Gossamer Gear Umbrella Review

Rules for Backpacking Rain Gear

  1. There is no perfect solution.
  2. If it rains long enough and hard enough you will eventually get wet.

I don’t mind getting wet. What I do mind is getting chilled, or getting drenched, and getting miserable. Keeping your gear dry is the first priority because you should always be in a position to call it a day and set up your tent, tarp, or hammock to shelter in. To wait it out. I am absolutely fanatical about that.

But when it comes to rain gear which allows you to keep moving there are so many variables. It does matter though. It can be more than being miserable, it can mean hypothermia and maybe even death. We actually had a father and two boys die when day hiking the Ozark Trail in Missouri because they got wet on a day when the weather turned cold and they were unprepared. Only the dog survived.

For commuting on my bike the answer is easy. I wear a poncho. It doesn’t restrict my movement, air can get inside so I am not drenched in sweat, and the one I use, a cheap Coleman poncho, does the trick. Besides, it is 34 minutes from door to door. Hiking and backpacking is more complex.

When hiking the AT my wife and I outfitted ourselves with Frogg Toggs, and ultralight umbrella’s from Gossamer Gear. We had pack covers, and we used contractor bags to put our sleeping bag and extra clothing in. Why the umbrella?

Although it not so much an issue on the AT the umbrella has material on the outside to reflect the heat. I understand it is pretty popular on the Pacific Crest trail for that very reason. I have only used it in light to medium rain, not a downpour, and can report that it works great for that. But your feet will get wet. What about that?

There are two schools. One is to try to keep your feet dry. The other is to acknowledge they are going to get wet and use quick drying shoes and socks. Experienced people do one or the other but most of the people I follow and respect just take it for granted that their feet or going to get wet.

We kept our umbrellas outside the pack and within easy reach. Our drill was to prioritize putting on the pack cover, and then having done that don the umbrella. It worked well as long as the wind wasn’t high. If the wind is blowing hard, or in the wrong direction, you are going to have the thing flip.

The conclusion? For anything less than a downpour the umbrella is a good idea, and for limiting sun exposure it serves double duty. At around $40 bucks it is reasonably priced. There are probably other suppliers, but Gossamer Gear sells one branded for them that is made in Germany.

I do not know if I am going to stay with Frogg Toggs or not. Frankly I do not have enough experience yet to make a determination yet. I am an avid reader of what other experienced people have to say about gear though. I was impressed with a review from the Section Hiker blog on the LightHeart rainjacket. I recommend reading all of what he has to say, not just about this one rain jacket, but especially about waterproof breathable jackets. Spoiler alert. They are not reliable over the long run.

By the way. I am fascinated with the Gatewood Cape. It provides shelter and acts as a poncho. If I was backpacking by myself I would already have one.


Katy Trail Camping Trip Turns Bad

The Katy Trail is 200 plus miles and expanding.  A converted rail line turned into a trail for biking, running, and walking.  It is a great resource.  Over spring break my son-in-law and I decided to go camping. I mentioned that in my last post.   As it turned out the weather was horrible.  It rained, and stormed with lightning,  for days, without much of a break, and the weather was cold.  We scaled down our effort from 50 miles out to camp, and then riding back the same way, to just  25.  The weather report kept showing a break in the weather, but it never came.  Even the much less ambitious distance wasn’t possible for us.  We  had a tight schedule and we would not have been able to make it to our campsite before dark under the trail conditions, and get back on time.    We had to turn back without completing our trek.  What went wrong?

The surface of the trail, which I failed to get pictures of, was boggy and our speed was down to 7 mph or less.  And that with hard peddling.  I was in shape for the ride, having practiced with a fully loaded trailer, but it was a no go.  The combination of wet, despite pretty decent rain gear, the chill, and facing having to set  up camp in the dark under those conditions was too much for us.  So, here are some pictures of a the expedition that failed.  But, I am training to do it again.  The next obstacle?  Ticks.  I found my first this last Sunday.  Not from this jaunt, but from doing yard work.

Before & After: What Running Ugly Did for Me

What a winter!  Every February is a trial and now that we are into March we are one day away, this Friday, from mild weather.  It is not so much the cold here in Missouri as it is the huge variability. If the weather would stay the same I would be able to get used to it.  It is amazing that after all these years it still effects me so strongly.

Instead of running as much as I would like,  I have been working out inside at home, and at the gym.   I found a great weight routine that I will be sharing in my next post.  However today I thought I would share a before and after picture of me.   I found them this evening when I was going through photos.

man and women running outside
This is a picture of me running my first 5k after loosing about sixty pounds. You can see I still have a long ways to go.

The first picture is what I looked like over two years ago after I had already lost around sixty pounds.  This was my first 5k in over thirty years and I ran it with all my kids – three young women, and my son, as well as my daughter in law. It wasn’t pretty but I got it done.  My maiden voyage.  It was a bit cool, but otherwise a beautiful day, and it was good to be with my family. By the way, the shoes pictured in the masthead are the very ones I was wearing in the above picture.  I still have them in my closet. I lost a lot of weight walking and running in those shoes.

Man holding bab with three young women.
Me holding my first grandchild, pictured with my three daughters. Very blessed to have them all.

This next picture is the after picture – about a year and a half later.  In the meantime I have lost  another forty pounds or so, and gained a granddaughter. You can see my three beautiful daughters, as well as my granddaughter, in this picture. I have a lot to be grateful for.  It has been a wonderful journey.

When I started running again (after a thirty year layoff following the untimely  death of my running mentor Arnie Richards), I had made the decision to start running ugly.  I decided to throw my ego to one side and do it regardless of what I looked like.  I didn’t even think about it.   Otherwise I would have never moved on.  And, if  I can do it anyone else can.  You just have to start.  You don’t have to run fast, you don’t even have to run far, and you don’t even have to start running at all – just walk.  The secret is to just start.  I started by walking one mile and kept at it.  I was absolutely thrilled when I worked my way up to running a mile without stopping. Every time I run I am thankful for one more opportunity to move, feel alive, and be in this wonderful world.

Coming up a story about weight lifting for masters/senior runners as well as an article about running safety.

Skiing Ugly: Cross-Country Skiing for Winter Fitness

The Running Ugly  philosophy is to start where you are and doing what you can while you are there.  It is about taking advantage of the moment without worrying what others have to say, nor how you look.  That philosophy certainly translates well to cross-country, or Nordic, Skiing.

I have wanted to cross-country ski for years but never had the opportunity.  This summer the local Goodwill store had a pair of skis and I purchased them for eight bucks.  Here in Missouri we maybe have good conditions for Nordic skiing once or twice a winter.  The weather is so erratic.  But, I figured I would be prepared when the weather presented an opportunity .   I walked home, a bit over a mile, with skis on my shoulder, wearing shorts, and a t-shirt.  I noticed one guy in a pickup  was busy laughing and taking pictures.  I wish I had some of his pictures for this post.

My cross-country skiing equipment.
My cross-country skiing equipment.

Over the summer I ordered a pair of boots from eBay, then a pair of bindings when the ones on the skis turned out to be the wrong kind for the new boots, and a pair of adjustable pools from my son-in-law.  I was ready  to go for just under sixty dollars.  All I needed was snow.  In the meantime we had  decided to take a trip to Denver, for downhill skiing at the Loveland Ski Area, and enjoy the sights. I was ready.  I packed my  Nordic gear.

We were supposed to go downhill skiing on Monday, December 29th, but the weather turned bitter cold, and it snowed in Colorado for two days.  We postponed our ski trip until New Years Day when it was scheduled to warm up (which it did). In the meantime it was brutally cold, and I was not looking forward to spending two days inside with nothing to do but read or watch television.  I decided to bundle up and go out into the snow for my first ever cross-country skiing excursion. With the temperature in the single-digits, and the wind-chill in the double-digits I went outside.

DSC_0273I had read a couple of books at the library, and barely knew how to put the gear on.  Jenifer acted as the event photographer, and made sure I had my  cell phone in case I got into trouble.  I put on a lot of layers, managed to get the skis on, and headed out for my great adventure. Without further ado I was off and cross-country skiing.  It was not pretty, nor fast, but I was living the dream. I had no idea what to expect.  I had not even been downhill skiing in over 15 years, and the weather was much colder than I was accustomed to.  As a matter of fact, I had  never been outside for an extended period of time in such weather conditions.  It was great.  I learned a lot.

DSC_0276First of all I learned how to cross-country ski.  I skied for over eighty minutes the first day, and skied the same distance in just over an hour the second day when it was even colder.  The first day my left ski came off at least five times, and I fell about five or six times.  The second day both skis stayed on, and I only feel twice.  I was also much more relaxed on the second day. I even found myself smiling like I do sometimes when I am running or riding my bike.  Having fun, like a kid.  What about comfort?  I was never cold either day.  I was wearing good gear, was well layered, and a time or two even became a bit overheated.

There is something magical about cross-country skiing, and it was everything I had hoped it would be.  There is a beautiful, harsh, starkness that is unique to winter with the snow and the cold.  Then there is the sound.  That muted sound of winter.   It felt good to be out in the snow, and in the cold, and moving.  I can’t wait to do it again. It makes you feel alive.

Nordic ski binding.
Nordic three pin ski binding for 75mm LEFT boot. I had this on my right foot the day before.

I learned a lot.  For example, I learned that Nordic bindings, at least the kind I have now, have a left and a right.  I had my  bindings on the wrong foot which is what caused the one binding to keep falling off because it was not closing properly.  I also learned that I have no reason not to train (walking, running, or Nordic skiing) in the harsh conditions here Missouri.  Why? I have already done all three in Colorado under much harsher conditions than I am likely to encounter here.  I also learned to deal with the apprehension, and fear, of trying something new and perhaps failing.  I learned one other thing.  Cross-country skiing is not only great fun, it is great exercise.  It is the only other exercise I would rather do than run.  That is saying a lot.

If you want to try this sport keep an eye out for used equipment – especially in the summer when people are cleaning stuff out of their basements and garages.  I think my strategy of finding a good set of used skis, and building from that was a good one. My skis are the waxless variety, and they worked great. From what I understand you are supposed to be fitted for your skis, but I figured if I was close enough I would be fine.  I was fine.  I think buying the boots new was a good idea, and I love the ones I purchased online.  They are warm, and kept my feet dry.  The adjustable poles allowed me to experiment.  The tricky part was figuring out what kind of bindings I had, and trying to match up with the right boots.  THAT is essential. They did not match and I had to order a new set of bindings, I mentioned this earlier,  for about ten bucks.  I removed the old bindings and mounted the new ones following the directions I found online.  By the way, never trust just one source online for something critical like mounting ski bindings, but I strongly suspect that Nordic bindings are much easier to work with than the downhill variety.  Here in the midwest Nordic skiing is not as popular as in other regions so the do-it-yourself approach was a necessity.  There is not a ski shop in town.

If you want to do something do it.  If I had waited for someone to teach me, for someone to go with me out into the cold,  or for the perfect equipment I would still be thinking about it.  I’ve done that kind of thing for too long anyway.  Confucius was right “Perfect is the enemy  of the good.”  I am not a perfect skier, but I have a good time doing it – flaws and all.

There is snow in the forecast.  I might just get lucky.