How about a small hat and Superman lunchbox?
Countless hours have been spent googling (and then reading) “PCT Gear List”, more often than not, to no avail. I’ve had to keep reminding myself that I’ve trekked before and I know what I prefer. Don’t get sucked in to fancy new lightweight gear Daniel, you know what you like and that’s comfort and greeny brown tones.
With that in mind, here’s a list of swanky new gear (most of it with less padding and brighter colours) that I fully intend to carry with me on the trail. I never felt like this in a sweetshop as a kid, but as outdoor gear has come in to my life, so has the understanding of the saying.
Where will I be sleeping?
There have been few hikers coming through Quetzaltrekkers who have known gear like Tommy Jackson, our needle and thread wielding gear manager. And it’s with him that I discussed the way I wanted to catch some Z’s on the trail (along with gram weenie Henley).
Tent – Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 – Big Agnes offer the stuff of my dreams and have an incredible product range for the ultralight backpacker.
Whilst on the road on the way to Guatemala, I’ve seen (and got to stay in) a couple of Fly Creeks and a Copper Spur (there were a couple of fancy cyclists on the Pacific Coast) and I was mightily impressed. Granted the weather didn’t give us too much of a hard time, but they stuck in my head enough for them to be the go to tent when considering a 2 and a half thousand mile hike.
It may be a few ounces heavier than a tarp and pole set up, but I like a (little) bit of weight, it’s reassuring.
Tent in the pack – Tarptent Double Rainbow – Despite Big Agnes being awesome and offering us some discount on their products, an unexpected family gift (not my family) has meant Elie and I will be sharing the Tarptent Double Rainbow. This was always a contender to take on the trail and the few test sleeps it’s had have been absolute beauties.
Sleeping Bag – Marmot Plasma 15/Sierra Designs Zissou 12/Big Agnes McAlpin SL5 – Now this is a tricky one. So many options which are all supposed to be awesome, a down bag with a decent rating should do the trick. I would love to run any of the three named, but these are pricey (purely in absolute terms, not Vs quality) so need to consider a few more things.
Bag in the pack – The North Face Blue Kazoo – Sleeping bags are expensive and, with all the other outlays I’ve had (flying back and forth to the UK is not cheap), I’ve gone with what was on offer. I was pleased to pick up this Blue Kazoo for a reasonable price and it has been awesome so far. Once on the trail, it shall be reviewed, but I trust North Face.
Sleeping Mat in the pack – Thermarest Z Lite Sol – Again, an area of contention (they all seem to be), I’ve used a Thermarest for many a year now, so that’s a given, but whether to inflate or not. For reliability and price, I’m going for the Thermarest Z-lite. It’s been used multiple times during the treks at Quetzaltrekkers and was warm and comfortable (you can also pretend to play the accordion). Also makes a great seat for rest stops.
Some people feel the rain, others just get wet (and cold)
Storm jacket – Marmot Aegis – I watched with envy from beneath a (perfectly adequate) poncho at clients wearing Marmot jackets during the rainy season at QT. It’s a bit of an indulgence and means splashing out on something that may or may not need it, but, hey, it should last a good few trails and will stop me getting soggy. I’ve actually gone with the PreCip, with the intention of one day splashing out on the Aegis.
Down Jacket – Sierra Designs DriDown™ Gnar Lite – Again with the new born love affair with Sierra Designs. A down jacket is a new thing for me, whether that’s because of personal finances or the not so gelid conditions in the West Country, in the past I’ve just been cold (and happy). But times they are a-changing and it’s time to get warm and look sexy, the PCT calls for it.
Down Jacket in the Pack – Marmot Zeus – Thanks to some heavily discounted outdoor stores in Portland (Next Adventure?), I’ve managed to pick up some down to keep one warm at a reasonable price. It’s a real swanky baby blue colour, I would never have picked it but sometimes life just throws out these opportunities to try new things, grasp them with both hands.
What I’ll be kicking off at the end of a long, hard day…
Trail shoes – Brooks Cascadias and Vasque Mindbender – I’m usually a boot man, but this is a completely different ordeal to anything I’m used to. I’m going to start off with lightweight trail runners and work up if needs be. Being a man of the narrow foot, Vasques and Brooks seem to fit me best. Also having done some hiking and a half marathon in some Brooks Cascadias, I have nothing but love for them.
Shoes in the Pack (well…on the feet) – Vasque Mindbenders and North Face Hedgehog Guide – The PCT world will probably frown on my purchase of the North Face (being Goretex and all) but, using the Mindbenders in the desert, I’m willing to give them a shot. They’ve been comfortable on the shakedown hikes and for a day at the races (the money lost on horses could have been spent on trail fancies, I regret it immensely), so I can only hope they’ll serve me well in the Sierras.
Covering my modesty with…
Shirt – It’s a world cup year and the England shirt brings so many benefits! I can represent, truly represent, the pride I have for my country in general, but also the team that, for once, may not be burdened with massive pressure from an over expectant nation. A sports shirt will also be welcome as I’m assuming there is some sort of science involved to help it perform better during activity than your normal t-shirts. And then it’s white, adios sun, you can reflect right off, bother me no more. I’ve also picked up a cotton T from my old work place, they’ve been so kind to sponsor me that, to carry them with me on the trail can only bring me smiles.
Shorts/Trousers – Berghaus Navigator Zip Offs – A pair of Craghoppers convertibles got me through 3,000km of cycling in Central America followed by a 4 month stint of guiding for QT (I pretty much wore them on EVERY trek (I lost count after 25)) and I want to don another pair. I found a bargain pair of Berghaus trousers and, as they were repping similar technology and claims (quick drying, SPF, robust), I saw no problems in throwing them in the trolley. I love a pair of zip offs for the outdoors.
Socks – Ever since my good friend Julie bought me socks from the Boulder army store, they are now my religion. Accept no substitutes (it also makes Julie’s gift buying easier). I think my pants are from Marks and Spencers (thanks Mum).
Hats and Gloves – Unbranded bobble hat, Berghaus gloves, Megapaca Alaska Cap, flaming and thermal buff – As long as I don’t lose any of these items before we head out, then they are some luxuries I will be bringing along. They are not necessarily lightweight, but I look bloody cool.
Hydration and Food
Filtering and Treatment – Platypus 2l Gravity Filter – We’ve been rocking these at Quetzaltrekkers for the last 6 months on the Lago and Nebaj treks and it’s almost my favourite part of the day. Filtering water for the clients was actually good fun as the system is quick and easy. You can also take your mind off feeling tired by getting excited when the water gets down past the picture of the Platypus quicker than you’d think.
There are lighter systems, there are smaller systems and there are cheaper systems, but this is proven in my eyes, and at the end of the day, there’s always the race.
Carrying Agua – I’m happy with your normal everyday water bottles picked up from your normal everyday shop. I’m also contemplating a hydration bladder as I like to sup while I walk. Having carried around 6l on each trek at QT, I’m happy to carry more than I think I’ll need, especially during a dry year such as this. What is the rule? Three minutes without air, three days without water and three weeks without food? We should survive.
Stoves – MSR Pocketrocket – On a recent roadtrip to Portland, Elie and I were blessed with super fast, super efficient and super tasty cups of coffee from our newly purchased Pocketrocket.
And how will I carry all of this?
Backpack – ULA Catalyst – I’ve never had any ULA gear, but it’s one of the pieces of kit that I am most excited about. I’m going for the Catalyst as I love a bit of extra space and capacity for those little extras. But there’s so much more to it than that.
Having scoured the ULA website in detail, they just sound like an awesome company, focusing on high quality, ultralight equipment, why wouldn’t you love them?
I’ve splashed out a little and gone for the Cuben Fibre upgrade. I was interested to see how it will perform and, with Grace and Elie also rocking Catalysts, it was nice to mix it up a little. A big thank you to Chris and the ULA team for their assistance and support, they are a great little company and we can’t wait to meet them at the Kick Off.
Accessories and Fun Stuff
As Henley has instructed, I cannot be carrying too much in the way of extras (seriously, pack light or get strong) but, along with a few of the following essentials, I want to take something exciting.
Hiking Poles – Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles – Having spoken to a few triple crowners, this was the first name out of the bag for them, and who am I to argue? I’ve never really hiked with poles before but, with the added benefit of forming part of our sleeping set up and to protect my aging joints, they’ve made it on to the plane. The funds received from Francis Clark have been allocated to the poles, and thence have they been named, Francis Right and Clark Left.
Despite the advantages lovingly interwoven in to a technical hiking pole, you can’t beat the natural flex of a good stick, or the way the top slowly molds to your hand. They’re also better for pretending to be a samurai. However, from what I’ve heard of the trail (at least the first 500 miles), we won’t come across many of these sticks and I won’t be allowed to remove them from their natural habitat. Crack out the poles.
Umbrella – GoLite Chrome Dome – Initially scoffing at the idea of an umbrella, one can now do nothing but champion it. Reading the reviews of the Chrome Dome, it sounds awesome for rain and shine, now all I need to do is work out how to attach it so I don’t have to hold it (lazy).
Communication – One’s rubbish at staying in touch, I’m hoping some of the other guys will be bringing some sort of Ipod/Iphone/blogging device so we can stay up to date. I may or may not have a cell phone.
Reading – Kindle and Backpacker Magazine – I’m hoping that Backpacker Magazine will be nice enough to send new issues as a mail drop item, but that’s got to be clutching at straws. One of my greatest friends, Julie Patent Trademark, purchased me a Kindle during a recent trip to Colorado, the thought of her kindness still brings me close to tears. Then there’s always Yogi’s trail handbook.
And this is pretty much what will be in the pack. There will, of course, be a few tiny extras that I can’t think of at the moment (that’s a lie, I’ll be taking a mosquito head net, duct tape, plasters, a little speaker for the iPod (because people deserve to hear Thin Lizzy and System on the trail) and a camera with extra battery, charger and mini tripod, the Powertraveller SolarMonkey Adventurer and a pack of Colorado 14ers playing cards).
My weight is unknown and I like it that way. If the bag is too heavy or I find I really don’t need something, then I’ll bounce or ditch it. Am genuinely impressed with people’s diligence and attention to detail when it comes to weight, but I’m just not that committed to being an ultralight hiker. Go by feel.
If you’ve made it to the end, then congratulations! You’ve slogged through something far less enjoyable than 2,650 odd miles of beautiful trail to reach this point. If you think I have forgotten anything, have any comments or would like to donate any gear to the Quetzaltrekkers cause, please get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.