In July of 2016, I climbed Mt. Washington and found a profound connection to life on the trail and fell in love with the views in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Almost instantaneously, I was hooked. Up to that point, I had compiled an extensive daypack, complete with everything a hiker should have for a trip up the “lady”. Upon my return home, I began researching gear and made my selections towards a pack one might use for a thru hike. I watched hundreds of hours of videos on YouTube and indulged in the Hiker Trash Channel. Unfortunately, it was an obsession and wasn’t born from trail tested experience.
My goal was to purchase durable gear that I would purchase once and allow me to take a female companion or my two children on my expeditions. It’s a great goal to be sure. It has brought us a host of amazing memories. That being said, it was not conducive to an Ultra Light setup. I found that my overnights were restricted to shorter distances. I found this to be very unsatisfactory as I am a runner and very much desired big miles and long days. Something had to change.
In January of 2017, I made my decision. I was to sell off my heavier gear at a loss and use the money to purchase different UL equipment. I once again took to YouTube for my answers and began clicking “confirm purchase”. My first change was to my pack. I began with a Deuter 65+10 liter pack. It was very heavy with an extensive suspension system. Great if I was to be loading out 30 pounds or more. I sold it on EBay along with its rain cover (more added weight).
I elected to purchase a ZPacks Arch Blast in its place. There are lighter packs, but I found that the upgrades this year and the customer service offered by the company were worth a few ounces. I also purchased the multipack, which connects to the front giving me a handy chest pouch for easy access (snacks, phone, credit cards, etc). I saved over three pounds by doing this. I was very pleased.
My next change was to my sleeping pad. I had purchased an Alps Mountaineering self -inflating pad, and bit of a luxury at over three pounds! I got a Therma Rest Xlite which weighs less than a pound and is much more compact.
I did not need to change my quilt as the Enlightened Equipment Enigma was well suited for my new UL setup. I sold my Jetboil and replaced it with a 750 ml Toaks titanium pot and an MSR Pocket Rocket. I’m happy to say that a small canister of fuel, the stove, a towel, and a sponge all fit conveniently inside this light and compact cooking system.
My last big purchase was my shelter. I replaced my REI Quarter Dome with Gossamer Gear’s “The One”. They just updated this shelter for 2017 and thus far I’m impressed! It weighs a pound. I utilize my trekking poles to pitch this shelter. This change resulted in a three pound loss in weight in my pack. I also purchased titanium stakes and carbon fiber stuff sacks for food, clothes, and my quilt. I should also mention that I changed out my drinking bladder for Smart Water bottles and replaced a heavy plastic trowel with the “Deuce of Spades”. Lastly, I trimmed my clothing and incidentals down to minimalist.
The end results are unquestionable. I can walk all day without needing rest. There is no pain or discomfort whatsoever. Inclines and declines are almost unnoticed. I cannot imagine a thru hike without UL equipment. At my heaviest resupply I’m around 18 Pounds including food and water. That’s a big change from over thirty! Most importantly I haven’t replaced any comforts or made any big sacrifices. I cannot stress how much UL equipment changes the game. I would strongly advise anyone thinking of making the trail their home to consider investing in good equipment that they can be passionate about and enjoy using. See you on the trail.