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gear list, JMT, solo, July
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Dirk Rabdau
(dirk9827) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Can I get an amen? on 06/10/2010 23:32:08 MDT Print View

The extra 2 pounds won't kill anyone, especially not a UL hiker who's carrying a light kit to start with.

Scott, I absolutely and emphatically agree with this assertion, as well as Bob's analysis of the argument. Amen!

Cmon, people, in the Sierra you don't really need to carry much water, as there is a plentiful supply available. Thus for the weight saved by shedding a single liter from your pack (going from two to one, for instance), you can spend that "normal load" weight on one regular sized bear canister. Easy. No fuss. No worries. Bears alive!

The rules apply to everyone for a reason. As Bob stated, this has less to do with you and more to do with the safety and well-being of the bear population.


Edited by dirk9827 on 06/10/2010 23:32:42 MDT.

Amy Lauterbach
(drongobird) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
raingear? on 06/11/2010 00:02:10 MDT Print View

"I don't find I really need gloves or rain gear in the Sierra in summer. I don't mind hiking through an afternoon drizzle, as long as I can sleep dry under the tarp."
I see comments like this on many JMT gear lists, and they always make me nervous. I read an article years ago called "why people die on Mt Washington" and the crux of the analysis is that people prepare for what they have experienced in the past. Then something unexpected happens (usually weather) and they can't cope.

I have spent perhaps 200 days backpacking in the southern Sierra. 180 of those days had perfect sunny weather. 15 had short duration rain. But I've had five days of perfectly foul weather, including two 24+ hour severe storms. During one of those storms NPS performed 6 search and rescue operations. I know one person who waited out a storm in a tent in the upper Kern basin for 68 hours of continuous rain.

By all means go without rain gear if that suits you, but don't feel overly confident that the worst you will get is a 1-2 hour afternoon rain.

On the other hand, I'm completely with you on the decision to not cook. We've been going cook-free for ~10 years now and love it.

Good luck, and have a great trip!

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: raingear? on 06/11/2010 00:44:49 MDT Print View

A friend of mine went out on a solo 11-day backpack trip in the Southern Sierras. He took decent rain gear, but he was expecting only a 1-2 hour afternoon rain. Instead, he got dumped on every day for at least 3-4 hours, plus it rained all night long some nights. Finally, after 8 days, everything he had was soaked, and he was afraid that it might get worse, so he bailed out.


Scott Bentz
(scottbentz) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Ursacks and Canisters on 06/11/2010 12:29:15 MDT Print View

Well, what I did say, is we all had canisters. I would not go into any area that requires a canister without one. The Ursack was for a bit of extra precaution as we left Muir Trail Ranch for our last 8 days in case our food didn't fit. We were unable to rent the Bearicade Expedition which has more capacity.

Having an Ursack, which is a viable bear deterrent, and not having a canister at all are two different things. The Ursack, properly used, should not be compromised.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: ursack on 06/11/2010 12:58:28 MDT Print View

@ Ben Crowell:

My food are: instant oatmeal packets for breakfast, various energy bars for lunch and snack, and Mountain House dinners. They are not much bothered by crushing.

Truth be told, I've yet to encounter bears at my campsites. I take precaution (e.g. using Ursack) and am always careful to knot the Ursack properly -- to protect both myself and bears.

My understanding is that the only time(s) bears manage to get through an Ursack is due to improper knotting -- no bears have actually defeated the Ursack material itself.

Ben Crowell
(bcrowell) - F

Locale: Southern California
ursacks on 06/11/2010 13:25:55 MDT Print View

This seems to be a hot-button issue among backpackers. In a different thread running in parallel with this one, a bunch of people are insisting vehemently that old-school bear-bagging works just fine. Maybe we should combine the two threads and see how quickly Godwin's law sets in :-)

Dirk wrote: "The rules apply to everyone for a reason."
As Scott pointed out, using an ursack is not the same as being illegal. Seems to me that my current plan is 100% legal. I use a half-size bearvault from Yosemite Valley to Muir Trail Ranch. At MTR, I pick up my resupply, which includes the ursack. The ursack is legal from there to Pinchot Pass. By the time I get to Pinchot my food once again fits in the bearvault.

I would be interested in seeing any impartial evidence about the effectiveness of ursacks. The manufacturer's latest updates are here: . They lost their lawsuit in 2009, and it's now on appeal. Interesting to hear that SIBBG no longer exists. Ursack claims a perfect record of no failures in 2009, worldwide. Here's a video of a grizzly in a zoo failing to get into an ursack: One thing that seems clear to me is that bearproofing is like birth control: it's a lot less effective if you don't use it correctly.

Ben Crowell
(bcrowell) - F

Locale: Southern California
Re: raingear? on 06/11/2010 13:36:05 MDT Print View

Hi, Amy --

Thanks for your thoughts on raingear. This comment rings true for me: "people prepare for what they have experienced in the past. Then something unexpected happens (usually weather) and they can't cope."

What would you suggest for rain gear? I have a goretex jacket, which I normally only take with me in the spring, not summer. The darn thing is very heavy and bulky.

When you describe the 6 search and rescue operations during a storm, can you give me a clearer picture of what these people were doing and how things got to the point where they needed rescue? Were they climbing, or just backpacking? Did they get caught on a high pass during a summer snowstorm? Were they on a big artery like the JMT, or somewhere more remote? I'm trying very hard to imagine a worst-case scenario where I'd be putting myself in that kind of danger on this trip, and not having much luck coming up with one where rain gear would make a difference in terms of survival, as opposed to enjoyment. Actually the really nasty life-threatening possibility that I can easily think of is that a nasty, windy storm comes along, and my tarp skills aren't good enough, so my down bag gets thoroughly soaked. But I don't see how rain gear would help there. Without rain gear, is the big danger that I get thoroughly soaked coming over a high pass, and develop hypothermia before I can get over the pass, put up my tarp, and crawl into my sleeping bag?

Joel Waddell
(TenderPaw) - F

Locale: Lake Tahoe
Small bear can and ursack on 06/11/2010 15:42:19 MDT Print View

The combination of the two offers great versatility. I have reached a point (for now) that I will carry the bear vault 450 until Muir trail ranch, where my resuply box will contain my food plus an ursack.

I feel comfortable but still sleep with one eye open when hanging my grub. Never had a bear get my food when it's hung, but always have to be aware that it is possible, but then again ANYTHING is possible. A BV 450 and an Ursack for extra is as close as I come to making up my mind.

Ben Crowell
(bcrowell) - F

Locale: Southern California
Re: Small bear can and ursack on 06/11/2010 16:14:14 MDT Print View

Joel wrote: "The combination of the two offers great versatility. I have reached a point (for now) that I will carry the bear vault 450 until Muir trail ranch, where my resuply box will contain my food plus an ursack."
Hope it works well for you -- otherwise I'll feel guilty for having influenced you to go down the Wrong Path :-)

Seriously, though, hope you have a great hike! When are you going? Maybe I'll see you on the trail. I'm starting from Yosemite Valley on July 14.

Steven Paris
(saparisor) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
gear list, JMT, solo, July on 06/11/2010 16:17:33 MDT Print View

I'll also be on the JMT, starting a few weeks after you on July 28th. Unless it is an issue of pack space/volume, why not carry a BV500 for the whole trip? Using the manufacturers weight listings:

BV450 + Ursack: 2 lbs, 1 oz and 8 oz = 2 lbs 9 oz.

The BV500 = 2 lbs 9 oz.

For the record, I have both a BV450 and a new BV500 I recently got for this trip. I'm finishing up my food list now, but hope to fit everything in the BV500.

Nate Meinzer
(Rezniem) - F

Locale: San Francisco
Rain Gear JMT on 06/11/2010 16:50:40 MDT Print View

That's one scenario. A few years ago there was a huge storm that washed out some roads, and left a few un-prepared people in near freezing, cold weather. Scary. I was up near Sonora Pass last August and a stormfront came through that didn't relent for a day. It was too cold and windy to continue on the route (PCT up on the crest for 10 miles, exposed.) We had rain gear and fleece, but it was just too windy and cold without balaclavas and handshells. So we bailed.

You can get cheap rain protection in Dri-ducks rainsuit or poncho or even a light, cheap emergency poncho. If you're up high with no way to get down quickly and the trail turns into a river of hail and freezing water, you might want the extra warmth rain gear will provide. Once your windshirt is thoroughly soaked it's not going to do much to keep the windchill at bay.

Scott Bentz
(scottbentz) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Raingear on 06/11/2010 16:54:26 MDT Print View


We use Dri Ducks. The top and bottom weigh 12.5 oz. If you weren't going to take anything than take the top only. We hiked last year on our trip for the better part of a day with rain and were glad to have the Dri Ducks. We kept hiking and stayed dry. It was a nice day to hike. Cool temps, no harsh sun nor dust.

Remember, they size really large. If you wear a large order a medium, for example.

Ben Crowell
(bcrowell) - F

Locale: Southern California
single canister on 06/11/2010 16:55:48 MDT Print View

Hi, Steven,

It's true that the half-size bearvault is inefficient in terms of the weight of the canister divided by the amount of food you can fit in it. Here are the bearproof containers I own:

half-size bearvault, 33 oz
ursack, 8 oz (without liner)
Garcia, 44 oz

You're right, the bearvault plus the ursack is not much less than the Garcia. One problem with the Garcia, for me, is that it doesn't fit sideways in my Gossamer Gear pack. That makes it really difficult to pack everything so that it's comfortable and balanced side to side.

The other thing is that with the bearvault+ursack plan, I save 11 oz for the first half of the trip, compared with the Garcia.

But maybe you're right, and the simplest plan would be best. I think maybe I'll spend some time packing the various combinations to see how they work out.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: raingear? on 06/11/2010 17:06:23 MDT Print View

Hi Benjamin

Biased opinion: scrub the Gore-Tex! It is seriously way too heavy.

Now, have a look at these photos:

Bad weather at Chorten on TMB France 2007 4081
Filthy weather ALL day in French Alps
Col de Bressons France GR5 4097
Torrential rain which turned into snow at the Col (French Alps)
Col de Bonhomme France 2007  4087
Col du Bonhomme, summer time (French Alps)
In each case all we had was a silnylon poncho (my MYOG design actually) and some GoLite Whims, over taslan clothing. Yes, we got a bit damp, but the gear was quite enough to keep us adequately warm while we were moving.

What was far more important was that we had a good tent to get into in the evening. Sure, it weighed a few hundred grams more than a basic tarp, but it sealed out the weather and we could get dry and warm up, and cook.

> the big danger that I get thoroughly soaked coming over a high pass, and develop
> hypothermia before I can get over the pass, put up my tarp, and crawl into my sleeping bag?
You are absolutely right here. Crucial here is to block the wind. Doesn't matter too much if you are wet, as long as your wet clothing is not getting icy cold rain pouring through it and the wind is blocked from freezing you to death. Even the lightest silnylon can do this, if properly used.

Yes, there have been times when both my wife and I have been somewhat hypothermic by the time we got the tent up and us inside. There have been times when we have had to help each other just undress out of our wet clothing. But the shelter given by a good tent makes all the difference. I cannot emphasise this too much in the mountains.


Amy Lauterbach
(drongobird) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
raingear on JMT on 06/11/2010 18:03:13 MDT Print View


In response to your request for more info about the Sierra storms I've experienced. I thought about sending via PM instead, but maybe somebody else is interested.

My suggestion is that you build a gear list that lets you cope with a 24-48 hour rain, rather than assuming your worst weather will be afternoon showers. If you plan to set up your shelter before you get wet/chilled, and wait out any rain, even if it takes a day or two, then your strategy should be fine. It's not what I would do, but it will work. Alternately, if you're a very strong hiker, you could set off in the rain and hike quickly to the next backcountry ranger station or out via the next available trailhead, relying on burning calories to keep warm. With the hike-fast strategy you'll only get into trouble if you suffer an injury.

The rain gear I would take for a July high Sierra trip would be a home made silnylon rain coat and rainpants. Many people prefer silnylon poncho instead of coat, either way. You can buy an 8 oz commercial raincoat (like the Marmot Essence), and that will serve as a warm layer in camp too. My silnylon coat weighs 4.5 oz and packs compactly.

About the storms I mentioned.
The 68 hour storm was a friend ~30 years ago. It was in August, and it was a summer monsoon storm that didn't stay down in Arizona where it belongs. He spent 3 nights and 2 days in the tent. He was delayed 2 days in his exit, which caused his wife a lot of worry, but he was safe and sound. Using a SPOT tracker would have allowed him to send an OK message to his wife so she wouldn't freak out.

One of our big storms was in the early 90's, last week of August. We were at the end of a descent of Goddard Creek, into the Middle Fork of the Kings River at Simpson Meadow at 6000'. It started raining late afternoon, before we reached the Kings. It rained/hailed/snowed all night, and all through the next day. Rather than wait it out and let the snow melt (which it definitely would have done given the date), we put on our warm clothes and rain gear and continued -- up the Middle Fork Kings and over Muir Pass. The hike through LeConte was perhaps the most beautiful day I've ever hiked. It rained/snowed intermittently the whole day, and there was a foot of snow on the ground in LeConte Canyon. The intermittent views of the canyon walls in the storm clouds were fantastic. If we hadn't had rain gear we would have stayed in the tent all day, where we would have been FINE and SAFE, just delayed for 1-2 days. In a storm like this, your strategy to wait under your tarp should work. If it happens to you, you'll do your family a favor by having a SPOT device so you can notify them that you are OK even if you don't exit on schedule. Our experience was ~20 years ago, and we had no way to notify our family of a deliberate delay, which was part of the reason we chose to hike through the storm.

The other storm we experienced was a late season storm, mid October. At that time of year the snow will not reliably quickly melt, so you need to get yourself out before the snow accumulates too much. In July, when you are going, all snow will melt within a few days.
The deaths and the high-profile SAR efforts in this storm are described here:

There were at least 4 or 5 SAR efforts for hikers, but they are not described on the SAR site. Here's one press story

My recollection of two of the hiker rescues:
One was a small group that was not skilled enough to be in the mountains in October. They did not have equipment to stay warm, and they did not know how to find their way out in low visibility stormy weather after the trail tread became hidden by snow. SAR team took 3 or 4 days to reach them, and they were very happy to see SAR. They were classic examples of the article I read (people die because they prepare for what they have experienced in the past) -- after the rescue they said that for 20+ years they have taken weekend trips in the Sierra in Oct because there are no crowds and the weather is great. Except for 2004, when the weather was not great.

The second SAR was a small skilled group of hikers. They had appropriate clothing and storm worthy shelter, and they were not worried about navigation. They chose to stay in their tents for the duration of the storm, which lasted 3 or 4 days. SAR was initiated when they didn't exit on schedule because SAR didn't know that they were not seeking a rescue. Also, in this case, a SPOT tracker would have allowed them to send an OK message which would have saved SAR and their families a lot of effort and angst.

In this October 2004 storm, we were off trail on the far side of a boulder/scree pass. We started our exit as soon as it was light, in order to get over the pass and descend to a lower elevation as soon as possible, as snow was rapidly accumulating. With the snow masking the placement of scree and rocks, it was very slow going. After a few hours we crossed the pass and reached the trail. We then had a 10 or maybe 15 mile hike down to the car. As we descended the snow turned to sleet and then rain. It continued heavy precipitation all day. We hiked ~12 hours that day to get back to the car. Without raingear we would have been very cold, although I think we would have been OK even in that case (assuming no injury) because we were strong enough to hike 12 hours without resting.

The interesting thing about the Oct 2004 storm was that it hit us by surprise. In Oct trips in the Sierra, we go out for 4 days max so we can get a reasonably sound weather forecast. And the 4th day was to be on trail, so if it did storm on day 4 it wouldn't have been a challenge. As of evening Oct 15 the 4-day weather forecast was good. We ate dinner on our second evening, Oct 17, and it was perfectly clear and calm. By midnight it was howling. By morning there was 8" snow on the ground, and piles of snow blown onto the tent.

I'm a conservative person when it comes to these sorts of things, and I prefer to be prepared for unexpected problems. On the JMT, getting lost is not a problem unless you are seriously unskilled. But a combo of injury and bad weather can quickly complicate things, and I like to know I'm prepared to cope without assistance.

Again, everybody chooses their strategy and level of risk tolerance. My suggestion is only this -- it is possible to have a 2 or 3 day storm in July or August. Not likely, but possible, so have a plan for what you'll do if it happens to you, and have the gear to support that plan.

Sorry for the long past. But I've now bared my soul and I'll retreat :)

Have a great trip in July, and don't let the mosquitoes suck you dry!


Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: raingear on JMT on 06/11/2010 18:38:03 MDT Print View

Amy, I was also in that Emmigrant Wilderness...Lucky for us we were just below the snowline and in the morning we hightailed out of there. We lucked out.

As for anyone going into the Sierras without rain gear in the summer. All I can say that your choice is quite stupid if you do not bring protection.

Ben Crowell
(bcrowell) - F

Locale: Southern California
Re: raingear on JMT on 06/11/2010 19:41:14 MDT Print View

Hi, Amy --

Regardless of my eventual choice of gear, I really want to thank you for taking the time to write that very detailed and helpful post!

Sounds like you use a SPOT. How do you like it? I'm put off by the $100/year subscription fee. What do you think of PLBs versus SPOT? The JMT is heavily traveled, but if I was going to do a lot of hiking in more remote areas, I'd definitely think seriously about investing in either a PLB or a SPOT. I have a ham radio license, and 2-meter-band ham radios are extremely compact and lightweight these days (4.6 oz). But 2 meters is line of sight only, and although you might get through from a ridge or peak in the backcountry, it would be kind of a crapshoot.


Frank Deland

Locale: On the AT in VA
PLB batteries on 06/11/2010 20:28:49 MDT Print View

One model PLB I looked at had a battery life guarantee for one year. Replacement batteries run at least $100. One at REI was $175. So, if you have to replace the battery every year, the annual subscription for the SPOT might not be so bad.

Edited by rambler on 06/11/2010 20:31:20 MDT.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
PLBs on 06/11/2010 21:56:22 MDT Print View

Frank, the PLBs made by ACR and McMurdo have 5-year batteries. You have to send them in for replacement after 5 years; the replacement battery is then guaranteed for another 5 years.

I very much doubt that I will replace the battery in the 11-oz. ACR Microfix I bought 2 1/2 years ago. There are already PLBs around (McMurdo Fastfind 210) that weigh half as much and cost half as much, which have me sorely tempted. In 2 1/2 years they'll probably have PLBs that can walk and talk and weigh only 2 oz. There is already an add-on feature (for ACRs) that will send OK messages like the SPOT.

The same is true, of course, of the SPOT gizmos; they come out with a new and improved model just after you pay the renewal subscription on the old one!

Ben Crowell
(bcrowell) - F

Locale: Southern California
risk compensation on 06/12/2010 08:57:59 MDT Print View

One thing about the PLB/SPOT thing is that it seems to me that it just readjusts people's expectations. There's the phenomenon of risk compensation, where, e.g., antilock brakes just encourage people to drive faster and tailgate more. I heard a story recently about some guys who activated their SPOTS, got helicoptered out, hiked back in to retrieve their equipment, and then got scared and activated their SPOT again. Besides encouraging hikers to take risks, the SPOT may cause family at home to worry the same amount while receiving a greater amount of information.