Fastpacking Quiver for the Wonderland Trail

I say Wonderland Trail but this equipment list could apply to any multiday hike in late summer. As I prepare to do my annual Wonderland hike, I have prepacked some equipment and have alternatives, depending on when I go out and possible weather conditions. When I say "fastpacking" I mean probably a 3 day hike of this 93 mile trail, or 4 at most. With the permit chaos this year, I will probably repeat last year's itinerary; start at Longmire, with day 1 ending at Mowich Lake (35 miles, 9500'), utilizing the free walk in camping available there. Day 2 would take me 25 miles with 6000' elevation to stop at White River campground. Lots of places to spread out for an evening, even paying for a site if need be. Day 3 would finish up (33 miles, 6100' elev) the trip back to Longmire. The advantage of this itinerary is no need for permits. Plus, because these days will be long, I have the ability to stop anywhere appropriate to "rest." Resting is not camping, meaning no tent etc, it means simply lying down for a few hours of shuteye. With this in mind, my equipment list is apropos.

EQUIPMENT for RESTING: I won't nail this down until I know the dates, which will be spur of the moment. If the weather is iffy enough to warrant more than this, I of course will go for a walk up permit. Bur for now I will either use my Borah Gear Cuben bivy, or my Borah Gear custom eVent bivy. The Cuben bivy is 4.5 ozs, but this year I had John make me a custom bivy out of breathable cuben, with a side zip and bug net weighing 9.1 ozs. Either can be paired with my ZPacks Pocket Tarp (4 ozs), but the erection of a tarp outside of Mowich Lake crosses into "camping", which will require a permit. Because I will use either my Enlightened Equipment 50 degree or 30 degree Enigma quilt, my pad will be the NeoAir XLite. Minimum weight for these items, 26 ozs. Maximum, 41 ozs.

  Zimmerbuilt custom pack: 4" deep

Zimmerbuilt custom pack: 4" deep

PACK: Real simple, this year I have used a custom pack made by Chris Zimmer (Zimmerbuilt). I designed it so that it took advantage of my entire back's real estate, but is only 4 inches deep. A center full length zip allows easy access to contents; one can only imagine trying to get at an item at the bottom of a 4 inch deep pack. I also had side pockets installed on the minimal hip belt, which is only there to prevent swaying, not for any weight transfer. This makes for an incredibly clean design and exhibits no bounce or sway. Because of the reduced overall volume of this design, I had Chris put in 10 female buckles; 2 top, 2 bottom, 3 on each side. This is why I call this my "Ultimate Pack System", because I can add my custom food bag for longer trips. This add on, also made out of XPac material, is also rectangular shaped with a buckled roll top. It stays secure by buckling into the four top and bottom buckles, and I have the option of further securing with 3 horizontal straps across the back. I have found this add on also handy for keeping water bottles, pringle cans and other items I need ready access to. Most of the time I never need to open the main pack during the day.

PACK ADD ONS: I also designed a custom front pack for this system, which has yet to be built because of Chris's busy schedule. However, I have options in the meantime. I can attach an older custom front pack, also Zimmerbuilt made (2015), or a custom camera pocket, sized for my Panasonic LX100 and a water bottle pocket, which I have used for my InReach and other small items. For my Wonderland trip, I will probably be stripped down with no front pack and no add on food bag.

  Zimmerbuilt Ultimate Pack system loaded to the maximum (21 lbs) for 6 day trip

Zimmerbuilt Ultimate Pack system loaded to the maximum (21 lbs) for 6 day trip

I had this entire pack system loaded down for a 6 day trip with my daughter a few weeks ago, with the front pack and a full food bag. Everything weighed in (minus water) at 21 lbs, with only 9 of that being the gear. I found this to be the weight limit for an acceptable carry, as everything is on my shoulders with this system.

CLOTHING: I'll use one of my long pants and a NTS upper short sleeve. Because I have to be careful with sun exposure, I have been utilizing bike sun sleeves for a few years on blazing days. My noggin will either be covered with my ZPacks Pointy Hat, or an OR cap. For slightly cooler running I use a Beyond Clothing Brokk shirt. On this trip I will not pack a down sweater or vest, as I will either be moving or resting. Therefore I will use my Beyond Clothing ALPHA jacket for the insulation piece (these Beyond Clothing pieces have been drastically discounted as of late). I have used the Alpha jacket during periods of activity over the past 3 years and I can attest to the efficacy of this insulation. As a movement piece it fits perfectly into the ensemble, capped off by my ZPacks Challenger Rain Jacket, which I had made in size XL with pit zips and the extended 40 inch length. With my slim pack design it fits perfectly over my pack(s), essentially acting as a poncho. What's missing? Rain pants/rain kilt/long underwear/change of clothes. Everything I wear dries out by body heat, even if soaked. I will, however, pack 2 more sets of socks, and possibly an extra NTS shirt. Footwear will be by Inov8.

OTHER: med kit, which I will pare down to the minimum. My daughter tends to have more foot issues than I do, so we make sure I have plenty of foot care items. I haven't had a blister for years. Spare headlamp and batteries (lots of night hiking on this trip), spare camera battery, sunscreen, toothbrush, iPhone, InReach, minimal tripod, sunglasses, ZPacks mitts and Challenger Rain Mitts, BeFree .6 liter filter collapsible bottle, and about 5 pounds of food. 

I anticipate my total weight, including food and water, to come in at approximately 10 pounds. This weight is unnoticeable when carrying and allows me to cover the distances required for this itinerary, even at age 61. Of course it helps that I have hiked this trail over 30 times. This familiarity, coupled with years of experience, makes me completely comfortable with this setup. Consider that 20 years ago I did this trail in 36 hours with probably 5 pounds of total gear. 

I realize that the sparse nature of my kit is not for everybody. I actually prefer sleeping in a bivy (but not in the rain). I am very familiar with my body, nutritional requirements, and mental fitness and I have been able to dial in my equipment, much of it custom made, to my exact needs. I've seen decades of trial and error, and know what works for me. I enjoy both accompanied and solo trips, and my annual Wonderland hike allows me to traipse through this familiar terrain and recharge in the process. I also enjoy the ongoing process of dialing in gear and stressing my body and mind in the doing. Hopefully my next blog entry will be a trip report, where I can refer back to this post and recount my experience, hopefully giving the reader some useful information that he/she can perhaps embrace, or at least try. Cheers!

  minimal pack setup in the Enchantments

minimal pack setup in the Enchantments