Monday, February 16, 2015

Gear Changes for AT 2015 hike

Osprey Aether 60
Although I was fairly pleased with the ULA Catalyst Pack I had used for the PCT, I decided I wanted to try a different pack, to see if I could eliminate the constant strain on my back that the Catalyst caused me. I opted for the Osprey Aether 60. Features that I like about the Pack:

Contents of pack can be accessed from the side as well as the top.

A divider inside the pack makes for two compartments. The lower  compartment has it's own zipper and is big enough for my sleeping bag, sleeping pad and ground cloth.

The pack has a lid that can be used as a separate fanny pack.

Once loaded with 30 lbs., the pack rides on  my hips rather than hanging off  my shoulders. Weight: 3 lbs 5 oz

REI Flash Sleeping Pad  
The Therma-Rest NeoAir sleeping pad just barely made it to the end of the PCT. I had to discard it when I returned home. The baffles had blown out resulting in a large hump in the middle of the  pad. The NeoAir was expensive. This time, I chose the REI brand Flash with PrimaLoft insulated baffles. 

Next year, for the CDT, I will use a pad called the Nemo Astro Insulated Lite 20R. It's constructed with horizontal, insulated baffles instead of longitudinal ones.
Weight: 15.9 oz.

Mountain Hardware Ghost Whisperer Insulated Jacket
Seeking to lighten my pack weight, I ditched my 22 oz. North Face jacket for the much lighter 6 oz. Mountain Hardware Ghost Whisperer jacket. When I held the Ghost in my hands, I was amazed at how flimsy the jacket appeared. The shell material has the look of tissue paper, and the jacket is almost transparent, but it is insulated with 800 down fill.

I tested it thoroughly on my daily 5 mile walks, in bitter 12 degree weather. This down jacket, coupled with my newly acquired Eddie Bauer Hangfire Hoodie, kept me warm. I know that if I need extra warmth with my GoLite Quilt, the Ghost Whisperer will come to the rescue. Weight: 6 oz.

Eddie Bauer Hangfire Outerwear Hooded Jacket
My wife brought this jacket home for me; she said the reviews were very good on it. I was skeptical. Nevertheless, I wore it as an outer jacket over my down Ghost Whisperer jacket on my morning walks. I loved the results. The jacket is made of mid-weight stretch fleece which doesn't inhibit my movement and it's easy to put of or take off over my down jacket. I love the layering options it gives me. It's so easy and comfortable to wear, that I'm opting to wear it in place of a long sleeve shirt. The hood fits snug around the head - no need for draw strings and it zips up far enough around the face that it works like a balaclava. It's also functions as a wind breaker and it is water resistant. It should be a good jacket. Weight: 15.2 oz.

Darn Tough Socks
For the PCT, I used doubled-knitted Wright socks Cool Mesh II. I thought they were excellent socks and would purchase them again; however, my preference in length is crew length -  I like to pull them up my ankles. My local REI no longer carries them, so I decided to try the Darn Tough Socks. I must admit, I've been sucked in by the hype. They're suppose to have a life-time guarantee, and if they wear out, supposedly I can send them back to the company for replacements. From the reports of another hiker, he said he had to replace this brand every 350 miles. I just looked online and find that I can order the Crew length Wright socks from for $12.00 a pair - same as at REI. I firmly believe the double-knit socks greatly reduce the propensity for blisters that hikers are prone to get. Weight: 2 oz.

Merrell Moab Ventilator Shoes
Shoes are everything - they will make or break a long-distance hike. I loved the Keen Voyager shoe with its roomy toe box, but the problems with delamination put the kabosh on buying any more of this brand. My foot is a size 12 and I normally wear a size 13 shoe. For long-distance hiking, I buy a size 14 to ensure sufficient  wiggle room in the toe box. In talking with the shoe salesman at REI, about having sufficient width in the toe box, he informed me that Merrill shoes can be purchased in extra wide widths. He had a pair of 14W in stock which I purchased, and I've been wearing them every day. Merrill is an excellent brand, and I feel comfortable that I'll get a lot of mileage out of these shoes. I tried wearing inserts with them, but found they were uncomfortable and not really needed.

Big Agnes Copper Spur 1
My decision to go with a different tent was two-fold: I wanted one that was truly self-standing, and had a double wall, meaning a rain fly. I had a few issues with the Tarp Tent Rainbow. To keep water out of the tent, it needs to be properly staked, but due to the  terrain, this was not always possible. Likewise, the loop and hook fabric tabs that looped around the trekking pole to hold the arching center pole taut, when they were wet and dirty, they often failed. I saw several Copper Spurs on the PCT and the owners were pleased with the performance. After the AT hike, I'll give a post-trip assessment of it. Weight 2 lbs 8 oz.

White Sierra Teton Trail Convertible Pants
I really wanted to purchase another pair of the REI brand stretch hiking pants that I found at the REI store in Bend, OR, but they no longer seem to be available. I looked at stretch fabric pants made by Columbia and pRana but for one reason or another they didn't work for me. It could have been that they didn't have  cargo pockets, which are essential for hikers. On the recommendation of another hiker I ordered a pair of White Sierra trail pants. They're not made with stretch fabric and appear to be much like TNF or REI or Columbia hiking pants, but priced much less - $41 versus $60 - $70 for other brands.

JetBoil Stove
Twice on the PCT, I had my wife bring me my JetBoil stove and twice, I sent it home. Considering what I was carrying in my pack, it just seemed to bulky. This time, my Osprey Aether 60 is a bit bigger and the JetBoil doesn't seem out of place. Instead of eating all my meals cold, I'm determined to take the time to boil water, which the JetBoil does exceptionally fast, and enjoy a hot breakfast and dinner each day. Weight: Stove with two 4 oz fuel canisters and cooking cup/pot 11.6 oz.

Black Diamond Spot Head Lamp
I'm willing to give this brand and model of headlamp a try to see if it's any better than the others I've tried - Petzel, Princeton Tec, generic. It's an LED lamp rated at 130 lumen. Weight: 3.2 oz.

iPod Classic
Last hiking season, I walked most of the trail without listening to any music or books on tapes. And I was fine with that, for most of the trip. But by the time I reached Oregon - 1700 miles into the journey, I was really tired of listening to the voices in my head. I saw other hikers using the small iPod Shuffles to listen to music, so I asked my wife to purchase one, load some music onto it and send it to me. I received it at the Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood. It helped to ease the monotony of hiking 12 hours a day. A Shuffle is limited to 2-3 GB of memory; the iPod Nano-16 GB and the iPod Touch-64 GB. For the AT and the CDT, I purchased the outdated iPod Classic with 160 GB. Already, I've noted that the battery life for the Classic is not as great as the smaller iPod Nano. The unit was a used one purchase on Amazon. I hope it lasts. Weight: 1.9 oz.

EZ-Share SD Camera Card
I did not blog on the PCT, so having instantaneous access to my photos was not a concern.This hiking season will be different. I will have a Microsoft Surface II Tablet with which to blog, and having access to my photos will be vital for keeping the blog updated. With this little wizard of a card in  my camera, I can select the images I want and send them to my phone, which will automatically upload them to my Dropbox.  (Cloud Service) Text and coordinating pictures can be downloaded to my blog effortlessly. I'm looking forward to seeing how this all works. Getting the images from the camera to the phone was not intuitive after reading the instructions. However, a knowledgeable geek at Best Buy was able to walk me through the steps.

Microsoft Surface II Tablet
The Surface II Tablet is the one luxurious item I'm taking with me on the journey. With its detachable keyboard, it will allow me to type my blog without having to resort to using the keypad on my phone, which is virtually impossible for me to do. It adds 2 lbs to my pack weight, but for this endeavour, I deem it worthwhile. Weight: 2 lbs.


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