Black Diamond Storm Headlamp Review

I got the Black Diamond Storm headlamp a couple of years ago after I got tired of Black Diamond Storm Headlampreplacing the duck tape holding the back of my old headlamp together. When I was looking at headlamps, I knew I wanted something relatively light, but still powerful, and I wanted it to be versatile, with a more than a couple of options for adjusting the brightness levels. The Black Diamond Storm headlamp is all of that and more.

First off, the variety of lighting options is amazing, and the headlamp helps you see what you’re doing in any situation. The main light is a QuadPower LED, with 160 Lumens, and is ridiculously powerful. The maximum distance for it is 70 meters, more than enough for most of the things one would be doing. If that’s too bright, you can switch to the two SinglePower LEDs, with 25 Lumens. While the main LED is better for looking down the trail or a distant objects, these are much better suited for up-close tasks like walking around your campsite, reading a map in the dark, and talking to someone at night without blinding them. The last set of lights is the pair of SinglePower red LEDs, which is good to use if you don’t want to kill your night vision.

Modes
So those are the lights, but what can you do with them? A lot of things! The Storm headlamp has one main button that can be used to adjust the lights to suit all of your needs.

  • Clicking the button once turns it on and off, and each time you power it off and then on again, it will switch between distance and proximity modes (the single LED and the two white LEDs).
  • While the headlamp is on, holding down the button will let you dim the light down from 160 to 25 Lumens. Just release it when you get to the desired brightness.
  • With Black Diamond’s PowerTap technology, once you dim the light, you can quickly switch between low and max brightness by tapping the housing of the headlamp.
  • Holding down on the button while the headlamp is off turns it on with the red night vision LEDs. Do the same thing to switch back to normal lighting.
  • Triple-clicking the button when the headlamp is off activates strobe mode.
  • Lastly, holding down the button for 6 seconds while the headlamp is off will lock the headlamp. (A blue light will appear in the battery power meter window, indicating it’s locked.)

This last mode is extremely useful. Locking it prevents the headlamp from powering on if the button is pressed while in your backpack, so you’ll never have to worry about accidentally running down the battery. You can check the battery level by simply turning it on, and the battery power meter on the side of the headlamp will light up for 3 seconds, letting you know how much power you have left.

Lastly, there’s the housing of the headlamp. The headlamp is waterproof up to 1m of water for 30 minutes, so basically you’ll be safe as long as you don’t take it snorkeling. I’ve used it multiple times in the rain, and it still works perfectly. Another cool feature is that the battery casing can be opened with the clip on the headband, allowing you to easily change batteries on the the trail. (Or at home, since you may not want the weight of extra batteries in your pack.)

There were a couple things I didn’t like about the Storm headlamp. At 3.9 oz, it’s heavier than some of the other headlamps I’ve used, and may take some getting used to. The battery case is also pretty cramped with 4 AAA’s, and it took some work to get the lid completely closed.

Some may find the weight and $49.95 price tag off putting, but I thought that the wide range of settings and quality construction of the Black Diamond Storm headlamp definitely made up for it. If you’re looking at headlamps, I’d definitely recommend checking this one out!

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REI Passage 65 Backpack Review

Hey everyone! I’ve been pretty busy this semester, but I wanted to share this review with you. Hope you enjoy it!

By now, I’ve had the REI Passage 65 Backpack for 4 years, and have used it on quite a few backpacking trips. It has held up very well, is still in very good condition, and I’ve never had any problems with the pack on any of my trips. In this post I’ll review and discuss the different components of the backpack.

The backpack’s shoulder straps, hipbelt, and back padding are simple, but are well designed and very comfortable even if you are carrying heavy loads. The mesh on the back is somewhat breathable, however it doesn’t really allow air to circulate like the backings of some of the other backpacks on the market, such as the Osprey Aether 60 Pack. The shoulder straps and hipbelt are also extendable to accommodate growth, which extends the life of the pack for younger kids and teenagers. The back padding is adjustable to accommodate torso lengths of 15-19 inches.

The backpack’s top-loading main compartment, sleeping bad compartment, and two zip pockets make it very easy to organize gear. In total the backpack has a gear capacity of 65 liters. I’ve found that the main compartment has enough room to hold and organize the majority of my gear, and the zip access on the side lets me access items buried in the main compartment without unloading the whole pack. Even for my five-day backpacking trip, I was able to easily fit everything inside the bag and didn’t have to clip anything to the external daisy chains. If you don’t want to use the sleeping bag compartment, there’s a divider that can be unzipped to increase the space in the main compartment. For smaller items, I always use what REI aptly calls the “front essential zip pocket”. For the most part, I use it for items I may need to access quickly, like the 10 essentials.

The floating lid on the backpack is very useful and can even be detached and used as a lumbar pack. I often use the zip pocket on the lid to store snacks or a camera, so that when I set my pack down they are easily accessible. In addition to this, the lid’s connecting straps are extendable to accommodate a larger load in the main compartment.

The two mesh water bottle holders on the sides of the pack are large enough to hold 1-liter sized bottles, but they aren’t tall enough to hold the bottles in securely. I had a “fun” experience in which my water bottle fell out as I was crossing a river, but after a mad dash down the bank, I was able to snag it with a branch. If you’re not hoping for a similar exciting experience, I’d recommend passing the side compression strap around the bottle to better secure it.

Some other useful components of the REI Passage 65 Backpack include sleeping pad straps on the underside of the pack, elastic cord crisscrossing the front of the pack (which can be used to hold a jacket in place on the outside of the pack), ice axe loops, side compression straps, and water-repellent zippers. The water-repellent zippers were a lifesaver when they saved my gear from getting wet in Washington when it started raining and my backpack cover seemed to have suddenly disappeared.

As a simple backpack that’s great for scouts, teenagers, and older kids, the Passage 65 Backpack does its job well. It was just as comfortable to wear on an overnight backpacking trip in the desert as it was on a five-day trip in Mt. Rainier National Park. I’d highly recommend this backpack for scouts and older children. It’s relatively cheap, very durable, and the option to extend the shoulder straps and hipbelt allows the backpack to be used by children even as they continue to grow.

Good luck finding an awesome backpack and I hope I was able to help!

Mt. Rainier National Park Backpacking Trip – Day 5

After a quick breakfast of ramen noodles, we packed our bags for our last day ofLooking back from the trail backpacking. The day started out with a steep uphill with plenty of switchbacks. The trail soon turned into the Spray Park Trail and we were rewarded with amazing views of misty mountains and winding creeks. Hiking on the trail, we crossed a lot of small creeks and began seeing more and more snow. We rested for a few minutes when we reached a small pond shaped almost exactly like the yin and yang symbol.

After we began again, we soon came to a point in the trail with bowls of snow on either side of the trail. This was too good of an opportunity to miss! We dropped our packs and were soon immersed in an intense, really cold snowball fight. (We had to pause a few times to let our hands warm up a bit.) However, we soon had to leave and got back on the trail.

Hiking up the snow covered mountainWithin a few minutes of hiking we reached a steep slope completely covered in snow. We were able to see where the trail continued only due to the depressions in the snow from other hikers’ boots. Slipping a bit now and then, we made our way up the hill. After resting for a few minutes at the top of the hill, we continued on along the trail as it took us around the edge of a snow covered mountain as fog began rolling in.

We stopped for lunch on the edge of a giant snow field and had a great view of the peak ofView of Mt. Rainier next to giant snow field Mt. Rainier. However, as the fog continued to roll in, Mt. Rainier was soon covered and we couldn’t see further than 40 feet in front of us, aside from dark, blurry shapes. To the right side of the trail,nothing was visible and it seemed like the mountain ended after 40 feet. We split into two groups and had another intense snow fight. (After all, who’d want to miss such an amazing opportunity?)

We moved on after 2 hours, somewhat wet but with high spirits. The trail continued Spray Park Trail in the mistthrough the snow field for half a mile before continuing downhill and into the trees. The mist was pretty dense in the trees and we got somewhat damp. When we got to a fork in the trail with a sign for the Spray Falls Viewpoint, we left our packs and went left, towards the falls. The falls are immense and the roar from the falls and the river is very loud. The water rushed around the rocks we were standing on, which were pretty slippery. (Watch where you step here – falling in the river would really ruin your day.)

Upon getting back to our packs, we continued on, passing the Eagle Cliff Viewpoint. (It’s Mowich Lake camping areaprobably really nice when there’s no fog, but with the fog there’s nothing to see.) The trail continued uphill for the last couple of miles before coming out in the Mowich Lake camping area. The camping area is completely open and is arranged in a ring around a fenced-off wildlife preserve. There are tables at each site and raised platforms to pitch tents on. There are also enclosed pit toilets, which I must say seemed very nice after the open toilets on the trail.

For dinner we had Mountain House freeze-dried “Beef Stroganoff with Noodles” and hot chocolate from powder pouches. I didn’t have any high expectations for the stroganoff, but it actually turned out very good! We went approximately 7 miles on the last day and played another game of cards before going to bed.

In total, on our trip we went 45.2 miles, with a cumulative elevation gain of 14, 831 feet and a loss of 12,266 feet. So far, this has been my all time favorite trip. There’s nothing more refreshing than leaving the city and spending a few days backpacking in the wilderness. The scenery is beautiful in Mt. Rainier National Park and is so different from the desert scenery of Southern California. I hope to go on another week-long backpacking trip soon!

Good luck on all of your travels and I hope you have an awesome time backpacking wherever you go!

Mt. Rainier National Park Backpacking Trip – Day 4

After making breakfast and packing our bags on Wednesday morning, we left our campsite, continuing downhill towards the log that crosses Granite Creek. The trail took us uphill for a while before turning downhill for 2 miles. Hiking down, we were able to glimpse Winthrop Creek flowing out of the bottom of Winthrop Glacier. Upon leveling out at the bottom, the trail passes alongside a large, dried-up stony basin which we eventually passed through.

After crossing the basin, we were back in the trees and soon passed Mystic Camp. (Here there are pit toilets and individual campsites.) The trail then took an uphill turn and soon came out of the trees, where we were rewarded with a beautiful view of Mystic Lake. The lake was calm enough to reflect the mountains and trees on the other side. We stopped for lunch here and had peanut butter and jam on pita bread. (So good!)

Continuing on after lunch, we hiked for a while in a meadow-like area with small bridges that traversed small streams. Once again the trail took us back into the trees and began to slope uphill. We passed a park ranger who told us about a forest fire. (Luckily it was pretty far away, so it wouldn’t affect us on our trip.) At the top of the ridge, we passed another group of our friends who were doing a shorter hike in the opposite direction. We then began a long downhill hike through densely packed trees and lush greenery. We hiked alongside Moraine Creek for a while and it soon began to drizzle.

Soon we were able to see the Carbon River below us through the trees and a short while after that we reached a fork in the trail. If you take the trail to the left, you’ll stay on the Wonderland Trail. The trail on the right side is the Northern Loop Trail. We were continuing on the Wonderland Trail so we went left towards the suspension bridge. From here it is possible to see Carbon Glacier. I didn’t realize it was a glacier at first because it was so covered in dirt and looked like a giant, rocky mountain.

We stopped by the bridge to read the warning signs and also noticed the duck-tape on two of the cords anchoring the bridge to the ground. I don’t know about you, but seeing duck-tape on a suspension bridge isn’t exactly a confidence booster. It didn’t help that the bridge reminded me of the skinny rope bridge in Indiana Jones. It was about 2.5 feet wide and the wooden boards were around 2 inches apart. The sign said to cross the bridge one at a time, as if it may not be able to bear the weight. We began crossing the bridge one at a time. Running is not recommended, as it already bounces and sways in the wind a lot even when you walk. In the middle there’s a great view of Carbon Glacier and the Carbon River 40 feet below.

After crossing, we left the Wonderland Trail and continued on the Seattle Park Trail, which parallels Cataract Creek for a while before continuing alongside Marmot Creek. At this point it was pouring and the trail took on a steep incline. The rain pounded out a rhythm on the plant leaves bordering the trail. Fortunately, the rain began to let up as we got closer to Cataract Valley Camp, where we were stopping for the day.

The camp was filled with puddles from the rain and was surrounded with a dense, intensely green foliage. Dinner was the Mountain House Freeze-Dried Lasagna with Meat Sauce, which I must say is the best freeze-dried food I’ve ever had. Despite the rain, this was my favorite day of backpacking so far. We hiked a total of approximately 10 miles, the scenery was beautiful, and we were able to see a lot of glaciers and creeks.

One more day of backpacking!

Mt. Rainier National Park Backpacking Trip – Day 3

On Tuesday morning, we left Sunrise at around 10 a.m.. We didn’t take the trail leading past Sunrise as I had expected we would; instead we took a dirt road up a hill to where the Wonderland Trail resumed. Soon thereafter, we began seeing patches of snow up close for the first time. A few times, the snow covered small parts of the trail so we hiked through it. It was packed down and slushy from the boots of backpackers before us, so our boots didn’t get that wet.

Trail Junction by Frozen LakeAfter passing a particularly large marmot that went scurrying off across the rocks and boulders on the side of the trail, we came to an intersection where the Sourdough Ridge Trail, North Burroughs Mountain Trail, and Mt. Fremont Trail met the Wonderland Trail. From here hikers have a great view of one side of Mt. Rainier and a small glacial lake to the right of the Wonderland Trail called Frozen Lake. Continuing on, we passed through meadows covered in lush greenery and flowers. After passing by the fork in the trail where the  Northern Loop Trail meets the Wonderland Trail, our trail grew steadily steeper as we Meadows surrounding trailapproached the top of Skyscraper Pass. Rounding a bend in the trail as we went over the ridge of the mountain, we saw that the ridge deserved its name. To the right of the trail was a very steep and rocky drop-off. After crossing a foot-wide section in the trail that was covered in snow, slush, and crumbling rocks, we got to a gently sloping expanse of rocks where quiet a few people were resting and talking. From here there are amazing views of the surrounding mountains and the valley into which the trail continues.

Skyscrapr PassAt this point we also happened to pass our friends in the other group doing the same route as we were, albeit in the opposite direction. (As I mentioned in an earlier post, we were exchanging vehicles and meeting back up at the airport.) After talking for a few minutes and taking some group pictures, we continued on down the trail and into the valley.

The trail sloped downhill for the rest of the way to the Granite Creek Camp, where we stayed for the rest of the day. The Granite Creek campsite has both group and individual sites, and Granite Creek is only a couple hundred feet down the trail. There are a few slow moving parts that are relatively deep and perfect for washing off, of course only if you’re willing to brave the freezing glacial melt water!Mt. Rainier from Skyscraper Pass

We went approximately 6 miles, and after a dinner made in a cleaned out bear bin, went to sleep.