I have to be honest, I am comfortable with what I took along with me on my section hike in Massachusetts. I’m more than happy with with the planning that went into the hike but have to admit, there is always room for improvement.
The biggest issues I saw were conditioning. One friend who went on this adventure had not done any training hikes. I did plenty of training hikes but none came close to the conditions we would see hiking SOBO over Mount Greylock. I am told that Knobstone in Southern Indiana is a good training ground but it is four hours away from where I live and trips down to train was not feasible. Warren Dunes was a decent training ground as long as you are going up and down the dunes and not just the flat trails. Greylock had rocks, boulders and tree roots that we had to go up and down on. It wasn’t too difficult but you had to be careful as some where slick from water or mud. My work on the Eliptical/Stair-Master came in handy but if you can walk up and down stairs or hop up and down on a park bench, that would have helped. I am a big believer in “training”, whether it is for a run, a hike or any other activities. It may not prevent you from getting sore but it will help you recover faster.
Another issue I had was my boots and blisters. My Merrill MOAB boots were 10 years old and I decided two months in advance to look for new ones. I found the same exact pair! After wearing them once, the left heal started making a “squish” noise. I contacted Merrill, found the issue was the insole and they send me new ones. The new ones had more cushion on them and I wore them during the week to get use to them but after a long weekend hike, I developed blisters on the inside of my heals. I decided to use the original insert for my left foot which did not “squish”. All seemed okay until I went on the trip, the blisters re-occured. I duct taped/gauzed the blisters during the trip. In hindsight, maybe I could have duct taped that area before the hike.
I purchased my 65ml backpack from Dicks, a Field and Stream pack. It probably isn’t the lightest but it was the cheapest. I had a lighter one person tent but it was like a two loop bivy style tent. It was not self standing. I ended up purchasing a Marmot one person tent that would allow me to sit up in and had room for my backpack, if needed. The Marmot was one pound heavier than my Eureka Solitaire tent.
The one thing I didn’t skimp on was a sleeping bag. I wanted something light, something warm and something compressible. I went with a custom made sleeping quilt made by Enlightened Equipment. Go to the link and you can go through a wizard that lets you choose the features you want.
To save some money I waited until the end of the “season” to purchase a Marmot 600 fill puffer jacket. It was 50% off! and it was super warm. Since the hike was in mid may, I may not have needed it. The weather was great for the trip BUT, temperatures fell into the 30’s in the mountains at night. Good think I brought it, I stayed super warm!
I definitely needed a pillow, I have suffered in the past from a C6/C7 herniated disc in my neck. I tried out an inflatable made by Sea to Summit but the first night it deflated half way and it just got worse over the next two days. My neck felt great after sleeping with it but didn’t want to take the chance it would not function so I went with something that took more room and added more weight to my pack (Grand Trunk Pillow). I was willing to do that instead of suffering from a cricked neck. (Could have saved 3 or 4 pound with my equipment)
I purchased a Jet Boil as my plan was to use freeze dried, instant oats, ramen noodles or anything that could be reconstituted with water.
Food: As mentioned in the line above. I went with a few mountain house meals, ramen noodles, instant mash potatoes, I picked up two packs of tuna and instant oats. Except for the Tuna, for everything else, all I had to do was boil water in my Jet boil. I prepared one or two serving size portions in zip lock bags so I could more or less just “boil in a bag”. This way I didn’t have to clean any dishes but the downsize would be my impact on the environment with the zip locks going into the landfill. I prepared five zip lock bags with snacks I would eat during the day. They contained a Granola bar, a Cliff bar, a slim jim and mixed nuts. I would take each wrapper and leave it inside the zip lock back, so my garbage for the day would stay neatly inside the zip lock bag. I had a gallon size zip lock bag that all my garbage would go into. Food was one of my heaviest items and I brought extra, just in case. If I wanted to save some weight, I could have planned my meals better. (Could have saved 3 pounds?)
Water: I planned to bring a 16oz bottle of water and my 32oz Nalgene bottle but at the last minute, I decided to bring another 16oz bottle of water…”just in case”. Water added a little over 4 pounds to my pack. I actually drank a great deal of water during the trip. Each shelter we went to had a water source nearby, Mt Greylock Bascom Lodge had a water spigot at the back of the building so…. I probably could have gone with less. (Could have saved 2 pounds?)
Misc: I brought everything I could think of! Headlamp, GPS, AT Book/Map, small first aide kit, bug net for my head, book to read, shammy, duct tape, pencil, emergency blanket, magnesium fire starter, winter hat, stretchy winter gloves, compass/whistle/match container combo, thermal top and bottom, extra socks, extra underwear, Thermal shirt to wear during the day. Tooth paste, floss, dental sticks, baby wipes, hand sanitizer, aspirin, toilet paper, A&D cream, spare batteries, benadryl .. and I think that’s about it. I probably could have saved some weight here but I thought it was better to be safe than sorry. If it was warmer, I would not have needed to take the cold weather gear.
Final thoughts: I had a great time and probably could have dumped a few items to save some weight but I was okay with what I was carrying. One issue that seemed constant was my shoulders hurting while carrying my pack. Part of it was getting the heavier items closer to my back and lower in the pack. The other was constantly checking to make sure the pack was sitting/supported by my hips. If it wasn’t sitting on my hips, it was pulling down on my shoulders… which caused them to hurt. While going up and down rocks, I also favored my stronger leg. I didn’t think of it but my friend brought it up and said he was trying to alternate legs, so I started doing the same. Knowing the conditions of the trails is also worthy of planning. I knew the distance and elevations but did not really pay attention to the make-up of the trails. Going uphill on the rocks, we went about a mile an hour. I figured some of the downhill would have been faster but in some sections we barely got about 1.5 miles per hour. Had I known the trail make-up could have been the difference between getting to a shelter by 3pm… or 5pm.