View Full Version : First shake down hike

08-25-2014, 11:21
I've spent the last few months researching gear and buying most of it (still need to decide on a pack and some little things). Planning to do a 2 night hike starting Wednesday this week (to avoid the holiday weekend crowds) to start to get comfortable with my gear outside of my backyard. It will be my first actual backpacking trip - I've car camped, and day hiked, but never really carried everything with me. I have a friend who lives on the trail in North Adams, MA so I'm thinking of doing a few days up that way. It's my first real step towards a 2015 start that involves more than just spending money :)

08-25-2014, 11:52
Good luck - keep a notebook and track everything you use, don't use, and wish you had. Take pics of your gear (packed and unpacked). Maybe even videotape the packing of your bag and review & evaluate after the shakedown.

Also helps to have a detailed weigh-in of all the items, systems, bags, packs, straps, etc. so you can refine and tune your load plan.

08-25-2014, 14:39
Tracking what I use, don't use and wish I had is a great idea! Thanks :) I'm hoping the rest I can do more or less mentally with a few days of trying things out and seeing what works and doesn't

08-25-2014, 14:43
If you can get dropped off somewhere south and hike north into North Adams that would be a nice section. Say, 25 miles or so, not sure where that starts, but the climb up and over Greylock will be a good intro to the trail. Another option would be to start at NA and hike to Rt 9 outside Bennington.

Have fun!

08-25-2014, 15:32
Thanks for the tip. I'm somewhat trying to avoid Greylock since it's a holiday weekend and, even though I'm going midweek, I feel like it might be a bit more crowded than middle of nowhere, southern VT :) I figured if I'm going to be figuring things out, no need to let others get amused at my lack of skill. I'm sure I could get my friend to drop me off but I need to plan a bit more and, you know, actually ask him (kind of going under the assumption right now that he won't care if there is a car in his yard for a few days :)). A one way hike is definitely more fun than an out and back though so I'll talk to him tonight

08-25-2014, 17:52
Well, if he's in North Adams he could drop you at Rt 9 and you could walk back south. You can leave your car at the Greylock Community Center for two nights (there is a place to sign in.) The first climb out of Rt 9 will definitely get your attention (though we did it norhtbound and downhill so maybe that was worse -- I often find going uphill easier.) After that it's not bad. Nice section.

08-27-2014, 21:00
Honestly, the top may be filled with tourists, but the actual climb itself will probably be fine. I will say, though, be careful crossing the road (on the trail)...Some of the people are flying on that road and there's a lot blind corners!

Odd Man Out
08-27-2014, 22:24
I've spent the last few months researching gear and buying most of it (still need to decide on a pack and some little things). Planning to do a 2 night hike starting Wednesday this week (to avoid the holiday weekend crowds) to start to get comfortable with my gear outside of my backyard. It will be my first actual backpacking trip - I've car camped, and day hiked, but never really carried everything with me. I have a friend who lives on the trail in North Adams, MA so I'm thinking of doing a few days up that way. It's my first real step towards a 2015 start that involves more than just spending money :)

I too have done a lot of car camping and day hiking, and after spending years of thinking, planning, and gear-buying, went on a multi-day hike earlier this summer (first in long time). Found I had some gear I didn't need. Found other systems could maybe be improved. I'm constantly reading suggestions and reviews here and on other sites. When I see a piece of gear or suggestion I think might be a good idea, I save it in the GEAR folder of my web browser bookmarks. Then I go through the list from time to time and pick out ideas to keep, some to delete, and maybe something to buy for the next trip. Today's "big" purchase were some odor barrier food bags and pack liners as I found my food bag was getting pretty ripe after 4 days and I thought my bag liner was bigger and heavier than necessary.

Speakeasy TN
08-28-2014, 10:54
Great suggestion on the used/didn't use list. I will add that I have my BoC (bag of crap) that has just in case written all over it. Clippers tweezers band-aids, spare laces, vitamin I, ........ Not used on overnight but useful on a thru.

And don't worry about other people watching you set up. Weekenders won't be around at end of day and the rest of us are in this together! We ALL look foolish throwing a line for a food bag and all look the same on our knees setting up tents. I guarantee you will both get and give help out there.

08-29-2014, 10:04
Thanks everyone. Got back yesterday. I ended up convincing a friend to come with me which was both a blessing and a curse. It was good to have someone there other than my dog but my friend's shoes were a half size too small for hiking (which I just went through and know how much that sucks) so we only did one night. I also thought I learned a fair amount so accomplished what I needed to for the time being. I slept in my tent with my dog, my friend slept in the shelter with one other person there who went to bed at like 6 and left before the sun came up. I packed more like I would have on a thru than specifically for hiking a few days - probably the only difference would be a bit more food. Went nobo out of North Adams to the first shelter in VT, then hiked back. Drove up the road to Greylock and it does look nice up there (and it was 11 degrees cooler than down below) - I'll have to earn actually spending some time at the top :)

What went well:
Tent (Tarptent Double Rainbow) - setup/tear down were easy. No condensation and I slept with my dog in it. For the thru I could probably drop to just the Rainbow but I have had several friends say they want to join me for part and two people in a Rainbow sounds awful - the Double Rainbow would be tight enough.
Sleeping bag (Big Agnes Belllyache Mountain SL) - Warm, comfortable, easy, no concerns. Might want a liner in the cold weather
Food/bear bag (AntiGravityGear UL Deluxe Bear Bag System - includes Opsak) - No concerns and size should be about right. Hung it using the PCT method which will take some practice but overall went pretty well. The other guy in the shelter was hanging his food even though there was a sign in the shelter saying the bear box is locked because there has been no problem bear activity in the area since 2009 and people use it as a dumpster. I hung mine more as a courtesy to him than because of the bears. But it stayed up all night which was considering it was my first one and it was a little windy
Shoes (Salomon XA Pro 3D) and socks (basic EMS merino crew height) - no complaints at all which is great. Feet felt good, socks were dry a little while after we got into camp
Water filter (Sawyer Squeeze) - quick, easy, no concerns. Carried 2L at a time in two 1L bottles picked up at the gas station on the way. Should be enough.
Stove (Caldera Cone, alcohol stove, Toaks 850mL titanium pot) - again, no complaints. Might try to figure out a more compact way to carry the Caldera Cone itself, but overall quick and easy

Gear to Refine:
Sleeping pad (Therm-a-rest Ridgerest SOlite) - I'd probably get used to it after a few days on the trail but I'm thinking an air pad would be better
Shirt - going to try a merino wool
Need to slim down my first aid kit. I knew that already - just had a standard, off the shelf first aid kit and didn't go through it at all.
Poles are still a question mark for me. I brought a 5+ year old set of Walmart poles I had with me and didn't use them most of the time. Meh
Need a different pack. Knew this already too - the one I have (LL Bean White Mountain) is several years old and seems pretty inefficient with all of the pockets and garbage it has on it, not to mention the main compartment seems small for the size of the bag. The current design is different, but the current design weighs 5lbs 8oz. Lots of opportunity there

Lessons Learned (Gear):
Compression straps are a must for a sleeping bag. I tried to just shove it into the bag at first and it was still taking up a ton of room. Stole the compression bag from an old sleeping bad I had and it turned into a pancake. Need to look into lighter compression bags
Brought an extra Ziplok to put food garbage that I then kept inside the Opsak. Seemed to work well.
I think I should stick my cook pot in with my Opsak and fill it with food. I just had it on its own in the bag, empty taking up extra room.
Camp shoes are not necessary. I brought a pair of sandals and didn't actually change into them until right before bed. They're nice, but a fresh pair of socks would do the trick
Using a garbage bag inside my pack to keep everything in was helpful, though my tent and sleeping bag didn't fit within it. If I want everything to fit I would need a full size bag, not just a kitchen bag
Using a down jacket as a pillow isn't so bad as long as the stuff sack stays closed

Lessons Learned (General):
VT is always going to be muddy. I don't understand why, but it has barely rained this summer and it was still somewhat muddy. I imagine in the Spring with the snow melting and rain it's going to be disgusting
There are a lot of mice in shelters
My dog is a giant baby and doesn't like sleeping outside. He kept wanting to figure out what the noises he heard were, would growl at some of them, and didn't want to sleep on the ground so kept trying to climb on my sleeping bag or steal some sleeping pad. He'll get used to the noises if I keep taking him, and I'm thinking he can inherit my existing sleeping pad when I get a new one, but I'm pretty sure he didn't sleep.

Questions/more research needed:
What is the best way to get clean/not disgusting? Wednesday was mid 80s in town so I was sweating a fair amount, plus we hiked through mud, so by the time we got to the shelter I felt pretty gross. I tried to use my Sawyer Squeeze as somewhat of a shower and used the small camp towel I brought as kind of a washcloth, and it went ok, but there may be a better way.
Is there a way to clean the clothes I wore while hiking? I brought an extra set for sleeping, but only one set to hike in, and I'm going to guess that they wouldn't smell good after a few days. Does rinsing them with water help at all?
What are some good things to bring for lunch that aren't in bar form?

Things I didn't use but still need - TP, small Swiss Army Knife, bug spray, down jacket
Things I carried but wouldn't take with me on my thru - trowel (used it to bury dog poop, not really needed for me), possibly my Kind Fire HD (though it would be nice, might be able to get by with just a phone), dog food, sheet for dog to sleep on
What I didn't carry but would - rain gear, a long sleeve base layer depending on weather

08-29-2014, 10:47
Nice, looks like you took some serious notes and learned a lot!

A new pack seems like a must. You can really lose a lot of weight there, AND get something that is nice and comfortable - which is important, since you'll be wearing it for months on end. I love my ULA Ohm 2.0, but that's just one man's opinion.

Instead of using a trash bag for a liner, get some trash compactor bags. They're large and super durable. You can really cram them full and not have to worry about breaking them. Also, don't try to put everything inside the liner bag, just the things that need to stay dry - clothes, sleeping bag and pad, maybe the body of your tent.

Instead of getting a liner for your bag, consider just wearing your down coat to bed. You'd have to get something else for a pillow if you want one - I use a LuminAid lantern - but it's better to have multiuse items rather than more single use. Although, a liner is nice to keep your bag clean and can be washed easily in town.

Hiking poles used to baffle me. Watch this video and you'll see the proper way to use them to get any real advantage: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KgmgxuEkN30

As for staying clean, my solution is baby wipes. I'm more of an afternoon pooper instead of a morning person, so I like to set up camp, do my business and then clean with a baby wipe. As Shug says, "I clean down and THEN back." You get the picture. This way, I get to go to bed kind of de-sweated.

Clothes are always going to get gross. You'll get used to it, and might even come to revel in your own stink.

You should definitely weigh your gear and keep track of it. Seeing is believing when it comes to those hard decisions. There are several websites where you can do this, or there's always Excel.

Post your first aid kit if you want ideas on what to cut.

08-29-2014, 12:40
Thanks for the words! For my pack, I have been researching and have been looking at ULA packs along with a few others. My only real concern is that I can't actually try any of them on in the store as the ones that seem to be tops on here all get ordered. Within the next few weeks I'll pick up a new pack though.

Is there a reason not to just put everything in a compactor bag? Why keep some things out? Just to keep the size of the bag small?

A liner is definitely going to depend on what the weather looks like this year. If it looks like it's going to be cold and the jacket won't be enough, I'll add a liner until it warms up. If it's more of a mild year then no liner for me. I am generally warm so probably will be fine with just clothes and a bag, but we'll have to see.

Great video on the poles thanks! I'm definitely more used to reaching out ahead of me with poles from years of skiing

Honestly I don't even know what's in the first aid kit. I just brought it because I had it. When I go to put one together for real I'll do my research on here :)

When I get more final with everything I'll weigh what I have. As I've been buying I've been doing plenty of researching and balancing cost/weight/comfort. I'm sure I'll have an opportunity to save weight but I'm not going to let it stress me out. I won't be the lightest, but I won't be the heaviest, and I'm ok with that

08-29-2014, 12:45
Your dog needs his own sleeping pad. Not for comfort, but for warmth - the ground sucks the heat right out of you. If you get an air mattress, you can cut that Ridgerest in half and carry it for the dog.

Cleanup: just get a bottle of water and a bandana and give yourself a sponge bath. We do this every night on the trail, even in cold weather. Makes all the difference in the world. If there is a creek, you can stand in it and do this, just don't use soap or do it right where people get water.

Clothing: just the one set for hiking. Yes, they will stink after a day or two, let alone five. You get used to it. :) Worst part is putting on cold, soaking wet hiking clothes at the start of the day, especially in colder weather. This is one reason I hike in merino wool.

Lunch: cheese! A block of very sharp cheddar lasts for days in my pack. I like it with summer sausage, or jerky, or pepperoni, and serve with crackers or flour tortillas. Another favorite lunch is one of those tuna pouches, wrapped in a tortilla with cheese and maybe a couple of mayo packets.

Definitely need rain gear and a long sleeve shirt, even in the summer. We've had plenty of hot days turn into very cold afternoons when a storm blows up.

I'd recommend finding a pack with an internal frame, capacity around 60 liters, weighing under 3 pounds. There are plenty of choices, and this size will carry pretty much anything you need, while cutting 3 pounds from your overall pack weight. Take a look at the ULA Circuit, which is a very popular pack among long distance hikers and for good reason.

Glad you had a good time!

08-31-2014, 22:41
Is there a reason not to just put everything in a compactor bag? Why keep some things out? Just to keep the size of the bag small?

I like to only put the things I really want to keep dry in there: down items, hammock, clothes. That way, I can roll the top over several times, to ensure I'll keep water out. Other than those things, I've just got stuff that I don't much care if it gets wet: food bag (I use a OpSak, so things pretty much stay dry in there anyway), cook kit, water filter, rain gear, tarp, first aid (in a freezer ziplock, with the double seals).

It's really a way for me to focus on keeping the really important items dry. Also, there's little chance I'll need anything in the dry bag until I'm in camp with the tarp set up. I'll definitely want my food, etc., though, so it's best if they're not in the dry storage - no sense in keeping a dry compartment that you have to open up in a rainstorm to get at your food or first aid kit.