All-Pack, finalized

Back in April, I put together a pack almost from scratch, which was to be an all sport and all conditions multi-day and/or technical pack. It still represents my finest design and sewing work to date. Although the larger canvas makes execution a lot easier than with frame packs or clothing.
It’s been on two backpacking trips and a bunch of day training and testing stuff since, and the other week I pulled a few seams apart to make some tweaks.
The beavertail flaps top buckle got moved lower down, and the pocket itself shortened.
The extension collar got shortened.
The lower drawcord where the orange silnylon met the ballistics was done away with.
I removed the internal pad sleeve entirely.
I moved the load lifter attachment down almost two inches.
I took in the back panel seams above the shoulder harness, thus reducing the overall circumference of the top part of the packbag and biasing the weight closer to my shoulders.
All that said, things still just weren’t quite right.
Over the summer I became a devotee of placing a rolled up foam mat inside the pack, letting it unfurl, then stuffing all contents inside it like a burrito. It provides great structure and load control, and another layer of insulation against abrasion (useful in canyoneering and bushwacking). The pad I had been using was a rather stiff, generic bit of 48″ by 21.5″ by 5/8″ foam.
Yesterday I bought a short (48″ by 20″) Ridgerest, and the pack was transformed. The Ridgerest provides the exactly right balance of structure and flexibility. It allows better use of the compression straps, and does a much better job of hugging my back.

It’s very interesting comparing the above with the pictures from the earlier post. I can’t wait to take this thing ski touring. I’m actually hatching a January (pre Camp Lynda, ideally) trip that will fulfill my long time ambition to do the Narrows in the dead of winter, with some flair added.
I’ll get dropped off on Highway 14 a bit above 9000′, ski through the lovely aspens along the east side of Black Mountain, descend down west of Aspen Lake and enter Deep Creek right above O’Neill Gulch. Then take the skis and ski boots off, put the drysuit and neo socks on, and tromp down Deep Creek. Camp somewhere, and finish up down the Narrows, carrying skis to the Temple bus stop.
You’d need touring skis, boots, poles (for both sections), drysuit etc, and likely instep crampons. Should be a hoot.
In any case, I was sufficiently pleased with my design that I went down to the basement this morning and made it all permanent by seam sealing all the major seams and bar tacks. I like the liquidy, REI brand seam sealer for this job. Lends both durability and a bit of waterproofness.
The whole pack, including the removable snack pouch on the belt, weighs 20 oz. on the nose (without the 8.5 oz Ridgerest). Not bad for a pack made of 16 oz/yard fabric, with a double bottom and 3/4″ grommets for draining. I’m quite confident in it’s overkilledness. Its already been hung as a bearbag.
Hydration port, a mandatory feature. As efficient as using bottles and constantly refilling in streams is around here, I like hoses more.
One benefit of the beavertail pocket (pulled, as Eric noted many moons ago, from the Dana Designs packs) is that it makes packing a bike workable. Pull all the straps, put the seat tube in the bottom of the pocket, lay the pocket around the frame and cinch down all the straps. Driveside out, right pedal up and next to the pack, an extra strap holding the fork to the triangle so it’s immobile. Wheels off and strapped on after. I may be putting this feature to a more exhaustive test than I care to contemplate soon.
Gets me thinking about a lighter SS frame for easier carrying.

Summer Vacation (1.0)

It was a very nice long weekend, with more to come.

I’m tired. Not just muscle tired, though that is most present this evening; I’m tired in my soul. I dug deep, squeezed out a great ride Saturday, and now I’m ready to rest and rebuild. I want to go camping, wake up, drink coffee and read in the camp chair, and do yoga in the pine needles.

The story of the KMC was all about endurance and experience, using a mind much stronger than last year to keep the pedal pushed, but not too far. It was good.

The morning started cold! I built a fire around 430 to ease the discomfort, though that helped continue the tradition of starting late. Only 10 minutes this time. I felt horrid for the first hour, as usual, with frozen hands and feet clumsy until things loosened up. Chad was lacking a map or much of a clue, and I was glad to have him stick close for the first 80 miles. I didn’t hesitate to stop or get ahead, as usual Chad can diesel back up no problem. Halfway through the Rainbow Rim, I looked back on a switchbacked section and saw that he wasn’t there. Should I wait? Slow down? Leave his sorry ass to get lost? I split the difference, pushing on and having fun through the singletrack, then sitting down under a tree at the end to eat an orange and some cheese. He was about four minutes behind me.

The climb up to the route’s highpoint was tough, though having a ton of water made it merely a nuisance. The store was most welcome. I grabbed a couple sodas, an ice cream bar, fritos, and a danish. Chad and I got a bag of ice, and I chowed. As I was stuffing my dromedary and bottles with ice, Nathan pulled up (as we had been expecting for a while). He was pretty cooked. Neither he nor Chad were eating much, a sign I could relate to from last year. I was feeling pretty good, and when Chad teamed up with Nathan I jumped at the chance to run off guilt-free. Riding with company is awesome, and can be the most efficient way to ride, but I knew that on that day, I would push much harder solo. I plugged into the iPod and headed out for the last (and hardest) third of the route.

It took most of the first five miles of rolling gravel to get my food settled. I felt slow at first, but once the fuel kicked in and the sweet singletrack started, I was on fire. I reigned myself in on some of the loose, golfballlimestonerock strewned climb, saving the matches for later. On and on, down into gorgeous meadows, up into the woods (usually off the bike a bit), along through the aspens and pines, and back down again. Brilliant riding.

Soon enough, the smallest most delicate aspen grove yet came, and forest road 213. The moment of truth, and no hesitation. I was finishing today. I did drop part of my danish as I tried to eat on the bike and crank along as fast as possible, which was sad. I continued trying to stuff down food, looking forward to the big descent.

The descent was quite rowdy, plenty of rubble and chunk. The Leviathan rules the endurance roost in these moments. That evening Brian remarked that the washboard took it’s toll on him and his Moots hardtail. It was only on the worst parts that I evened noticed it. Very soon, I was at the East Side Game road. The antipenultimate stretch. I stopped for a few minutes in what seemed like the last bit of pine-shade, to kill a bottle and my fritos. I wanted to keep the granny cranking ability around as long as possible.

The game road was what I expected: tough, especially at the beginning. It’s rough and 4×4 rocky, and hugs every drainage as it contours along the base of the biggest level of the Kaibab upwarp. The first couple were by far the biggest. Bomb down, granny back out, repeat. Only one short bit I found unrideable, but plenty of slow moving.

I did get a bit annoyed that the big climb took so long in coming, but the Pinon-Juniper skeleton forest, flowers, and debris flows from the Warm Fire were entertaining, and I wasn’t feeling bad, just tired and hot. My ass did hurt, and I was if nothing else looking forward to hiking for it’s relief.

I got my wish soon enough. Nice, hard, mindless. Push up, look ahead occasionally to pick the best footing, keep pushing. I hopped back on to ride in a few sections, but for the most part doing anything but walking would’ve been a waste. I was quite calm at this point. The climb wasn’t that long, the nine miles after were mostly downhill, and I was going to finish in less than 14 hours unless something stupid happened.

And nothing did really. The wetter spring, which had provided some amazing green all day, caused even more profligate overgrowth, making an already faint AZT worse. I had to stop once and backtrack to find the damn thing, and managed to loose the trail on the road even earlier than last year. Maybe next year I’ll pre-ride and mark, though the last half of the AZT is consistently downhill such that I don’t think the road is much of a shortcut, if at all. Alas, I just wanted to be done. And soon I was.

My legs hurt. Andy gave me a beer, which was very welcome. Eventually I motivated, got up, changed, and ate some stuff. Felt more like a human, talked, laughed, soaked it in, slept like the dead.

The next day saw a late rise of 0600, a two hour breakfast, hanging out, and a journey down to the North Rim lodge by M, Chad and I. Pints of Hefe, a pizza, and the nice new chairs on the porch, with one of the world’s best views. Heaven.

Later that day we tracked down our friends Phillip and Ariel in St. George. They had spent the day making wedding plans, and we got to help them test out some catering at Famous Dave’s BBQ, which was very welcome for my constantly hungry self. Laughs, memories, happiness. Old friends I hadn’t seen in many months, we felt right at home, like no time had passed at all. Back to their place in Cedar City, for Guinness drinking and a game of Texas Hold ’em.

The next morning Phillip was off to work, counting birds and such for the Forest Service. Ariel and I went to a kickass, ass-kicking yoga class, taught by an anatomy prof from Southern Utah University. A good combination. I’ve let my core work lapse, a lot. Ouchy on the core, but my legs felt wonderful for the rest of the day. Wooooonnnnderful. Best yoga class ever. I went home, woke M up, and we spent the rest of the day until Ariel got off work, hanging out and doing very little. That afternoon the three of us went to the park, killed a pint of Ben and Jerry’s each, and played Bocce. Ahh, recovery.

M and I headed off to Zion to do Mystery Canyon Tuesday. It was hot. M’s fickle stomach, and the heat, were a bad combo. She bailed, and I pushed up to get through one of my favorite canyons without too much imposition on M. Back in the day I’d soloed in, car to car in the Weeping Rock lot, in less than five hours. This was in February, with postholing down the steep hill initially, and drysuit-cold water at the end. This time, I logged 2:10 from the head of the canyon to ropes-pulled in the Narrows, with rusty rope work. I think sub-4 Weeping Rock to Sinawava is very doable.

It was hot, but I’m pretty used to it now, drank tons of water, and had fun. Rapping into the swimmer that is the spring on the penultimate rap was heaven, and I got a round of applause for making it down the last rap from the hungry tourist hordes in the Narrows. I forget occasionally how many damn people come to Zion in the summer.

Fortunately, we’ll be back October 17th for the wedding.

It was too hot to sleep low. We got Pizza n’ Noodle in town, and fled back to the Kaibab to sleep. Up, and back home. My legs hurt, and I was getting cranky as the morning wore on and the heat grew. M took over, and I got a Slurpy, and made it home. Barely.

And tomorrow, it’s time to flee to the high Sierra, and then Zion again, for more than a week.

I’ll be back, eventually. There is a reason I scheduled vacation at this time in the year.