Gear Shakedown #2 and My Gear Checklist

Please be aware that clicking any links or purchasing from links may result in Sara receiving compensation. This is at no cost to you and helps Sara continue to share on Sustaining Sara. Thank you!

There are two things in backpacking that can make your trip miserable; forgetting something or packing too much! A great way to make sure you avoid either of those scenarios is to have a Backpacking Gear Checklist! This is my personal gear checklist I have created for backpacking the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. You can write down your gear checklist, create an online sheet like I did, or even use specific sites to track your gear and base weight. Furthermore, as I have checked items off my list, I have also recently changed my water-system and thought I would share with you what I am doing to filter my water!

Checklist of backpacking items and their weight
Sample of my Backpacking Gear Checklist, click the link above to see everything I am packing!

Last year Charlie and I used the Sawyer One Gallon Gravity System, but have decided that the bag that comes with it is difficult to catch water from the waves of Lake Superior and that the tubing was just annoying and took up space. THIS YEAR we are using the filter and hookup from the gravity set up and collecting water with the CNOC 3 liter water bag.

With this system we will collect water with the CNOC bag, filter through the Sawyer Mini, and into the Platypus 3 liter bladder that we drink our water from. This is still a gravity process of filtering, but just will a better collection bag and no extra tubing. Below is a picture of what the filtering process will look like!

Gravity-fed water filtration
Our gravity-fed, water filtration system!

We are still “perfecting” our gear checklist, but I am very happy with how far along we have come. Thank you for taking part in our journey as we get ready for our backpacking adventure! Make sure to check back every Saturday for seeing how we prepare for and backpack Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

Love,

Sara

Gear Shakedown….#1?

Please be aware that clicking any links or purchasing from links may result in Sara receiving compensation. This is at no cost to you and helps Sara continue to share on Sustaining Sara. Thank you!

Last time I spoke to you on the blog I talked about starting to prepare your backpacking trip (see post here) and I talked about the gear I am taking with me for my Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore trip. I even talked about some items I may switch around, and if you follow the Sustaining Sara socials (see above), then you already know an item I have been pondering over.

Charlie and I have decided to move away from our hammock shelters and move toward a tent shelter. I have heard from many sources that your tent should be under 3.5 lbs and there are so many tents available in that range. However, I will be the first to say that I do not want to spend that much money and I’d prefer to work with what we have, and what we have is a Coleman 2 Person Dome Tent. In the 2 person model this entire tent system is 7 lbs. and I dare say no one wants to add a 7 lb. shelter to their pack. HOWEVER, Charlie and I can split the weight together AND save money.

Tent in backyard
Our Coleman 2 Person Dome Tent!

Now I went to some Facebook hiking and backpacking groups to see what they thought about this plan and the perspectives were mixed to say the least. One person told me that taking this tent into the back country was “a terrible idea” with no other context. Others said it is a great idea to work with what we have and some agreed but also offered better options. I am happy I got perspectives for people but I have figured that this comes down to three main points in our case:

  1. Availability – we already have this tent. I already set it up once this season to make sure all pieces are accounted for and in good working order!
  2. Cost – there is no extra cost to us to use a tent we already have. We may even use some money we would have used on a new tent on getting better sleeping pads (yes, now I need to add “sleeping pad” to my updated gear list).
  3. Splitting Weight – yes, this tent would be way too heavy for one person to carry. However, since Charlie and I can split the weight together we should be at a reasonable ~3.5 lbs.! There is nothing wrong with that!

So Charlie and I are pretty set on using our heavy tent, no matter what others say. I am very happy that we have this opportunity and can see how our shelter system evolves as we continue our backcountry journeys! Make sure to check out my socials below to see our Pictured Rocks Trip as it rolls out!

Thank you!

Sara

How to Prepare for a Backpacking Trip

Please be aware that clicking any links or purchasing from links may result in Sara receiving compensation. This is at no cost to you and helps Sara continue to share on Sustaining Sara. Thank you!

Hi all! Now that is it May, I need to start preparing for my second trip backpacking Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Last year we were able to reserve a few backcountry sites to backpack the lakeshore, but this time around we prepared ahead of time (see Top 5 Things to Know Before Hiking Pictured Rocks) to reserve backcountry permits to make sure we hike from Grand Sable Visitor Center to Minors Castle (almost the whole lakeshore)!  There are a few things I am doing to make sure I am ready for this trip and I had better start now rather than later. Here are my tips to prepare for your backpacking trip!

  1. Get in shape

I was in a lot better shape last year and I was still tired after each day of hiking. This year…I need to start taking on more mileage before I hike 7.3 miles a day for fun. On top of just in general needing to get in shape, taking on so many miles consecutively and so soon can lead to injury if not properly prepared. Everyone is different, do your research and prepare your own body accordingly. I know that for myself, I need to do something to get in shape and prepare my body for my Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore trip.

If you are planning a longer hiking trip make sure your body can handle the work-load involved in your scenic hike!

  1. Get your gear together
The fellas use our gear as a bed is we leave it out for them to play with.
The Fellas cuddling with our backpacking gear when it’s not in storage.

If you are just starting out on your first backpacking trip you have A LOT to prepare for. Even if you are a seasoned backpacker you know how much planning it takes to make sure you are ready for comfort in the backcountry. You should do plenty of research on what others take into the backcountry and even think about additional things that would make yourself comfortable and happy! Here are things I take backpacking with me:

If you have your gear organized year round then this is not too much of a problem. Personally I use totes to put all my things in except my sleeping bag which I don’t want to squish. I keep my sleeping bag outside of storage because my dogs love cuddling it. People may use more, less, or liter gear but the above is what I take with me into the backcountry.

  1. Upgrade gear as needed

While I am loving my gear, there are a few things that we are upgrading/ changing based on different desires or needs:

  • Charlie is looking at getting a tent instead of bringing out his hammock setup again. He just decided that the hammock surrounded by the bug net and tarp was too constricting and did not provide enough privacy.
  • I am looking at changing or nixing my pillow. With my hammock I just don’t need it and I just wake up cuddling it like a teddy bear anyway.

Changing up your gear list is up to you and your preferences, don’t let anyone tell you different!

  1. Shakedown Hike

Now you have your gear together. You’re packed up and eager. Now it is time for a practice run. 

Hike with your bag. Overnight with your supplies. Is your bag too heavy for you? Did you pack some unnecessary items? Forget something you really need? Figure this out now and get rid of anything you don’t need. This is also a great way to practice wearing your backpack and make sure it is the right one for you! See Rachel’s How Not to Pack for A Pictured Rock Hiking Trip to really understand the importance of packing.

  1. Prepare a main point of contact 

I have said this before and I will say it again; make sure someone knows where you are and your itinerary! When Charlie and I leave for any type of trip we need to get a dog sitter and that is normally a family member. When we leave for a trip we know we may have limited cell service we make sure that this family member is prepared with our itinerary with notes on when we will be able to contact them and what to do if we do not contact them. A satellite phone would also help in these situation and hopefully by the time we do this trip we will have a Garmin InReach or InReach Mini. STILL, these phones are not always 100 percent reliable and your point of contact should be told that!

These tips for preparing for your backpacking trip are only the things primarily on my mind right now. Make sure to always do your own research and to make sure you are comfortable with your plans and your gear before isolating yourself in the backcountry. I wish you the best of luck and I hope you have so much fun!

Once on trail I will make sure to share as many photos and tips as possible! I will let you know how the trip went right here on the blog and don’t forget to read my first experience hiking Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore; Part 1 and Part 2. And follow my adventures on Instagram!

Love,

Sara

How not to Pack for a Picture Rocks Hiking Trip

Hello fellow patrons of Sustaining Sara! My Name is Rachel, a humble guest, here to indulge you in sustainable, earth friendly, and wanderous content! If you do not know, Sara is my twin sister. Now, of course that is how I got this gig, but trust me, I can bring the content too!

Before I begin my tragic tale, let me tell you a bit about who you are metaphorically speaking to. Like Sara, within the past few years I have begun to expand my views on living sustainably, have continued to curate my plant bb collection, and am constantly molding myself into “Rachel, Wanderer of the World, Extraordinaire”.

…Don’t worry, it will catch on eventually…

This is me… and my giant, unnecessary backpack at the beginning of our trip

Now for the real reason we are here, overpacking.

How does one overpack, you might ask yourself? And to you dear Reader, I would say one does it quickly and without notice. It is with great dismay that I report to you that my first backpacking trip, which was to be our grandest of adventures yet, was nearly a catastrophe. All because I could not keep track of my pack weight in the week leading up to our trip.

Lets recap:

Just like Sara, I have my own lovely line up of backpacking gear. This includes my big three combo that I am just in love with! My choices include my hammock setup (which is constantly evolving), my sleeping bag, the Nemo Forte 20 degree bag, and my backpack, the Kelty Zyro 64W… I love my pack, but this is certainly where all of my woes began. We will get to that in a minute.

For now, let me indulge you in the importance of the big three. These are most often your biggest and most expensive items among your gear. This account for the durability, weight (or lack there of), and the R value rating (warmth).

A great deal of time was dedicated in finding these items. Sara and I’s differences in our hiking and backpacking styles were highlighted in our REI and Amazon carts. A perfect example of these differences was Sara’s choice of a propane stove, while I opted for an alcohol stove. There was no real weight difference to our choices, just in the way they worked and how we would store our stove and fuel.

This is fine, it is more than acceptable to have your own unique set up.

What is not acceptable is when a certain someone (yup, me) notices that the backpack I have chosen is only $10 more for the 64L pack as apposed to the 45L version.

Oh boy… That minute has come, Reader. The instant my woes became reality. I did not know it then, but my nature to overpack would be over indulged solely due to the pack size I had chosen for myself.

The majority of our packs (that being Sara’s, Charlie’s, and my own) began with the same basic items. Including, but not limited to:

  • Hammock gear (See 2020 Faves…and 2019 for specific gear)
  • food and water
  • stove
  • bowls and eating utensils
  • spare cloths
  • sleeping bag and pads
  • etc.

We also divvied up the gear we would all be sharing evenly according to weight and pack space. This included things like our water filter, the Sawyer One Gallon Gravity System, among other things.

With the essentials lined up, it was time to bring some pizzazz to my time on the North Country Trail. This is just a fancy way of saying “I can not live without my stuff, I get bored easily, and I always bring a book that I never actually read.” This trip was no exception to this “Rachel Rule” and ohhhh lordy, did I suffer the consequences.

A few things past Rachel did not need to pack include:

  • a kalimba complete with a notebook full of tabs
  • a deck of cards that was never used
  • to many pairs of socks and extra leggings
  • another book that never saw the shore
  • and an entire bag of granola (I did not need the entire thing!)

I also ended up carrying my hiking boots inside my pack instead of my chacos… Considering the blisters I received the first day of hiking, this was best for my feet… but probably not the best for my back…

Me with my giant, unnecessary pack, now at max weight with my boots inside

For a wee visual, somewhere between Miner’s Beach and Miner’s Castle the straw broke the camel’s back. The camel was me and the camel’s back, was my own. I was in literal tears for the majority of that stretch (no shame here). It felt like the longest few miles of my life. I was quite literally torn between completing our hike and just laying down and perishing on the shoreline. Anything to get that pack off my back!

After a particularly slight incline, that totally killed me, I started recognizing the area where my car was waiting for us. “We’re almost there, Rachy!” I can remember Sara cheering me on. It might have worked if there was not an assortment of picnic tables between us and the car. I limped to the nearest one and *gracefully* clasped onto it. Relieving myself of my pack was both the most painful and joyful thing I had done that entire day.

I sat there as Sara riffled through my bag for my car keys. Her and Charlie milled about the area using the facilities, loading their gear into the car, and admiring the views of the shore while I sat there feeling shriveled up, laying my head on the picnic table, hydrating for dear life.

At some point Sara came over and offered to take my pack to the car.

“OHHHH MYYY GODDD!”

I lift my head in time to see her putting my pack back on the ground.

“No wonder you’re hurting! This is so HEAVY!”

Dear Reader, I cried. Again! I let it out. It sunk in slowly, I was not technically a wimp, I was an over packer!

You can almost see me behind my pack…

In the backpacking world any nonessential items are usually left off trail. As I ease into the ways of backpacking, the idea of an ultra light set up was never on my radar. Our trip and the lessons I painstakingly learned have given me a new perspective on how I will pack for future adventures. A good and hard look at what gear I am willing to take with me, and most importantly what gear I should probably leave behind will be needed every time I plan another trip!

The other major thing that I modified on my pack was the shoulder straps and the hip belt. Even though I took a considerable amount of time to do this pre-Picture Rocks, at the conclusion of our hike it was obvious that I had not done it properly! That entire time my pack was sitting on my back incorrectly, putting weight and pressure on all the wrong places!

I now know that with the correct adjustments, my time on trail would have been so much more pleasant. Obviously, not perfectly pleasant, but so much better than what it was.

Even though I have nightmares about the horrors of Past Rachel’s mistakes, I am still looking forward to our future Picture Rocks trips. This year I will have my modified pack, sans brain, and complete with proper adjustments, with updated gear and an extremely refined gear list! This trip will surely be one fore the books! Covering more trail and testing our limits!

Look at that adequate pack… and then the less than adequate one…

Whether or not you find my tale humorous or just feel pity for Past Rachel, I do hope you enjoyed your read and that any perspective backpackers have learned a valuable lesson. Perhaps, in the not so distant future I will be write to you about my amazing ultra light backpacking lifestyle… I do not foresee this being anytime soon, but here’s to hope!

Taking in the views. An important part of a Picture Rocks trip is the stopping at all the beautiful lookouts!