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Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary

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Offline jeffblaylock

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Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
« Reply #165 on: September 05, 2008, 08:34:23 AM »
Jeff, an incredible wealth of information.  We are in your debt. 

Did you bring a compass and paper maps in addition to the GPS?


I brought paper maps, which were made with the National Geographic TOPO! program, around 1:64,000 (so about 40% the resolution of a USGS quad), and I had a micro-compass, one of those REI compass/thermometer combos. If I were doing off-trail hiking, I would have taken a more substantial compass as a backup.

have you had any problems with the lithium batteries in the Tikka Plus? Because it doesn't have "regulated" circuits it can do weird things. I have had it cut out on me on winter trips with new batteries I think because of this. I changed to a Princeton Tec Quad because it has regulation and have not had any problems yet. Like you I carry a photon like as a back up.

I've not had any issues with it using lithium batteries. I know they sometimes cause electrical spikes which can affect devices' performance, at least when the batteries are brand new, and many "battery charge remaining" meters can't gauge lithium batteries accurately.
Jeff Blaylock
Austin, Texas

"We'll be back, someday soon. We will return, someday, and when we do the gritty
splendor and the complicated grandeur of Big Bend will still be here. Waiting for us."--Ed Abbey


Offline jeffblaylock

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Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
« Reply #166 on: September 09, 2008, 05:53:21 PM »
Previous installments have discussed the "big three" (pack, shelter, sleeping bag), clothing, cooking and hydration, and electronics I took during July's 10-day backpacking trek in Yosemite. This installment covers just about everything else not previously discussed except food, which will be addressed in the next installment.


  • First aid kit in mesh-front zipped bag, 6.0 oz / 170g
  • Roll of latex stretch bandage, 0.6 oz / 18g
  • Emergency supplies ditty bag, 0.4 oz / 11g
  • Replacement boot laces, 0.8 oz / 22g
  • Outside Research 48x0.5in straps with buckles, 0.7 oz / 20g
  • Adventure Medical solo gear repair kit, 1.4 oz / 40g ($10)
  • Three small carabiners, 1.1 oz / 32g
  • Plastic trowel with duct tape on the handle, 2.7 oz / 76g
  • Toilet paper in ziploc bag, 1.8 oz / 50g
  • REI MultiTowel Lite - Large, 4.4 oz / 126g ($17)
  • Ziploc 2.5 gallon plastic bags, 1.4 oz / 41g for 2
  • Extra gallon and quart ziploc bags and trash bag, 1.6 oz / 45g
  • Purell 2oz hand sanitizer with aloe, 2.4 oz / 67g
  • Dr. Bronners peppermint liquid soap, 3.2 oz / 91g
  • Body Glide .45oz solid, 1.0 oz / 29g
  • Right Guard sport fresh .6oz solid, 2.1 oz / 59g
  • Banana Boat Sport SPF30 1oz tube, 1.1 oz / 32g
  • Burt's Bees .15oz lip balm, 0.4 oz / 10g
  • Crest toothpaste .85oz and toothbrush in ziploc bag, 1.6 oz / 45g
  • Simblissity ultralight mosquito headnet, 0.3 oz / 10g ($15)
  • Repel 100 DEET 1oz spray in ziploc bag, 1.7 oz / 49g

The first aid kit contained the following: prescriptions, antihistimine tablets, anti-diarrhea tablets, acetaminophen, hydrocortisone cream, antibiotic cream, moleskin, 2 antiseptic towlettes, 4 blister pads, 8 bandages (6 regular, 2 knuckle), 4 wound closure strips, emery board, antacid tablets, tweezers, nail clippers, scissors, and flossers.  A roll of latex stretch bandage was packed separately. The first aid kit always rode in the backpack's lid or, if I was dayhiking, in the daypack. It is an item I always want to get to quickly.

The emergency supplies ditty bag held the latex elastic bandage roll, Potable Agua tablets in a jeweler's ziploc bag, extra boot laces, and Photon Micro-Light. It rode inside one of my Crocs at the top of the pack's main compartment. The gear repair kit contained the following: needle, nylon thread, straight pins, 2 buttons, 3 safety pins, 1 blanket pin, 4 cable ties, glue stick, cord lock, 1" buckle, netting patch, and two nylon patches. It also contained a small roll of duct tape, which was used to add padding to the second trekking pole of the trip.

I always carry a few carabiners, as it's often useful to attach some things with them. One always attaches to the thermometer/compass fob discussed below. A second was used to keep my canteen suspended inside the hammock, and it doubled as a "lock" for the two zippers on the daypack. The third clipped to the unnecessary water bottle.

The trowel and toilet paper are self explanatory. For years I have kept my duct tape wrapped around the trowel's handle. The trowel rides in the rear pocket of the pack. The toilet paper rides near the top of the main compartment. I chuckle whenever I see ultralight zealots who have skimped on toilet paper. It is so lightweight, I never see a reason to bring too little, although I will never bring an entire roll and try to do without the cardboard roll in the center.

The pack towel is a luxury item which gave me a place to flop myself down when I was in sandy areas. It did not keep ants off of me, unfortunately, but at least made them easier to see. The towel was useful in removing condensation from my hammock's canopy.

The large ziploc bags were used to do backcountry laundry. One was the wash cycle, the other the rinse cycle. They could also be used as emergency water carriers, and, I suppose, emergency galoshes. The extra plastic bags held trash, toilet paper, and other items as needed.

The hand sanitizer rode in the pack's hipbelt pocket so it could be reached easily. I used it frequently and replaced it at Tuolumne Meadows. The soap should have been repackaged (and unscented, for that matter) because it does not take much to get the job done. It was used for laundry and backcountry bathing. It rode in the bear cannister. Body Glide is an essential piece of gear that I won't hike more than 3 miles without. If you've never tried it, you should. The deodorant is unnecessary -- I stunk anyway -- but it makes me feel a little civilized, so I use it. The sunscreen also rides in the hipbelt pocket. I used very little of it since I was in long sleeves and a hat. If I put it on at all, it was for the backs of my hands, ears, and nose. The lip balm also rides in the hipbelt pocket. I used it frequently. The toothpaste and toothbrush rode in the bear cannister and were used for obvious purposes.

The mosquito net turned out to be unnecessary -- I wore it once for about 10 minutes -- but will probably go with me anywhere because it is ridiculously light. The DEET spray was wisely stored in its own ziploc bag as it leaked, getting its gooey, oily essence all over itself. Yuck. I used it twice.


  • 8.5x14 paper map carried in pocket, 0.6 oz / 17g
  • Additional 8.5x14 paper maps in gallon Ziploc bag, 1.9 oz / 55g
  • Streetwise San Francisco plastic street map, 1.8 oz / 52g
  • Laminated travel arrangement card, 0.3 oz / 10g
  • Laminated personal ID card carried in pocket, 0.1 oz / 2g
  • Amtrak tickets, 0.2 oz / 6g
  • Wilderness permit, 0.1 oz / 3g
  • Backpacking wallet baggie, 1.0 oz / 28g
  • REI thermometer/compass keychain fob, 0.3 oz / 8g

I made the maps using the National Geographic TOPO! program for Mac. I debated taking Tom Harrison's wonderful map of the area but decided on these instead. For one thing, it is easier to read the grid on a smaller map. The current map rode in my pocket, and the rest were in a gallon ziploc in the pack's rear pocket. I carried the map of San Francisco because I did not ship anything on to my hotel. It turned out to be a lucky break as I needed it to navigate my way into the city.

Before I left, I condensed all my reservations and confirmation numbers onto a small wallet card and laminated it. I also laminated a small ID card with my name, hometown, allergies, health insurance information, wilderness permit information, and emergency contacts. This was always kept on my person. I had to carry the Amtrak tickets because the kiosk in Sacramento wouldn't let me print just the ones I needed to get to Yosemite.

The backpacking wallet baggie contained my driver's license, two credit cards, my health insurance card, $10 in cash, and a nickel, all in a ziploc sandwich bag. The nickel served an essential function:  it alone opened the bear cannister. The REI thermometer/compass keychain fob hangs from the back of my pack. It is my emergency navigation tool but is more useful as a rough thermometer.


  • Sunglasses, 0.7 oz / 19g
  • Swiss army knife, 2.9 oz / 82g
  • Trekking pole, various

I take non-polarized, UV-coated sunglasses. I find that GPS screens and camera LCDs are hard to read with polarized lenses. I sat on them twice, but was able to salvage them. The Swiss army knife is the basic model -- 2 knife blades, scissors, nail file, screwdriver, tweezers, and toothpick.

The trekking pole, ah, there's an adventure. I always just use one, as I like to have a free hand for photography, wiping my face with a bandanna, or holding on to things as I go past them. I took one with me, but left it at the Yosemite Lodge food court minutes before my bus left for my Glacier Point dayhike. I bought a cheap pole there -- just a glorified broomstick with a leather wrist-string and the park's name burned into it. The damn thing gave me blisters on my hands, so I took the hopelessly stained shirt I wore on the plane (I was going to throw it away.) and duct taped to the handle. I used this pole all the way to Tuolumne Meadows, where I left it at the Tuolumne Grill's picnic area. I found a downed branch on the trail to Cathedral Lake, which I broke about a mile later. Finally, I found another downed branch leaning against a fallen tree, where someone obviously forgot it earlier in the day, and I used it to the end. I leaned it against the John Muir trail mileage sign at Happy Isles, where it no doubt served someone else well.

So I don't know how much the trekking poles I ultimately carried weighed. I'll call the broom-handle stick 12 oz / 340g for mathematical purposes. The branches were definitely heavier.


Bear cannisters are a reality in the Sierras, so there's no question it needed to be carried. Nonetheless, it affected choice of packs, packing styles, and resupply decisions. The Model 812 holds six person-days of food. One can be rented at Yosemite for $5 a day. I bought one because I wanted to make sure my food and smellables actually fit in it (They did.). I was surprised to find a second use for the gear in the field. It makes a decent sitting stool when one is cowering under a tarp during a hail storm, or the ground is too wet to sit on at the campfire. It's not terribly comfortable, but it beats squatting like a baseball catcher.

The cannister opens easily with a nickel. It contains a supposedly smell-containing plastic bag into which I placed everything. At night, I would place it 25-50 feet away from my hammock, usually in some shrubbery. It was never disturbed during the night.


Personal Care and Emergency Supplies: 2 lb 4.8 oz / 1,043g (~$100)
Food Storage: 2 lb 12.0 oz / 1,247g ($66)
Everything Else: 1 lb 5.9 oz / 622g (~$70)

Running Total, Items Worn or Carried: 7 lbs 10.8 oz / 3,482g
Running Total, Items Packed: 19 lbs 3.7 oz / 8,725g
Running Total, All Items: 26 lbs 14.6 oz / 12,207g ($3,224)

This covers all of the items I took with me to Yosemite, except for food. Water weight has also been ignored so far. The only consumable I incorporated into the analysis so far has been stove fuel. So my pack was just under 20 pounds without food or water, and I wore or carried just over 7.5 pounds more. Food will be covered in the next installment. The final installment will explore ways of cutting the weight further for an identical itinerary, offset with some gear choices to meet the conditions better, to produce a more ideal packing list.

To be continued.
Jeff Blaylock
Austin, Texas

"We'll be back, someday soon. We will return, someday, and when we do the gritty
splendor and the complicated grandeur of Big Bend will still be here. Waiting for us."--Ed Abbey


Offline jeffblaylock

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Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
« Reply #167 on: September 10, 2008, 09:52:28 PM »
Previous installments have discussed the gear I took with me to Yosemite in July. This entry looks at the consumables, specifically food choices.

There are three causes for what I call "late-train weight-gain" in the pack. The first is not planning far enough out in advance and having to pack on the fly. The second is making impulsive decisions right at the end. The third is packing too much food. The first two didn't get me this time, but I missed the boat on the third. I continue to err on the side of (way) too much food, as if I will eat it merely because I packed it.


I started out with a plan for food, an improvement over previous efforts where I pretty much packed food at the last minute. I would eat one hot meal each day, in mid- to late afternoon, about a couple of miles short of my campsite. This ensured I would not have strong food odors in my campsite (and hopefully no one else's campsite). For the hot meals, I repackaged Mountain House two-person entrees into quart ziploc freezer bags, keeping the dessicant packet. Since I would resupply on the 6th day, I only needed to take five such meals. That was the easy part.

When analyzing food for a backpacking trip, I look at the ratio of calories per gram of gross weight (including packaging). The higher the ratio, the greater nutrient density for the weight. Granted, the "nutrients" here are pure fuel for the body, not a well-balanced diet which captures the proportion of carbs, protein, and fat for long periods of time. In the backcountry, it's simply about consuming enough calories to keep the body from wasting away. For a trip longer than two weeks, more long-term nutrition issues need to be considered.

The magic number for me is 4 calories per gram. Unfortunately, it's a hard number to hit, especially for things like trail bars and dried fruits. All five Mountain House entrees I took with me exceeded 4 cal/g when repackaged. Mixed nuts also score very high at nearly 6 cal/g. My choice of sweets, Barnum's animal crackers, also scores very high at 4.5 cal/g. Dried fruits typically reach these levels only if sugar has been added. The most nutrient-dense, edible Granola-based foods score around 3.5 cal/g, which is acceptable given their convenience and historical part of the backpacker's food pyramid.

So the plan called for the following:

  • Breakfast: pop-tarts and banana chips
  • Morning snack: pumpkin-spice granola bars, with an Odwalla bar on big-climb days
  • Mid-day meal: Mountain House entr?e
  • Late afternoon snack: animal crackers
  • Before bed snack: Odwalla bar
  • Trail food: mixed nuts

The plan provided a minimum of 1,633 calories a day, up to 2,433 calories with an Odwalla bar in the morning, some nuts during the day, and the higher calorie entr?e in the afternoon. Suffice it to say, I did not follow the plan.


For breakfast, I ate a package of two cherry pop-tarts for four days, exhausting them. I rarely ate banana chips, either at breakfast or at any other time, and ended up throwing most of them away at my resupply point. I had an Odwalla bar -- by far the best tasting trail bar I've had to date -- or a package of two Kashi pumpkin-spice granola bars for breakfast most other days.

The morning snack rarely occurred, as I was seldom hungry during the early portion of a day's hiking. The morning is all about mileage before it gets hot (or stormy), so I often just kept going. I recall having some mixed nuts on a couple of mornings and a pumpkin-spice granola bar on one day. I ended up throwing out most of the granola bars at Tuolumne Meadows.

I ended up carrying an extra Mountain House meal for the front half of the trip because I did not eat a big meal on the second day out. Rain and lightning had swept in from the east, and I spent my afternoon dodging it or sitting under my canopy waiting for it to pass. Once I reached camp, I crawled into my hammock and napped. I ate all five I took, and purchased two Backpackers Pantry meals at the Tuolumne Meadows store to cover the remaining afternoons on the trail. At Tuolumne, I ate at my hot meal at the grill.

The animal crackers were worth their weight in gold, and I often ate them in camp in the late afternoon or evening. Because of the high heat and lack of chilled storage, I did not take my favored gorp mix, which includes liberal amounts of chocolate and peanut butter nuggets. These would have melted into a gooey mess, so the animal crackers sufficed as my "treat."

Aside from some animal crackers, I almost never ate before going to bed. I usually got into the hammock just after sunset, so the opportunity to eat rarely presented itself.

At Tuolumne Meadows, I threw away half of the nuts, all but four of the pumpkin-spice granola bars, and most of the banana chips. At trail's end, I threw away about a quarter of the nuts and two of the pumpkin-spice bars. At Tuolumne Meadows, the only addition I made to what I was carrying was two freeze-dried meals. I intended to be out of food by then but in fact still had several days of it left.

I began the trip with 6 lbs 10.5 oz / 3,019g of food. My best estimate for the weight of the food I discarded is 1 lb 6.4 oz / 635g. My best estimate for the weight of food I carried to Tuolumne Meadows, my resupply point, but consumed later is 1 lb 8.7 oz / 700g. In other words, I overpacked, or under-ate, nearly 3 pounds of food!


For the most part, I would fill up a 2-liter Platypus reservoir for backpacking and consume as much water as I could while resting. The most water I carried at any one time was just short of 5 liters, which I hauled about a mile from Sunrise Creek to my dry campsite off the Half Dome Trail.

It always amuses me to watch people struggling with their hand-held pumps, perching themselves precariously on rocks while trying to keep a water bottle upright on one hand and an intake hose submerged on the other. Long ago, I learned to get water out of the stream with either a ziploc bag or a water container dedicated for the pupose, and then treat it. I had a water bottle dedicated to retrieving water from its source, then I poured it into a Platypus reservoir for treating. The bottle was extra weight, granted, but was easier than using a ziploc. When the SteriPEN worked, I treated water in my hard-sided one-liter bottle. When it didn't, I used the iodine tablets in the 2-liter bags (and, in at least one case, my 1-liter canteen).

For weight-calculating puposes, I assume I am carrying 2 liters of water, which weighs 4 lbs, 6.5 oz / 2,000g.


(A) Items Always Worn or Carried: 7 lbs 10.1 oz / 3,461g
(B) Items Packed (excluding Consumables): 20 lbs 0.8 oz / 9,095g
(C) Consumables: 11 lbs 5.4 oz / 5,143g

Full Skin-Out Base Weight (A+B): 27 lbs 10.9 oz / 12,556g
Total Initial Pack Weight (B+C): 31 lbs 6.2 oz / 14,238g
Total Skin-Out Weight (A+B+C): 39 lbs 0.3 oz / 17,699g

Not counting the cost of food, the full replacement cost of everything I carried -- or a close equivalent -- is $3,263. However, almost half of that replacement cost is related to the camera gear ($837 -- 26% of total), GPS unit ($400 -- 12% of total), and other electronics ($221 -- 7%). The "Big Three" -- pack, shelter, sleeping bag -- account for $628 (19% of total), while clothing represents another $632 (19% of total). All other gear adds up to $545 (17%).

The final installment of this analysis will explore ways I could have reduced this weight and/or made better gear decisions based on the conditions I faced. The latter will be judged both in terms of the experience and the "savings" achieved by eliminating excess weight.

To be continued.
Jeff Blaylock
Austin, Texas

"We'll be back, someday soon. We will return, someday, and when we do the gritty
splendor and the complicated grandeur of Big Bend will still be here. Waiting for us."--Ed Abbey


Offline russco

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Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
« Reply #168 on: September 10, 2008, 10:50:52 PM »
Thanks for yet another great installment of Backpacking101! First a question...did you like your Backpackers Pantry brand of dehy you bought and what kind were they?(I've never found one I liked) Secondly on the water filter issue again...a tip - the bottom of the MSR miniworks is threaded to fit a wide mouth nalgene bottle or a water bladder..negating the need to juggle holding your bottle and keeping the suction line in the great! Cheers!
Carved upon my stone: my body lie but still I ROAM


Offline Al

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Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
« Reply #169 on: September 10, 2008, 11:03:36 PM »
Jeff, thanks for the incredible analysis of trail foods and I'm actually glad you brought too much food.  Tends to make the wilderness experience more enjoyable than the alternative.  There is something good to be said about the security of having plenty of food.

We've always used a simple rule of thumb on food . . . bring twice as much as you think you will need, if nothing else using light weight emergency-type food, and build a buffer into your hiking goals in case you want to extend it.  Looks like you didn't have to "eat" into your buffer on this trip.  Buffers aren't always necessary but when they are it can make a memorable experience better or at least safer.

Thanks again,


Offline jeffblaylock

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Re: Yosemite Consolidated Gear List
« Reply #170 on: September 11, 2008, 04:52:47 PM »
Here is the complete gear list.

It might be interesting to compare it to the gear I took out to Big Bend for the South Rim on a Whim, two-night trip. The lists are unfortunately not formatted the same, but the summary below will help with the discussion.


Yosemite 10-day trip: 3,461g / 122.1 oz or 7 lbs 10.1 oz
Big Bend 3-day trip: 3,328g / 117.4 oz or 7 lbs 5.4 oz

My clothing and add-ons are pretty much standard for each trip. The biggest difference was the trekking pole, as my "usual" pole was lighter than anything else I used in Yosemite.


Yosemite 10-day trip: 9,095g / 320.8 oz or 20 lbs 0.8 oz
Big Bend 3-day trip: 7,147g / 252.1 oz or 15 lbs 12.1 oz

Though I was able to save significant weight with lighter gear choices, the Yosemite packed items were still heavier, thanks in no small part to the ballast bear canister, which weighs 1,247g / 2 lbs 12.0 oz. As the Big Bend trip was not solo, I did not bring along cooking gear, and I did not bring any water treatment gear as there was no water to treat. I also did not take camp shoes, a decision I almost always regret. About the only thing I took to Big Bend which had no equivalent in Yosemite was a camp chair (301g / 10.6 oz). My packs and sleeping bag were the same. The shelter and sleeping pad set-up for Big Bend was 1,306g versus 1,232g for Yosemite. Packed clothing was 1,358g for Big Bend versus 924g for Yosemite, where most of the weight loss was achieved through substituting lighter gear and foregoing insulated sleeves. The Yosemite pack included an additional 635g / 1 lb 6.4 oz of electronics, chargers, and extra batteries.


Yosemite 10-day trip: 5,143g / 181.4 oz or 11 lbs 5.4 oz
Big Bend 3-day trip: 13,801g / 486.8 oz or 30 lbs 6.8 oz

Here's where any backpacking trek in Big Bend blows the low pack weight concept. At the trailhead, I carried 2000g / 4 lbs 6.5 oz of water in Yosemite, where water was fairly abundant and accessible, versus 12,425g / 27 lbs 6.3 oz of water at the Basin trailhead. That's nearly 23 pounds of additional water carried in Big Bend, which dwarfs the added 1,643g / 3 lbs 10 oz of food I carried for the first 5+ days in Yosemite.


Yosemite 10-day trip: 12,556g / 442.9 oz or 27 lbs 10.9 oz
Big Bend 3-day trip: 10,475 / 369.5 oz or 23 lbs 1.5 oz


Yosemite 10-day trip: 14,238g / 502.2 oz or 31 lbs 6.2 oz
Big Bend 3-day trip: 20,948g / 738.9 oz or 46 lbs 2.9 oz


Yosemite 10-day trip: 17,699g / 624.3 oz or 39 lbs 0.3 oz
Big Bend 3-day trip: 24,276g / 856.3 oz or 53 lbs 8.3 oz

Amazing how all the thought (and money) that goes into choosing lighter gear is absolutely blown away by water weight.
Jeff Blaylock
Austin, Texas

"We'll be back, someday soon. We will return, someday, and when we do the gritty
splendor and the complicated grandeur of Big Bend will still be here. Waiting for us."--Ed Abbey


Offline jeffblaylock

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Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
« Reply #171 on: September 12, 2008, 06:20:49 PM »
Previous installments have discussed the gear I took to Yosemite for July's 10-day backpacking trek. My pack weighed 20 lbs 0.8 oz / 9,095g before adding 11 lbs 5.4 oz / 5,143g of food, water, and fuel. I carried or wore another 7 lbs 10.1 oz / 3,461, though it's debatable as to whether I was wearing my camera gear or it was part of my pack.  Either way, my total skin-out weight before consumables was 27 lbs 10.9 oz / 12,556g. This figure reflected nearly 7.5 pounds of reductions in weight by substituting lighter and more versatile gear for existing items.

This final installment looks at those substitutions, while highlighting some pitfalls, and explores ways of reducing pack weight further without losing sigificant functionality. Finally, I'll discuss some additional items which, with the benefit of hindsight, I should have brought.


I was able to reduce weight by substituting:
  • Canon Powershot G9 system for Canon Digital Rebel XT system, saving 4 lbs 13.2 oz / 2,189g at replacement cost of $652 ($8.45/oz saved)
  • MontBell ultralight down vest and GoLite Wisp wind shirt for Columbia fleece top and REI windblocker fleece jacket, saving 1 lb 4.9 oz / 593g at a cost of $159 ($7.60/oz saved)
  • GoLite Odyssey for Gregory Reality, saving 1 lb 3.3 oz / 546g at a cost of $200 ($10.38/oz saved)
  • Hennessy hammock-based shelter for solo tent, saving 1 lb 0.6 oz / 470g at a cost of $215 ($12.97/oz saved)
  • Silk base layer for wool base layer, saving 9.1 oz / 257g at a cost of $60 ($6.62/oz saved)
  • Platypus 2-liter collapsible bottle and drinking tube for CamelBak insulated hydration bladder, saving 8.9 oz / 253g at a cost of $23 ($2.58/oz saved)
  • Kiva keychain pack for REI Desert Rat daypack, saving 8.9 oz / 252g at a cost of $9 ($1.01/oz saved)
  • Esbit-based stove system for Primus cannister stove system, saving 8.9 oz / 251g at a cost of $46 ($5.17/oz saved)
  • Nike tank top and running shorts for polyester T-shirt and hiking shorts, saving 6.0 oz / 169g at a cost of $53 ($8.89/oz saved)
  • Driducks rain pants for REI-branded rain pants, saving 2.1 oz / 60g at a cost of $15 ($7.09/oz saved)
  • Nalgene collapsible canteen for hard-sided water bottle, saving 2.0 oz / 58g at a cost of $10 ($4.89/oz saved)
  • Regular hiking socks for wool camp socks, saving 2.0 oz / 56g at a cost of $13 ($6.58/oz saved)

These substitutions for my usual backpacking gear netted weight savings of 11 lbs 5.8 oz / 5,154g at a total replacement cost of $1,455 or just at $8 per ounce reduced. Had I not replaced any gear prior to the trip, my total skin-out weight before food and water would have been 39 lbs 0.7 oz / 17,710g. With food and water, it would have been a backbreaking 50 lbs 1.7 oz / 22,729g! So, it was money well spent.

For someone just starting down the lighweight path, gear substitution should focus on bang for the buck. The biggest single-item reductions come from The Big Three -- pack, shelter, sleeping bag -- but the most cost-effective reductions can arise from judicious substitutions of lower-weight gear.

Let's say the budget for new gear for this trip was $200. Among the Big 3, the best I could do would be to swap out the pack, saving 19.3 oz. For $197, I could swap out my hydration system, daypack, stove system, drinking bottle, and insulation layer (MontBell vest for a fleece top), saving 31.5 oz for the same amount of money. Doing the analysis is key to understanding how far a given budget will go. The best pieces of gear to have are a postal scale which measures to the gram and a spreadsheet. Weigh all gear, put together a packing list, and then research other options.

The choices I made were not necessarily the best. Hindsight revealed that I needed more insulation, more complete rain gear, a bigger canopy, and more durable base layers than silk. These changes will add weight, of course, but this can easily be offset by additional savings, some of which cost nothing at all.


As I mentioned in the last installment, one of the biggest contributors to "late-train weight gain" is a poor food plan. Working from a logical schedule and thoughtful analysis, I brought what I thought would be enough food for 5 1/2 days, only to discover it could have lasted 10. More realistic planning could have chopped more than 2 lbs off my pack weight without spending a dime. It could also have led me to a lighter bear cannister, potentially shaving another 11 oz, although that cannister would have been more expensive than the (heavier) one I took with me.

Using solely a chemical-based water treatment system would have eliminated the 6.5 oz of weight from the SteriPEN.  Reducing unneeded water containers would have still given me 5 liters total capacity while eliminating another 5.5 oz.

The decision not to pack a resupply box for either my final night in Yosemite (at the Lodge) or for San Francisco required me to carry 8.3 oz of chargers and other items not needed on the trails in Yosemite. It turned out fortuitous that I had them on the way to San Francisco, but I did not need them on the trail itself. Had I had a vehicle, I would not have carried these items.

These options (not including a lighter bear cannister) would reduce pack weight by approximately 3 lbs 7.6 oz / 1,576g, or about 11% of my trailhead pack weight, and would have cost me only the shipping charge for a small bounce box.

Beyond these, I would mostly be nipping at the margins, provided I wanted to keep the same or better functionality out of my gear. There are probably lighter-weight hiking clothes out there -- a polyester long-sleeve base layer is ligher than my hiking shirt -- but I doubt they have the same durability as what I wear now.

Repackaging some personal items would produce some savings. In particular, I could have put some of the soap into a small, corked vial and saved probably 1.5 oz. Some additional food repackaging could result in marginal weight savings, although I already squeezed 5.0 ounces out of packaging already.

One of the luxury items was a 39x24 inch pack towel, which weighs 4.4 oz / 126g. MSR makes a line of ultralight towels which would be superior in terms of weight. The extra-large version is 50x27 and weighs 3.6 oz ($30 -- $37.50/oz saved) and the large is 36x20 and weighs 2.1 oz ($20 -- $8.70/oz saved). For a 25% reduction in surface area, the large achieves decent savings.

Camp shoes are another luxury, but it's hard to find lightweight shoes with a closed toe. I suppose I could go with flip-flops, but these don't help much when I stumble into a log or stub my toe on a rock (or encounter a cactus or scorpion). Other luxuries, such as toothpaste and deodorant, could be eliminated, saving about 3.5 oz.

So I find myself near the end of economical weight reduction. I have lighter bags, packs, and other gear, which I can use depending on terrain and expected weather. For a trip like the one I recently returned from, the options for further practical, economical weight reduction are limited. My best bet is making better choices in terms of what I pack, which is something that fortunately costs nothing but thoughtfulness.


Hammock improvements. Almost everyone who buys a Hennessy hammock replaces the canopy, and I will be no exception. It needs better coverage and a separate main line to provide superior rain protection. This will add to 5 oz of weight. I also want to get larger tree-huggers than the 1x42 inch ones I have. This is another 3 oz or so.

Clothing improvements. The MontBell vest, while fantastic, does not insulate the arms, so I will probably upgrade to the matching jacket for another 2 oz (and $130). I found that my silk base layers provided neither enough insulation nor durability, so I will probably either return to wool (9 oz) or poly (8 oz).

Rain gear. I should have taken the Driducks top (5.6 oz) that I already have. This would have provided some additional insulation but more importantly would have ensured my down vest did not get wet. I also need to invest in a good, lightweight pack cover. Some on the market today hover around 4 oz.

Water treatment. While iodine is an acceptable water treatment option, I'd rather have a chlorine-based chemical solution if I'm not going to use a pump, filter, or SteriPEN (and I won't be using one of those again). This would add an ounce or two of weight.

These additions come to a little under 2 lbs, which is well within the "free" weight cutting potential I have from my current setup and packing strategy.

This concludes my analysis of the backpacking gear I took to Yosemite. I hope it was helpful to others considering reducing weight from their own pack or pondering a similar hiking trek, either to the Sierras or elsewhere.

The complete gear review series:
Part 1: The Big Three
Part 2: Clothing
Part 3: Hydration and Cooking
Part 4: Camera Gear and Electronics
Part 5: Everything Else
Part 6: Food
Part 7: Further Weight Adjustments

The complete trip report:
Part 1: Glacier Point Dayhike
Part 2: Porcupine and Yosemite Creeks
Part 3: Entering the Grand Canyon
Part 4: Walking Among the Waterfalls
Part 5: Glen Aulin to Cathedral Lakes
Part 6: The Tempest
Part 7: Sunrise to Clouds Rest
Part 8: Facing Fear on Half Dome
Part 9: Triumph Atop Half Dome
Part 10: The Final Miles
Part 11: From Woods to Wharves
Part 12: The Streets of San Francisco
Part 13: Muir Woods and Foggy Shores

The end.
Jeff Blaylock
Austin, Texas

"We'll be back, someday soon. We will return, someday, and when we do the gritty
splendor and the complicated grandeur of Big Bend will still be here. Waiting for us."--Ed Abbey



  • Guest
Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
« Reply #172 on: September 12, 2008, 07:51:20 PM »

The end.


 :icon_cry: :icon_cry: :icon_cry: :icon_cry: :icon_cry: :icon_cry: :icon_cry: :icon_cry: :icon_cry: :icon_cry: :icon_cry: :icon_cry: :icon_cry: :icon_cry: :icon_cry: :icon_cry: :icon_cry: :icon_cry: :icon_cry: :icon_cry: :icon_lol: :icon_lol:


Offline trtlrock

  • Mountain Lion
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  • 1263
Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
« Reply #173 on: September 13, 2008, 03:05:11 PM »
What a great trip, and the report makes a great read & is a treasure-trove of reference info.  Your incredible efforts are appreciated!

John & Tess

"...and I'll face each day with a smile, for the time that I've been given's such a little while..." - Arthur Lee



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