Tomorrow, I head out to hike the grandaddy of all Grand Canyon hikes—Rim to Rim to Rim in a Day. Depending on what source you look at (and what route you take) the hike can be up to 48 miles and 11,000 feet of gain. Exposure, dehydration, hyponatremia happen often, which is one reason why the Grand Canyon has more deaths annually than any other national park.
Having hiked Rim to Rim to Rim once before, I knew there were some things I wanted to change about my choices in gear that I carried. With that knowledge and experience in mind, here is the gear that I took.
A few things that I did differently this time was to carry an emergency bivy. A friend of mine who ran the R2R2R a few weeks ago bonked and wished he had carried one, especially with bad weather. You never know when you’re going to bonk and even the most prepared can have bad things happen to them, so I was happy to bring that.
The time, I am also bringing Suunto Core watch to track my elevation gain and progress up the canyon.
I also opted to take a daypack this time instead of a bigger pack.
Note: now that I have finished the hike, there are a few things I would change. First, I would be sure to put NEW batteries in my headlamp before going. Even with a full moon, it was too dark. I would also opt to not take my potty trowel–there are bathrooms everywhere (that being said, I suppose if I couldn’t hold it or got a case of diahhrea, the extra 0.4 oz isn’t too much to carry). I would also consider carrying a smaller pack as the 26 L daypack was too big for all my stuff. Many runners get away with small Camelbaks or even vests. That being said, the Type 2 fits me like a glove and is very comfortable, and maybe it is better to have a pack that feels good than one that is slightly smaller.
This week, my sponsor Altra Zero Drop shoes launched a brand new clothing line. Footwear companies having their own running clothes follows the footsteps (excuse the pun), of other running companies like Nike, Adidas, etc., but–just as with Altra’s footwear–the new Altra apparel line has a big twist: it’s designed for ultra runners and outdoorsfolk obsessed with being as light, minimalist, and as on-the-go as possible.
I remember on my first thru-hike of the AT wishing that such a piece of gear existed. I heard from some other thru-hikers that Ray Jardine proposed such a design, but was never able to find any evidence of that. Altra’s design improves on my fantasy-windshirt though–you wear it in a pouch around your waist and then can pull the backless windshirt onto yourself without having to stop or remove your pack. Whether you’re ultramaronther, speed hiker, or just hiking through a climate that changes really quickly like the Colorado Rockies or the Sierras, it seems like the Stash Jack can solve an old backpacking problem. Best yet, the pricing is better than the popular with thru-hikers Patagonoia Houdini.
2.4 oz quick dry t-shirts
I’m impressed by the thought that has gone into designing the super light weight, super quick drying new Altra Performance Tee shirts. First, the zoned mesh fabric breathes really well and keeps you cool even when you’re, say, traversing the exposed Wasatch range in 90 degree weather.
Second, I haven’t found a hiking shirt with a good sleeve design since Patagonia discontinued the cap-shoulder sleeve. I prefer to hike in tank tops because I like the air flowing to my armpits–but I know especially as I get older, I need to have sun protection on my shoulders. The mesh sleeves on the Performance T’s breathes very well and are cut so my armpit can still get flow. Thank you!!!
Third, the fabric dries really quickly–like potentially faster that Patagonia Capilene quickly. This is helpful for if you get caught in a rain storm, or have been sweating in the heat and have to stop hiking (because a wet shirt will maintain evaporative cooling against your skin making you feel colder than just the outside temps). It’s also useful for when you want to wash your shirt on trail.
Fourth–the shirt has welded seams and hems meaning that the chances of weird rubbing or chaffing going on are seriously reduced. Many hikers found that they get chaffing around the area of their pack straps and salt and dirt rub against the seam to create a really painful shoulder. The welded seams could potentially fix this. My only concern is the durability of welded construction vs. sewn hems over the course of a long hike, since I haven’t seen many clothing companies do this. I didn’t notice problems when I wore the tank top on the 200 mile Seattle urban thru, though.
Lastly, these Altra shirts–unlike MANY other outdoor t-shirts for women–manage to fit well, look good, and aren’t dumpy. Call me vain, but I feel like I hike stronger when I look better. I really like the pink and green, but found the neon yellow to collect trail dirt quickly. That being said, I’m still glad that I had a neon yellow shirt for when I hiked the Wasatch Range–there were some roadwalking sections where being visible was really important (and I imagine if you’re a road-runner, you appreciate it, too).
The Performance Tank has the same awesome advantages of zoned mesh, super fast drying, and breathability as the Performance Tee. But–it has three sweet advantages over other performance tank tops out there. 1) Length—FINALLY–a tank top that won’t ride up with my pack on. I have a long torso and with this tank, I don’t have to worry about whether I’ll lose heat from an exposed hiker belly. When it’s super cold and I’m wearing it as a baselayer, I can tuck it in and it doesn’t pop out of my pants or skirt.
2) Weight—As an avowed ultralight backpacker, I thought I would NEVER say this–but if a shirt only weighs 1.95 oz, I can actually afford to carry an EXTRA SHIRT. When I backpack, I don’t even carry extra sleep clothes/town clothes because it weighs too much. I’m essentially a gross, dirty, mess. But, this shirt weighs as much as a pair of socks. That’s light enough that I would actually think about it.
3) Tummy hider–I usually start my thru-hikes heavier than I wish I was, as friends have pointed out about my starting terminus photos. The design on this tank is not form fitting around the midsection, which means that my hiker belly doesn’t show *quite* as much.
Altra also released performance bottoms including racing shorts and a performance skirt. I haven’t tried them yet (my butt wouldn’t fit into sample size) so can’t testify to their features–but they do weigh 3.6 and 2.6 oz, respectively!
As far as sizing goes, I’m 5 feet 7.5 inch and 145 pounds and fit the medium top and have been told by other ambassadors with similar dimensions that the medium is the way to go for bottoms, too.
The pricing errs definitely reflects an audience targeted at runners–that is, folks who have full time jobs who can afford to buy the best, lightest gear for their races that will make them run faster and perform better. We thru-hikers tend to not always have that kind of financial luxury and t-shirts and tank-tops are one spot where we can afford to skimp a little. But if you care about keeping every ounce in your pack as light as possible and can afford it, the only other apparel company I can think of making tops this light is Montbell.
It seems like the past two months have been nothing but travel, hike, and travel, but this past week, I made another pilgrimage to the biggest outdoor gear trade show in the U.S.
My purpose was to scout out some of the newest, most innovative gear for the ultralight backpacking community. I was looking for big trends, game changing inventions, and incremental improvements on gear that is already out there. Here’s a recap of some of the coolest items spotted on the show floor:
Headlamps for your Shoes:
Winter OR brought us GoMotion lights—“headlamps” that don’t go on your head at all but are worn as sternum straps. This OR brings us “headlamps” that you attach to your shoes to immediately light up the trail right in front of you. Night Runner developed by FresheTech provides 30+ feet in beam distance at 270 degrees of visibility. The water resistant system clips right to your shoelaces like gaiters. Although right now the technology only allows for 4-8 hours of battery life (to keep the weight down, it is charged via micro USB instead of AAA batteries), my mind is blown at the endless possibilities this could have for changing the game of night hiking. A few years ago, the game changing gear trend for backpackers was in sleeping pads. These days, I’m increasingly impressed by what is coming out of the head (and other body part) lamp manufactures.
Removable Backpack Air Core Frame:
For those of you out there who love Osprey’s Air Core frame (a pack frame that allows air to vent between your back and the pack, minimizing back sweat), the Ventra is a BRAND NEW invention that can turn any pack into an Air Core Pack. Debuting at their first Show, you can attach any frameless pack to your Ventra and increase its carry load or just get it off your pack.
Right now, the Medium Ventra frame is weighing in at 11 oz. Considering that a normal frameless ultralight pack comes in at about a pound, by placing your frameless pack on a Ventra, you essentially get a framed Air Core pack for less than 2 pounds. The best part is one Ventra can be used on multiple packs (your pack attaches and unattaches very easily). So, if you have several frameless packs, you can use all of them with one Ventra. I’m really looking forward to seeing how this young company evolves and what great things it will develop (I also really hope that some bigger company doesn’t poach their idea).
Three Breath Inflatable Sleeping Pad:
You heard that right. Where a full length sleeping pad usually takes me 40 breaths to inflate, a brand new valve invention is blowing (excuse the pun) the competition out of the air. Windcatcher valves was developed by what I can only assume is some physics grad student who took aerodynamic application to a backpacking level. Using entrainment, a physics principle I had to look up on Wikipedia, I watched a full length pad inflate after 3 breaths. If you don’t believe me, check out this video:
Unfortunately, Windcatcher claims that a major gear manufacturer (a walk around the Show makes it obvious that company is MSR) stole their design and there is currently a legal battle going on. Windcatcher asks that you support the original inventor.
Put on a Windshirt without Removing your Pack:
For those of you who dreamt of the day when someone would invent a layer that you could put on without requiring you to take off your pack—that day is here! Thru-hiker shoe favorite Altra just announced a new clothing line with its most exciting item being a windshirt that you wear in a pouch around your waist and then can pull onto yourself without having to stop or remove your pack. It is backless—so it won’t get caught on your pack and (extra bonus) means it has less fabric than a normal windshirt (meaning that it is ultralight). In fact, the whole system–which includes a hood, a pouch, and a waistband–is 3.3 oz (the tank top in the photo, by the way, weighs 1.95 oz). Although the Altra windshirt was invented for ultramarathoners whose every minute can count in a race, speed hikers, hikers who get cold and hot easily, or hikers who just enjoy being in their hiking groove and don’t want to stop will all go as gaga over this new item as I did.
Mini Wood Stove:
For the past 20 years, TOAKS has been manufacturing titanium stoves and cookware for the big players like Sea to Summit. In the past year, they’ve decided that they want to start selling their own designs, and their inventor has developed a wood stove that just won Best in Show at the European equivalent of Outdoor Retailer. After hearing from several thru-hikers that the wood burning backpacking stoves on the market were too big, TOAKS developed this stackable woodstove aimed for the solo hiker. It can take a 750 mL cup, but can also be used for larger pots.
Most notably—this wood stove packs down to a really small size, especially compared to some of the uber bulky wood stoves out there that just refuse to fit anywhere in an ultralight pack (too big for the water bottle pockets, bulky in the mesh, annoying to put in the body of the pack). This stove DEFINITELY fits in my Gosssamer Gear Kumo water bottle pocket—a first for a wood burner as far as I know!
Purify Your Water from Pesticides and Chemicals:
In the light of the Animas River spill, hikers are starting to think a little bit more about what may be in their “natural” seeming water sources. That mountain spring that may be free of Crypto and Giardia can still have plenty of Arsenic. I for one have downed more than my fair share of pesticides in my thru-hiking career. A new invention debuted at Summer OR that is a water filtration system that claims to address the usual water hazards while also removing petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, arsenic, lead, and mercury. Solarbug Water Purifier claims to be the first water purifier on the market that changes colors to let you know when your water is “done” (purified). You simply add a drop of chemical to the system and when it stops being blue, your water is ready to drink. The Solarbug system lasts for 500 gallons (when the water stops changing colors, you know you need a new system) and retails at $100. The company also donates a significant portion of its profits to clean water projects in developing countries. Right now, the gallon-to-dollar ratio isn’t quite within thru-hiker realm (and I’m very curious to see how long it takes to treat the water), but I am really looking forward to watching this technology improve in the future.
National Geographic Appalachian Trail Map Book:
In the same spirit of the highly popular John Muir Trail Map book rolled out at Winter Outdoor Retailer, Nat Geo is developing a mapbook set for the entire AT. Right now, the maps for Maine down to Pennsylvania are complete, in perfect timing for the typical southbounders. The thin book’s dimensions are longer than the maps you would print at home, making it well suited for a long skinny trail like the AT. Everything is put together in order including some town data, almost making it suited to be the only info source an AT thru-hiker would need. One downside, as with any long skinny map set, is that not all bail out options and not all resupply options are included. Nonetheless, it’s wonderful to see a major map company like Nat Geo take on thru-hiking in full like this!
Water Resistant Altra Lone Peaks
The Altra Lone Peak, often called the “thru-hiker’s favorite shoe,” is coming out in a new fabric, a waterproof Polartec Neoshell. This breathable membrane has had huge success in outerwear but has never been used in shoes before. I have a feeling that the NeoShell Lone Peaks are going to open a lot of doors for three and four season hiking in trail runners. Furthermore, I run into a lot of people just getting into hiking and backpacking who demand a waterproof shoe, and now I’ll know what to tell them to get. Although I’m going to stick with my Lone Peaks for the summer (the new Lone Peak 2.5s were announced at Summer OR and offer a redesigned upper, improved lacing system, improved upper durability, and slightly firmer midsole over the Lone Peak 2.0s), I’m really looking forward to testing the Neoshell Lone Peaks in some snow later this year.
Hammock that Keeps out Amazonian Mosquitoes
Explorer, Adventurer, and former British Army Officer Ed Stafford set out to walk from the Andes to the ocean, following the Amazon River from its source to its end over 860 days. To undertake such an endeavor, he asked long time thru-hiker favorite Hennessy Hammock to design a special expedition grade double-walled hammock that would prevent mosquitoes from biting him as he slept. After the modern day Dr. Livingstone completed his journey, he cited his double-walled Hennessy as his favorite piece of gear. Hennessy decided to market the special design for others who hate mosquitoes or are traveling in super buggy territory.
The new Jungle Series model marks the first new models of HH’s in a couple years and are a huge addition to the Hennessy line. The Expedition Jungle Zip and Jungle Explorer Zip and Jungle Safari Zip offer different features depending on your height and weight requirements (the Jungle can take enough weight for a couple). While heavy for a typical thru-hiker (the Hyperlite or Ultralite Backpacker models are the most popular among that crowd), I imagine the requirements for jungle thru-hiking are entirely different than back here in the states. If you’re designing a route across Borneo, it sounds like HH’s new Jungle Series hammocks are a piece of gear you may not want to be without.
Bigger “Bear Proof” Bag for Hungrier Hikers:
LokSak, maker of the OP (Odor Proof) bags that so many thru-hikers these days are carrying instead of bear canisters, just came out with a larger size bag. I’ve often carried two LokSaks myself for times when it is 6+ days between food resupplies. This larger bag has twice the capacity of a normal Loksak bag. I’m not sure how it will fit in my pack, but look forward to finding out.
14 g Socks that will Last a Lifetime:
Darn Tough just rolled out a new line of super ultralight socks, the Vertex Series Running Sock, that weigh in at 14 g a piece and still come with the Darn Tough Life Time Guarantee! (I can’t think of anything as ultralight that comes with a Life Time Guarantee). The Vertex Series socks were designed for runners who want the most minimal sock they can wear that will prevent chaffing and provide support just where it is needed, and nowhere else. This could be a great sock for those thru-hikers who enjoy hiking in liner socks or for thru-hikers who like to carry extra pairs of socks but don’t want the weight penalty.
Frog Togg/Driducks Waterproof Fleece Shell
Frog Toggs raingear is so affordable, I didn’t think they’d be able to afford a booth at OR. Nonetheless, they had a booth at the Show and were showing off their newest invention, a supposedly waterproof breathable fleece shell. Although heavy for the typical thru-hiker, like all Frog Toggs items, the sticker price seemed surprisingly affordable. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this item become a new favorite among budget hikers.
Running Coach in a Box
Zero Drop thru-hiker standard Altra has just developed a “smart shoe” that integrates with your phone or Smartwatch when you are running. As you run, it informs you of your cadence (180 strikes per minute being the ideal) and also lets you know where on your foot you are striking. It’s like having your running coach always watching you, except it costs a fraction of an instructor’s time (the IQ shoe retails at less than $100 more than a normal running shoe). It can also be used as a great instructional tool for running coaches to use to have data to show clients about how they run. While only the most data-obsessed thru-hiker would wear an Altra IQ on the trail, you’d be hard pressed to find a thru-hiker who isn’t curious how to make his/her stride more efficient during the off season. Boys and girls, now you know what to ask Santa for Christmas.
Well, this wraps up the GEAR portion of the Outdoor Summer Retailer 2015 write-ups.
Stay tuned for the FOOD section where I describe all the innovative, potentially revolutionary foods debuting at the show including flavored caffeine pills, caffeinated chocolate chews, cricket energy bars, good tasting MREs, and dehydrated cheese!
For years, long distance backpackers who did a lot of nighthiking have been taking their headlamps and wearing them on their sternum straps or waist. The reason? To maximize the amount of light hitting the trail and minimize the chances that your body will create extra shadows between the light source and the trail. Now, GoMotion has come up with an innovative design based on what hikers (and runners) have been doing for years. Backed with a powerful lamp, long battery life, and versatile beams, the GoMotion provides an interesting solution to an old hiker’s problem. Over the past few months, I tested out the GoMotion Fusion, an adjustable sternum strap model that attaches to your thru-hiking pack on backpacking, camping, and multi-day urban hikes, experimenting with the light on hiking trips in several states, climates, and terrains in an attempt to answer whether the model is the new answer to backpacking lights.
The way it works:
The GoMotion Fusion operates as a second sternum strap that runs between your backpack’s two arm straps. The way it works is that you attach two Velcro bands (comes with the headlamp) to your backpack—one to each arm strap (the lamp is attached to one of the Velcro bands). From there, you hook the lamp and webbing from one Velcro to the other so it looks like you have a sternum strap on.
The hook allows the sternum light to be easy to attach and remove
Distance: I used the GoMotion Fusion headlamp on three multi-day urban hikes as an extra level of protection from cars. On the Selma to Montgomery hike, much of the distance covered was along a busy highway with cars zooming past me at 60 miles per hour. When I was in town, I ran into many people who said “I saw you on the road because your light was so visible.”
Lumens/brightness: I have never had a headlamp with seemingly car-headlight quality beam that was able to cover not just myself, but 4 other hikers. I started an early morning backpacking trip with several other hikers who had not brought headlamps. Using the floodlamp option on the GoMotion Fusion, we were all able to hike in car-headlight quality beam that was able to cover all of us.
Battery Life: While many headlamps have a bright life when the batteries are popped in, and then live 80% of their life in a dim gloom, the GoMotion Fusion stayed bright for much longer than I was expecting given that their target customer appears to be ultramarathoners (who, unlike long distance backpackers, have the luxury of replacing their batteries after 24 hours and of aid stations where new batteries can be retrieved). On my test hikes, light seemed steadily bright throughout my battery’s life instead of the dreaded first few hours of brightness followed by 50 hours of dim before the battery finally dies.
External battery pack: This headlamp uses three AAs, which certainly leads into this headlamp weighing more than the traditional lamps that hikers use. On my scale, the battery pack itself without batteries came in at 2.5 oz—almost the weight of a traditional backpacking headlamp. However, to avoid having that heavy weight strapped to the head, GoMotion has placed the battery pack externally, which is one reason why the batteries can last so long. As a backpacker, I put the battery pack in the back mesh pocket of my ultralight Gossamer Gear Pack or in the side water bottle pocket. The battery pack even comes with its own small red LED light to increase visibility from behind when you are running at night. However, finding a place for the external battery pocket and not getting the cord caught on other pieces of gear was not my favorite feature.
Weight: Due to its design, battery strength, and battery life, the GoMotion Fusion is heavier than other light options on the market.
Battery case only
Total weight without batteries
Total weight with 3 AA alkaline batteries
Waterproofness: I’ve spent a lot of time night hiking in the rain—in fact, many of the times I’ve nighthiked have been because it has been raining and I wanted to get to a shelter or better protected area. The GoMotion’s battery pack has a waterproof cover that was even able to keep out sand when I took it backpacking in the sand dunes.
Multi-use: When I’m backpacking, I often use my headlamp as a lantern in my tent. For most headlamps, this simply involves hanging it from a hook in my tarp. The GoMotion Fusion lamp, with its external battery pack, was a little unwieldy when hung from a tarp what weighs almost as much as it does. On subsequent backpacking trips, I brought a separate light to hang from my tent instead.
This headlamp is ideal for ultramarathoning, speedhiking, or Fastest Known Time attempts. It provides a lot of light, is hands-free, won’t give you a headache (and you can still wear a hat), and has a battery that lasts a long time. The downsides of the headlamp have mostly to do with camping—managing to avoid getting the wires caught in items like guylines, setting the light up in a tent, taking off your backpack, adding or taking off a layer, etc.—essentially things that speedhikers don’t spend too much time worrying about. If you’re planning on mostly cowboy camping or not sleeping at all and need to a light that won’t fail you, consider the GoMotion to be an incredibly useful tool in your quiver. For more traditional backpacking where you intend to camp before dark and start hiking after sunrise, the map is probably overkill.
Unexpectedly, the GoMotion Fusion sternum light was incredibly useful for urban hiking. After hearing from drivers and seeing how well cars can spot me with the Fusion on, I won’t do another long urban hike or long distance hike that requires long roadwalks (the American Discovery Trail, North Country Trail, or Mountains to Sea Trail all come to mind) without that light. The GoMotion Fusion provided a great buffer of safety and I felt like I was walking with my headlights on.
It’s encouraging seeing gear like the Fusion on the market as a solution to a problem hikers have been facing and, until now, have only been able to Macgyver solutions for. I look forward to watching subsequent models of the Fusion become lighter, allow for use with 3 AAA batteries instead of AA’s, and have a lighter weight attachment system. Ultimately, this will depend on backpackers and weight conscious gear users becoming a bigger part of their customer base. Keep your eyes out, as I imagine what we’re seeing with the Fusion is the forefront of what could be a revolution in backpacking lights in the next few years.
Disclosure: Liz Thomas received a Fusion from GoMotion to conduct this review.
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.
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.
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.
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?
This weekend marked the 5 year anniversary of my PCT thru-hike. Although I’ve been back there and have about half the PCT miles done as section hikes since then, nothing quite beats the trepidation, excitement, and the unknown of the first time. In honor of that day, I’m posting my gearlist from 2009. Surprisingly, I would change very few things. Since this gear is old, this would also make a fantastic discount ultralight gear list–many things on this list are older models, but still work great. Hope you enjoy this ArcBlast from the past!
I carried an ipod nano with a solar panel until Tahoe, but it didn't work well and destoryed my ipod. The lyra (a model which isn't sold anymore that runs on batteries) is a great thru-hiking mp3 player
Wore from Kennedy Meadows north. I was very happy to have something cover my legs in the Sierra, though if I were to it again, would probably choose something lighter. The spandex stretchiness was nice, though
If you’ve ever thought about switching to Altra Zero Drop trail running shoes for your backpacking season, now is the time to start getting your foot accustomed to the shoe. I find that switching to hiking in the Altra Lone Peaks has increased my stability, reduced my strike impact, provided comfort for hours of hiking, eliminated long term hiker issues like plantar fasciitis, and increased my efficiency. That being said, hitting the trail with a brand new pair of Altras if you’ve never worn them before may not be the best idea because there is a transition time associated with switching over to a Zero drop shoe.
Fear not, though—the benefits of switching over are HUGE for long distance hikers. Zero drop shoes help align the feet, reduce the impact of each foot step, and increase your stability. The foot shaped toe box—increases balance and efficiency, while reducing blisters and chaffing, maximize shock absorption and allows toes to spread out naturally. What this means for hikers is day-long comfort, increased stride efficiency, and less foot pain.
So, why should you start transitioning to Altra shoes now instead of say, a few days before my hike most thru-hikers (myself included) do the bulk of the trip planning? Because we’ve all spent years wearing high-heel like elevated trail runners, our feet have been trained to be lazy (in scientific speak—has neutralized our Achilles and lower calf muscles). If you hit the trail doing 15s, 20s, or 30 milers in a zero drop shoe when you’ve never worn zero drop shoes before, your Achilles and lower calf muscles are going to feel the burn. The muscles in your feet are going to be confused. It’s best to give yourself at least three weeks to strengthen your legs and feet before your hike.
Pre-hike training schedule:
Before you get your shoes (or during week 1): Walk around barefoot in the grass or the beach or your bedroom for 30 seconds, adding a 30 seconds per day.Week 1: Wear Altras around the office and running light errands (they sell a “work appropriate” show called the Instinct Everyday that has many of the same features as the running shoe, but looks like it’d work with a suit). At first, the Toe Shaped footbox may feel too roomy and weird. After a few days, your toes will start relaxing and will start spreading out naturally.
Week 2: Do a very short hikes (whatever that means to you). Start without your backpack and give yourself a rest day to assess how your feet, joints, Achilles, foot muscles, and lower calves feel. If everything seems great, slowly increase the mileage and add weight to your backpack, being sure to build in days in between for rest and recovery. On a thru-hike, it’s near impossible to take zero days every day, so let your body take advantage of rest days between hikes to build muscles and strength. Let your body also take advantage of the muscle building fuels that you can get from living off trail. Building muscles on trail when you’re living on instant mashed potatoes and ramen is going to be a little bit more difficult.
Barefoot Jake.Week 3: Up your mileage slightly, being sure to take days off in between. Take note of any excessive soreness or discomfort and rest up more. Week 4-6: Do a few hikes of the approximate length that you would wish to start a thru-hike. Take some days off between. Assess how you feel. Try doing that distance with a full pack of gear.
With this training system, your feet will get stronger and reduce the chance of getting bone fractures. Your lower calves will be ready to hit the trail (relatively speaking). And you’ll enjoy the natural alignment benefits of wearing a Zero Drop shoes. Wearing Zero Drop shoes is like long distance hiking: once you start doing it, you’ll have a hard time thinking of life the same way. If you’ve ever thought about it, I highly encourage starting now before hiking season gets into full swing so that you can maximize the benefits when you’re on trail. (P.S. I’m not a doctor. Legal says that you should consult with your physician before doing anything physical or changing your life in any way).
Get to the hills! The Colorado hikers are in Ruck! This past weekend, ALDHA-W and the Continental Divide Trail Coalition (CDTC) completed their first Rocky Mountain Ruck attracting 85 people from as far away as Salida, Vail, Portland, and even LA! This all-day event attracted hikers in all stages of experience—from dayhikers to seasoned veterans to the long trails. No matter what level of expertise, everyone walked away having learned a trick or two, and the fellowship, fun, and beer made the event the closest Colorado has gotten to a Gathering yet (besides maybe Lawton “Disco” Grinter and Felicia “POD” Hermosillo’s wedding).
After a break with food and snacks provided by Great Harvest Bakery and Whole Foods Golden, the event jumped into the ever-important ‘Everything that Can Go Wrong on the CDT’—with applications for the Colorado Trail, PCT, and pretty much every other trail. Disco and POD used their humor and wide breadth of hiking experience to present a spectrum of safety techniques for various tribulations of the trail—from grizzlies to giardia.
From here, it transitioned to winter hiking teacher Pete “Czech” Sustr’s hands-on (read: powerpointless) clinic on fords and snow travel. The troop of hikers traveled outside to a park outside to enjoy the four surrounding mountains of Golden, the 70 degree temps, and a little lightning safety position practice.
Czech demonstrated walking on a not-snow-covered hill and then gathered everyone to Clear Creek where he and a lone brave volunteer forded the creek. Passerbys from downtown Golden stopped to witness the crazy.
The morning concluded with backpacking gear presentation by expert and ultralight guru Glen van Peski. Throughout the day, hikers had the opportunity to explore manned booths and touch, try on, and otherwise drool over gear from Montbell, Gossamer Gear, Katabatic Quilts, and the CDTC. Lunch outside transitioned into pack shakedowns with experienced hikers and trail Q&A in breakout groups. Those who brought their backpacking gear for one-on-one consultations were stoked at the level of attention, helpfulness, and insight the hour of gearheading provided.
Corralling people back to the classroom on such a sunny day was a chore, but well worth it. Paul “Mags” Magnanti gave a highly informative presentation on navigation on the CDT with a robust Q&A. Mags proved a hard act to follow, but Allgood and I came on stage to discuss serious business: pooping in the woods. We discussed Leave No Trace trail ethics and Trail Town Etiquette—two very important topics that to-be hikers need to know before stepping foot on trail. The session concluded with a cathole digging competition with participants using their shoe, hiking poles, sticks, tent stakes, rocks and potty trowel to dig the best hole they could in 45 seconds. Needless to say, the trowel got the job done.
The evening ended with a killer presentation by Junaid Dawud, who thru-hiked all the Colorado 14ers as a continuous hike. A minor Front Range celebrity, as well as a seasoned thru-hiked himself, Junaid’s photos were jaw dropping and his description of pioneering a trail and the suffering that actually doing it entailed somehow just made me want to hike it even more. Junaid told us during Happy Hour that it was the first time he had given a talk about the 14ers Thru-Hike. Everyone who heard that could not believe it—his talk was so well-polished that we had all assumed he had given it to numerous clubs around the Front Range. I’m going to do everything I can to make sure Junaid has an opportunity to give his talk again sometime soon.
It’s the end of Ruckin’ Season. Soon, hikers will hit the trail. But with the help of the Rocky Mountain Ruck, we hope that everyone will set foot on trail—whatever that trail may be—feeling more prepared for the journey ahead.
Fifty bucks isn’t a lot of money to spend on a gear gift, but if spent on the right piece of gear, can rock a hiker’s world and change their life. In my hiking career, I’ve had a lot of fifty dollar gear that’s just ok. The gear in this list is paradigm changing, mind rocking, world altering-ly awesome stuff. Included with each piece of gear are a few sentences about how this piece of gear transformed my hiking life. I hope it can make you and your friends’ hikes even more awesome, too!
**PLUS: a bunch of these are handmade in the USA by hikers for hikers.**
There’s a reason why everyone from myself to triple-Triple Crowner Lint uses an umbrella:it’s worth its weight in gold. I use mine to protect from sun, rain, hail, snow, wind, and sandstorms, and most recently walked across an entire bsain during 45 mph winds in a snow storm to save an umbrella that the wind snatched after I slipped on mud. I couldn’t imagine living my life without an umbrella, and your hiker friend will feel the same way, too. Plus, if they hate hiking with it, they’ll still love using it in town because it easily fits into a purse or messenger bag. There’s lots out there, but I suggest supporting the Continental Divide Trail Coalition Logo-ed Montbell Umbrella to get a functional gift that gives back to the trail community. $50
This is the ultralight water filtration system that revolutionized the long distance hiking world. There isn’t a month that goes by that I don’t blow someone’s mind with the existence of such an amazing product. The best $25 Christmas present you could get someone (who doesn’t already have it—good for the hiker/bad for the present giver: they last FOREVER.) $25
Titanium Potty trowel
Like a lot of long distance thru-hikers, I NEVER wanted to carry a potty trowel. It seemed like a lot of weight and just the idea of one would make ultralight guru Ray Jardine roll over in his tarp. Until now. My titanium potty trowel might be the best 0.4 oz I carry. Pooping in the woods used to be my least favorite part of the day, and this 11.3 grams of genius makes every single hiking day a lot better for me and significantly reduces the chance I’ll feel guilty about doing a crappy job on digging a cathole. There’s lots of brands out there (as I write in this longer article about why hikers should carry potty trowels), but I like the QiWiz Titanium Potty Trowel, designed and handmade in Ohio by hiker Rob “QiWiz” Kelley $30
I hiked 5,000 miles before I first bought Darn Tough socks on a whim when I saw them on sale at Campmor. Once I tried Darn Toughs, I never looked back. Darn Tough hiking socks last a lot longer than other athletic socks and fit better, preventing a lot of unnecessarily foot problems. These socks are the gold standard of thru-hiking sock. Designed and made in Northfield, Vermont. $15
You can’t beat beanies for price-weight-warmth-functionality ratio. I’ve been wearing them for years. But no matter how much I pull down on it, with my long head, this style never seems to keep the ears totally warm. This summer, while hiking the GDT, my hiking partner Naomi had a beanie with ear flaps. Nothing fancy, nothing heavy weight, just functional. “Where did you get that??!!!” I demanded. Turns out Montbell makes them and even though I’m one of their athletes, I didn’t know. The Montbell Chameece Cap with Ear Warmer double layers at the ears to keep them super warm. It’s such a minor difference in design, but my life was changed. $19
This simple piece of gear is so amazing that I remember exactly when and where I was when I first saw the Gram Cracker—Next Adventure gear store in Portland, OR! Weighing in at THREE grams, this is the world’s lightest stove. I didn’t know it was possible for a stove be that light and my mind was blown. Since then, the Gram Cracker has become my main stove system and I never tire of its simplistic efficiency. Designed and handmade in San Jose, CA by backpacking mechanical engineers, Russ and Rand. $15
These Odor Proof sacks are a safe place to keep your backpacking food overnight. I first started carrying this on the CDT to lessen the chance that grizzlies could smell my food. The grizzly never did get my food, but I can speak for sure that the sack keeps animals away: when I hiked in the Pacific Northwest, I left some food in a normal ziplock and some food in my Lok Sak and kept them right by my head as I slept. The ziplock was torn to shreds but the food in my Lok Sak was safe. After that, I stopped carrying a food stuffsack altogether and now exlsuively use the Lok Sak as my foodbag. $13
Who knows how many thousands of miles I complained about rocks in my shoes until I discovered these funky gaiters. Lightweight, quick drying, apply-able to any trail runner or running shoe, these gaiters are made in the US and come in great designs (and boring designs, too, for your less adventurous friends). Plus, this summer on the snowy CDT and on the Great Divide Trail, I learned that these gaiters are great for helping you save your shoe after you posthole into snow or mud. Designed and handmade in Green Valley, Arizona by Xy “Dirty Girl” Weiss and her running goddesses. $20
Designed by women engineers Anna and Andrea to help hospitals in less developed countries and during natural disasters, this lightweight solar-powered lamp makes a great Leave No Trace alternative to a campfire. It can make a great in-tent lamp or a gathering spot for ghost stories with a group. I’ve used the Luminaid on group trips when camping in sensitive alpine areas or in the desert where there is no wood. Major plus is you can doodle on it in multiple colors and make a backcountry discoball. This is such an awesome luxury item that ultralight gear master Glen van Peski is even known to carry it. $20
I’ve hiked over 15,000 miles with a short titanium spoon and every time I eat a meal, I wish I had a long handled titanium spoon. Let’s just say that with a short handled spoon, I’ve been known to get a lot of Mac N’ Cheese on my hand and fingers every night. At this point, I don’t have the heart to dump the short-handled spoon who has done the Triple Crown with me, but I can’t wait to lose it so I can replace it with this long handled spoon. $11
Described by my friend videographer Miguel “Virgo” Aguilar as what Quiksilver and Billabong were to surfing, Hikertrash may just be the next big brand to go big when thru-hiking goes mainstream. Hikertrash is made by hikers for hikers with the idea that hikers can wear cool stuff with the proceeds supporting the trails that we love. The hot new item this year are Saufley Electric shirts and hoodies with proceeds going to support the famous PCT trail angels. Created by Bend, OR based design gurus Renee “She-Ra” Patrick and ULA and Six Moon Designs designer Brian Frankel, Hikertrash stuff is priced for the individual trying to save for his/her next thru-hike and is the hottest off-season commodity in the hiker world. $1 to $15
Designed by a thru-hiker for thru-hiking, this practical, stylish, quick-drying, water-resistant skirt was designed so that lady hikers never have to wear ill fitting, dumpy, cargo pants again. The Purple Rain Skirt is flattering, yet utilitarian. It features four pockets (including two big enough to fit fit a phone or Nat Geo maps). Plus, with a chic yoga-style spandex top, this skirt won’t slip off your waist as you pull big miles. Designed and handmade in Portland, OR by an amazing hikertrash lady, Mandy “Purple Rain” Bland. $50-$60