Hike Prep: Presidential Traverse/Hut Hop

This week I’ll be treating myself to 2.5 days in the Presidential Range of New Hampshire’s White Mountains. A friend from Berks-Lehigh Hiking and Backpacking will be joining me as we hike from Appalachia Trailhead to the Highland Center at Crawford Notch. We don’t have an exact route planned out yet, but we are planning on hitting as many peaks and sub-peaks as we can, hiking roughly 18-20 miles. I’m keeping the mileage short because this will be my first trip to the Whites, and I’m not sure how my body will handle the terrain. We don’t have mountains like that in Pennsylvania!

We will spend two nights in the AMC’s huts (one night at Madison Spring Hut and one at Lakes of the Clouds Hut), which means that my gear selection will be quite different from the norm. The huts will provide us with shelter, bed, water, and hot meals, so I won’t need to carry my tarp, sleeping bag, pad, or a lot of food. I’m planning on a base pack weight right around 7lbs. I could go much lighter, but I’m bringing a few “toys” along for field testing.

I meant to make a video for this, but I was having some technical difficulties. Sorry, but pictures will have to do for now!

My COMPLETE Gear List – Update (6/12/13): After some playing around, this list is now finalized.

Gear Highlights

  • Sea to Summit Reactor Extreme Sleeping Bag Liner: The huts provide us with bunks, pillows, and a few blankets, so the weight of a full quilt or sleeping bag would be overkill. This sleeping bag liner is all I need to put a barrier between my body and the bare mattress. I can always sleep in my down jacket, if it gets chilly in the bunk room. 12.4oz
  • Black Diamond Z-Poles Ultra Distance: This is the carbon fiber version of Black Diamond’s fixed-length trekking poles. I’ve grown to love the aluminum version, so I couldn’t resist picking these up from the clearance rack. Only 10oz for the pair!
  • Nikon Coolpix L120: This is my bigger, nicer camera. It is still considered a Point-and-Shoot, but it has better optics and more features than your standard pocket model. This isn’t top of the line (actually, I don’t think they even make it anymore), but it has 14.1MP resolution and 21x optical zoom. It may be “old”, but it still takes great pics. At 16.7oz, this camera is too heavy for normal backpacking trips, but I’ll have some extra ounces to play with on this trip.
  • Petzl MYO RXP Headlamp: This headlamp can do almost anything (except red light mode). It has regulated light output, which means that it won’t get dimmer as the batteries die. The MYO RXP is also programmable, so you can decide which brightness levels you want to use. This lamp is super bright and is by far the best I’ve ever used for night hiking. The 6oz weight is a huge downside, so I usually carry my Petzl e+Lite (1 oz) instead. Since I have a little extra room on this trip, I’ll give the MYO its time to shine (ha ha).


Even though this is a summer trip, the weather in those mountains is notoriously unpredictable, and the temperatures can range anywhere from the 30’s to the mid-60’s during the day. This means I’ll be layering more like a 3-season trip than a summer trip. I’ll be wearing Outdoor Research Equinox Convert hiking pants, a long-sleeve Patagonia Capilene 2 crew top, and a short-sleeved Patagonia Capilene 1 T-shirt. The Outdoor Research Helium II rain jacket, O2 Original rain pants, and Stoic Hadron Down Cardigan are all in the mix for outerwear. I’ll top it all off with my trusty OR Radar Pocket Cap. I’ll also pack a Zpacks micro-fleece beanie, just in case. My footwear, as usual, will be La Sportiva Wildcat trail runners with Bridgedale socks.


Since the huts will be providing me with breakfast and dinner, I don’t need to carry a ton of food. I’m planning on packing about 1000-1500 calories per day to supplement the hut meals. This will consist mostly of snacks. Peanut M&Ms, Peanut Butter M&Ms, Pro Bars, jerky, and Gatorade mix will be the bulk of those calories. I’m aiming to carry less than 2lbs of food, and I would prefer to be closer to 24 or 25 oz. Finding efficient foods can sometimes take a little thought. Update (6/12/13): Final food weight is 31.9oz. I packed jerky, Peanut M&Ms, Peanut Butter M&Ms, Fruit Leather, Special K Protein Bars, Gatorade Mix, and 2 Candy Bars. Average calories/ounce= 114


4 thoughts on “Hike Prep: Presidential Traverse/Hut Hop

  1. alongourway says:

    A pack weight of about 7lbs sounds like a dream! We just completed a 20 mile roundtrip at Mt. Hood with a lot of weight and it was tough. I’m intrigued by these huts you mention. Is this something native to the NH trails?

    • dcbortz says:

      I’m from Pennsylvania, and huts like that don’t exist here. AMC does have some sort of hut/lodge system in Maine. Huts are a big thing in Europe. Many backpacking trails there have either huts or hiker hostels at fairly regular intervals. Thanks for reading!

  2. Emilio says:

    So in retrospect how did your list make out. There were some things left off the AMC suggests you pack on the hut to hut traverse

    • dcbortz says:

      Since this was almost 2 years ago, I’m a little fuzzy on what I left out of my pack. I remember thinking that I had actually over-packed a little. The only minor problem I had was sleeping very cold. It happened both nights, even while wearing all my layers. On a similar trip in 2014 (hiking from Crawford Notch to Appalachia Trailhead with 1 night at Lakes of the Clouds), the weather was TERRIBLE. Even though I was traveling even lighter on that trip, I was fine the whole time. I slept warm, even though I had lighter layers and a lighter bag liner.

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