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Photograph of Pete Lake in Washington State with the sun about to go down behind the mountains.


Amputee Outdoors isn't just for amputees, any lover of hiking, backpacking and camping will find value in this site.  But, if you are an amputee, I hope the videos, advice, and gear reviews educate and inspire you to enjoy the beauty of nature.

  • Look through the Gear dropdown to read reviews of gear I've used and tested along with examples and discussions of hiking and backpacking gear.

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Collection of ultralight backpacking gear

Now don’t get me wrong, putting thought into how you can reduce your pack weight is a good thing to do. Having said that, I’m of the opinion that you can go too far.

Ultra-light backpacking, carrying minimal gear and supplies in an effort to reduce weight, can be a useful strategy for certain types of trips and activities. However, it's not always a good idea, and there are some potential drawbacks and risks associated with this approach

One of the main drawbacks of ultra-light backpacking is that it can limit your ability to cope with unexpected situations or emergencies. By carrying minimal gear and supplies, you may not have the resources or equipment needed to deal with unforeseen circumstances, such as bad weather, injuries, or equipment failures. This is especially true in the wintertime and shoulder seasons up in the mountains. Fast-changing weather, colder temperatures, wind, downed trees, etc., can all create situations where more durable, but heavier, gear is needed.

For example, if you are caught in a severe storm while ultra-light backpacking, you may not have the necessary gear to stay warm and dry, and this could put you at risk of hypothermia or other health problems. Similarly, if you are injured or become ill while ultra-light backpacking, you may not have the supplies or equipment needed to provide first-aid or seek help.

Another potential drawback of ultra-light backpacking is that it can reduce your enjoyment and comfort on the trail. By carrying minimal gear, you may have to sacrifice certain amenities or comforts that can make your trip more enjoyable, such as a comfortable sleeping pad, a stove to cook with, or a shelter to protect you from the elements.

For example, if you are ultra-light backpacking and are forced to sleep on the ground, you may not have the necessary gear to create a comfortable sleeping surface, and this could lead to a restless and uncomfortable night. Similarly, if you are ultra-light backpacking and are unable to cook your own meals, you may have to rely on trail mixes and other minimal food options, which can be less satisfying and enjoyable than a hot meal.

Overall, while ultra-light backpacking can be a useful strategy in some situations, there remain many situations where ultra-light is the wrong strategy.

A man and a woman hiking up a trail in the mountains.

Oh, how we love our backpacks. And how backpack manufacturers love to tinker with them. Everything from backpacks specifically designed to be theft-proof, to sections that rotate around to your front, to backpacks that stay stationary as you hike, and backpacks with built-in umbrellas. I've collected a few samples of innovative backpacks for your review and entertainment. One thing to keep in mind, all of these backpacks are pricey. Innovation doesn't come cheap you know.

Note: Some of these are available from Amazon and as an Amazon Affiliate I will get slightly compensated if you buy one of them.

First up we have the 2in1 Built-in Sun Umbrella Backpack from Mavigadet. Its advertising claims, "Waterproof. Rain cover and back anti-theft pocket. UV protection protects the sun and rain from the outdoors".

2in1 Built-in Sun Umbrella Backpack from Mavigadet.

Read that out loud. Considering the backpack retails for $499.95 you would think they could afford a proofreader. Aside from the umbrella attribute, this backpack doesn't offer much more than standard backpacks this size. And considering you can buy an umbrella that's larger and clips onto your existing backpack for $32, I'm not sure this is worth the cost.

Tenba Solstice 12L Backpack.

On the more functional and affordable end, we have the Tenba Solstice 12L Backpack. This starts at $155.95 and is designed with photographers in mind. What's unique about this design is that it opens fully from the straps side of the backpack. If you take off the straps while wearing it and swivel the pack around from the belt strap, you can open it up with the pack in front of you.

Tenba Solstice 12L Backpack.

It comes in three sizes, 12L, 20L, and 24L, and I can see where even for those that just use their smartphones for capturing nature's beauty, this would make a convenient day hike pack.

Next up we have the Mystery Ranch 2 Day Assault Backpack. Mystery Ranch has produced a lot of high-end backpacks. And this interesting pack is right there with them. This will cost you $217.98 but considering its lineage, probably money well spent.

 Mystery Ranch 2 Day Assault Backpack

The pack has all the usual features you'd expect, but what makes this pack stand out is the three-way zipper setup. Instead of the usual plebian method of opening the backpack from the top. You can open the top and front of the back to get full access to the contents of your pack. The advertising says that it's designed for "Everyday urban missions" but you can probably take this out into the woods too.

Ultimate Direction Fastpack 40L Daypack.

If you're looking for a pack designed for a very active

day, then you're going to want something like the

has four pouches on the front straps for small water

bottles, snacks, phones, etc., and is probably a little

more exciting than this guy makes it seem. It's a roll-top backpack with a side zipper to access your gear. This front-loaded pack comes in three sizes, 20L, 30L, 40L, and will set you back $194.95. (Maybe that price is why the guy looks so glum?)

Similar to the Tenba, is the Upranger from Eberlestock. This pack has a hard plastic back with the designed intention that you put that side down in the mud and dirt and then open it up from the strap side. This is no lightweight day pack.

Upranger from Eberlestock

It weighs in at 6.45 lbs and is designed for use at the outdoor gun range, or other events where your hike is short, the conditions are messy and you don't want your gear getting muddy. The pack costs $329 and only comes in tactical colours. But it's Eberlestock and for those familiar with that brand, neither the price nor colours are a surprise. I can see where this pack would be favoured by those that have outdoor work, linemen, surveyors, and loggers.

Probably one of the most innovative backpacks in recent years is the HoverGlide backpack. Initially, this was a pack developed for military use, but the Department of Defence dropped it and the developers have gone private since. This pack bounces on up and down on your back and is supposed to reduce impact forces on your back by 86%.

 HoverGlide backpack.

The HoverGlide uses a combination of pulleys and bungee cords to prevent the weight of the pack from pulling down on your shoulders. A unique idea and the videos on their site do a good job of explaining the mechanics of the system. However, with all those moving parts, I'd be a little concerned about its durability. Sand, dirt, moisture, etc., would likely cause mechanical problems over time. Nonetheless, of all the backpacks in this article, this is the one I'd most like to try out. But at $599 for the smallest pack, I don't think that will be happening anytime soon.

The Paxis Shuttle Pod backpack is similar to the Tenba in that it allows you to access some of your backpack gear without taking off the pack. Unlike the Tenba though, you don't have to take the should straps off. Just swivel the lower part of the pack around to the front.

 Paxis Shuttle Pod backpack

The pack retails for $225 and apparently, sales are good as the more expensive models ($325) are sold out. I do a lot of filming and photographing on my hikes and would definitely make use of this clever backpack. Like the HoverGlide, it has moving parts and again, dirt, sand, moisture may be a problem if not addressed properly. It's a small backpack designed more for day trips and hikes. I wasn't able to find any information on the weight of the pack but I'm guessing that with the swing arm, pack frame and padding in the section that swings out front, it's probably not a lightweight pack.

For men and apparently, for men only, we have L.L. Bean's Men's Technical Upland Vest Pack. I looked for a woman's version but to no avail.

L.L. Bean's Men's Technical Upland Vest Pack

This pack is designed sort of like a vest, but with its large lower storage on the back, it has the capacity for a day hike gear. This is one of the most affordable backpacks in this article at $149. One interesting feature of this pack is its "Large, lined bloodproof game bag." The pack is designed for hunters and the like but that doesn't mean a casual day hiker wouldn't benefit from its design. You'll notice in the photo that the majority of the weight is low on the back. This will help keep your center of gravity close to the hips and reduce the pack exposure to branches and the like if you're bushwhacking.

VITAL GEAR 2017VTGRJMMLORG Modular Travel Get Home Backpack

Finally, we have the VITAL GEAR 2017VTGRJMMLORG Modular Travel Get Home Backpack. Selling at $349.95. This pack also comes in two gender-specific harnesses and is designed more for the traveler and not the hiker. Nonetheless, I can see this pack being very functional for hikers or overnight backpacking trips. With dimensions of ‎22 x 13 x 7 inches, there's plenty of room for your gear. And with more MOLLE straps than a squad of Marines, there are plenty of ways you can add to this pack and carry more gear. Another interesting feature is how it opens. One big zipper that goes all the way around three sides enables it to open up like a suitcase.

The outdoor recreation business is a billion+ dollar a year part of our economy. With that much money going around, I don't think we'll see an end to folks trying to build a better mousetrap to snare us. That's fine with me. :)

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Five hikers in deep snow walking near a forest in the mountains.

Winter hiking often has two very special highlights: Magical views and fewer people. For those that are willing and able to venture out into the snowy mountains, the views can be spectacular. For those folks that like a little more solitude on even the most popular trails, winter hiking usually deters the larger crowds. However, and this is a big ‘however’, there are some serious issues that should be taken into consideration when hiking in winter.

Here are the top ten mistakes folks make when winter hiking.

1. Not properly researching the trail or route before setting out. It's important to know the conditions of the trail, including any potential hazards such as ice or avalanche risk. Spend a while reading trail reports and weather forecasts. Check the local ranger site too.

2. Building on #1, not checking the weather forecast and being unprepared for the conditions. The weather forecast you’re reading is usually for the town near where you’re going hiking. It’s likely the weather will be different on the trail than in the town nearby. Remember, in the winter, the weather can be unpredictable and can change quickly. It's important to be prepared for the potential for extreme cold, snow, and wind. This is especially true if you hike in the mountains. I have had the weather go from a balmy 50F to 30F in under 30 minutes.

3. Not carrying enough water or food. It's important to stay hydrated and fueled up, especially in cold weather. Bring extra water and high-energy snacks in case your hike takes longer than expected. A couple of Snickers bars are good to bring. You’ve got lots of sugar in them to fuel your body.

4. Not telling someone where you are going and when you plan to return. It's always a good idea to let someone know where you are going and when you plan to be back, in case of an emergency. Leave them a map of where you’re going too.

5. Not wearing appropriate clothing or footwear. Layering is key for winter hiking, as is having proper footwear with good traction for walking on snow and ice. (You want that moisture-wicking base layer, a thermal layer, (maybe two), and a weatherproof layer. Oh, and no cotton.

6. Not bringing a map and compass (or knowing how to use them). In the winter, trails may be covered in snow, making them harder to follow. It's important to bring a map and compass and know how to use them in case you need to navigate off-trail. Download AllTrails or some similar hiking app then download a copy of the trail you plan to hike. Check your progress often and make course corrections as needed.

7. Not knowing how to handle an emergency situation. Cold weather can be dangerous, and it's important to know what to do in case of emergencies, such as frostbite or hypothermia. Take a class on wilderness first aid, and do some research on what to do in case of frostbite or hypothermia. Bring along one of those $4.99 thermal reflective blankets.

8. Not being aware of your surroundings and potential hazards. In the winter, there are additional hazards to be aware of, such as thin ice on lakes and rivers, and tree wells (holes around the base of trees filled with snow). Use your hiking poles to check the snow, especially if you’re venturing into areas no one else has hiked. Listen and look at the slopes around you.

9. Not being respectful of the environment and Leave No Trace principles. It's important to practice Leave No Trace principles in the winter to protect the environment and prevent damage to fragile ecosystems. Often those winter trails aren’t quite the usual trail. The snow will obscure the official trail and you’ll be tramping over bushes, small trees, etc., that would usually be left unmolested.

10. Not being prepared for the physical demands of the hike. Winter hikes can be more strenuous due to the cold weather and potentially challenging trail conditions. It's important to be physically fit and prepared for the hike. A four-mile hike uphill in snow shoes is a very different hike than your normal hike. You will burn a lot of calories and work up a serious sweat quickly. Be aware of your body’s limitations and respect them.

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