I thought I would write a little bit on some of the hiking/travel gear I love, since it is part of year-end sales right now.
I wanted a bag that could be used for travel (local and world, carry-on), as well as hiking. As long as you don’t over-stuff the bag, and have stuff hanging off it, you should have no trouble sticking it in overhead compartments or under a bus seat. But more importantly, it can also be stuffed into the metal baggage size tester at the airport. It is well shaped, and I don’t have to worry about bumping into anyone when I have it on. Side straps and a bungee on the back let you compact the pack even further when you have a smaller load. It has bottom bag straps and side pouches to easily fit tents/rolls/odd shaped items for camping. The panel loading is handy.
Unlike a lot of bags in the 2lb range, the Ghost has a great waist belt and strap system. My shoulders don’t fit very well in V strap systems (like the Granite Gear Vapor Trail), the minute I put a Ghost on, I knew it was for me. I usually try to go fairly light, but even water heavy loads were easy with the suspension system.
The bag is made out of a pretty tough sail material. I’ve smacked it around and there are no signs of wear on the bag. The material is also quite water repellant. We got rained on a few times on the Inka trail, but there was almost no moisture in the bag. The waterproof zipper is a bit sticky, but does the job. The waist and shoulder straps are made of a tough outer mesh, with a bunch of small foam tubes inside. They are comfortable and don’t hold moisture.
I love this pack. I tried a lot of other lightweight packs (most of the Golight brand, Granite Gear packs, MEC, REI brands, etc) before I settled on this one, and I have no regrets. Mountainsmith is also a great company, we managed to loose a sternum strap on our Wraith pack, and they sent us a new one, no charge.
SmartWool/Icebreaker – I own shirts, long underwear, boxers, and lots of socks. Smartwool sale at Backcountry Gear
SmartWool and Icebreaker are made with Merino wool. The smaller, longer fibers of this wool are quite soft and stretchy (no itch). They are great in hot and cold environments (perfect for Peru, freezing nights 13k feet, and boiling in dry desert) and all the technical info on Merino can be found on the Icebreaker site.
Besides being sustainable, warm when wet, etc, they also have another huge advantage over synthetics. No smell. A couple hours in coolmax or polyprop and I stink, badly. Some of the newer synthetics will let me last a day or two before they have a funk. But I wore the same shirt, socks, and underwear for 4 days on the Inka trail with no funk. How? Merino fibers absorb water and are naturally antibacterial. Merino doesn’t dry as quickly as some of the synthetics, but that doesn’t bother me too much. I can wear wet merino if I have to, it will be dry quickly and I will still be warm. In short, I love this stuff for hiking and travel.