John Muir Trail, Part 1 -- Gear List (with Shout-Outs to Skinfit, USANA, ProBar, John Mayer, and my BeardLoofah™)

If you have spent any time interacting with me over the last few months, then you probably know I'm hitting the John Muir Trail next week. This is how most of my conversations have played out recently:

"Would you like fries with that?"

"No thanks, but you know where I wish they had fries? The John Muir Trail. It's a 221 mile trail from Yosemite to Mt. Whitney. Yeah, I'm running it with a couple of friends and we're going to try to do it in 9 days which is nearly a marathon a day...we were going to try to do it in 7 days, but I had a bad day on Mt. San Jacinto, so we lengthened probably already knew about that, because I wrote about it on my blog."

"So, would you like fruit or slaw?"

"I'll take the fruit, the slaw might get stuck in my beard...that I'm growing for the John Muir Trail, it also doubles as a loofah, which will come in useful on the trail, because I don't have room for any extra pack weight is currently under 12 pounds, so no sponges allowed."

"Your burger will be right up. Enjoy the John Mayer Trail. I never really liked that guy after what he did to Taylor Swift."

While preparing to cover the JMT, I have learned that the longer the run, the bigger the role gear plays. As the gear choices become more important, I have been trying to find that thin line of balance between weight and necessity. Whittling down a pack to under 12 pounds was difficult and I hope that I have found that balance, but to be honest, the only way to know if it will work is to try it out on the trail. I'm excited and scared about reality of being out on the trail and surviving (hopefully in some comfort) with the gear strapped on my back, dipping my bottle in cold lakes and rivers, and eating enough calories to keep me floating along.

If you're not into gear, and really, I wasn't either a few months ago, I'd move on. This probably isn't for you. This article is for the weight weenies.

Speaking of weenies, yesterday, I was on my hands and knees on my bathroom floor with gear splayed out all around me, hovering over a single tube of chap stick on the center of a kitchen scale and patiently waiting while the blue digital numbers oscillated between 9 and 10 grams before finally settling on 10 grams. As I knelt on the cold tile, hands shaking like a junkie setting up his works, I applied a liberal layer of the waxy stick to my unchapped lips. I'd done it, single digits...9 grams. My lips were now soft and supple, not that it matters; they haven't seen much action since allowing my John Muir trail-beard to have its way with my face.

What follows is a gear list from a relatively new fast packer. If you're here looking for expert advice, don't. I've done some 2-day runs with this gear, and I've tried it all out, but 9 days on the trail could provide completely different results. Hopefully I've successfully balanced the weight vs. need line, but I'm well aware that there may be a big 20 point font warning at the top of this page added by a future, older, and wiser version of myself shaking his head and mocking the current soft-lipped version of myself, asking “what were you thinking?”

I want to thank some of the companies that provided gear for this trip. Some sent free samples to try, and some I have paid for. Bottom line is I'm trusting my journey to the gear provided by these companies, and if they made the cut, it's because I have tried them, and they are the best that I have found.

Skinfit -- skullcap, running gloves, arm warmers, and wind jacket. This stuff is awesome, super light, hi-tech fabric and very comfortable and functional.

USANA -- I have been using these supplements for nearly 20 years and I completely trust everything that the scientists who founded this company put out. My favorite products from USANA that will be with me on the trail are the BiOmega fish oil (to help with inflammation), Procosa (for my joints), the whole food and high protein snack bars, and digestive enzymes to help me process all the high-calorie junk food that I'll be eating on the trail.

ProBar -- I'll be mixing the junk food up with this high quality stuff. Most of my lunches will consist of a ProBar meal bar, which is a great-tasting, organic, whole food meal bar with about 400 calories. I'm also taking the delicious ProBar Bolt organic fruit chews on the trail as snacks.

Fits Sock Company -- for a little piece of heaven, I’ll switch into these wool socks in the evening (along with my silk robe, slippers, and pipe).

Here's the whole gear list:

My sleeping set-up in the wild.
Food for one day.

As for food, I'm targeting 3,500 calories per day. To get to that number, I'm using a combination of high caloric density junk food and whole foods. For some reason, junk food is the most efficient way to get a lot of calories into the system without adding too much weight (to the pack, the belly on the other hand...). I'll start off the day with vanilla iced coffee powder and a couple of pop tarts. I'll snack throughout the day on a mixture of Fritos, jerky, trail mix, USANA protein snack bars, and a ProBar meal bar for lunch. Dinner will be a variety of freeze-dried meals from Expedition Foods. These dinners are healthy and packed with calories, and they are surprisingly good. We're re-supplying at 3 different points on the trail (Red's Meadow, Muir Trail Ranch, and Kearsarge Pass), so I won't be carrying more than about 2 pounds of food at any given time. Day 9 dinner will be at Whitney Portal store and will consist of multiple beverages from the Sierra Nevada brewery and a mediocre, but most delicious bacon double cheeseburger in existence, and I might even get a side of slaw.

Thanks for reading.

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