Ok, so I’ve been making a conscious effort to get off this damn blog-post-hiatus. For those who don’t already know, we relocated to our new home in San Rafael right around New Year’s Day. Life’s been a bit chaotic and I think I owe both Joe from ZPacks and Gen from Yama Mountain Gear an apology for essentially sitting on the shelters they generously loaned to me for the recent Cuben Fiber Roundup. Both pre-move and post-move my time has simply been monopolized with non-hiking related duties. I’ve hardly had time to train for a long run that’s coming this spring and that’s about the only time I’ve been able to breath some of that fresh outdoor air lately. On the positive side, I finally made it out to do a little backpacking at a local event which some of you may be familiar with – The GGG West. So here’s a little update to start the content flowing again………
Ummm… What’s the GGG again?
For those who don’t know, the GGG West started as the “GGG”, or Gathering of Gear Geeks. You may have seen a post here about the GGG5 last year, maybe you saw it… or not. The GGG draws in hikers from near and far who are focused on lightweight flavours of backpacking. Ken Thompson has been the head honcho of the GGG for the last several iterations, and involved in planning from its inception. Ken is a great guy to hike with and has done a nice job at keeping the event friendly, fun, and loosely organized. Not to mention, he makes the trek down to this event from Eureka, which is a pretty long haul.
This year Ken worked with John Abela of HikeLighter.com to develop a registration website (please don’t register, this event is over!) to streamline the process of getting oneself to this growing event. The registration site was partially, if not largely, responsible for boosting the attendance to new heights this year. The headcount of backpackers taking over Manzanita Point group camp (at Henry Coe State Park) was over 100 this year. Included in the mix were several of the cottage gear manufacturers who cater to light minded hikers.
I’ve had the pleasure of attending most of the past GGG’s and felt like I knew the majority of those who were hanging out. This year every other person I talked to was a first timer. The GGG has been key for me to meet other light-minded hikers in the area so I’m sure many new connections were forged at this event; I made a few more myself. When I look at who I hike with, it’s almost everyone who I’ve met at a GGG… and my list of hiking buddies is getting pretty big! It’s a great event and I’d encourage anyone thinking about starting one in their area to go for it! Ken would be a good person to ping for thoughts on what has worked, what hasn’t, what intangibles make a good or bad event. I think the best way to start a dialog with Ken would be via the BackpackingLight website, which many readers of this blog are probably visiting anyway (he’ll love me volunteering him for this, but se la vie!).
A Few Highlights from This Year
- The Bay Area contingent is always strong but there were also a handful of folks from SOCAL, a few from Oregon, Washington, and even one or two from the Right Coast and Mid West. Awesome networking opportunities!
- Several thru hikers and even a Triple Crowner or two were among the group which also included newbies and everyone in between. It’s the perfect environment to ask questions, listen, and learn. You’d have to be pretty grumpy to not make a new friend or two.
- Hikin Jim brought out a ton of backpacking stoves, old and new, and gave demos on how any of them worked for interested individuals.
- Jack Haskel of the Pacific Crest Trail Association was on hand to spread hiking cheer and enthusiasm about getting outside, getting a little dirty, and having a lot of fun.
- Katharina Pierini of MountainGoat Hats and Goods was in the house providing lots of smiles and hoping to catch some photos of feral pigs or mountain lions at the watering hole with her trail cam.
- David Gardner from GOLD Gear showed up to demo some of his ultralight stove systems and super light polycro shelters.
- Jon Fong from Flat Cat Gear brought up some alcohol stoves and proceed to bake all kinds of tasty foods including a cinnamon pull apart and what I deemed a cheeseburger cake.
- Lee Zandbergen from Trail Designs returned, setting up a small army of Caldera Cones for all to tinker with. His lighted tarp is quickly gaining iconic status.
- Ron Moak from Six Moon Designs trekked down to unveil his new “Fusion” line of packs, co-designed by Brian Frankle (founder of ULA), which are making a departure from the frameless designs of the past.
- Tons and tons of gear to gawk at… everyone has a unique setup always seem happy to break down the details for the curious
- Following the event a bunch of folks busted out their wares in the overflow parking lot to swap, sell, and/or donate (I limited myself to a single tent stake 🙂
What makes this event really worth it are the people. It’s a beautiful thing to find so many like minded backpackers who share the ideals of getting outside efficiently and having a blast, whatever our individual goals are. A lot of us know each other over the internet but that’s the disconnect until we can finally meet up, shake hands, hug, share some single malt… you know, all the things that bond us together. Highly recommended. Get a GGG together in your neck of the woods. -JD