Summer schedule

With our non-stop family schedule I haven’t been backpacking in over a month. Between camps and vacations, birthdays and the likes I haven’t had the time to slip into the woods but I’ve had a chance to create some images I thought I’d share.

My daughter Grace is turning into a little shutterbug. I think shes figured out that if she taking picture she ends up not being in as many. I still talk her into being my test model for new techniques I want to try, like this one in our back yard recently.


We’ve done a couple of photos based road trips recently. I knew she was getting serious about getting some good images when she asked me to get up at 3 am so we could drive to the beach to shoot the sunrise.

Rye Beach Sunrise
Rye Beach Sunrise

Our family cottage is always a fantastic place to shoot. This is a shot from the dock just before sunrise.

Billington Sea
Billington Sea

The Super Moon is always a fun one to shoot.

Super Moon
Super Moon

This sweet little girl is tough to shoot! She’s constantly on the move, usually dancing.

Happy Girl!
Happy Girl!

One last shot from the pond down the street.

Hoyt Rd Marsh
Hoyt Rd Marsh

Hike Safe Card

Recently NH adopted a Hike Safe Card that will be sold by NH Fish and Game as sort of an insurance policy should you need to be rescued by Fish and Game or one of the many Search and Rescue teams in New Hampshire.  The card will cost $25 and will cover the cost of a rescue caused by negligence but not recklessness.

Each year New Hampshire spends about $350,000 on rescue missions. Approximately $160,000 of this expense is covered by the $1 that comes out of each boat and OHRV registration as well as hunting and fishing licenses.  The rest comes out of the F&G budget.  The Hike Safe Card is supposed to cover the balance.

Charging people to be rescued is tricky subject.  If the State spends millions of dollars on marketing to bring people from across the country to enjoy our mountains we should take care of them if things go wrong and they get into trouble but I definitely believe people should be held accountable for their actions.  If your actions are reckless and you put other people in harm’s way then there should be consequences.

  Something worth thinking about when it comes to charging people for rescue is the possibility that some people will hold off calling or wait too long to call, potentially making things worse for themselves and the people rescuing them.  A hypothermic person who may already have somewhat clouded judgment may be more likely to make a bad call if the finical component is added to the mix. 

I’m not a big fan of the hike safe card mainly because I think it may give inexperienced people a false sense of security.  I feel like anyone who ventures into the backcountry needs to understand they are responsible for their own safety and wellbeing and they need to be aware of the consequences of bad decisions.  This card may very well increase the number of rescue calls that F&G receives from people who look at this like a AAA insurance,  get into trouble?…make a call.  Education not insurance.

I think it’s great that many people would consider buying the card just as a way to help support the cause but myself I don’t have much faith in any government run bureaucracy to run a cost effective solution to just about anything.  It’s hard to argue with the fishing license approach to contributing,  If you purchase a hunting or fishing licence your rescue is covered and you get to go fishing as a bonus.  If you’re not someone who likes to hunt or fish I would suggest donating to any of the outstanding SAR teams in NH.  Any of these organizations would be very grateful to receive finical support and may also be tax deductible (check with your accountant).  I know most if not all of these teams are made up of volunteers who invest a lot of their own time and money into being well trained and ready to go when they are needed,  They won’t, to my knowledge receive any financial support from the Hike Safe card. 

Next Level Mashed Potatoes


It’s a sign you may be spending too much time in the backcountry when you get excited about your instant mashed potato recipe.  I recently shared my excitement over my last batch with a co-worked who immediately laughed hysterically when I told her I took my mashed potatoes to the next level, hence the name.

Now I know I’ve read about the basic instant potatoes recipe on several different backpack sites so some of this has been posted elsewhere but this is my variation.

The basics:

½  cup of instant mashed potatoes

Garlic salt to taste ( I go heavy here)

1 tbsp. dried onions

1 or 2 tbsp. powdered milk

2 tbs. parmesan cheese

Some folks will pack some margarine or butter and perhaps some Spam or bacon bits. I use my dehydrated meat sauce, recipe to follow.  Put all ingredients in a  Ziplock bag.  Add ½ cup of boiling water and mix thoroughly.  Eat right out of the bag.  I find it easier to put the bag in my mug for support.  Quick and easy with no cleanup!

Dehydrator Meat Sauce (you need a dehydrator for this recipe)

1lb grass fed ground beef

1lb ground sausage

1 small onion

½ green pepper

½ red pepper

Garlic salt

Diced tomatoes

Whatever else you’re into

First, brown the meat in a frying pan. As soon as the fat has cooked off the meat, use a strainer to drain off all the grease. Next, run the cooked meat under hot, hot water.  The idea here is to get all the grease out of your browned meat.   Next, return the meat to the frying pan and add all the remaining ingredients. Simmer on low heat for about 30 min. and then let it cool.  I usually let it sit for 30 min or so.  Now you’re ready to dehydrate.  Time will depend on the dehydrator you are using.  I have a good size 9 tray (20×20 I think).  Spread parchment paper on the tray then spoon the mix evenly on each tray and dehydrate until completely dry and brittle.  I run it through the food processor and turn it into a coarse powder so that it rehydrates better.  When it comes to rehydrating I use the Ziplock bowls with screw on lids.  Add enough to suit your needs and add water.  I like mine on the thicker side so I add a bit and stir, let it sit and check the consistency in about 5 minutes,  then add more water if needed.  If I’m using with “Next Level Mashed Potatoes” I don’t usually use hot water, as it helps cool the potatoes.  If I’m using it with spaghetti of rice then I’ll use hot water.


The Bonds

Two weekends in a row, I’ve managed to get up to the mountains and explore some pretty awesome terrain. Once again this was a solo trip. I find solo trips enjoyable not because I’m antisocial or an introvert. Anyone who knows me knows that’s not the case. Mostly, it’s because I never really know how fast (or how slow) I’ll be moving. If the trail is flat and boring, I’ll cruise right along and not stop for long periods of time. If there’s a lot to photograph, I’ll take forever to cover short distances and not worry about making it to my planned destination. I just like the freedom to take advantage of what ever presents itself.

Every time I hike Franconia Ridge, I look into the Pemigewasset Wilderness and think to myself I really need to go there. The last couple of years, for one reason or another, I’ve failed to make it. I’ve been wanting to do the “Pemi Loop” and I’ve been putting it off until I was in better shape. This very well could be the summer it happens.

My plan was to leave my car at the Lincoln Woods trail head and start from somewhere off of Rt 3 and hike over the Bonds. I tried to find someone that might be heading in that direction on a couple of my favorite websites for local hiking, and, but had no luck. I swapped a few messages with a woman who was hiking with her son to meet her husband at Zealand hut, but they were doing the same route in the opposite direction so we weren’t much help to each other. I did end up meeting her husband on my hike and then a short time later I met she and her son. It was kind of neat to put a face to the name. I ended up catching the AMC shuttle at Lincoln Woods to the Zealand trail head for $15 (http:// The shuttle driver, Joe, was well worth the price of admission. He came complete with some great history of Lincoln Woods and some really bad jokes (ask him why chicken coops have two doors, I dare ya!)

Joe, the AMC shuttle driver/historian/comic
Joe, the AMC shuttle driver/historian/comic

I got a much later start than I normally would have, (almost 1 PM) but based on my conservative travel time estimate, I figured I could make it to the Guyot (pronounced Gee-oh) before dark. The first couple of miles are flat and easy going and before I knew it I was at the hut. I had a quick chat with one of the hut volunteers, topped off with water and was back on the Twinway trail. Just before I reached the hut, there was a short steep section and it continued up to Zeacliffs where I attempted to stop for lunch. The black flies were out in force and with no breeze, they were relentless. Back on the trail I was anticipating one more short steep pitch and then some nice ridge cruising but it was a little more up and down than I thought is would be (not bad, just not what I thought I saw on the map). It kind of reminded me of my trip across Garfield ridge but not as rough. Have you ever had that happen to you? You look at a map where the contour interval is 40 feet and every steep pitch on the trail must be 39 feet because it never shows on the map? I hate when that happens. It keeps things interesting, right?

Franconia Ridge
Franconia Ridge

Once I popped out of the trees and got my first look into the Pemi and saw Franconia Ridge from this side, I was pumped! It was even better than what I had an thought it would be. All the peaks from the notch I’ve been on in the past laid out like that. I snapped a bunch of photos thinking I wanted to be sure to remember this first glimpse. I know I’ll be coming back here. Awesome scenery and I had it all to myself!

Twinway Bondcliff juction
Twinway Bondcliff juction

I came to the junction of the Twinway and Bondcliff trail and took a left and headed south towards Guyot campsite. I reached the campsite well before dark and found all the tent platforms occupied, which was kind of surprising for a Monday night this early in the season. I ended up in the shelter where there was a young lady from Massachusetts, Valentina, who was out doing the Pemi Loop. We swapped stories while we did camp chores, cooking dinner, setting up gear, reading maps etc. It turns out that for someone who’s only in her mid twenties, she has packed in some pretty awesome adventures. She’s been backpacking around Europe, has lived in Africa, and has done some rock climbing. She had great stories to tell. I have to admit I felt a little old, All my adrenaline filled, thrill seeking adventures are a couple of decades old now. I was in my bag asleep by the time it was dark. Sometime around 10 PM, we were joined by two gentlemen from Miami. They had a long day on the trail and stumbled around getting setup and cooking something to eat. By the time they settled in, it was after 11 PM. I have to give them credit, they did attempt to keep quiet. Ahhhh! Shelter sleeping is a special experience.

I was up early, packed and back on the trail. I think I took my first photo of the day around 5 AM, on the summit of West Bond. Wow!


What a spot to be at that time of day. Absolutely beautiful. I’m not sure how long I stayed but just didn’t want to leave. The morning light was divine! As a photographer, these are the scenes I dream about. The only reason I left was so that I could catch the morning light from the summit of Bond.

The summit of Mt. Bond looking down to Bondcliff reminded me of Franconia Ridge, a little more rugged without the hoards. With the Summer Solstice so close, the position of the sun was perfect for a view of the ridge from this perspective. One side was bathed in the morning light and the other more rugged rocky side, in shadow.

Bond Cliff from the summit of Bond
Bond Cliff from the summit of Bond

Next it was down to Bondcliff, to the location were hundreds if not thousands of epic photos have been taken on the block of Granite that hangs over the valley. These are the shots that made me want to come here in the first place. While I have not been everywhere in the White Mountains (yet), these are quite possibly the finest views around. Epic.

From this point on, it was the hike down into the trees again and down to the valley floor, along the Black Brook and then the east Branch of the Pemi river. It’s a long flat stretch that gave me time to reflect on one of my most favorite hikes to date, and to start planning my return!

To see all the images from this trip please check them out here:

Mount Jefferson and Mount Adams

Mt Jefferson has been on my radar ever since I was on the summit of Madison last summer. There is something about that rocky summit towering over the Great Gulf that is very appealing to me. The entire north end of the Presidential range is nothing short of spectacular. I’ve been watching the trail reports and monitoring snow levels all spring. With all the heavy snow this past winter it seemed like the snow would never leave. Even on June 9th I ran into a small patch on the Jefferson Loop trail.
Due to a tight schedule I didn’t get to the trailhead for the Castle trail on Rt.2 in Randolph, NH until after 3pm on a Sunday afternoon. My plan was to hike Castle Trail to Castle Ravine Trail to Israel Ridge and end up at The Perch for the night. That’s a little less than 4 miles with a book time of about 3.5 hours.

Israel River
Israel River

This route runs along the Israel River and then later on Cascade Brook for a couple of miles and passes some beautiful pools and cascades. The best were just beyond the junction of the Link trail.

Pool on Cascade Brook
Pool on Cascade Brook

I ended up spending almost an hour on the rocks there, soaking up the sun completely mesmerized by the roar of the cascades. After this point it was a pretty steady steep climb until I made the turn for the Perch Cutoff. Since it was an early season Sunday evening I was expecting to have the site to myself so I was quite surprised to arrive and find all four tent platforms full. I ended up staying in the shelter.

Sunset from Th Perch
Sunset from Th Perch

There I met Ben, a guy from Westchester NY who was out exploring the Whites for the first time. He was good company and we had a few good laughs. Ben was on tour with no particular plans. We talked about some of my favorite routes in the Whites. He was thinking about heading to Maine to check out Baxter SP and Katahdin. I envied him and his plan-free summer program for hiking.
Monday morning I was back on the Israel Ridge trail which soon turned into the Randolph Path where I reached tree line and my first views of Jefferson. Soon I was in Edmand’s Col where everything was in bloom. There was a carpet of Diapensia. I’ll let the photos tell that part of the story.


The weather was pretty interesting on this trip. The forecast was for possible thunderstorms later in the afternoon so I was keeping a close eye on the sky. Clouds where continuously building and dissipating, big blue holes allowed the sun to beam down on the mountains and warm everything up and then the wind would blow the clouds in front of the sun casting shadows across the valleys and peaks creating dramatic lighting across the landscape.

Mt. Washington from Mt. Jefferson
Mt. Washington from Mt. Jefferson

The Gulfside Trail leads up out of Edmands Col to the Jefferson Loop, where I ran into the one and only patch of snow on this trip.


A quick ½ mile and I was on the summit of Jefferson looking down into the Great Gulf and up to Mt. Washington. From here I could see the route I had done the previous week on the southern Presidentials. I had been thinking about this summit for almost a year and it didn’t disappoint.
Dark clouds were beginning to form over Adams and my bailout route was on somewhat exposed ridge so I didn’t stay as long as I would have liked.

Dark cloud over Mt. Adams
Dark cloud over Mt. Adams

I headed back down the way I had come into Edmand’s Col. One of the guy staying at the Perch had told me about a spring that was not to be missed that’s just a short 100 foot walk down the Edmand’s Col Cutoff. I topped off my water and by the time I was back up on the Gulfside trail the weather looked to be improving so I decided to head for Adams.
The Gulfside trail provided some fantastic views in all directions at one time or another, never very steep, always rocky. As I reached Thunderstorm Junction I saw someone sitting on a flat rock taking a break when I realized it was Ben. He was finishing off last night’s diner, sitting there without a care in the world taking in all the sights. He had nowhere to be and all day to get there, the life of a mountain wanderer. Ben had climbed Jefferson yesterday and had just finished Adams before I showed up. I told him my plan was to hit the summit and then I would have to start heading back to the car to head home. He was headed to the Madison Hut to check things out but decided to climb Adams again and take Airline down.
We reached the summit under sunny skies and views for miles in every direction. It was like being on top of the world. I could have hung out there all day but I had some miles to cover and my route down had changed leaving me with a bit of a road walk back to the car.

Washington from Adams
Washington from Adams

I snapped a few photos for Ben and gave him my email. I told him get in touch with me when he came down out of the mountains.

Ben on the summit of Mt. Adams
Ben on the summit of Mt. Adams

My modified route brought me back down to Thunderstorm Jct to Lowe’s Path, over the top of Mt Abigail Adams, along the open ridge and back below the tree line. Once again dark clouds began to form so I picked up my pace to get out of the open and avoid becoming a lighting rod. On my way down I stopped to check out the Gray Knob Hut and had the opportunity to meet Hannah the caretaker for the summer. She has a great gig, paid to live on the side of a mountain all summer! Lowes Path continues down fairly steeply for the next mile with some pretty greasy Granite. I ended up taking a pretty good tumble just before the Log Cabin shelter so I stopped there just long enough to patch myself up and top off my water. Shortly after that I passed the junction with King Ravine trail and then The Link. After that the trail flattens out a bit and the last 1.7 mile passed quickly.
Back out on the US 2 I stuck my thumb out for a ride and as a couple dozen cars passed by I began to think I may be walking back to the car. Just then I noticed that my left leg from the knee down was covered in blood, maybe that’s why I haven’t gotten a ride! Sure enough after cleaning up the third car picked me up for what turned out to be a very short ride to my car.

Check out more photos here:

Southern Presidentials

This adventure started off in Crawford Notch just south of the AMC Highland Center at the Webster Jackson trailhead. Before I hit the trail, I stashed my bike in the woods at the Edmand’s Path trailhead to avoid the road walk at the end of the day. The forecast for the higher summits from Mount Washington Observatory was looking pretty good. I would experience the highest temps in 2 weeks. The forecast was for upper seventies with 15 to 20 mph winds predicted to increase to 30 later in the afternoon. It never blew stronger than 15 all day.

Webster Jackson was pretty wet and muddy after the rain we had this past week but nothing too bad. I walked through most of it doing my part not to damage vegetation along the trail, causing unnecessary erosion (a pet peeve of mine). If you’re going to hike in the spring you are going to get muddy. Deal with it.

The spur to the Elephant Head comes up pretty quickly. I took the short quarter-mile trip out to take a look at the notch. It was nothing special to be honest. Skip it and check out the view from the Bugle Cliff that’s just up the trail a bit further.


Things start out pretty moderately, with a few steep pitches but no real lung busters. I took my time, snapping photos of all the wild flowers and moss-covered logs with mushrooms growing out of them. Bringing my camera forces me to slow down and check things out.


At about a mile and a half in, I reached the junction where right takes you to Mt. Webster and left takes you to Mt. Jackson. Both trails have the same name which struck me as kind of strange.


I went right and headed down the very steep pitch to Silver Cascade, a sweet little pool and cascade.


From there, the climb towards Webster is pretty consistent with a few more small brook crossings (these may be dry in the summer). About a mile from the junction, I reached the Webster Cliff trail (part of the Appalachian Trail)


I took a right, and after a tenth of a mile I was standing on the summit of Mt. Webster (3910’). Great views of Crawford Notch! I’ve always had a thing for this notch and it was pretty cool to see it from this perspective.


While I was there I met another hiker who turned out to be a through hiker doing the AT. He started in Georgia in February. He’ll be finished by the end of June. As it turns out, he was a local from Concord, NH, so the Whites were no surprise to him.

My route from Mt. Webster, Mt. Jackson (behind the tree), Pierce and Eisenhower with Washington in the background (not on this trip).
My route from Mt. Webster, Mt. Jackson (behind the tree), Pierce and Eisenhower with Washington in the background (not on this trip).

Back to the Webster Jackson/Webster Cliff junction and down into the col between Webster and Jackson, the section was pretty wet with a couple of short scrambles (are they scrambles if you’re going down?). It was typical rocky, root covered White Mountain footing, followed by a steep final ascent to the summit with a scramble or two.

Mt. Jackson looking west.
Mt. Jackson looking west.

The summit of Mt. Jackson (4052’) was a busy place. Everyone was out enjoying the perfect weather. I ran into one of my teammates from Upper Valley Wilderness Response Team and ended up hanging out with him and his girlfriend for a bit. He just passed his advanced EMT certification (congratulations, Andy!). After snapping a few more photos, I headed down the other side of Jackson towards Pierce. The trail off the summit is steep and enters into a boggy section. The vegetation changes to kind of an alpine meadow with a pretty flat grade.


I entered back into the woods and began a gradual incline up to the Mizpah Hut and Nauman tent site. My original plan was to spend the night at the tent site but it was too early and the weather was too nice to waste the day sitting on a tent platform. So I filled up with water and had a good snack before I got back on the trail.

The climb to the summit from the hut is fairly steep. The last time I was here, there was six feet of snow on the ground and I was wearing snowshoes. Back then, I never even noticed the ladders/steps that I was climbing on this trip. Once on the summit of Mt. Pierce (4312’) the views were spectacular.

Mt. Eisenhower from the summit of Mt. Pierce.
Mt. Eisenhower from the summit of Mt. Pierce.

The last time I was here, everything was white. Now it was all green. I met another hiker on the summit who told me that he does this hike a few times every year. I asked him if he knew of any good spots to camp in the area. He said he didn’t know of any off hand and that I would most likely have to drop down below tree line to find something legal. I was kind of hoping to hear of some super secret spot to hang out for the night. No such luck. So I headed off the summit and passed the Crawford Path junction and down into the scrub pine where there was a small stream.

Crawford Path from Mt. Eisenhower looking towards Mt. Pierce.
Crawford Path from Mt. Eisenhower looking towards Mt. Pierce.

I topped off my water before emerging onto the open ridge with more spectacular views. From here the Eisenhower Loop trail climbs 300 feet in 0.2 mile and brings you to the summit of Mt Eisenhower (4760’) and its giant cairn.

Cairn on Eisenhower summit
Cairn on Eisenhower summit
Mt. Washington from the summit of Eisenhower.
Mt. Washington from the summit of Eisenhower.

At this point, I realized that my options for a camping spots were pretty thin and made the decision to just hike the last 3 miles down Edmand’s path to the trailhead. I carried my tent, sleeping bag and two days worth of food over 14 miles and 4500 vertical feet for nothing! I reached the trailhead and stuffed my 5 pound camera (anchor) in my pack. I hopped on my bike and started pedaling down Mt. Clinton Rd. I came flying around a corner when I saw a massive bull moose directly in my path. This guy was in no rush to get out of my way despite my prodding. Normally I’d spend some time taking photos and watching as long as he’d tolerate me but this day, all I wanted to do was get back to my car, dump my pack and get my boots off. After what seemed like forever, he trotted off into the woods and let me by. It wasn’t the trip I planned but it was a great one just the same.

Whiteface (almost Passaconaway) Loop

Whiteface Mountain
Whiteface Mountain


This past Monday, I finally made it out to The Bowl Natural Research Area in Sandwich, NH, an old growth forest located towards the northern end of the Sandwich range.  The Bowl is more than 500 acres of untouched forest in a glacial cirque located east of Whiteface Mountain.

My trip started from the kiosk in the Ferncroft parking lot with a short walk up the dirt road where I crossed the bridge and followed the road to the Blueberry Ledge trailhead.  Fairly soon you come to the junction for the Blueberry Ledge Cutoff (bear left).   The Cutoff starts off as an easy grade with some rolling terrain and follows the Wonalancet River a short distance to a bridge that crosses the river and joins the Dicey’s Mill trail. If you continue on the Cutoff, it soon climbs a low ridge that looks down on the river as it veers away and heads towards steeper terrain.  Once you see the large boulder to your left, the grade gets steeper and you begin the first of a few steep sections that make up the most strenuous parts of this hike.  The nice part of this section is that after each pitch you get a breather on the short more moderate sections in between.   There are a number of spots where you get glimpse of some fines and before you know it, you’re standing on the summit of Whiteface with some fantastic views down into the bowl.  
Whiteface Summit
After a little lunch, some dry socks and GlacierGels  (my Limmers still need more breaking in), I headed out on the Rollins trail which follows the ridgeline of the cirque.   I was a bit surprised to find a fair amount of ice and snow still around.   I really enjoyed this section as the trail jumped from one side of the ridge looking down into the bowl and then jumped back over to the other side where you could see the Tripyramids.  At times, I could only see a very short distance down the trail and I was solo on this trip and I wasn’t making a lot of noise.  I saw lots of fresh moose sign and I began wondering how I would deal with an encounter in this very dense forest.  I never did see the animal fertilizing the trail.

 The view looking down through the bowl back towards the parking lot was satisfying.  I always love looking back at the ground I’ve covered so far that day.  It’s one of my favorite things about hiking.  It also gave me a good look at the distance I had to cover.

Looking down through The Bowl towards Ferncroft
Looking down through The Bowl towards Ferncroft

 By the time I reached the Dicey’s Mill trail junction, my feet were in rough shape and I bailed on my original plan to summit Passaconaway.
Dicey'S Mill Trail Junction
Dicey’S Mill Trail Junction

 The trail down from the ridge is a lot less steep than the climb up to Whiteface. Once you reach the river again things are pretty flat for the rest of the walk out.  I followed the Dicey’s Mill trail past the bridge over Wonalancet River that I passed on the way in. Less than a mile later I was back in the parking lot.  My GPS gave a distance of just over 11 miles round trip and about 3300 vertical feet of climb.  I was a little short of my planned route but that just means I’ll have to come back another day and summit Passaconaway.

Granite Gear Leopard 58

I’ve been rocking this GG pack for the last couple of years and I have to say I’m pretty happy with it. It just does what I need it to do so well that I never really give it much thought. It’s not the lightest pack on the planet (3lbs 5oz for the large) but I have to be honest I was shocked to learn it weighs as much as it does when I looked up the weight for this review. Sometimes I think folks get a little too wrapped up counting grams and make decisions based on website specs instead of getting gear that make trips into the mountains as enjoyable as possible. I know I’ve personally tried on lighter, smaller stripped down packs thinking they were what I “needed”, only to realize my old friend, the 58, has never left me hangin’ and is so comfortable I don’t ever give it much thought.

Grainite Gear Leopard 58


With just enough pockets to stay organized but not so many that I can’t remember where I put things, this pack just works. It has two side pockets that fit a standard Nalgeen bottle that can be reached while the pack is on. There’s another zippered pocket in the lid and gear loops on the stuff panel on the front of the pack. There is also another small pocket on the bottom front, perfect for a pack cover. All this gives me plenty of options for storage.

Build Quality

The White Mountains in New Hampshire are not easy on gear and this pack has taken some serious abuse but still has many more good trips left in it. It has been overloaded, mishandled., dropped, scraped against the granite this state is so famous for, bush whacked through some nasty vegetation and countless other incidents that would have shredded other sub two pound packs. And is still looking good.


The suspension is pretty sweet. There are nice comfortable shoulder straps, load lifters and a nice hip belt as I’ve already mentioned. It’s so comfortable, I don’t even think about it much.

There are a couple of minor gripes I have with this rig. One is the top closure. It’s a little over the top (yeah, I said it). The lid has two straps and buckles to hold it closed like many other packs but then under that, there are two more compression straps over the top of the pack.Under those, there are two more straps and buckles to keep the roll top closed. Six buckles every time you open or close the main pack. That’s about four too many if you ask me. Give me a draw string and two buckles and I’m good. The other thing I’m not overly impressed with is the ice ax/trekking pole attachment setup. I have had multiple issues with keeping my trekking poles secure and often check them only to find one barely still on the pack. In fact, I recently had to buy a new pair of poles because I lost one during a night navigation training session with my Search and Rescue team. This was a major drag not only because it cost me money but also because I use a shelter that requires two trekking poles to setup. One other thing that is more of a “I wish it had it” than a problem is hip belt pockets. The packs I bought for my daughters have them and they seem very useful.

Bottom line. It’s a great pack that’s served me very well, owes me nothing and has many miles left in ito

MSR Lightning Ascent Snowshoes

Let me start off by saying I’m a big fan of gear made in the USA. There are some fantastic companies right here in America making top notch gear at great prices. You can call these companies and actual people answer the phones! It’s the people who use the gear they make. When it comes to my hard earned cash, I like to keep it in the family so to speak.
One such company is MSR, Mountain Safety Research. They also own Cascade Designs, Thermarest Platypus and a few other well know companies. If you spend much time in the backcountry, chances are you have some of their gear.
For my first gear review I decided to cover my MSR Lightning Ascent snowshoes. I did a lot of research before pulling the trigger on these. I read the reviews, some good, some not so good. It seems at some point they had an issue with the cross support weld letting go. I’ve had no such issue and I haven’t babied them at all. I went to my local EMS and talked to some of the folks there whom I’ve come to trust. After looking over the dozens of choices, I ended up with a pair of the 30 inch shoes.
I’m not a little guy. I’m 6”1” and over 240lbs before I put a pack on. I’m also pretty rough on gear. I’m not one to go easy on my stuff and that’s one reason I try to buy the best gear I can. Buy once, cry once.
The Lightning Ascents didn’t disappoint. I picked a great year for new snowshoes. We got plenty of snow here in New Hampshire this winter. As I type, there is still snow to be found in the Whites. I was out 2 -3 times a week all winter, mostly locally with a few trips up North to climb the Presidentials, Mt Pierce and Eisenhower, as well as Welch and Dickey to name a few.

MSR Snowshoes

The terrain varied from flat and gently rolling to steep and icy. I always had plenty of traction. The serrated edges of the frame and cross supports got a good bite on even the sketchiest surface. These things really shine on steep ascents with the crampons on the bindings and the Televators. If you’ve never tried the Televator setup you don’t know what you’re missing. It’s basically a spring loaded bar that you can flip up with a trekking pole that raises your heel up off the snowshoes and helps transfer weight where it’s needed for optimum traction on steep terrain. Very sweet.
4lbs 7oz. They look heavier than they feel (only 7 ounces more per pair more than the Evo Ascent). I feel like the aluminum will stand up to more abuse in the long run. So far so good.
I was a little skeptical about the bindings in the beginning but I quickly got used to getting them on and off without any issues. Even on -15 degree mornings, the rubber never felt stiff or brittle. Getting in and out of them with mittens on was no problem and once they were on they never loosened up or needed adjustment.
Bottom line
If I lost them, I’d go buy the same thing again.

Backpacking gear reviews from a self confessed gear junky

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