I’ve had a bunch of people ask me about gear, so I thought I’d share what I used on the PCT2017 trip. Outside of a few trinkets, my famous tampon-case first-aid kit, and 1 Patagonia shirt, nothing has survived from my AT1999 trip.
Pack – Osprey Exos 58. Verdict: Loved it. A 58L pack is too big for the PCT, but this pack has the advantage of being able to put my bear can in sideways, meaning I can pack the whole thing up pretty much normally. In smaller packs where it only fits vertically, it takes up so much room that organization becomes annoying. The Large version of this pack happens to fit me perfectly, so that was a bonus. The only “complaint” I might have with this pack is the smallish pockets on the front. Here’s the fully loaded pack in San Diego. The stretchy back compartment is great for weird shaped things, wet socks, whatever. It never showed signs of becoming overstretched either. This pack was hugely popular on the PCT, to the point where we joked about forming a gang.
Sleeping Bag – old North Face Cats Meow 20. Verdict: meh. Probably my crappiest item, it’s an older, heavy synthetic bag, which had the virtue of being already owned. New, good down bags are in the $300-$800 range. The weight wasn’t as much of a problem as the packed size, it just never compressed well, meaning the bottom of my pack was pretty bloated out. Irritating. I can probably shave 1 lb or more off by getting a new bag, or maybe even one of the sexy new down quilts people are using. Like this one from Enlightened Equipment: https://enlightenedequipment.com/revelation/
Sleeping pad – Thermarest Ridgerest closed-cell foam pad, full length (24″x72″). Not the newer, thinner “SOLite” model, but the heavier, warmer one. Verdict: serviceable. Everyone’s rocking the NeoAir and other inflatable pads which pack smaller and weigh about the same, but they also come with the $100+ price tag… and they leak. The closed-cell foam pad can be used as a seat, a foam roller for sore muscles, a potholder, or a pad.
Tent – I started with an older, heavier 1-man Sierra Designs Light Year, which I’ve had for a long time and was ultralight back whenever it came out. It’s a decent tent, but not free standing, not very packable (thickish nylon material), and the peak height isn’t great. Also, because there’s no central pole, the middle portion tends to sag down under its own weight, cramping your living space. Verdict: swapped out.
I switched to a Big Agnes Fly Creek 2-man tent, which ended up being both lighter and more packable. Mostly free-standing, and with a huge amount of interior space, it was a great upgrade. The gear pocket at the top is a great place for your headlamp, meaning your whole tent gets diffuse lighting – awesome. The 25% off sale at REI took some of the sting out of its ~$300 price tag. The two-man setup also allows you to share the tent if needed.
Verdict: Great upgrade.
Shoes – Oboz Sawtooth Low. Verdict: Love-hate relationship. Those of you who have followed this blog saw the terrible blisters I ended up with, as well as the broken bone “Jones Fracture” I suffered. I’m not sure either are directly related to the shoes – but then again I am not sure they are NOT related. The blisters came from a couple of issues, the shoes were too big, and I forgot to wear double socks until my feet swelled. You need to account for that, which is why I bought bigger shoes, but then I had a brain fart and forgot the sock thing. The blisters ALSO got worse due to the ‘foxtail’ seedpod I had stuck under the skin for a week or so. Once that infection kicked in, all bets were off. The Jones Fracture on the other foot was probably due to rolling my foot on day 2, and walking on it, and also due to the way I walk; I have a tendency to turn my left foot outwards (years of bad posture) so I think I was stressing it weirdly. I replaced them with a pair of zero-drop Altra Lonepeak running shoes, but never got a chance to put any real miles on them. The toe-box on the new shoes is WAY better, so I’m hopeful there.
Water – I carried chlorine and also iodine tablets. I had too many bad filter experiences to go back to that, plus the tablets weigh very little. Verdict: for 40 bucks get a filter. However, a lot of people are using the Sawyer Squeeze, so I picked one up for next time. It screws right on top of your water bottle, and you can just drink out of it like a sports drink. We’ll see.
Cooking – I didn’t. Verdict: meh. I skipped the stove and went for non-cook foods; later I switched to the “cold-soak” method, where you basically just soak your normal Lipton or mac and cheese noodles in water until they’re edible. They’re often gross, so it’s a bit of a grin-and-bear it scenario. I think I’d do it this way again, skipping a cooking/heat source until the mountains.
Electronics – Samsung Galaxy S7 Active + Anker 10050 quick charge brick. Verdict: Awesome. The phone is great, plenty of battery, amazing camera, really fast. It was a big heavy, but I felt worth it. I could get 3-4 days on a charge using the middle battery setting. The low-power setting disabled certain features and apps that I needed. The power brick was another story, at 8oz, it could charge the phone almost 3 times, but I only ever used it to charge once. I probably could have skimped on this, or left it at home. I think next time I’ll bring the 3350 mAh one, which saves just over 5 oz.
Still, the comfort factor was there. Plus I did REALLY use my phone, knowing that I could always use the charge brick. I used the Halfmile and Hikerbot free apps, skipping the Guthook one, which almost everyone had. I’m not sure it was better, it looked like a lot of over-information. The Halfmile app was INVALUABLE though.
Happy to talk gear, drop me a line if you have any more questions.