Obligatory pre-hike shot of gear. While still nice and clean.
Unfortunately, I forgot to include several items – rain jacket, fleece and trekking poles. I remembered after I had started packing the bag and wasn’t about to reset for another shot.
My base pack weight is just over 20 lbs. Food and water makes up another 9 lbs. Details available on Gear List.
The Big Three – Sleep, Pack & Shelter:
The sleeping bag is a Mountain Hardwear Phantom 15. It’s the one I took to Nepal and was toasty as a bug while my roommates were freezing. Unfortunately, I did get a tear in it but the tape seems to be holding up.
The backpack is a brand new Arcteryx Altra 65. My previous one was also an Arcteryx (Arrakis) but the section that hooks to the sternum belt broke on my last trip. REI made good and that is why they are always my first choice. I shop elsewhere only if they don’t have what I want. I looked at ultralights, especially ZPacks but decided to stick with what I know and like. The ultralights have to be packed in a very certain way and don’t appear to be very durable. Also, they have a relatively low maximum weight that you can pack. Based on my research, I got the sense that for most ultra light pack owners this was one of several packs that they owned. I don’t want to own more than one at a time.
So, how does this pack compare? I loved the Arrakis which was about the same capacity (60 or 65 L). Because it was waterproof it was very simple. One roll top opening. A side zipper for the main compartment. And two other small zippered compartments. But it was heavy. The Altra has more compartments, multiple ways to get into the main one, numerous buckles, etc. Just a lot of shit. But very comfortable and multiple options to get the pack to fit your body just right.
Finally, the tent. This is the first trip that I will be camping. And here, ultralight won out. I ended up selecting the ZPack Duplex. ZPack seemed to have a stellar reputation and I don’t think I read a single negative comment. I decided to go with the 2-person Duplex for the room.
Update – Sleeping Pad:
I bought the Exped Hyperlite for my sleeping pad. It sprung a leak on the second night. I thought I would replace it with another brand and even briefly contemplated getting a simple foam one. However, after a great deal of research I ended up getting the same pad. This was primarily driven by feedback from one of the REI Reps that all the pads at this price range were equally susceptible to puncturing. Also, the Exped is still the lightest and, other than the leak and how long it took to deflate, I was pretty happy with the way it performed. However, I did jump up to a wide. Exped was the only manufacturer that made a wide pad in a regular length. For all the others, you had to jump to a long to get a wide pad.
Food & Water:
I’m electing not to cook and won’t be carrying a stove or fuel. The consensus appears to be that having a hot meal at the end of the day is a good thing. But to me it seems too much of a hassle. Plus you’re not really in the wilderness. There are a lot of opportunities for a hot meal, especially in the southern portion. If it seems like I’m missing out, I can always buy a stove.
So, I’m starting out with peanut butter, tuna packs, jerky and protein & cereal bars. I intend to buy flatbread, pita or tortillas along the way. Also planning on picking up chocolate. I expect to adjust my food based on what is available and any ideas I pick up from other hikers.
I’m going to be using Gatorade bottles to carry water rather than a bladder. I’ve done it both ways previously (but with nalgene bottles) and it was a tossup on which I preferred until I heard about using Gatorade or Smart Water bottles instead of nalgene. There’s not much of a weight savings between nalgene and bladder but there is with Gatorade and Smart Water bottles.
I picked Gatorade bottles because of my water purification. I use a Steripen, which requires a wider opening that the Gatorade bottles have. If I was using a Sawyer Squeeze, I would go with the Vitamin Water bottles.
At home, before I left for the AT, I tested the Steripen to make sure not only did it fit the Gatorade bottle but that I could swirl it around. It worked fine. On the AT, the Steripen would not even fit through the opening. Had to resort to my back up, which was chlorine dioxide tablets.
Clothes & Shoes:
I normally hike in merino wool shirts. They are the best and I am sticking with them. I usually wear hiking pants and initially that’s what I plan on wearing. However, I am also taking a pair of lightweight shorts. After a lot of searching, I finally found a pair this weekend that did not have the brief inside. And for the first time I am going to try compression tights. Naturally, to be worn with the shorts. There is already enough puking going on on the trail from the norovirus. I’m looking froward to seeing if all the hoopla about using tights for recovery pans out.
Trail runners or boots. I’d really like to switch to trail runners but I can twist my ankle just walking down the street. So, sticking with Lowa Renegade, which are the lightest weight ankle boots that come in wide. However, somewhere along the way, when the time comes to replace these boots, I may try trail runners.
The Keens as a camp shoe and for fording streams is a first, also. I normally just take flip flops. Really struggled with this but decided that I didn’t want to cross running water in my flip flops.
Well, that pretty much covers it and here’s a shot of the bag all packed up. Ah, damn, I wish I had straightened out the ATC 2016 tag. I’m sure there will be opportunities for more pictures.