Hiking in Finland

Climbing, bikepacking, skiing & packrafting in the north

Going Forward

As you likely have noticed, the amount of posts has gone down a bit in the last months. Reason is simply that my business takes a lot of time at the moment, and with upcoming life changes in August time will be even more limited. Time to sit back, and outline what will happen here over the next months.

First and foremost, I will start an education to become a wilderness guide in mid-August. It is a ten months, full-time education and besides learning in the classroom expeditions are part of the curriculum. A two week autumn expedition to north-eastern Russia, a two week solo skiing expedition in Lapland in winter, a canoe expedition and other trips will certainly teach me new skills and make a superb basis to show how far ultralight gear can go. I aim to use UL gear for this education, and show that one doesn't need 80l backpacks and bombproof gear. Also, I will be running my company at the same time, so I will be very busy and might not always find the time to write interesting and exciting posts. The aim with this course is to have the skills, knowledge and legal requirements to offer [UL] courses in the future - but that is so far off that I will tell about this at another time!

Ultralight from A - Z is a new video series I am working on. In this 26 part series I am going to explain Ultralight backpacking from A to Z in a video for each letter, from skills to gear and philosophy I am hoping to explain ultralight backpacking it in an easy and understandable manner. It will start in the autumn, so stay tuned!

In the Gear Reviews department I have a steady pipeline of new and exciting gear to test and tell you about. I hope to be able to write a gear article a week, it is just about finding the time.

Trip Reports are still what I love best, and I aim to tell and show you more about the beautiful Finnish landscapes which I enjoy so much. The expeditions will be covered as well, so there should be a few very interesting reports coming up.

Advertising. You might have seen the box on the right, this is an experiment I am trying at the moment - I saw it on sectionhiker's blog and decided to try it out myself. It helps to pay for trips & running the website, but will have no influence on the content. If I find it doesn't work or is not worth the trouble, I will remove it. Also the Donate button on the About page is there for the same idea - content will remain free, but for those who would like to give there is now the opportunity.

Interviews. With already 23 interviews on this site one might think I ran out of interesting people to talk to. Well, that is not the case and I have over half a dozen interviews in the pipeline at the moment, so that is a good reason to become a Follower or subscribe to the RSS feed to stay tuned and up-to-date!

That are my plans for the near future. I would like to thank you all for reading and commenting, it is very rewarding to see that so much people enjoy the site, it keeps me motivated to produce top-notch content. I am looking forward to you questions, comments and observations =)

Interview: Eric Hardee From Rivendell Mountain Works

Time for another interview. I look over the border of the UL universe and had a chat with Eric Hardee from Rivendell Mountain Works, who produces the renown Jensen Pack, a lightweight and durable pack aimed for alpine and mountaineering adventures. Read on how the company was established in the 70s, wrapped up in the 80s and started again in the new millennia!

Eric on the EW Spire.

Eric, please briefly introduce yourself and tell us who you are. Since when are you backpacking, and how did you start? How often are you out backpacking nowadays?

Thanks Hendrik, it is an honor to be included amongst other cottage manufacturers who seem more established than myself. My operation is still very much a start-up.

I started backpacking as a rather young lad in a summer camp in NH. Backpacking trips were a great way to escape the repression of the day to day camp routine. I continued my outdoor activity in college through the UVA outing club and took up rockclimbing, cross country skiing and winter mountaineering. I landed a summer job with the National Park Service and went on to have a 17 year seasonal career as a backcountry and climbing ranger. It was an honor to serve as a seasonal ranger in Olympic, Wrangell-St. Elias and Mt. Rainier National Parks. My passion became Alpine climbing and most of my trips were focused on that activity. Strictly backpacking trips became rather rare. I still try to get out on an alpine adventure once a year but job and family commitments tend to fill up most of my time.

Are you a UL backpacker? If so, what is your typical baseweight?

Because I tended to do technical climbing trips, ultralight backpacking was not my forte. However, it has also become a passion of mine to do super long, fast day excursions where traveling light is essential. We regularly ran trails as rangers long before that became a sport unto itself.

Please tell us where the name "Rivendell Mountain Works" comes from, and what it stands for.

Larry Horton started RMW in the early 70’s and used the name of Rivendell, the mythical home of the elves in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. I presume that part of the reason for the name choice was that vision of an imaginary, pristine, secret “shangra-la”. There has long been a quest in exploration history to find “shangra-la”. A great account of such a spritual and exploration quest is documented in the book “Heart of the World” by Ian Baker. I am continuing with the suggestion of that idea by coining the expression “may a Jensen pack be on your back when you find your Rivendell”.

Materials cut out, ready for production.

Rivendell Mountain Works makes the very acclaimed Jensen Pack™, introduced back in the 1971. Can you tell us a bit more how the rucksack was developed and changed over time?

Don Jensen designed the pack in the late 60’s when there were few choices for packs that could carry substantial gear and also be suitable for technical climbing. The intent was to keep the load stable and as close to the back as possible to minimize the effect on the balance of the climber. By eliminating a frame of any kind the pack is also more flexible to the movement and contortion of the climber. It was probably also the first “soft pack” to allow much of the load to be transferred to the hips, reducing shoulder fatigue common to all other soft packs of the era. The evolution of the pack design has mostly been limited to improving materials, construction and ease of loading. The actual design has changed very little, since Don’s original concept was nearly perfect.

When did you join the company, how has it developed since and where you are headed for the future?

Rivendell ceased business as a day-to day company in 1981. I met the subsequent owner, Don Wittenberger, in 1985 and worked out an arrangement to continue making packs, selling by word of mouth. Due to a resurgence of interest in vintage and traditional gear, I relaunched a commercial presence in 2007. The packs were the mainstay of the original Rivendell, and my goal has been to revitalize that line of packs, maintaining the high quality by remaining a small, micro-cottage industry. Currently I am working full time in this endeavor.

In the workshop.

Eric, 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 the moment?

I’m developing a top pocket for the Jensen Pack line, which will give the pack an added convenience and functionality when using the pack in a backpacking or mountaineering mode. Because my operation has been a solo endeavor it has been difficult to work designing into the production schedule. Now that I have a quality contract sewing person I hope to have more time for this.

How works the R&D at Rivendell Mountain Works, 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?

Both, the top pocket is a perfect illustration of this. From my years of carrying the Jensen pack I knew this would be a great feature and recent customers have been asking for it as well.

Jensen Mariposa packs in the making.

What is the bestseller from Rivendell Mountain Works, and where do your customer come from?

Historically, the Jensen pack has been the mainstay of Rivendell products probably because it has remained one of the most unusual packs on the market. I have been shipping packs all over the US as well as overseas. Japan is a big market and there have been individual orders from England, France, Finland, New Zealand, Korea and Malaysia.

Are you in touch with other cottage manufacturers in Europe, the USA, Japan or other places?

I have had some limited contact with other cottage manufacturers and intend to do more of that in the very near future since the resource is a valuable one.

In the sewing room.

What is your own favorite backpack, sleep system and shelter? Any other favourite piece of gear which you always carry with you?

I have carried a Jensen pack exclusively since about 1977. Often I still use a Camp 7 Arete VBL down sleeping bag. My favorite tent for many years was the Stephenson (Warmlite) 3R. Stephenson tents are by far the lightest tents for their size/volume considering that the tents are suitable for winter mountaineering and extreme conditions.

When and where was your last longer backpacking trip, and what was your baseweight? Are you planning to get out for a trip soon, and enjoy the summer season?

My last multi-day backpacking trip was a 3 day solo in ONP, several years ago. I’m not a fanatic about weighing my pack but I’ll guess it was about 30 lbs.

Eric with a Cache on Peak Summit.

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?

It seems like there is more general awareness of ultralight backpacking as a style that ecompasses minimalism. Ultralight gear itself is becoming much more popular and because of that many backpackers will end up with lighter packs but probably not fully embracing the ideas behind traveling without many things….

Eric, I thank you for taking the time to answer my questions =)

The Week in Review

Finland is experience a real heatwave at the moment, we reach temperatures of close to 30°C during the day and I somehow am happy that I can work at home in the shadow. Once the first rain starts falling and it cools down a bit, I will be off for my first packrafting trip.

In the trips section, Roman Dial posted another episode of his fantastic packrafting trip suggestions, The Chitistone: Skolai Pass to McCarthy. Those are written in a book format and give you all necessary details to make the trip, so if you find yourself in Alaska with a packraft, this looks like a splendid trip!

AktoMan is getting slowly back into action, and his last trip out in the sun showcases some fine photography from the beach.

Still looking for a trail to walk this summer? FSTPKR's Summer 2010 plans could give you that bit of inspiration you're looking for, and you don't need to be as quick as him either!

Comet hit the Silver Pass on his PCT hike during last week, and survived a thunder and hail storm under his Gatewood cape!

Steven went on a Cross Fell & Wild Camp trip with his dad, and if you're curious to know if the TrailStar is big enough to shelter two and is "safe" enough in the wind (storm!), check out the accompanying video.

Roger is back from the Nordkalottleden and his first photos make me wanting to see more.

Mike's photos from the Brecon Beacons make me want to go visit them, and take a shower under the waterfalls while enjoying the views.

Mark from Backpacking North shared his thoughts on sleep systems with us, a good read. He recently got a quilt and now shares his thoughts on it and the rest of his sleep system, and for everyone who is looking to go lighter in that area it is a good read.

Dondo also wrote a very interesting piece on his gear, some if it which he uses already since close to twenty years, so he is able to make very founded judgements on it! Recommended read!

Jason Klass discloses with us The 10 Non-Essentials, a good post for all those who just start out the lightweight road - because the easiest way to go lighter is to take less stuff!

If you have a down sleeping bag or quilt which needs cleaning, have a look at Sectionhiker's How to wash a down sleeping bag before you start.

terrybnd has a new toy, a Mountain Hardwear Stiletto 1, and in this post gives us a first look at it.

Knilch has a first look at the Vibram Five Fingers KSO thus all who are thinking about going "barefoot" this summer, see what Markus has to say.

Phil gives us a look at his DD Hammock and Tarp, a very affordable start into hammocking.

In case you can't wait for my review of the Gränsfors Bruks hatchet and axe, have a look at this Gränsfors Bruks Kubben Axe Review.

I did a Clikstand Denali Titanium Combo & Sierra Combo Review last week, and if you'd like to test these two alcohol setups yourself, sign up for the Passaround.

Barleybreeder tells us about a new German company which offer high-quality, dehydrated bio food for the trail, and his first "tests" resulted in very good marks. So if you're too busy to dehydrate your own food, have a look at this offering.

Finally, Robin shares with us where some thoughts on his gear which didn't perform as expected on his recent trip.

Nick has another fantastic post up on his site, a step-by-step guide to carve your own kuksa. It is a must read for everyone who has not yet a kuksa and wants one - and you want one, believe me!

If you're into fly fishing, I urge you to have a look at the newest editions of "This Is Fly", a free online fly fishing magazine. Beautiful photos and well written stories of the next generation of fly fishers are sure to keep you entertained for a while.

Benjamin is starting an European UL Mystery Box and is looking for participants across the continent - from Spain to Iceland and Ireland to Estonia, anyone who'd like to take part in this fun gear swap circle should comment on his blog.

Finally, instead shaving pounds off our backs, Lance suggest we have a look at ourselves and see where we can shave pounds off our body.

/Edit: The LAUFBURSCHE blog is online! http://laufbursche.blogspot.com/ Go visit and become a Follower ;)