SELF CONFIDENCE IS THE KEY
I think the barriers to just getting out there and enjoying outdoor life are minimal and mostly mental. People think that you need to know a lot or have tons of special gear, or be a super athlete, or need to worry unduly about bears. Not true. You don’t need a ton of special equipment or highly specialized skills to hike and camp even in remote nature if you are minimally competent and game. It ultimately comes down to self confidence and a little knowledge. The Sierra where I mostly hike is mild, temperate, and very friendly in summer. You have almost constant blue skies and perfectly clear billion-star nights. You get some weather between 1- 6 pm, if ever. It can rain or hail, but you’ll dry out in no time. Personally I think if more people understood just how easy it is to get out there, they’d do it more often. There are no big hurdles.
CRUCIAL! LIGHTEN YOUR LOAD! YOU DON’T NEED STUFF
You will be able to move faster, farther, with more ease, and a lot more happily if you lighten your load. Most of what you think you need, you don’t. And it’s very liberating to just throw a few well chosen things into a pack and take off. I highly recommend that you internalize the philosophy of light hiking. Every ounce counts. You’d be amazed at how much more pleasant it is to walk when you’re not weighted down like a mule. The reality you just don’t need much of anything to have a traipse outdoor for a few days. These days in Summer I don’t usually bring a tent and just use a sheet of ordinary house Tyvek as a ground sheet. I now carry probably about 23 pounds of stuff all in, including water for a 4 night trip. That’s not even extreme. It’s perfectly easy to carry and makes life a lot easier. Here are some resources for help lightening up.
This website is extremely helpful and there are tons of really knowledgeable and cool people on this site. I got so much good advice here, it’s crazy. http://www.backpackinglight.com/
Andrew Skurka’s Blog is useful. Read his 7 steps to lighten up. I think his distinction between light and stupid light is useful. He’s also good at making a distinction between people who are primarily interested in camping, and those primarily interested in hiking. They’ll have different needs. Personally I don’t really care about camping, I just camp because I want to be remote and you have to sleep. You might quibble with some of his stuff, but it’s undeniable that his own trips are pretty amazing, and his advice is based on experience of many thousands of miles in all different types of terrain.
High Sierra Topix
Good community for general Sierra info. Lots of long-timers here who know their stuff and have good feedback on routes, conditions, and inspiration. http://www.highsierratopix.com/community/index.php
This list is far from authoritative or absolute. It’s just my personal opinion and stuff that I gleaned. You may have a very different opinion or experience. Please note that while some of the tips are general, I’m mostly thinking about a summer outings in the Sierras here.
At first, you should carefully plan everything that you will carry. Make a spreadsheet. Weigh everything. Be aware of the weight and MERCILESSLY cut out anything that unnecessarily adds weight. You don’t actually need that much. It’s very powerful once you’ve got things figured out to just toss a few things in your backpack and head for the hills, confident that you’ll be fine and have a great time.
THE SHORTEST SUMMARY
In the simplest terms here it is. Details are below.
Walking: Wear shoes, not boots. Ordinary jogging shoes are fine, but trail shoes are great too.
Sleeping: you’ll have a sleeping bag. For summer a 30 degree bag is fine. You’ll also have a mat. Some kind of inflatable air mattress that you can blow up with about 25 breaths will be fine. You can bring a light tent or you may think it’s not totally necessary in the summer.
Eating: you’ll bring a tiny ‘stove’ that is just a little fixture that you screw onto an isobutane fuel can. With this you boil water to make dehydrated meals. The rest can be salami, cheese, nuts, bars. Etc.
Drinking: Filter your water with a simple mini filter. Small and light. I don’t filter water from clean fresh sources above 10,000 ft.
Carry it all in a light, smallish backpack. You don’t need a giant 75 litre mountaineering pack.
Read more details:
SHOES, SOCKS, AND FEET
- For most outings in the Sierra, don’t wear hiking boots. Trail shoes or ordinary jogging shoes are much better. They say a pound on your feet is 5 pounds on your back. And you don’t need hiking boots for trails or the granite, sand, scree, and talus you encounter in the Sierra. I wear Treksta Evolution II in all kinds of conditions. They are lightweight, have good traction, and the fit is perfect on my foot. The shoe is shaped anatomically like an actual foot not like a mannequin foot. The result is that the shoe is fitted at the heel and arch so you’re not pulling out, but generous in the ball and toes. I never wear boots when hiking near home, but got talked into it once long ago by a friend who did the JMT. I started training for the trail wearing North Face hiking boots. They were heavy, required breaking in and made my feet hot sweaty, white, prune like, and shriveled. That sucked and equals serious blisters. The only time I wear stiff hiking boots now is in the Alps of Italy where steep stiff tufty grass is everywhere and you need rigid shoes to ‘toe in’.
- Gore-tex sucks. You don’t want it. It makes your feet sweat and is useless in the Sierra for normal summer hiking. If you have Gore-tex shoes, your feet sweat, and that sweat stays in your shoes. Moisture on your feet = prune feet (AKA maceration), blisters, and peeling skin. Here’s what foot ‘maceration’ looks like. Besides, if you get your feet wet, the Gore-tex will take forever to dry. With my Treksta shoes I can actually feel the wind blowing through and in dry Sierra conditions, you can walk through a stream and be dry an hour later. Forget about that with Gore-tex.
- Make sure you take good care of your feet. A stupid thing like a blister can really make life a pain in the ass, and bigger foot issues can put you out of commission. The book “Fixing Your Feet” was helpful if a little over-detailed for most hikes. Geared towards even the most extreme ultra runners, there was a ton of useful info in here. Wear shoes that are comfortable to you and don’t give you blisters in your normal life.
- I started wearing Injinji toe socks under a second pair of Darn Tough hiking socks and used various techniques to keep skin smooth, dry and trouble-free. I haven’t had a single blister or hot spot on my feet in many years – including on 20+mile days.
- If you do get a hot spot or feel discomfort, the mantra is “stop, drop, and fix it.” Immediately! Don’t wait as it will cause problems that you won’t be able to remedy later.
- Before you hike, make sure your socks are free of dirt, rocks, pine needles or anything else. Knock your shoes out, and remove the inserts to make sure there’s nothing in there.
- I don’t use special inserts. I don’t need them and I don’t think most people do either. If you don’t walk in them normally, don’t put special ones in your shoes for hiking. Your feet need to bend, twist, grip etc.
- Shoe fit. This is really individual. You’ll want to try a whole bunch of different shoes until you find one that works great for you. However, you should never have to ‘break’ your shoes in to hike. That’s for heavy-duty mountaineering with rigid boots that take crampons. You should be able to pretty much wear your shoes right out of the box – even though it’s wise to field test everything before you go. If it doesn’t feel good when you first try them on, they sure as hell won’t feel good after 8 or more hours of hiking. What you really need to make sure is that you can wiggle your toes in the shoes, and that when you step uphill your heels don’t lift out of the shoes. If you’re an avid trail runner/hiker already, just wear what you use normally. If you jog in your New Balance, wear those. There are people in the Sierra hiking in sandals, toe shoes, flip flops – some people even go barefoot which is far beyond my comfort level.
- Size your shoes up 1 full size. Most people wear smaller shoes for everyday use compared to hiking all day, when your feet swell. On the way downhill, you need the extra room in the toes.
- Learn some lacing techniques that will leave your feet comfortable. You might for example cross over below your instep so that your foot doesn’t slide forward when you’re going down hill. “Fixing Your Feet” has a good section on lacing.
- Some people like running gaiters which enclose the top of your shoe and go over your ankles so that dirt, pebbles, and grit don’t get into your shoes or socks. I personally don’t wear them and haven’t needed them, but others swear by them. A few years ago, I hiked up Mt. Ngaurahoe in New Zealand. This is the volcanic cone covered in cinder and scoria that doubled as Mt. Doom in Lord of the Rings. Gaiters would have been a godsend here but not of much use to me in the Sierra. You can choose standard gaiters or a lot of people love dirty girl gaiters which seem to be standard for the ultralight folks and despite the name, are for men, too.
When I’m out overnight now, my sleep system is super simple, lightweight, and extremely comfortable. I have a Nemo 30 degree down sleeping bag that has a sleeve for an inflatable mat to slide in it. My mat is a Klymit Insulated Static V ultralight mat. I slip the mat in the bag sleeve and leave it in the stuff sack. I have a small cheap inflatable pillow that fits in the little sleeve for the pillow. I stick extra clothes under the pillow because I like a tall pillow. I toss and turn a lot, but I actually sleep great with this system. It’s easy, I don’t have to rollup the mat, and it’s one single piece in a single stuff sack. Simple, light, easy and effective.
I usually don’t bring one. I put a tyvek sheet down on the ground and put my mat and sleeping bag on top. I pick a good campsite usually that isn’t in a sinkhole where it’s cold and damp. I usually find rocks or trees for some wind and condensation cover and that’s it. Works great and gives you a majestic view of the night sky. If I’m in a spot likely to have mosquitoes I usually just bring a head net. Cheap, super lightweight and effective. I have only encountered insane mosquitoes once. I lived. In a pinch I can use my ground cloth and poncho as a tarp to cover me. I recently purchased a Gatewood Cape rain poncho which doubles as a pretty large, effective, and simple lightweight tarp. It can be constructed with a few spikes and your trekking pole. I used it at Nydiver Lakes during a light rain storm and it kept me dry.
FOOD AND COOKING
- I don’t bring tons of extra food. Even though I can eat like a Viking, I personally don’t have much of an appetite when hiking. Not sure if it’s altitude, exhaustion, or just not caring.
- I’m carrying 20 or more lbs over my peak athlete weight. I don’t have to worry about starving to death.
- Food choice is personal. I rarely eat junk food, but trail eating is a little different. I usually skip breakfast or have a coffee cube – I just don’t feel like cooking in the morning. Lunch, I just munch on some jerky or sausage stick or salami. Dinner is a dehydrated meal – Mountain House or Backpacker’s Pantry. You just add boiling water and eat out of the pouch with a long spoon and that’s it. I bring some Fritos because the fat and salt works well. Beyond that, I just don’t care. (And in non hiking life, I’m a person who cares about food quality)
- I don’t feel like alcohol at all out there. Some people do.
- Cooking. I use a Snowpeak Gigapower tiny stove with an auto-igniter. You don’t need the auto-igniter but it’s easier. The stove weighs 4 ounces. It’s a cool little foldable thing that screws onto a fuel canister.
- Cooking Pot. I just use a Snowpeak Titanium Mini Solo Cookset. It just has a pot, cup, and lid. My fuel and stove fit in the pot and pack up real tight in the mesh sack that came with it.
- Fuel. I use a Snowpeak small fuel canister. Any brand is fine. They are interchangeable.
- Long Handle Spoon. I use a spoon with a long handle. When you make pouch meals, you need the long handle to get to the bottom without sticking your whole hand into the pouch and getting food all over your down hoodie sleeve. Or if you don’t want to buy one, you can always liberate one from someplace that serves ice cream sundaes.
- What about not cooking? A lot of light hikers don’t bring a stove or food that needs cooking. For example, they might bring tortillas, bagged tuna, jerky, nuts, bagged humus and stuff like that. I like a warm meal at dinner. I could definitely do without it, but a nice hot meal at the end of the day is good.
- You should be able to get all the electrolytes (basically just salt) you need from your food. Salty food or snacks work fine. You don’t really need all kinds of special stuff.
- Bear Canister. At night, you will put all your food and stuff that has a smell (like your toiletries) into your bear canister and stow it about 50 feet from your camp. That way you don’t have smelly stuff in your tent where a bear will rummage for it – through you if necessary. When you do stow your canister try to wedge it between rocks and maybe keep it away from a river or lake or cliff. That way if a bear tries to open it, you won’t lose it forever. I usually am above 10,000 feet. Bear precautions mostly apply to lower elevations but you are required to use a bear canister in most of the Sierra. Recently I bought a smaller about 1/2 size bear canister which is much easier to carry around. It works great for 2 or 3 night outings. You’ll want a bigger one for longer treks.
STUFF YOU WEAR
Don’t bring a ton of clothes. You can rinse and dry as you walk. Here are my choices although obviously it’s all really personal. This is just to give you an idea of what you will need. Personally, I think of it as 1) whatever you’re wearing, 2) a set to change into, and 3)some extra clothes for warmth like a down hoody and wool long underwear for camp/sleeping.
- Shoes. Treksta Evolution II. NON-Goretex.
- Socks. Injinji toes socks under Darn Tough brand hiking socks. They are great! Very densely knit and excellent quality and Made in USA) I bring 2 pairs of the outer socks and 3 of the inner socks because they are light and fresh socks are wonderful.
- Shorts. I wear some knock off Italian Nordsen hiking shorts and used to have the same two Columbia pairs in pretty much every hiking photo I’ve ever taken in the last 20 years. I like them to be a little stretchy so they don’t get in the way climbing. Get something light and synthetic that will dry quickly. I don’t use a lot of pockets.
- Shirts. I like to wear Columbia long sleeve hiking shirts – like the shorts – I’ve worn the same shirt for the lasts 10 years. They dry fast and have pockets. Any brand or non brand is fine. I usually have 2.
- Underwear. I started wearing REI athletic boxer briefs. They’re good, can be washed and dried quickly, and help with chafing. I bring 2 pair.
- Hat. It’s sunny up there. I use a generic long billed baseball hat. It has mesh sides. I got it at a liquor store near Palm Springs for 4 dollars. It works great. A lot of people use a trucker style foam and mesh hat with bandana draped in it for your neck. That works fine too.
- Thermal underwear. No matter how hot at 3500 feet in Bishop, definitely bring some thermal bottoms and top to sleep in. It gets 30 ish at night at 10,000 feet, even in summer. I like medium weight merino wool. Worth the extra expense. Learn a little bit about where to camp, (not in a sinkhole, near water) so that you’re not camping in a super cold spot. Your need for extra gear will dramatically decrease.
- Down Hoody. I found a great Sierra Designs Gnar Hoody at the REI clearance rack for $75. It works great and keeps me warm at night. It is light and packs small.
- Beanie. Any beanie will do. I had a great one from NorthFace with fleece lining. Warm, soft, and dense knit. (Although the new version isn’t anywhere near as good. Not dense and feels like viscose) Hats are important. They say if you want to keep your feet warm, wear a hat.
- Long Pants. Don’t need em during the day if you run hot like me. Thermals are fine for night.
- Poncho. Ponchos are good because you can thrown them on over you and your pack. And because they’re open and breezy, you won’t get all sweaty. I don’t care how good your rain gear is, if you’re like me, you WILL sweat a lot in rain gear. Plus, it doesn’t go over your pack. I got a cheap driducks emergency poncho. It was like $5 and not cheap vinyl, but super light, practically disposable and probably fine for the Sierra in summer. I figure, it it rains one day, I’ll get wet, but I’ll dry out. Now I have a 6 Moons Designs, Gatewood Poncho made of silnylon (tent material) which doubles as a pretty roomy and sturdy tarp you can pitch with your trekking pole.
- Mosquito Headnet. Weighs almost nothing and saves a lot of pain and suffering if you encounter a lot of mosquitoes which you can do in some areas like Big Pine Creek. Get one for $5. You don’t need a $30 one.
- Bandana. The good old fashioned bandana. Classic. So many uses. So light. So cheap. So quick to dry. Mop sweat, strain water, wipe hands, cool neck, filter dusty air. etc.
- Heavy Duty Trashbag. In your backpack, you’ll want to put all your clothes and sleeping bag in a heavy duty trash compactor garbage bag. If your pack gets wet, your down sleeping bag, clothes, and down hoody won’t get wet. Down is pretty useless when wet. Keep it dry. You don’t need the expensive rain cover for your backpack especially if you have the trashbag and a poncho that fits over your pack.
- Flip Flops. Don’t need them. You can wear your shoes in camp.
- Water is very heavy. About 2 lbs per liter. That’s a lot! Know where your next water source is and only carry enough water to get you there. There is a lot of water in the heart of the Sierra. But be aware, I’ve been up there in the worst drought years where permanent streams in blue on maps were totally dry. California’s drought is very deep and very real. But generally speaking in the scenic areas, like Evolution Basin, Dusy, Darwin, Minarets, etc. there is a TON of water.
- I used to use a 3 liter Platypus pouch with zip closure and drink tube – like a CamelBack. Now I am experimenting with just using bottles and screwing my mini filter on top.
- Water filtration/treatment is necessary in many spots. Whatever you choose should be light, simple, and quick. Don’t bring a big pump filter which you don’t need. By far the best solution for me is a small Sawyer mini filter. Mine is about the size of a roll of quarters, weighs next to nothing and can be backflushed back home with included plastic syringe and reused. I cut my Platypus drink tube, spliced the filter in, and never have to treat water in the container at all. Just fill your water pouch from a stream and drink from your tube. On a recent hike of the Tongariro Crossing in New Zealand, I found a patch of snow, dumped it into the bladder and off I went. If water is mossy or filled with debris, just rough filter with a bandana. Up high, I drink water directly from streams a lot in the Sierra. I’m talking fairly remote valleys where water sources are peak melt, springs, or similar streams that are just starting.
- For water bottles, don’t bring Nalgene or steel canteen type stuff. Just bring something like old Gatorade or SmartWater bottles. The big mouth is good and they’re light and more or less free. Collapsible bottles are fine too.
- Stay hydrated. Drink enough water so your pee is reasonably clear and drink it before you desperately need it. This helps with altitude symptoms. You don’t need to get crazy with over the top water consumption which can be counterproductive. Drink regularly when you feel thirsty.
- Backpack. I used to use a ULA Catalyst which I like and have used successfully a fair bit. It weighs 48 ounces has 43 liters internal volume and is plenty big for my paired down gear. Remember that if you’re hiking in the Sierra over night you will need to carry a bear canister so your pack needs to be able to comfortably accommodate one. (One cool note. The ULA stuff is all made in the USA and has GREAT customer service. After my first several day hike with it, I noticed it was squeaking a lot. I sent an email to them to see if there was something I could do. I got an email back from Chris McMaster the President who helped me trouble shoot at 10 pm on a Sunday. Basically all I had to do was put some talcum powder on the foam insert and problem solved.) Another note, a light pack that doesn’t fit well or distribute weight adequately is worse than a slightly heavier pack that carries well. Fit is personal. I think the ULAs work well. Ospreys carry very well and fit me well. Not sure about other brands. You don’t need a huge 70 liter backpack…it just encourages you to bring more junk. I now have a smaller ULA pack with S shaped straps to accommodate my shoulders and broad chest.
- Tent/Tarp. These days I rarely use a tent in summer or shoulder season if the weather is due to be good. I have used an MSR Hubba 1 person which was pretty light at 52 ounces with the footprint. I really like Tarptents from Harry Shires . I have the Sublite which is made out of a kind of Tyvek. It weighs only 19 ounces. This is a big weight savings and seems perfectly good for the Sierra in Summer/Fall. The popular wisdom is that ‘it never rains in the Sierra at night in August’ The nice thing about the Tarptent is that you use your trekking poles as the support poles. Cool solution = less weight, less volume. I will probably consider bringing a tarp that I can use as a cover in future. The Gatewood Poncho tarp works great..
- Sleeping Bag/Quilt. I use a Nemo moonwalk 30 degree bag that has a sleeve for your mat. That way you don’t slide around and if you’re not using a tent, your mat is protected.
- Mat. I used a Klymit Static V inflatable. It’s ultralight. Your choices are roughly a non inflatable foam mat which is not comfortable for a side sleeper like me, or an inflatable. These suckers are expensive, but you gotta sleep as well as you can, even though you probably won’t sleep great. Some people use half mats, just for their torso in order to save weight. There are also mats that fit into a pouch in your bag saving on underside insulation on your bag.
- Trekking Poles. I have used REI brand carbon collapsible ones. They don’t have shocks and just snap shut. I love them and they’re very simple. They are actually made by Komperdell, I believe. Generic is cheaper. For a recent hike I used Fizan screw tight poles and they were just pretty good. They didn’t stand up well over time. And I don’t like the twist closures. I like the snap shut ones. Some people think poles are dorky or for old people. They might look dorky, but pretty much all the elite long distance people use them. It would be dumb not to since they are tremendously more efficient, energy saving, and reduce wear on joints and muscles. Plus my trekking poles double as my tent poles if I’m using a tarp tent. Now I use Black Diamond carbon alpine ones. They’re great – anatomical (have a left and right) and have cork handles which are nice if you sweat a lot.
- Bear Canister. Required in the Sierra. Choices are basically the heavy old Garcia which is about $70 and 44 ounces, the Bearvault canister which is about $80 and 41 ounces, and the Bearikade which is made of carbon fiber is about $250 and weighs 31 ounces. Other solutions like an Ursack seem cool and smart, but they often aren’t approved on the trail. I got the Garcia cause it was cheap and I could sit on it. I also heard that the Bearvault was a pain in the butt to unscrew. I saw my friend Dennis struggle with it at times. The Garcia requires a coin or metal piece to open so I just taped a coin on the lid so I wouldn’t have to root around for something every time I wanted to get into it. After the trip, I wanted to swap out the Garcia, but upon research I don’t think the money/weight trade off is necessary. You can also rent these from the companies which saves a lot if you don’t think you’ll be using them again or want to try them out. Now I have a 1/2 sized bear canister which is great for a couple days out. It makes your pack much less bulky and annoying.
- Duct Tape. Roll about 10 feet of duct tape onto your trekking poles. You’ll never know if you need it and that way you don’t have to bring a whole roll.
- Knife/Multi Tool. A small pocket knife is fine. You don’t need a heavy Leatherman or multi-tool thing.
- Headlamp. You need a headlamp! For setting up camp if you get in late. For traipsing around at night, and most importantly for heading up the summit at 3am so you can catch sunrise from a summit. I’m not expert on headlamps. I got a mid range Black Diamond. It was fine. Make sure it doesn’t get too beat up and bring an extra battery.
- Emergency Blanket. Cheap. Weighs next to nothing. Handy in an emergency or just to keep extra warm if you need it.
- Lighter. Part of the 10 essentials and needed to light your stove is you don’t have an auto-igniter and if you do, when it fails.
- Ziplock Bags. Pack out everything you bring in. That includes used toilet paper. Bring a bunch of gallon size easy zipper bags. You’ll want one with the really dirty stuff that’s kinda separate. Also remember that this will have to go in your bear canister with your food, so you might want to double bag your used toilet paper. I put the toilet stuff into the used dinner pouches and then put those into a zip lock.
- Maps. Tom Harrison maps. They’re great. Waterproof. Tear proof. Good scale. All you need for most near trail routes. For more detail, I print and laminate Caltopo maps. They’re great! Caltopo.com.
- Batteries. Extra cell and camera batteries as needed.
- You don’t need a trowel. For digging your cat hole ‘bathroom’. You don’t need it. Use a stick or your trekking pole. (and dig the hole BEFORE you need it)
- Be a tortoise, not a hare. Walk at a pace you can keep up without having to stop all the time. Then just keep on trucking. Skurka says the key to going long distances is walking more hours, not a faster rate. Plus it’s more enjoyable. Walking up hill? Take small slow steps. I rarely stop during entire days of walking. I won’t even sit down except maybe once at lunch. Just keep walking if you’re trying to get somewhere.
- If you’re through hiking with lots of miles per day, you probably won’t care that much about spending a lot of time in camp. You’ll just want to get your pack off, maybe soak your feet, clean up, eat something and sleep. It’s good to get in before dark, but other than that go ahead and walk all day. I don’t really care about the camping part. It’s just a way to sleep so you can keep exploring. Anywhere above 10,000 feet, you can’t have a campfire, so it’s not like you’re sitting around roasting marshmallows over a crackling fire. The scenery and terrain you’ll cover is so amazing everything you do should be towards maximizing that. Star gazing is great, but you don’t need daylight for that!
- When you do rest, put your feet up. It reduces swelling in your feet and legs and removes lactic acid. I like to lie on clean granite and put my feet high. In 5 minutes, you’ll feel refreshed and ready for more. After 5 minutes you get diminishing returns. You might also try sleeping with your feet higher than your head.
- Studies suggest that ibuprofen may help with altitude issues. It might just mask headache, but it may be useful for you.
- Practice leave no trace. Aside from the absolute necessity of packing out everything you pack in, I even washed all my clothes in water with no detergent so that rinsing it in lakes wouldn’t leave chemicals behind.
- A lot of people are surprised that I don’t really don’t like camping much. I don’t like hanging around a camp, cooking, or drinking beer. I’m not a ‘cooler guy’. I just want to rest so I can do what I really like…exploring and moving through the landscape. One consideration you should think about is how you feel about camping. For me, I could walk all day, clean up, eat something and just crash out. Hanging out in camp is not why I go. I bring gear just because I want to be remote and don’t want to be limited to a day’s walk from a motel room. I like looking at stars after I wake up around 1 a.m. and before getting back to sleep. So I don’t bring any campground comfort stuff like a seat or mat, specialized culinary stuff, towel, flip flops, games etc. You may feel differently, but if you’re walking far, you’re probably more focused on moving every day. By all means, if you’re into stationary camping, pack for that and enjoy the hell out of it. But if you’re looking to do remote treks, you’ll want to pare camp stuff down to basically nothing.
I keep this very limited and very light. I don’t actually use much stuff. You may need more.
- Toothbrush. Light. The standard thing for light hikers is to cut off the handle to lose the extra weight. I didn’t do that, but I did have a cheap light toothbrush I got on a flight.
- Toothpaste. Bring a small travel size or just dry your own toothpaste drops in the oven.
- Floss. Good for your teeth when you’re eating a lot of salami and jerky and good for tons of extra uses. I once caught a trout in Paradise Valley with dental floss and a paper clip hook.
- Wipes. For hands and nether regions. I didn’t bring toilet paper. I Just use wipes. Pack it out. I would recommend non scented ones because if scented ones leak – they do it will spoil all your food.
- Sunblock. It gets sunny up there. Depending on how long you go, you might bring one or two small travel-size tubes.
- Lip Balm. Sometimes, I haven’t used mine early enough and have had blistered lips at the end. Dumb.
- Hand sanitizer. Necessary for moving from bathroom and water sanitizing to cooking and eating.
- Moleskin. Just in case for blisters or to use as bandages. I carry it, but have never used it. Lent it to a friend once.
- Other stuff may include super glue for sealing wounds, some gauze, antibiotic cream, anti-itch cream etc.
You’ll have to put your toiletries into your bear canister along with food. Make sure that if the toiletries have a strong smell or flavor that they be well isolated because it can mix with your food and that really sucks. I had some scented hand wipes which leaked into everything early in a trip. For 5 days I ate food scented like hand wipes. It was revolting, but what can you do – you have to eat the food you brought. Do you really want to eat hand wipe-flavored cheese?
- You won’t have cell service except in a few spots like at the top of Bishop pass.
- REI is good for trying stuff out and they are cool, but there are tons of cottage makers of great gear all over the US. The best stuff is from the small passionate outfits.
- Field test everything you are using or bringing before you go. You’ll find that some surprising things will need adjustment or modification and some things will not work out at all. Much better to find it out at home.
- Expensive is not always really better. For example, if you use a windscreen around your stove flame, you can easily make one out of aluminium foil rather than buying one. It’s cheaper and lighter. Trash bags, ponchos, jogging shoes, tyvek etc. It’s all good. Key pieces like a backpack and sleeping bag need to be reliable and good quality, but with lots of other stuff, you don’t need to spend a ton of money.
- The best training for backpacking is backpacking. Fully load your pack and get it out on the trail – as much as you can before you go.
CURRENT GEAR LIST
Here is a sample gear list of what I would bring for a several night walk now. Small changes with food or minor clothing items occur, but this is pretty typical.
- SHOES – TREKSTA EVOLUTION II – sized up.
- SOCKS – Inner socks Injinji Toe Socks 2x. Outer Socks – Darn Tough wool over 3x (one pair clean for sleeping)
- UNDERWEAR – REI athletic boxer briefs 2x
- SHORTS – Brugi and Nordsen outdoor trekking shorts. Most popular brands work. 2x
- SHIRTS – Columbia Hiking shirts 2x
- WARM JACKET – Down Hoodie
- PONCHO/TARP – Large Waterproof Poncho to Fit Over Back Pack/Doubles a tarp
- SUN HAT – Long Bill Baseball Cap
- WARM HAT – wool NorthFace Beanie
- MERINO WOOL LONG JOHNS – Tall size so that they tuck in for warmth.
- MOSQUITO HEAD NET
- TRASH BAG – Heavy duty to keep clothes/bag dry
- STUFF SACK for extra clothes (to be kept in dry bag with sleeping bag and down hoodie)
- BAG – Nemo Moonwalk with stuff sack
- PAD – Klymit Static V with repair patch
- GROUND CLOTH – Tyvek Sheet 6 x 8 (will probably swap this out)
- INFLATABLE PILLOW – Generic
- STOVE – Snowpeak Giga with autoigniter
- COOKSET – Snowpeak Titanium Cup, Pot, Lid
- SPOON – Sea to Summit Longhandle
- FUEL – Cannister – Generic
- Piece of Fabric as potholder
- Lighter/Emergency Fire Starter
- Mountain House or Backpacker Pantry Dehydrated Meals
- Oberto Smoked Sausages
- Coffee Cubes
- Sour Lemon Hard Candy (for dry dusty throat)
- Bear Canister (Garcia classic)
- ULA Catalyst
- Platypus 3 Liter Drink Pouch with Tube
- Sawyer Mini Filter Spliced into Pack
- Water Bottle (gatorade, smart water or collapsible)
- Wipes for Toilet/General Cleanliness
- Hand Sanitizer
- Acid Reducer
- Small Toothbrush
- Small Toothpaste
- Superglue (for lacerations)
- Lip Balm
- Alcohol wipes
- Antibiotic Cream
- Emergency Blanket
- Black Diamond Alpine Cork Handle
- Duct tape on poles
- Map – Tom Harrison
- Headlamp and AAA Batteries
- Pocket Knife
- Pencil and Paper
- Cell Phone
- Tenkara Fishing Pole
- Permits (Backcountry and Fishing)
- Zip lock bags for trash
All in with some water this should weigh around 24 pounds. That’s a big, big difference from 35 – 50 lbs a regular old school backpacker would bring.
I always leave a trip plan with someone that details where I’m entering, where I’m planning to go, when I plan to come out, where I’ll be sleeping, what gear I’m carrying so that I can be identified. Here’s a good detailed one: http://reconn.org/form.html
As an example, I usually email my wife the plan and then tell her something like I plan to be out at 2 pm on Sunday but could be 8pm (sunset) and don’t notify anyone unless you don’t hear from me by midnight.
DROP ME A NOTE
If you have any questions about hiking feel free to comment. I’m not the most knowledgeable guy on Earth, but I’m happy to share what I know or can at least suggest some other resources or people who might know better.
The website of Giampiero Ambrosi