The Long Way Around the Parking Lot (The Medium Sexy Loop)

Preamble

When I described this trip to my husband he dubbed this trek “The long way around the parking lot”, I call it the Medium Sexy Loop.

This trek starts at Road’s End in Sequoia King Canyon National Park starting on the North side of the parking lot, and completing 144km later on the South East side.  Quite novel to say the least!  The trek is dubbed as the Big SEKI loop, this is a shortened version (there are a few, I went with the middle in size option).  Much info around the web can be found for the “SEKI Loop”.

I really enjoyed this loop and soloed it in 7 days. It has enough solitude on the early Copper Creek Trail, then a ton of socializing up on the JMT, and  since it is a loop you don’t have to deal with logistics of getting too and from the trail head, or a boring out and back.

Next level goals – you can make this trek down past Whitney to Kern River and back across the HST through Bear Paw Meadow and out Bubbs Creek aka The Big SEKI Loop (googling this has lots of resources). This was my original goal but I had an awful cold for most of this trip and decided one week out in the wilderness was perfect.

The trek is harder than the JMT, in my opinion (some map reading/basic route finding when the trail gets a bit hard to follow on day two and three), but still I found it super easy from the mental perspective, so a perfect one to solo.

The Trek

Park: Sequoia King Canyon

InfoLoop details and caltopo

Total Distance: Approximately 88 miles (141.5km)

Starting at Roads End, Copper Creek Trail head. Looping up to the JMT and out lower Rae Lakes Loop at Bubbs Creek.

Time: 7 days September 2nd – 8th.

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The Gear

Base weight: 14lbs (stupid bear canister…)

Food weight: 13lbs

Lighter Pack: here

Forgot my spoon in my checked bag, oops… melted the end of my toothbrush handle into a flat spoon like shape. I guess that is a pro for not cutting off your toothbrush handle 😉

Probably not full on UL (Ultra Light), but solo traveling so had some extras. Loved my ULA Rain Kilt, that was a new addition to this trip. It made for a great “porch floor” next to my tent in the evenings.

Day 1 – Copper Creek Trailhead to Granite Basin

Distance: 11 miles(17.7km)

Elevation Gain: 6700ft(2042m)

Day one is kind of the worst. Bad sleep from being in the campground the night before on Labour Day weekend, full pack weight, 50+ switch backs, hotter than hell, little shade or water. Up, up, up… Water was a bit more scarce this year than previous years so I actually ran out of water on the lip down into Granite Basin. Where I expected there to be water there wasn’t, but fortunately Granite Basin was only another 20 minutes and tons of water to be found :).  I recommend 2L from the water source on the map on the way up, until you are in Granite Basin.

The view into Granite Basin – nice to see some water!

I found a secluded camp on a dusty patch near the lake, and it felt amazing to soak my feet in the water. The location felt super private but I did see a guy in the morning on the other side of the lake. Woke up to three deer walking through camp, not bad for day one!

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Home sweet home at Granite Basin

Day 2 – Granite Basin to Simpson’s Meadow

Distance: 14 miles (22.5km)

Elevation Loss: 4700ft(1430m)

Day two was beautiful. Had a spring in my step, made it over Granite Pass fairly early, it’s a super easy pass, and down through Lake of the Fallen Moon area which is one of my favourite areas on the trail.  Sunbeams like to peer through these small meadows and there are almost no people in this part of the park.

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Spring in my step going through these trails

Crossed the Middle Fork Dougherty Creek which last year I took a spur trail just before and was off trail for a good 45 minutes – this year it seemed so obvious… Ran into three people coming out from State Lakes which was nice to have some human interactions with, only ones of the day!

Made it down “The Bitch” which is what the switch backs are called in the Kings Canyon Pack Guide… many many switch backs and 4000+ feet of down down down – you get here in the early afternoon and it feels like you are so close to Simpson Meadow but this section seems to drag.  I cursed the pack gates as I am not very big and had a hard time opening and closing them.

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Oh how I loathe you pack animal gates – you are heavier and more unruly than you look!

Made it past Simpson Meadow – note it is not signed and there are a few spur trails through the meadow. I hugged the right one that follows the granite rock slope and that is the one that is correct. I assume the other ones go to stock camps. I hiked about half mile or so past Simpson Meadow and found where the river was fairly close to the trail and setup camp.

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This is such a bomber of a wee tent!

Wandering through the woods near camp there was an old drift fence in the trees, so I guess this had been setup a bit more in the past.  I had to tie a guy line to my pot to collect water, as the bank was about a four feet steep drop to the river but it was fine. Quiet night here, no wildlife or people seen, however a big storm rolled in early so I just had a bars for dinner and it was a bit spooky.

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What a way to start your morning

Day 3 – Simpson’s Meadow to Glacier Creek

Distance: 12.6 miles (20.2km)

Elevation Gain: 3000ft(914m)

Day three was also one of my favourite days. I had a bit of apprehension because I did this section of trail last year and found it to be a bit of a challenge. The trail itself isn’t particularly long or difficult elevation wise, but it is not well maintained and gets quite overgrown. I had heard there was a washout somewhere past Cartridge Creek, and last year was a huge snow pack year and the Palisade Creek Crossing was challenging. Though so far the water sources were pretty scarce, so that worry was quickly squashed!

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Do these pine cones make my feet look small?

Climbed up and and up, this section is filled with grand views, hanging meadows, and stunning granite vistas. About half a mile before Devil’s Washbowl I was in extremely over grown brush and making the occasional bear call. All of a sudden I hear crunch crunch above me just off trail and sure enough about four feet away, a huge healthy black bear and I make eye contact. This was the closest I have ever been to a bear (even living in bear country). I talked to the bear calmly, “Oh why hello black bear, nice to see you today…”. He looked at me as if to say “what the fuck are you”, and slowly ambled off. It was a great experience overall and he seemed to have a healthy disinterest in humans.

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Squint you may see a bear!

Devil’s Washbowl up to Cartridge Creek was stunning and uneventful, then I hit the washout about 1-2 miles before the JMT and there were actually trail crew working on it. One of the crew members mentioned that it won’t be fixed this year, but from what I could see they were doing a great job.  I was able to just hike up the side of the washout 4-5 feet then scramble across, it really was no big deal. Up the rest of the trail to Palisade Creek the crossing was super easy this year. Managed to rock hop 90% of the way then had to take two above the knee steps into the water to get over to the bank. Dried out, had lunch it was only 1:30PM!

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Why hello!

Feeling quite pleased with myself, it was now time to hit the major freeway that is the JMT and prepare to get overwhelmed by all the socializing. I hiked the remainder of the evening to Glacier Creek, just before the Golden Staircase. In hindsight I should have just busted my ass another hour up to Palisade Lakes, would have made for a more enjoyable day four.

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Sensory overload on the JMT!

Day 4 – Glacier Creek to South Fork King River

Distance: 12.2 miles (19.6km)

Elevation: Approximately 3000ft to Mather’s Pass (914m)

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Golden Staircase views!

Day four was a bit of a slog for me. Golden Staircase flew by but the trek to Mather’s Pass felt unending. There was some dicey weather rolling in and I really didn’t want to be caught out high on the pass. I kept questioning if I should keep moving up the pass or hunker for a bit, finding solace in the cheese snacks I picked up at the SEKI store at Road’s End as an impromptu buy, I decided to keep on.

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I am actually on the moon here

The trail after Mather’s shlepped through the forest down down down, and it started to rain. I found a campsite down low by the South Fork King River and ended my day early around 3:30 PM. This area was a bit sad as I reminisced the fact that a lovely young PCT’er passed away earlier in the year at one of the river crossings.

Once the rain finally let up, it turned out to be a fun night as I met some awesome folks from the UK and US, built a fire and we had some laughs.

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Hiding during the rain, love this Park’s Canada buff!

Day 5 – South Fork King River to 1.5 miles before Dollar Lake

Distance: 14.3 miles (23km)

Elevation: Approximately 2000ft to Pinchot Pass (600m)

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Pinchot my favourite pass – what a breeze!

Day five was fantastic, I loved Pinchot Pass!  It wasn’t a slog and I had great views! The other side of Pinchot was never ending lunar landscape of arid terrain.  I even met the superintendent of the Park who took my picture for me at the top of the pass, we had a nice chat and shared a snack.  I took a very leisure day (the kilometers don’t show it but it truly was a saunter) and just slowly trekked through enjoying the sights. I made it past the suspension bridge and saw the zoo that is that first campsite with a lot of familiar faces over the last couple days.  I decided to keep going as I really don’t like the busy areas with the toilet paper messes and the loudness in nature.

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My stretch goal was to make Dollar Lake, but I got lazy and decided to pick a kind of shitty camp spot just above this wooded meadow (which in hindsight had nicer camp spots but I was too lazy to walk back down the way I came up because that just feels wrong!).

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The nature, of nature.

This camp spot had no water, and was on mostly granite so pitching the tent was a bit trickier but I was getting much better at it.  Another bar only night, but it was peaceful and a deer roamed through camp right before I went to bed.

Day 6 – 1.5 miles before Dollar Lake to Junction Meadow (Lower Rae Lake Loop)

Distance: 12.5 miles (20km)

Elevation: Approximately 2500ft to Glenn Pass (762m)

Day six, Rae Lakes are gorgeous and a great place to have second breakfast 🙂 Climbed up Glenn Pass, which I felt was a more mentally challenging than Mather’s Pass mostly due to the fact that you can see everyone on top of the pass and they look like ants the whole damn time.

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So nobby!
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This picture gives me PTSD – the people are up there, the size of 1px x 1px!

I have a mental ‘game’ where I tell myself I can take a drink of water every 5 or 10 switch backs (depending on how exhausted or thirsty I am, and barring how much water I have at the time). That game definitely helped me on this pass!

Once over the pass down and back into the woods towards Charlotte Lake, the trail crews were doing some blasting. aI was fortunate to be the last hiker through before the blast so I didn’t have to wait 30 minutes! Phewf!!  I wish I had spent some time exploring Charlotte Lake  and side trail in hindsight as that area was gorgeous and I felt a bit rushed.

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Stunning sounds of water!

Finally veered off on the Bubbs Creek Trail at Lower Vidette Meadow and said goodbye to the John Muir Trail. Down towards Junction Meadow, to the left there is a fork to go to East Lake, there are some great camp sites near the river.  The river crossing itself looked a bit gnarly however some people were crossing upstream.  Apparently the other side is where the bear bin is located, but if you have a bear can it is irrelevant.

If you want to push on a little further the next good sites are around Charlotte Creek another two miles down hill.

This night was a sweet campsite as I was first to arrive.  Also some good company with the two Steve’s who were brother in laws were there.  I had met the one Steve earlier in the day on the other side of Glenn Pass, and we had chatted and had a good laugh.  This evening we all ate dinner together. Steve 1 was a song writer/poet and rapped me an amazing song about hiking, it sounds cheesy but it was the coolest fucking thing I had heard all trip and was legit pro. Honestly I wish I had recorded it!

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Curious what this sounded like when these rocks landed here!

Day 7 – Junction Meadow to Roads End

Distance: 11.5 miles (18km)

Elevation: Back down to 5000ft from around 7000ft

I woke up at five AM with excitement for an upcoming shower today and broke camp by 6am. I loved walking down Bubbs Creek Canyon, the grade was easy. I saw six trail runners with day packs coming up the trail, those guys are hardcore – curious if they were doing Rae’s Lake Loop?! Passed through the Bubbs Creek Fire burn zone from a fire earlier in the summer. Right as I finished this I saw (no offense bear), this ugly, scrawny, scrappy adolescent bear. He had zero interest in moving off the trail and I wasn’t sure if he still had a momma bear near by or if he was on his own – tween bear… I was yelling at the bear and backed up slowly. He gave zero shits about me and went right on foraging. Finally after 15 minutes he fucked off, and I was able to move on. I mentioned it to a ranger that this bear might need a hazing… and the ranger seemed to know the culprit.

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The view of civilization down there (and showers)!

Down some last sets of switch backs the midges became annoying – first time on the trip that bugs were… bugging me.  Finally, the long flats back to Roads End with all the day hikers passing you, it’s only 1-2 miles but feels like it goes on forever… I just want that damn shower!! (Talk about a motivation). Exited around 1PM not a bad 18km downhill haul!  Showers ended up being free for some unknown reason so I was able to take as long as I wanted – talk about luxury!!

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I am surprised these people got close enough to me to take a picture.

Woo hoo loop completed! Hope this was mildly interesting 🙂 Happy Hiking.

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Obligatory tourist picture of this HUGE FUCKING TREE!!!

 

New Year – New Plans!

As the 2017 year comes to a close, and we are full on into the dead of winter, I feel it is time to reflect on a few things, and maybe check in and see what we have in store for 2018.  Do you ever stop and think “Holy Crap, its 2018… Y2K was 18 years ago!!??”  I do 😛

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So… what have I been up to while we wait for hiking season to begin again?  Well my last hike was around the Thanksgiving weekend (the Canadian one, late October),  we were graced with about 8″ of snow while camping.  Our plans to summit Mt John Carter were squashed, so move that adventure to next year’s bucket list. This is the photo when we first arrived at our tent pad in Kokanee Glacier Park.  We still had a fun time in the snow; it’s always fun to do some colder weather camping!

 

We also managed to do some nice local day hikes, as the shoulder season was upon us.

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But now, as temperatures are commonly hitting around 1°F/-17°C over the various mountain passes, it’s ski season!  I picked up a pair of on-piste ski’s and boots for $50 in the classifieds – perfectly fine shape to learn on! Me, enjoying some time on the hill:

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Looking into the new year, I have a few big plans in the works.  I’m going to try my hand at getting a Wonderland Trail Permit for later in the summer/early fall.   Also, I am looking at hiking the Chilkoot Trail in three days in late summer.  This trail connects Skagway, Alaska to Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada.   I have already scheduled one half-marathon for the end of May, and probably will do another one later in the summer, as well as a 10K trail run.  I look forward to providing posts surrounding planning to the bigger hikes.

In the gear front, I have gotten some pretty awesome stuff over the past month!  I cannot *wait* to have a few nights in my new tent to review the Six Moon Design Lunar Solo – this tent will be my first single wall and the price point is really decent!

I also bit the bullet and just ordered an Enlightened Equipment Enigma Quilt for 0F (I had a -20F bag, and a 20F bag – felt I was missing that middle range).  This bag is my first quilt ever and I look forward to reviewing it after several nights.

Happy New Year and Happy Hiking!

Let me know what you have planned for 2018!

Review – ULA Circuit

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…

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What makes this pack unique?

  1. 41oz (1100g) – most packs you normally find in this size are 50-70oz.
  2. Roll top closure – most packs cinch and have a bran that sits on top.
  3. Lots of straps and huge side pockets.
  4. A front pouch that seems at times to be a  bottomless pit.
  5. 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.

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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 ❤

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Review – GooseFeet Gear Balaclava and Booties

Love love love!  If I had to write three words to describe this purchase.  If I had to choose only one, down booties easily!  The feeling of slipping into a pair of down booties after wiping my feet with a wet wipe and feeling the very soft shell on them after a long day’s hike was just exceptional.  Eleven days in the high sierra and they are now a valuable part of my regular cold weather gear packing list!

The booties: I purchased here

Goosefeet Down Booties

I went with 100% overfill and a bright purple colour to find them easily in my pack.  They have an elastic around the ankle and feel thin but silky soft and comfortable.

They weigh a measily 2.68oz (76g) and compress to almost nothing.

The balaclava weighs 1.97 (56g) – I really like it as well, especially if you sleep with a quilt or a bag that is not a full mummy bag.  Those cold mornings you can cinch it real tight when you are getting ready.  Definitely not a fashion piece but is super warm!

Here is a silly picture from when they first arrived to my house… I cinched the drawstring up real tight and was channeling my inner Kenny from South Park 🙂

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Preparing a College Style Menu for a 12 Day Bear Canister Trip

I have this trip coming up, in the Sequoia King Canyon National Park.  I am planning 10-12 days depending on the miles, over 250km (155 miles).  I need to carry a bear canister which is a whopping 41oz (1.16kg) and definitely not conducive to ultra light:

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Use #3 for the bear can: Keeps the cat out of the basement…

 

This bear can has been the bane of my existence lately, see that small grocery bag, some of that also needs to fit in the can along with all my toiletries/smellies. Though the shopping bag powders are huge jars and I only need a fraction of it, it’s still going to be a royal pain in my butt.

To make matters worse, I need to drive to the United States from Canada before boarding a flight and flying to Fresno.  So I need to keep everything in it’s original packaging until the night before so I can cross the border appropriately and not look suspicious when my dehydrated potato flakes, fibre powder, protein powder, electrolyte powder all in zip locks show up at the border.  Then spend the evening looking like a weird drug dealer portioning out all my ziplock bags in the hotel room of Spokane!   I might bring a mallet to powderize everything as a last resort 😛

To make the most of my weight, I decided to channel my inner college student and go back to the days of eating very simply.  I can eat and prepare high end gourmet meals like pistachio encrusted frenched rack of lamb with truffle oil mashed potatoes *OR* I can eat ramen every day for a week!  Both are fantastic in their completely separate set of ways.

I calculated how many calories I burn a day.  I am 5’6 and when I am doing absolutely nothing and channel my inner sloth, I burn a whopping 1600 calories a day, which is basically one slice of chocolate cake.  I estimate I will be burning 3000-4000 calories a day, but can stand to lose a couple pounds (a pound is about 3500 calories).  I estimated I should bring around 3000 calories a day in food for a 10-12 day trip.

I broke down each of my food choices into calories per ounce/gram.  This ruled out a lot of things and kept me choosing higher fat items.  Of course we cannot eat a diet purely of fat (my poor digestive system isn’t as strong as college me).  So I decided to add in a daily ration of fibre powder to my breakfast to keep everything, in place…

To limit the amount of fuel for the trip, I am going with boil only meals (no cooking). Not included here are packets of different spices for different mashed potato nights (red pepper flakes, parsley, garlic, pepper, onion) and I did buy 3 different kinds of Idahoan mashed potatoes for variety. Also the pepperoni has different kinds including very spicy, honey garlic etc;  If I have room I will be carrying some baby bel cheeses as well (will cram them in the night of, if I can).

Everything from this photo will be repackaged into thin ziplocks.  I feel guilty with the all the plastic but I need to carry this for 12 days and it all needs to be inside that can.

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Day 1 does not have to be in the bear can, I might treat myself to some fresh sandwiches, or splurge on a mountain house meal.

If you would like to see the full calorie break down and the weight, here is my spreadsheet: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1kCFPreTrCBBynJ4eCIxIVeICfkl42Qkgse1Tqk9xiSw/

I will do a follow-up post trip to see how much I never want to eat mashed potatos again. Though I have been eating these meals all summer on various weekend excursions and am still enjoying it.

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Happy Hiking!

Update: Gear Review – Blue Desert SmarTube Hydration System – Inline System!

I did a gear review recently for the Blue Desert SmarTube Hydration System, that was very favourable.  I decided to go ahead  and order a second one to modify for use as my inline system for my upcoming Big SEKI Loop (which I have now dubbed the Big Sexy Loop 🙂 )

I measured the tubing so the portion in the bottle would fit in both my 1L Platypus and my 1L SmartWater bottle (used and recommended because it is super light and the shape fits very nicely in packs, as well as durability), all the way to the bottom.  I then left a small amount to go through the bottle cap thread connector, and made my cut there.

The tubing fit easily over my Sawyer Mini, on the “dirty” side, and then I shortened the tube so that the distance from the Sawyer Mini to my mouth was reasonable (it’s a bit too long to start).  The mouth piece side of the tube slid easily but firmly over the Sawyer Mini clean side.

The beauty of this set up, is the ease of just grabbing “dirty” water and continuing on. The suction through the Sawyer mini is perfectly fine and sipping water has no issues. Removing the hoses from the Sawyer Mini can be a tad challenging (I use the non sharp side of the knife to pry it down).  Fortunately, if you keep your water sources choosy, you shouldn’t need to back flush too often.

I have tried it now on a couple weekend hikes and day hikes with no issues. I will be taking this setup with me on a 10-14 day trip to really test it out.

Happy Hiking!

Gear Review – Blue Desert SmarTube Hydration System

This past weekend I was able to review the Blue Desert SmarTube Hydration System

This was a relatively inexpensive piece of gear that I think deserves a good review.   At only $23 CDN, and available on Amazon Prime, this is an easy way to add a hydration tube to your gear without dealing with a bladder.  I really like the fact that it comes with different attachments, a bite valve and a on off switch.   It is manufactured in Israel, and seems to be well made and didn’t have a funny taste.

The three different sized lids fit Nalgene bottles, and regular water bottles of different diameters.  A very simple setup where each lid ultimately stacks.   One thing I wish the kit included was a few inches of velcro material to secure it to your pack.  It works with my current ULA Circuit but it would be just a nice little bonus.

Here is what is included:

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Suction wasn’t too difficult and I found I stayed much more hydrated.   One thing I would like to try in the future is cutting the tube and hooking it up to my sawyer straw, and having it as an in-line filter.

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Happy Hiking!

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