Epilogue Part 2: Gear Review

Gossamer Gear Mariposa – 32.7 oz

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The Grey Ghost’s school pic

Seeing as how I’ve never backpacked before, I didn’t have many preconceived notions about how they should look and feel. If I had, this pack would have met all those expectations. Coming in at just a little over 2 pounds, this lightweight pack meets the sweet spot of weight, price and load capacity. For me anyway.

I had to dial in how the pack works because the stays came out and ended up poking through the pack making everything crumble. Gossamer Gear’s customer service sent me a new smaller hip belt and the Air Flow Sitlight Camp seat that acts as a back pad in the pack. I’m not sure why they just don’t go ahead and make that the standard back pad because that foam piece it comes with, is useless and sweaty. With the new hip belt and airy back pad I was set. The weight is displaced on your hips and the shoulders keep the pack from shifting. The hip belt was cushy and never caused any skin breakdown. I usually carried a load of 25-30 lbs with food and water and noticed that the pack carried heavier loads beautifully. In fact it seemed like the pack carried better when it was loaded down.

I am a big fan of the the pocket set up. The large side pocket kept my hammock easily accessible for quick set up. The smaller side pockets kept the things I use everyday within reach. Unlike some certain bird-named packs, I could reach my water bottles with the pack still on. The large back mesh pocket allowed me to carry wet things to dry out while I walked. The top flap (not technically a pocket I know) was great for putting extra things on top to cinch down. The hip belt pockets were big enough to carry my phone (Galaxy S9) and wallet in one and a days worth of snacks in the other. I came to judge other packs on their pocket arrangement and only ULA came close.

The only thing I’d change about it other than the back pad is the width of the shoulder straps. They were definitely made for wide shoulders and no boobs. I made it work, but I think narrower straps would have been more comfortable.

The Gray Ghost, as it came to be known, held up through thunderstorms, rocks, and every other weather/terrain the Appalachian Trail offers. After five months it survived with only two little tears in the mesh pocket. Overall, I’d say this is a great pack for loads up to 30ish lbs and long distance hiking.

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The Gray Ghost in action

 

Six Moons Lunar Solo – 26 oz

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TL;DR: It never looked like this

Initially I liked the ease of set up and the weight, but I never could get the damn vestibule taut. It was a choice of one side or the other. I set up this tent over 30 times, all in different ways, and could never get it to a) form a bathtub bottom and b) form a vestibule both low to the ground and taut. Also it does not block the rain very well. I got caught in a thunderstorm and despite putting leaves all around to divert the water, the rain soaked through all my stuff. I also felt very claustrophobic in the small space. I sent this home for my hammock in Damascus.

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Meh.

Hennessy Hammock Ultralite Backpacker – 31 oz

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Henny class photo.

The Appalachian trail is all trees so you are never worried about finding enough of those to hang a hammock. This particular hammock is super lightweight and super comfortable. It takes a few set ups to figure out the hanging angles and what works for you. I added an under quilt to my set up and slept like a baby. The asymmetrical fly is designed to coordinate with the hammock to keep the rain off without adding too much weight. I used this in the pouring rain and stayed dry and warm all night. I like the bug net attached to hammock and the pocket hanging from the main line.

The only draw back (and this applies to all hammocks) is that you have nowhere to put your backpack. I usually left it hanging out underneath me and in wet conditions would wrap it my Tyvek sheet left over from my tent.

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Henny in action

REI Joule 21 Sleeping bag – 35 oz & Enlightened Equipment Revelation – 16.55 oz

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The beetle of sleeping bags
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The ferrari of sleeping quilts

The Joule 21 is a perfectly serviceable cold weather sleeping bag rated to 21 degrees. I got this with my REI Co-op dividends and a sale, otherwise I would have gone for a more light weight option. My feet never got cold and in fact I often had to open the bag to cool down. It is also very water resistant. One time I went to sleep with damp clothes from rain and woke up totally dry and warm. This thing is like an oven. However it is just a hair north of being too heavy for thru hiking.

I ended up sending home for my Enlightened Equipment Revelation quilt rated to 30 degrees when it got warmer. The only reason I didn’t take it to begin with was that the temperature rating on the quilt was not accurate. I spent a very cold night at Death Valley NP in the EE quilt where it got down to the 30s and froze my butt off. I’d say EE’s temp rating system is optimistic at best, and if you go with them to add 10 degrees to what you think you might need. If you are a cold sleeper, go down 20 degrees. During warmer months though, this quilt is nice because it allows for better air flow acting like a normal blanket. If it gets cool, you can use the elastic bands to cinch it close to your body and to your sleeping pad, as well as using the zipper and cord to close up the foot box. This quilt packs down to the size of a Nalgene bottle and you can stuff it anywhere.

 

Sea to Summit Comfort Light Sleeping Pad Short – 20.1 oz

S2S Comfort light insulated

I went with this pad for it’s insulation rating (R-value) of 4.2 and it’s thickness of 2.5 inches. I’m a serious side sleeper and knew I’d need the cushion on my hips. This pad performed very well. I never felt my hips touch the ground, it never leaked and I was never cold. It took about 10 breaths to blow up and the clever dump valve let air out in one big poof. I didn’t have to squeeze any air out like the other pads. This brand is also the quietest. A lot of other pads are loud AF (I’m looking at you Therm-a-rest) when people shift in the night.

I switched over to the Sea to Summit Ultralight pad with the warmer weather. It weighs considerably less at 12.1 oz and packs down much smaller. I lost 1/2 inch in thickness, but it didn’t seem to matter. I put my sit pad under my hips anyway and still slept fine. The R-value is non-existent at 0.7 and I felt it the last night in Maine when it got down to the 30s, but it was only a mild chill underneath that didn’t keep me from sleeping.

Sea to Summit Aero Ultralight Pillow – 2 oz

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A must have. I will never not use it. I kept it under inflated for a more comfortable sleep. The only thing is that the fabric can get sticky with sweat, so I would usually add my fleece pull over over it.

Snow Peak Litemax – 1.9 oz

lite max

This stove is a champ. I made a aluminum foil wind screen and it always lit and boiled my water. It’s super small, lightweight, and never failed me.

Snow Peak Mini Solo Cookset – 5.5 oz

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Shown here is the smaller cup in the set. I ended up not using it as much and could have sent it home. The larger “pot” holds the fuel canister and stove when packed up. I used the pot the most. The handles do get hot but cool down very quickly once the heat is turned off. I would like the handles to be coated with some sort of heat reducer for better use when cooking. I used a camp towel to insulate my hand. Otherwise, very useful and compact.

Sea to Summit Alpha Light Spork Long – 0.4 oz

It’s a spork. It did its job.

Marmot Precip Rain Jacket – 11.4 oz

Did not like. It’s very heavy to carry and did not repel water at all. I was more soaked on the inside than out. The only thing it did well was keep the heat in. If I’m going to be wet anyway, I’m going to find a lighter weight jacket.

Bedrock Sandals – 9 oz

LOVED! They pack down really flat and if you pair them with toe socks become the best camp shoes! They are pretty comfortable to walk in around town too. Mine are still going strong, unlike some of those bulky Crocs I saw on the trail.

Petzl Tikka Headlamp – 3 oz

Probably could have gone for no-weight LED pen light or something, but I already had this and it worked great. It’s better suited for night hiking, which I did none of, so I didn’t use it much. I paired it with the USB rechargeable battery and didn’t have any issues. The most I used this was the red light for going to pee in the middle of the night. FYI: use the damn red light when getting up in the dark, especially if you are in the shelter. I was surprised at how many people would nonchalantly blast the white high beam with everyone sleeping.

Black Diamond Hiking poles

The Z-poles kept breaking on me. Dirt and grit gets up in the pole and makes it impossible to disassemble. Next time I’m going to go with adjustable.

Darn Tough Socks

The only problem with these is not having enough.

Ex-Officio Underwear

Best underwear ever! Thru hikers, do yourself a favor and get black undies. I wore one pair pretty much the whole way. They are still intact, kept the smell down, and dried out in 5 minutes. For some reason the outfitters think women want flowers and pastels so I ended up with a lavender pair, but only wore them in town. Like I said, get black.

Patagonia R2 Fleece

Easily my favorite piece of clothing. It was light enough to hike in and not get too sweaty, but still warm. I’d put the hood up on cold nights to cover my head while sleeping. When it was warm, I’d use it over my pillow. I ended up using it for warmth more than I thought I would. It gets chilly up at night up in them mountains.

Guthook’s App

Very useful. It tells you where you are on a map, how far away you are from waypoints, and has elevation profiles. You can change it from Northbound to Southbound. The comments on waypoints are helpful for finding out if water sources are dry or services in town.

 

Any questions about gear, just let me know!

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