View Full Version : Gear lessons learned from recent hike

10-26-2005, 14:08
I posted some of this in another thread but thought realized that most of the lessons I learned were related to gear. Short summary: I recently tried to thru-hike the Long Trail, north-to-south. I only made it about 2/3 of the way before snow stopped me. It rained most of the hike

I'll spare you the play-by-play and list what I think I've learned. First, my basic gear summary without too much detail:

Pack: Fanatic Fringe Thompson Peak Pack with belt
Shelter: Hennessey Ultralight Backpacker Asym with JRB Nest Quilt and MacCat Deluxe tarp
Bag: Western Mountaneering Alpinist 20
Clothes: Ex-Oficio hiking pants, Integral Designs eVENT Rain Jacket, Integral Designs eVENT Gaiters, Craft Pro Long sleeve shirt, Lowa Renegade GTX II Low hiking shoes.
Cooking: EverNew Titanium 0.9L pot, alcohol pepsi-can stove, Orikaso folding bowl, lexan fork and spoon
Misc: REI Peak UL carbon fibre trekking poles (with builtin compass), PakLite 9 volt flashlight

Unfortunately, my biggest problem was not realizing that the Thompson peak pack is only rated for 20 pounds. My base weight started at 16 pounds. When some friends came up to hike with me for the first weekend, I bought a Coleman lantern and a book that took the base weight to 20. Then you add the food for 4 days + water and you get way too much weight for the poor Thompson Peak. It shifted around on me all the time. I could never keep it steady no matter how much I adjusted it

After a week, I noticed it had torn in 3 places. I was nowhere near an outdoor gear store so I used some needle and thread, duct tape, and very careful hiking to hold it together until the next weekend when other friends came up to hike with me. I had them bring my Granite Gear Vapor Trail and the difference was like night and day.

But then the snow came and that was that.

As far as gear goes:

Gear I loved:

1. MacCat Deluxe Tarp A+. Tough, light, never flapped even in the strongest winds. This thing was a champ.
2. Pak Lite 9 volt flashlight: A. Long after my headlamp batteries had burned out (twice) this thing kept going and going with a bright light. Why don't headlamps use 9 volt batteries, I wonder?
3. Integral Designs eVENT Rain Jacket: A. This was everything they claimed. Far more breathable than goretex and, of course, waterproof. Durable. The chest pocket was perfect and all I needed. I wore this thing everyday, even on the few dry ones.
4. JRB Nest Down Under Quilt: A. I am SO glad I listened to Jack and didn't go for the lighter Shenandoah quilt. My only regret is that I didn't also buy their Weathershield. Also I don't think I fully understand how to attach it to the hammock. I wish the instructions were clearer on this.
5. Hennessey Hammock: A-. Everyone already knows how good this is.
6. GG Vapor Trail. B+ I only got to use this for one day (my friends brought it up when my other pack started falling apart) and it was a joy. No external pockets which is not good but still a great, great pack. If I could do it over again, I'd start with this.
7. Craft Pro Long Sleeve Shirt A+. I already use this for running so I know how great it is. Super light and keeps you so warm. I'll never hike without it except perhaps in the summer.

Gear I was ambivalent about:

1. Integral Designs eVENT Shortie Gaiters - They did their job well enough but the trail really kicked the hell out of them. The two shock-cord holders that go under the feet really took a beating. One I needed to tape up and the other was on it's way to that as well. Also, one of them really got torn up on the outside of the eVENT material, far more than I would expect from just 2 weeks.

2. Alcohol stove + pot approach to cooking. This was OK and certainly better than most other stove options I've seen. But if I could do it again, I think I'd buy a JetBoil stove. The lower packing volume and simplicity would more than make up for the negligible extra weight, I think.

Gear I was unhappy with

1. REI Peak UL Poles: On the second day, the handle of one pole broke. It started sliding up and down the pole. On the 4th day, the compass on the other pole stopped working. Otherwise, structurally they were fine, but I returned them and won't buy them again. I'll stick with Lekis

2. Thompson Peak Pack. Let me stress, this was MY fault for not respecting the 20 pound weight limit, not the fault of the pack. But in retrospect I'm amazed that a pack with a limit that low would bother to have such a huge extension collar and packable volume. Short of packing an uncompressed quilt in there, I don't see how you could approach that volume and NOT exceed 20 pounds. Even when it was within the recommended weight, it never felt anywhere near as good at the Vapor Trail. I still think it's a good pack but it's just not for me.

One more thing: One lesson I learned inadvertently was that bringing extra sizes of tree-hugger straps can vastly expand you hammock-pitching options. I accidentally brought two 72" straps along with my two 48" originals and at least 3 times, they made the difference between pitching my hammock where I wanted and pitching it somewhere else. If I could do it again, I'd replace one of the 72"-ers with a single 96"-er. In my opinion, the extra weight was worth it.

10-26-2005, 14:14
I recently tried to thru-hike the Long Trail, north-to-south. I only made it about 2/3 of the way before snow stopped me.

Save it for an AT thru-hike!

10-26-2005, 14:43
Joe, glad you liked the tarp:)

As for the pole, how much force were you applying to it when the grip started to slip down it?


10-26-2005, 16:58
Joe, glad you liked the tarp:)

As for the pole, how much force were you applying to it when the grip started to slip down it?

BrianI don't know how much force but nothing out of the ordinary. Now that I think about it, I think it broke on the first day, not the second. That's when I noticed it anyway. I was heading up one of the steeper mountains. It might have been Doll Mountain or one of the ones between that and Jay Peak (I was heading southward)

I returned the poles to REI for credit and decided to use my Leki's (which I already own) in the future. I considered exchanging the REI poles for another pair but the newer ones don't even have the compass anymore.

Almost There
10-26-2005, 17:25
IMHO I like the REI Traverse poles that retail for about $75(they're the blue set, they're sturdy, haven't had a problem yet putting a couple hundred miles on them in GA/NC. I actually like them better than my Leki Super Makalus, especially in the summer, when the Leki's keep slipping in my grip. I feel ya on the support of packs though, my light weight pack made my trip in NC last June a living hell, couldn't get it comfortable.