Leaving the heavy stuff behind for the summit

5:32 p.m. on July 10, 2009 (EDT)
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For those backpackers that summit peaks after staying the night in the backcountry. What do you do with all the gear you don't need when you're ready to summit the next day? I like to break down my camp and pack it all in my large pack, then use a smaller pack to summit the peak. Do I hide my large pack and leave a marker, so it doesn't get stolen? What's the common method for this?

7:38 p.m. on July 10, 2009 (EDT)
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Most people in the backcountry are pretty honest. You might have to worry about your car at the trailhead (some trailheads are pretty notorious in your home state of Colorado), but in most backcountry areas you mainly have to worry about critters (marmots and raccoons especially, but also mice and in some areas bears). Consider this - if you had to carry all that gear into the backcountry, someone stealing it would have to carry out not only that heavy pack of yours, but all their gear as well.

In 6 decades of backcountry travel, I have never lost anything to anyone, even leaving the pack propped against a tree in plain sight. I have lost food to critters, though (thieving marmots! mice who get through the tiniest of holes into the food!). But I have seen cars broken into at trailheads and know people who have lost stuff from organized campgrounds in National Parks.

And many areas for peak bagging are popular enough that there are people around camp (maybe even in your own party) who will be keeping an eye out for someone rifling through packs.

That said, if you follow Leave No Trace Principles (which you should), you will be camped off the trail by 100-200 feet, hence out of sight of casual passersby. It is pretty easy in most places to put your pack out of sight of even someone casually coming within 10 or 20 feet unless they are searching hard. Another reason for "earth toned" packs instead of the recent fad of bright yellow/orange/red/blue

7:40 p.m. on July 10, 2009 (EDT)
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Very good question!

I do this quite often but I do not consider myself a mountaineer really. Mostly I backpack into a spot where I can set up camp and get rested, then go for dayhikes to various places. Sometimes I go off fishing, or hike to a waterfall, or travel to a bald or peak.

All I can offer is my own experiences and what works for me.

I generally do not break camp for a dayhike, but I do try to camp in remote areas and blend in. That is my choice, I have heard others say to use bright colored tents to make S&R easier.

Occasionally I do break camp and do hide my pack in an area with a prominent terrain feature visible from the main trail. A good example may be near a small stream that crosses the trail, or the intersection of two trails, or near a trail mileage marker, etc. I mentally record the direction and number of paces to my pack.

In all honesty it is not a perfect system, I have had to scratch my head a couple times before. Setting a waypoint with your GPSR would be more accurate, but I enjoy the mental challenge of doing it the hard way I guess. You know...what would Daniel Boone do?

For hikes away from camp, or for certain dayhikes for that matter, I always carry a smaller pack containing the Ten Essentials, just in case I get hurt or lost. Currently I use the detachable lid of my backpack for this, it turns into a lumbar pack.

As far as leaving a marker, I do leave a marker when I can't find a terrain marker. Sometimes I flag a branch with orange ribbon, I like to tie it so that I'm sure it's mine. I try not to do that because I'm scared someone else might get confused on the trail, although they should be following the blazes on blazed trails.

If you're with a group, it seems that there's often someone willing to stay in camp for one reason or another.

Shame we have to worry about theft isn't it!

4:07 p.m. on July 13, 2009 (EDT)
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On an upcoming week long trip, I am taking an REI flash - it has a hydration pocket and straps, but can be used as a stuff sack for most sleeping bags. Both my down quilts fit inside it.

I pack up my hammock, quilts and tarp, stash it in my pack, and zip it up in a friend's tent when we are in Yosemite within 10-15 miles of any trailhead, if we happen to dayhike from camp. My gear tends to pack down small and light, which is good for me but it's unique enough that it catches the eye. I'm more worried about stolen gear in Yosemite than anywhere else. The rangers are taking to carrying tasers AND guns - spoke to one hiking through the Ten Lakes basin last weekend and he looked like a traveling arsenal.

6:15 p.m. on July 13, 2009 (EDT)
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NQT -

Well, "within 10-15 miles" of a trailhead in Yosemite, even off trail, is "Front Country". However, there is more problem there with bears breaking into cars than people (when you leave "attractive" stuff visible). Things disappear in the climbers' camp, too, and sometimes gear folks have carried to the base of a climb the night before to get an early start. One would hope climbers, at least, would be more honest. But there are a few bad apples in every lot. Luckily, in most of the backcountry, such folks are few and far between, plus things are too heavy to add to the pack needed to get out there in the first place.

7:31 p.m. on July 13, 2009 (EDT)
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I agree, most people who hike in, are honest.

Thieves tend to be lazy, at least the most common type of thief that is, they will search out easy targets at trail heads sometimes. I doubt that they go for long hikes just in case they might find something valuable.

There are a few places that I have been to that are pocket wildernesses with trails that wander in seemingly remote areas, but in reality you are only a little way from some homes on top of the mountain. I have occasionaly encountered some of the locals following creeks down the mountain to get to a trail. Most were very nice and helpful, a couple worried me.

I don't worry about it too much, such is life.

12:31 a.m. on July 14, 2009 (EDT)
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NQT -

Well, "within 10-15 miles" of a trailhead in Yosemite, even off trail, is "Front Country". However, there is more problem there with bears breaking into cars than people (when you leave "attractive" stuff visible). Things disappear in the climbers' camp, too, and sometimes gear folks have carried to the base of a climb the night before to get an early start. One would hope climbers, at least, would be more honest. But there are a few bad apples in every lot. Luckily, in most of the backcountry, such folks are few and far between, plus things are too heavy to add to the pack needed to get out there in the first place.

Perhaps it is still 'front country' but one must pass through it on the way to the wilderness...

I would hope everyone would be more honest than they apparently are. Most of the backpackers I've met have seemed to be good folk. I know not to assume tho.

Rangers in Yosemite carry tasers now. For the people, they say.... people are going out in the backcountry to plant pot, and the rangers look like policemen with a sidearm and taser. I love Yosemite and want to explore more of it, so I do, but I keep an eye out for those leaves so I can go the other way in a hurry....

5:38 a.m. on July 14, 2009 (EDT)
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One thing to think about is critters. A red squirrel can do a pretty good job on a pack if it smells something good in there. In NZ I had the outside pocket of a pack shredded by a kea, and in Aus a smart wallaby opened all the zipper pockets on my pack. Hang or stash your food separately!

7:30 p.m. on July 14, 2009 (EDT)
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Thanks for the reassurances guys. I knew a hike in the backcountry would help keep thieves away, but it never occurred to me that they would have to haul out what they stole. Glad to hear you fellas have had no incidences as well. Oh and by the way, yes I always keep food separate from my pack at camp. I value my gear too much to have it chewed up!!

2:06 a.m. on July 21, 2009 (EDT)
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I used to be a climbing guide. On summit day, day packs are used. A small day pack would have no frame and can be used to put your sleeping bag in, instead of a stuff sack on the approach hike to the mountain. You can also use the main expedition pack that can be compressed for a smaller load.
Depending on the mountain and the distance to the summit the team leader or guide may want to carry a First aid kit, sleeping bag and stove, the ten essentials and a radio and rescue gear for the summit push.

3:28 a.m. on July 21, 2009 (EDT)
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Ha, the kea story brings back memories. Hearing one of those things scream at night will wake the dead. (For those who don't know, a kea is a mountain parrot about the size of a small dog.) They will tear up anything. A friend of mine saw a car at a trailhead at Arthur's Pass he thought had been vandalized until he took a closer look. A couple of keas had pulled out the rubber seal on the windscreen, pushed it into the car, climbed in and had a field day tearing up the seats and whatever else was in it.

I left a fully loaded pack alongside Glacier Point Road in Yosemite a couple of winters ago (long story), but it was still there when I went back for it the next day. I've left gear and my tent alone for a day or two in NZ in various parks with no problem, but not sure I'd do that here in a busy campground.

8:03 p.m. on July 21, 2009 (EDT)
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How about that, I did not know what a Kea was so I learned something interesting. One reason I like Trailspace.

Yeah, critters can at times wreak a lot of havoc. At least when an animal does it there is no malicious intent, or is there? HaHa

9:13 p.m. on July 21, 2009 (EDT)
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Yes! Critters can be a handful sometimes! It seems like they come when You least expect them!

1:43 p.m. on July 22, 2009 (EDT)
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For those backpackers that summit peaks after staying the night in the backcountry. What do you do with all the gear you don't need when you're ready to summit the next day? I like to break down my camp and pack it all in my large pack, then use a smaller pack to summit the peak. Do I hide my large pack and leave a marker, so it doesn't get stolen? What's the common method for this?

While my peak-bagging it limited to say the least, I am more worried about my auto at the trailhead than my gear on (or slightly off) the trail. While peak-bagging the next three weeks, I plan on leaving my large pack near the trail with a small marker that I can remove when finished. I'll take my camelback with some essentials to summit, and return for my large pack later. I am more trusting of my fellow hikers in the backcountry because hay, we're all in this situation together. Hopefully the golden rule "rules" in the woods.

August 30, 2014
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