The Grand Canyon Expedition

Matt & Katelyn had planned the trip in advance. I got the invite 12 hours before departure. Our friend Rob in the red beanie got the invite even later. 12 hours of driving from California to Arizona’s grandest of canyons. It was a loooooong drive, but so worth it.

Eureka Tent in Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon Prep

The only thing more surprising than the sheer size of the canyon was the fact that there was snow on the ground. Our mild tempered California blood could hardly handle it. We pitched our tents and got the fire roaring ASAP. Rob and I planned on staying up as late as possible so that the long cold night would pass by quickly. The fire tuckered out around 11,  and we spent a solid 30 minutes huddled in the heated bathroom before racing to our sleeping bags. I had a great sleep, Rob had a sound night, Matt slept ok, and Katelyn didn’t bring a ground pad. She has only strong language to describe the night.

Grand Canyon RockIcy Trail Crampons Recommended

On the way down we saw this sign. A guy at the top warned us that the trail was SUPER icy and that we needed to be careful. I imagined us slipping off the trail to plummet to our death. There were a few bits of ice, but overall the trail was neither frosty nor frozen.

Mules on Kaibab Trail

How do you apply for this job? Lead a mule train up and down the canyon! Awesome! The first time they passed by I had to remind myself that this was real life.

ooh aah point Coloradooooo river Kaibab Trail over Colorado River Grand Canyon

When we finally got to the bottom we set up tents in Bright Angel camp. We naively hiked down without a camping permit. Apparently you must get a permit on the rim to reserve a camp spot down at the bottom. Fortunately Ranger Della was amazing. She warned us that we could be ticketed $275 for our error, but because it was the holidays she’d let us slide. She showed us to a campsite, told us to keep our food & plastic in the lockbox, and wished us a nice warm night sleep. Thanks Della!

Phantom Ranch Prices

The second night we hung out at the Phantom Ranch drinking hot cocoa instead of the bathroom. The place opens at 8 and had a huge crowd out front waiting for it to open. Fortunately we got a seat at a table, and stayed until they closed at 10. It felt soooo good to be warm. The guy across from us ordered the steak dinner, but didn’t eat his peas. At $43.68 i wondered how much those peas cost him?Grand Canyon Bathrooms

Bridge over Colorado RiverTonto Trail

Morning at Grand CanyonTaking a break in Grand Canyon

Finishing the Grand Canyon Hike

It took us 5 hours to get to the bottom & 4 hours back to the top. In the end I’d choose going up over down any day. It’s been 7 days since we finished the trip, and my knees are still aching. Regardless the trip was epic, and I’m recommending it to everyone! My advice is to bring plenty of water, plenty of food, and just start walking. And if you aren’t in shape to do the hike I would suggest at least stopping at the top to view the Grand Canyon. It is gorgeous!

If you have questions about the trip, the hike, or just comments in general leave them in the comments below! Thanks for reading!

03 Jan 2014

Review: MSR Miniworks EX Microfilter

MSR Miniworks EX Microfilter

When describing myself and the backpacking I do, I rarely use adjectives such as, “Extreme,” “Ultra,” “Mega,” or “Super Long Distance.” Keep this in mind as you continue reading.

After collecting what I consider to be the essentials of backpacking gear, I realized that a lot of weight that I carried was due to the amount of water I packed. Now, like I said, I don’t consider myself an ultralight backpacker, but since I’m small and love gadgets, I tend to gravitate toward lightweight backpacking gear and I take pride in packing light—whether that be a trip to the mountains or a trip to Europe. So what was the next logical step? Hours of research and reading online reviews, articles, and forums to find the absolute perfect water filter manufactured. The grand conclusion of that time spent was that water filters are like stoves: There are tons of great ones out there, there are some average ones out there, there are some very niche ones out there, and everyone has their opinion of what the best one is. I don’t admit to being an expert. I’m just a normal person, (possibly) like you. So without further ado, here is my average-human’s opinion of the MSR MiniWorks EX Microfilter.

Miniworks Ex Microfilter

Size and Weight 

(1 lb / 456 g) and (2.75 in / 7 cm)

All the numbers can be found on MSR’s website, so I won’t repeat them here. What I have noticed with this filter is that sometimes I find it can be a bit bulky. The arm sticks out a bit and I worry about breaking it off. It never has, but I find myself packing it in such a way to protect it from bumping rocks or away from the sides so I don’t break it when I drop the pack on its side. I haven’t had issues yet, so maybe I’m just a worrier (That’s why my friends call me, “whiskers”). For what it’s capable of, I consider it very light, but for an ultra-lighter…well…I’m not even sure if they drink water, so they’re probably not even reading this.


Again, you can probably find numbers online for how many liters per minute this can pump, but unless you’re being chased by bears and zombies on a regular basis and find yourself needing to pump water at astonishing rates, then the exact number shouldn’t make that big of a difference for you. I’m usually pretty surprised at how quick it can fill up my Nalgene bottle. It’s easy, too! It doesn’t take Hulk arms to use. That reminds me, the threads link up to that common Nalgene water bottle thread, it definitely makes this filter much easier to use if you have a bottle you can screw the filter on to.

It should be noted that this filter does not filter out viruses. It covers protozoa, bacteria, chemicals and toxins, and particulates. This means that it will be perfect for most everywhere in North America. If you’re going somewhere where viruses are an issue, look for something a little more serious.

Disassembled Miniworks Microfilter

Cleaning and Maintenance

Now this part is pretty sweet. The whole thing is field strippable for cleaning and maintenance. It even comes with a scrubber pad. It’s a ceramic filter, so you need to be careful when handling it as it can chip and break. I haven’t had a problem yet, but I’ve read that some people like to buy an extra ceramic filter just in case something happens. Clean the filter after each trip and you should be good to go.

Personal Experience and Conclusion

Depending on the length of the trip and how much water I’ll be able to find, I usually just pack my 3L Camelbak, my 1L Nalgene, and this. I’m alive right now, which proves this system works. I’ve found this filter to be low-maintenance, easy to use, and it makes great tasting water. And I’ve filtered some pretty murky water.

Are there filters out there that are better? Probably. Are there cheaper filters out there? Yes. But if this is in your budget and you need a good, dependable, easy-to-use water filter, I’d highly recommend this one. The MSR MiniWorks EX Microfilter


Do you have any questions about this filter? Did I miss a critical aspect of it? Do you disagree 100% with everything I said? Let’s hear it in the comments.

23 Dec 2013

Transcontinental Racing 2

Here is Episode 2 of  ”Melons, Trucks & Angry Dogs.” Totally captures the spirit and feeling that comes with touring on a bike. The exhaustion, the thrill of new scenery, the joy of the road, and the battle against yourself and the weather. Can’t wait for episode 3! Check out the first video if you haven’t already.

20 Dec 2013

The Patagonia Adventure 1

The Land of Patagonia

All adventures start with a primer. Frodo had Gandalf. Lewis had Clark. Shackleton had his pride. You get the picture.

My friend Zach was my primer. He’d been talking up Patagonia for months, and about how he was planning a trip in early 2014. He was non-stop jabber about how beautiful Patagonia is, how backpacking through Torres Del Paine would be epic, and that this would be the adventure of a lifetime. Our friend Matt bought in, and they asked me to come along. It sounded fantastic, but rumor had it that the price to fly down to Patagonia was really expensive. Like 2 grand expensive. I told them to keep me in the loop, but conciously decided that I wouldn’t go. I was already busy trying to balance work, a girlfriend, and school. I didn’t have time to take two weeks off to romp around South America, and I really did need to save money.

Months past and Zach brought it up again. This time he had found some super cheap tickets on travel site $925  bucks for a round trip from San Francisco to Punta Arenas. Zach was all in, and would be buying the tickets tomorrow. Was I in? I mumbled a maybe.

The next day my girlfriend and I ended things. Brokenhearted I went to Zach’s apartment to drink beer and mope. I had forgotten all about Patagonia. We talked about life and women and relationships, and like the sly dog that ole Zachman is, he brought up Patagonia. He was buying the tickets this very evening. Would I join the crew and venture down to Patagonia for two weeks of glory? OF COURSE.

This is the beginning of our Patagonia adventure.

We leave on March 23rd for two weeks of backpacking, adventuring, and exploring. We’ll backpack through Torres Del Paine on the W trail (which I’ll make a guide for), see big ole glaciers, and have a generally rad time. You can expect a whole treasure of photos, stories, and guides all related to this adventure in the time to come. This is the only the beginning.

Zach said it best after we purchased the tickets. ”Well boys we’ve done it, we have quite an adventure ahead of us.

20 Dec 2013

Adventures Gone Wrong

Dutch Bike

The word adventure has gotten overused. For me, when everything goes wrong, that’s when adventure starts

-Yvon Chouinard

Sir Chouinard would probably have a few words about Subtle Adventures, and perhaps, how they’re not the real deal & that’s ok. But I have agree with him that it’s when things go wrong that the adventure shifts into gear. It’s the unplanned events that separate the adventurers from those who are not. I’ve been on a handful of adventures gone “wrong.” Some worst than others. There was the recent trip up to Junipero Serra Peak where we realized a mile in that the water we carried was the only water we’d have for the trip. We deliberated on whether to continue or not, whether it was safe to hike up there on limited water, and we went for it. Sure it was miserable and we were cotton mouthed the whole way, but it made the trip more adventurous.

Or there was the time I bought a 50 euro bike from a flea market. The bike was trashed and had some real failures. No brakes, the seat would fall off, and a super loose chain. I decided I’d load it up, and ride it from Amsterdam to Paris. One mile into the trip I realized that this was all wrong, that there was no way I was going to be able to maintain all the luggage I had strapped to the handlebars, backseat, and beyond. The adventure could have ended right there. But instead I began tossing my supplies. Less food, less clothes, books, shampoo, and socks would have to go. I set them on the curb and the adventure continued (or began if you’re more like Chouinard).

Whatever adventure you’re planning remember that things will go wrong and not according to plan. It’s inevitable, but hold fast and keep going forward. It may be overwhelming in the moment, but it’ll be a great story when you see it to its end.

17 Dec 2013

The Open Solitude

A Bicycling Road

One of the joys of hiking, cycling, surfing is the solitude. In a time where we have constant connection with 100s of people  all the time there is a relief found in those times where we find the lineup in the surf empty, or come across a road uninhabited, a lone trail in the woods. There’s no one to converse with, no responsibility begging our attention, it’s just you and the great openness, and this is a good good thing.

16 Dec 2013

Transcontinental Racing

The Transcontinental Race is 3100km long and crosses through 14 european countries. This is part 1 of the adventures of Recep and Erik as they participate in this awesome bicycling adventure.

My favorite line “physically he cannot do Istanbul, but he is so stubborn….and he’s got a big cycling heart. So that’s gonna save him.

14 Dec 2013

Santa Cruz Castle Rock Climbing

Tony Belaying

Castle Rock in Santa Cruz. Beautiful short hikes to great climbs. I looked for castle-like rock formations, but didn’t see any. In fact most of the climbs had bizarre names that shared no resemblance to their pseudonym. The all around favorite climb of the day was “goat rock” which was an ABSOLUTE blast. Climbing is a feat of skill and bravery, and Goat Rock tested both. At one point in the climb you have to turn away from the wall, and lean out of a cave for a hold (the photo below shows the cave area). Integrity was on the line and so I did it, but I still get butterflies thinking about it. An adventurous climb indeed! Enjoy the photos!The fearless one killing it

Climbing Shoes of a Champion

Getting up that rock      Ryan taking the route less taken

The Crew at Castle Rock

Tony Goat Rock

13 Dec 2013

The Progression of a Road Cyclist

Progression of the Road Cyclist

  1. Get an old bike. Start riding around town.
  2. Start riding longer distances, ride for exercise.
  3. Switch out your jeans for gym shorts.
  4. Go for a group ride with friends. Become envious of their speed.
  5. Get a faster bike with foot baskets.
  6. Start wearing a bike jersey.
  7. You begin to marvel at roads, and can have a legitimate conversation about the quality of local roads.
  8. Start riding most weekends. The desire for more speed increases.
  9. Buy a faster bike with pedal clips. Invest in cleats.
  10. Start riding weekends, weekdays, and most general free time.
  11. Buy your first pair of spandex shorts.
  12. You are now a real deal road cyclist.
12 Dec 2013

Essential Camping Gear. Part 1

Essential Camping Gear

Part of what I love about camping is all the fun gear that you get to use. When else do you get to use a water filter or test out that sweet headlamp?  Some items are brought for survival, others are simple joys that we bring along for comfort, but every piece is intentional. I love to place everything out on the floor prior to the trip, and look it over to make sure I have everything I will need. After a solid year of laying all my gear out on the floor and going on many trips, here are the items that I couldn’t do without.

102 Buck Knife

A knife, because c’mon you are outside. There could be an attacking beast that must be fought or a can of tuna that needs to be opened or a stick that could use a good whittling and a knife would be totally useful to have in any of these situations. I have a good collection of knives, but lately I’ve been bringing along a fixed blade Buck Knife. Sharp as hell and perfect for all camping needs. I’ve used this blade to skin a deer (seriously), to slice cheese, and to even cut through some old beer cans. To make this knife even more rad, it came with a sheath that you can attach to your belt. Nothing says cool like a knife on your hip.

I was converted to wool socks this year, and have been preaching their warmthy (is that a word?) goodness ever since. The days of cold feet are gone. I’m not kidding when I say wool socks are one of the best things to happen to me this year. They are the now the only socks I bring on camping trips. Seriously, just get a pair and be uhhhhmazed.

Eureka Apex Tent

Unless it’s summer and the air is warm you’ll probably be bringing a tent. I used to have one of those instant pop-up tents that resembled a large frisbee, and could spring into tent-mode in seconds. Although it was convenient when I needed a tent set up immediately it was extremely difficult to carry around or attach to a backpack. Eventually the framing broke, and since than I have been using a Eureka Apex Tent, and have been more than satisfied. It’s a good fit for two people (bags can fit), but a small kingdom for one. Plenty of areas to store stuff and easy to set up. Plus the orange is a good look.

Planet Bike 3 LED bike light

Flashlight. I’m actually in the search for a cheap powerful light, but this past year I’ve been using this Planet Bike Beamer LED Bike Light that detaches from my handlebars. Long battery, not a crazy strong beam, but enough light to be useful.

Pinole 20 Sleeping Bag

The Pinole 20 Degree Synthetic Sleeping Bag. Cozy, light, compact, and the case can be filled with a sweater and used as a pillow. I’ve been using this thing for a couple years now, and have zero complaints. It keeps me warm on cold nights and that’s all a boy can ask for.

I always bring reading material and a journal. To be honest most trips don’t have enough down time to read or write, but I like to feel like Hemingway and so I lug the books around. I usually bring my bible & moleskin journal. In the fluke chance that there are some moments in which nothings really happening, I can journal down some thoughts or do some reading.

Talking around the campfire

I think I’m the only guy who brings a chair with him on his camping & backpacking trips. Most guys find a log to sit on or something. This thing is light and more comfortable than the ground. I shove it down the side of my pack, and it’s worked great. Every man needs a good stool right?

Well this wraps up part 1 of the essential camping gear you need for a great adventure. Expect another list in the near(ish) future. What do you bring on camping or backpacking trips? What’s something unique that you carry on your trips? Tell me about your gear down in the comments.

10 Dec 2013