Let’s Talk Gear! My “Big Three” Items

The Big Three

This blog will be about my ‘Big Three,’ which are your sleeping system, shelter & backpack. When I first heard about the ‘Big Three,’ I thought about the three biggest animals in Africa, not about backpacking gear. And I know, I know, it’s the ‘Big Five’ in Africa but who is counting?

Everything Counts

Well, apparently everyone is counting! While researching gear I found out about lightweight backpacking and even ultra-lightweight backpacking. A whole new world full of cottage gear companies opened up for me, which resulted in gear panic moments (which gear to choose?) and a lot of gear porn moments (I want it all! Drooling in front of my laptop). When walking for about six months, you want your backpack to be as light as possible. The easiest way to save weight is on the ‘Big Three’ items. While at first, I was a bit skeptical about the whole ultra-lightweight thing, who knows, you might find a toothbrush with the handle part shaved off somewhere in my future gear list. The search for the perfect ‘Big Three’ began! My biggest advice here is; Take your time. All the choices out there can feel overwhelming. So make sure you have enough time to gather your gear. Research, then take a break from researching and let your unconscious brain do the rest. Now let’s dive in!

Backpack: Atom Packs The Mo EP50

Weight: 910 gram / 32.1 oz

Load capacity: 19 kg / 42 lbs

When I found the brand Atom Packs I was immediately excited about their backpacks. I want to be lightweight but I also want to be comfortable with a heavier load. This is why I choose The Mo. Lightweight but still with a load capacity that is big enough to carry extra food and water (and an extra luxury item here and there). I absolutely love the pack! It is so well thought out.

Specs That I Love:

  • Two super stretchy shoulder pockets for my phone, snacks, and even a water bottle.
  • Roll-top closure that can be clipped together at the top but also with vertical clips for extra compression.
  • Stretchy bottom pocket.
  • Side pockets that can hold two water bottles each.
  • Super large front pocket.

You can even get it customized with all kinds of different colors. I went for the black one to save some money. You can choose from different torso sizes and hip belt sizes. I can’t wait to take the Mo with me on trail! Just be aware that because it is from the UK you have to pay extra for shipping and there are import costs. Oh and I also got their pack liner. So thin!

Tent: Gossamer Gear The One

Weight: 503 gram / 17.7 oz

What can I say? It is ‘The One!’

I first dipped my toes into tents that are supported with trekking poles last summer when I purchased the Lanshan Pro 2 person. After a bit of practice, I’ve come to love it! Why not also use trekking poles as tent poles? The One is a single wall, one-person tent. Setting up the tent is pretty straightforward and I think I’ll keep getting better at it. I love how it is so spacious being a single-person tent, I don’t have to stress about touching the walls of the tent. The front vestibule can be opened up all the way for ventilation and views. The downside of a single wall tent is condensation. When I used my Lanshan pro it was summer so I had no problems with condensation. But when I first tried out The One, I slept in the cold and very wet winter that is The Netherlands. My friend from the States who lives in The Netherlands now told me not to worry too much; The Netherlands is so wet! I just need to practice a bit more with this, the trick is to make sure there is enough ventilation.

Why I Love This Tent:

  • Straightforward setup
  • Spacious
  • Vestibules can open up all the way (hello Milky Way & shooting stars!)
  • Affordable
  • It is THE ONE!

Sleep System: Quilt: Enlightened Equipment Revelation 850

Weight: 750 gram / 26.52 oz (10 degree F)

When doing research I first found out about the existence of quilts and I was intrigued. I wanted to try it out! Here in Europe lightweight backpacking is not nearly as big as it is in the US, there is not so much lightweight gear available here. Luckily a friend went to the US and got one for me. I wanted to try it out thoroughly because I had my doubts. I am a very cold sleeper! A quilt is not a sleeping bag, which means that it is designed to be more like a blanket. The idea behind it is that the down that you lie on in a sleeping bag is useless. Down insulates because of the heat-trapping properties of the down feathers. This only works when there is air between the feathers. The Relevation doesn’t have a full-length zipper. However, you can zip up the bottom part to create a foot box, which makes it like a sleeping bag when it is cold. There are cords that go around the sleeping pad to keep it in place and keep the drafts out. My verdict: it works! I’ve slept in the quilt with -2 Celsius ( 28F) and I was toasty warm. I went for the 10-degree quilt because I prefer to be too hot than too cold.

Specs I Love:

  • So fluffy
  • Very versatile for all the weather that I will face on the PCT
  • Lightweight
  • Drawcords for draft control

Sleep System: Sleeping Pad: Therm-a-Rest Women’s Neo Air XLite Regular

Weight: 340 gram / 12 oz

The all-time backpacker favorite. And oh boy it’s so comfy! I wanted to go for the Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite, the harmonica-style folding pad, until I tried sleeping on one. I am a side sleeper so it felt like I was just laying on the ground. A good night’s sleep is crucial for recovery so the Neo Air Xlite was a no-brainer. First I went for the regular (183 cm) since I am quite tall. But after thinking about it and trying it out I switched to the Woman’s regular (168 cm), I’ll go for the extra R-value instead of the extra centimeters. Another plus: at the end of the day, I’ll be training my lungs some more when blowing up the pad, so when I hit the high altitude of the High Sierra I am ready!

Specs I Love:

  • Inflates & deflates quickly
  • Great customer service (When there is something wrong they help you quickly)
  • Great R-value
  • Super comfy

Last Words

Go cottage gear companies! Their customer service is great and they are happy to answer all your questions. Thirty-three nights until I hit the trail. I am counting down! Do you have any thoughts about my ‘Big Three’ items or do you want more info? Let me know!

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Comments 6

  • Jhony : Mar 23rd

    Looks like you have the EE Revelation Apex / synthetic? I know one thing? I adore mine. And I really like and respect Enlightened Equipment
    Thanks for posting. Yes I subscribed.

    • E. Rowe : Mar 24th

      Did you NeoAir come with a bag for inflating the pad?

  • Eli : Mar 24th

    Cool little list. I dig the tent and sleeping bag. Thanks!

  • Gary : Mar 26th

    Great gear!
    My Big 3 are very similar.
    Note to E Rowe – the NeoAir does come with an inflation bag, but that is not something that a serious thru-hiker will carry. It’s in the same category as a tent ‘footprint’.

    • GroundHog : May 2nd

      Do you use a trash compactor bag to waterproof your pack? If you cut 1/2” off one corner and seal it with a rubber band you now have an inflation sack for 2 grams.

      Can also double as an emergency ramen-bomb dispenser!

      If you bring only the nozzle from a solar shower it works for that as well

  • Scott Anderson : Aug 2nd

    Dear God. How can anyone possibly afford all of that camping gear? You must either be a doctor, lawyer, or a stock broker. Guess I will never be able to go backpacking!!!


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