Scott Chandler’s Totally Arbitary Backpacking Rating System (or SCaTABaRS for short)

Scott Chandler’s Totally Arbitary Backpacking Rating System (or SCaTABaRS for short)

Sabrina Basin wasn’t on my bucket list, but I went anyway. I went there because I didn’t think I was in very good shape, I thought it was going to be easy, I could relax and get some fishing in, and I’d never been there before. It was nice, but it wasn’t awe inspiring. There I was at 11,000′ at Midnight Lake and thinking I wasn’t impressed. Even I was surprised by my reaction. I mean, what do you want?!?

As I was hiking out on Day Four, I knew my co-worker was going to ask me “How was your trip?” and I was going to say “Uh, it was okay. It was relaxing but I don’t think I’d go back there again.” But that sounded callous, hard to please and a little negative even to me. I mean, it’s the Sierra Nevada for crying out loud.

So I got to thinking, what does make that perfect backpacking trip? The result is Scott Chandler’s Totally Arbitrary Backpacking Rating System (or SCaTABaRS for short.)

The system involves five categories and has a total of 25 points.

The Five Categories are:

  1. It has to be a loop or point-to-point trip, not an in-and-out route.
  2. There should be at least one or more passes (or peaks) involved.
  3. There has to be good campsites. A perfect campsite is totally hidden from the trail or lake, yet has easy access to both, has great scenery, just the right amount of NATURAL features for kitchens and seats, and flat ground to set up the tent. Obvious human “improvements” like tables, chairs and fire rings cause point deductions.
  4. There needs to be a Misery/Accomplishment Score. There was an article in a ’70’s mountaineering magazine called “Puree through a Golden Sieve.” The author described how we forget all the misery within a week of a trip and only remember the good stuff. My theory is that a proper amount of misery added to the mix creates a better quality puree that comes through the sieve.
  5. The Awesome factor. Just how Awesome was the trip? Just how Awesome where the views? Just count the number of times you said “Awesome!”

For example:

  1. The Sabrina Basin trip was not a loop or point-to-point, but a decent in-and-out route, so I give it 1 point.
  2. There were no passes involved, so zero points.
  3. It did have a Five Star campsite at Blue Lake and a Three Star at Sailor Lake, so I’ll average it out to 4 points.
  4. There was little misery, but also little accomplishment. I’ll be polite and give it a 2.
  5. The Awesome factor was just so-so. I’ll give it a 2. Your mileage may vary, depending on where else you’ve been in the Sierra.

Total Score: 9 out of 25.

Now take for example, a trip I did last year to Miter Basin.

  1. It was a perfect loop, 5 points
  2. It had three quality passes, 5 points
  3. It had pretty good campsites which I’ll average to 3 points
  4. A decent misery/accomplishment factor, 3 points
  5. The Awesome factor was off the charts, but I’m limited to 5 points

Total Score: 21.

The low 20’s seems to the rough score of all my “epic” trips. Test a couple of your past trips and see what scores you end up with. At least now when you say “It was awesome!” you can quantify it.