Gear Prep Paralysis
I started typing this post just days before COVID-19 was announced to be detrimental to our nation. In the weeks that followed, the Pacific Crest Trail Association requested that all hikers on or off the trail cancel or postpone their thru-hike. Therefore, I realize that everyone is facing a different sense of paralysis at the moment. But whether you’re still prepping for your SOBO journey or now prepping for your 2021 thru-hike, I hope some will find this relatable and helpful!
If you’re anything like me, a first-time thru-hiker, you may have also spent countless hours watching gear videos and researching the best brands. Maybe entirely basing your gear picks off your favorite hiker social media influencers. This gear prep thing was a bit more challenging for me because of my perfectionist tendencies. Everything had to be just right, I had to know exactly which items I wanted before making any purchases. I’d spent countless hours looking at various types of gear trying to decipher the differences, pros and cons, ounces or comfort, etc. They’re all really great, quality brands, it’s just a matter of choosing what’s best for my needs. (Key word there: MY needs.)
Some of the dialogue that constantly ran through my head went something like this:
- “Ounces? Ok, got it, choose stuff that’s super light.”
- “Wait, what’s the difference between these? They both weigh the same and have almost identical descriptions, yet one is nearly $100 more. Well, more expensive must mean better quality, right?”
- “Wait, let me go back and rewatch Dixie’s video on that gear, she seems to know what she’s talking about and I think we’re about the same size/body type.”
- “Oh wait, I remember the Hiking Viking showing that piece of gear in a video! Surely he knows what he’s talking about. I mean, look at that majestic beard.”
- “Ok, I’ll get that gear that he used and then I’ll try this other piece of gear that Dixie used.”
- “Wait wait wait, who’s this other guy on YouTube? Darwin? He definitely sounds like he knows what he’s talking about. Ok, cool, I think I’ll try that gear that he recommended too.”
- “Geez, this stuff is getting pricey and the more I search gear videos, the more I find! They’re endless!”
Ok, so because I went through this for as long as I could remember, I didn’t buy a single piece of gear up until about 90 days from my expected start date on the PCT. I was so worried about choosing the “right/best” gear! If anyone else has gone through this or is still going through a similar experience, what I found that helped me was to just start buying one thing at a time. And test it out! Now, of course, that’s not to say just start blindly purchasing various items without an order of priority or maybe a budget in place. But I finally had to tell myself “just choose something!” So I actually started with (what I believed were) the basics. My big three! Backpack, shelter, and sleep system. Oh and some popular trail runners to go ahead and start breaking in.
I was tired of spinning my wheels, knowing that I was so ready to get prepping, yet making zero progress. Feeling paralyzed because of the plethora of great options. I started to notice the most common brands, like tents, sleeping pads, water filtration, packs, etc. Once I started narrowing it down, it came down to my needs, preferences, and most especially my budget. Thankfully, most of these outdoor gear companies understand the need to test their gear before deciding to use it for the long haul, and so they have really great return policies. I highly recommend understanding the return policies if it’s a piece of gear you’re unsure of but just want to test out.
Since I finally had my list and started making one purchase at a time, my next order of business was to test out my items on local trails. This most certainly allowed me to figure out what worked and didn’t work for me. Which, surprisingly enough, one of the things that didn’t work were the trail runners I’d tried out! Thankfully I was able to return them and found some that worked much better, but it was a great reminder that just because an item may be what the masses are using doesn’t mean it’ll be what’s best for you. This is so crucial, especially with shoes, because that could be the deciding factor in preventing foot injuries.
If there is anything I’ve learned from all those videos, it’s that you don’t want to compromise on the gear that best meets YOUR needs.
It has honestly been more fun buying things in waves, testing, returning/exchanging some, and trying more. You’ll never really know until you try it out yourself. With that being said, I’ll be excited to report how my gear has worked out once I complete my PCT thru-hike! (Post COVID-19, of course.)
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