Gear Review pt. 4 – Does the phrase “AT shelter” actually mean “4 Seasons Hotel and Spa?” How else do you expect me to get my weekly manicure and massage?

45 days til’ it all starts. 45 days really isn’t that long. I decided I was going to hike the AT over 8 months ago (and have been thinking about it for 5 years now), so 45 days shouldn’t feel like anything. I haven’t been checking for when Katahdin opens since that won’t affect me too much, but I assume the early SOBO folks are just now leaving or will be in the next couple weeks. Good luck to everyone!

As readers know, I have grad school stuff to finish up before that 45 days is up. I didn’t post last week because I was finishing my report/thesis. This week I’m working on my defense presentation. I defend next week and just hope I don’t have many paper corrections to make. Also, passing my defense would be pretty wicked. Failing my defense would set me back just a bit.

Anyway, so I hear there is a lot of camping and stuff I’m going to have to deal with while on the trail. I do know when my guide book says “shelter” or “lean-to” it’s really talking about a Four Seasons Resort Hotel. I don’t know what I’ll do without my bi-weekly massages and free hot breakfasts. I am a realist though and realize I’ll be roughing it at some point. I can stay at a Holiday Inn or Best Western as long as it has pool. It must have a pool, how uncivilized do you think I am? I know they won’t have the manicurist or 5-Star restaurant I’m used to, but these are the sacrifices I’m willing to make when roughing it. Holiday Inn’s can be quaint and all the rooms don’t smell like hookers and middle class Americans. Yeah, I can totally do this AT thing. I just hope the hotels carry my $45 dollar shampoo and conditioner because what if I run into some hot chicks on the trail? They’ll laugh at me if I use cheap hotel shampoo and that would just be embarrassing.

Backpacking can be a rough life for some people, and luckily I won’t be running into anyone like that (as described above) while I’m on the trail. I have some great backpacking gear that I love using and I think it will all be great on the trail. Let’s check it out:

Backpacking Gear

Backpack – Osprey Aether 70. I’ve talked about it before, so I’ll be brief. It replaces my 40 liter pack I’ve been using for a long time now. Got it for Xmas. I tried the Aether 60 and 70 and just wish I could split the difference and get an Aether 65, but that doesn’t exist. It’s all good though.  It’s a sweet pack. I think it just went on sale at REI or somewhere.

Pack Cover – Gregory pack cover. I bought the biggest one I can find and it fits a lot better than the second to largest one. It keeps water out, which is pretty sweet and the whole goal of a pack cover.

Headlamp – Black Diamond Storm. Big light. Small light. White light. Red light. Double light. Single light. Bright light. Dim light. It does take 4 AAA batteries, which sucks. It has a good lifespan though.

Shelter – Sierra Designs Lightning 2 UL. Other than some condensation issues you learn to manage, it’s a really great tent. Unbelievably easy and quick to pitch. It laughs at rain. It’s light. Has a motherf**ing awning, like we’re living in a cottage. It has really good floor space for a two person tent. It has two smaller vestibules, instead of one large vestibule like a lot of similar tents. They’re definitely big enough to stick all our gear under and nothing will get wet. Always keep the large window in the front door open to keep air flowing through the tent.

If you’ve never used a single-walled tent before I would definitely research condensation management before buying. We had one trip where the condensation was pretty heavy, but we were dumb and didn’t do anything to prevent it. After an afternoon of research I am filled with great tenting wisdom and our last trip with the tent was golden. It rained all evening and then we got some light condensation overnight. We just rolled it up and packed it away like normal and by the time we set it up later that day it was dry. Solid tent. And since it’s not near as popular as like an MSR, Big Agnes, or even an REI brand tent, you can normally find it on sale.

Rope – Just 50 feet of 3mm cord we use to hang our bear bag. I have a couple spare lengths of rope of varying diameters in case they are needed for whatever reason.

Dry Bags (4) – I have a compression dry bag for my sleeping bag (the last thing I want is a wet sleeping bag). It’s a bit of a pain to get into my sleeping bag compartment on my pack when compared to my sleeping bag’s regular stuff sack, but a dry bag is worth it. I have a 25 liter dry bag that I use for a food bag. An 8 liter dry bag for clothes. And finally a 4 liter (maybe it’s a 2 liter?) for small things. Matches, my cell phone charger, and other stuffs I wish to keep dry. I think it’s silly not to get dry bags. Wet gear is the enemy….along with lightning when you’re trying to summit a mountain…..and Nazi’s. All bags are Sea to Summit.

Trekking Poles – Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork. They’re adjustable and I love the cork handles. Far more comfortable than any other trekking pole handle material. I wish they were a bit lighter, but I didn’t want to spend $150+ on trekking poles. I always used to make fun of people using trekking poles, then I realized how amazing they are.

Sleeping Gear

Sleeping Bag – North Face Blue Kazoo. This is definitely not a new blue kazoo, because I can’t afford that. This is actually my dad’s old down sleeping bag he got in the 80’s. It’s rated at 20 degrees, but it has some years on it, so in reality is probably closer to 30 degrees. It’s in great shape though and is just a great bag. Free is also pretty awesome.

Sleeping Bag Liner – Sea to Summit sleeping bag liner. Adds 20 degrees of warmth to my bag. I got it to negate some of the warmth it’s lost over the years. It’s comfortable and easy to use. The original plan was to have it mailed to me when it starts getting colder, but I could bring it the entire time and use it as a summer sleeping bag on warm nights. Depends on if I want to carry my sleep bag and liner the entire time.

Sleeping Pad – Inflatable Thermarest ProLite. It’s really comfortable for back and side sleeping, oddly enough. I thought I would be stuck back sleeping the entire trip, but I can be pretty comfortable on my side using this sleeping pad. When it gets cold though I might switch to a foam pad for the insulation.

The AT is so close, yet so far away. I just need to buckle down and get all this graduate school stuff finished so I can just think about the AT. Also, does anyone have trail food suggestions? I’ve been putting together a list of food stuffs I can probably buy from small grocery stores, large grocery stores and convenience stores along the trail so I can get an idea of what I want to be looking for in towns. I’ve looked at several blogs and WhiteBlaze, but I’m just taking in as many suggestions as possible. Also, I’m not looking for a 3 course meal for dinner. It blows me away how much food people will backpack with along the AT. If I was looking to eat really fancy meals over this 6 months of my life, I would just skip the AT and make the food at home. Some of these dinners I see that people make on the trail are things I wouldn’t even attempt when living at home with a full blown kitchen set up. You can still eat well in the back country and keep the ingredients under 10 items. If you’re looking to eat that well while on the trial just go eat in every town you pass through. You can eat well, get the nutrition you need, have a happy tummy, AND not add an extra 8 pounds to your pack due to all the extra food you feel is needed. I’m sure we’ll do dinners like that every now and then, but for some hikers it seems like a nightly event on the trail.

Hang on to your butts everyone, it’s almost time for this kid to venture out into the woods.

45 days til’ Katahdin! #SOBO #Maine2Georgia

 “Only the mountain has lived long enough to listen objectively to the howl of the wolf.” ~ Aldo Leopold

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