Backpacker Adventures

Zach Miller has been apart of the Backpacker family for over 2 years. He is dedicated to educating and inspiring others into an active and adventurous lifestyle.

What’s in Zach’s Backpack for Climbing Linville Gorge?

One thing to remember is that when you work at The Backpacker you join a family, a community, and a culture that is often times long lasting. One of the first people I met at Backpacker, as most people in the past might have as well, was Matt “Matt’Teryx” Vecchio. He has outfitted many of people for gear and sent them safely onward towards adventure. He has been my belay partner and adventure buddy for many moons and I was saddened when he left Baton Rouge to live in Greenville, South Carolina. A few months after his departure, he invites us to come and stay with him and to go climbing in the Linville Gorge located in North Carolina.Jumping at the opportunity, I packed all my gear and hit the road with my fiancé and Matt’s girlfriend, Ariel. Greenville treated us well and the time weInt spent there was more than enjoyable. We spent Matt’s birthday downtown touring breweries and local cuisines while cruising the city on bicycles. Before the night ended, I made sure to fill up both my Hydroflask growlers with some local beer to take to the woods with us. The Hydroflask growler is vacuum-sealed, double-wall insulated to keep your drinks cooler for longer and they have a special lid that keeps the carbonation for a fresher beer when you’re ready for it.

Enjoying a flight while filling up our Hydroflask Growler for the trip at Quest Brewery in Greenville, SC
Enjoying a flight while filling up our Hydroflask Growler for the trip at Quest Brewery in Greenville, SC

march in

The next morning we left bright and early to head to the Linville Gorge. We parked at the campground for Table-Rock, a popular crag for climbers. Instead of heading to the Table Rock climbing area, we headed the other way to a lesser-known area called the Amphitheater that boasts three large, and fairly easy, multi-pitch trad climbs. We also found some off the path campsites that allowed us to base-camp for a few days while we hit the highlights. During the hike in, we were distracted from a moderately tough approach with fresh blueberries and blackberries growing along the trail. Once we arrived at the Amphitheater, we walked out to the rim and laid our gear down for a snack and to organize us. We used the Big Agnes Onyx tarp and the Grand Trunk Rain Fly to create a base camp. While the girls took a nap, Matt and I took the basic trad gear, two ropes, a bottle of water, and went off to get a refresher on the systems for when we all went out the next day. A basic trad rack, in this case, consists of a set of Black Diamond Nuts, #.75-#4 Black Diamond Camelots, 6 quickdraws, 6 slings (60cm and 120cm), cordelette for anchors, locking and non-locking carabiners, and two 60m ropes. We hiked down to the edge of the rim and set a 60m rappel to the halfway point of the route “The Prow” (5.4). By the end of our first pitch, we caught a rain storm that forced us under an overhang that protected us from the weather but left the rest of the climb, as well as the girls above, soaked and wet. After trying to rest while hoping it cleared up, we had to make the decision whether to try and rappel down and leave gear or to take a slow climb out. Realizing that it would be far to difficult to rappel with the top out being so close, we decided to take a slow, safe climb out. As we topped out, we realized that our 1-2 hour recon trip turned into a 5-6 hour adventure. However, we found a much more protected campsite at the top out that would be more protected from the weather.

All we could do was wait...so we waited
All we could do was wait…so we waited

As I left Matt to clean the route to go assure the girls that we were ok, we were met with angry/happy tears. When I sat down to drink water and to try and convince them to move to the other site while they were still upset, they happened to begin telling me that we were moving sites to exactly where we had planned already. Turns out they made the discovery and decision to move while searching for us. As we commuted to our new location, we used our climbing gear to hang a close line and extra gear for organization and drying. As we continued to set up camp, I cooked sausage jambalaya on the MSR Whisperlite. This versatile little stove is great for every type of backcountry cooking; that’s boiling water to gourmet meals for small groups such as us.

We had each found this site, and agreed individually to convince the group to move camp here. One of the best campsites one can have.
We had each found this site, and agreed individually to convince the group to move camp here. One of the best campsites one can have.

The following morning, July 4, we set out to do a ground up ascent of The Mummy (5.5), a 3-pitch 350’ route that stands proud amongst The Amphitheater. Though 5.5 is not an inherently difficult grade, the experience was demanding as a whole. The approach was a mixture of steep, mountainside trails and dense forest that required skillful navigation since the trail was not always evident. Once to the top of the climb, we rappelled down a wet chute that led us to the base of the climb. Once we arrived, we noticed that the first pitch, a beautiful crack leading to the first belay station was soaked and dripping from the day before. Having to dance on and off the route in order to find dry holds and gear placements, we finally made it up the first vertical pitch to the belay station. From here on out it was beautiful, easy climbing that was dried in the now present sun. When the sun came out we realized that the water we had brought ran out faster than anticipated and dehydration began to creep upon us. A successful top out was short lived by the need to return to camp for water. Even my helmet rolling off the side of a 20ft ledge could not deter me from the need at hand; I had to let the old friend go.

The Mummy. Look and you might can spot a climber somewhere in the picture
The Mummy. Look and you might can spot a climber somewhere in the picture

Upon return, we celebrated with plenty of water and dehydrated meals. The Good-to-Go Thai Curry, Mexican Quinoa Bowl, and Bibimbap were great toppers to the day. Oh, and just because we were in the mountains did not mean we were without fireworks for America’s Birthday. We perched on the edge of the cliff and caught the light show from the town down the valley. Not much of a better way to end the day.

Sending up the wet pitch!
Sending up the wet pitch!

The hike out was a continuous feast of fresh blueberries and blackberries along the trailside. The three-mile hike seemed to last long but was refreshing with all of the snacks. Back the Table Rock parking lot, we celebrated with Quest Brewery’s Golden Fleece IPA that had been waiting on us in the car. The Hydroflask Growler kept the beer fresh since it’s lid locks in the carbonation and keeps it from going flat like traditional glass growlers, and the YETI Hopper kept it cold during those long hot days in the car while we were away. After sharing a beer and a snack, we headed to the nearest town with the best BBQ. Banner Elk, NC boasts a local favorite, The Peddlin Pig. With meat so tender it would be worth any amount of time and suffering in the woods to come to such a rewarding feast. However, though suffering was minimal, the celebration with great BBQ and cold, local beer was the cap to a great celebration with friends.

Gear List:

Osprey Kestral 48 
Thermarest Neo-Air
Marmot Nanowave 55 (an amazing lightweight summer bag that won’t break the bank!)
Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2
MSR Whisperlite
MSR Quick 2 Pot Set
Helinox Chair One
H
elinox Table
North Face Enduras Trail Shoes
La Sportiva Mythos Climbing Shoes
Petzl and Blue Water Ropes (9.8mm)
Petzl Corax harness
Petzl Spirit Quickdraws
Black Diamond ATC-Guide (Here is a link to the ATC-XP: it has the same braking funtions as the guide but without top-belay capability)
Black Diamond Positron Quickdraws
Black Diamond Camelots (full run of cams)
Black Diamond sewn runners (4x60cm 3x120cm)
Friction Labs Chalk
Hydroflask 32oz growler (64oz growler carried at Backpacker locations)
Katadyn Hiker Pro Water Filter
Leki Legacy Trekking poles (I used men’s and my fiance used the women’s)

Zach Miller has been apart of the Backpacker family for over 2 years. He is dedicated to educating and inspiring others into an active and adventurous lifestyle.
Zach Miller has been apart of the Backpacker family for over 2 years. He is dedicated to educating and inspiring others into an active and adventurous lifestyle.

Walter’s Rock Climbing Trip to Joshua Tree

I ventured away from Louisiana a few weeks ago and went to Southern California to visit Joshua Tree National Park. Joshua Tree is located near Palm Springs about an hour and a half from Los Angeles County.

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I visited May 9th – May 12 and the weather was highs of 75 and lows of 45, overall great weather. We found a spot at Jumbo Rock campground that was a first come first serve campground with 124 spots. It was a nice campground because it was surrounded by boulders and there were some trails nearby. We packed pretty heavy because we decided to car camp so we didn’t hesitate on what not to bring. One essential was an awning. Joshua Tree is a desert so there is not much natural shade and the sun can beat you down. Other things to mention is you have to bring your own water and most campgrounds only had outhouses and no potable water.

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To highlight some of the gear I used Camping:

Helinox Chair One – Super comfortable and only 2 pounds!

Helinox Table One – Compact, great to play card games on and lightweight.

Big Agnes 4 person Tent-Spacious and easy to pitch great for car camping.

Goal Zero Torch 250 Flashlight- Gives lots of light (has floodlight and flashlight settings), has the capacity to charge electronic devices, and recharges itself with built-in solar panel. 

Our main reason for traveling to Joshua Tree was to check out the climbing. Since I was traveling, to cut down on the weight we focused on bouldering.(Really wished I had some rope though!) 

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IMG_0437This photo was provided by Scott Poupis.

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Climbing gear I used:

Black Diamond Mondo Pad-Great large pad, downside it is really expensive to check on a plane. My solution was I found I could mail it via USPS priority two days and that cost me around $55.00.

La Sportiva Skwama’s- I was super happy with these shoes because they were easy to get on my feet and were more comfortable than other aggressive shoes I have tried on in the past. They are sensitive enough for small chips and the heel fits great allowing good use of a heel hook.

Friction Labs Bam Bam Chalk – Honestly, I use whatever chalk is available to me. But, friction labs I do believe last longer and I find myself chalking my hands less.

Prana Brion’s – These pants are my favorite because they look good and they stretch. I can do anything in them from hiking, working, climbing or whatever else the day calls for.

The last day of our trip we used just to hang out around camp and enjoy all the beauty of Joshua tree. #geauxoutthere

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Til my next adventure!

Wetland Conservation Project

The Youth Wetlands Program has groups of students come down every year from the Edmund Burke School of DC, to help restore receding coastline by planting native Louisiana Irises. This year The Backpacker and Everybody Plays Foundation got to partner up with them, and were a huge help in transporting and guiding the group along the way. And of course they had loads of questions about the effects of Katrina and they knew very little of the Great Flood of 2016, which we were sure to share our stories. Oh and they all had questions about alligators and what to do if you see one? are they going to attack the boat? what if I fall in?  Let’s just say we had a fun time with these students from the city.

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Loading up and heading to Cane Bayou!

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This is probably 500 Louisiana irises. They can produce asexually, where multiple flowers can come from just one bulb. Which means they can also be invasive, so we are relocating these where they will actually be useful and help better solidify a marshy coast.

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Gator siting! Thankfully everyone remained fairly calm and the gator didn’t eat anyone, at least not in our group.

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Osprey nest

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Erin Sullivan of Everybody Plays Foundation is explaining the root system of the irises we are about to plant.


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“Ew, why does this mud smell like fart?”

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This katydid was a big deal. “AHHH, something’s on my leg!” “Does it bite?” “How did you just catch it like that?”

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Louisiana’s wetlands are home to a diversity of wildlife, and provide a much needed natural barrier against the storm surges that occur during hurricanes. Just 1.3 miles of wetlands can reduce a storm surge by a foot. That is a foot less water coming onto land during a storm—the wetlands are vital to reducing erosion of the coastline and destruction to lives and property.

Restore Louisiana Now is a great resource to learn more about the eroding coastline.

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A lone iris already in bloom on Cane Bayou! Hopefully where we planted will also look this solid.


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We got down and dirty and had a lot of fun doing our part. Thanks again to everyone that helped make this a success!

 

Lindsey’s Ski Trip to Steamboat

Instead of hittin’ the Mardi Gras parades, I decided to hit the slopes with Backpacker Tours! I had an awesome experience traveling with our team, from the charter flight (direct from BTR) to the Apres Ski Party!

 

Caroline and I @ Apres Ski Party
Caroline and I @ Apres Ski Party

 

This was my first time skiing in Steamboat, and I definitely recommend what it has to offer. It had been a few years since I last skied, but the wide variety of trails from beginners to experienced skiers made Steamboat an ideal spot for me to hit the slopes again.

While in Steamboat I stayed at Trailhead Lodge. Trailhead had great amenities including transportation to the Mountain via Gondola, not to mention complementary ski/ snow board and boot storage with boot warmers! Did I mentioned boot warmers?!

 

View from Trailhead Lodge
View from Trailhead Lodge

 

My top gear picks…

– The FERA Jen Insulated Parka had a incredible fit along with great insulation and lots of functional pockets! The pockets were perfect for storing my wallet, phone, keys and my Goal Zero Charger.

The FERA Lucy Pant had all the features I needed and wanted while skiing. The Lucy Pant had a variety of features from DWR waterproofing, stretch, articulated knees and powder cuffs.

 

Fera Jen Parka and Lucy Pant.

 

The North Face Glacier 1/4 zip I used as a layering piece on colder days on the mountain. The Glacier 1/4 zip is a light weight fleece that you will get multiple uses from the slopes to back home on a chilly day.

Sorel Joan of Arctic boot kept my feet warm and dry!

Smith Transit goggles are a must. My first few days of skiing it snowed and the Transit came in handy!

 

Smith Transit goggles
Smith Transit goggles

 

Lindsey has been with The Backpacker for over 3 years. She is the apparel, footwear and accessory buyer. Her favorite brands include Prana, Dylan by True Grit, FERA and Tasc.

How to Layer for a Spring Ski Trip

Planning a spring ski trip? Be sure to pack lots of layers. You’ll be glad you did. Weather can be hard to predict for February, March, and April skiing. Keep reading for a practical guide on what layers to pack the next time you hear the mountains calling.

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Beautiful from the inside out. Each layer has an important function, and it’s fun to color coordinate the entire ensemble. Here’s what I packed for my cross country ski trip to the Continental Divide’s Boreas Pass Section House in mid-March 2017. The temperature low’s were in the upper 20s, and the high’s were in the lower 60s.

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Three Layers on your Torso, Two on your Legs 

BASELAYERS: Next to your skin you want clothing that is either synthetic or wool, and absolutely not cotton. This distinction is important because cotton holds moisture whether it’s from perspiration or snow. Once the cotton is wet, it becomes cold and makes you shiver. On my mid-March trip to Breckenridge, I wore The North Face Reaxion Tank underneath a Smartwool Lightweight Crew. The extra core warmth provided by the tank in the morning also doubled as a 3:00 pm escape from the heat when I was ready to soak up the sun in 60 degree weather. I prefer wool over synthetic for my long sleeve because I can wear it several days in a row without fear of it smelling of sweat. My husband, Clayton, is warm natured and often wore just his baselayer and no jacket. We both wore Smartwool Lightweight Leggings.

MIDLAYER: The perfect midlayer for me is a light puffy jacket. I prefer a puffy over a fleece because of it’s weight to warmth ratio. In other words, it is much warmer while being lighter weight than a fleece. It slides into my coat with ease, and I don’t feel constricted in the sleeves. It also takes up less room in my luggage. If you decide to wear fleece, the thickness depends on how insulated your outer shell is and what the weather conditions are. I wore an Arc’Teryx Atom LT as a midlayer in the morning and evening. It also ended up being used as an outer shell most of the trip because the temperatures were so warm and sunny.

OUTER SHELL: Spring skiing weather can vary from warm and sunny to cold and snowy. That being said, I prefer a lightly insulated, waterproof jacket that I can layer under according to the weather that day. On my mid-March trip to Breckenridge, I found myself only wearing my outer jacket over my midlayer in the morning and after sunset. I didn’t need it mid-day because it wasn’t snowy, but I was glad to have it when the temps plummeted. Speaking of plummeting, my North Face Ski Pants came to the rescue keeping me warm and dry even though I fell numerous times!

Aside from all the layers, here’s a handy checklist for everything else to pack for your next snowy exploration: The Backpacker’s Winter Hike Checklist

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If you’ve got the guts, we’ve got the gear!

Backpacker Flood Relief Final

Backpacker raises $17,000 to support Habitat for Humanity Louisiana Flood Relief Efforts

Local outdoor store, The Backpacker, raises over $17,000 for Habitat for Humanity flood relief and rebuilding efforts.

Baton Rouge, Louisiana-September 3, 2016.  Local outdoors store, The Backpacker organized a garage sale style “gear sale” on Saturday to raise funds for the ongoing Louisiana flood relief efforts.  Remembering the support offered by their vendors after Hurricane Katrina, The Backpacker staff began requesting donations of clothing, food, and medical kits shortly after the more recent Louisiana Flooding began to unfold.  Though some items arrived immediately and were distributed to shelters and directly to neighborhoods in Denham Springs, it was another week before apparel from brands such as Patagonia and The North Face began showing up and by this point many shelters were no longer accepting clothing donations.

After hearing stories of the difficulty many organizations faced in distributing the overwhelming amount of clothing donations after Hurricane Katrina, Backpacker General Manager Tyler Hicks had the idea of turning the items into cash.  “We were blown away that our vendors from around the country were willing to send us thousands of dollars worth of brand new high quality merchandise, no questions asked and this was at the beginning when the floods were barely getting any national media attention.  We felt like we had an obligation and opportunity to do something special and not just dump these items in donation boxes that were already overflowing.  We were already fans of the normal work Habitat does throughout the year, so when we heard they were helping strip flooded homes for those in need, we knew they were a great candidate for our support.”

A goal of $5000 was set but the donated merchandise kept coming.  “Throughout the week leading up to the event, we kept receiving another 6-8 boxes a day, each containing around 100 items.  We started wondering pretty quickly whether we had set our goal too low,” stated Hicks.

Shortly after the start of the Backpacker $5000 Flood Relief Gear Sale, a line of people 50 long formed to check out and didn’t dissipate for over an hour.  The $5000 goal was reached within the first hour and by the time the day ended, over 2000 items had been purchased raising a grand total of over $17,000.

The Backpacker plans to make equal donations of half of the proceeds to Habitat for Humanity of Greater Baton Rouge and Habitat for Humanity of Lafayette.

Companies sending merchandise to support the flood relief efforts included Patagonia, The North Face, Fayettechill, Mountain Khakis, Toad & Co, Goal Zero, Pearl Frog, Guy Harvey, Darn Tough, Adventure Medical Kit, Osprey, Howler Bros, AO Coolers and Tasc.

Backpacker Flood Relief Sale Backpacker Flood Relief Final

Multi-day Buffalo River Trip: 3 days, 2 nights, 50 miles

In late May, I finally got to do a three day, two night, 50 mile trip on the Buffalo River from Ozark to Gilbert with my buddy Zach, who also happens to be our in house boat tech. Our goals were to see as much of the river as possible, catch some fish for dinner, scramble up some canyon walls, not flip the canoe and have fun exploring.

Now, I know you’re probably thinking, “Wow, 50 miles seems like a lot in three days!” Well, it is; so I’m going to go ahead and recommend you to not do the same, unless you want to paddle hard. (Now, I’m not saying we’re hard core, although we certainly aim to be; we didn’t want to paddle hard but we wanted to see as much of the river as possible in three days; so we were definitely pushing it.) Under average river conditions, it takes about 4-6 hours to paddle 8-10 miles. Of course, this all depends on the water level, how you paddle, and how much fishing, hiking, climbing, swimming and resting you plan on doing. For a fun 25 mile run, I would suggest Carver to Baker Ford. In this stretch you will come across a cool rock formation called Skull Bluff, and if you so choose, you can climb to the top and jump off of this 60ft bluff. But I’m a climber, not a jumper. Also, on the south side (or right side) of the river is the Narrows Bluff (aka the Narrs) that you can hike up to and get a cool view of the Buffalo River and the Richland Creek Valley. And some of the best fishing is between Skull Bluff and Woolum. Although, I’m not the best fisher; I caught several baby brim, some trout (which I couldn’t keep because I didn’t have a trout license) and some small, small-mouth bass. But I did catch this one keeper!

it's a keeper!
it’s a keeper!

What to know before you go:

Water safety, and knowing how to paddle and swim are a great plus; there are some small rapids, and sharp, rapid flowing turns, along with fallen branches where boats can easily flip if you don’t know what you’re doing. You should check the weather and water levels several days in advance; you could even call the outfitter you plan on using. May through July are prime time for paddling the Buffalo. If you are going to fish make sure you get a fishing license and know the legal size and quantity of what you will be catching. Arkansas has a general fishing license and then a whole separate one for trout. I highly recommend paying the additional cost for a trout license; we caught plenty we couldn’t keep. And remember, rivers have laws too!

Harp's - where to buy your fishing license and everything else
Harp’s – where to buy your fishing license and everything else

We booked our canoe and shuttle service through Buffalo River Outfitters; they were very helpful answering all of our questions leading up to the trip. We camped only a few minutes from Buffalo River Outfitters at Tyler Bend the night before we got on the river.

Our first day on the river didn’t start till about noon. But that’s mostly because we both left straight from work at 7pm the day before and drove all night; so, everything we needed was in my car but it wasn’t organized. We slept about four hours at the campground (although seriously considered sleeping in the outfitters parking lot) and when we checked in at the outfitters around 9am they had our shuttle driver come meet us in the parking lot just a few minutes later. But the thing was when we opened my car doors, our gear just came tumbling out everywhere. It took us a good hour to organize what we were bringing and what we were leaving behind. Because after our three days on the river we were planning on doing some rock climbing and a waterfall rappel. When the driver saw how much gear we had, his eyes got really big, but he kept his mouth shut and just watched as we scrambled around. When we were finally done, the only comment the guy had was, “Wait, is that all the water you’re bringing?” as he stared at us holding only three water bottles total. We both just smiled, “No man, we’ve got a whole river!”

So, how did we narrow it down for three days, two people, and one canoe?

The whole kit and caboodle
The whole kit and caboodle

I’ll break it down by dry bags. Most of our bags were Seal Line; we had a variety of durable versions such as the Baja, the Ecosee, and Black Canyon.

The 50L bag seen here in yellow carried our Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 tent, 2 Marmot Nanowave 45 sleeping bags and 2 sleeping pads (Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus and a NeoAir Trekker) and 2 Helinox Chair Ones.

The 40L bag in orange was our kitchen: 1 Jetboil, 1 MSR Pocket Rocket, 2 pots, 1 pan, a cutting board, fillet knife, utensils, mess kit, coffee, spices, a handful of large ziplocks, Campsuds, olive oil, heavy duty foil, and fire starters for all of the damp wood we collected from the river banks. We used the grate for cooking, too.

Bass, brussels and couscous
Bass, brussels and couscous

AO 48 pack vinyl cooler: ice, some perishable foods, ziplocks and extra room for all the fish we didn’t catch, and of course whiskey kept in a Platypreserve Portable Storage Bottle (no glass).

The 35L clear bag carried all non perishable foods and rain jackets just in case. The clear bag is great for storing all your snacks, easy to see what your food options are and how deep you have to dig to get what you want. So keep the day snacks and hand sanitizer right on top; breakfast and dinner foods on bottom or maybe even in a separate bag.

The 120L Grand Trunk Duffel has two 20L bags with our clothes, toiletries and pack towels. Warmer clothes were needed at night; it got down to  about 50 degrees. It was good that I also brought an extra shirt, because it was foggy and overcast most of our trip; so, when our clothes got wet, they weren’t drying anytime soon, even if they are labeled “quick drying.” And it rained on us the first night; it was drizzling all through dinner and then it rained into the middle of the night.The duffel also held a 10L bag of electronics: Goal Zero flip charger, phone cords, Goal Zero speakers, extra batteries, headphones. And then there was our tackle box and maps. We had two waterproof National Geographic maps that were great: Buffalo National River West and East.  The West covers the beginning of the river up to mile 66. The Carver put in is at mile 63.5.  The East covers mile 66 up to the end of the river at mile 152. The duffel also had an old pair of climbing shoes, we thought we’d use to do some deep water soloing on all these amazing cliffs!

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maybe around mile 90, give or take

And lastly, a 5L bag held a bandana, my phone, sunscreen, chapstick, harmonicas, and most importantly our Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter! My phone was in a case and used mostly for pictures. Cell reception was spotty, but the closer we were to towns, the better.

Other things worth mentioning:
I wouldn’t stress too much about where to camp along the shore; there were plenty of places, some rockier or sandier than others. Just remember to pitch your tent far from shore in case the river rises over night, and pull your boat up pretty far and or tie it off. Canoes also are great makeshift tables too!
night two campsite
night two campsite
Getting dirty to clean dinner
Getting dirty to clean dinner
A towel specifically dedicated to fish handling in and out of the boat.
A crazy creek chair for butt cushion and back support.
Chacos, Tevas, or Keens are all you need for your feet; except for maybe some gold bond at night to help keep your feet from nasty fungus.
Quick drying shorts and long sleeve wicking and sun protection type shirts, such as: Exofficio Sol Cool Ultimate Hoody, Patagonia’s Sol Patrol Shirt, Patagonia Baggies or Happy Hikers.
Quick drying, antimicrobial underwear like Exofficio’s Give-N-Go are great too!
Mesh bag for trash. The outfitters will usually provide one for you.
Don’t forget bungees, rope and or carabiners to tie it all down. No one ever plans on flipping…but you should secure your belongings as if you were planning to flip 😉 Funny thing is you don’t have to flip to lose things. For instance, some things are lost to the depths of the river due to sheer clumsiness. Now, I won’t mention any names but he lost a handful of lures, along with some fishing line that just became untangleable, my fork, the one rod with lure that was catching the most fish, and I’ll just stop there…So don’t forget to bring extra line, lures, knives, and an extra rod or…spoon:
"Fish on a Spoon"
“Fish on a Spoon”
And when you get off the river and all you want is a cold beer and someone to bring you food…then you remember you’re in a dry county. No worries. Drive 20 minutes south of Buffalo River Outfitters on US 65 to Leslie, AR. Look for an old grocery store that’s been turned into a watering hole oasis amongst the other dull dry county offerings. It’s called Ryan’s. Don’t worry, in a town that’s roughly 6 blocks by 6 blocks, you’ll find it. They had live local music. They had a menu full of homemade grub, from house ground beef burgers, homemade potato chips to cucumber-tomato salad, and it’s cheap! We set up shop there for hours, we sang along to the songs, played cards and talked to locals. I will say the locals were a bit confused at first. Everyone knew everyone. We were outsiders and everyone knew it. This isn’t a town know to draw in tourists. But everyone was really nice and the food was delicious! We ate burgers, had beer and tequila shots and margaritas, homemade chips and homemade strawberry cheese cake and pecan pie; our bill with tip was about $50! We had great service and the head chef came out later to talk to us. She asked us if we were from around here, how we heard about the place, if we were enjoying the food, and told us we better come back next time we are in town and to tell all our friends. So, I’m telling all of you right now (and the only real reason I wrote this blog to begin with.) Go to Ryan’s, you won’t regret it!
Ryan's, a hidden oasis in the middle of dry county central
Ryan’s, a hidden oasis in the middle of dry county central
Shelly Guerin has been a part of #TeamBackpacker for 2 years and currently works as Lead Sales in our Baton Rouge location.  Shelly also works with the Everybody Plays Foundation introducing kids to the outdoors. And when she’s not working, she’s probably climbing.
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Fly from Backcountry to Backwaters

By: Eric Fey

Just a couple of years ago a few college buddies and I decided to give backpacking a try. Aside from being out in the wild and sharing these incredible experiences with some of my best friends, I had an ulterior motive.  I knew that the mountain streams and high alpine lakes held some beautiful freshwater trout.  Fly fishing in the mountains had always been a bucket list item for me.  So prior to our first trip in the Weminuche Wilderness in southwest Colorado, I purchased my first light weight fly rod and got to practicing.  I will never forget the serenity and excitement of fly fishing those crystal clear waters of the lakes nestled over 11,000 ft up in the mountains.  The trout were hungry and in my success, fly fishing became a part of me.

The following year (last year) the same group hiked up into the eastern Sierra Nevadas in California in pursuit of golden trout. A very similar experience was had and returning to Louisiana to hang up the fly rod after dozens of mountain trout was always bitter sweet.  There is an elegance to fly fishing that cannot be denied.  It is difficult.  And it is addicting.  Even though I was spending at least one day almost every weekend on the water in Louisiana, I could not shake my desire to be fly fishing.  But why couldn’t I be?  Just a little research turned up an entire community of local fly fishermen who were targeting the exact species of fish that I was chasing every weekend.  So I decided to take the dive.

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I purchased a new 8 weight fly rod and reel and set it up specifically for targeting inshore redfish. After practicing my casting for a week or two, I set out on my first trip in the kayak with the new fly rig.  I missed a couple of opportunities early in the morning due to inexperience casting from the kayak.  Once the wind picked up I was unable to get any decent casts down so I picked up the conventional gear and finished out the day.  I wouldn’t be defeated however.  The following weekend I returned to the marsh.  The wind was in my favor and the water was clean.  Mid-morning I peddled the Hobie Pro Angler into a shallow pond and soon after spotted an impressive redfish cruising the bank ahead.  I threw out my line and began my cast.  The first one was a little short so I picked up and casted again.  The fly landed just a couple feet ahead of the fish and on the first strip the fish reacted.  The redfish began its pursuit and I continued to strip the fly.  The fish lunged forward and inhaled the fly before immediately turning and running back towards the marsh grass.  It pulled all of the slack out and got onto my reel in less than 1 second!  The fight lasted around 6 minutes before I was able to get the grips on him and pull him into the kayak.  This was my first redfish on the fly and I was ecstatic.  The fish was approximately 29.5 inches and weighed somewhere around 10lbs.  I took a few pictures and released him back into the water to fight another day.  Luckily I was able to catch it all on video to share.

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After this incredible experience of catching my first red on the fly, I knew that there was no chance of shaking this hobby. So naturally, it only made sense to take it a step further. And so began my journey into fly tying.  I watched countless videos on tying different salt water patterns and equipment reviews before I pulled the trigger and ordered my own tying gear.  I started out by only getting the materials that would be required to tie two different flies.  I chose these patterns based on what I thought the reds would like during typically weather/water conditions for this time of year.  One was a black and purple Lafleur’s Charlie pattern which is a variation of the famous Crazy Charlie bonefish fly.  The other was a typical kwan pattern tied with blue crab colors.  I received my gear and materials last Thursday and tied my first two flies that night.  Happy with the results, I tied a couple more of each on Friday afternoon in preparation for the Saturday morning trip.

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Delacroix was extremely hot on Saturday morning but the water was very clean. Spotting the fish wasn’t the problem.  Getting the fish to eat was the challenge.  Most of the reds I saw gave the cold shoulder to my typical sight fishing lures.  I soon realized why.  I spotted a mid-20 inch slot red cruising the flats and made a few perfect casts with my conventional rod and reel that it simply ignored.  But immediately after giving me the snub, the fish barreled into a pack of shrimp feeding furiously as they scattered away.  The fish were keyed in on shrimp, and I had the perfect fly!  My blue crab kwan fly was already tied on to my fly rod.  I picked it up and made a blind cast towards some commotion near the grass line.  During the retrieve I noticed a flash of red about 10 feet down the bank.  I picked up the line and made a well-placed cast right where the flash was seen.  On the third or fourth strip a red appeared out of the bank shadows and ferociously hammered my fly!  I boated the fish soon after and achieved my goal of catching my first fish on a self-tied fly.

I consider myself very fortunate to have had these experiences back to back and so soon in my fly fishing adventures. I fear that I am even more hooked now than before.  It is hard to explain, but being able to fly fish the coast brings a little of the backcountry down to Louisiana.  It is a way for me to bridge my love for mountain fly fishing and sight fishing reds.  Plus, it is awesome to be able to say that I sight fish redfish from a kayak with a fly rod!  Whether you are an avid fly fisherman or never picked up a fly rod in your life, I implore you to give it a try.  You might find that it is as addicting as I do.

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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. –