Renewing Two of my Big Three

Facing the vast distance of the AT versus the Colorado Trail (my longest thru-hike to date), I decided to lighten my load. The big three in terms of weight are pack, sleep system, and shelter.


My tent is the Nemo Hornet 2P and it weighs two pounds. For a 2-person tent, that is fairly light. I used it for both my long-distance trails to date, being quite happy with the durability, set-up, and size. Look forward to the roominess of having it all to myself this trail! All to say that my tent is not being replaced.

Sleep System

I always planned to get a new sleeping bag for the AT. Mine is over a decade old, weighs three pounds, and has lost down, hence warmth, over the years. Highly respectable performance from a REI Kilo bag. I’ve casually perused lightweight alternatives over the last couple years, usually looking at mummy bags because I sleep cold. I nearly settled on the Western Mountaineering Versalite when I came across the Zpacks 3/4 zip sleeping bag. The Zpacks bag has the same 10-degree rating but at a lighter weight. The top cinches up tight and when paired with a down hood I am hoping to get the mummy effect while saving seven ounces. I plan to use the hood on cold nights and spread it out like a quilt on hot ones, thus using the bag for the entire trail, which would be awesome!


My old pack is the Osprey Aura 65. It’s sturdy, comfortable, has many pockets, and is often encountered on Colorado trails. However, it is on the heavier side. I worked my way through a list of ultralight packs, reading reviews and looking at what appealed to my eye. I chose the Granite Gear Crown2 60 as it saved me two pounds and was on clearance from REI. It has a great hip belt that I easily removed and adjusted to my exact hip measurement. During my shakedown hike, I experienced no rubbing on my hip bones. In contrast, I always ended up with raw skin in that area from my Osprey pack.


I did not want to start the AT with untested gear. My shakedown was a 3-day backpacking trip on Segments 16 & 17 of the Arizona Trail. These segments follow the Gila River and traverse gorgeous desert full of cactus, lizards, and sweeping vistas. Also, lots of wildflowers in the early spring. The first day the new pack felt heavy on my shoulders and I felt a twinge of concern. However, the second and third days I wore it slightly higher on my hips and it felt great. I also got a system down for fitting my gear into the new space. In fact, faced with fewer pockets I actually organized my gear more efficiently. Some favorite features are the pack’s roomy side pockets, the roll-top enclosure, and the tie-down strap that keeps the brain firmly in place as the pack shrinks due to food consumption.

Now onto my sleeping bag….. a deliciously cozy cloud of down. Really, now I realize how much loft my old bag has lost. It was not cold enough to test the hood nor cinch the top tight. The trip low temperature was in the 40s with no breeze. I was quite comfortable with the top fully open.

Coming off the shakedown trek I am ready to face the AT with my new gear!

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