A Brisk Sunrise Hike

Temps in the 30’s don’t deter the pup and myself. We thrive on cool air.

With clear skies and no wind, this morning was the perfect time to load up the ruck with some bricks, water, camera lenses, and a cup of coffee (in hand actually). The goal was to hit the trails of Fair Hill, MD before the sun crested the treetops and boy did we succeed.

We stayed mostly on the gravel blue diamond route but there was still plenty to see. Next time, however, we’ll hit one of the longer trails for the full experience.

Enough rambling. Enjoy a few photos of the journey.

By the way, I’m thinking of getting away from Instagram and instead post photos to this blog. But I want to keep all of those particular photos together and I don’t know what to call it. For now, I have an album on my phone called “Not Instagram” but that’s not going to work. The best I can come up with at the moment is “Photo Blog.” But I’d probably have to number the posts. I guess that’s ok. Well, we’ll see.

Wilderness Collective Motorcycle Trip Packing List

 

Psst. If you're looking for a 10% discount, hit me up.

Note: This packing list applies to the Sequoia to Yosemite Dual Sport Motorcycle Trip.

I recently got back from a Wilderness Collective motorcycle trip (WC-024) and wanted to share some info on it. While I previously gave an abbreviated breakdown of the entire event, the even shorter version is that if you get the chance to go and don’t usually find yourself riding dual sport bikes, jump on this trip.

Here's the packing list that Wilderness Collective provided me:

  • Backpacking size sleeping bag rated at 0°F - 30°F.
  • Ground Pad (foam or inflatable)
  • Compression bag for packing clothes
  • 1 pair of pants (any type of durable pant will do)
  • 2 or 3 moisture wicking t-shirts
  • Lightweight easy-to-pack footwear for camp.
  • 2 or 3 pairs of riding socks
  • Warmer top or lightweight insulated jacket
  • Sunglasses
  • Waterproof shell jacket
  • Swim shorts
  • First layer style thermal underwear top and bottom
  • Minimal personal toiletries
  • Headlamp
  • Motorcycle license

Other than your sleeping bag and ground pad, you'll be carrying everything you've brought on your back. This makes it essential to pack as light and compactly as possible.

While your mileage will definitely vary, here’s what I brought:

EMS Fencemender Pants

If I can only bring one pair of pants, these are them. They’re not breathable nor made to be super quick drying but they’re incredibly durable and quite comfortable. I bought a pair on sale and after breaking them in, I went back and bought another for future use.

Under Armour Compression Shirt

I’ve found that using a compression shirt as my true base layer greatly increases my comfort level when wearing a backpack for an extended period of time. It keeps any friction from the straps in check and is wicking so I don’t overheat.

ExOfficio Boxer Briefs

The trip is 3-4 days but you only need one pair of underwear if you have the right pair. These things are comfortable, dry quickly, and don’t end up smelling like you’ve been wearing them for days. Though you’ll most likely have the opportunity to wash them in a creek if you truly wanted to.

REI Lightweight Long Underwear

When I saw this item on the list, I thought about not bringing them because I almost never need thermal underwear for anything. But for events like this, I tend to put trust in the organizer. That said, I only used mine once (for sleeping) but I’m a cold blooded New Englander and tend to run pretty hot. Oh but I did see some of my fellow riders put them on in the middle of rides. Then again, they were wearing lightweight hiking pants too.

Outdoor Research Sequence Long Sleeve 1/4 Zip

This is one amazing piece of clothing. It can handle both hot and cold temps really well and makes an excellent base layer. I wore this over the compression shirt and under my hard shell and was never uncomfortable.

SmartWool PhD Ski Socks

With all the mud, snow, and water crossings (at least on my trip), I recommend bringing two pairs so you can alternate every other day. I swear by the PhD line of SmartWool and these ski sock length versions were the perfect height for riding boots. My feet never felt better.

*EMS Men's Power Stretch 1/4 Zip

I saw many puffy jackets on this trip but I preferred my fleece pullover as a solid insulation layer top. Just something that I’ve had forever and it works really well. I also don’t have to worry about it ripping like a puffy jacket. One guy’s puffy was more duct tape at the end than anything else. The only downside of a fleece is that it’s fairly bulky.

*They don't make mine anymore so I linked to the latest version which is nearly identical but includes a built in hood.

Outdoor Research Mentor Jacket

I brought a jacket that’s really served me well over the years but you could probably get away with any kind of good water/windproof shell you have hanging around. While I got this jacket for free many years ago, if I had to buy something today, I’d be comfortable with any of the options from REI.

I believe Wilderness Collective used to issue the Sierra Designs 60/40 Short Parka and while it seems like a pretty awesome jacket, nowadays you have to supply your own.

SureFire Minimus

After the trip I bought a new headlamp, the Black Diamond Spot and think I’ll switch to it for future trips because of it’s integrated red light and use of AAA batteries instead of CR123s. I do still love the simplicity of the Minimus...


These next two items are required but will stay in the support truck. Since you won't be carrying them, making them ultralight ins't necessary but it certainly helps if you're flying with just carry on (like I did).

Sleeping Bag - Marmot Plasma 15

If you can only afford one of something, my recommendation is to buy the best you can. When it was new, this sleeping bag was the lightest 15 degree bag on the market and it packs down insanely small. The temperature rating also covers the majority of climates for the trips I do so I knew it wouldn't have any problem handling this particular trip.

Ground Pad - Sea to Summit Ultralight

I planned on bringing my Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest SOlite but was lucky enough to snag this new pad for almost $45. To give you and idea on its packed size, it shrinks down to the size of a soda can. Yeah. While the Therm-a-Rest is bulky, it’s super lightweight and fairly comfortable. And even if you’re taller like me, get the Small and you’ll save some money and bulkiness.

Extras

These items weren’t on the packing list but I highly recommend bringing them.

Buff
This is a must have for so many reasons. In the case of this trip, it'll keep you from breathing in dust if you pop your helmet visor open but it's also great for those cold morning rides when the wind starts to creep down your shirt. It also takes up practically zero space in your bag or pocket.

Here's all the different ways you can wear one.

Bodyglide (repackaged)
I’ve never ridden over 300 miles off road so I wasn’t sure if I’d be chafing somewhere on my legs, or even my shoulders from the backpack so it’s nice to have some protection. Repackaging Bodyglide (or even deodorant) into a small flip-top container from REI saves a lot of space and weight but I have my eye on a new method. An empty chapstick tube sounds like a great idea and it would make application a lot easier than it currently is.

Source WLPS Low Profile 3L Hydration System
Truth be told, the hydration bladder Wilderness Collective provided was pretty junky. Some of the bite valves came off and the overall build just isn’t as good as other options on the market.

I’ve used Source for years and won’t go back to even using Camelbak, let alone whatever brand Wilderness Collective used. Just make sure you get the Helix Bite Valve Kit. It comes with the Storm Push-Pull Valve Kit which just drives me crazy.

Wrapping Up

If I were to go again, I’d be tempted to ditch their backpack and bring my own. If you watch their videos, you can see different ones in use so it seems they haven’t settled on a good partner but I would’ve loved to get one of the collaboration bags they did with Boreas Gear. If I were bringing my own backpack, it would be the GORUCK GR1 (26L) with their new Stabilizer Belt (which appears to have been pulled from their online store recently). 

Ditch the hydration bladder they provide and bring the Source bladder I recommended above. But keep their backpack even if it's low quality. You're part of a team, don't be the odd man out. There's also a shared misery among the riders as zipper pulls and webbing fail one by one.

At the end of the day, pack light, pack smart, and ditch the non-essentials. Enjoy the ride.

Photos by Steve Dubbeldam and Jay Gullion

Wilderness Collective Review: Sequoia to Yosemite

 

Psst. If you're looking for a 10% discount, hit me up.

More and more I've been choosing experiences over material things and lately I feel completely confident that I’ve made the correct decision in thinking this way.

Since watching the first videos of the Wilderness Collective's motorcycle trips, I knew I wanted to do one but it always seemed a bit out of reach financially, even if it's sort of a bucket list type of trip for me.

Side note: I don’t really like the term “bucket list” but I don’t have an alternative at the moment.

Long story short, the Wilderness Collective Sequioa to Yosemite Dual Sport Motorcycle Tour called to me and on September 29, 2015, I answered the call and booked my trip. The best part is, I pulled the trigger during their Kickstarter campaign and got the trip for $1,000 off. Way too good to pass up.

Let me offer a spoiler though as you’re probably about to ask me, “is it worth the money?” and I have to say, yes, it most certainly worth it. But remember, I'm a believer that experiences are worth more than “things." This trip is truly something to experience.

Look, if you're used to roughin' it on your own with some ultralight cuben fiber stuff sacks and eating dehydrated beans while hitchhiking on the cheap, this trip just may not be for you. But what this trip provides is so much more than that. Stop wasting your time planning potential routes, leave your camera behind (they have a professional photographer and videographer riding along), and don't even think of packing your titanium spork for meals. Did I mention they've brought in some of the best chefs of the LA area (at least on my trip) to cook breakfast lunch and dinner for you?

Being able to sit back, relax, and enjoy the moment isn't something I'm used to doing. I usually sit on the planning end of things and I never get to be treated like the "guest" or "client" and I have to say that I really enjoyed it. Their spartan but top quality crew handled everything that needed handling and left the riding to us riders without being weighed down by the minutiae of the day to day.

I planned on on this review being a lot longer than it currently is but I'm going to end things early. I even planned on breaking down the cost of the motorcycle rental, insurance, gas, maintenance costs, spare parts, use of the Icon Variant helmetElsinore boots, and body armor, or the Icon gloves, backpack, and hydration bladder you get to keep, or the use of the Poler tentsSnow Peak chairsprofessional photographer, and chef but I've simply decided to ask if you would take my word for it when I say this trip is worth it.

At the end of the day, you'll know if this trip is for you and nothing I can say will sway you in either direction.

Buy the ticket, take the ride.

In Search of a 2 Man Tent

I’ve been looking for a new tent and think I’ve found one that I’m ready to try.

Criteria:

  • 2 man capacity
  • $200-$400 (ideally, cost includes footprint)
  • 3 - 4.9 lbs (as close to 3 as possible)
  • 2 doors (and 2 vestibules)
  • Bath tub floor
  • Sold by REI (love their guarantee and I get a dividend back)
  • Great bang for the buck


Planned Use:

I’d be lying if I said this tent would be mostly used for true backpacking but in reality, my near future holds mostly car camping with the occasional overnight backpacking trip.


My Style:

I prefer to buy things once and don’t mind paying a little more if it’s a better value in the long run. “Some things cost more because they’re worth more.” [The trick is finding out which things are worth their cost.]


My Current Top Picks:

I’ve been debating mostly between the Big Agnes Rattlesnake SL 2 mtnGLO ($349) and the REI Half Dome 2 ($199) and have all but settled on the Half Dome 2 because of my current (and near future) needs as well as its low impact to my wallet. While I think the interior lights idea of the Big Agnes tent is neat, it's not a deal breaker for me at all. In fact, I could buy the Half Dome 2 and the Big Agnes mtnGLO Light Accessory Kit and still have $110 left over when compared to the Rattlesnake SL 2.


Final Decision:

The main problem is that I'm having to make a decision in the next day or two because I'm going on a camping trip this weekend. I wasn't planning on upgrading so soon but they're calling for rain and my current tent won't be able to handle the constant downpour without me getting wet and uncomfortable. A quick decision is hardly ever ideal but I've been weighing my options pretty hard over the last few days and just now decided to write about it.

As of the publishing of this post, I'm leaning heavily towards the Half Dome 2. It seems to be the best compromise of features and cost for my needs.


Your Recommendation?

I'd love to hear your recommendations but keep in mind my criteria listed above.

UPDATE: I settled on the REI Half Dome 2. On the few camping trips I've taken it on, it's proven itself to be a great buy and I highly recommend it.

"Duck Blind Heaven"


Note: While I'd like to share a photo of this fantastic painting, a woman named Nancy Childress requested I remove the image or she would pursue legal action. I don't have actual proof that she is the copyright holder but I'll respect the request based on her name being the same as the artists (under the assumption they're related).

This painting by Robert Childress really sums up how my wife and I view the majority of outdoor activities. I'm most at home when it's dreary and uncomfortable and she's quite the opposite. In fact, this scene was nearly played out exactly on a recent camping trip.

Back from Muster 3


I recently got back from the third annual ITS Muster. It’s nearly a week long and sleep is often a luxury so it’s taken me a little longer than usual to get back up to speed.

Since I was the “official” photographer for the week, I’m not in any of the photos but I like it that way. There is one photo I’m in that a friend of mine shot but you may not know it’s me.


I’m on the far right.

Overall it was a great event because I got to get away from the desk and computer and spend time in the field with old friends and some new ones too. I always forget how good it feels to not know what’s going on in the world because I’m so engrossed in what I’m doing physically.

We usually spend the entire time camping from our tents but the new venue this year meant bunks and cabins which was totally welcomed in my book. I love sleeping on a ground pad but a mattress and electricity makes it easier to get going in the morning.

Even though I just got back in town and I'm barely settling into my normal routine again, I'm already looking forward to the next camping trip, wherever it may be.