Although I have enjoyed the outdoors since I was a child, I have only started backpacking about 3 years ago. Seriously, for the past two. I say "seriously" because it's become my number one hobby from researching on BPL to browsing gear at the local shops. I'm almost embarrassed to say, but this mini trip to Bear Mountain, CT was my first "true" solo hike, albeit, just a day hike and not overnight.
The night before I packed my GoLite Infinity and gear that I was planning on taking for a day hike. I know the Infinity is overkill, but I don't own a smaller pack at this time. I stuffed into:
3 L platypus with 2 L of water
.5 Nagle wide mouth
First aid kit
Rite in rain journal
In stuff sack:
Patagonia MicroPuff Vest
GoLite Whim pants
Patagonia Capilene 2 bottoms
Patagonia Spray Master Rain coat
Patagonia Capilene 2 zip top
Patagonia R1 Hoody
Patagonia Boxer briefs
Columbia GRT pants + belt
On binder: mini sharpy, brunton keyring compass, photo light, emergency whistle, gerber microlight knife
Event shorty gaiters
Montrail hardrock trail runners [non gortex]
Smartwool Adrenaline socks
ems fleece hat
MSR mini pack towel
Roast beef hero
Milky way dark bar
bag of doritos
2 stick packs of grape Koolaid
After taking the time to go through the gear I decided to bring along for a day trip, it's now apparent that I overpacked, which defeats the purpose of buying lightweight gear! Ill comment at the end on what gear I should have left home and what gear I should have brought instead.
The weather report was party cloudy with a possible snow storm coming in late at night. It was mostly sunny and about 38 degrees when I left my house. Since the trailhead is only 1 1/2 hours away, I assumed that the conditions would be similar to my local surroundings. This was the biggest mistake because I as started traveling the 80 miles north, I started to notice that all the snow that melted locally, obviously didn't melt further North!
I got to the trailhead and pulled my car into the lot and proceeded to get stuck in about a foot of snow with ice underneath! An auspicious start to say the least. After spending 1/2 hour digging out my front wheels with my ice scraper and using my car mats for traction, I got my car out and backed it into the front of the lot which was facing downhill.
It was now 11am and I was stressed that I was starting this trip too late in the day. The book time was 6 hours and this means I wouldn't be back until 5pm as darkness started to fall. I was stressed that I didn't bring my headlamp, but glad I had my photon just in case. Ensuring that I pack my car keys away securely, I proceeded to the head of the trail. I picked up a map, which wasn't really a map but locations of shelters on the AT that run near Bear Mt. Ugh. Another mistake in not printing out a map and bringing it with me. I had found some online maps that were pretty crude, but it was basically a loop and I was counting on signs to help me along. Not having a good map though, I felt I should have been better prepared. I took a picture of the map that was on the sign and proceeded.
To start, I was wearing on my upper body:
patagonia t shirt
patagonia r1 hoody
patagonia micropuff vest
Thankfully the trail was already packed as there wasn't any recent snow. My trail runners and gaiters were working well and I didn't have any issues with slipping on the snow as it wasn't icy. My Leki poles also helped a lot and was thankful I had the baskets in. [Makes me wonder why my last trip in Sept had the baskets!] However, even though there was snow on the trail, a lot was melted which meant a lot of icy cold water flowing down the trail. I had to be really careful as not to soak my sneakers as I had no waterproofing system.
At about a mile in, I found the first trail sign, which didn't really give much information other than "paradise lane". I had expected to see a clear sign like "Bear Mt". I decided to stay on the current trail. A few minutes later I met another hiker who confirmed this was the way up and the other trail is to do the loop and I can take it on the way back. However, after looking down at my feet he asked if I had crampons as there was a lot of ice. I sheepishly said no as I didn't expect there to be any snow. He said I should be ok to hike up this side but I should go back down the same way. I agreed and thanked him for his help.
As I ascended, the trail got more icy. In fact, everything was covered with ice which made it beautiful, but at the same time, I was worried how icy it would be at the summit itself. At this point I was clearly overdressed and I took off my vest, hat and gloves. My temperature comfort zone changed quite a bit as I hiked up. With no wind, the sun shining and moving at a nice pace, I was fine with the R1 fully open and hood down. However, as soon as the sun peaked behind a cloud or the wind picked up, I immediately felt a chill. Easily enough I simply put the hood up and zipped up and felt great. The versatility of a hoody is amazing. There has been some debate on the myth that you lose a lot of your body heat via your head. From my experience, simply covering my head I was able to change my comfort zone rather quickly. If I understand correctly, since your head does not vasoconstrict you do lose more heat via your head, and I definitely noticed that through this trip.
I made it to the top of the mountain in a short 1 1/2 hours and met a nice man who had just finished hiking all 48 peaks in the Whites. Pretty amazing. The summit was exposed and my R1 hoody was not enough to maintain my warmth. I put on my micropuff vest, houdini wind breaker and gloves and that balanced out the temperature. I took out my .5L nagene and filled it with water from my platypus. I poured a stick pack of koolaid into it, mixed it up and grabbed my Milk way bar and doritos and sat down to enjoy the great views. To be honest, I was quite surprised how pretty it was and really quiet. For some reason, I was expecting to be looking at roads and cars. A 1/2 hour later another hiker came up the "paradise lane" side of the loop wearing a jacket, jeans, sneakers, no pack and said it was quite icy and wouldn't recommend going down. We said our goodbyes and I started to think about all the gear I had brought and this man was simply in some jeans and a jacket. I guess that wasn't point of this trip as it was to test what clothing I would need for bigger trips planned in the future. I could have done the trip with just a pair of jeans and my ski jacket, but my goal was to test what I needed to bring.
Here is what went good:
- The R1 hoody was great, even down to 38 degrees. I learned that this is the only piece of clothing that I need to have on my upper body while hiking.
- I had enough clothing packed to be comfortable once I stopped hiking.
Things I learned:
- Never leave without a map. Even though there was minimal risk for this hike, the sense of comfort I have from having a physical map is worth it. This is the first trip I been on without a map [unfortunately solo] and will be the last.
- Of the 2L of water I brought, I only drank 1L. I carried an extra 2 pounds of water for nothing. Not to mention there was water sources everywhere, I should have only taken 1L at max
- My shoe system was inadequate. After reading Will's articles on footwear systems, what I should have worn was: liner sock, wool sock, waterproof sock and then my sneakers with gaiters. Additionally, I should have had some sort of crampon. My next trip, this is what I will wear:
- Coolmesh liner sock
- Insulating wool sock
- Rocky Goretex sock
- Trail runner
- eVent Gaiters
- Kahtoola Microspikes
If you haven't read the three part system on footwear systems by Will, then you must do that *now*. I wish I would have read it before my trip
- My assumption that the snow was melted was naive as I shouldn't have assumed what the conditions would be like 80 miles north. Additionally, I should have expected very wet trails as melting snow, last time I checked, turns to water
- A foot long roast beef sandwich is crazy. This is what I eat at work, but on the trail, this is way too much food. For a 5 hour hike, some basic trail snacks would suffice.
- I need a day pack as 40 ounces on a 4200cl pack for a day trip is overkill. I have the GoLite Ion on my wish list
- No need to bring a hat.
- Don't pull into parking lots that never been plowed ;-)
- 1 koolaid stick pack was enough
- forgot my watch and had to use cell phone for time.
Things that I'm on the fence about bringing
- Rain jacket. Although it didn't rain, I wouldn't have felt safe not bringing it.
- Emergency blanket: I opt'd to bring it as I didn't have a shelter or sleeping bag. It really wasn't needed, but could I justify it as a safety precaution? I think those news stories of hikers being lost in the woods with no protection really scare the hell out of me. Of course, I think I would be first lost hiker in CT. hehe.
- For the day trip, I didn't need my capilene top and bottoms. For overnighters though, I still think I need them as not to sleep in potentially wet clothing
My complete gear list is here. You'll notice the section of the items I added to my wish list. Is xmas over?
I already have my next trip planned which will include the full loop of Bear Mountain to Mt Frisell. I can't wait to try out my optimized my pack list and look forward to the lessons learned.