Review: Ultimate Direction SCRAM

The Ultimate Direction SCRAM is a large-capacity running vest that’s been toughened up and given storage capacity for all-day missions, allowing you to take it anywhere to help in supporting you doing essentially anything.

  • Pros: Classic Ultimate Direction Running Vest Design, tons of storage, tough materials, minimalist.
  • Cons: Maybe too minimalist for some? Not perfect for a dedicated running vest: if you don’t need the storage, this isn’t the best vest for you.
  • Weight: 445 grams / 15.7 ounces
  • Storage Capacity: 23.5 Liters
  • Interesting To: mountain runners, skimo, fast-and-light climbing missions, bikepacking
  • Best For: those needing a lot of capacity, but not yet Fastpack-capacity; people who are very tough on gear
  • Price: $134.95
  • More information: The Ultimate Direction SCRAM | Adventure Collection
  • Purchase at Ultimate Direction | REI | Backcountry
Continue reading…

Review: Copper Spur HV UL1 Bikepack Tent by Big Agnes

The Copper Spur HV UL1 Bikepack Tent

At a Glance

  • Pros: Comfortable, roomy, extremely well-designed
  • Cons: stuff sack to use as bikepacking bag is a great idea, but may need to be further developed as a solid feature
  • Weight:
    • Tent Stakes/accessories: 121 grams
    • Stuff Sack: 111 grams
    • Tent Poles: 363 grams
    • Rain Fly: 348 grams
    • Tent Body: 337 grams
    • Integrated Footprint (sold separately): 169 grams
    • Total Packed Weight: 1.13kg
  • Interesting To: Bikepackers and Ultralight hikers who want a tent rather than a tarp/bivy setup
  • Best For: Those who seek comfort and privacy only a tent can provide
  • Price: $399.95, Ground Cloth: (suggested): $65
Continue reading…

Sneak Peek: Ultimate Direction Bike/Tarp Conversion Kit

The Ultimate Direction FK Tarp set up with the Bike/Tarp Conversion Kit – no trekking poles required!

At a Glance

  • Pros: Easy to set up/take down, simple, lightweight, roomy
  • Cons: Tarps in general don’t have the greatest protection from bugs like mosquitoes
  • Weight: alone: 91 grams, w/FK Tarp + 6 stakes: ~544 grams
  • Interesting To: Ultralight enthusiasts
  • Best For: FKTs/Self-Supported Races, sub-24 hour missions
  • Available: Fall 2019
  • Price: around $25 – $35 for the kit (once released); $199.95 for the FK Tarp
  • More Information: The Ultimate Direction Adventure Collection
Continue reading…

Review: FIFTY-FIFTY Fender Mudguard for the Surly ECR (and other 29+ bikes)

FIFTY-FIFTY Adjustable Mountain Bike Fender MTB Mudguard

Currently, I’ve been setting up my Surly Bikes ECR for Winter bikepacking. This usually means really variable conditions, with lots of slop on the road and invariably on me. For that, I want fenders.

Fenders must be one of the most finicky accessories for a bike to set up correctly, and the thought of even finding fenders that would fit a 29+ (three inch) wide tire seemed fruitless. Let’s just call it what it is: somewhat of a niche market. There are a few fat bike fender/mud guards available, but they’re huge and heavy, and actually too wide – like these offerings from Portland Design Works, for what I want.

Finally, I found on Amazon these puppies: FIFTY-FIFTY Adjustable Mountain Bike Fender. Never heard of this company (fifty-fifty is a skateboard trick… right?), so I’m sure it’s just so rando Chinese brand. But, the price was right, and it seems like it would fit, so I ordered two, and gave it a try, on my last bikepacking trip.

Continue reading…


Review: Magicshine MONTEER 1400 USB Bicycle Light


It’s rush hour. I approach the busy intersection cautiously. I’m in a bike lane, but my side of the road is choked with cars that want to make a right turn. Once our light switches to green, I feel it’s a race to get out in front, before I get side-swiped by someone that wants to make that right turn, crossing the bike lane I’m in. Then, I hear someone yell out their car passenger car window. My anxiety heightens:

“HEY!”

“HEY! NICE LIGHT! I CAN ACTUALLY SEE YOU!

My stress levels return to normal, and I’m relieved that the car besides me not only knows I’m there, but acknowledges my presence with a compliment! The light I’m using? The Magicshine MONTEER 1400.

As Fall turns to Winter, and a lot of my riding happens now at night, it seems fitting to investigate some lighting solutions I’ve been looking at. I’m willing to invest in a nice light, as my main form of transportation is my bike. My main goal is to see, and be seen. I’m usually either riding the streets at night, or riding trails bikepacking, but both scenarios need the following for a good bike front light:

  • Long Lasting and Dependable. For the majority of riding, I want a light that can be on for a long while between recharges. I want it to Just Work, to not fall off, to not turn on expectantly (while stored in a pack, say). Seems like an obvious wish list, but you won’t believe how many times this gets done wrong.
  • BRIGHT! If I want to flood my immediate vicinity, give me that choice. When I’m going Mach 5 down a winding road, I wanna see every piece of sand on said road. If I’m in a busy intersection, I want the light to scream: “Here I am“.
  • Rechargeable. Make it easy to recharge the batteries without making me carry half a toolbox of cables and chargers. Make it easy for me to swap out batteries with freshies if need be.
  • No Nonsense. I don’t want external battery packs and wires running all over the place – these just get in the way and get broken. External battery packs just hide the fact that the batteries inside are ones I can buy off the shelf cheaper than buying an entire battery pack.

There’s many different lighting solutions out there, including battery-free, dynamo-powered lights. The fact still remains that a battery-powered light is going to be brighter than a dynamo-powered light. A dynamo-powered light is also going to be more expensive. In the end, it’s convenience of not needing a external battery source (outside of the dynamo wheel, of course), may make it a fine solution. But, if you have more than one bike and you wanna fully invest in dynamo lighting, you probably need more than one of everything. With a battery-powered light, you can swap things out.

In this review, I’ll be talking about the Magicshine MONTEER 1400 USB Bicycle Light, and why I picked it.

Continue reading…


Review: La Sportiva Spire GTX

La Sportiva Spire GTX


In September, I started working with Andrew Skurka on his guided backpacking trips and was looking for a light hiker that would work well for this task. I was offered to try out the La Sportiva Spire GTX, so here’s my review.

My usual advice for anyone doing a long-distance backpacking trip would be to pick a trail runner that you really enjoy, and find that you can wear all-day. The days of extremely heavy, overbuilt, inflexible, high top boots for backpacking are over (save them for special purposes, like full-on Winter conditions).

My pick for both my all-time favorite trailrunner and what I would usually pick for backpacking is the the La Sportiva Mutant. Sized correctly, they hit the sweet spot for me as a more than viable trail runner (I would run an ultra in these, without hesitation), kicks for fastpackinglike my time in the Weminuche, and even for a scramble a low/moderate pitch of alpine rock when the great majority of the time is on the approach – like the Maroon Bells traverse. I personally stick with low to mid height shoes, because of my ankles – I want the mobility that a lower shoe gives, as I want to keep my ankles constantly challenged by terrain – it’s the only way they became, and remain: strong. And believe me, I’ve had some serious challenges with ankle injuries.

But, all shoes exist on a spectrum and no one shoe will work for everything. For a wishlist, I would certainly want:

A more bulletproof upper. Off-trail hiking can cause a number on the uppers of a pair of well-ventilated trail runners.

A tough outsole. I’ll be carrying a lot more additional weight than I usually do – even when I’m on my own fastpacks.

Generally, I want to make sure that whatever shoes I use will last me until the end, and I’m not hobbled – I’m workin’ here.

Enter the Spire.

Continue reading…


Electronics Kit List for the Tour of the Highest Hundred


The electronics gear kit list! Bringing any sort of gear – especially electronic gear, is a fine balance between the convenience of having the resource, and the burdens of carrying it all with you. Doubly so with electronic gear, as it all requires some sort of power source to charge it all up.

Choose wisely.

For the Tour of the Highest Hundred, I brought more electronic gear than on any other ultra racing/FKT trip in my life! It was a lot to manage, but I made all my choices after much deliberation.

Here’s the rundown:

Continue reading…