This summer was nearly absent any hiking at all for Blissful.
Aside from riding my bike “Hank” over-and-over on the 30+ miles of the Twin Cities superb Grand Rounds – one of the best things about living in the Upper Midwest – or hiking my favorite loops at Lake Elmo and local state parks, I have been focused solely on building my voice over business and launching the podcast.
So when my friend/follower/cheerleader Karen offered us her house up north for a week, we jumped at the chance with, as you must have guessed, Richard’s prodding me to get out and backpack, even just a little.
It was his idea, after-all, when I suddenly became 100% boss-free last spring, to launch me on yet another long-distance walk of the Pacific Crest Trail. My intention was to only walk a few weeks to “see what happens.”
What will happen this time around is I will board a float plane (fully masked, of course) for a quick hop from Grand Marais, Minnesota to Isle Royale, Michigan. At 206 square miles, it is the fourth largest lake island in the world and the second biggest in all of the Great Lakes – and it’s a backpackers’s paradise.
Walking the Pacific Crest Trail was one of the best things I have done in my life – second only to walking the Te Araroa, and both of those hikes were accomplished in one calendar year!
btw, I just turned 55, and that’s a pretty cool feat…feet?…for a middle aged gal, wouldn’t you say? I’m feeling mildly bad ass.
Oddly enough, Richard pointed out that it took me two years to plan for my walk in New Zealand, while under the meltdown circumstances upon my return to Minnesota last spring, it took me less than two weeks to plan the PCT! I guess a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.
Backpacking: An extended form of hiking in which people carry double the amount of gear they need for half the distance they planned to go in twice the time it should take.
The Blissful Hiker does it: packed weight under 15 pounds!
Her packed weight (weight minus water, food and fuel which is called variable weight) for five months on the Te Araroa is under 15 pounds and she’s still taking professional audio gear. Praise the ultralight gods, and all my engineering pals at Minnesota Public Radio.
In Silent-Film-style, the Blissful Hiker prepares to hike the Te Araroa by setting up her Tarptent, the “alicoop” with her Leki trekking poles, blows up the Therm-a-Rest and finally crawls in for a little shut eye.
The Granite Gear Crown2 60 is a superbly designed ultra light backpack ideal for multi-day backpacking and long distance thru-hiking. Weighing at its max at only 37.76 oz. this pack can easily be configured for different types of trips bringing the weight down to a minimum of 22.56 oz. while still offering a huge capacity. Small touches like three large mesh outside pockets and two zippered hip pockets make this pack my top choice.
I have been using Granite Gear backpacks exclusively for the past seven years and I’m always blown away by their simple, sleek design, their ruggedness in the face of extreme conditions and their superior functionality. This pack is lighter than both my Vapor and Meridian packs, but the material feels far more durable.
The Crown2 60 is basically a large bag that rolls up and closes with four adjustable clips. Inside is a zippered hydration pocket with a hang clip. There’s a removable top lid, two modest-sized zippered hip belt pockets, two very large stretch woven pockets on the sides and one extra large stretch-woven pocket on the back. There are two large ice ax loops at the bottom and four smaller gear loops on the top of the lid.
I love the top hatch, which is more solid on its own than past Granite Gear models and can be removed should I only need a “purse” on occasion or have no need for the full 60-liter capacity. That being said, when the capacity needs to be fully utilized, the six compression straps are well placed and easily deployed. The back mesh pocket is a great addition since the Vapor and Meridian days and will likely see lots of wet gear in rainy New Zealand. Though the hip pockets are small and a bit awkward to get into, they are the perfect size to hold this DJ’s iPhone and microphone – as well as compass and lipstick.
Crown2 uses the “Vapor Current mark 2” compression molded polypropylene frame sheet. You can always remove it and replace it with a dual-purpose foam pad. The frame works in combination with the molded foam back panel that’s designed with ventilation channels, mesh and a slight lumbar bump. It molded well with my body and wicked sweat effectively as I struggled up some good climbs.
The shoulder straps are padded with an S-curve, great for us gals, and the hip belt is easily customizable. Note that there is a women’s belt option, but I found it far too tippy for my use with the unisex fitting beautifully on my curvy hips. The Crown2 has two tiers of side and front compression straps.
I am a hiker who loves top-notch zippers and this pack’s got them in spades. The buckles feel they’ll last five months with a satisfying click that says this baby is not coming undone, though I did find I needed to ensure I matched the outie buckle into its innie slot precisely or it would jam, but I noticed this only on the chest strap.
I did not opt for the rain cover as I use Granite Gear’s superb eVent drysacks – that easily compress to nothing even without straps – for all things that must stay dry. I find it helps me stay organized and allows me to set things on wet ground if needed while packing and unpacking. But there was one hike when I pulled a bag of clothing out of the pack, a green bag that blended in with the grassy bank. I left it there and never found it again.
While there’s a good argument for manufacturing gear in colors that fit in with the places we hike – and it’s certainly unlikely I’d leave behind my entire backpack – I would have preferred a brighter color like stoplight red or slow-children-at-play orange. Having said that, I must say that “ole drabby” is really starting to grow on me even if Richard says she looks like she was cut from an army surplus tent. I am falling in love and can’t wait to have her on my back on the Te Araroa.
Specs at a Glance
Dimensions: 23.5″ X 13″ X 8″ (3660 cubic in.)
Max weight (medium unisex): fully configured, 33.9 oz./minimum, 22.56 oz.
Max recommended load: 35 pounds
Capacity: 60 liter
Top Lid: 2.56 oz.
Frame sheet: 6.08 oz.
Hip belt: 6.56 oz.
Gender: Unisex, with optional women’s hipbelt
Torso lengths available: short/regular/long
Hip belt: adjustable
Materials: 100D High-tenacity nylon and DWR treated zippers
Granite Gear supplied alison young with this pack for use on the Te Araroa.