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Sierra trip - need gear suggestions

Hi all, I am a newbie backpacker/mountaineer going to the Sierra (Whitney and Yosemite) Mem. day weekend and I am wondering what gear items I might forget, but that you can advise me to bring. (For instance - sunscreen.) Does anyone have a 'gear checklist' they would like to share?
I am also looking for a good insulated mug to take up the mountain to keep my drink hot - any suggestions?

It all depends what you intend doing? Are you going to hike several miles each day - then pack weight becomes a critical variable. Do you plan to hike to the crags and do some climbing? Then total weight and pack volume become critical variables. Do you plan to hike/camp by yourself? My very strong suggestion would be to either hook up with an experienced backpacker/camper/hiker for this "maiden" voyage -- or if you don't want to go that route - I suggest that you pick up a copy of the NOLS guide to camping/backpacking as well as the Sierra Club's publication on the same subjects (sorry, but I've forgotten the exact titles). The critical thing to understand is to carry only what you need - you'll be a lot more comfortable in the long run. Hope this helps - have fun - G.L.

Hammock. Don't leave home without it! n/m


I am going with a guide and 3 other people up the Mountaineer's Route.

I really envy you! I first went into that part of the world about thirty years ago and it was simply stupendous. Haven't been back since - spend all my backcountry time on the east coast. Since you're a self-described "newbie" I'd seriously consider running your equipment list by the guide service before you go. I would carry as little weight as I could safely get by with - and wouldn't worry about carrying luxuries like insulated mugs. have a great time - GL

Rock on! I am even thinking of not bringing a toothbrush up the mountain - hell, it's only 3 days.
I go caving a lot and I have gotten very used to being what my mom used to call filthy-nasty-dirty. But I am NOT used to altitude or carrying a heavy pack.
What do you think is absolutely necessary? And what about carrying some kind of slippers, even flip-flops, for camp so I can get out of those freaking boots at night?


I really envy you! I first went into that part of the world about thirty years ago and it was simply stupendous. Haven't been back since - spend all my backcountry time on the east coast. Since you're a self-described "newbie" I'd seriously consider running your equipment list by the guide service before you go. I would carry as little weight as I could safely get by with - and wouldn't worry about carrying luxuries like insulated mugs. have a great time - GL

Your posts worry me a bit. In your first post you say "Whitney and Yosemite." These are 200 miles apart on opposite ends of the John Muir Trail! Hardly reasonable for a Memorial Weekend trip. Then you post that you are going up the Mountaineers Route (Whitney for those who don't know the Sierra). This is easy enough, but definitely NOT a newby route. Then you say you are going with a guided group. If this is a paid guide, and as of today, only 2 weeks in advance, he has not given you a printed list of what to bring, I would have very serious doubts about his/her qualifications. Whitney is in the part of the Sierra where guides have to be registered with the USFS and/or the NPS (depending on exactly where you go - cross the crest and the NPS comes into play, going up to the crest from the east, the USFS is the prime agency). It is illegal to do professional guiding without the proper permits in this area. I would suggest you look very carefully at your guide's paperwork. Also, both USFS and NPS would be verrrryyy interested that he/she has not briefed you on gear this close to the trip. As far as the USFS and NPS are concerned, if any money or goods changes hands in return for the guiding services, you have a professional guide (obviously not just your share of the gas and food, but if you pay more than your fractional share - 1/4 if I recall your count of guide plus 2 others - you have hired a professional guide). If the rangers catch your guide (and they do indeed patrol and check permits), they will arrest him/her on the spot (I saw this happen last summer), and you may get called to court as a witness.

Ok, having thrown out some cautions, here are some comments on gear. Forget Ed's comment about the hammock. There isn't any reasonable place to hang one on the approach to the Mountaineer's Route, and USFS rules wouldn't allow the damage to the few trees there are anyway. Actually, your campsite will be well above timberline. The insulated mug is a great idea. You can get one (a FULL pint, preferably) at WalMart, KMart, Target for a couple bucks, and an Aladdin, at that. No need for the fancy logo that triples the price.

Clothing should be layered, and NO COTTON. It can still be very cold at Upper Boy Scout on Memorial Day (I have had to turn back before reaching Whitney Portal on Memorial Day due to a heavy blizzard - unlikely this year, with most of the snow already melted). A set of light weight poly long johns, synthetic pants (Supplex for example), poly shirt, fleece jacket (windstopper is good), and waterproof/breathable jacket (no need to get Goretex expedition jackets, something like the Paclite or Marmot's PreCip is fine). Actually, you are not very likely this year to get rain, or at most light snow (never know with the Sierra in May/June, though). So windpants are probably sufficient. You might consider waterproof breathable full side-zip pants (again the PreCip or Lowe Triple Ceramic). An extra fleece jacket or a expedition-weight long john top might be nice around camp, but temperatures around camp will be in the 10-20 range when you get up to climb, and in the 40s or hotter during the day. A wool or synthetic cap is necessary (e.g., an OR windblock Peruvian style with chinstrap). You won't need more than light gloves on the climb. Socks - the usual light wicking liner and heavy wool (SmartWool, Thorlo) outer. Medium leather boots, well broken in, are a good choice.

Sunblock - of course. Chapstick (sunblock type). Sun glasses (and your prescription glasses, of course). Insect repellent - this IS the Sierra in the springtime, after all. Water bottle - 2 liters worth. Snacks - bars, GORP, something for energy along the way. Your cup, a bowl, a spoon (cheap lexan spoon is good), pocket knife (a basic Swiss Army style is fine - 1 three-inch blade actually is plenty). Headlamp (one of the little superlightweight LED lamps, like the Tikka or Princeton at 2 or 3 ounces). 50 feet of nylon cord. Toilet paper. Ask your guide if he/she is providing the human waste bags (Whitney region requires packing out all human waste). Iodine tablets for water purification (you stand a good chance of a water filter freezing, which will crack the filter element internally). 3 or 4 large plastic garbage bags (handy for all sorts of things).

Your guide should be furnishing a tent, but a tarp is just fine in the Sierra. You will need a sleeping bag (15 deg is probably adequate, use your longjohns to increase the range) and a foam pad (Ridgerest, Zrest, or even the old blue foam).

Ask your guide if he/she is furnishing harnesses, biners, sling. Although Mtnr Rt is easy (3rd class), it does get a bit exposed in places, and there could be ice and snow in places where a belay might feel comfortable to a newby.

Pack to carry the gear - get a light pack, maybe 4000 cu in.

Since you are going with a guide, he/she should be furnishing food, stoves, cook gear as part of the deal. If not, find out now, and how much fuel is needed.

Main thing is - ask a lot of hard questions of this guide who is supposedly taking you up this definitely non-newby route, if you really are a newby and not just trolling.

Oh, and the books that were mentioned in another post - Mountaineering Freedom of the Hills is the Bible. Wilderness Basics is the Sierra Club book that was mentioned, by the San Diego Chapter, but published by the Mountaineers (I had a small role in an earlier edition of this book). The NOLS book is ok, with the LNT part being quite good (it ought to be, since NOLS developed the original LNT materials and spun off the LNT organization).

Again, ask that "guide" what's going on.

Dangerous - Jim's earlier post says it all - a very savvy approach to the entire issue. I apologize for not including Mountaineering - Freedom of the Hills - available in both hardcover and paperback and well worth a place on any outdoor enthusiast's bookshelf - Let us know how you do. GL

Dear Jim, worry not. I have a full gear list provided by the guide and everything. I was asking not for a start-from-scratch gear list but for someone else's general gear list to see if there was anything on it I might not have thought of.
For instance, I'm a paddler, so I have a gear list on my fridge listing everything in a sort of hierarchy of importance, which I use as a checklist the night before a trip.
I am driving to Yosemite after the Whitney trip for a couple of days, that's all. Sorry to be so confusing, and thank you for your concern and advice!


I think camp shoes and a toothbrush are 2 of the greatest lightweigth luxuries around. I love the toothbrush because it gives me one part of my body that is CLEAN the way it is in civilization. at that point I can revel in the remainder filthy-nasty-dirty. and yes. think about getting out of the freaking boots.

November 24, 2020
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