Yosemite backpacking packing list

Yosemite Packing List

“Gear doesn’t drive the train”
is a phrase I’ve heard since my days in the Marines.  That is absolutely true regarding war fighting and it is equally true in backpacking the amazing peaks and meadows of Yosemite.  Soft skills, physical fitness and grit can never be replaced by the newest piece of fancy kit.  However, if you want to enhance your overall safety, success and enjoyment, the right gear is a critical component to any outdoor adventure.
Melanie and I took a recent four day backpacking trip to Yosemite.  Forty four miles, twelve thousand feet of elevation changes and some sore tootsies later we were very pleased with our gear selection and load distribution.  We had some significant learnings and will definitely change, modify or add a few things going forward, but for the most part our selection enhanced our overall experience.
Home Goods:
  • Tent:  REI Passage 2 – this two person, three season dome is 4lbs 14ozs.  This was only my second experience with a tent (I’m a bivy guy normally) and am seeing the virtue of its use.  Packed well, easy to set up and easier on the wallet, I highly recommend the tent for comparable trips.
  • Sleeping Bags:
    • Mike’s Bag – Wiggy’s Synthetic 20 degree – this is my workhorse, military issue sleeping bag I’ve used for 19 years.  Not recommended.  I will be hunting for a replacement soon.
    • Melanie’s Bag – Kelty Ignite 20 degree Dridown – lightweight, compresses well, affordable and not overly sensitive to a little moisture it is a recommended purchase for moderate temperatures / altitude.
  • Backpacks:
    • Osprey Aura 65 – Melanie has done an amazing job blogging about the virtues of this newest model from Osprey. Click here to see all the details.
    • Mystery Ranch Terraplane – the latest Dana Gleason offering on par with his old Dana Design Terraplane, this 7lb 7oz, 82 liter beast is perfect of carrying heavy (60lbs in this case) far distances.  I did have some difficulty w/ the belt (sized to meet my waist/build) sliding off my hips, but after a thoughtful analysis of feedback and photos the Mystery Ranch team determined that it was just a lot of weight to take on.
  • Sleeping Pads:
    • Thermarest ProLite 4 – Melanie’s air mattress choice is a tapered to fit a mummy style bag.  It inflates easily, packable and not prone to puncture.  Her first pad and she is happy with her selection.
    • Thermarest Ridgerest – Mike’s old school egg carton style foam – can’t beat it with a stick and very light.
  • Pillows:
    • Mike used an inflatable EXPED Air Pillow UL.  No weight to speak of, stays inflated and isn’t noisy.  My first camp pillow and I am a believer now.
    • Melanie used a cushy Thermarest compressible pillow.  She loved it but why wouldn’t she – its practically like one on our King Size bed at home.  Compared to the new UL pillows out there it’s super bulky and kind of heavy. She is shopping for something a little smaller and lighter.
  • Medical:
    • Trauma Kit – The contents of this kit I carried in Afghanistan so it was geared towards severe trauma.  Tourniquets, shears, Israeli bandages, Occlusive dressings and QuikClot carried in an High Speed Gear (HSGI) Bleeder/Blowout Pouch.  Thankfully I’ve never needed to use it, but glad I have the kit and the background (EMT and Combat Lifesaver training) to employ it if need be.
    • Adventure Medical Kit – this was the boo boo pouch that saw frequent use in dressing our torn up feet.  Basics include tape, bandages, tweezers, moleskin, creams, ibuprofen, etc. Great add to any activity and at $25 no excuse not to have multiple sets (cars, packs, gym bag)

*We definitely encourage anyone undertaking backpacking or other outdoor pursuits to get some first aid training. It’s easy to get hurt out there and we’ve known many who have  “outrun their headlights” with equipment vs. training

  • Other gear that we stand by included – Signal Mirror, Space Blanket, Suunto wrist compass on my dive watch, Casio Pathfinder (ABC) – not a fan (Melanie likes it just fine though), Benchmade AFCK knife, 550 cord, Nalgenes, Platypus bladders, Camelbak 3 liters and Petzel headlamps – most of this stuff is either pretty standard – oh and that &*$#%@! Bear Barrel.
It’s whats for Dinner:
  • JetBoil MiniMo – so as a former  MSR Whisper Lite guy I can’t say enough about this amazing stove. There is a metric butt load of info out there so I will just say this – get yourself one regardless of what else you have – you won’t want to go back to anything else.
  • Kataydn Hiker Pro water filter – easy to use, light, super easy to clean and runs like a sewing machine.  Having spent a couple days in a far off land with parasites I am a freak about clean water.  This is my woobie in the woods – Melanie thinks I’m nuts carrying 11lbs of water and looking for the next “blue line” all the time – the Pro Hiker makes me sleep better out there.
  • Mountain House – Meh!  We are ok with it, but will be experimenting.  They are far and away superior to the old Backpacker’s Pantry and don’t get me started on the bagged dog shit I ate in the military.
  • MiO Energy – the little squirt bottles of caffeine are amazing.  They make the water taste decent and give you a boost.  I have a “problem” with caffeine so it helps in avoiding headaches (not a coffee drinker)
  • Utensils- Melanie uses a titanium spork, I use a lexan spoon
  • Bear Barrel- we used the Bear Vault 500 and would be glad to never have to see one of those things again. It’s not the barrel’s fault, they are just bulky, heavy, and a pain in the ass.

What to wear? What to wear?

  • Shoes:
    • Salomon XA Pro 3D hikers for Mike – fan of this brand and I was taking a lot of risk lugging that weight without a boot (wore Asolo Fugitives in Afghanistan and considered bringing them;’ Sundowners and Salewa in the past) – I should have broke in the shoes for sometime before the trip.  I didn’t and received a blister on the Achilles within the first four miles.  40 miles later and I was numb to the pain.  I like the lighter shoe with the thinner Smart Wool socks with heavy loads.  I will continue to experiment.  I don’t know if I would recommend it at this point
    • Keen Marshall WP size 7 for Melanie – she hiked the West Rim Trail and the Narrows in Zion in these right out of the box. They were comfortable and had no break in time, but not the best choice for the weight and terrain for Yosemite.  Still a solid shoe.
    • Socks – well Smart Wool of course – no need to go further (though I’m hearing rumblings about the Darn Tough socks as a good alternative)
  • Underthings:
  • Tshirts/Shorts:
    • Melanie – wore Under Armour and Adidas (Climalite:amazing) technical T shirts and a Reebok skirt with built in undershorts and UN92 shorts in camo (recommended- comfortable, flattering, and made in ‘Merica)
    • Mike – I work some $6 technical style T shirt from Cost Co and Kuhl Kontra 10in shorts.  I can’t say enough about the Kuhl product line; these shorts are my go to now for any outdoor activity and still look good in town. Salty at $65 though.  My back up shorts are UA running w/ internal underwear
  • Wet/Cold Weather:

*The Combat Shirt is a niche item that will play double duty with my military stuff so I tested it.  It is no longer available from Wild Things, but for $99 from Botach Tactical I recommend any MIL guy pick one up. (Keep an eye on future blogs, I will be covering Wild Things, Beyond and some of the other new comers in the market; made in USA stuff with a MIL slant)

    • For insulation I have a silk weight capilene Henley by Patagonia and a thicker layer I bought from LuLu Lemon (don’t make fun; they have men’s clothes)
    • Arc’teryx black wool beanie and Orvis ball cap for me (I’m pretty bald)
    • Melanie rocked a Yosemite trucker cap that we picked up at the gift shop on our first day in Yosemite
    • Sunnies – Gas Station aviators for Melanie and I wore Smith Hudson ballistic wraparound style glasses

Other randomness: REI binoculars, magnesium striker, map (of course), hiking poles, phone charging thingies, collapsible bowls (tip: buy the ones made for dogs. They are the exact same as the ones you will pay twice as much for in the camping section).

So that is our general packing list for any three-four day trek (non-winter) camping.  We will likely continue to seek out lighter alternatives and trim weight, but have found our standard load out for the near future.  I hope some of the feedback/ideas help you in your pursuits.  As always, we are happy to expand on anything in our blog – just drop us a line.
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