Lightweight Camping & San Jacinto Inventory

I went backpacking again after a two year lull.  Twins will do that to you.  Over the years I’ve turned into one of those crazy ultra-light people, looking for any way to trim the pounds and ounces.  I’m trying to keep better track of what I bring, what was useful, and what I need to bring next time.  Here is the packing list for this trip (weight order) with a few comments.

  • Water: two full Nalgenes, one full 70 oz. (2L) bladder – 10 lbs, 8oz.  Fortunately we found water on the trail, otherwise this would have been far too little.  I forgot to bring a little extra water for cooking and cleaning.  One more Nalgene would have been good.
  • Sleeping gear: one Thermarest, sleeping bag (20F synthetic), and footprint – 4 lbs 14 oz.  The footprint was probably unnecessary and I could look into a 3/4 Thermarest to trim weight.  A mosquito cover for the sleeping bag would have been useful.
  • Backpack: 30L capacity – 3 lbs.  This was a new pack, smaller than my Gregory and much better for a one/two night trip.
  • Cooking equipment: one pot with handle and lid, Whisper-lite stove, fuel – 2 lbs 13 oz.  I could have trimmed the fuel by half, but wanted to be safe.  The salt shaker would have been useful for not much extra weight.  A one-cup measure would be good for the MREs.
  • Toys: GPS, camera, binoculars – 2 lbs 3 oz.  The GPS and camera are a must.  The binocs are frivolous but nice to have; I guarantee if you leave them at home, you’ll end up wanting them.
  • Survival: knife, headlamp, flashlight, compass, map, rope – 1 lb 7oz.  I used the knife, headlamp, and map.  The other stuff needs to come along every time.  A basic first aid kit would be good to have.
  • Food: one dinner and dessert, oatmeal packet, raisins, two bars, Ultima powder – 1 lb 6 oz.  .  This turned out to be the right amount of food for two days / one night, but I should bring more treats next time.  Nothing like some Skittles or gummy bears to raise the spirits during a long hike.  Mark had the right idea with some popcorn in salt and oil.
  • Water purification: filter and water drops – 1 lb 2 oz.  The drops are a must, even if there is well water.  We used the filter but turns out we didn’t need it.  If we didn’t find running water at Wellman Cienega, it would have been very useful.
  • Hiking poles – 1 lb 1oz.  Must have every time.
  • Personal items: toothbrush and paste, glasses, wallet, watch, bug spray / sunscreen, suds – 15 oz.  I don’t think there’s any way around bringing this stuff.  The next step is drilling holes in the toothbrush handle, but I don’t think I’m that crazy yet.  Bug spray / sunscreen combo was vital for keeping mosquitoes at bay.
  • Extra clothing: one long sleeve t-shirt and extra socks – 12 oz.  The t-shirt was invaluable.  Extra socks were unnecessary but nice to have.

Total weight this time was 30 lbs 1 oz.  Next time I can probably drop the extra socks, binoculars, some of the fuel, the water filter if there is running water, and decrease the size of my personal care items.  Must haves for next time are better snacks, a small pillow, one extra Nalgene, one-cup measure, salt shaker, and a first aid kit.

Mt. San Jacinto Hike

Ryan and I went on a camping trip this weekend and tagged the peak of Mt. San Jacinto.

We decided to go light on this trip, with no tent and minimal clothes. We survived and learned a lot for next time.

Mt. San Jacinto is in Southern California, just south of Palm Springs. We summited from the south via the Deer Springs trail and Wellmans Divide. I used the Tom Harrison San Jacinto Wilderness Trail Map, but it appears to be out of print. You may be able to find it at REI or you could also try the Wilderness Press San Bernardino Mountains Map.

We started our hike at the trailhead just north of Idyllwild on Route 243. Stop at the state park HQ on 243 in Idyllwild for more directions and to get any permits you need. If you start at 4-5pm during daylight savings time, it’s possible to make the first campsite at Strawberry Junction before nightfall. The hike from Strawberry Junction to Wellman Divide has amazing views of Strawberry Valley and Tahquitz Peak across the valley. These views are why I prefer this route to the San Jacinto peak.

It is possible to hike from the Strawberry Junction campground to the top of San Jacinto and back down to the trailhead and your car in one day. This is quite a difficult hike though. If you want to take it easy, summit on day two and spend your second night in Round Valley or Tamarack Valley campgrounds. This also give you the option to hike to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway for a well-deserved dinner and beer after coming down from the summit.

I’ve done this hike twice, in March and late August, and have found running water both times along the section between Strawberry Junction and Wellman Divide. I recommend bringing a pump / filter, similar to this one from MSR, because your only water may be in standing pools that are quite dirty.

It’s possible to summit in one day by taking the Palm Springs Tram to Long Valley. Ryan and I consider that cheating, though, and we will award you no points.

Anza Borrego Weekend

The San Diego Crew had a desert weekend a few weeks ago. Highlights included navigating through the Anza Borrego wilderness, exploring mud caves, surviving Diablo Dropoff and the subsequent boulder-strewn canyon, watching a Jeep flip and re-flipping it while gas was pouring out of the tank, and raising hell at the Lazy Lizard and Iron Door. Only a few pictures made it through all the craziness.

Diablo Dropoff