Gear List: Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex

In a few days, I'll be taking a short expedition with two others through the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex by foot and packraft. I plan to travel in a big loop that starts in Benchmark and ends back at Gibson Reservoir, a distance of about 120 miles not including some side trips I'd like to take to explore some tributaries of the big rivers by packraft.

We plan to take one layover day high upon the Continental Divide (my partners will be observing the Jewish Sabbath and I'll be exploring some river drainages by foot and packraft), and we plan to take one other food & water fast day (so will travel a short distance only). As such, we have the equivalent of about 6 or 7 full days to cover the distance.

Even though I won't be extremely tapped with respect to the need to minimize my pack weight, I will be taking a packraft, DSLR, video camera, fishing gear, sat phone, and a SPOT, so I do plan to go pretty spartan on the remaining gear so I can keep my starting pack weight less than 40 pounds.

I may publish the details of the gear list after the trek over at BPL, but until then, here are the highlights:

Packrafting Gear. I'll be running some big easy rivers, and hopefully, some steep hard creeks, so my plan is to keep my packraft versatile enough for hard water but light enough for a long trip. I'm not a huge fan of spray decks for creekboating so as I write this, I'm leaning towards a 64 oz undecked Alpaca with a 28 oz Sawyer Packraft Paddle, a 1 oz bungee lashing rig, the 14 oz Stormy Seas SV100 PFD, and a 2 oz repair kit that will allow me to sew gashes and patch big holes. If I'm feeling bold I may ditch this whole plan at the last minute, save POUNDS, and take the Alpacka Scout Packraft, the Alpacka Ultralight Paddle, and use Platypus bottles stuffed in my rain jacket for a PFD.

Shelter and Sleep. Right now, we have beautiful blue skies and it's like, 80 degrees in Bozeman. That means that I'm warm. Which further means that as I look at my kit for this trip, I really want to toss out a bunch of insulation and shelter stuff. So as it stands now, I'm using my packraft, paddles, and some AirCore 1 guylines for a shelter if it rains, my pack for a sleeping pad, my PFD for a pillow (or God forbid, torso insulation), and one of those nifty 7 oz Terra Nova bivy bags for real nastiness…but I have another bivy I made up out of Cuben Fiber and Pertex Quantum that weighs only 3.0 oz and that one is awfully tempting. I figure on nice nights I can use the packraft for a bed (how about the pack for shelter?). Since the bivy isn't really a bivy, I'll stick with a headnet and a campfire for nighttime slaughter avoidance (we couldn't be going at a worse time of year for mosquitoes…) For a sleeping bag, I'll stick with something trusty: my synthetic quilt, 24 oz, which should keep me warm up high, and OK enough (remember, I have a PFD for more insulation!) in the colder river valleys, where low temps will be in the 30s (I hope).

Clothes. Hey, remember that bit about using a PFD as torso insulation? Yeah, so…that's kind of the overriding theme. I think I'll bring a firestarting kit as my core insulation. My luxury item will be a pair of 4 oz rain pants, for packrafting in cold water.

Food. OK, here's where it gets good. I'm banking on catching a bunch of fish (I'm bringing a 12 oz fishing kit that consists of a fly rod and reel, line, leader, tippet, flies, floatant, strike indicator, split shot, and license). Plus, we're fasting a day. Plus, I'm not carrying a big pack for a day (the Sabbath day, see above). Plus, I'm generally going pretty light. Plus, we're lounging in a packraft for at least 50 or 60 miles. Plus, I won't even be walking uphill for the first 56 miles (yeah, we're cheating on the first climb over the Divide, more about that later). SO…between the awesome fishing and my awesomer custom trout cakes recipe, I won't need, like, any food hardly. OK, OK, I do need coffee and some snacks. So my food bag only weighs 10 pounds. The only thing that could throw a wrench into this is if spring runoff isn't … quite … done … and cold water keeps the fish down. That actually, would be really, really bad for me. But I'm sure it won't happen.

My breakfasts consist of 4-5 oz of hot cereal (muesli or ground wheat) with freeze dried berries, nuts, and freeze dried whole cream. Dinners are 3 oz of some type of base (beans, potatoes, or fried noodles) with 2 oz of some type of oil-based sauce (on this trip I have a really cheesy pesto and African cayenne). Snacks, about 8-12 oz per day depending on how hard the day is, consist mostly of tamari-wasabi almonds, dried papaya, Walker's shortbread, crushed Pringles, and almond butter. For hot drinks, I have coarse ground coffee (which I make cowboy style over a fire), black tea, and Miso soup. I have a small platypus containing about 8 oz of Ghee as a calorie additive to cereal and dinners, too, and a bunch of fried breadcrumb/potato/romano/whole egg/spice mix for making trout cakes (which are steam-baked in nesting titanium pots).

Pack. I'm taking the Arctic Dry Pack. It's an emotional thing. That, and it works – it's a great packraft trekking pack.

Cooking Gear. I'm cooking over fire so I only need a pot (900 ml titanium) and a spoon, and a 1.5 oz titanium mug (for drinking and steam-baking trout cakes), and some firestarting supplies. I will bring a small alcohol stove and a few ounces of EtOH so I can have coffee and soup when we camp above the treeline (2-4 nights).

Water. We'll probably almost never carry any water, because we'll be traveling along it for about 95 miles. But we'll be high, and mostly waterless, for about 25 miles, so we'll each pack capacity for 3 liters. We'll share a Steri-Pen throughout the day and treat with chlorine dioxide tablets and drops at night.

Journalism and Digital Stuff. I'm doing a lot of experimentation with technology on this trip, in addition to taking along an Olympus DSLR and a nice, heavy lens (either the Zuiko 12-60mm or the Leica Summilux f/1.4 25mm). I have a sat phone and a SPOT, so will be posting geolocation updates and SMS messages to Twitter, and audioblog posts here. I have this picture in my head of what that is all going to look like, but I'm also a realistic and I think it will look different from all of that in the end, because when you're out there, there's this wilderness thing going on. I'm also excited about taking a GoPro WIDE camera with me, so I can get some neat packrafting and trekking footage, from its mount on my head, or on the bow of the packraft. Wilderness journalism intrigues me a lot, and short message services like Twitter make it way more fun that having to haul little computers or PDA's and data phone cables along. And I'm still taking along little paper notebooks, and maybe a few colored pencils. I like to draw when I'm out there.

Other Gear and Toilet Paper. There's some little stuff thrown in, of course, but most of that all fits into a little bag, and is not as interesting as the rest of the kit. I am bringing a little bit of TP along for our hike along the top of the Chinese Wall, I hear there's not a lot of vegetation way up there, and the rocks are pretty sharp.