Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Actually, I don't like packing ...

... but when I have a big adventure in the works, the kind where much of my enjoyment and perhaps even my survival hinges on being well-prepared, I like to be, well, prepared. I am trying to finalize all of my equipment for my weeklong trek in Nepal, because once I leave for Utah on Thursday I will effectively be in transit for the rest of the month. Today I gathered up everything that I intend to haul during the 155-mile stage race. It was quite the haul; the little things sure do add up.

I haven't yet weighed the food but I'm guessing it's close to half the total weight. If I have time I'd like to weigh and then calculate the actual calorie numbers. I have seven dinners (700-800 calories each), three breakfasts (Beat and I will split the breakfasts, so 300-400 calories), four bars per day (about 800 calories), and supplemental peanut butter and jam (about 450 calories per day.) I threw in three small bags of gummy candy as a treat. This gave me the idea to replace my own stash of food bars with strategic candy bars, which I can later trade with other competitors for food bars at a three-to-one or four-to-one ratio. I mean, after four days of Builder Bars, what wouldn't you trade for a Snickers? It's really not a terrible idea. If I was going to cut weight from my pack, the food supply would be the place to do it. Anything else would be minimal. I'm already bringing only just enough clothing to stay warm if we have weather in the 30s or 40s and rain (this is possible, even likely.) If we have that kind of weather and I'm already soaking wet, well, I better hope those gummy candies help stoke the core furnace, and accept that I won't be feeling my fingers and toes for a while.

Some of this stuff is required race gear but not a terrible idea — blister/first aid kit, emergency bivy, compass/whistle, two headlamps, flashing red light, multitool, hat with neck cover, extra socks, gloves, fleece hat, rainproof jacket, sunscreen, sunglasses tights, shorts, two shirts, sleeping bag (not pictured here) and electrolyte caps. I added a few more drugs, toothbrush, wet wipes, soap, tablet towels, iodine, knee braces, sleeves, buff, gaiters, underwear, rain pants, mitten shells, insect repellent, titanium spoon and a more extensive foot kit. My pad is a RidgeRest Solite, and yes it is my preferred sleeping pad and yes I want every square inch of it (sleeping pads seem to be one of the larger points of contention when it comes to backpacking and bikepacking.) I will bring the tyvek suit and flip flops for camp. We're going to spend plenty of time sitting around and I expect to be fully soaked with hamburger feet; for about 8 ounces total, they will at least be a worthy experiment in warmth and comfort. I snuck in a pair of fleece socks for sleeping. I'm also going to bring an iPod shuffle and a charger that uses two AA batteries. Totally worth it IMO. I'm bringing my "big" camera, also worth it. There's a chance I will sneak in a back-up-camera, just in case. I think the only thing I have left to acquire are packets of Via from Starbucks.

Altogether, the pack weighed in at 21.2 pounds without water (or the camera, which I forgot to put in before I weighed it, but including the sleeping bag.) I could probably agonize and shave another two pounds off my optional gear, or give up my comfort items, or decide to put myself on a diet, or I could just woman up and carry a 25-to-30-pound pack. This is, after all, a vacation, and I think being hungry and cold sucks worse than having sore shoulders and moving slow. The knee braces and poles are a crucial part of my kit, but my knees have been feeling progressively stronger during my recent training runs with the loaded pack. I think I am *nearly* ready; as ready as I can be.

Other than that, I am tapering. Beat and I enjoyed a quiet weekend of running with the packs and Halloween dinner with friends. Today after a productive morning of writing and afternoon of packing, I didn't get out the door for my ride until 5:20 p.m. I was a little shocked when it started to get dark thirty minutes later. It's still 80 degrees during the day here, so I almost forget that the winter months are upon us.

I am having a weird sort of taper. I feel strong during my hard-effort pack runs but weakish during my mellow, short bicycle rides. How this bodes for the 25 Hours of Frog Hollow, it's tough to say. At least I don't have phantom pains or an imaginary cold quite yet. Currently the weather forecast for Hurricane, Utah, calls for showers on Friday, and clear on Saturday with a high of 45 degrees and low of 27. I used to be a decent cold-weather rider, but now I live in a place where it's 80 degrees pretty much all the time, at least into November. I'm going to be one of the least acclimated people out there, so yes, I am a little concerned about the cold.

But I am excited! Only five more days. I guess this means I should really start to think about what food and gear I'm going to use during Frog Hollow. I haven't even begun to pack for that one.


  1. How does that old school pad compare to a modern ultralight thermarest? You would reduce volume for sure, not so sure about weight.

  2. Actually the pad is 14 oz for a regular 70 inch length pad. The z-lite, which is their "light" pad, folds up better but is also 14 oz for the same size, and has an R-value of 2.2 whereas this old-school pad has an r-value of 2.8!

    The prolite is 1lbs for an r-value of just 2.2, but the new NeoAir X-lite is 12 oz (mummy style though) with an R-value of 3.2, thus warmer for about the same weight. I presume the air pads may be somewat more comfortable though.

    Air pads are though probably pretty hard to use in ultracold winter camping which we also use our stuff for (I think fiddling with blowing those things up when it's -30 would be an exercise in frustration ...) - plus the foam can't break (and always doubles as padding in a pinch). Apart from the bulk, which isn't a problem, I don't see any drawbacks ...

  3. Beat the all-weather neo air one is for winter -- though that doesn't mean there's any reason you need one.

    Jill, my pack in the Uintas was close to 30 pounds with water and it was just fine. Not nearly as heavy as I was worried it would be.

  4. You should try and cram in copies of Nicholas Crane's books "Running the Himalayas" and "Journey to the Centre of the Earth" - see how they did light weight minimalist travel in the Himalayas back in the 1980's. These guys were cutting off bits of their bikes as they went to get their weight down. Makes us realise how lucky we are today.
    Seriously if you can dig up copies of these (now out of print) books, they are seriously inspiring especially given where you're going.

  5. That one is 19 oz - getting hefty - but has a high R value. Btw I referred to trying to blow the thing up when it's miserable and cold ... probably not an issue, but in an emergency I wouldn't want to fuck around with it.

    Air pads definitely can have the edge on insulation for the same weight, and also on comfort and bulk. But in terms of sheer reliability and ease of use, it's a different story. Also a foam pad could double as insulation for water (probably only for a while) in your sled.

  6. This is the best blog ever, thanks so much for your writing and its great that I can share it with my daughter.

    Rod from Sydney Australia

  7. Inflatable pads aren't popular in winter racing circles, mainly because insulation is so crucial and holes can render them useless. I have also read discussions about the air inside an inflatable pad cooling down, also taking away much of the insulation value of the pad. That second point is pure speculation, of course. All I know is during my overnight winter camping excursions in 2007 and 2008, I froze my feet off during the nights I used my 3/4-length ProLite, shivered for a long time with a full length ProLite, and felt much happier with my RidgeRest. Because of this it's my preference for all camping trips where insulation from the ground is key.

    Rod — Thank you!

  8. That might be true Jill but this pad just came out a few months ago. It's far warmer than most pads which I know from using it :p I am still not insisting that you need it but I think it's a great pad.

  9. Taking a few comfort items, like the gummies, seems like a good idea - if you're having a bad day, they'll help motivate you and keep you going.

    I love that type of pad. They're light AND comfortable. My back hates inflatable pads - they just don't work for me.

    Where is the sleeping bag in the first picture? It must be there, but I'm missing it.

  10. are the pads made in China?

  11. Actually the Thermarest website says they're made in the USA, right in Seattle:


    Seems to apply to all their mattresses (and a lot, but not all, their other stuff).

  12. Flip flops?

    I do enjoy the discussion on gear...I'm a bit of a junkie for this stuff. Good luck (on both your upcoming events)!!!


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