Hiking in Finland

Climbing, bikepacking, skiing & packrafting in the north


I have been lusting for a GoPro camera since well over a year. I know there are others out nowadays, but the GoPro is the original for me - it was the first one around, is used by all the cool kids up in Alaska on their packraft and bikepacking trips, but yet I always held out - the sound of the original GoPro was not up to scratch, and 300$ is a lot of money.

Well, that all changed just with the introduction of the GoPro HD HERO2 this week. Called the "Professional" HD camera it is double as awesome as the original GoPro HD Camerasand one of the things which makes is really cool in my opinion is its in-build setting for time lapse. Yeps, that's right - time lapse, that malevolently difficult way of photographing stuff and making it look awesome afterwards. It also adds a microphone jack, so I can attach my Rode Videomic Pro.Exquisite, if I may say so. If you haven't yet, now would be a good time to click play on that video up there to see what the HERO2 is capable of. I will wait here, so go ahead, click play.

The new HD HERO2 Outdoor Edition comes with a waterproof housing to 60 meters, so I can take it diving, a whole assortment of straps to attach it to my helmet - nice for [ice] climbing, cycling and packrafting (also eliminates the fear of accidentally dropping an absurdly expensive photo camera into the water!) and a variety of other mounts as well as a pivot arm. Damn, all that's missing is a dolly! It shoots 1080p at 30 FPS, has a f/2.8 Fixed Focus with a variety of Fields of View Options: From super-wide 170º Wide FOV over 127º Medium FOV to the narrow 90º FOV, there's something for every situation. In addition it got an easy User Interface and red LEDs on all sides which let you know the camera is running. And instead of me repeating the Specs & Features, you could just head over to the GoPro site and read them yourself. If you rather hear it from me - its a fine piece of gadgetry HD video camera widgetery which opens up very creative possibilities for us backpacking, bikepacking, packrafting, skiing and climbing folks.

At the same time as the HERO2 was announced, GoPro also told us about the Wi-Fi BacPac + Wi-Fi Remote which will come out in February 2012. What's cool about the former is that it will enable long range video remote control via the Wi-Fi Remote or, much cooler, a smartphone GoPro App. That is pretty forward thinking stuff right there - use your phone to control the camera, and see what the camera sees. You even could live stream if you're inclined to do so. Its almost Star Trek kind-of-awesomeness.

So, in case you haven't guessed yet: I made a purchase decision for a GoPro HD HERO2, Outdoor Edition. I can't wait till the camera arrives, allowing me to filming mundane things like walking with the pram in the park and cycling through the city to more adventurous stuff like singletrack mountain biking, packrafting and climbing. I'm also really looking forward to shoot time lapses with it, and use it as a Behind-The-Scenes camera for ULAZ.

Go get yours at the Official GoPro® Store - the HERO2 comes in three outfits (you want the Outdoor one!) for 300$ while the original HD HERO retails now for 200$ to 240$. Give it yourself to christmas if you need a reason, or tell your significant other that I made you buy it.

Disclaimer: There's terrible affiliate links hidden in this post. If you buy something via one of them, I get filthy rich [Enter evil laughter].

Interview: Joe Valesko From ZPacks

Wednesdays are the new Tuesdays when it comes to cottage manufacturer interviews. So today we will learn what makes ZPacks such a fine cottage, how often Joe is out hiking, what is his next long distance trail project and what kind of new SUL products we can expect from ZPacks in the near future. Grab a cup of tea & biscuits and enjoy.

Joe, please briefly introduce yourself and tell us who you are. Since when are you backpacking, and how did you start?
I started backpacking when I was in high school in the 90's. I first heard about the Appalachian Trail back then and knew it was something I wanted to do. That's when I bought my first set of backpacking gear and started doing training hikes. I finally thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail after graduating college in 2004.

How often are you out backpacking nowadays?
We typically try to plan a hike at least every month or so- usually 3 day weekend hikes or week long trips. Living in Florida we do most of our trips in the fall, winter, and spring. Either on the Florida Trail or up north on the AT in Georgia or North Carolina.

You're a triple crowner, having finished all three long distance trails in the United States. Which one did you like best?
I liked the Pacific Crest Trail the best for sure. The trail is well maintained, the weather in that part of the country is great in the summer, and it has a really good balance between a wilderness experience and a close knit trail community. It is the best of all worlds you could say.

The Appalachian Trail by comparison is a bit crowded and not as much wilderness. It can be a pretty wet! It does have a good trail community and good trail towns.

The Continental Divide Trail is the opposite end of the spectrum- very wild, sparsly populated. It is challenging somtimes to navigate, and there are hazards like snow storms and very long distances between water some times. The scenery in the Rocky Mountains is epic, but the PCT is just as good without as much trouble.

Any other long-distance trails you're having an eye on, or are you nowadays more of a "weekend hiker"?
My wife and I plan to do Te Araroa, the New Zealand Trail in 2013. It is a roughly 3,000 km trail the length of New Zealand. We would also like to do the Pacific Crest Trail again some day. We aren't sure what to do about the work shop while we are away. Now that we have employees it is not as easy as just closing shop for five months.

I reckon we can put you firmly in the UL backpacker category, right? What is your typical baseweight?
I typically carry around 5 to 6 lbs (2.5 kg) baseweight. I might leave a few things behind on a weekend trip if the weather is nice, but for the most part I carry the same gear if it is 3 days or 5 months.

Please tell us where the name "ZPacks" came from, and what it stands for.
I wanted a name that was short and easy to remember. The web address ZPacks.com was available so I grabbed it! Other than that it doesn't have any great significance.

ZPacks makes innovative lightweight gear, which started off as a side-business only in the beginning, but nowadays has grown into a proper cottage, and you even have a few employees. Can you tell us how the idea to start the company emerged and how you see its future?
I started making gear just for myself, but people encouraged me to start selling it. For five years I worked alone out of an apartment while still keeping a full time day job. It finally got to the point where ZPacks became a full time job, and then I started hiring some help just last year. I'll keep expanding as necessary! Either that or take off hiking ;)

What makes ZPacks different from other cottages?
We do alot of customized products and modifications. We still build most products one at a time and we are usually able to accomodate requests, for example changes in size, or different features. I like to think the customer service experience is very good.

The ZPacks cuben Blast backpack and the Hexamid shelter are proper UL products, aimed at people who want to go really light. Can you tell us a bit how you went about the design process of these two pieces, and where the inspiration came from?
Most of the products start as something I want to use myself. I designed the Blast backpacks originally for my wife and I to use on our Pacific Crest Trail hike. The original Hexamid tent was created right before I did my Continental Divide Trail thru-hike and it was tested on that trip. Often times once I start selling a product customers suggest improvements and they get even better. I guess you could say my main drive is to create products that solve a problem like "shelter" or "carrying gear" in the lightest, most efficient way that I can.

You just released the "Exo" External Frame backpack, how did this design come about?
The Exo is made from stronger material, and it has an ultralight frame to help carry a load more comfortably. I know that not everyone has their gear list as stripped down as mine and I wanted to make a backpack to help bridge the gap between traditional heavier gear and ultralight frameless backpacks. The Exo can carry more weight comfortably, but I still tried to make it as lightweight as I could, around 335g.

Joe, we love to be let in on the work-in-progress stuff! Can you let us know what kind of new products you're working on at the moment?
We just started doing ultralight down sleeping bags last month. We are exited about those since we now make all of the big three gear items: backpacks, tents, and sleeping bags. We keep adding new things as time allows, you'll have to check the website for the latest.

Any new UL materials that have you all excited?
Yes actually! We just received our first production batch of a new waterproof breathable cuben fiber material at the beginning of October. It is the lightest wpb fabric available that I know of, and we have a jacket made from it on the site. A bivy should be coming soon pending testing.

How works the R&D at ZPacks, do you have a need yourself that you try to fix, or do some of your clients inspire you for new products and ask you for solutions to their problems?
It is a little of both. A lot of the items are things I personally want, but I also do custom projects on request. If enough people ask for the same thing, and give good feedback, it will end up on the website.

Where do your customer come from?
Our customers come from pretty much everywhere in the world. The majority are in the US, but Australia and Japan are the next biggest destinations followed by Canada and European countries.

Are you in touch with other cottage manufacturers in the USA, Europe, Japan and other places?
We have met a handful of other cottage manufactures in the USA at various hiking conventions. I don't have any contacts outside the US.

What is your own favorite backpack, sleep system and shelter?
My big three are a Exo backpack (335 g), one of our down sleeping bags (476 g), and a Hexamid Solo Tent (250 g).

Any other favourite piece of gear which you always carry with you?
I always carry a nylon wind breaker jacket, and a fleece hat. Other than that I just add warmer clothing and rain gear as necessary. I think one of our new waterproof breathable cuben fiber jackets will be a new favorite.

When and where was your last backpacking trip, and what was your baseweight?
My last trip was to a place called Eagle Creek, near Cascade Locks, Oregon. The route we took passed through one of the more scenic sections of the Pacific Crest Trail that I have been to before. It was just an overnight loop. I probably had around 4 lbs (1.8 kg) or less, just the essentials. I carried the items I mentioned above, a neoair sleeping pad, a few small items like a headlamp, plus food and water.

Are you planning to get out for a trip soon, and enjoy the autumn season?
The weather will finally be cool enough to start getting out on the Florida trail. I don't have anything big planned but I like to do something outside every weekend if I can, sometimes canoeing, or biking, or surfing if not hiking.

Do you think ultralight backpacking will become more popular and break into the mass market, or will it continue to be something for a small group of people?
I think ultralight backpacking is probably growing every year. I don't think many people that try ultralight gear go back, so the tide should keep shifting to lighter gear. I don't know if the real ultralight stuff will ever be mass market, ultralight gear isn't as easy to mass produce, and it requires informed customers to use it correctly.

Joe, thank you for taking the time to answer my questions =) Is there something you would like to add?
Thank you for the questions!

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The Week in Review

Three weeks of paternity leave are over, and tomorrow it is back to work :/

Jack Brauer spent a week in San Pedro de Atacama. That's in Chile, it is gorgeous, and so are the photos. Recommended read.

Alex did Lost Arrow Spire direct & solo.

Markus and his girlfriend spent seven days in September on the South West Coast Path in Cornwall.

Basti's report on GORE-TEX® Active Shell and the Blogger Summit was a enjoyable, educating read.

Fraser has a new ride. It is orange. Me likey.

Scott did a redesign of the Booster Rocket seatpack.

phattire found this excellent All Mountain MTB skills video. Recommended for the bikepacking crowd, n00bs and experts alike.

I interviewed Evan Howard of Terra Rosa Gear, a cottage manufacturer from Australia.

James went backpacking the empty Nant-y-moch hills.

Rick hiked up Mount Takao, and got lost on the hike down.

Mike is enjoying the autumn.

Brian enlightens us on Gear Lists.

Benjamin spent a few nights in the beautiful Berner Oberland.

Paul walked on his own from Castle Rigg Stone Circle to Raven Crag. I still really like how he presnts his walks.

Sheila begs to differ - Moruisg is not a boring hill.

Sabine did a 24h autumn hike.

Peter shows us the Buff Hood.

Nick talks about gear, including the Scarp 1 and the Ti-Tri Sidewinder.

Maz talks about his Alpine Kit choices for 2011-2012.

Roger and Niels hiked from Blokhus to Hantsholm along the Nordsøstien, and stunning coast images are to be seen.

Hawaii in October looks like Finland in high summer. Well, minus all the sunshine and tropic flora & fauna!

Jim shows us how to run the Optimus Nova on Gas.

Jake went on a barefoot autumn hike, stunning autumn photos for our enjoyment brought back he did.

How about a midweek sunset beachride? Then the Coastkid has you covered.

Greg & Trina find gorgeous autumn days a suitable excuse for not writing a lot. Right they are!

124 gram MYOG Bug Bivy tutorial.

John and Jean have been visiting the most beautiful National Parks of the USA, and their photos make you want to visit every one of them. Stunning, a must see.

Impressions from Slovenia showcases what the attendants of the 2012 Ultralight Backpackers Summit should expect if Slovenia stays in the lead.

Jarkko muses on The Focal Lenght Analogy and wants to know your favourite piece of optic & preferred style of travel.

Joery presents part III of his Greenland adventure, which takes place in Nanortalik.

Tom woke up at an absurdly early hour and set out for a hike around Julian Price Park.

Finally, David reports that it is almost winter!