Calculating how to sardine all of my recreational and on-the-town clothes into my carry-on luggage is hard enough. Now, imagine packing for a vacation and a backpacking trip that’s across the country, at the same time. Reality check: The solution isn’t a small suitcase, especially if you decide to venture solo, as I did.
I decided to check two bags: one large suitcase that carried my gear including my trekking poles, backpacking stove, and clothes. The other check-on was my backpacking pack, which held my sleeping bag, tent and sleeping pad.
Denver International Airport happened to offer me a large plastic bag to cover my backpacking pack, which I thought was a great idea. On the other hand, when I asked for a bag at Dulles International Airport, the provision wasn’t customary, but they did give me a trash bag. If you’d prefer to cover your pack, you may want to bring your own bag.
Summer Weather: What to Expect
In July, the temperatures in the mountains of theMonongahela National Forest sat in the 70-degrees Fahrenheit range, with rolling rain showers and thunderstorms. Depending on when you go, you may want to check the weather forecast onNOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.) Though, the weather could change last minute: another reason why I packed a second suitcase with the various layers that I might have needed.
When I arrived at Bear Rocks Trailhead on Monday afternoon an intense hailstorm blew over. With a storm bucking sideways, I was not about to start my backpacking trip sopping wet or with bruises. So, I took a nap, and thirty minutes later, the sun broke through the clouds and it was blue skies for the next two days. Once I started the hike—which begins with a gradual descent—I ran into several hikers (including a woman carrying a baby on her back), and learned that the wind was much worse on top of the plateau where I was parked than it was down the trail. Furthermore, the majority of the route winds through or near tree coverage, which is helpful in case a quick shelter is needed.
Take note: there are bogs speckled throughout the wilderness area, so expect your footwear to get muddy and wet if it does rain.
Here’s my packing list:
- Backpacking pack
- Hiking poles (though, on this trip I truthfully didn’t use them, in lieu of having a camera in my hands the entire time)
- Handheld water pump (or another water purification device)
- Lightweight backpacking stove (on my trek, the wood was too wet to even have a fire)
- Dry bag for my DSLR camera, and a small waterproof case for my cell phone and external battery pack
- Sleeping pad
- Sleeping bag
- Tent (including a rainfly and footprint)
- Spork and lightweight cookset (I recommend the collapsible Sea to Summit X-Set 11 Cookset with a 1.3-liter kettle and two mugs)
- Headlamp (bring extra batteries)
- Rope / paracord (While it’s so utilitarian, I always use rope to hang my food cache—and there are black bears in the Monongahela National Forest)
- Two pairs of wool or synthetic socks (in case it rains when you are hiking in a boggy section, which can become very muddy and wet)
- Synthetic odor-free T-shirt
- Zip-off hiking pants
- Supportive, waterproof (or water resistant) hiking boots
- Rain jacket
- Fleece or light down (a cozy jacket for the 60-degree-ish night temperatures)
- Bug spray
- ��Lightweight camp towel
- Dr. Bronner’s 18-in-1 soap
- Backpacking medical aid kit
- Pack rain cover
- After landing at Dulles International Airport, I stopped by the nearest outdoor gear shop to pick up fuel for my stove, backpacking meals and snacks. Pack breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for each day that you plan to be out there. I prefer to pack extra calories, just in case.
- A personal locator beacon or GPS tracker, which I did not pack, but I recommend. There are various options including devices that send or send/receive messages.
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