As some of you are aware, this past weekend I completed a 60 mile backpacking trip along the PCT Section C. Originally, this trip was supposed to have started in Big Bear, adding 30 miles, but due to some unforeseen scheduling issues, the trip had to be trimmed a little. It was better to do that than the alternative of rescheduling.
Now that the dust has settled, I’d like to go over what worked, what didn’t, and what I am going to do in the future.
The trip started above Lake Arrowhead and ended at Bass Pro shops, sixty miles away. Most of the trip would be along the PCT. Once we reached the 15 fwy at Cajon pass, my two hiking buddies would break off and I would continue solo until I reached Bass Pro, some 20 miles away.
What I carried
My pack base weight for the trip was 10.4lbs. With food and water my weight went up to 15lbs. Had my quilt come in, I would have started with a sub 9lb baseweight.
All my gear worked wonderfully and have no regrets, but will have future changes, mostly to reduce even more weight.
- Jansport Katahdin 40 after modification, weighed in at 1.4lbs. I started with a pack and cut off the hip belt, load lifters, and brain (top lid).
Shelter (never used)
- 8×10 etowah tarp with 6′ guyout line of surveyors line at 6 points 14.57oz
- 6 aluminum y stakes 3.690z
- polycryo ground sheet (duck brand window film) 1.3oz
- Sleeping bag 2.42lbs
- thermarest zlite sol 8.9oz
- pillow 2.8oz
kitchen supplies (Stoves, pots, etc)
Water bottles and purification
- 2 Smart water bottle 2.1oz
- Sawyer mini water filter 3.3oz
- Meds (aleve, ibuprofen, anti diarrhea, antihistamine) .2oz
- reading glasses .6oz
- sunscreen 1.2oz
- baby wipes 3.7oz
- hand sanitizer 2oz
- toothbrush (half) .2oz
- baking soda (deodorant, toothpaste, etc) .3oz
- strength tape .4oz
- 24′ surveyor line .3oz
- small scissors .8oz
- patch tape .2oz
Clothing in pack
- arcteryx stowe pants 9oz
- 1 synthetic shirt 5oz
- 1 pair underwear 2.9oz
- 1 pair darn tough socks 2.2oz
- REI fleece 8.2oz
- fleece watch cap 1.2oz
- puffy vest 14oz
All the gear worked extremely well. Though I didn’t use all of it (shelter) It was nice to have just in case. There were a few places it could have been used, had I settled down there for the night, but I didn’t, so it wasn’t needed.
If I had to change anything from the gear I carried, next time I will have a lighter quilt which will shave off over a pound and a lighter puffy. In addition, I will also be using a lighter custom pack which will bring the pack weight down to under a pound, I think 10oz, if I recall correctly. Additionally, I will change out the puffy to something lighter (mountain hardware ghost whisperer?). Those items changed should bring me below 8lb base weight, somewhere into high 7lb for base weight.
No Cooking Gear
I like a hot meal as much as the next guy, but not if I have to cook in the field. In the field I like to be very efficient. The idea of cleaning in the field turns me off to the thought of a hot meal. Additionally, If I’m backpacking, I eat on the go, snacking while walking. That means I eat calorie rich snacks to provide my fuel—nuts, fruits, snickers, etc.
Often times (not this time) I enjoy ramen soup. For those occasions, I’ll take an empty peanut butter jar, put the ramen in the jar, add water, and toss it back in my bag for about 45 minutes; while I continue walking. When I’m ready to eat, I open the jar and the ramen are completely hydrated and pliable as if they had been cooked. On the trail, it is known as stoveless cooking or the soaking method.
What I wore
- Elementex Merino base layer (long sleeve)
- North face pants
- Darn Tough Socks
- Teva Arrowood light shoes (sneakers I guess)
- Outdoor Research cap
- cotton bandana under hat and draped down back to protect neck from sun
Everything I wore worked well.
The Teva Arrowood were a dream, very light and padded, they had already seen a few hundred miles over the last three months and already had a considerable amount of break in before this trip, but still felt comfortable. Aside from some normal wear in the soles, they appear to have a few more hundred miles left in them.
The only downside I can see with these shoes is they are waterproof. This means they don’t breathe well which equals sweatier feet and take longer to dry if water gets inside over the top of them.
I wouldn’t hesitate owning another pair and very likely will. They certainly have their place, but for the long distance walking I think I will look into lightweight breathable trail runners, perhaps La Sportiva or Altra.
There were very high winds up on the ridges. The Elementex baselayer performed exceedingly well. It didn’t stop the wind from penetrating (not intended for that), but it kept me sufficiently warm throughout the ordeal. I chose Elementex because it is Merino Wool at a great price point, under $40. I chose to wear Merino because it doesn’t build up bad odors like synthetics and to me that’s a huge plus. Since I wore it exclusively as my hiking shirt, there are some wear marks where the backpack rubbed back and forth along it. I’m sure with prolonged use in this fashion the shirt would see an early demise. How long? I don’t know. What I can tell you is this baselayer has been my exclusive shirt during my hikes outside of the 60 miler, so it’s probably seen a few hundred miles already.
The outdoor research hat with bandana combination did what it was suppose to do, but not well. The constant adjusting and resetting was annoying. In the future, I think I will take something like the Outdoor research Sun runner hat
I can not say enough about the use of trekking poles. They help propel you forward and upward when climbing and help control your descent when going downhill. They help take a lot of pressure off of the knees when hiking. They are great for crossing creeks where you are trying to hop across rocks protruding from the water. The list goes on and on.
Trekking poles don’t have to be too expensive. Very popular inexpensive ones are
Some people even use inexpensive ski poles found in thrift stores.
Keep in mind, my gear choices were based on a substantial amount of research I did for the area. I was constantly checking weather updates and patterns as well as temperatures. I knew where the water was and whether it was flowing or not. My gear was a direct reflection of what I knew I would encounter.
Choosing to be an ultralighter is much more than just picking lightweight gear. When you choose to shave weight and get rid of items your skill and knowledge have to go up in order to be comfortable and safe. At the same time, however, lightening your pack will make your trip much more enjoyable.