Monday, November 5, 2012

Reliable, Lightweight Gear


All of shoes needed for Tuna Helper's hike.
When attempting a speed record that spans 60+ days without outside support, reliable and lightweight gear is essential. One can't have some key piece of equipment fail when days from anywhere that can replace it, let alone if you have to get off trail, you're wasting time on the record. Furthermore, if you are carrying reliable gear but it weighs a lot, you will be slowed down and run out of steam faster. Therefore, there is a balance between reliability, weight and necessity. I'm not going to go into much detail about what I used and why, because everyone is different in what works for them and what their essential items are. There is more than enough information out on the web about lightweight and ultralight backpacking, so I won't touch on that here either.


In the long distance hiking community, weight is a top concern because of the large amount of miles that have to be covered. The more weight one carries, the more energy one has to spend on carrying that weight versus using that energy to go further. For example, if one was to carry 1 lbs for 2,000 miles (the 3 major long distance trails in the US are all over 2,000 miles), the energy spent to move that 1 lbs would be equal to carrying 1 TON a mile. That's a whole lot of extra calories! Therefore it is in ones best interest to reduce as much weight as practical. Some people (like myself) go to the extremes of taking the labels off my water bottles to reduce those few extra grams of weight. My thought is, if it serves no function and I can eliminate it, why not do so? Grams, however minute, do add up in the end.

Light enough pack to hold with one arm.
When I started my hike my base-weight,  that is my weight of everything excluding food, water and what I was wearing, was about 8-8.5 lbs. That weight included, the backpack, a shelter, sleeping pad, ground cloth, sleeping bag (quilt), cook pot, stove, fuel, knife, water bottles (empty), toiletries, maps, GPS, camera, mp3 player, my phone, an extra pair of socks, a rain poncho and a few other odds and ends. When in list form, it seems like a quite a number of things, however compare that to what people in today's society need to live and it's pretty much bare minimum. I could have cut more weight by doing without some of the 'luxury' items like the mp3 player (which was also my journal voice recorder), smartphone and camera, but for me, they were worth their weight. Plus there would be no journal or photos for this blog if I had left the camera and mp3 player behind! Most people, when out on the trail for long enough, begin to realize that it doesn't take nearly as much stuff to survive as they first thought. Simplicity is a thru-hikers best friend.

With a low base-weight, my pack was usually around 25 lbs when fresh out of a resupply. The weight varied depending on the length between resupplies and the availability of water. My longest stretch without resupplying was from Kennedy Meadows to Tuolumne Meadows - 6 days through the high Sierra Nevada Mountains - and  upon starting this stretch, my pack was around 35 lbs.

The following table is my rough gear list from my 2012 hike. The actual contents of my backpack varied as I hiked along, and I added a few things after making this list, but this is more or less what I began my hike with.

Item Amount Weight (g) Weight (oz) Description

415 14.64 Mount Laurel Designs – Exodus XL
Shoulder Pouch
10 0.35 For Camera and GPS -zpack
Hip Pouch
22 0.78 For Snacks and TP and quick things
608 21.45 Enlightened Equipment - Revelation Quilt long/wide
Stuff Sack
6 0.21 Cuben Fiber – zpack medium
Sleep Pad
196 6.91 29” x 33” closed cell Gossamer Gear
Ground tarp
41 1.45 Gossamer Gear polycro - thin stuff
282 9.95 Gossamer Gear Spinshelter w/ cords
Stakes X6 @ 6g each 36 1.27 x6 stakes, with tyvek homemade pouch

252 8.89 Mont Bell Puffy Jacket, synthetic, full zip, pockets
125 4.41 Zip off legs for REI Sahara Convertibles
Socks X2 @ 53 each 53 1.87 Stoic light hiker wool/acrylic
26 0.92 Fleece zpack beanie
24 0.85 Glasses, micro fiber cloth, ziplock
86 3.03 Dry Ducks poncho w/ ziploc
Rain Mits X2 @ 3.5g each 7 0.25 Dog poop bags

Water Bottle 2 @ 52g each 104 3.67 1.5L Smartwater – no labels
Extra Water Capacity
36 1.27 2L Platypus
116 4.09 REI Titanium 1 L
6 0.21 Pie tin foil cut to fit
Stove Set
120 4.23 Alcohol Stove, Wind Screen, Pot Stand, Extra oz Alcohol in 1oz container, mini bic lighter, 5 waterproof matches, ziplock.
14 0.49 Titanium long handle Sea to Summit
Water Treatment
91 3.21 Aqua Mira w/ drop cap, 2x 1oz bottles
32 1.13 Mini tooth brush, tooth paste, floss
44 1.55 Neosporin 1oz, pills – imodium, ibuprofen  giardia one dose, allergy, mega pain killer, pepto chews
Repair Kit
10 0.35 Needle, super glue, 3x safety pins, nylon string.
16 0.56 Mini Swiss Army – Blade and scissors, broke off one side and nail file, no tooth pick. Added a needle

6 0.21 Click Pen Shortened by 1.5”s
84 2.96 Small section of maps and data book and record logs w/ gallon zip lock
29 1.02 No Straps, has temp gauge
170 6 CX Legend W/ 2 AA batteries and 6” string.
190 6.7 Canon S100
148 5.22 Droid X2 no covers
44 1.55 Fenix LD 15 w/ AA battery and 6” cord
AAA battery
12 0.42
AA battery
25 0.88
Extra Camera battery
19 0.67 knockoff
Extra Memory Cards and Case
9 0.32 2x 32gb – 1 SD 1 micro sd (music player)
Camera Pouch
4 0.14 Tyvek and Bubble wrap – homemade

3518 124.09 oz

7.76 lbs

The one piece of gear that I highly recommend (and isn't on the above gear list and haven't seen anyone else using) is the Olympus WS-710M combination voice recorder/mp3 player. To some, this may be a luxury item, but weighing in at 51g (including the AAA battery) it not only can take the place of a heavy paper journal, but also doubles as your source of music and audio books. It runs on a single AAA battery, unlike most modern portable electronic devices that run on rechargeable batteries, meaning you don't have to carry a charger, saving you more weight. Also, the fact that you can replace the battery after its LONG 30 hours of playback time, instead of having to ration the usage until the next opportunity to charge it makes it much more useful. Furthermore, it is much easier and convenient to record your trail journal by voice rather than spending the time writing it all out. Heck you can do what I did and hike and record the previous days journal! On top of all this good, it has 8gb of internal memory and can expand up to 40gb with a 32gb micro SD card (yes they work, even if the manual only says 16gb), making it on par with iPods etc. It even comes with a built in FM radio and doesn't require any special software to upload your music - just drag and drop. It seriously does it all and is a long distance hikers wet dream. 

Olympus WS-710M Voice Recorder
There are only a few quirky things I've noted and want to make sure to point them out so you don't have to struggle with problem solving why certain thing won't work 'right'. 1. Individual music folders can only hold up to 200 songs and won't show up on the device if over that number. 2. You must use a program like iTunes or Windows Media Player to upload an audio book, otherwise the tracks will not be in the proper order when played. 3. There is no shuffle all music on device, you can only shuffle the music within the specified folder. 4. The voice recorder will not record if the battery is too low, however the music will still play for a few more hours until the battery is completely drained. That's it. I use it as my primary music player now with the included rechargeable battery and it works flawlessly.

Panorama along the 'Hiker' PCT at Crater Lake National Park, OR - July 5th, 2012.