About My Backpacking Blog

Erik the Black

Erik the Black

Welcome!

I created this blog to share my adventures on America’s scenic hiking trails, provide tips and advice for ultralight backpacking, promote my maps and guide books and connect with fellow hikers. I hope you enjoy this blog. I look forward to your comments and perhaps meeting you out on the trail someday.

Happy trails!
Erik the Black

82 Responses to “About My Backpacking Blog”

  1. Just oredered your map set for the pct in total… looks like a simple, compact and usufull mapset.

    Must have been fun putting it together…. Trying to get time off work with two other guys to hike it…(I will be 60 at that time… Yikes!)

    thanks..

    Mike O.

    • Hi Mike,

      Thanks for ordering a PCT Atlas. It was a lot of fun (and a lot of work) to do. I’ll be back out on the trail this year working on the next (3rd) edition. Hope to see ya out there!

    • I was recently introduced to your blog…it’s great! Gonna save me a lot of hunting and searching. Question…I’ve done VERY little thru-hiking, but am interested in doing more. And doing it without a lot of extra weight. Knowing nothing, I developed my own food plan (which I’ll probably toss out now…) that included some supplements, specifically Generation UCAN, BCAAs and desiccated liver pills. However, I don’t see anything on your site (or anywhere else) discussing the use of supplements by long distance hikers. I think all of the above offer a lot of bang for the gram…just curious, any thoughts?

      • @JMac: Most hikers just take a multi-vitamin and try to eat fresh foods in town stops (meat, fresh fruit, vegetables, etc.) to make up for the nutritional deficiencies of hiking food. Some people like to pack protein powders since hiking food is mostly carbs. Since supplement pills are so lightweight you could take whichever ones you feel are beneficial without really impacting your food weight.

  2. Loved the PCT trail maps! Have mine framed and in my “backpack” room.
    If you ever decide to come east for a hike, let me know. I have a few secret stashes you might like.

  3. Hi Pat, Glad you like the maps. The Appalachian Trail is definitely on my “to-do” list. Hopefully I will be heading out east in the next couple of years. I’ll look ya up.

  4. Hey! Thanks for the link!! See you at KO! :)

  5. Hi Erik

    I alredy own your complete Atlas pack, and plan to use it in 2012. When you write about the 3rd edition, will this be a major update with new features?

    If so, will there be a dicounted upgrade?

    Happy hiking

    Thomas

  6. Hi ETB
    I remember your trail magic offer of a ride back to the trailhead from BB in 2008. What made it memorable was cramming 6 other hikers into your jeep as well! I didn’t make it all the way then, but will give it another go in 2011. How could I not purchase your Atlases. Excellent product. Godspeed on you and yours PCT hike this year. GK

  7. Hey Erik,

    Enjoyed watching your Trail Food Video, very insightful.

    Once you decided to do the PCT how did you train for it?

    I am totally out of shape and am ashamed to admit it, but currently I get winded walking up my stairs or taking a short walk with a 15 lb pack.

    take care,

    Meir

  8. @Grandpa Kilt: Hey, Good to hear from you again! I remember that ride too. That was fun.

    @Meir: Don’t feel bad. Most hikers I know (including myself) tend to neglect training during the off-season in favor of sitting around drinking beer and hot chocolate.

    Even if you are out of shape when you start hiking the trail tends whip you into shape pretty quickly (as long as you have the mental fortitude to keep going in the beginning when it’s hardest).

    Of course if you want to do the responsible thing there are some good ways to train for hiking beforehand.

    Here is an article I wrote with some training suggestions:
    http://blackwoodspress.com/blog/1403/5-backpacking-training-workouts/

  9. Erik,
    Love your blog!
    I hike a lot but rarely thru hiking (life doesn’t allow…).
    You shed light on thru hiking from all angles. You cover issues and a down to earth manner that can help both beginners and folks that already walked a mile or two…

    Keep on walking!

    Edgar

  10. I will be thru hiking the PCT next year (2011). I am getting very excited. Do you think your 3rd ed. will be available by then. I am really enjoying your blog by the way. It is really comprehensive and very informative. I have heard/read great things about your atlas as well. Can’t wait to check it out.

    Thanks for all your hard work,

    Lunchbox

  11. Hi Eric,

    I new to backpacking and just stumbled across your site. Thanks for the wealth of information. I was happy to notice you’re located not far from me so, I assume most of your techniques apply well to the surrounding area. I’m located in the high desert but backpack mostly along the PCT for now. My first big trip will be in August (JMT) so I’m currently training to prep for a rather agressive pace. Of course I plan to order your atlas before departing. If you get a chance to repair the link at: http://blackwoodspress.com/blog/1403/5-backpacking-training-workouts/ I’d like to use it for my next two months of training. Thanks again for all your efforts,

    Todd

  12. such a nice blog…
    someday, someway, u have to try to hike in indonesia. there are many volcano here…
    thx…

  13. m looking for a 500 mile stretch to do on horseback — 2011 or 2012 — at first glance start at yosemite and work north — any suggestions much appreciated

    • Barry, if I was going to do 500 miles I would probably do Kennedy Meadows to Sierra City, or Timberline Lodge to the Canada border. I think those are the most scenic stretches of the PCT.

  14. Hi i just discovered your maps and the set is no longer available. Will you be publishing again? Perusing here there is a third addition coming out. Any ideas on when that might be? Thanks much!

  15. Hey Eric,

    I was hoping you could point me in the right direction in finding your PCT atlases. I understand they will not be available until spring 2012 and all the old copies are sold out. I need them for a southbound thru-hike starting in June 2011. Is there anyway or anybody you can think of that might want to sell such a hot commodity?

    • @ James: I will be reprinting the 2nd editions around February so there will be another opportunity to get an Atlas before the 2011 hiking season starts. I’ll be putting up a pre-order page for those sometime in the next week or two. If you are on one of my mailing lists I’ll let you know when that is ready, or you can just check back at The PCT Atlas Website.

  16. Erik,
    Planning a JMT trek this summer and have found your blogs very useful, especially gear guides and tips as I cut, cut, cut weight. Who knew I could drop my baseweight under 20 lbs? I ordered the JMT Atlas and map.

  17. Hello Erik,
    Wanting to do the PCT in 2012 and excited about all the help you continue to give us all. Cant wait for 3rd edition.
    -Amanda D.

  18. Hi Eric! Your guides are awesome!! We just had the Nat. Geo. maps, H2O report, and data book on the PCT and greatly regretted not getting your guides earlier! We’re planning to hike the Colorado trail in celebration this summer and have been holding out for your new guide. Do ya think it’ll be ready before July 1st? Also, do you know where we could find current reports of water on the CT? With our PCT adventures in mind that is my greatest concern. Cheers!
    - Cornbred, Asheville, NC

    • @Cornbread Thanks! I’m working on finishing up the Colorado Trail Atlas right now. It should be finished by the end of May and available to buy sometime in June. To be notified as soon as it’s ready you can sign up here: http://coloradotrailmap.com For the most part water is plentiful on the Colorado Trail. There were only a couple of places where I had to go more than 10 miles between water sources. The Colorado Trail Atlas will include a complete list of the water sources I encountered on the trail last year. I’m not aware of a list like the PCT water report for the CT, but since water is pretty easy to find it’s not really necessary.

  19. EtB,

    Cheers Eric,

    Are you home or out on the trail? I’m looking to add the central Ca., atlas, to the other 4 that I already have in hand, to complete the set (2nd edition.) I may leave for the PCT within a couple of weeks and partner up with a friend who is about to enter the high Sierras. Checking to see if I can get that puppy in my palms before traveling.

    Thanks,

    mongoose

    • @Mongoose I’ve been home but I’ve been in hiding the last couple months finishing up my latest book (The Colorado Trail Atlas). It’s finally done so I’m getting ready to head out and do some hiking! Going to thru-hike the Tahoe Rim Trail. The CenCal PCT Atlases are in-stock and you can get them any time. Even when I am gone my shipping dept will still be open.

      Happy trails!

  20. you da’ man!

    thanks again

    mongoose

  21. Erik,

    I just read a thoughtful post by you about hiking with dogs (on another site), and followed the link here to your blog. I’m looking forward to reading some of your posts, but what I’m trying to find is a 100-200 mile route in the California Sierra that would be fun to walk with my dog. She’s a highly energetic 45lb collie mix and can easily keep up with the 15 or so miles I do in a day, but from what you wrote I’m concerned that she won’t enjoy herself! And I can’t find enough guidance on where the park boundaries are (dogs not being allowed in parks…) Any tips?

    • @Owen Dogs are only allowed on about 70 miles of the John Muir Trail (from Donahue Pass to Puite Canyon). Pages 9-23 of the John Muir Trail Atlas. Here is a website with some more info about dogs on the JMT: Canine John Muir. If you want to do a longer continuous hike you may want to hike the Pacific Crest Trail north of the John Muir Trail (after you get out of Tuolumne Meadows). I believe once you get outside of Yosemite National Park there are no restrictions on dogs on the PCT for the rest of California. You could hike from Sonora Pass to Sierra City, or you could pick up the PCT at Sonora Pass or Echo Summit and hike till it intersects the Tahoe Rim Trail, then do a loop around Lake Tahoe on the TRT. If you don’t mind breaking your hike into two parts you could hike the part of the JMT where dogs are allowed, then move up north and continue hiking.

      You won’t know how well your dog can handle the miles until you try, but I think as long as you keep an eye on her and adjust your pace if necessary she’ll be fine. My dog (100 lb German Shepherd) is more of a sprinter than a marathoner. He hauls butt for 3-4 days and after that starts to poop out. But I’ve known some hiker dogs who can crank out hundreds of miles no problem. Luckily there is plenty of water and shade in the areas where you’ll be hiking so that will make it easier on her.

      I think you have nothing to worry about…

      Happy trails!

      P.S. Here’s a pic of my Jake hiking the PCT in Washington

  22. Wow! this is the most in-depth and informative ultralight backpacking site ever. Erik, you’ve clearly devoted a lifetime of energy and effort to this and deserve all of the praise and reward you can get. I’m already using your Gear Planner 2.0 and hope to buy a book/map/atlas soon. Thanks!

  23. Eric
    Is there a 3rd edition coming out soon? I want to give a copy to my son who will be hiking with me this summer. I know you’ve been working on some updated info and was wondering if it might be out before this hiking season.

    • @Chuck: I am currently working on the 3rd Edition Pacific Crest Trail Atlas. My plan is to have Volumes 1 and 2 (Southern and Central California) finished before the 2012 Thru-hiking Season (Spring). Volume 5 (Washington) will follow later in the year. Volumes 3 and 4 (Northern California and Oregon) won’t done until 2013.

  24. Erik, looks like you have the PCT down, is there a packing list? I am going to be doing this hike in 2013, I have been seriously thinking about taking it easy going up from Mexico to Canada, but thinking about turning back and shooting my way back, but at a faster pace, not sure yet, I will know more after. I am currently in Afghanistan, where I run almost daily, but I also am throwing a ruck on my back, putting on my Idividual Body Armor (IBA) and taking it for a fast pace around the base, it is only 8 miles at a time, but it is a great pace and I do get to feel my body strengthen. I just need to know from someone that has done the PCT on what lightweight things are there in order to do this, backpacks, footgear, water points. So far I did the PCT travel planner and it looks good. I am excited and want to get a ruck now full of the things that I will carry so I can get use to the weight and when that day comes in April 2013, I will be on my way from Mexico to Canada, but I know there is so much to do before that. Is all this in your atlas? I need permits, visa things like that, I am sure to go into Mexico and Canada. Sorry to take up your time, can you tell this excites me? I am retired from the US Army in 2005 and have contributed all my adult life to supporting the troops, as I am still doing over here now. Your professional expertise is greatly appreciated, thanks.

    • @Ray: I’ve got quite a few packing lists that would be suitable for the PCT floating around. Here is a video from a couple years ago showing a typical lightweight PCT hiking gear list: Lightweight Backpacking Gear List Video. If you sign up for my Backpacking Tips newsletter at the top of the page you’ll get access too a bunch more sample gear lists and I also include a few more as bonuses with my PCT Atlas books.

      The PCT does not enter Mexico. It starts at the border of Mexico and California. It does go about 8 miles into Canada though, so you will need your passport. You can get a single permit from the PCTA that covers your entire thru-hike. Water sources are included in my PCT Atlas. Sounds like you are in great shape already so you should be set on that front. Even so, a yo-yo hike (Mexico to Canada and back to Mexico) is very difficult, mostly because of the weather. You can’t go too slow on the way up or you will not get back down through the Sierra before winter hits. I’ve never done it. Only person I know of who has is Scott Williamson. He’s done it several times, though I imagine there may be others.

      If I were you, I would just focus on getting from Mexico to Canada and forget about the return trip. That is a big enough adventure and accomplishment by itself.

  25. Hi Erik! I’m enjoying your blog a lot. I just finished the California PCT last summer, and now my friend and I are heading out to do the Oregon section, probably in June.

    Do you have any thoughts on how bad the bugs will be at that time? We’re a little concerned, but we have to go either in June or July. I’m bringing in a one-person Hubba Hubba tent, which seems too heavy, but I’d be worried about a tarp tent with those mosquitoes.

    Also, we’re going to try using cold food that we buy along the way instead of bringing a stove — is it pretty easy to find stores in Oregon?

    Thanks again for sharing all of this good info!

    Melissa

    • @Melissa: Yes, I would imagine that the mosquitoes will be pretty bad in Oregon in June. I think you will definitely want a shelter with some sort of good bug protection. A tarp like mine probably wouldn’t be a good choice, but a tarp-tent with an attached bathtub floor and a zippered door (like those made by Henry Shires and Six Moon Designs should do fine for keeping out all the bugs, and weigh less than a regular tent. Stores are not as plentiful in Oregon as California, but it is still possible to “buy as you go”, and most thru-hikers do. Another option is to buy food in the larger towns and send it forward to the smaller towns with less supplies.

  26. Hi Eric, great site, I have been following your blog / site for almost a year now. I have a questions / suggestion for your trail books, which by the way are great. I got the JMT and will be doing that in the summer of 2014, and plan on getting the PCT books too.

    My idea; I think that if the elevation graphs all used the same scale it would be easier to plan and for someone who has not hiked the trail, it would give them a better idea of what days are going to be tougher then others and plan miles accordingly. As it is right now the reader has to make a educated guess on the total elevation vs. elevation over miles as the mileage changes per the mileage on the page.
    I got the sample chapter of the new PCT book and like the revised layout. Maybe this suggestion would work better in that layout. I know with the JMT you are limited by the page width.

    Hope this idea helps and is something you can incorporate into future books.

    Humbly, Wolfman
    (feel free to email me it you want)

  27. Hi Erik,

    I thru-hiked the “Te Araroa” last year and was wondering; do you have any plan concerning that New Zealand trail?
    It’s not completed yet I know but imho they could really use your skills in terms of light, straight to the point guide book.
    And I would totally buy a poster of it to put next to the PCT + CO Trail I already have…
    Anyway, thanks for all the work!
    - “The French Guy”

    • @David Fernandez: I have dreamed about going to New Zealand for years. How was the Te Aroroa trail for you? If you have a trail journal or anything like that online I’d love to read it. I’m most interested to know how much use the trail gets. Did you meet a lot of other hikers or were you alone most of the time? How was the resupply situation? Were there enough towns nearby to buy supplies or did you have to rely on maildrops or carry a lot of food at once? It sure looks like a beautiful trail. I’d appreciate any extra insight you can give.

  28. No trail journal yet. I’m working on a book but it is a long term project. I don’t even have a decent photo gallery online yet (I was carrying a DSLR) but I have this:
    https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.150555611638102.27703.100000509911696&type=3&l=b4a3112ecd
    (these are “phone photos”)
    Trail use => I tried to look at the names in registers found in every hut of the South Island along the trail and from that I believe there are possibly 6 to 12 thru-hikers total on a good year. The Te Araroa however uses mostly small trails maintained by the Department of Conservation and hikers are common. Just not thru hikers.
    I started a bit early in the season (August 16 2010 -> Jan 14 2011) so I met absolutely no thru hikers. It really has a different “feel” than the PCT.
    The resupply in the North Island is just fine. I did no planning and was just buying along the way. On average I was probably carrying 4/5 days of food (up to 8 once) and I wasn’t going fast. In the South Island there’s one place where I had to mail myself a box but that’s about it. No problem on that front really. Lots of road margin in the north island so wear good shoes :) Backpackers Hostels are fantastic, full of great fun people and fairly cheap. People in NZ are incredibly helpful overall. Plenty of trail magic there. Going from North to South is the way to go; the trail gets better and better that way :) Note: It is a ROUGH trail compare to the PCT. Lots of river crossing, I mean lots lots lots of river crossing. Once I walked down a river/gorge for miles. Seriously.

    On a few occasions I saw nobody for three days. About the same as PCT I guess.

    Note: The Steward Island is the cherry on top of that giant cake that is the Te Araroa; not part of the trail officially but it’s a must see/hike.

    Gear => Had my good old ULA Catalyst (PCT + Aconcagua + Te Araroa) which I am retiring this Springs. Smaller (Mariposa or Circuit) would work. Had an old 20F Sleeping Bag but 30 would have been okay if I had started later. No cooking gear after Auckland (Got tired of carrying 1L alcohol bottle for no good reason.) Tarp Tent Gossamer Gear SpinnShelter was perfect. The rest is basic.
    Light Mid-GTX boots for me. I would not recommend running shoes for this trail.

    Rain Gear is mandatory. But you’ll get soaked anyway :) Rain is magical in NZ. Don’t fight it; embrace it!

    This is becoming a novel :) Let me know if you have questions. I’ll be happy to answer.

  29. Hello Erik,

    Wanted to add my two cents on the Te Araroa. I hiked much of the northern island section in January 2011. A few observations:

    1. It’s not often used. NZ has a small population and most hikers use the established and much shorter trails to common areas (which seem to all go East–West!). Couple that with the vegetation and you get a trail that peters out in many areas, is completely overgrown, etc. And it ain’t fun to bushwhack in NZ! I did it for a day north of Waitomo Caves. Ouch.

    2. I have never hiked the PNT here in the states, but based on others who have, I’d say the TA in NZ is an early version of the PNT.

    3. Resupply was easy in the north. Bus system between towns is good if you need to hop around–and you can bounce boxes too (though unlike here, the towns along the way are not as aware of the TA and definitely not familiar with thru-hiking)

    4. Hitching is very easy

    5. Lot’s of road walking, lots! But I enjoyed that–nice countryside views, meet cool people, traffic is sparse.

    By the time I took the ferry from North Island to South Island, I had met a young Dutch Lady who was touring the country for a month (not hiking,) and, well…I ended spending 5 weeks with her instead of continuing my thru hike on the south island (but I had a blast!)

    What I did notice about the TA on the South Island (I was always looking for it as we drove around the island) is that it goes through very steep and rugged terrain to start, then, as it winds south it skirts the mountains in favor of the flatter lands (just east of the southern island mountains). This is likely necessary as NZ mountains are very very young and very very steep–a PCT like ridge walk down much of them is likely not possible.

    Anyways, I still highly recommend it. Be prepared for a non traditional thru hike given it’s newness and given that NZ 3 million population isn’t enough to keep a long trail like that in shape (then again, the spares populace has so many upsides you will never lack for good experiences there).

    Also, be aware, NZ can get very expensive. Save up!

    If I was do it again, I would approach the TA as it was intended, as a “path”. I met a few other thru hikers (there were about 8 in all of whom I was aware) and some of them opted to cycle portions of the trail/roads, there is a canoe/kayak portion (not optional, there is no trail or road, you have to paddle, which is damn cool).

    You could focus your own hike and the guidebook on the concept of a path…to be taken by our feet, whether by bike, hike, paddle. Plus it would be a damn shame to go all the way there and stick to a specific trail like we do here–there is so much to see and enjoy.

    And I highly recommend hooking with any dutch girl you meet. Heh.

    Sorry, I rambled…but the TA is to me best described as a path (trail, road, river) with some highly recommend spurs.

    Jason

    ps. I got my box bounce out of Christchurch, where my friend and I stayed in the city center, not long before the earthquake, yikes.

  30. hi Erik,
    I’m planning on walking the camino frances in Spain in a year, so am trying to learn & prep as much as possible before hand. I’ve never believed in reinventing wheels so am happy to tap in to the vast fund of knowledge you & others share so generously.
    My two addictions are the camino sites & the UL sites. I’ve recently been diagnosed with early onset osteo, primarily in my spine, so UL is the way for me.
    Two questions: have you thought of doing a trekking pole tutorial on youtube? there’re a lot of opinions out there (& poles seem to generate a few extra!) & I’d love to see your take on them. choosing lengths, uphill, downhill, helping knees & back…
    Also, I was looking at the MontBell Ultralight Thermawrap Insulated Vest, after your video recommend on it. then I saw your concern re the new design of ribbing, not insulation, at the sides. do you think maybe the change was for better ‘breathing’?
    thanks for your excellent & balanced site – keep it coming!
    cheers, Kate

    • @Kate Marshall: I am a big fan of trekking poles. I used to think they were dorky, but then I bought a pair and now I will never go back. I have only ever owned one pair of trekking poles (Leki Makalu Ultralites). They are several years old, no frills, no shock absorbtion and they work fine. I think that having an adjustment for length is important and it’s also necessary if you want to use a trekking pole supported shelter like a tarp or tarptent. There are some lightweight poles now that break into three pieces or are a single piece and I don’t really like that idea. I typically adjust mine to a height so that my forearms make a 90 degree angle to my upper arms but if I’m going downhill will lengthen them to provide extra knee support.

      As for the MontBell Thermawrap Vest, I’m not sure why they decided to replace the sides with elastic. My best guess is that because Montbell is a Japanese company they did it to accommodate larger American hikers. I remember the first version of that vest was sized really small with Japanese people in mind. An extra large was more like our medium. Then they came out with a new version which was cut larger and now the latest version with the the elastic sides. I don’t know how much heat loss (if any) having elastic on the sides will cause. The overall weight of the vest has increased so they may have added additional insulation to the front and back to compensate. And it may breathe better as you mentioned. I’m sure it’s still a fine vest, but in my opinion it was perfect before and I wish they had not changed it.

  31. Stephen Greenfield Reply June 18, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    Erik,

    Loved the JMT Atlas! For a segment hike between Red’s Meadow to somewhere just south of the Muir Trail Ranch, is there an easy place to “exit” the trail to get back to 395 and bus service, in order to return to Mammoth Lakes where we would’ve left our car?

    At first I thought maybe exit via Piute Pass, heading for the Pine Creek TH or Piute Pass TH, but I’m not sure we could get to a 395 bus stop. Do we pretty much have to head into Bishop to get on the Easter Sierra Transit? Or is there another way to get to the bus / stage a second vehicle (yuck!).

    Best, Stephen

    • @Stephen Greenfield: I think you would have to go into Bishop to catch the bus. A better option might be to park your car at whatever trailhead you want to come out at, and then call the Mt Whitney Shuttle and see if they can drop you off at Reds (or Mammoth and take the bus up to Reds) to start your hike, then when you are finished you will only have to hike out to the trailhead where your car is, instead of going all the way out to 395. I’ve never used the Mt. Whitney shuttle before, but according to their website it looks like they can take you anywhere you want to go in the area.

  32. eric, I have used your web site and found it very useful, so i passed it on to a friend of mine who is hiking the pct this summer. Dave started in early may and things seem to be going fine. His wife is shadowing him in their westfila and restoking ass he hikes along. They were keeping in touch every week for the first couple of weeks. Now I have not heard from her in some time and am a bit concerned. Is their any way to track dave?I hav his itinerary and I have him past walker pass going to hwy178/mt whitney. Any suggestions? Best joe lopez

    • @Joseph: Sorry for the late reply. Hopefully you have heard back from your friend by now. The Sierras is one of the remotest parts of the PCT with few town stops so it is common for people to go “off the rader” in that section. If he’s carrying a cellphone I’d just leave him a message and tell him to call you when he gets it. There isn’t much cellphone service in that area so he probably won’t get the message until his next town stop. From Walker Pass to South Lake Tahoe generally takes several weeks. If you are really worried you can try posting on the PCT-L to ask if anyone knows him and has seen him out there. And if the situation really becomes dire and you don’t hear from him for a long time you can call search and rescue. But hopefully everything is fine and he is just enjoying the Sierra.

  33. G’day ,my girlfriend and i are planning to visit the states for 12 months or so soon, hoping to live in Wyoming actually so what would be your number one reccomended hike that we could do that would really introduce us to the US and the beautiful areas there.

  34. Thanks for the info Erik its great to have some good info to start with. We pretty much plan to spend a year and see if its where we want to stay so we will have plenty of time to cover some different trails, hope to run into you on one of them at some time

  35. Hi Erik! So glad I found your site … I just started backpacking with son and after a miserable weekend where I packed way too much stuff .. I started looking into Lightweight backpacking .. Your website has been an incredible source of information .. Thank You So Much ..

    Anyway, My son and I will be planning a week or so long trip next spring/summer .. do you have any suggestions for some good trips near us hear in Sacramento

  36. Great new Store in Mazama, WA. An easy WEEKEND hitch from Hart’s Pass: http://www.goatsbeardmountainsupplies.com/index.html

  37. Hi Eric, I am planning to hike the JMT in August 2013. I have been studying the maps and have noticed there is no place for a food drop between Muir Trail Ranch and Whitney Portal. We were hoping to resupply one more time after Muir Trail Ranch, so we would not half to carry enough food for 10 days. Do you have any suggestions? Thank you!! I love your website. It is just the best!!

    • @Hot Pocket: To resupply between Muir Trail Ranch and Whitney Portal what most hikers do is leave the JMT and hike 8 miles over Kearsarge Pass to Onion Valley Trailhead, then hitch-hike into the small town of Independence which has a post office, convenience store and couple small hotels. If you need to get to a bigger town there is a bus from Independence which will take you along Highway 395 to Lone Pine in one direction, or to Bishop in the other. The hitch into Independence is not too difficult since there are usually day hikers at the trailhead who will be driving back into town at some point. As you hike down the hill talk to the hikers going up the hill, and then when they come back to down their cars you can yogi a ride. The hitch back up to the trailhead from town requires some patience, especially mid-day and mid-week. There is a not a lot of traffic going that way, but if you you are patient somebody will eventually take pity on you and shuttle you back up.

  38. Erik, I just ordered the JMT atlas for my hike next summer. I must say, I was very impressed with your website and design. If it hadn’t looked so professional and well-thought out, I would have passed. However, fantastic site and coming from a former salesperson, great selling. :-) Really excited to peruse the blog too. Looking forward to gobbling up the atlas!

  39. Aloha from Oahu, I see you use the Merrell Moab shoes, do you use the waterproof or the non waterproof version also hightop or regular shoe.

    • @Ben: I’ve been wearing Merrel Moabs for about six years now. I prefer the low top version because they give me more flexibility. I’ve used both the waterproof and ventilator versions. Usually I prefer the ventilators but on the Colorado Trail the XCRs were nice because my feet did not get as soaked during the mid-day rain storms.

  40. Eric, I just ordered your guide to the JMT and I can’t wait to use it. The PDF’s came through fine and they are full of very helpful detail.Does the guide offer any public transportation information. Getting to Yosemite for San Fran doesn’t seem to be a problem but I am having trouble finding info on the return trip from Mt. Whitney.Thanks for any help you can provide. Slowski

    • @Slowski: Thanks for ordering a JMT Atlas. Yes it does include some information about public transportation. After you summit Mount Whitney you will have to hike out to Whitney Portal trailhead where there will be a ton of day hikers, so you an hitch a ride into Lone Pine with one of them. Lone Pine is serviced by the ESTA bus which runs from Lone Pine up to Mammoth. From there you can take the YARTS bus back to Merced and it’s probably pretty easy to get back to San Fran from there. Good luck!

  41. Thanks for all the useful info. I got a question for you, I live just down the hill from you in Yucca Valley. Anyways, I was planning on hiking the first part of section C then going up San Gorgonio Presidents day weekend to test all my new lightweight gear I bought for my PCT thru-hike this year (most of the lightweight gear ideas came from your budget list!!) Do you have any idea of the conditions? I can see a little powder of snow but it seems pretty dry from this vantage point. Or do you have any other suggestions for a 5-6 day pre PCT gear test hike?

    • @Dustin: Right now there is no snow on the ground here in Big Bear at 6,500 feet (as of Feb 4) but there is some snow in the mountains between 7,000 and 9,000 feet. But, even though it’s been a dry winter so far, there is no guarantee that we won’t get dumped on any day now.

      Section C spends a lot of time above the snow line so I wouldn’t risk hiking it in February (unless you are prepared for snow travel). Section A would be a good training hike. It is mostly low elevation. The only place you might get snowed on briefly is Mount Laguna, but you pass up and over that really quick and then drop back down into the valley.

      Another little training hike you can do (that is close to home) is the 37 mile California Riding and Hiking Trail in Joshua Tree National Park. It starts at Black Rock Campground and ends at the North Entrance in 29 Palms. I’ve hiked that one before and it’s a good little trip. There is no water, so you will need to pack a bunch or drive in the day before and stash some jugs near the road crossings so you can fill up when you hike through. You can see the route of the trail in the Trails Illustrated Joshua Tree Map.

      • Thanks for the info. I actually hike to Blackrock from my house to hike the California Riding and Hiking trail!!! The problem is I finished in 28hrs. a couple weeks ago. I need a further distance. I don’t have any snow experience so I’ll stay away from section C. I hike in Joshua Tree Park at least 3 days a week so I was just looking for a change of scenery. Thanks again Eric, maybe I’ll see you on the trail!

  42. Hey Erik. My podcast listeners are looking to get some info on training for long backpacking trips and I came across your site. Would you be interested in coming on and chatting for a bit? Thx.

  43. Erik, I am planning to through hike the CT in August. Are you planning to publish a new CT Atlas (I have the 1st Edition and love it!) that will include Collegiate West? Thanks.

    • @Mike: I am planning to publish a new edition of the CT Atlas that will include the Collegiate West alternate, but it won’t be available this year. I have not had a chance to get back out there and hike the new section yet.

  44. Erik,
    I want to thank you for the packing lists and links to each item. I’m using your lists to get my pack weight down, but for maybe a different reason than most. I have two daughters (ages 5 and 9) that will be hiking with me this summer. So…I’ll be carring two sleeping bags, pads, and food for the three of us. This will be my five year olds first trip. For the last three years I’ve been taking the older one with me. By going ultralite, using easy to prepare meals, and a gravity feed water filter (Sawyer), I won’t be so tired and I’ll have more time to enjoy playing with them in camp.

    Thanks again.

  45. Erik,
    Thank you for your site , you have cost me a lot of money ! Money well spent ! I was wondering why you dont have cuben fiber stuff sacks in the gear lists to lighten your load? I have no experience with cuben fiber but the weights seem like o no brainer. Is it worth the money?thanks again for all the great info and links.

    • @Kuch: I like to focus on the big items for cutting weight (pack, shelter, sleeping bag and pad, clothing) because they make the biggest impact overall and don’t really sweat the small stuff. In my opinion the weight savings of cuben fiber does not justify the cost when compared to a material like sil-nylon which is cheaper, more durable and only slightly heavier.

  46. Lorenzo Giuliano Bagini Reply June 13, 2014 at 5:11 am

    Hi Erik! Great blog, congrats! I am a brazilian geographer and hiker and I have been dreaming about making a blog like yours. Thanks for the inspiration!

  47. Cutting weight is what I have been trying to do, but I’m a big guy (300lbs),but healthy. Trying to cut weight is hard because everything is heavier in the 3XL size, clothes, shelter, backpack, sleeping bag and all. Any suggestions on any of this.

    • @Mike: Get the lightest gear you can that will fit your frame. The good news is that weight is relative, and being 300 lbs you are most likely stronger than someone who weighs 150 lbs, so you can carry a few more pounds of gear with the same level of comfort. I think trying to get your base weight (the weight of all your gear minus food, water, fuel and other consumables) under 15 lbs would be a good goal. A lot of lightweight sleeping bags, shelters and backpacks are now offering big and/or tall versions which only weigh slightly more than the regular versions.

  48. Hi Erik, I’m writing to ask for your help in spreading the word about the freeze dried backpacker meals that my son and I make. Our company is called Paleo Meals To Go and we’ve been in business about 11 months, although I took off two months in Dec/Jan to be at the hospital for five weeks and at my mom’s home for an additional three weeks following a surgery, so really only about 9 months in business. We’re based in Denver and it’s just the two of us working on this business idea.

    Our meals are formulated to adhere to the general principles of the Paleo diet and we’ve had really excellent feedback and comments from reviewers and our customers, but I still don’t think most folks in the Paleo community know about us. Would you be willing to review our meals if I sent you some free samples? Or would you be interested in blogging about us or posting on your forum? Any mention of us on your site would really help inform the Paleo community that they have a healthy, Paleo option when they are hiking, traveling, competing, or even when they are too busy or can’t leave the office to get a Paleo meal. One man wrote to us and said they are perfect for long airplane rides because he can always get hot water from the flight attendant and that’s all our meals require. And many people who are not on, or who have never even heard of the Paleo diet, are interested in our products because our meals are free from additives, preservatives, and cheap filler ingredients. We use meat, vegetables and spices! Plain and simple.

    We’re still operating in the red and any help with spreading the word to all the hunters, Paleo folks, backpackers and others would be greatly appreciated since our advertising budget is negligible.

    If you have time and are interested, I’d be very happy to talk to you on the phone whenever convenient for you. My number is 224-725-3652 and our website is http://www.paleomealstogo.com.

    • @Dawn: I want to wish you the best of luck with your new venture. I follow a Paleo diet myself in the off-season and believe very strongly in the value of eating whole natural foods for general fitness and health. I have been trying to think of ways to shift at least a portion of my on-trail diet (which is the opposite of Paleo) in a more healthy direction. But, as I’m sure you have found, it is an uphill battle. Mostly because Paleo Foods are heavy (due to high water or fiber content), often perishable and expensive.

      From looking at your initial meal offerings on your website my advice is to look for ways to bring your prices down and bring your calorie counts up.

      I see that your dinners currently cost around $13 and provide around 350 calories per serving ($3.71 per 100 calories). That would not work for me because I need to consume 3,500 – 4,000 calories per day to hike 20-25 miles. By way of comparison, one of my favorite trail dinners (1 box mac & cheese, 2.6 oz foil pouch tuna, 1 tbsp whole powdered milk, 1 tbsp olive oil) costs about $3 and provides 1,000 calories ($0.30 per 100 calories.) A traditional freeze-dried backpacker meal (Mountain House Lasagna w/ Meat Sauce) costs $7.50 and provides 625 calories ($1.20 per 100 calories.)

      I do believe that a calorie of junk food is not necessarily equal to a calorie of good food, so it my be possible to hike on fewer calories if it is coming from more nutritious foods. But, even taking that into consideration, the price difference is too great right now. If you could find a way to get your prices more inline with traditional freeze dried meals (or even slightly more expensive, like around $1.50 per 100 calories) and increase your portion sizes (at least 750 calories per pouch) I would definitely be a customer, and I believe a lot of other hikers would be interested too.

      I know this is no easy task, but I think it’s a worthwhile goal to shoot for. Good luck :)

  49. Hi Erik,
    Thank you for approving my post and for your comments. You make a good point about the cost and others have asked about the higher prices too. Back in May, we put together the side-by-side comparison with Backpacker’s Pantry Beef Stew:

    Their ingredients:

    Potatoes, wheat flour (wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, reduced iron, thamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), potato starch, beef (cooked, diced and freeze-dried), carrots, peas, maltodextrin, vegetarian soup with imitation beef flavor (tortula yeast, natural flavor, autolyzed yeast extract, canola oil), salt, imitation beef flavor (torula yeast, hydrolyzed whey protein, hydrolyzed wheat bran, natural flavor, salt), soy sauce (soy sauce (wheat, soybeans, salt), maltodextrin and salt), dextrose (from corn), sugar.

    Allergens: milk, soybean, gluten, wheat.

    Our ingredients:

    INGREDIENTS:
    Cooked beef (beef, salt), carrots, onions, celery, mushrooms, garlic, pepper, thyme, celery seed, majoram.

    Allergens: NO TOP 8 ALLERGENS

    Their price per package: $9.50 –24 grams of protein
    Our price per package: $12.99 –37 grams of protein

    PMTG’s Beef Mountain Stew has 38% more protein, yet costs only 36.7% more!

    You are correct, there are more calories in their meals but you are also correct, or at least it has been reported to use by our customers, that they are able to consume less calories when they eat more protein. My son has a ultra running friend who says his needed caloric intake was reduced significantly when he switched to the Paleo diet.

    References:
    http://www.backpackerspantry.com/products/beef-stew.html, as of 5/25/14

    http://www.paleomealstogo.com/products.html, as of 5/25/14

    This side by side comparison provides a bit of a justification for the higher prices but we are working diligently to bring down costs to produce the meals. We know everyone wants to save money. We are working with a co-packer to produce larger numbers of meals at one time which will allow us to purchase our ingredients in bulk, as well as utilizing a trained assembly line work force who will be able to produce more per hour at a lower cost. Buying everything in larger amounts will help reduce costs, from labels, to pouches, oxygen absorbers, printing, etc.

    Freeze- dried ingredients are very expensive, so not only is the customer paying for clean, whole foods, but also for the convenience of a very lightweight meal option that won’t spoil and only requires water. Some ultra light weight backpackers actually use our meals when they don’t carry a stove, they just add cold water to them.

    Thanks for taking a look at our meals and we hope you’ll check back in a few months when hopefully we’ll be able to produce them less expensively!

    I really appreciate the opportunity to communicate via your blog.
    Take care,
    Dawn Anderson
    Operations Manager
    Paleo Meals To Go
    http://www.paleomealstogo.com

  50. Really appreciate all the great information you’ve provided. I was wondering whether you could write your ideas on handling water on a thru-hike.

    What products do you use to sterilize it? What have you tried that didn’t work so well? Do’s and don’ts when it comes to water sources, etc.

    Any suggestions or thoughts you have no matter how big or small would be appreciated.

    • @David Williams:

      The methods of water treatment I like best are small water filters (like Sawyer) placed in-line in a drinking tube connected to a water bladder or fast-acting chemical drops (like MSR Sweetwater or Aqua Mira). Both weigh just a couple of ounces and do not require a lot of labor (like a pump filter) or waiting (like slow acting chemicals).

      On a thru-hike figuring out how much water to carry can be tricky. You need to familiarize yourself with the locations of all the water sources near the trail before hiking each section (information usually found in the guidebook or maps) and weigh the possibility that a water source may be dry, and how far you will need to hike to the next source in case it is. When first starting out, I recommend erring on the side of caution and carrying more water than you think it will need. This will mean more weight, but as you get a feel for how much water you drink over a certain number of miles in different types of terrain and weather conditions you can refine your water-carrying strategy to find the right balance between staying properly hydrated and weight reduction.

      The two choices for carrying water are in bottles or bladders. I still alternate between the two and can’t decide which I like best. They both have their pros and cons. Water bottles make it easy to see how much water you have left at a glance, which helps with water rationing over long stretches. But, since you have to stop and pull them out of your pack, you may not drink as often as you should. Water bladders (with a drinking tube) make it more convenient to drink as you hike, which means more consistent hydration. But, with bladders you can’t easily see how much water you have left, so you run the risk of drinking it all up too quickly, or not drinking enough, and arriving at the next source either dry or with a bunch of unused water.

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