New Things I Discovered in 2022 - By Whitney "Allgood" LaRuffa

A group of hikers eating chips and salsa

This year I was fortunate enough to get to hike not once but twice in the Land of Enchantment. In April I hiked 220 miles of the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) along the official route through the Black Range, in 2016 I had taken the Gila River Alternate. Then this fall I went back down to NM and hiked Brett Tucker’s Northern New Mexico Loop, a 500ish mile loop that starts and ends in Santa Fe; it’s a magical hike. 

Like all my trips since coming to Six Moon Designs in 2018 I was putting our gear through the paces and trying some prototypes to see if they needed any further refinement.  Along with testing our own line of gear I also tried some new items in my kit and here are the ones I absolutely loved.

Food

Maybe one of the biggest hurdles of being a long-distance hiker with a 26+ years of time spent on the trail is getting tired of the same old food; seriously if I must choke down another date-based energy bar in life it may be the end of me.  Like all hikers I’m tired of the same old food, so this year I tried and added 2 new items into my food bag.

 

Right on Trek meals

These meals are so good it was worthy of actually cooking in my pot!  For years I have eaten out of a Ziplock bag or reused a freeze-dried meal bag for days on end.  I was given a few of these meals to try by a friend and told, “make sure to cook in your pot”.  I’m lazy at camp and don’t want to get off my pad once camp is set let alone have to cook and clean a pot, but I relented and figured let’s give this stuff a try…

 Right On Trek Meal packaging stock photo

OMG!! This food was the so freakin’ good, the first time I ate it I was scrapping my spoon against the pot trying to get every single last drop of this sweet ambrosia.   I ate a few of the meals on my NNML hike and each one was better than the last.  I love that the bag is bio-degradable, the meals are super filling and have ton of calories.  In fact, the food was so good, that we are now selling it here at Six Moon Designs.

 Back panel of a Right On Trek meal

So, before you go on your next trip throw a couple of these meals in your bag, I promise you’ll thank me later as you rub your belly in happy content.

A meal being eaten at camp out of the pot.

 

Salsa Queen, freeze dried salsa

Yup you read that right freeze-dried salsa, straight from the Land of Enchantment itself.  This winter I saw this at my local gear store Next Adventure and bought some for a hut trip I was going on up at MT Hood.  Me and my friends rehydrated this with some cold water, it rehydrated in a couple of minutes and tasted as good as any fresh salsa I had ever had.  Paired with some Juanita’s chips and let me tell you a new favorite trail snack is born.

A couple packages of Salsa Queen freeze dried salsa

 

Tech

In todays every evolving world of technology and backcountry offerings it can be hard to sort through what one needs and what one doesn’t.  This year has been a big upgrade in my kit when it comes to tech.

 

BioLite 330 Headlamp

I was skeptical to have a rechargeable headlamp, I typically hike in the dark the first hour or two each day, and I always thought a rechargeable headlamp wouldn’t work for me.  “What happens when the battery dies and still have an hour before day light to hike in?”  Well luckily the battery on the BioLite is amazing on low power I was able to easily go for 6 days on trail without having to recharge it.

 Biolite 330 Headlamp

This year the BioLite 330 is being replaced by the new 325, but I have tried both and I find on/off and lockout button on the 330 to be a better design so if you can snag one online before they are gone, I would recommend that.

Allgood wearing the Biolite 330 from the back, looking into the sunset.

 

Garmin Fenix 6 Sapphire

I realize not everyone is going to drop close to $600 on a watch and trust me it took 3 years of asking before I got the greenlight at home to get it, but it was so worth the money.  With a little extra effort before a trip, you can break down your hike into segments and load them on the watch before you go, making navigation super-fast and easy.  With built in base maps, custom data fields, and a slew of other features this little tech has been my favorite new piece of gear in years.  Having the ability to navigate without having to pull out my phone or a map, not only saved me time, but also saved precious power in my phone and battery packs.

a close up of the Garmin Fenix 6 on Allgood's wrist

 

Garmin inReach Mini 2

I wrote a longer piece about upgrading my old inReach Explorer SE this spring, so if you want a more in-depth check that out.  All I can say is that the inReach Mini2 is working well for me, and the speed in which message are sent and receive still blows me away.  This was a huge help this fall when I was hiking the NNML and my wife and I were navigating a family emergency while I was out in the wilderness.

Garmin InReach Mini 2 in black

 

 

Personal Items

I‘m not sure where these items fit into a category, but both items below made my hiking season significantly better.  Taking the time to realize what one needs for self-care on the trail is very important for recovery and enjoyment.

 

NipEAZE

If you’re like me, one of the biggest risks you take on trail is developing a dreaded case of nipple chaffing.  I have had it so bad at time I have bled, and with each step your shirt feels as if someone is running a belt sander across one of the most sensitive parts of the body.  After years of pain, I started to research pasties or something similar, which could provide me relief, and what did I discover, NipEAZE.  These self-adhesive nipple guards are designed to last an entire marathon, and I can say after weeks of hiking a marathon day after day they did last the day without issue.  The bonus is these work, and I was chafe free this year thanks to this great product.

 NipEAZE box

Cocoon Air-Core Pillow Hyperlight

Yes, I am a princess and require a good night’s sleep to be able to smash the miles all day.  After years of shoving my dirty clothes into some sort of bag as a pillow I finally broke down in 2016 and started to carry an inflatable pillow, and I have never regretted it since.  Now this is not my first pillow, I have tried Big Sky, Klymit, Sea 2 Summit, but when the last one gave up the ghost, I stated looking for a better pillow, and this one is the winner.

 

The Cocoon Air-Core Pillow Hyperlight is one of the lighter inflatable pillows on the market, and affordable.  It come with a great satin feeling cover on it, and it fits perfectly in my clothes/pillow bag I use.  I loved the shape, how it easily inflates and deflates, but most of all I love how it helps me drift off to sleep each night on trail.

Stock image of a Cocoon Air-Core Ultralight Pillow