These are posts of some questions I have been asked on various aspects of backpacking, including specifics on the Wonderland Trail. Of course, my answers are my opinion only; remember to use your own best judgement and never blindly follow anyone's advice, including mine....always "question"
Q Read your review on the EE Recon Bivy and have a few questions if you don't mind. How would you compare the quality of construction of the Recon compared to the Borah Gear Bivy (I've been using a custom Borah Snowyside eVent Bivy for approximately the past 2 years and though I do like it for the price, it isn't up to the level of MLD)?
I'm looking at purchasing a lightweight bivy for 3 season use in SoCal and the Sierra and was really looking at Borah and MLD (both with full head net versions) but the EE looks interesting. If I went with the Borah or MLD I'd have a longer side zipper added like I did on the Snowyside to make entering/exiting easier. I really like the open views a full head-net offers and worry the EE Recon would obstruct this somewhat especially when used under a custom MLD 0.5wt cuben Grace Tarp (1.5 person for better protection).
A Hi Christopher
First, let me comment on Borah quality. I really like the cuben bivy, both for cost and simplicity. As you know from the Snowyside John does not use bathtub construction, which has its advantages. If I put a pad and bag inside that bivy, then the seam edge is far enough away from the ground that I wouldn't worry about water incursion...in fact, I haven't sealed either of my Borah bivys. This is where I would be hesitant to use any bivy in foul weather anyway, were it forecast. But all in all I think the Borah gear is well constructed and the price points are really good compared to MLD. Also, at 4.5 ozs, you won't find a lighter bivy than the Borah Cuben with side zip. Of course, with gossamer fabrics one must exercise care in use, as you well know.
The Recon is hard to peg, in that it serves the same purpose as the Borah cuben but goes about it in a different way. You mention sight line hindrance in the Recon but I did not find this to be a problem, laying down I had at least 180 degree viewing. I guess, when I put a small pack behind my head with a pillow, there was sight line blockage directly to the rear if I were laying flat. The full mesh of the Borah leaves the back of your head area open to mesh. I actually like the solid material in this section like the Recon, because with errant breezes you'll get the full force on your head and perhaps into your bag with the mesh, whereas the solid material on the Recon blocks this effect, if only to a certain degree. If you are under a tarp your sight lines will be compromised much more than a little material behind your head.
In a deep woods bivy with the Recon, I could lie there and look up to the stars between the tree cover (after my eyes adjusted)...I consider that unobstructed viewing. I could also see left and right side sleeping, except it was pitch black. Also, I would put the 15D silnylon floor on the Recon in about the same durability category as the 1.0 cuben floor on the Borah, but of course I haven't tested this opinion.
I could almost say the Recon and Borah cuben are redundant pieces of gear, yet I wouldn't get rid of either of them. But I think the Borah is a specialist piece of gear, for experienced SUL hikers, whereas the Recon seems a little more versatile at a better price point but two ounces heavier. All I can tell you is either piece (I can't speak to the MLD as I don't have one) will serve you well, especially under your tarp with good coverage. If you go with the Recon I don't think you'll be disappointed. Cheers!
Q Two questions---I heard some talk about the poles you can buy from ZPacks-- which I did for holding the duplex up---the 48" carbon poles. Some guys are saying 48" may put too much stress on the top seams. Some guys that use their trekking poles only need go up to 44"---they are worried the 48" may put to much stress on the top point seams. Do you have the carbon poles from ZPacks? Should I worry about the stress on the seam if I use the recommended 48" poles?
A Hi Jason
I indeed use the poles from ZPacks and have had no real problems. The only exception is if the tent is pitched on uneven or slanting ground, and you are using a slippery ground sheet, there are some stress points that are obvious on the high side of the tent, i.e. the uphill side where the floor has slid to the downhill side a bit. I found the solution to this is to slant the 48" pole slightly, in essence lowering the height a few inches. But on level ground the 48" poles can stand straight up and are basically a perfect pitch for the tent. The tent is taut and the zippers function just fine on both sides with the ZPacks 48" poles.
Although I've had the tent for a few years, I have to qualify that I don't have lots of nights in it as I tend to bivy a lot. However, it appears to me that this tent will last many years at my rate of usage. If you can find someone who has done a thru hike like the AT or PCT, you can get a more definitive opinion on how the tent is holding up with the poles, or even with trekking poles. I personally haven't read any negative reviews in this regard....if there were problems I would think they would show up in reviews at some point.
Lastly, from what I've seen even on slanted ground, the top seams look to be real solid....I think any problem areas would come from over tensioning the half moon zippers. Take care and thanks for writing!
Q I like your customized Hybrid pack, and am considering getting something similar from Zimmer. How's the side pocket worked out? I want one for stashing a z-pole or maybe other small stuff.
What do you think about the fabric? Im debating the Cuben fiber vs something a little more abrasion/ tear resistant like the VX or dyneema he offers. Has it held up? How about at stitching (where daisy chains or side straps join)?
A Hi Jared
First let me say that I liked the customized Hybrid daypack so much that I had him make me two more, the front pack and a larger "daypack" but with a front pocket and two side pockets. I used this pack for many of my hikes this year (2015), including overnights for Mt. Hood's Timberline, two Wonderland hikes, the Adams round the mountain plus others. I actually haven't used the first Daypack much because of the nature of the trips. When I did use it, the small side pocket I had installed (plus the straps) I used for carrying poles (while biking), the ZPacks staff, and I think once I used it for a small tripod.
One thing I really like about the
is the ruggedness....as compared to my ZPacks packs, the webbing is more robust, the buckles are larger, and the stitching is impeccable and tacked really well, it would be hard to blow these out. I also had Chris make my daughter a pack, larger and out of dyneema. She was extremely happy with it all year. Plus he was a pleasure to work with, very responsive. I had the packs in hand within a matter of days, and not much more than a week for my daughter's.
I've had excellent results from the hybrid cuben fabric, all the packs I use currently are hybrid cuben (Zimmer, ZPacks, HMG). The three front packs get the most wear and tear, with thousands of zips and unzips, snot bombs, and abrasion every time I take off the pack(s). No problems yet. However, were I to order another pack I'd probably have it made out of dyneema...I was impressed with my daughter's pack with that material.
I've attached a few photos of the Zimmerbuilt packs. Just email Chris and tell him what you want, he'll be able to deliver.
Zimmerbuilt custom packDaughter's Zimmerbuilt custom pack (dyneema)
Q I was wondering if you could recommend a set of books or websites to start my education on the local trails, backpacking and fastpacking. My fiance and I just moved here from Florida 3 weeks ago, so I'm close to many of the amazing trails and forests Washington has to offer. In Florida I was running about 40-50 miles/week but it's all flatland and paved. I would love to transition to the trails and take on the challenges I'm reading about in your blogs but I'm an absolute beginner when it comes to the skills/knowledge needed for many of these longer and off-trail hikes.
Thank you for your time
A Hi Dave and welcome to the PNW. Most of your information will come from time spent being here and checking things out for yourself. The prime training ground for the ultra crowd (trail running) is the Tiger Mountain complex, (Issaquah) including Cougar and Squak. Worth the drive if you want to get in a long trail run for training, like 20 or more miles. Try perusing the book section at REI for ideas on local trails in the Olympics, Mt Rainier and the Cascades, there are lots of good references to get you started. Look at nwhikers.net for trip reports, gear stuff and a place to ask questions...I post there a fair amount. You might want to check out the WTA (Washington trails association) site also for the same. As you can see from my blog, I have a special affinity for Mt Rainier and this fabulous park is closer to you. I like the National Parks because I feel the trail head parking is more secure, no dogs on the trails and people who pay to get into the parks seem to be more aware of LNT practices and such.....generally speaking the park clientele you meet on the trail are pretty cool.
you can search for a wide range of subjects when you find an interesting place to visit, and the information on gear is invaluable. I would imagine after some time exploring trails on your own (perhaps ideas gleaned from the various books I mentioned) you will come to find your personal likes and favorite areas and this will eventually lead you to off trail places if you so desire, but I wouldn't advise you to jump right into this. You can read blogs and books and sites but ultimately your growth will come from finding out what works for you, with increasing comfort levels as you gain experience. Even after more than 30 years of outdoor experience I am constantly refining gear and techniques. Good luck and, once again, welcome to the area.
Q Had a question for you. A couple of friends and I are thinking of doing the wonderland trail this year. We see there are reservations for campsites, but we don't intend to take 10 days to hike it. Are the reservations actually necessary? Any information you can share will be greatly appreciated.
AHi Brian, here's a quick run down. If you are camping anywhere in the park, you need a permit. However, there are misconceptions about the reservation system. I'd say go ahead and submit your itinerary to the Park Service in March (have plenty of alternatives) and see how it goes. I always tell people that the Park reserves 30 percent of the campsites for walk ups...I have never applied for a permit in advance. In a nutshell, if you do not get permits in advance you still have a more than excellent chance of just doing walk up permits when you are here. A ranger told me last year that she had only turned down one person for a permit in 5 years (walk up), but he allowed no flexibility in his itinerary. If you show up early (be there before the station opens to be first in line) and are able to be fairly flexible if you can't get one campsite as planned, they really do a good job trying to arrange something for you. I gave this advice to someone who contacted me in 2012 who lived in Australia; she wasn't able to acquire permits in advance but just did the walk up and got exactly what she wanted in the first place. There are many cancellations and people who change itineraries. I happened to run into her on the trail, really a small world.
Good luck and don't sweat the permit system, the statistics are with you, especially if you are the least bit flexible.
Q I just noticed you are not listed on the Gossamer Gear Trail Ambassador web page. What gives? Paul
AHi Paul, indeed I have been retired as a trail ambassador for GG.I enjoyed a long stint of over 7 years working with this excellent company, but it was time to make room for people who better represented the GG family. I have been using more custom gear these past few years and most of my GG gear is out of date, so it's hard to represent when the products are no longer current, although I remain an avid pole user. I will always be appreciative (along with my daughter) of the support and relationship that we enjoyed with Gossamer Gear.
Q I have watched many of your online videos and noticed on your latest Summerland adventure from 2012 that you use a GoPro as one of your cameras. I greatly enjoy shooting backpacking video and have been impressed by its quality. However, I have searched the internet for hours and cannot find any wisdom on what settings to use for great backpacking video.
Most of my backpacking adventures are on trails similar to Summerland and Indian Bar. I was hopeful you could share your wisdom on what works best for you with the GoPro while backpacking. I also know you hook your GoPro to a pole. It looks like it works great for you, but I really enjoy using two hiking poles to assist in my hiking. I am not sure I want to sacrifice one to hold my camera, although your shots are dang nice. I am looking for other alternatives. I would appreciate any advice you can share.
A Hi Tom, your questions are actually hard to answer because shooting backcountry video is entirely up to the shooter, as in what are you trying to accomplish? Last year's filming for me was very specific, in that I knew exactly what I needed to cover so I simply back engineered the setup and the cameras to realize this goal. When it comes to cameras like the GoPro, it's all about mounting because the settings are automatic; aside from aspect and frame rate, you have no control over exposure or other manual settings that you would get in a more comprehensive camera. In my case this is exactly what I wanted because I was dealing with 3 cameras and wanted a simplified way to record. As for using the pole, indeed when I was filming or time lapsing the trail I had to stow one pole and used the other to hold for the mount. This addresses the point of "what are you trying to do?"
You need to ask yourself these questions. Do you want moving shots? Time lapse of sunsets or sunrises? Different perspectives? I spent a lot of time addressing how to get stable moving shots, but most people take video from a still position. If this is your case, a small tripod might do for you. I did take some stationary shots with my 3 camera setup by simply jamming my trekking pole into the ground; the setup was light enough so this worked as a "tripod."
You also need to know the limitations of your camera. The GoPro is specifically aimed at action sports. It may not be the camera you want for typical backpacking shots, as the small focal length of the lens and the wide angle aspect tends to minimize objects in the distance, plus you also get a barreling effect. Low light shots are also a problem with cameras like this. These limitations carry over into any stills.
I know I keep coming back to this point, but cameras are a means to an end, and you determine what the end is. I experimented and found the best mounting options for capturing moving or even running shots. I went through pains to develop a way to capture video on the move to eliminate most of the shake but still be able to hold it for 100 miles in one hand. But if I want crisp video to capture stunning back country shots, I'd be using my Panasonic GH2 with an appropriate lens, mounted on a tripod. If I need "run and gun" type footage that would include zoom capability, a small HD camera like my Canon HF100 does the trick. So you see there are no simple answers to cameras, settings, or how to capture footage....it all depends on what you are trying to accomplish. Good luck and by all means, keep experimenting.
Q Can you elaborate or point me to resources that describe the whole body core exercises that you've found to be effective for hike training? I'm not a fastpacker and don't get a chance to get out much, but want to be better prepared for when I do.
A Hi Michael, thanks for writing. In a nutshell, the best series of exercises I've found has been one called "The NCAA Core Workout" and I believe I got it as an iPod app from Men's Health, or Men's Fitness....it's been quite awhile and I don't refer to it any more. It's a series of 10 exercises, using a medicine ball, where you do 20 reps of each exercise. The whole series was meant to be repeated 3 times, so in effect you end up doing a total of 600 reps, all in a row. I found that being able to get through this series gives me the best overall core strength, and is more focused than doing say, situps or crunches.
If you are mostly concerned about fitness for hiking, I think you are on the right track. Standing intervals on the bike certainly help leg strength; as an example, I might bike for 1 hour and stand and crank for one minute, followed by 1-3 minutes of easy spinning, depending on where I'm at in the training. This works multiple things besides leg strength, especially lactic acid threshold and anaerobic threshold, and exercises the entire cardiovascular system. Standing intervals, in my estimation, really get the most out of a bike session versus just a steady crank, although there is always a place for a long, even workout. Then of course running works those specific muscles and is the most efficient exercise in terms of burning calories and stressing the muscle/skeleton framework. I also do "shock sessions" where I press way beyond a typical workout, essentially shocking my system into remembering what it's like to go very long. One or two of these before a big hike (allowing time for recovery and never pushing through pain, only fatigue) works wonders. All of these concepts and more I cover in "Backpacking Strategies: hiking more than 20 miles per day."
Q I happen to see a post where you use a cuben bivy. I have been trying to find a good replacement for my bivy bag. I am assuming you are using the bivy under a tarp or in a tent of some nature and not out in the open by itself. What is the durability of the fiber like? I have a gortex bivy which is incredibly durable, waterproof, wind proof, bulky, and heavy. I have been looking to get a better bivy bag with a lighter weight but nothing compares to gortex when it comes to durability. Just curious about your experiences with the cuben fiber bivy. Thanks.
prototype GG cuben bivy at 5 ozsA Hi Matthew, unfortunately I don't have enough time in the bivy to give you a good answer. Last year I tested a prototype cuben bivy from Gossamer Gear in winter conditions here in the PNW (low 30's, rain). I experienced some condensation on the sides of the bivy but the prototype design was actually made by Cubic Tech corp and only had a strip of breathable cuben across the top; the majority of the bivy (the bathtub floor and sides) was constructed of regular cuben. I can attest that the breathable cuben is absolutely waterproof in heavy rain. You probably read my latest blog on the 10 oz shelter system and for this I had a custom bivy made by ZPacks. I specified that only the floor would be constructed of a tougher 1.4 oz/sqY cuben and the remainder of the breathable cuben, so in effect a reverse bathtub where the breathable cuben makes up the majority of the material (and wraps all around the sides). Since this custom bag is only 3/4 length and is to be used with my B4 upper, I don't anticipate condensation problems at all.
I also have an older Feathered Friends goretex bivy which exactly fits your description. Since it weighs over a pound I don't use it much anymore (I have a 1 lb tent) but it has lasted 15 years and is very durable and tough. My advice is to watch for products coming out soon (I hear OWare is going to market a cuben bivy) that use the breathable cuben, or MLD (Mountain Laurel Designs) currently makes a couple of light weight bivy bags at 5 and 12 ozs. In general I would say the cuben materials will be a satisfactory and extremely light weight upgrade to the old goretex bivies. Without getting into the WPB technologies and the conditions required for vapor transfer, I anticipate the breathable cuben will perform at least as good as our old bivies and be plenty tough enough (edit: goretex is only the membrane, any "toughness" will come from the material it is laminated to). I know that ventilation and weather conditions play the most critical role in the performance of these sometimes over-hyped technologies. For now at least, I am taking advantage of the durability and extreme light weight of the new cuben fibers. Hope this helps a bit and good luck!
snow travel in forest: it all looks the sameQ I know at that time of the year (late June/early July) it will still be quite snowy. Snow shoes will def. be needed. My question concerns how easy or difficult will it be to follow the trail? We talked to the Rangers and they mentioned extreme snow navigational skils will be needed. I was wondering if you had been out during this time of the year? If enough snow shoers are out doing the trail to make it fairly easy to follow? I haven't looked into researching too much about hiking the trail during this time of the year and you are my first stop.
Thanks in advance for your time and help.
AMark, glad you found the site. You say "snow shoes will def. be needed" but this is not the case. The Wonderland Trail in late June/early July can have substantial snow cover in the higher places, but this is different than classic winter snow. By then the snow will be consolidated, you will not be dealing with loose powder. This consolidated snow offers much easier travel, as post holing is rare (depending on where you are, such as near rocky areas that hold heat and tend to melt areas around them more) and most of the loose stuff has high water content from daytime melting....you would usually not sink more than a few inches in these conditions. Therefore, snow shoes are probably not an appropriate mode of travel during this time (I've never used them and have never seen anyone with them outside of the winter months).
The ranger is right about navigation skills, however. The difficult parts are travel in the forest areas, as everything looks the same. The snow is cupped and covered with tree crud and it's hard to discern tracks in these conditions. My recommendation would be to have a GPS with a topo map installed where you can reference the trail location in these trickier spots. Once higher up out of the forest, navigation becomes easier. If you haven't seen them yet, you should watch these (see below) updates to get a feel for what traveling in the early season on Rainier is like, as last year provided quite a bit of snow travel throughout the summer. Good luck in your planning!
Past Updates: 3 reports from 2011 giving detailed descriptions of parts of the WT and what to expect in these conditions...watch the videos!
QI'm very interested in your zpacks front pack camera case - seems a perfect solution for the gh2. Did you order a custom size and any other non-standard features? Would you mind telling the dimensions so I can copy you!
AQuintin, Joe's website says the chest pack is usually 3 inches deep. I asked him to make me one that was 5 inches deep. He charged me an extra $5. When you order the pack, just tell him what you want and reference the one he made for me, he'll use that info for reference. I suggest emailing him first telling him what you want before you place the order. Good luck in the construction!
QTwo questions if I may: 1. No need to carry a bear cannister as long as you hang your food at the established campsites on the Wonderland? (on those poles) 2. You refer to "mountain chickens" somewhere. Do you mean mountain lions? I'm considering a solo W/T hike and the presence of the big cats would be the only reason that I may not hike it solo. You (and a lot of others) don't seem to be worried about cougars. Thank you, Greg
AHI Greg, Happy New Year. All the established camps in MRNP have bear poles, so no canister is needed. Mowich Lake drive in campground doesn't have poles but they do have bear lockers. Mountain chicken is just a slang name for grouse because they bob their heads when they walk just like a chicken.You talkin' to me? Mountain Chicken
As for cougars, consider yourself very lucky if you even see one. In all my years around here I have only seen a cougar once, crossing the road when my daughter and I were heading to the Cold Springs campground on Mt. Adams....he sauntered into the woods and we had the opportunity to watch him for a minute as he turned, looked at us, then casually continued on his way. Very cool! The chance of being attacked by a cougar is so incredibly low that it doesn't enter my mind as a worry. I simply keep aware of my environment and may make some noise if I'm coming around a blind corner for bears. However, there has never been a fatal bear attack in the park and I've seen many (bears, not attacks!). Usually they run away when they get your scent, or sometimes they ignore people if they are at the appropriate distance while they are foraging. The usual critters I stumble upon during a typical hike are deer, grouse, sometimes mountain goats in the higher regions, and the occasional elk.
Consider that cougar usually hunt in the early morning hours or late afternoon, what you might call the "transition" time from/to dark. If I am running during this period on the trail I do increase my scan of surroundings as this is the best time to see any type of wildlife. I did almost step on a baby skunk one night so my only worry there was where was the mom? Years ago, on my first hike where I was solo night hiking, I had the usual worries about animals in the dark. However, on that same hike I was in the Silver Forest area and decided to take a break and turn off my headlamp. The view was incredible, even with the lights of Tacoma in the background I could see the Milky Way (moonless night). I soon let go of my fears and from that point forward came to embrace being alone in the dark in the woods. What I'm saying is fear of animal attacks and such will eventually go away once you've spent some time in the outdoors and reconnect; however, feeling those fears is very normal if you haven't reached that point yet. Accept that and go with the statistics on your side....any accidents are usually from falling, twisting a knee, rockfall, tripping or some other such thing. I'd concentrate on the things you have control over, like a fairly light load and foot placement. I talk about ultralight but really, if you can keep your pack weight below 25 pounds you will be ahead of most of the burdened hikers. As you probably know by now, I am a huge advocate of trekking poles also. These are the things that will keep you safer and enhance your experience on the trail.
If you want to hike solo, go for it! This is a well established trail, summertime sees a fair amount of traffic...you are not out there in the "wilderness." If you have a trail mishap someone will most likely come across you fairly soon. I've found solitude in the early/later hours on the trail. I talk about it in the video, but hiking before 9 AM and after 5 PM will find the trail almost completely deserted; everyone crams their hiking into the 9-2 time. However, if you want to be sociable on the trail, there will be plenty of people to talk it up with during your hike, especially in the camps if you so desire.
Recap: no amount of reading about other people will completely dispel your own fears, so accept that it's normal and try to put it aside by looking at the statistics. The WT is an excellent trail for solo hiking, well traveled enough to not be feeling "out there" but also secluded for some alone time. You transit 2 major areas (Longmire and Sunrise) where you can buy lunch or dinner and restock on goodies if so desired. Good established camps with bear poles, no canister required. Transit many different zones from lowland to alpine. Once you do it, your sense of accomplishment will be great. Hope to see you out here next summer!
QActually now that I think about it the other thing that I'm struggling with is as I try to get my base weight closer to 9lbs is figuring out the difference between a 4 day trip and a 9 day trip. We will be doing the trail in 9 days with a groups of 8 guys and none of them are ultra lighters so we will be taking a little more time. Would you suggest an extra shirt, pair of socks and underwear? I normally would never take this but am wondering with 9 days if it might be nice to have these. To have a clean shirt to wear to bed and clean underwear to switch out to help with chafing and things like that.
AJon, it looks like you have a nice system. First let me address your clothing. I can't speak for you, but I would leave the BMW pants at home. The long underwear is good for sleeping in but you will most likely not use them on the trail, so there's one part of your sleep system. I would also have a clean (light) long sleeve shirt/capilene/etc to change into at night for sleeping. As far as extra clothing, the most I would do is have one extra pair of underwear and pair of socks; this way you can wash one pair each day if you wanted and dry them during the day for wear on the following day. I think your Hoody and quilt would be fine for sleeping on the WT. The coldest times will be in the evening and early morning, when you are lazing around camp. That's when I put on all my clothing if warranted including a warm hat. When I'm on the trail during the day under locomotion, I'm generating enough heat that I don't need much. If it's breezy and/or chilly, I'll immediately don a jacket and hat when I stop for a break to maintain body heat....I never wait until I'm starting to feel cold, I want to capture whatever heat I'm still generating for the following 15 minutes after I stop. Considering that you will be hiking with more burdened partners, they will probably be slower than yourself and you may find that you are waiting a lot, especially with a group of 8. Just make sure you have adequate clothing to maintain warmth as you'll be at rest a lot. As for the shorts, I usually wear long pants all the time, even when it's hot. You'll be doing a bit of hiking through overhanging brush and I find I like the leg protection, not to mention protection from bugs. Your zip offs sound good in that you could have the option for either. Again, you will probably never have to wear the long underwear during the day for warmth, but it is a good idea to have for evening and sleeping.
Personally, only once have I packed more than a 35 degree sleeping bag, and that was for an October hike. If you've read my blog you'll see that quite a few times I don't even pack a sleeping bag, I use the Blizzard long jacket or the Blizzard Tube. One year I even climbed Rainier using a 40 degree bag for the overnights. If you are not intimately familiar with your body "heat system" then err on the side of more comfort considering the length of time you will be on the trail. I've spent a few chilly evenings but I had only planned on sleeping 4-5 hours anyway. I tend to produce a lot of heat so I can get away with skimpier systems than someone who is a cold sleeper, so you have to figure out what you are if you haven't already.
Lastly, I wouldn't fret too much about ounces. If your base weight is 8-12 pounds, you are good to go. Considering your large group and the amount of time on the trail, make sure you have enough to be comfortable and warm, the social aspect of your trip probably outweighs fretting over going ultralight, and you obviously won't be schlepping a 30-40 pound pack; if you're 20 or less, I think you're good. You may even consider taking your Western Mountaineering bag instead of the Bozeman quilt, as 6 ozs in your situation is negligible and you want to enjoy yourself and your company on the trail without shivering at night...better to vent than to wish you had more warmth in this situation. And I never skimp on food, take what you really like no matter the weight.
Of course, these are just my opinions and I'm talking about what works for me, so make sure you do a good assessment for your own situation. I pack differently every time depending on the trip, the conditions expected, the length, and whether I am solo or with other people.
Fresh snow on PaintbrushQCould you tell me, in your opinion, what week in the summer is typically the best week for wild flowers on the Wonderland trail. And as an alternate, which week is typically the sunniest?
ARobert, unfortunately there is no good answer for your question. Wildflowers bloom at varying times according to altitude and snowmelt. For instance, this year with the lingering snows, there were wildflowers still coming out in September. However, on the roadsides in the park, there were lots of flowers earlier due to the melt next to the road. Traditionally, the third week in August is the driest, yet this past summer this was not the case and there was still a lot of snow on the ground. If you're trying to book a time to do the Wonderland Trail, the ideal time (for me) is the first few weeks in September. In general, the second or third week of July through September would be good times to come. June usually still sees snow in many places. We're in for another La Nina year, which may see late lingering snowpack. Sorry I can't pin it down but it changes every year. If you check the snow level at Paradise, this will be a good indication for the wildflowers. If the lower meadows and above the parking lot are clear, then the flowers will be in bloom throughout the park at about the 5000' level. If there's still 10 feet of snow, then it's going to be a while.
If I had to pin it down and give you my best guess, I'd say conditions are usually good for weather and flowers throughout August. You can make a good guess by the end of May by looking at the snowpack and snow levels on the mountain, and the predicted weather patterns for June.
QI was also considering the hike on September 29 through October 4. Is that too late in the season, would it be exceptionally rainy or possible snow? I know you cannot know the future, but what is it generally like at that late date?
ARobert, I have done the trail in October before, and in fact did one section this year on October 5. It can be a wonderful time to be on the trail, just be prepared for colder weather with possible rain and possible snow showers. Of course, that could be July too so all you can do is make your plans and hope for the best. Check out nwhikers.net for trip reports for this (2011) year. I know a number did the trail later in the season due to the heavy snows this year.
QOne of your videos shows you using a pot stand with your alcohol stove. Could you tell me where you purchased the pot stand? I have a "mini trangia" set up. Love the burner, but don't care much for the stand/windscreen. Thanks again and Happy Trails, Greg
AHI Greg. Unfortunately, I purchased the stove/stand combo from Gossamer Gear a few years back and they no longer carry it, so I didn't get the stand separately. I'll bet there are quite a few more options out there though:
This site has info on how to construct your own stand using easily purchased standard gauge wire:
It seems that most of the stoves for sale include or have a stand incorporated into their design, so the zenstove wire bending kit looks like a great possibility. Good luck.
Qquestion-- seriously, what type of underwear do you wear when hiking? cotton boxers? cotton-polyester blend jockey style? silk boxers? the reason i ask is i seem to have a problem with chafing and i wonder how you deal with this.
AHi Larry, I use REI/Patagonia underwear brief style, never cotton. My legs are pretty skinny so the only chafing problem I have encountered has been "ass chap." A nice application of Desitin (baby diaper rash stuff) in the morning before hiking will keep that from happening.
Qnext a suggestion- put in a little more about your food for your trips. I noticed that on your 3-day wonderland trip you didn't take a stove, so consider laying out your food selections and specifically say "I take one of these and two of these" etc.
AAs for food, if I cook it's usually just a few things. My daughter doesn't eat meat so we buy Mountain House mac n' cheese and pasta primavera, and for dessert we love the raspberry crumble. Coffee and hot chocolate provide the drinks. For non cook food I make a gorp.....cashews, pistachios, dried cranberries and various chocolate covered fruits. Power bars and balance bars quite a bit, and chips, hard cheese, crackers and easy cheese, fig newtons and various forms of gu or powergels. And yes, I always seem to take way too much food so I probably have a few days extra. Oh, I forgot about bagels and Nutella, usually for lunch.
When I'm going solo and moving a lot, I don't like to take too much stuff with me so the hassle of cooking is not worth the value of hot food. Were I going out for more than 3-4 days, I would count on cooking more to keep the calories up. I do always cook if I'm with my daughter, as she likes the hot food and it adds to the fun of being out.
QI came across your video sent from a friend with "whats in my pack" I was impressed with the light load. More impressive was the video on the wonderland trail and the different shots etc. Can you please let me know the video editing software used. I am an avid backpacker and just purchased a gopro and would like to incorporate some of your techniques.
AHi Chad, plz excuse typing on a phone. I use FCP (Final Cut Studio) and 3 cameras, a Panasonic GH2, Contour 1080P, and Canon HF100. Many of the shots are from the custom pole mounted 1080, which incorporates a bicycle mount for adjustment of the angle.
QWhat shoes were you wearing in your most recent video of WLT (8.13)? Were they the Merrell Trail Glove? I'm doing the WLT in early September and would like to use light weight (barefoot style) trail runners...either Merrell or if they are out in the time the Vivobarefoot Neo Trail (very agressive lugs). Good to hear though that you've always done it in trail runners. My backup shoe is a nicely broken in LaSportiva Crosslite, but even those feel like too mush shoe after going in lightweight shoes otherwise.
AMark, I left the Merrell's at home for that trip due to the amount of snow. We wore trail runners with Goretex socks because of the soaking we received between Box Canyon and Summerland. It will still be a little wet for you if you go with the (Merrell) gloves; not undoable but maybe a bit uncomfortable. I will finish the trail later in September and will probably go with the Gloves. Good luck!
QAre there any stores in the Seattle area that carry your Wonderland Trail DVD?
ACarl, they are only available online.
QI saw your testimonial on Gossamer Gear's website about running with the Murmur. How did you carry water? Have you found any issues with durability? i'm looking for a daypack/overnight pack for fast and light high mileage days. I've also considered the Gorilla because it seems pretty versatile, but really more pack than I need I think.
AHi Ben. I've used the Murmur for a Wonderland Trail hike and a 3 day trip with some backcountry (off trail). If you are going fast and light this is a great pack. I carry water either in bottles for the side pockets or in a bladder inside the pack. The pack does not bounce too much when jogging and I see no durability problems as long as you exercise care and don't do serious bushwhacking or carelessly drag it over rocks. This is probably obvious as it only weighs 8 ozs. In short, if I am going light and fast this pack is just the right size and has the features I want (outside pockets). If you have perused my site you can see the pack show up in some videos. Check out the podcast "Ultralight Backpacking to the Elysian fields." It covers all the features of the pack in a real world test. The Gorilla is probably too much pack if you're going light and want to cover distance, but it is a good pack if you are in need of carrying a little more weight (say, more than 10-15 lbs).