Thursday, July 31, 2008

Road Rage On The Crest

A couple of weeks ago I took off with several friends to ride the Wasatch Crest Trail for the 2nd time this season.

I love the Crest - after you make it past "Puke Hill" the climbs are gradual, the descents are fast and it seems like there are half the people that you’d see on Mid-Mountain.

On that particular Saturday our gang had ridden up from the Keystone Trail at Park City Mountain and we all reconnected up at the top of puke hill. Because we took a breather and grabbed a snack, a few different packs of riders passed us – most waiving as they went by or calling out a friendly greeting.

Back on the trail, the four of us were quickly making up time on the two closest parties. Another 15 minutes into the ride we came upon two older men who were riding at a slower clip. I was leading and asked if we could pass. They ignored me so I decided to stop and wait for my other three friends to catch up.

I let my friend go to the lead and told her the men in front weren’t interested in pulling over. Marcy caught up to the men and asked very politely if we might be able to pass once we reached the right place.

The man closest to us told Marcy there was no way he was going to let us pass. When we commented that wasn’t very nice, he suggested we think of it as “over population of the trails.”

Both Marcy & I were speechless for a minute. Most mountain bikers that you encounter on the trail are overly friendly and so neither of us had ever been treated so rudely.

Finally the men said that they would let us pass if we were good enough to get by. The location they chose had quite a bit of loose dirt on the edges and as I went to follow Marcy on by – the second biker leaned his bike into me as if to push me into the churning dirt.

Thankfully my tire gripped down into the dirt and I was past. Marcy & I took off – not wanting to deal with the annoying men any longer. When we were far enough ahead we waited for Collin & Joel to ride up.

They were given no problem going by – our antagonists were apparently not happy that they had been passed by women.

The next few rides I took I was a little apprehensive – what if I encountered the chauvinists again on another trail – but this time solo without my buddies?

Not to worry – on every ride I’ve taken since, the Park City Trails have been back to normal with friendly, happy-go-lucky mountain bikers just glad to be sharing the trails.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

An Arm and a Leg

Have you ever noticed that the Jackson Hole logo shows a one arm cowboy with a three legged horse? I think I know why that is.

Along with a number of ski resorts around the country Jackson Hole recently announced their season pass rates for the 08-09 season along with their day ticket price.

Aside from that arm, a leg and perhaps your first born it will cost you $85 for a day ticket or $1,625 for a season pass.

In response to my shock of pass prices, people have told me - "Skiing is expensive". Really? Gee, I never knew.

All the more reason to earn your turns. Buying used gear, my guess is that you can drum up some skins, bindings and even some boots for less than a grand and spend your season burning calories and skiing untracked powder.

Buying new gear to start backcountry skiing won't set you back much more than that season pass. Plus you'll get to use the gear for years. Case in point: (assuming that you are a skier already with some gear)
TOTAL - $1,828

Take away the skis by putting the touring bindings on an existing pair from your quiver and you're under the pass price.

Passes go on sale starting this Friday. Time to decide which arm you're willing to ski without.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tour de Park City

As you likely know is in the bike biz, (finally!) and as such we struck out to sponsor a few cycling events.

One that we chose locally to sponsor is the soon to be classic of a race, the Tour de Park City. The total purse exceeds $10,000 and it also has a citizen's class that makes the course a tour rather than a race.

From their website:
The Felt Tour de Park City is a single day cycling event that offers cyclists the option of a challenging fully supported USCF sanctioned road race or the option of riding a fully supported casual tour in varying distances.

Those distances are:

Super Century: 170 miles
Century: 108 miles
Half Century: 52 miles

Each route has it's fair amount of vertical but check out the 170 mile course below.

Those two little bumps are the end of the route are what I ride to work and combined give you around 1000 vertical at 6-8% grades. That gives you an idea of the entire course. is stoked to be a sponsor. If you've not signed up for the Tour de Park City there are still spots available to register.



T-Minus 6 Days for Karl

Hiking the entire AT trail is an accomplishment. Running it? Some say insanity, others merely scoff. Setting a record by running it in 47 days? Certainly a heavy dose of hubris with some insanity on the side.

But the coolest thing about Karl Meltzer is that he is seriously lacking in hubris and seems to be quite sane. He's been antsy to say the least.

As his adventure gets closer, 6 days away to be exact, excitement is building. The new website is ready to go and you can check in on him and follow his progress via the SPOT satellite locater that he'll be using which interfaces with Google maps. Pretty nifty technology.

He's left Utah and is driving the Where's Karl van to the head of the AT trail in Maine.

If you catch a sighting of the van and manage to take a picture of it, send us a photo to: backcountryhorde AT gmail DOT com. I'll send you a Where's Karl tee shirt as thanks.

Good luck Karl!

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Frenchie Stylie

When Jonny Copp last checked in with us, he and Micah Dash had made an attempt on the Le Petit Dru, bailed and were roaming around France. Here's the wrap-up...
All photos by Jonny Copp.

We pulled the ropes from the final rappel anchor, two pitons pounded upward into a flake, and began to dump our gear into a heap in the warming snow. We unclipped and freed ourselves of ice axes, slings, screws, cams, stoppers, a pack full of bivouac gear including two light sleeping bags (a bit too light it turns out), a micro-light tent, a stove and sundry other items that kept us comfortable enough on our foray onto the west face of Le Drus. That final rappel and pull is always a relief and this case was no different. It had taken us most of the day to descend in the storm and most of the night before to decide that continuing upward was not an option, shivering in the blowing spindrift as our hand-cracks filled with snow.

The ropes slipped from the final anchor. Finally grounded, Micah Dash and I grunted a few words of relief and anticipation.

“I’m so fucking psyched to be down right now! Can’t wait for a beer and some stinky French cheese.” Micah said.

Just then, as if the mountain sensed our waning presence and wanted to keep us in the game just a bit longer, a “craaaack” issued from above. We turned our heads, craning our necks up the snow-cone we’d rappelled, and saw two bus sized blocks of ice rolling towards us. Half of the bergschrund had collapsed and we were suddenly in its direct path.

I turned and ran as fast as my crampon clad feet could in the slushy snow, aiming myself across a depression and up another massive snow cone. As I gained elevation I glanced back for Micah and saw a massive hunk of the debris clip his feet as he flew through the air in a running, flying, flipping lurch. Then, within a second, all had come to rest. We were both on the surface.

“That was a bit too much like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” I said.

Both of our ropes were wrapped around and stretched to the breaking point between the many blocks of ice, like spaghetti around meatballs. And at that point we decided to just get the hell out of there. So we did, pretty much running all the way back to the Montenvers cog train and Chamonix proper.

Ceuse, France

We did get our beer and stinky cheese, and then we “waited” for the horrible weather season to improve by heading out for some slightly safer objectives: limestone sport climbing, wine sampling, music festivals, granite bouldering, castle storming, lake swimming, mountain running and hanging out with cute girls!

“Uhm, dood, this is a bit different than base camp in Pakistan,” Micah said at one point.

He was right.


Sunday, July 27, 2008

Alaska Do's and Don'ts

I reckon their aren't a ton of 'don'ts' in the great north but it always goes with 'do's'. Leaving in a couple weeks and want to hear from what people have done. It's going to be a fishing/hike around trip centered around a couple days in Denali park and then a place called Lake Marie.

Any clothing, food, places, etc. scuttle would be great. I'm stoked to try out my new Solio Hybrid 1000 since the sun is up for quite a while there. Heard there was a possibility of rafting some class 4? Not sure if I want to go live my Kevin Bacon dream in freezing cold rapids, but hey...prove me wrong.

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Getting deranged in my old age?

This summer ski report comes from Rob Phillips, who had his 36th day of skiing this year on his 36th birthday.

Though Jake claims in his recent post that skiing after July 12th would make him "officially deranged", I've always wanted to ski on my birthday (which falls on July 23rd). Thanks to this year's above average snowfall, I had the chance to make this desire a reality. My friend and I headed up to Alta for some turns on snow patches on the Devil's Castle East Face and Apron. The skiing conditions could be best described as a sun-cupped wonderland of rocks and dirty snow. Even so, we had an amazing day.

We ended up doing laps on two different snow fields, but we would have been much better off having stuck to a single snow field and doing laps on that one. This is because skiing the same area repeatedly smooths out the sun-cups and makes for really excellent spring-like snow conditions.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Ski Season is Coming

My post earlier this week about snow to slide on got me thinking about ski season. While it's almost the farthest thing from my mind, it's not the farthest thing on the calender.

Utah resorts are fast approaching the 100 day mark to opening day. Ski film premiers will start to roll to a bar near you in no time. Yes, skiing will soon be on the brain.

In an effort to help you (and myself) along, here are a couple of the coming attractions to wet the appetite. Enjoy.

TGR's Under the Influence




Want A Happy Ass?

Well, what are you waiting for? Click it - Pearl Izumi's "Get a Happy Ass" website.

Be sure to click on the tests and have the volume turned on. Clever. Nice job Pearl Izumi.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Crocs Announces new Initiative

Crocs. You either love them or you hate them. Me, I'm a fan of Chaco. Enough said.

There have been a growing number of accidents that have occured involving Crocs and escalators in the past and despite the notion from some that parents should actually supervise their children when riding an escalator (In care you're wondering - yes, I have kids) the number of accidents are increasing.

Stores have begun to put up signs trying to warn people.

In an effort to be "proactive" (read - save their bottom-line), Crocs has launched a new initiative to educate customers on escalator use.

Here's a Backcountry Blog exclusive sneak preview of how to use an escalator when wearing Crocs:

• Stand facing forward in the center of the step
• Step on and off carefully
• Do not touch sides below handrail
• Avoid the sides of the steps where shoe entrapment can occur
• Supervise children at all times

I've got a suggestion - why don't they educate their customers on the value of getting some exercise by using the stairs? After all, they are a Boulder based company, right?


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Waterproof Garmin Nuvi?

Really? Well if your planning on taking the Escalade into a river and aren't sure how far to float down the river, it makes sense. The description is interesting claiming this is used for sidewalks, bring your swimsuits kids and hope you have a solio to keep your junk charged.

I love when companies come out with way cool gear that really helps me get out and do things I enjoy. But then again I have some lockers on my rack that are a solid 10 years old. Prove me wrong, what does a waterproof gps do for me that usually would sit on my car dashboard?

What happened to the old map and compass?


Is There Snow to Slide On?

Where is there snow to slide on?

I'm in Oregon right and Mt. Hood looks good from a distance although up close it looks rather sparse.
(Mitch from dropping a knee this past Friday on Mt. Hood)
Mitch from on Mount Hood in July
While I opted for a road bike, hiking shoes and golf clubs over my skis for this trip to Oregon, I've still got another week to get a July ski day and to keep the ski streak going. It's the motivation for another ski day that I may be lacking.

Aside from Mt. Hood, where are you going to get turns in for July and August to keep the ski streak going? Is there snow to slide on in your neighborhood?



Monday, July 21, 2008

Highway to highway . . . the other direction! July 5-6, 2008

After walking from Donnelly to McKinley Village and staying the night in Cantwell, Dylan and I rode the Denali Highway from Cantwell 135 miles to Paxson. We had a mix of rain and sun, saw some incredible country, and made it in 2 days. Thankfully, there were two places with coffee and prepared food, and no bushwhacking!

Dylan headed out of Cantwell

Blurry picture, but a good picture of the fully-loaded bike!
On the McLaren River bridge after 2 hours of eating and coffee drinking. We also gave away some weight, so the last 42 miles were much easier on the back!
Heading toward McLaren, the 2nd highest road pass in Alaska!
Headed toward the storm.
From there, we rode into a huge rainstorm and rode the last 20 miles in October-like weather: rainy, windy, and cold! The combination of 3 downhills pretty much sucked the heat out of my body, leaving me quasi-hypothermic by the time I got to Paxson lodge, but all's well that ends well!

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My Delusion

Two Flavors
Medium-Res YouTube Version

High-Res Download
(right-click > save target/link as...)

Okay, skiing after this would make me officially deranged. Look for Mountain Bike HelmetCasts to begin next week.

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Deepest Condolences - Passing of an Exum Guide

Our deepest condolences go out to the Exum Mountain Guide family and the family of guide George Gardner who fell and died this past weekend on the Grand Teton.

We've had a lot of Exum guides as customers, friends, and fellow adventurers and it's sad to hear of the loss of George. It was said of him that he was the most smiling happy guide among them and that he was a beautiful climber.

I recall meeting George a few summers ago while climbing on the Grand when our rope team and the one he was guiding topped out around the same time. I recall his client saying to me how solid of a climber George was and how he was a great guide.

RIP brother...

--Jackson Hole News article


Going Simple with a Tarp

When I was younger I used a tarp all the time for backpacking and camping. Back then tents kinda sucked and were heavy, not to mention the cost. Aside from being a poor teenager was the weight issue.

But since I've worked in the outdoor industry for so long and gear deals seem to be a part of my existence, I guess getting the latest and greatest tent has had me all but abandoning my previous tarp ways. I think that may soon change, especially considering the may now available like the Integral Design Siltarp.

Sure, a tent may spare you a few mosquito bites or the occasional critter visit but will that thin nylon spare you from the marauding bear any more than sleeping under a tarp?

There are some quite technical tarp set ups out there - just image search for Tarp Tent on Google Images - impressive to say the least.

So what's the rub with a tarp? Why don't you use one? Have you used one before?

If like me you're intrigued with using a tarp on your next outing, this little video from Mike at Bushcraft Northwest is a great guide to setting one up.


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Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Adamants

3:15am and the 7 hour after work drive from Squamish is complete. We haven't seen a light or a car for at least an hour and a half since we turned up a road toward Mica Dam just north of Revelstoke, B.C. A small light appears on the hill, and before we know it the mountain chalet of Canadian Mountain Holidays (CMH) Adamants Lodge is right out our windshield. Soft comfy beds, a cookie jar and a hot shower are somehow all waiting for us here in the middle of nowhere.

CMH Adamants Lodge

8 am and the breakfast bell is ringing. Ginger pancakes, fresh OJ, coffee to order, what have I stumbled into?!??! And the helicopter is waiting outside to fly us into our remote glaciated alpine rock climbing heaven? WOW.

Lucky for me I hooked up with my friend Craig McGee who has been a ski guide for CMH for years and has the connections to make this trip possible. Today we will fly in for 11 days of trying our hand at first ascents and free climbs on formations like the Turret:

Communications will be limited from the basin (sat phones for emergencies), but I will be sure to fill you all in when I get back out. Here's crossing my fingers for good rock and great weather...

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Friday, July 18, 2008

Highway to highway . . . another trek into the Alaskan wilderness!

Dylan Kentch and I decided to complete one of the old Alaska Wilderness Classic routes from Donnelly to McKinley Village, walking and rafting from the Richardson Highway west to the Parks Highway, in effect traversing along the northern Alaska Range. There aren't a lot of roads in Alaska, so it was super cool to connect two of the majors with a cross country journey of about 150 miles, especially when it involves walking in country with huge glaciated peaks like Mt. Hayes, Mt. Moffit, Mt. Shand, and all of their "little" foothills :-)

Our route (click to see a larger view)

We left late on Friday night and crossed the Delta River in the rain, then walked upstream to an unnamed creek N of Pilsbury Mtn.
Saturday included a ridge traverse of Pilsbury, followed by a descent to McGinnis Creek and crossing of the "creek" at the toe of the McGinnis Glacier.

Walking the ridgeline

Heading over the saddle to mellower terrain

Sunday, we travelled up the McGinnis Glacier east fork and then over a few passes until we dropped down to the Trident Glacier. We crossed the Trident and then traveled about 2 miles down glacier to a fabulously flat, open, and beautiful creek bed where we camped. This was a pretty big day full of changing terrain, but incredible and vast country. We started out bluebird, but the rain rolled in late afternoon. Thankfully it was dry during our boulder-hopping times!

We awoke to bluebird, and started boulder walking up the McGinnis Glacier

The scenery did not suck

Caribou on the rolling terrain leading to the Trident - they were super curious and scared at once.

Crossing the Trident

Monday, we hiked up a drainage and over to the Hayes Glacier. We crossed the west fork of the Hayes, then climbed up and over some fabulous tussocks and brush to drop down to the east fork and descend East Hayes Creek to the Little Delta River. The descent wasn't too bad due to some fabulous game trails, an easily crossable creek, and ATV trails for the last mile on the flats. I would have to say that this was the most arduous day for me though, especially cuz we made a few small navegational errors that added a bit to the day. I also started to develop some pretty painful tendonitis/bursitis on my left foot that made walking not so fun. Such is life though, and part of the adventure, I suppose.

Dropping down to the Hayes . . . it was hard to see the glacier in the fog, but we got there! About a mile before this, we saw a sow and 3 cubs, but she had seen us first and was in retreat.

Tuesday, we walked up the East Fork Little Delta River to the toe of the Gillam Glacier and over to Buchanan Creek. The sun came out at the Gillam and we were overwhelmed by the scale, beauty, and uniqueness of the area. I think this was one of my favorite places on the trip!

Crossing the toe of the Gillam through what felt like a lunar landscape

The upper Gillam

Heading from the Gillam to Buchanan Creek

Wednesday, we hiked to the top of Buchanan Creek and over the pass to descend an unnamed creek that we named "Pretty Nice Creek." From there, we walked up the West Fork Little Delta and up another amazing unnamed drainage. Again, we camped right at the headwaters of the creek and base of the pass in another incredible valley . . .

Heading to the top of Buchanan Creek and over the pass to what we named "pretty nice creek" since the travelling was, well, pretty nice :-)

Heading up the West Fork Little Delta to the unnamed drainage int the sun . . . again, amazing country! I could have stayed here for a few days to explore!

Thursday, we descended yet another great creek to the Wood River where we were able to float for about 6 miles. We also found some great trails on the way to the Wood that made travel super easy and fun. It was an incredibly beautiful day as well, that made napping a great idea!!! From the Wood, we followed a series of amazing game trails up Big Grizzley Creek before camping in the upper vally just below the pass.

Welcome to bliss!

Upper Grizzley Creek did not disappoint . . .

Friday we hiked over the pass to Edgar Creek, crossed a huge valley and dropped down through the brush to the Yanert River. We floated about 25 miles in the Yanert in ~4 hours, and took out just downstream of Moose Creek. From there, we walked 8ish miles on ATV trail to the airstrip in McKinley Village and a 4th of July bonfire :-)

Hiking out of Big Grizzley Creek

Dylan in the amazing place that is upper Edgar Creek

Me with the Yanert Valley in the background . . . what a way to end the trip!

Finally at the Yanert after about 2 hours of brushy travel - not too bad, all things considering! Getting in the river under bright sunshine was so amazing! We got some rain on the float, but nothing to complain about!

Unfortunately, it had poured in Cantwell/McKinley Village area causing some insane mosquito action, but the hike out the ATV trail was still amazingly beautiful!

It's great to know people throughout Alaska to help with trip logistics and provide a smiling face at the end of a trip. My coworker Bob happens to be one of those amazing people, so he picked us up at about midnight and took us back to civilization :-) The next morning we had a huge breakfast and used his place to sort and dry gear before completing the second highway-to-highway by riding the Denali Highway from Cantwell to Paxson over the following two days . . . stay tuned for that story . . .

For the full story, check out Life According to Kellie

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Backcountry Kid Clothing

There is just something so intriguing and exciting about dressing your kid up in hardcore clothing that they don't need. When my first kid came along, we cut up some old shirts to create make-shift North Face onsies and Prana shirts. I have been bugging the merch peeps to get it together and find companies that are making this stuff and get it on the site. Kind of gave them a "if you sell it people will come and buy" ultimatum.

Thats what I like about Customers speak and they listen. You know my new homie on the way is going to be rocking this his first week in the world. Check out their array of kid clothing and if your really hardcore you can get the tinkle tube for potty training.


Saturday, July 12, 2008

Not Again - There Goes The Bike

I’ve had my new Cannondale Rush 3 Mountain Bike for almost a year. The night before I bought my new bike I did what it seems like every mountain biker has done and completely forgot about my old hard tail Stump Jumper which was on top of my Subaru.

I drove into my Pine Brook Apartment Building in Park City and before I knew it I heard a crash. I turned around and there was my old bike lying about 10 feet behind my car.

The good news was that my Thule Big Mouth bike rack was made to save my bike. The stump jumper was fine – just a few scratches and a tire that was out of true.

The car was also fine, but the rack on the other hand was a bit worse for the wear. The straps had broken off and the tray had a sharp bend in the middle.

But most importantly, my new bike was safe and sound at the bike shop – waiting to get fit specifically to me. I went over to a friend’s house and we spent several hours with a hammer and a few blocks of wood trying to bend the tray back. In the end it wasn’t totally straight but it worked.

After I got my Cannondale I was extremely careful – every time I went anywhere near a garage or over pass, I would get out of my car and make sure that my bike came off the roof.

I honestly thought that it wouldn’t happen again. Now that I had the shiny new bike I would never forget that it was suspended in the air above me – that is until last week.

Last week after the Tuesday Night Team Sugar Ride I went to O’Shucks Bar and Grill. I had a beer and burger and then decided to call it a night.

I remember consciously thinking “okay the bike’s on top,” as I drove back to Pine Brook. But I was tired and had the radio cranked singing to the Oldies Channel. When I got to the apartment I didn’t even connect that the garage door was open and flew right in.

This time I did not get so lucky as to get away without a scratch. Before I even heard the crunch I knew what I was as about to do.

I slammed on the breaks before I hit but that didn’t matter because I couldn’t stop the momentum. There was a shattering of glass and I think I heard the bike flying through the air – even though that sounds crazy.

This time it was worse. This time the $2,500 Mountain Bike was flying – not the $500 hand-me-down.

I jumped out of the car and in retrospect I don’t think I even put it in park (good thing I wasn’t going downhill). I ran over to the bike and picked it up, inspecting the tires, shifters, breaks, derailleur, chain, and frame. I couldn’t believe it - everything at first glance looked fine and I was about to take a deep breath when I felt a piece of glass ping my cheek.

I looked up and there was my back windshield, or at least what was left of it. There was a small amount of glass left around the outside of the frame but most of the glass was actually inside the car in the backseat. I still don’t know exactly what happened because of my 10 second blackout, but my best guess is that when the bike was flying the handle bar was just at the right angle to crash through the glass.

The good new is that the $2,500 Mountain Bike seems to still be in on piece and the rear windshield only took a $100 deductible to fix.

As for the Thule Big Mouth rack, it may have made it through the first run in with my garage, the second time it’s bent beyond repair.

Still – I have to believe that this rack is the one for me, especially since twice in a row the bike came out on top.



Friday, July 11, 2008

Gear review: Patagonia Micropuff jacket

Well, I just finished another trip (report coming soon!) and was yet again reminded that the Patagonia Micropuff Jacket may be the ultimate clothing item. There are a sundry of reasons for this (interspersed with some of my favorite micropuff memories!):

1) Instant comfort . . . there's nothing like stopping for a break and eliminating the chill by throwing on the puffball. It feels so warm and cozy, whether it's rain, snow, or wind that you're trying to get out of!

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
It also works great for backcountry yoga!

2) I use it all season backcountry skiing . . . hike in a t-shirt/windbreaker and throw the micropuff on for a comfortable rest before skiing, a good descending temperature, and a warm changeover for putting skins back on. It's also great to have a puffball in the pack for an emergency if it arises.

Posted by PicasaWearing the micropuff makes skiing amazing lines even more fun!

3) Packability. So easy to stuff in a dry bag or in a corner of the pack. It comes with a stuff sack, but I end up using this for other things usually :-)

Life is definitely more fun wearing powder pink, especially when you and your friends have matching coats!

4) Great pockets! The chest pocket is great for a lighter and knife, and there are nice big interior pockets to hold a warm nalgene, wet skins, or whatever else you can dream up!

The coat is an important part of any ensemble hoping to win an award for color!

5) The hood - need I say more?!!? Hoods are so darn versatile I love them! The only problem is that they may make you look like a hoodlum if you're hitch hiking after your trip or day in the b/c! Having a powder pink micropuff helps with this issue!

Yes, I love this jacket so much that I bought a new one to have as backup for when my primary needes repairs! Total loser, I know, but I can't imagine a trip without this coat!

So, if you're looking for one coat that will make a sundry of situations significantly more pleasant, I recommend the Patagonia Micropuff jacket. Functional, stylish, comfortable, and just all-around great!

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