Backpacker Radio 82 | Dan Durston on Designing Gear and Hiking the Great Divide Trail

In today’s episode of Backpacker Radio presented by The Trek, we are joined by Dan Durston.  Dan is the gear nerd’s gear nerd.  In addition to hiking the PCT and being one of only two people to yo-yo the Great Divide Trail (the other being his wife as they did it together), Dan is visionary behind the new gear company, Durston Gear.  We go way deep down the rabbit hole on why polyester tents are making a comeback and are possibly the ultimate fabric for shelters, how he’s able to execute on his philosophy of creating lightweight gear that’s super easy to setup, how his being a loudmouth on the Backpackinglight forums made his gear company possible, and much more.  If you’re into gear technology, even if you’re not, we bet you’re really going to enjoy this conversation.

Also, our buddy Legend breaks another FKT, we have another Reddit Brain Buster, and we have a point counter point on the virtues of summer vs. fall backpacking.


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Interview with Dan Durston:

00:03:16 – QOTD: What’s an “oh shit” moment where you’ve realized you’ve been doing something the wrong way for years? 

00:07:18 – Intro to Dan Durston

00:07:26 – What is your backpacking resume? 

00:09:54 – Do you have to push gear by setting FKTs?

00:10:32 – Do you own the gear company? Are you not the sole proprietor of Dan Durston Gear?  

00:12:09 – Do you get a royalty of every product sold? 

00:12:59 – Did you also hike the PCT with your wife?

00:13:24 – How did you get into backpacking? 

00:14:40 – You were determined to get your pack weight down before your first trip?

00:14:56 – How light was your pack when you first started?

00:16:38 – Did seeing someone do a whole 50-mile trail in a day create the origin for you going ultralight?

00:17:47 – When did the shift to ultralight happen? Was Backpacking Light involved in that? 

00:18:40 – What were your big 3 when you were at 5 pounds?

00:20:00 – Were you giving gear companies feedback when you were testing products? 

00:21:25 – To become a gear tester do you just go on backpacking forums and be loud?

00:21:44 – What did you bring on the PCT?

00:22:24 – Had you started making your own gear already on the PCT?

00:23:33 – How did you get into making your own gear? 

00:24:23 – What is the hardest thing to make yourself? Packs?

00:26:26 – Advice to someone who wants to get a cottage industry pack but is worried about fit? 

00:27:42 – Is there any benefit to going to REI and measuring packs there? 

00:28:22 – What is the process with your designs going to manufacturing?

00:30:40 – Are you the only one doing product testing on Dan Durston Gear?

00:32:15 – Who is Dan Durston Gear for? Who is the target market?

00:36:49 – What makes setting up your tents so simple? 

00:37:39 – Do you have any photos of your disaster feet?

00:39:01 – How tall are you? 

00:49:36 – How did find you? 

00:50:29 – What do you mean by ‘being a loudmouth on backpacking light’? 

00:51:24 – Have you solved the condensation issue that most ultralight tents have? 

00:52:43 –  So should you not ventilate your tent when sleeping in humid areas?

00:55:14 – What are your recommendations for campsite selection to avoid condensation?

00:57:03 – Talk about polyester tents!

00:58:00 – What’s the weight difference between polyester and nylon?

00:59:48 – So what is the strongest fabric? 

01:02:30 – Does the fabric make the tent more prone to smell or mildew?

01:03:35 – How long should you leave your tent out to dry?

01:04:31 – Is there a proper way to clean and store a tent?

01:05:30 – How often should you replace tents?

01:07:00 – How do you store your tent? Stuff or fold and roll?

01:10:51 – Who is the X-mid made for? 

01:13:18 – If Dan Duston Gear didn’t exist and you had one tent you had to use for all purposes, what would you pick? 

01:14:13 – Will there ever be a DCF X-Mid?

01:16:58 – Would you consider Dan Durston Gear to be ultralight? 

01:17:27 – Do you think there is a lot of room for improvement in the cottage industry UL gear space? 

01:19:15 – If you could name the Dan Durston backpack what would you name it? 

01:19:43 – Will you talk us through the pack? 

01:21:43 – Can you get a 40 oz beer in the pocket? 

01:22:28 – What is the mesh material on the shoulder strap? 

01:24:19 – What is the advantage of X-Pac? 

01:29:09 – What are some other pack companies that use X-Pac?

01:31:25 – What is the weight on the Dan Durston pack and what does it go for? 

01:33:31 – What was it that took your company to the next level? 

01:35:30 – What would Dan Durston’s gear slogan be? 

01:36:44 – Can you talk about the Great Divide Trail? 

01:39:33 – Where does the GDT start and end and where does it go through? 

01:42:06 – What is the seasonality for the GDT?

01:42:51 – What kind of miles can you do on snowshoes? 

01:43:28 – Can you tell us about the mosquitoes? 

01:42:59 – What would you say is the “Sierra” of the GDT? Or “the desert”? 

01:45:04 – What is the non-profit that oversees the GDT?

01:46:28 – Can you run into grizzlies the entire way? 

01:46:45 – Do you have any scary grizzly stories? 

01:48:24 – Has anyone died on the GDT from a grizzly encounter? 

01:49:41 – What is the resupply like? 

01:50:38 – Do you have to mail resupply boxes? 

01:51:28 – Are you able to get 10 days of food in your pack? 

01:52:00 – What inspired the yo-yo of the GDT?

01:52:29 – Were you able to enjoy the southbound hike as much as the northbound hike? 

01:53:53 – What are some good Canadian snacks? 

01:55:09 – In Canada do you have to order Canadian bacon to get Canadian bacon?

01:55:36 – Where should people go for your stuff? 

01:56:04 – Is there anything else you are as obsessed with planning as your gear?


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