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City: Mi Wuk Village
Begins: Apr 25, 2013
Date: Sat, Jul 13th, 2013
Trip Distance: 1,335.1
Entry Visits: 1,380
Journal Visits: 59,965
Guestbook Views: 3,887
Guestbook Entrys: 88
Pacific Crest Trail Map
This review covers equipment used for my hike of the first half of the PCT in 2013.
- ZPacks Blast 36 Pack - A number of people asked me if I made this pack myself, no I didn't, but I guess it looks unique. I didn't see another one on the trail. I did see zome other ZPacks packs made of heavier construction, and lots of ZPacks tents, tarps, and pouches. The pack is constructed of cuben fiber which is a laminated material (not woven). I choose the pack due to its 9.4oz weight which includes padded shoulder straps and hip belt. My pack with optional pouches and options weighed 11.7oz.
My pack was very comfortable, even with loads up to 30 pounds. I liked the hip pouch for storing most of a day's snacks. I could walk and eat a snack at the same time. I liked the shoulder pouches, each holding a 1/2 Liter water bottle. That gave me a simple way to keep track of water usage, allowed me to drink while walking, and put up to 2 pounds of the load in a counter balance position. I liked the small mesh pockets on the shoulder pouches for my small camera and iPod. I liked the side pockets and mesh pocket on the pack body. They held alot of stuff and worked well. The shock cord lashing worked well for securing my sit pad and kind of hiding all the junk stuffed in the mesh pocket. Also purchased some cuben fiber stuff sacks and bags, these were great, wish I had bought more of them. The overall pack size was utilitarian. In the desert I used it as a water hauler, filling the core with up to 14 1/2 Liter water bottles. Food was carried in a simple plastic shopping bag placed on top of the water bottles. In the Sierras I used it as a bear canister hauler, placing the bear canister in the core and putting 2 1/2 Liter water bottles on top, usually empty, but filled if needed. In NorCal, I switched to a Ursack for its lighter weight and flexible size. At that point, the pack generally had more available space which my down items expanded into.
After significant use, the cuben fiber lamination tends to breakdown, leaving bare fibers exposed. The bare fibers are quite strong under tension, but are like pushing on a rope under compression. The lamination also protects the fibers and its easier to break them as single strands. Fortunately in most cases, the fibers are under tension. The lamination broke down mostly near where the pack contacts my back, around the shoulder harness, etc. ZPacks recommended applying duct tape to the inside of the pack where this occured. That solved the problem, with the small addition of the weight of the tape. Stitching on one side pocket started to break down near the end of my trip.
- Shelter - I cowboy camped almost the entire trip. Alot of people were concerned about creepy crawlers, but I had very little issues. A mosquito headnet was worn occasionally, but that was it. A single 40x96in Polycryo ground sheet lasted the entire trip and was surpringingly tough. There are some holes, a corner tore off when pulling the sheet with a rock still on the corner, and it ripped a bit on one side. The holes and rips were easily repaired with any kind of tape. My Spin Tarp X tarp with Spectra cord, Easton Nanolite Aluminum Poles (34, 17in) and Lazr Titanium stakes worked ok. I've owned the tarp for many years and do not know if its still available. I understand the tarp material to be made of spinaker (sail boat) cloth. Tarps provide very minimal rain protection and even less in windy conditions. I'm not comfortable recommending a basic tarp to anyone, as its risks are something you have to decide on for yourself.
- Sleeping System - I've owned a Nunatak Arc Ghost Quilt for many years and don't remember the temperature rating. Having used it for years I'm comfortable with the drawbacks of a quilt, in exchange for its 14oz weight. It takes a little practice to roll over at night without getting a blast of cold air. It only comes up to my neck. The addition of a hooded down jacket and down pants for this trip significantly improved my overall comfort with the quilt. The jacket and pants thus became dual use items. I used a Ridgerest 3/4-length foam pad. I coil it up and then uncoil it on the inside of the pack to act as pack stays, back cushion and also found it helps keep things cool inside the pack on hot days. I had an old black/grey model and after about 6-7 weeks I noticed it had gone flat. Swapped it out with one of the newer green/grey models but only used it for about 2 weeks before the trip ended. I had a 10x24in SitLite pad for most of the trip which I would put at the foot of the 3/4-length Ridgerest to get my feet off the ground. This worked well until I lost it. Replaced it with a 10x24in chunk of the "dead" black/grey Ridgerest pad. I prefer the foam pads to the air mattresses as I don't need to worry about air leaks. I saw quite a few people struggling with air leaks.
- O2 Rainwear - The jacket/pants combination weighs 8oz. These were especially nice in rain with high wind conditions compared to ponchos and other things people were using. I also slept in them several times with no moisture build up. When perspiring heavily, additional ventilation is required (unzip, pull up sleeves, etc). They are bright yellow, which was nice during road walks and of course kept other hikers from walking into me.
- Clothing - The Patagonia Sol Patrol and Gi III long sleeve shirt and long pants (no zippered legs/shorts capability) were light, protected me from the sun (only wore sunblock on one long snow traverse), dried fast and were comfortable. Had two pairs of ExOfficio Give-N-Go boxer briefs, washed one pair every day and stayed clean, had zero chaffing problems. The Montbell UL jacket with hood worked well, the hood helped keep the neck warm and was a nice complement to the down quilt. I think the Western Mountaineering down pants are the niced item I've owned. Very comfortable and warm. Helped extend the range of the quilt. Somehow stayed dry and kept me warm when the quilt was wet. I also carried 8oz of town clothes consisting of an old pair of GoLite hiking shorts and tee-shirt. I didn't use them very often and thought of sending them home, but they were definitely nicer than wearing my rain gear or down pants/jacket when my trail clothes were in the laundry.
- Socks - Injinji toes socks are amazing at preventing blisters. I used the lightweight, no-show version. With shoes that let alot of grit in, they would only last about 50-70 miles. With shoes that kept the grit out, they would last about 125-150 miles. I also carreid a pair of thick wool socks for sleeping. I just put my dirty grimey feet in them and they kept the quilt clean, and my feet warm.
- Shoes - New Balance MT110 shoes fit me well and worked well, let in alot of grit. Brooks Adrenalines were a bit wide and let in alot of grit. Merrell Moab Ventilators were a tad narrow, kept out the grit but my feet were hot and sweaty. Used a single pair of Superfeet Green insoles for 300 miles of training plus 1335 miles of trail, worked great and provided a consistent footbed when changing shoes which I'm sure helped prevent blisters.
- Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter - Worked well given the reasonably light weight and small size. After about 8-9 weeks the squeeze bag developed leaks around the neck fitting. I carried the back flush syringe and used it about once a week. Back flushing would definitely make a difference in flow rate. Took precautions to not let the filter freeze at night, putting it under my pillow on top of the ground sheet (ground temperature or higher). I also carried a dropper bottle of bleach which I needed a couple times when I accidently put dirty water in the wrong place. I carried all my water in 1/2 Liter throw away water bottles. I carried a bunch in the desert and only 4 after that. They lasted the whole trip, are cheap, probably the lightest available and fit nicely in the ZPacks shoulder pouches. I never put any sugary drinks in them and had no mold issues.
- Cat Can Alcohol Stove - I used the simple design shown in Yogi's handbook. Takes a little while to boil water. Carried alcohol in a small 8oz water bottle. Exclusively used the freezer bag cooking method with a cozy. Loved the whole setup. Compact, lightweight, no cleanup.
- CAMP Corsica Ice Axe - Very light at 7.2oz and perfect for the minimal snow conditions we encountered.
The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is a 2,650-mile national scenic trail that runs from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon and Washington. The PCT traverses 24 national forests, 37 wilderness areas and 7 national parks. The PCT passes through 6 out of 7 of North Americas ecozones. Learn more: www.pcta.org