Tag Archives: John Muir Trail

Technology for the JMT

It is now 4 days from the time I board a plane for Reno, rent a car and drive to June Lake outside of Yosemite.  I am finalizing my gear and packing everything up for the trip.  The last unresolved decisions involve technology and I have brought that process to a close.  Here is the tech that will accompany my 211 mile trek on the John Muir Trail;

  • InReach Explorer
  • Garmin Etrex 30x
  • Apple iPhone 6
  • Ankar PowerCore 20100 Battery Charger
  • Assorted cables and adapters
  • Total Weight:  2.1 lb


Tech for JMT

InReach Explorer

The InReach Explorer has two key functions; satellite texting and SOS emergency communication.  The texting, although crude in the user interface, will be the only way I have to communicate in the remoteness of the JMT.  All my research indicates the trail is generally beyond the reach of cell tower signals.  The InReach will hold a charge for about 4 – 5 days of hiking. It will track my progress and post to a website where friends and family can follow.  Weight: 6.8 oz

Garmin Etrex 30x

This is a brand new edition to my gear set.  I wanted GPS capability that was not available in the InReach but my Garmin fenix 3 watch was not going to make the cut, primarily because it only holds a charge for 2 days of full hiking and needs to be recharged.  I chose the Garmin Etrex 30x for its basic GPS functionality and the fact it runs on AA batteries.  The specs indicate it will run for 16 hours so I’ll carry extra batteries.  My testing has proven the device to be reliable and easy to use.  Plus it will upload results to my Garmin Connect website, which is what I have been using now for years.  Weight:  5.7 oz

Apple iPhone 6

The iPhone will be my camera, saving  about 4 lbs of camera gear.  The iPhone took great pictures in the Grand Canyon so it should be fine.  I found a telephoto lens that is small and weighs nearly nothing.  I have maximized storage space by getting rid of most apps (including email), pictures and media leaving about 54 GB for photos and video clips.  I don’t believe the empty memory space save any weight.  I could not find how much a GB weighs anyway.  In airplane mode, the battery should last 4 or 5 days. Weight:  7.8 oz (w/ lens)

Ankar PowerCore 20100

The iPhone and the InReach Explorer will need to be charged at least once before I get to Muir Trail Ranch and probably twice between there and Mt. Whitney.  I researched a number of websites and blogs, considering solar chargers and high density power chargers.  One has to learn how these devices are rated and fortunately, the hiker community has developed a bit of a standard of how many times you can charge your smartphone.  The chargers are specified by the number of milliAmp hours, but one thing to note, the airlines have a restriction on lithium batteries measured in Watt hours, which is the total volts multiplied by the Amp hours.  The limit is 100 Watt hours.

I opted not to use a solar charging system.  The ones I researched indicated you needed to charge the battery a full day to get 1 smartphone charge.  With two devices, I did not want to run the risk that they both ran down on the same day.  Plus, many of the reviews indicated that weight was a bit of an issue when you count the flexible solar panel and the battery in the system.

That leaves the lithium battery chargers.  I found these are typically rated in milliAmp hours (mAh).  A 7,800 mAh will charge a smart phone up to 3 times and weighs around 6.5 oz.    More is better right?  But bigger chargers come with more weight.

My choice ended up being the Ankar 20100, which is a 20100 mAh battery charger weighing in at 12.7 oz.  The literature boasts 7 charges of a standard smartphone.  It has two USB ports making it possible to charge two devices at a time.  Running the math, it registers a 72.6 Wh capacity, which should not be a problem for the FAA.

Assorted Cables

A USB for the phone and the InReach, plus a 10W power adapter weigh in at 3.5 oz.

HikerHead 2

Strider Out!

Mailing Groceries to Myself

I have a long To-Do list and today I checked off a big part of it.  Planning food for 15 days in the wilderness takes a little research and some strategy.  Once you leave Yosemite on the JMT, there are basically two places to resupply; Vermilion Valley and Muir Trial Ranch.  Vermilion is about four days out from Donahue Pass while Muir Trail Ranch is a good 6 days out.  The challenge is getting past Muir Trail Ranch because there is not another good resupply location until after you exit Whitney Portal, which I plan to cover in about 8 days.  This means you have to send your food to yourself.  Opting for Muir Trail Ranch, I set about planning supplies and how to get them there.


In strategic planning, one of the things you have to know is your constraints and boundaries.  Muir Ranch is about 8-9 hiking days away from Mt. Whitney.    My bear can only holds about 7 days of food.  Getting supplies sent to Muir Ranch can take up to 3 weeks.  There are no full service grocery stores there.  Shipping food ain’t cheap.  Backpacking requires 3,500 – 5,000 daily calories.  You want to keep your pack as light as possible.

Planning the Food

The first thing to do is plan the menus.  The common wisdom is to be creative and save money by creating your own meals.  I opted for spending the money and bought 20 freeze dried dinners from REI.  I had a 20% off coupon and I spent my dividend.  The rest was packaged food from the grocery store.

My standard daily menu is essentially the following:

  • Breakfast – Oatmeal, honey, summer sausage, cocoa w/ coffee              450 calories
  • Lunch – Peanut butter, honey, tortillas, tuna                                              550 calories
  • Dinner – Freeze Dried dinner, chocolate, tea w/ honey, olive oil         1,200 calories
  • Snacks – granola bar, fig bars, nuts                                                            1,300 calories
  • TOTAL:                                                                                                            3,500 calories

I am going to run a calorie deficit, which many thru hikers do.  If I could carry 5 – 7 days food between towns, I could carry more calorie laden food, plus engorge myself in town, but space and weight are the biggest constraints.  Plus I could stand to loose 10 lbs.

Getting It There

I crammed the first 7 days in my bear can, which will fly with me to California.  The rest I had to ship to myself when I arrive at Muir Trail Ranch on July 7.  Muir Ranch has a process.  You go onto their website and pay a food pickup and storage fee of $85.  They send you mailing labels, along with detailed instructions.  You need to pack your food in a plastic 5 gallon bucket.  That’s because it will arrive at their PO Box, which then has to be carted by truck, possibly canoed across a lake, and finally stored in a shed.  Your food container has to be water proof and varmint proof.   They limit you to 25 lbs without charging you even more and they suggest shipping three weeks in advance.

Shipping a 22 lb bucket is not trivial.  There is a lot of packing tape involved.  It is not a convenient box that comes with efficient and cheap postage.  Priority mail from Knoxville to California is $66.00.  I spent about 2/3 of my food cost in shipping and handling.

But it is DONE!

The one open issue is that my bear can will not hold all the food in the bucket.  I am going to noodle on that one for a bit.  One option is to purchase a small bear can and carry both.  Another is to take less food.  I’ll have a week under my belt by the time I get there.

I may go a bit hungry but at least I won’t starve.


HikerHead 2

Strider Out!



Strider’s JMT Itinerary (tentative) is Released!

The permitting process allows for (requires?) a daily itinerary.  Recalling my last post and the utter frustration one meets in trying to complete this process before a 5-minute timeout, only to find out the system accepts incorrect destinations once you are past your entry and exit point, I had to go back to fill it all in with the right stuff.  So after careful research and planning out reasonable daily mileages I came to realize that most of the campsites are not available in the drop down menus of the permitting process so officially, I am spending most nights at a place called “other”.  I really hope it’s nice and there’s water.

As Patton said, “No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy,” which calls into question why one would even try to plan out an itinerary.  My AT thru hike itinerary many years ago was pretty much blown up the first day.  But the value in planning is not the end product, but the process of thinking through various strategies.  In this case, where to re-supply.  There are a number of resupply points along the first half of the JMT, but there is only one for the last half and that is at Muir Trail Ranch.  Since I am actually entering the trail officially at Rush Creek, I only need 5 days of supplies to get to Muir Trail Ranch so I guess it’s just one re-supply for me.  Much more on that later. My itinerary calls for 10 days of supplies from there to Whitney Portal.

There are some excellent resources to help plan a thru hike of the JMT.  Most promote a 21-day itinerary, which I loosely followed.  Here is the list of references that were helpful in this project:

  • The John Muir Trail:  Through the Californian Sierra Nevada by Alan Castle
  • John Muir Trail: The Essential guide to Hiking America’s Most Famous Trail by Elizabeth Wenk
  • John Muir Trail Data Book by Elizabeth Wenk
  • John Muir Trail Topographic Map Guide by National Geographic

I am hopeful of beating this schedule to some extent as I generally hike 15 – 18 miles a day but there are a couple caveats – First, the highest mountains on the east coast are only 6,000 feet, while much of the JMT is above 10,000 feet.  I am brushing up on those who have had bouts with altitude sickness and the general word is that hiking south, you get to acclimatize to some extent.  The second issue is the specific exit date, which is required of the permitting process.  Who knows what happens if you try to leave early…  Do the rangers make you go back and wait it out or do they just write out a ticket?  Who knows?  I imagine this will be a topic of conversation once I am on the trail.  At the very least, maybe I can save up some time for a zero day somewhere really nice.

So here is it, the published itinerary:

JMT Itinerary

That is all…

HikerHead 2   Strider Out!