Stand Back, It’s Tele Time

“My-my-my-my gear makes me so hard makes me say oh my Lord.” Yeah, you’re going to have to give me a good long minute or two because I just came across this binding.

It’s everything I’ve ever wanted in a boot interface. Most of you are like, “What?” What you don’t understand is that secretly I’m a free-heal fanatic. I love to telemark. Between declining health and lack of pow-pow I’ve stayed off my boards for a couple of years now.

Add to this, when I lived in Crested Butte and up sloped every morning I’d already switched over to an ultralight, AT set up. I carried more in skin weight than bindings on those runs and I loved how light everything was despite the binding pinning my heal to the plank.

With cables, this bad boy comes in at 500 grams! Moonlight Mountain Gear. This! So much this!

RaidLight Olmo Ultra Raid Desert 30L + Health Planning

If you love trail running and fastpacking as much as I do, right now is about the time acute gear envy will set in. As I said in the unboxing video above I’m back out on the trail again, and that means improvements to my kit.

First up, is the RaidLight OLMO Ultra Raid Desert 30L pack.

First Glance

This pack weighs in at a measly 710 grams (1.6 lbs) and much of that appears to come from subdivisions inside each of the main compartments. The pack has seven (7) sealed nylon zippers with metal toggles which probably add a fair amount to the overall weight of the pack. The pack’s eighth zipper is inside the main compartment and is just the right size for a passport and other important documents. Most of these are relatively short travel which shaves off some of the bulk. Relative to other rucks on the market RaidLight has managed to do a fair job of keeping the weight down. Ultimate Directions FastPack 30L weighs 700 g (1.5 lbs) and lacks many of the organizational features RaidLight has crammed into the same space.

I actually like the color (mine is white, gray and orange with black trim) although I admit that when combined with my blue, charcoal, red, green and orange running togs it’s going to really complete’s my trail-side clown motif. C’est la vie.

Construction looks solid despite any double sewn seams. High-stress points are reinforced with tape and probably fabric glue. When I run my fingers around the inside of the main compartment I can feel the toggles for the draw cords because they run all the way into the seam. That’s good news since a failure at any one of these points could spell disaster on the trail.

A pair of water bottle holsters is positioned perfectly for hands-free sipping underway. Plus, even when loaded the bottles miss tender nipples saving all that uncomfortable pain from chafing. Both holsters have mess pockets for stuffing goo and snacks into. In addition to all this functionality up front, trekking poles have a stowage location across the front of the water bottles. I particularly like this because it means I can on or off-load my poles without taking the pack off.

The pack is well balanced does not wobble or irritate. The harness is well-padded conforms to my shape. There is an unpadded channel that runs up your spine to the shoulder harness which will allow sweat to escape, although I anticipate a wet spot on the back of my short after long, hot runs. The chest belt is easily four or five centimeters away from your chest which means that it won’t ever rub. The hip belt, designed to be worn loosely, comes with a sock over it. The sock is constantly falling off and without it, the belt will likely chafe. I’ll be keeping a close eye on this particular feature.


Headphone Extension

A headphone extension has been provided in the pack. This is supposed to connect your iPod or phone to your earphones from the right waist pocket and I think it’s a great idea. However, the cordage is heavy, difficult to remove and/or replace, and potentially unnecessary.


Don’t get me wrong, I really like the idea of having a hookup for audio books and music while I’m running, but this is probably going to be the first thing I change about the bag. I’ve checked and a pair of old Apple headphones is just about the right length to make a similar journey and easily half the weight. With a little fishing around I can get a good pair of earphones to complete the job and shave off some unnecessary mass from the kit.

Number Case?

olmo_3Honestly, I’m not even sure what this is for, but just behind the shoulder harness is a pocket made of clear plastic. I’m guessing that it’s for holding a race number, but if that’s the case then there’s a number of problems. First, when the shoulder straps are anchored properly to the top of the pack this pocket will inevitably be scrunched down. Also, if you put a number here it’s always going to be obscured by your head making the number impractical at best. “Look here,” he says bowing low so that the aid-station people can see.

I suppose you could mount a map here, but duh, why? You’d have to take the pack off to see it. So yeah, I’m not sure what this is for. And without any documentation (even in French which I could noodle through) your guess is as good as mine.

Easy Access Pocket

olmo_4Again, another spot on the pack where I’m left wondering. On the exterior of the main compartment is a tab with an icon I’m unable to puzzle out. The icon seems to indicate that there is easy access for something, however, what is anyone’s guess.

isobag-housse-isothermeAdditional clues: There are two zippers, one at the top of the pocket and one just above the easy access port. Near the top of the pocket are a pair of velcro loops and a water bladder port (clearly marked).

All of this seems to line up and or reflect RaidLight’s ISOBAG/ISOTHERM water bladder stuff, but why you’d ever want to load 2 liters of water as far away from your back as possible is beyond me. Especially when there is a port that runs next to your body. Maybe on long stage races crossing hot, arid deserts more water is needed?

Gear Attachment Points and Cinching

olmo_5olmo_6The main gear compartment is cinched down via a network of cords woven into the sides of the pack. You can operate this feature from the bottom of the ruck and it’s pretty straight forward. It’s nearly impossible to do this with the pack on so keep this in mind when you reach into the bag and pull out your raincoat or flashlights. If you’ve made space in the bag you’ll want to pull the cord before you put the ruck back on your shoulders.

Extra gear can be affixed to the ruck using four (4) gear attachment points on the bottom of the bag. Your sleeping bag and mat will need their own container and straps to be mounted outside the main compartment.

On The Trail

Yeah, so it’s not all confusion. Last night I took this ruck for a round in the forest. The run went off smoothly and while I wasn’t toting a full load I padded so there was some weight.

I took my poles on this dash through the woods too, and my arms got a workout as well. The shoulder straps stayed out of the way and my arms cleared the poles when I stowed them up front.

Very Cool Experiment (For Backpackers)

This article just showed up in my PLOS one feed. WATER FILTRATION USING PLANT XYLEM seems like chaff science enough until to calculate how much weight you put into your backpack to accomplish this simple purpose. The abstract pretty much tells most of the story, but the whole article is worthy of a read.

Effective point-of-use devices for providing safe drinking water are urgently needed to reduce the global burden of waterborne disease. Here we show that plant xylem from the sapwood of coniferous trees – a readily available, inexpensive, biodegradable, and disposable material – can remove bacteria from water by simple pressure-driven filtration. Approximately 3 cm3 of sapwood can filter water at the rate of several liters per day, sufficient to meet the clean drinking water needs of one person. The results demonstrate the potential of plant xylem to address the need for pathogen-free drinking water in developing countries and resource-limited settings.

Pine Filtration

Pine Filtration

Yeah, sure, I’ve love to see this technique integrated into catastrophe response and spread across developing world situations, but I’d also love to figure out how to integrate it into my ruck. I could potentially ditch the iodine and reduce filtration weight down significantly.

I think the biggest question I’m left with is how much pressure is enough pressure to achieve flow through the plant membrane? Add to this, would it be possible to accomplish the same thing using gravity feed instead of pressurization?

Pour Déplacer

Crested Butte

Crested Butte

So we got confirmation about it this morning.  We’ve secured a new pad up near Crested Butte and that means we’ll be moving once again.  Packing has already started, and we’ll begin looking for a more local storage area sooner than later.

This is good news for our family since our new neighbors have become increasingly annoying. This is good news for me, because I’ll be a lot closer to the trails and mountains I’d so dearly love to get up into. And, with the hope that this winter we’ll break the drought, Tess and I will get to ski our butts off together.

Team Crested Butte Slide Show at the Alpineer

Tuesday evening of the 31st of January I attended a slideshow put on at the Alpineer in Crested Butte.  Team Crested Butte showed up to give the public an overview of Rando racing, rando gear and some insight into what might be necessary to race in the Elk Mountain Grand Traverse.  Bryan Wickenhauser lead the presentation with help from teammates Jari Kirkland, Jon Brown, and Brian Smith.

I came away with the following (specifically concerning impending EMGT race in March).

  1. Amiee and I need to have a tow line.  Basically its a light line with bungie in the middle that keeps teams together.  Either end has a quick clip on it and there is bungie in the middle that allows for variability in the distance one teammate gets from the other.  This gear item isn’t actually used to pull someone along, but it ensure that teammates don’t get too far apart which can have a significant psychological impact on the member who finds themselves consistently behind the leading member.  Additionally, when used in team races it pretty much ensures that you won’t get DQed for being too far apart.
  2. I need a bigger pack than the C.A.M.P. Rapid 260 I’ve been using thus far.  Takeaway here is that 40 miles and the minimum gear list would be hard to traverse given the limited capacity of this race pack.  Currently I’m considering the C.A.M.P. X3 600, but have been poking around looking at some of the others.
  3. I’ll need to carry a “real” shovel, the bear claw won’t work for EMGT.  Bugger, so much heavier, but at least I won’t be showing up to the starting line with the wrong gear.
  4. Ski retainer “system” can be as light as a rolled bit of TP.  Ok, maybe a little more sturdy than that, but the requirement appears to be largely notional for AT race gear and the requirement is only in force while on Aspen mountain.  Jon had some pretty keen ideas that I’m going to monkey around with over the next month and a half.
  5. Train at night!  EMGT starts at midnight and we should be comfortable making a significant portion of our way to the finish line in the dark.  We also need to have our gear list down enough that we’re not stopping periodically (especially in the dark) to change up or out.
  6. Keep moving!  It sounds like this is a common problem during EMGT, you start strong and decide along the way that a little refresher might be in order.  The longer you stop the more likely it becomes that you’ll be turning around.  The two of us have to be prepared to hit the trail consistently for 11 to 12 hours non-stop and then there will be all the rest in the world.  Avoid cold muscles cramping and the like.

Thanks again to Team Crested Butte for the insights!

Ugh, Glue Fumes

Dirty Skins

So I added clamps to the list of things to use.  Above you can see how dirty this set of skins is.  A lot of that is fur from my gloves, but some of its is just dirt from skiing in marginal conditions.  So skins are clamped down and ironed per instructions.


Paper bag is used to soak up the nasty with the iron.  The brown on the right is the second pass I did on this section of skin.  That’s dirt embedded in glue that transfers pretty easily with the iron.  At this point I’m super happy, but the fumes are starting to get to me a bit, so I open a window.

Tail section

This is the tail section of the skin, it took several passes to clear up all the dirt and goo from this area.

Skins hanging to dry

Once the skin is cleaned then you hang them to dry for about 30 minutes.  I set my watch and let them settle.  Then added another thin layer of glue, the second coat was more difficult because its harder to spread thin because of the tackiness.  Another 30 minute wait and then the third coat, now they’ll dry over night and I’ll try them in the morning.

Nice and sticky, no nasty

Closeup of a skin after its been cleaned and re-glued.  This should work pretty darn nicely.

Cleaning the Skins

So I’ve been looking for a better way to clean and re-glue my skins.  I like to wear wool gloves and one of the things I’ve found is that every time I rip off a skin or handle it in any way I’m often leaving wool fibers in the glue.  This has resulted in a serious lack of stick especially when I need it most (while climbing).

Searching around I’ve seen a lot of people suggesting I go ahead and clean and re-glue using cold water bath and Gold Label.  This is what I’ve done in the past, but the problem is that it doesn’t seem capable of removing the fiber from my gloves.  I did however discover a method that I’m going to try tonight.  Looks time consuming, but it also looks like its going to really leave my skins close to or better than they were when new.

Clean Your Skins from Skiing the Backcountry