This past weekend, I joined a group of redditors to do the Knobstone Trail in southern Indiana. We met up Friday morning with the plan to do 3 days of 15 miles each. We set out at about noon with 7 people and 1 dog. I ended up not being able to keep pace with everyone and bailed early All in all, though, I think it was a good trip
The folks on the trip were great and I super appreciated how everyone supported me, even when I couldn't keep up. A couple times, one of them hung back to make sure I was still going and that was really appreciated. I feel like a learned a lot on this trip and with some more prep, I'd be up for trying it again. I was definitely not physically conditioned for the intensity of this trip, though.
1. Know Your Ability
By the end of the first day, it was very clear to me that I could not keep up with the rest of the group, so I stopped trying. That said, I should have done that earlier. By the end of the day, I was so exhausted that I was not paying as close attention to foot placement as I should have been. I easily could have twisted an ankle, especially on the downhill sections.
2. Pay Attention to the Map
While 15 miles per day of flat ground at a reasonable pace would have been doable for me, 15 miles that included many steep hills was not. If I had paid more attention to the terrain, I could have made backup plans for if I was not able to keep up (for example, leaving my car at the halfway point or bringing an additional day of food).
3. Align Expectations
In my normal backpacking group, there is a lot of time spent in camp at the end of the day. This group was more aligned towards hiking as long as possible, making dinner, and then going to bed. In retrospect, I should have expected that, but it's probably a conversation that should be had before hiking with a new group. I could have made some better gear choices.
4. Don't Be Afraid to Speak Up When There's a Problem
I think that the trip would have gone better to me if I had admitted that I was having a problem earlier than I did. Instead, I pushed my legs too hard and ended up pushing myself to exhaustion. That easily could have led to a bad fall or a twisted ankle, which would have put me in a really bad spot.
5. Make Sure the Group Has An Emergency Plan
I didn't really have any way to contact the rest of the group. I also had no way of knowing where they might stop for the night (since they didn't either). If I had run into problems (twisted ankle or similar) and had to stop or be evacuated, I had no way to let them know. As well, if I had turned back, gotten off at another trailhead, or decided to do the trip over more days, I had no way to let them know that I was safe. Similarly, if I fell really far behind, I had no way to know how much further I had to hike to catch up by the end of the day.
Gear I Liked
- SMD Scout
- This is both lighter and provides more space than my old tent (Kelty Crestone 1). It was incredibly easy to set up. There was quite a bit of condensation on the top of it in the morning, so I might need to pitch a bit differently next time.
- My filter did not work out so well, so I ended up using this a couple of times throughout the trip. I couldn't drink the water immediately, but I didn't find that to be a huge problem on this trip due to the large number of streams. I couldn't even taste it.
- OR Transition Hoody
- I took this as my active insulation. It was plenty warm while I was on the move and I didn't overheat like I would have with an R1 fleece.
- AegisMax Down Hood
- This worked out spectacularly. My head was warm and comfortable all night. I didn't feel constricted by it and I didn't get sweaty.
- Klymit Massdrop V UL
- Feels about the same as the Static V, but is 7oz lighter.
- Capilene 2 Baselayers
- I wore the top the whole trip and it was quite comfortable. Most of the time, when I was on the go, I was just wearing that.
- The leggings worked really well for sleeping. I was perfectly comfortable. In the morning, these plus my rain pants kept me toasty.
Gear I Didn't Like
- MSR Sweetwater Filter
- Some of you will be surprised that I even brought this (/u/mittencamper sure was), but I had it in my head that squeeze filters would be really slow. On this trip, though, I was shown how absolutely wrong I was. Not only were the squeeze filters quite fast to filter, but they also had them out and filtering before I had even unwrapped the tubes on mine. I will be getting a BeFree or Sawyer Squeeze for my next trip, I think.
- Additionally, my filter put out some really black water the first time I tried it. I'm not sure if this is the result of not using it for a while or if it cracked from the temperature. In any case, I ended up borrowing a filter or using AquaMira for the rest of the trip.
- If I do switch to a BeFree, it seems like it might be more convenient to switch to bottles over a water bladder, but it's really hard for me to reach the side pockets on my pack :(.
- MSR Windburner
- While I really like this stove, it is really heavy for what it provides. Sure, it boils quickly, but after seeing /u/mittencamper's Soto Amicus, I don't think the extra weight is worth it. I already had an Amicus on order before this trip, but this cements it. Now I just need to decide if I want to make a lid for my IMUSA cup or splurge for a toaks.
- I will probably keep this around for when I am hiking with friends and we can share a stove, but for solo trips, I don't think it's worth it.
- Insulated Mug
- I had just done several winter trips and an insulated mug was nice there so that I could have a hot tea and eat at the same time. On this trip, it wasn't really cold enough to warrant bringing. By the time my tea wasn't boiling hot, I had finished my meal.
- MHW Ghostwhisperer
- This jacket might be really light, but I did not feel warm enough in it. It was probably somewhere in the 40s with a baselayer and light fleece layer and I still felt cold. I should probably have added my rain or wind jacket, but I don't feel like I should have needed to.
- Also, based on the type of hiking we were doing, I might have been fine leaving this at home
- Bag Organization System
- I need to figure out a better way to organize items so that I don't have to dig around in my bag as much. Everyone else had much more external storage, but the way that I pack my pack seems to take up a large amount of any external storage that I would have.
Bonus Picture: There was some pretty severe flooding in the area due to snowstorms into days of rain. This was a road that Google Maps wanted me to go down.
I had considered that I might call the local forest rangers to give them a heads up that I was safe if they got a call. ↩︎