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Archive | Backpacking

With warm temps, steady rain, high humidity, and light winds at this pre-dawn start, Buzz was very happy with his umbrella, especially since we would spend the next four hours climbing.

Reader question || Backpacking umbrellas: Pros, cons & recommendations

Recently I received a question from reader Eric W about umbrellas, which I’ve mentioned previously (e.g. Core 13 Clothing, The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide) but never addressed in great detail: Under at least some circumstances, all modern raingear options for backpacking are flawed. For example, most rain jackets and pants — which are the most common selection […]



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felix-email-poop

Mailbox: My impact on crap

Recently, I received an email from Luke G., who had attended a gear & skills clinic at the flagship REI in Denver. It’s worth sharing: I field many emails from readers, most hoping to get some additional information, some expressing thanks for something that I had shared or done. But Felix’s story is one of […]



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Eventually I settled on the Canon G9X II. I could justify its price, and it had all the features that I know I need, with some opportunities to grow.

Backpacking camera shopping: Two helpful questions

In my buyers guide for backpacking cameras, I identified the pros and cons of various options and discussed the optimal user profile for each. The guide is designed to help you settle on a specific form factor: smartphone, point-and-shoot, enthusiast compact, or interchangeable lens. Camera shopping does not necessarily get any easier from there, however. Within each category, […]



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Old and new: my heavily used Canon S100, right; and its replacement, the Canon G9X II. Size and weight are similar, but the image quality on the G9X is several levels better.

Buyers Guide || Cameras for backpacking: Phones, point-and-shoots, compacts & interchangeable-lens

Last week I spent many more hours researching and deliberating about the purchase of a new camera than any non-obsessive person ever would. While they’re still fresh and relevant, I’ll share some backpacking-specific buying and product insights that I wish I had found elsewhere. Personal context I primarily use my camera for backpacking, followed by […]



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Current snowpack versus other "big winters" from the past 20 years, as recently as 2010-11.

No longer #snowpocalypse: Just an “average big winter” for the High Sierra

Through the beginning of March, California was having an extraordinary winter. Snowpack in the High Sierra was keeping pace with the wettest winter on record, 1982-83. If the trend had continued, conditions would have been very challenging for aspiring Pacific Crest and John Muir Trail hikers, due to extensive lingering snowpack and high run-off, probably […]



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In early-season conditions, the trail is just a tool. If it's there, great. If not, oh well, you can manage without it.

The trail is just a tool: Navigation skills, resources & gear for early-season backpacking

Even if your itinerary is entirely on-trail, you should expect an occasional off-trail experience when backpacking in the Mountain West in early-season conditions. On trade routes like the John Muir Trail, a continuous boot-track across lingering snow will develop by July, especially where the terrain funnels the foot traffic (e.g. at a pass). In less popular […]



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At the lip of Knapsack Col in the Wind River Range, the south side of which holds a lot of snow. Personal comfort on snow is a big factor in the value-added of crampons and an axe. I was fine without them, but I know that others have struggled here.

Early-season backpacking || Merits of skis, snowshoes, crampons & axes

The early-season is a messy inbetween — it’s no longer winter, but not yet summer, either. Snowpack and cornices still linger in the higher elevations and on shady and leeward aspects, while snow-free trails are found lower down and on sun-blasted slopes higher up. This inconsistency presents backcountry travelers with a dilemma: What will be […]



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Tag-teaming a swift channel of Alaska's Yanert River, which was safer than doing it alone. Put the lightest/weakest person on the downstream side.

High water: Gear & skills for hazardous creek fords

Unbridged creek crossings are the greatest hazards in the early-season. High water volume (due to snowmelt) and steep gradients (due to mountain topography) is a dangerous combination. In comparison, other early-season conditions like sun cups, postholing, intense bugs and even hard snowfields seem like a mere annoyance or inconvenience. Let’s discuss how to safely manage […]



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