Couples Backpack to Mission Peak

There is a little-known campsite at Mission Peak, but it is one of my favorites. The views are wonderful and it is a perfect base camp for catching a sunset from the peak, or a sunrise, if that is your persuasion.

My wife and I restarted our backpacking with an overnight to this spot, accompanied by another couple. This was my first non-Scout backpacking in years, and it was lovely.

Mission Peak is a very popular hike—we were amazed at the number of people up there at sunset. The rest of them had to hike all the way out in the dark. We strolled back to our campsite. This photo is only a sample, we counted over fifty people. It was a party.


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Trying Lightweight Hiking Socks

I tried lightweight socks on my most recent backpacking trip and really liked them. I’ve been wearing thick wool socks for backpacking since the 1970’s. I stopped using liner socks a decade or two ago, but I had never tried lighter main socks like the thru-hikers wear now.

The forecast was for continuous soaking rain, 48º temperatures, some steep trails, and a fair amount of idle time waiting for the next participant patrol to come to my area. That’s a good sock test, with a nice chance to have cold, wet feet, plus blisters. But less sock means less wet sock, right? And if I get a blister on a two-night outing, I can deal with that.

I grabbed some light socks at REI, Wigwam Merino Airlite Pro. They are roughly one third each of merino wool, stretch nylon, and polyester, plus a smudge of cotton. There is no cushioning, just a nice smooth fit.

Here they are with my previous socks, SmartWool Trekking, 77% merino wool and probably one of the heavier socks you can find.

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Cooking Merit Badge: Trail Cooking Fail

Cooking coverI had high hopes for the backpacking recipes in the 2014 Cooking merit badge pamphlet, but I’m deeply dissapointed. The previous edition listed a single entree with no vegetables and two dutch oven desserts. The new edition has two entrees, but neither can work as trail meals. The first recipe uses raw meat, forbidden in the requirements. The second is mostly heavy canned ingredients. Both have excess that you either toss (violating LNT) or pack out.

This pamphlet is an obstacle to a Scout working on Cooking merit badge. These recipes fail the requirements and direct the Scout towards a style of cooking which doesn’t work for backpacking. These recipes are not “quick, light, and easily stored” (page 47).

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Trail Cooking — Homemade Backpacking Meals

Prepackaged backpacking food is often blah and expensive. If you’ve thought “I could do better than this”, start with this book, Trail Cooking: Trail Food Made Gourmet. This is the brand-new cookbook from Sarah Kirkconnell, who writes at

The meals I’ve made from this book and it’s predecessor, Freezer Bag Cooking, are easy to make, cost half as much as pre-made backpacking meals, and are bigger portions, that is, enough food.

I made “Cheese Steak Mashers” (page 171) for a weekend backpack that was forecast to be wet and cold (it was). Here is the ready-to-pack meal (the bag in the center) along with the ingredients.


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Streamlight Nano Review

I bought my Streamlight Nano flashlight on a whim (Amazon link). My other Streamlight flashlights have been great (except for the Stylus, kinda flaky). One penlight went through the washer with no ill effects, and my big “cop flashlight” continues to be impressive.

The Streamlight Nano is $7, 10 grams, and more weather resistant you’d expect in an ultralight flashlight. Plus, it has a really nice clip, which is good, because you’d lose it without that.

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Wet High Adventure Training at Cutter Scout Reservation

This was my first time staffing our council’s High Adventure Training (HAT) course. We recommend this course for any adult leading a backpacking trip of more than a few miles or more than a weekend. With three long weeknight sessions and a two night backpacking outing, we go into a lot more detail on risk management, navigation, weather, lightweight gear, and so on.

Our course director was hoping for rain, not because he enjoys it, but because it puts the participant’s skills under additional stress, allowing them to learn more. Some lessons are straightforward, like learning that your jacket leaks. Others are more subtle, like using a map in the rain or cooking and eating dinner in the rain.

Rain started after bedtime Friday and continued until early Sunday morning. It was 48º straight through, ideal hypothermia weather if we’d had wind. The rain let up a few times in the afternoon, I even took off my rain shell for a bit, but it was mostly a rainy, cold weekend. If you haven’t been in a redwood forest, the tree drip continues long after the rain has stopped. Half of the precipitation in a redwood forest is tree drip. You can’t tell whether it has stopped raining until you step into the open. We camped under trees, of course.

Luckily, it was dry and sunny at home, so I could dry out my gear.


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