I am happy to report that we have officially taken our first shake-down hike with some of our new gear! A shake-down hike is like a trial run. It’s great for testing out new equipment and breaking in your boots! Shake down hikes are important for a lot of reasons – they give you the chance to try out your gear, make sure everything fits you well, and discover gear that may need to be replaced or altered prior to your big trip. We have recently invested in a few sturdy, new packs for myself and K, and even splurged on some toddler packs for the boys so they don’t feel left out. D purchased an economical pack from Amazon Basics for himself. M had a new pair of hiking boots to break in and D had an old pair that he wanted to make sure were still comfortable. We learned a lot about our gear on this hike – some good things and some bad things. We experienced first-hand just how important it is to take a shake-down hike prior to your real hike. Towards the end of the trail, the thick rubber sole of D’s hiking boot started to come loose! They had been sitting in our garage for over a year, and apparently the heat really ate away at the rubber! We’re lucky this happened on the shake-down hike, at the end of the trail, so D only had to walk without one sole for about a tenth of a mile.
D also tested out his AmazonBasics Internal Frame Hiking Backpack with Rainfly, 75 L, Green on this hike. It’s not a horrible pack, but after seeing how comfortable K’s and my packs are D has decided that he wants to trade his in for a more luxurious model. No matter how we tried to adjust it, one of the shoulder straps kept rubbing uncomfortably against the side his neck. The pack also made an annoying squeaking sound as he walked, and he experienced some general discomfort during the entire trip. For a short on- or two-night excursion, this pack will suffice, but it’s not something that we can see ourselves using for a longer trip. It is incredibly economical pack, and since it is bearable to use he’s decided to keep using it until the fall when he plans to splurge on an Osprey Atmos or Aether.
We got The North Face Sprout Youth Backpacks for each of the boys. When we take our big trek, we expect the boys to be able to carry their own sleeping bags and water, as well as a snack and maybe their fork/spoon/cup. Their sleeping bags are just under two pounds, so at most they should have approximately 5 pounds when their water bottles are full. This was the first time we ever had the boys carrying their own backpacks – anywhere! D and I were both super impressed at how well they all did. M and Rh did ask the adults to take the pack for them a few times, but we stressed to each one that the pack was their responsibility. On our way to the trail head, we talked about how they each got their own special backpack (or, as Ry calls it, a “pack-pack”) to carry today. Each person’s pack contained his or her own snack, water bottle, sunglasses, and spare clothing. We stressed that if they left the pack behind, then they wouldn’t have those things anymore and they would be hungry when we stopped for a snack! Maybe this worked, or maybe it was just the novelty of being allowed to use them for the first time. I guess we’ll see how things go next time!
The pack we got for K is an Osprey Ace 38. We chose this pack over the Deuter kid’s pack because it had a slightly larger carry volume and seemed to fit her better. We plan on this pack lasting her for a few years, and once she grows out of it she will pass it on to one of the boys. K also carried her pack the entire trip, complete with her sleeping bag, water bottle, and snacks. She loves the whistle on the chest strap – and we taught her how to signal for help with it if she ever gets lost in the woods.
My pack is an Osprey Aura 65 AG. I feel like this pack was made for me! I had roughly 20 pounds of gear in it for this shake-down hike. It fits like a dream! I haven’t been hiking with any kind of large pack since high school. I usually carry a day pack, sure, but that always has less than 10 pounds. I was more comfortable with the 20 pounds in my Aura than I ever have been with a day pack. I have a very slim build and prominent hips – so I’m always worried about the hip straps rubbing me too hard. That was not even an issue with this pack. The shoulder strap did rub on my left collarbone – but I am certain that if I wear a t-shirt instead of a tank top for the next hike that won’t be an issue. The textured straps are made from a rough mesh material, so when they press against bare skin it can rub uncomfortably. Other than that, everything else about the pack was perfect.
All-in-all we hiked for about about two hours and covered a distance of approximately 3 miles. There aren’t many hills here in Florida, but we did get our shoes wet as we trekked through some marshy sections of the trail. Originally we had planned on walking closer to 4 miles, but once the trail became too inundated we had to turn back and re-route. We took a few pit stops for snacks, and during snack time we started to introduce the idea of Leave No Trace to the kids. We usually bring reusable snack bags for our treats, but this time we also had protein bars so we made sure to pack the wrappers away before leaving. Trash can not only hurt wildlife, but leaving behind excess crumbs and food scraps can attract unwanted critters to your campsite. Litter also takes away from the aesthetic appeal of the trail – making it feel less like nature and more like a dump.
The kids had a great time – and this time the hike actually wore them out enough to chill out and watch a movie when we got home and D and I made dinner. It was a relief when bedtime rolled around and they even went down with out the normal 10 million requests for water, bathroom breaks, one last hug, and for me to say “call me if you need me” one more time. That’s a win right there! Once they were in bed, D and I had a little extra time to kick back, relax, and sip a glass of sweet wine while we watched Breaking Bad! Ahhh, the simple luxury of having peace and quiet by 9 PM!