Customer Profile: John Abela of hikelighter.com

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jonalbaHiker, trail designer and gear expert John Abela has been providing valuable resources about ultralight backpacking for the past 3 years. His quest to reach the sub 5-pound (2.3 kg) backpacking market was the driving force behind his creation of the website hikelighter.com. If you have hiked in Northern California, chances are good you may have passed John on the trail or walked on tread he has maintained, and his passion for trails, gear and the freedom of a lighter pack has been a great benefit to the backpacking community.

“I am convinced that almost every hiker can be at the 6-8 pound (2.7-3.6 kg) range and be comfortable and have enough gear to ward off the ‘you pack that which you fear the most’ ebbi-jibbies,” he explained.

His exploration into gear began his late 30’s when John realized a life devoted to work was not the path he wanted to take any longer. Once he started venturing outside his neighborhood and into the Redwoods of Northern California, the exploration quickly progressed.

“I knew I did not want to just walk into a big-box-store and buy all my gear, so I started doing some research on the internet and quickly found websites like Backpacking Light, Whiteblaze and the pct-l list and I started reading though hundreds of posts about what gear other people were using.”

On John’s first overnighter he carried a 42 pound (19kg) pack and it was not working for him. He quickly shed 20 pounds, but knew he could go even lighter. He set new weight goals: 12 pounds led to 8 pounds which led to an astonishing 2.3 pounds.

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Discover Long Distance Trails - Benton MacKaye Trail & Wonderland Trail

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You have completed your ultralight set-up. Tent or tarp? check. Ultralight backpack? check. Sleeping bag, stove, filter? check. Now it’s time to hit the trail, but unless you have had your sights set on a particular long distance trail, where to go?

The big three (Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail) are all on your list, but finding 4-6 months off of work and away from family can be a tricky proposition. What would really fit the bill is a shorter hike, one where you can still disappear into the wilderness for a good month or two, travel lightly and quickly, and still complete a thru-hike.

This is the first of what will be our coverage of some lesser-known long distance trails. From a week to a few months, these hikes will help you scratch the backpacking itch and stretch your legs.

Benton MacKaye Trail - 288 Miles, Southeast U.S.
bentonmkmap small The Benton MacKaye Trail (BMT) is a relative newcomer to the long distance trail community. While the founding organization (BMTA) was formed in 1979, the route officially opened for hikers in July 2005. The 288 miles of this trail run from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Big Creek Campground on the northern edge of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, and through eight Wilderness and Wilderness Study areas.

The trail was created out of an effort to see Benton MacKaye’s chosen route for the Appalachian Trail realized. MacKaye, a forester, conservationist, and co-founder of The Wilderness Society, first envisioned the Appalachian Trail (AT) in a 1921 paper he wrote that detailed a grand trail that would run up the eastern U.S. mountains, connecting a series of farms and wilderness work/study camps.  

MacKaye had originally chosen a more westerly route for the start of the Appalachian Trail that would follow the western crest of the Blue Ridge, the route that the BMT now roughly follows.

The Benton MacKaye Trail offers an experience similar to that of the AT: the hiking is strenuous and provides plenty of water, but unlike the popular trail, offers only two shelters (at mile 50.3 & 273.8 northbound). The BMTA identified an abundance of shelters to be the primary cause of overcrowding on the AT, and so decided to keep the trail "primitive" by not adding more shelters.

One of the beauties of this trail are the plentiful access points and intersections with other long-distance hiking trails, thus creating the opportunity for longer loops. The 355 mile Pinhoti Trail intersects the BMT at mile 69.4 northbound, the 1,000 mile Mountain to Sea Trail intersects at miles 241.5 and 249.5, and the Appalachian Trail shares the Springer Mountain starting point and intersects at 3.8, 5.9, 200.1, and 287.6 mile points.

The BMTA provides plenty of hiker resources including a databook, resupply information, suggested maps, and more.

From a couple of weeks to a couple of months, the Benton MacKaye Trail offers numerous options to immerse yourself in the wilderness of the South Eastern part of the U.S. Consider this trail when dreaming up your next thru-hike.

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Understanding Your Six Moon Designs Shelter

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duo explorer closedSix Moon Designs (SMD) tents are designed to work well in a wide variety of environments. With a little work on your part, you can extend the range your tent and provide a secure and more comfortable nights rest. The following tips and comments from SMD Founder and Owner Ron Moak are designed to help you maximize the benefits of your ultralight shelter.

Understanding Your Shelter

It doesn't take many three to four thousand foot climbs carrying a six pound tent and forty pound pack before crying aloud for a better way. When in the course of your search for the perfect shelter, you do find an ultralight tent. It's often like an exotic sirens song drawing you onto an ethereal plane, promising to allow you to walk miles in near weightless state. However, few things can be more disturbing than the harsh squeal of reality swooping down out of a cold wet September sky.

While ultralight shelters perform many of the same duties as their six pound cousins, not even the rapid advances in shelter materials over the last few years can make up the total difference in weight. So when looking to purchase that two pound wonder tent, don’t consider it a direct replacement for your seven pound freestanding dome tent.

Fortunately with a little bit of education, we can easily bridge the gap between traditional and ultralight tents. If the thought of strolling effortlessly through high mountain meadows filled with flowering Lupine isn’t enough to coax us out of a state of being human pack mules, nothing will.

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Six Moon Designs Attends the OutDoor Show in Friedrichshafen Germany

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outdoor imageThe European outdoor industry is booming, and it’s not hard to see why: incredible mountain ranges from the Alps, Rhön and Pyrenees are not far from over 40,000 miles of coastline where intrepid travelers from all over the world head out seeking adventure in all forms.

The OutDoor show, July 10-13, is much like the United State’s version of the Outdoor Retailer show. In its 21s  year, OutDoor welcomes over 900 outdoor trade professionals from 45 countries to come together to buy, sell and learn about cutting edge technologies, emerging trends and the future of the outdoor industry.

Six Moon Designs (SMD), based in Beaverton, Oregon, will be attending OutDoor for the first time this year, in partnership with Business Oregon (find them in booth B4-409). Developed to help Oregon businesses access global markets to enhance Oregon’s position in the global economy, Business Oregon helps small and medium sized companies like Six Moon Designs become exporters and helps them access new markets.

“Business Oregon provides technical assistance and expertise to Oregon companies seeking export markets for their products,” explained Communications and Marketing Manager for Business Oregon, Nathan Buehler. “We have staff and contractors located overseas that have relationships and experience to navigate waters of exporting to foreign markets. In addition, we can provide export assistance grants of up to $5,000 to help defray a company's costs of attending an international trade show. We can also help connect companies with federal government assistance opportunities”.

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Trip Report - D=rt hikes the Oregon Desert Trail and Bigfoot Trail

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The suspension is my favorite feature hands down...Lightweight packs are becoming the norm and even mainstream manufacturers attempt to build them these days. However, lightweight packs that carry whatever weight you throw into them but remain comfortable to walk under are rare.
-Travis “D=rt” Anderson of his SMD Fusion 50 pack

dirt on odt newsletterWhen a new trail is established in the long distance backpacking world, it helps if the first few people who navigate the route are experienced backpackers. This spring Travis “D=rt” Anderson became the second thru-hiker to backpack the Oregon Desert Trail (ODT) carrying Six Moon Designs’ new Fusion 50 backpack.

An initiative of the Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA), a Bend, Oregon based advocacy organization devoted to protecting Oregon’s high desert, the newly created 800 mile route traverses some of Oregon’s most remote and spectacular wilderness areas.

While Oregon Desert Trail brings to mind actual tread winding through the dry landscape of Eastern Oregon, most of the route is just that: a route. The 800 miles uses a combination of existing trails, historical wagon roads, and old Jeep tracks, with a large percentage of cross country travel.

Neither the long waterless stretches or the remote desert travel phased D=rt when planning and hiking the route. A backpacker with many thousands of trail miles under his belt including multiple hikes on the AT, PCT, JMT, CT and AZT, he has backpacked similar “routes” like the Hayduke Trail and Grand Enchantment Trail.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 July 2014 09:09

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