Being home again these past few days, has given me some time for reflection about a great many things. One being gear. I have a love/hate relationship with my gear. As with all my longer hikes, I feel a need to dissect and review my gear choices while my memory of the trail is still fresh. That said, it's not about the gear.
I'll start with the Big-3: pack, shelter, sleeping bag.
Pack... ULA Catalyst: love it. Lightweight, comfortable and durable. It has more volume than I really need for a warm weather hike, but that's ok. Holds a Bearvault 500 horizontally or vertically. I do not use a hydration tube, but prefer to reach back for my one liter Aquafina bottle. I can get to my bottle easily with this pack's wide mesh pockets.
Shelter... Mountain Laurel Designs solo Grace Tarp 1.35 SilNylon cat tarp: love it. The line attachment points have the tension devices that are just the right size to accept my line of choice (Kelty Triptease). It also has convenient clips for a clothes line on the interior ridge-line. Knowing just three knots makes pitching a tarp super easy: bowline, tautline, and clove hitch. Also, don't skimp on the stakes, especially for the two ridge-line stakes. I use the big Easton 9" stakes. Lightweight (0.4-oz. each) and strong (7075 T-9 Aluminum)
Sleeping bag... REI Zephyr+15 poly: hated it. Too heavy, too bulky, too warm for this hike. Still looking for a nice down bag that won't break the bank.
Sleeping Pad... Gossamer Gear night light: love it. Lightweight and indestructible closed cell pad. Plenty of cushion for me.
Trekking poles... BD Alpine Carbon Fiber: love them. Flick locks are positive and simple. My only negative here is on Joe's set. He has a newer pair which incorporate a non-skid material just below the grips. This material is so abrasive, he cut his skin while drawing one of the poles against his hand. The potential exists for them to tear up your gear as well, if not handled with care.
Stove... homemade soda can alcohol: love it. Super lightweight and simple. Makes cold things hot. What more do you want in a stove.
Fuel bottle... Square 500-ml Fiji water bottle: worked fine. Square shape and red paint over label so as not to confuse my isopropyl alcohol with drinking water.
Umbrella... Golite chrome dome: still undecided. Probably will take again on desert hikes. Provided nice shade, but I didn't use it much for rain protection. Since it is hand held, I would stow my trekking poles on my pack while the umbrella was deployed. I felt clumsy, awkward and slow without the use of my sticks.
Shoes... Inov8 Flyrock 310: love them. These are my second pair. They are light, comfortable and dry out very quickly.
Gaiters... Dirtygirl: love them. Kept little rocks and dirt out of my shoes. I learned to keep them on during creek crossings as well, to keep out the rocks. Socks were protected and much cleaner at the end of the day.
Socks... Injinji toe socks: love them. Used them as liners under my Wigwams. I was prone to toe blisters, but these solved all my blister problems.
Camera... Canon Power Shot SD780: love it. Small and lightweight. Size of a credit card (3/4" thick). 8 gig memory is plenty for me, although I'll probably take more HD video in the future. The 8 gig card will hold about 42 minutes of HD video, or 2400 still photos, or of course, some combination of both. Got some neat stills and movies using The Stickpic trekking pole mount. I should have brought an extra battery, as 110 AC is the only charging method. Not many outlets along the JMT!
Communications... iPhone and Solio solar charger: worked fine. A necessary evil, I guess. Sort of fun entertainment to keep up with the journal. Solio would get a full charge with about a day and a half of direct sunshine while tied on top of my pack. Be great if I could charge my little camera with the Solio.
Gloves... Warmers Solar Gloves: love them. Found them in the paddling section of REI. Necessary sun protection. Also prevents blister problems on the hands imparted by the trekking poles.
Pants (short)... Golite Ridge-runner shorts: worked fine. A bit pricey, but hey, I got them on sale.
Pants (long)... Backpackinglight Thorofare Trekkers: love them. The mosquitoes were not able to bite through them. Wore them mostly in camp. Very lightweight (4-oz.), stuffed down to the size of my fist. Not waterproof, but a very nice wind pant.
Knife... Gerber EVO JR: love it. I can easily unfold/fold the blade while holding it in one hand. Perfect size for cutting salami and cleaning fish. The edge was dulled after about the second week, so I was wishing for a small sharpening stone.
Some other observations:
The flyrod was fun to have along for fishing, but I grew tired of the weight and complexity of the system, so I sent the rig home from VVR after cutting off and keeping a portion of the line. I caught just as many fish in the later portion of my trip with only the hand-line: about 25' of floating line rigged with about five feet of mono-filament tippet leader and an ant pattern dry fly.
I carried heavy "Seal-Skin" neoprene socks during the first week for potential use during creek crossings. I never needed or used them, so they got sent home from VVR.
One Snicker bar a day, at about 10-am, was good for the soul and gave me the rocket fuel I needed to get up some of the passes.
Thanks again to all the trail angels that have helped me this year,
PCT thru in 2012?