Since I began hiking the trail, my gear has been with me the whole time and nothing tests gear more than thru-hiking a long trail like the CDT. Here is the gear that I find exceptional, gear that is good enough and some stuff that just hasn’t met my expectations.
My pack is always with me and having a good one is essential to enjoying yourself on the trail. Not only does it need to carry everything I need on my back, it has to be comfortable and a trusted friend on the trail. The pack has held up great through these 1,300 miles. Its two lightweight stays keep it nice and formed on my back, while carrying everything comfortably. The outside mesh pockets have held up well with all of my frequently used items like my rain pants, water treatments, snacks and anything else I can cram into them. The large collar on the pack allows me room to roll it up when not full or to have it fully extended during those long sections that demand a full load of food and supplies. The hip belt is comfortable and the hip pockets keep my snacks close at hand while I’m hiking. Overall it’s a great pack and would recommend it for all your hiking needs.
This shelter is my home away from home and has not disappointed. Its storm worthiness has proved itself time again in heavy winds and rain. It’s roomy enough to hold all my gear and its mesh has helped eliminate condensation, even in downpours and while camping near creeks, which usually bring lots of moisture to the air. Its full mesh door and vestibule keeps the bugs out and my pack and shoes protected in bad weather. Setting up the tent does take some time to figure out, but once you have it down with your two trekking poles, it’s a great shelter for all your needs.
I don’t know what I would do with out this little card. The SD card is Wi-Fi enabled so I can upload the pictures to my phone, which then upload to the Eyefi site when I have reception. This lets me keep taking pictures even when I’m not near a computer. I also don’t lose any pictures since they are already loaded onto my phone. Even if I did lose my camera (lets hope that doesn’t happen), I don’t have to worry that those memories might be lost forever. Basically if you’re looking to buy an SD card, buy this one. You won’t regret it.
It might seem odd to include this, but I’ve found them to be indispensable. At night, when you’re tired after hiking a long day, I don’t want to be woken up because of a strong wind or unusual sound in the woods. I guess I’d rather be ignorant to the bear walking around my tent in the middle of the night then waking up and worrying about it. Also if you hike with people that snore loud, you can’t hear them in your blissful sleep.
At only 10 oz, this sleep pad has been my mattress out on the trail. It’s quick and easy to inflate and makes any hard surface that I sleep on comfortable. It’s long and wide enough to cover my shoulders, and its 3/4 length protects me up to my knees. Its gives me the comfort that I need to sleep soundly and comfortably in any environment I encounter and packs up small.
Honestly I really didn’t want to carry any kind of SOS or tracking system while on the trail but for my family and friends it gives them comfort that I’m not dead. The unit itself is not exactly light, at 8 oz. It does have cool features like dropping a ‘tack’ of my progress every 10 min, 1 hr or every 2 hours, so you can see where I am in real time (See “Where’s Pete” in the navigation, above). Its preset messages let me check in my exact location at night . The problem that I’ve had with the unit is that messages only go through about 70% of the time because the connection with my Android phone gets “unpaired” frequently. This requires me to do some technical work on it, when in town. The service for it also isn’t cheap – $69 per month,for the expedition package. In the end, it’s good for my family and friends but it is a pain to deal with when it doesn’t work.
This solar charger could have been in the Exceptional section as well, but I’m a little frustrated with it lately. It is lightweight and is essential to keeping my phone, camera and headlamp charged when I’m not near an outlet. The only problem I have with it is that when you have your phone plugged in and you go into shaded areas, it has a tendency to drain the battery in my phone and sometimes turns it on. My phone charges much faster when it’s off. I guess I’m not complaining, just annoyed with that little error in charging.
Keeping your feet happy is a key to any hike. These socks are comfortable but don’t last as long as I would like them to. My system is to change out my socks mid day and wash the used pair to dry out on my pack as I walk so I can wear them the next day. This continuous cycle of wearing and washing really wears them out quickly. It quickly creates holes and thin areas of fabric, which can cause blisters. Luckily, Darn Tough has a 100% satisfaction guarantee, so they do replace the damaged socks when you send them to the company. That’s good customer service, but having socks that don’t get holes in them would be even better.
I’ve been a quilt user for many years and find them superior to regular sleeping bags. When getting ready for the trail I wanted something that would be warm enough, wide enough and long enough for my sleeping style. This company had great reviews so I decided to order a custom quilt from them that was 58” wide, 84” in length and have 16 oz of down. This quilt cost me over $300 and I couldn’t be more disappointed. First, the quilt is designed with “Step Baffles” with the idea that you can move the down around to specific boxes on the quilt where you want the down to be. This has been a disaster. The down never stays in place, instead it ends up falling to the sides of the bag leaving me with just a thin layer of 10D nylon to keep me warm. The advertised 2.5 inches of loft is completely wrong. The down is so thin and uneven that I can’t see where you would find such a measurement of loft. I would estimate no more than 1/4 inch of loft anywhere on the entire quilt. I have to wear my down jacket when I sleep to give me the warmth that I need to sleep. The adjustable neck closure is placed right in the center of the quilt so you have this annoying cord in your face all night as you sleep. The design of this quilt is so basic, I think that an 8th grade sewing class could have designed it. The quilt has been the biggest disappointment for gear on my trip and would highly recommend against buying this quilt, for any reason whatsoever. Unfortunately, I am still using this quilt because I have nothing else to replace it with, and I did spend over $300 for it . I did speak with the owner/designer of the quilt and he did offer to add 3 more ounces of down for me, but it would have just fallen to the side like the rest of the down already inside of it.