15 Jul 2008 8:00 am   //   Filed under: Travel

Back to basics

This time next week, I’ll be high in the mountains on a five-day backpacking trip through Yosemite National Park. There are no towns or resupply stations on our route, so we have to carry everything on our backs. You really think carefully about how much stuff weighs when you travel this way. Right now I’m working on clothes. (Do I bring more than one shirt? How many socks do I really need?) I’ve already tackled food and other basic gear. Some of the things I’ve considered:

  • I’ve been comparing labels to figure out which foods pack the most energy per weight. Peanut butter is freakin’ amazing. Skippy has 190 calories in a 32g serving! But Smart Balance peanut butter is even better – 200 calories per 32g. Fig Newtons seemed like a good bet, but they only have 110 calories in a 31g serving. They’re staying back. Cliff Bars are coming. Dried apples are staying back. When was the last time you compared nutrition labels and bought the product with a higher calorie count?
  • Not gonna schlep a whole roll of toilet paper. I unspooled a few feet of Scott 1000 (one-ply). Then I wrapped it around a ball-point pen, took the pen out, and put the small spool in a Ziploc.
  • Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap is a must. It’s dish and laundry detergent, hand soap and shampoo all in one concentrated bottle.
  • Spare shoelaces are another necessity. They can also be used to repair a tent or a pack in an emergency.
  • A big thing of sunscreen got decanted into a small squeeze bottle.
  • The tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, water filter and stove are all of the lightweight variety. My flashlight is a tiny two-LED number that takes a single, miniature six-volt battery.
  • No iPod.
  • No cell phone.
  • No GPS.
  • No compass.
  • No Swiss Army knife. (I’m bringing a tiny Leatherman tool that has a blade.)
  • No shaving kit. No comb. No mirror either.
  • There’s a school of thought that advises cutting your toothbrush handle off, but properly cleaned teeth are a luxury I cannot give up, even for five days.