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Superior Hiking Trail September Thru-hike (and some MYOG stuff)
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Matt F
(matt_f) - MLife
Superior Hiking Trail September Thru-hike (and some MYOG stuff) on 09/27/2009 17:04:19 MDT Print View

Over the past couple of weeks I completed a mostly-solo superior hiking trail (SHT) thru-hike, but did so In two separate chunks. The first six days and change I hiked the 140 miles from Otter Lake Road near the Canadian border south to Finland Rec Center trailhead. I won’t do a full trip report, but it was wonderful and I’d like to share a few photos for those not-so-familiar with northern Minnesota:

starting out

Starting out, my girlfriend joined for the first night.

:brule river

Brule River

lake superior, foggy evening

Lake walk in the thick fog.

lake superior, sunrise next morning

The next morning things were different.

sht lake walk

bridge over devil track river

Bridge over Devil Track River

mushroom stump

At that point I had to hop off trail for a few days to attend a wedding with my girlfriend and spend a day doing some orientation in a hospital I’ll be training in for the next year. That’s when I got to thinking…the first leg of the hike was great, and I was a little surprised at how comfortable walking with a 10-11 pounds base weight actually is. In fact, things were going so well I decided to up the ante a bit and finish out the hike with a much more minimal set of gear, much of which I’d made myself over the past year or so in an attempt to have really light gear that didn’t cost much.

I don’t have a full list to share, but the high points follow:

modified medium golite ion (~10 ounces), purchased new for $30 w/ mods costing a few bucks.

ion and stream

sil-nylon tarp, modeled mostly after the Five Yards to SUL article from BPL with a foot and a half added to the ridgeline. $20 of “seconds” sil-nylon and some grosgrain. 11.5 ounces with lines.


Bivy sack with 36-inch side-zip made from sil-nylon and momentum, roughly $60 in materials with lots of scrap leftover. 6.5 ounces.


Hooded synthetic insulated vest made from’s Minima Vest Kit, momentum, $53. 5.5 ounces.


Simple catfood can alcohol alcohol stove: 50 cents, half an ounce.


My complete list came in at about 6 pounds and 10 ouces, and included full rain gear, montbell pillow, WM summerlite sleeping bag, 40-inch ccf pad, extra socks, silk-weight baselayer top and bottoms, and nine ounces of camera stuff (my new FujiFilm f200EXR compact and a Gorillapod tripod), along with all of my other "necessities". Anyway, I went back to the north shore to finish up the final 66 miles of my hike and had a blast. I wasn’t really sure how everything would function, but I came away thinking I could have done the entire trail with the gear that I had made, and that I was ready for serious rain and would have been just fine in freezing temps. Also, there is something gratifying about using what you’ve made, not to mention carrying that little weight. I encourage anyone else out there interested in making UL gear to give it a shot: you might be surprised at how quickly you’ll be producing functional and simple gear. OK, enough about gear – here are some more photos of the last three days of the hike:

starting out...again

Starting out...again.


Barge as seen from ridge.

on fault line ridge

A bunch of shots on Split Rock River as evening progressed:

split rock river break

split rock at dinner

split rock again

split rock getting darker...

split rock closer

Sunrise the next morning:

sunrise the next morning

Bear and Bean Lake from overlook:

bear and bean lake overlook

Sun coming through the clouds over Lake Superior:

sun coming through clouds on lake superior

Sawmill Creek Bog:

sawmill creek bog

the end...

Edited by matt_f on 09/27/2009 17:15:04 MDT.

Andy Berner
(Berner9) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
SHT on 09/27/2009 17:12:30 MDT Print View

Thanks for posting. Pictures are wonderful and can't wait to go up there.

I'm looking to get up there and Isle Royal next summer.

Matt Lutz
(citystuckhiker) - F

Locale: Midwest
Re: Superior Hiking Trail September Thru-hike (and some MYOG stuff) on 09/27/2009 17:18:26 MDT Print View

Great job on a fantastic trail.

William Puckett
(Beep) - F

Locale: Land of 11, 842 lakes
SHT Thru Hike on 09/27/2009 20:56:32 MDT Print View

Nice shots...and good going for your DYI projects! It's nice to see all that together.

Edited by Beep on 09/27/2009 20:57:02 MDT.

Jonathan Ryan
(Jkrew81) - F - M

Locale: White Mtns
Re: Superior Hiking Trail September Thru-hike (and some MYOG stuff) on 09/28/2009 05:56:20 MDT Print View

awesome pix, thanks for sharing

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: Superior Hiking Trail September Thru-hike (and some MYOG stuff) on 09/28/2009 21:07:08 MDT Print View

nice trip report Matt. It's good to see younger folks with the MYOG bug ... but discouraging that it's so unusual.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Superior Hiking Trail September Thru-hike (and some MYOG stuff) on 09/28/2009 21:48:26 MDT Print View

Beautiful pictures! I think that those of us in mountain country tend to forget that the "flat" part of our nation has its own beauties. I spent some time in Michigan's UP along Lake Superior in June 2006. Except for the flies (!) it was wonderful!

Edited by hikinggranny on 09/28/2009 21:50:09 MDT.

Michael Baker

Locale: Minnesota
your gear on 10/27/2009 21:16:50 MDT Print View

Is the stand in your stove just some wire? I have a few catfood cans and your setup looks like the way to go. In fact all your MYOG looks very good. Do you have much experience sewing?

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

MYOG on 10/28/2009 00:11:43 MDT Print View

Nice sunrise shot.

MYOG is fun stuff. I just sewed my first MYOG project tonight...a 0.25oz spinnaker stuff sack for my 'essentials'. It's probably about 2 liters in volume. I got a $25 sewing machine at Michael's craft store and so far it's been doing the trick.

Mark McLauchlin
(markmclauchlin) - MLife

Locale: Western Australia
Re: MYOG on 10/28/2009 00:43:07 MDT Print View

Great pictures and trip report.

You should be very happy with the results of your MYOG.

Any lessons learned from the gear you made? anything you would do differently?


Matt F
(matt_f) - MLife
MYOG on the superior hiking trail on 10/28/2009 20:36:49 MDT Print View

Hey all -

Thanks for all of the kind words: I'm a big fan of the superior hiking trail, and it seems we have quite a few SHT hikers on this board. As far as the MYOG stuff goes, I had just a bit of sewing experience working with an expedition canoe outfitter during college (stuff sacks, simple seems on cordura packs), but mostly my sewing experience started while house/dog sitting for my vacationing parents a couple years ago: my mom had a machine, i mentioned i wanted to work on a couple of backpacking gear projects, and she was nice enough to leave her machine set up and threaded on their kitchen table. I painstakingly measured and cut materials for a synthetic quilt and simple bivy sack....sat down at the machine...and in about two seconds had the thing jammed up with fabric and thread and insulation everywhere. At that point i pulled out the owner's manual and learned pretty much everything I needed to produce functional gear.

The only advice i really have about starting the MYOG thing is don't over- or underestimate yourself. You won't make something perfect your first time around, but it will probably be functional, and the stuff i made that very first week accompanied me on some pretty wet and cold trips and kept me comfortable. I learn a lot with every project, and love the way i can now alter and modify things i've already made to fit with my goals. The modified ion in the pictures? Last weekend I ripped the thing apart and made it into something I like much better (will post photos soon in the MYOG forum). As I go along I buy higher quality materials and now even picked up some green/brown .75 oz cuben along with a bunch of other forum members.

@ Mike: The stove in the photo is just a clean catfood can with some hardware cloth inside holding up the mug. Love it.

Take care,


Edited by matt_f on 10/28/2009 20:37:35 MDT.