Things to change
Rain Protection – The ponchos we packed did very close to nothing on this trip. The one I carried was a high-end model, but had not been put to a real-life test. It had been acquired pre-owned as a gift, and had only ever been used as a backup tarp in actual rain. In a real downpour while being worn, I found it to pass water through as if not there. Jason’s poncho was a cheap PVC kid’s poncho that was way too small. We had several of these in our camping/scouting gear bins, and I might have grabbed the wrong one, or he has really grown this much since we last took the thing out. Bad prep. Now I am leaning toward a Packa – expensive!. Or a windbreaker + pack cover + possibly a homemade skirt. Or Wind breaker + more holistic approach to keeping contents of backpack dry. I.e. a pack liner of some kind. The windbreaker can pull double duty as a windbreaker / shell layer in the cold as well. Or a cheaper, newer poncho + pack cover/liner, and expect to replace it every season or so.
- Lunches – As dry and hard and smoked and cured as salamis and cheeses can get, it still has a finite shelf life. For any trip like this longer than one week I should go back to Spam Singles, and “Ultralight Joe’s” Moose Goo for lunches. The Pemmican 2.0 (recipe post to follow, someday) batch I tested before the hike actually held up quite well and is a potential long-shelf-life food, but it is very labor intensive. I did not have time to make enough for this trip.
- Pinole – The trendy aboriginal powerbar made from toasted corn meal, sugar, and chia seeds is tricky. With more sugar it could be tasty and more treat-like. The texture is intolerable if you mix it wrong – it needs to be a paste on par with raw cookie dough. If mixed too runny it becomes revolting. Alternately, try adding chia seeds to Moose Goo for whatever magical powers they might have, in a stabler albeit heavier platform.
- Instant Mashed Sweet Potatoes – Stay away from this vile gruel. Prepared in the field with tepid canteen water and mosquito eggs does NOT compare to the test batch prepared with milk and butter, air conditioning and cable TV. We dubbed it “baby vomit” on day 1. Stick with plain or butter flavored potatoes. The plain variety can be doctored with sugar, raisins, cinnamon, for a cream-of-wheat-esque breakfast, or kept savory (olive oil, tabasco) for a dinner side, or hobo-pot main dish. This stuff weighs NOTHING and thus is perfect for backpacking.
- Dried Fruit – YES! A last minute add and so cheap and easy. Wedge up the bulk cider apples, add some lemon juice, dehydrate. Even simpler: canned peaches. Stay away from canned pears – they become sugary sticky when dehydrated.
Pens – It never dawned on me that I would run out of ink. But at least one backup is necessary, especially if there is a certain type of pen you like to write or draw with. Throw it in a bounce- or resupply box to cut clutter and grams. My first real “trail magic” was stumbling across a decent pen lying in the middle of the trail as I was pondering running out of ink, on day 7. Not a great drawing pen, but good enough to write with. It lasted me the rest of the hike.
Camera – Bring a real one, in a belt holster. As amazing as smartphones are, the camera still sucks in relative terms. Compared to even inexpensive digital point & shoots today, the iPhone camera has bad low-light performance and does not handle high contrast situations well at all. I think I would even bring for my heavy old Canon G9. (“heavy”, “old” are relative terms if you lived through the film age.) It might make me more conscious or deliberate about taking photos.
Learn some songs – Memorize your favorite full album. TV themes. Anything. Often I found myself bored and wishing I had a better repertoire of things memorized to recite out loud. I am reminded of an interview with triple-crown hiker Hawkeye, who would spend his hiking time memorizing epic poems, to then dramatically perform dramatically around the campfire for the other hikers. (What other hikers?)
Pipe – I know it’s adding potentially superfluous weight – a lot less than the 1 lb. Katadyn Hiker Pro pump filter I used to carry. But I found myself wishing I had a section of PVC pipe on several occasions. A 1/2″ x 16″ piece would do the trick, to route the thin seep or trickle that makes up many high mountain springs in to a sort of faucet that you can fill your water bottle or mug from. I might need to contrive a dual purpose for this tool, to justify it.
Sit Pad – a simple 1’x2′ or 2’x2′ of blue foam. Although the platypus tailbone pillow worked pretty well for this, as I discovered on the next to last day.
Roses – Stop and smell them. See applicable posts re shorter hike-days and more breaks, more sketching or drawing, and shared human experience. Doing it this way was certainly a challenge, gained me bragging rights, sub-10% body fat, and 6-pack-ish abs. But that is not quite the same kind of navel gazing I had hoped to have time for, given a 3-week hermitage in the woods. I have to keep telling myself that the miles are the roses, and they smell great!