CDT Gear – What I’m Doing Differently, What I’m Most Excited About, and What Keeps Me Up at Night
I know people like to talk about gear and read about gear. To be honest, I’m not one who really enjoys writing about it. I think the reason for that is that I tend to obsess about it, and so by the time I get around to writing, my brain has already exhausted itself with gear decisions. That said, preparing gear for the CDT was an interesting process, so I do want to write a little bit about that.
I describe it as an “interesting process” because I already have one thru-hike under my belt. Technically speaking, I could have just used all of the same gear. I mean, it got me from Maine to Georgia, right?
While I’m not sure all of my gear would have survived another thru-hike, truth be told, I wanted to try out some new stuff. I think most hikers who have attempted a thru or long section hike start to develop an appreciation for doing more with less, or at least getting lighter gear, if not both. There is an entire spectrum of gear philosophies (make, buy, buy used, reuse, thrift store only, etc.) that tend to come together in unique combinations in peoples’ kits. I think that is why it is so fun to read about gear, as well as check out YouTube gear videos and overviews of that nature. The fact that I drag my heels in writing about it is simply because it is my gear, and my gear is always less interesting to me than YOURS!
I want to use this article to highlight a few things I’m doing differently this year. I am not going to give a complete overview of all my gear, as that would probably run long and be a little boring. I have enough trouble as it is being concise! If you are interested in all the gory detail, I set up my gear list on Lighter Pack this year. You can click here to access a complete list of every item I’m carrying, their itemized weights, and see how everything adds up to my base weight. Be sure to read the description box as I include some other detail there, such as the weight of the map sets I’ll be mailing ahead, etc. If you are a super visual person, you can also check out a gear overview YouTube video I created. It’s definitely not going to win any academy awards or anything, but it gets the job done.
What I’m Doing Differently with Gear for the CDT
Here are a few key changes I made to the kit I finished my AT thru-hike with:
- Changed to a lighter, single-person, single-walled tent that sets up with one trekking pole.
- Using a down quilt that opens up completely, instead of my down mummy bag.
- Ditched the camp shoes. This is purely for weight savings.
- Synthetic jacket instead of down.
- Simplified my cook system and considering cold soaking some of the trail.
- Homemade garbage bag rain skirt instead of rain pants, purely for weight savings. I’m definitely expecting less rain on the CDT than I experienced on the AT (which was a ton!).
- Leggings instead of pants.
- A more powerful (and heavier) battery bank. I’m doing more with my phone, and distances between towns are longer.
- Bringing sunglasses – I didn’t use them on the AT, but the CDT is more exposed.
All of these were, in some way, weight-saving decisions, except the battery bank and sunglasses. The jacket wasn’t really to save weight (though it did! It’s amazing how light synthetic jackets are these days). The loft in my down jacket was getting a little old and not holding warmth as well as it used to. I wanted something warmer and that I didn’t have to worry about in wet weather, so I’m trying the Enlightened Equipment Torrid Apex. So far I love it! Reducing pack weight was a happy byproduct. The Torrid Apex is ridiculously light! With these changes I was able to reduce my base weight from AT levels (15-20 pounds to about 11.5 pounds.
On the AT I used a homemade cook pouch so that I could just use my pot to heat water. I would pour the hot water into the Knorr rice side bag, place the bag into my cook pouch, and let it cook. This meant I never had to clean my pot. To save weight, I’m ditching this and also not bringing the lid to my pot. I’m not sure how I feel about this yet because cleaning a pot can be a drag, but I’m going to give it a shot and save the weight. Because I’m lazy with camp food, I’m thinking about cold soaking for part of the trek. I’m going to reevaluate this option when I get to Chama. If I’m happy cooking, I’ll keep my stove!
Gear I’m Most Excited About
Obviously I am ecstatic about having the new tent, though I’m probably the most excited about my quilt. I loved my 20 degree Western Mountaineering Ultralite mummy bag, but outside of cold weather, I got really hot in that bag. I made it work for the AT, but a quilt allows me more flexibility. I went with the Enlightened Equipment Revelation 20 degree quilt. I can open it up completely, which will really help when the weather is warmer. It also saves me weight, which I always like. Good sleep is important for fitness, which is why I made this relatively expensive switch.
The weirdest piece of new gear that I have that I am quite excited about is a new headlamp. I used an old Black Diamond headlamp on the AT that took three AAA batteries. In that world of battery-powered headlamps, it is hard to get below three ounces. The headlamp was great, but I wanted to get lighter without having to get a rechargeable headlamp that would require power from my battery bank. A Triple Crowner friend of mine suggested looking at the Petzl e+lite. It wasn’t that expensive (about $30), and it weighs just under an ounce. It takes a disc lithium battery (like you might put into a watch), and so far seems to be bright enough even for some night hiking (I probably wouldn’t bushwhack at night with it). I’m strangely excited about this and look forward to giving it some more testing on the trail.
Pre-Trail Jitters – What Keeps Me Up at Night
Not much really keeps me up at night. OK, nothing does, except maybe my cat trying to curl up in my armpit. This is a real thing she does. But here are the things that I think about, probably more than I should.
Weather: I keep hoping that the snow in Colorado will melt fast, namely because I want to be able to hike the high route in the San Juans and not have to take an alternate or flip up to Wyoming and return back to Colorado. It’s silly to worry about this now.
Food storage: I’m starting with my Dyneema food bag and an Opsack for smelly stuff, but I am considering changing to an Ursack for bear country and when hanging the bag will be more important. The real issue is, I don’t like the 8.8 ounce weight of the Ursack and I’m just struggling to come to acceptance with it. I’ll get there when I need to.
My health: I had this weird case of bronchitis that started slowly when my wife and I were in New Zealand. I was sick for a month, and so I’m not where I would like to be fitness-wise. I also have this neurotic fear that the bronchitis will come back while I’m in the desert. It’s entirely irrational, but for some reason it is there. I don’t often get sick and I’m generally always active and in good shape. I think getting sick was just a foreign experience for me. I didn’t like it!
That’s it really. I’m super pumped about getting started on the trail! I think that the minute I start walking north from the Crazy Cook Monument, all of these worries are going to slip away. Getting into action always calms my jitters.
I officially start the trail on Wednesday, April 24. Tuesday I will spend all day traveling to New Mexico from Atlanta, GA (my home). It’s exciting to think that my next post will be from the trail! Stay tuned.
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