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Travis "BevoHi" Hildebrand
Begins: Mar 20, 2016
Date: Mon, Dec 12th, 2016
Daily Distance: 0
Trip Distance: 2,189.4
Entry Visits: 1,473
Journal Visits: 140,807
Guestbook Views: 4,405
Guestbook Entrys: 223
Gear Review and Videos
It has been 4 months to the day since I summited Katahdin. Plenty of time has passed since I completed my thru-hike. I’d like to add one last blog entry that discusses post-trail thoughts as well as some thoughts on gear (what worked well and not-so-much).
I have come to realize that the thru-hiking the AT means more to me than having just walked the 2,189.1 miles to complete it.I find myself thinking about the trail, but not in the sense that I miss walking 8-10 hours a day.Now, in my memory, the trail was about the people that I met along the way… especially the ones I hiked with for extended periods…. Chaos, Secret Agent, Garfield, Stitch, Stripe, AB, Monster, GrandDaddyLongLegs, and Just Greg.I have connected with most of them on Facebook and got to see Garfield in person last month in Pennsylvania.
A few people have contacted me out of the blue to let me know they are thinking of doing the trail next year. I enjoy reading about their plans and answering questions they posed to me about the trail. I have a couple of blogs that I will follow closely in 2017 to track their progress and live vicariously through them as they did with my trail journal.
John Kolker: http://www.hearthike.org
Dennis On-the-Go: http://dennisonthego.com/blog
Next, Z-man has informed me that he intends to hike the PCT in 2017.
Good luck guys on your thru-hikes in 2017! I wish you much success and good weather.
I did receive my copy of the Hiker Year Book! Thanks Odie for putting that together for us hikers. I LOVE it!
A good friend helped me put a summary picture together summarizing some of the key elements of my thru-hike. Thanks Kiffin for this picture.
I have also put together several slideshows of my thru-hike. Please feel free to enjoy them at your leisure.
Beard growing GIF
6 sub-2minute live videos.
My top 666 full-sized pictures are located here.
Overall, I was very pleased with my gear choices. I’ll start with some of my favorite items and then try to discuss the rest of my gear. Some gear is neither good nor bad, but necessary.
My favorite item on the hike was not an item, but was an application for my iPhone:
· GutHooks AT Hiker app: This app was amazing. It worked in airplane mode to save battery, but would turn on the GPS when in use to show my location on the map. It would show how far in miles (or kilometers) to the next Water, road crossing, camp, or other point of interest. You can filter for just the places you are interested in. It allowed users to sign virtual log books to give information about the location. For instance, people would leave info about how well the water was flowing at a water source. It was a pretty dry year in 2016 and some of the sources were not flowing at all. I could see this info prior to arriving at a dry water source and plan better to tank up on water at an earlier water source.
· iPhone 6s (128gig): This thing was my everything. It was my map, my communication device, camera, blogging device, flashlight, compass, and entertainment device in town with movies and Facebook. Add a Bluetooth keyboard and everyone got to enjoy a more thorough blog on Postholer.com. My biggest problems with the phone was the charging cables, and LifeProof case that has a weak spot in the headphone jack cover screw. I lost that cover screw twice on my trail, but LifeProof has a great warranty that they were able to replace it for $ 5(shipping) both times. My phone is in the 3rd case and the phone looks as good as new still. The key to long battery life is to keep it in low-power mode all the time, and in airplane mode when it isn’t being used for communication (blog or phone calls). I never ran out of battery on the trail and I used my iPhone device on the trail more than anyone I met along the way. I took over 13,000 pictures on it, listened to several audio books, and music 80% of my hiking hours. I did burn through a few pairs of $ 10 earphones along the way and found a great sounding pair of Xiamoi Dual Mi Hybrid Earphone In-ear headphones here for $ 29 after I finished the trail. These would have worked great on the trail.
· NorthFace Thermoball Full Zip jacket: My jacket endured the entire trail with me. It was super warm when needed, but also super light. It has great big pockets that would hold the rest of my warm weather gear including my Zpacks fleece 1oz beanie, a neck gator, and a pair of gloves. At night it would double as a pillow for my neck or knees in my hammock. It has become my everyday jacket that is good down into the teens. I take it as my only jacket on all work trips across the country due to it’s weight, size, and warmth. I got one tiny snag on it and was able to fix it with some tenacious tape. I have washed it in a washing machine. It is one of my favorite pieces of gear.
· PacerPole trekking poles: I didn’t think poles would matter very much, but when I saw a pair of pacerpoles at Fontana Dam and tried them for just a few moments, I knew I had to order a pair.The ergonomic handles allowed maximum help from my upper body to help propel me up hills and to save my knees going down hills.The extra surface area on the handles and ergonomic angle were the keys to making these poles out-perform my other Black Diamond poles.I did have an issue with 2 tips wearing out, but as far as I could tell all hiking poles will experience these issues (especially in the rugged rocky terrain of Pennsylvania and Maine).The company was super about shipping a replacement set and a spare set of tips to a desperate thru-hiker.
· Darn Tough Quarter Cushioned Socks: I took two pairs of these with me… One to wear and one to wash. They have a lifetime guarantee and are made in Vermont. One of the pairs did eventually develop some holes in the tips of the toes that I think started way at the beginning of the hike due to the plastic tie that held them together in the original packaging. A call to Darn-Tough resulted in them shipping a replacement pair to me. I couldn’t be happier with socks. I did also use a thin pair of liner socks to reduce any friction on my feet. A dual layer of socks resulted in a minimum number of blisters on my feet. Some people do fine with a single layer. I’ve always used two layers for sports like skiing and hiking.
· Brooks Cascadia 11 Trail Runner shoes: I started using trail runners instead of hiking boots in 2013 with my first trip down into the Grand Canyon based on advice from Z-man. I haven’t looked back to hiking boots for hiking and camping. Version 11 are great shoes. I did have some serious quality problems with Version 10 in the prior year, but version 11 came out a month before my hike began. I went through 5 pairs of shoes… Well, really it was 4.2 pairs, but I had to buy 5 of them for the hike. Maine was much tougher on my shoes than I thought it would be. I only had one pair last less than 500 miles (the pair that went through Maine). I’m uncertain if there was a defect in the shoe or if Maine was that tough on the 4th pair. I had to order a new pair to be delivered to Monson, ME just before the final 100 miles in the 100-mile wilderness. Just Greg and GrandDaddyLongLegs also had to replace their shoes at the same time, so it was probably the rough Maine terrain. I am still wearing the 5th pair of trailrunners as my everyday shoe since finishing the trail 4 months ago (today). Your feet are the most important part of your body to care for. The combination of socks and shoes kept my feet healthy and allowed me to pound out the miles as fast as I did.
· Dirty Girl Gaitors: These gaitors weight in at 1.2oz for the pair. They kept all but one tiny pebble out of my shoes for the entire hike. I hiked with a lot of people that were constantly pulling rocks and pebbles out of their shoes. Stitch ordered a pair on the trail after she saw mine. I would 100% take these again and again. They were showing some wear by the end of the trail. I fixed them with Tenacious Tape.
· Zpacks ArcBlast Backpack: This backpack performed excellently. The key here is to watch how much weight you put into the pack. I wouldn’t want to carry 45+ pounds in it, but it worked great for my 18pound base weight +4pounds of water + 5 days of food for about 32-35 pounds. I loved coming into a town with closer to 19 pounds on my back. I did have an issue with the original hip belt. I’m pretty sure there was a manufacture defect with the belt as it was scraping on the cuben fiber on the backpack near the small of my back causing some cuben fiber damage. A quick e-mail exchange with Z-pack fixed the issue when they sent me a new belt and two pieces of cuben fiber patch stickers to fix the worn spots on the pack. I also had a plastic clip break on the top of the pack. It is still broken, but I’m sure Z-pack would replace it if I let them know it snapped on me. It was definitely not a critical part. The belt pouches were well worth the money. There aren’t a lot of organization pockets in the ArcBlast, so the belt pockets held little knick-knacks like chapstick, toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, ibuprofen, superglue in one pocket, and my electronics in the other pocket including the 11.5oz 10,000mAh battery pack to charge my iPhone and the battery pack itself. The cuben fiber cover wasn’t really necessary as the backpack is pretty waterproof to begin with.
· Butt-in-a-Sling (BIAS) hammock & shelter system: This hammock and the corresponding system built around it has been awesome. I slept great in it on the trail. The lightweight hammock was durable enough (even in the single layer) to last the entire trip without a single snag or rip. I must admit that I was a bit concerned with it being a single layer of material. I was always very careful with it and didn’t let it drag or rest on the ground when setting up or taking it down. Of course, no hammock system is complete without an underquilt (which I had two different ones during the trip), and a suspension system. For the suspension, I used whoopie slings from DutchwareGear.com. Dutch has some great gear. I really spent a lot of time researching gear for my hammock system. I never had to tie a single knot on the trail with the tree-huggers, whoopie slings, whoopie hooks, dutch hooks, and the continuous ridgeline setup complete with a wasp for the tarp. The tarp also had some “fleaz on a collar” that allowed the reflective lines attached to groundhog stakes to quickly connect to the fly without tying any knots. I miss my hammock at home so much that I bought a hammock stand with a gathered end hammock to lounge in the backyard at home. The Zpacks tarp was one of the more expensive items in my backpack. It’s weight amazed me for how much coverage it had to protect me from the rain and wind. It was well worth the $ 250 I spent on the rain fly. If I were to do it again, I’d use shorter collars for the fleaz on the tarp. I could also go a bit shorter on the reflective cords attached to the MSR groundhog stakes. Lastly, the BIAS bug-in-ator screen worked great to keep bugs out of the sleeping area all night. I added this when I switched from the winter UQ/sleeping bag to the summer UQ/sleeping bag.
· ExOfficio 3” Boxer Brief underwear: I started the hike with running shorts with support liners. It took until just before the Shenandoah’s before it rained so much that some chafing occurred in the nether-regions. Running shorts with support weren’t going to cut it for the rest of the trip if it rained again like that. I never thought I’d spend $ 30 on a pair of underwear. I had heard rave reviews of these underwear in my research prior to my hike, but I had this all figured out with the support liners in running shorts. I was wrong. I bought a $ 30 pair of ExOfficio 3” Boxer Briefs in Charlottesville, VA (860 miles into the hike). This is by far the best pair of underwear I’ve ever owned. When I got home I bought another 7 pairs of them from Amazon (for closer to $ 20@). They offer support in the right places and prevent chafing completely. I didn’t chafe again for the rest of the hike (nearly 1,300 miles).
· Tyvek sheet and Sharpie:Taking a sheet of Tyvek for a ground cloth under my hammock also doubled as a signature register for my hike.I love having this now full of signatures of those I hiked with and those that helped me.
· Sleep System: I used two different sleeping bags: 25degree REI Lumen and a 32degree Marmot sleeping bag. These were just two sleeping bags I had in my camping gear before I started thinking about hiking the AT. If I had to do it again, I’d swap these out for comparable temperature top-quilts to save weight and space. I was never so cold that I couldn’t sleep on the trail, but there were a few nights that I almost had a shiver or two. The liner helped keep the sleeping bags cleaner and added a few more degrees to the warmth factor. The sleeping bags and liners are a bit hard to get in/out of when sleeping in a hammock. Like I said, a top quilt with a footbox would be in order for next time.
· Water System: I used a Sawyer Squeeze and a knock-off camelback with a Smartwater bottle (for dirty water) and a Gatorade bottle (for sugary drink mixes). The system worked flawlessly. The key trick is to never ever let the Sawyer freeze. If there was a hint of it getting near 32 degrees overnight, I’d sleep with the sawyer in my pocket in my sleeping bag. The other trick is to not lose the O-ring where the dirty water bottle connects. Lastly, I used a quick-fill adapter on my camelback so I never had to open my camelback to fill it with clean water. I could wear my backpack while I filled my camelback with clean water after filtering it through the Sawyer using the Smartwater bottle from the stream. I kept the SmartWater bottle in the side pocket of my backpack so I could reach it without taking the backpack off. The Sawyer label did finally fall off at about the 2,000 mile mark.
· Cooking System: My cooking system consisted of a fancy-feast cat can with holes in it to burn denatured alcohol, isopropyl alcohol, or most commonly the yellow bottle of HEET. I could pretty consistently boil 2 cups of water in about 8 minutes using the foil screen and a .9Liter Evernew Titanium cooking pot with a lid. The key to re-constituting rice or pasta is to have a reflectix coozie for anything you wanted to keep warm. I made the cozies myself custom fit for the Evernew pot and the country crock butter tub. I had a warm meal every night I was on the trail. As my blog showed, my favorite meal was Green Thai Curry using different protiens. The powdered Thai flavoring from Amazon (New Zealand) was super lights and tasty.
· Packing Bags: These were necessary evils to organize and keep things dry. The compression bag was the heaviest bag, but it was able to store my hammock with underquilt, along with the sleeping bag. I had a Z-packs medium bag for clothes. I ended up trading that with Secret Agent for his Z-packs medium pillow bag. I left the pillow side out all the time inside my backpack. It was my neck pillow in the hammock with any extra socks in it.
· Z-packs Bear Bag: This thing was awesome! I highly recommend this bear bag system for a single person. The rock bag and rope were perfect and super light. My rock bag did eventually split open a bit, but I was able to fix it with some tenacious tape and it kept me going for the entire trail. There is definitely an art to throwing a rock bag up into a tree. My trail family can attest to this fact. I ended up being the designated bear bag hanger when we were together. I’d throw it like a baseball pitch and had 90-ish% success rate on the first throw. Learn the PCT method for hanging the bear bag. It requires a twig (which we found at each site) and a single knot (two half hitches) on the twig. I absolutely loved teaching this method and loved it even more when I got to watch that person teach another person on the trail (I’m looking at you Secret Agent and Rubix). The bear bag did eventually have a clip that failed (just like the one on the Zpacks backpack) that I still need to get replaced. Again, it wasn’t catastrophic. I made it work with the carribeaner for the rock bag. I’m sure Z-packs would replace the clip for me if I would let them know it failed. I did have to replace the weak carribeaner before I even left for the trail. The one from Z-packs failed almost immediately. Again, this was no big deal.
· SPOT GPS: This was a necessary-evil item. The 4.5oz item required some money and a service contract, but I’d carry it again. I never need to use the emergency button to call for help. It did give my family and friends peace-of-mind in the rare times when there was no cell phone service. It connected well with the PostHoler.com website to automatically show a map of my last known location. I used the left button when I would stop for a bit with a standard message that said “I’m OK. I’ve stopped here for a bit, but am still hiking today” and the “OK” button to say “Everything is OK. I’m camping here tonight.” I never had to press the I need some help button or the SOS “send somebody right now” buttons on the trail.
· Swiss Army Knife: I didn’t really need this tiny little .8oz knife. I may have used it once to cut a small tin foil pouch, but it wasn’t necessary for my hike. I’d probably skip it next time as there were always plenty of people around with a knife (usually much bigger than this little one). It was a pain in the butt to transport through airports. I ended up mailing it home from Monson, ME with a few other items (including my headlamp).
· Headlamp: I wore my headlamp 24x7 around my neck for the first month or two. I found that I almost never used it on the trail. Yes, it only weighed 3.3oz, but every ounce counts. I did some night hiking one night where I really used it after I got scared by some bears while I was hiking alone at dusk. I had a flashlight in my iPhone that I probably used more than the headlamp. If you have to have a headlamp, get one with a red-light in it. This is much nicer to other people that are sleeping near by. It was super annoying to have a bright white light flash across your hammock/tent or even worse straight into your face while you slept in a shelter. Be courteous and use the red-light in camp people!
· NewTrent 10,000 mAh battery pack: This thing weighed in at 11.5oz.In hindsight, I wish I had about a 6oz version.They make these now. Like I said earlier, I was an iPhone power-user, but I never ran out of battery on the trail.This thing gave me peace-of-mind for my iPhone and SPOT GPS (in an emergency situation).10,000mAH is more than enough back-up power to get you to the next town.It was a bit overkill.
· Therma-Rest Z-seat: For the 2.1oz, this was totally worth it. It was a sit pad, and a foot insulation in the bottom of my sleeping bag to keep my heels warm at night. I also stored it on the bottom of my backpack using some stretchy cords. This served to protect the cuben fiber from rough spots on the ground when I would put my backpack on the ground. I did not have a chair, so this thing was well worth the weight and cost.
· Mission Enduracooling Rag: This rag was my cooling rag, washcloth, and towel in one piece that weighed 2.5oz. I didn’t use it much at the beginning of the hike, but when it warmed up, I used it a lot as a cooling rag. In a pinch, I would wash up with a cowboy bath in a creek and then use it to towel myself dry. I’d take it again for sure.
· Pen & Notebook: I thought I’d use this as a backup if my iPhone died to make notes to blog later. I never used them and I sent them home from Monson, ME.
· Camera Gorillapod Stand: I didn’t really use this as there always seemed to be people around to take a picture when needed. I thought I might need it for McAfee knob, but when I learned that a friend (Ren) would be there with me at McAfee knob, I sent it home from Woods Hole Hostel with my wife. I would not take this again.
· StickPic & Joby Mount: I used my stickpic several times a day to take selfies and group shots from the end of my trekking pole. It worked perfect with an app that would let me take a picture by whistling at the phone. The app was called CameraSharp. I would 100% take this again.
· Buff: I have never really used a buff before. I ended up using part of a buff on my head to catch some of the sweat before it would soak into my hat. When it was hot, I would dunk the buff into the creek and it would provide a cooling effect for my head for about 30-60 minutes. I’d take the head buff again.
· Bandana: I had a “Hiker-to-Town” orange bandana. I never ended up using it to catch a ride. I sent this home eventually (after carrying it further than I shold have).
· Ibuprofen: This is a must-have. I probably used ibuprofen about 15 days of the 150. You are just going to have some days that ibuprofen helps reduce swelling so you can keep hiking.
· iReader USB Memory: This was a small device that would allow me to back-up my pictures to a thumb-drive (of sorts) along the trail. I love pictures and this gave me peace-of-mind that I had a second copy of pictures. I’d only use it when I was in town indoors.
· VivoBareFoot camp shoes: These are getting hard to find anymore. I believe they stopped making them. Each shoe weighed in at 4.5 oz. I would use them to cross streams, and as camp shoes if my feet were tired of being in my trail-runners. My feet rarely got tired of the trail-runners because they were so comfortable. They were great to shower in when in town at a hostel.
· Microspikes: I never needed to use these. I sent them home with my brother (Chaos) after 2 weeks.
· Hot Chilly’s Long Underwear: These were great in the first month. After that I sent them home and bought a pair of “modal” Pajama bottoms (long underwearish) that were much much lighter, but not as warm. I’d take the Hot Chilly’s again for the beginning, and would buy a different pair of modal PJ bottoms for the rest of the trip. The ones I bought were a low cut set that had a white rim around the crotch area highlighting my package. I’m just not that sexy. I can’t pull those off.
· REI Green Convertible Pants: I ended up sending these home after the first 4 weeks.I ended up hiking in running shorts the rest of the next 3.5 months. I did not regret sending them home. I did end up buying a pair of MontBell wind pants (on Garfield’s recommendation) that weighed about 2oz.
· Pantagonia R1 Fleece Hoodie: This fleece was ultra-warm in the first month of the hike. I sent it home with my winter gear after 4 weeks. It weighs a bit more than I would like, but I would take it again.
· OR eTIP Gloves: These worked great. I kept them the entire hike. They would allow me to use my phone even with the gloves on.
· Neck Gator: Neck gators are something I started wearing while skiing in the 1980s. It’s amazing how much heat you lose out of your head and neck to the cold. This was one of the main reasons I was able to stay warm at night.
· Zpacks micro-fleece hat: This 1oz hat is awesome! I had to buy another one for myself when my son stole mine because he liked it so much. It is incredibly warm and only weighs 1oz.
· Wide-brimmed Hat: This provided shade to my entire face/neck whenever we would walk out of the green tunnel. I did not bring any sunscreen because of this hat. I would 100% bring it again.
· MontBell WindPants: I bought these 2oz windpants after seeing them on Garfield. They served several purposes. They were wind breaker pants in the chilly wind. I used them as rain pants after I sent my heavier ones home. I also used them when I was in town washing clothes.
· Zpacks Lobster Mitts: I only used these about 6 times on the hike. When I did use them, I loved them. I kept them in the rain jacket pockets and only used them when it was raining. This kept my gloves dry longer and hands warmer because of it.
· Headnet: I only used this once on my hike, but it only weighed 1oz so I kept it until Monson, ME when I sent it home.
· Hygiene stuff: I probably flossed more during this hike than I do in real life. This was due to the fact that beef jerky tends to wedge itself between your teeth. Gold Bond is your friend to fix chafing in 24 hours or less. I brought 4 sets of anti-biotics in case I came down with something. I never used any of them.
That’s about all I can think to say about gear for the hike. I left a few minor items out in hygiene, but nothing of consequence.
I have enjoyed hearing from you on this blog. To those that are going to hike the AT, feel free to take any advice I may have laid out for you, but Hike Your Own Hike!
and now time for one last TMI....
TMI: When I got home, I ordered up a bidet for the toilets in the house on my brother’s advice. Let me put it this way: Would you use a dry paper towel to clean sticky gooey yuck from your elbow? Why would you use TP to do the same to your bunghole? Get one for $ 31 on Amazon and try it out: https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B00JG3C1ZE/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1
You are welcome!
BevoHi Appalachian Trail Journal
Are we there yet?
Just a mile.... mile and a half...
You can e-mail me at BevoHi@jedi.net to send words of encouragement or with questions.
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