As thru hikers start to share their excitement about their chosen trails for 2019, so too are they sharing their gear lists. The result provides all the evidence anyone needs to show how addictive the pursuit of the ready-for-anything “final pack list” is for trip planners. (Spolier alert: It’s never over). Pacific Crest Trail Alumnus Samuel Martin came to the Hyperlite Mountain Gear office to visit recently, and this very subject came up. Here he shares how a willingness to deviate from preconceived perfection, no matter how hard you planned every detail beforehand, can go a long way towards your overall enjoyment on trail.
Category: Long Distance + Thru Hiking
It’s been said that, as far as human-powered feats go, completing any long distance hiking trail is heavy enough. You don’t need anything extra weighing you down—whether that’s excessive gear, or the kind of mental clutter that will get in your way on the trail.
Ultimately, thru hiking the Appalachian trail or the Pacific Crest trail is a simple act. One foot in front of the other, 2000+ times. Of course, that’s once you’re actually out on the trail. Beforehand, there’s a mountain of logistics to sort out and gear to make sense of.
That’s why we’ve turned to experienced thru hikers who’ve gone the distance—in some cases, completing the Triple Crown of Hiking (AT + PCT + CDT)—to pull apart their packs and show us the way to thru hiking nirvana. Hyperlite Mountain Gear is also proud to partner with the PCTA and other conservation organizations to be able to bring you up-to-the-moment information on trail conditions and protect the experience for generations to come.
A thru hike can be like a lever. A lever that pulls back a curtain on your worldview. A lever that when thrown forward, gets your engine running at full speed. Or maybe it’s a tool that helps you lift and move something heavy up and out of the way so you can travel freely. No matter how you work it, (or it works you), the result is guaranteed to lead to a different outcome after you use it.
No question our friend Jeff "IBTAT" Oliver discovered this in 2018 on his Appalachian Trail thru hike. He finished lighter, clearer, and more motivated than ever. And once anyone gets a taste of that, it’s pert near impossible to sit still for long, not wanting more. So, this year, he’s going to keep the momentum going on the Pacific Crest Trail.
With all the time in the world to think about how he moved along while on the AT, and how his gear helped or hindered him, coupled with the time to reflect on it all between the AT finish and the PCT start that can’t come soon enough, Jeff’s gear and approach plan is taking shape. Walk with him a spell as he gets into the nitty-gritty as few others can.
Distance: 132.23 Miles (212.8 km)
Duration: 8 - 14 days
Access: Pisac, Peru - Cachora, Peru
While Machu Picchu is the focal point of almost all tourism in Peru, there are thousands of sites and interest points which are missed. If you have designs on visiting this area but want to do it with fewer groups, rushing, and hubbub, I suggest taking your time and walking the Sacred Valley. Salt pans, Inca fortresses, and the Choqueqirao ruins are right there at your feet. Another advantage of this journey is it can be done with very little pack weight.
What a South Westerner learned on a week-long Appalachian Trail section hike from Rangeley to Caratunk, Maine.
Roots. Millions, and millions of roots. Within 100 yards of leaving the trailhead at the Highway 4 crossing of the Appalachian Trail (AT) outside of Rangeley, Maine, I realized that this backpacking trip was going to be far different than the hundreds of trips I had done in the southwest desert. For one, I had never hiked on a trail covered in slippery roots projecting randomly across and along the trail waiting to take down the unaware. The forest canopy supported by those roots was a magical jungle that blotted out the sun creating more humidity than I had ever experienced.
Distance: 101 Miles (162.5 km)
Duration: 7 - 11 Days
Access: Villa O'Higgins-Cochrane, Chile
Season: December - February
This ‘Ruta Patrimonial’ of Chile is already incorporated into the far wider Greater Patagonian Trail. It's generally agreed that the “Ruta de Los Pioneros” is one of the most astounding sections of that region, and it sees very few hikers each year. With intertwining and disappearing trails that cross through river fed glaciers and wind past the glaciers themselves, and a portion that even pops into a corner of Argentina, this remote and austere trail is only recommended for highly experienced trekkers. Ample GPS experience is a must, and those who choose to embark on this trip must be comfortable with carrying up to nine days of food.
One of the biggest differences between mainstream brand backpacks and ultralight backpacks is the amount of bells and whistles. Removable brains, sleeping bag compartments, built in rain fly, and trekking pole carry straps might work for some people, but for a lot of backpackers, these features are over-designed and under-used, which in turn becomes unnecessary weight. Each extra zipper adds grams and another weak point for water to enter the pack, which is why a weather-resistant, roll-top style pack is the preferred design for a growing number of hikers. With only one entry point at the top, gear can be a little harder to organize but there are some tricks to make packing easier.
DEVELOP A SYSTEM
When you repack your backpack daily for five months, it helps to know exactly where everything belongs. If you need your med kit in an emergency, hear a bump in the night and need a light, or a storm sneaks up and you needed your raincoat 30 seconds ago, it helps if you don’t have to unpack everything to grab what you need. Also, a lot of gear manages to be left behind by hikers (always sweep your camp for gear, and garbage), but if you pack your bag the same way every day, you can reduce the chances of that happening. When using a thinly padded backpack without a burly frame system, it matters how you pack the interior. More solid objects (tent stakes, food bag lumps, stoves) can be felt through the back panels and cause discomfort, but if the backpack is padded internally with rain gear and extra clothing you’re already carrying, it adds to comfort without adding weight. Additionally, a well-packed backpack that’s flush with your hips and shoulders will help you balance better in uneven terrain, while allowing you to feel one with your pack, not battling it with each step.
CRITICIZE EVERY PIECE OF GEAR
It’s easy to get caught up in the newest technology, but sometimes it’s not the best thing for the job. While doing pack shakedowns I often ask “Why” someone is carrying an item. Hydration bladders are a common item you see inexperienced hikers using. In reality, they are a pain to refill on trail, as you often need to unpack half your pack to fill them, they get gunky without proper cleaning and drying, they can leak and fill the interior of your backpack with water, and possibly the worst part, you can’t gauge your water intake while using them which could lead to under hydration, or worse, let you run out of water too soon. A modest Gatorade bottle or Smartwater bottle is more durable, allows you to measure consumption, is easy to refill on the fly, and can be found in almost every gas station or small town store. Plus, it comes with a free drink inside! Treat every piece of gear this way and ask, “Is it the best thing for the job?” (For the record, I’m addicted to any hydration hose for biking, ski touring, and day hikes – I’m just not a fan of it on long hikes.)
Packing your pack takes a lot of trial and error at first. Add a bear canister and it can get downright frustrating. The important thing is to try different tactics to find what works for you consistently. Do you want tent poles on the outside where they risk getting broken, or do you prefer to have them inside the pack? A lot comes down to personal preference. Pack, unpack, and repack until you feel like you’re ready and capable of doing this for the next 150 days in a row. And don’t forget anything!
When using a single compartment pack, it helps to keep things on the inside organized. There’s nothing worse than having to empty your pack to find a knife that shifted to the bottom of a black hole. Stuff Sacks + Pods can help group items that belong together. In my pack, I use a stuff sack for a med kit, another for a ditty bag of odds and ends, a third as my food bag, a fourth for my sleeping bag and sacred sleeping clothes, and often a fifth for my air mattress as I want to ensure that it is not punctured. This system helps keep both my pack and tent space organized, and I don’t misplace items as easily. Pods are a versatile piece of the system as well. I use them at the bottom layer of my pack for gear not needed throughout the day and also to provide extra waterproofing for sleeping bags, puffy jackets, and any other gear that MUST stay dry. Pods also work great for re-packing wet gear like a tent or even right at the top of your pack for quick access to snacks or food throughout the day. The possible combinations of Stuff Sacks + Pods are endless, and finding the right balance for your specific needs and pack system is part of the fun!
Annie MacWilliams saw the world at 3.5 mph on the Appalachian Trail (’09), Pacific Crest Trail (’11), and Continental Divide Trail (’13). She considers the days of Tarzan-swinging kudzu vines, sunburn-soothing snow angels in the Sierra, gruff-ranchers-turned-hosts in the West, and intimately knowing the cycles of the natural world to be some of the best days spent of her life. She now spends her time in Park City, Utah walking slowly over short distances with a goofy dog, and up snowy mountains to slide down them. But every April she dreams of trail markers.
Introducing our favorite 2018 Thru Hikers.
Every year we’re inundated (and frankly honored) with hundreds of requests for supporting someone’s dream thru hike. Unfortunately, it’s simply impossible to hook up everyone with gear, but there are always a few stand-outs that grab our attention for any number of reasons. This year is no different, and we’ve got folks using our Windrider and Southwest pa
If you’re like us – and you are to some degree – living the trail life vicariously through social media updates, we’ve rounded up a list of our favorite trail characters to keep an eye on this summer.
WE GOT IT. WE CHANGED IT. When our design intentions and your reactions line up, that’s the sweet spot. We don’t always nail it on the first try, though – case and point, the dimensions of the original hip belt pockets on our popular 2400, 3400, and 4400 packs. The common theme in the feedback […]