Monday, July 25, 2011

Gear Update

I've been asked a few times to "review" some of my gear now that I've been using it for four months. I haven't really had much time on the trail but what else have I to do on a 10 hour car ride?
First up, my tent: Henry Shires Tarptent Moment. It's lightweight and incredibly quick and easy to assemble...that's what I love about it. It's also quite spacious compared to many of the other single-person tents I've seen. I'm not entirely sold on the single-wall front. The AT is very humid so I wake up with a damp tent sometimes. I haven't tested it in the rain since I re-sealed the seams so I'm not sure if it still leaks or not. In sum, the tent gets the job done (for the most part), but if I had to do it again, I may go with a double wall, like the MSR Hubba. It's a bit heavier but freestanding (bug net in shelters!) and dry, and I have yet to meet an unhappy Hubba owner.
My NeoAir sleeping pad? A. Comfortable, more durable than expected, lightweight, extremely packable. I admit that many nights the last thing I want to do is blow it up but really it's not THAT bad. It's not very versatile compared to a closed cell foam pad (use as a sit pad, lay directly on the ground, etc) but it's like sleeping on a mattress. Or as close as you can get in the woods.
My sleeping bags: I bought a cheap REI brand down bag for winter, and I've been satisfied with it...but only satisfied. I wasn't "cold" on those wintry nights but I wasn't toasty warm either. If I had an unlimited budget, I'd go for a nice Western Mountaineering bag. Again, never met an unhappy or cold owner. For summer I'm using a cheap Lafuma 45 degree synthetic. It's heavy and bulky for its type but I love it. It has a lining that feels like cotton so I don't get sticky on hot, humid nights. And it's been keeping me warm enough on the random cool nights we've had.
If you've been keeping up with the blog, you'll know I've gone through a few packs. I started with an REI Flash, got a new one when the framesheet ripped out, and had the same problem again. I'm using an Osprey Atmos 50 right now and I like it but wish it was a bit bigger. My tent is on the outside, which I don't like, and when I get my winter gear back it will be stuffed full. The pack itself is a great design though, but I would probably be better off with the Atmos 60. Lots of Ospreys and lots of Osprey lovers out here. I've been converted.
I love my stove (since I use it correctly now...)! Trail Designs Caldera Cone. Stable, efficient, lightweight. I wish all of my cooking gear would pack together but you can't have everything, right? One downfall is you can't snuff the stove out and preserve fuel once it's lit, but I've gotten pretty good at estimating how much fuel I need and it's not a big deal. I would recommend this stove without any hesitation and would definitely buy it again. I would, however, not get a nonstick pot...I feel like the one I have hinders versatility. The .9-liter size is perfect though, and a quality product for sure.
As for shoes, I've worn Keen the whole way thus far. I'm on my third pair and will be starting on my fourth when I get back to the trail from this break...a little disappointing that they haven't lasted very long but they're comfortable so I let it slide. I haven't seen a brand of shoes that's performed significantly better so there's not much to complain about anyway. I love that they have a rubber toe cap...I stub my toes so many times but it doesn't matter! I've also seen many other shoes falls apart at the toes and I'm spared that problem. I would definitely go with Keens again, but would maybe splurge on insoles for better support; my feet are aching almost constantly, especially after about 400-500 miles on a single pair of shoes.
Clothes-wise, I've been very happy with my choices (see the gear page if you care what I have). I really, really love the Carhartt socks; several people have worn through pairs of socks but mine are still going strong. Love the REI underwear as well but the elastic is starting to wear out already. And the Walmart shirts are great! Love the Patagonia Micro Puff too...very warm, packable, and a great pillow!
I'm very happy with my hydration system; a 1 liter Platypus hoser and I carry another liter in a platypus. I have a third bottle which I use in camp or if I need to carry more than 2 liters. If I were doing it again though I would get a larger container like the Platypus water purse or MSR dromedary for in-camp use. It's annoying to make two trips to a water source, especially if it's downhill for a quarter mile or more.
Basically, everything I have works and gets the job done and I don't have any serious complaints. As I mentioned earlier, with an unlimited budget I'd make some different choices, but I got to Massachusetts on what I have, so it can all make it to Maine, right?
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  1. Excellent, I was hoping you'd do this. Other than not being double walled, do you think the Henry Shires tent is good quality? I'm interested in the Scarp which is a dual wall.

  2. Hello Lyndsey, Have you passed Mt Stratton? If not I would like to take a video. I'm camped at Grout Pond a couple of miles from AT/Long. You are an inspiration!

    Mike Coughlin
    (appalachian trail 2011, whoinsamhill on youtube)

  3. Been reading your blog for a while. My dad and I are planning on attempting the AT next year. We've been wanting to do it for 10 or so years and have done some 7 day section hikes over the past few years. 2012 will be the real deal! Your experiences have been very inspiring to me and have given me that last needed nudge to make my decision to go for it a reality! Also, thanks for the gear update. it will certainly give me a lot to think about in refining my final gear checklist. Good luck on your way to Katahdin. You've made it this far!