Saturday, November 1, 2008

Pacific Crest Trail Gear List 2008

Granite Gear Nimbus Ozone backpack
, 48 oz
I used an earlier generation of this pack on the AT and loved it! I'm weight-conscious but not really an ultra-lighter, so this capacious pack was perfect for my extra warm layers, my book, and half of the three-season tent I carried. My biggest complaint is that the Bear Vault BV 500 canister does not fit sideways inside this pack. Granite Gear really stands by their products and has excellent customer service. The pack can be customized based on torso length, hip belt girth, and shoulder strap length and width. The narrow women's shoulder straps keep their hands to themselves - you ladies will know what I mean.

Equinox pack cover 3.4 oz
Nice sil-ny fabric, not-so-great design. I'm not sure there is a perfect pack cover, but I keep using this one anyway. When it rains, it pours, so my first line of defense is a trash compactor bag inside my pack. Perhaps this pack cover just isn't a good fit with my pack, because the cover seems to funnel water towards the back pad of the pack. The cover also tends to collect water at the bottom and has no outlet, meaning that I have to reach back and try to let the water pour out of the bottom of the cover before I take my backpack off and set it down in its very own puddle of water.

Sunday Afternoons Adventure Hat 2.7 oz
Quite possibly the world's dorkiest hat, but it provides excellent sun protection. I like the ventilation on the sides, the extra wide brim, and the long legionnaire's drape for neck protection. The adjustable chin strap is a necessity in the high desert winds, though I often felt like I was being strangled. We named ours BaDuSH, for Big Dorky Sun Hat. Can be washed, though I would avoid the dryer.

Rail Riders Women's Eco Mesh sun shirt 6oz
Again, not the most stylish item of clothing I've donned, but excellent for sun protection. The mesh fabric under the arms and along the sides provided great ventilation. I recommend a beige or dark color for the reason that the desert is dusty and clothing quickly becomes dingy. Dries quickly.

Ice Breaker 190 Superfine v-neck short-sleeved shirt
I was so disgusted with my dirty self in Ashland that I threw out my clothes and bought new ones. I found this great wool shirt, which did prove to be both cool and warm. It is not especially quick-drying, and does have a faint dog smell when wet, but was imminently more stylish than my Rail Riders shirt. I felt pretty again. The short sleeves were probably a bad idea. The sun does not stop shining in Oregon and Washington.

Mountain Hardwear skirt
I started in some old Columbia zip-off pants. These were great for sun protection, but there was no need for the zippers. I switched to the REI Sahara zip-offs after the old pants became too baggy, but these also had too many useless zippers. Their seams quickly split, which seemed common to others also wearing the same pants. Many folks had the Rail Riders Eco Mesh pants, which only come in men's sizes, but look comfortable with good ventilation. I think Mountain Hardwear may have discontinued the skirt, but I thought it was very comfortable. I might prefer the Mountain Hardwear Kilt, which can be clipped into "shorts" for modesty and has more room for climbing over blowdowns, etc. Another downside of the skirt is the lack of sun protection for the lower legs.

Patagonia thermals
Who can keep up with Patagonia's shifting base-layer names and weights. They seem to change from season to season. At any rate, I had a mid-weight top and bottom, and a Capilene 3 top and bottom. Yeah, I get cold. I wore all layers at night for most of the trail.

Marmot Precip pants and jacket 8 and 12 oz
I'm not sure these actually keep you dry, but they do keep you warm in the rain. After being rained on for most days of April, May and June, I had no intention of being without these in the desert. That was ridiculous, of course, but I did wear the jacket as a windbreaker. I would rather have had the Marmot wind shirt/jacket. These are handier in Oregon and Washington, but they made good warm layers on colder nights elsewhere. I've been using the same rain pants I bought for the AT. I'm sure their DWR has long since worn out, but I'm sure the layer was thin to begin with. Like I said, I'm more interested in staying warm in the rain.

Montbell Thermawrap jacket 7.6 oz
Amazingly light! I admittedly enjoyed the trendiness of this new acquisition, but I had mixed feelings about it. I never wanted to hike in it, because I'm a sweaty girl even when I'm cold. I'm not sure yet how to wash the thing. So far, I have soaked it in a bathtub of luke warm water and then air-dried it. It can't be twisted or wrung-out or it will be damaged, so I don't know what to do. It is moderately warm, but I would have preferred the Marmot wind shell as I wouldn't have worried about getting it wet. I never hiked in mine, but I put it on as soon as I made camp.

Isis Daisy bra
This is the piece of clothing I was most anxious about. No matter what Patagonia says about their bras, they DO NOT dry quickly. I made that mistake on the AT where wet-bra was a chronic condition. While the dry western weather was certainly a contributing factor, the thin fabric of this whisper-weight bra kept my girls dry and happy. Not for the well-endowed.

8 pairs of black, synthetic undies.

Smart Wool beanie
Not the warmest hat in the world, but not the heaviest, either.

EMS balaclava
Made from a lightweight Capilene type material. Great for the really cold nights.

EMS fleece gloves

Montrail Hardrock trail runners
I started the PCT in Merrill Moab Ventilators. Let me just say that I felt every grain of sand under my feet. I will give them credit for breathability and decent footbox width, however. As soon as I could, I chose the Montrail Hardrock for its thick orthopaedic-looking sole. These shoes are quite narrow and tend to run small, so I wore a half size larger than my normal shoes. I replaced the insoles with green Superfeet for the arch support. I used one pair of Superfeet for the entire trail as the arch support doesn't really break down. I used three pairs of Hardrocks. I think they will go for 700 miles or more, though the pair I used in the Sierra were really toxic after being wet so frequently.

Socks just seem to break down quickly due to all of the sand and dust. I always wore gaiters, but my feet were always black with dirt at the end of the day. I used some light weight WigWams and later on some Darn Toughs, which I don't think were all that tough. My advice regarding socks is to change them frequently, especially in the desert. I'm not kidding when I recommend changing your socks every hour in the desert. Just hang the wet ones on the back of your pack and they'll be dry in an hour. It makes all the difference in blister prevention. Also, take off your socks and shoes and let your feet dry every time you break.

Montbell Stretch Gaiters 1.5 oz
I love gaiters as my gait tends to flick dirt into my shoes. I started with Outdoor Research low gaiters. The snaps on these fit so tightly that they often stick and pull out of the fabric when you try to remove the gaiters. After 200 miles, I was down to only one functioning snap. I lost one in a stream crossing and couldn't have been happier. In Mammoth Lakes, I found these Montbell gaiters that worked very well until the last few hundred miles. They come with nifty shock cord instep strings that don't last a minute. I replaced them with old shoe laces which were easy to come by in every hiker box. After a while, the nifty Japanese-designed "grommets" through which the instep strings are threaded began to wear out. Bottom line, you'll have to make do with them at some point, but they are great for dirt, dust and light snow. Just remember to put them on before you put on your shoes! Many folks had DirtyGirl gaiters. These are colorful and seem ideal for the dusty West. They are made by a totally cool trail-running lady.

Gossamer Gear SpinnTwinn tarp 8oz
This tarp is the lightest shelter I have ever carried. I really loved it - during the day! Night was a different story. I was surprised to learn how incredibly windy it is in the desert, in the west, even. There is a reason that the wind features so prominently in Walkin' Jim's PCT song! This tarp was unnecessary and completely useless in the windy desert. But great to carry! We set it up with two trekking poles. I'd like to try it out again in different conditions. Sleep under the stars as much as you can!

REI Quarter Dome T2 tent about 64 oz
Though it embarrassed my husband tremendously to be seen in this heavy REI tent, I thought it was a palace. It is freestanding, which makes for quick set-up, and the tent body is nothing but net with a bathtub floor. Many nights we slept in just the bug netting, often cooking with our hands through the zippers of the doors to get away from the skeeters. The fly kept us dry the few times it rained or snowed and kept us warm in the High Sierra and in Washington. The plentiful headroom make it comfortable for sitting up (and eating), and the length allows not-too-tall people to keep their stuff at their feet. Pretty comfy for two, especially when you share the weight during the day.

Gossamer Gear Spinnsheet ground cloth 4.2 oz
Somewhat delicate. It would be a good idea to remove sharp debris from your camping spot before setting this cloth down. Very light.

Marmot Helium 15 women's down sleeping bag 29 oz
Like a non-stop hug all night long! I love this bag! I used it every single night on the PCT. The provided stuff sack is way too small and will probably contribute to loss of loft if used. I picked up a Granite Gear waterproof stuff sack that was a little bigger than I needed instead. I'm a cold sleeper, but this bag only let me down one night when it was probably 15 degrees outside and I was sleeping under the stars.

Blue closed-cell foam pad
Just a cheap one. Probably on the heavy side, and I kept it full-length. It kept me warm and dry.

Etowah Outfitters alcohol stove
A fantastic alcohol stove. Reason rejected the provided cross-bar pot stand in favor of a lighter mesh/carpenter's cloth stand that fits inside our pot. Though Reason must have made dozens of alcohol stoves in preparation for this trip, we finally decided on this one. We used this on the AT as well. Fuel: denatured alcohol or yellow Heet bottle.

MSR titanium Teapot 4oz
A fantastic little pot! It holds about .8 liters and is just enough to cook one Lipton side, a box of Near East couscous, or a package of ramen. The alcohol stove handily fits inside the pot. We were told that titanium has a coating that can be scratched and ingested, so we padded the pot and stove with a bandanna.

Lexan spoon .5 oz
Mine has almost 5,000 miles on it!

Water and Treatment
Platypus bladders and hose
For the desert, I had a capacity of nine liters. You probably just need seven, but you never know. The Platypus bladders will wear through at the neck over time, but it takes a while. Another good reason to have a trash compactor back pack liner. I thought I would replace my bladders at some point on the PCT, but then just decided to keep track of where the leaks were and turn them to the other side. I always keep the bladders at the top of my pack.

Nalgene wide-mouth 96 oz canteen 2.25 oz
I picked this up because of the wide mouth. The extra capacity was great in the desert, but since it didn't fit my Platypus "system", I sent it home from Central Cali. The wide mouth turned out not to be necessary. I used the cooking pot to scoop water instead. Many folks experienced leaks from these, so you must treat them with care.

Polar Pure iodine 3oz
I wasn't sure what to expect as far as water goes in the west. I had the impression that we would see a lot of cows. I also thought that getting to towns and resupplying was going to be difficult. It wasn't. At any rate, I decided to go with Polar Pure for several reasons. The first is economy. One bottle will last the entire hike. The second is that I wanted to have a renewable treatment in the event that we couldn't find Aqua Mira, etc. The third is that I was thinking of getting pregnant and decided that iodine might be better for my body than chlorine dioxide or bleach. This is pure conjecture on my part - I don't know which is worse. The fourth is that I didn't want to carry a filter. I started off treating all water and occasionally pre-filtering with a bandanna. Reason started with Aqua Mira, but only treated some of his water. Just after leaving Agua Dulce, Reason came down with something that may or may not have been giardia. After that point, he stopped treating water completely. I continued treating my water with iodine. However, iodine does accumulate in the body and can cause problems. For this reason, I often allowed untreated water to warm up before treating it as this meant I could add less iodine. I swiped chlorine dioxide tablets from hiker boxes whenever I could to change things up, and left towns with plenty of tap water. I didn't always treat water in the High Sierra, and I didn't always treat snow melt. The jury seems to be out on snow melt. I liked the Polar Pure. It is cheap, I don't mind the very mild taste, and I knew I always had a way to treat my water. By the way, you cannot ship liquid Aqua Mira to California. I don't think they even sell it in CA.

Leki ultralight titanium trekking poles from 2002
These poles have almost 5,000 miles on them and they're still going. They are pretty light, but the shocks/springs are wimpy. I like the feel of the Super Makalus better. Occasionally I get "short pole" when I bear down on a pole too hard going up or down a steep section and the pole gently collapses, but that may be because the locks unwind with use. I like trekking poles for the rhythm they provide, and for the buff arms that result, but I'm not sure they are necessary on the PCT. The PCT is so gentle, that towards the end of the trail it became a chore to use them. They were great in the snow in the Sierra, though.

Bear Vault BV500 large bear canister 41 oz
This bear canister was approved for use in Yosemite in 2008. I could barely get the thing open, until I learned to quickly spin the lid. While camping in Evolution valley, a bear came along and sniffed our group's canisters but didn't touch them. Cons: the thing is heav-vy, and it only fits upright in the Granite Gear Ozone and Vapor Trail packs. You also need to think about the kinds of foods that fit best in a canister, ie not potato chips.

CAMP Corsa ice ax 60 cm 8oz
Made of aluminum. Not the most aggressive piece of equipment, but it may be perfect for a PCT hike. I hardly used mine in the High Sierra, but it was a low snow year. Where it did actually come in handy was on the Tahquitz range above Idyllwild in SoCal. I hacked out steps in the icy snow. Could I have arrested on the icy snow? Not sure. I would like to have a leash, though. The ax became slippery when wet and I could easily have dropped it. Why did I have an ice ax in SoCal? Well, we started April 1 and thought we might encounter snow in the high elevations around San Jacinto. We were right. If only we'd kept the crampons, too.

CAMP Punte Light 6 crampons
Made of aluminum, so the points can't be sharpened, but very light. Perfect for trail runners, although they won't fit over very wide shoes. I had never used crampons before and I loved them. I used them on the way up Baden Powell, and again over Forester Pass and a few other High Sierra passes. I probably didn't need them, but they gave me peace of mind. The straps are confusing and only come with a tiny diagram. Practice once or twice. The ULA crampons weren't available in 2008 for some reason.

Amazing husband/hiking partner. My favorite piece of gear. Bonus: he carries his own weight!

Check out my AT and CDT gear lists, too.


Lainey said...

Interesting post!! REI offers a great choice of outdoor gears.

Cruiser said...

Hmm... well, REI does have a great return policy. I can't be sure but suspect this may be an attempt at free advertising. Personally, I think REI lacks a lot of really good, innovative lightweight gear. REI also has an ugly big-box store model that threatens small, independent gear shops. Rumor has it that REI won't ship to post offices, making it quite difficult for a thru-hiker to order from the trail.

Check out the following for interesting quality gear...

I also recommend the following independent retailers:

Anyone have recommendations for independent gear shops?


Bryce Jenkins said...

Came across your post while doing some research for an impending PCT thru-hike.

Better than a lot of the other info I have found out there. Thanks a ton, will be sharing this with my hiking partner.