Gear

This is the gear review page for our gear for our 2013 Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike. For the most part, I think we chose the right things for us, and for our bodies. We spent a year and a half researching gear, so what we chose ended up being the right thing for us. Thus, almost all of these reviews are positive. However! Some of the things we loved might not be the right thing for you. This is a not an end-all be-all list, but I hope you find it helpful! If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or email.

Packs

Clever Girl's Pack:
Gregory Deva 60 Women's Pack

Rating: 5/5

I LOVE THIS BACKPACK. I really liked all of the different pockets and sections, because I was able to easily organize all of my gear - anything I wanted was only one zipper away. The pack did an incredible job of transferring the weight of the pack onto my hips and legs, so my shoulders were hardly, if ever, sore. The straps and hip-belt were cushioned and comfy. The only downside to the extra cushioning was the fact that it never quite completely dried out if I was sweating a lot, so the pack was definitely stinky by the end of the trail. But I think any pack would be stinky after 6 months. None of the zippers broke, and the backpack remained perfectly fit and functional for the whole trip. I particularly always loved the way that the internal frame fit against my spine and lower back. It was super comfortable, and made it possible for me to carry 30-35 pounds of weight over many, many mountains. I sincerely can't think of a single thing I would change about this pack. Some other women on the trail who had this pack said that the frame didn't fit well against their lower back - so I highly recommend trying this pack on at an outfitter and wearing it for a while. 


Dumptruck's Pack:
Deuter ACT Lite 65 + 10 Pack

Rating: 3/5

Dumptruck felt that the pack was well made and durable, and it was very basic and lightweight. There were not any extra pockets or places for things to get lost in the pack - it was all one open tube. Some hikers prefer a lot of pockets for organizing (like the Gregory pack) and some prefer one open space to jam everything together (like this one). Dumptruck says that he liked that the shoulder straps could be adjusted to move to different heights on the pack. Dumptruck says he was bummed out that he couldn't take the top section off of the backpack - a lot of other types of packs allow you to be able to unclip the top section and use it as a small day-fanny-pack. However, the top part of this pack (the "brain") was permanently sewn onto the top of the pack. After 4 months, Dumptruck actually cut the top part off because he wasn't using it anymore. The biggest problem with this pack was after 4 and a half months of hiking, the internal frame began to buckle and bend inside the pack. By the end of the 6 months, the internal frame had accordion-ed itself to about 2/3 of it's original height, and was rumpled uncomfortably against Dumptruck's back. We spoke to other hikers with this same pack, and none of them had the accordion-effect of the internal frame, so it could be that Dumptruck just got a glitch-y model.
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Cooking 


GSI Outdoor Pinnacle Dualist Ultralight Cookset

Rating: 5/5

This cookset made it the whole AT. We did ditch the sporks that came with the set before we started, and replaced them with lightweight titanium sporks. This set fit together amazingly well, and could fit a small propane canister AND our stove inside of it. The size of it was just right for 2 people. If you are hiking solo, there are smaller versions of this same company's cookset. The pot did equally well on our stove or in a fire. The second set of insulated bowls with sippy-lids were really nice on cold days for making tea or hot chocolate. I dropped this set at least 10 times by accident, and it never bent or broke. When it's all put together, it is lightweight and wonderfully compact. 


Soto OD-R1 Micro Regulator Stove

Rating: 5/5

This stove has a piezo igniter that runs through the center post of the stove that sends out an electric spark that starts the flame once the gas it turned on (so it doesn't need any matches). This was really helpful on windy days, so we didn't have to worry about trying to light the gas with a lighter or matches. This stove held up the entire trip, and never jammed, sputtered or stopped working. It was fuel efficient as well - we only needed to replace our fuel canister once every 10 days or so, and we were cooking for 2 people. When it's not being used, all of the pieces fold down around the stove, making it compact and easy to pack into the cooking pot. One time this even got kicked over by accident and one of the arms got bent. It was easy to bend the arm back, and the stove was fine! I highly recommend this as a cooking option.

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Sleeping


Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 Tent

Rating: 3/5


The reason this is rated 3/5 is that it is NO GOOD FOR 2 PEOPLE. If you are a solo hiker, this tent is awesome. It sets up really easily, is super lightweight, is high quality and is definitely a great tent. It's just way too small for 2 people - even 2 bony people like me and Dumptruck. No matter what we did, we would always end up being pressed against the sides of the tent while we slept, which left us (and our sleeping bags) soaking wet with condensation. Climbing in and out of the tent was like getting in and out of a clown car. There was nowhere to put our two backpacks, as the vestibule of the rainfly was itty-bitty. Thus, in a hard downpour we had to pile the packs in the small vestibule, leaving only a foot and a half of space left to crawl out over the packs when you wanted/needed to exit the tent. It was also so small that Dumptruck couldn't sit upright inside of it. This tent is marketed as a 2 person tent, but it is actually a 1 person tent (unless perhaps it's 1 adult and 1 child). We switched to the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL3 Tent after a month.



Big Agnes Fly Creek UL3 Tent

Rating: 5/5



This tent is EXCELLENT for 2 people. It has an incredible amount of floor space, as well as a huge vestibule area under which 2 packs can easily fit, with plenty of space left for a corridor to be able to exit the tent. Once we switched to this tent, we never got wet again from touching the sides of the tent while we slept. A super fun part about this tent is that you can set up the poles and subsequently the rain-fly free-standing on the groundcloth. There were several times when we had to set up the tent in a downpour of rain, so we would set up the poles and rain-fly, then we could sit under the rain-fly and set up the tent itself from inside. This way, the tent itself was always protected under the rain-fly and never got more than a tiny bit wet. Both Dumptruck and I could sit upright inside the tent. There was ample headspace, and after the UL2 it felt like a palace. It was still very lightweight and super quick to set up and take down. Big Agnes is also a terrific gear company. We accidentally broke our poles one time, and Big Agnes sent us new poles immediately, for free. They were very accommodating and helpful. 




Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad

Rating: 5/5


This sleeping pad is so comfortable that when we were done with the trail I had trouble sleeping on a bed- and I ended up inflating this sleeping pad and putting it under the sheets. Both Dumptruck and I had this type of air mattress. They blow up and deflate quite easily, and they hold up really well. They are amazingly lightweight, and neither Dumptruck nor I had any trouble with tears or punctures. Most wonderfully, the company that makes Therm-A-Rest (Cascade) was terrifically, amazingly helpful. After about 3 months, the baffling on the inside of the pad began to separate. I called Cascade, and they immediately sent me a brand new sleeping pad after I sent them photos of my pad and how it was coming apart. They were super sweet, and I would absolutely buy from them again. 



Therm-a-Rest XLite Sleeping Pad Pump Sack

Rating: 5/5


This inflates the sleeping pad; you attach this to the sleeping pad valve, loft air into this bag and then squeeze the dickens out of it, forcing air into the sleeping pad. This prevents you from having to blow up the mattress using your breath (which can cause moisture buildup and mold on the inside of your pad). I loved having this - I would store my deflated, rolled-up mattress inside of it during the day, and when we were setting up camp, it made it really easy to inflate the sleeping pads. I had the women's model of the XLite, and it only needed 5 rounds from the sack and it was good!


Sierra Designs +15 Degree DriDown Sleeping Bag

Rating: 5/5

This bag saved me from dying of hypothermia! Granted, that time I was also using the sleeping bag liner and wearing all of my clothing, but it was nevertheless and important part of that. This bag had a lot more wiggle-room than other mummy bags I've been in. I'm one of those people that likes to sleep with one leg bent up next to me, and there was enough room in the bag that I could sleep that way. The zipper never broke or jammed, and the bag stayed warm even if it got damp from the weather. It stood up very well to being squashed into a compression sack every day while I hiked, and still fluffed-up very nicely and was cozy when I slept in it at night. Dumptruck had the same bag, and when it was super cold we could zip the 2 bags together for warmth. They both had left-handed zippers, so zipping them together wasn't perfect (one person then had the "hood" over their face), but it worked in a pinch. 





Sea to Summit Reactor Thermolite Mummy Bag Liner

Rating: 5/5

Having the sleeping bag liner was excellent. It was easy to wash when we did laundry, which kept my sleeping bag from getting too terribly stinky. It did add warmth on cold nights. On warmer nights, I would sleep only in the liner, on top of my sleeping bag, and it was really cozy. Over 6 months it may have lost a little bit of its warming capacity, but I can't be entirely sure, as I wasn't really intent on being super warm when it was the middle of the summer. This liner didn't "pill", didn't wear out, and didn't rip in any way. It held up to many washes in laundry, and was able to be dried with all of our other clothing. 
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Footwear and Poles

Clever Girl's Shoes:
Keen Targhee II Mid Hiking Boots - Women's

Rating: 4/5


Overall, these boots were great. It's good to keep in mind that any boots will wear while hiking the Appalachian Trail. These mid-height boots held up for almost 4 months. The only significant place they began to fall apart is that the black treading on the side of the soles began to peel off and catch on rocks. I would use shoe goo to try and stick the treads back against the shoe, but it wouldn't last for very long. I told Keen about the problem, and they gave me a 30% discount coupon to buy a new pair of boots, which was greatly appreciated. Because it was getting warmer and my ankles were a lot stronger from hiking at this point, I chose to get the ankle-height Targhee boots. They worked just as well. These boots were waterproof, though needed occasional re-water-proofing, using waterproofing product from an outfitter. When they got soaking wet (from sweat or if I had to cross a river), they did take a day or two to full dry out, as there is no mesh for easy drying from inside-out. 
The reason I gave the boots themselves a 4/5 rating was because of the treading, but also because they were initially giving me a fair amount of blisters. After about 10 days, I took out the factory insoles and replaced them with Super Feet insoles (I used the "Berry"), which can be found at most outfitters and also online. Once I replaced the insoles with Super Feet, I didn't have another blister for the entire trail. The Keen boots in combination with the Super Feet were perfect for my feet.


Clever Girl's Poles:
Komperdell Explorer Compact Trekking Poles

Rating: 5/5

I got these poles on sale at REI, and I didn't meet anyone else on the trail with Komperdell poles. I don't know if they're considered "off-brand," but I can tell you one thing: nearly every single other hiker I met had trouble with their fancy expensive poles breaking, bending, losing tips, or cracking. These poles made it all the way from Georgia to Maine with their original metal tips, didn't bend or crack or break or have any trouble whatsoever. There were several times I accidentally get the pole stuck in the crack of a rock, and they never bent. The handles were cork, which were really comfortable and didn't give my hands any blisters. The pop-lock mechanism for collapsing the poles was great, and the poles never collapsed on themselves once locked into place. I don't know if Komperdell poles are all this awesome, but I can tell you that mine were fantastic.



Dumptruck's Shoes:
Lowa Renegade II GTX Mid Hiking Boots

Rating: 5/5

LOWA IS AWESOME. This is a great company with down-to-earth employees who are terrifically helpful. Dumptruck loved his boots, and they held up very well for 4 months. After hiking through the rocks of Pennsylvania, and after a lot of wet weather, some of the leather began cracking. Dumptruck called Lowa and they sent him a brand-new pair for FREE because he was thru-hiking the trail. These boots were very waterproof, comfortable, and had a lot of ankle support. They fit Dumptruck's feet very well, and other than the cracking leather after a lot of wear, nothing else went wrong with the boots. Dumptruck's only complaint is that the boots would take 2 or 3 days to dry if they got soaked from the inside (from a river crossing).


Dumptruck's Poles:
Leki Corklite Aergon Speedlock Trekking Poles

Rating: 3/5

Leki is one of the most popular brands of hiking poles for thru-hikers, but they are not very durable. We heard from other hikers that Leki is very good at replacing poles when they get broken, but the several times that Dumptruck's broke, we were able to get random replacement parts at outfitters in trail towns. By the end of the trail, we called his poles "Frankenstein" poles, because they were a cobbled-together amalgamation of 3 different brands of hiking poles. The original tips broke off the bottom of the poles pretty quickly, and the lower sections (while they were still "Leki" sections) bent and broke several times. The top sections and the handles stayed the same throughout the trail, and were very comfortable to grip. 
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Clothing


Base Layers:


Smart Wool Base Layers

Rating: 5/5

Both Dumptruck and I had Smart Wool long underwear pants and shirts. They were really warm and held up great. At the beginning of the trail, for the cold weather, I had a mid-weight shirt as well as a light-weight shirt. I would hike in the light-weight shirt most days and sleep in the mid-weight one, though if it was a really cold day I would hike in the mid-weight shirt. I still have my original light-weight smart wool base layers, and they held up great with no rips, holes or pilling. Dumptruck also had Smart Wool Boxer Briefs, which he liked. They were light weight and comfy, and though they smelled ripe after several days of hiking, the wool smelled marginally better than polyester did. I had a polyester tank-top that I hiked in during the summer and BOY did that thing REEK. The wool held up much better.


Patagonia Active Hipster Underwear


Rating: 5/5

Ooo underpants! These were awesome. They never gave me any wedgies, and never got stinky. I was a little bit of a princess with this, as I brought 6 pairs of these and wore and clean pair every day (and then would do laundry). But these were super lightweight, so I didn't mind carrying several pairs. These held up GREAT and didn't fall apart at all. I could even wear them with a sports bra and they passed easily as a bathing suit. 



Smart Wool Socks

Rating5/5

Over the course of the trail, I went from thicker Smart Wool socks to thinner and lower-ankle for the heat. They all held together really well. I didn't have any trouble with ripping or holes in my socks. Dumptruck did get a few holes in his socks, but he didn't change his as often. I had 3 pairs of socks that I rotated daily, and he had only 2 pairs. 



Mid Layer:
EMS Adventure Zip-Off Pants

Rating: 5/5

Dumptruck has owned this one pair zip-off pants since 2007, and he has worn them on every hiking trip, including every single day on the Appalachian Trail. Due to their age and use, some of the seams separated, but were easily repaired with needle and thread. The material of the pants themselves held up fantastically well, and didn't get any holes or rips. The pants also had a zillion pockets, and he could easily keep essentials on hand (map, swiss army knife, lighter, etc). These pants dried super fast after rain.


REI Women's Compression Running Shorts

Rating: 5/5

These are not standard hiking pants, but I switched to wearing them after the winter months of hiking because the spring and summer was so hot. These shorts definitely did the job of keeping my legs cool, as they were crazy short. They didn't give me any wedgies, and didn't get any rips or holes in them, even with all of the rock scrambling we had to do. I still have these shorts and I now go running in them. They didn't get stinky at all, which was amazing as they were only laundered maybe once a week. The only downside is that if they got wet in the rain, they did take a full day to dry out.



Mountain Hardwear Monkey Fleece

Rating: 5/5

Both Dumptruck and I had one of these fleeces. They were a little heavy, but totally worth it for the winter. They were exceptionally warm, cozy, and comfortable. They were good for hiking in, and didn't get bogged down with sweat. The wrist and hip elastic areas were soft and nice, and weren't tight at all, but held in the heat. It could be laundered easily, and kept that nice "fresh" smell for a long time in the fleece material. I love this fleece.


Rain Layer:


REI Kimtah Rain Jacket

Rating
: 5/5


This rain jacket made it all 6 months, and was still waterproof and quite functional. It kept the rain off, though as with any rain jacket, it was difficult to wear if it was a hot rainy day, because I would sweat inside of it, thus making it basically useless. But it was great for cutting wind, and was essential for cold, windy days or windy summits. 





Sierra Designs Hurricane Pant

Rating5/5

I sent these home after the winter, because I didn't really need them once it wasn't cold anymore. But in the cold weather, these were great, very waterproof, and went on easily over my boots and pants. They cut the wind really well, and were really important for hiking in the snow without getting soaked and freezing cold. 

Random Gear:


BUFF Headwear

Rating: 10,000/5

A Buff is like a bandanna, but SO MUCH BETTER. I wore it every day of the trail, it never got smelly, could be washed easily, and could be used for so many things. I would wear it as a sweat band mostly, to keep my hair out of my face, but it could also be worn as a beanie hat, as well as a face-mask when it was freezing and windy. I loved my buff. I loved it so much.



Swiss Army Hunstman Knife

Rating: 5/5

This was helpful for all of the obvious reasons. It didn't fall apart or get rusty or damaged at all, despite all the times it was dropped and abused. Something I didn't expect was that the most-used tool on the knife was actually the scissors. We used those scissors for everything. 


Sea to Summit Dry Sacks

Rating: 5/5

We had several different types of Sea to Summit dry sacks, including some that were "compression" sacks, that could really crush down the stuff inside (we used those for our sleeping bags). I kept my clothing in a regular Sea to Summit sack. The coolest thing was that we used Big River Sea to Summit sacks for our food bags. The material on the Big River bags was a lot thicker, and held up to the rain, so we could hang the dry sack as a bear-bag and it held up fine. None of my Sea to Summit bags ever got holes in them or fell apart in any way. They also stayed perfectly waterproof.



8 comments:

  1. Wow! What a great summary. Very clear, insightful, and helpful. Looks like your pre-hiking research really paid off. Nice job! Love, Mom and Dad

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great gear review. It has been very fun to follow your journey. What water filtration system did you use? What was your resupply plan, how often did you resupply and how much food did you carry at a time?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Meagan!

      We used the Aqua Mira chlorine drops. It was the lightest-weight option, and the taste didn't bother us as much as iodine. Friends of ours used UV pens, and there were a couple of people with squeeze-top filters. We liked the Aqua Mira, but any of the options are great!

      We didn't do mail drops, mostly because we were too busy before the trail to organize them :)
      We resupplied every 4-7 days. When we hit a road crossing and were able to hitchhike into town, we would do it every 4 or 5 days, just to hit a grocery store and resupply for the next stretch. We got really good at repackaging food into ziploc bags!

      Delete
  3. Have you ever considered wearing Merrell Footwear? I work in Product Development for our hiking product and it would be great to get you into our testing program, if you're willing!

    Please comment back with your email and I will be in touch.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Rabecka!

      Absolutely! I almost chose a pair of Merrells for the trail actually. I'd love to hear more about the program!

      You can email me here:
      k.mccann.k@gmail.com

      Thank you! A lot of other hikers had Merrell runners and boots, and I always heard good things.

      Delete
  4. Hi I'm friends with Catch 22! I wanted to say your review of the Deuter 65+10 is completely accurate. Great, simply designed pack that gets the job done. But after working 2 summers backpacking in the Sierra Nevada with weights over 60lbs at times my pack has also begun accordion-ing :( Sadly, glad to hear I'm not the only one!

    ReplyDelete
  5. can we get a "foods review" im interested to see what your guys got into for food.

    ReplyDelete
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