Birkhead Mountains Wilderness Trip Report


I just updated the trip report page with a short weekend trip from last year to one of my favorite local spots…the Birkhead Mountains Wilderness in the Uwharrie National Forest in the middle of North Carolina.  This is a great spot for a day hike or 1 to 2 day backpacking trip.  The mountains are some of the oldest in the world and therefore are very low.  Water sources are good, and campsites are frequent especially off trail (but please use Leave No Trace principles unless you use an established site.  It’s an area I have taken several beginning backpackers for a first hike, but also has great off-trail bushwacking options as the hardwood forests (mostly second growth) are relatively open.  My wife and I have taken short weekend trips here to get out of the house and just spend time in the woods without traveling too far.  It’s nice to have something like this so local to the three major areas in NC (Triangle, Triad, and Charlotte).

Water bottles and more bottles

I hopped down the street at lunch today and bought a new water bottle from the local Sheetz.  I always find myself checking new bottles out in the racks a couple of weeks before a backpacking trip but hold off buying them as much as possible due to their lack of sustainability and potential health issues associated with release of chemicals over time. However, on the few days when I am out of water and have to buy one, I try to go with one that I can reuse for hiking.  This one is a Core hydration bottle.

I will refer you to their website for information on the water and electrolytes, as I don’t pay much attention to that.  The water bottle is what caught me – pretty sturdy but flexible with an interesting cap that might be used as a measuring cup.  It’s going on my next backpacking trip in a couple of weeks.

I am not promoting the use of these bottles as health effects have been suggested. But there is also new evidence that it is not just BPA (Core bottle is BPA free) but also BPS and BPF that we may have to worry about. These are prevalent in all types of plastic, the health effects are debated, and exposure to BPA is much higher in the shiny receipts we get when shopping.  I am not stating opinion here – just letting folks know.  Do your own research and make your own decisions.

This got me thinking about my progression of water carrying devices over the last 30 years of backpacking…here goes:

Scouting in the early 80’s – Standard “issue” round canteen with fabric caddy.  Didn’t stay long with this one.

Boy Scout Vintage Canteen : Factory 20

Mid-1980’s to early 1990’s – The classic plastic bottle – eight sides with an inner plug and outer screw cap.  Can’t find a photo of this one right now.

1990’s through mid-2000’s – The still prevalent Nalgene – from the classic wide mouth bottles to smaller mouthed “sipper” bottle I attached on my shoulder strap.  In winter I still go back to the Nalgene due to its indestructibility.  I can melt snow and pour boiling water right into these babies.  See their website link above.

Last 10 years – Disposable water bottles from Gatorade to Smartwater.  I don’t keep these for a long time as they aren’t BPA free, but they weigh almost nothing and some are very durable.  I hope the Core is like that and look forward to testing it out.  Not sure it will ride as well on the shoulder strap but I’ll enjoy finding out.

Current (Updated):  Now that I have been on a 4 day excursion with the Core bottle, I am making it a part of my routine gear list.  The cap is exactly 1/2 cup for cooking measurement purposes.  The bottle slipped easily into my side pocket just like the Smartwater bottles.  It’s only disadvantage that I have found so far is that it doesn’t fit a Sawyer water filter.  However, I carry a Platypus bag for that as well as a Sawyer bag if it is needed in dry times.  I’ll revisit this after a few more trips…

Gear Review Page Updated

I just updated the gear review page and now have links to Trailspace for the following reviews:

  • Trail Designs Sidewinder Ti Tri Stove – 5 STARS
  • Lightheart Gear Solong 6 Tent – 4 STARS
  • Feathered Friends Osprey UL30 Sleeping Bag – 5 STARS
  • REI Campware Cup – 5 STARS
  • Princeton Tec Sync Headlamp  – 4 STARS
  • NEMO Astro Insulated Lite Sleeping Pad – 4.5 STARS
  • Marmot Tungsten 3P Tent – 4 STARS
  • Sea to Summit Delta Insul-Mug – 3 STARS
  • Merrel Moab Mid Waterproof Boots – 3.5 STARS
  • Trail Designs Ultralight Glasses – 4 STARS
  • Vargo 1.3L Titanium Pot – 4 STARS
  • Rite in the Rain All-Weather Memo Book – 5 STARS

Hope some of these reviews are useful in your gear quest, as well as the over 30,000 other reviews on Trailspace!

Headlamps & Flashlights

So I used a flashlight with a headband for almost 20 years of backpacking before finally switching to a headlamp several years ago.  I started off cheap with the Princeton Sync and am considering upgrading. But in looking at the other options for headlamps I am drifting back to my flashlight headband combo and considering buying a new flashlight. Why?

Headlamps make so much more sense…generally they are lighter, more adaptable in angle of projection, and more convenient.  But sometimes I want to hold the light or shine it in a different direction from where I am looking.  In those cases I would prefer a flashlight.  With the old reliable Nite Ize flashlight headband, I can use the flash as a headlamp or flashlight. It doesn’t have the ability to change angle but serves as a decent light for camp chores.

Since I avoid night hiking like the plague, I don’t need the long term hands free use of the headlamp. Nothing against night hikes, but as most of my trips are solo I don’t like to risk much. I think there is no logical reason for me to switch back from lamp to light, but it’s a personal comfort thing and probably just old habits coming back.

I might invest in a good flashlight and a good headlamp and carry both for a while…I see a couple more reviews in the future.

Hiking “Shtick”s

When I got the spark to start a blog, I was refinishing an old hiking stick – shaving the last of the bark that was hanging on it, smoothing the rough spots, and adding some water repellent and a rubber tip. It’s nothing fancy but there is something nice about a simple hiking staff.

I don’t use them much any more, having converted over to trekking poles a couple of years ago to help the knees, but still love a classic natural wood hiking staff. When used correctly, trekking poles are so much better on my knees especially on a downhill and allow me to do more miles as I age or just make the miles so much easier. However, they just don’t feel the same as a good old fashioned wooden staff.  On easy trips and day hikes I still go back to a hiking stick.

“Hiking shtick” came to me while sanding the staff and I checked Webster’s, which defines “shtick” as a regular activity or something you like to do.  I thought that fit well for the blog, although another definition is of the comedy side of things…don’t expect too much of that and I’ll plan to keep my day job.

Hi There!


My first blog post…hmmm.  I’ll start with what my intentions are:

A blog about hiking, backpacking, and camping from a regular guy with kids and a full time job who has backpacked for 30 years.  Not from an expert, just “experienced” (you can read aging here if you want) enough to know there is a lot to learn yet.

I have no ties to outdoor manufacturers and I buy all my own gear, and generally keep favorites for a long time (not a gear junkie but I appreciate the good stuff as well as good deals).  I’ll post my genuine opinion of my gear under normal circumstances (don’t expect any test results from Everest or a thru hike of the PCT – there are other great sites for that). No extreme adventures or long distance hikes, just your average 2 to 7 day trips with a few longer ones scattered in at times.

And just as important or maybe more so for me, a place to put ideas on “paper” and have respectful discussions and disagreements about those thoughts.  Also a place for questions and comments from novice to seasoned backpackers where the answers will be honest and may include links to more experienced sites or folks when it surpasses my knowledge or comfort level.

Looking forward to the journey!