Gear Review: The First 1,000 Miles

Gear Update: mile 1,000

I thought now would be a great time to do a little gear overview of what I’ve been using so far on the trail. I’ve noticed that the sections on my website that contain gear are some of the most popular. 

The Southern California desert is now history, as well as the snowiest section of the Sierra with it’s high passes. 

So, in deference to all the gear heads and equipment geeks among us, allow me to dive into thru-hiker nerdiness for a few moments. :)

CLOTHES:

Pants: I’ve worn the RailRiders Eco-Mesh pants the whole way. Full zips down the legs have been great, more than enough ventilation through the desert. Sun protection a definite plus for my Irish-Scottish skin. Dry VERY fast, which is helpful whether doing laundry or going through a stream crossing (which are very rare in the So Cal section!). I’ll like that going forward for sure. Very lightweight but extremely durable. Would I use these again? Definitely, without question!

REI Sahara Longsleeve Shirt:
Wore this every single day through the desert, until Kennedy Meadows. Switched to a Smartwool microweight long sleeve w/ a 1/3 zip. Wore it until Lake Tahoe, now I’m back to the Sahara. I like how fast it dries, the ventilation options, and the fit. Well designed. Very Tough, very durable, and if clean you can wear it in town. Does hold odor more than the Smartwool, though, but the durability aspect makes it a great choice. 
 Would I use this again? Definitely. 

ExOfficio boxer briefs:
Dry fast, very comfortable, not restricting, no chafing issues, doesn’t hold odor, lightweight. 
Would I use this again? 100% yes! Love them!

Patagonia ‘Houdini’ windshirt:
Ultra lightweight, blocks wind well, light enough to start out the colder days with over my Sahara shirt without overheating, mosquitoes can’t get through the material to bite me, sheds water well, tougher than you’d think by holding it, light enough to hike in on it’s own while my main shirt is drying on my pack after a quick creek/lake washing. 
Would I use this again? I would. This piece of gear is fantastic. 

Patagonia Nano Puff jacket:
Warm, lightweight, makes a great extra sleeping/insulation layer if it’s a supremely cold/windy night, great in the mornings while breaking camp/eating breakfast, great as part of pillow, and one of my favorites: while doing laundry, step through the neck, pull up around your waist & tie the sleeves together and you have what I call the Patagonia Nano Kilt! :)
Would I use this again? For sure, I loved it. 

Columbia Sun Gloves:
Fell apart so fast I didn’t need to use a calendar to track their demise, I used an hourglass. The palms wore out by the 2nd full day of use, and there were holes beginning within hours of the first use. I had purchased two pair hoping they’d see me through at least the Sierra. Not a chance. Shoddy workmanship, a total disappointment. Complete crap. How strongly can I say this? Surprising, since Columbia has always had good workmanship in their other products I’ve used. 
Would I use this again? Not even if you paid me. Complete garbage!

Black Rock Gear Down Beanie:
In one word: amazing. In two? Sublimely amazing. Great in the mornings, and cold evenings. Generally put it on first thing after setting down my pack after a long day, before I even started laying out my bag or getting dinner started. Also, used it as an extension of my down sleeping quilt. It kept my dome toasty while the quilt kept the rest of me warm. 
Would I use this again? Yes! I love this thing. They knocked it out of the park with this product. 

Inov-8 Terroc 330 trail runners:
Really like these shoes! I was able to get 525-ish miles out of the first pair, and am looking to get almost 600 out of pair #2. They do tend to wear in certain spots: On the mesh section on the outside edge on the pinkie toes, and in some of the stitching in spots. For the beating they get put through though, I’m very impressed. Just enough cushion, nice stabile shank, wide toe box (no toe blisters while wearing these!), and very wear-resistant sole. With proper cleaning & maintenance (i.e., Super Glue, a needle & thread, maybe some Shoe Goo) you could get 700+ miles from them. 
Would I use this again? For sure. I have a couple happy feet that agree!

Socks:
I’ve had an assorted mix of socks. All wool except the liner socks. No cotton anything. I’ll list each:

Patagonia thin synthetic liner socks: wore these through the early stages, and not only did they last longer than I expected, they were comfortable! Very impressed. A+ 

Smartwool Phd Hikers: not bad, but do wear out on the bottom easier than others. But great fit, decent dry time. Expensive for what you get though. I went another route when the time came for new socks. 

Wig-Wam Mid-Weight wool hikers: still using them, like them. I bought 3 pair from REI, so if they fail I can exchange them. So far so good though. B+ so far. Durability will decide my final grade. 

Wig-Wam Heavy wool hiking sock: 
Tough, cushy, long lasting. Bought them in Wrightwood, are still rocking. Not expensive, either. A+. I’m a believer. 

Smartwool Balaclava:
Really lightweight & thin. Have been able to use it different ways: as a traditional balaclava that covers my head, ears & most of my face on cold or windy mornings, or as a neck warmer/scarf. Occasionally use as a head warmer at night while sleeping, but my down beanie pretty much took over that spot. It’s been a good piece of gear. 
Would I use this again? 
Absolutely, really worth it’s (minimal) weight.

Bandana:
Love mine! Bought at REI for under $3, it’s a little oversized, which I like. I’ve worn it on my head by itself, under my hat/visor for extra sun protection, around my neck for warmth/sun protection, and it mops up any spills. Filter the chunkies out of your water in the desert portion of the PCT. Dip it in water & wrap it around your head to stay cool…it goes on & on. 
Would i use this again?
I wouldn’t hike without one. 

Main gear:

Backpack: MaChale Packs ‘Chasm’
I chose to go with a McHale pack for several reasons, one of which is the durability. Comfort has been amazing. Even when maxxed out in weight, my shoulders and even hips don’t feel the weight. The load transfer to my hips is wonderful. The pack moves with my body, and the options are perfect for my needs. Kangaroo pocket on the back stores everything I need to get to quickly; cuben fiber water bottle holders on the sides; very roomy cuben fiber hip belt pockets with water resistant zippers hold everything I need or could want (pancake griddle or waffle maker wouldn’t fit, I tried). The fact that Dan McHale works diligently with his customers to custom fit the pack to each persons body measurements can be felt in the way it rides so easily, and feels so good when loaded and strapped on. 
Would I use this again? I’m sold. I will go with McHale Packs as long as Dan McHale keeps producing them. 

Yama Adventure Gear Tarps:
I started off the journey with the Yama (formerly AlpinLite Gear) ‘Stratiform III’ tarp made of silnylon. Weighing around 14 ounces and providing a lot of coverage and protection from the elements, I was more than happy with it. Beautiful tarp! Then, Gen Shimizu, Yama owner, informed me he was developing a cuben fiber version, weighing a mere 7.5-ish ounces, and would I be interested in field testing it for him? Are you kidding me?? Does Washington have monuments? I’ve had the chance to try the new cuben fiber model out, and it’s a piece of art. Front and rear trekking pole pockets insure your pole supports won’t slip, and the water resistant zipper in the front beak allows for a nice draft in good weather or a protective vestibule for your equipment in bad weather. Easy to pitch, I set it up the first time with a nice taut pitch in less than 4 minutes. 
Would I use this again? Without question. One of my favorite pieces of equipment!

Yama Adventure Gear ‘Bug Tent 1.25′:
Designed to hook right in to the underside of my tarp, this has been one of my favorite pieces of gear by far. On the occasions I didn’t have my bivy with it’s bug netting, I used the bug tent on its own to keep the crawly critters off me & out of my quilt. Also, on clear but buggy (read: mosquitoes & flies) nights, I’d use it on it’s own, like this evening as I’m typing this. And in the middle if the day it is very useful if I want to eat lunch & take a short break, but I happen to be in a mosquito infested area, I just spend the 3-4 minutes it takes to set it up, and I’m bug free and able to relax. Well worth it. Bathtub floor and footbox options. 10.3 ounces of portable bug-free ‘peacefulness insurance!’
Would I use this again? 100% yes. 

Jacks’R’Better ‘Sierra Sniveller’ Quilt:
My first time using a quilt instead of a traditional sleeping bag, and I’m officially a convert. Way more options for sleeping, very versatile, super comfy. One if the main reasons I love the end of the day: I get to crawl in under my quilt! Warm, even on the coldest nights the Sierra could deliver, and since it’s a quilt, I can vary the ventilation options to my needs. Dries out quickly. Down, 800 fill. 24 ounces total. Footbox can Velcro shut, and cinches on both ends can insure a draft free night of sleep. Innovative slit in the middle that velcros shut can turn the whole quilt into a wearable robe/top. 
Would I use this again? Again? I’m using it right now, and it’s a cold night…and I’m warm inside it! I love my 
JRB quilt. Love it! When I get home I’ll be tempted to use it as a comforter on my couch. It’s fantastic. 

TiGoat ‘Ptarmigeon’ Bivy:
Very light weight bivy, and has served me well so far. Has two different zippers, one for a bug net, the other to completely shut you in if the elements aren’t favorable. Adds extra warmth when very cold, blocks wind and drafts excellently. 

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2 Responses to Gear Review: The First 1,000 Miles

  1. Rae Taylor says:

    Hi Dug,
    I’m really thankful for your journey and posts. Not only are you hiking for a great cause, but having a family friendly thru-hike blog is a great blessing to my family. Your video posts to your nephew are my girls’ favorites. God bless you.

    • thf2 says:

      Hi Rae! Thanks for your encouragement and good words. I’ve really tried to keep the blog & videos “family friendly,” I thinks it’s very important! I’m humbled to know your family, and especially your kids, are being touched by this journey. I can’t tell you how much that means. Thank you, and say hello to your family for me! :)

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