How goes it everyone, Levi here. Welcome to the first ever post on the Advntr Squad website, unless Josh made something first, in which case I’m gonna feel really dumb. I hope for this website to be a whole new creative platform, a place where we can share stories, tutorials, and probably some random nonsense as well. Josh may share some of his photos and photography advice, Ethan may give you a preview of some of his art, Blake and John will do… something most likely. But for this first post, I thought I would share a story of our first trip and some advice for packing for your own adventures.
A gear nightmare: Our first adventure
None of the adventure squad is likely to forget our first, and most disastrous backpacking trip and its many, many gear failures. For an overnighter that lasted less than one day, we made an average of five packing errors per hour. Inside our packs, we had divided up a container of precooked rice, four large cans of chunky soup, a heavy pot, three full bottles of water each, a large container of oatmeal and so many other unnecessary and heavy items. Along with us we also had two Coleman sleeping bags that packed down about as well as an elephant into a slug-bug, a huge fleece blanket, and a -15 degree rated synthetic sleeping bag.
All in all, I'm sure each of our packs weighed close to thirty-five pounds, not a bad weight for a three-month trek across Antarctica but a tiny bit overkill for a three mile, single night backpacking trip. To show how ridiculously over-prepared we were, I took the same trip solo last year with eight pounds of gear (including water and food)
We realized our mistakes soon after getting on the trail, our packs were heavy and only Ethan and I had hip belts to take the weight off our shoulders. Josh had a ridiculous, knockoff JanSport pack with his -15-degree sleeping bag loosely bungee corded to the back and it swung back and forth with every step. Although, John ended up carrying that pack, as well as his own up most of the way after Josh lost his lunch all over the trail (forever earning him the nickname Captain Crunch).
Upon reaching camp, we discovered that the tent we had brought wasn't actually big enough to fit all of us, lucky in my thirty-five pounds of gear I had my hammock and straps, because you never know right? Though I didn't have a tarp because rain in the Rocky Mountains never just springs up out of nowhere. Not a single time has that ever happened.
We settled down, we made dinner, we found that only Ethan and I had remembered to bring a bowl and spoon, it was a grand old time.
I found another mistake after getting into my hammock that night which was that the pathetic sleeping bag I had brought, while rated to be comfortable in these temperatures was being crushed between my body and the thin material of the hammock. No matter which way I turned there was always an uncomfortable cold spot. Oh, and I also forgot to bring my contact case or glasses so I had to wear my day only contacts all night and woke up with my eyelids glued together.
Mistakes were made.
So it was a bit of a gear nightmare. None of this is to say that we didn't have a good time, but to think how much better would it have been if we had known how to pack. Not to mention how disastrous the trip could have turned if the weather hadn't been as favorable, not one of us had a rain jacket and the tent we brought had no rain fly, (it just keeps getting better doesn't it?) So what do you need for a simple overnighter? A quick reference checklist can be found below.
A good sleeping bag
Through the summer a light sleeping bag is totally sufficient. I have used the Teton Trailhead for a few years now and it's a decent summer bag which was less than fifty bucks when I bought it. Make sure you have a pad as well to insulate you from the cold ground. A Walmart foam pad will do nicely until you are ready to upgrade.
Honestly, if the trip is short and you pack light, a school backpack will do you just fine. It may not be the most comfortable on the shoulders but chances are you already have one lying around. If you want to experience true comfort though, a good backpacking bag with a sturdy hip belt is the way to go. I found my Kelty Coyote 4500 at a thrift store for twenty bucks and there are almost always older external frame packs for sale on craigslist for super cheap. Lining the inside of your pack with a trash bag will ensure that your stuff stays nice and dry.
A tent big enough for four people can be pretty heavy but if the weight is properly divided up it's not bad at all. An 8x10 painters tarp can be purchased cheaply and makes a great individual shelter if you have a bit of paracord.
I probably would have been warm that night even with my poor sleep system had I been wearing something better than a thin cotton hoodie. Cotton is just the worst, it gets wet, stays wet and makes you cold. Wet jeans are also an absolutely heinous crime against all that is good in the world. Pick up some light, synthetic pants and shirts and then write yourself a thank you letter. Drying synthetic clothing is a breeze (literally, just hang them on a tree and let the wind take care of the rest) so if you take a dip in the stream that's no biggie. A hat to keep the sun out of your eyes and a beanie to keep you warm are nice to have and will make you a lot more comfortable.
Bring lots of socks too. Like, lots of socks. Lots and lots of socks.
A small steel pot from a thrift store will work just as well for a small party of adventurers as the most expensive titanium cookware from REI. Heat that sucker over a fire or cookstove and that's GG well played. For individual eating ware, a small plastic bowl will usually suffice. The spoon/knife/fork combo that you get form every camping supply store has failed me every time so now I just carry a FroYo spoon from Cold Stone Creamery and that works great. Having a brillo pad makes quick work of any mess so it's worth tossing in.
This is a whole separate post. Moving on.
Contrary to popular belief, you do not need a boot that covers your ankle to go hiking, low cut hiking boots or sneakers work just fine as long as they are comfortable and well broken in.
A couple of water bottles, Nalgenes work well or re-purposed soda/Gatorade bottles are all you really need.
The Energizer ones are durable and pretty bright.
A toothbrush, toothpaste, toilet paper, any medications you might have and perhaps a bandanna to wash your dirty heathen face after a hard day on the trail.
A camp knife
Your granddad's swiss-army knife is fine but if you want to step up your game a bit pick up a Morakniv companion knife. Having a fixed blade knife is super handy for processing kindling for your fire, making tent pegs, etc. You can get one for super cheap on Amazon. (This is an affiliate link)
As much of a gear disaster that first trip was, it was also a great experience for us and the fun wasn't diminished much by poor planning. There was still that thrill of reaching the top of the peak and seeing the trail snake back down through the trees. In being able to see all of where we had come from laid out below. Its harder to understand why some things should be done in a certain way unless there is a real-life account of those who have done it wrong and suffered because of it. So I hope we have helped you through our misadventures, to become more prepared for your own travels.
Follow this link to a free checklist of recommended gear for your first trip.
And that's all I have for you today guys, Archer out.