The "Hike On!" thread of Hiking, Camping, Backpacking, and Outdoor Adventure

I asked this question in the interesting pictures thread and got no response, nor did I find a thread about this topic, so thought I’d start one. This is the place to give hike reports, give tips, discuss pack load-outs, post pictures, and generally talk about being outdoors on your own two feet.

I’ve always enjoyed hiking, but wasn’t an avid hiker until a few years ago during my divorce when I found I had a bunch of free time and also found that the mental and physical benefits of hiking were pretty great. I hiked most of the major hikes in San Diego County over a few months, and then did a few more remote hikes (in LA County and San Bernadino County) with a buddy from my boardgame group (who has now gone full blown uber-hiker: runs a local Meetup for challenging hiking/backpacking excursions throughout Southern California and into the Sierras, and is out almost every weekend on some hike or another.)

I don’t have time to go out every weekend, but I try to do a long hike (15+ miles) about every other month and fill in shorter (6+ mile) hikes/trail jogs at least once a week. Last summer, I did my first backpacking trip (a 3 day/2 night, 32 mile trip through the High Sierras in the Cottonwood Lakes area, including a summit of Mt. Langley, one of California’s 14ers.) I love it all.

I’ve got couple of PCT section hikes coming up next month, aCactus-to-Clouds push in May, hopefully a Mt. Whitney ascent in August, and then I’d like to plan a 3-4 day backpacking trip in the fall (currently I’m thinking either the Trans Catalina Trail or the Timberline Trail in Oregon.)

Some photos:
Mission Trails Regional Park in San Diego. I regularly jog a 10k loop here with some calf-murdering ascents.

Half-Dome cables from last summer

Cottonwood Pass

This is a great thread idea. I will add information as I’m able. If anyone is interested in hikes in Wyoming (and some other states, but especially WY), I can give some great tips, as I’ve done over 1,000 miles in the mountains there. I’m currently making a website for my own memories, so I can crosspost info here.

Now, that said…if you’re hiking and don’t have an ultralight tent, you need to invest the money there. Also in an ultralight sleeping bag. Makes all the difference in the world.

That Cottonwood Pass picture is beautiful, BTW

Well I won’t be doing any for another 3 weeks, but when I get back I’ll be sure to post up from somewhere above 3000 feet

My base pack weight is down around 15 pounds. (Say about 25 pounds total with water and food.) I could go lighter, but it would be both expensive and deny me small luxuries like my JetBoil system. I haven’t done any truly long hikes, so I might change my tune if I was out for a couple of weeks, but I feel now like just lightweight (as opposed to ultralight) is ok for what I do. That said carrying a bear canister in the Sierras, ascending passes at 12,000 feet really kind of sucks and it would be nice to offset that weight with some UL gear.

Lately I’m rocking a down sleeping quilt that weighs about 28 oz, and I just ordered a Lanshan UL tent from China that weighs just under 3 lbs total with footprint and stakes.

I’m interested in hearing your favorites. I’m willing to fly to backpack.

Which do you use? Here’s my current pack setup for a short trip (1-2 nights.) I can easily gain/lose a few items, i.e. rain jacket if forecast is good. If you have any other tips to lighten my load, let me know.

I am by no means an UL backpacker, and having tried UL, found it to be stressful and just not for me as a style, especially as I notice weight less than I notice discomfort from some of the poor suspensions of the UL packs. My base pack weight is 14.5 lbs for a 70-mile trip when I’m going bare-bones, but I tend to add a lot to that base pack weight so that I can have the fun I want. :P What I really notice, though, is my pack space being taken up with items which are unnecessarily bulky.

Also @Matt_W the tent I bring depends on the forecast and whether or not I’m hiking alone. When I don’t hike alone, I bring my larger Big Agnes Copper Spur UL HV 2, which I think is great for most people. It’s still light-weight and can be compressed down to just-about nothing. My total weight for a 70-miler usually ends up at 30lbs, but that includes my DSLR, extra battery, and gear that I’ll usually carry for whichever gal is going with me, as well as all the food, sat-comm, etc.

Looking at your list, it all looks pretty nice. It’s always pretty much impossible to really critique someone’s setup, because it can vary so much based on season and need. In general, though, here are some things I skip:

-Coffee. There are other caffeine delivery systems which are more effective.
-Sunscreen and Bug Wipes. Combined wipes are better, like SunSkeeter. These days I usually just use permetherin on my clothing. (Yeah, yeah, I know…)
-I use the lightest pair of flip-flops and have abandoned water shoes entirely.
-No travel cup for me, but I know that some people require them.
-No rain cover for my pack. Instead I use a large, cheap ($.99) poncho that can go over the pack and me. Works well. I only use waterproof pants and coat in the very worst seasons.
-I carry less clothing in general. During the summer, I can holdover for bad snowstorms. Caveat: during winter ski-packing trips, obviously I’m loaded with warm gear, but even at -7F I tend to be warmer than I need with just a few well-chosen layers.

Also, I carry padded moleskin in addition to the leukotape, but I don’t carry magic sticks. Along with this, I’ll usually bring nu-skin in a pouch.

Now, with all that said, there are times even in the summer when my base-weight is 5-lbs more than you have there, so that’s a really nice setup you have!

PS-Which types of hikes interest you? Peaks? Lakes? Historical points of interest? Here’s an overview of the ones I’ve hit up in the past 18-24ish months. Well, not all of them, but ones that are fresh in my mind and worth it.

Immediately, I think that the following should be considered for 1-days excursions:
-22-miler/+4508’ (did it with my mom in 8-hours) in the Tetons that’s worth it towards the end-of-season.
-Darby Wind Cave and Fossil Mountain in the Tetons at 7.5 miles and +2786

For longer ones:
-Easy 2-3 days in-and-out with a loop attached (22.8 miles, +4365’) to Temple Basin and Cirque of the Towers in the Winds. You can break this up and just do either drainage as a day-hike.
-Elkhart Park to Green River Lakes with Titcomb Basin (45 miles, +9232/-10523’) in the Winds in 4-days but best done in 5.
-In the Cloud Peak Wilderness, the Middle Cloud Peak Basin is worth it, at 20.1 miles and +4834’. Best for 3 days.

The Winds beat any other mountain range in North America.

Wow, that’s an awesome AAR. I’ll try to put one together for my Cottonwood Lakes trip in a bit.

I’m not quite a peak bagger, but I do like hiking uphill. I hike for exercise and views, and peaks satisfy both. But I also like any hike with natural scenery. I jog a flat 8 mile loop up in Mt. Laguna, 40 minutes east of San Diego, that circles a meadow, and love it:

I lived in Gillette for a year when I was a kid, but have never been to the Tetons, so I’m very interested in one day setting up a trip there. It might be a few years though.

That’s quite a claim! :) I hope I can put it to the test.

This is a timely thread for me. I haven’t done backcountry for 7 or so years and I just signed up for a 30 mile, two-night trip in Jasper, Alberta, for my wife and I in July. About two-thirds of it are above the treeline. I’m excited but a bit worried about the fitness level and gear. Lots of organizing to do still.

Jasper is so gorgeous. That should be an awesome trip. If you want us to look at your gear loadout, post it here. It can help to make a list at https://lighterpack.com/, which not only helps you track your pack weight, but also functions as a checklist to make sure you’ve got everything.

Wow, so you are telling me it may be my 45lb pack and not just my old tired legs that is making it harder to get out there… I am such a packrat I probably carry more than 15 lbs on an afternoon park hike.

Even using craigslist and ebay it’s hard to find really affordable and durable lightweight gear that can replace the old heavy stuff as it is wearing out. I have tried to homebrew some of my own bits like silnylon, but you have to be really crafty and having good crafting tools is not cheap either.

What are you looking to spend? You can probably a brand-new set of LW gear for your big 3 (sleeping bag, tent, and pack) for well under $500. My quilt was about $100 on Amazon, tent was about $100 on Aliexpress, and Pack was about $200. And there are even cheaper options out there. Triple Crown hiker Dixie recently reviewed a $50 lightweight tent and found that it was perfectly adequate:

Trip report: Cottonwood Lakes Loop, including Mt. Langley ascent - August 2018

Total trip length: about 32 miles. Online hiking profiles show 24 miles for the loop and 5 miles round trip for Langley (from the loop). We measured 32 with GPS, maybe due to some unnecessary backtracking and faffing around near the top of New Army Pass.
Elevation: minimum 9900’, maximum 14,026’ (Langley summit)
Duration: 3 days, 2 nights hiking. We also camped out at the trailhead the night before setting out.
Location: Eastern Sierra mountains in northern California. Mt. Langley’s summit is less 5 miles as the crow files from Mt. Whitney’s summit. (Though hiking from one to the other is 20-30 miles of hard hiking.)

The hike: The loop itself is outlined in red. I don’t have GPS fixes for the hike up Langley, but the map shows the summit. We did a clockwise route, starting at Horseshoe Meadows.

I hiked with two friends: James and Andrea. This was a first backpacking trip for both me and Andrea, so we learned some lessons. We all left work early and drove the 7 hours to Lone Pine on Friday afternoon. We drove up the mountain, arriving after midnight and set up camp in Horseshoe Meadows at the trailhead.

The next morning, we had to drive back down to Lone Pine (30-40 minutes each way) to pick up our backpacking permits from the National Park visitor center. The views out over the Owens Valley as you descend the mountains to Lone Pine are pretty breathtaking:

Got back to the trailhead at around 10am and started hiking. Here are my hiking companions, James and Andrea. Note: in the Sierras, you’re required to bring a bear canister if you’re backcountry camping. The canister is huge and bulky and weighs about 4 pounds on its own. We were able to fit our food (and toiletries) into two of them that James and I carried. (Andrea took some of our gear.) But that sucked.

We ascended Cottonwood Pass and hooked up with the Pacific Crest Trail at the top


Ate lunch at Chicken Spring Lake, which is a popular stopping point for PCT hikers.

Then we hiked alongside a ridge, arriving at our first night’s campsite, Soldier Lake, by about 6pm.


Campsites there are on a rocky promontory at the bottom of a bluff on the lake shore. There isn’t a huge amount of space, and when we got there, there were only a couple of spaces left. But, when we tried to set up our tents, we got gruffly chewed out by an older guy who said he was sick and didn’t want anyone near him. We acquiesced then and fit our tents in and around other campers, but in the future I’d tell the guy to pound sand.

So, I was pretty cold that night. Temps were in the mid 30’s, and I didn’t have much experience keeping warm. It was a rough night’s sleep. Now I’ve got that system all worked out. No change in gear, just a change in how I sleep and what I keep nearby.

The next day was our big hiking day. We had a long ascent up the backside of New Army Pass, and then an ascent of Mt. Langley. There were no water sources until camp that evening, so we filled everything up and carried about 5L each up the pass. 5L is 11 pounds of water. Ugh.

Trudging up the back of NAP. The pass is actually off the image to the right.

View from the top of New Army Pass. (I have this image printed on a 24x36 canvas hanging on my kitchen wall.)

So, we made a tactical error here. There’s a saddle between NAP and the trail to Langley. It’s about 300’ lower than the top of the pass and the trail to ascend from the saddle is about 1/2 mile. We had climbed the pass to dump our packs at the top, but that meant we had to descend back to the saddle, then reascend when we got back from Langley. We could have just dumped our packs behind a rock in the saddle. It wasn’t a gigantic deal, but none of us were happy to climb that 300’ trail again.

NAP is at about 12,300’, so by this point we were well above the tree line. About half-way up to Langley summit, all the other vegetation disappeared as well. The trail itself petered out, and we were following a series of giant rock cairns erected by the forest service. There’s no permanent trail because the ground cover is loose rock and gravel that probably shifts around constantly. It’s very steep, hard hiking at quite high elevation

Finally summitted though. My first 14er. (Both James and Andrea had hiked Whitney earlier that summer, so not their first.)

We trudged back down to our packs, collected them and hiked down the front of the pass to our campsite on Long Lake (in the middle of that stand of trees you see down there.)

We camped and cooked and got up early again the next morning to knock out the 6 or so miles back to our cars. Passed some nice lakes on the way

And back to the trailhead

As a first backpacking trip, this was great: difficult, but not too long. The altitude wasn’t a problem. (I took Diamox to prepare and it seems to have worked.) I tend to prefer more trees in my hikes, but the High Sierra has its own charm.

Thanks. I like the idea of bouncing ideas here. We’re decently capable and fit enough, and I’m not too concerned about making it / survival, but there’s a difference between making it and enjoying it. A lot of our stuff is from the days we had more time and less money so I don’t mind spending a bit, but I also don’t see myself as showing up with all new gear either.

My tent was something like $200 in 1995, a Kelty two person with full fly, a decent mid-range backpacking at the time. It has poor ventilation by today’s standard. I’d guess about 6 pounds. I’ll probably put up with it.

Footwear - I personally like good hiking shoes with a stiff sole more than boots, and never bothered with trekking poles. But now we’re 10 years older, should think about it.

Stove - I have a propane cylinder backpacking attachment, also heavy.

That’s probably fine. You can split that weight between two packs if there are two of you using it. Modern 2p tents have a dual opening so either can get out without climbing over your partner, good size vestibule for cooking and storage, and some pockets for storing glasses/phone/etc. 3F Gear’s Lanshan 2 is gaining a reputation as a great mid-range dual-layer tent for about $100 shipped, though it does come from China so takes 3-4 weeks. It also requires using your trekking poles for supports:

I know I have boots in those images up there, but I almost always hike with shoes rather than boots. Some local hikes have lots of rattlesnakes, so I use boots for those or anything where I expect to be scrambling a bit. (The Salomons I’m wearing there are very lightweight and extremely “grippy” on rock, almost like approach shoes.) For many years I wore the Adidas Kanadia 7 shoe for hiking/trail running. It still might be my favorite shoe ever. Alas Adidas “upgraded” the design to the Kanadia 8 and no longer make the 7. The 8 is far inferior; I have a nearly new pair, and still prefer my 7’s with the cleats worn down to almost flat over them.

But, I recently bought a pair of Altra Lone Peak 4 trail runners and I really like those. They have a no-drop profile (the heel is at the same level as the toe) and a giant toe box. I’ll be hiking in them all spring/summer.

I was a trekking pole scoffer until recently. I still don’t use them on every hike. But I find they really help when:

  • Coming down a steep trail to save your knees
  • Wearing a heavy pack to take some of the weight off your legs/hips
  • Negotiating unstable terrain, as when fording a river
  • Poking at rattlesnakes. My poles have been struck several times and probably would be dead if they were alive.

If I’m going to be day hiking mostly uphill or over flat terrain, I don’t tend to bring them.

You can buy a lightweight stove for about $15. It screws onto the 100g butane/propane cylinders and works fine. I splurged on a JetBoil Zip ($80), which is only a bit heavier than a lightweight stove+camping cup. The Zip can boil a 1/2 liter of water in about 2 minutes, can be used when it’s windy, and is far more efficient than the lightweight stoves, so requires carrying less fuel on longer trips. It might be my favorite piece of camping gear:

I’m appreciating this thread. My son is Boy Scout and does about 6 backpacking trips a year. I have trouble getting his pack under 25 pounds and for a kid that only weighs 70 that is really tough. Luckily the hikes don’t go over 3 miles one way usually. Amazingly he never complains and loves going.

Right now he has a rei half dome 2 which he splits with another scout. This seems fine, it’s reasonably light and Most of the rest of the scouts have them so spare parts are easy to come by if needed.

His bag is huge and fairly heavy
https://www.rei.com/product/129970/rei-co-op-trail-pod-15-sleeping-bag?CAWELAID=120217890004853011&CAGPSPN=pla&CAAGID=30320809120&CATCI=aud-553371945779:pla-455305243599&cm_mmc=PLA_Google|404_186810|1299700001|none|f479d72f-5161-48a3-a591-3d524b6cd1c3|aud-553371945779:pla-455305243599&lsft=cm_mmc:PLA_Google_LIA|404_186810|1299700001|none|f479d72f-5161-48a3-a591-3d524b6cd1c3&kclid=f479d72f-5161-48a3-a591-3d524b6cd1c3&gclid=Cj0KCQiAk-7jBRD9ARIsAEy8mh6n-G97l5OIsF3Qf0GRWW61hPwLR_wUjiUdpted14bYumDXC8r3jkYaAh8REALw_wcB
But seems like a good compromise and I didn’t want to spend a ton on some thing I’m fairly sure he will destroy.

Here is on a recent trip where they backpacked and snow shoed at the same time.

Google Photos

Hey that’s up on San Jacinto! We’re considering trying to do some cross-country skiing up there in the next couple of weeks. I was just up in Idyllwild doing a little snow-shoeing myself.

Yeah, that’s tough because 25 pounds is hard to get under without spending a bunch. But a 3 mile hike with that weight should be ok. I haven’t gotten my kids into backpacking yet, but I’m working on it. Looks like your son is having a blast!

Yeah they had a great time, some of the older scouts even managed to pack a couple of sleds.

That was a fun read, @Matt_W but a shame about the grumpy old goat. Also, talk about hauling some serious water! Wow! How much do the hiking permits cost?

Also, regarding the Tetons, I have two hikes in them that I like for beginners, with one being on the Idaho side and the other in Wyoming.

@Scott123 I’d love to hike Jasper…take lots of pics, please!

@sillhouette 45 lbs!?! Good heavens! I can’t even imagine doing that over a bunch of miles. The gear can be expensive, that’s for sure, but I got my backpack brand new for $200, my tent with footprint for ~$300, and my sleeping bag for about $200. Keep in mind that I hike about 400 miles a year, so for me the investment is worth it. But as Matt has pointed out, some of the Chinese gear would probably cut your weight in half if not more, and for quite cheap.

Your kid is my hero.