Featured Member: Liz Claflin

This Californian ultralighter knows her way around her home state—and is no stranger to big-name trips across the country.
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What state do you live in?

California

Why do you hike?

I hike for so many reasons, but mainly because I get such joy out of exploring the most gorgeous parts of this country. Wilderness areas of all types still fill me with a sense of awe and admiration. I also hike for the camaraderie. My hiking and backpacking friends are not always people I see often - some live in other parts of the country - but they are all like family to me and the memories I make while hiking and backpacking are some of my best. Lastly, hiking provides me with the space I need to do my deepest thinking. It’s self-love. It’s mindfulness. It’s meditation. I’m a better version of myself when I make time for hiking.

How often do you get out on the trails?

Normally I hike weekly. I do one long backpacking trip per year (60 to 80 miles) and as many weekend trips as I can fit in.

What’s your all-time favorite campsite?

For car camping, it’s the dispersed camping at Union/Utica Reservoirs in the Stanislaus National Forest. The sites are huge, there is a ton of privacy and you are lakefront on some of the most gorgeous mountain lakes ever. Perfect for kayaking, SUPing, hiking, swimming, and exploring. For backpacking, probably Gem Lake in the Ansel Adams Wilderness along the John Muir Trail. The small beach-front space about 1/4 mile down the footpath on the south side of the lake.

What’s your ideal outing? Location, season, difficulty, company – how do you define the perfect trip?

My perfect trip is a new-to-me 60-to-80 mile backpacking trip with my three closest backpacking friends from around the country. It’s in the high mountains of the Western part of this country. Think: Wind River Range, Colorado Rockies, or the Sierras. The trip averages 10 miles a day with much of it near or above the treeline. We are in a place where campfires are allowed most or all of the time. It’s late August or early September. The bugs and people are mainly gone and the weather is perfection. We see almost no other people the entire time. Laughter is constant.

What’s next on your hiking bucket list?

I believe I will be doing my long trip this year in the Beartooth Mountains in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness in Montana and Wyoming. Super excited to explore a new part of the country!

What’s your favorite piece of gear of all time, something you recommend as readily as you can and would never dream of going hiking without?

My Enlightened Equipment 15 degree quilt! I LOATHE sleeping in a sleeping bag and am a die-hard quilt fan. I find most people prefer a quilt once the know how to use it properly. The lack of knowledge is what generally turns people off to quilts.

What’s your go-to luxury item on hiking or backpacking trips?

My Alite Mantis chair. I realized long ago that having a chair is a major game-changer in terms of comfort while backpacking. I’m generally very much an ultra-light backpacker. But not when it comes to my chair! My backpacking friends poke fun of me….at first. But after a day or two on the trail, they are all fighting over it when I’m not using it. Also, booze! Gotta have one ounce of fine sipping rum (Pyrat brand) for every night of backpacking.