I was largely happy with the gear I took on the PCT as far as functionality goes. Everything worked enough to get me from A to B, but I did have some issues with my setup. I’ll go over my final PCT gear list and list gripes I had with certain items once I’m settled down in a winter living situation, but in the mean time I’ve been making plans for my trek on the Kungsleden and have made final gear decisions.
I got on the PCT with the Gossamer Gear Mariposa, and while I had variety problems with that backpack the one thing I realized was I didn’t need all that space. Initially it was crammed to the brim due to unnecessary items and the ever-evil stuff sacks (complete waste of space, but there are times where they are appropriate). I later switched to the 36L Gossamer Gear Pilgrim which was also frameless. Frameless packs aren’t as scary and complicated as they’re made out to be and it worked wonderfully, but the shoulder straps could have used some work, namely the shape. They were just a straight flat design that kind of dug into my pecks, something I could deal with but wasn’t happy about.
So I need a smaller pack, ideally frameless (because it’s my new-found love), with a better strap design. I settled on the Mountain Laurel Designs Burn.
The MLD Burn is a frameless 38L pack with a rolltop design (another thing I fell in love with when I got the Pilgrim). It cuts down on external pockets in favor of a single front mesh panel and two waterbottle carriers on the sides accessible while you’re wearing the pack, which is all I need. In the future when I get back on the PCT (I’ve decided I absolutely will try again someday, just not this summer or even the next), I can strap my bear canister to the top of the pack in a pinch with the strap going over the top. It’s not the ideal way of doing it technically, but the thought of digging all my shit out of my pack to get to the canister makes me want to cry. Never again.
The hip belt doesn’t provide much comfort, but my goal is to get to the point where I really don’t need a hip belt. Considering I was damn close to being able to do that on the PCT at one point, it’s achievable with the changes I’ve made over time. Another thing I like about this pack is how it disperses your gear vertically, so the pack is a bit taller but narrow rather than having a wide/fat pack. I don’t know if that has any practical functionality, but I just think it looks nice. Plus the wasabi green color is bad ass.
Mountain Laurel Designs is a company I’ve come to trust with all the rave reviews I hear about them on trail and off, I only wish I’d known about them before I started my thru-hike.
I changed my shelter up on the PCT a few times, switching between my Big Agnes Copper Spur and my Tarptent Protrail. Both are great tents, but with the Spur I just got absolutely sick of setting it up. With the Protrail, it’s a great tent but I don’t really find the bug net to be necessary. Even in the Sierra in mosquito season, most of the mosquitos in my tent were worrying about getting back outside rather than eating me alive. I like the tarp setup and the privacy (and psychological security, even after living outside for so long I still got paranoid at night every once in a while) of having a tent with a door. So I’ve settled on the Mountain Laurel Designs Duomid.
Why the Duomid over a Solomid? I learned the value of having space on the PCT. Though both of my tents were adequate in size, the Solomid is a tad smaller than either of my other shelters. I also understand that the extra space helps with condensation, which I’ll likely need on the Kungsleden (but who the hell knows). It also only weighs in at 18oz for the Silnylon version which I’m buying in favor of the Cuben Fiber version mostly to save on cost. 18oz is still much lighter than my Protrail, which already feels light as hell as it is. Maybe one day I’ll hop on the Cuben Fiber train, but it’s still a bit out of my price range as far as shelters go.
I also considered a tarp shelter from Six Moons Designs, but their two-man tarp allegedly doesn’t hold up in high winds that well. The Duomid on the other hand has gotten rave reviews for how well it sheds wind. It has a limit of course, but it performs well enough.
I’m slightly considering getting a light bivy bag as well. They provide a bit of extra warmth and add extra protection from the elements, but I’m really undecided on it as of now. After days of looking around for the lightest/most cost efficient options, I settled on a company that hits both requirements. Borah Gear, and their Cuben Fiber Bivy.
This Bivy weighs in at 4.45oz with the side zipper option (which is infinitely better than trying to cram yourself into the top entry). Not much to say about it other than it’s not a typical heavy duty bivy and is best protecting you from drops of condensation, splashes of rain, drafts, and is reportedly a bit more breathable than others you may find on the market.
To be honest, I’m mostly just considering it as extra protection for an environment I’m unfamiliar with. But I’m also curious about Bivys in general and would love to give it a shot. If nothing else, I could just make my own out of Tyvek and use it as my groundsheet if I don’t really need a bivy, which is what I may do in the end.
Borah Gear also has a silnylon counterpart for much cheaper that I might try out instead, but at that point I may be adding weight to my pack as a result. It’s a tough call. Once I have a moment to sit down and spread my gear around I think I’ll be able to make a better decision. In any case, if you’re in the market for an ultralight Bivy, well.. there you go.
On the PCT I mostly did the running shorts thing which I came to absolutely love, but the Kungsleden isn’t the PCT. This is something I’m still kind of battling with, but ultimately I think I’ll take my Prana Zion pants along with me instead. If I’m ever to be encased in the prison of pants again, it’s going to be in the Prana Zion pants. They’re made out of a very stretchy but strong and thick material that provide excellent protection from the elements (which is a downfall in hot weather), and end up being really great pants for scrambling adventures as well as there’s absolutely no resistance to any crazy movements you make as you go.
Water Resistant Shoes/Boots
This is one thing I’m absolutely unhappy about. The thought of it just kind of pisses me off. I love trail runners, and in particular I love my Altra Lone Peaks. Going on a long hike without them is absolute heresy to me, but I understand the Kungsleden to be a wet experience at times. Either you’re walking through snow, snowmelt, or rain. The weather looks fair in the early summer months, but the ground itself sees a lot of water. If I want my feet to survive, I’ll need a little more protection which really bums me out. I’ve been delaying my research on this one out of spite alone.
There’s also the issue of nothing ever being 100% waterproof as far as gear goes, so if they get soaked through they’ll take considerably longer to dry than normal shoes. But I can’t be walking with wet feet all the time either. So there’s the dilemma, but I decided I’m in favor of water proofing this time around, albeit begrudgingly.
On the PCT I had a Sony RX100 in my hip belt pocket, and I loved it. I have never seen or used a better camera in my life. But I murdered it while walking through a river and falling into a deeper section. There are many things that could have prevented its demise, but it got me a bit paranoid about having a camera die on me on trail, so I settled on getting a GoPro 5, which is water resistant on its own without a bulky case.
I’d love to get another RX100, but not this time. I this as an opportunity to get rid of some bulk and shed ounces. The only thing I don’t like about it is the wide angle/fisheye effect it has. I learned you can turn that off for photos, and I learned how to edit it out in my video software, problem solved!
I could also just use my phone, but a dedicated camera for pictures is really one of my only luxuries. Even the GoPro does a better job with photos than my phone.
So there it is. As I said, I’ll make a more comprehensive list of changes I made on the PCT due to either issues, complaints, or just plain “I don’t need this” once I find a place to live. The season is over and so are my adventures of living out of a car. I still have a couple updates to make on that, but I haven’t talked gear in a long time and thought it would be refreshing. Oh and I’m moving to Utah, so that’s new. Housing here is cheap as hell and it still has all the hiking and stuff that I need in my life, and trail friends. It’s also quiet which is something I need in my life right now, but I still love Washington and will go back to it when this next adventure is over.