How to get into ultralight backpacking

Lightening your backpacking load can have dramatic implications, particularly for aging hikers who have followed the techniques in Colin Fletcher’s “Complete Walker” hiking bible.

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    Last summer, when I was hitchhiking in Colorado, I met a 63 year old hiker who gave me a ride. He taught a course on Ultralight Backpacking at the local college. Bob said that the easiest way is go ultralight was to scrape up $1250, go to the zpacks.com website, and order their most popular cuben fiber pack, solo tent, and down sleeping bag.  This gets the “Big Three” on your back for total weight of three pounds. Expensive, but efficient.
For the rest of us, it’s best to start with keeping the big 3 under 10 pounds, which would lead to a fully loaded backpack of 15-20 pounds if you leave that Rambo knife at home.
Once you have cut the weight on your Big 3, you enter the “ we pack for our fear” zone.  Anxiety about what might go wrong on a hike may lead to placement of unnecessary items in that light pack.  For example, I once saw another backpacker pull a cast iron two foot long lawnmower blade from his pack and place it by the side of his sleeping bag at bedtime.  I asked him about it and he said, “ Wild hogs here in Georgia can attack you when you sleep.”  I used to carry a heavy ankle brace, “just in case” , but after lugging around-unused for 3,700 miles I now leave it at home.
I hike with three pair of thin socks, two for walking in, one for sleeping. Ultralight hikers don’t generally carry spare clothing like underwear.  Some give up long pants in the warmer weather, adding thin wool tights and rain pants if it gets too cold.
Another popular option to ditch weight is to go stoveless, and forget the cooking pot as well, opting for foods that don’t require cooking, or that can be rehydrated with water in a plastic container.
A Katadyne-type pump filter for water purification is not a typically in an ultralight pack- instead we see the Aqua Mira solution, or a Sawyer Squeeze gravity system.
The best resource for a quick lesson in learning about ultra and lightweight backpacking is the book “Lighten Up ! A Complete Handbook for Light and Ultralight Backpacking” by Don Ladigin. It’s inexpensive and filled with all you need to know. 51VeNaJAHsL._AA160_
Of course if you have $1250 bucks, you can get there quickly, but I would rather take that amount and use the money for a one- month backpacking trip.

Triple Crown, elevation gain, and Maine

I’m stoked at receiving this bandanna! 

Yogi's Triple Crown bandanna

Yogi’s Triple Crown bandanna


At first I thought it was a misprint- 1,000,000 feet of  elevation gain?  That’s only 189.4 miles of uphills.  I thought it was more!

I’ve been thinking about walking on the Applalchian Trail  again this season, soon.  For readers who poo-poo the difficulty of hiking the AT, here’s a mess of facts from Whiteblaze.  The AT is tough.  There are 286.6 miles of AT in Maine, with an average of 242 feet per mile of gain and loss.  The article from Whiteblaze hot-linked above blew my mind.  The author took all the USGS 7.5 minute topographic maps for the entire trail and actually counted the contour lines the trail crosses, going both up and down.  New Hampshire is the hilliest, followed by Georgia, which might surprise some. 

While Maine’s state average is not #1, one must consider that doing the AT in Maine  is not a uniform task. The Northbound gain is 59,000 feet.   The 151 mile eastern most portion of the state is more moderate ( 5,200 average for that first four sections) , while the 50 mile portion from the New Hampshire state line to Rangley is a brutal 18,800 feet, and is the toughest part of the whole Trail.  

Order a set of Yogi’s for the Triple Crowner in your life!

From:  Triple Crown Bandana: Set of 3 – Red, White, and Blue — Yogi’s Books.

Still Space to Build Your Own Multifuel Backpacking Stove

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Class runs one night on Tues, first week in March.  As of today-  4 spaces left.
Make your own multi-fuel backpacking stove! Have fun and learn how to make a lightweight stove that you can use on day hikes and on backpacking trips. Created from metal cans and fasteners, these downdraft stoves are compact and efficiently burn wood, alcohol,  and solid fuel tablets. Each participant will be assisted in drilling, cutting, and fastening component parts to make their own stove, and receive practice in lighting and tending the stove. Class size is limited. Registration $20, plus $10 for materials to be paid to the instructor. 1 night 6:00-8:30 p.m. Class Tues 3/4 CHRHS Rm 112

adulted@fivetowns.net • 236-7800 ext 274

Click here to learn more about the stove and it’s history.

Tom Jamrog lives in Lincolnville, and has extensive backpacking and stove construction experience.

How To Live In A Heated Tent

Three buddies are heading up with me to the Jackman, Maine wilds next week for a five day winter camping trip.

Photo by Paul KIrtley

Read another superb blog post from UK’s Paul Kirtley, blogger, wilderness bushcraft instructor, and general expert in outdoor skills.

Paul’s blog entry has loads of info about how we will survive, in style.

Click it!  – How To Live In A Heated Tent.

Basic GPS setup via Starman

I carried a Garmin eTrex 30 for 5 months over 2500 miles in 2013 on my Continental Divide thru hike.

Garmin eTrex 10, 20, 30

Garmin eTrex 10, 20, 30

I was not alone in relying on the device to find my way.  When I was preparing for the hike  I quickly became frustrated with the poor Garmin documentation. Their web support was no better. This stuff is  not easy to understand.  Nothing is intuitive about it.  I needed to learn lots, and fast.

One great source of hiking information, specifically about that trail,  is via the CDT list serv.  The following GPS set-up information has been just listed on the CDT-l by Frank Gilliand, AKA Starman.  He’s known in long distance hiking circles as the guy who knows about GPS.  He’s also one of the rare individuals who is able to communicate how-to-info about GPS that’s understandable by ordinary people, like me.  Thanks, Starman for letting me share your info on this blog!

Here are the facts from Starman himself:

There seems to be a lot of general confusion about the set up and operation of GPS units (Garmin Etrex in particular)
In the next couple of days I will put together a basic breakdown of step by step procedures to load data (waypoints, POIs, Maps and tracks)
I will post NEW set-up info on my “Web Site” soon:      https://www.sites.google.com/site/frankgilliland/

Go to my Info page for some basic definitions:  https://www.sites.google.com/site/frankgilliland/information

For purposes of setting up a handheld gps for CDT hiking you need:

1)  Purchase a GPS unit (I prefer a Garmin Etrex 20 or 30)
2)  Purchase a Micro SD card (4 or 8 gb)
3)  Purchase a Garmin topo map DVD (either the TOPO 24k West or the TOPO 100k US)
(you can purchase the SD card version but it complicates things IMHO)
4)  install Gamin’s Free software on your computer:  BaseCamp, MapInstall, and WebUpdater
5)  update the GPS units Firmware using WebUpdater  (need to do this at purchase and check once a year)
6)  install the needed Garmin topo maps on to your GPS using MapInstall from your computer
7)  download and install the FREE Bear Creek POI file.
8)  Optional: install Tracks I have posted

Some definitions for clarity:

1)  Waypoint is a stored point.  (name, coordinates, elevation, etc) It can be downloaded from another source usually saved as a .gpx file
(the Etrex 20/30 is limited to 2000 of these loaded or field created points)

2)  POI point is an un-editable “waypoint” that can be loaded on to your Garmin GPS
(I have not found the upper limit of the total number that can be stored on a GPS)

3)  Loaded/stored TOPO Map:  A USGS based map that is installed and viewable on your GPS screen and Computer.
(You must get the Garmin TOPO 24k west or 100k US)

4)  Tracks are no more than “line segments” between “track points” that are drawn on software or they can be “active” tracks created in the field.
(I turn off the “active” track creation feature on my GPS)

( For the purpose of hiking the CDT if you choose to load tracks I would only use the tracks I created roughly following the Bear Creek Waypoint/POI points)

5) Routes are generally reserved for lines showing “routes” on roads.  So, for hiking purposes using the phrase “routes” only confuses the conversation.

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Garmin does a really poor job of documenting basic operations of there handheld units and instead focuses on the bells and whistles…..
I feel your pain on the jumble of words and operations.  Call Garmin on their Help line and ask for better documentation.

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If you just can’t figure it out the set-up of your GPS I am willing to set up your Etrex 20 or 30 sent to me via USPS Priority mail.  I have done several setups already.  Contact me for mailing instructions.  (You need to have the TOPO map file loaded onto either the GPS internal memory or the SD card)

Contact me off line at     frankgilliland    <@>    gmail   <dot>     com

I am in the middle of planning my own Summer hikes, so I am busy and can not walk you thru “BASIC” GPS loading operation questions.
I would prefer to just load your GPS up with data and set it up once.  But, you need to decide soon……

If you prefer Bear Creek will also do some GPS or SD card set-up for you for a nominal fee:

http://www.bearcreeksurvey.com/Reroutes.htm

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Bottom line: this is what I do in the field (on-trail) once I load the TOPO Map, POI point file and optional Track files:

1) Turn on your GPS and and you will see your location on your GPS screen as a digital USGS topo map
(this is helpful by itself and then you can find or verify your location on your paper map)
2)  you should also see the loaded Bear Creek Way-point or POI point(s) near you.
3)  if you have loaded and turned on the track viewing feature you will see the trail location as a line(s).
4)  If you are “Off Trail”  walk towards the closest or most logical Waypoint/POI point.
5)  Walk to the next Waypoint/POI in your direction of travel
6)  If it is obvious that you are on the trail then turn off your GPS to save your batteries until the next time you are “Off Trail”
(or you just want to see what the next POI point is and your physical location on your paper map)

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Final Words of Wisdom:

You are responsible for learning the operation of your GPS.  In the field in the Middle of Montana is to late…..
GPS units are known to fail, batteries die and you should always have Paper Maps and the skills to use them.

Get an Etrex 20, load your TOPO map, load the POI and Track files…….Stay Found!

StarMan

Maine ingenuity advances lightweight backpacking – from Garage Grown Gear

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From Garage Grown Gear comes this article about a Biddeford, ME based company that is rapidly growing and connecting with ultralight backpackers.  Who would have predicted that an old mill in Biddeford Maine would be making a splash due to backpacking, and perhaps other portable cases and devices?  Read about the rapid rise of Hyperlite Mountain Gear.

Final Gear Report/ 150 days on the CDT

Note- complete pre-hike list with weights in Preparation section on www.trailjournals.com/tjamrog/CDT/ (2/27/13)

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1. Pack Group
Arc’teryx Altra 65- Water bottle mesh developed small holes. At 5 pounds, pack is too heavy, despite excellent comfort of the waist belt and shoulder straps.
Pack liner- pleased with strength of trash compactor bag.
Pack cover-

2. Shelter Group:
rain skirt- no longer made by ULA, Velcro closures detached, as did waist elastic. Required considerable trailside sewing to be functional.
-rain jacket ( Patagonia Spectre) small tears, seam separation under one arm. Repaired with McNett clear tape.
Tarptent -Moment – I wrecked the zipper, also tore the top of the vestibule. Needs professional repairs. I have never used a footprint in my life on any tent.

3. Sleeping Group:
Western Mountaineering/stuff sack, 20F- excellent, except for worn zipper pull after 2.5 thru hikes. Quick free repair by WM.
1 Ibex wool long sleeve zip T shirt- replaced by Backpacking Light’s merino hoodie.
1 Ibex long tights- sustained the whole trip, developed several large holes.
1 socks wool – handmade by my wife, sustained after three thru-hikes.
1 headlamp w/ batteries (Petzl)- fine.
1 Exped Down mat 7- heavy, but sustained the trip. Looking for lighter alternative, maybe Neo Air.
1 Exped Comfort pillow, at 8 oz.,sent home, stuffed jacket into clothes stuff sack instead.

4. Clothing :
2 pr. Darn Tough socks- both pair sustained small holes that only developed in Montana, sending them back for replacement ( lifetime warrantee).
1 pr. Manzilla Windstopper gloves – stitching separated all over both. Bought another pair in Montana.
1 Ibex wool hat- material completely went to hell all over the hat. Still wore it.
1 pr. Patagonia mid weight stretch tights- sent home, replaced with pair of Columbia zip offs due to multiple pockets, and use as shorts.
1 Western Mountaineering Hooded Flash Down jacket- lost it on trail in Wind River range. Replaced with Synthetic ” Sherpa” brand jacket.
1 pr. New Balance Minimus camp shoes- lost bushwhacking in Montana. Not replaced.
Wore out a light synthetic Patagonia shirt half way out. Bought Columbia model that did fine ( long sleeve, 2 chest pockets.)

5. Kitchen Group:
1 Steripen Adventurer- replaced w/ rechargeable Ultra model. Flawless.
1 “Four Dog” Bushcooker LT1 multifuel stove, W/ titanium windscreen,W/ Titanium cook pot 700 ml modified w/ lid 10 oz.- flawless. Used wood, alcohol, solid fuel (hexamine).
2 lighters ( Bic).
1 water bottle – used Gatorade bottle-replaced w/ 4 Platypus bags.
1 qt. water bottle ( Tiki Mon).
1 Ursak Minor – food bag- still going strong after 2 thru’s.
Bronner’s soap, 1 oz bottle.
1 spork- lost. Replaced w/ plastic spoon ( free from Wendy’s).
1 bowl=Orikaso.
1 MSR coffe filter.
2 bandannas- lost one.
1 length 50′ cord and mini carabiner-bear bagging food.

6. Hygiene Group:
1 small pack towel- sent home, used bandanna instead.
1 bottle hand cleaner
1 chap stick
1 disposable razor
1 small child toothbrush
1 small tube toothpaste

7. Electronics:
1 iPhone 4S with headphones, wall charger, and connector cable.
1 IPod shuffle
1 iPod Nano
ETrex30 GPS-Garmin
Exogear-case for iPhone, has internal battery for 1 charge of iPhone.
ANKER rechargeable battery with multiple tips for camera, Apple products, Steripen. This battery replaces Solio solar charger with ability to charge iPhone 3x’s.

8. Navigation:
Maps, pages, pencil
wearing:
1 hat
1 pr. sunglasses
1 Shirt
1 pr. synthetic underwear
1 pr.
1 pr. socks (of 2pair)
1 pr. On the Beach/ boots- 4 pair
1 pr. Leki poles- no breakage !

9. First aid- small kit, badages, tape,needle, neosporin, plus emergency med prescriptions-Hydrocodone, Metronidazole, Amoxicillin,Ciprofloxacin.

‘North Pond Hermit’ a ‘model prisoner,’ bail set at $5,000 — Augusta — Bangor Daily News — BDN Maine

I’ve received numerous comments from my post about the arrest of Christopher Knight, now dubbed “The North Pond Hermit”. Here’s an update on his continued resistance to connecting to a society he walked away from decades ago.

Photo courtesy of Maine State Police

Photo courtesy of Maine State Police

The link brings you to additional new stories about this most unusual situation.

‘North Pond Hermit’ a ‘model prisoner,’ bail set at $5,000 — Augusta — Bangor Daily News — BDN Maine.

Four Dog Stove sponsors Uncle Tom’s CDT hike

Don pitching to the hikers at Trail Days 2011

Don pitching to the hikers at Trail Days 2011

Four Dog Stove is the major sponsor for my upcoming ( April 17, 2013) attempt to thru-hike the Continental Divide Trail, AKA “ King of Trails”.
I will be using Four Dog’s Bushcooker LT1 multi-fuel stove kit. In addition, Four Dog Stove has provided financial support for purchase of maps, solid fuel tablets, and 55 days of Mountainhouse freeze-dried meals for the remote sections requiring food drops.

My connection with Don Kevilus and Four Dog Stove goes back 15 years, when I purchased one of his 11 x 11 x 22 titanium Ultralight tent stoves. I still use it to heat my 9 x 12 Egyptian cotton wall tent in the winter and fall on toboggan/snowshoe and canoeing trips.

Four Dog stove, winter setup

Four Dog stove, winter setup

Since then, I’ve purchased saws, books, titanium pots, as well as the only titanium tent stakes made in the USA.

I first met Don in Vermont at the Snow Walkers’ Rendezvous. He gave a couple of stove and fire building workshops and tended a vendor table, where he sold his handcrafted stoves, as well as a variety of survival and outdoor skills-related tools, strikers, books, videos, and knives.

I was intrigued by his newest creation, a small titanium backpacker’s model. I inquired about a purchase and Don encouraged me to make my own, and try it rather than purchase his $100+ creation. I liked him immediately.

I enrolled in his half-day workshop, where I had fun and successfully built my own twin-walled, secondary-burn multi-fuel stove. At the time I was backpacking with a highly modified ultra-light Sierra Zip stove, where the electrical components were the Achille’s Heel of the unit, and Don’s lure of lure of simplicity and efficiency appealed to me. After I built the stove, I made more of them at home. I was worked up about the little firepots, and gave them to my friends and family for Christmas gifts. I used that stove on my 2007 Appalachian Trail thru-hike.

In 2010 I completed a thru-hike of the 2,700 mile Pacific Crest Trail. This time, Don provided me with a Bushcooker LT 1, a 2.5 ounce single-person alcohol, solid-fuel, and wood/charcoal burning titanium unit that that nested in a Snow Peak Trek 600 ml cook pot/mug. An alcohol fuel cup, a windscreen, and my MSR coffee filter also fit in the mug, capped by a custom titanium lid. Don recommended welding two titanium tabs to the top of the cup that secured a wired bail handle to the pot, for moving it in and out of campfires as well as on and off the stove itself. The stove performed flawlessly, boiling up two to three times a day for 156 days. What convinced me that I had the best unit out there was when my traveling companions used mine whenever they ran out of fuel and were unable to locate isobutane canisters for their Pocket Rockets or Jetboils.

Five years ago, Don presented at Snow Walker’s again. This time, he asked me if I would serve as an assistant in his build-your-own Bushcooker class. I agreed, and learned a lot, mostly what-not-to-do, and how things can go wrong. I also became more skilled at explaining the details of the stove, and learned additional assembly tricks and tips. As part of the course, Don has also expanded what he calls his “Potology 101” talk, a working presentation of facts and table-top examples on the current use of biofuel for cooking on the planet ( over 2.4 billion people), with practical physics of heat values of the fuel types, and the science of heat transfer and efficiency, when the flame meets the pot.

In 2011, I assisted in sales and stove demonstrations at the Four Dog Stove booth at Appalachian Trail Days in Damascus, VA.

I now have 3,000 trail miles on my present Bushcooker LT1 and I’m planning another to use it on my upcoming CDT hike of 2,800 miles. Readers can follow
my daily Trailjournal .

Since then Don, has encouraged me to offer these build-your-own stove workshops here in Maine, where I have sold-out two of the adult-education programs in the past 6 months. I Don continues to provide me with a custom fabricated, titanium base plate that we use in assembling these units.

Simpler is better.

Carey Kish: “His toughest trek beckons”

In Maine’s Sunday Telegram.

Carey Kish: His toughest trek beckons | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram.