What you need for the Half Dome, Yosemite hike
The Half Dome Yosemite trail is a monster for the recreational hiker. 16 miles roundtrip. The granite dome being steep enough to necessitate cables to climb it. The vast majority of the hike has no shade and by late May its 90 degrees. Some describe it as a hike from hell; others describe it as one of the most amazing views on earth. If Half Dome is on your lifetime bucket list, heed this advice so your trek is as enjoyable as possible.
The first piece of hiking gear anyone needs for any amount of hiking they do is a CamelBak water backpack. A CamelBak backpack contains a water reservoir that you fill up. A straw-like tube allows you to drink without stopping. No bottled water, means no empty water bottles to carry around during the hike. Even if you enjoy easy or moderate hiking, a CamelBak will enhance your trip greatly. As a backpack, it is small and streamlined to your upper back with chest and waist straps that redistribute weight off your shoulders and lower back so you don’t experience the fatigue of a backpack that seems to get heavier as a hike progresses. The CamelBak does not have a ton of extra room in it, as it was designed to not weigh you down, but with many nifty pockets and mesh organizers, it carries everything you need. You may regret filling a bigger backpack with more stuff…the longer the hike, the heavier the pack feels toward the end.
The CamelBak MULE carries 3 liters of water, which is the minimum amount you need. If you are a frequent, fit hiker, you may be able to finish Half Dome in 8-9 hours with a half hour break at the dome and 3 liters will be enough water. Most people take 10-12 hours to complete and so you should bring additional water bottles that you should drink first and be able to throw away at garbage cans on the Mist Trail.
16 miles is a long way and you need to stay hydrated and nourished on a trail like this. This was the perfect amount of food for the Half Dome trek (male or female): 3 bananas. Bananas are the best choice for this hike because of their streamlined shape. They pack into the CamelBak easily, unlike round fruit. Bananas are also a calorie dense fruit. Depending on the size of the banana you could get 500 calories in 3 bananas verses only 300 calories in 3 apples. You also get twice the protein in a banana. Bring an empty sandwich baggie to hold the peels until you reach a garbage. The perfect sandwich is 2 pieces of Milton’s multigrain bread, peanut butter and honey. This sandwich can get smashed without getting messy in the sandwich bag and nothing gets gross or spoiled if it is made the day before and then sits in a hot backpack for 6 hours or more. Milton’s bread is nutrient and calorie dense with nuts and seeds providing protein along with the peanut butter. Honey adds a little sweetness, carbohydrates and antioxidants and doesn’t melt the way fruit spreads do when they get hot. 5 Kashi Trail Mix bars weather the heat just fine. A baggie of mixed nuts. Make sure they are unsalted because salt will make you more thirsty. My husband finished the hike with 1 Kashi bar and the bag of nuts left, so this amount of food should be enough for a large, fit man or someone who is slower and spends upwards of 10-12 hours on the trail.
A chapstick will keep your lips from drying out as you breathe heavily or from sun and wind exposure. A sunscreen containing titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide will need to be applied every 3 hours. Many people get burnt necks and ears from not reapplying sunscreen. Cell phone, although you won’t have any reception until you are back down to the Yosemite Valley floor. Camera. A watch, if you care about time. Be aware that you must have permits to climb the cables up the actual dome now and gloves are recommended to avoid some serious blistering. You can bring your own, but in an effort to keep the load as light as possible my husband opted to use a pair out of the free bucket waiting at the cables and there were many decent pairs.
WHAT TO WEAR:
A hat with a brim that covers your ears. Polarized sunglasses protect your eyes from damaging sun rays. Layer. A lightweight, dry-fit, long sleeve tee will keep your arms and shoulders from getting overexposed to the sun. Lightweight hiking pants with zipper legs to convert to shorts are helpful but not essential; otherwise opt for shorts if its hot. Good hiking shoes are necessary, especially for the steep dome, but boots are too heavy for this long trail.
More on CamelBak Hydration Packs
I highly recommend getting a CamelBak for any hiker. When my husband and I hike together on trails 6 miles or less, I carry the CamelBak and he carries a small hiking backpack with food to keep both loads light. One CamelBak can carry enough snacks for two people, but it won’t carry enough food for two lunches plus trail snacks. It does carry enough water for two people for distances of 6 miles roundtrip.
CamelBaks need to be thoroughly dried out between uses to prevent mold. After we return home from a trip, I combine 2 Tablespoons of baking soda with hot water and fill the reservoir. After letting it sit for 30 minutes, drain through the mouth piece and refill with hot water to rinse out the baking soda. Drain through the mouthpiece. The reservoir is now clean and just needs to completely dry.