Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Things!

On the trail, the weight of your pack is everything.

Or, so they tell me. Considering I haven't actually hiked the trail yet, everything I say about the trail is second hand. Thus conceivably, it could all be lies. Maybe the trail is actually just a string of free five star hotels, perched on the precipices of the most beautiful landscapes East of the Mississippi.  All of the literature about the hardships of the trail is utter hooey, penned into existence by an elite secret society bent on keeping their way of life (and endless foie gras stuffed lobster) hidden from the world.

Until I am initiated into that secret society, however, I have to take it on good faith that what I read about the trail is true. That is to say, my entire livelihood for 6 months has to be carried on my shoulders. What does one need for their livelihood for 6 months, precisely? Here's the MOST BASIC of lists:

- Backpack
- Tent (including rain fly, poles, and stakes)
- Sleeping bag
- Socks
- Sleeping pad
- Water filter
- Water bottle
- First Aid Kit
- Clothing for peaks (COLD)
- Clothing for valleys (HOT)
- Camp stove (with fuel)
- Dishes for cooking
- Hiking poles
- Headlamp
- Hiking boots
- Hygiene products (minimum - All-One Soap, toothpaste, toothbrush)

Water can be pumped from streams and rivers, but then has to be carried. Water is heavy. We will likely hike off the trail and hitch-hike into nearby towns to get food about once a week or once every 2 weeks. Food that needs to be carried on our backs. In order to not waste away to skin and bones, the average thru-hiker needs to consume somewhere between 3000 and 5000 calories a day. I'd like you to imagine for a moment how much food that would be for a week. We want our equipment to weigh as little as possible, so we have room in our packs for food and water.

In an ideal world, my pack with everything in it, including food and water, my goal weight is less than 25 pounds. This is no small feat.

Many people begin the trail with far too much weight on their backs, and that is one of the most common causes of people giving up within the first month. 40 pounds may not seem all that heavy, but that's 40 pounds on your back for 12 hours a day, up and down mountains, through rain, snow, and sweltering heat. That's the equivalent of carrying a full grown bull dog on your back. Or a six-year-old child.

We're aiming more for a 3-year-old.

There is a tiny outpost set up along the trail at about 3 weeks in, where the entire business consists of a man who will gladly take all of your extra stuff off of your hands, and mail it to your home or to a friend. I watched a documentary about the trail that highlighted this little outpost, and apparently people bring some crazy stuff with them on the trail. Oh, hiking in the wilderness for 6 months? I totally need my laptop and a king-sized inflatable mattress.

Mike and I have a membership with REI, which means crazy awesome deals every couple of months. I'm not being paid to say that - I just figure it's the least I can do for getting an insane amount of benefits for a super cheap membership.  Furthermore, we can return things forever. So, technically, I could take my stinky, disgusting, horrifying boots that I wear for the entire trail back to REI and return them for credit. I wouldn't do that, because I like to think of myself as a good person. But it's awesome to know that the company I'll be giving all my life savings to is good people.

We have started pricing out our equipment, and purchasing some items. I am very concerned with the weight of the things we purchase. This sleeping bag might be sent from Zeus himself and is lined with down from a golden goose, but if it doesn't weigh less than 2 pounds then I won't have it. Unfortunately, this zeroing-in on the weight of things has become pervasive, to the extent that I am looking at the weight of everything I buy, regardless of the relevance to the trail. That box of cereal? I could carry 30 of those on the trail. How much does this Russian nesting doll weigh? What about this IKEA side table? How many rolls of scotch tape could I carry?

Here are some of the things we have gotten so far. It turns out that without realizing it, everything we have purchased is in the same bright orange/yellow color scheme. Hopefully, this will mean that when I am fleeing through the woods, wearing my sleeping bag like a dress and dragging my tent behind me like a flag, I am unlikely to be shot by hunters.

 Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 Tent

Weight: 2 pounds, 2 oz

Sleeping Capacity: 2-person
Pole Material: Aluminum DAC Featherlite NSL
Tent Material: Ripstop nylon/mesh and coated ripstop nylon

This will be our home for 6 months.

REI Sub Kilo +20 Sleeping Bag

Weight: 1 pound, 13 oz

Temp Rating: 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-6 degrees Celsius). This is an indication of how cold it can get while the bag stays warm.

Material: Ripstop polyester, filled with 750-fill goose down
We're taking a risk with down-filled bags, as they become basically useless if they get wet. However, they are significantly lighter than synthetic-filled bags, for a better price. The odds of a sleeping bag getting soaked through are pretty slim, unless I roll into a lake while inside of it. Even if it's raining while we're hiking, my bag will be packed tightly within a waterproof compression sack, in a rain-fly covered pack. Though I am making every effort to sound confident, this is one of those things that may potentially come back to make me regret EVERYTHING.

Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad

Weight: 12 oz

This thing looks like a flattened caterpillar. It has a reflective layer that returns heat back to your body and creates dual air pockets that conserve warmth. It's only 2.5 inches thick when inflated, but it's wicked comfortable.


I will be sleeping on a crinkly weevil for half a year. I do know that it's like sleeping on a cloud, and weighs just about as much as one.

Freestanding tent in our living room: Mikes not included.

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