Brand Spotlight: Cotopaxi “Gear for Good”

Cotopaxi Luzon 18L Daypack

Cotopaxi Luzon 18L Daypack

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I was in the market for a new lightweight daypack.  Initially, I looked into continuing the trend of using Gossamer Gear packs and was looking at the minimalist daypack.  In the end, I wound up going with the cheaper option and buying the Cotopaxi Luzon 18L Daypack.

Here is a general overview of the pack:

– Price: $30. BUT you get 15% off when you sign up for their newsletter so the bag is very affordable.

– Weight as per my scale: 7.1oz. Which I found odd as it was more than 3oz less than what Cotopaxi states online.

– Obviously holds 18L which is a good size for a daypack and I found can surprisingly hold A LOT of gear.

– It is made out of a lightweight nylon which seems plenty strong as a daypack.  The seams are all well done and I noticed no fraying.

– It has thin mesh straps which although will not hold a lot of weight (it shouldn’t have to) they are extremely comfortable when I loaded it up with close to 7lbs of gear.

– The outside zipper is very sturdy and well made. Very impressed. Not waterproof though as far as I am aware.

– Internal hydration sleeve to hold water bladders.

I plan on using the bag extensively as a daypack and as a general bad for use around town as well.  Expect a more in depth review to come. The real thing I want to talk about is the company Cotopaxi.

Cotopaxi Logo - Gear for Good

Cotopaxi operates by the slogan “Gear for Good” and is a company that sells outdoor gear with a purpose – to give back to the world.  Each piece of gear is affiliated to a humanitarian effort that money is raised for.  For instance, the Luzon daypack which I purchased is tied to the Philippine Community Fund is an organization that helps children and their families  that live in extremely poor shantytowns and runs it’s own school to help provide education for underpriveleged children.

Cotopaxi states that by buying one Luzon daypack you are paying for 1 week of education for a child in the Philippine Community Fund program as per their website.

By tying each product to a different organization they are able to provide support to many different fields and geographical areas, all helping people in poverty.

Not only that, but they are also very strict about their manufacturing process using a manufacturer in the Philippines that provides upstanding working conditions and a substantial pay for their employees.

If that wasn’t enough they also offer free returns and have a satisfaction guarantee for all of their products.  The offer a “Human Lifespan Guarantee” of 61 years which is the average lifespan of a person living in the underdeveloped world according to the World Health Organization.

Cotopaxi’s mission is to change the world – you can help be a part of that change.

Gear For Good – Full from Cotopaxi on Vimeo.

Disclaimer: I have no affiliation to Cotopaxi and no relationship with them whatsoever besides being a customer who recently purchased their pack with my own money at full price minus the discount offered from signing up to their newsletter.  They did not contact me in any way and I am under no obligation to write about them at all.  I am only doing so because I support their mission.  

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More Winter Hiking in New Jersey & More Gear Talk

Snow has fallen all day and is in the forecast for tomorrow as well (yesterday and today by the time I publish this), but the bipolar weather worked out in my favor as it was in the low to mid 50s this past Sunday here in New Jersey.  There was a 50% chance of rain that day, but I took my chances and packed up my daypack (the Rukus – more on that later) complete with my rain gear as well and headed out to the Watchung Reservation.  Similar to the other week where I hiked at Cheesequake, there is nothing special about hiking at Watchung Reservation, but it is very close to my house and I knew that with not a lot of daylight these days and the possibility for storms I should play it safe.

The one good thing about Watchung Reservation is that there are a lot of hiking trails there. No real elevation gains, good views, or anything else that would make for great hiking, but in central New Jersey we’ll take what we can get.  There is the white Sierra Trail at Watchung which loops around for ten miles, and roughly 4 other shorter trails that intertwine with each other throughout the reservation.

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Deserted Village

Since it was a very impromptu hike due to the weather I did not have a trail map and decided I would just get on some trails and go. So I got to the Reservation and drove around for 15 minutes not knowing where the trailhead is. Finally I found something, pulled on my Rukus pack, opened up my Clif bar for lunch, and headed towards the trail.

Deserted Village

Deserted Village

Immediately, I was walking through the Deserted Village on the Sierra Trail.  I walked through there and hiked about a mile before coming to a clearing leading out to the road. Crap – I went the wrong way on the trail.  That’s why you always need a trail map.  No worries, I hiked back to my starting point and went back on the trail in the opposite direction.

Sierra Trail

Sierra Trail

Conditions were very wet and muddy from the rain in the morning and the constant downpour Saturday night.  Therefore, I elected to wear my Merrell hiking boots over my Inov-8 trailrunners.  Not that the trailrunners couldn’t handle the mud, I am sure they could, but the boot’s Goretex lining was definitely appreciated.  On more than one occasion I walked through leaves which turned out to be a giant puddle of water that my entire foot sunk into.  Luckily the boots kept my feet completely dry and since it was only 50 degrees I didn’t have to worry about my feet sweating a lot in them.  Plus I made sure to wear my lightweight synthetic Bridgedale Coolmax socks which wick sweat extremely well.wpid-20150104_154623.jpg

The other things I wore were my Marmot Scree softshell pants again, which tackled the muddy and wet conditions like a champ.  I see myself wearing them anytime the temperatures hit 55F or lower. On top I wore the Bear Grylls shirt again to test it some more, plus I figured I’d be more comfortable for the day hiking in a synthetic shirt rather than my merino wool one if I happened to get wet from the rain.  I have to say it handled the conditions well keeping me cool when I pushed harder and keeping me warm when the temperatures dropped later in the day.  I carried my Patagonia R1 quarter zip hoodie (which is awesome and deserves its own review) as well as my Patagonia Houdini windshirt with me which I contemplated throwing it on a couple times as the wind cuts right through the synthetic fabric of the Bear Grylls shirt, but the wind never sustained itself long enough to warrant throwing it on.  The windshirt along with my Outdoor Research Helium II rain jacket and OR rain hat remained in the stretchy mesh front pocket of the Rukus the entire trip.

That leads me to talk about the Gossamer Gear Rukus Daypack some more.  Again, I took this on another day hike and again I only filled the main compartment maybe a quarter of the way full.  That’s even with my R1 fleece thrown loosely in.  Granted my windshirt, rain jacket and hat were in the outside mesh pocket, but even that pocket was only about a quarter of the way filled.  That is when I realized I NEED a smaller daypack.  36L is just WAY too much.  So I did order a new pack and it should be coming shortly which I am very excited about and will do a short write up on when it arrives along with a shout out to the manufacturer since they are a little more lesser known.  Nothing against the Rukus and I plan on using it for short backpacking trips so I do very much like it, but just needed something smaller.

Another important thing I wanted to say about the Rukus was during my last post I commented about the one downside was the side pockets.  I stand by saying that they are quite small but let me refine that more: they are narrow, but tall.  Therefore, due to the width not much more than a standard water bottle will fit as it seems to be made specifically for a standard water bottle (still waiting to test if a Gatorade bottle will).  The problem I had the other week was that since the pockets go up to near the top of the water bottle and are only angled slightly it was difficult for me to get the bottle out by reaching back with one arm while hiking.  I had an issue because I was trying to remove the bottle from the top near the cap, but I’ve since learned it is possible and fairly easy actually if you reach further into the pocket and grip the bottle lower.  It also helps to have weight in your pack so that the pack doesn’t move when you pull.  All in all, I take back my previous statement about the side pockets and will edit my other post.  It took some practice but I have since learned how to remove and put back water bottles into the side pockets without a problem.

Now back to the hike…

Section of Trail Close by the Highway

Section of Trail Close by the Highway

The trails there are pretty basic and not much to give a detailed trip report on.  The one downside to Watchung Reservation is that it is in the middle of a fairly residential area which means you do hear car noise as you hike.  In fact there was one stretch of trail that took me alongside a road with a highway on the far side of it.  If you understand that going into the hike you will be better off because it is a good place to hike in central NJ where options are limited.  There’s a lot of different trails there and you could easily spend a day hiking there.  I’d definitely recommend getting a map though as it is very easy to lose track of which trail your on as they overlap and intersect fairly often.  If anyone has any specific questions about Watchung Reservation or wants to know more detail about it just email me and I’d be happy to share more.  For now I think it would be better to let the pictures do the talking.  Happy hiking!

Cheesequake State Park Hike and Gear First Impressions

Beginning of the Trail at Cheesequake State Park in New Jersey

Beginning of the Trail at Cheesequake State Park in New Jersey

Hiking 2 days after Christmas in New Jersey?! Break out the snowshoes and down parkas, right? Actually not quite, as it was remarkably 58 and sunny!  I had to do errands, but I got back from the store and I just knew I had to get outside and do some hiking – it was far too nice out to not take advantage of it.  Plus, I had a whole bunch of new gear to get some first looks at!  After I get some more time in with each item I’ll be doing full reviews of some of the gear, but for now I’ll give you my first thoughts of some things during this trip report.

 

So, it was gorgeous out and I quickly threw some gear into my Gossamer Gear Rukus daypack, which is very misleading by the way.  This “daypack” holds just about 40L when taking into account the mesh pockets, about 30L in the main body alone!!!! I planned on using it as a daypack when I initially ordered it, but I’ve got it and realize I could go on a 3 day trip with this thing which means this will relegate my Gossamer Gear Gorilla to longer trips with heavier weights .  My day hike gear could fill half of this bag or less on a normal day and that’s not accounting for the giant mesh pocket on the front either.  It absolutely swallows gear.  So I’m thinking I’ll be using this on short 1/2 day trips (maybe 3 days) with a light weight.  There are plenty of lash loops along the sides which I’ll wind up lacing a compression system to be able to compress down the pack for smaller gear loads.  I filled it with extra gear on this hike weighing about 6lbs total including water just to see how it would handle it and I barely felt it on my back.  The thin mesh straps are incredibly comfortable, the thin foam back pad might not even be necessary but gives the pack a more stable shape and it doesn’t weigh a lot so I’ll probably keep it.  The inner zippered stash pocket was very useful and worth the weight of an ounce or so in my opinion as it had a good enough size to hold my wallet, keys, and multitool with plenty of more room for other stuff as well.  The only drawback to this pack that I see so far is that the side mesh pockets are very thin.  They seem to be the perfect shape for standard water bottles, and might also hold a Gatorade bottle as they are pretty stretchy, but I didn’t have any to test the fit.  The problem with storing water bottles in them though is that they are not angled much which means I could not take the water bottles in and out of the pockets while hiking. Gossamer Gear claims they are slanted giving the pack this ability but I wasn’t able to just reach back and grab a water bottle very easily at all, but had to take the pack off one shoulder to access them.  Maybe it was just me – not a huge deal to me anyway as I like to have a bladder and wear my water bottles in front of me on the shoulder straps. The pack is so light, about 11oz with the back pad and all of the straps, that it’s very easy to maneuver.  The other odd thing about it is the webbing hip belt. I personally don’t find it necessary on a pack like this unless maybe if you’re trail running (which I do not do so I can’t answer that) but even still when using the hip belt it rode above my belly button.  I believe it states on Gossamer Gear’s website that it is removable so I’m going to just take it off as I have no use for it, but seemed odd to me.

 

Cheesequake State Park Nature Center

Cheesequake State Park Nature Center

Anyways, I got to Cheesequake State Park which I went to because I was short on time with the sun setting so soon now and it is only 20 minutes from my house with short and easy trails.  I decided to do the green trail which is their longest trail there at a disappointingly low 3 miles.

Green Trail

Green Trail

The park was filled with people taking advantage of the weather and it is typically a pretty popular hiking spot for people.  All of the trails are short ranging from 1-3 miles and very well maintained and marked allowing for just about anyone to walk them.  It is not the type of hiking I would typically love to do, but it’s close and quick and couldn’t pass up a chance to get on the trail in December.  Being such a short and easy trail this won’t be much of a trip report as their really just isn’t a whole lot to report.  As far as the trail goes, it is pretty flat as you’re walking through wetlands most of the time so the soil is pretty soft and silty with some sand thrown in.  The state has done a wonderful job of making all of the trails at Cheesequake easy to follow and even include mile markers and information along the way on little posts talking about the local wildlife, plants, etc.  Since you are walking through a lot of swamps their are many times where the park laid down wood walkways to get through the watery sections and even built stairs for people to use on

Wooden Staircase

Wooden Staircase

short, steep areas.  You’re definitely not out in the wilderness here at Cheesequake, but that has some advantages though.  For one, I didn’t have to worry about packing a lot of water or my Sawyer Mini water filter (good thing because there’s no running water there in the winter), and I didn’t worry about taking my first aid kit, repair kit, or survival essentials.  The other good thing is that it allows for a lot of people who don’t do a lot of backpacking or hiking to get outside and get on the trail.  I saw plenty of families, younger people, and older people all taking advantage of the weather and getting outdoors which they typically wouldn’t be able to do hiking up a mountain, but it’s great to see a lot of people outdoors.

 

Open Field Off the Trail

Open Field Off the Trail

Cheesequake State Park Wetlands

Cheesequake State Park Wetlands

As far as other gear is concerned, I wore my new Inov-8 Roclite trail runners and I have to say: I LOVE them.  I had previously always wore Moab waterproof hiking boots, but recently made the switch over to trail runners and I’m not looking back.  First off, they are SO much lighter than my hiking boots it just makes it so much easier to walk in without a pound on each foot.  Second, they have a lot of mesh which makes the shoes breathe which is awesome.  My feet get really sweaty, especially when hiking, and these actually allowed the sweat to be released instead of trapping it in.  Not to mention the mesh allows the shoes to dry very quickly although I haven’t had a chance to test that first hand. But I did go through a good amount of mud on the trail yesterday and the Roclites tackled it like a champ.  I was previously worried about the lack of ankle support and toe protection which boots offer you.  That was just silly of me.  I’ve realized you really don’t need “ankle support” and that it is all in your head.  Not to mention that trail runners are flat out more comfortable than boots.  It was like I was walking on a spring propelling me forward. And toe support? The trail runners delivered in that department. When I did bang my toe against a tree root my foot just bounced off and kept going as if it didn’t happen.  No pain. I barely even felt it.  Plain and simple: if you’re wearing hiking boots switch to trail runners right now. You won’t regret it.

 

Cheesequake State Park Wetlands

Cheesequake State Park Wetlands

The clothes I was wearing were my new Marmot Scree pants which were great.  I wouldn’t want to wear them in any weather warmer than what I was in, but it handled 58 degrees fine and there was no sweating or overheating.  About half way through the hike I undid the ankle zips, which I wish had a mesh lining to breathe more, but it’s the same fabric as the rest of the pants.  Undoing the ankle zips did open up the legs a bit which helped move air and cool me down.  I suppose since the pants are designed for colder weather it makes sense and the fabric did seem to breathe so not a problem.  It is nice and stretchy and seemed plenty tough, but still light enough to breathe and is water repellent.  The zippered pockets are nice and I like having belt loops on my pants.  All in all great pants and I’ll definitely be wearing them in anything less than 60 degree weather.

On top, since I had my Icebreaker Everyday longsleeve quarter zip merino wool shirt in the wash (which is a terrific shirt by the way) I had to find something else to wear and luckily I just picked up a new synthetic long sleeve quarter zip baselayer shirt from the Bear Grylls line.  I typically wouldn’t wear anything Bear Grylls branded, but luckily the logo is small (and not everywhere like a lot of his stuff) and I got it for about $12 if I remember correctly.  My first impressions wearing it are actually pretty positive.  It doesn’t have thumb loops or anything fancy and no polygiene treatment to help with smells, but it seemed to move sweat well and had a tall neck with fairly deep zip that let me went heat very well and control my body temperature.  The chin zipper guard was extremely comfortable, one of the best I’ve seen, as there is a lot of extra fabric so no nasty zipper rash from it rubbing against your neck or chin.  It is definitely heavier than my Patagonia Capilene 2 shirt, although I don’t have a Cap 3 to compare it to.  It did well at 58 degrees though and could go colder or warmer depending on how fast you’re moving.  It definitely doesn’t have the same feel as my as my Patagonia Capilene shirts in terms of the “silkyness” of it and the shirt feels more “synthetic”, but it certainly wasn’t uncomfortable or anything.  Heck, for $12 it was certainly a good deal and I’d recommend it at more than half the price of other big named brand’s baselayers.

 

End of the Trail

End of the Trail

That’s about it for the Cheesequake hike.  If you have any questions about the trail or the gear I mentioned or want to talk about something more in depth feel free to comment or email me and I’ll definitely get right back to you.  Let’s hope for more warm weather to enjoy the outdoors! Happy hiking!

Farewell to London – Hello New Jersey!

20141128_094009-1Hello to everyone and welcome to the NJ Ultralight Backpacker blog. Please visit my “About Me” page to learn a little about me and mainly my inspiration behind starting this blog.

As this is my first post though, I’d like to go into some more recent background on myself to let you know where I stand.  I attend Monmouth University in New Jersey full time and I’m in my third year as a business major.  Boring I know, so in my spare time I strive to be outdoors, especially backpacking which I love.  Obviously, as a backpacker my other passion is traveling and through my studies at Monmouth I have been blessed with the opportunity to study abroad in London, UK since September and I now leave on Saturday December 13th.

Since I have been away I have not been able to go hiking this fall, which is one of my favorite times to go.  So I have spent the last couple of months reading. A LOT. Every blog and forums I could come across to learn as much as possible and crave the backpacking urges.  It is has been immensely helpful in regards to new gear and clothing I’ve ordered as well as reading a lot of the trip reports since I can’t be out there. So when I return home in a couple days I will have plenty of packages to go through and open up and new gear to try out which I am very excited about.  I plan to do write ups on a lot of first impressions of the new gear I got and start putting together some gear lists to be displayed on the blog to show everyone where I am at in terms of weight (as I do like to keep my weight down) and what I am carrying.

Since, I am from New Jersey and it is has awfully cold this year I am anticipating a frigid winter with snow, and I have no experience backpacking in the snow and dealing with the risk involved at those temperatures and conditions.  Hopefully, come March I will be able to start getting out there full time and can put up full reviews and trip reports.

Until then, see ya London. It’s been an awesome experience but I’m looking forward to getting back home and getting on the trail 🙂