Everything you need to know to take on your first backpack camping trip right here in the 315. One hundred minutes from your front door to off the off the grid! One of my favorite camping destinations is the 8th Lake Lean-to which sits on the West side of 8th Lake and is in the Moose River Plains Wilderness area, Adirondack Mountains NY.
What makes this such a great choice is that it is close enough to the Utica area to make it convenient for a weekend trip, but because of its serenity and lack of cell service it makes you feel like you are in the middle of nowhere.
How to plan: Make a list of what you need. I use google keep app on my phone, as you pack it you check it off your list. I usually pack light; however, it depends how long the approach is to the camping destination. Whether it’s a short hike or canoe trip packing some cushy items is nice. I’ve made so many mistakes through the years. Everyone’s camping kit is different, mine looks something like this.
Tony’s Backpacking List:
Backpack – make sure you have a variety of different size drybags. If you are concerned that anything you have could potentially get wet, then stuff it in a drybag.
Electronics – headlamp, phone, earbuds or Bluetooth speaker, portable charger. Download some tunes, an audio book or podcasts prior to your trip, remember you won’t have service. I always bring an old school AM radio. I love to surf the channels, you come across some pretty interesting things especially in the middle of the night.
Sleeping – Sleeping pad, sleeping bag, I bring a pillowcase and stuff all my extra cloths in it at night, makes a sweet pillow.
Clothes- socks, base layer, mid layer, shell, puffer, hat and gloves, poncho. I usually bring some extra cloths in the event that I get wet. Layering up at night helps you stay dry and warm.
Cooking & Fire- Cook set, burner, eating utensils, lighter, matches, fire starter (one of my favorites is sterno balls, my best friend started dipping cotton balls in sterno solution and placing them in a plastic bag. It’s a simple but genius idea and makes an awesome fire.
Water Filtering: I have a few but love the platypus system. Just fill it and hang, it filters your water while working around the campsite.
Drinks: Coffee, cocoa, tea, french press.
Breakfast: oatmeal, freeze dried strawberries.
Dinner: Instant rice and masked potatoes.
Snacks: bars, gels, trail mix.
Dog Food: Bear eats light, but he loves his treats.
Map & Compass: I like to carry a map and compass, then back it up with All Trails on my phone.
Garbage Bag: Carry it in, carry it out.
First Aid Kit
Book, notebooks and pen.
How to get there:
The Water Approach: An hour and twenty minutes north of Utica on State Highway 28 there is a parking lot on the East side of 8th lake, park here. Drag your kayak down to the lake. The lean to is a 10-minute paddle directly across the lake.
Backpack In: From the 8th lake campground in Inlet. Drive to the South side of 8th lake. From the beach travel one mile in clockwise to the Lean to.
My last trip to the Lean to was late summer with my Aussie, Terrier mix Bear! I busted off work at 5pm on a Friday night. Packed the night before, so all I had to do was secure my canoe and pick up Bear. Gassed up and grabbed a Stewarts sandwich in Barneveld on the way North. I arrived at the 8th Lake parking area around 6:45pm. Unloaded the canoe and buttoned up my lifejacket, was water ready by 7pm. Bear and I decided to explore a little before we headed to our destination, so we traversed the lake counterclockwise to see if there were any other campers. There are two other sites on the lake. One primitive campsite to the Northeast and the other is the Dunning Lean to which is located near the Northwest shore. It is common etiquette in the Adirondacks for lean tos to be first come first served for parties that come across them in the woods. Neither site was occupied, it looked like we had the lake to ourselves which was even better than expected. I took my time getting to camp, I was psyched to be off the grid without cell service and was looking forward to sunset.
We floated into the camp site at 8pm. The Lean To sits on the West side of the lake just off a small island so it’s very easy to locate. Bear was happy to be out of the boat, he immediately started inspecting the site while I unloaded gear and set up my bed. It always makes me feel better to get my bed set up and organized for some reason. This Lean to is huge and we were the only occupants tonight. I filled my water filter, hung some gear and jumped back into the canoe to see the stars. Bear wasn’t thrilled to be back on the water, but he didn’t have a choice. It was one of the most beautiful nights I’ve ever experienced. Most of us in urban environments can’t see the stars because of light pollution. Here in the Moose River plains, away from any major cities the sky was mind blowing. I was a little sad I couldn’t share it with anyone. Oh well, Bear and I headed back in to cook. I wasn’t very hungry because of the Stewarts sandwich so I just made some tea and grabbed my book. My friend got me the latest Yvon Chouirnard book, and I couldn’t wait to get into it, I saved that book for moments like this. Chouirnard is an American rock climber, environmentalist and outdoor industry businessman. I was smoked from a busy week at work and made the easy choice to not even start a fire. Bear wasn’t as exited about reading with a headlamp on as me, so he crawled into the bottom of my sleeping bag and fell asleep. Other than a pack of coyotes howling a few times and bear taking up my foot space it was an uneventful night.
I woke up at sunrise, made coffee and oatmeal. I’m a bit of a coffee snob, so I always pack my French press. I had plans to mountain bike at McCauley Mountain that day, so I decided to get on the road. I packed up and finally dragged Bear out of bed. I wanted to see the rest of the lake in the morning, so I continued to paddle the shore counterclockwise all the back to highway 28 where my truck was parked. Even uneventful nights like those are memorable and will hopefully stay with me forever.
I didn’t mention my method for hanging the bear bag. This is a heated debate among backpackers and thru hikers. I recommend going to the New York Stae Department of Environmental Conservation website for fire regulation and guidelines to avoid bear conflicts. For more information on the 8th Lake lean to and other campsites in the Adirondacks there is a plethora of information online. If you’re not confident enough to do it on your own, you can always hire a New York State Outdoor Camping Guide.