New To Here & Backpacking

Posted by: TipsEZ

New To Here & Backpacking - 07/29/13 07:07 AM

Well! I'm new to the forum and new to backpacking; sort of. If you ever run across my username anywhere else on the web it is indeed the same person. smile Now onto what brought me here and why I say I'm new to the forum.

My wife and I are gearing up for a Grand Canyon trip (3 Days) in a couple weeks. This will be her and I's first backpacking trip together and should be a blast. I've never been much of a backpacker, more of a car (I have a Jeep) camper, and forced backpacker (served in the Marine Corps). My wife and I are anxious to get out and enjoy this but are limited by our backs...

She has 8 screws and two rods in her back, I have a compression fracture and herniated disc. Her's from a motorcycle accident, mine from jumping out of stuff. As such we are focusing on the UL arena as it should afford us the best opportunity to actually enjoy the sport and see things we can't see even with our overly built Jeep.
Posted by: TipsEZ

Re: New To Here & Backpacking - 07/29/13 07:17 AM

I wasn't sure of a character limit so I made two posts. I'll be digging around for info as time permits but here's the basics of what we have thus far. Our gear is an interesting mix depending upon finances and what I felt we could reuse until we get a feel for how our backs will handle this.

My pack is the USMC ILBE, with the SOURCE bag and a 3L Camelback bladder. I have an ALICE pack but the frame broke which made it too rough to carry. My wife is carrying her Camelback Rim Runner, which she packs here clothes, Altoids style survival kit, and a first aid kit in. After that it's pretty much full.

We have 2 250g Snow Peak fuel canisters and a Snow Peak LiteMax (think that's the right name) stove with the Snow Peak 1400 Aluminum kit to stuff everything inside of, including a couple Coleman Fork/Knife/Spoon jobbies.

She uses the MSS Bivy sack with a Patrol Bag and that keeps her fairly warm most of the year, I just use a Patrol Bag (some how this is what I ended up with); both have compression sacks.

Our tent is a 4 man cheapo from a big box store, freaking thing weighs close to 10#s, as does my pack... Thus why UL stuff is interesting to us.

For our food we usually take granola bars, oatmeal, quinoa, tuna, and almonds. This is for hiking trips, car camping we go all out with the camp stove if fire isn't permitted but always cook over a fire if possible.

Anywhos, that's the basics of the big items we have. Any thoughts would be appreciated. If all goes well with our Grand Canyon trip we will be leaving from there for a couple days in Bryce Cyn followed by a couple in Zion. If we are up for it I hear of nice 3 day trip in Zion we may try.

Look forward to hearing thoughts and if anyone wants to post links to some good info that'd be great! Basic First Aid and Survival stuff I have etched into memory, but the idea of not having to carry 90lbs is new to me and something I'm having an issue with as far as cutting the cord on some things. smile
Posted by: ETSU Pride

Re: New To Here & Backpacking - 07/29/13 09:02 AM

My sleeping bag, backpack, shelter, and sleep pad weighs 10 pounds. A well fitted pack is definitely easier on the back and take tons of pressure off the shoulders. You can get a two person tent that weighs 2.5 pounds to 3 pounds for under $300.00 I know Tarp Tent has one in that criteria. It go a long way in reducing stress on you two's backs. There a lot of links under Ultralight Gear on the left that lead you to some products that are extremely lightweight.

Welcome to the forum and hope you and your wife enjoy the hobby!
Posted by: Glenn Roberts

Re: New To Here & Backpacking - 07/29/13 10:37 AM

I agree with ETSU - particularly since your ID indicates you are in the Arizona area (and I assume you will be doing most of your hiking in nearby areas where prolonged rain is not an issue.)

A single wall tent would be a great choice - TarpTent makes an excellent product. If price is no object, you might look at the MSR Carbon Reflex series and Big Agnes Fly Creek Platinum series. I only mention them because they give you the option of nearly 100% ventilation by pitching the all-mesh inner without the rainfly. I think TarpTent also has a couple of versions that come very close to this kind of ventilation. I also believe that TarpTent products are slightly roomier than a Big Agnes or MSR product of the same weight. (I know that the Tarptent Rainbow is about 35-50% roomier than the Carbon Reflex 1, but are otherwise quite similar. My own experience, in the Eastern US is that the Rainbow wasn't as well-ventilated - but the eastern US is in no way comparable to the conditions you would encounter. There may be no meaningful difference in ventilation in your part of the country.)

Of course, if bugs aren't an issue where you'll camp, a silnyon tarp (say, 10x12 feet) and groundcloth would be the lightest and perhaps most elegant solution.

The only caution I would give regarding ultralight packing is in regard to the pack. Be careful about going for frameless packs; given that you both have back issues, you may be far more comfortable in a framed pack because it will allow you to carry all the weight on your hips, putting little to no compression or weight on your backs. Keeping weight off your shoulders is harder to do with a frameless pack (not impossible, just requires more care in packing.) Take a look at the Osprey Exos series, or the Osprey Atmos/Aura series (suspension is gender-specific, packbag is virtually identical.) The critical thing is that you can use the load lifers to get all the weight off your shoulders if you want to; that usually means there should be a 30-45 degree angle between the load lifter attachment point on your pack and the attachment point on the shoulder straps. If the clerk at the outfitter store (whether it's the local shop or REI or other big-box) can't help you fit the pack to do this, go look somewhere else.

You don't mention whether or not you and your wife use trekking poles. If you don't, I'd strongly recommend you give them a try; they can really help reduce (but not eliminate) the jarring your back takes when you're on uneven footing (for example, taking a big step off a rock or down from a log.) They are also very handy for pitching that Tarptent or that tarp.

Beyond that, you sound like you've got a pretty good plan on where you go from here, gear-wise. If you've not hiked Grand Canyon before, there are lots of folks who can give you good info on that, too (but I'm not one of them.)

Anyhow, welcome aboard and enjoy your hikes.
Posted by: TipsEZ

Re: New To Here & Backpacking - 07/29/13 09:56 PM

Thanks for the thoughts and welcomes! I actually tried on the Atmos (I think) at REI the other day, and really liked how it fit and how light it was but given that I have the ILBE, it had all the same features (load lifters, etc), I chose to eat the extra weight for now to see if we really enjoy doing this or if we are better suited for driving the Jeep out till we lose cell service and camping.

In regards to weather, well... We are in AZ right now but if I can find a job in Ohio or KC we will be moving back East, and the tarp tent idea is something that I could do myself but the wife seems to get bitten by anything within a few miles.

Some other things that I didn't mention are things like my wife being a bit of a hippy. She makes a cleaning solution from essential oils that we can use to clean everything from the toilet to our face, and can even drink it to improve our mood. We have had her Camelbak Pack up to about 17#s and she hasn't had any issue with it doing some scrambling up rocks and things like that, which from what I'm reading should be enough for here to last about 3 or 4 days if I'm carrying the stove.

Right now price is a big concern for us until we can validate that we CAN do it. I'm certain we'll enjoy it, just unsure of if our bodies will allow it. The upcoming trip should be awesome. I'll post up in the Planning section after we map our ideal routes (backpacking trips but no backcountry permit yet) as well as our backup day hike routes if we can't get a permit. Right now we are thinking of cutting Bryce Cyn to a late night arrival followed by sunrise day hikes till about noon then striking out for Zion so we can get a permit and really spend a few days there.

Posted by: TipsEZ

Re: New To Here & Backpacking - 07/29/13 10:00 PM

Originally Posted By ETSU Pride
My sleeping bag, backpack, shelter, and sleep pad weighs 10 pounds. A well fitted pack is definitely easier on the back and take tons of pressure off the shoulders. You can get a two person tent that weighs 2.5 pounds to 3 pounds

I've just read an article about the "3 Big Ones" and that being the best place to cut weight. If this is something that we really take to then we'll for sure be getting a very light 3 man tent, I'll make my ILBE a hunting setup and get a new pack, and we may modify the hip belt of her Rim Runner to give more padding.
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: New To Here & Backpacking - 07/29/13 10:57 PM

Have you read the articles and gear lists on the home page of this site, lefthand column?
Posted by: wandering_daisy

Re: New To Here & Backpacking - 07/29/13 11:47 PM

Wow! You local Arizona folks sure are tough with regard to heat. Grand Canyon in a couple of weeks? I would wilt. I did it late November with snow on the rim and still was hot in the inner canyon. Are you sure you even need a sleeping bag? Correct me if I am wrong, but looks like me the biggest issue is carrying water and staying cool.
Posted by: TipsEZ

Re: New To Here & Backpacking - 07/30/13 01:11 AM

I have not read those articles yet. It is on my to do list, but work (I work nights) has been killing me the last few weeks and this week is no different. Don't they know I have trips to plan!

Far as the heat here, well... We live in the Phoenix area, so the inner canyon will be a few degrees cooler than what we have at home. It's taken us a bit to "get used to" the heat as we moved out here from Orange County and San Diego. We should be to the inner canyon (if all goes well) while the temp is still in the low 90s; not the best hiking weather but doable. We'll be getting plenty of water along the trail as all the water stations are currently up and running right now. We also will each be carrying about 4L at the start of the trip and have cut caffeine and alcohol out of our diets until after the trip.
Posted by: wandering_daisy

Re: New To Here & Backpacking - 07/31/13 10:12 AM

Sitting around home in 90-degrees is way different than backpacking in 90-degrees. The air temperature is augmented by the radiated heat off the rock walls in the Grand Canyon. Temperature in the shade can be 90-degrees and what hits your body is 100+. Be careful.

When we did the Grand Canyon, lots of newbies we met at Phantom Ranch were shocked the next day by their incredibly sore "downhill" muscles. Somewhat like how you feel after the first day of skiing if you did not train for it. Take it easier than you would think going down. A 5000 foot descent can really play havoc on knees and muscles. Even though you can go down and up in one day each way, we split the up into two days, spending excess time walking along the Tonto Trail - really scenic and a nice break to walk without the full pack. Were I to do it again I would also take two days going down. You would see more and you could confine backpacking to the wee morning hours when cooler.
Posted by: wandering_daisy

Re: New To Here & Backpacking - 07/31/13 03:15 PM

Here is the weather report for Phantom Ranch for the next week.

Looks brutal to me. I would not hike in such weather unless a very experienced "desert rat".
Posted by: TipsEZ

Re: New To Here & Backpacking - 08/01/13 01:54 AM

We actually have discussed spending two nights at the bottom, and already have things set to stop at the halfway point on the way up. Far as the heat goes, I'm hoping that with a 4a start time we can make it down fairly early. I once ran a marathon with about three 3 mile runs under my belt 6 months prior... Yulp. I was sore. We're headed out tomorrow to do some hiking around mid day here in Phoenix to see how we are doing with the heat, mostly as a practice run for an "uh oh" moment. We shall see. smile
Posted by: topshot

Re: New To Here & Backpacking - 08/02/13 09:48 PM

Originally Posted By TipsEZ
and the tarp tent idea is something that I could do myself but the wife seems to get bitten by anything within a few miles.
A true tarptent is fully enclosed so bugs aren't an issue. I have the Lunar Duo from Six Moon Designs for example.

My son and I were in the canyon (from North Rim) in late June. I don't recall bugs being an issue so I would just use a true tarp to save weight over that big honking tent of your's. I had quickly made a new one that was about 7 ounces I think to use mostly for shade if needed and it worked great. We also did not take our sleeping bags or cooking gear (who wants a hot meal when it's hot?). Did the same doing Zion Narrows. We did carry 4 L of water down because the pipe was busted again and I didn't want to waste time or chemicals to treat more water than necessary (and downhill is easy). You can view our trip reports at my YT channel.

Another thing that may be helpful is my gear paper
Posted by: TipsEZ

Re: New To Here & Backpacking - 08/02/13 09:50 PM

Well... We got my ladies pack (Camelbak Rim Runner) loaded down with everything she felt she wanted to carry. Her pack weighs in (using my very accurate fish scale) at 23#s. Her bladder is 3L, which should add 6.6lbs. My question is... Do you folks (experts in my eye) think that this is going to be too much weight for a pack without a frame?

We have the heavier weight placed in the middle of her pack, which I believe is correct. We put her sleep system into a compression sack and attached it below her 'pack' to keep her center of gravity about right. She said she feels the weight on her hips (her Camelbak Pack) does have a hip belt that she said was where she felt the weight.
Posted by: Glenn Roberts

Re: New To Here & Backpacking - 08/02/13 10:31 PM

It's more than I'd want to carry in a frameless pack, but that's just me - I never found them comfortable with more than about 15 pounds, and use a framed pack (Atmos 50) for my 20 pound load. I hike with one guy who easily carries 30 pounds with ease.

She's just going to have load it up, including water, and go hike an hour or two with it on, and not just on sidewalks: take it up a few hills, too. "Experts" will have well-informed opinions about what should work and why - but she's the one who ultimately has to carry the pack.
Posted by: topshot

Re: New To Here & Backpacking - 08/02/13 10:36 PM

30 lbs would be pushing the upper limit for almost all frameless packs (though I'm not at all familiar with Camelbak models). If the weight truly is on her hips and not shoulders you've packed it well and it should work. However, she should test it for at least several miles because the bouncing action can cause the virtual frame to buckle over time, reducing torso length.

23 base sounds like a lot for a first trip. Your wife is likely tougher than mine, who just went on her second trip. She can't do uphills very well so the second day which was mostly uphill I carried her bag and pad as well so she had maybe 9 pounds on her back. She was about 13 the first day (with 1 L water).

I'd caution you not to take what she WANTS, but what she NEEDS. smile See that paper I linked or check the articles here.

The heat in the canyon is a butt kicker for some people. I like it but it wilted my son who normally wears long pants and a hoody in our hot, humid summers. As the video shows, we made it the 14 miles UP in the same time it took to go down. We started down at 6 AM, and I figured we'd easily be done in 6 hours (just over 2 mph avg) but it took him 8.5. He didn't want to stop (I was keeping close eye on him). We left Bright Angel at 3:10 AM and made Cottonwood in 3.5 hours, siesta most of the day under the tarp and then decided to go ahead and leave after dinner when sun was beyond the walls and took 4.5 hours to get back to the rim.
Posted by: TipsEZ

Re: New To Here & Backpacking - 08/02/13 11:40 PM

I had her run up and down the stairs a few times and see how it felt as well as having her shake around to see if it stayed secure and close to her body. Thus far, no complaints. I asked her to get with some friends to do a hike tomorrow to see how all that weight felt; we shall see how that goes. Far as her being one tough lady... You have no idea. She had a motorcycle accident and was told she wouldn't walk again... 3 days later she was on her feet with a walker. Lots of metal in her but she's a trooper.

In other news. My Snow Peak LiteMax I ordered got delivered today to... Who knows where! UPS stated it was at the door, it is not. But now to the awesome part!

I live in town houses. I went around to everyone's door asking if they got my package. In doing so I found a neighbor who is doing the Grand Canyon in 3 weeks and just happened to have an extra MSR Stove for our trip. Yulp. I'm in. Great to see the same community here that I have found in Rock Crawling. smile