One of the most important things, if not the most important thing a person can do when hiking, backpacking, mountaineering, trail running, or climbing is to ensure that their feet are healthy. While this may sound like a ridiculous statement, it is actually the key to both short term and long term success on the trail. Everything in all of these sports starts from the feet. A person’s feet are the only body parts that actually directly deal with the trail, and are the only parts that must adjust to differing conditions on and off the trails. Sure, these sports require conditioning and core strength to be effective, and sure, other parts of the body – such as the back can be affected by other pieces of equipment, but really, for most outdoor activities, where the rubber hits the road is where the road hits the feet.
When I started backpacking, the one of the main – and critical issues was what gear would be left behind. At that time, backpacks were heavy, external frame affairs, and it was common to see even experienced backpackers with sleeping pads, metal canteens, and heavy and bulky sleeping bags lashed or strapped to various places on the backpack. This was before the rise of synthetic materials, and the ultralight movement that has come to dominate not only backpacking, but the outdoor industry as a whole. When I look back on the gear that I and many other people used to carry, I realize that it truly was the dark ages in terms of how the sport has evolved.
For thousands of years, mankind has been navigating in a number of ways. From moss on trees, to the stars at night, we started with simple tools and ended up with complicated and complex devices. Today, in 2015, one of these complex and complicated devices is something that fits in our pocket. Specifically, the device itself is something that has almost transcended devices, in that it is not a device, but something that works on a device – in this case, an application. The complex and complicated device I am talking about here is Spyglass, an application that was designed for iPhones and other iOS devices. Spyglass is smaller than a smartphone, but make no mistake about it; you need a smartphone – in this case, an iPhone to use it. Even though Spyglass is small, the amount of information and data packed into its digital frame would make any of our ancestors who had to navigate from location to location jealous.
In my opinion, the largest challenge of the Shorty’s Well route is determining the right gear to take for the climb. If you are considering the route, you should be aware that you will need a variety of gear to deal with the various conditions and temperatures from -262 feet of elevation to 11,043 feet of elevation.
Correspondingly, when I was offered the opportunity to test out the TETON Sports Mountain Ultra 1 a few months ago, I was slightly concerned. The Mountain Ultra 1 was billed as an ultralight backpacking tent; and in my experience, such products were not durable; or not breathable. Nevertheless, I was intrigued as to what innovations TETON had brought to the field as there had been a lot of social media buzz about the tent, so with an open mind I accepted the tent and began the testing process. Several months later, what I can say is this: this is a product that lives up to the hype it generated, and then some. Even further, I can honestly say that this tent is the best one-man backpacking tent on the market in 2014; and perhaps the best one-man backpacking tent that I have used in the last five years.
I did test the gear at the base of the Alps on a sunny day and in the mid-range of the Alps on a day with wind, rain, snow, and a little sleet. Out of the two days of tests I’ve had, I relied more on the latter in my preliminary reviews, because again, in my experience, those are the conditions that matter to me as a mountaineer, rather than how things perform in basically perfect conditions. I will be receiving this gear later on in the mail, and I will be testing it further, so you can expect to read more specific reviews about specific pieces rather than just my general thoughts here today.