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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Transportation System


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.


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.


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