Category Archives: Backpacking

The Must Have Backpacking Gadget That You’ve Never Heard Of – And It Doesn’t Go In Your Pack!

Let’s face it, most of us use canister stoves.

STOVE REFILL cans

They’re easy and convenient – a ‘no-fuss, no-muss’  way to cook!  (what is muss anyway?)

However, one of the little situations we all take for granted, is that little bit of fuel left in the can when we return from our latest hike.

No, this isn’t an article about alcohol or twig stoves.

What are you going to do with that almost empty can?

Do you grudgingly haul it, along with a full can, on your next trip, in hopes of using it up?

Do you put it on the shelf and watch them turn into a little collection?

Sometimes we just close our eyes and toss them in the trash, rationalizing that, ‘well, there’s probably worse stuff in that landfill.’


Recently my hiking buddy, Gunny, told me about a little thing he saw on YOUTUBE, which for the first time in a long time actually has that WOW! factor.

STOVE REFILL

This little gadget, safely and easily, allows me to transfer unused fuel, from one can to another!

This led me to do some extensive research (no one wants to blow themselves up), I guess it’s in the nature of being a retired engineer to explore this.


Here’s how you do it.

  1. Get the valve.

  2. Have two cans, both partially or almost empty (doesn’t matter).

  3. I recommend chilling for just a bit, the can that is going to RECEIVE the fuel (call this the New Can). This lowers the vapor pressure in the can compared to the can you want to empty (Old Can) (which you want at room temperature). This just makes the fuel transfer a little easier.

  4. Make sure the valve is closed.

  5. Attach both cans to valve. The valve is ONE WAY, the direction is marked by bubbles, going from larger to smaller – this is the flow direction. You want the fuel to go from the Old Can to the New Can.

  6. The Old Can you want to empty (at room temperature) is on the valve side with the larger bubble.

  7. Open the valve. Wait a couple of minutes.

  8. Close the valve. Remove the cans.

  9. Shake the Old Can, it should have less fuel, preferably it will be empty.

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Et Voila!

View the Video

You have just emptied out your old canister and can now safely dispose of it.


A Little Safety and Technical Stuff

If you have a scale for your smaller backpacking items (you should be weighing all your gear anyway!!), I suggest weighing and recording the before and after weights of both cans.

This is the best way to ensure that your fuel is going in the right direction and that you don’t overfill the new can.

PLEASE DON’T LEAVE, BUT WE NEED TO DO A TEENSY BIT OF MATH.

JUST ADDITION, I PROMISE.

I’LL MAKE IT EASY.

PLUS YOU’LL BE THE SMARTEST PERSON AROUND THE NEXT CAMPFIRE!

A very short discussion about the smaller versions of the canisters


When you buy it off the shelf the label will read something like:

3.53 oz/100g  – This is content gas weight or how much gas is in the can.  This IS NOT the total weight of the CAN + GAS.

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CAN + GAS  = 7 oz or 198 gr

GAS (alone) = 3.53 or 100 gr.

(let’s round this stuff off and only use grams)

FULL CAN = 200

EMPTY CAN = 100

If you weigh your can before a hike, and it reads 150, that means you have 50 gr of fuel or about half a can.

The closer you get to 200, the fuller the can.

The closer the can is to 100, the closer to being empty.

By the way, if you read my stove article, my jetboil uses 5 gr to boil two cups of water. So a new, small can, with 100 gr of fuel, should give me 20 burns (100 divided by 5), sorry, division used there.

Ok, back to transferring the gas.


IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP

Don’t do this around open flames!

Make sure the area is well ventilated, like outside, in the backyard.


When are you filling the NEW CAN, you just don’t want it to exceed 200 – OK?  Keep it safe and maybe only fill it to 190 (gr).

Again, I demonstrate the process here. video.

When you finally do it, it is sooo easy!

To get comfortable with this process, try doing just a little bit at a time and weighing the cans to make sure one is getting lighter and one is getting heavier.

A note on any concerns about the valves.  This adapter is the EXACT SAME connection as your canister stove and should have no more or less effect on the valve properties.

Where do get this valve?

I got mine on Amazon.

STOVE REFILL valve


 

Next Post:  Going beyond simply emptying old cans:  refilling cans with ‘off the shelf’ fuel (as in butane cans you didn’t know were sold at your local Ace Hardware) and saving a lot of money.

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You Don’t Have To Become A Thru-Hiker To Become A Backpacker

If you’re reading this, odds are, you are probably NOT a ‘thru-hiker’ – But that doesn’t mean that you can’t learn to be one.

In fact, you’re probably not a backpacker at all!

You probably enjoy reading about and following those who are in the process of starting – or have completed, one of the

most epic journeys that the average person will ever undertake.

You probably even live a little vicariously through these special backpackers on their grand adventure.

But sometimes reading about these fantastic mileages – 2000, 3000 mile hikes, 25 mile days, pack weights so low they seem impossible, can be so intimidating.

And equipment!  Equipment so varied, so specialized, (and expensive!) it’s easy to just say, why bother, I’ll just stay at home and read about it.

Thru-hiking is at one end of the spectrum, weekend backpacking trips are at the other.  Professional athletes just don’t walk on to a pro team, there is a logical start up, just like backpacking.

I have read many stories of thru-hikers who have said they had never hiked at all before deciding to “do” the AT or PCT.  They just up and decided to do it, went out and bought some gear and with a little food and planning (or not) just started walking, after all, it is just walking.

A few of those even make it to the end the first time around, but all invariably learn and adjust as they go, but not without a lot of pain and anguish.

This would be the exception of the rule of learning how to backpack.

If you want to get away from the trail head, away from the campground and get into the forest and into the mountains, I say… you can do it.  Anyone can do it.

One of the many John Muir quotes:

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.”

I work with many folks brand new to backpacking or those who want to try it.  It’s so easy to say, just get a pack and go!

In reality, so many of us have jobs and mortgages, and kids in school, so we’re not taking off 6 months out of the year to hike.

The one thing that you and I have in common with the “thru-hiker”, is a sense of and longing for adventure.  And backpacking is that ultimate adventure that is right here, right in front of us, available for the taking!

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The First Step Is Always The Hardest

The sphere of knowledge around backpacking and the things you will learn, and the confidence you will gain is almost unbelievable.

I have had said for years that backpacking is actually a gateway drug for mountaineering.

You will learn about tents, and shelters, and ground cloths, and stoves (and stoves and more stoves..), and fuels, and little teeny pots, and long handled spoons.  You’ll learn hundreds of foods that you can pack in baggies and cook with just a little boiling water.

You will learn about first aid – and making a kit that fits in a very very small stuff sack.  You’ll discover maps and navigation tools that you never even knew existed.  You’ll gain knowledge about animals, and vegetation, and hanging ‘bear bags’.  You’ll develop new a understanding of the insulating values of sleeping bags, and water bottles, quick drying fabrics, layering, and boots.  OMG you’ll learn about sandals, and trail runners, and lightweight boots.

You’ll become an expert on the pros and cons of waterproof footwear.  You’ll learn about ten different ways to purify water, and how much water that you personally need to carry.  And you’ll learn how to carry all this stuff on your back and into the wilderness!

And you will love it.  And it will change you… forever.

And you don’t need to hike 25 miles or 3000 miles to learn it, to enjoy it.

You will need to find a place you want to visit, a friend or friends to go with, maybe a local hiking group, maybe to a nearby National Forest or State campground, but you do have to take that first step out of your car and get started.

And having the right equipment?

Here’s a little secret, there isn’t a backpacker alive who doesn’t own multiple sleeping bags, multiple tents, and for Gosh sakes, multiple stoves!

Accumulate what you think you’ll need to sleep and cook a meal, maybe go in the spring or summer,  (IMHO winter is not the best time to start) and I guarantee you’ll start making adjustments to your kit.

One of the surest things you’ll hear around the campfire are folks talking about equipment.  The funniest part will be, absolutely everyone will be saying “If I only had that ONE THING my trip would be perfect”.  “If I just had that lighter/warmer sleeping bag or that lighter/roomier tent, or that newest stove….etc.,etc.,etc.!”

And if you can’t find anyone to go with…well, just give me a call, we can learn together.

Notes From February 2017

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Another Selfie, Keystone, Colorado, Feb 2016

Getting ready for my annual ski trip to Keystone at the end of this month.  This has become an annual tradition for me.  I have a friend meeting me in Denver so we’ll be able to split the costs of the condo.

Staying at a Keystone property means you can just walk outside and catch the shuttle bus, which runs about every 20 minutes, and get dropped off very close to the lifts.  Skiing during the week means no crowds, which means you can do a lot of skiing.  So much so that my legs tend to start wobbling about mid-day on day two.  To try and help this, I try to do squats to work on my quads, but man, I can sure tell that I’m getting older!  After I do the squats my knees get sore even though I try to maintain good form.  Oh well, just need to try to not over do it.  I’m going to enjoy skiing, not to compete.

I may go it alone next year.  This is another case of me starting to resent always doing all the planning if I want to do something.  I make the room reservation, I make the car reservation, the guy I’ve gone with the past several years has never once taken the initiative to do any of that nor has he ever even offered to drive!  What I get out of it is somebody to share the costs and to possibly drive back to Denver if I break my leg.  I should be charging a sur-tax or fee for planning.

If you show up at the window in Keystone to buy a lift ticket, it will be $136 per day.  However, and it’s a huge however, you can buy a season pass for $300!  Which makes the daily rate for my trip $60 per day, an excellent deal!

 

Going backpacking this weekend on the AT here is Virginia.  Doing a hike called Three Ridges.  I’m using my new pack I bought this fall, an Osprey Exos 58.  This pack is an upgrade to the Exos 58

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Old Pack, on an old guy (Bridger Wilderness, Wy August 2016)

I’ve had for a few years but felt I need to replace.

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New pack, (I know, hard to see) Tinker Cliffs, Va, Nov 2016

The problem that bugged me to no end was that in order to save weight, they made the hip straps very narrow/thin and they would slowly but surely slip and come loose while I walked.  The pack straps where also pretty thin so any load approaching 35lbs was tough on the shoulders.  Anyway, this new model corrects that, but when I was in the VA Beach REI I was assured that a medium was my size (I had been using a large frame), the pack feels good and snug, but the shoulder straps barely come over my shoulders, so I’m going to try on a large when I head back to REI this week.

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Better view of new pack, Three Ridges Maupin Shelter, AT, Virginia, Dec 2016

I’m going back to REI to return some trail runners I had to get on-line because they weren’t available in the store. I want to replace the Hoka one one Mafate 4 shoes I wore on the JMT last year with the next size down.

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Marie Lake, JMT July 2016

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Hoka One One, Mafate 4, trail runners

Well, wouldn’t you know it, they don’t carry those anymore so I had to try some of the other Hoka’s and other brands designed specifically for rough trail or off trail.  None of the others had the cushioning of the Mafate 4, but I was able to snag a pair on Amazon, tried them last night and they seem to be perfect.  The cushioning on the Hoka’s is fantastic!

I’m testing a new stove burner/pot combination.  I found a burner that weighs about 2 ounces and a cup that holds 2 cups (ha), that together weigh about 4 ounces.  I’m using the cup as the pot, eliminating a pot.  Done it twice, seems to work nice.  Saves about 15 ounces dropping my fantastic jet boil and now superfluous cup.  Not sure about the durability of the burner, but will find out this spring/early summer as I prep camp for the JMT in August.

I froze my ass off in my feathered friends 20 bag 2 weeks ago on the Tar Jacket Ridge abortive hike.  I tried to use the bag as a quilt, the bag has continuous baffles and allows you to spread the down across the bag to do this.  However, I didn’t do the math.  Spreading the down across both the top and bottom of the bag for a quilt, decreased the loft by half, increasing (decreasing) the comfort rating from 20 (which really means 35 normally) to probably 30-35F (which means 40).  Well it dropped down to 18F and I was really uncomfortable.  I did test out an Sea to Summit Thermolite Reactor Extreme Mummy Bag Liner, which did help some.  The other problem I had and learned about, was about the use of a quilt in very cold temps.  With the quilt, I found that it’s very hard to keep it snug around you and if you don’t, the cold air gets in and prevents a warm air layer from forming.  By the time I gave up on the quilt idea and got into and zipped up the bag, I neglected to shake all the down back to the top side of the bag..oh well.

Going to try again this weekend.  This time I’ll make sure to keep the loft on top, but as insurance I’m bringing my 30 quilt to use as a top layer, just in case.  Temps are only expected to drop to about 32 anyway, not so bad.

JMT planning for August 2107 is going great.  I have a hiking companion for the first 14 days…excellent!  Will report on the plan later.

 

 

Winter 2014/2015 RECAP

As of today, 6 March 2015, this has been the ‘winter that almost wasn’t’.  We’ve had a ton of rain and warm weather (40’s – 50’s), up until about Mid February 2015, then it started to get ‘Polar Vortex Cold’ along with lot’s of snow that Virginia is not geared to deal with.

On the coast, where I live, we got a foot of snow in early February, then a week went by, then we got another foot, while I was off for a week Skiing in Colorado, paradoxically, looking for snow.

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The temps on the coast have been single digit, which broke records everywhere around here.  Gunny just posted that it’s currently -4F where he lives now, up near Staunton, Va.

That said, I have just scheduled a short 2 night backpacking trip for next week, a short loop thru the Rapidan Wildlife Management Area and Shenandoah NP.  Camping will be ‘Stealth Camping’.  Hoping for snow camping.  Hopefully the 2 river crossings will be easy and we won’t have to take our boots off (December 2013 below), else, it’s going to be a bit ‘nipley’.

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In late December we had a backpacking trip up and over Cold (Cole) Mountain, off the AT, near Buena Vista, Va.

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We’ve done this area many times and it’s always a beautiful trip.  The temps were pretty mild, I think above freezing the whole time, and we had sunshine (yeah!).  We had 8 or 9 show up from OC Backpackers.  Here’s a link to the photos :http://www.meetup.com/OCBackpackers/photos/25818110/ .

In February we had a Backpacking 101 course, which went, IMO, really well. Instead of speaking to a powerpoint slide show,  I and several others brought our backpacks fully loaded for a spring/summer 3 day/2 night hike and slow unloaded, explaining and discussing the concepts and variations as we went on.

Also in February, I met up with Geardog in Denver and we drove out to Summit County, Dillon, Co, for a week of skiing at Keystone.  It was GREAT!.  I bought a season pass for about $300 in October, which brought the price of skiing 5 days down to about $60 a day, versus the walk up price of $105-$120 per day!!!

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We had sunshine for ALMOST everyday, a few days the clouds would roll in after lunch, and we had small amount of snow 1 or 2 days, but not enough to drive one off the mountain.  The biggest thing though, is when mid-week skiing, the slopes are almost deserted!  You can ski so much that you (I) can become exhausted by about lunch time! YIKES!  Each day we would trudge back to the condo for lunch, a small break, then hit the slopes for the afternoon.  According to the Keystone app, we skied over 100,000 vertical feet, and that was with a short day on Friday, when we had to check out by 11 and drive up to Denver.  We were determined to leave early and take our time driving to Denver as the weather on the I70 corridor between Denver and Summit Couny had been literal shit the entire week, with, I kid you not, hundreds of accidents due to the speed, snow, and ice. On the Wednesday we were there, over 60 cars where in a massive pile up on the interstate on the way back to Denver, leaving motorists stranded all night!  Luckily we had sunshine on the drive back.  Single digit temps, but the roads where clear except for the constant mud spray on the windshield from the cars in front.

I’ve got my annual 6 day, 5 night corridor backpack in the GRAND CANYON coming up the first week in May!

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DEVIL'S CORKSCREW FROM PLATEAU POINT

DEVIL’S CORKSCREW FROM PLATEAU POINT

We’ve got 4 people going (that’s all I requested on the permit application).  We’ve got myself, Jen, Biscuit, and Bones going.  Normally we go in March, but I was undecided if I wanted to do a trip this year and didn’t decide to go until the earlier deadlines had passed and May was up for the lottery.  It promises to be a lot warmer, possibly shorts weather down in the canyon, that will great!

I guess the big thing going on for this summer is a planned hike to do the James Muir Trail (JMT), 210 miles in the California High Sierra’s with Biscuit and Geardog.  After we went to the Jim Bridger Wilderness, Wind River Range, Wyoming last August, where I was pretty much under the weather the entire trip, mostly due to my own doings, I was determined to make this years’ BIG ADVENTURE a ‘sleepy, easy’ fishing trip loop either in Colorado or back in the Winds.  However, after a winter of sitting around, pretty bored, Biscuit and I kept talking about the JMT, so I started researching it.  It’s a huge logistical undertaking and permits are required and have been greatly reduced due to enormous demand, by the park service in the northern terminus of the trail in Yosemite NP.  Reduced to lessen the impact on the corridor the JMT traverses in YNP and just outside the park.  We were able to snag permits going NOBO from about 22 miles SOUTH of the JMT’s southern terminus at the ‘Mt Whitney Portal’, with a start date of 15 August.  I also applied for a permit starting at the Whitney Portal, which are awarded based upon a lottery, which will happen in mid-March. So we’re still waiting to see what happens with that.  I’m not sure my body is up to doing 230 miles, we really won’t have a time limit.  The limits are really based upon the number of meals one sends to the resupply points.  We’ll see what happens.

 

Roaring Plans Wilderness Trip Report

Roaring Plans West Wilderness, Monongahela NF, WV 17-19 Oct 2014 Trip Report

Photo credits to Pyro, Gunny, and Jen.

After our Winds hike last August I came up with a new rule that I would stay home if the rain forecast was greater than or equal to 50%, this is especially true if the daytime temps are predicted to be in the 50F’s or below.  Not that I’m that big of a pussy…it’s just that I’ve had more than my fair share of backpacking trips that become gruesome slogs in wet cold rain.  And a wet cold rain in a tree tunnel just doesn’t do it for me anymore.  I’m not talking about the trips where it rains unexpectedly or the big trips away from home, just those ‘routine’ hikes that are in the class of what I call ‘training hikes.’

So it was on 17 Oct that Buff and Pyro arrived at my house and we loaded up the truck with a 60% chance of rain and 40F temps hovering over our heads for the next day.  But…being ever the optimists and having plenty of sunshine as we loaded up, we once again decided to go for it.  Jen and Cartman linked up with us and we were on our way to pick up Gunny in Verona.

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We set up our camp just off Forest Road 19 and followed the trail, an old gravel road, about 1/4 mile to the crossing of Red Creek.  We didn’t see any campsites so we ended up camping on the road and forgot about making a fire.

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One33 great thing that happened was that the leaves in this area had just peaked and the colors were absolutely FANTASTIC!  We had thought we may have missed out, but we were very-very pleased!

 

 

Next morning we awoke to partly cloudy skies and temps pretty mellow, probably in the low 60F’s or upper 50F’s.  Immediately upon starting off we had to take off our boots and make an uneventful ford of the creek where as luck would have it, found a great campsite just on the other side.  For next time.

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The trip description we were using was pretty easy to follow at first.  Our first section had us following blue blazed trail winding up to the plateau that Roaring Plains is known for.

But wouldn’t you know it, about 10am it started to drizzle.  About an hour later the drizzle got a little harder and the temps dropped into the forties.  And for extra fun, the breeze started to pick up.

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More creek crossings.  Bear prints in the mud on the trail.

So on we slogged.  I will say that the drizzle did stop for a while, at times, and the sun would start to peek out.  And our morale would rise.  But then just to mock us, the skies would laugh and cloud back over and the drizzle would begin anew.

We followed the South Prong Trail up to the plateau but then marched past the right turn onto the Lost Passage Trail.  Once we discovered our mistake, after about a quarter mile, we backtracked and got on Lost Passage.  Here’s where things got a bit tough.  There were several trails headed in more or less the general direction we wanted to go.  Some seemed more obvious than others. We followed a well worn path just to have it die out in the brush. We crossed a creek and tried to follow a few others, just to see those come to a dead end.  Gunny went back across the creek to check out a faint path that had seemed to die out in the bushes.  He followed it for a bit and determined it was probably the main trail. A check on the GPS after a few yards confirmed it was headed in the right direction.

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By the time we got to the Pipe Line Trail, it was raining pretty good.  And cold.  And Windy.  Time for winter hats and gloves.  The clouds had settled in at our altitude so no valley views and no views of anything more than a half mile or so.

We noticed that the Pipe Line Trail is a huge right of way, maybe a hundred feet wide with a dirt maintenance road and a good foot trail, and it was running both south (our direction) and north.  What’s more, earlier in the day, when the South Prong trail crossed what appeared to be just another old dirt road on the USGS topo map, that road was actually WV Forest Road 70, a very well maintained gravel road with quite a few trucks running up and down it carrying hunting dogs.  We had been listening to the distant howling of the dogs for several hours and had even had a few pass us on the trail.

It appeared on the map that we could bail out now and follow the Pipe Line Trail north to where it intersected FR70, then take FR70 east for a few miles to where it intersected FR19 a few miles below from where we were parked. This would bypass the Canyon Rim Trail (which we couldn’t see) and allow us to skip a muddy 1500′ descent on the Boar’s Nest Trail to the trail head.

The descent to FR70 on the Pipe Line Trail was a bit sloggy in the rain but once we hit the gravel road we were able to make good time.  So about 3 hrs after we made our decision to bail we were back at the cars.

We stopped at our favorite local restaurant for dinner and some peanut butter pie and  coconut pie and it was great!

We convoyed back to Verona, stopping to pick up groceries, and stayed at Gunny’s new house.  With plenty of craft beers and chips and salsa we had a great time swapping lies late into the evening.

More Thoughts On “Rain Management”

More thoughts on Rain/Cold weather management while backpacking

Here’s my perspective and frame of reference;

I’m not a thru hiker of anything. I just like to backpack. I am primarily able to get out and hike at least once a month, sometimes twice, and when I say hike I mean backpacking. I try to get out west once or twice per year for a week long backpack. My normal hiking range is the Virginia-West Virginia National Forests and Wilderness areas along the Appalachian Mountains (AKA Blue Ridge Mountains).

I used to climb but am retired from that now. I lived in Europe for 14 years and did quite a lot of ‘stealth’ backpacking along the German-Austrian frontier, especially in the winter (less chances of being caught).

So on with Rain Management.

As I reflect on the Spring/Summer of 2014 here in good old VA, it was pretty lousy, lots of rain, lots of cold windy days.

But what didn’t kill us made us stronger (Friedrich Nietzsche) and wiser and better able to deal with the weather.

Last week in the Bridger Wilderness we had cold and windy and sometimes rainy conditions for most of the trip. But guess what, it didn’t seem to matter, we were prepared and dealt with it. We had been doing it all summer.

Good tents.

The tents went up easily in the rain. We had experience putting them up in rain. We knew how to put them up while keeping the inside nice and dry.

All our tents had some sort of vestibule, most had two vestibules. You threw your wet stuff in a pile in one vestibule and cooked under the other.

A canister stove with an attached pot, like a jet boil, works great under a vestibule, no flare ups. No way to cook under a vestibule with a white gas stove, you’d burn down your tent for sure.

We were automatically conditioned to keep our stuff dry in our packs while walking in the rain. We had lots of down clothing/bags and it was imperative to keep that stuff dry to avoid hypothermia. Everyone had some sort of layered waterproofing both inside and outside of the pack. I use, in addition to the stuff sacks, a thick black industrial garbage bag for everything inside my pack and a good, tested pack rain cover. It seems however, no matter what I do, wind-blown water will creep in around your neck and shoulder strap area and make its way into the pack. That’s why you need to wrap everything up inside the pack.

Every night’s camp requires water to be drawn and filtered, so you just have to suck it up and do it, wait for the filtering, then take your water to your vestibule.

You can’t hike in your rain gear, you just get all your layers totally soaked, and if there was a chance for a little air drying, it won’t happen. While you’re walking you only need to wear something light enough to keep you warm. But whatever you’re wearing, it’s sacrificed to the rain gods and you need to change out of the wet stuff and into something warm and dry when you get to camp. You can put your wet stuff back on tomorrow and dry it out while you walk in the sunshine!

If it is still raining and you changed into your dry and warm stuff once you got to camp and before you got your water, you absolutely must keep that stuff dry!! But now you’ve got a rain layer wet along with your walking sacrificial clothing. Sometimes it’s best to stay in your wet walking clothes until you can finish your camp chores, getting water, hanging bear bag, and then you can finally dive into your tent for the final change into your warm stuff.

If it’s raining when you set up camp, get your tent up, get the dry stuff in your pack into the tent. Put your food under one of your vestibules. Get your water and start filtering. Hang your bear bag rope. Now that your water is filtered take it to your tent. Get in as best you can, take off the wet stuff and place inside the vestibule, dry off the inside of the tent with your bandana, then change into your warm stuff.

Now that you have warm clothes on and your food and water under the vestibule, go ahead and eat.

Now one of the bitch things. Now that you’ve eaten, you need to get back out in the rain and hang your food. That means putting your wet socks back on and grabbing your parka and hat or something to keep your head dry (hood?) and making a dash into the trees to hang the bag and then back to the tent. Keep the wet socks and parka outside the dry part of the tent and under the vestibule. Dry the inside once again with your bandana.

I keep my backpack under one vestibule and eat under the opposite side. I’ve learned to place my pack on top of my pack rain cover so the bottom doesn’t get any wetter while on the saturated ground during a good soaking rain.

Next morning, you’re going to need to put back on those wet socks and pants and shirt and walk them warm. Your boots are still wet from yesterday’s walk in the rain and if you put on your last or next to last dry pair of socks, well, you’re going to have a second pair of wet socks. Better to keep one pair dry for inside the tents.

When you got in your tent where your pants wet? Get them off quick, not to avoid hypothermia, but to minimize dripping inside your dry cocoon. How to keep your legs warm then? I carry a spare set of thermal bottoms, but you could carry an extra set of pants to keep dry, or just push your sleeping bag around you.

Next morning you need to be able to pack your stuff up and tear down your tent in a rain. If it’s not still raining, your tent is probably soaked on the outside. Pack up your stuff into your backpack while inside the tent, be wearing whatever you’re going to walk in that day, probably yesterday’s wet stuff, as you exit the tent. Take down your tent in such a manner that keeps the rain fly over the inside and folds up nice and neat, keeping the inside dry.

Your probably should practice this in the back yard.

Because you’re probably walking in wet socks, little irritations on the feet and small hot spots are magnified, so best to tape them up before hand.

If the sun is shining, you’re going to dry out and everything will be alright! If it’s raining, chug on, take photos of your ‘ordeal’ and just remember you’ll have great bragging stories around the next campfire!

And remember what Friedrich Nietzsche said, if the weather doesn’t drown you, you’ll have great stories…or something like that.

Backpacking the Sky Pilot Loop, Bridger Wilderness August 2014

Sky Pilot Loop, Jim Bridger Wilderness, Wind River Range, Pinedale, Wy

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23-29 August 2014.

Phil, Gunny, Buff, Pyro, Biscuit

Click here to see my favorite pix from this trip.

“Let me explain, no, there is too much, let me sum up” (Inigo Montoya)

Another great trip to the “Winds”. Very long drive. Cold wet weather. Great photos. Took longer to acclimatize to the altitude.

So, let’s get started.

Buff and Pyro drove up from VA Beach and met me at my house in Hampton on Wednesday 20 August. We then drove up to Verona, VA to Gunny’s new house where we stayed for the night. Gunny and Nancy were perfect hosts preparing fresh chicken enchiladas and salsa and supplying us with plenty of iced cold craft beers!

We then sat around in Gunny’s study and watched him finish packing getting to bed around 10 or 11. Which isn’t anything to talk about until I tell you wake up was planned for 3a.m. with departure set for 3:30 yikes! But, happily, but not much, since we were already in Northern VA, we moved back departure to around 4 a.m.

So there we were at 4 a.m. pulling out of Verona and heading to St Louis, Mo our destination for day 1 (day 2?).

From St Louis (departing at 0330 hrs) we were off to Cheyenne. Going through St Louis and then Kansas City at this time of day is a piece of cake, if you can keep awake! Fortunately our plan of switching drivers every 2 hours worked out very well.

We got to Cheyenne, in the rain, around 1900hrs. We could tell we were at higher altitude already (6000′) as we huffed and puffed just going up stairs to our rooms.

Saturday, 23 August.

We departed Cheyenne again at 0330 hrs arriving in Pinedale, Wy around 1000 hrs, later than planned due to quite a bit of highway construction.

We linked up with Biscuit at the outfitters in Pinedale then grabbed some early lunch at the micro-brew next door to the outfitters.

We then dropped into the outfitters for last minute supplies and fishing licenses. It was getting ready to rain and getting cold, like it wanted to snow, so Buff decided on purchasing some more layering.

It was then off to the trail head, but not before a detour into the grocery/hardware store and a stop into the Museum Of The Mountain Man. This is great museum and I highly recommend it if you ever make it to Pinedale.

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It started to drizzle slightly on the way to Elkhart Trail Head. It was cloudy and dreary and there were remnants of an earlier snowfall in the trees. When we were able to make out distant peaks through the clouds you could clearly see the snow cover at the upper elevations. Temps were in the upper 40’s to lower 50’s at this point.

We got the parking lot about 1400 hrs and were headed down the trail by around 1500 hrs. The sun was trying to peak thru the clouds, which helped our morale quite a bit.

The trail down to Long Lake was maintained and in pretty good shape. We arrived on the shores of the lake about 1700 hrs.

We found a super campsite and since we had dropped down about 1800′ it had warmed up a bit. We got the tents up and Pyro and Gunny got a good fire going in spite of the very wet conditions from the day prior’s rains.

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Sunday, 24 August.

After breakfast and photos on the beautiful shores of Long Lake we started walking at 0930hrs.

At this point I had started to get an ass kicking cold, sore throat, headache, dripping sinus, not fun. To add to my fun, the grass/vegetation around the trail was sopping wet and the water proofing of my normally reliable boots immediately failed soaking my left sock, great.

This year, in order to complete the Sky Pilot Loop we needed to drop down almost 2000′ from the trail head, to Long Lake and then back up to Glimpse Lake where the rest of the trip would be more or less between 10,600′ and 11,060′.

Well, the trip up to Glimpse Lake was harder than we hoped, a 2000′ climb over 4 miles, The trail wasn’t too bad, but adjusting to the altitude was a bitch. The altitude was affecting everyone differently. We didn’t arrive until about 1530 hrs. To be fair, we walked really slow, stopped for quite a few breaks, and took a ton of photos. A long day for such a short walk.

Once at Glimpse, we had the pick of several great campsites. Pyro and Gunny once again got a great fire going under very damp circumstances. Gunny, ever the fisherman, found some reserve strength and went fishing for a little while.

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Monday, 25 August.

We departed Glimpse Lake around 0900 hrs headed for that day’s goal of Summit Lake. The going was still pretty slow as we were still not acclimatized and at 1500 hrs we had only reached Borum Lake. We were all dragging, Borum was beautiful, so we decided to camp. I was only too happy not to continue the 1.6 short miles to Summit Lake for several reasons, I still had my sore throat and was still feeling weak, and, Summit lake is above the tree line so there’s no campfire there. Borum turned out to be a very beautiful place to camp indeed! We had 2 short thunder/rain storms which negated a campfire and I was so tired I sacked out early, eating only snacks in my tent.

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The next morning was clear skies and beautiful. We had terrific reflections on the still lake waters.

Tuesday, 26 August.

I’m feeling better, but still not much of an appetite.

We depart Borum Lake about 0900 hrs. headed for Upper Jean Lake, arriving about 1630 hrs. This is our best day so far, clearing skies, a bit warmer, above tree line.

We hike on past Summit Lake, cross the bridge on upper Pine Creek, over to Elbow Creek to Pass Lake and Twins Lakes following the creek above tree line, in a moonscape environment, past countless stream crossings and unnamed small lakes/tarns. We spot the tip of Elbow Lake in the distance. As we get closer, the Lake is enormous and the walk around it very long. We’re on the Highline trail headed for the junction of Shannon Pass Trail, where we’ll turn south, go over our high point at 11,060′ and drop on down to Upper Jean Lake.

We arrive at Upper Jean Lake around 1630 hrs and go on with the business of setting up tents before any rains can move in, get water for filtering, getting stuff unpacked so it can air out/dry out/fluff out, getting ready for another night in the 30’s.

No trees so no campfire. Gunny goes fishing. My appetite is getting better, but I have trouble finishing my one hot meal.

When you’re above tree line and in mixed company, going to do your ‘business’ can be a little tricky. A small ridge behind out tents along with some huge boulders provided a small bit of privacy. The obvious little piles of rocks meant to conceal made me coin the term for the area “monument valley.”

This area was the only area on the entire trip where we were bothered by mosquitoes and used head-nets. Except for Gunny, who had some repellent in this clothing, which also, I guess, deterred the critters from bothering his exposed face.

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Wednesday, 27 August.

We depart Upper Jean Lake around 0915 hrs headed for Freemont (Creek) Crossing, then down an un-maintained trail to the big “Water Slide”, then off to Lost Lake.

After a short lunch at the “water slide”, we decide to bushwhack, more or less, from the water slide, follow “game” trails down to Lost Lake, like we did last year.

Gunny leads on following very feint trails, but after about 20 minutes the trail disappears so we have to thrash about a bit to find what we hope is the trail from last year. Well, after several dead ends over cliff tops or around impassible corners, I resort to the GPS. The “trail” we’re looking for is not on the map, of course, so we are left to head in a generalized direction over contours that we hope aren’t cliffs. After a few more false leads we miraculously find the path and finally meet the primary trail at the series of two fords where Freemont Creek pours into Lost Lake.

It starts to rain. Nothing to do but take off our boots and march across the series of fords. As luck would have it, the fabulous and only campsite is taken so we’re forced to set up in a series of clearings just off the trail.

So in the rain we set up tents, get water, hang bear bags, etc.. Pyro tries to get a fire going and succeeds for a bit. Gunny goes fishing and brings back 4 or 5 good sized trout. He’s had wade out into the area where Freemont Creek enters the lake and fish in the intermittent drizzle and fog.

Nevertheless, due to the constant drizzle, they can’t get enough fire and coals to cook the fish. I retired to dinner in my tent to avoid a slow soak.

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Thursday, 28 August.

The morning is glorious and clear. Lots of sunshine. However, due to the mountains surrounding the lake, the sun can’t quite reach our tents to dry them off before it’s time to leave. So yet another day of packing wet tents, oh well, no problem, the sun is glorious! My cold is finally gone.

We depart between 0900 and 1000 hrs and have a good walk up to Seneca Lake for a nice lunch in the sun. We arrive at Barbara Lake, I think about 1500 hrs. I discover the top of my fishing pole has slid out of my pack, oh well. We set up and Gunny goes fishing but doesn’t have much luck. Pyro makes the fire and we do our set-up chores and hang bear bags, which is very tricky with these lodge-pole pines and their short branches.

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Friday, 29 August.

My tent is on a sort of angled hump and I wake with little bit of a back ache which loosens up when we start walking.

We depart about 0900 arriving a short time later at Photographer’s Point for the obligatory scenic photos. A man with 4 or 5 very little girls is camped right on the point in the area people go for photos. I’m sure this isn’t allowed. Very bad manners to camp there.

We arrive back at the trail head around noon, hiking all day under very blue skies and warmer temps. My back starts to tighten up again and stays tight for the next 4 or 5 days.

We head on down the micro brewery for our traditional after hike feast. After a few short stops to look for souveniers, Pyro, Buff, Gunny and I are back in the truck around 1400 hrs and headed for Cheyenne.  Biscuit heads on back to Jackson Hole to catch his flight to Salt Lake City then on back to VA.

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