For the most part, our gear is the same from year to year. We usually get some new items of clothing, and often sew up a new backpack, other than that – things stay the same. This year is mostly the same, minus one major thing…the biggest change for us gear-wise this year, is that we will be using commercially-made packs for the first time in almost 10 years.
Quick Link to our LighterPack Gear Lists 2021:
Packs – Both Beardoh and SweetPea
The packs that we had made in 2020, and used on the CDT Part 1 last year, didn’t hold up as well as we had hoped. We used a new type of material for the packs (Lite Skin) and it just couldn’t take the abrasion as much as we had hoped, and it had some problems with holding stitching at crucial connections. Beardoh had to swap out packs in Cuba, NM, while SweetPea’s pack was able to limp to the Mexican border.
We did start making new packs for this coming summer, but then life just got in the way and we halted work on them for the time being. We still have the half-finished backpacks hanging on the stair railing in our apartment. The months leading up to this summer’s hiking season have been a bit intense for us, so instead of finishing our packs, we decided to give ourselves a break and just buy packs. We both decided to purchase the ULA Ohm 2.0 pack.
We had ULA Circuit packs when we first started to explore the world of backpacking a decade ago. Other than a few weeks on the Appalachian Trail, we never really used them on big trips, because they seemed too big. We did, however, really appreciate their high quality of workmanship (especially after seeing the work on packs of other popular brands) and the suspension design.
We had researched packs & pack suspension pretty aggressively this past winter as we were planning to make some changes to our DIY pack design. The Ohm’s general design and suspension really makes sense for an ultralight carry that needs the capacity for longer food or water carries. Ultimately, buying the Ohm was an easy decision once we decided to purchase new packs rather than finish our DIY packs. It’s a pack with solid suspension and is not too big.
There will definitely be a period of getting used to the new packs…not having all the external pockets we have appreciated over the years, as well as sorting out how all of our gear will get packed in. Every year, we get into a routine, where every item of gear has it’s own specific spot and things get re-packed every morning in the exact same way.
We are hopeful that having the Ohm packs will help to make 6 and 7 day food carries and long water carries more tolerable. With the beefed up suspension / internal frame, we anticipate that the heavy loads will not feel as terrible as they sometimes have felt in the past. We are excited to see how these new packs work for us!
SweetPea Gear Changes
Another new piece of gear in SweetPea’s pack this year will be Down Booties. Beardoh got SweetPea a pair of down booties for Christmas last year, so she is excited to put those to good use. After multiple nights at the end of last year’s hiking season, where her feet were so cold that she couldn’t sleep, it seemed like adding the extra few ounces for some down booties made sense. Not sure how much use they will get in Montana, but they will probably get regular use when we are on the John Muir Trail in September.
Over the years, there has been an evolution of the clothes SweetPea wears on a backpacking trip. The biggest change over the years, has been the amount of skin exposed to the sun…every year it seems to be less and less. When we were in our 20’s and just day hiking around the White Mountains in New Hampshire, the typical outfit would be a tank top, a skirt and no hat…LOTS of skin exposed. On our first long distance hike (the Appalachian Trail), SweetPea’s outfit was pants, long-sleeved shirt (for the first 500ish miles and then a short sleeved shirt) and no hat. The outfit has morphed over the years to basically be a skirt with compression sleeves (so legs are totally covered), a long-sleeved shirt (arms are totally covered), and a hat with bandana (so face and neck are covered). This year, the final piece of skin still remaining exposed will be covered, with the addition of sun gloves, so hands will now be covered. SweetPea has done day hikes recently with the sun gloves, so hopefully they won’t be annoying or too hot on the trail this summer.
For a hiking shirt this year, SweetPea is going with a Patagonia lightweight long sleeve. For several years, she has been using merino wool shirts, which really help with the smell factor after days of not taking a shower. But, this time, she is trying a Patagonia shirt which is made from a synthetic material, but still claims to eliminate orders…we’ll see if it’s any match for a sweaty hiker.
SweetPea is constantly on the lookout for the perfect hiking skirt. She has used a mix of DIY skirts, as well as skirts from Patagonia and Prana. One factor which has become more important over the years is a pocket on the skirt. As we do more trails which require active navigation, it is really helpful to have quick access to a map or smartphone. She has made several skirts over the years that are modeled on the Purple Rain skirt design, but after losing an iPhone this spring which was slipped into the pocket on such a skirt, she is pretty set on having pockets that have a zipper.
We were contacted this summer by Kuhl to try out some of their clothes and SweetPea got one of their hiking skirts – the Kira Skirt. The skirt is super comfy, & lightweight. While this skirt has become one of her favorite items of clothing (and something she wears probably 4 days a week at home), it sadly doesn’t have the pocket she wants for hiking. Perhaps if we hike a trail which doesn’t require active navigation (the JMT this fall would be perfect), this skirt will be part of her hiking wardrobe, but for now, SweetPea is sticking to the skirt she made last year for the CDT…definitely not her favorite, but at least it has a zippered pocket (2 actually).
Beardoh Gear Changes
Hiking Poles: Since 2013, I’ve used Komperdell poles. These have been generally good. Last year as my poles were seeing the end of their usable lifetime, I came across Leki’s new handle design on a foldable z style pole. This grip is really excellent and frankly the grip alone was enough to make the change. I often hold the pole grip with my palm resting on the top, and Leki’s soft slope off the back of the handle makes this perfect. In the fall of last year I found a new pair at a discount on eBay and grabbed them.
Shirt: For the last 3 years I have been using a Colombia lightweight long sleeve This shirt was light weight and fit well – although these shirts regularly had some stitching issues. This shirt was discontinued a couple years ago.
When Kuhl reached out to us to check out some of their stuff, I was excited, as I’ve wore their Revolvr pants for over a decade (great fit and the best cell pocket on pants I’ve seen). They have a good looking lightweight shirt I have been interested in trying on hiking trips. The model is the Reflectr LS and that will be my 2021 hiking shirt for the season. The shirt has two zippered pockets, an athletic fit and is quick drying. I have been wearing the shirt on day hikes down at our home in Mexico and we have been in the very humid rainy season. The shirt’s quick drying ability is pretty impressive.
Odor Proof Bag: we’ve replaced our Loksak bags with a larger more durable plastic bag that we found at zpacks.com. Ultimately, we started to grow weary of the Loksaks as their zippered top fails too quickly, even when limiting the bags to overnight storage. Additionally, we have experienced mice chewing into the bottom of band new Loksaks. Our suspicion is that the plastic in their bags has some off-gassing continuing for some time and that attracts the rodents – that is just a guess.
We picked up the odor proof bags from Zpacks right before last years hike. We did about 2,200 miles with those bags and they were still usable at the end of the season. These bags aren’t anything really special, just a large plastic bag that is big enough for us to store our food for 6-7 days. These bags do not have any closure, so we use the weight of the contents on the twist that we do to the extra bag at the top. We then put these in a large lightweight stuff sack that we can or leave on the ground near us.
Quilt: Right before the start of the 2020 season, I picked up a Katabatic Flex 22 quilt. This quilt worked great for our miles last year. It can be fully unzipped into a big rectangular shape and used as a blanket. The footbox is zipped rather than sewn, so one has the flexibility to leave it partially zipped, and even leave the end open. I have found that feature particularly useful on warm nights. We’ve enjoyed our Katabatic Alsecs for years, and I like the Flex 22 even more. The Flex’s width dimensions are somewhere in between the regular and wide version of the Elite quilts. This is ideal for me. I am slim, but in a hammock, I will cross my legs a bit. The room in the regular version of the Flex allowed me to stay with the regular width and still be comfortable.
Shoes: I am giving a new brand of shoes a try this year. Having spent plenty of years in Cascadias from Brooks, I wanted to try something a bit different. Our friend Qball had recommended I give Topo Athletic shoes a try. I picked up a pair of Terraventure II’s and a pair of MT3s. I’ll be headed out on the trail with the Terraventure model (recently replaced by the Terraventure 3 model). They feel good, straight out of the box, and seem to be a good fit with the footbeds that I use. These have a Vibram sole and a rock plate in the metatarsal area. I always feel like a new model of shoes is an experiment until I get 400 miles on them. Our friend, Mace, will also be giving this same model a go as well. I am optimistic.