Hardening the Jello

“Legs of steel, abs of jello” is how I refer to myself when anyone asks what kind of physical condition I’m in. It makes a certain amount of smart-alecky sense. As a former marathoner and current trail/distance runner who shuns pretty much any kind of cross-training, that’s a pretty accurate description of my general fitness state. I joke about it because, as a non-competitive runner, I can.

But I found out recently that my silly little throwaway line (and all it entails) is a problem for “aspiring backpacker” me. I took my new Kestrel 28, put a meager eleven pounds in it, and tossed it on my back for an excursion around the house while I did a few chores. It fit great, and felt great. At first, anyway. After a couple of trips upstairs and twenty minutes of bouncing around the smooth, groomed trails of the living room and kitchen, I came to realize how weak my upper body really is. Backpacking requires more of a full-body tone. And I don’t currently have it. Even more intimidating was the fact that, including the pack, I was schlepping around less than fourteen pounds. I’ve estimated my proposed pack-out weight for overnight-plus excursions will be in the neighborhood of thirty pounds. And here I was, struggling to comfortably carry less than half of that for twenty minutes.

So it’s time to bring a little stiffness to the jello, and everything else north of my hips. That means one of two things: Core training, to include fun stuff like planks, dumbbell lifts and crunches. Or option two, just pack up the Osprey, strap it on and hike locally until the throbbing aches and pains go away and my runner’s body morphs into that of a low-grade pack mule.

I’m leaning heavily towards option number two…




For That Price, I Couldn’t Say No

A few weeks back, I blathered on about finally picking out the pack I was going to buy. And in choosing said pack (Osprey Kestrel 48), I convinced myself that I could use it as an occasional daypack too, if the need arose. I made up my mind that I didn’t need a separate pack for quick hikes; a simple cinching of compression straps would do the trick, ignoring the fact that it would be pretty ridiculous to attempt to strap down a lunch, rain jacket, camera and a few odds and ends into a pack designed to let me hide in the woods for several days.

Then I received an email from online shopping monolith Amazon. And they had last year’s Kestrel 28 on sale. For $88ish. And I happened to have a $38 balance remaining on a gift card I got for Christmas. With the sale price and my gift card balance, I could grab this smaller unit, shipped for free, for $50 and change. A technical daypack that lists for $140 for a mere fifty bucks.

Like I said, I couldn’t say no, even though I had convinced myself that I didn’t really need a daypack. So I grabbed one.


And now that I have this gem, I can plainly see that trying to use a multi-day pack as a day pack would have been pretty silly. It also, no doubt, would have made me the target of some behind-the-hand snickering as I wound my way through the woods on the AT (or any other trail, for that matter) with my sadly underfed Kestrel 48. In fact, I will be hard-pressed to fill even this little pack to capacity for a day hike, and will need to cinch it down to keep my typical meager load in place.

So I’m grateful for impossible-to-pass-up sales. I learned another valuable lesson in my ongoing quest to become a backpacker. And saved myself some hassle and embarrassment to boot…

A Well and Wealth of Information…

…can be found here, on Philip Werner’s site SectionHiker.com. As a newbie backpacker/hiker, I have so appreciated having access to a remarkably complete resource such as this. I have spent hours reading Philip’s reviews and commentary, as well as the insights of other experienced hikers contained in the “Comments” section of each post. If, like me, you’re trying to find your footing (pun intended) in this particular world, SectionHiker.com is a great place to start. The site is laid out well, categorized for quick searches and features interesting perspectives on everything (and I do mean everything) related to four season hiking/backpacking.

There’s some great info for the seasoned backpacker/hiker as well. If you’ve never heard of it, check it out!

(Though we both live in New England, I’ve never met the guy. This is a completely unsolicited but enthusiastic recommendation)