Network TV stations made LA’s recent weather front-line news. Temperatures were supposed to reach all-time record highs. There was even a heat warning for the mountains near where I was leading a group of our Boy Scouts this last weekend.
“Be prepared” took on a whole new meaning. If we were going to be successful in reaching our goal of completing 100 miles of biking, kayaking and backpacking. In order to be save and comfortable, we had to go lightweight and pay close attention to our nutrition, water and electrolyte intake.
Over the past couple years, my wife and I have really tried to “model lightweight” backpacking for the boys in Troop 4, Pasadena. Being an ultralight enthusiast and borderline zealot, I’ve learned that lecturing lightweight ideals can often turn people off to ultralight backpacking–especially the adults who were raised backpacking with heavy loads.
The boys have caught on to lightweight like wildfire. There are a few dads that tell me that their sons are “hooked,” “obsessed,” and all they can talk about is finding “ways to lighten their load.”
Of course that makes me feel good, but what is even better are the results of going light: the ability to go farther, see more and feel better at the end of each day on the trail. Plus, there are no blisters and virtually no complaining!
One way we encourage light and safe is through a shakedown party at our home. We go through each of the packs and point out ways of lightening their loads and offer lightweight alternatives (often recyclables found at home or at the 99 Cents Only Stores). I also have the boys make their own freezer bag cozies made from car windshield reflectors. They love it, and parents are joining in on the fun.
Despite the heat, we packed our gear and drove up to nearly 7,000 to the trailhead of Little Jimmy Campground on the PCT in Angeles National Forest. It’s a popular and often crowded camp, typically packed with Boy Scouts and weekend adventurers. Its main draw is a spring, pouring pure, cold water out of the mountain.
Our goal for the weekend was to hike approximately 2-1/2 miles into camp Friday afternoon, spend the night and head out the next day to Mt. Baden Powell and back—12 miles. But with the heat forecast at nearly 100F in the mountains, we leaders and Scouts needed every advantage possible to stay cool, well-hydrated and well-nourished. The last thing they needed were heavy backpacks.
The boys all decided to go without tents. They also decided to dress for the weather and bring only those clothes that were necessary to stay safe and comfortable. All the food was prepared in freezer bags so they brought the very minimum in cooking; five Scouts–one stove and one pot.
The average pack volume was 50 liters. Everyone had plenty of room in their packs and their average pack weight was 15 pounds.
Despite the forecast for hot weather, temperatures remained modest.
On the day of our 12-mile hike, we each brought lunch, Outdoor Essentials and at least four liters of water.
At 5:30am, we headed out of camp and followed the Pacific Crest Trail up to Windy Gap. We hiked along the ridge line six miles to our goal, Mount Baden Powell, 9,400 feet, where we met up with the rest of our Troop. We celebrated with cheer.
On our way back, everyone did great despite the warm conditions. It was a challenge but we all survived thanks to the planning and the Scouts pure determination.
On the third day, we packed up and summited Mt. Islip, saw three big horn sheep and headed back down the hill.
Once again, minimal worked. Taking less was a success. Everyone ate well, was comfortable and best of all, safe. None of the boys complained–everyone thrived and voiced that they can’t wait for the next adventure.
Enjoy the photos!