He's back at it!

People who know me know that I belong on the Trail. I've thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail (twice),the Pacific Crest Trail and the mighty Continental Divide Trail. I've hiked many of the long trails here in Michigan including being the first to hike both the Ironwood Trail and the Great Lake To Lake Trail. In 2017, I hiked the Israel National Trail and the Golan Heights Trail. My next goal is to be the first person ever to hike the Baja Divide Trail.

The purpose of this blog is to keep anyone who is interested informed of my progress and to encourage those who are able to support me in this endeavor.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Underground Quilts


What a sincere pleasure it was to spend the day at UGQ Outdoor (aka Underground Quilts) as a guest of the owners, Paul and Missy McWalters. 

I just want to say, sooner rather than later in this post, that UGQ is an outstanding example of a successful, Michigan-based company. I am absolutely thrilled to be working with them. 

I reached out to them through the Michigan Hiking and Backpacking Facebook page (The MHB was started in 2013 by myself and Jeff Kindy and now boasts more than six thousand members). I wanted UGQ to build a special piece of gear for my upcoming hike of the Baja Divide Trail. They said they could help. 

I wanted to try a lightweight quilt on this hike instead of my trusted Marmot Helium sleeping bag (weighs in at 2 lbs, 4 oz and reeks like feet and butt). I needed this quilt to be sturdy enough to handle four months straight of Mexican desert, beach and mountain. We talked about sizes, materials and fill, constantly comparing weight vs durability. I could tell straight away: These guys knew what they were doing. 

Paul and Missy graciously invited my trusted friend Sandy Lowe and me to visit their facility in beautiful Jackson, Michigan. The plan was not only to see how my top quilt was being made but to actually participate in making it! 

After a short drive, Sandy and I were welcomed by the owners and their small yet amazingly efficient crew (Aaron, Chad and Alyssa). A tour of the facility revealed a well-considered business plan incorporating a smooth manufacturing process with room for reception, customer service and shipping/receiving. And a little space for the dogs!



Paul and I reviewed the specs and the process began: Carefully assembling a quilt with painstaking attention to detail. From measuring, cutting, sewing, filling, more sewing and finishing, I tried to ‘get in where I could fit in’.  They were very patient with a novice as I was nervous about screwing up!







What we came up with was a thing of beauty. Easily comfortable in temps down to 50 degs, tough as nails and weighing in at a mere 17.8 ozs. We (I helped!) built a Bandit model top quilt with a Membrane 10 inner, a 1 oz HyperD ripstop nylon outer and 850 fill down. Trust me, these guys can make anything: Any fabric, any color (even prints and pics!), any fill, and even any modification (draft collar, foot box, drawstrings and snaps, storage sacks, etc...).




After lunch, Paul and I had some interesting conversations about hammock hiking. He’s a firm believer and an amazing hiker in his own right. He’s been out (and comfortable) in temps way colder than anything I’ve ever experienced. But once he explained the difference between convection and conduction, it all became crystal clear...


I’m thinking about attempting the Bruce Trail up in Canada next winter. Plenty of trees. Maybe use a hammock? I’d have to consult my bro Mudsocks...

Thank you so much to Paul and Missy McWalters for inviting me to UGQ and helping me with this hike. Meeting them and getting to see my quilt being made and getting to help (even a little bit) was a very positive experience. 

Can I please get a shout out for a great Michigan company? Leave a comment below!





28 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great gear from a great company. Privileged to see the process. Thanks from Sandy for including me.

Suzanne Hollyer said...

What is the difference between convection and conduction? I'm wondering because my stove has those settings and I don't know what they mean but I'm still occasionally burning things in it even when I follow directions.

It looks very soft and cushiony!

Good luck on the next adventure!

Christina Ray said...

I’ve heard such great things about UGQ! I even met Paul at a Michigan Hiking and Backpacking campout a couple years ago. A special someone gifted me a hammock for Christmas so I’ll be needing a quilt setup (under and top) soon and I’ll be contacting UGQ!! Good luck on your hike Chris!

Christopher Hillier said...

Thanks for going out there with me, San. What a great day, right?!

Christopher Hillier said...

With regards to sleeping on the ground vs sleeping in the air: the ground conducts heat very well, making you cold. The air is poor at convection, keeping you warm. I think a hammock may be the way to go!

Thanks for your comment, Susie!

Christopher Hillier said...

You are awesome, Fancy Pants. You’ve done so much for me and the MHB group. Hot Sauce is a lucky man. Thank you for your comment!

manuela said...

What an exciting adventure ... participating in making your VERY OWN quilt!! And supporting/promoting a local business at the same time! Way to go, Chris. Nothing can stop you & the Baja California now!

Christopher Hillier said...

Thank you, Manuela. I am so proud to be working with a great Michigan-based company and happy to carry such solid gear!

Lynda Fraser said...

Chris I have never seen anybody with more Passion than you when you are planning your hike, I am so excited for you. When you came in the other day and talked to me about the quilt that you are bringing with you I saw the excitement on your face which made me happy. I will miss you big time but I know you will accomplish your goal...I will see you when you get back....Go Wolverine!!!

Christopher Hillier said...

Thank you, Lynda, for such kind words. I really was excited when I came back from UGQ! I will see you in June.

Anonymous said...

Chris best of luck to you buddy...glad you got some great gear to take with you, will be happy to hear all about your adventure when you come back...

Christopher Hillier said...

Thanks, Mike! I’ll bring some delicious Michigan craft beer over when I finish this trail.

Marlyss said...

A hammock in the air surrounded by a cushy blanket sounds delightful... especially if it swings a bit. I'd never want to leave it to continue hiking.

Anonymous said...

Sounds good buddy, we will have a fire in the fire pit and you can tell us all about your hike...

Christopher Hillier said...

I would love that.

Anonymous said...

UGQ is AWESOME!!!

Christopher Hillier said...

Thanks, GQV!

Christopher Hillier said...

These guys are friends with Dream Hammock. They also make really awesome gear. Thanks for the comment, Marlyss!

Noam Gal said...

They seem like a really solid company. I will definitely bring up their name as an option when people ask for sleeping bag/quilt options before a long trip. When I look for my next sleeping bag, I will also consider UGQ myself.

Have a great time in Mexico, man. Looking forward for your upcoming blog posts from the hike!

Theo Brouwers said...

UGQ is one of the big names for quilts and tarps. For a hammock your best choice is Dream Hammock. Most choices of all the vendors I know and very high quality and service. I did many hours of research so I know where I'm talking about! For suspensions for the tarp and hammock I recommend Dutchware gear.
Video:
- Hammock: https://www.facebook.com/DreamHammock/videos/920401471442538/
- Hangcon: -1- https://youtu.be/Jt_IScJlSJY, -2- https://youtu.be/Iv5fWtpj77A, Also look other video's from Spiguyver and Trip Smith

my set: https://www.facebook.com/theo.brouwers.33/media_set?set=a.1136944073086445.1073741836.100003125902969&type=3

Other great sources:
- Shug on YouTube
- hammocksforum.net
- The Ultimate Hang: 2e version of book, website, youtube
- Facebookgroups
- me

With "Enjoy With The People Who Give You ENERGY (#EWTPWGY)!!!"-greetings from The Netherlands,

Theo "SurvivalTrotter (Twitter, Instagram)" Brouwers

Theo Brouwers said...

Update: another great expert: Ken Liedtke, administrator on
https://www.facebook.com/groups/2473249458/

If you want some help (free, I don't have a company ;) ) just contact me: survivaltrotter@gmail.com, www.survivaltrotter.com

Anonymous said...

Chris I hope you have lots of fun and your hike and be safe and try not to get to smelly haha ��☺

Christopher Hillier said...

I am already smelly. You mean not to get even MORE smelly.

Ashley Kyles said...

Hope u have lots of fun on this hike... Beware of your surroundings lol... I am gonna miss u...

Christopher Hillier said...

You won’t even notice that I’m gone! I’ll be back soon enough. Thank you for the comment AK47!

Christopher Hillier said...

Theo -

Sincerely, thank you for all the good info. Hammock hiking is something I am brand new to but want to learn more about. The links you provided are priceless. Thank you!

Candice Stacy said...

Your blog is well articulated and worth the read. Perfect blend of information and fun...and major props for the photo of the dogs! Rocky would approve...lol. Looking forward to hearing about your next adventure! Be safe in Baja! ☺

Christopher Hillier said...

Thanks, Candice. Rocky would love that place! Everyone is really nice and the dogs have a blast! Thank you for the well-wishes.