Backpacker Adventures

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!

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.

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.




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.


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.



Blue Crab Kwan_NO AUDIO.mp4.00_02_40_29.Still001

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.


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:


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



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.


-Painted Ladies- San Francisco, CA  


-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.


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.


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


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.


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.



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


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!


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


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



Hodgon Meadow- Yosemite, CA


-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. –


THRIVE Takes On Tickfaw State Park

by: Nicki Klein

group walking

THRIVE Academy,” founded in 2011, “is a free, college preparatory, charter boarding school for grades six through twelve in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, serving at-risk youth from East Baton Rouge Parish. The mission of THRIVE is to empower students from underserved Baton Rouge communities and prepare them academically and personally for success in college and beyond.” According to their mission statement, THRIVE seeks to “meet the physical, emotional and educational needs of [their] students and provide them with the tools that will empower them to advocate for themselves and make a lasting impact on the community.” Everybody Plays Sports (EPS), created in 2007, is a local non-profit with a mission to raise “awareness about youth fitness and [improve] the health and wellness of youth through exercise, nutrition and education.” In 2015, EPS joined with the Outdoor Outreach Team, the brainchild of local resident Erin Sullivan. Outdoor Outreach specializes in “long term mentoring with at-risk youth through hands on outdoor experiences like hiking, paddling, and overnight primitive camping. The Outdoor Outreach Team also focuses on team building, character development, and nature education.” Reading all those mission statements and goals, the take-home point is this: all of these groups and projects have the same overarching goal-to empower young people. That EPS, and their Outdoor Outreach project, would join forces with the THRIVE Academy only made sense, and in 2012, a partnership was created. Since then, EPS personnel have visited THRIVE two afternoons a week throughout the school years, working with (now) 6th-9th graders, and taking them on field trips to explore the local outdoors.  Like most non-profits, EPS receives a lot of support from volunteers and local groups such as: Muddy Water Paddle Company, Varsity Sports, Lululemon, Heroes On the Water, Louisiana State Parks, Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries, The Louisiana Marathon, and The Backpacker, which is how I found myself introduced and involved in the program. The Backpacker supplies kayaks for various THRIVE/EPS/Outdoor Outreach events, and man power when extra help is needed. After offering to help with one afternoon session, I found myself hooked, and did my best to attend anytime I was available. 

epsbackpacker logo


The hard work that the 6th-7th graders put in throughout this school year was rewarded with a two night, three day trip to Tickfaw State Park. Because of other obligations, I wasn’t able to join the first day/night, but was excited to join for the remainder of the excursion. In true Nicki fashion, I decided to add a fun kick to my trip, by biking the 50 miles to Tickfaw from Baton Rouge…on a mountain bike…with all my gear on my back. That experience is a whole other blog in itself, but I will say the kids thought it was pretty cool. Or maybe just that I was a little weird.


I arrived during lunch, just in time to get prepared to head out for an afternoon of self-made bamboo-pole fishing, and kayaking through a bayou. A couple fish were caught, and although I had to (constantly) advise that “no, that’s a log, not an alligator,” to a number of disbelieving students, my group had a great time.

bambooMaking bamboo fishing poles

fish2First catch of the day







Happy kayakers


After dinner, we night hiked while looking for wildlife (the kids loved hiding behind trees and jumping out at their unsuspecting peers…and the adults!)

spiderA spider found by one of the students

and finished up the night with s’mores around a fire. Although there were cabin style rooms available for the students, a number of them chose to sleep in tents they had pitched the night before!tent 3Setting up tents on the first afternoon


The next morning we woke up with the sun and after a quick breakfast, Shelly, a fellow Backpacker employee, led a group through a relaxing yoga flow.



More hiking, a trip to the park’s nature center, and lunch, and the trip was already over!

erin and groupOutdoor Outreach founder Erin Sullivan leading the group

shelly and kidBackpacker supervisor Shelly with one of the THRIVE students




When I write about it, the trip seems so simple and short. But those 24 hours I spent with the THRIVE students at Tickfaw were anything but. From seeing them work together to make their fishing poles and bait their hooks; watching them paddle their kayaks in tandem; playing in the dirt, picking up bugs, pointing out wildlife; helping each other create the PERFECT s’more; and finally, working together to pick up their campsite; this trip was the culmination of a year of dedication, teamwork, and learning through outdoor awareness. Not just for the students, but for all the adults involved as well. I know I’m not simply speaking for myself. In my short time helping with EPS, the Outdoor Outreach Team, and the THRIVE students, I’ve gained perception, and a new perspective, on just how beneficial the outdoors can be for all of us-not just those already inclined. And kids NEED nature! I look forward to the future with these beneficial programs and projects, and want to again mention that without the support from local volunteers and groups, this trip, and others like it, wouldn’t be possible.


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

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!


Paddle Palooza XIII

By: Eric Fey

With a redfish and trout in the bag early, I decided to dedicate most of the morning to finding a flounder in order to complete my slam. I was anchored at the edge of an oyster bed and dragging a bucktail jig/gulp combo just along the perimeter of the bed. I abruptly stopped the rod when I felt the subtle tap of a flounder sucking up my lure. I waited for just a second, ensured there was tension in the line, and began my hook set. About half way up my rod came to a screeching halt. At that moment, although unsure of exactly what was on the other end of my line, I certain that it was not a flounder. I fought the fish for nearly 5 minutes before ever getting it to the surface of the water for a first look. As soon as the dorsal fin of the fish appeared I knew exactly what I was up against.

It was a black drum, and a big one! The fight continued for almost another 5 minutes. He would pull out 30 yards of line, and I would tow him back. Each exchange left me more and more fatigued. Finally I was able to get the grips on him and pull him into the yak. The BOGA grips put him at just OVER 25LBS! After some measurements and pictures, I released the beast back into the water and sat back for some much needed rest.


Paddle Palooza XIII really kicked off for us at Friday night’s captains meeting. I would be spending the weekend and fishing with two of my fishing buddies, Jared and Jeff.  At Top Water Marina, a group of gentlemen dubbed the Golden Girls (because of their age and apron color) cooked up a delicious pastalaya while everyone visited and helped set up. After a couple of beers and a full stomach, we sat back and listened to the BCKFC directors go over the rules of the tournament. The rundown was followed by the raffling of a handful of prizes. After the captain’s meeting Jared, Jeff, and I went back to the motel to game plan over a cigar and a few more beers. Jared and Jeff had spent Friday morning scouting the Leeville area but had little success. Jeff managed a few reds while Jared came home with a lone trout. We kicked around the idea of making a location change but ultimately decided to fish an area familiar to us. We turned in early to rest up for what would be a very early morning.

We had the kayaks in the water by 5:00 AM and began our journey out to our fishing grounds.  By the time we arrived, the sun was starting to come up.  I began fishing a popping frog trying to coax a red or big trout into an early breakfast.  I had one taker after only a dozen or so casts but it spit the frog before I could set.  The water was quite high so I floated over to a grassy area that is normally dry.  I threw my frog into the flooded grass and started working it back towards the open water.  Before the frog could make it to the clearing a redfish smashed it and I boated the first fish of the day.  He was only 18” so he went back into the water and as did the frog.  Only a few minutes went by before the frog was attacked again.  This time the redfish measured in at 23”, went into the bag, and I went on to find some trout.  I switched over to a walking style topwater in a mullet pattern.  I found a cut separating two patches of marsh grass through which the water appeared to be flowing much quicker than the surrounding waters.

On the second cast a trout swatted at the bait but didn’t pick it up. On the third cast I had a trout on the line. The trout was only 13.5” but I had every intention of sticking to my game plan. I needed to find a flounder before spending too much time trying to upgrade my fish.

I swapped over to a white bucktail jig with one of the white curly gulp from the captain’s bags. Aside from catching the black drum mentioned above, I was able to pick up two more reds on this bait before switching it up. After 3-3.5 hours of trying to find a flounder, I was demoralized to say the least. But the day was about to turn around. The sun was getting high in the sky and I started spotting signs of feeding redfish. Here and there I would see fish crashing bait along the grass or the occasional tail sticking up out of the water. I couldn’t resist any longer. I took out the old trusty weedless swimbait and peddled up onto the flat in search of clean water.


It didn’t take long to find water that was clean enough. And just as I did, the redfish started revealing themselves. The cruising reds were the easiest. These fish were actively searching for food so a cast anywhere within a few feet of their nose would elicit a strike. The “floaters” were a little tougher. Sometimes they were sitting on the bottom and sometimes they were under grass overhangs with just their nose and pectoral pins sticking out. These fish wouldn’t jet out after the lure. The key was to get it close enough to see a faint reaction. This reaction could be as subtle as a twitch of their nose or as obvious as a thrust towards the bait. As soon as I spotted the reaction, I would let the lure fall straight down to the floor. More often than not they would pounce on it during the fall. If not, one gentle bounce of the rod tip was enough.

Of all of the fish that I put the lure in front of, none of them turned away. There were several fish that I missed from poor sets or spits, but no fish completely rejected the lure. I easily caught over a dozen reds. Between the 3 of us we landed around 30 reds, 5 trout, and 1 big black drum. Jeff and I literally stopped fishing around 1:00 due to fatigue. Jared continued on trying to get a flounder to bite. He had a 26.5” red and a 19.5” trout. A solid flounder could have put him in the running for the top 10. Unfortunately he was not able to find one.



Back at the weigh in it was evident that mostly everyone had a great day on the water. Out of 280ish anglers about half of them had plenty fish to weigh. About 40 of those caught slams! We saw 8+lb slot reds, near 6lb trout, and 2 lb flounder! Fellow Team Backpacker and Hobie Fishing Team member Casey Brunning claimed the top spot with a 12.47 lb slam stringer. For his efforts he took home a brand new 2016 Hobie Pro Angler 14 courtesy of The Backpacker. Second place was fellow Hobie Fishing Team member Vlad Molnouveanu with 10.69 lbs which won him a brand new 2016 Hobie Outback also from The Backpacker. Aaron Breaux took third place with 10.44 lbs and earned a $1,000 gift card to The Backpacker. Jared’s 7.11 lb redfish ended up missing 5th place big red by only 0.1 lbs!

After the weigh in, all of the donated fish were fried and consumed by the anglers. The award ceremony followed as did the raffling of all of the amazing gifts provided by the event sponsors. The event was successful in raising money for both the Wish to Fish and Louisiana Sportsmen’s Coalition through registration and raffling. It even helped give money to Heroes on the Water by hiring them to clean fish for the fish fry! All in all, this event was a major success. A lot of people caught a lot of fish, got to hang out with some awesome folks, and even went home with some amazing prizes. The weather was perfect and the food was good. Can’t wait for the next one!

Below is my video from the tournament on Saturday.  It only includes a few fish.  All of these fish (with the exception of the black drum) were caught sight casting.  ENJOY!

Q50 Sunset 13.1


by: Nicki Kleinq50 symbol

This post is a little overdue. I told myself I’d let the injury I’d sustained during the Q50 Sunset 13.1 race heal, and then I’d type up my recap. But it’s been weeks, and although my ailment continues, I suppose I shouldn’t wait any longer lest I forget any details of the race. So I proceed:

One reason I love being part of the Louisiana trail-running community is the that I have the opportunity to see new places in this state that I might not otherwise visit. Although I’ve mentioned in a previous post that Cesar Torres’ Q50 races are usually held close to New Orleans, his Sunset 13.1 and 6.5 races held on April 2nd were located in Grand Isle State Park, Louisiana, which is about 2.25 hrs from New Orleans. There’s a $3.00 fee to cross the bridge to Grand Isle, and a $2.00 park entrance fee. I was told beforehand to strictly follow the speed limits because the area is notorious for handing out tickets, but the slower speed allowed me to really enjoy the scenery–I felt like I was driving through the small beach towns I frequented during my childhood years in Florida.


When I got to the park, I’d hoped there might be primitive campsites still available (I hadn’t reserved one, because like most state parks in Louisiana, online reservations require a 2 night payment, and I only wanted to stay one night). Unfortunately, there were none, probably a result of the race weekend coinciding with many local high school’s Spring Break.

My pre-race excitement quickly overtook any disappointment about being unable to camp, as I drove to the observation tower where race-day packet pickup was being held. I picked up my bib and Q50 screen-printed beach towel (in lieu of the standard race shirt), saw a number of familiar faces, chatted with some first-time “trail” runners, and had a good conversation with Cesar about my recent 50 miler (Equinox Ultra). And when I say conversation, I mean that Cesar was standing on the observation tower, communicating through a bullhorn, while I stood in a nearby parking lot and shouted back answers. Cesar is always good for a laugh.




The race was to start at 5:00pm, and about 15 minutes before, we gathered for the pre-race meeting, and then walked down to the beach where we took part in completing either 22 pushups to “honor those who serve and to raise awareness for veteran suicide prevention” or 22 jumping jacks for peace. Common themes touched upon at the Q50 races include volunteerism, community, and awareness (environmental, homelessness, etc), so this quick “warm up” was not surprising.



With that, the race began. And within .25 miles, I’d fallen. First of all, I’m notorious for being clumsy. I run into things. I trip over nothing. I’ve gotten pretty good at falling “gracefully.” But this time, I was running on the packed sand, and as I leapt over an inlet of water, I landed on what I thought was more packed sand, but ended up being more like quicksand. My entire right leg sank to my knee, and hit my left knee on what WAS tightly packed (and hard) sand, and caught myself with my hands. Because I was holding my Orange Mud bottle in that hand, I couldn’t completely prepare for the impact, and my left thumb stuck out awkwardly as I landed on it, thus jamming it. Hence, the previously mentioned injury. I hope those of you reading this now have a greater appreciation for this post..each spacebar strike is another reminder of my injury…and clumsiness. 😉


Other than my early fall (when runners are still in a pack, and everyone sees you fall), the rest of the race went well. The sand was (mostly) packed, making a nice surface to run on, and there was a slight breeze for the majority of the race. We passed the primitive beach campsites, MANY groups of Spring Breakers (who offered lots of high fives, but why did no one offer me beer?!?), people fishing, and families strolling. At about mile 3.25, there was a table with water and a couple volunteers–this is where the 6.5 mile racers turned around. Remember, Q50 races don’t use any paper or plastic cups (aka trash), so runners must provide their own water bottle (and the reason I was carrying one). Myself, and the other half marathoners, continued on until we reached the 6.5ish mile mark, which on a 7 mile island, allowed me to see almost the entire coast. A volunteer marked my bib to indicate I’d reached the halfway point, I refilled my water bottle, and I turned back to head to the start/finish.



The second half of the race was much of the same. More high fives, more sand, more WIND. I’d saved some energy in case of strong winds on the return, but had conserved enough to make a push during the last half, passing a number of people.12968012_1062544073816644_8669811599495500392_o

After 1:47:49, I crossed the finish: 1st Female, 4th Overall, and with a new 13.1 PR. My legs were definitely stiff–I’ve learned that each race, depending on distance, hurts a different way–as I hobbled back to the observation tower where there were cold sodas and beer, and food, provided by the New Orleans Mission. A short time later, awards were handed out–3 deep for Overall Male and Female in both the 6.5 and 13.1 races. The awards at Q50 are some of my favorite-mine was a ceramic fish from Mexico City, with other prizes ranging from plants contained in coconut shells; other various ceramic dishes and decorations; and of course, one-of-a-kind handmade medals for each finisher.







And thus, another Q50 race concluded. I had another successful race, and I visited a new place in Louisiana. Grand Isle State Park has $14 primitive sites located on the beach, and with many local bars and restaurants within walking distance, I definitely plan on reserving a 2 night stay in the future!


As always, thank you to The Backpacker Baton Rouge and Orange Mud for gearing me up, and Forge Racing for supporting and sponsoring my running endeavors. And a special thank you to the Louisiana Running Company for taking beautiful pictures.

Other Sources:

The Backpacker FB             Forge Racing FB               Ales N Trails FB

backpacker logo

orange mud logo forge-racing-logo




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

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

by: Nicki Klein


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.


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.


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.







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!















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


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