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JMT first timer trying to get down to 15lb!
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Eileen Duncan
(eileensd) - MLife

Locale: The Sierra or the SF Bay Area
JMT first timer trying to get down to 15lb! on 06/26/2012 12:12:27 MDT Print View

Thoughts/advice... to get down to 15lb (or below!)??

I'm doing the JMT this summer for the first time (north -> south, July-Aug). First time thru hike too - although I attempted the TRT a few years ago but was sidelined after ~70 miles with terrible blisters that took all the joy out of this solo hike. I presume my pack was too heavy (~35+) and covering 25 miles on day 2 was not a great idea. So, now I'm older and wiser (hopefully ;) Anyway, I would LOVE your feedback on my gear list. It is linked under my profile and on the Community Gear Lists page. I'm feeling a little overwhelmed by all the details/decisions! I added some notes/questions below.

Gear list items in green are either purchases I'm considering in order to lighten my pack or things I'm undecided about (see notes).

New sleeping bag/down jacket... I currently have a Marmot Angle fire 15 degree bag and a Marmot Venus down jacket, both are too heavy and neither is warm enough. I am a cold sleeper and worry about being chilled in the evenings b/c my Icebreaker base layer is pretty light. Montbell UL down jacket and Sierra Designs Vapor 15 seem to be good choices for the $, weight, & warmth, no?

Hiking top/sun protection - I like to hike in sleeveless tops, but I'm concerned it may mean 1oz is not enough sunscreen. I think my light-weight long-sleeved insulating layer could also provide some sun protection. I've considered bringing a super light long-sleeved button up top, but this would be yet *another* top. Could the OR Helium jacket offer sun protection or would I end up sweating bullets?

ExPed pad - When I look at my list it seems ridiculous I'm considering this item. It weighs a ton (well, a pound), but I would sleep like a baby every night and I'm a big sleeper. Frankly, I love this thing and I'm looking for a way to justify bringing it! My 13oz prolite 3 pad would only shave 3.6 ounces and a whole lota comfort. I have a z lite too, but I wake up constantly with achy hips/shoulders.

SteriPen - I'm pretty sure I'll ditch it for AquaMira. It's too heavy and requires batteries, though I love its ease and have used it tons with no problems. Better for shorter backpacking trips, I guess.

AquaMira question - What do you carry it in? I've carried it in its original square plastic container, and once the seam split on one of the bottles and all the liquid leaked out. Not good.

3-cup pot and cozy - This may look excessive (just cooking for 1) but the combo weighs only .05oz more than my SnowPeak Trek 700 mug. My thought is that the capacity of the pot and simmering function the cozy affords make it worth it.

Tent - I know, it's heavy and I can't really ever be truly UL with a tent in my pack... but I don't yet feel ready to make the leap to something else. Something psychological is going on here ;) And I just bought it and can't return it... and need to spend the money I have remaining on a lighter sleeping bag & jacket.

Thank you so much for your input!

Edited by eileensd on 06/26/2012 13:45:55 MDT.

Michael Duke
(mpd1690) - F
Re: JMT first timer trying to get down to 15lb! on 06/26/2012 13:03:35 MDT Print View

Here is what I would remove or replace:

Rain pants- Remove. How much rain are you expecting? Even in the smokies, I never bring any rain pants.

Shoes- Maybe go with something more breathable and lighter to avoid blisters.

Insulated mug- Remove. Lots of other options discussed here that are much lighter if you like to carry an extra cup for hot drinks.

Plastic Trowel- Remove or replace

Footprint- Remove. The floor of your shelter is waterproof. Even if that was not the case, my understanding (Never been to the Sierras) is that you would have to camp in a lake for there to be any soggy ground underneath you.

A few more comments:

I'd recommend going with some type of sleeved shirt. I always wear long sleeves, and roll or push the sleeves up if I don't need the sun protection. Much more versatile, and you do not have to worry about your arms burning.

You could also get by with just the pair of sleeping socks and normal socks. You can wash one and dry it while wearing the other. That way one is always fairly clean.


I'd also recommend bringing a fire steel or some kind of extra fire starter.

Edited by mpd1690 on 06/26/2012 13:08:31 MDT.

Eileen Duncan
(eileensd) - MLife

Locale: The Sierra or the SF Bay Area
Re: Re: JMT first timer trying to get down to 15lb! on 06/26/2012 13:56:08 MDT Print View

Thanks for your suggestions.

I think you're right on the rain pants. I always bring them (safety first!), but truth be told, the only time I've actually worn them was when I was sitting all day doing trail work in the rain. On the trail, I've pitched the tent to sit out terrible weather; but on a thru hike, I'm just wondering about being confronted with consecutive days of wet weather. But, really, what are the chances...

Shoes - yeah, I've been thinking about this. Lately I've wondered about just going in my running shoes. They certainly worked well (never got a blister) through two marathons and all the training involved. But then again, I wasn't carrying a pack!

Mug - good idea, will look into lighter alternatives

Trowel - Given digging 6-8" cat holes is a must for me, what else would do the job?

Foot print - Hmmm. Good point. I am interested in hearing others' opinions on this.

Socks - will probably follow your suggestion

xtra fire starter - yes

Thanks again!

Terry G
(delvxe) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
more thoughts on 06/26/2012 15:39:02 MDT Print View

The footprint was the first thing that caught my eye. I haven't used one in many years and never had a problem with either of my silnylon tents in the Pacific Northwest. That is an easy one.

i wouldn't sweat the pot - it is pretty light already. You could go .5 oz lighter with the MLD 850 pot, but for $50 is not really worth it. You could go way down to one of the Evernew 400 mugs to cook with and save a couple of ounces.

The sleeping bag is a pretty individual thing. I am surprised that my wife finds the WM ultralite not warm enough at 30 degrees. I don't know much about the Vapor 15, the Montbell super spiral 3 is a little lighter with a similar rating or the super spiral 1 is a bit heavier and a bit warmer. I assume you are fully informed on keeping your head warm and going to bed with a decent meal, etc.

The pad is heavy, but heck it is really expensive to get something lighter like the neoair small and it doesn't seem like the foam pad is a real option for you.

I don't take a trowel either. I use a stick / rock / heel as appropriate. For $30ish you could get one of the ti trowels (

I agree that you could easily leave the rain pants behind.

You could cut your fuel weight by picking up a caldera cone for your pot making for a more efficient stove.

Sounds like a lot of fun!

Michael Duke
(mpd1690) - F
Re: more thoughts on 06/26/2012 17:04:54 MDT Print View

Terry put it well. I have heard that a snow stake will work well also.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: more thoughts on 06/26/2012 17:46:38 MDT Print View

An excellent cathole trowel is an SMC aluminum snow stake. It is aluminum with big holes in it, it is easy to dig a good hole with it, and you can use it as an extra tent stake if you need that. They cost a few bucks at REI. It's heavier than anything titanium, but it is a little more general purpose.

Also, my rain pants weigh 2.45 ounces. I don't know that I would want to carry rain pants that are heavier unless I really planned on a lot of use.


Eileen Duncan
(eileensd) - MLife

Locale: The Sierra or the SF Bay Area
Re: more thoughts on 06/27/2012 14:08:43 MDT Print View

Thanks for your comments. I'll ditch the footprint, for sure. I researched the Montbell super spiral 3 but don't remember why I decided the Vapor 15 might be the better choice. It's hard to keep track of so much simultaneous, spontaneous research... I think maybe it came down to price. I'll go back and take another look though.

The trowel/cat-hole issue is one in and of itself. I have to say, as much as my sense of urgency has tried to convince me otherwise on many occasions, no combination of rock, stick, and/or heel has gotten me much deeper than 3" below the surface. Even with my sturdy iPood trowel it takes a lot of effort. I can't imagine digging an 8" hold with my heel. Well, maybe in sand. The JMT's mean elevation is lower than where I tend to spend extended trips though, so the digging may be softer. Still, I like the snow stake idea another poster mentioned (though it sounds hard on the hands). The ti trowel looks good too, for a chunk of change.

I'll look into the caldera cone too.

Thanks again!

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: more thoughts on 06/27/2012 14:15:30 MDT Print View

"Still, I like the snow stake idea another poster mentioned (though it sounds hard on the hands)."

Look at a photo of the SMC snow stake. You will see that there is a rounded area at the top that is intended to hold a guyline, and it is easy to push with your hand.

In general, you are trying to get a hole that is about six inches deep. There are reasons for this, but it doesn't need to be much deeper, and it shouldn't be much shallower.