Category Archives: Backpacking

Travelly bits

Packing is fun.
You know how some people have gift wrapping rooms? I want a packing room/closet.
It would have my current Stolmen shelves on 3 sides, one wall for framed maps and pictures and a big table with drawers/organize-y things in the middle.
But I don’t have that and my closet is currently is kinda messy, so I’ll just make a list well in advance, put things into a designated bag for keepingย  them together until the trip, then take over the bed for a while when I do actually pack.
I’ve got my annual trip to Green Bay coming up next week (umm…eeek.) and I need to take more than I usually do. I also think it will be rather nippy this time (last year I wore my jacket liner over a long sleeve SmartWool shirt and was warm enough. Crazy.)
I have a very serious down coat, a honkin’ pile o’ SmartWool things, a wool JCrew rollneck sweater (that I wore in 20 degree weather without knowing it because it is perfect) and snow boots. Actually I have two pairs of snow boots and I’m debating which ones I should take. I suspect I’ll take the lace up ones and use it as an excuse to wear leggings tucked into them the whole weekend instead of proper pants.
There’s a dress involved in this year’s round up so I have to take some girl clothes type things… yuck.
If I use Tex as a mule, I can put more shoes in his bag. I’d check a bag and just use a bigger suitcase, but I’m paranoid about checking bag on the way to a destination. The universe never actually loses your dirty laundry and smelly socks, but crucial items are fair game. (I may still check a non-essentials bag and just rough it with existing things in my carry on if they lose my checked luggage.)
I even have a new carry-on for this trip (yeah, i know I get a new bag almost every trip- but some of them get given away or re-purposed, so I don’t have that much actual luggage. I do sometimes use just bags for short trips.). I found this Lucas lightweight carry-on that is gray with a leaf pattern on it. It had butternut squash colored accents and worked with a lumbar pack I have (that I used for a weekend in Texas when I needed to be hands free as I had borked my nerve in my neck.) Atypical matching luggage, but it met my criteria and kept the inner luggage dork happy.
… until I decided to use the same bag for Green Bay.
Lucas Leaf carryon bag
I could get away with minimal packing at my grandmother’s because really I end up living in one pair of yoga pants the whole time I’m there (multiple Tshirts, socks and undies) then changing back into the plane outfit that is fit for public viewing. At most you need one of those bags that fit under the seat and a backpack full of gadgets.
But for Green Bay (and especially this year; see above.) there’s no way I could fit all my cold friggin’ weather gear in a small carry-on. So my inner freakazoid went bonkers trying to come up with a “matching” set that would hold enough for 5 days in the cold. It really only had to be a tenuous link, but a link nonetheless. So I went Marshall’s/Ross/TJ Maxx crawling (Marshall’s was the most likely success as that was where I found the original bag.) and I lucked out and found a small suitcase only $10 more than the original that matched exactly. It isn’t a wheelie but I don’t necessarily need another wheelie.
I test drove it last weekend when I stayed down close to the Monterey Aquarium last weekend and it holds a surprising amount of crap (but you have to be careful or they will get crabby on the plane and not let you in and make you check it… it’s a fine line.)
AT stuff on my cube at work.
The other thing in my head is a longer trip to the AT. About the same time frame and location as the other with a few adjustment (namely, marshmallows for mama, not eating a group meal and a slower pace with less panic that I was holding up the group.) I don’t regret a thing about the last trip, but I also would like to try a few new things while I’m there and I know myself fairly well, so adjustments will be made.
I’m not quite ready to do 6-8 weeks on the trail and do the entire state yet for a variety of reasons, but I will.
Now, gotta get on the treadmill and also start doing 4-6 miles each weekend day to get ready.

Relevant ;)

from Mystic Bliss:


PERSONAL CLOTHING: Strong normal clothing (according to season). Preferably cotton even for summer, woolen clothing for the evening and winter.

1. Sleeping Bag (down, 0-5 O C)
2. Strong comfortable trekking boots-water resistant for the rainy period (June-August)
3 .Sunscreen
4. Flashlight
5. Rain Coat (especially for rainy period-June-August)
6. Head gear/hat./cap; sun and rain protection
7. Water pills- for extra caution in purifying stream water: (boil water is provided a times during the trek)
8.Aspirin- in case of altitude sickness
9. Lots of socks
10. Warm undergarments

Folding umbrella (only for wet months-July and August)
One Towel
Pillow Case
Wet-packaged tissue paper

Backpacking Prep

My backpacking weight worklist…
(it’s a work in progress…)


Put all your backpacking stuff together in a tubby or something that you can easily grab the whole thing if you want to just run off on a moment’s notice (well, with a little prep) and not wonder what you did with (insert name of fiddly tiny equipment here).
The other part of this equation is that after getting back from a hike you promptly clean your gear and put it away to be ready for the next time as well…

Depending on how big your tubby is, you can store all your camping stuff (tent, cooking gear (stove, cookwear, shelf stable items-though I tend to avoid storing much more than salt and tea bags in there because I want the stuff I take to be moderately fresh and there’s little chance of ants/bugs invading the storage)) as well as the larger bottles you use to refill the tiny sized containers in your pack.
Things like Dr. Bronner’s castile soap (I get at Trader Joe’s in the monster size for the same price as one of the smaller at REI-although the almond version is heavenly), bandaids, Purell, matches for the waterproof container, bandaids and stuff that you can generally refill the smaller packets of I leave in here as well to keep it all together.
If you use Nikwax or other restoratives you can keep that in here, too.
(I am finding that all the refill stuff as well as the camping stuff starts turning it into a 2 tubby affair though probably best to do 2 and then just grab 1 on the way out the door.)

Sleeping bag, sleeping pad and backpack need to be out and hung up after you wipe them down/wash them.


If you have a dehydrator you can make lots of cool snack foods and ingredients for soups or dinners instead of buying those pre-made dinners. (Just make sure to write the instructions on the ziploc bag of how much water and what order to load everything into the cookpot when you are on the trail.)
Dehydrated mushrooms work fantastically in soups and other foods and dishes (and provide some potassium for your body after hiking all day) though you can get these in the grocery store as well.
I like the instant mashed potato mixes with cheese-you can make a potato cheese soup with mushrooms and chicken boullion or actually make the mashed potatos… I’m generally too impatient. I also like to look for sales on the stuff that is ‘just add water’ (soup mixes, potato mixes, boullion, drink mixes, etc) since they can be a bit pricey.
New foods should be test driven. I just sit out on the porch with the camp stove and test drive. Anything that needs to be gotten from inside the house either needs to be taken into consideration or written off the list as a possibility.
Other items that take a bit longer to rehydrate or require simmering can sometimes be soaked in water ahead of time. Take an empty Nalgene bottle and fill it with a bit of water, then about halfway through the day or at the break before you get to camp (or even right before you set up camp), put in the item (beans, noodles, etc.) and let them soak until you are ready for cooking. Its best to test this before hand to see how long each item needs to soak…if you let it soak too long, it can turn into glop which is gross.


Another thing you need to do is get a map of the trail you are hiking (well, if you know the area, this might be optional-but I’d still have it in the pack). has downloadable maps for a yearly fee or there are kiosks to print out special maps if you can find the right one for your area.
Printing out your own maps on an inkjet and waterproof paper is a super geeky thing to do (so you know I love it.) I also tend to create a single page (front and back) of tent instructions, first aid stuff, clever knots, etc.
I’ll post it eventually when I PDF it.

There are loads of other things that you can do to prep for a packing trip, but really, get everything together as you go along and you can just run off for the weekend (my advice is to escape cell range (or fake that you aren’t in cell range) when another department tries to get you do do their work on a weekend…)

So, what are your hiking preps?

I changed my mind, I want this bag for COLD weather

I’m a side sleeper… I need the stretchy.

MontBell America, Inc. U.L. Super Stretch Hugger #2 Sleeping Bag: 25 Degree Down


The MontBell U.L. Super Stretch Hugger #2 25 Degree Down Sleeping Bag provides warmth in sub-freezing temps at an incredibly low 1lb 11oz. Though it weighs less than your 1L bottle of water, this 800-fill down sleeping bag uses stretch stitching to hug your body and eliminate dead air space. Multi-Box baffle construction ensures the Super Stretch Hugger Sleeping Bag has no cold spots, and its bottom eight-inch baffle seals to fit smaller users. This down mummy bag’s warmth to weight ratio make it ideal for three season backpacking or rock climbing trips.

Bottom Line: A three-season sleeping bag that weights less than a full water bottle? It’s called the MontBell Super Stretch Hugger #2.
MontBell U.L. Super Stretch Hugger

Technical Features:
Material: 15D Ballistic Airlight nylon
Insulation: 800-Fill down
Shape: Mummy
Draft Collar: Yes
Max User Height: [Regular] 5ft 10in (174.8cm); [Long] 6ft 4in (193.1cm)
Shoulder/knee Circumference: [Regular] 45-59 / 34-45in (113-151 / 86-115cm); [Long] 48-64 / 38-51in (122-163 / 98-130cm)
Stuff Size: [Reg] 6 x 11.9in (12.5 x 30.22cm); [Lng] 6.3 x 12.4in (16 x 31.5cm)
Stuff or Storage sack: Stuff
Degree: 25 (-4C)
Weight: [Reg] 1lb 11oz (764.8g); [Lng] 1lb 13oz (921.5g)
Recommended Use: 3-season backpacking, camping, climbing
Warranty: Lifetime

Packing List: AT Gear (the important stuff for 1 week)

Mom and pack shakedown, originally uploaded by fredlet.

Jansportjuno73Pack: JanSport Juno 73 Pack – yes, its a big pack. They asked us to bring a larger one and really it fit pretty well and carried all my stuff (much to the guide’s chagrin since I abhor a vacuum and must fill empty spaces…) I was probably at 32 pounds with all my and the group gear. Funny story at REI, when we went to go get mom’s pack, we told them of the requirements and he really tried to steer us to a 3000 cu in pack since the 4500 one is really huge. I was hesitant to go smaller, while I did agree with him, 4500 is huge, I didn’t know what kind of bulky group gear our guides would be giving us and I didn’t want to be flouting their requests already. We ended up saying thanks but no thanks to the guy and eventually coming back to find her pack on our own. Its starting to be an issue with REI folks actually. They are very nice and very smart, but they don’t seem to get that some of us have weird requirements (like me and my men’s hiking boot things and our listing for a large pack for this trip) and that sort of bothers me.

Osprey Rain CoverPack Rain Cover: Osprey Raincover XL at MRO, this weighs about 8 oz and squishes down nicely into its carrying case (moreover you can get it BACK into its own case which is downright amazing.) Also, serves double duty as a rain seat that you tighten around yourself while you sit on the ground with the upper part curved around your shoulders. handy when you are under a tarp but still sitting on the ground.

Clothes: (all my clothes lived in a Sea to Summit waterproof bag (8L) to prevent them from getting wet and also served as my pillow at night.)
–>2 shirts (cool max Champion brand from Target on clearance last year) *Necessary* since I sweat and it was warm on the uphills, but cool after you took off your pack. When it was rainy, getting things to dry was a bitch and a half (and the quick dry only made it a bitch to dry off in the sleeping bag with me)
–>Rain Pants that also zipped off to shorts, but walking in these shorts was a clammy affair. I primarily used these over long johns or over my other shorts to keep warm/dry (and the fact that my legs were cold indicated that it was *cold* as I frequently run around in shorts and a wool sweater all year round here in Nor Cali.)
–>Shorts (cool max) I got these at Target and these were FANTASTIC. I need to get a couple more pair since these suckers ROCK.
–>Socks I took 3 pairs of SmartWool (or the REI brand, buy 3 and get 10% off) and swapped socks every day. Some people advocate changing sock mid-day, but I found that if I took of my shoes mid-day that my feet hurt on the afternoon trek. Your mileage may vary. I slept in one pair and alternated the other two. The happyhappyjoyjoy thing about SmartWool is that it does NOT get stinky or gross. Hooray for natural materials!
–>Undies: Ex Officio magic undies-quick dry and anti stinky.
–>Long Undies: I did a combo of SmartWool (top) and Polarmax Tech Pants long undies and while they were both ok, I really should have gotten SmartWool on both ends, the SmartWool was much more comfy. I slept in my long undies at night, both for warmth (though my sleeping bag was double plus good! especially for having been on sale for $69, but I’ll discuss it later…) I was a squicky about my skin on skin since I was pretty gross. It helped me to sleep (mom said this as well after one night that she didn’t sleep in hers.)
–>Rain Jacket: A Marmot shell that I zipped the fleece out of
–>Boots: Merrell men’s Mesa ventilators (because I have yet to find a pair of women’s hiking boots that are wide enough for me… jeebus, girls, how do you walk around on those little popsicle sticks without falling over?) though the one’s I linked to aren’t exactly it, they are ventilators which probably also helped with my feet not getting hot in combo with the SmartWool socks. I can say that I had exactly ZERO problems with my feet (and frankly I thought I would have problems with them since my feet are sort of diva-high-maintenance-Bitchy-McSnipe-esque as far as feet go. Needless to say, I was very happy- the cold I had, well, that’s quite another matter.)
–>Gaiters: I got the ones made of the same material that my Mistral pants are made from… good stuff, but I am actually pondering some Outdoor Research ones.
–>Camp Shoes: MRO had Nothinz on sale for half off… I was going to go the cheap flip flop route, but I yielded to peer pressure, and it wasn’t a bad decision. Croc knockoffs would have been just as good… plus mom bought them so even better. ๐Ÿ˜‰
–>Hat: mine looked like a regular baseball cap, but is actually a winter runner’s cap with little earflaps that can fold down for the cold… and I used ’em, too. Brrr.
–>Knee brace

Tent: this was group gear and they brought it for us… It was an REI Half Dome tent ca. 2004. Very good tent, we were rained on pretty heavily and we stayed dry. Roughly 6 pounds and made of heavier material than the new UL ones they have now.
Boffo! A good one…

Rosa sleeping bagSleeping Bag: Sierra Designs Rosa, on sale as previously mentioned, kept me nicely warm. It has a little feet liner at the bottom that I haven’t seen before that was really nifty as well as the dual zipper that let me stick my feet out even when the rest of the bag was zipped up. As for the ‘narrower through the torso nonsense’, well, I ain’t, to put it very bluntly. I also sleep on my side, so I’m pondering the Big Agnes bag that is built for us side sleepers, though I like the fact that the Rosa is lighter and synthetic (goosedown loses warmth if it gets wet and takes forever to dry). Still making my decision on this one. I would like a smaller bag so that it doesn’t take up a crapload of space in my bag so I can use my UL 45 pack in the future.

Sleeping Pad: Thermarest Z Lite. I have a Thermarest that I used for years and its heavy and a pain to deal with (inflate, un-inflate, etc.). I like the fold up design of this and I can bunch up parts of it to work as a pillow or under my knees when I lie flat (as I can’t really sleep on my side with my current sleeping bag). It also is nice and light, easy to manoeuvre (putting down, picking up). I did beat it up on trees when I walked though since I put it up on the top of my pack (having removed the pack lid with the pocket previously.)

Eat-y things:

–>Spork:I had a red one (which I left at home… duh) so I bought a blue one at MRO. Not bad, but I think I like mom’s Foon.
–>Cup and Bowl: I liked the bowl (its easy to open it up and lick it clean), but the cup wasn’t as fun. I didn’t bring a plate. I might consider bringing this cup or more likely this one that I use all the time anyway even though it weighs a bit more.
–>Camelbak: 2L…worth it.

Personal Patch Kit: Its an Outdoor Research ultralight organizer with little things like nail nippers (for fighting off bears), Tylenol (lots), Sudafed (even more), skin goop, toothbrush, toothpaste, baby wipes (for every other day wipe down) and other little snickety things that would get lost in the wilds of my pack.
I think they tried to talk me out of it, but it was one of the things that I held firm on (instead of using ziploc bags for everything).

Misc Items:
–>Gorilla Tape
–>Bandannas (x2)
–>Trekking Poles: I wasn’t certain how I’d work with these and mom definitely was skeptical. But they saved my butt all week. I balanced myself with them, pushed myself up mountains, took the weight off of my knees (which I will discuss later) and pretty much earned their keep (and I bought cheap-y ones in case the airlines destroyed them in my duffel I checked, so I’m guessing even lighter weight ones would be even better.) Also, if I decide on the other tent I thought was cool, it would use the poles instead of tent poles for double duty.
–>Treo in waterproof case that also had my ID and insurance card (in case of bears… they are deathly afraid of HMO’s, you know) and earphones. I probably could have lived without my Treo on this trip because I was so sick, but otherwise, I think I would have still wanted it with me.
–>Garmin eTrex Vista for fun and to see our altitude, to mark waypoints where we stayed etc. because I am a big geek. I would take this again in a heartbeat.
–>Journal small spiral binder (4×5) for notes + pen
–>Camera: My old Sony waterproof 2megapixel one so I wouldn’t worry about killing my good one on the trail.
–>More ziploc bags for trash, daily snacks, messy things, stuff that went in the bear bag at night, etc.
–>LED headlamp: A Energizer one which I didn’t use much as I observed the hiker midnight rule (a.k.a. going to bed when the sun went down… about 8 pm or 9 pm. Giggling from other tents went on long after… it really was one big slumber party. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Now, I don’t know that I can fairly assess my food situation for this week. I caught a cold and was stuffed up and MISERABLE (not to mention other issues that some of us girlies have to deal with directly) so I really didn’t eat much this whole week. (Nor did I want to…)
No, really.
In fact, everyone was going out of their way to make sure I actually put food in my mouth and ate it. To be perfectly honest, I could go for a while and not worry about missing a meal. They should have worried if I didn’t drink water (which I managed to clear out my Camelbak just about every day even though it was nice a cool out side, no problem with water at all.)
It hurt to eat stuff since my throat was raw, my taste buds were not functioning (well, no nose, no taste) and the one or two times I even remotely felt hungry was when we were walking and it went away after about 3 minutes. It wasn’t a big deal.
Here’s what I actually took (more than other folks because of my persnickety stomach)

  • package of dried mushrooms
  • 1 big package cheese mashed potato mix
  • 10 string cheeses
  • Cheese mix from a macaroni and cheese box
  • GORP (with a liberal amount of peanut M&M’s, because really, who are we kidding?)
  • beef jerky
  • 15 Cherry Pie Larabars (my favorites)
  • Mild Slim Jims
  • Contrast that list with what I actually ate that week:

  • 1 piece of jerky
  • 4 string cheeses
  • 1/4 packet dried mushrooms (these were amazingly good in the potato ‘soup’ listed below)
  • 1/2 of the mashed potato mix (I ended up putting a couple of spoonfuls into a 1/2 c of hot water and ended up with potato soup… also very good. I looked forward to that as much as I did the…
  • Group food: chicken soup/chicken boullion/miso soup mix ~ 1/2 c each night as an appetizer as soon as we got off the trail and had water heated.
  • 1/2 of a mild Slim Jim; it nauseated me
  • 1 Larabar over 3 days (the nuts hurt my throat)
  • 7 peanut M&M’s (I remember counting them)
  • Group food: Some noodles with the cheese mix on it
  • Group food: black beans and rice, but I remember having to choke them down (not because they were bad, mind you, but because I couldn’t swallow very well because of my cold.) and keeping them down was a chore as well. Not a pleasant meal. The cups of soup were the highlight of the trip.
  • 1 cup of Earl Grey tea one morning
  • No breakfast, but then again I never eat breakfast (though I didn’t even want coffee… weird. Most likely I just wanted to stay in my sleeping bag a little longer rather than get up to get hot water…) The rest of the trip was lots of water, but I didn’t notice not eating much at all. I think everyone else was more concerned about the food situation than I was.
    Frankly, it was just another chore.

    What I didn’t take (that I would need to take on a solo trip):

    JetboilJetBoil: We used a group feedbag situation that involved the guides having the stoves. That sometimes meant that I had to eat earlier than I wanted and didn’t have hot water when it would have been nice to have (later at night before I went to bed to warm up a bit.) I have an insulate-y sleeve that I should have brought for my Nalgene bottle so I could have kept some water at temperature.

    Outdoor Research NightHaven ShelterTent: Outdoor Research NightHaven Shelter with footprint. I like the fact it is 2 pounds and you use your trekking poles.

    More Gorilla tape and the other little things like a lighter,water filter, a tarp and light rope that the guides took.

    All in all, most things were good… but marshmallows and hot chocolate would probably be on the list somewhere as well.