Equipment and Supplies

This section is for my own future reference, although anyone interested is welcome to read it, of course.  For comparison see also the notes in my report from a year ago.  I learned a lot from last year and improved things quite a bit.

Backpack. I used my Arc'Teryx Khamsin 52 liter pack (about 4 pounds) both as the main pack and day pack.  Everything just fit with the sleeping pad attached via the shock cords on the back and the climbing rope between the pack and lid.  I could have just used the lid alone as my daypack for the Muir trail day as I carried so little; it only has a pocket for one water bottle but I can attach as second with a mini carabiner as I did last year in Death Valley and it is still comfortable.  But the full pack was fine too.

For dayhikes I carried only my fleece, rainjacket, gloves and warm hat, snacks and 2 liters of water.  No other  "essentials" since I figured someone else would have them and our base camp was not far away.  So this is probably the lightest load I've carried on hikes of 10 miles or so.

Shelter and sleeping.  I bought a new Big Agnes Seedhouse SL2 tent for the Lodgepole camping trip and brought it on this trip.  It weighs a little under 3.5 pounds, which is good given how big it is.  It's advertised as a two person tent but I wouldn't share it with someone I wasn't intimate with.  I like a lot of space so it's just right for one person.  I could put all my stuff in it and still be very comfortable.  The only thing I don't like are the stakes which are really poorly designed.  They worked okay though and I was able to stake out the tent securely.  I never had to put up the rainfly this trip and haven't used it in rain yet.  Since it is all mesh the ventilation is excellent.   I used my Marmot Arroyo 30 degree down sleeping bag which was just about perfect for this trip.  It got down to the low 40s at night and I actually got a little cold at times--perhaps the 30 degree rating assumes you'll be in a warmer tent!  But I just wore my fleece and was fine.  I had long underwear and other clothes I could have layered on as well.  I bought a new 3/4 length Ridgerest foam pad (and then had Kaya use it in Lodgepole, so this was my first time to use it myself!) which has the advantage of less bulk than the full length one, so I could just barely get fit it under the shock cords on the pack.  I would have had to carry the full length one between the lid and the main pack, which is not as good (and I ended up carrying the climbing rope there instead).  The disadvantage of the 3/4 pad is that my feet were sticking out over the end of the pad, which was somewhat uncomfortable.  I got used to it for the most part, though, and fortunately the ground was not too cold (I slept with bare feet).  I think one normally puts a layer of clothes there for the feet; I tried once with my pants but didn't find that very comfortable either.  A bit of a toss-up whether I prefer the full or 3/4 pad.

For a pillow I again just used a stuff sack filled with extra clothes.  Since I didn't have my softshell jacket (somewhat bulky and nice and soft) this time the pillow wasn't as good as the last trip.  Also the stuff sack was too large so it was hard to get much thickness.  I found putting it in the sleeping bag hood helped it keep it's shape much better.  Not the greatest pillow, but still okay.

I didn't use a ground sheet  figuring it's just extra weight and I'd clean off the bottom of my tent instead of the sheet.  That worked find and the tent bottom got dirty but not at all damp.  Alan had a ground sheet from Gossamer Gear, however, that looked like it weighed about nothing (1.5 ounces apparently) so I might try that out next time.

Shoes and socks.  I wore the same New Balance trail running shoes as last year.  I've had them for two years and they're great but they're finally starting to get worn out.  The soles are getting worn down, but fortunately they still gripped the rock very well.  I'll probably buy a new pair from the New Balance store in Santa Monica before we move.  No blisters as always and very comfortable, although the soft soles are not so great on rocky trails going downhill.  I didn't bring my desert gaiters after all and didn't really miss them.  Almost no rocks got into my shoes, but quite a bit of sand did which got my socks and feet dirty.  I guess I should try the gaiters someday.

A couple of my pairs of socks wore out and I had to throw them out, so I bought two new pairs of socks for this trip (actually 3, but I only brought 2).  One was Smartwool and the other Thorlo, and they were both fine but the Smartwool seemed more comfortable.  I washed each pair in the lake after each use (except the first day, which was short and the camp not so close to water).  That didn't really get them that clean, but seemed to help a bit.  The only time they didn't dry was the last day when I left them out after the sun was almost down.  I just wrapped the damp socks in my towel and carried them inside the stuff sack in the pack.  I brought liner socks again just in case but again didn't use them.

A new item was to bring my Chaco sandals.  This was due to knowing there would be two fords of Taboose Creek on both the way in and out.  They worked great for the fords and also worked great as camp sandals.   Our camp was clean enough that I could walk easily with them and no socks, and it felt nice to be out of the shoes in the evening.  The mosquitoes didn't seem too interested in my feet fortunately.  They were well worth the weight and I'd bring sandals again, but Chacos are very heavy (heavier than my New Balance shoes!) and it would be nice to find a lighter alternative.

Clothing.  Just like last time I wore just a single pair of pants and shirt the whole time, and never washed them.  Again this worked fine.  The shirt was the same synthetic Mountain Hardwear tee shirt, and the pants new North Face pants replacing my old ones which had developed a hole in the butt.  The new pants are not convertible, lighter, and much better than the old ones were.  They were great.  They have no mesh netting so I brought Patagonia capiline short underpants and again didn't wash those, which was okay but it probably would have been nicer to bring an extra pair and wash and alternate them.

I also brought capilene lightweight long underwear (top and bottom) in case it got cold, and didn't use them.  I did use my favorite Arc'Teryx Delta jersey a lot, and my usual red Yosemite baseball cap.  I brought lightweight gloves and a warm hat (including on the climb of Arrow Peak) but didn't need them; I did use the warm hat one or two chilly mornings briefly.  I also didn't use my Northface gore-tex paclite rain jacket but that's essential to bring.  I didn't bring the softshell jacket this time figuring it would be warm and I had plenty of layers.  Indeed I didn't miss it.

Kitchen.  In addition to the Snowpeak titanium spork from last time, I also brought a large Snowpeak titaium mug which I bought soon after last year's trip.  It's great too except for the lid which is really poorly designed.  A nice feature is that you can fit a small gas cannister and stove into the mug, along with the spork, and so had I brought those I would have used no more volume and only a little more weight.  I would have been completely self-sufficient in this case.  But I knew Rich and Alan would bring stoves so I didn't bring my own and got all my hot water from Rich.

Food.  Last time I brought way too much food, so this time I tried to err on the too little side.  I succeeded!  The amount of food was just about right, but I need to work more on quality next time.  One aspect of backpacking with other people is sharing your food, and I didn't really bring anything anyone else would want to eat!  Only my dried cherries generated any interest.  I of course mooched off the others, who brought too much as usual, so I should bring a little more if I'm going to go on my own.

The trip was a little strange in that it was 5 days and 4 nights, but the first day was very short so we just ate a late lunch at the Whitney Cafe (now called the Whitney Restaurant) and then no dinner at camp.  So we brought only 3 dinners apiece.  I brought my usual Mountain House freeze-dried dinners, which I still love.  The noodles and chicken and beef stroganoff were both excellent; the chili mac and beef fine but not quite as good as the others.  Unfortunately I don't see any others that look particularly appetizing!  I hope I can find some.  I didn't eat any of Jim's soup or deserts this time, so dinner was just the Mountain House plus maybe some snacks.

For breakfast I brought the usual instant oatmeal and hot cocoa, but both were very poor quality.  I brought the remainder of the "low sugar" oatmeal that my wife bought by mistake last year, and since we're about to move I thought it would be better to use it up rather than throw it out and buy a new box.  I probably should have splurged.  It was nasty and low sugar is not what you want when backpacking.  Also instead of Swiss Miss or some other good cocoa I brought some store-brand hot chocolate since it was in individual packets and 3 for a dollar, so I brought 3 and figured I was also saving some money and not wasting anything.  It was predictably also quite bad.  I should note that a couple days I ate two packages of oatmeal and a couple days one.  One seemed like enough but I should probably force myself to eat two each morning to get more calories. 

I was much better than last year about bringing fewer snacks for the rest of the day, but as I said before I need to work on quality.  I brought a half block of sharp cheddar cheese like last time, and that was great.  I typically ate the cheese in the morning since that was when it was most solid.  I should bring even more.  Jim had a really good Spanish cheese (Manchego?) that he only broke out the last day and that lasted perfectly.  It was terrific.  I brought four long Slim Jims and easily finished those off, often for breakfast.  Rich had a package of sliced salami (and also a whole salami) which were excellent and which I should bring next time.  I brought one package of trail mix from Trader Joes, which was okay but not exciting and which I predictably got sick of.  Also a package of dried Rainier cherries which I also got tired of but other people enjoyed.  Also 6 Nature Valley granola bars (or more accurately 6 packages of two bars each), which I didn't get sick of.  And finally 4 packages of Cliff Shot Bloks which were great for extra energy when I needed it and which I also didn't get tired of.  Another good snack to bring would be some candy like jelly beans.

The biggest thing I missed were crackers or some kind of bread-derived snack.  I didn't bring them because the crackers had gotten crushed last time, but I need to find a way to make them work.  Alan had some cheez-its and I begged a few off of him; they were just what I wanted.  I needed more salty food in general.

I did bring some Gatorade mix this time in a ziplock bag inside of another ziplock bag for safety.  I didn't bring a whole lot, but used it in 4 or so of the liters I drank, so about one a day, mostly in low concentration.  It really helped and I'll definitely bring it again.

I ended up eating everything except some of the trail mix and dried cherries, one pair of granola bars, and one package of Shot Blokcs.  So just about perfect in a way, but I feel I did probably eat too little.  I didn't do the calculation but it seems I couldn't have eaten more than 1500 or 2000 calories a day.  On the other hand my body just doesn't seem to need all that much, and I only lost 2 pounds at the end of the five days, which is in the range of normal body fluctuation.

I brought 2 Nalgene bottles to hold water, plus one 2.5 liter Platypus collapsible container.  This worked well since I could fill them all up at the lake and then have plenty of water for the night and next day.

I carried all the food in the Ursack which is no longer approved for many areas of the Sierras, but fortunately Bench Lake was a place in which the bears were still not good at stealing food.  We had no bear problems or any other food problems.

Miscellaneous.  I brought my headlamp (not used), my usual "essentials" ziplock bag (compass, knife, moleskin, bandaids, matches, wipes, extra batteries, etc), sunglasses, sunscreen (for lips too), insect repellant (used often!), toilet paper (I didn't really count it out, and ended up just bringing enough), and so forth.  I brought the smaller hand-towel, but ended up just using my bandana to dry almost everything so maybe I don't even need that.  I brought a bottle of hand sanitizer this time which worked well.  I brought my hard-shell glasses case (must have had that last time as well) which is heavy but I consider essential.  It would be big trouble if something happened to my glasses!  I also brought an eyeglass leash which I used on the Arrow Peak climb for the same reason, but then as mentioned in the report managed to lose.

I liked Daniel's Panasonic digital camera so much that when my Canon finally stopped working well (a month or two ago) I bought my own, the DMC-TZ5.  You can judge the picture quality yourself.  I brought a 4 GB card and only took pictures at the 3MB setting (it goes up to 9MB; Daniel has an older model but was taking his at 5MB or more apparently) and so had room for 2000+ pictures.  I only took 232.  Maybe I'll try 5MB next time to see if there's much of a difference, but the 3MB pictures seemed fine.

I brought my trekking poles again which were great for carrying a heavy pack and especially for stream and snow crossings.  They're getting old though (I bought them around 1999) and one is bent a bit and hard to extend, so I need to look into getting new lightweight ones.   I brought the usual two stuff sacks, the larger one for clothing and the smaller one for kitchen items and some miscellany.  The large one was really too large this time, and I should get some new stuff sacks anyway.  I used one plastic grocery bag for trash and many ziploc bags for small items.

I brought two maps (the Tom Harrison Kings Canyon one and also a less detailed map covering both Kings Canyon and Sequoia, just in case we didn't get to do the planned trip again!) and a book, Steve Roper's Sierra High Route.  I read a little of the book but could have left it behind and just looked at the maps before going to bed each night.

Pack weight including food and poles but without water was about 27 pounds.  So with 2 liters water that's 31-32 pounds, and with Rich's climbing rope and slings 35-36 pounds probably.  There's a little weight I could still save but given the level of comfort I want not too much.