Kalalau – The gear we used

Because I like to keep a record, here is the gear we used or wished we had used:

The Apps:

Sky Guide: The developer’s tag line really says it all “a star app has never been so beautiful or easy to use”.  Why it was great? When you are sitting on the beach watching an epic sunset and you start to try remember the constellations you used to know.  This app always impresses people the first time they see it in action.  Just as interesting for my 6 year old as it is for the over 40 crowd.

Gaia GPS: Since this hike a lot has changed in the world of offline gps apps on the iPhone. This is the app I wish I had. Works great. In airplane mode I was able to track three days of hiking without recharging. A small battery pack would extend this even further. You can read a great review and tip on how to best leverage the app here:  Adventure Alan

Just make sure to sync/download the maps on your route before you depart. And I did use CalTopo to print paper maps before I left. 

REI Flex Lite Chair – I had read that a decent chair was worth the weight to pack in. I had purchased this a while back, and it was as light and as durable as the ad copy implied. In fact, after using it at an event in town, the wife asked that I get one for her. While the REI version of this chair is cheaper than the competitors, I usually wait to get this one during the annual 20% off sales.
Alite Mayfly Chair – This chair was also brought on the trip. We noticed that the bottom pieces had trouble staying in/together. Other than that though, looked nice & a fraction lighter than the REI Flex Lite.

Jetboil – I think most folks going on this trip know what this is. We had good success with it, just need to pick up fuel at the Ace Hardware in town. And hpoe that the airline doesn’t ask any questions about it.
MSR Pocket Rocket – I splurged at bought this, because I figured a back up stove would be nice to have. Also, since I ended up not just adding water to my meals (I made all my own dinners on the trail), I needed something other than just hot water. Was really happy with how well this worked. Had to dig a hole in the sand one night when we cooked dinner on the beach due to the shore breeze, but the stove handled it fine.

SteriPen – One of the triad of water purification devices we used. This worked really well for us, except for the fact that you have to use widemouth Nalgene bottles. Yes, it does say that in the product specs, but may not be something you are thinking about when you pack. That and we found you need to submerge the pen to a certain level every time you put it in. It was deeper than we thought, but the flashing lights told us we were doing it wrong.

GSI Dualist Cook Set – I used this to cook all of my dinners on the trail. It was also what I ate my oatmeal out of in the morning. Worked fine, bigger than I needed for myself on this trip, but I bought it for future use with my sons.

Camp Chairs and Cookware

Fleece blanket: Nothing more than this is needed when we were out there.  Maybe if you were camping without a tent during the middle of December you might have wanted a slightly warmer sleeping bag, but the nights are so comfortable that this was all I needed.  

Another option to would be an army poncho liner. It is lighter and packs down smaller than a fleece blanket. In subsequent camping trips in Hawaii this is all I needed. 

Starbucks VIA – These were awesome on the trail. Sadly, I forgot mine. Luckily I was able to barter a chocolate bar for a morning’s coffee.
Hiking shoes and poles: 

Portions of the trail can get muddy and slick. The trekking pole I took to Kalalau didn’t survive after we got back. I have since switched to the Black Diamond Trail Cork Ergo. I like it because it extends to 140 cm, has strong locks and soft cork handles. 

You need more than running shoes but less than hiking boots. I like something with a good vibram sole because they tend to grip pretty well in the slick mid. I wore these on the trip and for many miles after. Very happy with the purchase. Merril Moab ventilators 

How to pack your backpack

So this is one of those things, I used to know, but didn’t use for a while.  There is a lot of conflicting advice out there, but this video really helps solidify what I had come to accept as best practice anyhow.

I still can’t get over not packing to an external frame with the tent on the bottom and bed roll on the top, but that’s just me!




Backpacking Trip Bucket List

We all have them. Here’s mine. Want to join?

San Juan Forest, CO
Originally discovered in the train from Durango to Silverton by a group of Scouts who got off mid ride, those mountains, valleys and gorges have been calling me ever since.

John Muir Trail, CA
One of the all time greats.  I admit, my interest was piqued in hiking more in the western US after reading Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.  I found that this book,  John Muir Trail: The Essential Guide to Hiking America’s Most Famous Trail was a really good reference to start planning a trip.

Mt Fuji, Japan
Okay, not really a “backpacking” trip in the classics sense.  More like a day trip.  But after seeing a co-worker with a branded hiking stick of all the stations, I vowed to knock that one off the list while I am close. But if I do go, I’m getting this to commemorate.

Big Sur, California
Based on a great write up in Outside, I feel a little more comfortable heading that direction.


Kalalau Trail – Day 1

We started the journey on the first Hawaiian Airlines flight out of Oahau.  The first struggle of the trip was the question: “Do you have any backpacking stoves in your bag?”  I’m not really sure what the right answer to that one is.  What I did learn is that apparently now you can carry lighters (but not matches) through airport screening.  Missed that change.

When we arrived we oped to get a rental car to drive us to the trailhead.  We picked up gas canisters for our backpacking stoves (we brought a jet boil and two MSR pocket rockets).  They were $6 at the local True Hardware that opens at 7am.  Given the timing between flights, rental cars and hardware stores opening you may want to stop a quick bite to eat at McDonalds.

For the first day, we agreed that we didn’t want to try to make a push straight to Kalalau.  The plan was to explore the Hankakapai’ai Falls upstream from Hanakapai’ai beach.  We would then regain the trail and head to Hanakoa stream and call it a night.  Breaking it up like this was two fold:

1) This was the first time the group had hiked any distance together, so it allowed a gradual pace to get used to one another

2) It allowed us to handle the bulk of the major elevation changes the first day, leaving us to just plodded through the second day (after crossing the ledge)

This ended up being a very good decision for us, as the weather was less than ideal for most of the first day.

The first section of the day was fairly uneventful.  We were all getting used to the full loads on our shoulders, taking a few photos at the scenic overlooks and chatting with the early riser hikers heading out to Hankapaki’ai beach & stream.  It is roughly 2 miles from the trail head to the first stream/beach.  Since it had been raining fairly recently Hankakapai’ai stream was up a bit, but nothing impassable like it had been earlier in the year.  After drying off our feet, we head off into the forest searching for the Hankakapai’ai falls.  We stashed our backs along the trail in the roots of a grove of  trees and had no issues finding them when came back.

A first for me at that point was sampling the guava that is in abundence along the Kalalau Trail.  Bright yellow in color, you’ll know it is there when you see them split open all over the trail in front of you.  While they are a bit pulpy & seedy, they were an awesome natural sugar boost on the trail.  We worked our way in the valley, noting that it was getting cooler and rainier the further away from the beach we headed.  Imagine our surprise when we finally made it to the falls and were actually cold due to the spray from the falls and the wind.

After a quick stop at the falls, we headed out the way we came in.  We picked up our packs that we had stashed in the woods while we took the side trek to the falls, and head back onto the trail towards Kalalau.  At this point you separate from the bulk of the day trip hikers since beyond the Hankakapai’ai beach is much more vertical terrain.

We plugged along, knocking out the two significant climbs (roughly 800ft) and passing through space rock.  It certainly feels like a portal into Jurassic Park, so we of course stopped for a photo.  You can tell by the photo that it was a bit rainy that day.  After space rock, the trail was pretty much down hill until we reached Hanakoa.

Hanakoa made for a great first day stop, only because we had taken the side trip up to Hankakapai’ai falls.  The campsites were well spread out and not clearly marked.  We found a few spots to pitch our tents, and cook a quick dinner.  Since it was raining, we ended up all turning in early for the day.

So here are some photos from the trail that day

Trail Head

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First Water crossing

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Space Rock

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First Camp

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