The Light Way

Ok, our way isn't so light but it's a lot lighter than it used to be. You might ask why we are not the lightest folks on the trail. It's because Mt. Whitney is  11 miles from the trailhead, there is the possibility of ending up on the trail overnight because of Acute Mountain Sickness or injury and carrying 6 to 8 pounds of water at some point in the trip. These are the primary factors complicating going light to ultralight and maintaining an acceptable level of safety.  To figure out what your water requirement are for the Trail Camp to summit round trip all you need to is some simple math, you need 16 to 24 oz./hour to stay hydrated while exercising, a 10 mile round trip to and from the summit with a travel speed of less than 2 MPH. At 2 MPH you will need 2.5 quarts, using the 16 oz./hour figure. If you can do 2 MPH in this section you are a better person than almost all.

So, what can you do to minimize the weight. The following are some ideas to ponder.

What we use: Deuter ACT Trail 32L

This 32L pack will handle every need for a summer day hiker including the extra water weight for Trail Camp round trip. My preferences make for a heavier pack, that is, a framesheet and a suspension because I ask my day packs carry a lot of extra water, gear and clothing weight from time to time.

What we have decided a against is a fanny pack because you just can't put enough stuff in one and we do like our hydration system way too much but to each his own. If you can figure out how to make it work for you go for it.

What we use: Feathered Friends Hyperion Jacket, Marmot DriClime Windshirt, REI All Season Gloves and Mountain Hardware Dome Perignon Windstopper Hat

This would be an easy decision if you could guarantee it will be clear, sunny, 60º F with a mild breeze all day, you didn't have to deal with an alien trying to crawl out of your right eye while you were yaking at 14,000' and your left knee won't lock up from the pounding. Then, I'd say leave all the items listed above behind because you won't need them.

Unfortunately, we know people who were in outstanding shape who have spent a night on this mountain above 12,000' and had to depend on the kindness of others to survive the night. This is why our plan builds in an acceptable, to us, safety margin.  Hubris and arrogance will not immunize you from a night in subfreezing temperatures above 12,000' at night but planning will mitigate the problems associated low temperature stays, as low as single digits on the peak in August.

Our insulation system weighs well under 2-0 pounds because we decided to spend way too much on a 800 fill power down jacket. We augment this with our rain gear, another reason not to go with a poncho as rain gear.

You might want to add a second pair of gloves if your goal is to stand on the peak at sunrise. The gloves you will have worn most of the night getting to the peak will be damp with sweat and your hands will get cold quickly once you arrive on the summit to hang out with all the other loons who got up way too early.

What we use: Platypus 1.8 L Reservior (2) Nalgene 1L Bottle, Steripen

Hopefully, you are not considering carrying the 17 to 18 pounds water you will need to complete this trip because you think the water in the Lone Pine Creek is going to do you bodily harm. To rid you of this idea, on your next hike put 8 quarts of water in your current day pack and hike 16 miles, +4,000' or so. I thought this was a brilliant idea until I took 6 quarts and hiked 5 miles up 1,700'. The following day a bought a water filter. Today, I carry a Steripen when I go into areas of the Sierra where the quality of the water is questionable to me, the MMWT is on my list of questionable areas. I do not filter in most of the Eastern Sierra. If you don't want to spend $100 on a filter or a UV system, like a Steripen, get yourself some type of chemical treatment to ease your apprehension about drinking water along the trail.

We highly recommend a hydration system because it, too, promotes hydration with water always at the ready. Two hydration bladders, like the Platypus, and feed tube weigh less than a one quart Nalgene bottle. We bring the Nalgene to purify water and mix Cytomax.

Still not convinced? You are planning taking those 8 quarts up the mountain and cache it at strategic locations. One, it might be against the regulations and there are a lot of newbies out there who just might think you dumped your water because it weighed too much and rather than filter their water they'll just take yours, we almost took someone's Gatorade which was stashed in the snow at the cables in '97,  when we were newbies.

Who's going to be fresher at the end of the day the person hauling around 17 pounds of water a good portion of the day or the  hiker who carried no more than 4 half of the day? How much money did you spend on this trip and how badly do you want to stand on Mt. Whitney at the mid point of your day? Carrying 17 pounds of water is more than few nails in the coffin of your Whitney dreams.

What we use: Kayland Contact Rev, Smartwool Merino Wool Hiking Socks and Ultimax Sock Liners

I use medium weight hiking boot for day hiking fro a couple reasons, a fit issue and I try not to stay on trails all that much.  It is our opinion you should get high quality footwear for this trip, no matter which type of shoes you ultimately choose. You are asking your feet to so some extraordinary things this day.

If you choose mid-weight backpacking boots you will end up with footwear overkill. However, you won't feel every pebble in the trail and if they have a GTX liner you won't have to worry about sloshing through some of the water crossings at the end of the day.

Lightweight hiking boots with a plastic shank, which won't torque all that much, are probably the best all around shoe for this trip. They offer support, they protect the soles of your feet from bruising and minimize the chance of a sprained ankle.

The ultralight crowd will use trailrunners. If you choose this type of footwear be aware of some of the problems associated with it. Most do not have a GTX liner, so if it rains you are going to have some wet cold and possibly blistered feet. Some of the other problems include bruising on the soles of your feet (you will feel every pebble), if they don't have a heel cut your chances of slipping and sliding will be higher, a greater chance of a sprained ankle than if you were wearing boots. However, you will a a very lightweight less fatiguing pair of shoes which may make the difference between success or failure.

We can't emphasize more the use of high quality merino wool socks and liners with whatever footwear choice. This combination will minimize the chance of blistering.

Another great idea if you have the time stop at Trailside Meadow and dunk your feet in the creek for 15 minutes. You will be amazed at reduction in the width of your feet. It's the halfway point on the descent and it wouldn't be such a bad idea to throw a few calories in your mouth while your feet are enjoying the creek...did we mention the head dunk?

What we use: Ex Officio Air Strip Shirt, REI Endeavor Convertible Pants, REI Boxer Briefs and Penn State Baseball Hat

There is clothing; then there is clothing. If you are day hiker just gathering up the essentials for this trip and have a beer budget the clothing we utilize will bust your budget, and we bought most of it on sale. We've been acquiring this stuff for 11 years and are now working on our 2nd set of 3-season gear and a set of 4-season gear.

What you need here is wicking synthetics. Cotton, while comfortable, doesn't dry quickly. Our synthetics will usually dry during a 20 minute break with the exception of the waistband. If you look around you can pick up this stuff inexpensively at one of the many Internet discounters, such as,, just remember to buy it from one who doesn't do business in your state you don't have to pay sales tax.

Keep in mind your 14 hour day hike might just become a 36 hour overnighter without a sleeping bag or tent in near freezing conditions if you blow out a knee or become hypoxic. Think of you clothing as part of your survival system.


It is very easy to take too much food up the trail. Most people do not figure on loosing their appetite during the day. Everyone we've hiked with here has to some extent. So, let's figure this out. You will be on the trail 12 to 17 hours on average and a 150 pound man will expend about 110 calories per mile, add your packweight and do the math to figure out what you will be expending. We take around 2,500 calories of food and will eat a majority of it before we reach the 96 Switchbacks.

See our food list on the day hike gear page. This is pared down greatly from what we took in 1997. Another thing we have found out the hard way is not to eat above Trail Camp, after a few bouts of nausea after eating on the summit here and at White Mountain.

Make sure you bring a powdered electrolyte replacement. If taken at regular intervals, it will reduce your chances cramping during and after the hike.

First Aid, Repair...Etal

It's a day hike so take the absolute minimum you will need for the day. You can only take no more than a dozen Ibuprofen during a 16 hour day on the mountain so why take more than that. Same goes for the other things in the first aid kit. How many Band-Aids, Moleskin sheets, etc. do you really need. Then lose the kit bag and use nested ziplocks.

The same holds true for sunscreen and DEET, you can loose the DEET if there aren't any mosquitoes at the Portal. Repackage this stuff into 1 oz. containers.

Trail Notes

If you eat it and drink it you don't have to carry it. We use our energy bars as our extra food, about 500 calories. Optimally, this is all we want to come off the trail with food wise at the end of the day.

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Date of Last Change: 2/27/12