Published on December 6th, 2011 | by Rita0
Patagonia, Camelbak, and Exotac: Great Gifts For Outdoor Enthusiasts
I’ve been an avid hiker for years, and living in Honolulu has given me plenty of opportunities to satisfy my wanderlust and explore a variety of landscapes in simple weekend adventures. Lately, I’ve been meaning to plan a weekend hiking and camping trip to Haleakala, the 10,000 foot shield volcano dominating the Maui landscape. Unlike most hikes in the Hawaiian islands, temperatures at the crater can drop below 40°F, so cold-weather gear is required if you plan on spending a night near the summit. Since I recently acquired a Patagonia Men’s Ultralight Down Jacket, I figured a long weekend camping and hiking trip was in order to let me see how well it protected me from the elements.
Saturday morning after work, I smashed all 8 ounces of the Patagonia jacket down into its tiny stuff sack and packed it into my trusty Camelbak Vantage 35 pack for the short flight from O’ahu to Maui. The Vantage is my go-to pack for weekend trips, since it offers the perfect mid-range balance between size and weight. Dynamic suspension system makes longer hikes pain-free, since the pack can be adjusted to fit your back and shoulders, as well as the gear you’re carrying. The hip belt is semi-load bearing, and has useful pockets to store the things that are frequently used, like cell phones.
Side note: it’s worth mentioning that it’s amazingly easy to pack full and accompany you on a plane, since it’s small enough that you can take it as a carry-on. Just remember to leave the 3L reservoir empty to make it through your screening checkpoints.
Our destination was the Paliku campsite, 6,380 feet above sea level, and reached by a 10 mile hike along the Sliding Sands Trail that descends into the crater. After our flight, we were dropped off at the Haleakala Visitor Center (9,700 feet) by some (very generous) friends, and set off at a brisk pace in the overcast and cold weather. At the start of the hike I was glad to have my ultralight down jacket, since we were high enough to be above the cloud layer. I was even more glad for the durable water repellent finish that helped to keep me dry and warm.
I kept the jacket on during the descent into the crater, and the versatility of the jacket’s European goose down construction really shone through with a great balance between breathability and warmth during periods of high exertion. In Hawai’i, even the relative cold of Haleakala or even Mauna Kea on Big Island will never be cold enough to necessitate layers of cold weather gear. The Ultralight Down Jacket is low-profile enough that it can be used as a base-layer, under a Gore-Tex shell, for forays into colder and/or wetter climates. When using it as a top layer, do remember that because it’s slim-fitting you’ll want to choose garments that are also form fitting.
After about 10 miles, we reached the Paliku campground, safe, warm, and tired. My hiking companions were properly impressed with the amount of gear I was able to carry in my Vantage, which has 40L of interior space. One item I had on me that barely took up any room at all in my pack was the Exotac NanoStriker, which turned out to be dead useful in the extremely humid Hawai’i air. This tiny striker looks a bit like a lightsaber, and packs a mighty punch. A ferrocerium rod in one compartment and a stainless steel rod in the other create a reliable combination for starting fires, even when everything around you is damp. Weighing only half an ounce, you won’t even know you’re carrying it.
Once settled around a warm, crackling fire and a good meal, conversation drifted toward the next adventure ahead of us. This is where my love of hiking and camping comes from, and I heartily encourage all of you to get out, get moving and find what you’re passionate about as well!