Last month I went on a 9-day/8-night backpacking trip in Yosemite National Park. My route was more ambitious than the norm: I was scouting the Yosemite High Route, which has monstrous vertical change and extensive off-trail and alpine travel. I tried to avoid popular trails like the John Muir Trail/Pacific Crest Trail and the High Sierra Camp Loop, but using or crossing those paths is almost inevitable.
Overall, I felt my gear list was spot-on, and I would make few changes if I repeated this trip exactly. For a more casual or trail-based itinerary, however, some changes would be in order to reflect the differences in style and demands, i.e. greater emphasis on comfort in camp, conditions that are less abusive on gear.
Below are the most notable conditions that I encountered. In general, they were very favorable, as you would expect in late-August in the High Sierra.
- Daytime highs in the 70’s at Tuolumne Meadows (8,500 feet) and in the 60’s on 12,000-foot passes;
- Nighttime lows in the 40’s at camps between 8,500 and 10,000 feet, though I deliberately select my campsites — meadows in deep valleys and alpine areas were frosted most mornings.
- No mosquitoes, which is normally the case for late-August. The mosquito season ended prematurely this year due to a dry winter — the ground dried up earlier than normal.
- No precipitation, and few clouds. Believe it or not, this is the norm in the High Sierra in the summer. The region can be hit with violent monsoon thunderstorms, but they’re less common than in the Rockies.
- Intense sunshine in sub-alpine and alpine areas. Even without lingering snow, the granite is extremely reflective.
- The terrain was a mix of high- and low-use trails, and off-trail. The off-trail portions were primarily granite slabs and tundra, with some brush and talus.
- Water availability was okay, but only mapped creeks and lakes were reliable. After a more normal winter, unmapped sources are still running in August.
- I encountered one bear, but none while camping. Yosemite requires that all food and food-like items (e.g. sunscreen, lip balm) be stored in hard-sided canisters.
Gear List: Yosemite High Route in August
A line-by-line gear list is further down this page. Here’s a big-picture look:
List vs reality
The spreadsheet weights match my field observations almost exactly. I weighed my pack with all of its contents (“base weight”) at the end of the trip, and got 14.1 pounds without my 8-oz camera. That would bring the total base weight to 14.6 pounds, or just 0.1 pounds lighter than my spreadsheet weight.
The MSRP calculation is wildly off. First, for very few items would I ever have to pay full retail. For example, I bought my $130 shoes for $60 and my $45 fleece for $22, both on clearance. And many items I can buy at 20 or 25 percent off by waiting for sales around Christmas, Memorial Day, and Labor Day. Second, I own some expensive gear that isn’t critical. For example, I could get by with a $170 altimeter watch rather than a $300 GPS sport watch, a $255 shelter made of sil-nylon instead of the $430 DCF version, and my smartphone rather than a $400 compact camera.
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If you like the look and organization of my gear list, consider using my 3-season gear list template.
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