Mountain Crossings is an oasis. An oasis not only for the fact that the outfitter and hostel was built literally on the Appalachian Trail (AT), but because it was built 30.7 miles from Springer Mountain, the Southern Terminus of the trail. For northbound hikers the first few, often grueling days, of rocks and roots and climbs that don’t know what a switchback is, all lead to Mountain Crossings. Hikers who have been laboring under massive packs walk around the store with a new-found respect for cuben fiber, titanium, and goose down. Throw in a hostel and ice cream, and we have one of the most popular stops on the southern AT.
Ron Moak and Brian Frankle’s collaborative efforts have launched two new pack series this year, the Fusion Series, and the Flight. Driven to simplify the goals of ultralight, the packs’ designs combine structure with ultralight principals in what will ultimately translate to a more enjoyable experience on the trail.
“Over the years we've carried lightweight packs over thousands of trail miles, talked to thousands of users and worked hard to go back to understanding the fundamentals of both pack design and use,” Ron said. “The idea was to take a look at the lightweight pack design to see if anything can be done to enhance them,” he explained. “A lot of people want to move down to a lightweight pack but are very concerned about how much weight the pack can carry.”
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Hiker, trail designer and gear expert John Abela has been providing valuable resources about ultralight backpacking for the past 3 years. His quest to reach the sub 5-pound (2.3 kg) backpacking market was the driving force behind his creation of the website hikelighter.com. If you have hiked in Northern California, chances are good you may have passed John on the trail or walked on tread he has maintained, and his passion for trails, gear and the freedom of a lighter pack has been a great benefit to the backpacking community.
“I am convinced that almost every hiker can be at the 6-8 pound (2.7-3.6 kg) range and be comfortable and have enough gear to ward off the ‘you pack that which you fear the most’ ebbi-jibbies,” he explained.
His exploration into gear began his late 30’s when John realized a life devoted to work was not the path he wanted to take any longer. Once he started venturing outside his neighborhood and into the Redwoods of Northern California, the exploration quickly progressed.
“I knew I did not want to just walk into a big-box-store and buy all my gear, so I started doing some research on the internet and quickly found websites like Backpacking Light, Whiteblaze and the pct-l list and I started reading though hundreds of posts about what gear other people were using.”
On John’s first overnighter he carried a 42 pound (19kg) pack and it was not working for him. He quickly shed 20 pounds, but knew he could go even lighter. He set new weight goals: 12 pounds led to 8 pounds which led to an astonishing 2.3 pounds.