Most of the hiking-related books I own are strictly guide books. They help me find interesting hikes, and provide historical and geographical information. Sometimes I purchase thru hiking memoirs, and sometimes I purchase ‘how-to’ or survival guides. For Christmas my parents gave me Death in the Great Smoky Mountains by Michael Bradley. This is not a typical purchase for me, but I was happy to check out something new. At 183 pages (not including the introduction) this is a quick, enjoyable read about deaths, disappearances, and survival in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It included airplane crashes, bear attacks, weather-related incidents, drownings, and unsolved disappearances. It sounds morbid, but it is not. I absorbed information about all of the people who had unfortunate incidents in this great mountain range, giving context to many notable trails, summits, and historical sites. Another thing I enjoyed is the detail Michael Bradley goes into about the park search and rescue operations and how they’ve changed over the years. This aspect of each incident was probably my favorite part. The book describes ordeals park rangers and other personnel go through to find a missing person. Much of the book is also about survival, giving an optimistic contrast to the title of the book. It is not just about death, it is also about how some people survive. I definitely recommend this book if you’re looking for something different about the Great Smoky Mountains.
The Sierra Designs Gnar Hoody is easily one of the best pieces of clothing I own. For many years I was content with my Stoic synthetic insulated jacket, but one thing it lacked was a hood. Two years ago I spied a great deal on SteepandCheap – a hooded 800-fill down jacket by Sierra Designs for only $99.99. This was a great deal since the retail was $200 or $220 depending on the website. 800-fill down jackets are $150 minimum and usually in the $200-300 range. I’ve been wearing this jacket every chance I get in the winter. Whether it’s a weekday walk to work, a lunch break on a winter day hike, or a cold night out camping, this jacket gets it done with minimal weight and maximum warmth.
And now for my 2nd gear review! Another product I use all the time – my Patagonia Capilene 2 Men’s Crew base layer. I’ve been wearing this consistently for two years for Fall through Spring seasons since I purchased this product off SteepandCheap for $23.99. I typically wore wool or sleek polyester layers but I am sold on the lightweight Capilene. The first time I ever wore this shirt I actually ripped a hole in my sleeve which I quickly repaired and have not looked back. It is the best base layer I own.
Here goes my first gear review. I thought I’d go simple with a product I try to always carry on a day hike, and always carry when backpacking. A headlamp – one of the ten essentials (illumination). For the past 6 years I’ve only used two headlamps, a Brunton RL4 and a Black Diamond Spot. I cannot remember the last time I’ve used my Brunton, it was my first headlamp purchase and I got it for $22.57 off Amazon mainly because it had a red LED. Since winter of 2011 I’ve been using the Black Diamond Spot. I purchased 2 of them off SteepandCheap for $19.95/each and have not looked back. I’ve read tons of reviews over the years for lighter weight headlamps and flashlight clips, but see no reason to upgrade any time soon.