Campground Review: When we arrived at this site after carrying our gear down in backpacks from our car parked up at the trailhead I put down my pack and looked around. After a minute I realized this was the exact campsite I stayed at 15 years ago on the last night of backpacking with my family as a kid over spring break at the same time of year. It is a wonderful site and well worth claiming early since it is close to the parking area, has easy access to the river where you can pump water and swim, and best of all it has flat sandy tent spots up the hill and out of reach of flooding.
Sipsey Wilderness is a protected but unmaintained area in Northwest Alabama that is well known for its intersecting creeks, streams, and rivers that play together with the many waterfalls and magical rock faces. The wilderness area is contained within the larger Bankhead National Forest and is accessible from a variety of different trailheads many of which are only reachable on dirt roads. Hiking here you definitely get the feeling that you have left the rest of the world behind and are in the complete wilderness. Different times of year provide completely different experiences whether its the exciting and boundless blooms of spring, the overgrown wild of summer, the bold and expansive colors of fall, or the high river levels and easy boating access of winter. Just make sure to always do your research and plan ahead since it can change so drastically depending on when you go. My favorite is either fall or spring since the summer can be particularly hot and buggy.
This trip we had planned to kayak down the river from the Sipsey River Trailhead to the Highway 33 Bridge take out but were thwarted by a recent lack of heavy rain and unusually low river levels for the season. Several sites online suggested over 4 feet gauge height would be fine but after talking to the Rangers we were told the only time that it was really navigable was in the winter or fall for a couple of days after a major rainfall. With that plan out the window, we decided instead to throw some packs in the car and move our gear around to make it a semi backpacking/hiking trip.
We started out Friday dropping one car off at the Sipsey River Trailhead and then drove another car to the Borden River Trailhead where we began hiking the 200 trail (All the Sipsey trails are numbered and there are multiple maps available online). We passed a bunch of awesome sites along the way (cataloged in other reviews) and picked out our favorites for the night along the way. When we reached back to the original car after about 3 miles we drove back to the same trailhead and packed our backpacks to get the gear down to the campsite we had chosen.
This site has space for around 2 tents though you could possibly squeeze in a 3rd and it has a nice sized firepit with a large dead log that was perfect for sitting on. Most of the site is pretty sandy but level which was wonderful for sleeping on. We struggled a little with finding large pieces of dry wood for a fire since this is a pretty well-traveled site. A family did come by and use the river access near our site to swim while we were setting up camp but we had plenty of privacy by the time it got dark. If this site is taken there are a couple across the river (accessible via the bridge) or up the trail in either direction.
Overall, if you want an easy access site to a parking area either because you are getting a late start to a backpacking trip or you want to camp near your exit point on your last night this is a wonderful spot that provides all the necessities and space for camping in Sipsey.
As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get to try out new and interesting products at campgrounds I visit. On this trip, I cooked all my meals on the Primus Primetech backpacking stove to create a range of delicious dishes. My takeaways from using the all in one packable gas stove:
- Efficiency: The set comes with 2 pots and a burner with built-in windscreen and heat transfer systems. This meant that I was able to get a freshly pumped pot full of cold river water (roughly 1.3L) to a full boil in under 4 min. I was able to use less fuel to prepare my meals and bring less along while still having spare fuel as a backup. The included lid also helped to maintain heat retention in the pot which meant I didn’t have to reheat the water while prepping other parts of the dish in the other pot. Finally, we were dealing with a significant amount of wind at the site and it didn’t affect the burner or efficiency thanks to the well designed built-in windscreen.
- Packability: The stove is designed so that all the components pack together into the larger pot and then fit into the carrying case which cinches closed. This design means that there is no mess that you get from liquid fuel stoves and no lost components at the bottom of your bag. It also ends up being a shape that is easy to cram into the little nooks and crevices left in your bag after packing the bigger heavier items.
- Cooking Performance: I am incorporating a few things into this section since I just didn’t want to leave any of my favorite features out. First, DURABLE NONSTICK, seriously, they made a durable nonstick surface that is lightweight and provides even heat. I was skeptical but have now used it multiple times with both plastic and metal utensils and it doesn’t even show a scratch. I cooked vegetarian sausage, rehydrated rice and beans, fried eggs, and boiled water and every time the pot ended up completely clean with no work but a little rubbing with my hands under running water. The locking tong handle means less weight since it works for both pots but provides stability since it locks onto the pot being used. It also has a protective guard so it doesn’t damage the pot and helps to act as a heat guard so the handle doesn’t burn you. Finally, since the design is nesting during cooking and the gas attachment is a hose the full setup sits stably on the ground and has no chance of tipping during cooking, even if on uneven ground. This is a necessary feature for me since I have had multiple dirt eating situations where my pot tipped and I was forced to scoop my now dirty food back into the pot…
Overall, this is by far the best backpacking stove I have ever used giving even consistent heat, a stable cooking surface, and efficient fuel use. It is also very reasonably priced considering the number of components that are included and comes in at a weight that makes it perfect for most backpacking situations. If you haven’t checked out Primus’s line of stoves and cookware yet I would highly suggest seriously considering them when looking to upgrade your backpacking cook set.