Backpacking in Baby Steps

10:15 p.m. on July 15, 2013 (EDT)
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Alright, folks.

Have my first solo camping trip planned for the beginning of August. I've always gone with a group, or at least with a partner, and this marks my first time going it alone. I'm not at all hesitant about my skills or safety, and am - more than anything - relieved to only have to bring half my gear with me, at most. But why even bring that much? I'm thinking this is as good a time as any to start working my way into backpacking.

My goal, someday, and somehow, is to backpack the entirety of the AT, but for now, I'd like to work my way toward backpacking in baby steps, so to speak.

I've got a solid tent. My TNF Arcus 23 (after ditching the stuff sacks) is a solid, lightweight backpacking tent. Check out my review to see how much punch this tent packs.

However, my Marmot Trestles 15-degree (and long, yet worse) sleeping bag isn't backpacking-worthy. It compresses down to backpack-size and is much too heavy for me to even consider it for backpacking.

And I don't own a pack, yet. I carry my gear in an oversized REI duffel because car camping lets me get away with it. 

My questions for y'all:

If I only do 3-season backpacking, how much a temp rating do I need for my bag? What is the most affordable and packable option? I

What is the best entry-level pack for the money? This upcoming trip has me going solo, and if it does, I thought I might as well get myself adjusted to carrying my gear on my own back. I don't plan on carrying more than three days'-worth of gear, here, so the simpler, the better.

Looking forward to hearing back from y'all, friends, and will be sure to draft my first trip report from this inaugural solo trip!

1:19 a.m. on July 16, 2013 (EDT)
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I would get sleeping bag thats Rated to 20 degrees.If you want to spend a little bit not alot. I would look at the Kelty Cosmic its rated to 20 degrees and comes in long. Its a great starter bag.Only weighs 2 lbs 12oz. For packs I would get measured at an REI or a Local gear shop..They measure your torso so they know the pack will fit you..I would suggest a Ospry pack alot of people on here have written some good reviews and stand by them..I use lighter gear personally.I hope this gives you an idea to start..

7:05 a.m. on July 16, 2013 (EDT)
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+1 on the Kelty Cosmic bags, they are a great budget bag. As for the temp rating you buy that depends on your local weather. What are the expected temps in your area for spring-fall? For me that means a 15F bag, for you it may be a 32F bag. If you plan to only go late spring-early fall then you can get by with warmer. But that all said a 20F bag or so should do you fine, there are ways to boost a bags warmth if it comes down to it in the future.

For packs, i recommend the Kelty Coyote for a budget pack to start with. Its an all around solid pack, but much much less expensive than any other options out there. You can routinely get them for around $100.

7:12 a.m. on July 16, 2013 (EDT)
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Your current bag packs down to 10.5x19(27L), which is fairly large, but not unbearable. Should still leave plenty of room in a starter pack like the Coyote.

A kelty cosmic down 20 would pack to 8x14 (11.5L), so as you can see much smaller.

 

9:06 a.m. on July 16, 2013 (EDT)
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 "I've always gone with a group, or at least with a partner, and this marks my first time going it alone. I'm not at all hesitant about my skills or safety, and am - more than anything - relieved to only have to bring half my gear with me, at most."

Just a question, but how did you manage to go out into the bush with a group or a partner without owning a backpack? Or have you only been car-camping in the past?

If that's the case, it would be wise to be less complacent about your backpacking skills and especially your safety. It takes a lot of time to acquire the knowledge and experience to make sure you know what you're doing when you're far from any help.  

9:13 a.m. on July 16, 2013 (EDT)
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If you are looking for a true 3 season bag I'd go warmer than you might be tempted.  You may be sleeping on top of it during high Summer but you'll be glad for it on shoulder season trips.


I'm also a fan of Osprey packs (other than their side pocket netting material heh).  I like their compartment layout and they have lots of compression options so I can avoid being too lumpy 8p  You can often find older stock for good prices online so long as you aren't picky about color and their adjustment system makes it pretty easy to fit yourself at home.  Definitely try some on at a store though to make sure your body isn't really against their fit. 

Don't spend all your money now ;)  Once you are sure you are hooked you'll need more for upgrades hehe.

9:24 a.m. on July 16, 2013 (EDT)
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Should have added a little more clarity, Peter:

I'm not looking to go out and march miles into the wilderness right away. In the past, yep, it's been car camping for me. I'm looking to transition my gear before I transition anything else. Since I'm making this upcoming camping trip by myself, I only need to bring enough gear for myself, and I'm trying to use this as the impetus into backpacking. In simple terms, it's much easier to carry only one tent/sleeping bag/etc in a backpack than to lug two-people's-worth of gear in an oversized and unwieldy duffel bag.

10:08 a.m. on July 16, 2013 (EDT)
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Car camping but day hiking with your full pack is not a bad way to get started.  You can get a feel for what it takes to hike under a load which is very very different than just hiking.

Solo is very different than going with others though so do keep safety a primary concern.  Well it should be even in groups, but dieing alone makes it much harder for the poor rangers to recover your body.   With a group at least they have an idea where to find you 8P 

Really, be safe, its worth the effort!!

10:38 a.m. on July 16, 2013 (EDT)
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Good comments here....

HornRimmedHiker, you've got a great approach to take small steps.

I would like to echo Peter and LoneStranger's cautionary comments regarding skills and safety. There is certainly a difference in safety preparations between car camping and backcountry trekking.

Experienced backpackers often get nervous and see a big red flag when they see comments like "I'm not hesitant about my skills or safety"; I say that you should be; I am and I've been roaming the backcountry for years! 

You'll probably get some more reaction from that sentence.

Be safe and have fun!

 

 

11:14 a.m. on July 16, 2013 (EDT)
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Concern folds into caring, and that usually means mindfulness and planning for whatever may come my way. Y'all can rest assured I'll be doing this in small steps. 

Thinking about focusing on using "primitive" campsites that require a hike in, and lack the usual amenities of water and electricity, and working my way up from there.

11:28 a.m. on July 16, 2013 (EDT)
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I, too, am very concerned about the 'safety or skills' comment. 

People like Patman have gear they know they can count on, tested and used in every possible circumstance. 

By comparison, I notice that the review of your North Face tent covers just one night in your backyard in Chicago, in warm temperatures, with no rain.

"I did actually spend an overnight in this tent. It was a warm summer night, here in Chicago, but the forecast had the temperature dropping overnight from the high 70's into the mid 50's. That said, I figured that was as good a night as any to see how this tent would hold up."

Nothing wrong with that, but can you be so certain that it will keep you dry and warm in an unexpected snowstorm, or a week of heavy rain? 

If the solo trip you're talking about is just another car-camping trip, and not a backcountry overnighter at some isolated campsite, that's a good 'baby step'. If you head out for a week in the bush without being sure of all your equipment, though, you're just asking for trouble. 

12:08 p.m. on July 16, 2013 (EDT)
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Apologies if I accidentally offended anyone, here, Peter. Specificity is something I'll be sure to include more of in my future posts.

I'm not going all "Into the Wild" on y'all, don't you worry.

Like I've mentioned, my primary goal right now is to acquire a starter pack and a smaller-profile sleeping bag so I've the ABILITY to backpack.

Practically speaking, if I'm going to only be carrying gear for one person - myself - it makes sense to make it as portable and easy to carry as possible.

My aim? I'm only looking to go on 3-season overnights. Nothing colder. Nothing longer.

The upcoming trip is a solo car camping trip.

I'm planning to follow it up with a trip with a "primitive" campsite that I'll have to hike to, and be without campsite-provided water or electricity.

After that, I'll begin thinking about an overnight in the backcountry.

We all have to start someplace, gentleman (and ladies, too). If you're willing to provide suggestions as to how best make this transition, please do, and that would be what I'd find most helpful. 

12:39 p.m. on July 16, 2013 (EDT)
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I don't think you have offended anyone HRH and like you say everyone has to start somewhere.  You are just seeing concern from folks who know how dangerous things can get out in the wilds and have heard too many stories of what happens when things go wrong for the unprepared.  I think folks just want to make sure you don't jump into the deep end of the pool on your first swim.

Go slow, keep asking questions here or other places folks with experience hang out and you may want to consider finding a trail partner to share your learning experience.  I enjoy both solo and group trips, but extra hands, eyes and brains can be good whether you are learning the ropes or consider yourself an expert.  Sometimes, if you have good partners, they bring cookies too ;)

12:59 p.m. on July 16, 2013 (EDT)
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Much appreciated, LoneStranger.

I've never been a man to turn down a good batch of cookies.

You've got my interest!

Mostly, my questions for y'all are along the lines of:

How was your first solo backpacking trip?

How far from home did you go and for how long?

Anything you brought you didn't need?

Anything you forgot that you did?

Any skills you wished you learned prior, or skills you learned that were influenced by your trip?

2:47 p.m. on July 16, 2013 (EDT)
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LoneStranger said:

...You are just seeing concern from folks who know how dangerous things can get out in the wilds.

Exactly. No offense intended or taken. For an example, review my TRs for one about a dayhike to Sunset Pass. It's a good example of what can go wrong. 

http://www.trailspace.com/forums/trip-reports/topics/135128.html

 It's different in easier terrain, but in the Rockies, I always go with someone else, whether a friend, a group, or a client or two.

3:39 p.m. on July 16, 2013 (EDT)
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Wow, I don't recall seeing that report Peter1955.  It really points out the awful truth in my earlier joke about going with others means someone knows where the body is.  Hopefully the fall killed him and not a day or two of exposure.

When hiking alone I often remind myself that not only can a person get killed if they make a misstep but it may not be a quick and merciful death.  Still, it beats having a heart attack in front of the TV on a cheeto stained couch ;)

Oh and HRH my lawyer insists that I make it clear my previous post was not a binding offer to share my cookies.  I was simply suggesting that a good trail partner might do so.

4:15 p.m. on July 16, 2013 (EDT)
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Duly noted, Peter.

I'm a Midwestern boy, so it's highly unlikely I'll be going anyplace with elevation to it (especially here in Illinois) and I wouldn't go out of my way to place myself in the middle of a challenge I wasn't prepared or trained for.

Looking to make my first solo [car] camping trip to Mississippi Palisades SP the first weekend in August, where I'll be able to put that TNF Arcus 23 tent to the test (at least moreso than I'm able to in the backyard).

It's a legitimate SP campground (I've your typical tent non-electric site booked) and I'm not too far from the check-in point, there, so at least someone will have an eye on me.

Hoping to start writing TR's once I've a little more time - I've a lot of them to catch up on (my last gig had me in the middle of the Nantahala Nat'l Forest in N. Carolina).

4:23 p.m. on July 16, 2013 (EDT)
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I got use to being by myself by pitching my tent in the backyard to get use to haveing noone around.My first solo was testing my gear for a AT thru hike.I went 10 mins away to the AT and tested my gear over 5 weekends. I think what you have planned is a great start. I have to second on the Kelty Coyote that Rambler mentioned. I used a Kelty for 6 yrs of Backpacking and its a great starter pack and affordable..I use to do group and partners for 15 yrs of backpacking. Now I go solo..

5:16 p.m. on July 16, 2013 (EDT)
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If you bring food and water, and know how to set up your tent then chances are you will be fine. Its just walking and car camping without the car =P.

Seriously though, alot of people like to make it sound like your going to the moon for a first backpacking trip. By all means take it slow and easy for the first time if your uncomfortable with the whole concept. Walk in a mile or so from your car and set up camp, so if something goes amis your just a short walk from the car.

I wouldn't recommend trying to hike 15 miles into a remote wilderness area solo without telling anyone where you are going for your first trip, but hiking in a couple miles to a established campsite is not really a dangerous endeavor provided you bring the items below and tell someone where you are going and when to expect you back.

If you have these bases covered, and know how to use them then you can go on any trip you want.

Shelter

Pack

Sleeping Bag

Sleeping Pad

Food

Water

Camp Stove

Cook kit/pot

Rain jacket

Warm Clothes

Basic first aid /repair kit

Map and compass

Just practice with your equipment, specifically your shelter and camp stove. Know how to use them, and how to set them up. And how to troubleshoot items like your stove if it isn't working correctly. Practice at home until you are very confident with them.

You can certainly carry more gear that what i mentioned above, but those items are the essentials. You can expand from that or keep it simple with just those.

If you have an REI near you they have some great classes, some of which are free for beginning backpackers. I recommend taking a map and compass course at a minimum.

You need to have a reasonable idea of what the weather will be, and what the expected temperatures will be. You need to bring clothing, shelter, and sleeping bag appropiate for those conditions. Additionally you need to know where you are going and have a map of the area, and a compass. You can bring a gps if you want, but a map and compass are always a required item.

If your prepared for the weather, the expected temperatures, able to feed yourself, able to provide water for yourself, and able to find your way to your destination and back to your car you will be fine. Obviously don't take any unnesary risks like leaping off of rocks and logs etc, don't try to free climb a rock wall.

5:21 p.m. on July 16, 2013 (EDT)
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The old tried and trued method of going to REI and trying a bunch of packs with simulated weights/items inside the pack and walking around has always worked when picking the right backpack.  I would go comfort/suspension over weight when picking a good starter pack.  A backpack with good suspension and weight distribution may be more comfortable than the frameles UL cuben fiber backpack that requires more intricate/experienced packing in order to reach the desired comfort.  I tried my friend's Arcteryrx Altra 65 not too long ago and was amazed by the suspension technology and weight distribution.  It weighed in at a whopping 5 pounds, but the suspension will actually move with you as you hiked.  While 5 pounds would be too heavy for me as a go to backpack, for my buddy, it was perfect.  It is WAY too expensive though.. I believe the retail price is at an astounding 450 bucks!  He bought his through Steep and Cheap at 250.. which is still ALOT of money for a backpack.  Furthermore, the backpack you choose will depend on your pack list.  I not an UL or lightweight backpacker by any means and love my luxury items.  The bag should be able to fit your 10 essential items with a few luxury things (book, extra lantern, etc.)

Depending on your conditions, go with a down sleeping bag.  The comfort of a down bag trumps a synthetic anyday.  I REALLY would like to buy the Enlightened Equipment Revelation X Down Quilt, in which a 10 Degree quilt may be had at as low as 220 bucks!  For warmer conditions, the 40 degree is 175!!!  Plus, you're buying from a small company instead of from a Big Box store.  However, I noticed you're in the midwest where spontaneous weather is more of a concern than say a person like myself here in California.  I've heard down is a pain in the you know what to dry, so a synthetic might be the way to go as they dry faster.

I like your plan of starting your backpacking trips to primitive hike-in sights.  There are plenty out here near Los Angeles and although you don't get the true "wilderness" experience, the presence of people and groups may be extremely helpful in difficult situations.  In the Angeles Forest, the hike-in trail camps are usually filled with Boy Scout Troops and their accompanying parents.  Everyone I've met at these camps have always been extremely nice and friendly.  So of course, the trade off is that you definitely won't be alone.. but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

If you have the time.. maybe a reconnaissance mission starting with a day hike to your planned destination, followed by a future overnight may be in order?  Furthermore, I'll echo others suggestions in regards to finding a hiking buddy with previous backcountry experience.  Being able to learn from someone with experience is invaluable! 

I'm by no means as experienced as the members within this online community, but those are my 2 cents.  Feel free to send me a message if you have any other questions!

11:13 p.m. on July 16, 2013 (EDT)
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Really pleasantly surprised at all the feedback I've gotten on this post, and - before anything else - thanks to all y'all who pitched to help.

The Kelty Coyote seems like the biggest bang for the buck. I'm an REI member, so I'll have to drop by the store and have myself measured/fitted for one and try one on, there. I've made the mistake once of buying something I hadn't first tested. I'll never make it again, especially on something as important as a pack.

Interesting [sleeping] bag suggestions. My Marmot Trestles 15-degree will fit into a pack, but it's almost overkill, especially when the bulk of my camping is done between late spring and early fall. More than anything else, I want to find something that can PACK SMALL. If I can find a smaller sleeping bag, I may be able to carry a smaller pack. Sure, 100L will fit everything and the kitchen sink, but I'd like to make things easier on myself whenever possible.

And, yes, weather here in IL can turn on a dime, so to speak. Synthetic-fill bags are probably better for both weather-resistance and my price range.

For my first solo [car] camping trip:

I'm going to bring the essentials TheRambler mentioned and nothing more. Yes, I will have my car with me, and yes, it'll parked at the site, but I'd like to start getting myself used to a limited gear list. If it's not something that would fit in a pack, it's not coming with. 

For my second trip:

I'll find a campground with primitive sites where I'll have to hike in and provide my own water. This will help familiarize myself with carrying weight over a distance, even if it be a small one, as well as having to work with only what I've packed. Moreover, without campground-provided electricity or water (or maybe even toilets), I'll be left to my own devices and can develop my skills in a safe environment. 

Both the aforementioned still would be in campgrounds with other campers and resources nearby, just in case they were needed. It's a built-in safety net. One I hopefully won't need to use, but it'll be there.

May take you up on your offer and drop you a line via private message, macchiolives. Much as everyone's helpful here, there's only so much to be asked and the rest comes down to taking the initiative to do my own research and having my own, formative experiences. At the very least, Steep and Cheap sounds like something I need to familiarize myself with!

1:10 a.m. on July 17, 2013 (EDT)
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if you have an REI near to you, go and try out the coyote and check out the kelty bag. REI also make some bags and packs of their own brand that are pretty good as well, and a good option. they also make their own tents, in case yours turns out to be a leaker. set your tent up at home and give it the hose test. if you find puddles of water inside after a good hose down, it's time to look at another tent. I would also recommend you go with a canister stove as a starting point. they are easy to setup and use, and the snowpeak gigapower 100 is a good stove for the money. I would go +1 on rambler's suggestions as to the basics.

11:14 a.m. on July 17, 2013 (EDT)
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Hey, Trailjester. Hitting up the 'ol brick-and-mortar store seems to be the best way to go.

Tent's aced the lawn sprinkler test, and those things are full-on and relentless for a half-hour. Looks to shed water just fine.

Already have a set of MSR SuperFly stoves I like using - probably take just one and use a smaller can of IsoPro. Now, are dehydrated and freeze-dried meals really as weight-saving as they're made to be? Having to pack along the water makes me think, at the end of the day, the weight winds up being negligible. 

12:09 p.m. on July 17, 2013 (EDT)
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HornRimmedHiker said:

Now, are dehydrated and freeze-dried meals really as weight-saving as they're made to be? Having to pack along the water makes me think, at the end of the day, the weight winds up being negligible. 

 If you are packing in all of your water you have a point, but depending on where you go you may have water sources along the trail.  Where I go avoiding water is usually a lot harder than finding it ;)  A water filter of some sort or treatment is a probably a lot more than just a good idea.  I won't go w/o one myself.

With that in mind, on longer trips dried food is definitely a weight saver and can be a space saver if packed well.  Lots of options commercially in terms of individual meals or you can carry bulk ingredients and make a one pot meal from them if you like to cook. Browse through the Camp Kitchen forum to see some previous discussions on food, gear, etc if you have some time.

Personally I use Mountain House for breakfast because eggs are too hard to dehydrate and make my own individual bagged dinners with a home dehydrator, but like I say, there are a lot of options out there depending on how much you want to spend and how fancy your tastes are.

1:20 p.m. on July 17, 2013 (EDT)
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HornRimmedHiker said:

Hey, Trailjester. Hitting up the 'ol brick-and-mortar store seems to be the best way to go.

Tent's aced the lawn sprinkler test, and those things are full-on and relentless for a half-hour. Looks to shed water just fine.

Already have a set of MSR SuperFly stoves I like using - probably take just one and use a smaller can of IsoPro. Now, are dehydrated and freeze-dried meals really as weight-saving as they're made to be? Having to pack along the water makes me think, at the end of the day, the weight winds up being negligible. 

 I use WWW.Packitgourmet.com and WWW.BackpackersPantry.com and WWW.MountainHouse.com when I order Backpacking food.. 

4:11 p.m. on July 17, 2013 (EDT)
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Pack It Gourmet actually looks like some good eatin'! I was familiar with both BP and MH, but that brand's entirely new to me. I'll have to order a meal and try it out. Looks promising, I'll say that much!

Will be sure to pick up some method of water treatment. Water's too essential an item to mess around, there. There a filtered bladder you'd suggest? Might as well kill two birds with one stone, if I'm able (transport and purification-wise).

Probably going to try dried food on my solo camping trip, just to simplify grocery shopping and cooking (easier to bring a pot to boil water in and a spork to eat with, rather than a full two-person cookset). 

Any meals in particular y'all are fond of?

5:56 p.m. on July 17, 2013 (EDT)
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I'm three generations behind with my water filter so I'll let someone more up to date help you there.  I'm still using an MSR miniworks because a) it works and b) if it doesn't I can fix it on the trail, but it is horribly slow compared to in line gravity and squeeze systems.

You've got the right idea with just bringing your favorite spork and eating out of the bag. No mess to clean up, just zip the bag when done and put in your carryout bag. Really helps to keep food smells down so long as you eat carefully and that helps keep you safe from marauding martins, raccoons and chipmunks ;)

8:03 p.m. on July 17, 2013 (EDT)
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which brings us to another gadget - a bear can. I use a bearikade, it is a carbon fiber tube with aluminum ends glued on. nothing better to outsmart those saavy bears. also good for keeping the critters out of your food and smelly stuff. since you'll have your car for the first round, you won't need one right away, but it's something to put on the list. if you're going into the back country it's something you definitely want to have.

8:33 p.m. on July 17, 2013 (EDT)
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No need to carry water. Look for a stream or a pond. See Bill's extensive study on water treatment.

Be aware that filters take out pretty much everything, but they don't kill viruses. Chemicals kill germs and viruses, but some don't work on cryptosporidium. UV systems kill everything, too, but neither they nor any of the others can eliminate industrial or agricultural contaminants. 

One last point, while the water from a lawn sprinkler is good for soaking a tent, it isn't pressurized. I've been in storms where the velocity of the water is sufficient to blast through most fabrics, including Pertex and other DWR materials. 

9:43 p.m. on July 17, 2013 (EDT)
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I'll check out Bill's write-up on water treatment, and thanks for making me aware of it, Peter. Which leads me to ask...how do you go about filtering your water? I would think being mindful of where it's coming from would help increase the chance of it being safer to drink. I'm sure a lot of my questions will be answered by Bill's post.

Bear can will be something once I've made the transition to being in the middle of the backcountry. For my upcoming trip, the car trunk's going to be my bear can.

Save going out on the trail and actually putting the tent to use, Peter, how else would you test one? I could take a pressure washer to it, but hey, easier to call a trip off - or call it short - than push a piece of gear in the direction of failure for the heck of it. 

I test my gear as much as I'm able to while I'm at home to familiarize myself with it and begin to understand how it will perform. It by no means is meant as a comprehensive assessment, nor should it be mistaken for one. 

Once I've established that base level of understanding and comfort with my gear, and only then, do I take it out with me camping. I've never once purchased a piece of gear without using it at home prior. 

Beyond that? There's no way to truly gauge how it will do until you place it in a real situation and setting.

10:06 p.m. on July 17, 2013 (EDT)
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Don't think he needs a bear canister in IL.

For a cheap and awesome water filter I recommend and use myself, the sawyer squeeze.

Ny favorite MH meals are beef stroganoff, chili Mac (with extra cheddar added), and lasagna with meat sauce. Outside of those I make my own meals or bring something like zatterans, Mac n cheese , knorrs, etc

10:13 p.m. on July 17, 2013 (EDT)
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HornRimmedHiker said:

However, my Marmot Trestles 15-degree (and long, yet worse) sleeping bag isn't backpacking-worthy. It compresses down to backpack-size and is much too heavy for me to even consider it for backpacking.

 I backpacked for years with that very bag. I'd still be using it, except I won a gift card from Trailspace in January and opted to get a down bag. I still am using it for overnight trips or hammock hangs in the woods behind my house. Yeah, it's heavier and bulkier than some other bags, but "baby stepping" means starting with what you have, unless you know it won't work. My recommendation is save your money in this area until you have filled out most of your other gear.

Something I disagree with is the idea that a 15F bag is too much for 3-season camping. I went out for a week in mid-March. In 2012, evening temps didn't drop below 50. On this trip, temps dropped to an unexpected 23F (forecast was mid-40's for lows).

We shared a campsite with another hiker we had met on the trail the day before. He was hauling a 40-degree bag, and the next morning we saw him heading to the trail head to call his wife for an emergency pick up.

10:18 p.m. on July 17, 2013 (EDT)
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Well, Rambler: we both thought it, you said it. It may be a nice security barrier against smaller critters, but couldn't the same be accomplished with an airtight stuff sack (I know they make ones scent can't escape, specifically for food)?

The Sawyer Squeeze looks pretty darn straightforward, and nice that it can be rolled to keep a low weight and profile. The affordability of it leads doesn't hurt, either.

Zatarain's, you know, is a great idea. Same aisle as those Knorr and Lipton items, but people don't mention it half as much, if at all.

I've used Bear Creek Kitchens in the past, but only when with a group: ain't no way I'm going to go through 8 servings in a single sitting by myself. The components tend to settle, too, so it's rather difficult to democratically divide them evenly among smaller bags. 

MH is probably the most easily accessible for me, and sold in stores near home. All the ones you've mentioned sound good, but you're really selling me on the extra-cheddar-chili-mac.

Want to thank Rambler and all of you so kindly contributing to this thread. I may be an experienced car camper, but backpacking is completely new to me and I can't think a better resource than y'all. Thank you for sharing that knowledge, and with any luck, I'll pass it down myself to someone else someday.

10:23 p.m. on July 17, 2013 (EDT)
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Hey, Jeffery. Looks like we published our posts about on top of another. Didn't see yours until I'd finished writing my most recent reply.

Like your idea. I already have a 2-man tent that would work for backpacking. I already have a bag. I don't have a pack, and I'd rather spend a little more to get a decent one than have to split my budget between a new pack AND a new bag.

My biggest concern is the bag devouring space in my pack.

What liter capacity pack did you put the Trestles 15 into?

I'd just want to make sure there's going to be sufficient room for the rest my gear. 

The temp rating I like, actually, and if nothing else, it makes for a comfy quilt to lay on top of when it gets unseasonably warm. 

It was more the size and weight of the bag that made me concerned.

Thank you, too, for posting! Appreciate any and all the help y'all are willing to give.

10:50 p.m. on July 17, 2013 (EDT)
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HornRimmedHiker said:

...how do you go about filtering your water?

I use a Camelbak AllClear UV system on the trail, and Micropur tablets in camp for overnight purification. 

I would think being mindful of where it's coming from would help increase the chance of it being safer to drink.

Lovely theory, but how would you propose ensuring the ultimate source for your water is pristine, and remains clean the entire way? Germs exist everywhere, as do viruses and contaminants

I'm sure a lot of my questions will be answered by Bill's post.

Good idea.

Save going out on the trail and actually putting the tent to use, Peter, how else would you test one? I could take a pressure washer to it, but hey, easier to call a trip off - or call it short - than push a piece of gear in the direction of failure for the heck of it. ...

It is not necessary to push any piece of gear to failure, and no one suggested you cancel your trip. Instead, you simply have to be aware of the limitations of a backyard test, and be prepared to cope with the failure of the tent if it does happen. In most cases, a tent that leaks or collapses in a storm isn't a fatal problem, but it can be unpleasant spending a long night in a wet sleeping bag. 

That's why equipment reviews usually include use in a number of different uses, in different weather, and under different circumstances. They will often be revised at a later date if the long-term performance reveals some flaws.

11:07 p.m. on July 17, 2013 (EDT)
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I always keep my reviews in real time, so to speak, and when I learn something new, or my opinion changes, I edit and update them accordingly. I think it's the most helpful and fair way of assessing gear. 

You think I'm going to just dunk a Nalgene into the creek out back and call it my drinking water?

You're a tough one to pin, down, Peter. At times it seems you teeter on the line between education and condescension. Tone and intent aren't always easy to express on the internet, but really, at times, I'm not sure with you.

I want to go about this in the right way, with the right gear, and the right knowledge. Hence, why I opened this thread and asked the collective opinion before I did so. For those of you offering helpful advice, I very much appreciate it.

Be happy to let you know I've purchased a Kelty Coyote pack and will be using it to stow all the gear I'm bringing with me for the upcoming solo car camping trip. I may still have the car, but I'm not bringing any more gear than can be fit into the pack.

1:08 a.m. on July 18, 2013 (EDT)
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Eric you sound like you have a good plan for yourself and how to get where you want to be.I second Ramblers idea of any class's at REI that are free that you can take.Always a wealth of knowledge from other backpackers to help you get you where you want to be..AS for water purification I use the HIker pro.I haven't tried to sawyer squeeze,but I read the reviews and its something Iam going to have to get and try..I told you the Kelty Cosmic down 20 because for the price its a worth while down bag and hits a great temp range.I've used synthics in the past but they just didnt condence small enough for me..I own a high end bag that I will get many years worth of wear..Have any more questions just ask..

9:48 a.m. on July 18, 2013 (EDT)
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If you did rodents are a big problem in your area, mice, squirrels, etc. A cheap way to rodent proof your food supply is to use a new paint can from your local hardware store, or even an empty large coffee can.

Bear canisters are great and all, but really only needed in certain areas. I always have my dog with me, and well her trail name is " Juno the Mouse Slayer". Suffice to say I don't have any issues ever. Hanging your food is a good option as well that works for bears and the less clever rodents as well.

I just use a 20L sea to summit silnylon dry bag as my food bag. Keeps my food dry whether I just leave it on the ground or hang it bear bag style.

The Kelty coyote is a really great starter pack IMO and I used it myself for awhile. The only flaw I found with it was where the shoulder straps attach to the pack at the top, the stitching was not heavily reinforced and so some ate needed to be taken when putting on the pack when you have a heavy load. They may have fixed this in newer models but I am not sure. Not a big deal in any case. Just be mindful and don't try to lift te pack by just 1 shoulder strap when fully loaded, use the grab handle. The best way to avoid this altogether is when putting on the pack do it like this.

Place fully loaded pack on the ground in front of you with the shoulder straps facing away from you. Lean over and put your hands between the shoulder straps and grab the frame stays with each hand. Then simply lift the pack straight up and over your back, sliding your arms through the shoulder straps. This is my preferred method of donning any pack and prevents exessive stress on the straps etc. Hope that makes sense.

10:02 a.m. on July 18, 2013 (EDT)
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Respectfully, HRH, you've asked a series of questions, each of which requires a comprehensive answer. Some have ramifications that would affect your safety, and others your enjoyment of the experience.

We can offer all kinds of possibilities, but you won't know what works for you until you get out there and actually try some of the stuff out under real-world conditions.

The Rambler has provided a checklist for beginners; I suggest you start with his recommendations and go from there.

10:51 a.m. on July 18, 2013 (EDT)
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HRH -  Congratulations!  Solo hiking and camping offers a whole different suite of pleasures and challenges. It's very cool that you're here, asking advice, learning and sharing. I'm younger than many of our experienced members, but when I learned to backpack 20+ years ago, my method included asking for far less advice and making stupid, potentially dangerous mistakes. Who knew that cotton tube socks weren't the best for hiking? Or that bacon spoiled after 4 days in the bottom of a hot pack? Or that a cotton sweatshirt wasn't good insulation when it had absorbed most of the mud puddle it was dripped in?

I'm excited that you're getting a lot of advice that might allow you to skip many of the stupid, dangerous and odoriferous mistakes that I had to endure! And  - I'm hoping to see plenty of trip reports, gear reviews, and pictures as you launch into this new realm of experience!

1:28 p.m. on July 18, 2013 (EDT)
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HornRimmedHiker said:

My biggest concern is the bag devouring space in my pack.

What liter capacity pack did you put the Trestles 15 into?

 My first pack was an external frame from Mountain Hardware. It was easy to strap the bag onto the frame.

Then I switched to a Kelty Red Cloud 6650, which was waaayyyy too much pack for solo weekends (I use it when I'm hauling my young kids' equipment, along with my own.).

I'm currently wearing a REI Flash 65, but I stripped it down considerably--pulling out the internal frame, ditching the floating lid, removing the useless features. I'm pretty sure I could stuff my Marmot into the bottom and still have room for all my gear (of course, I'm not hauling a tent).

FYI, your local REI will rent you bags & backpacks. This would be a good way of trying out some equipment without fully committing to the purchase price. At the very least you could try backpacking with the gear you have and just using a rented pack.

Unfortunately, I have too much gear that I bought, used once, and never used a second time. REI's rental program can save you some of that grief.

1:35 p.m. on July 18, 2013 (EDT)
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TheRambler said:

If you did rodents are a big problem in your area, mice, squirrels, etc. A cheap way to rodent proof your food supply is to use a new paint can from your local hardware store, or even an empty large coffee can.

 I've never had rodent problems in downstate Illinois, but here are a few things I do.


1) Before I became a hammock hanger, I'd hang my food bag from a tree branch using p-cord. I'd use a plastic coffee can lid with a hole punched in the middle to serve as a squirrel & mouse baffle.

2) Now in my hammock, I hang my food bag from my tarp ridgeline above my feet.

3) I keep a supply of the smaller Folgers coffee containers. They're great for keeping out critters and keeping crackers from getting crushed.

6:29 p.m. on July 18, 2013 (EDT)
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Well, I'll be proud to say I went ahead and did purchase the Kelty Coyote pack, which means I'm still able to use my current sleeping bag. 

This upcoming trip will be a car camping trip, but a solo one taken by myself.

Now that I've the new pack, I'm downsizing from the REI Size XXXL duffel bag and only bringing with me what I can fit in my pack. 

For a size reference, the duffel measures 18" by 42" and has a capacity of 175 liters. 

The Kelty Coyote holds just shy of 80. 

Considering that monstrosity of a duffel is used to haul TWO people's worth of gear, and I've yet to fill it anywhere close to 100% of capacity, I think I'll be alright as far as space goes.

Weight I'm trying to calculate - I don't own a scale and have to rely on published figures - but I hope to at least have a rough estimate of the weight I'll be carrying.

This all said, I've drafted a list of my gear (including weight, when available). Give it a look-see and let me know if there's anything I could stand to add, or afford to lose. 

The current weight (calculated by adding the items with listed weights together) is 20.4 pounds.

Aside from the tarp, pot/pot gripper, toiletries, and whichever clothes I'm not wearing, that figure includes the weight of the majority of my items. My best guess would be a final weight of more than 25 but less than 30 pounds.

I'll be gone from late Saturday morning through to Sunday evening, August 3rd and 4th, and headed to Mississippi Palisades State Park in Savanna, IL. The typical high is around 84 degrees, with a low of 60 degrees.

BACKPACK

PACK - Kelty Coyote 4750 - 5 lbs 1 oz

SHELTER

TENT - TNF Arcus 23 - 4 lbs 8 oz

FOOTPRINT - Small Hardware Store Tarp, Approx 8' X 4'

SLEEP SYSTEM

SLEEPING BAG - Marmot Trestles 15-degree, Long Left - 4 lbs

(This puts the total weight of my "Big Three" at 13 lbs 9 oz.)

SLEEPING PAD - Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Trekker, Sz Reg - 1 lb 3 oz

PILLOW - Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow, Sz Med - 9 oz

PUMP - Camp-Tek Microburst Pump - 2.3 oz

TOOLS

KNIFE - Victorinox Mechanic SAK - 4 oz

LIGHTER - BIC Regular - .5 oz

MATCHES - Coleman Match Case

LANTERN - Snow Peak Mini Hozuki Lantern - 3.1 oz

HEADLAMP - Black Diamond Storm Headlamp - 3.9 oz

CAMERA - Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS20 - 4.93 oz

Three Spare AAA Batteries

PERSONAL ITEMS

Trip Itinerary, Left at Home

Trip Itinerary, Left under Driver's Seat

Wallet (ID, Cash, Debit Card, Insurance Cards)

Map of Hiking Trails

Cell Phone with Car Charger

TOILETRIES

R/X Medications

Contact Lenses (in Solution-Filled Case)

Eyeglasses

Sunglasses

Small Comb

Toothbrush & Toothpaste

Soap

Microfiber, Quick-Drying Towel (for showering)

Bug Spray

MAINTENANCE

BASIC 1ST AID KIT

SMALL TENT REPAIR KIT

Them-a-Rest Sleeping Pad Patch Kit

CAMP STOVE

STOVE - MSR SuperFly - 4.6 oz

FUEL - MSR IsoPro Fuel Canister - 8.2 oz (Filled)

WATER TREATMENT

FILTER - Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter Plus System - 3 oz

ALTERNATIVE - Aquamira Water Treatment Drops

FOOD

MEALS - 3 MH Meals, Approx 12 - 13 oz

SNACKS - 4 CLIF Bars, Approx 12 oz

COOKWARE

POT - GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Backpacker (Pot Only)

GRIPPER - GSI Outdoors nForm Pot Gripper

UTENSIL - Light My Fire Spork - .2 oz

CLOTHING AND FOOTWEAR

TOP - TNF Synthetic Hiking Shirt

FLEECE - TNF 100 Aurora Fleece Vest

BOTTOMS - TNF Paramount Valley Convertible Pants

RAIN SHELL - TNF Venture Jacket - 14 oz

RAIN PANTS - TNF Venture Rain Pants - 7.8 oz

HIKING SHOES - Merrell Shoes, purchased from an outlet store

CAMP SHOES - Flip Flops by CROCS

And no, I won't be making the hike "Commando" or without socks. I've got 2 pairs each of synthetic underwear and socks. 

More likely than not I'll wind up just wearing the shirt, and unzipping the pantlegs off to make them shorts. However, this means I'll probably be carrying more clothing than I'm wearing.

This isn't a 4-season gear list, and heck, it's not even a 3-season.

This is what I'll be bringing with me on my first solo camping trip.

Let me know what y'all think.

8:27 p.m. on July 18, 2013 (EDT)
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When you go on your trip take a small notepad etc and make a list of everything you use, and when you get home and unpack your pack seperate  all of the items into three groups 1) items you used) 2) items you didn't use and 3) emergency items you did not use but need to have

That being said, these are the things i would recommend leaving at home or in the car.

Leave the tarp/footprint at home. If you really want one(a footprint) buy a cheap roll of painters plastic at home depot etc and cut one to the shape of your tent.
Much lighter than the tarp

What exactly is the pump for? the sleep pad/neo air? Blow it up by mouth, takes like 1 min.

I would leave the lantern at home and just use the headlamp, but its a personal choice. You already have spare batteries i presume for the headlamp.

Leave the car charger, well, in the car

Leave the aquamira, have faith in the sawyer. If the sawyer somehow breaks you can always just boil your water.

Otherwise everything else looks ok. You will quickly learn what you like and dont't and can make further changes from there.

These are the items i noticed you were missing:

Compass

Water bottles/water storage in general

All of those items i listern in an earlier post are the items you need to always carry no matter what. Its a safety and preparedness thing.

 

8:40 p.m. on July 18, 2013 (EDT)
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Like your post-trip suggestion, Rambler, and I'll definitely practice it myself when I return home. I'm a note-taker by nature, so I'll be sure to pack a small journal and pen.

I'm going to take you up on all your suggestions.

You've any experience using Tyvek? The Arcus has a similar footprint to the Tadpole 23, so it wouldn't require all that much material. I know it's impressively strong, but can be noisy and rigid, too. Although I'd much rather do this than purchase a factory-made footprint. Those baffle me.

Pump's for the NeoAir, you've got it. Maybe leaving it at home will properly motivate me to give up a smoking habit I should be quitting anyhow. This is another crutch I leaned on while car camping. Useful, sure, but not necessary or essential.

Lantern was thought of as a backup light source, and it gives off a much warmer light than the BD Storm headlamp does. The headlamp is waterproof while the lantern isn't, and on the basis of that alone, it's probably best to leave the lantern behind.

Yup. Car charger stays in the car. :)

I did go and purchase the Sawyer Squeeze (with the three bottle sizes). In writing my gear list, I neglected that I'll need a place to store water in addition to a place to purify it. I've got a sturdy Nalgene I'll bring with me.

Working on the compass. REI out by me does offer a class on how to use them, and I'm hoping to take one before my trip. No point in having it unless I can use it. Any particular one you'd suggest?

4:15 a.m. on July 19, 2013 (EDT)
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I use two - both suunto's - the A10 is a basic compass- a good first compass. then I also use the gps plotter with my gps. both are good compasses and do what they were designed to do. something I noticed - your taking contacts and glasses and sunglasses. any reason for the triple redundancy here? I wear one pair of glasses that are transitions lenses so I don't need sunglasses. one pair of glasses. leave the contacts at home.

4:30 a.m. on July 19, 2013 (EDT)
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Here is my three day load out minus food which I decide on prior to the hike.

THREE DAY PACK (SUMMER)

KITCHEN

stove, snowpeak & windscreen

matches, waterproof

firestarter, trioxane

kettle with lid, msr titan

water filter, katadyn hiker

water carrier, reliance

spoon, lexan

knife, folding

insulated mug with lid

garbage bags

BEDROOM

tent with fly, NF tadpole

sleeping bag, REI, 40 deg

sleeping pad, ridgerest

BATHROOM

purell

Bronners

hand towel

toothbrush

travel toothpaste

travel toilet paper

trowel, plastic

medications

brush

razor

ziplocs

FIRST AID

band aids, 3

duct tape, 5 ft

forceps, mini

suture, dermalon

ointment, bacitracin

WORN

long brimmed hat

glasses

camera, digital

GPS, garmin etrex

cargo pants, nylon

long sleeve shirt, polypro

underwear

socks, wool

boots, lowa renegade

MISC

pack, kelty, 5200 CI

water bladder, 3L

headlight, zipka

extra batteries, aaa 3, aa 2

leatherman

gloves, insulated

long underwear, exped polypro

down vest, LL bean

jacket, fleece

rain shell, nylon

socks, wool, 1 pr

bandanna

sandals, teva

compass, suunto GPS

map, topographic

CONSUMABLES

water 3L

fuel canister, 8 oz, 2

FOOD

6:26 a.m. on July 19, 2013 (EDT)
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Tyvek is awesome and would work great. I didn't mention it because its more expensive.

note that while the sawyer squeeze has squeeze in the name, this does not mean you should squeeze the bags. Apply very gentle pressure. The cheap bags that come with it are prone to failures, while the filter itself is a tough sob. If a bag fails you, you can use pretty much any plastic water bottle with it (aquafina etc) or use platypus plus bottles ( soft collapsible bottles).

it hasn't happened to me but some people have had the white washer in the squeeze fall out and lose it. black garden hose washers from a hardware store are the same size. these also help if for some reason you have an ill fitting bottle. recommend always having a spare one with you.

I also wear and prefer contacts. I bring a spare set of reg glasses all the time, and sometimes also have sunglasses. I just deal with it. could go lighter but I just choose not to

11:17 a.m. on July 19, 2013 (EDT)
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Thanks for being kind enough to post your full gear list, Trailjester.

I'll take a look at the Suunto A10. A starter is the most I'll need for right now, so provided it gets the job done, that works for me.

While I'm trying to eliminate as many redundancies as possible - much like Rambler - I'm preferential to contact lenses and am willing to be encumbered by the extra weight as vision isn't something I want to have trouble with. I do own a pair of eyeglasses with Transitions lenses, but I'd rather have some sort of backpack while I'm out on the trail and away from home.

Bought my Tyvek last night and I'll cut it to size once it gets in. Also came with grommet tabs, too, which is a nice touch.

Thanks for the tip on the SS. I may pick up a bottled water from a gas station on my drive out just as a backup in case the SS-provided bottle(s) fail.

2:14 p.m. on July 19, 2013 (EDT)
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"but I'd rather have some sort of backpack while I'm out on the trail and away from home."

Meant to say "Backup." I'd rather have some sort of backup while I'm out on the trail and away from home

Gotta love autocorrect!

4:08 p.m. on July 19, 2013 (EDT)
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Tyvek was $15 for a 9' X 5' piece and grommets, shipped. 

When it comes in, I'll trim it down to size. 

3" in from the perimeter edge, right?

Still cheaper than one from a factory-made, TNF footprint, and - at least from what I understand - a lot more durable. 

Day comes I have to replacement, all I have to do is find a hardware store and I'm set. I once tried finding a footprint for a TNF tent no longer in production, and that was a length and fruitless internet search (TNF no longer had any stock).

5:52 p.m. on July 19, 2013 (EDT)
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2-3in smaller than the tent is pretty normal.

1:44 a.m. on July 20, 2013 (EDT)
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Revised Gear List, as of 07/20/2013:

BACKPACK

PACK - Kelty Coyote 4750 - 5 lbs 1 oz

SHELTER

TENT - TNF Arcus 23 - 4 lbs 8 oz

FOOTPRINT - Tyvek, 9' X 5' Sheet

SLEEP SYSTEM

SLEEPING BAG - Marmot Trestles 15-degree, Long Left - 4 lbs

(This puts the total weight of my "Big Three" at 13 lbs 9 oz.)

SLEEPING PAD - Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Trekker, Sz Reg - 1 lb 3 oz

PILLOW - Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow, Sz Med - 9 oz

STORED IN CAR

Trip Itinerary, Left at Home

Trip Itinerary, Left under Driver's Seat

Campsite Reservation Confirmation Form

Printed Driving Directions, To and From State Park

Firewood

Car Charger

PERSONAL ITEMS

SUNGLASSES - Ray-Ban Folding Wayfarer

TIMEPIECE - Bertucci A2-T Wristwatch

WALLET (with ID, Cash, Debit and Insurance Cards)

($ - Gas, Snacks, Firewood, Etc.)

KNIFE - Victorinox Mechanic SAK - 4 oz

HEADLAMP - Black Diamond Storm Headlamp - 3.9 oz

CAMERA - Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS20 - 4.93 oz

CELL PHONE - Samsung Infuse 4G

TRAIL MAP, Folded

COMPASS

BATTERIES - AAA Batteries (X3)

TOILETRIES

R/X Medications in Small Pillbox

Contact Lenses (in Solution-Filled Case)

Eyeglasses

Small Comb

Toothbrush & Toothpaste

Soap

Microfiber, Quick-Drying Towel (for showering)

Bug Spray

MAINTENANCE

1ST AID KIT

TENT REPAIR KIT

Them-a-Rest Sleeping Pad Patch Kit

COOK KIT

POT - GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Backpacker, w/ Lid and Case

GRIPPER - GSI Outdoors nForm Pot Gripper

UTENSIL - Light My Fire Spork - .2 oz

STOVE - MSR SuperFly - 4.6 oz

FUEL - MSR IsoPro Fuel Canister - 8.2 oz (Filled)

CANISTER STAND - Primus Footrest - 0.8 oz

MATCHES - Coleman Waterproof Match Case

LIGHTER - BIC, Regular Size - 0.5 oz

TRASH - Ziploc Bag, Gallon-Sized

WATER TREATMENT

FILTER - Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter Plus System - 3 oz

STORAGE - Nalgene Bottle, 1L Capacity - 37 oz (filled)

FOOD

LUNCH, DAY #1 - Crunchy Peanut Butter CLIF Bar, 2.4 oz

DINNER, DAY #1 -  MH Chili Mac with Beef, 4.8 oz

BREAKFAST, DAY #2 - Crunchy Peanut Butter CLIF Bar, 2.4 oz

LUNCH, DAY #2 - MH Chicken Teriyaki with Rice, 5.01 oz

SNACKS/EMERGENCY - 2 Crunchy Peanut Butter CLIF Bars, 4.8 oz

Total Food Weight - 19.41 oz / 1.21 lbs

CLOTHING AND FOOTWEAR

WEARING ON-TRAIL:

TOP - TNF Synthetic Hiking Shirt

BOTTOMS - TNF Paramount Valley Convertible Pants

HIKING SHOES - Merrell Shoes, purchased from an outlet store

CARRYING IN PACK:

FLEECE - TNF 100 Aurora Fleece Vest

RAIN SHELL - TNF Venture Jacket - 14 oz

RAIN PANTS - TNF Venture Rain Pants - 7.8 oz

BRIEFS - 1 PR, Synthetic

SOCKS - 1 PR, Synthetic

CAMP SHOES - Flip Flops by CROCS

7:06 a.m. on July 20, 2013 (EDT)
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Looks pretty good. You can always trim more after your trip and you see what you used and what you didn't.

One way you can save almost half a pound is to not use the Nalgene bottle. They are really heavy for what they are . Easily replaced by something like a Gatorade bottle, and that will save you like 6 ounces.

Make sure your soap is a biodegradable one, I like dr bronners. No matter what soap it is it Is not good for the water supplies, so make sure any cleanup your doing is not in the water source and you are a good 100ft or so from the water source.

Also make sure your repair kit is universal and not just limited to your tent. I like to have one of those small rolls of duct tape, dental floss, sewig needle, a few zip ties, and a safety pin or two. You can repair most anything in the field with those items.

It's all up to you as far as what you want to eat for lunch, but I would not want to eat only cliff bars. You can bring things like hard cheeses (cheddar, parmesan etc) and pepperoni, salami, beef jerky, foil packs of tuna(mix with some mayo and mustard packets from a fast food place) crackers, fresh fruit, etc.

10:20 a.m. on July 20, 2013 (EDT)
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I usually have 5 or 6 flavors of Clif bars in my cupboard so I have to really agree with you on it all being up to the individual.  As a road cyclist who doesn't get off the bike for long hours and a hiker who doesn't like to take long breaks mid day on the trail I can live on the things. 

I enjoy an appropriate breakfast for the mornings expected trail and really enjoy a good evening meal but I like not having to stop to feed during the day so two Clifs tucked into my belt pocket covers me for the day on trail with as many as half a dozen going into my jersey pockets for a day long ride.

As with pretty much everything each person has to find what works best for themselves. Advice is good, knowledge is power, but learning is a constant and personal process.  Twenty-two hours till I can leave for my next lesson and you can bet I'm counting the minutes ;)

4:09 p.m. on July 20, 2013 (EDT)
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Starting consolidating gear last night, and here're my thoughts so far:

Originally I wasn't going to take the lid and carrying case for my GSI pot.

Well, turns out it's a nice carrying case for a lot of things, keeping them all neatly organized together. Here's what I managed to fit inside it:

-Stove

-Fuel Canister

-Folding Canister Stand

-Spork

-Insulated Mug (houses lighter, matches, pot gripper)

The mug, yes, is a redundancy, but I don't have anything better to keep the metal pot gripped in so it doesn't scratch the non-stick coating on the inside of the pot. 

Think I may get a bottle of Smart Water - it's a taller, thinner bottle than most - to replace my nalgene and have another as a backup for the SS bottles (leaving me one bottle only using clean water). There're mesh pockets on the outside of the Coyote I could stuff it into.

Food I'm not picky about. As long as I get my calories and nutrients, I'm alright, and easier to pack out several wrappers (that be stuffed inside an empty MH meal packet). Come to think of it, I may be able to skip bringing the Ziploc bag if I can just use the MH one instead.

Now, I wanted to ask:

Stuff sacks and compression bags. Added weight and redundancy or worth it?

Marmot gave me one with my sleeping bag, and I'll need to it compress it to a manageable size. However, since I'm only gone for two days, are they even needed to consolidate everything else? Do I need to keep the NeoAir pad in one (better protection?) or is it fine by itself? 

Not looking to go UL, but looking to avoid redundancy and weight whenever possible.

Dr. Bronners I know is available at Target (lot closer drive than out to REI). Just would have to find another vessel to hold it in, instead of the larger bottles they sell.

Thanks for the thoughts, folks, and keep 'em coming. Learning something new, every day, here, and really enjoying being able to start this process.

4:31 p.m. on July 20, 2013 (EDT)
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Stuff sacks and compression bags are, you guessed it, personal preference.

I use a compression bag for my down quilts, and stuff sacks for some of my smaller misc items just to keep them organized.

I keep my first aid/repair kit in one, my fire starting kit in one, and my spare clothes in one. My food bag is also a dry bag.

There are heavy ones and there are light weight ones. I personally just made some out of some silnylon from a local fabric store. Only cost me a fraction of what it would have otherwise, and i was able to make the sizes I wanted. It's about the easiest thing in the world to make.

Depending on which ones you are using they can tend to add up the weight significantly, because they are usually an ounce or two a piece.

You can always use ziploc bags instead for small items. The only thing that really matters if it gets wet is your sleeping bag and clothes. Everything else for the most part should be ok.

Its a combination of trying to keep things dry, and keep them organized. Some people just like to have everything in one pack pocket, or just have it all in 1 big bag. I like a few small different colored stuff sacks so that i can easily identify or anyone i am with can identify a certain stuff sack.

 

8:28 p.m. on July 20, 2013 (EDT)
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My sleeping bag, clothes, and underquilt (along with my hammock IF it is dry) all go in a heavy duty garbage bag, twisted shut, and stuffed into the bottom of my pack. A bulkier bag, might warrant a compression sack.

10:08 p.m. on July 20, 2013 (EDT)
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Garbage bag!

Practical thinking. Lightweight. Costs, well, the calories you need to walk into the kitchen and grab one. Definitely going to take that tip and run with it. 

A dry bag for food isn't a bad idea. Or for toiletries. Like it.

UPDATE:

Went ahead and called the office at Mississippi Palisades SP to see how they went about reservations for their three primitive sites. They only take walk-up reservations for them, but also said they hadn't had anyone book one in over two weeks. I'd assume, 2 weeks from now, my chances would be the same.

I've a reservation for a site already, in case the primitive sites are filled, but if the opportunity's there, I'm wanting to take it.

I can't find a scaled trail map anyplace for the SP. Using scaled satellite and 'topo' maps, the primitive sites look to be about a mile or so out into the park. The North end of the park is bordered by paved, named roads on all three sides, so it's not like I could wander too far away without realizing I've gone in the wrong direction. I'd probably spend my first day solely on that end of the park to make myself familiar with it and know full well how to get around.

So...do I go ahead and book a primitive site while I'm there?

I'm familiar with my gear, and - were I at a car camping site - the only difference would be the absence of a second set of hands. This isn't too far out there, and I will have my car to retreat to, if need be. 

My only questions, then:

1.) I need to find out if they allow the use of deadwood, and if not, budget the time to collect enough smaller, fallen limbs to keep a small fire. I'm not hiking-in cords of wood. This is, of course, assuming they've a fire ring. Is there any go-to resource to find out these kinds of policies? Remember - I've got a backpacking stove, so I do have a means of cooking. This is just me trying to enjoy the usual campfire if I'm able.

2.) Ziploc? TP? Trowel? Hand sanitizer? Anything I'm missing? Being only an overnight, I'm sure I could make it until morning to hit an outhouse back for - well, you know - in the park, but hey, ya never know when nature's gonna dial the second extension.

3.) It's Illinois. Yogi's not raiding any picnic baskets. But I wouldn't feel right sleeping with any "smell-ables" in my pack, inside the tent. What's the best way to go about storing scented items overnight when you're NOT in bear country?

Rambler - I'd guess find a dry sack I can hang off the ground, and keep that apart from my pack at night? Maybe?

12:20 a.m. on July 21, 2013 (EDT)
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I am not the guy to ask about that. I have a different, and frowned upon theory. Short answer is I sleep with my food. Only reason my food is in a dry bag is because I hang it off the end of my hammock so it can potentially be exposed to rain etc.

Definitely don't forget the TP, haha. I brig a travel size container of hand sanitizer, and a small eye dropper bottle with like 1/4oz of dr bronners soap. Don't bother with the trowel , use a stick, rock, or your boot to dig a cathole. Remember to dig your cathole at least 150ft or so from any water source, trail, or campsite. Bury it about 6-8in deep. Keep the water sources pure and always follow this rule.

I would get a primitive site if you can. As far as the firewood things go, in most places if fires are allowed you can collect any dead and down wood.

2:17 a.m. on July 21, 2013 (EDT)
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Thanks for all the support, Rambler.

Very much appreciated.

And if you're ever making a backpacking trip in Illinois, Goose, and wouldn't mind me joining along - I'd be game to improve my skill sets and learn from someone with more experience.

You can't learn to swim if you don't ever jump in the pool, but once you do, the deep end's the same as the shallow end (if you know what you're doing).

I don't think there's much to be gained by a solo car camping trip, and without having to start practicing things like foraging for firewood and maintaining a latrine, I don't know how ever I'd learn them or grow comfortable with them. 

From all I've managed to read - it seems okay to gather downed wood. Did manage to track down a photo of one of the "primitive" sites: Site A. It may be a mile or so out, but it still had a picnic table and fire ring. If I focus my hiking that day on the North end, I may try and loop around a couple times, find some sizable chunks of downed wood, and drop them off from time to time. 

Anyone have any experience with these odor-proof bags?

http://www.rei.com/product/758707/loksak-opsak-odor-proof-barrier-bags-20-x-125

I think I may just opt to put my "smell-ables" in a seperate stuff sack and hang it some ways up a tree overnight. While I don't mind losing a MH meal, some pro bars, and a tube of toothpaste, I would mind having an expensive tent and pack torn apart.

Travel-size Purel is kept in my 1st Aid Kit, along with some GB powder, etc. 

Keep y'all updated, but again, you've all been a big help with my first trip and your answers will all go practiced, and graciously so.

3:21 a.m. on July 21, 2013 (EDT)
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From what i hear the opsaks are popular. If your going to hang your smellables, its worthwhile researching the "PCT bear bag method". Its the best way to hang your bag, and the safest from critters and bears.

9:59 a.m. on July 21, 2013 (EDT)
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TheRambler said:

I am not the guy to ask about that. I have a different, and frowned upon theory. Short answer is I sleep with my food. Only reason my food is in a dry bag is because I hang it off the end of my hammock so it can potentially be exposed to rain etc.

 Here in Illinois, that's not a big deal. Earlier I mentioned hanging bags with coffee lid baffles. I've only done that in areas where other hikers had reported critter problems in established campsites. I RARELY camp in established campsites (where critters are use to finding food), but when I leave a site, you'll never know I was there. I generally only use an established site if it's required for the area, or if I want a campfire and plan to use an established fire ring.


As a ground dweller (in Illinois), I use to just pull everything into my tent at night.

As a hammock hanger, I now either hang my food bag from my tarp ridgeline, OR stuff it in my packback and pull the pack in under me. The later is nice, because in the morning, I can just reach down, pull out a packet of oatmeal & my cup and enjoy breakfast in bed.

1:27 p.m. on July 21, 2013 (EDT)
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Rambler said,

I am not the guy to ask about that. I have a different, and frowned upon theory. Short answer is I sleep with my food.

 

Interesting you should say this. I too have always kept my food bag in my tent; I usually use it as a pillow, and have never had an issue with bears, contrary to common convention stated on this site. Also, because my back door literally opens up on to the largest unpopulated area in North America, established campgrounds are non-existant and wilderness camping is the norm.

As for HRH's openning questions, don't overthink the gear issue; the main thing is to get outside and enjoy yourself.

2:14 p.m. on July 21, 2013 (EDT)
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North1 said:

As for HRH's openning questions, don't overthink the gear issue; the main thing is to get outside and enjoy yourself.

 +1. 

3:18 p.m. on July 21, 2013 (EDT)
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you might want to bring some matches along, as backup for your lighter...

3:29 p.m. on July 21, 2013 (EDT)
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Hey, trailjester:

Already got it covered! Waterproof matches in a waterproof case.

HornRimmedHiker said:

Starting consolidating gear last night, and here're my thoughts so far:

Originally I wasn't going to take the lid and carrying case for my GSI pot.

Well, turns out it's a nice carrying case for a lot of things, keeping them all neatly organized together. Here's what I managed to fit inside it:

-Stove

-Fuel Canister

-Folding Canister Stand

-Spork

-Insulated Mug (houses lighter, matches, pot gripper)

3:43 p.m. on July 21, 2013 (EDT)
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You know, you guys sound about right.

At this point, now that I have the gear, and am familiar with it - the only thing left is to go out on my own and make the trip.

Food I've decided to leave in a stuff sack hung from a nearby tree (using Goose's coffee can lid as a baffle). If the critters get it, they do, and it keeps from tent or pack from being an innocent bystander.

I don't know how many trip reports y'all have had for first-time backpackers, but I'll probably dedicate my inaugural TR to the subject. Come to think of it, I'll probably start writing mine two weeks from today. 

I'll keep y'all in the loop and thanks for the continued help and advice!

3:49 p.m. on July 21, 2013 (EDT)
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TheRambler said:

From what i hear the opsaks are popular. If your going to hang your smellables, its worthwhile researching the "PCT bear bag method". Its the best way to hang your bag, and the safest from critters and bears.

 I would tell ya to look the (PCT Bear bagging) on youtube.They have alot of good instructional videos people have done..But if your not in bear country you could sleep with your food in your pack.But if you want to hang it Go for it..

7:54 p.m. on July 21, 2013 (EDT)
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This is an equipment forum, but I believe that your experience and competence are much more important.  I began backpacking in the 50s with equipment available in an Army surplus store.

7:58 p.m. on July 21, 2013 (EDT)
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There is muh more to Trailspace that just equipment/gear ppine. Hence why there is a seperate gear section of the forum

8:11 p.m. on July 21, 2013 (EDT)
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Easy, gentlemen! :)

I created this thread, albeit selfishly, so I could ask the questions I needed to prepare for my first solo backpacking trip (without having to hijack everyone else's threads with my questions).

So happens there were quite a few I had about gear. 

I'm a methodical guy with a tendency to overpack more often than not, and I wanted to make sure I wasn't taking too many things. Much the same, I didn't want to leave anything I needed deliberately behind.

11:21 a.m. on July 22, 2013 (EDT)
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looks like you've got it covered. the only way you'll improve on your list is by getting out there and using it.

4:18 p.m. on July 22, 2013 (EDT)
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Amen, brother! Less than two weeks until my first solo backpacking trip. Looking darn forward to it!

8:35 p.m. on August 7, 2013 (EDT)
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Alright, ladies and gents.

I did it.

Trip report is written and posted, and you can find it here:

http://www.trailspace.com/forums/trip-reports/topics/148377.html#148429

Things I learned?

Weight adds up, and adds up quickly. 

I didn't need two Swiss Army Knives. One had a wood saw, one had a pair of pliers. I used the saw. Didn't use the pliers. 

I love my Mini Hozuki Lantern. I really do. Mostly because it's a warmer, yellow-hued light it gives off...not something you usually get from an LED light source. But there wasn't a thing it could do more than my headlamp. Moreover, the headlamp (BD Storm) is 100 lumens, while the Hozuki - correct me if I'm wrong - is about 60 lumens. And there's not really a good spot to hang a lantern in the TNF Arcus 23...you've a couple loops tucked in the front corners, and another at the foot end. There's no central place to hang it, and you wind up sending half the light into the tent walls anyhow.

Water? Can't ever have enough of it. I got overzealous building as big a campfire as I did, and spent at least a liter to extinguish it. After that, I had literally two sips left in my Platypus, and those I had to save so I could take my prescription medication in the morning. 

Man, I can't say enough good things about the Platypus bottles. Once you've mastered how to drink from them and pour from them, they're a godsend in the weight and bulk they save. When you don't need them, and can roll them up, you don't even realize they're there.

Made my first campfire from foraged wood. Made me kick myself in the butt for all the times I relied on the overpriced cords from the gas station. Built it "tipi" style in case it got windy, and it held fine - crumpled up my reservation papers, lit them to start it, and the rest caught fairly quickly. Also was a real nice way to keep away the bugs, of which there were plenty.

Bugspray? Spray-on's the way to to. The sponge applicator wasn't working at all for me, and a very inconsistent application earned me some bites I otherwise wouldn't have gotten.

CROCS are great for car camping, but are way too damn cumbersome for backpacking. I'm a size 12 shoe, and I'm ashamed at how much room they take up in my pack. I wound up putting them last, at the very top. Easier to strap the pack lid down than to lose valuable liters by making them part of the interior volume. Wish I'd some lightweight sandals. I need something to wear around camp and for water crossings...I just don't want literal boats.

I love my MSR SuperFly stove, but it's an awful lot just for boiling a couple cups of water. I've ordered one of those tri-legged, titanium Esbit stoves and some tablets and plan to use those on my next trip. I don't need any flame control, and it's just an easy way to save weight. So it seems it helps to put a square of tinfoil under the tablet because of the residue (which also means either cleaning the pot bottom or bringing a stuff sack for the pot). I'm aware, too, of the infamous odor and am wondering what the best way of scent-proofing would be. 

Didn't use my BIC. Matches did fine. Never hurts to have the backup, though.

Didn't use my 1st Aid kit. Goes without saying that always comes with, regardless. Same goes with the compass (which wound up being my car's "GPS" when satellite reception went to zero).

Could have used a smaller pack towel. I've an XL lite microfiber towel from REI, mostly for showering, but it's overkill. Did wind up using it to wipe the condensation off the underside of my vestibule in the morning so I could pack-up my tent.

Opted to shower once I got home, so didn't get a chance to bust out the Dr. Bronner's. Was excited about it, too, because I love almond-scented anything. Hey, I'm a dude. I don't want to smell like flowers or a York Peppermint Patty. 

KIND fruit and nut bars are THE BOMB. When you're eating sodium-laden, freeze-dried meals, you want something that looks like legitimate food and tastes fresh. These things always hit the spot, but hit the bull's-eye when I needed a quick trail lunch while I was out at the viewing platforms. Do note, though - anything with chocolate will melt, so stick to the ones that just have fruit and nuts. 

Anything else comes to mind, I'll let y'all know, but those're my immediate impressions when it comes to debriefing the trip.

9:07 p.m. on August 7, 2013 (EDT)
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You can build your own alcohol stove for next to nothing. Forget esbit, IMO esbit stinks in more ways than one. You can build a supercat for about $1.50. .35 cent can of cat food, and a paper hole punch. Hole punch costs about a dollar if you dont already have one. Then you just punch the required holes in it an you have a working stove in about 5 minutes.

9:17 p.m. on August 7, 2013 (EDT)
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HornRimmedHiker,

Did I get it right? I have been a solo backpacker for 37 years since I was 21 in 1977. That summer I took off from home in southwestern Arkansas to hitchhike 8000 miles around the entire USA (states) and then move to Alaska to live a little over two years, come home again to the lower 48 states and hitch two more years then take to bicycle touring as my transportation mode. 

Now at 57 1/2 I have been by thumb,bike and foot about a quarter of a million miles solo primarily, been hard to find suitable others to hike 6-9 full months a year since June of 77.

Most people work almost year round to support families,own property and pay taxes. Not me I only worked an average of 3 -6 months a year the last 37. But I then hiked and biked alone in many national parks, wildernesses and byways and old highways.

I spent about 10,000 nights since I was old enough to drink outdoors somewhere camping in one of those 10,000 nights all over the country. Going solo may not be easy when you are used to the crowd. I have few close friends that I see at east once a year and all of them prefer solo to the other option for travel,hiking and driving around the country and living alone in the wilds most of their years.

I like being a loner,vagabond,transient, Adventure Traveler.

10:39 p.m. on August 7, 2013 (EDT)
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Still apprehensive about toting liquid gas around with me, Rambler. That may be my one remaining hang-up. That also takes some bit of know-how with the amount of gas, etc. Esbit's pretty damn mindless where that's concerned. I doubt I'll make it my go-to, but it's something I've wanted to try. 

Tell ya what, Gary, it was an experience. Being a stage actor, you're used to being around people all the time, whether it's onstage during a performance, or greeting patrons at the stage door afterward.

I waved and said hello to anyone I'd passed by, and talked to the park staff a little bit, but I was on my own for the majority of the time. Having most the woods to myself was a really neat experience. I've been to some other State Parks where it's just really, really overcrowded and more like an amusement park, line-queue-wait to experience it than anything else.

This was the complete opposite. 

My cell phone hadn't reception, so I turned it off and put it in my pack. I didn't bring a book. It was just myself and the wilderness the entire time. And, especially for the first time out, I did well. Not just physically, and not in terms of skill sets, but mentally, too.

I was more than alright being out on those trails, not a soul around, by myself.

Probably going to make it a habit.

Thanks for reading!

10:06 a.m. on August 8, 2013 (EDT)
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HornRimmedHiker said:

I was more than alright being out on those trails, not a soul around, by myself.

Probably going to make it a habit.

 When you are truly alone, without the distractions other people and modern life provide, you have time to find out who you really are. For some folks that is nirvana, for others a form of hell. 

I love to share trips with others, but there is something special about solo trips. Going to places where you aren't likely to meet anyone on the trail for days is especially nice.  Coming back to the "real world" can be a bit of a shock afterwards though.

12:22 p.m. on August 8, 2013 (EDT)
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Alcohol isn't a gas technically, it is a liquid fuel type though. Benefit to alcohol is it evaporates extremely fast, so even if you were to spill some it will be gone before you know it(like seconds).

If your apprehension comes from maybe knocking over your stove and spilling lit fuel every where then you can use a stove with wicking material. My alcohol stove weighs 1.2oz and can hold up to 3oz of alcohol. I can turn it upside down and not a single drop will come out, it's all captured in a wicking medium.

Most alcohol stoves will boil 2-3 cups of water in around 6-10 minutes depending on the stove. And they are all completely quiet which can be nice as well. If you take the time to read about both alcohol and white gas stoves you will quickly learn that there is nothing to fear with them. If you understand them you can use them safely and efficiently. As with any gear play around with them at home before taking them on a trip.

12:58 p.m. on August 8, 2013 (EDT)
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Esbit fuel tabs're coming in today, and I've already got the stove.

Going to cook a test meal with it tonight and see how I'm feeling about it. 

I know alcohol's a big go-to for many hikers because it's so readily available as a fuel source. 

Hell, the only shop in my suburb of 55,000 people that sells MSR IsoPro is the Sports Authority, so I know what it's like when options are limited. Despite the MSR SuperFly being billed as "universal," the one time I tried using it with a can of JetBoil fuel, it wouldn't hold a tight seal and hissed up a storm. 

2:00 p.m. on August 8, 2013 (EDT)
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It should work with any canister that uses a lindal valve. That means any of the main brands should work with most any of the main brand stoves. Jetboul, msr, snowpeak, Coleman, etc.

If one you used hissed/leaked then it was either defective or not seated properly in the stove.

3:13 p.m. on August 8, 2013 (EDT)
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Alcohol Stove.

I know within 1/10th of an ounce how much I'm going to use on a trip.

I can get fuel in nearly any town.

My stove is always going to work.

I don't have to deal with packing out empty canisters, nor do I have to deal with partial canisters (Is there enough fuel left for this trip, or do I need a new canister?).

10:39 p.m. on August 8, 2013 (EDT)
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Got to admit, for all the technological advancements that've been coming from the outdoor gear industry...you'd think they'd have solved that "So how much fuel's left in this canister?" problem. Part of me thinks it keeps them more profitable and forcing folks to buy more canisters than they need, fearing the dreaded half-cooked meal. 

Esbit tabs came in the mail today.

Holy #$%^. They weren't kidding about the smell.

And you want me to think people blow these out prematurely and re-use them? 

Not even sure if NASA's figured out a way to contain a smell like that in an airtight environment. 

Mine were found on Amazon, cost more than that should've, and - to boot - the seller sent the tabs to me without the box. The heck?

If for nothing else, or nothing more, than review fodder...I'm going to put this one to the test. 

10:46 p.m. on August 8, 2013 (EDT)
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I'll have to be the third that says go with Alcohol..Easier to find and use..

12:10 a.m. on August 9, 2013 (EDT)
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Wanted to go back and update this thread with the items I actually wound up taking with me on the trip, and updating with weight (in ounces) where available.

Gear List, as used on trip:

BACKPACK

PACK - Kelty Coyote 4750 - 5 lbs 1 oz

SHELTER

TENT - TNF Arcus 23 - 4 lbs 8 oz

FOOTPRINT - Tyvek Sheet

SLEEP SYSTEM

SLEEPING BAG - Marmot Trestles 15-degree, Long Left - 4 lbs

(This puts the total weight of my "Big Three" at 13 lbs 9 oz.)

SLEEPING PAD - Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Trekker, Sz Reg - 1 lb 3 oz

PILLOW - Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow, Sz Med - 9 oz

PUMP - Camp-Tek Microburst - 2.3 oz

STORED IN CAR

Trip Itinerary, E-Mailed to Family/Friends

Campsite Reservation Confirmation Form

Car Charger

PERSONAL ITEMS

WALLET (with ID, Cash, Debit and Insurance Cards)

KNIFE #1 - Victorinox Mechanic SAK - 4 oz

KNIFE #2 - Victorinox Rucksack SAK - 3.7 oz

HEADLAMP - Black Diamond Storm Headlamp - 3.9 oz

LANTERN - Snow Peak Mini Hozuki Lantern - 3.1 oz

CAMERA - Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS20 - 4.93 oz

CELL PHONE - Samsung Infuse 4G - 4.9 oz

TRAIL MAP, Folded

COMPASS - Silva Starter 1-2-3 Beginner - 1.5 oz

BATTERIES - AAA Batteries (X9)

TOILETRIES

R/X Medications in 7-Day Pillbox

Contact Lenses (in Solution-Filled Case)

Eyeglasses

Pocket-Sized Comb

Travel-Size Toothbrush & Toothpaste

Soap - Dr. Bronner's Organic Liquid Soap (Almond) - 2 oz

Microfiber Towel - REI MultiTowel Lite XL - 6.4 oz

Bug Repellent - Ultrathon w/ Sponge Applicator - 1.5 oz

MAINTENANCE

1ST AID KIT

TENT REPAIR KIT

Them-a-Rest Sleeping Pad Patch Kit

COOK KIT

POT - MSR Stowaway 1.1L - 15.5 oz

UTENSIL - MSR Folding Spoon - 0.35 oz

STOVE - MSR SuperFly - 4.6 oz

FUEL - MSR IsoPro Fuel Canister - 8.2 oz (Filled)

CANISTER STAND - Primus Footrest - 0.8 oz

MATCHES - Coleman Waterproof Match Case - 0.6 oz

LIGHTER - BIC, Regular Size - 0.5 oz

WATER TREATMENT

FILTER - Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter Plus System - 3 oz

STORAGE - Platypus Bottle, 1L Capacity -  1.2 oz

STORAGE - Platypus Bottle, 0.5L Capacity - 0.8 oz

FOOD

MH Sweet & Sour Pork w/ Rice - 6.1 oz

BP Santa Fe-Style Rice with Chicken - 7.1 oz

BP Huevos Rancheros - 3.5 oz

KIND F&N Bar - Nut Delight - 1.4 oz

KIND F&N Bar - Fruit and Nut Delight - 1.4 oz

KIND F&N Bar - Dark Chocolate Cinnamon Pecan - 1.4 oz

Total Food Weight - 20.9 oz

CLOTHING AND FOOTWEAR

SUNGLASSES - Ray-Ban Folding Wayfarer

TIMEPIECE - Bertucci A2-T Wristwatch

WEARING ON-TRAIL:

TOP - TNF Edale Woven Synthetic Hiking Shirt

BOTTOMS - TNF Paramount Valley Convertible Pants

HIKING SHOES - Merrell Shoes

HAT - Trailspace Trail Runner Cap

CARRYING IN PACK:

FLEECE - TNF 100 Aurora Fleece Vest

RAIN SHELL - TNF Venture Jacket - 14 oz

RAIN PANTS - TNF Venture Rain Pants - 7.8 oz

BRIEFS - 2 PRS, Cotton

SOCKS - 2 PRS, Wool

CAMP SHOES - CROCS "Bistro"

Also:

The Mountainsmith pack I won from last month's contest finally arrived in the mail today, and I've got to say: I'm damn impressed with it. As well as the Kelty Coyote did, I wouldn't mind finding a way to slim-down to a 50L pack and grab another Mountainsmith for myself.

I'm giving the Mountainsmith Scream 25 to my girlfriend, who's recovering from foot surgery she had last year, and keeping the Coyote for now. Figured I can bear the brunt of most the weight and have her carry what she's able in that pack. 

Much as I love the weight savings of slimmer and more minimalist tents and tarps, I have to admit I really do love my Arcus 23. It's a bomber shelter. 

However, I don't think I'm going to be able to fit two NeoAir Trekker pads side-by-side in it. 

The question, then is:

Is it alright to go TT-style and have the pads push out the interior walls a little, or would it be better to find a wide-sized, CCF pad we could both share? If the former of the two ideas is just asking for condensation, I would greatly appreciate it if anyone knew of any CCF pads that could comfortably fit two people.

1:25 a.m. on August 9, 2013 (EDT)
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The new NeoAir xLites are tapered which might help.  My buddy used one while I used a NeoAir Trekker and we were comfortable within my tent that has a 50" width.  The NeoAir xLites are a ton of money though. 

8:12 a.m. on August 9, 2013 (EDT)
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Macchio - Trouble with the Arcus 23 is that the footprint/floor of it is tapered, like I said in my review, as a coffin would be (terrible reference, but the exact same shape): widest in the middle, narrower at the head, and smallest at the foot end. Thinking it'd come down to using one sleeping pad that was a "wide" size, sleeping cozily, and going that route.

9:30 a.m. on August 9, 2013 (EDT)
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The issue here is that for all intensive purposes, the Arcus 23 is a one person tent. Its design just doesnt lend itself to sleeping two people comfortably.

You will both end up uncomfortable if you try to share 1 wide pad. And if your both uncomfortable and cant sleep well then you wont enjoy your experience. Wide pads are sold, but they typically are only 27in at the widest. There is one exception, the gossamer gear 1/4 thinlight wide pad at 39in. http://gossamergear.com/1-4-wide.html

The gossamer gear pad isnt really designed for use alone unless you can really tolerate sleeping on the hard ground. Alot of people use them in hammocks. But there is no way i could sleep on a thinlight pad alone. So that doesnt really help your situation much because you would still need an additional pad and then your back to the same situation you are in now.

Honestly, you need a new tent if you want to use it for more than 1 person. Or a tarp, or some other type of shelter.

It may be a great tent and all, but if its only 48" at the widest point and gets narrower from there... no way i would subject my significant other to the confines of it.

 

9:37 a.m. on August 9, 2013 (EDT)
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Wow, you carry a lot of stuff. I am a minimalist. i have just a light weight tent, sleeping bag,pad (28 years old), stove and fuel for pleasure once in a while. I sad before I think that I carry very little from the outside world into the "real"world, then I cache them and go Primative, building simple structures to live in small either natural of home made camps, that I can return to as I remember them closeby.

I have spent in the summer time in a bed of dead Oak leaves, Like a super soft mattress, and by morning I had buried myself in it, keeping me warm. I had nothing on my back, a water bottle in my hand, like the ones runner use with a strap to keep it in my hand or around my upper arm.

I hunt, I hunt with rocks, sticks, natural objects. I believe now after years of studying ancient man, the Indians,etc. that We modern humans have so much to be thankful for in the modern world, but we can still live in the past and be outside like our ancestors did, free from government, and anyone else who diverts us from our path. 

I love the sounds of nature, the calling of birds to their young in spring time at dusk and dawn. The sight of hawks, eagles, sparrows, swifts, even the rare 747 or whatever they fly today.  I was in the Grand Canyon when 911 happened. I had been on a 3 week hike. One day I noticed no helicopters and no airplanes, not even jets. Curious, but it was weeks later when I saw another human (yes, I was deep in the GC) before I came out and asked about it. I was told and wow, I felt little, the Earthings of this planet as still at war. But I being cared for by nature, was in total peace,heaven,nirvana,bliss,etc.

I am about to take the last walk, I am headed back to wilderness, where few other humans have tramped, away from the prying eyes of "the others". I have stayed in places where I saw no one for 3 weeks to 3 months while on hikes. I dont call them backpacking trips because I carry so little I have everything I need in a daypack. There is plenty of game in the outdoors from plants to small animals, fish (I use traps for fish,not reels) Did you know you can dry Earthworms, the crumble them up, and later add them to soups for protein?

I am thinking as I said above of making this my last or very close to last trip "into the wild ..." But I am not going to eat the wild onion because it is so deadly if you accidently choose its cousin, Death Camus. 

37 years has taught me well, Outdoors and well as In. Here "Indoors" as I call it, I work to save money for a future when I am too old to live outdoors year round. Tho I dought that will ever happen. Hiking keeps me healthy, as well a cycle touring. I could live this way into my 90-100s, I am an Optimist, the glass is half full. 

I am thankful to all yall, for helping me stay on the path to freedom. Wild Freedom, at Trailspace. I really, really enjoy reading posts. I make comments as I see fit. I speak the truth the whole truth so help me wilderness!

I will put the gear I have bought here and found outdoors to good use, my instinct tell me I am a futurist I think one day we will all live like me and have heaven on Earth!

11:15 a.m. on August 9, 2013 (EDT)
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You're probably right on this one, Rambler.

As much as I like the design, it limits me to one entrance, one vestibule, and only one side of the tent tall enough to sit up in.

And, well, Gary? I like to keep it comfortable for myself, and if it means a little more weight and more to pack, that's alright by me.

A traditionally-shaped, symmetrical dome tent is probably a better bet for two people. 

Love my Arcus too much to have to see it go, so - provided I can get my girlfriend on board with backpacking - I may wind up selling the Double Headed Toad 44, because that thing's way too darn big and heavy to be carrying in any pack.

Anyone have a good suggestion for a compressible pillow? The Therm-a-Rest I've got is just way too bulky in the pack and way too big for the way I sleep. 

Heck, the way this is sounding, it might come down to a TS "Garage Sale," here.

11:20 a.m. on August 9, 2013 (EDT)
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I use my rain gear & down jacket in my sleeping bag stuff sack for a pillow...

12:47 p.m. on August 9, 2013 (EDT)
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Unless your just made of money and can afford to get a new tent, i would just use the Toad if your going out with your girlfriend on a trip. At least for a while until you save up for a lighter weight tent. You will be thankful for the extra room.

Tent is around 8lbs it looks like. Yea that's heavy for a tent, but certainly not unheard of. Many 4 season tents can easily weigh that much or more.

If an extra 4 lbs on your back makes you and your girlfriends trip more enjoyable i would say that it's worth it.

You can always split the weight somewhat too. Like have her carry the tent rain fly and stakes, and you carry the body and poles. Or something like that. Will help reduce the bulk of the tent and split the weight between the two of you. If you ok carrying the weight you can always just strap the tent to the outside of your pack if you need more room inside for other gear.

There are better options out there for the price certainly, but since you already own it i would just stick with it until you can afford to upgrade. I severely doubt you will be able to recoup enough from the sale to be able to get a newer lighter tent. Things that will go against you for selling it. 1) its TNF brand, so many people are leery of buying their stuff nowadays due to quality having gone down significantly as of late, 2) It's a large 4 person tent, 3) It's heavy...really heavy for a 3 season tent., and 4) It's only a 3 season tent.

I would expect to take at least a 50% loss on the tent if you sell it, if not more. I would think you would be hard pressed to sell it on a backpacking site unless you sold it really cheap. You may have better luck selling it locally on craigslist etc.

Best of luck trying to sell it if you do go that route though.

1:45 p.m. on August 9, 2013 (EDT)
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There are some EXTREMELY light tent options out there.. but as aforementioned by some of the other users.. it does come down to money.  The BA Fly Creek UL2 comes in at 2lbs 2oz but is almost 400 bucks.  I was eyeing the Golite Imogene that is 2 lbs 6 oz, at a much more reasonable 250 bucks.  But at those prices, you might as well start looking at cottage industry brands like TarpTent and Six Moon Designs.. based upon their reputation of customer service, USA construction, and just the better feeling of buying from a small company.  When I was looking at the TarpTents, I would always encounter a guy named "Franco" in the forums who would rave about them.  He also has very neat videos on YouTube on TarpTents.  I believe he is also a Trailspace member.  If you can pull it off.. the TarpTent Double Rainbow would probably be a great UL tent in terms of price, size, weight, and also being able to support a small company.  However, since they are single-wall hybrids, I've heard of condensation issues and they must be seam sealed (either as an option through TarpTent or sealed yourself after purchase).  I personally wound up compromising and buying a Sierra Designs tent from steepandcheap.com, which is alot heavier (3 lbs 12 oz) than any of the aforementioned options but also was much cheaper (150 bucks).  Knock on wood, since I have never had to use it.. but from what I have gathered from forums, Sierra Designs is notorious for poor customer service.  But if you're into the TNF stuff, steepandcheap has TNF tents and packs for 35% for the next few days.  Or, you might be able find stuff used.. like signing up for a backpackinglight.com membership and combing their used section for some UL gear.  Good luck with your gear choices!  I know I can get caught up in gram counting and consumerist culture (wanting to buy more and more and more gear) but as @Gary Palmer noted above.. it's about getting out there!!!  I have made a much more conscious effort in carrying less gear and reducing pack weight and its made a world of difference.  Some of the things that I used to think were necessary for comfort (e.g. using a pack towel versus air drying after swimming) really weren't that necessary at all.  Also.. that's awesome that you're gonna include your girlfriend in your outdoor adventures.  I wish my significant other was more open to the idea =(.

P.S. I second the using a down puffy and rain shell for a pillow.  Down puffys now are lighter than most compressible pillows, can serve multiple purposes, and have great weight to warmth ratios.  I think Golite is having a sale right now on some of their down gear.. and maybe montbell as well.  I dunno if you have UNIQLOs out there just yet.. but UNIQLO sells a down puffy at a much cheaper price and comparable weight to some of the bigger companies (e.g. patagonia, marmot, etc.).  I believe they are also available for purchase online.

2:02 p.m. on August 9, 2013 (EDT)
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Wow! Thanks for the replies, everyone.

You know, I've found TNF's customer service is far worse than their tents. I needed replacement guy-lines for the defectives ones on my old Sputnik 2, and it took several weeks, a couple calls, and a lot of e-mails. They eventually sent me four generic lines not the same diameter as the lines used on the Sputnik 2.

The worst thing to happen? The velcro loop glued to the underside of the fly (on my Manta Ray 33, which I've since sold) came off.

A dab of Seam Grip later, problem solved.

Ironically, sold that tent (MR 33) for over $300. Only had seen a couple overnight trips, and was in great shape, but you'd be amazed at the demand for TNF tents on Ebay - especially rare and not-in-production models.

I've actually spent a couple nights this week perusing the TT site, and like that Shires has started figuring out how to make his tents freestanding. You ever get stuck in a shelter, or on a tent pad, well...those non-freestanding models won't cut it.

May try and sell the TNF Double Headed Toad to invest in a TT.

My solo trip was not only for myself, but for my girlfriend. Proved to her I can make do alone in the woods and I know what the heck I'm doing. She's game, but it'll probably keep us regular backpackers (I don't she'd make the sacrifices UL backpacking requires).

Down jacket? Most sensible idea yet, and I still need to get one. I've a synthetic one from TNF, but it's hardly a trail-worthy jacket.

2:38 p.m. on August 9, 2013 (EDT)
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Great choice!  I'd love to have one of Henry Shires creations one of these days.  I wouldn't worry too much about the "non-freestanding" issue though.  From what I've gathered from forums, many a hiker has camped above treeline in the Sierras on pure granite and have made due with a taut pitch with a non-freestanding tent.  Of course, I cannot comment from personal experience since I do not own a TarpTent.  But I figure if hikers are doing PCT with those things, you should be able to use them anywhere.

http://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/showthread.php?46678-Non-Freestanding-Tent-on-Gravel-Tent-Pad

http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/forums/thread_display.html?forum_thread_id=53025

4:09 p.m. on August 9, 2013 (EDT)
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I know there're ways around not having in-ground stake-out points, but hey, convenience. Thanks for the tips. I've been to whiteblaze quite a few times to read up on things, there, too. Great forum. 

Current solo tent is about 5 1/2 pounds, so as long as I'm at or under that, I'm alright. If I'm not mistaken, that's about the weight of the Hogback 4-person from TT...imagine by going down to a 2-person has got to cut some of that weight, too.

10:14 p.m. on August 19, 2013 (EDT)
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Alright, folks.

Went ahead and purchased an alcohol stove.

Yes. "Purchased."

Sure, it's a buck for a cat-can, but I wanted something I could beat the living hell out of and know it'd last me a few decades. 

http://www.ebay.com/itm/RUCAS-Alcohol-Stove-Vargo-8oz-Fuel-Bottle-FAST-SHIP-backpacking-survival-/190872170222?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item2c70de2eee

Knowing it was made from re-purposed aluminum helped. More than anything, I'm relieved that there's no longer a dependency on MSR IsoPro canisters.

Got a folding aluminum Vargo windscreen to go around it, too.

Since I plan to stick to freeze-dried meals on my trips, I down-sized from the 1.1L MSR Stowaway pot and picked up a 600mL Snow Peak Ti mug. 

I've shaved at least a whole pound off my camp kitchen this way.

Now, alcohol-stove users: am I fine lighting this with a firesteel/flint, or do y'all use matches normally? Picked up a LMF Scout Firesteel. Had a built-in emergency whistle, and since my first trip was without any sort of emergency signal device, this by itself was enough to sell me.

Finally, too, took advantage of the REI return policy. Sent back an XXXL-size duffel bag I hadn't any use for. I could fit all my gear in that bag, a house pet, and probably a small child and still have room to spare. Took the store credit and got a set of 3 UL ditty bags, a MH meal, and a bottle of Permethrin. After the bad experience with sponge-applied UltraThon, I was sold instantly on the fact it's 100% pre-applied, is safe for synthetic fabrics, and - because it's applied onto fabrics - I don't have to worry about getting it in my eyes. 

Now, the prospective sites for trip #2:

-Weldon Springs SP

-Forest Glen Preserve

-Sand Ridge State Forest

If you're familiar or you've been to any of the aforementioned, let me know.

I'm likely going to do it as an overnight, and try to split the hike into two days as evenly as possible. The first trip had 95% of my hiking in the first day, and my second day was cut short because of it. Pacing myself this time around.

Really looking for something with a solid, lengthy loop trail.

If y'all have any tips, well, send 'em my way.

Shooting for the end of this month or early next. As per the usual, expect new gear reviews and an updated pack list to come out of it.

9:40 a.m. on August 20, 2013 (EDT)
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For lighting my alcohol stove, I normally carry a BIC lighter. I have flint-and-steel and waterproof matches in my pack, but the BIC is light and convenient. 

Be aware that an alcohol flame can be virtually invisible, so watch your fingers and make sure it's completely out before adding more fuel. 

10:28 a.m. on August 20, 2013 (EDT)
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I use a tip from Trouthunter....find a long twig or needle and dip it into the alcohol, then light the twig with your lighter and light the stove with that. Just creating a long match really....

11:14 a.m. on August 20, 2013 (EDT)
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That's the only thing that makes me nervous with the alcohol stove, Peter. Patman? May take you up on that homemade long match suggestion. I was thinking of using a flint because it put a distance between myself and the stove.

4:56 p.m. on August 20, 2013 (EDT)
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HornRimmedHiker said:

I was thinking of using a flint because it put a distance between myself and the stove.

 You won't be able to get that far from the fuel to light it with a spark. Keep in mind, this isn't going to flare up at you like a giant fireball. You're not lighting gasoline.

I believe Peter's warning was that a lit alcohol stove is hard to see. If you reach for it after lighting it, you'll probably regret it.

Watch the video in my Sparky review. http://www.trailspace.com/gear/ultimate-survival-technologies/sparkie/#review29304 You can ignore most of the video. Just pay attention to the way I light the stove and how hard it is to see the flame. BTW, the Sparky lights similar to a Bic in this sense.

I prefer a Bic with the child safety removed so you can light it with your forefinger, rather than your thumb. Even after your lighter is out of fuel, you can still get a spark to light an alcohol stove.

9:45 a.m. on August 21, 2013 (EDT)
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G00SE said:

I believe Peter's warning was that a lit alcohol stove is hard to see. If you reach for it after lighting it, you'll probably regret it.

 

Exactly. When lighting the stove, it can be hard to tell whether it's lit or not. If you're unsure, wave your hand over it at a safe distance and feel for heat emanating off it.

The bigger risk, though, is thinking the fuel has run out, and pouring more into the stove while the flame is actually still going. That will ignite everything in the fuel bottle. You'll drop it, but there will be burning alcohol everywhere. Just be sure the stove is actually empty and that there is no flame left before refilling it, and you'll be fine. 

11:11 a.m. on August 21, 2013 (EDT)
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Very helpful advice, gentlemen! 

I've never used an alcohol stove before a day in my life, so I'll freely admit it's completely new territory for me to venture into. These don't sounds like the kinds of mistakes I would even want to make once, so I'm very much appreciative of the help.

Like with any other piece of gear, I'll probably give it some at-home testing before hitting the trail with it. 

Still juggling locations for the next solo trip. Forgot I'd purchased a $35 Annual, Wisconsin State Park Non-Resident Parking Pass back in May. That said, I think I'm going to make sure I get my money's worth and head up there for my next trip. 

1:43 a.m. on August 26, 2013 (EDT)
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Alright, ladies and gents.

Planning the second solo trip.

2 hrs and 45 min was a manageable distance to drive, and I'm trying to keep within a 3 hr radius from home. When you're from the Chicago suburbs, it's challenging, and limiting, but not impossible.

Came across the Forest Glen Preserve's River Ridge backpacking trail.

(G00SE, if you're familiar - chime in on this location)

It's an 11-mile loop.

Last trip, I hiked a little more than 11 miles, but did at least 10 on my first day, and cashed my legs out before I could hike a second day. Easily something I could accomplish on an overnight weekend trip.

The East Camp, here, is 7.5 miles in. I'd have all day to reach this point, and I'd have a shorter distance to hike back to my car on the second day.

Here're some changes and upgrades I'm making:

1.) Switching from my 4 lb, 15 deg sleeping bag to a 2 lb, 40 deg bag. I sleep warm and last trip, woke up in a sweat the next morning. If it got cool, I do pack clothes I could put on to get warmer. 

2.) Losing the MSR stove, IsoPro canister, and folding canstand. Replacing them with an alcohol stove, measured fuel bottle, and folding windscreen. I've tested cooking on the alcohol stove at home and have a handle on boiling water and cooking basic meals with it.

3.) Replaced the CROCS with CROCS slip-on sandals. They're not thong sandals and I can slip them on over socks, if it's cool at night. These pack much smaller and flatter than my shoes did. Being a size 12, they're never going to be small, but this seems to be the best compromise.

4.) Researching lower-cost alternatives to freeze-dried meals. I could probably buy a box of instant oatmeal, a box of granola bars, and a couple boxes of Zatarain's for the same price as one FD meal. 

5.) Researching lower-sodium alternatives. I've hypertension and really need to be more mindful in limiting my sodium intake whenever possible. 

6.) Permethrin. Pre-applying the bugspray to my clothes, pack, and tent (anyone use it on their shoes, by the way?) not only spares me from having to apply and re-apply on the trail, but more importantly, saves room and weight in my pack. 

7.) Replacing my compressible Therm-a-Rest pillow with one of their lite seats. Not only does it offer a better place to sit, but I've experimented using it as a pillow and it's comfortable. I keep the valve open, fold it in half, and let the foam interior carry the weight of my head. I like a firmer pillow but I don't like a tall pillow. This seems like a good compromise. It, too, packs a heck of a lot smaller and lighter.

8.) Considering a backup power source or solar charger, and having my iPhone double as my camera. This works as long as the power source weighs less than my camera does, otherwise, I'm better off packing both the phone and camera.

9.) Bringing a notebook to write in, and a book to read. Once I set up camp for the night last trip, I didn't have any sort of recreation with me. It was fine while I'd daylight, but once the sun set, and the fire was out, I didn't have much to keep myself occupied or wind-down with.

10.) Taking pictures like crazy and notes just as well, and coming home with more reviews to post up here for y'all.

Let me know what y'all think on the aforementioned, and I'm numbering them to make it easier for ya to respond. Thanks as always for the advice and feedback!

-HRH

5:36 p.m. on September 1, 2013 (EDT)
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there are a lot of alternatives to fd meals. knorr sides, zatarans, rice a roni, you could even make a meal out of a can of chili, straight out of the can. but you have to watch your sodium. there's one more alternative-drying your own meals with a dehydrator. there are a number of people here who dehydrate their own meals-maybe they can chime in here.

10:12 a.m. on September 2, 2013 (EDT)
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Trailjester said:

... there are a number of people here who dehydrate their own meals-maybe they can chime in here.

 Ding.

I tend to buy one MH for each trip so I can use their bag to cook all my freezer bag meals in.  I put their product into a zippy and keep reusing the clean foil bag all trip as a heat reflector.

Dehydrating your own meals or provisions is a lot of work compared to buying but you know what is in them and can make them to suit your own tastes. Lots of info online, but it comes down to experimenting and learning what works for you as you go. 

If you go this route I highly recommend doing a lot of testing at home before taking anything on trail. I make a test meal from each batch so I'm sure that I can eat what I've brought with me. Some things just don't come out well and get used for cooking at home where they can be cooked rather than rehydrated.

7:48 a.m. on September 3, 2013 (EDT)
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LoneStranger said:

I tend to buy one MH for each trip so I can use their bag to cook all my freezer bag meals in.  I put their product into a zippy and keep reusing the clean foil bag all trip as a heat reflector.

 I went onto Amazon and found foil pouches (same used in MH). I put together my own dehydrated recipes and then use heat (and iron will work) to seal the bags. Now it's just like a MH meal--zip the top off and add water.



10:37 a.m. on September 3, 2013 (EDT)
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G00SE said:

LoneStranger said:

I tend to buy one MH for each trip so I can use their bag to cook all my freezer bag meals in.  I put their product into a zippy and keep reusing the clean foil bag all trip as a heat reflector.

 I went onto Amazon and found foil pouches (same used in MH). I put together my own dehydrated recipes and then use heat (and iron will work) to seal the bags. Now it's just like a MH meal--zip the top off and add water.



 I only have to carry the one heavy bag and keep reusing it. The meals are packed and cooked in lighter freezer bags. That means it is lighter on the way in and lighter in the carry out bag.

I might have to look into those bags though. If they aren't too pricey I could stop getting even the one MH for each trip. I've tried just using my hat as a cozy and I think the meals rehydrate better with the reflective bag.

3:04 p.m. on September 3, 2013 (EDT)
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WOW! What a great thread!!!! PACKED heavy with great information for everyone! Thanks! I haven't done the backpacking on my own thing yet but this will be a resource for sure. Great trip report, by the way and just overall enjoyable between this thread and your report!

4:46 p.m. on September 4, 2013 (EDT)
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LoneStranger said:

G00SE said:

LoneStranger said:

I tend to buy one MH for each trip so I can use their bag to cook all my freezer bag meals in.  I put their product into a zippy and keep reusing the clean foil bag all trip as a heat reflector.

 I went onto Amazon and found foil pouches (same used in MH). I put together my own dehydrated recipes and then use heat (and iron will work) to seal the bags. Now it's just like a MH meal--zip the top off and add water.



 I only have to carry the one heavy bag and keep reusing it. The meals are packed and cooked in lighter freezer bags. That means it is lighter on the way in and lighter in the carry out bag.

I might have to look into those bags though. If they aren't too pricey I could stop getting even the one MH for each trip. I've tried just using my hat as a cozy and I think the meals rehydrate better with the reflective bag.

 You can get the Mylar bags for 75 cents from packit gourmet.I've used a few in the past for a trip..

4:58 p.m. on September 4, 2013 (EDT)
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denis daly said:

LoneStranger said:

G00SE said:

LoneStranger said:

I tend to buy one MH for each trip so I can use their bag to cook all my freezer bag meals in.  I put their product into a zippy and keep reusing the clean foil bag all trip as a heat reflector.

 I went onto Amazon and found foil pouches (same used in MH). I put together my own dehydrated recipes and then use heat (and iron will work) to seal the bags. Now it's just like a MH meal--zip the top off and add water.



 I only have to carry the one heavy bag and keep reusing it. The meals are packed and cooked in lighter freezer bags. That means it is lighter on the way in and lighter in the carry out bag.

I might have to look into those bags though. If they aren't too pricey I could stop getting even the one MH for each trip. I've tried just using my hat as a cozy and I think the meals rehydrate better with the reflective bag.

 You can get the Mylar bags for 75 cents from packit gourmet.I've used a few in the past for a trip..

I seem to recall reading a thread about these bags. Are you using a liner bag of some sort?  I see on their site they list a max temp of 160f.

5:58 p.m. on September 4, 2013 (EDT)
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I seem to recall reading a thread about these bags. Are you using a liner bag of some sort?  I see on their site they list a max temp of 160f

I use them the same way you use a Mountain House bag just to reflect the heat..I think you can heat your water and add it to them and serve your meal also..But I like to put my food in a Disposable Quart baggie..But you could buy a few for less than what an MH meal costs thats why I let you know about them..I also Dehydrate my own meals..

6:11 p.m. on September 4, 2013 (EDT)
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denis daly said:

I seem to recall reading a thread about these bags. Are you using a liner bag of some sort?  I see on their site they list a max temp of 160f

I use them the same way you use a Mountain House bag just to reflect the heat..I think you can heat your water and add it to them and serve your meal also..But I like to put my food in a Disposable Quart baggie..But you could buy a few for less than what an MH meal costs thats why I let you know about them..I dehydrate also..

 Sounds like a good tip. I knew I was still in this thread for a reason. 8p

Actually I bookmarked that vendor for future reference.  If we can ever figure out what to do with The Tot for a month Mrs Stranger and I would like to do the Long Trail. I'm thinking those little spice and sauce packets would be great on a thru hike. Thanks for mentioning the site and those bags again denis!

9:30 p.m. on September 4, 2013 (EDT)
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denis daly said:


 You can get the Mylar bags for 75 cents from packit gourmet.I've used a few in the past for a trip..

 You can find 'em on Amazon.com for around 60 cents.

I put together the meal in the bag. If there is cheese or bacon bits or seasoning to be added later, I put these in small baggies at the top. Once everything is in the mylar bag, I seal it up. Then I write all the cooking  instructions on the outside of the bag with a marker.


For example:


SUNSET ON THE PLAINS

1. Remove sun-dried tomatoes, sesame seeds, & seasoning packet

2. Add 1 cup boiling water. Let stand 5 minutes.

3. Drain water.

4. Mix in seasoning packet.

5. Add tomatoes, seeds.

6. Sprinkle p. cheese on top

Nice thing about the mylar bags is they are resealable. I can eat any leftovers for breakfast.

The only thing that needs washing is my spoon. And the simple solution there is to lick it clean and wait for the next meal to stick it in boiling water.

9:04 a.m. on September 5, 2013 (EDT)
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So are you cooking/re-hydrating directly in the mylar bag GOOSE or are you using a liner bag too?

5:34 p.m. on September 5, 2013 (EDT)
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LoneStranger, you can use mylar bags to cook/rehydrate in. Just use the food grade ones. The non food grade ones are the ones sold for electronics use typically.

I have been using them for many years, they work great. If you want the resealable ones then be sure to get the ziplock style ones. There are 2 general types, ziplock, and heat seal. Both work, but the ziplock seal is reuseable.

6:06 p.m. on September 5, 2013 (EDT)
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I reuse Ziploc bags over and over again. Simple to wash them out and turn them inside out to dry, then reuse them. I rebag my pasta meals, put cheese in them, nuts,candy,powdered milk, hot cocoa and instant coffee and anything else I want to stay dry like maps, notebooks,memory cards,first aid kit, etc.

7:49 p.m. on September 5, 2013 (EDT)
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TheRambler said:

LoneStranger, you can use mylar bags to cook/rehydrate in. Just use the food grade ones. The non food grade ones are the ones sold for electronics use typically.

I have been using them for many years, they work great. If you want the resealable ones then be sure to get the ziplock style ones. There are 2 general types, ziplock, and heat seal. Both work, but the ziplock seal is reuseable.

 The reason for my question is that the mylar bags I've seen are rated for 160f.  I'm really just looking for something I can use for an entire trip as an insulator for my freezer bags instead of buy a MH each time just for the bag.

12:19 a.m. on September 6, 2013 (EDT)
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sounds like those ziplock mylar bags are a good idea. something to try on my next trip.

8:37 a.m. on September 6, 2013 (EDT)
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LoneStranger said:

TheRambler said:

LoneStranger, you can use mylar bags to cook/rehydrate in. Just use the food grade ones. The non food grade ones are the ones sold for electronics use typically.

I have been using them for many years, they work great. If you want the resealable ones then be sure to get the ziplock style ones. There are 2 general types, ziplock, and heat seal. Both work, but the ziplock seal is reuseable.

 The reason for my question is that the mylar bags I've seen are rated for 160f.  I'm really just looking for something I can use for an entire trip as an insulator for my freezer bags instead of buy a MH each time just for the bag.

I would not consider them reusable. I mentioned using 1/2 bag for my oatmeal bowl--that only lasts a few times.

8:43 a.m. on September 6, 2013 (EDT)
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This is a video I shot for my hiking partner in Texas. I was showing him what I was planning with our food preparation for our next trip.

10:35 a.m. on September 6, 2013 (EDT)
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Thanks that answers my question. You aren't using a liner.  That explains why the bags wouldn't be reusable for you.  I'm sticking with the freezer bags for my meals but I will give the mylar a shot to see if it works in place of using a MH bag as a heat reflector. 

8:43 a.m. on September 7, 2013 (EDT)
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It definitely stays hot for a good long time. In fact, depending on what I'm cooking, I often don't bring my water to a full boil, or it takes forever to cool down enough to eat it.

5:51 a.m. on September 8, 2013 (EDT)
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When I hike,camp and cook my meals and use a stove, I have learned to regulate my fuel consumption and use 1 eight ounce cannister for 2-3 weeks because I heat the water for my pasta to a boil, add the macaroni,ramen or whatever, turn off the heat, cover and let set  for 5-20 minutes. By the time I have gone for a stroll, read a couple chapters from my book, written in a journal,etc, my food is cooked and "cool" enough to eat. After eating I don't waste valuable water to wash the cook pot, I use one that has a sealable lid


MSR-Stowawy-cook-pot.jpg

so I put a little water in the pot, seal it and swish the water around, then leave the pot till my next meal of pasta (next evening) then add just enough water and start the cooking process all over again. No need to wash it when I am going to cook the same thing all over again each main meal. I only use my cook pot for my main evening meal, I use my Sierra Cup for heating water for cocoa, or making oatmeal and then lick it out as clean as possible, then wash it out a bit and towel it out with toilet paper, stick the paper in the air to dry and reuse it as many times as possible or even store it in a Ziploc (after drying) for later use when nature calls.

I use and have been using Ziplocs for 40 years.


Ziploc-food.jpg

I don't cook in the bag as you are describing, I only repackage all my store bought foods in them. I crumble many packs of Ramen and open them and dump about 10 of them into a large gallon sized Ziploc. I do the same with the macaroni from about ten packages, and place the cheese paks into another Ziploc. I put all my instant oatmeal (fruit and cream paks in a Ziploc. When time to cook I grab a handfull of the Ramen,macaroni or oatmeal and place it it the heated water and follow the before mentioned cooking method.

I reuse the Ziploc's as many times as possible. Macaroni tends to eventually put little holes in the Ziploc's so I use them for used TP storage. I often double Ziploc foods that may burst the bag so I don't have to find macaroni or oatmeal all over in my food stuff sacks.

I use different colored stuff sacks for different meals, Yellow for breakfast, red for lunch and blue for supper. Then when I want to eat I know by the color of the bag which one to grab from my pack, not having to fumble with all the individual ones as I used to do when I first went hiking (on my own) 40 years ago.

I even use large gallon Ziploc bags for my clothing, rolled up and kept dry and clean in them. Use one or two depending on the amount of clothing carried on a hike for dirty stuff,especially socks! I even use ziplocs  to separate my small items like stationary,nail clippers, knive(s),coins,etc and keep them organized in my pack pockets. 

Every thing stays dry and sorted in Ziploc's in my gear!

August 30, 2014
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