Summer Sierra Trip Gear Lessons
I always like to look back on my trips and learn from what worked and what didn’t work. With respect to gear, I have a few observations that I thought I’d share here.
With some scrambly peaks and cross-country hiking planned for this trip, I decided to go with an approach style shoe, which is a hybrid style with characteristics of both hiking and climbing footwear. My current approach shoes are the Patagonia Cragmaster, and I love these shoes for peakbagging. I’ve been using them since early spring and they are comfortable, durable, sticky, and the strong leather uppers protect my foot from the loose talus. Despite being super happy with these shoes, I had only worn them on dayhikes and I wasn’t sure how they’d feel with a heavy pack. Approach shoes don’t have the padding of a traditional hiker, so I was a little concerned about how they would feel with 40 lbs on my back. But I really wanted that sticky rubber for Tyndall!
They felt great up until the second to last day. By mile ~14 of the 18 mile day, my feet were aching with that full-foot ache that comes from wearing shoes without enough padding. Fortunately, I had made my camp footwear choice specifically to mitigate this kind of problem should it occur. I brought the Columbia Power Drains, one of my favorite shoes, as camp footwear. Fortunately, they also double as comfortable light trail shoes. I put them on and my feet had instant relief. I wore them the rest of that long day as well as the following day and my feet felt remarkably fresh.
I had struggled over bringing the Power Drains since they were heavier than some of my other camp footwear options. But it ended up working out really, really well.
- GoPro: I brought my GoPro to strap to my helmet on peak climbs and I completely forgot about it. That was a painful blow – I carried that 1/2 lb all week without even thinking about it. I think I’ll stick to using it on my kayak from now on.
- Spot Connect: I love this thing. Its issues are well documented among the hiking community, but I really liked being able to send messages out to family back home. My family really enjoyed getting my preprogrammed messages like “Settled into Camp for the night” and “on the summit!” and being able to see my live location on a map.
- iPhone: I had to carry my phone in order to run the Spot Connect. Since I was carrying the phone anyways, I made sure it was loaded up with podcasts and brought along my headphones. In exchange, I didn’t bring along a book this time. I wasn’t sure if my battery would last all week, so I decided to bring along a solar charger, which brings me to…
- GoalZero Guide 10 Plus Kit: This performed so great on the trail. I strapped it to the outside of my pack and always had fully charged batteries for my arsenal of electronic gadgets – GPS, iPhone, GoPro, etc. It’s heavy though, at a pound and a half. For a longer trip it is worth its weight, but for a shorter trip the battery pack with some extra batteries would be lighter. I noticed several people with this device strapped to their pack, so I’m not the only electronics nerd out there! One thing I should mention is that we had fantastic weather and I was above treeline all week. I imagine that there would be significantly different results if it had been cloudy or if I had been below treeline. One of the many advantages of being a Sierra hiker, I guess.
I’ve said it many times: You can’t go wrong with PackIt Gourmet. While my tried and true favorites are the tortilla soup and the smoothies, I gave a few new meals a try on this trip. The first was the samosas, and the second was the cheeseburger wraps. Both were really tasty, but they were also messy, bulky, and heavy. I probably wouldn’t carry these again on a trip where space and weight mattered so much, but they’d be perfect for an overnighter. No dings on flavor!
I gave my new Petzl Elia helmet a try on this trip and I love it. At ‘only’ 10 oz there was no question that I would carry all week for a peak or two, both of which had reputations for falling and loose talus. It fit in the helmet pouch on the outside of my pack easily, and I forgot I was carrying it most days. I finally pulled it out for Tyndall, and within a couple minutes of putting it on I completely forgot I was wearing it. It has this little notch in the back for ponytails so there was no uncomfortable lump on the back of my head. It’s light, the straps are comfortable, and fits snugly on my head without wobbling. It was so comfortable that I completely forgot I was wearing it. We had gotten half way across the open, safe, flat terrain between the peak and our camp before David jokingly asked me if I still needed a helmet.
Miscellaneous Other Wins
- Bringing a trimmed down foam sleeping pad as a camp sitpad is a lightweight luxury. Do it.
- Bringing a separate summit pack is extra weight but far more comfortable and manageable on the days where we climbed a peak from camp. I use the REI Flash 18.
- My new Osprey Aura 65 was a bit overloaded on Day 1 (43 lbs) but became much more comfortable by Day 2. It seems that 40 lbs is my limit for that pack. Once I got below that, it carried beautifully.
Misc Other Fails
- Found a hole in the corner of the rain fly of our Big Agnes Copper Spur 3 tent. I’ll have to do something about that.
- I lost my favorite MontBell gaiters earlier this summer and replaced them with the Outdoor Research gaiters. The OR gaiters failed by the end of day 1. The stitching holding the straps to the material blew and the straps themselves disintegrated. I’m rough on footwear specifically, but c’mon, I’m not the only one.
So there you have it, my gear roundup from this year’s week in the Sierra. I was actually testing something else but I’ll keep it a mystery, and I hope to share that review through another publication with you in the future.