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January through March 2016

Washing Up Post date: Mar 24, 2016 12:33:25 AM We've owned our REI Sub-Kilo sleeping bags for about six years now, and that means that we've used them on about 750 miles of backpacking trips. Since we usually hike about 7-8 miles a day, that's about 100 nights in the bag, not counting some of our car camping trips.

Ewww. So as you can imagine, the bags had started to look a little grimy in places. We've meant to wash them for a couple of years, but it's such a major process that we never got around to it.

Until now.

A visit to REI got us the NikWax soap for down bags, and P filled up the tub and away he went, first washing the bag, then soaking it for a while, washing again, and then seemingly endless cycles of rinse and rinse and rinse and repeat.

Then the delicate process of slowing squeezing most of the water out of the bag, and about 3 hours in the dryer on the delicate cycle.

But it worked. What was a grimy old sleeping bag now looks more or less fresh and new. And we were surprised to see how well they filled out their big "pillow case" storage bags once we had washed them. Before washing, they were not nearly so fluffy--although it's possible we could have fluffed them up a bit in the dryer even without washing them. At any rate, they are now clean!

P can hardly wait to get his packed away in its stuff sack and on the trail again.

And more lost, and found Post date: Mar 22, 2016 6:56:31 PM One of our friends on the Backpacker Basecamp message board community responded to our post about lost and found with this note. We liked it to much we asked him if we could post it here, and he agreed

:I've never been lost either. But I've been misplaced a few times. Things I've learned:

• The earth's magnetic field, and hence my compass, does not reverse itself in dense fog. Could be the human.

• Mountain ridges often have sub-ridges. Descending a sub-ridge on the right side may be descending the main ridge on the wrong side.

• A setting Jupiter may bear a remarkable resemblance to a rising Venus.

• Rivers have tributaries. The distinction is not so important when going down the river as it is going up the river.

• Cliffs are often inconveniently placed and don't listen well to reason.

• Squiggly lines on a topo map don't tell the whole story.

• Dense stands of thin pines bear an uncanny resemblance to the bars on a jail cell.

• Nature is full of reminders that I did not learn well enough the first time.

• And assorted other things . . .

Travis N Wood, Wyominghere's a link to the whole conversation:

Lost and Found Post date: Mar 22, 2016 4:03:59 AM "Remember that trip when we were lost?" M asked me.

"What? We've never been lost!" I replied.

"Yes we were," she said. "And we couldn't find that lake."

"Oh, you mean Grouse Lake. We weren't lost. The lake was," I clarified.

To be very clear, we have never been lost on a hiking trip, at least by my definition. My definition of "lost" is not knowing where you are, and not knowing how to get home. By that definition I have never been lost--not even when I was six and became separated from my family in a huge department store in an unknown city. I simply went to the door we used to enter the store and waited. I knew they'd be back through that door, and I'd meet them there. I wasn't worried. They apparently were.

But there are certainly other definitions. And by those, we have wandered at times. >> We have not known exactly where we were. In fact, on one memorable occasion, we didn't find out until we came home and posted photos. >> We have not found what we were looking for, even though we were clearly very close to it--sometimes within 100 yards, as it turned out later. >> We have become separated and only found each other by using whistles to find out where the other one had gone. (Do NOT underestimate how important whistles are in this situation---we couldn't hear each other's voice, but we could clearly hear the whistles!) But while we haven't been lost, we have been unsure. Now bear in mind that we don't use a GPS--mainly because we don't like the cost, and don't like the fact that the batteries won't last long enough for many of the trips we take. What we do use is a compass, lots of topo maps, signs, trails, and dead-reckoning. And yes, we have been unsure:

>> We once hiked to Heart Lake near Lassen National Park. There is no trail, and the topo map showed lots of logging roads. But the area had been logged after the topo maps were printed, and so the roads were completely different. We never did find the lake. But we will next time.

>> We once hiked to Tangle Blue Lake in the Trinity Alps, following directions from a local, who had only ridden horses there, and told us about a short-cut that by-passed the first few miles of the trail. After a couple of delightful (more or less) hours wandering through alders and manzanita, we gave up. She later told us that she had forgotten one key point in those short-cut directions...!

>> We've hiked through the forest out of Tuolumne Meadows towards Mariolumne and Mendicott Domes, only to find ourselves at the foot of Fairview Dome.

>> We once hiked up from Fremont Lake to Cinko Lake, by-passing Chain of Lakes to hike up Walker Meadow....because we never did see the trail to Chain of Lakes.

>> We once hiked DOWN the East Fork of the Carson River to Murray Canyon because we cold not find the trail that hiked UP the Carson River to connect to the PCT. We later learned that trail had not been maintained for nearly forty years, according to the ranger.>> We once hiked around the west end of Milk Run Meadow for an hour and a half because we could not find the trail that leads up to Peep Sight Peak.

>> We once hiked cross country over snow covered creeks and up near vertical slopes because we could not find the trail to Broke-Off Mountain in Lassen. We did get to the top. We got back. But not via the trail.

>> And yes, we once hiked across the southern part of Yosemite National Park towards Grouse Lake, where we were going to camp the first night. We could not find it. P was quite frustrated, and finally hiked down into a little valley to see if he could find a trail up to the lake. After staring up the valley for a good five minutes, he turned around to find the lake in plain sight behind him.

But we've never been lost.

Shopping for Backpacks Post date: Mar 20, 2016 6:23:47 PM We stopped in at REI the other day to pick up some soap to wash our down sleeping bags, and couldn't help but overhear a couple of conversations about backpacks. So we updated this article from our equipment pages, and are posting it here for fun:

Thanks to a combination of free market competition, new developments, and generally silliness, there are more types of backpacks on the market than anybody ever needs. We’ll try to limit the discussion here to a few basic concepts, and then encourage you to make your own decisions.

Frame: Internal, external, or none at all? The basic question is whether you want a frame to help hold your pack together and in place, or not. And if you do, should that frame be inside or outside the pack? What does all this mean? Remember those old packs that you see in the movie Wild? The ones that have an aluminum frame and then some kind of nylon pack laced on the outside? That’s an external frame pack. If yours has a good hip belt along with it, it probably works pretty well. We used to have two Kelty packs from about 35 years ago that still only weighed about 3 ½ pounds. What more do you want? If you have one, there really isn’t much need to upgrade. And you can often get these at yard sales for almost nothing. Can’t beat that!

The one drawback to our old packs was that our new sleeping bags and tent were so small that they weren’t easy to tie onto the lower part of the pack…where they belong. Still, that’s a minor quibble for something that weighs so little, costs so little, and works pretty well. And that top frame is a great way to pick up your pack--something that the new packs can't match.

Just getting started? Don't make the mistake of spending a lot of money on a pack for your first overnight hike. Pick up one of these and use it. (It will be fine for carrying 20 pounds for five miles. That's all you need. Once you find out if you really LIKE backpacking, you can go find a nice pack--and have a much better idea of what you really want to buy.)

But after everyone bought an external frame pack, somebody needed to invent (or re-invent) new technology. Enter the internal frame pack. In these packs the frame is minimized (usually just a couple of aluminum or plastic bars to help the pack keep its shape) and fits inside the pack itself. The object is to create a pack that fits you better, and is better adapted to your body---so the bag doesn’t flop around quite so much behind you. It’s a good idea that we've borrowed from rock climbers, and if you can get one that doesn’t weigh a lot, it can work really well. For difficult off-trail hiking and climbing, where keeping your balance is important, they are absolutely the way to go.

We’ve been very happy with our basic Eureka 3800 packs that we picked up at a discount store about ten years ago for under $50. They weigh the same as our old packs, and do fit our body better…we can adjust them so that M’s is pretty different from P’s. and both of us are happy. The one disadvantage is that these hug your back, which means that your back gets no ventilation...and P's shirts are always sopping wet on a warm day. The old packs were better at this, because they let your back breathe.

You can now buy internal frame packs in sizes up to “bigger than you could ever carry on your back” and at prices up to “why don’t we just buy a horse?” They can carry 5500 cubic inches, weigh more than six and half pounds, and have a special compartment for musical instruments. (Just kidding.) Unless you are planning to hike the entire Pacific Crest Trail without a single re-provisioning break, you don’t need or want this pack. This is especially true for beginners, who tend to pack too much stuff anyway. When you have a big pack, you will fill it up. And then you will have to carry it. And that just might be enough to turn you off backpacking for the rest of your life. In fact, if you are really planning to do the kind of backpacking we do (up to about a week on the trail) you might look at the latest backpacks, which really are light.

If you are willing to revise all your equipment to ultralight stuff, you might be able to get by with one of the new ultralight backpacks that have no frame at all. Yep—just like the backpack your kids take to school every day. Except that they are made with space age materials and weigh almost nothing. And if you don’t put too much into them, and baby them a little bit (these materials are not iron-clad!) they are a very interesting option. But they also cost a lot of money, and that isn't necessary until you really get into this stuff.

We picked up a couple of nice 50L packs from Go-Lite before that company went out of business, and we've used them, ever since. And they weigh two pounds. They have tiny little stays inside, and work really well for us. But that leads us to the next point.

One element that still encourages discussion around our house is the need for external pockets. Serious climbers, of course, don't like these, because if one catches on a stick just when you are making your critical move, it spells disaster. But if you are a serious climber, you probably don't want our advice anyway. M prefers more pockets because they allow her to organize her pack more clearly. She doesn't like having to open her pack every time she needs a tissue, or lip balm, or her camera, first aid kit, snacks, wilderness permit, get the idea. P, on the other hand, doesn't quite see external pockets the same way. But he also often ties something to the outside of his pack--whether it be his camp shoes or a foam seat pad, or even his clean laundry hanging out to dry.

Purists would be appalled. But that's OK with P. He's hiking, he's loving it, and he will have clean socks the next day.

Which is best for you? First of all, get one that fits you. For short hikes, this isn't really too critical because you won't be carrying much weight, and you won't be carrying it very far. But when you are ready to buy a new pack, the first thing you should do is bring 25 pounds of sandbags along, and toss them into every pack you try. Buy the one that feels best on you back when you load it up. (Good outdoor stores will have sandbags on hand...seriously!)

After that, it really depends on what you are going to put into it. If you have all ultralight gear, and your final trail weight is 14 pounds, then by all means go for one of those ultralights. If your trail weight is closer to 35 pounds on your longer trips (as ours is) then we would go with either a smaller internal or external frame pack. And if your trail weight is more than fifty pounds…we’d get a pack llama.

Got Our Reservations Made... Post date: Mar 16, 2016 6:07:56 PM We have plans for a shorter few trips this summer, but we also have two longer ones in mind.

> One is a hike up into the upper reaches of the Lyell Fork of the Merced River in Yosemite, looking for bighorn sheep (recently introduced in that range) and spending about half the time off trail. The trailhead for that one is the popular Rafferty Creek.

> One is a hike in SEKI into the canyons above the Roaring River--Cloud and Deadman--that I haven't visited since I was there forty years ago. That one uses the also sometimes popular Sugarloaf Trailhead.

We don't plan all of our trips so far in advance, but we did take the time to make reservations for these. And the good news is that we got both trips approved.Now where else can we go that won't need a reservation? Lots and lots of places.

The Epic Trip Post date: Mar 14, 2016 2:55:05 PM As we meet people on the trail and off it, we are always a bit amazed by the appeal of the John Muir Trail. Sure, it was a great idea at the time, and is a good way to get from one end of the Sierra to the other. But it's not the only way, and its fame has led to it becoming a highly travelled thoroughfare that visits heavily impacted campsites, draws crowds along its entire length, and is often six to eight feet wide because of all the traffic it gets. But it has become famous, and so to hike it is a "bucket list" adventure.

Sadly. We don't get it. When we backpack, we do it to avoid crowds. We choose trails that are less travelled, or often go cross-country to see things that trails don't reach. We camp in quiet nooks where there are no other people for miles. And we sometimes go days without seeing another person. Is the scenery we see any less attractive than the scenery on the John Muir Trail? We don't think so. In fact, it has far less damage from crowds, so in many ways its more attractive.

The next time someone suggests that you take a hike along the JMT, you might just respond with an alternative route--one that gets you away from the hordes, rather than hiking with them. You'll find quite a few itineraries in the destination sections of our site...

Asking for Directions Post date: Mar 14, 2016 1:33:56 AM It never hurts to ask. We couldn't help think about this on our hike to Sidewinder Canyon in Death Valley. The ranger had warned us that the canyon was NOT one of the smaller canyons immediately visible from the parking lot, but was up at the head of the alluvial fan to the south. And that's where we went. And we saw amazing slots canyons. But we also saw a lot of people who hadn't asked for directions. They were climbing all over the smaller canyons immediately visible in front of the parking lot. And they were obviously not impressed with what they had found. In fact, we met a couple of them back at their cars...and they were so disappointed that they had missed Sidewinder Canyon.

It never hurts to ask.Besides, there's not telling what else you'll learn--or what stories you'll hear--when you talk to the rangers. We always try to make time for a little conversation with them, if only to ask about a strange bug we've seen, wildlife we've spotted, or just share the fun of talking about people who don't ask for directions....and miss the fun.

A few more Thoughts on Death Valley Post date: Mar 10, 2016 2:25:53 PM One thing we noticed when we camped at Death Valley and cooked our usual backpacking dinners: water seemed to boil more quickly (because of the denser air?) and it boiled at a full 212 degrees. Which meant that our food was hotter, and stayed hotter, than it does at 10,000 feet. After a few burned lips and tongues, we began to get the message, and adapted accordingly...

Of course, this also means that the dinners we ate were actually cooked the way they were intended to be cooked---we didn't have to calculate the differences and add waiting time for elevation. That part was nice. We used this trip to try a few different meals and styles, with an eye to this summer's extended backpacking trips. We found some good things! And Death Valley is dry. Sure, it was only in the mid-80s during the day there, and it never got below about 55 at night, but we still found ourselves drinking a LOT of water. The humidity is so low that you don't even notice you are sweating...until you check your shirt for salt stains. The NPS recommends a gallon a day, and we probably drank more than that on some days. Then again, we were hiking more than most people.

Hiking Death Valley Post date: Mar 9, 2016 5:14:05 PM What a wonderful time of the year to hike Death Valley. The first week of March brought us perfect wildflowers, great weather, and a whole series of new trails and adventures. We drove down through Tehachapi, and the flowers there were our first clue that this was going to be amazing. We found a campsite at Furnace Creek, but it was at the oddly named Sunset Campground. This is a huge gravel parking lot with spaces marked off in chalk--not great if you're using a tent. We found a little tent ghetto on one row, and set up shop there, but it wasn't pretty. But we did hear coyotes saluting us in our tents the first night... We had better luck with campsites later on the trip. Our first day was a hike out to Sidewinder Canyon--this one is a lovely hike, starting south of Badwater at Mormon Point and heading up into the mountains to the east. A wilderness ranger had suggested this one to us, and provided us with a nice hand-out that explained to route. That was a good thing, because most of the people we saw there headed off in the wrong direction, and never saw the slot canyons that Sidewinder has in spades. There are six slot canyons and adventures in every nook and cranny on this hike. We loved this hike. And we loved exploring each of the side canyons--including those that were not marked on the handout. One them, the first slot on the left, led up through a maze of twisted narrows to a more open canyon that gave us views over the whole area. And other slots were amazing sculptures of rock and sun. That's one of them at left, with M posing in the archway. What fun!

Indian Pass Canyon--The next day, we were after more of an adventure. One of the hikes sometimes recommended as a backpacking destination, the hardest part of Indian Canyon is knowing where to start:

about 6.5 miles north of Furnace Creek...park there, and you just head up across the miles and miles (four, actually) of gravel wash before you enter the canyon. From there you can hike for more miles up past a dry waterfall, narrows, springs, and all sorts of nice places to see.

We didn't see anyone for two days. The first waterfall has an easy by-pass on the north side, and from there the canyon just gets better. The canyon has at least two tight narrows, but the walls are lower here, so they weren't so much slots as simply constrictions of the canyon. We were not impressed with the springs (wet sand at the bottom of a depression) but we loved the solitude, the wildness, and the rock of Indian Pass. Take along lots of water...and remember that while it may seem flat, the hike in is certainly uphill, and we were sweating in the mid-80 degree heat in spring. In the summer, this would be an oven. The third day, on our way out, we found the going much easier (it was, after all downhill at this point) and we even found the gravel more interesting---with some wild Blister Beetle mating parties going on, and so many different kinds of flowers. This trip logged in at about seventeen miles round trip from the highway to Poison Springs and back. And it was worth it.

Happily, at the end of this hike, we were able to find a campsite at Texas Springs, where life is slightly less austere... and for an extra two dollars a day, the campsites include a picnic table and fire ring. Fall Canyon--On Day Four, we were looking for something a little less energetic, but still wanted some views.This one was a recommendation from one of the wilderness rangers. It leaves from a clear and easy trailhead at the mouth of Titus Canyon, and works its way up for a few miles of really lovely narrows. Hiking is easy, and the total is only about six miles if you stop at the first waterfall. There's a tricky way around that fall, but we didn't feel up to it when we were there. Beautiful scenery here, and we only saw about ten people on the whole hike. We liked the high cliffs of the canyon, although the narrows couldn't really compete with Sidewinder for impact. On the other hand, we explored a little side canyon on the way out, and find this lovely grotto for a lunch spot. --

> Jayhawker Canyon--On Day Five, on our way out of the park, we decided to take a hike up Jayhawker Canyon. You won't find this one listed among the more popular hikes, but we would do this one again sometime. It starts right at the 3,000 elevation sign on the highway out of the park, above Wildrose Canyon. And while there is not supposed to be a trail, there is a clear trail here--marked with cairns, rows of rocks, and well-travelled paths. We couldn't help but think that maybe the Timbisha Shoshone had done this---it was a lot of work, and it's hard to imagine anyone else being motivated to do it. And what it leads to is a wonderful set of petroglyphs: bighorn sheep, deer, all sorts of shapes and figures. And quite a few relics from the early miners in this same area. Don't try this one in the summertime, as the hike across the desert would be pretty darned intolerable. But it isn't difficult hiking, and the rewards a quite wonderful. We really felt that this was something special. Obviously, treat these rare relics with great care and respect. They've been here for somewhere between 500 and 5,000 years, and they deserve to be protected at all costs. After a quick stop to see the charcoal kilns at the top of Wildrose Canyon we drove out of the park just as a blustery storm blew it...and left the heat, sun and warmth of Death Valley to find snow at our cabin in the Sierra that night.

Ancient Campsites Post date: Feb 19, 2016 3:48:13 PM As we drive to the trailhead, the radio stations began to drift off into static and fading holy roller broadcasts....and we've taken to listening to lectures on CDs about various topics. One of the recent series of lectures is about ancient cities, from CatalHayuk in Turkey to Knossos on Crete...And the archeologists always seem to make a big deal about the orientation of these cities and temples---facing the rising sun in the East, open to the setting sun in the West, oriented North South around a central axis... And we couldn't help thinking that this may not be quite so rooted in ritual and religion as they seem to imply. When we pick a campsite, one of the things we look for is morning sun, to help us get up and get warm in the morning. And views of the sunset (and a little warming light at the end of the day) are also a good idea.Meanwhile, where we live in Napa, the grape-growers know to plant their views on a North/South axis so each side of the vine gets equal sun, and the grapes on one side don't get burned...So is it a nice campsite, or is it a temporary temple?

t seems like these are all things that people who lived their lives without electric lights would understand and internalize quite quickly. But is it religion? Or is it just good common sense?

And the foothills are beginning to green up nicely Post date: Feb 17, 2016 4:28:58 AM Last weekend we went up to our cabin above Sonora to check on things, shovel out a bit of snow, split some firewood, and just take care of thing in general. It was a really beautiful few days, and we managed to sneak in a hike on the way up, in a small park right in the town of Sonora.

Dragoon Gulch is a nice little trail that leads up to an overlook with views to snow covered peaks miles away. And it seems to have attracted a nice local crowd--we saw plenty of hikers, from people our own age to young couple, families with dogs...a nice cross section of hikers. And did we mention the views? From here you can see Duckwall Mountain in the distance. That name may ring a bell---it was frequently mentioned during the coverage of the massive Rim Fire a few years ago.

Hope that snow is a salve on the wounds it suffered back then.

A spring hike closer to home... Post date: Feb 16, 2016 1:58:08 AM P had been traveling lots, and we haven't been hiking so much. But today was so beautiful that we couldn't resist taking advantage of it to make all the people in the Northeast just a bit jealous. While they are fighting the intense cold, it was well over 70 degrees in Napa today, with stunning sunshine and the hills glowing green.So we hiked about 3-4 miles in the hills, traipsed around both on and off the trail, and had a lovely time. Hope that you had a chance to do something fun today, too.

Inspiration Post date: Jan 21, 2016 11:14:18 PM Just in case you need some inspiration for your next trip, here's a great video about the making of the High Sierra Trail, across the Sierra West to East, in Sequoia National Park. Nice video. Good visuals. Lots of places to visit this summer...and doesn't this just make you want to get out there and see some of them? By the way, permits are now available for many of the hikes you might want to take, so get it's time to start dreaming, planning, and reserving.

Want to Get Started? Post date: Jan 20, 2016 5:40:40 AM We recently got a question from a lovely lady who is now getting on in years and still wants to backpack---but can no longer put in big miles, long days, or high elevations. And as we worked out our answer to her, it was obvious that this is a good list of hike for anyone who wants to take a nice and easy approach, and still get out on the trail for a few days.

If that's you, or somebody you know, here are a few ideas you might look at:

Grouse Ridge off Bowman Lake Road off Highway 20/80 on the way to Donner Pass. You can start you hike at the fire lookout on Grouse Ridge, and hike down to about ten different lakes, all within about a five mile hike. So you could easily hike around there for a few days, and the good news is that when you hike back UP to the fire lookout, your packs are empty and will weigh a lot less.

Carson Pass has some nice destinations as well. You could easily hike to Meiss Meadow, Showers Lake, Round Lake and Dardanelles....and if you have two cars, you could even make this a bit of a through-hike to Echo Summit along the Pacific Crest Trail.South of Carson Pass are a couple of nice lakes as well--Winnemucca and Round Top. They are within 2 miles of the trailhead, and about 2 miles from each other. So you could hike as slowly as you like and still arrive with lots of time left over. Some of the initial trail out of Woods Lake is steep, but just take it nice and slow.I saw the suggestions about Emigrant Wilderness. We've done quite a few hikes there.

Lost and Sword Lakes (in Carson-Iceberg Wilderness, north of Highway 108) might work...only five miles. But you might have lots of younger company there, and those young folks might want to party a bit. We went when there was still snow on the ground in early June, and had the place to ourselves.

You could also work out a trip from Crabtree Trailhead (behind Dodge Ridge) to Grouse Lake and the Chain Lakes, but the camping at Grouse Lake isn't great---it gets lots of horse traffic. Camp Lake, in that same area, is lovely, and you could continue on to Bear Lake from there.

On the East side on 108 you can find Roosevelt and Lane Lakes, and make a loop through to Secret Lake.

Just a bit further South, look at the Green Lake area--that's West Lake below--lots of Lakes to explore within five miles of the trailhead.

And Virginia Lakes, the next trailhead south, is similar. Neither of those make you hike over the pass to get to the lakes...

But even better would be Twenty Lake Basin on the east side of Yosemite out of Saddlebag Lake. There are lots of lakes (20!?) and you can explore to your hearts' content there.

You can also access that area through Lundy Canyon off 395 If you keep heading south on 395, look at Little Lakes Valley--a perfect spot for what you're looking to do. And if you feel up to it, you can hike over Piute Pass and spend days exploring Humphreys Basin...but the first day would be a long hike up and over the 11,000+ foot pass---about six miles or so?

And Duck Lake and beyond out of Mammoth would work---but you'll see a lot more people there.

On the West side again, you should check out Dinkey Lakes---lots of lake with easy access within 2-5 miles of the trailhead, and you could make some easy loops here.

Finally, back up above Bass Lake, take Beasore Rode out to Chiquito Trailhead and hike to Chain lakes, or Fernandez Trailhead and hike up the string of lakes to Vandeberg Lake and beyond. Hope that gives you enough to think about!

This was a fun exercise---and I hope you don't mind if we post this on our website at some point for people who are looking for a way to go backpacking with limited time or physical resources. Remember that these trails and destinations, in most cases, will be more crowded than some of the spots you've enjoyed in the past, exactly because they are more accessible. But that still doesn't keep them from being beautiful.

The holiday hangover Post date: Jan 7, 2016 5:53:03 AM There seem to be lots of conversations these days about what people received for holiday gifts, particularly if they have to do with backpacking. What did Santa bring you? And was it what you wanted? And what's the next thing on your list. And...

We're always a bit overwhelmed by the focus on equipment when it comes to backpacking conversations. If you visit some of the forums that focus on backpacking, more than half the posts are on equipment--and in some cases it's closer to 90%.

That's crazy, if you ask us. You don't need lots of expensive equipment to go backpacking. In fact,. by visiting your local thrift stores, we bet you could get outfitted with perfectly serviceable gear for less than $100. P's first backpack, when he was twelve years old, was a large pair of his dad's pants. True story. And when he was in high school, he backpacked about 40 miles into SEKI with a friend, using a cheap exterior frame pack that you could certainly find on ebay for $10, a synthetic sleeping bag that was supposed to be good down to 20 degrees, and never came close to that, and a tube tent that cost $4...and maybe cost $6 today.

He hiked in Converse All-stars, wore jeans and blue work-shirt, and had an absolutely great time. So don't sweat the gear. If you don't have the latest pack, the coolest clothes, or the most expensive sleeping bag, you can still have a great time backpacking. In fact, we don't have that stuff today, and we hike somewhere around 100-150 miles a year backpacking in the Sierra, and seeing amazing places, Which is even better than owning really cool gear. What did we get for the holidays? Well, we got a couple of freeze-dried meals, and P got an extra bottle for his water filter. That's about it.

We're happy with what we have, and what we got. We also got time with our lovely daughters in son-in-law, which was better than any backpacking trip.Which is what the holidays are all about anyway.

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