Week in the Woods: Final checklist; Leaving tomorrow!


Tomorrow I'm heading out to the woods to make an attempt to work on the internet using only solar power. It's not going to be a full week as I'd planned, as I'll probably be coming back Friday — or if my constitution, food or internet supplies fail, sooner.

One immediate problem: I'm not quite sure where I'm going.

Well, I do. I'm going to Harriman State Park. But my exploratory overnight trip, whereby I was to test where best to get an EVDO connection, never happened. (I was waiting on equipment that didn't arrive until Friday.) So this will be a bit by the seat of my pants. Worse — or better, depending on how I feel — you can only camp in designated areas in Harriman, so I'll have to move locations every day. That's actually sort of neat — as long as I can continue to get a good connection. At worst I can work on posts and videos and such at my campsite, then hike up a hill to get an EVDO connection and upload.

Worst case, I just don't end up having the live connection from my campsite I was hoping to get each night. That's okay. This whole thing is going to be an adventure.

One shelter I want to try to reach is the Big Hill Shelter. It looks like a nice place to spend an evening.

I'll be posting updates to my Twitter stream. I've found that EDGE and SMS often work well even in remote areas. If nothing else I should be able to inject blips to the web that way while I try to find good EVDO coverage from Verizon.

Another problem: My pack is coming in too heavy.
I just weighed my pack on my innacurate scale it comes in right under 40 pounds with most of my gear, including the solar gear: a Brunton Solaris 52 and one of the unreleased Brunton Solo 15 battery packs. The battery pack is necessary because I can't get my laptop — a review mule Lenovo ThinkPad X300 with built-in Verizon EVDO — to charge directly off the panels. So instead the panel will charge the battery, which will in turn charge the X300 through an invertor. Not the most effecient system but since I couldn't find a 12-volt car charger that would work with the X300, I decided to play it safe. If nothing else, having the huge capacity of the Solo 15 sitting on tap will make it possible to keep using my gear once the sun goes down.

And while Brownlee enjoys telling me how he schlepped around 80 pounds in a backpack while hiking the world, once I get done adding the rest of my gear I'm expecting to top out around 50 pounds. Maybe it's just how I've arranged my gear and straps on the bag, but testing it out with a quick run through the backyard for 20 minutes it already seemed to be a lot of weight for me. Much of the weight is in my Big Agnes Skinny Fish 20° sleeping bag (97% recycled content by weight [4 lbs]) and the Diversion Recycled Insulated Air Core Sleeping Pad. I'm going to tear down my pack again and try to rearrange it. Maybe it's just the way I've got it laid out. Advice, if you want to offer it, is welcome.

As for water, I've got two water purification systems I'm going to try out: a Kayadyn Hiker Pro (which I bought) and a SteriPEN JourneyLCD. (Yes, I realize using both at once might muck up the tests, but this is more about ease of use than "Which one of these let the giardia into my bowels?" Sorry to disappoint!) I've also got one Nalgene-type bottle, plus a 3 liter water bladder in the bag.

Food: Dehydrated hiker crap I will surely hate after the first day. And coffee. And a bottle of booze, which yes, is heavy, but no, I'm not leaving. I'm already leaving the banjo — don't take my snort of whisky!

I bought a camp shovel on the recommendation of a couple of folks.

I bought a hiking stove but forgot to buy fuel. I'll take it anyway. (The food can be eaten without heat, although my coffee can't.)

I bought a little mess kit that I'll probably just end up leaving at home.

I've got two headlamps from Coghlan's, the 0843 and the 0841.

I've got my Amazon Kindle with a copy of Walden on it. (Which I've never read.)

Got my knife. Got good socks. Have lightweight, silkie thermals for the evening. Have the most beat-up ball cap around. Have sunscreen. Have fire. Have cables, spare batteries, and trash bags just in case I need to cover something up.

Got my tent, the Hubba Solo, again on multiple recommendations from readers. I haven't set it up yet, which means that it's a certainty it will be missing parts or that I'll have to do so in a freak Hudson Valley hurricane. Oh well — it'll be good comedy, right?

I've got my camera and the Gorilla Pod.

I've got rhythm.

So basically, I think I'm ready to go. Just have to figure out this pack situation, since I should be able to lug it all in.

Join the Conversation


  1. Man, that looks like a lot of stuff, no wonder your pack is too heavy. I hope you have fun out there and can’t wait to read the reports.

  2. Keep the heavy stuff on the bottom of the pack. It’ll help it feel lighter and keep your balance.

  3. Worse — or better, depending on how I feel — you can only camp in designated areas in Harriman, so I’ll have to move locations every day.

    Oh, great. Isn’t that like a salient plot point in Battle Royale?

  4. Dehydrated food will completely suck if you do not use hot water, if I am reading the post right. That will more than anything ruin your adventure. I would only take one outfit…maybe two shirts max, and only splurge on the socks. The bare minimum I would take(experienced lightweight fast packer

    Sl. Bag
    First aid

    You are bringing so many things that are extraneous and extremely heavy, i.e. the electronics…but that is the purpose of the trip. You have to cut down on everything else. Lay it all out, and then just decide what you can live without. And, hopefully you had your pack fitted, as 80-90% of the weight of your pack should be resting on your hips…the shoulder straps are largely for stabilization.

    At the end of the day, you are carrying an extra 10-15 lbs of gear that would not normally find its way in the wild. Break often, and I wish you the best.

    Can’t wait to hear how glad you will be to take the pack off when you are done.

  5. Okay, I rearranged my pack with the same gear and it’s a lot more comfortable. Enough so that I’m not that worried about tipping the scale at 50 pounds. (And yes, I’m accounting for water.) I’ll take a look at the rest of the gear before I go, but I’m feeling a lot better about my chances.

    Of course, I’ll still be dead dog tired trying to do all this. I call on the power of Les Stroud!

  6. If you get lost or dead you can always swing by my pad for a beer. We live on one of the outer roads of the park in rockland county. kungfoATgmailDOTcom

  7. Joel, you should call on the power of Bear Grylls and sneak into nice comfortable hotel rooms every night.

  8. If you had a cart of some kind, you could pull it behind you and thus get more gear without possibly hurting yourself…..

  9. joel,

    you can only camp in designated areas of harriman legally. I have been camping there every summer for years and not once stayed at any of the legitimate camping facilities. There are plenty of excellent spots to pitch a tent and chill in the woods for a week.

  10. You won’t have any problems getting coverage near the shelter…it is right next to the Thruway, so cell phones and internet usually work.

    That ridge does get a bit cold in the morning when the wind and mist whips over it.

  11. 50 pounds for a weekender? Dude, even with all the tech gear that’s nuts. Even if you are in damn good shape you are in for a world of pain. I carry less than that for a week in winter in Western NC. You need to jettison some stuff and find lighter alternatives pronto.

    But that’s how most backpackers get started, by carrying too much crap the first time out.

    My advise?
    Keep it to SHORT mileage…..and have fun.

  12. Sounds like you got more gear than you have essentials (I know essentials and the gear might overlap) but lets hope you didn’t overdo the gear and forget something simple and obvious.

  13. Have fun, Joel! I spent an overnight in Harriman a few years ago, and was woken up after getting snug in my sleeping bag by a phone call from a friend in California — I’d forgotten to turn my cell off, but getting reception was no problem.

  14. After reading your list of “essentials”, I have only one thought: Dude, can I have your record collection when you’re dead?

  15. A couple years ago I was hiking the colorado trail alone when i was passed by Andrew Skurka, a semi-famous long distance hiker. I had him bust out his pack and show me what he was carrying to help me lighten up. (i ended up mailing home 18lbs of unnecessary stuff at the next town).

    One thing to remember is that every oz. you save really adds up.

    Here’s a few things you could do:

    1) leave the main part of your tent at home. your tent can be set up with the footprint and the fly (and the poles and stakes). if you’re really worried about mosquitoes you can get a mosquito net for your face that also keeps you warmer at night (your exhaled breath lingers around your head a bit more). that will save you 1 pound.

    2) get a lighter sleeping bag. shave off a couple of pounds. the Sub Kilo from REI is a reasonably priced 20 degree bag that comes in under 2 pounds.

    3) return your water filter and take aqua mira.

    4) leave your mess kit. you can eat those backpacking meals straight out of the bag. the only thing you need is a spoon, a pot to boil water in, and a cup for coffee.

    5) get a go-lite pack. I can’t recommend these enough. The don’t have the extra support that comes with bigger (heavier) backpacks – the hip belt is less substantial and there is no internal frame – but the entire pack comes in at ~2lbs instead of ~7. the catch is you can comfortably carry only around 35 pounds. they’re also a few hundred dollars less than quality internal frame packs.

    6) transfer your liquor to an empty plastic water bottle.


    with these simple tricks, you’ll have barely changed your experience, and you’ll have saved ~10 lbs, which makes for a much more enjoyable hike.

  16. If it’s alchohol, white gas or butane canisters I can thow you some fuel, I’m somwhat local…..

  17. 4 extra things I’ve never regretted taking: breakfast/energy bars, a little rope, 1-2 tarps, and a handful of zip-lock bags. Then again, for 3-4 days you don’t really need that stuff.

    Good luck!

  18. Due to an unfortunate quirk of timing, in preparation for a recent move I spent several days packing up everything I own while reading Walden at night. I quickly came to hate the majority of my possessions.

    I can only think of two books worse than Walden to read after lugging all that useless gear into the woods: Ray Jardine’s Beyond Backpacking and John Muir’s My First Summer in the Sierra, in which Muir spends a lot of time walking around the mountains with little more than a loaf of bread.

    I hope your shoes fit.

    “When I have met an immigrant tottering under a bundle which contained his all … I have pitied him, not because that was his all, but because he had all that to carry.” — Walden, Henry Thoreau

  19. You should get a JetBoil stove with a 1 liter cup. It’s the size of a Nalgene bottle, lightweight, perfect for feeding one person from, easy to start, boils water in just a few minutes, and fuel and other supplies fit inside it (I like to put my fuel in a ziplock bag before putting it in the cup because I’m paranoid like that). It’s so quick and easy to use, I never camp without mine anymore!

    And don’t forget a map and compass. GPS is awesome, but the map & compass will always be your best friends.

  20. My suggestions:

    matches and bug repellant

    Nalgene is ditching their bottles because of a potential health threat from BPA (another blow to my home town economy), so consider something else

    make sure you have tried to put your tent together before you get there…preferably several times so that if needed you can do it in the dark while it is raining. a new tent can be rather like putting Ikea furniture together for the first time

    ditto on the 1st Aid kit(#2) and the bit of rope (#23)

    have fun!

  21. God, you are an idiot. Why take two water purifiers and two headlamps?? You should ditch the tent if you plan to stay in the shelter. Obviously you have never backpacked before and you scare me. The Kindle? Why didn’t you just buy a used copy of Walden instead? The book sucks, by the way, and as another reader said it is not a book to read when all you do is lust after material posessions.

    My prediction is that you won’t make it to the shelter, you won’t last more than 24 hours outside, you will have blisters and you will cry yourself to sleep in the backseat of your car.

  22. Of course you have to take the liquor. Makes for good antiseptic. 🙂

    I still say you should *try* for a week, but of course if things don’t go as planned, come back to civilization.

    Wherever you go, make sure to stay hydrated! Well wishes, enjoy yourself, and keep us posted if/when you can.

    1. @Thornae: It was a cheapo internal frame pack from Amazon. I don’t recall the brand or model at the moment, but it got decent reviews and was only $75. It seems a lot like scuba BCs; you can get all the same features for the low price, but the fixtures won’t be as nice.

      Still, it should suit me.

  23. Might want to break your hikes up a bit and throw a smaller backpack (folks call Day Packs ..or Book Bags) in the car to lug some electro-gizmos , water and food/snacks around. Get use to the climate, etc. You are going to have a blast! Can’t wait to read your follow-ups. Work your way up to longer walk-abouts. Plus, you can use your car to recharge stuff.

  24. Suggestion: at the end of the trip, note down anything you brought that you didn’t use once. After a couple times doing that, you’ll know for yourself what you can leave behind next time, without needing to listen to a bunch of dicks telling you how they’d do it.

  25. Sorry to not log in, but I’m in a rush. With dehydrated food, try to *overhydrate* it when cooking or preparing. If there’s too little water added to the pouch, I find it sucks the moisture out of your stomach instead – instant hangover without the fun boozing in the first place. Hurrah!

    Other than that, have fun out there. I’ll be rooting for ya.

  26. lots of good and not-so-good tips here. Hope it goes well. I agree with #24 as regards Ray Jardine’s Beyond Backpacking. Great read if you want to go light, not so great if you’re already on a trip. You might also check out http://www.gossamergear.com for some ultralight gear for your next trip, they make great ultralight stuff that I’ve used on multi-week trips and are nice folks (went far beyond my expectations on a non-warranty repair).

  27. Haha, I totally lol’d at Walden on a Kindle… with all that other stuff. Still, best of luck to you! And if I could only give you one recommendation, it would be to take the time to get the fuel for your stove. Nothing makes you feel better in the woods at night or on a cold morning than something hot in your stomache.

  28. Lose the shovel I carried one once and never used it
    You are probably already back by now Where canwe read the results?

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