My gear list is always changing. I tend to not even weigh stuff out at this point, either. I simply determine the conditions I will be facing and pack as little as I need to meet my expectations for the trip. Going out on the Florida Trail in March requires a different set of gear than the Great Divide Trail in July. Similarly, hiking with the intention of capturing the natural beauty of a place is a different trip than an FKT attempt. As I gain experience I can bring less for any given set of conditions because I have a wider range of experiences and can anticipate and adapt accordingly.

Rather than make a separate gear list for each set of conditions, I will just list the gear I chose between over the past year.

 

 

Main camping items

Pack

Co-owning a UL gear company specializing in packs means that I am in no short supply of options. For a short trip I will often just grab whatever appeals to me in the moment, whether a V2 or a Cuben Simple or a Joey or a day pack. For longer trips it is full-on testing time. Even when a design is feeling pretty solid, we will always work some experimental elements into each prototype. This past year I put 1000miles on a pack made of LS07. It was a new fabric from Dimension Polyant (they also make X-Pac), but nobody was really using it yet. So I put it to the test and we ended up not going with it for our V2, but that’s just part of the process. We want to make the best informed decisions we can, and getting first-hand experience is a major component to that.

In 2018 I will being using either the Pa’lante V2 or the Joey, depending on the trip. We’re really happy with the current state of these packs, but I will still probably make some modifications in order to keep trying out new things.

Shelter

This past year I got more serious about making shelters. My current style mixes my favorite elements of an A-frame and a pyramid. Sometimes I’ll refer to it as a leaning lean-to or open A-frame. DCF remains my shelter material of choice with its bonded seam construction and water impermeability. My tent is pretty small but only weighs 7.5oz with bug netting and it can be set up with one trekking pole, breaking apart the bottom segment for the pole at my feet, leaving the top two at the head. I will continue to refine this design as well as begin development on a larger version that is still intended for one person but should be easier to pitch and will feel more secure with better protection and stability. I imagine I’ll stick to the small tent for personal use unless I face some more intense weather.

The FKT version requires 4 stakes, and will take another 2 for “storm-mode”. The 1P version requires 6 stakes (8 in storm-mode). I keep these in a little DCF stake sack.

Quilt

I’ve gone through a few, including the usual suspects like ZPacks and Enlightened Equipment, but have felt little desire for a new quilt ever since taking the plunge on a Katabatic. Yes, they are expensive. But also yes, they are the best. I’ve been using the Palisade but would probably go for a slightly warmer quilt like the Alsek or Flex 22 if I were to do it over again. Not for safety reasons so much as just being a little more comfortable on the coldest nights. I’ve also been pretty interested in synthetic quilts recently and will continue experimenting with those, as well as reevaluating whether a mummy bag could make sense for me (I really like to raise my legs up before going to bed).

Pad

I almost always just sleep on the ground with no pad at this point. When I am expecting temperatures that will regularly get below freezing then I will bring my small (torso length) Thermarest NeoAir XLite. Sleeping pads are definitely the weak point in my sleep system as far as warmth goes, but I just like the freedom of not having to stay on a pad as well as the extreme ease of use to not have to worry about extracting a pad from my pack and setting it up. I used to use a little 1/8″ torso CCF pad for a couple years, but it really didn’t do a whole lot, leading me to just go without much of the time.

Groundsheet

I’ve been using a polycryo groundsheet ever since I started sleeping on the ground. I usually cut a new one out every year from a window shrink film insulator kit. Not the most durable option but it works for me and is really light.

 

 

EVEN THOUGH A LOT OF ATTENTION IS GIVEN TO THE MAJOR CAMPING ITEMS JUST LISTED, CLOTHING AND THE MISCELLANEOUS SMALL STUFF IS A MAJOR AREA WHERE WEIGHT CREEPS IN. OMIT WHAT YOU CAN. NOT BRINGING SOMETHING IS INFINITELY LIGHTER THAN GETTING A LIGHTER VERSION OF SOMETHING YOU DON’T REALLY NEED.

 

This n that

Flashlight

I mainly choose between a Olight i3S and a Nitecore NU20 CRI. The Olight is a tiny 1xAAA flashlight that weighs 0.4oz (0.7oz with battery). I like using a flashlight because casting light from waist level casts shadows that make it easier to sense depth. When I want to go handsfree I usually just hold it in my mouth, but it also has a clip that you can flip around to attach to the brim of your hat. The Nitecore is a bit heavier and is a more traditional sort of headlamp. I went with the CRI version because it casts a more natural color of light that helps keep my mind more sane during long nights. It charges via USB so I don’t have to worry about dealing with batteries. The main thing that impacts my choice between lights is how much night hiking I plan on doing. I have hiked a lot with the Olight but the amount of light is just enough. Brighter really is better. So the Nitecore gives me more brightness and battery life at a higher weight and form factor. I don’t particularly enjoy hiking at night so I usually just reach for the Olight.

Scissors

I prefer a small pair of scissors to a knife. They have a sharp tip so I can still jab, and are good for cutting hair and nails and boxes (most of my sharp edge needs). I keep some duct tape around the blades to prevent the tip from poking things accidentally.

Toothbrush + toothpaste + flossers

I use the travel size toothpaste tubes and cut down my toothbrush to about 2/3 length. I like to use the flossers because they are easier to use, even though there are benefits to bringing traditional floss for it’s weight savings and additional potential uses.

Sunscreen

I’ll bring sunscreen when I need it. Usually stop using it after a while.

Water treatment

I usually don’t treat, but bring a Sawyer Squeeze when I am in a desert where I expect to drink poor quality water. I like the Squeeze because I don’t have to wait to start drinking, because I usually come into a water source very thirsty and drink a lot while I am there. In the past I have used Aquamira and bleach. Aquamira is my preferred choice for a chemical treatment due to the lack of taste, but bleach is extremely cheap, more readily available, and does not require the additional step of mixing two parts together as Aquamira does. I don’t chemically treat water anymore because of the taste and the time. The Squeeze can potential be nonfunctional after freezing with water in it, and you won’t be able to tell if it is doing it’s thing. There is also the debate as to whether trail illnesses are caused by water, but that’s a different conversation for a different time.

Hand sanitizer

Good practice, especially around others. A critical component of the occasional “backcountry bidet”.

Bug stuff

It’s one thing to say that you’ll never touch DEET, it’s another to be in the moment where your life is completely consumed by mosquitoes. I use it when I need it, but no more than the minimum needed.

 

 

Electronics

Camera

Deciding which camera to bring has become the biggest decisions I make for any trip. Making videos that I’m proud of has become increasingly important to me. Just using my phone leaves me pretty underwhelmed when I go to edit the footage. I actually ended up not posting any videos from my trip where I used my phone to capture video.

The RX100 is a great choice for getting a quality image from a pocketable camera. I keep it in my shirt pocket so it is on me and easy to grab at a moments notice. I used the original for a while and then upgraded to the RX100iii when my RX100 stopped working. The resulting image is pretty similar, but the m3 adds the exact features I wished I had in the m1 – articulating screen, viewfinder, and wifi. Whether these features are worth the added cost is a different story altogether but I can say that I have been pretty pleased with the compromise the RX100 series makes when it comes to making videos on trail, and I highly recommend them. The RX100v is a really awesome camera that shoots in 4k and has improved autofocus, but I just can’t get myself to spent $1000 on a compact camera, despite how capable it is.

But then this past year I brought my m43 camera on trail and now the production quality bug has caught me. When my Panasonic G6 was stolen this winter, I took the opportunity to upgrade to a Sony A7Sii. This camera blows me away. I am extremely excited to take on bigger projects using this camera, and will be bringing it on trail when video is a priority (which is now quite often). The camera weight is substantial, but the real problem I have with it is the inconvenience due to the size. I’ve just been bringing a fanny pack just for the camera lately and it has been okay but I would prefer not to wear a fanny pack. Along with the camera body, I also will be using a Sony 35/2.8 lens w/ variable ND filter, a Rode Videomicro microphone, and a Manfrotto Pixi tripod with some weight drilled out of it. I have a couple other lenses that are pretty trail friendly, like a 50 and a spunky lil Voigtlander 21/4, but when keeping things simple with one lens, the 35mm wins every time.

A great feature with the Sony cameras is that the bodies can charge the batteries internal via micro USB, so I just charge off of the same power bank that I use to charge up my phone while away from outlets.

Battery

In 2015 I recall sitting outside a Montana library, just waiting for my camera batteries to charge. I wanted to be back in the mountains so bad and I felt stuck. No more. With a high capacity QCC INPUT  battery(many just have QCC out), I am no longer stuck in town like I once was. I have a higher capacity battery than I need, choosing between a 10Ah or 13Ah or 20Ah (depending on the trip) so that I do not have to stop and fully charge at every town. I just get what I can in the hour or so if I’m going in and out and then when I have a longer layover will fill up completely. I don’t have to think about charging anymore. The 10Ah batteries take about 3 hrs to charge fully and the 20Ah is maybe 5h. I also don’t worry about leaving my camera or phone out by an outlet since everything I have that requires electricity can be charged off of the battery, and the battery charges faster than any of my devices do. Perfect! But make sure to get a QCC compatible adapter or else you won’t get those accelerated charging rates. Getting two single port adapters ended up weighing basically the same as a dual port, but a dual port is more considerate to the filled up charging stations on busy trails. I just use the single port now since I only charge my battery, and just have one short microUSB cable that also works for everything (camera, phone, headlamp). And just as you need a QCC compatible adapter, you also need QCC compatible USB cable. It can be hard to figure out which items have QCC input, and I’ve gone through a lot of different battery brands, but the ones I now use are either the RAVPower 10Ah or RAVPower 20.1Ah with either the RAVPower QCC dual USB wall charger or a generic QCC USB wall charger.

Phone

I bring a cheap smartphone and have the Gaia GPS app ($20) on it that is really useful for changing things up on the fly. It has the USGS topo maps of whatever area I’m going into and it’s super easy to just download them to my phone and navigate off of those. Can also load in tracks and waypoints and record your own as you go.

 

 

Worn clothing

Shirt + shorts

While I’m hiking I stick to the typical thru-hiker uniform of a button up shirt and running shorts. I prefer my shirt to be lightweight and have dual pockets. I’ve worn shirts made from cotton and nylon and blends of the two, and am generally fine with whatever. The shorts I’ve been wearing these days have pockets and a 5″ inseam of so they are pretty conservative and, if you can’t tell from our pack designs and shirt preferences, I like the accessibility options that a plethora of pockets provide.

Footware

For socks I just bring one pair of cheap nylon dress socks, and don’t find a need to bring extras. My sock preferences may be changing, though, due to my changes in footware…

I generally look for low stack height shoes, usually in 15mm-20mm range, with a couple mm of drop. The main problem is finding a shoe that is big enough to handle my 14 4E foot. I really don’t like it when my toes are constricted and also like a solid fitting midfoot so that I’m not sliding around in the shoe. So after my favorite shoe was recently discontinued I started thinking about sandals again. And I’ve been loving wearing Bedrock Cairns for hiking. Wearing sandals brings about a whole additional set of concerns but with a little bit of time I’ve been feeling increasingly confident about wearing sandals into the foreseeable future.

Hat

I also pretty much always wear a sun hat of some sort. I like the wide brim stuff to shield my whole head

Trekking pole

I often bring a single trekking pole with me. I use it in setting up my tent and is a nice mental thing especially when hiking long and hard days. I think it makes me go slightly faster and possibly eases my body from some stress? Hard to say. I like using one for now. The Locus Gear is my favorite because it is a light carbon fiber but with durable flick locks, but I’m using a Gossamer Gear LT5 now.

 

Packed clothing

Beanie

For long hikes, I always bring a beanie and a Frogg Toggs rain jacket. They say your body is like a chimney with your head being a critical point for the warmth for your body and I’ve found that to be true. And a warm hat is especially critical when using a quilt that doesn’t have a hood.

Rain jacket

I like the Frogg Toggs rain jacket because they are so cheap and light. I find that I don’t have to replace mine more than once a year or so, but it does depend on where I’m going because you can’t bushwhack with one for long before it gets torn up since they are sized large and are easy to snag. The jacket comes with pants, but I tend to just dispose of them immediately.

Fleece sweater

After being cold on the CDT a few times, I realized that my down jacket was doing nothing for me during the times I my warmth was most critical, when it was wet and windy and cold. A down jacket is good in camp, but I don’t usually hang out in camp, I just immediately get under my quilt and any weight from the down jacket would be better spent in a warmer quilt. For hiking I needed something that would stay warm even when wet so I looked at a fleece to solve that. I used the Melanzana microgrid fleece for a while and I don’t care for the hood since it limits the flexibility of use since you can’t really cover your face when cinching it up and you can’t vent out when you overheat with it basically being like a turtleneck. But I’m definitely a fan of using a fleece now and I wear it all the time.

Wind pants

Wind pants I used to use the Montbell Dynamo wind pants and currently use the lighter, discontinued Montbell Tachyon wind pants. You’ll have to be careful with any wind pants you use. Not only is the thin fabric susceptible to tearing on objects, but also the seams are more likely to rip.

Neck gaiter

I really like to have a neck gaiter to cover my lower face when it gets really cold. I rarely bring it while hiking, though, as I tend to hike in warmer conditions. Using a neck gaiter and beanie is similar to a balaclava but with more adaptability.

Running tights

When I’m expecting consistently cold weather I will wear running tights. On the GDT I imagined the coldest scenario to plan for would be a cold morning pushing through soaking wet brush. Wind pants wouldn’t work very well in those conditions so I opted for tights for their ability to keep warm when wet.

Wind jacket

I used to always wear a wind shirt, but tend to not bring it on trips anymore since switching to using a fleece, even though the fleece doesn’t really substitute for the comfort a wind shirt brings to the variety of conditions I face in the western US. A large reason for my migration away from the wind shirt is also due to switching from the Patagonia Houdini (loved it) to the lighter Montbell Tachyon Anorak (material feels weird on my skin and does not have a full length zipper).

 

 

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