As the title suggests, originally the plan was to hit up Guadalupe Mountains National Park from this past Sunday through the end of the day today. However, forces outside my party's control considered to put the kibosh on those plans and threatened to scuttle any plans to backpack at all. One of our intrepid gang of 4 had to work starting midnight tonight (midnight 26th) so we chose Lost Maples as a closer alternative. Now traditionally I'd give a rather lengthy breakdown of what happened, however, I think instead of talking about the park (which is great by the way, and a fun couple days of hiking to be sure) I'll just hit on the big take-aways from the trip.
1. Sleeping Bags Rated to 40* are Cold as Hell at 35* (aka How We All Froze Our T*ts Off)
I could have predicted this. In fact I did but in the interests of testing some gear (my personal reason for under-bagging) I left my 0* MH Lamina at home (fact: that's a lie, I left it at home because I'm more concerned with weight than my own health at times). However other members of my party were told "bring better bags" and cries of "I sleep warm!" could be heard echoing on the bitter cold wind at about 4am Sunday night as everyone shivered away. Exped SynMat UL and SynMat Basics performed flawlessly, warmly, and probably were all that stood between us and hypothermia as the mercury dipped below 40 for a solid 5 hours that first night.
Moral: The Exped Dreamwalker Syn 166 is a great bag if the temps stay around 45 at the coldest part of the night. Also handy for all those "zip open the arms, turn it into a camp coat" reasons. It's not ultralight but I also bought it before I got into shedding ounces (note lack of "grams" because I'm not that OCD yet).
Action Item: I'm buying a 20* overstuffed Enlightened Equipment RevX quilt.
2. Meal Fail: Mountain House Beef Stew, MH Pancakes, Repackaged EZMac, Cliff Bars in the Morning
The stew was truly awful and the "beef" was, to the best of my knowledge, simply cubed tire retread found alongside some Texas highway. Pancakes turned into warmed-up "pancake gruel" that at once was both too sweet (the filling), bitter where it stuck to the non-stip Ti fry pan, and too much like uncooked pancakes (oh wait...). Repackaged EZMac n cheese will forever be known as "should have just brought Veleveeta Shells n Cheese. Next time. Definitely next time. Cliff bars are a great way to break your teeth off first thing in the 35 degree morning if you left them hanging in a food bag overnight. Take note, or take dentures.
3. Meal Wins: Oscar Meyer bacon bits, MH Beef Strogonoff (aka The Stroge), Jerky
Bacon bits really are the singlehanded winner of this trip. I stashed them with the EZMac but once people smelled the freshly opened package they had me adding it to everything. It really does make everything taste better (sorry Jews!) and was a great calorie booster and flavor enhancer. I was told "bring at least 3 bags of that next time). Strogonoff was generally tasty in a way most camp food isn't earning a nickname. Jerky, everyone's favorite, actually promoted everyone drinking more water considering it's a bit salty. I think it got us through one day that had a mileage close to 12 miles (we're noobs, that's a lot).
4. Sawyer Squeeze Wins (aka "This Water Tastes Like The Good Water at Your White Friends' House with the Fancy Fridge")
It made a believer out of myself (first trip with it) and 4 other people. We were filtering spring water sourced streams in a canyon with delight. Literal, unabashed, "this tastes like Brita water!" delight. The sources weren't cloudy so no idea how it would do with that, but it did a fantastic job filtering water we probably didn't need to filter despite having hard-to-fill bags and retaining enough water inside the filter, even after being shaken and blown through, to soak through my cargo pants pocket and dribble down on my ankle in 35 degree weather.
5. Why Does My $220 Pack Hurt, and His $70 External Frame Pack Carrying 2x the Weight Not Hurt?
I'm not ultralight. Not yet anyways. I'm getting there but a lot of my gear could shed some pounds. Switching to a quilt will save me 1.3 pounds, a lighter 2P freestanding tent would cut 2 pounds, and my pack itself as 3.5 pounds could easily be over a pound lighter without going frameless. So yes, I was a bit put off when my Arcteryx Axos 50 with all my generally lightweight kit felt about 2-3x heavier on my back than my friend's external pack loaded with at least 10 pounds more weight. It's not a competition, but clearly my sneaking suspicions about my pack not fitting or being made well for my body, were confirmed. I don't want to be someone who uses something for seasons, or even months, and takes it back to REI haggard. So it's going back before the next trip (new pack short list includes: Osprey Exos 58, ULA Circuit, REI Flash).
Anyhow, these were the big take-aways. Really I don't know who this post might help if they find it in the library of congress years from now, or even if someone on the forum finds it a couple minutes from now. But at least it's proof that I used my gear and got off the forum for a few days!
Merry Christmas, christians! ;-D
EDIT: Fixed typos.