View Full Version : Pacific Northwest 4x5 Backpacking tips

20-Jul-2007, 13:14

I am going to try my first backpacking trip with the 4x5 in the NW sometime in the next couple of weeks. I am used to 4-7 mile hikes with just the camera and a water bottle, now am going to try an add 40+ pounds of gear and see how it goes.

My goal is to try to get farther in the wilderness than I could on a dayhike (7-10 miles or more).

Any tips from those of you already doing this? Also - any suggestions on some good alpine scenery as a goal? (Am considering the Goat Rocks, Glacier Peak, or Alpine Lakes wilderness...)

Eric James
20-Jul-2007, 13:46
Roll a few meters of duct tape around a water bottle. Duct take is the best blister preventative I've found. Recently I was turned on to it's non-FDA approved role in cut and abrasion healing.

"Boston Basin" is reached in a 4 mile 4000-foot grunt - well worth the effort but watch out for black flies (in the forest, on the approach, they are smalll and unrelenting; in the high country the horse flies munch on human flesh but are slow and make for good snowball target practice.

"The Enchantments" is another gem but permits are limited - the US Forest Service Office in Leavenworth has a morning lottery for a handful of permits.

Good luck and have fun!

Scott Knowles
20-Jul-2007, 13:59
Do you have a list of possible hikes? There's tons of good hiking guides or you can check the various NP/USFS Websites, such as ORIC (http://www.nps.gov/ccso/oric.htm), user forums and/or blogs, such as NW Hikers (http://www.nwhikers.net/), or groups such as the Mountaineers (http://www.mountaineers.org/) or WTA Trail Damage (http://traildamage.wta.org/) for hikes and trail access, conditions and damage. If you miss packing anything, the flagship REI store is just north of downtown (Seattle), just off I-5 (Mercer Street exit). The NPS/USFS ORIC is on the main floor. Good luck and stay dry. The film that is, you're optional being wet or dry.

20-Jul-2007, 14:42
I think the problem is I have too many hiking guides. It's sometimes too hard to decipher someone's written description of a trail - and anticipate what that really means in terms of photographic opportunities.

Any personal favorites you guys have are welcome...

Kirk Keyes
21-Jul-2007, 21:48
Bring a compass, a map, and rain gear. And know how to use all of them.

John Berry
23-Jul-2007, 13:38
Bring a compass, a map, and rain gear. And know how to use all of them. This is the best advice you will get.

Jim Graves
27-Jul-2007, 18:39
Photography in the back country is one of those pursuits that tends to lead you off-trail and into some precarious spots ... gotta get that perfect angle or special viewpoint.

Going off-trail increases your chance of injury and your difficulty in being found should you get incapacitated.

Best safeguards: 1) Don't backpack alone, 2) Leave an itinerary which has routes, destinations, and expected dates for each, 3) Know your area and conditions (Kirk's advice) and do some advanced planning, 4) Even on day hikes from base camp, take basic gear (water & filter, food, fire starting gear, 1st aid kit, rain gear) 5) Always carry a good whistle ... while that sounds funny ... a good whistle is small, light, requires minimal physical effort and can be heard over amazingly long distances ... and, of course, take enough film.

Also, if you haven't already, check out Kerry Thalmann's light gear guide and his hiking setup ... just Google him and his site woll pop up.

Happy hiking ... you'll love it.

Ben Chase
27-Jul-2007, 22:39
Bring a compass, a map, and rain gear. And know how to use all of them.

Pay attention to that piece of advice and you can weather a lot more than the unprepared. I spend most of my youth in this area near Mt. Shuksan, Baker, and Rainier - Bad weather can come on you very fast and without mercy.

With regard to the whistle - bring one. The universal sign for distress is three sharp blasts. I spend several years doing search and rescue work and the overwhelming majority of people we looked for were corpses by the time we reached them. The ability to generate sound that carries over long distances is a benefit that's easily overlooked until it is needed.

Excelsior pass is one of my favorite PNW hikes. It's been almost a decade since I've been there, but I think the views along the pass are amazing. It's a bit of a climb at first, but I'm probably saying that because I'm not nearly in as good of shape as I was when I was 17/18 years old.


28-Jul-2007, 00:06

Best advice, in addition to not backpacking alone, is to find one of the natives in the region and go out with them.

Also... watch the bears!

Have fun.


Brian Sims
28-Jul-2007, 14:46

I backpack solo all the time. If we really wanted to reduce the primary risks in our lives, we wouldn't drive on the freeway and we'd do anything, absolutely anything, other than watch TV.

There are some great classic trails that are well worth the risk of solo hiking. The 20 mile high divide loop takes you to a 4-mile ridge walk where to the North is the seven lakes basin (actually 8 alpine lakes), and to the South is the beautiful "U" shaped, glacier-carved valley of the Hoh River covered in temperate rainforest with a spectacular Mt. Olympus on the far side. The 3rd beach to Toleak Point hike (about 7 miles) is the most detoxifying hike I know....I can start with the most cynical, pessimistic mood you can imagine and by the time I hit Scott's Creek I feel downright hopeful. There is a grand variety of beach scenes and subjects and sunsets that will melt your mind. The Enchanted Valley trail up the Quinault River is not to be missed. (I posted a couple of shots on the latest picture post from my last trip along the Quinault). Yes, there are lots of bears, but hang your food well (and your toothpaste, soap, and anything else that smells) and you will not have a problem. When I encounter bears I check for cubs and gage whether they know I'm there (if you are down wind and farther than 50 yards they probably aren't aware of you). If it's close and we've startled each other I bow to them and appologize for disrupting their day and I calmly continue down the trail (I know it sound crazy, but it puts me in a calm frame of mind...which is what's important).

I never solo in an area I am unfamiliar with, and I'm never on a glacier without 3 people. And I pack with whatever I need for the unexpected. I also hike with trecking poles which significantly reduce the risk of twisted ankles and falls. The main advantage of solo backpacking is that I can take my time with what ever shot appeals to me...there is no pressure to hurry up. If I want to take two hours with one trillium, I can do it.

Jack Brauer
6-Aug-2007, 23:01
Did you go yet? How'd it go?

Some advice for dealing with the weight: trekking poles help a LOT. Also, if you really get into it, consider buying a custom McHale pack (built in Seattle) like these panel loaders (http://www.mchalepacks.com/packs/detail/CMSARC.htm). These packs ride much much better than any other pack I've ever tried - it's really amazing.