Choosing Your First Backpack – Let Weight Guide You

I’m a member of and frequent shopper at REI. They have a good selection of goods and for the most part knowledgeable folks working there. I can walk around for hours touching, poking, feeling, examining and exploring. It’s actually a treat to spend two hours there even if I don’t buy something since I live in a rural area 100 miles to the closest REI store.

Many of their sales people, men and women, are experienced backpackers. However, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a store when someone comes into to ask for basic advice, such as choosing a backpack, and their expertise seems to disappear.

Personally, I have never heard any discussion — and I’m always eavesdropping — about going lightweight, despite the fact that REI has plenty of light and ultralight backpacking gear.

I’ve posted on this subject before, but let me offer some advice:

Keeping the basics light will help you start light and stay light. The basics are backpack, tent, pad and sleeping bag. Limit this to 10 pounds. Less is better.

Two Days or Treks
I don’t care what kind of trips you plan to take — two days out-and-back or a trek on Appalachian Trail — you can get by just fine with a pack weighing no more than 3 pounds, preferable 2 pounds or less. These lightweight backpacks have plenty of bells, whistles and pockets. They also are comfortable.

My light pack is an Osprey Aether, 1 pound 9 ounces, and my heavy pack is an Osprey Atmos 35, size medium, which weighs 2 pounds, 9 ounces. Rated as a “light and fast backcountry adventure pack,” it is optimized for up to 30 pounds. I have come to prefer it because it has more pockets into which I can jam (ultralight backpacking) gear.

If you want to be an ultralight backpacker, you can also find molecule-light packs at less than 8 ounces, such as those made by Gossamer Gear.

By picking the lightest, most comfortable pack, you’ll narrow your choices and quickly be on your way to being a lightweight backpacker.

My basics – with light pack: 6.5 pounds; with heavy pack: 7.5 pounds. My first backpack alone weighed 7.5 pounds.

Don’t be afraid to tell someone in the story you want to go ultralight. Say: “I want my basics to be under 10 pounds.”

Be light. Be safe. Be one with the pack.

Backpacking Tourism on the Rise!? Can’t Be True

As a public relations consultant, I am involved in promoting tourism. To be honest with you I had no idea there was such a thing as “backpacking” tourism. Well check this item out at News.com in Australia.

Backpackers are such an independent group, the idea of a group of backpackers being herded onto buses and taken to trails is beyond my comprehension, but get these figures:

New figures released by the Australia Department of Immigration show in the nine months to March 2007, a record 102,966 backpackers were granted the visas – a 15 per cent spike on the same period the previous year.

‘Don’t Bug Me’ Patch – Something New

I was checking out the weblog at Campman.com and came across a review of a new anti-mosquito patch. Campman says it’s ideal for kids. But when he says the patch kept the bugs off him as well, I knew I needed some. Especially, after my miserable backpack recently to Emigrant Wilderness where we were swarmed almost non-stop for three days.

Check out his review.

100 Classic Hikes in Northern California

This is not a list of hikes, but rather a few notes about the book 100 Classic Hikes in Northern California I bought as a birthday present for backpacking companion Wild Bill. Hopefully, he won’t read this because he doesn’t get the book until later this week.100 Classic Hikes in Northern California

I’ll bet I’ve purchased more than a dozen such guides over the past 11 years of backpacking. Some I purchased for their scope, like award-winning outdoor writer Tom Stienstra’s Foghorn Outdoors California Hiking: The Complete Guide to More Than 1,000 Hikes (Foghorn Outdoors) Others I’ve purchased for some specific trip or because of good maps.

This guide is full of useful information, attractive four-color photos and well-illustrated trail and area maps.

Some of the hikes are just out-and-backs, while others are overnights. Among them are a 14-mile loop in Lassen Volcanic National Park that has a moderate high point of 6,900 feet and connects Snag and Butte Lakes, two of the park’s largest lakes.

Check out the book. I think you’ll like it.

Be light. Be safe. Be one with the pack.

Ultralight Backpacking Doesn’t Mean Long Distance Hiking

Trip: backpack camp on Redwood Creek in Redwood National and State Parks, Northern California
One way distance to camp: 1.5 miles
Total weekend mileage (Friday afternoon and Saturday): 15 miles
Campsite at Redwood Creek
We often think of backpacks as journeys, treks or adventures — long distance hikes that take us beyond the realm of the day hiker into the backcountry, far away from anything civilized.

But I’ve discovered that many times you can venture a short distance and jump back in time to a place where you are the only living soul.

This past weekend was just that kind of experience. Backpacking companion Wild Bill and I drove about four hours from the Mendocino Coast to a grove of ancient, old growth redwoods, the largest trees in the world. A half hour south of our ultimate destination, Redwood Creek, stands the Hyperion, the world’s tallest living thing at 378.1 feet. This coastal redwood tree is one of 135 such trees found the past few years in the area to exceed 350 feet.

Our journey started at the Thomas Kuchel Visitor Center, which is sandwiched between the often fog shrouded Pacific Ocean and Highway 101. We picked up our free permit, got the combination to a locked gate, then drove three miles north to Bald Hills Road where we drove another 15 miles to the trailhead (the locked gate where you need the combination is at mile 7).
Bruce by Coastal Giant
At the trailhead we loaded up our packs and hiked downhill for only 1.5 miles through a virgin Redwood forest, full of tall old growth trees to the Redwood Creek. Unlike wilderness areas in the U.S. where camping 100 feet away from any water source is the rule, here you are required to stay out of the forest and camp on the sand bar. After fording three areas of slow moving stream, no more than knee deep, we arrived at our camping spot, just inches from the creek’s edge.

Except at the trailhead on Day 2, we saw no other human being. It was just Wild Bill and me surrounded by some of the world’s tallest living things.
Wild Bill at Emerald Creek
I have never traveled such a short distance and been so very far away. The look and feel is primordial. In fact, about 20 miles south is the Fern Canyon where parts of Jurassic Park were filmed. You literally feel transported back in time.

On Saturday, we followed the Dolason Trail about four miles (all up) through magnificient stands of old growths. Occasionally, we passed a Douglas Fir that was so tall you couldn’t see the top. We hiked 11 miles through areas with Rhododendrons and ferns and finally, prairie, to the 1914 Dolason barn, once the center of a large sheep ranching operation. We had lunch, enjoyed a sweeping view of the mountains, creeks, and seemingly endless redwood forests.Dolason View.jpg

We built small fires each night, cooked pasta accompanied by Caesar salad (in a bag) and chardonnay.

On Sunday, we destroyed our fire ring as instructed, scattered the ashes, returned our site to its pristine condition and hiked out, abandoning our plans for morning oatmeal in favor of a brunch at a restaurant.

A great breakfast spot: about 25 miles south in Trinidad at the Trinidad Bay Cafe: spicy sausage, biscuits and gravy, eggs, extra crispy hashbrowns and really good, strong coffee.

While the temperature was in the low 70’s during the day, on the way home we passed through areas of 95, only to arrive home where the cool, sunny weather was a bit warm at 61 degrees (our average year around temperature is 55 during the day).

Be light. Be safe. Be one with the pack.

A New Backpacking Light Spork

I love discovering new ultralight backpacking gadgets — anything that has multiple uses and is really light.

I was at the local outdoor store, looking for a birthday present for one of my backpacking pals, when I discovered a plastic knife-spoon-fork utensil from “Light My Fire Spork.”
Light My Fire Spork from Amazon
It weighs less than a half ounce and costs only $2.99. I have a titanium spork which cost $12.95, is about one ounce and doesn’t have a integrated knife. So, this is a nifty little device which offers more for less — less weight and less money. Your pocketbook will be the only thing that is a little heavier.

Be light. Be safe. Be one with the pack.