Gearin’ Up

Ever wonder what Sasquatch readers think about hiking poles?
Well you’re not gonna believe it, but that’s just what this story is about.
Take a look at the responses posted on Facebook and our own Trail Talk forum.

Lori Domingo: I’ve used them even here in Florida on flat terrain and found them to be invaluable! :)

Roger Upton: Unnecessary fancy-pants walking sticks.

Tim Collins: I have a walking stick that has thousands of miles on it and I have had it for 12 year, but I would try out one of those fancy ski poles if you send me one. LOL

Mark Turner: Last hike, I got to the trailhead and realized my pole was at home (I use just one). I thought it was going to be a day of falling over everything. After a few minutes, I never missed it, though. I have had times in the past where I know they saved me from falling. They can be nice for crossing streams with slick rocks. I also had a time the thing caught between rocks somehow and nearly tripped me, though. I may try another hike without poles and see how it goes.

Michael Ryan Gilley: I have bad knees and they make the hike much better. Helps take the stress off of them. They saved me several times while hiking from slipping in the creek.

Mark Turner: And they’re nice if a knee is acting up, too!

Michael Wood: Thank god i used them on the AT in PA-NJ helped big time

Vivian Porter: We usually use one fancy pants pole but on our last hiking adventure we noticed the folks who had two poles were speeding past us on the steep trails. Now we are considering getting another fancy pole. Will that make us wimpy or just super fancy?

Grace Iovine: Thank God for hiking poles!! They have saved my body from many a falls and near misses. I would not hike without out them in the mountains!

Janus Bodhi: Most of my hiking is done in Texas with very little elevation so I just carry a finished pretty stick. That said, in preparing to through hike the AT (starting the day after I am retired), I plan to double high-tech stick it. My thoughts are that I may not need them and can pack them (one or both)… but… if and when I do need them, I want to have them.

Sherpa Master: I won’t hike with out them. Going downhill they are an absolute necessity with my bad knees. I didn’t think they helped that much until about three years ago I tried a pair from a friend. Since then I have not left home with out them.

John Givens: need the poles the down hills kill my knees.
Shelter Choice: Hammock (or Home Sweet Hammock)
By Eric ‘Meriadoc’ Azriel

My journey to hammocking began with the proposition for a through hike. I knew my existing equipment massed more than I wanted to carry over some 2000 miles. One of the big three, my four pound tent, was due for an upgrade.

Whiteblaze served as the jumping off point for my research into lightening my load. There were endless posts about shelters, shelters from big time manufacturers, from the cottage industry, and from enterprising do-it-yourself backpackers. Light weight tarp tents appeared to be the shelter of choice for many. Some used a tarp and ground sheet, and some used just a bivy. Every once in a while, a poster would claim a hammock to be their shelter of choice. This last being entirely new to me, I became intrigued and delved deeper.

Advantages of the hammock sleeping system quickly became apparent. First, virtually everyone who had tried sleeping in a hammock proclaimed that it was far more comfortable than sleeping on the ground. Most didn’t miss the stones and branches and odd lumps. For some, swinging in the breeze didn’t work for a whole night’s sleep, but the majority highly preferred it.

Second, hammocks adapt to many locations. Countless times I have found the perfect camping spot except either the ground is too steep or there is no room for a tent. A hammock suffers from neither constraint, having a smaller footprint than a tent and being more flexible in placement. A slope doesn’t faze a hammock; you simply adjust until it hangs at a suitable height. Rocks, uneven ground, and even small brush can all be handled by hanging clear. Find a couple of trees and . . . that’s it.

Third, hammocks are breezy. In winter, sleeping on a pad is great. It’s good insulation and holds your body heat. In summer it’s still holding your body heat. I have spent summer nights where I just couldn’t sleep because of how hot it was. But because a hammock is suspended it has airflow both above and below. When the hammock is made from a breathable material, the occupant benefits from that airflow and stays cooler in the summer.

Finally, the lightest weight hammocks are competitive with lightweight tents. A bivy or a tarp and ground sheet will always be the lightest option for three season use. But a hammock shelter can be made competitive to a lightweight tent. For example, I’m experimenting with a hammock system that weighs 20 ounces, and lighter options are available.

So, comfort, adaptable location, cool breezes, and light weight won me over. I researched and chose a lightweight hammock, persuaded some kind folks to purchase it for me (birthdays are wonderful), and went to town (the forest). I tried a hammock and found the comfort irresistible. The light weight was a perfect upgrade and I really enjoyed the ability to camp anywhere with trees. Hammocks aren’t for everyone, but they’re definitely for me. In the spirit of honesty, I have to correct that to hammocks are for almost everybody. Not that I’m trying to convince you or anything.

Meriadoc, Hanging High

Note: Aphorism, adage, truism, call it what you will: only hang a hammock as high as you are willing to fall.

For more adventures from Eric Azriel (a.k.a Meriadoc the Halfling) check out his blog right here.

A poster caught my eye. Andrew Skurka was going to put on a free backpacking clinic on Saturday followed by a slide show of his hike around Alaska and the Yukon. I knew I wouldn’t miss it.

A poster caught my eye. Andrew Skurka was going to put on a free backpacking clinic on Saturday followed by a slide show of his hike around Alaska and the Yukon. I knew I wouldn’t miss it.
With the start of my thousand-mile hike only a week away, I was desperate for any last minute tips. He was great! His first hike in 2002 as a college student was the A.T. He learned a lot from his mistakes on that hike. A half dozen other long distance hikes followed including a 7700 mile Sea-to-Sea (Quebec to Washington State) hike in 2004-2005.

His latest hike, the Alaska-Yukon Expedition in 2010, was 4700 miles in which he not only hiked but snow skied and pack rafted. He averaged 33 miles a day for 6 months. His clinic wasn’t exactly what I expected. I had brought my fully loaded 35-pound pack with me hoping for some last minute tips. He spotted it and asked to show it to the audience for comparison with his ultra-light, no frame pack. When I handed it to him, he said poking fun at the weight, “Wow! We’ve got some work to do here!” He’d been able to hike the Yukon fully loaded with food and water for about 20 pounds.

I didn’t mind the teasing. I was just glad to be there. I didn’t get the personal help I wanted, but I learned so much from his demonstrations I went home and ordered an 11oz tarp tent to replace my 4 pound double-wall tent, and I redesigned my alcohol stove that had given me a fit on my shakedown trip with granddaughter, Stacey.

Instead of a beverage can stove that you can build following a You Tube video, I now recommend Skurka’s alcohol stove. Mine wouldn’t stay lit. He made a point of mentioning in his demonstration that the only “problem” with his alcohol stove was it was difficult to put out.

Complete directions for his Fancy Feast cat food can stove can be found in his book “The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide: tools & techniques to hit the trail.” It’s a must-read for every long distance hiker. Look up his tour schedule on:, and while there you can order your own copy of his book under the “shop” link. You need to catch Skurka’s presentation-you’ll love it. The clinic is followed by a slide show (still slides and video) of his Alaska-Yukon Expedition. He signed my book, “To Donalee-Step by Step, Mile by Mile. Andrew Skurka.”

That’s how a thousand mile hike is done-step-by-step.

To follow Donalee “GG” White’s hiking blog head to