For those interested in knowing what I carry on the trail, you can check our my gear list on the LighterPack website. I tried to be really exact with the weight of all my gear, so, the sub-9 pound total weight is pretty accurate. Both Beardoh and I have worked really hard to get our total weight below 9 or 10 pounds, without sacrificing any comfort or safety. Over the years, we have tweaked different parts of our gear with the hopes of streamlining things and being as efficient as possible with the weight we carry.
I’ll go ahead and break out my gear based on the categories that are part of the LighterPack website…
Since we first began to plan for a long-distance hike in 2010, I have gone through multiple packs. However, after realizing how inexpensive it can be to make my own pack (and customize it to my preferences), I don’t think I will ever buy a manufactured pack again. Not to say that I don’t like the name brand packs I owned (or still own), such as the ULA Circuit, the Gossamer Gear Miniposa, and the Gossamer Gear Gorilla pack, but I appreciate the ability to make a pack which I know will fit my body well, will give me the right amount of space for my gear, will keep the weight very low, and will allow me to customize features which promote efficiency and organization. The two packs I have made so far have been out of different materials…the first one was out of several empty Purina chicken feed bags and the second was out of XPAK. Both materials were easy to work with, but the XPAK material held up the best after using the pack for many miles. When we finished the Arizona Trail (800 miles), where I had used my XPAK backpack, Beardoh washed my pack with some soap and water (the XPAK material I used is very plastic-y) and it looked almost brand new. Since the pack is still in such great shape, I am going to continue using it for the 2016 hiking season, and then I will probably make a new pack over the winter months.
I have used a trash compactor bag as a pack liner for many years. It is a simple, cheap and easy way to water-proof my backpack. The XPAK I used on my pack is waterproof, but I still use the trash compactor bag just to ensure that any water that may come in at the seams will not come into contact with my gear.
My shelter system has not changed since doing our first long-distance hike (the Appalachian Trail in 2011). I have not replaced or upgraded any of this gear, because I am really happy with it all. The hammock is really lightweight and comfortable, the tarp is giant and keeps me dry even in heavy rain, and the bug net does the job of keeping the pesky bugs from eating me alive during the night. When I first bought my hammock, I got rid of the “heavy” suspension that come with it (carabiner and rope) and replaced it with whoopie slings, some 1” webbing, and an aluminum toggle. This modification to my suspension has really helped to make setting up my hammock a breeze.
Hammocking is by far my preferred shelter when we are out on the trail, but I have also started to carry a very lightweight ground cloth for times when hammocking is simply not an option. So far, this has only been the case on the Arizona Trail, but as we start the PCT in the desert, I’m sure that there will be more times when the ground cloth will need to be used.
In 2014, I finally made the transition from Sleeping Bag to Sleeping Quilt. I am a pretty cold sleeper (hence the silk sack which I ALWAYS have on the trail and use 95% of the time, even in summer) and was concerned that the lack of a sleeping bag around every inch of me would be a problem. In the past I had used a MontBell Super Spiral 3, which I loved. The feel of the material used on the bag is different than most other bags I have felt and is incredibly comfortable. As that bag started to pass its prime and I started to look for a replacement, I was won over to the sleeping quilt, as Beardoh got his first Katabatic quilt.
I have used the Katabatic on around 1,300 miles of trail and it has held up great. The quilt works great in the hammock where I have an underquilt below me. I don’t feel like I am missing any warmth with this sleep system. However, on the nights I have used it while sleeping on the ground, I sometimes wish I still had a sleeping bag. Especially some really cold nights on the Arizona Trail, I felt like I was getting cold through my sleeping pad. That said, because of the weight savings from using a quilt instead of a bag, I am willing to put up with a few cold nights here and there. Hopefully I will be in my hammock most nights anyways, where the quilt works great.
This category of my gear is super minimal, since we don’t cook on the trail. Basically, my kitchen is comprised of just my spoon. I really like the long handled spoon because it keeps my hands clean, even when I am eating out of a gallon-sized ziplock bag (basically every morning when I eat my cereal for breakfast). When we first started the AT, we were using regular sporks, but within a few hundred miles, we changed over to the long handled spoon and have been really happy with it ever since.
We started using Loksaks in 2014 when we hiked on the west coast. We heard about them from another hiker, and it seemed like the easier way to go instead of hanging our food. Over time, we have realized that there is a “best practice” when using these bags. In order to make the bags last longer, we have started to keep our food only in the Loksaks at night. During the day, our food is divided into ziplock gallon-sized bags (usually one for each day of food we are carrying), and our Loksaks are safely stowed away in the front pocket of our packs. Then at night, we pull them out and put in all of our food and scented things. This seems to work really well and the bags last a long time.
This category of gear is definitely my heaviest. I am willing to have the extra weight because I get cold quite easily. I know that I would not be a happy camper if my only evening clothes were wind pants and a wind shirt like Beardoh. I need to have real long john bottoms and top. I wear them in the summer and winter. I am always glad I have them with. The Arizona Trail was my first hike with my wind shirt. Before it just seemed like a strange piece of gear that seemed a bit redundant, but I found that I really enjoyed having it on the trail. I wore it quite a bit and will definitely keep it in my gear list.
I always have a warm hat and glove liners with on all trails. I often sleep with both of them on, even in the summer months. I don’t see these items as ones to add in only when I know I will be hiking in colder temperatures.
I used to carry three pairs of underwear and one bra (in addition to the ones I was wearing), but have cut that back. Now I carry just two pairs of underwear…I figure this gives me the chance to wash a pair and have it dry out in time, even if the weather isn’t great for drying. I stopped carrying an extra bra, because I figured if I wasn’t bothering to change my shirt, why bother changing my bra. This has worked well, and I will most likely continue this way.
This category has increased over the years. Once I got an iPod Touch, I brought it with me, so that I would be able to take pictures of my own…of course, this then requires that I have a charger and earbuds to go with it. I have also added a small Rubz ball for the past few years, so that I can continue with Trigger Point Therapy on the trail. This is important to me as my hip continues to bother me from time to time, especially after hiking several hundred miles.
The carabiners are used at night for attaching my hammock tarp to the ridge line and for attaching my underquilt to the whoopie slings of my hammock. During the day, I use them to hang my freshly washed underwear to dry.
The items in this category are sometimes carried by me and sometimes carried by Beardoh. It really just depends on what else we are carrying on a certain trail or certain stretches of a trail.