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Continental Divide Trail Northbound Gearlist

Gearing up for a CDT thru-hike in Lordsburg, NM
Gearing up for a CDT thru-hike in Lordsburg, NM

Last month, I was in Silver City and Lordsburg, NM sending off this year’s crew of Northbound Continental Divide Trail hikers. Although I won’t be heading out on a CDT thru this year, time down in the Bootheel of New Mexico has given me the space to do some brainstorming on what gear I would—and did—bring out to the southern terminus of the CDT. Although all my miles on this trip have been daytrips or walking to water caches, and my camping has been in the backyard of a trail angel who lives on the CDT, I’m pretty sure this is the system I would bring out when I’m lucky enough to hike the CDT again.

Running dispatch for the CDT Shuttle from the Econo Lodge in Lordsburg, NM
Running dispatch for the CDT Shuttle from the Econo Lodge in Lordsburg, NM

Temps for the month have been in highs around 70, lows around 40, wind between 10 and 30 mph.

A few notes:

Despite the lack of rain, I opted for a full coverage shelter in the MLD Solomid. We’ve been having 30 mph winds in the afternoons and at night both south and north of Lordsburg, so I wanted a shelter that is tried and true in staying up in that kind of weather. Needless to say, I had no problem keeping my Solomid up and keeping the wind off my face at night in this shelter. Most importantly, it has been raining and snowing in the Gila, so even though we’re in New Mexico, rain gear and a good shelter are worth having.

With all the thorns, sands, and tumbleweed between the Southern terminus and Lordsburg, gaiters are a must for this trip. I also purposely opted not to bring an inflatable pad because of all the thorns in this section. I would potentially pick up an inflatable pad at Doc Campbell’s (a town where you can resupply before the Gila) before entering the higher altitude and cooler Gila Wilderness.

Much spikage and thornage on the section between Lordsburg and Silver City as evidenced by these <a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00HNR2A7E/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00HNR2A7E&linkCode=as2&tag=lizthoadvhik-20&linkId=5VWXO4AI3EUWWI7G rel="no follow"">Altra Lone Peaks</a>
Much spikage and thornage on the section between Lordsburg and Silver City as evidenced by these Altra Lone Peaks

My Montbell windshirt was a must in this climate. Even though there was no rain while I was there, the NWAlpine Eyebright offered a breathable alternative to wearing my down jacket all day. Even though the trail starts in New Mexico, it can rain in the Spring and this year’s hikers got poured on! I would definitely carry my Mountain Laurel Designs rain kilt, which also makes a nice mini-ground sheet. I especially enjoyed my Montbell Down Parka early in the morning and in the evening—I slept in it all nights.

I would opt not to bring sleep socks (reflected in the gear list). I didn’t wear the tights, but know that they would be very useful in the Gila.

Also given the spikiness and cross-countryish nature of the section from the border to Lordsburg, I would seriously consider during the impossible and wearing pants instead of my Purple Rain Skirt, although I would switch back to my skirt as soon as the spiky cross country ceased.

My 28 degree MLD Spirit Quilt was just warm enough for the coldest nights, and perfect for the usual desert temperatures. Even though it only weighs 17 oz, the fabric is pretty tough and because it is synthetic, I never had to worry about feathers ending up everywhere as I tossed and turned off my groundsheet and onto spiky things in the night.

I’m trying out the GoMotion Fusion Backpack sternum strap light and felt that the desert would be the ideal place to use it. The GoMotion weighs more than I’m used to carrying for a headlamp, but hiking in the desert is easiest before the heat of the day sets in late into the evening, so I was willing to invest in a more robust headlamp. Plus, since the CDT has so much road walking, there is a lot of easy hiking that can be done at night by headlamp.

Backpack, Shelter, Sleeping Bag, Sleeping Pad

ItemModelWeight
backpackGossamer Gear Kumo17
waterproof pack coverGossamer Gear Pack Liner1.2
sleeping padGossamer Gear Nitelite Torso5.4
shelter+guylinesMountain Laurel Designs SoloMid11
shelter support (poles, etc.)(Using trekking poles)0
shelter stow sackMountain Laurel Designs cuben fiber large1.5
stakes (rubber banded)6 Toaks Titanium V-shaped stakes3
sleeping bag (no stuff sack)MLD Spirit Quilt17.2
ground sheet or bivy sackGossamer Gear polycryo - medium1.5
HipbeltGossamer Gear Kumo Hipbelt3.7

Clothing Carried:

ItemModelWeight
underwear - bottomsEx Officio briefs1.5
long sleevesSmartwool PhD Arm Warmer3.4
base / wicking layer bottomUniqlo tights3.4
insulating topMontbell U.L. Down Parka 6.5
raingear topNW Alpine Eyebright5.4
raingear bottomsMountain Laurel Designs Rain Kilt1.7
windgear (soft shell) topMontbell Tachyon Windshirt M1.8
warm hatOutdoor Research Transcendent Down beanie1.7
spare socksDarn Tough Run/Bike ulralight 1/4 length1.2
clothing stuff sackMountain Laurel Designs Cuben fiber-size M0.3

Cooking and Hydration:

ItemModelWeight
stoveTrail Designs Gram Cracker0.1
windscreenTrail Designs Caldera Ti-Tri0.9
fuel bottlenone - fuel tabs0
matches / lighterpaper matches 0.1
cook pot and lid Trail Designs Fosters Can Pot1.3
utensilsToaks Long Handled Spoon0.3
Food bagOdor and Critter Proof bag1.5
water storagePlatypus 2+L hydration bag1.5
water storageSawyer 2 Liter squeeze pouch1.3
More water storageSawyer 2l squeeze pouch1.3
Hydration hosePlatypus hydration drinking tube (trimmed to reduce weight)2.7
water treatmentSawyer Mini Filter1.4
Water treatment cleanerSawyer Mini Filter Cleaning Syringe1.1

Miscellaneous Gear:

ItemModelWeight
LightGo Motion Fusion Backpack Sternum Strap Light3.5
trekking polesGossamer Gear Light Trek 4 two-piece hiking poles (2 of them)8.2
sunscreenSawyer Stay Put Sunscreen0.7
toothbrushCut off toothbrush0.2
toothpastePowdered toothpaste transferred into a tiny bottle.5
toilet paper2
hygienemicro bottle alcohol gel0.1
PillsImodium, Benadryl, ibuprofen, naproxin0.8
firestarting kitWetfire Fire Starter0.1
Gear Repair Gear Aid Tenacious Tape 0.2
Blister Care/Gear RepairLeukotape sports tape.5
compass1.2
CameraI'm still looking for a good one? Have any suggestions?5.0
Safety pin0.05
trowelQi Whiz original potty trowel0.6
Maps5
Sun UmbrellaMontbell UL Trekking Umbrella5.4

Worn Items:

ItemModel
Trail Running ShoesAltra Lone Peak 2.0s
SocksDarn Tough Ultralight Run/Bike Merino
Pocketed SkirtPurple Rain Adventure Skirts
Long Sleeve, collared shirtStill looking for a good one. Any suggestions?
Sports braEx Officio Give N Go Crossover Bra

I’m still looking for a good camera and a good long sleeve collared shirt for the CDT. The sun was pretty intense, so I’d up my hat to something with 360 full brimmed coverage that would stay on my face during intense wind. Is there a model out there that you like that won’t require a trip to Australia to procure? I would probably look for a long sleeved shirt instead. I’ve increasingly been toying with sun gloves , too, but haven’t really experimented. Does anyone have a brand they like?

Are there any pieces of gear you would recommend for bringing on the CDT? What gear have you enjoyed carrying in the desert?

Liz "Snorkel" Thomas

Liz Thomas is a well-traveled adventure athlete most known for breaking the women’s unsupported speed record on the Appalachian Trail in 2011. She has completed the Triple Crown of Hiking–the Appalachian Trail, the 2,650 mile Pacific Crest Trail, and 3,100 mile Continental Divide Trail–and has backpacked over 15,000 miles across the United States. While not on trail, Liz lives in Denver, Colorado.

Comments

Mike

For a brimmed hat, have you considered a Tilley hat? I’ve always used baseball style hats in the past, but my wife convinced me to try a Tilley hat. It offers 360 degree brim, a terry sweat band, front and rear adjustable cords for keeping the hat on in windy conditions. It’s breathable and reversible. After several long day hikes in a variety of conditions, I wouldn’t consider not taking it with me.

Liz "Snorkel" Thomas

I’ve heard great things about the Tilley hats. For years, I’ve used visors but am starting that they aren’t giving me the coverage I need. Really appreciate your feedback!

Louis Brooks

Thanks for sharing your proposed gear list. I hike mostly in the SE which is about as different as you can get from the desert but I hope to get out west next year so I am looking for lists like this.

Nemo

Since I recently tackled the camera issue, I’ll share my thoughts on that. Best case, this will save you some time. Worst case it will leave you misled and terribly confused. I think the former is more likely than the latter, although just barely: this may end up being overlong and convoluted (kind of like the CDT…).

The best camera for you is going to hinge on the subjects you intend to photograph and your planned use of the images. I’m inclined to assume that you intend to shoot landscapes, amongst other subjects, and that you’ll primarily be publishing your photographs on the web, though you may want the option of making moderately sized prints. (Is that about right?) I feel safe in assuming that weight matters.

There are a lot of lightweight cameras on the market now that offer excellent resolution and color depth. The challenge is getting the requisite dynamic range for landscape photography without breaking the bank (or your back). The problem is that dynamic range is related to sensor size and sensor size is related to lens and body size. Lens size and body size, in turn, are connected to your likelihood of saying “There’s no fracking way I’m carrying that- even if it spits out Renaissance masterworks.”

Dynamic range relative to weight is a helpful metric when comparing hiking cameras. Using DX0Mark’s data, the clear standout would seem to be the Ricoh GR, which offers a dynamic range score that’s superior to many DSLRs (13.4) despite weighing only 246g and -importantly- not requiring a dedicated external charger. With a 28mm lens and an integrated neutral density filter, it’s an excellent choice for lightweight landscape shooting. It’s also a darling of street photographers. And while you’ll probably be spending more time on trails than streets, it should be a great choice for documenting hiker culture. If you don’t need a zoom -and if video isn’t that important to you- the Ricoh GR may be your best bet, although there is another angle to consider.

I recently auditioned the Ricoh GR, and while I loved it, I ended up going with a different camera: the Sony RX100 Mark 1. Like the GR, the RX100 Mark 1 is a comparative lightweight (240g). Like the GR, is has an admirable (though less impressive) dynamic range score at 12.4. And like the GR, the battery charges within the camera so you won’t have to carry a dedicated charger. Unlike the GR, the RX100 has an unadvertised benefit: it effectively comes with an outstanding image editing suite.

Phase One, which is a Danish manufacturer of high end cameras for the professional market, has an image editing suite called Capture One Pro. Capture One Pro typically costs $299, but for Sony users -and Sony users only- it costs $50. Capture One Express -which is now only available to Sony users- is free. In all likelihood, Sony made this arrangement with Phase One primarily for the benefit of owners of high end cameras, like the RX1, but owners of used RX100 Mark 1s can sneak in on the deal.

After working with Ricoh GR Raw files processed in Lightroom and Sony RX100 files processed in Capture One, I found that the RX100/Capture One combination gave me better results under most circumstances, despite the Ricoh’s superior sensor (NW: YMMV). This is due in part to Capture One’s camera specific RAW processing algorithms but also Capture One’s local adjustment tools. So, if you are willing to spend time post processing -and you aren’t committed to Lightroom- the RX100 may be a reasonable choice. The RX100s zoom lens, superior autofocusing, and superior video performance are other reasons to prefer the RX100. Cost may also be worth considering- especially if you want to post process but currently lack a post processing suite. The RX100 Mark 1 + Capture One Express costs about $325 ($375 Pro) on eBay. The Ricoh GR + Lightroom would cost about $550. The Ricoh GR + Capture One would be ~$750.

Breaking it down

Consider the Ricoh GR if:

-Image file quality relative to weight is the overriding consideration
-You don’t need a zoom
-Video isn’t that important to you
-You have no interest in Capture One

Consider the Sony RX100 if:

– You like zooms
– Autofocus speed matters (especially in low light)
– You use video
– Capture One seems worth having
– You like saving money

Anyhoo. I hope that helped. Happy trails!

Best,

Nemo

Btw. Thanks for all the great posts over the years. I’ve found your writings helpful.

James Richardson

Better than a Tilley for sun, is the Sunday Afternoons Adventure hat. I saw it on a photo on this website a few years ago, and wrote the man for the name of it, said “That’s what I’ve been looking for all along.” After several years, it is as good as I thought. None better. Lighter than a Tilley. But Tilly better for lots of rain, and not as good for sun on head and neck and shoulders. I have a Tilley also.

Liz "Snorkel" Thomas

Thanks for the tip! I’ve heard great things about Sunday Afternoon hats and it looks like they have a wide variety of options and styles.

andy

Terramar Body Sensor- long sleeve shirt with small collar 2 hand pockets, 1 zip chest pocket, thumb holes to cover hands, polyester knit- warm, light-7 oz
Tilley’s are heavy, find a nylon hat with ear coverage
hints- carry a small sponge for sponge baths in cold water, light poly shirt for a towel, cell phone for camera and GPS, 5w solar charger- attach to top of pack

Liz "Snorkel" Thomas

Thanks for the tip about the Terramar Body Sensor. I like the idea of the thumb holes. I’ve been using the headsweats but even with the fringe version, the coverage hasn’t been great. I’m willing to up the weight of a hat slightly to get better coverage. I use my windshirt as a towel and usually find a bandana to be sufficient for sponge baths. I’ve been using a cell phone for camera for years but am increasingly wanting a higher quality image and more depth than the cell phone can provide.

John Shannon

For a camera, I’d recommend the Ricoh WG-4 without the gps. You can get it for less than $200 and I think it is a steal at that price.

Liz "Snorkel" Thomas

Woa! That is a steal. Thanks for the tip.

Leo

I use a sun hat from this company and have been very impressed with it.

“http://www.sundayafternoons.com/women/sun-hats/flap-hats.html”

Liz "Snorkel" Thomas

Nice! I’ve heard great things about Sunday Afternoons and I like that they have women specific hats that are a little more stylish.

Steve Gilliam

Great gear list & info.

I’m a big fan of the Montbell hiking shirts. They are very light (4-6oz), provide excellent breatheability, and full sun protection including a color. You can choose a technical looking shirt, or a more traditional button front.

MONTBELL COOL L/S ZIP SHIRT, or
MONTBELL WICKRON LIGHT LONG SLEEVE SHIRT

Grok

Snake charmer

I used the Sony Wx300 on my 2014 pct thru hike. At 5.5 oz, it took close to 600 pictures per charge at high quality resolution. I’m doing an exhibit for fun, at home in Vail, CO. Half of the pictures I chose to publish are 11×14, the rest 8×10. As an amateur photographer with an amazing canvas (pct) they came out great! I would rather go back to my favorite places with a dslr and shoot amazing pictures. Carrying that for the entire trip would not be worth it to me. I wish I would have now, but for a thru-hike, it’s not functional to me

Liz "Snorkel" Thomas

Really appreciate the tip and the on-the-trail feedback, Snake Charmer. Hard to get that feedback from a website. Good to know that they photos you published were great quality for what they were. I agree that it just is really hard to carry a DSLR for a whole thru-hike…

Evan Ravitz

http://dpreview.com is the premier place to compare cameras, including their side-by-side feature. Consider the Panasonic LX7 or LX100.

Liz "Snorkel" Thomas

Thanks for the link! That’s a great resource for trying to pick what hikers can use and their functionality.

peabody3000

i had tried a few ways to best equip myself with toothpaste. i found that the best solution was.. not to. of course brushing is important, but toothpaste, as far as i can surmise, serves little to no useful purpose at all. the abrasives may help keep tartar buildups down but brushing twice a day takes care of that too. the mintyness makes things feel clean but thats honestly just a temporary sensory trick. i havent used any paste for a couple of years now and my mouth stays as clean as it ever did. i floss regularly, and i get a cleaning at the dentist every 6 months, so i choose not to add more chemicals and hassle to my life, by cutting out the toothpaste both on and off the trail

Liz "Snorkel" Thomas

I’ve heard the mechanical movement of brushing accounts for most of the tooth cleaning from brushing and do that sometimes on trail (usually at night), but haven’t been able to lose the toothpaste completely. For one thing, all this hiking has stopped me from seeing the dentist regularly and I do enjoy the minty-ness–sometimes it is a good pick me up. But I feel a lot better about my nighttime brushing habits after reading your account!

Siren

Before I did the AT back in 2013, my dentist said (unsolicited) that if I wanted to save weight, skip the toothpaste and just bring toothbrush and floss. He said toothpaste is really a gimmick unless you have gingivitis, although most people do have at least minor gingivitis.

Stevan

Howdy,
The Patagonia Sunshade Technical Hooded Shirt has been a kick ass shirt for me for all types of desert things – lots of time in the Grand Canyon, rafting, bikepacking, canyoneering, just plain wearing. You could size down or they make the women’s version: Patagonia Sunshade Hooded Shirt. I guess they don’t think women get technical ; )
The hood is nice for neck protection and there’s thumb holes so it covers a fair bit of the back of your hand too. Nice and breathy for a long sleeve shirt.
Stay Rad,
Stevan

Liz "Snorkel" Thomas

Thanks for the shirt advice, Stevan. I’ve heard really great things about the sunshade and definitely need to check it out. Your comment is such a great reminder that I need to do that and I love the hood idea…