We are lucky here in San Francisco to have so much accessible open space for both daily and overnight outdoor adventures. One of my favorite places to explore close to home is Point Reyes National Seashore. With 150 miles of trails and 4 backcountry campgrounds, there is plenty of nature to keep you busy for numerous weekends outside.
A great weekend backpacking trip in Point Reyes includes an 11-mile round trip hike along the Coastal Trail to Wildcat Beach. Starting at the Palomarin Trailhead, you hike through eucalyptus forests, along cliffs high above the crashing waves below, past Bass Lake (a popular swimming spot in summer), near Alamere Falls, and on to the Wildcat backcountry campground just a stones throw from the beach.
The Wildcat campground comprises 8 dedicated spaces–keep in mind that camping is by permit only. You can book your permit from the Recreation.gov website–book early as being relatively close to the city, Point Reyes is a very popular place for camping.
For these shorter backpacking adventures, where weight is not such an issue, I have been carrying the Hatcher Pack from Alite Designs. Built in a retro external frame style, it offers a fun change from your usual highly-engineered pack.
After watching Wild, I assumed that an external frame backpack was going to be heavy and uncomfortable to carry. I was wrong. Though I would prefer not to thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail with the Hatcher Pack, it has been great for lugging relatively heavy loads on weekend backpacking adventures.
All in, the system weighs just over 4 pounds. A wide, top loading pack provides 36 liters of storage space including a hydration sleeve–plenty of room for your sleeping bag, pad, stove, food, and clothes. The base of the pack features two large gear loops for securing your tent, sleeping bag, or sleeping pad outside of the pack. Additional snap-closure side pockets can hold a water bottle, your maps, snacks, camera, headlamp, or any other miscellaneous items.
Daisy chains running along the front of the pack and the length of the shoulder straps not only enable you to adjust the sternum strap to your liking, but also clip on gear such as your water bottle, GPS, or camera. If you don’t mind looking (and sounding!) like a junk show, you can clip gear pretty much anywhere on the Hatcher Pack.
A couple of small things I found after using the Hatcher Pack for awhile–First, you will want duct tape the numerous split rings (used to secure the bolts) if not using them as lash points, otherwise the jingling will drive you crazy after a few miles. If you do use the gear loops at the base of the pack to store your tent, sleeping bag, or even a bear can (yes, they fit a bear can), you will definitely want to rig up a way to keep that item secured against the frame. Depending on how big the item is, you can probably do this by running the straps behind the frame first before securing in the buckle. Otherwise once you start hiking, anything stored in those loops will start to bounce.
I kind of like that there is nothing overly high-tech about the Hatcher Pack. Easily adjustable to fit just about anyone, simply throw all your stuff in and go. Perfect for weekend outdoor adventures close to home.
The Alite Hatcher Pack retails for $175 and is available now.