Revision date: 2 May 2020

Various folks have asked me how to “get into hiking.” If you’re just wondering how to prevent your miserable butt/nips/etc., from chafing, then skip this post and go and find my homemade anti-chafe recipe here at “How to Prevent Chafing.” I consider chafing a chief enemy, so I wanted its defeat to be up-front.

This post, however, is where I’m taking the time to address basic backpacking tips if you’ve never done a long trip before. I’ll be addressing backpacking in alpine areas, and not areas like the American Southwest—while I’ve hiked so many places down there, as of yet I have not posted on them here.

I’ve created this guide to help people get into hiking, as being in the outdoors is scientifically proven to be great for your mental and emotional health, and if you do it right, it’ll give you an awesome butt, too. My upbringing was odd, and to some, horrifying or off-putting, but it led me to appreciate the outdoors. If you’d like to get into hiking but aren’t sure how, I’d like to help you. It will improve your life.

Please note
that I do not advertise on this site or get any kickbacks—these are all just recommendations that you can use or consider, but are not meant for any sort of financial gain for myself. This site is my ugly baby, but it’s not a side hustle. If any of the links are dead, just google yourself a good deal—the links are mostly meant to provide examples and inspiration. I don’t check them more than once per year, which is about as often as I update this post. Additionally, if you don’t need to learn about being safe in the mountains and just want to know what to take with you, skip to part III.





Safety Intro: Trapped!

Before you read this guide, please read this incredible, true story. I think you’ll really enjoy it. It’s an old article, but they’ve updated it from the old, 2002 link since I originally posted this. I’ve kept a digital backup in case it vanishes; let me know if the following link doesn’t work. Until such a time, please click through to Trapped! The Mike Turner Story.



I: My Philosophy and Style

Backpacking is something that I dream of, literally. When my emotions are at their lowest, thinking of hiking helps me sleep; being in the woods removes maladaptive ruminations.

Thanks to my parents, I grew up without the amenities of modern life, including, for some time at least, not having running water, electricity, or telephone. Living in the mountains far from civilization, I became very comfortable as a mostly feral individual. In fact, I am more relaxed 80 miles from a paved road than I am in a city. I truly love the outdoors and have some of my best prayer and meditation in them, regardless of season.

When I backpack, I don’t really want to see too many other folks. Places likes Estes Park are, in my mind, not a true escape. In general, if I have company, I want the party size to be small and, with any luck, spiritually and emotionally encouraging. Again, the wilds are a source of replenishment.

These factors impact my style of backpacking, but they are just the beginning—after all, there are super-runners (who run trails, bag a peak, and run out on the same day), there are ultra-lighters who have gear costing thousands of dollars and who want to crank out the miles, and there are those who want to simply amble along and enjoy what the scenery has to offer, though they want to put some miles on, too.

For my enjoyment of the outdoors, I want several things to be true about a backpacking trip:

  • Reaching high elevations is a must. It’s the feeling of being on top of the world.
  • Fishing makes life better.
  • Eating is something that I’m kind of an expert at. I bring some sweets and chips with me; the fat and salt help cut down on my cravings. I don’t want visions of cheeseburgers on the second day, as much as I DO want a cheeseburger.
  • Sleeping well makes life better. While some people use a simple cushion for the torso to sleep on, I like to have two ultralight, high R-value (warm) pads with me during cold months, or just one deeper pad for hot areas, and two small pillows. When I wake up, I feel good. At night, I sleep better than ever. A light foam pad also stabilizes my backpack.
  • Marching to death is the worst, so I just don’t do it if it’s at all avoidable—simple, really. What’s a death march? Sometimes it might be only 4 miles of really rugged terrain. On the other hand, I’ve done an awesome, full-pack, 26-mile day in cool temperatures and didn’t notice a thing, yet I also once did an 18.9-mile day in 84 degree temps and thought that I was going to die. Backpacking is a lot more fun when you go at a pace that allows you to cover miles without feeling like you’re just being forced to slug on to the next camping spot.

This gives you an overview of the sort of hikes that will appeal to me. For example, the Appalachian Trail is the opposite of what I’d consider a fun hike. If you hike with me, you can expect to cover 6-12 miles a day of straight-hiking, with excursions for dayhikes or exploration. Time is always allocated for photography and fishing.



II: Notes on Mountain Safety and My Backpacking

If you’re coming from lowlands, acclimating really is pretty important if you want to fully enjoy yourself. By the time you reach 12,000 feet, the available atmospheric oxygen concentration is 65% of what it was at sea level. That really makes it feel pretty grueling for some.

“In a normal, healthy individual, sea level pressure is sufficient to cause the blood leaving the lungs to be almost totally (97%) saturated with oxygen. At 10,000 feet the saturation has dropped to almost 90% — still sufficient for nearly all usual life functions. An oxygen saturation of 93% is considered by medical folks to be the low limit of normal functioning. On top of Pike’s Peak (about 14,500 feet and 438 mm Hg atmospheric pressure) the oxygen saturation has dropped to about 80%. Many people, if left in this rarefied air for some period, will develop mountain or altitude sickness: vertigo, nausea, weakness, hyperpnea (increased breathing), incoordination, slowed thinking, dimmed vision and increased heart rate.”

I think that the above might be a bit melodramatic, but hey, just take it slow. No need to ruin your adventure.


⇢Cold, hammocks, and shocking misery



Now let’s get on to the fun parts! Because I camp higher than most people, and because of the mountain-mass effect in areas I camp, I am often above the treeline. Being above the treeline introduces more caveats. Some of them are as follows:

  • Hammocks are not tenable (to me) in this environment, since I can’t put them on anything. Hammocks also offer little in the way of protection from the elements. To date, I have seen zero thru-hikers above the treeline with hammocks, and in fact have only seen them once in the WRR, where a couple was using them for a day hike in the lowlands.
  • Being prepared for cold conditions is important. In 2012, a kid from Georgia climbed one of the mountains in Montana, and not to the top. It was mid-July. He froze to death before he could make it back down. This occurs every year. High mountains can be dangerous. It snows every month of the year, and may stay below freezing for periods in excess of 12 hours in mid-summer, with wind-chill values approaching 0. While I don’t pack full-on winter clothing in the winter, I do bring an emergency blanket, a down jacket, dri-down, 10F-rated sleeping bag, etc.
Don’t be the idiot who gets caught and needs an emergency blanket.
  • Lightning can occur, along with snow, and sometimes concomitantly, even in summer. For that reason, my trips are planned with “bailout points.” If you’re in the lowlands, hiking through the trees and to the occasional peak, this is not important for you.
A snowstorm in late July. By the time shelter was reached, 2 inches of snow were on the ground.
Talus and glaciers slow travel and can be hazardous.

By now you should be getting a feel for the sorts of hikes that I go on. I do this sort of recreation in the winter, too, so quite often I’ll be equipped with crampons, microspikes, and other equipment which let me enjoy the outdoors in a safe, responsible manner.

The following gear recommendations should be taken in light of all of the above knowledge. Each hike, especially distance hikes, should be planned with diligence on your part, as well as respect for the environment that you’ll be in. Done correctly, it’s the most freeing experience ever. Done poorly and flippantly, it can be fatal.

So let’s get on to my recommended gear list!



III: My Gear and Links

Good gear makes or breaks a trip. Make a checklist and check it twice. Setting up camp 60 miles from the nearest paved road is not the time to realize that you have nothing to start a fire with. Ok, let’s get to some gear. I’ll throw in some of my reasoning. This link is to a mostly-full list, though this changes per-hike; sometimes the pack is 50% as heavy.

I’ll include a table and also a picture, if the table doesn’t work. Note that as of 2019, I no longer carry the 80D (SL2 for now), and I have switched to Kroger-brand, dry-packs of electrolyte and caffeine drink additives.



Clothing

Clothing is incredibly important. Let’s start from the bottom up!

  • Gloves: During the summer, if you decide they are important to you, thermal liners will most likely be adequate.
  • Hat, Standard: Any light-colored, light hat with brim and neckguard. Treated with permetherin, this prevents bugs, sunburn, hooking yourself in the head, etc. They are also good to wet for rapid cooling, and offer longer cooling than just dunking your head. You will not look sexy. That’s ok. You’re probably not going to be looking to attract a mate on the trail, anyway, and will not be very sexy in general given your dopey, utilitarian outfit. Below are some hats I wear, including the “Buff.”
    • Hat, Cold Weather: Jessie, bless her soul, has knitted me a wool-blend beanie with inbuilt felt for the cold and the wind. You’re on your own for this one, but let’s be serious…it’s not that hard to find a good beanie.
  • Jacket: Any 600-800 fill dridown jacket will be good. Make sure that it is not just down, but dridown. You can use these jacekts for extra padding in many pillows, such as the Nemo Fillo. No links will be provided as you should bargain shop for these puffer jackets.
    • Rainjacket: If weather conditions will be very harsh, a neoprene overjacket is recommended. I carry these for waterproofing and insulation any time the weather will get into the negatives, along with, of course, a lot more gear. Due to weight, I do not carry these in 3-season conditions. Instead, a $.99 rain poncho can suffice from the dollar store, or a waterproof, lightweight, wind-breaker style jacket from any of the more major manufacturers. My current choice is from Columbia. Be sure to shop around to get a good deal. A poncho can possibly go over your backpack as well as your body.
      • Note: If conditions get wretched, there’s no shame in improvising. Plastic bags over one’s feet, cutouts in an emergency thermal blanket to supplement the jacket, etc.
  • 1. I got that Sierra Designs 800 fill puffer jacket for under $40.
  • 2. This heavyweight jacket can be used in fall and winter and offers unparalleled protection at the cost of moisture retention and possible overheating.
  • 3. A simple rain jacket. Check on the protection rating. Some aren’t really rainproof.
  • Pants: I only bring one pair of pants, and I wear them every day. I would do the same around Jennifer Lawrence, even if caused her to spit on me. Pants weigh too much, in my opinion, to be carrying around multiple pairs. I prefer an ultralight, convertible pant. My current pants are here.
    • I don’t like that these pants are not stretchy, though. Pants which don’t stretch tend to bind when you really need that extra couple of inches in a jump or in a Class 3 scramble. I also really hate pants that clamp my buns together. As noted elsewhere, chafing of any body part is about as fun to me as a case of ebola. For other options, look at this list.
    • Stormpants: Any ultralight stormcell, waterproof pant will do. Don’t spend lots of money on these, and realize that you may be able to leave them out of most summer trips if you have a bailout, fire, blanket, or can SIP. These pants are mostly for spring and later summer hikes, when drizzle for an extended period of time may occur, and you do not want to spend time laying-over somewhere.

Typical garb and equipment of the thru-hiker in Wyoming.
  • Sandals: Bring the lightest sandals that you can find. Nothing fancy. Just for ambling about the camp to get your feet out of your dirty, rotten shoes, and for peeing at night. I clip mine with a titanium carabiner.
  • Shirt, hiking: My upper is always a long-sleeve, ultralight, quick drying shirt. I burn easily, and where I hike the mosquitoes will carry you away, so I appreciate the ability to treat a thin shirt with permethrin so that mosquitoes won’t land on my clothes. In turn, this means less sunburn, less need for picardin/deet, and a generally happier me. This is a very personal preference. Contact me if you’re interested. There is a reason, however, that most serious through hikers that one sees will be dressed as in the picture below. Also, these light colors prevent heating and do not attract insects as much as darker colors.
    • You may also want to bring a “camp” shirt if you want to be pampered or…whatever.
  • Shoes, trail: Some people like high-top, classic hiking boots. I find these to be too heavy and cumbersome. Others use extra-cushioned ones to ease the strain on the feet, such as the Hoka One One Vanquish. I find those to offer very little tactile feedback, and the proprioception in my joints tends to trip out, leading me to miscalculate balance needs.

    Still, either of those could be right for you. If you’re doing a long, flat hike in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, a Hoka might be right up your alley. Since I’m climbing peaks, talus fields, and walking across glacial ice, the lack of feedback and grip puts me at risk.

    So with that in mind, my go-to, 3-season shoe is the Montrail TransAlp. As of 2019, I am using their TransAlp F.K.T. II, though series III is now out. After a bad slip on some Merrell’s that weren’t grippy enough, one of my hiking partners has also switched to the FKT II. These shoes feature a rockplate (and I love a good rockplate), mutli-direction gryptonite base, and quick-dry upper. This means that I can make the scary hops across wet talus fields with confidence, and I know that I’ll be dry quickly if I do get wet. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of a good-gripping base if you’re above the treeline.

The Hoka One One offers incredible cushioning, but is detrimental to proprioception. Proprioception (/ˌproʊprioʊˈsɛpʃən, -priə-/ PRO-pree-o-SEP-shən), is from the Latin proprius, meaning “one’s own”, “individual”, and capio, capere, to take or grasp, is the sense of the relative position of one’s own parts of the body and strength of effort being employed in movement.
The FKT II. Link through the pic.
  • Socks: padded smart-wool socks are my favorite. Be certain to get socks that have a bit of padding so that your feet will take the extra weight with more grace and less swelling and bruising. Although it sounds silly, normal socks will ruin a long trip. The type of sock should vary by the season.
Zealwood socks. I have never had blisters or foot fatigue with them.
Danish wool!
  • Thermals: I’m combining these. I use polartech (military) or underarmor (on sale) full-length thermals as well as a infrared, lightweight UnderArmor balaclava/hood. You can look up the pants yourself, but here is my hood. This hood can be used during backcountry winter expeditions, too. If it’s expected to get cold and windy, they’re helpful to have, though not necessary all the time.
    • Thermal shirt: I do not take thermal shirts until mid-August, if then. As above, I take a polartech or something cheap and similar. For extended periods of movement, an investment in a softer garment is recommended to prevent friction and chafing. I do not use polartech as a baselayer when backcountry skiing for this reason. In hiking, they are mostly for sleeping when one’s ambient temperature cools.
  • Underwear: If you wear underwear and have hiked long-distance, you know that chafing will kill your enthusiasm pretty stinkin’ quickly. My favorite type, given to me as a gift, used to be the Rab Dryflo 80s, listed below. As of 2019, I’m using a better underwear that I cannot find brand or name of. (Also an old gift.) They are more porous, lighter, and give me the least chafing. I bring two pairs of underwear on trips. One to wear, and the other to wash and air out. I also like Ex Officio.

Rab: Keep your parts intact.
Ex Officio is better.


Cooking and Drinking

  • Drinking: Sawyer water filters are better than any other. If you want the extra weight, bring a pump. Not worth the weight, IMHO, unless you are with a big party. Bring a Sawyer filter (full version, not mini, so that you don’t have to suck as hard), a 32-oz bag, and a harder, plastic bottle, such as the Arrowhead I mentioned above. Why? The bags are much easier to drink from than Lifestraw and other ilk, but hard to fill up in a creek. A light bottle or jug will make your life ten times easier. If you plan extended travel over glaciated terrain and talus, plan on having extra water containers or a larger water bladder. The same goes for more arid terrain.
    • Note: Water boils quicker at elevation. That means you need to boil it longer, as it’s not as hot as water boiling at sea level.
The best Sawyer filters. Get the Sawyer Squeeze. The others (mini, flow, etc.) are not as good.
  • Eating tool: Any outdoor store will have various ones you can try. DO NOT GET THE HEAVY, METAL COMBO ONES! Not worth it. A simple, plastic, double-ended fork/spoon combo will do. This one is fine (included in the Mountain House picture), but there are titanium ones if you’re going to be abusive like you are toward me.
    • If you splurge, do what I did and get a Toaks titanium spork. No more broken meal-shovels! No more getting food all over your hands!

  • Extras: Bring a multitool for fish. Make sure that it has a sharp knife. It will be used for many other things, including bandages. Yes, you should expect to use bandages on every trip. It’s a fact of life, and you’ll be doing some nasty stuff to your body. 🙂
  • FOOD: Duh. You can expect a calorie deficit while backpacking. The overall goal of backpacking meals are to get the most calories/ounce while still tasting decent. Meal options come in the following forms:
    • Dehydrated/Freeze dried. Most people will be best served with simple dehydrated meals. These range from gourmet meals cost 14+/meal to the very standard Mountain House. I have splurged on expensive meals and been disappointed, so just eat whatever you like best.
      • Note: Penny penchers are known to dehydrate and make their own meals.
    • Supplemental: This obviously is not something that you can always count on. Fishing is the best way to supplement meals; taking grouse may be viable in some seasons. There will be days when fishing nets you nothing, and when you have nowhere viable to fish due to glacial flour, talus, etc. Feel free to bring some hot sauce and some tortillas, though!
      • Note: bring salt and pepper plus electrolyte mixes for drinks! On long trips, every time I run into a girl, she is the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. In the same way, the most boring hamburger ever starts to infest your every, waking thought. How BEAUTIFUL that hamburger looks in your mind. You will want salt and pepper to at least make the food you do have taste somewhat OK. Your body is going to blast through electrolytes. Just like in athletics, you’ll want to make sure that you’re prepared.
Food type 1!
Food type 2!
  • Lighters: What if the spark element goes out on your stove? This one is a no-duh item.
  • Propane: Look at the stove above. You’ll figure it out. BRING ENOUGH! Remember, you can save weight with a larger canister rather than multiple, smaller ones.
  • STOVE: I use the Jetboil Minimo, which is ok. Remember, the few extra ounces pay off in the long run. Why? Heating efficiency. The chintzy stoves do not heat efficiently, so you blow through propane faster, meaning that you have to carry more propane canisters. The Jetboil heats fast!
For cooking, you will want a jet, propane stove. This one is my stove.
  • Water containers will also be used for WASHING UP at night. If you don’t want the hassle of filling up and making multiple water runs, get one of those gallon jugs with a carry handle that you find with brands like Arrowhead. I bring a gallon container, my squeeze pouch, and a 16.9 oz water bottle. The jugs might look tacky, but hey, they’re cheap and do a better job than anything else I’ve tried, including the expensive, custom-designed containers.
    • Note: Before you go, it’s helpful to note potential sources of water (but do not count on streams and marshes, which can be seasonal) as both a potential water supply and a possible impediment. Some areas in the high mountains are impassable during thaws.


Shelter (Tents, hammocks, etc.)

The basic shelters are as follows:

  • Bivys: bivys are basically a big sack that you stuff yourself in. They are generally very light, require almost no setup, and offer good protection. You sacrifice ALL of your space and comfort, though. If you’re starting out and want enjoyment, this is not recommended.
  • Hammocks: hammocks are popular due to low weight. Tarps and bug nets can be added for protection, which increases their pack-weight. Unlike a tarp setup, hammocks cannot usually be used above the treeline, making their usage limiting for many backpackers. I don’t use them at camps, as I don’t care for the weight penalty.

Typical bivy sack.
  • Tarps: tarps offer protection from the elements. They weigh less than tents. If the ground and bugs are a factor, sometimes bug nets can be attached, as well as footprints for the floors. But by this point, why not have the simplicity of a tent, at least to me? Tarps generally require hiking poles in their setup, which I do not carry; they often aren’t free standing, which I require.
    • To make a tarp into a weather-proof tent, you may need seam-sealing, which costs time and money. Anyway, lots of people like these the most, including Zpacks, Tarptent, Hyperlite, and Gossamer Gear. Opinions tend to be stridently presented. My opinion is to pack what you’re prepared to live with. I’m a creature of indolence and luxury, so I take my Big Agnes, which I’ll talk about in the next paragraph.

A tarp system.
  • Tents: tents offer protection from the ground, bugs, and the elements. Will you be hiking solo? If you are going alone, or will not share a tent, you can just use a 1-person tent, but a 2-person is just so much more liveable.
    • Tents and sleeping bags are where you’ll spend money to save weight and your back. I use the Big Agnes Copper Spur UL HV 2. Ultralight, high-volume 2, that is. I love this tent do dadgum much. It’s gotten me through snow, hail, and thunderstorms, through 60 MPH winds (numerous times), and resisted days of driving rain, all over the course of more than 1000 miles. And best yet, no holes, no tears, no punctures. It’s a free-standing tent, too, so you can pitch it just about anywhere, and with color-coded, quick-assembly poles, you can have it together in about 2 minutes.
      • Note: Replace heavy tent stakes with titanium ones. They’re cheap and save valuable weight. Keep gear in the vestibule and not in the tent proper.
  • Here is a list of best, cheapish, lightish-weight tents. These are not ultralights.
  • If you cannot afford a medium-expense tent ($300-500), the budget-friendly options can be found here.
Try to get this puppy during sales.


Bedding

  • Mattresses/pads: In the northwest, I recommend a minimum R-value of 3.4 at any time of year if you want to be relatively sure of staying warm each night. R-value is a measure of insulating ability and is typically provided by the manufacturer. For a full explanation of R-value, you can read this link.

  • The types of mats are generally:
    • -Air (not as durable, slightly heavier, high R-value available, can be very comfy)
    • -Air+foam (often heavier, often easier to inflate, takes up lots of space, should be inside backpack, takes up a lot of space)
    • -Foam (durable, light, not comfy, often lower R-value, can be rolled or folded and kept on outside of pack, much larger compressed than others)
      • Note: I typically bring two pads because I sleep sometimes directly on rocks, I’ve lost air pads, and I like the stabilization on the bottom of my pack.
Various types of beds.
  • Air: I used to use the Klymit Static-V Insulated Light (medium weigh, cheap, feels OK if you’re not a side-sleeper, R 4.4), but I no longer use it, as its technology and comfort are no longer competitive.
  • Currently I am using the Big Agnes Air Core Ultra (not insulated) and the Big Agnes Q-Core SLX (insulated). I prefer the Air Core Ultra, as the side-rails on the Q-Core annoy me. Still, either is, to me, better than any 2.5″ thick (or less) option.
Cheap. Comfy.
I used to use the now-discontinued Big Agnes Double Z. Such luxury.

  • Foam: Thermarest Z-Lite Sol
    • The Z-Lite Sol. Get the SOL version, as it has a higher R-value.

Notice the rolled foam mats left and right which free up space in the pack. It also prevents you and the pack from falling over when sitting on the ground.

  • Self-inflating: Thermarest Trail Scout (easy to inflate, feels great, very cheap, heavy, R 3.4)
    • These pads are very heavy and take up tons of space.

The hefty TrailScout.


Pillows

Pillows come in a variety of forms. I sleep with thicker pillows and can’t sleep without a good height. I also like having a pillow to hug and a pillow between my legs. This isn’t possible on the trail, use gallon ziplocks or ultralight drysacks to compress clothes. Wrap those clothes in a soft garment at night for a leg pillow. Use your puffer jacket to adjust pillow ride height for the head, in the built-in stuck sacks, or as a wrapping.


  • Air: Air pillows are VERY light and can be adjusted to have the correct sleeping height. They are less durable than other options and tend to be colder, but are often better in wet environments. I used to use the Sea-to-Summit Aeros on all of my hikes.
  • Best for most people | Sea to Summit Aeros:
  • Best for me | Exped REM
  • This pillow isn’t super light, at almost 6-oz, but it has tie downs that let it anchor to my pad, and it gives the best support and most comfort of any pillow I’ve used. I love it.


  • Compressible: Compressible pillows are heavier, warmer, and offer a truer feel to a real pillow. They are far more durable but can get and stay wet. I use the Thermarest Compressible Pillow on trips via air and at home, but no longer use it on the trail, as the weight and space cannot be spared. Thermarest Compressible:

  • Hybrid: Hybrid pillows have both air and foam. They have mixed strengths and weaknesses. I personally sleep with the Nemo Fillo as my actual bed pillow, but I do not take it on hikes.
  • Nemo FILLO™ Luxury:
  • Dri-Down Hybrids: These pillows usually feature a dri-down pillow that is very flat with an included sack that lets you put in more dri-down, such as a puffer jacket, or as an alternative, the pillow part can be left, and just the sack and puffer used.
  • Sierra Designs DriDown:


Sleeping bags, quilts, and liners

You want a warm, light sleeping bag, but combining those qualities will cost you many hundreds of dollars, so you’ll probably have to get one that’s heavier than you’d like. DO NOT GET A BAG OVER 3 lbs!

Synthetic material is OK, but dridown is recommended. I once got soaked (don’t ask) and didn’t realize it due to my dridown. These are very imporant, so read this educational piece: http://www.cleverhiker.com/best-sleeping-bags/

I own the Kelty Cosmic 20, and it’s heavy at 2.8 lbs, but also does’t cost $900. It’s my secondary bag, though.

My primary bag is the REI Magma 10. It’s ultralight and ultracomfy. I recommend buying a bag like it. It’s worth the investment.

Sleeping bag liners add an extra 10F on average. You can bring a silk sheet cut to size or buy something like the Bundle Monster:

But better than the Bundle Monster by far is a down quilt. They pack down tiny and weigh nothing. If you have the money, supplement with something my friends all love to steal from me while we’re backpacking…the Wind Hard Quilt/Jacket. It’s wearable, packs down to the size of a can of beans (pretty much), and gets rave reviews from everyone that I let use it.

Beatriz using the quilt as a quilt.
Beatriz using the quilt in its jacket form.


Backpacks

Wow, this one is personal. You need to try them out in person. For thru-hikes, 65+ liters are recommended. Some people use a 50L for 2-nighters. I don’t see the point in that, and just use my 65 for most everything, except the occasional overnighter where my 50L works, I’m not bringing a stove, etc..

I believe in a good suspension system. The best so far is the Osprey Anti-Grav system. It keeps every part of you ventilated, hugs you like a fine woman, and very importantly, helps you stay balanced. On the other hand, it is slightly heavier than some packs. I have the Osprey Atmos AG 65.

Note: Sexual dimorphism often means that women carry less, since their clothes are not as large, they eat less, etc. If you’re a woman, make certain that you get a woman’s pack. You may get away with a smaller pack.

Always measure your torso and hips when selecting a pack.

Accessibility of items in your pack and weight distribution determine how you should load your pack. You do not want critical gear out of reach at the wrong time. You also do not want to be navigating a talus field when your poorly-packed bag causes you to become off balance and results in a broken leg. Please see this video by the ultra-runner and ultra-athlete Andrew Skurka:

For slot canyons for a day and other such adventures, light-frame packs such as the Thule Capstone 40 are recommended. These can also be used on flights. For women, something akin to the deprecated Osprey Hornet 45 is an excellent choice.

Thule Capstone.

A woman with the Osprey Hornet. Note the light frame. Not her light frame, the backpack’s!


Here’s a guide to packing for long hikes. Not all of the choices are right for me, but notice that the National Outdoor Leadership School lists many of the same items as I do. This second link shows a weight-breakdown that is important to accomplish until you are familiar with distance hiking and your gear.

1.) Leukotape. Leukotape sticks very well and allows body-part to slide over body-part like a greased pig down a slip-and-slide.

2.) Moleskin of varying padding can do the same thing, and also help with blisters.

3.) Make a form of Hydropel for yourself. I accomplish this by combining the ingredients shown. Adjust these ingredients to the ratio that you prefer most. I put them in a sealed bag and take them with me, applying by hand when the need arises.


  • Bathing towelettes. I used the microbifer one shown. Some people like disposable instacloth.
  • Batteries and possibly a portable charging unit for your phone/GPS. I currently change my solution per hike, so you’ll need to figure that out for yourself. You can look at some of my trip reports to see how things work out for me.
  • Bear bag.
  • Bear spray.
  • Bio-degradable TP.
  • Bio-soap. Many of our lakes are not soapy. Let’s keep them that way.
  • BUG SPRAY! Yes! I like picardin best and treat my clothes with permethrin.
  • Bright flashlight, or headlamp.
  • Deodorant. (Small bar or mini-stick.)
  • Duct tape or leukotape. This is important for repairs and broken bones that may occur. I prefer leukotape.
  • Emergency heat blanket.
  • Fishing supplies. I recommend tenkara poles for weight savings. I recommend the Dragontail Hellbender, which I own, along with a couple of others. The Hellbender is pictured below.
Tenkara fishing saves weight.
  • Hand sanitizer.
  • Iodine tablets. (These are used to cut down the boiling time at higher elevations. Leave in overnight, bring water to a boil, instantly make coffee instead of waiting minutes to kill organisms. This also helps conserve propane and thus weight. I do not use them as they are very heavy.)
  • Lip balm.
  • Maps, waterproof and digital. Sometimes I do not bring them if I am very familiar with the territory and have my backup on my phone. You can access all the topo maps when planning your hike for free at Get Maps. (All the way back to the early 1900s, even!)
    • My favorite brand of map is from Beartooth Publishing. Here are some of their Wyoming maps, though they make them for many more places. They now let you purchase digital versions to use on the free Avenza Maps app. While this is great for hiking, it’s not so great for planning routes as their desktop application has been discontinued. While I frequently don’t carry physical maps in places I’m very familiar with, keep in mind that you’re incurring an extra risk in case you get lost and your phone/GPS runs out of juice or breaks.
  • Medical supplies including NSAIDs and such. Note: it is important to have a multi-tool with pliers. It is often better to push a hook that is in one’s finger on THROUGH the flesh than to rip it out against the barb. A wire-snip+pliers+knife multitool enables the hoop to be cut off the hook and then for it to be pushed out with the barb.
  • Microspikes and crampons if needed.
  • Withania somnifera/ashwaganda. This. Has. Changed. My. Life. You need to take it for about a month straight prior to your hike and should be using it along with exercise.
  • MOLESKIN AGAIN! Get the tape-type and the thick pads. The pads will help if straps break. They’ll take the weight and add cushion.
  • Rainproof sacks. I use Granite Gear stuff sacks.
  • Rope, eg. paracord. Bear bag needs it. Broken sternum strap? Rope. All sorts of reasons to have it.
  • Sunblock.
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste (cut everything off but a stump and the head to save weight)
  • Trowel. This is important for obvious reasons.
  • Note: I had been using the fabulous Deuce trowel (improved version), but decided that I didn’t feel like spending that much money on another one. The UST U-Dig-It trowel (UST= Ultimate Survival Technologies) seemed to be less polished with less features, but it also only weighed 0.64 oz and cost just $8.29. The improved The Tent Lab Deuce of Spades #3, which I had been using prior to it being stolen, had cost me a solid $22.95 and weighed 0.97 oz.
  • While folks had noted that they found the edges of the U-Dig-It to be sharp, I didn’t personally feel that they were. I let some other folks try it out, and they also thought that the edges were sharp, so I decided to put some friction tape around the edges. If you, too, are a slippery-handed slobbergoat, this might be something that you consider doing, as well. Regardless, this isn’t my friend Miriam’s UST Parashovel, so don’t expect to go digging through roots with it.  
Deuce of Spades.
A little bit of friction tape.


IV: Where to Find Deals

This section doesn’t really need much in the way of words, so I’ll just throw down some links:

Often:

Sometimes:

  • Drop (Formerly Massdrop. A crowd/co-op type buying site.)
  • Slickdeals (Make an account and set deal alerts with key terms.)
  • Woot (This is Amazon’s clearance site.)


I’m constantly learning and growing, so if you have questions, suggestions, or comments, shoot me a message.

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