What to Take on a Big Day Ski Tour?
November 27, 2013
A friend recently asked me what I brought when doing a Big Day ski on ungroomed trails.
'Course: it all depends.
I googled my OYB site and found a few leads but I was surprised that I hadn't diagrammed it all out already!
OK, here's how we roll.
We start with a fanny pack with pouch area and water-holders.
We plan on a water bottle of water and a slice of deluxe pizza every two hours. That's the baseline. So for going from "dark to dark" -- or over 30 miles of wild trail and plenty of trail-breaking, you'll want about a gallon of water and 5 slices of deluxe pizza. You want cheese and meat and spicy peppers on those 'zas. You want fat and protein. That's your base. We never rely on bars of any kind. Carbs can't support a Big Effort. ...A couple times early on when I was going for hilly solo 15-milers I would bonk every time even though I was pounding the bars and gels. I needed pizza.
A highspeed blast event over 2 or 3 hours can be done on gels. But for steady plugging along for anything over that, with steep uphills and herringbones thrown in, uses too much core energy and muscle-power for carbs. You need fat and protein. Also, temp probably is a factor. The colder it is, windier, the longer you're exposed, the more you need fat and protein.
Layer gels and energy-jelly blocks on top. Caffeine wouldn't hurt. A couple 5-hr Energy bottles if you're going all day. One for a half-day. (I you cheat and have a support-stop halfway or something then hot coffee, hot chocolate, hot toddy all is good. HOT. Hot soup or broth or blueberry soup. I suppose you could carry an insulated bottle or thermos in your pack for a hot bottle of something good at the halfway, but insulation is dead weight, so be careful. Know yourself. Depends on how close to the edge you're playing. An all-day ski is an edgy thing for me.)
Bring chocolate, gorp, nuts, a couple apples. Oh, and ORANGES!
Oh, and why not some crackers and good cheese and even some dried fish in a good ziplock.
For "water" you'll want a variety pack -- maybe some apple juice. Various Gatorades. Then plain water.
We like to stop for a few minutes every hour and drink a half bottle, eat half a slice. Have a snack.
Then you want a change of dry underlayers if you sweat up badly. Thank heavens I don't. I can wear the same stuff all day, easy. Some like to change into dry hat, gloves, tee, socks at half-day.
Bring a light windbreaker thingy to pop on during any longer breaks. You might even want something you can sit on -- think about if you can sit on your pack.
For a few hours a fanny pack is enough. But a half day or more you'll want to add a rucksack on top of your fanny.
We like fannies coz you can turn them around on your waist and dig into them like they're a desk.
Now, we also have a dilemma. It's terrible when a fanny binds or when it sags. I'd much prefer to hold it up on suspenders, but then I couldn't rotate it around. How to solve?
For the pack a Camelback MULE is about right for an all-day outing.
If you use the pack for hydrating make sure you know your tube-system.
A narrow pack is best for skiing -- for ergonomics and for avoiding back-sweat.
If your pack is totally boss and easy-on/off in the extreme then you could skip the fanny, I suppose. Half of our gang just uses a pack. This makes sense: 2 gear-carriers of any kind likely weigh more than 1.
In the fanny we carry: map and compass or GPS. (No, *and* GPS. If you have a GPS *still* bring map and compass.) And waxes (maybe) and easy-access GORP snackage. And camera for quick pics on the fly. No real stopping for pics! And some of us carry quick-grab water bottles. I still don't have good awareness of how much I'm sipping with a bladder. Whatever system you use, don't make a mistake. Dehydrating stops the day.
Then you need meds and repair stuff. ...A Leatherman (only a light one!), wire, zipties, duct-tape, a couple hose-clamps, 6" section of ski-pole, a couple thin metal wax/base scrapers (to use to splice a busted ski together -- or bring a couple tapered carbon ski-splice "wafers"), a spare basket/tip, screws. Bandaids, aspirin/ibu, moleskin.
Shades -- sun and clear. A couple hankies.
I personally wear only thin wool. 2 thin shirts, thin hat, med gloves, thin socks, thin longjohns and knickers, suspenders. Perfect down to 5F or adjustable up to 40F and rain.
I find I carry 10 lbs for a half-day and maybe 15 lbs for an all-day. Ideally only 12 lbs max. For me, that zone of 12 > 17 lbs runs the line between fun and misery.
So the list:
*5 hr energy
*chocolate, oranges, nuts
*crackers, cheese, meat
*backpack and fanny pack
*GPS, camera, phone
*compass, map, pen, paper
*mini-seat-pad (if ya don't wanna sit on pack)
*light wool layer to wear
*1 gallon of beverage
*maybe thermos with hot broth
Now, how to take it all to the next level? ...An OVERNIGHT. ...With TWO big days of ski-action!
Answer: I don't know!
It seems like there might be 2 ways to go...
1: go light, go bivvy
2: make a camp, fuel up, warm up
Here's how I'd start to look at what I'd bring in addition to the usual:
*pad (1 lb)
*bags (I'd have to bring 2, 7 lbs)
*bivvy tent (3 lbs)
*dry base layer (2 lbs)
*jacket (1 lb)
*booties (1/2 lb)
*stove, mess-kit (2 lbs)
*small folding pull-saw (1 lb to cut small dead wood for bonfire)
*dinner and breakfast and next day's food (5 lbs)
For 2 big ski days, one would need 2 gallons of water or some way to purifier water in winter. ...Or one could just see if the route might go close to a house or store. And you'd need more like 8 slices of deluxe pizza -- 4 more for day 2 skiing and more gels, cubes, chocolate, oranges, gorp, nuts.
But one would also need dinner and breakfast. I don't know what I'd want or need on the winter ski trail.
Dinty Moore Beef Stew sounds good. A big can of that glooped into a ziplock. 2 brownies. Definitely hot choco.
Water bottles would have to be perfectly sealed -- sleep with them to avoid freeze-up.
Coffee in the a.m. Could be instant. Breakfast in a pot could be cheesy eggs and sausage. A slurry of all that could be pre-mixed and glooped into a super-rugged ziplock of some kind.
More cheese and crackers. Enough crackers to include with dinner and breakfast. Maybe even some tough bread in a ziplock.
Then you're ready to start it all over again...
So how much more weight would that be to go for 2 days?
Like, 17 lbs in extra gear. Plus another 8 lbs water + 2 lbs dinner/break food + 2 lbs day-food. Whew, another 30 lbs! That's maybe 42 lbs total at the start.
This is why the dudes pull sleds. But then do they ski singletrack when pulling sleds? ...Maybe could be done.
Now, at the finish of Day 2 we'd be back down to 20 lbs total by the finish.
For a 1-Dayer we're down to about 2 lbs of gear inside 2 lbs of pack at the finish. Kinda nice when you're on empty. Lets you maybe bite off that 40-mile day.
When pulling a sled one could MAYBE skip all packs. You'd need a method of unclipping and sliding the sled forward (between the legs?) to get at snacks, bevs, then shove it back again to get re-clipped. Though you'd need a bag with pockets to lash into the sled.
What's crazy about carrying a 40-lb pack would be that it would limit your daily range to maybe 25 miles max, if there were hills or trail-breaking. Going light for one day you could maybe nail 50 miles.
So money might have to be applied to this winter-kit. I was just winging it with the gear that I have.
A day's food and drink is about 12 lbs. Drops to zero at the finish. (...So light'n'fast!)
Two days is more like 26 lbs of food'n'drink (dinner and break are on top of what you need for the day's skiing). We can omit hauling Day 2's water by boiling it up at nite, or by poaching it somewhere along the way (be sure to scope that option out ahead of time). So we're down to 18 lbs food'n'drink.
Probably by applying, oh, $500-1000 one could reduce the 17 lbs of winter overnight gear down to 10 lbs.
So maybe we could get the weight of an ultralight winter pack for 2 days of long, fast skiing down to 28 lbs. ...Which would weigh only 14 lbs by the finish. A cheap low-tech "use what ya got" overnighter pack might run 20 lbs at the finish. I wouldn't be skiing fast with 20 lbs.
...Could a sled work for singletrack technical descending? I could probably ski light'n'fast while pulling a 40-lb sled for 2 days -- 15 lbs by finish. The sled would have to have low odds of tip-over -- pack load really low in sled. Not sure if that's truly possible with 40 lbs.
It seems to make better sense, if one hopes to ski far each day, to just bivvy out. And to just keep eating pizza. No stove. Plan to poach water somewhere -- find a house or store on the route for sure. Bring only minimal extra clothes. Maybe just sleep in what you're wearing. It'll warm up when back on the trail. Even a 1-lb change of clothes is a pain. Plan to skip the saw, skip the bonfire and ski into the dark and wake up in the dark. So that's an extra 1 lb for headlamp and batt's. Plan to get a bit cold. Probably our load can be kept down to 20 lbs this way. An extra 2 lbs of food, an extra 8 lbs for overnight rig (even less if you spend money), that bumps your 10-lb rig to 20 lbs for the two-dayer. 20 lbs in a 7-lb sled would pack low and wouldn't tip over much. Might even be OK to carry in a pack. I could maybe build up enough strength to deal with that AND also to ski far.