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Re: First Backpacking Trip

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First Backpacking Trip
April 22, 2014 03:22PM
My 19 year old daughter and I have been camping and hiking in Yosemite each summer for the past 13 years. We are now considering an actual backpacking trip but since neither of us has ever done more than day hikes that end back to our comfy little trailer in the valley, we are a little hesitant to head out on our own. Does a trip between Tuolumne Meadows and Reds Meadow along the JMT sound reasonable? We have done the Panorama Trail, Mist Trail to Nevada Falls, top of Yosemite Falls, 4 Mile Trail all without problem but overnight in the wilderness is a completely different thing. I know it is 30 miles so I was thinking 2 nights out? I have been doing lots of reading in terms of gear needed, permits, trail etiquette, etc hoping to educate myself but with all the experts around here I would love some input.
Re: First Backpacking Trip
April 22, 2014 05:03PM
There's a big difference between day hiking and backpacking......weight. Make sure you get a lightweight pack and lightweight gear. And, you'll be hiking mostly above 9-10k feet. Don't underestimate the effect of altitude when loaded down with 25-30 lbs. You might want to do a shakedown hike, maybe an overnighter, at altitude. Mosquito flats-ruby lake comes to mind. Then adjust as necessary and do the TM to Reds trip. By the way, that's one of the most beautiful (and popular) in the sierra.
Re: First Backpacking Trip
April 22, 2014 06:25PM
We will definitely want to keep the weight to a minimum. I think the idea of just an overnighter is a good one. Thanks for the advice!
avatar Re: First Backpacking Trip
April 23, 2014 05:48PM
Quote
The Other Tom
There's a big difference between day hiking and backpacking......weight.

And it exacerbates blisters. So if you're already having trouble with blisters, expect more. More friction on the back of the heel as you're going up, more on the toes as you're going down. Another good reason to start with a short trip.
avatar Re: First Backpacking Trip
April 22, 2014 06:09PM
I second the suggestion of a single-night "shakedown" hike at altitude. The altitudes you're considering are higher than your stated day-hiking experience, Tuolumne Meadows is 8600' and the trail goes over Donohue Pass at 11,000+ ft. Going up with weight is a factor, adding altitude to that makes a real difference.

If you haven't done many day hikes at 9K+ altitude then maybe do that first, then a single overnight.

Young Lakes might be another idea for the 'single night' thing, you'd start at 8600' and end just shy of 10K.
avatar Re: First Backpacking Trip
April 22, 2014 06:25PM
Quote
shaunsmomo


My 19 year old daughter and I have been camping and hiking in Yosemite each summer for the past 13 years. We are now considering an actual backpacking trip but since neither of us has ever done more than day hikes that end back to our comfy little trailer in the valley, we are a little hesitant to head out on our own. Does a trip between Tuolumne Meadows and Reds Meadow along the JMT sound reasonable? We have done the Panorama Trail, Mist Trail to Nevada Falls, top of Yosemite Falls, 4 Mile Trail all without problem but overnight in the wilderness is a completely different thing. I know it is 30 miles so I was thinking 2 nights out? I have been doing lots of reading in terms of gear needed, permits, trail etiquette, etc hoping to educate myself but with all the experts around here I would love some input.


Honestly, for your first backpacking trip, ever, does it sound reasonable? The short answer is no.

First, it's too long for a two-night trip. You're talking about hiking roughly 10 miles a day, for three straight days. I would recommend no more than 20 miles for a first-time two-night trip.

Ideally, I would cap it at 15 miles, total. That would give you enough time to hike at a leisurely pace, have plenty of time to set up camp, cook, sleep, pack-up and hike some more.

I would also suggest that you do a loop (or at least an out and back). Logistically, it's a lot easier than a one-way trek where you have to arrange how to get back to your starting point.

The trip that you have proposed would be fine (though the mileage is still a bit ambitious) after you got more seasoning as a multi-day backpacker. I wouldn't recommend it as your first ever backpacking trip, though.

But if you're set on making this your first backpacking trip in and around Yosemite, I would suggest that you first do one or more overnighters (or a two-night) backpacking trips closer to your home, where you can have a test run all of your backpacking gear and make adjustments to your equipment as needed, being able to bail out easily if necessary.

Getting your initial backpacking trips out of the way in a more forgiving locale, would enable you to set out on a more ambitious trek — like the one you have proposed — with a far better chance of making it a very memorable and enjoyable trip for you and your daughter.

.
Re: First Backpacking Trip
April 22, 2014 06:28PM
I really appreciate the input. I would hate to bite off more that we can chew and end up having a miserable time. Exactly why I asked the experts. Love the idea of a local trip and will do some more research!
avatar Re: First Backpacking Trip
April 22, 2014 06:39PM
Where do you live? CA? or elsewhere?
Re: First Backpacking Trip
April 22, 2014 06:43PM
San Diego County
avatar Re: First Backpacking Trip
April 22, 2014 06:49PM
Well, the 'local backpack' would actually be easier further north, overnight desert hikes tend to be challenging due to the need to pack in all one's water. I don't have any experience with the mountains around LA, so can't help there.

In Yosemite...Tuolumne to Glen Aulin would be a reasonable first trip, down 500' (back up next day) - assuming you do so early enough so the falls along the Tuolumne have enough flow to be enjoyable. The Young Lakes trip I mentioned is up about 1300'.
Re: First Backpacking Trip
April 23, 2014 06:48AM
Rent gear where you can, borrow other gear, and don't take anything you can get at Big Five or Walmart other than maybe a fuel canister or headlamp. Don't think anything you find in a box store marked "ultralight" is actually labeled correctly.

If a sleeping bag weighs more than two and a half pounds, it's too heavy. If a tent for two is more than three pounds, it's too heavy. If the fly on the tent does not come within a few inches of the ground all the way around, it's not storm worthy. If the sleeping pad weighs more than a pound and is an inch thick, it's the wrong one. There are lighter options for pretty much anything.

Packing a bear can is tough for a newbie and you MUST have one. Even if Tuolumne to Reds is mostly out of the park the bears cruise the JMT constantly - there were bears on our canisters every. single. night. Hanging food or the Ursack are a BAD idea. Rent the Bearikade online for the best deal for the weight - the largest one is only a few ounces heavier than their middle size, and much bigger than the larger Bear Vault. They mail it to you a few days before and you have time at home to play with it. All food should be out of the store packaging, into ziplocs with all the air squeezed out. Dehydrate or use just-add-water food - couscous, instant rice, instant potatoes with veggies and tvp added. Mountain House is expensive and has not enough calories for longer treks. You can get nearly anything you need that can be packed neatly into a baggie from a grocery store - check out trailcooking.com.

Try EVERYTHING at home. Light the stove, filter water with the filter, taste all recipes, set up the tent a few times and use a sprinkler on it, sleep in the back yard. Go car camping and pretend you are backpacking - lock the car and set up camp, use everything and take notes on what you don't use. First aid and emergency gear are the only things you shouldn't use. The most common errors newbies make are too much food and too many clothes.

Leave jeans and cotton T's at home. I know people that hike with cotton - but they understand the risks and have a synthetic t in the pack. SAR calls it Death Cloth. Get wool or synthetic socks, clothing and underwear. Hypothermia and Hyperthermia symptoms are things you should know as well as symptoms of elevation sickness. These are what you should worry about much much more than snakes, bears, lions, bugs or anything else in the wilderness.

Practice map reading if you never learn anything else about navigation.

Have fun.
Re: First Backpacking Trip
April 23, 2014 07:45AM
Wow! So much good advice! Thank you. Definitely will try to rent or borrow some equipment after spending yesterday at REI looking at the price of gear. I would hate to make that kind of investment only to find out that I really prefer my little trailer.
Re: First Backpacking Trip
April 23, 2014 09:05AM
Yes, the cost for a first time backpacker is daunting. Think of it as an investment. You're investing in some quality time with your daughter (priceless !) and you'll get plenty of use out of what you buy. Also, remember REI has a generous return policy. I'll add to what AlmostThere said...if your pack, fully loaded with food and 2L water,weighs more than 30 lbs, it's too heavy. And I'll second her comments about not using cotton in the back country. You're in danger of hypothermia if it gets wet (sweat, rain). It gets cold at night at high elevations, even in summer. I've had water freeze in August. You don't want to be wet when that happens. I prefer wool over synthetic because synthetic holds odor more than wool.

Edit: Another source of gear that I use is sierratradingpost.com. They also have a good return policy.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/23/2014 09:07AM by The Other Tom.
avatar Re: First Backpacking Trip
April 23, 2014 09:21AM
You have already received some excellent advice. I'll add my 2 cents worth:

1. Try a high altitude day hike. The most accessible one I can think of would be to the ridge above upper Granite Lake. The Gaylor Lakes/Granite Lakes area is a relatively short day hike but takes you up to the best view area at about 11,300', the last half of it off-trail. If you are feeling up to it then try this day hike with full packs (if you see a ranger you may have to explain why you have full packs in a no camping zone).

2. Do the 1-nighter to Young Lakes and try to take in all three lakes. This would be an excellent intro to high altitude backpacking over the reasonable daily distance previously recommended. Glen Aulin is O.K. but I think it's too easy a prep for the trip you are contemplating.

3. One thing I like to emphasize regarding weight: For the average stride, every extra pound of weight you carry = approximately 1 ton of extra footfall lifting per mile! That's 7 tons of extra foot lifting over 7 miles for every unnecessary pound of weight! This includes the weight of your hiking shoes, water, the clothes on your back, everything. That's how people get really wrung out on long high altitude hikes. Every ounce counts.

Best wishes for whatever you decide to do.

Jim
Re: First Backpacking Trip
April 24, 2014 10:06AM
Love the idea of a one nighter to Young Lakes. Just how bad should I expect the mosquitoes to be mid June? I'm thinking pretty miserable. Should we take the out and back past Dog Lake or the loop via the Glen Aulin trail?
avatar Re: First Backpacking Trip
April 25, 2014 02:10PM
Mosquitos will be bad in June but you will find if you camp several hundred feet away from the lakes it's not really all that bad. Within 100' of the lakes they will be all over you. by the time you see the lower lake it will be time to put on a fresh dose of bug juice. Having your clothes treated with Permathrin wouldn't hurt either.

I recommend going in via Dog lake and out via the western trail just for some variety. Don't forget the tiny detour to Dog lake--it's worth a photo or two.
Re: First Backpacking Trip
April 24, 2014 10:10AM
hi,
not a lot to add.
you may want to consider the PCT: Big bear city or fawnskin to lake arrowhead or silverwood. if you are already a competent day hiker the only extra gear needed would be tent: stove~ unless you ate cold ( I did for a week on the TRT and it was naff)~ sleeping bag, mat, note book, open mind, sense of adventure, the ability to scream loud, comfort in limited company. and a map.
you could also do some groundwork the next time you visit the valley.fill a diary of all your altitude changes, + and -, write down mileage too: perhaps add a little extra weight to get the idea, then note how good/bad you feel after each day. it might take the carefree nature away from your hol, but it would give you a good insight into physical condition.
and don't forget: the biggest positive factor to a Yosemite Park b/p trip is the WEATHER. Backpacker
have fun.
Re: First Backpacking Trip
April 24, 2014 01:52PM
The previous posters have great advice about shakeout trips and itineraries. For equipment, the lighter you go, the more expensive so consider the tradeoffs. Is $200 worth saving an extra pound of tent weight? (or sleeping bag). Need extra room in the sleeping bag? A thicker pad for comfort? Is a small tent ok, or is more space needed if you need to wait out a storm? Sometimes you won't know what is important to you until you try it out.

Rentals, if available, are a great way to try out equipment to figure out what is important for your needs/budget. If you decide that you enjoy the experience and are ready to buy, the best quality that you afford is a great investment. Some posters are extremely passionate about their gear choices if you have something specific that you are considering.

Just came back from a trip up Half Dome/Cloud's Rest region with my 15 yr old (will post a trail report shortly) and can offer some thoughts from my son's viewpoint.

- Going up the Mist Trail (at lower altitude) with a full pack is easier than climbing the side of Cloud's Rest with no pack. The altitude difference is 5,000 ft vs 9,000 ft.
- Where you sleep the first night makes a huge difference. After a couple of trips, my son would rather sleep at 7000 ft or lower and climb hard to go higher than drive up and sleep at 9,000 ft. (on the first day)
- Unless Dad carries the water, avoid dry camping.
- "I will carry more weight so my Dad can get a better night's sleep"
- Having cell coverage in the wild is great, but is not worth carrying the charger for.
- Chocolate is good, but caramel gets stuck in the braces.
- Throwing the bear canister at the bear is better than throwing a stick at it, but it's better to take the Pringles out first.

Have fun!
Re: First Backpacking Trip
April 27, 2014 09:16AM
Mosquitoes in late June, 2012, at Young Lakes...and we camped in dry area a good 500 ft from the water. They weren't bad at all at TM, but I think we must have hit the peak hatch at 10,000 ft. It's probably not worth entirely planning your trip around mosquitoes since they vary year to year and by elevation at any given time.

Bloodsuckers waiting for us to leave the tent.




Beautiful area though. And great opportunity for a day hike up Mt Conness...

Re: First Backpacking Trip
April 27, 2014 11:42AM
San Gorgonio is a lot closer than Yosemite. May be worth your time checking out the backpacking opportunities there.
avatar Re: First Backpacking Trip
April 27, 2014 12:45PM
Quote
KC
San Gorgonio is a lot closer than Yosemite. May be worth your time checking out the backpacking opportunities there.

Or San Jacinto.
Re: First Backpacking Trip
April 27, 2014 07:28PM
All of this advice has been much appreciated. I can't wait to get out there! First trip will likely be San Jacinto overnighter in early June. We will rent the gear and see how it goes.
Re: First Backpacking Trip
April 30, 2014 10:21PM
Definitely agree with the shake down trip closer to home. It has been said that "the weight of your pack is equal to the sum of your fears". Aside from buying as light of equipment as you can find (which gets expensive quickly), the only "cure" I've found for the weight problem is fresh memories of carrying a pack with WAY to much weight. That really helps to ease the decision to leave out extra clothes, superfluous equipment, luxury items, "nervous" items, etc. After your shake down trip, you will have a new perspective on what you can live without.

As an aside, I remember my first big Yosemite backpacking trip. Some guys in the parking lot in TM said "those are some monster packs!" and asked if they could take pictures of us... Don't be me!
Re: First Backpacking Trip
May 01, 2014 08:03AM
Not sure if this is an easily answered question due to all the variables, but what would be a realistic pack weight for someone 125lbs?
avatar Re: First Backpacking Trip
May 01, 2014 09:57AM
For food, if you like food with seasoning try Packit Gourmet. They made my wife's first backpacking trip very memorable. She is picky about food and loved theirs. We tried several at home first and then ordered from them without worry. smiling smiley

As for pack weight, anything over 30 lbs is too much. Being closer to 20 or under would be better. But, as always, it depends. As was already said, taking too many clothes is typical of most first timers. You only need one change of clothes. My wife took too many clothes, but she found some really light clothes. Her clothes weighted less than mine. smiling smiley Only have a change of clothes and what you are wearing. And a windbreaker or other light jacket. You should be able to find one for less than a pound. We just used whatever we had in the closet and they were only 10 oz each. BTW, thrift stores can be a great source for backpacking clothes.

The next problem for first timers is WAY too much food. We did this on my wife's first time and I cut out half of the snacks! The idea that you can't run to the store typically bothers most people when planning. Add up the calories. You (at 125 lbs) probably don't need more than 2k calories per day. If you have 4k you have way too much. The shakeout trip will help you understand how much you really need.

Post a list of what gear you plan to take on here. I'm sure all of us would be happy to comment on it. winking smiley
Re: First Backpacking Trip
May 01, 2014 11:03AM
If we're talking food, I can heartily recommend mac'n cheese with a sprinkling of Katmandhu curry for taste. bars of chocolate that come in squares can be rationed easier than snickers for example. hydration is most important: 1pint of water weighs approx. 1LB. add the weight of communal equipment (tent, stove, gas) and divide by two. if it's only a 2 or 3 day trip, consider only taking two of the obvious: and socks for comfort if one pair get wet. thin thermal gloves are a boon when lighting a stove on a cold morning. one small personal alarm may be more practical than a holstered heavy bear spray. an empty bear canister weighs 2LB 12oz. BUT: a half size see through type comes in at a little less.
oh, and don't forget to weigh your rucksack empty before you begin.
Tally Ho!!
Woman swimming
avatar Re: First Backpacking Trip
May 01, 2014 12:19PM
Quote
pines
bars of chocolate

I don't carry chocolate unless it's candy-coated. Else it's a real mess when it melts.
Re: First Backpacking Trip
May 01, 2014 12:32PM
if it melts~ dunk it in a stream~ it'll soon learn not to! Head roll
avatar Re: First Backpacking Trip
May 01, 2014 12:33PM
BTW, get your bear canister here:

http://www.wild-ideas.net/rent-a-bearikade/

The Weekender is 31 oz (lass that 2 lbs) and the Expedition is only 36 oz. You really should be able to fit your food in a weekender.
Re: First Backpacking Trip
May 04, 2014 07:21PM
Shaunsmomo: You sound a lot like me. So I think my experience would give some insight. Last summer, my daughter, 20, and I, 50-something, did our first backpacking trip from Agnew Meadows to Tuolumne. I am not an experienced backpacker. My one and only backpacking trip was when I was in my twenties and I said "never again!". But over the course of years, I did day hikes in Tuolumne, usually staying at Tuolumne Meadows Lodge. I then ventured into the High Sierra Camps and absolutely loved them. In the previous three years, I've 'done' all the camps and the entire High Sierra Loop and the Merced River Canyon. So that led me into thinking farther afield. I started thinking John Muir Trail!

I got out the 30 year old backpack and the 30 year old sleeping bags. I bought a new 2 man tent, a Big Agnes Jackrabbit. I bought a bear canister. I bought a sleeping pad at Walmart. (The point was I didn't want to spend really big dollars, if once again, I didn't like backpacking). But before I did the John Muir Trail, I did a shake down cruise with all the stuff and did a segment of the High Sierra Camp loop again. The previous posters were right on when they said, the weight is everything. Doing the High Sierra Camps with a day pack with water, snacks and clothes is a lot different than doing it with tent, bear canister, sleeping bag, etc. But I did it. (My daughter is 20. She had no trouble doing her first backpacking trip without any practice whatsoever. 20 is 20.) She had done part of the High Sierra Camps loop previously.

So now I thought I was ready. We (my daughter, my sister and her husband and I) did Agnew Meadows to Tuolumne in 4 days, three nights. First night, Garnet Lake. Second night, near the Marie Lakes junction. Third night, at the Lyell Fork bridge. We had parked our second car at the Wilderness permit station in Tuolumne. It was still the hardest physical thing I'd ever done. (As you can see the second day and the third day, we may have done only 5 or 6 miles).

I'd second the comments on newbie mistakes. I brought too many clothes. Two jackets (not necessary). What was necessary was a clean pair of socks for each day. We also brought too much food. At that altitude, I just was not hungry. We brought so much food home. Coffee, oatmeal (breakfast). Snacks and tortillas (lunch). One Mountain House to share with daughter and hot chocolate (dinner). That's all we really needed.

The only redundant sytems we had among the four of us that we needed were (1) water purifiers (brother in laws filter clogged) and (2) matches. The striker on my waterproof matches crapped out on the last day. (I'd 'lightened' my load by leaving the BIC long handled lighter at home).

Shaunsmomo: Since you seem more accustomed to the valley, I'd advise a fully loaded one night backpack at altitude before attempting that section of the JMT.

But: Agnew to Tuolumne has some of the best scenery anywhere. It was a great experience for my daughter and me. An unforgettable trip. Lakes, waterfalls, wildflowers, marmots, deer, John Muir's water ouzels, and a real sense of accomplishment after doing it. There were lots of women on the trail and they were not all skinny minnies or young things, either. I met several middle aged women doing the entire JMT (or at least planning to do the entire trail).

So plan wisely, but go for it!
avatar Re: First Backpacking Trip
May 04, 2014 08:43PM
Quote
Mom
That's all we really needed.

You'll find "weight" repeated in this thread, but what hasn't been explicitly said: Weigh everything. Get a scale that can weigh each item you bring, up to maybe 10 pounds with 1-ounce increments. Digital is probably better, but I use an analog kitchen scale. Record each weight in a spreadsheet. When you get back, weigh the consumables (e.g., food, white gas). You'll know what to do next.

Quote
Mom
The striker on my waterproof matches crapped out on the last day. (I'd 'lightened' my load by leaving the BIC long handled lighter at home).

I bring a cheap Bic lighter, matches for backup. It's lasted years so far.
Re: First Backpacking Trip
May 05, 2014 07:51AM
Thank you so much for sharing your experience! You two do sound much like my daughter and I. When I first came up with what my husband calls my "suicide mission" (note - he is not a camper or hiker and thinks a hotel without room service is really roughing it) I was naive enough to think we could just pack some stuff and start walking. Heck, anyone can do that right??? After all the wonderful comments I have received I am now putting more planning and research into this adventure and will definitely heed all this good advice.
Re: First Backpacking Trip
May 05, 2014 08:10AM
The research and planning is half the fun. Checking out all the different foods, weighing everything (and ditching tons of things!) and learning how to pack a bear can efficiently are all part of the process. The reward is a stellar trip and a huge accomplishment! Good luck and I hope you do a trail report to this forum with lots of pictures!!
Re: First Backpacking Trip
May 06, 2014 12:35PM
re: mosquitoes: cover up with tight weaves.. Nylon hiking pants and a sun shirt, possibly spritzed with permethrin (the shirt; no need to spritz the nylon pants) will keep 'em from biting. A head net is crucial. I wear sun grubbies on my hands; spritzed with deet they keep the skeeters from biting my hands. So essentially I'm 100% covered up and it makes things SO much better.
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