Monday, July 9, 2012

How To: Loading a Backpack

Getting ready for the trail...
Loading your backpack properly is an essential skill that every hiker needs to learn. It helps you learn your gear and how to organize it in the best fashion for easy accessibility on the trail. The best thing you can do before you start is make your very own checklist of everything you want to bring/own. Having the list saved so you can print it each time makes it hard to forget those little items like bug spray or toilet paper. I always load my backpack for the trail at my house. Doing it this way allows you to lay all of your items out on your living room floor so you can see everything and prioritize.

The following are the parts of a typical pack:

The first thing most backpackers do is shove their sleeping bag down to the bottom of their bag. It depends on the size of your pack but I carry a large 3-4 day pack on all my ventures. I insert my sleeping into the bottom vertically and then place my sleeping bag above that. These are my heaviest items. An important note is that you want to put your heaviest items near the center of your back and close to your spine. Another thing to remember is that the stuff at the bottom of your bag should be things you probably won't need until your at the campsite. After I insert these two items I put some clothes at the bottom of the pack. You want to have your heavy items ABOVE the hip belt to ensure your carrying your load on your hips and not your back/shoulders. Next, I insert items around my sleeping bag and tent to keep them from shifting around. Ensure you load the weight evenly on both side. The ensures one side isn't heavier than the other. After I load these items I load the more akward items like tent poles, crampons, or tent stakes. It is very import that all these items be protected so they don't puncture your pack. I usually wrap a pair of sweat pants or a shirt around the ends so this doesn't happen.

The last items I load are my “most used” items. This could include things like a map and compass, snacks, water, or a knife. You want to put these in a side compartment or top lid compartment for easy accessibility.

Lastly, it's important to remember that you won't pack your backpack perfectly the first time. You may realize you want access to one item sooner than expected and end up moving it closer to the top next time your head for the trail. You will adapt your packing techniques over several trial runs as you learn your gear. If it's your first time with a new pack or heavier gear practice carrying it around the mall or take it on shorter day hikes. This helps you get the “feel” of the pack before your long trip and see how it's going to impact your body. It's to late if you realize a day into a week long trip that your overloaded. Your pack should be an extension of you and feel like it move easily with you.

Got a packing tip that helped you save room or time? Like to put a change of socks at the top of your pack or maybe you carry your tent on the outside? Let me know what you think in the comments section.

Learn. Explore. Survive.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Rattlesnake Ledge - July 8th 2012

An Outstanding Day Hike...

Today, I headed out for a much needed delve into the wilderness. A friend of mine, Ben Shapiro, wanted to head out to Rattlesnake Ledge in South Bend, WA. All in all there were three of us who headed out, Ben Shapiro, Jesus Cantu, and myself. Late last night to agreed on going on the trip. I packed my backpack for a day hike. I didn't know much of the area when I agreed to go. We left early, around 7 AM, to beat the heat of the day. When we arrived I looked up at the ridge from the parking lot and was in awe of its size. It seemed much larger than what I expected and higher.
Rattlesnake Ledge from the parking lot.

 We reached the trailhead in a matter of minutes from the parking lot. The trail is incredibly well maintained. The trail is a decent climb, all three of us are in good shape and it was tiring. We started up around 8:30 and arrived and at the top of the ledge at about 9:45. The ledge itself offer amazing views of the surrounding area. We took some time on the ledge to rest before we decided to head for the Eastern Peak. The Altitude on the ledge was around 2100 feet. It was a steep rise from the parking lot below that lay at 900 feet. The eastern peak was another 2.4 miles up hill and was a rise to 3500 feet. We didn't know much about the peak but hoped it offered views comparable to the ones at Rattlesnake Ledge. It was early in the day so we decided to press on. The trail leading to the East Peak had FAR less traffic than the trails leading to Rattlesnake Ledge. We arrived at the Peak rather quickly. The trail leading up was more narrow than the earlier trails. When we arrived I was surprised that the views weren't that great. There was one sitting area that was occupied the entire time we spent at the Peak. There is an old radio tower located at the peak. We decided to climb the ladder leading up the tower to get better views for the camera. The structure is old and is easily 100 feet tall. You can only access the ladder as the top is locked. Jesus Cantu was the brave one that went up to check. I was to nervous to climb all the way up but went up far enough to see over the tree line. We decided ,after a nice rest, that we would head back down and stop at the ledge to get some more pictures since the sun was higher in the sky. We ran back down the trail quickly and cut our ascent time by nearly two thirds. We arrived back at the ledge and decided to look around. Jesus Cantu and I explored the cliff and surrounding areas to find a more direct path down that was “off the beaten path.” Most of the ledge was either an incredible drop or was to steep to attempt. Eventually we found an area that looked decent. Ben decided to take the trail since he had hurt his ankle earlier in the day and Cantu and I decided to take the more direct path. We headed back to the area we thought was manageable and started down. We went through what seemed to be an eroded trench where the melted water flowed during the spring. We descended extremely quickly since the side was steep in parts. Soon we broke into the forest treeline and found a “path” that led into the woods and back towards the lake. We climbed down and met the original trail trail when we were about 400 feet above the lake. We found another “path” at this point and quickly arrived at the lake. It took us roughly 20 minutes to descend the 1,200 feet to the lake from the ledge. We were worn out when we arrived and decided to take off our boots to give our feet a rest. We went into the lake to wash the sweat away and cool off. The water was amazingly cool after the long hike and it felt amazing. We got out after a few minutes and took some time to relax in the shade of a tree before departing. All in all the hike was nice and steady and offered an amazing spot to relax at after the hike.

View from the ledge.
Whats your favorite post-hike activity? Swimming, sun bathing, or maybe some napping with ice?
Let me know what you think in the comments section.

Learn. Explore. Survive.