I’m a Porsche with No Brakes

Working Out the Kinks

My work has been closed for a two-week holiday break. Mandatory vacation for me and I am certainly not complaining! Spent Christmas in bed and the first week of my vacation super sick.  Took a Covid test five times to be sure, but it was just a nasty flu.  Been a while since I have had my ass kicked by a virus, and kick my ass it did! Just about fully mended now and taking full advantage of my days off by testing out my gear and messing around with my packing skills!

Bear Canister or Bag?

First problem solved.  I struggled with deciding to take a bear canister for my food or use a bag hang system. A bear canister is made out of a very hard smell-proof plastic (almost bear-proof), and a bear food bag can come in a variety of types and qualities (from smell and tear-resistant to a regular drybag) but will need to be hung from a tree or designed system at campsites.  I do not have any experience with either and decided to take the option recommended by the ATC, a bear canister.  To be honest, I have been regretting my decision up until a couple days ago.

First of all, I was unable to purchase the one that I wanted in Europe (Bearvault500), so had a friend mail me one from the US but still got taxed in customs.  So I paid about triple what the Bearvalt is worth (which was not inexpensive to start with). So now I have this very expensive awkward plastic vault for all my food, cook system, and other smellables (toothpaste, sunscreen, bug spray, chapstick, etc.).

I have at this point also chosen a Jetboil Minimo for my cook system. I love it. Works great, boils water for a cup-a-joe in no time. Saves on fuel and is just super convenient, however not the most compact or packable item for a bear canister. If I never used it for anything other than to boil water, this would not need to be stored with the food items, however, I will be cooking food in it.  A few months ago when I received the canister in the mail, I began cursing it out. The amount of awkward space it takes up in my pack was unreal, and I placed my cook system inside and thought to myself,  “I’m screwed!” I could not imagine being able to fit 4-5 days’ worth of food inside (even though it is recommended for seven days).

So I did the most reasonable, sensible thing I could think of.  I continued for the next few months to bitch about having a conscious, following the recommendations, and not wanting to be responsible for more bear trouble than there already is and now having to carry this heavy, awkward piece of plastic in my pack for how many miles… yada, yada, yada, woe is me!

I have now done an almost 360 (I’m still going to bitch that it’s heavy and awkward because it is), but now have successfully packed four days’ worth of food with room for another and more snacks if needed! I have found that true to the reviews on my pack (Gossamer Gear Mariposa),  it packs a Bearvalt500 inside and pretty damn comfortably!  And the best part of my choice to stick with the Bearvalt is that my wife gave me a stocking full of stickers for Christmas. From bands to slogans and all things I love, I have made this canister my own.  Found that the top works great as a little plate, and of course with the lid closed properly, I have my own camp stool! 🙂  Bears and little bears (rodents) alike can take a hike and leave my food alone!

No way this is all going to fit right??

ALL IN- with room for more snacks!

Now at ease with my food storage problems. I have dedicated a couple days this week with short hikes into nearby city parks to practice setting up and taking down my tent in wet and cold conditions. Even though, as of yet, not having slept a single night in my tent and most likely will not do so until my first night on the trail, I think I made a good choice with the Big Agnes Tiger Wall 2P tent.  My last tent was a six-person dome Tent from LLBean. It was huge, heavy and I loved it. I could almost stand up completely! When I could drive a truck down to my campsite, this was great! Used it at my last couple of music festivals as well, unfortunately, it did not survive PinkPop 2018. RIP! Of course, had it survived the debauchery of the last music festival this was not exactly a thu-hiking tent!

Big Agnes Tiger Wall- Home Sweet Home

The simplicity and ease to set up the Big Agnes Tiger Wall is great. And it weighs in at just over 1kg with footprint.  I like the doors and vestibules on both sides and room for my gear inside without being cramped! And although a little heavier and more money than a DIY footprint, I went with the Big Agnes-designed footprint. Also allows me to easily set up the rain fly first and then the inside if it is raining.  So far I am impressed.  Here’s to hoping its reputation holds up with the weather soon to be thrown upon me on the AT.

Park Hopping Through Leiden

Before leaving my house for my first park-hopping hike, I decided to use my filter (Sawyer Squeeze) to filter my tap water into my two bottles.  Sounds silly, I know but I’m sure glad I did. Found out the Platypus water bladder that I thought was a higher-quality replacement for the bag that comes with the filter is not compatible. The threads are larger and it doesn’t fit well, leaking a ton of water as you try to push it through the filter.

So I spent yet more money and ordered a new bladder that is promised to be compatible with the Sawyer Squeeze (Cnoc Outdoors Vecto). Not sure why I was convinced the Platypus was a fit. I even thought I remember trying it out a few months back. Clearly did not! Thankful to have the time now to double and triple-check everything I am bringing.

Since I do not have my driver’s license here in Holland, it limits where I can hike to on my own. Leaving from my house means always walking a distance in the city to get to somewhere a bit greener and less populated.  I spent a lot of early morning runs park-hopping. Hitting up as many green parks as my legs can take me through. Although Holland (particularly the area we live in) is overpopulated, it does have a lot of green to be found within and certainly in between the city centers.

So this week I have turned some of my run routes into hike routes with a middle stop to practice setting up and taking down camp.  You would not believe the looks I have gotten! Despite all the double-takes with me prancing around with my pack and setting up my tent in a populated park, not one person asked me what I was up to! As ridiculous as I sometimes felt, I am glad to have the time to get more comfortable with my gear.

After two 13k/8mile walks with a midway break to set up camp, have lunch and break down camp I am now filled with so much eagerness! Is it March yet? I know, I know, chill out! I still need these two months to work on my physical strength! What surprised me after and during these walks was how well my knee felt with the extra 13kg (30lbs) to carry around. It helps of course that this was a rather flat walk (seeing as Holland is below sea level). After breaking my kneecap last April, it has been a long and slow recovery.  I do believe that my leg muscles are finally the same size again! With just shy of two months, I am hoping my knee will be strong enough to handle some crazy ups and downs including extra weight.  I am training daily to strengthen my leg muscles to relieve the stress on my knees and hoping they cooperate! Shout out to hiking poles! Used them for the first time this summer and the amount of relief they provided my knee was unreal!

Although I am certainly aware that a couple walks through some parks does not indicate how my gear will work out for me in the long haul, I do feel confident in the choices that I have made. In particular, my toes have been enjoying the room in their trail runners (Altra Olympus) with plenty of cushion for my sensitive heels! As I mentioned earlier, I am also pleasantly surprised at how comfortably my pack carries with a bear canister inside. Very stoked about this.  I had a little discomfort with the hip belt rubbing on my hip bone, but with tightening up the pack, this was less of an issue on my second walk. Overall cannot complain, For someone with little to no experience with backpacking, I am feeling quite confident!

Two More Months

Next week it’s back to the grind.  Besides working extra hours whenever possible to get some extra cash, I have two goals for myself over the next two months:

  1. Continue to work hard to be in the best physical health I can. Biking 52km/32mi to and from work. Running and practice hikes on the weekend and putting the right amount of healthy fuel in my body! Also, and certainly not less important, be able to listen to my body and allow it a break now and then. This will be the hardest for me, but I believe will be most beneficial on the trail.
  2. Keep the confidence that I have gained in the past few months of planning and training. This will be tough. I feel more confident now than I have in a long time, but I also know how quickly my mind can take me in the other direction. So how I intend to reach this goal of staying confident and positive over the next few weeks is unknown, but I will do my best and take it one day at a time. What I do know is that confidence is not something that you are born with or for that matter without. It is something that you can develop over time.  For me, one of the best ways to boost my confidence has been by listening to music. Over the years I have found motivation, confidence, energy, and pure joy by simply listening to an album, playlist, or even a single song.

To end today’s post I’ll let Sia send some confidence your way!

“I’m unstoppable
I’m a Porsche with no brakes
I’m invincible
Yeah, I win every single game
I’m so powerful
I don’t need batteries to play
I’m so confident
Yeah, I’m unstoppable today”


Lots of Good Vibes to all,


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Comments 3

  • kurt "KB" : Jan 6th

    I would try a doing a few staircases with a 30 pound pack before you decide on a weight to hike with….
    I carried 33 pounds and I had no clue how heavy that was until I started a long switchback in Va. Being
    60 something and 135 pounds did not help but I can say the weight on level ground was a lot different
    than a long ascent not to mention severely curtailing my ability to climb over rocks; even the downed
    trees along the trail became an issue. I’ve heard there is a rather long stair case on the access trail to
    the beginning of the A-T; don’t wait till then…..

    • KB : Feb 3rd

      I should note that I recently traded in the pack which tried to alternately strangle me and shove my
      femur into my pelvis. I found a Gregory which at 35 pounds plus is a dream sack. I cant believe
      the difference between the Paragon by Gregory and the other two which shall remain nameless.
      Everyone is different so perhaps the other two would fit someone else.
      ps, Forgot you were in Holland, ever find a staircase…..LOL

  • Suzi : Jan 6th

    I love the idea of making the bear canister your own, I have not a single sticker on mine but I’m going to start.


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