This May, unseasonably cold temperatures and a winter storm warning were too much to pass up, so my son Chase and I set out for an overnighter in SE Wyoming.

We hiked about 16 miles, some on trail, but much of it off-trail through snow, swamp, tussocks, and bushwhacking through aspen, pine, and fir forests.

Here’s the trip video:

YouTube video

Selected Gear

My starting skin out weight, including 3+ lb of camera equipment, food, and all worn/carried items was about 25 lb (not including water, of which I didn’t usually carry any (exception: I filled up 3L of water for a dry camp after we cooked dinner by the creek).

ShelterTarptent Notch (weight includes stow bag, extra stakes and guylines, silnylon canopy, and partial mesh inner tent)33 oz
Sleeping BagEnlightened Equipment Enigma 10 deg F, 10d, 950 fill, pad straps20 oz
Sleeping PadTherm-a-Rest NeoAir Uberlite8 oz
Pad Inflation BagExped Schnozzel2 oz
PillowHyperlight Mountain Gear Stuff Sack Pillow (with some open cell foam pieces)4 oz
Sleep Gear Compression SackOsprey StraightJacket Compression Sack3 oz
Insulating JacketEnlightened Equipment Torrid Apex Jacket (Mens)8 oz
Rain JacketArc’teryx Zeta FL Rain Jacket7 oz
Rain PantsZPacks Challenger (old model, now replaced by ZPacks Vertice Rain Pants which are even better!)4 oz
Base Layer TopSmartwool PhD Light Hoodie7 oz
Base Layer Bottoms / Trekking PantsREI Winter Running Tights (discontinued model)9 oz
Wind ShirtPatagonia Houdini Air Windshirt (Men’s)4 oz
Active InsulationPatagonia Nano-Air Light Hybrid Vest (Men’s)5 oz
Trekking SocksDarn Tought HIker Boot Socks3 oz
OversocksRocky Gore-Tex Oversocks2 oz
ShoesLa-Sportiva Akyra Trail-Running Shoes27 oz
GaitersOutdoor Research Rocky Mountain High Gaiters6 oz
GlovesBlack Diamond Lightweight Screentap Gloves2 oz
Mitten ShellsREI Minimalist Waterproof Mittens (Discontinued)2 oz
HatSmartwool NTS Merino 150 Beanie0.6 oz
StoveMSR PocketRocket Deluxe3 oz
PotMSR Titan Kettle4 oz
SpoonMSR Folding Spoon0.3 oz
Satellite CommunicatorGarmin inReach Mini3.5 oz
Fitness / GPS WatchGarmin Fenix 5X+3 oz
Trekking PolesBlack Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles17 oz
Camera GearGoPro HERO7 Black, mic adapter, external mic, tripod, extra batteries, lens pen, Lume Cube Air Lights (2), and some iPhone accessories (Moment tele lens / ND filter for B-roll shot between 32:43 and 34:17 in the video)48 oz
Weather StationTwo Kestrel Drop loggers (one for inside the tent, one for outside), Kestrel 5500 Weather Meter meter with Kestrel 5000-Series Elite Wind Vane, small tripod, some notetaking supplies, extra batteries10 oz
Phone / GPS / etc.iPhone XS in a Moment Case, 10000 mAh battery bank. Apps I use in the backcountry: Gaia GPS App, Kindle, Filmic Pro, Notes16 oz
SunglassesSmith Challis Photochromic2 oz
SawSuluk46 Uki Saw4.5 oz
Water TreatmentKatadyn BeFree Collapsible 20oz Water Bottle3 oz
Extra Water BottleHydrapack Seeker 3L Collapsible Water Container2.5 oz
HeadlampFenix HM50R Rechargable Headlamp2.2 oz
DinnerGood-to-Go New England Corn Chowder
(with Bonito!)
7 oz
BreakfastGood-to-Go Oatmeal4 oz
Favorite trail foodPatagonia Provisions Wild Smoked Salmon Filet7 oz

Field Notes

  1. The Uberlite was too cold for a 21 deg F night, sleeping on wet ground. In the middle of the night, I removed the foam back pad from my pack, placed it under my torso on top of the Uberlite, and slept great the rest of the night. I should have brought my Gossamer Gear Thinlight pad to use with the Uberlite, or a warmer inflatable pad like my Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xtherm.
  2. My feet were cold – again – I place blame on the Uberlite. I wrapped them in waterproof stuff sacks mid-way through the night and it was manageable. I wish I had my down socks.
  3. I appreciate the weight of the Enlgihtened Equipment Enigma, considering its temperature rating, but I certainly missed the wide girth and insulated collar of the REI Magma Trail Quilt I’ve been using most of this spring. I would have rather had that bag, it’s more comfortable overall, but a 21 deg F night would have been pushing its limits pretty hard.
  4. Chase used Katabatic Gear Palisade (30 deg F) quilt, and wore lightweight long underwear and an 8 oz Goosefeet Down Hoody at night. He was a little cold, but I heard him snore, so I know he got at least a few hours of decent sleep.
  5. The Suluk46 Uki bucksaw is a wonderful tool – my favorite “extra” when I know I want a campfire. Time to retire my folding saws now.
  6. I was too busy filming (and carrying my camera rig) to use the trekking poles but needed them for the tent. I have to rethink tent poles for my Notch. I have the aluminum set from Tarptent but they’re too wobbly. Maybe it’s time to invest into some custom-made stiff carbon poles for my Tarptents.
  7. The Tarptent Notch is a great tent in these conditions, but I was wishing for a fly that went all the way to the ground and a full-mesh inner, both of which would be better in wind and snow.
  8. I brought four 8-inch MSR Ground Hog stakes for the two ends and two vestibule doors for the Notch. These stakes have the highest holding power:weight ratio of any stakes I’ve tested, and I want to be able to tension the Notch’s silnylon canopy as tight as possible for wind resistance and snow loading. I brought lighter stakes (MSR Carbon Core) for the rest of the guylines.
  9. My trekking layer ensemble for my torso is as good as I’ve ever experienced in 35 years of backpacking – Smartwool PhD Light Hoody for the base layer, Patagonia Houdini Air WindshirtPatagonia Nano-Air Light Hybrid Vest, and Arc’teryx Zeta FL Rain Jacket. Breathability, comfort over a wide temperature range, and very fast dry times are the hallmark features of this ensemble.
  10. Darn Tough Full Cushion Boot Socks + Rocky Gore-Tex oversocks for the wet-and-cold win!
  11. As I continue to use the MSR Pocket Rocket Deluxe stove in the field, the more I like it for its performance in cold and windy conditions.
  12. Patagonia Provisions Smoked Salmon is the best-tasting fish I’ve ever eaten on the trail. My dad has been smoking salmon and steelhead since we were kids, and I grew up in Seattle. As a result, I’m a bit of a salmon snob. This one passes my test with flying colors.
  13. The BeFree filter continues to perform for me in a wide range of conditions. The creeks we encountered weren’t exactly clear (some color from spring runoff), and cold temperatures can slow filtration rates. It performed exceptionally well as usual, with no clogging. And the current filter I used on this trip has seen more than 50 days of use.
  14. I wore the rain pants and the mitten shells only at night in camp, but I would have needed them on the trail if the temperatures had been 5 or 10 degrees warmer and the snow that was falling was wet/heavy slop.
  15. I didn’t need 10,000 mAh of battery bank capacity. I really only need to charge my phone once on a 24-hour trip. I gotta shop for a smaller, lighter battery. Any suggestions for an ultralight  3000 mAh battery?
  16. I was very disappointed in the quality of the B-roll I shot with my iPhone, Moment tele lens (58 mm), and ND filter between 32:43 and 34:11 in the video. The shots between 34:12 and 34:16 were shot without the lens and ND filter, and they turned out great. Same settings on all the shots (24p, 1/48 sec., low ISO). Something’s going on with that Moment lens / ND filter combo that I need to sort out.
  17. I brought 36 oz of food for the trip but only ate about 25 oz. I did grab a Jimmy John’s sandwich on the way out of town! The GTG chowder was funky. Not a pleasant mix of ingredients.

Final Comments

Overall, in spite of gear glitches here and there, I had a really wonderful time on this trip.

We saw pushed hard enough, but not to the point of suffering.

The weather was chilly but I remained comfortable 95% of the time.

Sitting by the fire made me really, really happy. So did not running into any hormonally-charged moose.

The bird life we saw was remarkable – herons, ospreys, falcons, and a dozen different songbirds.

Nature is restorative and healing and I cannot imagine experiencing it like this on a regular basis.

Spending time with Chase out in the wilds is a rare treat that I’ll always cherish. We started when Chase was two years old. He turns 21 at the end of this month. Every trip I take with him, I ask: is this the last one? Huge thanks to my wife, Stephanie, for encouraging us to go.

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Updated September 15, 2018

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