Over the last few months, I have been dropping pretty subtle hints that I am heading to the Olympics National Park later this year for a hike. While that time is not quite yet, it is getting closer… I am to the point that I need to start making sure that I have all of my gear in order, as well as my pre & post-hike plans settled.
So, to begin with, my plane tickets have been purchased, and arrangements have been made with the others that I will be hiking with as far as car rentals & hotels are concerned. Next, I have read up on the general weather conditions I can expect in the Olympics at this time of the year, but even better, Barefoot Jake actually lives there, so he has been able to tell us what to expect based on real, current conditions rather than having to rely solely on the average conditions recorded from the years past. After talking with Jake for a while, I have concluded that I need to pack for a possibility of rain, and for expected low temps of around the mid 30’s. As well, it has been a bit warmer, and drier in the area this year than normal, so there is very little snow that we should encounter, and even if we do, none that should require any sort of special gear.
With this information in mind, I then went through my gear. I know my gear, and know what I can expect out of it, so choosing the right gear for me was pretty easy. (Check out my full gear list HERE.) However, what proved to be a more difficult decision for me, was, how am I going to get it there? I know of 2 methods in which to do this:
- Mail everything that may be questionable to Jeff (another hiker going with us that lives in the area) and then carry everything else on. This method would mean I would not have to check any bags (and potentially lose them since it’s not a direct flight), but it would cost me more money than checking my bag.
- I could check everything in one large suitcase, and carry on the more fragile things (such as my camera). This would make things really convenient, so long as the suitcase comes out at the other end in Seattle with me… Also, this method is less expensive.
While trying to decide how to go about this, I decided to ask around and get others opinions on the 2 different methods. Check out some of those responses here:
- Question presented on Backpacker.com
- Question presented on WhiteBlaze
- Question presented on BPL
- Question presented on my blogs FaceBook page
I would like to say that I have little flying experience at this time, so the fear of the unknown about carrying on, or checking gear has definitely taken a bit of a hold on me. I have read lots of horror stories about folks being able to get through one place with an item, but having to part with it in another place. (I am not exactly looking forward to having to throw anything away in order for me to continue on for more reasons than one.) I had even read one account in which someone had to give up their water filter since the TSA agents thought it looked like a pipe bomb! And of course, there are stories everywhere in which one arrives at their end point, but their luggage is on the other side of the world…
However, the nice thing about asking questions on public sites is that all sorts of real folks can provide feedback. So, I of course got similar stories as noted above, but also lots of stories with no problems what-so-ever noted. Although, I did get a few stories of folks that did arrive without their luggage, but most seemed to be reunited with their luggage in 24 hours or less. I also found that a number of folks that work in the airline industry chimed in as well… So, it was nice to get so many others’ real life perspectives…
So, without babbling on more about this subject…
I ended up mailing my Gossamer Gear LT4 trekking poles simply because I really like them and want to use them on the hike. Also, I have decided to use Esbit for “cooking” so I have simply ordered more, and just had it mailed to Jeff. I have decided to chance it and just check everything else except for my 2 Gatorade bottles, and a Mini Bic. (Both of these items will just be bought once I get to Seattle.) I have also decided to carry on my hiking clothes (so I will at least have a change of clothes just-in-case my luggage does get “lost”), my ZebraLight and my camera, with the extra batteries. Of course I will also be carrying a book on with me to read during the flight…
At this point, we have not exactly pinned down the actual hikes start time (although, it is narrowed down to within about 18 hours or so…), nor have we pinned down an exact route just yet. To begin with, our first goal is to simply all meet up with one another, then once this is done, we will sit down over the map and go over a few of the routes that Jake has in mind and discuss them as a group. Then, we will know… However, at this point, all I can really say is that I am planning for 6 full days on the trail! (My longest hike yet! Woohoo!)
As for the others that are going with us… I will admit, I am pretty excited about that too! A number of impressive people that I am looking forward to meeting will be on this one hike. I will admit though, the number of people has actually whittled down from about 10 people to 7 (due to work). So, here are the seven of us that are planning to meet:
- Barefoot Jake, whom basically lives in the Oly’s… (just kidding… but he does spend a lot of time in the park!) Being that he has more knowledge about the park and is more familiar with it than the rest of us, he has become somewhat of our guide for this hike…
- Jeff at Washington Wilderness Adventures. Jeff has allowed me to mail all of my fuel and my trekking poles to him prehike, which was super cool of him to do. Also, Mt Rainier is basically in his back yard, which is cool since we may try to do a little hike around there before I have to come back. (I will be flying out a full day later than the others that are flying.) Anyway, Jeff is constantly posting photos of the Rainier area on his FaceBook page (linked above) so if you are interested in the area, check it out!
- Jesse, friend of Jeff, and an avid backpacker that lives between Rainier & the Olympics. He also post cool shots of various trails and mountain scenes from his hiking adventures on his personal FaceBook page. They have been a joy for me to look through, and has only made it harder for me to wait until our hike is finally here…
- Grant Sible, the president of Gossamer Gear. I have heard a lot of great things about Grant, and am looking forward to both, meeting him, and hiking with him. It will be fun picking his brain about the gear he sells, as well as ultralight backpacking in general… (And as mentioned above, I will be using my GG LT4 trekking poles on this hike, which to date are still my most favorite set of trekking poles!)
- Trinity, a third of the “Chicas Locas” who not so long ago hiked the length of South America. (The trip details can be found on their Eat Hike Sleep Hike blog.) As well, she is an Expedition guide out of Colorado… so it will be fun to meet her and see how she prepares for hikes such as the one we are now preparing for…
- Liz Thomas (AKA: Snorkel). Many may know her for her record-setting, women’s unsupported AT Thru-Hike in 2011, but that is not all she has accomplished. The record hike was actually her 2nd AT thru-hike, but she has also thru-hiked the PCT & the CDT as well, which earns her the title “Triple-Crowner.” Other hikes she has done is the Colorado Trail, the John Muir Trail & the Long Trail, all in one year (also known as the “Little Triple Crown”), and most recently the “200-mile, 312-stairway trek thru-hike through Los Angeles” which was featured in a recent issue of Backpacker magazine. (For more info on all her hikes, check out her blog eathomas.com)
So, as can be seen here… all of these folks that I will have the privilege of meeting with for this hike are pretty dang cool! Honestly, I feel like I get to meet, and hike, with some pretty famous peeps… and that is cool with me! All I can say is this is going to be an epic hike (for me at least)…. I really am looking forward to meeting each one, and look forward to also learning from each one of them…
Anyway, as usual, I have decided to do a video in which I basically talk about everything I have just written about, but I also go through my gear…. although, it’s out of a suitcase, not a backpack.
So, a bit about weights…
As I said above (& in the video), I will be carrying 6 full days worth of food (and actually a 7th breakfast). This is the most food I have carried on a single hike, so this will be an interesting find for me. However, I have based my expected needs on past hikes, and I feel pretty confident that I have packed both an adequate amount of food, as well as food that I will be fine eating for 6 consecutive days. Either way, at 150 oz, or 9.38 lbs, my food is a huge amount of my total pack weight!
As for the weight of my other consumables, they are actually pretty close to on par with what I usually carry. I will again go with two, 20 oz Gatorade bottles (one attached to each shoulder strap), so no weight increase here. As well, I am using Esbit, so the weight is still minimal. My plan is to carry six of the 14 g tablets (one for each dinner) and 14 of the 4 g tablets (two for each breakfast).
So, as far as my “big 3 consumables” are concerned:
- Food = 150 oz (9.38 lbs)
- Water = 44.10 oz (2.76 lbs)
- Fuel = 4.93 oz (0.31 lbs)
This gives me a total weight of 199.03 oz, or 12.44 lbs, for all of my consumables!
As for my base pack weight, it has also increased somewhat due to my camera gear mostly. I have went from carrying about 5 oz worth of a P& S camera with an extra battery, to 30.5 oz (that is just 1.5 oz shy of 2 lbs!) for my new camera, a camera pouch, a tripod, 2 extra batteries, a linear polarizer and a Loksak with a silica dry sack to store it all in. Not only the extra camera weight though, but I am also carrying all of my down garments in order to supplement my quilt in case I need it at night. (I could carry my Marmot Helium, however, this would be overkill, and I will need to carry my down hat and my down parka anyway. So, by going with a higher rated quilt and all of my down garments, I actually get a more versatile set-up, while still having a warm enough set-up.)
In the end though, with all the down garments and my extra camera gear, the total base pack weight comes in at 169.40 oz, or 10.59 lbs. So, while this isn’t technically “Ultralight” I am still happy with the weight. As I see it, I have all that I need to be safe and comfortable, and even some luxury gear, and still clocking in at a respectable weight.
What really matters though is the end results, and that is a 23.03 lb backpack. I will admit, it has been a long time since I have carried a pack this heavy, and all I can say is that I am looking forward to eating away some of that weight…literally. However, as I said above, I am still happy with the items that I am putting in my pack, thus the weight of the pack.
So, at this point, I am settled on my gear for the hike (although, I reserve the right to still change my mind on anything before I actually leave). I have it all ready to go… so now I just have to wait out the rest of the time… And until then, I will leave you with one more photo courtesy of Barefoot Jake from the Olympics National Park…
Disclaimer: I am a Gossamer Gear Trail Ambassador. Of the seven members going on this hike, 4 are Gossamer Gear Trail Ambassadors, 1 is the president of the company, and the remaining 2 are not associated with Gossamer Gear. Despite this, I am not obligated to write this post, nor do I gain anything from it… I am just writing it because I am super-excited about getting to meet the other hikers, and get to see a new part of the world!
As well, both, the first & the last photo in this post was provided to me by Barefoot Jake in order to use in this post.