How Hikers Get Their Trail Names

If you’re a part of the hiking community, then you have probably noticed that many hikers no longer go by their real-life name when they’re on the trail. Instead, they are referred to by a trail name.

A trail name is a nickname that a hiker uses to express a personality. Many people will dub themselves, but some may wait for a friend to point out a quality that makes for a good nickname.

That being said… trail names may be one of the only times it’s okay to choose your own nickname.

If you read some of the PCT and Appalachian 2,600 Miler Club logs, you’ll come across various names. Some, better than others.

There are too many to post here, in this article, but PCTA ORG has the full list for you to peruse.

2,600 Miler Club

The 2,600 Miler Club is led by the organization that covers everything PCT (Pacific Crest Trail). It is here that you’ll find the log books (which are now online) of all of the hikers who have fully completed the trail.

The Pacific Crest Trail spans from the US/Mexico border to the US/Canada border and is a top to-do on my life bucket list. People spend years preparing for it as they have to be physically, financially and most of all, mentally prepared to complete this grueling adventure.

To achieve full credit for most 2,000+ mile thru-hikes you have to complete it within twelve months. It’s okay to do it section by section, as long as it’s completed within that timeframe.

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Plenty Of Time To Think

You’re going to have a long while to think about it if you can’t come up with anything, just yet. Just look at the list of cities you’ll hike through if you follow the PCT:

This isn’t the longest of the hikes, either.


  • Campo (mile 1.4)
  • Lake Morena (mile 20)
  • Mount Laguna (mile 41.5)
  • Julian (mile 77.3)
  • Banner (mile 77.3)
  • Stagecoach Trail RV Park (mile 77.3)
  • Ranchita (mile 101.2)
  • Warner Springs (mile 109.5)
  • Holcomb Village (mile 111.3)
  • Anza (mile 151.9)
  • Paradise Valley Café (mile 151.9)
  • Hemet Lake Market (mile 168.6)
  • Idyllwild (mile 179.4) – depends on side trail
  • Cabazon (mile 209.5)
  • Banning (mile 209.5)
  • Big Bear Lake/Big Bear City (mile 266.1)
  • Fawnskin (mile 227.6)
  • Cajon Junction (mile 342)
  • Wrightwood (mile 369.4)
  • Crystal Lake Cafe and Store (mile 383.5)
  • Acton KOA (mile 444.3)
  • Acton (mile 444.3)
  • Agua Dulce (mile 454.5)
  • Green Valley (mile 478.2)
  • Lake Hughes (mile 485.7)
  • Hikertown/Neenach/Wee Vill (mile 517.6)
  • Mojave (mile 566.4)
  • Tehachapi (mile 566.4)
  • Lake Isabella (mile 652)
  • Inyokern (mile 652)
  • Ridgecrest (mile 652)
  • Kennedy Meadows South (mile 702.2)
  • Lone Pine (mile 744.5) – depends on side trail
  • Independence (mile 789.1)
  • Bishop (mile 789.1) – depends on side trail
  • Muir Trail Ranch (mile 857.7)
  • Vermilion Valley Resort (mile 874.5)
  • Red’s Meadow (mile 906.6)
  • Mammoth Lakes (mile 906.6) – depends on side trail
  • Tuolumne Meadows (mile 942.5)
  • Bridgeport (mile 1016.9)
  • Kennedy Meadows North (mile 1016.9)
  • Markleeville (mile 1048.4)
  • Kirkwood (mile 1076.5)
  • Meyers and South Lake Tahoe (mile 1090.8)
  • Echo Lake (mile 1092.3)
  • Olympic Village (mile 1135.5)
  • Donner Ski Ranch (mile 1153.4)
  • Soda Springs (mile 1153.4)
  • Truckee (mile 1153.4)
  • Sierra City (mile 1195.4)
  • Graeagle via Gold Lake (mile 1211.6)
  • La Porte (mile 1234.8)
  • Bucks Lake and Lake Shore Resort/Haskens Store (mile 1263.5)
  • Quincy (mile 1267.9)
  • Belden and Caribou Crossroads (mile 1286.8)
  • Chester (mile 1331.1)
  • Drakesbad Guest Ranch (mile 1350.1)
  • Old Station (mile 1373.5)
  • Burney (mile 1411.3)
  • Fall River Mills (mile 1411.3)
  • Burney Falls State Park (mile 1419)
  • Castella (mile 1501.1)
  • Dunsmuir (mile 1501.1)
  • Mt Shasta (mile 1501.1)
  • Callahan (mile 1560.2)
  • Etna (mile 1599.7)
  • Seiad Valley (mile 1655.9)


  • Callahan’s Lodge (mile 1718.7)
  • Ashland (mile 1718.7)
  • Hyatt Lake Resort (mile 1742.7)
  • Fish Lake Resort (mile 1773.4)
  • Mazama Village at Crater Lake (mile 1821.7)
  • Shelter Cove Resort (mile 1906.6)
  • Elk Lake Resort (mile 1952.6)
  • Sisters (mile 1983.8)
  • Bend (mile 1983.8)
  • Big Lake Youth Camp (mile 1995.1)
  • Olallie Lake Resort (mile 2045.6)
  • Government Camp (mile 2086.5)
  • Timberline Lodge (mile 2097)
  • Cascade Locks (mile 2146.7)


  • Stevenson (mile 2147.2)
  • Trout Lake (mile 2228.9)
  • White Pass (mile 2294.9)
  • Snoqualmie Pass (mile 2393.1)
  • Steven’s Pass Resort (mile 2464.1)
  • Skykomish (mile 2464.1)
  • Stehekin (mile 2571.9)
  • Mazama (mile 2591.1)


  • Manning Park Resort (mile 2650+)
From Start To Finish

The Hard Part

Even though you’ve got a long time to hike…

Most trail names are chosen on the first day of your thru-hike. This way, you can introduce yourself to the other hikers you come across on your trek.

What Do You Want To Be Known For

So, start up the self-assessment and come up with that perfect name!

Thanks for reading, hiker!

This post was written by Evan.
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Land Navigation For Hikers

Terrain Association Via Topographic Map

Terrain association is a comparison of what you can see in real life and matching that with your map. The best terrain association develops when you’re able to locate specific ridges and mountain tops on your map thanks to what are called topographic maps .

With a topographic map you’ll be able to triangulate your location rather easily; simply by finding the largest landmarks around you. A tall rock formation, a tree line, or a riverbed can help you determine which way you need to go.

Topographic maps add contour lines where a regular atlas does not. You’re able to quickly find hotspot locations thanks to how much easier it is to follow the pathing when curvature and depth have been added to a map, unlike the paper maps you’ll come across at every travel center.

There will be multiple colors for different contour lines. These colors will represent a different level of “steepness” and when you have more than one contour line following the same path you can expect a very steep ridge.

Check the map legend for elevation measurements on contour lines.

After having a topographic map, you’ll see that your compass apps are a bit lackluster in comparison. There are apps such as AllTrails Pro that have some topographic features built into it, but those cost a subscription to continue to utilize.

So, How Do You Perform Land Navigation?

In its truest form, land navigation is done with a protractor tool, a 1:25,000 full color topographic map, and a compass that doesn’t stick.

The protractor would be used to encapsulate a radius and that radius would be laid out multiple times, plotting the landmarks along the way, until you reach your destination.

However, for the hiker’s land nav, all you need to do is practice your pace, and familiarize yourself with the direction you’re wanting to travel.

Practicing Your Pace

You’ll want to have a full understanding of how far your pace gets you while hiking. For many, 100 steps is equal to one Klik, or kilometer. A kilometer is also equal to a little over half a mile (0.62 mile/3280 feet).

How do you tell when you’re planning a klik off of eyesight alone? 

When you are in the wilderness, a klik is usually going to be what you can clearly see along your horizon. Not the furthest back on the horizon, but the closest horizon object you can make out without any problem. On a clear day, with nothing blocking your view, a person can clearly see roughly 3 miles. So, if you are on flat ground and can see all the way to the curvature of your horizon line, then divide that out by six and there’s your klik!

Remember that terrain will affect your pace. It takes, on average, 100 steps to reach a kilometer on flat land, but if you’re heading uphill you can count on 120 steps, and if you’re heading downhill, you can reduce it to 90 steps.

Plotting Your Kliks

After you have a good understanding of what your pace looks like you can use the legend on your map to estimate how far your destination is, and how many kliks you will be trekking. The map-key should have a mile or half mile stretch measured on the legend of the map.

Use those half mile stretches to get a base understanding of which landmarks you should be able to see at each klik plot point. Then plot the point at these landmarks. 

If you travel your first kilometer and reach your landmark, then check the horizon for your next landmark, rinse and repeat, then you’ve now learned how to Land Nav!

The Best Land Nav Checkpoints

You’re going to do a lot better with your land navigation skills if you learn to seek out the best plot points on your map.

The best land nav checkpoints are going to be rivers & streams, ridges, valleys, roads, trail crossings and railroads.

The second best land nav checkpoints will be elevation changes such as hills, cliffs, and spurs.

Now That You Are Ready To Practice Your Land Nav Skills

Keep in mind that you should have tie-offs in your pack. For survival purposes, if you are using land nav to get to safety, or find a source of water, use tie-offs on tree branches every few hundred feet to help guide your way back, if needed.

If you’re just out exploring and going for a trek, remember that the best thing for the great outdoors, is to leave no trace!

This post was written by Evan
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The Seasoned Thru-Hiker; A Guide On Preparing For Destination Hiking

Training for a thru-hike, especially one rated “difficult”, is something that every hiker should do before taking the long journey to that end game. These are some tips to get you started:

Find Your Training Spot Close To Home

This is one I struggle with myself, because where I’m from, there isn’t much elevation to work with. I typically travel to destination hikes to get the real adventure going, but not all is lost if you live in the prairie-lands, like me.

One of the most important aspects to training, is having a training spot that is close to home. I found a Nature Park near my house and began to utilize that area as my “thru-hike” spot. Sure, there were lots of people there with their kids or churches and schools bussing group visits around (because this park was in the heart of the city), and they probably were wondering, “why in the world is that guy wearing a full climb get-up in this 3 mile stretch?”. I like to think they understand that I’m simply out there to train and I’m not as crazy as I look!

So, I walk the paths, and because each path is only 2 or 3 miles long, I walk them several times. This helps the legs stretch and get used to a cadence that will keep your momentum moving when you’re on a thru-hike that takes months to complete. You essentially change your walking/hiking stride. To cover lots of terrain you want a good stride, and you want to be able to work with that stride, even while wearing your full pack.

Should I Train On Other Things Besides Just Hiking?

Absolutely. I mountain bike regularly. In fact, I was mountain biking every day for quite some time. This helped shape me up, grow the muscles in the legs and really help with my core balance, strength and posture.

Recently, I’ve started adding the gym into the mix. I felt like the cardio from the bike alone was beginning to plateau and I needed to stir things up a bit. Now, I’m just as addicted to the gym, as I am to biking, hiking, backpacking, and writing!

There’s really no way to go wrong with training, as long as you’re training. So, don’t feel like you’re not owning up to some sort of expectations just because other people seem to know what they’re doing. The truth is, no one truly knows what we’re doing. As science and medicine and mathematics, etc, continue to evolve, and as humans continue to learn, we will continuously shape our ideas on what’s right.

What About Acclimation

Thru-hiking will take you on a serious journey. You’ll come across some of the lowest zones, and then find yourself on some of the highest elevation gains, all on the same trail as it spans across it’s 2,100 miles (or more!). Thinking about acclimation is definitely something to take into consideration.

The unfortunate fact of the matter is, for some thru-hikers it can take a month to fully acclimate. If that’s the case, then they’d already find themselves a third of the way into their thru-hike and guess what?… the terrain has shifted, no longer requiring the acclimation.

When it comes to acclimation there’s not much of a way to truly get used to the elevation gains unless you are nearby and can constantly train there. Another way would be to rent a place in the area for some time and live there for a bit, but that’s really taking a stretch just to go on a destination hike.

So, get out there, and have fun with it! Listen to your body, rest when needed, eat when you’re hungry. Thru-hiking doesn’t require someone to go on a full on keto (survival mode) diet. It only requires the person to be able to carry themselves well.

My best advice is that if you’re like me, and live somewhere that has very little elevation gain, you take it slow at first when you arrive to your thru-hike. The first time I experienced very high elevation gains was when I backpacked the Rocky Mountains. I could feel the air thinning out with every step up after a certain height. It made me feel lightheaded, almost dizzy at times, and exhausted. I wasn’t acclimated and wouldn’t have had the time to acclimate anyhow as I was only there for 6 days.

Something super important to note, is at times like the above paragraph, you need to understand what your body is trying to tell you. Do not push through a dangerous attempt when your body is literally trying to shut down on you. Stop, rest, sleep if you need, eat your snacks, hydrate and then go ahead and cancel the climb for now. The mountain will most likely still be there to try again later, when you’re not at risk of serious injury or illness.

Rangers are usually available to help someone off the mountains when needed. Know your emergency numbers at each location you trek.

Carrying That Backpack

One of the best (and worst) parts about backpacking is getting used to carrying that pack. I say it’s the best because once you’re familiar with your setup you will be prepared for anything. Did it just start raining out of nowhere? No problem, my rain jacket is easily accessible from the front stretch pocket. Do I want to setup camp but don’t feel like digging through all of my stuff right now? I can just pull my sleeping bag from the bottom stowaway pouch. Did I just get a bee sting? No worries, my safety kits are in the top zip-pouch.

Knowing your pack out like the back of your hand is going to help your hikes feel successful and second nature. To get used to carrying it everywhere, just take it training with you. Practice using the different slots and pouches available to see what works for you. And remember to add more miles each week. By the time you make it to your destination hike, you won’t even notice the weight of your pack.

Add Miles Weekly

Like I’ve mentioned above, this is how you’ll get used to the weight you carry, adjust your hiking stride, and prepare your lungs for efficient oxygen intake. You want to push your limits on this exercise.

For the first week, walk as much as you can until you’re noticing you really need a break. Then stop. Record how far you’ve made it and rest until the next week (you should get to the point where you’re hike-training three days a week, but when you first start it’s okay to feel like one day a week is plenty).

When the following week comes around, hit your recorded marker, then add a mile. Then record, and head back home again.

Continue this rinse and repeat until you’re hiking 10 miles a day without problem. Many thru-hikers hike around 16 miles a day. If you train at 10 that’s a great starting point for beginners. If you’re able to get it to 16 before your trip, even better!

Understand Provisions

Something we don’t want to skip: food!

You need to know what provisions you have and you need to understand how to ration them based on how much area you still have left to cover before a restock.

You’re going to feel hungry on a thru-hike. Let me reiterate, You’re going to always feel hungry on a thru-hike. It’s the nature of the beast when it comes to long distance hiking. Remember, thru-hiking requires you to burn an exceptional amount of calories every day while you’re on the trail.

A great way to prepare yourself and train for this, is to understand your body and to learn how to eat for fuel instead of pleasure or out of boredom. Eat healthy, provide the nutrients your body needs, and eat small portions five times six times a day. This will make sure your body is intaking the proper nutrients it needs. It will help with digestion. And, you’ll only be taking in the calories you need, instead of excess.

Have An Escape Plan

A seasoned thru-hiker doesn’t just head out into the wilderness without some sort of escape plan. Don’t allow yourself to get into a bad situation due to lack of preparation. Spend some time thinking over anything bad that could happen, and then prepare for it. Then do it again and make sure you didn’t miss anything.

Have maps downloaded and ready to show your routes even without cell phone reception (AllTrails is one of the apps that offer this).

Locate and know the ways to get in touch with “Trail Angels” along the paths of your thru-hike.

Understand where the restock locations are, and take note on where your at while on the trail so you know how much farther you may need to go. I’ll post a Land Navigation post and back link it here in the near future to help with this topic.

Have a way to signal that you need help.

This post was written by Evan
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The HykLyt Meal Plan For Camping

Disclaimer: this is a repost to make the meal plan article easier to access. It was originally posted in my guide to the Rocky Mountains. 
The talented HykLyt chef

I don’t want to brag here, but I kind of have an amazing chef as my trail partner (my wife). She spent a lot of time planning an entire week of breakfast, lunch, dinner, after-hike snacks, and even electrolyte reserves. So, when it comes to fuel, I was never running on empty. The good news is that I get to share this meal prep plan with you, pro-hiker!

First, you’re going to need a cooler that seals well. We used an Igloo brand. So long as you’re replacing your ice each day, the cooler should keep these meals over the course of a week. Be sure to eat it in the order listed, though. 

This stuff is delicious!
The best order to eat your foods will be color-coded. This should ensure you make it through your trip without having foods spoil. 

Color for foods to eat first.

Color for foods to eat second.

Color for foods to eat third.

Breakfast Menu

1) Over night oats with yogurt, almond butter, blueberries and granola

2) Eggs, bacon, orange juice, toast and jelly (cooked on a Coleman propane burner stove)

3) Bagels w/ cream cheese

Lunch or Brunch Menu

1) Egg salad sandwiches w/ chips

2) Tuna sandwiches and chips

Snack Menu

1) Baby bell peppers with cream chz and everything bagel seasoning

2) Cherries

3) Bananas

4) Strawberries and chocolate

5) Graham crackers, marshmallows, hersheys

6) High Sugar Snacks (Luna, Cliff, Etc.)

Dinner Menu

1) Meatballs with rice

2) Broccoli sausage rice

3) Salmon w/ white rice and broccoli

4) Shepherds pie

5) Ramen & Neguri

6) Red beans and rice

Hydration and Electrolytes

1) Water

2) Gatorade powder 

For this, we grabbed a five gallon water and put it in the car to keep filling our Osprey bladders with. Then, anytime we needed mixing water for the powder we had it available.

We used the Osprey bladders, they have a better mouthpiece in my personal opinion.

Utensils You’ll Need 


• Large Frying pan

• Spatula

• Plastic and metal forks

• Spoons

• Knife 

• Can opener

• Stove burner

• Small Propane x2

• Lighter

• Tongs

Cleaning Materials

• Wet ones 

• Trash bags 

• Laundry detergent

• Dish soap

For the Table

• Table cloth

• Folding chairs

• Folding table 

• Paper plates

• Plates

• Paper Towels

For the Fire

• Fire starter sticks 

• Lighter fluid

• Firewood

• Lighter

For Storage

• Ice chest

• Frozen water bottles

• Tupperware and foil pack meals and ingredients

Another option to cook with is the MSR burner.

Final Thought On Backpacking Meal Prep

It’s awesome. If you follow this list you can make it through a full week at your campsite. This allows you to store all of your food in bear safe containers and it doesn’t matter when you return, your food will still be ready to go. This is for our and back hiking. If you want to thru-hike you’ll need a provision list, which I’ll post at a later time. Thank you for reading!

This post was written by Evan
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What Are Trekking Poles Really Used For?

Trekking poles are a hiking accessory that helps hikers with their stability and rhythm while adjusting to different terrain. Typically sold as a pair, these hike accessories can help tone muscle groups in your arms while used in tandem and provide core support while walking. These are different than regular walking sticks because of the way they can provide propulsion, which is why you see cross-country skiers using them all of the time.

Even when used as a single unit (above), trekking poles are different than walking sticks. The ends of a trekking pole provide attachment options that can help overcome different types of terrain as well.

Trekking poles are not meant to hold up full body weight, rather, they are intended to support the body’s stability during movement. Similar to the mechanics found in a stair set’s railing, trek poles are a “lean-to” tool for mobility. These can be great for balancing while overcoming technical obstacles.

Looking to gain a leaner physique by using trekking poles? Great news! The Cooper Institute showed that Nordic walking increased energy expenditure and oxygen consumption by about 20% compared to walking without poles.

What is Nordic walking? It’s the act of walking cross-country with the aid of long poles. –Oxford

What Are Trekking Poles Made Out Of?

Leki is a popular trekking pole brand and has produced many aluminum and carbon fiber options to choose from. Poles with natural cork handles provide a very comfortable grip.

Trekking poles are usually made out of two primary materials, aluminum and carbon fiber. Where both are lightweight, the latter is the lightest. However, carbon fiber is known to crack when exposed to rough use, whereas aluminum is much more resilient. As an ultralight enthusiast, I’d go with the carbon fiber. For a more budget friendly pack out, aluminum would be the way to go.

Some hikers actually dislike using carbon fiber because it’s known to break. If you go the carbon fiber route be prepared to take good care of your poles. Many of todays hiking bags and backpacking setups have straps included to hold your trek poles. 

How To Size Your Trekking Poles

Your pole’s handles should reach your palms when your arms are bent in a 90 degree angle while standing on a flat surface. This allows for balanced angling on steep inclines.

You should hold your arm outward to a 90 degree angle, and, with palm facing to the ground, the mid-handle of your trekking pole should reach your hand.

There are trekking poles available on the market that are adjustable and some that are collapsible as well. It’s worth mentioning that the collapsible ones help not to snag tree branches when they’re stowed and not in use.

The History Of Trekking Poles

The use of trekking poles dates to cross-country Scandinavian skiing. Also known as “Nordic skiing”. Skiers would utilize these poles to launch themselves forward, over expansive ski runs, and over passes.

Trekking Pole Attachments

There are many different attachments to choose from. Most attachments are specifically designed for certain ground coverage.

There are multiple attachments available but here I’ll list a few examples:

Mud baskets: designed for mud, beaches, sand and very grassy trails.

Snow baskets: designed specifically for soft ground textures such as snow or very light meadow grass.

Rubber Tips: are able to be used on any terrain, and provide a better “grip”-like traction while hiking.

Should You Invest In Trekking Poles?

I think trekking poles are just as important as any other piece of gear in your pack. That being said, it was also the last piece of gear I worried about getting. That probably isn’t the safest advice, but at the time I felt pretty confident with my stability and reaction while on trails. Once you start hiking with trekking poles, you’ll notice a big difference. They’re not for everyone, but everyone should at least give them a try. A good pair will set you back about $100-$200 depending on what brand and what material you choose. Well worth the price when you take your safety into consideration.

This post was written by Evan
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Navigating The National Park’s Permits, Timed-Entry Restrictions, and Transportation

Photo credit: National Geographic

“To walk in nature is to witness a thousand miracles.”

Mary Davis

Taking The Right Steps

Does the park you’re planning to visit require a timed-entry reservation? If so, you’ll want to book it in advance.
Will you be camping? If so, reserve a campsite as well. Wilderness camping requires a backcountry permit in most parks. 
What means of transportation do you plan to use when you’re there? Look into the public transportation options your park offers.
Dispersed camping is an option but typically requires an additional permit. Check your national park requirement if you are planning an overnight in the wilderness (outside of the main campsites).

National Park Timed-Entry

If you’re planning on visiting a national park anytime soon, you’re going to want to look up the entry-limitations to the park. There was a time when all you had to do to enter a national park was drive up, pay the entrance fee, and enjoy the scenery. Many are still like that now, such as San Juan National Forest (September 2022), but some, like The Arches or The Rockies, require the new system of reservations.

So, how do the timed-entry reservations work?
As an example, here’s The Rocky Mountain National Park Flyer for timed entry.

As the flyer above states, you’ll need to arrive to the park within your reservation window. Upon ID verification, and reservation confirmation, the park ranger at the entrance booth will give you a paper tag. This tag allows entry and re-entry into the park. It doesn’t matter what time you leave as long as it’s by park closing, unless, of course, you’ve booked a night or more of camping. If camping, you’ll be able to enter, exit, and re-enter as you please, so long as you have the paper tag viewable on the drivers side dash or windshield of your vehicle.

Pro: This limits the amount of people within the park at any given time, which enhances the outdoors experience many are looking for. This reduces the possibility of long lines to wait in during the “busy season”. 
Parks that don’t have timed-entry, such as Zion (pictured above), can become overcrowded.
Con: You have to book your time at the park in advance. Because spots book quickly, you’ll need to keep an eye on the available entry times and/or campsites on the specific parks website. 
Parks with reservation requirements, like Arches, allow much more space to individuals to explore. Photo Credit: Discover Moab

Where To Book Your Timed-Entry

Click here to visit the National Park Service website. In the drop down menu to the top-right, you can click in the “plan your trip” section, and select your park. Search booking availability on the parks calendars. Remember, there are multiple camp grounds at each park if you’re camping so if one is booked already you may have some luck at a different campground across the park. Be sure to read any disclosures on the booking availability to know which areas of the park the booking allows access to.

Annual Passes

There is an annual pass you can buy to assist in entry. These come with a few nuances of their own, which I’ll explain in greater detail below.

Annual passes are available online at NPS or at most outdoor retailers.

Although the passes allow you to enter the parks, they don’t replace the need for the reservation. Reservations are free (with a $2.00 service charge) though, so I recommend having the pass, and also making the reservation.

The pass does not allow you to utilize a campsite just because you’re a pass-holder. You’ll still need to book your campsite based on availability on the park’s website. Campsites on the NPS site currently (September 2022) cost $30.00 per night stayed (plus a $2.00 service fee).

Are There Campsites Available Without Advance Reservations?

Some parks have “first come, first serve” campsites. This is when the annual passes really come in handy. With this option, you can show up to the park early, use your annual pass, pay the vehicle fee (usually $6.00) and if a campsite is available, you’ll be able to claim it for the evening. You can keep doing this each morning. Often, the limit to stay within a single campsite is six days in a row.

Park Transportation

Always give wildlife the right of way. Remember, you’re a visitor in their home.

Most of the parks have shuttle transportation. So if you are planning to fly into the state and catch an Uber or Lyft to the park entrance, it won’t be a problem. The shuttle bus stops may be a bit spread out. So, if you plan to visit the parks this way, pack what you can manage carrying. Many of the busses will have an overhead to store your bag while riding.

Taken directly from the National Park Services website:

As visits to national parks continue to increase, some parks suffer from the increased use of private autiomobiles: traffic congestion, parking problems, exhaust and noise pollution. The resource suffers, and the visitor experience is diminished.

Several units of the National Park Service have implemented bus and shuttle systems to alleviate the impacts of private automobiles.
Park Rangers are available to call if you find yourself in serious trouble or lost.

Thankfully, we have a National Park Service that aims to create a high-quality experience for everyone. This includes, but is not limited to: recycling requirements, food storage bins, quiet times, and sanitary conditions.

Enjoy Your Space

Enjoying the peacefulness that timed-entry parks can offer.

Now that you know all of the steps required to reserve your time at the National Parks, it’s time for you to go enjoy everything the parks have to offer! For clarity sake, here’s a short pricing recap for you:

Reservation: $2.00
Campsite: $30.00 a night
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Ultralight Gear List for Hiking

“The best view comes after the hardest climb.”


If you’ve read the post about how you should prepare for your backpacking trip by selecting the right boots, bag, and training for the adventure, then you’re ready to start learning about the essentials to gearing. Gear comes in all shapes, forms, and sizes and it can get a little overwhelming when you’re trying to sort out what you need and what you could live without. This list will introduce you to the gear that I find absolutely necessary for successful backpacking, especially if the trip is planned to be a multi-day.


Photo credit: Magnetic Mag
I’m going to list a little bit of information about ultralight tents, as they have become my favorite gear piece and irreplaceable in my opinion, but feel free to select the type of tent you prefer, or one that works well with your budget. For some people the tent, is “just” a tent, but for me, it’s what makes my trip great vs. a little less great. 

Choosing your tent (if you’re planning overnights) is going to be crucial to how you can pack the rest of your kit. Many tents take up a lot of space in certain bags so in this case, the smaller and lighter it stows away, the better!

I suggest spending a little extra to get an ultralight tent. These tents can be purchased from single person to four person in most cases and stow away around just 4lbs! The greatest thing I’ve found about ultralight tents is how quick they are to setup and stow away.

Many will have hooks on the outside of the tent that you can attach to the tent structure itself. See the image below. These make it very easy to setup camp. You simply lie your tent on the ground. Set the poles up over it, then clip the clips to the tent poles and cinch down the corners.

NEMO Aurora 3P is a great example of how these ultralight tents are so simple to setup.

Most of the ultralight tents will come with their own rain fly to attach over the tent when necessary.

Do you think ultralight means less durable? Think again! Many of the ultralight lines are actually built with a higher quality component such as Silnylon (nylon impregnated with silicone to create waterproofing). These lighter weight, high quality materials used in ultralight gear design have “ripstop” stitching and endure the elements of all 4 seasons. Some may only be made for 3 seasons; so double check the listing when purchasing. For tents that aren’t 4 season, they’re intended for this, and usually have a lot of venting for summer-time or very little venting for harsh winter storms. It’s important to know which seasons your tent is made for. The last thing you want is to wake up in a puddle because the tent you purchased didn’t have the proper breathability.

Fun fact: Did you know that are mm measurements in the stitching of tents? This isn’t millimeters, it’s micrometers. That’s right! There’s a micro-science to how the stitch patterns are sewn. “Ripstop” stitching is more than just “tough material”. 

Sleep Gear

Important to note that when you are buying a sleeping bag, make sure to check it’s degree rating. You will want a sleeping bag with a rating lower than the lowest temperature you plan to be sleeping in. 
Photo credit: Switchback Travel

Sleeping bags are an essential item. Do not skip it, even if the weather is supposed to be hammock-able (amicable?) (I crack myself up!). As noted above the degree rating could literally save your life!

Something else to think about when choosing your sleeping bag is the material used for insulation. You have plenty of options here: flannels, down, down-alternative, cotton, and many more. I like to use down-alternative sleepwear. It’s soft, lightweight and packs down small to leave as much space as possible in my pack.

If possible, stow your sleeping bag in a keep-dry stuff-sack. It’ll make for a very unfortunate evening if your sleep gear is soaked because you dropped your bag in a river! I get it, things happen… that’s why we prepare! 
My wife and I love our ENO jungle hammocks. I’ve spent the night in mine on multiple occasions when the weather was nice and the sky was clear. There are rain fly separates purchasable for these as well if you just want a hammock setup more than a tent setup. I live with the extra weight and bring both.
Because sleep mats/pads aren’t really an essential, I’m going to leave them out of this post. Just know that those are an option as well. Life-hack: get an ENO hammock with bug net, a rain fly, light sleep bag and a lightweight mat, and you’ve got yourself a wilderness castle that folds down to the size of your tent pocket in the 50L bags, which leaves a ton of room (and carry weight) for other items. This life hack is not storm or snow friendly.

Click here for more info on jungle-hammock camping setups.


Such great heights.

You’re going to want to have a change of clothes to stay dry and clean. Probably more than one, honestly. Especially if you find yourself in the mountains, where weather conditions change rapidly.

I’ve been on the mountainside and caught in three different storms within a four hour window before. Being properly outfitted made the journey so much better, and; while my wife and I were pressing forward, we watched as the less-prepared turned back to escape the harsh mountaintop elements.

We learned something that day. We learned that some rain jackets get way too hot for intermittent rainstorms in a temperate climate. We ended up finding lighter weight “The North Face” jackets that retained a lot less heat for this type of weather. I’d say Gore-Tex material is not really needed unless it’s going to be colder out, or you’re planning to endure heavy rainfall.
Dress appropriately and be prepared for the weather to shift.
Again, I’ll list something that’s very useful but not considered an essential: water-hikers!

With attire there are a few things you’ll want to keep on the list: a non cotton-top (such as a polyester, for easy and quick drying capability), if your trip involves any cold conditions then pack insulating gear such as thermals and down-alternative jackets. Things like beanies, gloves, buff, face mask, etc. are dependent on where your trail leads.

Smart-wool socks will keep your feet dry by wicking moisture away from your feet. 


Ask yourself: Are you staying long enough to need to cook? The cookware is awesome stuff, but remember, it adds weight to your pack, even if minimal.
Amazing campfire meals by Cass! For our campsites that we had booked in the Rockies, we used a Coleman propane double-burner and it perfectly suited our needs. For backpacking, an ultralight MSR burner would do the trick.

If you plan to cook, don’t forget the fire starter or the fuel! Without one or the other, the rainy days can really ruin your trek, especially when you’re out in the middle of “nowhere” (lucky!). There are people who put a lot of trust into starting friction fires, but I wouldn’t bet my life on it when push comes to shove. I highly recommend that no matter how good you are at starting a natural fire, you pack accordingly.

Many outdoors stores sell food provisions that come in full meal kits. You can have a salmon dinner with broccoli and rice tucked into your side pocket these days! Check out some of the local favorites as well. There are a lot of tasty options at places like Cabelas or REI (or any of your area’s large outdoor retailers).

Keep snacks like trail mix, protein  bars, or dried fruits stored safely. In a bear canister would be best. Yes, they take up space in your kit. Yes, they’re worth it. Check and know your local guidelines for wildlife safety precautions. 


Lighting is hard to come by when the clouds are out to play and there’s no city lights bouncing reflection back to you. Things like string lights and lanterns are good to have, but add weight. There’s really one solution I’ve found for this: my wife and I used many different lights but both of us agree that these were the most useful, packed small & light, and gave off plenty of light.

Goal Zero Collapsible Lanterns. Fun fact: they make string lights too!

Emergency Equipment

Water filtration devices keep you from having to carry excess bladder space, which would add a lot of weight to your bag.

Pack your emergency equipment.

Short note: first aid kit, snake bite kit, emergency blanket, bear spray, pouch of medicines, life straw, iodine tablets, epi-pen if you require one.

Long note: I’m posting another article just about emergency equipment.

Click here to learn more about emergency equipment.


To each their own on this. Just remember to pack your toiletries! For safety reasons, use unscented wipes that are also biodegradable. You’ll want unscented-everything. Scents attract bears! If you’re in bear county, have your toiletries stored safely in a proper bear canister.

What’s left?

Honestly, the rest is simply for comforts. If you have these things covered, then you’re packed! Next step? Step! 

The only thing left to worry about your pack out now, is getting it lighter!

Click here to learn how to navigate the National Parks timed-entry.

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Planning Your First Overnight Backpacking Trip

Finding Your Perfect Boot & Secondary Shoe

The North Face Vectiv Exploris Mid boots are comfortable to hike in, however, they have a very narrow toe. Keep in mind that feet swell during long hikes! Although they look very stylish, they did not work for me on the trail. I ended up with a pair of Merrill Moabs.

Whatever you do, don’t do what I did and select your first pair of boots because they “fit perfectly” in the store. It’s an easy mistake to make as a rookie, but trust me when I say you’re going to want boots that feel a little bit wide around the toe area, and not too snug anywhere else.

This is because after multiple miles hiked your feet will swell and, when they do, you’re going to be happy you have a little extra room to avoid friction burns and blisters.

There are plenty of boot options to go with. From ultralight-weight ones that don’t offer much toe protection, to ones that have reinforced siding to decrease the chances of a foot injury while you’re out on the trails, to water hikers. If you can swing it, I’d get at least two of the three listed. In my personal pack I carry my Teva (sandal style) water hikers so I don’t need to worry about soaking my daily hike boots when it comes time to cross a river or creek. When you’re just starting out, I recommend starting with a versatile boot. Find a pair that fits well, offers stability for your ankles, and has a little extra protection with mesh-venting the sides.

Teva’s feel great while walking and even better when dipping your feet in a fresh stream! These water-hikers are perfect for times when you don’t want to risk getting your primary boots soaked, but need to cross a waterway.

It’s important to keep in mind the traction of the soles as well. If you’re planning to hike off of the beaten path or do any wilderness thru-hiking, you’re going to be traversing a lot of different types of terrain. A good amount of “grip” on the earth will keep your ankles from rolling easily, and avoiding injuries on the trail is typically my biggest concern. I’ve acquired a weaker ankle from a previous injury so mid-level support is important to me. You’ll want to find your weak spots as a backpacker and then seek out the gear that supports you the best. There will never come a time that one particular brand always outweighs another, but, I do prefer quality, so I highly suggest a good brand when selecting your boots. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself with soles trying to tear away, or holes in the scuff areas.

Finding Your Perfect Pack

While I was at Nymph Lake and Emerald Lake in the Rocky Mountains, The Osprey Atmos/Aura AG 50s are great packs that really came in handy for my wife and I. They have a rain cover already built into the bottom compartment of the pack which made it much easier to protect our gear. Thunderstorms brew quickly in the mountains so anything that offers a faster gear swap out is a big deal!

Now that you’ve found the right boots, you’ll want to spend time fitting your pack.

To properly select the pack I recommend remembering to take these few things into consideration:

How much water will the bladder section hold?
Personally, I prefer the Osprey mouthpiece for my kits.

As you already know, water is extremely important when the body is expending energy, and hiking works a lot of different muscle groups, which can quickly lead to dehydration if not properly prepared for. It is estimated that for every 2 hours of hiking a person will need to drink 1.5 liters of water, even more so in higher heat temperatures. I carry a 3L bladder in my pack and I’ve made it 7.5 hours up mountainous terrain while rationing that 3.5L. However, keep in mind there are additional sources of water when you’re out on the trails so that you don’t have to ration like I do. You can bring emergency equipment such as a life straw or water treatment tablets. These will allow you to drink from natural sources of water without carrying additional weight like you would with a secondary hydration pack or hip bag. Make sure when you’re shopping for your water bladder that it will fit in the bladder section of your bag without a problem. Most hydration bladders fit the majority of bag spaces, so you shouldn’t run into too many problems when purchasing this essential gear accessory.

How much storage capacity is required for the time I spend backpacking? 
I prefer a 50L bag when taking multi-day trips, but for a single day/6 mile or less hike, I use a Cotopaxi 24L Luzon.

The carrying capacity of your pack can come in many different shapes and sizes but here is a short breakdown to help you plan.

0-10 liters – A few carry items, snacks, emergency kit.

Osprey Small Day Cinch

10-20 liters – Great for a quick and light hike.

Osprey Daylite

20-30 liters – For full day hikes, this would be a proper size. It allows you to carry light rain gear, snacks, a decent-sized bladder, water hikers and an extra set of warm/cold weather gear dependent on your destination.

Cotopaxi 24 Luzon

30-50 liters or more – These are best for overnight and multi-day trips. The extra space does add weight to your pack, but it allows you to pack all of the gear you’ll need to embrace the elements. Don’t forget to throw in a bear canister if you’re trekking bear country.

Gregory 50
How do I size my pack?
Technology Side-note: Osprey have started using their new anti-gravity technology and it really has been a game changer in load bearing.

Contrary to popular belief, packs aren’t just measured by your height. This means taller people don’t have to have a taller pack, and it also means shorter people don’t need a smaller pack. To properly measure your pack you will need a measuring tape and measure form the C7 (cervical section, where the bone sticks out from the back of your neck) to the iliac crest (top of your hips). Most packs are adjustable to a certain extent when it comes to length, but width around hips is usually within a few inches for snug-fitting. Be sure to try your pack on for comfort before taking it out on a trip. Many retailers will not replace used gear unless it’s a warrantied manufacturing defect.

Example measurements, but make sure you try your bag on when it arrives or while you’re in the store. Sizing varies individually.

Train, Before You Go

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the adventure part of backpacking and forget to do the training first. Just know that some trails are marked intermediate and difficult for good reason. Most hikers plan for 5-6 miles a day when starting out, but some experienced thru-hiker may go 16 miles a day or even more!

Intermediate and difficult rated trails are usually rated by technicality of terrain, the strenuous level, and dividing the vertical distance by the horizontal distance.

Sometimes you just need a breather in a meadow.

But, what does all of that really mean? It means if you’re not careful you can find yourself in a very bad situation very fast. Mother Nature has a strange sense of humor sometimes and many times it’s at the hikers expense. But if you properly train before taking on these endeavors, you’ll find a great sense of accomplishment when you’ve completed the trail.

I recommend starting at a local trail, and tracking your time, distance and usage of water during the hike. AllTrails Pro is an app that will track your route, even if you take a detour from a main trail. Trust me, it’s saved me before in a situation where I found myself lost in the wilderness. Check out the blog post for mapping your trail if you’d like to know more.

Fun fact: When my best friend (my wife) and I completed the first difficult-rated trail system it felt like we’d hit a huge milestone. It was life-changing and brewed up the idea of an innovation and technical gearing company, now known as HykLyt. Thanks to this milestone in our journey, we get to help others live theirs!

Pick Your Trail, Gear Out Essentials, And Go!

Now you have your boots, your pack, and you’ve trained. To really get out there, the only thing left is listing your essential gear, and then making sure you have any permits (wilderness/backcountry permits) required to enter the areas you plan to hike. There’s a bit of information to list out for both of those subjects so I’m going to break those down into separate articles for those who are interested. You can find the links at the bottom of this page.

Click here to see list of essential gear.

Click here to learn how to navigate national park permits, timed-entry to wilderness areas, and gain travel tips when visiting parks systems.

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