Monday, May 27, 2013

RIBZ Front Pack - Gear Review 2013

The RIBZ Front Pack is a unique product designed and engineered to make the transportation of gear a more comfortable and convenient activity.   Manufactured by Ribzwear in Coronado, California, the RIBZ Front Pack seems to be their only product - and kudos to them for doing it well!

This Memorial Day Weekend I had the chance to put the RIBZ Front Pack into action while hiking the Oyster Dome trail in the Chuckanut Mountains of western Washington State.

My backpack was loaded with gear that needed to be transported to the end of the trail, leaving minimal room for my 10 essentials, food, water, GPS, camera, tripod and additional clothing for the poor weather conditions.  The RIBZ Front Pack provided me with that extra storage lacking from my backpack.  Much to my surprise, having all that gear easily available at my fingertips proved to a fantastic benefit! 

Think about all the times you have been hiking and 'considered' stopping for a snack, a drink, a hat, gloves... but instead of stopping you just press on because you know your stop will take at least five minutes:  Removing the pack, getting your supplies, replacing your supplies, putting your pack back on, adjusting your layers, straps & belts.  RIBZ Front Packs can have all that stuff immediately available while you continue to hike.

I kid you not.  This thing is a time saver. 
The RIBZ Front pack comes packaged in a nice compact form, with it's own storage bag.  The product packaging (and website) promotes Cordura material and although I'm not an expert, this stuff feels like quality material - very durable.  It  handled my all day / rainy day outing without any trouble - it did a great job keeping water out and it remains in like-new condition.

Just as interesting was how much more balanced I was when the load was more balanced between the front pack and the back pack.  The hike today involved navigating some seriously large mud bogs - lots of balancing on logs and hopping from rock to rock.  The new distribution of weight allowed me to navigate this obstacle course with much more confidence than on previous trips.

 The Front Pack goes on like a jacket - it's hard to see here but there is a zipper in between the left and right sides of the pack.  The adjustable shoulder straps are easy to position and the whole contraption somehow manages to keep out of the way of swinging arms & hiking poles.  Straps the cross in the back and at the waist level keep the whole thing anchored to your midsection - there was no problem with it swinging or shifting during my hike.

Once the Front Pack is on your body then your regular (but now completely optional if you pack light) backpack goes on just like usual.  The Front Pack doesn't get in the way at all.  Completely amazing!

 Each side has two zippered pouches.  A large pouch with additional internal webbed/netting pockets and then a smaller zippered pocket on the very front (easily seen above).

 This pack was revolutionary for me.  It's a whole new world!  The versatility this pack offers is just amazing!  Hiking, fishing, skiing, running... this pack was designed to fit those needs and it does it well!

RIBZ Front Packs have been on the market for a few years now and it appears they may be expanding their lineup with a variety of materials and colors this summer.  Visit the online Ribzwear Store to find out more.  Their website contains detailed info about their products, but even more interesting is to read about the founders of the company and the history as to how their product came into development (co-created by a US Navy SEAL).

In my opinion, front packs serve a valuable purpose in the world of outdoor activities.  Based on my hands-on experience using a RIBZ Front Pack on the trail, I would highly recommend the RIBZ Front Pack to anyone considering a front pack purchase in the near future.

Feel free to share your experiences or ask questions via the comments section below.

Happy Hiking!


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a RIBZ Front Pack for free from Ribzwear as coordinated by Deep Creek Public Relations.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Goat Mountain (Lyman-Concrete) 03-10-2013

Please accept my apology for the very late trip report.

There isn't a single solitary reason that supports a +2 month delay in writing a trip report... except that a) I'm pretty busy, b) this is a relatively unknown destination for a number of valid reasons and c) photos from the outing were pretty unremarkable.

First things first: 

Were there goats?  No.

Which Goat Mountain is this?  This is a cascade foothills high point in Skagit County, located near Grandy Lake, northwest-ish of the town of Concrete and northeast-ish of the town of Lyman.

Why isn't this a well known destination?  Well, it's remarkably unremarkable.

On the date of my outing the weather forecast was pretty sketchy.  Sketchy in that it was almost guaranteed to not be sunny, but it was also supposed to be pretty calm and mostly dry.

This particular Goat Mountain came to my attention after a few cohorts seemed to have  a good time getting to the high point.  Of course, they had each other for company and thus didn't have to resort to having conversations with trees or contemplate how rabid the local wildlife (whose tracks I followed for almost five miles) might be.

Going into this hike I was well aware that the summit was a long distance away and that there would be quite a bit of snow (with low avalanche danger).  Honestly, my main purpose was simply to burn a lot of calories and venture out somewhere new.

Given the expectations were pretty low, the trip was a success.  While the summit will have to wait for another day (or never), there were plenty of miles consumed and pounds of calories burned.

Here are the most exciting images from that outing. 

The route follows a logging road.  The logging road is privately owned and the road is gated.  The road connects with the Baker Lake Road just across from the Grandy Creek Campground.  There is parking available alongside the logging road before the gate.

Following the main road, there were a couple small snow patches before reaching this little bridge over the creek.

About a half mile beyond the creek, snow became constant.  It was well packed so snowshoes weren't needed for quite a while.

Here is a photo of a paw print in the snow.  Not sure if it was a dog print or something else.   My boot print (heel) is in the bottom of the photo... to give some scale to the size of the animal prints.

Image of the 'creek' looking downstream from the aforementioned bridge.

The view at the start of the constant snow.

Eventually a 'fork' in the road is approached, but there are three choices.  I chose the middle road which immediately led up a hill to a quarry/gravel pit.  Walking around the pit (clockwise) I came a cross the continuation of the road at the upper end of the pit... so I kept going... and going... and going. 

Postholing finally caused me to put on the snowshoes.

The ascent continued.  Onward and upward. 

Eventually the trees started to thin and I was able to look across the valley where another road was visible.
 At one point I thought I saw the high point destination that I was targeting... giving me hope.  Only to find that it wasn't the high point as I passed under it and continued along the lonely road.

A little creativity in photoshop ('solarize' and 'charcoal and chalk' effects) created this rather dramatic image from further up the valley.  The real view was much more plain jane.

One point of interest was that there were many very deep ditches to cross over.  Maybe the snow drifts make the ditches larger or maybe they make them seem smaller than they actually are but I can tell you that there are a ridiculous number of them once you break out of the trees.  Someone had too much time on their hands with a backhoe.   Or they have a horrible sense of humor.  So, if the bottom gate is open and you think you can just drive on up to the high point... you'll still be walking at LEAST 4 miles.

Eventually, at right about the 5 mile mark (and the same point at which leg cramps decided to join the party) the road turned a corner and offered a glimpse of the real intended destination.  This is on 'full zoom'... and it was quite a ways off.  My expectation was that I'd be 'on top' at five miles... but this visual sight told me that there was at least another half-mile or full-mile (and lots of elevation) to get there - even cross country.

That was it.  I was tired and my legs were sending off warning signs that enough was enough.

After a short break for food and water I turned back to return to the car.

The descent was as uneventful as the ascent, but it was easier (thank you Gravity!) and a touch faster.

Once back at the gravel pit I came across this 'woolley' looking plant.  It was so peculiar in it's blasé color that I thought it might actually be fake.
 Turns out that it isn't fake.  I broke off a small portion of a leaf to see.  Very interesting biology but I have no idea what plant this is.  Can you see all the tiny hairs on the exterior?  Fascinating!

As I wandered back down the road, Grandy Lake came into view.  My back must have been to it on the way up so I wasn't aware that the lake could be seen or not.

There is also a clearing just a short ways beyond (uphill) the gate where an old 'steam donkey' sits.  At least I think it's a Steam Donkey.  Maybe it's an Iron Horse.  It surely is not a Thunder Stick.  I took a couple photos since it was the only thing I'd seen all day with any real color in it.

Eventually I ended up back at the car for the short ride home.
The topo map below shows my route for the day.  The intended route was to leave the logging road at my turnaround point and head cross-country (on the snow) to bypass the logging road switchbacks and just head directly for the Goat Mtn high point following the ridge crest while the snow has all the brush buried.

Stay tuned for the soon to be posted trip report from April:  the Heather Meadows Snowshoe Loop with the Mount Baker Club!

Happy Hiking!