First time backpacking in Grand Teton

9:18 a.m. on May 15, 2013 (EDT)
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Morning all,

I am new to this forum and I was hoping you’ll be able to give me your advice.

A bit of background first: we (my boyfriend and I) have been hiking for quite some time up and down the Alps. We have always done day hikes, some scrambling, some “via ferrata”  and  are well used to unpredictable weather, different types of terrain amd steep ascents.

This year the plan is to go to Grand Teton………..backcountry!!

I suspect the idea is to do the GT Trail and possibly the lower trail to complete the loop.

We’ve never been hiking in the USA so I really don’ t know what to expect

We haven’t yet booked our permit, we’ll be going in early September Is it normally still busy or will it be easier to get backcountry passes once there?

What’s the weather like in early September?

Over here (I mean over in Italy) we usually get sunshine, some rain and we only got some early snow last year. It’s not that hot in September, and quite often if it rains, it will rain all day. Oh and the wind. That can be VERY cold.

I have never been backcountry, and  the thought of putting all my possessions on my back and carry them around like a little snail worries me a little.

I know, “travel light”, enjoy your “sachet food” for a week, and don’t worry about the bears, by the end of the week you’ll stink so badly they’ll think you’re one of them. Still…………..

I might try to convince my dear other half to do some overnighters first, just to see how it goes.

Top tips for a novice?

thank you all

9:29 a.m. on May 15, 2013 (EDT)
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It is possible and even likely to get snow by then.  Bring warm clothes and be ready for some wild country.  Keep a clean camp and don't sleep anywhere near your food as there are grizzly bears in the that country.

1:09 p.m. on May 15, 2013 (EDT)
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Get your permit as soon as possible.  The Tetons have a quota system, and they are very popular.

There are several significant differences hiking in Europe, versus hiking in the USA.

  • Bears
    Don’t worry about the bears, but do respect the danger they present to careless campers.  Store food and scented items away from your camp.  The park will require you bear proof your food supply by using a bear box or hanging your food, or using a bear proof container you carry on your pack.  For that matter you must also watch out for marmots, squirrels, birds and other food thieves posing as wildlife.  Definitely don’t leave food in or next to an unattended pack.
  • Leave No Trace.
    We have a philosophy known as Leave No Trace (LTN).  The idea is to enjoy the wilderness in a manner that leaves it as close as possible to the way it was before you passed through.  Search the forum threads on tips how to camp respectful of this credo.    
  • Expect a relatively heavy pack.
    Your pack will be significantly heavier than one for a similar length trip in Europe, since you are not staying at a hut, and must transport your own shelter, food, and the means to prepare and eat it.
  • Prepare for cool temperatures and rain.
    September is considered good weather season, but you can get early bad weather, including snow.  I would be more concerned with rain, however, as cold and wet are not good.  Bring along good hard shell (water proof not water resistant) garments, top and bottom.  You will also need some type of shelter to retreat to for sleep if it rains.
  • You’ll need a stove
    If you don’t have a cooking stove, buy or borrow one.  Check ahead regarding air line restrictions and stoves.  If you get or already have a canister stove, consider one with a fuel line connecting to the fuel canister, versus the kind where the stove sits on top of the canister, as you may run into chilly mornings that will require inverting the canister for optimal efficiency.  You won’t have to worry about the temperature if you have one of the other types of stoves.
  • For your comfort:
    Get a sleeping pad to place under your sleeping bag.  The ground is hard!
  • Take the tram.
    There is public transportation to various trailheads in the Tetons.  Ask the park service before you apply for your permit if you are interested in foregoing the cost of a rental car by availing to this transportation option.


4:09 p.m. on May 15, 2013 (EDT)
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Ed (Whomeworry), gives great advice, though I have a few things to add: 

- In the National Park, which you'll be in most of the time, you are required to store and transport your food and "smellables" in a bear canister, which you can either buy beforehand or borrow from the Ranger's station. Hanging your food in the NP is prohibited, and you must use a canister. 

- I hiked the Teton Crest Trail a couple years ago, and found the available shuttles were not helpful in planning my trip much at all, though that may not be the case for what you end up planning. The only one there at the time was the Resort Shuttle, that only makes two stops for the park: one at the Moose Visitors Center and the other at the Jenny Lake Ranger's Station. The other stops it makes are the Town of Jackson and various resorts. So, if you are able to plan your hiking route around those locations, your in luck. Otherwise, a rental car or expensive taxi fare are your options. 

- The Crest Trail goes over multiple high passes over 10,000ft, and stays in the neighborhood of 9,000ft most of the way, so expect the good chance of seeing some sudden changes in weather. Snow, hail, and near freezing are highly possible. While I was in the area three years ago, we got a few inches of snow. There are almost daily thunderstorms in the mid afternoon, spawning around the peaks and passes, then spreading outward. Ideally, plan your route so you are not at the highest points and passes between 2pm and 4pm to avoid lightning and the worst of the storms. 

- My pack was around 55lbs, but that included ice traction devices for my boots, an ice axe, and a large pro camera. Depending on how heavy the snowfall though the year has been, and how much of it has melted off, the Ranger Service may require each person crossing Hurricane Pass and Paintbrush Divide carry traction devices and an ice axe. Check with the Ranger's station the week before your trip. 

-Leave yourself some time before your backcountry trek to acclimate to the altitude a little. Jackson Hole is already at 7,000ft elevation before you start up into the Tetons, so some time to adjust is advisable. I only had a very short night before I started my trek, and the elevation was a slowing factor. 

- I wasn't able to get my permit before hand, but they have a certain number that are not up for reservation that are given out at the beginning of each day on a first come first serve basis. So, should you not be able to get reserved permits ahead of time, show up early to the appropriate Ranger Station on the day of or prior to your trip. 

Here is my report from that trip:

Here is my Trip Planning thread, where route and carious details were discussed:

12:24 p.m. on May 16, 2013 (EDT)
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Thank you so much for your help.

Great to get info from somebody who’s hiked in both continents and from somebody who’s actually done the GT Trail!

Indeed my main “concerns” are around the wildlife and the weight of the backpack. I mean ….55lbs? that’s 25 kilos! I'd break!! Hopefully in September we should not have snow on the tracks. (Maybe some fresh snow, but not much) Besides, if the weather conditions required the use of crampons and ice axes, we would not be able to do the walks as we are not equipped for those conditions.

Although not officially in place, I am already following a “leave no trace” philosophy when trekking over here and I am unfortunately accustomed to cool temperatures and rain… sigh :-( And I agree that wet and cold is not pleasant, especially when you find out that your waterproof boots are no longer waterproof in the middle a downpour.....But we don’t usually get thunderstorms around here (I don't recall ever being caught in one. Hailstorm, snow, constant rain yes, but no thunder and lightning) So we’ll need to make sure that we’re not in an exposed area in the early hours of the afternoon.

Thank you for the tip on the stove, we don’t have one, so it’s good to know what best to buy.

We haven’t got our permits yet, so I think it’s too late to get them on line.

We will wait until we get there, and maybe just do a few overnight trips so that I have time to get used to staying in a backcountry campsite.

We’ve got two weeks, so between Grand Teton and Yellowstone we should be able to do both some day hikes and some longer (overnight) loops. We will start with day hikes to recover from the jetlag and find our way around.

I am really looking forward to this trip, hopefully I’ll have some nice photos to share


2:38 p.m. on May 16, 2013 (EDT)
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Glad we could help, Anna! 

About the pack weight, if you don't cross the two highest passes, you don't need to worry about the potential of needing ice gear, so that shaves around 5 right there. Since there are two of you, you can spread the weight of a shelter, stove, water treatment, etc, between you.

The 25 kilo weight I mentioned included all of those things, all my food in a canister, and at least five liters of water. 

I think a base weight of 25-35lbs (11-14 kilos), before food and water, is very realistic. For a three day hike, I'd expect around 3 kilos of food per person, and 3 kilos of water or less at any given time. So a total pack weight  in around 40lbs/18 kilos, or less, is achievable.

 If I were doing the same hike again, my pack weight would be a good bit lower than last time. As that trip was my first multi-day trek at higher elevations in the Western Rockies, and I was solo, I was intentionally over prepared. With more experience now, and some lighter gear, I can more comfortably and confidnetly pack lighter.

9:21 a.m. on May 17, 2013 (EDT)
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whomeworry said:

For your comfort:
Get a sleeping pad to place under your sleeping bag.  The ground is hard!

Note also that sleeping bag temperature ratings assume that you'll be using one. It could be pretty cold up there!

June 23, 2018
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