"My First Backpacking Trip"

Reports or links to reports on trips.

Moderator: Tom

Post Reply

Topic author
Tortuga
LNT Expert
Posts: 75
Joined: Sat Jun 11, 2016 12:11 pm
Isle Royale Visits: 1
Location: Chicago

"My First Backpacking Trip"

Post by Tortuga » Fri May 05, 2017 7:57 am

As I gear up for my second IR trip, I started thinking about my first backpacking trip and how both my gear and I have changed since then. I imagine a lot of us are in the same boat. I don't want to come off too much like a high school student writing an essay, but thought it would be fun to share my story.

I was never in scouts, and while my family did plenty of car camping and I did summer camp, I never did any sort of backpacking. I'm a child of the suburbs in the Midwestern plains. In 2014 I was having a crisis of confidence--not happy with my job, I was overweight, and just generally wanting something new. I started watching YouTube videos of people's experience on the Appalachian Trail, and wondered if that would be something for me. It seemed like a great escape from reality, and there were plenty of people like me who succeeded.

Realistically I knew I wasn't ready for something that crazy--remember, I'd never even touched a backpack that wasn't designed to hold books. But I did find out about something called the Superior Hiking Trail, and living in the Twin Cities at the time I couldn't pass up the opportunity to try it out. I took 3 weeks off work and planned to walk from Northern to Southern terminus that September. That was about 250 miles.

So I did what probably every novice backpacker has done and took to Amazon. I bought a cheap backpack that weighed over 6lbs. I also bought a $30 set of trekking poles. I got a tent from REI that was almost 5lbs. My sleeping bag, also from REI, was about 3 lbs. I got an inflatable AirRail mattress which was about 2lbs. I bought knee-high gaitors for my pants. I got a Sawyer Squeeze mini filter system and a platypus bottle, which was almost weightless--no bladder. My stove was a Caldera Cone system which I still use, and is very lightweight.

For food, I set myself up two maildrops along the way. I started out with all the good shit: jerky, bars, pasta sides, and even a jar of peanut butter. I had all my stuff planned out so well, right? Well all said and done, with food, multiple changes of clothing, heavy/bulky equipment, my pack was over 50lbs on the trail!

The first night I got to camp exhausted and after the sun started to set. I went to boil water and didn't use enough alcohol. I was too tired to bother a second go and just went to bed. I set up my tent improperly, which I would discover at 2AM when everything was sagging around me and I was literally shivering from the damp cold conditions. I was miserable.

The next couple days weren't too much better. The going was slow and I found myself having to rest a lot. I also had a real death march on day 3--over 18 miles including the stairway from hell at Devil's Kettle Falls and CR Magney park. I was chafing, had blisters, nausea, and didn't want to eat. Ended up throwing the gaitors and heavier food in the dumpster. One of my cheap poles wouldn't stay locked and was unusable. It was awful.

By the time I made it to Grand Marais (just 50 miles into my trip), I was having trouble concentrating and could barely walk. I checked in to the Mangy Moose Motel, and realized I was severely dehydrated. For all the preparation I did, I was not drinking nearly enough water, not even close. I really should have gone to the hospital, but instead I drank a lot of water and crashed on the bed. Called in my lifeline, ended my trip, and swore I'd never go backpacking again.

Fast forward a few years, and I've dropped 20lbs off my load, invested in higher quality equipment, learned that dehydrated food really is the only way to go for me, and most importantly DRINK MORE WATER. The only thing that's been constant for me is my cookset and my Darn Tough socks, but I have changed everything about my setup and can't imagine NOT backpacking.

User avatar

jrwiesz
May actually live on IR
Posts: 330
Joined: Mon Jan 24, 2011 3:42 am
Isle Royale Visits: 3
Location: Michigan

Re: "My First Backpacking Trip"

Post by jrwiesz » Fri May 05, 2017 9:55 am

Great post. 8)

Time slowly erases the "S" on ones chest, and hopefully replaces it wisdom. :o
"And standing on the the crest of the Greenstone Ridge, I suddenly had this desire to retreat north to where I just come, to stay in the backcountry, to spend another day in a place where the only deadline I had was to pitch the tent before dark."
Jim DuFresne


kolo
LNT Expert
Posts: 81
Joined: Mon Apr 30, 2012 8:48 am
Isle Royale Visits: 8

Re: "My First Backpacking Trip"

Post by kolo » Fri May 05, 2017 12:08 pm

Mountaineers have a saying that I"m sure many of you have heard before.

Good judgement comes from experience; experience comes from bad judgement!


Basbh1
NewbieCake
Posts: 17
Joined: Sat May 06, 2017 1:15 pm
Isle Royale Visits: 0
Location: Southern Wisconsin

Re: "My First Backpacking Trip"

Post by Basbh1 » Sat May 06, 2017 1:33 pm

I hope My first Backpacking Trip in 32 years goes better than Tortuga"s going to IR for the first time May 19th with my wife (her first time ever backpacking)


Topic author
Tortuga
LNT Expert
Posts: 75
Joined: Sat Jun 11, 2016 12:11 pm
Isle Royale Visits: 1
Location: Chicago

Re: "My First Backpacking Trip"

Post by Tortuga » Sat May 06, 2017 3:47 pm

Basbh1 wrote:
Sat May 06, 2017 1:33 pm
I hope My first Backpacking Trip in 32 years goes better than Tortuga"s going to IR for the first time May 19th with my wife (her first time ever backpacking)
Ha! You guys should be good. On the SHT, even if you're ready to give up after a day, you still have 40 miles to go til you hit the next town. On the Island, you'll be able to shack up at Rock Harbor or Windigo pretty easily til the next boat. Have a good time!


Midwest Ed
IR Expert
Posts: 884
Joined: Sat Jul 03, 2010 1:25 am
Isle Royale Visits: 8
Location: Quad Cities, IL

Re: "My First Backpacking Trip"

Post by Midwest Ed » Sat May 06, 2017 6:52 pm

Tortuga wrote:
Fri May 05, 2017 7:57 am
Well all said and done, with food, multiple changes of clothing, heavy/bulky equipment, my pack was over 50lbs on the trail!
Only 50 pounds? My first backpacking experience was on ISRO with 80+ pounds for just an extended weekend trip. We made it as far as Moskey Basin and then couldn't move due to blisters. My second ISRO "redemption" trip was a 2 week solo with no supply drops. Total wet weight using state of the art equipment, by 1975 standards, still started at 55 pounds. The second time went great and I was hooked, just like so many others.
8 trips, 1975 x 2, 1976 x 2, 1978, 1985, 2000, 2013


Topic author
Tortuga
LNT Expert
Posts: 75
Joined: Sat Jun 11, 2016 12:11 pm
Isle Royale Visits: 1
Location: Chicago

Re: "My First Backpacking Trip"

Post by Tortuga » Sat May 06, 2017 8:09 pm

Midwest Ed wrote:
Sat May 06, 2017 6:52 pm
Only 50 pounds? My first backpacking experience was on ISRO with 80+ pounds for just an extended weekend trip. We made it as far as Moskey Basin and then couldn't move due to blisters. My second ISRO "redemption" trip was a 2 week solo with no supply drops. Total wet weight using state of the art equipment, by 1975 standards, still started at 55 pounds. The second time went great and I was hooked, just like so many others.
80lbs??? Wow! And 2 weeks with no resupply? I'm stressing out over packing food for 7 nights and 8 days. I can't imagine carrying 2 weeks worth of food.

As a side note, wet wipes are one of my non-negotiables. I always carry them with me on trips. Someone on another forum suggests letting them dry out before your trip, and just add water when you're about to use them to save weight. Guess I have a project for Isle Royale!


Midwest Ed
IR Expert
Posts: 884
Joined: Sat Jul 03, 2010 1:25 am
Isle Royale Visits: 8
Location: Quad Cities, IL

Re: "My First Backpacking Trip"

Post by Midwest Ed » Sun May 07, 2017 2:30 am

I think most everyone has their own version of getting started "horrors". When I started, backpacking water filters were virtually nonexistent, thus fuel requirements were more than double today.
8 trips, 1975 x 2, 1976 x 2, 1978, 1985, 2000, 2013


Basbh1
NewbieCake
Posts: 17
Joined: Sat May 06, 2017 1:15 pm
Isle Royale Visits: 0
Location: Southern Wisconsin

Re: "My First Backpacking Trip"

Post by Basbh1 » Mon May 08, 2017 3:45 pm

My pack is at 34 lbs gear,food and fuel. My wife's pack is at 32. We are planning on going to Daisy on the first day. Second day get up early and go up to Mt Obbjibway (no packs ) then Daisy to Moskey. Fish Moskey? Or hike to Lake Richie and fish Richie? Day three Moskey to three mile. Day four Three mile to Rock Harbor via Tobin harbor trail drop the packs and try to make it to Scottville point and back before catching the boat back to Copper harbor. Ambitious? BTW we did 14 miles in one day in the Porcupine Mountains last June day packs only. We did the Escarpment trail , Overlook trail,Summit peak trail and the Presque Isle river trail. Are the trails on IR pretty much the same as the Escarpment and the Overlook? Rock mud and steep?

User avatar

jrwiesz
May actually live on IR
Posts: 330
Joined: Mon Jan 24, 2011 3:42 am
Isle Royale Visits: 3
Location: Michigan

Re: "My First Backpacking Trip"

Post by jrwiesz » Mon May 08, 2017 5:28 pm

Add tree roots into the equation, and all of the above. 8)
"And standing on the the crest of the Greenstone Ridge, I suddenly had this desire to retreat north to where I just come, to stay in the backcountry, to spend another day in a place where the only deadline I had was to pitch the tent before dark."
Jim DuFresne


Basbh1
NewbieCake
Posts: 17
Joined: Sat May 06, 2017 1:15 pm
Isle Royale Visits: 0
Location: Southern Wisconsin

Re: "My First Backpacking Trip"

Post by Basbh1 » Mon May 08, 2017 8:52 pm

My wife says awesome !she is a real trooper. We are so excited about the trip we can't stand it. After we get back to Copper harbor from IR we are going to the Porcupine Mountains and are going to do the Lake Superior trail, Big Carp river trail, Correction trail, North Mirror lake trail loop , another 4 days 3 nights of backpacking 20.9 miles plus the 28 miles on IR we will be just under 50 miles just like Tortuga on his first trip we will be sure to drink plenty of water thanks to Tortuga and thanks to jrwiesz now there won't be any surprises we know what we are getting ourselves into except for the 3.5 hour boat ride. I'm praying for very calm sea's.


Midwest Ed
IR Expert
Posts: 884
Joined: Sat Jul 03, 2010 1:25 am
Isle Royale Visits: 8
Location: Quad Cities, IL

Re: "My First Backpacking Trip"

Post by Midwest Ed » Mon May 08, 2017 10:26 pm

Basbh1 wrote:
Mon May 08, 2017 8:52 pm
. . . there won't be any surprises we know what we are getting ourselves into except for the 3.5 hour boat ride. I'm praying for very calm sea's.
There's almost always surprises. It's great when they are good surprises, but prepare well and you can accommodate, adapt, overcome or survive the others. I know you'll enjoy yourself, most especially afterwards. Also, if you are susceptible to motion sickness, there's preparation and steps you can take for that too.
8 trips, 1975 x 2, 1976 x 2, 1978, 1985, 2000, 2013


Topic author
Tortuga
LNT Expert
Posts: 75
Joined: Sat Jun 11, 2016 12:11 pm
Isle Royale Visits: 1
Location: Chicago

Re: "My First Backpacking Trip"

Post by Tortuga » Tue May 09, 2017 8:11 am

Midwest Ed wrote:
Mon May 08, 2017 10:26 pm
Also, if you are susceptible to motion sickness, there's preparation and steps you can take for that too.
This is a sentence worth paying attention to! I'd never experienced motion sickness, but when I took the Queen over last May the seas were choppy. I was able to keep it together, but there were a lot of people in my situation. I tried looking out the starboard window to focus on the horizon when *bam*, a woman on the deck threw up and vomit sprayed across the windows. They had to shut that side of the deck down.

Expecting the same on the return trip I bought some Dramamine at the camp store and took it about an hour before boarding. Lake couldn't have been smoother, and I was too drowsy to enjoy the ride. I would look at some of the natural options like ginger chews and psibands for your trip to the island. If you use drugs like Dramamine, you'll be too tired to enjoy the hike that day.

I will say that once on the island, I hit my stride in the fresh air and was completely "fixed."


Basbh1
NewbieCake
Posts: 17
Joined: Sat May 06, 2017 1:15 pm
Isle Royale Visits: 0
Location: Southern Wisconsin

Re: "My First Backpacking Trip"

Post by Basbh1 » Thu May 11, 2017 9:23 pm

Thanks to all who post here on the forum. I have been reading all I can on this forum for the months I have been planning this trip i really do appreciate the time and effort that you put into the forum and your passion to the betterment of the experience for others. I hope I can do the same thing after i experience the island. My wife and I are so excited about the upcoming trip, thanks in part to you and others like you that we have met while planning the trip.. we are looking forward to a epic adventure.

Post Reply