Eat, Walk, Sleep: A Gear Review

Big Agnes Happy Hooligan UL2



I’ve grown up with dew on my face every single morning in the backcountry, but the BA Happy Hooligan gave me the gift of a dry face. Not that it made me any less smelly, but this tent made sure to keep the elements from ruining a good night’s sleep. We had it in snow, the desert and torrential downpours. We were protected with such a lightweight tent, it was amazing.

Quick overview:

  • Two vestibules (one on each side)
  • Pockets above your face while you’re sleeping
  • Fly vent with a small pole to keep it open during windy nights
  • Velcro tabs to synch fly to poles
  • Silicone treated nylon rip stop material
  • 1200mm waterproof polyurethane coating

More details: The vestibules give both people ample area to protect their packs and footwear. Also, the tent without the fly is mostly mesh. Evan and I set up the naked tent in Death Valley and star gazed all night long.

The one downside, though, is that you are way too cozy with the second person. Evan and I slept mostly shoulder to shoulder each night. Not great for the sibling relationship, but the tent still worked fabulously. We can deal with nights of close quarters because we were always zonked and passed out ASAP.

*I’m using the BA Fly Creek UL 1 for my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail


Vestibule Area 9 / 9 sqft / 0.8 / 0.8 sqm
Trail Weight 3lb 2oz / 1.42kg
Packed Weight 3lb 9oz / 1.62kg
Packed Size 5″ x 20.5″ / 13 x 52cm
Footprint Weight 7oz / 198g
Floor Area 29 sqft / 2.7 sqm
Fast Fly Weight 1.16kg


Osprey Kyte 36 Pack (Women’s XS/S)


This pack felt great. I am someone who has always had a hand-me-down pack from my brother, and I was pleasantly surprised as this pack truly hugged my back and kept the weight on my hips. It fit anything you could want for a day pack, and it has sections that help you organize your gear.

Quick overview:

  • Detachable sleeping back compartment separator
  • Sleeping pad straps
  • Compression straps
  • Pole-stowing strap
  • Mesh front pocket
  • Daisy chains on front for extra attachments
  • Built-in rain cover
  • Hydration sleeve
  • Hipbelt pockets

More details: I loved the external hydration sleeve; I had no worries about my bladder leaking all over my gear on the inside. The sleeve made it easy for the bladder to clip into place and stay there throughout the adventuring.


Volume 2075 in.3/ 34 L
Dimensions 25H x 12W x 12D in – 63H x 30W x 31D cm
Weight 3.09 lbs/1.4 kg


Jetboil Genesis Basecamp System Camp Stove



The stove was big enough to make heaping amounts of rice and beans, our summer staple for the trip. I felt like the two burners heated pretty evenly, but I ended up just using the one large pot toward the end because I was honestly being lazy. The system let me boil water in no time, which I would hope since boil is technically their first name (they don’t event mess with it being their middle name).

Quick overview:

  • Port for another JetLink compatible stove/burner
  • 2 burners that fold into one another
  • Drip trays
  • Imbedded igniter
  • Carrying bag
  • Propane compatible
  • Ideal for 3-5 people

More details:  Honestly, it was a little large for just Evan and I over the summer, but it worked perfectly and would be prime for a group climbing trip or something of that nature.


Boil Time 3 min 15 sec per 32 oz (1 L)
Power 10,000 BTU/h/ 3kW
Weight 6.2 lbs/2.8 kg


Brooks Caldera Trail Runners (Women’s)

Not Recommended

Related image

The grip was minimal, especially after a few long day hikes. My La Sportiva hiking boots provided more grip security, and I resorted to the traditional boots for most of my trip. The cushioning on the Caldera seems great, but turns out to be excessive and results in lack of stability. The mesh outer layer also allows your feet to get absolutely caked in dirt. Which, in the long run, isn’t bad since you’re dirty and smelly anyways.

Quick overview:

  • Gaiter tabs
  • Midsole cushioning
  • Mesh outer layer

More details:  The cushioning felt amazing on my feet, and they didn’t hurt after I had hiked 10 hours in a day. However, the comfort did not overshadow the disappointing grip and stability of the shoe.


Arch Medium/High
Midsole Drop 4 mm
Weight 9.9 oz/281 g


Meteorites and Mountains

Note from Cat: I’m a little behind on posts since the post trip relaxation has truly kicked in. Evan will claim it’s because I hate him that these posts are late, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles. 

Authored by Not Wanderlust’s head geologist: Evan Dismukes 

Quick Vocabulary:

Laccolith: when a pluton is created and makes the overlaying rock bulge upward
The remainder of our sojourn through Canada was spent visiting cities so this post is going to be short and sweet. It does involve engaging topics such as meteors, mountains and magma. 

We entered Sudbury. I’m not sure if the depressed vibe was a result of the rain or because the Timmy Ho’s we stopped at for breakfast was entirely comprised of homeless people. Either way, it had the classic post-economic collapse of blue collar towns, an environment we are familiar with being from Pittsburgh. Despite all of this, Sudbury is the “Nickel Capital of the World.” The city is in the middle of a giant crater that was created by an asteroid impact about 2 billion years ago. It is the second largest confirmed meteor impact on earth. For comparison, the third biggest impact is the one in Mexico that killed off the dinosaurs. The rocks in this area are mostly gneiss and fragmented granite. The gneiss was granite from the Canadian Shield that metamorphosed into gneiss as a result of the asteroid impact. The fractured granite are the pieces of the Canadian Shield that were broken up and thrown into the sky as a result of the meteor impact. With the Canadian Shield’s rich minerals and the meteor materials, Sudbury was primed to be a booming mining town. It’s title of “Nickel Capital of the World” after the Big Nickel Company was founded in the area and became the largest producer of nickel in the world. Regardless how it seems, Big Nickel is actually the name of the company and not just what conspiracy theorists call the nickel industry in the town.

We then visited Toronto, where we saw the most important 35 pounds of silver in the world that is currently claimed by the city of Pittsburgh (I.e.Lord Stanley). Then, we made our way to Ottawa where Cat tried to make out with Trudeau (editor’s note: that statement is a lie). Finally, we fumbled upon Parc National De Plaisance, which is listed as a Parks Canada park, but everything within the park lists it as a Quebec Provincial Park. I don’t know French so I don’t know what’s true and what isn’t. The park is on the Ottawa River which is a part of the failed rift valley that also created Lake Huron. This place also had a lot of sediment deposited upon it as the glaciers receded after the last Ice Age. This made it a great place for farming as seen by the multitude of farms that line the park. We were also surrounded by frogs, and whether you take that to be amphibians or Quebecoise, you would be correct.

We then hopped through Montreal and Quebec City to the Maine border. We had our first and only genuinely courteous Border Patrol agent before not summiting Katahdin due to storms. The tallest mountain in Maine is a laccolith that formed as a result of the mountain building event that formed the Appalachians. Like many other places in the northern latitudes, it was also shaped by glaciers which is how it got its steep sides. None of this we could see because we slept in our car in the torrential downpour.

Since most of Cat’s post is taken up by visiting cities my post is gonna be shorter with Acadia National Park being our last stop. The island is a part of the Coastal Maine Magmatic Province where plutons were being formed as a result of the processes that were forming the Appalachians as well. There are tons of really cool exposed granite in this park along the coast and at the top of the peaks, including Cadillac Mountain. Cadillac is the first place to experience sunrise on the whole east coast of the U.S. However, this view is completely ruined by seeing multiple large cruise ships moored off the coast providing an outpouring of Jerrys onto the quaint shipping island on the coast of Maine.

Upon leaving Acadia we will be continuing through New England. I will continue to eat seafood. We will visit more friends, and will slowly start to pronounce our “R’s” again as we head into the heart of the Appalachians.

Fin (Big Trip Days 45-56)

This is the “I had a case of the home-stretch lazies and didn’t write posts” post. So, here’s the truncated version of the last leg of our Big Trip. The gear review post will be coming soon, so stay updated if you’re interested in how things like our stove, tent and shoes worked out.

Day 43 and 44:

We popped into a family friend’s house in the ‘burbs of Toronto after I accidentally turned on the car alarm in the middle of the Canadian highway (you can’t win them all). From that base point, we took the train into the city for a day to catch the Hockey Hall of Fame and traipse around the lake shore. On our last evening in the ‘burbs, we got crafty and painted commemorative mugs (see below for the exclusive designs).

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A Mixture of Young and Old

Authored by Not Wanderlust’s head geologist: Evan Dismukes

Quick Vocabulary:

Lithified: the process of hardening into a rock

Canadian shield: billion year old rock in the northern part of America made up of mostly granite

Rift valley: place where the Continental Plate started separating
Traveling from the ranches and mountains of Wyoming and the trashy tourist towns in the Black Hills to the flat, buggy and forested emptiness of the Canadian Shield.

Everywhere we went on this leg provided a wide range of geology experiences as well as some other not so positive experiences.

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