Big Bend Chat

Big Bend National Park Q&A => General Questions and Answers => Topic started by: Losthiker68 on December 18, 2018, 05:18:21 PM

Title: Pack Weight - help!
Post by: Losthiker68 on December 18, 2018, 05:18:21 PM
I just got back from a gear test - a 18 mile overnight at Pedernales. The first night was 12 miles over the less-used trails in the western and southern part of the park. I did the remaining 6 the next day, then swapped for a daypack to explore the falls.

The pack was 43lbs. I'm 6'2", 240lbs. I was carrying 5 days of food and 4 liters of water - since this was a gear test for Big Bend, I figured I should get as close to the BiBe needs as possible.

By the time I got to my campsite, 12 miles and less than 500' elevation change, I was nearly in tears. My neck, shoulders, and lats were SCREAMINGI was carrying about 17% of body weight but I barely made 1.3mph through rocky, heavily forested trails.

Am I just THAT out of shape or is this likely weight distribution and/or pack fit?

I'm planning an OML in a bit over 2 weeks but right now, I don't dare until I figure out what the problem is. Help!
Title: Re: Pack Weight - help!
Post by: RichardM on December 18, 2018, 06:01:23 PM
By the time I got to my campsite, 12 miles and less than 500' elevation change, I was nearly in tears. My neck, shoulders, and lats were SCREAMINGI was carrying about 17% of body weight but I barely made 1.3mph through rocky, heavily forested trails.

Am I just THAT out of shape or is this likely weight distribution and/or pack fit?
First step would be to get it checked for fit. The majority of the weight should be borne by the hip belt, not your shoulders. Ideally the shoulder straps just hold the pack in place, while the hips/legs do all the lifting. Once you get the fit and weight distribution worked out, you can start to work on lightening your load.
Title: Re: Pack Weight - help!
Post by: catz on December 18, 2018, 06:02:31 PM
43 pounds is way too much weight.  You should get it down to about 25.  You can start by ditching two liters of water and putting pills in your pack instead.   Keep two empties but only carry two full.  There is a lot of water available right now.  Fill all four where you spend the night.  Use two fro the camp and then carry two the next day.

Reconsider everything else--do you really need it? 

Second, 12 miles is an awful long way for one day,   Shoot for seven.
Title: Re: Pack Weight - help!
Post by: Losthiker68 on December 18, 2018, 06:29:41 PM
43 pounds is way too much weight.  You should get it down to about 25.  You can start by ditching two liters of water and putting pills in your pack instead.   Keep two empties but only carry two full.  There is a lot of water available right now.  Fill all four where you spend the night.  Use two fro the camp and then carry two the next day.

Reconsider everything else--do you really need it? 

Second, 12 miles is an awful long way for one day,   Shoot for seven.

I mentioned in a thread a few months ago that I'm relatively new to this so my pack is beginner-level:
Backpack 70l - 3.5lbs
Bivy Tent - 3.5lbs
Sleeping Pad - 2lbs
Sleeping Bag - 4lbs (people have told me this is a little heavy bit I'm stuck with it for now)
My 0.2lb inflatable pillow fried on the first trip, so I'm getting a different one, likely 0,5lbs. I have a hard time sleeping without my neck elevated so I'm willing to go a little bigger here.
I also carry ~5lbs of camera gear (camera body, 2 lenses, 2 small tripods - one traditional that gets chest height, one with bendy legs). One of the lenses is carried in a fanny pack in front. The weight is figured into the pack weight.

Based strictly on my recent experience, I think I went a little heavy on food for 5 days.

As far as distance, I figured 12 miles with under 500' elevation gain would be a good trial since most of my Big Bend days will be 9-10 miles with ~1300-2000' elevation gain (climbing the Juniper is another story).
Title: Re: Pack Weight - help!
Post by: Losthiker68 on December 18, 2018, 06:33:19 PM
Quote
First step would be to get it checked for fit. The majority of the weight should be borne by the hip belt, not your shoulders. Ideally the shoulder straps just hold the pack in place, while the hips/legs do all the lifting. Once you get the fit and weight distribution worked out, you can start to work on lightening your load.

I'm really hoping this is the answer. After reading a pack fit site (Adventure Junkies), the last line in step 6 - Adjusting the Load Lifters, seems to make your point: "Your shoulders should not be carrying any weight at this point. If you feel your backpack pull on your shoulders, your hip belt isnít tight enough.".

This really felt like my shoulders were doing all the work.
Title: Re: Pack Weight - help!
Post by: RichardM on December 18, 2018, 06:37:57 PM
Quote
First step would be to get it checked for fit. The majority of the weight should be borne by the hip belt, not your shoulders. Ideally the shoulder straps just hold the pack in place, while the hips/legs do all the lifting. Once you get the fit and weight distribution worked out, you can start to work on lightening your load.

I'm really hoping this is the answer. After reading a pack fit site (Adventure Junkies), the last line in step 6 - Adjusting the Load Lifters, seems to make your point: "Your shoulders should not be carrying any weight at this point. If you feel your backpack pull on your shoulders, your hip belt isnít tight enough.".

This really felt like my shoulders were doing all the work.
The length of the pack (i.e. torso length) can make a huge difference. Too short and the hip belt rides too high to support the weight. Too long and the shoulder straps don't keep it in place.

Think of it this way: Your legs are supporting all of the weight anyway, so why burden your spine? Put all of it on the hips and hit the trail!
Title: Re: Pack Weight - help!
Post by: Losthiker68 on December 18, 2018, 07:00:13 PM
Quote
The length of the pack (i.e. torso length) can make a huge difference. Too short and the hip belt rides too high to support the weight. Too long and the shoulder straps don't keep it in place.

Think of it this way: Your legs are supporting all of the weight anyway, so why burden your spine? Put all of it on the hips and hit the trail!

If I bought the wrong pack for my torso, is it likely I'll be able to adjust the shoulder straps to compensate?
Title: Re: Pack Weight - help!
Post by: elhombre on December 18, 2018, 08:20:27 PM
Did you have to attach stuff to the outside of the pack?  If so, you're bringing WAAAY too much stuff.  70l is a huge pack.  Everything should fit inside nice.  Also, 50 minutes walking, 10 minutes resting with the pack off.  Do this like clockwork till you get some miles under your belt.  With the rest, you should be able to do around 1.25 miles per hour all day long.  Big Bend is rocky, as you know.  Walk slower the first day when your pack is heaviest, and you will naturally speed up as you eat the pack lighter.

Point and shoot camera till you get your pack figured out.  Then after some trips with miles, you can start adding on "luxury" items.  Learn to backpack first "grasshopper".   ;)
Title: Re: Pack Weight - help!
Post by: mule ears on December 18, 2018, 09:01:59 PM
Quote
The length of the pack (i.e. torso length) can make a huge difference. Too short and the hip belt rides too high to support the weight. Too long and the shoulder straps don't keep it in place.

Think of it this way: Your legs are supporting all of the weight anyway, so why burden your spine? Put all of it on the hips and hit the trail!

If I bought the wrong pack for my torso, is it likely I'll be able to adjust the shoulder straps to compensate?

Depends on the pack but if it is really too short, which is what it sound like, there is only so much you can adjust.

As to food, no more than 2# a day and that is full days, usually I figure a 3 night trip, for instance, is 3 days food.  I am usually around 1.7# a day.
Title: Re: Pack Weight - help!
Post by: Hang10er on December 19, 2018, 09:07:33 AM
Not a lot of experience in overnight backpacking but I do have some suggestions.

Did you re-evaluate the items you carried on your warm up trip?
                      When I get done with a trip, i always seem to find things I didn't use at all, even when it's a car camping or day hike trip. I find I can wear clothes more than a day.  Guide book I
                      could have left in the car.  Binoculars I didn't use.  Etc. 
Did you eat all the food you took?
                      I am not skinny and know that I sometimes eat because I'm just bored.  When I go camping, I stay busy and consume a lot less food.  So I'm slowly realizing I don't need to pack
                     and travel with as much.  Although I'm also learning to take more calorie dense foods, lot more nuts and jerky and protein bars. 
Instead of a pillow, roll some clothing up. 

Biggest thing I think is what everyone is saying - adequately fitted backpack.  I see you found a web site saying how to size them.  If you live near an REI store, they can show you the proper way to fit one.  Then you can see if your pack is able to be properly adjusted. 
Title: Re: Pack Weight - help!
Post by: Losthiker68 on December 19, 2018, 09:44:10 AM
Did you have to attach stuff to the outside of the pack?  If so, you're bringing WAAAY too much stuff.  70l is a huge pack.  Everything should fit inside nice.  Also, 50 minutes walking, 10 minutes resting with the pack off.  Do this like clockwork till you get some miles under your belt.  With the rest, you should be able to do around 1.25 miles per hour all day long.  Big Bend is rocky, as you know.  Walk slower the first day when your pack is heaviest, and you will naturally speed up as you eat the pack lighter.

Point and shoot camera till you get your pack figured out.  Then after some trips with miles, you can start adding on "luxury" items.  Learn to backpack first "grasshopper".   ;)

You are probably right, Master, but the camera is non-negotiable. I'll cut weight somewhere else.

I do like the 50 minutes on, 10 minutes off idea. That was how I studied in college and grad school - 50 in the books, 10 away from the books.

Could I ditch the bulky and heavy sleeping back for a thick, flannel sheet if I supplemented with Hot Hands?  I was thinking about that in camp and may try a night on my porch doing exactly that and see how it feels. That should drop 3-4 pounds right there if it works. I'm 99% sure that's what I'll do for summer backpacking.
Title: Re: Pack Weight - help!
Post by: Losthiker68 on December 19, 2018, 09:55:50 AM

Did you eat all the food you took?
                      I am not skinny and know that I sometimes eat because I'm just bored.  When I go camping, I stay busy and consume a lot less food.  So I'm slowly realizing I don't need to pack
                     and travel with as much.  Although I'm also learning to take more calorie dense foods, lot more nuts and jerky and protein bars. 
Instead of a pillow, roll some clothing up. 

I was wearing most of my clothing to stave off the cold - 2 shirts, a hoodie, hiking pants, long-leg base layer, and 2 pairs of socks. I only had one extra pair of socks, one extra pair of undies, one extra shirt, and a small towel. My inflatable pillow was a piece of crap and didn't hold air more than 5 minutes.

I took 5 days of food for an overnight trip because this was a gear check for Big Bend. I didn't eat much. I had a light breakfast on the drive to Pedernales (a few cheese sticks, a mug of tea, and some rice cakes). I didn't stop for lunch on the trail. I ate very little in the way of snacks in 12 miles (~10 hours), only a handful of jerky and the same amount of sweets. My shoulders were hurting so bad I didn't want to prolong the hell by stopping.
Title: Re: Pack Weight - help!
Post by: House Made of Dawn on December 19, 2018, 10:47:22 AM
Did you have to attach stuff to the outside of the pack?  If so, you're bringing WAAAY too much stuff.  70l is a huge pack.  Everything should fit inside nice.  Also, 50 minutes walking, 10 minutes resting with the pack off.  Do this like clockwork till you get some miles under your belt.  With the rest, you should be able to do around 1.25 miles per hour all day long.  Big Bend is rocky, as you know.  Walk slower the first day when your pack is heaviest, and you will naturally speed up as you eat the pack lighter.

Point and shoot camera till you get your pack figured out.  Then after some trips with miles, you can start adding on "luxury" items.  Learn to backpack first "grasshopper".   ;)

You are probably right, Master, but the camera is non-negotiable. I'll cut weight somewhere else.

I do like the 50 minutes on, 10 minutes off idea. That was how I studied in college and grad school - 50 in the books, 10 away from the books.

Could I ditch the bulky and heavy sleeping back for a thick, flannel sheet if I supplemented with Hot Hands?  I was thinking about that in camp and may try a night on my porch doing exactly that and see how it feels. That should drop 3-4 pounds right there if it works. I'm 99% sure that's what I'll do for summer backpacking.

Personally, I agree with Elhombre, I'd leave the heavy camera equipment home until I knew what I was doing, especially given that the camera equipment might be the straw that breaks the camel's back (or trip, so to speak). But it's your trip. You decide what to bring. If the photos are more important than the completed hike, then so be it. But bear in mind that that may, in fact, be the trade-off.

But first and foremost, before anything else, get the fit of your pack checked by someone who knows how to do it. If your pack can't be fitted properly to your body, nothing else really matters. You will suffer mightily no matter what else you do or bring, and there's a good chance you won't be able to finish the hike, or if you do, you'll wish you hadn't.  If the pack simply doesn't match your body, you might have to bite the bullet and get a new one that does. Stinks...but there it is.

That said, here's my two cents about how to streamline your pack contents and weight.

First, keep you sleeping bag. Temps in the field can drop 30 degrees in a day. Last December I left the trailhead expecting fair weather and ran into an unexpected snowstorm and temps in the teens. You don't want to be caught without the means to keep warm. That can kill you. It HAS killed people in the areas you'll be hiking through. As for a pillow, use your pack. And/or any clothing layers you're not wearing. (In winter, I sleep in all my layers except rainwear, in order to carry a lighter sleeping bag, but that's not an option for you on this trip).  Stick with your groundpad systerm: good sleep makes for good hiking.

Second, forget the Hot Hands. They'll work on feet and hands, but they don't work well enough to keep your body warm. Instead, bring enough fuel to boil extra water in the evening. Pour the hot water into your water bottle (nalgenes work well for this), make sure the bottle's sealed well, and stuff one or more of them into your sleeping bag when you go to sleep. They'll stay warm for a few hours. When you wake up cold, either repeat the process, or take the now-cool nalgenes out of your bag so they don't become heat-sinks. You can drink the water later, so no extra weight penalty for the water, only for the fuel. 

Thirdly, only carry enough water to get you from source to source. In this incredibly wet year, there should be plenty of water in Boot Canyon, in Upper Juniper Spring, even at Dodson Spring, at nearby Adler Spring, at Fresno Creek and its lower drainage, and you can always cache at Juniper junction and Homer Wilson ranch. The less water you carry, the lighter your pack will be. And if you can camp near water sources, you won't have to hump all that water for breakfast and dinner meals down the trail. The lightest way to treat water in the backcountry is disinfecting pills (there are a few different kinds but all work well) and a bandanna for straining out chunkies from natural water sources as you transfer it into your containers.

Fourthly, cut your food down to the bare minimum. Hunger won't kill you on a short trip, and as Hang10er points out, being busy and focused on your surroundings will keep you from feeling as hungry as you might at home. Eat high carb foods during the day (GORP, energy bars heavy in grains and sugars, GU gel, etc. ) for quick energy, and foods high in protein and fat at night for recovery and warmth. Shoot for Mule Ears' target of no more than 1.7lbs of food each full day of hiking, proportionally less for partial days.  Your final day can be even less because you'll finish up in civilization (or at least at your vehicle) with access to more food.

Fifthly, only bring a single set of base layer clothing. One pair of socks (okay, maybe two if you don't trust your boots to keep you dry and blister free), one pair of underwear, one t-shirt, one long-sleeve-shirt, one pair of pants. On the other hand, DO bring extra layers for protection against cold and rain. Good headwear is worth its weight in gold. Keeping your head dry and warm is the single best thing you can do to survive inclement weather. I use a wide-brimmed booney hat and a microfiber balaclava: they get me through just about anything. Use you rainwear as your last layer against cold: layering it over your warming layers (e.g., fleece or synthetic puffy, or down) can up the insulation value of the warming layers and cut the wind, both of which will greatly increase your feeling of warmth.

Sixthly, beyond the basics of clothing (inc. footwear), pack, shelter, water, and food (inc. cookset), everything else is negotiable and should be cut to the absolute minimum. For you, camera equipment is non-negotiable, fair enough. Navigation tools should be, too. You'll need to take whatever maps, compasses, GPS, light, etc., that you feel you need to stay on-trail and not get lost. But everything else, like hygiene supplies, first-aid supplies, and anything else, can be trimmed to almost nothing. A toilet trowel, some toilet paper, a large ziploc for trash, a toothbrush (forget the paste for a couple days), a set of tweezers, enough disinfectant and antibiotic cream for a few applications, a few bandaids, some OTC painkillers (Advil, etc.), a little duct tape and maybe a needle with thread, and you should be good to go.

Three things tend to wreck people's OML attempts:

1. Pack weight fatigue
2. Navigation errors
3. Panic and/or despair

You can control all three.
Title: Re: Pack Weight - help!
Post by: wrangler88 on December 19, 2018, 01:25:58 PM
I know you said you didnt stop much for food while hiking. That is something I used to do and still struggle with from time to time. But I have found I tend to feel way better and have a lot more energy if I stop and eat, even if I'm not hungry. The calories help a lot. Plus you aren't carrying that weight on your back anymore.
Title: Re: Pack Weight - help!
Post by: House Made of Dawn on December 19, 2018, 03:30:37 PM
I once told my wife that nothing makes me happier on a hike than a good toilet break, because youíre never REALLY free of that weight until....


Sent from my iPhone using Big Bend Chat (http://r.tapatalk.com/byo?rid=88143)
Title: Re: Pack Weight - help!
Post by: Losthiker68 on December 19, 2018, 03:53:45 PM
First, keep you sleeping bag. Temps in the field can drop 30 degrees in a day. Last December I left the trailhead expecting fair weather and ran into an unexpected snowstorm and temps in the teens. You don't want to be caught without the means to keep warm. That can kill you. It HAS killed people in the areas you'll be hiking through. As for a pillow, use your pack. And/or any clothing layers you're not wearing. (In winter, I sleep in all my layers except rainwear, in order to carry a lighter sleeping bag, but that's not an option for you on this trip).  Stick with your groundpad systerm: good sleep makes for good hiking.


On my test hike, my pad (EcoTek Hybern 8 ) seemed okay when sleeping on my back but my shoulder ached while side-sleeping. I'm naturally a side-sleeper so not sure how to rectify that aside from trying to force myself to be a back-sleeper.


Second, forget the Hot Hands. They'll work on feet and hands, but they don't work well enough to keep your body warm. Instead, bring enough fuel to boil extra water in the evening. Pour the hot water into your water bottle (nalgenes work well for this), make sure the bottle's sealed well, and stuff one or more of them into your sleeping bag when you go to sleep. They'll stay warm for a few hours. When you wake up cold, either repeat the process, or take the now-cool nalgenes out of your bag so they don't become heat-sinks. You can drink the water later, so no extra weight penalty for the water, only for the fuel. 

Do you think a Platypus would handle the hot water? The other night at Pedernales (low as mid-30s), I was plenty warm once I put a Hot Hands against my upper body.

Thirdly, only carry enough water to get you from source to source. In this incredibly wet year, there should be plenty of water in Boot Canyon, in Upper Juniper Spring, even at Dodson Spring, at nearby Adler Spring, at Fresno Creek and its lower drainage, and you can always cache at Juniper junction and Homer Wilson ranch. The less water you carry, the lighter your pack will be. And if you can camp near water sources, you won't have to hump all that water for breakfast and dinner meals down the trail. The lightest way to treat water in the backcountry is disinfecting pills (there are a few different kinds but all work well) and a bandanna for straining out chunkies from natural water sources as you transfer it into your containers.


My filter only weighs 10oz so I'm okay. I was gonna ask about water between Juniper/Dodson and the South Rim since I'm doing a CCW. Less weight on that climb up the Juniper will be a Godsend I'm guessing. I'll cache at HW, maybe Juniper/Dodson if I think the Element can handle the drive.

Fourthly, cut your food down to the bare minimum. Hunger won't kill you on a short trip, and as Hang10er points out, being busy and focused on your surroundings will keep you from feeling as hungry as you might at home. Eat high carb foods during the day (GORP, energy bars heavy in grains and sugars, GU gel, etc. ) for quick energy, and foods high in protein and fat at night for recovery and warmth. Shoot for Mule Ears' target of no more than 1.7lbs of food each full day of hiking, proportionally less for partial days.  Your final day can be even less because you'll finish up in civilization (or at least at your vehicle) with access to more food.


This is an area I was already thinking I could cut. I'm doing oatmeal and tea for breakfasts, "rice with junk in it" (dirty rice, etc + pouch tuna) for dinner. For lunch/snacks, I was planning on bringing jerky, a homemade GORP mix, and some gummies. I need to weigh what I was estimating for the rest and likely cut it big time.

Good headwear is worth its weight in gold. Keeping your head dry and warm is the single best thing you can do to survive inclement weather. I use a wide-brimmed booney hat and a microfiber balaclava: they get me through just about anything.


I have a wide-brimmed boonie hat I've used for years while doing my field work and when travelling. I agree, it rocks. It got me through a year of herping in the Texas heat and two weeks of cold, Scottish rain. I have a nice balaclava given to me by my wife a few years ago but little used. Its lightweight and made for motorcyclists (she used to do marketing for the company). I didn't use it before but I should have. I'll keep it handy to remind me.

Sixthly, beyond the basics of clothing (inc. footwear), pack, shelter, water, and food (inc. cookset), everything else is negotiable and should be cut to the absolute minimum. For you, camera equipment is non-negotiable, fair enough. Navigation tools should be, too. You'll need to take whatever maps, compasses, GPS, light, etc., that you feel you need to stay on-trail and not get lost. But everything else, like hygiene supplies, first-aid supplies, and anything else, can be trimmed to almost nothing. A toilet trowel, some toilet paper, a large ziploc for trash, a toothbrush (forget the paste for a couple days), a set of tweezers, enough disinfectant and antibiotic cream for a few applications, a few bandaids, some OTC painkillers (Advil, etc.), a little duct tape and maybe a needle with thread, and you should be good to go.


Yeah, I've gone a little heavy on 1st aid. I blew out a knee dayhiking in Hill Country SNA in '04. It was only the Vicodin I had in my 1st aid kit, left over from oral surgery, that got me back to civilization on my own. I blew out the other knee a few years ago (meniscus) just walking across the room. In my current pack is a knee brace, ace bandage, and some other 1st aid stuff that 99% chance I won't need. That'll drop at least a pound, hopefully more. I've also got a pair of old water shoes to use as camp shoes. I'll probably ditch those as well and just keep the boots on until bed.

Three things tend to wreck people's OML attempts:

1. Pack weight fatigue
2. Navigation errors
3. Panic and/or despair

You can control all three.


#1 and #3 were crushing me on the Pedernales hike. I was seeing my OML and other planned hikes disappearing, or at least being HIGHLY delayed, because I wasn't ready but the advice I'm getting here is giving me hope.

I'm gonna start re-working the pack tomorrow, staring with a complete refit with focus on keeping the weight on the hips if possible. There's an REI an hour from here but I don't see anything listed in their planned activities that shows anything helpful before mid-Jan. I was planning on going to BiBe on the 2nd, 2 weeks from today, assuming I can work out the bugs by then.  Can I do a pack fit as a walk-in or does it have to be at an event?
Title: Re: Pack Weight - help!
Post by: Kilo19 on December 19, 2018, 04:06:08 PM
Quote

I've also got a pair of old water shoes to use as camp shoes. I'll probably ditch those as well and just keep the boots on until bed.


I wouldn't ditch the water shoes, nice to be in something around camp besides what you hiked the whole day in....buuut you could look at something different. I bought a pair of dollar store flip flops and there 10.62oz. There the first things I put on when I get to camp.
Title: Re: Pack Weight - help!
Post by: dprather on December 19, 2018, 05:07:37 PM
Here is a Hot Hands alternative perspective. 

Disclaimer: some people (like me) tend to "sleep cold" and need some extra warmth.  No matter what else I do, my feet get cold at the bottom of my sleeping bag.  When my feet are cold, I just can't sleep.

Wrapping a Hot Hands in an extra sock at the foot of my sleeping bag really helps me.  They last for hours and their weight is negligible.
---------
+1 on the buy and carry a good sleeping bag, with this caveat - the bags must be warm AND light.  You can get very warm sleeping bags at WalMart - that weigh a ton.   Like backpacks, sleeping bags require the investment of dollars.
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+1 on the "eat to hike" perspective.  I personally do not need a lot of food on the trail, but I absolutely need some food, and food of the high-calorie and yummy kind.  Weight is saved with the choice of food, not the choice to do without food.   
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Among the niceties I forego is any extra shoes (unless I'm crossing a lot of streams, as on the Eagle Rock Loop, then I do take some   water shoes).

Regarding niceties, I bought an fairly expensive ultralight camp stool/chair fully intending to lug it along.  I have never been able to make myself take it.  Backpacks do not accommodate too many niceties. 
---------
Regarding panic and despair - I have a theory.  No mater how well you prepare, launching out on a tough trail with a backpack, no matter how reasonably light, is a shock to the system.  The natural fatigue of the trail (hard days, less than comfortable nights) intensifies the shock and turns it into a bad mood.  This can be anticipated - it's probably going to hit; it hits me late on my second afternoon.  If you know what is coming, you can prepare yourself for it and not be surprised by it.  I learned to recognize this bad-mood onset for what it was, and not as any harbinger of really bad news. 

I also learned to play a mental trick on it.  When it comes, recognizing it for what it is, I welcome it.  Instead of letting it turn my mood dark, I actually laugh at it out loud (I chuckle when I am with a group).  I think of the quote from GLADIATOR,  "Death smiles at us all. All a man can do is smile back."  Revised for backpacking, "Fatigue smiles at us all.  All a backpacker can do is smile back."  I also greet the onset of fatigue/bummed-out with a peanut butter cookie.
Title: Re: Pack Weight - help!
Post by: RichardM on December 19, 2018, 05:29:44 PM
I also greet the onset of fatigue/bummed-out with a peanut butter cookie.
Perhaps the best advice in this topic!
Title: Re: Pack Weight - help!
Post by: House Made of Dawn on December 19, 2018, 06:37:52 PM
Regarding panic and despair - I have a theory.  No matter how well you prepare, launching out on a tough trail with a backpack, no matter how reasonably light, is a shock to the system.  The natural fatigue of the trail (hard days, less than comfortable nights) intensifies the shock and turns it into a bad mood.  This can be anticipated - it's probably going to hit; it hits me late on my second afternoon.  If you know what is coming, you can prepare yourself for it and not be surprised by it.  I learned to recognize this bad-mood onset for what it was, and not as any harbinger of really bad news. 

I also learned to play a mental trick on it.  When it comes, recognizing it for what it is, I welcome it.  Instead of letting it turn my mood dark, I actually laugh at it out loud (I chuckle when I am with a group).  I think of the quote from GLADIATOR,  "Death smiles at us all. All a man can do is smile back."  Revised for backpacking, "Fatigue smile at us all.  All a backpacker can do is smile back."  I also greet the onset of fatigue/bummed-out with a peanut butter cookie.

^ This is absolutely golden advice, and well put. Take it with you and read it every day before you set out.

However, even these wonderful strategies won't overcome a truly, truly miserable pack carry. A well-fitting pack is the #1 priority. and yes! you can definitely get help from REI as a walk-in, unless they just act like jerks, and your chances will be improved if you buy a few things while you're there (snacks, disinfecting pills, small first-aid supplies, something).

Beyond that, the secret to a successful trip is to cut EVERY. SINGLE. EXTRA. OUNCE.

10 ounces here, 10 ounces there, another 8 over there, and suddenly you're talking an extra two pounds or so. Or maybe even three or four. The little ounces add up fast. A 10 ounce filter is a big deal. So are 10 ounce camp shoes. Or even a couple ounces of Hot Hands. Just my two cents. But my strong recommendation is to go over your kit with a very aggressive fine-toothed filter and weed out everything you don't think is absolutely necessary. Only you can answer for your own self what is absolutely necessary, but every ounce on your back or body contributes to a possibly abandoned hike.  As far as your knees, I've been there, and I say take what you need because if you can't walk, you can't walk out.

A Platypus will definitely handle the boiling water. As for water availability in the backcountry, don't necessarily depend upon the rangers at the visitors' center to clue you in to current water conditions on the trail. They don't always know and don't always share (liability issues, you know). Better to rely on the most up-to-date info posted here and if it's not up-to-date, don't rely on it.  There should be tons of water out there for the next few weeks, given all the rains this season. Your Element can probably handle the drive to Juniper junction, but take it slow, there are some rough road edges and drop-offs, and a few possible high-centers where the tire ruts are deep. And if it's still muddy from recent rains (you can rely on the rangers for this info) then DON'T try it.  I'm don't really think you need to cache at Juniper anyway, as it falls between Boot Canyon/Upper Juniper Spring and Adler/Dodson Springs/Fresno Creek, and all of those water sources should be reliable.

Good luck!!!!
Title: Re: Pack Weight - help!
Post by: Losthiker68 on December 19, 2018, 08:25:39 PM
I also greet the onset of fatigue/bummed-out with a peanut butter cookie.

"Me will always live in the moment, unless it is unpleasant, in which case, me will eat a cookie" - Cookie Monster

I'm reminded of a story Neil Peart (drummer for Rush) told in his book "The Masked Rider". The book was about a cycling tour he did in Cameroon, west Africa. At one point on the trip he breaks with dysentery. As he lay there in a hut in about the worst state he could imagine, the "toilet" being just a hole in the ground in an adjacent room, he thought to himself, "Well, I guess I could have a stomach bug back in Canada, but I have dysentery in AFRICA!" It kinda just added to the experience.

I like the perspective. At some point it's gonna suck and I'm gonna want to tap out. Knowing it going in helps. My grad school advisor said the same thing. Good advice, thanks!
Title: Re: Pack Weight - help!
Post by: Losthiker68 on December 19, 2018, 08:38:08 PM
I'm don't really think you need to cache at Juniper anyway, as it falls between Boot Canyon/Upper Juniper Spring and Adler/Dodson Springs/Fresno Creek, and all of those water sources should be reliable.

Aside from Juniper Spring, what will be the likely water sources between Juniper/Dodson and the South Rim if I follow the East Rim around to the South Rim? I love the idea of carrying as little water as possible up the canyon.
Title: Re: Pack Weight - help!
Post by: jeffblaylock on December 19, 2018, 09:06:31 PM
It's a 10-year-old thread, but I went through a detailed evaluation of pack weight and gear I was carrying in Yosemite that might still be illuminating today:

http://www.bigbendchat.com/portal/forum/non-bibe-trip-reports/yosemite-in-july-10-day-backpack-itinerary/

The gear discussion begins on page 10.

There's also a good, 7-year-old thread where some folks posted their packing lists:

http://www.bigbendchat.com/portal/forum/general-outdoor-stuff-camping-equipment/packing-lists/
Title: Re: Pack Weight - help!
Post by: House Made of Dawn on December 19, 2018, 09:46:36 PM
I'm don't really think you need to cache at Juniper anyway, as it falls between Boot Canyon/Upper Juniper Spring and Adler/Dodson Springs/Fresno Creek, and all of those water sources should be reliable.

Aside from Juniper Spring, what will be the likely water sources between Juniper/Dodson and the South Rim if I follow the East Rim around to the South Rim? I love the idea of carrying as little water as possible up the canyon.

There are really only three sources of reasonably accessed water once you're up in the Chisos (there are others, but not accessible without some serious work). The first source is the series of rock pools stretching from the corral in Boot Springs (near the campsites) most of the way upcanyon to near the rim. There are several pools and their reliability varies from year to year and season to season, depending upon rains. They can be barren in the driest part of the year. The second source is Boot Spring, it's fairly reliable but usually does NOT flow all year. The third source is the spring(s) and pools in upper Cattail Canyon near to and downhill from Laguna Meadows. Those are off-trail aways and require a long dayhike to access. Unless you're camping on that side of the Chisos (Laguna, Blue Creek, etc.), that source may not be helpful.  But once you top out on the Juniper Canyon trail, you'll be in Boot Canyon and can check out the first two sources and I suspect you'll find water in one or both. Double check this board for up-to-date reports right before you head out.
Title: Re: Pack Weight - help!
Post by: congahead on December 20, 2018, 09:23:07 AM
Some really good advice already on this thread for reducing pack weight. I'd consider dividing your weight into base weight and consumables and go from there.

Regarding base weight, I realize you've already sunk some $ into gear and you are just a few days out from your trek, so you may not have the time or inclination to make significant changes right now. The three heaviest components of anyone's base weight are pack, sleeping gear and shelter, and that's where you should strive to reduce weight the most.  Your pack and sleeping gear have already been discussed in this thread - they're heavy. Regarding shelter, that 3.5 lb. tent is also heavy. At some point, consider cowboy camping (sans tent) and bringing along a lightweight tarp to put up just in case of precipitation. That's all I ever do in Big Bend.

For this trip, your consumables are where you can lose the most weight. There's some great advice already here regarding food and water. (Safely) reducing water carriage is key. I've found my most unpleasant trips in Big Bend are when I hauled a ton of water because I was not confident in my ability to find and treat it in the desert. That was an overreaction to earlier trips when I was without water for significant periods of time - because of my own inexperience and ignorance. I never got close to dying, but I did spend a long period of significant discomfort and vowed to never be without water again. So I overcompensated and took way too much - "packing my fears," as the saying goes.

I've learned that more than any single factor, the ability to locate, access, gather, pre-treat and treat water in the desert allows you to shed weight and enjoy your trek so much more. It can turn a miserable trip into a fantastic one. It's a skill that takes time to develop. Relying on finding water is not without its risk, but take the advice of others here on your best bets for finding water along your planned route. I was in Big Bend a month or so ago and there was water everywhere (relatively speaking for the Chihuahuan Desert), and I really didn't have to look for it very hard. YMMV.

There are lots of great resources online devoted to the obsession of reducing pack weight. I'd check out backpacking light.com, as well as adventurealan.com,  andrewskura.com and sectionhiker.com.  Also, I'm not a photographer, but Alan Dixon has a lot of information about backpacking photography gear: http://www.adventurealan.com/lightweight-cameras/.

Enjoy your trip!
Title: Re: Pack Weight - help!
Post by: elhombre on December 20, 2018, 09:38:00 AM
There will be water in Fresno creek, Dodson spring, and upper Juniper Spring.  Those can be counted on and are easily accessed.  I generally avoid Dodson spring because the water is not of very good quality.  But with the recent rains this year, the water is much better.  Just for information sake, Adler Spring and Lower Juniper Spring will be running fine too, but they are harder to get to.  Lower Juniper is a ways off, but Adler can be accessed with a 20 minute walk south of the trail.  Plan to carry water between Dodson or Upper Juniper.
Title: Re: Pack Weight - help!
Post by: Losthiker68 on December 21, 2018, 05:10:27 PM
I took the advice everyone gave here and y'all were right - it was all pack fit. I'll bet I wasn't carrying an ounce on my hips. Once I loosened the shoulder straps all the way I felt the weight shift. I followed a pack fit guide and it was an amazing change. All of the weight is on my hips. I can even get my fingers under the shoulder straps without any effort.

Now I'm still carrying ~40lbs (with 4 liters of water). I cut, but not huge. I'm carrying roughly 16% of my body weight.

The only problem I still have is that the straps are biting into the side of my chest a bit no matter what I do. I may make a drive up to REI to see if they can help on that front. Open to suggestions.
Title: Re: Pack Weight - help!
Post by: House Made of Dawn on December 21, 2018, 06:56:36 PM
First of all...yeehaw!!! Iím glad youíre seeing improvement through pack adjustments . As far as the fine-tuning of the packstrap fit...some packs match your body personal contours and some donít. But the first thing Iíd try is using and/or adjusting your sternum strap. Thatís the strap designed to stretch across your chest from shoulder strap to shoulder strap. Hook it up and tighten it; play around with the degree of cinch and see if that helps.

Good luck!!!


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