The One and Only Shakedown Trip (with a toddler!)

Hi there, it’s been a minute!
My plan was to go for a hike at least once a week since my permit was issued. The reality is I accomplished one quick trip – living in a massive city it kind of sucks you in, getting to nature is not far but requires a big push to break the inertia, especially with Covid related restrictions. My good friend Su is a good mountaineer and helped me take that push.

Shakedown #1: Parque Nacional de Itatiaia

I was curious to know what my base weight was in a worst-case scenario, so I shoved all my stuff into my pack. It was an overkill, but I wanted to get a sense of what I had, knowing half of my gear is going to be replaced once I get to the US. The result: 10kg. Yes, Kilos, not pounds. Shit, the little grams add up quickly.

Every piece of hiking gear I own

The plan was to leave Friday afternoon, but work got in the way, so at 11:59pm I was outside my friend’s house loading up the car. Su, her husband, their 2-year-old son and I drove all through the night to our destiny, about 4 hours away. We got to the park entrance at about 5 am and took a nap at the car until the park opened at 7am.

The Itatiaia National Park is Brazil’s first national park, created in 1937. It is located at the center of an ancient volcanic explosion, that sent rocks flying everywhere. The terrain is therefore very rocky and mountainous with altitudes varying from 540m to 2791m at the peak of Agulhas Negras mountain. It is beautiful! There are some overnight traverses, but because we only had the weekend, we opted to set camp at the main campground and day hike.

Let’s climb that mountain

My friends were hiking with a little day-pack, but I kept my full load to feel it out. It was only right for my unconditioned ass that my first shakedown was with a 2-year-old, walking very slowly. We hiked about 9km with close to 500m of elevation gain. Since the terrain is very steep and rocky there was some treacherous part, including an almost straight-up climb to the peak of the mountain. Theo, the baby, was a champ! Oh, but the descent…

The hiker’s prayer: “Holy mother of descents,

bless my knees for they are precious”.

The descent was on smooth rock, straight down, never-ending, after the rain. My steps were approximately 2-inches apart, sideways, careful, and maybe way too reliant on Vibram soles (I’m converted). Arriving at flat ground was the happiest moment of my life, my feet almost couldn’t understand what was going on.

The next morning, we woke up to the news that a lobo-guará (little Brazilian wolf) had gone to town with some food it managed to get out of the locker (thankfully it wasn’t ours). We enjoyed a slow breakfast, packed up camp and left for the next stretch, but this time Su and Theo stayed behind, and Andre and I pushed on faster for about 8km with 400m elevation gain.

The faster pace was challenging, but we found a rhythm, until we got up to a 500m stretch on the side of a rock wall with terrifying exposure. Very slowly and finding one totem at a time we eventually made it through, but I do hope I don’t come up to anything like this on the PCT, to be honest. Four hours later we were at the park’s entrance where Su and Theo waited for us to begin our drive back.

The takeaways

#1 Long sleeves!!!

It was a cloudy weekend, but the few times the sun shone through, it blazed. My shoulders were burnt very annoyingly by the end of day 1.

#2 I sleep cold

After being kept compressed for 7 years I already knew my sleeping bag was worthless, but with all my layers on I was still cold at night. Still need to find out whether a warmer sleeping bag will do the trick or if my 3.1 R-value air pad is to blame. I’m thinking about taking a very light insulating mat (the cheap foiled ones) that can increase my R-value and double up as a yoga mat. Still tbd.

#3 it’s not bad mood, it’s hunger

That one is self-explanatory!

#4 New equipment vs. what I already own

I have a pot that serves me well but is not titanium ultralight. I have trekking poles that work but are aluminium and therefore on the heavier side. I have a great headlamp, but the battery is not rechargeable. Maybe you guys can weigh in at this one… should I invest in new lighter/better stuff, or make do with what I already have?

#5 I can fit everything I need into my 45L old and trusted Gregory pack

Or at least I should be able to, given I’m 5’2”. I’m not taking the Gregory pack because I want a lighter one that has less fuss and better pockets, but I’m leaning towards a 50L one instead of a 60L. I’m not super ultralight, but I’m small and so is my stuff… I think I’ll be alright.

#6 I have to improve my physical conditioning

I was doing some weight training, but I’ve slacked and my body is nowhere near the shape I need. Guess I’m looking at a very slow first week or so on trail, hopefully I’ll improve with time.

PS: Since I didn’t win the giveaway (sad, very sad) I’m slowly purchasing my gear and uploading every item into my gearlist at HikerLink. Go check it out if you’re curious!

Su, André and Theo

 

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Comments 2

  • Avatar
    Slinky : Mar 6th

    Lara,

    Your tent and bag look like good lightweight choices. You could probably drop some weight with you pack. There are a lot of good and comfortable to carry packs for around two pounds. As far as pack volume, you should get a good feel for that since you have all your gear and an existing pack size for volume measurement/comparison. The Trek has a good pack comparison guide as well as Clever Hiker.com. The smaller items like headlamp etc. can save you some weight but it will be smaller amounts ie ounce here or there. I usually consider dollars/ounce weight savings and that usually helps me make a decision. Hope this helps, and best of luck.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Lara Antonia : Mar 6th

      Thanks for the input, Slinky! I still have some serious dialing down and shopping ahead, but slowly I think I’m getting the hang of it. I’m not sure I’ll join the sub-10 pounds crew, but I’ll do my best! lol

      Reply

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