Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Traveling, my ULA Ohm and Blood Mountain

A little behind on posting to this blog with the Holidays.  Here goes a quick recap of the last week...

We traveled to Atlanta, GA for Christmas this year and all went well flying with our 4-month old and 21-month old.  The question is, how does one travel ultralight with kids???  I feel we did pretty good all things considering.   Traveling down there, we had the equivalent of two carry-on's (we checked one of them) and my ULA Ohm backpack worth of clothing and other goods.  Not too bad for a family of four and a week at the in-laws!!  The challenge on the way back was we had a 50 lb suitcase full of gifts. The secret is we put one of our carry-on suitcases inside a larger suitcase (fit perfectly) on the way down there so that we would have this extra suitcase for on the way back...  Worked perfect!

In regards to my own packing, I knew I was only going to be able to get out for a dayhike, thus I only brought my essentials in addition to an emergency bivy in-case something happened.  I had all of my clothing for the week, gear for the hike, running clothes along with a pack of diapers all packed into my ULA Ohm.  Although I didn't weigh it, I'm sure it was well over the weight limit of the pack.  Surprisingly it handled very well through the airport along with juggling other suitcases, car seats for the kids, a stroller and oh yeah, the kids themselves.  This was the first time I had a chance to put the pack to good use since I purchased it earlier this fall.  So far, a thumbs up for the pack.  Admittedly, walking the backpack through the airport overloaded isn't the best gauge of fit and use for this pack, but a good start.  It also fit well in the overhead compartment the way it is supposed to (i.e. I didn't have to turn it sideways).

On Wednesday and Thursday of last week, I was able to get out for a 5 mile run and a 4.25 mile run respectively in my VFF KSO's and very much enjoyed running in the much milder weather and sunshine.  The runs went very well over the rolling hills in the residential neighborhood near my in-laws.  I can't wait until spring in MN so that I can abandon the layers and boots to run more free and hit some trails.

I was fortunate to be able to escape for several hours on Saturday and made my way up to the northern part of Georgia to do some hiking and try out my ULA Ohm on some trails.  I debated back and forth about wearing my VFF KSO's or my Inov8 Roclite 295's  and ultimately decided to go with the Inov8's. This was the right decision as portions of the trail were icy and/or muddy.  The temperature was 35-40F and my feet would have gotten very wet and cold in the KSO's.

I stopped in at Mountain Crossings @ Walasi-Yi which is located at the intersection of the Appalachian Trail and Gainsville Highway.  They are one of four distributors of the ULA packs and had a large variety of other ultralight gear.  The owner mentioned that at one point he was considering buying ULA, but obviously that didn't happen.  He also mentioned that they were going to discontinue the Ohm, but I find that hard to believe since it is new pack for ULA and seems pretty popular.  I'll have to check into that a little more and see if there is any truth to that.

I talked with one of the other employees in the store for awhile and he made some recommendations for a dayhike.  I combined his recommendations with my desire to summit Blood Mountain and set out on my hike starting at the parking lot just down the road from Walasi-Yi.  Best as I can figure out, it is 2+ miles to the summit of Blood Mountain via the BH Reece Spur Trail and the Appalachian Trail with an elevation gain of about 1350 feet. I then headed north towards Neels Gap and Walasi-Yi and continued on the AT for another 4 miles or so, then turned around and came back catching the highway at Walasi-Yi back to my car.  All-in-all, I figure I hiked about 12 miles in about 5 hours.

The pack performed very well, but the true test will come when I do some backpacking this spring/summer when I will have closer to 15-20 lbs in it instead of the 10+I was carrying on this dayhike.  I was even able to comfortably do some trail running with the pack, which felt okay all things considered.  I did lose my water bottle out of the side of the pack which was my own fault as I had didn't have it pushed down far enough and was running which I'm sure jostled it out.

Overall, the pack is designed not to transfer a lot of weight to the hips, which is okay for weights under 20 lbs.  It does transfer some, but not as much as your traditional pack.  The pack fit my body type very well and the size was just right.  My back did get sweaty as expected with the padding as it is designed.  I think I will try my Z-Rest in lieu of the backpad provided by the manufacturer.  The egg-crate construction of the Z-rest should stand the pack off my back a little more and will hopefully provide a little more airflow.

Physically, I felt better on this hike than I have since I over did it 2 1/2 years ago.  Considering that I was able to run the downhills and flats the last 4 miles of the hike with no knee pain says a lot for the training that I've been able to do this fall/winter.  Prior to adopting primal running, I hadn't been able to run at all or hike downhill with pain.  Pretty amazing that I am able to now run downhill with a pack on with no pain!!!

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