Food Planning for the JMT

Backpacking food

I’m going to use the calculation as suggested by Mike Clelland in his book Ultralight Backpackin’ Tips of 1.4 pounds of food per person per day for the first ten days of the trip and then 1.75 pounds of food per person per day for the last ten days of the trip. Also, this assumes the selection of foods that average 125 cal/oz.

Days 1-3
2 lunches, 2 dinners, 2 breakfasts = 2 @1.4 ppppd [2800 Cal per day] = 2.8 ppp =
5.6 lbs total

Re-supply at Tuolumne Meadows. Eat lunch and dinner at Tuolumne Meadows on Day 3; Eat breakfast at Tuolomne Meadows on morning of Day 4

Day 4-6
3 lunches, 2 dinners, 2 breakfasts = 2.3@1.4 ppppd [2800 Cal per day] = 3.22 ppp =
6.5 lbs total

Eat dinner at Red’s Meadow. Take a zero day at Red’s Meadow eat at their grill. Eat breakfast at grill the morning leaving Reds Meadow.

Day 8-11
4 lunches, 3 dinners, 3 breakfasts = 3.2 @1.4 ppppd [2800 Cal per day] = 4.6 ppp =
9.2 lbs total

Re-supply at Muir Trail Ranch on Day 10. No meal service available at MTR.

Days 12-19
8 lunches, 8 dinners, 8 breakfasts = 8 @1.75 ppppd [3500 Cal per day] = 14 ppp =
28 lbs total

This assumes no resupply at Independence and one really long-mile day. I’m going to assume that we will need to send this ahead in two 5 gallon buckets. We might consider also having only one bear canister at the beginning of the trip and adding an additional bear canister for the last leg of the trip.

Lightweight backpacking food resources:

Planning for the JMT SOBO thru-hike: Happy Isles to Whitney Portal

July 22, Day 0: Arrive in the Sierras

This will be a very long day indeed as we will have a 7.5 hour drive from Santa Rosa (North Bay) to Lone Pine. At Lone Pine we will then park my car at Whitney Portal so that we will have a vehicle for the drive back at the end of our hike.

My sister is coming down with us on the 22nd to help us with the first days of the trip. She will then drive us in her car back up to Yosemite Valley, stopping at Reds Meadow, and possibly Tuolumne Meadows along the way to drop off our re-supplies. This will be another 4.5 hours.

Once we arrive in Yosemite Valley, we will need to pick up our permit. Our permit allows us to sleep the night before our hike in the Backpackers Campground. It’s unclear if my sister can sleep there with us or if she will need to get another site.

MANTRA: Climb high, sleep low!

July 23, Day 1: Happy Isles to Cloud Rest Junction (7.2 + 4 miles)

Today we plan to begin our hike early to get a head start on the crowds (4:30AM would be my goal) and to make sure we are not hiking Half Dome during the heat of the day. We have a 5.9 mile hike with a 2940 ft gain in elevation to the Half Dome junction. We will need to chose whether we go up to the junction via the slightly longer John Muir Trail or via the Mist Trail which is shorter, more scenic, but more grueling.

We will leave our packs somewhere near the Half Dome Junction, and make the climb up Half Dome, a four mile round trip from the junction.

639859647_362819962a_mAm I a little apprehensive about the Half Dome climb? Sure, but I’m determined and I know I can do it. Reminder to self: pack a pair of gloves with really good grips for the cables. See this advice so that you won’t die up there.

We will then ascend a few miles further up the JMT past the Half Dome junction to our camp for the night somewhere between miles 7 and 8 along the JMT.

July 24, Day 2: Clouds Rest Junction to Cathedral Lakes (10 mi)

The next day we shouldn’t have to be as ambitious as the first. The trail levels off after Clouds Rest junction and then actually begins to descend towards Tuolumne Meadows. We have considered hiking all the way to Tuolumne Meadows spending the night in the backpacker’s camp there. This would add another 5 miles to the day. Fifteen miles might be a little too many miles to tackle during the first part of the trip when we are still adjusting to altitude and getting in shape while on the trail.

July 25, Day 3: Cathedral Lakes to Tuolumne Meadows (5 mi)

Here we will take a “nearo” day at Tuolumne Meadows. (A “nearo” day is a nearly zero day). We will hike in the early morning into Tuolumne Meadows, making sure to arrive before the post office closes at noon so that we can claim our re-supply.

We’ve talked about my sister meeting us there as well. She’d spend some time in Yosemite Valley with friends and then spend her last night and day at Tuolumne with us before returning back home. If she did this, we wouldn’t have to rely on the re-supply pick up at the post office.

Here at Tuolumne, we will resupply, eat heartily at the Tuolumne Meadows Grill, shower, wash clothing, contact home, and take care of any other business.

July 26, Day 4: Tuolumne Meadows to Rush Creek Junction (15 mi)

An ambitious day which would end just after going over Donahue pass. We may need to rethink this one and instead camp at Lyell Forks bridge five miles back. This would mean we’d climb Donahue pass the next morning rather than in the afternoon. This might need to be a wait-and-see kind of decision based on our conditioning at this point, the weather, and other factors that might affect our choice.

July 26, Day 5: Rush Creek Junction to Lake Ediza Junction (10 mi)

This should be reasonable if we hike the longer day on Day 4. Decisions will need to be made.

July 27, Day 6: Lake Ediza Junction to Reds Meadow (10 mi)

Again, another reasonable mileage day. At Reds Meadow, we will pick up our re-supply, shower, gorge ourselves on a dinner at their cafe, and sleep at their campgrounds.

July 28, Day 7: Zero day at Reds Meadow

July 29, Day 8: Reds Meadow to Purple Lake (13.5 mi)

July 30, Day 9: Purple Lake to Pocket Meadows/Mott Lake Junction (12.5 mi)

July 31, Day 10: Pocket Meadows to Marie Lake (or Bear Creek)

The mileage on this day will all depend on whether or not we choose to stop at VVR. I hear it’s very nice, but with Lake Edison being so low, and the ferry running only certain times a day, it may not be worth it. We will not be re-supplying here. Rather we will re-supply at Muir Trail Ranch. We need to send our 5-gal bucket resupply 3 weeks before we will be picking it up. That means sending it on July 10th.

Aug 1, Day 11: Marie Lake to MTR  to Piute Creek Junction (10 mi)

We will definitely be re-supplying at Muir Trail Ranch. I will need to put together the re-supply bucket and send it about three weeks before our intended arrival date. We need to make some serious decision making about whether or not we will try and re-supply in Independence (and get off the trail at Kearsage pass) or if we will try and carry eight days worth of food from MTR for the rest of the trip.

If we don’t re-supply at Independence, which seems like our current decision, then we will need to up the daily mileage in order to decrease the number of days of food we need to carry.

Aug 2, Day 12: Piute Creek Junction to Evolution Basin (12-13 mi)

Aug 3, Day 13: Evolution Basin to Grouse Meadows (14 mi)

Aug 4, Day 14: Grouse Meadows to Lake Marjorie (19.1 miles)

Aug 5, Day 15: Lake Marjorie to Rae Lakes (15 mi)

Aug 6, Day 16: Rae Lakes to Center Basin Creek (12 mi)

Aug 7, Day 17: Center Basin Creek to High Sierra Trail Junction (12-13 mi)

Aug 8, Day 18: High Sierra Junction to Guitar Lake (Arctic Lake outlet) (7 mi)

Add 1-2 days if we choose to get off the trail at Kearsage Pass and re-supply in Independence.

Aug 9, Day 19: Guitar Lake to Whitney Portal via Mt. Whitney Summit (11.3 mi + 3.8 mi)

I would suggest a few days out when we know exactly when we plan to arrive at Whitney Portal that we make a reservation for a place in Lone Pine like the Dow Villa or the Whitney Portal Hostel.

Resources for hiking 15-20 mile days:

A Tale of Three Stoves

So you might have figured out by now that I like to make my own gear and I have a wee bit of an obsession with stoves. I watch far too many YouTube videos about people boiling water.

Let me tell you a tale about three alcohol stoves: the first one I ever bought, the first one I ever made, and the last one I will ever need. Each holds a special place in my heart and I’m not ready to give any of them up, but I think I’ve found that one that I will keep coming back to over and over again.

My First Love

My first foray into alcohol stoves was a purchased Trangia mini. It’s a well-built, sleek, and mean water boiling machine.

DSCN0020You can see the good Swedish craftsmanship of the stove. With the included pot stand/windscreen, two cups of water in the included aluminum pot will boil somewhere between 7-8 minutes. The stove itself weighs in at about 4.0oz. The whole kit comes in at about 11.7 oz. Pretty heavy considering all the light weight, BYOG alcohol stoves out there!

To improve the boil time of the Trangia and enable me to use it with my Snow Peak 700 pot, I made a Caldera Clone out of aluminum flashing using an on-line template by Captain Paranoia on Zen Stoves. If you decide to take this on, I would remind you to measure the pot you are going to use with the conical stand very, very carefully.


I used a Caldera Clone fissure model that can be stored in two pieces. It was made to support my Snow Peak 700 mug/pot.The Caldera Clone provides both a wind screen and a pot support and is custom made for your pot. Using the Caldera Clone, the boil time of two cups of water was reduce to 4-5 minutes.

The only thing that bothers me about this system is that I cannot fit the conical stand in the pot and it is bulky with pointy,sharp aluminum edges that I worry about tearing at my pack.

The Rebound: Super Cat Stove

After having read Andy Skurka’s book The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide: Tools and techniques to hit the trail, I became convinced that I had to have a Super Cat Stove as described by Andy in his book.

SkurkaI decided over my 2014-15 Winter break, to spend a couple days making various alcohol stoves including the Super Cat. The Super Cat is a low pressure, side burner stove, and despite the 8-9 minute 2 cup of water boil time, was the only one I kept out of the three I made that break including the penny alcohol stove.

I loved the Super Cat’s simplicity and its 0.3oz weight! Compared to other stoves I made, it is super easy to construct. The only problem I found with it was that it did not work well with my Snow Peak 700. The problem seemed to be that this type of stove works best with pots that are wider thanDSCN0023 4.0 inches and the Snow Peak 700 is quite narrow. Rather than the flames heating up the bottom of the pot, they curl around the sides, losing their ability to directly transfer heat to the pot. In addition, I seem to need always 30-40mL of fuel to get a decent boil.

Despite all this, however, the stove is amazingly efficient for its weight, and with the right pot (like my 0.8L aluminum pot that came with the Trangia set) works quite well.

The Final Solution: Fancee Feest Stove

Eventually, if you look long and hard enough and are willing to wait, the perfect stove will appear. And appear it did this afternoon. I was discussing design and construction with people at work today and mentioned how I had really enjoyed researching, designing, and building the stoves. Knowing that I didn’t yet feel like I had the perfect alcohol stove, I went searching through YouTube again and stumbled upon the the Fancee Feest stove.

Carbon fiberLike the Super Cat, it is primarily constructed out of a 3.0oz cat food can, but it is a wicking stove with the wick sandwiched between the outer cat food can and the an inner can which can be almost any small can with a diameter slightly smaller than the cat food can. For the inner can, I used a small tomato paste can. For the wick, I purchased a carbon fiber mat made out of a material (that to me sounds like the name of a science fiction character) called Zoltek Pyron. It is known at places like Home Depot and Lowes as a flame protector and found in the plumbing aisle of the store.

The carbon fiber acts to wick the alcohol through the gap between the cat and tomato paste cans to create full flame all around the base of the stove. The top of the tomato paste can acts as a pot stand.

DSCN0026Here’s a picture of the beauty. You can see the carbon fiber sandwiched between the two cans. Also notice a small hole on one side just under the upper lip of the tomato can. This is apparently necessary to let out some of the pressure built up within the tomato can caused by the lit alcohol as it turns into heated gas.

What I like about the stove: (1) it takes only 5:30 minutes to boil two cups of water, (2) it weighs only 1.0oz (more than the Super Cat, but 3.0oz less than the Trangia), (3) I can use it very successfully with both my 0.8L aluminum pot that came with the Trangia set and with my Snow Peak 700 pot/mug, and (4) I was consistently able to use only 20mL of fuel with the stove to get a consistent boil at 5:30 and very little fuel left after the water was brought to a boil. The fact that it uses less fuel to bring the water to a boil will save me fuel weight in the long run.

Here’s a YouTube video of the Fancee Feest stove from Shug. If you don’t know this guy’s videos, you should.

Winning the Lottery–JMT Permit is confirmed for late July

glacier point half dome

On February 5, I got some great news: my application for a permit to begin hiking the JMT at Happy Isles through to Whitney portal was accepted. I won the permit lottery! Apparently, you have something around a 10-20% chance of winning the permit lottery, so I felt very lucky indeed.

I had spent a good 30 minutes between 9:00 and 9:20AM EST trying to fax in my application. The fax machine in the school will try the number once more if it is busy. After 20 minutes of trying, I had nearly given up, when low and behold on the second -try of a fax after about the 10th busy signal, my faxed permit application went through at about 9:20 EST. Now, all I could do was cross my fingers and wait.

Around 2pm that day, I got an email confirming that I had won a permit through the lottery including the hike up Half Dome. Yes! I was ecstatic. It made the trip this summer even closer to reality.

John Muir

Information on obtaining your permit can be found:

Sewing & Upcycling Saturday–DIY Gear

Today I was determined to make some gear I’d been thinking about making for a while now. I have a trip coming up next weekend. The highs will be in the upper 20’s and nights will be in the low 10’s. There is a possibility of snow and then freezing rain.

I decided that I had two needs for this cold trip: (1) insulation for my Nalgene bottles so that water doesn’t freeze and (2) additional insulation and weatherproofing for my hands.

Nalgene bottle insulation

My first task was to make Reflectix cozies for my two Nalgene bottles. Now some of you might be saying to yourself, “Nalgene bottles? Aren’t those heavy for ultralight backpacking?” and you’d be right, but they are indispensable in the Winter. Plastic water bottles and containers like Platypus collapsible bottles are very light, but don’t fair well in Winter. The lighter plastics may crack when exposed to very low temps and frozen water. So keep those Nalgenes around for Winter!

Reflectix is a home insulation that can be found at any home improvement store. One roll will go a long way. I’ve used only about a third of my roll so far and have made a cozy for all my pots and mugs and a cozy for Freezer bag cooking.


To make the cozy for my Nalgene bottle, I cut a circular base for the cozy and then taped a cylindrical wall to the base. The result is the cute cozy as seen to the left.

I wanted a bit more insulation for it. I had this really beat up and soiled neoprene lunch bag that had been sitting around the house waiting to be thrown out. I decided I would upcycle the neoprene lunch bag and make it into an insulative Nalgene sleeve. DSCN0005

Sewing neoprene proved to be more difficult than I expected and I can’t admit to doing a great job with it, but the end product is pretty close to what I wanted even if the stitching isn’t the highest quality.


The result is the neoprene + Reflectix Nalgene bottle cozy shown to the left. The stitching is poor but the overall concept is good and it cost me a total of $0.00 as I had all the materials already and got to upcycle a used neoprene lunch bag that had seen better days.

Freezing temperatures look out, I’m ready for you!

Rain Mitten Shells and Fleece Liners

The next project of the day was to make Tyvek rain mitten shells and fleece liner mittens. I had purchased the Tyvek a while back to make an inexpensive ground cloth for my TarpTent Notch.

I had two more projects in mind for the rest of my Tyvek–rain mitten shells and a rain kilt. Given that I was to expect both snow and perhaps freezing rain next weekend on my hike, I thought it wise to get the rain mitten shells completed this weekend.

To make the fleece liners for the mittens, I upcycled an old REI fleece jacket. It was at least ten years old and was barely being worn anymore because it collected dog hair like no other garment I owned. Once the zipper broke a few weeks ago, I decided that it had outlived its usefulness as a jacket–it could be upcycled as a pair of fleece mittens.

I found a pattern for fleece mittens on-line. I used the women’s size pattern for the fleece mitten liners and the men’s size pattern for the Tyvek rain mitt shells.

DSCN0008I cut out the pattern in the fleece using mostly the back panel of the jacket and the sleeves for the fleece fabric. Originally, I was going to make these with a liner, but in the end didn’t make the inner fleece liner as I felt that the mittens would be too thick and bulky.

I sewed the pieces together, inserting a piece of elastic at the wrist of each glove. You can see the nearly finished fleece mittens in the photo below.

DSCN0009The mittens turned out well and since I upcycled an old fleece jacket, only cost me $0.21 in elastic purchased at the fabric store.

Next, I needed to make the Tyvek rain mitt shells. I used the same pattern at first and then realized that the shells would be too small for the fleece liner mitts to fit into. The shells would need to be larger to allow for the fleece liners to fit inside. So, I printed out the male sized fleece patterns from the same website knowing that the larger size of the male mitts would give me a little more room to play.

Sewing Tyvek is pretty difficult. I had to decrease the tension of the stitching on my sewing machine and run it at a slower pace. My on-line research lead to the conclusion that the sewn seams will not be waterproof. To waterproof them, I’ll need to purchase sheathing tape (known often as Tyvek tape). Today, we got 5 inches of snow, so my trip to the hardware store to get the sheathing tape will be delayed a few days.

DSCN0011Shown to the left are the almost finished fleece mitt liners and the Tyvek rain mitt shells. I’m pretty proud of them. I’ll be even prouder once I fully seal the Tyvek with the tape.

All and all this project cost me a total of $0.21 for the elastic in the cuffs of the fleece liners. I upcycled a Polartec fleece jacket and already had the Tyvek from a previous purchase.


Here’s the final product. Ready to be tested out next weekend.

A few improvements I’d like to make sometime:

(1) seam seal with Tyvek tape.

(2) insert an elastic cord at the base of the mittens so it can be securely closed around the forearm.