View Full Version : Smokies Trip / Gear Report

08-15-2010, 22:44
As many may know I got to go to the Smokies this weekend for an overnight trip. I stayed at the shelter atop Mt LeConte (the Smokies 3rd highest mountain by about 50 ft) for the third time this year. This mountain is what caught my interest in backpacking about a year and a half ago now. When i heard about the lodge on top of this mountain and that I had to actually hike to get to it, I was as good as hooked! So, while I have not stayed at the actual lodge, I have now logged 3 nights at the shelter and spent quite a bit of time lounging around the actual lodge. (In January I even got to go in and have a cup of joe with the caretaker when the lodge was actually closed.)

So, anyway, what was new for me on this trip was a lot of the gear that I got to carry as well as the hike down the Alum Cave Trail. (Up to this point I always hiked up the trail and then kept going, so it was very interesting hiking back down the trail.) I posted a video on the gear that I carried for this trip which can be seen here on my blog:


Now that I am back, I have written up a trip / gear report. Rather than reposting all the pictures and the links the report can be seen here:


Thanks to everyone who commented and helped me with making decisions about my gear. I had a great trip and I would be lying if I didn't say that the gear played a large part in that!

Thanks guys (and gals)!

Hikes in Rain
08-16-2010, 08:32
Great report, Stick, thank you for posting it. Sounds like you had a wonderful time, with the exception of view-obstructing weather, but that's the Smokies for you. I also liked your gear reviews. I've been doing some upgrading, so that's helpful.

08-16-2010, 10:12
Nice report. One small critisism about your blog, though. The black text is very hard to read on that background pic.

08-16-2010, 16:58
Thanks Hikes In The Rain for the comment. I have really grown fond of Backpacking even though I don't get to get out near as much as I would like so I try to make the best of every trip I get to get out on... And I must say that this has been one of the best ones, partly due to the light weight / super comfy gear that I carried. Speaking of which, I feel like I am on the road to being a gear junkie too.... Anyway, I love hanging out in these forums too, there is so much info here, so I do my best to try to add to it.

Flemdawg, Thanks for checking it out as well. But I am a little confused about your statement. There is no text on the background pic. All the text is in the middle on the white paste board.

08-16-2010, 17:07
STICK,Give me aheads up on your next trip to the smokies!How was the weather?Its getting that time of yr.to start hiking/backpacking.Thanks for the post.HS

08-16-2010, 18:01
Flemdawg, Thanks for checking it out as well. But I am a little confused about your statement. There is no text on the background pic. All the text is in the middle on the white paste board.

Not seeing a white paste board, just the pic of trees and a campsite. It's pretty dark and the black text gets lost. I have to highlight the text (as if going to cut/paste) to view it. I'm using IE7.

08-16-2010, 19:16
Checking it at home now, it looks fine.

08-16-2010, 20:21
Cool. Thanks for that info though. I use Firefox for everything so I never thought about what other browsers may do to it. Thanks.

08-16-2010, 21:57
Oh yeah, athome I use Flock.

08-16-2010, 22:05
Flock you! ;)

08-16-2010, 22:48

Nice report. Here's something you may want to try, become a GSMNP 900 miler. Here's the link http://www.900miler.com/. I've just started the task myself, came across one buck, one red wolf, three bears, one two time 900 miler, and 4 Belgiums. Never a dull moment.

08-17-2010, 10:16

What a great trip! Good review and nice site you have.
I liked the REI pack you used. I dont have a pack in 25L range.
I have one smaller (19-20L) and a few larger (32L, 40L, 50L & 68L).
I am considering ordering that pack, especially since it's on closeout for $29.93.
REI doesnt list the waist belt's size. Could you measure the pack's waist belt and post it here. I'll probably order it anyway, my 3 year-old can use it in the future.

Again, nice reviews.


08-17-2010, 13:46

Next time you want to go up LeConte, try starting at Newfound Gap. Take the AT to The Boulevard and then on to LeConte. We have done that and it was a blast. {Well, except for when we did it just this past June and the last mile up LeConte was in a drving T-storm! :eek:} My son and I are getting ready to do a 3 day over in the Gregory Bald / Thunderhead region. Another area worth having a look at. Very nice report & blog. Keep it up!

08-17-2010, 20:12
SMSP, I am very happy with the pack, and the price point was very swaying... I am not sure how you measure the hip belt so I laid the pack on the floor and stretched the hip belt straps out completely and then measured from one end of the straps, across the pack to the other end of the strap and it measured ~ 56" long. If it helps any I wear a 34 / 36 in pants and the hip belt is plenty long enough to go around me. Also, just to let you know, the hip belt is actually just a 1.5" nylon strap. There is no padding anywhere on the hip belt.

sevensixtwo187, this is the third time I have been to LeConte this year. The first time was 441 to Alum Cave -> Boulevard -> AT -> Dry Sluice -> Grassy Branch -> Kephart Prong -> 441. The second time was with my son (8 yrs old) 441 -> Alum Cave -> Boulevard -> AT -> Newfound Gap. Then of course this last time was up Alum Cave and then back down. I enjoyed the Boulevard, however this June when we went it was grown over a lot. Some of the stuff was hitting my son in the face... It was much different from when we were there in January and it was covered in snow and ice.

I have not been to Greogrys Bald yet, and I am planning on doing a thru of the Smokies this October so I will get to Thunderhead. Heard it is a beautiful place, and a tuff hike up!

08-17-2010, 20:31
Stick ...
Well, you certainly know The Boulevard then!:D I have to agree with you. The last time we were on it {June} I thought it could use some work.

08-17-2010, 21:52
Stick, thanks for the measurement, looks like plenty of room for my bulging waistline.
I placed the order earlier and should be here next Wed. Also ordered a trekking pole.

Man, I cant wait to get to the Smokies. In the meantime, I am planning to backpack The Black Creek trail here locally this Fall/Winter.


08-17-2010, 22:10
That 900 miler that Roche posed about would be awesome to do. I will have to look into that.

I love going to the Smokies. I wish I were closer, however I will take what I can get! Looking forward to going back in October. must say though that I will be happy to be heading up a different trail. Alum cave is beautiful, but I am ready to see other parts of the park.

08-20-2010, 15:30
Wow! Placed an order on 8/17/2010 around 3PM. The estimated arrival date was 8/25/2010. My order arrived today, 8/20/2010, before 3PM. Even though the return address has their WA state location, my order must have been shipped from somewhere else. Anyway, wherever REI shipped it from, that as fast!


08-21-2010, 01:11
Yep, I must hand it to REI for fast shipping. When I place an order it usually takes a day to process, ships the next and is at my door 2 days after. So 4 days total from the time I hit the button. Not bad.

So, what you think of the pack?

08-21-2010, 21:36
I had this pack shipped to my office. Since I rec'd it Friday afternoon, the first thing I did was take it out and go thru all the pockets and gave it a good lookover. I am impressed with the pack. It will get lots of use. The waist belt was fine. The bladder pouch is mesh, thats a nice feature. There is no need for a bladder pouch to be of a solid material. For the weight of the pack, no other packs I looked at in this size range came close. All others were at 2lbs and more, which included Mountain Hardware, Gregory, etc...

The from pouch has nice pockets for organizing. The feature of the loop on the bottom of the pack being able to tuck it away in a pocket is kinda neat, but I dont see it being practical. All my packs have some type of loops on the outside and if I dont used them, it hasnt been a big deal of letting them hang where they are. The side mesh pockets are roomy. The waist has no padding, but this pack should reman light when loaded and padding really isnt necessary IMO. The shoulder straps are nicely padded. Each shoulder strap has attachment points above and below the sternum strap, those will come in handy for my stick pic, pack towl, GPS, or whatever gadget/gizmo I need to attach on the shoulder straps. Speaking of the sternum straps, which agjust up/down on a slider. The back of the pack has some padding and looks like it will offer some form of frame board. There were two colors choices. One a red/gray/black and the other gray/black. I dont like flashy packs. Even though the red doesnt look real bright, I chose the gray/black. A forest green/tan combo would be nice or some other earth tone combo. I already own a Flash 65, and like it, this new pack is well made. The zipper pulls are nicely accented on their tips (looks like white) for easy location. This pack will be used primariliy for day hiking. I am going to experiment with using it on an overnight trip on a local trail with my ENO hammock system. I dont think I would have bought at $59, but at $30, I am glad I did.


08-21-2010, 23:23
SMSP, hey, thanks for pointing out a couple of things I did not even realize about the pack. Now that you mention them, I remember them. I completely forgot about the pocket for the hanging loop and I did not realize the tiny elastic straps below the sternum strap. I used the tiny loops above the sternum strap to hang my MSR packtowel on and threaded my Camelbak hose through that. It worked great.

Also, the back is padded, but for the trip I used it on I decided to put a piece of blue foam against the back to ensure a bit more stability / structure. That worked out great and the small piece of foam weighed about 1.5 oz. It also severed as a sit pad once at camp.

Also, I had some issues using my water bladder in the pack. The bottom was a little tight with my quilt and extra clothing and it put pressure on the water bladder. (I only filled the bladder with 40 - 50 oz of water rather than 100.) Anyhoo, this pressure pushed the valve on the bottom of the bladder against the back wall of the the bladder and made drinking challenging at times. I would occasionally blow air back into the bladder to expand it slightly so that I could drink from it easier.

I agree with you on the pack though. I really am happy with it. I am super happy I paid the $30, but am not sure I would have paid full price. Simply because full price is closer to some other nicer day packs in close to the same price range. I would say $30 is a right fair price for the pack. And of course there is always the REI warranty.

Glad you like the pack. I plan on taking mine on another day hike with my son next weekend. Looking forward to it!