Let’s Talk About Gear
Oh boy, gear! I’ve spent hours and hours looking at gear, comparing specs, and reading through other hiker’s lists, and now the time has finally come to share my own gear picks for the upcoming hike. I hope you’re ready for some big gear talk and information overload because here we go!
The Big Three
This tent was one of the first big gear choices I was pretty decided on after I first learned about it. It has a ton of internal space, is very easy to set up, can be made free-standing, and is fairly lightweight at 32 oz. It’s not the lightest tent out there (by far), and I do have to admit I had a moment of doubt where I tried out a different ultralight tent that definitely wasn’t for me, so I went back to this first choice which proved to be the right one. May I present to you… The Tarptent Rainbow!
Coming from a big Kelty Coyote pack, I was excited to enter the world of more minimalist packs. I decided on a pack that was light but also had the capacity to handle some heavy loads, a pack with good durability, and with some cool features my Kelty didn’t have (hipbelt pockets oooweeee!). This ended up being the 68-liter ULA Circuit.
The choice of quilt was one of the tougher ones for me. Prior to this I had only ever used a 32-degree synthetic sleeping bag, so the idea of a versatile down quilt was intriguing but also a little worrying. Comparing weight savings, freedom of movement, warmth, draftiness, fabric, fill power, fill weight, waterproofness, draft collar, and other features felt impossible. Baffle direction? Does that even matter? What the hell is a differential cut?! Lots and lots of research went into this choice. Even after I had decided to get a quilt, there were so many good brands to choose from! In the end, I went with the Katabatic Flex 22 with 3 oz of overfill (so hopefully a Katabatic Flex 16-ish).
My Sleep System
There are a few other things in my sleep system in addition to my quilt. I chose the fairly typical Therm-a-Rest Neoair X-lite pad to sleep on, although I went with the women’s version with the higher r-value of 5.4. I’ll also be bringing a Sea-to-Summit Thermolite Reactor bag liner, which will add a few extra degrees of warmth at night and keep my quilt clean. After too many trips of using my balled-up clothes as a pillow and subsequently not having a pillow at all during cold nights, I’ve chosen to add a Big Sky International DreamSleeper pillow. Yes, a pillow might be considered a luxury item by some, but at only 1.5 oz. I think it’ll be worth it to bring and be able to sleep more comfortably.
Lastly, I’ll have a dedicated set of sleep clothes that will always be dry and warm at the end of the day. These include a merino wool long sleeve shirt and leggings, and a pair of light down booties that will keep my feet toasty.
For my cook system I have the MSR PocketRocket 2. This came with a stove kit package that I’ve decided to use which includes a pot, lid, and plastic cup. I’ll also be bringing a BIC mini lighter, a fuel canister, a small knife, and a Toaks titanium long-handled spoon. I’ll also have a food bag, paracord, and a small rock bag that I’ll use to hang my food at night to prevent critters from getting to it.
My water filtration is nothing new, the Sawyer Squeeze and two Smart water bottles will be enough to keep me hydrated.
Choosing what clothes to bring has been surprisingly tricky for me. Packing your fears is something that all hikers do, but I’ve been really battling between the fear of being cold and wet and bringing too many clothes. Additionally, the possible range in temperatures that I could experience in the first month (10’s-60’s) makes it difficult to be prepared for all scenarios without bringing a lot of options.
To start off with the simplest choices, I’m going to be bringing a buff, two pairs of Ex Officio underwear, one sports bra, some camp shoes, and three pairs of socks (two Darn Tough and one Injinji midweight crew toe socks). I was given a pair of REI Co-op Traverse trekking poles, and what can I say? They work fine, so they’re coming.
Choosing the right pair of trail runners felt like a daunting process, my feet get blisters insanely easily so I wanted to find a shoe that really worked well for my feet. I thought this process would take tons of research and multiple pairs of shoe purchases and returns until I found what was right, but it turned out that the first pair I tried was the one (although I did do tons of research). In learning about trail runners I decided that I wanted a pair with a rock plate, large toe box, and a low (but NOT zero) heel-to-toe drop. These requirements led me to the Topo Athletic Terraventures, which have been awesome. I’ll never go back to shoes with a narrow toe box! I wore out a pair of Terraventure 2s just as they came out with the third iteration of this model, so I’ll be hitting the trail in a fun green pair of Terraventure 3s with some colorful Dirty Girl gaiters attached to keep dirt out of my shoes.
My base layer hiking shirt will be a Smartwool Merino 150 Base Layer Top, which will hopefully dry quickly and be mostly non-smelly throughout the hike. I’ll switch between a pair of running shorts and some fleece-lined leggings depending on the temperature.
I jumped on the hype train for my mid-layer fleece and got a Melanzana Micro Grid hoodie. So far this fleece has almost been too warm for lounging around the house, but that means that it should do a good job at keeping me warm at night. My outer puffy jacket is the Patagonia Nano Puff, which has also done a good job at keeping me warm over the past couple years. I’ll also have a nice beanie to wear at night to keep my head warm
I went with the cheap thru hiker classic: the Frogg Toggs rain suit. These did feel surprisingly like wax paper when I first took them out of the bag, but after a trial run of getting sprayed with the garden hose, I’m confident they’ll keep me dry.
I’ll be keeping it simple in this category. My morning and evening routines will involve a travel-sized toothbrush, dried and repackaged toothpaste, a small hairbrush, and a camping towel. A couple ounces of Dr. Bronner’s to wash my hands should be enough since the stuff is so concentrated, some chapstick, and a pair of earplugs for whenever the need arises rounds out this group.
When I need to use the facili-trees (lol) I’ll be trying out a Kula Cloth (a re-useable anti-microbial cloth for peeing, I’m not completely sure if I’ll like it but we’ll see how it goes), and I have a Deuce #2 Backcountry Trowel and some toilet paper for the forest poops.
In the first aid kit are a few band-aids of different sizes, a couple alcohol wipes, some moleskine, a good amount of leukotape, scissors, and a variety of pills (mostly for muscle aches, any fevers, and so I don’t shit myself from bad water).
The repair kit has a couple sleeping pad patches, a couple extra Sawyer Squeeze O-rings, some dental floss and a sewing needle, and of course a generous helping of duct tape wrapped around one of my trekking poles.
The tiny emergency kit has a fire starter and iodine pills just in case of filter of Bic lighter failures.
Even when going to hike in the woods for six months, you can’t escape technology completely. For a headlamp, I’ll be bringing the Nitecore NU25, which is lightweight, rechargeable, and has a number of brightness settings for both the main and red lights (including an emergency super bright setting that I’ve already used to momentarily blind my brother). In case of emergencies and areas of trail with no service, I’ll have a Zoleo satellite communicator. Although it has a bit of a learning curve to it, I think this device will work well when I need it. I’ll also have my phone and a pair of headphones with which to talk to people and listen to music/podcasts/books on the trail.
I’ll be bringing a Nitecore NB10000 charging block to keep the above three batteries charged. This power bank is crazy light (5.3 oz!), can charge two devices at the same time, and supports pass-through charging (so you can charge the block while using the block to charge something else). Thankfully, the Zoleo and headlamp use the same type of charging cord, so I’ll only be bringing a phone cord, a combined Zoleo/headlamp charging cord, and the cord for the power bank itself.
I’ll also be storing some guidebook pages and my “wallet” (aka that small ziplock bag), in with the technology.
Pepper spray: Better safe than sorry, although I’ll be very sorry if it accidentally goes off in my pack.
Kahtoola MICROspikes: Another just in case. If it gets icy I’ll be very glad to have them, and they’ll get sent home after the first month or so.
Sunglasses: Might not need them, especially once the spring leaves create the classic green tunnel, but I’ll take them to start off with.
All of my gear weighs in at about 17.8 lbs. This is honestly a little heavier than what I was aiming for, but considering my February 26th start date, I think I’ll need all the warm clothes. Once spring is in the air I’m pretty sure this will drop to around 15 lbs, which was my original goal. The only thing I’m missing here is one more Smartwater bottle. All in all not too shabby in my opinion, but we’ll see what the total pack weight with food and water comes out to at the Amicalola visitor’s center. T-6 days to go, see you out there!
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