Top Ten Things We Want to Remember (or Forget)

Ok, there’s more than 10. Too many memorable things happened on our short little trip (NOLS Lightweight Rocky Mountain Backpacking)
1. amoeba water/shrimp water
2. lake forging
3. animal sightings: grouse, chipmunks,nutcrackers, deer, pika, and marmot, osprey, red tail hawks, a seagull?!, meese (two moose)
4. rock fall and pock marks in the glacier
5. rock climbers climbing, yelling, carrying huge packs
6. search and rescue
7. battered and blistered feet
8. lightening storm overhead
9. always being on the move (never have I been in motion for that many hours over that many days)
10. student evac
11. running into other NOLS instructors on the trail
12. chatting with seasoned thru hikers
13. passing through sheep pastures and being herded by dogs
14. hummingbird escorts

NOLS: Not Just a Walk in the Woods

I’ve made it! I survived NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) Lightweight Rocky Mountain Backpacking! What a great and memorable time I had in Wyoming. Two weeks of carrying my food, water and shelter around. Two weeks of digging cat holes and no showers. Two weeks of beautiful scenery and gorgeous night skies. Two weeks of back to basics.
I learned some concrete skills:
1. pooping in the woods, digging cat holes
2. existing in bear country, bear hangs
3. stream crossings
4. cooking on cat can stoves with denatured alcohol
I learned to really appreciate the conveniences of modern life when I got back:
1. having clear running water at my disposal
2. clean, dry feet
3. tissues! for that perpetually runny nose out in the field
4. food that is not nuts
5. going to the bathroom whenever without having to plan and/or dig a hole
6. being able to see at night without strapping a light to my head
7. the ability to talk to people via cell phone
8. lunch
9. living life without having to contemplate turning the corner and running into a bear
10. a warm cozy bed

Ultralight Toiletries

My ultralight adventure has brought me to research many interesting topics such as “What are the lightest toiletries?”

I have heard of ultralight fanatics sawing off toothbrush handles and I wanted to read more about other tips that people might have so I went online to see what other people are saying.

Personally, I’m trying to find products that have multiple uses. For example, Dr. Bronner’s soap can be used for body wash, shampoo, and laundry detergent. That’s pretty cool. There’s also shampoo bars. I could probably use a shampoo bar for body wash and laundry too. Or I might consider bringing the tiny little vaselines now. It could be a skin lotion and chapstick.

I found a really cool posting by a former Peace Corps volunteer. The page is titled Hard Corps Travel: Ultralite Shower Kit.  Here’s their list (the theory behind each choice is explained on the actual page):

Here was my old one month toiletry kit:
  • Toothbrush: 0.8 oz
  • Travel-sized Toothpaste: 3 oz
  • Travel-sized Deodorant stick: 1 oz
  • Travel-sized Shampoo: 3.4 oz
  • Travel-sized Conditioner: 3.4 oz
  • Travel-sized Hair Gel: 1.7 oz
  • Travel-sized Contact Solution: 4 oz
  • Contact Lens Case: 0.6 oz
  • Extra Contacts: 0.8 oz
  • Glasses: 3.2 oz
  • Travel Brush: 1.2 oz
  • Travel-sized Soap: 1 oz
  • Travel-sized Shaving Cream: 2.5 oz
  • Razor: 3 oz
  • TOTAL WEIGHT: 26.2 oz/1.6 lbs
But after some research and a bit of work, this is what I ended up with:The New and Improved One Month Toiletry Kit



Why Go Ultralight?

This excerpt is from Adventure Alan’s Ultralight Backpacking:

Why hike ultralight?

Or, the better question to ask – why suffer if you don’t have to? Why would anyone want to carry a 40 to 50 pound pack? Yet, for the average hiker, this is about what they carry for a one week trip.

A pack this heavy causes plenty of problems:

  • Slow, tedious hiking
  • Exhaustion, irritability, and low morale on the trail
  • Increased chance of injury – sore back, sprained ankles, blown knees, sore muscles, bruised and blistered feet
  • Tired, cross people make bad decisions, sometimes with serious consequences.
  • Slow hiking leaves less time for fun stuff – relaxing in camp, fishing, staring at clouds, skinny dipping, side trips

All this detracts from enjoying the outdoors – the reason you went in the first place.

My Journey to Ultralight

Well, it’s begun…my ultralight backingpacking trip has been planned and a goal has been set. 25lbs or less. That’s including everything:pack, gear, food and water. These days I have been scouring the internet for merchandise and information. I have been mostly using ebay, REI, Feathered Friends, Montbell, GoLite and other misc websites to look for gear. I’ve also been looking at UL blogs to see what other people have to say. A lot of people have a lot of different opinions. Here’s what I gathered:

It can be done. 25 lbs is actually kind of high for most diehard UL backpackers. I’d say most are closer to the 10-15lbs range. I have been looking forward to this whole adventure because I have been mostly used to super heavy packs on my mountaineering trips. When you’re hauling around tons of ropes and carabiners and metal stakes I guess there’s just not much use in cutting back on a few ounces. So 25lbs sounds heavenly…until I started thinking about it in a different light. Picture carrying around a 10 lbs bowling ball all the time. That doesn’t sound like much fun. That’s all the motivation I need to try and beat this 25lbs goal!

There’s also something called THE BIG THREE: tent, sleeping system and the pack itself. It’s pretty much common sense to take your three heaviest items and make sure they are light to begin with. Then there’s your consumables: water and food. The goal on my trip is to keep it under 25lbs and that’ll include two weeks of food. No resupply for me.

This whole exercise is very interesting and enlightening (no pun intended) to me. It’s neat to see what we can do without. Its nice to remind ourselves how little we need.

Every ounce counts. And therefore, I’m researching everything, weighing everything and reconsidering everything. Do I really need it? Can something substitute for it? Can this thing be used for multiple purposes? Does it’s usefulness justify it’s weight and place in my pack? What’s the lightest version they currently make? Are there alterations I can make to it to be lighter? There’s also the consideration of cost. It’d probably be easier if I had unlimited funds and just bought top of the line UL everything but for most people this is not a realistic endeavor. But does this mean my goals are unattainable? Absoultely not. But it does mean I will work smarter and be informed about what’s out there and what my best choices are. I think ultimately ultralight will be a lifelong endeavor and not something bought and carried out in a weekend.

Motorcross Dirt Biking

On Sunday I tried dirt biking for the first time. It’s different from road motorcycles. There’s a lot more slipping and sliding. And for the first time, I laid a bike down. Fortunately, it was one of the rare times I had all the protective gear on: long sleeves, long pants, knee high boots, chest protector, gloves and helmet.

I found this class through Honda of Houston. The class is taught by Kevin of Kam Racing. Kevin’s a great teacher. He’s very patient and has lots of tips. The all morning class included lunch too provided by his friendly wife Michelle.

Even though it was a really hot day, I had a great time riding around the track and learning all these new things about dirt biking. They said you don’t have to have any prior knowledge before you go to dirt bike school which is probably true but I think it helps to have some basics down. Having to learn about slipping and sliding on the dirt and managing the clutch and changing gears might be overwhelming.

I had a great time and look forward to riding again.

What I learned: (this’ll make more sense if you dirt bike or if you decide to take the class)

  • K-turns (how to get off the bike on a hill and get back down)
  • keep elbows up, hands are further up on handles
  • sit toward outside of curves while pressing inner elbow straight to turn
  • keep eyes and head up, look past target or cones
  • u-turns on a hill
  • turning while standing on the bike, inner leg straight, outer knee pushing the bike
  • relax- almost slouch
  • while standing keep knees soft
  • sit really up front on the seat

Joshua Waitzkin on Learning

(paraphrased from Psychology Today)

Joshua Waitzkin (chess prodigy, Searching for Bobby Fischer) on chess and learning…He believed in his training and his ability to rise to the challenge under pressure. He sees the outer limits of ability as something malleable that can expand with training, and embraces the discomfort of such moments of growth. That allows him to “love the richness of the self-discovery. The discomfort becomes exquisite. Learning becomes life”.