Monthly Archives: August 2013


light and warm

light and warm

how warm is down

So the basic ideas driving our clothing choices are high function and low weight with multi-use when possible. Notice above there is really no piece of clothing that comes close to down in terms of weight to warmth. The Feathered Friends Hyperion pictured offers the loft similar to the most puffy jacket on the graph and is even lighter!

Just a few main ideas that could be useful know

We have decided on lightweight long sleeve shirts for UV and bug protection. This is a departure for me as I’ll still go with hiking shorts  with lightweight wind-pants for cold and rain.  although my wife will where long pants exclusively and the nine-year old will have a hiking skirt and hiking pants. Needless to say the pants are nylon or polyester. As added protection the nine-year old will have a pain of light rain pants, the adults wont.

Windshirts-ah windshirts. For those who figured this out, there is really no going back. A lightweight nylon or polyester hooded windshirt is perhaps the most important and useful piece of gear we will carry. At less than 4oz this piece of gear keeps out bugs, while regulating body temperature over a huge range. From warm and buggy to high pass sleet and wind the shirt is always close at hand. These silly little things are expensive and luckily we already have ours. Well, the nine-year old has outgrown her Marmot windshirt and replacing it is difficult. Nobody is making a proper ultralight kids windshirt?! I’ll let you know what we find.

Because the Sierra a relatively dry mountain range, but has the potential to be cold, we have decided on down jackets to supplement our sleeping and to wear in the evening.

Not sure yet which one they will bring although I’m set on my Feathered Friends Hyperion. We have reached to point where gear materials are so light that a super warm puffy down jacket (not one of those weeny down shirt/sweaters) only weighs 9-10 oz. This is because most of the weight for a down jacket is actually in the fabric, so adding more down costs very little in terms of weight.



Planning for a family three person thru-hike of the JMT

sierra tent

sierra tent

This is a brief introduction to the planning of our 2013 JMT thru-hike.

Overview: 1: Gear Selection 2: Resupply choices 3: Mileage per day

1: Gear selection will stem from what is likely to start as around UL which means base weight minus food, fuel and water less than 12 pounds per person. The nine year old will carry less than 12 pounds total and more likely less than 10 pounds. Remember, 86,000 feet of elevation gain and loss!

Without laying out all of the details yet, the 10-12 pound weight will be achieved mostly through the sharing of light weight gear, which over the years (and through slowing eroding her will) I have convinced my wife is a good idea.

The big three, as they say

Sleeping bags, tent, backpacks…and I’ll add in sleeping pads


Examples: Our sleeping bag, that’s right bag not bags, weights a hefty 2 Lb. 8 Oz. But there is just one, so we share warmth (I steal hers), are cozy under a massive 15 degree Western Mountaineering Badger. For now daughter will carry her own 15 degree Marmot Helium. Overkill but provides a margin of safety if it gets super cold.

Still, that is 3.5 pounds for three people. Not terrible.

Tent. Nope. Not quite. We take the middle road here, and for convenience, ease of setup and comfort we carry a first generation Tarp tent Rain shadow. We have not left this home in almost nine years. Not once. I would love a lighter taller pyramid. But this this thing just works. For 2.5 pounds it’s pretty nice. Probably a pound per person with stakes and guy lines

Sleeping pads: Old junky green z-rests that should be used as pot cozies. They are cut down and uncomfortable but less than 10 oz. and we have them. I’m not stoked on buying expensive stuff. If we suffer so be it. The goal is light. Also, it’s a good trial. If we hate it I will feel justified in getter a nicer pad for the next trip.


This was interesting. First, there appear to be no ultra light kids’ packs. The actual backpacking specific ones are super heavy and in my opinion way too big for what kid should carry.

I ended up getting her an Osprey for school that weighs about a pound. She loaded the heck out of it all hear, and never complained. We did several shakedown hikes with more backpacking specific bags and she griped and cried and I was annoyed and my wife had to shut up. Not good. When I loaded her school pack with backpacking gear, she said “its way lighter than my school bag”. Good I thought. We shall see

Wife: Golite Gust. Great bag if you need to carry a bear canister. Again, there are lighter and more sophisticated options now, but we have it, she has tested it extensively and it weighs 19 oz.! Nice

I’m having a difficult time. I have a 1 pound bag that works great for 20 LBs max. It’s an old vintage UL rucksack. The problem is, our pace requires that we cover a 13 day section without re-supply. With bear canister (cheap heavy Garcia) that puts each of the adults at 25 pounds of food.

I’m thinking of sending myself a 70L Jam pack. I don’t think it will like 35 Lbs. either, but it’s strong, cheap and big. So, call it about 2 LBS for my pack.

Ok, there are the big three and you can see its light. I think that is about 4 pounds each if you divide it equally. Of course it does not quite work that way but close.

The nine year old carries her own sleeping bag; pack (obviously) pad, and clothes.





Walking slowly in the mountains…further

This summer my wife andd daughter have decided to put some of the rubber of ecological fitness to the road. Ok, they decided to go on a hike, and I decided it was in line with my theorizing mind and therefore “ecological fitness (trademark)”.  The two senior of us are college teachers, me in nursing and my wife in painting and printmaking. So what give up in salary we make back in time. Time would be on our side. Towing us along this summer would be our nine year old daughter. As I have said before, this is a tough littler kid, who hikes up ten flights of stairs to get to her cabin in the woods, is a blue belt in Tae Kwon Do, and an avid violin player and maker of fairy houses in fern grotto. Still, for all her abilities, hiking in the high Sierra is hard for anyone, including a tough kid.

Our hope this summer is to explore how to have a pretty significant adventure together. The issue is that, whereas an adult or even a couple can pretty much point to a section of map and begin pushing, children require more thought, and more sensitivity. Clearly we could go the usual route and rent a cabin. Everyone will have fun. We’ll get tan and relaxed and a little fat on beer and fresh produce. But that is not an adventure. We could go over- seas or overland. Both adventurous but not particularly conducive to fitness. All sounded great really, but when it came down to it, what sounded the most interesting and rewarding, and challenging, was a small thru-hike.

If I could distil the goal for me, and I’m sure my wife and daughter would say it more simply, it comes down to finding the correct balance wherein adventure is achieved for all, and yet each is still working within their own set of possible frameworks and abilities.

What are those frameworks? Well, for one thing we really were not sure. Our daughter is a strong and patient person, and she is nine. What is a nine year old capable of? What is a nine year old capable of day after day? Will barriers be physical, psychological, emotional? Will we, her parents, have the skills to navigate her issues as they arise? Will I have the skill to push but not push too hard? Will I find a way to support her in achieving her goals, and still have her feel like I’m trustable? Will my expectations change? Will I figure out how to enjoy moving what I imagine will be more slowly and will less physical stress? Can I chill out?

What are some other concerns? I’ve laid awake nights worrying about injury. I think that is pretty unlikely but it’s a possibility. What will I do if I break my ankle? What if someone has a severe allergic reaction? I’m very comfortable in the mountains, but bringing my daughter evokes some fear, if I’m being honest.

Mostly, will I be able to bail if it is just obvious that bailing is best? I’m a super non-quitter, so is my wife. Sometimes quitting is the right thing to do. Luckily I have a partner (two) whom I respect completely and I think together we can make these decisions.

The trip:

We decided on the John Muir Trail (JMT) as our adventure for a variety of reasons. First because it is beautiful beyond belief, second it is near home and not difficult to bail from (Austria and Cambodia are tempting), and third, we hiked  the trail when my wife was pregnant (unbeknownst to us). My wife had to go home early for feeling “weird” all those years earlier, so we thought now was the  time to  complete the trip.

So, two college teachers and a nine year old are planning to hike over 200 miles and over 84,000 feet of elevation gain and loss, spending about 23 days and nights out mostly over 10,000 feet. Should be fun…