Thursday, September 17, 2015

A Conversation with Ben Weaver

Minnesoata-born and raised Ben Weaver is a songwriter, poet, father, letterpress printer and adventure advocate. His mission is to use songs and poetry to emotionally move and inspire people to be more socially and environmentally conscious, and to take on an alternative perspective. We recently had the chance to speak with Ben and better understand his journey.

GG: To start, tell us how you got into bike touring/packing?

BW: Growing up, the bicycle was my tool for accessing the wilderness and woods within the city and along the Minnesota River. My feet and a backpack or, a paddle and portage pack, were the tools I used to explore the wilderness pockets stashed away in the blank spaces on the map. Later in life that I learned to combine all these tools.

About 5 years ago after pursuing a 15 year career as a touring folk musician I decided to make a change. I stopped driving my car to shows and decided I would travel to my performances on my bicycle. What is most exciting for me is that now I can ride my bike into many of the places where previously I would have been limited to walking. Even more exciting is that I am cultivating opportunities to perform music in those spaces rather than in dark stinky bars and music halls.
GG: What were you striving to achieve on your recent Lake Superior bike tour?

BW: The short answer: I went around the lake to initiate change on many levels using a bike, a banjo, my voice and a guitar.

The long answer:
I was driven to seek out a way that music could give back to the things that inspired me from the beginning - wild, blank spaces on the maps, and animals and plants that occupied those spaces. I think shows can be the best place to initiate a call to action concerning the lifestyle changes that are essential. When people are emotionally moved and inspired, they are most likely to see a new way of doing something, listen to a new story or consider an alternative perspective. 

Ive spent a great deal of time around Lake Superior. Water is something that connects all of us and it has a life and spirit of its own. Its important we treat it with the respect it deserves. 

I toured around the lake singing songs and engaging with very diverse audiences. I wanted to inspire new stories within the communities I visited. I worked with a Canadian group called the Great Lakes Commons. They have written a commons charter that outlines and speaks to some of the ways we can begin to change our perspectives on water. I was appointed a charter bearer to this charter and I used it as another tool in my conversations. 

I was humbled and blown away by how many emails I got from people about the many ways my trip and performances effected them.

GG: Whats the scene like at one of your shows?

BW: Many shows are unplugged and acoustic and take place in intimate outdoor spaces or quiet indoor rooms. I sing my songs, tell stories, and read my poems. With nature as a model, I prefer to cultivate reciprocity. I like to engage the audience and ask them questions, or encourage them to ask me questions while I am performing. I would rather stand on the floor in front of my audience than on a stage above them.
As time passes, I am working to do more and more performances out in the spaces that need to be seen and better understood. You can sit inside and say the water needs help, the trees need help, the banks are eroding, but nothing is more impactful than people seeing the beauty or need for repair with their own eyes. 

GG: Youre headed to the PNW next where will you stop along the way?

BW: I am going to do a ride from Portland Oregon up to Bellingham Washington. Ill stop and perform in several bike shops along the way, ex: Velo Cult in Portland, Free Range in Seattle. I am going to talk about my trip around Lake Superior, show pictures and some video in addition to singing songs and reading. I am most looking forward to the route we will take from Seattle to Bellingham out through the San Juan Islands, scouting some possible water routes for the future.

GG: Bike packing is pretty popular these days. Can you break down what it takes to pack a bike efficiently?

BW: More and more I believe there is no right way to do anything, there is only paying attention to what works best for you.

I do have some suggestions, though. When beginning to experiment with how to pack your bike, one important thing to pay attention to is how the weight is distributed on the bike, making sure that it is even side to side. This is a nice thing about the evolution of bike packing bags, because you have even more options for how to carry things enabling the weight to get spread out over your bike. You are not just limited to front and rear panniers.

The second thing to pay attention to is packing strategy is to put the important things on top, like rain coat, tools, first aid kit, maps. I have some friends who makes lists of what is in each bag and put it in them so they can more quickly find the items they need, when they need them.

I had never ridden with a backpack before but using the Granite Gear Kahiltna was an awesome evolution in my set up. It allowed me to carry 3 liters of water on my back, which was key for the 100 plus mile stretches I did in Canada. What I usually carried in a handlebar bag, I moved to the pack and this freed up the cock pit of my bike which I greatly appreciated. Folks often asked me what it was like to ride back to back 100+ mile days wearing a pack. Honestly, it was so comfortable half the time I forgot it was there.

GG: Do you have anything coming up in the immediate future?

BW: Yes I am really excited about a special show I am doing in Minneapolis on October 3rd at the Cedar Cultural Center. It is going to be a welcome home show for the Surrounding Water ride around Lake Superior. I will be performing, showing pictures, video and talking about experiences from the ride. It should be a great time and I hope to see a lot of folks come out.

Welcome Home Show Info:
Surrounding Water Welcome Home Show
October 3rd, 8PM The Cedar Cultural Center Minneapolis, MN


Great Lakes Commons Link

Great lakes Commons Charter Link

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Get a Custom Fit with Granite Gear’s New Lutsen Series

Granite Gear, award-winning backpack manufacturer, is debuting the lightweight Lutsen Series multi-day backpacks, which include the innovative and fully adjustable Re-Fit system. Backpackers can enjoy a fully custom fit with this highly technical and easily adjustable backpack, without sacrificing comfort or adding weight. Building upon Granite Gear’s ultralight designs, the three Lutsen packs range from a low 2.9 lbs to 3.1 lbs.


The Lutsen Series’ Re-Fit system utilizes a refined Air Current injection-molded polycarbonate frame sheet with a fully adjustable torso length and hip belt. Molded air channels work in combination with a dual-density molded foam back panel and durable stretch mesh that assists in the ventilation of heat and moisture, while providing comfort and support. To adjust the Re-Fit torso length or Re-Fit hip belt, backpackers simply use their hand to separate the hook and loop connection and then expand or contract to the appropriate size.   

“The Lutsen provides the comfort and fit advancements that hikers want, allowing them to quickly adjust to a perfect fit even when on the trail,” notes Granite Gear’s Senior Director of Design and Development, Michael Meyer.  “Besides the convenient ease of adjustability, the Lutsen series provides superior load-transfer capabilities to the shoulders and hips. With the Re-Fit system, hikers will be able to go farther, more comfortably.”

The Lutsen 35 weighs 2.9 lbs, the Lusten 45 weighs 3.0 lbs, and Lutsen 55 weighs 3.1 lbs. All are available in 3 colorways. MSRP: 35L - $179.99, 45L - $199.99, 55L - $219.99.

Lutsen Series Features & Benefits:
·         Re-Fit A.C. Frame with 40 lb load rating
·         Re-Fit fully adjustable torso length with dual density shoulder harness
·         Re-Fit fully adjustable (from 28 in – 40 in) dual density hip belt
·         Zippered stretch mesh hip belt pocket
·         360-degree water-repellency with BARRIER technology
·         Extreme water-resistant BARRIER zippered tricot lined hip belt
·         Hydration port & internal hydration sleeve
·         Tool loops & adjustable tool holders
·         Large side, stretch woven pockets
·         Side and front compression straps
·         Stretch mesh front pocket
·         High-tenacity nylon fabrics with BARRIER DWR

Granite Gear’s Lutsen series with the Re-Fit System will hit retail shelves in Spring 2016. Sign up for our newsletter at for new product updates. For more information contact Shelly Smith at

About Granite Gear
For 28 independent years, Granite Gear has brought cutting-edge products to the outdoor marketplace. Their award-winning backpacks, adventure travel gear, extensive variety of storage sacks, lifestyle accessories, and canoe gear offer excellence in design and construction. Granite Gear’s desire is for all outdoor enthusiasts and travelers to experience the incredible durability and comfort of their products. Located in Northern Minnesota, just minutes from the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and the Superior Hiking Trail, they have a rugged and beautiful testing ground for their products.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Doing Their Part on the Trail

interview with "Packing it out"

At Appalachian Trail Days this year, we met up with Seth "Cap" Orme, "Goose" and "Spice" of the Packing It Out crew. Their mission is to pick up trash as they hike the AT, and so far they've carried out 470 pounds of litter. Needless to say, their adventure is one that should be shared, in the hopes that others on the trail will pick up trash and pack it out. Recently, we chatted more in depth with Cap to learn more about his thru-hike.

GG: We’re big fans of your work. We really admire the fact that instead of just talking about all the trash on the trail, you’re actually picking it up and packing it out. Where are you on the trail now and how many pounds have you picked up so far?

Cap: We are currently in Front Royal, Virginia at mile marker 969. Since starting our northbound hike at Springer Mountain, Georgia, we have removed 470 pounds of trash from the trail.

GG: When did the idea to  “pack it out” while you hiked the AT come to fruition?

Cap: Prior to Packing It Out, I worked as an outdoor/ adventure guide so practicing Leave No Trace environmental ethics was a part of my daily life. The idea to clean America's trails was sparked in early December 2014 during a trip home to Georgia. Having spent 200 days outside that year, the woods really felt like my home. I just couldn't walk past pieces of trash anymore. I resolved to clean up any trash I saw during hikes. On two separate day hikes I found that I had collected an average of at least one pound of trash per mile hiked. I stood on the edge of a rocky outcropping in the Southern Nantahala Wilderness when the idea to clean the entire Appalachian Trail hit me. Combined feelings of awe, inspiration, and a little vertigo had me yearning for more time in the Appalachians. I looked back at the overfilled trash bag on the ground and the spark was lit. I decided that in 2015 I would clean the entire length of the Appalachian Trail with the hopes of inspiring others to respect and clean our trails. 

With the seed planted, I had all winter to water the idea of Packing It Out. I kept Packing It Out quiet for a couple months, mainly because I wasn't sure if cleaning the entire Appalachian Trail during a thru-hike was realistic. I told a few close friends and they were stoked on the idea. I was rebuilding wood canoes with Spice (Paul) and saw little of Goose (Joe) since our last adventure down the Mississippi River in 2010. Shortly after telling Spice about the idea to pack it out, Goose called. I told him what we were planning to do this summer. One week later, Goose called back and said he was coming with me. Spice committed to the hike shortly after. Packing It Out was now a trio and the idea to clean 2,189 miles of trail quickly became much more realistic.
We started hiking north on March 29th. 74 days later we have hiked 969 miles and have removed about a quarter ton of trash from the Appalachian Trail.

GG: You have a blog post about Trail Karma. Out of all the karma that has come your way on the trail, which has had the biggest impact on you and your team, and the mission?

Cap: We have received nothing but amazing Trail Karma along our hike thus far. The Heaton family has by far had the biggest impact on the team as well as the Packing It Out mission. 

The Heaton's have taken care of us the majority of our walk in Virginia. We met the first Heaton (Doubleback) on the third day of our thru-hike. She loved what we were doing and quickly decided to continue her section hike with us. Every week she would say "Wait till you get to Virginia; my family will take care of you guys." She was not kidding! Her family has jumped through hoops to help make our hike in Virginia as enjoyable as possible. They have given us places to stay, fed us relentlessly, shuttled us all around, packed our collected trash in to town, and have even packed-in our three-day resupply to our shelter for the night. I'm literally answering these questions from the Heaton's beautiful mountain home in Front Royal, VA. We can not thank Trail Angels like the Heaton's enough for their encouragement and continued support. 

GG: So far, which areas on the AT have had the most litter?

Cap: Georgia and North Carolina have had the most litter, so far. 
A large portion of trash, early on, was a result of poor prior planning by folks heading into the woods. For example, a quarter mile before reaching the start of the AT on Springer Mountain we met a man with an empty looking backpack who told us that he left his sleeping bag on top of the mountain because it got wet the night before. He said "It just doesn't make sense to carry something that heavy down the mountain now, you know?". Most of the trash we find now is located around shelters and near towns. A lot of folks still think that plastics and foil based packages burn easily. We can assure you that they do not.

GG: Do you think you’ve inspired others on the trail to pick up trash while they thru-hike?

Cap: Absolutely! Multiple thru-hikers we've met have started picking up litter as they hike north to Maine. On a daily basis, hikers erupt with joy when they see us cleaning around the shelters.

GG: After you complete the AT this summer, what’s next?

Cap: After cleaning the Appalachian Trail, we plan to clean America's other trails. Packing It Out will be on the Pacific Crest Trail summer of 2016.

GG: We know that your mission is to  “Inspire a greater sense of environmental stewardship within our communities by raising awareness for litter conditions along America’s trails.” Is there anything else you’d like us to know?

Cap: Whether we go out for 5 months or 5 minutes, lets work together to keep America's trails cleaner. 

Every bit of support we receive further perpetuates our chances of completing this hike. Friends, family and folks like the Heaton's are a large part of this trip becoming and continuing to be a reality. To support our current Appalachian Trail effort check out our Go Fund Me site. Thank you for your time.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

NEW Virga 26 Backpack is now available!

 Our Virga 26 backpack is now available!  
• 1 lb., 26 liters
• Frameless suspension
• Fixed padded belt
• 10 MM webbing straps
• Internal hydration hanger
Great summit / travel / ultralight hiking backpack! While it is minimalistic by design, it carries the essentials comfortably and securely.
More details:

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Backpacker 2015 Spring Gear Guide

Backpacker Magazine featured Granite Gear's new Virga 26 and Cross-Trek 32" Wheeled Duffel in the 2015 Spring Gear Guide. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Five questions with Justin “Trauma” Lichter

Granite Gear athlete and accomplished thru-hiker, Justin “Trauma” Lichter just finished the Pacific Crest Trail, making him the first to complete the 2,650 mile Pacific Crest Trail during winter months. So naturally we had a few questions about his accomplishment.

What was your first thought most days while waking up? Falling asleep? 
It was really dependent on the conditions. Some days my first thought waking up was "sweet, it is going to be so pretty today" and other days it was "do I really have to put these shoes back on and get out of my sleeping bag right now". At night I don't think I thought of anything. I would fall asleep exhausted as soon as my head hit the pillow (any extra clothes in a stuff sack).

We know an expedition like this has a lot to do with endurance but how did you stay mentally strong?
I think the mental challenge can be just as hard as the physical challenge. It's important to learn from previous days and experiences but to also be able to put them behind you.

How did you train for this, and would you do anything different now?
We didn't train specifically for this trip physically. The planning for this trip was a culmination of skills gained on previous trips and tune-up trips to get our gear dialed. We worked on this for a few years. We also pieced together logistics and a resupply strategy as it got closer since many of the standard resupply options in the summer are closed in the winter.
If you could bring one luxury item with you (weight does not matter), what would it be?
Weight does matter so I am not sure how to answer this question. If weight didn't matter then I might pack a house with TV and a heater. But realistically my luxury item is carrying a small book to read at night.

Did you sing any songs in your head or out loud while hiking and why was it Katy Perry’s “Firework”? (we joke)

I can't say I have ever even heard that song! I always get different songs stuck in my head but I have to say that The Proclaimers are probably the most common song going through my head.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Lichter and Forry Complete First Winter Thru-Hike on the Pacific Crest Trail

Two Harbors, MN – March 1, 2015 – At 1pm on March 1st, Granite Gear athlete and accomplished thru-hiker, Justin “Trauma” Lichter and hiking partner Shawn “Pepper” Forry have finished the Pacific Crest Trail, making them the first to complete the 2,650 mile Pacific Crest Trail during winter months. 

From October to March, Lichter and Forry found themselves battling frostbite, icy ponds, frozen ski bindings, blinding whiteouts, 80 mph wind gusts, negative temperatures, and many other unpleasant conditions. However, with over 55,000 miles of trail experience between them, Lichter and Forry were able to meet the conditions with safety and confidence. Detailed packing and preparation also played a major role in the safety of their trek, and Lichter and Forry are pros at packing the best ultralight gear. On the trail, Lichter and Forry carried various Granite Gear backpacks and stuff sacks. View Lichter’s full list of gear here. 

“We set out on this adventure to challenge ourselves and test our physical and mental limits and skill sets,” said Justin Lichter. “We also want to open the door and hopefully show people that the winter can be a beautiful and amazing time to experience the outdoors.”

Lichter and Forry have worked closely with the PCTA along their trek, and plan on continuously acting as stewards to protect and preserve the trail. Viewing the PCT as a capstone and symbol for America’s value of wilderness and conservation, Lichter and Forry would like to see the PCT respected enough so that people will enjoy it many generations to come.

For detailed stories around each stop on the trail, read Justin Lichter’s blog and Shawn Forry’s blog. View more photos from the trail here. To learn more or schedule an interview with Justin, please contact Shelly Smith at

About Justin Lichter

Justin Lichter has hiked the equivalent to almost one and a half times around the Earth, and in one year hiked over 10,000 miles. (In total, he’s racked up over 35,000 miles!) His accomplishments include hiking unsupported from end to end through the Himalayas, through the Southern Alps of New Zealand, through Iceland and Norway, across the United States six times, and over 1800 miles through Africa. He is a ski patroller and enjoys backcountry skiing, Nordic skiing, biking, surfing and anything else outdoors and active. During his trek through the Himalayas, Trauma proudly carried the Leopard AC and found it to be the perfect pack for the treacherous 1500 mile hike. Justin is the author of Trail Tested and Ultralight Survival Kit.

About Shawn Forry

Since 2003, Shawn has hiked over 20,000 miles through 26 states and 7 countries, including Nepal and New Zealand and most of Europe. Long distance backpacking has taught him determination, problem solving, compassion for fellow neighbors and the environment. He is currently residing in Truckee, CA (winter) and Midpines, CA (summer) and works as an Outward Bound Lead Instructor and Wilderness Adventures Musher.