear to get wet due to weathering on the fly. MSR does a great job with their craftsmanship.

MSR Pocket Rocket The MSR Pocket Rocket is a fantastic personal cooking system. It weighs in at just 3 oz. and takes up basically no room in your backpack. A small ISOPRO canister is all you need for your weekend getaway. It’s simple to use, boils water in an instant, and packs down to almost nothing. I highly recommend for the person looking for a lightweight and easy to use personal cooking system.

Katadyn Hiker Pro- I’ve been using Katadyn products for the past ten years and have never been disappointed. The Hiker Pro continues to be a great micro filter for all my hiking/backpacking needs. I’ve used the Hiker Pro on solo trips and with groups. With its quick attach system, I can quickly fill Nalgene water bottles with the fitted top and hook up to Camelbak bladders with ease.

Thermarest NeoAir All Season– I purchased the NeoAir because of its weight, durability, and R- Value. It is not the lightest sleeping pad on the market, but it is a contender. The denier on this pad is a little higher making it a tough pad, but it adding a little extra weight. I don’t mind because the added weight is negligible and it really increases the durability. Also, for an all season pad, the R-Value is at a comfortable value for summer camping and those cool to cold nights in the winter.

Prana Stretch Zion Pants– These pants from Prana are by far my most favorite pants I have ever owned. I have worn these pants religiously for the past four years. They are triple stitched, have a gusseted crotch, the four-way stretch is fantastic, remarkably durable and they are incredibly comfortable. They are the perfect go to pant whether I am hunting, fishing, hiking, or just wearing them to work.

Patagona Nanopuff I bought my Nanopuff to serve as an all-purpose synthetic lightweight jacket. It is warm enough on the cool/cold days to use as a standalone piece and it also fairs well against the wind. The Nanopuff is also thin enough to work great as a mid-layer combined with a nice lightweight vest, such as the Atom from Arcteryx, when the temperature starts to fall below freezing. This jacket comes with me wherever I go. It packs down small, keeps me warm, looks great, and has made it through a gauntlet of torture.

Arcteryx Atom Vest– This is another staple piece I always have in my backpack. It’s lightweight, very warm, and layers very well. The four way stretch on the sides of the vest allow for easier movement and a more comfortable fit. The Core-loft synthetic insulation from Arcteryx is right on the money. It’s surprising how warm the vest is able to keep you without overheating. A highly recommended piece if you are looking for a good looking vest that will work hard for you.

The North Face VaporWick T-Shirts– I bought these T’s because of the VaporWick technology and because they are very comfortable. The Vaporwick technology disperses moisture which allows the clothing to dry much faster. Keeping yourself dry in cool to cold weather is extremely important and these shirts did the trick. The shirt does also have some UPF protection which is helpful at the higher altitudes when backpacking.

 

Ryan and Odin walking Bear Creek Trail
Ryan and Odin walking Bear Creek Trail
We found Little Hawaii!
We found Little Hawaii!
Odin and his Ruffwear backpack
Odin and his Ruffwear backpack
From Bear Creek Falls
From Bear Creek Falls
Alta Lakes!
Alta Lakes!
Headed home from a day of fly fishing Alta Lakes
Headed home from a day of fly fishing Alta Lakes
Ski lifts at Telluride
Ski lifts at Telluride
A shot walking down a ski run in Telluride
A shot walking down a ski run in Telluride
Cheesy pictures are great
Cheesy pictures are great
Ryan and myself on our first hike into town
Ryan and myself on our first hike into town
Mount Wilson approach
Mount Wilson approach

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Basecamp! Sierra Designs and MSR tents are fantastic
Basecamp! Sierra Designs and MSR tents are fantastic

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Got off on a spur trail...
Got off on a spur trail…
Mount Wilson approach
Mount Wilson approach

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The saddle at Mount Wilson which stands at roughly 13,400 ft.
The saddle at Mount Wilson which stands at roughly 13,400 ft.
The Crew!
The Crew!

 

Eric Svendson joined the Backpacker Team in 2009 and is currently the Manager of our River Ranch store. His favorite brands are Patagonia, prAna, and Salomon. He is responsible for assisting employees, helping customers, and merchandising clothing and equipment around the store. When not in the store, he pursues his passion of photography and helps maintain the studio that he shares with his mother in downtown Lafayette, Svendson Studios. He also enjoys hunting, fishing,kayaking, biking, and exploring the southern Louisiana wilderness.

Exo Undies Test

High-Tech Undies

My dear friend Andrew Pate and I, Zach Miler, have many things in common. We both have over 30+ years of musical experience between the two of us, we love the outdoors even more, we were both started at The Backpacker the same day, and we have both been wearing two pairs of underwear each for the past six weeks.

Now before the dread-headed tie-dye hippie accusations pour in, let me set a few things straight. ExOfficio’s underwear has a tag line “17 countries. 6 weeks. One pair of award-winning underwear. (Ok, maybe two.)”. This has been a laughing matter between the two of us for a while, but then one day we decided that it was time to challenge the matter, each other, and ourselves.

Now there is no wager or prize, in fact if the other quit it would not have been a big deal, however, the pride to try and spoof such a boisterous tag line was what really drove us. What might come of defeating such a claim? This was it, it had to be done. The ground rules were set:
-Two pairs of underwear each; no more, no less
-Wash one pair in the shower and wear the dry, clean pair
-Be honest about it
-Stay mindful of health issues (an unfortunate reality)

 I’ll admit that it was tough finding a routine of washing and drying. Seems simple enough but it really can be hard to not instinctively throw the dirty pair in the hamper. Now as for washing, I recommend anti-bacterial bar soap, however, my all time favorite soap to use is Dr. Bronner’s soap. Dr. Bronner’s is an all purpose soap I discovered in The Backpacker’s camping section and have fallen in love with. It cleans very well, is all-natural, and has a pleasant smell that makes you feel clean. Now, get in there and scrub like you’re playing the washboard for a zydeco band. Since the material is synthetic, don’t use a dryer. Ring out as much liquid as you can and hang dry.

Just like anything else, we began to fall into a routine with the challenge. We didn’t realize what the difference between our cotton underwear and these high-tech skivvies really were. I’ll spare the details, but just know the difference really was in what I wore. South Louisiana has thrown a lot at me in my day, but I now feel as if I have a tool that really helps me fight the high heat and humidity.

In the end, we like this product for several reasons.
-Washes and dries easily
-Aegis microbe treatment
-Give-n-go nylon/lycra spandex blend is highly breathable and mobile for active
comfort
-Comes in a variety of colors and styles for men and women
-Perfect for the outdoors, travel, recreation, and anything you throw at it
-ExOfficio holds true to their claims

Whether or not anyone else chooses to challenge ExOfficio’s claim, it is definitely worth having a few pair in your arsenal for travel, outdoor life, and just everyday loving. I have put this test through the ringer and have even failed to mention an intense climbing trip with just the two pair, but I’ll spare the details. When the weather cools off, Andrew and I will have a cotton underwear bonfire. We’re converted and those who want to join are comfortably welcome.

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Andrew and Zach have both worked at The Backpacker at Bocage since January 2015. They are both gear heads for music, climbing, and camping.

Thermoball Gear Test

Gear Test: The North Face Thermoball Takes on Brushy Mountain

Growing up in Tennessee, I was spoiled by my proximity to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I lived 45 minutes away from miles and miles of trails, water sources and majestic views where I was able to hike, run, swim, kayak and picnic through my childhood years. In 2012, I moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana for school. After I graduated, I was fortunate enough to quickly find a job here, and now see the Red Stick as my home for the foreseeable future. After family and friends, what I miss most are those mountains. Luckily, most of my family still lives in Knoxville, and I travel there often for visits.

My most recent visit to Knoxville was short, and I didn’t think I would have time to hike. :( But than an opportunity was presented to me: a group of high school students (and chaperons) from the school my Dad is a teacher were going to hike Brushy Mountain the day I was scheduled to leave. If I waited until the evening to start the drive back, I could get a hike in. There was no need to even contemplate…I was going on that hike.

Because I hadn’t planned on hiking, I hadn’t specifically packed  hiking-appropriate clothing and gear. Luckily, my every day style borders on hiking-appropriate, and I always have a pair of hiking boots in my car, but I was definitely concerned about being warm enough.

I only had one jacket with me, a recently purchased The North Face ThermoBall Full Zip Jacket ($199). This puffy jacket is made with a synthetic insulation (called ThermoBall as well) that is designed to be warm even when wet. The jacket has two hand pockets, an elastic closure at each wrist, and a waist cinch-cord system. It weighs about 11.5 ounces and packs into its own pocket, compressing down to about the size of a poboy sandwich (a good sized one, like you’d get at The Chimes). It doesn’t compress as well as down, but ThermoBall does pack quite well for synthetic.

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One of the big claims The North Face makes about this jacket is that the insulation will “achieve phenomenal warmth in cold and wet weather” by keeping loft even when water logged or wet. This is different from down, which loses its loft, and therefore, it’s warmth, when wet.

With all that being said, I had only owned the jacket for a couple weeks, and hadn’t really had time to test out it’s claims. I dressed for the day in sturdy (wind and rain resistant) pants, a Smartwool  NTS 250 Crew top, a Smartwool PhD Smartloft Divide Vest, Smartwool Hiking Lightweight Crew Socks, and my Vasque St. Elias GTX Hiking Boots. And of course that Thermoball jacket. And my Backpacker Beanie. :)

Our group met at approximately 8am. There were 5 chaperons (including my Dad, two other teachers, my Mom, and myself) and about a dozen students. We briefly introduced ourselves,then started the hike. We began at the Trillium Gap Trailhead. The first section of the trail, approximately 0.15 miles, is actually an access trail. Upon completing this small portion, we reached a junction, and proceeded ahead to the actual Trillium Gap Trail.DSCF0122

Trillium Gap is known for its wildflowers visible in the Spring, but this was definitely not Spring, and the day was dreary and cold. We continued the steady climb up the well-worn path, crossing four small streams without footbridges (good thing my Vasque boots are waterproof).

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A little over a mile into the hike, one can catch their first glimpse of Grotto Falls. I’ve done the Grotto Falls portion of this hike numerous times, but it’s still one of my favorites. That may be in part because Grotto Falls is the only waterfall in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that a person can physically walk behind. Although less impressive in height than others found in the park (25-feet), walking behind the falls, feeling the mist from it, and hearing the thunderous noise it makes as it hits the pool below, is breathtaking. During the summer, this area is often crowded with hikers taking a break for lunch, or even stopping for a quick dip in the cool waters.

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After a couple quick photos, we continued on.

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On a clear day, roughly 0.25 miles past the falls, one can catch their first glimpse of the mountain, looking due east through the trees, and will continue to have sporadic view over the next 0.50 miles. On our hike, we saw nothing but clouds.

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After approximately 3 miles, we reached Trillium Gap, where the path meets Brushy Mountain Trail coming up from Porters Creek. We turned left, towards Brushy Mountain’s summit. A right turn would have taken us towards the summit of Mt. LeConte…and many more miles than we had time for.

From there, we continued the 0.33 miles left to the summit. During the warmer months, this narrow portion of the trail is lush with rhododendron, mountain laurel, sand myrtle and other shrubs and bushes.

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The summit of Brushy Mountain is a small semi-circular clearing. Towards the southeast (on a clear day), one can see the entire eastern flank of the Great Smoky Mountains. Towards the south, Mount LeConte. Continue on the trail for another 50 feet or so, and one can (again, on a clear day) see Webb Mountain, the Greenbrier valley, and Pigeon Forge, towards the north. On our hike, we saw this:

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I’ve summitted Brushy Mountain twice now..with similar views both times. Brushy Mountain:DSCF0139

Right before we’d reached the summit, it had begun to snow. Not heavily, but enough to be concerned about my water-resistant (not waterproof) jacket keeping me warm. After scarfing down sandwiches, trail mix, and rehydrating, we started the descent.

The second half of our hike went quicker than the ascent- steady downhills frequently make for “easier” hiking. Plus, for some of the students, this was their first hike, and their lack of appropriate gear was making for some cold individuals. The snow continued, then warmed to a light drizzle, then back to snow. I was amazed at how warm, and dry, I felt.

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Finally, we reached the beginning of the trail. As I prepared to get in the car for the drive home, I took off my boots and my jacket. Only then did I realize how wet the outside of my jacket had gotten throughout the hours long hike through rain and flurries. I felt the inside…completely dry. I can’t go so far as to recommend this jacket in lieu of a waterproof rainjacket (although I have read reviews of the Thermoball where people have completely submerged their jacket in water and attest to its warmth still), but I can say, I’m a lot less worried about getting caught in a Louisiana rainstorm in my NF Thermoball Jacket than I was before this hike!

Overall, I fully recommend all the gear and apparel I wore the day I hiked Brushy Mountain, especially The North Face Thermoball Full Zip Jacket. I stayed warm, dry, blister and chafe free, and overall, very comfortable. I also recommend the Brushy Mountain (via Trillium Gap) Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. Hopefully, one day I’ll get to do this hike in the Spring, during full bloom, and on a clear day (see picture below).
brushy-mountain-view

Trail Features: Views, Waterfalls, Wildflowers

Roundtrip Length: 6.8 miles

Total Elevation Gain: 1745 feet

Average Elevation Gain/Mile: 513 feet

Highest Elevation: 4937 feet

Trail Difficult Rating: 10.29 (strenuous)

A Paddle Worth Paddling- Advanced Technology Oracle Angler Paddle Review

Kayak Fishermen often fail to realize a very important fact.  Your paddle is your engine.  We will spend $200 or more on each of our fishing combos (rod and reels) and then we balk at spending $100 on our paddle.  We will use 3-5 rod and reel combos in a day but we will use that one paddle on every trip.  Reels often die about every two years but a good paddle could last a lifetime.  Yet we fail to invest in what may be the second most important piece of equipment in your garage (next to you Kayak)!

This past week I was fishing with my new AT Oracle Angler paddle.  It’s an engineering marvel: light as a feather and as stiff as glass.  It transfers every bit of my effort into the water.  Another thing that has recently begun to amuse me is the realization that Kayak Anglers will go to all sorts of lengths to hide from the fish they are sight casting but they will then stick a bright orange paddle blade into the water the fish lives in.  So the angler who argues whether tan shirts are better than grey are better than blue will then put the equivalent of blaze orange into the plain view of the fish!

In that confused jumble of thoughts I inject the AT Fish Camo pattern.  How good is it?  Check this picture out that I took at my most recent tournament:

disappearing paddle

OK stop looking at the fish and look at the paddle – where did it go?  This image is not photoshopped; it’s real.  So the next time you are at The Backpacker, consider picking up an AT Oracle Angler edition paddle – you won’t regret it.

For you paddlers, they have regular editions and ergonomic bent shafts, too.  Get out there!

Bill Crawford previously served as a Wilderness Systems Fishing Ambassador and is currently on the Backpacker Fishing Team for the past 2 years.