by Elaine Vardamis
When preparing for such a long trip, a lot of thought goes into what you are willing to carry on your back. Gear choices are going to be a little different for everybody. That being said, here is the gear that, after much deliberating, I decided to go with.
A lot of our decisions that we made for this trip were strongly influenced by past trips. Two major ones, our most recent ones, had involved hiking through cold, almost hyperthermic conditions for most of the time, while also in pouring rain. We were also coming off a ski trip to Norway in which we encountered conditions with strong winds and -30 degree Celsius tempertures. So, our packs ended up being a bit heavier than they should have been. We most definitely could (and should) have done an overhaul of this list, taking into consideration the facts of where we were, and what time of year.
Items with an * next to them went through reiterations while we were out on the trail!
The Big Things:
- Backpack: Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest 3400 (lined with trash compactor bag*1)
- *Sleeping Bag: Western Mountaineering UltraLite 5’6” (also has a trash bag to line the stuff sack – don’t want it wet!!)
- Sleeping Pad: Therm-a-Rest Neo Air XLite short
*1 The fabric is said to be waterproof, but after having significant leaking during a heavy downpour a few years ago, I always line my backpack.
The Things on the Body:
- Socks: Darn Tough Ultra Light No Show Tab
- *Shoes: La Sportiva Ultra Raptor
- Insoles: Custom from Bob Egeland with Boulder Orthotics
- Gaiters: Dirty Girl Gaiters
- Underwear: Icebreaker Siren
- *Skort: Lululemon Final Lap Skirt
- Sports Bra: Ibex Balance Bralette
- *Shirt: Arcteryx Fernie LS Shirt
- *Sunglasses: Julbo Megeve
- *Sunhat: Arcteryx
- Sungloves: OR Chroma
- *Trekking Poles: BD Distance Carbon
The Other Clothing Things:
- Warm Hat: Swix
- Socks: Darn Tough Ultra Light No Show Tab
- Underwear: Icebreaker Siren
- Sleep Socks: Zpacks PossumDown
- Compression Socks: 2XU
- Long John Top: Icebreaker Oasis 200
- Long John Bottom: Icebreaker Oasis 200
- Warm Layer: Ibex Hooded Indie
- Tights: Fjallraven Abisko Trekking Tights
- Down Jacket: Western Mountaineering Flash
- Rain Pants: Arcteryx Beta SL
- Rain Jacket: Patagonia M10
- *Mitts: Zpacks Rain Mitt & Zpacks Fleece Mitt
The Things of a Personal Nature:
- Food Consumption: Snowpeak Spork
- Cup: GSI plastic cup
- Feminine Products: Diva Cup
- Toothbrush: Oral B Travel
- Lip Balm: Ski Naked
- *Water Bottles: 1 Poweraid bottle and 1 Smartwater bottle (can buy new ones when they become gunky!) and 2 Platypus soft bottles (1 liter)
- Journal: Write in the Rain, Write in the Rain pen
The Things with the Batteries or in Need Of and of Course, Accessorizing! :
- Headlamp: Petzl Zipka
- Watch: Suunto Ambit 3
- Phone: iPhone SE w/Lifeproof case
- Battery: Goal Zero Flip 20
- Earbuds: Apple
The Things that We Shared (Because Sharing is Caring):
- *Shelter: Hilleberg Anjan 2
- Stove: MSR Pocket Rocket
- Cookware: Snowpeak 9000
- Coozy: Handmade
- Lighter: Bic
- Stuff Sacks: Assorted sizes from Sea to Summit
- Water Treatment: Aquamira Drops and Tablets
- 1st Aid/ Repair Kit: second skin, neosporin, band aids, liquid bandage, Advil, Tylenol, Advil PM, Benadryl, Peptobismol, needle, athletic tape, safety pins, Leatherman Squirt ps4, tweezers, nail clippers, arnica, Therm-A-Rest repair kit, Trail Toes, sunscreen, Dr. Braunners, Tenacious Tape
- Extra Batteries: AAA x6
- *Camera: Sony a6000
- Camera Battery
- Communication Devise: Garmin Explorer
- Cords: Watch charger, phone charger
- Maps: Ley Maps
- Toothpaste: Lush Toothy Tabs
- Hand Sanitizer
- *Solar Charger: Suntactics
The Things That Were Changed:
- Sleeping Bag: Through New Mexico to our home in Colorado, we carried the Western Mountaineering Ultralite, where we switched to the Western Mountaineering Summerlite. We then carried the Summerlite through Montana until Augusta, MT, where we picked up the Ultralites again (it was snowing!)
- Shoes: When I was buying my shoes (we bought all of our shoes before hand), La Sportiva did not have enough of my size shoe. So I decided to use the Altra Lone Peak 3 to start off with. That shoe did not work for me, but I know it works for a lot of hikers out there!
- Skort: I used the Icebreak Comet through to our home, but was having terrible durability problems with it. It is not sewn along the sides (I can’t tell if they were glued or welded seams) and was constantly falling apart. At home, I picked up a Lululemon Final Lap Skirt. That thing was amazing!
- Shirt: I wore the long sleeved shirt through Grants, New Mexico, but ended up switching out to an Icebreaker Cool-lite shirt. I had never hiked in a long sleeved shirt before, and it was worth a try. I did not like it, I definitely prefer to hike in a T shit.
- Sunglasses: I wore the Julbo Megeve sunglasses from the start until Chama, New Mexico. There, because I knew I would be on a lot of snow, all day long (and I know my poor eyes are very sensitive), I switched to the Julbo Tensing sunglasses. They have a very dark lens that was very protective.
- Sunhat: I wore a large, full brimmed sunhat from our start at the border of Mexico through the Great Divide basin. It was great for sun protection, but annoying, and I switched to a normal ballcap.
- Trekking Poles: Dan and I skied the San Juans, and I used a pair of the Black Diamond Traverse poles while skiing. Extremely strong and also adjustable, they fit my needs better than the lightweight, fixed length pole I used on the rest of the trip.
- Mitts: I hated the Zpacks mitts, both the rain mitts and the fleece mitts. In Grants, New Mexico, I switched both. I used the Hestra XC fleece mitt and the Outdoor Research Shuksan Rain Mitt for the rest of the trip. In retrospect, they were overkill for most of the rest of the trip, but this system was much more functional when I actually needed warm hands.
- Water Bottles: When we started in New Mexico, we were carrying seven liters of water. (Also, I think too much, but there it is.) So I was carrying the Smartwater and the Poweraid bottles, one 2 liter Platypus bottle, and three 1 liter Platypus bottles.
- Shelter: We started with the Hyperlite Mountain Gear DuoMid. We switched to the Hilleberg in Grants, New Mexico after sleeping on mud (and this was the mud of nightmares) during a snowstorm between Pie Town and Grants. Once again, in retrospect, I might have stuck with the Mid, as it is significantly lighter, but the Hilleberg did provide great protection, good warmth, and a mosquito free area!
- Camera: We started with the Canon PowerShot G9X, which is a great little camera. We did switch to the Sony a6000. This was definitely a bigger camera, but we felt like the quality of picture produced was a great trade off for the weight.
- Solar Charger: We started carrying the solar charger, but after it broke, we did not replace it. As on our previous, month long trips, we have never gone into town, the solar charger was valuable. But on this trip, we were in town often enough that the solar charger was unneeded.
A note on socks: I started with too many socks, and somehow acquired even more as the hike went on. I love to wear compression socks at night, as I feel it helps me with feet swelling. But when I had massive infections in my heels in New Mexico, I stopped wearing them. I did, however, continue carrying them the whole way, which I was annoyed at myself for until Dan got tendinitis in Montana, and he had some relief from the pain when wearing them.
The Things that Were Special:
For the San Juans, Dan and I decided to ski, so our snow gear list looked a bit different from others
- Skis & Bindings: Ski Trab World Cup & La Sportiva RT bindings
- Boots: Scarpa Alien
- Skins: Pomoca Race Pro Climbing Skins
- Ski Crampons: Dynafit
- Traction: Kahtoola MICROspikes
We will definitely do a write up on how the skiing portion went, that will also touch on gear. However, that will be a whole other blog post!
The Things for the Bugs:
- Bug Repellant: 3M Ultrathon Insect Repellant
- Headnet: Sea to Summit
- Sandals: Chacos
- Umbrella: Picked up from Dollar Tree in Rollins, Wyoming
- Fly Rod: Tenkara USA Rhodo
- Kid’s skis: Lucky Bums*I used Chacos for a significant portion of the time while I was letting the infections in my heel heal. The umbrella was a $1 addition to our packs through the Great Divide basin. It was my first experience with hiking with an umbrella for shade, and if we do something in desert style environment again, I will definitely consider it more strongly! We took the fly rod through the Wind River Range in Wyoming and into Montana. As far as the Lucky Bums skis went, Dan and I had had a strong streak of skiing every month going before we started the hike. We wanted to keep that streak alive and well, even during a five month thru hike. By skiing the San Juans, and then shipping these little skis to ourselves along the way, we succeeded, and finished our hike with 84 months straight of skiing at least once a month!