First Year Trip
Preparing for your First Year Trip - Equipment
This section provides extra information and a more in-depth look at the equipment we ask you to bring. Look below for more information on many types of equipment.
Excerpted from The Backpacker’s Field Manual:
Internal versus External Frame Packs:
External Frame: External Frame packs typically use a ladder-like frame of aluminum or plastic. The hip belt and shoulder straps are attached to the frame (see above). A separate pack bag attaches to the frame usually with clevis pins and split rings. Some external frame packs come in specific sizes based on the length of your spine; others are adjustable to fit almost any adult. Look for good lumbar padding, a conical hip belt, recurved shoulder straps with good padding and a chest compression strap. Pros: Good for carrying weight. The External frame allows for some airspace between your back and the pack bag so your back doesn’t sweat as much. Frame extension bars and space for a sleeping bag outside of the pack allow you to strap on lots of gear when you need to make the carrying capacity of the pack more versatile. Less expensive than many internal frame packs. Cons: Most external frame packs have little if any flexibility so your pack tends to “wobble” somewhat side to side. This is usually not a problem on a regular backpacking trip, but can throw off you balance if skiing or snowshoeing with a pack. Don’t take it on an airplane unless you have boxed it up, that is if you want to see it alive.
Internal Frame: Internal frame packs use a wide variety of materials, aluminum stays, carbon fiber, plastic sheets, and foam to create a rigid “spine” to which the hip belt and shoulder straps are attached (see above). The pack bag runs the full height of the pack, although it may be divided into several compartments. Some internal frame packs come in specific sizes based on the length of your spine; others are adjustable to fit a range of sizes. Look for good lumbar padding, a conical hip belt, recurved shoulder straps with good padding, and a chest compression strap. A removable top pocket and a bivy extension on the pack bag will let you lift the pocket up and store more gear. Also make sure that the pack has side compression straps to squeeze the pack down if you are carrying a smaller load. Pros: Good for carrying lots of weight. Conforms to the body better for better balance. Generally more comfortable to wear for long periods. Cons: Since the pack bag and frame are directly against your entire back, back perspiration can be more of a problem (plan to bring extra shirts). You can’t cram as much on the outside so the overall carrying capacity of the pack is somewhat fixed by its internal volume. Tend to be more expensive than external frame packs.
Pack size is an important factor when selecting a pack. You need to make sure that you can adequately carry all the equipment and food you will need for the length of your trip. Keep in mind that the pack bags of external frame packs are smaller than internal frame packs. This is because there are spaces outside the pack bag to strap large items directly to the frame on an external one. Here are some rough guidelines on pack size and trip length.
Buying a Pack: When you go to the store and try on a pack, the salesperson will help you adjust it and it will feel great. Then she will give you a few sand bags (25-30 pounds/ 11-13 kilos) to put some weight on. Chances are it will still feel good. The real test is when you get home and try to put 50-70 pounds (22-31 kilos). Make sure that the store will take it back after you have tried it at home if it doesn’t feel right. I bought a pack once without doing this test until I hit the trail. With 60 pounds in the pack, the hip belt slipped off my butt and I ended up carrying much of the weight on my shoulders. I hiked in pain over four days.
Sizing an External Frame Pack:
The idea behind an external frame pack is to have the frame transfer
most of the weight onto your legs through the hip belt. Therefore, when
fitting a pack the place to start is with the hip belt.
Loading an External Frame Pack:
Sizing an Internal Frame Pack:
In the Valle Vidal, weather conditions can range from mild to severe!
You can count on having a shower for an hour or two pretty much every
afternoon, some of which last into the evening and maybe even the next
day. Wool and synthetic fabrics like fleece will help to keep you warm,
even when they are wet. Wool works just as well as fleece
and can often be found at more reasonable prices (as well as winning
you more style points!). Check the tag on these fabrics—some fleece-like
items can be cotton blends. Cotton absorbs water and does not
insulate when wet, making it dangerous in cold environments.
Do not bring any socks, long underwear, sweaters, or
hats that are cotton blends.
How do you know if your raingear is really waterproof? Wear it in the shower for two to three minutes (seriously!). If you’re still dry after three minutes, your raingear will take good care of you in the wilderness. If you have any questions about raingear you are buying or if you are borrowing from someone and don’t know exactly what they are giving you, email us.
Polypropylene is designed to be the fabric closest
to your body. It is a polyester fabric that wicks moisture off your
skin and onto the outer layer of the fabric, helping keep you warm and
dry. Backwoods carries some good but inexpensive brands, including Bergelene
and Lifa, but anything 100% polyester is acceptable.
Your feet are your wheels. If they aren’t comfortable and well-protected,
you aren’t either.
Hiking boot uppers come in two different kinds of material. Some swear by traditional leather hiking boots—they give the best ankle support and tend to be more waterproof, and, once they are broken in, they fit your feet like gloves. Others prefer lightweight hiking boots, made of a combination of nylon and leather. They break in more quickly than leather boots and can sometimes be cheaper. While adequate for the backpacking we do, they do provide less ankle support than sturdy leather boots.
Fitting - Proper fitting of boots is essential. You
should try new boots on only in the afternoon
Breaking-in - Break in a pair of boots well before
your trip. Begin with short walks and
Sleeping bags are the best way to keep your body warm in cold conditions. Please learn about the different options available to you and look at the following helpful information.
Why synthetic and not down-fill? Although down-filled sleeping bags provide more warmth and more compressibility for less weight, they cannot be brought on the trip. In dry conditions, down sleeping bags are great, however when down becomes wet, it loses its loft and becomes practically useless to warm someone. Because of this, many down sleeping bags are offered with waterproof or water-resistant shells. Synthetic bags do not lose loft when wet. Because your sleeping bags are your last line of defense against the cold, the risk of a wet down bag is too high given the mountain weather.
Down: Usually filled with goose-down, down bags have several advantages over synthetics. Down bags provide as much warmth as synthetic bags with less weight and more compressibility. However, down bags are usually more expensive, and if not cared for properly, lose their loft very quickly. They are also difficult to dry and lose insulating power when wet. Fill power is a measure of how warm a down bag will be. Higher numbers mean more loft and better quality down. Typically fill power is a number between 550 and 850. All down bags should have a water-repellant or waterproof finish to prevent loss of loft.
Synthetics: Most synthetic bag insulation today is made from one of two material: Polarguard 3D or Primaloft. Of the two, Polarguard 3D is more popular because of it's higher durability. Primaloft offers a lighter and more compressible insulation. All synthetics will dry quickly and are more durable than goose down. Older synthetic materials used in bags such as Hollofil and Quallofil are sufficient, but are heavier and bulkier than newer versions.
What to Look for in a Bag:
Size: Make sure to check out the size of a bag in
the store. Most sleeping bags come in regular and long sizes. Those
people above 6' tall should check out long sizes. Don't buy a bag that
is too big for your body as it will be extra weight to carry and extra
space to warm up.
Bag Shape: Bags come in three basic shapes: Mummy,
Semi-rectangular, and Rectangular. We recommend Mummy bags for our trips
because of the greater warmth they provide, althogh Semi-rectangular
bags will do if warm enough. Look for a bag with a hood to provide extra
Temperature Rating: This number is an estimate of the minimum outside temperature at which the bag will keep you warm. Keep your metabolism and other sleep factors in mind when deciding what temperature rating is best for you. FT requires 20 degree bags, however, if you get cold easily when you sleep, you may consider getting a warmer bag. Temperature ratings are guidelines only: look for a bag 5-10 degrees warmer than the coldest anticipated temperature on your trip.
Compressibility: Check to see how compressible a bag is in the store. Stuff it into it's stuff sack and compare it to other bags when stuffed in their stuff sacks. The less space the bag takes up, the easier it will be to pack, but don't sacrifice warmth for space.
Shell: Many bags have water repellent shells or finishes such as DryLoft, Epic by Nextec, or eVent. All shells should be lightweight materials such as nylon. They should also be durable and windproof.
Zipper tape: a zipper with a tape along it's inside will prevent your bag from catching in the zipper. A useful feature when you are heading to the woods in the middle of the night
Hood: A hood is one of the best ways to improve the warmth of your bag. It adds tremendous warmth due to the fact that around 40% of body heat is lost through the head. Also, it provides a place to hide when dawn arrives.