The Caffeinated Hiker’s Gear Guide

Your choice of gear can make or break a hiking trip.  Your gear is what will keep you warm, dry, comfortable, hydrated, and fed. It is important to carefully consider each piece of gear you choose to bring with you into the wilderness. In this post, I will list and briefly review each of the major pieces of gear I take with me on overnight hiking trips! Keep in mind, hiking gear is a very personal matter, so what works for me may not work for you. Lots of research and trial and error will go in to creating your own perfect gear list.

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Let’s Talk About Food, Baby

Food. There are few things long-distance hikers think or talk about more. It is what fuels our bodies and allows us to complete these insane feats of endurance, and therefore it is all important. Many hours on the trail are spent dreaming about when you’ll next stop to eat, and what you’ll eat when you do. When you burn off five to six thousand calories a day, you’re rarely not hungry. This is a phenomenon known as ‘hiker hunger’, a term used to describe the insatiable hunger that allows hikers to consume massive amounts of food while rarely getting full.

So what do hikers actually eat on the trail? This is one of the more common questions I receive when I explain to someone what a thru-hike is. ‘What are you going to eat, and how are you going to get it?’ While the topic of obtaining food (or resupplying) needs its own post, this post will be dedicated to the glory and horror that is trail food.

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One of my favourite trail breakfasts. Instant oatmeal, instant coffee, eaten while sitting in the dirt. (Eating while sitting down is a real luxury).

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La Cloche Silhouette Trail Day 4: Fogged In

Daily Stats

Date: September 8th, 2016

Distance hiked: 22 km // 13.75 mi (Silver Lake campsite H38 to eastern trailhead)

Steps taken: 40,317

Time on the trail: ~8.25 hours

Calories burned: 3,279

Wildlife spotted: 1 loon + the usual little creatures

The rain came last night. I lay awake for a long time listening to the wind, and rain finally started lightly falling around 11pm, and kept up for the rest of the night. I drifted in and out of sleep throughout the night as I listened to it fall. I awoke to my alarm (for the first time ever on a hiking trip), and found that everything inside the tent was still gloriously dry (score one for the tarp tent, zero for the elements!). “Good job, tent,” I thought. I packed up as much of my stuff as possible while remaining in the dry safety of the tent, but when I emerged I discovered the rain had actually stopped. I had planned to skip cooking breakfast if it was raining in the morning, and do it later during my morning break, but since there was no rain falling, I decided I could have breakfast at camp. However, as soon as I sat down in my rain gear to start cooking my oatmeal, the rain returned with a vengeance. Well, there goes breakfast. I ate a bar and a cheese string, packed up the last of my things, and was on the trail just after 7:30.

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Not many photos from today, as my phone mostly stayed tucked under the protective barrier of my rain pants. Also, you can only take so many photos of fog.

Today was another hard day of hiking. I felt like I was walking along a roller coaster for most of the morning, as the trail continuously climbed up onto ridges, and then plunged back down into the forest. Every time the trail entered the forest, I would get excited for some flat forest trail cruising, only to see another steep rise approaching through the trees. The first couple of times, I thought to myself ‘well, the trail must stay in the forest for a while, I mean there’s no way I’m gonna have to climb that!’, only to see a trail marker pointing straight up some insanely steep slope. While walking on the first rocky ridge of the day, I confirmed a glorious fact about quartzite: it doesn’t get slippery when wet. Thank the geology gods for that, or I think I would still be stuck in the woods, down at the bottom of some slippery rocky slope. I stopped for a quick snack break at the campsite on Heaven Lake, where the map indicated there should be a view point, but all I could see around me was white fog. Yup, no views today. Everything was totally fogged in.

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La Cloche Silhouette Trail Day 3: Feeling Golden on Silver Peak

Daily Stats

Date: September 7th, 2016

Distance hiked: 22 km // 13.75 mi (campsite H22 to Silver Lake campsite H38 + 4 km on Silver Peak sidetrail)

Steps taken: 38,153

Time on the trail: ~ 9 hours

Calories burned: 3,934

Wildlife spotted: the usual woodland creatures

I slept much better last night. I still woke periodically throughout the night, but I was able to fall asleep again pretty much immediately each time. I woke before my alarm and started getting ready for the day right away, knowing it might be a long day. I got out of the tent and shovelled granola and coffee into my mouth for breakfast. It was a very foggy morning, and the sun was having trouble breaking through the clouds. While I was getting my pack ready for the day, I realized I had had a Snickers bar in my tent all night. Shit, big no-no out here. And annoyingly, after I hung up my food bag last night I was laying in the tent hungry, so I could have just eaten it and solved two problems at once. Oh well, nothing bad happened, but I’ll just have to be more careful.
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Some early morning “views”
I hit the trail at 7:30am, and it wasn’t long before I started climbing. It was a long, intense climb, and while I climbed, I crossed my fingers that the sun was working as hard as I was to burn away the fog. Lo and behold, when I finally reached the top of the climb and came out onto the ridge, I was treated to a magnificent, sweeping view of… Yup, fog. The entire world below was completely fogged in. I couldn’t see a thing. It still looked kind of cool though. As I moved on, I imagined what might have lain below that fog.

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La Cloche Silhouette Trail Day 2: Getting to the Good Stuff

Daily Stats

Date: September 6, 2016

Distance hiked: 25 km // 15.6 mi (Cave Lake campsite H5 to campsite H22)

Steps taken:  39,637

Time on the trail: ~8 hours

Calories burned: 3,907

Wildlife spotted: some type of small mammal swimming in Cave Lake (maybe a beaver?), 3 ruffed grouse, 2 pileated woodpeckers, 1 deer, tons of frogs and toads, plus the usual assortment of woodland creatures

I didn’t sleep well last night. This seems to be a recurring theme for the first night of my trips, so fingers crossed for better sleep tonight. When I did drift off, I had some weird dreams. In one, I was camped right on a beach, and at some point in the night I somehow nudged the trekking pole supporting my tarp tent, causing it to collapse on top of me. I got out and found that a baby bear had gotten into my food supply, which for some reason was a bunch of fresh fruits and veggies stored in reusable grocery bags. Suddenly, some of my friends appeared (who were apparently working as park rangers), and decided that since my food was improperly stored, the only way to fix it was for them to eat all of my food. I woke up after I started yelling at them to stop eating my apples.

First light on Cave Lake, and my path back to the trail

I woke before my alarm, and lay in my sleeping bag watching the dim light of the oncoming dawn growing slowly brighter. Eventually, hunger and the need to use the bathroom drove me to get up. I had oatmeal and coffee for breakfast as the sun rose. Somehow, I didn’t end up back on the trail until 8am, which is a pretty late start for me.
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Some of today’s trail

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La Cloche Silhouette Trail Day 1: Nakey in Cave Lakey!

Daily Stats
Date: September 5, 2016
Distance hiked: 7 km // 4.4 mi (western trail head to Cave Lake campsite H5)
Steps taken: 11,119
Time on the trail: ~2 hours
Calories burned: 922
Wildlife spotted: the average forest creatures
Today is the first day of my last hiking trip for this summer. Over the next 3 days, I will be completing Killarney Provincial Park’s La Cloche Silhouette Trail, a rugged 78-km loop through the La Cloche “mountains”.
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Classic starting photo at the trailhead!

Today I had just a short 7 km hike to my first campsite, so I had a leisurely start to the morning, leaving my parents house just after 10am with a 3.5 hour drive to the park (including a Timmies stop).

I arrived at the park just after 1pm, and quickly obtained my permit from the main campground office. I parked in the campground lot closest to the west trail head (there’s no official parking lot for the trail), and began my hike.

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View of George Lake from the start of the trail

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Western Uplands Trail Day 3: A Morning of Shinrin-yoku

Daily Stats

Date: August 1, 2016

Distance hiked: 15.4 km // 9.6 mi (Susan Lake to Parking lot)

Steps taken: 25,135

Time on the trail: ~ 4.75 hours

Calories burned: 1,851

Fuel consumed: 2 packs maple brown sugar oatmeal w/ walnuts + raisins, 1 packet instant coffee, 1 Snickers bar, 4 Triscuits w/ peanut butter, 1 cheese string, 500 mL Gatorade, water

Wildlife spotted: some sort of woodpecker, several large toads, more mini toads, assorted woodland creatures, and of course more moose tracks/scat

Finger crossing must really work, because I slept sooo much better last night. (I mean, it was either the finger crossing or the hiking 22 miles on a small amount of sleep…). I fell asleep quickly around 9pm and slept soundly for an hour and a half, then awoke overheating in my sleeping bag. I tossed and turned for maybe around half an hour and then fell back into a deep sleep. I woke next at 3AM, to a strange sound across the lake that I quickly convinced myself was a bear walking through the woods. It sounded like many sticks breaking, which I assumed MUST mean something was walking around over there. I lay in my sleeping bag with my heart in my throat, praying the sound wouldn’t come any closer. After a few minutes, the sound started seeming too repetitive and rhythmic to be sticks breaking under footsteps, not to mention the fact that it remained almost totally stationary. Suddenly, realization hit me. It was nothing more than a couple of persistent mink frogs, calling into the night (their call sounds similar to chopping wood, hence the ‘sticks breaking’ stream of thought). After this epiphany, I fell asleep again quickly, feeling rather silly as I had actually noted the chorus of mink frogs calling earlier in the evening (it’s a cool frog call that I hadn’t heard in person before).

Early morning light on Susan Lake, and my own personal log crossing to get to camp!

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Western Uplands Trail Day 2: Big Miles to Susan Lake!

Daily Stats

Date: July 31, 2016

Distance hiked: 34.9 km // 22 mi (Clara Lake to Susan Lake – along third loop)

Steps taken: 49,633

Time on the trail: ~9.5 hours

Calories burned: 3,593

Fuel consumed: 1 cinnamon raisin bagel w/ peanut butter, 1 packet instant coffee, 1 snickers bar, a few handfuls of dried fruit, 2 tortillas w/ peanut butter, 2 cheese strings, 500 mL gatorade, 1 pack M&M’s, 1 clif bar, 1 box white cheddar macaroni, 1 pack hot chocolate mix

Wildlife spotted: loon family (+ many other loons calling), more tiny toads/frogs, 2 huge toads, 1 medium-sized toad, a couple of normal frogs, TONS of moose scat and tracks (but still no moose!), plus the usual assortment of woodland creatures

Today I officially hiked my longest hike ever. Today I hiked 22 miles, breaking the record I set just one week ago today.

Unfortunately, I did not sleep well last night. I tossed and turned for hours, and my mind just would not shut off. I did eventually grab a few z’s, but I don’t think it amounted to much. My alarm went off at 5AM (even though I was already awake) and it was still quite dark out. I waited a few minutes inside my sleeping bag, but eventually made myself start to get dressed. I emerged from the tent with my head lamp on, which marks the first time on my solo trips that I have been outside my tent in the dark. The horizon at the edge of the lake was beginning to glow pink and orange, but nothing much was happening yet sun-wise.

I went over to where my food bag was hanging and brought it down, and started getting things ready to make breakfast. The smaller woodland creatures were quite active in the dim light, as a large toad hopped right over the hip belt of my pack, and a small mouse ran right up to inspect the contents of my food bag.

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A spectacular sunrise on Clara Lake

I boiled water for coffee and grabbed a bagel and some peanut butter. When everything was ready to go, I headed over to a large rock by the lake to eat while watching the sunrise. At this point, things in the sky were getting more exciting. It was bright enough to switch off my headlamp, and the sky slowly caught fire with colour. It was absolutely gorgeous, and made getting up pre-dawn totally worth it.

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