Eagle Creek No Matter What Flashpoint Duffel ~ WanderGear Wednesday

by Beth Whitman (December 17th, 2014)

Eagle Creek No Matter What DuffelThere are a lot of things that make trekking in Bhutan quite different than trekking in other countries such as nearby Nepal.

In Nepal, for example, your gear is carried by porters which means you need a pack that can be carried on your (well, your Sherpa’s) back. In Bhutan, your gear gets packed up on horses, ponies and/or yaks. Rather than a large backpack, instead you need a strong water resistant duffel bag for your clothes, gear and personal items.

After checking out a number of options at REI, I decided to take the Eagle Creek No Matter What Flashpoint Duffel with me on the Snowman Trek (see photos of the Snowman Trek here). Not only is this bag the perfect size for trekking but it has a lot of features that I required.

First and foremost it’s water resistant. I knew that we’d be encountering rain during the trek but I wasn’t sure how much. It turns out, A LOT. While the horsemen did a good job of putting our gear into plastic bags and then putting those plastic bags into large wicker baskets which then got strapped to the animals, I did not want to risk having any of my things wet in the cold and at altitude. Even in the harshest of rainstorms, no water leaked into the duffel.Eagle Creek No Matter What Duffel

The bag itself is made of Bi-Tech, a proprietary extra-durable material from Eagle Creek. Even with all the tossing around throughout the 25-day trek, the bag never ripped or accidentally got cut as the material was just too heavy.

I was equally as confident about the zipper. I stuffed the bag full each day, sometimes having to hold the bag shut in order to get the zipper closed, and I never had a doubt about it staying shut.

There are other features to the No Matter What Flashpoint Duffel that were nice but not as important to me:

  • Removable shoulder strap in addition to handles on the top of the bag
  • Front exterior pocket for easier access to items inside
  • Reusable stuff pouch

This duffel comes in three sizes, small (30L), medium (59L) and large (110L). I used the medium bag but I also had a second very small bag for some other items. Next time (and yes, I’m returning to do the Snowman Trek in 2016!), I’ll definitely use this same medium-sized bag but may leave a few things behind to save on space. :-)

Available on Amazon starting at about $60.

Be Bold,

Beth

Related links:
Success on the Snowman Trek

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What We Ate During the Snowman Trek

by Beth Whitman (December 16th, 2014)

Snowman Trek Dining TentI’ve been getting asked a lot about what we ate during the Snowman Trek.

Before we left for Bhutan, we talked to a lot of people and read many articles about how to best stay nourished during a 25-day trek at altitude. Trekking aside, the Bhutanese don’t exactly have access to a wide array of food. It’s expensive to import and and they are able to subsist just fine off of the food they grow themselves.

That might be great for the Bhutanese but I knew I’d need something more.

I had been training for the trek for a year and had gotten used to eating a large quantity of vegetarian protein each day (120 grams). I knew it would be difficult for my body to adjust to something completely different, particularly while pushing myself so hard, and I really wanted to be at my best every day.

Therefore, I arranged with our tour operator in Bhutan to make sure we had plenty of food items (particularly ones high in protein) that would appeal to a Western taste – oatmeal, eggs, peanut butter, potatoes, rice and fresh veggies (when possible).

But we also carried a lot of supplemental food to make sure we were not only getting enough protein but also enough calories to sustain what, on some days, would be us burning as many Snowman Trek Food ProBarsas 4,000 calories.

Each day we were led by our guide, Tobgay, and two helpers, both named Sherub Dorji. The Sherubs would carry our lunch and tea for us. While Tobgay led the way, one Sherub would stay in the middle of the group and another would always stay in the back, which meant behind me because I was always the slowest!

So, what was a typical day of eating like?

Breakfast – Tobgay and our cook, Tippy, would check in with us the night before to find out our preferences for breakfast. Given where we were, we actually had more variety than you might think. For me, breakfast usually consisted of meusli or porridge (which I quickly got tired of eating because this porridge was NOT like my slow cooked oats at home) and toast with peanut butter or Justin’s Almond Butter (which I brought with me).

Eggs, either scrambled or as an omelette, were always available. But being a vegan-leaning vegetarian, I also got tired of scrambled eggs after a week or so. But, more than half way through the trek, we discovered the cooks had been holding out on us and we were given a Snowman Trek Coco PuffsCoco Puff-equivalent cereal. I sometimes ate these and usually had them without milk because I appreciated having something to crunch on.

Snacks – Before leaving camp, usually around 8 or 8:30, I would eat a package of either CLIF Shot Bloks or Probar Bolt energy chews. These 200 calorie snacks gave me a carb/sugar rush so I could start the day on high energy.

A couple of hours later, we would stop for either a juice break and have a sugary juicebox drink or we would have hot tea and crackers or cookies. I would usually skip the cookies so that I wasn’t consuming so much sugar and have a protein bar instead. I brought Probar Base bars, Premier Protein bars and CLIF Builder bars. I actually left my favorite protein bars, Pure Protein, at home because I suspected that I would get sick of them after 25 days and I didn’t want that to happen.

Lunch – We would stop for lunch sometime between 12:30 and 1:30 unless we were so close to camp that we could push on and have lunch there. Usually we would have reached a pass, Snowman Trek Lunchspent a bit of time taking photos and then descended until we found a flat spot with no wind where we could set up our picnic.

Lunch always included rice and then a variety of cooked vegetables such as cauliflower, greens and canned mushrooms. Always canned mushrooms! We would usually also have Bhutan’s national dish, ema datse (spicy chili and cheese).

Snack – Once we arrived at camp, tea and more snacks were awaiting us. This was usually cookies or crackers. Toward the end of the trek we were delighted to have popcorn (my fave!), roasted peanuts or cashews and Choco Pies. Those Choco Pies? If no one was around, I’m sure I could have eaten four of them in one sitting. But I restrained myself.

Once we had a chance to rest in our tent and regroup a bit, we’d head to the dining tent for dinner. Often we would meet early and have our own version of Happy Hour consisting of tea, hot chocolate or, for the guys, K5, the local whiskey. We’d play cards or Bananagrams to pass the time before dinner was served around 7pm.

Dinner – Each night we’d be served soup. This was always welcomed because by late afternoon, temps would start dropping and we’d be freezing. The main course was often more of the same as lunch – rice and veggies. Sometimes there would be a meat served. Dessert was fruit cocktail, jalebi (a VERY sweet Indian dessert) or a fresh fruit such as apples, if they were available in the area.

Sometimes one of us would surprise the group with chocolate that we had purchased in Thimphu before the trek. Or sometimes we’d go back to the tent and enjoy our chocolate in private. :-)

There were also times when I’d need protein and would snack on my bars in the late afternoon or after dinner.

While I never had a scale to weigh myself before or after the trek, I would guess that I lost six or seven pounds. That’s actually less than I had expected given how much daily exercise we got, but I wasn’t there to lose weight. Plus, I gained it all right back once we hit Bangkok and we discovered a great pizza place!

Even though it was 25 days, it was not a bad food experience at all, particularly because we had some of our own snacks to supplement those canned mushrooms. :-)

Be Bold,

Beth

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Goal Zero Guide 10 Plus Kit ~ WanderGear Wednesday

by Beth Whitman (December 3rd, 2014)

Goal Zero Guide 10 Plus KitA friend had been telling me for a good eight months that Goal Zero was THE company to check out for solar powered products. After testing a number of units from other companies and being disappointed with the results, I had been kinda desperate to find something that worked. I know, I was testing out solar powered products in Seattle, where the sun don’t always shine. But still…something had to work, right?

Specifically I was looking for something to bring on the Snowman Trek. We’d be hiking and without power for 25 days and I needed something that could charge a few USB-powered items such as my iPod and iPhone (for photos as there was no cell service) as well as items that needed a power plug for both our small and large digital cameras.

Turns out, between a few of us on the trek, we had three different Goal Zero chargers. The one I carried was the Guide 10 Plus Kit (pictured above). Included in this kit is:

  • The Nomad 7 Solar Panel which is actually two panels that are attached but fold together to save space
  • The Guide 10 Recharger which recharges AA and AAA batteries using the Nomad 7 Solar Panel

The solar panel is light enough and small enough that I easily hung it off my backpack. Goal Zero on Tent Snowman TrekWhen we were hiking in full sun (which was often after the first week), it charged up just fine. On our few rest days, I’d just hang it on the tent and let it soak up rays for the day.

I used this most often by plugging my USB connection directly into the back of the panel and charging my various “i” items. While the Guide 10 Recharger is for batteries, I found that I rarely used this. Mostly because the few items I had that used AA or AAA batteries ate through batteries really quickly, be it alkaline or rechargeable. It was easier to just use the alkalines that I brought with me.

In the future, I would definitely carry the Nomad 7 Solar Panel with me as I used this almost every day. I would, however, think twice about bringing the Guide 10 Recharger. I just didn’t get enough use out of it and with so little space in my bag, it would be helpful to cut back where I can.

The Goal Zero Guide Plus Kit is available on Amazon for about $120.Goal Zero Boulder 30 Snowman Trek

Goal Zero Yeti 150 Snowman TrekWe also had the Goal Zero Yeti 150 power charger and the Goal Zero Boulder 30 panel. Often, our guide would carry the charger in his large pack and hang the panel off it to get as much sunlight as possible. It was heavy but he was motivated to do so because he, as well as the rest of our Bhutanese crew, wanted to have fully charged phones so that when they did have service they could chat with family and friends.

We also needed to power a laptop and video camera, hence this monster of a power supply.

Note that if you plan on flying with the Yeti 150 it could get confiscated by the airlines as some consider this a battery and unfit for checked luggage. We lost one to All Nippon Airways in Tokyo and nearly had our replacement taken by Korean Air in Bangkok.

The Yeti 150 is about $200 on Amazon and the Boulder 30 panel $174 on Amazon.

Goal Zero Panel Snowman Trek

 

Goal Zero Sherpa 50

For more modest use, we also had a smaller unit, the Sherpa 50 Power Pack, that allowed us to power up our cameras that needed an electrical (non-USB) source of power.

The Goal Zero Sherpa 50 goes for about $200 on Amazon but keep in mind you also need the solar panels.

Yup, it’s likely we were the most powered up group to have done the Snowman. And for sure Goal Zero is coming with us when we return to do the trek again in 2016. :-)

Be Bold,

Beth

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