Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Preparing for the High Sierra Trail

Beginning this week and following weeks to come, I will be sharing my plans on how I will be preparing for the High Sierra Trail from Crescent Meadows to Mt. Whitney (70+ miles).  I will be covering topics on what I plan on bringing, ranging from my shelter and sleep systems, food, clothing, and ditty items.

Stay tuned!


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My First Backpacking Trip...ever

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A little over a year ago, I started gaining interest in backpacking. I began talking to friends to see if anyone of them have backpacked before and discussed local trails, etc. A few weeks later, I was planning my first trip with my friend Paul whom I have met through a buddy of mine. He suggested that we do the Bear Creek Trail.  From the map below, do you see the blue path? Yep, that's the trail...a whopping 11 to 13 miles of multiple water crossings, rock hopping, pain, and self sanity assessments.

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I know you're thinking, "psshhh...13 miles? That's nothin'".  Well, this was my first EVER backpacking trip and I'm not as fit anymore.  Not to mention, I had a 50 lb pack to begin with because I didn't know any better and decided to bring everything without thinking each item through.  This is me just a few miles in from the start of the trail, notice the nice cotton outfit...and the shoes!?!?

First lesson I learned quick was to PACK LIGHTER!  Thus beginning my research to me more lightweight, maybe even ultralight.  First items on the list I know I had to lighten we're my BIG 3 items:

  • Backpack
  • Tent/Shelter
  • Sleeping bag

When I first started, I was lucky to find a great deal on CL for a fairly light modern pack.  It was a 2008 Marmot Flex 50 liter pack that weighed 3 lb. 8 oz., not bad really if you think about.  The pack itself was very comfortable despite the heavy weight. It had really good padding throughout and offered very good suspension support in my opinion.  Can I go lighter? Definitely, there are many options to go lighter.  Frameless packs made from lightweight and durable fabrics can be purchased or even made if handy with a sewing machine.

My current tent was a Target purchased 3 person tent that weighed in at around 5 or 6 lbs...heavy!  The tent is actually great (when car camping) and I have had it for a while but I will be switching to a single wall silnylon tent and cut the weight down to 2 to 3 lbs.  I can also go lighter with just a bivy and tarp setup but I haven't grasped that idea just yet.

Sleeping Bag:
When I started, I had a car camping 5 lb synthetic mummy that didn't compress small and was just a pain to carry. Plan is to get either a down bag or a lighter synthetic fill bag that's more compressible.

Based on just my BIG 3 items, I was already at 15 lbs. This did not even include the extra clothes, first aid, cook kit, and other essentials like food and water. Adding all of the items I was already carrying close to 50 lbs...easily. Too heavy even for just a simple overnight backpacking trip, changes definitely needed to be done.

More to come....updates, new gear, and other items!


Friday, February 10, 2012

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So the time has come that I lighten up my load when backpacking.  I've researched all sorts of UL sleep systems from Hammocks, Tarps, Single Wall Tents, to Bivy's and quite honestly, the choices are many.  I have, however, narrowed down my selection and decided that I will be sticking to tents.  As budget minded as I am, I cannot afford the latest and greatest Cuben tarps or tents.  Here are the choices that I have that I will most likely purchase in the next few weeks.

Sixmoondesigns Lunar Skyscape Scout - 1 Person tent ($125)

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This Scout is the Polyester model and weighs in at 34oz. (2lbs 2oz.) per manufacturer specifications.  I could go with the next model up the 'Trekker' and save 10oz. but at $125, the Scout is light enough for me and the cost to weight ratio is, in my opinion, really good.  The Skyscape is designed to utilize your trekking poles to setup the tent and it comes with an integrated net tent inside making setup a breeze.

Sixmoondesigns Lunar Duo Outfitter - 2 Person Tent ($160)

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Why two tents?  I foresee my kids joining me on more of my adventures and a 2 person tent is required so that my little girl can sleep with Daddy.  My son, will use the solo tent and at 34oz, even he can carry that weight on his backpack - his baseweight with the Lunar Skyscape would be at around 10lbs. 

The Lunar Duo is a 2 person tent that is setup with trekking poles and weighs in at 57oz (3lbs. 9oz.).  At $160, this is the same price as a Kelty Salida II but weighs around a pound lighter!

The drawbacks of both tents would be that these are not freestanding tents, but if pitched taught, these tents could withstand pretty high winds in my opinion.

Other options I had we're the Tarptent Moment (solo) for $215 and the Tarptent Double Rainbow (2 person) for $260.  Both comparable in weight as the Sixmoondesigns counterparts but driven by cost I have decided that SMD's will be where I will be buying my tents.

Share your thoughts! Let me know what you think...I really like the Tarptents but you can't beat the price of the SMD's.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

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For those curious about adding ridges to your DIY Foster's Pot, here's one way you can add them.  Adding ridges to these pots strengthens and adds rigidity to the pot for prolonged use.


Sunday, February 5, 2012

Backpacking to Hoegee's with the Kids

This past weekend, I took my kids backpacking at Hoegee's Campgrounds over at Chantry Flats.  This was a first for both my kids and the trip did not disappoint.

Hoegee's is a perfect trail to take your kids on their first backpacking adventure as the mileage and elevation gain aren't too strenuous in my opinion.

Saturday, February 4, 2012 at ready to tackle the trail.

We decided to take the Upper Winter Creek Trail to our destination...Hoegee's Campground. This was going to be a 2.5 mile that would take us a little over 2 hours to do.  We took our time walking, taking pictures, and simply enjoying the smell and view the trail provided us.

Here are the kids at the official trailhead...

As we walk along the trail, I noticed that my sewing skills adding a sternum strap had failed.  My daughter had trouble keeping her pack straight...I later offered to carry her pack...but she refuses.  Her pack weighed in around 2lbs, she was only carrying her sleeping bag (Eureka Ladybug 30).

At this spot, you can clearly see the parking lot where we came from below...the kids enjoyed this view.

Moving along the trail, we hear the stream running next to the campground, our pace increases as the excitement grows.

1/3 of a mile to 6 year old is getting tired but still smiles.

A little more and we get there!

We pick our spot for the day.

After snacking on some treats, the kids muster up more energy and spend the day exploring the grounds.

My son decides to put into practice what he has seen watching Survivor Man...bushcrafting a lean-to shelter.

He decides, however, that the tent would be where he would spend the night in. At around 3:00PM, the temps drop down to around 45 degrees...time for some Hot Cocoa on my DIY alcohol stove.

We setup our tent and prepare our evening arrangements.

My daughter cleaning up around our site...such a wonderful helper :)

Preparing our dinner...Mushroom Rice w/ BBQ Pork Chops was in the menu for this evening.

Ready for bed.

The following morning, we pack up our bags, prepare a quick breakfast consisting of Jimmy Dean Sandwiches and Hot Cocoa...we're ready to hit the trail once again.  We decide that the easy route to the parking lot was Lower Winter Creek Trail to Robert's Camp then take the last crazy uphill to the Chantry Flats Parking Lot.

Taking this route back to our car was by far the most scenic.  We enjoyed looking at the cabins, creek crossings, and even a small cave :)

Here are some of the views you can expect when you take this trail.

A short 1.5 miles later, we reach Robert's Camp.  We decide to eat our left over sugar snacks for the last .6 mile push uphill. 

I tell the kids that I have a surprise in store for them once we reach our car.  They handled the last leg of the trail very well and I am so proud of both of them.

We made it!  My son really had a boost after his snack and decided to hike ahead and meet us at the trailhead up ahead.

"May Your Search Through Nature Lead You To Yourself"
So proud of my little girl!
What trooper!  She did around 5 miles this weekend.
"What took you so long?" My son greets us by the Day Use Area

I surprise the kids with a treat...Lunch at the Adam's Packstation...Burgers, Root Beer, and Ice Cream...who can resist?

We made it home around 12:00PM just in time to rest and watch the Super Bowl that weekend.  The kids are now planning on our next trip...where to next?