If it’s wrong, fix it.

I’ve been beyond happy with my pack weight, the food I brought, and all of my gear…except the pack itself.

I was never worried about becoming the 25% that doesn’t make it past Neels Gap, but I have to admit that the Blue Devil, aka my first pack, wasn’t making it easy on me.


When the staff at Neels first checked out my pack I think I scored an 0 for 3 on proper fit. I’m not going to point fingers to the REI that fitted me, but let’s just say that all gear is worth a second opinion. Honestly, I love that place and this isn’t smack talk, but again, if something doesn’t feel right (even from an outfitter) FIX IT. I think my back still has PTSD from the first pack

I’m now rocking a Granite Gear Lusten 55L that feels more like a circus monkey clinging tightly to my back than a baby elephant barely holding on.


Not to mention ditching my sleeping bag stuff sack for a trash compactor liner and better pack organization to fill all the nooks and crannies. Seriously, even if you’re happy with everything you brought, just chat with the staff at Neels. Those guys have some serious trail knowledge. I can’t thank them enough.

The super-nerdy pack updates:

– Lining the pack with a trash compactor bag and stuffing sleeping bag in the bottom.
– Cutting the bottom section off my sleeping pad to minimize the size and create a butt pad for sitting on wet surfaces. I was actually able to make 2 butt pads and donated the other to a hiker box. Happy butts for everyone!

– I got a $7 watch from Walmart and hung it from a shoulder strap so I can leave my phone off to save battery.

– Tent poles now attach to the outside so I can stuff the tent in my pack without warping them.

– Shoe tie-downs from elastic rope.

– Water bottle clip from the super cool Jason.

– Oh yeah, and not being in mind-numbing pain.

Always more to learn and I can’t wait. Cheers!

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Comments 11

  • Ruby Throat : Mar 6th

    Great ideas! I won’t be thru Neel’s Gap till I’m, basically, done (since I’m flip flopping), so it’s great to see your upgrades. I’m curious about the water bottle clip. Does it let you get to your water bottle while you’re hiking? Happy hiking and best of luck out there! I’m starting in GHSP on April 26, so, thanks for blazing the trail for us late starters!

    • KT Saunders : Mar 6th

      Yeah I clipped it to the top of my pack so it acts like a sort of water bottle zipline. My side pockets aren’t huge so it kept falling out, this allows for the bottom to stay in the pack and the top to stay attached. Good luck out there, happy I could be of some help!

  • Chris G. : Mar 6th

    I too fell victim of getting a pack that wasnt too comfy for my first pack a long time ago. I am glad you got a better one, I think some of this comes from people trying to get the lightest pack available instead of one that is comfy. I used to have a go lite I used for years and it was light but lacked comfort, I switched to the gossamer gear one with has an aluminum stay and foam pad which of course weigh more but gah is it comfy and worth every ounce! Happy Hiking, I’ll be headed north end of March.

    • KT Saunders : Mar 6th

      Seriously. Comfort over weight all day every day now. Cheers fellow NOBO!

  • Ronn Willy (Aaron Williams) : Mar 8th

    So excited for you, KT! Thanks for all the updates. I’m living vicariously through you while rooting like a redwood here in the office. Question about your fire starter … what are you using and have you found it fairly easy to get material to start? Water filtration, have you tried the life straw or what filtering device are you using? Do you carry a Jetboil unit for cooking? What are your thoughts there?

    • KT aka Bottles : Jun 18th

      Super delayed response here, the woods sucked me in. To answer your questions: (1) I’m carrying a small box lighter, love it. (2) I use a sawyer squeeze for water with a platypus 2L bag for extra storage when I need to camel up. (3) Yes I have a jet boil and I’m a big fan. I use it only to boil water then cook my meals in ziplock bags. Cheers!

      • KT aka Bottles : Jun 18th

        *bic lighter. Idk what a box lighter is.

  • Matt : Mar 9th

    Looks like you’re off to an awesome start! I honestly didn’t expect updates this frequently so this is the first time I checked the blog. Looking forward to following along!

  • Chuck : Mar 12th

    I am a little concerned about your timing. I sent a package to Bryson City for your arrival around the 13th of March. You are nowhere near there yet. Also, are you planning on checking in with Anna and/or Andi? I am just a worry-wart grandpa!!

  • FM : Oct 1st

    What??? No comments about the Chachos? (haha-just kidding)

    Hey KT, how’s that Spot working for you? Getting good pings all around or are you getting huge gaps in data? How often are you having to change the batteries? Care to rate it with up to five stars and share with us why? If you aren’t pleased with it in general, would you have preferred a different tracker, now?


    • FM : Oct 1st

      Oops, I meant Chacos, not Chachos, haha. (Probably a subconcious affinity for Nachos.) Obviously, Chachos are Chacos that are so cheesy, they smell like Doritos. ; )


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