As this is a pretty significant trip I spent a good deal of time making sure I had the right gear. This is my North Lake South Lake gear list. Weight is definitely important. I have spent the last couple of years reducing the overall weight that I carry. It’s not ultralight by any means, but I have reduced the base weight (pretty much everything except what you are wearing and consumables, such as water and food) to around 15 pounds. I find this particularly important as an older hiker. It eases the weight that the knees and ankles have to bear.
The main reduction in weight over the last couple of years has come from buying a new tent, sleeping quilt, and backpack. But I have also cut down on the amount of gear that I bring, by inventorying after a trip what I used and didn’t. I won’t make a compromise on safety. Sometimes I will take a luxury item, as I am primarily hiking for enjoyment, not for the lightest pack.
This is the complete set of gear, almost ready to pack. Notice the bear canister, this is required by regulations for Kings Canyon National Park and all the stored food and smellable items need to be stored in this overnight.
Here’s a walk-through of all the gear. Generally, I like to organize my gear into different dry sacks. I know this adds a little extra weight but I like to know where everything is.
Water and medical equipment
The yellow dry sack broadly has everything to do with water and medical equipment, The water filter I use is a Katadyn BeFree 3.0L. There are a couple of things I like about this. I can easily hang in and let it fill my water bottles (2x1L Smartwater bottles). I’ve added a little paracord so that I can actually hang the Smartwater bottles so I can have them fill unattended. This filters water pretty quickly and when I’m not hiking alone 3 liters is a good amount of water to be able to filter in one go. The downside is that I am already on the second filter, it seems to be quite sensitive to the quality of the water (siltiness) slowing down the filtration rate.
The medical kit is quite simple. The basic goal is to treat cuts and grazes and then be able to stop bleeding if anything bigger should occur. So it’s a couple of band-aids, alcohol wipes, Neosporin, and then basic medications – ibuprofen, antacids, allergy, and anti-diarrheal. Lightweight toothbrush and toothpaste.
Leukotape is a good all-purpose sports / strapping tape and well as useful to fix anything, so it’s multipurpose. It’s generally as sticky as heck, except at low temperatures, so it needs to warm up before use.
I knew that mosquitoes would possibly be an issue on this trip and so there is a head net and Picaridin. This is the first year I have used Picaridin instead of DEET products and it’s a big improvement, far less greasy and equally effective.
A few other odds and ends include a spare lighter, dental floss, and a needle (which together can be used for making emergency repairs). Sunscreen and a small amount of campsuds which I use a very small amount for cleaning cookware and washing clothes.
Electronics and accessories
Not shown here are my Apple iPhone and Watch but with these electronics is the necessity to charge them, I was not happy with the battery pack, this is a no-name brand I picked up a couple of years back and did not perform anywhere near as well as Keenan’s RAVPower. They are both rated at 15000mAh, but the RAVPower performed twice as well. Personally, the solar panel on these are pretty useless, they are so small they only generate a couple of Watts. 15000mAh is also pretty small these days but with increased power comes increased weight.
The charging cable is a nice bonus I searched for specifically for hiking – it is a dual iPhone / Watch charging cable in one. I am pretty happy with this. I would have liked a shorter one, this is 1.5m, but it saves having to bring to separate cables. The wired Apple headphones I’ll leave at home next time..
For photography, I have a small Joby Tripod with a Bluetooth controller. This worked fine for the iPhone 11 and provides stability for night photos. One of the pieces of kit I like is the StickPic, this basically lets you mount the iPhone on the end of the hiking pole and not have to carry a selfie stick. Looks like this company is a small niche company so I’m happy to support them.
The compass is a standard Suunto MC-2. Always necessary to have on any trip. The sighting mirror also could double as a signaling mirror. 25 feet of paracord and spare batteries for the headlamp.
Finally, I have a power adapter, that I ended up leaving in the car. I like it because not only can it charge with both USB-A and USB-C but it allows you to plug other devices into it as well. In other words, it doesn’t really take up a power slot. I use this when I travel for work as well as for backpacking. You can probably find a cheaper version if you only want this for the US – but as I said for me it solves a dual purpose.
Most of my warm layers I already had from other activities. These are the only other clothes I took outside of what I was wearing and my puffy jacket. These are effectively my warm base layer set of clothes and some spares.
A pair of glove liners and a beanie (courtesy of Troop 150 when I was an adult member in Boy Scouts), two pairs of Adidas Climalite Trunks, and 2 pairs of Darn Tough socks. The base layer I picked up from REI Garage Outlet, they are Odlo brand. I’m pretty happy with these with the exception that the leggings were made for someone who was about 6’8”, even in the small size, so I had to make some adjustments for the leg length. The buff is also from REI and is one of those generally useful pieces of cloth. On this trip, Keenan used it to provide better neck protection from the sun than a normal baseball cap.
Of course, you need to take care of business in the backcountry. Everything in this bag is really to do with hygiene so I can grab it and go when necessary. Hand sanitizer (which has been refilled many times). A roll of doggie bags which are generally useful as waste bags if needed but are particularly useful for packing the wet wipes out. I no longer take toilet paper out into the backcountry – too many people don’t dispose of it properly. I’ll use a wet wipe as a final clean and then pack it out.
I also take a WAG bag. There are some areas where it is mandatory to pack out your own waste (Mt. Whitney for example). But I keep the WAG Bag just in case I can’t find an area where I can dig a proper cat hole. If you are not familiar with backcountry Leave No Trace principles, this is a good time to refresh yourself. One of my best new pieces of kit I took on this trip are these compressed towels, Portawipes. I’m very happy with these, they are really light and versatile. They can either be used for a quick body wash or help clean up cookware. Very light and easy to pack out.
The trowel is a Deuce of Spades and seems to be pretty popular for a backpacking trowel. Light and strong but the handle is not the easiest to grip. Finally, the bandana is also from REI and is more just a general piece of cloth for anything, washing or cleaning. It is easy to clean and dry out after use too.
A couple of major pieces of equipment – my tent is a Big Agnes Tiger Wall 2. Even though this is probably the most expensive piece of gear I have, it’s also one of the most important. You can usually pick one of these up at an REI sale for $299. I’ve been very happy with this tent. Whether hiking alone or with the dog, but for two real people it would be a little cramped. My basic cook system is documented here.
The fuel canister is a 200g, which is larger than I’d normally take on a trip of this length, but for some reason this year there is a shortage of the smaller 100g canisters. Given the weather forecast and elevation, sunglasses are a must. As a wearer of prescription glasses, sunglasses can get very expensive, and are one of the most often misplaced pieces of gear. To combat this I just buy cheap glasses from Zenni Optical. So far I have been pleased with this approach. I can pick up a pair of prescription sunglasses for about $60 and then wouldn’t feel so bad about losing them.
Finally the necessary maps and permits for the trip. For some reason, the Forest Service insists on you printing these out, but they are necessary for this trip. I also carry a small amount of cash, a credit card, and a driver’s license.
There are a couple of critical items that are not pictured separately. My puffy jacket is from REI as is my sleeping quilt, which is a Magma 30 Trail quilt. Both of these are down rather than synthetic. I much prefer down as it‘s warmer for the weight and compresses very well. However, if it gets wet it is much less efficient. I’m pretty new to the quilt rather than a sleeping bag – I really like the size and weight difference and so far have not been disappointed with this change.
However the quilt does rely on having a good pad – so this year I upgraded to a Therm-a-rest NeoAir Xlite. I have taken this out a few times and already see it as a great improvement. I’ve always had problems with pillows and have tried everything from just stuffing a sack with clothes to a few different blow-up pillows. Keenan got me a Father’s Day gift of a Trekology Pillow – they are a local Portland company. I’ve taken the pillow out once and it seems better than anything I’ve had in the past.
Finally, there is the bear canister- required for Kings Canyon National Park. I’ll talk more about the food preparation for this trip and having to use a bear canister adds a little planning and a lot of extra weight.
That pretty much wraps up my North Lake South Lake gear list, find out more about this backpacking trip here.
Check out my gear section for more gear topics.