Bottom line: Carry the ten essentials plus a few nice-to-have items. Be prepared to spend the night out in the wilderness in case of an emergency or if you simply don’t get out of the Core by dark.
Hikers through-hike the Enchantment Lakes with everything from full backpacks (as I’ve done a couple of times) to running vests holding only water and an InReach.
The right gear selection is ultimately up to you, but here are some suggestions.
First off, make sure you have the “Ten Essentials.” You’ll find various takes on what they are, but the lists are essentially the same. The Mountaineers has a good 2-page PDF illustrating the ten: Navigation, light, sun protection, first aid, a knife, matches, emergency shelter, food, water, and clothes.
You don’t need to carry a tent and sleeping bag unless you want to. But do make sure each person has something, like a Mylar bivy bag and a jacket, to keep from getting hypothermia in case you’re stuck in the basin until dawn. An emergency overnight needn’t be dramatic. You’re not camping, maybe not even sleeping; you’re just staying alive until daybreak so you can finish your hike.
Don’t underestimate the sun. High elevation sun is stronger than it feels because there’s less atmosphere to filter the UV rays. The snow and granite act as reflectors, doubling the strength of the sun’s effects on you — from heat to sunburn to dehydration. Even when it’s cloudy, protect yourself from the sun. Dark sunglasses, a shade hat and sunscreen are all important to use. Put sunscreen on, including under your clothes, in the morning before you leave for the trailhead.
Your first aid kit can be as large or small as your imagination. You can imagine the possible injuries on a hurried hike like this. One slip can make you stop to treat anything from abrasions to a broken ankle to head trauma. If you have old injuries or conditions that could flare up, be prepared to treat them. Reconsider carrying heavy medical supplies that no one in the group is trained to use.
Add to that list of ten essentials: insect repellent (I’d call picaridin an essential on this hike), water purification, a satellite communicator, toilet necessaries, prescriptions you may need en route, trekking poles, and a few bucks in cash.
If you plan to cross fords barefoot or switch from your hiking footwear into water shoes like Crocs, then add a small towel to your list. It’ll speed up your crossings. I use those blue backpacker’s towels for this. If you overheat, they double as a wet bandana to cool your neck.
Toss in anything else you think you might need on your adventure or in an emergency, but try to keep it light.
Finally, if you have young people in your group, be totally prepared to deal with their possible injuries, fatigue or disillusionment. There’s not really time for a meltdown.
Your pack weight will probably be somewhere between 6 and 16 pounds plus water.
Collage illustrations by Claire Giordano for the Mountaineers.
Fire up your adventure blog by acquiring this domain name.