Tahoe Rim Trail: Gear
Gear, gear, gear. Much of our Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) planning time was spent on gear. Did we have the right gear? What is a luxury? Should we drop any items? What amount of money are we willing to spend on new gear? What is an acceptable dollar per ounce lost from our baseweight?
Every hiker has unique circumstances that inform their gear decisions. As a couple who were joined by a friend halfway through the trip, we both shared some items and had some redundancies. We carried some luxuries and don’t qualify as ultralight; my baseweight was around 15.4 lbs, while Alex’s was similarly 15.3 lbs. But we also intentionally spent money on certain items to lower our weight.
Related: Badger’s Tahoe Rim Trail Gear List
Here’s what we each carried at the start of the trail. The weights come from my personal kitchen scale. For more about our hike, you can read this or watch this.
Tent: NEMO Hornet 2 (45.44 oz)
Prior to the TRT, Alex threw minor tantrums every time we camped in this tent, complaining about its size. It’s a pretty squishy 2p. However, we used it the entire TRT with no issues (and reduced tantrums!). The extender strings on either door help pull the tent walls towards the fly. But by the end of the trip, we’d stopped using the fly and dealt with the walls touching our sleeping bags. This would likely pose a larger issue if we weren’t in such warm, dry conditions, never dealing with condensation.
Sleeping Pad: Big Agnes Insulated AXL Air (13.6 oz)
After my elderly pad stopped holding air, Big Agnes gave me a generous stipend towards another purchase. Though I wouldn’t have picked the Insulated AXL Air out of the entire available market, I’m happy with this option. I’m saving several ounces compared to my last pad, retaining the comfort of an air pad, and gaining backpack space with its tiny packed size. While I was concerned for its durability, it held up. My campmates want me to tell you, though – it’s noisy.
Sleeping Bag: Klymit KSB 20 Down Sleeping Bag (47.5 oz)
This is clearly not a UL bag, but dang is it cheaper than one. It keeps me toasty at night, which is when I grudgingly forgive its weight and bulk.
Pack: Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 (30.5 oz)
I chose this pack after testing a few options last summer. Love the stretchy outer pockets. Don’t love the ‘brain’ pocket on the top because things inside get crushed or make closing the pack a nuisance. The hip belt padding sits more on my outer sides than hips; I wish it extended further towards my stomach.
- Rain Gear: Emergency Poncho (1.3 oz)
We took a chance not carrying extra rain gear and we’re so glad we did. We saw one rain cloud the whole two weeks, far off in the distance.
- Puffy: Patagonia Down Sweater (11 oz)
Given the July heat, I wore my puffy more for mosquito protection than for warmth. There were a couple cool nights and mornings and I probably wouldn’t have been super comfortable leaving this behind. But I would consider it if I did this hike again, at the same time of year.
- Base Layer Top: Smartwool Women’s Merino 250 (7 oz)
Again, it might be nice to find something that combines the base layer and puffy functionalities into one for this trip. But I wore this while sleeping and waiting for my gross hiking shirt to dry after being rinsed.
- Base Layer Bottoms: Athleta Fleece Tights (7.5 oz)
For sleeping and mosquito avoidance. Except the mosquitos could bite through these. So, yeah.
- Extra Socks: Darn Tough Micro Crew Lightweight (1.9 oz)
- Extra Underwear (0.5 oz)
- Baseball Hat (2.7 oz)
- Sunglasses (1 oz)
- Shirt: Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily Long Sleeve (4.1 oz)
I’d never hiked in long sleeves before, but I know my skin thanks me for it. I almost certainly would have gotten burned in short sleeves, despite copious sunscreen application. I love nearly everything about this shirt, except for how ingrained the dirt got in the seams. I’ve washed it several times and the sleeve and neck cuffs are still stained.
- Sports Bra: Patagonia Barely Bra (1.9 oz)
- FitBit (1 oz)
Another thing to charge, but useful as a watch and secondary mileage counter.
- Underwear (0.3 oz)
- Shorts: Nike Dri-Fit Shorts (2.8 oz)
- Socks: Darn Tough Micro Crew Midweight (2.2 oz)
I rotated between my two pairs throughout each day to help reduce blister formation.
- Shoes: La Sportiva Ultra Raptor Trail-Running Shoes (24.1 oz)
I want to love these shoes, but I just don’t have anything special to say about them. They routinely cause blisters in the same place, regardless of how I lace them. The tongue of the shoe does this weird thing where it slides to the outer side, on both shoes. They’ve worked, and carried me at least 600 miles, but I probably won’t get the same kind when I go to replace them.
Cooking & Drinking
- Water Bottles: 2 SMART Water Bottles (2.6 oz)
- Extra Water Capacity: 2 Sawyer Bags + 1 Platypus SoftBottle Water Bottle (2.8 oz)
The day before we got to Tahoe City, all 3 of these bags broke. We think our filter got too clogged to enough water through, snapping the plastic. We replaced them with 2 new Platypus bags in Tahoe City, one 1 liter and one 2 liter.
- Water Filter: Sawyer Squeeze plus Syringe (3.2 oz)
Apparently there’s a special SMART water bottle cap that can backflush the Sawyer? We didn’t learn that until we finished hiking, but we used the syringe to backflush twice during our hike.
- Fuel (13.5 oz)
- Stove: Jetboil MiniMo Cooking System (12.8 oz)
Not the lightest stove around, but one we’ve had forever. We like how easy it is to use and how quickly it boils water. Although, our spark button stopped working this trip and we had to use our lighter to get it started.
- Spork: Light My Fire Spork (0.3 oz)
- Towel: REI Microfiber Towel (1.3 oz)
Instead of bringing a bandana or buff, I used this towel to rinse off daily. I loved how fast it dried!
- Toothbrush and toothpaste (1 oz)
- Contact solution, case, and extra contacts (2.4 oz)
- Facial and body sunscreen (6 oz)
- First aid kit (8.2 oz)
- Coghlan’s Back Packers Trowel and toilet paper (1.8 oz)
- Bug spray and bug net (2.2 oz)
- Face wipes (0.3 oz)
- Castile soap (1.8 oz)
- Phone: iPhone 8 Plus (9.1 oz)
- Headlamp: Black Diamond Spot (3.1 oz)
Almost unnecessary. We truly went to bed when it got dark and got up when it got light. Between the two of us, I think we could pack just one in the future.
- Headphones: Skullcandy Earbuds (0.5 oz)
Probably wouldn’t bring these next time, since I only listened to music once.
- Power Bank: Nitecore NB10000 (5.3 oz)
- Charging Cube: Nitecore Quick Charge 3.0 USB AC Power Adapter (1.7)
This thing is seriously quick.
- Charging Cords for Power Bank, Phone, and FitBit (0.9 oz)
- Car Keys (0.7)
- Trekking Poles: Leki Jannu Trekking Poles (17.6 oz)
They’ve only collapsed and sent me face first into the ground once, and not at all on this trip!
- Pillow: Cocoon Sleeping Bag Hood Pillow (3.6 oz)
For an inflatable pillow, this one is decent. I really need a pillow when I’m camping, and my bunched-up clothes simply do not cut it.
- Pack Liner: Trash Compactor Bag (1.6 oz)
- Wallet (1 oz)
You mean the classiest of classy wallets, the ZipLock bag?
Big Three (because the tent fit so beautifully in the side pocket of my Mariposa, I carried it)
Sleeping Pad: Big Agnes Insulated Q-Core Deluxe (24.3 oz)
When I say Deluxe, I mean it. Alex towers above me on what seems like 10 inches of sleeping pad. It’s soft, silent, and huge, which is great for sleeping, though I wouldn’t (and don’t) want to carry that much weight and bulk in a sleeping pad.
Sleeping Bag: Klymit KSB 20 Down Sleeping Bag (46 oz)
Pack: Osprey Atmos 65 (49.4 oz)
For months leading up to our trip, Alex planned to buy a Gossamer Gear Mariposa. But, we realized that we simply could not fit our gear into two Mariposas, mainly due to the fact that both our giant sleeping bags and our bear can have to be situated vertically in the Mariposa. While heavy, Ospreys’ bulkier frames allow for nice padding and airflow. Alex decided to save the money, cut off some extraneous straps off, hike without the Atmos’ brain, and save about half a pound overall.
- Rain Gear: Emergency Poncho (1.7 oz)
- Beanie (2.3 oz)
- Puffy: Patagonia Down Sweater (12.1 oz)
- Base Layer Top: Smartwool Men’s Merino 250 (8.7 oz)
- Extra Underwear (2 oz)
- Extra Socks: Darn Tough ¼ Lightweight Hiking Socks (1.7 oz)
- Camp Shoes: Crocs (13.3 oz)
Alex loved his Crocs. He talked about them every day. To everyone.
- Baseball Hat (3 oz)
- Sunglasses (1.3 oz)
- Bandana (1.1 oz)
- Shirt: Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily Long Sleeve (5.4 oz)
- FitBit (0.6 oz)
- Underwear (3.8 oz)
- Pants: Sahara Convertible Zip-Off Pants (12.1 oz)
Though not necessarily the height of fashion, Alex liked using the long pants to protect against bugs and itchy plants and the shorts mode for swimming and cooling on hot days.
- Socks: Darn Tough ¼ Lightweight Hiking Socks (1.7 oz)
- Shoes: Keen Targhee II Mid Hiking Boots (37.7 oz)
Alex liked how these standard hiking boots protected his feet from the rocky trail around Desolation Wilderness. However, being waterproof, they held in a lot of the sweat moisture. He wants to try out trail runners in the future but will probably keep the boots around because of the support.
- Water Bottles: 2 SMART Water Bottles (2.6 oz)
- Spoon: Sea to Summit Alpha Light Spoon (0.4 oz)
- Mug: SnowPeak Hotlips Titanium 600 Mug (2.7 oz)
Alex used the mug for morning coffee and some dinners, and I drank tea out of the Jetboil.
- Bear Canister: BearVault BV500 (40.7 oz)
While bear canisters are not (yet) strictly required on the TRT, it’s best practice to use one. The bears in Desolation Wilderness are particularly skilled in getting hanged food down. The canister gave us peace of mind knowing we were best protecting the local bears and served as a useful seat at camp.
- Lighter: Bic Mini Lighter (0.3 oz)
- Knife: Derma-Safe Folding Knife (0.2 oz)
Ok, not a knife so much as a small razor blade. But since we never needed it, we were glad to have the tiny weight.
- Toothbrush: New World Imports UL Toothbrush (0 oz)
Seriously, our kitchen scale didn’t even register it. This is what I carried as well, along with a small travel-size toothpaste to share.
- Contacts (0.2 oz)
- Bug Net (0.6 oz)
- Deodorant (1.7 oz)
I know, I know. But, it helped us feel slightly better about walking straight into a crowded café from trail.
- Phone: iPhone 8 Plus (8.5 oz)
- Headphones: PowerBeats (0.9 oz)
- Headlamp: Coast LED Headlamp (3.6 oz)
- GPS: Garmin Mini (3.5 oz)
Once we remembered to lock the device during tracking periods, its battery life was impressive. This gave our families piece of mind and we’re excited to bring it on future backcountry adventures.
- Power Bank: Anker Powercore 10000 (6.7 oz)
- Charging Cords for Power Bank, Phone, and Headhpones (0.4 oz)
- Frisbee (4.2 oz)
- Tiny Dice (0.7 oz)
- Sit Pad (0.9 oz)
- Pack Liner: Nylofume Pack Liner (0.9 oz)
- Trekking Poles: Mountainsmith Pinnacle (21.6 oz)
- Pillow: Nemo Fillo Backpacking & Camp Pillow (9.3)
Drops & Additions
Day 3 of 13
We lucked out by knowing a friend of a friend in South Lake Tahoe, who agreed to hold on to the rest of our stuff (we had a local wedding to attend after finishing the trail and while hiking in a suit and dress appealed to us, we didn’t want to pay for the dry cleaning). Since we reached Kingsbury on the third day of our trip, we planned a resupply and night off trail with our friend. This allowed us the opportunity to drop or pick up gear at this location.
- We didn’t drop any gear at this point unless you count food. We left behind some unfinished trail mix, which we had already grown quite sick of.
- Sunscreen (we thought we’d packed enough for the whole trip, but I don’t think it would have lasted two more days).
- Birkenstocks. Before you say anything, I know, I know. Not even remotely acceptable camp shoes, considering their weight, bulk, and non-waterproofness. But, at this point my blisters demanded another pair of shoes that could air out my feet during breaks and at camp.
Day 6 of 13
Our friend Pat joined us halfway through our trip to hike from Echo Lake to Mt. Rose Trailhead. We learned a lot about what gear redundancies are needed for a group of three, and what we only needed one of. Here are some of our takeaways for hiking in a group of 3:
- One stove for 3 of us worked fine. Originally, Pat brought his own, but we were never in such a cooking rush that a second was really necessary.
- Two bear bins for 3 of us was necessary, primarily for the volume factor. It took a bit of Tetris departing Echo Lake (the fullest our bins would be) with 4 days of food for 3 people.
- We didn’t share a tent; Alex and I shared our teensy 2 person ultralight tent, while Pat carried another 2 person tent as well as a hammock (which he later sent home).
- Two water filters between us, the Sawyer Sqeeze and Katadyn Hiker Filter, helped speed the filtering process. We loved the speed of filtering with the Katadyn, though without a way to backflush it, once it slowed down it really slowed.
Day 10 of 13
On day 10, we hiked into Tahoe City. Since Pat had never backpacked before and set off from Echo Lake with a pretty heavy pack, he was ready to send home a ton of weight from the Tahoe City post office.
- Pat’s extra gear, including a hammock, his stove, extra clothes, his tent’s rain fly, and the brain of his 70L backpack.
- Replacement water filter bladders since both of our dirty water bags broke the day before.
We were pretty happy with the gear that got us around Lake Tahoe. In the future, we’re hoping to gradually decrease our weight as we can. For more about our hike, you can read this or watch this.
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