I’ve already bought quite a bit of equipment for my March trip, as I own literally nothing that would pass as useful on the trail. Given that I also know absolutely nothing about hiking either, I found my way to a nearby shop that seemed to have the type of stuff that I will need. However, after swiftly setting me up with boots, which are Asolo Fugitive GTX boots, the proprietor gave me the best advice he could by telling me that, while he had everything I would need on the hike, I’d be best served by doing my own research and finding out what would suit me.
With no reference point from past experience, I wondered how I was going to follow this excellent advice. Nonetheless, I threw myself into the project and started by Googling “best hiking gear.” After finding a bunch of dud sites, I found www.outdoorgearlab.com, which seemed to give me a bunch of items with comparisons and best buys, editors picks etc. I’m not terribly sure how unbiased these reviews are and what part advertising may play in the final outcome, but it all seemed fairly solid to my untrained eye. There were video reviews of many of the items and I tried to think what would be important to me and thus was able to use my own filter system (common sense) to find what should work.
As an example, I chose Black Diamond Alpine adjustable poles after listening to the very sensible suggestion in a video review that it would be helpful to lengthen the poles when coming downhill and shorten them to help me uphill. Seasoned hikers may be sniggering to themselves and rolling their eyes at this point, but why would I know that? I’ve only ever used poles for skiing and that was a while ago. Frankly, at that time, I never had the inclination to consider the length of my poles when hurtling down a mountain on a couple of planks of carbon while pretty much out of control; I was too busy hanging on for dear life.
These poles also have cork handles, another point argued as a plus, though, for the life of me, I can’t remember what it was. To be frank, until I read about available hiking items, I couldn’t have actually told you what I would need and certainly wouldn’t have thought of poles.
However, by this point, I had already chosen my tent and found that adjustable poles could be used for a quick set up and that may well have swung it for me.
What about the rest of my gear (so far)?
I settled fairly early on a Baltoro 65 backpack from Gregory. This came up really well in tests, with the waist straps and back support big plusses. The tent is a Tarptent Rainbow (I considered a double Rainbow to accommodate my “ample” physique but, when I saw how much space there is in the Rainbow, I was very happy with my choice. I chose a couple of options to go with the tents, including a carbon strut (saves 2oz) and an extra breathable liner. Additionally, I got the company to do the seam sealing for me for an extra $25.
For sleeping arrangements, I settled on a Palisade quilt from Katabatic Gear, in combination with a Thermarest NeoAir XLite sleeping pad (large). While I wrote the words in that sentence, I have absolutely no idea what it means, though the combination came out really well in the tests, so I’m confident that this was a good choice. We’ll just have to see how it all fits together.
My stove is a Jetboil Flash, while I’ve gone with the MSR Hyperflow Microfilter to clean my water. This appears to be a good combination, according to the 5 feet nothing, 90 lb girl in the camping shop; it can be fairly intimidating getting recommendations from somebody who looks as though they would be blown away in a strong breeze, yet apparently strides through hikes carrying more than her body weight on her back for months at a time, covering 25 to 30 miles a day.
If any of you recognize, have used, hate or love any of these items, please let me know and give me any feedback that you can; as you can doubtless tell, this is all new to me. What I have been trying to do is to put together a pack that will be light enough to carry for six months, while making my life easier during my rest stops.
Let’s hope I’ve chosen well.