All The Gear, All Lined Up

When I fist started looking at gear for my PCT adventure I planned to carefully weigh my options for each item I would be bringing with me, by not only reading reviews but physically inspecting and testing items out before making my final decision. You may remember earlier posts about backpacks and tents, where I outlined different option sand attributes with the intent to dive deeper to each option. Well, that didn’t happen. After discovering the wealth of detailed reviews and ranked lists of backpacking gear I just started buying things, here is what I ended up with.

For my backpack I ended up with the ULA Circuit.  I didn’t necessarily chose this backpack, it just so happened that my brother had one that he never used and was willing to part with for $100 (Thanks, brother!).  I love how it carries and the way the hip belt moves with you while you’re hiking.

For a tent I ended up with the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2. It was at the top of many lists and while I could have gone with something lighter (and more expensive), I felt better getting something I believe to be more durable and sturdy, call it my security blanket.  It’s super easy to set up and nice and roomy. I also picked up the footprint for it too. However, while the extra space of a 2 person tent is nice I’m wondering if I should switch to the 1 person version for the PCT.  I wonder if my decision was a subliminal one.

After considering going with a sleeping quilt I decided to go with a sleeping bag, the weight difference wasn’t substantial enough for me to risk having drafts of cold air attack me while sleeping. I landed on the REI Co-op Magma 10 and apparently so did a lot of other people because it wasn’t easy to track down, all the REI locations were sold out when I went to buy it. The first time I tried to buy it I had made a special trip to Portland to avoid sales tax , the second time I had a 40% off coupon for the REI friends and family sale. However, third time’s a charm; Cristina and I went to some outdoor event only to find REI was handing out 35% off coupons and had it back in stock!  The sleeping bag itself was well worth the wait and effort, it’s not named “Magma” for nothing.  I also picked up a silk sleeping bag liner to help keep it clean, I can only imagine how filthy i’m going get.

For a sleeping pad I went all out and picked up the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xtherm Max. I didn’t realize how important sleeping pads until I started looking into my sleep setup. With a down sleeping bag it’s the trapped air that is keeping you warm, when you’re laying on the down it is compressed causing it not to provide insulation from underneath, so a good sleeping pad will provide the insulation your sleeping bag doesn’t.  This one is nice and comfy but it does make crinkly noises when you move around it, a small price to pay for warmth.

My last major gear purchase was a new camera, the Sony A6000! I had already accepted the fact that I wouldn’t be bringing my heavy DSLR and was planning on just using my phone for photos. However, I just couldn’t do that, I need (heavy emphasis on the word “need”) an actual camera for my hike. I considered a compact point and shoot but was concerned about the lack of zoom, so I went the mirrorless route instead. Having a digital display viewfinder takes some getting used to but I’m amazed by the pictures it takes. While it barely fits in the hip pocket of my backpack I’m happy I decided to get it.

In addition to the major items here is the rest of the gear i’m taking with me.  I’ll cover clothing in another post.

  • BearVault BV500 – Extra big ass bear can! While i’m not overly concerned about bears a bear canister is required in sections of the PCT.  This thing is huge, I have yet to figure out how i’m going to carry it with me.  It does double as a seat, so I have that going for me.
  • Black Diamond Raven Ice Axe – Another item I will only need for parts of the PCT but this one is a little more important, as I learned when learning how to keep myself from sliding off a mountain in the snow. I could have gone with a lighter version but if i’m going to need it I want to make sure it’s not going to fail.
  • Leki Corklite Treking Poles – A friend of mine pretty much demanded that I get Leki poles when I started hiking seriously and I’m glad I listened. I’ve put a lot of miles on them and they’ve held up great.
  • Kahtoola MicroSpikes – Added traction for the icy bits of the trail, makes it super easy to not slip and fall on your butt.
  • MSR Titan Kettle – Since I’m planning on dehydrating a majority of my food in ziploc freezer bags (easy clean up) I really just need something to boil water in, this will be more than sufficient. It can also double as a coffee mug.
  • MSR Pocket Rocket 2 –  While I currently have another canister stove I’ve decided to pick up the Pocket Rocket 2 as it’s lighter and probably a bit more reliable than a no-name brand.  I don’t have it yet, I will soon!
  • Long Handle Spoon – With the plan to eat most of my meals out ziploc freezer bags having a spoon with a long handle will keep my hands clean. So while you think my spoon might be too big, it’s not, but this guys is.
  • Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge – Yep, it’s a phone.  The same phone I have with me every day. However, more importantly, it functions as a GPS and there are some great PCT apps out there, some of which I mention in my PCT Resources post.
  • Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter – This water filter and I are going to be best friends. I’ve used a Sawyer Squeeze on my backpacking trips and while it takes a little work it gets the job done. Not to mention it fits perfectly on top of a smartwater bottle, which my backpack is designed for.
  • Generic First Aid Kit – I’d link to it but i’m not sure what brand it is. I’ll probably switch it out with a more compact single use kit.
  • Huntsman II Swiss Army Knife –  It took me a while to find a pocket knife that had scissors, a can opener, bottle opener, saw and tweezers.  This one has me covered.
  • The Deuce Of Spades –  Super lightweight, just a tad over half an ounce, shovel for digging holes. I mean how could I not buy it with a name like that?
  • Generic USB Battery Pack – The one I have now is nothing that special, i’ll probably upgrade it soon. Not only can I use it to charge my GPS (phone), it can also charge my camera as well!
  • Klymit Pillow X – Tiny little inflatable pillow. I’ll probably end up using my puffy jacket as a pillow most nights.
  • Petzl Tikkina Headlamp – Cristina had an extra so I adopted it as my very own, the one I had wasn’t very bright. Might look into upgrading it to something even brighter! (not pictured)
  • Sunto A-10 Compass – A compass that works great!  However, I should probably upgrade to one that I can adjust the declamation on.
  • Other Stuff – A lighter, tooth brush, tooth paste, dr. bonner’s soap and a camp towel.

While this is a lot of stuff it does fit in my backpack with room for my clothing and food, both of which I’ll cover in a future post.  Wait, I feel like i’m forgetting something….. that always happens to me when I’m packing for a big trip.

…and put it in a backpack

When you set out to hike over 2,650 miles you start to think about what you’re going to bring with you and have strapped to your back for months on end. The weight of everything you carry becomes very important, even though a few extra ounces here and there doesn’t seem like much, it adds up fast.  The idea is to have a low base weight, which is all your gear minus consumables (food, water and fuel). Some people become so focused on lowering their base weight they end up doing things like cutting the handles off their toothbrush, or so i’m told. Most hikers end up with a base weight somewhere around 15-20 lbs, I’m shooting for 10 or less. Right now my base weight is probably close to 25 lbs, which unfortunately means to lighten my base wight I’m also going to have lighten my wallet. However, the upside is that I get to nerd out over backpacking gear, which  starts with this blog entry.

When thinking about backpacking gear the obvious place to start is with what will be carrying it all, your backpack. I currently have the Teton Mountain Adventurer 4000 (The 4000 is what sold me, it makes me think of Weight Gain 4000 from South Park. Beefcake!) which I love.  It weighs in at 4 lbs, without the included tarp / poncho. It has a capacity of 66 liters (4000 cubic inches), which is more than  I’ll need once I downsize all my gear,  has a nice access panel for the main compartment on the front and another smaller access panel on the side, which makes access super easy. It also has lots of fun straps and buckles to hold gear, I don’t even know what some of them are for. It also has standard things like a hydro port and sleeve, a pouch on the waist belt and some nice mesh pockets on the sides. Plus it’s black.  However, it is almost half of my desired base weight.

With that said I’m looking at a few different options for the PCT. Here is what i’m considering:

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider 2400

This backpack weighs in at 1.76 lbs (the black version is somehow heavier at 1.85 lbs) and has a capacity of 40 liters (2400 cubic inches), which is a great size and weight. I especially like the three large mesh pockets and the two pouches on the hip belt. It is a single compartment pack with a roll top compared to a lot of packs that have a separate compartment at the bottom for your sleeping bag, which seems like a good idea but ends up limiting the use of your space.  While I really like this pack It is however pretty pricey coming in at $300.


Granite Gear Crown2 60

The Crown2 comes in a little heavier at  2.12 lbs but with that comes with some added capacity coming in at 60 liters (3660 cubic inches) and still has those nice big mesh pockets I like, although I don’t like how the compression straps run across them. Like the Windrider it has o  What makes the Crown2 stand out to me is that it has a removable lid compartment and a removable frame sheet which can bring the pack weight down to 1.7 lbs. It also has a removable and adjustable hip belt which should add some comfort. Paired with the added capacity, which I don’t think I’ll need but would be comforting to know i’d have it, I’m really liking the Crown2. It is also $100 cheaper than the Hyperlite coming in at $200.

ULA Circut

The most popular pack on the PCT last year. It has a lot of capacity coming in at 68 liters (4200 cubic inches) but weighing in a bit on the heavy side around 2.6 lbs. Still a single compartment pack and a really nice big mesh pocket for randomly shoving things in. What is nice about this pack is that when ordering you can specify your torso length, hip belt size, and chose your shoulder strap style.  I also like the cording that zigzags across the front.  From a cost perspective it comes in in between the price of the Windrider and Crown2 at $235.


Zpacks Arc Blast 

Weighing in at just 1.3 lbs with a capacity of 55 liters this pack has the best weight to capacity ratio of the packs I’m  considering.  A large mesh front pocket and sizable side pockets once again makes this pack appealing along with the compression cording along the sides. It also has an arc’d frame which creates an air gap between your back and the pack, which helps keep you cool and prevents clunky items from digging into your back. However, I’m a little curious about how this would feel with the weight being shifted out instead of against your back. As you may expect, the pack with the best weight to capacity ratio doesn’t come cheap, coming in at $325.

All of these packs have loads of features that I didn’t mention, I hope to be able to try each of them out and give an in-depth review of each (dependent on return policies).   Luckily time is on my side as the Teton Mountain Adventurer 4000 will get the job done until I take off for the PCT next year.