Ultralight Backpacking Skills - A Three Day Test

On Lake Michigan, at the end of the Stonington Peninsula, there's a stretch of empty beach. Part of the Hiawatha National Forest, it's framed on either side by private property, with no easy access. To walk on the beach, however, is legal. Past the last cabin, the public land starts, and goes for six or seven miles. This is where I would test my ultralight backpacking skills and gear.

I hiked a few miles the first day and explored the woods, where I ate wild blueberries for an hour. Then I set up camp behind a small ridge on the beach. I collected dry grass along the edge of the forest, which made a nice mattress. I pitched my backpacking tarp fairly high, so the breeze would keep out the mosquitos. When camp was set, I went for a swim.

This area has many crayfish, which look and taste just like miniature lobsters. After swimming I caught a dozen under the rocks in shallow water, and carried them back to camp in a whipped-cream container I found. You never know what will wash up on a beach.

I boiled them with some cattail hearts and evening primrose roots, in my cheap three ounce pan. It made a good meal with the crackers I brought. (You remove the meat from the tail of the crayfish, after cooking.)

It was summer, so I hadn't brought a sleeping bag. At seventeen ounces, my bag wouldn't have added much to my packweight of eight pounds. I just wanted to try using a nylon sleeping bag liner I had recently sewn (5 ounces). I wore my clothes to bed, including a hat I made from the sleeve of an old thermal shirt (1 ounce). I slept well, and ate granola bars for breakfast.

Water was all around, so I only had a 16-ounce plastic pop bottle (1 ounce) and a few iodine tablets for purification. I took a good drink before I packed up.

I found fresh bear tracks on the beach. The bear had walked within 60 yards of where I slept. I had a freon horn (2 ounces) that I'd bought after reading that people have used it's high-decible shriek to scare off bears. I pulled it out. I followed the tracks for an hour, but only because I was going in that direction.

I had two old cabins to explore, another patch of berries I knew about, and a beach full things to check out. The strangest item that regularly washes up is light bulbs. I take them home to use them. After years of finding these, a sailor finally told me that they throw them off the ships to shoot at them in the water. I was finding the ones they missed.

The next day I headed back. The rain I expected never came, so I didn't get to test my garbage bag rainsuit (2 ounces), but I had used a similar one with success before. Overall, I was happy with my ultralight backpacking "test." Of course, you can get by with fragile clothing and gear when you're hiking an open beach. Oh, and I never did see the bear.

Steve Gillman is a long-time backpacker, and advocate of lightweight backpacking. His advice and stories can be found at http://www.TheUltralightBackpackingSite.com

In The News:

How Safe Are Outdoor Gatherings?  The New York Times
The great outdoors  The New Indian Express
Servus fitness heads outdoors  St. Albert TODAY
The Great Outdoors Issue  Flathead Beacon

Backpacking Journals ? Preserve Your Backpacking Experiences

Backpacking is a great way to escape the rat race... Read More

The Lumemo Trail - An African Wilderness Experience for the Practiced Hiker

The Udzungwa Mountains National park was created primarily for the... Read More

Alternatives to Pressurized Fuel

Recently I attended a Boy Scout Leader Roundtable meeting where... Read More

Safety Tips While Walking in the Spanish Countryside

Spring:Essential items when preparing for a walk-Compass-First aid kit -... Read More

Spain´s Beaches - You´re Spoilt For Choice

Spain offers the visitor over 4,000 kms of coastline where... Read More

How To Buy a Used RV - Part 2

The key to getting a good bargin, instead of a... Read More

Campsite Meal Planning and Recipe

Hello Again,Today we will be talking about meal planning. Meals... Read More

Plymouth Plantation and Mayflower ? Links to Our Past Guide, Part 1

Plimoth Plantation and the Mayflower II ship are major attractions... Read More

Sleeping Pads For Ultralight Backpackers

Ultralight backpackers want to give up weight, not comfort. Sleeping... Read More

Discover The Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden In Arcadia California

In The city of Arcadia California, right next door to... Read More

Why Should You Use Hiking Poles?

Why should you use hiking poles is perhaps the first... Read More

Student Travel ? Backpacking In Europe

For the fortunate few, life isn't complete without a backpacking... Read More

One of the Oldest Traditions of the American West; The Dude Ranch

Dude Ranches first gained popularity in the 1920s, in large... Read More

Join the American Hiking Society

Have you taken up hiking as a new form of... Read More

Mount Kenya ? Up High at God?s Mountain

Mount Kenya is Africa's second highest mountain, after Kilimanjaro. It... Read More

Where to Find Some of the Best Beaches in the World

We think that Cape Town has some of the best... Read More

Hiking Trails Mt. Washington Valley NH - Trekking trails USA

Mt. Washington Valley Trails & Mt Washington - NHThe highest... Read More

No Artificial Ingredients Indeed

Back from our family's vacation to Costa Rica, I am... Read More

Topographic Maps 101

The intricate details on a topographic map can be befuddling,... Read More

Amazing Trek Across TIbet!

Today Bookpleasures and Sketchandtravel are pleased to have as our... Read More

Solo Backpacking Tips

Solo backpacking means peace and quiet. No one to talk... Read More

Mammoth Cave: One of the Most Beautiful in Our National Park System

Directly south of Louisville, just off Interstate 65 and not... Read More

River Rafting in Colorado

The sport of river rafting was practically invented in Colorado.... Read More

Camping For Fun

Camping for fun is a great way to enjoy the... Read More

Kerala ? Holiday in Gods Own Country

Touted as one of the world's fifty destinations of a... Read More