Posted by: JerseyOrganic | July 17, 2015

Lessons learned while prepping and backpacking along the Mullica River.

My obsessive compulsiveness and extreme lack of patience prompted me to make these ridiculously detailed excel files for backpack and camping purposes. See, once we got back from Shenandoah I started meticulously planning and prepping for the Backcountry. It was almost a whole year from the equipment purchase to actually using the stuff. The wait was too much to bear, so I kept my mind busy. Below you will see my entire excel spreadsheet listing the Items, Group, Weight in Oz., Amount, Weight in Lbs., Season of use, and a column to track what Items are coming on ‘this’ trip. (In the screenshot below, ‘This trip’ = Acadia- Sept 2015) I also used this file and the corresponding pivot table for our first hammock trip in the backcountry.

These tables have been extremely helpful in planning because they gave me the ability  to easily determine what we need, what we have too much of, and all the weight calculations (most important!).

In column B row 2, you see the total weight in pounds is 73. This is our Skin Out Weight; meaning everything from what we are wearing to water and food, fuel, consumables, and literally everything else. Not considering the aforementioned items, our pack weight was about 20 and 25 lbs; which i think is pretty good for our first time. The list below also shows all items for all seasons- please keep in mind this is the all in list. If we had all materials (red being things we don’t yet own) we would be good to go anywhere at anytime. My goal was to keep my dream of two weeks in Montana in sight.image002This pivot table makes a good packing list… Its pulling data from above for ‘This Trip’ and S2 (which is Summer). I reworked the items I plan on bringing to Maine and its now 64lbs. (I removed a lot of food and fuel as 50lbs of the 64 will be checked, to fly) Obviously, I have a lot of stuff and will cut down on some things to save weight. I think I may have gone a little crazy with the First Aid/Toiletry Section. Five pounds is a little much…
image004IMG_4032Unfortunately, the spreadsheet could not tell us what was about to happen during this backcountry experience…but I will tell you now.


So, New Jersey is only 1% Wilderness- Our options of where we can kick it in the backcountry are extremely limited. In South Jersey, there are Primitive Campsites within Wharton State Forest, at the Mullica River Wilderness Campground and the Lower Forge Campground. There are other primitive sites, but these are the only ones where you must trek to; no motorized vehicles allowed.

And so we did this on a stormy day in June 2015, the day before Father’s Day. Chuck and I left around noon and procured our permit at the Batsto Village Office, then strapped on our gear and headed out! It was a beautiful day but they were calling for storms later. The weight on my back (25 lbs.) was nothing as I have been conditioning myself to carry weight. That said, 25 was a little high as I only weigh 100 lbs., so I was carry 5% more than I wanted to. For the record, I carry an Osprey Hornet 46 and Chuck was wearing an Osprey Atmos AG 50. Chuck on the other hand, was having some issues as his pack was brand new and he has not been conditioning.

Backup a year- we decided to get everything we need for backpacking and fit it into my pack; then when Chuck bought his pack it would be an easy split and both packs would be relatively light. This is true, however, Chuck never got to train. (He couldn’t wear my pack as it was too tiny) Which put us in this situation…

Anyway, we schlepped along the Mullica River Trail, enjoying the beauty and peace surrounding us. It was a four mile hike one way to the site. (We could have gone from Atsion as well, which is slightly longer) We made it in only 2 hours, but the last mile it started to downpour. We acted quickly and threw on our jackets and pack covers, then arrived to the site. No one was there! I thought since it was Father’s Day weekend it would have been crazy but there was literally no one else there. Our site was site 8 and it was perfect. Across the path from the river, it was remote and quiet. There were also three perfectly placed trees to try out all our hammocking gear on. Still in the rain, we strung up our ENO HouseFly and ENO Single Nest hammocks in a flash. The HouseFly was awesome and did a great job of keeping out the rain, though with all the lines, it may be easy to trip when walking around camp. The two of us were able to get in side by side without any issue.

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Batsto Lake

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The water was ripping

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Old logging building at Batsto

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Chuck on the trail; early on the trail

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there were SO MANY blueberries on the way!

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Pinelands = sandlands

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Aggravation setting in?

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Mile 2 perhaps, the mileage wasn’t very well marked.

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Finally made it! After setting up, the rain subsided.

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Sleepy Chuck.

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2 perfect trees, one split.

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Nice setup, at the time.

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site 7, another good hammock spot.

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Two hammocks side by side.

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Site 9- right on the water but not really a launch site.

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We were not able to get a fire because of the rain, but we were able to relax and I went hunting for blueberries and other wild plants. Soon people started to show up by canoe, but they were located on the other side of the campground. We needed to do a real field test on the JetBoil Flash, so I had prepped dehydrated baggies of ‘Thanksgiving Dinner’. The JetBoil worked perfectly and boiled up water in a flash (hehe). The water was enough for both our meals. I made dinner at home the day before using organic Mashed Potato Mix, Organic Stuffing, Organic Turkey Bacon (that I cooked until jerky-ish) and Organic Freeze Dried Corn, plus some non-organic gross gravy power which was much needed.

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After we ate it started to pour again and was just getting dark… this was a perfect opportunity to cast some lines! We love to fish and found some break down rods at Dicks Sporting Goods in which we can put both rods in a carrying case and it fit perfectly on my pack. We may need think about smaller reels but two reels and some lures packed away nicely in Chucks pack. Unfortunately, no fish were biting but the mosquitoes started so we retired back to our hammocks.

Now for the real test- night time was here. We tried to fall asleep around 9PM, thunder and lightning booming in the background. We should have slept sound but everything went downhill at this point…

The bugs funneled in the HouseFly to escape the rain and by doing so, brought them closer to our bodies. Regardless of the awful Off-deep woods spray that we doused all over the hammocks and tarp, the bugs were relentless. Because it was 90 degree weather, we did not bust out the BugNet as it would have easily made it 100 degrees. That said, our butts were absolutely freezing (common for hammocking) so I slept on my rain clothes instead of using the UnderQuilt as I was fearful to get out of the hammock. I could feel the gnats, flies, and mosquitos swarming around my feet, legs, face. After a sleepless night we packed up at 5AM, more quickly than anyone has ever packed up before, I’m sure, and headed off miserable and tired. We walked to four miles back to the car silent, swatting flies along the way. Thank goodness I had snickers bars hidden away, which we ate for breakfast at 7:30AM, as soon as we reached the car. When I got home, we found that I had more than 60 bug bites, upwards of who knows how many. I had bites on bites on bites! Chuck only had ticks, apparently all the gnats and mosquitoes were drawn to me. I think we slept from 9AM – 5PM on Father’s Day; missing my Dad’s birthday/father’s day lunch. I looked like a damn thru-hiker and was only out for one night!

What did I learn?

1)      I LOVE Hiking, even with 25 lbs. on my back.

2)      I can backpack, it is possible!

3)      The JetBoil is totally awesome – just wish I could have tested the coffee press out…

4)      There are no fish in the Mullica River

5)      I find trekking poles extremely helpful

6)      No need to reinvent the wheel…bye bye hammock system!

For an entire year I thought we were going to blaze the backcountry, sleeping in our hammocks. I was dead wrong. We returned about $500 worth of ENO gear to REI. The ENO HouseFly, one ENO hammock, the Topquit, Underquit and Chucks Atmos Pack which weighed in at almost 5 lbs by itself. (though the anti-gravity was awesome) In its place we bought the new Marmot Tungsten 3P tent (comes with a footprint) and two Marmot Maverick 30 Sleeping Backs, as well as two Therm-a-Rest Sleeping Pads and a little Black Diamond tent light/flash light.

I LOVE this tent. We both fit comfortably and can house gear that needs to stay dry, cell phones, books, personal items… no bugs, no water, and after all the returns and purchases, we still had money left over! Also, the gear is lighter. This was a really good lesson to learn prior to our trip to Maine. Could you imagine? Another realization is that if we plan on visiting campsites to hammock in, they need to be scouted first to ensure there are trees to hang in. I totally understand why tent camping is the tried and true option. We kept one of the hammocks because they make great camp chairs and plus, I really do love lounging in the hammock just maybe not sleeping in one…
We are going to head out to Goshen Pond in Wharton in a few weeks to do a field test of the new gear. I’ll be sure to let y’all know how it goes. In the mean time, hike on.

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Responses

  1. Great post buddy! I enjoyed it! Could you possibly checkout my new Friday post? Thanks if so! And feel free to follow my blog! Here’s the post: benonadventures.com

  2. Great trip! Sorry about the bugs, they are killer (they were getting me through my chair this weekend out in the pines… THROUGH MY CAMPING CHAIR! What evil scientist is out there breeding bigger, badder Jersey mosquitos!?). Glad that you and the mister weren’t put off by the lack of sleep, because backpacking really is awesome.

    A warning about Goshen, as bad as the bugs were at Mullica, they might be worse there with the campsite pitched next to a swamp and all. Are you backpacking in from the Marilyn Beard Trailhead? I haven’t done that one yet, but I’ll get there one of these days.

    Also, Thanksgiving Dinner in a bag sounds really good.

    • It was a great trip despite the bugs! lol
      For Goshen Pond, we were just going to drive in. The site we picked we will just walk to from the parking lot. I’m sure it will fill up with walk-ins but it doesn’t seem like a popular spot. We were going to spend some time fishing and hiking; we don’t have too much time unfortunately since husband works weekends 😦
      I checked out Marilyn Beard Trailhead but it looks like all the websites are down!


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