Gear gear gear!


Insert crazy gear face here. Over the last month I’ve gotten a ton of awesome things and like some girls love clothes shopping, I love gear shopping.

Here, have a picture with me not snuggling with the gear:


First off, the REI Anniversary Sale is going on right now. That’s where I scored my Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 (the orange tube above), Patagonia Nano Puff jacket, and Thermarest SoLite pad (the shiny silver tube). Technically the Thermarest is for my husband, but on super cold nights, might layer underneath my Big Agnes Q-Core SL pad that I got a couple months ago.

Also included in the photo are a couple Amazon purchases — a GSI Outdoors Halulite Tea Kettle and an ultralight canister camp stove (the orange box). The last time I went backpacking, I only used my stove to heat up water so a kettle seemed like a no-brainer upgrade. The ultralight stove is also for my eventual JMT trip, since my existing stove (a big Jet Boil) would be too heavy for a solo trip.

This means that pretty much every big thing on my JMT trip gear list has been checked off — woohoo!

Unfortunately didn’t score Half Dome permits, so along with waiting in line for JMT permits, I’ll also be waiting for Half Dome. Which’ll be not very fun, but worthwhile in the end. I have a camping trip and backpacking trips scheduled over the next month, so the gear should be adequately tested and broken in before the trip, and once I’ve tested the gear, I’ll write up some reviews here.

Get going to the REI sale if you haven’t already!

Thoughts on the gear? Leave them in the comments!


Hiking the John Muir Trail: Gear List


One of the most important things you can do when planning a long distance backpacking trip is ensure that you’re hiking with as little weight as possible. It’s hard to leave creature comforts at home (“but mom, I neeeeed that fancy cookset”), but every step that you take is going to be significantly more painful with every extra pound you take along.

I’ve forced myself to go ultra-lightweight when I scored this lovely backpack at a REI garage sale the other day:


The REI Flash 52. Which is apparently not a backpack you want to bring more than 30 lbs with, but is a great, lightweight pack for anything less. So the challenge is on!

Here’s my list so far:

Gear Name Weight in lbs Weight in oz
Backpack REI Flash 52 2 lbs. 15 oz. 57
Pad Big Agnes Insulated Q Core 1 lb 16
Sleeping bag Mountain Hardware Ultralamina 32 1 lb 15oz 31
Headlamp Black Diamond? 3.9 oz 3.9
Nalgene Nalgene 3.5 oz 3.5
Water bladder Camelbak 100 oz 6.5 oz 6.5
Mug Summit to Sea X Mug 2.4 oz 2.4
Spoon Light My Fire Spork 0.2 oz 0.2
First Aid Kit Adventure Medical Kits UltraLight / Watertight .7 First-Aid Kit 8 oz 8
Camera iPhone 5s + case 3.95 oz + 1.05 oz 5
Hiking poles ? 1 lb 4 oz 20
Towel REI MultiTowel Lite Small Towel 0.75 oz 0.75
Sunscreen Neutrogena Sport 4 oz 4
Pee funnel Sani-Fem Freshette Feminine Urinary Director 1 oz 1
Hand sanitizer Purell 0.40 oz 0.4
Bug spray Jungle Juice 0.40 oz 0.4
Bear canister lil sami 1 lb 5 oz 21
Kettle GSI Outdoors Hae Tea Kettle 5.8 oz 5.8
Tent Big Agnes Flycreek UL2 2 lbs. 5 oz. 37
Camp shoes Hacked sleeping pad 1.1 oz 1.1
Pillow Exped Air Pillow UL 1.6 oz 1.6
Maps John Muir Trail Map-Pack: Shaded Relief Topo Maps 3 oz 1
Knife ? (perhaps get multitool?) 3 oz 3
Soap Sea to Summit Citronella Wilderness Wash Soap 1.3 oz 1.3
Toilet paper
Emergency matches
Duct Tape (on poles)
Spot or PLB
Chapstick with SPF


The above is coming in at ~15 lbs.

Then, there are a couple choices I need to make:

Water filter Platypus Gravity Works Bottle Kit 9.5 oz 9.5
Sawyer Squeeze 3
New stove? 3.9 oz 3.9
Stove fuel ? 3.5 oz 3.5
Super cat stove 0.75 oz 0.75
Denatured alcohol 8-16oz 8


I already own the Gravity Works, but could save 6.5 oz if I get a Sawyer Squeeze. But I really, really love my Gravity Works. Not sure yet if I want to buy even more gear.

I also need to get a new stove, so I’m considering this highly rated stove on Amazon. But I’m only bringing a kettle since I’ll just be heating water for my meals, which works really well with a kitty food can stove. But the denatured alcohol looks to be heavy, canceling the savings? That said, not even sure I have the stove fuel weight right in the above table either.

I’m also considering bringing a SPOT or a Personal Locator Beacon for emergencies, but that adds to the weight as well.

The unfortunate thing is that my gear list so far, including anticipated food and full 3L of water is coming in at 32 lbs. Right on the edge of being too heavy for the Flash 52.

Any thoughts on these decisions, or on any other gear I’m planning on bringing?

Oh, and a bit of an update: like a dork, I wasn’t able to get a pre-season Wilderness permit for the John Muir Trail (because I totally didn’t realize that I needed to be ready in early February to score a permit for early August — d’oh!) I’m resolved now to get a permit the day-of or day-before my planned date as recommended by Reddit, meaning I’ll have to wait in line from 5am until 11am, but if that’s what I need to do, then so be it. Don’t be like me and miss the permit deadline!

photo credit: SteveD. via photopin cc

Hiking the John Muir Trail: Snagging Permits

Hiking the John Muir Trail: Getting Permits

It’s February, and you’re planning a John Muir Trail through-hike in August. Did you know you should have already applied for your permits?

Hi, I’m Tracy, and I’m panicking a bit.

Okay, that might be a bit hyperbolic, but I’ve told myself (for the last few years) that I needed to do the John Muir Trail, and preferably before I turn 30, which makes this year the last year before my arbitrary deadline rolls around. I’m rather busy (working on my company, WeddingLovely), and just now remembered permits. I have March 1st on my calendar for when the Half Dome permits are issued, but you can get Half Dome permits along with your Wilderness permits, which opens earlier in the year.

Here’s the deal if you’re doing JMT too this year, and starting in Yosemite:

If you’re going to leave through Yosemite, you’ll need Yosemite Wilderness permits. 60% of the permits are available 24 weeks (168 days) in advance of the day you’ll start your trip (and if math isn’t your strong point, here’s a table to help you pick which day to apply.) 40% are available first-come, first-served the day before your hike. I got a permit for my Half Dome hike a few years ago the day before and had no trouble, other than standing in line for awhile (30 min+).

Which means, if you’re planning on hiking the JMT starting in early August, you should have already applied for your Wilderness Permit or plan on doing so ASAP. Apply here.

Starting the JMT from another trailhead? Find out where to get your permit here.

Another tip: The Yosemite Wilderness Permit website allows you to fill out the form on the website, but it crashed two separate times for me, so I had to go back and fill in the form over and over. Download the form instead and use to fill in the form and fax it in — so much easier.

Anything I’m forgetting or should know about the JMT? Let me know in the comments!

Edit: Well, just got the notification that my initial permit request was denied for all three dates I requested. Trying the next three dates, here’s hoping it works!

Edit 2: The people at the Wilderness Permit office must hate me — I’ve sent in request after request for later and later dates, and I keep getting email after email of denials. At this point, looks like I can get the August 12th start date (which opens tomorrow at 7:30am), or I can come the day before my ideal start date (July 30th) and try to get one of the first-come, first-served passes. The problem here is the additional Half Dome permit, which I could get if I got an early permit for JMT, but not if I get the day before. So I’ll have to add myself to the lottery on March 1st and hope I get one of those too. UGH. All of this would have been avoided had I realized when the 168 days began! I think at this point, the first-come, first-served pass works best. Oh fun.



Climbing Mt. Shasta: Review of my 2009 Attempt

Climbing Mt. Shasta: Review of my 2009 Attempt (41)

In 2009, I attempted a summit of Mt. Shasta. While it’s one of the easier mountaineering experiences with minimal technical parts, we didn’t top out. I’m planning on attempting the climb again this Spring, and thought it would be great to publish my experiences and photos from the last attempt as a review!

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Goal for 2014: Summit Mt. Shasta

Mount Shasta

In 2009 (so long ago!) I attempted to summit Mt. Shasta, one of California’s tallest mountains and a fourteener at 14,180 feet. Unfortunately, we didn’t top out — several things didn’t go as planned (more on that in a future post), and I ended up turning around after making it over Red Banks.

Goal is to reattempt climbing Shasta this year between late May and early June. This is the best time of year since it’s ideal to have a good amount of snow. Once it melts, you’re hiking up loose scree, which is a lot more dangerous and a lot more annoying than climbing on snow and ice with crampons.

There are no paths — it’s literally just a straight climb up the mountain (of course, going from one landmark to another.)

The biggest issue I have at this moment is not having a definite partner for the climb. This isn’t something I’d want to do alone due to the small amount of potential danger. It’s honestly a little tough finding others who are mountaineering minded (since it’s not the most comfortable experience, sleeping on the snow and all.

Potential issues and problems

In terms of danger, it’s more than the average hike, but not much more. The route I plan to take is Avalanche Gulch, which has almost technical pieces.

  • Climbing with crampons is potentially dangerous if you lose your footing and aren’t able to self-arrest using the ice-axe. If you fall and end up going head over feet, there is a real possibility of major injury (you know, sharp blades on your feet and all that can catch on ice in bad positions, or worse, on yourself). When we were at Helen Lake last time, some other climber decided to glissade, didn’t take his crampons off, and we watched him go head over feet about 100 feet into camp. Rangers, were astonished he escaped injury.
  • There is a very small potential for ice climbing without harnesses if the Thumb Rock pass is closed. If it warms up too much, the crevasse opens up and it’s recommended to avoid that route and go up one of the climneys at the top of Red Banks. Last time we went up the first climney, so we had to climb (without ropes or harnesses) about seven feet of ice using our ice-axes and crampons. The ice also wasn’t vertical, but still a little scary — if you lost your footing, you could fall backwards off the mountain. I honestly didn’t find it that bad at the time, but my partner had some issues.
  • Not danger, but uncomfortableness: being in the snow is no picnic. Last time, the snow getting to camp #1 (Horse Camp) was deep so we post-holed our way there, which takes a ton of energy. We ended up post-holing on the way back down the mountain as well (pro-tip: avoid hiking in the afternoon in snow!) Not to mention how uncomfortable sleeping in the snow is. I personally sleep very cold normally when hiking, and night #1 I didn’t sleep at all. I think I slept the night before summiting just because I was so exhausted.
  • TMI alert. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. My bowels hate pooping anywhere there isn’t a toilet, and there are definitely no toilets on the mountain. There were issues. More on this on my recap (oh joy, right?)
  • Altitude sickness (HAPE and HACE) can definitely happen. I’m hoping to mitigate these risks by taking Diamox, arriving in Shasta City early, and using both Base Camps (whereas most go straight to Helen Lake and only spend one night on the mountain.)

Potential awesomeness

  • Summiting a mountain!
  • A very physical effort. I love it.
  • Some of the most amazing and beautiful views I have ever seen in my life.

And yes, those potential awesomeness reasons definitely make it worth it.

First 2014 Goal: Finally summit Mount Shasta.

Photo credit: Jeremy Gillick