Top Backpacking Tents of 2016

So you’re ready for some backpacking, and want to start with the basics.  Or maybe you’re experienced and looking for some new gear for that new trip you have lined up.  Having a top notch tent in your pack is one of the best ways to increase comfort, enjoyment and safety on backcountry trips.  But when you are starting to look for your new tent, you will find there are A LOT of options out there.  Trying to find the tent that fits your needs can quickly become overwhelming.

I’m kind of a gear-head.  I love my research.  And having thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail and many other trails, I have the opportunity of knowing THE BEST people to ask when it comes to gear selection.  Not only that, but during my own hiking experiences, I’ve researched and tested, got referred to many various backpacking tents, and narrowed them down to the very best of the best.  Weight, cost, interior space, and weather protection are all factors in my choices.

I hope this post helps you find the best tent to suit your needs, keeping you warm, dry and protected in the outdoors for many years to come!

IMG_4101Shwayzes Gear Guide: Tents.

Tent considerations

Cost – Cost is one of the biggest concerns for most people.  You shouldn’t have to pay a small fortune for a tent.  However, as most of you know, a little more money spent on a quality product protects you from various and unforseen setbacks encountered.  Preparation is key.

Weight – A few ounces here and there seem like nothing before the trip.  However, they add up and become consequential when you experience fatigue, knee pain, etc.  Keeping your pack light is the #1 priority to stay healthy on long trips.  I have seen too many injuries due to heavy packs in my time.  To me, weight is critical.  As one of the big 3 (heaviest items in your pack – tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad), it’s essential to keep weight to a minimum with these items.

Protection – A backpacking tent that doesn’t protect you against mothernature is just dangerous.  I backpacked with a couple that bought a $40 tent, and when the temperature dropped, they suffered.  They also didn’t fair so well during rainstorms either.  Be careful with extreme budget tents.  Every tent on this list will keep you well protected from the elements.

Season Rating – Where are you hiking and how long?  What kind of conditions are you expecting.  Expect the unexpected.  3 season tents are the most popular, built for spring summer and fall trips.  I’ve survived some winter hiking with my 3 season, when it dropped down to 13 degrees at night with some wind.  I had a great sleeping bag, but that’s a different list.  A good 3 season tent will have you isolated from bad weather, while still promoting air circulation on those hotter days.

Interior Space – Comfort, really.  If you’re 6′ 3″ and your feet are touching against the end of the tent, you’re going to get wet.  Including your sleeping bag.  This is important to strike a balance between comfort and weight.  I have chosen tents that maximize interior space, while keeping weight at a minimum.  I like a spacious light weight tent, so I carry a 2p.  If you are willing to carry a little extra weight, consider bumping up a size.

Capacity – How many people will you be traveling with?  2 person tents are the most popular, and for good reason.  With recent tech designs and innovations, tent weight has been decreasing drastically, allowing a single person to carry a 2 person tent.  There is not much difference in weight between a 1p and 2p tent.  Group tents are heavier and less practical, and more meant for car camping.  However, there are some good options I have listed in another section.

Durability – Light weight tents tend to be less durable than heavy weight tents.  However, unless you are really rough with your gear, the tents I have provided in this list will last you many years, and thousands of miles.  My current tent has lasted around 3000 trail miles, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it.  Flawless.  My experience and research have shown me that if you treat a light weight tent well enough, they will last you thousands of miles, many more miles than the average backpacker.  My professional opinion is to stick with the light weight tents.

Wall Construction – This gets a little too specific, but is important.  Double wall tents come with 2 separate walls, the tent itself, and a rainfly.  The advantage to this is that condensation will stay off the mesh inner wall, and stick to the rainfly.  The other advantage is simply airflow on a cloudless night.  Keep it on to stay warm, take it off when it is hot.  Single wall tents have a built in rainfly, saving a little weight, and promote airflow to keep condensation down.  However, condensation is inevitable, and when your sleeping bag gets soaked because of it, your next day is going to be rough.  My opinion is to stick with a double wall tent.

Doors/Vestibule Space – Having 2 doors is helpful when 2 people are sharing a tent.  As well as 2 vestibules.  A vestibule is the space under the rainfly, between the tent and the rainfly, that you can keep gear in to prevent from getting wet, but also don’t have to cram into your tent.  Vestibule space is very important to me.  The tents I have listed are proven to fit all your needs, and are quite spacious.

Set up – Freestanding tents have the ability to be pitched anywhere, pop up tents are a synonym.  They can be anchored down with stakes, and even into rock.  These are generally preferred due to ease of set up, and how quick they can be set up and broken down.  Non-freestanding tents use trekking poles or other methods to pop the tent up.  They save weight by not needing tent poles, instead using line, trekking poles, or stakes.  These are a little more time consuming, but I have met some hikers that absolutely love them.  The weight is a huge plus for these.  My preferred tent is a freestanding pop up tent.

Footprint – A footprint weighs next to nothing, and is what interferes with the ground touching the bottom of your tent.  It is extra weight, but will protect your tent from abrasions, rocks etc.  These are sometimes not included in tents, but are worth the purchase, and will be sold as an accessory to the tent.  I recommend footprints just due to how grimy the ground can get.

Buy Online – Although I prefer to buy online because I can shop around for the cheapest deal, not all do.  Check the sellers status before making a purchase, and ask about their return policy.  If you are unsatisfied with your purchase, simply return to the seller.  BUT, the advantage to this, is you are able to purchase the tent, and try it out on your own, before making the decision to keep it.  I’ve purchased my tents online, haven’t had problems and always have ended up keeping them.  But not before doing my diligent research.

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Best Backpacking Tents of 2016

MSR Hubba Hubba Nx

Weight3 lb. 7 oz.

Dimensions:  84″x 50″ floor, 39″ height

Design:  2 person, 3 season, freestanding, 2 doors, 2 vestibules, double wall.

Features:  Set up and take down is made easier with a color coded hub and pole system.  Two large StayDry™ doors ensure water does not drip into tent while doors are open (I never tried this during a real rain storm).

Uses:  Ultralight backpacking, Backpacking, Camping

A very popular item among ultralight backpackers for a long time, this tent is partial to me, because I carried it with me as I thru-hiked the entire Appalachian Trail (2185.3 miles).  I STILL have it.  A rectangular floor and symmetrical shape allows hikers to spread out on opposite ends.  The vertical side walls and end walls help maximize the interior.  It is super easy to set up and take down, the vents help stay cool on hot nights, and the rain fly provides maximum protection against the elements.  Although it is a bit heavier than other tents I have listed, the durability, design and popularity puts it on this list.

Accessories:  I recommend picking up the MSR Hubba Hubba Nx footprint to increase durability.  The tent is available in different sizes, the Hubba Nx 1p, Motha Hubba Nx 3p, and the Papa Hubba Nx 4p.

Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2      

Weight:  2 lb. 13 oz.  Fast Fly Weight:  2 lb. 1 oz.

Dimensions:  Floor – 29 sq. ft. – 90″ x 52″/42″.  (Wider at head, narrower by feet).  Vestibule – 9 + 9 sq. ft.  Height – 42″.

Design: 2 person, 3 season, freestanding, 2 doors, 2 vestibules, double wall.

Features:  2 doors and 2 vestibules with 18 sq. ft. of vestibule space!  A crossover pole for extra headroom.  Double twisted thread for durability.  All seams are sealed with waterproof, solvent-free polyurethane tape.

Uses:  Long distance backpacking trips, ultralight backpacking, camping, section hiking, weekend warrior

The Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 packs a solid punch for such light weight.  Although light in weight, it has double twisted thread for extra strength and durability.  Opposing mesh doors provide good ventilation, while allowing 2 people easy access to the tent.  A spacious accommodation for 1 person, but sleeps two in a pinch.  A good friend thru-hiked the Appalachian trail with this, and highly recommended this tent.  It has built in mesh pockets for your gear.

Accessories:  I recommend the Big Agnes Spur UL2 Footprint for extra durability.   This tent also comes in a 1 person UL1  (2 lb. 3 oz.), a 3 person UL3 (3 lb. 11 0z.), and the four person UL4.

Nemo Hornet 2p Tent               

Weight: 2 lb.

Dimensions: Floor – 28 sq. ft.  85″ x 51/43″ (Larger at head, than at foot).  Height – 40″.  Vestibule space – 8 sq ft. x 8 sq ft.

Design: 2 person, 3 season, freestanding, 2 doors, 2 vestibules, double wall.

Features:  Large side doors, a good amount of vestibule space, offers easy access in and out of tent.  Extremely fast and easy set up, thanks to single hubbed pole, with ball and socket tips.  Tech:  Durable, featherlite NFL aluminum poles weigh less than nearly all poles on market.

Uses:  Ultralight backpacking, Thru-hiking, Long distance hiking, Backpacking, Camping.

The Nemo Hornet 2p Tent is one of the lightest freestanding tents on the market.  This is due to the technology used in its design.  Light weight, yet still quite durable.  The downside is less headroom than some of the other tents, but the plus side is it is a lot lighter, making this one of the top tents on the market.  A couple more ounces than its 1p. version, but with an extra door and extra space, it is well worth the upgrade.

Accessories:  I recommend picking up the Nemo Hornet 2p Footprint for extra durability. This is also available in a smaller Nemo Hornet 1P tent.

 

ZPacks Duplex                  ultralight-two-person-tent-duplex-angle_l

Weight:  1 lb. 5 oz.  (without poles)

Dimensions:  Floor – 90″ x 45″.  Height – 48″.  Vestibule space – 20.75″ on each side.

Design:  2 person, 3 season, 2 doors, 2 vestibules, single wall, 2 trekking poles and 6 stakes min. for setup.

Features:  Set up with two trekking poles to a peak height of 48″.  4 storm doors.  Tarp overhangs floor by 4-5 inches on each side to prevent water from dripping onto floor.

Uses:  Ultralight backpacking, long distance backpacking, backpacking, camping.

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Hiking the Fundy Footpath

Before you start planning, make a gear list!  I have mine accessible at this link.  This is the gear list I had for the Appalachian Thru-hike I completed, and my gear does not deviate much from it.  I would not bring the cold weather gear, as it is not applicable on the Fundy Coast.

Gear page

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Hiking the Fundy Footpath is beautiful, remote, challenging, and inspiring.  But above all else, it’s an adventure!  I did a ton of research before setting out on this one, and I have written most of my findings.  The Getting prepared section has some brief information.

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Maps can be purchased through this link – http://www.fundytrailparkway.com/en/the_fundy_footpath/ 

*Hint (Literally call them and request one, contact information under “contact us”).  If you are feeling ambitious, you may also ask them about taxis, I have a couple listed under Day 1.

Getting prepared

Day 1 has all the information about where we got our maps, who we picked to take for our taxi and a way to reach them, where to park etc.  People usually leave their car at Point Wolfe Campground which is 8 km from the start (or end) of the trail.  We left our car there and taxid to the other terminus (Big Salmon River).

Day 1 – Big Salmon River to Little Salmon River 17.9 km (11.12 miles)

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After realizing this hike was a little more challenging than originally anticipated, which is fine for me, I had a minor melt down on day 2.  We hiked only 10 miles, but that literally took 10 hours.  I haven’t hiked that slow in God knows how long, but what a day!  There are shots of the trail and images of the map in day 2.

Day 2 – Little Salmon River to Goose Creek campsite – 16.1 km of hell (10 miles)

Day 3 we were pretty much wiped, and finished the trail by 10 am.  2 days and 4 hours.  Not bad!  But the real reason we hurried on day 3 was hunger and the thought of hot food and all those lobster rolls all around the area.  New Brunswick has some AMAZING seafood.

This section also has some information and pictures regarding finding the end of the trail, as you cross Goose River, crossing over into the approach trail.  They don’t exactly interconnect immediately, and you may want to read about it before hand.  The map wasn’t exactly informative.

Day 3 – Goose Creek Campsite to Goose River (ending) to Point Wolfe Parking Lot – 15.3 km (9.5 miles)

Afterwards, we opted out of the immediate hot showers available at Point Wolfe Campground, and instead traveled to Alma 5 minutes away.  Alma is a quiet little touristy town chalk full of seafood. Here is some info on Alma, although I found asking locals was the best way to get what I wanted.

http://www.tourismnewbrunswick.ca/Products/V/Village-of-Alma.aspx

Fundy Footpath – Day 3

Looking to go on an adventure?  Get the gear first!

Visit my gear page here for questions about gear.

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Goose Creek Campsite to Goose River – 7.4 km (4.6 miles)

*NOTE*  An additional 7.9 km (4.9 miles) is required to actually FINISH the trail and get to civilization.  This is the “mandatory approach trail”.  The hike from Goose River to find the approach trail is NOT explained well in the guide, and I recommend reading the bottom for help with navigation. 

Total Day 3 – 15.3 km (9.5 miles)

Total hiked after completion – 49.3 km (30.6 miles) TOTAL.

We made the 9.5 miles by 1 pm, crushing the day, because.. HUNGER!!!  All we could think of was, oh man – the car is right there!  9 miles away.  We can potentially get there at noon and immediately drive to eat the most food ever.  Warm showers were also on the mind.  But first, food.

We had a tough decision to make.  Low tide was scheduled for 6:51 am, we had 2 crossings to make that were 7.4 km apart, with a 4 hour window to make both.  Knowing our previous days hiking rate, and our current exhaustion level, it wasn’t looking good.  However, we had hunger on our side.  I was not about to wait until 5 pm to cross Goose River.  We were up at 5 am, and out of camp by just before 6 am.

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Crossing Goose Creek sucks.  Neither of us had water shoes, because, who has time for those.  They are too heavy for camp shoes, and I have never really needed them.  I’ve made all my river crossings to date in my boots.  THIS crossing, however, was not sandal friendly.  I immediately lost my first sandal hiking the .5 km up river to the crossing.  The mud came up to our knees.  I didn’t even bother looking for it, I was too tired.  The mosquitos were on us, the rain had started, I was barefoot, and it was only 6 am.

 

We made it to the crossing, a slow trickle of shallow water.  The rocks were cutting into my feet, I was ready to put on some shoes and get my hike on!  The crossing took about 20 minutes for the minimal distance, which was a little disappointing.

On the other side, however, we went beast mode.  I carry mio energy whenever I hike, which came in handy.  The hike from Goose Creek to Goose River is super easy, comparatively.

We hiked up and over to Azore Beach, it was raining, but it was still a pretty site.

We got a little worried that we weren’t going to be able to make the crossing, until we came upon 2 hikers that had just crossed it, and said the water was still below their knees.  We ran from there.  We found the river!   We found the 0 km!  It was 3 hours past low tide and the crossing was super easy.  Rock hopping.  Never got wet.  What was all this about in the book then?

  • NOTE – Well, that’s when things got tricky.  We had to find the approach trail.  We saw some yellow blazes, assumed we were going the right way and walked for a couple hundred yards until it just ended.  We ended up in deep ocean channel, that was just void of water.  There was water in the center, with sloping hills on either side filled with mud, and a high tide water mark well above our heads 20-30 feet on either sides of us.  We realized it was 3 hours past low tide, with the safe crossing gone 1 hour ago, and started to get worried.  With no more blazes visible, panick set in a little bit.

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This is pretty much the end of the blazes.  Up ahead, it diverges left and straight.  There are footprints and paths going both ways.  The correct sequence from here is to hike straight, try to keep out of the mud, and once you get to the divergence, go straight across, up the hill, and on top of that hill you will see a log bench and some rocks.  Look very carefully and you will find a poorly marked entrance to the beginning of the approach trail.  The ONLY reason we found this, was because we saw a person.  We had walked around for a good 10 minutes in the wrong direction, and then turned around to try to find our bearings again.  This is not good to do when high tide is looming.  Hope that helps!

This section is beautiful!!!  And only 7.9 km from our car!!!  Did I mention I was hungry?  What did hot food taste like?  Is there lobster in New Brunsick?  How fast can an injured person run 5 miles with a 40 lb pack?  These are all questions in my mind as I surveyed the awesome scenery.

After taking 30 minutes to find the actual damn trail, we started on it.  IT WAS A ROAD!  We hiked the 5 miles in a little under 2 hours.

The End.  Aaaaand ready for the next one.

 

Fundy Footpath Day 1

Point Wolfe campsite to Big Salmon River – 2 hour taxi ride.  Followed by hiking from Big Salmon River to Little Salmon River – 17.9 km.

Alexi showed up at whatever time I had asked of him, I even changed the time on him last minute as I forgot that there was another time difference when we crossed over to Canada into New Brunswick.  He brought coffee, he was friendly, he told us all about the sites, and even stopped and showed us his favorite spots while telling us the history.  He tried to stop at a restaurants for world famous seafood chowder before we departed but it was closed as we asked him to leave so early.  Put him in as one of your options.  You can contact Alexei Kalinin for more information at –

Alexei

Go Fundy Тours
(506) 898-1312

He happened to be our cheapest option, and the experience was great, so just wanted to put that out there for those who are interested in taxi options.  The plan was to hike back to our car at Point Wolfe Campground (yes you can park for free).

2 of Alexis favorite spots on the way to Big Salmon River (the Western Terminus)

Now, the hike – Day 1 – Big Salmon River to Little Salmon River

17.9 km (11.12 miles)

FYI, there is available water everywhere.  Do not worry yourself with packing too much, I carried just over 1.5 liters at each water location, and never ran out.

Big Salmon River is the Western Terminus of the Fundy Footpath, and has a visitor center complete with bathrooms and a shop in case you forgot anything.  They ask for your emergency contact information, estimated date of finishing and they WILL contact you if they do not hear back from you by the time you are done.  This turned out to be a dangerous trek, and we met a couple people who were rescued from this hike the year before.  Fun!  The most important info to take away, if you do call 911, you must tell them you are in New Brunswick, as all call GPS are rerouted to Nova Scotia, and they will spend all their time searching for you there.

We signed in and she told us quick directions how to get to the trail.  I was half listening, because I believed this trail to be blazed with white blazes, which I am familiar with following having hiked the Appalachian Trail.  The entire trail has a map and guide, available for purchase at both ends of the park, since mine never arrived after I sent for it I purchased a new one here.  It breaks up the trail into sections about 4-5 km long, and is pretty descriptive.  I will reference these points in my blog.

Leaving the visitor center, we crossed the bridge and took some pictures.  This was my girl friends first backpacking trip!  And she was entirely dependent on me to not get lost…

We got lost immediately after crossing the bridge!  The trail looks like this.

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Pretty much after walking on a nice path that is a trail, the trail disappears.  This will happen again and again and again, throughout the entire hike.  You must guess where to go next, and sometimes the guide is helpful.

After losing all credibility in front of my girlfriend, we followed the river staying on the eastern side, up to almost the mouth of it.  Guess what?  The trail starts there, and there were no markers pointing that way.  If you want to hike this trail, cross the bridge, pretend you know what you are doing and make your way towards the ocean on the east side, and BOOM – TRAIL.  I wish someone had told me that.  Thinking back, the lady at the visitor center probably did.  Moving on,

Big Salmon River to Long Beach Brook – 4.5 km (2.79 miles). 

EASY!  Except we got lost again.  Guess what?  Those white blazes that are on the trees?  They say parts of the trail are washed out.  In Maritime Canada, that means 500 foot wide rock slides, tearing down all trees holding any blazes on them.  Where the f*ck did the trail go.  I don’t know.  You’ll find it, just look very carefully.  They have gone back and marked it, but holy hell, this trail is in bad shape. Not bad shape due to lack of maintenance, bad shape due to constant bombardment of way too much rain, slopes of 60-80 degrees, and apparently the earth caving in on itself.  I mean, look at this fun.

 

This was one of the easier sections however, and we were able to reach Long Beach Brook in about 1.5 hours.  There are bathrooms and benches to sit at and take a break right on the ocean.  This will be your last luxury of seeing a parking lot also.   We saw 4 hikers ahead of us just finishing their break, and we talked to some people hanging around the beach.  2 couples in their 60s that were actually rescued last year on the part we were just on.  Oh, and they told my girl friend there were bears… Jerks.  I had been lying to her up until that point.  We had a nice snack and moved on.

Long Beach to Seeley Beach 3.8 km (2.36 miles) 

Total – 8.3 km (5.15 miles)

After sitting for a while on the benches on the beach we took off.  But once again, where the EFF did the trail go???  There are no signs pointing to where the trail picked up again.  Luckily we saw the other hikers leaving the bench spots up on the pier by the parking lot.  We searched and searched, and finally we found what looked like a trail could be.  This was right next to the last bench by the ocean, a small unmarked trail leads around the corner and uphill.  There were no blazes, just pink ribbons signifying that maybe they are working on this section.  This turned out to be the trail (we did lots of back tracking to make sure).  Once we were on the trail, it was easy going again.  This section ended up being the easiest and quickest walk, we were quickly to Dragons Tooth before we knew it.  There were signs that there was blasting going on, but we made it around the dynamite, around the 500 ft rock slides that brought down every surrounding tree with it, and down to Seeley Beach.

Seeley Beach was rocky, windy, remote, a nice place to take a break.  The trail follows the beach here for about 1000 ft, before going back up into the woods.  We had lunch here.  This has one of those cross at low tide warnings.  We crossed a tiny section that was above our knees.

Seeley Beach to Cradle Brook – 4.6 km

Total to Cradle Brook – 12.9 km (8.01 miles)

From here, its stairs straight up.  The hike to Cradle Brook was tough, up to the top, marshes on top, down again, up again etc.  Usually I wouldn’t mind, but the trail was weathered as I said, steep, lots of opportunities to miss the trail etc.  We started resting every time we got to a brook, we were tired.  It was only 4 pm, and Little Salmon River was only 5 km more.

Cradle Brook to Little Salmon River – 5 km (3.1 miles)

Total – 17.9 km (11.12 miles)

We were wiped!  The trail got very steep up and over cradle brook to Little Salmon River.  This part sucked.  This 11 miles was harder than starting the Appalachian trail, more comparative to the whites, without the 4k elevation.  Just ups and downs, roots and rocks and roots and rocks.  We should probably have stopped at Cradle Brook, but it was only 4 pm(ish) and daylight literally stays until 10pm.  We’re not suckers!

We hiked the 5 painful miles, and descended rapidly to Little Salmon River, where we just came out into a basin, at low tide, and said whaaaaaaat.  Apparently you take a sharp left, hike .3 – .5 km and cross the river.  There are a bunch of trails marked blue blazes (ATV trails), don’t be fooled.  The trail is hidden in a foresty inlet, a bunch of rocks leading into an enclosure that doesn’t look like a trail at all.  This is it.  Hike up just 100 ft, and you will see a beautiful campsite, with a bear box and a privy!!!  Whaaaaat.  I didn’t think I would see a privy on this trail.  The bear box added to my girl friends fears of bears, and the Canadian hikers we met shrugged it off.

We set up camp, ate our stupid hiker dinners, listened to Canadians talk about their lives, I eventually crawled out of my tent at 8 pm to join them at the fire, consuming half a bottle of my whiskey, while my girl friend straight up passed out hard.  The fire continued well past 10 pm, as the sun was still out (seriously?), and finally I got to sleep for about 5 hours.

 

 

Fundy Footpath – Prep and beginning day 1.

01_ATgear_olivier_750x400  Get your gear first!   Amazon Outdoor Gear

The Fundy Footpath.  The largest tidal zone in the world.  A continuation of the Appalachian Trail (international Appalachian Trail).  Ocean.  All reasons I chose this hike this summer.  Also, the hike was only 30 miles, and I would be taking my girl friend on her VERY FIRST backpacking trip.  In retrospect, this was not the best hike for a first timer…  It is extremely difficult :).  She’s still with me though!

I was able to find lots of information about this hike, including various blogs and youtube videos.  Understandably, most blogs and videos complained about how rugged and tough the trail was.  Being the over-confident hiker I am, I laughed at most of what was written and wrote it off.  (I’ve hiked the 49.3 km or 3o miles in just a day before with a full pack).  I shit you not, it took me 10 hours to hike 1o miles on this trail.  I realized on day 2, they weren’t joking!  This is an intense hike.  Compared to the Appalachian trail, where you will climb a mountain, get a spectacular view, climb back down, repeat.  This was climb 1000 vertical feet in less than 1 mile, no view, immediately descend, repeat.  Getting past that part, its beautiful, remote, rugged, and most of the trail is completely destroyed by the coastal rains.  Be prepared to hang on to a lot of roots as you try to space your feet perfectly on the 6 inches of what remain of the trail.

SO, that being said, let’s get to it!  Preparing for the hike.  The hike ends (or begins) at point wolfe campground.  We decided to camp there, and get a taxi to the other end, the suspension bridge at big salmon river.  I called various sites and Alexi offered to take us for 150 Canadian.  The people at the information center were charging about 250.  If you are feeling adventurous, and lucky, we ran into a couple from Quebec that parked their car, and then waited to meet someone heading the opposite direction, giving them their car keys, and asking them to park their car for them at the opposite side!  Dang guys!  Canadians sure are polite!

The drive from Pointe Wolfe campground to big salmon river is about 2 hours.  We got there around 10 am, signed in the register and started our journey.  We quickly got lost immediately after passing the suspension bridge.  Which I will get to in my next post.  Did anyone mention it was really easy to get lost on this hike???

 

The Lost Coast Trail, an afterward

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The Lost Coast definitely left its impressions on me, and wanted me coming back for another adventure.  Just as any real adventure should.  Gandalf still calls me asking me where and when the next one is… We will know soon.

One thing you will definitely need, and this is a great help, is a map of the Lost Coast Trail.  There are a couple others out there with specific landmarks and such, but this makes use of the drinkable water coming up and whatnot.  Another thing to survive the Lost Coast is going to be a Sawyer Squeeze system.  This is a water purifier as not all water can be trusted.  This specific system is the favorite of Appalachian Trail hikers, it got me through the whole trail and so I used it on this trek.  One recommendation.  DO NOT GET THE MINI.  I know it costs less, but it is not worth the extra minutes getting water ready when everyone else is ready to go.

Add some sunblock, a backpack and all that gear I have from my  gear page

Well just the essentials, and you will be all set!

Bring a camera! If you don’t already have one, here are some great ones.
Best Point and Shoot Cameras

I brought a 16MP camera and am currently blowing some up into canvas for Christmas.  So spend the $$ on the good camera, it will be worth it in the long run.

I will recommend this trip for everyone, families included, as long as you stick to the northern section (which is all beach).  Bring 2 cars if you can, the shuttle is costly ($300+).

If you have no other reason to go and see a new place, just go for the views!

This was easily the most rewarding and visually stunning trip I have been on.  Since the first section is only 24 miles, families with young children can and should venture out into this wilderness.  You won’t regret it!

Lost Coast Trail – Day 3

Buck Creek to Black Sands Beach (Shelter Cove) – 7.2 miles

Total trip – 28.4 miles

I could have hiked this entire section in one long and arduous day, but I’m glad I didn’t!  The views were too amazing.  This hike to shelter cove was easy.  I was up early admiring the ocean yet again.  This time I got a little antsy and left before everyone else.  I probably left around 8 am, and arrived at shelter cove around 11:30 am.  I really had to poop, so that propelled me into town.  Options for the ol #2 are going where the high tide will sweep it away, or up the creek which was probably everyones water source, and poison oak was everywhere.  I chose to make it to town.

The first thing I realized when I left camp was… I was completely isolated.  There was no one around.  We had been seeing people, a lot of people, over the last couple days.  This morning I felt completely alone, and I loved it.  DSCN1100 DSCN1101 DSCN1102 DSCN1103 DSCN1105

Water sources are a plenty on the Lost Coast Trail, as many streams flow down from the mountains, as the ocean fog will keep replenishing.  At times, this section of the trail was quite rocky.  At other times, you could walk barefoot.  Oh man, I love walking (sorry, “hiking”) barefoot on the beach.

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Barefoot prints

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Time to relax.  No rush, only 7 miles to town, and I am pretty much done by 11 am.

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Roc Doc caught me on the last mile, and we hiked together into Black Sands Beach parking lot with pizza on our mind.  We noticed Shelter Cove was 2 miles up “the hill” as the locals called it.  Screw that, it’s like a 3000 ft mountain.  We hitched a ride into town from one of the local caretakers of the recreation areas and had some lunch at the cash only (only place open) deli.

Everyone else rolled in around 2-3 pm and we paid for a stupid campsite next to the cash only (only place open) deli.  Beer in shelter cove costs $15 for a 6 pack.  This town is not very hiker friendly at all.  So we ignored the weird stares, put up with the grumpy old guy that owns the only wifi in town, and drank as much as we could.

All in all, a good day.

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Lost Coast Trail – Day 2

Spanish Flats Campsite  to Buck Creek – 12.8 miles

Total Trip thus far – 21.8 miles

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Wow.  Falling asleep on the beach is just like you imagined it would be like.  Or just like you have done before.  Just like that time you spent in Mexico with your windows wide open, listening to the waves crash, softer and softer until…

6:30 am, and here I am!  It wasn’t a dream!  I am hiking the lost coast trail with some of my best friends from the Appalachian Trail northbound group from 2014.  I woke up early from habit, or the fact that I am doing something awesome and don’t want to sleep through it.  We lounged for about 3 hours, breaking down camp, having breakfast, just being on the beach.  It wasn’t windy today, the sun rose, the air had a slight breeze, it was beautiful.  We hiked for about 3 hours on the beach, real easy hiking, until we hit Millers Flat.  We decided that since the next mile was impassible at high tide, which was in a couple hours, that we would take a lunch nap.

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Morning hike!

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Stopping for some much needed water

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Stopping for some water

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Lunch nap

As you notice, I am in the shade.  There is really no escaping the sun on the first part of the Lost Coast Trail.  While that’s not a bad thing, I was getting pretty red, and needed a nap in the shade.  We hung out here for about 2-3 hours, swimming in the small pond, combing the beach.  It was chill.

When we moved on, we came upon a bunch of hikers that were waiting for the high tide to roll out.  The waves were just crushing the cliffs and we would not be able to walk for another hour.  So we hung out some more on the beach…

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Once the tide rolled out, we meandered on.  We left a little too early, and had to run between wave sets, sometimes having to climb up the cliff to get out of the way.  I could see how this could become hazardous (especially at night).

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Pretty soon I stumbled upon this group of birds, and the smell was.. well, ominous.  I feared something dead.

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Yarrr, t’was a beached whale!  We found out from talking to people later in shelter cove, that it had been a floater for a couple months and then had been beached on the Lost Coast.

We arrived at another one of the BEST CAMPSITES EVER, seriously.  Camping on the beach is awesome.  I set up my tent, took pictures of my tent set up to prove that I had indeed set up my tent, and then murdered my dinner.  The whale far from my mind, my mind soaking in the view.  We all hung out til around 9 (sun sets at 8:40pm up there) and it got a little chilly.  Another perfect sunset.  More beautiful stars to look up at.  Who’s idea was this?!  Mine.

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Sunset!

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My favorite picture

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I eventually fell asleep just staring out at that sky, feeling so blessed to be able to do something this amazing.

Lost Coast Trail – Day 1

Matthole Beach to Spanish Flats Campsite – 8.4 miles

After a good night of having a couple drinks, reuniting with long lost trail friends, etc. we were a little achy.  We had arranged a shuttle to pick us up and drive us to the northern terminus of the Lost Coast Trail, as we had parked at the southern terminus, and would hike back.  The shuttle was Lost Coast Adventures.  The drive is 3 hours to matthole beach, there is no easy way to get back and forth, so we chose to shuttle.  For around $300 for the 6 of us, we had a solo hiker join us and hop on in.  The shuttle driver was awesome, drove us through the redwoods, told us the history of the land and eventually we arrived at Matthole beach.

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We were at Matthole beach around 1pm.  The wind was wicked, and it stung.  A lot.  Luckily I had bought some cheap sunglasses at a gas station just outside of SF.  I was fully lubed with SPF and had my stunner shades on, I was ready.  We ate lunch, however and hung out hiding from the vicious winds for an hour.  And then… we started.

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Sick.  Like, so sick.  Call out of work sick.  So beautiful, I don’t need to write words about it.  Just show some pictures.  This blog is easy.  In fact, this trail was easy.  Sand in your shoes and in your eyes and in just about everything you can imagine.  That is a good problem to have, in my point of view.  We breezed through the first section, against the stinging winds that hit us like an angry hail storm.  I took way too many pictures.  Eventually we hit Punta Gorda Lighthouse.  I thought I saw some dead sea lions, and then DSCN1035 DSCN1036 DSCN1041

They’re ALIVE!  We just stared at them and then had an epiphany…. Nap time!

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After this, the hiking was so easy we just breezed passed the first campsite, as we passed almost 20 hikers heading the same way.  Ever since the Appalachian Trail, crowded campsites give me the heebeejeebies.  No thanks!  So we left a message for our slower hikers that we crept on, and wrote them a big beautiful trail sign in the sand.  Because – we’re on the beach and we HAVE TO play in the sand.

We made it to Spanish Flats with enough time to set up camp, eat, and watch the ever so slooooowwww sun set.  This might have been the most beautiful place I have ever camped at.  Don’t believe me, just watch.

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Appalachian Trail – Afterward

7 months ago I finished one of my dreams come true, thru hiking the entire Appalachian Trail!  I hiked with friends, I hiked alone, I took breaks, I canoed, mountain biked, binge drank, ate pop tarts for 5 months straight, I… walked a lot.  After the trip, I had no straight plans to head for home.  I just knew I wanted to explore the country.

I wrote about meeting up with Gandalf and fellow thru hikers Goat Fresh Kamikaze and Figgy, people I had spent a lot of time on the trail with, and it really hit home that I was able to summit with them.  We were invited back to Moosehead Lake by Bob and Jackie who were my ultimate trail angels throughout the hike and partied with them for a couple days.  Afterwards, Fresh and I decided not to go home.  My parents had bought a house on the ocean in Maine, near Cushing and Rockport (way off the map), and we stayed there for a couple weeks.  I invited people up to party, we played tennis, we lounged, we partied with friends close by!  Like hard.  Like my parents got mad at how much we were binge drinking.  THRU HIKERS CAN DRINK!  we played video games (we talked about video games for months) and we cooked and ate so much food, we went ocean kayaking, I found a summer girl friend, it was a beautiful ending.  I want to thank my parents for making this all possible, they were willing to put homeless hikers up in their brand new house.

The road trip will be another post, I wanted to take time and reflect on what I learned from this trip, what I took away, what I could change, and the roller coaster of emotions I went through.  Immediately after finishing, I felt a wave of relief, but also I felt depressed.  This depression would not go away soon.  I ignored it by the fact I had done something so immense and was proud, but that thing I worked so hard for was done… And I no longer had Katahdin in my distance, it was behind me.  After returning to Phoenix (a 3 week, 6000 mile car camping trip done with my dog Shwayze and I, which I will post about soon) I was exhausted.  I was in no hurry to find a job, I still had some money leftover.  I hung out with friends but I found that feeling of being alone amongst people.  They would all ask how the trip was but I feel they wouldn’t grasp what I was talking about, or wouldn’t care.  That feeling will only forever be shared with the people I was on the trip with.  I felt isolated for a very long time, months even.  I had the post trail blues.  I refused to exercise, my diet was still horrible, but I had to move on.

Coming back to the city I was FULL of anxiety.  The way of life, going to bed at 8 and having no responsibility was over.  I am back in my house that I own, things are broken down, I need to fix them, their are 1000s of thoughts flying through my head at full speed.  I got a job serving tables at Hard Rock Cafe, they loved the fact I was a thru hiker.  I had a huge beard when I applied and kept it for quite some time.  Once I was back in the swing of things with work, I started going to the gym again, and eating better.  It took about 6 months for me to see a Dr. about the way I was feeling, and I have been put on some anti-depressants/anxiety medicine.   This has all helped immensly, and I believe time was the greatest cure.  It is, to put it mildly, straining on the body and mind to be having the time of your life with people who mean the world to you, and then to summit and be ripped from everyone you care about, and taken from that life, and put back into what you were escaping from in the first place.  I have read up a lot about post trail depression and I was ready for it, but it hit me hard.  I talked for hours with fellow thru hikers and they helped out a lot.  I did what anyone else would do, I planned my next adventure.

Other than the post trail depression, I took away a lot from this trip.

-Travel alone anywhere with confidence

-New sense of adventure (there are seriously so many adventures out there)

-A new mindset on my future and how to attack my goals (I spent lots of time thinking.. LOTS)  I am going back to school for physical therapy assistant ASAP.

-The ability to trust people again.  This is huge, living in the city can turn you indifferent, you will turn a blind eye to people, it makes you not trust each other, it makes you ignore.  I was helped by complete strangers that at first I didnt trust.  Jimmy (a trail angel that had taken my back pack down the road for me and also helped us in New Found Gap was the first instance of this).  I feel more human now!  I help out whenever I can, I will not turn a blind eye.  People matter to me again.  This was one of the greatest side effects of hiking the trail.

-The feeling that I can do anything I put my mind to.  (Seriously, I just hiked 2200 miles, prove me wrong)

-A deeper understanding between the relationship of humankind and nature.  This is more of a Native American approach to our Mother Earth, but it took me this trip to understand it.  I no longer throw away things on a hike, put trash in a fire pit, etc.  This is what we have, leave it more beautiful than how you found it, because you never know who this location will inspire next!

On a side note… This July, I will be hiking the Lost Coast Trail (Humboldt California) a 56 mile completely on the beach hike, that goes through some red woods!  Gandalf, Goat and Bob the trail magic guru are coming with me.  This trip coming up means the world to me, I get to hike with my fellow hiker family and see a new part of this beautiful beautiful country.  I would love to share it all with you and will do so, and I hope you enjoy it!

COMING SOON – LOST COAST TRAIL 🙂

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