Note: I paid full price for this quilt and am reviewing with no benefits, just enjoyment of being a nerd 🙂
So I was looking for a light/ultra light sleep system. I was sick of being cold in the sub alpine. I was sick of waking up all tangled in the night facing the back of my mummy bag or constantly having to pull up my ZPacks bag as it would shimmy down to my hips. I was intrigued by quilts. That was my headspace when I contacted Enlightened Equipment for information regarding a new sleeping bag or quilt.
First and foremost, I have to give a huge shout out to Jacob at Enlightened Equipment. I asked a ton of questions and he was happy to really drill down and give me piece of mind.
Things he told me (summarized):
As of November 2017 they include a 5% overstuff, so cold sleepers unite!
I asked if 950 of the same rating would be any warmer at all, he assured me no, just way more compressibility and lighter for us gram weenies.
I asked about dead spots. I tolerate my ZPacks 20 degree bag especially for summer, but I never truly loved it. Some folks mention it may be due to the baffle direction being horizontal, as it sometimes gets dead spots where I feel cold air coming through as the down shifts and moves. Jacob mentions that however it does happen with all down products they do try to limit it with their baffle design. He also linked me to their Distributing Down link which provides tips on how to mitigate.
Finally, I am a rotisserie sleeper. This means I roll front to side to back all night making most mummy bags a hot mess of tangled and twistedness. Jacob recommended I upsize to a regular despite fitting in a Slim. Also the bags cinch around your nose based on the height, so he recommended a regular length to be able to really hunker down at 5’6.
Considering it is a ton of money to spend on a sleeping bag, I was really pleasantly welcoming to all the fantastic support and reassurance he provided.
The EE Enigma 0 degree 950 quilt in regular width arrived and weighed in at 23.1oz with the straps. I found this wonderful YouTube link from Enlightened Equipment on how to strap in for the night. The quilt has a closed footbox, and no zipper. There are two male female type straps on the quilt one for a strap that is a loop around your mat that can be adjusted and another that is a U. I ordered some additional straps for a few dollars after learning I preferred the loop type strap and wanting two of them. I wish they shipped stock with two of the loop type straps…
There are some snaps around the collar and a draw string at the top of the quilt to really cinch you in.
I paired this quilt with the Neoair X-Therm sleeping mat. It is a 4 season mat at 16oz that has an R value of a whopping 5.7. With a quilt you sleep directly on the mat so having a warm mat is vital. I have purchased an Enlightened Equipment mat cover that weighs only 1.5oz and is extremely silky smooth, to prevent sticking to the mat, and sweating on the mat dirt and grime.
I have taken this quilt out a handful of times so far, and have been plenty warm. I took it recently to around 6-10 degrees Celsius 40-50F, and actually had to remove clothing layers during the night as I was too warm. The nice thing about the quilt is you can pop open a draft or loosen how cinched the straps are or just use it like a blanket sans straps.
Earlier in the shoulder season I took it out around freezing temperatures, and just wore a normal base layer no puffy and felt no issues with temperature. I did have the quilt cinched fairly tight with the straps for that evening as we were next to a lake.
Overall this quilt is a huge winner in my books, it lofts huge, is soft to the touch and Enlightened Equipment are a class act company. I will be taking it into the High Sierra for 12 days this fall and look forward to running it through its paces in the sub alpine.
The Exped Synmat UL 7 S was my first inflatable sleeping mat. I liked that it was fairly light weight, had good reviews, and wasn’t too large.
R Value: 3.5 (my version says that appears the new ones are updated to 3.3)
Temperature Rating: -4C
Includes: Stuff sack (it appears they now include a pump to prevent the condensation that can arise from blowing the mat up with your mouth).
I was just getting into backpacking and didn’t yet know what kind of sleeper I was. I took it out on a couple over nights, before heading out for 10 days on the Cordiellera Huayhuash circuit in Peru.
Here I learned this mat was really not for me. Firstly the R rating wasn’t enough. It was only dropping to just freezing at night however even with my ZPacks 20 and wearing a puffy, I was cold! In the future I would add my NeoAir with this bag in colder temps and be fine.
Lastly I am a side sleeper, and I don’t feel this mat was helpful for me, sometimes my hip bone would stick through and poke the ground.
Note I have revisited this trip in 2018 a Medium SEKI loop post here! Please use that one as it is more updated and detailed:) I recommend reading it to plan your camp sites as it follows the same route as over half the Big SEKI Loop!
This has been a real tetris of an endeavour. How do I fit 12 days of crap in a bag that is only designed for maximum 30-35lbs. Last time I checked, I eat a lot of food in 12 days! Now I have to add a shelter, clothing, toiletries, sleep system, cook system, fuel, water, first aid – oh my!
I spent a lot of time tinkering for this particular trip. Weekend trips are easy… if it’s under 10lbs without water it’s light! But I turned into a total gram weenie and measured *everything*. I even cut all the tags off of everything… it’s kind of embarrassing. The very first day of this trip is just over 5000ft gain to get to the lip before you drop into Granite Basin. I really didn’t want to lug up anything unnecessary with a full load and 12 days of food.
A very handy guide that is itemized and a fantastic planning website: https://lighterpack.com/r/fx7a4j (NOTE: I am re-planning this trip so it’s been updated with lighter gear as I am expanding my collection!!!)
I flew into Fresno, met up with a friend for some pizza and a beer, then rented my car out to Roads End. I arrived in the dark which was a bit overwhelming as I was by myself – not quite sure where to park, getting turned around in the camp ground. I stayed at the Sentinel camp ground out there which was super rowdy. I actually got no sleep even with ear plugs. I set up my tent but spent a few hours sleeping in the back seat of my rental car as it was a bit more sound proof. There was a fight in the tent across from me resulting in an altercation and I believe some folks were arrested. Wasn’t a great night overall.
Next morning I met a lovely woman I had been chatting with on forums. We agreed to start the journey together in a non-committal way that we weren’t required to stick together, and see how it would go. I am always a bit socially awkward and nervous meeting new people, but she has a lovely sense of humour and we were both super nervously excited for our upcoming journey. She was awesome and even rented my bear can ahead of time, picked up my fuel (as you cannot fly with isobutane) and got some beta the day before from a ranger. We synced our inreaches so we could communicate and off we went.
Day 1 – Setting forth:
Day one began after we finally introduced ourselves to eachother, we hurried over to the rangers station at 9am, got our permits, briefed ourselves with the ranger, then parked at Road’s End. I was a bit apprehensive as my pack was super full and heavy and I knew we had this looming 5000ft climb ahead of us with over 40 switch backs. We started out and it was very grueling, but fortunately we were just getting to know each other so lots of conversation helped ease the suffering. Danielle is the strongest most power house woman I have ever met, in both body and mind. We clicked pretty much instantly and it was a match made to hike.
We reached just before Granite Lake junction about 10.5 miles, and set up our tent on some granite just past a water source. We got to see what we thought was a good “bear distance” away from our tents for our bear cans, cook dinner, laugh and watch a beautiful horse and mule train go by during dusk. Exhausted, accomplished, and happy!
Day 2 – A day of blunders:
Next Day I really wanted to make Simpson Meadow as the time line for the loops was a bit aggressive. We headed out in high spirits and over Granite Pass. Was nice and early in the day so energy was high and the views were grand. Descending Granite past Lake of the Fallen Moon area was gorgeous and almost fairy tale. Getting into some of the granite there was a bit apprehensive as it was easy to lose the trail for a few moments. Being my first time in the area that would always get my heart rate up a bit.
We headed past this one area where you were supposed to cross the creek (in hind sight). We stayed the left, on the wrong side of the creek as the trail was not easy to follow and a spur trail continued on, resulting in an hour of us bumbling about trying to read our Inreach/Map/Compass, though it’s a gorgeous area for a camp site when I go again! I think this was around the East Fork Doughtery Creek. We finally back tracked and crossed this creek the correct way and started heading up, we were a bit miffed that we had made such a blunder but we were happy to be on track. About half a mile from the creek we checked our map and realized that was the last water source for a few miles so we had to back track to refill – even more miffed!
We headed up and up and then finally started our big drop into Simpson Meadow. It was already getting late and Danielle being the powerhouse ninja that she is, excelled on the down hill trek. So we agreed off she would go, and I would meet her at the junction. Little did we realize, dropping almost 4000ft would take longer then we would anticipate. Almost an hour and a half later as the light was growing thin we met up. We were both very tired as we had trekked 12 miles, our packs still very heavy with the full load (and remember our one hour bush-wacking wrong turn endeavour)!? We were a bit worn thin but found this super cute meadow next to a creek and hunkered down. Had a good laugh and patted ourselves on the back for being strong and capable, and went to sleep. Mile 22 – 5990ft
Day 3 – Why Hello Mr. Bear:
Day 3 was our “easy” day. Lots of miles but not crazy elevation. We set out from Simpson’s Meadow, walking about half a mile further from our camp ground we found some even choicer camp grounds (fire rings, flat, shaded) – little did we know we would utilize them on the return trip… Our goal today was to reach the JMT! We headed out in great weather. We were in some open areas that were nice and warm after Simpson’s Meadow, with great water sources, we spent an hour having a “bath”, drying out, and just in general soaking up the sun. Once we were well rested we continued on past Cartridge Creek over a wooden bridge up towards Devil’s Washbowl. We sat there for some time taking pictures of the beautiful river carving through the granite. Here we saw two other travelers, our first since Day 1 and had a lovely chat.
Walking farther up the canyon, we saw our first bear! It was getting close to dusk and our pace was hurried (there is no good camping spots from Cartridge Creek up just before the JMT junction). You could camp at Devil’s Washbowl but it really isn’t ideal. Mr. Bear was happily munching on some berries about 30 minutes from the river crossing just before the JMT. We yelled and made a lot of noise he sauntered off a few meters and we continued on. It was exhilarating and nerve wracking meeting a bear as we had felt pretty alone, but he was so at ease in his habitat.
We trekked on for about 30 minutes and decided to camp just off trail. We were about 15 minutes from the water crossing (in hind sight just push to the water crossing there is a good camp sight just before it). We had good access to water but camped on granite. Mr. Bear did not bother us that night. Just Before JMT – 30 miles – 7800ft
Day 4 – Welcome back to ‘civilization’:
First thing in the morning we packed up and knew we were about to hit the *looming* Palisade Creek crossing. This crossing had been deemed “unpassable” by the rangers just weeks before we headed out, due to the huge snow pack of 2017. It was late September now and just was deemed passable. It was scary. I removed my insoles and put my hiking boots back on. Untied my pack and slowly shimmied across the river/creek. It was mid thigh in the deepest section (I am 5’6) and boy was it strong. The scariest part is that the water was so turbulent that I couldn’t see the bottom to check the footing. Shuffling side to side and moving my hiking poles so I always had three sturdy points of contact was helpful – facing upstream as I went. Even moving the poles I could feel the strong rush of the current. Danielle and I shouted encouragement to each other as we crossed. We were successful and had some huge spikes of adrenaline.
Lots of laughing and I might have even had a tear of joy. I know we both faced a lot of fear doing that crossing and we were cautious and extremely proud in our success! I think it made us even closer as a duo as shared experiences can often do.
Hitting the JMT was almost a smack back into the world. Within about 10 minutes of hitting the JMT we met probably 8 people. In 3 days on the Copper Creek Trail we met 3. It was very jarring! Onward we trekked up to Palisade Lake. Up Up Up Up Up! The first 5 miles were really relaxing through open sections and forest following Palisade Creek. The last 2 miles were a bit “staircase-y”. We met some packers with horses and mules and some folks studying the mule’s and horse’s grazing habits – super chatty and nice to talk to some folks. We set up camp near Palisade Lake and chatted up those folks before the pass. Enjoying the last bit of sun I wore flip flops and warmed up on the granite. 40miles – 10000ft
Day 5 – Am I back in Canada?:
My tent has a ton of snow on it WTF?!? Where did this flip flop weather go? Fetch weather on the Inreach – ensue disappointment with the results. Some hikers were going on, some were turning back, packers were waiting, I wasn’t feeling too optimistic with the weather results. In hindsight we could have just kept going or hunkered down, but that is what hindsight is all about. Knowing our 12000’er Mathers Pass was right in front of us going into a blizzard felt like a ‘poor life choice’. I made the decision to turn back and Danielle agreed with me. We were already sleeping on the cooler side at nights, and knowing between Mathers and Pinchot there weren’t any bail out options we were worried if it got worse before it got better we would be in for a crappy time. A bit of sadness and some repetitive reassurance we were making good choices, we headed down.
We had a hard time following the trail down as it was covered in a lot of snow. The first 1.5 hours was a struggle, not quite white out conditions, hard to follow trail (even having walked it the day before so having somewhat of an advantage). We came across a PCT’er who had yoyo-ed to finish her final section. She had 20 odd miles to go but was hunkered in a tarp tent looking very dejected and ill-prepared for the weather change. We offered her snacks and said to play it safe – I hope she finished.
We boogied back down to Palisade Creek feeling a bit sad but talking ourselves up in having made the best choice with the knowledge at hand, knowing we could sleep easy having made the “safe” choice, we were still a bit cold and damp. We decided to cross Palisade Creek that day, it was slightly higher then it was the day before due to the snow fall but a) we were tired and just wanted to get it over with and b) I was worried the recent snow fall would make it even higher over night. Harrowing but successful. I know my husband was happy to get my Inreach message, and agreed it was a good call. We camped just on the other side of the creek in the woods and snow fell on us that night at Palisade Creek junction, such a juxtaposition to the night before! 51miles – 8000ft
Day 6 – Drying out:
Woke up to frost, my boots were still frozen from the creek crossing. We hiked down the towards the washbowl and saw Mr. Bear again! Hey Mr. Bear! Decent spirits and having been over the terrain already, life was great despite the few inches of snow on everything! After a few miles the over grown bushes had sagged over the trail and we could no longer see where were going (despite knowing down via the canyon along the river). We ended up getting up on a boulder field and slogging over it, literally climbing through and over the saggy bushes til we met up with the trail again, about a 30 minute detour. My anxiety/alertness was up during this time, any time the trail is lost I feel a bit on edge especially when it is dense, despite knowing the direction I needed to head and having many tools at my finger tips, there is something soothing about following a trodden foot path.
Back on the trail we boogied as it warmed up lower and lower. Time to dry out all our gear!
We got through Simpson Meadow and back to our area with the bitchin’ camp ground. A fire ring was there, we shall make fire!
Danielle made an amazing fire and it was so nice to truly dry out all our gear. Also nice to have the smell of camp fire my clothes instead of hiker stink. This was the best sleep I had at all the camp sights so far. We shared some whiskey she brought and looked back on our journey thus far. Simpsons Meadow – 59miles – 5990ft
Day 7 – Winding down and a bit of homesickness:
Well rested and ready to go we headed out. Up that stupid switch back section was grueling. I am the uphill queen so I headed off to find myself on the 30-40 switch backs up up up. I had a bit of a nap at the top as we met up for a mid morning pre-lunch. Getting over the hump towards that creek crossing where we got lost on the way in. This time we decided to make a little arrow out of sticks in case anyone else was going the other way, so they would not get lost :).
As we headed towards Granite Pass through lake of the fallen moon we were both getting pretty tired. We saw this meadow open up to us in the evening sun light. It called to us to make a camp sight, we happily obliged. I was feeling a bit homesick for some reason, maybe a bit sadness I wasn’t doing my original plan, and maybe just being lost in my head despite the excellent company. Was a bit of a down day (no pun intended), but some gorgeous highlights. 69 miles – 8500ft (guestimate)
Day 8 – Homeward Bound:
Spirits were very high as we knew we had a good chance of hitting civilization ie. a shower today. We first scrambled over Granite Pass (and a nice long pit stop here for some photos and contemplating what we had accomplished). Past Charlotte Lake then up one last time before our final switch back hell towards Roads End.
As I am much slower on the down hill terrain, this welcome message from Danielle at like switch back 25 was a welcome surprise.
We popped back out into civilization and I remembered I had some Buffalo Bleu chips in the bear can I left in the bear locker!
Woo hoo! 81 miles – 5035ft
We returned our bear cans and took off to find a shower. Feeling about as clean as pretty gross NPS showers can make you feel, I said good bye to my new forever friend. We had such an amazing adventure together, and to go from strangers to having such a profound experience, I will be forever grateful.
Was it what I had intended? No. Was it amazing? Yes. Did I learn a lot? Yes. Did I make friends? Definitely! Will I be back again? You betchya!
I know this overview was very light-hearted, if you actually want further details or specifics just hit me up in the comments or contact page!
I drove back to Fresno and met up with my good friends to have some amazing tacos at Ophelia’s (highly recommend for cheap fantastic post-hike mexican food!). I then drove to Mountain View to spend the last few days of my original itinerary to spend with some friends there <3. I had an amazing trip and cannot wait to try the Big Sexy Loop 2.0!!!
At one point I had five packs. I have finally paired it down to three, but there is one pack I keep going back to over and over again for day hikes, weekends and longer trips. The 55L ULA Circuit. This pack looks a bit different, especially if you typically buy the standard Osprey, Deuter or Gregory packs at MEC or REI. I love my Deuter 70L and my Deuter 35L but this is the one I keep reaching for…
What makes this pack unique?
41oz (1100g) – most packs you normally find in this size are 50-70oz.
Roll top closure – most packs cinch and have a bran that sits on top.
Lots of straps and huge side pockets.
A front pouch that seems at times to be a bottomless pit.
Option at purchase to pick size and hip belt shape.
This bag is not for everyone, it does not have a frame. Instead it has a carbon fiber hoop and an aluminum stay that is curved. Also, it has a weight limit suggestion of 35lbs which means you should be a pretty light packer.
For my big twelve day trip recently, I went over the recommended weight limit of 35lbs as I had 12 days of food at 16lbs. Day one, 12 miles, 4500ft and 41lbs of gear, was it comfortable? No. Did I make it? Yes. By day two, I had figured out that packing my inflatable sleeping mat folded between my back and my bear can prevented the discomfort of the bear can poking into my back. By day three, I was probably around 38lbs and was feeling no discomfort. Every day after that, I had zero issues and I became the master of packing that pack.
How I Packed my bag changed as I learned what worked, here is my final system with a full Bearikade Expedition:
Put all my down gear, sleep clothing, and down bag loosely in a garbage bag and stuff to the bottom.
Slide in the canister but ensure to position it in the middle (there will be a lot of space on either side.
Take the sleeping mat and fold it into a large rectangle and slide it down the back of the bear canister to keep it off your back
Slide different gear down the sides of the canister (like rain gear etc;) taking care to make sure the canister stays center.
Tent in one side pouch
Tent stakes in other side pouch with 1L smart water bottle and optionally filled 1L platypus also fits there.
Every other odd and end in the front pouch (fuel, map, first aid). Foam mat and flip flops were under the para-cord
Solar panel tied using back up laces to the roll top enclosure to hang off.
Note: Future me has switched from a two person tent to a one person Six Moon Lunar that is a) smaller and b) uses a stake. I might try to put it in the bag.
Note 2: Future me has procured some ultra light smart water bottle holder that can hang off the front straps of the pack. Again freeing up one of the side pouches – so many possibilities!
As I go lighter and lighter in my gear this pack is everything I ever wanted ❤