A Gear Gander for the CDT
If you ask me, I think gear is very comparable to dreaming. It is always fun to tell your dreams to someone else but can be incredibly boring to listen to someone else recount their dreams to you. I can talk about my gear spread for days and get incredibly animated in the process but have yet to read through the entirety of someone else’s gear article. That being said, here I am writing a gear article. I know it might not be the most interesting topic to some, but there are a few gearheads out there that might appreciate it, and at the very least I hope it may be helpful to someone else. Or helpful to myself, for that matter- I am always open to feedback!
The Big Three
I purchased my TarpTent Stratospire Li with the first stimulus check of the pandemic. I had been eyeing Dyneema trekking pole tents for some time but was hesitant to pull the trigger on a single wall system. I do most of my hiking in the East, and at the time was planning to hike in New Zealand, so I wanted to be prepared for a humid climate where nothing ever dries out. I have had my fights with condensation in the past so double-wall seemed the way to go.
I have about 500 miles with this tent under my belt and it is a dream. It is slightly more spacious than the more popular Zpacks Duplex, and only slightly heavier. It has been comfortable with both myself, my partner, and my dog all squeezed in. The downfall is that it doesn’t pack down as small due to the spurs for the tent corners, so it has to be stored on the outside of my pack (which, as it turns out, I actually prefer). My partner and I will share this tent for the duration of our hike, but he is carrying a lightweight Slingfin tarp as a backup shelter in the case that we are separated.
My pack is the Gossamer Gear Gorilla. I purchased one halfway through my AT hike and loved it. My original pack is still holding up well, but I don’t think it has another 3,000 miles in it, so I went ahead and purchased a new one. The newer model is just as comfortable. I avoided the Mariposa (despite the fact that it came out in my favorite color) because I am not a fan of the stacked side pockets
I use the Enlightened Equipment Revelation Quilt on a Therm-a-Rest NeoAir sleeping pad. The quilt is a far more comfortable set up than the mummy bag I used on the AT, allowing me more freedom to toss and turn in my sleep. The Thermarest is not nearly as comfortable as the lofty Big Agnes pad I previously used but well worth the saved weight. I do wish I had purchased the Enigma (fully open quilt) rather than the Revolution (closed footbox), though, as I imagine the Enigma works better as a camp blanket and can be worn while walking around doing camp chores.
Other related gear: I have a Tyvek groundsheet for my tent, and also carry a Sea to Summit pillow and Sea to Summit sleeping bag liner. I have had the liner since the AT and it certainly does the trick, but I am still convinced there should be a cheaper product on the market. I don’t think it adds 10 degrees of warmth as advertised, and the $55 I paid for it seems steep for a piece of fabric.
I have a Garmin inReach Mini that I have been using for some time. I don’t think I have taken advantage of all its features, but it has been useful all the same. I have the mid-tiered service plan. Pulling the trigger on this purchase was a doozy but I am thankful to have it, for the ease of logistics if not the peace of mind.
I am carrying an Anker battery that holds about 4 phone charges. I have recently had an issue with this battery where sometimes it will recharge in just a few hours, and other times it will take all day. I am not sure if the battery is responsible, or the outlet, or the cord. My partner has had the same problem with two Anker batteries he has purchased. For now, I am just going to roll with it but if it becomes an issue, I will be researching other brands.
I use an iPhone 11 and am happy with the camera quality. I have a small shoulder pouch to carry it in for easy access. The shoulder pouch was made by a guy named Justin I found on a Facebook group.
I will be using a pair of wireless Bluetooth headphones for the first time. They are JBuds Air Sport pods that wrap around the ear lobe. The outside of the headphones are touch-sensitive so I can control volume, skip a song, and even turn on a “Be Aware” mode that activates a microphone, so I would be able to hear anyone approaching me (although I would also hear my labored breathing amplified in my ear, so I may just stick with one headphone at a time rather than this unique feature).
Another purchase I still need to make is a “fast charger”, so I can get as much juice pumped into my electronics during shorter town stops.
Yes, I will be cooking. I tried cold-soaking once, and while the food wasn’t that bad, the wait sure was excruciating. I had meant to stop an hour or so before camp to start the cold soak process but we were climbing a steep hill and I didn’t want to lose the momentum. I can’t fathom only surviving on foods that don’t need to be cooked or cold soaked. I am already running low on lunch and breakfast options because I have had too many of the same things. Tortillas and tuna just makes me gag at this point.
I have a Snowpeak stove and a 1 liter Stanley stainless steel cook pot. I could trade out the cook pot for a lighter titanium pot but haven’t gotten around to it. Besides, I have made the cutest cozy system! I used blue reflective material (like what you would put in your windshield in the summer) and hot pink duct tape to make one the exact size of my pot. My blue spork fits nicely in the side. The pot itself holds my stove, the 4oz fuel tank, a pink bandana, and a blue lighter. The color coordination of this whole system brings me unreasonable joy and I just don’t think I could change it up at this point.
Worth noting- I will be carrying the tent and my partner will be carrying my cook system to make up for the weight. If we get separated, it is the main thing I can do without.
I am a sucker for stuff sacks- in fact, I only recently learned that many hikers cut weight by avoiding stuff sacks and my heart broke to hear it! I have two Dyneema stuff sacks from Zpacks, one for food and one for clothes. Do I need the most expensive material on the market to store my clothes in? Of course not. Did I make the purchase just for the “cool points” that Dyneema gear brings? Maybe. But they hold up well and the wider opening is more convenient than the long skinny stuff sacks and dry bags I normally see. So there.
I have two Smartwater bottles and a 3-liter bladder for additional water carrying capacity. From what I have read 5 liters of carrying capacity should be enough even in the long dry stretches the CDT is known for. I filter with a Sawyer Squeeze. For this trip, I am carrying a few iodine tablets as well, as an extra backup for the famed cow troughs.
I have Leki trekking poles that were advertised as specifically for women. I double-checked that there was no “pink tax” before making the purchase.
I will also be carrying Gossamer Gear’s hiking umbrella for the desert section. I am not sure if this piece of gear will stay with me past the first week, as it doesn’t seem incredibly convenient to carry one while hiking. But I am worried about how much the prolonged exposure to the sun will drain me of energy, and I think the shade will be appreciated.
Oh yeah, we are getting that detailed here. I carry a small bouncy ball to use for rolling out my ever-painful feet. I have a travel toothbrush that is already half-size and has its own carrying case (how many of you just shove the toothbrush in with all your other belongings without protecting the part that you put in your mouth? Come on guys, we don’t have to be that trashy). A travel-size toothpaste, the smallest size of contact solution available as well as a contact case, and one spare lens in case of an emergency (I have no issues putting contacts in and out, even with grimy hands).
Chapstick, sunscreen, wet wipes (although sometimes I wonder why I even bother), a Diva Cup, dental floss, a small pair of tweezers as well as a needle, both of which are stored in a small container that serves as the core for a limited supply of Leukotape. I will be carrying toilet paper, as well as a “black bag” to pack it out. Along with that, I will be carrying a homemade backcountry bidet, made from a recycled Mios bottle. Its aim is fast and true. My trowel is a snow stake that can be used on my tent. I have a few spare O-rings for my Sawyer (anyone else constantly losing theirs??), spare hair ties (which I use to keep my electronics cords neatly wrapped), and safety pins.
For hiking, I will be wearing a button-down long-sleeve Columbia Omni-shield hiking shirt. The material is light in weight and color which I think will be good in the sun. There are some ventilation pockets, and the sleeves roll up easy. I use a simple, cheap sports bra made by Jocky- no pads and no adjustable straps. A Buff will probably constantly adorn my neck.
I have been on the hunt for the perfect pair of hiking shorts since my favorites decided to finally die. I was looking specifically for black shorts with less than a two-inch inseam, no liner, and WITH POCKETS. I have been searching for months and finally found a pair made by Smartwool and they far exceeded all expectations. And they have FIVE POCKETS. Two in the front, big enough for my phone, two in the back that are just as spacious, and a tiny secret pocket on the side! I am thrilled. No fanny pack for me!
I have some sun gloves from Outdoor Research with a gaudy pattern that I absolutely adore. I am topping off the look (get it?) with a Sun Days brimmed hat that is breathable and had a medium-sized brim that should block the sun but not bump up against my pack behind me.
I will carry two pairs of Darn Tough socks, but three (or maybe four) pairs of Ex Officio underwear. I learned quickly on the AT that putting on dirty or wet socks never bothered me, but the same couldn’t be said for underwear.
My top layers include a pair of Body Wrapper dance warm-up pants (you read that right) that weigh only 3 ounces. I wasn’t going to bring any pants for hiking since I prefer shorts, but when I saw how light these were I decide it would be worth it to have the extra protection, especially for overgrown trail or harsh winds. I use the Enlightened Equipment Torrid puffy coat, although I am not the biggest fan. The extra stuffing at the wrists does add warmth but makes it hard to get on and off, or to check my watch. I will be carrying my Marmot Gortex rain jacket but don’t plan to pick up rain pants until later in the trail.
My camp shoes are traditional-style Tevas and I hike in Merrell MQM Flex trail runners, a size 7 in Men’s for the extra width (and maybe a little bit for that nice earth green color). I use orthotic inserts that were custom-made for my foot after a bout of killer plantar fasciitis. I will be trying out some Dirty Girl gaiters for the first time.
Earning the trail name “Picasso” has been both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, I felt the need to live up to the name and was more inclined to paint daily on the AT. The consistency has helped me build my side career as an artist and I look forward to continuing this practice. On the other hand, I don’t think I can ever go hiking without the art set up, and it sure does add some weight!
I will be carrying a 5”x7” sketchbook with a soft cover. I have taken the time to add some pockets on the inside covers to hold loose paper or anything of the sort. I will likely fill the sketchbook and move on to a second and perhaps even a third before the trail is over. I have a pencil, a few pens, and two paintbrushes. My paint kit is by Prestigify and offers 24 colors along with a brush cleaning pad (sort of like a sponge). I also carry a small collapsible cup for water.
This is my gear as it stands for the desert section of the CDT. I expect things to change drastically once I get into the mountains and have to handle different elements. My base weight comes in at about 15 pounds. I have gone lighter but found that I prefer certain comforts and conveniences that I have added gear back to my pack. I look forward to seeing how this spread changes with habits and the environments that I will be hiking through.
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