Every long hike I've done has brought about some serious gear revelations. Sometimes I painfully reminesce about the monster loads I carried in my late teens and early twenties. It's easy to imagine the intense pain in my knees, hobbling down to springs in the evening to collect water for dinner and struggling through 20 mile days. If the 30 year old Bobcat raced the 20 year old Bobcat, there'd be no contest. 30 year old Bobcat wins every time. Another Bob comes to mind: "Ah, but I was so much older then. I'm younger than that now." There are some amazing benefits to getting older. I hope this trend continues for quite some time.
Last year, I started the Appalachian Trail with a base gear weight of over 15 lbs. (not counting consumables like food and water). I finished at Springer Mountain with a baseweight just under 10 lbs. This year, I left Canada heading south on the PCT with some important snow gear and a baseweight of just over 10 lbs. By the time I reached Mexico, my gear had shrunk to just under 7 lbs.
Of course, the warmer climate of the south had something to do with this drop in weight but it wasn't the biggest factor. My abilities to thermoregulate, choose warm dry campsites, read the weather, navigate, manage water and confront my fears have all improved greatly. This knowledge cuts weight and increases the amount of joy experienced on long hikes.
One of the greatest lessons I've learned from these adventures is that my limits are always further than what I imagine. Two years ago a 98.5 day PCT completion or a 36 mile day over Forrester and Whitney would have seemed fanciful. Now, I know I can push myself even further. Dopamine addictions are strong; the rewards are timeless and powerful.
It's not just the lack of weight that is satisfying. It's also the joy of having fewer possessions. Packing up in the morning in two minutes is easy, there's less to worry about and the bottom line is: you end of having more brain space to think about the more important things in life. Don't get me wrong, gear is cool, but it's just a vehicle to incredible experiences that teach us infinite lessons.
By the end of this hike I stopped thinking so much about my gear. I had my system dialed. I know what gear I like. I know what has proven itself over several thousand miles and what hasn't.
This is not to say that I'm not still experimenting. I am. It's just that the changes are minute at this point. Thru-hikers approach their gear like scientists. In fact, I've included my new prototype gear list below.
So far, with my new sub 6 lb. setup, I've been comfortable in freezing temps while on my training hikes here at home in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Even though I might not be thinking about gear all the time on trail anymore, I'm always more than happy to talk with anyone about the gear discoveries I've made over the last few years. There's nothing better than helping someone have more fun in the back country. I'm certainly grateful for all the ultralighters who have mentored me over the years.
Detailed commentary on certain pieces of gear to appear in subsequent posts. Enjoy!
|PCT START||PCT FINISH||CURRENT|
|Zpacks Fleece Hat||0.8||0.8||0.8|
|Dri Ducks Jacket||5.6||5.6|
|Mont Bell Ex Light Jacket||5.7||5.7||5.7|
|Cap 2 Bottoms||4.6|
|FITS Low Runner||1.2||1.2||1.2|
|Zpacks Down Hood||1.3||1.3||1.3|
|Zpacks Fleece Mittens||1.2|
|(9) Stakes in Bag||2||2||2|
|GG Polycro Ground Cloth||1.6||1.6||1.6|
|BPL Stealth Nano Tarp||6.3|
|Zpacks 10 degree Bag||22.7|
|Zpacks 30 degree Bag||17||17|
|GG Nightlight Torso Pad||1.3||3.1|
|Neoair Xlite Small w/patch kit||7.7||7.7|
|GG Pack Liner||1.3||1.3||1.3|
|GG Gorilla w/o Stay||19.5|
|H2O AND COOKING|
|Ziploc Screw Top||1.4||1.4||1.4|
|Snow Peak Ti Spork||0.9||0.9||0.9|
|Sea to Summit 20L Nano Sil Food Bag||1.5||1.5||1.5|
|Sawyer 2L Bladder||1.5||1.5||1.5|
|Lumix DMC-TS20 w/Battery||4.9||4.9|
|GG Orange Cord||0.1||0.1||0.1|
|Sawyer SPF 50 Sun Block||1.2||1.2||1.2|
|Bear Bag Rope||1.3|
|Bic Mini Lighter||0.3||0.3||0.3|
|1st Aid Kit||0.4||0.4||0.4|
|BG Skin Glide||2|
|Peter Vacco Headnet||0.3|
|Maps and Guides||6.1||3||3|
|Golite Chrome Dome||7.9||7.9||7.9|