Friday, September 16, 2011

Undesired Sabbatical

This is going to be my last blog entry for a couple months. I recently tore the meniscus in my knee and had surgery. With stitches still in, I’m waiting to see if I can walk normal again. If that weren’t unlucky enough, I followed up my surgery by seriously breaking a bone in my hand just 5 days later which X-rays showed was weakened because of a tumor in the bone. I need to have invasive surgery to remove the tumor which will include the cutting of a tendon to get to it, a bone graft, and 6-8 weeks in a full hand cast. As a result, I simply cannot type without the hunt-and-peck method which I’ve decided is entirely too cumbersome. This little entry alone is extremely time-consuming and mentally draining. With that, I wanted to quickly offer the next three things I was going to discuss in short format with little context. These are each nearly unknown gems in the lightweight backpacking industry.

What? - Cuben Fiber Vest

Where? Not advertised. Custom made by Ben at Goose Feet (

Weight? Mine is 6 oz, but yours could be under 4 oz. It varies because you can customize your material, size, amount of insulation, and frills (collar, pockets, full or half zip, etc.). Cuben saves you about an ounce.

Cost? $120-$220, varies because you can pick different material, size, and amount of insulation, and frills (collar, pockets, full or half zip, etc.). Mine is cuben, 4 oz of 900 down insulation, collar, full zip, adjustable waist, and adjustable arm holes.

Pros? Warm, warm, warm. Material is waterproof – think back sweat protection, rain protection, and double-duty as a vapor barrier. Packs small and is extremely lightweight. Vests are extremely versatile and work well with layering.

Cons? A bit noisy, a bit dorky looking, expensive. Imperfect manufacturing impacting aesthetics, not function.

Comment?  Best piece of apparel for backpacking I own, hands down.

What? Width and Height Tapering and Insulated Sleeping Pad

Where? The Taperlite is advertised, the insulation is not nor is the fact that size can be customized. Custom made by Bender at Kookabay (

Weight? 5.5 oz, Varies because you can customize your size in all directions and the type of insulation

Cost? $70, Varies because you can customize your size in all directions and the type of insulation

Pros? Light for an inflatable, insulated for warmth, custom size makes all the difference.  Mine is wider than anything on the market.

Cons? Heavier than foam and prone to puncture.  Costly.

Comment? Best choice I made for a better night of sleep. Custom size makes it perfect. Keep in mind, it even tapers in height, so legs have no drop-off from the transition from the pad to the ground or other insulation. Get the size and insulation you want and sleep soundly!

UPDATE (23 Feb 2012):
Regrettably, I can no longer recommend or support Kookabay.  In late 2011 and well into 2012, numerous customers came forward to say Kookabay (Ben Neubrander) had defrauded them.  Concerns included taking money for products never provided and providing products with bad valves which were returned for repair and were never repaired (or returned) or refunded.  I was one of those customers.  I attempted to contact Ben numerous times of the last 5 months and he simply did not respond.  Others experienced the same.  He eventually shut down his website and his PayPal account.  It was reported that he had gotten burned out, and just simply walked away without fulfilling his obligations.  Ben had a great product and was plenty fine to deal with when he chose to manage his company responsibly.  It's a shame he experienced some kind of personal hardship, but he did not handle it well.  Simple correspondence with his customers and extended timelines would have likely made everyone happy.  Instead, he just chose to cut and run.  I personally wish him the best and hope to see his products return somewhere, someday, somehow.

What? Lightest Canister Stove – Monatauk Gnat

Where? Web search (

Weight? 1.6 oz

Cost? $42-70 depending on where you buy it

Pros? Lightest canister stove on the market, small, durable, adjustable flame, well made, efficient enough.

Cons? May not perform great at high altitude and may not be as efficient as others with regulators.  It also does poorly in windy conditions and you may be forced to use some kind of windscreen which is highly discouraged for most canister stoves.

Comment? Best choice I made for a canister stove as it saved me a tremendous amount of weight from other canisters I own…although I’m still more likely to use Esbit or an alcohol stove.

Best of luck to everyone during what is no doubt my favorite hiking season which I will miss. Thanks for sticking with me thus far and hope to see you in the near future. Please use the resources on the right which will continue to contain updates on other excellent blogs.



Hendrik Morkel said...

Get well soon J. Best wishes, may the healing be fast and not to boring, and that you will come out stronger after all of it.

Ewa said...

Sorry about your health issues. I am sending good vibes your way and looking forward to your speedy recovery. You know, purely selfish reasons, I like reading your blog. :-)
Seriously, get well soon. Hugs.

markswalkingblog said...

So sorry to hear of your news. I am sure you will be on the mend soon.

All the very best

Bryan Hansel said...

Good luck with your recovery. That stove is pretty sweet. I may pick one up next year (or Christmas).

Alan R said...

Hope you are out and about soon. I’m sure that you will be able to find something to blog about in the interim.
All the best.

Anonymous said...

Bad luck with the health problems! Hope you recuperate well and are back asap!

Martin Rye said...

Hope you recover fast. All the best with the next few months ahead and recovering fully.

Jolly Green Giant said...

Thanks for the well wishes everyone.

Happy trails.


Stick's Blog said...

Bummer to hear man. I hope that everything goes well and you get better sooner than expected! And thanks for that last excruciating blog entry. Some very nice gear... Get well soon.

Anonymous said...

Best wishes for a speedy recovery

Amy Jurries said...

Sorry to hear and hopes for a speedy recovery!

jeepingetowah said...

Just wanted to check in with you JGG. I am back from the AT hike, and hoping that you are well. I see the last post is September. Here is to you and your health. I truly with the best... and hope to see something new from you soon.

Jolly Green Giant said...

@ Wallace - Thanks for stopping by. I'm on the mend, but hope to be back blogging very soon and have several pieces of content nearly ready to roll out over the next several weeks. Congrats again on your strong AT effort. I enjoyed your videos and ground perspective of the journey. Best of luck with your sea crate.

Chef Glenn said...

I am glad to hear you are on the mend. The human body is amazing the way it can heal itself. Stick with the rehab. It will be worth it. And thanks for your excellent blog.