Jun 16, 2010 at 11:08 pm #1260249
I will hike the JMT end of July to raise money for my Eagle Scout Project. While I feel confident that I can carry everything that is currently on my gear list, I would nevertheless appreciate any advice I can get to lighten my load. Last weekend I hiked with this gear from Tenaya Lake over Clouds Rest to Happy Isles and was fine in the snowy conditions.
Please have a look at my gear list at http://daniels-eagle-scout-project.webs.com under "Hiking the JMT" and "Gear List" and let me know where I can save additional weight without compromising safety or having to spend tons of money.
Thanks for all your help,
DanielJun 17, 2010 at 6:46 am #1620886
Maybe I'll see you on the trail. I'm going north to south, starting July 14. Which direction are you going?
I would ditch the gaiters. Not enough snow or bushwhacking on this trip to make them worth the weight. -7 oz
The heavy hiking boots are a matter of taste and style. They will be much less necessary if you can cut your pack weight.
Replace the heavy rope with lightweight cord. The stuff I use is from owareusa.com (click on Flat Tarp, scroll to the bottom of the page, 1 mm cord, $10). -2 oz
Ditch the water reservoir in favor of lightweight half-liter bottles, like the ones they sell supermarket bottled water in. -8 oz
I guess part of the reason your pack weight seems so extremely high is that you're figuring in 3 liters of water. I should check this myself, but I don't believe streams are ever that far apart on the JMT. One liter should do it. -35 oz
Replace the thermarest with a 4-oz, $16 closed cell torso pad http://gossamergear.com/cgi-bin/gossamergear/nightlight_torso.html -34 oz
Lose the trowel and use a handy rock for digging catholes. -3 oz
Replace the heavy first-aid kit with something more lightweight. This might be as simple as dumping anything that's not useful and repackaging the rest in ziplock bags. -5 oz?
Dump the towel and use the spare shirt instead. -2 oz
Replace the filter with iodine or ClO2 tablets. -5 oz
Chop out the necessary sections of the guidebook and leave the rest at home. E.g., Wenk has both S->N and N->S, and you don't need both. (Actually I just decided to copy the relevant info from Wenk onto the back of the Harrison maps and leave the book itself at home.) -8 oz
2 lb of food per day is a lot. Of course it depends on how big you are, how many miles you do per day, and how energy-efficient your food is. I weigh 140 lb, and I find that 1.4 lb/day of food is about what I need. You might want to post more about what kind of food you're bringing. But assuming you can make it 1.4 lb/day… -96 oz
You're assuming 10 days without resupply, which is presumably Muir Trail Ranch to Whitney Portal (assuming you're going N->S). I imagine that you've gauged how many miles a day you could do on your most recent hike, found it was about 12 miles, and came up with 10 days. But if you were doing 12 miles with a 48-lb pack, you should find that you can do a heck of a lot more miles with a more reasonable pack weight. I suspect that with a lighter pack, and once you're in the groove, you should find yourself doing more like 15-20 miles a day. This would cut your days without resupply down to more like 7. That cuts your food by an additional 4.2 lb.
Keep in mind also that you have various opportunities to feast on food that you don't need to carry: Double cheeseburger and fries at Tuolumne, ice cream at Reds Meadows, luxury food that you pick up at your resupply points and eat immediately.
Total weight saved: about 17.0 lb, which reduces your pack weight from 47.9 lb to 30.9 lb.
Have a great trip!
-BenJun 17, 2010 at 8:07 am #1620902
Thanks for your great suggestions. I'm also going North to South from 7/24 to 8/15. So we won't see each other :(
Thank you for your very detailed reply.
I think you are right with the gaiters. I really needed them last weekend in Yosemite when going from Tuolumne Meadoes (Sunrise Trailhead) to Yosemite Valley, but next month there will be way less snow. The water reservoir might be overkill, but with water I like to err on the safe side. Last weekend I saw so many dehydrated people stumbling back from Half Dome, that I rather have a little more capacity. I won't fill it all the way all the time. Most times it will be only half full or less — depending on the water sources ahead. The Thermarest pad is a luxury item for me. My dad takes a 9 oz RidgeRest and always tells me that 4 times that weight can't be worth it. But I tried to sleep on his and the weight savings results in less sleep, which I (at this point) don't yet want to give up.
The idea with copying the relevant portions of the Wenk book on the backsides of the Harrison Maps is awesome. I will try that and see how it works. My dad is carrying the book, but he will be happy to have less in his pack :)
I have to slowly get my food ready for shipping it to Muir Trail Ranch. May be I will put that on my website too. Right now I'm planning roughly 2800 calories per day that are distributed over oatmeal and hot chocolade for breakfast, 5 Clif bars for snacks, some trail mix and macademia nuts for lunch and a Mountain House meal and hot apple cider for dinner. Additional calories have to come from trout I'm planning to catch. Since I intend to take in the scenary and fish every day, I really want ot use the full 22 or even 23 days for the JMT. Thus I need to carry 10 days worth of food when leaving Muir Trail Ranch.
Thanks again for all your tips. Have a great
DanielJun 17, 2010 at 9:35 am #1620933
"I'm also going North to South from 7/24 to 8/15. So we won't see each other"
Unless you come across my body by the side of the trail, being picked at by crows :-)
"Last weekend I saw so many dehydrated people stumbling back from Half Dome, that I rather have a little more capacity."
Maybe they were just tired people, not dehydrated people. There are a lot of bogus urban folktales about dehydration: http://www.lightandmatter.com/article/hiking_water.html
Re the food, you're depending a lot on trail mix and granola, which are both pretty low in energy density (about 2-3 cal/g, depending on the amount of added sugar). You might want to consider bringing some more energy-dense foods, such as olive oil (9 cal/g), pesto (4.4 cal/g), salami (4 cal/g), and hard cheese (4 cal/g). All that hot food will also add to the weight of the fuel you carry.
-BenJun 17, 2010 at 7:06 pm #1621098
I will certainly look into the food some more and figure out a good (and dense) mix of calories. Based on your advice I already decided to replace oatmeal in the morning with a cold alternative to save the fuel.
DanielJun 18, 2010 at 7:27 pm #1621382
Carl ZimmermanBPL Member
Few tips from a JMT thru-hiker & Venture Scout Adult leader (VC-8787, Austin, TX).
You'll have a great time on the trail. I'm not sure how much money -if any- you have to for new gear. Some suggestions to look at:
* your pack is really heavy; you could really drop some weight here.
* substitute Sea to Summit Event compression for silnylon sack (safe several ozs)
* camelbak is heavy. The longest distance between water sources – Deer Cr to Duck Cr – is about 6 miles. I used 2, 1-L water bottles (Aquafina-types; under 2 oz each; rarely needed more than one full at a time) and a 3L Nalgene cantene (camp use only; 2.7 oz). Plenty of water on the trail & camp.
* Your Thermarest is heavy. Use ultralight version or close-cell foam (Z-Rest/lite or Ridgerest)
* Cat's Meow is heavy compared to UL down bags available
* Swiss Army classic < 1 oz (save an oz over your 2 oz knife)
* Headnet – already have Deet. Use that if the bugs get bad. If they get real bad, dive into your tent and call it a night.
* water bucket – probably unnecessary.
* Guide book – Xerox what you need. If you have any fires, use what is no longer needed as fire starter.
* clothes line – redundant gear. Use your cord.
* water filter vs. chemicals? Personal choice. You save weight w/ chemicals. I carry both but use the filter (unless it goes kaput). I like to quickly pump water, camel-up, top off the bottle again, and walk w/ 1L of water.
If you're fit and carrying a reasonably light pack, I use the following guideline for the distance I expect to cover: 1.5 miles every hour (including breaks). If you fall behind, take shorter breaks. If you want to cover 12 miles, expect to cover it in about 8 hrs. If you walked 8-hr days every day, JMT would take 18 hiking days. A layover day or two would help if you have time (1st half of trail works best for layovers). Resupply as often as you can (Tuolumne Meadows, Reds Meadow, Vermillian Valley Resort, and Muir Trail Ranch – I skipped VVR and used MTR instead). I had 9 days of food coming out of MTR. Killer food weight. Wouldn't all fit in my bear cannister (Bearvault). Used 'illegal' Ursack for excess food and hung it. No bear problems on the hike. I doubt two people's food w/ fit in the one bear canister on the last section. You might consider shipping a 2nd canister to MTR and go from there w/ both of them.
Anyway, have a great time.
Northern Tier -'09
Philmont Cavalcade – '10 (leave in a few weeks)
Seabase – '11 (slot already reserved)Jun 18, 2010 at 9:45 pm #1621418
Paul McLaughlinBPL Member
Daniel – You'll have a great trip. Here are my suggestions:
I'd wear trail runners instead of boots.No gaiters.
Use a simple silnylon bag for clothes instead of the compression sack.
No reservoir – I never carried more than 24 oz. of water on the JMT. The longest dry section, as has been mentioned, is 6 miles – and an easy 6 miles at that. Probably won't be dry at the end of July this year anyway. Fill up the belly when you stop instead of the reservoir. Most of the time there is water at very short intervals, especially this year.
You can get a much lighter Thermarest that is still comfy – a Prolite Plus in the short size is only 17 oz and pretty cushy. Or a NeoAir – even lighter and cushier. But spendy.
The Cat's Meow is kinda heavy, but you've got to spend some cash to get lighter.
No potty trowel – rocks or sticks work fine.
First aid – I carry band-aids and Ibuprofen
No soap – water gets you as clean as you need to be in the mountains.
No Nalgene bottle – a Gatorade bottle or something like that is lighter and works fine.
guide book – as has been mentioned before, just the pages you need. You won't need it much, the trail is very easy to follow – except going south out of Red's Meadow!
No clothesline – you've got rope.
Solar charger and rechargeable batteries – another JMT hiker on another forum tried this and it didn't work. He could never get a full charge in a reasonable time. Get lithium batteries for the headlamp – they are lighter and last longer. I've had them last more than two weeks in my headlamp for summer use. Same for the camera – I see your camera takes AA's. Send some replacements in your resupply packages.
Food weight is very individual – I get by on about 1 1/2 pounds or so myself, but a younger fellow like yourself will need more calories. Not knowing how much experience you have with your backpacking food needs,I think you'd be wise to err on the side of more food – at least for the last, long leg from MTR. One thing I have always found is that I eat less at the start of a trip and get hungrier as I go. So the menu for the Happy isels to Tuolumne leg can be skimpier, then a little more per day from ther to Red's Meadow, then more again from there to MTr nad more again for the last leg. Keep i mind that you will be able to get extra food at all resupply points, either by buying it or from the stuff left behind by other hikers. I could have resupplied at MTR even if I had not sent a package there – there was that much stuff left there.. By the time you reach there you'll have a good idea of how your meal planning is working out, and can add extra food or drop excess as you see fit.
And by the way, I highly recommend you do a test pack of the canister with the big food load – getting it all in will be a challenge. you'll find you can repackage some things to get them to pack better – freeze-dried dinners in particular will take up less space in a ziploc than in the original package. Repackaging at MTR will not be easy, so you want to be sure you can get it all in the can before you ship it to MTR.
Also, send some treats in the package to MTR. What I wish I had sent a was a can or two of peaches or something like that.Jun 19, 2010 at 1:09 am #1621449
Thank you for your insights. How did you make it to Philmont two years in a row? I thought you are only allowed to go every other year. Our Troop will go next summer, which will be the first time for me.
I use the heavy compression sack because it is waterproof. I have a lighter silnylon sack which would save me 3 oz. I thought the extra 3 oz would be worth to keep my stuff dry. Is the consensus not to do that?
I will have to look into my hydration system. With the SteriPen I can easily treat a bottle of water on the go. I like the CamelBak, because I constantly drink little sips, but may be I should change that habit and drink bigger amounts at stops.
The Cat's Meow is already so much lighter than what I used to have before. What down sleeping bags would you recommend and how much weight would that save?
Thanks for all the help,
DanielJun 19, 2010 at 1:17 am #1621450
I'm looking into the compression sack.
I field-tested the charger in Yosemite for four days and it works fine. I like to have the GPS on at all times to track my milage and look afterwards at my tracks with elevation gain, etc. The rechargable batteries in the Garmin Oregon last only 8 hours or so. So I'm forced to replace them every day. The charger takes roughly half a day to charge batteries. We use the GPS, the SteriPen and a Camera with AA batteries and each have a charger.
I will look into the Prolite Plus. It seems like it gives me the same comfort as my current pad for way less weight.
DanielJun 19, 2010 at 1:26 am #1621451
I read your website, and am very impressed with your goal/cause and the drive with which you are willing to do this whole hike for. I found it inspiring.
Seems like you've put almost as much planning into this hike as one has to for the Eagle project alone.
Rock on! I wish you the best success in your endeavor!
SPL, Troop 93Jun 19, 2010 at 6:19 am #1621460
"I use the heavy compression sack because it is waterproof. I have a lighter silnylon sack which would save me 3 oz. I thought the extra 3 oz would be worth to keep my stuff dry. Is the consensus not to do that?"
I use a 2.5-oz 18-gallon trash compacter bag as a pack liner. Works for me. Your pack is twice the weight of mine, so I don't know if an 18-gallon bag would be big enough to line the whole thing, but there are probably a lot of items that you don't care about keeping dry.
I agree with Carl that your pack weight is extremely high, but looking back on my own hiking, I actually took a decade to gradually adjust my hiking style to something more lightweight. Maybe you could just set yourself a goal for how much to cut the weight for this particular trip, and a budget for accomplishing that. IMO a reasonable goal would be to cut at least 10 lbs, and you should be able to do that just by picking the low-hanging fruit (low cost, no reduction in comfort).Jun 19, 2010 at 6:26 am #1621461
"No soap – water gets you as clean as you need to be in the mountains."
Paul, I agree with all of your suggestions except for this one. Nearly all cases of backpacker's diarrhea are caused by hand to mouth contamination (not contaminated water, as many people believe). Using poor potty hygiene is just asking for trouble. More info here: http://www.lightandmatter.com/article/hiking_water.html
Or did you have in mind not using soap for bathing, but using alcohol wipes or something for hand-washing after pooping…?Jun 19, 2010 at 7:52 am #1621470
My parents actually offered to buy me a new backpack of my choice.
I tried many backpacks at REI and didn't buy one, but kept my old Kelty with an external frame. I got it when I was 10 for a two week trip in the Trinity Alps near Mt. Shasta. Since then it has served me well and it almost has an emotional value to me.
Do you mean to cut 10 lbs off my base weight? Or do you mean from my total load including food, water, etc.?
The second seems doable, but I wouldn't know how to do the first. I will cut down on the water I carry and will look carefully into a food plan. That should get me close to 10 lbs.Jun 19, 2010 at 8:03 am #1621473
Thanks for your nice comment. Where is Troop 93 loacated? Our troop is in California. I see you are the SPL. How many patrols does your troop have? Our Troop has 3 patrols. Yes, the planning for the hike has taken on its on life. Now I just hope I really can raise enough money with it. When I thought about a potential project, I was sure that I wanted a worthy project that makes a lasting contribution to my community, but I for sure underestimated the time it would take to complete it. I'm working on it since February. Just getting all the approvals and preparing for all the presentations to the city, the parks & recreation commission, etc. was a very long process.
Do you already have an idea what you want to do for your Eagle project?
Troop Guide, Troop 109Jun 19, 2010 at 9:13 am #1621483
"My parents actually offered to buy me a new backpack of my choice.
I tried many backpacks at REI and didn't buy one, but kept my old Kelty with an external frame. I got it when I was 10 for a two week trip in the Trinity Alps near Mt. Shasta. Since then it has served me well and it almost has an emotional value to me."
I haven't looked at what packs REI sells, but I doubt that they have much in the way of lightweight and ultralight packs. The other thing is that lightweight packs are designed for lightweight backpackers, so most of them don't have the capacity or the strength to carry the amount of stuff you have on your list. For instance, the Gossamer Gear G4 that I use is recommended for weights of 30 lb or less, and I'm carrying about 25 lb on the JMT, whereas your current list is 47 lb.
"Do you mean to cut 10 lbs off my base weight? Or do you mean from my total load including food, water, etc.?
The second seems doable, but I wouldn't know how to do the first. I will cut down on the water I carry and will look carefully into a food plan. That should get me close to 10 lbs."
It's really up to you to set your own goals. The changes I originally suggested were 17 lb, broken down as follows:
– 8.7 lb: less food and water while keeping the same itinerary
– 4.2 lb: reduction in food from speeding up the itinerary
– 4.1 lb: other equipment
If you really want to make progress on this, I'd suggest you come up with a version 2.0 and post it. E.g., we don't know what's in that heavy first-aid kit or how much weight you can save by repackaging it. Maybe it includes a snake-bite kit, which is medically worthless — we don't know unless you tell us.Jun 19, 2010 at 10:15 am #1621488
Carl ZimmermanBPL Member
How did we get two trips back to back? Simple, we had one trip lined up for 2008. In 2007, another troop had two treks lined up. Could only fill one. Their Scoutmaster asked ours if we'd take their other slot. We took that slot. So, we got to go two years running.
Your JMT trip will be much more scenic than Philmont. But, Philmont is a right of passage for Scouts that shouldn't be missed. I also neglected to say that I've attended 3 Kanik sessions (Winter Camping) @ Philmont also. It helps to live in next-door Texas.
Enjoy your trip.Jun 19, 2010 at 10:57 am #1621494
Paul McLaughlinBPL Member
Benjamin – I haven't carried soap since about 1980, and don't use anything else either. haven't gotten sick yet. works for me, anyway.Jun 19, 2010 at 11:15 am #1621500
"I haven't carried soap since about 1980, and don't use anything else either. haven't gotten sick yet. works for me, anyway."
Anecdotal evidence isn't a reliable way to determine risk. Also, you have tolerance for your own gut flora, so there's no reason to expect yourself to get sick due to not washing your hands after pooping; it's your hiking partners who are being put at risk by your habits. It's irresponsible to advise other people to do the same when there's ample scientific evidence to show how prevalent hand-to-mouth contamination is among backpackers. A majority of AT through-hikers get diarrhea, and those who don't treat their water are no more likely to get it, so this really is a high risk, and the risk is almost 100% due to hand-to-mouth, not contaminated water.Jun 19, 2010 at 12:20 pm #1621509
Our Troop (93) has members from all over Kootenai county (Idaho) and even a few from Washington, but we meet in Post Falls (ID). Our Troop currently has only 2 patrols, but we are seeking to expand!
I am very close to Life Scout, and yeah I've been putting a lot of thought into what I plan to do, but nothing set in stone atm.
I looked over your gear list and was going to offer you a suggestion or two but seems all these other guys have you covered!Jun 20, 2010 at 9:23 pm #1621814
you got me looking into lighter gear. Let's see who can save more :)
PapaJun 20, 2010 at 9:28 pm #1621815
Thanks everyone for your advice. You can find my updated list at http://daniels-eagle-scout-project.webs.com under "Hiking the JMT" and "Gear List"
The biggest and easiest saving was giving up 1l of water (-32 oz), getting a smaller and lighter water reservoir (-5 oz), exchanging my Therm-a-Rest Trail for a Therm-a-Rest ProLite Pro (-14 oz), giving up my gaiters (-7 oz), taking a smaller knife (-1 oz), throwing out the clothes line (-1 oz).
My parents are very supportive and have ordered a digital scale (KD-7000), so I can really weigh everything. Once that arrives I will look into food for the last 10 days and see how much weight I can save there. In the meantime please keep the suggestions coming. This has already helped a lot and saves me almost 4 lbs.
DanielJun 21, 2010 at 6:26 am #1621851
@ramblerLocale: On the AT in VA
I found Wenk's book to be a great guide for planning, but there is no need to take all the trail descriptions with you. I copied the profiles of the trail sections, and the appropriate campsite coordinates and mileage charts. I did not carry all of them from the start, but included the ones I needed in the re-supply pick-ups.
I rarely wear gators in the summer, check out "Dirty Girl Gaiters". At $15 they are bargain, lightweight and they stay on low-cuts keeping out a lot of dust from your footwear/socks.
I think keeping your GPS on at all times is a waste of batteries. There are plenty of landmarks and trail junctions to keep track of where you are. If your batteries are fresh, no need to lug spares.
After a few days, I found I did not have to carry any water. I just drank a liter or so at the many stream crossings. Camping close to water sources was easy.
Having only to carry a few days worth of food between food drops is a great way to save weight.
Camp at Guitar Lake on your last day. so you can get an early morning start up Whitney. Morning is your best chance at good weather. I felt bad for people who did not have a clear view from the summit.
When you maybe start to tire and drag a bit near the end of the day, try hiking faster. It works…sometimes!
Try going for a quick swim in some of the lakes. They are not as cold as you might think and dry off time is amazingly fast when the sun is high. Rinse off your shirt and socks. They will be dry before you finish lunch.
If you do take a trowel, do not make it plastic. The soil is often hard and rocky. Check out the Montbell Potty Trowel or "Handy Scoop". I worry that if you just use a rock or you hiking pole to dig you will get discouraged and not make your hole deep enough. Be considerate of those who follow you. Did deep!
What a great project. ( I found no cell phone service after Red Meadows all the way to the Portal)Jun 21, 2010 at 7:16 am #1621869
Looks like good progress, Daniel!
The really easy items on which to save large amounts of additional weight are the pack itself, water, and food, but we've already talked about those.
I would dump the solar charger. I doubt you'll have any need for it. You've got the 4 spare batteries, which should be plenty for 10 days. You won't need the flash on the camera, and the GPS won't chew through batteries if you don't leave it on 24×7. MTR will let you charge batteries for free (or, for convenience, you could just send yourself batteries in your resupply packages, and mail the used ones home). -5 oz
For carrying water, you've got the bladder, the folding bucket, and the quart bottle. These seem redundant. I think you can easily ditch two out of three of these. -7 oz?
Is the 2 oz of soap only for hand washing, or is it also for dish washing? If it's only for hand washing, you can put 1 oz in a tiny dropper bottle. For hand-washing after pooping, all you really need it about 4 drops in each palm. -1 oz
There are a bunch of other items I've already suggested, but it's up to you whether to do those or not.
It might be interesting to figure out how much of this is actually going to be carried by your dad. Part of what's contributing to your extremely high pack weight is that you're totaling up all the gear and listing it as if you were carrying it all in your own pack. One big item is the 2-person tent. If you break out the shared items and split that weight in half, I think you're getting pretty close to the kind of load that a lightweight backpack could handle, and that would be a huge win. By switching from the 77-oz Kelty to a 16-oz Gossamer Gear, you'd be saving 3.8 lb, which is enormous. The GG is quite cheap. I know you've got a sentimental attachment to the Kelty, but … have you seen Toy Story 3? We all love Buzz Lightyear, but at some point he needs to go into "attic mode."
-BenJun 21, 2010 at 8:01 am #1621880
Hiking MaltoBPL Member
Rather than go through and pick apart each item I went ahead and finally posted my planned gear list for a PCT thru hike next year. If I were doing the JMT again I would change the following from my list.
1) Water – One gatoraid bottle and a single 1L platypus. I also would not filter the water on the JMT.
2) Add in Bear Canister. I also resupplied at MTR. If I were packing 10 days of food I would also take an Ursack for overflow food because they are legal in most areas south of MTR.
3) I usually take a GPS on most hikes but you will know you daily distance by either paying attention to your trail guide, your map or I can email you a single page cheat sheet that has most of the noteworthy points on the trail and the elevations.
Have a great trip.Jun 21, 2010 at 8:16 am #1621885
Greg wrote: "Add in Bear Canister."
He's already got a Bearikade Expedition on his list, which is 900 cubic inches (about 50% more than a Garcia). Daniel, are you and your father each carrying your own Bearikade? If so, then that ought to be plenty of space, even for the 2 lb/day of food you're planning to take (which I think is way too much, unless you're a huge guy).
"One gatoraid bottle and a single 1L platypus."
Yep, totally agree, although he has cut down from his original 9-oz bladder.
"I also would not filter the water on the JMT."
I would agree that water treatment is pretty much unnecessary in the Sierra, if you're careful about choosing your sources, but this is a personal kind of thing. Daniel, if you want to save 3 ounces, swap the steripen for iodine tablets plus a 2-oz filter that goes over the mouth of your water bottle. Or save 5 ounces by using ClO2 tablets, but those will not protect you from Crypto unless you wait a long time. (However, the scientific evidence shows that Crypto is really not a threat in the Sierra.)
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