Disclaimer: At this point I feel like I could write a few weeks worth of entries just about gear.
What do you take with you on a six-month hike?
Becky and I must have been asked this a hundred times- and we finally almost have it pinned down. Briefly- you don’t bring much; everything we bring we’ll use nearly daily. We’ll be trying to ‘ultralight’ the length of the hike. Ultralight means, simply, minimizing your ‘base weight,’ or the weight of your pack empty of food, water and fuel. Everyone has their own idea about what constitutes ultralight- for some that means base weights in the 5-8 pound range. Not that anyone’s counting, but I’m shooting for 10 -11 pounds- all inclusive of the pack itself, tent, sleeping bag/pad, warm/ rainproof layers, stove, and accessories like a headlamp. There are two ways to get to a weight like that.
1- Take gear out of your pack. Weekend backpackers may be familiar with some of the following
I love gourmet coffee, chairs with backs, and plates and bowls, but none of these make the weight/ usefulness ratio. If its not going to help me get to Canada, or to be warm while sleeping, I’m not going to bring it. So this cuts out a lot- clean t-shirts, numerous layers to suit all conditions, a five pound med- kit to solve all the world’s problems, and your digital SLR to get the best shots.
2- Change the gear that’s left. Once gear has been narrowed down to the necessities, its time to change the gear in the pack. Changing out your backpack, tent, and sleeping bag are great spots to start. This can get pretty expensive pretty quick, but shopping around, checking out forums on ultralight hiking, and maybe a Flyin Ryan Adventure Scholarship can help you get there. I’ve settled on a Gossamer Gear 16 ounce backpack, a Henry Shire’s 36 ounce tarp-tent, and a 22 ounce enLightened equipment quilt as my Big Three- the three heaviest pieces of gear in my pack. Becky is hiking with a Granite Gear Crown V.C 60 coming in at just over 32 ounces with an internal frame and hip belt that will help distribute the weight more evenly, a Mountain Hardwear 15 degree Phantom woman’s bag weighing in at 2 pounds and she will be carrying the tent’s extra things- stakes, the one small pole that comes with it, etc. We’ll also be carrying a small alcohol stove. Most backpacking stoves run on liquid white gas, or propane/isobutane canisters, we’ll be taking a stove made out of a cat food can, with 95% denatured alcohol being the fuel- very cheap, and readily available (you can also use the fuel line Antifreeze solution ‘HEET’), and most importantly- ultralight. Our stove and fuel storage, empty, will weigh in around an ounce.
Fancy Feast Stove
Becky in her new Sleeping Bag!
As the hike is longer, more remote, and goes through more ecosystems, planning for this hike has been considerably harder than for my 2011 Appalachian Trail Thru-hike. We’re working not only to dial in our gear, but to organize gear shipments to ourselves along the trail, food shipments for those remote areas, and planning beginning end logistics. Needless to say, we’ll both be excited to leave the planning stage behind and get hiking!