Gear Review

Trans Canada Trail, West Vancouver, Christmas Eve 2016

                                     Moonshadow’s Gear Review PCT 2016

I picked my gear by doing a lot of research.  For a year before my hike,  I read gear reviews, blogs, compared weights and tried out most of my gear.  Every ounce counts!  I was very happy with my final choices and my base weight of approximately 13 Ibs.  It was vital for me to love my gear and be confident with it.

Pack – Osprey Exos 58  

Overall I was very happy with my pack and I would choose it again.  That said, here are a few picky changes that would improve the pack for me.

Even though it is a men’s pack, and the hip belt wasn’t small enough for me, I picked it because of its comfort and weight, 2Ib 3oz.  Made lighter because I removed the brain. (the buckled on section of the pack that flops over the top).  Before I started the PCT I had alterations done by a repair service to make the hip belt smaller.  Even then, over the course of the hike I lost 15Ibs and the hip belt could not be cinched tight enough.  I had to use additional padding around my hips to support the pack.

The stretchy mesh back pocket and two side pockets developed tears in the bottom of them.  If Osprey added reenforcement at the base of these pockets, without compromising it’s total weight, that would be awesome.

I highly recommend Osprey.   They have a lifetime guarantee and fantastic customer service.  I have contacted Osprey Canada and they are going to mend my pack or possibly replace it. Yay!

Sleeping

Tent – Big Agnes Copper Spur UL1

Tough through wind, snow, and rain.  I felt safe, comfortable, and cozy.  Free standing is the only way to go.  You never know where you are going to have to set up camp at the end of long, weary, days.  I could set it up anywhere and I didn’t have to worry about finding the right spot or having to peg it down.  It only weighs 2 Ibs. It lasted my whole hike without any issues.

LOVED, LOVED, LOVED my tent!

Copper Spur Ground Sheet – I sent it home.  I wasn’t using it and I didn’t want to carry the extra 4 ounces.   I know,  kinda extreme, but you don’t carry items you don’t use.

Down Sleeping Bags – Western Mountaineer Versalite and Summerlite

I started with my Versalite (2lb) for the first two months, switched to my Summerlite (1Ib 3oz) for the two warmer months of June and July, then back to my Versalite for the last two weeks in Washington.  I sleep better warm, so I added SOL Escape Lite bivy, 5.5 0z, to go in my bag.  I highly recommend them.

Awesome bags, worth the pricey investment.

Mat – Thermarest NeoAir XTherm

No leaks – Really!  R rating of 5.7 kept me insulated from the cold, damp, earth.  Weighs less than a pound.  I definitely recommend it and will continue to use it.

Pillow – Sea to Summit Aeros Ultralight

So worth it’s two ounces.  Packs up small.  Wasn’t perfect as I had to replace it three times (free exchange).  It would get a slow leak in the plug attachment.  I would still use it again.

Kitchen

Sawyer Water Filter

Great product.  Most PCT hikers were using them.  Don’t get the mini version though. Hikers that were using the mini said they weren’t happy with it.

In Washington I sent my Sawyer home and I switched to bleach drops for any questionable water sources. I was hiking long days and didn’t want to take the time to filter.   I also drank from springs and creeks without treating at all.  I did this without any problems, but I would not recommend it.  I wouldn’t want you to get sick!

MSR Pocket Rocket Stove

So small, so light, so reliable. I loved my stove.

SnowPeak pot

Lightweight and sized just right!  Combined with my Pocket Rocket, reusable coffee mugs, and titanium spoon, it was a great cooking setup that I was happy with.

Jetboil Minimo Stove

I wanted to try this stove/pot combo as they are popular.  I bought one and used it for Washington.  It is very efficient, so fast to boil.  I like it a lot.  It weighs a bit more.  I will use it when there is two of us hiking, but when I am solo I will use my initial system.

Food Bag – Ursack 

I sent it home.  I believe it is a great item for the PCT, but I was always looking to lighten my pack, so the Ursack went.  It would have been great if I had problems with rodents in Washington (as was warned), but I didn’t have any.

Instead I used a lighter version to store my food.  Loksak bags, largest size, and inside a nylon stuff sack, worked fine.  I mostly slept with my food in my tent without any issues.  When I was in Washington some times I hung my food as I heard there might be fearless and ferocious rodents.

Electronics

Smartphone – Iphone 6s Plus

I took all of my photos and wrote my blog using just this phone.  Also I used the  GPS feature which I needed often.   I loaded Guthooks app which is a fantastic tool.

Backup Battery – Anker 10,000mah power bank

Very reliable.  I was conservative with phone usage so I could have gone with a 5,000mah which weighs less.  The 10,000mah is supposed to charge a regular iphone up to five times.  I am guess-timating it could charge my iphone 6s plus three times, but I never needed more than two charges before reaching a town where I would recharge everything.  I also had a mp3 player and earphones for music and I rarely had to use the Anker to recharge it.

Headlamp – Petzl 

Small, lightweight.  Not very bright, but it was all I needed for getting up in the middle of the night to water a tree, and the occasional early mornings and late evenings that I hiked in darkness.

Clothing

Marino wool, Marino wool, Marino wool.  Got that?

Three pairs of socks (one pair only used for sleeping), one Icebreaker long johns, one pair running shorts, two pairs underwear, one long sleeve shirt, two Tshirts, (one for hiking in and one for sleeping), down jacket, Outdoor Research Helium II  rain jacket (excellent lightweight rain protection; XL so that it could cover my down jacket), cheap rain pants, Mountain Hardwear lightweight waterproof gloves, (I used dish washing gloves over wool gloves in Washington), Outdoor Research sun hat with neck cover, fleece hat, bug net, camp/town flip flops.  Socks, shorts, and shirts had to be replaced along the way.  Things started falling apart after a few months of wear.

THAT IS ALL YOU NEED.

Transportation System

Footwear

I went through 5 pairs of shoes.

I started with Solomon Hiking shoe.  Solomon makes great shoes.   Sweet Virginia swore by hers and they would last 1000+ miles.  I still wear Solomon here in Canada, but they did not work out for me on the PCT.

I ended up switching to Altra Lone Peak version 2.  4 pairs.  They only last 500 miles max. When I couldn’t get them replaced right away,  I went for hundreds of extra miles with them falling apart.  They were like comfy slippers.  I would wear them again on a long distance thru hike.

Note: Altra changed the uppers of the Lone Peak v3 that are now available, so I can’t say how well this new version will perform.

Gaitors

I started the hike wearing Outdoor Research Sparkplug gaiters.  They are suppose to keep stones, dirt, and sticks out of your shoes. They shredded fairly quickly so I switched to Dirty Girl Gaiters.  So very cool.  Worn by most groovy thru hikers.

Poles

I highly recommend any Black Diamond poles.  I use Carbon Z Distance, as they are the lightest.  After over 1000 miles one wrist strap broke.  My bad.   I would drag my poles as I ate and drank without stopping.  I could not replace them immediately so I purchased a pair of $200 Leki Poles.  Don’t do it!  A tip broke off within a week.  I was in the Sierras and had to continue hiking with them broken till I could get my other poles fixed.

I pursued a refund or replacement by emailing and calling Leki,  but Leki has been unhelpful.   I found Leki Poles unreliable,  also poor customer service.  Phew.  There. Now I’ve vented.

First Aid and Toiletries

Tick tweezers, needle and thread,  meds, toothbrush/paste, tp, hand sanitizer, chap stick, 1 oz sunscreen, a few moleskin strips, meds.  I used them all.

Section Changes and Other Items

BearVault BV500 food Container.  Bear canisters are required through the Sierras from Kennedy Meadows to Kennedy Meadows North.  Soooo heavy.  2 Ibs 9 oz.   UGH!   You are going to be so happy to dump it.  shhhhh….I used the BV450.  Still 2 Ibs, but half the size and volume.  It was not big enough to hold all of my food, but it did fit into my pack nicely.

Waterproof pants.  I bought a pair of cheap rain pants while hiking in the UK in 2009.  I carried them in my pack the whole PCT hike.  No regrets.  They were an extra layer when it was windy and cold.  I even wore them on a few nights when I had to sleep with all of my layers on as it was freezing.

Kahtoola Micro spikes mailed to me for the snow and ice in the Sierras.  Heavy, but necessary and excellent.  I use them all winter hiking at home too.

Steripen water purifier.  It is a great product and I use it on my hikes at home, but I did not use it on my PCT hike.

Helly Hansen gortex jacket.  I wear it skiing, but I did not use it on the PCT.  It would have been too heavy.

That’s it!  (if I’ve missed anything, please let me know)

Happy hiking!

Checkamus River Trail, Whistler
Loggers Lake, Whistler

 

Grouse Grind, North Vancouver

Paul & Molly – Brothers Creek, West Vancouver
Coffee at Lost Lake, West Vancouver. Christmas Day 2016

 

If you really want to, you can hear me say,
Only if you want to will you find a way,
If you really want to you can seize the day,
Only if you want to will you fly away.
– Enya

Canada!

Day 134,       22.5 miles


Today was kinda’ weird.  I was excited so I hiked fast.  Then I was sad and I hiked slowly. I listened to my music.  Then I was happy and I danced down the trail.  What a goof.  It doesn’t matter out here.  No one judges.  There are no worries.  Joyful.  Carefree.

We have only 19.5 miles  to the monument, then another 8-9 miles to hike in to Manning Park Lodge.  Last one to Canada wins.

Again I am so fortunate with the weather.  Lovely temperature and no rain.  Oh, I saw the fattest marmot.  He must have been old.  He waddled down the trail and onto the rocks below.  He didn’t hide.  It looked like he couldn’t find a hole big enough and it seemed he didn’t care anyway.

Running-Back and I reached the monument at 4pm, August 23rd.  There was no one there.  It was peaceful.  I wasn’t overly emotional.  I just felt content.  I’ve thought about this moment for months.  It is now and I am here.

We hiked on another 2-3 miles and found a few of my Vancouver hiking peeps at a tent site called PCT Camp. Yay! It was Wiki, Shabu, Midnight-snacks, and GQ.  They hiked in to meet us.  They brought food too!  I love my hiking buddies!  We all camped together, my last night outside.  For now.

 

Me, GQ, Shabu, Midnight-snacks, Wiki, Running-Back

I know you love me.  I know you care.  I can feel it.  I have felt your love every day.  You have been with me every step, every mile.  I have felt your presence and positive energy propelling me forward and keeping me safe along this magical trail.  I am grateful to you.

You are my friends, family, West End Yogis, Wednesday hiking peeps, Thursday night gals, school friends, and the wonderful community that I live and work in.  Thank-you.  I love you.

And you are complete strangers who have helped me along the way and given me advice and encouragement.  I am so grateful to you.  I feel very blessed.

The Pacific Crest Trail cast it’s spell on me a long time ago.  I will always be spellbound by it’s magic.  I hope you feel the magic too.

home with Rachelle and Cody

……gear review.  Stay tuned.

Preparing for the heartbreak

Day 133,       32 miles


Pasayten Wilderness

The storm clouds hadn’t blown over when we woke this morning.  It was windy and so cold.  I was toasty warm in my sleeping bag and tent.  I’m so glad I have my heavier bag now.  My head has told my body that I’m almost there.  I just want to stay in my cozy bag and tent all day.  Lux was up really early.  Before he hit the trail he peeked in my tent to tell me that I was “Badass.”  That was the best compliment ever.

In spite of the cold wind and drizzling rain it was another glorious day.  Washington has been amazing.  I am enjoying every day.  Such beautiful scenery.

Every day I still have waves of disbelief that I am here.  I’m so happy that I’ve made it.  It seems surreal.  I am in love with this trail and feeling heartbroken knowing that this once in a lifetime, incredible, experience is coming to an end.  My other life is waiting for me and I’m so excited to see my family and friends.  I’m a lucky woman.

At the end of every day, I try and take my shoes off as soon as possible.  If there is a lake I wade in and wash my feet and hands.  Where there are creeks I go downstream to wash, away from where we collect drinking water.  I’m in awe that my feet have carried me all this way.  I examine them.  Bulging cartilage, muscles, prominent veins, callused toes and foot beds.  I touch my feet and thank them out loud.  Sounds strange….maybe? But I talk to the forest creatures, the trees, the stars and the moon.  And that’s perfectly normal   ……right?

Nemo has arrived in the dark and is camped with Running-Back and me.   Tonight is my last night on the PCT.

Tomorrow is my last day on the PCT.  I will be at the monument in the afternoon.  I will camp near Manning Park with my Vancouver hiking friends on the Canadian side of the border.

Goodnight Moon and Stars.

A Four Day Jolly 

Day 132,      24 miles

A four day jolly.  That’s what Running-Back is calling our last stretch here on the pct.
A relaxing breakfast, pack up, and start by 7:30.  I met fellow blogger, Monique, heading southbound.  We had a good ol’ chinwag about the stories and characters of the pct.

First 15 miles were through the warm forest.  Then we popped out of the woods and were slapped with epic.   Wow!  Stunning mountains surrounded us.  The dark clouds moving in made the scene more dramatic.  The sky is grey and a cold wind is picking up.   We may be in for a storm.

Running-Back and I are camped in Methow Meadow.  Stunning scenery everywhere you look.  There is a volunteer work camp here.   They had extra dinner and treated us to beans,  rice,  cheese and avocado wrapped in tortillas.  So good.  My mouth was watering like crazy.  Lux has arrived and is camping with us.  It is very cold so we have all retreated to the shelter of our tents.

can you see the bridge and the 2 hikers? top right of photo

can you spot Running-Back way below on the switchbacks?

 

Lux

Almost a zero

Day 131,       5 miles


Today was going to be the day I took my last zero on the trail.  I haven’t had a zero (no miles), since Sisters, Oregon.   That’s a lot of miles ago.

Stehekin is an awesome vacation destination on the north end of Lake Chelan.  There is a restaurant, a small store, a lodge, bike rentals, and the bestest bakery in the whole world.  Stehekin is only accessible by boat or float plane.  Last night we were camped in a very nice site behind the Visitor Centre.

After laundry, shower, egg sandwich, at the bakery, and several dips into the lovely water of Lake Chelan,  I was ready to get going again.  I decided to catch the last shuttle bus up the 13 mile dirt road to the PCT.   Running-Back was ready too.  We left Nemo frolicking in the lake with Macro, Stripes, and Lux.  We caught the bus at 5:30pm, which dropped us off at the trailhead at 6:15.

I waved goodbye to grinning bus driver, Steve.   Running-Back followed as I led her back over Highbridge and up the switchback trail.  I remember looking back again at Steve, still grinning and watching us leave.  Up the trail, and 15 minutes later I realized why Steve was grinning and what he was thinking,  “Those silly women have gone the wrong way.”

Sigh.  It’s been 4 1/2 months and almost 2,600 miles and I’m still going the wrong way.   Back over Highbridge, and a very fast 5 miles later, we arrived at Bridge Creek Camp.

About a mile before we got to camp, we were startled by a noisy crashing in the bushes only feet away from us.  It was a large animal.  I stopped dead and went silent. Quick thinking Running-Back immediately started whacking her poles into the bushes.  She yelled, “We know you’re in there!  Just keep moving! You can hear us talking, now shoo!” It was hilarious.  Running-Back.  She’s mini, but she is mighty.

We set up our tents in the fading light.  Running-Back went straight to bed.  I went for a walk into the darkness and down the trail in my bare feet.  I looked up at the trees and the sky.  I will miss this.


Nemo takes us on an adventure

Day 130,      31.5 miles


Lake Chelan National Recreation Area        North Cascades National Forest

There was an eerie light as we hiked through the woods this morning.  The sky was dim and the sun was orange.  The air was smokey from the nearby forest fire.  Ash fell around us like fluffy snow.

Nemo was going to take us on a different route this morning.  Two miles of the old PCT.   Little did we know that it was going to be an adventure.  First we had to cross Vista creek, big but doable with a log crossing.  Then 2 miles through mossy woods.  I could hear the Suiattle River long before I could see it.  My heart started racing.  Do we have to cross that loud roar?  When we got to it, it was worse than I could have imagined.  I’ve made it all this way, now I’m going to die getting washed away in a raging, icy river.  There is no way I’m gonna cross that! ……but I did.

There was a large tree that had fallen across, but it didn’t reach the other side. Running-Back had a brilliant idea.  We both maneuvered another log along the fallen tree and managed to place it so it spanned the 12 foot rushing watery gap.   Nemo had been scouting for a crossing and returned just as Running-Back and I were leaping from our placed log to the rocky safety of the other side.  So exciting.  I felt like a kid again.

I’m having a blast hiking with these two.  Next few miles were switchbacks up and away from the smoke.  The three of us sped past many hikers along the way.  Nemo called us Team Rush Hour.   We were rewarded with spectacular views at the top.

We didn’t stop all day.  No breaks.  The  last 16 miles of gradual downhill to Highbridge seemed like it would never end.  I was tired.  At Highbridge we caught the last shuttle bus ride at 6:15pm to Stehekin.    Burger, beer, homemade ice cream.  Then we wondered around in the pitch black looking for the overflow camping behind Visitors Centre.  Then more searching for the bathrooms.  45 minutes of stumbling around in the darkness.  It’s very difficult to orient yourself in a new place at nightfall.  It’s much easier to find any old spot to park your tent in the dark when you’re out in the wilderness.

Suaittle River. Small log on the left is the one Running-Back and I maneuvered to cross on. Photo doesn’t capture how big the river and the crossing is.

Running-Back

Mica Lake

Day 129,      29.5 miles


This morning started with a gentle descent.  The trail seemed to just keep going downhill.  I passed many tents.  Hikers not stirring.  Many water crossings.  Some with bridges or logs to cross on.  The forest was dark for hours.  I looked up through the trees and saw the sky was clear of clouds.  The surrounding mountains and the big trees had blocked the sunlight.

It brightened up as the trail started heading upward.  It was 9am and I’d been hiking for 3 hours.  Same plan as yesterday.  Hike nonstop to get to a lake for a lunch break.  Today it’s Mica Lake and it did not disappoint.  A beautiful clear blue alpine lake.   Of course I went for a dip.

Then it was down, down, down, 2,500 feet.  Then up 3,000 feet in the hottest part of the day.  Then, of course down again, 3,000 feet.  This is Washington.

I went over the last pass at 6pm.   I could see a large plume of smoke to the south east. Forest fire.  As I headed down the last descent a hiker named Running-Back joined me. She was heading for the same tent site 3.5 miles down below the pass.  She hikes and talks fast!  The 3.5 miles flew by.  We set up our tents and chatted like old friends.  Nemo arrived, we had dinner, then off to sleep.  9pm, hiker midnight.

Camped at Vista Creek.  The 3 of us have an early start tomorrow, 5:30am.  We have another big climb to get to before it gets too hot.  Yay.

see the trail in the distance?

 

Just another uphill across the way

Flying Nemo

Nemo
forest fire near Levenworth to the south east