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First trip with new wife- what sleep system? also gear list for 6 days in Glacier
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(zimm17) - F
First trip with new wife- what sleep system? also gear list for 6 days in Glacier on 02/25/2008 20:26:13 MST Print View

My new wife is ready to jump into the backpacking world with me. I'm currently a mid-heavy weight backpacker working my way to "light". For her, it'll be all new gear so light off the bat.

We're planning a 6 day/5 night trip to Glacier national park in August with several weekend trips planned on the AT prior for training up to it. We're going with a highly experienced couple who has hiked the park before.

I'm in charge of getting the gear for her (minus the pack, which she picks from a good shop).

First off- we need a sleeping bag. I was thinking a 20 deg campmor down rectangle (2.5pounds) to use as a blanket. Any other ideas?
I have a prolite 4 matress already. I was going to get her another one and a set of straps to put them together.

I have a new henry shires contrail (not sure if it'll be big enough) and a 2 man Kelty Gunnison (5lbs but can split into two packs). What is best to take?

I have an ultra light canister stove- I think an 8 oz fuel can will be enough to boil water all week.

I'm still using a sweetwater pump. I still like my thermarest chair that uses the pro-lite as a seat. That's 2.5lbs of extra that I like to bring.

I plan to pre-prep meals using boil-in-a bag for our dinners. Lunches are snacks all day, and breakfast will be lots of oatmeal with brown sugar in it. Any tips for packing 6 days of food? My longest trip has been 3 days.

Looking forward to the advice.

And yes, I just finished reading the lightweight backpacking book I bought from this site.

P. P.
(toesnorth) - F

Locale: PNW
Re: "First trip with new wife- what sleep system? also gear list for 6 days in Glacier" on 02/25/2008 21:03:43 MST Print View

Unless your new wife hates shopping (that would be weird), I'd let her choose her own gear. She can do the research and that way if something is not to her liking she has no one else to blame. After all, you want this marriage off on a good footing, right?
BTW, if you're in the Bowman Lake area around the middle of August, yell "TOESNORTH!" If I hear you, you're all welcome for dinner.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: First trip with new wife- what sleep system? also gear list for 6 days in Glacier on 02/25/2008 22:15:00 MST Print View

> I'm in charge of getting the gear for her (minus the pack, which she picks from a good shop).

I would encourage you to make the selections and do the shopping together. She will feel more involved and it will be a good opportunity to work together.

> First off- we need a sleeping bag. I was thinking a 20 deg campmor down rectangle (2.5pounds)
> to use as a blanket. Any other ideas?

I haven't tried that bag... but if it is like the mummy, assume it's most likely a 35F bag. There are also a number of back country quilts on the market designed for couples such as the ray-way quilt kit (2p). Is this a good idea? Only you and your wife can answer that question. Some couples enjoy curling up with each other to sleep. If you two enjoy touching while sleeping, this is a great option because you can enjoy a special closeness and share body heat which means you need less insulation. Some people can't actually fall asleep when they are being touched, are easily woken, or move around a lot which results in them stealing all the covers. In these cases a separate sleeping bag or quilt is normally better.

> contrail and a 2 man Kelty Gunnison

If you don't want to spend money on a new shelter, then I would take the Gunnison. I think the contrail is really too small for two people.

> 8 oz fuel can will be enough to boil water all week.

Given you are doing breakfast and dinner, I think you will want to do the larger canister. My experience is that the smaller Snow Peak fuel canister runs full out for approx 40 minutes, which is enough to boil 7 1L pots of water or 12 24oz pots in moderate conditions.

darren stephens
(darren5576) - F

Locale: Down Under
Been there on 02/25/2008 23:46:13 MST Print View

I just went through a similar thing.
The thing I concentrated on was to make sure she was not cold wet, or hungry. I took a bit more than I would normally so I didn’t scare her off. We have been together for about 18 yrs so that may help.
As far as food goes for my 7 day trip we had about 550gm of dried food a day.
Breakfast- 2 satchels of the fruit flavoured porridge prepared in our orikaso dishes
Scroggin mid morning
Lunch - a satchel of supermarket style flavoured cus cus with diced salami in the orikaso
Arvo tea- apricot bar
Dinner- cuppa soups, then a backcountry single serve meal.
I only ever use a snow peak 600 mug to cook with as all I do is boil water. I got my wife a 450 so we could both have a hot drink together.
If you plan on only using hot water cook in the bag type meals I think the orikaso dish is better on longer trips as it is much easier to clean ( rub it on the ground) and is better than carrying lots of bags. Get the one with the press studs on the corners.
One last tip. Do every thing at her pace.
Good luck

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: First trip with new wife- what sleep system? also gear list for 6 days in Glacier on 02/26/2008 01:56:27 MST Print View

Never buy clothing for your wife without her there! As for the pack - make very sure it fits her back.

Being cold at night on the first trip is not smart. But some thermals etc may be a good idea for that.

I find 750 g of dry food/person/day to be necessary. But we eat quite well.

Not sure that the single 8oz canister is going to be enough for the two of you for 1 week. I can do it for my wife and myself, but that is with cold muesli for breakfast. If you take the larger canister, you can happily make lots of cups of tea and coffee. There is some merit in this idea...


Ryan Gardner
(splproductions) - F - M

Locale: Salt Lake City, UT
Staying warm... on 02/26/2008 07:19:27 MST Print View

I would err on bringing too much insulationg gear (either clothes or sleeping bag) and having a heavier pack than having her be cold at night. If the pack is 1.5 lbs heavier, not a huge deal, but if she is cold all night she might not be too keen on going out again. Plus, if she has never been out before, she won't know what amount of insulation will keep her warm at a certain temp.

Play it safe so she'll go again!

Michael Febbo
(febbom) - F
Booties/pad on 02/26/2008 10:51:09 MST Print View

I've had a similar experience with my wife- the only gear she wanted to be involved in for climbing/packing was her pack and shoes.

She used to be miserable sleeping out until I got her a very cushy pad and down booties to wear in her bag. She hates mummy bags, so a more subtantial pad and insulating clothing were necessary to keep her warm. This has made all the difference in her warmth and comfort. I'd suggest renting a bag first for an overnight to see where her comfort level is. If she is cold- add a better pad and insulation for her feet and head. If constricted, stay away from mummy bags.

Make sure her boots/shoes fit very well, as well as her pack.
Also, don't load her down too much, and consider packing a fresh pair of "camp clothes" for when you are done hiking- my wife likes to feel cleaner and this helps.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Does she sleep hot or cold? on 02/26/2008 11:28:34 MST Print View

Sleeping quilt style is an art. I like sleeping with my bag opened up over me in summer (15* bag) where I tuck my feet into the foot area. But sleeping as a couple that way? No way. I did the whole connected sleeping area ONCE with my husband. The man flips over all night and lets cold air in!
Hence...if one of you is restless (and one of you will be most likely!) the other sleeps bad as well.

Personally I'd find out how hot she sleeps (most women are cold). She may well need a 15* down bag she can open up in hot weather.

And even though she has put you in charge to get the gear, one way to build excitement is to take her shopping. She probably doesn't realize how much the gear needs to fit her body so doesn't see why she should shop :-)

Roger B
(rogerb) - MLife

Locale: Here and there
First trip with new wife on 02/26/2008 11:39:38 MST Print View

Before anything else I would suggest a short trip 1 or 2 nights to give her time to get a sense of what it is like to carry a pack and camp out etc. However, if you have done that then lightweight comfort is the way to go. I would bring the chair (my wife loves hers).

Many things are personal preference, I spent many hours in gear shops with my wife looking for a pack. She did not end up with one I would have bought, but she is the one carrying it.

As for shelter, convince her to buy a new 2 person tarp tent such as the Cloudburst. My wife likes plenty of room in the tent and she is happy with the BD Betalight especially as I carry the Beta Bug.

Edited by rogerb on 02/26/2008 11:40:11 MST.

mark henley
(flash582) - F
I went through this several years ago as well on 02/26/2008 15:32:43 MST Print View

My advice ....

Make the trip really special for her. Make the trip about her and you together. Talk about it from the perspective that you can't wait to get out in the woods with her. You want her to have fantastic memories of this trip .... and you have to remember that women remember how things made them FEEL .... not just what they see and experience. You want her to feel special, you want her to feel wanted and needed, you want her to feel like she's wanted and needed.

You won't have the luxury of a campfire to snuggle around in Glacier, so make sure you pack a candle lantern so you have something to snuggle around.

Make sure she stays warm and dry.

Make sure she is comfortable at night. The number one reason that people try backpacking and give it up is because they can't get a good night's sleep. Pack the Thermarest or an inflatable mat for her even if you're using a z-rest.

Take her to your local outfitter store and let her pick out her clothes. This time of year you can still find some clearance items, but don't just order stuff for her. Let her go and try the stuff on. Spend a little extra on stuff that looks good.

Let her help plan the menu, and the route plan.

You carry most of the weight. I carry 30 - 35, she carries 15 lbs. That's the way it's always been, and that's the way it is. She'll appreciate it.

Take a 1L platty of her favorite libation and secret it in your pack. 1st night on the trail pull it out and propose a toast to the both of you and your romatic time together in the great outdoors.

If you have a local orientering club in your area take a class in map reading and compass usage together. Let her carry the compass and the map.

Never, ever, ever, EVER say a condesending or harsh word to her. Learn now how to keep your mouth shut and answer any question she might have with an easy smile and a straight answer. No matter if you like or agree with what is said or not.

Again .... and this is critical ..... make this trip about her and you together ... not about you.

Ross Bleakney
(rossbleakney) - MLife

Locale: Cascades
First Trip on 02/26/2008 18:57:29 MST Print View

I agree with Roger, do a short trip first.

I agree with Mark -- carry most of the weight yourself (unless she is a body builder or really wants to carry more weight -- in that case, she can hike with my wife and I and carry our stuff).

The big question I have is what is your budget? The first thing I would consider is a bigger tarptent (like the Squall 2). My wife and I use one and it is quite roomy and comfortable. The only possible negative is wind in the face or condensation. Bring a little 1 ounce towel ( for condensation and just tighten down the tent if she really doesn't like the breeze (then you'll end up using the towel).

Sleeping systems are tricky. Two sleeping bags is probably the simplest and easiest approach. That way, you have flexibility (you can zip or unzip the bags). Just make sure you have matching zippers (matching sizes and one left/one right). With bags, you can get high quality down (from Feathered Friends, Marmot or Western Mountaineering, etc.) and get the most warmth for the weight. However, it will cost you a fair amount. Similarly, you could go with a complete two person sleep system. We use a FF Penguin 20 degree bag (nano fabric) ( with a Penguin Ground deluxe sheet ( The whole system is rather light (I think it is lighter than their web site suggests, but I need to check my numbers at home) and plenty warm and roomy. We like it a lot, although it cost plenty. Just make sure and plug up the little whole in the bottom of the bag (where it unfolds). Nunatak makes similar two person, down bags. I would stay away from quilts initially just because it is a bit risky (you may not like it). If down is too expensive, you could go with a nice pair of synthetic bags. I personally like the Cats Meow (North Face) but there are plenty of very good synthetic bags out there at reasonable prices.

By all means, shop together. You didn't mention your entire list, but one of the biggest improvements I ever made was in getting a propore rain jacket (O2, drop stoppers, etc.). They are extremely fragile, but pretty cheap and much lighter than goretex. They also breathe really well.

To me, the ultralight approach is about finding a good middle ground and then continually adjusting it. Sometimes you find new products that might shave a few ounces off your weight or sometimes you find a new approach that could do the same. This site is great for that. The Gear List page is a great resource for ideas. Weigh everything you plan on bringing and then post a list there. Folks will have plenty of ideas so you can keep improving. For now, don't worry too much about being ultralight -- if it is her first trip I think you should err on the side of comfort, not saving weight.

Elliott Wolin
(ewolin) - MLife

Locale: Hampton Roads, Virginia
Pre-marriage torture testing on 02/26/2008 19:13:42 MST Print View

Way before we got married I torture-tested my then girlfriend, who had never spent a night in the outdoors.

First the Halloween midnight caving trip, all wet and muddy. She liked that.

Then her first camping trip, 1974, -12 degrees F at night, perhaps 5 degrees F during the day, in the southern Adirondacks. Left her house in a blizzard for a three hour drive up north (don't know why her parents let her go with me, a hairy 19 year old). The road to the trailhead was not plowed so we started walking with heavy winter packs (really heavy, in those days) but fortunately got a ride to the trailhead. Walked about 3/4 mile to a lake and set up a double A-frame tent inside a lean-to. We had X-C skiis, snowshoes, thick black-ensolite pads, warm winter bags, an Optimus 111B stove, and lots of warm clothes.

Well, she had a great time. We skied for two days all over the place, cooked on a roaring stove, and slept warm and cozy.

That's when I knew...

I highly recommend this pre-testing of all possible future life-mates.

Jim Yancey
(jimyancey) - F

Locale: Missouri
First trip with new wife on 02/26/2008 20:45:39 MST Print View

Elliott, what a hoot! That reminds me so much of my first trips with my wife-to-be. We actually met on a caving trip (wet and muddy - check) and our first backpacking trip it poured buckets (wet and muddy - check, again) then our honeymoon was spent snowshoeing with very heavy frame packs (0deg F - check), then another late winter trip with slushy melting snow (wet, cold - check) We will be celebrating 28 years this Saturday - go figure!

I agree with the above posters. Make the trip as comfortable and even as cushy as you can. This is not the time to be Rambo or Spartan and expect your new wife to tough it out. Let her first impression be one of immense enjoyment. Cater to her needs, especially her comfort needs, but don't be patronizing or condescending. Show her that backpacking can be a means to truly enjoying the wilds, and that sharing that with someone you really care about can make it all the more enjoyable. BTW, this can apply to any first-timer you are taking out - be it your significant other, wife, Boy Scouts or friends. Try to make their first impression one of great fun, not of an ordeal that they probably won't want to repeat.

P. P.
(toesnorth) - F

Locale: PNW
Re: "First trip with new wife" on 02/26/2008 21:49:39 MST Print View

Ah, now I'm gonna get all sentimental and crap!
It does take me back though. We met in June of '72 (I was the apartment manager/he was the tenant) and our first date was a backpacking trip in the Cascades. Six months later we sold everything, quit our jobs and took off across country with our backpacks.
That was 35 years ago and we are still in love and still backpacking!
Good luck and god speed!

Mike Hinsley

Locale: England, UK
Ultralight wives on 02/27/2008 02:11:59 MST Print View

This is clearly an area well worth discussing. You cannot really go ultralight unless you have an ultralight wife (or no partner).

It's something the salesmen never tell you.

"Certainly sir, the Nano Stealth Extreme Cuben Tarp does weight 2oz and will shave 6oz from your total pack weight for a mere $800. However, your wife will be cold and unhappy and a cold unhappy wife will not allow you a good night's sleep.

Instead, sir, may I suggest the Blunderbus Extreme Tent. It weighs in at a miserly 4lb at $200 but is proven to be compatible with most wives. In fact there is so much space in it that the typical wife will feel like it's a home and be just happy to be with you. This tent also comes with a free boquet of flowers".

Jeff Boone
(jnboone) - MLife
Quilt? on 02/27/2008 04:23:58 MST Print View

If you're going to go the quilt route might I suggest JacksRBetter? They have 3 large quilts depending on what level of warmth you need. Great guys, great products, and they're on sale until March 15th.

Being someone who has been married for twenty years to a woman who has never spent a night outdoors I echo the remarks that you may only get one chance for your wife to enjoy it (I wish I got one!). If you cann afford some of the better gear you have a much greater chance of selling anything that doesn't work for her at a decent price. This website is a GREAT resource for that kind of info.


Russell Swanson
(rswanson) - F

Locale: Midatlantic
Re: First trip with new wife- what sleep system? also gear list for 6 days in Glacier on 02/27/2008 06:56:27 MST Print View

I am going to echo other sentiments on this thread and say above all, make sure she is warm and as comfortable as possible at night. If she doesn't sleep well, for her the rest of the trip will probably be a forgettable blur. I would recommend getting the best bag you can afford and, unless you know it will work comfortably for several nights before hand, stay away from quilts. If you do decide on a quilt system, get one specifically designed to be used as a quilt. Jacks R Better are affordable and very well made. The good news is that if you purchase one and don't like it you can probably resell it for at least 80% of what it cost you.

Most women tend to sleep colder then men so I'd focus on a bag with a reliable temp rating at least 10 degrees warmer than the coldest expected temperatures.

If you go the traditional sleeping bag route, consider getting her a Montbell Super Stretch bag. My wife had a hard time with the tight confines of mummy bags until she tried one of these. There is simply no more comfortable mummy-style bag out there.

Instead of the Prolite 4, I would highly recommend one of the 2.5 inch inflatable insulated mats, either Big Agnes (Insulated Air Core), Pacific Outdoor (Ether Thermo), or Exped (Down Air Mattress).

Another factor to consider is the 'fear factor' of camping outdoors, especially in grizzly territory. I don't know her temperament for such things so hopefully this isn't too much of an issue. Make sure she gets the real scoop on wildlife and don't let her read something like Night of the Grizzlies. Tylenol PM might be a helpful item to bring along to 'take the edge off' at night.

Make sure her boots/shoes are very well tested. Foot issues are probably the number one thing that give novice hikers fits. If your wife gets a nice set of blisters on her first day of the trip, you're going to feel the pain as much as she does! Also, consider trekking poles for her if she doesn't already have them.

My last piece of advice would be about pack weight. This always seems to spark a bit of debate on any backpacking forum but I'd recommend giving her as light a pack as possible. The lighter the pack, the happier the she will be (unless shes got that rare, admirable streak of independence found in some). My wife and I accomplish this by loading her with all the high volume, lighter items like clothing, sleeping bags, etc.

Stay positive and be encouraging and you'll have the experience of a lifetime...hopefully the first of many!

P. P.
(toesnorth) - F

Locale: PNW
Re: "First trip with new wife" on 02/27/2008 09:54:14 MST Print View

Since you're going on shorter trips before the one to Glacier, could you possibly borrow gear until you figure out what it is going to take to keep your wife warm and comfortable? It would be a shame to buy a bunch of expensive gear (and it does get COSTLY) only to sell it in September.
I used a ProLite 4 sleeping pad for years and it was okay, not great, but I liked the chair set-up. Maybe have her try yours out and see if it is adequate. I now use an exped downmat 9 year around but, again, that's a lot of money to plunk down.
I guess if you think this trip will either be the beginning of years of blissful backpacking together or the beginning of years of "doing your own thing" separately, buy the best you can afford and if doesn't work out...............sell it here to us! ;-)

Gary Dunckel
(Zia-Grill-Guy) - MLife

Locale: Boulder
First trip with new wife- what sleep system? also gear list for 6 days in Glacier on 02/27/2008 12:01:35 MST Print View

First of all, I want to honor the fact that you care for how your new wife will experience the Glacier trip. Some guys don't think that way. Also, the others have posted some sage advice for you.

I grew up next to GNP, have hiked most of its trails over the years, and in '06 slammed five 3-5 night trips back to back. I'm curious as to what your ininerary is. Some trails are more rugged than others, and the Highline trail NW of Granite Park can be downright suicidal some years. Generally, in August the snowfields will have melted, but you'll want to talk with the rangers regarding whether you'll have cascades or snowfields to negotiate. I've found that having trekking poles along help greatly in both cases. Ice axes or crampons are not needed.

The past several years, the low temps in July have been 45-50 degrees, and in early-mid August maybe 38-45 F. But later in August, as the long days get shorter, there can be some colder nights. I've found that my +15 F bag has been an overkill up until maybe the last week of August. If you are thinking of investing in a great, expensive bag for your wife, you might want to consider Marmot's Hydrogen (+30 F) or their Helium (+15 F). Those 850+ fill bags had a 1/2 length zipper through '07, which made it impossible to open up fully on a warm night. However the '08 models now have a nearly full-length zipper, which will make them more adaptable to a range of conditions. If you want another tent, and not a single wall, you might look at Marmot's new Aura 2P. It's a light little sucker, at a trail weight of 4# 12 oz, 2 vestibules, and structurally sound. I like mine because it actually has enough length for my 6' frame. It just has a 50" width though, not a huge living space. I don't work for Marmot, by the way--I just like some of their stuff. And if you are an REI member, you can score a 20% discount on one of these until March 31.

Canister stove: If you have already won the lottery and want to buy more gear, you might give the JetBoil a try. It's quite a bit more economical fuel-wise, and I bet you could get by for those 6 days on one 8-oz.(fuel weight) MSR IsoPro canister (my vote would be to also take a small (4 oz. fuel weight) Snow Peak or JB canister as a backup). MSR's large 8 oz canister, when full, weighs ~3/4 oz. less than a Primus canister. However, MSR's 4 oz. canister
weighs ~1.0 oz. more than Snow Peak's.

Other miscellaneous thoughts:

1) Some GNP campsites do allow wood burning. This will allow you to boil water for your meals and save some cartridge fuel. But it doesn't get dark up there until after 10 PM, so you won't need a fire for entertainment.

2) Don't forget your DEET--the deer flies and mossies can be horrendous up until the first week of August.

3) Bear protection: I usually carry one small Counter Assault and one 4 oz. miniature fog horn. The sound that little air horn puts out will chase off any self-respecting black bear, and it also will work nicely as a distress signal (when it's too windy for your whistle to carry very far). I think the best book on griz behavior is the one by Steven Herrero. You can read it at work so your wife doesn't get scared. The main thing is to hang everything that has an odor (toothpaste, all cosmetics, EVERYTHING!)along with your food bag. Nothing at all goes into the tent with you, except a flashlight and your bear spray. And when you hike, make noise, chatter, sing Jimmy Buffett songs, etc. Forget about bear bells--they don't make enough noise to warn an animal that you are coming, especially on a windy day, or while walking along a river.

Must-do things:

If you're in St. Mary, grab a meal at the Park Cafe. Everything is splendid, except the long wait.

At the Many Glacier Hotel, park in the lot above the hotel, grab a beer from your cooler, and sit on the hill at sunset overlooking the hotel and one of the planet's finest scenes. Then snag a bison steak at the Cattle Company back where you turned off hwy. 89 to get to Many Glacier.

Back in Kalispell, you have to celebrate at Moose's Saloon on the north end of Main Street.

I hope you enjoy my home turf. I always thought that when I became king, I would take over the place for my very own...and outlaw mean people, al-Qaeda types, and the like. You'd have to be a BPL member to get in.

Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
First Backpacking Trip... on 02/27/2008 13:42:02 MST Print View


Edited by skopeo on 04/25/2015 20:46:15 MDT.