Backpacking The Little Grand Canyon – San Rafael Swell, Utah

The Little Grand Canyon is an amazing overnight backpacking trip that is perfect for people looking for a fairly easy trip that wanders through one of Utah’s best scenes. The San Rafael River starting from Fuller Bottom is a popular spot for boaters to put in and typically do a single day float of the river, but we’re going to talk about backpacking the canyon in this post.

Below you’ll find some quick info on the best season to hike this, distance, and other important sources. Then you’ll read further to see a Day 1 and Day 2 explanation of the hike and what you can expect during your hike.

Season: Best done in early to late spring, and early fall. Avoid going June through August as temps are extreme and the river may be flowing at a rate that would be unsafe to ford.
Mileage/Time: Total miles to hike from the Fuller Bottom trailhead to the trailhead near the Swinging Bridge is 15.25 miles. You will split this in two, with day one being 7 miles or so, and day two being about 8 miles.
Where To Camp: Your best option for camping is at the mouth of Virgin Spring Canyon, located 7 miles from the Fuller Bottom trailhead. You’ll have to ford the river to get into Virgin Canyon, but there are two or three great, flat, established camp spots, big enough for groups of 6-8 people.
Waste Disposal: The Little Grand Canyon is located on BLM Land and does not have restrictions on human waste disposal. But please practice Leave No Trace principles and dig cat holes, carry out your toilet paper, and do your business 200 feet from any water source.
Water Availability: You can always filter water from the San Rafael as needed. It is typically murky water and will quickly plug up any filter. Your best water source is located at the end of Virgin Spring Canyon, where you’ll find a large pool and fresh water. Be sure as always to use a filter or chemical drops to treat the water. Cattle typically graze in these canyons or Utah.
Shuttle: Most people do this hike from point A to point B. Point A being Fuller Bottom, and then finishing at the trailhead below Swinging Bridge at the mouth of Buckhorn Wash. You will need to plan to leave a car at the Swinging Bridge Trailhead, then shuttle up to Fuller Bottom.

 DSC06040

Route Description:

Day 1: Plan to hike 7 miles this day to make it to Virgin Spring Canyon, so an early start is good to make sure you get the shuttle taken care of before you begin your hike. The Nat Geo Trails Illustrated map is not totally correct as far as where it shows the Fuller Bottom Trailhead. See rest of description for info.

Begin your hike at the small parking lot on your left where the Fuller Bottom road approaches the San Rafael River. There is a trail register box there tat is used by hikers and boaters. Reset your GPS and start walking down the jeep road. You will cross the river after about a 1/4 mile, make sure you stay on the Jeep road as it will allow you to avoid bushwhacking through tamarisk and following cow trails.

Follow the Jeep road for about one mile, it will begin to climb uphill and seem as though you are walking away from the river and canyon. In the distance as you are walking south, you’ll see a red sign with some torn up maps on it. This is where you will turn east (left) where you will begin walking towards the canyon. The trail is easy to follow at this point as it begins to drop into the canyon.

Be sure to look for a small pictograph panel that is easy to miss on your left about 3 miles into your hike from the trailhead. About half a mile past that on your right is an old mine. To the left of a small side canyon you’ll see a trail going up to a hole in some light yellow colored rock with a bunch or yellow tailings. There is also remains of a log cabin with tin cans around this area, but we were unable to find it. As you continue walking down the canyon you will ford the river several times. Make sure to check the current flow rate via USGS. If the river is running higher than 60 CFS, then crossing the river will be difficult, and possibly dangerous.

As you approach Virgin Spring Canyon you will be on the wrong side of the river and will need to cross the river to get into Virgin Spring Canyon. About 5 minutes up Virgin Spring on your right is a very nice pictograph panel about 15 feet above you. If you walk in the wash it’s easy to miss, but follow the trail on the west side of the canyon as you walk up will lead you to a sign that says to not deface the rock. Another 5-10 minutes up Virgin Canyon you’ll come to a dry fall where a large pool of water is located. This is your best source for water and should be your refill for the remainder of the trip, unless you choose to filter water from the river.

Virgin Spring Canyon has seen a bit of graffiti and people being careless about their trash. Please pick up any trash you see, and be a steward by practicing Leave No Trace principles. Virgin Spring Canyon has two or three nice spots to camp and this is your best option since it’s so close to a good water source.

Day 2: Make sure you are all stocked up on water and begin making your way down the canyon. There is supposed to be another pictograph panel just before you make the hard right turn on the river and start walking south toward Cane Wash. Cane Wash is also supposed to have decent camping and another pictograph panel located up the wash. We did not look for it on this most recent trip. You will cover about 8 miles this day to the car. The last 3.5 miles are dry and you no longer have to ford the river. Be prepared for a couple steep climbs, but nothing too aggressive.

Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 10.51.50 AM Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 10.52.22 AM Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 10.52.49 AM Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 10.53.08 AM Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 10.53.28 AM Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 10.58.47 AM

Advertisements

11k With May – A Family Expedition – Jan 2016

Looking south at Provo Peak from the Cascade Sadle

The Wasatch Mountain Range that towers over the Salt Lake Valley and Utah Valley may seem like something that just sits to the east and holds the best skiing on earth, but there’s more to them than meets the eye.

Although not as tall as the famous fourteeners of the Colorado Rockies, the Wasatch Range holds many technical and prominent peaks that are incredibly rewarding. One of these peaks/mountains contains some of the busiest trailheads in the area. Mount Timpanogos has a prominence of over 5000 feet and towers over Utah Valley, and may be one of the busiest mountains in the states. With a total elevation of 11,753 feet, it’s a test piece for the average hiker to see what they are made of. On any given weekend in the summer, dozens to even hundreds of people are seen on the summit and trails of this peak. But Timpanogos is just one of over 30 peaks along the Wasatch Front that exceed 11,000 feet. Some may only see a couple people on the summit each year, but the level of solitude found just a few minutes from the front door makes the Wasatch Range a coveted peak baggers dream.

On October 8th, 2015 my wife and I welcomed our beautiful daughter, Maylin, into the world. Katie and I in our life together have always made getting into the backcountry a priority. Now that we have a family, we have made sure that the added effort and time to get into the mountains doesn’t stop us from that passion we share. Quickly we talked about a goal that we could do as a family to prove that we can conquer the complacency of not getting out, and in the same breath, create a memory for our little family.

Although still in the planning phase, as soon as the snow begins to die off, we will begin our ascent of the many peaks in the Wasatch. The best way to follow the adventure will be here on this blog and also through video on the Backcountry Exposure Youtube Channel.

Backpacking Essentials – Backcountry Exposure Youtube Series

One of my favorite things about backpacking is the preparation that comes with the anticipation for a trip. I remember getting prepared for my trip down The Paria River with a school class. That trip involved a lot of planning, preparation and mental preparation. Knowing how to get ready for backpacking experiences is vital to whether or not you enjoy yourself out on the trail. 
This has lead me to create a series of videos to share with you all about the Essentials of Backpacking. Everything from gear to use, what to buy, and even the ethics behind being a good person in the backcountry. I love to share my knowledge with people and look forward to seeing the evolution of this series. It will primarily be contained on my Youtube Channel, but I will update with each video here as well. 

Glacier National Park – Trip of a lifetime!

Bucket list… That’s really all I can say about Glacier National Park. June 2015 my wife and I set off on a 5 day trip from Salt Lake City to Glacier. We invited some close friends of ours, packed up the Jeep and headed north. After many months of planning and waiting we were finally on our way!

Glacier is amazing! It’s probably one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. Everywhere you look you see amazing peaks, beautiful lakes and wildlife. This is a place that everyone needs to visit.

We spent the first two days on the East side of the park and the rest of the trip on the West side. We tried to see as much as we could in the short time we had, but there’s no way to see all of the park in one week.

Day 1: After 12 hours of driving we finally made it to Saint Mary, Montana. What a beautiful place! Very small town with a few restaurants and the perfect setting for the beginning of our trip. We spent the first two nights in the Saint Mary campground which was really nice.

Day 2: We spent most of the day around the Many Glacier area of the park. After some driving around we hit the trail towards Red Rock Falls. Not a big waterfall by any means, but an absolutely beautiful place! After a nap and walking around we made the hike back to the car and drove to the Going to the Sun Road. We made our way up the road towards Logan Pass. As we got closer, it started to storm, and it got colder and more rainy. We loved it though.

Day 3: We packed up our things and loaded the Jeep and headed towards the Two Medicine area of the park. After a fantastic breakfast at Luna’s in East Glacier Village, we made our way towards the entrance of the park. We noticed a few cars stopped in the road, and when we got it them, we saw what was causing the jam…a bear! I had never seen a bear before, but what a cool thing!

Two medicine is a really neat area of the park. We thought it’d be fun to do the boat tour on the lake. So we boarded the Sinopah and had about a 45 minute tour of the lake with some historical information. I think it’s a must for this area. Lots of hiking to do here as well, but we opted out of the hiking this day, and just enjoyed a casual day.

Day 4: We moved over to the West side of the park this day and enjoyed a morning out in a row boat on Lake McDonald. Highly recommend getting out on the lake when you visit. We then drove up the road to Logan pass again and hiked the Hidden lake trail to the overlook. What an incredible view! This is a must regardless of how many people there are!

This place is amazing, and I am leaving out a lot of details here. But part of me wants people to go and experience the place themselves.

Great Utah Car Camping – Buckhorn Wash

Have you ever spent hours trying to find the best place to go camping for the weekend? We do that on occasion at our house. We will try to plan a trip and sometimes we just get overwhelmed because there are so many places to go. You’re about to read into a series of posts that will cover some of Utah’s best car camping places.

Great car camping in Utah is really just minutes to hours away from your home. Especially if you live in Salt Lake or Utah counties. Within three hours of Salt Lake you can be in the desert, high in the mountains of the Uintas, or even up one of the Cottonwood canyons, enjoying a nice night under the stars.

Our first great car camping in Utah, is Buckhorn Wash. Located in the north end of the San Rafael Swell, Buckhorn Wash or Draw, whichever you want to call it, is a car camping paradise. From Price, you drive south on highway 10 towards Castle Dale. Before you get to Castle Dale, take a left and you will enter BLM land for the San Rafael Swell.

Buckhorn Wash is most popular for the large Pictograph panel that can easily be accessed by a car. The road is really nice going in, and it’s only 30 minutes from Castle Dale. The panel is easily one of the largest pictograph panels in Utah. People will take day trips to go see the panel, or you can camp over night in one of the really nice camping spots.

Part of the reason I love Buckhorn so much is because I spent several days there as a child, with my family camping. Buckhorn Wash does have a camp ground you can set up camp at, but it’s honestly not the best camping. The wash is about 10 miles long, and the campground is located at the Swinging Bridge where the wash meets the San Rafael River. The camp ground can be buggy and extremely hot during the summer months. So I recommend camping in one of the several spots along the road in the wash. Be careful when you decide to go down though, because some weekends can be packed full of trailers, and large groups of people. I suggest going down during the early days of the week.

What is there to do in Buckhorn Wash?
There are some good hikes that you can go on in the wash. There is a canyon called Calf Canyon that has a good half day of hiking. You can spend some time at the Swinging Bridge and play in the San Rafael River. We love to take our dog down to the river to cool off. You can take a drive out of the wash up to the Wedge overlook. The Wedge often gets the nickname, Little Grand Canyon, as you’ll see in a photo, it really has that appearance. You can then go take a drive to the Pictograph Panel and see the amazing pictographs left by the Indians.

We love Buckhorn because it’s a great place to get away, avoid large crowds of people, and be in a beautiful place. I highly recommend it.

 Great camping about 8 miles from the wash turn off
 Great place to take your dog!

 We love to take our guns and shoot to our hearts desire

 Swinging Bridge

 Bottle Neck Peak

View from The Wedge Overlook

Hiking The Paria River – Buckskin Gulch – March 2015

“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and and above the clouds.” 
Edward Abbey
The Paria River Canyon is an area of Utah/Arizona that i’ve always wanted to visit, but never took the leap to make it down there. You hear about Buckskin Gulch all the time and how beautiful it is. Well I finally got the chance to go after putting in a suggestion to one of my school professors. I am a student at Utah Valley University studying Outdoor Recreation Management. This class that I took is an Outdoor Leadership class, focused on teaching leadership skills and group management in the field. A challenge I was looking forward to. 
This class involves a six day backpacking trip during the month of March. I was beyond excited about going on this long of a trip. 
The Route: Whitehouse Trailhead south to Lee’s Ferry
Day 1 – We arrived at the trailhead and would spend the first night at the trailhead. We had a few hours to kill before we needed to setup beds for the night and get ready for the first few miles of hiking in the morning. We played Bocci Ball next to the river and threw rocks at sticks. You know, what all people do to kill time.

Day 2 – The adventure begins. Adventure is the right word for this day because a lot happened on the first day of hiking. We had a lot of ground to cover, as the first night on the trail would be at the confluence of Buckskin Gulch and the Paria River. The water level at this time of year was at an abnormally high level. The week prior to our departure, the water discharge level at Lee’s Ferry was over 200 cubic feet per second. In other words, too high for anyone to hike down. Water level when we got there was mostly never above our knees at the highest, and we were prepared however for lots of time in the water. 
Our first ten seconds on the trail involved a river crossing, and over the next mile we either crossed the river at least eight times, or walked in the water cause the walls of the canyon were surrounded by sloppy mud. The mud would become our enemy for the next four days. After several miles we entered the narrows of the canyon. In some areas of the canyon, the walls are maybe ten feet apart from each other. A truly beautiful sight!
By this time it was getting later into the afternoon, the time we call the witching hour (5pm) was soon approaching. We entered a spot of the trail where we had to truly get wet. 
Excuse the language – it was cold and miserable!

We had hiked almost 11 miles at this point in the day and we were tired and cold from being in the narrows of the canyon for so long. Through much of the narrows we were hiking in water up to mid thigh and then we came to a section where we had no choice but to get wet. A depth we referred to as nipple deep. I went through and was soaked, and the remaining seven of us all had to go through too. If you’ve never been in a situation like that, then it’s hard to understand. This is a level of discomfort and moral destroyer like no other. The water temperature in the canyon at this point was maybe 40 degrees. This is where everything changed.

We started hiking as fast as we could to get to the confluence of Buckskin and see if we could camp in the one spot that is a few hundred yards up Buckskin Gulch. About 1/4 mile from the confluence, Betsy, our professor lost her balance after one of her trekking poles sunk into the mud. She took a full on swim and was wet from head to toe. Once we got to the confluence, the water and wind coming down the canyon was so incredibly cold. One of the people in our group had a thermometer and dipped it in the water. It was 34 degrees! Luckily the one camp spot was available and we dropped our packs and stripped down to get into some dry clothes, get warm and cook dinner. What was one of the most amazing days of hiking, was also one of the most miserable and cold experiences of my life.

Day 3 – This class two years prior to this trip, went on this exact same trip, and the plan for day 3 is to not cover as many miles because the plan is to hike up Buckskin Gulch to the rock fall a few miles up the canyon. We got up, and to be honest, the thought of taking off nice warm thermals and putting my wet shorts and wet cold shoes back on was far from anything any of us wanted to do. Once we had packed up camp we as a group decided that we would try to hike up Buckskin. Now you should know that most of the time, there is no water running through Buckskin. It’s for the most part a dry canyon unless there’s been a lot of rain and later in the year is better to hike Buckskin. There however was shin height water running down the canyon and it was soooo cold! I know I sound like im complaining a lot, but it was something i’ll never forget.

We started hiking up Buckskin and within minutes we couldn’t even feel our feet. It was apparent we weren’t going to make it very far up the canyon. We came to a spot where it got super narrow and we used a trekking pole to see how deep the hole was. We were unable to find the bottom of the hole with the pole. So instead of going swimming again, we opted to turn around and start heading back down the Paria and see if we could find some sun to soak up.

This section of the Paria is probably the most beautiful given the features that are in this layer of rock. The walls are incredibly narrow, and the hiking is amazing. Because there was so much water in this section, we had to hike in the water for several miles, with an occasional rocky/muddy shore to get out of the cold water. We planned to hike five miles this day and camp at the next reliable spring.

One of the students, Smitty, in this section was hiking close to the side of the wall and ended up getting stuck in some quick sand, which also meant he went swimming up to his chest. A great way to start the day.

After covering the miles needed, it was time for us to find a place to camp. We had been hiking kind of in a slingshot method with a group of guys that were down there. They found a place to camp before us, and it would have been ideal for a large group. But we pushed on a little further to an area that was in the sun. Dropped our packs and started cooking dinner.

Lots of water in Buckskin Gulch
Found a low spot of water in Buckskin

Sections like this were fun because you never knew how deep the water was, or where the holes were.

Days 4-6
The canyon starts to open up at this point. There are still really tall walls, but we had left the narrow sections and the layers of sandstone start to change by this point. On this day we dropped our packs when we got to what’s called, The Abandoned Meander, which is a small canyon that the river at one point ran through, but doesn’t any more. This little canyon was absolutely beautiful and is worth the trek up into it. There’s really beautiful, lush vegetation and at the right time of day, it glows from the sun.

The hiking at this point in the trip was just tiring. My shins and the muscles right below my shins were beyond sore. We had crossed the river probably 100 times by now and each day started off with a river crossing. What a way to start the day, get your feet wet and cold. On either side of the river was several inches of thick, sticky mud, which I attribute the sore shins to.

The below photo is one of my favorite from the trip. Here is the group all together, I knew very little about each person in this group before we left, and after 6 days on the trail with them, there was a respect for each person that wouldn’t have been there if we hadn’t been on this trip. I remember walking through the river at this bend in the canyon, and I looked behind me and the light in the canyon was glowing, the rock was glowing, the river was glowing, and it was kind of a magical moment. I had to take a few seconds to just stop and appreciate the absolute beauty. It was then that I requested we all get together and get what would end up being the only group shot of the trip.
The photo doesn’t do the light justice, but you can appreciate the beauty.

Trail to Wrather Arch
Wrather Arch
Selfie Time!

What’s amazing about the lower sections of the canyon is how fast the landscape changes. I think you hike through three different layers of sandstone through the lower 15 miles of the canyon. It’s truly an amazing place though. We camped at obvious camp sites each night, which were convenient to good springs. Because of a knee injury, our pace the last couple days was much slower than anticipated, and the last night of camping was at Wilson Ranch, which if you end up having to camp there, we did find water from a spring at the ranch.

An incredible trip that was highly anticipated for many weeks leading up to it. Even though it was my first experience using WAG bags and having to carry all that extra weight, I wouldn’t trade the experience gained in that canyon for anything else. Friendships were made and an appreciation for the wildness of the area will stay with me forever.

Outdoor Retailer Winter Market – Outdoor Gear Paradise

It’s that time of year again where outdoor professionals and outdoor gear heads gather in Salt Lake City, Utah for the Outdoor Retailer Trade Show. The Winter Market showcases the newest and greatest winter gear being released this season. Everything from climbing gear, backpacking gear, footwear, food, outerwear, and anything else related to gear and the outdoors you’ll find packed into one place. 
I spent two days walking around talking with all sorts of people about products that set them apart from their competition and what was new for 2014. Here are some of the highlights for me over the last two days. 
– Sierra Designs has redesigned their entire tent selection with all new tents for 2014. New designs, and new ultralight options that are going to be amazing.
– Sea to Summit has as the gentleman I spoke with said, “if you can find a company like us that puts more effort into design, good luck.”They had a really neat tarp and bug tent setup that is super light weight and made from super thin, yet weather proof 15D poly treated nylon. A simple design yet simple and complete.
– Hanwag was a new brand to me that is a German company. I was impressed by their designs and the versatility. Everything from casual hiking to alpine boots for climbing. Check them out. 
– Hillsound Equipment was also a new brand to me that falls into the same category as Kahtoola, which you may be familiar with. Hillsound is a Canadian brand that produces hiking crampons and running/hiking spikes. I was able to get my hands on a pair of the spikes and have already spent a day on the trail using them. Look for a review on these spikes. 
– Ticla… This booth completely took my by surprise. Taking a car camping approach that caters a little more towards the female mind, Ticla is a brand new company producing tents, sleeping bags, and pads that take a casual approach. The tent design was different and is what initially caught my eye. I felt like I was looking at a Pinterest Pin in person. Very neat product. 
As per usual the outdoor giants released information on new product lines and no doubt everyone is excited about new gear. I enjoyed more so talking with the companies that aren’t so known and yet are proving to have product that is worth the investment. 
Long story short, gear is awesome, and seeing the newest and greatest all in one spot defines outdoor paradise in my opinion. 

Preparing For The Backcountry – Taking Precaution Before You Go Out

I’ve been thinking for a long time now how I could write about preparing to go into the backcountry. It has become a larger topic than I initially thought it would be. So I’ll do my best to keep it concise and to the point. There are so many different types of activities that can be done in the backcountry. Whether you are backpacking, hiking, camping, skiing, backcountry touring, cross country cycling, climbing, mountaineering, canyoneering, and whatever else you want that involves time spent in the backcountry; there are precautions that one should take before going out. However, this post and part two of the series (how to properly pack a backpack) will focus on precautions to take for hiking and backpacking. 
Preparing for a trip in the backcountry
There are a few essential things that you must do when planning a trip, whether it is a day hike or several nights. Here are things that I do every time I am getting ready to go out. 
  • – Where am I going, and what will the weather be like?
  • – How long will I be out?
  • – What gear do I need?
  • – What permits do I need, and what are the emergency contact numbers for the area?
  • – What are my sources for water?
  • – What maps do I need to carry?
Where am I going, and what will the weather be like?
This is far more than just knowing where I will be, and if it is going to rain or not. Poor planning not only leads to poor decisions, but it inevitably leads to accidents. Take for example our backcountry friend that cut his arm off cause of poor planning. Good trip planning starts with researching about the area you plan to go to. Read guide books and trip reports from reliable sources. Virtually anywhere we go now, has some sort of published information for us to get insight on the area. 
The time and season of the year changes the way I plan a trip as well. It also influences the food I eat, the gear I take, and the areas I consider going to. For example, next week I will be spending four days in Utah’s Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. It’s November, and it’s the desert. The way i plan for this trip is influenced by so many factors. It’s going to be cold, it’s going to be hard to find good water sources, and there are factors that require me to understand how to stay warm and dry. 
Know the climate of the area you plan to go, and the forecasted weather. In Utah during the summer it’s known that there are typically daily rain storms that come through the High Uinta Mountain Wilderness area. Lighting is a concern in that area, and being prepared is key. However, in Utah’s desert, knowing the area is key to find protection from flash flooding. I’ve added a video at the end of this post of some guys a few months ago in Utah that I feel made a series of poor planning decisions when going out canyoneering. 
How long will I be out?
This one is simple in theory. Know how long you are going to be gone, and let people know where you are going, and when you plan to be back. Even if you are going for a simple day hike, tell someone where you’re going and when you plan to be back. Just last week a woman was rescued from Mount Timpanogos at 11,700 feet after spending two nights on the mountain (one of those nights with rescue crews). She went for a day hike, hurt her ankle and ended up spending a lot more time up there she had planned. 
What gear do I need?
This is much more complicated than it should be. I always struggle trying to decide what is absolutely essential and what is more of a luxury when out in the backcountry. But a lot of the gear that I choose to take with me is influenced by how long I plan to be out. However, I always take more than what I need. I like to think of worst case scenario, planning that way helps me make sure that I cover all my bases. Never do I plan on something bad happening, but I carry things with me to just be prepared. 
Whatever you plan on doing, just make sure that you take time to get the gear you need together, and consider why you would need the gear that you are carrying.

I like to gather all my gear that I know i’ll be taking, and organize it based on it’s need and usage.

What permits do I need, and what are the emergency contact numbers for the area?
Many of the places that we go backpacking, or camping require some kind of permit. Again do your research to find out if you need a permit, If you are going as a group, do you need a special use permit for the group you are going with. Does your permit limit how many people can be in your group. Don’t let yourself forget to research this and have it end or ruin a trip.
Emergency contacts are much more than just dialing 911. In Utah, the sheriffs do much of the search and rescue and evac for people in trouble. There will come a point that cell phone signals can be accessed pretty much anywhere. But until that happens, write down on paper, the emergency contact numbers for more than just one agency or emergency service that can be contacted in the event of an emergency. Make sure that the entire group knows where the numbers are, who is carrying the info and what are the evac plans if it were needed. 
What are my sources for water?
When you are doing your research of where you plan to go, how long you will be gone and the time of year it is, know where you can get water. In the mountains there is usually a stream or a lake that you can get water from. However in the desert, the sources of water are much more scarce. Utah’s desert canyons are some of the most beautiful backpacking destinations, however, they are also open range cattle in these areas, which makes getting fresh water much harder than it might have thought to be. Guide books will usually include where there are reliable sources for water. 
What maps do I need to carry?
How many people actually carry maps on them when they are out hiking, or backpacking? I know that I didn’t for a really long time. I always do now, and I’d rather carry a map instead of a GPS. That’s just my opinion. But you can find out the exact map to carry again by looking in a guide book that gives the information of the area you plan to go to. The Nat Geo maps are really great maps also if you would rather not carry a topographical map. Get any Nat Geo map from the Backcountry.com Homepage.

The reality is, just take the proper time to prepare for any trip you will be going on. Be smart, and make smart decisions.

 When was the last time you went through your first aid kit and refilled it, or replaced things. This should happen every time you are planning a trip. Even if you didn’t use it. There might be something you need to add for the area you plan to be in. 
In my opinion, I feel like these guys make some really poor decisions to go into this canyon during one of Utah’s wettest months this year. They are lucky to have made it out. This is a classic example of taking proper precaution when going into the backcountry. Remember, if when planning, it is too risky, it is okay to postpone and not go at all. 
Happy planning, and safe travels my friends!

Cooking and Food in the Backcountry – What do you eat?

One of the most difficult parts of planning a trip is planning what food I want to eat, and what it will take to cook it. Food can add a lot of weight to your pack if you aren’t smart about what you are eating. But not bringing enough food can severely hurt you if you aren’t smart. Having the needed energy from carbohydrates, fats and proteins are essential to life in the backcountry. Going on a diet, and counting calories should never be someones plan when going hiking, backpacking, ski touring, and anything else that requires a large amount of energy. But what do you bring, and how do you save on weight on food in the backcountry?
I have never been a person to enjoy or want to spend the money on those packaged dehydrated meals. Most common are the Mountain House brand meals. My biggest issue with these types of meals is a couple things. I am not trying to beat up on Mountain House, but since they are so popular, I am using them as an example here. This meal is chicken breast and mashed potatoes. Cost: $9.49. Not only are these types of meals really expensive, but they also carry a large amount of sodium in them. This meal has 820 milligrams of sodium. More than half of the recommended daily amount for an adult. I’d rather take time cooking a great meal from scratch that not only tastes better, but saves a ton of money.
What do you eat then?
Deciding on what to eat can be hard. How many days are you out? How will you be cooking? Will you be sharing your food with others in your party? Obvious considerations to make when planning for a trip.
Here is a list of foods that I enjoy while I am out in the backcountry. This list comes from personal experience and some reading that I have done from various sources. But mostly this comes from personal experience. Just a little story as we begin though. As a scout, I saw other kids make the mistake of carrying canned food with them on backpacking trips. I have seen countless people carry half a loaf of bread, only to find out the bread is smashed and crumbled and will not suffice a PB&J sandwich at all! So here we go. 
Breads: I love to carry tortillas or pitas with me when I want a bread that would be good for that PB&J or some other type of sandwich. I also love to go to the market and get a nice baguette from the bakery to strap to the side of my pack. Baguettes are awesome because they do not smash easy, and are perfect when making a soup on a cold evening. This type of bread is really helpful in cleaning up your pot and scraping the last bits of food up. The other huge benefit is the amount of carbs that you’ll get into your body. 
Breakfast: I am the type of person that loves to eat oatmeal in the morning. Oatmeal is really easy to repackage and cooks fast and simple. But not everyone loves to eat oatmeal. Here is a great alternative to those that don’t want oatmeal. BISCUITS AND GRAVY! Oh yeah! If you have not tried this before, they are awesome. You can do a lot with this simple recipe. Think about all of the things you can add to the biscuits. I like to add spices, but you could easily add some cheese and butter flakes if wanted. With the gravy, adding a little bit of dried salami gives an awesome flavor to the gravy. I just use the packaged gravy from the grocery store. 
Dinners: One of my favorite things to do on the first night is to carry a frozen chicken breast with me and a soup mix. I’ll boil that chicken breast and shred it, then use the water from the chicken breast to hydrate the soup mix. I like this because it makes a really great meal and is perfect for starting the next day of hiking with a full belly. Another dinner I like to have is taking pizza dough mix and making scones. You can easily carry a little olive oil, and also some cinnamon and sugar to cover the scone. Yum! You can do a lot with pizza dough mix. Be creative and think about what would taste good and give you the carbs, fats, and protein in the back country.  
Snacks: Taking bars with you are perfect ways to get energy quick and in a small package. I really like to carry the Clif Bar Builder Bars, which is a protein bar. One bar has about 20 grams of protein and they actually taste really great. Other bars that are really good are ProBars. They don’t have a bunch o added junk that your body doesn’t need and they are quite tasty. 
No, I have not given a lot of examples of what to eat, and the point was to share a little about what you can eat. Eating in the backcountry, and even cooking doesn’t have to be a hard thing. Nor do you have to boil water for every meal, especially if water is a limited resource for where you are. 
Packing Food For The Backcountry:
When you are planning a trip for a hike, backpacking trip, climbing trip, or whatever it is, be smart in how you choose the food you take. When I am choosing food to take, I try to repackage my food as much as possible. It not only saves weight in your pack, but it also saves on the amount of garbage you have to take out with you. No you cannot just burn everything you take. Take dehydrated foods when you can. Canned foods and foods that are high in water content are heavy. Remember a gallon of water weighs 8 pounds. A normal can of Campbells soup weighs almost 12 ounces! So be smart in what you carry. Do some research on good foods to carry, and what you can cook based on the cooking equipment that you carry. 
What do you like to cook in the backcountry?

Marmot Earlylight 2P Minimalist Setup – Ultralight Backpacking Gear Methods and Review

The last several weeks I have spent an obnoxious amount of time reading about ultralight backpacking, and everything that falls under that umbrella. I have been slowly replacing gear that I have had for many years with new gear that is super light and compact. Here are my favorites that I have added so far. 
– Osprey Talon 44 Pack – Comes in at 2 pounds 7 ounces
– Thermarest NeoAir XLite – Regular Length – 12 ounces
– Mont Bell 800 Fill Super Spiral Down 30 Degree – 1 pound 6 ounces
Between the pack, pad and sleeping bag I shaved over 4 pounds off of my total weight by those three items. When making an ultralight setup, thats a huge amount to take away. I’ve spent several nights already in my Mont Bell bag and absolutely love that bag. I’ll be doing a review on that bag here pretty soon. I have only laid on my new pad for a few minutes in my house, but so far it seems like it will make sleeping in the backcountry way more comfortable than I ever have been. Lastly, I am beyond psyched to take the Talon 44 out in November for a four day trip i’ll be doing for one of my classes in school. 
But enough of the fluff, and lets get to what I want to talk about with my Marmot Earlylight 2P Tent. I have done a review of this tent as my first post on this blog. I absolutely love Marmot tents and love how functional they are. My goal tonight was to see if the included footprint of the Earlylight would allow the rainfly to be attached and poles setup to pitch the minimalist setup that you see sometimes in other tents. I had a Kelty at one point that the matching footprint had clips but did not fit the clips of the rain fly. So I decided to give it a shot on the Marmot and see how much weight it would shave off instead of spending a ridiculous amount of money on a tarp kit. Turns out Marmot again has won me over. I clipped the rain fly into the clips of the footprint, staked it down, and pushed the poles into the fly, and voila, it went up without any problems. Some of you are probably thinking that I am crazy and should know that this was an option for the tent, but cut me some slack here. 
Turns out the tent body weighs about 1.2 pounds, so that makes the rest of the tent, with the poles and 10 stakes just over 4 pounds. This isn’t a huge reduction in weight, but I think it is enough to make a difference, especially if you are sharing the tent between two people. 
So, what are the pros and cons to doing this with this tent, or any other tent that allows a minimalist setup like that.
– Pros –
     – Saves weight to carry
     – Makes setup of the tent fast and simple (even though it was super simple to begin with)
     – Getting in to bed is simple and doesn’t require falling on your face when you have to run the zipper down to close the rainfly. We’ve all done it, and it’s a real pain. 
     – Lots of ventilation and extra roomy. It feels extra spacious and lots of room for storage.
     – Protection from the rain, and surprisingly strong.
– Cons – 
     – Tent footprint is slightly smaller than the tent body floor. Have to be careful that the ground you’re sleeping on is clear of anything that could puncture a pad. Also could get dirt or sand all over since         there is not tent body to kick shoes off before getting into. 
     – No protection from bugs and critters. This is my biggest frustration with tarps that are setup with trekking poles.
     – Does not shave as much weight as I hoped it would, but enough to make a difference. 
 Rain Fly and Footprint fully setup
 Rain fly open, showing my pad and sleeping bag laid out inside. Also Cooper The Wonder Dog

 Showing how much space with the vestibules there is
I have my reservations with going to extreme on ultralight, and I think that any time you are preparing for a backpacking trip that you make a proper trip plan and pack your bag accordingly. Of your essential items though, it is worth it to invest in nice gear and save your hips from getting bruised by a pack that weighs an outrageous poundage. 
So here is a list of the items that I regularly carry in my bag every time. 
– Osprey Talon 44
– Thermarest NeoAir XLite
– MontBell 800 Fill Super Spiral 30 Degree
– Rab Myriad Jacket
– Marmot Earlylight 2P Tent
– First Aid Kit
– GSI Pinnical Soloist or GSI Halulite Micro Dualist
– MSR Super Fly Stove
– Mont Bell 800 Fill Down Coat (Spring and Fall only, mostly)
– Petzl Tikka Plus Headlamp
– MSR 2 Litre Dromadary
– MSR Microworks Water Filter
– Crazy Creek Hex 2.0 Chair
Now I know that this list doesn’t really qualify for a super ultralight setup, and there are SO MANY other things that I could do to save weight and go true ultralight. But it is still under 30 pounds, and under 30 pounds for a several day trip is pretty dang light in my opinion. What do you have in your ultralight pack and what have you done to reduce weight in your setup?

Buy this tent from Backcountry.com

Marmot Earlylight Tent with Footprint and Gear Loft: 2-Person 3-Season Pale Pumpkin/Terra Cotta, One Size Marmot Earlylight Tent with Footprint and Gear Loft: 2-Person 3-Season Pale Pumpkin/Terra Cotta, One Size
You venture into the wilderness in search of simplicity, and the three-season Marmot Earlylight 2-Person Tent provides you with an easy-to-use, effective shelter that can adapt to your various backpacking pursuits. The storm-proof fly and floor keep you and a partner sheltered from summer squalls. The included footprint becomes the tent floor when you go for the lightweight Bare Bones Setup.