Who Needs to Retire, Anyway? (Plus, GEAR!)

. Work to Live

“Our ambition should be to rule ourselves, the true kingdom for each one of us; and true progress is to know more, and be more, and to do more.” – Oscar Wilde


       Recently, a friend and I were having a discussion in regards to ambition, and what it looked like to each of us. His perspective was that I was not necessarily ambitious. I’ve worked as a bartender for the last five years, and while I have not put myself on a trajectory to move upward, my ambition does not lie with my job. I entered the craft beer industry after leaving an unsatisfying retail management job. I had security, benefits, and upward mobility, but very little work life balance and no passion in my work at all. I networked and read anything I could get my hands on about beer, breweries, and the industry in general. I eventually landed a job as the first woman barback at one of the busiest taprooms in the state. I worked my way up to bartender, and with all the free time I had, was able to pursue my dreams of travel. I eventually moved to Colorado to be close to the mountains, and to grow my experience in craft beer. I’ve continued traveling and saving, with my eye on a thru hike one day. My goal for a long time has been to enjoy the life I have outside of work, not devote my life to working with an unsatisfying pay off.

Women in beer don’t mess around!

  So, my friend was probably correct in his assessment: I am not ambitious. I’m not ambitious enough to seek out the highest pay, the best accolades, competitive benefits, or to max out a 401k. I’m ambitious in the sense that I don’t want to be a part of those things at all. I want my time to belong to me, not to be a cog in the machine. To live and breathe in the wonders and natural beauty of the United States, and one day beyond. I haven’t ever really fit into the mold, and I don’t plan on starting now.

Falling in love with campervans and the PNW (Washington, 2019)


        No hard feelings against my friend, either, we just have different perspectives and goals for our lives. It’s important to have those tough conversations with people who really care about you and are willing to dig deeper to find out who you really are. 

        I’m relying on one of the adages of thru-hiking, “The trail provides.” I don’t know what my plans are for after the hike yet. I don’t even know if I will hike the whole PCT. What I do know is that I’m going out there with the desire to hike and drink in every moment, and accept whatever experiences may come my way. 

Now onto the good part…

         I’m certainly a gear head, I love putting everything into lighterpack and seeing how it all breaks down. When I was approved for my PCT permit, I thought I would only have to buy a couple items, since I already had a few good ones that I thought would be adequate. Well, thanks to the wealth of information online by thru-hikers of all kinds, I didn’t really have much of what I needed.

        So, I’ve pieced together what I think is going to be the best assortment of gear for my hike, at least to start out. I’ve tried paring down everything to the last ounce, but I just can’t seem to part with anything else. I’m excited to see what I decide to ship back to my sister in Colorado. I’m also excited to really rigorously test out all this new stuff that I’ve really only gotten to set up a few times. 

The Big Three

       For my pack, I’ll be carrying a Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60. When I began planning, I owned an REI Flash 45, which I’ve taken on a couple of backpacking trips. It is a good pack, but based on feedback on facebook and other research, I felt it wasn’t going to be able to withstand the whole trip. Plus, for a trip this length, I needed a slightly larger and lighter pack. After much research on the top 10 packs for thru-hiking, the tipping point for the Mariposa was the variety and size of the pockets, and the included sit pad! It was also on a significant discount when I bought it. I’ve been day hiking as much as possible to prepare for the trip, and at two pounds, I feel the Mariposa was the right choice for me.

Clear shot of the Mariposa 60  (St. Mary’s Glacier, Colorado, 2023)

      For my shelter, I wanted to go semi freestanding. Perhaps at a later time when I’m more comfortable with backpacking and thru-hiking, I’ll upgrade to a trekking pole tent, but for now I’m happy with my Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2. We’ll see how the front entrance works for me, but it came highly recommended to me at a wonderful used outdoor goods store here in Denver (Shoutout to Feral!)
       It’s in good shape for a used tent, and I got it for over half off buying used! Reusing can be applied to Leave No Trace, right? At 2.25 pounds, it is on the heavier end for thru hiking shelters, but for the security of having a frame I think the weight is worth it. It also fits perfectly in the large side pocket of my pack!
       One of the first times I was setting it up, I ripped a big hole along the seam. I attempted a repair with Tenacious Tape and fingers crossed it holds up for me. 


Test set up at Sloan’s Lake, CO (2023)




         My Sleep System is an Enlightened Equipment Revelation Sleeping Quilt and Thermarest NeoAir X Lite Sleeping Pad. I have been wanting to switch from a mummy style sleeping bag to a quilt for a while, as I move around frequently when sleeping and always felt a little constricted in the mummy. EE happened to be running an excellent Thanksgiving sale when I was looking so I decided to take the plunge.  

       I am a little nervous that my quilt won’t be quite warm enough, since it’s rated down to 20 degrees, but I do have a bag liner that I will use with it and evaluate from there. 


        The sleep pad I was able to get from the REI Garage sale at a decent discount. I would prefer to take my combo foam/inflatable pad, but space and weight had to win on this one. I’ve used it a couple of times, and I think it will work pretty well. When I bought the pad, the size wasn’t listed on the garage sale tag. After laying on it a couple of times, I think it may be the smaller version of the x lite, as it doesn’t feel wide enough. I don’t spill off of it, but I could easily roll off during the night. I’m going to give it a fair shot but if I have to replace it, I will. 

Sleep system, plus worn clothes. And socks.


Et, al

        The rest of my gear are all odds and ends that are personal choices and the types of items that gear heads will argue endlessly over. I think that I am pretty well set up and I’m looking forward to putting everything to the test.


Everything else.

Happy trails, all. In less than a week, I’ll be flying to San Diego, spending the night at Scout and Frodo’s, then taking the PCT Southern Terminus Shuttle to Campo. I’m nervous and excited and ready to go. I’ll talk to you then!


Get used to this mug!

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 2

  • Vickie Tapping : Apr 9th

    Just enjoy and live for the moment. My daughter starts the trail from the UK on 25th april. You might meet up along the way

    • Sara Williams : Apr 10th

      Thank you, Vickie! I’m taking inspiration from Ram Dass with me to “Be here now.” I hope to meet your daughter on the trail!


What Do You Think?