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Catskills Fastpack
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Nate Davis
(Knaight) - F

Locale: Western Massachusetts
Catskills Fastpack on 06/07/2011 08:19:58 MDT Print View

I'm toying with the idea of tackling a tough 2 day trip in the Catskills. Day one would have me hiking the entire Devil's Path, plus a few miles of the Long Path, for a total of 31-32 miles. Day two would have me doing a few more miles on the Long Path, then I'd meet up with the Escarpment Trail, double back on it for a couple miles, then head back out to complete THAT entire trail. Day two would be more like 33 miles, for a total of 65.

The Devil's Path is often called, "the toughest dayhike in the East." The Escarpment Trail is home to what's generally considered the toughest trail race in the East. Why do this? Because on top of through-hiking two tough trails as dayhikes, I'll get to summit 12 of the Catskill's highest peaks during the trip and pass countless enormous views and waterfalls.

Well, I'll pass waterfalls on day one. The Escarpment Trail is completely void of water, which presents yet another challenge. I need to figure out a way to carry around 6 liters of water on Day Two. I'm thinking maybe Platypus's Water Tank? I don't own one of those yet, so I don't know how easy it is to carry. Maybe I should pay a small weight penalty and just carry several smaller Platys so they're easier to pack?

My other issue is my sleeping setup. I'm thinking of doing the trip with just my ID 5x8 Siltarp and no bivy. It's only one night, and I'd like to save weight where I can. Also, I don't own a bivy, so that's one less thing I have to buy. Not sure what to carry for a sleeping pad, but leaning towards my Ridge Rest. It's going to be important to get a good night's sleep, but I might be able to be talked into buying a Nightlight if they're comfortable enough.

My current quilt is probably too warm for this trip, as I'm looking to go out in late August. No way I can afford to buy another quilt, though, so my options are to bring it and deal with the extra warmth, or leave it behind and just sleep in my Thermawrap and hiking pants. I'm seriously considering the latter. Is there a reason I shouldn't?

I'd love to get my baseweight down to 6 lbs or so, but can't afford any big items like packs or quilts/bags. Definitely can't afford a cuben tarp.

Looking forward to your suggestions!

Edited by Knaight on 06/07/2011 08:21:09 MDT.

Ike Jutkowitz
(Ike) - M

Locale: Central Michigan
re: fastpack on 06/07/2011 09:23:53 MDT Print View

I'd ditch the following:
balaclava (shouldn't need it in August)
thermawrap (you won't be sitting around much, just wear the sniveller if cold)
head net- may not need by august depending on your tolerance
duct tape- use tape from med kit if needed.

Cut down the ridgerest to torso length and use your pack under your legs. You can get it down to 3.5-4.5 oz depending on your size. I wouldn't buy a nightlite- I use one, but I don't think there's a significant difference in comfort between that and the ridgerest.

Bring less sunscreen and bug dope- half oz sunscreen and 0.2 oz bug dope in a dropper bottle should be plenty for a two day trip.

Don't buy a platy tank. These have a zip lock type closure and are more for in camp use. A couple smaller platys or bottles would be fine. 6 L water sounds like a lot to me for 1 day.

Get a smaller knife (eg vicorinox classic 0.7 oz) or nix

Use a plain trash bag as pack liner and save an ounce, or a glad turkey bag if your quilt will fit in it and save 2 oz.

Make bubble wrap case for camera and save 2 oz.

Have fun!

Walter Carrington
(Snowleopard) - M

Locale: Mass.
Catskill escarpment trail. on 06/07/2011 09:25:50 MDT Print View

That's an ambitious hike! I might give it a try sometime, at 10 miles/day.

The northern part of the escarpment trail is not a really hard trail (i.e., Blackhead Mt over Windham High peak to Rt 23 is what I've done). Of course I was young when I did it.

Raingear? I don't think a wind jacket is enough. Heavy rain is always a possibility.

Water: I don't think it's completely dry, but don't know how far down you might need to drop to get water. In the valley north of Blackhead, there's Batavia Kill which should have water; I don't remember how far from the trail it is to water there, but I think there would be water near the Shelter. I can't find my catskill guides; they're 20 or 30 years old anyway.

Here's a blog by someone who's done the escarpment trail more recently than me.

Nate Davis
(Knaight) - F

Locale: Western Massachusetts
Thanks! on 06/07/2011 09:32:26 MDT Print View

Thanks for the input!

I've hiked 9+ hours in heavy, heavy rain before without wearing any raingear. I found it really comfortable. When I got to camp, I threw on a dry top and my windbreaker and warmed up right away. I figure I'll use the same strategy if it rains, so a 4 oz windbreaker should be enough. If I were doing a more leisurely trip, I'd probably bring raingear so that I'd be comfortable during breaks. Since I don't plan to take breaks on this trip -- aside from sleeping, of course -- I don't think it'll be an issue.

Big thanks on the tip for water on the Escarpment Trail. I'll have to take a look and see if it's worth the extra time on my feet to get the water.

Thanks for the link to the blog. I actually ran into that guy last year on the Metacomet-Monadnock trail. I'll have to take a look at that article.

Jim MacDiarmid
(jrmacd) - MLife
Re: Thanks! on 06/07/2011 10:20:48 MDT Print View

That's quite a trip. I can cover 30 miles a day in the Sierra, but now that I'm stuck on the East Coast, and trying to acclimate to myself to hiking in the Cats, I find my hiking rate drops from 3-3.5mph to 2-2.5 due to the ruggedness of the trails here,especially the Devils Path.

You could definitely cut the Ridgerest down. I cut mine to fit myself and have been happy with it. It weighs 5.58oz. I couldn't cut it to torso length because I'm a side sleeper and need it to extend to my hips. Picture on 9 posts down on this thread.

I'd probaly go with two 3L plats or three 2L. My googling tells me 6L of water weighs approximately 13.2 lbs. It might be easier to distribute weight in your pack with multiple platys weighing 4-6 lbs each.

I did a day hike loop over Wyndham and down Batavia Kill last year, and there is a stream there. I can't recall how far down it was, but it wasn't too bad. Do you have the latest version,(10th, I think)of the NY/NJ Trail maps for the Catskills. They have point to point mileage and are really useful. If you don't, when I get home tonight I could look and probably find exactly how far it is from the trail junction to the stream.

I don't have enough bad weather/small tarp experience to know if the siltarp would be okay minus a bivy, but the foot-end of my Nano is only 8" wider, and I was out in pretty severe hail thunderstorm on the TRT last year and had no splash problems at that end. I just pitched it low.

As far as sleep gear, Richard Nisley has two excellent charts that might help you. Best clothing combination for backpacking and hiking tells me that you need a clo of about 4.5 for sleeping in 50 degree temperatures.

The 2nd chart, A New Paradigm for Understanding Garment Warmth tells me that the Thermawrap has a clo of .48. If I recall correctly from that thread, everyday clothing has a clo of 1 or 1.5. Either way, adding those together still leaves you short of 4.5. Someone will jump in and correct me if I'm completely wrong though.

Edited by jrmacd on 06/07/2011 10:21:42 MDT.

Nate Davis
(Knaight) - F

Locale: Western Massachusetts
Nice. on 06/07/2011 10:44:09 MDT Print View

Thanks for pointing out those charts. Pretty interesting stuff. Hard to say how warm the night will be, but it's worth preparing for a low of 40-45. I'll bring the quilt. ;)

I'll have to take a look at the Ridge Rest when I get a chance and see what I can cut. I'm 6'2", so it may not be that much.

I do have the most recent map. Looks like a short hike down the Batavia Kill trail and I should be able to bushwhack to the water. Maximum of a half mile round trip, as long as it's not too dry. That'd save me from carrying about 2 liters, so it's definitely worth it. That way I can get away with carrying my Gatorade bottle, and then perhaps a 1 liter Platy and a 2 liter. Not bad.

Nate Davis
(Knaight) - F

Locale: Western Massachusetts
Ike on 06/07/2011 11:13:45 MDT Print View

Ike -- not sure how I didn't notice your post.

-Probably right about the balaclava. I'll consider it nixed unless weather reports indicate a possible night below 45. I like sleeping with it when it gets cooler.

-Superglue saved a trip for me once when it helped me make a solid repair on my shoe. For the weight, I keep it in my kit every time.

-I've only used the Sniveller a couple times, both times in the shoulder seasons when it's cooler. I keep forgetting that it has that poncho option. Good call. I'll nix the Thermawrap.

-Gotta have the phone. Being able to call and check in is what lets me get away on these adventures!

-Head net... it'd be nice to nix another item. I've slept in AT shelters in New England in both July and August without the bugs bothering me too much, so you might be right. I haven't spent time in the Catskills in forever, so I'm not sure what they're like there. I'll probably leave it at home.

-Yeah, I could probably ditch the duct tape. It's only an overnight.

-Like Jim, I'm a side sleeper, so how much I can cut that Ridge Rest down is going to be limited. I'll take a look at it, though.

-Sunscreen... yeah, I'm never sure how much to bring. What do you package yours in? The container seems to be the heaviest part.

-Bug dope... I can never seem to get enough. You think .2 oz will do it?

-The 6L of water was based on an estimated 12 hours of hiking at a solid pace with maybe 10 minutes of total breaks. I tend to consume really close to half a liter per hour at a pace like that. Now that I know I can find some water near the trail, I'll be able to get away with a 1L and a 2L platy. Should be much nicer. ;)

-That classic knife would work fine. All I really want are scissors for opening Micropur tabs, anyway. (My fingers tend to be too sweaty) The leatherman is my wife's knife, anyway, which gives me a good excuse to buy this one.

-The quilt packs down small, but it'll be packed for a long time, so I don't want to hurt it. I won't have the Thermawrap, though, so a turkey bag might work. Do they even sell those this time of year?

-I worry about a bubblewrap camera case. I keep the camera in my pocket so I can get to it quickly and this is a RUGGED hike.

So... without cutting the Ridge Rest and repackaging the sun block and bug dope (because I can't weigh them yet), I've already saved a full pound. AWESOME.


EDIT: FORGOT ABOUT BEAR AVOIDANCE! I know some people just use an odor proof bag and don't worry about where they place it when they're doing longer miles. Any thoughts on this? I have a few Opsaks around. It'd be a great way to save weight and money. I have a bear cannister, but definitely won't be bringing it. For bear bagging, I could certainly find some rope and a stuff sack, but neither would be particularly light.

Edited by Knaight on 06/07/2011 11:49:19 MDT.

Ike Jutkowitz
(Ike) - M

Locale: Central Michigan
re: re: fastpack on 06/07/2011 12:27:26 MDT Print View

Hi Nate,
Obviously take any of my suggestions with a grain of salt. When fastpacking, I prioritize a compact pack above all else. If spending 15+ hours on the move, comfort during this time trumps any "camp" comforts, for me at least. I'd hate to give advise that made you uncomfortable though.

"Gotta have the phone. Being able to call and check in is what lets me get away on these adventures!"
-sorry honey, I guess there was no cell phone reception in the mountains again ...

Tape- I bring either medical tape or duct tape, but not both. I loathe clutter.

Pad- I'm a side sleeper too, but have no major problems with a pad cut to span from shoulder to upper femur. Basically, I just kept cutting away at it in small increments then laying on it, then cutting again until it was as small as possible while still cushioning any bony projections when I lay on my side. It is trapezoidal in shape (narrower at the hip than the shoulder) to chisel away another ounce or so.

Sunscreen and bug dope- not a huge fan of either, so I minimize how much I use with clothing layers. Wind shirt doubles as sun and bug protection when needed. Hat with brim shields head, so I usually only need enough for face (+/- hands). For bug dope I use 100% DEET in a repurposed 3 ml eye drop bottle that weighs 0.2 oz when full. I bring a little more sunscreen if going to be out in the open (a 10 ml dropper bottle or 1 oz REI squeeze bottle).

Liner- I can fit a summerlite bag and nanopuff pullover in a turkey bag, so I think your bag should fit. Should still be able to find these at the supermarket.

Hope you have an epic trip.

Nate Davis
(Knaight) - F

Locale: Western Massachusetts
Nice on 06/08/2011 03:52:33 MDT Print View

I'll definitely take your suggestions (except for the phone). Should be some more solid weight savings and it'll probably get me under 6 lbs.

Has anyone ever tried using just a Sea-to-Summit type silk liner for their summer "bag"? If I brought that and my Thermawrap, I could leave the quilt at home for almost a 10 oz savings. Obviously, that setup wouldn't take me as cold, but I feel like I could be comfortable in 55-60 degrees or warmer. It would be a more versatile setup in case it ends up being a really warm -- I could just take off the thermawrap. For a little more warmth, I could also bring an emergency blanket. I'd still be saving 7-8 oz overall.

I'd love to hear if someone's tried something similar.

What do Catskill temps get like on summer nights?

Nate Davis
(Knaight) - F

Locale: Western Massachusetts
Bear avoidance on 06/08/2011 16:26:07 MDT Print View

Didn't want to start a thread, but definitely still curious on peoples' thoughts on using an Opsak as my sole bear avoidance technique. My understanding is that black bears are fairly common in the Catskills, so I don't want to go and do anything stupid. That said, I'd love to be able to avoid dealing with a bear bag after a possible 14-15 hour day of hiking.

Dave .
(Ramapo) - F
Bear hang on 06/08/2011 16:43:53 MDT Print View

You'll want to bear bag your food in the Catskills.

Walter Carrington
(Snowleopard) - M

Locale: Mass.
Catskill bears and temps. on 06/08/2011 16:46:24 MDT Print View

Bears have become much more common than when my parents lived in the Catskills (late 70s), but I don't have experience with them there since then. In general I'd say hang your food carefully using the opsak as a bear bag. There have been dozens of house breakins by bears, per year lately. Ask at

Temps: You're not going to be out there very long, so check the forecast right before you leave. Early August could be warm at night, late August could be like Sept. A silk weight liner bag gives very little insulation. Would cutting out a piece of fleece blanket for a quilt save you weight over your down quilt?

Nate Davis
(Knaight) - F

Locale: Western Massachusetts
Interesting on 06/08/2011 17:18:47 MDT Print View

Guess I'll have to come up with a lighter weight bear-bagging kit. Maybe I can pick up some of that Spectra bear bag line on Gear Swap...

I like that fleece blanket idea. Might give that a shot if the weight savings is enough.

Bryce F.
(bster13) - MLife

Locale: Norwalk, CT
My humble suggestions... on 06/08/2011 17:58:51 MDT Print View

I went through 4 liters (maybe more?) in one day over memorial day wknd in the area on a HOT wknd and covering 10 miles / day. At your distance, more water is good. :o

Bring Benedryl to pop when u go to sleep to ensure a decent night's rest, even if sleeping on cut down pad.

Nix the knife for Stanley Mity Knife or just a razor blade. Pre-notch the micropur tablets. They def. are a pain to open, but I can easily tear them open if I start the cut a bit prior to the trip.

Depending on how light your skin is, bring bandanna and baseball cap to shade your face & neck plus add bug protection. My limited experience in the Catskills show it to be under tree shade most of the time. Not sure of your exact trail though. This way you'd get multi use out of the bandanna and not need as much or any sunscreen/bug spray at all depending on condition.


Nate Davis
(Knaight) - F

Locale: Western Massachusetts
Nice tip! on 06/08/2011 18:06:08 MDT Print View

Good call on pre-notching the micropur tablets. I think I may just opt to do that. Gotta love the simple things! Of course, that gives me a reason not to buy a new piece of gear...

I know my water needs pretty well, so the standard liter for every two hours should do the trick just fine.

I've never really taken Benadryl before, so I'm not sure I should try it now. I'll be packing a few ibuprofin for the morning of day two, though. I'm bound to have sore joints after all that elevation change.

I expect to be under shade for the most part, but there will definitely be exposed peaks, cliffs, and ridges. I'm pretty pale, so I'll be bringing a baseball cap. Will probably bring a bandanna as well.

Thanks, Bryce!

Bryce F.
(bster13) - MLife

Locale: Norwalk, CT
To be honest... on 06/08/2011 18:17:31 MDT Print View

Benadryl does not have a big effect on me...but I know that because I spent a few bucks and bought a pack and took one, one night during the work week when I had a full 8 hours of sleep. I didn't sleep any better or worse, but of course you can try it yourself, maybe it makes a diff for you personally. Have fun!

Bryce F.
(bster13) - MLife

Locale: Norwalk, CT
More Insanity..... on 06/08/2011 18:36:01 MDT Print View

Ok, I got some time to actually open your gear list (sorry):

Swap bic lighter for book of matches as backup fire.

Swap 1l gatoraide bottle for 1l Stop & Shop "Clear Splash" bottle. (flavored water, that uses the same cap as a platy in case u lose a cap down the road) It weighs 1.27oz on my scale.

Why can't Micropur tablets go in your 1qt misc bag? I only use one zip lock freezer bag for:
lint (fire starting)
stanley mity knife
duct tape wound around 1/2 a toilet paper rool
first aid
contact case w/ fresh fluid in it

Which Platy 1l are you using? My 2l Platy comes in at 1.13oz

Can your GG Polycro be trimmed? Mine is 1.06oz, but I am only 5-9 and it is tight length wise, just a thought though. If you screw up, u can go to hardware store and buy window insulation film for a few bucks and try again...same stuff. :)

Swap Photon Freedom Micro light for headlamp I carry two @ .62oz. (depends on if you'll be night hiking to cover your miles. Possible with Photon, but you might not like it.)

Depending on how well blazed the trails are for you (most in the Catskills are), drop the Brunton 8010G for a buttom compass @ <0.3oz.

Nate Davis
(Knaight) - F

Locale: Western Massachusetts
re: insanity on 06/08/2011 19:38:49 MDT Print View

Good tip on the matches. I won't have a stove, so it'll really just be for emergencies. I'm competent enough at starting a fire with the firesteel that a book of matches as backup is plenty. If I were bringing a stove, I'd bring the lighter for convenience's sake.

I'd consider the clear splash bottle if it had a wider mouth, but I like the Gatorade bottle simply because it's easier to fill in shallower streams. Actually, if I didn't need to worry about that, I'd just use Platys.

I like keeping the micropur tabs in my side pocket for efficiency's sake. I stop at a stream, dip the Gatorade bottle, take out a tab, and I'm good to go. Quick and easy and I don't have to remove or fiddle with my pack. I could probably keep them in a smaller bag, though. If I can find one around the house, I'll probably do that.

I should re-weigh my Platys. I didn't bother with those, just used the stock weight listed on a website.

Could probably cut the groundsheet down for a bit of savings.

I think night hiking is possible due to the intensity of the trip, so it's probably worth the extra weight for the headlamp and batteries. In fact, I'm planning on slightly pre-dawn starts, so it'll definitely be worth having.

Worth thinking about with the compass. I'm hesitant to do that, but it's probably more of a comfort level issue than a real necessity.

Thanks again!

Bryce F.
(bster13) - MLife

Locale: Norwalk, CT
Can't remember on 06/13/2011 00:14:56 MDT Print View

Can't remember if I mentioned this, but the alum foil I use as UL lid to my heiny alcohol stove doubles as a funnel if water is shallow to get into small necked bottles.

I like the solid 1l bottle because it can be troublesome to fill the platy as it collapses when dunking it as opposed to maintaining its shape and letting air escape and fill with water like the 1l.

Nate Davis
(Knaight) - F

Locale: Western Massachusetts
funnel trick on 06/13/2011 04:03:42 MDT Print View

That's a pretty cool trick. I may have to give it a try some time.