Equipment and too many choices

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.

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3 thoughts on “Equipment and too many choices”

  1. Go to the camp shop and touch and try everything. Get out to camp locations and look at what people are using. Read blogs as well as reviews.

    Unfortunately I can’t give specific gear tips because I live in Australia. By to keep it simple. The more complex an item is, the easier it is to break.

    I have a $30 gas camp stove that I’ve used for 6 years, a $80 pack that I’ve carried for 12 years, $100 running shoes that are 3 years old and totally worn out, and a $300 tent that I love to sleep in. I use a $15 thin foam pad because I find self inflators stop inflating and are too heavy. I abuse my gear and never maintain it. (Note that gear here in Australia is about two-three times more expensive than in the US).

    Remember that light weight can mean more fragile. Expensive doesn’t mean reliable (my best friend pays hundreds for boots & packs, uses them less than me but has to replace them every couple years due to breakage).

    Non negotiables are quality tent to stay dry. Warm sleeping bag.

  2. If you aren’t familiar with whiteblaze.net you should spend some time reading there. It is an AT focused forum and you’ll find lots of info on not just gear but all aspects of the trail and life on it.

    As for gear sites I use and occasionally review for a site called trailspace.com I’ve also been using a quilt for years so agree with your choice there as well as the NeoAirXLite which I have owned for almost a year.

    Good luck, you have a long trip ahead of you. I hope you enjoy every step!

  3. Having so many options can be overwhelming! I’ve found Outdoor Gear Lab’s side by side comparisons to be really helpful. While I’ve got some camping and hiking experience, I’ve never really backpacked. Definitely nothing long distance. Everything I carry is heavy and meant for 2-3 people so even though I’ve got lots of gear I’m still having to buy all this solo gear… or pick out what I have that’s worth using anyway to save on costs. For example, I love my Jetboil Flash (it’s so fast!) but since I’m going solo I’m trying to decide if I want to buy the Jetboil Sol for the weight savings and the added fuel regulator… or just use my homemade alcohol stove? My advice is to totally listen to people that have experience but when it comes down to it, go with your gut. After all, you’re the one that’s gotta live with it for six months. Good luck!

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