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First-timer... JMT 2012
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Megan McDuffie

Locale: So. Cal
First-timer... JMT 2012 on 05/09/2012 11:58:54 MDT Print View

Hi All! Long time lurker, first time poster!

I'm hiking the John Muir Trail this summer, late August-Mid September. I hiked the stretch from Yosemite Valley to Mammoth Lakes last summer (with a 45lb pack out of the valley) thinking that might satiate my outdoor wanderlust, but have since decided that I have some serious unfinished business with that trail!

As you can imagine, I have no desire to hike out of Yosemite Valley with a 45lb pack ever again, so I've spent the last few months cutting weight where I can. I would really appreciate any suggestions you may have regarding my gear list.
If you're not a fan of GearGrams, there is a PDF in my profile

Some additional info - additional weight I wil be carrying will range from 8lbs out of the Valley with a 3 day food supply & H2O to 20 lbs heading out of Muir Trail Ranch with a 10 day resupply & H2O. So, total pack weight with a full supply would be between ~23 and ~35. At 5'3"/110lbs, it's a lot either way!

Regarding shelter, I am not yet confident enough with my backcountry skills to try a full on tarp. The Contrail seems like a good compromise to me, but I'm open to other suggestions since I haven't bought it yet. Last year I used the Double Rainbow with a partner.

Sorry for the long post - and thanks in advance!!

Andy Duncan
(bluewater) - M

Locale: SoCal
First-timer... JMT 2012 on 05/09/2012 12:57:39 MDT Print View

Hi Megan, welcome to BPL. 15 lb base weight is great for a 'first timer'! I like the JMT in the Aug/Sept late season (very few other hikers, no mosquitos).

If you haven't already purchased a tent yet there are a few lighter options that might work for you. There is still time to order a Hexamid tent, at around 9 ozs for the solo tent it doesn't get much lighter for a fully enclosed shelter. Zpacks gear is high quality and his customer service is great. Save over 1 lb.

I used the Bearikade Weekender last summer and there was room for 7 days of food after resupplying at MTR. The Expedition has room for 9+ days. They are available to rent at reasonable prices (price based only on trail days). Save 10 ozs.

Silk long johns would only save about 1.5 ozs vs the Smartwool midweight, but they are multi-use. I wore mine at night instead of a silk bag liner and they doubled as warm clothes in the mornings on the trail. Save 6 ozs.

Aqua Mira repackaged in small plastic bottles would save 2 ozs.

It usually just rains in the late afternoons for an hour tops. A poncho would save 9 ozs vs. the Precip and would double as a pack cover.

If using a liner there's no need for a sleeping bag stuff sack. -1 oz.

Have you considered a windshirt?, usually around 2-3 ozs, amazing warmth for the weight.

This starts to get into personal preference, but a Caldera Cone with solid fuel (esbit) would save 11 oz just on the weight of your stove/cook pot/cup/fuel canister, plus there are major weight savings using esbit over liquid or gas (especially after resupply at MTR).

These would help shave 3 1/2 lbs off your base weight, plus lower the weight of fuel and the extra canisters by 1 lb at MTR (considering 2 canisters would probably be needed for the 10 days after the MTR resupply).

Not sure if this helps. Have fun!!

Megan McDuffie

Locale: So. Cal
Re: First Timer... JMT 2012 on 05/09/2012 13:28:38 MDT Print View

Andy, thanks for the suggestions!

I have not yet bought the tent, so I will definitely look into the Hexamid. I just checked out the site and their "set up" video and it looks like that might be the solution for me.

I'm also pretty ambivalent about my current stove set-up, esp. considering the 10 day stretch. I have looked into and am still considering the Caldera systems, as well as esbit stoves (like the Vargo triad). I have also not bought the pot yet, so this is all very flexible.

Regarding clothing, I am a hiking skirt gal, so I do need a little extra warmth for my legs in the AM that I'm not sure silk long johns will give. I could be wrong though! I'll do some early AM walks in the upcoming weeks to try them out. I do use a windshirt, but I generally count it as a "worn" item as I use it as sun protection instead of having to goop up my arms with sunscreen.

Thank you again for the input, I greatly appreciate it :)

Michael Levine
(Trout) - F

Locale: Long Beach
Re: First-timer... JMT 2012 on 05/09/2012 16:16:56 MDT Print View

Sierra Designs - Vapor 15 - Short. You shouldn't need more than a 30 degree bag. I started August 1rst last year and my 30 degree was perfect except for one high altitude night spent after Forrester next to a frozen lake, even then, it worked.

You could shave a fair bit of weight by making a quilt. If you got something like the Katabatic Palisade for example you could step down from 28oz to 16.4. Sweet!

Hand Sanitizer -> I prefer just soap, but to each their own.

maybe leave the baby wipes out to dry, just put some water on em when you need them.

Do you need your phone?

Ula Catalyst is 42 ounces, SMD swift is like 20 with stays in it. Zpacks blast is under 10oz. Something to consider.

Also I hated using trash compactor bags as water protection. No idea why but mine ALWAYS get holes in them (well, slits like they've been sliced by something sharp). I'm debating making a cuben drybag to address my issue, you might want the same.

Look into making an alcohol stove and save quite a bit of weight. Cat can stove is what I used last time, it's under an ounce, takes about an ounce of fuel to boil 2-3 cups of water. The important part is: it's super light itself, and no canisters to carry around.

Have fun! Evolution lake is beautiful and if you can stay there a night I'd recommend it, the sunsets and sunrises there were my favorite part. Also bring some cash for breakfast in Tuolumne, and in case you need to buy something there after your first day. I opted to swap out sleeping pads as mine deflated.

I'd second the windshirt, they're awesome

Edited by Trout on 05/09/2012 16:17:30 MDT.

Susan Papuga
(veganaloha) - M

Locale: USA
Re: First-timer... JMT 2012 on 05/10/2012 02:54:01 MDT Print View


I'm not sure what your budget is, but if you ar thinking of a few new gear items, you might reconsider your pack. At 42 oz, it's a bit heavy. As a comparison, the GoLite 50L Jam 2012 is about 30 oz and the 35L Jam is 26 oz. Both are priced half-off now at and if you open an online account (free) with them and submit a review of any item on their site, they will immediately send you a 20% off coupon.

No, I don't work for GoLite, but I have a 2011 50L Pinnacle (same as this year's Jam) and a 2011 35L Jam. Both are great packs and carry well. I did a thru-hike last year on the CT with my Pinnacle and it worked really great. I'm doing the JMT this year in August, so I may see you there, and I will probably use the Pinnacle again. BTW, it sounds like we're similar stature, I'm 5'-2" and 110 lbs.

Be that as it may, there are other UL packs out there that weigh even less, but I found that none of the cottage industry guys made a pack to fit me, so I went with the GoLites.

Bear can - you might find the BV500 is more than you need. I also was going to use the BV500, but then another poster here clued me into the fact that a bear can is not needed for the entire 10 day section leaving MTR SOBO to Whitney Portal. So you could start with a few days worth of food outside the can, but it a locksack for example to be safe. Once I found this out, I opted for ther BV450 instead. That would save you 8 ounces.

Tent. I have the Gossamer Gear The One, which with lines and stakes, totals just under 18 ounces. Although I had some issues with it on the CT, I had some work done on it by GG and I plan on taking it on JMT this year.

I think the other posters here offered some good tips on your other gear.

Hope this helps.

Scott Bentz
(scottbentz) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
First-timer...JMT 2012 on 05/10/2012 17:13:44 MDT Print View


I also agree: 15lbs for first try is great. I also agree that you can cut a few ounces out and get it down more but may cost money which may or may not be an issue. There are lighter packs by half.

On my JMT I used a GG Mariposa Plus, the old style, and it weighs 18 oz.

I think. I also use a GG The One tent. I now use a tarp almost all the time for even more ounce savings unless I know there will be a lot of bugs. You won't have that problem the time you are going. Funny thing about shelter. When I was a kid we always spent time water skiing at Shaver Lake. We ALWAYS slept outside under the stars except for the rare rain shower. When I started packing I wanted a shelter but then just made the choice to sleep under the stars whenever possible, which is probably 85% of the time. So, if I can sleep under the stars most of the time, a tarp seems like quite the shelter. That helped me shave about 11 ounces off of my shelter weight even though The One is one of the lightest out there.

I used Western Mountaineering Summerlite bag. I think it weighs in at 20 oz. or so. I do not use a stuff sack. I place it loose inside the pack. With your puffy layer you should be fine with lighter bags.

Your 15 lbs. is fine for some parts of the trip since you are only carrying a few days of food. However, when you leave MTR with a resupply you will really feel it. Any savings beforehand can really help.

Nice job on your list.

Robin McKay
(rlmckay) - M

Locale: Auckland NZ
Re: First-timer... JMT 2012 on 05/11/2012 02:39:11 MDT Print View

Megan - I am in NZ - I did the JMT in August last year.

I did Yosemity to Red Medows and the on to Whitney - 10Kgs each leg. Some thoughts...

You do NOT need a tent - I slept under the stars every night in a MLD Superlight Biv Bag - But also carried a tarp (Public camp grounds at Yosemity, Tuolume Medows and Whitney) - never used on the trail - weather perfect for 18 days! BUT we had late "bugs" so have some netting sleeping and eating (head net).

We never treated water (maybe the first day out of Yosemity and the last day down Whitney). Water is OK if taken above the trail of snow.

Feel free to email me for gear suggestions at

Robin McKay
(rlmckay) - M

Locale: Auckland NZ
Re: First-timer... JMT 2012 on 05/11/2012 02:45:22 MDT Print View

Megan - I am in NZ - I did the JMT in August last year.

I did Yosemity to Red Medows and the on to Whitney - 10Kgs each leg. Some thoughts...

You do NOT need a tent - I slept under the stars every night in a MLD Superlight Biv Bag - But also carried a tarp (Public camp grounds at Yosemity, Tuolume Meadows and Whitney) - never used on the trail - weather perfect for 18 days! BUT we had late "bugs" so have some form of netting for sleeping and eating (head net).

You really should consider a tarp - Gossamer Gear is a good start - Pack should be no more that 45 Ltrs - Gossamer Gear Gorilla was perfect 4 me, or if you need more, ULA Circuit - The most popular I saw on the trail - I use to have one but to much volume!

Sleeping bag - Western Mountaineering Summerlight.
Wear your clothes if cold - never did.

Don't wear boots - trail runner best.

We never treated water (maybe the first day out of Yosemity and the last day down Whitney). Water is OK if taken above the trail off snow.

Feel free to email me for gear suggestions at or check my blog at

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: First-timer... JMT 2012 on 05/11/2012 13:42:38 MDT Print View

What Robin neglected to say was that last year was a big snow year, so there was still lots of snow in August, so it wasn't too hard to find snow still melting off.

This year it looks like a very low snow year, so the snow may be gone early, so meltwater might be a lot harder to find.


Megan McDuffie

Locale: So. Cal
Re: on 05/11/2012 16:06:47 MDT Print View

Thanks guys! You all have really given me a lot to think about and look into. I will definately have to play around with the idea of changing up my sleep system, since that seems to be the most obvious place to cut weight.

I am hesitant to change up the pack, merely because it fits me so well and is comfortable despite the fact it is a little on the heavy side compared to some of the other packs out there. Perhaps I can downgrade to the Circut... I'm assuming the fit will be similar since they are both ULA packs, and that would save me 10oz.

Robin - the mosquitos were awful last August, I can't beleive I left a head net off my list! I'm hoping they won't linger so long this year since the snowpack won't last as long into the season.

I wear a pair of Vasque Mindbenders instead of boots - can't stand boots!

Sam Sockwell
(sockwellsam) - MLife
stove?? on 06/03/2012 08:10:01 MDT Print View

Another JMT first timer leaving a month earlier than you: I am a cannister guy currently wondering about options reading the BPL threads about alcohol caldera Esbit etc. But I keep wondering: we often really cook stuff, say pasta, in addition to heating water for coffee or oatmeal or cous cous. Can Esbit take care of a 1.9 L pot and cooking for two people? or just not realistic? I'd love to get away from cannisters, but they are so convenient and so quick

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: stove?? on 06/03/2012 11:56:37 MDT Print View

"Can Esbit take care of a 1.9 L pot and cooking for two people?"

A single Esbit cube won't cut it, but multiple cubes may do the trick.

In order to cook a big pot, some people stack the cubes horizontally before lighting. Others set them vertically, side-by-side. This just gives you a bigger fireball.

You might ask the question about whether a 1.9L pot is necessary. Something closer to 1.0L might be sufficient, and it will cook or boil faster.

Esbit works good for solo cooking.


Sam Sockwell
(sockwellsam) - MLife
1.9 L on 06/03/2012 12:37:02 MDT Print View

Multi Esbit approach worthy of research.

Did not know 1.9L was a lot. For us, cooking a big pot of spaghetti takes most of the pot.


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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: 1.9 L on 06/03/2012 12:55:11 MDT Print View

My personal rule of thumb is that I use a cook pot equivalent to 0.5L per person or very slightly larger.

Certainly you can use 1.9L for spaghetti. However, that is a lot of water to boil, and that takes a lot of heat, so Esbit may come up a bit short, even if you use multiple cubes burning at once.

Now, what one friend does is this. She takes the dry pasta and soaks it in cold water (typically in a big plastic bag) for a couple of hours as soon as she reaches camp. This softens the pasta somewhat. Then when it is almost dinner time, she cooks it briefly over the stove. I think that pasta still needs that small amount of cooking. This method reduces the cooking time and hence, the fuel amount. I ate the pasta, and I could not tell any different from the normal cooking method.

When I am trying to get by with low cooking and small cook pots, I eat the same amount, but there are several small courses instead of one big one.


Sam Sockwell
(sockwellsam) - MLife
Pre hydrate spaghetti on 06/03/2012 13:03:43 MDT Print View

This is a good idea.

Charles Potter

Locale: Northern Cal
Freestanding tent in the sierras in august on 06/08/2012 00:23:30 MDT Print View

After several days of rain on two separate August trips to the Sierras, i vowed never against to take a non-freestanding tent at that time of the year there especially getting into kings canyon region. Rain storms are common and you may need to sit things out. One day there was hail so great that it looked like it snowed. I have a tarp tent that I reserve for more predictable weather conditions (eg Joshua tree, cal coast after viewing the weather report). I love it for that. Maybe if I had just one bad experience I'd not share this, but after two times and then becoming aware that sierra monsoon patterns are common, I like to have a pop-up anywhere double walled tent (albeit still very light) in the sierras. Hope I don't get too much flak from the ULs for confessing this, but a single wall tarp was scary on the side of the mountain ridge (due to the normal camp area being flooded and the tiny stream now an impenetrable rush of water) especially dripping on your UL down bag.

Brian Lindahl
(lindahlb) - MLife

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Freestanding tent in the sierras in august on 06/10/2012 10:02:59 MDT Print View

I'm not sure if I'd consider 'fear' a good reason to add weight. You survived and you were fine right? What size tarp did you bring? That may have been part of the problem. The 5x8 tarps are quite subpar in terms of coverage.

I've spent plenty of nights in similar Colorado monsoons/thunderstorms in summer under an 8x10 tarp, and never had a real concern. Fear goes away with more experience - once you know that the crazy storm you're watching just 1' away from your face doesn't mean you won't have a nice warm night, it becomes quite exciting and fun to watch.

I'm not saying a tarp is a good solution for the OP, but it sounds like you gave up a bit too easily. As they say, 'Hike Your Own Hike', and if you want to carry the extra weight to have more comfort, go for it.

Anthony Weston
(anthonyweston) - MLife

Locale: Southern CA
mld on 06/10/2012 12:32:39 MDT Print View

The contrail is a good tent, I had one in hail on Mount Whitney which then turned into rain and caused a flood on the ground and I was dry.
But if I were doing the JMT I'd be using a mld duomid (I like to have a tarp so that if it blows in sideways I'm still dry)I suppose a six moon design wild oasis would work, a 15 degree quilt (I'm a cold sleeper) and a zpacks Exo or HMG porter.
But you buy what you can and you use what works for you.
The most weight would be food and water.

Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
Re: stove?? on 06/21/2012 19:36:06 MDT Print View

I've used esbit for solo trips, but I wouldn't bother for two people. You can boil a liter on two tablets; I've tried that. It works great if what you are doing is boiling water and you're done, but for more than that it's not so great. You just can't start and stop like you can with a canister stove. I have also played around with alcohol stoves and came to a similar conclusion - fine for solo water boiling, not so much for two people who may want to cook something, and who might like some flame control, and might want to just heat a little more water for a cup of tea.

Eileen Duncan
(eileensd) - MLife

Locale: The Sierra or the SF Bay Area
JMT 2012 1st timer's thoughts on 06/24/2012 17:43:50 MDT Print View


I'll also be on the JMT this summer (late July - mid Aug.). I'm trying to be as conscientious as possible, but the more closely I look, the more I realize how far from truly UL I am! Oh well, I guess the first step is awareness ;)

Anyway, here are some thoughts re: your post and a few subsequent comments. In some cases, I'm not commenting directly on the weight factor.

Tent/shelter - absolutely. Summer in the Sierra... though I have no doubt people spend 3 weeks on the JMT and hardly see a drop, I have experienced many rainy nights, long-lasting afternoon thunder/hail storms, 4 consecutive days during which it seemed to never stop raining, hail the size of marbles... Not that you are considering ditching a shelter, but still.

Sanitation - Wipes, "soap," hand gel, etc. aren't needed. A good scrub w/bandana, gravel along the creek bed, and water should do just fine.

Sleeping bag - With insulating layers on, I've been cold in my 15 degree women's Marmot Angel Fire in Aug. in the Sierra. Granted, it could just be my particular bag (and I'm hoping to buy something warmer and lighter for the JMT this summer), but if you're a cold sleeper I wouldn't go to 30 degrees. I'm curious if there are lean women out there who feel otherwise.

Sleeping bag stuff sack - Like the various bags that come with many tents, it's not needed. Just stuff your bag in the bottom of your pack.

Thank you for posting your gear list as a pdf. I'm currently using it to compare items/weights against my own (unfinished) list!

Happy planning :)