The Gear That Got Me Thru

November 10, 2017

So I promised you a gear post. A long time ago. I know. I am a total slacker now that I got off the trail, right? Well if you read my last post, you’ll know I am not trying to be a slacker, I am just having a hard time sitting still long enough to blog anymore! I craved any chance I had to sit down on the trail and now I absolutely cannot sit down for more than like ten minutes! So I may or may not be dancing around my living room as I type this. Don’t judge.

Anyways here is the gear that got us through the trail:

When I first took these pictures, I was like holy crap, that’s a lot of stuff. But then I remembered that is all we had for five months. And now I live back in a house with enough food and clothes to supply everyone I met on the trail. Come on over guys!

So first off, I will start with the important gear. Not saying underwear isn’t important, but I think a tent wins the gold on that one. And actually underwear is totally not important. See explanation below.

There are three items I like to refer to as the Big Three. I totally thought of this phrase before ever watching This is Us, so they better not even try to sue me. And I expect to start getting my royalties anytime now.  The big three are items that are very, very important to your comfort and well-being on the trail. I would go as far as to say that these will make or break your hike. If you are going to spend money anywhere, do it on these items. The big three are your tent, your backpack, and your shoes.

Here is our tent that we (Colton) carried the entire trail:

A big advantage to hiking with a partner is the fact that you only need to carry one tent. Some couples split up the weight with one person carrying the tent and the other carrying the footprint and poles, but since Colton likes to think he is Superman, he would not allow that. Plus he hiked faster than me anyways carrying it all, so it would have been silly for me to try and help out. Lucky me. We used the Big Agnes Copper Spur UL 2 tent. The tent comes with the poles, the bags, and the stakes. We additionally bought the footprint that goes with it. This tent rocks. I have never used any other ultralight tents, but this one worked great for our needs. It’s around five pounds with the footprint, it is very quick to set up and kept us dry even in some decent downpours. It is perfect for two average size people who don’t mind being a little cozy. There was just enough room to lay both of our pads down side by side. This is a three-season tent so I wouldn’t expect it to hold up in any kind of harsh snow conditions. We did camp in it a couple times in the snow and it was ok, but if it’s really coming down, this might not hold up. It kept us warm enough most nights. Once the temperature got below freezing, we did get a little cold, but like I said, it’s a three-season tent. I think it is a great tent for the PCT and saw many of its kind on the trail. Some solo hikers even carried this tent to have room to keep their backpacks inside with them. We had room for our shoes at our feet, but that was about it. The zippers did start to get a little testy so I would advise you to not yank on them. We ended up with a few small holes in the netting, and one larger one from when a tree branch fell on top of the tent, but nothing that caused an issue. Awesome mid-range tent.

Next of the big three is the backpack:

Please ignore my slight wine-shopping addiction:

I carried the Osprey Exos 58 the whole trail. Once again, I don’t have another pack to compare this to, but overall I would say it was a decent pack. I didn’t know much about UL packs before starting the trail and a lot of the popular ones are not carried in stores so you have to just buy it and hope it fits and feels good. So I went to REI and tried this one on and decided it was comfy and went for it. For packs there are two options: frameless vs. internal frame. This pack has an internal frame. If your pack is less than 30 pounds you can probably get away with a frameless pack. I had around 35-40 pounds in my pack most of the time so I definitely needed a pack with a frame. This pack held up well when I had under 35 pounds in it. So basically only the last day or two before we got to town when we were low on food. Over 35 pounds, it felt like it was always pulling me backwards. It wasn’t horrible. Just not great. But then again, I don’t think many hikers ever said that their packs felt ‘great’. Ha. I liked all the compartments and little areas that I could shove my gloves and beanie in while we were hiking without having to take the pack off. It was also easy to whip it off and have the main compartment open in seconds. It had plenty of room. Even with my bear canister inside surprisingly. In fact, I think I would get the 48 size if I were to do the trail again. It rode on my hips comfortably. My shoulders did hurt a lot of the time when I had a full load in it. There is a nice air space in between your back and the pack so I didn’t have that crazy back sweat that Colton had 24/7 since his pack was right on his back. Overall the pack worked just fine and held up well. I also saw a lot of these packs on the trail. I think if I were to do the trail over again I would try to considerably lower my pack weight by getting more UL gear and thus, invest in a frameless pack. From the people I met who had UL frameless packs, that also had lower pack weights, they seemed to love them. Of course the more UL you go, the more expensive things get, so you just have to decide wheather your priorities are comfort or finances.

And the last of the big three (no it’s not Randall):

Shoes!!!

Omg, shoes. I love shoes. How I forgot to put my shoes in the main picture at the top of the blogpost, I have no idea. Maybe I was wearing them. Yea, we’ll go with that. Shoes are literally the only type of clothing I enjoy shopping for. And boy, oh boy, do I really, really love these shoes. These are the Altra Lone Peak 3.0s. We both wore these shoes for 95% of the trail. And we finished the trail with our third pair or them. We started off in Mexico with the Solomon Speedcross CS 4’s. They are great shoes. They are NOT great shoes for the dessert. They are waterproof and our feet could not sweat. We both had at least ten blisters each in the first week and walking was miserable. When we got to Idyllwild like 10 days in, I knew I could not hike anymore in them. I didn’t know what to buy, but I had seen a ton of hikers with the Altra’s so I figured if you can’t beat em, join em. And Colton followed suit and we never once regretted our decision. There is a reason that probably 75% of the hikers are wearing these shoes by the time they reach Canada. They look goofy because of their huge cushion and their wide toe box, but they almost feel like you are walking on a cloud. It takes a couple days to get used to the highness of your feet from all the cushioning and the fact that they are a zero-drop shoe, so your entire foot is being used to walk, basically being used how it is supposed to be. My toes were numb the first day I had them because their muscles weren’t ever used to actually being used, but after that life was good. If we would have started the trail with these, I think we would have made our first few weeks waaaay easier. They are breathable and they dry out fast. We even wore them in the snow in the Sierras. They would be soaked in minutes in the soft snow, but could dry out in less than an hour in direct sunlight. Everyone that switched to boots in the Sierras said they worked great until they got wet… and then they never dried out. Your feet are going to get wet no matter what in a snow year like this one that we had, so might as well be comfy. These shoes wear out somewhat quickly, but what shoes don’t when you are walking this much. The manufacturer says they wear out between 300-500 miles. We wore ours way longer. I think we wore the first pair over 1000 miles, granted a lot of those miles were in the snow so they weren’t wearing out as much on sharp rocks. And we also wore them until there was basically no tread left and we were slipping on the smallest patch of snow and there were huge holes in the sides of the shoes. But they still kicked butt. Expect to go through 4-5 pairs of shoes on the whole trail, no matter what kind you have. But I would strongly suggest getting these shoes. They are just the best for most kinds of hikers in my opinion.

 

Sandals:

I somehow forgot to put my sandals in the main picture too. Whoops. We both had these and they are the Keen Clearwater CNX Waterproof sandal. Most hikers bring a pair of sandals with them on the trail. It is nice to have something to wear around camp at night so that your shoes can air/dry out. It is also nice in town to have something easy to walk in. We knew that we would have a lot of river/creek crossings this year so we purposely got a waterproof sandal that would stay on our feet in strong currents. These ones worked great. They are heavier than flip flops, but not as heavy as a lot of other sandals I saw. They were great for creek crossings. They were nice to have around town, because you still end up walking a lot in town and these were sturdier than flip flops. We tried to hike in them a couple times instead of taking our shoes on and off because we had a lot of creeks to cross, but our feet seemed to slip around a lot when they were wet and when we were going up hills. An extra pair of shoes is not necessary, just depends on your preferences.

Ok, now onto the next important gear. We will start with the sleeping bag:

We both used the REI Flash sleeping bags. I don’t think they make these anymore, but I’m not sure why, because I thought they were great. They are rated down to 30 degrees. But of course sleeping bags are never actually warm at the temperature they are rated at, just manageable. I would say they were actually warm at 40 degrees and up. In the dessert, Northern California, and Oregon, they were perfect. We were rarely too hot or too cold. For the Sierras and Washington, we shipped ourselves sleeping bag liners that added another 25 degrees of warmth and were definitely necessary in my opinion. Here are our liners:

They are the Sea to Summit Thermolite Reactor Extreme. We loved them. They are made of comfy material so you are not pressed up to that cold sleeping bag material. The hood can be pulled all the way over your head, which helps a ton on cold nights. It is a little weird to get used to one sleeping bag inside another, since you kind of have to get in one and then get in the other, but it is much better than freezing your butt off in the snow or being too hot the rest of the time if you have a lower rated bag. Another option is a quilt instead of a bag. We saw a lot of hikers with these. They basically can just unzip all the way so that you can use it as more of a blanket, or open sleeping bag when it’s too hot, thus eliminating the need for a liner. I think I might try that if I were to hike it again. But this combo worked great and wasn’t too pricey or heavy. The liner did add a little weight, but it’s warmth made it worth it.

Next we have sleeping pads:

This is the Z Lite Sol, which we both bought in Idyllwild along with our shoes early on in the trail. Before this we had the Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus pads which we both already had before we decided to hike the trail and just brought along without thinking much about our choice or doing any research. That particular kind of Therm-a-Rest were too heavy in our opinion and we did not sleep that well on them. They took forever to pull out of the bags and inflate and were too heavy for not adding enough comfort. If you are going to go with an inflatable, spend the money and get a good one. They’re all a pain, so you might as well be comfy. If you want to be cheap like us, go with the Z Lite Sol. They are easy, you can strap them on the outside of your pack, whip them out in a second to sit on at lunch or a break and they are decent for sleeping on. It took a little while for us to get used to sleeping on them, but after a week or so we adjusted. They are best for back sleepers and probably smaller people as they don’t have much cushion. They also don’t add a ton of warmth. They were warm enough for most nights for us. Colton did get a little cold on the two nights we slept on the snow, but overall, they are great for someone on a budget. If you have the money and want to sleep as comfortably as possible, throw down on a good inflatable pad. But don’t be surprised it they pop. Most do at some point during the trail.

Poles:

These are Cascade Mountain Trek hiking poles that we got from Costco for CHEAP. Most hikers have name brand poles that cost over $100 and seemed to break often. We decided poles were somewhere we could just get whatever and it seemed to work out fine for us. These are very light, less than most people’s expensive poles and held up well. The tips were basically useless by the end of the trail, but it didn’t seem to affect us that much. Colton did break one of his by smashing it against a rock in a fit of anger, but other than that they are very durable. We used the snow baskets in the Sierras which were necessary in my opinion. And no, I don’t use one of my poles as a pimp-cane, I just wanted to show you that they are collapsible. If you want to save money on gear, this is a good place to.

The dreaded bear canister:

These things suck. And there’s not really a way around carrying them. You only have to carry them in the Sierras, so just suck it up and stop crying already. They are big and bulky and not comfortable, but if you get caught without one, it’s big fines. Of course there were no rangers in the Sierras this year when we went through… but whatever. Most hikers have this model, the BV 500. It’s the biggest one for the price. It takes a couple attempts at opening before you get the hang of it, but then it’s easy. You will never fit all your food in it, so just don’t expect that. You will have to arrange your food in a certain way to get most of it to fit and then pour it all out every time you want something. It’s just how it is. Most people still carry their food bag with them because it’s hard to fit more than four days worth of food in one of these unless you’re fine with living off quinoa and Larabars the whole time (barf). We never had a bear try to get into one of ours, but we did keep it outside the tent every night. We also kept our extra food bags outside the tent. No issues with bears. When you fall in the snow and this thing slams into your back it doesn’t feel good. But when does the trail ever really feel good? Besides making for an uncomfortable stool, bear canisters are my nemesis. Whatever, deal with it. We bought ours. I heard of places that rent them to hikers for the Sierras too.

Water:

This is the Platypus Big Zip 2.0 Liter Hydration Pack. We bought these after our crappy, old hydration packs popped. These rock. The zipper is easy compared to the screw-on lid, they’re durable, and the mouthpiece is easy to use. They are pretty easy to pour water into because of the top having a big opening. Most people do not use hydration packs, they just carry water bottles and platypus’. It was nice for us to have water easily accessible so that we did not have to stop to drink. It made climbing hills and the snow days easier because we could constantly sip water and not get dehydrated or tired. They are an extra, unnecessary weight, def not UL. And you can’t see how much water you are drinking so there is the risk of running out if you’re not being careful. Nice, but not necessary. If you’re going UL, don’t get one.

So 2 liters of water is not always enough. We would try and carry only 1-2 liters with us at a time and refill as needed. But if you are not camping next to water at night and you cook your dinner and/or breakfast, you will need to be able to carry more water. And if it is a normal year the dessert will be much dryer and you will have farther to hike between water sources than we did. We each carried two more of these clear 2 liter platypus pictures above. It’s basically just a soft water bottle. Convenient because they are flexible to go anywhere in your pack and they can stand up on their own. I think we each ended the trail with only one working one. It wasn’t a big deal. Our water filters came with these blue guys pictured above that you are supposed to use to fill up with water to then filter into your water bottle. We carried them in the dessert. Don’t. They don’t hold much and are not as good as the Platypus’.

We started with that orange Mini Sawyer, which I carried the whole trail. Not too far in, Colton bought the blue regular Sawyer which we basically always used instead. It worked twice as fast as mine. I just kept mine around for backup. Go with the blue regular size one. They rock. Light, quick, and easy. That plunger thing is to backflush them because they start to slow down after being used a bunch, so that thing gets all the little crap out of the filter. They are nice, but not necessary. You can also just run a liter of filtered water through it and it does the same thing.

Oh, yay we get to talk about pooping. This is a common thing to talk about on the trail. Everybody poops! Maybe not as normal to talk about in normal life, but you gotta do it!

This is a GSI Outdoors Cathole trowel. It was like $5. It’s kinda light, not the lightest, but it’s strong and could dig through most dirt. I have heard of people sawing the handle off to make them lighter, but the handle was needed for hard-packed dirt. Some people just use sticks to dig holes. That seems like a big waste of time to me. We encountered a lot of really hard dirt, especially in Washington. And there are not always sticks nearby. We also brought TP in a ziploc bag and an extra zippered bag for used TP. I’m sorry, but I am a somewhat normal person and I did not save my used TP bag to show you. Deal with it. And I assume you know how to put a clean roll of TP in a bag without needing a picture. I hope.

Stuff sacks:

We went cheap. These are Granite Gear stuff sacks. They are cheap, semi-light and worked ok. The blue one was for our toiletries, electronics, and other random stuff. It is 5 liters. The red one was for our clothes. It’s 12 liters. The green one was for our food. It was 16 liters. All were adequate size for their purpose. Some people splurge on waterproof or scentproof bags but we didn’t feel this was ever necessary. I did end up with a hole in my food bag from some sort of animal and they got into a couple things of food a couple times, but we also met people who had good bags who had the same problem. Basically they’re just there to keep the stuff in your pack semi-organized. In the beginning we didn’t have these, we just had everything in ziplocs which was really annoying as they tear easily, are hard to repack, and take up a lot of space unless you take the time to get all the air out of them every time you open them. We bought these the first chance we got. We also used our clothes bag as a pillow and just stuffed it with our extra clothes. Colton bought an inflatable pillow about halfway through the trail, but I stuck with this and it worked ok.

UL umbrella:

This is mainly for the sun. We saw quite a few people in the dessert with them. They are good if you are sensitive to the sun. I used mine once when I was deathly sick in the summer and Colton used his a couple times. We ditched them halfway through the trail. Nice, but we didn’t find them necessary. And anything that’s not necessary goes, cause every ounce counts.

Kahtoola Microspikes:

Lifesaver. Seriously. Don’t know if we would have made it through the Sierras without these. On a normal year, these probably aren’t necessary, but this year you for sure needed these, if not crampons. Crampons would have given me more security going up some of the mountain passes that we did, but these were nice because we could wear them all the time, even when the trail would randomly turn to rock or dirt. Of course they did wear down from walking on rocks in them, but they served us for the time that we needed them. I bought mine before the trail and fit them to the shoes I started in. But the Altras fit differently so the rubber part that goes over your shoe was a little loose on mine which was definitely not good when you are trying to go down steep, snowy mountains. Make sure you have a good fit. Also, be careful putting them on and taking them off as the rubber can start to tear it it gets abused and if it tears while you are in ther middle of snowy BFE, you’re not gonna be a happy camper. I know some hikers that sent theirs home early, thinking the majority of the snow was done and then regretted it a few days later when it got deep again and they were sliding around like crazy in their shoes. For the small amount of spike that these have, they are amazing. Not saying you won’t slide around, but they do help a ton. These work best on hard packed snow. We would cruise on these in the early mornings. Once the snow gets soft, your’re gonna posthole and slide no matter what. Just part of the fun of the trail! Also, I would hang a caribeaner on the outside of my backpack so that when the trail got better I could quickly slip these off and clip them on my pack to dry and have easily accessible. Yes, they do clink around on there which annoyed the heck out of Colton. It was one of those things I chose to ignore and it didn’t bother me. Mind over matter. You get really good at that on the trail.

Random stuff:

This is not all the random stuff I had. I had way too much crap I didn’t need. Not everything I carried is pictured here because I ditched a lot of unnecessary stuff along the way: bandaids, rope, liquid bandage, essential oils my mom kept insisting I carry (they did help our smell). This is what I know I ended the trail with. The towels are microfiber. I used one to wrap my shoes in at night in the Sierras (didn’t really help) and the other to use as a sheath for the end of my ice ax so I didn’t rip a hole in my bag. Besides jumping in a random lake or two and occasionally scrubbing our feet off in a creek, we never even attempted to clean ourselves on the trail. After a few days, you really just don’t give a crap how you look or smell. After hiking all day, the last thing you care about it whether or not you smell good. I did insist on brushing my teeth the whole trail, even if it was only once a day sometimes. That red container is my invisalign… basically a retainer/braces, so obviously most people don’t have that. Some girls don’t shave the whole time. I brought a razor to use in town. Probably only so Colton wouldn’t get grossed out by my nasty legs. I probably wouldn’t bring it again and just go full hippy-mode. Sunscreen is necessary in California (especially in the snow), not so much in Oregon and Washington. Get 1 oz. bottles and replace when needed. That role of beige stuff is Leukotape which I bought to tape my knees in the beginning because they were not cooperating. Saved my life. Eventually I stopped taping them when I got knee braces and my leg muscles got stronger, but I kept the tape since it doubles as crazy-strong duct-tape in case we needed to patch or repair something. Chargers are self explanatory. Get a fast wall charger if you can, sometimes you only have brief amount of time to charge your stuff. I brought an Anker PowerCore 20100 Power bank to charge my phone. It has 20100 mAh,which meant it would fully charge my Samsung S7 Edge about five times before needing to be recharged. I think it died once the whole trail. Colton started with a little crappy charger and when his died eventually we both just used mine and it was fine. Your phone is on airplane mode most of the time since you don’t have service anyways. I used my phone for pictures, to write my blog, and to navigate occasionally. My power bank weighed about a pound. If you are going to blog or use your phone a lot, this is adequate. If you aren’t, get a smaller one. Solar chargers are unnecessary and hard to charge anyways since you are walking in and out of sunlight all day and sometimes you don’t see the sun anyways (Oregon!) I carried a knife which I used maybe five times. We both started off with guns (we both have our CCW permits) and quickly left them with relatives when we realized the trail was harmless and they were more of a burden. I needed earplugs to sleep since I am a very light sleeper and would wake up every time Colton moved around. I figure, if a bear is going to eat me, hearing it a second before he rips into my tent is not going to help. I slept great with these for the most part. I wore my watch all the time. I liked it, but not necessary. You will be able to guess the time in no time based on the sun. And everyone has phones. I had a comb for town because my hair is crazy and I don’t think I could handle dreadlocks. The little green thing in the upper lefthand corner is my pack’s rainfly. It’s the Osprey brand. Get some kind of rainfly. It didn’t rain often on us, but when it did I was very thankful to have dry gear. I also put it on my pack at night in the Sierras and Washington so that my pack didn’t have frost on it in the morning. Bring a headlamp for sure. Mine was a cheap Energizer one that I have had for years. I also brought extra batteries which I never used. But, better safe than sorry. We ended up setting up camp and/or eating in the dark a lot and would have been screwed without headlamps. Plus, you’re gonna have to get up and pee in the middle of the night. Like, every night if you’re me. There’s nothing worse than having to get out of your warm sleeping bag and tent to go pee when it’s 20 degree outside. Until you get outside and can see the brightest night sky full of stars that you have ever seen. It’s worth it. That clear circular thing is a solar lamp. Nice, but not necessary. I think we ditched it halfway through. I didn’t put it in the picture, but I usually carried hand sanitizer as well. Since there aren’t many sinks in the woods.

Ok, so that’s it for gear I think. Now onto clothes.

Pants:

These are Columbia Anytime Outdoor Omni-Shield, Advanced Repellency pants. They are super comfy, super flexible, surprisingly pretty warm for how light they are, very water reisitant and windproof. I wore them cold mornings. I wore them over my leggings at night. I wore them in the snow so I didn’t get ice-burn on my butt when we slid down snowy mountains. Halfway through the trail, I lost so much weight that the pants that were snug on me in the beginning were literally falling off my hips. Luckily, the waistband has ties that helped hold them up, but I finally just gave in and bought a smaller size. And then by the time we got to Canada those were even too small. Ugh. But these pants were seriously amazing. I can’t imagine a better lightweight, comfortable hiking pant. I wore them in a couple rainstorms and they even stayed mostly dry. I suppose I could have just hiked in my leggings and not used these but it was nice to have something that covered my legs without  being too warm for those in-between temperature days.

Base-layer:

I wore Patagonia Capilene Midweight top and bottoms for my baselayer. These are awesome! I still wear them back home on my cold morning runs. They are comfy, stretchy, super warm, and very lightweight. I wore these most night in the Sierras, Oregon, and Washington and would have froze without them. I wore them a lot in the mornings too until I warmed up.

Hiking shirt:

REI Co-op Sahara T-shirt. It was a random buy. Just a cheapish, lightweight, breathable hiking shirt. It worked great. It was long enough that it never rode up under my pack. It didn’t rub on my back and shoulders. It was not constricting. It dried out quickly and was very breathable in hot weather. It did stain very easily. I am also a total slob, so that could be why. It is now my tried and true hiking shirt. Of course by the end of the hike it was a couple sizes too big, but whatever. Whatever you get to hike in, make sure that it is made out of polyester so that it is breathable and dries out quickly and won’t hold smells. Whatever you do, don’t wear cotton. Also, I carried a lightweight tanktop that I wore in town. It was not necessary but it was nice to have something to wear besides my raingear when I was doing my laundry. I wouldn’t bring an extra shirt next time.

Hiking shorts:

These are some basic Nike Dry-Fit shorts. They were very, very comfy. They were breathable. They dried out super fast. They weren’t too short or long for my preference. The waistband was very comfortable, not too tight. They had built in underwear, so about halfway through the hike I just stopped wearing regular underwear. They were pretty cheap. They worked. I carried one pair and wore another so that I could have something to wear in town doing laundry. Also, not necessary to have two pairs.

Gloves:

I had the black Under Armour gloves the whole trail besides the Sierras, where I switched out for the Outdoor Research ones, which were wind and water resistant and meant for cold temps. Both pairs of gloves served me well for their time. If anything, just get lightweight, breathable, water-resistant gloves. There were some days where I literally felt like my fingers were going to fall off because it was so cold in the wind, even with gloves on. I can’t imagine not having them. It probably would have been nice to have waterproof gloves for when it rained or we were clawing our way up snowy hills, but I never felt it was necessary. Just have something lightweight to keep your hands warm.

Socks:

I went through a lot of socks on the trail. The ones on the bottom left and right are Darn Tough 1/4 Ultra Light Merino Wool Bike socks. They are great, breathable, comfy, long enough to not give you ankle blisters, but not too tall to make your calves sweat. The pink ones in the middle are Farm to Feet, some random pair I picked up in Washington in a hiker box when my other socks had worn through. These socks are all UL, so they wear through after wearing them enough, but both companies have warranties where you can send you old socks in for new ones. Awesome. I sent all of them in by the end of the trail to get replaced. In fact I think I had three pairs of Darn Tough socks all together, not sure where the last one ended up. I would suggest carrying two pairs of hiking socks so that you always have a dry pair to put on. The top ones are all socks I carried at some point during the hike, mostly in the Sierras or Washington. I think one is an REI brand, one is Columbia, and one is some random brand. They were awesome for when it was cold. I would double sock it at night in the cold times and also in the mornings when my shoes were still wet, so that my feet didn’t freeze. Just get some kind of merino wool socks. They dry out fastest.

Headgear:

Lightweight Under Armour beanie. Worked decently. Lightweight, kept my head warm. Saved me on cold nights and mornings. I would go with something rated warmer next time but definitely get something light and breathable and not itchy! I also carried that homemade pink facie thing in the Sierras and it also saved me in the cold weather. I pulled it up over my nose at night and in the mornings and I swear it saved me from getting sick by not having to breathe in freezing cold air all the time.

And my hat:

I think I went through three hats on the trail. The first one was very lightweight but the velcro back couldn’t get tight enough on my tiny head and kept coming off when it got windy. I found another lightweight hat somewhere along the way and switched it out, but then on a trip home, I traded it for my fun Redding Beer Week hat because beer, duh. When you wear the same thing every day, it’s nice to be able to switch something up and make it personal. And hats are my jam, so it just made me happy to wear this hat, even if it was just a normal hat and not UL. Unfortunately, it got a little beat up along the way. Sigh. Poor beer hat.

Sportsbras:

This is the Patagona Barely Sportsbra and I love, love, love it! Comfiest bra ever! It fits perfectly, it doesn’t rub anywhere, most importantly, not underneath your backpack straps. It is breathable and doesn’t hold sweat. It is sturdy enough to run in (maybe not if you have big boobs). It even has padding so that the world can’t see how cold you are since you’re basically freezing your butt off for half of the trail. I brought an extra to switch out in town. Probably wouldn’t next time. I still wear this bra all the time, it hasn’t worn down or stretched out all all. I honestly forgot I was even wearing a bra on the trail. If you are not big chested, this is the bra for you.

Undies:

I’m not even sure what these are. Under Armour UL something or other. I brought three pairs because they literally weight like less than an ounce all together. They are comfy but do tend to get itchy after sweating in them all day. Halfway through the trail I sent them home and said screw it to underwear. You just don’t care after awhile. Plus my shorts had built in underwear.

Knee braces:

Um, biggest lifesaver of all. OS1st KS7 compression knee sleeves. I bought these 10 days into the trail after my knees were hurting so bad every day, I really wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to finish the whole trail. These saved me. I also found a taping technique that helped and between the two and some serious leg strengthening through hiking, my knees improved big time. After a couple weeks wearing these things, my knees rarely hurt and now my knees are totally fine unless I do a major downhill hike and then they start to ache a little. I went through two pairs throughout the hike.

Gaiters:

Before the trail, I saw everyone wearing these in blog posts and I was like, that’s dumb. And then I hit the trail and realized having sand and rocks and snow in your shoes all day isn’t too fun. These are Dirty Girl Gaiters and basically everyone on the trail has them, both guys and girls. There’s like a million patterns to chose from and they are easy to put on and seriously help keep most of the crap out of your shoes. Just buy some.

Jacket:

Patagona Nano Puff Hoody. A-maz-ing. Seriouslsy. So light. So warm. I don’t know how something so light could keep me so warm. It also packs itself into its hood nicely to double as an extra pillow. We lived in these in the Sierras and Washington and would have froze without these or something like them. Just don’t get them wet if you can help it. They take awhile to dry out.

Rain jacket:

Outdoor Research Helium II rain jacket. I didn’t wear it too often, luckily, but when I did, it worked well. It is sooo lightweight. It even folds inself into its own pocket. How cool is that? The waist has a drawstring so that you can cinch it down so that your clothes underneath do not get wet. It is so effective, that I would actually start sweating in it when we started climbing, even if it was freezing cold and pouring out. And it made a great wind barrier. So not breathable, but that didn’t bother me. I would rather stay warm in those type of situations. The only thing I didn’t like was the fact that the hood didn’t have a drawstring. The hood was long and covered my face completely, but if it was windy it didn’t stay cinched down very well. All in all, it was great for how warm and lightweight it was. I also had rainpants but I already returned them since I bought them at REI and I literally wore them once I think. They were good pants, but pretty pricey for only wearing them once. Next time I would get cheap, light Frogg Toggs, since they are used so little.

All in all, most of my gear was good. It wasn’t the best. It wasn’t the worst. You can spend a lot of money on gear or hardly any at all. But get good shoes and a good pack! You will thank yourself. If you are not sure on something, don’t buy it til you hit the trail and talk to people who have it and see if it is necessary. Everyone changes gear along the way, so don’t be obsessed with having everything perfect right off the bat. We met a guy who literally changed out every piece of his gear less than a week in. You will find out what you need and don’t need very quickly out there.

My advice is to air on the side of “less is more”. The less you carry, the faster you hike, the happier you are, the better your life on the trail will be. If you don’t need it, send it home or give it away. If you don’t like something you have, switch it out right away. Don’t wait for it to “start feeling right”. It won’t. It will only make you hate the trail. A happy body makes a happy hiker. It I were to do the trail over again and had the funds, I would go UL everything. Because everything seems light until you hike all day, every day carrying it. We thought our packs were light enough starting the trail and probably dropped 10 pounds in the first week of water, food, and stuff we didn’t need. Your body eventually gets used to the physical pains of the trail, but the less you can hurt and the more you can enjoy the people, scenery, and experience, the happier you will be and the more you will get out of your hike.

Let me know if you have any gear questions. I will do my best to help you out. I saw a lot of other hikers’ gear on the trail so I got to see other things that worked and didn’t. Gear is something you can spend months and months researching to find the perfect piece. Don’t stress about it, there will always be a chance to change it if needed. Also I shopped for almost all my gear online. I would try to check prices often and find the piece I wanted in an off-color that was usually discounted significantly. Remember, matching is not important on the PCT. REI has a great one year return policy for everything, even used stuff as long as there is not too much wear and tear on it. And most gear companies are good about exchanging or replacing things, especially if you tell them you are a PCT hiker because they know that you are basically a walking advertisement for them and most likely a repeat customer. Plus, everyone loves PCT hikers, you’re just that cool.

I miss hearing from all of you all the time so comment back and let me know what you are up to. Happy hiking!

Advertisements

37 thoughts on “The Gear That Got Me Thru

  1. that is a helluva long blog. i looked at the pictures mostly and along the way felt like giving up but i was interested in all the stuff you need,. i would like to do this but was kind of planning to take a trolley or something easier to carry all of the stuff with. A shopping trolley would be ideal. they go well over rough ground. Here is a good walking joke.

    I used to walk a lot but it was a bit sole destroying

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Very interesting reading even if you don’t plan to do the trail. You are so explicit. I think you should consider being a teacher. You make everything clear. Great job explaining for anyone planning to do the trail.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have noticed you don’t monetize your blog, don’t waste your traffic,
    you can earn additional bucks every month because you’ve got high quality content.

    If you want to know how to make extra $$$, search for:
    Boorfe’s tips best adsense alternative

    Like

  4. Great pointers Jenn. Even with over 30 years hiking you taught me a few things. Never too old to learn and with all the new stuff great to hear from someone who used it. I have a rechargeable headlamp that I love. I also use a power pack that doubles as a solar charger. It’s light weight and worked well on a 10 day JMT hike we did. Maybe we’ll see you and Colton at Fall River Brewery in Redding sometime.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Still reading & enjoying your blog! Welcome home.
    Are you experiencing any post-trail ‘depression’? I’ve read a little bit about this in other books or articles.
    What was your base weight, without food and water?? You mentioned 30-40 lbs with food. Also, do you know what Colton’s average weight was? I assumed a few lbs more with the tent supplies.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Definitely have had some weird post trail feelings. It’s hard to describe. I feel like on the trail I had a distinct purpose every day and now coming home, I long for that same feeling of fullfilment, but don’t know how to find it. It’s not even that I want to hike anymore, I just have found that a lot of things that used to interest me don’t anymore. It is harder to find pleasure in things that don’t serve a purpose. I think over all this is a good thing, because this is what forces people out of bad habits and into better ones. But it can also be very confusing. I feel like I don’t really fit into this world anymore and am not sure where exactly I fit in. And I find myself constantly seeking a greater purpose in life, but I am not sure what that is. I was so excited on the trail to come home and bask in simple joys and now that I am home, I have no desire to pursue them.

      I don’t know what my base weight was as I never weighed my bag but I would guess maybe 20 pounds without food and water. Maybe a little less. Not sure about Coltons, maybe 5 or more pounds.

      Like

      1. I can only imagine all of the different emotions & feelings that you’ve gone through & continue to have. Thanks for your honesty! I appreciate your vulnerability.
        I love your insight on leaving bad ‘habits’ & replacing them with new, more positive ones. The greater purpose is there…..everyday! It’s just a matter of looking for it & making that choice daily. Sometimes it may be a very small, seemingly insignificant gesture & on other days, it may be more grand. But your eyes have been opened & that WISDOM usually comes much later on in life. What a blessing that you’ve found it already!
        What a gift the trail has given you.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I can only imagine all of the different emotions & feelings that you’ve gone through & continue to have. Thanks for your honesty! I appreciate your vulnerability.
        I love your insight on leaving bad ‘habits’ & replacing them with new, more positive ones. The greater purpose is there…..everyday! It’s just a matter of looking for it & making that choice daily. Sometimes it may be a very small, seemingly insignificant gesture & on other days, it may be more grand. But your eyes have been opened & that WISDOM usually comes much later on in life. What a blessing that you’ve found it already!
        What a gift the trail has given you.

        Like

  6. Thanks for your very thorough gear post! I hope you will allow me to throw my two cents in…

    First, I would say micro-spikes are a must through the Sierra. I hiked in 2015 and you can’t get much less snow than that (although I did leave KM May 25th which is early in a normal year). Nevertheless, I was grateful for my micro-spikes! They turn one of those frozen early-morning snow fields from “OMG, I’m going to die!” to “Hey, this might be the easiest hiking all day!”

    I also used my watch much more than I thought I would. Once you figure out how fast you hike, time = distance. If you know how far it is to your destination, you can pretty accurately predict what time you will get there, and therefore can just track your progress with a quick glance instead of getting out maps and apps.

    As for pants, I wore some called “breeze” from a company called Prana. They were super comfortable, with just the right pockets, but the best part was probably the internal belt. So, they fit the whole time, even though I lost over half my bodyweight. I just pull that strap a little more.

    And thank you for giving the best advice. Start small and add stuff, rather than go out loaded for bear (although the flip side, don’t be afraid to toss something immediately, is important too). And future hikers should pretty much PLAN that you’re probably not going to have the same gear you started with when you get to Canada.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This is such a wonderful breakdown of gear for the trail! I have been backpacking all over the Adirondacks, but never on the west coast. I have weak ankles, so your shoe choice was interesting to me. Did your ankles ever bother you? I always had to wear heavy duty backpacking boots, which were tough to break-in but are wonderful now. Thanks so much for the breakdown, especially for a person who hasn’t been backpacking this is stellar!
    I also remember feeling the lost when I got back from 5 weeks in the most remote part of the Adirondacks. You describe it perfectly. I hope you have found something purposeful to fill the gap! What is your next adventure?

    Like

    1. Hiking the PCT is just walking a lot. If you can do that, your ankles will get strong. You might want to train up before you start. I love my big boots too, but with the snow and stream crossings, on the PCT you really want footwear that could maybe dry out quickly. Or your heavy boots will be wet for weeks and you risk “trench foot”.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Oh I rolled my ankles quite a few times but they slowly got stronger and I learned how to pay attention better. Rolling my ankles seemed to be the least of my aches and pains lol. I have found something amazing to fulfill me! Life is amazing!!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I can’t speak for Jenn, but the freedom out there is life-altering. It’s always nice to be mobile and have everything you need for days at a time right there on your back in your pack. But when you add a 6-month hike, a hike so long it has no practical end for months and months… it’s indescribable. I think the near total freedom is why people get hooked on long distance hiking. I still think about my trip every day.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I can’t wait to get back to backpacking again after reading this. It’s been a long time, and I would love to connect with nature like that again. Thanks so much for your insights and takeaways.

        Liked by 1 person

    3. Good luck out there! I hope you have a great hike. I just want to add that I was limping really badly by the time I got to Tahoe. I thought it was my shoe rubbing my ankle, and even cut away a big part of my shoe, but my ankle continued to get worse. I finally figured out it was from rolling my ankle too many times. Not enough for a sprain or break, but the cumulative damage added up. The Sierra, Yosemite in particular, is rocky with lots of ankle-rollers. So, plan to go slowly and carefully through that part. Will you be blogging your adventure? I’m curious to follow your progress now.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you so much for the compliment and encouragement! I will probably blog about my nature adventures locally and in the Adirondacks (and other topics) as I get back into canoeing and overall hiking this spring. The backpacking will have to wait until I am done with physical therapy, which takes precedent for long-term adventuring. Spending a week in the Adirondacks is always a refreshing thing for my soul.

        Like

  8. Good luck out there! I hope you have a great hike. I just want to add that I was limping really badly by the time I got to Tahoe. I thought it was my shoe rubbing my ankle, and even cut away a big part of my shoe, but my ankle continued to get worse. I finally figured out it was from rolling my ankle

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s