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11/9/2018 9:21:38 PM
Posted: 10/31/2018 1:04:12 PM EST
I recently completed a roughly 140 section hike of the Appalachian Trail beginning at Springer Mountain and completing at the Nantahala Outdoor Center. This hike was a "shakedown cruise" for my planned thru hike of the Pacific Crest Trail next spring with my wife. All in all, the hike was a huge success in both testing/validating gear as well as testing myself on a multiple day hike.

For this hike I wore the following:
OR Hat
Sunglasses
Columbia Sunshirt/Kuhl Airspeed LS Sunshirt
Neck Knife
Nike running shorts
Darn Tough socks
Dirty Girl Gaiters
Altra Lone Peak 3.5 trail shoes
Garmin 220 watch

All in all my clothing choices performed well with no major complaints. I wanted to compare the Columbia vs. Kuhl shirt for next year's hike. I decided that the Columbia will be the one I go with--it felt better, dried faster and is a lighter color. The Kuhl shirt is a good shirt, just not what I wanted for the hike.

I did suffer through some decent blisters on my toes (inside of the big toes--rubbing against the smaller toe). I am trying to determine what caused it--the shoes are a complete size bigger; the socks were new and clean. I did use elastic laces on the shoes instead of regular laces. Combined with the weight of the pack and tough terrain, there are many reasons why this may have occurred. I am a decent runner, so I do have tough feet; just not there. I am going to spend some time this winter messing around with options and eliminating causes. It might be that I just need to build new calluses where there are not any now.

Backpack and associated carry items:

I carried my gear in a Osprey Atmos 65l pack. I chose this pack and size due to the reputation of the pack and the anticipated load requirement for two hikers. I do plan to carry more than my fair share of the load to help my wife's load--I want to keep her carry weight as consistent as possible. We are going through options right now, but an entry argument for the hike is looking like she will carry the tent, cookset, etc and I will carry the bulk of the food--as that weight will fluctuate far more than the common gear. More to follow.

Attached to pack were the following items:
Compass/whistle/thermometer
USGI Cravat
Hand sanitizer
ZPacks pouch that held the phone, headphones, guidebook and snacks
Right side hip pouch: headlamp, buff, multitool
Left side hip pocket: meds, marker, retainer and case, wallet
The pack carried everything well. No hot spots or anything. Some of the common "squeaking" associated with Osprey packs, but nothing major. I am pleased with its performance, and plan to use it on the PCT hike.
Carried in the pack's zipper pockets on the back:
Right side: Poop kit, first aid/repair kit
Left side: Personal hygiene kit, Outdoor Research over mittens, massage ball, rain pants
Elastic pocket: garbage bag, tyvek sheet, tent poles/stakes, sawyer squeeze, rain jacket
Inside the pack (bottom to top)
Clothes in a dry bag (silkies base layer, extra hiking socks, sleep shirt, shorts, gloves, down beanie, sleeping socks)
Enlightened Equipment 20* Revelation Quilt
Sea to Summit lightweight air mattress and pillow
Cookset
Electronics bag
Tent
Bearbag with food inside
Homemade coozie for ziploc bag cooking
Extra ziploc bags

Base weight was about 21 pounds, carried weight with 5.5 days of food was just under 30 with 2.75 liters of water. I know I was heavy, but we planned a resupply at the Top of Georgia (69 miles) and we were not sure how long it would take us to get there. I could have resupplied on day 2.5 at Neel Gap, but since my expected heaviest food carry on the PCT will be about 6 days, I wanted to see how much I used of that food.

Speaking of food, my daily menu was:
Breakfast (granola bars or oatmeal or poptarts)
Mid morning snack (some sort of packaged fruit)
Lunch (granola or beef sticks/jerky)
Afternoon snack (candy bar)
Dinner (rice w/ meat, ramen w/meat, mountain house meals)
Dessert (gummy bears, etc)
Daily weight of the food ended up about 2 pounds per day, which is common for what most people carry on the PCT.

I hiked with a buddy of mine from Louisiana. We agreed on this part of the AT as it was common ground between us. We ended up arriving within 2 minutes of each other. Pretty good.
Post-Hurricane Michael weather and temperatures were expected to range between high 30s and low 70s. Some chances of rain on some days. All in all, good hiking weather. More on the temps in a bit.

We started Friday afternoon and I ended up at the NOC on the follow Saturday. My buddy wanted one more night in the woods and came out Sunday afternoon.
Lowest day was 8 miles (first day, planned distance). Longest was an 18+ mile day.

Unless noted, all equipment performed at the level expected. I want to highlight some of the gear that either exceeded expectations, or did not. I will also add a little bit about gear that the jury is still out on.

Above expectations gear:
Outdoor Research Shuck Mitts. Awesome. Hiked one day in the rain, temps were probably in the mid 50s. These kept my hands dry without overheating. I wish I had these when I was in the Army.
Anker 22000 mah battery. Charged everything and anything. Heavy, but worth it. I will probably go with a smaller back, not because of this pack's performance, but just to save weight. The pack is overkill for my power needs.
AWOL's Northbound Guide. With a GPS watch, this was a very reliable source of information for everything. Directions, distances, sources. I cut the pages out that I needed for the trip.
Massage ball. Rolled on it every night and morning. Helped the feet significantly.
Camp shoes. So nice to air the feet out at the end of the day. Extra weight, yes, but so worth it.

Mediocre gear:
Sawyer Squeeze. It leaked from the get go. I probably overtightened it. But it was frustrating to have it leak. Supposedly sawyer is sending replacements, but they haven't shown yet. I will take care of it better next time, but it shouldn't be that sensitive.
Sea to Summit air mattress. Lightweight, but noisy. It got better over time--I am not sure if that was me getting used to it, or it softening up.

Stuff I am upgrading or changing, and why:
Anker 22000 mah battery. Charged everything and anything. Heavy, but worth it. I will probably go with a smaller back, not because of this pack's performance, but just to save weight. The pack is overkill for my power needs.
Puffy jacket. I made a tactical error with leaving my puffy jacket (Eddie Bauer) behind due to the forecasted temperatures. Mistake--I violated my own rules for bringing the puffy and my midlayer top. I bought a down jacket on the trail for cheap, but will upgrade with a Enlightened Equipment jacket to save weight and add variety to my cold weather materials.
USGI Silkies. I wore these at night and they did just ok--some nights I was pretty cold. Granted I was solo and my wife is a BTU machine, but I am going to try dropping them for my midlayer top and heavier running-tights style bottoms. Jury is still out, but I expect to replace them.
Neck knife. Too heavy and big for my needs. Going to replace it with a small swiss army knife.
Big sharpie marker. Replacing with a mini sharpie.
Elastic shoe laces. Going back to the ones that came with the shoes. More support and stability that way.
Headlamp. It worked well but did not agree with my battery pack. Going to go with a smaller, lighter light from NiteLite.
Sleeping socks. Going with some purpose built down booties from Enlightened Equipment.
Food. I am not food driven, but my wife is. We are looking at dehydrating options as well as better trail resupply options too. This will be an ongoing experiment.

Stuff I am dropping:
Sleep shorts. Slept in them once and just carried them the rest of the way. I will either sleep in my hiking shorts or baselayer bottoms.
Whistle/compass/thermometer thingy. Got a whistle on the sternum strap. Don't need the compass or thermometer. Gone.
Multitool. Even though it is small and lightweight, I never used it. History.
Emery board from the hygiene kit. For filing nails and calluses down. File on swiss army knife and nail clippers can do that.
Stuff I am adding and why:
Extra washers for the sawyer filter. See above.
Extra slide locks for various things. Broke the one on my bear line bag when it hit a rock.
Some sticky hooks for the pack to help me organize some things easier. To hang mittens in pockets, etc. Zpacks makes a neat little setup.
Cuben Fiber wallet. A ziploc bag was nice, but I need a real wallet. Much safer and easier that way.
Small pouch that attaches to the inside of the pack for personal stuff like meds and wallet. Keeps the hip belt pocket free. Zpacks has one I like.
Extra stakes. Will get lost, and I need another for the PCT Bear Hang method anyways.
Body powder. To help reduce itching, irritation, etc. Picked some up at Neel Gap and I would add a little every day to the liner in my shorts.

I am thinking hard about starting a PCT thread once we start our final planning and prep. Not interested in a YouTube Vlog or anything. But just something to help others as they prepare for similar trips and to update everyone on ours.

Holler if you have any questions.
Link Posted: 10/31/2018 2:56:41 PM EST
https://www.amazon.com/Powerocks-ThunderPower-9000mAh-Portable-Battery/dp/B01D55X86Y/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1541015405&sr=8-6&keywords=power+rocks+portable+charger&dpID=31yLSdm57dL&preST=_SY300_QL70_&dpSrc=srch

Take look at the Powerrocks 9000 MaH charger referenced above. I can run my kindle on it for a few days and it will charge my LG phone 4-5 times before needing a recharge itself. TBH I don't really know how long it will last if used to the point of being totally drained as I've never had the opportunity to test it that far. It is a great battery back up for long term use.

Sound like you had a great time. Will keep this thread for a reference as I am starting to gear up for some hiking in TX, OK, and AR. Thanks for the gear report.
Link Posted: 10/31/2018 6:28:41 PM EST
[Last Edit: 11/1/2018 2:33:38 AM EST by tc556guy]
I only skimmed your post looking for shoe brand. You say one size up, but don't mention brand. Your foot might swell, making one size up inadequate. How big was the shoes toebox. You might be beating your toes up on the downhill portions of your route

What version of darn tough socks. Try injini toe socks and/ or an inner sock liner.

Edit. Disregard. See the shoe brand at the top
Link Posted: 10/31/2018 10:51:56 PM EST
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Originally Posted By tc556guy:

Try injini toebox socks and/ or an inner sock liner.
View Quote
Great AAR. That's a good route as my wife and I did that one as well. My wife had the same issues with her toes. It wasn't the room on the toe box, yet she still got a couple blisters between her toes. Injinji socks were the perfect solution for her. The socks are a little expensive (I buy her a couple pair every Christmas), but she won't hike with any other socks.

You're probably already tracking about getting out the old spreadsheet and postal scales and start weighing items individually. Once I did that with all my AAR notes, I easily dropped about three pounds.

I've learned some of the same lessons. My wife and I both carry Sawyer Squeeze, but I've thoroughly tested them at home (especially the gaskets and bags). We both carry our own, but it also serves as an emergency backup if one of them does fail.

I'm going back to add a puffy jacket. I've tried a couple times to leave it behind and paid the price; especially in the spring and fall. Temperatures fluctuate and that extra layer of insulation makes a world of difference when it comes to comfort (both physical and mental). I only use the USGI silk-weight thermals during the early summer/later summer hikes (for the Southeast). I've found the lightest weight merino wool long underwear was much more effective for me, and since I pretty much just hike in shorts (down to 30 degrees), I can wear them just like hiking tights if needed (or until I heat up). They have just proven more durable and comfortable.

What did you use for rain gear? I rarely take rain pants, but I've found them very hand as "wind pants" on colder days and more frequent stops. I've been re-evaluating my rain gear since last year's trip and I'm going to try "The Packa" which is a pack-cover/rain jacket combo. It can stay on your pack as a cover and you can don the jacket part without dropping your pack (which is pretty handy in some areas). It can also be worn without a pack even if you look like you have a deflated hump-back.

My wife and I are planning to do the John Muir trail in the next year or two, so we will have to adjust some of our gear (going with a tent vice our own hammocks, etc.), but many lessons carry over. Given the time frame we'll need to do it, we also plan to do the Wonderland Trail around Mt. Rainier (logistically easier since my family is from the area), so I can get my wife exposed to more elevation and colder temps.

Again, excellent lessons learned, thanks for sharing and keep us updated with your progression. Especially, make sure you cover your wife's gear and preparation as many here are always trying to encourage their significant others to get out with them. My wife now does her own "girls-only" treks every year.

ROCK6
Link Posted: 11/1/2018 2:32:17 AM EST
[Last Edit: 11/1/2018 2:34:11 AM EST by tc556guy]
Agree with Rock. Couldn't type all he did because I was viewing the thread earlier on my phone and that damn autofill kicked in without being noticed.....
Link Posted: 11/1/2018 3:48:51 AM EST
[Last Edit: 11/1/2018 3:50:50 AM EST by billpete]
Thanks guys,

I forgot to mention that I picked up 3 pairs of injinji socks on the way home. A liner, a trail hiking weight and a running pair. Going to give them all a shot. Great minds and all that...

@tc556guy

I wore some 1/4 trail hiking Darn Tough socks. Worked great.

@Rock6

My rain gear consisted of an Outdoor Research Helium HD jacket and some off brand rain paints.

The HD jacket is awesome. They stopped making it this year, and it is only an ounce or two more than the Helium II, but adds pit zips and a brimmed hood.
Link Posted: 11/3/2018 12:00:58 PM EST
Nice write up. Would love to do something like this someday.
Link Posted: 11/4/2018 9:49:39 PM EST
Not a thru hiker, have sectioned in the AT and done lots of hikes and back country camping

Just a few thoughts below:

battery pack - what did you charge (besides your phone)? gps-watch? headlamp? camera? phone? Did you use those devices as you expect on your through hike? A couple of things to think about - get a quick charge or PD capable pack on those quick visits with power access (30-45 min lunch, resupply, etc) and of course, a quick charge/PD AC adapter. A battery pack with a mini flashlight is useful backup. Will it carry you for 5-7 days usage off grid?

Expected duration usage of your headlamp - remember, you'll probably night hike in the desert to avoid heat (unless you're PCT SOBO). So, you'll use your lights more than you probably would expect. also, when you're doing those long mile days at the end third of your hike to finish before the freeze comes.

A 1-to-3 2-prong short (4in) power "strip"... for the power at those peak outlet demand times. I carry in my normal travel bag and when section hiking. They sell them in the travel catalogs on planes and the stores in the airport. You can buy a 6' 1-to-3 at HD and cut and re-plug it. Allows you to plug multiple things (or share a single outlet with other hikers, who all seek out outlets like buzzards to roadkill). It might mean that you can plug in at an outlet that is full at your arrival.

For your puffy and quilt - water-repellent down (dri-down or equivalent) definitely helps. You can't always drying things as well as you would like. I also like an light fleece vest. that plus a puffy... warmth in the mountains.

a small pocket paper pad (to write thoughts, leave notes for tramily, leave notes on trail for following hikers - like snake warning, and also useful to providing kindling ignition for campfires). 4" of wood pencil (never goes dry and very light). The alternate - a ball point pen - useful as a straw when the both ends are pulled and god forbid, if you needed to do an emergency tracheotomy

Sleeping socks - recommend general use hiking socks (thicker if you have cold feet in sleep), you can use a mittens (or over-mittens) if necessary. on your feet, if necessary. Hot , stinky, sweaty, oily feet after 5-7 days on trail, do not mix with many things. socks can easily be washed. Down things tend to require more delicate cleaning you may or may not be willing to take time to do (or even be able to do... special washes). I carry 3 pair on long hikes (2 for in boot, one for sleep/emergency use).

I definitely recommend separate sleeping clothing... if you crash camp in the rain in the dark, staying in wet stuff and possibly wetting your quilt, etc. Miserable. Get some ultralight stuff, you can dual use as town clothes or an additional layer if you run into ultra cold temps. You can air/dry out your day clothes overnight.

carbiner (good for hanging gear on your pack or in camp). I carry 3 of the smallest zip ties. Can be used for repair or tie things up. Duct tape - 1-2 feet - repair things - shoes, pack, tent, body (cuts, blisters, etc). Though you can usually limp off trail and repair/replace in town or at a hostel.

rain gear - I don't carry rain pants - for rain. In warm weather, even cool weather, traps too much moisture. I've only used them during winter to keep snow or really cold rains off. Many thru hikers wear rain kilts. I let my shorts get wet. My parka covers the top part of my shorts, so only the bottom third gets wet (so stuff in pockets can get soggy though).

Should be an epic adventure!
Link Posted: 11/5/2018 9:22:45 AM EST
Great stuff--some comments below

Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Originally Posted By 308endurdebate:
Not a thru hiker, have sectioned in the AT and done lots of hikes and back country camping

Just a few thoughts below:

battery pack - what did you charge (besides your phone)? gps-watch? headlamp? camera? phone? Did you use those devices as you expect on your through hike? A couple of things to think about - get a quick charge or PD capable pack on those quick visits with power access (30-45 min lunch, resupply, etc) and of course, a quick charge/PD AC adapter. A battery pack with a mini flashlight is useful backup. Will it carry you for 5-7 days usage off grid? I am updating to a smaller pack. The GPS watch charges twice a day (lunch and then dinner). Headlamp took a lot of power. Add the phone and InReach mini and I am charging quite a bit when I am not in town.

Expected duration usage of your headlamp - remember, you'll probably night hike in the desert to avoid heat (unless you're PCT SOBO). So, you'll use your lights more than you probably would expect. also, when you're doing those long mile days at the end third of your hike to finish before the freeze comes. Updating to a NiteLite NU25. That should help.

A 1-to-3 2-prong short (4in) power "strip"... for the power at those peak outlet demand times. I carry in my normal travel bag and when section hiking. They sell them in the travel catalogs on planes and the stores in the airport. You can buy a 6' 1-to-3 at HD and cut and re-plug it. Allows you to plug multiple things (or share a single outlet with other hikers, who all seek out outlets like buzzards to roadkill). It might mean that you can plug in at an outlet that is full at your arrival.

For your puffy and quilt - water-repellent down (dri-down or equivalent) definitely helps. You can't always drying things as well as you would like. I also like an light fleece vest. that plus a puffy... warmth in the mountains. We ordered some EE Apex jackets. That will definitely help for sure.

a small pocket paper pad (to write thoughts, leave notes for tramily, leave notes on trail for following hikers - like snake warning, and also useful to providing kindling ignition for campfires). 4" of wood pencil (never goes dry and very light). The alternate - a ball point pen - useful as a straw when the both ends are pulled and god forbid, if you needed to do an emergency tracheotomy Good idea

Sleeping socks - recommend general use hiking socks (thicker if you have cold feet in sleep), you can use a mittens (or over-mittens) if necessary. on your feet, if necessary. Hot , stinky, sweaty, oily feet after 5-7 days on trail, do not mix with many things. socks can easily be washed. Down things tend to require more delicate cleaning you may or may not be willing to take time to do (or even be able to do... special washes). I carry 3 pair on long hikes (2 for in boot, one for sleep/emergency use).

I definitely recommend separate sleeping clothing... if you crash camp in the rain in the dark, staying in wet stuff and possibly wetting your quilt, etc. Miserable. Get some ultralight stuff, you can dual use as town clothes or an additional layer if you run into ultra cold temps. You can air/dry out your day clothes overnight.

carbiner (good for hanging gear on your pack or in camp). I carry 3 of the smallest zip ties. Can be used for repair or tie things up. Duct tape - 1-2 feet - repair things - shoes, pack, tent, body (cuts, blisters, etc). Though you can usually limp off trail and repair/replace in town or at a hostel. I have both duct tape and leuko tape on my hiking poles.

rain gear - I don't carry rain pants - for rain. In warm weather, even cool weather, traps too much moisture. I've only used them during winter to keep snow or really cold rains off. Many thru hikers wear rain kilts. I let my shorts get wet. My parka covers the top part of my shorts, so only the bottom third gets wet (so stuff in pockets can get soggy though). Rain pants are for rain (if we get any) but also for those cold windy days and as a layer against bugs.

Should be an epic adventure!
View Quote
I like how this thread is building information. I hope that others can get some value from it as well.
Link Posted: 11/5/2018 3:28:10 PM EST
Thoughts on your comments:

I love Nitecore (I have the HC60 as my primary). The NU25 doesn't offer enough lumens except at high (at least for me) for backwoods trekking. Medium would get you through a night hike 8-hr, but isn't enough to properly light up obstacles at 38 lumen (20-40 is my ideal in-camp level). so, at high, you get 5 hours. If you alternate trail lead with your wife running at high and the trail running at medium, you'd get through, but even then, not going to reach for long day (12+ hr). In terrain you have to recognize camouflaged critters (scorpions and sidewinders) in the desert, you'll want more light. In dangerous terrain, you'll want to be able to see trip, fall, etc hazzards. The other reason I love my HC60 is that it has the over the top strap. Makes for stable and secure (though less important for a lighter headlamp). For sure, try trekking at night on trail with your selected beam strength (make sure you test in appropriate conditions (no moon or tree filtered/shadowed, terrain (rocks, roots)).

Tape on your poles.. recommend adding some elsewhere. I have tossed a broken pole in town with no thought. And trek poles get left behind pretty often. Or lost in terrain (down a slope, in a crossing, etc). A buddy tossed a broken pole... completely forgot he kept an emergency $10 bill in each pole.
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