...everything but the drinks.

I received a ridiculously generous invite from my Osprey sales rep to fly to Cortez, Colorado in April and join Osprey Packs on a trip into the canyons of southeastern Utah.

I and the other invitees would get to test packs and other gear, immerse ourselves in the culture that makes Osprey such a unique, inspiring manufacturer and, well, play.

Since getting back, I've started and stopped writing a recap blog at least a couple of dozen times.  Just like a western sky, free of the ambient light of urban sprawl, this trip was on a scale that's hard to capture on film (film?) or in print.

When my new friend, Sean McCoy, who I'd met on the trip published his review for Gear Junkie, I decided to bag making a full review of my own.  I would, however, definitely encourage you to read Sean's post:  Gear Junkie: Into the Depths

I decided instead, being a gear junkie myself, to snap a few photos of what I carried, wore, ate off of, etc. during the trip.  This type of thing may not be of interest to anybody, but it's exactly what I find myself most curious about when reading running, backpacking, adventuring reviews.

Sean carried the same pack that I did, the Aether 60, and gave it some love in his article, so I'll skip right past that.

With a weather report that promised clear skies and little to no chance of precipitation, all 14 members of the group decided to leave tents behind.  Our guide, Chris Barber, reportedly had a sizable tarp but it never made an appearance as we all slept under stunningly open skies.

My sleep set-up consisted of a borrowed Rab Neutrino Endurance 200 sleeping bag.  This is an 800-fill down mummy-shaped bag that has a pretty solid (in my book...I sleep warm) 32 degree temperature rating, packs down small and weighs less than 2 pounds.  Killer.  And Rab includes one of the sweetest, double-cinch waterproof stuff sacks I've seen.  I was super impressed and the buyer-in-me has me strongly considering adding the Rab line to Backcountry Edge's Spring 2013 assortment.  I'm a huge fan of sleeping bag liners and the life-extending boost that they give sleeping bags and I long ago fell in love with my Cocoon Silk Expedition Liner.  This also packs down to nothing, weighs a couple of ounces and justifies its inclusion on every trip.  I slept on the ultra-lightweight Klymit Inertia X-Frame inflatable sleeping pad and loved it as much as I expected to when I chose it for the trip.  My head rested on Exped's Air Pillow and you can insert every word I wrote about the liner here to know how I feel about it.

Osprey equipped each of us with a trio of SealLine Dry Sacks (2.5L, 10L and 30L) and it was a good thing too, as we hit an extended stretch in slot canyons on the last day that required first waist deep and then sternum deep (if you're as short as I am) wading.  I didn't actually end up dipping my pack, but it was nice to know everything was fully protected.  I'd brought my own SealLine eCase which I've been using for several seasons to protect my point-and-shoot.  I also brought along a couple of waterproof Granite Gear Air ZippDitty sacks which were perfect for keeping headlights, snacks, first aid and other gear organized.  These fit perfectly inside the hipbelt pockets on a couple of the packs I use at home.  The Aether 60 doesn't have hipbelt pockets, my one gripe, but these still came in handy for use inside the Aether's lid pocket.

Ah, my feet.  I hiked primarily in a pair of TrekSta Evolution II trail shoes.  I've been testing them for TrekSta along with a pair of their Edict running shoes and intend to post a far comprehensive review in the near future.  For now, suffice to say that these were hands down the most comfortable, responsive hiking shoes I've ever worn.  The Evolution II is a lower-profile version of TrekSta's award-winning Evolution Mid GTX.  I'm not a big fan of GORE-TEX (as hot as my feet get in standard mesh shoes, I start sweating at the very thought of a waterproof liner) and the Evolution Mid flirts with being a true boot and I just don't do boots.  I also made room in my pack for the New Balance 110's and was glad I did.  At the end of the long second day of crawling over/under rocks, rappelling down cliffs and navigating tilted canyon walls we reached a campsite atop an incredible sandstone shelf that (with a little creativity and a tack-on stretch in the wash below) served up a 3+ mile run.  These shoes absolutely shined on this surface and made me sad all over again at the news that the Slickrock 100 isn't being held this year.  Alas.  Throughout the trip, I wore DryMax socks.  Duh.

Yep, I just laid down a duh.

On the first night that we arrived in Cortez, our group of 14 was split into smaller "cooking groups" and each group had an MSR Reactor Stove System to use for cooking.  I've been a fan of the system since it launched and, if it wasn't so spendy, I may have invested in one of my own somewhere along the way.  Anyway, with the stove (and food!) provided, we only needed to worry about bringing utensils, cups, flatware and whatever else we thought we'd need for mealtimes.  I kept things simple.  I made friends with the Snow Peak 600 Titanium Double-Wall mug a long, long time ago and it waits on the counter for me each morning, accompanies on my drive to work and keeps me company at my desk all day long.  It also tags along on every backpacking trip, including this one.  I also brought the Optimus Folding Spork, a collapsible, lightweight and surprising little durable utensil.  My meal kit was rounded out with my two Guyout Design Squishy Bowls.  Yes, that IS what they are called.  Laugh if you want, but this little malleable silicone bowls are a backpacker's dream come true.  Trust me.  To ward off my addicted tremens, I also packed plenty of Honey Stinger Waffles...if I had any left, I'd have included them in the photo.  Yum. 

As warm as it was, I didn't carry a lot of clothes.  I'm not sure I even needed it, but I did bring along my lightweight Outdoor Research Transcendent Sweater and, I must admit, it was nice to have this low-profile down piece at night while we sat beneath the stars and passed around the wine (yes, we hauled along quite a bit of wine...in Platypus bottles, cause we're backpackers, see).  In the mornings, I slipped into Rab's super lightweight Boreas Pull-On softshell.  There's not much to it, but it's one of those great pieces that adds just enough warmth and separation from cool air.  And, it takes up very little space inside a pack.  I had a breathable, brimmed Mountain Hardwear hat (the name escapes me) that I wore during the day to keep off sun and glare and another of their beanies that I wore at night to ward off the chill.  A pair of Native Silencer sunglasses gave further protection from the sun and the Mammut S-Flex headlamp served as my light source at night.  I'm not a big fan of sunglasses though I fully respect the protection that they give.  The Silencers do their job and are fairly un-obnoxious as performance eyewear goes.  The S-Flex is hardly the brightest or most feature-rich lamp that I own but I appreciate how lightweight it is and how small it is when all I need is a little bit of extra visibility around a campsite.

Osprey gave us one final parting gift and it was a sweet one, a very limited edition embroidered Hornet 32.  This is one wickedly-light (1 lb, 5 oz) day pack that can be used with or without its lid and is ready-made for fast-and-light pursuits, be that running, biking, fast-packing or whatever else you have in mind.  Good stuff.  It didn't accompany us on the trip itself, but deserved a mention nonetheless.

That was pretty much my full rig.  That and the wine.

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