Sunday, March 31, 2019

Mosaic Monday #21: Going Backcountry

3/26/2019.  12.39 p.m.  My email pings.

Dear Backcountry Permit Applicant:

We have received and successfully processed your Glacier National Park Advance Reservation Backcountry Permit Application.  Based on the parameters noted on your application and availability of campsites when we processed your application, we were able to secure the trip itinerary at the end of this email.

Yippee!  We're going camping!  And not just any camping - BACKCOUNTRY camping.  For the uninitiated, this means spending at least one night in the wilderness, usually at a designated campsite far from the nearest road.

No, no one is holding a gun to my head as I write this - we are actually willing participants in this activity.  In January, we began our planning for summer 2019.  Bold red ink outlined the little rectangle on the March planner page representing March 15 - the all-important deadline for backcountry permit applications.  

When backcountry camping in Glacier National Park, you are required to submit your applications on line, which in turn obliges you to establish an account with Pay.Gov beforehand.  In our case, we hope to have three separate camping trips - one night, two nights and three nights.  To improve our chances of approval, each application included at least 3 possible itineraries and a span of 2 to 4 weeks.  Simply, it's complicated!

For applications submitted on March 15, the  backcountry website advises you not to expect a response for at least a month, hence my delight to receive approval for our 1-night itinerary in only 12 days!  (We are still waiting responses on the other two itineraries.)

And what a coincidence the approval arrived on the same day we scheduled an outfitting session at REI Co-op.  (Note that I am not receiving any compensation from REI or any other commercial organization for this post.)  REI Co-op offers a by-appointment outfitting service to its members, which in my mind sets it apart from its competitors.  Jim, assigned to us for the afternoon, began by placing a number of small items on the counter.  Bear spray.  Medical kit.  Headlamp.  Cords.

I think we established some immediate credibility by stating that we already possess all of these items.  Taking it a step further, Spousal Unit described his research into lightweight tents, down to the model and size.  (Jim observed that most people buy a tent that is one person bigger than the number of campers actually sleeping in it, to account for pets and gear that might also occupy the tent.  Well, we don't plan to take the cats.  And, with the exception of boots, pajamas, head lamps and bear spray, all our gear will be hung well away from the tent to avoid attracting any bruin.)  So, Jim readily located the desired tent, and working as a three-some, we assembled it right there in the store.  Incredibly easy.
Yes, the tent fits in this little 20" by 6" bag
And so the afternoon progressed.  We experimented with inflatable sleeping pads and lightweight sleeping bags.  (Memo to me: bring a beanie for sleeping in cold weather.)  We climbed into the tent to make sure we could fit comfortably shoulder to shoulder.

Throughout, our discussion hinged on comfort versus weight.  For example, a medium Aeros pillow weighs 2 ounces and a large tips the scale at 2.5 ounces.  It may not seem like much, but when you add numerous items with "just a little more" weight, it can translate to several additional pounds that you will carry on your own back for as much as 30 miles on a three-night camping trip.  Ultimately, we will try to limit my pack to 25 pounds, and that of Spousal Unit to 30 pounds.

Spousal Unit was fitted with a new backpack.  It's quite a process, starting with strap adjustment without any weight in the pack.  Then, Jim adds bags to the pack; each bag is marked with a weight, such as 5 pounds.  Loaded with 25 pounds, the pack was hoisted and then Jim had Spousal Unit check for load balance - did it feel like the pack was tipping forward or back?  After some adjustment, Spousal Unit went off for a walk around the store to test the feel of the pack.  The first one placed too much pressure on his lower back, but he felt very comfortable in the second pack, pictured here.

While Spousal Unit strolled, I took a gander around the store.  It opened recently, and I admire its helpful displays.
Center: each section of the store has maps - hiking = hiking trails; kayaking = rivers; etc.

During our session, Jim had plenty of tips.  Who knew there was a right and a wrong way to hoist the backpack onto your shoulders?  And would you have imagined the need for a "pumphouse", recommended for inflatable sleeping pads because our breath contains moisture and bacteria that over time will degrade the pad material?

Jim's advice extended to the storage of our gear.  For example, down sleeping bags should be hung when not in use in order to prevent compression of the down.
Essentials: coffee, moleskin, fuel can stabilizer, water treatment system,
tent footprint (layer of protection between tent and ground),
collapsible cup, microfiber towel and folding utensil

At the end of the session, Jim helped us to the car with our gear.   A genteel final touch on what turned out to be anything but a cheap date.  But as my neighbor says: You don't want cheap when you are in the middle of a wilderness!  

Watch this space for our upcoming adventures ...

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  1. WOW, you’re sure going to have an amazing time!

  2. days of sleeping on the ground are way off in my rearview mirror!

  3. Have fun. Better you than me. : )

  4. Well you certainly are two brave souls, because we have seen the Grizzly Bears at Glacier National Park...grant it, they were mostly around Mini Glacier, but still. What an awesome opportunity to see the back country and take lots of captures to share with us after your return. It looks like you are certainly prepared well. Have a marvelous time

  5. That's going to be quite an adventure!

  6. Wow! Congrats on living this part of your dream! Proud of you both!

  7. Gosh, from on of the unitiated....who knew camping was so involved. =) Seriously though, how exciting for you and your husband. I can see in my crystal ball that you and and he are going to enjoy days filled with adventures and delight. Just a little aside, that sleeping bag looks fabulously cosy and warm.

  8. You are a rugged lady - at this stage of my life, I need a firm mattress.

  9. Wow! This is very adventurous …
    Have fun and stay safe.

    All the best Jan

  10. Such excitement on the horizon .. and you will be so well prepared. I sure hope you can fit your camera in on the weight allowance! The backpack fitting reminds me of when our youngest son was getting ready to go on his first two-day backpacking trip with his Scout troop (I think he was 12 and nowhere near finished growing).. he kept adding stuff, we kept reminding him of weight. Finally we strapped it onto him and he promptly fell over backwards. We couldn’t stop laughing... strangely, he both still likes back country camping *and* he still speaks to us )). Too bad for him that REI didn’t exist back then.

  11. What a wonderful adventure this will be! Are fires allowed on a back country camping trip? Make sure to add jingle bells to your back packs to warn the bears you are in the vicinity while you are hiking.
    We went tent camping on the west side of RMNP for the first time a couple years ago and I have to tell you it gets mighty cold at night in the mountains! Bring your long johns! :)

  12. I love being out in nature, but not so much in the middle of nowhere at night. :) My Colorado boy has all the necessary camping equipment. He even toted it all with him when he did his one month in Patagonia volunteering at an organic garden but was never able to use it because of weather conditions at that time. It's definitely a good idea to be very prepared. Sounds like y'all are ready for your adventures to begin.

  13. No, thanks camping isn't my thing. In the youth we camped on the Garda Sea in Italia but nowadays I prefer comfort...

    ...You are enthusiastic with your Camping Tour and I wish you fun, enjoy this event.

    Thank you for hosting. Have a wonderful week!

  14. I remember camping wau back in myteens as a Girl Guide. Happy Camping

    Happy Mosaic Monday

    much love...

  15. Hello, backpacking is an adventure. Hubby and I used to love the drive-up campgrounds. We had a tent and a blow up mattress. That was years ago, now I need a warm room and bed. I hope you have lots of fun and take lots of photos. I am sure the scenic views in the park will be gorgeous. Thanks for hosting! Happy Monday, enjoy your day! Wishing you a great new week ahead!

  16. That sounds wonderful, Angie. I did quite a bit of camping in National Parks when I was at University, but I have grown rather spoilt nowadays and prefer the comforts of a good motel... I still love the bushwalking, though.

  17. Oh you have exciting times ahead! My hubby and I backpacked a lot when we were younger and always love REI! We still have a lot of our gear and feel tempted to at least car camp sometime. I actually got rid of my big backpack just a few months ago. I think I shed a tear or two! I'm so happy for you both and know you'll enjoy your adventures! Happy MM!

  18. I know you'll take lots of photos when you go, so look forward to seeing them! :-)

  19. You look well prepared! Enjoy your adventure!

  20. How thrilling!! Do you wear Bear Bells? Or just sing loudly? I used to do both. I am terrified of bears. I have seen Grizzlys twice. Funny story, we were camped in Sequioa National park and nite was coming on when a ranger came by and told us bears had been seen in the area, so to make sure our food was stowed properly and not to sleep in our cars since bears have been ripping open the doors. I broke camp, and drove the 2 hours in the nite to a motel! Hubby was a bit mad at me. :) Kit

  21. Interesting. My daughter is going to camp in Yellowstone and she said the reservations were gone within minutes. She got one though.

  22. You are really an outdoor person Angie! Camping is not my stuff, but I remember having slept in a tent a few times as a child... Happy camping!

  23. Hi Angie. I would never have imagined that so much planning and preparation was needed for such a trip. And then as I read through I began to understand the real hazards and dangers that you both will face - especially the bear spray. I wondered if you might need a firearm too? You are very brave and adventurous to do this.

    Well done for spotting my April Fool - very few did unless they clicked the link. Birders over here take it all very seriously. I think many should join your adventure into the wilds of canada.

  24. Wow, what a journey, and well packaged.

  25. This is amazing! My kids have done canoe camping. My son led campers around for two weeks in Algonquin. I have never camped! You have fun, though!!!!

  26. Wonderful camping post and excited for you that you have your reservations!

    Happy Day to you,
    A ShutterBug Explores,
    aka (A Creative Harbor)

  27. Wayne got outfitted at REI for hiking our local Sunshine Coast Trail. He was able to get one hike in last summer. The trail has many entry and exit points so it can be hiked is segments, or as a through hike. - Margy

  28. Wow, that's a lot of work for a camping trip but I'm sure it will be worth it. I can't wait to see how your trip goes :)

  29. There is so much involved in camping and especially with having to make sure deadlines for applications are met on time. It sounds like you are well organized and I'm sure you will enjoy your time off the beaten track!

  30. Wow you are just ahead than me by a year and few months. Your preparation in this camping is so very well planned efficiently. I sid camp once in 2017, and 2x in 2018. It's funny that we still don't have plans now that I am very much open for it, not anymore wasting my leave days. Yes we will enjoy our retirement.

    And thank you so much dor your kind comments in my post.

  31. That will be an adventure of a lifetime and lots of fun.

  32. That is pretty cool. Both your planned trip and your visit to REI. Little bits of inside tips that your sales guy gave you make a big difference. We are supposed to get an REI here sometime soon I think,

  33. wonderful journey...
    have a great day

  34. Amazing! Sounds like you will be ready for anything. How wonderful that you got your 1 night approved. Here's hoping for more of your plans to be approved and permits given. REI is such a great store. Our sons shopped there for all their backpacking trips. Looking forward to hearing about your adventures. Have a great weekend!


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