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Backpacking light, what do you carry.

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by dmwphoto, Jul 18, 2005.

  1. For the balance of the summer I intend to spend weekends backpacking sections of the Appalachian trail. These will be overnight hikes and I will be carrying everything to get by. I would love to take camera gear as this is what motivates the hikes to begin with but with each day covering 8-11 miles at elevations of 1500-4000 ft, it is a bit intimidating thinking about carrying the D2X and even just one lens (17-55mm???) and a tripod. Does anyone else on this list hike backcountry and photograph? Sandi??
    Any advice. I have thought of buying Faenix's D70 from the FS list as a lightweight alternative.
  2. Dave i am in the process of selecting a backpack, looking a lot toward Lowepro, I already have the Nova 2 for the 5700 and i find that it's well made, do you have any suggestion, d2 + 4 lenses and some equipment?
  3. Gilles
    I use the Lowe Pro AW II Trekker. I can carry everything I have in it except my 200-400 and King cobra. I use the Airport addicted Bag from thinktankphoto.com if I want to carry EVERYTHING.
    However what I am talking about here is not a backpack for camera gear but what to carry during backpacking the back country.
  4. Dave in my time of canoe camping, the kind of bag i like the most was one with a titanium H frame and a bag made in 2 sections and with room on top to tie the tent, and with a hip padded waistbelt to take the load off the shoulder.
  5. Depending on water availability my pack( without camera gear) will weigh 18-23 lbs for a 2-3 day excursion. Some ascents are 3100 ft so I must keep it light. remember I am 50 years old!
  6. faenix


    Jun 21, 2005
    Bayside, NY
    50 years young! :wink: Although considering the ascent, traveling light is probably the best policy here. I do think the 17-55 is the best bet here--just enough wide angle and decent amount of reach.
  7. Dave the most important thing when you do backpacking is the boots, at the time the best I had were English walking shoes even today the leather is still in very condition and i have had them since the early seventies.
  8. avalanche161


    May 17, 2005
    Boston, MA
    Dave-- I have used the LowePro AW75 top-loader as a chest pack while backpacking and have found it to be comfortable and easy to use with a backpack. I normally carry my D70 with 70-200 attached in the top-loader with my kit lens attached to the side in a slip lock case. You can easily change the configuration with different sized slip lock cases. Hope this helps.
    Best Regards, Alan.
  9. Alan,
    That may be a very good alternative answer. I will look into that. Thanks so much for your input.
  10. JamesMor


    Jun 28, 2005
    New York
    light travel...

    I am also using the Lowe Pro AW II Trekker. It is the best bag/size combinaton that I can think of. HOWEVER, it still gets pretty darned heavy. When possible, I use my Porter Case to work out of a car and hike trails with what I think I will need. Unfortunately, I have learned that there is no such thing as traveling light anymore...

    I am beginning to think that Olympus has a great idea with their lens line. Two lenses that cover 28-400mm (equivalent). I currently carry a 10-22 EF-s lens, 16-35 F2.8L, 28-70 F2.8L, 70-200 F2.8L (plus 1.4 and 2x extenders). I also like to carry a flash, tripod and monopod.

    Anyway, good luck with your hiking! Let us know what you ultimately carry with you on the Applacian trail. My wife and I really would like to do that in the future.

  11. Hi Dave. Pare it down, RIGHT down. When in doubt, toss it OUT! All the weight adds up. Take only two lenses and maybe a converter. I can go with that from 17mm to 400mm which will cover you for practically all your shots. Your biggest worry is going to be power. When I'm kayaking out there for 12 hrs, I can chew thru a lot of power as I'm also using fillflash now on most of my bird shots. I use the Digipower Powerpacks with great success and they also power my portable storage drive.
    I have a Giotto monopod which also can double as a tripod (the legs are screwed up inside the tube) and doubles as a very sturdy walking stick. You'll need a walking stick for this trail as some parts are VERY slippery in humid weather.
    Quick dry undies, one extra pair of cotton socks, quick-dry zip off pants (they zip off into shorts, are very fast in drying and have a ton of pockets for carrying all the crap n junk - they also constitute about 50% of my present wardrobe! LOL) and some good energy snacks. If you're hiking in hot humid weather, take some type of medicated body powder for chafing parts (ie posterior and leg interior). Needless to say, take bandaids!
    For humour before you go: get Bill Bryson's Walk in the Woods which is a book he wrote about hiking this trail. VERY good information on it: I'd call it a "must read". I got it in CD form and listened to it on my last trip driving back from Florida. Laughed all the way home! PM me about this.
    A small foldup plastic foiled rainsheet - doubles as a rain coat, and also if you get soaked and cold, instantly heats you up. Folds to 2"x4" packet.
    As photography is our addiction, try to pack really light on the other stuff so you can take the photo equipmt you need. You're gonna get some breathtaking moments and I don't want to hear a wail all the way up here "WHY OH WHY didn't I bring that lens????" I really like Alan's suggestion of a chestpack toploader - makes sense and it will offset the weight of the backpack.
    You can always carry weight IF and ONLY IF you've got the footwear to do it. Bad shoes, slippery shoes and you're in for trouble. Make sure they're broken in too. For fun, take a GPS (borrow one if you have to) and you can download satellite maps from GoogleEarth and show us all your trips each day once you get back to civilizaiton. You can make waypoints of the spots where you stopped to take your breathtaking shots. I hope you're not doing this on your own - if so, make sure you've got a good cellphone and keep it on an inside pocket. If you fall, you'll need it to phone for help and this is where a GPS would be perfect - you can phone your co-ordinates for instant help. Trust me, just because other people walk that trail doesn't mean they'll have the know-how to save your bacon. I saw a woman start hiking the Samaria Gorge (Crete: 18 miles) in high-heeled sandals. Two hours later, her boyfriend was piggy-backing her all the way and I'm sure he wanted to just toss her over a cliff as I kept hearing "I told you not to wear those stupid things".
    As far as being 50, kwitcherbichin... If I can do it, you certainly can! No weenie-whiners allowed *LOL*
  12. Sandi,
    I PM'd you as well but I enjoyed your response so much I wanted to share mine to the group as well.

    kwitcherbichin... NOW THAT is funny!!!!!!!!!!
    Thanks for taking the time to give a detailed answer. I am well prepared with everything you listed for the most part. Every piece of gear is weighed, zipper tabs remove and replace with dental floss pulls. (believe it or not the tabs weigh .5oz ea!! My boots are good and well broken in. My clothing is all quik dry polypropoline and the convertible pants. I can sterilize water and that kit wieghs 8 oz. sleeping bag 18 oz. bivy 22 oz. so I think I am ready. will make my trial hot weather run on the 30th for 3 days. The powder is a great suggestion as I had overlooked that very real possibility. I am planning on borrowing a GPS to evaluate, and will have a cell and hope for coverage at the moment of truth. I kew you would be up to speed on this so thank you. I am going to check into the top loader alan suggested. My battery will last 2 1/2 days of normal use so ok there. Just not sure about more than one lens due to weight. I will make the first trip with the 17-55 and go from there. The book sounds great and I am going to check amazon and see if they have it.
    My Best to you,
  13. Ken-L

    Ken-L Guest

    Many hikers wear two pairs of socks. A light skin hugging inner, and a heavier outer. The inner one sticks to your skin and "slides" inside the outer, which prevents blisters.

    I don't know if anyone mentioned moleskin....
    When backpacking it is good to carry moleskin and know how to use it to cover any foot blisters!

    If you even think you feel irritation, STOP, check the foot for redness/beginning of a blister, and then use moleskin to protect it, then continue on! (This same protection/cure applies to your shoulder straps too!)

    Experienced backpackers are constantly stopping to readjust packs, clothing, and make repairs to their feet.

    The weight of the load you carry should determine the type of boot you wear for support.

    There are books written that cover what needs to be known, so it's impossible to cover it all like this.

    Have fun, good luck, I hope you don't have to learn too many lessons the "hard way"......
  14. Ken
    Great suggestion on the moleskin. I am not an inexperienced hiker as I may have made it sound. but it has been some time since I have done the overnight excursions and on rough terrain. All of these suggestions are very good and useful so please keep them coming.
  15. I second the moleskin - heard it's a very good product, haven't used it myself. Also, needless to say, swiss army knife is a must-have. If you've got the stomach for it, I could tell you the tale of a hiker in the states who had to 'remove' his arm from being caught under a boulder and he didn't have good knife, only cheap crappy knife. Also didn't have a phone and hadn't told anyone where he was going - learn his lesson!
  16. I am familiar with that story. I read it somewhere in the last year or so. I will be advising the ranger district of my travel plans in case of disaster.
    I carry the leatherman wave. it weighs in more than the swiss version but will damn near do anything.
    my topo map is GPS compatible and I ordered a GPS unit today that I can download my map data into. Thanks for that advice.
  17. Leigh


    Feb 19, 2005
    Make sure you check back with us from time to time, Dave.....you don't want us to worry if we haven't seen you on the Cafe for a week....!!! Besides, we'll be looking for the wonderful pictures that you'll be capturing w/your minimal photo gear. ;-) Stay safe and have fun!
  18. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    Dave :

    Lots of good advice on gear already presented here. I'll add some (perhaps lengthy) thoughts...

    Firstly, if you're looking at packs, look for a pack you like the fit of first and fit the camera gear second. Unless the intent is to carry the maximum of camera equipment, work with the priority issue first - camping and hiking gear. IMO, most camera packs are dandy for camera gear, and (mostly) pathetic for backcountry packing.

    The store you look in should have weights that you can load a test pack with. If the store can't accommodate this, tell them to pound sand between the paving stones in front of their store, and buy the pack elsewhere :twisted: . Spend as much time as you need to pick a pack that works well - it's a substantial investment but directly pays off in less pain.

    Spend the money on a pack that fits you well. I can say with bitter experience that every pack I "saved money" on was ultimately wasted money. Packs are a lot of like camera gear - you'll get results from lesser quality equipment but you have to work harder at it. That essentially means chafing, blisters, and big-time pain with a backpack for serious time out there.

    You can pad the camera gear with materials you're bringing, or use some lightweight protection to avoid the gear getting dinged in the pack, depending on your specific needs.


    Look at walking sticks, and not those great hulking things you can use for a quarterstaff (unless you're joining the Merry Men with Robin or practicing for a pugil stick competition). Instead, look at Leki walking or trekking sticks. I was a real hardass for years about these, deriding people who used them as sissies, but then I have to say... I was completely wrong. Walking sticks are a major aid for long treks. Now, a bit older, greyer etc., I wish I'd had them in New Zealand on the South Island years back - they'd have made it a lot easier.

    They're handy for fending off brush, supporting you on an uneven slope, keeping mountain lions at bay, etc. O.K., O.K., I haven't had to fend off a cougar recently, but the concept's there.

    Highly highly recommended, even if the learning curve for their use isn't instantaneous.


    You don't mention if you're going solo or not. I hike a great deal of the time solo whether it's back to and from remote slot canyons in Escalante or on snowshoes in the backcountry of the Sangre de Christos, so I can make a few cogent remarks about this.

    Plan to be stuck by yourself for a least a night or maybe longer. For where you're going, that means gear to get through a night of thunderstorms, maybe temps of 40F or less, fire-making equipment (regardless of fire advisories - making a fire may mean life or death for you), a good real knife (not just a Swiss twenty part thingee - sometimes a long blade is better), a pocket chainsaw (Google it for a place to buy near you), a Space blanket, some glowsticks, and thermal handwarmers.

    You've already had the advice about cellphones, GPS, and all that jazz. Here's a low tech device that's saved more people than all of that gear combined - an old fashioned athletic whistle. It's piercing, carries for a fair distance, almost never has "dead zones" <g>, and can guide rescuers to you when the batteries on all that fancy gear are long dead. Doesn't weigh in too heavily either.

    And most places I've gone are dead, dead, dead, for cellphones anyway. That lad in Utah probably wouldn't have had reception where he was. I was in the backcountry of Escalante about two weeks later, and BLM folks didn't much like anyone going solo then, but with care, a person can reduce their risk a bit. A cellphone might just help in this, but being aware of the surroundings is a lot better IMO.

    As a friend who's a writer comments, "You have to pay intention to everything around you."


    Raingear's a pretty essential item for the Appalachian trail. Pick whatever you want to carry - all the neato technical gear is pretty good for light rains, but if it's a drencher, you'll get wet nonetheless. The old-fashioned rubber-lined stuff's a bit heavy, and doesn't breathe at all, so it's not recommended. Sounds like you've picked some good clothing already, so you'll dry out O.K.

    It's just water, after all.

    Having said that, I keep delicate gear (camera, lenses, cellphone) in ziplock or similar generic plastic bags. Over the years, I've taken a spill or two into rivers and streams, and this has sufficed quite nicely, even working very well when I stepped in a pothole in a flooded slot canyon a couple of years back (water over my head, water over my arms extended above my head with the pack, and a couple of feet of water beyond that - a definite real test).


    Lenses ? Hurm... I'd bring my 12-24mm for those great expanses, moments where the vista is like to stop my heart on the spot, and such times. About any of the good zoom WA lenses would do, of course. I'd likely bring my 70-200mm for the other stuff, and maybe a TC. I have an ultra light Gitzo (1027) that people laugh at for tripod work, but I can bring it almost anywhere because it's small and light. Takes some care to arrange as I'd like, but it works passably well, and it's damn' light. I don't bring a fancy (heavy) head of any kind for serious backcountry hiking/camping.

    I'm tempted to bring the 28mm f/1.4 for some night work, but I haven't been doing that so far. I brought my 85mm f/1.4 along once to shoot some crisp images of a friend, but that was another matter, and just a daytrip anyway.

    The D70s is a nice idea, and your thinking echoes Thom Hogan's comments in this vein. I'm sticking with my D100 for the moment, but the D70s is a bit of a temptation, I'll freely admit.


    If you're fifty, you're a nominal adult by age (we haven't met, so I make no judgments about you - others can comment on me), so I'll broach an adult topic or three on health.

    Bring toilet paper. Amazing how many people can't figure this one out, but there it is, and not too pretty with the ones who can't think this through. Bring plastic bags to truck it out if you're in a "no waste" zone. People forget that too. Bring twist ties to close up the bags. That one gets obvious rather quickly.

    Bring Tucks swabs in individual foil wrappers or some like generic from the drugstore for those times when you have distress at the lower end. There are various alternatives in this arena - pick which one you like best. Four to six will usually suffice for most "bad times". Nineteen times out of twenty on camping you won't need these, but that twentieth time makes up for carrying them all the others !

    Bring antibiotic creme, typically a "triple-antibiotic" mixture for bites, cuts, scratches, etc. Don't get any of those one application tubes - bring one of a few ounces in size. You may need to make multiple large area applications for cases of abrasions (e.g., slip'n'slide on a gravel slope).

    Bring ASA/aspirin or ibuprofin/Advil. Amazing to me just how much this helps on a cold damp morning when yesterday's hiking sets in as stiffness, or when the arthitis in my hands is keeping me from holding things. Kinda handy, too, if you've taken a spill and are bruising, and can even help a bit (ASA) for sunburn.

    Others have mentioned bandaids - I also bring elastic bandages and a couple of sterile gauze panels. The elastic bandages are the newer "self-sticking" kind that you don't need those nasty metal clips to keep in place. I've used the elastic bandages several times after spills, and used the gauze and bandages on someone else I met who'd gotten pretty hacked up (long story).

    I'm assuming that you've already learned about hats, sunscreen and all that protective stuff. Pay even more attention to this at altitude. I live at 7,000' plus, and then go up from there - UV exposure at altitude is fast and quite painful.


    I've mentioned a lot of extra gear here. If you're not going solo, you can split this amongst the group, excepting stuff like the Space blanket (one per person) or the TP (hey, people have to learn some stuff the hard way, and you can't exactly share a limited supply).

    I've only needed some of these items once over the years, but that one time made all the extra carrying quite worthwhile for me. Carrying all of it is a bit like car insurance - you don't want to have to do, but you're glad to have it when matters go awry.

    As well, the intention is to hike and see the world, not to fret about things left behind.

    Hope this helps a bit and maybe gives you a lift. If it doesn't offer that with such a long posting, print it, fold it several times, and then sit on top of it for a different level of perspective... :twisted: :twisted: :lol: :lol: :twisted: :twisted:

    John P.
  19. Wow, John, lot of good advice! never thought about that portable chainsaw, saw one advertised just this past weekend. Love your closing statement too!! LMAO
  20. Leigh,
    Thanks so much. these are all weekend excursions, still got a day job. So I hope to post some magical shots that are not often seen if I can.

    It is amazing to me the level of care and interaction shared on this board. The time you and others have taken to share knowledge and candid thought on issues that need discussing is most appreciated. You offer up a wealth of information on alot of issues. I am going to print this post, but not to sit on (quit laughing Sandi, you will hurt yourself) but to read and re read as not to overlook any of the finer details. I am traveling solo, at least until I find someone that wants to go along. I have the whistle, and the little chain saw. It weighs virtually nothing and I hope I never need it, BUT>>>>>
    I appreciate the no judgement thingy :^)
    If you had to choose between the 12-24 and the 17-55 which would you choose? Most fo the awesome beauty is indeed going to be a large expanse well suited to the 12-24 and it is WAY lighter than the 17-55. The first trip I will only carry one lens. The tripod advice you offer up is very good. I have the Gitzo 1228 and it is rather light, tho not as the 1027.
    I am really wanting to carry the BH-3 head only because I am anal about my set ups. I do however understand why you do not and indeed I amy give in to that sage advice and just cuss you every time I set up :^)
    Overall gear wise I am well set up. I have used the services of a mountaineering/camping supply store for most all of the gear and I have used them for years.
    Day hikes I do regularly anyways and they know what I like in the way of gear.
    All of you that have tendered ideas, I thank you.
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