Hipster Packing

I’ll admit it – I’m a fan of fanny packs. I often used one with my hip-belt less packs when backpacking to carry a phone or maps, and like the hip pack for day hikes when I don’t really need the volume (or sweaty back) of a day pack, and tbh these are also great as hands free bags around town. I’ve been testing a few out in varying circumstances – following are my thoughts:

The Gossamer Gear Hipster
Material: Ripstop nylong
Weight 2.1 oz. with 1 in. x 45 in. webbing waistbelt
Size: 10 x 6 in – 40 c.i. (.7 L)
Cost $19.99

I used the Hipster extensively on my PCT and CDT hikes – especially in cold weather when I want my phone and maps somewhere other than my shirt pockets (too much unzipping!). I’ve also used it extensively for day hikes, trail running and mountain biking.

It’s perfect for hiking – holds a phone, maps and other daily necessities like lip balm or smoking supplies. I have an older version, and the volume really works best with EITHER a phone or snack, not both. The pack is also water resistant, so I feel confident keeping my phone there without a plastic bag, even in pretty wet conditions.

It bounces around on MTB or running trips, but is generally fine & secure as long as it’s not overloaded. I like the key hook – it prevents nightmares about being locked out at the trailhead.

The quality is excellent, I’ve probably travelled 3000 miles with mine and it’s not even showing wear, and washes up well. I also love/hate the design, which tends to keep the pack closed – if u forget to zip u wont lose your ish, however it makes single handed operation/getting a IPhone6 (normal size) out sometimes frustrating. It’s probably sewn in Taiwan, but you get what you pay for at $20.

Overall 7/10. Bummed about the overseas sewing, but profile is most likely to get used around town.

ThruPacks Astronaut
Material: Dyneema
Weight 1.5 oz + 2.5 oz for comfy hip belt
175 cubic inches, (2.9L)
Cost $60 (pack) + $20 (comfy strap)

A newcomer to the fanny pack market, Thru. is making some beautifully made-in-America boutique hip belts. The Astronaut is their flagship model, made of translucent Dyneema (nee cuben fiber) with a waterproof zipper and webbing pulls. A more full figured pack, it features an interior zipper pocket (with separated ID/loot slots) and an open back pocket. The volume offers enough room to carry a windshirt, any smartphone, gloves, hand sani & minor first aid, and smoking accessories on the inside, while also comfortably accommodating a quart freezer bag of snacks in the open back pocket. Carrying this extra weight is all made possible by the awesome “Comfy Strap” – made of webbing and spandex, which helps reduce friction and fatigue with its wide footprint. Sure, the extra volume makes it too bouncy for running, and I wouldn’t trust the open back pocket for anything during an MTB shred – but this is a real winner for longer day hikes or as part of a hipbelt-less pack system for backpacking. I also use mine daily in the garden – I’m a profession flower grower- and it’s the best size for all the essentials; scissors, blade, twisties & zip ties, gloves and iPod with room for extras.

I also hafta say – I really love American made products, and this is made by backpackers for backpackers in Norfolk, VA. Having spent a fair amount of time hunched over a sewing machine, I’m can say the Astronaut features superb construction, and I can see it lasting thru years of abuse. I look forward to finding out.

9/10 – awesome quality and functionality American made gear.

PS if u think $80 buck is large coin for a fine American made product, it’s totes in the range of other similar products like the awesome, MTB specific Hunter Cycles Shred Pack. If you want cheap, think kids in China.

Mountain Laurel Designs Pack Pocket
Material: Dyneema X
Weight: .999 oz, no waistbelt included
Size: 4.5 X 6.5 X 1.75 (48ci / .78L)

While not technically a hip pack, I often slide the MLD Pack Pocket on my webbing belt that keeps up my short shorts when I shred the MTBs, or when I’m riding around town. The Pack Pocket is compact, waterproof, and just large enough to keep an iPhone 6, a couple of tire levers and patch kit, OR maybe a snack & your ID/loot. I’ll admit it’s not efficient for hiking (not quite enough volume without a backpack to back it up), and bounces too much for trail running. But it’s a great cycling tool. If you’ve ever tried to fish your ID and money out of a messenger bag (which happens to have the inside coated in wheatpaste, that’s another story) u know it’s basically a black hole. It’s nice to keep a few things easily accessible. The Pack Pocket is also super durable – I’ve scraped mine on both concrete and dirt (I’m really good at falling off bikes), and it’s not even showing wear. Highly recommended. Also, I guess you could actually put it on a backpack hip belt, tho I’ve not tried.

Overall 7/10 Kinda awkward to use with a normal belt, but does work great for extra storage, and iz American made & super cheap.

Material: Ripstop nylon
Weight: Heavy, best not ask
Size: about 1L
Cost: $2 at the thrift

The Cadillac of fanny packs, with 2 zippered pockets, key leash, external compression straps, and integrated water bottle (or beer) holsters. This thing is massive, and meant to compliment your full size gaiters. It’s also awesome if you want to stash 4 trail beers, tools, and some snacks for an afternoon shred – and they are readily available at the thrift (at least in the northwest). A definite contender, but too heavy for long distance hiking use, and too many features for day trips unless you’re biking. But check out that awesome gros grain!

Overall 7/10 Nice price, 90’s accents, but too klunky for everyday use.



Harpo and I were on a mission not to pay rent. We succeeded (mostly) from May 2013 – to November 2016, subleasing for about 4 months from friends, otherwise we sleeping outside or house sitting. We stayed in a lot of houses. I took photos of bookshelves; and every home, every collection, is a metaphor and a way of being.

The intimacy of a book collection, the utensils in the kitchen,  contents of a backpack, and altar, or a shrine extend the image of our personal myth. It’s something about the entanglement with language – the romance of the unsaid – but also narrative form. A desire to explain ourselves, a poem made of objects, a mirror.

Belated journal: Harpo’s first solo backpacking trip

Sometime in August: After hiking more than 6000 miles with Groucho over the past 3 years, and sleeping more than 300 nights outside, I realize I’ve never taken a solo backpacking trip. Sure… I’ve hiked and wandered by day on my own, but unlike so many friends… I’ve never shouldered the pack, set out on foot, pitched camp by myself and made it back home, alone.

Sometime in September

in the middle of Wyoming -a state of open spaces, bison, guns, dust, sun, solitude and wind – I feel like I need some space. I want to be more alone than I already am.

My thoughts are only directed at the misery and trap of the thru hike. I’m irritable and desparate. Turns out I contracted Giardia which maybe contributes to my fatigue and grumpiness as well as the smell of rotten eggs coming out of my butt. (Sorry mom).

But more importantly I feel a need to digest. Literally and figuratively. Literally I need to get better in order to digest food… and figuratively I want to settle down for a minute and reconnect with a sense of home and community and process what the heck am I doing with this little life. What does all of this mean?

I begin to talk to Groucho about my dreams of heading home to the NW. And as the weather worsens and my parasites take hold, my resolve sets in. I will head home. But not until I’d have a few days on trail by myself.

So we fly back to the NW. Grab some supplies. And with one week of solid rain predicted, we make a romantic gesture: we grant each other space and time. 5 days to walk away from each other. Then toward each other. Than away again. than toward. We resolve to hike the 95 mile wonderland loop around mount Rainer – in opposite directions.
Herein lies my journal:

September 19

Longmire to nickle creek

14 miles
We get to the trailhead at longmire around 10am. We have no issues getting permits but it is already drizzling rain. I have all the gear. I’ve already walked 1300 miles this summer. But I feel fear. This is new. I put on the brave face and stall at the cafe over breakfast which I can’t eat. Nerves or Giardia?
We set out around noon and take a half hearted video at the trailhead. I feel ready to be on my own …soooo ready. I’ve been with Groucho every day all day for months. But I’m scared too.

I speed down the path. Ready to be at camp and have my first day done. It turns out it’s not Groucho that’s my problem. It’s hiking. It’s me. I’m tired and sick and 10 lbs underweight and it’s cold foggy and damp. 14 miles feels like forever. This sucks. This is not Groucho’s fault. It’s me. I’m the problem.

I see a deer buddy. A river. A box canyon.

I make videos. Ones for YouTube and ones for Groucho. I don’t pick up litter even tho that would make our friend “FutureDad” sad. It’s not like me. But I just don’t care.

After seeing Rainer peek from the clouds my head is filled with gratitude and my heart suddenly misses Groucho. I stay optimistic and type in my phone “It’s like physical therapy for your heart. Sometimes it hurts to be apart. That’s how you know it’s working.”

The sun sets on my first solo backpacking night at the Nickle Creek campsite. I feel nervous but also confident. Set up is easy enough. Mostly i really am thinking about Groucho. I thought I might feel carefree or light without needing to consider his needs. But Instead I feel sort of blank and empty and depressed.

I pullout my gear and it’s damp; My pack has failed. I put on the layers knowing they will dry out overnight. I eat snacks and it takes too long. (Why does it matter how long it takes to eat?!) I make a video and cry a little. Why am I such a mess? I head to bed and sleep warm and well.

SEPTEMBER 20 -day 2

Nickel creek to white River

19 miles
A good day. I wake up calm and enjoy clear skies all morning. Tho I find frost at 5k feet and take pictures of Crystalline Entity-like ice structures. (Shout out: STNG)

I take long morning breaks to enjoy the sudden and surprising presence of sun.
I dry my gear in one such supercharge burst around noon. I’ve gone about 9 miles into my day. I talk to 3 men who treat me like a celebrity. Although they are ultra marathoners this is a big deal backpacking trip for them. They have too much gear and at noon they’ve only gone a mile or so today. They take my picture and I feel embarrassed.
Later in the afternoon I regret my morning breaks as the clouds condense. A storm approaches. I hustle.

In the highest points of elevation I encounter majestic marmot buddies keeping watch.

Food is a problem. I hate Giardia. My nateropathic remedies are frozen so the parasites are partying. All I can stomach are cashews. 5 at a time. the rest of my food bag sags heavy and useless. The uphill jaunts grow particularly gross as My body expels puffs of sulfur. I need rest stops far more often than a thru hiker should.
I decide to call dinner at 3pm, only 3 miles from camp, praying the weather holds. I Need to force food in for the power. A cool ranger checks my permit and chats for awhile. It’s nice to have company.
I get to the huge white River campground around 5:30. It starts raining right as I put up my tarp. Then hail. Then rain.
I think of my buddy Groucho….Now halfway around the mountain. Hoping his small poncho/tarp holds. Knowing he sleeps a bit higher elevation tonight. I feel luxurious spaciousness with our double tarp tent all to myself.
And it feels like Christmas Eve because -tomorrow morning- I will start to walk toward Groucho again. With any luck I’ll see him tomorrow afternoon.

SEPTEMBER 21 – day 3

White River to carbon river

17 miles

This day begins extremely cool and crisp. The ground crunches with frost and snow. Rainer is Large and in charge. And I’m powered by her presence.

Water at the high elevations sparkles with ice. My fingers are cold, even with gloves.

Around 11am I see a herd of mountain goats. And the descent back into the trees. It feels tough. I pass the campsite Groucho will sleep at tonight.  I leave him a wilderness graffiti made of twigs. H 💛’s G

I walk down down down. The wonderland is hella beautiful but the ascent and descents are no joke. Pretty steep elevation changes.
Around 3:14 I run into Groucho. We backtrack to a sheltered spot for a coffee break. I feel calm and happy to see him. We share snacks. I tell him about Giardia and he tells me about his xtreme allergic reaction.

At 4pm thunder claps and rain break up the party. We part ways. I am buoyed by our interaction. I get to camp and am granted a super cute site. I throw my tarp up just as it begins to rain. Eat half my snacks and then throw up. Stupid Giardia.

SEPTEMBER 22-day 4

Carbon River to Golden Lakes

18 miles

The First hours of the day are familiar! i’ve done this section before a few years ago.

I’m soooo tired. It’s a steep and long climb out of the carbon River valley. I really can’t wait to be done and keep fantasizing about cutting the trip short. I am dreading the ford I know will come at the end of the day.

At Mowich lake I try to dry my tent while conversing with some really nice ladies from whidby. They know my friends at MAHA farm. They are out here for a few days going off trail into the spray park! With just map and compass. So cool.

There are hella cool mushrooms

This is the day no one can believe what I’m doing (95 miles in 4.5 days) and so I keep feeling behind my schedule and then believing them that I’m not going to make it.

Then I ford this river I’ve been dreading for 4 days. And It turns out I am awesome. And smart about it. and brave.  I see a man trying some Herculean stuff to help his gal cross and I giggle. He’s dragging huge logs trying to make a bridge for her as the current just keep sweeping the logs down stream. They would be better off without their fear. I am a superhero.

The last uphill climb is long but feels easy and there is company as I take a snack break and Hercules and his lady friend catch up and we exchange stories. They are pretty cool.

I reach camp At 6 or so. Feeling happy. It’s the home stretch. I’m not hungry and fog is rolling. I pitch tarp too low and pray it holds in the winds and storm predicted for tomorrow.


SEPTEMBER 23-day 5

Golden lakes to Longmire.

25 miles

I have a crazy Lucid dream. And then wake before dark. I’m hoping to get to the trail head early. I want to be done.

But the Day is super tough. Like everyday this week there is over 5000 feet of elevation gain today. And it’s relentlessly wet. And Cold. Mystic and foreboding. I’m Pretty lonely.

Around 10 I run into the three ultramarathoner men again.  They keep trying to share their snacks. I keep rejecting their advances saying we shouldn’t share germs. They laugh it off. I want to say “no really you dorks I have Giardia” but I’m too tired. After a few photos and dried apricots we fistbump farewell.

The day feels long and interminable. The big lady always shrouded. I can’t feel my toes. My gloves are soaked. My fingers are numb. If I could feel… I’d feel bummed. Instead i’m coldly resolute. A depleted machine with a homing beacon back to the car. Only 5 more hours to go.

I run into a couple on a ridge. They are out here for days more. I feel sorry for them. It’s so damp and windy. I don’t know how they are staying dry. I care little about being wet. It’s cold but I’m headed to the car. The car. The car. And Groucho.

After a long climb I realize I need more snacks. I’m too cold despite the incessant walking. I have food.  it’s not appealing….But I have to force it down if im gonna make it. In the rain I pause to grab something from my snack bag. It takes me 14 minutes to tear a small hole in the hazelnut butter packet. I try to press hazelnut butter out the hole but my fingers won’t squeeze anymore. Literally I can’t press my thumb and forefinger together. This is not good. but I still have teeth. I slobber and masticate all over the metallic packet until some nut butter warms enough to ooze out. This goes on for 3 miles as I continue to walk and slowly consume the minuscule calories seeping out, suck by slobbery suck.

I get to a suspension bridge. there are slats missing. It’s super Kathleen turner vibes. I pass 3 day hikers! This means the end’s in sight!  Tho still 3 hours to go.  I pass them and feel relieved they are behind me. If I die before the trail head at least they will find me. These are the irrational and morbid thoughts that go thru my brain in the cold. Biology of cold works hard to slow us down enough to gently accept death. Luckily my familial obligation is strong and for my mom and dad I feel resolute to continue. And if I keep moving I will make it

I run into two ladies at the end of the day. They say I’m close! As I descend the rain let’s up and it gets 10 degrees warmer. My fingers feel better. Then a trail runner and people wearing jeans!! I must be close.

Then signs. And I practically run to the parking lot. And Groucho is dry but cold I the car having beat me by 2 hours.

And I did it.

People, Places, Things

Catching some shred with the homie Justin. When I’m hiking I only dream of being back on a bike… and fall riding in the Northwest is AWESOME.

I’m always photographing this spot – on the Elliott Bay Trail between Interbay and Downtown in Seattle. It’s one of my favorite urban rides, and reminds me how fortunate I am to live here.

Running with slugs. Lord Hill Regional Park is a spot I’ve returned to often since I learned to mountain bike there in the 90’s. Regional trail systems are awesome – you can wander in without a map, get a little lost & a lot dirty, & still be dry & eating vegan mac&chz by sunset.

Harpo & I did work for stay with Fred (pictured) at a small organic farm on Whidbey Island. Fred’s running his own garden now, & my friend Pol & I went to source veggies from him for a meal we’re creating for a theatre company.

Oregon Coast Storm of the Half Century

Several weeks ago a large weather event was predicted for coastal oregon and washington areas. Thankfully we were already scheduled to travel to the Oregon coast, so we had a front row seat. While a tornado touched down 5 miles south of our Friday-morning hike, we enjoyed an intimate, dramatic, but relatively safe weekend with family and friends celebrating my brother’s wedding. Congrats you guys… and welcome to the family Sarah!


picking up litter on the coast


grey on grey on grey

Dad likes the huge trees

My cute mom raises her glass

my dudes

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