Backpacking in the late Fall, or early Winter is unlike any other season of the year, for obvious reasons. There are definitely some gear changes that need you need to be aware of. Not to mention, it’s COLDER. When I go backpacking in the Winter, temps can get down into the teens at night. That by definition is Winter? It’s important to understand that depending on what region are you backpacking in, could be the difference in what gear you bring. The Southeast (where I am) is different than Northeast, or the Pacific Northwest. Is packing for a 20 degree night in the Southeast the same as packing for a 20 degree night in the Northeast? Probably not. Why? In the Southeast, it maybe cold at night, but it certainly warms up during the day. So your layering system maybe a little different.
Backpacking for Winter requires careful thought and planning. Weather and elevation are going to play key factors in how you pack for your trip. In the Southeast for example you are probably NOT going to run into 2 feet of snow. In the Northeast, I would makes sure I brought Snowshoes. Unlikely in the Southeast. Packing for cold nights and warm days can be tricky in of itself. Many times, it’s really cold in the morning. But once I get going, I’m pretty toasty warm
TIP: Learn the 3 layering system. This is essential when backpacking in cold temps.
I was quite warm under a tarp recently when the temps got down to 15 degrees at night. I had 3 layers and a 15 degree Marmot Adventurer sleeping bag with a 2mm ground cloth and a Long Thermarest underneath. However, during the day when temps reached a balmy 45 degrees, I had only 2 layers and never over heated.
My total pack weight was 28 pounds for two cold nights and 3 days in the 40’s. Having said that, I mixed Winter gear with Fall gear. In other words, I didn’t take snowshoes, snow stakes, a white gas stove, nor winter down snow pants.
Here is my clothing pack list for the Southeast:
Long sleeve base layer REI Midweight Polartec® Power Dry® Zip-T
Mid layer Delta AR Zip Men’s
Nail Driver Soft Shell Pants (these are excellent for cold nights and warm days) You will NOT need long johns with these.
First Ascent Downlight Jacket for camp. (I sleep in this and adds an extra R Value to my sleeping Bag. It’s also extremely packable) (look for a good deal on Ebay for this item)
Smart Wool Winter Socks
NorthFace Tent Bootie
Mountain Hardwear Balaclav
Wool Hat, and gloves.
One added piece of gear I brought but didn’t use, but I think is necessary is my Marmot Greenland Baffled Jacket. I bring this for two reasons. One, it makes a great pillow, and two, weather can change quickly in the mountains, so I bring an 800 fill jacket for the “just in case” scenario. If I don’t use it, my dog uses it as a sleeping bag.
And NEVER forget your Hardshell or Rain Jacket. I bring a Marmot Precip Jacket no matter what season it is. Your rain jacket works as a wind breaker and really stops the cold whipping wind from chilling you to the core. It also makes a great pillow.
This gear list would obviously change in high altitude conditions when snow and high winds would be prevalent. For Appalachian Trail Thru Hikers, who plan to start hiking early in the year, this gear list would work nicely for you.
It’s that time of year again. We start dusting off our Fall and Winter gear and start thinking of cold weather hiking/backpacking. So many people overlook the importance of a good quality warm hat. Keeping your head warm in the cold weather is important, but it also depends on a number of other factors, including how thick your hair is and how much energy you use in the cold. In other words, your beanie hat is only a part of the equation in staying warm.
The ratio of the surface area of a child’s head relative to the child’s body surface area is much greater than that of an adult. Our young hikers, lose an even amount of heat through their heads (less hair). Hoods and hats are more important to children because of this.
Of course buying a good beanie is still a very important decision. Only us beanie fashionista’s understand this.
There are generally 3 types:
Traditional hand-knit beanies – This type goes into my personal fav list. There is nothing like a homemade beanie to wear proudly on the trail. The crazier the better.
Synthetics (Fleece, or Polyester) – These are great. Make sure you keep them dry however. Beanies made of fleece are generally great windblockers, and provide better insulation in breezy conditions. Polyester beanies are great for wicking moisture, which helps perspiration evaporate during a hard hike up that mountain.
Merino Wool is usually the softer material and combines both the knit feel and the fleece feel. The nice thing about Merino Wool, is it can get moist and still keep it’s R-Value keeping your head warm. They are also a bit cheaper of the other two options.
Of course, there are often times I wear a ball cap. On a rainy day (especially a down pour), I find wearing a ball cap keeps my rain jacket hood from falling on my face. Ball Caps are a good choice to wear when the rain really starts falling. The trade off is letting my Ball Cap get soaking wet, but keeping my beanies nice and dry. I often keep a beanie on when I sleep in cold temps. So when picking a Ball Cap, I totally go Synthetic. This let’s my Ball Cap dry very fast. Even if it’s doesn’t dry right away, it still feels better putting it back on then a soaking wet beanie.
There are other options also.
All of these have their purpose. It comes down to what makes YOU feel comfortable and what you can live with when temps drop.
Picking the right beanie is important, but also knowing how to layer your clothing system is essential. Feeling comfortable on a cold rainy, snowy day, will make you a happy hiker.
Affectionately known by the lightweight hiking underground as the “PCT Method” (presumably because it was first used by long distance hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail), a bear bag hanging method exists that is lighter, requires less rope, offers the benefits of counterbalancing, is easier to set up, and offers simple and quick hanging and retrieval of your food.
You can make your own system quite easily by assembling the following components:
* Food storage bag
* 40 feet of hanging rope
* Keychain carabiner
* Small stuff sack for a rock (“rock sack”)
* Pencil-sized twig about 4-6 inches long.
Bryan DeLay has 30 years experience in the backcountry and shows us in this video produced by thebackacker.tv, the PCT method of properly hanging a bear bag. Bryan also is a lightweight backpacker and understands that the PCT method can sometimes be the most effective way. and quickest way when your looking for the perfect limb to hang your bag.
How do hand your food bag?
You’ve been trekking all day in the wilderness. Your tired, sore and ready to get into your sleeping bag. The campsite is a important part of your backpacking experience. A good campsite definitely contributes to a great trip…and a poor campsite can make your trip more difficult. The rule of thumb is to understand Leave No Trace principals to guide you in your decision.
First and foremost, (if your planning a backpacking trip in a National Park) you will have to fill out an Itinerary, or apply for a Backcountry Permit. In this case, your choice is made for you. However, in a designated Wilderness Area, backcountry sites can be subject to different rules and regulations depending on that designated area. Generally, backcountry camping is recommended at least 200 feet from Meadows, lakeshores, and streams. If you are in a designated Wilderness Area, here are some things to look for: TIPS from LNT
Sometimes however, a made campsite is ok, IF you understand that you have to clear all evidence that you have been there. This is the quintessential guide for Leave NO Trace. There are sometimes when making your own camp area is necessarily if you just can’t make it to where you want to go.
There are other key things to remember also:
Water sources nearby? And, will it be easy to get water?
Disposing of waste. Make sure you have plenty of room and 200 feet from water sources.
Look for dead trees nearby. You don’t want to pitch your tent under a dead or dying limb
Speaking of tree limbs, are there adequete limbs to hang your Bear Bag?
Know the rules & regulations of the area that you will be backpacking in. ALL Wilderness Area’s have their own PDF sites to help you plan and prepare your trip.
Remember that practicing Leave No Trace makes a fun and safe trip for the next person who meanders into that camp area. It also protects the wildlife.
See you on the Trail.
Fall is when most hikers, backpackers, and campers really get motivated to get out into nature and soak in all the colors of the Season. So we put together the top 5 backpacking destination to see spectacular fall colors and hike some amazing trails. We stayed within the Midwest, and Southeast and judged on easy to park, trail head access, and fall views.
If you had to pick the best trail to go backpacking on, where would you pick? We pick the top 10 Backpacking experiences in North America. The criteria we to pick the top ten was simple. Views, the length of hike, and difficultly. First we looked at views. What would a backpacker experience in the Backcounty when hiking a specific trail? How long is the trail itself? We thought it best to stick with a trail that would take at least a weekend to complete. Of course, we looked at how difficult was the hike going to be. As an avid Backpacker, I tend to look for a more “strenuous” hike. So getting the blood pumping was the thought here.
Here is our TOP TEN LIST:
10: KAIBAB TRAIL – Grand Canyon, Arizona – South Rim to North Rim adventure, real risk of heat stroke! 3 days is ideal 20.6mi plus sidetrips. WHY WE LIKE THIS HIKE? This is the only trail in the Park, including Bright Angel, maintained consistently the hike crosses the only bridge spanning the Colorado River. Best time to hike is Spring, or Fall. Bring lots of water, and NEVER try backpacking this trail without the proper permits.
9: PARIA CANYON– Arizona/Utah, canyon walk in knee-deep water, some risk of flash floods, minimum 4 days, 3 nights, 37.5mi WHY WE LIKE THIS HIKE? High, colorful, sculpted red-rock walls, walking in knee deep water is fun, if you have good shoes, pictographs & historical artifacts. Better get your permit now because only 20 hikers are allowed in at any given time.
8: TETON CREST TRAIL-Wyoming. 3-5 days depending on route 31-40 mi depending on route WHY WE LIKE THIS HIKE? Grand views of the toothy Tetons, the most striking range in the Rockies, the challenge of several high passes, and good chance to see marmot, American Bison, Moose, Pronghorn, Wapiti (elk), or Mule Deer in the Park.
7: CHILKOOT TRAIL– Alaska. Just on the first day (Sheep to Happy) is long and exhausting! 5 days, 4 nights recommended, 33miles. WHY WE LIKE THIS HIKE? An astonishingly wide variety of terrain and scenery. Temperate rain forest to high alpine to boreal forest, and the hike is well managed with full-time maintenance
6: THE FLORIDA TRAIL Florida. Hit this Trail and a collection of loop and linear trails on public lands throughout Florida. 1,400 mile trail. WHY WE LIKE THIS HIKE? Trail heads are all close to main roads, climate is good, although hot. Well maintained trail. Be prepared to hike a long distance in water.
5: Mt. WHITNEY TRAIL California – 3 days, 2 nights is ideal due to altitude 22mi round trip with an elevation gain of 6100ft WHY WE LIKE THIS HIKE? No climbing gear needed surprisingly easy if you get good weather it’s a beautiful and impressive peak. Permits are hard to get however, so apply early and be prepared.
4: COLORADO TRAIL Colorado. Thru hikers should allow at least 4 – 6 weeks between late June and early September to cover the entire 483 miles. WHY WE LIKE THIS HIKE? CT offers a wide range of elevations and levels of difficulty, accommodating a variety of skill levels and hiking preferences. Awesome Views. Colorado is a awesome state to live in, let along hike through.
3: THE LONG TRAIL Vermont. With its 270-mile footpath, 175 miles of side trails, and nearly 70 primitive shelters, the Long Trail offers endless hiking opportunities for the day hiker, weekend overnighter, and extended backpacker. Do this in the Fall, and you may find yourself moving to Vermont.
2: APPALACHIAN TRAIL Georgia – Maine. After completing this hike in 2003, there is no way this can be off our top 10 list. This 13 state trek is about is as close to finding a new family than actually being adopted by one. The community of this trail is a magical experience. WHY WE LIKE THIS HIKE? The Appalachian Trail offers a variety of hikes. Day hikes, Thru-Hikes, Section Hikes, it has a different hike for everyone. It makes no difference whether you are a pro hiker or a beginner. This is America’s Trail.
1: PACIFIC CREST TRAIL Zigzagging its way from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon and Washington the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) boasts the greatest elevation changes of any of America’s National Scenic Trails, allowing it to pass through six out of seven of North America’s ecozones including high and low desert, old-growth forest and artic-alpine country. Indeed, the PCT is a trail of diversity and extremes. WHY WE LIKE THIS HIKE? From scorching desert valleys in Southern California to rain forests in the Pacific Northwest, the PCT offers hikers a unique, varied experience.
If you have favorite trails that you think should be on our list, let us know. OR, wanna write your own favorite list? Apply to become a Trail Blogger with us.
As an outdoor Instructor and someone who has backpacked for a long time, I often hear a ton of excuses as to why people just can’t find the time to spend a weekend outdoors. With the “healthy living” movement, you would think that people would be rushing outdoors to get their “hike on”. But actually, people are spending more time indoors than outdoors.
In a article published in the LA Times James Cambell wrote:
Are we as Americans actually losing our connection to the outdoors? Conservation ecologist Patricia Zaradic of the Environmental Leadership Program and conservation biologist Oliver Pergams of the University of Illinois at Chicago have documented a disturbing trend of declining per-capita visits to national parks and forests, drops in park attendance, and other sliding indicators of nature recreation since the late 1980s. They see at work a fundamental cultural shift away from nature.
But the Healthy Lifestyle is growing…
According to www.franchisehelp.com “People will spend hundreds of hard earned money each year to get healthy. In fact, one out of every five Americans are heading to the gym, or at least paying for a membership. Which puts the fitness industry in a pretty sweet spot: a largely unhealthy and overweight population is looking for ways to get in shape. Whether it’s pumping iron like our forefathers or the newest trampoline workout – there is an immense appetite for exercise. Over 54 million Americans paid gym membership fees in 2014, and for the second year in a row actual visits to the gyms exceeded 5 billion! The average member visited their club over 100 times, an all-time high. Memberships have grown 18.6% between 2008 and 2014, and the trend continued in 2015”
Going to the Gym is GREAT, and definitely a hand clap is appropriate here. (hands clapping). But where does your Vitamin D come from unless they have put treadmill outside? What about your psychological health? Your mental health? Isn’t that part of “the healthy lifestyle?” It doesn’t do anyone any good if we are in great psychical shape if our stress level at work is through the roof.
In an article written by PAUL G. MATTIUZZI, PH.D. http://www.everydaypsychology.com/ he explains the need to “CLEAN YOUR BRAIN”. He writes:
“Psychological health is important with respect to how we function and adapt, and with respect to whether our lives are satisfying and productive. In the end, psychological health and well-being basically has to do with the question: “how are you doing?”
If your answer is “Not Good”, then maybe a dose of extreme Nature is what you need. This is why WE think that maybe you should take your workout on the Trail. (with a backpack on of course)
If you are spending time indoors and not out on the trail. New research say’s that is NOT OK.
In an Article published on http://www.healthline.com/ Vitamin D fights disease. In addition to its primary benefits, research suggests that vitamin D may also play a role in:
D fights depression
Research has shown that vitamin D might play an important role in regulating mood and warding off depression. In one study, scientists found that people with depression who received vitamin D supplements noticed an improvement in their symptoms.
Healthy Living is a balance between eating right, exercise and “cleaning your brain”. The “trail” offers all those and much more. So next time you get that Gym Membership bill in the mail, or your feeling completely stressed out, or maybe even think you need to drop a few pounds. Remember, the trail is always near by, patiently waiting for you to partake. So tear up that bill, get your gear on, pack a pack, and get out there.
Bear Canisters and the governing rule to carry them in some wilderness areas and on some parts of our National Park Trails has come to some debate recently. Are they working to keep Bears from associating people (backpackers) with food? Each governing agencies have different rules regarding their canister requirements in different parts of the backcountry. National Park Service, or Federal Wilderness Agencies each can post different requirements. For example: On some parts of the Appalachian Trail, Thru-Hikers are required to carry a Bear Canister IF you camp on that section of the AT. While in other Wilderness Area’s you are required to carry a Bear Canister at all times.
The question then is: Are Bear Canisters really necessary in order to protect your food, protect the bear, and protect the next backcountry user? In our opinion the answer is “NO”. We think we could make them obsolete if everyone practiced “wildlife avoidance” techniques and mastered the hanging your food bag the right way. Of course Bear Canisters were specially made so that novice backpackers could keep their food safe and have hopefully keeping a Bear alive.
Bear Canisters for obvious reasons are made and enforced to protect the BEAR, NOT YOU. After all, if a “problem Bear” get’s into your food or challenges you for your food, more than likely that bear is a dead bear. YOU on the other hand hike out hungry and probably a little scared, but alive. All to often (especially in the Smokies) do we hear that Bears have been put down for being too aggressive for food. Which raises a different debate: Are Bears starting to learn that people in the backcountry equals food for THEM? YIKES!
The worst we witness for “wildlife avoidance” is seen on a regular basis at AT Trail Shelters. They are literally becoming a den of garbage with food everywhere. Which is why I NEVER camp in them anymore. Here are a few tips to practice “Wildlife Avoidance”.
We looked for some good tips on “wildlife/bear avoidance” and found a great article by Andrew Skurka:
“DON’T camp where you cook. Cook at least a few hundred yards away from your campsite, downwind, preferably in an airy area where there is a gentle breeze to disperse the scents.
DON’T camp in established sites or near popular trails. The bears live in the backcountry (duh!), and they know exactly where their “neighbors” live. And in heavy-use areas, it is more likely that a previous backcountry user has acted improperly and encouraged problem bear behavior (e.g. by leaving trash at their campsite, or leaving food unprotected on a log while they went to get water or watch the sunset). Bears are more likely to visit these areas regularly because they know their odds of obtaining an easy meal are better.
TRY and camp in un-designated, non-established sites. However, make sure you practice LNT and cover up your camp area when you pack up. When the bears make their evening “rounds,” they are less likely to come across you. If you are in an area where camping in designated areas is required (e.g. Glacier, the Smokies and Yellowstone National Parks), this is sometimes not possible, but thankfully there is usually good food-protection infrastructure at these sites.
CARRY food in odor-proof bags. These bags (such as the OP Sacks from Watchful Eye Designs) will help make me “invisible” to the bears.
DISPOSE YOUR TRASH ASAP. Bears have a great nose. Your trash smells and lingers odors. Again, having a Odor-proof bags for trash is a good idea also, and make sure you constantly are disposing trash regularly.”
DO NOT THINK that throwing your trash in the fire is preventing wildlife from eating your garbage. My domesticated Dog goes right to the fire pit every time we go backpacking. If my dog knows the smell of food in the fire pit so does every other wildlife that lives there. Burning your trash is bad for the environment and doesn’t work to deter bear encounters. I had a Bear right behind me one time savaging through another fire pit. Also, don’t think that just because you are caring a Bear Canister that you are safe from Bears getting into your stuff. If you are cooking next to your tent, with your Bear Canister right next to you, what difference does it make that you have a Bear Canister? The Bear (who smells the food soaked into your nylon tent) will just make a grab for your tent. Sometimes with you in it. They’ll also (often) carry off your backpack also. But hey! your food will be safe I guess. 🙂
Having said all that: My take on canisters is this… They are heavy, bulky, expensive, and they are uncomfortable to carry their cylindrical shape that fits awkwardly in small packs. Andrew Skurka
We agree! Canisters would be unnecessary if everyone practiced the “wildlife avoidance” techniques described above and mastered the (video) PCT Bear Hang Method.
We need to be good stewards of our outdoor environment. Which means protecting wildlife from being put down because you were too lazy to cook away from a Shelter or Tent. We have it in our control to eliminate the need for Bear Canisters if we want to. Bears are usually the victims of the “food” issues. But practicing good habits, also protect your food from Mice, Raccoons, Marmot, and all other little pesky creatures lurking for YOUR food in the night.
Let us know what you think?
Being a huge fan of AMC’s The Walking Dead, I often ask myself. “If things go bad, what outdoor gear in my closet do I have to survive the Zombie Apocalypse”? First let me say, I have a ton of gear! I can barely fit anymore into my closets. But is it “survivable” gear? I say YES! Backpackers would definitely be survivors, and we would survive well. Here are my top ten reasons backpackers would survive:
10: We are already packed and ready to go. Most of us have it all packed, compressed, and sorted out. We have closets dedicated to all the crap we’ve bought over the years. If it all went bad in a hurry? Most people would be running around the house deciding what they would take. They would probably panic. We would throw on our packs, like we do every weekend, and BOOM, hit the door. Only difference, we would be packing more food. But, we have a box of that stuff to.
9. The first night out, we have shelter, food, water, fire, maps and compass. Why? We are Bakpackers damn it! That’s just how we roll. Our first night we could assess where were and where we needed to go. To survive, we go live where we play. The Wilderness!
8. Clothing & Boots. Yep, that’s right! We have our synthetic, polyester, and down clothing to keep us warm and moderate our body heat. (we could be running…..a lot) AND, we can keep warm WITHOUT a fire. Fire could attract Zombies. Hypothermia alone could be fatal. We have our boots to cover long distance miles, and ford streams. Hopefully you’ve invested into GoreTex.
7. Weapons! What? Backpackers don’t carry weapons… Yes we do. The Swiss Army knife or hunting knife could be a key weapon. We may not have bullets. So in case one get’s close, we use the Rick Grimes Doctrine. “Save Your Bullets”. Not to mention the fact, we may have to cut bandages, make kindling for fire, or the most important one: You may come across a bottle of good Micro Brew, gotta have a bottle opener.
6. Backcountry Roads: We have traveled every backcountry gravel road there is trying to find a trailhead. How many times have “maps” been a little off? A lot! So we know how to get there. While most people will be jammed up on expressways, we will be on a National Forest Road where clearly the road has changed names a dozen times. We know, how to drive the winding sometimes treacherous roads. At least when the Apoloypse is over, we know where are car will be.
5. Being Stinky: We where the same clothes all weekend, sometimes longer if we are doing a thru hike. We don’t care about being stinky and smelly. We are used to it. It may even help us camouflage in. I mean, dying human flesh is pretty stinky, but ever smell a thru hiker? I rest my case.
4. Duct Tape: Six ways to use Duct Tape in a Zombie Apocalypse is a great article. But, Backpackers ALREADY know this. We’ve used Duct Tape for everything on the trail. We’ve used it to patch, hold, blisters, make hats’. We are the Duct Tape Guru’s of survival..
3. Water Filtration. Who know’s what could happen to the water supply during a Zombie outbreak. But who care’s, we get our water from Mountain Springs. And we have a water filtration to at least get clean drinking water from streams. That would suck after getting away from the Walking Dead, you have a cup of water and you die from Giardiasis.
2. Cooking Food. If there were ever a group of people that knew how to use cook Ramen Noodles, Rice, or Couscous, on the trail, it’s us. We are miracle backcountry gourmet chefs when it comes to cooking in the Backcountry. Give me a Tortilla Shell, and I’m good. Not to mention. We have eaten Freeze Dried Food for so long, we don’t give it another thought. All of us probably has a box of Freeze Dried Food, noodles, rice, and other stuff ready to go at a moment notice. I mean, normal people don’t have that right?
1. Adapt. Backpackers can adapt better than anyone. Terrain, weather, hitching a ride. We use the outdoors as part of our gear. It’s a natural recourse that we have become to partner with instead of fight. That is our biggest advantage of surviving the Zombie Apocalypse. For many, they would run and hide, fight, and be eaten. For us, it would just be another backpacking trip. Well, minus the Walking Dead.
If you are new to the outdoor backpacking scene you will quickly learn that gear can be expensive. Especially lightweight gear. One of the statements I get from new people I take out in the backcountry is “What if I need it”? So they tend to carry the kitchen sink until there first 15 mile hike and 2,000 feet elevation gain. The second statement I get when they decide to start really thinking about weight is: “That’s really expensive”.
It’s easy to get sucked into the hype of lightweight gear. Technology and good marketing can lead a new person to drop some serious cash building a lightweight system.
First, let’s define “lightweight”. Depending on weather and the time you expect to backpack in the wilderness, this can vary. I like to say it’s between 15 and 25 lbs. On a typical 2 day trip 23 lbs is usually my total pack weight. I like to cook gourmet :-). Having defined the weight, now how to we lighten the load on the cheap?
First, it’s the Big 4. Pack, Shelter, Pad, and Bag. This is where you can drop some big $$$. So here are my tips, or examples of how I did it on the cheap and still had quality gear.
I use the GoLite Jam 35L Pack. (GoLite is out of business however) I’ve had this pack for 5 years and it’s well tested. At $119.00 you can’t beat the price nor the weight.
It weighs in at 1 lb 11 oz. | 770 g
I use the Globe Skimmer Ultralite (10×12) Tarp by Equinox. It weighs in at 18 ounces and it has always kept me dry. The cost is $129.00 compared to one person tents that run well above $200 bucks. I would also recommend trying the 8×10 tarp for only $92.00 to save some money and weight.
I totally recommend Marmot Aspen 40° F Minimalist Sleeping Bag for a Spring, Summer, and early Fall bag. At a total price of $70.00 and a weight of only 1 lbs 6oz you can’t go wrong. I did a review of this bag a few years ago with amazing feedback. They also make a 15 degree bag that is just as cheap and good. You can only find this bag at Dicks Sporting Goods.
Two choices here: I use either the Thermarest Pro Lite Plus (small) for $89.00. Weighs in at 150z.
Or go to Walmart and buy the J Fit Extra Thick Pilates Pad and pay only $19.00 bucks. Cut in half and you have a pad that weighs 140z. I use this pad in Warmer Spring, Summer, and Early Fall.
This makes you total pack weight for the Big 4 (assuming you go the Walmart Pad way) a little over 4 lbs. That also makes your total cost (assuming you go the Walmart Pad way) $337.00 bucks for the Big 4.
I dare you to beat THAT!!!
This last weekend I went up to Northern Georgia to scout out some campsites in the Chattahoochee National Forest. There were a couple of Forest Roads that intersected with each other and looked as if they went along a few small rivers. One of which was the river that dumps at Amicalola State Park. Amicalola Falls. At 729 feet, Amicalola Falls is the tallest cascading waterfall in the Southeast. Lot’s of hiking in and around the park. One of the most famous of course is the Approach Trail to the Appalachian Trail. There are several parts of this Blue Blazed trail that leads up to Springer Mountain (The Southern Terminus of the AT). Most backpackers/Hikers that start on the Approach Trail start at the Visitors Center and trek up the 8 miles to the summit. The Approach Trail is a difficult trail and NOT to be taken lightly by novice backpackers. However, there are other trail heads up towards the Falls that you can catch without starting at the bottom.
One of the other trails is a Lime Green Blazed Trail that leads to the Len Foote Hike Inn. This trail has it’s own trailhead and is clearly marked. The trail is about 5 miles to the Hike Inn and is a moderate trail. Parking is at the trailhead above the Falls
So that’s the back story on the two trails. Ironically, both Blue Blazed and the Green Blazed Trails have a very close proximity on the upper part of the Falls where parking is available for the Len Foote Hike Inn guests.
As I was driving on a gravel Forest Road (High Shoals Rd), I saw two female (older women) backpackers walking along the road. They looked very much lost and in distress. They asked me where the Len Foote Hike Inn trail was? These two women weren’t even close. They had followed the Blue Blazed Trail (the AT Approach Trail) up to a Forest Road and were looking for a supply access road to the Hike Inn. One of the woman was having a diabetic issue and was clearly in distress. Her pack was extremely heavy and packed very wrong. She was way over her head with the trail she was attempting. Furthermore, they listened to another hiker who clearly didn’t know what they were talking about. They were lost. It was just by luck I was driving on a THAT Forest Road that I ran into them.
I picked them up obviously and drove them to the Visitors Center where the one lady could get some medical attention.
I had just read an article posted by Backpacker Magazine a day before about this very subject. Crazy!
To my point I guess. Please, please be prepared and know where you are going, what trail you are on, and always follow the blazes marked for you in most State Parks. If you have never backpacked before. DON”T do the hardest trail there is. Start with flat trails with low mileage to practice. KNOW THY GEAR! Have someone who is a seasoned backpacker look at your pack to make sure it’s fitted right. DON”T listen to other strangers tell you a “shortcut”. Stay on the TRAIL, and pre plan. These two ladies were part of a Georgia Meetup.com group. The group just said “meet us there”. No one from the group made sure these ladies even knew how to backpack. Trip leaders should always make sure people are accounted for, and have a Wilderness First Aid Certificate. I’m glad it ended up well, but I hate seeing this.
Hiking gaiters can be an essential piece of gear when your backpacking in the Spring or Winter. I find in early Spring when it’s still wet, muddy, and cold, gaiters can keep my boots and socks pretty dry.
Hiking Gaiters are normally a synthetic type material that covers the top of your boot and the lower part of your leg. Gaiters can protect you in many ways:
Hiking Gaiters come in two heights, low and high.
What kind of Gaiters should I get?
What’s the Activity?
Good Gaiters can be costly, but well worth the investment. Nobody likes hiking in wet socks. Look for Gaiters that are waterproof. Gaiters that have a waterproof and breathable material are going to cost a bit more, but can be worth it for comfort.
Durability is the key. Keeping your legs free of abrasions is of utmost importance. Make sure the material is strong.
I wear the Outdoor Research Gaiters. These guys have never let me down and have always kept my feet dry.
Bottled water is a bit of a fad and a strange thing to pay for, considering water makes up majority of our planet (yeah yeah, it’s purified and all that).
Wait a second – now you can get purification without having to fork out money for every little 250ml! Camelbak are bringing you a nifty little water bottle that will clean up your water in just 60 seconds. A brilliant innovation into purifying water, the All Clear bottle contains a UV light installed in the cap that’s proven to eradicate 99.9999% of bacteria, 99.99% of viruses and 99.9% of protozoa. That gives you a pretty good chance of not coming down with Delhi Belly if you ask me!
You can fill it from any stream, tap, or spigot and even has a pre-filter accessory to filter out sediments as you fill it up from a natural source. It would be great for a camping trip or if you’re travelling to a country where the water isn’t purified. It treats 80 cycles (16 gallons) with each charge (so if you drank three bottles a day, it would last about 25 days), and the cap is protected from wear and weather so that you can take it anywhere and everywhere. The bulb itself should last 10,000 cycles – that would be the equivalent of drinking 3 bottles a day for 9 years – so you’re unlikely going to need to change that. It’s powered by two lithium batteries, rechargeable via USB (that’s pretty cool).
The only thing that I think would make this bottle a super-green alternative to bottled water would be to include a solar panel to augment the lithium batteries and reduce energy expenditure. But all the same, a pretty darned nifty gadget. If anyone has tested this in the backcounty would love to hear about it.
As I am always looking to lighten my pack load, it was a just a matter of time before I ditched the tent and tried sleeping under a tarp. Choosing the right tarp was a little exhausting, however it all came down to simplicity and price.
My first choice was a Mountain Laurel CUBEN FIBER DUO GRACE TARP. This tarp is a high quality tarp. But really expensive. You pay for the high end quality and the price was $255.00 bucks. Weighed in at 7.7 oz. I saw a great blog post on www.sectionhiker.com on how this tarp works and is used.
After debating price, I finally heard some common sense. “Practice tarp tenting until you really like it, and you get good at it”. Good at it? Setting up a Tarp isn’t just a shelter, it can be YOUR living space in the woods. There are many ways to set up a tarp that best fits your comfort level when in the backcountry. Having said all that, the choice was simple. I picked the Globe Skimmer Ultralite Tarp
The Equinox Skimmer (10×12) was only $90.00 and weighs only 18 ounces. Now I had to get some cords to tie on to the Tarp. I picked the AirCore NANO from BackpackingLight it’s a ultra-strong and ultralight tent and tarp guyline cord with a Dyneema (Spectra) core for strength and polyester sheath, for good knottability and less slippage than in 100% Spectra cord. Price was $16.00
Later I would find that he Nite-Ize S-Biner is a dual-gate accessory carabiner (not for climbing!) is a good piece of gear to have while setting up my tarp. However, I had 3 larger carabiners that worked fine.
One last piece of gear I needed was the guide line that I could hang my tarp from. Equinox sells a 50 foot cord that works quite well. You can buy this at Gander Mountain or order it from Equinox. Some good advise I got was to cut this into two 25 foot lengths. If you need more, tie the two 25 ft cords together using a hitch not.
After tying all the loops (Hitch not mostly) to the 6 grommets (4 on the side, 2 in the front and back), I was ready to set up my first tarp. I just needed a ground cloth. I used a 4×10 plastic sheet that was bought at a Hardware Store for painting cover. Taped at the 4 corners with duct tape.
As you can see this is my first tarp set up. The guideline stretched from two trees about 25 feet apart. I then hang the tarp by 3 carabiners from the three 12″ cotton twill ties on the top of the Tarp. I stake down 3 sides on the 12 ft side of the tarp, and 2 sides on the 10 ft side. Then I used my hiking pole (through one of the grommets) as a door entrance. I then stake down that section. Then sleep under the stars.
Here is another configuration I used when snow was in the forecast. An A Frame setup with a hiking pole that you can easily get in and out, but then remove the pole, so you have better protection, just stake down the tarp. You will have to look closely to see the hiking pole.
Both setups were great. These are just two setups among the many many different kinds. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Practice a good hitch knot and practice different configurations. Hopefully a video will be coming soon to show different configurations using this tarp.
There are tons of hiking/backpacking videos out there on YouTube and Vimeo. Unfortunatley, only a small percentage ever get seen by a large audience. I put together a list of what I believe are the top ten hiking/backpacking videos.
The criteria I used was, best all around production quality. Was the video informative? Exciting? Did it tell a story? Some are professional and some simply done for those who want to document their experience.
Some of these videos are in a series and I counted them as “one” since they are on a DVD.
If you have one that you think belongs on this list, please let me know, and I’ll put it on thebackpacker.tv
These are in no particular order:
(1) Tell It On the Mountain is a documentary full of tall tales and alluring lore from the Pacific Crest Trail. A string of trails running through the center of California, Oregon and Washington. You can see the other two parts on thebackpacker.tv on the Feature Channel[Postnew]OSNxPZmCcMw[/Postnew]
(2) On April 9 2007, Andrew Skurka set out to become the first person to complete the Great Western Loop, a 6,875-mile route that passes through the most cherished and pristine wild lands remaining in the United States including 12 National Parks and over 75 wilderness areas. The route links a network of five long-distance hiking trails and a self-made segment through the Sonoran and Mojave deserts. Andy is hiking to promote the “less is more” lifestyle and to draw attention to the effects of global warming on America’s most iconic wild lands.[Postnew]Vs3UQ7NFswo[/Postnew]
(3) This is the trailer of “TREK — A Journey on the Appalachian Trail.” I purchased this film at amazon and love it. It portrays the daily life of AT thru-hikers, shows you the great people they meet, and adventures they have on their journey from Georgia to Maine. To buy the entire DVD go to www.cirquevideo.com[Postnew]MZxEh_klLU0[/Postnew]
(4) This 2 part series is a short film by Old Mountain Video: “Climbing Longs Peak” in the Rocky Mountain National Park. I love watching videos from these guys. They are always very good. Watch the second part on their YouTube Page:[Postnew]lyY6VsZKTH4[/Postnew]
(5) Chris Moyles and his gang are about to leave, but a fortnight ago Trail Magazine arrived home from Kilimanjaro after six days on Africas highest mountain. You can see Part Two here on thebackpacker.tv[Postnew]8cRCi-TpdMo[/Postnew]
(6) CBS News does a documentary on Backpacking the West Coast Trail (Currently Featured on thebackpacker.tv) this three part series is a great adventure documentary and gets you in the mood to get out there and hike this trail. Part 2 and 3 will be featured on thebackpackertv[Postnew]ipNKNvDcvO4[/Postnew]
(7) Tales From the Trail is one of my favorite shows. This pilot TV show is directed by Paul Sheehan and presents a quality show about hiking and adventure. This show is also playing on The Hiking Channel on Boxee. You can watch part 2 and Part 3 here on thebackpacker.tv[Postnew]hTKWwFZsvNQ[/Postnew]
(8) This is one of my favorite raw nature videos. Talk about getting a feeling for Glacier National Park, Wow!
Part 1 of the recently shot Glacier DVD. This 20 min. film recently was nominated for best new nature documentary in the music category as well received an award for photography from the Wildlife Film Festival held in May of 2008. All funds for this project are being donated to the Glacier National Park Fund. This was shot by YouTube User: LiveMontana[Postnew]PbpIOXaHID0[/Postnew]
(9) If you want to know everything about Yosemite than you have to watch Yosemite Nature Notes: Yosemite Nature Notes is a video podcast series that tells unique stories about the natural and human history of Yosemite National Park. Produced by the National Park Service, this series features park rangers, scientists, historians and park visitors as they discuss the diverse plants and animals that make Yosemite their home, as well as the towering cliffs, giant waterfalls and mountain peaks that are known throughout the world.[Postnew]uVkeJmiejno[/Postnew]
(10) This documentary is one of the best if you are a climber. Left for Dead: Miracle on Everest, is the story of Lincoln Hall. Lincoln Hall is pronounced dead on the summit of Mt. Everest after suffering from the effects of cerebral edema, but miraculously survived. With never-before-seen footage, interviews and Hall’s original video diary[Postnew]anBHeyLDD4A[/Postnew]
If you have any suggestions please comment below. We are always looking to add content.
I often get questions about what kind of gear is needed versus what is expendable. The expendable gear for example might be “comforts”, i.e magazines, cosmetics, extra utensils. Here is a list of gear that I absolutely feel is essential. Whether your hiking alone or with a group. The essentials stay the same. The nice thing about hiking as a group, you can share some of the load and gear. You don’t all have to carry a stove for example, just plenty of fuel.
Shirts, pants, boots, hats, and so on. This is seasonal clothing.
What is needed for travel – just your feet or a canoe, kayak, bike, snowshoes, etc.
What are you going to carry your equipment in? Backpack? Waterproof bag (for portaging canoe or kayak?)
Sleeping bag, foam pad, or thermarest
Water bottles, toiletries, medication.
Tent, tarp, hammock. This also can be shared if you are hiking with a partner.
Stoves, pots, pans. Stoves can be shared, but bring extra fuel.
Tablets, or a filter can be carried for a group. Just make sure you change your filter after heavy use.
This is an essential piece of gear. Not to be ignored. However, when in a group, count the number of people and bring first aid to meet all needs. Sometimes it’s better for each person to carry their own first aid kit.
When deciding what equipment to bring, review your planned route and answer some questions:
How long is the trip?
How many people are going?
Are people providing their own equipment?
What season is it?
Weather, weather, weather. Average temps for that area. Minimum temps, maximum temps. Is this area pron to thunderstorms, lightning, snow, (could it snow in June)?
Is there an altitude situation?
What are the trip activities?
How remote will this trip actually be?
Water, water, water. How will I get it, resupply it, drink it, bottle it. Water everything. Will there even be water? Will I need to melt snow to get it?
Equipment failure. If something breaks, can I keep going?
The 12 Essentials
2. Compass (and some knowledge how to use it)
3. Head Lamp
4. Extra Food
5. Extra Clothing. Dry socks, underwear.
7. Matches (waterproof)
8. Firestarter (I include cotton balls for kindling)
9. First Aid Kit
10.Water Bottle or Nalgene Bottle, Platy (at least 2 liters)
12. Water Purification
Other essentials that might be included are:
13. Watch (with compass, barometer, altimeter)
14. Ground insulation (sleeping pad)
15. Duct Tape (I wrap some around my hiking poles)
No matter where you are going, and whether you are out for the day or a month. Whether you are by yourself or with a group, the list above is essential. There are countless tales of hikers who have gotten into trouble, even on short day hikes, because they neglected these essentials.
See you on the Trail.
One of the pieces of gear I’m always playing with are good quality sleeping bags. There are so many of them and some can get expensive. But for me, it’s a matter of what works. Not the money I spend on them. You can caught up in popular trends or brand name hype.
Last year I wrote a gear review on the Marmot Aspen Ultralight sold at Dicks Sporting Goods. I got a good responce from other hikers that appreciated the “review”, since there wasn’t much data available on that bag.
About a month ago I saw the Marmot Aspen 15 Degree Adventurer at Dicks Sporting Goods. Once again the price intrigued me. This bag is a 2lb 8oz Down Bag. My interest was peaked so I bought it. This bag is sold directly for Dicks Sporting Goods and is not availble through Marmot’s Online Web Site.
I took it out and tested it at around 17-20 degrees to see if it could hold it’s own. I called Marmot to get the scoop. This is what they told me when I asked what bag would be comparible to their web line? They told me it would be the Marmot Sawtooth that weighs in a 2lbs 14oz. That bag is a 600 Fill Goose Down, same as the Adventurer. In fact, most of the specs are the same. The shell and lining…the same.
Once again, I believe this is a good bag for the price. I paid $139.00 at Dicks, which is a far cry from the $200.00 Marmot sells almost the same bag for. The Adventurer was comfy and cosy. This was tested in early Spring when temps still fall into the teens at night. This bag is a definate for early spring, early fall. This is NOT a winter bag. The weight of this bag is just right for a 15 degree bag. With the Hood Draw Cord this wraps around your head nicely. It removes any chance of heat loss. It even has a “stash pocket” for storage.
For early spring time hikes, this bag would be just fine for the budget backpacker. Let us know if you have had any experience with this bag and post a comment.
See you on the trail.
Point Reyes National Seashore was established to preserve and protect wilderness, natural ecosystems, and cultural resources along the diminishing undeveloped coastline of the western United States.
My visit to Point Reyes was everything I thought it would be and more. I was able to hike through a Elk Preserve and see Elk grazing right in front of me. You can’t beat walking along the West Coast and hearing the waves crash into the shore as you hike. You can even see some of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
Located just an hour’s drive from a densely populated metropolitan area, the Seashore is a sanctuary for myriad plant and animal species and for the human spirit — for discovery, inspiration, solitude, and recreation — and exists as a reminder of the human connection to the land.
Point Reyes National Seashore comprises over 100 square miles including 33,300 acres of coastal wilderness area. Estuaries, windswept beaches, coastal scrub grasslands, salt and freshwater marshes, and coniferous forests create a haven of 80 miles of unspoiled and undeveloped coastline.
Abundant recreational opportunities include 150 miles of hiking trails, backcountry campgrounds, and numerous beaches. Kayaking, biking, hiking, beach combing, and wildlife viewing are just a few of the self-guided activities awaiting your visit. Please check at a visitor center when you arrive at Point Reyes for the most recent information on trail closures or other important information you may need for your visit.
This park is a must see when visiting San Francisco. It’s not that far away and easy to get to. The views will take your breath away, and the wildlife is abundant. I hiked on the Tomales Point Trail which is a 9.5 mile trail out and back. (see our trail Vlog for more info on this trail). The trail descriptions on the nps.gov website are good and precise.
Point Reyes National Seashore offers year-round backcountry camping along Drakes Bay and amongst the hills and valleys of the Phillip Burton Wilderness, and boat-in camping on the west shore of Tomales Bay. Because of its location near the Metropolitan San Francisco Bay Area, the campsites at Point Reyes are in great demand. Reservations are strongly suggested. YOU MUST make reservations to camp. Check out the nps.gov website for more details, and plan ahead.
Stay in Larkspur at the Marriott Courtyard where Hwy 110 is a quick jump. Point Reyes is about a 30 minute drive from there.
Bear Valley Visitor Center
Open: Year round.
Closed: December 25.
Weekdays from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Weekends and holidays from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Phone: (415) 464-5100