Need another set of eyes, please!
Jan 23, 2021 at 10:37 pm #3695275
Sorry, in advance, for the long-winded post (I’m seeking help for it). I’m planning to hike the Ozark Highlands Trail near the end of February. I hiked the Ouachita Trail in October, and I live in Little Rock, so I’ve got plenty of knowledge about the area. What I don’t have is as much expertise and experience as many of you. I’m not blowing smoke – I’ve only been backpacking for a year and a half, all solo. So everything I know, basically, is from research or by learning the hard way. I’ve got most of my gear list decided (pending your judgment), and I’d be grateful for your opinions.
A major obstacle is that I’m broke, so I’m pretty much limited to cheap replacements, leaving things behind, or swapping items out for things I own already. The only item in my Big 3 that I bought is my pack – not UL, but extremely, supremely comfortable. Quite a bit of the list are things I’ve made myself, which should be noted in their descriptions.
A couple explanations for my choices…the pack is all I have, besides one of equivalent volume that’s never touching my shoulders again (strictly a loaner). So, it stays. Lows could be in the mid to upper 20’s, which my canister stove doesn’t like. I realize that with some fiddling, it will work, but I’ve been experimenting with alcohol this winter, and that’s what I’ve decided to bring. The only variables are the system, itself, which I’m still working on, and it will be homemade.
Not worried about critters – the black bears don’t technically hibernate here, but they’re scaredy bears and generally want nothing to do with people. I plan on caching my resupplies by hanging (PCT method), and sleeping with my food, unless I notice recent bear activity. Then I’ll hang it. No bear spray, obviously, but a small can of people spray (1.4oz, as I think I may have left it off the list).
Bug spray shouldn’t be needed, but my clothes and pack will be treated with permethrin, since ticks are a year-round concern. I’m ok with the bears, but spiders scare the crap out of me – hence the integrated bug net on the hammock, even though I hope the spiders aren’t out yet. Happily packing my fears with that one. Creeks and streams are almost always clear, so I’ve been using Aquamira drops for several months.
I have a hard time getting on trail in the mornings – especially when it’s cold. The slug tube swallows my hammock and both quilts, allowing quicker setup and breakdown of camp. 2oz well spent, IMO. Besides having poor cell reception, and hiking solo, the InReach mini has been decreed as law by my husband – it stays.
I’m still trying to dial in my clothing system. My fingers and toes get cold easily, so I’m still working on a glove system that works. I don’t ever bring camp shoes, but I’m planning to whip out an UL pair out of CCF, because it’s a PITA to take off my down booties every time I leave the hammock. Umbrellas aren’t practical, due to overhead leafiness, but the Frogg Toggs are cheap, and I have tape. Rain pants, as I’ve discovered, are necessary in these temps and conditions, from the brush along the trail. I usually splash through the creeks, but I’m concerned about keeping my toes warm with multiple un-bridged crossings – hence, the waterproof socks (which I haven’t bought yet). As for the remaining clothing, I’m expecting lows down to the mid-20’s and highs up to the lower 50’s. I’m tossing around the idea of ice cleats, since snow and ice are possible. What the ozarks lack in altitude, they make up for with 500’ drops from sheer, slick, rocky bluffs.
The Fanny/Waist Pack (almost done, honest): I like the convenience. I’ve listed the pack, itself, as worn weight, since I always wear it. Everything I usually keep in it is listed under my base weight, since I’m still “carrying” it, just on my front. Normally in my fanny pack: phone, charger, battery pack, headlamp, FAK, daily meds, SAK, KT tape, sunscreen, lip balm, extra snacks, car keys, and my hiker wallet. I also haven’t counted anything as consumable that I’m not planning to, well, consume. I.e., the ibuprofen will disappear, while most of the sunscreen will probably not.
Again, any and all advice is welcome, and it will certainly be considered – even if my OCD and budget don’t end up implementing it. I’m not unhappy with my pack weight, even though I welcome lighter options/combinations. With this list, I’m mainly concerned with performance, efficiency, and relative comfort. I also have the option to drop weight that I’m not using when I reach my resupply caches, as I’ll rehang the bags and collect them post-hike. Thanks again!Jan 24, 2021 at 5:18 am #3695286
Just to add…if the ice cleats/microspikes would be a good idea, my set is 7.3oz in their stuff sack.
My quilts aren’t “commercially rated” to 20*, that’s only my estimate based on loft and the temps they’ve taken me down to. The UQ is a little furnace and reaches from my shoulders to below my knees. Got pretty chilly feet using a piece of auto sunshade last time, with temps in the upper 20’s, hence the thicker CCF sit pad this time.
Yes, the suture packet would be silly if I didn’t know how to use it – I do. Obviously any injury that would require it would be a trip ender, but I’d rather not bleed to death while I made my way out of the woods. Giving it a double purpose as gear repair (it’s got a nice, curved needle) makes it feel a little less ridiculous. The weight of it is also negligible.
Some people think the thin, titanium shepherd stakes don’t perform as well as others, but I have a much easier time getting them into rocky soil than the Y or V stakes (of which I’ve bent several). If the ground feels too loose for them, supplementing them with a heavier rock on top has always worked well for me. The aluminum stakes have usually just been backups, with a trowel being their primary use.Jan 24, 2021 at 10:05 am #3695324AK GranolaBPL Member
What an amazingly thorough list! Most people “gloss over” the little stuff in their lists, like a pot cozy or lip balm, that don’t weigh much, but can add up. The only thing that catches my eye is the sunscreen; do you need it in that area this time of year? Just a question; I have no experience there. I think your list is great. If you know your water sources and can get your food to a good weight, you’ll have a great pack weight.Jan 24, 2021 at 11:05 am #3695331ArthurBPL Member
Nice inventory of the little stuff. To continue on nit picking, I see no needle holder or instrument to use a suture. Did I miss it? I also know how to use a suture, but gave up on that years ago. I have done some pretty extensive wound closures in the field, including some on the face, using steri strips with benzoin, and then putting Leukotape over that for 7-10 days. BTW, I seem to hike with people who injure themselves! The only hassle is finding a good container for Benzion. If, (when) that leaks, it is a serious mess. But it sure makes the steri strips hold well.Jan 24, 2021 at 12:19 pm #3695348Kevin BabioneBPL Member
Your list looks really good and shows a lot of experience in the 18 months you’ve been backpacking. Two comments from this peanut gallery:
- I love that you have two different length tree straps! I do the same thing (my trips are mostly in Pennsylvania) and have found enough times when I really need a little extra length on one of my straps.
- I don’t know if your Ozark headlamp is rechargeable or needs batteries. If it’s rechargeable you’ll need a cable for it (not listed) and if it’s not, you’ll probably one extra batteries for it (again, not listed) in case it gets bumped on in your fanny pack.
Enjoy your trip!Jan 24, 2021 at 12:26 pm #3695352Luke SchmidtBPL Member
That looks like a very good list. I would not change much but here are a few very small things
- I always carry a few pepto in case trail food or questionable water gives me an upset stomach.
- Cold weather seems to give me the sniffles so a decongestant of some kind might be smart.
- Camp shoes like crocs might actually be cheaper and lighter then waterproof socks. I used Goretex socks a few times and found they seemed to develop leaks pretty fast and they are thick so your shoes may feel to small with them. I guess the question is whether you want to throw on the crocs for a crossing or wear the waterproof socks constantly. If they do leak they keep your feet relatively warm.
- Trekking poles might be a good idea if you can find a $20 pair. They earn their keep a steep slippery places and they might help you rock hop to keep the feet dry.
Good luck, sounds like a fun plan.Jan 24, 2021 at 1:53 pm #3695376
Thanks! Karen, I keep going back and forth on the sunscreen. The last time I didn’t take it, because I thought I’d be under tree cover, I came home burnt to a crisp (fair skin sucks sometimes!). I’ve been carrying a small, trial sized stick, but it’s dead weight if I don’t ever use it. And yeah, I tried to be thorough. I’ve noticed so many lists that don’t actually account for so many things that are going in the person’s pack – it all adds up!
Arthur – that’s a good catch on the needle holder. I’ll have to see if the mini tweezers in my knife can do the trick. If not, I’ll have to either toss in a pair of hemostats or reevaluate.
Kevin, you’re the one who gave me that idea! To be honest, I thought I’d switch to whoopies and a MSH, so I chopped one of my straps down – a costly mistake, since I’ve decided a Becket hitch is just so dead simple and what I prefer. But I’ve noticed how handy it ends up being to have 2 lengths when I go out. I originally was going to carry 3 extra AAA’s for the headlamp, but this time I was thinking about starting the trail with fresh ones and putting another set of fresh ones in my resupply cache. That way, I can swap them out for another set of fresh ones halfway through. Even though I’m usually setting up, or at least cooking dinner, after dark, that headlamp really lasts a long time on one set of batteries. And I figured I still have the light on my phone if they die early. Having it bump on IS a concern, until I can swing for an upgrade with a lock switch, but it’s not usually too long before I notice it, since it’s not buried in my pack. I made the fanny pack out of Robic 100, so it’s thin enough for the light to shine through, thankfully.
Luke, yes, I definitely bring those meds with me – I just count them with the 1st aid kit. I listen the ibuprofen separately, since I’ll definitely consume those, but I’ve rarely had to dip into the just in case meds. I bring 2 of each, chewable Pepto, Benadryl, and Imodium, and usually a couple Excedrin for good measure. I carry the aluminum Cascade poles – I think I listed them in the misc. section. Yes, they’re awesome! I like using them to pitch the tarp in porch mode, and they’ve come in handy for numerous water crossings. And yeah, the warm feet w/ so many water crossings is definitely one of the things I keep trying to work out. It would be impractical to stop and change footwear for each crossing. I counted close to 100 creeks and streams (seasonal and no) on the map, and I won’t hazard a guess at how many crossings will be wet. At the same time, I don’t really want to wear special socks all day either. It’s probably more practical to start focusing on ways to keep my feet warm once I stop. If I forget about buying those waterproof socks, I can use the money to upgrade the headlamp.Jan 24, 2021 at 2:40 pm #3695378Brett ABPL Member
Nothing really to add to the suggestions already given. Just wanted to say that its impressive how much gear you’ve been able to make yourself!Jan 24, 2021 at 3:23 pm #3695386Steofan MBPL Member
@simauliusLocale: Bohemian Alps
You got this.
My only suggestion is to be sure to take the microspikes, back-up meds and back-up power for communication and headllamp.Jan 24, 2021 at 3:37 pm #3695389
Brett, I hate sewing! Lol. But once I realized I could have the good, UL stuff for a fraction of the price if I made it myself, it was on!
Steofan, thanks weighing in on the spikes. I’m not sure I’ll need them, but seeing as how those conditions are possible, I’d rather have them. I’m sure I’ve already risked death enough to balk over 7oz! So they’ll most likely come.Jan 24, 2021 at 4:10 pm #3695395John S.BPL Member
Good list. I have section hiked that entire trail and would never take microspikes for a late Feb/March trip, or wait close to start time and see what first week weather is. There is probably less than 10 percent chance of needing them.Jan 24, 2021 at 5:30 pm #3695407
That’s why I was so hesitant, John. I’ve lived here my whole life, and we’d very rarely need an opportunity for traction. The only thing that would give me pause is if a winter storm had just come through or was in the forecast. I’ll check the weather before I go, and my husband can always bring them to me if conditions change.Jan 24, 2021 at 6:12 pm #3695414
I have the Toaks 550 and the diy fancy feast stove works really well with it, with a titanium foil windscreen. I’ll see if I can find one of my pictures of my setup.Jan 24, 2021 at 6:40 pm #3695419Jan 24, 2021 at 6:43 pm #3695421
The one with the completely open top or the hole in the can’s bottom? The completely open top is what I made first, and the flames go halfway up the sides. The Pepsi can stove I made a few days ago works better, but I made one from a couple of Starbucks doubleshot cans (V8 size) today, and it worked better. I put it together wrong, of course, but I think I might try another one. I was also going to try the 4 in 1 cat can version that’s on Zen stoves. The cats are grateful, anyways.Jan 24, 2021 at 6:44 pm #3695423
Is that one like Zelph’s? I’ve thought of trying that one too.Jan 24, 2021 at 7:14 pm #3695431
The inner can is a small tomato paste can (with 4 notches in the bottom, and 4 small holes towards the top to relieve pressure), with carbon felt in between that and the cat can. The felt acts as a wick, and gives a nice burner ring. When it’s super windy I notice I get a bit of a flame up the side occasionally, even with the windscreen. It doesn’t bother me though. For how light and efficient it is, I haven’t found anything that works better (for me). If you’d like, I can fire it up and take a picture of how the flame distributes, with and without the windscreen. The 550 is so small that it’s tough to find a system that works best for the user, everyone has their preferences. Depending on my trip, I either take my DIY stove or my brs3000 which also works well (when it’s warm enough).Jan 24, 2021 at 7:20 pm #3695432
Here is the link to Frozen’s build of the same stove, it’s very detailed. I wish I had seen his video on this before I made mine. It took me a few tries to get the height of my inner can dialed in to achieve my desired result.Jan 24, 2021 at 8:31 pm #3695444
Thank you. It’s very similar to what I’d wanted to try first, just didn’t have the parts convenient. I’ll definitely make one to try out before I leave. Yeah, I didn’t know much about alcohol stoves until lately, figured it was all just a wash in the end, but they’ve definitely sparked my appeal – especially after my pocket rocket failure in the 20’s, and an alcohol stove test in the freezer at work (don’t ask). I didn’t choose the pot with a stove or system in mind, only that I needed to boil water, maybe 2-2 1/2 cups at a time, and it was light and affordable. Now I’m seeing the challenges. Nothing’s easy, right? LolJan 24, 2021 at 9:15 pm #3695448Jeff YSpectator
I’d ditch the suture kit. Your ability to throughly clean a wound that requires sutures thoroughly enough to ward off infection and continue your trip would likely be dismal in the field. I’d recommend gauze/compression, steristrips with tincture of benzoin to help with adhesion, etc.. In fact, I’d recommend using bandanas, short sleeve, belt, etc for emergencies that would require life saving compression. If bleeding to death is a concern, you don’t need gauze, you need compression/direct continuous pressure and MAYBE a piece of cloth. The gold standard for stopping bleeding, BTW, is firm compression from a skilled individual, other than more formal surgical or similar intervention that would be unable to be provided away from a hospital anyway.
Swiss Army knife is good if you need the scissors, but I prefer the tiny flip out razor blades with the orange sheath you can get on Amazon in a 5 pack for under 10 bucks. Plus the tweezer and toothpick on the Swiss Army knife are useless, IMO. With the extra inexpensive razors, you can place a few in some other spots at home, in the car FAK, etc.
I also prefer esbit over alcohol as well. It is about twice as energy dense as alcohol, and thus lighter weight. No fuel bottle, no liquid to spill, and very easy to pack as many esbits as well. It will smell a little fishy and soot up your pot, but it’s really not bad at all for the weight and simplicity trade off IMO. If you’re able to purchase a stove/pot/windscreen combo now or in the future, the trails designs set up is second to none. And if you get the titanium floor or even the inferno setup to be able to burn wood, you don’t need to bring extra fuel since the last night or whatever you need can be substituted with some kindling if you run short for some reason.
I prefer a rechargeable headlamp (nitecore NU25) since you can always top it off before the trip, letting you leave the extra batteries at home. Also it can be recharged with the power bank if needed. But it lasts 40 something hours on low I believe…so may not be necessary to recharge depending on usage.
Do you have any cordage or string? I didn’t notice it on the list, may be my mistake. I take about 50 feet of 130 lb test braided dacron fishing line wrapped around a cut down bic pen with the ends melted to create a flare so it won’t unravel as easy. Plenty strong and a great replacement for shoelaces, guy line, lower a pack down a steep cliff, belt, or anything else you need string for. The wax on the line makes it easy to untie knots.Jan 25, 2021 at 8:57 am #3695487
Jeff, excellent points about the suture kit, especially the disinfecting – that’s something I really hadn’t thought of.
My first knife was a Victorinox, but had more features that I *thought* I’d need, and weighed over 2 1/2oz. Since I’ve been carrying the classic, I can’t even remember what those other features were. The only thing I miss sometimes is the bigger blade, but the small one has served me fine. The tweezers aren’t great for ticks, but I can get them to work. They’re definitely my go-to’s for splinters, though. Never could get them out well with needles. I agree, the toothpick is useless. I haven’t used it once. The scissors get a lot of use, but a knife would also do fine.
I haven’t tried the esbit tablets yet, but I won’t knock em until I do. The main reason I haven’t is simply because alcohol seems more cost effective, and it’s way easier to get – especially out here in the Little Rock sticks. Their weight vs alcohol is certainly attractive. Like I said, I kind of got into this on my own – none of my friends backpack – so everything I’ve learned has been through research, reading about what others do and why, and personal experience. Amazingly, nothing has downright failed to work for me, but trying new things has been the best way to find my own preferences. I’m sure I’ll be trying esbit sooner or later. I agree, the trail designs system looks great. I’m going to play around with a DIY version, just to check it out, but for the price, I see myself eventually letting the pro’s handle that one. It’s definitely on my list.
I’d been eyeing the NU17, but I’ll look at all of their models before I pull the trigger. I’m absolutely planning to get something that’s rechargeable, since I carry a battery pack anyways. The lock switch to keep it from bumping on is non-negotiable. I’ve only had it happen a few times, but that’s enough for me.
I do bring extra cord. After realizing I could get rid of the weight of hardware by learning knots, I became a little obsessive. I’ve got some 1.8mm paracord-type cord in my repair ziplock. It’s included in the weight, I just don’t know if I listed it or not. I also have several feet of 2mm zing-it with a fixed eye on one end in there with the tarp. It’s come in useful many times.
It’s finally clicked for me that I’ve been carrying around 10lbs of gear in a 3lb pack, which seems a little ridiculous. I love that pack, but I guess I’ve reached that point in shedding the weight. I’ll have to save my pennies, so I’ll have plenty of time to do my research.Jan 25, 2021 at 9:14 am #3695492Jeff YSpectator
I recommend Litesmith website if you haven’t already found it. They have the nitecore lights with the extra lightweight shock cord, I love mine! My buddy was super jealous in our trip this month in the Grand Canyon. They have a lockout, and the red light feature is neat, but not as useful for me as I thought maybe. The low white light setting does fine. They also have AWESOME tweezers on their site that are tiny and VERY effective for splinters and what ever, sharp and pointy. Also some super cute micro scissors. So now I can carry the scissors and tweezers in my FAK, and keep the ultralight razor knife in my webbing pocket on my shoulder pouch with a little dacron lanyard string to make it easy to retrieve. I had a nice little Swiss Army knife, but my summer sausage always got stuck between the cracks lol. And your right, that blade is tiny.
Another thing I forgot to mention, is that if you get Zinc sunscreen, you can use it as an effective anti-chafing cream if needed. Zinc is the ingredient you need.
Yes, esbit is more expensive and harder to source, good point. I have alcohol stoves as well, so I choose based on the trip. It’s not to bad to buy a couple dozen esbits and just have them at home. I also like the idea of them for emergencies, if necessary. If you have any questions, give Rand an email or call at Trail designs. He was such an informative and great guy I bought three stoves from him :)Jan 25, 2021 at 7:02 pm #3695578
I love Litesmith – I’ve only ordered from them once, for some nylofume bags and a 2oz bottle, I believe – but their prices are great, and I had no issues with them. I was actually planning to order from them again before the hike, so I’ll check out that headlight.
I was thinking the same thing about the esbit tabs doubling as emergencies – especially since I’ve always only used canister stoves. I’m definitely in the learning curve. Also, there always seems to be wet/damp wood here, no matter the season. I managed to get a good fire started a week ago, using smaller dry twigs and tree bark, but since it’s the first time I’ve managed to get a fire going with wet wood, I don’t consider the skill as ‘being under my belt’ yet. I was just telling my husband that the tabs would also be good for emergencies in that case – definitely not for routine use. In fact, I hardly ever have a fire, but it’s a skill I’m working on lately.
Very grateful for your advice, and everyone’s. You all have definitely been my teachers for the last year and a half, and looking forward to everything else I can learn!Jan 25, 2021 at 7:09 pm #3695579
And I forgot to mention – I did make both the 4 in 1 cat can stove and the fancy feast stove today, and I think I’ve got a winner with the fancy feast (as you all recommended). I just made it with a few things I had available, so I’ll make a ‘good’ version before my hike. Definitely learned a lot, just making stoves! LolJan 25, 2021 at 7:57 pm #3695586Luke SchmidtBPL Member
I actually would not consider a 3 pound pack too heavy for your base weight. I did a LOT of experimentation with packs in the 2 pound range. I had 2 custom packs built and I bought and tried most of the lighter packs available in the 2012 to 2015 time. Some where okay at 30 but none where great at 35. Most were less comfortable at 25 then a slightly heavier pack. A pack that can carry weight well usually is going to be
- 2.5 pounds or more (Exped Lighting, etc). This is the sweet spot for a durable but lightweight pack capable of handling 35 pounds or more in comfort.
- Very expensive and more fragile the other packs (Zpacks, HMG etc)
Now if you always stay below 30 pounds and usually below 25 there are more options for packs that will work and weigh 1.5 to 2 pounds. That’s a lot of bang for your buck but… here is the heresy. I hike with a 3.5 pound pack. I had to downsize to move to Alaska and I needed a pack that could do everything from weekends to expeditions to guiding. To be honest I don’t mind the extra 2 pounds on weekend hikes. Everything else is light so its okay.
Anyway a lighter pack isn’t a bad idea eventually but you could probably fly to Denver for the price of many ultralight packs.
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