Soapbox's gear review: pt 2

Use sites like Steep and Cheap if you can tell they post brands or gear you like. Also, this is a great gear reference: 10 lb Backpack. Feel free to ask questions. Try things on before you buy them. Go to a store and look before you make an online purchase!

Wearables (clothing):

In general you're going to probably be able to figure out what clothes to wear without consulting blogs, but here's my data for the sake of completion. I hope someone finds it useful.

Shirt - Columbia Silver Ridge

It’s a shirt. Whatever. Oh - it cleaned up well in the wash. You’ll want to wear something. Or maybe you are a nudist? Me? I prefer a “Tradewinds Grey” color to protect from the sun and harsh elements on the PCT. 

Bottoms - "I can't begin to care.” - Pedi.

I wore these stupid heavy canvas pants I bought for $2 at a thrift shop until I stopped worrying about getting sunburned behind my knees then I tied the pants to the bottom of my pack and forgot about them. Seriously… I left these things tied to my pack for 200 miles or so until I threw them away in Bishop, CA when I was doing a shakedown. I wore some elastic Prana shorts I found on Steep and Cheap the rest of the way. Sometimes I wore compression shorts or running tights.

Compression shorts - Nike something.

Personal decisions are hard. 

Underwear - Ex Officio / Give-n-go boxer brief


I really can’t improve upon Jonathan’s review. I hope to own these boxers for a long time and I intend on taking them all over the world. And damnit, for $20 they better last forever.

Extra shirt - Stoic / Breathe Composite (pretty light?)

Warm long sleeve. Especially nice to have in the Sierra otherwise useful as a pillow or sleep shirt (protect your sleeping bag/quilt from getting dirty). Personally? I don’t use sleep clothes and I ended up getting rid of this after the halfway point. Probably could have gotten by without it the whole way.

Sleep pants - I had running tights but definitely did not sleep in them more than a few times. I am a warm sleeper.

Socks - Stoic Synth / Trail Crew Sock

I used Injinjis and Stoics almost exclusively. Stoics were the best; I went through six pairs or so the entire trail and still have a few of them. Injinjis were nice early on to help prevent blisters, but they wore out within 100 miles and were a pain in the ass to get my weird toes into. I only picked these because I found them on Steep and Cheap for a great price.

Interesting side note - Injinjis make great sun gloves if you cut holes in the toes once you wear them out as socks. I started the trend and Pedi picked up on it pretty fast. You’re going to want to wash them before you put them on your hands…

Shoes - Solomon / Sense Mantra (16 oz) AND Brooks / Cascadia (13 oz)

I had very few foot problems the entire trail. I went through 3 pairs of shoes, but only two different models.  In general, I think shoe choice is very personal and you'll know what is right when you try them on.

Brooks Cascadia: Join the Brooks Club! If the PCT had a fork in it, we'd search for Cascadia shoe prints. It was usually the right way. A very popular shoe for a good reason. I hiked 1300+ miles with one pair. 10mm heel-to-toe drop

Solomon Sense Mantra: Really loved this trail runner while I was in the desert. I was able to get 800+ miles out of them. I trained in them then wore them to Kennedy Meadows, CA. Solomon has a great manufacturer guaranty as well. I think if you are hiking with under 25 lb, this is plenty of shoe and it's light, dries very fast, and is pretty durable. Note: the synch shoestring never broke, someone told me it definitely would. It did not. Also, I think this is a 6mm drop shoe.

Gaiters - I’d wear 'em if the whole trail was in the snow, but otherwise they make taking my shoes off too much work.

Jacket Mountain Hardwear / Ghost Whisperer (7oz)

Expensive, but worthwhile, I think. This lasted the entire trek and I washed it with Nikwax and it’s like-new (minus the hole and lack of branding/logos). The material is very delicate. Wear something over it if you are being active, I climbed a tree and the bark caught and ripped a hole instantly. No bueno. That said, all down is an investment. It lasts if you treat it well.

Rain Jacket - Outdoor Research / Proverb (13oz)

Another Steep and Cheap find. Great value when found on sale. Certainly not the best jacket on the market, but it served its purpose.

For "next time": Jonathan said in his review, consider: Outdoor Research / Helium 2. I'm also researching some Marmot-made options like the Mica and the Essence. Check out Snarky Nomad's reviews.

Rain pants - Mountain Hardwear / Alkane Pant (9oz)

Great pants. They saw heavy use in WA when we were in the rain for days on end. Also great for in the Sierra. Not sure if they are essential, but it was nice to have them, particularly in the multiple day long downpours.

Warm hat - Some outdoorsy hat, you need a hat. It's just a hat. There are many like it.

Gloves - Nope.

I thought about buying gloves every time I went into an REI or outfitter… But I never bought them. I would have worn them in WA if I had them. In the desert and in the Sierra I would cover my hands with a bandana, cut up injinjis, cut up sleeves from a cotton shirt. Whatever. HYOH.

Sunglasses - Solar Shields

Solar shields. Solar shields. solar shields. They may get worn out, scratched, or lost, but never stolen. Don’t get attached to your shades because you’re going to lose them at some point. Or break them. Probably both.

Happy hiking,


Soapbox's gear review: pt 1

I’m a gear head, and I can obsess about gear, but by the third day of the Pacific Crest Trail I was exhausted with all the gear talk. It’s one of the most popular topics on the trail. It’s great to learn the ins and outs of the materials, the weight, the costs. Learn to compromise size, durability, and comfort for weight, speed, and simplicity. Many PCT hikers spend tons time researching every single thing they choose to carry (certainly not all of them). Naturally, people tend to have opinions about what to bring. These discussions were not always constructive and after awhile I kind of toned gear talk out.

Either way, I hiked the PCT and lived out of a backpack for five months and these are the things I took and what I thought of them.
Jonathan, three days from the Canadian border, was still giving me grief about carrying a harmonica I hardly played. I was not a UL master. No one is perfect.

The Big Three and essentials:

Pack - The Osprey Exos 58 (2 lb 6 oz for a medium pack with brain. 2 lb 2 oz without the brain)

Loved my pack. I loved the suspension system and that aluminum frame. I loved how easily my kit fit into it. I loved that I could put things I wanted in the hip belt pockets, shoulder strap pockets, back pouch or in the brain. Many ultralight backpackers tend to go for more minimalist packs, but I liked having the extra support for the long stretches and first few days out of town when my pack would be loaded to 40 lb or more. The Exos fit a Bear Vault bear canister with ease, and I often had extra room in the pack.

To shave weight you can elect to cut extra straps, remove the brain (which is adjustable, detachable and works as a fanny pack or something like that), or get a smaller size. I saw people using an Exos 48 and even the 38, the compromise is a dedication to minimalism. Also, Osprey is an extremely hiker-friendly company and will honor a lifetime warranty on their gear.

For "Next time": Saw a ton of ULA / Circuit (2lb 6oz), the most popular pack on trail. Our friend, Mongo had a completely stripped down Z-packs pack (this was literally a bag with straps).

Sleeping bag < QUILT!!! - Enlightened Equipment Revelation 20ºF (26 oz)

The specs: Revelation 750 fill goose down, 20ºF rating

Prior to the PCT I only used mummy bags, but now I am in love with Enlightened Equipment quilts. Great idea, functional, lightweight, great company. Within the first week of hiking the trail I knew I had made the right choice. The general idea is that you save on material because you don’t need down underneath you when you sleep - that just wastes down because down needs to loft in order to provide warmth. The quilt has fasteners or straps that keeps it tight around you on cold nights and you can sleep with it loosely covering you on warmer nights.

For "next time": Would have sprung for the 850 fill goose down to get an even lighter quilt, but 26oz for a 20ºF sleep system is a great deal. Plus you cant beat the manufacturer's prices considering the great quality of the product.

Sleeping pad - Thermarest / Prolite 4 (1lb 8oz)

Lighter options are out there. Smaller options are out there. This was one of the first things we each bought and we found it on Steep and Cheap so it was quite affordable. Bottom line: it’s durable, it’s warm, and it’s comfortable.

For "next time": Thermarest / Neo Air XLite, Were I to do the trail again, I'd get this in a Small and use some z-lite or my pack for my legs and feet. I thought about using my Thermarest Z-lite, but when I used it I noticed I had to be strategic about where I slept. If the ground was wet or soft or muddy or snowy my body heat would get sucked out of me. I pay attention to the "R value", which describes the thermal resistance of the pad (higher is better, but weight and size are directly related). A great table comparing sleeping pads makes picking easy.

Groundsheet - 2' x 7' sheet of Tyvek (4oz?)

I bought a single sheet for 9$ in Wrightwood. Split it with Jonathan, cut it in the hardware store. Bing, bang, boom. Done. Protect your tent and your sleeping pad.

Tent - REI Quarter Dome (2 lb 10oz)

This is another piece of gear where you can find lighter and cheaper options. The trade off: this tent is spacious and bomb-proof (not literally, but it's stable). The people I hiked with got tired of hearing me talk about how much I liked it. Easy to put up. Plenty of room for activities. Big vestibule for those gross nights where everything has to be stored under it. Complaints are mostly that, like with all ultralight gear, the material is delicate. If I were to hike again I would consider lighter shelters if I could find them at low enough prices. I bought my Quarter Dome on sale at REI so it was a great buy.

For "next time":  For the right price I'd try out the Notch or go waaaay UL maybe with something like the Hexamid and buy a big piece of Tyvek to protect my pad.

Headlamp - Some old Black Diamond thing (?oz)

Bring a light. Make sure it's bright if you plan on night hiking.

Knife/multitool - Multitool (?oz)

I went most of the trail without a knife and I lost my spork in my backpack every day. I made it from border to border. Without a gun. Without a sword. I bought a comically tiny multitool in Bend because it had a bottle cap opener on it.

Power - Goal Zero / Nomad 7 and Guide 10  (13oz) and (6.4oz) respectively

The Nomad 7 is a solar panel. I used it for charging my phone and camera. It worked, but it may not be the best power solution.

For "next time": I'll buy a little auxiliary battery pack for my iPhone and make sure to charge that in towns. Solar panels work and work well sometimes. But not all of the time. And they aren't the most convenient thing to strap to your pack while you glisade (slide down snowy mountains) and stuff.

Trekking Poles  Black Diamond / Distance Z-Poles (13 oz)

I still don't know if I like hiking with trekking poles that much. I bet that as I get older I'll use them more. I've been camping and backpacking for a long time and I'm still not sure how I feel about some gear.

Bottom line: I'd say grab a set on sale and if you don't like them return them.

Stove JetBoil / Flash (15 oz)

An incredibly fuel efficient water boiling device is what this thing is. You can kind of simmer, but you have to be careful. If you are going to cook full meals you may want to look at larger pots and a different stove. I like cooking on the trail quite a bit. Bottom line: I'd use this again, but if I found a cheaper/lighter stove + pot system I'd go for it.

For "next time": If I stick with canister stoves I would consider the gnat (1.6 oz) and a 4 - 5 oz pot or find a stove similarly minimal. Save money upfront and save weight. You wont beat the Jetboil for fuel economy.

Stuff sacks

There are tons of options. I mostly used gallon/quart zip-locks. My food bag? Grocery bags or a trash bag. Lots of other hikers went for the roll top sacks. HYOH. End of the day - everything you carry should be in some kind of bag in a bag (in a bag… BAG-CEPTION).

More to come on gear because it's Gear Week 2! Don't worry, we have more cool pictures and stories, but these are questions a lot of people had about the trail and we wanted to share it.