Musings on IT, data management, whitewater rafting, and backpacking

Monday, August 20, 2012

Latest backpacking tweaks

I enjoy fiddling with my backpacking equipment and food, but I'm not really a gearhead or gram weenie. I'm trying to solve a problem, usually trying to reduce base weight.

This year's tweaks include ...

Sleeping pad

I can't sleep on a thin layer of foam any more. For decades I hated Therm-a-Rest pads because of early bad experiences. This year I broke down and bought a small Therm-a-Rest 40th Anniversary Edition (13 oz). The NeoAir Xlite is much lighter, but very noisy, and I tend to roll off them.

Took the new pad, plus my old Gossamer Gear Nightlight foam pad (which is part of my pack frame) for a quick overnight trip.  Wonderful! I slept really well on a backpack trip for the first time in many, many years. Except for ...

Electrolyte capsules

... waking up in the middle of the night with intense hamstring cramps. Never had those before. I had sweated out a lot of electrolytes on the hike in, without replacing them, and paid the price. 

Since I won't drink electrolyte swill, I chose Saltstick Caps Plus, which also maintain my caffeine addiction.

Down vest

The Western Mountaineering Megalite sleeping bag 30° F rating is pretty far off for me. I've shivered through 40° F nights, in a tent, wearing a full layer of polypro, wind shirt, wind pants, fleece hat, and gloves. So I added a Western Mountaineering Flash vest (3.5 oz on my scale), which is comfy around camp, too.

Tent

Replaced an old North Face Slickrock tent (69 oz) with a Tarptent Moment (30 oz). The Moment is light, roomy for one person, and simple to set up. I'm reluctant to try a tarp, after an overnight tick bite in an unsealed tent cut a trip short and sent me to urgent care for massive antibiotics.

Tent stakes

Replacing the standard stakes with MSR Mini-Groundhog stakes at the same length and weight. The MSR stakes should hold better in loose soils, and they are bright red, so harder to lose, too.


Human waste shovel

Replacing an old green plastic trowel (2.0 oz) with two MSR Blizzard tent stakes (1.6 oz total). Don't save much weight, but they are dual-function as tent sand stakes, bright red, and smaller, too.

Lighting

Replaced an old Petzl Tikkina headlamp (2.7 oz) with a Doug Ritter Photon light (0.7 oz). A Photon light in yellow instead of black!

Water purification

Switched from Aqua Mira drops (3.2 oz) to Aqua Mira tablets (0.7 oz for 24). The tablets are more expensive, lighter, and almost fool proof. I usually end up hacking away with a knife to get the tablets out of their blister packs.

New base weight: 13.6 pounds

Could be about one pound lower without the new pad and vest, but sleeping through the night is essential for me.

Dinner

Outdoor Herbivore dinners are so good, my wife is considering backpacking again (she hated my old dinners). Favorites so far are 'Cheddar' Mac, Bee Good Couscous, and especially the Lemongrass Thai Curry. Very tasty, well packaged, and easy to make – just add boiling water, and wait a while. I'll add an olive oil packet to most dinners for more calories, also sold by OH. Highly recommended.

Breakfast

Re-discovered Bear Valley Pemmican Bars for breakfast, instead of Grape Nuts with Nido and hot water. Should get me moving faster in the morning, instead of heating water, slowly chewing Grape Nuts, and cleaning up the mess.

Modified loop trip

Next week, I'll hike an eight day, 95 mile variation on this trip. After reviewing the excellent Redwood Hikes maps of the area, I mapped out a slightly shorter variation that should be more enjoyable, but requires carrying more water.

New stuff for this trip: electrolyte capsules, tent, tent stakes, shovel, and breakfast. Should be fun!

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