Travel

Photo Album: Jenny and Joe’s Hero’s Journey

You’ve seen Joe and Jenny’s (see their bio at the bottom of this post) photography work all over our website. They recently took a quick trip with some friends to test out and photograph The Hero’s Journey on planes, trains, and in the city. We can’t possibly fit all of the amazing photos they took on The Hero’s Journey page, so we’ve included the extras here in a photo album.

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Joe and Jenny are professional photographers based out of Seattle. They are prone to taking long journeys to places both near and far but always return home because that’s where their golden retriever, Ana is.

When not behind cameras, Joe and Jenny enjoy triathlons, running, lifting heavy things and being outside doing all things outdoorsy.

During the summer, they have a large backyard garden where they do battle with slugs, squirrels and dogs who eat kale. (Looking at you, Ana.)

Joe is tall, like really tall and Jenny is short, like really short. They are at the bitter ends of the bell shaped curve for height.

They have been to five of the seven continents and aspire to knock off the final two before knocking off.

Overnight At Sahale Glacier Camp

Overnight At Sahale Glacier Camp | TOM BIHN

We’ve been using The Hero’s Journey backpack on overnight backpacking trips for the past several months. Last weekend’s destination was Cascade Pass and Sahale Arm, camping for the night at the Sahale Glacier. Here’s a few photos from the trip.

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Scenes From Hut-To-Hut Hiking

Scenes From Hut-To-Hut Hiking

Kristian is the photographer behind the shots of our new Hero’s Journey backpack. Most of the photos were taken on hut-to-hut hiking trips in Norway and Switzerland; this essay features additional photos from those trips. – TB Crew

Spend the entire flight gazing out the window
This is the moment. You’ve spent weeks and months researching your trip. You’ve packed your backpack more than once. You’re finally on your way. Am I the only one who spends the entire flight gazing out the window?

Trains in Germany
Since I can’t bring gas for the stove on the plane I went shopping for gas, food and other supplies in Konstanz, Germany. Both the roads and train network is highly efficient and it’s easy to get around to wherever you want.

Coffee for the adventure
A cup of coffee and off we go!

Seealpsee
First stop, Seealpsee! If you listen closely you can hear the ambient sounds of cowbells and distant waterfalls. It’s such a tranquil experience to walk down these trails.

Lake Seealpsee
Making my way around the lake Seealpsee.

Goat herding in the Alpstein massif
Better step aside and let the goat train pass! It’s spring, and this family were herding their goats up into higher altitudes in the Alpstein massif.

View of Lake Lucerne from a hiking hut
New day, new hut. This is the view of Lake Lucerne taken from the trail up to the Lidernen-hütte.

Lidernen-hütte with Lake Lucerne in the background
Lidernen-hütte with Lake Lucerne in the background. I learnt that this hut is also quite popular during winter for backcountry ski touring. I might have to come back!

Lidernen-hütte
At 1.727 meters (5.666 feet) above sea level the Lidernen-hütte is easily accessible in early spring. Everything above 6.500 feet (about 2.000 meters) is more challenging in early spring (May/June) as parts of the trail might still be covered in snow. Juli and August are high summer and a great time to visit, but I’ve heard the that the fall (September/October) is perhaps the best time to visit. Altough it’s a bit more chilly there’s a lot less haze and the views are even more spectacular.

Inside the Lidernen-hütte
View from inside the Lidernen-hütte. The two knots on the left must have been good ones.

Kröntenhütte
Of all the places the Kröntenhütte was by far my favourite. After a 2-3 hour walk through rain and fog I arrived at the Kröntenhütte, and as if someone hit a switch the skies opened up, revealing the impressive 10,000 foot peaks surrounding the newly renovated hut.

Eating rosti
After a hike there is nothing like trying out what many Swiss people consider their national dish. It’s called rösti and it’s made of grated and fried potatoes, here served with bacon and eggs.

waterfalls near Kröntenhütte
A waterfall seen on the way down from the Kröntenhütte. A small hydro plant next to the hut utilizes the natural forces of this river and provide the hut with all it’s electricity needs year round.

network of hiking trails in the Alps
The network of hiking trails in the Alps is nothing but impressive, and thankfully the signalization is equally as impressive. The trails have signposts indicating direction, name of destinations, hours left and trail type. White-red-white means it’s a mountain trail, which partly access difficult terrain.

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Mountain trails can give you some magnificent views.

sun is up in the mountains
The sun is up. It’s a new day. Where will you go next?

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Kristian Pletten is a photographer and adventurer from Bergen, Norway. When he’s not eating rösti in the Swiss alps he spends his time on his 25 feet sailboat which he plans to sail north along the Norwegian coast this fall. You can follow him on Instagram @kristianpletten or Facebook.

Kristian Pletten | Scenes From Hut-To-Hut Hiking | TOM BIHN

Hut-Hiking and Hike-In Trips in the Lower 48

Hut-To-Hut Hiking in North America | TOM BIHN

Tom designed our upcoming Hero’s Journey travel backpack (debuts September 27th) to be a best tool for fly-to-hike travel. It’s great for world travel / backpacking to be sure, but also for hut-to-hut hiking and hike-in lodge trips, too. Think of hut-to-hut hiking as a civilized form of camping: the “huts” (often beautiful lodges) provide you with a bed, food (often gourmet), and a place to meet new friends over wine or hot chocolate, conveniently located in the middle of nowhere.

Most of us associate hut-to-hut hiking with Switzerland, and while a trip to the Swiss Alps is certainly on our bucket list, there are places to go nearer to home. Here’s a few of our favorites.

Glacier National Park: Sperry Chalet
Staying at the Sperry Chalet, you’ll be treated to three meals daily and glorious views. Day hikes from the Chalet abound, including the Sperry Glacier trail, on which you’ll experience waterfalls and alpine lakes, all above treeline.

How to get there
The trailhead begins at Glacier National Park’s Lake McDonald Lodge; it is 6.7 miles and a 3300-foot gain in elevation  to the Sperry Chalet. From Seattle, one can take Amtrak directly to Glacier National Park and use the in-park shuttle system to reach the Sperry Chalet trailhead, making it an entirely car-free trip.

Also in Glacier National Park is the Granite Park Chalet, which is a more rustic option. You’ll bring your own sleeping bag and your own food to prepare in the communal chalet kitchen.

Opus Hut, San Juan Mountains, Colorado 
Dip your toes into hike-inn lodges with a stay at the Opus Hut, which is just a short 1/4 mile hike from the trailhead. Private rooms are available, and the food is world-class: think local, seasonal, and home-made. From your base at the hut, explore the San Juans on day hikes.

San Juan Huts System in the Sneffels Mountain Range, Colorado
If you’re ready for what basically amounts to a five day backpacking trip without the tent, opt for the San Juan Huts in Colorado. Four rentable huts (you might share them with other hikers and mountain bikers) stocked with food and water (and even wine!) along the Sneffels Traverse are where you’ll overnight.

Maine Huts & Trails
The folks who run the Maine Huts offer a great trip planning tool that helps you design your own adventure. Several of the huts are just short hikes from the trailhead. Our ideal trip? Early to mid October (the best chance to see Fall colors) and a stay at each hut, including two nights at the Flagstaff Hut for some canoeing and kayaking.

White Mountain Huts of New Hampshire
Hot meals, beautiful scenery, and kindred spirits await at these New Hampshire huts. This map highlights the amazing possibilities of this route; guided lodge-to-hut trips are also an option.

Muir Trail Ranch
Hot springs, horse rides, remote lakes: it’s all yours at Muir Trail Ranch, a stop on the 211-mile John Muir Trail. If you can gather a group of 16-20 people (family reunion!), the Ranch can be yours for a week. Or, you can join an existing group and make some new friends. The Muir Trail Ranch encompasses 200 acres but only five acres are reserved for facilities to minimize the impact of the ranch on its surrounding wilderness.

Grand Canyon National Park: Phantom Ranch
In the late Fall and winter, many hut-to-hut hiking systems are open to cross-country skiers only. If that’s not your thing, head to Grand Canyon National Park. When we hiked from the top of the Grand Canyon down to the Colorado River last November, we started out in snow and ended up in shorts, t-shirts, and bare feet in warm sand along the riverbank.

Phantom Ranch is the only lodging at the bottom of the Grand Canyon and is reached via foot, mule, or raft. Guests at Phantom Ranch are provided with a hot breakfast and dinner and a packed lunch for the trail.

LeConte Lodge, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
LeConte Lodge is situated near the third highest peak in the Great Smoky Mountains at an elevation of 6,360 feet. When staying at the lodge, you’ll only need to pack what you’d take on any day hike plus a towel; everything else from linens to meals is provided. Bonuses: the lodge features pack llamas and guests are treated to a bottomless glass of wine at dinner service.

High Hut at Mount Rainier National Park
Perched on a ridge top at 4,760 feet, you’ll enjoy views of Mount Rainier, Mount Adams, and Mount St. Helens from this hut after you hike the strenuous 4.5 miles from the trailhead. This is a DIY hut experience: be prepared to bring your own gear (everything but the tent), food, and water or water filter.

Round 2: Things To Do In Seattle

Things To Do In Seattle | Round 2

A few days ago, we published a guest post by our very own Matthew R. all about his favorite things to do in Seattle. You guys responded with your favorite things to do in Seattle and more of the crew here at TOM BIHN offered up their favorite “Seattle Things”. And then someone suggested that we publish a follow-up with even more Seattle things-to-do. Great idea. Here we go:

Suggestions posted on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and shared via email
Seattle Symphony
Theo’s Chocolate Factory Tour
Bakeries: Macrina, Bakery Nouveau, Nuflours (gluten-free, peanut-free!)
Restaurants: Chaco Canyon, Fonda La Catrina
The Underground Tour

More Seattle Things from the TOM BIHN Crew

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The many parks to choose from along Lake Washington

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Leavenworth

Ben

Hiking Rattlesnake Ledge

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Lake Chelan

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Dim Sum at Harbor City

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Shopping at Southcenter, Seattle Premium Outlet, Northbend Outlet

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Mount Rainier National Park

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Seattle Farmer’s Markets

Di

TOM BIHN Factory and Showroom

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Chinatown Tours

Irma
Mount Rainier National Park

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Taking a road trip up to nearby Victoria, Vancouver, or Richmond B.C. in Canada

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Dinner on Alki Beach in West Seattle

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Snoqualmie Casino

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The Bruce Lee exhibit at Wing Luke Museum and Visiting Bruce Lee’s Grave Site

Maria

Everywhere in Seattle!

Matt

Seattle Sounders FC game (with a pre-game beer at Sluggers)

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Hing Hay Park and Seattle Pinball Museum in International District

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Dim Sum at Jade Garden

Mike

Carkeek Park

Mo Fong

Ballard Locks

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Spending the day in Downtown Seattle

Rudi
TOM BIHN Factory and Showroom

Sau Ling

Honey Court Restaurant

Sheng

International District and Dim Sum at Purple Dot

Tam

Pike Place Market

Thuy

Shopping in Downtown Seattle

Tim

Seattle Brewery Tours

Tom
Le Panier bakery (go in the late morning, preferably when it’s raining)

Velia

Bite of Seattle

Victor

Kerry Park

Yan Hua

Seattle Piers and Waterfront

Zhong

Chihully Garden

Things To Do In Seattle

Things To Do In Seattle | TOM BIHN

So here you are in Seattle. You’ve just been to the TOM BIHN Factory Showroom to hang out and see some bags in person while you’re in the Emerald City. Maybe you’ve got a new bag that you can’t wait to load out and try out in the wild. Either way, you’ve got the rest of the day to kill. There is so much to do and as a newbie to Seattle (I’ve been here just over a year now) I feel some kinship to your (wonderful) plight, so I will help guide you through this.

First, if you haven’t watched Anthony Bourdain’s Seattle episode of The Layover (it’s currently on Netflix), I suggest it — it was a great jumping-off place for me. And if you’ve ever looked up “Things To Do In Seattle”, you may have noticed the ample amount of museums we have. There’s so many that it’s insane! What’s more, almost all of the ones I’ve been to have been great, so let’s focus on museums and the restaurants and attractions around them.

Just south of TOM BIHN is Boeing’s Museum of Flight — which can be a bit wordy (walking through this museum will take quite a few hours if you are a plaque reader like me, but you can also just zoom through and look at the physical exhibits) but has wonderful examples of aeronautic history, some pretty cool galleries, and a circa 1950 Air Force One that you can get up and walk around in! And the museum just opened a new Aviation Pavilion on the west side across the sky-bridge.

Now, when you get here you’ll probably want to do one of two things that you’ve no-doubt heard about from our fair (or overcast, whatever) city: the Pike Place Market or the Space Needle. When it comes to museums and restaurants, both of these major attractions have some great stuff around them. Want that iconic Pike Place Market shot? See below for my version. The guys that throw the fish are right at the front, but venture in for some interesting shops all the same.

Pike Place Fish Market Seattle | TOM BIHN
Matthew and Beatrice at the Pike Place Fish Market.

One block south of Pike Place Market on 1st Avenue is the Seattle Art Museum (or SAM, for short). SAM sits in a grand 5-story building that encompasses the whole block between Union and University on 1st and 2nd Street (with the entrance on 1st). Between its French collection, the Ceramics Room, and their pre-Rennaisance art you’ll always have a good time but if you add to that the fact that they attract varied, world-class traveling exhibitions makes this a wonderful museum an easy pick if you’re visiting Seattle. In addition to that, there are some wonderful food options around to get your grub on with: the Pike Brewing Company, Los Agaves and the venerable greasy spoon Ludi’s (and many more!) have got you covered in the immediate area with regard to chowing down.

As for the Space Needle, there are better views. Look at it from the base and go up if you must, but know that it’s a tourist trap and not nearly the best view in Seattle (try the Sky View Observatory on the 73rd floor of the Columbia Tower downtown, Kerry Park up the hill in Queen Anne, a ride on the ferry to Bainbridge Island, or Gas Works Park on the northern shore of Lake Union in Wallingford for wonderful views with the iconic Space Needle actually in it).

Do walk across from the Space Needle and get yourself a Seattle dog — hot dog, bun, cream cheese, grilled onions, saurkraut, and jalapeños. I know it sounds gross but you’re going to have to trust me on this — if you want your arteries deliciously clogged there are few better ways. Then, head over to the EMP and/or Pacific Science Center. The EMP is a wonderful pop culture museum, and its especially great for either young people or people coming from out of country to go to in order to get an idea of America’s popular culture. There are some cool attractions for Americans into pop culture, too, but a lot of it is going to feel like a trip down memory lane. If you’re a gamer like me, you can spend hours and hours in their Indie Game Revolution room, and their rotating exhibits never fail to impress.

The nearby Pacific Science Center is great for children (although adults will find plenty to like) and has a bunch of interactive exhibits. There’s a pretty good food court in the Pacific Science Center Armory if you want to nosh, but if you’ve got it in you to walk a few blocks I suggest walking over to Queen Anne Blvd and Republican for some Dick’s Drive-In, Blue Water Taco, or The Mecca. You might even stick around for a movie at SIFF Cinema Uptown.

Off the beaten path of the Space Needle and Pacific Science Center, you have some quirky attractions such as the Fremont Troll and the bronze statue of Vladimir Lenin, also in Fremont. Stopping by Add-A-Ball and Brouwer’s Belgian Cafe while you’re in the area is a good choice to try out while you’re down there. If you’re into tabletop gaming, Card Kingdom/Cafe Mox is a wonderful game shop and bar.

Capitol Hill offers plenty with the Jimi Hendrix statue and the wonderful and free Frye Art Museum: a small, single-story museum in the heart of Capitol Hill with a distinctly modern feel and unique exhibits that you can get through in an hour or two (it’s my personal favorite museum in the Seattle area), the stunning architecture of St. James Cathedral, and the always-open and Lost Lake Cafe and Lounge.

If you make it north in Capitol Hill, don’t forget to visit Volunteer Park and the amazing Asian Art Museum that is housed in the Seattle Art Museum’s original location. The Art Deco architecture and layout of the building is a real treat and the museum itself is wonderful. It has collections of pottery, ceramics, and statues from multiple eras of Chinese history and, as part of the Seattle Art Museum family, attract wonderful traveling exhibits of both historic and contemporary Asian art. The statues in the foyer are a must-see.

Now get out there and explore!

Matthew is our Documentation Lead and part of the customer service / shipping crew here at TOM BIHN. When he’s not at work or seeing the sights of Seattle, he’s being as punk rock as sitting around a table rolling dice will let him.

To Mexico City

Zeek (you know him from SHEP, the people who make our videos) and his friends went to Mexico City. With their TOM BIHN bags, of course. Here’s a video that Zeek made of the trip and, below the video, some of his tips for bringing cameras and shooting stills and video while on vacation.

– When I travel, I try to reduce my camera setup to the absolute minimum. For Mexico City, I picked a single prime lens that made it easy to take a few steps back for wider shots and a few steps forward for closeups. It was incredibly compact and it was far more important to me to have something I could easily pop in and out of a bag to take shots quickly and discreetly — and not have my mobility inhibited whatsoever.

– I think the biggest thing while traveling is to try to find that zen place where your camera doesn’t get in the way of your experience. If you go into the mentality that you are under no obligation to capture everything and only take your camera out when it feels natural, you’ll ultimately be more in tune with your environment and get better stuff. I find myself particularly not worrying about the big stuff. Famous monuments have been photographed millions of times — do I really have a unique perspective to offer? Why would I worry about getting a subpar version of what my friends and family have already seen in National Geographic quality? I’m far more interested in noticing small, weird details or spontaneous moments of everyday life. When you’re producing images you always have to remember you will have an audience — whether it’s an actual publication, family, or just your future self remembering the trip.

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

We wanted to see the classic sights of Yellowstone and we wanted to be touristy. We wanted to see the Fall colors in the Tetons. We wanted to stay in a nice place a night or two and camp a night or three in the midst of the park among the animals, waking up to cold air and an immediate sky. Some days we wanted to go from sight to sight; others, we imagined, could be spent in one place exploring on foot or even watching the same group of bison or pronghorn for hours.

We got what we wanted; all of it was grand. Some of our experiences tested us (two solid days of rain and camping in that rain at 32 degrees) and others awed us (two wolf packs and a grizzly bear in one day). At the end of six days when no one wants to go home, you know it’s been a good trip.

On this trip, we tested the new Yeoman Duffle (as our checked luggage, it packed our tent, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, and Skeletool) and a new backpack design for kids aged 4-10. We made Packing Cubes out of sleeping bag fabric that held our jackets and served as pillows on the nights we camped. The Yeoman Duffle is now available for everyone to try out for themselves; the new backpack for kids may debut this year or next. (It’s so cool we might just make a version with longer straps for us adults too.) As for the sleeping bag fabric packing cube/pillow: we just made these for our trip, but if you think you’d want to use them too, let us know and we might just make more and offer them to everyone.

Shout-outs to our favorite places and people on the trip: The Wild Side Tours (wildlife watching tours in Yellowstone; our excellent guide was Bonnie), Yellowstone Grill (Gardiner MT), K-Bar Pizza (Gardiner MT), Lotus Cafe (Jackson WY), Old Faithful Lodge (Yellowstone National Park), and the Slough Creek campground in the Lamar Valley (Yellowstone National Park).

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Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

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Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Six Days In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Cresting

TOM BIHN GUIDE'S PACK CREST

My parents have been avid backpackers my entire life, and now that they’re in their fifties, they’ve logged more trail miles than ever. Both of them have flexible, self-determined schedules, so they’ve been able to take a couple of months each year to go into the back country. In 2012, they hiked the Camino de Santiago through France and Spain. Last year, they finished section-hiking the Appalachian Trail. Then, just this Summer, they came to visit me in Oregon and get started on the Pacific Crest Trail.

My dad’s trail name is “Speedo,” because when he’s not wearing his cargo shorts and sleeveless hiking shirt, he’s in his Speedo, ready to rinse off the day’s heat in whatever stream or lake can be found nearby. Dad’s been a die-hard believer in external frame packs for almost twenty years and only recently switched to a more ergonomic internal-frame design.

The last time I hiked the AT with them, my mom’s trail name was “Peabody” named for her frequent potty breaks. If you needed to know where to use the bathroom, she’s the one to ask. Now, she goes by “Grunt,” and I don’t know where that name comes from. There’s doubtless a good story behind it. She’s been using internal frame packs my whole life.

When I was a kid, my parents bought me an external frame backpack so we could easily adjust it as I grew. Once all of the growth spurts were out of my system, I graduated to an internal frame pack that I’ve used for the past ten years or so. My work schedule meant that I could only spare a couple of days to hike with them on this trip, but I thought it would be a great opportunity to try out my new Guide’s Pack.

The hardest thing to get used to was not having a load-bearing hip belt, which is something most internal and external frame packs depend on to distribute weight. A hip belt ensures that all of the weight is transferred to your legs, rather than digging into your shoulders. Tom has written about this very intentional design choice, arguing that, with the right packing system, a pack can comfortably hold a lot of weight without a hip belt.

I was skeptical at first, but I was only looking at a six-mile hike in each direction, so I figured I wouldn’t have to suffer long if the pack ended up being burdensome.

TOM BIHN GUIDE'S PACK CREST
Paradise Loop Trail

We picked out a shelter to hike to, so I didn’t have to worry about bringing a tent, I could get by with just my sleeping bag, ground pad, and ENO hammock. I packed a camp stove, even though my parents told me not to, just because it’s always good for your pack to have everything you need to spend a night alone. Emergencies do happen, no matter how controlled your hike is, and emergency rations, water, and clothing layers are necessities in the back country.

The Guide’s Pack is basically an open-top duffel bag, so I had to rethink my packing strategy. With the Synapse, the focus is on modular flexibility and compartmentalization. There’s a place for everything, and I put everything in its place.

When it came to loading up the Guide’s pack, I first tried to pack it bottom-to-top, stuffing things that really need to stay dry, like my sleeping bag, clothes, and food in the bottom, and stacking my ground pad, stove, and water on top, these being the things I would most likely reach for first once we got to camp. The Guide’s Pack has another pocket on top into which I placed my down jacket (in its stuff sack,) rain jacket (folded into its own pocket,) trail mix, and first aid kit. I don’t have any side pockets yet.

Unfortunately, this created an unbalanced distribution of weight, which is an important factor to consider when hiking. With my sleeping bag at the bottom, my Thermarest ground pad took up a full half of the interior pack space. All of the heavier items (like my food, water, JetBoil, and fuel,) ended up crammed into one side of the bag, putting all of the strain on one shoulder. That wouldn’t do for two six-mile days.

I couldn’t solve the packing problem myself, but my Mom shared with me some trail wisdom. She suggested I unroll my Thermarest inside of my pack, creating a smooth cylinder out of the remaining space, right down the center of the bag. I was amazed at how perfectly the ground pad gave structure to the interior, and the packing order became clear. I put the dry things at the bottom, like my sleeping bag and thermal layers, staggered my Eagle’s Nest and the JetBoil dead center, and put my water bottle on the top with the food for easy access. The mouth of the Guide’s pack has a drawstring to cinch it shut, and when the bag was closed, it was nothing but smooth contour lines.

The Pacific Crest Trail was originally used for pack animals, so it doesn’t have many steep grades. There were a lot of switchbacks through the gravelly canyons at the foot of Mt. Hood that led down to trickling streams (Oregon has had a drought this Summer,) and up to fragrant alpine meadows. I barely noticed I was carrying any weight, making use of the sternum strap and hip belt to keep my pack snug against my back.

When we got to camp, we discovered that the sheltered we intended to stay in had been demolished, part of its foundation still visible underneath the massive tree that must have caused its downfall. No matter, I put my pack down on the stump and strung up my hammock.

Despite the murderous heat that has been plaguing the Pacific Northwest this Summer, it was chilly on the lower slopes of Hood, so we all put on our warm weather layers and crowded around the Jetboil or coffee and a drink my parents have named, “hot yummy,” which consists of some Mio added to hot water.

In the morning, I packed up everything neatly into my Guide’s Pack and made the trek back out. It only took two hours to reach the trailhead, and I never noticed the weight I was carrying. If I were traveling longer, I would either need a larger bag or some side pockets to make room in the main compartment for a tent or more food, but for just two days, the Guide’s Pack was perfect.

How To Travel As A Student (Yes, It’s Possible!)

HOW TO TRAVEL AS A STUDENT (YES, IT’S POSSIBLE) | TOM BIHN

If you’re wondering who that frazzled girl at the airport was, it was probably me. You know the one — that girl wearing three jackets, sneakers tied to her backpack, camera(s) draped around her neck, repacking her bag in the middle of check-in. Let’s just say when I came home after eight months of interning abroad in Cape Town, I couldn’t keep myself from bringing the whole country with me.

Let me give you some background before I tell you how I found the bag that solved all my problems. (Spoiler alert: it’s from TOM BIHN!)

Let’s talk Student to Student

As a student, I can relate to the “save money at all costs” deal. Why pay for an overweight bag when you can just wear all of your clothes on the plane? (A word of caution: this plan backfires when you a) exit the plane in Dubai in 105 degree heat, or b) sprint a half marathon through the Heathrow airport to make a connecting flight.)

I have slept in airports, endured the occasional 24-hour layover, and taken every mode of public transportation from rickshaw to pickup truck to save a bit of cash. Seeing the world on a budget is possible, but it sometimes means sacrificing small comforts.

When I got to college, all I wanted was to see the world. With graduation on the horizon, I realize I have spent almost as much time abroad as I have on campus in Boston, somehow visiting 5 continents and 25 countries during my time here.

How did I manage this? First, I picked a major that encouraged global experiences (international affairs). With a few scholarships and a bit of saving, I was able to study abroad twice and do an eight-month internship at a social enterprise in South Africa. 

The big reason for crossing so many countries off my bucket list is that in 2015, I was awarded the opportunity of a lifetime to travel the world as the first “Global Officer” for the president of my university (sort of like a student ambassador). No one had ever done this job before, and I was told to let my imagination run wild. My mission was to build global opportunities for students and document stories of people around the world on my blog – pretty sweet deal.

This January, I packed my bags and set off for the one place I have always dreamed of. A place that would push me to limits of my comfort zone I didn’t even know existed: India.

Packing for the Un-packable

I had no clue how to pack for this six-month journey. What do you pack for four seasons and occasions that require everything from beachwear to evening attire? After great deliberation, I did it: one suitcase, a small duffel bag, and a carry-on backpack, all at the maximum weight limit. 

After three months traveling all over Asia, I hopped over to Boston for a few days. At this point, I had lugged my 25 kg suitcase through 12 airports and many, many flights of stairs. I had endured enough silent judgment from backpackers at hostels with 1/8 of what I was carrying. Enough was enough. I shed ten kilos of unnecessary stuff and left for two months in South America to work on bringing my Spanish from “embarrassingly bad” to “mildly acceptable.”

Things were better, but I still wasn’t happy. All my zippers were stuck, my suitcase was ripping at every seam, and both of the wheels were jammed. I was stopping at home again before my final six weeks on the road and I was determined to leave again with just a backpack.

The Search Was Over

When I came across the Aeronaut 45 in my search for a sturdier replacement, I was intrigued, but I had my doubts. It was everything I was looking for, but I wasn’t sure it would be big enough for my last two months on the road.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. This bag is magical. It’s like Mary Poppin’s handbag: there is always more space. Every pocket allows for quick access to your essentials at the airport and the TB packing cubes fit snugly into each compartment like puzzle pieces. I fit 1 packing cube backpack, 1 large packing cube, and a small organizer cube, all packed to the brim in the main compartment with extra room to spare. Amazing!

I don’t know who thought about turning a packing cube into a backpack, but it is genius. Saving space, staying organized, AND traveling in style.

One of my favorite accessories is the 3D clear organizer cube. Going through airport security was a breeze and the bag even has a little hook to hang up my toiletries in the bathroom. I’ve left enough toothbrushes in hotel rooms, so I absolutely love this idea.

Travel Tips I Live By

It took some thought, but I managed to fit everything I needed into my TB bag, including two cameras, clothes for every occasion, and yes, six pairs of shoes. Here are my three golden rules for packing:

1) One of everything. Not two. One. Especially if you are traveling solo, no one will realize you’ve worn the same shirt every day for 10 days. [Laundry is encouraged]
2) De-clutter. That means taking those extra credit cards out of your wallet, cleaning out your make-up case and getting rid of all those little trinkets that suck up space. The little things make a huge difference.
3) Need or want? Can you survive without it temporarily? If it isn’t a necessity like clothes, shoes, or a toothbrush, leave it home.

You would be right to think that my experience is nothing like how normal students travel on a budget, but before this, I was in those shoes. Between this trip and many others, I’ve learned a few tricks and tips that help me save money, pack like a pro, and travel like a sane human being.

Packing aside, I will leave you with one last bit of advice that I think every wishful explorer should be mindful of. Expect to make a few mistakes while traveling and realize that no problem is ever too big. I’ve hit one or two, or ten bumps in the road, but I’ve never considered the prospect of losing a few dollars or missing a flight as a reason to stay home. While I wish you all the best on your travels, I also believe that every mishap is an opportunity to learn and reflect on who we are and what we’re made of at our core.

Cherish every experience, stay positive, and keep exploring.

Caitlin Morelli is a senior at Northeastern University who recently returned from a six-month trip around the world as Northeastern’s first Global Officer. To learn more about this unique position, visit her website or follow her on Instagram. Caitlin is passionate about social entrepreneurship and sustainability and loves discovering, cooking, and eating new foods.

News Briefs

Early reviews of the Luminary 12 / 15 from the Forum community are in. See L15 reviews by logan_g, G42, Lia, anna2222, Quiltmama, and L12 reviews by marbenais, awurrlu and L12/L15 comparison reviews by Cristina, aedifica, bartleby.

The new Luminary 12 and Luminary 15 backpacks + bags in 210d ballistic nylon will be up for pre-order on 02/26. Details here.

We posted a very early heads-up on our March 5th, 2019 (roughly 6%) price increase in the Forums along with news of Shop Bags in 210d ballistic nylon.

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