On a backpacking trip we like to be just as comfortable hiking as we are in camp. Lightening our pack weight has been key. Carrying less weight means less physical strain, more energy to focus on the beautiful subtleties of nature, and ultimately more fun. At the same time, we also like to sleep comfortably and cook a hearty meal. When choosing gear, we aim for the sweet spot which perfectly balances comfort on the trail and in camp.
We had a great setup on the PCT, but we are always refining our gear, learning what items aren’t necessary, researching new products, and finding things which serve multiple purposes. Simple durable items are a favorite of ours. In addition we make changes based upon the terrain and weather in the area where we’re hiking.
We recently updated our Appalachian Trail gear list to reflect the changes we made while hiking the AT:
Hope you find it helpful.
We also wanted to let everyone know that North Star is continuing to recover. Her shingles rash is gone. The pain only flares up occasionally. The remaining issue is her energy level. She gets very tired after walking a few blocks. The discussion forums we’ve read concur that it usually takes between 1-3 months to return to full health after a shingles outbreak. We’ll continue to be patient.
We’ve finalized our Appalachian Trail thru hike gear! It’s similar to our PCT gear but even lighter. Check out our full AT gear list at:
Here are some of the new items we’ll be carrying on the Appalachian Trail:
Northstar twirls in her new rain jacket and kilt.
Northstar will wear a Marmot Crystalline women’s rain jacket on the AT. This minimalist jacket weighs just 6.2 ounces. It’s durable and protective, yet small enough to pack into its own pocket.
She’ll trade rain pants for a well-ventilated ULA rain kilt (2.9 oz). In addition to providing rain protection, this will allow some modesty when washing all our clothing in town.
Shutterbug will be sporting a 7.1 oz Rab Pulse rain jacket. Rab has managed to keep this jacket light while integrating a very functional and adjustable hood.
Montbell’s Dynamo wind pants will provide Shutterbug with basic wind and rain protection. They’re very breathable, and at 2.6 oz, they’re lighter than his shorts!
Every evening on the Pacific Crest Trail we were on the lookout for a campsite. Sometimes the search was easy and in a few minutes we found a flat pre-established site with a view. Other times, after walking an extra hour and a half, with daylight almost gone, we had to settle for a tiny spot between bushes. We photographed all our campsites along the PCT and created this short fun video with the assistance of Joe Sofranko. Enjoy!
The Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 tent performed well during our PCT thru hike. It’s very light. Out of the box this two-person tent weighs 2.6 pounds. We left the stuff sack at home and brought only 6 Vargo titanium tent stakes, bringing the weight down to 2.3 pounds. The Fly Creek UL2 was cozy for the two of us with only a few inches to spare on either side of our sleeping pads, but its small size allowed us to pitch the tent in itty bitty spots when necessary. Read more
Our Pacific Crest Trail gear review continues. This time we’ll talk about our electronic gadgets, many of which helped us update this blog while hiking.
North Star uploads a post from a high point
Smartphone = Apple iPhone 4S 4.8 oz. Our phones were the most versatile items we carried on our thru hike. They enabled us to check our location, view the latest water, fire, weather, and trail condition reports, take notes, update this blog from the trail, learn about our surroundings, and talk with friends and family.
We protected our phones from knocks with Incipio cases. On rainy days, we operated them through waterproof Aloksaks. Because we were careful with them, our phones were none the worse for wear after 2600 miles, and we will definitely be carrying them on the Appalachian Trail.
Apps = Here are the apps we used most frequently on the PCT: Read more
Here are our thoughts (and a demo video!) about the cooking gear we used while thru hiking the 2,660-mile Pacific Crest Trail.
Aluminum can stove
Stove and windscreen/pot stand = Trail Designs Classic Caldera Ti-Tri cooking system 2.5 oz. This incredibly light stove is made from an aluminum can. It burns denatured alcohol, available at any hardware store, or HEET, a gas-line antifreeze commonly found at gas stations. We found these fuels at almost every town we visited on the PCT.
The thin titanium windscreen is custom-sized to hold our Evernew pot, forming a wide stable base. The windscreen also optimizes airflow, increasing the the stove’s fuel efficiency.
While hiking, we packed the stove in the pot for protection. We stored the windscreen wrapped around the fuel bottle, secured with a rubber band. The stove got slightly crunched one day from packing too much food around it in the pot, but it still worked fine. Overall the Caldera system preformed flawlessly during the entire trip.
In the past year, we used three different lightweight backcountry water filters: the SteriPEN, the Sawyer 3-Way Inline Water Filter, and the Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter. Here we share our experiences with each of these water treatment methods.
Our lightweight packs greatly assist us in walking 20 miles per day on the Pacific Crest Trail. In this post, amidst our normal daily highlights, we also describe some of the gear that helps us travel light.
Day 85: Zero in Sierra City
Shutterbug picked up his new shoes in Sierra City. We have been wearing running shoes for our entire PCT hike. When your pack is light, running or trail running shoes have several advantages over traditional hiking boots: 1) running shoes are very light, often half the weight of hiking boots 2) running shoes are more breathable and less sweaty in the heat 3) running shoes dry out more quickly if you have to ford a creek, and 4) many people already own running shoes so no new purchase is necessary. We have been very happy with our running shoes on this trip, with only two blisters each in over 1200 miles.
What is the lightest, cheapest hiking gear? No gear at all! A life with less stuff is a life with more room for beautiful thoughts and experiences. In that spirit, here is a list of gear we don’t plan to bring on our hike:
- Camp shoes/sandals: no need, as we’ll spend most of our time hiking, not in camp.
- Bowls and plates: we’ll eat straight from our pot.
- Cooking utensils and silverware: bring only a spoon.