Oh For April

Translation? No hikes in April. And that’s so wrong, for a few reasons:

  1. My two favorite hiking months for this new climate in which I now live are April and October. To have zero hikes this past month surprises me, which leads to the following point;
  2. While living in Maine, getting out on the majority of trails (especially the AT) in April was nigh impossible, unless you favor snowshoes, which I do not;
  3. One of my goals this year is…uh, was to hike at least once each month. So long, goal;
  4. And finally, I bought a new multi-day backpack that’s just CRYING out for a weighted practice hike, especially given my concerns about the stiffness of the lower lumbar pad on the thing.

Looking back over previous months, I’ve discovered a disturbing trend: Most of my once-a-month hikes fall in the last week of the month. That’s surely part of the problem. Waiting until the end of the month gives life and its many responsibilities (and irresponsibilities, truth be told) a chance to eat up my in-the-trees time.

So for May, another promise: I will NOT wait until the last week of the month to hike!


Granite Gear Lutsen 55 – First Impressions

That multi-day pack I finally broke down and ordered arrived, and I couldn’t wait to unbox it and toss some of my stuff into it for a quick trek around the living room:


These are my rookie backpacker, still-haven’t-taken-it-out-into-the-woods impressions of this pack…

  1. Fit: With both an adjustable torso length AND a rare adjustable hip belt, I was able to dial in a flawless fit, with one additional bonus: I could make the hip belt size a bit larger than my actual waist size, which pushed the pockets forward to a more reachable position. Sweet! Seriously, if you can’t fiddle your way to a perfect fit with this pack, you’re not trying hard enough.
  2. Flexibility: There’s lots to love here. The top lid floats, has zippered storage, and is removable. The lower side compression straps have the ability to run UNDER the side pockets, a big deal for those who, like me, prefer not to battle those straps when trying to replace a water bottle into a side pocket while on the move. I’m not sure why every pack isn’t built this way. Of course, to those who use a bladder, that’s not a biggie. But to bottle carriers, it’s a very nice feature. And speaking of those pockets, they swallow a 1L Smartwater bottle, which helps with keeping them from slipping out. There’s a cavernous front pocket for wet gear/stuff to be accessed quickly, and two decently sized hip belt pockets for the on-the-go stuff (my Google Pixel with case slides around in one, so a plus-sized phone should fit. YMMV). There are also a sufficient number of lashing spots on the pack, for those who like to hang gear all over their bag.
  3. Filling: The Lutsen 55 is one giant, open cave. I tossed my tent, sleeping bag and self-inflating pad into it without concern for efficient packing, and I still had room in this roll-top to add enough extra gear for a weekend hike. A more effective packing job, and I could go for a week with ease living out of this thing. And I have a reputation for being an effective and efficient packer, so…
  4. Feel: This is the only semi-rub, no pun intended. With nothing inside, the combination of the incredibly stiff frame sheet and solid lumbar pad was a bit harder than I’m used to. Adding a dozen pounds to the pack mitigated it somewhat, and I could see where a heavier load might improve it…or make it feel harder. Of course, a bit of break-in might soften the system a bit too. The only way to know is to pack it up with a decent load of 20-25 pounds and take in out on the AT for 5 or 6 miles. I’m planning to do so next week. Having said that, the load transfer to my hips was perfect; the pack did “sit” correctly on my frame.

Overall, I’m very pleased with the look, fit and function of the pack, especially when factoring in the price I paid. I’m looking forward to taking it for a cruise out of Big Island next week to try it in real world conditions!


I Finally Did It!

I actually ordered a multi-day backpack! Regular readers of this humble blog (if that’s you, thanks…and, I’m sorry) know that for MONTHS now I’ve agonized over choosing the right “big” pack. I’ve done a ridiculous amount of research and reading of reviews to get to this day, and it has arrived. Introducing the Granite Gear Lutsen 55:

GG Lutsen 55

A major gear retailer who shall remain nameless put the pressure on me by sending me a members-only 20% off coupon that could be used in conjunction with clearance items. Again, regular readers will know how I’ve managed to accumulate almost all my stuff on the cheap, so my angst over the possibility of wasting this chance to score a significant deal won’t be a surprise to them/you.

Long story, short version? A $220 pack was had for $128, including sales tax. Another entry in my long list of hiking gear deals, added. A Ursack and a stuff sack (or two), and I’m ready to head out for a weekend on the AT…

I’ve always wanted to try a GG pack, and having seen the 35L version of the Lutsen in the wild (the “wild” being a local retailer), I was taken by the look and functionality of the bag. It checked off every box I had on my wish list except one: A raincover. I know, I know, I don’t really need one. That’s what trash compactor bags are for, the wise old backpacker in my head says to me. But this rookie wanted the convenience of it. A VERY minor quibble for sure, as I’m already shopping trash compactor bags online.

Ten for $14.99. Hmmm. Think I’ll wait until they go on sale…


Note: When I was ready to purchase, I wandered over to Philip Werner’s site “Section Hiker” and clicked on an affiliate link that took me to REI’s website, where I bought my pack. Support your favorite sites that feature affiliate links to places you buy stuff by doing what I did. It generates revenue for them, and only adds a few seconds to your shopping experience!