Best Lightweight Backpacking Electronics Gear

Best Lightweight Backpacking Electronics Gear

This best lightweight backpacking electronics gear is supremely functional, but is also light, low-cost, practical, and durable. It is the gear I take backpacking. This post has many Tips on How to Effectively Use this Gear.

This is part 1 of a 3 part series

  1. On Trail – Best Lightweight Backpacking Electronics Gear (this article)
  2. Best SOS/Tracking/Satellite Communication devices and their use
  3. Off Trail – Best Lightweight Electronics for before/after your trip—town, hotel, airports, plane etc.
    and options for a light “Mobile Office” as well as electronics for International Trips (coming soon)
    See section below for a quick summary of Travel Electronics For Use in Hotels and Airports Etc.
Best Lightweight Backpacking Electronics Gear

This is the gear that I take backpacking. Clockwise from bottom left: iPhone 6 Plus with light protective case, DeLorme inReach SE, Apple headphones, Amazon Lightning cable, *Sony a6000 camera with spare battery, and backup USB Battery.

*Note: I cover cameras like the Sony a6000/a6300 in a my post, Best Lightweight Backpacking Cameras.

On Trail – Best Lightweight Backpacking Electronics Gear

Here is a summary of the key components of the best lightweight backpacking electronics gear list.  A detailed table with all the components and weights is further down in this article.

  • $0* Smartphone – 7 oz with case (*cost is zero since I already own a smartphone)
    A large screen smartphone is the premiere, lightweight,  multi-functional device. It’s easily the best mapping GPS and navigational tool. A large screen smartphone (iPhone 6 Plus or Samsung Galaxy s6/s7) running an app like Gaia GPS is superior to conventional GPS units in almost every way. I get around 7 days normal trail use out of my iPhone 6 Plus before recharging. See: How to use your Smartphone as the Best Backpacking GPS.
    As a multi-functional tool, my iPhone has electronic maps (more functionality & covering far more area than paper ones), electronic trail guides, waypoints & mileage tables, field guides for birds and plants (e.g. Sibley Birds). It’s also a decent camera and video recorder, trail note journal, e-book reader, audio book and music player for relaxing and getting to sleep at night.
  • ~$20 USB battery – 5 to 6.5 oz (see below for options)
    Forget solar chargers, take a high-capacity USB battery to recharge your electronics mid-trip. (Note: For most trips of one week or less, a USB battery is lighter, less expensive and less fuss and bother than a solar panel.)
  • (optional) $150-$280 +service, SOS/tracking device – 5 to 7 oz
    Take a SOS/tracking device like a 6.9 oz DeLorme inReach or the 4.8 oz SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger. (I use inReach on most trips.) I will discuss SOS/tracking devices and their use in more detail in a future article.
Best Lightweight Backpacking Electronics Gear

Yes, a Smartphone is the best backpacking GPS out there! Pictured is the iPhone version of backpacking electronics. The USB battery on the right will recharge the iPhone 6 Plus two times. (The wall charger and micro-USB cable [top center] are only needed if you’ll have access to electricity mid-trip)

Always Bring a Backup Battery!

It’s critical safety precaution to make sure your electronics are always available for use. My three favorite lightweight and high capacity USB backup batteries are:

  1. Jackery Bolt 6000 mAh USB Battery (pictured right)- With two built in cables (lightening & micro-USB) it will charge just about any backcountry electronics. It has a faster charging rate than the EasyAcc below but has slightly less overall capacity.
  2. EasyAcc 6000mAh USB Battery This has slightly more capacity (tested) than the Jackery battery but has a slower charging rate & only a built micro-USB cable (altho you can attach your own lightening cable to charge an iPhone). It can charge a large phone like a Galaxy S7 about 1.4x and a smaller phone like an iPhone 7 2.3x.
  3. Anker PowerCore 10000 (only 6.4 oz) this is the lightest option f you need to recharge your electronics a lot.  It can charge a large phone like a Galaxy S7 ~2.5x and a smaller phone like an iPhone 7 ~3.5x. Its limitation is that it only has one USB port for a cable.
  4. And of course for a SPOT messenger and many headlamps a spare set of lithium AAA batteries.


Gear List Table – Best Lightweight Backpacking Electronics

Note: all blue text in the table below is a link to more detail for the item.

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Best Lightweight Backpacking Electronics Gear

The Samsung Galaxy s6/s7 version of backpacking electronics. The USB battery on the left will recharge a Galaxy s6/s7 two times. For most trips, all you need is the battery and your Galaxy Phone—no extra cables needed! (The wall charger and micro-USB cable [top center] are needed when you’ll have electricity mid-trip.)

Tips for Selecting a Battery

Quick Review: If you take an iPhone 6, or iPhone 6 Plus and replicate the gear in my kit including the USB backp battery, you should get around 7 days of on-trail use. This assumes “smart use” of the gear, i.e. use it but don’t over-use it. See article on iPhone battery conservation.

  1. How long can your electronics go without charging? Pre-trip, you’ll need to do a bit of testing to see how long each one of your backpacking electronics will last with your normal use on trail. E.g I know I get about 6-10 days normal use from my iPhone 6 Plus. That’s daily “smart use” of the GPS, reading electronic maps and trip info/guides, etc. along with some listening to Audiobooks at night. See article on battery conservation for using an iPhone on-trail.
  2. Find out how many mAh it takes to charge each of your devices—Smartphone, inReach, Kindle, etc. E.g. an iPhone 6s Plus or Samsung s6 takes approx. 2,750 mAh (milli-Amp-hours), a Delorme inReach 2,450 mAh, and a Kindle Paperwhite 1,420 mAh.
  3. Select a proper capacity (mAh) battery. Using the information from 1 and 2 above, calculate how much mAh of battery capacity you’ll need for your trip. For example, the EasyAcc USB Battery (5,500 mAh, tested capacity) will charge an iPhone 6s about three times, an iPhone 6s Plus or Samsung Galaxy s6 about twice, and a DeLorme inReach about twice. For me, it has enough capacity to keep my entire lightweight backpacking electronics gear going for about a week. (My iPhone 6 Plus might/or might not need a partial charge, and my inReach may need a full charge mid-trip if I run it in tracking mode while I hike. That will still leave me some battery to spare.)
  4. See “Always Bring a Backup Battery!” box (above) for some specific battery recommendations.
Best Lightweight Backpacking Electronics Gear

Recharging opportunity for the Pacific Crest and John Muir trails at Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite: Want to see just how many people actually take electronics in the backcountry? Check out any recharging station along a major trail. Clustered around every available outlet will be a rats nest of tangled wires, phones, USB batteries, and cameras. Next to that will be a bunch of trail-gritty backpackers eating ice cream and drinking coffee, beer or cokes waiting for their electronics to charge.

Tips for Selecting Cabling and Wall Chargers

  1. Figure out your cabling needs
    No apple products – you may get by with just the micro-USB cable already attached to the many USB batteries. (Note: a longer, 3ft u-USB cable may be more convenient. e.g. you can use your electronics more easily while they charge.)
    Yes Apple products – you’ll need a USB to Lightning cable like this AmazonBasics Lightning Cable.
  2. If you will have opportunity to recharge mid-trip, you’ll need a USB wall charger  and a cable to connect to battery/electronics. For most USB batteries you’ll need a micro-USB cable to recharge it (either the usually short one provided with it, or preferably a more useful 3ft u-USB cable).
  3. If recharging opportunities are frequent (e.g. hut to hut trips), you may be able to get by with a smaller capacity battery. With frequent enough access to electricity a Generic 1.5 USB wall charger and cable will recharge your electronics.

Why is this the Best Lightweight Backpacking Electronics Gear?

Large Screen Smartphone

  • For starters, a Smartphone running GAIA GPS just works. It’s better and less expensive than traditional backpacking GPS units like a Garmin.
  • My friends and I have taken iPhones (as a mapping GPS) on numerous pack-rafting trips in Alaska, winter rafting down the Grand Canyon, technical Canyoneering in Utah, climbing in the Wind Rivers and the Sierras, long hikes in the U.S.A, Turkey, Australia, Europe, and a canoe trip down the length of the Mighty Mississippi River. In almost every way a smartphone running GAIA GPS is superior to traditional mapping GPS units such as the Garmin.
  • iPhones can operate 7 to 10 days of “normal trail use” before needing a recharge.
  • As a multi-functional tool, a smartphone also has electronic maps, electronic trail guides, waypoints & mileage tables, field guides for birds and plants (e.g. Sibley Birds). It’s also a decent camera and video recorder, trail note journal, e-book reader, audio book and music player for relaxing and getting to sleep at night.
  • Finally, a large screen Smartphone like the iPhone 6 Plus or Samsung Galaxy s6/s7 are more useful than smaller screens. You can see a lot more of your GPS map, guide book pages, etc., making it easier to use and far more practical than a smaller phone screens or smaller tradtional GPS unit screens like a Garmin.
image

A LIGHT CHARGING KIT: Pictured from left to right: micro-USB cable for both charging micro-USB devices and your USB backup battery; 1 amp Apple USB wall charger; Apple Lightning cable, a lime green USB Backup battery (not a current model tho), and underneath a Pint Ziplock Freezer Bag to stow everything.

SOS/Tracking Devices and Sat Phones

Best Lightweight Backpacking Electronics Gear

Satellite Com Devices: For most trips, the DeLorme inReach is easily the best value. From left to right: Iridium 9555 SatPhone, DeLorme inReach, Iridium GO! and lower right SPOT Gen3. All of these devices have 2-way com with the exception of the SPOT.

Let me preface this by saying that in the last 5 years I used 2-way Satellite Com devices to:

  1. Initiate an urgent and immediate evacuation (less than 2 hours) via helicopter for a life-threatening medical situation. I was in satellite communication with park personnel to assess the situation, and provide first responder care.  During the course of our communications, the Park made the decision for the medical evacuation via helicopter.
  2. Receive medical instruction on how to lance a horribly abscessed tooth via the gum with a pocket knife (from an Emergency Medicine Doctor and a Dentist)

So my personal take on this issue is that stuff can and will happen. I cannot begin to predict what will happen, where it will happen, or to whom it will happen. Who would expect that a healthy trip member would start having a heart attack or a horribly abscessed tooth in the middle of a 10 day trip? What I do know is that my carrying one of these devices potentially saved at least one life and one tooth and as such, I will continue to carry one.

I realize tracking devices and sat phones can be a contentious topic.  As such, I am not suggesting to know what is best for others. I leave it up to each backpacker to make their own decisions.

all-electronics-1200

See also: “Best SOS, Tracking, and Emergency Communications Devices for Backpacking

Travel Electronics For Use in Hotels and Airports Etc.

Key items are a $2 extension cord that when combined with a cheap 2-prog travel adapter gives you 3 US style outlets. I find that the Anker 2 port (2 amp each) charger is fast and dependable. And in truth, the QIBOX charger is not as good as a 2 amp US charger with the cheap 2 prong travel adapter.

Key items are a $2 extension cord that when combined with a cheap 2-prog travel adapter (Ceptics USA to Europe Asia Plug Adapter) gives you 3 US style outlets. I find that the Anker 2 port (2.4 amp each) charger is fast and dependable. And in truth, the QIBOX charger is not as good as a 2 amp US charger with the cheap 2 prong travel adapter. [On the far left is batter charger for my Sony a6000 camera and two camera batteries.]

Two Great Lightweight Backpacking Gear Lists

These Two Great Lightweight Backpacking Gear Lists, 5 Pound or 9 Pound, will save you a lot of pack-weight but still keep a smile on your face. You will most likely be warmer, more comfortable, and sleep better than most campers carrying 2 to 3 times the weight in conventional/heavier backpacking gear.

The Two Great Lightweight Backpacking Gear Lists

These two great lightweight backpacking gear lists are suitable for most backpackers on most 3-season trips (spring, summer, and fall) in the lower 48 states of the US as well as most trekking (backpacking) trips world-wide. They will do you proud for:

  • Appalachian Trail and other backpacking areas on the East Coast
  • The Sierras, Rockies and other mountains of the Western US
  • Cascade Mountains and Pacific Northwest
  • The Canyons and Deserts of the Southwest
  • Trekking Trips Worldwide (e.g. Patagonia, Europe, New Zealand, etc.)

Pick the Gear List that Suits You

5 pound Practical Light Backpacking Gear List9 Pound – Full Comfort – Lightweight Gear List
3 day wt11 to 13 lb* total pack weight for 3 days
(*total wt includes gear, food, fuel & water)
15 to 20+ lb* total pack weight for 3 days
(*total wt includes gear, food, stove fuel & water)
PurposeTo travel as light as possible but be warm, dry & safe. Focused on efficiency. Whatever you like to do: enjoying great views, photography, swimming, fishing, getting extra camp time, or hiking long miles, this will give you more time to do it. Capable of 100+ miles w/o resupplyTravel light while retaining all the convenience and comfort of “traditional” backpacking gear. e.g. a freestanding tent vs. a tarp and a canister vs. alcohol stove. Gear is familiar and easy to use. Good for trekking almost anywhere worldwide.
Gear SourcesUses some exciting, lighter & innovative gear from cottage manufacturers like Hyperlite Mountain Gear, ULA Packs, Mountain Laurel Designs, and Hammock Gear: (may need to wait a few weeks for some gear)Uses more conventional gear (sometimes heavier) from mainstream commercial vendors like REI. Gear usually available off-the-shelf.
PackUnder 1 pound: Frameless, with a good hip-belt & durable fabric. (Options for a frame pack for longer trips w/heavier loads.)2 pounds or under: Solid internal frame. Larger volume. Can carry a bear canister. From REI: Osprey Exos 48 Pack
ShelterAround ½ lb/person: usually a tarp  or a shared pyramid shelterAround 1 to 2 lb/person: freestanding tent (an ultralight one), or a TarpTent
OtherLess “other stuff.” Minimal lightA few more comfort & convenience items
Two Great Lightweight Backpacking Gear Lists

My pack for 8 days:  With a light pack you can cover a lot of trail miles in complete comfort—wanting for nothing. Pictured the HyperLight Mountain Gear Southwest 2400  pack on the GR 20 in Corsica.

Modify These Gear Lists to Your Personal and Trip Needs

By all means, fine-tune these lists to your particular trip needs and/or backpacking style. Just select from the optional or alternate gear items (already included in these lists). In addition, you may wish to use some gear from the 5 Pound List and other gear from the 9 Pound List. Mixing and matching between lists is fine.

The two modifications I often make to the 5 Pound Practical Light Backpacking Gear List are:

  1. Substitute a two-pound pack like the HyperLight Mountain Gear Southwest 2400 or 3400 pack ULA Ohm 2.0 or Circuit pack (or from REI:Osprey Exos 48) if reg’s require a bear canister, and/or if I am carrying a lot of food and/or climbing gear that pushes my my total pack weight above 20 pounds. Note: in areas where an Ursack is allowed I would go back to using a 1 lb frameless pack.
  2. Skip the tarp and use a MLD Pyramid or HMG Pyramid Shelter if I know (from a recent Wx forecast) that I will likely be camping exposed, above treeline in really cold/wet weather.

Hammock vs. Ground Sleeping (e.g. Tent)

Of particular note is that both lists have options for hammock or ground-sleeping (e.g. tent). In areas with plentiful trees like the East Coast of the US I feel that hammock camping has many advantages, see: Hammock Camping Part I: Advantages & disadvantages versus ground systems. When in the Sierras or other areas with few trees, the opposite is true and I usually cowboy camp on the ground in a 7 ounce bivy sack, only putting up a tarp when it is actually raining (or sharing a pyramid shelter).

Two Great Lightweight Backpacking Gear Lists

With a lighter pack you can get into some incredible areas like this that few people with heavy packs are likely to visit. (Off-trail in the High Sierra)

6 Pound Practical Lightweight Backpacking Gear List

Techniques for Ultralight Backpacking

This “Techniques for Ultralight Backpacking” is the companion post to my 5 Pound Practical Ultralight Backpacking Gear List. It explains the underlying philosophy and criteria that integrates all the gear into a safe and effective ultralight kit. And most important, it gives you few tips on how best to use it.

Overview of Technique for Ultralight Backpacking

I originally created the 5 Pound Practical Ultralight Backpacking Gear List list for my 3-day, 102 mile section hike on the Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National Park. See: “My Trip Report.” I was surprisingly warm, dry and comfortable on the trip in challenging late winter conditions. After my hike, I looked over the trip’s gear with a worldwide trekking perspective and saw that it was extremely similar to gear I have taken trekking for most of the US and worldwide. I concluded that this ultralight backpacking gear list was likely the lightest, most efficient & practical gear list for backpacking treks in the US and worldwide.

The5 Pound Practical Ultralight Backpacking Gear List works for 3-season treks (spring, summer, fall) in these locations and likely many more:

  • Appalachian Trail and other backpacking areas in the East
  • The Sierras, Rockies and other mountains of the Western US
  • Cascade Mountains and Pacific Northwest
  • The Canyons and Deserts of the Southwest
  • Trekking Trips Worldwide (e.g. Patagonia, Europe, New Zealand, etc.)

IN EUROPE, lead photo above: Using a ultralight pack with gear almost identical to what I used on the AT this spring, Alison walks a high alpine ridge in Corsica, France. The GR20 in Corsica is considered the hardest long distance trek in Europe and is legendary for its violent  weather.

Definition of Practical Ultralight Backpacking

Practical Ultralight Backpacking is the gear, food and technique that will maximize distance traveled in the most efficient manner (less time wasted, less wear and tear on the backpacker). Practical Light has an emphasis on efficiency in all aspects: when hiking, making camp, getting a good night’s sleep, leaving camp in the morning, proper nutrition and hydration, and staying warm, dry and in good spirits. Warning: As a side benefit, the light pack may increase your enjoyment of backpacking.

 

Guiding Principles for Practical Ultralight Backpacking

  • My first priority is to enjoy myself and appreciate the terrain I’m walking through. Hiking at my own comfortable/efficient pace and watching the ever changing landscape unfold is my favorite way to fully appreciate the beauty of the backcountry.
  • Being cold, wet, or hungry or getting a crappy night’s sleep sucks. I want no part of it.
Techniques for Ultralight Backpacking

ON THE APPALACHIAN TRAL, the embodiment of practical light backpacking: My pack weighs only 10 Pounds (gear, food, water & fuel). With it I hiked a 102 mile section of the Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National Park in 3 days. Covering that distance would not have been possible if my light gear weren’t also extremely efficient and practical. I was surprisingly warm, dry and comfortable in late winter conditions—snow, 40 mph horizontal sleet, cold rain, and hard freezes at night.

Philosophy and Techniques for Practical Ultralight Backpacking

Important Efficiency and Time Saving Considerations. Obviously a very light pack is still a significant contributor towards Practical Ultralight Backpacking, but it’s far from the only one. Other factors I consider important for keeping it fun, minimizing wear and tear on my body, and minimizing time wasted include:

  1. Food: I need to carry enough and the right food to sustain me from dawn to dusk hiking. I need appetizing, nutritious, and high caloric food. See Backpacking Food Page.
  2. Water: I minimize water carried (while still staying well-hydrated!). The key is to drink when thirsty and filter/drink at the source when possible. See Best Hydration – Drink When Thirsty
  3. A good night’s sleep: My shelter (tent/tarp/hammock) and sleep system (sleeping bag/quilt and ground-pad) should give me a great night’s sleep to recover from a long day day of hiking, and allow me to wake cheerfully ready to hike another day.
  4. Don’t waste time fiddling with gear: Messing around with “high-futz, high fiddle factor gear” wastes time, and reduces my daily time for fun things. For example, a light shelter with a complicated spiderweb of 9-12 guylines is not practical. The time it takes to stake out all those guylines (even worse in rocky ground) is not worth the few oz of weight savings vs. a shelter with 4-6 stakes or better yet, cowboy camping under the stars in a bivy sack.
  5. Quick access to gear while walking:  Maps, food, water, camera, sunglasses, hats, gloves, etc. should all be available without breaking stride. Here, pockets are your best timesaving friend; the more the better. I use up to 12 walking-accessible pockets: 6 cargo pants pockets plus 2 side, 2 hipbelt, and 2 shoulder strap pockets of my pack. Rooting around in the main bag of your pack in the middle of the day to find some elusive item is frustrating and a huge time waster.
  6. Maximize available campsites: My gear should allow me to camp wherever I want at the end of my optimal hiking day—whenever I decide that I am done. I do not want my light gear to limit my options and force me to camp at inconvenient locations.

If I compromise any of the above to lighten my pack, my gear is no longer practical. That is, I will be less efficient, waste time and hike fewer miles per day if I cut more weight.

Techniques for Ultralight Backpacking

IN THE SIERRAS, modification to use a framed pack for a heavier load: I am using a HMG Pack with a frame to carry both a bear canister (required) and my climbing gear. This is too much of a load for a frameless pack. All other gear items are essentially the same as the “5 Pound Practical Ultralight Backpacking Gear List.” (Don and I climbed Mt Conness in the background.)

How your sleep system (hammock, tent, bivy sack, etc.) determines where you can camp

Hammock camping example: Let’s say you are hiking the Appalachian Trail. It’s mid-to-late-afternoon and you are plum tuckered—done hiking for the day but… you are midway between shelters/good campsites. There certainly isn’t any good camp-able area where you are. The ground is rocky, sloping, full of trees, and tree roots. There doesn’t seem to be any decent place to pitch a tent. Your options are:

  1. Continue another few hours to the next good campsite. Not an appealing option if you are already tired.
  2. Decide to do the best to camp where you are. It may take a bit of searching to find a remotely passible place for your tent. Even then it likely to take some time and effort to pitch it in a less than optimal “campsite.” [Believe me. It happens! I’ve seen more than my share of tents pitched in the middle of the AT by desperate hikers than ran out of time and/or energy. The actual trail was the only flat ground they could find.]
  3. Or if you had a hammock you could easily pitch it between two trees and enjoy the rest of your day.

As you can see your choice of a sleep system has an impact on where you can camp. Of particular note are choices for hammock camping vs. ground camping (i.e. a tent) and how your choice determines whether you have many or limited campsite options. In areas with plentiful trees like the Appalachian Trail, most ground is rocky, sloping and unsuitable for camping. There are limited camps with flat ground and they are usually far apart. Here hammock camping allows you more campsite options. All you need is two trees to hang from—that’s just about everywhere! The ground below you is irrelevant. Note: Hammock camping has many other advantages. See Hammock Camping Part I: Advantages & disadvantages versus ground systems.

Ground camping (bivy) example: When in the Sierras, other western mountains above treeline, or in other areas without trees like the desert, the opposite is true. Sleeping on the ground gives you more campsite options. For example, in the Sierras I usually cowboy camp on the ground in a 7 oz bivy sack—this has the smallest footprint and does not require stakes, giving me the most options for campsites—I can even tuck in between boulders or small shrubs to get out of the wind. I only put up a tarp when it rains. Otherwise, I am enjoying the stars at night. Tents with a larger footprint and more stakes reduce campsite options and take more time to setup and take down, although this is rarely a showstopper in the western mountains.

For distance oriented hikers: Let’s say that you are hiking near the end of the day and you can 1) reach the next campsite an hour before dusk or 2) you can reach the campsite after that by hiking an hour in the dark. In other words, you have two choices, 1) stop short for the day and loose an hour of daylight hiking time or 2) hike an hour in the dark to the next one. Hiking in the dark under headlamp, while possible is not efficient. Your pace slows trying to find good footing, your risk of injury goes up, and it is exceptionally easy to loose the trail at night, and very hard to relocate it. What would be optimal, and most efficient would be to camp right before dusk midway between the two camps. What camping gear you choose plays a role on whether you have the flexibility to camp right at dusk when it’s most convenient for you.

Techniques for Ultralight Backpacking

HAMMOCKS GIVE YOU MORE CAMPSITE OPTIONS IN THE EAST: Alison and I are happily sleeping side by side in hammocks above sloping ground with plenty of roots—ground unsuitable for tent camping. It went down in to the 20’s that night but we slept blissfully warm and comfortable. Great star gazing too!

I realize that some readers will be unconvinced by my enthusiasm for hammock or tarp camping even in areas with lots of good trees, or cowboy camping in a bivy sack. Therefore in the gear list, I also provide more conventional alternatives like TarpTents and Pyramid Shelters. If you are looking for full tent options, See: 9 Pound – Full Comfort – Lightweight Backpacking Gear List.

Techniques for Ultralight Backpacking

IN THE CANYONS AND DESERT SOUTHWEST: a light pack is essential to moving safely across slickrock. I am using a HMG Southwest 2400 Pack to handle the extra weight of a rope, a minimal set of climbing gear, and extra water for the desert environment.

Modifications to the 5 Pound Practical Ultralight Backpacking Gear List

Readers may wish to modify this list to their particular trip needs and/or backpacking style. As such, I have provided a number of optionals or alternate gear items in the list. Here are my two most common variations:

  • I will skip the tarp and use a MLD Pyramid or HMG Pyramid Shelter if I know (from a recent Wx forecast) that I will likely be camping exposed, above treeline in really cold/wet weather. Usually I am sharing the pyramid shelter with my wife or a climbing partner so the overall shelter weight per person remains around ½ pound—so no increase in weight.
Techniques for Ultralight Backpacking

IN EUROPE, modification to use a shared pyramid shelter: That stone wall is there for a reason. The GR20 in Corsica is legendary for its violent afternoon thunderstorms. Just a few weeks before our trip, a number of hikers died and many more were injured in a powerful storm. Alison and I chose to share a pyramid shelter. At only 10 oz, (280 g) per person and requiring 5 stakes, it is in keeping with the principals of practical light backpacking.

“Everything in its place and a place for everything.”Pockets keep gear organized where I can quickly find things, saving a bunch of time. Scrabbling into the main compartment of my backpack in search of some elusive item is never fun and wastes a lot time.

Techniques for Ultralight Backpacking

Practical Light Gear List Appalachian Trail

Update April 2016: I successfully completed this hike in 3 days.
See my trip report 10 Pound Backpack to Hike 100 Miles.
That’s the total weight of everything in my backpack—gear, food, water, and stove fuel. I used that 10 pound backpack to hike 102 with 22,000 feet of elevation gain of the Appalachian Trail through Shenandoah National Park in 3 days. No fair weather hiking, it was more late winter than early spring conditions—rain, sleet, light snow and hard freezes at night. I think I am very close to dialing in a Light Pack that is also supremely efficient at covering long trail miles. I used most of the gear listed below.

Practical Light Gear List Appalachian Trail

Practical Light Gear List Appalachian Trail
Just how light can you go on backpacking gear for the AT and still be an efficient hiker…

I believe this “5 Pound Practical Ultralight Backpacking Gear List” is very close to the lower weight limit of gear to efficiently walk long days on the AT (section hiking or through hiking) without sacrificing comfort, functionality or miles hiked per day. For me Practical Light is sub 12 pound total pack weight (gear, food, water & fuel) to do a ~100 mile section of the AT without resupply.

Overview of Practical Light Gear List Appalachian Trail

2016 Sequel to 2.4 Pound Extreme Ultralight Backpacking on the AT
This spring I am going test my “Practical Light Gear List Appalachian Trail” by re-hiking my 2.4 Pound Extreme Ultralight Backpacking on the AT in Shenandoah National Park. The objective in 2016 will be to answer the question, “*What is Practical Light on the Appalachian Trail?” Well, at least answer the question for me. I am already close to dialing-in this final kit. I tested a beta version of this new kit last Fall on an AT section hike from Harper’s Ferry WV to Pine Grove Furnace PA. I was very happy with the results. I was pulling 25 to 30 mile days without a lot of effort, and I was not lacking in either comfort or functional gear. Stay tuned for a a post hike trip report this Spring…

Summary of changes from ‘07 to 2016

  • Pack under 12 pounds to hike 100 miles with food, water and fuel included. This should not compromise comfort or happiness. But also, my gear should maximize trail miles covered per day. That is, the lightest pack is not the only factor to efficiently hiking the most miles per day. For my other considerations see: *But what exactly is Practical Light on the Appalachian Trail?
  • More durable pack – less time fiddling around trying not to rip pack. More pockets to minimize hiking time lost when diving into the main pack body for something in the middle of the day. Inherently near-waterproof = less time dealing with rainproofing pack and gear in iffy weather.
  • Warmer quilt – to assure a good night’s sleep and full recovery from a long day of hiking. Trimmer dimensions, lighter fabrics keep weight similar to ‘07 quilt.
  • Hammock Camping = more miles per day than ground sleeping. For my rationale on why hammock get you more miles per day see: Hammock Camping Part I: Advantages & disadvantages versus ground systems
  • But! I realize that there is nothing wrong with ground sleeping—it’s a great and very light system. And I know that I am unlikely to convince many (most?) backpackers to depart from traditional camping on the ground. So I’ve included excellent, light ground sleeping gear on the list below.
  • Upgrades to new lighter/better equipment not available in ‘07. Sprinkled in a few more (light!) creature comforts – to keep me sane and happy on the trail.

5 Pound Practical Light Gear List

Click here see it full page, as a Google Sheet

5-lb-practical lighweight

. Click on gear list table image to see full gear list sheet

Why we hike the AT. Glorious sunset from MacAfee Knob. [Photo Karan Girdhani]

Why I hike the AT. To view glorious sunsets like this one from MacAfee Knob. My primary goal is not to cover the most miles per day. [Photo Karan Girdhani]

Discussion of Practical Light Gear for the Appalachian Trail

It’s been almost nine years since I wrote 2.4 Pound Extreme Ultralight Backpacking on the Appalachian Trail in ‘07. Now when I look to optimize my gear, my primary objective is to maximize trail miles with the minimum of effort—not to get the lowest possible pack weight. I call this “Practical Light.”

*But what exactly is Practical Light on the Appalachian Trail? Obviously the interpretation of “practical” is key. We’ve all heard the term “Stupid Light” bantered around but what is the opposite? Smart Light would work as an opposite but it implies a level of hubris some not want to take on. Practical seems a more humble word. Nobody is going to say you are arrogant for just being practical.

For me “Practical Light on the Appalachian Trail” is:

Practical Light on the Appalachian Trail is the gear and food that will maximize trail miles (dawn to dusk hiking) with the minimum of effort for an AT section hike or through hike. (Emphasis on efficient.)

 

Obviously a very light pack is still a significant contributor towards that goal, but it’s not the only one. Other factors that I consider for maximizing trail miles are:

  • This is not a suffer fest! My first priority is to enjoy myself—that’s why I am out there—not just to cover trail miles. It just turns out that I really enjoy hiking dawn to dusk (as long as I am hiking at my own moderate pace).
  • How well can I sleep and recover from a dawn to dusk day of hiking?
  • Will my gear allow me to camp where I want when I reach the end of my optimal hiking day? I.e. I do not want to be being tied to camping at just AT shelters or the few other areas with flat campable ground.
  • Carrying enough food and the right food to sustain dawn to dusk hiking. 1.7 lb per day of nutritions, high calorie food.
  • Minimizing water carried (while still staying well hydrated). Key here is to filter and drink at the source.
  • No “high-futz/fiddle factor gear” that would reduce my available hiking time

If I compromise any of these to lighten my pack, my gear is no longer practical. That is, I am likely to hike fewer miles per day by cutting weight in this manner.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

While my 2.4 pounds of gear worked fine on ’07, I believe that a few more pounds of gear and food would have allowed me to hike even further and enjoy the trip more.

A change in perspective: In ‘07 I only covered gear but did not include the food and water I carried. In this iteration I will include considerations on food and water and include their weights—since this is what will actually be on my back . E.g. I will carry a 3 oz water filter. While that will increase my base pack weight over ’07, my total pack weight will be less since the filter allows me to drink immediately from water sources. I do not intend to carry a drop of water on the trail.

Dutchware Half-Wit Hammock

For my 2016 Hike I will be taking a hammock very similar to this Dutchware in 1.0 Hexon but less the bug netting. It’s incredibly comfortable, ensuring a good night’s sleep. The drab hammock colors, and camo Hammock Gear under-quilt keep me unobtrusive. If I am 100 feet off the trail, I am essentially invisible. [Photo: beta version of this my AT kit last Fall on an a section hike from Harper’s Ferry WV to Pine Grove Furnace PA]

Highlights of Gear Changes for 2016

Sleeping  To: Hammock camping  From: on the ground with a foam pad

NewOldRationale
Dutchware 11 ft. Single Layer Hammock – Hexon 1.0 fabricN/AHammock camping = more miles per day & more comfortable! See advantages of hammocks
Hammock Gear Phincubator Under-Quilt, (60″ no need for pad under feet) 800fp down, 0.67 oz fabricGossamerGear Foam Sleeping Pad (Torso)Underquilt serves same purpose for a hammock as pad for ground sleepers. More comfort than a full-sized NeoAir
Hammock Gear “+30” Burrow Top Quilt. Trimmed dimensions, 800fp down, 0.67 oz fabricJacks R Better Stealth (down quilt)Jack’s is still a great quilt. HG is a bit lighter, and I can wrap it around me in camp. I also spec’ed the HG quilt to be warmer so I’d sleep well.
Hammock Gear Cuben Hex TarpOware 1.5 cuben Cat TarpMore coverage to keep gear dry in the rain and cut optimized for hammock use

 

Bottom line: For me hammock camping equates to more miles hiked at the end of the day vs. sleeping on the ground. Why? Sleeping in a hammock dramatically increases suitable campsites on the AT. With a hammock all I need to camp is two trees—the ground below is largely irrelevant. That means I can hike until dusk without the risk of being in un-campable terrain. (Since much of the AT is sloped and rocky it’s not suitable for ground camping. So if I were ground sleeping I would likely need to stop hiking sooner than dusk to camp. I.e. I need to stop at the last shelter or campground that I could comfortably make before dark. Thus I might miss an hour or more of available daylight to hike.) There are many more advantages to hammock camping like a great sleep each night that allows me to more fully recover from a long day of hiking, and the option to avoid crowded, noisy, and heavily impacted campsites. Read more here: Hammock camping article. Hammock Camping Part I: Advantages & disadvantages versus ground systems

And there is nothing wrong with ground camping! If I were to ground camp, my sleeping system would remain quite similar to my ‘07 trip. Although I would use some model of NeoAir for a ground pad. Just getttin’ too old to get a great night’s sleep on a thin foamie! And as with the hammock camping, I would spec’ out a warmer quilt so that I would be guaranteed a good sleep. But with newer, lighter fabrics and trimmer dimensions that warmer quilt weighs less than my ‘07 one. Oh, and I would also take a down vest to wear around camp.

mld burnPack
To: 11 oz Mountain Laurel Designs Burn in Cuben. More durable, more pockets, inherently waterproof
From: 3.8 ounce spinnaker fabric pack: Gossamer Gear Whisper

While the Gossamer Gear Whisper Pack performed fine and I didn’t rip in ‘07, there were a few things that made me look for a similar pack but with more durable fabric and more pockets. 1) the Whisper’s pack fabric was so delicate that I was always looking out not to snag it on something; locating a soft, non-sharp place to put it down and sometimes resting it on the top of my feet when I couldn’t quickly find one. This fiddling takes away hiking time and distracts me from enjoying other things. 2a) while still light, the two quilts for hammock camping (top and bottom) takes a bit more volume in a pack than a single quit/sleeping bag–the Whisper is not quite up to that storage. 2b) even with sufficient volume, I would have my reservations that the seams will hold with such delicate fabric when I stuff two quilts into a pack. 3) the pack had no side pockets to store food and a water bottle, etc. in a more accessible location. Digging into the main pack added fiddle time that took away from hiking time. 4) the Cuben Fiber on the MLD Burn is inherently near-waterproof = less time dealing with rainproofing pack and gear in iffy weather.

NB. Gossamer gear now makes the 9 oz Murmur pack which addresses most of these issues except for pack volume. Altho the volume is fine for ground campers with a single quilt, it’s a bit small to store two quilts for hammock campers. And it is not as waterproof or durable as a cuben fiber pack.

pat-down-vestWarm Camp Clothing  To: a down vest From: nothing! (or rather a quilt worn in camp as a poncho)

Since my quilts are now non-poncho versions (although I can still wrap it around me in camp like a blanket). I have have added a down vest for walking around/being more mobile in camp and for early starts on cold mornings.

AT-midpoint-sm

Midway on the AT. From my section hike last fall where I evaluated a beta kit of Practical Light Gear for the AT. With a few exceptions, I will use most of that gear this Spring.

Sunrise from my hammock, Shenandoah National Park.

Sunrise from my hammock, Shenandoah National Park.

Wind River High Route – A Guide

The Wind River High Route is in our opinion, mile for mile, the finest non-technical Alpine route in North America. It stays close to the crest of the Continental Divide in one of the most rugged and glaciated mountain ranges in the lower 48. The route is thrilling and the scenery spectacular.
by Alan Dixon and Don Wilson

Revised Jan 2016:

  1. The WRHR is a solid route after two seasons of successful trips.
    Nonetheless, I’ve added new field data on variants to the route (some easier).
  2. A fully revised Gear List, and
  3. A cool Google Earth Flyover Video of the route (Thanks Erin!).

A Wind River High Route Virtual FLYOVER Tour courtesy of Erin Saver of “Walking with Wired

wind-river-flyover

Click on image to play flyover video in a new tab

Wind River High Route — Overview

wind-river-video

Click on image to play a trip highlights video in a new tab

Alan hiking up to Knapsack Col carrying all his junk in a trim ULA Ohm 2.0 Pack.

The Wind River High Route (WRHR) is similar in concept to the Sierra High Route (SHR) but Don and I feel that the WRHR is more spectacular and thrilling. Just as the SHR loosely follows the famous John Muir Trail (JMT) but spends much of its time off-trail, more closely following the Sierra crest, the WRHR in a comparable manner loosely follows the Highline Trail, many times going off-trail to stay higher and closer to the Continental Divide—a more elegant line in high glaciated terrain. When the WRHR uses trails they are higher trails, closer to the crest. It is a more challenging and more rewarding route than the Highline Trail.

The WRHR starts in the north at the Green River Lakes Trailhead and the headwaters of the Green River. It heads generally southeast to follow the Continental Divide, crossing it four times. After passing through the legendary Cirque of the Towers, it ends at the Big Sandy Trailhead. The WRHR is approximately 80 miles of off-trail and on-trail travel with about 20,000 feet of cumulative elevation gain. There are nine passes between 12,200 ft and 11,500 ft—six off-trail and three on-trail. Some of the off-trail passes have a fair amount of talus. There are few short sections of Class 3/4 travel and one glacier crossing. The recommended hiking season is late summer. This gives time for the high snowfields to melt out and reduces mosquito pressure. By mid September their is a decent chance of snow.

Our Criteria for Planning the Wind River High Route

  • An elegant line closely following the crest of the Continental Divide along the finest section of the Wind River Range.
  • A fit hiker should be able to do the route in seven hiking days (we did it in 5½ days). This allows busy people to fit it into a standard “one-week” vacation including travel days (two weekends
    and the five weekdays in between = 9 days total).
  • A non-technical hiking route. No class 5 terrain. Short sections of class 3/4 terrain ok. Don and Alan did the trip in trail running shoes and trekking poles. [Late season only. Early season snow would significantly change the technical nature of the trip.]
  • Route stays high but without being inefficient, or taking unnecessary risks to force a higher line.
  • Uses convenient trail heads with an easy shuttle.

Resources for the Wind River High Route

Route Description – Wind River High Route

The impressive Mt. Bonneville. A massive talus field is spread out below. This is fairly typical terrain for off-trail passes along the route.

Section 1: Green River Lakes Trailhead to Upper Indian Basin

Trail along the eastern shore of the turquoise colored Green River Lakes.

Trail along the eastern shore of the turquoise colored Green River Lakes.

The hike starts with the gentlest of introductions. A mellow wander up the flat and scenic drainage of the Green River for the first few hours, with excellent views of Squaretop Mountain. From the Green River Lakes trailhead, take the trail that heads along the eastern shore of the two turquoise colored Green River Lakes. This trail is marked as both the Highline Trail and the Continental Divide Trail. After passing the two lakes, the trail begins a very gradual climb toward Three Forks Park, which is reached after several hours of hiking. At Three Forks Park the trail turns abruptly west and you begin your ascent into the high country, climbing to just above 10000 feet and over Vista Pass. A slight drop and then a climb into a rocky basin towards Cube Rock Pass will bring you above 10000 feet once again. The High Route will stay above 10000 feet for the next 5 or 6 days, not dropping below this barrier until the final hike out to the car, just a few miles from the Big Sandy Trailhead.

 

Wildflowers on the trail to Cube Rock Pass

Wildflowers on the trail to Cube Rock Pass

From Cube Rock Pass continue on the trail toward Peak Lake. There is decent camping on the west side of Peak Lake, but even better camping in the basin just east of the lake. From the outlet of Peak Lake, curve around its north shore, passing through a large talus slide that drops all the way to the shore. Then wander east toward Knapsack Col. Use trails can be found sporadically along parts of this valley. As you near the Col, look for use trails that descend directly down from the pass. High on the south side of the basin as you approach the pass is the Stroud Glacier. This glacier is commonly identified as the source of one of the largest rivers in the western United States, the Green River. The river drops north out of the Wind River range, then turns south and winds its way through Wyoming and Utah, traversing some of the finest canyons in the world. Eventually it merges with the Colorado River in Canyonlands National Park, before heading onward through the Grand Canyon and down to Mexico.

Unusual red alpenglow at our camp near Peak Lake

Unusual red alpenglow at our camp near Peak Lake

 

The approach to Knapsack Col from the west

The approach to Knapsack Col from the west

 

Alan descending the east side of Knapsack Col

Alan descending the east side of Knapsack Col

 

Alan descending from Knapsack Col, looking into the upper Titcomb Basin. The lower portion of the Twins Glacier can be seen on the right. Considerable ice lies hidden below the talus and made the lower portion of this descent more interesting than we expected.

Alan descending from Knapsack Col, looking into the upper Titcomb Basin. The lower portion of the Twins Glacier can be seen on the right. Considerable ice lies hidden below the talus and made the lower portion of this descent more interesting than we expected.

From Knapsack Col (about 12200 feet) you are treated to one of the finest views on the entire Wind River High Route. The alpine cirque at the head of Titcomb Basin becomes suddenly visible to the east, while the view to the west reveals the far off ranges of western Wyoming.

The east side of Knapsack Col holds far more snow than the west side, and in most years the descent down the east side will require crossing moderate snow slopes. On our recent hike in the late summer of 2013, we were able to descend directly down the east side, crossing only a few small snow and ice patches. Leaving the pass going east, if you see snow below head off to the left, avoiding the steep slope directly below the pass. Continue down and left across talus and then head back to the right as you near the bottom of the initial headwall about 250 vertical feet below the pass.

Wildflowers in upper Indian Basin.

Wildflowers in upper Indian Basin.

Descend the obvious drainage just north of the Twins Glacier, dropping over its terminal moraine to the bottom of the Titcomb Basin. Turn south toward the highest of the Titcomb Lakes, where you will join a trail that traverses the eastern shore of the Titcomb Lakes. Easy hiking along this trail will take you in a couple of hours to the junction with the Indian Pass trail. Turn east at this junction and climb up into beautiful alpine terrain in Indian Basin, where there is excellent camping and good views of the southwest slopes of massive Fremont Peak. At 11500 feet you will encounter a flat basin holding the last small lakes before Indian Pass. There is good camping here just below the final climb to Indian Pass. [We chose to cook a pleasant late afternoon dinner here and rest a bit. We then headed over Indian Pass and crossed Knife Point Glacier while it was still sun-warmed and soft allowing us better traction for our crampon-less trail runners.]

Section 2: Indian Pass to Golden Lake

The route from Indian Pass to Camp Lake is the highlight of the trip. It passes through the most rugged and impressive terrain of our Wind River High Route. It traverses across the massive Knife Point Glacier, the southernmost glacier in of a chain of glaciers on the east side of the Divide extending all the way from Gannet Peak (WY highpoint) and the enormous Dinwoody Glaciers that surround the peak.

This section also contains the most challenging navigation of the trip and the only class 3/4 terrain (although it may be possible with a bit of extra trekking and scouting to avoid anything over class 2). This entire section may be avoided with an alternate off-trail route*.

Starting from the small lakes at the end of Indian Basin ascend a use trail east towards Indian Pass. We lost the trail a few times but the Pass is obvious. The view from the Pass is stunning. Rugged and seldom visited canyons of the eastern range spread out before you. To the north extends crest of the continental divide with a chain of glaciers flanking its eastern slope. This is an excellent spot for lunch or a snack break. Looking east you can see the obvious saddle of Alpine Lakes Pass above the easternmost extension of Knifepoint Glacier.

To gain access to the flatter and more walkable portion of Knife Point Glacier, descend NNE from the Pass and along the right base of the 11,840 promontory just west of “Point” on the map. Some of the talus dropping down to the glacier is a bit unstable. Actually much of the talus adjacent to the glacier is unstable due to climate change. This talus was until very recently part of the glacier and covered with ice. Since being exposed it has not had time to adequately settle, lock-up and become the usual more stable version of talus. So, beware of your footing on any talus near the glacier.

Once on the glacier, traverse SE on the flatter area of the glacier between the 11,720 and 11,600 contours to stay above the steeper terminal slope. (By August on our trip the glacier had receded to around 11,560-11,520). The goal is to attain a lower angle rock strewn ramp of the glacier at around 11,660, NE of ‘G’ of Glacier. We descended off the glacier at this point using the rocks for traction. Head NE across a talus field (quite unstable in sections) to the base of Alpine Col. The only place to camp in this area are two man-cleared bivy sites as noted on the map and in the waypoints table. Bivy sacks only. Do not expect to pitch a tarp or tent here. There is small lakelet with good water.

Approaching Knife Point Glacier from below Indian Pass. Our bivy site noted in the photo.

Approaching Knife Point Glacier from below Indian Pass. Our bivy site noted in the photo.

Approaching Knife Point Glacier from below Indian Pass. Our bivy site noted in the photo.

Approaching Knife Point Glacier from below Indian Pass. Our bivy site noted in the photo.

Camp in the talus below Knife Point Glacier. Indian Pass lies in the obvious notch left of the setting sun.

The ascent of the north side of Alpine Lakes Pass is straightforward. Good views from the top show the talus strewn, cliffy and deeply glacier-scoured valley that holds the brilliant gems of the Alpine Lakes. Be prepared for slow going in the Alpine Lakes Basin. It is filled with large and plentiful talus and the hiking involves negotiating around cliffs that drop directly into lakes and other route challenges will make for tedious progress in sections.

Dawn, Alpine Lakes Pass. Smoke from a small forest fire in the northern part of the range adds some color to the sunrise.

Dawn, Alpine Lakes Pass. Smoke from a small forest fire in the northern part of the range adds some color to the sunrise.

Descending the south side of Alpine Lakes Pass. 2013 was a very low snow year. You can expect this pass to contain considerably more snow than shown here.

Descending the south side of Alpine Lakes Pass. 2013 was a very low snow year. You can expect this pass to contain considerably more snow than shown here.

Hike along the west shore of Lake 11,335, staying above the shore initially along talus filled ridges. The cliffs about 2/3 of the way along the shore appear impassable but “go.” Not visible from a distance is a short class 3 ramp system (climb up and down) near the lakeshore that allows passage to a flatter section near the outlet.

Easy walking takes you down to the middle Alpine Lake (Lake 10,988), where you will have a pleasant stroll along its west side and down more talus to Lake 10,895. Here you will face a decision. We passed Lake 10,895 on the north side. It is plain sailing along the shore until you are almost to the outlet where a 50-100 foot section of cliffs ruin the party. We climbed a class 3/4 crack system above a stand of white pines (handing packs up in a few places) for approximately 75 feet to gain flatter ground above the cliffs. We then descended gentle ramps to the outlet. Views from outlet of this lake are stupendous. It would make an excellent lunch spot or campsite.

Alpine Lakes Basin and the middle Alpine Lake (Lake 10,988). We saw no one as we passed by the upper and middle Alpine Lakes.

Alpine Lakes Basin and the middle Alpine Lake (Lake 10,988). We saw no one as we passed by the upper and middle Alpine Lakes.

Revised 2016: Your alternative route is along the south shore of Lake 10,895. While longer and more time consuming, this would probably be a class 2 route to the outlet. In fact, Henry Shires (and others who have hiked the route) confirm that the south shore of Lake 10895 is the safer option. This avoids the Class 4 exit crack on the north shore near the outlet.

Henry writes "I concur that the south end of the lowest Alpine Lake is the way to go. I posted a small section of map with the regular (red) route and the alternate (green) route we took here. Much safer and easier route."

Henry writes: “I concur that the south end of the lowest Alpine Lake is the way to go. I posted a small section of map with the regular (red) route and the alternate (green) route we took here. Much safer and easier route.”

From the furthest east projection of Lake 10,895 we headed ESE and dropped into a shallow drainage that feeds an unnamed lake adjacent and south of Lake 10,239. Use ramps and gullies to make your way between cliff bands and steeper rock on the approach to the lake. There is a use trail from this unnamed lake to Camp Lake although it is easy to lose. The marked trail from Camp Lake to Lake 10,787 is not frequently traveled and is no more than a use trail in sections. We lost it a few times but easily re-found it. The route to Lake 10,787 is obvious, but the trail when you can find it is faster and is less effort. The trail from Lake 10,787 to Golden Lake is more established. For the most part it is easy to follow although it can braid into multiple trails around the Golden Lakes.

Revised 2016: Shortcut from Lake 10895 south to Lake 10787: The pass between “Peak 12314” and Douglas Peak goes. You can regain the trail to Golden Lakes on the south side of Lake 10787.

Camp-lake-bypass

Camp Lake Bypass: The pass between “Peak 12314” and Douglas Peak goes for a slightly more elegant line

* Section 2 can be completely bypassed by skipping Indian Basin in one of two ways. Caveat Emptor: Neither of us have traveled either of these alternate routes but have been told by two experienced Wind River hikers and climbers that they “work without serious difficulty.”

  1. Heading to Island Lake and then to Wall Lake and over the divide east of Tiny Glacier and down to Upper Golden Trout Lake.
  2. Revised 2016: Brendan Leonard of www.semi-rad.com hiked the Angel Pass Variant to bypass Indian Basin/Knifepoint Glacier: It goes from Island Lake to Wall Lake then heads south from Wall Lake to Dennis Lake via Angel Pass. He provides the following along with the route track below “we pretty much followed your blue line [PDF map of WRHR] for the alternate route, going north of Spider Lake, then up a right-angling gully, cutting back left to ramps over Angel Pass. On the other side of the pass, we went north of the first lake (seemed easier). Then getting down to Dennis Lake wasn’t that straightforward—we avoided following the drainage straight down to the lake, and traversed north, but finally realized we were going to get cliffed out, so cut back south and found a passage with one 3rd/4th class downclimb move to get us down to a gully that led to the trail around Dennis Lake.”
Click on image to enlarge:

Click on map image to enlarge: Brendan Leonard of www.semi-rad.com hiked the Angel Pass route variant and provides this route info map.

Section 3: Golden Lake to Lee Lake

Alan enjoys dinner along the shore of Golden Lake before the climb to Hay Pass.

Alan enjoys dinner along the shore of Golden Lake before the climb to Hay Pass.

At the southern tip of Golden Lake a small inlet stream is the last good water source before Hay Pass. We ate dinner here on the shady, cool gravel next to the lake. A bald eagle soared over the water that evening, scouring for trout. Ascend the trail to shallow and picturesque Hay Pass, crossing to the west side of the continental divide. From the pass, a trail descends gradually to the west, passing along the eastern side of Lake 10,756. At about 10,600 feet leave the trail and head toward the obvious basin to the southeast. After arriving at the first major lake in this basin, continue along a very flat and grassy (and frequently boggy) valley floor toward the southwest shore of Lake 10555. We found a poor campsite in the low pines along this shore. Camp somewhere else if your schedule allows. The warm water from this lake tasted distinctly unpleasant and tannic.

 

hay pass south

Hiking toward Lake 10555 near sunset, with Hay Pass and the Continental Divide in the background.

The basin will likely continue to be and boggy wet until you begin to rise toward a low pass before Lake 10,683 (sometimes called Long Lake). Hike along the eastern shore of this remote lake. The going gets rougher as you get near the west end of the lake, where you negotiate a few ramps and plenty of talus without significant difficulty. Continue over a small rise and drop into isolated Europe Canyon. Here you will join a trail and head southwest for a short while (probably less than a half mile, depending on where you merge with the trail) until you can cut directly to the eastern shore of Lake 10,542. This easily passible shoreline takes the most direct line to a slope on the far side of the lake. Climb about 300 feet over a small pass, and along the north side of Lake 10,806.

Long Lake (Lake 10,683). The route follows the shore and slope on the left (eastern) side of the lake. The going gets harder at the far end of the lake.

Long Lake (Lake 10,683). The route follows the shore and slope on the left (eastern) side of the lake. The going gets harder at the far end of the lake.

Now begins an intricate traverse toward the outlet stream on the southwest side of enormous Hall’s Lake. Expect plenty of zig zagging through brush and trees, and many small drops, climbs, bogs, and lakelets. Finally arriving at Hall’s Lake, turn to the south and pass a couple of small lakes. Continue to the south around Peak 11586. As you pass this peak, head east toward your next landmark, the outlet of Middle Fork Lake. This section is marked by beautiful and pleasant walking past many small ponds filled with plenty of big fish.

Lakelet and bog between Hall's Lake and Middle Fork Lake.

Lakelet and bog between Hall’s Lake and Middle Fork Lake.

Section 4: Lee Lake to Texas Lake

Looking north toward Lee Lake and Middle Fork Lake from near the base of Pronghorn Peak.

Looking north toward Lee Lake and Middle Fork Lake from near the base of Pronghorn Peak.

Moonrise over our campsite at Bonneville Lakes.

Your next goal is the pass between Mount Bonneville and Raid Peak. From Lake 10,521 do not ascend directly up the steep and heinous route up the lake’s inlet stream on the SE corner of the lake. Instead, follow a lower gradient route SW of the inlet stream. Don’t turn left and up into the shallower portion of the inlet stream drainage basin until you have reached flatter terrain (just above the red ‘2’ on the map). The ascent to the pass is straightforward. To confuse things, there are numerous use and game trails that seem appear and disappear without reason.

Alan gazes at impressive Mount Bonneville before beginning the descent through the massive talus field below the pass.

Looking into the East Fork Valley and the rising sun from the pass between Mount Bonneville and Raid Peak

Looking into the East Fork Valley and the rising sun from the pass between Mount Bonneville and Raid Peak

There is a long stretch of size Large to XL talus as you descend the east side of the pass and make your way to small lake directly east and above Lake 10,566. To avoid the steep terrain north of Lake 10,566, head east or southeast towards the prominent south-pointing nose of the 11,000 ft contour. Use a small ramp system just southeast of the nose to reach flatter terrain below 11,000. The outlet of the small lake makes an excellent rest stop with good water and superb views.

Don descending below Raid Peak

Don descending below Raid Peak

Early morning snack stop overlooking Lake 10,566 and the extensive ridgeline extending south from Raid Peak.

Early morning snack stop overlooking Lake 10,566 and the extensive ridgeline extending south from Raid Peak.

From the lake take a leisurely a stroll along the excellent bench that contours at 10,800 ft. Hang a left for Pyramid Lake around the south shore of a small lake north of peak 11,172. Go to the lake’s outlet to pick up a well-used trail. [Alternatively you can stay off trail for a bit longer. Drop down to Lake 10,566 and follow the East Fork River and pick up the same trail (from Pyramid Lake) further down at Skull Lake.]

The route from here is straightforward trail walking to Texas Lake. Hike the trail from Pyramid Lake to Washakie Creek. Cross to the south side of the creek and head upstream (east) towards Shadow Lake. Here there are superb views of the backside of the ridge forming the Cirque of the towers. It is an excellent spot for lunch.

Shadow Lake: Storm clouds brewing over the backside of the Cirque of the Towers. This storm shut us down for the day before we could cross Texas Pass and make our way into the Cirque of the Towers.

Shadow Lake: Storm clouds brewing over the backside of the Cirque of the Towers. This storm shut us down for the day before we could cross Texas Pass and make our way into the Cirque of the Towers.

Follow a use trail (we lost it a few times) to the small lake below Texas Pass (the pass between peak 11,925 and peak 12,537). This lake is locally known as Texas Lake. There is excellent camping in the meadow on the west side of the lake.

A long and violent afternoon T-storm with wind, hail and sleet forced us to hunker down in the late afternoon on the shores of Texas Lake. We waited out periods of sleet sliding in large sheets off of our Cuben Tarp (our only shelter for the trip). By dusk the storm had not sufficiently cleared. We gave up on our plans to camp in the Cirque of the Towers and settled down for the night. There are much worse places to camp!

Storm showing signs of clearing in the late evening below the north side of Texas Pass.

The trip over Texas Pass and into the Cirque of the Towers is second in splendour only to the Indian Pass to Camp Lake Section. Needless to say the Cirque is legendary for both its stunning beauty and as hallowed ground for some of the best alpine rock climbing in North America. It should be on every backpacker’s bucket list.

While there is no official trail over Texas Pass the use trail was in better condition and easier to follow than some of the official “trails” we traveled in less visited portions of the Range—it’s a veritable “use-trail freeway.” The trail starts from the SE corner of Texas Lake and ascends on mostly solid ground between scree and talus. The views are sublime as you descend form the pass in to the Cirque and Lonesome Lake. A quintessential “Sound of Music walk.”

The view into the Cirque of the Towers from near the top of Texas Pass.

The view into the Cirque of the Towers from near the top of Texas Pass.

From the Texas Pass the use trail loosely follows the NE branch of the inlet stream for Lonesome Lake, passing through a stand of pines around 10,400 before reaching the grassy lakeside. We had a cup of morning coffee on the lakeshore while watching climbers ascend Pingora. Alan got his rod out, selected a beautiful native cutthroat trout, landed it and gently put it back. Sated with the beauty and serenity of the Cirque, we felt it was time to leave.

Lonesome Lake and Pingora in the Cirque of the Towers.

Lonesome Lake and Pingora in the Cirque of the Towers.

If you plan to stay the night in the Cirque: There is excellent camping in the basin below Pylon Peaks and Warrior Peaks.

We traversed off-trail around the eastern side of Lonesome Lake and acquired the official trail to Jackass pass around 10,400 ft. The route out to Big Sandy Campground from Jackass pass is a major trail with tons of traffic and the usual deeply eroded and braided trail sections. Nonetheless, Big Sandy Lake is a gem and a lunch or snack stop on its shores is a must. And on the final leg of the trip don’t forget to look back now and then to appreciate the lovely Big Sandy River and the mountains behind.

Big Sandy River below Big Sandy Lake

Big Sandy River below Big Sandy Lake

Parting Shot

Until our next adventure...

Until our next adventure…

Resources for the Wind River High Route

Recommended season

Late Summer. Gives time for high snow fields to melt out. Less mosquito pressure. By mid-Sept there’s a chance of early snowstorms. See Climbing and Hiking the Wind River Mountains, by Joe Kelsey for more information on weather and other objective hazards in the Wind River Range.

Detailed Mapset of the Wind River High Route

maps thumb
Detailed MapSet of the Wind River High Route. [PDF – Eight 11×17 sheets + one overview sheet]

Notes about maps

  • There are a few alternate routes on the maps in addition to our main route. They are colored blue.
  • The most difficult section of the WRHR, Indian Pass, Knifepoint Glacier, and Alpine Lakes can be bypassed by an easier but still off-trail section. While we have been assured by at least two people knowledgeable about the Wind River that this route does go and is easier, Don and Alan have not hiked this route and cannot guarantee the accuracy of the route or its level of
    difficulty.

Hiking Times and Waypoints Table

The following table should be of use to estimate hiking times for the route. Obviously you’ll need to calibrate your personal hiking pace to the speed that Don and I walked. The table also includes the location of a few tricky sections of the route. It should save you some scouting time and/or prevent you from hiking a long ways along a bad route choice. Finally, the table does not include hiking mileage, since for the most part it is not a relevant piece of information. For some hikers, a few sections like Alpine Lakes Basin may require a two hours or more to cover a mile.

mileage table
Hiking Times and Waypoints Table [PDF]

A few notes about the table

  • The route is approximately 80+ miles of on-trail and off-trail travel with about 20,000 ft of vertical gain.
  • Times are for Alan and Don who are reasonably fit hikers. You will need to estimate your pace from our hiking times.
  • We are not G-d’s gift to high speed through hiking. We are over 50 years old, and did no altitude acclimatization before the trip. At trip start we went from sea level to over 12,000 ft in about 24 hours.
  • While we traveled light, we weren’t super light. Alan’s pack was 27 pounds with a small camera, a SPOT and Satphone and Don’s was 30 pounds with a Canon 5D full-sized DSLR carried for HQ photos & video.
  • Daily time is the total time from leaving camp in the morning to arriving at our next camp in the evening. This includes all stopped time, e.g. for lunch, rests at scenic spots, complicated route finding and scouting forays, longer photo/video sessions, a late afternoon dinner and rest before hiking a few more hours in the early evening
  • Even though the goal was to hike at a steady but sane pace, for a long time, with a limited number of stops, we still ended up with 1 to 2 hours per day of non-moving time.
  • *Hours (hiking times between points) is just that—hiking/moving time only. These times include only short stopped tasks like tying a shoelace, putting on a rain jacket, or filling a water bottle. We carried a SPOT tracker for the trip, and any stopped time over 5-10minutes was not included in hiking time.

Car Shuttle

A local shop in Pinedale, The Great Outdoors, will shuttle your car from one trailhead to another. Their service was excellent and the convenience of a shuttle made the logistics of the trip much easier.

Gear for the Wind River High Route

Revised 2016: Below is a comprehensive list of Gear for the WRHR.

My pack was 27 pounds with food, a small camera (Sony a6000 kit 1.8 pounds), a SPOT (now I would take the far better inReach SE 6.9 oz), and an Iridium 9555 SatPhone 9.7 oz. Obviously I could have saved a few pounds with less camera and electronics (but we were intent on fully documenting the trip).

I took most of the gear on the list except as noted:

Gear List for the Wind River High Route 

Or to see the full gear can click on this link: 9 Pound – Full Comfort – Lightweight Backpacking Gear List (original table).

9-lb-gear

Click on image of table to see full gear list

Food List for Wind River High Route (Alan’s)

food list thumb
Detailed FOOD list for the Wind River Hight Route. [PDF file]

Other Published References

Books. If you don’t have a copy of Climbing and Hiking the Wind River Mountains, by Joe Kelsey, you simply must get a copy. The book is an obvious labor of love, and has a ton of great information.

Wind River Trail Maps. Earthwalk Press publishes two Wind River Range overview maps (one for the northern part of the range, and another for the southern portion). These are handy for seeing the entire range, possible alternate routes or emergency exit points.

Some Potential Additions to the Route

  • Our route skips Gannet Peak & the Dinwoody Glaciers. A superb addition if you want. But difficult, time consuming, and potentially technical, requiring at a minimum ice axes and crampons. And for all but the fittest alpine travelers, adding this section would put the route beyond a weeks vacation. Less convenient trail heads? No easy shuttle?
  • One could go higher and stay closer to the divide in some sections. E.g. the alpine lakes section detours around douglass peak via Camp Lake and the route also skirts around Mt Bonneville.


8 Pound – Appalachian Trail Gear List

Appalachian Trail Gear List

A 9 ounce hammock: This Gear List suggests using a hammock, which on the AT has significant comfort and performance advantages vs. a tent.

A three season (spring, summer, fall) Appalachian Trail Gear List

This gear list is fine tuned to the climate and terrain of the Appalachian trail rather than the more generic 9 Pound – Full Comfort – Lightweight Backpacking Gear List which is intended to cover most of the lower 48. For instance, the AT Gear List suggests using a hammock vs. a tent, since trees are plentiful along the AT, whereas flat, rock-free places to setup a tent and sleep on the ground are scarce. For more on hammocks see: Hammock Camping Series – Part 1 – Advantages of Hammock Camping.

If you aren’t interested in hammock camping, the list also includes and alternative options for traditional (ground) camping. Since most folks will be sleeping in AT shelters it doesn’t make much sense to carry a tent, which will go unused most nights. To save weight, just carry a light tarp in the low probability that there is both no room in the shelter and that it will rain. For more conventional tent & sleeping bag options see: 9 Pound – Full Comfort – Gear List.

This gear list is suitable for most backpackers on most 3-season trips (possibly 3+ season) along the Appalachian Trail (In some instances, you may wish to fine-tune this list to your particular trip needs and/or backpacking style by selecting suitable optional or alternate gear in this list.) I’ve also tried to list a number or items available from major retailers like REI, e.g. the excellent and reasonably priced Outdoor Research Helium II Rain Jacket at only 6.4 ounces!

Appalachian Trail Gear List – Summary with Weights

SECTIONTOTALSLbs
Clothing in Pack (not usually worn)2.3Rain jacket, warm jacket, gloves, etc.
Backpack and Gear Packaging1.3Backpack, stuff sacks
Sleeping Gear, Hammock, Tarp3.1This Gear List suggests using a hammock, which on the AT has significant advantages vs. a tent. See Advantages of Hammock Camping
Alternate Sleeping Gear – Tarp Camping
(alternate to hammock camping)
 3.3Since most folks will be sleeping in AT shelters it doesn’t make much sense to carry a tent, which will go unused most nights.
Cooking Gear and Water Storage/Treatment0.8Stove, pot, cookware, water “bottles” & purification
“Essential” Gear0.8Maps, SOS device, first aid kit, headlamp, knife sunscreen and small items not included in above
BASE PACK WEIGHT (BPW) 8.3BPW = all items in pack = all items above,
less “consumables” (water, food and fuel)
1 Pint of Water1.0Average amount carried when hiking (water plentiful)
Food – for a long weekend – 3 days, 2 nights3.8See Backpacking Food “…reduce food weight”
Fuel0.24 fl-oz alcohol = 3.2 oz wt
Total of Consumables 5.0 Water, food, and fuel
TRAIL PACK WEIGHT (BPW + consumables)13.3 For a long weekend – 3 day trip
Clothing Worn and Items Carried (not in pack) 4.3Not included in pack weight: clothing worn on the trail, hat, shoes, trekking poles, stuff in pockets, etc.
Camera Equipment Gear List (new page)Details for Serious Lightweight Backpacking Cameras

Detail of Gear List Items

Clothing in Pack (not usually worn)

ClothingItemOzComments
Rain JacketOutdoor Research Helium II (6.4) 6.4From REI: less expensive than many at this weight
RainJacket (alt)Patagonia Alpine HOUDINI (6.0) Light! Minimal with tough fabric. Pricy
RainJacket (alt)Ultimate Direction, Ultra Jkt 5.9 Light, great ventilation options, built-in mitts
Rain PantsOutdoor Research Helium6.0Light. Not insanely expensive
Rainpants (alt)Rain chaps or rain kilt (2.0 oz)For trips with low probability of rain, or warm rain
Mid-layer topNorth Face TKA 100 Glacier 1/4-Zip7.9For use as a mid-layer (and as a “windshirt”)
WindshellDon’t bring anymoreIf cold & windy, will layer rainjacket over my fleece
Warm jacketWest. Mtn. Hooded Flash Jacket10.5Warmth Important for rest stops and in camp.
Warm pantsWestern Mountain. Flash (6.5) CampSaver is one of the few places to get these great pantsFor colder weather. Or folks that run cold in camp
Warm hatOR Option Balaclava1.8Warmer than hat – great for quilt w/o hood!
Warm hatMtn Hdw Power Stretch Balaclava1.2Warmer than hat – great for quilt w/o hood!
Liner glovesDuraGlove ET Charcoal Wool (2.5)Great liner glove – light, warm, durable!
Camp glovesGlacier Glove fingerless fleece (2.0) 2.0Dexterity at camp chores or climbing in cold weather
Rain MittsZPacks Challenger Rain Mitts (1.0)1.0For intermittent use. Expensive.
Rain Mitts (alt)MLD eVENT Rain Mitts (1.2) 1.2For intermittent use.
Rain Mitts (alt)Outdoor Research Revel (3.5)For constant use: waterproof, durable, grip palm
Spare socksDeFeet Wolleators or
SmartWool PhD Light Mini
1.8Will bring to wash & switch between pairs
Sleeping socksDeFeet Woolie Boolie (3.0)No day use; sleeping and dry camp only
Sleeping topPatagonia long sleeve Cap LW (3.5)Dry/clean for camp. Only bring in very wet climates
Sleeping bot.Patagonia Capilene LW (3.4 oz)Dry/clean for camp. Only bring in very wet climates
Sleeping (alt)Terramar Thermasilk top & botInexpensive alternative to expensive base layers
TOTAL2.3 Lb

Backpack and Gear Packaging

PackingItemOzComments
Pack opt 1Mountain Laurel Designs 3500ci EXODUS (17 oz) 17.0No frame. Almost all Dyneema. Very little mesh. Ideal for AT and shorter trips. [award winner]
Pack opt 1Hyperlite Mountain Gear 2400 Windrider (28 oz)For  those that want a frame. Light, super durable, seam sealed bag, good carrying capacity, good pockets. More $ [award winner]
Pack (alt)Gossamer Gear Gorilla 40 (26 oz)Has frame. Durable. Right volume for AT. Record setting pack.
Pack (alt)Osprey Exos 38 Pack (34 oz)Mainstream commercial pack, readily available
Waterproofing for pack2x Gossamer Gear Pack Liner (1.8) (alternate: a trash compactor bag)(1) liner for sleeping bag and insulating clothes
(1) liner for everything else
Food storageQuart-sized HD freezer bag0.5For storing organizing ‘todays’ snack food
Food storageAloksak OP Sak 12.5″ x 20″ (1.0)control food scent – attract less animal attention
Bear canisterBear Vault BV500 (41) or Wild-Ideas Weekender (31)(when reg’s require) Wild-Ideas is lighter but pricy. Bear Vault is a better value
Stuff sacksFor sleeping bag, clothes, etc.2.0Silnylon: keep gear organized, clean, protected
Map sleeveGallon-sized freezer bag0.5Gallon: fewer map folds & shows more map area
Eyewear casepadded nylon sleeve + Ziplock bag0.4No need for a heavy rigid case
TOTAL1.3 Lb

Sleeping Gear and Hammock Camping Setup

Sleep+ShelterItemOzComments
Hammock Shelter Setup – For more on hammocks see: Hammock Camping Series
(for conventional ground sleeping options see “Alternate Camping with a Tarp” below.
HammockDutchware Half-Wit
(with Hexon 1.0 fabric )
 12.5Light, all essential features & bug protection. Value!
(weight includes kevlar/whoopie suspension)
Sleeping QuiltHammock Gear Burrow “+30”14.5(+40F + 2 oz over fill = “+30F”) Great value
Under QuiltHammock Gear Phoenix “+30” 14.060″ long: (+40F + 2 oz over fill = “+30F”) Value
TarpHammock Gear Cuben Hex Tarp 7.0Hammock specific tarp (wt incl. ridgelines & guylines)
Tarp (value)Hammock Bliss XL Rain Fly (18.0)Inexpensive and serviceable hammock tarp
Stakes8 MSR Groundhog Y-stakes .5oz ea4.0Hold better than skewer stakes. Red easier to find!
Guylines3mm MSR Reflective Utility Cord  2.4mm reflect cord (8×4-ft lines)1.02 to 3mm – all work well – diameter your preference
TOTAL3.1 Lb

Alternate Camping with a Tarp  (if not Hammock Camping)

Since most folks will be sleeping in AT shelters it doesn’t make much sense to carry a tent, which will go unused most nights. To save weight, just carry a light tarp in the low probability that there is both no room in the shelter and that it will rain. For more conventional tent & sleeping bag options see: 9 Pound – Full Comfort – Gear List.

Sleep+ShelterItemOzComments
Sleeping BagHammock Gear Burrow Quilt “+30”Pers fave. Great value! (with 2 oz over fill = “+30F”)
Sleeping Bag (alternate)Western Mountaineering SummerLite (19) 19.0Conventional +32 sleeping bag. Light, warm, highest quality, long loft retention
Sleeping PadT-Rest NeoAir X-lite “Women’s”12.1Perfect size for most. Warm. Super comfortable!
For more shelter options see: Recommended Tents, Tarps, and other Shelters
Tent (alt)TarpTent ProTrail – 1 pers (26oz)Full rain & bug protection for one person (has floor)
Tent (alt)Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 1 (33 oz)REI: Freestanding tent for those who feel they need it
Tent/Shelter (alternate)MLD Grace Duo Tarp Silnylon (15) Cuben (7.8) 15.0Pers fave for many trips: Huge coverage. Low weight. Great ventilation and views.
BivyMLD Superlight Bivy (7.0)Perfect with tarp. When bringing will cowboy camp under stars most nights
Ground clothGossamer Gear Polycryo M (1.6)1.6Not needed with a bivy or shelters with a floor
Stakes8 MSR Groundhog Y-stakes .5oz ea4.0Hold better than skewer stakes. Red easier to find!
Guylines3mm MSR Reflective Utility Cord  2.4mm reflect cord (8×4-ft lines)1.02 to 3mm – all work well – diameter your preference
TOTAL3.3 Lb

Cooking Gear and Water Storage/Treatment

Cook/WaterItemOzComments
BottlesSawyer 64 oz Squeezable Pouch1.5For collecting treating water in camp – dry camps
BottlesSawyer 32 oz Squeezable Pouch1.0Use during the day (note: Platypus doesn’t fit Sawyer)
PurificationSawyer filter (3.0)3.0To drink on the spot – greatly reduces water cary
PurificationChlorine Dioxide tablets0.5For treating 2L bladder in camp
CooksetTrail Designs Toaks 900ml Pot, Sidewinder Ti-Tri, 4fl-oz fuel bottle5.3Lightest, most practical cookset on the market.
Zelph StarLyte Burner stores unburned fuel.
Cookset (alt)Jetboil Zip Cooking System, Jetpower 100 Fuel Canister (18.5)EZ to use. Much heavier than the alcohol stove cookset. Not “green” with non-recyclable canisters.
Pot (bargain)Open Country 3 Cup Pot (3.8)As good as a titanium pot but only $16
Cookset(cheap)TD $40-$50 pot/cookset option Stay tuned: Working on what this will be
Fuel containerBoston Round Bottle 4 fl-oz (0.8)
or TD Fuel Bottle Kit
(5 fl-oz act. cap) use squirt spout top for and medicine cup accurate dispensing
IgnitionStandard (not micro) BIC lighter0.2Larger is easier to use with cold hands
MugSnow Peak Ti Single 450 Cup (2.4)
Fave: MLD 475 Ti mug (1.3oz)
1.3Eat breakfast & have coffee at same time
Bowl/Mug (alt)Ziplock 14 fl-oz bowl (0.6 oz)Pers fave: “mug” and/or bowl. Cheap, light, available
Mug (alt)Starbucks “$1,” 16 fl-oz cup (1.6oz)Readily available, inexpensive, reasonably durable
UtensilPlastic spoon with big shovel0.3spoon handle cut to fit in pot
Coffee brewMSR MugMate Coffee Filter (1.0)For using ground coffee (and not Starbuck’s VIA)
TOTAL0.8 Lb

“Essential” Gear (smaller items not included in above)

EssentialsItemOzComments
MAPS11X17 Custom Maps in ZipLock2.0Mapped with CalTopo and printed at Kinkos
Charging6000mAh Anker batt + cable (5.1)for longer tips (~1.5 iPhone6 charges)
SOS/TrackerPreferred: inReach SE (6.9)2-way communication (a big deal!), visible GPS coordinates, and trip tracking+SOS
SOS/Track (alt)SPOT Gen3 (4.8)Disadvantages: only 1-way com, no vis. GPS coord.
GPS & CommIridium 9555 SatPhone (9.7 oz)
or Iridium GO!
Make no mistake: voice communication is still the gold-standard for high risk trips
OpticsROXANT 7×18 monocular (2.0)Light: scouting/route finding, decent, inexpensive
Optics (alt)MINOX BV II 8×25 binoc’s (10.8)Scouting, much better wildlife observation, value
Pen/pencilFisher Space Pen Stowaway0.2To mark up maps, take notes about trip
ToothbrushGUM 411 Classic Toothbrush0.4Full head. minimal handle (but not cut in 1/2)
ToothpasteTravel size 1/2 full0.7
Toilet paperWhatever is on the roll at home1.0TP only for polish, use found materials first
Soap/sanitizerDr. Bronners0.5Dr. Bronner’s – repackaged into small bottle
Sunscreensmall plastic tube about 1/2 full0.5for face & hands: most of body covered—large hat
Lip balmBert’s Bees or similar0.2Minimal wt for dedicated lip balm
First Aid KitMeds, wound/injury, foot care3.0See detailed list at bottom
HeadnetSea to Summit Head Net (1.2)Mosquito netting – don’t take on most trips
Insect repell.Repel Pen Pump Insect Repellent
Sawyer Maxi-DEET Spray (0.5)
Convenient size; effective. Sawyer preferred.
Foot care kitBonnie’s Balm in small balm jar0.5In case of wet feet. Never get blisters.
CompassSuunto M-3D Compass (1.6)1.6Lightest compass with declination adjustment
Knife/scissorsWescott blunt tip school scissors0.9More useful than knife – OK for plane carryon
KnifeGerber L.S.T. Drop Point (1.2 oz)Can cut bread and salami – very light for 2.6″ blade
Knife (alt)Spyderco Ladybug Knife (0.6)2″ blade – one of the lightest functional knives
FirestarterBic Mini Lighter + trash0.2Energy bar wrappers are great fire starter
LightBD Ion ii headlamp (45g)1.62 AAAs + headband. Bright, efficient dimmable LED
(slide/touch operation a bit wonky, so not for all)
Light (alt)Fenix LD02 w spare battery (1.0)Best mini light available, attach to hat brim with clip
RepairTenacious patch, duct tape, glue 0.2Also consider NeoAir patch kit, and Aquaseal
Finance/IDID, CCs, and cash in snack ZipLock0.2More secure on me than left in car
TOTAL0.8Lb

Clothing Worn and Items Carried (stuff not in pack)

Worn/CarriedItemOzComments
ShirtSmartWool Micro T Short-Sleeve4.5Light, comfortable. On trail, in shade. No need for sleeves. (put on fleece for cold/windy Wx)
Shirt (alt)SmartWool NTS lightweight zip (8)Shirt & baselayer: for colder weather
PantsRail Riders X-Treme Adventure (16)Pers fave. Very durable, no velcro on pockets!
Pants (alt)REI Sahara convertable pants (14) 14.0On trail, in shade: will hike in shorts most days.
Ex Officio and many others make similar pants
UnderwearPatagonia briefs2.0Dry fast, will rinse/wash most days
BraLighter, quick drying spots braNot an expert on this one!
ShoesInov-8 ROCLITE 295 (20oz)20.0Pers fave. Light, sticky rubber, durable, low heel rise
Shoes (alt)Brooks Cascadia (25 oz)Very popular trail shoe for LW backpackers
Shoes (alt)Lightweight trail running shoesMost non-Goretex trail running shoes that fit well
SocksDeFeet Wolleators or
SmartWool PhD Light Mini
1.8Wolleators are pers fave. Light, thin, warm, simple, durable
GaitersDirty Girl gaiters (1.2 oz)I rarely find the need for gaiters
HeadwearNylon Ball Cap2.0Mostly shade on AT. No need for killer sun protection
WatchSuunto Core with positive display2.2compass, altimeter, multifunction timepiece. No GPS
Watch/GPSGarmin Fenix 3 Sapphire (3 oz)Accurate trip track: GPS, compass, altimeter, time
SunglassesRx and non-Rx (polarized)1.0http://www.zennioptical.com/ for cheap Rx options
GlassesZenni clear Rx glasses (1.0 oz)Great glasses! for $20 or so. But 2-3 week delivery
CameraCanon S120 + extra battery (8 oz)Balance of wt, size, image qual; less $ than RX100
Camera (alt)Sony RX100 or Sony a6000See Serious Lightweight Backpacking Cameras
GPS/CommIphone 6+ Ziplock baggie (7.5)7.5Primary GPS & map source (not leaving in car!)
Poles bargainCascade Mountain Tech Carbon15.2Pers fave. 1/3 price but equal to the best poles
Trek PolesREI Carbon Power Lock (16 oz)
BD Carbon Alpine (18 oz)
Stiff, light, travel-friendly, won’t break off-trail/rough terrain (readily available)
TOTAL4.3 Lb

First Aid Kit (detail)

First AidItemOzComments
Pain, fever inflammationNaprosyn (Aleve), Ibuprofen, or Tylenol (fever)0.4In ziplock pill bag available at pharmacies
Foot/blisterGauze + Leukotape Tape0.3For taping over blisters, or pre-blister areas
Foot/blisterTincture of benzoin in micro-bottle0.2For getting tape or Bandaids to REALLY stick!
Wound careBandaids + gel blister covers0.5Assorted sizes – your preference
Wound careAntibact. packets + wound wipes0.4Wound cleansing, infection prevention
OTC medsBenadryl, Sudafed, Nexium, Imodium, caffeine tablets0.4All in tablet/pill form
Rx medsPersonal Dr’s Rx meds0.4
Pain seriousDr’s Rx Painkiller0.2For serious injury, tooth abscess, etc.
Storage/orgBag Poly 5×8  to hold 1st Aid Kit0.2 Keep size down. Can only put in what can fit in bag.
TOTAL3.0 Oz (included in “Essential” Gear)

7 pound Ultralight Gear List for Sierras – circa 2001

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

At under $700, this is a good example of how you can assemble a great kit of light gear for not too much money—even tho it’s over 10 years old. While much of the gear on this list not the latest model, there are current inexpensive analogs for much of the gear on this list.

 Summary of Weights
LbsCostItem
1.4$150Sleeping
1.2$80Shelter
1.9$106Clothes packed
1$144Pack & stuff sacks
1.2$31Essentials
0.9$47Cooking, water, food storage
7.6$511Base Pack Weight
3.7$177Items worn or carried
11.3$688Total FSO
Sleeping
OzLbsCostItem
171.06$140RAB Top Bag
4.80.3$10Foam pad 20×45
1.36Total
Shelter
OzLbsCostItem
90.56$556×8 Campmor Tarp
2.30.146 aluminum stakes
15.3n/aSil Shelter $150
2n/a2 tent poles for Sil Shelter $7
1.50.09$1550′ Triptease shelter cord
1.70.11$10OR bug headnet
4.50.28Tyvek Ground Sheet
1.19Total
Essentials
OzLbsCostItem
20.13Maps & stuff in zip loc
1.20.08$6Compass, basic
10.06Prescription glasses
0.60.04$20Pockt Bright blue LED light
0.20.01Whistle
40.25Boo boo (1st aid) kit
1.50.09Sunscreen & chap stick
10.06Lighter, b’candle, matches
1.10.07$5H2O purify tablets
20.13Jungle juice & Bio Soap
20.13TP, toothbrush, toothpaste
1.90.12Duct Tape 1oz, Bandana 0.9oz
1.40.09Cred card, $$, permit, pen, paper
1.24Total
Clothes packed
OzLbsCostItem
7.20.45$35Sil nylon rain poncho
8.20.51$25Cirrus vest
60.38$20Ltwt MTS zip-T
4.80.3$6Light Poly bottoms
10.06$6Light Poly balaclava
1.30.08$4Lt. poly gloves
2.50.16$10Trail running socks (spare)
1.94Total
Pack & stuff sacks
OzLbsCostItem
140.88$110Golite Breeze (frameless rucksack)
2n/aSil Nylon Pack Liner
10.06$14Grn Sil Nylon clothes stuff
1.40.09$20Golite sleep bag stuff sack
1.03Total
Cooking, water, food storage    
OzLbsCostItem
OzLbsCostItem
0.50.03$3Mesh food stuff sack
40.2550′ food rope
1.20.08$62 liter platypus
40.25$20Platy 2 L zip hoser
4.50.28$18Seychelle inline filter
0.89Total
Items worn or carried 
OzLbsCostItem
30.51.91$35Solomon Wind Raid Shoes
2.50.16$10Trail running socks
12.80.8$40REI convert. pants w belt
60.38$40Railriders ecomesh shirt L
20.13$20Sun Hat
10.06Prescription Raybans
2.40.15Watch
1.30.08$32SA Classic knife, Photon, Lanyard
3.66Total
Potential List Changes 
For +20 low temperatures add:
15.30.96Sil Shelter $150
20.132 tent poles for Sil Shelter $7
13.40.84PreCip rain jacket M $99
2.80.18Heavy Poly Balaclava
8.10.51Mid wt zip T MTS (REI)
2.30.14Fingerless fleece gloves
120.75Marmot DriClime Omni Jacket
4.10.26Silk Bag Liner: 4.5 w sack
Remove:
6-0.38Ltwt MTS zip-T
6-0.38Railriders ecomesh shirt L
1-0.06Light poly balacalva
7.2-0.45Sil nylon rain poncho
9-0.566×8 Campmor Tarp
9.6Basic Pack Weight
12.4FSO
For unexpected snow add:
3.70.23Seal Skins socks M
2.50.16Minigaiters Trail Racer II
8Basic Pack Weight
11.69FSO
For +20 & Possible Snow (above 2 additions combined):
9.8Basic Pack Weight
12.6FSO
For rainier trips. E.g. East Coast. Add:
20.13Sil Nylon Pack Liner
30.19Sil nylon rain chaps (custom)
7.96Basic Pack Weight
11.61FSO
If fishing add:
60.38GL3 Fly rod w/o case
5.20.33Fly reel, sci. anglers
8.50.53All other flyfishing stuff
8.88Basic Pack Weight
12.53FSO
If cooking with partner add:
3.50.22Snowpeak Giga stove
6.50.414 oz Snow peak fuel (est wt)
0.50.03Foil Windscreen
4.30.27MSR Ti Kettle with lid
1.90.12Evernew Ti Mug
0.350.02plastic spoons
1.07Additional weight

2.4 Pound Extreme Ultralight Backpacking on the Appalachian Trail

2016 Update: I have redone this with a a new post “5 Pound Practical Ultralight Backpacking Gear List” which I believe is a far better approach to light on the AT. This new gear list is both light and practical. It can be used by many AT hikers to increase both their enjoyment and miles covered per day.


 

2007 version – 2.4 Pound Extreme Ultralight Backpacking on the Appalachian Trail

Gossamer_Gear_Whisper

sub-5 pounds Full Skin Out Base Weight. That’s all of my pack and everything I am wearing. Overlooking the Shenandoah Valley

Detailed 2.4 lb Extreme Ultralight Gear List (pdf)
90+ mile Fall trip – AT in Shenandoah National Park – 3 days / 2 nights, Nighttime temps near 32 F with wind. One day/night of rain.

Some key gear for 4.8 pounds FSO-BW: Jacks R Better Stealth Quilt (worn in poncho mode), Oware Cattarp 1.5 (cuben fiber version), Trail Designs Caldera cook system, Gossamer Gear 2007 Lightrek Poles (supporting the Cattarp), Inov-8 F-Lite 300 shoes, Gossamer Gear Whisper pack (blue), Rain Shield O2 Rain Jacket (yellow behind pack), and Smartwool Microweight Shirt.

A Brief Summary of the Details

When I first thought of testing out a Sub-five-pound, Full Skin Out Base Weight (FSO-BW) gear kit I thought of early Fall in the Blue Ridge. To be a valid test, I’d need some good rain, some wind and cold nighttime temperatures. I’d need to watch the weather and be ready to quickly head out when the predicted forecast met these conditions. I’d also need to cover a lot of trail miles, at least 75 to 100 miles, to test out my gear. I chose the AT in the SNP because it is more mileage than I’d likely cover in three days and for its significance as a national trail. “AT trail miles” have become something of a national hiking standard.

My criteria for testing sub-five-pound FSO-BW*:

  • Hike 75 or more miles in 3 days
  • Must have solid rain
  • One night with temperatures below 40 deg F
    (possibly approaching 32 deg F)
  • Carry own shelter
  • Full rain gear
  • Cook food (There’s 3 oz or so to be saved here, and many who venture into pack weights this low will opt to go without cooking. I wanted to get under 5 pounds FSO-BW and still cook. It seemed a more elegant way to get there.)
  • When possible, gear should be readily available, and reasonable in cost (reasonable for making a Sub-five-pound FSO-BW).

* Using different criteria: Staying in huts and without cooking it would be possible to achieve a 1.9 pound base packweight (see gear list for more details) and under four pounds FSO-BW.

Using the above criteria it was harder to get down to Sub-five-pound FSO-BW than I had anticipated. I quickly realized that my primary gear focus was on keeping warm and dry. To do that and stay under weight FSO-BW, I threw out many of the Ten “Essentials” and gear numerous people would consider essential. For instance: compass, knife, [sun hat, sunglasses, sunscreen]*, warm insulating jacket or vest, gloves, spare socks, long pants, TP, toothbrush/toothpaste, and no underwear. I even considered leaving my watch. On the trip I missed very little of this. The thing I wanted most was the down hood that mated with my JRB Stealth down quilt. (I would have traded my first aid kit and more for the hood.) I also missed dry camp socks at night.

* I had a good summer base tan, only my face and hands were exposed, the leaves were on the trees so the trail was mostly shaded.

Clothing and “gear carried” counts for a lot in FSO-BW. Usually, it is more than your BPW. To make sub 5 pounds, I selected the lightest garments I could get away with. Being a smaller person helps. Many times I went down a clothing size to reduce weight.

Key Gear

Jacks R Better Stealth Quilt

This was my most important piece of gear. The Stealth Quilt is a lighter, sewn-through version of the No Sniveler Quilt. At $200 for a sub-one-pound sleep system with 800 fill power down, it is an ultralight bargain. The Stealth Quilt has a slit in the middle so it can be worn as an insulting poncho. Like Francis Capon in his CDT Yoyo, this quilt was both my “sleeping bag” and my sole insulating garment (Francis used a warmer version). Jacks R Better offers a down hood that integrates with both the Stealth and No Sniveler.

The poncho/quilt system works quite well when you hike without stopping during the day. It eliminates about a pound to a half pound for an insulating garment like a down or synthetic high loft jacket. (In cold weather you hike fast enough to stay warm with a light wool shirt and a rain jacket.) In camp, you use the quilt briefly as a garment to stay warm while you cook and do chores morning and evening, otherwise you’re sleeping under it.

My 15 oz Stealth quilt had 2 inches of average loft (single layer), ½ inch over the manufacturer specified 1 ½ inches of loft. It is rated to +45 °F. The first night was in the low 50’s and I slept quite warm under the JRB Stealth Quilt and easily dried out clothes wet from hiking in the rain. The second night on the trip was around 30 F, or about 10 to 15 degrees below the quilt’s rating. Due to the Stealth’s generous loft (for sub 16 oz bag), I managed to stay warm enough to get reasonable sleep.

Note: One can use a conventional sleeping bag as an insulating garment. This involves wrapping the bag around your torso and neck and then covering it with an oversized shell jacket (e.g. a Rain Shield jacket a size larger than you normally wear) to hold it in place. It is the height of fall fashion and your buddies may laugh at you, but it works.

Gossamer Gear Whisper Uberlight Pack — overlooking the Shenandoah Valley

Gossamer Gear Whisper Uberlight Pack

At 3.8 oz and $60 the Whisper may be the best extreme ultralight deal on the market. I’ve used the Whisper since it was first introduced. In the beginning I had misgivings about the packs paper thin appearance but the pack is remarkably durable. I own two and both are doing fine with a many miles on them. For most UL and XUL trips the volume of the pack is about right. My only suggestion: I wish the pack had side pockets to store food and a water bottle, etc. in a more accessible location. (I hope that Gossamer Gear is developing a Whisper-based pack with side pockets.)

Oware Cuben Cattarp 1.5

This tarp, large enough for two-people in pinch, weighs 3.9 ounces! It uses a new lighter Cuben fabric. The large coverage has another weight savings. It allows a single hiker to use down bag without a bivy to protect it from rain that might blow under a smaller tarp. The Cuben Cattarp 1.5 while expensive for a tarp is still inexpensive compared to most UL tents. You get what you pay for. A tarp or shelter with the same coverage in Spinnaker fabric is almost double the weight. The Cattarp 1.5 measures 8.8 feet long x 7.1 feet wide at the front. It kept me dry with room to store gear and cook. I like the simplicity and ease of pitching a tarp.

Trail Designs Caldera and Beer Can Cookpot

Most times I don’t cook on solo trips. But I thought that it would be more elegant to get under 5 pounds FSO-BW and still cook. In addition, I was doing a lot of trail miles and it is a big psychological boost to have hot food at the end of a 30+ mile day with thousands of feet of climbing. I like my hot cuppa (tea) in the morning and a warm meal and hot chocolate at night. The light weight and high fuel efficiency of the Caldera system is hard to beat. I took two ounces of alcohol fuel for the trip. Weight of the whole system including fuel bottle (less fuel) was well under 3 ounces. Image on the left is a lightened version of the TD stove system that I used (lower capacity and no priming ring stove, stripped down parts) that is not currently in production.

Note: A version of this stove (right image), the Trail Designs Caldera Keg Cooking System is now available to the general public.

Gossamer Gear Lightrek 3 Trekking Poles

New for 2007 is a stronger and stiffer tapered shaft that adds no weight to the poles. These are strong enough for anything trail hiking can dish out. They are also excellent tarp supports. At 2.4 ounces they are about ½ the weight of most aluminum and carbon trekking poles yet cost no more than many high quality poles. Another UL/XUL bargain.

Note: Some will argue to skip the poles and just string the tarp between trees or use sticks for shelter support. I believe, like many long distance hikers, that trekking poles increase hiking efficiency. While I could have reduced my FSO-BWweight by leaving the poles, I believe it would have also reduced my daily mileage. The poles had two other significant advantages on the trip. (1) They clearly prevented me from slipping and falling when I hiked at night in pouring rain and whiteout conditions. (2) They were a godsend for a quick setup of my tarp in the rain that night. I was not in the mood, nor did I have the time, to ferret about in the dark for the right sticks to erect my shelter. I wanted to be under the tarp, in my warm quilt, and cooking dinner.

Inov-8 F-Lite 300 Shoes and Smartwool Adrenaline Socks

Shoe weight matters. Even a conventional lightweight trail runner is too heavy for a sub 5 pound FSO-BW. The difficulty is finding a very light shoe that provides enough comfort and support to hike 30+ miles a day with no foot problems. The Inov-8 F-Lite 300’s are just over 10 ounces per shoe, provide excellent cushion (3 arrow mid-sole), and are easy on the feet. This summer alone, I’ve backpacked hundreds of miles in the magic combination of Inov-8 F-Lite 300 Shoes and Smartwool Adrenaline socks with no problems. This trip was no different. After 90+ miles in three days I had no blisters or serious foot discomfort.

Gossamer Gear Thinlight Sleeping Pad

Probably the highest R value (insulating) pad for its weight, the Thinlight is surprisingly comfortable for the portion of your body it supports. The Thinlight does take up a bit of pack volume. In this case, that was a good thing as my Whisper pack was a bit over-volume for the small amount of gear I carried. I used a 3/8 inch thick pad trimmed to approximately 30 inches long and 16 to 12 inches wide.

Gossamer Gear Spinn Chapps

These were a new piece of gear for me. I was surprised at how well they worked. I have always taken GoLite Reed pants when there’s a good chance of rain. On this trip, I had on and off rain starting about noon on the first day and hard rain from late afternoon to when I stopped hiking around 10 PM. The rain was fairly warm (60’s), with dreadfully high humidity and whiteout conditions for most of the evening. The Spinn Chapps kept my legs just damp and I easily dried out under my quilt that night.

Rain Shield O2 Rain Jacket

I hadn’t used this jacket for a while but it was perfect for the trip. It is less than 5 ounces. The Propore fabric is highly breathable—almost as breathable as eVENT with the same flat moisture curve of a true microporous membrane (as opposed PU based technology including Gore-Tex). Breathability mattered since the Jacket would also be my windshirt. In a day of hiking in the rain (see Spinn Chapps) I arrived at camp just damp and I easily dried out under my quilt that night. The next two days had cold mornings (near freezing) and evenings and I used the Jacket as windshirt over my wool baselayer to stay warm when I hiked. I also used the Rain Shield Jacket as a pillow by stuffing it into its hood. It was my only bulky item left to make a pillow.

Smartwool Microweight Shirt

Initially I considered taking a 3 oz GoLite C-Thru T-shirt. But with no insulating garment and no long pants, my shirt would be my sole warm piece of clothing when I hiked. From numerous years of experience with Smartwool shirts I know that in combination with a shell (in this case the Rain Shield Jacket) and a fleece balaclava, I can stay warm hiking down to the freezing (or even upper 20’s F if I keep moving fast).

30 Pound Weight Savings for Lightweight Backpacking

Food and food storage: 6.5 lbs (5.2 lbs food, 1.3 lbs bear cans)
The biggest weight savings of the trip and nobody went hungry.
Again the greatest weight savings was in food. See below.

Clothing:  5.5 pounds
Less clothes, no Polarfleece, no camp shoes, lighter rainwear

Packs: 5.2 pounds
Heavy frame packs vs. ultralight frameless packs

Shelter: 2.4 pounds
Freestanding dome tent and Space Blankets vs. tarps and lightweight ground cloths

Sleeping: 2.2 pounds
Polarguard bags and Thermarests vs. ultralight down bags and foam pads

Stove and Fuel: 1.8 pounds.
MSR stove, full MSR XGK cook set and two bottles of fuel vs. Snowpeak Giga, one titanium pot and one Primus fuel canister.

Misc. Odd and Ends: 2.3 pounds
Including but not limited to: Leaving a 1.9 lb first aid kit & 14 oz of sunscreen, Platypus reservoirs instead of rigid Nalgene bottles, Photon micro lights instead of incandescent headlamps, fewer and lighter maps, etc. (see detailed list)

The Rest of the stuff: ? pounds
Including but not limited to weight reductions in: Additional food carried for other party members, fishing equipment, water treatment, repair kits, straps, soap, bug juice, dental stuff, TP, compasses, emergency Space Blankets, notepaper and pencils, ditty bags, etc., etc.

DETAILS ON FOOD AND FOOD STORAGE

Logistics (saved us one days food and started the trip right)
First we stayed locally the night before the trip. This put us at trailhead early the first day, feeling chipper and raring to go. This and lighter packs allowed us to easily travel in the fist day some difficult cross country that took us two days on the previous trip. We arrived in camp with plenty of time to fish the evening hatch. It saved us a day’s worth of food as well.

Every other trip I’ve taken has started at 4 AM with a long drive to the Sierras, getting a permit and bear cans, frantic packing of the food etc. Tired and cranky we’d be lucky to get to trail head with enough time to stagger down the trail a few miles before dusk. Starting like this puts a trip, quite literally, off on a bad foot. I don’t think I will do it again if I can help it. Nothing like starting fresh and positive with a big lodge breakfast in your belly!

Food per Person
We carried 1.6 lbs/per/day on this trip vs. 2.0+ lbs/per/day of the last trip. By going for one less day (but the same trip with the same number of layover days) we reduced our food even more — 9.6 pounds (7 days – 6 nights) vs. 15 pounds (8 days – 7 nights). We were never hungry and came back with extra food. In the final calculation we ate 1.47 lbs of food per person per day. In addition, we packed denser (calories per cu/in) food that would more easily fit into bear cans. Lots of good high calorie GORP is great for this.

3,100 vs. 3,700 calories per day
We packed food that was higher in calories, 130 cal/oz vs. 110 cal/oz of the previous trip. Even so, we consumed fewer calories per day than on the previous trip. One explanation is that with lighter packs and feeling less stressed you need less food.

Food Storage (Bear Cans saved 1.3 lb/person)
We rented 3 Bearikade Bear Cans from Wild Ideas. We used two Weekender cans and one Expedition for four people and 7 hiking days — a weight savings of 1.3 lb/person. But renting bear cans ahead of time did more than reduce weight. We were able to pack our bear cans at home before the trip. We could be sure that our food would fit and that we could start hiking as soon as we hit trail head. (Last trip we had a rude shock at trail head when all our food didn’t fit into the 3 Garcia Bear Cans. This was partially a problem of too much food and partially a problem of choosing bulky food that did not pack well into a bear can. We had to hang our freeze dried dinners for the first few days, figuring that they had no scent, had the highest volume and fewest calories, and that we could continue the trip if we lost them. There is also the question of backcountry regulations… Fortunately we were off trail in areas not frequented by bears on those first nights. I wasn’t happy about this and went to some effort not to repeat it on the this trip.)

Fish for Appetizer
Finally we did eat a fish twice during the trip. We didn’t eat all that much fish. It probably only qualified as an appetizer and didn’t add more than a few hundred calories per person for the trip. But it was delicious!

 

4.7 lb Super Ultralight Pack in the Sierras

Light shelter: We weathered two days of rain and wind, completely exposed at over 11K. Our Gossamer Gear Spinn Twinn tarp kept us dry at just over 4 ounces per person.

A 15 lb pack (with food & fuel) for 7 days in the High Sierra

It’s been six years since Colin dropped 30 pounds from his pack. Time to drop some more pack-weight! Once again the brothers and their sons ventured into the Sierras with even lighter packs. We headed into the Southern Sierras. Our plan was to:

  1. Climb from 5K to 11K the first day
  2. Spend the rest of the trip traveling mostly off-trail in areas 11 to 12+K, and
  3. Fish remote areas, concentrating on finding Golden Trout and native Rainbow Trout
  4. And of course, drop some more pack weight!

A Brief Summary of the Details (with pictures below)

Detailed gear 4.7 pound backpacking gear list for 2007 Sierra Trip (PDF file)

While we did not make the huge weight savings of our 2001 trip, we still shaved another 10 pounds from our 2001 packs weights. This brings the total weight savings vs. our 1999 trip to over 40 pounds. Our packs were 75% lighter than in 1999!

Lake

A Brief Summary of the Details (with pictures below)

It’s been six years since Colin dropped 30 pounds from his pack. Once again the brothers and their sons ventured into the Sierras—this time with even lighter packs. We headed into the Southern Sierras. Our plan was to:

  1. Climb from 5K to 11K the first day
  2. Spend the rest of the trip traveling mostly off-trail in areas 11 to 12+K, and
  3. Fish remote areas, concentrating on finding Golden Trout and native Rainbow Trout
  4. And of course, drop some more pack weight!
Kevin Hiking

The trip went without a hitch and all equipment performed well even with below freezing temps and a fluke cold front with significant amounts of precipitation and wind.

A Brief Text Summary of What Changed

Savings vs. 1999
Total PackTotalGearFood & Food storage
199955
2001253023.56.5
2007154029.210.8
10 lb Saved 2007 vs. 2001

While we did not make the huge weight savings of our 2001 trip, still we shaved another 10 pounds from our 2001 packs weights. This brings the total weight savings vs. our 1999 trip to over 40 pounds. Our packs were 75% lighter than in 1999!

Food: Like the reduction from 1999 to 2001, our greatest single weight savings (over 4 pounds) was from food and food storage. Our food “savings” came from taking fewer days to travel a longer trip distance over harder terrain. That is we took fewer days food. This reduction in trip days is due to:

    • Both sons are older and in better shape—gaining adult strength and endurance they can hike faster and longer each day.
    • The fathers can still hold their own.
    • With nearly 50% lighter packs vs. 2001 we all could travel faster and farther each day (but still have plenty of time for fun, side trips and fishing for golden trout.)

Golden Trout

Food Storage/Bear Cans: We weren’t in an area requiring bear canisters but we were close to area that did require them. We considered each taking an 8 oz Ursack (without aluminum liner) for our food, but we decided to share an ultralight food hanging system for less than 2 ounces per person. We camped well away from trails and popular areas that bears might habituate. We were fastidious about our cooking and washing up habits. We made excellent food hangs, slept next to our food and were prepared to defend it from Bears.
Father Son

Packs: Colin and I used low volume, hipbeltless packs with a minimum of features. With strong but light, high tech fabric they are more than durable enough for off trail travel and light mountaineering. On the right is my 10-ounce, home made backapck with durable X-Pac fabric.
Sleeping

Sleeping: Average sleeping bag weight went from 1.75 lb to 1.1 lb using very light hoodless down sleeping bags. Some savings came from using 1 oz Polycryo ground cloths. We slept warm enough in below freezing temps.
Shelter

Shelter: We shared a 9 ounce Gossamer Gear SpinnTwinn tarp. This two-person spinnaker cloth tarp is less than half the weight of our old tarp with heavier silnylon fabric. We weathered a couple of days of high winds and sustained rain when camping exposed at over 11K.

Wx

And this rolling in, is is the ugly weather system that sat on us for two days. Again, no problems under a tarp.

Clothing

Clothing: We halved the weight of our rainwear and insulating garments by using new lighter technology clothing (a 5 oz vest each was the only warm clothing we brought). Much of this saving comes from substantially lighter fabrics. We added 1.5 oz rain chaps.Caldera

Stove/Cooking: We switched to an integrated alcohol stove/pot/cooking system from Trail Designs and Antigravity Gear. This system is lighter than a canister stove. More significant, alcohol stoves are more environmentally conscious than fuel canisters. The fuel efficiency of the Trail Designs Caldera system contributed to a weight reduction in fuel carried for the trip.

The Rest (not included above): A number of small things add up. We saved around 2 pounds vs. 2001 by taking fewer things and lighter things. It pays to look at the small details.

View

Trout

Kevin 2

Swim

Kevin

Fishing

K & S

Hiking

Weather

KS Tarp

The Crew