Gear Review Aftershokz Bone Conduction Headphones

July 30, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Hey everyone! Hope you're doing well today!  Today I'd like to do a gear review.  I don't do many, but maybe I should being a gearhead and all. LOL Today I'd like to talk about some new technology that I acquired a few weeks ago and have fallen in love with.  Bone conduction headphones. What is that, you ask? These are headphones that don't stick into your ear canal but rest on the bones in front of your ear and vibrate to send the sound to your ear instead of your eardrum doing the work.  I know it sounds kind of weird, doesn't it, but it truly works.  Now, why would you want bone conducting headphones?  Well, that's a good question. First of all, I don't think they are for everyone. But their best use is when you exercise. If your are a cyclist, runner, walker, or hiker like I am, they are great! Because the headphones don't go in your ears, you can still hear all of your surrounding environment. If you're out for a run, you can hear all the traffic, bicycles, cars, and trucks that surround you while you're on that 5k run. If you're a walker, especially around town, just like the runner you can hear your surroundings. For a hiker they are great because you can hear all the noises in the forest and you can hear trail runners coming up behind you or a mountain biker coming up on you. You can do all of this while having the music you like or a podcast playing in the background. I know that ear pods have a transparent mode in them now that kind of does this, but not as well. These are excellent for exercise and hearing what is around you. Regular headphones block out all the noise and can be a safety concern if you need to hear your  surroundings, like traffic or a rattlesnake. These are also great if you want to have a conversation with someone. Say you meet someone on your hike or run and you stop to talk, you don't have to pull a device out of your ear to talk to them. So now let me talk about the ones that I got, the Aftershokz Aeropex.

The Aftershokz Aeropex headphones are light, less than one ounce. One size fits all. They are very comfortable to wear. You actually can forget that you have them on after a while. They are waterproof, which is great for me because I seem to always find myself in some sort of rainstorm while I'm out and about. They will last 8 hours, which for most of us is more exercising than we will have in a day. The sound is very good. Maybe not as good as conventional headphones, but unless you're a music snob and can really tell the difference between the decibels of base and such, these are great. I can't tell the difference while I'm using them. When you get them in the box, you get a silicone carrying case with a magnetic closure, as well as two charging cables. These are proprietary magnetic charging cables, so it's nice that they give you two. I have one in my backpack and one at the house. They also supply you with earplugs if you wanted to use them as traditional headphones. I think the earplugs are silly and useless, but at least they tried. The Bluetooth 5.0 is very good, and I have had no problems with them hooking up to my phone. You can go to their website to see all of their specs if you're interested.

As you can tell, I love these headphones. This particular set comes in at $159.99 on Amazon and comes with a little sport belt you can wear to put your phone in. These are a little pricey, but you can get older generation ones for much cheaper. However, when it comes to technology, I like to buy the best that I can afford at the time. It stops buyer's remorse, and I seem to use them longer.  Anyway, that's all for this week. Until next week, get outside! 


If you Pack it in Pack it Out! Please

July 23, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Hey Everyone! Hope you are doing fine this week.  This week I want to talk about all of the new people that have started to go into the woods since the Pandemic has come.  Our National and State Parks and National Forrest are seeing a large increase of people visiting our nations greatest resources.  I think that it is great that people are finding out about our great parks and forest that we enjoy.  But with more people more stress to the environment that we are putting on this valuable resource. One of the biggest impacts is the trash and litter that is being brought into the parks and national forest .  I don't really know why people do this.  We all know how trash looks on our public roads.  Travel down any road in America and you can see trash everywhere.  And its ugly. No one wants to see other peoples trash thrown all about.  We don't like it in our cities and do not want to see it in our wilderness.  The litter comes in all sizes from candy wrappers and water bottles left on the ground to burning trash in fire rings at campsites to leaving toilet paper and human waste where it shouldn't be.  Yes I said it Poop!  I'm sure most of this trash and bad behavior is due to being new to the wilderness and just not knowing.  Not knowing that someone isn't paid to pick up your trash.  Park Rangers are not paid to pick up behind you and you should dispose of the trash in a approved container.  Like putting it in a trash can and not the ground.  If you have trash you should Pack it out until you get to an approved waste disposal container to put it in.  If you're at a campsite you shouldn't burn your trash because all of the plastic or foil that is not paper will not burn away and will be left for others to see and animals to ingest.  Pack out your trash. Please remember that coming to these places is a privilege that we have and we want to save it for others that come after us not to just get the quick Instagram pic and leave. Okay,  rant over let's talk about what you should do in the backcountry and trails to have a great time and leave the beauty for someone else to see.

Pack it in Pack it out.  Take only photographs and memories and leave only footprints.  These are just two of many sayings that can be used to describe how we should act in the backcountry and trails.  Trash, Trash that is taken into a park or forest should be taken out.  We all like snacks and goodies while hiking but please put your trash in a trash bag and haul it out.  Your pack won't be heaver it will be lighter because you've eaten what the wrapper covered.  When you get to an approved waste disposal container like a trash can or recycle bin then you can put it in its proper place.  If you hike into a camp and have a camp fire in a approved fire ring.  Don't burn trash.  Haul it out. Just like before your pack won't be heaver it will be lighter.  If you burn your trash there is always some left behind and after you leave some animal will come behind you and eat whatever you have left.  So Please pack it out if your brought it in.  For using the bathroom in the woods first use and out house or privy if there is one available.   If there is not one available go at least 200 ft from the trail or water source or camp site. Dig a cat hole approximately 6-8 inches deep, do your business in the hole and cover your deposit and soiled toilet paper with the dirt from the hole and cover with natural debris that is around like leaves pine needles.  Some parks and recreation areas do not want you to bury your toilet paper because the environment is not suited to quickly decompose the toilet paper or human traffic is too high and they will want you to haul out your dirty toilet paper.  You can put in double bagged Zip lock bags and dispose of in a proper waste container.   Some places that have fragile environment may want you to take the toilet paper and poop out and they will usually provide the bags to do it into. These bags are called WAG bags (Waste Alleviation and Gelling) They can used 3 or4 times and are puncture resistant double bagged. Mount Whitney the tallest mountain in the contiguous lower 48 is a very popular and dry rocky place and they issue WAG bags at the foot of the mountain for you to take with you.  This may seem very extreme to those that haven't been in the woods before. But high traffic and uninformed people can cause havoc on the environment.  I have been on the AT (Appalachian trail) in the Smokey Mountain park during the big bubble of through hikers and have seen the fields of toilet paper flowers from people who supposedly know what to do in the back country and didn't because they didn't dig their holes deep enough.  It is an unsightly scene and very un-sanitary.  Max Patch is another place that has been ruined by people who don't know.  This is a beautiful bald along the AT in North Carolina in Pisgah National Forrest. On this blog I have shared some photo's that I got off of the internet to show what happens when people overcrowd a place and don't know the rules of how to act.  They actually had to close Max Patch to campers because they were destroying the area.

What is the whole point of this blog? Too vent a little, and hopefully to inform folks that are new to the back country and how to conduct themselves to protect these great resources that we have for us and the future generations.  So Please share this info with others and take a grocery bag with you on your next hike to pick up some trash you may see along the way. And of course dispose of it properly.  Until next week Get Outside!

What I Take Backpacking on a Weekend Trip

July 16, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Bluff Mtn SummitBluff Mtn Summit Hey Everyone! Hope everyone is doing well this week. I am a gear guy.  Let's face it I love gear. Whether its Photography gear which I have talked a lot about on this blog to backpacking and camping gear.  This week I want to give you an idea of what I cary on a typical overnight backpacking trip that you would do on the weekend.  Some backpackers would take more or less but I think this is a good representation of what a typical overnight load out would be.  You can see what is in my pack by going to the Lighter Pack website link here. Im in the process of adding links to all of the items on the Lighter Pack website but haven't yet.  In the process means I have thought about it. LOL   I will give you a list of what's in my pack and a little description or why I use it below.  My base weight which means all the stuff in my pack except food , water and fuel is in the summer about 12-13 lbs and in the winter about 14-16 lbs.  These are pretty much dependent on what shelter I take if a tent it is lighter and a hammock its heaver. So here we go.

-Pack: My choice of pack right now is the Z-Pack's Arch Haul.  This is about a 55 liter pack and maybe a little much for a overnight but its a great pack.  There are many packs on the market and all of them have good points and bad.  You just have to choose the one that is right for you.

-Shelter- This is where my pack varies the most.  Depending where I go or what kind of trip I'm on will decide which shelter I use. Tent or Hammock.  I prefer to sleep in a hammock but it is heaver and you do need trees to hang it. The hammock I use is a home made one that I got the Idea from the company that I get all of my material from . "Ripstop by the Roll" It has a zippered bug net attached to it and is very comfortable to sleep in.  My tent that I use is the Z-Pack's Duplex a 2 person tent that only weighs about 11/2 lbs.  I use it on longer trips and where the hammock would not be practical .  Its a awesome tent and the Tent set up is about a pound lighter than the Hammock set up. If I use a hammock I also need a Tarp to go over it. I also made the one or should I say ones because I have made a few.  Depending on the weather decides which tarp I will take.  Bad weather or cold I take a tarp that has doors on it and in good weather I take one that doesn't have doors.

-Sleeping Pad- If I use my tent I use a Nemo-Tensor Insulated sleeping pad.  It's the kind that you Blow up and is comfortable and will keep you warm on cold nights.

-Quilts- No these are not like your grandmothers quilts.  These are made especially for Backpacking. I use a 20 degree Enlightened Equipment top quilt and it can be used for tents or hammocks. I could use it for summer use but the weight savings on a 50 degree Aegismax sleeping bag is too great for the summer time. It is an inexpensive Chinese made quilt that I got off of Alley express a Chinese Amazon. For my bottom quilt when I use a hammock in the summer I use a 40 degree home made quilt that I made.  For the winter I use a 20 Hammock Gear Incubator quilt.  It is awesome and very comfy cosy. 

-Pillow- Yes a luxury item! I use a Trekology Blow up Pillow and a stuff sack with clothes in it if I need another. A good night sleep is essential after a long day of backpacking.

-Cooking/Water Filtration- I will just name these off of what is in my cook kit. My Pot a 750 Toaks titanium, stove BRS Ultralight canister stove. Long handled spoon Toaks titanium, Folding Toaks titanium fork, Knife Swiss Army Knife, GSI backpacking Cup (for Coffee!) I normally use a bear bag food storage which I use a Z-packs storage DCF bag. Sometimes I have to use a bear canister then I use a Bear Vault 450 a plastic canister that is suppose to be bear proof.  My water filtration is done by a Sawyer Squeeze and a Cnock 2 liter bladder.  I also use 1 liter and a 750ml water bottles for storage. The water bladder always is dirty water and I filter to one of the smart water bottles. Water filtration is the most important thing in the cooking system you must have clean drinking and cooking water.

-Clothing- Rain Coat this is an inexpensive Frogg Toggs, Puffy Jacket I always have a puffy jacket summer or winter you never know. Fleece beanie hat, gloves, a Buff which is a brand of neck gator, Socks Darn Tuff my favorite, underwear not cotton!, I use a stuff sack made by Z-Packs when turned inside out has a fleece side for a pillow. Very comfy.

-Toilet kit- Poop Kit which will include a trowel, a back country bidet I just started using instead of toilet paper, a few Wyse-Wipes which are small tablet looking things but when you add just a little water they become a moist towelette. (these must be packed out not buried ) and biodegradable soap.

-Toiletries-include a tooth brush and tooth paste ,hand sanitizer , If I use contacts some extra ones. This kit will be kept with the food not in my pack or tent at night so not to attract critters with the smell of the toothpaste.

-First Aid kit this kit will include everything from blister care to diarrhea prevent medicine to ibuprofen (vitamin I) Mosquito repellant , sun screen and almost everything you can think of.  Try not to make this kit too big.

-Ditty Bag- This is where I have my ditty's! LOL Most of my electronic stuff goes here I have a 20000 mah battery that i use to charge everything . I have a rechargeable headlamp by Nightcore. All of my cords for recharging everything, A small fire starting kit and a kit that I can use to repair gear and earbuds.

-Extras-These are some things that I could probably do without but I want them with me. First is a Backpacking Umbrella.  This umbrella is very lightweight and has a silver outer cover.  It can be used for rain protection and sun protection if your in an exposed area.  The one I have was made by Gossamer Gear.  I also have a backpacking chair. Yes a chair.  Nothing is better than sitting in a chair after a 10ish mile day.  The support for your back is amazing! The one I have weighs about a pound and was made by REI.  My last extra is a sit pad.  This is a closed cell foam pad that you can use to sit on.  You can use it anywhere and something soft on your butt when stopping for lunch is great.

-Clothes I wear- These are things that are not in or on my pack.  I wear a fanny pack that was made by Light AF.  It is a small pack that can carry a camera or snacks it has a pouch on the outside that  can be used to hold my phone. I have my trusty Trekking poles made by Kelty which are a cheap brand but I just love mine. They are aluminum with twist locks.  Depending on the weather I either wear a pair of Gym shorts that have pockets or a pair of convertible pants that the legs zip off to make shorts.  I wear some kind of had either floppy or a baseball type of cap. I wear a shirt that is a synthetic shirt could be a button sun shirt or a pull over one that covers my arms if I will be in exposed areas. My underwear is made of synthetic material a boxer brief seems to be best for me.  My socks are Darn Tough socks .  My shoes of choice will be trail runners.  I am currently using Altra Lone Peak 3.5 but they are about worn out and will have to upgrade soon. The only other stuff I wear is my watch which I just upgraded to a Garmin Instinct but I have used a Amazon knockoff of a fit bit for a long time.  I also wear bone conducting headphones so I can listen to music or podcast while I hike and still hear all the sounds around. The ones I have are Areopex Aftershockz. 

Thats about it .  Total weight with water and food is about 20 in the summer and 22ish in the winter.  If you have any questions about any of my gear please get in touch with me and I will love to help you in any way I can.  Until Next week please stay safe and get outside!



Dealing With Failure

July 09, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Hey Everyone! Hope everyone is doing well this week.  Today I wanted to talk about failures. Yes failures. Everyone has them.  If you don't then your not trying hard enough stuff. Recently I just had a backpacking failure. But I prefer not to think of it as a failure but a learning experience. What were your learning you say. Well I'm a glass half full guy so when I look at a failure I look at what went right not to drone on about what went wrong.  Now failures come in all sorts and sizes. It could be a photography failure. Maybe you were trying to shoot the milky way and it just didn't work.  You couldn't get your settings right .  You tried and tried and just got one shot that looks like it might be OK.  Well that one shot could have been what you learned. Maybe you struggled with settings on your camera and trying to set them up in the dark.  Another lesson you learned that you need to know your camera better so you and do things in the dark.  These are things to work on and try again later.  Let me tell you about a recent backpacking failure that I had.

I had planned a trip in the Uwharrie National Forest.  It was about a 7mile out and back along the Uwharrie  trail.  I would camp on top of a bald mountain.  I have a new tent that I was going to try out and a couple of new items that I haven't used yet in my pack.  I had quickly planned out this trip and it was dependent on the weather.  So at the last minute I pulled the trigger and took off to the trailhead.  Its about a 2 1/2 hour trip to get there and when I did there were only 2 other cars there!  Yay! That means that the trail would be mostly mine.  I was excited!  I grabbed my pack and trekking poles and took off down the trail. But something didn't feel right.  I looked down and I didn't have my regular hiking shoes on.  I brought them but I was so excited that I forgot to change into them. Well I wasn't far from the truck so I went back and changed shoes and started my hike again.  Something still didn't feel right .  And I remembered that I had adjusted my trekking poles down 5cm to use as tent poles with my new tent. So I adjusted them but something went wrong one of them wouldn't lock into place. I did a little panic and kept fiddling with it until I finally got it to lock into place.  Ok everything good to go and off I went.  The trail was beautiful! This is a new section of trail and it was in good shape and the inclines were not too bad. It was very humid because of the rain we had been having the last week or so and it had mist and sprinkled a few times and the leaves were wet.  I was doing some professional sweating!  Sweat was dripping off of the front of my cap. Drip , Drip , Drip.  I took some photo's along the way I was having a great time.  On the approach to King Mountain the tallest on the Uwharrie trail the inclines started being tougher.  Even though they had put some switch backs in the trail.  A switch back is a zig zag in the trail so your not going strait up the hill but at a easer incline.  I had to stop a couple of times to catch my breath but I made it to the top.  This is where the fun stopped.  The section that I was just on was all new trail with the switch backs built in but the old trail didn't do that.  When I started going down King Mountain I was on Older trail and it went straight down hill at a steep decline.  If you have bad knees you know that all of the weight of you and you pack fall on your knees when going down hill.  So I went slow.  My right knee is my bad knee with the torn Meniscus and I had a couple of sharp twinges in it as I was slowly going down when all of the sudden my left knee just locked up and I had a sharp pain that went from my knee and up my inner thigh.  And I couldn't bend it either way it was frozen in place!  I freaked out a little and worked with it and finally got it to bend a little. It was still over two miles to get to a road.  That was a very long 2 miles.  As I hobbled out of the woods all kinds of things were going through my head.  When I got to the road and a trailhead I stopped and thought about my options.  I was less than a mile from my final campsite.  I could go there and camp and see how my knees were in the morning.  Then I started thinking knees are never better the day after you have tweaked them.  So what was I to do?  I thought long and hard it was 2:30 in the afternoon.  I called my son and told him the situation and I was going to have him pick me up and take me to my truck where I would drive home.  That seemed to be the smartest option.  I could have camped out but someone would have to pick me up in the morning.  I called my wife and told her what was happening. But now I had a 3ish hour wait at the trailhead.  So I pulled out my camp chair sat in the shade and played with my phone .  It was hot! and I only had a 1/2 liter of water left I would have to get more. So I packed everything up and found a stream and got some water filtered it from a very shallow stream.  I was doing some hard core sweating now even my calfs were sweating.  I made it back to the trail head sat down in the shade drank some water and ate a little and I was starting to feel better, then it started raining.  Not just a little sprinkle but a downpour. I had just started charging my phone from a battery bank my phone is water proof but the battery bank wasn't so I used my raincoat to protect it from the rain water.  The trailhead sign had a small cover over it so I made camp up under the sign why it rained. I waited for two more hours until my son showed up and took me to my truck.  

So to me this was a big fail at the time. I had never not finished a backpacking trip before.  What happened? What did I do so wrong.  Am I just too old to backpack anymore?   Maybe but here is what I learned after a day of thinking about what happened. That 2 1/2 hour drive was filled with anticipation of what was to come. How many people are going to be there. (last time I went I couldn't even find a parking place) What will the weather be.  So lesson 1 is - Don't get too excited at the trailhead before you set off.  (Trekking poles and shoes) I was doing real well before I tweaked my knee maybe should have drunk more water . I was probably dehydrated and should have added some electrolytes to my water. Lesson 2 drink plenty of water with electrolytes and eat while hiking.  I only factored in distance when planning my trip not elevation, heat and humidity. (I still did well) Lesson 3 factor in difficulty of the hike (elevation)  I also saw that  I made good decisions after I tweaked my knee.  I got to a trailhead (self extracted) Sat down and figured out all of the options and picked the safest one and called for help when I needed to. Lesson 4 keep calm cool and collected if injured getting excited will only make it worse.  Lesson 5- don't be proud call for help if you need it. So I did very well after I got injured. I made sure I was well hydrated after reaching the last trailhead by going and getting more water. I also learned that my equipment that I had with me did well.  The rain didn't get anything wet but the outside of my pack.  I was very fortunate that I had cell phone coverage and could talk to people. Although I do have a satellite communicator that I could talk via text but would have been more difficult.

Although I did not complete the trip as planned I did learn a lot about my equipment and me which was what this trip was all about.  I've learned some things that I need to improve on and some things that I did well.  I do think that if I had not tweaked my knee that I would have been able to complete the trip although I would have been warn out.  I will definitely do this trip again maybe in the fall when its not as hot and humid.  Can't wait!  So until next week get outside!

Hiking Footwear

July 02, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Hey Everyone! Hope y'all are doing great this week. This week I want to talk about hiking and backpacking footwear, probably the most important gear choice you'll have to make. This is literally where the hiking meets the trail! Your whole trip depends on your footwear.  Everything that you carry through every mile will be carried by your feet, so foot care is important.  No one wants blisters or sore feet. Nothing is worse than being halfway through your backpacking trip and your feet are killing you and you know you have miles to hike to get to your car. Choosing the proper footwear and caring for your feet is one of the most important things you'll do in backpacking. First, let's choose a good hiking sock.

The sock that you choose is very important. You would think that something this small wouldn't make such a difference but it does.  Like all of your other clothing, you don't want cotton. The preferred material choice is wool. I know most people have never worn wool socks before. These wool products nowadays are not your grandfather's itchy, scratchy wool. Nowadays wool is soft and water wicking, keeping your feet dry, which is a key step in keeping blisters away. Marina wool socks can be found in all sorts of places and by all kinds of companies. Some companies specialize in hiking and backpacking. These folks really know their stuff, and some warranty their socks to last forever.  So if you get a hole in them, they will send you a new pair at no cost. So you know they are durable.  I use socks by the company Darn Tough. They are expensive socks, but they are worth every penny. I have never gotten blisters while wearing these socks. I usually take two pairs while on a multi-day hike. I wear one and take a spare and change out every day.  I'll rinse out the dirty pair and hang it on the outside of my pack to dry while hiking the next day. That keeps me in a clean pair every day.

Hiking boots or shoes? Traditionally boots were the choice.  I guess because of the Army and all of the hiking and walking they did in their boots. But nowadays boots are the exception to the rule, usually only being worn in colder climates or in the wintertime. Nowadays trail runners are the rule. Trail runners are made to be worn while trail running. They have lots of support and a very grippy and aggressive tread. They are lightweight, and you can either get them waterproof or not. I tend to not get the waterproof ones, because if you stand in water that is higher than your shoes, like when crossing a large creek, your shoes just become bowls of water that your feet are in and it takes longer for them to dry out.  I like the ones that are not waterproof because they dry out faster. Choosing shoes is a personal decision, and there are different strokes for different folks. There are many shoe companies, but here are some of them: Merrell, Altra, and Soloman. I know I always mention REI as a place to go to buy stuff, but to me it is the best place. First of all, they have specialized items like hiking shoes or boots. Second, they have a no-questions return policy. You can return anything within a year and get your money back (even if you have used them).  Third, you get a 10% dividend at the end of the year, so the more you spend the more money you get for next year. Fourth, all the things that are returned are sold in a yard sale event that happens almost monthly, and you can get great deals on items that are slightly used. So REI is my store of choice for specialized items that are hard to find anywhere else. So if I don't see it on Amazon, I go to REI to touch and feel try on, etc...

The most important thing to do when choosing shoes is to get the correct size. Getting your foot properly sized is important! Many of us have worn the same size for years, but we haven't properly been sized.  I wore size 8 1/2 shoes for all my life. Then I went to a small family shoe store and got my feet measured again and I was a 9 1/2.  It was a whole size too small! On top of getting the right size shoes, you also should upsize your hiking shoes 1/2 to a full size larger. This is why. First, you should be wearing your hiking socks as I mentioned before, and they are usually thicker than normal socks. Second, your feet swell while you hike, so a larger shoe is needed for hiking. Wearing improper shoes can cause discomfort, blistering, and loss of toenails.  Yuck! I have had the black toenails from improper shoe size. While hiking downhill my feet were sliding in my shoe and my toes were hitting the front of the shoe. My toenails were too long (trim them!) and were bending when hitting the front of the boot. My big toenail turned black and eventually fell off. Yuck Again! So please get the right shoe and socks for the hike! 

Another thing to consider is the insoles of your shoes. You want something with lots of arch support. I had plantar fasciitis, and the insoles I put in helped me get better. These should be sized also to fit the shape of your foot if you need them. The ones that come in the trail runner may be fine for you. I use the ones by Super Feet. They are stiff and support my feet and arches and are definitely worth the extra cost. So keep your feet happy, and you will have a better hike or backpacking experience.  Keep hiking and get outside!