I’ve always been slightly obsessed with my horse’s gear. Ringo gets new stuff more often than I get new clothes, and has more saddle pads and polo wraps than I have pants (this is true. He has 20 saddle pads, I have two pairs of jeans and three pairs of leggings). He has pretty bejeweled browbands, a saddle pad made with real sheepskin, and leather tack that is kept meticulously clean and oiled. Everything is fastidiously clean.
In a word, my horse is spoiled.
I never thought my equine gear obsession would be applicable to anything else. When I seriously started researching for my thru-hike I thought I would just skimp on my gear. I came across a $300 gear list and saved it to my prep document, thinking “This is it! I’m done with my gear list!”
I laugh at my 5-months-younger self. For the past couple of weeks I’ve been laid up with either tonsillitis or mono (doctors aren’t too sure). For these two weeks, I’ve been obsessively reading gear reviews, researching gear, comparing prices, deciding which retailer to give my nonexistent money to, and creating my list.
I’ve been talking gear with my dad, going through his pack and asking him the pros and cons of each piece. I’ve tried on his 40 pound pack and hefted his three-season tent to estimate the weight. I created a gear list in Google Drive and shared it with him, asking him for his opinion and feedback.
A few days ago, we took a trip to REI to see their products and compare them against what I already had on my list. Dad then set me loose in the store. Which could have either been a good idea, or a bad idea.
Surprise, surprise, I ended up almost completely changing around my gear list! The sleeping bag I was eyeing was nice in person, but felt very long and heavy when I hefted it. And the price wasn’t feasible either. However, just down the rack was a youth sleeping bag which was a full pound lighter and would fit me better, considering I’m barely 5’0”.
At this point, I was thinking – score! I’m short, so I could try to nab the kids’ stuff for cheaper when possible. I added a children’s sleeping pad to my list, deleting the adult’s one that was about $40 more. I opted for a tent that weighed a bit more than the one on my list, but was much cheaper and had positive reviews.
I grabbed hold of different trekking pole handles to see how I liked them, and then wrote down several options that I thought might work. I have small hands and am very picky about how things fit in my hand (I was very resistant against the iPhone 6/6s for a long time, because I felt like the 5s was already pushing it, size wise), so the initial set of poles I had on my list I realized I hated with a passion because of the grip.
I had thought about bringing my travel pillow on the trail because I have several cartilage piercings that are much happier when I sleep with my ear in a hole, but the weight wasn’t feasible. Imagine my delight when the REI employee brought out a super lightweight pillow that didn’t put any pressure on my piercings!
In my head I was thinking:
“Extra expense, fewer ounces.”
Which has been my mantra these days, really. I try to shop frugally and make the best selections so I get the most bang for my buck, but I also want to pack as light as possible.
While at REI, I also got measured for a pack. I knew there was no way I was a medium at all, so I was thinking that I was a small at most.
Imagine my surprise when the employee told me that I was on the smaller side of a XS. As in, a pack that was XS would still be slightly too big for me.
Sigh. This changed things – I would have to pack extremely light and very smart in order to get the most out of my pack, considering I hadn’t even started planning my clothing yet.
I will not start stockpiling gear until after the holidays, most likely, so that I can give myself time to find the best deals. If you have any gear recommendations for a small person, or know of retailers that may have more options for people who aren’t very tall, please let me know! I would truly appreciate it. Feel free to drop me a line via Facebook, Twitter, the contact form on my personal blog, or leave a comment below!
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