Prep Hike 1: North Cascades National Park

A couple weeks ago, I departed dusty LA for the green majesty of North Cascades National Park in Washington. The original plan for this backcountry father and son trip was to do the popular 34-mile Copper Ridge Loop in the NE corner, but had to change last minute to a less aggressive itinerary for the group. For anyone interested, my research found this loop to be of the best in the park, and I highly highly recommend it.

Although the trip was converted to mostly car-camping, I treated it as an AT prep-hike nonetheless and packed accordingly. I still wanted to test out the Gear List finalized earlier this month, so packed only those items with the comfort of knowing we could go into town if needed. However, no resupply trips were required and the Gear List held up great!  Since minimizing base-weight is so key to an ultralight pack, some discomfort can be expected, but I felt 80% pleased with the items and accompanying weight I brought.  Still, there were learnings to consider and tweaks to the Gear Plan to be made:

  1. Sleeping Pad – I admit it was wishful thinking to assume I could avoid cold butt syndrome for 5 months with a sleeping pad. Although the DIY reflectix wings helped, the comfort of a hammock is lost with every toss or turn.  Instead, I will trade in my 16oz Thermarest ProLite for the 14.5oz 20d EE Revolt.
  2. However, since switching to an Under Quilt will leave me without a sleeping pad for shelter/hostel stays, I have to add that as a luxury item. At 10oz, the small Thermarest Z-Lite Sol is the best option (and brings other uses like a sit pad in camp). I’ll drop my 1oz foot pad and look for other ways to make up the added weight.
  3. Hammock – Although I love my Dutch Half Wit in Southern California, the bug net will definitely not keep out Appalachian bugs. I’ll be upgrading to Dutch’s versatile and interchangeable Chameleon.
  4. Pillow – The Exped Air Pillow was great, but stained easily, made noise, and lacked that soft pillowy feel. I will evaluate a swap to the Sea to Summit Aeros.  Or bring none. 
  5. Nail Clipper – Although it was a recommended luxury item, I found it easy to cut my nails with the scissors on my Swiss Army Knife instead.  #hegone
  6. Bag Liner – The Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Nano Dry Pack is unnecessary and annoying. It traps too much air for compacting and is a nuisance to open and close. I will just use my bag liner and a trash compactor bag.
  7. Winter Jacket – I still think I can live without a puff jacket, but for now, plan to bring my Patagonia through the Smoky Mountains. I picked up a 3oz Mountain Hardware Ghost Lite jacket on sale in Seattle which I think will pair nicely with my fleece sweater to provide similar warmth. If needed, I’ll wear my Top Quilt for additional insulation around camp.
  8. Cook Pot – My Keith Ti3209 900ml Titanium Mug does not have water measuring lines, so I created a DIY version out of an aluminum baking tray.

Since these changes look to add ~1 pound, I will continue to evaluate additional changes to stay within the UL goal of 15 lb base weight.  At first glance, I think the extra T-Shirt is a gonner…