CYTC: Big Three Gear List

My calendar year triple crown will (hopefully) cover 7,500+ miles, the east coast, the west coast, the Rockies, and span from February through November.   I will be attempting the three long trails often at non-standard times and non-standard speeds.  What does this mean for my gear choices compared to a ‘normal’ thru-hike?  The biggest difference is flexibility for different conditions – which means lots of back-ups. 

The Gear List Part I will focus on the ‘Big Three’ – my shelter, backpack, and sleep system.  Yes, I am going to include my whole sleep system in the big three.

My House for 10 Months

Rent ain’t cheap – and buying a shelter can feel painful.  But even a $700 tent seems like a sweet deal when hiking for ten months – that means my rent is only $70/month.  Goals for my shelter included waterproof, light, and roomy.  I love being able to spread out my gear after it gets soaked while hiking.  And after loving my Duplex during my AT thru-hike, I decided to stick with what works for me – so a Zpacks Duplex it is.  

Any back-ups or changes expected?  I toyed with the idea of using a tarp for the PCT post-Sierra and also the northern part of the CDT, but I haven’t pulled this trigger.  This could still be an option once I am on trail.  I do have a backup Duplex.  My first Duplex has more than 150 nights of use – and is still in great shape, but I wanted to minimize risk of failures and purchased a new one.  If my new one fails, I can quickly get my old Duplex as a replacement.

My “old” Duplex just last fall – still looks great. New one looks exactly the same


The backpack decision was much more complicated – I really enjoy having waterproof material as the main body of the pack.  This is one of the reasons I used a Zpacks Arc Blast on the AT in 2019.  But other necessary requirements for my CYTC included large amounts of storage, durability, comfort, while also keeping it light.   I needed some extra space for my sleep system – which you will see below.  I expect some COLD nights.  

I ended up choosing a Superior Wilderness Designs 2021 Long Haul with a 50L body.   This pack was made using the new Ultra400.  The new Ultra material has widely gained adoption and even had an entire article written about it on The Trek.  I did spring for the heavier Ultra to increase abrasion resistance and durability.   I have 100+ miles on it so far and it’s super comfortable, and with a little seam sealing, it should be mostly waterproof.   Plus, SWD is an awesome cottage company that will really help you with design & customization, so give them a look if you’re in the market for a backpack.

Any back-ups or changes expected?  I would like to shed weight as the seasons warm and won’t need all that storage space once I dump my winter sleep system.  So, I do have a new Zpacks Arc Blast waiting to be shipped.  Once I dump most of my cold-weather gear, I expect to be able to drop 3-4 pounds quickly off my total pack.  The Arc Blast is substantially lighter (~13oz) and will be a welcome reprieve post-Sierra.  My old Arc Blast is pretty much toast after ~2,500 miles, so I did purchase a new one.  

My sweet Superior Wilderness Designs backpack – it’s sweeeeet.

Sleep System

My sleep system is one of the more complex parts of my gear set-up.  I expect to routinely see single digits temperatures or even lower in the beginning of my hike.  I also discovered on the AT that I am not the warmest sleeper – and I am a big believer that you need a good night’s rest, on-trail or off-trail.  So, for the sake of being warm, and for the sake of moisture management, I purchased a two-bag system.  My two big system is a Western Mountaineering Ultralight 20 with an Enlightened Equipment Revelation APEX 40.  

The Ultralight is a normal down bag while the EE Revelation is made of synthetic insulation.  The quilt will go over the top of my bag and should help me stay warm down to zero degrees.  Additionally, it allows for better moisture management.  I won’t go into great detail, but you give off moisture while you sleep (think your breath and sweat).  This moisture will eventually condensate, and having the synthetic quilt allows the moisture to condensate on the synthetic material, protecting my fluffy down bag.  As the weather warms though, I will be quick to get rid of the top quilt to save weight and space in my pack.  (My two-bag system is ~22 Liters in stuff sacks… ouch.)

The rest of the set-up is standard.  I have a Therm-a-rest Neoair Xtherm for a higher R-value and an inflatable pillow for comfort.  My favorite item may be my Goosefeet gear down booties – these made it on my AT trip and will be going along this time to protect my always cold feet.  As for back-ups, I have a Thermarest Neoair XLite to replace the Xtherm when it warms up or the first pops.  I also have a Katabatic Gear Palisade 30 quilt when it warms up, which will save me ~10 ounces and substantial space.

Quilt on the left, sleeping bag in the middle, and inflatable pad/accessories on the right

If you have any thoughts, questions, or comments, drop ’em below.

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Comments 1

  • Carolyn Walker : Feb 13th

    Our duplex held up for an entire AT thru-hike and Pinhoti thru-hike in 2018 and about a third of the way into our son’s AT thru-hike last year before finally developing tears and holes. I estimate about 3,200 miles. And, no ground tarp – we didn’t baby it. Great piece of equipment and I would buy one again.

    Good luck! I will be following your posts.


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