Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I Arrive in Canada Having Hiked Over 1,000 Miles on the PCT

Look for the presentation my wife, Sharon, and I are doing, "12 World Class Hikes You Can Do On the PCT, Lightening Your Pack and Backpacking Techniques at Midwest Mountaineering's Outdoor Adventure Expo, Nov. 21, 10:30 AM-12:45 PM.

The second picture includes the PCT hikers I crossed the border with, Dan, Anna and Wyatt.

The third picture is our celebratory beer at Manning Park in Canada. It includes D n A, $5 Holler, Burning Daylight and Big Foot.

The last picture is a video clip of me arriving at the Canadian border.

Gear Testing Summary

Rated On a #1 to #5 Scale - With #5 Being the Best
-Western Mountaineering 16 oz. HighLite 35 degree sleeping bag = #5 rating, wear clothing to bed for extra warmth.
-Western Mountaineering 1 lb. 8 oz. Ultralight sleeping bag 20 degrees = #5 rating.
- Kelty 40 degree Lightyear Down Sleeping bag 1 lb. 10 oz. kept me warm but could be made even lighter. The $140 price tag is reasonable. = 3.5 rating.
-MontBell 6.5 oz. W/B Sleeping Bag Cover (Bivy Sack) = #5 rating, it has not rained so I haven’t tested it in the rain. If it started raining I would seek shelter for the head opening under a dense tree or rock overhang. I would only use this shelter if rain is unlikely. If it is likely to rain a little, I would use my tarp. If it will rain a lot or the bugs are terrible, I would take an ultralight tent.
-CCS 7.6 oz. Pack = #5 rating, This silnylon pack is the lightest I've seen. I used it most of the time including several 100 mile stretches. It held a bear canister.
-Osprey Exos 46 – pack – this pack is light (1 lb. 14 oz.) carries very well. Its mesh back kept my back cool and dry. It was large enough to hold my bear canister. (I give the pack 5 out of 5 possible points.
-Black Diamond Axiom 30 Pack, 2 lbs. 6 oz. is heavier duty, carries well and has a roll top to seal out water. The volume is smaller but works well for me for shorter distances. = 3.5 rating for lightweight use.
-VestPack – #2 rating, not room for a Jet Boil and way too minimalistic for most hikers.
-Erik the Black’s PCT Atlas, ultralight, pocket sized map booklets = #5 rating, costs about $200.
-End Sumptown 10 oz. Trail Running Shoes – I think these are the lightest trail shoes, but they were bought out and may be available under the Danner label. My feet seemed to have extra spring in them. My feet stayed cool. They fit well and the soft shell fabric kept out dust and moisture better than mesh shoes. These are my favorites. The inside of the heel fabric wore through, but it didn't create a problem. I give them 5 out of 5 points.
Vasque Blurs - trail running shoes – these shoes are light, comfortable and gave me no foot problems. I give them 5 out of 5 possible points.
-END Sumptown 12 Hiking Shoes =#5 rating, the lightest hiking shoes I’ve seen, the flexible sole and light weight make for a blister-less glove like fit.
-END Wow Hiking Shoes - #3 rating, light weight and extremely well ventilated, but a lot of trail dust comes in and grass spears poked through into my foot.
-GoLite Hiking Shoes – #4 rating, lots of toe room and they are light, I like the adjustable insoles, the large sole lugs are good for snow, (different that the GoLite equipment company). I did get a heel blister because of the stiff sole.
-Lafuma Sky Race Trail Running Shoes – the upper and lower lace tension on these shoes can be adjusted independently with cord locks. These worked very well. The shoes were light and fit fairly well. I give them 4 out of 5 points.
-Bubble Wrap for Sleeping Pad – #4 rating, so light it almost isn’t there. The trick is to contour the ground, so you really don’t need a sleeping pad at all. The bubbles lose their air and need to be replaced at each resupply, if the ground is cold.
-Esbit Cubes for Cooking = #1 rating, don’t get hot enough for me. There are some windscreens that make Esbit cubes and alcohol stoves heat much better.
-JetBoil Stove = #5 rating, my favorite stove! There is a boil-over problem if you don’t watch the stove like a hawk.
-Smartwool Trail Running Socks = #5 rating, these socks are thin for coolness and are merino wool for limiting odor.
-Band-Aid brand Blister Pads = #5 rating.
-Kodak Digital Camera – #3 rating, a good small light camera, but certainly not water resistant.
-Casio Exilim Camera – #4 rating, light and small, but the sound didn’t replay well on the video clips when transferred to my computer .
-Canon PowerShot SD780 IS Camera - #5 rating, I love this camera. It is the smallest, the lightest, has 12.1 megapixles and has the most features. It even downsizes pictures for my blog site. I had my camera replaced under warrantee. I would recommend buying an extended warrantee.
-Carbon Fiber Hiking Poles by Titanium Goat– #4.5 rating, these poles are incredibly light (3.4 oz./ pole). They work very well. After about 300 miles the carbide tips pushed through into the baskets, and did not work anymore, but the poles still worked well. Available from titaniumgoat.com.
-OP Sak Odor Proof Food Bags #4 rating, I put my food in the bag, then put the bag in my pack and use it for a pillow. There is a quality control problem with the bags. One came un-welded, the Ziploc failed on the second bag, the third bag is working fine.
-Bearikade bear canister by wildthings.com., #5 rating, light, wide opening and has a rubber o-ring to seal out odors.
-Houdini Water Resistant Wind Jacket by Patagonia, #5 rating, it hasn’t rained so I don’t know how waterproof it is.
-Dust Gaiters, #4 rating, great for the desert where the trail dust is especially bad. Dirty Girl makes a good pair.
-Merino Wool Tops - #5 rating, my Icebreaker short sleeve 140 weight ventilated zip tee GT or Velocity top was perfect for hot backpacking. It protected me from the sun. My 200 weight Icebreaker long sleeve zip tee worked well layered with the short sleeve top, for cooler weather.
-Princeton Tec LED Headlamps – I tested the 1 watt EOS at 50 lumens and 105 grams, the Remix at 45 lumens and 83 grams, the Fuel at 35 lumens and 78 grams and the Scout at 16 lumens and 45 grams. The EOS gives a very bright beam if you are doing night hiking, particularly stream crossings. The Remix gives you multiple options. The Fuel is lighter and provides adequate light for most night hiking. The Scout is very light and is great for around camp. They are also waterproof. I give them all 5 out of 5 points, for their intended use.

Technique Testing Summary

When your pack weight goes down, your enjoyment goes up!

-Not using a tent (when rain is unlikely). The view is much better without a tent. You have less weight to carry. You can cook while you are in your sleeping bag = breakfast in bed. The early morning light gets you up for a much earlier start. Not sleeping in a tent is wonderful! You can lay you bivy sack in a great many places that are too small for a tent. I saw two brothers lay their sleeping bags right on the trail. I have had the most scenic camps ever. Beautiful panoramic views with alpenglow from the setting sun, stars for my nightlight and best thing of all is being able to cook and do all my camp chores while sitting in my sleeping bag. The mosquitoes haven’t been a problem if I use a little DEET. I am better able to deal with animals roaming around the campsite. Where bear canisters are not required, I place my food in an odor proof sack (O.P. Sak) which I place in my pack and use as a pillow. I use the 6.5 oz. MontBell W/.B sleeping bag cover for wind, cold or possible rain. If the ground is covered with vegetation, carefully pick a spot where there is a depression for your butt and back. One morning I noticed I had matted the grass down as if a deer had slept there.
-Shaping the Ground to the Contours of Your Back and Side – I sleep just as comfortable without a foam pad as I do in my own bed. The secret is to very carefully contour the ground to fit the contours of my back. These same contours also fit when I roll on my side. With your foot, scoop a depression in the dirt/sand for your butt. Scoop a smaller depression at a right angle for your back. Sit right down in the depression and adjust it for a perfect fit. I make two small depressions for my heels. Place the middle of your tent, trap, ground sheet, bubble wrap or bivy sack over the depression for your butt. The depressing also makes an excellent chair. Be sure to return the ground to its original condition when you leave.
-Bubble wrap for a sleeping pad. It weighs almost nothing. It serves as a ground sheet. It takes up little room. It needs to be replaced at each re-supploy point, especially if the ground is cold because air leaks out of the bubbles. Your comfort comes from preparing the ground to fit your body. For cooler weather, I would take extra bubble wrap.
-Cooking with an Esbit cube, pop can stove and using the freeze dry pouch to warm your dinner in. This technique took too long and did not get my food and coffee hot enough. I switched to my JetBoil, which is one of my favorite items.
-VestPacking – I switched to a regular pack after 3 days, because my VestPack can’t hold my JetBoil.
-Avoid the brutal mid-day heat of the desert by waking up at 3:00 AM and being on the trail with a headlamp by 4:00 AM. Take a mid-day break in the shade. Hike until dark.
-I love my re-supply car. It gives me freedom! I especially love taking the winding mountain roads in my sports car. It does take extra time to get a ride back to my car. Ideally 2 to four hikers with 2 cars would be perfect for re-suppling.
-Navigating – I found my GPS of almost no use, so after a few days I left it in my re-supply car. It is extremely important that you don’t miss any water re-supply stops in the desert. Careful dead reckoning on your map by writing down what time you reach each landmark is important. Calculate your Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA) to the next water re-supply, so you don’t miss it. Carefully calculate how much water to carry at each water hole. A rule of thumb is to carry a liter for each 3 miles if the temperature is between 85–100 degrees, a liter for each 5 miles if the temperature is between 65-85 degrees, and a liter for each 10 miles if the temperature is below 65 degrees. A fellow PCT hiker suffered heat exhaustion and had to be brought water, because he had failed to take enough with him. My backup plan in case a water hole is dry is to wait in the shade until the sun is low in the horizon, then hike by headlamp slowly to the next water supply when it’s cooler out. If your urine is clear while hiking in the desert, you could consider carrying less water to lighten your pack. If your urine is light yellow, you are probably drinking the right amount of water for desert backpacking.
-For cold wet weather hands and feet tend to get cold. Waterproof mitten shells with wool liners wouold be perfect for your hands. Miltiple pairs of wool socks would help keep your feet warm.

Near the Canadian Border

It quit raining.

The Morning of My Last Day was Cold, Rainy and Windy

Cold Wet Weather Brings Out the Tent

Beautiful Mountains Near the Canadian Border