Prepping to Hike (with) Enlightened Gossamer

My first introduction to backpacking was in 2011 when I signed up for a mountaineering course in Cal State Long Beach, CA.

At the time, there was a set of wilderness courses that were offered and while I was not majoring in any recreational subject, I wanted to start venturing and learning of the outdoors. I had not been hiking before, and the only time I remember camping with my family was and still is very faint. I do remember the first time I put on a pack it was almost twice my size and weighed almost as much as I did, even with gear being shared.ย 

First known picture of me with a backpack on – 3.5.2011

12 years later…

I have added a couple hundred miles under my feet and still don’t fully understand the magnitude of gear there is out there. To be honest, I am not a huge fan of talking about gear and gear weight. It’s overwhelming, there are SO MANY things to choose from out there! And with that there are so many factors involved in why one chooses what they carry.

I do, however, understand what has worked for me, my needs vs. wants, and the weight I carry, and maybe sharing my “why’s” on some items can help others. I am a fan of comfort and therefore sacrifice a few pounds where others might not. My base weight – loaded pack weight minus consumables – tends to fluctuate between 15 and 25 pounds depending on the season. In this case, it should fluctuate depending on section.ย 

Gear dry out break while on trail after a rainy day/night.

My base weight for the PCT consist of the following main items:ย 

  • Pack: Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60ย 
  • Shelter: Nemo Hornet Osmo 1P*
  • Sleeping Pad: ThermaRest Neo Air XLite
  • Sleeping Quilt: Enlightened Equipment Enigma 10degree with Sea To Summit Sleeping Linerย 
  • Cooking Kit: MSR Windburner with 16oz fuel canister*ย and Sea To Summit Collapsible Cup
  • Water System: 1L Katadyn BeFree and 2L Cnoc bag with Sawyer System – 1 Smart Water and 1 Nalgene Bottle
  • Chair: Helinox Chair Zero*
  • Footwear: Teva Sandals / possibly my awesome new Buzz Lightyear Crocs that light up!
  • Base/Camp Layers: Top and Bottom 32degrees, BALEAF Down Pants
  • Rain Gear: Black Diamond TreeLine Rain Shell and Mountain Hardwear Acadia Pants

Amongst these items there are a few other smaller, miscellaneous items that include: a first aid kit made up of items mostly stolen from my jobs first aid kit and a small emergency accessories bag that includes an emergency blanket, nail clippers, tweezers, tick remover, poncho, waterproof matches, a small scissor, Aquatabs, headlamp, New Skin and a sewing kit. My pack also includes an extra pair of socks, tent down booties, camp gloves, my FlexTail pump and a couple items I am sure I am forgetting to mention.

All in all, when running my gear through my second set of eyes and convincing her that Iย do need my – Helinox Chair for the desert section, Nalgene Bottle, extra socks AND down booties – my base weight came out to 20lbs. 20lbs may seem like a lot to others but… they are not carrying the weight. I am. And thankfully the pack that I have chosen makes those 20lbs feel like nothing.ย ย 

Going through gear with my second set of eyes

Items that I refuse to budge on…

That drive my second set of eyes crazy mainly includes my Helinox Chair. But to be fair, this item could start wars in discussion boards over whether it’s a waste to carry or not. I used to question it too until I did a couple backpacking trips where, yes, I could use a sit pad, but my back could not get comfortable. So, while a sit pad may work for others, my back gets tired and I just don’t find it comfortable having to shift constantly or try to find something to lean on.ย  So Helinox goes with me, with the “compromise” that it will be switched out for the bear canister once I (hopefully) make it to the Sierra. At this point I will also be switching out my Nemo Hornet Osmo* for an XMid 1 to try and offset the weight of the added bear canister.ย 

Helinox Chairs around Sallie Keyes – The comfort!

My Nalgene bottle. There’s a whole craze about Smart Water Bottles going on right now and while I do partake in it, I absolutely love my Nalgene bottle. Having a bottle that can hold boiling hot water can be a life saver on those cold nights and rainy days! There’s a bet out there that I will be sending this item back home while on the trail…

My Flextail Mini Pump that I didย not show my second set of eyes. This is a total luxury item but when I’ve been hiking all day, the last thing I want to do is get to camp and start pumping breaths into my sleeping pad.ย 

Another item I feel I should randomly note is my decision to carry a 16oz fuel canister. While yes, there are 8oz and 3oz canisters, I am fine carrying the 16oz. This comes from experience on the JMT. Another hiker scoffed at my 16oz fuel canister and instead of following my guts, I switched it out for a 3oz. Long story short – my tramily ended up running out of fuel on a cold, rainy day but thankfully I threw an extra 3oz canister in my pack. Needless to say, I’d rather carry more than less when it comes to fuel.ย 

I can go on and on about the gear that I have chosen to take with me and why. But in short, it all comes down to – it works for me. Through trial and error, I have learned what I am willing to carry or not. I expect things to change, and I expect to send things home (except the Nalgene!). I expect to add items and switch out gear while I am on the PCT. Things should change considering my environment will change. What I choose to carry in the end is a combination of many factors: comfort while hiking, comfort at camp, previous experiences, research and yes… a little bit of fear. Fear of running out of items, items breaking down, being too cold,ย not being ready, etc., etc.ย 

Most of the gear I will be starting with for the PCT. Not shown – food, water, clothing to be worn.

Prepping to hike with 20lbs…

Has been very busy, fun, and exciting. I don’t have a workout routine I’ve been building up to or working on consistently. My job has always helped me maintain my steps and mileage throughout the day. The current project that I am working on has 3 staircases, each 7 levels, and I am constantly going up and down – all. day. every. day. Monday. thru. Friday. So… I guess not every day, but you know. The miles add up, and I typically do between 5 and 10 miles a day. Outside of work, I maintain myself by doing what I love most… adventuring! Since completing the JMT in September, I have kept myself busy by hiking Mount Baden Powell, backpacking San Jacinto, snowcamping in Tahoe, taking an Avalanche 1 course, an ice climbing course and essentially just getting outdoors whenever possible.ย 

Different activities that have kept me active and busy in preparation for the PCT

My plan…

Is to start off slow and build up my mileage on the PCT. As of now, my “itinerary” starts at 10 miles a day for the first month but is subject to change. One of the biggest challenges will be to stay consistent in the first month to prevent any overuse or strain to my knee. Preventing previous injuries from flaring back up will be key for me, along with ensuring the gear I carry works. I do plan on leaving behind some resupply boxes. I have a storage box full of backup gear that will be left with a close friend should anything break while I’m on trail. I have a folder/drive I share with a few friends and family that includes all my research done for resupply points, campsites, water sources, emergency exits, contacts, and Garmin information. Sometimes, I feel I may be over prepared and overthinking this.

And yet, I know I am far from being ready for what is coming my way.

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