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#BACKPACKERPHOTO CONTEST IS BACK!

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WE WANT TO SEE YOUR PICTURES FROM WHEN YOU #GEAUXOUTTHERE!!

Have you ever purchased gear from The Backpacker?  Well now you can use your gear to win a $500 GIFT CARD!! This February submit a picture of yourself using gear from The Backpacker on Instagram and your photo will be entered to win a $500 Gift Card!!  Multiple photos can be entered.  ANYTHING BACKPACKER GEAR COUNTS**!  Show us your adventures!  Skiing, Snowboarding, Hammock days, hiking, exercising, paddling, kayak fishing, or ANYTHING RELATED to BACKPACKER OUTDOORS gear counts!

To enter the Instagram #BackpackerPhotoContest, post your picture using Backpacker Gear on Instagram* and include these 3 tags –

@backpackeroutdoors #geauxoutthere #backpackerphotocontest

The winner may be chosen based upon combination of factors including but not limited to originality, likes, shares, and whether or not you applied the tags as stated above**.

TIPS for increasing your chances to WIN:

  • Your Instagram account needs to be visible our judges.  Private accounts may be difficult to see.
  • Be original & make it about the outdoors
  • Make sure you get “@backpackeroutdoors #backpackerphotocontest #geauxoutthere”  all into your post.  This could make or break the winning decision.
  • Email customerservice@backpackeroutdoors.com a link to your post and a copy of your picture to ensure that our judges can see your post.

The winner will be announced on Friday March 3RD!

*IMAGES POSTED TO PRIVATE ACCOUNTS MAY NOT BE SEEN BY OUR JUDGES, SO BE SURE TO CHANGE YOUR PRIVACY SETTINGS ON INSTAGRAM IF YOU WANT TO WIN!

**The Backpacker withholds the right to make final determination of winner.

*** Photos of an offensive nature or depicting dangerous acts will not be considered.  All photos must be submitted by midnight on Tuesday February 28, 2017.  

#BackpackerPhotoContest – October 2016

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WE WANT TO SEE YOUR OUTDOORS PICTURES!!

Have you ever purchased gear from The Backpacker?  Well now you can use your gear to win a $500 GIFT CARD!! This October submit a picture of yourself using gear from The Backpacker on Instagram and your photo will be entered to win a $500 Gift Card!!  Multiple photos can be entered.  ANYTHING BACKPACKER GEAR COUNTS**!  Show us your adventures!  Hammock days, hiking, exercising, skiing, paddling, kayak fishing, or ANYTHING RELATED to BACKPACKER OUTDOORS counts!

To enter the Instagram #BackpackerPhotoContest, post your picture using Backpacker Gear on Instagram* and include these 3 tags –

@backpackeroutdoors #geauxoutthere #backpackerphotocontest

The winner may be chosen based upon combination of factors including but not limited to originality, likes, shares, and whether or not you applied the tags as stated above**.

TIPS for increasing your chances to WIN:

  • Your Instagram account needs to be visible our judges.  Private accounts may be difficult to see.
  • Be original & make it about the outdoors
  • Make sure you get “@backpackeroutdoors #backpackerphotocontest #geauxoutthere”  all into your post.  This could make or break the winning decision.
  • Email customerservice@backpackeroutdoors.com a link to your post and a copy of your picture to ensure that our judges can see your post.

The winner will be announced on Wednesday November 2nd!

*Because images may not be easily found when posted to a private account, the best way for us to see your photo is to email it to customerservice@backpackeroutdoors.com.

**The Backpacker withholds the right to make final determination of winner.

*** Photos of an offensive nature or depicting dangerous acts will not be considered.  Winner will be chosen after midnight on Monday October 31.  

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The Backpacker #WinRideTheBull Photo Contest!

The world’s largest kayak fishing tournament, Ride the Bull 7, is on August 27th, 2016!  

To celebrate, The Backpacker is sponsoring an Instagram photo contest with a grand prize of a Wilderness Systems Thresher fishing kayak!

 

WE WANT TO SEE YOUR RIDE THE BULL PICTURES!!

Anything Ride the Bull counts!   Show us how you pre-fish to prepare for Ride the Bull.  Do you have pictures from a previous Ride the Bull?  How do you rig your gear or your boat for Ride the Bull?  Who are you taking to Ride the Bull?  How do you plan to use your winnings?  Multiple photos can be entered.  ANYTHING “RIDE THE BULL” COUNTS**!

To enter the #WinRideTheBull photo contest, post your Ride the Bull picture on Instagram* and include these 3 tags @backpackeroutdoors,  #backpackerphotocontest and #winridethebull.  Winner will be chosen based upon combination of factors including originality, likes, shares, and whether or not you applied the tags as stated above**.

TIPS for increasing your chances to WIN:

  • Your Instagram account needs to be visible our judges.  Private accounts may be difficult to see.
  • Be original!
  • Make sure you get “@backpackeroutdoors #winridethebull #backpackerphotocontest” all into your post.  This could make or break the winning decision.
  • Email customerservice@backpackeroutdoors.com a link to your post and a copy of your picture to ensure that our judges can see your post.

Winner will be announced at awards ceremony for Ride the Bull 7 in Grand Isle, Louisiana on August 27.  Need not be present to win.

*Because images may not be easily found when posted to a private account, the best way for us to see your photo is to email it to customerservice@backpackeroutdoors.com.

**The Backpacker withholds the right to make final determination of winner.

*** Photos of an offensive nature or depicting dangerous acts will not be considered.  Winner will be chosen at Ride the Bull closing ceremonies.  

So You are Going to Take Your Kids Fishing…

I’m planning on taking my 12 year old daughter to Paddlepalooza this year.  Kayak fishing is a real passion for me. I fish often and I fish in all conditions. I’ve fished in rain, wind, I’ve even seen funnel clouds (and that wasn’t the worst day ever). But when I take my kids I have to remember to take it down a notch.  As I plan for that day I wanted to share just a few tips about kayaking with kids – things you might not think about and things you probably would.

If you are going to take a kid you need to have a kayak their size (or they need to fit in yours like the Hobie Pro Angler). My 10 year old paddles a small kayak. A good option is the Hobie Sport.  My daughter will be in a full size boat because she is already as tall as my wife and is an avid paddler.  She will be in the Wilderness Ride 115 my review of that boat is here

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From there you can let them use your gear until they grow into it but be wise and place a length of rope (about 6 feet) for towing.  I pre-tie a pair of carabiners on either end.  When they get tired I just clip our boats together and give them an assist.  I know that if they have an unpleasant experience they won’t do it again.

Good clothing is a must.  For years my dad took me hunting in clothes that didn’t fit, in clothes that were lower quality, I wore tennis shoes into the woods – I froze, I got blisters, and I quit hunting for many years.  Then one day I went back into the woods wearing the right clothing and suddenly I loved it.  Sure it’s and investment but if you want your kids to share a passion for something a small investment will make a lifetime of difference.

One “must have” is a good rain jacket you don’t know when you will need one but don’t put your child in a vinyl jacket.  If they get wet, they get cold, or they get sunburned a rain jacket may be the solution.  I keep one on hand for everyone I fish with including my kids.

Snacks and lots of them – if you want to keep fishing – keep them busy.  Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate keep plenty of water and drinks around.  A good quality water bottle is a must.

Lastly have a fun tradition attached with fishing trips.  For us its as simple as a Hostess Apple Pie on the dashboard (my daughter goes for chocolate) after a day of fishing coming back to a hot pie off the dash builds lifetime memories.

k2-_7d1bb19b-216d-4e08-950b-16e12608a020.v1This is a pretty short list and certainly not a list of the essentials you will need to have:

Personal Flotation Device – Sunscreen – Hat – Sunglasses – footwear – first aid kit – and all the necessary gear for your trip.  Keep it simple – attend a demo day or a kayaking seminar this year – follow us on Facebook for upcoming events!

 

 

Book your trip to the top of One World Trade City at least a couple days in advance.  They give you a 15 minute window to get inside and you get bumped to the end of the day if you miss your window.  The view at sunset was spectacular and certain a must see.

New York City Quick Trip Tips

 

This is the first glimpse you get of NYC when you're flying in to LaGuardia and the image that has stuck with me the most.  My eyes could barely take in what I was seeing.
This is the first glimpse you get of NYC when you’re flying in to LaGuardia and the image that has stuck with me the most. My eyes could barely take in what I was seeing.
And then I realize exactly how big Manhattan really is!  Don't worry, you can easily explore the most famous sights on foot, subway, and boat in 2 or 3 days.
And then I realize exactly how big Manhattan really is! Don’t worry, you can easily explore the most famous sights on foot, subway, and boat in 2 or 3 days.
Book your trip to the top of One World Trade City at least a couple days in advance.  They give you a 15 minute window to get inside and you get bumped to the end of the day if you miss your window.  The view at sunset was spectacular and certain a must see.
Book your trip to the top of One World Trade City at least a couple days in advance. They give you a 15 minute window to get inside and you get bumped to the end of the day if you miss your window. The view at sunset was spectacular and certain a must see.

 

The WTC Memorial is very well done and extremely moving. Give yourself some extra time here.  You're just a couple blocks away from Wall Street, Little Italy, and Chinatown.
The WTC Memorial is very well done and extremely moving. Give yourself some extra time here. You’re just a couple blocks away from Wall Street, Little Italy, and Chinatown.
Central Park is 20 minute walk from Times Square (but a very short subway ride).  I share this, because 20 minutes itsn't very far but once you get to Central Park, there is infinitely more walking.  There are also limited eating options so be prepared.
Central Park is 20 minute walk from Times Square (but a very short subway ride). I share this, because 20 minutes itsn’t very far but once you get to Central Park, there is infinitely more walking. There are also limited eating options so be prepared.
The High Line is a terrific idea of building a public park on an abandoned rail line in the middle of Chelsea.  It offers a unique perspective of the city and an inspiration for how to repurpose the seemingly useless.
The High Line is a terrific idea of building a public park on an abandoned rail line in the middle of Chelsea. It offers a unique perspective of the city and an inspiration for how to repurpose the seemingly useless.
You have to make your Statue of Liberty tours months in advance.  However, the City Tours by boat will bring you really close and give you the opportunity for great pictures of the statue and Ellis Island among other things.
You have to make your Statue of Liberty tours months in advance. However, the City Tours by boat will bring you really close and give you the opportunity for great pictures of the statue and Ellis Island among other things.
Do yourself a favor and take a tour by boat.  Not only will you get some spectacular views, you get dropped off at a new locale every hour and might luck up and get a great guide full of useful info and history.
Do yourself a favor and take a tour by boat. Not only will you get some spectacular views, you get dropped off at a new locale every hour and might luck up and get a great guide full of useful info and history.
The Brooklyn Botanical garden is free on Tuesdays and a 20 minute subway ride from Mid town.
The Brooklyn Botanical garden is free on Tuesdays and a 20 minute subway ride from Mid town.
Be sure to visit the lovely pier parks on the Hudson River.  They are free and give you a great perspective of the city and New Jersey
Be sure to visit the lovely pier parks on the Hudson River. They are free and give you a great perspective of the city and New Jersey
Though a tour bus seems intriguing, we were warned by several sources that all you're paying for is to sit in traffic.  Use the subway and see the sights on foot.
Though a tour bus seems intriguing, we were warned by several sources that all you’re paying for is to sit in traffic. Use the subway and see the sights on foot.
Times Square is as overwhelming as advertised.   Prepare to fight off the souvenir hawkers and beware that photos with cartoon characters come at a price (though that price is up to you).
Times Square is as overwhelming as advertised. Prepare to fight off the souvenir hawkers and beware that photos with cartoon characters come at a price (though that price is up to you).
Tyler
The subway is extremely easy to use and can get you anywhere in lower Manhattan in under 20 minutes. We didnt have any problems but Ill pass on these words of advice: “If a subway car is empty, there’s a reason. Do as the other’s a find a different car.”
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Silence in the Wilderness

Many of us who enter into the world of Kayak Angling come to it for the practice of silence.  Or at least what feels like silence in comparison to our busy daily lives.  That silence or perhaps quiet stills our inner being.  It lifts us to new heights and invigorates and informs our regular noisy lives.  OK I’m waxing a bit philosophical but silence is golden is it not?  This is also true on the fishing life.   Silence wins.

I’ve always known that but recently a trip to a rare fresh water tournament really hammered the point home.  Noise can disturb fish.  It runs them off and a redfish just feet away from your kayak will hear every bump and clink.  I had no idea how much this is magnified when fishing for bass where there are hills and even mountains to bounce back every sound the noise of a dropped pair of pliers was deafening.  I was sure I had started an avalanche.

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But there is a tool to combat this noise and you can get it right here on the www.backpackeroutdoors.com site.  Wilderness Systems Silent Traction System.

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Its amazing stuff I have it on my tour boat and my two boats for guiding now and it makes a world of difference.

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Remember the quiet of nature restores your spirit but the quiet of your kayak is golden!

Bill Crawford (aka RevRedfish) is a former Wilderness Systems Ambassador and has served on the Backpacker Fishing Team for 3 years.  

 

 

 

 

Running the Rouge-Orleans Ultra

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When I first moved to Baton Rouge approximately 2.5 years ago, I quickly became part of the running community. I I joined local running clubs (Happy’s, Varsity, Northgate, Forge Trails and Ales, etc), and ran in numerous races. But there was one challange that really piqued my interest; running the Rouge-Orleans Ultra, a race that spans 126.2 miles of the levee between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, and takes place during Mardi Gras. I first heard about the race in 2013, after it had already been run that year, and immediately made plans to run in 2014. Unfortunately, due to zoning and permit issues, the race was canceled in 2014. So 2015 was going to be the year.

This race can be run as a number of ways: a solo run, a 3 person relay team, or a 6 person relay team. I thought the 6 person route was probably in my best interest, and quickly found 5 other semi-crazy people to join me. We were also lucky enough to find another semi-crazy person, who was up for the challenge of driving us however long it would take us to complete the race.

Based on predicted finish times, the race starts on February 13th or 14th, and ends on the 15th. The solo runners began their journey on the evening of February 13th. The next morning, many of the 3 person relays and some of the 6 person teams started. Finally, the last of the 6 person relay teams were to start at 1pm on the 14th. This is when we, the Krewe of Silenus, were to begin.

Our team met that morning at 10am to pack up Tequila (our vehicle), and decorate her. Because it was Valentine’s Day, we brought lots of appropriate candy and treats!

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There were definitely shenanigans to be had, right from the start.

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After we were completely packed and ready to go, we headed to the USS Kidd, where the race begins. We took a couple pre race pictures, chatted with members of the other teams (the majority of us knowing each other), answered a couple of quick questions from the race director, and with little fanfare, our first runners took off, right at 1pm.

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For the 6 person teams, each member runs 5 shifts, at varying distances, for a total of between 19 and 22 miles. Our first runner’s first leg was approximately 4 miles, so as soon as she took off, we hopped into the truck, and made our way down to the exchange spot further down the levee.

For that first exchange, and most of the other daylight handoffs, each team’s runners were fairly close to each other, so each exchange point consisted of a parade of vans, buses, and trucks parked along the levee. Each team cheered on the incoming runners, regardless of which person belonged to which team.

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After that first exchange, I can’t say anything particularly unique happened. One person ran their leg, met the rest of us at the next exchange point, the next runner took off, we all got back in the truck, and went to the next exchange point. There were no designated bathroom areas, so we were left to fend for ourselves. Occasionally, we found a lone porta-potty on the side of the road, which was met with far more enthusiasm than any porta-potty deserves. While in the truck, we mostly ate to keep up our energy (sandwiches, Clif Shots and Blocks, electrolyte supplements, salt tablets), stayed hydrated, massaged sore muscles, and tried to get a nap in whenever we could (which was next to impossible). There was also lots of laughing, joking, and words of motivation. And we of course had to “stay hydrated” while waiting for our racers at the exchange points (bottom right).

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Although it was hot during the early part of the race, the wind soon picked up, which cooled things off, but definitely created some resistance for running along the levee. Then night approached, and it got very foggy. We heard rumors of a ghost woman that seems to appear on one specific leg of the race. It just so happened our smallest team member was set to run then, and we gave her a bit of a hard time about trying to avoid the ghost…we found out later there were no sightings this year. It got so dark, all you could see of your teammates were bobbing headlamps (see bottom left). Luckily, we had brought along a bike so those interested could have someone bike along them during the night runs (bottom right, our driver hanging out on our well-lit bike).

 

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I have to say, this is the point where we were getting reallllly tired. We’d been together since 10am, we’d each run 10 plus miles already, it was dark out, we hadn’t eaten “real” food in hours, and trying to sleep in a truck with 6 people (and all their gear) in it is really tough. Fluctuating body temperatures were difficult to deal with as well. I ran most of my shifts in shorts and a t-shirt, but open completing my miles, would start to chill very quickly. Layering in the car was definitely key. As soon as I’d hop in the car, I’d throw on my TASC WOW Fitted Capri Pants, my TASC Performance V Long Sleeve Shirt, my super warm (yet light) The North Face Thermoball Full Zip Jacket, and either my Backpacker Beanie or Smartwool Beanie. I never removed my Smartwool PHD Run Light Micro Socks or my Salomon SpeedCross 3 Shoes, for fear that I would never put them back on.  Even with all the challenges the night presented, with each others support, we really pushed through.

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One way we had decided to motivate ourselves was through a checklist we’d drawn on the car. Next to each of our names, we’d put 5 boxes (one for each run shift), so that we could check off each leg we ran. There was something so satisfying about seeing those check marks next to our names. And marking off that last box….pure joy! You can probably see it in our faces….

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Around 6:30 am, just as the sun was coming up, and a little over 17 hours after we’d started, our last runner crossed the finish line. Because of the distance that had increased between teams over time, there were few people at the finish line, mostly a couple of race personnel and family members waiting for their loved ones to finish. We were handed medals, and then made our way to the tables of food and drink! We chatted with some of the other teams, and learned that our team had placed second overall in the coed 6 person relay. Although there was no physical prize for second place, knowing that we’d done so well (and finished over 2 hours ahead of our predicted time), was satisfying enough.

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We spent a little more time resting, and then, after quick goodbyes to the other teams, said our goodbyes to each other as some of us headed to the Mardi Gras festivities in NOLA, others headed back home to Baton Rouge, and I made my way to the airport for a conference in Orlando.

As I mentioned a number of times, there was little fanfare to this race. Because it covers such a long distance, there aren’t going to be crowds of people to cheer you on, there won’t be a big ceremony at the finish. But, those early moments in the race, when all the teams were still close to each other, were the best. To see everyone cheering on each runner, really reiterates what the running community is about: encouragement, acceptance, and kindness. If I had the opportunity to do it again, I absolutely would, as would most of my other teammates. From one of my teammates: “I just want to say that it was truly one of the best experiences ever. Especially speaking from the point of view of a girl who has never been camping or spent time outdoors. I was so impressed at how well we all worked together to push each other through the run. If I could do it all over again, I definitely would…but obviously not any time soon!” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

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A huge and special thanks to The Backpacker Baton Rouge for their support: our shirts were a hit, and we definitely couldn’t have made it through the race without the nutritional supplements provided.

In the end, this was definitely a race I was happy to check off my bucket list!!

Backpacker Hosts LSU Backpacking Class

The Backpacker hosted the LSU Backpacking 101 class on Tuesday evening. Students learned about tents and sleeping systems.

Several tents were displayed, and Susie Weeks and Matt talked about the benefits and features of each one.

When choosing a tent, consider what conditions you will be encountering. Three season tents are designed for use in the spring, summer, and fall, but if you are going to be camping in cold weather with high winds you will want a four season tent.

Some tents need to be staked out. A freestanding tent is one that can be set up without the use of stakes making it more convenient.

Weight is also a consideration. You want to aim for less than 3 pounds per person. Packed weight includes everything you get when you buy the tent, whereas minimum weight means the weight of the poles, body and fly only.

MSR NX Solo Backpacking Tent. Three Season. Freestanding. Min Weight 2lbs 7oz.

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MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2-Person Backpacking Tent. Three Season. Freestanding. Min weight 3lbs 7oz.

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Marmot Tungsten 2-Person Backpacking Tent. Three Season. Freestanding. Min weight 4lbs 13oz.

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Marmot Tungsten 3-Person Backpacking Tent. Freestanding. Min weight 5lbs 15oz.

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Students Athena Lietzau and Palmer Means check out the roominess of the tent, and take notes.

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Big Agnes Fly UL1 Backpacking Tent. Three Season. Freestanding. Min weight 1lb 11oz.

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Big Agnes Seedhouse SL2 Backpacking Tent. Three season. Free standing. Min weight 2lbs 9oz.

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Matt showing features of the tent.

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Big Agnes Big House 4. Great for base camping. Three season. Free standing. Min weight 9lbs 7oz.

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Sierra Designs Flash 3 Backpacking Tent. Three Season. Free standing. Min Weight 5lbs 10 oz.

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Students learned to set up, take down, and pack tents.

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Sleeping Systems

When buying a sleeping bag you want to choose one that is rated for the lowest temperature you expect to experience. For some, the rating is in the name. Most sleeping bag manufacturers have adopted the European Norm (EN) as their rating standard. Bags usually have a dual rating, one for comfort (women) and one for lower limits (men). The EN tag looks like this…

EN Rating

Insulation is also a consideration. Down and synthetics used to be the only choices, but you can now buy bags filled with hydrophobic down.

Katherine Gividen demonstrating the insulating qualities of PrimaLoft.

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One of bags the Backpacker team featured was the Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed 600-Fill Down Sleeping Bag. The backcountry bed has an oversized, integrated comforter that is great whether you sleep on your side, back or stomach. It is zipperless, and has a sleeping pad sleeve as well as insulated hand/arm pockets. The EN comfort rating on the bag is 28°F, and the limit rating is 17°F. The bag is insulated with DriDown. DriDown is down treated with the hydrophobic finish – as mentioned above – so it stays dry 10x longer than untreated down.

Susie shows the students the self-sealing foot vent of the Backcountry Bed.

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Sleeping pads were also discussed.

Raymond Johnson, a member of the Louisiana Hiking Club talked about backpacking with a hammock. Raymond (aka. Flatfoot) thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail two years ago.

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Backpacking 101 is taught through LSU Leisure Classes.

Article written by the “Hapless Hiker” Katherine Gividen who has served as the president of the Louisiana Hiking Club and the author of the Think Inside the Box camping cook book.

 

Sometimes you have to change direction to increase your speed.. Kayak Bass Series, Astor, Fl

http://www.kayakbassseries.com/

As the 2014 year was ending, I took the time to look back and evaluate my achievements for the year.  And while I was a contender in many events, I was especially pleased with the people around me that I had helped, encouraged, or motivated throughout the year to keep moving forward in the industry.  I wrote blogs, magazine articles, radio interviews, and even did a few TV shows, but what I noticed at the end of it all was that I rarely took the time to increase my own skills.  Yes, my knowledge increased with every trip on the water along with every conversation around kayaking and fishing, but while my knowledge was increasing, I felt my skillset was becoming stagnant.  I had become accustomed to chunking lures and not placing them, making long cast that weren’t accurate, using more topwater for the explosive excitement rather than a plastics finesse approach, and I began focusing on numbers of cast and retrieves rather than the quality of them.  Heck I even dubbed a jigging style the “Pontchartrain Prance”, due to the erratic jerking nature of the jig, which usually ends up hooking the fish just from the jerk rather than feeling the subtle strike. So, with all of this weighing on my mind, I knew it was time to balance out my arsenal, and the best way I could come up with to accomplish this transition was to take a step back in time and put my focus back on freshwater fishing, largemouth bass specifically.

Well, this past week I was able to attend the first Kayak Bass Series that took place in Astor, Fl on the St. Johns River system.  The series is a compilation of 6 events spread across the country in FL, TX, AL, AR, KY, and PA, ending with the KBS Classic at the end of the season, location TBD. Needless to say, each event is located on a body of water that has the potential to land you a double digit largemouth, and to me, that’s a major attraction.  My entire life I have always heard of the giant bass that come out of Florida, heck my dad even has a couple double digit bass from Florida hanging on the wall, so this event was one I wasn’t going to miss.

With vacation time on the books, I finished up work and headed straight home to load up my gear, my Hobie Outback, and all essentials needed that I had been collecting over the last two months.  I ended up leaving the house a little after 6pm and headed straight to Pensacola to pick up my road warrior partner Matthew Vann.  After nearly 11 hours we made our arrival into Astor and went straight to my launch site.

I was planning on spending every waking minute I had dissecting the eel grass, lily pads, grass mats, and ledges that Lake George had to offer.  The only problem with this plan was the wind.  As I hit the water alone that morning, I was welcomed to 2 foot breakers in my face, and with a 3 mile pedal to my starting point, I knew I was in for a wet ride.

As I reached protected waters, the hunt began, everything looked fishy, flooded reeds, dollar pads, eel grass, timber laydowns.  Every direction I looked I knew there was a fish there, but after 12 hours on the water, I ended with one striped bass, three missed strikes, and one blow up on a fluke.  I punched grass, jigged my pigs, dug my cranks, spun my spinners, and worked as fast and methodical as possible, but in no way had I figured anything out.

At this point, I was still excited at the opportunity ahead of me, I knew there was still a chance for big fish, and I knew they were out there, I just had to find them before time ran out.

The next morning I decided on a long run that began before daylight.  This was the day that it had to happen or tournament day was going to be a flop.  After hours on the water, and double digit miles covered, more cabbage grass clogged canals than I have ever experienced, I was whooped, and not only whooped, but I had only landed one largemouth, and it was a small one.

With hopes still high, we decided to visit local bait shop owner and guide for more than 20 years.  He informed us that with all the cold fronts and water temps in the 50s, that the fish had turned completely off.  He made mention that the day before he took a client to 12 locations using live bait, and didn’t catch a fish until his last stop.  He then dug into his mind of knowledge and made a suggestion to us to get away from the creeks and lakes and focus more on the spring fed waterways where the water is warmer.  Seems like a no brainer now, but being the springs are salty, we never even considered getting close to them.  So with new knowledge, and time ticking away, we made a mad dash to yet another new launch location.

As we arrived, I immediately made a mental transition, I didn’t know where I was, I didn’t research it, and I had never seen this area on a map, so with that being said, I made the commitment to work slow and methodical rather than run and gun, and it worked.  Within an hour I was holding a solid 4-5 lbs bass in my hand, and then 20 minutes later another one, an hour later I got one yak side that would have likely touched the 8 lbs mark, but I pulled the hook as I was grabbing the net.  I immediately called Matthew on the phone and said we found em and it’s time to go.

Now, at the captains meeting there were a lot of stories running around, some were of skunks, some of 10 pounders, and some of a boatload of midrange fish.  It seemed that a handful of people found the fish, and a crowd of people hadn’t, there was a large split.  Some people were catching giants punching grass, while others were landing decent fish cranking and worming docks, my pre-fishing yielded poorly in both the grass and around docks, but I was able to find them staged up on wood structure in warmer water.

As the morning of the event came around, I knew that the fish weren’t going to be active in my area until at least 10 a.m. when the sun got high enough to warm the banks near the wooden structure the fish were on the previous day.  The winds had shifted over night, and around 11a.m. they were supposed to shift again and get up into the 15-20 mph range, but where I was, the wind would only produce current and that was a good thing.  If the weather man was correct, with the sun high and the wind howling, my bite was going to happen in the last 3 hours of the event.

10:11 a.m. I got my first strike on a custom made whooly booger, he wasn’t a giant, but it was a fish. I quickly got him on the board, took my picture, released the fish, and got back refocused.  Around 12:00 I landed my next fish on  Bad Boy Jig & Pig in black and blue, only a quarter inch bigger than my first fish, but one more closer to my limit.  With the bite being extremely slow and sporadic, I knew that if I could land my limit, I had a good chance of ending in the money.

Then around 1:30 it happened, as my jig was sucked up by a bass, I reeled down on her and set the hook with all I had, but what I heard was heart breaking, with every inch of hook set, my drag let line out.  As the fish bowed my rod into an inverted “U” I knew I had a big bass, but I also knew she wasn’t hooked as well as I wanted her to be.  She tore off to my right attempting to go deep, and as I was able to turn her, she eventually wore down, as I grabbed the net, she calmly surface a foot from the side of my Outback and rolled on her side like she had given up.  I was grinning from ear to ear looking at what appeared to be a 24-25″ bass when all of a sudden during her roll over of defeat, the lure came right out of her mouth.  I can’t begin to explain the disappointment I went through over the next few moments.  In fact it was so outwardly displayed that the bass boat across the river from me cranked his motor and sped off.  I have never felt so defeated as I did during that moment.  In saltwater fishing I usually just blow it off because I know there are likely several more chances throughout the day to land a monster, but in the bass world, especially during a tournament, those opportunities don’t knock that often.

Once I gained my composure, it wasn’t 2 cast later I had another strike, and then another one, but I wasn’t able to hook up with either.  I spend the next hour working this 80 yards of timber with everything I could.  I threw spinners, swim jigs, cranks, craws, whooly boogers, but it appeared that the bite was only going to be hot for 10 minutes of the day, and while I had the chance, I blew it.

When Matthew caught up with me, it was time to head to the truck.  While we crossed the lake toward our launch area, I uploaded my pictures through the IAngler free app and submitted them to the TD while on the water.  As we both pedaled with a 20 mph cross wind, I could see a lone willow tree off of a point of land about 300 yards down the shoreline.  On one side of the willow was a howling wind and on the other was a calm cove,   I made an immediate 90 degree right turn and B lined to the tree.  As I approached I laid the softest flip I could right through the split trunk and as the Jig hit the water, it began to swim off to the right, I immediately set the hook, with a tight drag this time, and out came a bass, flying toward me like a kite, I reeled my Reel so fast that the fish barely touched the water again. As I got my final picture of my limit fish submitted in the IAngler App, I couldn’t help but sit back, collect my thoughts, and thank my youngest daughter Payton for all the prayers she sent up, the two prior days, that her daddy would do good on tournament day.  It was an appreciation and fullness that I hadn’t experienced in a while, and it was awesome.

Minutes following my last fish, Matthew and I loaded up the Hobie’s and headed to the weigh in.  My mind was racing, did the previous nights cold front disrupt everyone’s expectations, did the 3 different wind shifts cause some anglers to abandon their plan, was a 13.5″ average even respectable given the tough conditions we were all faced with?  The easy answer, yes it was.

Turns out that with 56 registered anglers, only 10 of those landed their bag limit, and with payouts going to the top 8, I ended up with 40.5″ and a 7th place finish.  Now, I am never disappointed on whether I win or lose a tournament, my goal is usually just to be a contender and try to make the top 10, but given the poor pre-fishing I had, new waters, non optimal conditions, I was more than excited to finish 7th.

Overall the Kayak Bass Series run by Robert Field was a great event held at a great fishery.  I got to fish against some of the best in the kayak industry, I got to fish next to, deer, manatees, ducks, alligators that are a lot bigger than La Marsh gators, and even a snake so large I’m confident it could have crushed me and the kayak and ate us both, not mention cross a ferry that had me wanting to put a PFD on. Simply said, it was an experience that I will long remember and I can’t wait for the next one that will be taking place February 28th on Sam Rayburn in Texas.

Special congrats to the top money winners, in order, Jason McRae, Andrew Mixon, Drew Gregory, Stephen Nesler, Joseph Harrick, Jason Broach, and Christina Weber.
Until next time,

Stay Safe & Catch1