Roads Rivers and Trails

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Monthly Archives: March 2022


Staff Gear Favorites: Part 2

Your favorite piece of gear can be like a good friend. You might only see it a few times each year, but it can feel like no time has passed. RRT’s staff has many gear favorites; here are some pieces in particular that have won our affection year after year.

Emma – Tera Kaia – Toura High Cut Top

My Toura top from Tera Kaia has easily become one of my favorite pieces of gear since my first The Tera Kaia Toura top is great for climbing and active use. It will soon be a favorite piece of gear for you on any adventure.purchase last year. It’s great for climbing, backpacking, and swimming. It has practically replaced regular bras for me on a daily basis. It gets bonus points for being designed and produced by a small, women-owned business!

Dillan – MSR – Pocket Rocket Deluxe

Let me tell you about the greatest piece of gear you’ve ever seen: the MSR Pocket Rocket Deluxe! Weighing in at only 2.9 ounces, this ultralight stove will change your life. This stove is essential to any life in the backcountry by providing a source of heat to boil water and cook food. This stove is one of my favorites. For one, it’s simple to use; screw it on any isobutane canister, open it up, press the ignitor, and bam, you’ve got 10,400 BTUs ready to use. Another reason it’s great is how small and packable it is; this stove can easily be stored in a pot with some fuel and takes up practically no space in your pack. The last reason this is my favorite piece of gear is the wealth of possibilities it offers. With this stove you can cook anything your heart desires, from bacon and grilled cheese to Mountain House and instant potatoes. This stove turns the wilderness into your private kitchen. It’s one of my favorites and I believe it’ll be one of yours as well.

 

The Kula Cloth is an essential item for any adventure into the backcountry and is Colleen's gear favorite.

ColleenKula Cloth

The Kula Cloth is the female hiker’s new best friend. If you have ever hiked with wet underwear or a nice, pungent urine smell about you like you’re walking down the streets of New York City but you’re actually in nature, then the Kula Cloth is your girl. I love that it is super easy to clean, antimicrobial, cute, and most of all that it is super functional. I can’t ever go hiking or backpacking again without it.

Sean – Rab – Khroma Kharve

The piece of gear I cannot go without is my Khroma Kharve jacket. Rab’s Khroma Kharve is a packable synthetic coat that is warm but not hot. I have used it as a standalone piece walking through the city and as an outer layer relaxing at the camp site before bed. It has a Gore-Tex Infinium fabric and a DWR coating that make it water repellent. Though it’s not advertised as waterproof, it has a waterproof front zipper and a bill on the hood. I have used it in a downpour and did not get a drop of water on me. With well-sized pockets on the outside and massive gear pockets on the inside, it holds everything I want it to. The final reason I love this jacket is its double zippers. Last November I went climbing at Red River Gorge and it was in the low 40s. My friends were cold, but since I had a jacket with double zippers, I was able to keep my jacket on while belaying. If you want a durable, water repellent, warm, and versatile jacket, get the Khroma Kharve.

The Astral Loyak is a staff favorite for slippery rocks and even just around town

Emily – Astral – Loyak

It was 2016 when I first met the Astral Loyak. I was instantly attracted to its minimal design that would flatter my larger than average size 9.5 feet. For years I struggled with bulky sandals or the unflattering amorphous water sock, but the Loyak was neither of those things. I had never met the perfect kayaking shoe. The Loyak gave me the flexibility I needed to squeeze my tootsies into the narrow bow of a kayak and the support and style to don them around town. They’ve also become my go-to water and camp shoes for backpacking trips. They’re lightweight, dry quickly, and have a razor-siped bottom for extra grip on wet rocks and riverbeds.

 

 

These gear favorites have pleased our staff for years of adventures. Odds are, they’ll soon become your favorite too.

You can look forward to more amazing gear selections from our staff in Part 3 of this series.

Because it’s There: Finding Purpose for Adventure

When asked why he desired to reach the summit of Mt. Everest, legendary mountaineer George Mallory allegedly replied, “Because it’s there.” Does one need any more reason than that? Of course, we all know how Mallory’s story ends- he disappeared on his summit attempt and his remains weren’t discovered until half a century later. It is still hotly debated whether or not Mallory reached the summit of Everest on that expedition, but most adventurers will agree Mallory’s three simple words were a strangely elegant, sufficient answer: because it’s there.

For many of us, our outdoor pursuits give us something we can’t find anywhere else. They make us feel a certain way, a euphoric yet peaceful je ne sais quoi. Whether it be backpacking, climbing, biking, or paddling, our experiences outside leave us fulfilled. We know inwardly why we do these things, why we push our bodies past their limits, suffer through the elements, and emerge with a tired smile on our faces. But how do we explain to parents, friends, and strangers why we do this? For them, Mallory’s answer is insufficient. So we must find the words to explain what drives us to set out on expeditions into the unknown.

I’ve done my fair share of adventuring and found ways to enjoy even the most grueling days. But I can’t claim to have an enlightened answer for why I climb and hike. Truthfully, there probably is no way to accurately describe my ambitions, to ease the worries of my parents with an eloquent arrangement of words about why I wanted to hike the Pacific Crest Trail or climb Mt. Washington in the dead of winter. For the uninitiated, “because it’s there” answers nothing. We each have unique and individual reasons for setting out on adventures. I’ll try to capture some of the shared reasons we set out into the wilderness.

I get a certain enjoyment out of pushing my body and mind to their limit and then discovering possibilities beyond those limits. Adventures are an escape from routine, an opportunity to experience something new. The feeling of freedom on a backpacking trip is amazing. It is refreshing to wake up to a mountaintop sunrise and realize you have no obligations- no texts to respond to, no work, no deadlines; your only obligation is to hike. An adventure is not just an escape from routine, but an escape from people. The woods provide an opportunity to release stress, a place where your limited interactions with people are genuine and you don’t have to adhere to social norms. 

The simplicity that comes from living out of a backpack is unbeatable; the knowledge of having everything you need on your back empowers you. The thrill that comes from being 100 feet up a rock wall, looking down on the trees, will make even the longest approaches worthwhile. The sense of pride that comes from sending a route or finishing a trail leaves me wanting to do it all over again. There is a certain beauty to fog sifting through the woods or of an early morning on the river, a beauty that can’t be found anywhere else.

I love starting my day with a steep climb and ending it soaked in sweat; I love the feel of wind in my face, staring up awestruck at the Milky Way from the comfort of my sleeping bag, and falling asleep to the steady murmur of a mountain stream. Time and time again I go out there for the sunsets and waterfalls that inspire my adventures. Without fail, I return from a trip exhausted but content, renewed by my time in the woods.

Our backcountry adventures might seem reckless or dangerous, but they bring us something that nothing else can. No amount of climbing at the gym is as exciting as a weekend at Red River Gorge; an hour on the stair-stepper pales in comparison to summitting a rocky peak. Each time we embark on one of these trips, we feel as if we’re going home. There is a sense of familiarity in the backcountry, even in unexplored places, that implores us to return. 

I’m not sure any of this really explains why we do what we do, but maybe that’s the point. We do it because it can’t be explained. In the end, Mallory might have done about as well as anyone in explaining our adventures. Why do we pursue longer and more remote trails, climb harder and more technical routes, or find faster flowing rivers? Because they’re there.

 

by: Will Babb

Smoke from wildfires hampered the Tahoe Rim Trail thru-hike attempt.

Through Fire and Flame: Attempting a Tahoe Rim Trail Thru-Hike

Since mid-way through college, it’s been a goal of mine to complete a thru-hike of the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT); Emma has also had this goal. In August of 2021 we set out to attempt our mutual goal. 

We drove 2,214 miles across the country to Tahoe City, California. We moved with purpose to the trailhead with only a brief distraction at a local gear shop. The trail started at a riverside park filled with people lazily drinking beers in inner tubes; that seemed nice. For us, however, the first day was miserable. I have never hiked a longer 13 miles in my life. On the bright side, we had lighter packs by not carrying anywhere near enough water for the 93-degree dry, sunny California day.  

High spirits were abundant early on in the Tahoe Rim Trail thru-hike attempt.

Water on the trail was scarce, which made high-mileage, high-elevation days tough mentally and physically. We would start each day at a water source and hike until the next water source, usually 13-18 miles. We’d set up camp for the night, excited to fill our Nalgenes with hard-earned water. 

The second day of the trip was a steady uphill climb as we approached the highest point on the trail, Relay Peak (10,338’). We camped just before the summit, where we connected with fellow TRT hiker Michael. By connected, I mean he came into camp late at night and scared the shit out of us. In the morning we chatted about where we were camping the next day and what we had hiked beforehand. Proud of ourselves for finally starting early, we hiked upwards to Relay Peak. I was excited to summit and earn panoramic views of the Sierra. The heavy smoke from neighboring fires disagreed with me; the view from the summit was lackluster. 

Smoky views were common on the Tahoe Rim Trail.

There was one silver lining to the summit, though. It was here that we met Will, another TRT thru-hiker. We sat on the summit eating nut-butter tortillas and talking about our experiences in the mountains. We leap-frogged with Will the rest of the afternoon before setting up camp together. 

At this point, things seemed to be turning around. We had made friends and were making serious progress through the dry section of the TRT. The next day, we set off early and were greeted with more smoke than we had seen previously. We decided to push through, knowing the smoke was coming from the Dixie Fire on the northwest side of Lake Tahoe and we were heading to the Southeast. Unfortunately, this did not work in our favor; we soon found out there was a new fire on the south side of Tahoe right where we were heading: the Caldor Fire. 

 

Intense smoke conditions prevailed on the thru-hike

Because of our “alpine start” we were able to set up camp early in the day and enjoy a relaxing afternoon. Soon after, Michael showed up as well. The four of us ate dinner and talked about our time on the TRT. We were excited to have new friends, and Emma and I’s mood drastically improved.

We planned our biggest mileage for the next day, which involved a 4 a.m. start. Yet again, when the sun rose we were surrounded by smoke; we spent another day hiking through smoke. Emma and I hurried to hit our mileage, get out of the smoke, and get to our resupply. We’d been telling ourselves that the next day would be better, but there are only so many times you can trick yourself into believing that. 

One highlight of the Tahoe Rim Trail was making new friends on the hike.

Once we were in town, we had to decide if we would return to finish the hike or if we would call it off. Completing the TRT immersed in smoke was not what we had envisioned. Soon after the discussion began, we heard that the TRT had been shut down and our decision had been made for us. 

This changed a lot. We had planned to be on trail for another five to seven days. Our entire trip revolved around this one trail. From my time leading trips at the University of Cincinnati, I had ample experience with plans being broken due to weather, injury, and even poor morale, but nothing I had experienced before was of this caliber. 

We spent the night in a hostel filled with trail stories and the stench of dirtbag. It was heaven. We haphazardly threw together a road trip through the desert southwest and packed the car to head back east. 

We said goodbye to our new friends and hit the open road. Saddened by the early termination of our hike, it was hard to look forward to what lay ahead. 

The next few days were filled with vast Nevada views, hot springs, and alpine meadows. An impromptu decision led to spending a weekend with my friend Greg in Cedar City, Utah. We climbed, meditated, hiked, yogaed, and sunk into the coldest bodies of water we could find. Soon we were on our own again with a new plan. We started toward Colorado and I set my sights on a loop of several 14ers. I made it up one before the weather forced me to turn back; a theme of the trip I was becoming used to. 

From here we drove to Colorado Springs to visit friends Olivia and Isaac. We spent the next couple days relaxing, enjoying showers and meals from a kitchen rather than a small, dirty stove.

Although completing the 170 miles of trail wasn’t accomplished, I still got what I wanted out of the trip. I made new friends, spent many nights under the stars, saw my first wilderness bear, and pushed myself yet again with my highest mileage backpacking day, highest grade climbed outdoors, and first solo fourteener. 

One day I hope to return to complete the TRT from start to finish, but for now I am content with what I have accomplished and look forward to new endeavors.

 

by: Dalton Spurlin

College outdoor clubs can introduce students to landscapes such as the Wind River Range.

College Outdoor Clubs: A Necessary Resource

Image you’re a parent and your kid has just come home from college. They joined a club with a crazy group of dirtbags and now spend every weekend outside getting sunburnt, climbing, backpacking, and caving. Your first thought might be, “Oh lord, they’re gonna drop out and live in a van down by the river.” I want you to know it does not always end up that way. However, you probably will have to work with them on showering more often. Whether you are the worried parent or the adventure-driven kid, college outdoor clubs are important and can be life changing.

When I went to the University of Cincinnati, I initially struggled to make friends, especially my first semester. I joined the UC Mountaineering Club (UCMC) at the start of the fall semester, but a demanding chemistry lab prevented me from being active in the club. First thing spring semester, I went to meetings and became an active member of the group. It was incredible! I fell in love with these people. They welcomed me with open arms and made me feel included. I tried all sorts of new things, like canyoneering, more serious backpacking than I had done as a kid, and hanging out at the crag (climbing wall) at Red River Gorge.

College outdoor club students connect over a shared passion for adventure.

UC Mountaineering Club students at Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.

You are able to see so much with these clubs, even as a college student. They can put on a week-and-a-half long trip to western national parks for around $250 per student. Although that doesn’t include food, it is still phenomenally cheap. Without this group, I would not have explored as much of the country as I have.

Opening young adults up to new adventures is not all these clubs are good for. They provide the interested college kid with a group of individuals who share the same passions. This will help them find their identity and create lifelong friendships. Some of my friends from the mountaineering club later became my roommates!

College outdoor clubs also teach new skills; UCMC taught me to climb. I had tried it as a wee Boy Scout but never got into it. Then, UCMC really taught me. I learned the importance of climbing safety and having the right gear. I grew from top-roping to belaying others and eventually lead climbing. When my time came, I was the one teaching other mountaineers how to climb, passing on the lessons I had been taught.

College outdoor clubs are an avenue to discover passions and valuesr

UCMC students connect around shared passions at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

These club relationships can even help with careers and networking. If it was not for UCMC, I would not be working for the best store in the world: Roads Rivers and Trails! Several RRT staff come from UCMC and I’m grateful for that. In the summer of 2019, RRT needed more gear ninjas (that’s what they call us sales associates when we start). Another member of the club helped me apply and get the job. Now, I’m the “Director of Gear Science and Technology.” Pretty fancy, huh! I learned so much about outdoor gear and had some incredible co-workers and supervisors. Emily even helped me get a chemistry job with the Food and Drug Administration by writing a letter of recommendation.

Furthermore, these clubs are instrumental in helping a kid build their identity and adult life. I don’t know what I would have done without UCMC. So, if you’re the kid thinking about joining, just try it out. If you’re the parent, relax. You have to let your kid become the person they want to be, although it may stress you out and make you worry. Just ask my mother, she’ll have some stories for you. But more importantly, it will make a huge difference for your kid.

I love UCMC and I wouldn’t trade its people or experiences for the world. College outdoor clubs are awesome and so important to your personal growth. Check out the UC Mountaineering Club or a similar outdoor club at your college of choice; the impact can be astounding.

College outdoor club students visit Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park is a favorite destination for college outdoor clubs over fall break.

by: Joe Carver

Staff Gear Favorites: Part 1

The Mystery Ranch Coulee 25 pack is a favorite piece of gear for day hikes, climbing trips, and urban travel.Your favorite piece of gear can be like a good friend. You might only see it a few times each year, but it can feel like no time has passed. RRT’s staff has many gear favorites; here are some pieces in particular that have won our affection year after year. 

Will – Mystery Ranch – Coulee 25

Toss in a harness, climbing shoes, quickdraws, and high-calorie snacks. Strap a helmet on the outside and drape a rope over my shoulder, and I’m set for a day at the crag. A week later, I’ve got a puffy, rain shell, water filter, and Twizzlers stuffed in the same pack. The Mystery Ranch Coulee 25 carries it all with ease. It’s not often that I meet a do-it-all bag for the crag, trail, or town, but the Coulee falls into that category in a durable, nearly bomb-proof package. I’ve taken this pack to the summits of Katahdin and Mt. Washington, to the rolling hills of Shenandoah, and the cliffs of New and Red River Gorges. I’ve abused and loved this pack for upwards of four years and it still looks like it just came off the shelf. I never seem to be able to stuff it full, but with a rigid, adjustable frame it carries well no matter how many layers I over-zealously, over-cautiously, or over-thinkingly overpack. I know I’ll demand more from this pack in the years to come. With the Mystery Ranch name behind it, I know the Coulee will stand up to every snowfield, talus slope, and ascent I dream of.

Dalton – Rab – Pulse Hoody

Rab's pulse hoody is Dalton's favorite piece of gear, getting him through alpine starts and sunny days on western peaks.

Have you ever run out of space in your day pack and had to leave a crucial layer behind? Have you ever been a bit too cold but too lazy to put on another layer? Did you curse yourself for not putting on enough sunscreen? The Rab Pulse Hoody solves all those problems and more. This hoody has been a major part of my outdoor wardrobe for the past three years. It is an incredibly packable piece of gear, but it is rarely ever packed since I am almost always wearing it the moment I step onto the trail. This hoody has traveled with me for hundreds of miles in more states than I can count. It has been my go-to for summer 14ers, camp pajamas, and multi-day backpacking trips. It is so light I don’t overheat on summer days, but with the sleeves rolled down it gets me through alpine starts without shedding layers.  

*New for Spring 2022, the Pulse has been updated as the Force Hoody

Ben – Helinox- Chair Zero or GSI – Spatula

For camp comfort, Ben packs a Chair Zero as a favorite gear item for any trip.My favorite gear is either my GSI Spatula or my Helinox Chair Zero.  I love my spatula because I can make my friends grilled cheese or pancakes on the trail. It’s also the most extra thing you’ll ever see a guy pull out of his cooking kit on trail. My Chair Zero comes in as a tie for my favorite, because when all the plebes are sitting on the ground with rocks up their butts I’m in a comfy, cozy seat with a dry butt and relaxed legs. It is my luxury item, but it’s for sure worth the extra pound in my pack.

Bryan – Bedrock Sandals – Cairn/Cairn 3D

I have been a diehard fan of minimalist footwear for over ten years, so Bedrocks were an easy choice. There was no break-in period for me. They have been my go-to, day-in, day-out shoe for five years now (winter excluded) on trails, waterways, or towns. It is refreshing to see a company do everything so right, from manufacturing to distribution to function and accountability. The heavy arch-pushing sandal never worked for me, so I’m happy to have my solution. 

Olivia – The Tent Lab – The Deuce #2

I love my deuce for many reasons, but I’ll give you the quick fix. One: it is the proper size to measure your cathole (watch the tutorial on how to dig; it’s worth it). Two: it feels good in the hand and can wrap around a Nalgene bottle to save space. Three: it’s sturdy AF; you could dig a grave with that thing. Four: it’s lightweight and comes in a rainbow of colors.

 

 

These gear favorites have pleased our staff for years of adventures. Odds are, they’ll soon become your favorite too.

You can look forward to more amazing gear selections from our staff in Part 2 of this series.

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