Dec 25, 2012 at 6:45 pm #1297359
As the title suggests, originally the plan was to hit up Guadalupe Mountains National Park from this past Sunday through the end of the day today. However, forces outside my party's control considered to put the kibosh on those plans and threatened to scuttle any plans to backpack at all. One of our intrepid gang of 4 had to work starting midnight tonight (midnight 26th) so we chose Lost Maples as a closer alternative. Now traditionally I'd give a rather lengthy breakdown of what happened, however, I think instead of talking about the park (which is great by the way, and a fun couple days of hiking to be sure) I'll just hit on the big take-aways from the trip.
1. Sleeping Bags Rated to 40* are Cold as Hell at 35* (aka How We All Froze Our T*ts Off)
I could have predicted this. In fact I did but in the interests of testing some gear (my personal reason for under-bagging) I left my 0* MH Lamina at home (fact: that's a lie, I left it at home because I'm more concerned with weight than my own health at times). However other members of my party were told "bring better bags" and cries of "I sleep warm!" could be heard echoing on the bitter cold wind at about 4am Sunday night as everyone shivered away. Exped SynMat UL and SynMat Basics performed flawlessly, warmly, and probably were all that stood between us and hypothermia as the mercury dipped below 40 for a solid 5 hours that first night.
Moral: The Exped Dreamwalker Syn 166 is a great bag if the temps stay around 45 at the coldest part of the night. Also handy for all those "zip open the arms, turn it into a camp coat" reasons. It's not ultralight but I also bought it before I got into shedding ounces (note lack of "grams" because I'm not that OCD yet).
Action Item: I'm buying a 20* overstuffed Enlightened Equipment RevX quilt.
2. Meal Fail: Mountain House Beef Stew, MH Pancakes, Repackaged EZMac, Cliff Bars in the Morning
The stew was truly awful and the "beef" was, to the best of my knowledge, simply cubed tire retread found alongside some Texas highway. Pancakes turned into warmed-up "pancake gruel" that at once was both too sweet (the filling), bitter where it stuck to the non-stip Ti fry pan, and too much like uncooked pancakes (oh wait…). Repackaged EZMac n cheese will forever be known as "should have just brought Veleveeta Shells n Cheese. Next time. Definitely next time. Cliff bars are a great way to break your teeth off first thing in the 35 degree morning if you left them hanging in a food bag overnight. Take note, or take dentures.
3. Meal Wins: Oscar Meyer bacon bits, MH Beef Strogonoff (aka The Stroge), Jerky
Bacon bits really are the singlehanded winner of this trip. I stashed them with the EZMac but once people smelled the freshly opened package they had me adding it to everything. It really does make everything taste better (sorry Jews!) and was a great calorie booster and flavor enhancer. I was told "bring at least 3 bags of that next time). Strogonoff was generally tasty in a way most camp food isn't earning a nickname. Jerky, everyone's favorite, actually promoted everyone drinking more water considering it's a bit salty. I think it got us through one day that had a mileage close to 12 miles (we're noobs, that's a lot).
4. Sawyer Squeeze Wins (aka "This Water Tastes Like The Good Water at Your White Friends' House with the Fancy Fridge")
It made a believer out of myself (first trip with it) and 4 other people. We were filtering spring water sourced streams in a canyon with delight. Literal, unabashed, "this tastes like Brita water!" delight. The sources weren't cloudy so no idea how it would do with that, but it did a fantastic job filtering water we probably didn't need to filter despite having hard-to-fill bags and retaining enough water inside the filter, even after being shaken and blown through, to soak through my cargo pants pocket and dribble down on my ankle in 35 degree weather.
5. Why Does My $220 Pack Hurt, and His $70 External Frame Pack Carrying 2x the Weight Not Hurt?
I'm not ultralight. Not yet anyways. I'm getting there but a lot of my gear could shed some pounds. Switching to a quilt will save me 1.3 pounds, a lighter 2P freestanding tent would cut 2 pounds, and my pack itself as 3.5 pounds could easily be over a pound lighter without going frameless. So yes, I was a bit put off when my Arcteryx Axos 50 with all my generally lightweight kit felt about 2-3x heavier on my back than my friend's external pack loaded with at least 10 pounds more weight. It's not a competition, but clearly my sneaking suspicions about my pack not fitting or being made well for my body, were confirmed. I don't want to be someone who uses something for seasons, or even months, and takes it back to REI haggard. So it's going back before the next trip (new pack short list includes: Osprey Exos 58, ULA Circuit, REI Flash).
Anyhow, these were the big take-aways. Really I don't know who this post might help if they find it in the library of congress years from now, or even if someone on the forum finds it a couple minutes from now. But at least it's proof that I used my gear and got off the forum for a few days!
Merry Christmas, christians! ;-D
EDIT: Fixed typos.Dec 25, 2012 at 7:04 pm #1938192
@retiredjerryLocale: Oregon and Washington
That's weird about Squeeze
I swing it vigorously at arm's length a few times and all the water comes out
The water flows back the way it came initially
No water drips through the filter
I also put it in a zip top bag, but there's never more than a few drops in itDec 25, 2012 at 7:10 pm #1938194
Maybe I forgot to shake it out the time I stuffed it into my pants. More than likely the fact that I was frozen the night before didn't factor well into the equation. Regardless, the filter is still brilliant and yes I'll be adding a small zip-loc bag to carry it in.
That reminds me though, I did have some problems with the Sawyer but I think those too were user-errors. I was really tightening the bag to the filter and after every second bag the white o-ring on the supply side of the filter would come out, stuck to the opening of the supply bag. The o-ring then needed to be reseated with the help of the butt-end of my Ti spork. After a couple times doing that I wised up and stopped overtightening the bag to the filter and it didn't happen again as far as I remember. Filtered easily 15 liters of water if not 20 all weekend. Seriously, glowing endorsement for the thing (two of the 4 others already said they'd definitely buy one).Dec 26, 2012 at 9:27 am #1938277
@harry-nLocale: Western US
At least you got out a little but winter in North America can be cold regardless of locale. i remember traveling through northern Baja (Mexico) several years ago for sea kayaking in the Sea of Cortez only to find a gale warning for that inland sea. I just swam in a river of booze in Tijuana instead. Hence, I use the time between Xmas and New Years to mostly visit family; you simply cannot predict the weather during the winter solstice except to say it will generally be cold and kwappy.Dec 26, 2012 at 10:09 am #1938296
@jdw01776Locale: Southeast Texas
FYI – Last time I was at Lost Maples, the ranger said he drank right from the springs, with no filtering/treatment…Dec 26, 2012 at 1:39 pm #1938365
@davidadairLocale: West Dakota
Thanks Alex, that was hilarious. I have come to accept that there are some things I can only learn the hard way. What really bothers me is having to learn the same things the hard way repeatedly. Keeping some post-trip notes has got to help.
Maybe we need a thread of "stuff I will avoid doing again". btw MH stew is already on mine.Dec 26, 2012 at 2:35 pm #1938376
@eugeneiusLocale: Nuevo Mexico
One thing to consider, if you already haven't, is water management beyond just treatment method. For any future trips you plan in the Guadalupes, negotiating water carry (quantity) becomes paramount. Its dry up there year round and with the continued drought, will remain dry for an undetermined amount of time. You can easily carry 20-25lbs of water just to get by for a weekend romp up in the Guadalupes, especially in the late spring/summer. This is where efficient packing pays off and having a solid pack and gear system that allows flexibility for larger dry stretches pays off.
Embrace the down and dirty, simple beauty that is cowboy camping in the desert.Dec 26, 2012 at 11:00 pm #1938497
There's too many things plotting my demise to cowboy camp in the dessert. I'm just a wee noobie to this whole southern thing, much less the dessert thing, and the idea that the flora, fauna, and weather, want nothing more than to stick, bite, sting, and then turn me into Alex Jerky, means at least for now I'm sticking to a tent! Call me a wuss, you certainly wouldn't be the first in this situation. ;-)
That said, yes I've done a lot of reading about the Guads and that there's literally zero reliable water most of the year, and certainly of late with all the bone-dry Texas weather we've had. I know that even marching around Lost Maples in 75 degree direct sun up on the ridges I was chugging water and went through a couple liters in a few hours. I think we all walked away from our trip knowing a lot more about what works and what NEEDS work before hitting up something with less room for error like the Guads.
On the plus side, the majority of my gear and my systems proved pretty efficient. I tried my Caldera Cone for the first time and boiled water like a champ. However it should be said, the answer to the question, "I wonder if that boiling water spilling out of the top of my overfilled pot and down onto the burner will put it out" was proved in the negative. Further, the setup can be a little fiddly to get the pot out of. But hey at least I now know how much fuel I can reliably use for boiling water (25-30ml).
I'll be working on beefing up my sleep system come January when Enlightened Equipment rolls out the new quilts, and I took my uncomfortable pack back to REI today and ordered an Osprey Exos 58 replacement. If I can somehow convince my girlfriend that spending $400 on a lighter tent is a good idea (or stealthily use my dividend on it) then I'll cut another couple pounds that way and I'll be looking at close to 6 pounds less weight in the big three alone.
But…then comes the hard part….
…getting my girlfriend to seriously cut weight from her pack. This may prove impossible, but I'm doing my best!Dec 27, 2012 at 3:52 pm #1938670
And that is why I do all my sleeping bag testing in the back yard! Be glad you didn't go to the Guadelupes, the wind was howling up here in Christmas day. Sustained was around 30mph, I think, which makes it 50-60 over there. Maybe more, I can't remember what the weather guy said.
I'm surprised no one has made a crack about lightening up the girlfriend by…….getting a new girlfriend!Dec 27, 2012 at 4:02 pm #1938672
@harry-nLocale: Western US
You may need to deal with scorpions anyways as they just love folds in fabrics. I've been stung multiple times from Arizona to Ft. Hood TX. (north of Austin) opening up tent doors from backpacking tents to large 40 ft. Army tents. Little suckers are quick too.Dec 27, 2012 at 5:06 pm #1938680
Yeah we were a bit put off by the NOAA weather forecast of "very windy" just before the trip. No one was THAT bummed that we weren't going. Plus now in retrospect it would have been a frozen wind-blown disaster.
@HK: I'm going to pretend I didn't just read what you posted while then thinking back to all the times when I reached blindly into the night to rifle through my pack in my tent's vestibule for some random thing. That said, I did buy a mesh stuff sack big enough for my shoes to be stored in overnight. Also doubles as a bug net for my face! But seriously, scorpions are pretty terrifying.
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