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.
To make this list more viewing-friendly, open it in new window.
If you like the look and organization of my gear list, consider using my 3-season gear list template.
Disclosure. I strive to offer field-tested and trustworthy information, insights, and advice. I have no financial affiliations with or interests in any brands or products, and I do not publish sponsored content
This website is supported by affiliate marketing, whereby for referral traffic I receive a small commission from select vendors like Amazon or REI, at no cost to the reader. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
So after using it in the field, is the BA insulated AXL really quieter than the NeoAir Xlite?
Definitely quieter. No “potato chip bag” noises, because it doesn’t have any mylar in it.
In April I found them to squeak, like rubbing two balloons together, but that was not a problem this trip. I wonder if on the April trip it was due to the combination of new pads on a new sil-coated tent floor. The gear I used on this trip was more broken in.
how much did your good weigh starting out and what was it? How much water do you carry at a time?
I never had to carry more than one liter of water, at least during the day. I like to dry camp though, so I would often carry 2-3 liters for ~10 minutes at the very end of the day. Water sources = high humidity and cold sinks.
My pack weighed about 30 pounds when I left for the North Loop. That included 2 lbs of water and 5.5 pounds of food.
For food is it mostly freeze dried stuff or your own dehydrated? Food usually where I go a little luxurious and add the weight.
One breakfast: granola or grape nuts with protein powder
Three dinners: beans & rice, pesto noodles, peanut noodles
Greenbelly Meal Bars
So as such a well known critic of waterproof breathable jackets, why would you choose to still bring one as opposed to a waterproof non-breathable jacket like the UD deluge?
I was looking for some precip some I could review it.
If there’s no precip in the forecast, I suppose it doesn’t matter what kind of rain gear you have, right?
Woah, what’s the astrolight like?
“Yosemite requires that all food and food-like items (e.g. sunscreen, lip balm) be stored in hard-sided canisters”. I never would have thought to put sunscreen or lip balm in my bear can. Do you have an article that might better describe all these, other than food, things? I’m from Kansas so forgive my ignorance. I learn most everything from videos and articles such as yours. I really don’t want one of those mini bears chewing a hole through my arc blast over a chapstick!
Food is non-negotiable.
It’s preferred that sunscreen, lip balm, etc. go in the bear canister, and I think in a high-use campsite this is a best-practice. The mini-bears, if not the bears, will terrorize you for some peppermint gum. At low-use or no-use campsites, I think the argument for this measure is less compelling, as it is for the canister in general. I.e. If your campsite is not part of a bear’s normal rounds, odds are that it won’t stumble into your camp.
Serious question: what about marijuana?
I don’t know enough about bear behavior to say. If you have room in your canister, I would put it in there, but I probably wouldn’t prioritize it over sunscreen and toothpaste (which have a decidedly more food-like smell, less herbal).
At Philmont (about 40 years ago) the term was “smellables”. Another better axiom I’ve heard more recently is that if it goes on you (apart from clothes) or in you, it goes in your bear bag / can.
A side question. Do you try to keep your ‘trail legs’ in shape (to do 9 days straight right out of the box)?
At 63 it would be super tough for me to walk 9 (hard hiking) days straight and not get hurt.
This summer on the PCT it took 4 weeks for me to feel like I could hike 10 hours and not pay the price the next day.
With all the running that I’m doing, my trail legs are in plenty good shape. Last year I ran about 3,750 miles and this year I’m at about 2,000 (an annual pace of about 3,000). My body/pack contact points are a little sore after the first day, maybe the second too, but otherwise I feel like I’m right into it.
That said, running fitness is not necessarily the same as thru-hiking fitness. Runners are faster and more nimble, but have less strength and endurance, especially if they are flatlanders. Thru-hikers are slower, but can go all day.
Hey Bart, I’m 63 also and am looking to increase my daily backpacking mileage to a comfortable 12-15 (tired but not dead). In my usual workouts — lots of biking, fast hiking in our local mountains (from sea level to 4,000 feet) — I have started drinking electrolytes during the workout. First tried it on a century bike ride and felt great for 95 miles, then cruised to the finish. Just did a fast 10 mile hike this weekend and drank electrolyte powder in water and felt great after. Amazing recovery if I drink between two surf sessions. If you’re not using electros, might give they a try.
Is backpacking all day the secret to sleeping well in camp? I can’t seem to sleep well even if backpacking for 10+ hours per day…maybe I’m too wired from the hiking to pass out at night. I’d be grateful if you have any helpful advice on getting better shut eye in the backcountry. Thanks!
Being tired helps, yes. I’m also careful of afternoon caffeine, just as I would be in normal life.
If it’s any consolation, I don’t sleep soundly all night in the backcountry either. But it doesn’t seem to matter — I can wake up every few hours, yet be completely ready to roll in the morning with full energy. I think it’s just the time off the feet that is important.
I have started bringing foam earplugs and it has made all the difference. I no longer hear all the little night sounds when I try to go to sleep that keep up up wondering what giant monster it might be 😉
Me too… I NEVER sleep soundly in the backcountry.
1) If there’s any altitude, that will mess up your sleep. Diamox does help me there.
2) I’m always hyper-alert at night. I’m usually alone. I know I’ve maxed out the bear tactics everyone talks about, so it’s extremely unlikely one would wander into my camp. It’s just something I have to deal with. I can’t imagine what it’d be like to camp alone in a heavy grizzly area.
Andrew, have you written a article about everything you do in the backcountry to stay safe?
When you don’t bring dedicated sleeping clothes, do you sleep in the pack polo or just go shirtless?
I sleep in my hiking shirt, mid-layer, and maybe even my puffy jacket.
whats the latest point in the season that you’d venture out on this hike with the gear that you carried?
Reliably the first or second week of September. In the latter half of the month, I will throw in some warmer handwear, a warmer parka, and maybe a warmer bag.
Andrew, after eight (8) August nights in the Yosemite high country, what are your thoughts on the WM Astralite?
Concerned that the 7D is too thin and will allow greater down escape than say a 10D.
Additionally, how is the Astralite closure and strap system compared to the demo at Outdoor Retailer?
I’ll add my voice as another interested in your thoughts on this piece of gear.
I really need to write a review on this, because I’m getting regular emails about it. Website has been a little slow recently, preoccupied with finishing the Yosemite High Route Guide and preparing 2019 guided trips.
The quick review on the WM Astralite:
* Accurate temp rating
* Very light and packable
* No durability issues after 45 days of use last summer
* Draft collar is helpful, but not as warm as the Sierra Designs-style hideaway hood (the weight of which probably can’t be justified)
* I removed all the pad attachments, because i don’t like to be backboard-ed to my pad. I give up some draft protection, but totally worth it to me.
The only potential complaint/concern I have is that I noticed more moisture accumulation in the foot area than I feel like I have with other bags. It might have been the conditions — I cowboy camped almost every night in it, and it’s subject to exterior condensation due to radiant heat loss. But I also wonder if the shell fabric is trapping moisture.
Am I the only person that thinks having “Depends” as the priority for underwear is hilarious? 😀
I was looking at the list as reference. I am signed up for the Tahoe 200 and have started planning gear and drop bag lists.
I was wondering if you had any insight for Rain jacket and possibly pants combo? I have mostly lightweight WP/Breathable stuff that indeed wets out and feel that those could be a liability?
Any thoughts or wisdom you have on the matter would be Awesome!
A better gear list would be this one, since you probably won’t do much camping/sleeping and you won’t have to carry 7 days of food at a time, https://andrewskurka.com/2017/gear-list-utmb-obligatory-mandatory-personal-ultra-trail-mont-blanc/.
Versus UTMB, for Tahoe 200 you’ll probably need a slightly bigger pack, but you can do without a lot of the mandatory gear and some of the clothing for cold-and-wet conditions. On average, you will see no precip during a mid-Sept race in California, whereas on average it seems to rain at UTMB.
Re rain gear, it sounds like you should buy a fresh set. For Tahoe 200 I’d look for something light, packable, and expensive, like the Ultimate Direction kit on sale.
Would you go with the Deluge or Ultra jacket for that area/time of year?
Either. Odds are, you won’t end up needing it.
If you do need it, you probably won’t need it long. That would make the case for the Deluge. However, you’d probably get more use out of the Ultra, and you could also use the Ultra as a windbreaker during colder parts of the race.
Is the Hanchor Marl comparable in size, comfort and function to the ULA circuit? How do you like the xpac 21 material as compared to the robic (grid stuff) used on ULA packs? I could see choosing the xpac for its water resistance maybe?
Here’s a full Marl review, https://andrewskurka.com/2018/review-hanchor-marl-backpack/
It’s most similar to the HMG packs, but comparing it to ULA packs is by no means a stretch. I have not used the Circuit, but I’ve used the EPIC and Catalyst a lot, and the Ohm some. It’s a better pack than the Ohm — similar weight but much better load carrying. It’s smaller than the Catalyst. So that probably puts it most directly against the Circuit. I don’t think you can go wrong with either pack: they are both light and durable, have good features, and can support anything you’ll put in them. Hanchor seems like a personable outfit, but the customs and country of origin is a complexity. ULA customer service is renowned for being top notch.
Thanks for the quick reply, and the link to your review of the pack. Good points about ease of purchase with ULA. Maybe the best/easiest option is a ULA circuit made of xpac.
How did you store 9 days of food with one canister? Did you have a resupply?
Yes, I did. Conveniently, a thru-hike of the Yosemite High Route involves crossing Tioga Road at Tuolumne Meadows, where there a store, post office, and trailheads. I left food cached in a food locker before I left, then picked it up on my way through between the north and south loops.
I have/had a MLD Superlight Bivy with all net hood, but my son has decided to borrow (aka keep). About to order a new one. Wondering if you’ve used the half moon net window? If so, have you used on AT in warmer weather?
In warmer weather you definitely want the one with the larger bug screen.
You’ve gotta be kidding me!!! Feminine products are unnecessary? I did notice that you included toilet paper to wipe your own ass. Find another planet to live on, you misogynistic, millennial, eco-pill.
The prioritization of items is specific to the location, time of year, and me. If the gear list were being developed for the Appalachians, for March, and for my wife, the categorizations would be different.
How do you pack the BV450 into your pack? I didn’t see it included in your base weight spreadsheet….
It’s under the PACKING category, on the line-item “Food protection.”
The BV450 fit horizontally in my backpack.
Andrew – Question on your weights.
You said… “That would bring the total base weight to 14.6 pounds, or just 0.1 pounds lighter than my spreadsheet weight.”
Then in the comments…”My pack weighed about 30 pounds when I left for the North Loop. That included 2 lbs of water and 5.5 pounds of food.”
Ummm, am I being a real ditz? How does 14.6 pounds plus 7.5 pounds for food and water add up to 30 pounds???
There seems to be about 8 pounds missing there.
I have been having a hard time getting my pack weight with full gear list down (no cowboy camping, etc. and 2 days in a freak snowstorm one year was glad of a spacious tent!) and your “leaving for the North Loop with 30 pounds” is comfortingly closer to my very nit-picked total of around 32 pounds for 8 – 10 days.
Can you tell me what I’m missing here in your numbers?
Thanks much, and very much appreciate finding your website! ~ Michael
That food number doesn’t seem right.
I don’t recall how many days I planned for the north loop, but it had to have been more than 2.5, which is about how long I could survive on 5.5 pounds of food.
FWIW, typical pack weights for our 7-night/6-day trips are in the high-20’s. I’ve seen 19 (all Cuben, and an older guy who didn’t eat much) and into the mid-30’s (plenty of fat in those packs).