Monday, January 7, 2013

Channeling John (Not)

John Muir used to grab a blanket and a piece of bread for his long hikes. What would he think of all of us who ponder, plan and rate our expensive gear? Sometimes it all seems a bit ridiculous, worrying over a pound, trying to find the lightest, the best of everything.

My friend A sent me some photos from 1999. In them, I was wearing the same long underwear top, the same fleece vest, and the same snowshoes I now reach for, 14 years later. Do we really need all this gear?

Probably not. I would probably have just as good a PCT section hike this summer with my very first tent, the pup variety that I had to string between two trees, my First Need water filter, on the cutting edge back then, and my Coleman stove that probably weighed at least two pounds full. My first backpack was a red REI behemoth that accompanied me all over the Sierras. I don't remember complaining that about its weight or how it hung like a sack from my shoulders.

The wilderness was the point, not the gear.

How spoiled we have become.

I've been combing through the gear I plan to use for my Washington PCT hike, and I've  decided on the following:

The tent: My JMT friend D. was shocked to learn that I now had two one person tents. But I can't help it. I eyed her tent with envy during our hike last summer for two reasons: It has a side entrance (no more crawling in head first onto your sleeping bag) and the rain fly is made of a material that dries super fast. When you pack up a wet tent every morning, this makes a huge difference. I bought one when I got back and this is the one I will take. It's a little heavier than my Big Agnes Fly Creek, but worth it.



The filter: Trying to save weight, I hauled Aqua Mira last summer. You basically do a chemistry experiment with your water, mixing two little bottles with the water you filter. Big downside, you have to wait thirty minutes to drink and it's hard to do with a big container like a water bladder. I'll still use it for shorter hikes, but I'm going to steal my husband's small MSR filter. I've also heard good things about Sawyer squeeze filters, but I'm not going to go out and buy another system, even though it is tempting...


The pack: Since I don't have to carry a  bear canister, I'm going with a smaller backpack.  My Granite Gear Vapor Ki is 2.5 pounds, about half a pound less than the Deuter I carried for my JMT hike.



The footwear: Love my boots, didn't love the blisters. 90% of the people we saw last summer were hiking in shoes. I have a pair of Merrell Siren Sports that I plan to wear along with my short gaiters.

Food: Because my only resupply is after 100 miles (about a week), I will have to think carefully about what to take. After only a few days the sight of protein bars made me want to vomit. Likewise Kashi trail bars. I liked the cold breakfast combo of peanut/almond butter, raisins and tortillas, however. That will be staying.

One of these might taste good, but several on a long hike? Barf!


Stove: I got a Pocket Rocket last year and I really like it. Yes, it's a canister, which is a big landfill problem, but it uses very little fuel and is one of the smallest stoves around. I don't want to fiddle with big fuel bottles and my Dragonfly, so this is the stove of choice.



Clothes: I wore everything I brought last year, but in the interest of space and weight I am going to lose the tank top (too much sunscreen used when wearing one), the extra pair of shorts and the long sleeve shirt. That leaves me with one hiking outfit, long underwear, a puffy, rain gear and a fleece, which should be plenty, though somewhat aromatic by trip end. (I hope I can figure out how to bring extra clothes to the end. Maybe I can mail myself some to Manning Park).

Obviously I am not channeling John Muir on this hike, but I am trying to go lighter than ever before yet stay comfortable. It's a challenge to see how close I can step to that edge.

Old school trekking pole!


14 comments:

  1. I must have missed a post... Where is this next new adventure?

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    1. The last 200 miles of the pct in Washington. Are you doing JMT this year?

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  2. My first backpacking trip was without a stove and I ate nothing but those weird protein bars (a mix of Clif Bars and Snickers Marathon ones) and you are right, definitely not fun.

    I enjoy tortillas with dried beans or bagged tuna. Also a fan of granola and powdered milk.

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    1. Tuna is good. I may go back to the granola. Got tired of it, but now it sounds good. And, hmmmm...oreos....

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  3. Ha! This post brought back fond memories of my own ghetto gear days, back when I used to hike in jeans and Sketchers (those big platform versions that were popular in 1997), with an ancient Osprey pack that I inherited from an ex-boyfriend who was 6'3", a 15-degree-rated synthetic sleeping bag that cost $49 and weighed at least six pounds, and a Coleman tent. I never left home without a full-sized pillow. I didn't cook, though. Thought it was a hassle back then and still do. :)

    I am curious how you went about getting your John Muir Trail permits last year. It seemed like a complicated process with only partial chance of success. I wanted to get your opinion on whether a solo person with a plan to spend about a week on the trail in late June or early July may or may not have a better chance of scoring permits. If it's an impossible task I probably won't waste my time doing all that legwork.

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    1. Hey Jill, solo hikers have a really good chance. It is a stupid process...the inyo does it much better...but try the faxing at the stroke of five pm six months to the day ahead, if it does not work call them. That is how I got mine. They discouraged us from calling but it worked. I also know of some alt trailheads where it is easier to get a permit from. Btw when we were there we saw the female record holder making another speed attempt. The trail would be great for running.

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  4. Nice! That'll be awesome to finish that up.

    No, realistically JMT is a few years out for me. I'll probably just get a few long-weekend backpacking trips here in CO this year; maybe bag a couple more 14ers, too.

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  5. I used to use a pocket rocket, but I stopped because it was too unstable. I always had to worry about the pot on top of it tipping over, especially after it started boiling. I now use a Jetboil. I love it. I never cook in it; it's only for boiling water, but that's all you need for tea and dehydrated meals.

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  6. Remember offer of resupply service if possible!

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  7. Really, Cumulus? I use a pocket rocket and love it; have never had stability issues. Of course, I guess that could depend on the pot being used, too. I have heard good things about those Jet Boils, though. If my PR ever dies on me, I might try one of those. I love the uber-compactness (and lightness) of my PR, though.

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  8. Jet Boils are nice too, just a bit bigger than PRs. I have had my PR almost tip over, it has to be placed in a pretty stable spot.

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  9. My favorite piece of gear was my Sawyer Squeeze filter. I could just dip, squeeze and go. I could travel with less water weight - especially in North Washington where water was more plentiful. I used 3 Smartwater convenience store water bottles. One in each side pocket in for easy access and one for dipping - they are much lighter than a Nalgene or a bladder. Such a great investment for only $60!! When you are hiking day after day after day, the ease of filtering in seconds and drinking is well worth it. Especially if the mosquitoes are attacking you at the water source. :) My other "favorite" thing was being STOVELESS. I never thought it would give me so much pleasure, but it did. No smells to contain, no dirty pot, no fuss, no mess. Keeping in mind, I was always on the go to the tune of 14 hours a day. There wasn't any "camp" time or time spent relaxing at camp. The reality of lightweight gear is that it comfy for sleeping - not lounging at camp. My days were spent sleeping-eating-hiking. Repeat. But I loved the convenience of having no fuss. I've got recipe ideas if you need them!

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  10. Marre...I'll bring you extra clothes! I would so love to be able to resupply you, but not sure how feasible I could make it.

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  11. Leslie, if you see this, so stoveless..for the whole PCT. What did you eat for dinners?

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