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The long awaited gear review!
For just over half of my trip I used the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1. It's a decent weight at just over 2 lbs. considering that it is a double wall tent. A few weeks into using my tent some small holes formed near the top of the tent in the mesh. About a month later after carpenter ants where crawling in half the night, I finally patched the small holes with duct tape and told myself I was going to call Big Agnes. I tried calling Big Agnes for over a month of which I would always get forwarded to a voice mail and then the person would call back while I was on trail. This went on for so long I eventually gave up. In the meantime, the tent zipper started to fail. I resumed my correspondence after returning home. Instead of sending me a new tent they patched the holes in the mesh and sent my old tent back to me. I am grateful but there is this part of me that's a little bummed that they made my tent heavier. A design flaw I found was that the fly covering the doorway drips into the tent when you unzip the fly. Another problem was that no matter what I did during wetter weather, condensation would always form around the foot part of my tent and then the foot of my down sleeping bag would end up wet too.
For the most part I like this tent. Although on the small side, I found that it suited my needs most of the time. I liked being able to set up just the tent (with its mesh top) when weather was good. It wasn't so great in the rain and I wasn't real impressed with Big Agnes customer service.
I started with a Zpacks 20 degree bag. After being cold too many nights when the temperatures were in the high 30s I decided to switch bags. I acknowledge though that I have low body temperature and sleep on the cold side. Something I haven't tried with the bag yet is the down hood but that will be my next step. At Kennedy Meadows I switched to my Marmot 15 degree Pinnacle bag. I used this bag the remainder of the trip with no troubles. In 2009 this bag also went from KM to the end of the trail. This bag certainly doesn't fit in with the efforts to UL but at least I was warm. I'm still searching for a warm, light-weight bag!
I started with a Zpacks Arc Blast with added hip belt pockets. I love this pack!! Sadly, I had ongoing tension problems with the carbon fiber rods that arch the pack away from my back. But Zpacks was awesome and every time I sent my pack to them they tried new fixes. When I wasn't carrying my Zpacks, I had an Osprey Exos 46. After the comfort of my Zpacks, I didn't love this pack as much as I used to. But it did the trick and got me through.
WHAT I WOULD DO DIFFERENT
Having hiked before, I feel like I had most of my gear locked in. I had things break on me but that was because they were on their second thru-hike. As I trekked through the freezing cold in the Washington rain and snow, I was wishing that I had a pair of rain pants. Yes, I'm finally admitting it. I generally swear them off but in that weather, it would have been nice. My solution was to rig up a rain skirt out of a garbage bag. This worked really well. If I'd spent a little more time on its creation, it would have been a bit more effective. But it basically protected me from the rain and added a little extra warmth.
My big learning curve came when hiking in the Washington rain. After only a few hours, I would be soaked to the bone which combined with the cold was a recipe for disaster. The trick is to stay dry. You have a chance of combating the cold if you are dry. So, what I would try if I could do it all over again....I mean when I do it next time..is having a waterproof layer of clothing with an additional poncho or umbrella to keep the rain off.
I also found myself wanting a long sleeve shirt for hiking in the cold (I only had one for sleeping).
Taking pictures with a phone and a camera was too much. I needed one device that would meet both my needs.
WHAT I WOULD DO THE SAME
Town Clothes skirt and tank top (so totally worth the extra weight)
Dirty Girl Gaiters
My hybrid sleeping pad system
Tyvek rain jacket (for when its only kinda raining)
Start with down vest and then switch at KM to down jacket instead of a fleece.
Tent stake as my hole digger
Crocs for trail towns and river crossings
Water carrying capacity 5.5L in the deserts/dry areas (3L bladder plus 1L and 1.5L bottles) and 2L in the Sierra/Washington
Blister Treatment (floss through the toe)
Stoveless (And I say with great humor and love that you can yogi quite a few warm meals from trail friends)
Pack cover in Or/Wa
TWO THRU-HIKE WORTHY
Petzl Tikka Plus headlamp
Canon Powershot A590 camera
Swiss Army Manager knife
Sea To Summit Mosquito headnet
Marmot 15 degree Pinnacle down bag
Mountain Hardware longsleeve thermal
Paint strainer bags
COMING SOON: Beer Review!