Gear (Part 4)

Miscellaneous Items

Its always the little things that can be so important when needed, but often forgotten at home. These items can vary from trip to trip, but some items travel with me on every trip.

First Aid Kit

For this trip, I will take along the usual band-aids, antibiotic ointments, and pain relievers. I will also carry a few extra items in this kit for this trip.

1. Flagyl  (Metronidazole Oral) – this antibiotic is specific for the treatment of Giardia. I don’t expect to get this bug, but Flagyl will be nice to have, just in case.

2. Dexamethasone – Dexamethasone is used in the treatment of high altitude cerebral edema as well as pulmonary edema.

3. Cipro (Ciprofloxacin) – A very good, broad-spectrum antibiotic for bacterial infections.

Hopefully, I won’t have to use any of these medications, but it will be reassuring to know that I have them, just in case.

Foot Care Kit

This kit tends to get a lot of use during my hikes, more so as a preventative, but sometimes for the treatment of an occasional blister or hot spot.

1. One of the most recent additions to my kit has been the Engo Blister Prevention Patches. If you know where your hotspots are, then apply one of these to each of those areas in your shoes and they will eliminate any friction or rubbing. These are simply amazing!!

2. I always carry a couple of small sheets of Moleskin. Its hard to beat this for taking care of those areas of your feet that need a little extra cushion.

3. Folding Scissors – I use these a lot. They are great for cutting Moleskin and bandages.

4. Leukotape – This is a very adhesive high strength sports tape that is 1 1/2″ x 15 yds. The adhesive is so strong due to the zinc oxide adhesive. It is very strong but yet still very easy to tear.

5. Tincture of Benzoin – This helps tape or bandages adhere to the skin longer, while providing some protection to the skin.

6. Sewing Needle – Good to have to drain blisters or make repairs to gear. I thread mine at home before I leave on a trip, so that I don’t have to mess with that part on the trail.

7. Alcohol Wipes – For its more common uses, but also as an emergency firestarter, should I really need to start a fire.

Other Gear

Petzl eLite – This is a great little headlight that I’ve used for several years. It puts out a great deal of light for its size. I’m not planning on doing much night hiking this trip, so this should work out great for general use.

Garmin GPSCSx – I don’t use a gps much for navigation, but I take this to track my trips so that I can download them when I get home and keep them on topo maps. I can also upload the track file to Google Earth and view my trip that way too.

SPOT 2 Personal Tracker Satellite GPS Messenger – Since some of my planned trip will take me away from the official JMT, I want to take this along just in case. It will also allow me to let my family and friends know that I’m safe and sound.

Water Treatment – For the Sierra and most of my other trips, I carry a one-ounce bottle of chlorine bleach. Two drops in a liter of water and a short waiting period is usually all that is needed to successfully treat my drinking water.

DEET – I will definitely carry a small bottle of 100% DEET. With the near-record snow levels and subsequent melt-off, mosquitos will be a huge problem much later into the summer than usual.

Sunscreen – Definitely needed in the Sierra.

I’m sure there are more small items that I will be taking with me. If so, I will post them before I leave.

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Gear (Part 3)


When selecting clothing items, it really comes down to personal taste and past experience with certain items. The Sierra’s weather can be finicky any time of the year, so you need to bring some layers of insulation, along with at least a minimum amount of rain protection. With the exception of the DryDucks, which I purchased primarily for this trip, I have used all of these items before on multiple backpacking trips and have not experienced any failures with any of these. Here are some of the items that I’m bringing on this trip.

Montbell UL Inner Down Jacket.                                                                                                   At  9.6 oz., this is a great lightweight down jacket that has kept me warm down into the upper 20s.

DryDucks UL Rain Jacket and Pants                                                                                         This set weighs less than 12 oz total and provides great protection from the occasional rain experienced in the Sierra. I would not use these if I were doing any bushwhacking or on trails where I would be in  heavy brush, as these are pretty fragile. But for the JMT, they should work great.

Socks                                                                                                                                                     I wear two layers of lightweight socks and found the SmartWool PhD crew socks and the Injinji Midweight Performance Socks make a great combination in reducing the possibility of blisters.

Shirt                                                                                                                                                 The Columbia Bahama Long Sleeve Shirt provides both protection from mosquitoes and the sun, with a UPF 30+ sun protection.

Shorts                                                                                                                                               I’ve picked the Magellan Nylon Cargo Shorts to wear. These are lightweight and quick drying. They provide a lot of extra storage space in the cargo pockets, should I need to carry things that need to be close at hand.

Gloves                                                                                                                                               I’m taking both an insulated pair and a sunscreen pair. The sunscreen gloves are very popular on the JMT, and rightly so. The sun can really beat down on unprotected hands.

As a lightweight, insulating pair of gloves, I picked the REI Performance Liner gloves. These are very warm, yet extremely lightweight.

Shoes I started hiking in the Keen Alamosa hiking shoes this year and have absolutely loved them. They have a large toe box, which allows extra space for my toes to move around. When combined with the Superfeet Orange Insoles, they provide great cushioning for my feet, as well.

To round out the list, I use a pair of Dirty Girl Gaiters. These keep the dust and dirt from entering my shoes and socks. They are extremely lightweight, but work great. Mine are solid gray in color.

The miscellaneous items will be listed next in a few days.

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Gear (Part 2)


The backpack that I’m taking on the JMT is a ULA Catalyst. Mine is a 2009 model. The primary reason I selected this pack is because of the NPS regulation requiring the use of a bear canister. I’ve used ULA packs for several years and really like the quality of workmanship that goes into each pack. My Catalyst is an XL and weighs 51 oz.

Bear Canister

I’m using the BearVault BV500 canister for this trip. It will hold the 9 days of food that I’ll be carrying out of Muir Trail Ranch. It’s not the lightest on the market, but for the money, it will do nicely. It weighs 41 oz.

Cooking Kit

My cooking consists of boiling water, adding it to either dehydrated or freeze-dried food in a quart ziplock bag, and let it sit in an insulated bag for about 15 minutes. For this method of preparing my meals, I use the following kit.

For the pot to boil water, I’m using the Evernew Titanium Solo Cook Set. This set consists of a 750 ml pot with lid and a 400 ml cup. I am only taking the 750 ml pot with the lid and leaving the 400 ml cup at home. The weight of the 750 ml pot and lid is 4 oz.

My stove is an Evernew Ultralight Titanium Alcohol stove. I use this in conjunction with the Titanium Cross Stand to support the pot. The stove will easily boil 2 cups of water within 6 minutes on 1 oz of alcohol. This stove/stand combination weighs 1.76 oz.

I use an old MSR windshield that I’ve modified to fit around the pot. My spork is an MSR folding spork and weighs 0.4 oz. To round out my cooking kit, I use a Light My Fire Mini Firesteel for lighting the stove. It weighs .5 oz.

Clothing and miscellaneous items will make up the last of the list. These items will be posted soon.

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Gear (Part One)

Anytime you get two or more backpackers together, you can bet that the topic of conversation will, at some point, turn to gear.  Some people are rather passionate regarding their gear, defending their choices with a fervor, while others view their gear choices as just a means of getting them to the end of their journey. In recent years, the introduction of more lightweight gear has only added to the debate.

When I choose a piece of gear, I look for the item which will perform the task required of it and, at the same time, be as light as possible. This will usually put me in the ultralight category. For this upcoming JMT hike, I have tried to select those items that will perform reliably and are lightweight. I will go through my gear selections and try to explain my reasoning behind some of the selections that I have made.


Let’s begin with my shelter. First, I love using a tarp. I like the versatility that a tarp provides and it is my primary go-to shelter of choice. Having said that, I have chosen to take a Henry Shire’s Tarptent Contrail for this trek. The winter of 2010-2011 has dumped near-record amounts of snow in the Sierra, with Mammoth Crest seeing well over 600 inches of snowfall during the snow season. Tioga Pass road was just opened to vehicle traffic yesterday, June 18th! With this amount of snowfall and the cooler-than-average spring temperatures, I really think that the mosquitoes are going to be an extreme problem this year and will be a problem much later into the summer than normal. Because of this, I chose the Contrail.

The Contrail provides very good bug protection and shelter from the elements, while weighing only 26 oz.

Sleep System

My sleep system begins with a ThermaRest NeoAir. I chose the large size as I’m 6 ft and a side sleeper. I tend to toss and turn throughout the night, so the extra width is a bonus that the additional weight more than justifies. The large version weighs 18.13 oz.

Next, I chose the Jacks R Better Hudson River quilt as my sleeping bag. It is rated at 25-30 degrees, yet weighs only 22.4 ounces in the long version. This trip will be the first time I have used this quilt, so I’m looking forward to using it. If it works as well as I think it will, I may be changing over to quilts for all my hikes. One option that I did select when I ordered the quilt is the sewn-in foot box. I really don’t see using a hammock in cool/cold weather, so I can’t see using this as an underquilt.

My last part of my sleep system is an Exped Air Pillow. It weighs only 3 oz and is probably my one luxury item that I carry.

Next to follow, I will discuss my selection of packs, cooking gear, and clothing.

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You can’t go anywhere on the JMT for an overnight hike without a permit. These permits can become very hard to obtain for those wanting to start the JMT in Yosemite Valley at Happy Isles, the official starting point.  Permits are issued on a quota system, with 60 percent of the available permits being available on a reserved basis. The other 40 percent are available on a first come basis the day before the starting date.                           Beginning in 2011, the reserved permit system was placed on a lottery system, where the applications are picked at random for approval, instead of the “first come, first serve” basis of the past. You will still need to get your application sent in on the appropriate day 168 days in advance, but it doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you will get one just because you faxed yours in at 12:01 am. If you are wanting to start from Happy Isles, then the best advice that I, or anyone who has gone through the process before, is to be flexible with your starting date. It may also be wise to be flexible with your starting point, as this could open up some very good alternatives to the official start. Sometimes being creative can pay huge dividends. The important link for your permit process are listed below:                 


Transportation to and from trailheads can be a logistical nightmare. Hikers have had to utilize several different means and modes of transportation to get back to civilization once they have completed their hike or getting to the beginning of their journey, for that matter.

Beginning in 2011, it just became a little easier to navigate these challenges. If you are driving to the Sierra to begin your trip and are planning a south bound trip, you can now park your car at Lone Pine or Whitney Portal, catch the CREST bus at Statham Hall in Lone Pine at 6:15 am and be in Mammoth (Shilo Inn behind the McDonalds) at 8:20 am. You can then catch the YARTS bus at the same point at 8:30 am. This bus will stop at Tuolumne Meadows store at 10:15 am and at the Yosemite Valley Visitors Center at  12:05 pm. Here are the links to each of the bus lines.–lone-pine-reno.php                                                                                                                                                                                      If you are planning to leave your car in Lone Pine, the local Chamber of Commerce has parking available for a nominal fee. Here is their link:                           


I plan to use Red’s Meadow and Muir Trail Ranch as my two re-supply points. By using Red’s as my first re-supply point, I can start my trip with 3 1/2 days of food, which will help keep my overall pack weight low and help with the acclimation process. My second re-supply point will be at Muir Trail Ranch, where I have also planned an optional zero day, should I feel like I really need one. I will be leaving MTR with 9 days of food, so I may need all the rest I can get before starting the final section of my hike. Here are the links for these two facilities.                                                                                                                                                                                              Another popular re-supply point is Vermillion Valley Resort. It is frequented by JMT hikers and PCT thru-hikers alike. It is approximately 2-3 days south of Red’s Meadow, depending on your pace. The link to them is below.                                                                                                                                         These are the three most popular points to re-supply. Some people doing a thru-hike of the JMT choose to add a forth re-supply point at the Onion Valley trailhead. It is also possible to have the packer meet you on the trail near Charlotte Lake, but they can only leave your supplies there for a maximum of 24 hours and they really don’t like to leave it that long. If you are sure of your itinerary and know that you can be at a certain place on the trail at a certain time, then this might be an option for you. The link to the packing service that provides this pack-in re-supply is below. TDbnUy2KSypc7n0i2fwo9Qe3uV3hdQzL4U7jItmVjLHYEAtgLPfeKSzU4dA/Resupply/ Resupply%205%20-%20Onion%20Valley%20Pack%20Trains%20Information.pdf

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I am starting this blog as a means to keep track of my preparations for and to post a trip report of my upcoming trek of the John Muir Trail. My plan is to begin the hike on Monday, August 15, 2011 and finish on or about Thursday, September 1.

This is not a tutorial, but hopefully it may be of use to anyone who finds themselves reading this and planning a hike on the JMT. I’ve tried to keep the information regarding transportation and re-supply points as up-to-date as possible and will continue to do so in the future.

In this blog, I will discuss my choices of gear and why I made those choices, but remember the Golden Rule of Backpacking – HYOH (Hike Your Own Hike)! I will also discuss the logistics of putting this trip together, from choosing my re-supply points, and all that is involved in that process, to my particular route selection.

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