A Bittersweet Shakedown

20160206_124823_001After most of the 3 feet of snow cleared up, Mother Nature finally decided to grace us with decent weather. Highs in the low 40’s and the nighttime low hit 20. Perfect weather for a shakedown! So on Superbowl weekend, my friend, our 3 dogs, and I set out for a 27 miler on the AT from Port Clinton to route 309. This is 27 miles jam packed with beautiful views ( I should have taken more photos).

This is an important shakedown for me. I needed to see how well Scoober and I held up in the cold. If you read my last post, we didn’t fare too well and needed to step up our game. I had some major upgrades to try out:


Allentown Hiking Club Shelter

Allentown Hiking Club Shelter


Original: Eureka Amari Pass Solo. Upgrade: Big Agnes Seedhouse 2 limited edition

Thoughts: My Eureka was great, but wouldn’t fit the 2 of us and our gear, so an upgrade was necessary. Although there were a few mixed reviews online, the price was good enough to take a chance on. The setup was easy. Perfect size for all of the gear. We set up on snow, and when packing up in the morning I did notice there were a few wet spots under Scoober’s pad. But other than that, I can’t complain yet. I Wanted to test out the rain fly (easier said than done with frozen ground) so I set up shop next to the shelter.


first stop: Pulpit Rock

Sleeping Bag

Original: Shitty walmart 40° synthetic bag. Upgrade: Marmot 20° Kenosha 650 Down

Thoughts: Although I didn’t get a synthetic blend, and the bag will probably degrade quickly through heavy use, at the moment, the bag worked great. I warmed up quickly in it, and with just a base layer on I stayed warm in the 20° weather. I put it in a Sea to Summit small compression sack and it fit perfectly in my bag.

*I brought along the walmart bag for Scoober. Last shakedown I was a shitty owner and forgot a pad for him, so he froze until I brought him in my bag. Although it took him a while to get cold, he ended up shaking for an hour or two during this trip. I’ll address that at the end.

lunchtime: Pinnacle Point

lunchtime: Pinnacle Point

Sleeping Pad

Original: none Upgrade: Thermarest NeoAir

Thoughts: I’m a side sleeper, this worked great. I’m not sure how long it will last before a rogue claw from Scoober punctures it, but he listens well when I tell him to stay off of it so far. If he breaks it, I’ll switch to a foam pad, but until then this is great.

Scoobs Rockin his new Ruffwear pack

Scoobs Rockin his new Ruffwear pack (the sun’s in his eyes)

Dog Pack

Original: Henry & Clemmie’s backpack. Upgrade: Ruffwear Approach Pack

Thoughts: The first time I packed his H&C bag, he ran into the thickets and came back with torn stitching. It was fixable, but before the hike was over, he ran back into the thickets and emerged without a pack on. My friend and I searched for the pack for a while (he was following a deer scent) and couldn’t find it. The saddles barely held anything on top of that. Needless to say, but I’m not too big on H&C anymore. The Ruffwear pack is great! I didn’t opt for the heavy duty pack, and I’m fine with that. I don’t want to stress him with all of his food, I just want him lightening my load a little. The pack stayed centered pretty well (as he ate food, I used rocks to keep the load even). Overall very excited about it.


The Takeaway

I’m confident that I can hold up against decently cold weather. I wasn’t wearing all of my layers when I went to sleep, so hopefully lower temperatures will be bearable with my other clothes. We did 24 miles the first day, then a quick 3 the next morning to make sure we got back for the Superbowl (although I fell asleep before halftime). I was expecting to be sore Sunday morning, but felt completely fine! That was a great sign. I know sustained daily hiking will take its toll, but this trip made me feel comfortable with my starting fitness level.

Now for the shitty realization: Scoober can’t take the cold. Even wrapped in a sleeping bag, he was shivering. He won’t jump into my bag with me, and although I could probably get him a better bag and pad, I have to watch my pack weight. So I’ve hit my first major change of plans. I talked to my parents, who love Scoobs as much as (maybe a little more than) me. They will hold on to him until I make it into Virginia, and when the cold weather starts to break, they’ll come visit and drop him off. It’s not perfect…and we’ll still have a few freezing nights, but it’ll help.

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Comments 2

  • Jacqui Reed : Feb 18th

    I’m taking my dog Panda on my thru-hike this year and we leave in March. She’s a malamute/Australian shepherd so has pretty thick fur and enjoys the cold so it’s a bit different from Scoober, but I have a couple of suggestions as far as gear for helping him in cold weather. First, I’d visit http://www.backcountryk9.com. They have several brands and basically everything you could need for an extended outdoor trip. You said he doesn’t like staying in your sleeping bag with you so he may not tolerate a jacket, but I would look check out the Ruffwear Quinzee Dog Jacket. It’s insulated and covers part of the neck. I’m taking one for Panda to wear during the coldest days and at night.
    If he tolerates a jacket well I might even go with the D-fa Doggy Dog coat. Here’s part of the description ” to fit all-over-Rover with elbow caps and more coverage over the neck and thigh area. It incorporates D-fa’s thermal ‘bone zone’ to warm over the shoulders, hips and spine where it’s needed most without adding all-over bulk or weight. Great features like side release cam buckles make the jacket easy to use while optional rear leg loops keep the jacket in place when your dog is curled up.”
    I don’t know what your budget looks like, but I would also suggest the Ruffwear Highlands Backpacking Bed and the Ruffwear Highlands Pad portable foam dog bed. I’m taking that pad and the sleeping bag version of the bed. The cool things about them is the portable pad slips into the bottom of the bed for added insulation and can be used as just a light pad in warmer weather. The pad itself is super light so weight isn’t an issue. The sleeping bag isn’t as light, but isn’t super heavy either. If you plan on picking him up with some cool nights one or both of those could be the way to go.
    A third thing I’d like to mention is his food. Obviously I have no idea what you feed him and you may already know this and practice it, but I would mix his food with olive oil if he’ll tolerate it and mix in a good bit of peanut butter. It’s high in fat and could boost his body heat.
    I think it’s awesome you want to take him and that you are really in tune with what you feel is best for him. I hope you find my suggestions useful, but you may use them or throw them out the window. I didn’t see your specific start date. panda and I are leaving with my best friend Kimmy on March 12. Maybe we will see you somewhere on the trail. Happy hiking. 🙂

    • Patrick Murray : Feb 19th

      Thanks for all the suggestions! It does sound like Panda is more cold tolerant. I never have to worry about Scoobs while we’re hiking, but as soon as he settles down for the night, that’s when the problems begin. I’m hesitant relying on a jacket. He’s usually good with a harness and a pack, but with jackets- sometimes he was cool with them, other times he wants nothing to do with them. That being said, I was looking into the ruffwear sleeping bag. Although I don’t want to rely on that doing the trick all through Georgia/NC/Tenn, I think I might invest in it for VA.
      peanut butter has been big in his diet since I found him. I have had a few people mention adding olive oil to his food, so I started occasionally doing that now, and he’s a big fan of it.
      I’ll be Heading out March 27! Thanks for the suggestions, it’s really helpful hearing from other hikers. I’ll keep an eye out for you guys, enjoy your hike!


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