Backpacking In The Sleeping Bear Dunes

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Backpacking In The Sleeping Bear Dunes

I was backpacking in the Sleeping Bear Dunes. It was March, so when I made it through the woods and over the dunes, I'd have miles of beach to myself. It was an over-nighter, a chance to test new ultralight backpacking equipment. I hiked the wooded hills quickly, enjoying the cold air. Halfway through the forest, I stopped to cook noodles. The cheap 3-ounce pot was from a dollar store, and it worked fine. I was happy, because from the catalog descriptions, the expensive titanium pots are all heavier, probably because they're too thick and with too many gadgets. I had to use a small twig-fire when my homemade alcohol stove didn't provide enough heat. I later learned that isopropyl alcohol doesn't burn as hot as the alcohol used for a gas additive, but the twigs worked in any case. Backpacking On The Beach After eating, I hiked to Lake Michigan, and sat up on a large sand dune.


I watched the waves push ice up onto the empty beach. Coyotes began to howl in the distance, and the clouds rolled in. I was on the beach looking for petoskey stones when the snow began. Backpacking in March has its risks. I was in running shoes, and it would be below freezing that night. In northern Michigan, March is definitely part of winter. My feet stayed warm while I hiked, but I hadn't planned on them getting wet. At least I had a pair of warm, dry socks for sleeping. Ultralight Backpacking Equipment It was the first time I used my GoLite Breeze backpack, which weighed only 13 ounces. I was hiking with about nine pounds on my back, and that only because I threw in some canned food. I was going light, but I knew the forests here and felt comfortable with my abilities. My down sleeping bag was a 17-ounce Western Mountaineering HighLite. It was the first time I would use it below freezing (It hit 25 degrees fahrenheit that night). Fortunately, it wasn't too windy.


At the edge of the forest, behind the dunes, I set up my small tarp. I piled pine needles and dead bracken ferns under it, finishing just as it became dark. This made a warm mattress, and I slept well, listening to the coyotes, and to the waves pushing ice around in the lake. In the morning I was happy to see only a dusting of snow. My one-pound sleeping bag had been warmer than my three-pounder - and I thought that was light. I poured alcohol in the cut-off bottom of a pepsi can (my 1/2-ounce backpacking stove) and made tea. After some crackers I was soon hiking in my mostly-dry shoes, along the Lake Michigan shoreline. Backpacking Lessons Learned I ended my trip that afternoon, with a hike to the village of Empire, seven miles away. I was mostly satisfied. Only two problems: My tarp was too small, and the alcohol I brought was the wrong type. After backpacking in Michigan for years, I know it well. I know where to find dead grass and bracken ferns, for example, to make a warm mattress in a few minutes. Knowledge, obviously, can be as valuable as expensive backpacking gear. Steve Gillman is a long-time backpacker, and advocate of ultralight backpacking.


According to OtterBox, consumer-model coolers will not face similar defects. The most fashion-forward and least expensive option on the list, the Corkcicle Eola Bucket Bag was a fun option for day trips. Corkcicle designed the Eola Bucket cooler with one zippered opening on top and an accessory zippered pocket on the back of the pack. It holds 12 12-ounce cans and uses a non-waterproof YKK zipper as well as a vegan-leather handle and base. It’s the smallest cooler of the bunch, and we found it a great option for days at the park or short hikes. Ice lasted more than 24 hours in this cooler. Compared to the other coolers, however, it lasted the least amount of time in the ice retention test. The shoulder straps are thin, and because of its smaller capacity, the cooler rarely felt uncomfortable. I also got the most compliments on this one by far when I wore it around. The Eola Bucket Bag costs a fraction of the other coolers on the list and comes in gray, black camo, and seafoam colors.


We imagine this to be a good choice if you don’t intend on roughing it around or relying on it for multiple days. Ice Retention: Which Backpack Cooler Lasted the Longest? The same week Denver tied its all-time record high temperature, we conducted the backpack cooler ice retention test. For 3 days, we pitted the coolers against 100- to 105-degree Fahrenheit heat. We filled each cooler to half capacity with ice, then filled the remaining area with 12-ounce cans. Then we zippered ’em shut and let ’em bake. Three times a day we checked the contents and measured the temperature. When the ice started to look slim, we checked hourly. After working hours (5 p.m.), we moved all of the coolers indoors so they wouldn’t get stolen. We placed them outside again at 7:30 a.m. Because of this, we didn’t reach exact times for the YETI and Hydro Flask, which both ran out of ice after hours. For those coolers, we provide the best estimate on ice retention time.