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Modeling the chic O2 Rainwear Hooded Jacket
Gear Review: Hiker Fashion Wear
There is a variety of clothes one can wear while thruhiking the PCT. Shorts or pants both work fine. Same with short sleeve or long sleeve shirts. The only true rule is no cotton. You will get overly hot so your clothes should be very breathable. You will also frequently get wet, not only from your sweat but also from Sierra creek fords and Washington rainfall. So it's important that your clothes dry as quickly as possible. I would recommend a close but slightly loose fit to prevent chaffing. Buying good quality durable clothes will allow you to trek for longer stretches without having to get off the trail to buy new clothes. Still, you'll lose weight so plan to either change into smaller clothes or have an adjustable beltline. My feet never really grew. There was one very hot day when my feet swelled and my shoes felt a little tight. However, the swelling went away and my feet returned to their normal size. Evidently my feet have maximized their size due to all the hiking I've done over my lifetime. This may not be the case for others.
Reducing the amount of clothes you carry is one of the most efficient methods of lowering your pack weight. I wore the same shirt and pants every day. I'd try to keep clean by frequently jumping in creeks, taking showers, and doing laundry at least once a week. I carried a separate set of sleeping clothes so I had a dry and relatively clean set of clothes to wear at night. This also helped keep my sleeping bag clean, as I never had to clean my bag for the entire trail. Here's what I brought specifically:
ReailRider's Men's Eco-Mesh Pants with Insect Shield - 9.7-ounces. I wore pants instead of shorts for the entire trail, even during hot Northern California. I did this for two reasons: 1) bug protection and 2) sun protection. I never used DEET because I had full clothing protection and a bug net for my head and hands. Since these pants are treated with Insect Shield, the mosquitoes might land on my pants but they quickly flew away. Railrider's claims the Insect Shield will last for 70 washes, basically meaning the lifespan of the pants. Pants also protect you from the sun, so you'll use much less sunblock. Actually all of the Railrider's clothing I wore were rated 30 SPF, meaning they were porous enough that I still got a tan, but never got burnt. Carrying less sunblock and no DEET meant my pack was lighter. These pants are very breathable which meant I stayed relatively cool and they dried fast when wet. To further increase ventilation they have zippered-sides along the sides of your outer legs that expose an even more breathable mesh. I frequently used this zipper feature when the temps increased. These pants were so breathable that I don't think I would have been much cooler wearing shorts. I went through two pairs of these pants for the entire trail. I lost a whopping 35 pounds during my thruhike. However, my pants still fit me because the Eco-Mesh pants' elastic waste and I tightened the lightweight belt. The pant leg openings became very frayed from my boots scrapping against them. Otherwise, they held up very well. Very comfortable and recommended.
Railrider's Men's Eco-Mesh Shirt (treated with Permethrin) - 7.0-ounces. I wore this long sleeve shirt from Mexico to Tahoe. Adventure racers wear these shirts. They breathe extremely well and dry super fast. In Tehachapi I treated the shirt with Permethrin. I could have waited until Tuolumne Meadows, because the bugs didn't start until then. However, Railrider's now produces this shirt pretreated with Insect Shield. I'd recommend getting the pretreated clothing over treating your own clothes. Treating them at home makes your house smell like insecticide and the Permethrin only lasts for a few washes. As with the pants, the long sleeves protected me from the sun and bugs. I could have worn this shirt for the entire trail. Surprisingly it did not stink, as I am one of those hikers who use deodorant. However, by the time I reached Tahoe, the shirt was badly stained by dirt, so I decided to change shirts. These are great shirts for a PCT thruhike and several other thruhikers have worn them over the years.
Railrider's Men's Madison River Shirt with Insect Shield - 8.0-ounces. I wore this longsleeve button-up collared shirt from Tahoe to Canada. Like the Eco-Mesh shirt, this shirt is very breathable. Unlike the Eco-Mesh, this shirt was pretreated with Insect Shield. This shirt held up surprisingly well, with no holes or loose seams. For some reason, this shirt never got any dirt stains. Since it's a button-up collared shirt and I also wore pants, I could go into rather nice establishments without looking like a...well, like a thruhiker.
Underarmor short boxer briefs - 1.5-ounces. Flexible, breathable, no chaffing. Highly recommended.
Merrell Moab Ventilators Mid - 31-ounces. I've worn these hiking shoes for at least six years. Most thruhikers wear trail running shoes. The Ventilators-Mid are similar to trail running shoes, but have a little ankle support. For being high-tops, these are about as lightweight as it gets for hiking boots. The Ventilators are the most durable lightweight trail shoes on the market, lasting over 1000 miles. I went through two and half pair during my thruhike, while other shoes required five pair. By the end of the trail, I would estimate that about a quarter of all the thruhikers were wearing Ventilators. Many switched after hearing how durable they were. Besides being heavier than trail running shoes, the disadvantage of wearing Ventilators is they take longer to dry. Otherwise, I highly recommend these shoes for a thruhike, or any other hiking trip for that matter.
Montrail Enduro Heat Moldable Insoles - 9-ounces. The Merrell insoles are cheap pieces of cardboard. Most insoles are. When I buy new shoes, I toss the insoles and replace them with Montrail heat moldable insoles. You heat them in the oven for two minutes, place them in your shoes, and put on your shoes. It's like stepping in your own footprints. Customized insoles not only prevent blisters, they help stabilize your feet putting less strain on your knees. I've tried various other heat moldable insoles but I've only liked the Montrails. The Montrail insoles cost about 40 bucks, but they are a lot cheaper than professional orthotics, which can cost hundreds of dollars. I replace these insoles every time I replaced my Merrell's. Highly recommended.
Smartwool Lighthiker socks - 2-ounces/pair. Smartwool prevents blisters. The major criticism about Smartwool is that they can be too warm, especially during hot Northern California days. Wet (sweaty) feet also cause blisters. Also, sand and dirt accumulating in your socks can cause blisters and is the major cause of holes in your socks. For this reason, I carry a spare pair of Smartwools. I'll change socks in the middle of the day. I rinse the pair I'm not wearing in a creek and allow them to dry while attached to the outside of my pack. Each pair lasted about 300 to 400 miles.
Other clothing/gear worn/carried while hiking:
Gossamer Gear Lightrek4 Trekking Poles - 6.8-ounces per pair. These are the lightest trekking poles I could find on the market. They are approximately half the weight of the lightest Leki poles. Actually, I used the adjustable version of the Lightrek poles. The non-adjustable version are an ounce lighter. These poles are made out of carbon fiber and literally float in the air. One has to treat 'em with kid gloves though. By the time I reached Mount Whitney, I had embarrassingly broke THREE of these poles. However, I figured out a trick to prevent them from breaking: Since they are adjustable poles, they are made of two parts, a lower and upper part. Each time I broke them, they always broke around the same place; above the ribboned portion of the lower pole. This is the thinnest and weakest part of the trekking pole. When I called Gossamer Gear, they would mail me a replacement lower part. So I didn't have to replace the entire pole each time. To avoid this problem, I would simply shorten the poles so that the weakest link was not exposed; rather it was encased within the upper pole. Only the ribboned part of the lower pole was exposed. This shortens the overall pole length, but I was willing to sacrifice pole length in exchange for increased confidence. OK, that just sounds wrong, but hopefully you get the idea. Another trick I learned was when walking on steep snow I would completely collapse the poles and use them as short hiking sticks. Since the lower part was inside the upper part, the entire pole was stronger. I would use these short poles instead of an ice axe.
Polarized sunglasses - 1.0-ounce. El Cheapos. Sunglasses are essential for sunny and snowy California. I wish I had darker sunglasses for Evolution Basin. After 10 miles of walking through a treeless snow covered canyon with the sun reflecting off the omnipresent snow, my eyes were hurting even wearing sunglasses. I only went through two pair but they were pretty beaten-up by the end. I like polarized sunglasses.
Sunhat/ball cap - 2.0-ounces. For SoCal, I wore a sunhat made by Sunbrero. It had a chinstrap that is essential for windy SoCal. I didn't really like this sunhat as I looked goofy wearing it, or should I say goofy-er. I ditched the Sunbrero at Kennedy Meadows in exchange for a lightweight breathable ball cap. I would have liked to have worn this ball cap for SoCal and used a bandana underneath the hat for additional shade. However, ball caps don't have chinstraps and it would have blown off in windy SoCal.
Montbell UL Umbrella - 6-ounces. I carried an umbrella from Mexico to Tehachapi. I had planned to use it for shade in the blistering desert. However, it's only practical when there is absolutely no wind. I found there was almost always at least a light breeze in SoCal. This makes holding an umbrella a constant and comical battle. Also, this year was unseasonably cool in SoCal. So I never used my umbrella for shade. I did use it once during a heavy hailstorm. I was grateful to have it during that hailstorm, but the storm didn't last long enough to justify the extra weight. Maybe if I started in late May, I'd bring an umbrella again for the shade. Otherwise, I'd leave the umbrella at home.
Victorinox Swiss Army Renegade watch - 2.0-ounces. Light and simple. Nondigital. Nothing special. Time and date, all I needed.
Western Mountaineering Flight Jacket - 10.0-ounces. One of my favorite pieces of gear. Very warm and FLUFFY! I loved popping it on during breaks. It also made for an excellent soft down pillow. I should have left it home during hot NorCal, but I still liked using it as a pillow. Expensive, but worth it.
Wool beanie- 2.0-ounces. I don't know the brand, but it had a fleece lining. I liked that I could pull it over my eyes in case I wanted to sleep in. I sent it home during NorCal and picked it back up in Ashland.
Sleeping Clothes: I had a separate designated set of sleeping clothes, meaning I never hiked in them. I did this mainly to keep my sleeping bag clean. Also, a sleeping bag loses its loft from the oil exuded from your body. It was also very nice to have a set of relatively clean, dry clothes to wear at the end of the day.
Patagonia Longsleeve Capilene 3 - 5.0-ounces. Worked awesome. I used a Longsleeve Capilene 2 for NorCal.
Patagonia Capilene 1 bottoms - 5.5-ounces. My legs needed less insulation than my upper body, so I used Capilene 1 instead of 3.
Smartwool socks - I carried an extra pair designated for sleeping. Again, this helped keep my sleeping bag clean. More importantly, it meant I always had a dry set of socks for sleeping.
GoLite Reed Rain Pants - 5.0-ounces. I really didn't need these rain pants in California. It only rained twice in the 1700 miles of California. However, I wore these pants while doing laundry. By Washington, it rained almost every day and I wore them frequently while hiking. These pants also kept my pants dry when walking through wet, overgrown Huckleberry bushes. At approximately 150 miles south of the Canadian border the crotch of these pants developed a large rip. Still, I had worn these pants many times before my thruhike and they basically lasted for the entire thruhike. Recommended.
Rokk Rainwear Emergency Poncho - 2.0-ounces. I used this lighter emergency poncho as my rain jacket from Mexico to Tehachapi. I could have used it as far north as Ashland.
O2 Rainwear Hooded Jacket - 5.7-ounces. I carried this as my rain jacket from Tehachapi to Canada. Great lightweight rain shell. I was able to fully test this jacket in Washington and it held up admirably. Very durable and waterproof. No pockets. I liked the hood's drawstring allowing you to tighten the hood. The mouse that broke into my tent near Steven's Pass decided it would be hilarious to pull that drawstring out of my jacket and run out of my tent with it. Real funny rodent! Next time I see you, I'm going to make you pay for it! (just in case the little rodent is reading this). OK it was kinda funny in retrospect, but it kinda sucked not being able to keep my hood from blowing off my head for those last 150 rainy miles.
Mountain Laurel Designs eVENT Rain Mitts - 0.9-ounces. These extremely lightweight mitts were all I needed for the entire PCT thruhike. Since your fingers are together, mitts keep your hands warmer than gloves. I only wore them when hiking. When I started hiking, my hands would heat up within 15 minutes and soon the mitts became too warm. They are thin enough that I could stick them into my pant pockets. For some cold rainy days in Washington, I wore them all day. These rain mitts are supposed to be rainproof, but they aren't. I seam-sealed these mitts, but apparently there is a complicated method of seam-sealing them that I didn't follow. So during Washington's heavy rains the mitts would become saturated and my hands would become wet. Still, these mitts kept my hands relatively warm, even when wet. The extreme light weight of these mitts meant I didn't need to send them home in NorCal, when I certainly didn't need them. If you buy these, try to seam-seal them according to MLD's direction. With that said, I think you should still expect to get your hands wet while wearing these mitts in heavy rain.
I'll finish up my gear review next week with all my other stuff, including water treatment and food. Shoot me any questions if you'd like me to address anything else. Have a great day!