Author: Jeremy Rellosa

Gear Review: Patagonia Ascensionist 25L

In search for the perfect daypack… I’ve been looking for a daypack that’s both packable (able to be folded and stuffed inside my bigger 65L bag) and light, without sacrificing support or comfort. I’ve cycled through a couple that just weren’t the right “fit.” Some were either too bulky (REI Stoke 29), or too light (REI UL 18 – this one actually tore at the seam). So, finding that balance has taken a while. It’s really all about preference – some people love a sturdier, more cushiony pack, even though it might be a little heavier on your shoulders. The Ascencionist Pack only weighs 12.3 ounces, so the real weight will only come from what you put in it. When folded, it can be stashed into a smaller compartment in a bigger backpacking pack. I went on a climbing trip to Great Falls last weekend, and here’s what I stuffed inside: Comfort: The pack is meant for climbing and dayhikes. It’s not exclusive to one or the other –  it makes sense that the padding is pretty thin. …

The Wet of the Smokies

A rainforest in the middle of North Carolina. That’s how one park ranger described the Smokies, at least parts of it. “Up top [on the mountain], it rains 80 more days out of the year, compared to down here.” We’re at the Sugarlands Visitor Center, the headquarters of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The center is technically in North Carolina, but if you jog up the road, you’ll be in Tennessee. The northern edge of the park is oddly situated between the Vegas-like tourist town of Gatlinburg and the misty hills of the Smoky Mountains. It’s both a blessing and a curse: if you’re ever in need of gear, or a hot shower, it’s less than a 10 minute drive to town. But if you’re seeking solitude, expect the trails (especially the parking lots near the front of the park) to be crowded with dayhikers and tourists. On a Wednesday in early March, I didn’t expect to feel like a tourist – especially in the offseason. But, as you’ll find in any new place, both …

Peruvian Slug Lines

At 4:45 am, the bus station in Huaraz is busy. Colectivos, the size of mini-school buses, crowd the lot – engines on. Dust and emissions cloud the air as headlights beam through the haze. Bus drivers flag people down, yelling out their intended destinations – neatly printed (and laminated) signs of these towns stand in their dashboards. As a passenger, it’s easier to directly ask where they’re heading, to avoid any confusion in the morning rush. These are the early birds, up before the sun to start their day. Among the first awake are women in traditional Peruvian dress, clad with polleras, llicllas, and k’eperinas – colorful wool cloths draped over their shoulders and chests. They’re up early to sell knit hats, gloves, baked goods and fruits, traveling from town to town on the colectivo circuit. Older men with baseball caps and leathery wrinkled faces board the buses dressed in their Sunday best – but on a Tuesday. These are the Peruvian early birds, up before the sun to start their day. The Huaraz bus …

Before You Hit The Trail: My Gear Essentials

There’s an infinite amount of ways to get info about dressing for backpacking. Many articles, magazines, and guidebooks have loads of good tips and advice for dealing with the elements. But many of these pieces vary with the season – you’ll see articles like: ‘The Best Fabrics For Summer’  or, ‘Winter Layering’. I could get into the many sub-sects of dressing for the outdoors; instead I’ve picked the clothes that I continually use throughout the year.  I found it much easier to pick the essentials – the pieces I find myself using on the majority of my trips. Obviously, you’ll need more than just these to be completely prepared (I didn’t include baselayers, or mid-layers, really – it’s pretty much understood that you’ll be wearing these). But the ones I’ve listed here are always great to have. All in all, these are pieces you want to have stashed in your pack at all times. The Shell: armor for the elements Besides my boots, my shell is probably my most-used item. The great thing about this …

The mountain Taulliraju high in the clouds. (Taken with iPhone 5s)

Jest of the Mountain Gods

We set out to complete a thirty mile trek through the Peruvian Andes. On paper, it seemed like the perfect hike – but what we got was far from it. I never thought I’d see Pepto Bismol at fifteen-thousand feet. It’s easy to become adjusted to the color palette of the mountains: the white, icy peaks and the black rock jutting out from under them, the brown of the surrounding hills, and the blue sky – which didn’t appear often enough. But there they were – the pink chewable tablets strangely out of place, scattered on the ground. I looked up at Michael, who was holding the empty tube of medicine in one hand, and in his other, my poor water bottle, which he’d just vomited on. We were drawn to this place, this small mountain pass in the Peruvian Andes – and we made it. But getting there was rough. As we climbed to the pass, we felt a force against us, constantly watching from above with a stern eye. For the normal traveller, …

A Lesson in Norway

Summer in the fjords of Norway is a peculiar time and place to have an existential crisis. But I was questioning my motives for putting myself through it all: bad weather, uncooperative gear, and less-than-favorable trail conditions. My boots were soaked – the water flooded my socks and crept up to my ankles. My toes turned purple after constantly smashing them into the toebox of my boots, my feet slipping every which way after wrapping trashbags around them to block out the wetness. I only had 8km to go, but through rotten, slushy snow. Needless to say, I was unhappy. The iconic, postcard-esque hike I was on just wasn’t what I had in mind. At this point, I hadn’t yet learned that what you had in mind is much different, if not always different from what ends up happening on trips like this. But I remembered an article I read in Backpacker magazine – a letter from the editor. He was hiking the Scottish coast in horrid weather. Torrential downpour paired with winds that whipped you to one side – …