Aaaaah!!! Is this it? My last post about the JMT before I start preparing the Te Araroa Trail, the PCT and some smaller hikes across Europe? Jee… not sure… It’s so DAMN hard to let go… O I know there is so much to look forward to and I consider myself being one of the luckiest persons on earth… I guess I’ll always find myself inbetween trail melancholy and trail excitement… except if I’m on a trail… then I am trail happiness haha :c)
Anyway, considering the title it ain’t hard to guess what this post is about: IT’S ABOUT GEAR. Again! DAMN RIGHT! (Guess I’m a gear junkie after all… whoops) In one of my last posts I wrote about my favorites and my ..eh yeah… not-favorites. This time it’s all about the details. Now don’t expect me to be all technical and rational (na-a that’s just not me ;c)… I’m gonna do this the womad-way ;c)
My Backpack: GoLite Pinnacle Women’s M (aka “Capital B”):
OK… Now I know that pack looks huuuuuge on me… That’s because of the fact that I am tiny. Eh allright… the pack is just huuuge! I kinda loved Capital B, yet by the time I had reached the southern part of the trail the belt got too big. Now that ain’t the pack it’s fault, it was me losing weight… I solved the problem by putting some foam pad between my back and the belt… Still I guess I’ll look into another backpack for the Te Araoa Trail and the PCT. Though I really must say that -apart from the belt getting too big- Capital B was actually really comfy. I liked the fact that it was roomy! I’d always put my sleeping bag in first (yeah that one was huuuge too, we’ll get to that later on ;c), then put my Bearikade Expedition on top and fill the spaces around my bearcan with the rest of my stuff. In the side pockets I’d carry my stove and my Tarptent and in the front pocket I’d have my ukulele in a silnylon sea-to-summit bag (yeah that’s the yellow thing sticking out hahaha). I didn’t bring a raincover or such. I just put the stuff that I didn’t want to get wet into the lightweight sea-to-summit nanosil bag that I had put in the bottom of my pack (sleeping bag, extra clothes). The pack handled heavy loads quite well… With heavy I mean the extra weight of 9 days worth of food… At it’s heaviest (leaving MTR after resupplying) it weighed about 26lb / 13kg. Damn that didn’t feel too comfortable but I don’t think it was because of Capital B not performing well… It rather was because of the non-existant muscles in my shoulders…. Bottomline: I loved Capital B… but… That pack ain’t really encouraging me to bring my BPW down (just too much space in there )hahaha… And I’d need a Size S. So what I gotta do? Get a smaller backpack and get my BPW below 10pounds / 5 kilos ;c)
(PS: Boyfriend now came up with the idea to sew one buckle right on to the pack, ditching that adjustment-thing . Smart boyfriend, stupid me that I didn’t come to that solution sooner… It’ll make the belt a few centimeters shorter… Might not wanna get fat then though – na, that ain’t gonna happen haha)
My Tarptent Notch
Absolutely loved the Notch! A quick pitch, lightweight, 2 vestibules and actually enough room for me to even take my gear inside my tent. It took me a little while to find out the perfect pitch (make sure the zippers are closed; stake the 2 ends first -don’t pull too tight yet-; put in/up one hikingpole, stake that side; put in/up the other hiking pole, stake that side; to get a taut pitch: tighten the lines at the ends first, then at the sides – you can also make your hikingpoles longer/shorter while the tent is up and play around with that). It mostly took me just about 2 to 3 minutes to get it up, same thing breaking it down. I have the version with the partial solid inner liner. It’s just a few grams heavier than the full mesh version but it certainly offered more protection against wind and dust. It might feel a bit more confining than the mesh version, but I’m rather tiny so I was ok with it (ok except for my night with the mountain lion, then it rather felt like my coffin). I brought some extra lightweight guyline for the case that I wouldn’t be able to use my stakes. As far as I remember that only occured once or twice. Then I’d attach the extra guyline to the tent, knot it around a heavy rock and done… It’s that simple :c) O by the way, I didn’t have problems with condensation. The Notch has a little buckle on the bottom part of the zipper. You can close that one and open up the zipper. In that way you have some extra venting but the fly is kept down.
Bottomline: If you want a double wall single person tent: The Tarptent Notch is great. I absolutely loved it and when I go on solo backpacking trips (even in winter) it’s the tent of my choice. It weighs around 740g (that must be about 1,5lb), which is pretty lightweight. Aaaah but still… what do they say again about getting your BPW down? … you might consider switching to a tarp…. O man! I somehow like the safety-feeling a tent gives me… but then again, it’s all in my head… So I might just have to go for it and get some expensive cuben fibre tarp (or make one myself? can’t be too difficult) and combine it with a Gossamer Gear polycro groundsheet… Eh…and what about the mozzies? I don’t know yet (fact is: they fucking drive me crazy when buzzing around my ears at night! Like really crazy, you should see me.). I’m sure I’ll find a non-chemical way to deal with them (btw: didn’t have any problems with mozzies along the JMT… Mozzy-season was over by the time I hiked through – late August….. So in fact, I could have gone with a tarp… hahahaha)
My sleeping bag: The Western Mountaineering Antelope aka The Mothership!
Great sleeping bag… No point of arguing about that… But probably a total overkill for a late summer JMT. I write “probably” cuz in the nights where fellow hikers were complaining about the cold (we did have some night below freezing!) I’ve always had a toasty night. Yet no way to come around it: I spend a huge amount of money on this sleeping bag and I’m not sure if I’d do that again (well I won’t have to, now I have my fabulous winter sleeping bag for the next 15 years!). I definitely like the quality of a WM sleeping bag, the loft is amazing, zipper functioning perfectly… But the Antelope isn’t the sleeping bag for lightweight backpacking in summer conditions hahaha! It comes in with about 1,1 kg (2,2 lb). Yeah autsch… that’s heavy!!! Though I also agree with my partner and best friend that you shouldn’t save weight on your sleeping bag. If you’re cold during the night, no way your body can recuperate the way it does when it’s warm. And by the end of the day I don’t have too much energy left so I just need it warm at night. Still… I probably won’t be taking the Antelope on future backpacking trips (except for winter adventures)… Another problem I had being a tiny woman was getting the bag warm. It mostly took me a quite a while till I’d heat up all of that sleeping bag… I tried speeding it up with filling the extra
space with extra clothes, but I actually didn’t have too much extra clothes so that was rather difficult haha. What I learned from that is: Even if other people say a bag is a bit tight: it’s still too roomy for me haha! In the future, when buying a sleeping bag, I need to pay more attention to the fact that the bag really has to fit my body!
Bottomline: Great sleeping bag for winter conditions. Overkill for the JMT and too heavy for lightweight backpacking. Definitely looking into another sleeping bag (or a quilt?) for the Te Araroa Trail and the PCT… Might fall in love with a Zpacks :c) (ow fuck, that’s gonna be expensive again!)
My sleeping pad: The Therm-a-rest NeoAir XTerm, Size Regular.
Kept me warm, kept me comfortable, absolutely loved it… Though I must admit: Having to inflate it every evening is a pain in the ass!!! Still I’ll live with it cuz the pros definitely beat the cons!
All those people worrying about the noise of it while tossing around at night: forget it! You don’t hear it when you’re in your sleeping bag… I’m a really really bad sleeper and it didn’t bother me a bit!!!
The bottom fabric of the XTherm seems a bit more durable than the one of the XLite. During my 25 days on the JMT it didn’t get a single puncture or hole. But I’d always choose my site carefully and take away sticks or rocks that appeared to be sharp. The XTherm Size Regular weighs about 430g. I guess there is still room for improvement there. But whether I wanna change my perfect comfortable XTherm for that… Not sure… Maybe an TaR XLite size S. with a GG thinlite underneath? (Ah we’ll see… maybe if I have too much money…. yeah right, that won’t happen!)
Bottomline: Loooooooove the XTherm, haaaaaate inflating (but hell, you can’t have everything in life!) (O by the way: after deflating I’d just fold the pad in 3 and then put it against the “backwall” of my backpack, giving just a bit of extra support)
My Stove: Caldera Keg-F Stove system + MSR Pocket Rocket = THE BABUSHKA STOVE!
I intended on using the Caldera Keg-F as an alcohol stove but due to the dry summer and the fire ban alcohol stoves were prohibited along quite some parts of the JMT (in the end no one really checked my stove… eh no one really checked anything at all) so I came up with something else: I combined the Foster’s can with the Caldera cone and put that on top of the MSR Pocket Rocket… It performed amazingly well!!! I’d cook more than 10 days with one 110g gas canister (400ml in the morning for coffee and oatmeal, 500ml in the evening for dinner and hot chocolate)!!! The Foster’s can is quite fragile but it came thru without any big bumps. I’d decided not to take the original caddy it comes with when you buy it. That caddy is heavier than the can and the stove itself (allright you can use a part of the caddy as a cup, but I didn’t do that, so it just would have been extra weight). Instead for some extra lightweight protection, I bought a 2L-coke-bottle (I never drink coke, haha even had a hard time emptying that bottle… yeah wouldn’t have been a problem while on trail haha), cut it down to the size of the Foster’s can and tadaaaaaaa a perfect lightweight caddy was born. My babushka stove (thank you Ken and Chris for the fabulous name you came up with!) packed really compact: The cone and the msr pocket rocket fitted perfectly into the can, then I’d put the canister on top and all of that would fit perfectly into my cokebottle-caddy… I carried it in a side pocket of my Backpack… Allright now this would’t be a womadlike review if I didn’t confess that I of course started falling in love with another stove while on trail… Cuz JoeJoe brought along a Jetboil….O noooo I didn’t cheat on the Babushka, no not really… by the end I just got a bit lazy and asked Joe if I could borrow his Jetboil… The Babushka was fast… but the Jetboil was faster… damn…
Bottomline: O hell I don’t know yet what I’m gonna go with on the Te Araroa and the PCT… I just haven’t decided yet… When I got to Santa Barbara I bought a Jetboil Zip at REI but I tested it here in European winter conditions (it wasn’t even all that cold yet) and you won’t believe it but the pocket rocket with a normal titanium pot on top got the same amount of water boiling faster than the Jetboil… Big disappointment! I can tell you that!
My bearcan: The Bearikade Expedition
Loved it, hated it and everything inbetween. A bearcan sucks but it does it’s job well and it gave me a quiet mind at night. For what it’s designed for, the Bearikade does great! I decided to rent the Expedition at Wild Ideas (they offer a 45% discount when you thruhike the JMT, PCT or AT!!!) cuz there is just no use of a bearcan for me here in Europe. Still for that money I could have bought a BearVault 500, which is slightly smaller and slightly heavier. Oh well… in the end I was happy with my decision to rent the Bearikade Expedition. My food and other smelly stuff (eh yeah not allll my smelly stuff… cuz then I’d have had to put myself inthere) fitted inside perfectly… After resupplying at MTR and carrying 9 days worth of food, I did have to go and stand on top of it to close the lid haha, but it worked out just fine!!!
Before leaving I’ve been doubting whether I should take the Weekender or the Expedition. I’m glad I made my decision in favour of the Expedition. The weekender would have been too small for me for the 9 days stretch between MTR and Whitney. And the Expedition made a great seat (yeaahhh I’m 31 now, I deserve a bit of luxery hahaha… just joking… I didn’t care too much whether my can made a good seat or not but it was nice, that I can confirm haha ;c) And nooo, I didn’t put that cat-sticker on there… It was already sticking when the can was delivered to me… Maybe it was an omen? Oh by the way: It didn’t bother me too much that the Bearikade is black and you can’t look through it. I mostly knew where the food was that I wanted to have and if not… o well, then I just took everything out and crammed it back in.
Bottomline: For the PCT I’ll probably rent another Bearikade. Might go with a Weekender though. By the time I hit the Sierra I should be faster and not need 9 days for the stretch between Whitney and MTR ;c) hahaha…
My water system: A fucking No Name 1,5 L waterbladder
Yeah you guessed it right: That thing sucked like hell and I had to suck like hell to get water out of it!!! It leaked, wasn’t easy to fill up… Nothing good about it… But it kinda made it till Lone Pine where I threw it into the trash bin as soon as I saw one haha! As you can see I don’t even have a decent picture of it. I mostly carried it on top of all my stuff in the collar of my backpack… And I put an extra plastic bag around it because of the leaking… I did have an extra 1L platypus soft bottle, which I didn’t use too often and halfway I gave it to Mountain Goat who needed a new dirt bottle for her sawyer squeeze.
I treated my water with Aquamira drops A+B. Each morning I’d premix about 20 drops of each in a tiny dropper bottle. That worked out pretty well.
Bottomline: I bought a new waterblatter (a 2L Platypus BigZipper). Hope that one will keep up a bit. For the JMT I’d probably go with the Aquamira drops again… For longer hikes I’m not sure whether I wanna drink chemically treated water for a longer period of time or not… I bought a Sawyer Squeeze when I got to REI in Santa Barbara… Afterwards I found out I bought the original one on the day the Sawyer Squeeze Mini got out… GREAT! Just great! Hahaha!
My rain gear: Outdoor Research Helium II Jacket + trashbag as rainskirt + freezer bags to keep my feet dry :c)
Yep I only got rained (and hailed) on once whilst hiking the JMT. My OR jacket performed well that day but it’s obvious I can’t review a rain jacket on it’s performance when it only got rained on just once haha. It definitely is lightweight, I love the color (eh yeah the color is important!!!! haha) and I often wore it as an extra layer in camp for some extra warmth.
Can’t say too much about the trashbag acting as a rainskirt either, except for the fact that it definetely had a huge SEXYNESS FACTOR!!! I wore it in camp twice when big clouds were coming over and I though it was gonna rain (eh it didn’t)… I have no idea how it’d perform whilst hiking. I think I might have had to shorten it a bit for it to be comfortable. Anyway I just didn’t wanna carry the extra weight of rain pants. Not sure what I’m gonna do on the Te Araroa Trail as the chances of getting rain in New Zealand are increasing with 200% compared to the Sierra Nevada… I might go with a cuben fibre rainskirt (like the ones Zpacks makes) or the Montane Minimus rain pants. For the PCT, I’m thinking of just taking wind pants (Montane featherlite pants).
As I wear trail runners for hiking it’s obvious that my feet get wet when it’s raining. Whilst hiking that doesn’t bother me too much but when I’m in camp I wanna have dry feet. For that purpose I took 2 freezer bags with me. When my shoes were wet when I reached camp, I’d dry my feet, put on dry socks, put the freezer bags over it and then put my shoes on… Tadaaaaaa dry feet in wet shoes!!!
My Shoes: Brooks Cascadia 7
Absolutely loved loved loved these trailrunners. And it’s the saddest thing that the 7 are discontinued… There is an 8 out already but I read about them not being as good as the 7. With my wide feet I really had a hard time finding comfortable trail runners. I ordered a thousand pair of shoes before I got my feet into the Cascadia 7 and I was like: Finallyyyyyyyyy!!!! The moment I tried them on they were like made for my feet, instantly comfortable! And they continued to be on trail! I didn’t get a single blister, never got foot issues (which certainly also had to do with the gaiters I used!)… As soon as I got home I started searching european web shops for the last pairs of Cascadia 7 in my size… I managed to get 4 extra pairs wuhuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu! Praise the lord!!!
My Gaiters: Dirty Girl Gaiters
They are on top of the list of my favorite pieces of gear! Wouldn’t wanna go without them! They did a great deal in preventing blisters and stones and stuff getting into my shoes.
I love the design and I love the name cuz I’m a dirty girl for sure! I just might have to buy another pair with cat paws on it hahaha!
My Socks: Darn Tough + Smartwool socks
Before leaving I’d read a lot of positive things about Darn Tough socks so once I got to San Francisco I went to REI and bought a pair. On trail I’d alternate them with a pair of thin Smartwool running socks. Loved them both! Mostly I’d wear my socks for two days, then wash them (every evening and sometimes during breaks I’d definetely shake the dust and dirt out of them) and let them dry on the outside of my pack whilst hiking.
For sleeping I brought an extra pair of sleeping socks… yep a pair of those airplane socks you get on a longdistance flight… super lightweight, cuddly, perfect! In my resupply package for MTR I had added an extra pair of synthetic socks (salewa running socks)… but I actually didn’t like the synthetic stuff on my feet, they didn’t feel all that comfortable to me… I guess I’m the woolen socks kinda person ;cP
My windshirt: The Patagonia Houdini
What can I say? I’m totally completely in love with the Houdini. No matter what trail I’ll hike, I’m gonna take it with me!!! I don’t really know why I love it that much, it probably ain’t rational. It’s super lightweight, it looks good, great color, gives protection against wind, sun, cold… Man!!! it does it all!!!
|The Patagonia Houdini windshirt is a fucking winner!!!|
My Tshirts: A shortsleeve North Face Tshirt + A longsleeve Arc’teryx Phase SL Tshirt
Both synthetic shirts. Both pink. I actually don’t like pink too much but pink shirts often seem to be in sale so I got them cheaper ;cP
I liked the North Face T a lot. Even if it’s synthetic it doesn’t feel like it… Eh yeah it DOES smell like it!!! Haha! Anyway that Tshirt was super comfy (somehow the fabric was totally soft and felt very natural), didn’t have any thick stiches bothering me whilst carrying a backpack and dried superduperfast!
I think I might buy another one of these! The dead bird shirt was ok. It protected me from the sun but didn’t get too warm, it transported the sweat out and… yep… it fucking stinked like hell!!!
The Phase SL fabric really is thin and kinda fragile and by the time I got to whitney some tiny holes had appeared. O well I’ll continue using it till it falls apart… O yeah I braught a camisole in the same fabric but I never really wore it… So I’ll ditch that one the next time I get on a trail.
Bottomline: I’ll get another one of those North Face T’s but I also wanna give merino shirts another try. Till now I didn’t really find a merino shirt that doesn’t itch… I’m totally sensitive about that… icebreaker, smartwool… it’s all itchy to me…
My insulation layer: Montane fireball smock
Pros: Supermega lightweight, synthetic (primaloft) (I do have a lightweight down jacket but I decided to go with primaloft-which would have kept me warm even if wet), kept me warm (except on Whitney), nice colors!
Cons: Way too big (they only have this one in men’s sizes… I bought the S… I could still swimm in it), stinky after a while, no hood (which ofcourse makes it more lightweight)…
Bottomline: Woaah I paid so much money for this piece… I’m definitely gonna continue using it… But next time, I might consider buying a insulation layer designed for woman and I think a hood might definitely add extra warmth!
My shorts: Arc’teryx W’s Cita
Jep there is that dead bird again… But this one I loved! (It’s actually the only dead bird piece I paid the full price for… It was worth it!!!) Super lightweight fabric and a flat stretch band around the waist… Perfect for backpacking, no rubbing where the hipbelt is, dried fast, making my legs look longer and my butt look… o whatever…
My leggins: Arc’teryx Phase SL leggins
Did what they have to do: Be lightweight (not to beat!!! 80grams!), add some warmth if needed, still giving protection from the sun if needed without getting too hot. Did it’s job. No holes. Gonna take them again!
I loved the versatility of my “pants-system”: lightweight short + lightweight leggins + windpants. I could wear every piece on its own or combine them all together.
My windpants: Some really old newline running pants
I borrowed these pants from my ex-husband. They must be more than 15years old, I patched them with duck tape, they’re too big (almost had to “knot” them around my waist haha)… But I wore them almost every single night while sitting around at camp. As for hiking I only wore them summiting Whitney (but boy was I happy to wear them that night/day). I’m so glad I took these. I’d get to camp in the evening, put up my tent and then put on these pants. They aren’t heavy but they aren’t super lightweight either so I’ve been asking for a new pair of windpants this Christmas… Jihaaaa I got a brand new pair of Montane Featherlite Pants. Allriiiiiiiiiiiigth!!!! Looking forward to trying them out!!!
Underneath: Mogul bra, Arc’teryx Phase SL Briefs
Allright… now I only found out some time after this picture was taken that Americans seem to find it strange that women strip down to their underwear to go for a swim (Is that really true? Or did they just tell me that for fun?)… Like as if I would take an extra bikini for lakeswimming on the trail? Na a… no way! For me it’s actually the same… Bikini? Underwear? Who the hell cares? Anyway. I only took 1 bra and 2 undies. All synthetic. I’d wash the bra every couple days (eh ok, maybe once a week whooooops). The undies I’d alternate every day. Wear one, wash it, whilst drying wear the other one, and so one… Worked perfectly!
Hats and stuff: Bandana + Meru fleece hat + Arc’teryc Visor
Not much to say about it: Loved the bandana (that’s a piece of magic gear!!!! totally versatile!!!), loved the hat (that could be turned into a scarf), hardly wore the visor. I thought I’d use the visor more against the sun but turned out I liked the combination bandana + sunglasses way more.
Hiking poles: Komperdell Vibra Stop Voila
I never had hiked with hiking poles before but I became a big fan. Especially because of my knee injury. By the end of the day those hiking poles where the only thing that’d help my knee getting a bit of relieve. I’d make them longer when going down and make them shorter when going up. Definitely made me use my arms more and taking some weight of my legs, knee and feet. I’ve been searching for the perfect hiking poles for quite a while. Ok the Komperdells are not perfect, but they’ll do. The grip isn’t too big for my small hands, they are lightweight, they keep my Tarptent up,… What more can I ask for?
Just for the fun: My ukulele and my tiny water color kit. LOVED IT LOVED IT LOVED IT! Never ever complained or regretted once taking my ukulele or my watercolors along! I’m the kind of persons who has the urgent need of being creative… even if I’m hiking… Playing ukulele in the morning or when getting to camp somehow was beautiful. O well and I was lucky meeting Tilt who used the be the bass player of the band Starkweather! Man he rocked that ukulele!!!
My camera: The Canon Powershot G15: A GREAT camera! Something inbetween lightweight and too heavy… If you still wanna make good quality pictures! Loved it! I took about 7 batteries haha, and I recharged them once at MTR.
O right: I took the STICK PIC with me for making selfies and videos ;c)
THE PEE RAG!
That’s right girls! I used a pee rag! Inspired by an article on Andrew Skurka’s blog I decided to try it out! Take a piece of fabric (mine was cotton, you could just take an old bandana and rip it in pieces), hang it on the outside of your pack, use it instead of toilet paper when going for a wee (nooo not for the big thing!), rinse it out in the next stream you cross (make sure you rinse it out a bit downstream… not where others get their water ;c), let it dry on the outside of your pack… Easy, lightweight, not disgusting at all!!!
Some other stuff:
* Sea-to-Summit Nanosil 30L bag: I put that one at the bottom of my bag. In would go the stuff that had to stay dry: My down sleeping bag, my extra clothes… What claims to be waterproof… really isn’t. Luckely I didn’t have to find that out on the JMT, but on a shorter hike through the Black Forest where I walked through the pouring rain for 2 days… Bottomline: Fuck that bag! It’s a lightweight, that’s for sure… But if you want it to keep your stuff dry… it’s a waste of money! Next time I’m going with a good old trashbag!
*Tiny swiss pocket knife: Did I actually ever use it? Hm, I can’t remember!
*Mini Bic Lighter: perfect (I removed that little safety wheel so that I could use it easily with my hands being cold too)
*Sea to summit Alpha Light spoon: Loved that long spoon! Perfect for eating out of a ziplock!!!
* Quetchua supercheap fleece gloves: Lightweight, did their job on cold mornings :c)
As for food: I guess pictures say more than a thousand words:
|Jee Cat! Learn to behave!!! Eh yeah… I learned NOT TO BEHAVE on the JMT! And I fucking love it!|
|Now that’s a tortilla with A view!!!|
|‘MERICA! Tasting rather good!|