Review: Teton Daypack with 2-Liter Bladder

teton backpack review

Me, wearing my awesome daypack! That’s not a peace sign; I had just done two peaks!

By Heather

The short version is I love my new backpack by Teton. Love it, love it, love it.

When it arrived, I did not love it. It looked way too small for anything more than a couple hours of hiking. And I hadn’t even factored in the space the bladder would take up when full.

But as I transferred everything over from my old, much larger backpack, it was clear to me that my new backpack wasn’t small. It just uses space incredibly efficiently, and there’s actually a ton of it if you pack wisely.

Lots of storage

This thing has so much space!

While hiking last weekend and taking a breather at Icehouse Saddle, I decided to take a moment to show off some of the stuff the pack has:

If you don’t feel like watching the video, here are some of the features:

  • There are four compartments with zippers. The one closest to your back holds the bladder. The compartment in front of that is accessed via a hidden zipper and runs the entire length of the pack, so it’s pretty big.
  • There is also a small pocket on top of the hidden zipper and a pocket on the front of the pack, intended to hold keys and such.
  • There are two mesh side pockets. I like to put my sunscreen and hard candies in those.
  • The pocket on the front of the pack separates from the rest of the pack so you can cram a jacket or shirt back there. Whatever you put back there is held in place with adjustable straps, and they’re very secure.
  • The front of the pack has a zig-zag of bungees for yet more storage.
teton backpack bladder daypack

Half Dome patch on my daypack.

Practicality and comfort

There’s a rainfly, which resides in the bottom of the pack. To use it, you just pull it out of its pocket and pull it around the pack. It’s lined with elastic and remains attached to the pack.

The 2-liter bladder tasted slightly of plastic on the first use, and that has improved with time. The nicest thing about the bladder is the large opening, which makes for easy cleaning and drying. To fully dry it, I suspended it above our sink and put a paper towel near the mouth to prop it open and expose the inside of the bladder to air.

Last but not least, this pack is incredibly comfortable to wear. There’s a chest strap, hip strap, padding for breathability on the back and padding on the shoulder straps. I can’t say my water stayed cold, but it didn’t get warm. I credit the mesh padding on the back, which kept the pack suspended off my gross, sweaty back.

So far, this pack has taken me all over, including to the top of Mt. Whitney. There’s definitely enough space to carry the fuel and layers you would need on an long day hike like that. If you’re on the market for a daypack that holds everything you need, I can’t recommend the Teton Backpack enough.

I hope to have it for many years! Any questions? Ask away.

Mt. Whitney via the Mt. Whitney Trail

mt. whitney summit

Me, Darren and Jessie on top of Mt. Whitney!

By Heather

Oh, did you think we were dead?

After roughly a year of planning, making lists, thinking, dreaming, panicking, training, more planning…our Whitney Adventure has come and gone. I’ve put off writing about it because aside from my day job having been so crushingly busy and exhausting that I haven’t wanted to do much of anything (other than hike), I don’t know how to put the whole experience into words that would be the poetry it all deserves.

Outside the visitor's center the day before our hike.

Outside the visitor’s center the day before our hike.

But I have to, before I forget everything! Mt. Whitney is my favorite adventure so far. Better than Half Dome, though I’m not sure why that is. Both hikes were stunningly beautiful, challenging, bucket-list level hikes. Perhaps it was something about being on top of the contiguous United States that made it just a bit more thrilling.

Aside from the sense of accomplishment I feel when I get to the top of a mountain, there’s also that feeling of knowing there’s no other way to get there. No easy route, no shortcut. The only way is hard work. Mt. Whitney was pretty much the ultimate of that feeling, because damn, do you earn that.

Two years ago, I couldn’t fathom this. It wasn’t long ago that I took great pride in how sloth-like we were when we camped, and I waved away suggestions to take up hiking as a way to burn off camping calories. Now, I start going a little stir-crazy if too much time passes between hikes. Now, I do things like climb Mt. Whitney. This astounds me as much as it does anyone who knew me even five years ago!

The trailhead

whitney portal campground

The Lone Pine Creek running through the Whitney Portal Campground.

Our group – myself, Darren and my cousin Jessie (who is an all-around bad-ass) – stayed at the Whitney Portal Campground the night before our climb. It’s about a mile down the road from the trailhead, so it’s a great place a get some rest at 8,000 feet – a moderate altitude – before you climb. A lot of people start their Whitney climb from here, so you think it would be bare-bones, but it’s a gorgeous and well-kept campground with the standard amenities (water, vault toilets, host). I’ll write more about it in another post.

Our site was booked for the next night, so we had to pack up and store our scented things in bear boxes at the trailhead (there are about eight of them and they’re massive). There’s also plenty of parking at the trailhead.

Rumor has it that the Whitney Portal area is full of bears, but we didn’t see a single one. I’m always equally relieved and disappointed when things work out that way.

Trailhead to Trail Camp

mt. whitney trail stream crossing

On the Mt. Whitney Trail.

We officially hit the trail around 2:30 a.m.

The first half of the hike is from the Trailhead to Trail Camp, and I thought it was pretty smooth sailing. The trail is fairly flat, you’re still at an easy-breathing elevation, you’re fresh and excited and ready to go and full of adrenaline. It’s not a cakewalk, but compared to what’s to come, it kind of is.

During this segment, we passed a few stream crossings (so glad I chose waterproof boots!), Outpost Camp, Lone Pine Lake and Trail Meadow. Since it was still dark out, we didn’t see a thing. But that’s okay, because we would be seeing it on the way down.

Behind and ahead of us, tiny headlamps zig-zagged all up and down in the darkness. Many people start the hike right at midnight, when permits become valid.

We took regular breaks to keep up our momentum and energy: 50 minutes on, 10 off to eat, drink and do business.

During one break, we switched our headlamps off and stared at the stars. One of them streaked over our heads, a good sign.

alpenglow mt whitney

The magical alpenglow.

Our arrival at Trail Camp could not have been timed better: the sun started to light up the sky and before it rose above the horizon, the jagged peaks in front of us were entirely bathed in breathtaking pink light – alpenglow. Pictures can’t do it justice.

Trail Camp to the 99 switchbacks and Trail Crest

mt. whitney 99 switchbacks

Darren and Jessie coming up the 99 switchbacks.

Right after Trail Camp is where it gets fun: the infamous 99 switchbacks (or 97 or whatever other number you’ve heard. I counted but I don’t trust my accuracy).

Not only did it get more challenging at this point, the trail suddenly seemed a lot more crowded. It’s not a cattle herd by any means, but this isn’t a hike where you’re going to find any solitude. The closest we ever came to that was when we started in the wee morning hours.

Some of the switchbacks are really, really short. Some are frustratingly long. I found it mentally tough getting through this section, so as I said, I kept count of the switchbacks and tried to keep my breath under control.

At the end of the switchbacks is Trail Crest, which outside of the summit is pretty much the most incredible, mind-blowing part of the hike! From this point, you can see both Sierra National Park and Death Valley.

trail crest mt. whitney

Trail Crest, looking into Sequoia National Park.

We gawked, took photos and then then headed down a fairly long descent that had me crying a little because I knew we’d have to go back up on our way out. At the end of the descent, you’re on the back side of the Whitney Needles and the trail converges with the John Muir Trail.

The back to the summit

tral camp mt. whitney

On a break at Trail Camp.

Until this point, the hike felt “doable,” grueling as the switchbacks were. Even on the backside of Whitney, it’s not that steep. But putting one foot in front of the other gets very, very hard. Breathing is noticeably more difficult. Trail Crest is where it seems like a lot of people give up, because at 12,000 feet, many people will feel some degree of altitude sickness.

My sickness? I got a cough that started around the 99 Switchbacks. By the time we got back down to Lone Pine that afternoon, I sounded like a carton-a-day smoker. For the next three weeks, I coughed and hacked. (One lesson learned is that I should have kept my mouth covered better so I was breathing warmer air that had a little more moisture).

We also took Diamox in the days leading up to the hike, and I really credit it as being the reason we did so well at the high elevation. Other than the cough, I felt great. Although acclimating naturally is preferred, it just wasn’t possible for any of us.

We did what we could by arriving the day before and camping at a higher elevation, but two of us live at sea level, so we needed an assist. The only side effect that we all had on the medication is that it makes carbonated stuff taste crazy. Beer goes flat, soda becomes bitter and fizzy but somehow not fizzy. Try it. It’s fun and really weird!

Final push

The last push to the summit after descending and converging with the Muir Trail is a long walk along a very rocky and exposed trail. The first part of this section is where many people slip and fall to their deaths. It’s very narrow and I can totally see how this would happen.

mt. whitney summit

Darren celebrates on the summit.

On the way up the back of the mountain, we passed behind the “needles,” which are the peaks leading up to the summit. (One of them is named after Hulda Crooks, my hiking spirit guide.) As we passed by each needle, there were breaks in the mountain (called the Whitney Windows) where we could see down to Lone Pine and into Death Valley.

We also got buzzed by a fighter plane, which was deafening and fantastic and talk about feeling small.

As they say, you know you’re near the summit when you see the Sierra Club Summit Hut. Seeing it in person was every bit as exciting as I imagined it might be.

mt. whitney summit register

Darren signs the register.

Signing the register was also a great feeling! My experience with registers up until now being notebooks shoved into coffee cans, I was not prepared for the size and beauty of the register on Mt. Whitney. It felt like we were signing a historical record of some sort, and I guess we were.

What do you do when you’re on the highest spot in the continental United States? We took a ton of pictures of each other, shot video, attempted and failed at phone calls and texts home, had snacks, high-fived other summiters, signed our names. And then it was time to go.

mt whitney summit

Me, on the summit!

Summit to Trail Camp

The trek back down from the summit to Trail Camp went by fairly quickly, though that downhill part I mentioned earlier was every bit as unpleasant as I thought it was going to be.

mt whitney trail camp

The lake no one wanted to leave.

There’s a lake at Trail Camp where we topped off our bottles, had a snack and relaxed. Except, once we sat down, no one wanted to get up. We wound up hanging out for about 45 minutes. Worth it, though. It’s one of my favorite memories of the hike.

Trail Camp to the Trailhead

Mt. whitney summit

Beautiful lake on the way back down.

There’s not much to say here, other than that it was long and we were tired and just wanted to get back to the car.

Sometimes the hardest part of a hike is heading back down, and it’s definitely true here. After Lone Pine Lake especially, we were beginning to wonder if we had slipped into a vortex where we would hike forever and never stop.

I shouldn’t complain too much. This was all territory we missed going up in the dark, and it was beyond beautiful. Every photo, straight out of the camera, was gorgeous. Not because I’m an amazing photographer, but because the light is that magical.

At long last, we arrived at the parking lot around 5:30 p.m.

All I wanted was a photo at the trail head sign, then to go sit down and drink a lot of water. According to my FitBit, we walked 25.73 miles in 15:09 hours.

We went back to our cars, drove down to our motel in Lone Pine, forced down burritos for dinner (I ate half and didn’t even want that! Darren, however, ate his entire burrito and still wanted more.) and then crashed hard until 8 the next morning.

And that’s how we hiked Mt. Whitney!

Everyone wants to know…would I do it again? Hell. Yes. Yes, I would.

Mt. Whitney Training: Mt. Baden-Powell via Vincent Gap

darren on mt. baden-powell wrightwood

By Heather

“Look at me,” I yelled as I we embarked on our hike on Saturday, “I’m Cheryl Strayed!”

That’s because the trail from Vincent Gap to the summit of Mt. Baden-Powell is also a section of the Pacific Crest Trail, not because I was ill-prepared for the trek or anything.

Finding the trailhead is easy: it’s about eight miles west of Wrightwood on the 2 Freeway on the south side of the road. There’s a huge parking lot and a bathroom, and the trail starts just right behind there. It immediately begins gaining elevation and doesn’t let up much until you get to the top.

The good news is, the trail is gorgeous from start to finish and the summit is the cherry on top: an unobstructed, 360-degree view of Southern California.

The bad news is, I have pictures of almost none of this hike. I relied a lot on my brother’s GoPro2, which he’s loaning me for Mt. Whitney. It did pretty well on Mt. San Jacinto (though not great in low light), but this time I don’t know what happened. Half the pictures I shot just aren’t there, including of some asshole who was cutting switchbacks like it was no big deal!

You will be switchbacking the whole way up, by the way. There are 40 of them, and the first 20 or so go on forever. They’re very, very long and kind of annoying in their long-ness. But after that, they quicken up and soon, you’re standing on a ridge with an astounding view. From there, you’re just about a third of a mile from the summit.

Wally Waldron Tree Mt. Baden Powell WrightwoodOn the left, you’ll pass the Wally “Waldron” tree. It’s about 1,500 years old and believed to be the oldest tree in the San Gabriel Mountains.

You’ll know you’re at the summit when you see the monument to Robert Baden-Powell, the summit’s namesake and founder of the Boy Scouts. There’s also a register, but finding a blank space in one of the four notebooks is tough! It might be time to archive those and place some fresh ones up there.

As a Whitney training hike, I wouldn’t recommend it. Although it gets to a decent elevation (9,399 feet) and is inclined the entire way, it’s pretty short at nine miles round-trip. We also had the trail almost entirely to ourselves on the way up, even though we got there at 6 a.m. which is around the time you start to see a few more people.

The entire hike was 21,155 steps, gained 3,200 feet, 9.13 miles and took us four hours round trip.

Afterward, we had lunch at the Grizzly Cafe in Wrightwood. Although it wasn’t technically lunch yet (they start lunch at 11:30; we arrived at 11), they accommodated us. How nice! We both had some burgers, Darren had onion rings and I had sweet potato fries. All of it hit the spot after being worn out from the long drive to Wrightwood and the hike.

I can’t wait to do this day trip again!

mt. baden powell summit selfie

Whitney Training: Cucamonga Peak

cucamonga peak

By Heather

A few weeks ago, training for Mt. Whitney began in earnest. I’ve been hiking as much as possible (which is not as often as I’d like, frankly) and doing tough leg and cardio endurance workouts at the gym. All I can do now is what I’m able and cross my fingers that it’s enough!

Our first official training hike was up to Cucamonga Peak, one of my favorites. As you can see, Darren got the iconic shot on the outcropping that people have one of two reactions to:

a) I’m going to throw up


b) I must do that

I didn’t quite get my shot, so we’ll be back soon.

teton backpack bladder daypackThis is the first hike on which I got to test out my trusty new Teton daypack.

The early, short review is: I LOVE THIS THING!

I was initially disappointed in it when it first arrived. It looked way too small.

It’s not, though. It’s just compact, and I also like that it forces me to really be thoughtful about what I carry.

But more on this thing later. I have so much to say.

The total stats on this hike were: 33,661 steps; 14.53 miles; 7 hours, 14 minutes. See more hikes in the hiking log ›

Planetary Design – Table Top French Press

By Steve

About three years ago, I purchased one of these bad boys from REI:


That, m’friends, is a 48 oz. insulated French Press coffee pot. It makes very, very good coffee and keeps it warm for a good two hours after brewing. This baby is great for camping with friends, as it makes four good sized cups of strong-ass coffee – just the thing to power you through a day of hiking or power-lounging around the campsite.

The coffee it makes is so good that I started using it at home on the weekends, too. It’s just a great option for a Saturday morning cup or two with the neighbor friends.

Alas, all is not perfect in the land of 48 oz. French Press coffee pots. About a year into my ownership of this awesome rig, the handle fell off. REI being the great retailer that it is, swapped mine out for a new one, no questions asked. All was well for another 8 months or so, when the handle fell off the replacement rig.

Aww. :(

You can see where I sanded a bunch of the paint off in a failed effort to glue the handle back on. I thought I was clever. I am not clever.

Now, I know what you’re thinking – Steve must beat the hell out of his coffee pots. I assure you, this is not the case. I don’t treat it like it’s made of glass, but I also don’t beat it up. But I did feel guilty about returning coffee pot #2 to REI, so I used a little super glue and re-attached the handle. Which held for about a month. Then I got all MacGyver on the thing and sanded the mating surfaces on the handle and where the handle attaches on the pot, then glued it and clamped that mo-fo with a big ‘ol clamp for a few hours to make sure that thing wasn’t comin’ off.

Which worked for about three months.

At that point, I admitted defeat and just started using the pot sans-handle. The carafe does such a good job of insulating that even with near-boiling water inside, the metal outside is merely lukewarm to the touch. I was perfectly happy to use it that way.

Then I noticed that there’s a website printed on the bottom of the unit – I decided to pop on by and let ’em know that they have a great product, but the handle needs a more robust mount. The next day I got an email reply from Doug Pikul, Customer Service Manager at Planetary Design, who offered to send me a brand new unit, no charge. How cool is that?



Thank you, Doug and Planetary Design! That’s some fantastic customer service right there.