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Trail Days - Damascus, VA May, 15-17
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Tom Clark
(TomClark) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Trail Days - Damascus, VA May, 15-17 on 05/03/2009 18:50:59 MDT Print View

Although I'm not going to be able to make it to Trail Days this year, I encourage others to stop in and see all of the lightweight gear suppliers and AT enthusiasts.

Here is the link to the official site, as well as some links to reviews of Trail Days 2008.

Jolly Green Giant
(regultr) - MLife

Re: Trail Days - Damascus, VA May, 15-17 on 05/03/2009 19:10:14 MDT Print View

I'll be there and hope to publish some pictures and information when I get back. Unfortunately, I'm slowly learning that some manufacturers who are on the website aren't actually coming. BPL at one time was listed too, but they now don't appear on the list.

Ron Bell
(mountainlaureldesigns) - F - M

Locale: USA
MLD at Trail Days - Damascus, VA May, 15-17 on 05/06/2009 17:22:12 MDT Print View

Hi All,

MLD will be at TrailDays this year. - Planning on Friday late afternoon and Saturday all day.

See Ya There!


Jolly Green Giant
(regultr) - MLife

Re: MLD at Trail Days - Damascus, VA May, 15-17 on 05/16/2009 15:12:55 MDT Print View

I attended Trail Days on Friday and Saturday in Damascus. Despite threatening rain both days, the weather was pretty decent except for some humidity.

The vendors weren't as many as I expected, but included Mountain Laurel Designs, Jacks R Better, Warbonnet Hammocks, Anti-Gravity Gear, Six Moon Designs, Hennessey Hammocks, Eagles Nest Outfitters, Speer Hammocks, Appy Trails, and a new comer to the lightweight tent business, Light Heart Gear. Many other vendors were also there which included LaFuma, Enertia Trail Foods, and various outfitters. Several hiking/backpacking organizations, such as the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and The Hiking Society, also made an appearance. Gossamer Gear and Backpackinglight, who were on the list at one time, were unable to make it.

I apologize in advance if I screw up adding pictures.

OverviewSpeer & JacksSpeerJacksEnertia & Anti GravityWarbonnet BlackbirdENOHennesseySMDWarbonnetTent CityAppy TrailsTom HennesseyNemoMLDSMD 2Ron MoakRon MLDLightheartJacks 2ATC

Edited by regultr on 05/16/2009 15:21:44 MDT.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Trail Days - Damascus, VA May, 15-17 on 05/16/2009 15:26:20 MDT Print View

Thanks for these.

Tom Caldwell
(Coldspring) - F

Locale: Ozarks
Trail Days - Damascus, VA May, 15-17 on 05/16/2009 17:26:28 MDT Print View

Thanks for the pictures, James. It would be great to get to meet all those gear makers. I would probably get on a few of them's nerves if I was there. :) I noticed one in the background that you forgot to mention, Outdoor Equipment Suppliers, better known as the makers of the famous MacCat hammock tarps.

What's that Light Heart Gear tent all about?

Tom Clark
(TomClark) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Re: Re: MLD at Trail Days - Damascus, VA May, 15-17 on 05/16/2009 19:03:41 MDT Print View

Thanks for posting the photos. I miss not going this year since it's always fun and a great chance to see some great equipment.

I noticed a few new folks there..Nemo, WarBonnet, and LightHeart. It'd be great to hear more about them. It looks pretty slow there, was this on Thurs. or early Friday?

If you go into your post to edit it, you can just add in some "returns" between photos to get them in a column, rather than a row. Even though you might have had them there originally, they seem to get deleted for some reason.

Jolly Green Giant
(regultr) - MLife

Re: Re: Re: MLD at Trail Days - Damascus, VA May, 15-17 on 05/17/2009 09:16:44 MDT Print View

I had put two carriage returns after each photo when I originally posted them and the result was the line of photos above. Being that I don’t know HTML, this is about as good as it is going to get from me.

The turn out at Trail Days this year was a little lighter than in years past. The weather was fairly humid and there was a 60% chance of rain both days which may have influenced vendors and visitors. Oddly enough, despite getting pretty dark at times, it never did rain of any significance.

I took most of the pictures above on Friday night and Saturday morning and I can’t say I really saw a major influx of people at any point, but I did leave at noon on Saturday to avoid the heat and expectation of crowds. Even the tent cities weren’t as vast as I’ve seen in years past. I was very surprised to see nearly NO lightweight options (as discussed on these forums) in the tent cities. I think I saw two Tarp Tents and the rest were MSR, Eureka, and other off-the-shelf stuff. The same is true for the packs I saw AT hikers carrying. A lot of Osprey with a handful of Granite Gear and no silnylon, cuben, or even dyneema-x fabrics.

Other than crafts and outfitters, there really weren’t many other manufacturers other than those I’ve listed above. Ron Moak with Six Moon Designs had most of his shelters and let them do the talking. Ron Bell of Mountain Laurel Designs had a couple of tarps, packs, bivies, other shelters, and a few other products. Hands down, there were more hammock vendors than anything else. After not finding a hammock that worked for me in years past, I’m a bit biased and was searching for more lightweight tarp/tent/bag/pack manufacturers, but it was still nice to talk to the various hammock vendors and to take a look at their craftsmanship and engineering.

I spent a good deal of time talking with Brandon of Warbonnet Outdoors ( regarding his very popular Blackbird hammock which incorporates a genuine footbox and also a nifty little gear shelf. He, like most other hammock manufacturers, is having issues with Tom Hennessey who constantly claims someone is infringing on one of his patents. Tom makes great products and I appreciate his desire to protect his livelihood, but in my opinion he is doing a disservice by claiming he invented so many things where there is reasonable proof that they existed long before his products.

I also spent a good amount of time talking with the Jack’s from Jacks R Better. They’re a lot of fun. I had a chance to lay down in their Bridge Hammock which I found to be terribly comfortable, just a bit too tight in the shoulders and slightly too short for my big frame. They offer a nice product though, to include their quilts. Even if you aren’t interested in their gear, it is worth swinging by merely to talk with them.

Ron Bell of MLD is building me a custom pack and I hadn’t seen any of his shelters up close and personal. I was really quite impressed with his workmanship and the overall quality of his products. The DuoMid and GraceDuo both caught my eye and made me really want to empty my wallet.

There were two other lightweight vendors at Trail Days who I had seen online but hadn’t seen in person. One was Appy Trails ( who had a floorless tent for slightly over 1 pound. The also had a larger version for just a few ounces heavier and it looked to me like it was about 6’ tall which I hadn’t seen before. Light Heart Gear ( had a 1lb 10 oz full featured tent which utilized trekking poles on the inside of the tent which connected to a handmade piece of PVC piping to give the roof some shape. They claim it is for 1+ and mentioned having a genuine 2 person tent in the works which should make an appearance next month or so. My observation is that both of these companies are attempts by new retirees to get into the lightweight backpacking industry. In my opinion, they both offer solid “foot in the door” products, but after seeing the detailed craftsmanship of MLD and SMD, their products could use a bit more polishing. That’s not to knock them at all as they were both good products, it’s just that it is tough to compare a first design attempt to others in the industry that have been around for awhile.

One product which I hadn’t heard of was “nuun” ( which claims to be a 100% electrolyte hydration solution without all the calories and sugar. It comes in a hard tablet form which must be stored in their silk-lined container (about the size of a roll of quarters). It appears to be a good way to get the allusive electrolytes without all the other stuff.

Outdoor Equipment Suppliers were indeed there with their MatCat hammock tarps. They were stationed right in front of the Warbonnet tent and their products looked very similar. I also don’t think Outdoor Equipment Suppliers did a very good job with displaying their products as they were butted up against another vendor and it drew little attention to their stuff. I think one thing worth mentioning about OES is that they offer good products at very good prices. I think my one complaint about other mainstream manufacturers within the cottage industry is that their prices are so expensive. Course, that’s easy for me to say and I’m sure I completely under appreciate how hard it is to start a business, keep it running, and the costs of providing top-notch gear.

Adventure Medical Kits had some of their products and handed out quite a bit of stuff. I think they do a nice job with their products and I appreciate their research and experience. Anti-Gravity Gear and Enertia Foods also had displays. Because I own most of their stuff already, I simply passed through and thanked them for their nice stuff. Gossamer Gear and Backpackinglight weren’t there which was a bit of a disappointment to me as I feel both significantly contribute (if not lead) the lightweight backpacking industry. It is always nice to see the differences between manufacturers too.

I’m sure I’m missing out on a lot of stuff that was intriguing to others, but I was focused on the lightweight world and gear that could benefit me. If you were a hammocker, you probably would have had a pretty good time with all the offerings from Speer, Hennessy, Jacks R Better, ENO, etc. Otherwise, it was still nice to see quite a few vendors in the same place.

Edited by regultr on 05/20/2009 13:53:47 MDT.

george carr
(hammer-one) - F - MLife

Locale: Walking With The Son
Nuuns on 05/17/2009 10:34:26 MDT Print View

James, nice overview. I wanted to get down to TD this year, but it wasn't in the cards with so much going on back at the shop.

I've been using Nuun tablets for the past few years or so, and I mainly carry them to add a little taste to otherwise unpalatable water. When I camped at Punchbowl shelter 2 years ago the water had a slight tinge to it and a little bit of off taste. I added the Nuun's tablets (citrus) and had water that actually tasted pretty good until my next refill.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Nuuns on 05/17/2009 10:43:40 MDT Print View

Fair warning on has a LOT of sodium. Fine for most people, but if you watch your sodium intake stay far away. It is like 500 mg per tablet. For me, that 1/3 of my daily intake!

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Re: Nuuns on 05/17/2009 11:29:02 MDT Print View

If you are a sweat hog and are going through a liter of warter an hour, that translates to 1 gram of sodium per hour.

For high demand activities, in the heat, over long periods of time, 500 mg/hour is not unreasonable. (And you need to throw in a little potassium too.)

Edit: You can get a lot of sodium from your chips, trail mix, jerkey, etc., so supplementation migh not be necessary. Do the math.

Edited by greg23 on 05/17/2009 11:42:44 MDT.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Nuuns on 05/17/2009 15:08:44 MDT Print View

Greg, I don't eat jerky or trail mix and I do just fine. Our typical food we eat has plenty in it. Ultra athletes do need to watch it - but for the average hiker if you make it a policy to eat a little every hour or so and stay hydrated one will be fine. I use Zip Fizz which has potassium and B vitamins but little sodium - since I get what I need of that out of my food.

Michael Davis
(mad777) - F

Locale: South Florida
Re: Trail Days - OES Tarps and Warbonnet Outdoors on 05/17/2009 17:10:17 MDT Print View

I saw Outdoor Equipment Supplier in your pictures. I just purchased a MacCat Tarp from Brian, the last one he made before heading out to Trail Days.

Also saw Warbonnet Outdoors, the third picture from the top on the right side, is the BlackBird hammock. I'm waiting for Brandon to get back from Trail Days for him to make me one.

That's right ... I'm getting off the ground to become a tree dweller! These bones just aren't liking the ground anymore.

Tom Caldwell
(Coldspring) - F

Locale: Ozarks
Trail Days - Damascus, VA May, 15-17 on 05/17/2009 18:00:16 MDT Print View

A hammock setup might weigh a little more, but you can't measure how much more refreshed you are after a nights sleep. I'd rather sleep in my Blackbird than a bed! Top that with your 1/8 inch thick Gossamer Gear pad! The worst problem is that you get lazy and don't want to get out of bed in the morning. A Warbonnet and MacCat makes for a great combination, can't beat it. They are both made lovingly by genuine one-man operations. They put out great gear at great prices and are great people.

Tom Clark
(TomClark) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Re: Re: Re: Re: MLD at Trail Days - Damascus, VA May, 15-17 on 05/17/2009 18:19:48 MDT Print View

Great review of the Trail Days exhibitors, and appreciate your opinions of things. Also glad that others have chimed in. Again, sorry I missed it since I've been attending for several years. I always wondered why we never got much info from the PCT Zero Day event.

John Carter

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Lightheart Tent on 05/23/2009 12:10:58 MDT Print View


Thanks for the detailed info. I'm wondering if you can expand a little on your thoughts about the Lightheart tent. From what I can see, it looks like an excellent tent. It looks to have a very simple setup, and offers excellent cross-flow ventilation and views; more so than any other tent in its weight category. And the dual trekking poles could add considerable stability.

What about the tent felt 'first generation' to you? Sewing quality? the PVC pipe? Taught-ness when fully pitched?

I'm considering a MLD DuoMid (15oz silnylon) and forthcoming inner mesh (13oz) for its ventilation, views, headroom, and pyramid-style storm protection. But the Lightheart is 3oz lighter, considerably cheaper, and is one piece, making it easier to adjust for views/ventilation vs. storm protection from within the tent.

I'd be very interested in your observations. Thanks!

Jolly Green Giant
(regultr) - MLife

Re: Lightheart Tent on 05/23/2009 13:17:59 MDT Print View


I should mention my intent isn't to knock the Lightheart Tent by saying it appears to me to be first generation. Merely to me, it looked that way. The PVC pipe was part of the reason as it is literally hardware store quality instead of something a little more finished. Other reasons included what I would argue isn't the best engineering design as the head and foot areas come to a point and thereby render the length very long, but not 100% useful. This also makes the roof very pitched and therefore someone tall like me (6'6") contends with both the sides and roof tapering in which screws up the otherwise available footspace. A redesign to be more boxy would fix that. I also felt the stitching could be polished a bit, something I mention carefully as the owner makes dresses for a living and I'm definitely not one who has any sewing skills whatsoever. After looking hard at the stitching of MLD products, I simply felt that the Lightheart could be improved a bit. Overall, I think they have a product that has a heck of a lot more upside than down and you mentioned many of the positives. They also have a two-man tent coming out later this summer which will only be a few ounces heavier and apparently it will be rectangular in shape which will very likely fix the usable space issue that concerns me. In short, I think they are definitely working on a fine product and I'm anxious to see the 2-man version.

Edited by regultr on 05/23/2009 13:20:24 MDT.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Lightheart Tent on 05/23/2009 20:04:32 MDT Print View

The Lightheart Tent looks like a direct copy of the now long defunct "Wanderlust Nomad Tent" (BPL review here).

Usually I would think this is not right, but then a lot of people really wanted to get the Nomad, but the manufacturer had disappeared from all contact. Even today the Nomad can compete with the most recent shelter designs and is still one of the most innovative shelters I have seen. So it is good that someone is bringing it back. The addition of the PVC apex pole is a good modification, I think, giving more headroom to the tight space at the top. I've always wanted to try the Nomad, but when I first started going UL back when the Nomad was popular I was new to everything and didn't trust that such a light shelter would be able to handle the weather. That was such a long time ago! (1997?) Can't believe that I'm still avidly following the BPL forums and still scrutinizing my gear lists! It's so much fun, isn't it?

Zack Karas
( - MLife

Locale: Lake Tahoe
Light Heart Tent and Wanderlust Nomad on 05/24/2009 11:30:58 MDT Print View

I also thought that it looked like the Wanderlust! I only saw one once while on the PCT but I instantly thought of it when I saw the Light Heart photo.

Rick Cheehy
(kilgoretrout2317) - F

Locale: Virginia
Re: Nuuns on 05/24/2009 12:17:27 MDT Print View

Do nuuns have fake sugar (splenda etc)?