Backpacker Radio #53: The Ultimate Backpacker Holiday Gear Wish List

Howdy hikers!

If some of you are looking for some good hiker gifting ideas, I got to share a couple of my favs with Backpacker Radio in their Ultimate Backpacker Holiday Gear Wish List. If you didn’t catch my podcast with them from this summer, head on over and give it a listen.

I have more suggestions that I’ll mention below, but for the podcast I could only pick 2! And preferably from brands that I’m not sponsored by, so I’ll cover a few of those below 🙂

#1 Gortex Socks

Why hike in freezing wet shoes?


#2 Purple Rain Adventure Skirts

You have to try one of these skirts (dudes love them too). This is how you will feel wearing one of Mandy’s skirts:


A few other of my favorite things:


This polished long-handled spoon is SO beautiful.


Six Moon Designs

The Silver Shadow Sun Umbrella is a blessing because sometimes you need to bring your shade with you (it works in rain and snow too).

Wander Woman Pee Rag

Drip drying sucks.

Photo from

Planetary Designs French Press mug

Life is too short to drink bad coffee. (with a couple other favs: Sawyer’s Mini water filter, and TOAKS woodburning stove)

Food for the Sole

Eat good…so much yum in my tum (on the TOAKS spoon!).

I really love all my gear, and instead of listing it all, head on over to my gear list and check it out!

Wear the Oregon Desert Trail

Since I’ve started working on the Oregon Desert Trail (almost 4 years ago!!!), I’ve wanted to make some shirts or hoodies for the trail. After running the shirt and swag company, hikertrash, for a few years, I knew how much time and energy went into ordering, shipping, figuring out popular colors and sizes…it was a lot of work.

From the years I ran hikertrash:

So when Ultralight Jerk created a fundraiser earlier this year to sell some of their shirts to benefit the Oregon Desert Trail and it raised over $2,000, I started paying attention! There are multiple websites out there now that will do the work of printing and shipping shirts and other things when you upload a design, and I really liked the process over at Bonfire, so I decided to finally make some ODT stuff for sale.

Each of the 4 designs has options between tshirts, long sleeve shirts and hoodies, and a variety of colors to choose from.

The promotion ends in 19 days, and will ship on December 3, just in time for gift giving (even if it’s a gift to yourself).

All can be found here and sales will go to benefit the Oregon Desert Trail.

pronghornclassic odtodt multi sportget ONDA trail

A Summer of Stewardship

About the time the leaves fall from the trees and the first snow or two has hit the mountains, I am again astounded at how fast the year has passed. Granted I’m looking forward to ski season and the slower pace of the fall and winter months, but where did the year go?


Oh wait! We went skiing last weekend for the first time this year. Exciting!

I didn’t get to any big thru-hikes this year (Sad), but I did get to do quite a bit of hiking, some paddling, a good amount of rafting, a lot of car camping, completed one short thru-hike, and lead a bunch of stewardship trips on the Oregon Desert Trail.

Ok, not too bad of a year I guess.

Kirk and I took 5 days to hike the 40-mile Timberline Trail (5 days!). We dillied and dallied our way around Mt. Hood. Took naps and got late starts to the days. It was wonderful.

We also circumnavigated Broken Top with my good pal Cindy (my Appalachian Trail hiking partner) and her friend Peter.

But the majority of my time was spent leading trail work trips with volunteers. So rewarding. Here’s a quick photo journey into those trips this year.

Fremont National Recreation Trail (and ODT) Work

Steens Mountain Wilderness Trail (and ODT) Work in Big Indian Gorge

Steens Mountain Wilderness Trail (and ODT alternate) Work in Little Blitzen Gorge

Fremont National Recreation Trail (and ODT) Work for National Public Lands Day

I also joined the Oregon Timber Trail (a long-distance bike route in Oregon that has been developing about the same time as the Oregon Desert Trail) for two trail work projects in the Fremont-Winema National Forest on sections that diverge from ODT route in the area.

Oh, and did some hiking and scouting for trails in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

It’s pretty rewarding to be able to put these hours into improving our trails. I may not have hiked as much as I would have liked (is anything less than 1,000 miles on a long trail a year satisfying? not really), but doing so much trail work comes pretty close.



When I began to develop the Oregon Desert Trail, one of the important tasks I started to undertake was to connect with some of the private land owners who had parcels on or near the route. While the ODT is primarily on public land, I wanted the people living near it to know who these homeless-hippy types were that they might encounter in the middle of the desert.

County data shows where the private land is, and when I found my favorite app, GaiaGPS, offered a private land layer, I discovered I could easily research who owned what along the route.

Most of the 200-miles of the ODT in the Owyhee Canyonlands region is public land, but I discovered a few small pieces of private in there. When I was researching one particular plot in the West Little Owyhee River near the main confluence of the river, I discovered the owner, David Rumsey, was a big-time map collector. So big in fact, that he had a map library at Stanford University named after him. Wow. I contacted David to give him an update on what I was doing with the ODT, and he responded…offering that hikers were welcome to pass through his land to access the river, and even camp there if they needed. (Note: I’ve been finding a lot of generous land owners along the route who offer hikers access to important resources like water and camping on their private land)

David also explained that he got lost in the Owyhees in the 1970s and it completely changed his life.

I wrote up a story for ONDA’s blog about David’s experience, and I think you might enjoy it too:

An Owyhee Mis-Adventure Inspires Life-Long Mission

When a young David Rumsey’s car broke down in the far reaches of the Owyhee Canyonlands in the late 1970s, he didn’t have any of the devices we’ve come to rely on today. No GPS, no smart phone, no satellite locator beacon.

Rumsey had a map, but at the time the USGS 1:250,000 scale only outlined the vaguest of features. Nearly a decade would pass before a detailed USGS map of this remote area would be published. He had to walk out, unaware of the deep canyon walls and boulder-choked rapids that loomed between him and rescue.

“The nearest habitation was fifty miles ahead of me but only reachable by walking through a roadless wilderness, following the road back out would have meant walking almost twice as far, so I chose the more direct, though uncharted path,” Rumsey explained in the forward to his 2002 book, The History of the American West in Maps.

“It is daunting to look out over a fifty-mile vista and realize that one’s life depends on dead reckoning and that the route one takes is based mostly on hope. Walking those miles was the most frightening event in my life and my closest brush with death. As I stumbled late at night through the silently beautiful landscape, I gained an admiration verging on awe for the explorers who had had no maps at all to guide them.”

The arduous four-day excursion to find his way out of this remote corner of the high desert turned out well in the end. It also ignited a passion.

When detailed maps of the Owyhee region were finally available in the mid-1980s, Rumsey “…filled an entire wall with 1:24000 maps so I could visually re-walk my escape whenever I liked and see the location of my rescue. Maps became the mnemonic devices I used to recall the uncharted wilderness that had changed my life.”

Over the next 25 years, Rumsey collected upwards of 150,000 maps. Many of these maps focused on the American West including early non-Native explorer’s maps of the western territories, maps created by trappers, military expeditions and scientific surveys. His quest to visualize the deep canyons of that experience led him to amass one of the largest map collections in the country.

Today, many of Rumsey’s maps can be found on his free digital portal to the collection, the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection or at Stanford University where they are housed at the David Rumsey Map Center in the Stanford Library. He is also collaborating with the Library of Congress on the map division of its American Memory website.

When a reporter from The San Francisco Chronicle asked him Why?, Rumsey responded, “Some people might think [historical maps are] an arcane subject, but I disagree. Everyone can relate. Everyone is curious about where they live. And every map is like a little snapshot of history; each is a visual history.”

In this case, a visual history that started in Oregon’s remote and iconic Owyhee Canyonlands.

David Rumsey has since purchased a piece of land in the Owyhee region along the Oregon Desert Trail near 5 Bar, the confluence of the West Little Owyhee and main Owyhee river, and generously offers passage through his land to ODT hikers in the area. We are jealous of his view.

Story by ONDA’s Oregon Desert Trail Coordinator Renee Patrick.

This photo of 5 Bar taken by Devin Dahlgren graced the cover of ONDA’s 2019 Wild Desert Calendar. 

Backpacker Radio Podcast Interview

I first met Zach (author of Appalachian Trials – and website which has since become The Trek) back in 2015 at the Winter OR Show. He was getting started on estabishing his thru-hiking media empire and I was with the Continental Divide Trail Coalition (CDTC) as their first hiking ambassador (before my 2015 CDT thru-hike), and to help them find partners to develop the trail.


hehe, I bet he didn’t think this photo would surface 🙂

Since then he started a podcast called Backpacker Radio, and has been asking me to participate. Our schedules aligned this summer when I went to the Outdoor Retailer show again, this time in Denver, and we sat down and went deep. Really deep, over 20 years into my history as a hiker and adventurer. It was a great conversation, and you can give it a listen here or here:

Paddling Anxiety

Anxiety. I’m not normally an anxious person, but paddling rivers can bring those feelings up out of the depths of my normal confident nature.

I recently found myself telling a friend that I Iike to paddle rivers in spite of the rapids, not because of them. Maybe this is because I came to rivers in my 30’s, a bit more hesitant to pick up a new extreme sport, or maybe it’s because rivers hold more consequences than trails.

Learning to read a river is like learning to read a new language. Where do you want to put yourself in a river with potential hazards like holes, strainers, undercut rocks and log jams? The risks are bigger and the consequences can end your adventurous life in a second.

But meeting Kirk, an experienced Class V whitewater boater (and guide), was probably the only way I would have approached this new sport. Through Kirk I was able to start learning the language and trust him in the water.

It was been fun and exhilarating, and I love broadening my skill set.

I’m not comfortable in a hardshell kayak… not comfortable upside-down under water, but with the advent of packrafts (lightweight inflatable kayaks) I’ve enjoyed our paddling adventures all over the Pacific Northwest.

I have seen a change in my comfort levels. The first few years I would start many of our trips white knuckled and tense, afraid to make a mistake and swim out of my boat, but I would see Kirk and his friends approach the trips very differently. Instead of a mine-field of potential hazards, they saw a playground full of features to try out moves, surf the waves, and have fun. Could I get to that point where I saw fun instead of angst?

It is so empowering to paddle a section of river that will challenge your skills and be successful, but every time I feel like I’m being put to the test, me against the river. I’ve done some big trips, successfully paddling Class IV rapids, and solo packrafted the 140-mile water alternate to the Oregon Desert Trail on the Owyhee River, but lately we’ve spent more time on rivers I’ve become comfortable with, and I find myself entering that place of enjoyment instead of dread.

There is still that little voice in my head that berates myself for taking the easy way out and not rising to the challenge. I don’t know how to quiet that voice entirely, but I’ve gotten better at not listening to it. Why are we our own worst critics?

So this weekend we paddled a section of the North Umpqua River that I’ve paddled 20 times before, the same section we paddled yesterday in fact! Today I’m going to marvel at the blue-green water, do some more river snorkeling (my new favorite thing in clear river waters) and leave the white knuckling for another day.

River Love

One of the best antidotes after a week filled with people is to get outside. I spent last week in Denver for the Outdoor Retailer show, representing the Oregon Desert Trail, ONDA, and thru-hiking in general. (I talked TRAIL SO HARD). So many good things came out of the week, but being “on” all the time comes with consequences. I’m drained.

So to the river!

Watching water flow in nature is one of my recoup strategies. It’s as simple as that. Throw in some adventure, and bam! I’m back to new in no time.

In honor of our river trip today, please enjoy this flash back to a similar trip on the North Umpqua River a few years ago when Kirk and I R2’d his raft.

…And this one is another one of my favorite river adventures of all time…

Talking Trail

I had the opportunity to participate in a podcast with the Salem Statesman Journal in Oregon with their Outdoors writer Zach Urness. Give a listen here:

And you will be excited to hear the Ultralight Jerk sale I posted about recently raised over $2,200 for the ODT! Thanks to those of you out there who bought shirts! The sale is going on for another 5+ days, so there’s still a chance to score a cool shirt.

One more item, as a Gerber “Badassador” and a thru-hiker, they asked me to participate in the Backcountry Hunters and Angelers Hike to Hunt Challenge this summer.

I’ll be hiking miles to help raise money for the organization. The website isn’t updating properly, but I already have 34 miles logged for the challenge! Are you interested in donating to my challenge? Check out more here and search for my name.


Oh, and I’ll be in Denver next week for the Outdoor Retailer show! Will you be there? Come say hi at the TOAKS booth in the afternoons, I’ll be talking a bit about the ODT at 2pm each day and raffling off some TOAKS goodies.

Cut Toothbrushes Not Switchbacks

Ultralight Jerk is a social media account that likes to poke fun at the ultralight backpacking community through their accounts, but in a very un-jerky move, they decided to donate the proceeds of their “Cut Toothbrushes Not Switchbacks” shirts to ONDA and the Oregon Desert Trail! In just over a day they’ve raised almost $1,000 for us. Impressive! There are 12 days left of the fundraiser, so head on over to, get a shirt and help support our conservation and recreation efforts.


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Spring Basin Hike Inventory


We’ve been out on a variety of adventures over the past few months: rafting a section of the John Day River with friends, hiking in the Badlands Wilderness (doing part of the Badlands Challenge), and I spent a long weekend in Arizona /New Mexico for the Continental Divide Trail Kickoff in Silver City last month. Kirk and I also spent a few days backpacking in the Spring Basin Wilderness so I could scout the area for my first ONDA volunteer trip of the year.



A very invasive weed Dalmatian toadflax. Beautiful but no good.


The Spring Basin Wilderness is surrounded by the John Day River on two sides near the small blip of a town, Clarno. It is also a short sightline away from that infamous former cult site of the Rajneeshees. All cults aside, it is a beautiful small mountainous area that is absolutely covered in flowers in the Spring, and it just happens to be 10 years old as a wilderness area (thanks ONDA!). I would be leading this first trip of its kind to talk more at length about hiking off trail (there are no trails in Spring Basin… Just a few old 2-track roads that have almost disappeared), discussing responsible recreation, and hiking a series of routes to document some loop hiking options for the BLM to potentially publish in the future.

As most of eastern Oregon lacks trail systems, hiking off trail is often the only way to explore an area, so why not spend some time trying to help some folks get more comfortable with it? It could only lead to future adventures.

I drove down to the area on Thursday night, slowly navigating the curves of the highway amidst a thunderous lightening storm. Flashes struck on all sides (the rain could have been described as torrential) and at one point hail covered the road in white. Oh joy… What a start to the trip! I slept in the car at the trailhead, and by morning all was calm and the lightshow from the night before had moved on.

The plan was to meet my 11 volunteers at noon, but even though this wilderness was called Spring Basin, there was no reliable water to be found. I loaded up my backpack with 4 gallons of water, grabbed a shovel (for digging a group latrine) and hiked in the 1ish mile to a camp spot I had scouted on the previous trip.

The climb up into Spring Basin is a brisk 800’ of elevation gain in 1 mile, and if that won’t get your blood flowing I don’t know what will! Almost as good as coffee.

Morning mission accomplished, I hiked back to the car to wait for the volunteers to arrive from around the state. By noon we were sitting in camp chairs and orienting ourselves with maps, then with maps and compass, then with gps devices. In a place like Spring Basin, it is fairly easy to orient yourself without any extra devices as the views are extensive. We loaded up packs and hoofed it into our camp spot with lots and lots of water on our backs.


The volunteers were a mix of thru-hikers, section hikers, avid photographers who often go off trail for that perfect shot, and some folks new to off-trail hiking and navigation. All in all, a good mix of skill levels, experiences to share, and a willingness to learn.

That night we talked all about responsibly recreating in an area with no trails or no infrastructure… a lot of the best practices revolve around responding appropriately to the terrain and conditions, making good decisions, and trying to travel with respect for intact habitats and those that live in them.





Saturday we broke up into four groups and each hiked a loop of sorts through the wilderness. The rain came back, and we tried to celebrate with the cupcakes I had packed in to celebrate the wilderness birthday, but rain blew out the candles, and my packing job smushed the frosting. They still tasted good after a day of hiking, and we toasted with a couple small boxes of wine I had packed out for the occasion.

A long night of rain had us hunkering in our tents, but a brief reprieve in the morning provided a dry hour for breakfast and packing up.


A few of us hit the Antelope Café for coffee and pie on the way home, and helped to bring the fun weekend to a close! I hope to do more trips of these kind in the future…in the high deserts of Oregon the best exploring is off-trail.