Gear That Survived 2000 Miles: SOBO Days 138 – 143
Did I seriously become a gear junkie on trail? Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.
There are many ways to describe my (previous) lack of interest in gear, the technical aspects of gear, any kind of gear research, gear talk, etc. My hiking buddy Shaggy might tell you about a conversation we had while hiking over the Carter and Wildcat mountains back in New Hampshire. After finding out that I’ve been a runner for 15+ years, he asked what running sneakers I wear. Like, the current pair of running sneakers I own at home that probably have a couple hundred miles on them. I couldn’t tell him. I had no idea. I still have no idea. I cannot even tell you what brand they are.
It’s Not That I Don’t Care…
I wrote a whole blog post pre-trail about my gear and relative disinterest in gear. It wasn’t even a real conscious disinterest, I just like hiking (and running, and climbing…) for what it is and never prioritized an interest in the finer technicalities of the gear that allows me to do such sports. Hey, my first pair of running sneakers were from a thrift store, I’ve come a long way.
I later updated that pre-trail post with another post with an inkling that I might be falling down the gear rabbit hole.
Well, hello from the bottom of the rabbit hole.
What Makes Gear Great
I’ll confess, I’m still no gear junkie. I’ve got a lot to learn. Maybe I’ll just have to attempt another thru-hike to further indulge.
But, I do have some opinions now. After hiking 2000+ miles, I have come to appreciate the delicate balance of durability and lightweight that so many gear companies strive to achieve.
Some Criteria First
In this post, I wanted to highlight the brands and gear that have made it this far. Two thousand twenty-eight and eight tenths of a mile, to be exact.
This list is limited to items that I use daily or almost daily. Items that I’ve upgraded or swapped on trail are also not included here. This doesn’t mean those products aren’t great, just that I haven’t tested them for 2000 miles yet.
A final note before I dive in — a thank you to my mom, dad, aunts and uncles, who have contributed hugely to my accumulation of these items. Those gift cards you give me for Christmas that I seem to hoard and never spend? All saved up for many of the items on this list. You’re the best, fam.
The Gear That Made It
Kula Cloth Pee Cloth
I’m obsessed with this company. Their Instagram is a total wild ride, which I think is hilarious. Plus, they host virtual dance parties. Marketing aside, this product is iconic. I thought I’d want ten of these for the stretches between towns (and thus, laundry) on the AT, but you seriously only need one, any time of the month. Use your imagination…that’s a damn good product.
Girlfriend Collective Paloma Racerback Sports Bra
I’m happily a long time supporter of this sustainable and inclusive company. I bought their leggings when they still only made leggings. I’ve had this particular sports bra for years also, and have run, hiked, climbed, biked, and cried in the library in this sports bra. I’ve also worn it every single day for the past 143 days. It still looks and feels new.
Darn Tough Micro Crew Lightweight Socks
Two pairs of socks for the whole trail, yup, I wasn’t kidding, little sis. One pair was torn by a branch that also pierced skin. Sadly, that pair had to be replaced, which was no problem thanks to the lifetime warranty on these socks. But, the other pair is still going strong! And this isn’t their first hike either, I’ve also had these for a couple years. The name says it all for these socks.
Boody Bamboo Underwear
Although I’m not speaking from vast experience, I have tried other pairs for hiking and have less positive reviews. These get five stars from me, though. In addition to durability, they’re freaking comfortable as heck.
Standing in the flagship MEC (Canadian REI-equivalent) store in Vancouver, I hesitated to purchase this filter, having never heard of it. A quick Google search later and I decided it should be okay in lieu of alternatives. And while alternatives have been known to lose membranes or o-rings, I’ve had exactly zero problems with this filter. Plus, I adore how easy it is to backflush clean. It means I actually clean it, a lot.
Therm-A-Rest NeoAir Trekker
It’s not the lightest mattress, or the most compact. But, it’s durable and comfortable and never the loudest inflatable pad in the shelter at night…and I think that says a lot. I’ve had this mat for years and it’s never once popped or failed me. I might recommend a lightweight pump though, because the 30+ breaths to fill this thing up can be a bit monotonous.
Anchor 20 000 mAmp Hour Battery Bank
I hesitated to carry this heavy thing with so much power. But I’ll tell you what, my phone is never dead, even on weeklong stretches without electricity. And my phone is important since it’s my map, camera, journal, blogging platform, book, and mp3 player. Worth it.
Cascade Aluminum Trekking Poles
Sometimes, you have to go for the budget option. I had no idea how expensive trekking poles were until I did some research for this trip. Yikes. So, I went for this pair of budget poles. And they’ve survived over 2000 miles of use with just one cheap and easy tip replacement about halfway. I’m impressed.
I would be amiss not to give a shout-out to the Reflectix pot cozy that I made before the trail. I use it every evening to reduce my fuel consumption and keep my food warm. This little art project has also lasted the entire trail.
Similarly, purchasing a pack liner was out of my budget, so I use a black contractor garbage bag to keep my things dry. And despite shoving my tent poles into my bag with no care for the trash bag, it still has no holes in it! Highly recommend.
Hot Springs to Fontana Dam
I was lucky enough to experience both sunny and rainy weather in the Great Smoky Mountains. Living up to their name, there were a couple days of misty fog covering the mountains, blocking all views, even from the iconic Clingman’s Dome. But, on my first and last days in the national park, I also experienced sunny weather, allowing me to see the mountains surrounding me. Stunning.
Out of the Smokies, the elevation profile for the rest of the Appalachian Trail is looking great. And I feel great after 2000 miles. Strong and excited and in complete disbelief over how far I’ve walked up to now. And I couldn’t be happier to be adding another 165.5 miles to my gear’s lifetime in the coming days.
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