Monday, April 30, 2012

What I'll Do Differently When I Get Back On The Trail


In the time I was out there I learned a few things before my knee got angry with me. I hiked 12 days, and was on the trail 14 including the two zeros in the woods. I did 115 miles, averaging 9.6 miles per day. Hiked in the rain, lost my food bag to a bear, climbed the equivalent of Mt Everest, and avoided shelters every night for the luxury of my tent. I took too much food outta the gate, and otherwise found some opportunities to reduce pack weight.  When I started hiking farther and faster, I uncovered a skeletal problem that caused me a lot of pain and anguish. All in all, a pretty good shakedown ...

So what will I do different when I get back on the trail?

I'll certainly hike at my own pace. I'll learn to start earlier, take more breaks, and hike later.

I'll hang my bear bag using the PCT method exclusively.

I'll do what I can to lighten my load. Which is pretty much what the rest of this post is about ...

As far as my clothing plan, the weather was freaky warm for March, and I was carrying layers for cold weather I had expected to be wearing. I really don't think I'd change much for a June/July southbound (sobo) hike. Maine and New Hampshire can be cold, snowy and windy. Summer will come fast as I hike south, and I'll have to rethink where I'll want to swap winter weight gear for summer stuff.

I carried way too much food out of Amicalola. Hell, a bear got my bag the first night out of Neel's Gap, and I still had enough food to get to Hiawassee. I was better coming out of Hiawassee, but I still erred too much on the side of providing for variety, and ended up with excess. I'll have to be more disciplined and carry only what I need to get to the next supply point.

I carried two wide-mouthed, 500 ml, plastic bottles on my pack straps and never hurt for water. I had an empty 1L Platypus in my pack that I could fill if it looked like a long haul between water sources. I can see where that might be insufficient for mid-atlantic summer drought conditions, but it worked well in Georgia. I had the AntiGravity Gear 1 Gal Silnylon Water Bag for fetching water for camp. At .6 oz, it stays in the pack. I used Aqua Mira drops to treat the water, and that worked great.

Lots of gear swapping going on to reduce weight and pack volume ...

I love merino wool socks and base layers. They're warm, comfortable, and they don't stink as bad as poly stuff. But they're slower to dry when wet. In an effort to have dry socks more often, I picked up two pairs of Darn Tough Vermont Merino Wool 1/4 Mesh Socks to replace my REI merino hikers. This design has very little cushion under the heal and toe, but they dry faster, and this change drops 2 ozs off my total weight. I just have to be sure I can hike in them without blisters.

Those Ex Officio boxers are comfortable. With just enough compression in the thigh to avoid any chafing. But they are poly, and they get funky fast. I swapped them for 2 pr of Icebreaker Men's Briefs. They are made of merino wool, I got em on sale, and they're each an ounce lighter each.

I hiked in the rain without putting my rain pants on. Even in a cold rain I was plenty warm as long as I was moving. The Mountain Hardwear Conduit rain pants weighed 7.75 ozs and didn't get much use. I'm replacing them with MontBell's Dynamo Wind Pants at 2.8 ozs. Constructed of 12-denier Ballistic Airlight ripstop nylon with Polkatex DWR finish, they'll keep me warm in a cold wind, shed all but the heaviest rain, and I can wear them when doing laundry.

I managed to keep my cell phone and camera alive without ever completely tapping my New Trent ACD66. Which, at 7 ozs, is a bit of a brick. I picked up a New Trent iRazer which has half the capacity, at half the weight. I replaced a long USB cable for a shorter one, eliminated another USB cable along with an Apple charger and an AC wall splitter. My recharging system weight dropped 5 ozs.

A spectacular fail was the expensive Zpacks cuban-fiber Pack Liner. When my pack cover filled with water, and my pack soaked out, the seals on the pack liner leaked, and my sleeping bag got wet. Fortunately, I found out inside a cabin at Neel's Gap ... Tried to seam seal it, but my best efforts failed. I see they now tape all their seams ...  I'm replacing it with 2-mil poly pack liners from Mountain Laurel Designs. They're 12" X 8" X 32", weigh 1.2 ozs each (.6 oz less than the Zpacks liner), and cost $2.50 each ... I'm gonna carry an extra one and put the others in mail drops.

MLD also makes cuben fiber dry bags, and their seams are bonded.  The food bag the bear got was a smaller MLD dry bag and I never had any water intrusion... They aren't bear-proof, but they appear to be water proof ...

I'm going to swap my 850ml MSR Titan Kettle at 4.2 oz, for my 3 oz 600 ml Snow Peak cup,  outfitted with one of Mini-Bull's lids. It fits my stove well, has more than sufficient volume, weighs less, and will leave more room in my pack. The cozy we made for the MSR worked great, and we're constructing one out of lighter material for the cup.

I carried my camera in a small Tamrac 5693 Digital 3 Camera Bag. I took awhile, but I finally figured out how to carry it comfortably such that I had immediate access to the camera. The protection it provides is excellent, but it weighs 7 ozs ... I'm thinking of carrying the camera around my neck, with a dry bag in my pocket, and losing the Tamrac.

I'm still waffling on the Gossamer Gear 3/16" Thinlight insulation pad I carried in addition to my Exped inflatable. It was there for extreme cold, which didn't happen, but I found it protected the Exped from anything that might poke up outta the ground. And it was nice to fold up and sit on. It weighs 4.5 ozs ....

I'm also waffling on the Vivobarefoot camp shoes. At 8 ozs a pair, they weigh less than Crocs, and are more secure on my feet. They were nice in camp, in town, and in the middle of the night when nature called. In Georgia and North Carolina, any stream of significance had some sort of bridge or stone crossing. I understand that ain't true in Maine, and the earlier I start, the wilder the crossings are likely to be. They weigh 8 ozs ...

I will be swapping my Salomon 3D Fastpacker Mid GTX Hiking Boots for the Salomon XT Wings. The Fastpackers are 34 ozs/pair, and while their GoreTex liners are great in snow, once they get soaked from rain or stream crossings, they stay wet. The Wings weigh 7 ozs less, they drain well and dry quickly.

In proof that ounces add up, that's 2.6 lbs if I make all the changes. That ought to get my pack's base-weight down to 19 lbs, and my skin-out weight down to 36 lbs with five days of food and a liter of water.

And, I haven't attacked all the little misc stuff yet ...  I'll bet I can find 16 things to get rid of, that weigh "nothing," and will get another pound off my back.