the dyrt
Jenny R.
Heber City, UT
Joined June 2017
I am an outdoor person who loves everything snow, hiking, camping, climbing, horses with my dog. Lived all over the West and love adventure & travel.
Ranger Review: Midland MXT275 MicroMobile GMRS Two-Way Radio @ Horsethief

Campground Review: First let me say, I have stayed at this campground before and reviewed it so check out that other review for additional information as I am going to try to provide new info about the surrounding area. Horsethief is a standard BLM managed campground. It has well maintained and stocked pit toilets, an on-site camp host in the peak season, dumpsters for trash, picnic tables, metal fire pits, and marked and level tent spots. Each camp site has room for at least two vehicles and accommodates both trailers and tents. It does not have hook-ups but it is easily accessible by both pull behind trailers or RVs. This stay was in early November. It was busy during the weekend but was dead during the week. I think my husband was one of the only sites occupied during the week which makes for a quiet camping trip. It was also quite cold—dipping into the 20s at night. So if you plan to visit in October, November, or December prepare for cold even though you are in the desert. We had a little propane heater in the tent which was quite nice. One other difference between my visit in the spring and my late fall visit was it was not overly windy. There was a slight breeze on occasion but not the high winds we experienced in the spring. We love this campground and will definitely return in our multiple trips to Moab. One final thing to note, is this camp ground is either expanding or they are building another campground right across the road because of the increased demand for quality camping close to mountain biking. I don’t have an ETA on when the new loops will be open for campers but this is great news due to the increased visitors to this site.

Horsethief Campground has become our go-to campground when we are coming to Moab to mostly mountain bike. As I mention in my other review, this spot it very centrally located and you can visit Canyonlands NP, Arches NOP, and Deadhorse State Park all within a 15 minute drive. However, the real convenience of this campground is its proximity to world class mountain biking. Every time we come, we see more and more sites filled with people with their mountain bikes in tow. We did bike this trip but because of the cold, we waited to bike until it warmed up a little bit. But anyway, this campsite is so convenient to world class mountain biking and trails for all ability levels. You can ride to Horsetheif, Mag 7, Navajo Rocks, Gold Bar (via Gemini Bridges Rd which is a dirt road), and you are a 10-15 minute car ride from the Klondike, Klonzo and Bar M trails. You can also easily arrange a bike shuttle for one way trips. My husband and I were able to do a shuttle between the two of us—we dropped the Jeep off at a trail head down the road, then over biked 12 miles to the car from our campsite then drove back. Super easy and convenient and the go-to site for mountain bikers.

Product Review: As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get the opportunity to test out gear from our awesome partners from time to time. This time, I was able to test out the Midland MXT275 MicroMobile base station. I have also had the opportunity to test out another product from Midland (the X-TALKER T51X3VP3 Two-Way Radio) which we used when testing out the base station. My husband and I installed this in our Jeep Wrangler which has been out fitted for rock crawling (hence why we are in Moab a lot). First impressions: this little unit was super easy to install and use right out of the box. My husband loves radios and communication devices and has a CB, Ham Radio, and now GMRS radio all installed in the Jeep. He was able to fit the small, and sleek device easily among all his gadgets without taking up too much space. You can hardwire the radio into the vehicle or just plug it into the cigarette lighter (12v power jack). We used the plug in so we can unplug it if we are not going to be using it for a while. One other benefit is it has a USB port which allows you to charge other devices (like your hand held radios) while driving. It has 15 channels—half of which provide a higher power transmit (since it does not have a mic gain) to improve range. It is also feels really durable considering it is a small, compact and sleek unit. We are not easy on our gear and we feel this unit will be able to take a beating.

Usage Impressions: My husband was able to test out this in a variety of situations. He tested range with his friend who was sitting at home (using a non-Midland radio) in Heber City, UT and Jeremy was driving. He was able to get about 10 miles in this situation with super clear sound and transmission. We also tested range between two moving vehicles driving on Highway 6 to Moab. The jeep obviously had the base station and I had a handheld X-talker in my car. We were able to get at least 5 miles between vehicles while both were moving and going through the winding canyons/mountain passes. We were also on the higher channels which boosts the transmission signals. One huge bonus was the volume of the speaker. It was loud enough to be heard clearly over the elevated road noise of driving a lifted Jeep at high speeds on the highway. He came through super clear on my handheld and I couldn’t detect much of the surrounding noise.

Overall evaluation: we love this little unit. It just allows us to have another means of communication when we are traveling in the backcountry and cell reception is spotty. The sound quality cannot be beat and has the same quality whether you are using another Midland radio or a different brand. How we foresee using this more in the future, is when we are backcountry car camping or hunting where we need to set up some type of base camp while we go out and explore. It will also be great when we are doing bike shuttles and people aren’t stopping at the same trail heads. If you are looking to get a non-handheld radio that has awesome range, clarity and durability for a great price—the MXT275 MicroMobile base station should be on your short list of options if not the only one.

Ranger Review: Matador Transit30 Duffle at Pyramid Lake, UT

Campground Review: Dispersed Camping at Pyramid Lake, UT

Pyramid Lake is another gem of a mountain lake found in the Uinta Mountains of Utah. It is a small-medium sized lake you can drive to (with a small walk in) and has lots of National Forest dispersed camping. This area, while on National Forest, does require a recreation pass. A three-day pass is $6 which you can get at the various self-serve stations found along the main Mirror Lake Highway or it is free if you have a National Parks pass. It is on the honor system. So before I go into the camp area a few notes on getting there. Once you turn off highway 150 towards Murdock Basin, you have 6 miles of dirt/rock road ahead of you. A car can make it the first four miles, but a vehicle with at least 18” of clearance (and recommended AWD/4WD) is required as the road turns into sections of just really large rocks. You can stop and camp anywhere along that forest service road, but to get to either Pyramid or Echo Lake, you need the higher clearance.

The camping area and lake: it is dispersed camping so it is very primitive. No running water (either bring your own or a way to filter lake water), no pit toilets (bring a spade to dig a cat hole and bury or pack out your TP), tent or hammock camping (a pull behind trailer won’t make it the last few miles), scattered fire pits (practice extreme fire safety and make sure you fully put out any fire you start), and no garbage service (pack out whatever you pack in), aka typical backcountry camping. I loved it! The lake is beautiful and there is a trail you can walk around it. I did bring my inflatable paddleboard but didn’t end up breaking it out because it was too windy. But I will definitely return to paddle the lake another day. Multiple people were fishing and I could see the fish jumping as well. There is also a large boulder field on the South side of the lake which is fun to scramble around. I have decided my dog is part mountain goat. I chose a small spot about 50 meters from the water—halfway between the lake and where I parked the car. It was small and perfect for just one person and dog.

Downsides to the lake: While visiting a small mountain lake is always fun, there was a few things that didn’t meet my expectations (which are relatively low). The biggest thing which surprised me was how busy it was considering how rough the road was. It is really fun to see lots of people enjoying the outdoors but there were two larger groups of twenty-somethings that were really loud the whole night. I think one group played music and stayed up all night long and randomly walked down to the lake loudly with flashlights (which was really not necessary considering it was a cloudless, full moon night). They had dogs barking and generally seemed to not take the other people camping at the lake into consideration. Granted it was a killer spot for a group campout but it definitely affected by enjoyment of the evening. Overall, I really enjoyed the area and will return to camp again.

Gear Review: Matador Transit30 Duffle

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get the opportunity to test out gear for our awesome partners from time to time. I was given the privilege of testing out the Matador Transit30 packable duffle bag in grey. This bag, when stuffed is shorter but thicker than my phone but when unpacked is a full 30 liter duffle bag. For those who don’t speak liter size it is about the size of a typical medium Adidas duffle bag. It is made up of water resistant ripstop material, has one seam sealed zippered pocket, and the main pocket is accessed by a two-way seam sealed zipper.

Pros:

  • It is super lightweight, which is what Matador is known for, and unstructured. This allows the bag to mold to whatever is inside and be able to fit itself inside another bag. I took this bag filled with my overnight camping stuff when I hiked by paddleboard to another lake and I was able to keep my camping stuff contained while fitting it in my SUP bag.
  • The zippers are seam sealed which help with water resistance, overall durability, and versatility of the bag.
  • It fits so much stuff!
  • It only has hand straps, no shoulder strap (depending on your preferences this is both a pro and con). If you don’t every use shoulder straps why have to keep track of something you never use? The straps are long enough to put over your shoulder and you can wear it as a backpack.
  • The stuff sack is attached to the inside so it is a bonus pocket for small items when the bag is not stuffed inside.
  • There is a front small zippered pocket for important things such as keys, wallet, etc.

Cons:

  • It is super thin and durable material but I am still nervous about puncture potential. I am really hard on my gear and I guess time will tell if I rip and hole in it or not.
  • I am trying really hard to think of something and I am coming up short.

Overall, I am very excited to use this bag for quick overnight camping trips and overall general duffle bag usage. I can see myself including this bag when I travel in case I need extra storage space. If you have a slight love obsession with gear bags (as I do), this is a must addition to your packing arsenal. Its versatility and weight are unmatched and time will tell on the durability (but I have a feeling it will hold up just fine!).

Ranger Review: Matador Camera Base Layer at Pittsburg Lake UT

Campground Review: Dispersed camping at Pittsburg Lake, Utah

Because I am into hiking and exploring national forest camping this summer, I found a fun adventure at Pittsburg Lake in the Uinta National Forest in the Wasatch Mountains. Getting there—the hike is a 1.5 mile hike up to the lake. Getting to the trail head is a dusty, dirt road behind Midway, UT. You are driving on dirt road for approximately 6-7 miles and will encounter at least two stream crossings. One crossing is cobblestoned, the other is driving up the stream for 50 feet right before the trail head. Therefore, a high clearance vehicle is highly recommended, if not necessary. There are a lot of off roading trails back in this area so you will encounter lots of RZRs, dirtbikes, 4-wheelers, jeeps, etc on your way to the trailhead but a non-lowered car can handle the road if the driver is comfortable. The really rocky section is past the trail head. Anyway, long dusty road to the trailhead then then hike is 1.5 miles all uphill with 1500 ft of elevation gain. You are hiking on a very rocky old mining road. My husband and I decided we wanted to really punish ourselves and we hiked up with an inflatable paddle board in addition to my stuff for camping. The hike is totally doable even with a lot of gear, just go slow and be careful of your footing. To be honest, I felt sorer after the hike down then after the hike up. So you make it up the trail and you come to a beautiful, small alpine lake. The lake is approximately .33 miles around and has trout for fishing. There is even an old homestead cabin to explore. The lake has many human-made fire pits scattered all around depending if you want to be right on the lake or if you want to tuck back farther into the woods. I found a spot close to the lake for easy paddle board access where I could hang my hammock. This was my first adventure in hammock camping and I actually enjoyed it. The views are so pretty and you are on the backside of Snowbird Ski Area. The area was beautiful and I wish I saw more wildlife (I have heard rumors of elk and moose sightings).

I am giving this camping area 4 stars not because of the area itself (it is free, beautiful, relaxing, etc.) but because of the other people who were staying up there made it not the best night for a female solo camper with her dog. There was another group camping about 200 meters away but I don’t think they knew I was there and they were up late making a lot of noise. Every time I was about to fall asleep, I would hear them chop wood or yell for an echo or make some other non-natural noise that would keep me awake (plus my imagination would start to run away from me). There was also another couple who decided to camp up there and needed to borrow a lighter but ended up leaving around 2AM. So whenever they came close to my camp, my wonderful protective dog would growl and raise the alarm, again, inhibiting my ability to fall asleep. The other annoyance was the flies. I am not sure if it is just the spot that I chose that had a lot of flies or they would have followed me wherever I set up camp. They didn’t bite and were more annoying than anything. I think my dog ate a few dozen as they buzzed around her head. So due to those negatives, the spot gets dinged a star.

Overall, it was worth carrying the paddle board up to the lake as I was able to relax and float and tool around. You can’t go very far but being on the water is always a good time. I could read my book in the hammock and go for exploratory hikes in the area. Final thought, it is National Forest camping so please, please, please follow leave no trace principles to keep the area nice for future visitors.

Gear Review: Matador Camera Base Layer

As a Ranger for The Dyrt I get the opportunity to test out gear from our awesome partners once in a while. While I was camping at Pittsburg Lake, I had the opportunity to try out the Matador Camera Base Layer. Because I am a glutton for punishment, I decided to haul a bunch of gear up to Pittsburg Lake and it included by nice DSLR camera. Photography is a fun hobby I have been playing around with for a few years, but I come across the problem of how to safely get my camera places without carrying either an additional camera bag that takes up a lot of space or wrapping my camera up in a sweatshirt or other piece of clothing to protect it with a smaller profile. Well, the Matador camera base layer has officially solved my problem. Hooray! The base layer is basically a padded, contoured, dry sack for my camera. Place the camera lens down, then roll and clip the top like a dry sack. It has holes to allow your camera neck or wrist straps to come through so you can wear your camera while it is being protected. Because it is from Matador, it is super lightweight but it does not feel flimsy, thin, or not durable. I was able to stuff my camera in the top of my paddle board bag while hiking up and down and I felt comfortable that nothing would be broken when I got to the top. It protected it from the dirt and dust that gets on everything when you are camping so it helped to keep things cleaner. I also took my camera for a hike with no additional backpacks and I clipped the base layer around my wrist so it wouldn’t get in the way. Besides being a bit hot, it was a great way to keep track of the base layer. I cannot convey how happy I am to have this piece of equipment in my gear box. While I am no Ansel Adams, being able to take more pictures with my camera and not just my phone while I am out on adventures will add another dimension to my activities and help me develop a new skill. The only thing I might want to improve is a small piece of Velcro on the bottom to help keep the waterproof cover inside its little pocket. But this is so minor in the grand scheme of things. If you are into photography at all, I highly recommend looking into this product.

Ranger Review: Snapbuds and Dispersed Camping toward Willow Spring

Campground Review: In my attempt to explore as many areas in Utah as I can, I came across this wonderful dispersed camping off Highway 40, south of Heber City toward Main Canyon. I had the intention of staying in a nearby campground. But when I felt the price was a bit too high for just one night, I sought adventure elsewhere. I randomly turned off toward Main Canyon and followed the dirt road until I found a spot I liked. I knew I was in dispersed national forest camping when there are signs indicating a 14 day limit. So all along this dirt road, which got pretty rocky at times, are spots to pull off and camp for the night. It can accommodate single tents, multiple tents, RVs (obviously no hookups) and trailers. There are man-made fire pits so if you start a fire, be sure to put it out completely and observe LNT (leave no trace) camping principles. Whatever you bring in with you is what you have as there are no amenities to speak of. The ground was soft and there were lots of trees from which to hang a hammock. I did forget to fill my water jug before I left my house so I had to search out a small run off stream from which I could filter water. But be sure to have a good water filter if you are going to go this route. The only real negative I have for this site (or area of sites) is that there was a lot of AVT/Side-by-side/dirtbike traffic. If that type of activity was on my list, this area would be first on my list. However, since I chose not to stay in a campground because I wanted the seclusion, the traffic was a little bit of a bummer. But, because the camping was free and everyone who passed waved and was really nice, I didn’t have too much of a problem with it. Also, the site I chose was right off the road (as majority of them are). If I wanted to hike with my stuff a little more, I found a very pretty meadow away from the road that would have been very peaceful. I guess that will have to be my next spot. OI verall, I have a love for free, dispersed camping and this area is large enough to explore for a wide variety of adventures.

Gear Review: Snapbuds

As a Ranger for the Dyrt, I get the opportunity to test out gear every so often from our amazing partners. I was given the opportunity to test out a new product called Snapbuds. The premise of this product is to help keep your earbud cords organized or untangled by use of magnets. They come in three different colors—grey, black, and white, so you can make them coordinate with your cords or stand out. The instructions are easy to follow and have a few options for how to set these little magnets into different configurations. It also has a really handy measuring tape/picture to make sure you can get the snapbuds in the right spot. I decided to try the standard configuration on my first pair of earbuds. These are designed to be permanent additions to your cords so be sure to pay attention to what direction you snap the magnets on. Once I got them on, I wrapped them up and threw them around in my bag. The magnets held and when I went to use them, all I had to do was pull the magnets apart and the cord was untangled. It was pretty sweet. I also used them while hiking around with my dog.

Overall, these are a pretty cool solution to a long standing annoyance of earbud cords.

Peaceful National Forest Dispersed Camping

Over Memorial Day weekend, my husband and I got away for a night and dispersed camp in the Unita National forest near the Mill Creek campground. We were planning to stay at the campground but it was closed, so we took advantage of free dispersed camping right outside. This is LNT(leave no trace) camping so be sure to pack out what you pack in. There are no amenities but you are along a water source so if you have a filter, you have water. All along the road there are open fields that can accommodate trailers and bigger parties then just a single tent. Near the campground (and the site we chose) is an outdoor education center which would be fun to go back and visit later in the summer. We really enjoyed camping here as it was peaceful and private (at least when we visited). Later in the summer that may not be the case, especially close to the road. The biggest issue may be the road. My Mazda3 was able to make it up, but the road was quite rutted and rough and you had to go through a small runoff stream. If you have a lowered vehicle, you may have a tough time but anything with a higher clearance will do just fine. Overall, I loved exploring a new area that I will definitely return to.

River Front Walk-In Tent Awesome-ness

Goose Island Campground is the first campground down highway 128 just North of Moab, UT along the Colorado River. I stayed here for two nights with a girls camping weekend where we hiked and climbed around Moab. It is a BLM campground so it is $15/night and we stayed at one of the walk-in sites. In my opinion we got the best walk in site as we could tuck our tents back and get some privacy from other walk in sites as well as the road. This campground is right along highway 128 so you can get a lot of road noise but half the sites are along the river where you can easily access. The river side sites are much nicer as there are more trees for potential shade and just a little farther away from the road for more privacy. There are a lot of trees around but not a lot of shade and be aware of gnats and small flying bugs since you are close to water. They are more annoying around dusk then anything. Typical amenities: fire ring, picnic table, pit toilets, dumpster. One of the best things about this campground is its proximity to everything. You are just a few miles North of Moab; right along the Colorado River for paddling; 5-10 minutes from rock climbing on Wall Street/Potash Road; 5 minutes from Arches; 20 minutes from Canyonlands, even less for mountain biking or Jeep trails. You are close to everything without feeling completely surrounded by people. One cool thing that happened is a night boat tour along the river lit up the canyon walls. FYI the canyon wall along the Colorado is the boundary of Arches National Park.

Overall, this was a great campground that I will definitely stay at again when I visit Moab (which is fairly often). Camping along the river is quite popular so if there is a spot available, be sure to snag it and since Goose Island is the first one, getting a good site can be a challenge.

Ranger Review: Horsethief Campground and the Midland X-TALKER 3-pack

Campground Review:We stayed at the Horsethief Campground for 10 days in April. Horsethief is North of Moab between Canyonlands and Arches. This was a very clean and kept up campground with three loops and one way roads. The bathrooms are standard pit toilets but very clean and well stocked. The campground was sold out many of the nights we were there as people tend to head to the desert for a few days when ski season ends and you could not tell the heavy usage of the bathrooms. Camp host is very nice and there when you need them. Sites were close to each other but you didn’t feel on top of your neighbor or in a position where you didn’t have some privacy. Standard amenities: picnic table, fire pit, 2-car parking spots, tent areas or longer driveways to accommodate RVs or trailers. Obviously, some spots are better suited for trailers/RVs then others. There is also a campground dumpster which was awesome so you didn’t have to go to town to pack out your trash. The only negative is not really the fault of the campground but it was really windy many of the days. This made us alter our outing plans just a little and started to wear on our nerves/patience as cooking in the wind can be quite a challenge. This is definitely a campground we will return to when we visit Moab.

The best part of the campground was its location to our desired activities. This trip was mostly for mountain biking then off-roading. There are so many awesome mountain bike trails right next to the campground that you don’t have to drive to a trailhead unless you want to. Even then, the trailheads are a 5-10 minute drive away. There are trails for all ability levels but definitely more options if you are an intermediate and above rider. You are also close to state and national parks and a 20 minute drive into Moab as well as close to many good Jeep trails. Due to the wind and my newness to mountain biking we ended up doing more in car activities then usual such as new Jeep trails, fossil hikes, and state park visits. Finally, the campground is on BLM land so the roads pass through a lot of open range so watch out for cows crossing and being herded down the road. With the open range, the super fun part about visiting in the spring is seeing all the baby cows while you are driving in.

Gear Review: X-TALKER T51X3VP3 Two-Way Radio Three Pack

As a Ranger for the Dyrt, I get the opportunity to test out gear from our partners once in a while. So, while we were at Horsethief, we got to try out the Midland X-Talker two-way radio three pack. We used these primarily when we were on our jeep trails. Since it is important to be in communication between vehicles when running a trail, these radios were awesome and worked as good as or better than a CB.

Pros:

  • Long battery life. These lasted longer than expected with just the factory charge.
  • Clear audio. These were used in primarily close range but between vehicles and the sound quality was super clear—no static or garbled transmissions. We could even hear other people from across the river as if they were standing right next to us.

*Good distance. Obviously the number of objects between radios can affect your distance but for what we were using them for it was great and I would feel comfortable having the radios farther apart and still be able to use them.

  • We got a 3 pack! The more radios in use the more sites can stay connected.
  • Easy to use. These radios have so many functions and abilities that it can get overwhelming but navigating the functions was pretty easy and the owner’s manual was clear.

Cons:

  • We got a 3 pack but the charging cradle only holds 2. This isn’t really a negative but does require additional planning if you want to use all three radios and ensuring they all have the same charge.
  • Not really a con, but I may never utilize all the features that these radios offer, they are that awesome.

Summary:

We are super excited to have these radios as part of our car camping and general gear arsenal. Because cell phones don’t always work or have service (especially in the backcountry), having another form of communication is important. Being able to use these in the winter when snowshoeing or touring will be great or for jeeping, mountain biking, hiking, and hunting in the summer/fall. They are compact, powerful, and easy to use.

Ranger Review: Lilly Trotters Compression Socks at the Willow Springs Trail

Campground Review: I stayed one night at the Willow Springs Road Dispersed Camping North of Moab, UT. This was awesome camping. I am only giving it four stars because I was not in the right mindset for this type of camping at the time. This is dispersed camping so park and set up camp were you see a fire ring and be sure to follow Leave No Trace principles. Pack out whatever you pack in. Because it is FREE people need to follow these guidelines to keep it that way. Overall it was pretty free of trash but not totally. This camping area has no amenities—no water, no trash, no toiles, no tables, no metal fire rings. There are a few port-a-potties scattered around but don’t rely on one being close to you. With that, be careful where you walk as not to bust the crust as you find a spot to dig a hole. Finally, the only other negative was there was a lot of gnats/baby flies around in the morning when I was packing up. Not a super big deal but they were annoying.

What I really like about the camping, besides the free price, is its proximity to all the activities that Moab has to offer and the scenery was beautiful. It is open and more exposed camping, but the sunset over the hills can’t be beat and you can find trees/protection if you get there early enough. You are about 20 minutes from town, closer to Arches and Canyonlands. 5 minutes from the Klonzo and Bar M mountain bike trails and 10 minutes from two other large mountain bike trail systems (Klondike, Horsethief). There are also Jeep trail entrances and awesome rock climbing (Wall Street) before you hit town. It can get pretty crowded but I never felt that my neighbors were right on top of me. Overall, you can’t beat free camping in Moab and this is a great option. I will definitely be camping here again.

Gear Review: Lily Trotters Compression Socks

As a Ranger of The Dyrt, I was given the privilege of testing some gear This gear review is for some Lily Trotters compression socks. Note that this gear review is for usage not just at the Willow Springs Trail campsites but during a month long backpacking trip, daily city wear, mountain biking. I have the Sassy Bow in Black in size L/XL as well as the Dots-A-Plenty in Grey and S'Mitten in Purple in S/M. According to size charts I could fit either size (my calf measurement was for L and everything else was for the S). I wore the larger pair on my month long backpacking trip to allow for the additional swelling but I wear the smaller pairs for everyday and either for general hiking and mountain biking. First off let me say, they are really comfortable socks in general. They stayed up on my legs and never felt too loose or too tight. The compression also kept my feet from swelling as much as they normally would have had I been wearing normal hiking socks. I also really liked that they were feminine without being too girly--an aesthetic I appreciate in today's women's gear products.

Because I had these socks with me for the whole the whole month, I decided to try them in a variety of different situations: I wore them with 1) sock liners in hiking boots 2) solo in hiking boots, 3) with liners in trail runners, 4) solo in trail runners. I didn't get to try them as liners themselves because my feet would have gotten way too hot! Short story with all my experiments is that once the sock was in place (i.e. no wrinkles and any bandages were smooth) they kept my feet contained and prevented them from swelling too much which allowed for my shoes to stay roomy and comfortable. The only time I wasn't too happy is when I wore them solo with trail runners in soft dirt as the dirt went through the shoe mesh and stayed in the sock making my feet super dirty (this also happened when I was wearing traditional hiking socks).

General observations: These are not padded socks. They have a reinforced heel which is great especially if your heel moves in your shoes or you have bandages from blisters you have a little more protection. I did wear a hole in one pair while backpacking but the company was awesome when I contacted them and they replaced it with no issues. With the lack of padding and the large number of miles I was doing every day, my feet were tired and sore at the end of days wearing them due to the heavy impact. This fatigue was lessened when I switched to trail runners but it didn't go away completely. (I switched to trail runners about 2 weeks into the trip so still in the process of adapting to through hiking.) These were also really easy to care for. They dried quickly if I got them wet and were easy to beat the dirt out of. Weight wise, they matched some of my wool hiking socks so I didn't mind having them in my pack. Finally, these socks do not guard against mosquito bites. I got quite a few through the sock material. I also wore these socks on an 18 mile mountain bike excursion and they made my legs feel great. I had the energy to go longer and I didn't feel too sore that evening or the next day and I think the socks were part of that. They even protected against scrapes against low bushes.

All in all, these were great socks and I would definitely recommend them for everyday around town or perhaps day hiking. When I do another longer backpacking trip, I will probably bring another pair with me because they are awesome but I would be more selective in the days I wear them.

Ranger Review: Renogy Portable Outdoor Water Filter at Ken’s Lake

Campground Review: I stayed one night at Ken’s Lake Campground South of Moab on a solo mountain biking/camping weekend. For some reason everyone decided to come to Moab that weekend so finding a campsite near water was quite difficult so I am glad that I was able to find one here. The campground is an easy 15-20 minute drive South of Moab off 191. The scenery is beautiful as you are sandwiched between two large cliffs and you can see the La Sals in the background. There are multiple loops to this campground so you may have a very different experience depending on where you stayed. I stayed at site 5 which is really open/exposed, very small, and no privacy between you and your neighbor (hence the lower rating). Plus I had some loud neighbors that stayed up quite late making the stay less than ideal. I am sure I would have enjoyed it more if I had a little more wind protection from the trees or privacy from my neighbors but overall the site worked for what I needed it to. It was really windy when I visited so keep that in mind—Moab gets some brutal winds that, once your tent is up, will put a fine layer of dust/sand over everything you own. Not a negative on the campground, but just a warning for those first time visitors. Other benefits of the campground—standard pit toilets and garbage service all for $15/night. Overall the scenery and proximity to Ken’s Lake to swim when it is hot make this a good option for camping in Moab.

Gear Review: Renogy Portable Outdoor Water Filter

As a ranger for the Dyrt, I get the opportunity to test out gear from our partners once in a while. I have had the privilege of testing out the Renogy Portable Outdoor Water Filter. General observations and opinion: this water filter is a great addition to my camping/outdoor arsenal. It was easy to assemble and use right out of the box and has an amazing filtration system (i.e. protects against viruses, bacteria, and pathogens) and it is compact for a hand pump system. I may not use this as my long distance backpacking filtration system just because it is a little big and heavy for that usage but it will definitely go on my shorter backpacking hikes (where I am not counting ounces) as well as my car/general camping outings. If you want an easy to use filter the Renogy Portable Outdoor Water Filter is a great option for the price.

Pros: 1) fairly compact in size and comes with a carrying satchel to keep all the parts together. 2) The tubes were two different lengths you can tell them apart and both were more than long enough to get the job done. 3) it comes with a back flow syringe for cleaning which is nice. 4) There is a pre-filter that helps with large particles then a weight and a foam bobber you can move up and down the tube to keep the input end in a good spot in the water. 5) It had good suction and flow—it filled my water bottles quite quickly once it found a good section of water from which to suck.

Cons: 1) It is a pump filter (as opposed to a gravity feed) so you have to stay there the whole time to filter the water (i.e. can’t really multi-task when filtering water) 2) I had the pre-filter on the input end clog a few times so using it in deeper water makes it more effective. Shallower water runs the risk of lots of clogging and slow pumping.

Ranger Review: Renogy Solar Backpack at Cowboy Camp near Moab, UT

Campground Review: I stayed at site 3 at the Cowboy camp North or Moab off 313 toward Dead Horse State Park. Overall, I really liked this campground. It is small (only 7 spots) and rustic which I appreciate. The access road is right off the highway but is not maintained so there are large rocks and not a spot for trailers. There is no water and the toilets are three sided pit toilets (no roof) which may not be for everyone. The camp host (and dumpster services) are located down the road at the Horsethief campground. It was really windy when I visited so be prepared for a fine dust over everything and to put out additional guy wires to stabilize your tent. It has the basic amenities: metal fire pit and picnic table. Despite the wind, the scenery was beautiful and you had privacy since the spots were not close to each other at all. You see your neighbors but weren’t in their business. Overall, I really enjoyed this campground and since I am mountain biking a lot more, it will be my go to spot for my biking weekends.

Pros:

*Small and intimate

*Close to Arches, Canyonlands, Dead Horse State Park, amazing mountain bike trail systems

*Scenery

Cons:

*In open range so watch out for cows. There was a nice old cow patty in my camp site area. Not a deal breaker but be aware of it.

*There was a large ant hill in my campsite but someone had put a ring of rocks around it so it was easy to spot.

*20-30 minutes from Moab. This is both good and bad depending on how frequently you need supplies in town.

Gear Review: Renogy Solar Backpack

As a Ranger for the Dyrt, I get the opportunity to test out gear from our partners once in a while. I have been testing out the Renogy Solar Backpack. My overall impressions of this backpack is it is awesome and it will turn into my car camping and computer/electronics backpack for everyday use. The straps are super comfortable, it has tons of pockets to store and organize your electronics stuff and the main pocket is huge to safely accommodate a laptop as well as lots of other stuff. I think the multiple pockets is a double edge sword. I love them but I also lose things in them/forget what pocket I put stuff in. The only pockets I wasn’t a huge fan of was the side zippered pockets meant for a water bottle or coffee mug. They were just a bit too short and loose for me to feel comfortable using them routinely without my mug falling out. But that is a totally minor thing that does not detract from the overall usage of the backpack.

Now the best part of the pack is the solar panel! The front has approximately a 9in x 11in solar panel with plug in cord that is amazing. You can have the panel facing out or if not in use you can flip it over and protect it. This adds a lot of zippers to the pack, which can be a minor inconvenience when you are trying to grab something quickly but overall it is just getting used to what zippers access what pockets or features. We have used this backpack in multiple locations, not just Cowboy Camp, and it has worked great every time. It will charge a small lipstick sized external battery (approximately one full cell phone charge) in just a few hours when the panel is in direct sun. We also hooked up other electronics like our GoPro or phone or headlamp directly to the power source and it charged in the same amount of time (approximately 2.5-3 hours). Obviously, full sun allows the panels to work better but it will work in cloudy conditions, just not as efficiently.

Overall impression: This backpack is a great addition to my pack arsenal. The solar panel will be a great addition to our normal camping gear and we will be able to utilize our electronics (like a GoPro or digital camera) more when we are camping for extended periods of time. Finally the pack itself is quite large (20L) and will be able to keep all our stuff organized and used as a computer/office bag when not camping.

First to Review
Ranger Review: Leatherman Signal Multi-tool at the Price Canyon Campground

Campground Review: Price Canyon Campground

I stayed at the Price Canyon campground on my way for a mountain biking weekend in Moab. This campground was at the top of Price Canyon but the access road was right off the highway. It is a single lane switchback road with the last quarter mile being easy dirt road so longer trailers may have a few challenges. It is a mixture of single and group sites all for the same price. There is a nature trail from the campsite (that is also accessible from the day use area) that takes you higher up the canyon. The hike was nice and I would recommend close toed shoes as the second half/ has a section that is pretty steep around large rocks/boulders, and loose dirt. I didn’t do the whole hike made it to the top of the ridge. There is also a picnic/overlook area not far from the campground that had great views of Price Canyon.

Pros:

  • This campground was $8. Which is the cheapest campground I found (unless it was free dispersed).
  • Tent sites were tucked back off the road and short walks from the parking spots which made them feel more private. You didn’t have to watch your neighbor the whole time. They are pretty standard with a metal fire ring and picnic table. My spot had a few options for tents but I used the larger (or more designated) one. There were sites for trailers/campers where the tables were closer to the parking spots.
  • Typical Forest Service pit toilets that were clean and stocked.

Overall it was very peaceful and I will definitely be staying here again.

Cons:

  • No water (or at least there was none when I visited). I visited in May and they hadn’t turned the pipes back on from being shut off for the winter freeze. So be prepared with your own water just in case.

*Lots of buzzing insects around. The bugs weren’t bad but you could hear the buzzing which was quite annoying.

  • Tent sites are down short trails and not the flattest so if you have mobility issues it could be a challenge (but there were handicapped designated sites available).

Gear Review: Leatherman Signal Multi-tool

As a ranger for the Dyrt, I get the opportunity to test out gear from our partners once in a while. I have had the privilege of testing out the Leatherman Signal Multi-tool. First off, this tool is the bomb! It has 19 different functions and will pretty much be the go-to tool for camping or outdoor adventure. It is quite large so not ideal for light weight backpacking but great for car camping or any activity where you are not super concerned about weight. For the most part, it lives in the glove compartment of my car so I will always have it for quick use.

Pros:

  • Super versatile tool. With 19 different functions/abilities the odds of you being able to complete your task with just this one tool is super high. It has all your basics: knife, saw, pliers, bottle opener and some not so basic: flit/Firestarter, sharpening file, whistle, screwdriver heads, hammer (as well as a boat load of other things)
  • The blades are really easy to access and also lock into place so you don’t have to destroy your fingertips getting the out or putting them away. I can flip out and in the knife with one hand.
  • It comes with a belt carry case. I probably won’t wear it on my belt but the case does protect it (and the other stuff) in my glove compartment from banging around too much.
  • It has become my go to tool for camping and general use because it lives in my car and is easily accessible.

Cons:

  • It is a multi-tool so it may not work for all situations. Sometimes it may be a little too big or awkward to use where a more specific tool is what is needed. It is good at a lot of things but not amazing at one or two.
  • It is a little bit and heavy so may not be the best backpacking tool but that is a very limited negative.

Summary: The Signal is one of the best multi-tools I have ever had and just having it with me whenever I am exploring outdoors makes me feel more secure in case something happens.

Ranger Review: Anahola Beach Campground and Ledlenser MH10 Headlamp

Campground Review: Anahola Beach

I stayed at Anahola Beach for my last night while in Kauai and I wish I could have stayed longer camping. First thing, this campground is part of a public beach which requires a permit for camping. The permits are really easy to get and are pretty cheap. Just go to the camping office for parks in Lihue and you can get it either in advance or day of. I do believe all camping on public land requires a permit. Anyway, the beach is great and has open camping. There are spots completely open as well as a section under trees. So pick a flat spot and you are good to go! Access to the beach is easy and relatively convenient (you are a 5-10 minute drive to a small store in case you forgot food or other basics) and does have some unpaved road but any car can handle it. The beach also has basic facilities (garbage bins, picnic tables, flushing toilets, rinse showers, water access) which make this an easy and convenient place to stay especially if you had to fly with your camping equipment.

My time at the campsite was great. People were very friendly and you are directly on the beach so sunrises and sunsets are beautiful. The only negatives I experienced were the sand flies/mite at dusk and dawn when we were out on the sand. They bit up our feet and ankles similar to mosquitoes. The good thing was they were completely gone when the sun was completely up or down but bug spray may have been helpful. The only other thing was one rooster was very noisy at sunrise. Kauai has a lot of wild chickens and they can be pretty loud and one really wanted to make his presence known. But that is what makes Kauai so special. Overall, it was a great end to a vacation and it was my first time really camping on the beach.

Gear Review: Ledlenser MH10 Headlamp

As a Dyrt Ranger, I get the opportunity to test out gear from our partners once in a while. I had the opportunity to test out the Ledlenser MH10 headlamp. I was able to use this headlamp on some night hikes in Oregon as well as travel with it to Hawaii. I have found that Ledlenser headlamps tend to fill very specific needs. This lamp is pretty big and heavy for a headlamp but it works really well for night hikes where you have a base camp or fixed destination in mind. This is not a backpacking lamp but rather a camping for multiple days or I am hiking and don't care about weight or size constraints.

Pros of the MH10: 1) It is quite bright and has three brightness settings. When I hiked I only used the low and medium settings so I wouldn't blind my husband. 2) It can zoom and go up and down which is pretty standard for all flashlights and headlamps now but the range is quite large for the MH10. 3) It comes with accessories! It came with a travel pouch that can thread onto your belt and fits everything (after some practice finding the best orientation) and it comes with two colored lens filters--red and green. This helps preserve your night vision. I used the green lens one way on an out and back hike and it was really neat to see the night with that perspective. We saw a deer and owl and they didn't seem scared of us or the colored light. It was less impactful on them. 4) It is rechargable. Just remember to charge it before you go on your adventures (or bring a cord and charging pack).

Cons of the MH10: 1) It is quite large and heavy for a headlamp. The strap is comfortable and can fit a variety of head sizes but it is big.

Overall, this is a great product as long as you have realistic expectations about what it can be used for (as with any and all outdoor equipment). I am looking forward to using it more when I can go on longer camping trips this spring and summer as well as more night hiking.

Ranger Review: Trapper Creek Campground and Ledlenser MH6 Headlamp

Campsite Review: Trapper Creek

Trapper Creek is the campground right down the road from Shelter Cove Resort along Odell Lake. Shelter Cove was a resupply stop for my husband and I on our PCT adventure and our friend met us with our box and we all camped together. We accessed everything via foot but getting there via car is fairly easy. The campground is a standard campground with picnic tables, fire pit, pit toilets (some of the cleanest and best smelling pit toilets I have ever used), garbage facilities, and designated spots for either tents with car parking or campers. But because it is close to the Shelter Cove Resort, you have the ability to use some of their amenities. These include paid (coin operated) showers and laundry, a restaurant, general store, and lake access. The restaurant was good and prices were reasonable. The general store has a variety of stuff for both campers and hikers.

Besides for the super cleanliness and cinnamon smell of the pit toilets, there is nothing extraordinary about the campground. It is a standard national forest campground with a one-way road to access the various spots. The spaces are pretty large—we easily fit two 3-person tents in one space and probably could have fit another. The only thing that I didn’t really like is my tent location was right next to our neighbor. There was a large fallen tree log separating but we could easily see into each other’s sites. Our friend set her tent up on the other side of the spot and was surrounded by trees. The other bummer part was not the camp site but rather the timing. Being there is July meant lots of mosquitoes. We were able to make a smoke fire to help but the smoke went right to our neighbors which I am not sure they appreciated or not.

Quick summary: Trapper Creek is a great option if you don’t want to pay the higher price of the camping at Shelter Cove but still have the benefits of a lake side resort. The sites are pretty standard for national forest campgrounds and the pit toilets are super clean. If you want to stay near Odell Lake this is a great option.

Gear Review: Ledlenser MH6 Headlamp

As a Ranger of The Dyrt, I am given the opportunity to try out gear. And for my month long trip along the Oregon section of the PCT, I was given the privilege of testing out the Ledlenser MH6 Headlamp. While this gear review is attached to a campsite I stayed at a little over halfway through my trip, this gear review is for my month long experience with the product (so some of the pictures may be before or after my stay at Trapper Creek).

The MH6 headlamp is a rechargeable LED headlamp. It has three settings—high, low, and pulsating and comes with its own recharging cord. I really wanted to use this headlamp so much more than I did. But because we were hiking all month, 15-20+ miles per day in July, we were usually in bed (and hopefully asleep) before the sun went down and awake when the sun came up. That being said, when we did use the headlamp it was primarily when we were reading or journaling in the tent or when we were hanging around campgrounds on our rest days.

First observations: This headlamp is bright! The high setting is awesome for walking along trails or getting back to your campsite. And the low setting is perfect for inside a small space (like your tent) without blinding your tent mate. It also has a couple of adjustment options. You can adjust the zoom of the beam to be focused or wide you can also adjust the direction of the beam up and down. Therefore, when you are lying in bed, you can find your comfortable position then adjust your light angle as needed. When you are walking you can also walk with your head up while having the beam point more down to the ground and not blind on-coming people. The light is not tiny but it isn’t huge either. Same goes for weight. It is not and ultralight lamp (it is just under a half pound) but it is not super heavy that you won’t want to bring it backpacking. Plus it is rechargeable so you don’t have to worry about bringing extra batteries just for the lamp, you can use your external battery pack to recharge as needed. It works well for the luxury lightweight backpacker. One final note about the recharging: it comes with its own cord (micro HDMI to USB) so you need to be sure to bring something that can source the charge. This can be an external battery pack (almost a necessity for backpackers these days) or a USB adapter for your car. We only had to recharge our lamp once the whole month and I didn’t leave with it fully charged so it has a decent battery life if it is not used all the time.

The strap is a single, around the head (as opposed to having an additional strap that goes front to back) that is easily adjustable. The strap is quite comfortable. The only things that I wasn’t a huge fan of were that the light itself was a little big for my forehead. It fit my husband quite well, though. Also I would have liked a small carry case or stuff stack that I could keep the cord and lamp together and offer it a little protection while it is being stuffed in and out of my pack. I ended up using a small sack I already had but if the company provided one that would be cooler plus it would have the company name/logo present somewhere else. The last thing is that the recharge plug is directly into the battery. So, you need to open the back case to charge it. I didn't find it good or bad, it was just something different.

Overall, I thought this was a great headlamp that will work for all our camping and backpacking needs for years to come.

Ranger Review: Elk Lake Resort Campground and Trail Supply Co.

Campground Review: Elk Lake Resort was one of our resupply stops on our Oregon PCT journey. It also turned into an unplanned rest day. The resort is awesome. The restaurant is a bit on the pricey side but the food is good. They also have super yummy ice cream. For facilities, they have showers available for $5 (primarily hikers are most interested in these) and the shower is very nice. The bathroom itself was in need of a good clean, but it had hot water, solid pressure, and no time limit. There is a lot of day use areas that are a short walk from the campground (5 minutes or so).

When we were there, we got one of the hiker campsites. It was inexpensive and not great compared to the other camping options available. The campsite has larger, more equipped spots and cabins available. The hiker sites are narrow and basically fill in the gaps for the larger sites. They don’t have fire pits or picnic tables and the tent sites are close to the road. However, you can fit two smaller tents in one spot, which was great when my friend joined us and took some of our not needed equipment home and brought us the supply box for the stop that we were going to skip. Overall, I would love to return to Elk Lake and get a different site because the lake and surrounding area are amazing and enjoyable.

Gear Review: Trail Supply Co.

As a Dyrt Ranger, I get the opportunity to test and review gear. This review is a little different as it is not for gear per say but rather a service. I was honored to try out the hiker resupply services of Trail Supply Co. Just like the name implies, Trail Supply Co. helps hikers with planning and executing their resupply needs on major trails (think AT, PCT, CDT, John Muir Trail). Before the trip, I created an account and selected what I wanted in my box. Because this was a gear test, I was given an allocation and it supplied a box and a half. The first box, was shipped to us at Elk Lake and the second was sent to Timberline Lodge. The online catalog that Trail Supply Co. has is huge and if there are specific things you would like they can either get it for you or you can send it to them and they will get it in your box. This was definitely a benefit as we needed to include dog food in our shipments.

We were so excited for our box at Elk Lake. Not only because we got to test the service and we were getting a whole bunch of yummy food (majority of which we forgot what is was so opening the box was like Christmas) but mostly because that food box meant we weren’t going to have to do dishes for the next week as most of the food was freeze dried backpacker food or no-cook snacks and bars. My husband and I did a lot of our own food production so we were excited for something totally different.

As I mentioned, the online catalog is huge and covers most everything you would need while on an extended hike: food product (any type you can imagine), first aid, personal toiletries, socks, etc. The food options are amazing and cover almost any dietary need or cooking option. The only downside to getting all this designated backpacking food, is the amount of waste you create and have to pack out. While it does get smaller once you eat the food, the number of packages we had made our garbage bag much bigger than it had been. Since we were demo-ing the service, we tried a little bit of everything and grabbed products from the following companies:

Mountain House: They are freeze-dried meals that were, for the most part, really good. We got the pro-packs which really only means they vacuum seal so you don’t have any extra air which takes up pack space. The pro-packs are also slightly smaller servings (2 servings vs. 2.5). Because my husband and I were burning through the calories, one package was a meal for only one person. The meals are tasty and fairly safe for most palates. We ate primarily dinners and a lot of the Raspberry Crumble dessert (so good!).

Alpine Aire: We only got a couple of their options and they were just okay. We really liked the apple crisp dessert, especially for breakfast with added oatmeal packets.

Backpacker’s Pantry: Jeremy and I really enjoyed this companies meals. They are not vacuum packed but either were really flat packages and folded easily to take up less space. The servings were very generous and we could have gotten away with one package for the both of us then a smaller option for subsequent calories. This company is definitely more adventurous with its food and does not skimp on seasoning or spice. We tried one of the curries (a vegan meal) and it had a good kick of heat. We liked the spice in other meals, but it may not be for everyone.

Outdoor Herbivore: This company provides only vegetarian or vegan options and was really good. We wish we got more instant hummus and it was filling and very tasty. What we liked best is the packaging. It was small and just big enough for what you needed. They also ran out of one of the things we requested so they gave us a similar substitute and a bonus snack. Which was very nice of them as we would have been fine either way. This company is great for dietary needs and provides a lot of both cook and no-cook options for food.

Picky Bars and Pro Bar were our selections for bars or meal substitutes.

Overall, this was an amazing service that needs to be considered for any long distance backpacker that needs resupply. Trail Supply Co. not only buys and ships all the food you select for your boxes to the spots you designate but they can also help you plan your resupply strategy and make changes as needed. My husband had already hiked the AT so he was familiar with resupplies and made our plan, but even that got changed due to changes is pace. Trail Supply Co. allows for easy changes which is great. I will definitely look to use the service on our next long backpacking trip!

Ranger Review: Klum Landing and Gregory Maven Backpack

Campground Review: This was an unexpected overnight stay on our month-long backpacking trip and it was well worth it. My husband, dog, and I accessed the camp ground by foot so I cannot attest to how easily accessible it is by car but there were lots of paved roads around the campground. The campground is located on Howard Prairie Lake which is beautiful and provides a great backdrop. The campground is pretty spread out which allows for a lot of variety in campsite experiences. We stayed in the center area which had really open campsites (not a lot of trees) so you could see your neighbor very easily. The sites are standard: fire pit, picnic table. There is also water spigots strategically placed throughout for drinking and an area for grey water disposal. One big highlight of this campground is the bathroom facilities. The showers are free (a huge benefit for hikers) and are all around great—space to change, strong pressure, and unlimited hot water. The bathroom side is very clean and gives a great experience.

The only negatives I have are the open-ness of some of the spots—you don’t have the camping in the woods feeling. It is also a bit pricey per night (think $20 minimum for tent spots). You cannot reserve spots so getting there early is key. When we arrived, however, it wasn’t and didn’t get overly crowded. Summary: Great campsite that is a bit expensive but great for a car camping weekend on a lake!

Gear Review: Gregory Maven 55 Backpack

As a Ranger of the Dyrt, I am given the great opportunity to test the Gregory Maven 55 on my month long backpacking trip along the Oregon section of the PCT. While I stayed at Klum’s Landing in the first week of my trip, this review is for my entire experience on the trail. I am also throwing in a couple of notes about my husband’s pack, the Gregory Paragon 58. This pack is the male equivalent of the Maven so it has all of the same features and is slightly bigger and cut for a male body. I also want to note that packs are very personal pieces of equipment and selecting one ultimately comes down to how comfortable it is for you and does it meet your needs. Take the time to explore and try on as many packs as you can to make sure you are selecting the best one for you. With that being said, Gregory has a very long history of creating fantastic packs and definitely take a look at all the options they have.

First of all, I really liked this pack and didn’t think that I needed the amount of versatility this pack provided. The Maven is lightweight but provides a good balance of structure and comfort not really seen in other designated lightweight backs. Even though this pack is not the lightest lightweight pack on the market, it makes up for it in comfort and stability. It does provide a lot of lumbar support which added some of the weight and took a little getting used to but once I got it adjusted and fit to me it was great. The Maven is a half-pound lighter than my original pack with everything on it, but Gregory paid attention to details and I was able to cut pack weight by taking off unneeded items without sacrificing the performance of the pack.

Gregory really paid attention to details and the little things in the pack. Besides having the standard big three adjustments (hip belt, top load lifter, and shoulder straps) you could micro adjust your hip belt forward and back as well your back/torso length up and down. This pack is sized by a range (small/medium or large/extra-large) so you can really take the time to find your sweet spot. There was a few days on the trail that the pack and I just couldn’t get in sync no matter what I did. This could be because my body had changed enough that I essentially had to refit the pack. Once I did that, everything fell into place and the Maven was essentially an extension of my body again. There are pockets on the hip belt—one mesh and one solid for easy snack or other item access and it comes with a rain fly in flattened front zip pocket. I never took my rainfly out and used the pocket to hold my valuable items (cash, ID, cards, etc.) as well as my compass. My husband, other the other hand, used his rain fly as a pouch to hold his water bladder as well as a small ground cloth for his other gear when he had to unload his pack. Another little feature was an elastic sunglasses holder on the shoulder strap. This also worked well to hold my dog’s ultralight water bowl. Again, something very little but very useful and it shows that Gregory thought a lot about functionality vs. features and ensured that these two ideas matched up.

Other benefits of the pack or features that I enjoyed: The outside mesh pockets really stretch! It has two side pouches and one front that fit so much stuff it was crazy. It does have two openings: the top drawstring and a zippered bottom which makes accessing your gear much easier. Finally, as I noted earlier, you are able to cut pack weight without sacrificing performance or functionality. Specifically, you can remove the top and any unneeded straps as any potentially unneeded straps are not sewn in rather they are looped through. And while this may seem silly, when it comes to cutting weight, ounces can really add up quickly. Cutting weight was a huge challenge and learning experience for me throughout the trip. I started the trip out at 42 pounds with 3.5 liters of water and full food for 4 days and ended at close to 35 with almost 5 liters of water and food for 4 days. I wouldn’t recommend putting more than 45 pounds in this pack. While the pack may be able to take it, you will not like it. Funny aside: one group of through hikers saw us on our first day then again a week later and asked if we changed packs. We said nope, we just cut both gear and pack weight. This just shows how versatile the pack can be based on your preferences and needs. The final benefit I want to note is that the water bladder pocket is actually a removable backpack. This is a feature that may seem silly but I loved the fact that I could drop my pack and pull out the backpack and use it to take all the water bottles down to a stream to refill. I could also do bonus miles without lugging my whole pack with me. My husband dropped his pouch (hence why he used the rainfly). Since we only needed one, it worked out really well.

While I really liked this pack, there were a few things that I wasn’t too crazy about. The first is that it doesn’t free stand very well, especially if you have any gear in the front mesh pocket. We took the tops off so it didn’t have that counter balance to the pack which may be part of the reason. But in any case, the constant need to hold your pack up (or propping it on a tree) while packing or having it tip over and spill out your gear was a bit annoying at times. It also has an opening for on-the-go water bottle access. That feature just didn't work for me. Either I wasn't flexible enough or you couldn't have other things in the pocket. In any case, I needed a second person to get water bottle in and out of my side mesh pockets. I also managed to tear a few seams over the course of the month. They did not really affect the performance of the pack (even if one tear was right where my shoulder strap met my back) but I was bummed that I tore them. My husband also noticed that two adjustment points are not sewn evenly so his pack never was completely balanced. We also got holes in the side mesh pockets from getting caught on trees or branches. While this type of wear is expected, we thought it would take a little more wear before we got holes. I called Gregory and customer service told me to send it into warranty for evaluation. The customer service lady was super friendly and I will be getting that in as soon as I get it clean. I really like that Gregory will stand by their packs and let us know what is normal wear or what is due to a manufacturing defect.

Overall, I couldn’t have asked for a better pack to take on my month long trip. For you ladies reading this, I have long legs, short torso and a large chest and I was able to comfortably fit this pack. They seemed to have designed it with a women’s physique in mind. I only got a couple of rub areas on my hips and under my arms but that is standard when you are breaking in a new pack and they didn’t hurt. They just looked worse than they actually were. This pack was provided a great balance of weight, features, and comfortable suspension. As I said, it is not the lightest pack on the market, but when you are looking for more of a luxury lightweight pack, the Maven (or Paragon if you are a guy) should definitely be on your list to look at and try on.

Beautiful Crater Lake--Must Stop for PCT Hikers

Besides being the only National Park in the state of Oregon, Crater Lake is an amazing stop along the PCT. On our month long trek across Oregon, my husband, dog, and I made sure that we spent at least one day here. The best part was that we had friends join us for a great time. There are a variety of camping options available including paid, reserved site camping for tents, trailers, or RVs, private cabins, as well as a separate area for hikers and bikers (bicyclists) who do not have a motor vehicle. It definitely fills up quickly in the summertime so be sure to reserve early as you may not have any luck with day-of walkups. The campground is about 2 miles from the PCT intersection so you can either walk along the road or try your luck at hitchhiking in.

The campground is located right inside the park and has a nice base area. There is a formal restaurant with gift shop in one building then about 100 yards away is a second building with a general store, showers/bathrooms/laundry, and camping check-in. The second building is where hikers pick up their resupply packages so there are always a bunch of them hanging around outside. The general store has pretty much everything you may need and there is a free water refill station right outside so be sure to bring fill up containers as I don't believe they sell individual bottles of water. This is also where you can catch a trolley up to the crater.

The actual camp sites are divided into numbered loops and when you reserve you don't reserve individual spots. You get your spot once you check in (and the person who actually make the reservation is the only person who can check in) so it is a mix of first come, first served and reserved camping. In any case, my friend got a great spot that was near a bath house (flushing toilets but the showers were locked). Since it is a big campground, it would take about 5 minutes to walk from our site to the general store (near the only spot for wi-fi which is paid only).

Our site was tent only and allowed for two cars. You could easily fit 2 (if not one more) tents in the spot. It was well equipped with a table, fire pit, and bear box all in good condition. There were a lot of trees which allowed for hammocks and provided some privacy between the spots. The mosquitoes weren't horrible but they were definitely a nuisance, especially at dawn and dusk, so be sure to bring your deet or other bug repellent if staying in July or early season.

Overall, the camp ground is definitely worth the cost and it gives you great access to one of Oregon's gems.

Cascade Locks--Great for backpackers

My husband, dog and I stayed at the Cascade Locks Marina Park campground on the last night of our month long backpacking trip. We accessed it on foot, but it is right in the middle of the town of Cascade Locks so getting there by car is super easy. They have hook ups and are very vehicle friendly. If you don't have a vehicle, you can set your tent up anywhere on the grass. This makes for a very soft camp site for tent campers.

What I liked about it:

1) The camp host was super friendly and the whole are was very hiker friendly in general. It is also quite affordable (less than $5 I think per night).

2) You can set your tent up on grass which is nice and soft. In the summer there are a lot of through hikers so it is a great community feeling.

3) It is right along the Columbia River so you can hear the water and it is a pretty setting for being right in the middle of town.

4) Showers (free) and flushing toilets. The showers are quite high pressure and don't have a separate area to change so whatever you bring in the shower room with you it may get wet. They are single shower head rooms.

What is was less then excited about:

1) It is right along the train tracks so you can hear the trains coming through as early as 6 am. Since I had been getting up with the sun for the past month it wasn't a big deal but it may not be pleasant for other people.

2) There is no privacy. Tents are in an open field and the pull in spots are right next to each other almost like a parking lot.

3) No fire pits or individual picnic tables for tent campers. There are a few tables but they are communal. Not usually a big deal for me, but this may be a concern for others.

Summary: For PCT backpackers this is a great spot to camp while you are in Cascade Locks for resupply or rest. It is close to the main road and the grass is soft to sleep on. Plus there are always other through hikers to chat with. As for a car camper, this would not be my spot of choice unless it was late and I am just passing through.

Summit Lake--Primitive but Beautiful

My husband, dog, and I stayed at Summit Lake campground on night 15 of our month long backpacking trip so we accessed it by foot. We did walk along the road to get to it and it was a dirt, forest road. Would definitely recommend using a higher clearance vehicle to get there. In any case, this is a great, secluded, super primitive campground provided by the forest service.

What I liked about the campground:

1) Location was absolutely amazing! The lake was so pretty and it had lots of little islands you could paddle out to and explore. There was even a lady camping on one of the islands as she left her truck at the campground. It is really secluded and only had two to three designated spots.

2) It is free! Who doesn't like free?!? And it has a pit toilet which is always a plus when you are backpacking.

3) It has all the basic amenities you need for a primitive spot--table, fire pit, flat ground for your tent (although the ground was pretty hard and there were a fair amount of rocks). With it being primitive, you need to be sure to bring everything with you including firewood and water (unless you have a water filter).

What I wasn't so keen about:

1) We stayed there in mid-July so the mosquitoes were horrible!! They were waiting outside our tent by 6 am. So I am not holding them against the location, but when you visit be aware of timing. Earlier in the summer near a water source usually means lots of mosquitoes.

2) The toilet was closed! I am not sure if this was just a random closure or what but I was really bummed when I went to use a real toilet and wasn't able to.

Summary: If you want a primitive spot in a beautiful and isolated location this is the spot!

Mt. Ashland Campground

I stayed at Mt. Ashland Campground on the second night of my month long backpacking adventure along the Oregon section of the PCT. Therefore, I accessed it completely on foot and didn't have lots of amenities with me. That being said, this was a decent Forest Service campground. Let me start off with the the positives. 1) It is free! You can stay in Forest Service run campgrounds for up to 14 days within a 30 day period which is awesome. 2) Easy access via car. You can drive right up to the spots and there is at least one parking spot per site. 3) The views are amazing of Shasta. We had a beautiful sunset and clear skies so Shasta was glorious. 4) It has all your basic amenities for a campground: pit toilets, picnic tables, fire pits (some are normal pits and some are cooking pits). Now the negatives: 1) It is free so you can get an interesting group of people staying there and there is no reservation system. So, if you get there late you could possibly be SOL for a spot. 2) There is no water. Remember to bring your own or you can walk to the bottom of the road and filter in a slow seasonal stream. Related to this, there is no camp host so you need to provide any wood for fires. 3) The pit toilets were not really maintained. They were there which is great but not very clean or supplied.

All that being said, it was a great site that I would visit again if I was car camping. The views were great and the spots were spaced out enough that you didn't feel right on top of your neighbor. The spots were relatively small, however. One perhaps two tents max. It also lends itself to some great sections of the PCT and other hiking trails.

Hike in Camp in the Rain

My husband and I have stayed here twice and both times it has rained. Which is fine but we find it very humorous (and actually really enjoy camping in the rain). The hike in is pretty easy--about a quarter mile down the up. They have carts to help you get all your stuff to your spot in one trip which is very helpful. When we visited, there were at most 2-3 other groups in the area so we were very spread out and had lots of privacy. The atmosphere is very green and lush. Outhouses are present but no showers and fire pits are communal and conveniently placed between the site subgroups. Because you are in a state park you have easy parking, access to a disc golf course, a paved bike trail (Banks-Vernonia Trail) and lots of hiking/mountain biking trails. We plan to return to explore more of the mountain bike trails.