Track my progress real-time on my SPOT GPS Messenger

I’m leaving tomorrow (10/5/2019) morning to drive to Elkmont, Tennessee and begin a 4 day, 35 mile backpacking trip. To show how a SPOT GPS Messenger works, I am sharing my public page where you can track my progress. There will be information displayed when I power up my SPOT GPS Messenger around lunch tomorrow.

Here is the link: https://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=0V2XG14fKrY4UWEl2bNbWVV4crnvFmuhe

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My personal backpack packing list/weight planning spreadsheet

I love a good spreadsheet. Here is the one I’m currently using. It does graphs, percentages, and lots of things you may not need.

This information is actually my packing list for a trip I leave on tomorrow to the Smoky Mountains. The plan is 35ish miles in 4 days.

I hope you find the spreadsheet useful. Feel free to download and make your own.

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LightHeart Gear Rain Jacket initial impression

My gear list is always being refined.  While looking at a spreadsheet I use for planning what to pack and where I can improve my pack weight, one area that has stuck out recently is my rain jacket. I have been using a GoLite rain jacket for several years and have been very pleased with the performance. I have a criteria a rain jacket “needs” to have for fit my hiking/camping style. The GoLite jacket has them all, but it is relatively heavy at 11.9 oz. I have been looking at alternatives. I experimented with the cheap Frogg Toggs jacket. Although the Frogg Toggs Rain jackets are very light (5.5 oz.), they don’t have one of my main criteria for a rain jacket: pit zips (zippers in the armpits). Unzipping these while hiking allow me to stay relatively dry but vent out body heat so I won’t get too hot while wearing the jacket when I’m hiking.

I searched. And searched. And searched some more.  I could not find a jacket that had the options I wanted, was ultralight, and at a price I was willing to pay. Until last week when I found the LightHeart Gear Rain Jacket (https://lightheartgear.com/products/rain-jacket).  I read and watched many reviews of this jacket to ensure it was what I wanted and it fit my criteria. I finally decided this was going to be my new rain jacket. I wanted a bright orange jacket.  Yes, it is obnoxiously bright, but my reasoning is if I want to be seen in the woods for any reason, I needed something bright.  This jacket definitely will allow me to be seen! After learning from my last jacket purchase, I reviewed the size chart and measured to ensure I bought the correct size. I ordered a large jacket in blaze orange and it was shipped within hours. The total price was $106.23 USD ($99 for the jacket and $7.23 for shipping). I received the jacket last night and I thought I’d give you my initial impressions. I will be taking this on a multi-day trip to the Smoky Mountains in a couple of weeks so I may be able to give you a better review after that trip.

Before we get to the pictures, there is one thing I should point out and many of you already know. There is not a truly waterproof and breathable jacket. A rain jacket will only do one of these functions really well, but not both. This jacket performs as a rain jacket really well. It is not breathable at all which is why the pit zips are so important. LightHeart Gear is very clear about this. Here is the item description from their website:

  • All fabrics are waterproof, not breathable.
  • Long pit zips in every jacket allow you to slip your arm out for more ventilation. (#3 coil zipper)
  • Pit zips are NOT waterproof zippers and could leak.
  • Front zipper is #5 molded plastic tooth.
  • Elastic and Velcro adjustments at wrists.
  • Full brim hood to keep the rain off your glasses.
  • Sizes: X-Small, thru XXX-Large.
  • Custom sleeve length available ($60.00 extra).
  • Hand warmer pockets.
  • Inside waterproof pockets (2).
  • Seams are bound, not taped.
  • All jackets come with a matching small stuff sack.
  • All zippers are genuine YKK zippers.

Here is an invoice to confirm the price.

The rain jacket was contained in a separate brown paper bag

I told you the jacket was bright orange!

A picture of the tag

The jacket in the included stuff sack on the scale weighed 6.2 oz. or 175 grams.

The length of the front zipper

The length of the pit zips

A picture of the hood

Depth of the pockets – notice there is not a zipper on the outside of the hand pockets.

Length of the inside waterproof pocket.

Width of the inside waterproof pocket

Cuff of the jacket

Me wearing the jacket.  For reference, I’m about 5’10” tall and weigh 185 pounds. This material is thin and you can see the pattern of my shirt through the jacket.

As part of my layering system, I put the LightHeart Gear rain jacket over my hooded Outdoor Vitals LoftTek (TM) Insulated Jacket to see how it would fit.  There was still plenty of room.

Now here is my initial impression: Overall, I’m very pleased.  I cut 5.7 ounces from my pack with a jacket with nearly the same features as the rain jacket I have been using.  The construction of the jacket is top notch. I didn’t see any loose threads or imperfections when I closely examined the jacket. Double stitching is located in places that make sense – such as the drawstring around the hood. It is a quality piece of gear. Although the material is “slippery” the jacket fit well and was comfortable. The hand pockets and the interior pockets were deep – which is nice. The four Velcro tabs that attach the rain flap over the zipper and on the cuff were just the right amount of “stickiness” (if that makes sense). The zippers worked smoothly.

I wanted a bright orange and I got it!  I don’t even think the pictures show just how bright this jacket really looks. My hiking buddies may hate me, but they will always know where I am if I’m wearing this jacket. As previously mentioned, this material is very slippery. I don’t use many stuff sacks in my backpack, but this jacket will be in one or it may just overtake my pack when uncompressed. The jacket is very warm since it is not breathable. In the few minutes it took me to take the two pictures of me wearing the jacket I was already starting to sweat.

Is there anything I would change or dislike initially about the jacket? My other rain jackets have elastic cording around the bottom of the jacket and zippers on the outside hand pockets. I’m just used to these features. Will I miss them? I probably will not miss the zippers on the hand pockets. I have several other pockets and ways to secure things when I’m backpacking. I did find the elastic around the bottom of my other jackets useful when using them as a windbreaker. Tightening this cord prevented wind from going up the back of my jacket. I don’t know if this will be an issue and I may be able to add it – although it will add weight to the jacket overall. I’ll keep you posted.

If you want an affordable, high quality 100% rainproof jacket, the rain jacket from LightHeart Gear may be the answer. For under $105 USD and weighing just over 6 ounces for a size large, I’m surprised this rain jacket is not more popular on the trail.

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Printable Pinhoti “snail trail” guide

In planning for an upcoming 5 day/4 night solo trip, I visit the Pinhoti Trail Alliance website often. You can find it here: http://www.pinhotitrailalliance.org/

One of the offerings on this website is a North bound “snailtrail guide” that goes into detail about features at certain mileage points per section for the entire trail in Alabama. I have downloaded all the sections (1-13) and combined these into one document. I did take out most of the “history” sections, the wildflower information, and removed the campsite information for 2 reasons. It reduced the length of the document and campsites are plentiful. I also use a hammock and can camp just about anywhere along the trail.

Currently, the document is still 31 pages long, but you can print on both sides of the paper (so only 16 sheets of paper) and use the pages no longer needed to help start a fire to reduce weight as needed. I’m hoping someone else finds it useful. Enjoy!

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I’d like your feedback, please!

I did “spring cleaning” on my blog. I deleted a few posts and organized my blog entries into categories. I have links to the most popular categories just under the header image if viewing on a computer and a drop down menu if you are using the WordPress app or mobile device.

I do realize some of the posts overlap categories as does the information in the individual post. I have also added a search button and category button on the right side when using a computer. This will allow you to search and find certain entries easier without having to scroll until you find them.

I am looking for feedback on the current changes and any recommended changes from those that follow and/or read my blog. I’ve tried to check every link in every blog to ensure they work. If you notice a link not working properly, please let me know so I can add a note or correct the link.

Thanks!

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Initial impressions of the Outdoor Vitals LoftTek (TM) Insulated Jacket and compared to the Patagonia Nano-Puff Jacket

Yes, it has been several months since I’ve posted.  Life has been busy.  However, I received something in the mail and thought I’d share!

You may have seen the OutdoorVitals jacket for sale on Kickstarter. If not, the link is here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/outdoorvitals/lofttek-adventure-jacket As of July 28th, 2019 the link is still active. This jacket intrigued me as it had several features that my current jacket lacked. I participated in the Kickstarter several months ago and the charcoal gray jacket finally arrived several weeks ago. Throughout the process there were periodic emails providing updates and once the jacket was packaged, I received an email with a tracking number.

Once the package arrived, I excitedly tried it on and it was too small for my liking. For reference, I am 5’ 10” and weigh 190 pounds and wear a 42 Regular suit jacket. I was wearing a T-Shirt when trying the jacket on for the very first time.  The jacket fit, but it was a little too snug, especially in the arms and chest. I would be wearing more than just a thin T-Shirt during the temperatures where I plan on wearing this jacket, so I emailed the company to see if I could exchange it for the next larger size. They quickly replied with a return authorization. I paid for the return postage and another jacket the next size up was quickly mailed to me as requested. In that aspect, OutdoorVitals gets a huge thumbs up. The exchange process couldn’t have been any easier or faster.

Although I purchased this jacket to wear around town, I also plan on taking it backpacking. In my area, I go backpacking/camping from fall to early spring. One condition of backpacking for me is that it must be above freezing during the day as I don’t want to deal with my water freezing while I’m hiking. It can be below freezing at night as I’ve comfortable slept in temperatures down to about 15 degrees Fahrenheit.

Several years ago I purchased a black Patagonia Nano-puff jacket and have used it successfully as part of my layering system for backpacking/camping. I did not buy the hooded version and have regretted in on many cold (for me) nights around camp and/or sitting by the campfire when I have one. The Nano-puff is warm – almost too warm when hiking and I’ve always wished it had armpit zippers so I could keep my core warm but vent out some of the heat. I have also found the neck of the Nano-puff to be drafty and I was looking forward to having a hooded jacket. For the purposes of this post, I will be giving my initial impressions of the OutdoorVitals LoftTekTM Insulated Jacket to the well-known Patagonia Nano-Puff Jacket.

It is too warm here for me to compare the warmness of two jackets in use and I will conduct further testing once the temperatures are appropriate.

Here are the quick statistic comparisons.

Patagonia Nano-Puff

Size: Large

Weight in grams: 345 grams

Weight in ounces: 12.3 ounces

Hood: No

Zippered hand packets: 2

Zippered chest pocket: Yes

Armpit zippers: No

Thumbholes in sleeves: No

Shell: 1.4-oz 20-denier 100% recycled polyester with a DWR (durable water repellent) finish.

Lining: 1.3-oz 22-denier 100% recycled polyester with a DWR finish.

Insulation: 60-g PrimaLoft® Gold Insulation Eco 100% polyester

 

Outdoor Vitals LoftTekTM Insulated Jacket

Size: Extra Large

Weight in grams: 387 grams

Weight in ounces: 13.7

Hood: Yes

Zippered hand packets: 2

Zippered chest pocket: No

Armpit zippers: Yes

Thumbholes in sleeves: Yes

DWR Coated

Shell: 20D ripstop nylon shell

Lining: 10D ripstop Nylon

Insulation: LofTek is loose 525+ fill power loose fill insulation

Upon initial inspection, the extra large jacket fits well and it soft to the touch. The high neck and hood are nice and will address some of the draft issues I have with the Patagonia Nano-Puff. The hood fits well and the adjustable elastic around the perimeter of the hood and another adjustable elastic cord on the back of the hood allow the user to fit the hood to their personal preference. I do look forward to testing the armpit zippers in order to easily vent excess body heat when needed. The adjustable elastic cording around the bottom has a nice feature – the end of the cord is routed into the pocket and can be pulled while your hands are in the pockets. The thumb-holes are a nice addition, but seem just a tad small in size. The elastic in the thumb-holes and around the sleeve cuffs seem slightly rough, but they may smooth out over time with use.

In this initial post, I will post pictures of the tags, jackets being worn, on the scale (both grams and ounces), and some close up pictures of the features of the Outdoor Vitals LoftTekTM Insulated Jacket.

NP Tag

Patagonia Nano-Puff Tag

 

NP in grams

Patagonia Nano-Puff jacket packet into chest pocket on the scale in grams.

 

NP Ounces

Patagonia Nano-Puff jacket packet into chest pocket on the scale in ounces.

 

NP worn

Wearing my Patagonia Nano-Puff jacket.

size

Packed size comparison. The Patagonia Nano-Puff is on the top with the OutdoorVitals LoftTek (TM) jacket on the bottom.  In reality, the jacket on the bottom is larger because the pocket is larger.  It will still compress smaller than shown.

OV tag

OutdoorVitals Tag

OV in grams

OutdoorVitals packed into hand pocket on scale in grams.

OV in ounces

OutdoorVitals packed into hand pocket on scale in ounces.

20190729_183437

OutdoorVitals being worn to show the hood cinched up.  I do apologize for the ugly face :).

Now, I’ll show some close up pictures of the features of the OutdoorVitals jacket.

20190728_193049

The thumb-hole in the sleeve.

20190728_193036

Using the thumb-hole.

20190728_193113.jpg

One of the armpit zippers

20190728_193139

A picture of the hood from the front.

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A picture of the hood from the back with the elastic cord cinched.

20190728_193258

The elastic cord around the bottom of the jacket looping back into the pocket.

20190728_193311The elastic cord around the bottom of the jacket looping back into the pocket. Here the pocket is turned inside out showing the plastic pull tab sticking out on the right.

I’m impressed with the overall design and fit of the jacket.  Really, my only (minor) issue is the material surrounding the thumb-holes and cuffs.  The sizing was an issue, but I think that was more my fault than theirs for not realizing it was an athletic cut or really paying attention to the sizing chart.  The OutdoorVital jacket is only about an ounce heavier than the Nano-puff, but includes a hood and armpit zippers.  I don’t believe that is too bad and look forward to using it on chilly nights and being able to vent heat using the armpit zippers as needed while hiking.

 

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Pinhoti Trail planning spreadsheet

Those that know me know I’m a little nerdy and detail oriented.  I love spreadsheets.  Nothing too fancy, but a well designed spreadsheet makes me happy.

The Pinhoti Trail in Alabama stretches for about 180 miles across the state from Weogufka, Alabama and crosses the Alabama/Georgia state line due East of Gadsden.

While this trail is becoming more popular (such as now available on the Guthook app), there’s still not a ton of information on the trail for planning purposes.  I went to the main Pinhoti Trail website (www.pinhotitrailalliance.org), downloaded all the “snail trail” guides, cleaned up the data, imported to Excel, and decided it was too good not to share.

I do not have elevation or campsites listed.  This is because I use a hammock and can literally hang just off the trail for its entire length.  I was mostly concerned with water sources, trail shelters, and trail heads.  I used the mileage and data from the above listed website and I believe it is somewhat dated, but it’s what I had.  I did some basic Excel functions and have Northbound total mileage in addition to the listed Northbound section mileage.  Then I reversed the process and included Southbound mileage both for the section and total.

I hope some of you find it useful.  Here’s a link to the spreadsheet: Pinhoti Mileage

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