Friday, July 11, 2014

Food, Gear, and Pack Weight

We've been training up a storm, and I believe the girls are ready for the JMT.  They're used to doing 11-12 miles (roundtrip) with 3000 feet of elevation gain over rough terrain in five hours, and we're only planning on doing an average of 10 miles a day in California.  Of course, there's altitude...but we're heading north to south (low to high), so I'm hoping we'll acclimate as we go.  You can check out our training hikes, which will continue until a few days before we leave, on our main blog --

I spent today packing 5-gallon buckets with all kinds of high-calorie foods we rarely eat in real life.  During the next couple of weeks, we'll mail those resupply stashes to Tuolumne Meadows, Muir Trail Ranch, and Sequoia Kings Pack Trains (the folks who will haul up our supplies and meet us on the trail between Muir Trail Ranch and Whitney).  I had the challenge of packing food for three people that would fit into one Bearikade Expedition bear canister.  This wasn't a problem for the Tuolumne Meadows and Sequoia Kings Pack Trains buckets, but the Muir Trail Ranch resupply was tough.  I have one bear canister that is made for one person/12 days of food or 3 people/3-4 days worth of food.  I had to fit 3 people/6 days of food in there.  That's about 60,000 calories, and that's if I skimp on my own portions.  Why so many calories?  Remember, we're hiking day after day after day.  By the time we're on the last leg of our trek, "hiker hunger" will have kicked in and our bodies will need far more calories than we eat in everyday life.

I did it...well, kind of -- the girls and I will carry our first day's food outside of the canister and eat 10,000 calories between us that day.  50,000 calories will fit into that can.  It took me many attempts with all different kinds of food, but I finally did it -- 50,000 calories in a Bearikade Expedition.  Those calories are made up of Nutella, peanut butter, flat tortilla shells, flavored almonds (butter toffee flavored almonds are especially calorie-dense), cashew/chocolate trail mix, M&Ms, sunflower seeds, Snickers, and Met/RX bars.  It's a tight fit, but careful repackaging pulled it off.  Some things will be loose in the can, and a few things are smushed, but the calories are there, and my kids don't mind eating smushed food for a few days.  My poor Gossamer Gear Gorilla backpack is going to carry more than the recommended weight limit when we leave Muir Trail Ranch, but I'm packing some lightweight straps to help support the pack's seams.  I'll also have repair tape with me.

We're counting on Dee Berner's Sequoia Kings Pack Train to meet us on the trail at a designated place and resupply us a few days before we reach Whitney.  They'll take our trash and give us our resupply, which is filled with enough calories to take us to Whitney and then some.  I'll recoup some of my skimped-on calories when that resupply arrives.

Gear -- as I mentioned before, I'll post a full gear list with a review when we return.  I'd rather do it that way than list it all now and then review it when we get back.  Basically, we're doing ultralight everything.  Gossamer Gear backpacks, as already mentioned, Z-Packs tent, ultralight sleeping bags, ultralight foam mats, the bare necessities when it comes to clothes (though we will, as always, carry rainwear and fleece), no stove, etc.

Pack weight -- Most of the time, my pack weight will be 27-33 pounds, including food and water.  The girls' packs will usually be 8 or 9 pounds, including some food and water.  Since the girls hike weekly, year-round, I've never wanted them to be burdened down with packs that might affect their bone growth or joints.  Therefore, I keep their pack weights to 10% or less of their body weight.  I'll carry about 20% of my body weight, except when we're hiking out of Muir Trail Ranch with 6 days worth of food.  Then, I'll be carrying 42 pounds total...Gossamer Gear does NOT recommend this for the Gorilla pack, by the way.  I'm going to have to cross my fingers, use my extra straps, and hope the pack holds up for a couple of days until we can eat our way down to the pack's recommended maximum carrying capacity.

That's it for now.  Tomorrow, Sage and I will mail a resupply bucket to Tuolumne Meadow Post Office.  Very cool.

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