A Shakedown (Or The Unexpected Virtue of Uphills)

A Warm February Shakedown

This past President’s Day weekend Zach & I headed to Zaleski State Park and Backpacking Trail in Southern Ohio to test out our (near) final gear list, as well as our resolve. We only headed out for a night, with a hike in to the campsite and back out to our car – only about 15 miles total. However, it felt like a good idea to get one last trip in – no matter how quick it was. We had planned on this weekend trip for awhile, thinking (incorrectly) that a weekend trip in the middle of February would mean getting a good test of our cold-weather gear and our ability to stay warm through the night in sub-freezing temperatures. As the weekend got closer it was clear we were going to have a beautiful weekend of unseasonably warm weather, but we still made the test work in our favor.


We had a pretty uneventful hike on the way in and were able to set up camp quickly and easily. Zach and I share an REI Half Dome 2 tent, which is a little on the heavy side at 4.5 lbs, but MAN IS IT ROOMY. We fit comfortably on our sleeping pads in the tent with our packs and shoes fitting easily at our feet. We settled in and read on our kindles for a bit before deciding to make some dinner (read: boil some Rice Sides). It started to rain while we were boiling rice, and honestly, I was really thankful that it did – at least we got some kind of test on this weekend trip. We slept well (and warm) in our Enlightened Equipment quilts, despite being woken up a few times by a pack of coyotes howling in the distance, and packed up quick to hit the trail early.

While this paragraph-long explanation of our quick shakedown sounds idyllic, let me list for you some things I/we learned :

Lessons Learned :

  • Zach and I hike at different paces. He is MUCH faster than I am, especially on the uphills
  • If you keep your pot of rice cooking on the MSR stove after it has boiled, it will burn onto the bottom of the pot
  • We need to find a better way to store our tent/footprint/fly in our packs after we have used it and it’s gotten wet – a garbage bag? leave your suggestions
  • Couples that roll into a campsite late and immediately start complaining/singing/farting at a loud volume are extremely annoying – don’t be those people
  • If you don’t wash your hiking socks before you wear them they will be tight enough to give you blisters
  • Don’t drink a liter of water before bed
  • Do bring a bag of gummy bears as an after dinner treat
  • Focus your breathing on the uphills, don’t be like me and forget to breathe while you’re working hard
  • I had forgotten that finishing a climb, no matter how long or short, feels good – acknowledge that good feeling after the uphill and be proud of yourself


Zach and I leave for Atlanta on March 4th, and have registered with the ATC for March 7th as the official start date of our NOBO thru-hike. This quick trip taught us a couple useful things, but I have no doubt the AT has far more to teach us – about backpacking, about the outdoors, and about ourselves. We’re excited to get out there and give it our best shot – just 13 days!





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Comments 5

  • Jon-boy : Feb 23rd

    I was out at Zaleski the same weekend (Friday night: camp #3) and heard the coyotes as well – it’s mating season for the yotes. I conked out immediately after getting my hammock setup.

    Depending on your backpack and if you have a mesh pocket on the outside, you could get a net or sil-nylon sack to stuff the wet gear in it and leave it on the outside of the pack to hopefully dry some. If not, try a sil-nylon bag inside your pack, but outside the pack liner. That way if there’s any leakage from the tent stuff, it’s not on your sleeping gear, clothing, etc. Me personally, I’d keep the tent itself sep. from the fly, foot print, etc to reduce the chance of water getting inside the tent sleeping area as well.

    Good luck this year!

    • Ashley George : Mar 7th

      how funny that you were there too! and happened to see this post! Thank you so much for the advice re: the tent, SO helpful.

  • Hummingbird : Feb 23rd

    Try using a contractor’s bag (they are thicker than a garbage bag) to line your pack and put the wet items in that bag. Best of luck and happy trails!

  • J-Bird : Feb 25th

    What works for me is strapping the tent stuffsack to the outside/bottom of my pack. It has the added benefit of letting it dry out (some) and making it easy to get out if I stop in a sunny open spot.

    Good luck y’all.

  • Ryan Keane : Feb 25th

    Strap wet stuff (rainfly, groundsheet) to the outside of your pack as loosely as possible without blowing away or getting caught on passing branches. You want them to dry out while you hike to weigh less and not start to smell or get mildewy. Once fully dry, then they can just go back in your pack as normal.


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