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Monday, May 13, 2013

Gear Guide Spring 2013

Here's a rundown of some of my favorite gear used in 2013. I made a lot of changes after my Appalachian Trail thru-hike in 2012 and have been absolutely thrilled with many of the results. There have also been some pieces of gear that have not worked for me. I'm just not going to write about them. If you have specific questions, feel free to contact me.

I'm sure that after I thru-hike the PCT this year I will have even more thoughts about my "perfect" setup. As The Trail Show's Paul Magnanti says: "There is no such thing as the best gear! What is best for one person may not be the best for another person." That being said, I highly recommend the following:

Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter

If there was one gear change that has made my life exponentially easier on trail it has been the switch to using the Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter. I absolutely love this filter and in general I have detested filters in the past. I have been a tried and true Aqua Mira user for many years but now that I don't have to wait for chemicals to mix and sterilize, I don't think I'll ever go back. I also didn't want to continue to dump large amounts of chlorine into my body for months at a time.

Typically, I use the provided bladders only for storage and squeeze the water through the filter using a 23.7 oz. Smartwater bottle. I also have replaced the cap on the filter with a Smartwater cap. This makes for better flow and ease of use. It is amazing how long one bottle and cap will last.

I can't recommend this filter enough. It is so easy, doesn't clog and has a one million gallon guarantee. A significant amount of time is saved by using this filter and that means more time and miles hiked each day.  Just don't let the filter freeze. This could damage the filtration mesh inside. The 0.1 micron mesh is designed to filter out all protozoans but it is not small enough to catch all viruses. However, I've been assured that this isn't a problem in North America,

I have the older version of the Sawyer Squeeze with the bags that had a tendency to break on people. Since I don't drink from the bags this has not been a problem for me. I hear the newer bags are far superior and this shouldn't be a problem.

The Sawyer Squeeze only weighs 3.1 oz. and is being sold for $39.95. Only straight bleach beats this bargain.

Gossamer Gear Gorilla UltralightMurmur Hyperlight and Kumo Superlight

Murmur Hyperlight

It's no secret to my friends that I love Gossamer Gear packs. I've used the Gorilla Ultralight, Murmur Hyperlight and Kumo Superlight for different types of trips in 2013. This winter, I started experimenting with the Murmur Hyperlight to drop my base pack weight and see what it was like to travel hipbelt-less on fast, high mileage weekend trips. I absolutely loved it and found the Murmur to be more than roomy enough for the gear needed for multi-day trips with subfreezing winter night time temperatures in Central California. With the amount of weight I was carrying and the Murmur's wide shoulder straps, there was no need for the hipbelt.

After two exciting off-trail cross-country adventures (one which involved bushwhacking through spiny chemise and whitethorn ceanothus, and another which involved foot and butt-skiing down clay and fallen redwood trees) I only had a small hole in the back mesh of the Murmur to show for all the wear and tear I had put on the pack. I was impressed and the hole was easily repaired on the spot with a little needle and thread. The Murmur is not designed for off-trail travel and it faired excellently under some pretty extreme circumstances.
Kumo Superlight
Even though the Murmur excelled in this experiment I couldn't resist the temptation of trying the Kumo Superlight. The 30D body of the Murmur had done its job but it was always in the back of my mind that some blackberry bush was going to snag the fabric and rip it to shreds. 

The Kumo has been the perfect pack for my cross country tendencies. It gives me piece of mind in advance, while I prepare for trips, and it gives me the freedom to explore and go off trail if I get in the mood to do so. I will still be using the Murmur for what it was designed for, fast on-trail adventures, while the Kumo has become the favorite for my more adventurous outings.

The Gorilla Ultralight is the largest Gossamer Gear pack that I own. I used this pack on my recent Lost Coast Trail Yo-yo and was extremely happy with how it handled the required bear canister. I'll be using this pack on my Southbound PCT thru-hike starting in June and any other adventure that requires a larger heavier load. I've been using the Gorilla with the support stay and hipbelt attached. The suspension is excellent and can easily handle 30 lb. loads. The hipbelt pockets are extremely useful and the hipbelt itself is quite comfortable. 

Gorilla Ultralight
The only thing I would have changed on these packs has already been addressed by Gossamer Gear. The gross-grain straps used in the 2012 versions of these packs did not hold their tension very well on the shoulder straps. They have since replaced this webbing and the 2013 Kumo I own does not slip one bit. I have used a slippery hitch on the older Gorilla and Murmur and do not have a problem using them at all. Gossamer Gear does a great job of incorporating the feedback of numerous extremely experienced hikers to constantly refine and improve their products.

All three of these Gossamer Gear packs are very elegantly designed. I really appreciate their combination of simplicity and features that are truly useful to the long distance hiker. These are ultralight-weight packs that can hold up to some pretty heavy duty adventures.

GoLite Chrome Dome Trekking Umbrella


The Chrome Dome was a godsend on the Lost Coast Trail. I have not used this umbrella as rain protection but as sun protection it excels. The reflective top takes off a lot of heat and the shade provided is a welcome break from a full exposure day. I just wish the chrome dome was a little lighter than 8 oz. Only $19.99 right now!

Gossamer Gear SpinnTwinn

Just like the Gossamer Gear packs discussed above, the SpinnTwinn is a simple and elegant piece of gear. This spinnaker tarp is perfect for two people and has kept us and all of our gear dry in some pretty crazy torrential downpour thunderstorms. The SpinnTwinn also stays taught extremely well. Unfortunately, Gossamer Gear doesn't make this tarp right now but they will be releasing some new shelters in the coming year.

Fenix LD01 Light 

This little light packs a huge punch. I've logged quite a few night hiking miles with this tiny light and have been quite impressed. Powered by a single AAA battery, the Fenix LD01 is far brighter than my old Petzel Tikka. Even while carrying an extra AAA in reserve, this is one of lightest legitimate light sources out there.

I've also found that prefer a hand light for night hiking. A headlamp can't be beat for cooking, tying knots or setting up a tarp but as far as night hiking goes, I prefer a lower angled light source.

When light is emitted from the same angle as your eyes you loose your depth perception. At a lower angle, the shadows created by the light allow for better analysis of the terrain.

Derma-Safe Razor Knife

Some people would say that it's crazy to travel in the wilderness without a real knife. I haven't found this to be a true. This tiny orange .2 oz. folding razor knife has been more than enough to accomplish anything I have need to do on trail.

I keep this blade on a length of cord with the Fenix for easy access and to prevent myself from losing it.

Leki Makalu Ultralite

These poles have been with me for 10 years now and they are still going strong. One of them did bend at a 45 degree angle coming down Mt. Madison in the dark last summer but that's a story for another time. I think this failure was more of a product of the fatigue induced by a 21 mile AT traverse of the Presidentials in one day.

The small problems I have had with these poles, after A TON of use, have all been quickly addressed by Leki with replacement parts. Their customer service is among the best I have experienced.

I have often considered making the leap to carbon poles but the way Leki has taken care of me has kept me coming back to the Leki Makalu Ultralites. They don't sell this model anymore but they continue to make other great trekking poles.

Neoair xlite size small

The most comfortable pad I have ever slept on. It's even more comfortable than many of the beds I have slept on. At the 7.7 oz. with the patch kit, this little inflatable can't be beat. I have had no issues with durability even though it looks like it would be quite fragile. The shoulder, hip and lower back pain of the past have all been mitigated by this luxurious pad. The xlite is also quite insulating with a 3.2 R rating.


Gossamer Gear Pack Liner

I know, it's just a plastic bag. However, the size is perfect and these bags are quite durable. They keep my gear dry and I have used a single bag for a really long time before having to replace it.

Gossamer Gear Polycryo Ground Cloth

A simple featherweight groundsheet. It's nothing fancy and it does its job quite well. Pretty tough for a sheet of plastic.


The best bear rope I have used. Very visible in its florescent green and it slides effortlessly over branches, rarely ever hanging up on the bark. I used this rope a lot on the southern portion of my AT hike and was very pleased.

Body Glide Skin Glide

I call this stuff "miracle cream." It does an excellent job of repelling moisture and keeping the feet smooth. This has cut down immensely on the blisters formed on wet days. Just apply the cream the night before or in the morning and give it time to soak in. If used properly, you shouldn't have much trouble with the maceration caused by the loosening of wet skin.

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