The Get Out More Tour
Brent and I ran across this ad in Backpacker Magazine and decided to take a road trip to Nashville to attend the session at Bass Pro. This 75-minute seminar held by Sheri and Randy Propster included information on a local hike, trip planning advice, safety tips, and gear reviews. Their display included many gear items that have yet to hit the shelves! As we perused the display table, we found several items that we had not seen before. The most appealing aspects of these items were their efficiency, light weight, and compactness. We purchased our gear around March of 2010, and already we have witnessed the rapid innovation in backpacking equipment. For example, we saw a water bladder with an in-line filter. By combining a filter with the bladder, one more item is eliminated from your pack. In addition, the in-line filter is about half the size of the Katadyn Hiker Pro that we purchased last year. Another product that caught our attention was the Sea-to-Summit ten liter (2.6 gallon) Pocket Shower, which holds enough water for eight and a half minutes of rub-a-dub greatness. During our rim-to-rim hike in the Grand Canyon, we carried Stearns Sun Shower, a 2.5 gallon luxury weighing 12.8 ounces. Although it is more of a base camp shower with its reinforced plastic handle and shower hose, which makes for awkward packing, we appreciated the morale boost of slipping into our sleeping bags without the grit and grime of every mile we hiked. We even deemed it worthy of worship by naming it “Golden Buddha.”However, when Brent decided to include it on his packing list for the Appalachian Trail thru-hike, I thought him crazy. The Sea-to-Summit Pocket Shower offers the same comfort, compacted into a small carrying pouch and weighing only 4.25 ounces. The Soto Pocket Torch is a 1.8 ounce fire starter that converts a disposable lighter, excluding Bics, into a wind-resistant burner. If I had one of these on the oh-so-many, windy camping nights I spent trying to light a fire or grill, I would have avoided the frustration that resulted in fist fights with the air and dust kicking. We have ordered the torch and shower from Top Spot, our local outdoors store, and will be including them on our gear list. An item I will not include in my pack but would love to have for future backpacking trips on the Colorado Plateau is the Celestron SkyScout Personal Planetarium, which was also displayed at The Get Out More Tour session. This 2.4 lb. gadget uses GPS technology to locate and identify over 6,000 stars, planets, and constellations with the click of a button. If I am ever able to afford this (it’s listed for $299 on Amazon), I will be sure to write a review for my fellow star-gazers. For those who enjoy taking photos but fear destructing their camera on rainy days and rocky climbs, the Pentax Optio W90 seems a nice option. Sheri and Randy completely submerged it in water and then passed it around for the group to take test shots. The photo quality wasn’t much different from my personal digital camera, which cost more than the $280 Pentax. According to a review in the April 2011 issue of Backpacker Magazine, this 6 oz. camera is “waterproof up to twenty feet, shockproof to four feet, and freeze proof to 14°F.” Pretty impressive! And if you’re interested in a trekking pole that doubles as a camera mount, the Pentax fits on the Leki Sierra SAS Trekking Pole. The last item I will mention is the emergency kit that the couple assembled. I found its organization fascinating. The kit included items such as tinder, a mini compass, matches, duct tape, safety pins, paper and a pencil. I will post an entry on the contents of an emergency kit in the future. This session was informative and allowed us to see what outdoors companies are creating to accommodate backpackers. If Sheri and Randy are heading in your direction, I recommend attending the session. They will be sure to share information on a beloved trail in your area and, best of all, they will be giving away backpacking gear! Happy hiking!
Deciding on what to pack has proved a daunting task. After all, I’ll be carrying every ounce on my back. Since I’ll be depending on most items daily for the course of six months, durability is as essential as weight. I’ve been accumulating items since the day I decided to hike, but I’m still lacking some must-haves such as clothing. I’ll continue to update the list as I go because (as most thru-hikers have experienced) it will probably change a million times before I set foot on the trail. My intention is not to promote certain brands or items but merely state what I have found works for me and inform you of the equipment a thru-hike might require. Photos are coming soon!
PACK, SLEEPING GEAR
- Osprey Aether 60 backpack (4 lbs. 15 oz.)
- North Face Meso 22 two-person tent (4 lbs. 1 oz.)
- Mountain Hardwear Phantom 15 sleeping bag (1 lb. 15 oz.)
- Sea to Summit eVent Compression Dry Sack- Medium 14L (5.2 oz.)
- Therm-A-Rest ProLite sleeping pad (16 oz.)
- Therm-A-Rest ProLite stuff sack (.8 oz.)
- Osprey UL raincover (4.25 oz.)
- Optimus Crux Lite stove (2.9 oz.)
- Optimus gas canister (4 oz.)
- MSR Base 2 pot set (16 oz.)
- Sea to Summit X-Bowl (2.8 oz.)
- Sea to Summit X-Mug (2.1 oz.)
- Brunton My-TI folding spork (.6 oz.)
- Outdoor Research 10L waterproof stuff sack (1.4 oz.)
- Merrell hiking boots
- Patagonia Capilene base layer
- Thor-Lo hiking socks
- SmartWool PhD Outdoor Light crew socks
- Injinji Outdoor Series Performance Toesock
- Fox River X-static liner
- Injinji Lightweight Performance Toesock liner
- Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap (4 oz.)
- Sea to Summit Tek towel (4.9 oz.)
- Sea to Summit iPOOd! pocket trowel (3.5 oz.)
- Tooth powder
- Insect repellent
- Nail clippers
- First-aid kit
- Appalachian Trail Data Book 2011
- Leki Mountain Trek Series trekking poles
- Princeton Tec Remix LED headlamp (2.9 oz.)
- Gerber 8L3 knife with fire steel
- Duct tape (thanks, Adam!)
FOOD AND WATER
- Two-liter Nalgene water bladder
- Katadyn Hiker Pro Microfilter water purifier (11 oz.)
- Splashguard for Nalgene bottle
- Plenty of granola bars and dehydrated food!
Hike the Appalachian Trail in Five Minutes
Green Tunnel from Kevin Gallagher on Vimeo.
A six month journey along the 2,200 mile long Appalachian Trail, condensed and reinterpreted into five minutes of stop-motion.
Brent and I Conquer the Great Shoe Hunt
Since thru-hikers rely on their feet to get them to Katahdin (or Springer Mountain when hiking southbound), beginning with footwear seems appropriate. I will refer to my experience in the great shoe hunt as I describe our footwear, but I acknowledge that only a handful of readers may find this useful since all feet are different. Let’s take the problem-solution approach here. Take a peek at my feet. I have the narrower heel of a woman, the flat, wide base of a Sasquatch, and as my dad likes to say, “eagle talons for toes.” I was quite unfortunate in the feet gene pool, which has resulted in many fruitless shoe hunts. I initially sought hiking boots for their ankle support, durability, and sound effects (I like to stomp). I found that all the women’s boots I tried were incredibly narrow and uncomfortable. The toe-box scrunched my eagle talons inside like commuters on a NYC subway during rush hour. The solution was simple: I bought the Merrell Phaser Rush —men’s boots. Once “broken in,” like any other mediocre-fitting shoe, I wore them through the winter and rainy season on a daily basis in addition to week-end hikes. We were in New York City during the snow storm in January, and I sloshed through the puddles and snow piles without ever getting wet or cold feet while all of my miserable travel buddies rushed back to the hotel to warm their frost-bitten toes. As a result of my fondness for the Merrell Phaser Rush, they are already worn and consequently, unfit for beginning the Appalachian Trail.
I debated the switch from boots to trail shoes for a considerable length of time because I feared the loss of support and waterproofing. On my second pair of shoes, and despite the long debate, I opted for a low-cut, trail shoe made of synthetic fabric and leather with Gore-Tex: the Montrail AT Plus GTX. I plan to use the Montrail in conjunction with trekking poles since I’m not wearing the more supportive boot. Additionally, the Gore-Tex eases my waterproofing worries. There are a couple reasons why I selected this combination. I love my boots, but I feel restricted in them and appreciate the lighter weight of trail shoes. Heck, I’m from Kentucky. I’d rather not wear any shoes at all, but if I must, the lighter, the better. The main reason I chose the Montrail is that it was a perfect fit, and I did not have to break them in like the boots. The women’s shoe has a narrower heel than my Merrell’s, so my heel does not slip out of the back, but it is designed for wide feet. So there we have it: I’ve found my solemate!
Brent has more typical feet than I. He will put on the first shoe he sees, and magically it’s a perfect fit. He started hiking with the Asolo TPS 520GV, which is a rough trail boot of full-grain leather with Gore-Tex. His second shoe is also a low-cut, trail shoe with Gore-Tex: the Merrell Continuum. For a camp shoe, Brent is taking Waldie’s Appalachian Trail Clog. This shoe weighs only 3.2 oz. and has antimicrobial ComfoTek to resist odors (something I will appreciate). I’ve been stealing them from Brent to wear around the house, and I must say that I’m a believer. They are extremely light and comfortable.