Packing my fears
Please see my previous post for details on the day-by-day itinerary of my thru-hike.
Here’s a link to my LighterPack list- I’m pretty proud of my 18lb base weight. I’d like to get that lower, but I think it’s a good starting point.
I did a significant amount of research on gear over the months leading up to the hike, and I am pretty happy with 90% of what I carried. I had two significant fears going in, and consequently, I KNOW I overpacked here:
- Food: I had not done an extended backpacking trip like this since 2008 (Philmont expedition with the BSA) so I had no idea how much food to pack. I packed almost 4 LARABAR snack bars AND 2 Cliff protein bars per day as well as “backup” ramen and Knorr pasta sides to reinforce freeze-dried Good to Go dinners. This was WAYYYY too much food, and I made the mistake of including the exact same items in my resupply box (sent to South Lake Tahoe.)
- My tastes also changed very quickly, and I found that I was forcing down my LARABARs every day. When I picked up my resupply box, I had zero interest in eating more of them, so I left the whole batch in the hiker box at the hostel and picked up a handful of KIND bars at Raley’s.
- On future trips, I think I’ll move away from freeze-dried meals… they just don’t taste that good for the weight and cost, in my opinion. I had a variety of Good to Go meals (New England Corn Chowder, Pad Thai, 3 Bean Chili, Thai Curry, etc) and they were all fine, but the 20 minute cooking time (especially compared to my hiking partner John’s 8 minute Mountain House meals) really annoyed me before long.
- Electronics: I knew that certain sections of the trail would be challenging to navigate in a high snow year, and I planned on using my iPhone with the Guthooks app to navigate. I was really nervous about running out of battery juice, so I brought along two Anker 10,000mAh batteries. I never fully depleted the battery on the first, so the second would have been a waste (if not for allowing my hiking partners to charge up.)
- Pack: I LOVED my Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60L pack. It was the perfect size for the trip – especially because I was carrying a bear canister. I really liked that I could store 2x Life Water bottles in the right-side outer pocket and reach them without taking off my pack. Additionally, the one massive, stretchy pocket was stuffed to the brim on the daily and didn’t wear it out. The mesh did sustain a few small holes in the bottom, but I was not really careful with where I set the pack down.
- Sleep System: I jumped on an Enlightened Equipment Revelation 30deg (Wide/Regular) when they had it on inventory closeout and, together with my ThermaRest NeoAir XLite (women’s version… it’s warmer for the same weight), it performed well on some cold nights – only once did I wear an extra layer (both my base layer top and my R1 on top of my normal hiking shirt) to bed because I was concerned about the overnight lows.
- Cold Weather Layers: I decided to take both my Patagonia R1 fleece hoody and Patagonia Nano Puff hoody and I am really glad I did. We typically camped at altitude (around 8,000 ft) and the temperatures really dropped once the sun set. I frequently would wear my puffy to cook dinner in and after getting up in the morning. I also liked hiking in the R1 fleece early and later in the day because I could shed heat by unzipping the big 3/4 zipper and/or rolling up the sleeves (I bought it in a bigger size intentionally)
- Water Filtration: I used the Sawyer Squeeze (full size) and was really, really happy with how it performed. Despite some really murky lake wake (Spooner Lake… looking at you) running though it, I never once had an issue with clogging or reduced flow rate. Towards the end of the tip, I did end up losing the small white O-ring that seals the “dirty” water containers into the filter, but, apart from a gurgling noise occasionally when I would take a drink, it didn’t affect the performance of the Squeeze. My routine was to always keep 2L of water on me, in Life Water bottles in the Mariposa’s very handy lower-right side pocket. Both would be filled with “dirty” water, one with the Squeeze screwed on top, and one with the normal black cap on top. John had a Katadyn BeFree which seemed to have a better flow rate rate, but I preferred being able to drink straight from a water bottle with my Squeeze.
The Things I’d Change
- Bear Canister: Holy crap was this thing heavy. I picked up a BV500 on sale from REI because I needed all that space for my (excess) of food and added 2 lbs 9 oz (almost 3 lbs!!) to my pack just like that. I’m currently in the process of trading the BV500 for a BV450 (only 2 lbs) for future trips into parks that require bear can use. Which brings me to:
- Food Storage: For some reason, I chose not to bring a food bag in which to store my food when it wasn’t in my bear canister at night. Which meant that I had to take all of my lunches and dinners out of the bear canister while it was still in my pack on trail – which often meant feeling blindly around in there, because the canister sat so deep inside my pack. I’m seriously considering picking up a ZPacks DCF Bear Bag Kit so that I not only gain a food bag, but I also have a system to hang in food when in territories that don’t mandate bear canister use.
- Insect Spray: I decided to try out the Sawyer Picardin personal insect spray (I did not treat my tent or clothes with Sawyer Permethrin) and it did NOT work against the voracious mosquitos on the west side of Tahoe. I might as well have just poured water over my head, because they were on me whenever I stopped. Luckily, Kevin had some 100% DEET spray and I slathered that shit on for the last two days.
- Shelter: I carried the Sierra Designs High Route 1 FL one-person double-walled trekking pole tent and it worked well on the TRT. We saw some pretty windy nights (but never any precipitation overnight) and, fully guy’d out, I never had an issue with it in the wind. In my opinion, it’s a tricky tent to get an ideal pitch on, and despite practicing beforehand and using it every day on the TRT, I never felt quite confident that I had gotten it exactly right. I am trading this tent out because, on a subsequent car camping trip, I got rained on three nights in a row, and I was unhappy with how much water was absorbed by the High Route’s silnylon’s fly, causing sagging against the inner mesh and condensation issues. I’m excited to try out my new DCF Tarptent Notch Li on my next trip!
Again, check out my LighterPack for a full breakdown of my gear.
Thanks for reading!