Most Valuable Player Award

Most Valuable Player Award
Yep - that's Baldy in the background.

My 2023 Philmont trek MVP award goes to my Gossamer Gear sun umbrella.  There are people out there who think these things are dorky.  All I can say is you obviously haven't tried one.  This thing is amazing.  When I pulled it out on the June 17th shakedown hike (in Texas hill country) it was hot as hades.  My crew was envious.  I inspired Stephanie English and Scott Miller to acquire the same thing.  Based on their Philmont experiences, I know they're happy they did!

There are times when a sun umbrella is just not practical.  Those would be in moderate-to-heavy wind, or if there is a lot or overhead obstructions such that maneuvering the umbrella around them becomes more of a hassle than it's worth.  But if that's not the case, these things are a god send.  They allow you to not have to wear a hat - allowing sweat to evaporate - and they physically reflect the radiant heat of the sun so you will physically stay cooler.  And guess what?  Besides that they double as..... rain gear!  Imagine that!

Yup, that's hail. The sun umbrellas did a fine job of sheltering from more than just sun.
The sun umbrellas made the "trail of tears" down Tooth Ridge bearable for Stephanie, Scott, and I.

I live in Texas, so for me it's almost imperative.  This past weekend (July 22) Tina and I went out for a 10 mile hike.   We didn't have our sun umbrellas because I had loaned them to a friend for her Philmont trip (who was amazed with them.)  That is the last time I'll ever make that mistake.  In my many years of training for backpacking, I have never once had to dump water (which is how I weight my pack for training) until this past weekend.  I had to dump water because it was SO hot, and the sun so unrelenting, that I simply overheated.  My hiking shirt - the same Patagonia Capilene Daily Cool Hoodie you see in these pictures - the best garment I've ever found when it comes to evaporative cooling - couldn't keep up.  I could only go about half a mile in between breaks.  It was hot, but the whole thing would have been manageable had we simply had our sun umbrellas.

I used my sun umbrella most days at Philmont - either for protection from the sun, or protection from the rain.  I did not get all sweaty hiking in my rain gear like most in the crew did.  And I was SUBSTANTIALLY more comfortable when we hiked in exposed sun.  

Wearing raingear when backpacking is a constant balancing act - will you get wetter from the inside by sweating than from the outside by rain?  i.e. is it worth it to wear rain gear?  My approach to rain gear is two tiered.  The first tier is using my sun umbrella and a rain kilt.  Unless the rain is so hard that this combo is insufficient or the other conditions make an umbrella impractical (i.e. wind and/or overhead trees), then the umbrella solution provides maximum comfort and ventilation.  (My second tier of rain gear involves a more traditional raincoat.)

The key to this system is how I've mounted it to my shoulder strap.  There are several mounting systems on the market.  I've tried most of them.  The best one I've found, by far, is the one also made by Gossamer Gear, available here.  What I've done is cut the grey plastic nuts off of Gossamer Gear's mount and sew it directly to my shoulder strap.  My pack has a shoulder strap pocket that the butt of the umbrella rests in, then I secure the shaft with the nut.  I've added a second nut so that I have 2 different choices of umbrella pole angle.

For reference, here is link to the umbrella itself.  It weighs 6.3 ounces and costs ~$40.  And here is a link showing how I have those sewn to my shoulder strap

Keep hiking my friends