3 West Coast Thru-Hikes Under 100 miles to Bring Joy After the Storm

3 West Coast Thru-Hikes Under 100 miles to Bring Joy After the Storm

You don't have to take 4 to 6 months off of work to enjoy the benefits of deep wilderness. Many trails can be fit into a week's worth of vacation. Check out these three West Coast short thru-hikes that are each under 100 miles for your next adventure!
12 months, 12 Ultramarathons with the Kumo Backpack

12 months, 12 Ultramarathons with the Kumo Backpack

This story all started with a dog named Cupcake in Alaska's Denali National Park.

My wife and partner in crime, Christine, and I were working in the National Park in a particularly rainy month of August last year. We decided that the most appropriate thing to do with our free time was to volunteer by running with sled dogs (we didn't have many consecutive days in a row to backpack or see the rest of Alaska). During the summer, these natural athletes turn into pudgy pups due to their lack of work, which is primarily in the winter. Because I'm 6' 4" and wanted a challenge, I wound up with the biggest and most energetic dog of the pack, Cupcake.

I was told five volunteers had already given up on Cupcake this season, and they desperately needed to get him exercise. We were happy to volunteer, taking them out on runs to keep these adorable endurance athletes in shape.

After a few weeks of running the dogs, we got really comfortable with running, giving these dogs as much exercise as possible. Slowly, we built up our mileage–to about 10 miles.

I was feeling really proud with that distance, having never really run much before in my life. Then, while browsing the internet, I noticed that the Mount Mitchell Challenge lottery opened up, and I decided this was my shot to participate in a race that had caught my eye ever since moving to Asheville, North Carolina.

Wikipedia describes the race as such: "The Mount Mitchell Challenge is a 40-mile Ultramarathon run in February of each year from the town of Black Mountain, NC to the top of Mt Mitchell, the highest point in the Eastern US, and back down again. This race, intentionally run in Winter to ensure harsh conditions… the course has seen every type of weather imaginable… rain, ice, snow, sun… " unner. Having heard rumors about the lottery selection process from other runners, I knew there was no way I was going to get into run the race by just entering once. Many athletes enter year after year without getting in. So, without too much thought, I filled out the application. Under "best marathon time," having never run anything resembling the distance, I wrote, " hiked the PCT in 4 months."

A few days later, I woke up to an email saying, "Congratulations! Your entry into the 2019 Mount Mitchell Challenge has been confirmed!" I was dumbfounded, and immediately felt doomed. I had run a half marathon once many years ago, but that was about it. Now, I had to train for a 40-mile race up and down the tallest mountain in the eastern United States?

Enter the Gossamer Gear Kumo backpack.

In order to even start training, I needed a high capacity running pack. Looking at the packs I had, it looked like the Kumo could do the job. I could fit water, a purification method, an emergency blanket, a trowel for bathroom breaks, Lightheart Gear Rain Mitts, a Wind Shirt, Microspikes, and many layers, including an entire bag of clothes to be kept dry no matter what. In addition, I could stash plenty of Gu's and snacks (my favorite being microwaved red potatoes).

For me to train in the tallest mountains on the East Coast during winter, it would be absolutely necessary for me to be able to carry all of these items. The Kumo was the perfect choice because it could collapse to be comfortable with an empty load and also could carry way more than I could possibly need for a day-long run.

In training, I ran ultramarathon distances in the dead of winter. With highs around 20 degrees and windy, I wouldn't have had the courage to run in those conditions without the Kumo with a Nightlight Sleeping Pad and hip belt. It was a no-brainer to upgrade the pad for more support and potentially more insulation in case I got injured and had to wait for help in incredibly cold conditions.

On race day, the weather was 35 degrees and raining at the starting elevation. The Kumo allowed me to "comfortably" run in the harsh weather conditions, since we were not allowed to stash additional gear or layers at any aid stations. I was probably over-prepared, but still needed 80% of what I was carrying in my pack to keep warm on the rainy and freezing day. At one point, my fingers were so cold that I needed help zipping up my fleece at an aid station. The volunteers kept checking runners for hypothermia, but I was even more impressed that these volunteers were spending hours, some even spending the night at these remote aid stations just to help us complete this course.

The day after the race, I thought to myself: "I should run an ultramarathon in each month of the year in order to 'stay in running shape.'" I went from never running a marathon to committing myself to 12 more. Maybe not the smartest idea, but it made sense to me at the time.

In the following months, I continued to run on some of the toughest trails I had seen in the southeast, as I was not interested in running on streets or setting personal records, but rather my main intent was to enjoy the mountains. I mapped out routes each month that would take me over the marathon distance on-trail, and each time I took my Kumo with me. Some notable runs included running from my front door to the top of Mount Mitchell, an out-and-back on the Shut-in Trail, and a day run of the Art Loeb Trail.

Months down the road, a friend was interested in backpacking an approximately 28-mile section of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. The trip he planned involved meeting him late at night and driving another car to where we were supposed to start. I wasn't interested in staying up late and thought that this is a great opportunity to attempt a run with a full pack. I was going to run the shuttle on foot leaving my car at our finish point and setting up camp at our meeting location (which was their starting point). Problem solved! I got to sleep and get a nice run in.

I packed the Kumo with three days of food, a quilt, Gossamer Gear's "The Two" tent, and some rain gear, and then took it out on the 28-mile run. The pack weighed 26 lbs, but I definitely over-packed on food. Feeling hungry that morning, I bought a pizza and packed out half of it on top of the food I had already decided on bringing. Running that distance with a heavy pack definitely resulted in chafing, so it would have been smart to bringing tape to cover up those areas. In the end, I was able to run the distance one way in an afternoon and then walk back with my friends over the next two days. The perfect trip, really.

I would definitely recommend this versatile pack for trips similar to the ones I've described and for those expecting loads of less than 25 lbs (with small periods around 30 lbs probably being okay) on backpacking trips. For running, the hip belt can be raised to accommodate a more running appropriate ribcage hugging style along with tightening the shoulder straps. At this point, I have logged over 1,500 miles of running using the Kumo since starting my training for my first ultramarathon last year. The only way I can imagine improving the design for running purposes would be to make the shoulder strap and hip belt pockets slightly more durable. With all the bouncing, the items stored in those pockets wore holes in the pockets, which are my most accessible and favorite pockets.

It is now November, and I have ticked off 11 out of the 12 ultramarathons I told myself I would run this year. Meanwhile, in Denali, Cupcake the sled dog undoubtedly went on to run just as many miles as I did all last year during just the winter months, while he dragged a sled. Without a blog or social media, but with treats and praise from his fellow Denali rangers, he will have just started his working year dragging sleds full of gear and rangers into the backcountry and dragging debris and garbage out.

All that is left for me is December's ultramarathon, and I will have accomplished my goal. Any suggestions for my final run are welcome!

Introducing Gossamer Gear’s Newest Pack, the G4-20—A Modern Nod to a Vintage Classic

Introducing Gossamer Gear’s Newest Pack, the G4-20—A Modern Nod to a Vintage Classic

When our founder, Glen Van Peski, began fiddling around with some homegrown lightweight backpack models, he gave them pretty straightforward names. Using his first initial plus the version number, he started with the G1, then the G2, then the G3, and then the G4, which was the model that launched the company our community knows and loves today.

"Weighing a fraction of what commercially available packs at the time did, the G4 had a design that was revolutionary in its simplicity," Glen explained.

Now, just about 20 years after that G4 model ushered in Gossamer Gear's lightweight backpacking movement, we'd like to introduce you to the G4-20.

"After 20 years, it's exciting to see the G4 relaunched, taking advantage of updated materials and techniques, but remaining true to the original concepts," Glen continued.

The G4-20 is a versatile, frameless pack option that combines the spirit of new design with the OG design of the G4from back when Gossamer Gear was still known as GVP Gear.

"Since this is the 20th anniversary edition of the bag, we took inspiration from the original model and were focused on bringing that design ethic and functionality up to date," Grant Sible, President of Gossamer Gear, described. "It's not something I undertook lightly, as the original is an icon in our little lightweight world. That said, this pack wanted to be made, and I consider it to be in the heart of what we do in the pack line."

Diving Into the Details of the G4-20

To make the G4-20 a reality, Gossamer Gear took what made the original G4 so popular and roped in a gang of new fabrics and materials to create a minimal, do-it-all, frameless pack.

"It's slightly asymmetrical in terms of features, a nice tidy package that balances function, features, volume, and price," Grant shared. "The original was available in one size and four colors; the G4-20 is available in three sizes and two colors. The G4-20 also introduces a new sit pad that we're fond of, as it provides more of a virtual frame and is also much easier to remove and reinstall."

Some of the features of the new G4-20 include:

  • An extendable roll top with multiple top closure options
  • Waterproof zippers
  • The removable, molded, cushy sitpad back panel Grant highlighted
  • A fixed hip belt with unique hip belt pocket design
  • A six pocket configuration
  • 42-liter capacity

The Gossamer Gear community will be able to grab one of the G4-20 packs in either the classic Gossamer Gear grey, or a new electric blue. And, of course, all of this comes with just 25 ounces of pack weight.

"The G4-20 circles back and closes the loop on the past 20 years of our pack making evolution," Grant reflected. "I'm personally excited to get one out on the trail myself. I think it will be a great carry for hikers wanting to go more minimal and lighter, but still be able to get solid weight transfer to the belt without a frame. Plus, with multiple top closure options, users can hack it how they like."

Get Ready to Hit the Trail with the G4-20

If you're looking for a modern nod to a vintage classic, a tip of the hat to an OG packget ready to hit the trail with the new G4-20. Check out the G4-20 product page for more information on its features and materials.

And, as always, make sure to share photos of your adventures with the G4-20 with us by tagging @gossamergear and using the hashtag #takelessdomore. Happy trails!

Gossamer Gear Silverback 55 is Back—and Better than Ever!

Gossamer Gear Silverback 55 is Back—and Better than Ever!

To introduce you to the updated Gossamer Gear Silverback 55, let's start with some scenarios. You've decided to spend your long weekend exploring that backpacking trail you've heard about in the rugged Montana wilderness. It's rarely traveled, which appeals to you, but you also know it's going to require a bit of bushwhacking to make it to that gorgeous alpine lake. Or, let's say you've decided to take on the Continental Divide Trail, committing yourself to thousands of miles and multiple months in the backcountry.

You're someone who needs gear that's as steadfast as you are. You're also someone who knows the power of taking less and doing more. You don't want to have to carry extra weight just to find gear that's built to last. Meet the Gossamer Gear Silverback 55. This is your pack.

Gossamer Gear Silverback

The Gossamer Gear Silverback 55 is Ready for Tough Hikes

While the Silverback has always been known as the seasoned big brother of the Gorilla–a pack that's seen a trail or two in its day–Gossamer Gear's recent updates to the pack have only improved upon its design. The Gossamer Gear Silverback 55 is made for those who are ready to take on tough terrain, hack their way through dense brush if they need to, and go that extra mile for the most epic of sunsets.

Gossamer Gear Silverback

Materials and Weight of the Updated Gossamer Gear Silverback

The Gossamer Gear Silverback 55 is made out of custom, tough, durable 70d Robic nylon X 210d extreema (dyneema/spectra analog) grid fabric. There's also reinforced Robic on the bottom and side pockets of this pack. This all translates to a pack that isn't going to get snagged on a branch and require repair. The Gossamer Gear Silverback 55 won't wear down quickly from your rock scrambling. It won't give out on you halfway through your thru-hike.

All of this toughness is accomplished while still keeping the pack lightweight. Based on the medium size, the total weight of the Gossamer Gear Silverback 55 clocks in at just 43.46 ounces, or 2.72 pounds. The pack on its own weights just 21.45 ounces, or 1.34 pounds, and the hipbelt 7.69 ounces, or 0.48 pounds.

Gossamer Gear Silverback

Gossamer Gear Silverback 55 Has Features that Let You Take Less and Do More

The Gossamer Gear Silverback 55 embraces the ethos of taking less and doing more by incorporating design element that are multi-purpose. The pack comes with multiple top closure options, depending on your needs, including a detachable brain. In addition, the pack includes an all-new proprietary polycarbonate removable frame. Finally, the Gossamer Gear Silverback 55 comes with a new removable air flow Sitlight back pad. This pad can easily double as your new favorite camp seat.

Gossamer Gear Silverback

Today is the perfect time to consider upgrading your backpacking pack to–or starting your backpacking journey with–the Gossamer Gear Silverback 55. It's going to be your best friend on long winter hikes. It's going to be ready for the thru-hike you're planning for 2019. This upgraded, expert-tested pack is ready for the burly, scenic, exciting terrain you have ahead.

Make sure to share photos of your adventures with the Gossamer Gear Silverback 55 with us by tagging @gossamergear and using the hashtag #takelessdomore. Happy trails!

November 16, 2018 — Korrin Bishop