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Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary

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Offline russco

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Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
« Reply #135 on: August 13, 2008, 12:00:16 AM »
OHHHELLL! Sure you didn't dream this?!SHEEEZ!What a TRIP! :eusa_clap:
Carved upon my stone: my body lie but still I ROAM

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Offline TheWildWestGuy

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Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
« Reply #136 on: August 13, 2008, 07:17:29 AM »
You have a great writing style Jeff, makes me feel like I am right there with you.... TWWG

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Offline Hoodoo

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Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
« Reply #137 on: August 14, 2008, 10:19:44 AM »
Incredible Jeff.  :eusa_clap: I am sure it goes without saying the photos do not give Yosemite the justice it deserves. Have you considered combining all of your memoirs into a book?
Don
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Offline jeffblaylock

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Re: Yosemite Gear Discussion
« Reply #138 on: August 19, 2008, 09:23:21 PM »
Time to get this thread back on topic, since it was hijacked by that rambling trip report.  :icon_lol:

A lot thought and debate went into all the decisions on which gear accompanied me to Yosemite and which stayed home. Everything I carried on the plane, with two exceptions, went with me on the trail. Neither weight nor volume was truly at a premium. However, both were very high on the list, next to functionality and durability. Some choices turned out to be note perfect; others were just adequate. Several pieces of gear were receiving their first real test.

This multi-part examination of what I carried during my two weeks in Yosemite will hopefully shed some light on the gear-decision process and inform future decisions -- mine and others -- about what to bring on the next outing. This part will address "The Big Three," the components which represent the biggest weight, and often cost, of backpacking gear. The next part will address clothing. The next part will address electronica, followed by an installment covering everything else in the pack. A final part will cover lessons learned and discuss items I should have brought but didn't.

PACKS


The Odyssey holds 90 liters of gear and easily swallowed everything I took with me. I seldom needed the extension collar, except to provide an extra rain-block for the gear inside. It comfortably held all the weight I hauled.

The Odyssey was self-standing with my sleeping bag in the bottom "compartment" and the sleeping pad strapped to the back. This made it very easy to pack and unpack, although some smaller items would sometimes drop into the bottom, disappearing beneath the garbage bag which kept my sleeping bag and camp clothes dry. The bear cannister (ballast) went in next, surrounded by the hammock and canopy, camp towel, and some clothing. Everything else went on top of that. The pack's top held small items needed during the day. The waistbelt had two pockets, which held things like sunscreen, lip balm, and hand cleanser. The sternum strap has an elastic loop which fits the camera bag perfectly. I was worried the waistbelt's 1-inch buckle would break, but it held up just fine. The pack has an integrated hydration sleeve which, barely, holds a 2-liter Platypus collapsible bottle, and the hose can come out either side, where it runs under a strap on either shoulder.

It's about a pound heavier and larger than my GoLite Speed, which I desperately wanted to take. The Speed simply didn't hold everything, and my attempts to lash the Kiva to it were futile. I'm glad -- I would have been unhappy with the Speed in the field. For one thing, the Speed is never self-supporting, even when using a sleeping pad as a frame. On the plus (minus) side, the Odyssey is 20 oz lighter than it pack it replaced, a Gregory Reality, which held about 70 liters of gear at 4 lbs 11 oz / 2,125g.

The Kiva holds 10 liters of gear and packs down into its little pocket, ending up about the size of an easter egg. I used it on the plane, dayhiking from Glacier Point, exploring Glen Aulin, and climbing Half Dome. It held a water bag with hydration sipper, wind shirt, sunscreen, snacks, and, when needed, camera gear. It is not intended for heavy-duty use, so care must be taken putting it on and taking it off when it's any weight in it (like a 2-liter bag of water). I had to repair it once in the field. The straps are held by very cheap, flimsy plastic clips that slowly lose their grip and have to be adjusted. It also transfered sweat from my back directly to the contents in the bag, so expect stuff to get wet.

The Kiva replaced, for this trip, an REI Desert Rat pack, which weighs 11 ounces and holds about 16 liters of gear. Ideally, my backpack's lid would convert, easily, into a daypack. Alas, it does not, easily or otherwise. My Reality's lid converts into a makeshift daypack, but it's hard to get it back in place, so I've only used it as a daypack only once. The cost (around $9) and weight savings (around 9 ounces) compensate for its less-than-durable performance. It's hard to find any substitute piece of gear which scores $1 per ounce dropped.

SHELTER


A few months ago, I mused about whether a hammock would make me a suitable backpacking shelter. After trying Sleepy's, I purchased a Hennessy A-sym with sewn-on mosquito netting, integrated canopy, ultra-light straps ("tree-huggers"), and special storage sleeves ("snake skins"). I was quite happy with it and do not plan to go back to sleeping on the ground.

Weight-wise, it is slightly heavier than what it replaced, a Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo ($235), a Tyvek ground cloth cut to fit its footprint ($9), and 6 titanium stakes ($15), collectively weighing in at 1 lb 13.5 oz / 835g. But that's not the full story. The whole reason I began investigating a hammock-based system was my inability to sleep well lying on the ground. I have gone through six sleeping pads and still haven't found one that gave me a comfortable night's sleep. Unable to find comfort, I simply moved to lightweight.

The lightest sleeping pad I carry, a small Therm-a-Rest ProLite 3 weighs in at 15 oz (409g), and it's dreadfully uncomfortable. Spending nine nights on it seemed overly ascetic. So I actually planned to take a heavier, thicker pad, an REI Trekker 1.75 Short self-inflating pad ($49), which actually weighs 5g more than my tent! The prospect of taking a heavy pad, and still not sleeping comfortably, for nine nights was not a hopeful one.

I thought the Hennessy would provide a superior sleeping experience, and I was right. I seldom had trouble getting comfortable or falling asleep in the hammock. There were challenges, such as learning how to get into the sleeping bag while keeping the insulation in place, but I had the system down by about night number five. I also learned to pitch the foot end slightly higher, so that my butt didn't slide down toward the bottom of the hammock during the night. I was afraid the sewn-in nature of the netting would be a problem, but it turned out to be a non-issue. In fact, by folding the hammock bottom over, I was able to convert it into a swinging chair, something I could never do with a sleeping pad.

While researching the hammock, I noticed many owners replaced the Hennessy canopy, and I now understand why. For ease of use, the canopy attaches to two tensioned clips on the main line of the hammock. This of course means that the tension changes when weight is applied to the hammock, negating the tautness of the canopy. This is a problem when it rains. The canopy also does not do a great job of protecting the hammock from rain blowing sideways. It is also hard to tell which part of the canopy goes with which part of the hammock (Hint: the guy lines line up together) or which side is up. So I'll be replacing it with a canopy that uses its own line and offers greater protection.

I will also replace the tree-huggers with the longer, wider version. Some trees I chose to tie up to turned out to be too big around for the ultralight huggers. The huggers prevent damage to the tree by distributing the hammock's weight over a larger area. They also make it a lot easier to pitch the shelter. I will also choose heavier-duty stakes. The ultralight stakes I took were no match for the wind.

The biggest challenge with a hammock is keeping warm when the temperatures drop below 55 degrees, which happened most nights in Yosemite. Body weight compresses the insulation in sleeping bags, reducing its warmth. Lying in a tent, one's body is in contact with the ground, and an insulating pad separates the body from the cold. In a hammock, the body is in contact with the air, all around, with only the hammock's thin body separating it from the cold. So the sleeping system had to be well thought-out and carefully chosen to match the elements.

SLEEP SYSTEM

A hammock will make the body feel as though it is 15-20 degrees cooler than it would if it were in a tent. So I took a +20-degree bag even though I did not expect the temperature to drop below 40. I also have a +35 bag that would have done the job otherwise. Taking the +20 turned out to be a great decision, as the temperatures in fact dropped into the mid-30s one night and were in the 40s most nights. Typically I placed the reflector under the pad with the foil-side turned up. I was too warm only once, because the windshield reflector trapped too much heat under me. The next night, when it was in the lower 50s, I turned the reflector the other way. The pads covered the area from my butt up to my head. I used clothes and my camp shoes to insulate my legs and feet.

I have tried several things as pillows and never been satisfied. Sleeping in a hammock obviates much of the need for a pillow because the fabric supports the shoulders, neck, and head so well. The FlexAir Plus pillow is not very comfortable when used under the head, no matter how much or little air is inside it. However, it is hands down the best under-the-knees support I've ever used. For my head, I used my hiking pants, carefully folded so I did not encounter the metal belt buckle during the night. The headrest of the sleeping bag was also under my head.

The sleeping pad and reflector together weighed 9 oz / 238g, far lighter than the 1 lb 13 oz / 840 g sleeping pad I was planning on taking if I had slept on the ground. It turns out that the hammock and sleeping pads weigh 4g more than the tent and thicker pad, so a great deal more comfort ended up costing 4g -- a seventh of an ounce -- in additional weight. That's a great trade-off in my book.

WEIGHT SUMMARY

"Big Three" base weight:  7 lbs 11 oz / 3,496g
Includes backpack, hammock body, canopy, tree huggers, snake skins, canopy stuff sack, 4 titanium stakes, sleeping bag, and sleeping bag stuff sack (a trash bag).
"Big Three" base cost (current product availability): $643

Total packs + shelter + sleep system weight: 8 lbs 7 oz / 3,820g
Includes the base weight components plus the Kiva day pack, foam pad, reflector, and pillow.

Alternative packs + shelter + sleep system weight: 11 lbs 3 oz / 5,087g
Includes Gregory Reality backpack, REI Desert Rat, Lunar Solo, Tyvek groundsheet, 6 titanium stakes, Trekker 1.75" pad, sleeping bag, and sleeping bag stuff sack (a trash bag).

Total weight saved: 2 lbs 13 oz / 1,267g
Cost per ounce saved: $8.84

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

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Offline mule ears

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Re: Yosemite Gear Discussion
« Reply #139 on: August 20, 2008, 07:04:10 AM »
The Kiva holds 10 liters of gear and packs down into its little pocket, ending up about the size of an easter egg. I used it on the plane, dayhiking from Glacier Point, exploring Glen Aulin, and climbing Half Dome. It held a water bag with hydration sipper, wind shirt, sunscreen, snacks, and, when needed, camera gear. It is not intended for heavy-duty use, so care must be taken putting it on and taking it off when it's any weight in it (like a 2-liter bag of water). I had to repair it once in the field. The straps are held by very cheap, flimsy plastic clips that slowly lose their grip and have to be adjusted. It also transfered sweat from my back directly to the contents in the bag, so expect stuff to get wet.

The Kiva replaced, for this trip, an REI Desert Rat pack, which weighs 11 ounces and holds about 16 liters of gear. Ideally, my backpack's lid would convert, easily, into a daypack. Alas, it does not, easily or otherwise. My Reality's lid converts into a makeshift daypack, but it's hard to get it back in place, so I've only used it as a daypack only once. The cost (around $9) and weight savings (around 9 ounces) compensate for its less-than-durable performance. It's hard to find any substitute piece of gear which scores $1 per ounce dropped.

Jeff, excellent discussion as always.

I too have tried several daypack options including the top pocket transformed into daypack or fanny pack without much satisfaction, I finally settled on this one from Integral Designs which is 3.7 ounces without the waist strap and it is both either my sleeping bag or clothes stuff bag and a daypack. It holds 25 liters and is pretty good for a "bag with straps". Great for side trips away from camp and for going to fill up water bottles when it is a distance from camp or you have many to carry. Unfortunately $55.
« Last Edit: August 20, 2008, 08:27:32 AM by mule ears »
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
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Offline mule ears

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Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
« Reply #140 on: August 21, 2008, 06:05:00 AM »
Just got the REI sale flyer yesterday and the REI Sub-Kilo +20, 2 lbs 1.5 oz / 949g ($239), is on sale for $165. This is an incredible price on one of the lighter 20 degree down bags around. If you are in the market for a new bag and/or are trying to reduce pack weight this is much cheaper than the other light 20 degree sleeping bags which are in the $300-400 range. Not as light weight or level of detail as say a Western Mountaineering Ultralite bag but still very good.

Jeff they have the Steripen on sale too just in case you wanted to get another one to keep the others permanently on the shelf company :icon_wink:
« Last Edit: August 21, 2008, 06:33:36 AM by mule ears »
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
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no shade, no water
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Offline tjavery

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Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
« Reply #141 on: August 21, 2008, 08:25:12 AM »
Jeff - many thanks for an awesome trip report. Thanks for sharing your detailed experiences with us! Although I've yet to attempt a quest of such magnitude, I can empathize with your sense of accomplishment. How amazing that must have felt to take your final steps of the hike and reflect on what you had survived and done.

(p.s. Damn the weight, I would have taken the DSLR  :icon_lol:)

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Offline jeffblaylock

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Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
« Reply #142 on: August 21, 2008, 10:08:10 AM »
Just got the REI sale flyer yesterday and the REI Sub-Kilo +20, 2 lbs 1.5 oz / 949g ($239), is on sale for $165. This is an incredible price on one of the lighter 20 degree down bags around. If you are in the market for a new bag and/or are trying to reduce pack weight this is much cheaper than the other light 20 degree sleeping bags which are in the $300-400 range. Not as light weight or level of detail as say a Western Mountaineering Ultralite bag but still very good.

Jeff they have the Steripen on sale too just in case you wanted to get another one to keep the others permanently on the shelf company :icon_wink:

That is a good price for the bag. It's not the top of the line but the weight compares favorably to many other bags out there (many of which are also on sale at backcountry.com):


Weight is obviously not the only consideration, but it's an important one. There is no amount of lightweight gear swapping one can do if you carry a heavy bag, pack, and shelter. So I always encourage folks who are upgrading to plunk down the cash on these "Big 3" items first.

While I like the Sub-Kilo a lot, it is not without its issues. My biggest complaint with it is the zipper is a bit testy, which is true of every bag I've ever used from REI. I also dislike the cinch cords around the head and find the bag to be drafty in really cold weather. I usually solve this by placing a scarf or some fleece in the opening, but that solution may not appeal to everyone.

I pack the Sub-Kilo in a trash bag with my other base-layer camp clothes and put it in the bottom of my pack. The weight of everything else keeps it compressed, but not ridiculously so. It also helps to keep the pack upright when sitting on the ground. But I guess that's true of any sleeping bag packed in such manner.
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

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Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
« Reply #143 on: August 21, 2008, 12:40:50 PM »
Great Trip Report Jeff.  I'm way behind on my BBC reading.  So, where to next?

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Offline jeffblaylock

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Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
« Reply #144 on: August 21, 2008, 01:04:25 PM »
Put another way, let's compare the cost per ounce reduced of the various bags compared with the cheapest, the Mountain Hardware Piute +20 at 42 oz / 1,190g for $133.

  • ALPS Mountaineering Navajo, no weight saved for $14
  • Big Agnes Zirkel, 12 ounces saved for $173 ($14.42/oz)
  • Exped Woodpecker, 4 ounces saved for $167 ($41.75/oz)
  • GoLite Adrenaline, 13 ounces saved for $117 ($9.00/oz)
  • GoLite Venture, 9 ounces saved for $92 ($10.22/oz)
  • Kelty Luxor, much weight gained for $29
  • Marmot Massif, almost a pound heavier for $9
  • MontBell Super Stretch, 14 ounces saved for $150 ($10.71/oz)
  • North Face Blue Kazoo, 6 ounces heavier for $106
  • REI Sub-Kilo, 8.5 ounces saved for $32 ($3.76/oz)
  • Western Mountaineering UltraLight, 17 ounces for $227 ($13.35/oz)

So, compared with the cheapest +20ish bag in this list, the Sub-Kilo produces a pretty good bang-for-the-buck reduction. Next up is the GoLite Adrenaline at $9/oz. Comparing them head-to-head, the Adrenaline is 4.5 ounces lighter than the Sub-Kilo and costs $85 more, which is $18.89 per ounce saved.
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

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Offline jeffblaylock

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Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
« Reply #145 on: August 21, 2008, 03:05:47 PM »
Great Trip Report Jeff.  I'm way behind on my BBC reading.  So, where to next?

Next. Hmm. Two things really stand out as "next" in the grand adventure scheme of things. Very different things. A float down the Green River with explorations of The Maze in Canyonlands -- a very Ed Abbey kind of trek. The other is the Wonderland Trail around Mount Rainier. And then there's Alaska.
Jeff Blaylock
Austin, Texas

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Offline Ay Chihuahua!

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Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
« Reply #146 on: August 21, 2008, 03:40:48 PM »
Quote
And then there's Alaska.

Mmm...Alaska.


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Offline mule ears

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Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
« Reply #147 on: August 22, 2008, 06:47:28 AM »
That is a good price for the bag. It's not the top of the line but the weight compares favorably to many other bags out there (many of which are also on sale at backcountry.com):


Weight is obviously not the only consideration, but it's an important one. There is no amount of lightweight gear swapping one can do if you carry a heavy bag, pack, and shelter. So I always encourage folks who are upgrading to plunk down the cash on these "Big 3" items first.

While I like the Sub-Kilo a lot, it is not without its issues. My biggest complaint with it is the zipper is a bit testy, which is true of every bag I've ever used from REI. I also dislike the cinch cords around the head and find the bag to be drafty in really cold weather. I usually solve this by placing a scarf or some fleece in the opening, but that solution may not appeal to everyone.

Sorry Jeff, I don't mean to get off your topic here but just two more cents worth on sleeping bags. For me weight is the number one factor along with comparable features and quality. If it was me all of the bags, listed above, heavier than the Sub Kilo would be disqualified which only leaves handfull below the 33 ounce level that are true full featured mummy bags (Big Anges has no bottom insulation, the Go-lites have sewn thru baffles, etc). (Note: these are all regular size and sale prices so for comparisons this should be taken into account) One also needs to verify the weights as most companies fudge a little on this too. Two not on the list are the Mountain Hardware Phantom 15 at 31 oz. and on sale at $276 and the Marmot Helium at 29 oz. and $360.

Four years ago when I broke down after 30 years and replaced my still good but aging (this is the kind of service a quality down bag can give you :eusa_clap:), 42 oz, 25 degree down bag I went for the lightest and the best features I could get. The Western Mountaineering Ultralite which was actually 2 oz. lighter than the advertised weight. I have been very pleased even for the money. Continuous baffles so I can move down top or bottom depending on temps. Good hood and draft collar. A zipper that never catches. I go out only in the fall through spring so the temp range is perfect for me. I have taken it down to 5 degrees and been toasty too (with the right pads). I hike a lot so the investment was worth it to me but it still cost me $23.59 and ounce in weight saved :icon_eek:. If I only went every so often I would jump on the Sub Kilo in a heart beat.
« Last Edit: August 22, 2008, 01:43:04 PM by mule ears »
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Offline jeffblaylock

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Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
« Reply #148 on: August 23, 2008, 02:15:00 PM »
This post examines the clothing I took with me and discusses the choices, some good and others not so hit, which led to this list of clothing and footwear.

CLOTHES WORN WHILE HIKING


This has long been my backpacking attire, and it has handled everything thrown at it. The ripstop nylon has prevented serious tears, even when bushwhacking through tangled, woody, sharp branches. The shirt in particular breathes well and dries quickly. If I remove my pack for more than 10 minutes, my back will usually be dry before I put it back on. I prefer long sleeves and long pants, even in hot weather, because it minimizes the territory for insects to land, sun to burn, and nature to stick, stab, slash, cut, poke, prod, slice, and dice.



Convertible pants are a must because, sometimes, shorts are in order, especially after a long day of hiking or when a swim or wade is called for. The zipper can also be partially opened at the front to allow venting. The Magellan pants have an integrated mesh liner which greatly adds to hiking comfort. They are water resistant but not, in any way, waterproof; they can in fact get quite wet. My only quibbles with these pants are the lack of a boot zipper at the bottom and the way the mesh creates two pockets on each side. I have to take my boots off in order to convert the pants into shorts or back again, and I sometimes have trouble fetching an item in the pockets because it and my hand end up separated by mesh.

My choice of socks has been a long evolution. I used to walk in thick hiking socks with a thin nylon liner. I have since switched to a single sock solution which relies on a padded shoe insert and tighter laces to keep my feet from sliding around too much. As my pack weights have steadily dropped, so too has the thickness of my hiking socks. I now use so-called "lightweight" varieties, typically from either Thorlo or Smart Wool. On this trip, the hiking socks were Thorlos.

Lastly, the Columbia hat is probably my oldest continuously used piece of gear. I've replaced just about everything else but continue to take this unsexy, floppy hat whenever I'm hiking in the sun. It used to shed light rain better than it does now, probably the effect of washing it dozens of times. The mesh band around the head helps to vent heat and perspiration.

Collectively, my backpacking attires weighs 1 lb 12.3 oz / 803g. There are some lighter options out there as gear makers experiment with fabrics and meet the market's demand for ounce-cutting solutions. Durability is a concern for me, especially if I am taking only one shirt to hike in for two weeks.

CLOTHES WORN IN CAMP


These collectively were the dry base layer I changed into every late afternoon or evening, once in camp (when it wasn't hailing), and my alternate afternoon clothes. This was the first time I had taken silk bottoms and the second trek with a silk top; I usually take wool. I opted for silk for two reasons. First, it is significantly lighter than the wool equivalents, reducing a total of 9.1 oz / 257g. Second, I believed silk would make a better choice given the expected weather conditions (sunny, mild to warm, and dry). They were not the best choice for the weather I actually faced. Wool or polyester would have been preferable for their superior insulating capability. In addition, the silk layers weren't terribly durable. The pants, especially, have lots of runners in them.

The socks were a slightly heavier version of the main hiking socks. As the trip progressed, they were interchanged. Historically, I have taken thicker wool socks for camp which are about 2 oz heavier. I did not need the added warmth, so substituting the lighter socks worked just fine.

The tank and running shorts served as "alternate" clothes, primarily when I was laundering the other clothes. The tanktop came in handy on afternoons and day hikes. I also used it as an added core-layer on the hailstorm days. I probably would have preferred a short-sleeved shirt which covered the shoulders. The shorts were a little, um, short, so they received little use in any place where I could be seen.

INSULATION AND RAIN GEAR


In this category, I ended up taking just enough to get by, but could have made better choices up and down the list. These choices were informed by three assumptions that did not always manifest themselves. The first was, I would get into my sleeping bag if I got cold. The second was, I could always use my hiking clothes as an added layer if I needed it. The third was, it's the dry season.

Choices were made here to maximize weight savings. The vest replaced a fleece top 2.8 oz / 80g heavier. Together with the wind shirt, it replaced a 21 oz / 595g wind-breaker fleece jacket (a savings of 13 oz / 372g). The DriDucks pants took 2.1 oz / 60g off my existing rain bottoms. The gloves were 1.3 oz / 38g lighter than my fleece gloves. A rain jacket was not packed, saving 11 oz / 312g. Collectively, the items chosen weighed 1 lb 14.4 oz / 862g less than the items they replaced or I declined to pack.

In hindsight, I needed better insulation and better rain protection. Though I will credit the MontBell down vest as having saved my life, I really could have used sleeves. When my hiking shirt was wet, I was left with only a silk base layer and the thin wind shirt covering my arms. For another 1.9 oz / ~55g of weight (and $25), I could have taken the MontBell Ultralight down jacket instead.

As for rain protection, the DriDucks did the job, and even served as decent insulation for the legs, but the wind shirt did not cut it. Though water resistant, the Wisp quickly absorbed water, so it was not suitable for protecting the down vest -- which I absolutely could not afford to get wet -- in a cold, hard rain. Historically, I have also taken a small umbrella to shed rain. This would have been blown apart by the storms I faced in Yosemite, so it was just as well that it was left behind. I also had no effective rain protection for the pack. At the very least, from now on I will place any foam pads lashed to the pack inside a carefully rolled trash bag.

The Wisp was satisfactory at blocking the wind. Had I bothered to bring insulation for my arms, I would probably feel better about the Wisp's performance. In any event, I now prefer the flexibility of an ultralight wind layer separate from any insulation.

The golf gloves were intended solely for use on Half Dome's dreaded cables, for which they came in handy. As insulation, they provided temporary relief at best. My hands would get sweaty inside in short order, shifting the environment in the gloves from toasty to clammy in minutes. They were poor at protecting my hands from the rain, too.

The wool beanie is probably the only gear on this list that could get neither lighter nor better in any significant way. The DriDucks are also tough to beat, especially at that price, although I'm not sure I would want to hike in them. With exertion, I could see condensation within the DriDucks as problematic.

FOOTWEAR


I went to REI late last year looking for the best grip on granite because I would be hiking in Yosemite. The green-clad worker said, "Wait one moment." He brought with him another REI employee who spends at least two months a year in Yosemite. She immediately picked up the Vasque Catalyst XCR and said, "I wouldn't take anything else with me." I tested the shoes in Big Bend, taking them on both the Marufo Vega and high Chisos trails, and I can say now they are Rock Stars.

The only place they slid against the granite was on the well-worn side of Half Dome, an excusable lapse in performance. Otherwise, I never had an issue with losing my footing. They are not waterproof, so dunking them in a stream isn't a hot idea. But even in the height of a furious hailstorm, they did not soak through. The foot box remained tight and supportive, and there was just enough ankle support to prevent wobbly feet.

As for Crocs, well, I think they're dreadful in the real world, and I don't want to be caught dead wearing the ugly things in public. As camp/wading/shower shoes, they are among the best I've ever taken camping. Having gone without camp shoes before, and regretted it every time, I knew I wanted something for this trip, and the Crocs ended up fitting the bill. My only hangup with them, other than how damned ugly and trendy they are, was their penchant for allowing pine needles to stab my feet through their numerous swiss-cheese cut-outs. As a bonus, their grip on granite was pretty stable, too.

ACCESSORIES

Even the lightweight backpacker has to accessorize.

  • Cloth belt with metal clasp, 3.7 oz / 104g (~$20)
  • Cloth bandannas, 2 x 0.9 oz / 25g (~$4 ea)
  • Plastic non-polarized sunglasses, 0.7 oz / 19g (~$15)

Somewhere in time, I lost the belt that came with the predecessors to the Magellan convertible pants -- those perished on Casa Grande -- and failed to replace it before a trip to Big Bend. I spent most of the trip struggling to keep my pants on. I don't recall where the belt came from, or how much it cost, but it did the job. I can probably find something lighter if I am motivated to do so.

Bandannas serve many purposes. A third one rode in the cook pot. Unfortunately, I lost the two intended for use primarily as sweat rags. I bought one in Tuolumne Meadows which had a stylized map of the High Sierra Camp loop on it, 1.0 oz / 28g ($5). I tried to lose that one, too, but it somehow made it home. It was certainly better than wiping my face with a bandanna that had spent a week in a pot with Esbit residue.

The sunglasses were non-polarized because it is very difficult to see the LCD screen on the back of my digital camera through polarized lenses.

WEIGHT SUMMARY

Clothes Usually Worn or Carried: 4 lbs 12.9 oz / 2,180g ($263)
Clothes Usually Packed: 2 lbs 11.9 oz / 1,245g ($389)

Total, Clothing and Footwear: 7 lbs 8.8 oz / 3,425g ($652)

Running Total, Items Worn or Carried: 4 lbs 12.9 oz / 2,180g
Running Total, Items Packed: 10 lbs 7.2 oz / 4,741g
Running Total, All Items: 15 lbs 4.1 oz / 6,921g ($1,295)

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 #149 on: August 25, 2008, 11:00:33 PM »
Guess this isn't nearly as interesting as the off-topic trip report, but I'll soldier on ....

Previous posts have addressed the so-called "Big Three" -- pack, shelter, sleeping bag -- and clothing taken during last month's trip to Yosemite. This entry will examine hydration, water treatment, and cooking gear. In general, these are great areas to reduce pack weight affordably. There are inexpensive, ultralight alternatives to most "traditional" gear supporting hydration and cooking. I was able to remove 20 ounces from my pack for a little over $60 in new gear, and I could have knocked out another 12 ounces with better choices (saving $99 in the process). That's TWO POUNDS I could have eliminated just from these two areas.

HYDRATION


Before I first discovered the wonders of drinking tubes, I rarely sipped water on the trail because I couldn't reach the hard-sided 32-oz Nalgene bottle, 3.8 oz / 108g ($6), in the webbed pocket of my pack. If I was hiking with someone else, he or she had to fish it out and put it back. If I was alone, I had to remove my pack just to drink. Then I got a CamelBak 100-oz UnBottle reservoir with insulated sleeve and integrated drinking tube. After one trip, I was hooked on hydration on demand. The reservoir was heavy, though, weighing in at 12.4 oz / 352g ($35). Its insulation works alright, although the water in the tube gets downright hot. I've never thought insulated tubes were worth the hassle.

So for a typical trek to Big Bend, I would carry the CamelBak 100-oz UnBottle reservoir in its sleeve, a hard-sided 32-oz Nalgene bottle, and 3 Platypus 2+ water bottles. Collectively, these would carry 342 ounces of water, contributing 1 lb 4.0 oz / 568g to the pack. For my last trip to Big Bend, I substituted a 1-gallon collapsible jug for the third Platypus 2+ bottle, increasing my capacity to 400 ounces at 1 lb 6.8 oz / 645g. Yosemite has plenty of water with only a few, fairly short dry stretches. Twice I would camp away from a water source, and only the Half Dome hike was truly dry. I wanted to be able to carry at least 1.5 gallons for Half Dome, although I usually would top out at 2+ liters on me at any one time.

The first substitution was the Platypus 2+ and drinking tube for the CamelBak 100-oz UnBottle. It held 30 fewer ounces, but it shaved 8.9 oz / 253g off the load. My pack, a GoLite Odyssey, had an integrated pocket against the frameset, into which the Platypus 2+ fit perfectly. The second substitution was the collapsible Nalgene canteen for the hard-sided Nalgene bottle, a weight savings of 1.7 oz / 47g.  These worked very well, although the snap-on strap to hold the drinking tube in place was absolutely worthless.

Had I stopped here, I would've been set. I brought the CamelBak performance bottle primarily as a means of getting water from streams, thinking it would help keep my regular bottles uncontaminated. This was a pipe dream; this extra step, and thus the container, was not necessary. As for the last container, an empty bottled water container, it served a narrow purpose a couple of times. I used it as a bidet, helpful but again not necessary. I put it into a recycling bin at Tuolumne Meadows. These extra containers wiped out half the weight savings of the substitutions.

WATER TREATMENT


Let's start with something positive. Repackaging the iodine tablets -- intended to be an emergency method of treating water -- from their bottle into a tiny plastic bag saves nearly an ounce. They also work well, although there is a half-hour waiting period. So, it's best to refill before you run out, if you're using them. And I used them a lot.

The SteriPEN is a fantastic idea. It's lightweight. It's fast (when it works). It's effective (when it works). It's simple to use. And it's so damn fragile, testy, and unreliable that I'll probably never use one again. It ended up being a carrying case for four spare AA batteries after it failed on the second day. It worked a couple more times, always in the morning, before ultimately dying. This was the second trip I've taken a SteriPEN, and it's the second trip one has failed me on the second day of the trip. I did not abuse the device, so it either is unable to handle being packed and carried with other gear, or it is defective (and I've scored two defective units in a row).

Having lived off of iodine tablets for nearly 10 days, I will probably make them my primary means of treating water from now on. The taste isn't too iodine-y, the stains in the bottles are liveable, and they are extremely lightweight.

COOKING

Well, okay, I merely heated water, but that still takes good gear.


Despite the relatively heavy per-meal fuel weight, the Esbit system weighed 8.6 oz / 244g less than its predecessor system, which relied on isobutane cartridges. I bought the Esbit in Sacramento -- it, like most other camp fuel, cannot be carried on a plane -- and took only what I would use. The remnants of tablets were used to start a campfire.

A windscreen is a must when using a fuel-tab stove. The one I carried with me had holes punched into the bottom to provide air to the fire. I cut slits into the ends and removed a small square-shaped section to fit the pot. It must be coiled and stored carefully. If it creases, it will not be possible to restore its original shape. Aluminum foil could also be used, but it is actually heavier and testier.

The spoon was a rockstar. I repackaged my Mountain House meals into zip-loc freezer bags, and the spoon reached the bottom without getting my hand gooey. It is slightly heavier than some other utensils I have, but its reach exceeds its burden.

Everything, including the Esbit tablets and a bandanna, packed into the pot, which was probably the first lightweight gear I ever purchased. The newer versions lack the integrated rubber handles, which fold around the pot for storage. I have long since abandoned cups, mugs, and other similar containers, as I don't use them in the field.

WEIGHT SUMMARY

Water Containers and Treatment: 1 lb 3.2 oz / 545g ($148)
Cooking Gear: 6.9 oz / 197g ($99)

Total Weight Saved: 1 lb, 4.6 oz / 580g ($3.03 per ounce!)
Versus the CamelBak UnBottle, hard-sided Nalgene bottle, and iso-butane stove system.

Weight that Could Have Been Saved: 12.1 oz / 342g (items cost $99)
That's the SteriPEN, performance bottle, and empty bottled water bottle.

Running Total, Items Worn or Carried: 4 lbs 12.9 oz / 2,180g
Running Total, Items Packed: 12 lbs 1.4 oz / 5,483g
Running Total, All Items: 16 lbs 14.3 oz / 7,663g ($1,542)

To be continued.
« Last Edit: August 25, 2008, 11:16:05 PM by RichardM »
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

 


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