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View Full Version : Back in the Woods after 22 Years!



billmac
2005-07-04, 13:23
Hello, this is my first posting on the web site (or any other for that matter). My name is Bill and I知 a 37-year-old former Boy Scout who hasn稚 been hiking in the woods in the last 22 years. That is until this past weekend. I just got done hiking 29 miles on the Pine Mountain Trail in FDR State Park in Southern Georgia. Bottom line: it was a great experience and I知 glad I did and now I知 prepping for my next adventure. I wanted to give a quick after action report and ask a couple of questions in hopes that some of you would answer and/or comment on.

First some background: I知 an active duty Army officer currently stationed at Fort McPherson in Atlanta. I got a bug in my mind about 2 years ago to get back into hiking when a co-worker told me about his plans to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. I pretty much gave up on ever hiking again after sustaining a shoulder injury in college. But, I started visiting this web site and others and began reading up on ultra-light back packing. In particular, I did a 6 month tour in Kuwait and during that time I spent a lot of time studying the tenets of ultra-light and planning my first trek back into the woods, with the ultimate goal of thru hiking the AT at some point in the future. Finally, after all the planning and reading, I assemble my gear and selected Pine Mountain as my 都hake down hike.

My gear: Go Lite Breeze back pack, Katadyn Water purifier, Esbit camp stove, Kelty Teton II tent, and 20 Degree bag. NO BOOTS, I left the boots at home and used my New Balance running shoes. Total weight (including water and food) before I left: approximately 26 pounds.

Now I wanted to get below 20 pounds, but I had no problems handling the extra weight. In fact, I was able to maintain a speed of 1 mile every 20 minutes. Which brings me to my first question: how does this rate of speed compare with yours? Now, I understand and appreciate the tenets of 塗ike your own hike so it probably isn稚 proper to ask this but I am really curious if I slower/faster than others. To me, this speed worked out great. In fact, my last day on the trail, I did 13 miles in 4 hours and 40 minutes. Using a map, compass, altimeter and watch for navigation, I found that after every 20 minutes, I would look up and find the next mile marker right on target. Most of all I知 pleased that I was able to maintain this speed because I know if I do a thru hike on the AT, I will need to be able to do some 20 mile days and thanks to keeping my pack weight down, I feel confident that I would be able to do that.

I know now that I could even reduce my pack weight even more. Most notably, I could have (should have) left the sleeping bag at home. The weather was hot enough that I never got inside of the thing, I just rolled it up and used it as a pillow at night. I could have easily got by with just a poncho liner. I probably could have left the tent home as well, but I like to spread my gear out once I知 at camp and I used the tent to stretch out. So the bag was the biggest amount of wasted weight.

However, the piece of gear I wished I had with me was a pair of leggings. Like I said, I did all the hiking with just my running shoes, but now I have 敵od knows what all over my ankles. I don稚 know if its poise ivy or chiggers, but it itches like crazy! Had I had a set of leggings I could have spared myself this. Next question: do you use leggings, if so which do you recommend?

Overall, I was very pleased with the Go Lite Breeze pack. Like I said, I was concerned about an old shoulder injury and was worried that I would get only a mile on the trail and be in so much pain that I would have to turn around. That never happened. Sure, my shoulders were sore, but even after my longest hiking day, but I quickly recovered. I知 I got the Breeze, but I don稚 think it will be sufficient for any hikes longer than 4 days. I could have pack one additional days worth of food in there (especially, had I left the sleeping bag at home) but I took no cold weather gear with me, so I think I will need to start shopping for a larger pack for longer duration hikes later in the year so that I can withstand cold weather. Next question: any thought on this?

One technique I wanted to pass along: I was concerned with getting dehydrated while on the trail. I致e had one to many IV lines stuck in me while in the field, so I was determined to bring a large container with me and continuously drink while walking. I had a large size back pack style Camel Pack that held 2 liters. The Breeze has a large mesh pocket along the back. So I stripped out the blatter and drinking hose from the Camel Pack and put it in the large mesh pocket and then weaved the drinking straw though a loop on the right shoulder harness. It worked great and I was able to drink while on the move.

Like I said, I知 glad that I went out on this hike. One of my goals was to commit myself to 都urviving in the wilderness and letting go to the comforts of home. It was nice to leave the emails and the 擢ox News Alerts behind me and to embrace the idea of being self-reliant. I was by myself and really enjoyed the peace and quiet. It痴 been a while since I used my land nav skills and found that they quickly came back to me. I also enjoyed the sense of accomplishment when I finished the long 13-mile hike. I feel very confident that I could go on a longer duration hike. The Pine Mountain Trail is well maintain and has some beautiful views. I think that I値l go back there in the fall.

Finally, I want to say 鍍hank you to SGT Rock and everyone else on this site. I致e been visiting this site at least once a week for the past year to get thoughts and ideas for this first trip back into the woods.

Seeker
2005-07-05, 01:27
congrats, and welcome...

you CAN get below 20 lbs. count on it... you will have to overcome a few institutional biases though... army officer=planner/mission-drive/murphyproof it.... (i know... i were wun... now i cain't even spel occifer... took me about 5 years to "decompress" after i got out. see my profile.) my comments are just my own opinion.... neither right for you, nor necessarily wrong... take what you can from them, and leave the rest...

your equipment (26 lbs) seems a little on the heavy side... first, look at the 'big three'... pack, sleeping bag, and tent.

your pack is fine. and there's plenty of room inside. as you lighten up, it'll be more apparent. the sleeping bag ate more than it should have... more on that in a minute.

tent-look into a tarp or a hammock. this is one of the biggest mental leaps you'll have to make, but once you do, everthing else will come easier.

the boots-good move to running shoes.

water purifier-look into chemical purification.

esbit stove-good deal. there are lighter methods, but that's a WHOLE different discussion (Rock is "THE Man" regarding the alcohol stove issue).

sleeping bag-look at where you'll be going (AT) and the coldest it will get for a given stretch of trail vs time of year, and look at getting a lighter bag. personally, i use a 35 degree down bag that weighs about 20 oz. but i'm at ft polk. never too cold here, and since i don't like being out in it anyway (native of ft drum area... hate the cold! i won't camp when it's cold out... been there, done that, got the frostbite as a kid, turned down the t-shirt. 'nuff said.) were i to do the AT, i might use a slightly warmer bag in the mountains in spring (GA to TN), then lighter for a bit, and then go back heavier/warmer once i got up into New England... i think that covers your gear.

leggings.... ok, maybe. if you've ever been here, you know the chigger problems we have... i use permithrin spray... maybe not the most environmentally friendly stuff, but it works great... everthing gets sprayed... shoes, socks, pants, hammock, hat, headnet.... end of problem.

hydration. this is just me, but i see 'hydration' as a buzzword, or marketing hype... yeah, i know... the army spent a lot of money buying camelbak's for everyone... but i've seen them buy us gortex outerwear and sleeping bags that weren't worth a flip either... still hype, in my opinion. personally, i am very heat resistant, love to be out in it, and haven't been a heat casualty. i STAY hydrated during the day by drinking as much as i can whenever i can. sipping all day from a 2 lb pack made just for water doesn't make sense to me. i just have to be careful to take LONG water breaks when i can. this isn't the army, and i don't get just a 10 minute break every hour of marching... oh, and when you get down to a full pack with 5 days of food under 25-30 lbs, you sweat a lot less too. (i gave up the rucksack years ago). pace yourself... that's what i was saying earlier... goals are good, but you don't have to push like you have a mission unless you want to... personally, i don't... i like to walk, not march. the days of XVIII Airborne Corps standard 12 miles in 3 hours with a 'combat load' are over for me... i'll never go back... anyway, relook the whole hydration thing from a marketing standpoint... once you've sold the public a backpack and everything you could want to put in it, what next? invent something. make it sound scientific. and they'll buy it...

oh, and get hold of ray jardine's book 'beyond backpacking'... i don't agree with everything he says, and some of his numbers on one issue were just flat out wrong. but i digress... his philosophy is what's important... don't let yourself get 'sold' anything. take it along because you truly NEED it, AND because it works for you. ray did a fantastic thing when he published his book and got the world thinking differently... and for that i will thank him.

ok, i is done now. hope it was helpful.

again, welcome, congrats on your hike, and good luck. one of the things i like about this site is the military background of so many of the posters, and the diversity of ages and opinions... good people, very helpful.

SGT Rock
2005-07-05, 10:49
Hello, this is my first posting on the web site (or any other for that matter). My name is Bill and I知 a 37-year-old former Boy Scout who hasn稚 been hiking in the woods in the last 22 years. That is until this past weekend. I just got done hiking 29 miles on the Pine Mountain Trail in FDR State Park in Southern Georgia. Bottom line: it was a great experience and I知 glad I did and now I知 prepping for my next adventure. I wanted to give a quick after action report and ask a couple of questions in hopes that some of you would answer and/or comment on.

Well welcome to the site. Or at least, welcome as a new poster.



First some background: I知 an active duty Army officer currently stationed at Fort McPherson in Atlanta. I got a bug in my mind about 2 years ago to get back into hiking when a co-worker told me about his plans to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. I pretty much gave up on ever hiking again after sustaining a shoulder injury in college. But, I started visiting this web site and others and began reading up on ultra-light back packing. In particular, I did a 6 month tour in Kuwait and during that time I spent a lot of time studying the tenets of ultra-light and planning my first trek back into the woods, with the ultimate goal of thru hiking the AT at some point in the future. Finally, after all the planning and reading, I assemble my gear and selected Pine Mountain as my 都hake down hike.

If your at McPherson, the AT is only a couple hours north of you and some great hiking in North GA. You ought to get up there and check the area out.



My gear: Go Lite Breeze back pack, Katadyn Water purifier, Esbit camp stove, Kelty Teton II tent, and 20 Degree bag. NO BOOTS, I left the boots at home and used my New Balance running shoes. Total weight (including water and food) before I left: approximately 26 pounds.

Two areas you could change to get lower ASAP is tent and filter just looking at your packing list. Get some Portable Aqua with the Vit C and a hammock or tarp anf you could loose about 3 pounds.



Now I wanted to get below 20 pounds, but I had no problems handling the extra weight. In fact, I was able to maintain a speed of 1 mile every 20 minutes. Which brings me to my first question: how does this rate of speed compare with yours? Now, I understand and appreciate the tenets of 塗ike your own hike so it probably isn稚 proper to ask this but I am really curious if I slower/faster than others. To me, this speed worked out great. In fact, my last day on the trail, I did 13 miles in 4 hours and 40 minutes. Using a map, compass, altimeter and watch for navigation, I found that after every 20 minutes, I would look up and find the next mile marker right on target. Most of all I知 pleased that I was able to maintain this speed because I know if I do a thru hike on the AT, I will need to be able to do some 20 mile days and thanks to keeping my pack weight down, I feel confident that I would be able to do that.

It depends on how I want to hike, the fastest I have done is about 4mph on the trail, but honestly I try to average about 2mph over the day which may include stretches where I actually go 2-2.5 MPH or stretches where I go 3MPH. I usually include breaks in figuring my march speed. With this sort of system I can get up at 0700, be on the trail by 0800, walk 16 miles averaging 2MPH, and still be done before dark even in winter. On my planned thru-hike I intend to do something similar which is plan for 100 miles a week after the first two weeks. I intend to do about 80 miles the first week so as not to accidently push into an accident, and then the following week do 90 miles, then hit 100 miles and keep it there as a minimum. My philosophy is two-fold. 1) Because hiking is different from running or straight rucking, even though I may train up to doing high milage days, I don't want to risk injury early in the hike. I'll hike and let my body adjust to the demands of the distance every day without a recovery break and make up for it later. It usually takes about 2 weeks in my experience to really get into the groove of hiking, so that is my break-in plan. 2) after I've gotten into the groove, I can play the push or rest game based on sections, weather, fitness, etc. and prevent it from becoming a forced march every day up the trail. at 100 miles per week, I can easily finish 22 weeks (154 days/5 months) and have time to swim in creeks, take a day off occasionally, push 20+ mile days when I want to, etc.



I know now that I could even reduce my pack weight even more. Most notably, I could have (should have) left the sleeping bag at home. The weather was hot enough that I never got inside of the thing, I just rolled it up and used it as a pillow at night. I could have easily got by with just a poncho liner. I probably could have left the tent home as well, but I like to spread my gear out once I知 at camp and I used the tent to stretch out. So the bag was the biggest amount of wasted weight.

You didn't ame the bag, but if you are looking at getting something else, you may want to look at a quilt. There are some good ones out there that can take you down to 20 in a pinch, but can be vented in hotter weather - and only weigh about 1.5 pounds.



However, the piece of gear I wished I had with me was a pair of leggings. Like I said, I did all the hiking with just my running shoes, but now I have 敵od knows what all over my ankles. I don稚 know if its poise ivy or chiggers, but it itches like crazy! Had I had a set of leggings I could have spared myself this. Next question: do you use leggings, if so which do you recommend?

I've used zip-off pants which may work better for what you want. Leggings (gaiters) don't breath so well. I sometimes use Minigators and I still am not sold on their utility.



Overall, I was very pleased with the Go Lite Breeze pack. Like I said, I was concerned about an old shoulder injury and was worried that I would get only a mile on the trail and be in so much pain that I would have to turn around. That never happened. Sure, my shoulders were sore, but even after my longest hiking day, but I quickly recovered. I知 I got the Breeze, but I don稚 think it will be sufficient for any hikes longer than 4 days. I could have pack one additional days worth of food in there (especially, had I left the sleeping bag at home) but I took no cold weather gear with me, so I think I will need to start shopping for a larger pack for longer duration hikes later in the year so that I can withstand cold weather. Next question: any thought on this?

I like the Gearskin. When packed correctly it feels like a pillow on my back and it has a volume up to 5000+ CI, yet only weighs about 1.5 pounds. Another pack you may want to look at is the ULA packs.



One technique I wanted to pass along: I was concerned with getting dehydrated while on the trail. I致e had one to many IV lines stuck in me while in the field, so I was determined to bring a large container with me and continuously drink while walking. I had a large size back pack style Camel Pack that held 2 liters. The Breeze has a large mesh pocket along the back. So I stripped out the blatter and drinking hose from the Camel Pack and put it in the large mesh pocket and then weaved the drinking straw though a loop on the right shoulder harness. It worked great and I was able to drink while on the move.

I quit using these sorts of hydration bladders for hiking. I now use an old Gatorade bottle hooked to my pack straps with a mini-biner so I can get a drink whenever I want. On the southern parts of the AT water is everywhere so I usually do not carry more than a quart and drink as often as I want. A platy bladder without the hose and a gatorade bottle weigh less empty than a Camel-bak with the hose. And with this system you can carry more water if you need it - I can carry up to 4L if I had too - that is a lot of darn water.



Like I said, I知 glad that I went out on this hike. One of my goals was to commit myself to 都urviving in the wilderness and letting go to the comforts of home. It was nice to leave the emails and the 擢ox News Alerts behind me and to embrace the idea of being self-reliant. I was by myself and really enjoyed the peace and quiet. It痴 been a while since I used my land nav skills and found that they quickly came back to me. I also enjoyed the sense of accomplishment when I finished the long 13-mile hike. I feel very confident that I could go on a longer duration hike. The Pine Mountain Trail is well maintain and has some beautiful views. I think that I値l go back there in the fall.

Finally, I want to say 鍍hank you to SGT Rock and everyone else on this site. I致e been visiting this site at least once a week for the past year to get thoughts and ideas for this first trip back into the woods. Welcome back to the woods!