My Summer LT Packing List
I used to have a lovingly hand-crafted HTML table of my gear on this page. It looked great, but it was tedious to update with every little change.* I'm currently playing with lighterpack.com, which offers a simple solution for maintaining a list of all of one's gear, building lists for specific hikes, and providing a link to share with others. Like this one:
Click here for my current gear list
Just finished a four year section hike of the Appalachian Trail. Between sections I tweaked my pack. I evaluated what I used and what I didn't, and I looked for opportunities to reduce weight while balancing safety and comfort. And without breaking the bank. Most of this blog is about that process.
I didn't make any big changes to my kit last year year. I hiked the sobo section from southern Vermont to Harper's Ferry to turn in my 2000 Miler application. Over the previous years, I had switched from using a sleeping bag, to a 50° backpacking quilt; and from tent-based shelter and sleep systems, to those built around a hammock. Those changes reduced my pack volume enough that I was able to move into a smaller, lighter pack. That was, and still is the ULA Ohm2.
The Next Hike - I'm planing to hike Vermont's Long Trail "end-to-end" as they say. That's 272 miles from the southern border with Massachusetts, to the Canadian border. At my (slow) pace, an end-to end should take about a month. The AT & LT share the southernmost 105 miles of trail. The Long Trail is also every bit as tough as the toughest sections of the Appalachian Trail, The northern end characterized by tall, steep climbs without switchbacks, and a rooted, rocky trail. So I'm motivated to go as light as possible.
And, uh, maybe sacrifice some comfort to get there.
Phylosophical Stuff - While I tend toward the ultralight (UL) backpacking sect, I'm of the belief that there is a fundamental difference in how I pack between long-distance hiking, and shorter trips. On short trips, I'm comfortable with a short-range weather forecast to choose the absolute minimal clothing and sleeping systems. Long-distance hiking does not afford that opportunity. So I prepare for the range of conditions I might face. East coast hiking means hiking in the rain. So dry clothes one can change into at the end of the day are important. I look to building a clothing system that is flexible, with few redundancies, and that balances minimal weight with durability. Long hikes take their toll on equipment, and I'll sacrifice weight for for robust stuff. I am more apt to carry comfort items for a good night's sleep, and what I need to keep myself clean and healthy on long hikes. I also carried more photographic gear than most would.
Strategery - I plan to pick a start date after the bubbles of northbound AT have passed thru. But not so late I'll be seeing really cold overnight lows. I want to minimize the weight and volume of my sleep and cold wx systems. A later start means I'll miss black flies and mud, and competition with AT thru-hikers for shelter/campsite space. After the AT splits off from the LT, the number of hikers subsides even more, and the shelters are a bit nicer. So I'm planning to stay in shelters, and carrying the minimum shelter system I need to camp when necessary. A late summer start brings with it the possibility of freezing overnight temperatures. So I have to have the right mix of cold wx clothing and sleep system - and make sure the two work together. Resupply in towns can be done every 4 days, even at my pace. Water is generally plentiful, but can become an issue in some areas this time of year. I'll need to have the capacity to carry a full day's water if necessary.
Pack - I'm rocking the ULA Ohm-2. It's tough, has an excellent hipbelt with big pockets, it carrys 30 lbs or less very comfortably, compresses well, and has huge exterior pockets. The main compartment is 34.4 in3. Add in its expansion collar and its pockets, and it's up to 63L. It's pretty light at 29 ozs.
Inner Sanctum - But the pack's not waterproof. So I line it with a trash compacter bag, put my quilt in the bottom, then dry clothing and any electronics on top. I compress the air out, and roll the top down.
On top of that, I put my food bag upright and centerline between my shoulder blades. My cook kit, sleeping pad, first aid kit, ditty bag, and shelter go around the food bag. I also have a small silnylon dry bag I keep a fleece and a down vest in to keep them dry and accessible at rest stops. It goes on top.
Water filtration stuff is in a mesh ditty bag, stowed in my left pack side-pocket, along with my Kupilka cup. In my right pocket is bug dope and my TP kit. The TP is in a quart freezer bag, which goes into a stuff sack with some wet wipes and my .4 oz trowel. My rain shell, pack cover and anything I need during the day goes in the big stretch pocket in the back.
Water bottles hang from bungies built in to the shoulder straps. It is completely dorky, but it's really handy. It's easy to keep track of how much water you have, and it helps counterbalance the weight on your back. It comes standard on most ULA packs
I carry the provided sil-nylon pack cover I've modified with drain holes in the bottom.
Shelter System - I'm leaving my hammock at home, and going old-school ultralight by pairing the carbon fiber tarp I used with my hammock, with a "bug-bivy" that has a waterproof floor. I can use the bug bivy in shelters without impacting others if necessary. A sub 1lb shelter system.
Sleep System - That 50° quilt is real light and real low volume, but I did wake up shivering a few cold nights last spring - Even wearing a light merino base layer, fleece socks, down vest, beanie and wool glove liners. So I ordered a new quilt from the great folks at HammockGear. I emailed them with my thoughts, and they said they'd build one rated to 30°. My Exped Synmat UL 7 M sleeping pad has an R value of 3.3 and is rated to 25°F. It's big, thick, supremely comfortable, and relatively heavy at 420g. Then I have my "Sacred Socks." The ones I wear only when sleeping, and never allow to get wet. I pack them in the same dry sack as my quilt. Acorn fleece socks weigh less than wool, and keep my toes warm.
Clothing System - While hiking, I'll wear a merino t-shirt*, merino underwear, nylon cargo shorts*, Dirty Girl gaiters*, merino socks*, and my Asolo Piuma boots. A rain shell will be stuffed into the back pocket of my pack. So, an extra pair of underwear and socks, a merino beanie, glove-liners, and a light base-layer will be packed with my sleep system in my pack's inner-sanctum.
* These items were sent to Insect Shield for long-lasting protection from ticks, et. al.
"Camp Shoes" - I've experimented with several variations on camp shoes/sandals. The really light ones all seem to be just shy of 8 ounces. I didn't carry camp shoes on a 640 mile section in 2012, but I like the idea of letting my shoes air out at the end of the day; having something to wear fording streams; and having something on my feet in those sometimes less than sterile, communal hostel showers. I'm back to my original choice of Vivobarefoot Ultras. At 7 ozs, they're lighter than anything else I've tried, and they work with regular socks.
Water - Lest there be dried up water sources, I'm carrying a 900ml Evernew water bag to supplement my two 600ml water bottles. In addition, the 473ml Sawyer water filter squeeze bag can haul unfiltered water. That's 2.5 liters total capacity. I have an additional water bag and squeeze bag in my bounce box.
Photo Gear - I was a Navy Photographer for most my life. I was determined to document my AT hike, and maybe produce a book outta it. Towards that end, I carried a professional quality camera, and associated charging equipment that weighed a lot. Smart phone cameras have improved dramatically in the past four years, and the LG G4 I'm currently carrying produces incredible images considering the tiny sensor inside.
I'll be leaving the fancy camera at home. I carry the phone in my pocket, and carry a 3"x6" Aloksak dry bag to put it in when it rains, or when I'm forging a river.
Weights & Measures - All totaled, my current base weight is at 13.72 lbs. Shelter is under a pound. Sleep system is just over 2 lbs. Pack, liner and stuff sacks weigh 2.25 lbs, Extra clothing 1 lb. Inclement wx clothing weighs 2.6 lbs.
I'll be stepping out with 8 lbs of food for the four days to my first resupply, and a two 600 ml bottles of water weighing 2.6 lbs. So my total pack weight will be right around 24.4 lbs on day one. Well within the comfort rating of the ULA Ohm2 backpack.
Feel free to ask any questions!
* Blogger's editor hated my html table, and would arbitrarily change the code, rendering it unreadable and tedious to repair.