About the Gear: James Peak Wilderness Loop

Most of the gear I use on my summer trips was covered in my About the Gear posts Part 1 and Part 2.  In this post,  I’ll discuss what worked on the James Peak trip and what didn’t.

The biggest loser: New Balance trail runners.  Let me hasten to say that there’s nothing wrong with these shoes.  But in buying them, I ignored the three most important elements in choosing footwear for wilderness travel:  fit, fit, and fit.  The New Balance last is just wrong for my feet which happen to be like ducks’ feet:  wide in the forefoot and narrow in the heel.  As a result my heels slipped a bit and my toes were pinched.  After my trip, I immediately put these shoes aside and bought a pair of Sauconys that are just right for my foot shape.  These will be tested on day hikes before my next trip.

The biggest winner: Golite Shangri-La 2.  In a recent post, I’ve detailed everything I like about this shelter.  The James Peak trip gave me an  opportunity to test it in prolonged rain the first night of my trip and in an intense wind-driven rain storm the second night.  It proved to be a great shelter on both nights.  There is something about having lots of space within when the storm is swirling without that gives me a sense of contentment and well-being.  Though the walls slope steeply, the 49 square feet provides plenty of room for stretching out or sitting up and sorting gear.

On the second evening, I was a bit concerned because I was camped near a lake, mosquitoes were present, and I had not brought any kind of netting to  protect from them.  I set up the Shangri-La with the edges staked right to the ground and jumped in to see what would happen.  A mosquito followed me in through the door.  Several small flies buzzed near the two peaks of the shelter.  I found that it was easy to sweep the insects down to the inside edge of the shelter with a cupped palm and dump them outside.  A fly or two remained but just stayed harmlessly near the peaks.  No mosquitoes came in under the fly.  So for most conditions in the Colorado mountains, I think I can do without bug netting.  In the rare occasions when I expect to spend time in the shelter when the day is still warm, I can just set the edges higher for ventilation and bring along my A-16 bug bivy .

Based on the performance of the Shangri-La 2 on my trips since last November,  I’m comfortable selling the rest of my collection of tents and tarps and relying on this shelter alone.  Weight of my 2009 version is 21.6 oz. plus stakes.

Speaking of stakes, for this trip I used the aluminum Y-stakes that came with the Shangri-La. They held fine but I cut my hand on one, so I think I’ll go back to my all-time favorites, the 8″ gold Easton monster stakes.  A set of six weighs 3 oz.

Odds and ends: On a recent trip, my POE Eco-Ether 6 developed a slow leak due to my failure to properly groom the ground before putting it down.  This  time I reverted to an earlier setup, a Montbell 90 pad over a torso-sized Ridgerest.  My feet and lower legs rested on my Granite Gear Vapor Trail. This setup still allowed me to sleep comfortably, so I may go back to it.  The combo is more fail-safe than the POE pad and saves me 7 oz.

Expecting rain on this trip, I brought my Headsweats glove covers (1.9  oz.) and was glad I did.  The Manzella powerstretch gloves were left at home but I wish I had brought them since my hands did get a bit numb from the cold rain.

For food storage, I used regular Ziploc bags which I found difficult to open with numb fingers.  Next time I’ll use Ziploc slider bags.

Camera stuff: Having dismissed cameras in the past as just extra weight, it amuses me to find that I now carry a DSLR with lens,  camera case, tripod, and several filters.  The combined weight is 4 lb. even.  Lightweight backpackers may be shocked at the weight;  serious photographers dismayed at the bare-bones kit.  What can I say?  This is where I am right now.

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3 thoughts on “About the Gear: James Peak Wilderness Loop

  1. At the end of the day, choosing to go light allows you to make choices like taking your SLR. 4lb is pretty respectable for camera + tripod, my tripod alone weighs about that in it’s heaviest configuration.

  2. You’re right, of course, Fraser. This past trip is the first one where I carried a full-sized tripod. After using it, I can’t imagine going back to anything less. So the DSLR and tripod are staying in the kit. Any weight reductions will have to come from the rest of my gear.

  3. What’s the point going on these amazing trips and beholding such wondrous vistas if you can’t look at them in a decade to recall what you’ve done with your life, to say nothing of sharing them with others. I use a Panasonic Lumix TZ10 lately because it’s a great machine for learning the ropes & it’s not too heavy either. Camera gear almost doesn’t count for me!

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