Thursday, February 18, 2016

Backpacking Gear, Part 1: Introduction and Clothing

When Zach and I were preparing for our thru-hike, we worried a lot about gear. I found it very useful to read people’s gear lists online and learn what actually worked over that much distance. What follows is a list of all the gear that I took on our PCT thru-hike, and my thoughts about it. Hope it helps!

General gear notes and advice: 

Decide what’s important to you: lightness, comfort, affordability, etc. Unless you devote a ton of cash to it, you won’t be able to buy exactly what you want, so prioritize. But, with that in mind, buy the best stuff you can afford.

Consider going stoveless until the Sierra due to the fire hazard in the desert. If not, be sure to use a gas stove. We started the trail with an alcohol stove, which didn’t work well at all, and we learned was not permitted, to boot.

Reuse a normal bottle (from soda, a sports drink, vitamin water, etc.) instead of buying a fancy (more expensive and heavier) water bottle.

A sleeping bag rated down to 15º will not actually keep you warm when it’s 15º. But it will keep you from dying of hypothermia.

For the love of everything sacred, do not wear hiking boots. They are heavy and hurt your ankles. Plus, 90% of the PCT is even ground.

Some people preferred slathering on sunscreen day after day, but I just wore more clothing. It saved my poor Caucasian skin from sunburns. This was only a problem in Northern California, where it was really humid.

My Gear: Clothing

One sun hat— Sun Day Afternoon brand. This hat was magical, I swear. 2014 was the only summer in my life that I didn’t get heat exhaustion from the sun beating down on my head.

One warm hat— I started off with a polyester blend, which was okay, but later swapped in a wool hat, which was sooo much better for the misty Washington section.

One polyester t-shirt— some random brand, bought at a thrift store. It still looks brand new.

One lightweight long-sleeved button-down shirt— Columbia brand. It was pretty big on me, which was good for keeping cool in the desert (I’d wear it without a t-shirt underneath), or keeping warm in the cold regions (I’d wear a t-shirt under and a jacket over). It held up fine.

One light polyester jacket— a hand-me-down; I swapped out a heavier fleece jacket in Washington. I was often too cold, so if I could’ve gone back and spent serious money splurging on a different clothing item, this would’ve been it. I’ve heard that those super-expensive puffy jackets are awesome!

One raincoat— Event brand. I got one without a hood, which was a terrible idea. Since it didn’t rain on us much, though, it wasn’t a huge deal.

One sports bra— Brooks brand. Held up very well.

One pair of lightweight pants with pockets— North Face brand. I always preferred wearing pants when hiking, although most people hiked in shorts. These pants held up amazingly well (the seams look good to this day). I tore out the knee on a rusty fence in southern California, but my slapdash mending job held up fine all the way to the present.

One pair of lightweight shorts— Nike brand, another hand-me-down. These were nice for swimming in. Also, whenever we did laundry and there were no loaner clothes to be had, I’d wear my shorts and raincoat.

One pair of silk long underwear— these were handy for cold nights, although they were never quite warm enough for me. Wool might’ve been better for me since I sleep cold.

Three pairs of underwear— ExOfficio brand. Best. Underwear. Ever.

Cloth pads (Domino brand) and a Divacup— for the tampon-free lady. 

Socks— silk liner socks from REI and cheap men’s dress socks from Walmart. (Also a pair of wool socks, mostly for sleeping.) We had about five pairs each, which was way too many. The liner socks got worn down a lot, but the outer socks never wore out. Ever. Seriously, I threw one away just last month because of a hole in the toe— and that was the first one! I now wear cheap men’s dress socks almost exclusively, both when hiking and in my normal life.

Gloves— they were useful for hiking on cold days, but if they got wet, they lost their insulating power, which kinda sucked. I would try to go for warmer gloves next time.

Flip-flops— cheap ones. We bought these about halfway through the trail for me to use for crossing streams and walking around camp. They were really nice to have, and helped me keep my feet aired out better. Great for midnight bathroom trips, too.

Trail runners— I love my Asics! I wear these shoes all the time, whether I’m on the trail or not.

Tomorrow I’ll post about the rest of our gear. Till then!


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