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Backpacking in the Gila Wilderness

by Emily Gindle » on Oct 26, 2010 2

We ventured into the Gila Wilderness with a bit of a twist on the normal backpacking routine: most people bring a pair of sandals or Crocs, some light pair of shoes that will be a comfortable change from the hiking boots that they’re slogging around all day. My boyfriend and I hiked in Vibram Treksports, and for camp shoes we brought sneakers – really only because it was going to be cold and we needed something we could get thick socks into.

The Gila National Forest is 3.3 million acres of rugged backcountry, with no road penetrating through the wilderness. We drove 12 miles of gravel road to the base of the mountain, and as soon as we got out of the car and around the first foothill, we saw no trace of people save the narrow trail threading us deeper into the mountains.

I was already used to carrying weight in my Fivefingers from hauling a climbing pack to the crags each week. My backpack on this trip was considerably lighter than all that climbing gear. Schlepping a 30-pound pack around was no big deal for my feet, although it was for my hips and shoulders. After the first day I was strapping the belt over two bruises on my hip bones, and I came out with another bruise on my collarbone from the shoulder straps. My feet, on the other hand, felt great.

The trails we were on took us to the tops of mountains and back down; we saw gorgeous vistas, deep canyons, expansive cliff bands. We dropped into creek beds, found waterfalls, and drank the best tasting water I’ve ever had (filtered of course). We found an apple tree! We have no idea how it got there, but the apple tasted like a Pink Lady.

On the last day, my feet were cold when we got started so I left my trail shoes on so I could keep the heavy socks. Three or so miles in, the ball of my foot started to get a twinge, like the nerves there were getting an electrical shock. I hiked on for about half a mile before figuring I would try my Fivefingers again, and immediately it worked. My best guess is that spreading out my toes relieved the pressure, but in any case I didn’t have any issues for the rest of the day, and after getting home it didn’t seem like my feet had any idea they had just hiked 28 miles in three days. I felt great.


  1. ken s

    March 12th, 2011 at 10:10 pm

    Thanks so much. This is the first information I have seen about backpacking in five fingers. I went on a 6 mile day hike with about a 10 lb pack a month after I bought my five fingers. The last 2 miles were steep down hill on sharp rocks. It was a little uncomfortable, but I made it okay and my feet were okay the next day. I do find that a little extra weight does put more pressure on my feet. All the hiking here is on sharp rocks so it could be an issue. I would like to go on some overnight hikes with more weight and wonder about others experiences. Will be hiking in Yosemite this summer and wonder if anyone has hiked there with five fingers. Are the trails dirt or smooth rock or sharp rock there?


  2. Emily

    March 12th, 2011 at 11:04 pm

    So awesome you’re going to Yosemite! Sadly, I haven’t been there so can’t offer any specific advice. However, I’ve been hiking here in the very sharp rocky desert Southwest in my Fivefingers for a long time now and I can attest that your feet will do anything you train them to. Training is key: the reason so many backpackers go with stiff high boots is to lock up their feet and insulate them against the chance of injury, and there’s something to be said for that. You certainly don’t want to get stuck in the middle of nowhere with a foot injury. When I decided to do my trip in Fivefingers, I was so comfortable in them that the idea of wearing a different shoe for that big a trip actually made me kind of nervous. You want to have confidence in your feet, and if you’ve got that, I find the weight of the pack doesn’t make much of a difference.


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