Pit-zips are to rain gear what slices are to bread.
Gear has become a cornerstone to adventuring. Advances in technology, fabrics, plastics, and metals set ever improving standards of durability to weight and make new landscapes accessible.
The quality and weight of gear shapes an experience, it does not define it. Baseline, if it gets you out there, go with it. From there you will figure out which features REALLY matter. When something breaks, duct tape.
In 1955 Grandma Gatewood thru-hiked the AT carrying kit such as an army blanket, Keds sneakers, and a shower curtain for shelter.
Variety in brands and gear means hours and months of deliberation. Reading descriptions, reviews, and where you can, borrowing a friends’ to see how it fits/works. Some backpackers are so passionate about this step that we call them “gear heads.” They can tell you the material and weight in ounces of every piece they carry. These are very handy folks to know. Especially for someone who set out onto the PCT with a pack which, alone, weighed almost 7 lbs.
One early issue we encountered when planning the South America portion of Her Odyssey is that it is impractical to mail gear (unreliable international mail systems and high tariffs to get gear into the country) and most of what is available is either name brand for insanely high prices, or of poor quality. So what we fly down there with, is what we’ve got.
Here are the Big Three in Fidgit’s pack. These core pieces of backpacking gear are where the weight and durability game is made or lost so we weighed the options carefully.
- Shelter- Hyperlite Mountain Gear UltaMid 2
I couldn’t believe it when I saw it in the bag. It was so small and a fraction of the weight (17 oz) of my current 2-man. We are excited it puts gear to dual use in that the shelter is held up by 2 trekking poles, lashed together. I made it work with one pole fully extended but this would not hold up consistently in strong wind.
Neon got to take it for a test hike. I geeked out in the back yard for an afternoon.
This tent appeals to me b/c it is a simple and straighforward design (front-loading rectangle) and requires no instructions, tricky moves, nor an excess of buckles and clips. At 63 sq ft, internal capacity should suit the two of us and gear. We like the head room, wide entrance, and easy set up. Shelter is a key component to safety and sanity and will be put to the test over the course of this journey.
- Backpack- Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Series Southwest Pack
These 33.6 oz babies keep it all together. We opted for the black packs as they will be more discreet for stashing and the Cuben Fiber is slightly heavier than the popular white variety. The Southwest line have solid outside pockets which offer a bit more coverage for when traveling abroad. Again, our testing to date is yet minimal but after spending 20 minutes last night trying to fit myself into the backpack, the material and seams are proving quite durable.
- Sleeping Bag- Feathered Friends Flicker 20 UL Quilt Bag
I was excited to purchase this piece directly from their store in Seattle. Zach was awesome and definitely invested in making sure I got what I needed for the trip.
Having been curious about the cool kids’ move away from sleeping bags and into quilts, I found an awesome marriage of the features I sought in the Flicker 20 Quilt Bag. At 900-fill down this 27 oz puff of heaven offers awesome versatility.
She’ll be a front zip, side zip, or opens up into a quilt. Continuous baffles all the way around allow me to move the down to where I want/need it. Toe box can be left open or cinched on cold nights. While they make women’s bags which are actually made for a woman’s shape (wider hip space instead of pink and smaller) I opted for the 6ft men’s mummy bag so that I can withdraw inside, cinch the neck strap down tight above my head and create my own cave for the really cold nights.
In conclusion, and before you get to thinking it is all feather beds and kevlar grade materials, let me be clear on this one point: if you go backpacking enough, you WILL be miserable. It is a miserable sport. To love backpacking is to embrace your inner masochist.