Advice for first Sierra backpacking trip (Mineral King)

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Advice for first Sierra backpacking trip (Mineral King)

Post by BardoPond » Sat Jul 18, 2020 3:24 pm

My partner and I have a permit for Mineral King at the beginning of August. We're planning to do a 29 mile loop, Timber Gap to Sawtooth pass. We figure it should be a pleasant 4-day/3-night trip.

We both have hiked quite a bit in the High Sierra but this will be our first time camping there. I recently did a 3-night trip in Trinity Alps and had a great time.

We have a few newbie questions:

1. Wondering if we have enough layers for sleeping. Our bags are rated for 25°F. We each have synthetic long underwear and long sleeve shirt, 100% polyester fleece sweater, polyester/cotton blend sweatpants, and ski socks that are 15% wool. I've heard the "avoid cotton" advice before. Should we buy 100% synthetic pants?

2. Any suggestions for campsites for the three nights, and places to see?

3. Any other words of advice?

Thanks!








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Re: Advice for first Sierra backpacking trip (Mineral King)

Post by c9h13no3 » Sat Jul 18, 2020 11:27 pm

Carry separate sleeping & camp socks. Keep them clean and dry.

That getup will be fine (overkill) for August, but it’s better to be prepared. Maybe if you’re only carrying a tarp and the weather is bad would that setup be a thin margin.

The mileage seems short to me, so might be worth bringing some luxuries to enjoy camp more (hammock, bug shirt, mebbe some margarita mix (just add snow!).
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Re: Advice for first Sierra backpacking trip (Mineral King)

Post by maiathebee » Sun Jul 19, 2020 8:47 am

Avoid cotton is mostly for your non-sleep clothes in case they get wet. However, you may end up wearing your sleep clothes in non-sleep situations under duress or an unexpectedly cold storm or something, which is why it's better to just avoid cotton in general.

Like Sam said, definitely keep your sleep socks dry. I carry 2 pairs of identical socks and swap them out each day. When I get to camp, I change into my sleep socks + water shoes and hang up my hiking socks (maybe wash them depending on how many days they have on them). They get to dry out overnight and then also all the next day since I just wear my sleep socks the next day and they become my new hiking socks. Repeat to swap back again that night.

I think you'll be warm enough for sure, and I wouldn't run out and buy more stuff before testing out your getup on your trip. For sleeping, I wear wool long johns (top + bottom), socks, beanie. I use a quilt. If it's really cold I'll put my down jacket on as well. The time I'm coldest is if I have to get up and do camp stuff before sunrise. Sometimes I'll put my hiking pants on over my long johns but that's annoying b/c I have to take them off before hiking. So usually I switch my pants for my hiking pants for morning activities and just deal with chilly legs + a cold butt.
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Re: Advice for first Sierra backpacking trip (Mineral King)

Post by maiathebee » Sun Jul 19, 2020 8:52 am

Oh, and no advice on campsites except to please please follow Leave No Trace and wilderness rules for campsite selection. This is one of the biggest and most impactful mistakes I see new backpackers making.

Don't camp right next to the water. It makes access to water hard for wildlife, destroys fragile shoreline habitat, is colder for you, your gear will get more condensation, and it ruins the sense of solitude for anyone else at the lake. If you're a few hundred feet back, tucked in some trees, you can easily go sit at the lake for dinner / breakfast + it's much less impactful.

Try to pick a campsite that is already established. If there isn't one, make sure you camp on DEAD things not LIVE things. Set up your tent in sand or dirt or pine duff, not on grass.

Plan ahead for pooping. It takes longer to get ready for it since you have to find a place to do it + dig a hole. Make sure to pack out your toilet paper (keep a double bagged ziplock with your poop trowel for this). If you for some reason can't get your hole dug before you gotta go, just go, then dig the hole and push the poop into it with a stick. Make sure to dig a 6-8" deep hole. This can be a challenge in the rocky terrain of the Sierra.
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Re: Advice for first Sierra backpacking trip (Mineral King)

Post by BardoPond » Sun Jul 19, 2020 1:52 pm

Thanks c9 and Maia.
Sounds like we're in pretty good shape with clothing then. We'll see if we want to make any adjustments after this trip.
Point well taken on camping & pooping best practices.

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Re: Advice for first Sierra backpacking trip (Mineral King)

Post by SSSdave » Sun Jul 19, 2020 9:26 pm

If you have average bodies, wearing all those mentioned clothes inside the 25F bag ought be fine if it becomes unusually cold. Some of us thin folks (I'm BMI 22) need more warmth. If you find it too cool or too warm you'll have a better understanding of how to tweak your following adventures. It's the way the game is played.

Outside your sleeping bag, especially if you want to hike early mornings, you would be wise to add a light wind shell. Also wind is common in the high country on some afternoons that if also cool has a way of going through fabrics that are otherwise warm. Since you didn't mention any rain gear, you could combine the two and buy something cheap, like a coated nylon shell, for less than $50. Such is also useful in mosquito areas as they cannot poke through the tight nylon weaves. Head gear with a neck drape likewise will keep them off where you cannot see. And yes thunderstorms can happen as they are this week. Without gear, you could be tent bound for hours. If you are about early mornings like this person, some light gloves and a balaclava or other head gear make being outside more agreeable. As for cotton, the Sierra Nevada is rarely humid so I always wear Levi 505's and if it rains and need to be outside have a cheap very light and wadable coated rain pant shell.

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Re: Advice for first Sierra backpacking trip (Mineral King)

Post by Nozmo King » Mon Jul 20, 2020 7:39 am

There are well-established campsites @ Cliff Creek, Little Five Lakes, Big Five Lakes & Lost Canyon. All of them are beautiful spots. Mineral King is my favorite backpacking destination in the Sierras. You're going to have an awesome trip.

The only bit of extra advice is that, if you camp @ Cliff Creek, there's a big deer herd there. They will chomp on clothes that you leave out to dry. Maybe they're trying to get the salt out of them, I don't know.

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Re: Advice for first Sierra backpacking trip (Mineral King)

Post by BardoPond » Tue Jul 21, 2020 1:59 pm

SSSdave: I have very low BMI too and I'm pretty cold-natured, but I think I'll be fine now. Sounds like some amount of cotton won't be a concern if I keep it dry.
I'll also have my light down jacket and, depending on forecast, a K-Way packable rain jacket (I believe these are less common in the US, but they're very popular where I grew up).

Nozmo: Thanks, I heard so many good things about the area. Really excited to go.
I read about the deer on some TR (perhaps yours?). Another issue with them is they can make it hard to fall asleep when they're rummaging around camp. In any case I imagine we'll go past Cliff Creek on the first day.

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Re: Advice for first Sierra backpacking trip (Mineral King)

Post by balzaccom » Tue Jul 21, 2020 2:24 pm

This talk about BMI had me go check with NIH website about it. Normal weight for someone 5'10" tall, according to the NIH is between 126 and 169.

Anything above 168 is overweight. 210 is obese.

I want to know what percentage of the population is underweight--less than 125 pounds-- at 5'10"
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Re: Advice for first Sierra backpacking trip (Mineral King)

Post by lauralai627 » Mon Jul 27, 2020 6:10 pm

This is one of my favorite trips that I've done - gorgeous all the way around. Columbine Lake is spectacular, so you may want to spend your last night there, which also makes for a relatively easy (if sandy/slippery) exit out of Sawtooth. For sleeping warmth, one of the things that I've found makes a big difference is sleeping in a wool hat. The clean, dry sleeping socks are also great. Last piece of advice is - if you fish...fish!

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