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

Average Morning on a NOLS Course

Average Morning on a NOLS Course
0600 Wake up to stinky moist socks and wet droopy tent
0601 Find yourself half off sleeping pad cause you’re on a rocky slope
0615 Try to stuff giant sleeping bag into compression sack which is like trying to get a cat into bathwater with sunburnt sun bumpy hands and ouchy cuticle cracked fingers
0617 Pull off comfy “sleep socks” and put on aforementioned wet stinky socks
0620 Put on wet shoes
0625 Throw pack explosion that multipled itself while you were sleeping out the tent door
0626 Crawl out of tent as gracefully as you can
0627 Remember to look for and put on gaiters
0628 Repeat shoe process
0629 Pack up pack explosion while trying to locate chapstick and sunblock
0630 Remember to bandage multiple blisters and tape up toe nails hanging on for dear life
0631 Repeat shoe process
0634 Take down tent
0634 Lose tent stake in grass
0637 Stuff yucky wet tent into pack
0639 Stumble uphill to kitchen far far away (why do kitchens always end up uphill??)
0640 Crash bear bag onto ground after undoing impossible knot that braided itself during the night
0641 Note to self: must repair huge gash in bear hang bag
0645 Decide between granola and huevos rancheros
0646 Try to locate lighter
0647 Stare at dirty bowl and spoon
0648 Contemplate skipping breakfast
0658 Shovel food down as quick as you can
0715 Collect amoeba water (or some other type of water with mysterious but visible live swimmers in it)
0720 Remember you forgot to start aquamira
0746 Emergency! Need to “find tent stake, bear spray and soap asap”
0756 Stroll back into camp knowing that it’ll be 24 hours before you’ll have to “dig another hole”.
0757 Smear on sunblock that won’t rub in
0758 You’ve made it! You’re on time. We’ll be ready to roll at 8am sharp!
0800 Somebody has to go potty

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 Backpacking Websites

Only a few weeks more to go before my NOLS Rocky Mountain Lightweight Backpacking course. I’m currently in the process of finalizing gear, ordering stuff off the web, weighing, re-weighing, general gear gathering and spreadsheet charting. To do prepare for this course I’ve done most of my research online.

How I’m preparing using the internet:

  1. Reading other people blogs, gear lists and trip debriefings
  2. browsing ultralight forums
  3. shopping all the different outdoor online shops
  4. reading gear reviews
  5. checking posted gear weights to compare

These are the ultralight websites I’m using:



Backpacking Packing List

Here is a general list of about 30 items that I will bring on my rocky mountain lightweight backpacking trip. My goal is to research each item on the list and find the best gear I can afford and try and stay under a 25 pound limit. The 25 lbs will include food and water. Ultimately, I will create a chart listing each piece of gear, how much it weighs, where I bought it, how much it costs and any thoughts or comments regarding each item. Some things not on the list are group gear (i.e. cook pot, fuel, cook stove, first aid and tent).

  1. long underwear
  2. shorts
  3. short sleeve top
  4. rain jacket
  5. wind jacket
  6. fleece hat
  7. gloves
  8. down jacket
  9. puffy pants
  10. hiking pants
  11. socks
  12. underwear
  13. sports bra
  14. mug/bowl
  15. spoon
  16. water bottle
  17. lip balm
  18. suncreen
  19. bandana
  20. hat
  21. sunglasses
  22. headlamp
  23. lighter
  24. trash bag
  25. watch
  26. trekking poles
  27. gaiters
  28. stuff sacks
  29. hiking shoes
  30. sleeping bag
  31. sleeping pad
  32. backpack
  33. toiletries

It’s Good To Be a Girl

Obviously there are many good things about being a girl but when it comes to ultralight backpacking girls rule! Here are the advantages I have found:

  1. smaller clothes (means lighter stuff)
  2. smaller shoes (significant weight savings)
  3. smaller calorie requirments (less food)
  4. smaller sleeping bags (they make bags specifically for shorter hikers)

In general sleeping bags come in a few sizes: regular, long, and then there are ones geared towards shorter hikers like me. Most of the “short” sleeping bags fit people 5’6″ and below. But I have found that Feathered Friends makes a bag that fits 5’3″ frame that weighs in at 1lb 11 oz. Its the Egret UL20. I’m definitely going to use my 5’3″ height to my advantage by ordering a bag that fits me and will save on extra weight. The sleeping bag will probably also keep me warmer in the aspect that I will lose less heat to the smaller volume within my bag.

The Egret UL20 is rated to a temperature of 20 degrees.  My trip to Wyoming will be in the summer but since we will be at altitude we have to plan for chilly nights. I always sleep colder so I know personally I have to get a 20 degree bag or colder. Although the 1lb 11oz weight will easily glide under my two pound limit for sleeping bags the hefty price may deter most hikers. As of Feb 2013, the price is $429 (not including shipping and taxes).

Egret UL Azure

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.

10 Great Places to Have a National Park Adventure

I found this article in USA Today (7/1/2011).

10 Great Places to Have a National Park Adventure

  1. Yosemite National Park, California-Hike Half Dome, 17-mile round-trip trail passes two waterfalls and includes a 60-degree ascent
  2. Acadia National Park, Maine-tour this popular oceanfront park by sea kayak
  3. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii-Kilauea, the world’s most active volcano
  4. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona-the best way to see it is not just from the edge but backpacking rim to rim
  5. Canyonlands National Park, Utah-raft Cataract Canyon
  6. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming and Montana-during early spring the park is closed to cars so it’s great for cyclists
  7. Joshua Tree National Park, California-one of the best places to rock climb
  8. Everglades National Park, Florida-canoe through the famous “River of Grass”
  9. Glacier National Park, Montana-700 miles of trail and 3 dozen glaciers
  10. Virgin Islands National Park, St. John, U.S. Virgin Island-225 yard snorkeling trail through a coral reef in Trunk Bay