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August JMT. First UL Attempt
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Michael Levine
(Trout) - F

Locale: Long Beach
August JMT. First UL Attempt on 05/31/2011 13:19:44 MDT Print View

Hi Folks,

I'm doing the JMT solo in August and would love it if someone could take a peak. I'm trying to pick out a tarp which is proving difficult. I'm tall, and there are SO many options. I think most of everything is is just about "set" for review, except re-packaging and re-weighing some things (5.2oz dr bronners is NOT all going with me, and neither is the bottle, for example). I've put notes to items like this however.

I'm debating a few choices, including not taking trekking poles (save 18 ounces, what do you all think?), switching over to a quilt to shave about 15 ounces (so sad to retire my nice bag! also expensive).

I might also add some spare batteries, or perhaps ditch the camera all together. I might also add a stuff sack or two.

I suppose what I'm after from posting this is to know if I can leave anything, need to add anything, or need to switch anything. Also if you have any tarp recommendations.

Thanks for looking!

Edited by Trout on 05/31/2011 14:30:54 MDT.

Michael Levine
(Trout) - F

Locale: Long Beach
reference on 05/31/2011 13:22:40 MDT Print View

Also for reference I figured out my old base weight was tipping 25lb!

Josh Newkirk
(Newkirk) - MLife

Locale: Australia
quilt on 05/31/2011 14:30:45 MDT Print View

I was looking at the chisos quilt and found that for 85 cheaper you can buy a very similar quilt from

Mine shows up on thursday and I can do a bit of an initial review if you want.

Michael Levine
(Trout) - F

Locale: Long Beach
quilt on 05/31/2011 15:11:00 MDT Print View

Josh that'd be WAY helpful, thanks!

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
take and don't take on 05/31/2011 18:35:48 MDT Print View

take the camera- don't want to leave that behind

take trekking poles if you normally hike w/ trekking poles, these obviously offer a great advantage when pitching a tarp/shelter

I suggest giving Ron at MLD a call and talk about your tarp needs- he's got a VERY wide selection of tarps and lightweight shelters that are sure to cover your needs

if you don't take TP you'll score big points w/ Mike C! :)

I like carrying the same socks that I use for hiking as my spares- they sometimes get used

I think a down jacket will be more versatile for the weight vs a vest, either of the jackets you have listed will be good

"sauce holder" as in alcohol "sauce" or as in food "sauce"? if the later you can a lot a smaller/lighter containers that should do the trick

for re-packaging sunscreen/bug dope/sauce/etc these type of lightweight bottles really lighten things up

I use a small wisp toothbrush and tooth powder in one of the little bottles- together they are under an ounce

John Julyan-Gudgeon
(Cyanide) - F

Locale: Red Deer, Alberta, Canada
Trekking Poles on 05/31/2011 18:58:55 MDT Print View


(I havent'y looked at your list yet, but I have only a few minutes at the computer, so either I comment or forever hold my piece)

Your trekking poles are a unique gear item. From a metabolic point of view they cost you about 5-10% more calorie burn per unit time walking with them vs without them. Meanwhile, from an endurance point of view, they offer more than that in increased duration of sustained cardiac output (be that walking uphill, downhill or neutral ground).

When you do an "armchair" crunching of the numbers, the idea of "poles or no poles" really transcends that of how much they weigh. Of course, if you are part of this forum then you will probably be gravitating towards lighter poles vs heavier poles. But, the real cost and benefit of the poles will boil down to how much further per day you will be able/willing/comfortable to go vs how many extra calories it will cost you take them. If you are looking to loose some weight (like 80-90% of the population) then its a no-brainer. If you are already a bit on the cachectic side then you might find the added fuel expenditure unwanted (this is highly unprobable based on many other factors as well),

Hope this helps.


John Julyan-Gudgeon
(Cyanide) - F

Locale: Red Deer, Alberta, Canada
Camera on 05/31/2011 19:18:05 MDT Print View

Here is another question that is not purely about weight.

I listened to a talk not too long ago. It was one of those talks (great organization if you haven't heard of them...just be careful, just because these speakers are brilliant doesn't mean they aren't biased [I am pretty liberal and even I find some of their ideas to be unfounded and undefendable]).


The monologue was about the human tendency to conduct our present state in terms of the anticipated memory of the present state (eg we conduct ourselves through our holidays in ways that indicate that believe the memory of the event is more important than the actual "in-the-moment" experience of the event.

Think about that for a minute. Cameras are a perfect example. With a camera, you will forfeit your full experience of an event/moment just so you can frame the perfect picture of the moment.

Now, that is apparently human nature.

So, you have to decide (once you buy into the BS I am slinging here), is it important to release yourself from the human norm of behaviour and attempt to fully experience the current event ("live in the moment") and ditch the camera. Or, will you accept that human nature is human nature and you intend to be able to fully appreciate and share the experience, through pictures, with your loved ones, for years to come.

Its about your philosophy, not the weight. But, if you bring a camera, bring a light one...your loved ones don't need high-def to appreciate the events with you.

Remember: humans are happiest when, once they have made a decision, that they perceive that there is no option to change that decision.



John Nausieda
(Meander) - MLife

Locale: PNW
"August JMT. First UL Attempt" on 05/31/2011 20:17:22 MDT Print View

I don't think it's true. Growing up in the 60's and 70's and being a Philosophy and Lit major I certainly knew the routine. It was capable of deluding you into thinking that it was good to not have your mind in gear. Think of it this way. If the experience is better than the poem distilling it, then you won't write the poem. The same with a photograph. You cannot share a memory except orally that will substitute for either. My parents left little record. Stills, letters. I was the only one to film them before age took its toll. I have the only non-oral link for them for the new members of the family.In general terms I agree with Spinoza that Human to Human contacts are of the highest order of Human Experience, but he never anticipated the ability to present something as complex as film. Besides William James would tell you that you are simply afflicted by the Sentiment of Rationality.

Edited by Meander on 05/31/2011 20:24:37 MDT.

First Last
(snusmumriken) - F

Locale: SF Bay Area
To add and delete on 05/31/2011 20:25:10 MDT Print View

Looks like a good list. Some thoughts:

I'd be freezing in a 40 degree quilt! A bag in the 15 to 30 degree range is what most people bring. Stick with the Arete.

Spot - this one deserves its own thread, but I'd say no not worth the weight.

Delete - the rain pants. Just hike in the rain in your nylon pants. Once the sun comes out they will dry soon enough. If not stop, set up camp and change into your dry long johns.

Add - If you have long john bottoms you should also have a long john type shirt so that you have something dry to change into top to bottom.

Delete - Bear spray. Really, this is not needed.

Add - maps.

Add - sunscreen.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: To add and delete on 05/31/2011 20:30:02 MDT Print View

Bear spray???????????? Really???

Please leave that at not needed

Michael Levine
(Trout) - F

Locale: Long Beach
thoughts on 05/31/2011 23:25:39 MDT Print View

Ya know I don't normally use trekking poles. The only time I have was for the Zion narrows where it was a lot of rock hopping and stream fording and I appreciated them there. I think I can leave them.

I think I might leave the camera as a me experiment because generally I agree.

I'll give Ron a call, that's a very good point, getting some expertise from someone who makes tarps. I just hate being so ill informed and asking questions, but I guess I'll get over it.

I might get a down jacket if I'm keeping a 40 degree bag. I always sleep hot is the only real reason I think this is okay.

Sauce holder as in food sauce. I've just heard ala Mike Clelland that they're good to use for the purpose. Most bottles I was playing with didn't really close as well as these either. I plan to use a ton of sauce if I can help it =).

Can someone please school me on the bear spray topic? I'm lost. I only bought it because, well, REI had it, I've never been in bear country, and I assumed I needed it.

Thanks for all the help everyone! I feel much more settled about my choices, and more sure I need to question others =)

Erik Dietz

Locale: Los Angeles
Just a few ideas... on 05/31/2011 23:29:28 MDT Print View

Hi Michael,

I'm in the same boat as you. New to the ultralight backpacking and also doing the JMT solo in August. Maybe we will run into each other.

I like your list and while I am definitely a "newbie," here are some ideas that others have shared with me.

Don't get the natural mosquito repellant. I used some last summer while doing the Rae Lakes Loop and it didn't work. Just get the 100% deet.

Definitely take a camera. But there are lighter and less expensive ones (unless you own one already) than the Canon Power Shot. I just purchased this one and I love it. Only 2.5 ounces.

If you don't use trekking poles now and don't need them for whatever tarp or tent setup you got going, then don't bother. Just my opinion though.

Get rid of the rain pants. You won't need them.

Definitely take a beanie. There are some really great lightweight options, like PossumDown that's sold on this sight.

I like taking a book too. I'm going to whack my book into three pieces and mail the other two parts to my two resupply spots.

Wild Ideas makes the Bearikade Weekender and gives JMT thru hikers a flat rate. I think it's about $60. It weighs 31 ounces.

Don't bother with the bear spray and holster.

Definitely take a hat. Maybe with some sort of neck cover?

Hope this helps some!

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: thoughts on 05/31/2011 23:40:23 MDT Print View

"Can someone please school me on the bear spray topic? I'm lost. I only bought it because, well, REI had it, I've never been in bear country, and I assumed I needed it."

There are brown bears, also called grizzlies, and then there are black bears even though they might be brown, black, or cinnamon. California has not had any brown bears for 80-90 years, and on the JMT all you will find are black bears. In Montana or Wyoming or Alaska, brown bears can get very dangerous, and human fatalities happen every year. You must distinguish between the two.

Technically speaking, any carnivore that large can kill you, or at least harm you. However, black bears rarely hurt anybody in California. They are more like oversized wild dogs. You don't want to get too close to them, but... really... they just want to steal your food. If you were incredibly stupid and let the black bear get its paws on your food, and then if you tried to take it back, the bear might take a piece of you. Or, if you got between a mother bear and her cub, that mother bear may chase you up a tree. Largely, a black bear will do anything reasonable to steal your food. Yosemite black bears have a reputation of being very intelligent. And then humans assume that they are smarter than the bears. That is when the bear pulls some neat trick and steals the food anyway. They are particularly good at breaking into cars.

So, I would not even consider carrying bear spray anywhere in California. I will be carrying it in Wyoming.


Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
poles and sauce on 06/01/2011 07:16:39 MDT Print View

^ agreed- in grizzly country I don't leave home w/o it

if you don't use trekking poles, then insure you have what you need to get a tarp/shelter up w/o them

two 1/2 liters for "sauce" sounds excessive to me, I carry a small bottle (like I linked above) filled w/ a habanero sauce :)

don't leave the camera at home!

Greg F
(GregF) - F

Locale: Canadian Rockies
Bear Spray on 06/01/2011 08:25:16 MDT Print View

Even in Grizzly country (maybe not Alaska I haven't been) bear spray tends to be overkill. The stadard advice of making noise around blind corners, near creeks that mask your noise, and when you are hiking into the wind will eliminate most bear surprise bear encounters. Then calmly backing away from bears talking loudly will take care of the rest.

Just remember that you drive to and from the trail head and that risk is far far greater then any other you will encounter on the trail.

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: Trekking Poles on 06/01/2011 08:40:20 MDT Print View

One trekking pole option, especially if you don't normally use them, is to bring one pole. you won't use it much for trail propulsion, but it will come in handy for balance when stream crossing and numerous other times.

John Julyan-Gudgeon
(Cyanide) - F

Locale: Red Deer, Alberta, Canada
Bear Spray on 06/01/2011 18:03:16 MDT Print View

Bear Spray:

Never used it, and I live in Bear Country. Both types of bears are common here. I have seen numerous bears on the trails. I have been followed for half a day by a bear once. I have accidentally been in the same clearing as a mother bear and its two cubs. I have been false charged by a bear once.

I can't say that bear spray would have helped me in any of those situations, even if I had it and things were going poorly.

I'd rather bring a knife to imbed in my partners thigh before I start running, than to bring bear spray.

Just kidding of course.

But, I wouldn't bring bear spray, and that's from someone who needs full mosquito netting protection at night as I am such a wimp



Josh Newkirk
(Newkirk) - MLife

Locale: Australia
quilt on 06/02/2011 01:49:57 MDT Print View


Got the quilt from today. First of all the customer service of Adam and Jenny is awesome.

Took it out of the box and it is one well made piece of gear. First quilt so cant really compare to others. Was like 65 today so trying it out real quick was extremely warm. Supposed to be going on a trip friday so hopefully can make a better review then.

Michael Levine
(Trout) - F

Locale: Long Beach
bear / quilt on 06/02/2011 08:09:06 MDT Print View

Thanks for all the bear spray info. I'll be leaving it at home.

Thanks for keeping me up to date Josh, I'm glad at least initial glances are proving super promising =)

Dustin Short
(upalachango) - MLife
Re: August JMT. First UL Attempt on 06/03/2011 21:52:10 MDT Print View

A few notes...

Long Sleeve: You're worried about the L/S in summer. The main benefit of a L/S in summer is sun protection (minimizes amount of sunscreen you need to carry). Since you have a windshirt and will probably wear it most of the time, you can most likely ditch the l/s. If you still want, I'd recommend the light gray Phase SL longsleeve from arc'teryx. Mine weighs 3.8oz and I can wear it in the summer out here (AZ Desert Rat). It dries incredibly quick, feels durable for the weight, and so far odor-less after a couple days of heavy wear (haven't done a full week in it).

Insulation: I was just given a M.B. Down Inner Parka. A bit late out here, so I haven't field tested it cool conditions. What I do know is that it only weighs 8.2oz in medium (others have also commented that it runs a bit light from the spec). Having a hood and supposedly .5oz more down than the jacket...I would suggest just moving up to it. That hood will provide lots of versatility and warmth (40F quilt should work well enough even if you get caught in a summer blizzard). It also only costs you $20 and 1oz to do so.

Head Warmth: Regardless of a down jacket or parka, you still want a separate warm head piece for while on trail. The Possum Down looks like a great option and minimal weight. I'm a personal fan of Buff Headwear. If you don't know what it is, it's basically a tube of fabric that can be worn as a beanie, balaclava, scarf, and dozen other configurations. The Merino Buff weighs 1.8oz, has a lot more length than the original (so may be able to cut in half) and is that wonderful warmth/coolness that is wool. Depending on how you wear it it'll keep your head warm and the sun off you.

I get cold easy though, so if it seems like warmth overkill, the regular buff could also work. I wear the regular religiously in the desert during summer as a balaclava. Keeps the sun completely off my skin, dust out of my lungs/eyes, and, most appreciated, creates a humid microclimate for my mouth/nose. This creates an evaporative effect that cools incoming air with every inhale. It also dramatically reduces how much liquid I lose due to respiration and is great for maintaining hydration in bone-dry desert and alpine air. I never understood why Bedouin's were so completely wrapped up until I forgot sunblock in Death Valley and tried it out for myself, I was an instant convert.


I forgot to mention trekking poles. I use the the LT4s from Gossamer Gear and love them. On flat ground I don't really weight them much, so don't get that speed boost of pushing off with them. But for all ups and downs I rely on them heavily. I had some ITB and knee problems when I first got back into hiking and they were invaluable in easing the pain in my legs. You may find that once you get used to them you feel "fresher" at the end of high mileage days. Granted my poles weigh only 7.5oz combined, not over a pound. I don't think I would like traditional heavy poles because of the heavy swing weights requiring more upper body energy expenditure.

I would suggest some experiments. Do a long day hike you're familiar with with the poles, then the next weekend do it without poles. Try to eat the same and have similar weather if possible. Time your hikes and take notes on how tired you feel after each one. This does give the advantage to no poles (since you should build/maintain muscle mass from the first hike with poles). If no significant difference or they just annoy you, don't bother. If you see some benefit then you can take them with you.

Edited by upalachango on 06/03/2011 22:02:42 MDT.