SHIFTING GEAR: QUADZILLA TWEAKS HIS SETUP FROM THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL FOR THE PACIFIC CREST TRAIL
Words and Photos from Jack "Quadzilla" Jones
Any gear heads in the audience here? Thought so! As you well know, selecting the right equipment for any trail is an addictive art form, and how others do it is a subject of intrigue for anyone who loves backpacking. What if you're choosing gear for over 8,000 miles of hiking, though? Jack "Quadzilla" Jones is hiking the Calendar Year Triple Crown, the three longest national scenic trails (Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and Continental Divide Trail) in the United States, all in a single calendar year. So far, he has completed the AT up to Baxter State Park in 94 days, and he will need to come back to summit Mt Katahdin when it opens for the summer season. Next, he will hike the PCT northbound and the CDT southbound. Quadzilla previously hiked the AT in 2016, CDT in 2018, and parts of the PCT and the CT in 2021. Here, he shares how the contents of his pack have changed from the AT to the PCT.
See his first list for the Appalachian Trail HERE
The biggest gear change is my quilt. I'm switching from a 15-degree Katabatic Flex to a 30-degree because my trip up the PCT will mostly be in June and July. Seems like most people are heading out with a 20-degree, but I won't need to face the colder temps of April or Washington in September/October, so a 30-degree should be plenty. Suppose it does get colder at night at higher elevations. In that case, I just need to be more selective about my campsites, avoiding windy ridges and anything above ten or twelve thousand feet. Switching to a 30-degree saves me five or six ounces, and more importantly, it gives me back a lot more space and room in my pack for longer food and water carries as well as the bear can I need in The Sierras.
As far as other major pieces in "The Big Three" (shelter, pack, sleep system), everything else is unchanged. I'm still using my same 55L Windrider 3400, and it's holding up really well–no tears or anything to speak of, so I'll just keep going with it. Same trekking pole tent and sleeping mat–a Therm-a-Rest Neo Air, and I'm thinking once this one breaks, if it does, I'll switch to a foam pad because it's just easier and faster to set up. When it's cold, I like the inflatable pad for the extra insulation, but when it's warmer out, a foam pad works just fine. But I'll definitely keep the Neo Air through The Sierras so I don't have to carry both a foam pad and a bear canister, as it would be hard to affix both to the outside of my pack.
When I started the PCT, I added a Hyperlite Essential Umbrella. The first 150-ish miles were through open and exposed desert, and it's still pretty exposed, but especially in those first miles, there's not a lot of shade. I wasn't acclimatized to the heat, so an umbrella was pretty helpful. I've since become more used to the heat and sun, so I don't need it as much, and I sent it home.
As far as clothing, I got rid of my mid-layer fleece–my Northwest Alpine Spider Grid hoodie–as its primary purpose is to keep you warm as you hike. That mid-layer microgrid is really breathable and good for temperatures in the thirties and forties, when you need to have a layer on to stay comfortable. With the heat of the desert, I just don't need a layer like that. I kept my Enlightened Equipment Torrid puffy, which is helpful when I'm in camp. If you're not moving, it can still get chilly at night, even in the fifties, and that puffy helps to retain the warmth.
I can throw on my rain jacket during the day if it's really windy or a little cold. It's not as good as the fleece in terms of breathability, but it works alright when I'm on the move. It's something I'll hold onto even though it hasn't rained once so far and probably won't very often, but it's a pretty critical piece of safety gear to help prevent hypothermia. You should never be in the backcountry without one. I have gotten rid of my rain pants because, with the current temperatures, I should be fine with just a jacket.
Other items I've gotten rid of are my microspikes, snowshoes, and waterproof socks–I don't need any of those. Thankfully there's no snow! The waterproof socks really work best as insulation and to keep feet warm rather than dry. They'll still wet out during the day just from sweat.
I've upped my carrying capacity for water from 2L to 6L. The PCT is very hot–there's been a drought in Southern California for years and years, and some of the water carries are between twenty and twenty-five miles, so having a 6L capacity is necessary sometimes.
I changed my camera from a Sony Alpha 6300 to a full-frame Sony a7 IV, and my lens is now 24x105. That whole setup, along with my microphone and batteries, is about 3.8lb, so almost as much as 2L of water. So, I gained back with this camera all the weight savings I made in getting rid of my heavier quilt and base layer. But I wanted to have something to capture the PCT in as much detail and the highest quality as possible, and because the PCT is much gentler in terms of grades than the Appalachian Trail, the extra weight doesn't slow me down nearly as much. The steeper something is, the more you're penalized for each pound!