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Meet JR: UL Backpacker and Reviewer of the Month

by Alicia MacLeay
March 11, 2015

Congratulations to JRinGeorgiaTrailspace'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 JR, an ultralight hiker, backpacker, and cyclist in the Atlanta, Ga., area, who also enjoys exploring the Sierra Nevada.

Congratulations, JR! Thanks for sharing your helpful reviews with us over the last two years, including your most recent ones of the StickPic and the ZPacks Arc Blast pack.

For his contributions, JR wins this month's featured Reviewer of the Month prize, an Alite Mayfly camp chair ($70 value) for relaxing in after a day on the trail.

Plus, we're sending him a pack of goodies including Injinji socks, an INOVA Microlight STS lightNikwax Down ProofSugru moldable glue, a Mountain House meal, energy bars and chews from Clif and GoMacro, and a Trailspace Trail Runner Cap.*




Meet JR

Tell us a little about yourself.

I'm a single dad of a 14-year-old girl. I work in the marketing research industry, so I conduct surveys and focus groups for a variety of different business clients.

What do you like to do outdoors?

Nothing too "extreme" — hiking, cycling (road and groomed trail), camping, and swimming mostly. Just being outdoors helps me to keep a perspective on my place in the world.

How did you get started exploring outdoors?

As a young boy I always liked to adventure off into the woods behind our house. Then, I spent several summers at an overnight camp in the North Georgia mountains. 

Any favorite stories?

On my first backpacking trip to Yosemite I got a classic case of altitude sickness (AMS) the morning after first night. The previous day I did about 14 miles with several thousand feet of elevation change, got a bit dehydrated, and all at altitude after coming up from sea level. So it hit me pretty good – the pounding headache, nausea, weakness, etc.

I was lying in a semi-shaded gully on Mt. Watkins, looking directly across Tenaya Canyon at the big wall of Cloud's Rest looming above me, which my itinerary would have me on top of in just a few days. I was feeling puny and discouraged, thinking I would never make it, but of course I recovered and did end up on the summit as planned, now looking down on the spot where I had lay in the duff just a few days before.

I don't know if this is a "favorite story," but I do like to think about it any time a section of trail seems to be taking its toll. It helps me to stay focused on the end goal and push through. 

Do you have any outdoor regrets?

Yes, carrying a heavy pack for too long! In recent years I've taken to the ultralight (UL) "philosophy", and I have almost all new gear to get my base weight down. I used to think UL was about snobbery and bragging rights and would scoff at people counting ounces and grams, but as I've gotten older I realize, at least for me, UL is only about reducing the toll of carrying your gear so that you can go farther, higher, see more, enjoy it more, with less wear and tear on the body.

Do you have any outdoor goals you want to share?

I have a long list of dream places to backpack, and it's growing all the time. In the last several years I have grown especially fond of the Sierra Nevada.

I've been to Yosemite each of the last three summers and am planning two more trips there for this summer (one will include my daughter for her first long BP trip).

In the future I am hoping to do a thru-hike of the JMT in the next few years. Right now with work and family I just don't have the three weeks or so needed to do it.

JR hiking in Yosemite, descending from White Wolf to Pate Valley with Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in background.

Describe your ideal day outdoors.

Long, and stimulating. I like to break camp and hit the trail right after breakfast and stay on the move until just before sunset. That way I can see and experience as much as possible.

The ideal day would be like that with non-stop scenery, bagging a peak or two, plentiful water sources, and all the battery life my camera needs.

What motivated you to share your reviews with Trailspace? 

Kali, the last Reviewer of the Month, gave a great answer that really resonates with me. I do a ton of research before making a gear purchase, to make sure I am getting what suits my needs best and to get the best deal.

Part of doing that research is reading and viewing other users' reviews. They are extremely helpful and point out things that product listings don't cover. Then once I have experience with a piece of gear I like the idea of sharing my experience so that it might be of help to others.

What’s in your backpack right now?

I became "enlightened" within the last few years (referring to embracing the philosophy of ultralight, or UL, backpacking). Technically I can claim to be UL, with a base weight of about 9.5 pounds for a summer overnighter, more like 12.5 pounds for a weeklong trek with a bear canister.

I could easily get that lower if I wanted to, but I feel that once I've gotten my load light enough I can afford to add back the minimal weight of some luxuries that make my experience, especially in camp, more comfortable.

So that base weight includes a spacious shelter with rain and bug protection, a roomy down quilt, wide air mattress, big pillow, camera with extra batteries, a book or my mobile phone for reading, a PLB (personal locator beacon) for peace of mind, a caddy for my cook kit that can serve as separate bowl and mug, things like that.

What's your favorite book?

I got my first smart phone only last summer. In discovering the multiple things I can do with it besides make a phone call, I stumbled across a book reader and a library of free, public domain books.

I downloaded Call Of The Wild, which I had not read in years, and surprised myself by finding it actually quite pleasing to be able to read electronically while camping or anywhere I had time to spare. And, it was a great way to re-visit a classic "outdoors" book. 

What's your favorite quote?

If I may offer two:

"I was weary of the trail, but still strangely in its thrall; found the endless slog tedious but irresistible; grew tired of the boundless woods but admired their boundlessness; enjoyed the escape from civilization and ached for its comforts. I wanted to quit and to do this forever, sleep in a bed and in a tent, see what was over the next hill and never see a hill again.  All of this at once, every moment, on the trail or off."

— Bill Bryson, A Walk In The Woods

"Never measure the height of a mountain until you have reached the top. Then you will see how low it was."

— Dag Hammarskjöld


Featured Reviewer of the Month Prize:
JR wins this month's featured Reviewer of the Month prize, a Mayfly camp chair ($70 value), thanks to Alite Designs, along with other great prizes.


Congratulations and thank you, JR!

* Besides Trailspace appreciation, JR wins this month's featured Reviewer of the Month prize, a Mayfly camp chair ($70 value), thanks to Alite Designs.  

Plus, we're sending him a pack of goodies including Injinji Trail 2.0 Midweight Micro socks, an INOVA Microlight STS, Nikwax Down ProofSugru moldable glue, a Mountain House Rice and Chicken meal, energy bars from Clif and GoMacro, and a Trailspace Trail Runner Cap and stickers.*

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.


All photos taken in Yosemite courtesy of JR and his StickPic: 1) at Cathedral Pass, 2) in Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne, 3) from White Wolf descending to Pate Valley (Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in background), and 4) Tuolmne Falls near Glen Aulin.