Merry HikeMAS !!!

🎵🎵🎵  It’s  the most wonderful time of the year…the weather is cooling…the hikers are smiling cause trail-time is near…It’s the most wonderful time of the year…!  🎵🎵🎵

Christmas or Hiking Season???


As the Fall hiking season gets closer…us “cool-weather” hikers get increasingly more excited.

Especially, when we get the first really cool night before the official Autumn Equinox (2017 equinox in the northern hemisphere will be September 22 ).

Our thoughts wander back to lust over previous cool, crisp, comfortable hikes from yester-years with anticipation of our first scheduled hike.


The Other Excitement


The other excitement of the new hiking season is all about “NEW GEAR” that like-minded hiker friends and hopefully oneself will be getting.

It’s kinda like a Hikers’ Christmas!

Throughout the summer, we make trip plans, research newer lighter options of gear; dreaming of our packs getting lighter and lighter.

Thoughts dance in our heads… “Maybe I can cut this an ounce and maybe that another ounce. If I do that my pack will be sub20lbs total…!”

Oh the bliss of shaving those heavy ounces that will make our hikes more comfortable and enjoyable!

After our due diligence of carefully studying gear, we make the decision to purchase a new piece (or pieces) of gear to satisfy our hiker’s gear appetite.

And we wait… eagerly like a child on Christmas day…

We impatiently check the mail, shipment tracking numbers, we email cottage companies to see when we should expect our custom piece of gear, we banter back and forth with our hiking buddies; being puffed up with pride on how much our pack will be lighter than last season’s when that new item arrives.

We wait with baited anticipation of receiving that piece (or pieces) of gear.

Finally, it arrives; causing you to run to your special place where you usually open all new gear.

You pour over every piece of paper, pictured box, marketing items; trying on, trying out, and picturing how it will perform on the trail…oh the possibilities.




Altra Lone Peak 3.5 Trail Shoes

In the ever constant pursuit to find the right shoe for my hiking adventures, I decided to start hiking in a low-top non waterproof trail-runners in the 2016 hiking season.

My choice, The Altra Lone Peak 3.0…

The 2016 season’s worked out GREAT, so I obviously chose the Altra Lone Peak Series again going with the updated 3.5s.


JBENSBLOG’S First look at the 2017 LP 3.5s


Mountain Hardwear GhostLite Wind Jacket

I’ve had times when I wished I had a thin wind-breaking layer to trap the warmth my body was producing under my MH Ghost Whisperer puffy jacket or a thin wind-breaking layer when the puffy was just too much.


Given the extremely lightweight addition to a pack, it stands to reason these 3 miniscule ounces will payoff for those cold evenings in camp or on the trail.

JBENSBLOG’S First look at the MTH GhostLite Wind Jacket

EXPED SynMat UL Lite Sleep Mat

I flirted with the Thermarest NeoAir XLite for a quick moment, but couldn’t bring myself to go to the potato chip bag sleep mat.

I’ve laid on them and just couldn’t get past the crinkly sounds of the mylar inner insulation.

Some people can, but this guy could not…

I’ve had great history with the EXPED “Down” and “Syn” sleep mats that I have….

Due to this history, I was able to reduce 2.5oz out of my pack by updating my 15.9oz Exped Synmat 7 UL (2015) to a new 13.4oz Exped Synmat UL Lite (2017).


The R-Value did drop by going to the Synmat UL Lite.

Synmat 7 UL | 3.3

Synmat UL Lite | 2.5

However, I normally carry the EXPED MultiMat (12.5 oz) that consist of a 2 millimeters EVA closed cell foam always; for a clean surface to lounge on.


This very wide foam layer provides moderate insulation and cushioning with a R-value of 1.2.

When you fold it you have effectively 2.4 R-value.

I could fold it for another 2.4 R-value if needed pushing the total up to 4.8…

The combination of the Synmat UL Lite plus the MultiMat, I can push the R-value as high as 7.3 if the temperature conditions called for that high of insulative properties.

While, I don’t expect to be in a situation where this is needed, it just shows the breadth of potential.

EXPEDUSA let me know via Instagram recently, they would be releasing 2 new versions of the Multimat in March of 2018 after asking directly if there were any plans to expand the MultiMat series sizes.

The existing MultiMat will be considered the “Duo” (which I have).

The other 2 sizes will be the “Uno” and the “Trio.”

The names are self explanatory regarding dimensions.


EXPED Schnozzel UL Pumpbag 

(replacement  for the 2015 bag)

This piece of gear will be my second pumpbag.


I had the privilege of outfitting my father-in-law, PapaJohn with everything he needs for a potential extended (or possibly a thru-hike) trek on the Appalachian Trail this year.

One of those items was my 2015 Schnozzle bag to compliment his EXPED SynMat 7 UL sleep mats.

I contacted my preferred online retailer, backcountryedge.com for a price match offer by another retailer, since I needed to replace the one PapaJohn took for his gear needs.

BCE once again price-matched and threw in one of their new edition Edge t-shirts for me.

 Most spec descriptions list it at 1.4 oz… in actuality it is 2.2 oz!

The UL mantra of having multiple uses for any one item applies here; the bag doubles for a water-resistant pack liner and SynMat inflation.

The additional ounces really isn’t an issue since it performs double-duty…

The quickness of inflation with this UL bag is impressive. Also the assurance of not blowing my humid/moist breath into the SynMat to cause material degradation and the cooling effects of water droplets is a very crucial benefit when nights cool off.



(replacement  for the 2015 pair)

At only 10oz, these UL carbon poles are some of the lightest on the market…

After three years on the trail, one of the trekking poles broke while on a 50miler into Damascus, Virginia.

I contacted Black Diamond to see if I could get it fixed and their customer service offered to simply send me a new 2017 pair.

So I accepted their generous offer and became even more of a fan of the brand.


When Is The First Hike???

When is the first cool weather hike?

Very soon…, Very soon!!!

With all of the new and updated pieces of gear, the trail is calling!

Now I must go and play with my HikeMAS gifts!

See you on the trail,


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