Hubba NX, UberLite & Corus Down Quilt

by BestHike editor Rick McCharles 

I updated my sleeping system for summer 2020.

  • Therm-a-Rest Corus 0C Down Quilt CAD $260 (US $186)
  • Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite WV Sleeping Pad – Unisex CAD $254 (US $181.50)
    Hubba NX 2020 tent CAD $479 (US $342)
  • Nemo Switchback Foam Sleeping Pad – Unisex CAD $49.95 (US $35.70)

I bought everything from Mountain Equipment Co-op in Canada, trying to support companies other than Amazon during COVID-19.

I’ve spent hundreds of nights in Hubba and Hubba NX tents. Never a complaint aside from pole failures.

Happily, the latest edition has new composite poles. They look stronger.  Especially the hubs.

OLD poles on top, new on the bottom

NX weight is listed at 1.29 kg (about 2.84 lbs). 

My pillow is a partially inflated Therm-a-Rest NeoAir® XLite (small) wrapped in a shirt — which I love.

In fact the XLite  is the sleeping pad I normally use so it is also my back-up in case the somewhat fragile UberLite gets punctured.

When I want to carry the extra weight (415 gm)  and bulk, I’m bringing along the orange Nemo foam pad to protect the UberLite from the ground. And to keep my tent a little cleaner.

For bikepacking I’m also using the Nemo folded as a flat platform across my rear panniers.  Happy to have it.

The Therm-a-Rest Corus is my first quilt.

Read the cleverhiker review.

 I actually am happy with sleeping bags, never feeling claustrophobic in the past.  On my recent 6 day bikepacking trip I carried both the Corus as well as a down bag.  Both were fine for me.  In fact, after the test I used both — not for warmth, but for coziness.

I’ll carry the Corus for hikes and bikepacking where weight and volume is an important factor.

Here I am setting up my previous system earlier in the spring.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

Ursack Quick Release Knot

I recall being reluctant to buy an Ursack to protect my food from bears and other critters — but finally got one in 2011.

This was the first time I used it, on the Howe Sound Crest Trail out of Vancouver.

2011

I was won over instantly.

Though I own two Bear Vaults, I always carry the Ursack instead if it’s allowed where I’m hiking.

It’s much less bulky.

Though my old white one is going strong, Ursack has newer models in black . And a quicker way of tying the bag to the tree.

Ursack AllMitey bear bag

I’ll probably get the larger capacity URSACK MAJOR XL when I eventually have to replace my old white one.

On my recent cycling / hiking trip through Vancouver Island I tented 6 nights.

There are PLENTY of black bears. I’d never seen so much scat anywhere as on the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail, for example.

You absolutely MUST PROTECT YOUR SMELLIES in this part of the world.

For the first time I used the new recommended quick release knot to attach the Ursack to a tree.  It is a big improvement.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

Wild & Scenic Film Festival 2020

I attended the 3rd Annual (Gainesville FL hosted) Wild & Scenic Film Festival (WSFF).

It was hosted by The Florida Trail Association.  Good people.

For this outdoor screening, we chose a unique program of environmental and adventure films that illustrate the Earth’s beauty. They also show the challenges facing our planet and the communities working to protect it.

It was clear to me too that diversity was important in the selection of the 14 films.

Hillary Van Dyke & Angie Riviere of Outdoor Afro were there, for example.

Hilarious stories of how African Americans are greeted on the trail.  😀

 Please white folks: “Just say HI.”  

Click PLAY or watch the trailer on YouTube.

The 1400+ mile Florida Trail is mostly maintained and improved by volunteers. YOU could join a work crew. Sign up here:

floridatrail.org/volunteer/

Darn Tough socks – a review

Over the years I hadn’t found a favourite hiking sock.

Halfway Anywhere loves Darn Tough getting about 700 miles out of each pair.

I finally bought a pair online and wore them 5 days in a row in fairly dry alpine conditions hiking near Whistler B.C.

  • 65% Merino Wool, 31% Nylon, 4% Lycra Spandex

They’re my new hiking sock. Felt great. Held up very well. And only smelled a bit after 5 days.

I got two new pair for Christmas 2019.

related – Halfway Anywhere review

cycling the Annapurna Circuit

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles – day 1 | 2 | 3/4

My best ride EVER.

Jeeps and buses now shuttle up and down the valley all the way to Muktinath, causing some trekkers to dismiss this section of the Annapurna Circuit as ‘over’.

It’s not over. Most who do it still enjoy the hike down.

Still … cycling is better.

Cycling Annapurna is getting increasingly popular. But it is dangerous.

One guide I cycled alongside had 3 clients: all 3 fell over two days, one evacuated back to the U.K. with a broken collar bone.

Here’s the best easy & inexpensive option, in my opinion.

I did the Muktinath to Tatopani ride in 2014. Enjoyed it so much that I repeated exactly the same trip in 2019.

First you have to make your way to Muktinath (3800m) and be acclimatized to that altitude.

Many offer to rent you a bike. I went again with Mustang, as I like their professionalism. For this trip and 6 years ago the cost was $60 — and you could do the trip in 1, 2, 3, or 4 days for that price. Most do 2 days. They shuttle your luggage to Tatopani.

  1. Muktinath to Marpha (2650m descent)
  2. Marpha to Tatopani (1130m descent)

There are several ways down to Kagbeni, all interesting. This time I took the high route via Jhong (Dzong; 3580m) on the other side of the valley from the motor vehicle traffic. Loved it.

All day long you are staring at impressive Dhaulagiri (8167m).

Day 1 is dry, arid Tibetan landscape.

You definitely need protection from wind and dust.

You reach fantastic Kagbeni without passing any traffic. But road building is ongoing in the so-called Annapurna Conservation Area.

Riding through Jomsom is ugly and un-fun. But there’s no alternative to the busy main road.

Almost everyone stops in lovely Marpha. I followed the guide and her clients to this Guest House. In fact, I got the room of her injured rider.

Next morning I toured Marpha, the apple capital of Nepal.

… a pretty stone lined village which has survived the transition to the current time, by catering to trekkers and tourists. …

Dominating the village is the Nyingma monastery …

Day 2 you can often choose between the main road (bad), the river (hike-a-bike) or the new Annapurna trekking trail (single track with plenty of ups-and-downs).

I enjoyed it much better than 6 years ago.

The final ride down to Tatopani (hot water) is very, very rough. I’ll post video of that section later.

😕

BUT … it is great to hit the hot springs after 2 long, dusty days.

There’s no easy way out of Tatopani. My first time here I continued trekking to Annapurna Base Camp, a serious commitment. This time I got on the local bus … $5.50 for a 7 hour, very bumpy ride back to Pokhara.

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles – day 1 | 2 | 3/4

Matador Freefly16 packable daypack

Kraig and Dave on The Adventure Podcast frequently recommend Matador products.

As I travel much of each year, I use packable daypacks nearly every day on those trips. Often it carries my laptop and other essentials for short trips.

Often I use it to carry my daily groceries.

The Matador Freefly16 has replaced my my Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil® Dry Day Pack. The Matador is slightly heavier and bulkier, but much more robust and full-featured.

This 16 liter backpack is built from waterproof Cordura® with sealed internal seams and sealing zippers.  Incredibly light and seriously equipped, Freefly16 is ready for whatever’s ahead.

Dimensions:

  • Unpacked 17in x 11in x 8in
  • Packed 4.75in x 2.75in diameter
  • 4.8 oz

details 

Click PLAY or watch it on Vimeo.

Testing water filters for hikers

Misleading and unsubstantiated claims are a problem in the increasingly confusing assortment of options for filtering water.

Here’s the most comprehensive evaluation I’ve ever seen. See how your product rates.

Survival & Backpacking Water Filter Tests

LifeStraw Mission and MUV Survivalist look to be the units that best suit my needs. They are both about 350 grams.