Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Introduction to Lexi

Here is an introduction into Mikes Trail Dog: Lexi. She is a Jack Russell Terrier/Italian Greyhound rescue that is about 2 years old and has been with Mike most of her life.

 She loves the outdoors and being on the trail. We are going to have a series of videos, blogs, and a dedicated page to "Hanging with Lexi" so we wanted to introduce you to her and hopefully we will learn things on the trail as well as be able to offer tips and tricks to hiking with a dog.

Here, Mike purchased a new pack for Lexi and took her out on a quick day hike. Like Steven I, Lexi also tests from home. She did great with her new pack. She hiked in her own food, and bowls for the trip and seemingly had a blast. Notice how at home she is up in the hammock with Mike

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Trip Report -The Approach Trail up to Springer Mountain

We made it back from our trip up the Approach Trail safe and sound and finally edited the trip report.
Check it out here: Our Thursday evening was interrupted by a thunderstorm and we experienced some failures with Steve's DIY rain flys. So, next tine the rain flys will be made out of silnylon and not treated ripstop nylon.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Mans Best Friend on the Trial

I have been doing some research online as I have been trying to move into taking my dog Lexi with Steve and I on a trip. There are a lot of things that I have to think about when it comes to the gear that I will need for Lexi to “pull her own weight” and the knowledge that I will need to have in order to make sure that there aren't any issues while we are in the woods.

Lexi lounging on her bed at my apartment. My girlfriend (her mother) made those
pillow covers for her and she loves sleeping on them.

Through my searches I have found that there is not a whole lot of information out on the Internet about hiking with your dogs. This is surprising to me when you take into account that there are so many people that like to hike with “mans best friend”. I am learning through experience and some further research that I am doing on the Internet and with others that have experience with this topic and I am thinking about making that a part of the GAHammockBros sites. What I am wondering is if I get together a pretty extensive information pool on hiking with dogs would that be something that interests you?

Lexi striking a pose when I got her, her UGA jersey. She didn't
take to having clothes on initially but she soon got used to it
and we don't have any problems with that anymore.

We met a guy on the trail this past weekend and was starting his second attempt at a through hike with his dog, “scout”. He had attempted this in 2010 and had gotten all the way to the Hudson River (around 1,300 miles) before he let the moral of the others get him down and make him quit. Scout was quiet a champion and loved the outdoors and even though I have been thinking about doing some hiking with “the beast”, I feel like seeing how happy scout was and the companionship that him and his master had was just the tipping point for me. I am going to do some research on the topic and be as prepared as possible for longer hikes with Lexi but I really want to know if that is something that you, the audience, would be interested in learning with me.

In keeping with our hammocking theme and belief, we plan on making Lexi a hammock dog. We are going to do some modifications to a hammock chair that I have and hopefully make an affective sleeping system for Lexi that would be encompassed by my rain system. I plan on making this system and testing out ideas that I have for making it effiecient and light weight as I progress. I would like to make Lexi the GAHammockBros Dog and let her share the passion that Steve and myself share for hammocking.

Steve and myself would really like to focus our efforts on things that will help the backpackers and hammock enthusiasts out when they are planning trips and out in the woods. This is one of the reasons that I am writing this blog at this time is to get some sort of an interest level on hiking with dogs and the ins and outs of safety, gear, and survival techniques. If this is something that I get good comments back on, Steve and I will work through getting some information on these items out on the net, as well as, some DIY projects that might be helpful to you and your companion along the way. Please let me know what you think about this idea and we will move along from there. I am going to post a poll on the right side of the blog so if you would just answer yes or no to the question that will give me a good feel for what everyone is thinking on this matter. Thanks for listening.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Trip Report: March 7-10: Approach Trail to Springer Mountain

We started out the day at the welcome center and we had a little weigh in competition to see whose pack weighed the lightest. As you know Mike and Steve had a little competition going on and the weigh in settled that, Mike came in at 28 lbs. and Steve was at 32 lbs. Mike got free Wendy’s on the way home.

The hike started at the bottom of Amicalola Falls and required that we go up around 700 stairs. This is about 250 into the ascent and is a picture from a bridge crossing in front of the falls. It is amazing the amount of water that falls down these falls and it is all fed by a smaller stream.

This is a picture of (L-R) Brenden, Brad, and Steve (old man). They are at the bridge waiting on some of the slower hikers and the people that were assisting them in their ascent.

We finally hit an actual trail at the top and this is the leading group taking a break and letting the following group catch up. It was a pretty strenuous hike and as you can see we all needed a break every so often. This picture is (L-R) Brad, Mike, and Brenden. 

Another part of our group as we were making our ascent up the Approach Trail, was John and Troy. You might say they look a little alike and that is because on most days they claim each other as brothers. From (L-R) Troy and John R.

We got to the top of Springer Mountain and this is the view that awaited us. There is nothing like getting to the summit and looking out over all of God’s creation. It was truly a beautiful day and there is very few places we would rather be than here. Can’t wait to go back!

Mike, Brenden, and John S. hiked back up to the top of Springer Mountain for the sunset. This is when they first got up there as the sun was starting to ascend from the clouds.

The closer the sun got to the horizon the more deeper orange tones we got in the pictures and you can see the purple hue of the mountain tops as they seem to hop out of the earth. If you don’t find this beautiful then you need to get your eyes checked.

The sun as it sneaks its last peek over the horizon. If you look at the top of the picture you can see the unique zig zag pattern of the clouds that I found to be a beautiful touch to the evening.  Steve’s wife is actually thinking about painting one of these pictures because their beauty speaks for themselves!

Friday Night we had a full Moon. It was a very beautiful sight and with its brightness we barely had to even use our flashlights to light our way around camp. Mike and Steve both woke up at some point in the night and thought someone needed to turn off their head lamp.

This is a picture of Steve trying to experiment with his camera and the different lighting functions. We thought this was such a nice touch that we could not leave this out of the group.

This is a picture of the sun trying to creep over the horizon on the east side of camp. As you can see it came up right over the privy sign welcoming the day. Nothing like getting a beautiful sunset one night and waking up to a beautiful sunrise the next morning. This is why we love to be outdoors!

Here is the sunrise coming up over the mountain above Mikes Rainfly setup. Mike was actually still in the hammock at this point missing out on the beautiful sunrise. He did tell Steve that the sunset was much more beautiful and they both kind of agree on that aspect.

Mikes Hammock was setup in the windiest part of the camp because him and Steve wanted to test the setup thoroughly with the wind. The setup passed the test as Mike was out and snoring most of the night.

As you can see this is Steve’s setup which is the same as mikes for the most part with the rain fly and the doors closed. They plan on doing a review on each one of their setups in a video review very soon. They were able to work out most of the kinks in the setups and feel like with a couple improvements they should have an optimal setup next time.

This is a picture of Josh breaking down his setup for the ascent down to the car on Saturday. He was nice and toasty most of the night in his hammock also.

Everybody pretty much got torn down pretty quick and they all had to wait on the slow old man (Steve) to get his setup down and packed to his liking. We all understand that Steve is old and slow so we didn’t give him too hard of a time.

This was carved on the back side of the shelter and we had to take a picture of it. This person obviously loves to fart and I am glad that we were not at the shelter at the same time he/she was there because that would not have been pleasant.

Steve shaking out the dirt from his down booties that Mike suggested he buy and even though he didn't think they would work... they kept his toes nice and toasty. They are a must have in our opinions now.

Brad was a little particular on how his gear was laid out and organized. This is him getting everything in its right place before packing up for the hike down to the car. I think he got everything where he wanted it eventually.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Three-Nighter on the Approach TRail of the AT March, 2012

Hey now. Steve here and we just got back from our three-nighter on the AT's Approach Trail and will have some pics and a trip report soon.

For now, here are a few quick pics:

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Trip Report March 6, 2011 Springer Mountain

We parked the truck at the top of Springer Mountain on USFS 42 and opened the doors to some cold wind. Steve noticed a few flurries wondering down from the sky and we all got excited that there may be snow during the trip. The hike up to Springer Mountain. Shelter was not too bad, but the idea of snow kept the hike exciting. By 5:00pm the temp was already down to 30* and dropping.

Here we are. No more snow on the hike in, but it was cold. You can see Steve checking in with the “Boss” (in other words, his wife).

 It got down to about 15-20 degrees that night and when we woke up the woods were lit up with ice on all the trees. There was a layer of ice on pretty much everything as you will see int the upcoming pictures.

If you look close here, you can see the frost on Josh’s rain fly:

This is the sun coming up over the peaks from the top of springer. No picture can really express how beautiful this was with the orange glow hitting the ice covered trees. This is why we go on these trips, for moments like this.

Soon after the sun came up the temperature rose and the ice was falling from the tree. It hurt (Mike was looking around and a piece of ice hit him in the face) and sounded like hail so we stayed in the shelter for a while till it passed. You can see a little of this in the video that we have of the trip up on Youtube.

This is the first morning of the trip when we got up and we were enjoying some coffee on the top of Springer Mountain. We had a pretty eventful night (especially Mike with Pop and Son in the shelter, but that story is for another day) and it got down to about 20 degrees that night. Nothing like a good cup of coffee on a cold morning.

Steve doesn't like to have his picture taken, so there are few pics of him hatless while camping (or at all for that matter). Mike happened to have gotten him as he was running away from the camera early in the morning. Since we all know he is an old man he cant move too fast so Mike was still able to get a good shot of him without his hat.This is one of the rare photos of him hatless:

 We started to pack up and get ready to head out. But not until AFTER we all had our coffee.

Once the sun warmed us up, we started to pack up and head out. We started our trek about the same time as the ice in the trees started to melt. We had to take refuge in the shelter because it was like rocks falling out of the trees. Mike was even attacked by a rogue icicle in the face. He, being such a good sport, laughed it off but we could tell he was in quite a bit of pain.  From the shelter we went to the top of Springer heading North, and stopped from some awesome views.

This is the Terminus of the Appalachian Trail. The plaque shows the map of the trail as well as the year that it was placed in this location (1993). This is where thousands of people have started the experience of their lives.

We continued heading North back down the mountain towards Amicalola Falls State Park. about two miles down the Approach trail, is Black Gap Shelter. we stayed here the second night.

This is the three of us that went on this trip at the terminus on to of Springer. As you can see the view is pretty breath taking and is a wonderful view to have if you were starting a thru-hike. From left to right its Josh, Steve, and Mike.

We got to the next shelter down on the approach trail and we threw up our hammock chairs and relaxed for a while. We will be doing a DIY video on how to make one of these hammock chairs. They are great for sitting, lounging, and we use them as storage as it hangs beside our sleeping hammocks at night.

Here is Steve relaxing and contemplating Life in a hammock.

This is the setup that we had at the second location. We were in a small valley that night so we avoided the wind more than we did on the top of Springer. It was a lot warmer without the wind but we still had temps in the low 20’s that night.

We decided to do some experimenting so Steve brought his game camera and set it up outside the camping area. We did not get anything of wildlife but we did get a picture of Josh going to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

We woke the next morning well rested and ready to go. We hit the trail heading South back to the summit of Springer and took a quick rest at the Springer Mountain. Shelter at lunch time. After about 30 minutes we headed down the AT to the parking lot. On the way home we stopped at Wendy’s to find the BEEF and replenish our depleted supply of fries and Frostys.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Hammock Chair and big announcement

Okay, Gang. We just uploaded a quick little video with us doing a gear review on a couple of hammock chairs and we make an announcement about a few things we are going to give away. Watch the video to see what we are going to give away. Check out our channel  and look for the video called "Hammock Chair And Contest Announcement". Dont forget to do what you are supposed to do to register for the give-a-way.

Good Luck

Sunday, March 4, 2012

How to Create an Effective Pack List

How to Generate an Effective Gear Checklist

If you you travel on a regular basis, You might  have your own way of putting a list together to ensure you have everything they need for the trip. Be it a business trip, camping trip or for pleasure. If you do have a list, the list may be  in your head or on paper. You probably have this list because you have learned from past experiences that if you don’t make a list you forget something. On the trips when you forgot something, you might have even updated the list as soon as you realized you forgot that something, or when you returned home. But it is a safe bet that your list changes each time you plan a trip.

This is an important part of the weight cutting process that backpackers go through often when planning for a trip. One of the problems we see when we talk to other backpackers is they don’t have any idea how much the individual items weigh or even the grand total of the pack. if you do not know the weight of each item or the weight of the pack as a whole, keep reading as we might just have the answer. We may not know the specific weight of each item off the top of our heads, but we do have  list that has the answer.

When you are designing a comprehensive gear list you need to sit down and figure out what is going into your pack. As you all should know by now, we  focus on making our packs light but functional. There are people that take all kinds of different approaches to getting together pack lists. Some people prefer comforts from home and don’t worry too much about pack weight. Some are more extreme and will not take anything with a tag on it to cut weight. This is Steve’s approach. He is turning into what we call a “Gram Weenie” he has cut off the tags from his ENO hammock and bug net and even cut lengths of chord from his stuff sacks. All of this to cut weight from his pack. Trimming the fat so to speak.

In order to really figure out what works for you, you must test and try out different pack combinations until you find the one that really shouts out “Eureka... I am as light as I can get!”. If your pack is not changing with each trip, then you might not be trying hard enough to optimize your setup.

Finding that fine line between what you “want” and what you “need” is what optimizing your pack is all about. It’s a fine line, but if you work hard enough and look close enough, you will see it.

Having someone with the same values on pack efficiency and the same idea on having a light pack, will come in handy during the preparation phase. You can work with a buddy and critique each others pack to offer a second set of eyes.

We have come up with a pack list that would be a good starting point for a less experienced hiker. There are ways that you can use Microsoft Excel to generate equations in the cells to convert grams, to ounces and then into pounds.  When you do that you can see where your weight is mostly coming from and it allows you to see where you can cut weight with new gear. As you can see in the spreadsheet below you can list each item and a short description. weigh your gear in grams and then enter that information in the “Weight in GRAMS” column. the spreadsheet will keep a running total of ounces and pounds for each item and a grand total at the bottom of each section.

Our advise to you is to use our list as a guide (if you want to) and then add and cut out of it what you would like in order to find your perfect pack. If you subscribe to our blog we will personally send you the spreadsheet with the equations already in it so you can use it to weigh your items and cut your weight. So, if you are interested in getting the spreadsheet then all you have to do is subscribe to our blog on the left hand side where it says Follow By Email and we will send you the file with the equations already built in. Feel free to customize it to your pack specifications and weights!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Tips on How to Lighten Your Pack

There are thousands of articles on what you should and should not do on a hiking trip. Some that you have heard so many times you almost want to pick up the computer and throw it. Well we probably have a couple on here that you have heard before but if you will bare with us, we might have something in this article that can help you shave some weight.

Here are some of the tips and tricks that We have applied to their packs over the years and have really lightened their overall weight:

  1. Select Lighter Gear - You’re probably thinking “well that is an obvious statement” but the reason they put it here is to tell you that this is the first step. Make your gear lighter and smaller. A lot of people think to themselves, well, I have this big pack that is heavy and that must be somewhere I can cut down some weight! The truth is you can cut weight in your pack but you must reduce the size and weight of your gear in order to switch to a smaller pack. Smaller, lighter, packs are made to only carry a certain amount of weight. So the smaller the gear, the more items you can carry (especially comfortably).

    Here is the easiest gear changes that will make the biggest difference in weight:

  1. First thing that is easy for most people to cut weight is the sleeping bag. Now this is also going to be one of your more expensive upgrades in quality and downgrades in weight. The thing about the sleeping bag is that, if you treat them right, a good bag will easily last you at least 5 to 10 years. Get a goose down sleeping bag because it provides the best warmth to weight ratio on the market and will really keep you toasty in the cold.

  1. Another piece of gear a lot of people carry, that is too heavy, is a tent. We, at GaHammockBros are avid hammock campers (imagine that) and we will tell you from the time that we used to tent camp till now, our shelters have lost about 2.5 lbs in weight each! Not to mention the fact that we are warmer at night than we ever were in a tent. Look into getting a hammock and watch some of our videos and read some of our blogs to figure out how it can be one of the best nights sleep of your life.

  1. The last thing that a lot of people carry that can cut weight is their cooking system. You don't need a pot, bowl, skillet, coffee cup, etc. We had this problem for a while until we realized that if you get a quality stove with a quality pot those two things can cover just about all the needs that you will have on the trail. There will be videos, reviews, and blogs on the cooking systems that we take on the trail and each one will be able to show you why it works for us.

  1. Leave your toys at home - You would not believe what we have seen people starting thru hiking and they are carrying lamps with 6 D batteries in them and a radio with another 4 in it. YOU DON'T NEED THESE. One of us actually packed out a lantern that someone had left at one of the shelters when they realized that it was too heavy to carry all the way to Maine. We were only hiking a couple of days and we were on our way out when we saw it. If you left that behind, we thank you for your donation to the lantern fund!

    The point we want to make is you can have some comfort items without totally killing your back in order to carry it in. Mike has a radio that has 3 AAA batteries in it and weighs 3 ounces with the batteries. It also is WAY louder than it needs to be so there is no worries there. We will review this product on our trip coming up. If there are things that you absolutely think you need to take, try to find lighter versions to make it easier on you to carry.

  1. Ration out your food quantity - One of the most common problems that most people have is this idea that you have to pack in way too much food. For example if we are going out on a 3 night 4 day trip and Mike will be taking right around 4 lbs of food. Steve is taking about 5 lbs of food because he really likes to eat! Some will tell you that is not enough. We have experimented with food amounts for a while now and we have pretty much got it down to a science. Below is a list of what we taking with me this trip.

Mike’s Food List:
  1. 3 Mountain House Freeze Dried Meals
  2. 6 Clif Bars
  3. 1 8oz bag of Craisans
  4. 1 8oz bag of Beef Jerky
  5. 4 packages of Oatmeal
  6. 1 8oz bag of Cinnamon Raisin Granola
  7. 1 8oz bag of Shelled Pistachios (Guilty Pleasure)
  8. 6 individual cups of Instant Coffee

Steve’s Food List:
  1. 2 packs of oatmeal
  2. 3 packages of pop-tarts
  3. 1 pkg of Mountain House breakfast Wrap
  4. 3 tortilla shells
  5. 6 packets of coffee -instant w/sugar
  6. Beef Jerky and Pistachio nuts as snacks on the trail
  7. 6 Clif Bars
  8. 1 Mountain House Dinner
  9. 1 bag of dehydrated chicken with Rice-A-Roni packet
  10. freeze dried fruit and nuts

As you can see We have quiet a lot of food here but because we have used freeze dried and dehydrated food choices we get the nutritional value without the weight. Also with taking mostly meals that take little cooking we can cut back on fuel consumption which save weight as well. Make sure you bring enough food to be comfortable and energized but you don't have to bring 5 course meals on the trail (as shown below)

4. Try cutting back on clothes - Now this is one that is really a personal preference but a lot of people pack to many clothes worried about weather that is not likely. We are about to go on a trip in March and we packed to what we felt was usual for this time year. We did some further investigation and it appears that the weather is going to be a lot warmer than we had first predicted. That means there will be some weather gear that we are going to cut out of our packs in order to make our packs lighter. Please don't get me wrong about this, pack as light as you can on clothes but don't compromise your comfort level for cutting a little weight. Make sure to check with your favorite weather site right before you leave in case you need to make some last minute adjustments like we are having to do


5. Remember Have Fun with It! - Cutting weight and having competitions with your backpacking buddies can really make this process less tedious and a little more fun. The next time you plan a trip make a deal with a buddy and tell them that they have to buy dinner on the way back from the hike if their pack is heavier than yours. Create spreadsheets to track the weight of all the items that you have a really keep track of where the most weight can be cut. Pride in knowing that not only will you have a lighter easier hike than your buddy but also you will be getting a free meal out of the deal really sweetens it up while you are hiking. Also, the opportunity to rag your buddy the whole trip is well worth the effort. We have a standing bet with our usual stakes (dinner when we come off the mountain) on who has the lighter pack.


6. Cull unused items - Culling unused items is one of the easiest steps in the process of lightening your load. It is the easiest because you take this step as soon as you get back from a trip.
You may have seen us discuss our packs in a video. What we do when we get to our camping spot is lay out the ground cloth and unload the gear from our pack. We do this so we can get organized and set up our hammocks and get ready for dinner.

When we get back home after a trip, we do the same thing. We lay out our ground cloth and unload our pack so we can store our gear properly. (for example, you do not store a down sleeping bag in the stuff sack. you keep it in a larger bag to allow the bag to maintain its “loft”) So, while we are unpacking our gear, we make three piles.

In pile A, we place the items that we used every day:
Hammock - Sleeping Bag - Rain Fly - Stove... you get the idea.

In Pile B, we place the items that we seldom used or could have managed just fine without the item:
That extra fleece jacket - the extra flash light (for the “Just-In-Case” situation) -  all the left over food - I-Pod - one of the two extra pair of socks...

In Pile C, -and this is the easy pile- we place all the items that we did not use at all:
Snake bite kit - small pocket knife - extra canister of fuel...

Now, take Pile A and store the gear, wash the clothes, and remove all batteries from headlamps. This is the stuff that you will take next time.

From Pile B, you make a personal decision on which items to cull from the list for next time. Only you can make this decision since you will have to carry the weight next time. Just ask yourself -Is it really worth carrying the weight even though I seldom used the item?”  Once you answer the question, cull the item and store the other items with the items from Pile A.

For the items in Pile C, put them back and make a note that you did not use the items and will not take them again.

It is also a good idea to complete this process with someone that you went on the trial with on that particular trip. You can both keep each other in check on what you did and didn’t use. We know that we both have issues with certain items that we hold high even though we don't use them as much as we perceive we do. Doing this with a partner will keep you honest and help you eliminate some items you might not think can be eliminated.

Eventually, the more trips you take, you will be able to get your pack down to a pack that is light while still having the items you NEED, and the items that make the trip enjoyable. One thing that has remained constant for Steve, is he takes too much food. But he is okay with carrying the extra weight because not only do we need to eat on the trail, Steve eats tasty food and snacks which makes his trip enjoyable. For Mike, he likes to have a radio on the trip and also his down booties. These are both comfort items but he is able to get them both in his pack for less than 12 ounces.

The bottom line is since you have to carry the weight, you make the decisions on which items to cull, but hopefully this culling process will help with you lighten your load.


We will be putting up gear reviews on our blog, Youtube channel, and the website that we are still working on. So don't for get to subscribe to both the blog and the Youtube channel for tips, tricks, and product reviews that can make you more efficient and lighten your pack! Always remember “Plan right and Pack light!”

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Dehydrated chicken for the trip

I dehydrated some chicken (and some bananas) for the trip. Like we both do before we try anything new -meals, gear, or even some new high-falootin' technique- we test at home.

The bananas didn't turn out as well as I thought. Some were still soft even after 12 hours. It may be because I placed them directly on the tray and not the plastic sheet that I had the chicken on. The next batch of bananas will be dehydrated on the plastic sheet to compare the two results.

I took some foil-packed chicken breast and dehydrated it for 12 hours. I set it up at 9:00pm and let it go all night. I had two packs of the chicken and dehydrated them on individual shelves.
After the 12 hours, I bagged on pack in a Ziploc freezer bag. and tested the other package of chicken.
Here is a shot of the chicken re-hydrating in some cool tap water after only a few seconds:

After one hour:
I forgot about the chicken and here is a shot after 4 hours:

The texture after 4 hours was not much different than it was at the one hour mark. So one hour might have been enough.  I took some chicken out of the bag and felt it and the texture was still a bit tough deep into the chicken. the exterior was soft like it should have been but kind of tough as you applied pressure.
I then started eating the chicken.  It tasted like chicken but was very firm as I chewed. I think (I did not test this part) after we boil it it may soften up some. I plan on taking some Rice-A-Roni  I dehydrated some time ago and eat that on the trail. With Rice-A-Roni, you need to cook it all first per the instructions and then dehydrate it. If you take the contents from the box and into your pack, it may not taste as good to you on the trail. I tried that once. I took all the ingredients and put them in a bag and took it on the trail. I added water and boiled it and for me at least, I didn't like the taste.

The next time I tested it at home by cooking it first. I re-hydrated it in boiling water for a bit and it tasted like I just cooked it. So for any type of rice that you need to add butter or oil to cook it, do so prior to dehydrating. If you like you can take it directly from the box and boil it, but it is my opinion to cook it first.

We will shoot a video on the process while we are eating dinner on one of those nights.
See you on the trail.