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My Ohm2 packed for the last day of my 4 year AT section hike
In August of '15 I finished a four year section hike of the Appalachian Trail. Between sections, I evaluated what I used and what I didn't, and continually looked for opportunities to reduce weight while balancing safety and comfort - without breaking the bank.
I didn't make any big changes to my kit that last year. I hiked the sobo section from southern Vermont to Harper's Ferry, and turned in my 2000 Miler application. Over the previous years, I had switched from using a sleeping bag, to an ultralight 50 backpacking quilt, and from tent-based shelter and sleep systems, to those built around a hammock. Those changes reduced my pack volume enough that I was able to move into a lighter, smaller volume pack - The ULA Ohm2 pictured above.
I used this same kit last summer hiking a 100 mile section of the North Country Trail from Grand Marais, MI, thru the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore to Munising. Then on thru the Hiawatha National Forest to Marquette.
So now I'm planning to hike Vermont's Long Trail "end-to-end" as they say. It's 272 miles from the southern border with Massachusetts to Journey's End at the Canadian border. The northern sections of the Long Trail is said to be every bit as tough as the toughest sections of the Appalachian Trail. At my intentionally slow pace, an end-to end should take me about a month.
Philosophical Stuff- While I embrace the ultralight backpacking ethic, I do pack differently for long-distance hikes than for shorter trips. On shorter ones, durability is less important to me, and a short-range weather forecast allows me to choose the absolute minimal clothing and sleeping systems.
Long-distance hiking does not afford one those opportunities. So I prepare for the wider range of conditions I might face. East coast hiking invariably means hiking in the rain. So having a dry layer to change into at the end of the day, and to sleep in is important. I want my clothing to function as a system - To be flexible, with multi-use items and few redundancies. And I want it to work together with my sleep system to allow me to carry lighter quilts. Long hikes take their toll on equipment, and I'll sacrifice some weight for more robust stuff. I'm more apt to carry comfort items for a good night's sleep, and for what I need to keep myself clean and healthy.
Strategery - I consider several factors when choosing a start date, along with clothing and shelter systems. Starting earlier in the summer would mean dealing with thick mud, swarms of black flies, and the busy season for lyme-infested ticks. The LT shares the southernmost 105 miles of trail with the AT, and that section can be quite busy with AT north-bounders from late July through August. Competition for shelters and campsites can be tough. A later start means a dryer trail, fewer insects, and maybe even beautiful fall foliage. But also shorter days, less reliable water sources, and colder nights.
With all that, I'm planning a mid-August start, walking north into fall. I'll carry a light hammock system to give me the flexibility to camp where and when I want, and to stay in shelters when I want to get out of a storm. Up near the Canadian border in mid-September overnight lows average 47 with the record being 33. Reduce those numbers by 3.5 per thousand feet of elevation and I could experience temps hovering around freezing. So I'd be wise to have cold weather clothing that can keep me warm during breaks, in camp and which can supplement my sleep and shelter systems to keep me warm at night.
Water is generally plentiful, but sources can dry out that time of year. I'll need to have the capacity to carry a full day's supply of water if necessary.
Towns with decent resupply options are generally 4 days apart.
Pack - I'm carrying the ULA Ohm-2. It's tough, has an excellent hip-belt with big pockets, carries 30 lbs or less comfortably, compresses well, and has huge exterior pockets. The main compartment is 34.4 liters. Add in its expansion collar and all its pockets, and it's up to 63L. It's pretty light at 29 ozs. Water bottles fit well in the side pockets, or can hang from bungies built into the shoulder straps. The latter is completely dorky, but it's really handy. It's easy to keep track of how much water I have, and it helps counterbalance the weight on my back. It comes standard on most ULA packs.
Inner Sanctum - But the pack's not waterproof, so I line it with a trash compactor bag. In it goes my sleep system, camp clothing, sleeping pad, and phone charging stuff. I compress the air out, and roll the top down and pack stuff that can get damp on top.
I have a few ditty bags for first aid, personal hygiene, and the "Black Bag of Death" for my TP, trowel, and baby wipes. A couple of dry bags make damned sure my sleep system and cold wx clothing stay dry. I employ quite a few pint-sized freezer bags to organize stuff and to keep it dry.
Shelter System - I'll be packing a Warbonnet Traveler, single layer XL (11' x 5'). As delivered, it was 18.4 ozs with a ridgeline and a whoopy-sling suspension. I modified the suspension with lighter dyneema tree huggers, larksheaded the whoopies to them, and put 8" continuous loops on the hammock's bunched ends. I always carry a head net that I can employ if the bugs get too bad at night ... I'll top that with my trusty HammockGear cuban fiber tarp. All together my shelter system is down to 1.7 lbs.
Sleep System - I'll carry my HammockGear 30 top quilt, and pair it with my Jacks-R-Better, Mt Washington 20 under quilt.
Because I'm likely to stay in shelters a bit, I'll pack my Exped UL Synmat 7 M sleeping pad. At 72x20.5x2.8 it's comfortable sleeping on my side on those hard, wooden shelter floors. At r3.3 it should be good to 25 and it weighs 14.8g. I carry an Exped Air Pillow. It works equally well in my hammock, or in shelters, and weighs 1.6 ozs.
And I'll have a mid-weight merino wool base layer, warm socks, a down jacket, a down beanie and light wool glove liners I can wear if the nights get cold.
All together, my sleep system is 3.8 lbs
Clothing System - while hiking I generally wear a merino t-shirt*, merino briefs, nylon cargo shorts*, Dirty Girl gaiters*, merino socks*, and my Asolo Piuma boots. I'll carry an extra pair of underwear and socks in my pack's inner-sanctum.
* Items sent to Insect Shield for long-lasting protection from ticks, et. al.
Camp Clothing - The dry clothes I change into for sleeping. This is basically a mid-weight merino wool base-layer, and my "sacred socks" - those being the ones I wear only when sleeping, and never, ever allow to get wet. Acorn fleece socks weigh less than wool, and keep my toes warm. I pack them in the the inner sanctum with my down stuff. 1.56 lbs
Camp Shoes - I've experimented with several variations on camp shoes/sandals. The really light ones all seem to be just shy of 8 ounces. To cut those 8 ozs from my pack, I opted not to carry camp shoes on a 540 mile section in 2012. But I learned that I like the idea of letting my shoes air out at the end of the day; having something to wear other than my hiking shoes when fording streams; and having something on my feet in those sometimes less than sterile, communal hostel showers. I'm back to my original choice of VivoBarefoot Ultras. At 7 ozs, they're lighter than anything else I've tried, and they work with regular socks.
Inclement WX Clothing - Because of the potential for rain and freezing temps as I hike north, I'll pack my Marmot Nano Goretex Paclight rain shell. It and a pair of Montbell Dynamo wind pants will be stuffed into the back pocket of my pack. For insulation, I'll pack a Montbell Ex Light Down Jacket, and a Patagonia Micro D Pullover will be my mid-layer. In cold wx I wear a merino Buff around my neck, and I keep my down jacket, a down beanie, and merino glove-liners in a dry bag near the top of my pack to slip on during breaks if needed.
That stuff all works together nicely. If it's cold in camp, I can wear the base layer, fleece, down jacket, rain shell and wind pants. I can wear any or all of that while sleeping if I have to. Sleeping with the beanie has become the norm in cold wx. That merino Buff is versatile. It can be worn around the neck, pull it up over my face, and it's a nice cover for my inflatable pillow.
Water - I filter water with Sawyer's mini squeeze filter. It comes with a 473ml bag that one fills with dirty water. Screw the filter to the top, and squeeze the water through the filter into clean receptacles. I drink out of two recycled 600ml Gatorade bottles. To deal with the potential for dry water sources, I'll carry an empty 900ml Evernew water bag or two. Evernew's threads match Sawyer'sproperly. All together that gives me a 2.5 liter capacity, which is generally enough to pack into a dry camp, or to get through long hauls between water sources. I have an additional water bag and squeeze bag in my bounce box. Water filtration stuff is stowed in a mesh ditty bag in my pack's side-pocket. If I'm expecting below freezing temps, it sleeps with me.
Cooking - This too has evolved over the years. I've settled on a 700ml titanium pot, a small, lightweight ti canister stove, a long-handled ti spoon, a home-made pot cozy, a Kupilka cup, and a couple of small, wide-mouth bottles - One to carry coconut oil, the other to rehydrate dehydrated beans and veggies as I hike.
Photo Gear - I was a Navy Photographer for most my life. I was determined to document my AT hike, and maybe produce a book out of it. Towards that end, I carried a Fujifilm X100, and associated charging equipment that weighed a lot. Smart phone cameras have improved dramatically in the past five years, and the LG G4 I'm currently carrying produces incredible images considering the tiny, little sensor inside. I'll be leaving my Fuji at home, and carring the phone in my pocket with a 4x7 Aloksak Dry Bag to put it in when it rains, or when I'm forging a river.
Electronics - I carry an Anker 6400 mAh external battery, a dual-output fast-charger, 2 USB cables. That battery allows me to recharge my phone a couple of times between town visits, and the quick charger allows me to recharge both my phone and the external battery quickly when I have an outlet at my disposal.
Weights & Measures - All totaled, my current base weight is 15.7 lbs. I'll be stepping out with water, food and other consumables totaling 11 lbs. So my total pack weight will just under 27 lbs on day one. That's just within the comfort rating of the ULA Ohm2 backpack. By the time I reach my first resupply stop, it'll be closer to 19 lbs ...
So, my ever evolving pack list is here: https://lighterpack.com/r/38fgjt In future posts I'll talk about how I might get to and from the trail, and what my resupply plans look like.