Equipment Reviews and Prep Hikes

Hey everyone Max here, wanted to share a little bit about what I’ve been up to in preparation for my 2015 NOBO thru hike. I’m new to blogging so if this is terrible bear with me, it will get better. That being said, lets do this thing.

Equipment reviews

The first thing I will say about all of the equipment in this post, rather than saying it in each review, is that I was very impressed with all of them and feel that it was money well spent. Also keep in mind that these reviews are in no way meant to be absolutely comprehensive, given the lack of trail time I have had with each. There will definitely be more to come on this subject, after the trials of the AT begin to take their toll. This is simply my first impressions, minor testing and familiarizing myself with this new equipment.

MSR MiniWorks EX Microfilter

The ingenious design of this filter makes it incredibly easy to operate and clean. After purging the filter, about one liter before the first use, you simply screw it to the opening of your nalgene bottle and go. It also works with MSR bladders. I’m not sure about what other bladders it would fit but it does not fit mine. The hand pump uses a air spring accumulator system which functions very well. I didn’t time the flow rate when I was testing it but the output seemed to be about the one liter per minute the spec said. (It filled my 32oz nalgene pretty quick).

The adjustable float and cage on the end of the hose make collecting water a snap. The hose attaches very simply to the body of the pump and does not have to be removed for storage. The only thing to watch out for is when you toss it out into moving water (where you should be collecting your water from) it has a tendency to work its way back to the bank, or dig into the bottom if you have the float set too deep.

The ceramic/carbon marathon EX element (a ceramic element with a carbon core) produces outstanding water quality. I tested it in a small river near a hiking trail I frequent and was very impressed. The pre-filtered water was brown and murky and the post-filter water was crystal clear and tasted better than the bottled water I had in my bag. I can’t wait to put this thing to the test in the rivers and streams of the AT.

MSR Microrocket Stove

The stove is quite the little spitfire, literally. It weighs almost nothing and folds down small enough to put in the palm of your hand, not including the canister obviously. I personally use it with a GSI glacier stainless cup, which holds 16 oz of water, but it could handle a much larger piece of cook wear. Like I said, I use it with a 16 oz cup so I don’t know how fast it will boil larger amounts of water but it gets 16 oz to a boil in a hurry. This is very nice when all you want is a hot cup of coffee on a cold rainy day. The IsopPro fuel canisters, which are an 80/20 mix of isobutane and propane, come in three sizes, 4 oz, 8 oz, and 16 oz. Each canister has a float gauge on the side that makes determining fuel level quite easy. Setup and use of this stove are very simple; it screws onto the canister and ignites easily with the included piezo igniter.  I feel like this thing is gonna be my best friend on those cold rainy days.

Goal Zero Nomad 7 solar panel and Guide 10 recharger with luna LED stick light

This thing just blew my away, for so long I have quested after a way to have a mobile power supply. This thing has changed the way I pack, no longer do I have to worry about carrying a bunch of heavy batteries. Now I carry eight AA batteries that power everything I carry. This system is incredibly versatile, besides the ability to recharge my AA batteries, it also has a USB output on both the solar panel and the guide 10 recharger enabling me to charge devices not only from the sun but from the battery pack as well. The solar panel also has a 12v adapter giving it the versatility to charge anything that plugs into a cigarette lighter. The guide 10 recharger is not only a very efficient way to charge your batteries or devices, it also doubles as a flashlight with its built in single LED light and can power things like the Luna LED stick light, which makes an excellent lantern. This system will very likely be a part of my kit for years to come.

Prep Hikes

Now on to the really fun stuff. Gear talk is a good time but the thing I love the most is being out there in the thick of it. Ahh the fresh air, the views, the sounds, the smells, the silence, the darkness; everything about being out in the forest just screams to the primal desire to be wild that lives deep in my core. I just love it. I realize that this does not have a lot to do with prep hikes but I felt like saying it. Now about my prep hikes. The pic at the top of this post is from one of my latest prep hikes. I did a day hike in the Kettle Moraine northern unit, which is absolutely gorgeous. The terrain there is mild compared to what I will be getting into on the AT, the elevation changes there are mostly under 100ft. But where I live there is nothing even close to mountains so I work with what I have. Another very important reason for prep hikes for me is to work out all the kinks in the way I have my pack set up. I’m sure it will change more than once while I’m on the trail, but having it relatively good to go before I start my journey to Katahdin will save me a lot of trouble. My dog is also seeing the results of these prep hikes, from toughening his pads to working on his off leash skills, and soon to be working on carrying his pack. But don’t let me fool you, I would be out hiking even if I wasn’t leaving for the AT in less than 70 days now I just have a great reason to be hiking everyday.


Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed.


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