My Impressions: Deuter Airlite 22

Anyone who has read this blog with any regularity has heard me wax poetic about my appreciation for my first pack, the Osprey Kestrel 28. It has been a terrific daypack and weighted practice hike bag for loads around twenty pounds, and has served me faithfully since I stole it on sale for less than sixty bucks.

Then came a day hike up Sharp Top, and my lament that it was waaaay too much bag for pedestrian trips like that one. To be fair, I had sometimes felt it was overkill on my half-day AT hikes, too. So I started searching for a lighter, more “realistic” day pack. A guy at my local outfitter to whom I refer as The Deuter Guy for his love of all things Deuter turned me on to the Airlite 22. It ticked off all the boxes I had for a replacement pack: Light, good suspension, full hip belt with pockets, 18-22 liters, spot for hydration bladder if I opted for one. A raincover and/or trekking pole stowing attachments would be nice, but not mandatory (it has both). And priced around $100. It was a bit higher, but close enough to fit the budget. So I handed over my credit card and I was out the door.

The next day I drove down to Daleville for a quick shakeout on the AT:

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TL;DR version? I loved it. A very light but seemingly well-built pack. Invisible carry with nine pounds on board. The Aircomfort suspension keeps the body of the pack away from your back and, in my experience, does two things: It helps with sweat buildup, as advertised, and it also seems to aid in keeping the weight on my hips, where it belongs. As the comfort of every pack is unique to a user’s experience, YMMV. But it definitely worked for me. Here’s a lousy photo of an excellent setup:

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Note the gap between the bag and the back system. That is, if you’ll pardon the overused expression, the secret sauce.

Bonus points for my Google Pixel fitting in one of the hip belt pockets AND being easy to retrieve whenever I wanted to snap one of the pics that appeared in last week’s (and this week’s) post. And double bonus points for the mesh side pockets passing the bottle-fall-out test with my favorite CamelBak Podium 24oz. bottles (see above photo). I filled them with water, slid them in and bent all the way over, dancing like an idiot at the same time. They stayed put. Whether or not the mesh will stretch over time and they’ll slip out remains to be seen. But for now, I’m very happy with the pockets. I also found it relatively easy to grab a bottle and replace it while on the move, but I did hundreds, nay thousands of remove/replace with bottles while a marathon runner wearing a hydration belt, so I know by heart the contortions to make it happen easily. Some struggle with that, however, so again, YMMV.

Plenty of room inside the pack and in the front pocket to carry the ten essentials, extra layers, lunch, snacks, etc. Everything you could possibly want/need for a day hike. And there’s a dedicated hydration bladder pocket too, if I decide to add one later on.

I’m so impressed with this pack that I’m considering selling off my beloved Kestrel 28. In addition, I’m giving serious consideration to the Deuter Futura Vario Pro 50+10 (it features the same Aircomfort suspension system) when I FINALLY buy my “expedition” pack.

Five stars, Deuter. And five stars for the recommendation, Deuter Guy…

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Daleville, Revisited

Last week I remarked how a quick hike up Sharp Top had ignited the fire in me to get out into more of the Virginia woods. Well, true to my word, I found myself on Tuesday revisiting the Appalachian Trial by way of Daleville in a longer repeat of the quick out-and-back I did a few days before Christmas last year. It looked a bit different this time around:

And this quick six mile out-and-back (my hiking partner had an important meeting later in the day, so we kept it short) also served as the shakeout cruise for my new Deuter Airlite 22 daypack. More on that in next week’s post.

I was impressed during my last trip southbound out of Daleville with the comparative ease of the terrain in relation to that of my home state, Maine. And doubling the mileage this trip didn’t change my impressions. I’m sure that not all of Virginia will treat me as kindly, but the first three miles out featured a handful of switchbacks and very hiker-friendly terrain during the roughly thirteen hundred feet of elevation gained. Once we peaked a little less than three miles out, we stopped to take a few money shots:

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And spoiled the landscape with a few self-involved shots too:

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It was a truly nice morning, a bit humid with temps in the mid-70s at the start. We took it easy, enjoying the surprising amount of solitude on a stretch of the AT that, during peak thru-hiking times and on the weekends, is a heavily traveled section of the trail in Virginia. We ran into a father/daughter duo from Michigan on our way back that was hiking from Daleville to Dragon’s Tooth, a 57 mile out-and-back hike they hoped to conquer by the weekend. Other than that, we had the trees and track to ourselves.

Passing the sign announcing the distance to Tinker Cliffs got us chatting about our plan to do an overnight there and back over Thanksgiving weekend:

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But there are a lot of trails and weeks between now and then, so here’s to spending more (hopefully longer!) days like this one in the woods…

Sharp Top Hike, Round One

Well, I finally made it out into the woods of Virginia after five weeks of running on concrete and asphalt and itching to put on a pack. Ironically, the mountain I hiked teased me for those five weeks as I could see it from practically every place I went around the Lynchburg area. As I posted last week, the destination was Sharp Top Mountain, a nice little trek that ends in terrific views.

The start looked pretty pedestrian, if you’ll excuse the pun:

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It quickly turned into a decent workout once we were in the woods a few hundred yards, and the rock and step-studded trail began to take on elevation. Sadly, in a first for me, I was so totally engrossed in the hike and in breathing the fresh air that I neglected to take a single picture of the actual trail! Hence my labeling this trip “Round One”. I’m anxious to go back in the fall and check out the foliage from 3875 feet, as well as take a few shots of the trail itself.

Anyway, I found the jaunt up the 1.5 mile trail with its 1243-foot elevation gain to be a nice workout. We went on Saturday morning, so it was a bit too crowded for my isolationist tastes, but people were friendly and seemed to be enjoying the camaraderie inherent in conquering an objective with random strangers.

The views were perfect. I especially enjoyed the clouds, which added some drama and mood to my casual phone shots:

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And my daughter, she of the Snapchat ilk, begged for a photo of her, my son-in-law and intrepid canine explorer Sadie next to the sign:

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One hiking site lamented the lack of wildlife seen on the trail, but we had just started back down when, about a hundred feet below the summit, we happened upon this hungry buck enjoying some foliage:

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Sadie gave him a quick look then totally lost interest, as did another dog just below us on the switchback. The deer peeked at the group of ten or so of us for several minutes while he ate, before slipping off among the trees. Such grace in movement!

In my previous post, I debated whether or not to carry my Kestrel 28. Well, I did, but even cinched down it was pretty serious overkill for this hike. So much so that it has me thinking about getting a smaller capacity hydration/daypack for these half day or shorter hikes, even the 6-8 mile quickies I do on the Appalachian Trail when I need to escape the concrete jungle.

And here’s my take on the difficulty, a topic that has gotten some discussion online: While it’s not a very technical hike, I would rate it as moderate overall due to the elevation gain over the distance, terrain and occasional steep sections. But I saw people from age five to sixty-five making the climb, so I feel it could be mastered by anyone in decent physical health who isn’t allergic to the notion of stopping to catch their breath.

It was perfect weather, good cardio exercise and amazing views. A nice three-mile introduction to the mountains of Virginia. And more importantly, it lit the fire under me to drive over to Daleville in the (very!) near future and get myself back on the AT…