3 Ways to Avoid Gear Failure

As a gear shop along the Appalachian Trail, we have folks pop in all the time to ask about a failed piece of gear. “Can it be fixed? If it can’t, what can I get that will be more reliable this time?” We always do our best (and a few of us are actually really decent at and enjoy trying) to fix whatever may land in front of us. Trekking poles are common and typically are straight forward. They are either broken for good or most likely just need a deep cleaning to function properly. Packs are common as well and the culprit is usually a faulty buckle or strap. We do our best to come up with a mate for it and have even gone as far as to sew it on for folks.

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Many times, a trekking pole that will no longer lock tight just needs to be taken apart and cleaned of any dust, rust and debris that has collected inside of it.

But if we are realistic, we hate seeing these failures. Sometimes it is the result of overly loved items that are coming by their failure due to honest use. Every now and then the failure is due to misuse of the item, like putting far too much weight into a pack, causing strain and stress on key structural points. Other times it is a result of plain, old, cheap gear. This is the most upsetting sort of gear failure because the owner feels as if they did not get the expected life of the product out of it before it left them hanging out to dry somewhere along the trail.

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Putting too much weight into your backpack can cause certain points of the pack to start taking too much pressure and strain, resulting in a failure of the pack.

Thankfully for avid backpackers everywhere, there are a few ways to easily avoid gear failure. There is nothing worse than when you are days away from your next town stop and a majorly important piece of gear like a pack or tent fails on you. When backpacking, you are so reliant on the gear you carry. Not to mention that fixing items with just what you have in your pack can sometimes be difficult. Here are a few ways to avoid gear failure and be prepared for it if it does arise.

1. Buy High Quality Gear

Fly Creek UL 3 Tent with Fly 2-zm

The easiest way to avoid unwarranted gear failure is to buy a good product to begin with. The backpacking gear world is full of small businesses creating gear for the love of living an outdoor lifestyle, not for a quick buck. Some of these companies have become mammoths in the eyes of thru hikers and avid backpackers because they make a such good product. Think Big Agnes, the most popular tent on all of the AT; ULA, the second most popular pack on all of the AT, every pack of which is hand sewn in America! (No wonder they hold up so well!) But no one or nothing is absolutely perfect. When one of these companies does have a reported failure, they stand behind that product and act in a timely manner to help out the customer. Working in the outdoor industry and being big time backpackers ourselves, we hear the occasional stories of broken packs and tents or parts from these companies (and several others) where hikers have been mailed replacement parts or replacement gear while on trail! So be smart and help set yourself up for success by investing smartly in your gear. The old adage “You Get What You Pay For!” has never been so true as in a sport where you consistently execute major wear and tear on your gear everyday.

2. Treat Your Gear Well

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Once you have saved your money, done your research and purchased that high quality piece of gear that will become the basis of your survival on trail, you must commit to treating it well. If the fabric of your sleeping bag gets stuck in the zipper, don’t yank it out, gingerly extract it. When setting up your tent, be sure to pick a good area, not a patch of rocky land or a cluster of thistle and briars. Make sure you are aware of the recommended base weight for your backpack and the max load it is meant to carry. Going over this rating becomes more of a recipe for disaster as time passes. Check the floor of a shelter for protruding nails or other sharp debris before placing an inflatable sleeping pad down. Generally speaking, be responsible and think about your gear and what is best for it! Just a little bit of forethought can save you so much grief on trail.

3. Use Preventative Measures

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Over a 6 month, 2,000+ mile trail, things will definitely begin to breakdown a little bit. Replacing or fixing gear is just a part of thru hiking. You will probably go through several pairs of shoes and multiple shirts but you should’t have to go through several packs or tents or pads. These are items that should last you throughout the hike and they will if you take care of them and give them just a little TLC. Carrying a small amount of thread or floss with a few needles means you can reinforce an area of your pack if it begins to show signs of stress or excess strain. Carrying a small amount of Tenacious Tape will assist you in fixing holes in a sleeping bag, down jacket or tent. Some people carry the patch kit to their sleeping pad in hopes of being able to find the hole while on trail to fix the pad. Waterproofing your rain jacket and tarp/rain fly with Seam Sealer before setting out on trail also helps insure their ability to keep you dry. Being able to stop small problems from becoming big problems is the key to keeping your gear functional for longer and extending its life to match the length of your thru hike.

 

NOTE: If you have a piece of gear fail on you, be sure to truthfully note why. Was it something you did? Was it a mistake or misuse of the item? If you are going to ask a gear manufacturer to replace a piece of gear for you, be sure that you are coming by that new gear honestly. Trail Karma is real!

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Escape to the Mountains: Route 1

Just because it is winter doesn’t mean you have to stay inside! And at the same time, we understand that hiking and backpacking in cold weather isn’t everyone’s idea of fun. This is a neat idea for spending a day off in the mountains that is much more cold weather friendly. You owe it to your sanity to break free of that cabin fever and we’ve got just the trek you need! Here is the first of two driving routes up into the mountains and out of Atlanta that can help you escape and offer fun things to do along the way! Stay tuned for Route 2 next week!

The Western Route: I-75/I-575/GA-515

This route takes you out of Atlanta through the North Atlanta suburbs. It is the most direct route for anyone in West or South Atlanta and suburbs such as Canton, Marietta, Kennesaw, Dallas, Douglasville, Newnan and McDonough. This route covers approximately 190 miles of road and takes just about 4 hours of drive time (from Atlanta). Of course, you will want to jump out of the car every now and then and check out some cool little mountain towns, neat country stores, beautiful waterfalls and gorgeous mountain views! They’re all along this route!

Your route in it's entirety

Your route in it’s entirety

Step One: Get out of the City

Get to I-75 and go North! Follow Signs for I-575N after passing Marietta and continue on as I-575N turns from a limited access interstate to state highway GA-515. The drive from Atlanta to Blue Ridge takes approximately 1hr and 3omin and gets progressively more beautiful after you get past Canton. By the time you make it to blue ridge, you may want to stretch your legs. Blue Ridge has an excellent little down town area for shopping and eating.

Here is each stop along the route and a break down of things to do there.

Here is each stop along the route and a break down of things to do there.

Step Two: Start Seeing Cool Things

As said before, Blue Ridge is a great little mountain town for shopping and eating. There are tons of mom ‘n’ pop shops and restaurants to choose from, all within an easy walking distance from one another. If you want to see something a little bit more unique in the area, head over to Mercier’s Orchards. Just a few minutes ride up GA-5, out of Blue Ridge, this place is hopping during the Fall when people flock to the mountains to buy apples but this time of year you can leisurely take your time to stroll this large country store and pick up all manner of wonderful fruits, pastries, baking mixes, ciders, wines and much, much more.

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Backtrack south on GA-5 from Mercier’s down to Blue Ridge again and take a left on GA-76 E towards Blairsville. This will take you to another mountain town of great shops and dining options. Take the ramp off of GA-76 towards downtown and grab a Cup o’ Joe at the Cabin Coffee Company in the town square or try out a few hard to find brews at Bearding Bottle Shop.

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From the center of town, take the roundabout and follow signs for Cleveland, GA and GA-129 S/US-19 S. In just a few miles, as you begin to wind up into the mountains, you will see Sunrise Grocery on your right. This little family owned country store has been a staple of this region since the 1920’s. You can find all manner of local goods and camp needs.

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Continue on up into the mountains and down GA-129 S/US-19 S and be on the look out for a road sign on your left called Helton Creek Rd. For the more adventurous, this will lead you to a great surprise. The road will take you through a little cabin community and turn into a dirt path. Keep following this road until you find yourself at a parking lot. A sign will direct you to Helton Creek Falls, one of the best in the area. You can see the falls well enough from the car, but even if it is a chilly day, the walk to the bottom of the falls for an up and close look is very short.

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After checking out Helton Creek Falls or opting out of adventure, continue on GA-129 S/US-19 S until you hit the peak of the roadway. Here you will find the historic old building that houses Mountain Crossings at Walasi-Yi. It sits at Neel Gap along the Appalachian Trail and is an outfitter and gift shop. Stop and stretch your legs again and check out the view from the over look of the building’s patio. If you’re ready to brave the weather, take a hike up to Blood Mountain, the highest peak on the AT in the state of Georgia.

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After getting your dose of fresh Mountain air, hop back into the car and keep heading south. In approximately 2 miles you will come to another waterfall viewing possibility, though this one requires more of a hike to reach than Helton Creek Falls. Take a right into DeSoto Falls Recreation Area off of GA-129 S/US-19 S and you can choose wether to go to the upper or lower DeSoto Falls or both!

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If you’re over waterfalls, continue on GA-129 S/US-19 S and take a right onto GA-60. You will soon come to the aptly named  Stone Pile Gap. Be sure to veer right to continue on GA-60. In about 5 miles you will cross back over the Appalachian Trail at Woody Gap. If you park on the left side of the road you will have great views down from the mountains out into Dahlonega. If you park on the right side of the road, you can take the one mile, relatively easy hike up to Preacher’s Rock, which offers a beautiful vista out over the mountain scape.

11335558_1115461315134753_1411027285_nBy the time you get back to the car, you may be a bit beat. If you took advantage of all the area has to offer, you’ve done a lot in one day!! Keep on heading north of GA-60 and enjoy one of the prettiest stretches of highway in the great state on Georgia! This will roll you right back into Blue Ridge, a perfect spot for dinner if you didn’t eat earlier. From there, take US-76 W/GA-515 S and follow signs for Atlanta.

All it takes is a day off and a little bit of gas money to get you out of the city and into the mountains for an enjoyable day of experiencing a quieter side of life and getting out into the vast openness of the wilderness. Be mindful of weather conditions and come prepared. Check the weather in Blairsville or Blue Ridge and then add 5 degrees for your mountain temps. Snow may also be a possibility if the right mix of low temperatures and precipitation happen at the right time. Bring an extra layer and if you come across snow, either drive carefully or pull over and enjoy something that doesn’t happen as much further south at lower elevations!

Find this Route on Google Maps

Stay tuned for another route coming out of Atlanta from the East side of the city!

In Case You Missed It – The MTX Tour!

Our little town of Blairsville has seen some interesting technological influx in the last few months. Google has been offering to do high resolution, virtual tours through Google Maps all throughout the local area. Since Mountain Crossings is such an intriguing historical location, we were readily on the list and willing to participate!

Just as when you see those funny little cars with strange domes protecting cameras driving down the street, Google now has smaller, more mobile versions of those that sit on a tripod. A representative from Google came out and we made a plan for what all was going to be photographed.

If you have never seen a tour on Google Maps, you are in for a treat. They are 360° Virtual Tours of a location with immaculate resolution and clarity. You can go see Yellowstone National Park. You can go see Stone Henge. And now you can go see Mountain Crossings!

On the tour, you can walk through the breezeway and then jump down to look into the hostel. Then you can walk up to the over look for a quick view and then check out the inside of the shop. Have fun!

Reinventing the Shake Down!

Mountain Crossings has been well known for the gear shake down for many decades. Each thru hiker season, hundreds, now thousands, of hikers pass through the shop to dump what they have found they don’t want and to pick up what they didn’t know they needed.

Want a tiny pack like this that still has all the gear needed to keep you comfortable, safe and happy on trail?! Get a Virtual Shake Down!

Want a tiny pack like this that still has all the gear needed to keep you comfortable, safe and happy on trail?! Get a Virtual Shake Down!

Traditionally, hikers do this on their thru hike, about the 3rd or 4th day into their extended stroll. In recent years, more and more prospective thru hikers who are relatively local to the shop (Atlanta, Chattanooga, Greenville, Huntsville and even beyond) have been making a trip to Mountain Crossings to have a shake down before hitting the trail. The result makes their first few days on trail radically more comfortable in two major ways. One is physical: their pack is lighter due to not carrying unnecessary items and they also don’t find themselves lacking something important. The second is mental: they have asked all the questions they can and talked with experts about what to expect. The over all experience of the first few days is better. Plus, when they arrive at the shop all they have to do it eat, shower and relax instead of wait in line with tons of other hikers for a much needed shake down.

Full gear layout as see

A typical day during hiker season at MTX looks like 3 or 4 (way less organized) pack explosions like this one! It can get messy, but it’s fun!

As the shake down becomes more popular, section hikers, weekenders, and even boy scout troops are opting to receive this helpful service. It is beneficial to all backpackers, not only thru hikers!

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A Bit of Info on the Virtual Shake Down

  1. Anyone of any experience level or preparedness can participate in a Virtual Shake Down. (Whether you’re a former thru hiker looking to shed some pack weight or only have three pieces of gear, all are welcome!)
  2. A computer with video chat capabilities (built in or attached video camera and microphone) is needed for a Virtual Shakedown.
  3. Virtual Shake Downs happen over an application called Google Hangout. We will provide you with a dummy G-Mail account for use during the shake down.
  4. A Virtual Shake Down costs $100, but that cost is a 100% (absolutely full and total) rebate!!
  5. During the shake down you will have access to all the entire inventory of Mountain Crossings and we will help you locate the exact items you need to complete or update your gear set.
  6. After you have chosen what you need from that shop, you will have 48 hours to purchase these items and apply your $100 rebate towards your gear.
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Click on this Image to check out the Virtual Shake Down

For the Love of Layers

It’s that time of year in the great outdoors. It’s both beautiful out, making you want to spend as much time in the mountains as possible, and it is also nearly impossible to gage what to wear each day! When the sun is out, your soaking up the rays until your saturated in sweat. When the clouds take over, you’re chilled to the bone with the dampness in the air. How do you prepare for a backpacking trip when you have no idea how to dress for the weather?! Layers!

In the fashion world, layers are all the rage in Autumn. It doesn’t happen very often, but it turns out that this time the fashionistas are on to something that those of us with more functional desires can grab a hold of. By dressing in and making sure to pack our layers on a trip, it is easy to be comfortable in whatever weather situation may arise. Here is a breakdown of several types of layers and how the work best.228421_11835_XL

Under Garmets: Staying Dry

Thats right, even your undies matter here, at least for comfort. Cotton underwear and bras are comfortable in daily life but they are sure to end up swampy when you begin sweating. Synthetic materials such as Polyester are quick drying. Avoiding cotton is the name of the game. When caught in the rain or working up a hard sweat, cotton is sure to leave you uncomfortable. It clings to you went wet, drys very slowly, and is not able to retain its warming capabilities.thignfdkld

Layer One: Base Layer

Your first actual layer, or base layer, is best when make of Merino wool or a thicker synthetic material. A long sleeve and pant is the next level of a well built and functional outfit for hiking. Some times it is a good idea to wear a t-shirt under your base layer if you wish to be a bit cooler. This base layer cuts the wind and gives you that extra little bit of warmth on a day with a bit of chill in the air. Merino wool is not as quick drying as it’s synthetic pal but it does excellent in retaining warmth when or if it gets wet.

Three example of thin, long sleeve shirts that make excellent base layers.

Layer Two: Light Insulation

This time of year, temps can easy fluctuate between wide ranges once the sun sinks behind the trees. Sometimes having a mid layer is an easy way to tailor your comfort to an even tighter degree. A material like fleece makes a popular mid layer for light insulation. Popping on a fleece over your long sleeve base layer will help retain any body heat radiating off you. Some hikers opt to even carry a light bottom insulation layer as well, though an article of clothing like fleece pants is both bulky and heavy. Simply pulling on your base layer bottoms over shorts or pulling a pair of Nylon hiking pants on over your base layers is the best option. The benefit of a fleece top is much more worth its weight than bottoms are because less body warmth is lost through your legs than your torso. A wool or fleece hat is also an excellent way to retain body heat at this level of chill. mountain-hardwear-microchill-fleece-pullover-jacket-zip-neck-long-sleeve-for-women-in-ocean-blue-p-6902j_17-1500.2

Layer Three: Soft Shell Insulation

Your soft shell insulation layer is where the real warmth comes in play. While hiking, it is best not to even wear this layer. But when you reach camp, this is the heavy duty insulation layer that becomes your best friend and makes hanging out in camp manageable. For most hikers, this layer consists of a down jacket. These guys build up and store all of the body heat you are creating and even second as a great pillow once you crawl into your sleeping bag at night. They are excellent to wear for warmth in any situation where you are not working up a sweat or exposed to rain. 84711_SUMR

Layer Four: Rain Shell

A rain shell is the last layer to finish off the perfect layer hiking outfit. The rain shell will protect your down jacket layer and keep it dry, which is important. No matter which layer you throw your rain jacket on over, it will trap your body heat and also cut wind, making it and excellent emergency warmth layer.

©Earl Harper

Whenever you go out into the elements, there are tons of weather possibilities. Likewise, there are tons of layering possibilities. With knowledge of the different types of layers and how they work together, you can estimate what will be best for you in the area you will be hiking. Remember that to have an extra light layer you don’t use is safer and more enjoyable than being unprepared and facing a bad situation. Yet still, like all gear, consider the weight and packability of your clothing items.

Pickin’ on the Patio with Wyatt Espalin

This past summer we had a little concert here at Mountain Crossings. We gathered on the overlook one evening as the sun was sinking behind the mountain tops and listened to the hauntingly beautiful vocals and guitar of one of our favorite folk singers, Jill Andrews. It was such an incredible evening that we are doing it again!

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This time it will be Wyatt Espalin who will be joining us on Sunday, November 1st at 6pm on the overlook. Wyatt is a local in these parts. He is from Hiawassee, Gerogia, which for most hikers is the next resupply town on the trail headed north. Wyatt has been a staple of the music scene in Hiawassee for quite some time and has been pickin’ and jammin’ around those parts since he was a child. Over the years he has been part of several outfits of musicians, the most successful of which being Trees Leave. Wyatt has since struck out on his own and spent this past summer touring with and opening for the Indigo Girls supporting his debut solo album.

Listen to more of Wyatt’s music on his webpage. For tickets for the evening of the 1st are on sale for only $10 on our website. Bring your own snacks, drinks, beer/wine, and chairs if you’d like and join us for an excellent night of music!

The Triple Crown of Long Distance Hiking

In the world of long distance backpacking, the act of triple crowning is seen as the highest achievement in the hiking community. It is often times not the initial intention of most hikers to become a Triple Crowner, but as the bug for thru hiking sets in, it becomes a natural progression for many.

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A hiker made this image displaying the markers for each trail and also the years they hiked them!

A Triple Crown in reference to long distance backpacking includes a thru hike of all three major National Scenic Trails in America, the Appalachian Trail (2,184 miles) the Pacific Crest Trail (2,654 miles) and the Continental Divide Trail (3,100 miles). Collectively the average mileage for a Triple Crowner is roughly 7,900 miles.
It is no wonder that these unique hikers are far and few between in the hiking community. Walking a rugged stretch of mountains up America is the achievement of a life time for most, but these die hard thru hiking lovers do it three times over and with a revolving door of new terrain and unknown hurdles. They are truly the wizards of thru hiking knowledge!

The idea of Triple Crowning for backpacking first came into being in the early 1970’s. A hiker named Eric Ryback thru hiked the AT in 1969, the PCT in 1970 and the CDT in 1972. In the decades since Rybsck’s completion, just shy of 200 other people have registered as Triple Crowners, though more may have thru hiked all three trails.

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To many folks, the idea of backpacking almost 8,000 miles is unfathomable, but it very possible. Even a hiker as young as 13 has completed a Triple Crown along with her father. Our very own Squarl who has been working at Mountain Crossings for many years is now a Triple Crowner!

 

A Thru Hiker’s Gear: In Photographs

Prospective thru hikers are always asking us what sort of gear we suggest, what we would bring and what we would leave behind. We have a little document sitting on the computer desktop at work which we can print out and it explains a lot of it. But not everyone is able to make it to the shop before their hike and sometimes its just so much more helpful to see an actual, visual example of a piece of gear rather than read about it. So this is intended to be a visual guide to assist you in being able to spy a good piece of gear that will serve you well on your thru hike.

BIG FOUR

Sleeping Bag: Western Mountaineering : 20°
A Western Bag is a big investment but it is one that will last you decades if you take care of it. Some of the lightest, smallest compressing, most accurately rated bags out there.WM ALP-2

Sleeping Pad: Therm-A-Rest NeoAir
The absolute happy medium between comfort and weight. At 2.5 inches thick but only 12 oz. in weight, this is a piece of gear that makes everyone happy.CD-NAXL-2

Tent: Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 1
Big Agnes makes some of the most popular tents used on the AT. The Fly Creek UL 1 is the lightest of them all. The footprint, fly and tent body all compress down to the size of a football. It can be pitched in a “fast fly” manner that allows for getting out of the rain quicker when pitching and staying in the sleeping bag longer when breaking down.

Don’t Forget Your Rain FlyFly Creek UL 1 Tent with Fly 2-zm

Backpack: ULA Catalyst
At approximately 70 liters, the Catalyst is on the upper end of desired capacity for a thru hiking pack but it is still incredibly lightweight. With two water bottle pockets, a joey pocket, a shock cord attachment, trekking pole holders, a comfortable hip belt with pockets and load lifters, this pack is very “everything you need and nothing you don’t”.catalyst-300x300

CLOTHING

Rain Jacket: Mountain Hardwear Super Light Plasmic
Lightweight rain shell. All of them will have you sweating in no time but that is favorable over hypothermia, so just find the lightest, most comfortable one you can.OM5957_015_f

Down Jacket: Mont Bell UL Down Parka
Very lightweight and compressible down jacket. Not recommended for wearing while hiking, mostly for wearing around camp. Always wear a rain shell over it in rain or snow. Down jackets second wonderfully as a pillow.z_2301237_rbl

Gloves & Hat: North Face Power Stretch Gloves, Mouse Works Rolled Beanie
Make sure not to go overboard on the thickness of the gloves because you still want dexterity in your hands. Windproof gloves end up being the most worm. For hats, don’t over think it, just get a warm hat.COMBO

Nylon Hiking Pant: Marmot, Mountain Hardwear, MontBell and many others
Lightweight, comfortable, nylon hiking pants are a must in Winter and early Spring unless you carry rain pants. Hiking pants are quick drying, seconding well enough as a rain pant, but can also be converted in to shorts, making them three times over multi-use.B69300_7203_w_lobo_cnvtpnt 0011

Midweight Pullover: Mountain Hardwear, Marmot, Patagonia, and others
Wether it is fleece, wool, or some synthetic material, having a long sleeve pull over as an extra layer is nice when its cold. It also gives you a long sleeve layer to hike in with out fear of sweating though it and damaging the warming qualities like down.B83310_4336_alpinist_hlfzp 0001

Light Weight Base Layer: Patagonia Daily (Capilene 1)
Lightweight, synthetic layer to pull on over shorts to wear under pants. Makes an excellent sleep layer.download

Synthetic Running Shorts: Department stores like TJ Maxx and Marshall’s, Wal-Mart and Target have cheap active wear
Any synthetic, quick drying material will do. Some hikers prefer a built in liner over underwear. Make sure to be conscious of the waist band because it has the most potential to cause problems. Wear them with a fully loaded pack before leaving to truly test out the band.umbro-printed-double-layer-track-workout-shorts-womens-size-large-pink

Quick Drying T-Shirt: Department stores like TJ Maxx and Marshall’s, Wal-Mart and Target have cheap active wear
Any synthetic, quick drying t-shirt will do. You’re just trying to avoid cotton. Lighter colors will become dirtier than you ever expected but you will probably throw it away due to smell long before you need a new shirt.317xg6R+VZL._UX466_

FOOTWEAR

Shoes: Brooks (Cascadia 9 depicted), Montrail, Salomon, all good brands.
Trail Runners have taken the lead over boots as the most popular style of footwear on long distance trails today. They are way lighter weight, they let your foot bend and move in a more fluid, natural way, and they dry more quickly that any boots if they are not waterproof coated.120181_485_a_ZM

Socks: Darn Tough (depicted) and Point 6
Darn Tough Socks are made in Vermont and boast one of the most unbelievable guarantees in the outdoor industry with a product that is so good most people never have to use it. Point6 Socks are made in Chattanooga, TN and hold one of the higher wool counts found in wool socks. Because of this, it takes them longer to begin to smell. Unavoidable on a thru hike, but cool for the rest of us.41lfRcv5jtL._SY355_

Gaiters: Dirty Girl Gaiters
Gaiters are just one extra thing to carry that you can absolutely live with out. If you are going to get some, make them a pair of Dirty Girl’s. They are cheap, they are insanely light and they come in a million awesome patterns.images

COOKING/WATER TREATMENT

Cook Pot: Snow Peak Trek 700ml Titanium Pot
Small, lightweight pot that holds approximately 3 cups of water, an excellent size when cooking many meals that require 2 cups or less. Can store small canister of fuel and small stove inside. Also will double as a cup or a mug when needed.
440Stove: MSR Pocket Rocket
A small lightweight canister stove with varying flame intensities. Connects up with any brand of fuel canister. Along with the canister needed to fuel it, this stove can fit into a pot the size of the Snow Peak mentioned above.msr_pocket_rocket_1 (1)

Canister Fuel: MSR Canister Fuel
Any brand of canister is compatible with a canister stove. The smaller canisters will last approximately an hour but it is good to pay attention to your cooking habits and learn how much fuel you are using so you can estimate when to purchase a new canister. The smaller canisters are also able to fit in a pot the size of the Snow Peak mentioned above along with an MSR Pocket Rocket.imgres

Water Filter: Sawyer Classic Water Filter
The perfect meld between lightest and fastest flowing water filter. Takes more effort and time than larger, heavier pump water filters.images-1Chemical Treatment: AquaMira Chemical Treatment
A lightweight, lazy way to treat water. Two parts, mixed together, 7 drops of each per liter of water. Won’t freeze like a ceramic filter.url

MISCELLANEOUS

Pocket Knife: Voctorynox Classic Swiss Army Knife
A tiny pocket knife that is all you need! Blade will slice cheese and summer sausage. Scissors will open packages. Comes with tweezers built in.url-1
Bandana: Regular ole bandana.
One, maybe two, is all  you need. Serves as a hankie when sweating, a towel when showering, a mop when you track mud and water into your tent.bandana

Data Book: Awol’s AT Guide
The most favored and detailed of all the guide books for thru hikers. Most end up cutting it in half, mailing the second half ahead, and taping the spine so that it does not fall apart. ATG-2013NOBOFront-Cover-MARKETING-ONLY

Pack Cover: Etowah Gear Pack Cover
Very light weight sil nylon pack cover designed to keep the water out of your pack. They come in sizes ranging from XS to L that are made for packs of varying liter capacity.1408653904_110157

Water Bladder: Playpus Big Zip 3L Water Bladder
If you choose to use a bladder over multiple water bottles, a 3 liter is recommended just so that you have the ability to carry large amounts of water, even if you only use it a few times while on trail. These are great because they offer hands free drinking while hiking. If you find you have problems keeping track of how much water you have left, store it in an external side pocket so you can periodically check your supply. Doing this also makes refilling the bladder more simple as it is easier to get to.url-2

Water Bottles: 1L Smart Water Bottle
Super light and inexpensive. Can be found at almost any gas station along the trial.url-3

Couple Lighters: Bic Lighter
One for everyday use and one for back up. Don’t go over board. You can always pickup another at a gas station.url-4

Waterproof Stuff Sacks: Sea to Summit or Granite Gear
Good for organizing your gear based off of colored bags and helps keep everything dry.stuff sack

FIRST AID

Band-Aids: Not too many! Most injuries are tiny scratches and don’t even require a bandaid. 22698611_xl-bandaidsChap Stick: You will regret not having it if you are starting early.url-5

Mole Skin/Blister Treatment: Blisters are pretty common injuries on trail. Best to be prepared!url-6

Body Glide/Anti-Chaffing Product: Some people need it, other don’t. It’s good to have starting off if you’re not sure which your are. url-7

Duct Tape: Just a little, wrapped around a water bottle, trekking pole or lighter.duct-tape

This is a fairly comprehensive gear list for the beginning thru hiker. Some folks want to carry more, some folks want to carry less. We strongly encourage hikers to gather their gear with ample time to go out on practice hikes in order to learn how gear works and what may or may not be of use to you. Nearly all the items you see on this list (or something very comparable) are available at Mountain Crossings. 

Patagonia: A Bandwagon Worth Jumping On

I truly think that it is a shame that the designs of Patagonia clothing products are so popular and fashionable among so many. Patagonia rip offs can be found throughout a wide spread of the clothing industry, including youth causal wear, sportswear and gift shops. The real deal has been one of the hottest selling clothing items purchased during the Christmas season for several years now! Stores can’t keep it in stock and imitators have jumped on the opportunity to make a buck on cheaper knock offs. It is true that Patagonia’s clothing has a simple, yet beautiful design and that they use a unique and varied color palette. It is also true that they are well made clothes and last a long time. But there is one feature of Patagonia products that should distinctly stand out as the number one reason why their clothes are so darn popular in our society. That is their commitment to sustainability and eco-friendliness that is applied as stringently as possible down the entire production line.

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The ridge line depicted in the Patagonia Logo is derived from a real mountain! It is Mount Fitz Roy in Patagonia, on the border of Chile and Argentina!

Despite being a Fortune 500 company, Patagonia is one of the leaders in our nation for large scale sustainable practices in the clothing industry. They made a commitment early on as a company and have worked endlessly to make changes as they grew and find new ways of doing things that accommodate a larger scale production rather than simply falling in line with typical practices used by most other large producers. Here are but a few of the efforts Patagonia has in place that set it apart from other producers.

One Percent for the Planet

Patagonia invests 1% of the company’s yearly sales (not merely profit) back into the environment by doling it out to grass roots organizations fighting to persevere a land mass, stop the building of a dam, clean up an oil spill, or any of many other causes being fought for by locals across the US. In stead of swooping in and playing savior, Patagonia believes that those who are passionate and connected with an issue, living beside it day in and day out, are the ones best prepared to make a difference so they choose to fund them rather than interfere. This program is called 1% For the Planet and was founded by Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard in 2002. Today, over 1,200 other companies are now also committing 1% of their annual sales as well, totaling in over $100 million that have been poured into environmental preservation.

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Blue Sign Approved

On Patagonia’s website, you can trace nearly every product back to the factory it was made in, wherever that may be. Many of Patagonia’s workers and factories are indeed abroad, but the company strives to make sure that working conditions are more than fair and that the production taking place is as sustainable as possible. Since 2000, Patagonia has been working with a company called Bluesign Technologies in order to achieve this more sustainable way of production and keep concern for workers in the fore front.

Bluesign technologies, based in Switzerland, works at each step in the textile supply chain to approve chemicals, processes, materials, and products that are safe for the environment, safe for workers, and safe for the end customers.

Can you imagine how much better off everyone involved in the entire supply chain would be if ALL companies even attempted to ensure something even similar as this?!

Traceable Down

As all hikers will agree, there is nothing like down when it comes to warm weather gear. Nothing gets you as warm and is so lightweight and small while doing it. But this comes at a cost to the animals whose feathers are used to produce our jackets, pants, booties, sleeping bags, quilts and more. In an effort to have a clear conscious in regard to every nook and cranny of their company, Patagonia has changed the way harvest do down. Instead of plucking a goose of its feathers and leaving it to die, as is typical, they found a way to pluck from geese already set to die by partnering with food companies. Harvesting the down feathers of geese used in the food industry means the goose will not die solely for it feathers, having the remains wasted.

But, Why?

Let’s be real. Patagonia would be an even more profitable company and all of their head honchos would be a lot more rich than they surely must be already if they would just cut some corners and produce their clothing the way most other companies do. It would be so much easier for them if they didn’t care to worry for animals or workers or about dumping waste and chemicals or about if the consumer got a long lasting, sustainably made article of clothing or not. So why do they do it!? Because they are one of us! They love to blow off work on a beautiful day and get outside and enjoy nature. They really want to have their beloved playground to be kept beautiful and open forever, just like we do, so they have committed to helping keep it that way! Thank God they are using their influence in such an honorable way!! I enjoy being able to respect the clothes I am wearing, knowing that they are worth the money both in quality and in doing the world a little bit of good. I just wish that was the true reason why Patagonia was so popular!

Want to Learn More?

The founder of Patagonia is a life long rock climber, mountaineer, and fly fisher. He wrote a book about the company he started and tells the story of how it turned from simply making better gear for himself and his friends to one of the top outdoor product companies out there. Let My People Go Surfing is both an intriguing story of adventure and an informative book about sustainable business. It is absolutely worth a read!

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Patagonia Fall Fashion Items For Sale At Mountain Crossings

 

50 Years a Potter: Phil Mayhew & Walasi-Yi

By the time you read this, Phil Mayhew will have just celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first pot he ever threw. Little did he know at the time that his life would one day be legacy of pots, mugs, bowls and other porcelain ceramic pieces of artwork.

It was the beginning of the summer in 1968. Phil had been to Walasi-yi several times before. As a ceramics student at UGA, he often fled Athens as the football games brought a commotion to the city and drove to the mountains for a respite. Often times he would stop at Neel Gap, sometimes hiking north to Leveland Mountain and other times going south up Blood Mountain. But he had never been inside until that May.

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Phil Mayhew and his wife Terri on the overlook.

It had been uninhabited for several years at the time and he quickly began building shelves to fill the dining area of the old restaurant as soon as he moved his family in. As a fresh graduate of UGA’s MFA program, he found himself to be the first caretaker of Georgia Mountain Arts, a small organization whose goal was to provide an outlet for craft art done by poor mountain people in the local area. This included knitted bonnets, sewn quilts, wood carvings, pottery and so much more. Phil passed by a well paying job teaching crafts for the Army in order to take the low paying job at Georgia Mountain Arts that placed  him in the heart of the mountains he loved so dearly.

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This Georgia Mountain Arts sign used to hang where the Mountain Crossings sign now hangs today.

When he wasn’t manning the little shop full of crafts at Neel Gap, Phil would stop by the small shacks and cabins of the artists he represented to collect more work to sell, using a small amount of money he was allotted to purchase works from local artisans. He would learn of these remotely located mountain men and women by inquiring at local country grocers. Just a few simple questions about carvers, weavers, whittlers and the such in the area and he would be on his way to hunt them down.

The program’s main aim was to put money in the hands of extremely poor people living in the mountains while at the same time recognizing their craftwork as art and bringing it the proper acclaim. Phil grew long lasting friendships with some of the artists as he went to visit them and watch them work, learning what he could from them.

Gerogia Mountain Arts also allowed several other artist to put their work on consignment in the shop. Among those was Phil, who has continued to sell his pottery at Walasi-Yi since then, 47 years ago! He now lives in Beersheba Springs, Tenneessee with Terri, who is also an artist and musician like Phil. Their lives work have a far and wide grasp. Their family like business, Beersheba Porcelain, encompasses their ceramic works and their jewelry. Several friends work with them but all are treated like family.

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Mugs, bowls and pitchers by Phil Mayhew, available at Mountain Crossings.

Georgia Mountain Arts only last a few years at Walasi-Yi yet it still made up some of the more colorful history of the building. Even then, Phil remembers inviting hikers to rest their weary heads as they hiked through. Several even sent him a letter in the mail to inform them of their success in reaching Katahdin. Phil went on to be a ceramics professor for several years until he decided to pursue pottery full time in 1973 and had been focusing solely on creating beautiful works since then! You can see a variety of his work on his website and find some for sale at Mountain Crossings!

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