Half Way There: Thru Hiking
A thru-hiker's gear updateby John Rougeux
A few months ago, you read my gear list for our 2100-mile Appalachian Trail thru-hike this year. Since then, we've walked just over 1000 miles to Harper's Ferry, WV. Some items have been working great, others haven't. The changes in the seasons also mean changes in our gear. Read below to find out what's been happening.
Our fearless heros.
I had first recommended the Osprey Aether and Ariel series packs, specifically the 75 liter versions. The Aether handled the weight with aplomb as it always had, and was easy to adjust as my body changed after a few hundred miles. And as I learned to minimize my load, my pack itself got lighter too when I ditched the top pouch (saving nearly a pound), and cut off all the unnecessary straps and buckles. It's held up quite well despite all the abuse I've given it, except that the drawstring on the top apron wore out and needed replacement. I expect to use the Aether for years to come.
Sara's shrinking waist caused a fitting problem with the belt of her Ariel 75. She was already using the smallest women's belt Osprey makes, so she had no option but to purchase a different pack. It was quite a challenge to find one with a small enough waist belt, but eventually she found the Gregory Tega, a women's specific 2.5 pound pack with about 2500 cubic inches of space. A stripped-down pack, the Tega features only a couple of outside pockets and uses the nearly indestructible Dyneema fabric to make sure it doesn't fall apart after a few hundred miles. Sara has been more than happy to find something that finally fits her, but of course, she really likes it because it comes in pink.
The Marmot Hydrogen bag has worked like a charm. The hood has a comfortable draft tube around the face, and the down in the hood doesn't compress when you cinch the drawcord. The bag is efficiently cut and only uses half a zipper - certainly geared towards someone who counts ounces. In fact, the bag was so efficient that I found it to be too cozy for the hot weather we'd been having through Virginia. Instead, I'll be using a fleece blanket I made from material I found at a local fabric shop, which is a couple ounces lighter and much more comfortable during warm nights. I'll then save the Hydrogen for the cooler weather in New Hampshire and Maine.
Western Mountaineering Highlite
For the summer, Sara will be using Western Mountaineering's Highlite, a 35 degree bag with 850+ fill power down. The Short size she uses only weighs 15 ounces, which may make it the lightest bag on the market. The bags are also known for their conservative temperature ratings, so compared to most bags with the same temperature rating, the Western bags are warmer.
MSR Hubba Hubba
We're trading out the MSR Missing Link for the the MSR Hubba Hubba. The Missing Link had some condensation problems in the humid Southeast, so we opted for the double walled Hubba Hubba. It weighs about a pound more than the Missing Link, but it's a traditional tent/rainfly setup, and the added weather protection it offers is certainly worth the extra heft. And even though there is less floor space than the Missing Link, the space is very usable thanks to an efficient pole design.
The aluminum threads on our MSR Pocket Rocket wore down, so we switched it out for an MSR Superfly, a similar stove but one that attaches to MSR canisters without making use of the threads. The Superfly weighs a couple more ounces than the Pocket Rocket, but has a built-in piezo ignition and wider, more stable base.
I've been very satisfied with my Asolo FSN 95's; the boots fit my feet well, have plenty of support, are lightweight, and are reasonably breathable for a Gore-Tex boot. Sara liked hers for the same reasons, except that the Gore-Tex on hers would not keep the water out during rain or stream crossings. She switched to the Lowa Tempest Lo. The Tempest is a lightweight boot without Gore-Tex and with less support in the midsole. Originally her feet were sore from the less rigid sole, but after a couple of weeks, they've toughened up and Sara enjoys the boots.
With the warmer weather, I've also moved to a new shoe: the Montrail Hardrock. I was originally hesitant to wear trail runners because of the lack of ankle support, but I've found that my ankles have grown considerable stronger on the trail, so I thought I'd try them out. Since then, I've been very pleased with them; they dry quickly, offer lots of stability, and don't leave my feet too bruised at the end of a hard week. The light weight has really sped me up, too; they say that losing a pound off your feet is equivalent to losing five on your back.
Last installment I also provided a full list of everything else in my pack, so I'll do the same here, except this time I'll provide the summer list:
Socks: Patagonia Capilene
Underwear: Patagonia Capilene
T-Shirt: Patagonia Capilene Arius
Lightweight long sleeve top: Marmot Silkweight
Midweight long sleeve top: Patagonia R.5 Zip-Top
Wind Shell: Go-Lite Ether Pullover
Shorts: Patagonia Baggies (John) Wal-Mart Mesh (Sara)
Hat: Mountain Hardwear B.O.B. (John) Cotton Bandanna (Sara)
Headlamp: Petzl Tikka
Cookware: Wal-Mart grease pot and MSR Titan Tea Kettle
Cutlery: Snowpeak Titanium Spork
Water Filter: Katahdyn Hiker
Water Bladder: Cascade Designs Platypus
Water Bottle: Empty Gatorade 1L
Pack Cover: Granite Gear Cloud Cover