Trail Mix
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Jess
July 8, 2016

Packing for overnight or extended trips can be a tough task. The risk of leaving a vital piece of gear behind versus the tiring prospect of lugging everything bar the kitchen sink uphill can be a stressful balancing act. Bring too much gear and your body will hate you for it; fail to bring the right items and your body can also hate you for it- dehydration from lack of water, for example. Here’s some tips for saving weight and space in your pack.

Hillsound Backpacking

Layer Up

This one is obvious to most hikers, but the best way to adapt to changing weather and stay comfortable on the trail is to bring appropriate clothing layers. Start with a lightweight base layer. I like merino wool for its warmth and anti-microbial properties, which means you can wear the same shirt for days on end without stinking (too badly!). For heavier layers, consider lighter materials such as down, which in addition to being incredibly warm, also compress to be quite compact. If you choose your clothing wisely, you can save a lot of pack space.

Choose lightweight, calorie-dense food

One thing I love about backpacking is the fact you can eat a Mars Bar and not feel guilty about it! Lightweight and calorie-dense is the motto here, so candy bars are in. Food really comes down to personal preference and time. If you have the time to prepare a delicious, veggie-packed meal and dehydrate it before your hike and you can fit it in, go for it! Otherwise, there are plenty of lightweight, freeze-dried meals out there for those strapped for time. It won’t be the nicest meal you’ve ever eaten, but it will be something warm and filling in your stomach. For snacks, I’ve found almonds, dried fruit, gummy worms, cheese sticks, jerky, salami sticks and peanut butter bagels carry a lot of energy but pack down relatively small.

Hillsound's Backpacking Tips

Use a hydration pack

One of the best discoveries I’ve made for hiking is the hydration pack. I find I drink a lot more water when I don’t have to stop to fetch a water bottle from my pack. I love the ease of having a water tube right near my shoulder and there’s the obvious advantage of the hydration sack shrinking as water is depleted. For hiking in hot weather, drinking at least 2 liters of water a day is extremely important for avoiding dehydration and feeling your best on the hike and at the end of the day. A lot of packs come with a built in compartment made for a hydration pack- make use of it! The one time a hydration pack is not ideal is in very cold conditions- something I found out when I discovered I had a lump of ice instead of drinkable water when skiing in the Coast Mountains recently.

Load your bag correctly

The heaviest items should be packed near your spine and towards the middle of the bag. This enables the weight to be mostly carried on your hips and prevent extra strain on your shoulders and back. Items typically placed here include stove and cooking gear, food and tent. Lightweight items such as your sleeping bag and extra clothes should go at the base of the pack. Sleeping pads, poles, ice axes and tent poles can be attached to the outside of the pack. Crampons can either be stored in a protective bag, like the Hillsound Spikeeper Crampon Carry Bag, or strapped to the outside of the pack (with spike protectors).

Stuff high-energy snacks into hip belt pockets. Keep rain gear easily accessible by placing it in exterior stretch pockets or zippered compartments. If your bag has a hood, use this for items you need to access regularly through the hike, such as camera, phone and gloves.

If you are hiking in a group, share communal items across the team.

Carry less water

Water can quickly add up to be one of the heaviest items in your pack. Instead of trying to carry it all in from the trailhead, plan your hike around water sources and bring a water filtration system like this one from Platypus, or a smaller system like the LifeStraw.

 

Do you have any tips for packing light? Leave a comment below to let us know!

Jess
June 30, 2016

Local brand ambassador, Jeff Pelletier, gives us the lowdown of this year’s Sun Mountain 100km and his experience as a fourth timer at this race hosted by Rain Shadow Running.

H: Hi Jeff! Congratulations on your success at the Sun Mountain 100km!

J: Thanks very much!
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H: Tell us a little about the course.

J: The Sun Mountain 50k and 50 mile courses are known to be quite ‘runnable’ compared to most trail races in the PNW, with roughly 5,000 feet of climbing in the 50k, and with hardly any technical terrain. The 100k distance was new this year which is exactly two loops of the 50k course, with 10,000 feet of total elevation gain.

It’s located on the sunny (easy) side of the North Cascades in the beautiful Methow Valley, so imagine wildflowers, vistas, and even some cow pastures. Very different than the terrain we’re used to here on the West Coast!

H: What would you say is the toughest part about this course?

J: Sun Mountain is usually a very sunny and warm race, although this year that ended up not being the case – we had absolutely perfect running conditions for most of the day, which was reflected in some of the finishing times.

The trails being so runnable can be a challenge in itself though, especially for those who don’t generally do as much consistent running in their training. Races that include a lot of steep and technical terrain may force you to do a lot of ‘power hiking’, allowing you to use different muscles and to shift gears from time to time.

While there were still a few considerable climbs, we were having to run for several hours at a time without respite. I did do considerably more flat running, higher mileage, and less climbing in my training leading up to the race, so I was prepared for it both mentally and physically. In retrospect, I probably should have done a little bit more climbing and strength work in my training than I did, as I suffered a little on the final climbs.13247900_10206838671340436_5465271880229494437_o

H: Regardless – 100km in just 10 hours. What a record! How was this year different than the last?

J: This was the first year I’d done the new 100k distance, but I was quite familiar with the course, having raced the 50 mile distance twice before. Running two loops of the same 50k course was definitely a new experience for me though.

Logistics were a breeze, since we’d be hitting the same 3 aid stations (plus the start/finish) twice during the race where drop bags could be left. Pacing is a lot easier when you can break up a race into two identical halves.

My plan was to basically just run a sub-5 hour 50km, and then try to do it again. I faded a little at the beginning of the 2 nd half though and lost about 25 minutes, so I didn’t quite hit my goal of 9:45 – but close enough. Maybe I can make it up next year!

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Instagram – @jpelletier

H: We’d love to hear about it! What made you go back to this same race?

J: This was actually my fourth time going down for the race, although I only ran two out of the last three years and volunteered the other.

The whole weekend feels like one big trail running party, with a huge contingent of runners coming down from the BC. The vibe and community is so great at all of Rainshadow Running’s races, but this one in particular seems to keep me coming back.

Sun Mountain was my first 50 mile race three years ago, and I’d highly recommend it for anyone’s first crack at the 50k, 50M, and now 100k distance. You’ll definitely be setting yourself up for success.

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Instagram – @jpelletier

H: Great advice! You have many races lined up for this year. How do you keep a healthy balance between your full time job and training/racing?

J: One thing I’m doing this year is to actually do fewer races to allow for more and adventure runs which is what I enjoy most. There are only so many weekends, and it’s just so easy to get wrapped up in the excitement of planning a racing season early in the year and committing to too much – between tapering, racing, and recovery, it doesn’t leave a lot of time for spontaneity.

H: You’re also so involved in the community – like judging at VIMFF, etc. All that plus working, training, and racing – how do you manage to get some downtime for yourself?

J: I like to keep busy so I tend to have a lot of projects on the go, including the one I’m most proud of this year which is having raised roughly $15,000 for North Shore Rescue with a fundraising calendar project I helped put together. Running is somewhat of a selfish endeavor, after all, so I guess I see it being the time I set aside for myself – which tends to be a considerable amount of time!

H: What is your cool down process like, after a race like this one?

J: I like to take some time after a big block of training and racing like this, before getting back into any structured training. I tend to take a few days completely off from running to relax, and spend the next couple of weeks eating all of the food I can get my hands on – along with a hoppy beverage or two.

H: Thanks for your time Jeff and congratulations again! We can’t wait to hear about your next adventure. We’ll be sure to talk to you again after your next race.

J: Looking forward to it, and thanks as always to the team at Hillsound for the support!

 

You can find out more about Jeff through his website, Twitter, and Instagram.

You can also see his ambassador page here.

Jess
June 24, 2016

Gaiter Guide: Types, Fit, Boot Compatibility and Sizing

Gaiters. Gators. Gaitors. An often misspelled and underutilized item of outdoor gear, gaiters can be left behind due to uncertainty of their necessity or when trying to save pack weight. But this simple piece of gear can add a lot of comfort to your outdoor adventures.

Gaiters are intended to prevent snow, water, mud and vegetation from entering your boots and socks. Even the most waterproof boots have their limits, and the added protection from gaiters can prolong a dry interior and stave off wet shoes and soggy socks. Some alpine pants come with integrated gaiters. But for the versatility of adapting to changing conditions, a boot-gaiter combo is a great option.

This guide describes the different categories of gaiters, the best choices depending on use and information on sizing and fitting gaiters correctly.

Gaiter Categories

There are two general categories of gaiters: low cut or high cut.

Low Cut

These are about 25 cm or 10 inches in height and are designed to just cover the ankles. They are great for muddy conditions and warm weather hiking, as with less leg coverage, they allow your legs to breathe.

High Cut

High gaiters reach to just under the knee. They range from 15″ to 18″ tall. If the terrain you intend to cover includes tall grass, overgrown trails, deep snow or stream crossings, high-cut gaiters are your best option.

Hillsound gaiters

The Best Gaiters for Your Activity

Running Gaiters

Running gaiters are short pieces of material that cover the ankles and stop dirt and water from entering trail running shoes. Dirty Girl and Salomon are some of the more well-known makers of these types of gaiters. Some styles feature stretch neoprene material which is simply stretched over the shoe and is easily adjustable.
Compatible with: Trail running shoes, low-cut hiking shoes.

Trail Gaiters

Designed for low-elevation trails, short day hikes and muddy conditions, trail gaiters can be either low or high cut and will be either water resistant or waterproof.  The gaiter can be constructed of one material, or split into a top half and a bottom half.  As they are not intended for extended hikes or mountain conditions, trail gaiters are often constructed of basic materials such as nylon that provide some water  and abrasion resistance, but lack breathability and durability. Trail gaiters are often not required for the entire journey, so consider models that pack down small for easy inclusion in your pack.
Compatible with: Low or high-cut hiking boots.

Alpine Gaiters

Alpine gaiters feature premium materials in their construction. The top or leg half is constructed of a waterproof and breathable material. Goretex or Schoeller are some of the more widely used materials. The lower or boot half will be composed of an abrasion resistant material such as high-denier nylon or Cordura. Hillsound uses  SuperFabric– a highly durable material that incorporates an outer layer of tiny epoxy plates that create a puncture resistant gaiter. The boot section is the area that is scraped against rocks, vegetation or comes into contact with crampon spikes, so a heavy duty material is needed. As the category suggests, alpine gaiters are ideal for use in harsh alpine environments, ice climbing, mountain climbing and traversing deep snow and glaciers. Storm flaps beneath the zipper or Velcro add another layer of protection from snow and moisture.
Compatible with: Hiking boots. Some models will fit the thicker cuff of mountaineering boots.

Expedition Gaiters

The beefiest gaiters available, expedition gaiters are for extended trips in alpine or extreme environments. Like alpine gaiters, expedition gaiters are split into a waterproof, breathable upper and an abrasion resistant lower. Extra insulation is added for warmth in frigid conditions. Expedition gaiters will have a wider circumference to accommodate extra clothing layers and mountaineering boots.
Compatible with: Mountaineering boots.

 

Gaiters and Clothing Compatibility

This really comes down to personal preference. In warmer climates, gaiters can allow you the comfort of wearing shorts without compromising on leg protection. Heavily insulated pants such as snow or ski pants are too bulky to fit a gaiter over. Gaiters work best over a slim-fit hiking pant or leggings. When pairing with waterproof pants, low-cut gaiters underneath the pants may provide the best seal against rain and snow.

Super Armadillo Gaiter

Fitting Your Gaiter

Gaiters wrap around your leg and are closed at the front by either a zipper or Velcro. Velcro can be easy to get on and off in a hurry, but one disadvantage is the loss of ‘stickiness’ over time with exposure to snow and moisture. A snug fit can sometimes be hard to achieve with a Velcro closure as well.
If you choose a gaiter with a zipper closure, make sure the zipper is sturdy and water resistant. Hillsound gaiters feature a unique top-to-bottom zipper which makes closing the two sides of the gaiter easier.

Most gaiters feature some kind of cinch system at the top, either an elasticized draw cord or strap and buckle. It is important to have this fairly tight to prevent the gaiter slipping down the leg during movement.

An underfoot strap secures the bottom of the gaiter, pulling it taught and ensuring the gaiter is fitted properly over the boot. This strap sits under the arch of the foot, so it is not felt when walking. Unless you plan to wear the gaiters with different types of boots, this strap generally only needs to be adjusted once for size.

If the gaiter has a boot lace hook, this needs to be hooked under the laces.

 

Selecting the Right Size

Some brands make unisex gaiters and some are men and women-specific. The women’s gaiters tend to be a little shorter in overall length, and have a slightly wider calf circumference.

The industry standard sizing for gaiters is associated with shoe size. For tighter fitting gaiters, it can be beneficial to measure your leg and look at calf circumference to ensure an optimal fit.

Hillsound Gaiter Size Chart

Lightweight, durable and versatile, a good pair of gaiters can make your next hiking trip or alpine excursion a more comfortable experience, keeping your socks and shoes dry.