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Meet David Drake, Trailspace's Reviewer of the Month

by Seth Levy
March 11, 2014

David hiking in Arizona's Cochise Stronghold in the Dragoon Mountains, Coronado National Forest.

Congratulations to David Drake, Trailspace's newest Reviewer of the Month!

Each month we recognize and get to know a different member of the Trailspace community. This month it's Arizona backpacker and multi-sport enthusiast David.

Congratulations, David, and thanks for sharing your experience and helpful gear reviews with us. 

You win this month's featured Reviewer of the Month prize, a pair of Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultras ($69.99 value). Plus, you get a goodie pack from A3, Clif, Innate, Kind, NiteIze, and Trailspace.*

Join the Trailspace community in recognizing other helpful reviewers by voting up the reviews you find most useful. Write your own helpful gear reviews and you could be our next Reviewer of the Month.



How did you get started exploring outdoors? Any favorite stories, memories?

David having fun on a day hike in Arizona's Santa Catalina Mountains.

I grew up in New York, and vacationing in New Hampshire. The contrast between the concrete hustle and bustle of the suburbs of New York, and the forests, mountains, lakes, and rivers of New Hampshire provided a palatable backdrop, a setting so inherently determining that an acknowledgeable character based on enthusiasm and exploitation began to unfold.

An introduction to the Boy Scouts created a deep-seated life of imagination and love for our amazing wilderness. As a young man, my father introduced me to the Boy Scouts, as his father introduced him. Scouting became an integral part of my life, at that time, and with so many exhilarating experiences, I continue to covet each and every one, dearly, every day. I consider myself most fortunate for the exposure.

These experiences, memories, in addition to every moment on the trail, each and every time I embrace a new trailhead, the magnanimous note of love and life, enthusiastically explodes harmoniously in euphoria.

I have not one single moment that stands out as any better than the next, as there are literally hundreds, although I feel like the most fortunate person alive each and every time my feet cross the threshold into wilderness.

What do you enjoy doing outdoors? Favorite activities?

In addition to hiking, backpacking, and camping, I have enjoyed triathlon, biathlon, marathon, and all related specialties. Each one of these activities has engaged my valor and perceptibly added strength and endurance to the love I have for the outdoors.

Describe your ideal day outside.

Wildly, exuberantly ready to offer my greetings to the trailhead before day break, solo or with friends, now knowing that today is going to be another perfect day, I'm hiking with no particular direction or destination in mind, enjoying the moment, snapping photos, stopping for a quick hot beverage or meal, going for a quick swim, ascending further in altitude until the sun's position reminds me I must either set up camp or about-face. Could there be anything better than that?

Describe your happiest moment outdoors. And/or proudest? Hardest?

After 10 years of hiking and backpacking the Sonoran Desert, in June 2013, on a short backpacking trek into the Santa Catalina mountain range, one of the Sky Island ranges of southern Arizona, I finally came in contact with the elusive mountain lion. Two of them, in fact, both cubs and both jumped up onto the rock, one at a time, that I was standing on to greet me.

The first cub may have been too skittish to remain and unfortunately I was not quick enough to capture her on film, but the second one proved to be everything I hoped for. She was gorgeous; they were both gorgeous! We stood and looked at each other for a moment before she exited the rock; I was slowly walking backwards knowing mom may have been nearby. In addition to the myriad of wonderful moments I've enjoyed outdoors, this one may have been the most exciting.

My proudest and or hardest moments are equally as exciting. Some hikes may be more difficult than others and I have a tendency to hike off trail and ridge lines, leaving the trail earlier than later. Hiking southern Arizona offers the amazing benefit of being able to observe my exact location in respect to any known point below me, beside me, and above me.

In other words, there are no trees, with the exception of higher elevations and generally then, above 7,000 feet, adding to the excitement of hiking without the need for route-finding devices. Even above 7,000 feet the trees may be dispersed enough to forgo the compass. There have been many moments when I've decided to traverse the unconfirmed ground before me.

Several of these moments have left me precariously positioned to make decisions that may not have been the best, such as, on one off-trail, ridge-line day hike, late in the day, I found myself sliding 40 feet down a rocky wash that could have ended with more damage than torn shorts, but what a ride! Not necessarily difficult nor hard, but those situations are wisely held in general contempt, and remain the road not traveled for obvious reasons.

Any outdoor regrets?

Absolutely! I don't get out enough in the rain! The average precipitation here in southern Arizona is 16 inches depending on your location with just 60 days of rainfall. Our monsoon season, July through September, often brings torrential, horizontal gusts of wind and rain, and as long as no additional objects are included, it's a very nice day to be outside!

Any outdoor plans/trips/goals you want to share?

Yes, I plan on making a sincere attempt to describe each and every future trek on my website with as much detail as possible. Some of them are short, off-trail day hikes and are simply not worthy enough of posting, but may be enormously exciting for me as a quick hike. Other ventures are longer and greatly more exciting and deserve such recognition. My biggest obstacle is that I use a Delorme PN-60 w SE that is not compatible with my Apple computer.

I enjoy a trip to the Grand Canyon each year. Typically, I'll camp on the South Rim for a week and go wander around in the big hole for a couple of days. I also do my best to collect a T-shirt each year, T-shirts that are exclusive to the Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the canyon. This year, I'm going to attempt a rim-to-rim-to-rim hike (I need the T-shirt and can't wear one unless I do the hike), a 46-mile hike that I'm sure will be quite an amazing experience.

Tell us about your favorite outdoor places.

I relocated to southern Arizona almost 11 years ago specifically to increase the amount of hiking and backpacking I desired to do. I believe it was a great choice. For all reasons stated above, I have found tranquility in all of southern Arizona.

What’s your favorite outdoor gear? Why?

I consider my comprehensive gear package as a whole to be favorite over any single entity. Indeed, each piece comprises the whole, yet as the years pass and new and highly sophisticated gear is becoming available, designed for lighter weight, more comfort, more weather proof, optimal experience, etc., I'm enjoying the whole more than the individual parts. Each piece has its place among the others and each piece contributes to an alluring trek.

As time progresses, so does equipment and, in conjunction with Trailspace reviews, I'm able to determine a possible part that may make the whole a more functional unit.

Got any good, bad, funny, epic gear experiences?

The Good… I was recently working on a review for a water purification filter I've had since 2008 (Katadyn Pocket). In this instance, a bad situation forced me off the trail but the warranty pushed me back up the mountain rather quickly.

The Funny… I'm thinking of purchasing stock options in silicone Bite Valve development. I use a bladder hydration system that includes a drink tube that generally bounces around outside my pack. As a result of this bouncing (the owner never seems to tack it down to a shoulder strap when not in use), the bite valve, often enough, stealthily catches on shrubbery and dislodges itself from the drink tube, falling into trail abyss. I'm convinced the bite valve purposely does this in spite of me biting it; it's getting back.

What happens next is an absolute miracle. The moment the bite valve escapes, and before I realized the bite valve had escaped the first time, water is suddenly raining down upon me with not a single cloud in the sky. That first time, I'm whirling in circles, my girlfriend dying in laughter, making a sincere attempt to find the source of the water and, once I do, giving my very best to one-handedly capture the now defunct bite valve that is no longer there. Upon realizing the bite valve had thought better than to be a bite valve, I'm now focusing on preventing any more water from projecting from the drink tube, which is steadily flowing.

Whew, now that I've got a finger on the end of the drink tube, both my girlfriend and I are searching the ground for the escapee, with no luck. Fortunately for us, we were day hiking and no real harm was caused. We never found the bite valve that day and I retained the balance of the water in the bladder, which was not much, by pressing my finger against the end of the tube. What a day, but did we laugh. Now, I have a backup to my backup bite valve in case this happens again.

Not necessarily Bad, more Accurate… I have a tendency to carry more than one stove, and I enjoy using different items simply to have fun, but this was over the edge… if, and only if, you could have seen my girlfriend's expression as she stated, "One? Try five!" in response to my statement, "I seem to have brought more than one stove with us today." This is a bit of an exaggeration on her part, but, for the most part, she's right, or very close. I had carried five eating utensils, but only four stoves. She was close.

No joke, without spending much time packing, one particular trip, I opened my kitchen gear bag (I generally store everything together then subtract for a trip) to reveal that I had not fully evaluated the contents before leaving. I had with me three titanium sporks, one long and two short, one polycarbonate spoon, and one titanium chopstick set. The stoves consisted of one titanium alcohol stove, two smaller aluminum alcohol stoves, and one canister micro-stove that was not accompanied by an isobutane canister. My girlfriend truly believes I meant to do that.

What’s in your pack right now?

Besides thorns? OK, seriously… the contents of my pack, of which I own five, greatly depends on whether or not I'm day hiking or backpacking, solo or with a group (two or more), conditions, weather report, terrain, season, distance, expectation of finding water or not, altitude gain/loss, day and night time temperatures, and performance expectations.

For a two-day, single-night backpacking trek, during the winter season, clear skies, in southern Arizona, a typical temperature range between 30 and 70 degrees, the possibility of finding a water source, and with an elevation gain/loss of 6,000 feet: I'm most likely hiking fast if I'm heading out for a single overnight, translating to a fast and light backpack. In this case, only absolutely necessary equipment makes it into the pack.

What motivated you to share your outdoor gear reviews with the Trailspace community?

There's a fine line between posting a review and posting a beneficial review. My objective with Trailspace is to inform the community, to the best of my ability, of my confidence and adequacy relevant to the equipment I'm reviewing. In other words, I care only to post helpful, considerate, and expressly accurate information based on my thorough experience with the product.

It is this kind of integrity that I wish to pass on to the community and potential consumers, who may greatly desire to discuss their personal interests with someone whom has had considerable experience with aforementioned reviewed product (see more in my About section).

Where does your username come from?

It's my actual name, given to me at birth! By the way, I'm still overwhelmed with joy, Mom and Dad, considering you named your fist son, Donald, and that I could possibly have been, following that pattern, Daffy Drake.

What would Trailspace members be surprised to learn about you?

In 1994 I competed in and finished the Ironman Triathlon World Championship in Hawaii. Not well enough, however, I was seeking a paycheck that day. Also, I was a vegetarian for 10 years, eight months of which I was a strict raw-food vegan.

Anything else you'd like to share with the Trailspace community?

I'm sincerely pleased to be here and find it an honor to be able to share my experiences and discussions with all of you!!


Featured Reviewer Prize:
David wins a pair of Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultras, plus a Trailspace trail runner cap, an assortment of energy bars, and other goodies.

Great job, David!

*Besides Trailspace appreciation, David wins a goodie pack with a pair of Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultras; plus a variety of A3, Clif, and Kind bars; an Innate Motus 3 water bottle, a NiteIze BugLit light, and a Trailspace Trail Runner Cap and stickers.

Wondering how you can be as lucky as David? Write some great gear reviews of your own. Next month we'll recognize another reviewer (who'll win a great prize), and it could be you!

Help recognize the best reviews on Trailspace by clicking that up arrow whenever you read a truly helpful review. You'll not only recognize good reviewers, you'll help highlight the best reviews
of products for other members looking for outdoor equipment.


Full width picture captions above: 1) Backpacking in the Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness in Arizona; 2) Backpacking in the Santa Catalina Mountains in Arizona; 3) On top of Thimble Peak in the Santa Catalina Mountains with Tucson in the background.