Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Gear Part II

Endless apologies to you faithful blog readers who are thinking, what the heck is wrong with this girl, why won’t she just finish the silly gear review already? Well enough procrastinating,  here it is; I’m sure I've forgotten things but I think this as thorough as its ever going to be…

So what do you want to wear for the next five months? Remember, some days it will be over 100 degrees and others will be below freezing (seriously 17 degrees with gusting wind is cold!) but mostly you will have sunny hot days and chilly nights. Weather is fairly mild on the PCT but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. I got snowed on, rained on, walked through constant mist and just generally baked in the sun. So what does this all mean clothing wise? Be versatile, layers are your friend! If you like pockets than make sure you have pockets, if you’re bra didn’t fit before you left chances are its going to be annoying on the trail too. Listen to your gut and remember common sense.
I remember stressing about shorts versus pants, button down shirt or T shirt. Why are there ever so many options? Headbands, hats, visors what the heck is a sane person to do? I think this is just a big personal preference thing. Logically I knew light colors make more sense in the heat and long sleeves and pants protect you from sun/bugs but personally I just can’t do pants. I tried, I really did, but am just so much happier in shorts. And with only one basic outfit I want happiness, so I hiked in shorts. I went for some durable ones I found on closeout at Patagonia and they lasted the whole hike, I like running shorts but they are so much more prone to ripping that I tried something different for this trip.
Overall I liked hiking in shorts; I had two pockets and a drawstring, things I hadn’t thought much about but that I loved. One pocket usually had a map or a snack and the other was my dirty pocket. Okay this might be in the TMI area but I’m a big fan of a pee rag, its exactly what it sounds like and a word to the wise if you see bandanas on the trail proceed with caution, I am by no means the only female out on the trail making use of one and they have a habit of getting dropped.

just a bit of the classy trail fashion
I did wear a big baggy long sleeved Ex-officio button down shirt and while it was serviceable I sort of hated it. I’m not a big fan of long sleeves but at least I loved the front pocket. I had mesh vents on the sides and I think I stayed as dry/cool as could be expected. I stopped wearing it around crater lake when I started battling heat rash and switched to my long underwear top which I actually really liked except for the stench. Polyester has a very rank smell but my baselayer shirt was by RAB made of something called cocona. I think it’s a mix of merino and synthetic and when I was hiking I would smell like a dead sheep. However it had the neat trick not reeking when it was dry, and it dried super quickly. So just keep your distance if I’m sweating… As for next time what will I wear, well I’m not so quick to jump back on the button down bandwagon but we’ll see. I watched merino shirts shred in less than 1000 miles while my ex officio was actually still going strong. I think it will depend on the trip, mosquitoes bite through merino stuff but not the synthetic…
I carried a pair of light pants that I very occasionally wore as well as baselayer tights that I wore less than ten times. They were occasionally bug protection or laundry clothes. But I was glad I carried them even though I so rarely used them. Next time I might try wind pants instead of a pair of long pants but the baselayer is a must for those really cold times.
I carried a wind shirt that I used quite frequently, it’s a great layering piece and I really enjoyed having it. I did carry a rainjacket for the second half of the trip but it was mostly dead weight.
I had a hooded down jacket by Montbell because I get cold. I liked the hood and was pretty happy with the jacket although the zipper didn’t work for over 1000 miles and then whatever invisible dust was jamming it finally fell out. I would go through hundreds of miles never using it but I loved having it when it was really chilly. Useful in unexpected places, who knew Tehachapi would be freezing? I was very happy with the jacket but I think I’m leaning towards something synthetic for my next hike just due to my paranoia about things getting drenched. I hiked with some people with the Patagonia Nanopuff and I’m pretty sure that will be my next choice if I can find it on sale.
my classy sun hat with all
my hair jammed underneath

Hats, this is a big one. I love hats. They can be ever so useful. I had a sun hat for ages but lost it near Mt. Rainer. It was incredibly ugly but kept my nose and ears from being sunburned and did its job. I even managed to look slightly less shabby when I realized I could (and should) wash it whenever I did laundry. Alas it is now in a bush somewhere. After that I picked up a visor in Shasta which worked okay. I had met a lot of folks who did the visor/bandana trick (protect neck/ears with bandana tucked under visor as needed) but I think I needed a bigger brim. My nose kept getting sunburnt. But not too fear I lost that visor too and found a classy beige visor with a massive brim that served me well the rest of the trip. Although I think I wore a sun hat less and less frequently as the trip progressed I would never do without one totally.

I also had a fancy shmancy warm hat (down and ever so light) that I managed to lose coming over one of the passes in the Sierras. Being bright red didn’t help, I still managed to drop it and the trail never brought it back to me. I managed to pick up a warm hat from a hiker box in Sierra City. A very stylish pink floppy thing that was about three times too big (as I do not have dred locks) but it made me smile and kept me warm all the way until Canada. Having two different hats worked well for me, I also carried a buff (yes the one of survivor fame) and I loved that thing as well. It was a lifesaver for my cold ears (especially after I had lost my warm hat), I started most mornings with the buff and only slept in the warm hat. It seems like a lot for just your head but I used all three throughout the trip and would do so again.

Socks, oh socks you were a trial. Somewhere during the second half of my hike I complained to my lovely support person (thank you mom you honestly were fantastic) that all my socks had holes. Seriously I was carrying 4 pairs and every single one had massive holes and my next resupply box arrived with the cryptic phone message, “I hope I didn’t send too many socks.” Well who am I to turn down perfectly serviceable socks? The thing is you can hike in seemingly busted socks for a pretty darn long time as long as they aren't causing blisters. So I headed out from that resupply with seven pairs of socks! And the day before the border I pulled on a brand spanking new fluffy pair because I refused to show up at the border with unworn socks. Ounces count but I became so much less picky as the miles passed.

Is it bad that these were some of
my better looking socks?
what happens when you wear mesh running
shoes and no gaiters...

I tried lots of brands and styles. Darn tough are awesome but do wear through and can too thick or me, Defeet wear through quickly but not as quickly as wrightsocks, those things didn’t last a week, and I put a ton of holes in smartwools too. I think a great trick for saving socks is frequent rinsing and gaiters, oh and not letting them roll off a bridge, that helps too.
Gaiters: I used a pair of dirty girls and loved them until they fell apart and I was just too lazy to replace them. Its amazing how much junk gets into your shoes. Nice and lightweight highly recommended. 

pair number 3 all bright and shiny, pair number 2 with
800 or so miles on them
I wore brooks road runners, a total of 4 pairs. One pair is still getting use now that I’m back home. I wore two different models all in extra wide and a bit big. I had foot trouble starting around sierra city and blame the shoes, my feet had changed and the shoes offered too much support. It took hundreds of miles for my Achilles to be even somewhat normal (although two months out they are now 100% back to normal, woohoo). If you want to wear hiking boots go for it, but it’s not a technical trail and trail runners or road runners are just fine. Websites like Zappos are your best friend, call and shoes will be waiting in the next town, so simple.

Camp shoes, I carried mary jane style crocs. Say what you will I love camp shoes and am not yet ready to part with them. Lots of people forgoe these but not me just yet. I actually hiked a few hundred miles in them when my feet were giving me trouble and was beyond thankful for their cushy loveliness. 

Trekking Poles
I used them until the sierras and then carried them for miles. When my feet started giving me trouble I went back to using them and was glad I hadn’t sent them home. Poles can be fun, they can really help you haul butt up hill and take some stress of your knees going down. I do hate how you lose use of your hands though, snacking is just not quite as easy.

Water Filtration
I’m going to be totally honest here; I filtered my water very rarely. I was vigilant in So Cal using my sawyer squeeze filter up until Idyllwild when I lost it in a hitch. The next stretch I was supposed to be hiking with people who were going to let me use their filter but during the day of mission creek I was thirsty and alone so I started the slippery slope of not filtering. I judged water sources and if they looked really awful I would still filter. Then right after Kennedy meadows my second sawyer filter froze and stopped working and I gave up. I treated my water once the entire rest of the trip. Yes people get Giardia and other nasty bugs but quite often its from bad hand hygiene not bad water. So this is very much your own decision but it worked okay for me. That being said I will carry backup chemicals like aquamira, sweetwater drops or bleach on my next trip because there were times when I carried extra water because I didn’t trust sources and I was just pretty lucky and I know that.

What a surprising piece of gear! I thought I would chuck this thing at my first town stop but carried it the whole way. It was useful in sun, rain and snow. Depending on where you are planning your next trip stick this thing in your sternum strap and be pleasantly surprised. Wind is a deal breaker and it does mess with your peripheral vision but overall I really liked it.

First Aid Kit
In other words a ziplock bag full of odds and ends. A roll of tape, Vaseline, dental floss, a needle, a lighter and Ibuprofen got the most use. There were a few other things periodically in there but that really covered all my bases.

A few other odds and ends
I carried a few bandanas, mostly to jam behind my back when I got a terrible heat rash but also just to wipe my poor sweaty face, handy things. Just tie within reach and you are good to go. Also carried a bug net, may not have used it often but I appreciated the sanity it brought.

I carried Halfmiles maps ( They are free to download, just cost the money to print. I love having papermaps so was glad I had these. Often I never used them but I liked the security of maps. Southern California in particular was well covered and accurate, less so farther north with some annoying inconsistencies. I know that Halfmile had people out this year updating the GPS coordinates so hopefully some of that will get fixed.  

Iphone Apps
Along with my phone and maps I did have some handy apps on my phone that I highly recommend.
Its in its first year but Guthook, a previous PCT thruhiker has created apps for navigation. They have maps and pictures and my favorite were the lists of things on the trail, similar to halfmile you have lots of info about water and intersections and such. Still some kinks and mistakes but the ability to use it as GPS could be really fun too. Yes it takes some of the mystery out of the trail but if you want mystery than just don’t use the thing. He has split them into sections and I think they cost $5 each (a total of 5: socal, sierras, norcal, OR and WA). To each his own but I enjoyed them. 

Guthooks app
watching your gps dot on
guthooks app


Halfmile also has an app that a lot of people like and PCTHYOH has a ton of info in one little package.
Non-trail related check out photosynch for panoramic pictures and I used the Blogpress app to blog from my phone. It was much easier to use photo wise than the actual blogger app and apparently works with different Blog hosting sites. I would just type them offline and then post whenever I got service. My only glitch was movies wouldn’t upload, still no clue why not.

Good lord that was a lot of rambling! If I was carrying anything else I can’t remember it so that’s it, I’ll try to do one more little thing about food but at the rate I’m going no promises. Thanks for reading.