A blow lasting day and night caused challenges with dirt, dust and wood debris on the trail, but covering tracks with my new best friend, the Wilderness Athlete full-scale backpack, helped to attack the paths one step at a time. But why put a full cross-chest seatbelt around it?
“Big Red” one has to call this version of Wilderness Athlete’s backpacks—there is a camouflage available—a huge, light-frame friend a snowshoer or trail runner can develop a friendship with, allows one to expand greatly range and distance. Covering long distances while moving with a gait—not walking but trotting, jogging, running—is greatly enhanced with this pal for the back. It is with you every step of the way, never complaining, always there to help. What better definition of a best friend . . . .
Packing it for a trail trek test led to the discovery of new and clever pockets in every nook and corner, potential straps for all things wrapped, methods to attach just about anything, and the capability of self-contain for those extreme distances. My use is not for hiking though that is a noble and very good use of this device; my use is to discover a large framed backpack that will allow an ultra distance runner to self-contain so those point-to-point layouts or long looped routes can be accomplished with less muss and without fuss.
Wilderness Athlete accomplishes that with a gold medal achievement for outdoor backpacks. Originally developed for camping and hunting treks, this backpack has the testing behind it and improvements from that original design to fit the needs of a snowshoer or runner.
First, the elegantly curved frame fits easily on the shoulders and lower back, distributing weight on one’s torso so one doesn’t really notice it. You know it’s there, but it doesn’t weigh you down.
The frame braces one’s back to keep posture clean and mean even when exhausted, a real plus. It keeps shoulders pulled back, not concaving forward. A few adjustments to the straps to tighten to one’s comfort are all that is needed. So much of this instrument is intuitive; it falls into the category quickly as a best friend, your favorite mule.
How long does it take to get used to wearing it? Oh, probably five minutes tops . . . . Once I had it adjusted, I knew the weight was there but appreciated the support its braces provide. I carried extra gear just to load it down, but found a truth that we are able to handle more weight, carry much more than we could ever imagine.
Already certain pockets have their designation: a side left pocket is for the water-only thermos while the twin on the right side is for cameras and the Flip video. I’ll continue to practice and find my preferred packing order so that searching for some item isn’t an issue.
Trail tools, such as a compass, whistle, Ergodyne cap with LEDs embedded, are all placed in a zip pocket facing to the rear.
I want to add a rear-blinking red LED for I.D. if I were ever rendered unconscious though some believe I live most days with that condition. I’m going to find an attachment so I can have the mobile phone, my emergency connection to the real world, on my front strap as I am used to.
Carrying water with large handhelds is my preferred method and plays into my favor with this design as a back-mounted water system would be impossible to use. On most trails water is available or can be sanitized to be consumed, and as such provides the dedicated soul to consider new options. I tucked several pre-mixed (with water) 32-oz bottles into the pack, and used water at my self-stocked “aid-stations” to replenish needs on my loops.
I use the WA Energy and Focus mixed with their Hydrate and Recovery, commonly known as “Blaze” from the extreme forest fire-fighters who discovered this combo.
Then on the move, I used the WA gels to fuel and ravenously consumed their Performance Bars anytime I could.
I preceded this trek with a meal of WA’s Meal Replacement powder mixed with water. A high nutrition mix, the three flavors of strawberry, chocolate and vanilla are wonderfully done, tasty like a Dairy Queen Blizzard but on the opposite side, the good side, of healthy. I use two scoops in about 21 oz. of water providing 480 calories yet without discomfort or stuffiness. A nearly even tally of carbos (48 in my mix) and protein (36) does the job. More than 600 mg of potassium allows one to build up the electrolyte stores.
I have a pre-mixed bottle, too, for the moment I stop or complete my run. Don’t plan to take the time to mix something then; the odds favor one overlooking this key recovery step in the press for time or tiredness or just plain darkness sapping will. Go back to your cooler, grab the premixed drink and have at it. Your body will thank you for that courtesy.
I’m going to include Meal Replacement packets I premeasure in small plastic bags to carry with me and use as a trail alternate food source, too, on future treks.
An additional advantage of this pack is the flexibility of clothing one can carry. Taking rain gear is a must, but with temperatures varying, one can take changes that provide plenty of options to accommodate the changing weather. A key to getting out in harshly frigid conditions is to overdress when leaving the comfort of a heated vehicle. Dreading a -20 degree start while looking out frozen windows and watching a heavy wind is enough to cause you to turn around and go drive back home, crawl into bed, and “please, please don’t bother me until tomorrow.”
Stuffing those extra pieces in the backpack after heating up quickly, which one does with snowshoes, allows one to overcome those minor obstacles of the mind.
Additionally fresh socks can do wonders for spirit, too.
And why did I put my Wilderness Athlete backpack in the rear seat of the car at the run’s conclusion and buckle it in? Because I would never let a friend ride in the hot rod Mercury without seatbelts . . . .