The Eastern Sierra Nevadas are absolutely breathtaking. I loved spending time near the waterfalls. The sounds of water crashing against rocks were so peaceful. The wild flowers were extremely beautiful. I especially loved the blue dragonflies, green and black butterflies, and orange blossoms, not to mention that everywhere I looked seemed to be a dream.
For my very first backpacking trip, the trails were more intense than I expected. I must admit I feel backpacking must be very different from camping. The constant movement leaves little time to relax especially if you don’t begin your hike at dawn. Also what I thought was going to be a lightweight trip turned out to be heavier than I had hoped. Carrying 33-35+ lbs. on my small frame wasn’t my ideal. I had no idea I would be taking on a tent on my pack too, and I probably packed more clothing than I really needed in fear of being cold at night. It turned out that I wasn’t cold one bit.
For my very first outdoor experience I lasted five days in the wilderness. My husband and I ended up leaving two days earlier than planned. The mosquitos were relentless at Lake Ediza where we camped for two days, yet thanks to the nylon rain jacket my best friend lent me, I left the trip almost bite free. I did wear it every day with the hood up and long pants. The late snow that year kept the ground wet longer which resulted to mosquitos more prevalent than ever seen in August.
This is what I learned.
1. Once again less is more!
We met a man who was backpacking for three weeks and his pack was 22 lbs. I asked him how he got his pack to that weight. He only had the clothes on his back (T-shirt, down jacket, shorts, hiking boots and socks) and one other shirt, thermal pants, and most likely undergarments that he didn’t mention. He didn’t have an alternate pair of shoes, only 5 lbs. worth of food, and took the day pack off the top of his pack. He also cut off any extra straps that hung on the pack for convenience. I’d bring two more changes of underwear and an extra pair of socks, yet his wardrobe simplicity was something to learn from. Next time I go backpacking I will get my pack weight less than 25 lbs.
2. Less Food, More Comfort
When you are hiking five or more miles a day uphill on rocky terrain eating a ton of heavy food weighs you down. It weighs down your pack and also slows down your pace. Easily digestible carbohydrates, trail mix, and dried fruits are the best foods to bring with you. Comfort foods should be saved for evenings only.
3. Bugs, Bugs, Bugs
If you’re like me and don’t like putting chemicals on your body, take a nylon rain jacket with you. Some of the best defense from bugs is to stay covered from head to toe. My family who sprayed themselves with DEET still got bit all over. My mentor who has done amazing work in Haiti told me that Avon Skin So Soft and pure citronella oil is a wonderful bug repellent.
Avon Skin So Soft Ingredients
Mineral Oil/ Huile Minerale
Dioctyl Sodium Sulfosuccinate
Daucus Carota Sativa (Carrot) Seed Oil
Although the ingredients are not nearly close to my high standards of cosmetic products, I’d much rather use Avon Skin So Soft than DEET which is a chemical solvent, plastizer, and pesticide on my face and body. Depending on where you are going, trust your instincts and do your research.
4. Day Packing is a Great Option
The two days we stayed in Lake Ediza resulted in a mile hike away from the mosquitos to an oasis near a gorgeous water fall along smooth rocks where we relaxed for hours. It was so easy to jump rocks and balance on logs to cross lakes without our extremely heavy packs. It also allowed us to really see all of the gorgeous terrain we were completely surrounded by because we weren’t looking down so much to guarantee each step was secure. You may not get as far in one day, but you will have time to truly enjoy the scene unless you are truly lightweight backpacking.
When you are in the wilderness, cosmetics aren’t what you are thinking about. Depending on where you are going can also determine what you will bring. In bear country all of your toiletries need to be unscented. For me that was a unique challenge but I did well with it. Here are a few great products!
Dr. Bronner’s Baby Mild Liquid Soap
Burt’s Bees All-In-One Wash (Not unscented)
Burt’s Bees Res-Q Lip Balm SPF 15
Baking Soda (For Toothpaste)
Badger’s Unscented Sunscreen SPF 30
Aloe Vera (For Skin and Hair)
6. My Lightweight Backpacking Wish List
Investing in a few ultra lightweight backpacking supplies might be worth it to help you enjoy your trip more than you could ever imagine. In addition, once you have it you’ll never have to spend money on it again.
Western Mountaineering HighLite Sleeping Bag- 16 oz.
Vargo Outdoors “Triad Titanium Alcohol Stove”- 1 oz.
Tarptent Double Rainbow- 2.5 lbs.
Patagonia Down Sweater- 11 oz.
“Neo-Air” Thermarest Sleeping Pad- Reg 14 oz.
Terramar Women’s 100% Pure Silk Thermal Underwear
I do love the great outdoors, and I will likely go backpacking again soon. Next time I will have a better idea what I’m getting into, and preparing will be easier than ever.