PCT Hindsight Shakedown

I guess it’s time to cover this.  Bleh.

I dug through a shit ton of pictures to find a picture of what I set out on the PCT with so I can go over what I set out with, what I got rid of, and things I’ve replaced them with up to this point.  I do not have the weight of these things but I recall hovering around 14lbs.

Reference/Index

A good visual is always nice.
If you want to just go straight to finding out what I got rid of or replaced, just click the link on each item below.  Items with: (R) by them are things I replaced with something else/better.

DSC00424 copy.jpg

  1. Champion Polyester Shirt
  2. REI Sahara button up shirt
  3. Patagonia NanoPuff (puffy jacket)
  4. Patagonia Houdini windpants
  5. Buff (hat)
  6. Outdoor Research Helium II (rain jacket)
  7. Enlightened Equipment Revelation (quilt)
  8. North Face gloves
  9. Injinji Midweight Hiking toesocks (the best IMO)
  10. Darn Tough socks
  11. Shoes I didn’t use (R)
  12. Champion running shorts
  13. REI Silk base layer top/bottom, 2 pairs of ExOfficio breifs
  14. Zpacks food bag
  15. Big Agnes Copper Spur UL1 (R)
  16. Tyvek Groundsheet
  17. Thermarest NeoAir Xlite (R)
  18. A bandana
  19. Dirty Girl Gaiters
  20. Sawyer Squeeze (water filter) (R)
  21. MSR Pocket Rocket
  22. Fire Steel
  23. Evernew Titanium Pasta Pot 700ml
  24. MicroUSB cable (pretend there’s 2)
  25. Anker Qualcomm 2.0 fast charger (it’s the white brick under the food bag, I accidentally set the text opacity really low).
  26. Paracord
  27. Head net
  28. Trowel
  29. Another bandana
  30. Bic Lighter
  31. Phone
  32. Anker 10,000 mAh battery
  33. Black Diamond ReVolt headlamp
  34. Gossamer Gear Mariposa (R)
  35. Corgi Doooooooooooooooooooooooooog

No I didn’t take 35 with me.

Not Shown in Image

  • Titanium Longspoon
  • Delorme inReach
  • Med Kit (medical tape, hand sanitizer, a needle, ibuprofen)
  • Leatherman Style CS
  • Small Bendy Tripod

Added Gear

What it Looks Like Now

What I Would Change

Bottom Line


What I Got Rid Of

REI Sahara

Why

It’s more like I replaced it at some point with another button up that was lighter and more comfortable.  So why isn’t it in the replaced category?  Because I got rid of that other button up as well.  It’s not that I hate button ups, but in the case of my PCT hike it was just extra clothes I didn’t feel I need.

Also I bought it on the pretense that I it would help me become invincible to UV rays and heat and all that (I’m exagerating a little).  Between the Sahara and the cheap button up I got from Big 5 in Big Bear Lake, there was absolutely no difference.  High tech performance athletic wear is a ripoff IMO.

Was it Good Gear?

Sure.  They run a little big which was one of my complaints, I didn’t like wearing baggy stuff when I hiked.  However, it’s overpriced on the premise that it has superpowers against the sun which I think is kind of bullshit.  Realistically, even if it does have some kind of something to protect you a little bit (I wasn’t expecting to be a cool 65 degrees underneath) it felt extremely negligable to me.

It was a strong shirt, I wasn’t worried about tearing it, but eh.

Base layers and the extra pair of briefs

Why

Between my puffy, rain jacket, windpants, and my quilt: I wasn’t ever in a position where I felt the need to wear them.  I had three colds nights in the desert where maybe they would have been nice, but the point is I didn’t die and I didn’t ever feel like I needed them.  There’s an argument that you should have clean things to wear to bed, but clean – for me, a person who loves nothing more than being covered in dirt – wasn’t achievable, nor did I really care once I actually started hiking.

Was it Good Gear?

The REI Silk baselayers are nice.  They’re light, they’re warm, they occupy barely any space in your pack.  I did find them to be too warm at times (not on those cold nights) and would end up just taking them off, nothing’s worse than being slightly sweaty under a sleeping bag.  I hate that feeling so much.

The briefs were amazing.  ExOfficio briefs are well worth the money, but I embraced the filth and got rid of my second pair early on.  Either deal with it or go commando after washing your only pair/hanging them on your pack to dry.  Extra clothes – to me – are the biggest waste of space and weight out there.  Unless you bring out a backcountry shower and a portable washing machine, no matter what you do you will become filthy and smelly.  Carrying extra clothes that are now smelly makes your pack stink and by proxy the rest of your gear.

Bandana

Why

Well cause I already had another one.  This one was actually my towel/dish cloth (a great combo if you think about it).  I eventually cut a tiny square out of it to use as my dish cloth that I’d use once every two weeks, then the one on my head was also my body towel for those moments I got wet.  I liked the system when I used it.

Was it Good Gear?

Yeah, totally.  Some people bring sponges, I wasn’t sold on that.  It worked well at wiping down my pot back in the early days when I cared about having clean cookware.

MSR Pocket Rocket

Why

I got so fucking tired of making food every night.  Just.. just.. just just just just.. UGH.  I got rid of my cookware and got a water-tight jar to soak my food in over the day of hiking and never looked back.  Also cooked trail food tastes weird to me, I can’t describe it.

Was it Good Gear?

Chyeah.  I love the Pocket Rocket.  It worked really well.  Maybe not as efficient as a jetboil, but it’s cheaper than a jetboil so that’s what I went with.  Obviously it was a tad sensitive to wind, but there were only a few occasions where the wind was strong enough to blow it out completely, otherwise sometimes it would take longer to make hot water, but not often enough to really complain about.

Firesteel

Why

I didn’t personally think it provided any use, but it’s a good item to have if your lighter gets wet or something.  Firesteel works whenever/whenever basically, so I think next time I’m gonna take it instead of a lighter.  I actually just dumped my pack out one day to organize it all and found it hiding deep in a pocket, I totally forgot I even brought it.

Also I went stoveless and it had no use to me at all.

Was it Good Gear?

Sure, I like firesteel.  Just wasn’t necessary when I had a lighter on hand.

Evernew Pasta Pot

Why

Went stoveless, didn’t need a pot anymore.

Was it Good Gear?

Yes, very much yes.  Lighter than stuff like Snowpeak’s cookware, performed excellently, I liked how the lid had holes to dump water out of to ‘strain’ noodles whenever I made them.  I loved it, but loved not having to use it any longer even more.

Paracord

Why

I grew up with the mindset that if you didn’t have paracord on you whenever you went backpacking, you’d absolutely die.  It took me a few days on trail to realize that it was a waste of weight.  I did however keep the cordage from my Zpacks food bag which was really handy actually.  I used it to make repairs to some of my gear, make a hanging line for my backpack to dry clothes as I walked, etc.

Was it Good Gear?

Paracord is very nice for a lot of things, I just never felt the need to have it on me on the PCT.

Head Net

Why

This one may seem insane.  I just never used it, not even in my most desperate moments walking through mosquito hell (otherwise known as the Sierra).  The first moments I walked through high mosquito areas I was in absolute agony, but wearing a headnet was even worse than being bitten by an army of mosquitos.  I tried that, I tried wearing heavier clothes (that also sucked because I’d get really hot), I tried bugspray (that never worked longer than five minutes).

I really just got used to being bit as much as one can.  I went from sprinting around flailing my arms like a madman to just calmly swatting the air every so often after a while because I was already itchy, I had nothing to lose at that point.  As long as they stayed away from my ears and out of my nose, me and the mozzies were on cool terms.

That one carabiner on my pack

Why

The most I ever hung from my pack was clothes, I don’t even remember why I brought that thing.  Having shit swing from your pack when you walk is really annoying, try to keep everything inside your pack when you can.  A carabiner was nice when I hit the Sierra however because it helped me secure my ice ax to my pack, though in the future I’m just gonna use a little cordage.

Was it Good Gear?

Sure, I mean it’s a carabiner, they’re a dime a dozen if you’re not using it for climbing.  It was some light weight brand from Black Diamond.

Bendy Tripod

Why

I used it twice but for some reason I kept it with me all the way to Kennedy Meadows.  It’s not like it was a large standard tripod, just a small little thing.

Was it Good Gear?

It was nice and I’m going to use it in the future, but it just depends on my location.  On the PCT there was enough rocks around to just set the camera on, but on something like the Oregon Coast Trail I don’t feel comfortable not having it because I’d then have to just set my camera in the sand which is no bueno.


Replaced Gear

Big Agnes Copper Spur

Replaced With

Tarptent Protrail

Why

To be clear:  I love the Copper Spur.  It’s a really cozy tent, it’s light, it’s easy to setup.  But I also just got really sick of setting it up and taking it down every single day.  Unclipping the poles, folding them, cramming them in the bag, cramming both layers of the tent into its bag, etc.  It sounds dumb, but good lord did I get tired of camp chores.

The Protrail made things worse for a moment while I learned how to set it up efficiently, but once I really understood it things became much quicker, easier, and pleasant for me.  The thing I hated most about setting up shelters was breaking them down, the Protrail takes like a minute to put away.  It was a no-brainer.  The Protrail was also a tad lighter which isn’t something I usually complain about.

Worth it?

Chyeah.  Again, there’s nothing wrong with the Copper Spur, I love it.  But eliminating steps in your day ensures you hike more and are spending less time on tedious/horrible/boring tasks.  I’m taking the Copper Spur on my next hike, but in the future I’d like to get a pyramid shelter.

Thermarest NeoAir Xlite

Replaced With

Thermarest Zlite

Why

This goes under the camp chore category.  Unrolling it, inflating it for bed then deflating it and folding/rolling it up in such a perfect way that it would go back into its stuffsack just drove me mad.  It wasn’t until very recently that I realized it didn’t have to be in a stuff sack.  I did it to protect it, but I’ve since just started putting it in my quilt before I stuff it to the bottom of my pack.

Worth it?

Eventually yeah.  The Zlite is a nice sleeping pad once you get used to it.  I actually started to really like the feel of being part of the ground so to speak, it was kinda comforting.  On the other hand, the NeoAir is really comfortable.  I’m gonna stick with the NeoAir in the future.

Shoes

Replaced With

Altra Lone Peak 2.5

Why

I didn’t actually wear these shoes on the PCT, but prior to it.  They were too narrow for my feet and Altras weren’t.  End of story really.

Worth it?

Yes, a million times yes.  Don’t just wear something because it looks good on paper, make sure your feet are happy and that you’re taking care of them, otherwise they’ll threaten to end your hike as often as they can.

Gossamer Gear Mariposa

Replaced with 1:

Gossamer Gear Pilgrim

Replaced with 2:

Granite Gear Lutsen 35

Why

So this goes into a new ideology of mine.  I don’t really count ounces more than I just focus on being minimalist to a degree.  Focusing so much on having light gear got me into trouble in the case of my backpack on two occasions.  The Mariposa just didn’t hold weight well at all and I was consistently really uncomfortable with it, and on a few occasions extremely uncomfortable despite being within good weight parameters.  On one occasion I cried.  It’s a good pack, but it was horrible for me and I hated it.

I later switched to the Gossamer Gear Pilgrim which actually held weight much better (which is funny considering it was frameless), but the shoulder straps weren’t a good fit on me and dug at my arms and chest which became really annoying.  Otherwise it was a fantastic pack and if it hadn’t gone out of production I’d totally say to try it out.

So then I switched to a Granite Gear Lutsen 35.  On paper it looks insane to do that, it’s a 35L pack that weighs 3lbs, who does that?! Me now, I guess.  I’m out of the mindset that everything in my setup has to be ultralight, and now I’m prioritizing which items I could potentially go UL on.  The pack isn’t one of them.  I’d rather lug around a 3lb pack that can support itself and the rest of my gear, fit on me well, and remain comfortable as opposed to having a pack that’s just over a pound that causes me to be miserable.  Not worth it.

Worth it?

Fuck yes.  The Mariposa is a solid pack and it works out for people, it just didn’t work for me.  The Pilgrim is another solid pack that worked out much better for me than the Mariposa but still had its problems.  The Lutsen is my victory to something that plagued me for a long time, it’s really comfortable and I love its weird design (has a top zipper that goes halfway down the pack rather than just being a rolltop, it makes organizing the inside of my pack easier and provides better access to my bear canister when I need it, which was another thing that got under my skin later on).

Sawyer Squeeze

Replaced With

Sawyer Mini

Why

Yeah this one sounds crazy too.  Most people hate the Sawyer Mini.  Whenever people post their gear list and they dare have a Mini on their list, that’s all people can focus on: “The mini killed my family and burned my crops”.  The thing is I loved it for the system I had.  I hooked it inline with a hose attached to a water bladder, hung the bladder full of dirty water from a tree or my trekking poles, and used it as a gravity filter.  It worked terrifically and good god did it save me from the horrid task of filtering water by hand ever again.  Of all the thru-hiking chores that caused me despair, filtering water was the highest on the list.

Worth it?

Absolutely.  Maybe it’s not worth it if you’re just looking to squeeze filter because squeeze filtering is bad enough with the full sized Sawyer.  But when used as an impromptu gravity filter, it worked wonderfully and was really easy to put together.  With the full sized squeeze you had to have special parts to make it work that way, so I just sent it back home and didn’t bother.


Added Gear

Columbia Longsleeve w/ Hood

Why

I was testing out options for sun protection still and thought maybe having a light long sleeve shirt with a hood would help.  It didn’t.  I was in the shade and was wasting less sweat in the process, but I was also cooking in it and felt no relief from the heat at all.  Not worth the obscure water savings people claim.

Did I Keep It?

No, I ditched it in Tehachapi and didn’t look back.

Patagonia Capilene Leggings

Why

I got rid of my base layers and felt I’d need something for hiking on those cold Sierra days (since I just wore running shorts).  The silk base layers absolutely would not have withstood hiking, but the Capilene leggings did as they were stronger.  They also breathed a bit more than my wind pants.

Did I Keep It?

Yes, I liked them and they served a purpose on cold mornings.  I’ll probably continue to use this system, but I may ditch leggings and just stick with the wind pants.  I dunno.

Long Pants

Why

Situation #1:  One time was – again – just trying out different desert hiking things, and again it was oriented on covering up your skin, which again resulted in me feeling like a walking sauna.  Didn’t work out at all.

Situation #2:  I sent a pair to Kennedy Meadows, again just wondering if the Sierra would be too cold for running shorts.  It wasn’t, I was fine.

Did I Keep It?

No, I sent each pair home as soon as I could each time.  I much prefer the feeling of hiking in shorts.  It’s nice and breezy, never had chafing issues, and I just like wearing minimal clothes in general while hiking.  As stated earlier, I don’t like the feeling of baggy clothes flopping around when I walk.

Solar Charger

Why

There were times where I’d go into town just because my battery was running low, this kind of annoyed me.  My hiking buddy Exo had a really nice solar charger that worked very well and I figured I’d try it out.  I went to a used gear store in Lone Pine and got a decent brand for cheap and tried it out.

Did I Keep It?

Yes.  My solar charger was used, relatively low end, and a tad scratched up.  It wasn’t perfect, I wasn’t ever able to get a full charge on it, but I was able to sustain a decent charge over a longer period of time.  I’m a fan of solar chargers now.  The only reason it’s not part of my list right now is because mine got stolen when I moved, I will be replacing it when I can.

Sea to Summit Inflatable Pillow

Why

I picked this up right before my hike.  I’ve done the whole sleeping on extra clothes or a clothes stuff sack thing and I’ve never liked it.  If I can sleep at all, I wake up with a sore neck and a bad mood, so I figured I’d give an inflatable pillow a shot.

Did I Keep It?

Yes, you bet I did.  This thing was by far my most beloved luxury and I’ll continue to use it as long as I live.  I never felt like I was sleeping on an inflatable thing since it’s lined with really soft cloth, and I always under-inflated it a bit to make it more squishy.  I was always super comfortable at night with this thing and I’ll never let it go, well worth the weight in my opinion.


What it Looks Like Now

DSC00065.JPG

Items Not Shown

Cold soaking jar, trowel, medkit, buff, bandana, phone, headphones, camera (because I was using it), spoon.

It all fits comfortably in my Lutsen 35 with room to spare.  It also houses a bear canister with no problems.

Gear List Link


What I Would Change

There’s just a few things in my setup that I’m planning on changing up a little.

Shelter

Both my Big Agnes and Tarptent work just fine, but I’m looking at getting a Mountain Laurel Designs Duomid within the next few years.  I’m not particularly worried about bugs anymore so I don’t feel the need for an inner-mesh, but I do like having walls around me so I’m not totally sold on going full-tarp just yet.  The Duomid is just a neat shelter, light, plenty of space, and has stood against a variety of elements and performed very well.

MLD Duomid

Solar Charger

I had an old Goal Zero charger that worked marginally well.  I’m going to go for a Suntactics sCharger-5 in the future.  It was by far one of the more common solar chargers I’d see on trail, it’s small, not wrapped in heavy fabrics, performs well, etc.  I won’t be buying one this year however.

Suntactics sCharger-5

Shoes

This is a change I’m making in the immediate future.  My Altra 2.5’s were the shit, I loved them so much.  Sure they didn’t last as long as other shoes, but damn was the comfort worth it.  Then the 3.0’s came out and kinda fucked that up for me.  Since I’m gonna be hiking the Oregon Coast Trail, I thought this would be a cool time to try out hiking sandals.  I just bought a pair of Teva Hurricane XLT’s and I’m gonna be doing a lot of test hikes in them to see how well they work out.

I hate the feeling of my feet being forced into a point in shoes, it’s the most claustrophobic thing to me in the world.  I’m hoping these Teva’s work out well despite their obvious faults as sandals (getting rocks stuck inbetween your foot and the sandal).  At the moment it seems worth it to me.

Teva Hurricane XLT


Bottom Line

In closing, there’s a thing I’d like to say.

Pre-PCT, my first setup was heavy and it was stupid.  I had stuff like a camp chair for example.  Then I interacted more with the community and learned about ultralight hiking and spent a lot of money on ultralight gear replacing stuff I already had that was still in great condition.  I bought into brands and popularity, and at the end of the day on trail, I didn’t give a shit about any of my gear really.  I didn’t care that I was sporting a Gossamer Gear Mariposa or that I was wearing Altras, there was zero gear pride.  All I cared about was whether or not it served its purpose.

I counted ounces too much pre-hike when I should have just been counting my gear overall and making a mental list of what purpose each piece of gear serves, and whether or not it serves that purpose well.  With my pack for example, its purpose is to haul my gear around and haul it well.  In the end, it didn’t and turned out to be dead weight in a sense.  So in that specific case, I’d say something like: “Don’t buy an ultralight pack just to shave ounces off your base weight unless you’re absolutely confident that it’ll actually do its job, otherwise what’s the point in having it?”

So I didn’t care about my gear really, I didn’t even necessarily love a lot of it.  Things I did love were experiencing trail towns, eating a lot of food, just having money on hand to make the most of my experience.  If I hadn’t spent as much money on my gear, I could have done another long trail once I got off the PCT.  I just spent around $400 on my new camera and that pair of Teva sandals, and whenever I make purchases like that I always break it down:

$400 is roughly four nights in a nice hotel (or more in a bad one!), a month or more of food resupply, 20 or more restaurant visits, that could buy me a replacement tent if mine breaks, a couple pairs of shoes, etc.  Was it worth missing out on those things?  In this case, my other camera died, my phone’s camera sucks, pictures/video are a staple of my hiking experience, and happy feet are very important on long distance hikes.  So I’m going to say yes.  However if I spent extra money on a new tent to save weight when I have two that work just fine, then hell no it’s not.

There’s a lot of duplicate designs out there in the backpacking world, a lot of UL backpacks just follow the ‘stuff sack with shoulder straps’ design, a lot of tents look the same, for example:  Tarptent Protrail ($225) vs. Hyperlight Mountain Gear Echo II ($695).  The first is lighter than the second one, I’m not shitting you.  So why’s the second one more expensive?  Materials basically.  Just because something is made out of cuben fiber doesn’t mean it’s the lightest option, or even the best honestly.  Just shop around a lot, take a hard look at the market, and make a decision.  Is there any particular reason why the HMG Echo is a better option than the Protrail?  Think about stuff like that when buying your gear.  Buying your setup is a fraction of the overall thru-hiking experience, it may seem like a huge deal pre-hike, but it’s not at all a huge deal when you’re actually out there.

 

 

 

 

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