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  1. #1
    Forum Member Boolie's Avatar
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    The Guide's Pack in the Sonoran Desert


    I bought my Guide's Pack four years ago and put it to use right away on a trip to Mount Rainier National Park and Olympic National Park in Washington. We spent our first years together hiking around the Pacific Northwest, not only Rainier and the Olympics but the Columbia River Gorge, the redwoods in California, the Oregon coast, and of course at Ridgefield. Designed and manufactured in nearby Seattle, it was right at home in its home.

    Then we moved to the desert.


    My first thought after moving here, unsure how I would handle hiking in the hotter weather, was to take a lighter pack on some short hikes, so for the first couple of hikes I took an old REI daypack I've had for over twenty years. I quickly switched to the Guide's Pack as I realized it was better suited to carry the water I'd need on longer hikes courtesy of its internal frame and hip belt.

    Since some of the trails are narrow my first thought was to take off the two removable pockets on the sides and store them in the bag. One of the pockets has an organizer for little things but the other is open, and it turns out it is perfectly sized to carry two 27oz Klean Kanteen water bottles. I carry one 27oz bottle attached to my camera bag, two in the side pocket, and a spare in the bottom of the backpack. But I quickly realized my mistake once I started putting my telephoto lens and camera into the bag when the light started getting harsh, as to get to the water bottles I had to pull out the camera and lens. You have to constantly drink water while hiking here, so easy access to water is critical. I put the pockets back on the sides where they have stayed ever since, and after looking in the mirror I realized they weren't sticking out as I had imagined anyway.


    Getty Dusty by Rick Cameron, on Flickr

    The bag is getting more and more dusty and that's a good thing because it means I've been hiking more and more. I've been out almost 20 times in the two months we've been here and can't wait for the next hike. One of the things I've loved about this pack is its looks, the navy parapack material is both durable and gorgeous and is well-matched against the coyote brown bottom and straps. It's a rucksack design, the top compartment is where I keep my snacks, you can open the zipper and get inside without opening up the pack. Pull back the top and there's a cavernous compartment inside where I store my hiking poles, my fourth water bottle, a first aid kit, and extra clothing (if needed), and various other things. There are some o-rings inside for attaching stuff sacks, adding some nice organizational capability to the large space.


    Granite by Rick Cameron, on Flickr

    My last adaptation in the desert was to start putting the big lens and camera away when the sunlight starts to get harsh, swapping the lens for trekking poles which make hiking in the desert more enjoyable. How I wish I had four arms so I could carry my tripod and trekking poles too! The tripod I cinch under the bag with some lash straps, that has worked a treat. This is the configuration in the picture below, with the backpack and attached tripod holding up Balanced Rock. There are lots of nice touches in the bag, such as the loop handle that makes it easier to load the bag into the car or move it about the house. There's a nice mesh on the back your back does get sweaty in the desert, for summer hiking I might look for a back with a gap between your back and the backpack. Or maybe a lightweight pack if it proves too hot in the summer for any hike over an hour or two.

    I absolutely adore the Guide's Pack. I love that its beautiful, I love that its well-made and made well, and I love that it's a great backpack too. It broke my heart to leave the Northwest but getting to know the Sonoran Desert has been an absolute joy. My thanks to the folks at Tom Bihn for making the backpack that let me explore my home in the Northwest, and my new home in the Southwest.


    Balance by Rick Cameron, on Flickr

    We've seen lots of wildlife on the trails, the Guide's Pack and I, here is a quick sampling. In order of appearance we have a gila monster (only got a quick look but thrilled to have seen one so soon), a male Gambel's quail feasting atop a saguaro, a female Gamble's quail doing the same, a curve-billed thrasher serenading me at sunrise, a cactus wren pausing between feeding its young, its face covered in pollen from nearby saguaro blossoms, and last but not least, the gorgeous tail of the western diamondback rattlesnake.


  2. #2
    Volunteer Moderator bartleby's Avatar
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    Location: Germany / Hobbies: Photography & Guitars
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    Awesome pictures! That's how the Guide's Pack is meant to be used! I especially like the alignment of the colours of the GP and the desert ;-)
    ...spread joy in your neighbourhood (and not Corona!) Smilie Rainbow Cheers
    current bags: Smart Alec, Guide's Pack, Guide's Edition S25, Luminary 15, Daylight Backpack, Aeronaut 45, Tri-Star, Road Buddy 36, Daylight Briefcase, Small Yeoman Duffel, bits and pieces

  3. #3
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    RDU Northern Carolina
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    I was interested until I saw that last picture.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by franzdom View Post
    I was interested until I saw that last picture.
    snakes are cool! just don't step on them!
    ;)

  5. #5
    TOM BIHN Crew (we work here) Darcy's Avatar
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    The far west
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    I enjoyed The Guide's Pack post on your blog so much that I went back through the archives and caught up on your other posts, @Boolie ... it might totally be staring me in the face, but is there a way I can subscribe to receive email updates when you publish a new post?

    Your photos and writing convey the beauty and depth of that particular kind of desert, which is one of my favorite landscapes. On the surface, and viewed from afar, it can look barren to some people. Walking in it reveals how full of life -- and how delicate -- it really is.
    Have a question? @Darcy (to make sure I see it)

    Current carry: testing new potential materials in the form of Original Large Shop Bags.

  6. #6
    Forum Member Boolie's Avatar
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    There used to be a subscribe option but for the life of me I couldn't figure out how, must have fallen by the wayside over the years. I put one back in the sidebar below the search button. I ought to look into updating to a more modern theme, maybe one of these upcoming summer days when it's so hot it melts your face off. The desert is an amazing place, I'm fortunate I ended up with a job offer here at the last minute.

  7. #7
    Forum Member Boolie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by franzdom View Post
    I was interested until I saw that last picture.
    But this is the friendly end of a rattlesnake :)

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