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!