Backpacking Simulation (for everyone, but beginners especially encouraged)

I am totally bummed that I didn’t go on a single backpacking trip last year so, in order to ensure one this year, I figure I’d best just plan it myself.

As much as I’d love to let anyone and everyone join me for the real thing, which could be the Jordan River Valley Trail (10 miles in, 10 miles out) or another similar trail, it’s unwise and unsafe to bring complete beginners to a relatively serious backpacking trip. It’s very unlikely anyone would actually die or suffer serious injury during a warm weather trip, but it could be very uncomfortable for a beginner if they packed or prepared incorrectly. And what usually happens is that the rest of us would have to pick up the slack (which I’ve personally had to do more than once).

I am not even close to being an expert, nor am I certified in anything at all, but I do consider myself to be experienced enough to offer competent basic advice adequate for a simple weekend trip. I also encourage you to read books and take a free REI class if you can (http://www.rei.com/stores/troy.html). And I’d love for other experienced backpackers to assist.

The reason I call this event a “backpacking simulation” is because you’ll get the full feel of a backpacking trip while never being more than three miles from your car. The idea is that you pack exactly as if you were going for a full backpacking weekend. Pack everything you’d need (even though you won’t use most of it) so you know exactly what it feels like to carry all of it for many miles. We’ll meet at the Trail Head (which has two nice outhouses), wait for everyone to arrive (if it’s your first time there, please try to arrive early), have a brief meeting, and start hiking the 5.5 mile yellow trail. We’ll end up back at the parking lot, which we’ll pretend is our isolated camp, so anyone who goes back to their car will be considered ill prepared and cheating (but of course, as a beginner, you are welcome to and we won’t give you a hard time, we’ll only rag on the more experienced cheaters:-). We will set up our tents (and then take them back down once they are all up), make our lunches (sharing is encouraged but not mandatory), discuss what we’ve learned so far and answer all questions, discuss what we packed and why we packed it, pack up everything including our trash, and hike back out the way we came, for a total of 11 miles for the full simulation.

If your feet really hurt or something else is wrong, no one will keep you from driving home right after lunch but, if you do, then you might not be ready for a full backpacking trip. Any way you slice it, you should learn a lot about yourself and what it feels like to go on a real backpacking trip, which I hope you do.

Since I’m scheduling this so far in advance, the weather could be just about anything; warm, freezing, or rainy, just like for a real trip. Plan and dress accordingly. There is no excuse for you to be too hot, cold, or wet. We will be hiking a well used mountain biking trail but this early in the season should be too wet and muddy for people to ride so we shouldn’t be interrupted by bikes.

Although I could simply list everything you should bring right here, I actually think it would be more beneficial for you to do your own research and bring what you think you’d need for a weekend trip. After all, even if everything you brought was wrong, and you wore cotton socks with dress shoes, you still wouldn’t be in that bad of shape. You’d just look a bit silly, and who hasn’t done that before?

 

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    • Chris H.

      Thank you for the kind words. I'll hike with you anytime!

      March 25, 2013

    • Lee K

      Great article!

      1 · March 28, 2013

  • Phil P.

    These are some of my person gear choices to use as a referance. Combined total weight is for my pack shelter and sleep system comes in at 5.3 pounds. The weight of most backpacks are usually above this combined weight.

    My pack (newer model) 24ozs. without sit pad (i use my air matress)
    http://gossamergear.com/packs/backpacks/gorilla-ultralight-backpack-all.html

    My tent (one person) 23ozs.
    http://www.sixmoondesigns.com/tents/LunarSolo.html
    Stakes 2.2ozs
    http://www.sixmoondesigns.com/tarps/63-stake-set-single.html
    Ground cloth 1.6ozs.
    http://gossamergear.com/shelters/polycryo-ground-cloth-medium.html

    tent (2-3 person) 42ozs.
    http://www.tarptent.com/rainshadow2.html
    Ground cloth 3.65ozs.
    http://gossamergear.com/shelters/polycryo-ground-cloth-large.html

    My sleeping pad (Regular 20") 12ozs.
    http://www.rei.com/product/829851/therm-a-rest-neoair-xlite-sleeping-pad

    My Sleeping bag 22ozs (1 pound 6ozs.)
    http://www.montbell.us/products/disp.php?cat_id=796&p_id=2321139

    1 · March 24, 2013

    • Phil P.

      Couldn't agree with rhat more.

      March 25, 2013

    • Staten T. M.

      Great! I just bought the pack.

      1 · March 26, 2013

  • Annu

    I a so upset that work came up lat minute and I had to cancel. The pictures look great. Hope to make to the next event.

    March 25, 2013

  • Chris H.

    Awesome! I'll be at the Birmingham store at 5pm. Really cool people there - you're going to like them.

    1 · March 25, 2013

  • Chris H.

    How about tonight (Monday)? I'm going there to see a friend who is leaving for the AT in a few days. Wanna meet me there?

    March 25, 2013

    • Phil P.

      Take me about 1/2 hour to get there. Out of work at 4:30. 5:00 ok?

      March 25, 2013

  • Phil P.

    I just thought I would post a few helpful links on here for ultralight backpacking gear and info.

    http://gossamergear.com/
    http://www.sixmoondesigns.com/
    http://www.zpacks.com/
    http://www.ula-equipment.com/
    http://www.mountainlaureldesigns.com/index.php
    http://www.tarptent.com/
    http://www.hyperlitemountaingear.com/

    Useful ultralight videos and gear. He sells all of the gear he talks about but keep in mind you may find a better deal to buy elsewhere so always check before you buy. I have order through him and customer service was great. He does not make gear himself but his videos are very informative in making choices for ultralight gear from both big retailers and the small guys.
    http://www.hikelight.com/

    Sign up for email deals (deal Flyer) and save a ton at Sierra Tradding Post. Be warned they will send you coupons almost daily though. If your in Buying mode thats not so bad, but afterwards you may want to change email preferences.
    http://www.sierratradingpost.com/

    1 · March 24, 2013

    • Chris H.

      Phil - Thanks for all the good info. If you ever want to hang out and talk about gear and hiking, we could meet at Moosejaw. I go there all the time.

      1 · March 24, 2013

    • Phil P.

      Chris when were you thinking? My work schedule weekdays is till 4:30 and most weekends are open right now. This Sunday I signed up to hike Stoney Creek. I would actually like to hear about through hiking first hand. Resupplies and needed life choices / options and what not. Seems you have really been racking up the miles the last couple of years!

      March 25, 2013

  • Lee K

    I had a great time! Thanks for doing the event!

    1 · March 24, 2013

    • Staten T. M.

      Good to see you too. Don't forget to post your pic.

      March 24, 2013

    • Lee K

      ok did it!

      March 25, 2013

  • Chris H.

    If anyone wants to hang out and talk about gear and hiking, we could meet at Moosejaw. It's a gear store in Birmingham that I go to all the time. Email me at [masked]

    March 24, 2013

    • Lee K

      Chris, when r u starting your hike of the Michigan "new" trail?

      March 25, 2013

  • Tiffany

    So bummed I couldn't make it! Sounds like y'all had good times :)....look forward to hopefully going to the next one...I gotta prepare for my week long trek in Yellowstone in july ..Wu hu!

    March 25, 2013

  • Phil P.

    I had a good time. It was great to meet everyone and I look forward to future events. Thanks Jim for organizing this event.

    1 · March 24, 2013

  • Rod

    Enjoyed the hike - - even with the wrong turn! Especially enjoyed the light gear discussion (right Dylan?). Going to have to check out the REI Quarter Dome & Six Moon Lunar Solo Tents. Thanks Jim for setting this up and thanks to those that shared their light gear tips!!

    March 24, 2013

  • Sherene L.

    The hike was fun and informative. Thank you everyone for your advice and sharing.

    March 24, 2013

  • Staten T. M.

    Sorry I didn't get to meet you all. See you at the next one.

    March 24, 2013

  • Chris H.

    What a blast! Thanks to Jim for organizing the event. Other hikers can follow me at wolverinehikesmichigan.blogspot.com or find me on Facebook as Hiker Resupply. Keep in touch!

    March 24, 2013

  • Dan S.

    Trail intersections at this park are not labled, so it is easy to get "missplaced"....

    1 · March 23, 2013

  • Dylan C.

    We did about 13 miles... I'm going to sleep well tonight. Thanks for organizing this Jim!

    1 · March 23, 2013

  • Staten T. M.

    Better breaking my pack here than on a trip. Good shakedown. Sorry I missed the pointer part

    March 23, 2013

  • Dylan C.

    If lost, call[masked]

    March 23, 2013

  • Jason Cardella G.

    I"m going to have to catch the next one it looks like. Ma's birthday today & she wantes to get together earlier now. Thank guys, have fun.

    March 23, 2013

  • Dylan C.

    Who is coming from Ann Arbor? Would you like to carpool (especially if you drive a minivan or something).

    March 17, 2013

    • Dylan C.

      Yup, see you at the Plymouth Rd. Park & Ride.

      March 23, 2013

    • Missy

      I accidentally went to the State St. Park N Ride. I'm on my way to the Plymouth rd. Park N Ride. If I can still get a ride with you please call me. [masked]-1743. Thanks.

      March 23, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    sorry need to run some errands, won't be able to make it to the park in time.

    March 23, 2013

  • Aaron

    Sorry for the late cancellation, family stuff to do. Have fun everyone!

    March 23, 2013

  • Joseph

    I will try to make it. Looking forward to it. Haven't hiked in a while. I'll do my best.

    March 23, 2013

  • Jason Cardella G.

    I will definitely do this event if you offer it again soon. Hopefully a little warmer eh

    March 22, 2013

    • Jason Cardella G.

      P.S.S. lol Sorry for the extra posts ~ Can I bring my dog?

      March 22, 2013

    • Dylan C.

      I don't think we're too fashion conscious... pink polka dots, digital camo... as long as your pack holds everything and doesn't hurt you it should be fine. I'm using a big black duffel bag strapped to an old pack frame.

      March 22, 2013

  • Annu

    Can someone let me know when do we return back?

    March 22, 2013

    • Annu

      I mean is this a Saturday and Sunday trip? Do I need to carry a tent ?

      March 22, 2013

    • Dylan C.

      4 hours of hiking plus 1.5 hours standing around and lunch, we should be done around 5:30... sorry you can't make it.

      March 22, 2013

  • Lee K

    CARPOOL OFFERED. I have a minivan. I will be coming from the East Side, on 696, so I could easily pick you up, and I can take others, as well. I have gear in the back of the minivan I would have to remove, though, shoot me an e-mail asap if interested... we can split expenses...

    March 22, 2013

  • Marcos

    Is anyone driving from royal oak tomorrow? Could I hitch a ride?

    1 · March 22, 2013

    • Lee K

      I have a minivan. I will be coming from the East Side, on 696, so I could easily pick you up, and I can take others, as well. I have gear in the back of the minivan I would have to remove, though, so why don't you shoot me an e-mail asap if interested...

      March 22, 2013

  • Annu

    Sorry some work came up.

    March 22, 2013

  • Jeff

    I have company coming in from out of town and won't be able to make it.

    March 22, 2013

  • Andrea

    This is a fabulous idea. I hope all who attend learn a lot, and that Dylan offers it again!

    March 20, 2013

    • Dylan C.

      This is all Jim's planning... thanks Jim!

      I asked him to add me as a co-host so I could try to correct the map. I do plan to organize similar events for a different group (Ann Arbor Adventure Club). They got me started with backpacking last year.

      Note: MAC could use more volunteer event organizers. Anyone reading this who is reliable, has enthusiasm, planning skills, events ideas, and loves the outdoors should talk to any MAC organizer.

      March 20, 2013

    • Jim S

      yeah, everything that dylan just said:-)

      March 21, 2013

  • Dylan C.

    I'm sure many people aren't ready to hike 11 miles with a full pack. That shouldn't stop you from using this event to get started. If this is your first hike of the season, you will still get a lot out of it by doing only 5.5 miles, or by doing 11 miles without a heavy pack.

    March 21, 2013

    • Jim S

      that's right

      March 21, 2013

  • Dylan C.

    How many are bringing a stove to cook a hot lunch? One of the best ways to reduce pack weight is to share equipment. Someone can borrow my stove after I'm done.

    You can get those premade freeze dried backpacking meals, but I like to get what I can from the grocery store. I'm going to fry a 3 oz. tin of chicken and add fast-cooking Spanish rice.

    I'll bring some plastic forks and spoons for sharing.

    March 20, 2013

    • Dylan C.

      It will be cold when we stop out in the open. For this trip it wouldn't hurt to replace your sleeping bag with a heavy coat. Or get it from the car, but don't let Jim catch you ;-)

      March 21, 2013

    • Rod

      I'll be dressed for the weather so my clothes worn + pack weight will actually be somewhat higher than it would in warmer weather. I know I can handle the first 5.5 miles since I hiked 6 with same load last weekend. It's the latter part of the 2nd 5.5 that'll test me. I should have hiked 8 or so liked you did!

      March 21, 2013

  • Suzette M.

    I was really into doing this, but after a 3 mile check hike on my injured knee, an 11 mile walk seems neither healthy nor prudent. Hope it goes well! I'll open my spot for someone else.

    March 21, 2013

    • Dylan C.

      The check hike was a good idea, hope you can make the next one.

      March 21, 2013

  • Rod

    Did a 6 mile pre-simulation hike with pack today at the Holdridge mountain bike trails and encountered 6 to 8 down trees or branches that had to be stepped over, crawled under or gone around. I expect we'll find the same at Island Lake on Saturday. Weather forecast looks good (now). Here's hoping the forecast holds.

    March 17, 2013

    • Dylan C.

      Good job!

      I hiked 8 miles with full pack on Saturday. Think I'm ready, is everyone else ready?

      1 · March 17, 2013

    • A former member
      A former member

      I did 3 miles with my newer hiking boots, a full pack and a pomeranian yesterday. Ready!

      March 20, 2013

  • Suzette M.

    I ask everyone to review whether you will actually be there or not and remove your rsvp if you're not coming. I'm on the waiting list, with friends going along and I'd like to join them.

    March 12, 2013

    • Jim S

      i think you'll be fine, don't worry

      March 17, 2013

    • Andrea

      I just had to change my RSVP to No, there's one more spot for ya....

      March 20, 2013

  • Andrea

    Doggone it. I wanted to do this but had a family event crop up.

    March 20, 2013

  • venus

    got invited tohike at same park same time. shorte..did similar event in fall, managed..fall event was paint bucket challenge" with what fit in 5 gallon bucket+build ashelter ... i ....have fun every one..looking forward to challenge in future

    March 20, 2013

  • Jim S

    please note: if you are new to island lake, remember that official addresses of big parks never really take you to where you want to go. your gps will tell you to turn right when you want to go straight when you get very close. double check a map if you're not sure, and try to arrive early.

    March 16, 2013

    • Kelly A

      Oops, bubble and drop it apps where the trailhead is on the map. You have to do it after you post the event, won't let you when your writing it up. Click on edit map above. Hmm, you don't have "edit map" can you try choosing a different island lake location with an address, or check organizer settings for the location section.

      March 20, 2013

    • Dylan C.

      Ok, how's that? Before it was off by miles.

      March 20, 2013

  • Lyndsey M.

    I better not go. I don't think I have the right gear for it, and I'd like to leave room for the people on the waiting list who are more prepared.

    March 19, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Some one on the waiting list can have my spot, I will be working.

    March 17, 2013

  • Phil P.

    Just wanted to let everyone know that REI Troy is having a used gear sale this Sunday March 17th. They open at 11:00 am and the good stuff usually goes pretty fast but some great deals can be found.

    March 15, 2013

  • Brian W.

    Have to work now.

    March 14, 2013

  • venus

    I'm planning on packing up a hammock and tarp instead of a tent ... never set this up before but see this done on a survival weekend this fall and thought it was pretty ingenious ... we'll see how it goes ... it's a light weight idea and does require a constant fire if it's cold out ... I hope someone is coming that can help me with knots...see you all there. Beanie

    March 12, 2013

    • Dylan C.

      I might try that some time. Does your hammock have a mosquito net? Few campsites will have trees right next to the fire ring, you would still need a sleeping pad (or under hammock pad) and sleeping bag.

      March 12, 2013

    • venus

      i do have a mosquito net ... not bring the sleeping bag but would need it ... some of the place i camp don't have fire rings and we just do the fire where we can build safely ... i know what you mean though

      1 · March 12, 2013

  • Staten T. M.

    Darn I get a Habitat for Humanity event in the am. I may be late by 15 or 30 mins. If that is a problem, please let me know so I can back out. Also, the map link here isnt accurate.

    March 3, 2013

    • Dylan C.

      Jim, try pointing the map to State Pkwy, Brighton, MI

      March 12, 2013

  • Jim S

    i just increased the rsvp list to 40, but i'm not going any higher. the only reason i increased it is because there is a recent tendency for so many people to cancel or no-show last minute. please don't do that. there are 41 people as of 2-24-13. i really hope to see 30 show up.

    1 · February 24, 2013

    • Brian W.

      Of course getting sick shortly before is also considered an emergency, at least by me.

      February 25, 2013

    • Staten T. M.

      I would like to go but may have to drop out. Please let me know if being 30mins late is a problem.

      March 10, 2013

  • lisa m.

    Great idea Jim! There are so many ppl who would like to learn to backpack! Thanks for putting in the time so they can learn some basics!

    March 5, 2013

  • emily a.

    This is right by my house. What will you do if I show up even though I'm wait listed? Just weighing the punishment to see if it's worth the risk.

    1 · March 3, 2013

  • Domino

    I have to co host an IWD event

    March 3, 2013

  • Jamie C.

    yay! I have a spot. I can't wait!

    February 25, 2013

  • Sharon

    I will back out now so someone can have my spot. I will have my grandson.

    February 24, 2013

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