Looking for Some Advice on Trip

11:27 a.m. on December 9, 2013 (EST)
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So I happened to stumble across this site a few days ago and have been reading like crazy but was looking for some advice on a trip I am planning.

I have been doing quite a lot of research on gear based on reviews and other forum posts obviously I may not have everything covered yet but I have just started the planning process. 

I was looking at doing a 5-6 day trip and had the Grand Tetons or Oregon but am up for other suggestions. Planning on doing the trip in the summer months with a few other people (we are all around the 23-24 age and in pretty good physical shape). When I say decent physical shape we usually lift a few days a week and do some cardio as well. Looking for any suggestions on trails or locations or hints or tips regarding places to go for a somewhat newbie while still allowing for solitude etc. 

Plan to do some long weekend trips in the spring prior to the longer trip to get back into things, I last backpacked in a somewhat large group 5-7 years ago, with a friends assortment of gear. 

Mostly looking for some guidance and suggestions on Trails or locations and hints or tips to take away and build upon going forward. And as far as gear goes looking for suggestions on backpack sizes in like 50L or 65L? Any gear or location information helps!

Thanks a lot for the help and glad to be apart of this community

12:15 p.m. on December 9, 2013 (EST)
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I cant be of too much help as i am not familiar with that area. You don't really ask anything about gear, but by the tone of your post i get the impression that you should perhaps focus first on making sure you have a well rounded kit that includes the 10 essentials.

That being said, really any trail can do, but it obviously depends on how streneous of a hike/trip you want yo do. I would strongly recommend picking up and or downloading some topo maps of the area and learning how to read them. Then use the maps and any specific trail information you can dig up to plan your trip. I recommend keeping it kinda tame for your first long trip, some people tens to try and push tk hard and either end up miserable or hurt or both.

Mytopo.com and the usgs site are both good places to get topo maps. And u believ both are free to download but cost $ to have them prjnted

1:10 p.m. on December 9, 2013 (EST)
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Hi Mike, Welcome to the site. Where are you located? If you are considering Oregon, there is always a section of the PCT, as well as a number of nice multi day hikes in the Wallowas in NE Oregon. The latter are a bit of an unknown secret to many outside the PNW. The Tetons are beautiful, but crowded, IMO.

1:31 p.m. on December 9, 2013 (EST)
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I am with Erich, the Teton's are nice and there is a nice long 5-6 day hike I love to do along the TCT or Teton Crest Trail which follows the backbone of the Teton range. You can start either at Teton Pass above Wilson WY or take the aerial tram at Teton Village up to Rendezvous Mtn then go in on the Granite Creek trail. 

The TCT is between 45-60 miles in length depending on the start end points. There are many other trails that lead up to it all along the way. The trails high points are Hurricane Pass and Paintbrush Divide both over 11,400 feet. If you do this trail be sure to wait till after July first as before that there may be snow,ice and cold winter like conditions. I have done the TCT many times in the last 33 years.

There are high alpine lakes, Moose,Elk, Black Bears, Wolverines,Marmots, glacier moraines, sea shell fossils, many high points of the Tetons to see, and plenty of melt water to drink.

See this link to a topo of the whole Teton Range:


You can zoom closer in with the bar to the left and see street view with the little orange guy above that. Like Google Earth just drag him to the road location. You can also hold and drag to move any direction.

The Tetons are a spur of the Rocky Mountains. Very great country indeed!

Also check out this video about hiking the TC from Moose Pass (above Teton Pass) along the trail.


4:37 p.m. on December 9, 2013 (EST)
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Thank you for your quick replies is there any guidance in terms of distance per day based on elevation change as a general rule of thumb or at least something to start with having not hiked as often at such high elevation?

5:59 p.m. on December 9, 2013 (EST)
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8-10 miles per day seem to be a decent starting average for many backpackers. The more strenuous the terrain the shorter the miles typically, but not always. You may find yourself doing great, and you may be able to go 15+, its really hard to guess until you get out there and just give it a go. For example i average about 10-12 miles on average to moderate terrain, and about 8-10 for more streneous, a day before i am ready to plop down and hang up my hammock for the night . If its relatively easy/flatish/ridgeline etc terrain I can do a 15-20 mile day no problem.

I almost always plan 3 ways for each day of my trips. I plan a spot on the map that looks like a suitable place to camp at around the 6-8 mile mark, one around the 10 mile mark, and one around the 14 mile mark. I do this for a variety of reasons, but mainly so i have planned out options in case I am forced to alter my pace for any number of reasons.

You can always plan short, and go farther. But if you plan far, going shorter can throw a wrench into logistic planning.

Another way to look at it is a pace speed. Most people average a 2-3mph pace while hiking. For streneous terrain cut your pace in 1/2 and you will probably get a rough idea. Don't forget to calculate in rest breaks etc.

8:24 p.m. on December 9, 2013 (EST)
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Check out this video slide show I made of pictures I shot in the Teton's a few summers ago:


I tried 4 times to post it as a video but it would not stay, just click on the link.

10:04 a.m. on December 10, 2013 (EST)
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Where do you live?  There are probably good nearby venues for you to reacquaint yourself to backpacking. 

As you are probably aware, gym shape does not equate into being basket ball shape, and neither translate into being in cycling shape.  Your conditioning will help somewhat, but like all sports the best fitness training is the sport itself.  As for anticipating your groups’ trail endurance, it could range widely.  Some folks strain to cover four miles of high sierra trail, while others cover 10+ a day and still have time to fish.  Furthermore the nature of your kit will affect endurance.  Some carry extraordinarily heavy packs (perhaps their need to bring everything along is rooted in security issues ;-)  Others par their kit down to a scant six items, yet somehow claim to still be carrying the ten essentials.  Lastly altitude will handicap your performance the higher you go.  Your practice trips will tell you more about this question than what we can herein.

If you are confident in your skills, you may need fewer practice trips to prepare you for an extended 5+ day trip.  But I suggest you get down the various systems and techniques that will keep your trip comfortable and safe, before committing to a date for the big one.  Know how to set up your tent, safely store food, how to operate the stove and know how to use the potable water system chosen (if one is actually needed), and verify your layering system will work.  At the very least research the anticipated weather and equip accordingly.  Perhaps consider reading about the backcountry  in general:  The Seattle Mountaineers publish a widely read tomb addressing travel through various terrains:  Freedom of the Hill addresses a broad range of back country topics.  In your case the sections on weather and shelter should studied.

Always carry a map of the area.  Any additions to the map, regardling navigation aids, are optional for most campers.  But none, including GPS and other tech replace the map.

The venues your ponder can see rain requiring hard shell top and bottoms.  You don’t need expensive stuff right out, but you will need gear that keeps cold, outside, water from getting in (good luck with the sweat, it’ll drench you regardless).  In any case better to be warm and wet than cold and wet.  Shed layers to minimize soaking your gear in sweat while under way.


2:00 p.m. on December 10, 2013 (EST)
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Thanks for the tips, I am actually in Chicago, my last backpacking trips were in the Upper Peninsula. So unfortunately I am not at a very high altitude to start with so getting out there will already raise me a few thousand feet. I have done quite a few day hikes in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana but have never done any backpacking out that way, so not quite sure about how I will be affected by the altitude change. 

Yea I am doing what I can to stay physically fit and know that the best training would be to actually go out and do some trips because there are always muscles you never know you even have until you get on the trail.

Also what are your opinions on National/State Parks vs National/State Forests in the US? Do you enjoy being able to camp more places or build a fire rather than be forced to stop at a predefined campsite?


5:08 p.m. on December 10, 2013 (EST)
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I have a friend that lives in New York and he walks up 10+ flights of stairs with his full pack on a lot to get in shape for hiking and backpacking.

7:59 a.m. on December 11, 2013 (EST)
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Mike Stelz said:

Also what are your opinions on National/State Parks vs National/State Forests in the US? Do you enjoy being able to camp more places or build a fire rather than be forced to stop at a predefined campsite?


 Some places are worth putting up with restrictions and some are the better for it as far as I'm concerned.  I pay the premium to visit Baxter as often as I can partially because it is a controlled environment as far as humans are concerned. As nice as it is to camp where you please I hate seeing what some folks leave behind in terms of damage and garbage so limiting the areas those sorts impact is reason enough for me to tolerate being limited myself. Popular and accessible areas need controls to keep the idiots from destroying them entirely.

Once you get beyond the range of most people though, the less popular areas where fewer people mean less chance they cause a problem, free range is the way to go ;)  I only build a fire if I want to cook fish so that part isn't important to me, but I do like finding a random magical spot and calling it home for a night then leaving it looking like no one had ever been there.

8:44 a.m. on December 11, 2013 (EST)
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Welcome to Trailspace Mike! One idea that gets a lot of play is the "shakedown trip." If you're in good shape, but haven't done a lot of solo backpacking, it means testing yourself with trips that a progressively more intense. It sounds goofy, but I sometimes camp in my back yard to test new gear! After a few trips in the yard to figure out tent, stove, headlamp, etc..you're ready for a car camping trip, then an overnight backpack, etc..
Share pictures and review your gear, ask questions, and solicit advice. We're not short on opinions about gear and equipment at Trailspace!

12:43 p.m. on December 11, 2013 (EST)
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Mike, one of the things you'll learn here, is that everyone has different opinions as to what is a great trip. Certainly, we can all appreciate the beauty no matter what the environment, but some want fishing, others want the ability to cook over a fire every night, some want loop hikes, and some want desert canyons. In the PNW, there are several longish ocean beach hikes you can do. As you narrow your needs and wants, it will be easier to give suggestions on hikes that suit you. The west has many great hikes, and since you are coming from Chicago, California and Washington are as easy as Oregon. The Tetons are closer, as would be Glacier NP.

7:25 p.m. on December 11, 2013 (EST)
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There are awesome trails all over the east coast as well, and also a much shorter drive.

8:47 p.m. on December 11, 2013 (EST)
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Hey! Another Chicago boy!

Nice to have the company, Mike.

As far as 50L packs go?

IF you carry 25 lbs or less, and emphasis on IF:

Check out the:

ULA CDT ($135, 1 lb 1 oz)

GoLite Jam 50L ($110, 1 lb 14 oz)

or the Mountainsmith Haze 50L ($98, 1 lb 15 oz)

They're all large top-loaders and all weigh under 2 lbs.

And all are easy on the wallet, too.

And heck, dude, if you're from Chicago?

You've gotta do the Shawnee National Forest and River-to-River Trail.

160 miles for you to section or thru hike.

Bonus? It's far enough south that it'll feel like a summer vacation compared to the weather you're used to up here!

9:42 a.m. on December 12, 2013 (EST)
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Thanks everyone for the continued tips and information I am getting it is extremely helpful. In terms of finding trails and such is there a good way to go about doing so? Ive used backpacking.com or whatever but sometimes its hard to find longer trails other than day hikes there. Is there a specific website you guys look at? What I have been doing besides that is just looking around for national parks / forests and then researching on that park etc. 

Like you said TheRambler there is a bunch out east I just dont know where to go about finding different trails etc. I have a few friends out east that would like to go at one point as well and just dont know much about their area. 

LoneStranger I appreciate your opinion on that and that makes sense honestly. Ive been to quite a few national parks for day hikes only that is why I guess I was curious as to the backpacking in them and how the restrictions etc were. But even from day hikes you could tell how popular they are so the restrictions make sense for such a beautiful area. 

Eric hows it going nice to see another person from Chicago as well I thought I wouldn't see anyone else from the tame and flat midwest. Thanks for the hints on Shawnee I was actually looking for some closer trips to take early in the season to get more accustomed to my gear.

I have a question regarding tents I have a Kelty Salida 2 and my brother has the REI half dome, I was wondering since these are 3 season tents would be reliable enough for trips in the summer at around 10,000. Even though its summer there is always the possibility of snow storms up in the mountains.

11:33 a.m. on December 12, 2013 (EST)
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Regarding finding trails, there are several methods that work. Step 1 would be identifying the long distance trails in an area. Step 2 would be to look up national parks/forests/wilderness areas, or state parks and forests in a given area. Step 3 would be just doing a google search, like "long distance trails in North Carolina, or backpacking trails in NC" etc

Several resources that will aid in your search. First would be just asking here on Trailspace, but be specific, as an example ask "What are some good 2-3 day hikes in North Carolina"

www.whiteblaze.net This is a very helpful site as there is a seperate forum section for most of the major long distance trails in the country.

www.backpacker.com also has a forum section that has individual state and regional forums which are good places to get trail suggestions also

Finding information on a specific trail is hit or miss at times, asking questions on sites like this is sometimes the only way, though sometimes there will be more information on trail group websites etc. Once you have a trails name and google it you can usually find enough information to get started in your search.

Just for starters, here are some major trails within just a couple hour drive from you:

Ice age Trail in Wisconsin

North Country Trail, goes across the US East to West

Nordhouse duns national wilderness

huron national forest

shawnee national forest

mark twain national forest

memorial hardwood state forests

Isle Royale National Park

High Country Pathway

Porcupine wilderness

and many more. Just look at a map of the US. Pick a state and start googling and you will find all kinda of things.

11:50 a.m. on December 12, 2013 (EST)
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Either of those tents would be fine in theory. I say in theory because at any time of year a freak or just really strong storm can pop up and wreak havoc. When your using any shelter system, be it a tent, tarp, hammock, whatever, you want to always try to set them up in an area that gives you protection by utilizing natural features around you.

For example if you were to set one of those tents up on an exposed ridgeline with no tree cover, no rock formations to block wind etc, yes you could very easily see your tent fail in severe weather., especially high winds.

Site selection is key no matter what shelter type you are using. Utilize stands of trees, land or rock formations etc to give yourself the most protection possible. Unless you have a really strong shelter system it is not generally recommended to camp in an exposed area, whether its at 3000ft or 10000ft. You may do it 100 times and nothing ever happen, but weather can be unpredictable in the mountains at times.

Most weather situations either of those tents will be able to handle with no issues with the exception of winter or shoulder seasons where you may be exposed to a snow and or ice load. They can even work in winter conditions if your responsible and keep the snow and ice knocked off frequently.

I guess the bottom line of all of that is that if you intend to camp frequently in an exposed area instead of utilizing natural cover or just camping in a lower more protected area then you may want to invest in a more robust shelter system. Me personally, i use a tarp and a hammock year round with absolutely zero issues in strong thunderstorms or in blizzard conditions. You just have to know how to set up your shelter system in an appropite manner for the expected conditions, and have a plan in the unlikely event you do suffer a failure of some sort.

12:42 p.m. on December 12, 2013 (EST)
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Another great area to check out especially for you low lander's. Is the Grand Canyon. Make reservations now for early spring (April/May 2014) for back country hiking. April is best as inner canyon temps are still mild. May to October gets pretty hot in the canyon at 120 degrees in the shade. 

You start hiking at 7500-8500 feet but son drop into the canyon down to 3000 feet at the Colorado River. With a 2 hour (non-stop) 9 mile hike to the river. There are water stations every 1 1/2 miles down the Bright Angel Trail.


This view is from the North Rim which is 1000 feet higher than the South Rim and is 9000 feet above sea level. Its a 14 mile hike to the Colorado River with water all along the way, bring a filter pump for much of its water sources.

The south rim is the long dark blue line on the horizon beneath the clouds.


South Rim Grand Canyon view. The Colorado River is running bottom right to upper left unseen in this image. Its a desert down there, few tree's, rattlesnakes,deer,big horn sheep,sandstone and limestone walls.

2:20 p.m. on December 12, 2013 (EST)
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Check out my trip reports - all of them are from Illinois, and save Shawnee National Forest, less than three hours away.

Here's a link to the DNR page about backpacking locations in Wisconsin:


Also check out the Yellow River State Forest, just across the Mississippi River in Iowa.

9:14 p.m. on December 13, 2013 (EST)
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Welcome, Mike. I'm an Illinois boy myself. I spend most of my 2-5 day trips in Shawnee National Forest.

If you are up for a winter trek, a few of us are hiking on the River-to-River (R2R) Trail in Shawnee December 29-31. We plan to cover the 28 miles from Fern Clyffe State Park to Giant City State Park. You are welcome to join us. (That goes for any TS member). Just shoot me a Private Message, and I can get you details. 

2:33 p.m. on December 15, 2013 (EST)
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Thanks for the interesting list of destinations for the middle part of the country. I really like the North Woods and the BWCA.

3:29 p.m. on December 17, 2013 (EST)
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Thanks for the additional tips and love the discussions that just pick up on these forums with many different insights its nice to hear multiple point of views rather than just a single persons opinion or experiences.

Rambler thanks for the tips personally those were my thoughts as well because my friend has done the same for years but he usually mountaineers more so than just higher altitude backpacking. 

Gary the Grand Canyon is quite the hike doing some longer full day hikes its definitely a fun hike. But a hike that an experienced hiker needs to be aware of, to many times people hike down and don't realize the time the way back up will take. The few hikes that I took while I was out there, I could notice quite a few hikers that didn't realize the difficulty of the hike (slope and heat) and were exhausted fighting their way back up.

Goose thanks for the offer I would have loved to go if I wasn't already out of the country at that time.

Does anyone have any recommendation on clothing suggestions while hiking like what sort of articles do you bring with depending on the temperature or location one is going. Obviously not looking for an extensive list and weather at the time will change it but a general idea or types of clothing would be a nice help. Such as rainwear or anything else. Maybe some tips for maintaining clothes while out, especially if one decided to pack light. 

5:38 p.m. on December 17, 2013 (EST)
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Mike, your question about clothing could take up a book worth of space to answer due to its vaugeness. If you have a question about a specific area and time of year it would be much easier to answer.

However, that being said here is a general rule of thumb. You can vary this based on the season, as obviously summer wont require some of these.

Baselayer-in summer this would be a wicking t-shirt and underwear, in cool and colder times of year this may be any varying of thicknesses of long john style baselayers/thermal underwear

mid layer-Typically for the cool and cold times of year. A layer that is the same thickness or a little thicker than your baselayer. Thin fleece pullover, long sleeve wool shirt, light sweater, etc. Generally to provide a little extra warmth while moving if needed.

insulating layer-typically for cool/cold times of year, and will normally be a puffy jacket of some sort, though a thicker fleece pullover or wool sweater can accomplish the same goal at times as well.

outer layer/shell-Something worn on the outside of everything else to block wind and keep moisture out. Some people prefer to have two, such as a thin light windbreaker, and a heavier main shell. There are tons of options, but think rain jacket. You want something that will keep you dry, cut wind, but also breath some. Many people prefer shells with pit zips to help with venting if you are wearing it will moving.

Any of those layers can be worn together as needed, though it is strongly advised to not wear your insulating layer while you are actively hiking to avoid getting it wet with sweat. The insulating layer is best suited for rest breaks and camp.

Don't forget your socks, gloves, and hat as appropiat for the time of year.

It is also strongly recommended to size up your layers the closer they get to the outside. What i mean by this is if you wear a size L shirt normally, your baselayer would be a L, your midlayer may also be a L, but your insulating layer would be a XL, and your outer shell would be a XL. Sizes and cuts vary between manufacturers. So it really is best to try all of your layers on at a store to see what size of what works best for your layering.

Hope that helps some, its a big topic. Feel free to start a seperate post and ask specific questions. Layering is a very personal thing, and what works for me might not work for you. It takes alot of personal experimentation to get your personal system dialed in just right.


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