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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Gear Talk!

The idea of planning out the next half year of one's life in the wilderness may seem overwhelming and daunting. In fact, the actual process is far more overwhelming than the idea. It really is ridiculous. However, distilling my life down to 15 pounds of necessities has been a surprisingly educational and humbling experience. Not to mention I have a serious gear obsession/problem. I appreciate the irony of obsessing over material pieces of gear to help me appreciate the immaterial. However, I am choosing not to address this ever.

Considering the amount of material crap I use on a daily basis, it is becoming increasingly clear to me as I work on this list how many "necessary" aspects of our lives are really superfluous. Change of clothes? Pshaw. Deodorant? Whatever. TP? Please. Obviously hygiene is going to be one of the first things to go. I've had to redefine what I consider a luxury. What's surprising to me is that if I really wanted, I would be able to take even less stuff with me. As far as most PCT thru hikers go, I'm taking a decent amount of luxuries. Long distance hiking is all about finding a balance between trail comfort and camp comfort. These are the two poles of the backpacking spectrum, and are generally mutually exclusive. Being comfortable in camp means carrying a thicker pad, a bigger sleeping bag, a butt pad, a pillow, a couple of brewskies, a bigger stove, tent etc. The thing is, these things all weigh you down. The more your stuff weighs, the less comfortable you are when you're hiking. Everything is a compromise between function and weight. Some people complete thru hikes with packs with a base weight (this means without food or water) of under 10 pounds. That's awesome. I respect and admire those people, but there are some areas where I do not want to make such large compromises. For instance, I'm choosing to bring a stove so I can make hot food. However, I'm doing so at the steep price of almost a pound. So, without further ado, here is my (tentative) annotated PCT gear list:

Big Four:
-Pack: Mountain Hardwear Thruway 50-16.3 oz
-Sleeping pad: Therm-a-rest Neoair Xlite-14.25 oz (this is the most comfy pad ever and since I'm a side sleeper I love the extra cushiness, doubles as lake floaty toy)
-Sleeping bag: Marmot Plasma 30˚-22 oz (I might bring a Marmot Pinnacle (46 oz) for Washington or the high Sierra if I'm too cold in this one)
-Tent: Mountain Hardwear SupermegaUL2-38.6 oz (I want a freestanding tent so I don't have to stake it out in the hard soil in the Sierras, and this is a palace for one person. I'm also making a ground sheet out of Tyvek)

Clothing Carried:
-Jacket: North Face Catalyst down jacket-18.2 oz (I might be able to get away with a lighter one, but I'm a generally cold person)
-Shell: Patagonia Houdini windshirt-3.65 oz (not waterproof but we won't be getting all that much rain, might bring a North Face Leonidas shell (10.5 oz) in Washington if it's really rainy)
-Fleece: Patagonia R1 hoody-11 oz (has basically achieved cult status among PCT thru hikers, plus it makes me look like a ninja)
-Tights: Icebreaker BF200 leggings-7.15 oz
-Warm hat: Smartwool beanie-2 oz
-Gloves: Mountain Hardwear momentum running glove-2 oz
-Rain Pants: Mountain Hardwear Alkane pant: 8.8 oz
-Sun hat: sombrero-5 oz? (this hike will be a fiesta!)
-Extra pair socks: Darn Tough-2 oz

Clothing Worn:
-Shorts: thrift shop running shorts-5 oz (as gaudy as possible)
-Shirt: Patagonia Merino 1 or Icebreaker-4 oz
-Shoes: Old running shoes-16 oz
-Socks: Wool, probably Darn Tough-2 oz
-Underwear: Minus33 wool boxer briefs-2 oz (extras are for chumps)
-Watch: Casio protrek-2.3 oz

Kitchen/Food Stuff:
-Bowl: Snow Peak Ti-0.7 oz
-Pot: MSR anodized aluminum-12.6 oz (hopefully it will stay non-stick if we treat it gently)
-Spork: Stoic Ti-0.6 oz
-Stove: MSR whisperlite-13.95 oz (this is a big guy, but since we'll be cooking for four of us, we're going with efficiency over weight here)
-Fuel Bottle with Fuel-20 oz
-Bleach-clorox-2 oz (for purifying water)
-Hand sanitizer-2 oz (for cooking and pooping)

Other Stuff:
-Sunglasses: Julbo Glacier Goggles-1 oz
-Gear repair tape: Tenacious tape- 0.7 oz (for pads, sleeping bags, tents, etc.)
-Knife: Victorinox classic sd: 0.75 oz (it's a little dinky thing but it's light and has scissors and tweezers)
-Light: Black Diamond Storm headlamp-3.9 oz (could get a lighter one, but this is bright and I want to be able to hike at night. It's also waterproof)
-Ice axe: Black Diamond Raven-16 oz (Washington only, will mail it home when I hit oregon)
-Pack Liner: zpacks roll top-1.9 oz
-clothes bag: zpacks roll-top pillow bag-2 oz (this thing is lined with fleece, so if you flip it inside out and fill it with clothes it becomes a pillow. Nifty!)
-Cuben fiber zip pouch x2: zpacks passport pouch-2x 0.3 oz (one is for maps, the other is for phone/camera)
-Bear bag: zpacks cuben fiber bear bag-1.4 oz (we'll be bear bagging until the High Sierra when we switch to our heavy, awful, horrible, stupid bear canisters that weigh like 13940290582315 pounds)
-Stuff sack: zpacks large cuben fiber stuff dry bag-1.2 oz
-rope: zpacks slick line-0.9 oz (I'm getting the slippery stuff so it slides over branches easier)
-carabiner-0.5 oz (for bear bagging)
-water storage: cheap plastic bottle+a few bladders for holding extra water-5 oz (I want to be able to carry at least 5 liters for long stretches without water)
-iPhone-5 oz (so I can reassure my mom I haven't been eaten by animals)
-Solar panel-suntactics Scharger-5-8 oz (yeah, it's heavy and geeky, but this way I can keep my phone and camera charged, as well as batteries for my headlamp)
-Camera: Olympus tg-2 tough camera-8 oz (waterproof, shockproof, has a GPS so I can record the locations of my photos)
-Med kit/blister kit-5 oz (it'll be pretty basic, just some gauze, neosporin, moleskin, toe bandages, aquaphor, maybe some ibuprofen)
-Sunscreen-5 oz
-insect repellent-1 oz
-toothbrush/toothpaste-1 oz (sawing the handle off, yeah I'm a dork, whatever)
-journal-rite in the rain notebook-2 oz (waterproof, I'll bring a little pencil to write with)
-Trekking poles: Black Diamond Distance-13 oz (wasn't going to bring them, but since my knees are already on the brink of falling apart, I'm going to go for it. They'll also help with crossing rivers, fighting bears, and are handy for improvised splints should anything serious happen)
-Duct tape-1 oz (I'll wrap it around my trekking pole)
-Sleeping bag liner: Rab Silk Mummy- 5 oz

So there you have it. All of this is a little less than 21 pounds total. However, We will be rotating carrying the fuel, stove, and pot, which will bring me down almost 2 pounds, and shipping the ice axe home will save me another pound. For whatever reason, most people don't count the stuff that they're wearing in their base weight. This doesn't really make sense to me, because you're still carrying it, but if we don't count that either that brings me down to about 16 pounds. Considering the ridiculous luxury of a freestanding 2-person tent for just me and a freaking solar panel, I'm pretty satisfied with that. I could easily spend a few hundred more dollars and knock a couple more ounces off, but I'd much rather spend the money on food.

It feels strange to plan out my possessions so carefully, knowing that this is really all I'll have for a while, but it's also exciting. It's feeling more real every day!



  1. You might consider a Gossamer Gear polycro sheet for your footprint for your tent rather than Tyvek. It's significantly lighter than Tyvek and only about $10 for a sheet of it. It doesn't handle quite as easily at Tyvek, but it's about 25% of the weight. A sheet of Tyvek big enough for a tent footprint weighs more that you might think. I know it's gram-counting, but it's cheap and a significant difference. Love the blog so far.

    GoalTech from Portland

  2. My tyvek bugged me in Washington (though I'm just a section hiker, what do I know). It got wet and hard to dry and conducted moisture to the tent. Tyvek is great for cowboy camping, not as great as a footprint.

  3. Thanks for the input, guys! I'll definitely look into the polycro. Cheap and light is great. Thanks for reading.

  4. Hi Timothy! It's Chris (Robin's dad) in St. Louis. Have a great trip! A couple things to consider: a Biolite Stove (REI - $129). Robin used it on a solo trip last year and loved it. No fuel to carry (just twigs), and a USB port for charging phone.
    On a super-light trip after heart surgery in 2005, with no stove or tent (just a tarp), I discovered a new way to sleep: bottom half in sleeping bag, top half in coat, with hat on. Plenty warm, unconfined, looking up at stars. (Of course, at 11,000 feet there were no bugs.)
    Watch the inevitable mileage obsession; it can work against enjoyment.
    When I get the PCT Songbook scanned, I'll send it to you. My hiking partner and I composed it on the PCT 25 years ago (we carried a fiddle and dulcimer!)
    Chris W

  5. Thanks, Chris! I'd love to see the songbook! The stove might be hard to figure out with fire regulations it basically hasn't rained/snowed at all this year and wood stoves won't be allowed on much of the trail. Nice tip about the sleeping arrangement! I'll definitely give it a try. Also thanks for the warning about mileage. I'm going to try to relax and forget about it as much as I can.