Gear Review/Makapu’u and Kuliouou Trails

Our road trip is two weeks away, and we’ve been having fun testing out new gear on recent hikes. I can (and have!) spent hours scouring REI and Backcountry, marveling over the countless backpacking/camping gadgets for sale, dreaming of all the possibilities. In the end, though, reality (i.e.: that darned budget) dictates limiting actual purchases to what we really need as a family instead of those fun-to-dream-about wants.

With only 3 backpacking packs in our possession, backpacks topped our list of needs this year. Luckily, there was an REI Anniversary Sale and member dividend that was burning a hole in my pocket to save the day! We were able to score an unbelievable deal on a 2015 Osprey Kyte 46Β and REI Passage 38.

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Osprey Kyte 46, jacket in the front mesh panel, separate sleeping bag compartment with integrated rain fly just above.

I’m not big on brand name items, but I couldn’t ignore the Kyte’s glowing reviews–or Osprey’s stellar lifetime guarantee. And call me shallow, but I adore that beautiful teal! One of the features I like best about the Kyte 46 is the external hydration sleeve. It can be a hassle to load/unload a hydration bladder from a filled pack, and this back access compartment eliminates that problem. The hip belt and load lifter straps are so smooth and easy to adjust with the pack on–one of many areas where Osprey’s commitment to quality is very evident. The fully adjustable harness and LightWire Frame technology ensures a custom fit and comfortable carrying experience. I love the roomy hip belt pockets that allow easy access to snacks and a cell phone, and the multi-zippered brain compartment that enables easy organization of frequent-use items.

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Spacious zippered side pockets–each pocket can accommodate a sleeping pad, fleece pullover, and backpacking pillow.

The front mesh panel stretches to accommodate a rain jacket, and the side mesh panels can easily accommodate a Nalgene bottle each as well. The zippered vertical side pockets might be one of the Kyte’s best features. What the main compartment may lack in size is more than made up for by these spacious side pockets. I’ve stuffed a sleeping pad, pillow, and adult-sized fleece pullover into ONE pocket, with room to spare. There is also a sturdy shoulder loop for quick and easy trekking pole storage/access.

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Roomy hip belt pockets, external hydration sleeve, stow-and-go trekking pole loop, multi-zippered brain compartment; Osprey Kyte 46.

With an integrated rain fly and separate-access sleeping bag compartment with floating divider, the Osprey Kyte 46 is perfect for overnight or 2-3 day backpacking trips. It can also be easily compressed and cinched for longer day hikes, making this a pack we’re sure to put to great use for many years to come.

With two girls in our family, we’ve had our share of unpleasant hiking bathroom experiences. Without going into too much detail, let me just assure you that the pStyle is a GAME. CHANGER. If you are female and you enjoy spending time outdoors, you need a pStyle. To be fair, there are cheaper silicone versions of the pStyle that I have not tried, but reviews on Amazon suggest that these imitations are less predictable, leaving room for error–definitely not a good thing (or look–shudder!) when you’re backpacking with only one pair of pants. The pStyle, however, is discreet, fail-proof, light, and compact, earning its spot as a must-have item in our backpacks this year.

With 8 nights of backpacking on the itinerary , compact cookware and mess kits were high on our list of priorities. Combining every Walmart gift card we’ve received over the past few years, we were able to nab this GSI Outdoor Pinnacle Camper cook set absolutely free! At 3 pounds 11 ounces, it’s not the lightest kitchen set-up for backpacking, but since the weight accounts for cookware and mess kits for 5 people, it works perfectly for us. One of the features I love best about this kit is how everything nests into one compact 9 inch by 5 inch package, making it suitable for flying, too, where space is at a premium.

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GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Camper cook set; everything nests in this compact 9″ x 5″ matryoshka-like system.

With a 9 inch frypan, 3 L pot, 2 L pot, and 2 strainer lids, the non-stick hard anodized cookware easily accommodates families or larger groups. The set comes equipped with 4 plates, 4 insulated mugs, and 4 bowls, and everything nests into a stuff sack that doubles as a welded sink in the backcountry!

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Full-size cookware (3 L & 2 L pots w/ strainer lids, 9″ frypan), plates, insulated mugs, and bowls for 4, welded sink carrying case.

If I had any complaints, it would be that the plates are not especially deep or made of high quality material, but that’s minor in the grand scheme of things. I love having full-sized pots and pans with backpacking convenience and integrated mess kits in the GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Camper cook set.

To complete our mess kit (the GSI cook set serves 4), we cashed in a Sports Authority gift card and took advantage of a 30% off closing sale to nab this Light My Fire MealKit 2.0 for free! With 3 plate/bowls and 3 lids that can double as eating vessels, this kit contains more bells and whistles than we’ll need, but it’s great to have those options for future trips. The MealKit 2.0 also comes with a spork, pack-up-cup, and cutting board/strainer for cooking.

Closer to Home: Recent Hikes

Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail

Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail is a popular and easy 2 mile “hike” along paved road, offering stunning views of Oahu’s southeastern and Windward coasts. From the parking lot, the paved road steadily climbs 500 feet, allowing easy access for strollers, wheelchairs, and those with mobility issues.

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Paved road along Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail
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Looking back from whence we came: parking lot in the distance
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Koko Crater and Ka Iwi Scenic Shoreline

Recent additions of rest benches and viewing areas make this a great beginner hike, and there is no spot more beautiful than Makapu’u for whale watching during whale season (November to May). Although the lighthouse itself is not accessible to visitors, we’ve been lucky to see dozens of whale spouts and breaches during whale season here. Located on the eastern side of Oahu, this hot and dry trail is also a prime location to watch the sun rise. The only con to this hike is that its popularity translates to large crowds; arriving after 10 am means circling for parking and sharing the trail with a hundred or more hikers. Don’t let that stop you, though–this hike is a beauty, and despite the crowds, we do this one at least 5-6 times a year!

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View from the top, Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail
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View of Rabbit Island, aka Manana (State Seabird Sanctuary); I don’t recommend sitting that close to the edge!
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A patch of pink among the cacti and brush; pillbox in the distance
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3 short years ago…boy, time flies!

Kuliouou Ridge Trail

Kuliouou Ridge Trail is a 5 mile out and back hike that ascends 2,000 feet to summit the Ko’olaus. Families should plan on spending 4-5 hours hiking this trail at a moderate pace. Although this is a moderately difficult hike composed primarily of switchbacks, rain can render the steep slopes muddy and challenging.

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Slippery, muddy stairs about 15 minutes from the top, Kuliouou Ridge Trail

Exercise extreme caution, especially with children. With all the recent bad weather, we had a few near-mishaps this past weekend. There are several long and steep rock/tree root scrambles in the second half that can become quite treacherous when coupled with mud. (No pics, unfortunately; was too busy trying not to die!) I should have known better than to push this hike in the rain, and we nearly paid the price for it. It is worth your family’s safety to wait for several days of clear weather before attempting this hike. That said, this hike is an absolute must-do! We huffed and puffed through the 2,000 feet of elevation gain, and the last 30 minutes of steep mud puddle stairs were thigh burners, but hiking in the clouds made everything worthwhile. Unfortunately, the bad weather didn’t make for great views.

 

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End of Trail, Kuliouou Ridge Trail
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Clouds and fog at trail’s end, Kuliouou

However, the fog and clouds lifted for a brief minute, and we were able to get a glimpse of the glorious views Kuliouou is known for.

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View of Waimanalo, Kuliouou Ridge Trail
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View of Koko Head and Hawaii Kai
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Glimpses of green and turquoise below, Waimanalo
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Stopping for well-earned spam musubi and gummy bears at trail’s end.

Having hiked Kuliouou during clear weather, I can tell you that the views of Hawaii Kai, Waimanalo, and Lanikai from the top can’t be beat. If you’re looking for a challenging workout, ever-changing scenery, and stellar views, Kuliouou Ridge Trail is the hike for you!

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22 thoughts on “Gear Review/Makapu’u and Kuliouou Trails”

  1. Great photos on the trails and very helpful info about the backpacks. I’ve been to REI and other stores looking for a new one and I’m having trouble deciding. My trusty Kelty lasted 7 years and countless trips but that style has been discontinued.

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    1. Thanks so much! I hope we’re able to get 7 great years out of our packs the way you did with your Kelty. I’ve always wished we had an REI in HI, but maybe it’s for the best–I think I’d be in a tizzy trying to decide among all their great packs! πŸ˜€ Are you looking to go with another Kelty? There’s an Osprey Kestrel 48 that’s the male counterpart to the Kyte. The Osprey Atmos and Exos also have great reviews.

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      1. I’m leaning towards an Osprey but there were a couple brands I hadn’t known at REI that looked great. I have a little time before I go back to Colombia to make a decision. My Kelty was very simple and didn’t have ANY of the bells and whistles that the new packs have. That makes choosing a new one all the more difficult! I totally agree on having an REI nearby! Thankfully I only see one when I’m back home in Chicago a few weeks a year or I’d probably find excuses to gear up more often. Looking forward to reading about your upcoming trip!

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      2. It’ll be fun to see which pack you wind up choosing. If you don’t mind sharing, I’d love to read a review on your pack someday! Always enjoy hearing what other people enjoy/wish was different about their gear. Love learning about the features I should look for.

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  2. Wow, Kuliouou Ridge trail sounds amazing with those views! 2000 ft elevation definitely gives you guys bragging rights (and gummy bears! – they are a staple in our backpack as well). I feel like my eyes are being opened about Oahu, thanks for this special insider info. Oahu is on my list (which has turned into a giant book) now too.

    As for the gear, you scored! That Osprey backpack seems awesome (and mighty purty). Can I ask what sleeping pad you use for backpacking? It still amazes me how little backpackers can get by with.
    Ok, I had NEVER heard of pStyle before. This blows my mind, just read about it on Amazon. It’s genius!

    So much great info on this post, thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Honestly, I’m so psyched about the pStyle, I wanted to put it first on the list! The kids had to talk me out of posting a pic of it. (TMI? How so? :-D) Just the freedom of not having to expose yourself is everything, and the way it eliminates the need for toilet paper is sheer genius. We use the Klymit Static V2 and V sleeping pad for backpacking. https://www.rei.com/product/893593/klymit-static-v2-sleeping-pad Lots of cushion, and it packs up smaller than a Nalgene water bottle, so it’s great for flying, too. I’m always in awe of those minimalist backpackers, but we like our creature comforts too much to be hardcore. You always leave the nicest (and most fun!) comments–thank you so much for always being so encouraging. I hope you make it to Oahu (or us to CA) someday; would be so fun to hike with you and your family!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words! We’re happy to have these memories, too. We’ve never been to a brick and mortar REI but are hoping to visit when we stop through Seattle later this month. So many fun cook set options; might be a fun gift for your son! πŸ™‚

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