Gear is always an important part of any backpacking trip, and indeed many hours are spent before you hit the trail (and on the trail) debating what the optimal gear mix is for the hike. Everyone tries to strike the right balance for themselves between weight and comfort - obviously you want your pack to weight as little as possible to avoid carrying heavy loads up mountains, but what comfort are you willing to give up in return? And then cost is probably the 3rd item of consideration; there's always newer and lighter gear available, but are you willing to spend more $$ to get it?
I decided to upgrade some of my gear for this trip, as some if it was quite old and there have been a lot of great advances in technology providing even lighter and stronger gear over the last several years. Below is a brief summary of some of the gear that I'll be bringing with me on my hike:
- Backpack - A very important piece of equipment, as this carries everything for you! I bough a new pack, the Circuit, by Ultralight Adventure Equipment. A great pack, and > 5 lbs lighter than my old Dana Design backpack that traveled around the world with me!
- Tent - the Notch, by Tarp Tent. Looks like this will be a great 1 person tent, and it uses my trekking poles as the poles for the tent so saves weight here as well. Like the ULA Circuit, this is also made in USA.
- Sleeping Pad - Some people sleep on the ground, but this is where I'll sacrifice weight for comfort. I have the NeoAir Xlite by Thermorest, which is an inflatable pad that not only cushions you, but also keeps you warm by raising you off the ground. You just need to protect it from sharp sticks and rocks ...
- Sleeping Bag - very important to get a good nights rest after hiking all day, and this requires staying warm, especially at those high elevations where it can dip below freezing even in July. I upgraded my old sleeping bag (15 years, many nights of camping, I've gotten my $$s worth of it!) to a new Marmot Plasma 15. It's rated to 15F, or -9C for us Canadians. Very lightweight, and filled with 900+ fill-power goose down.
- Stove - again, some people just eat cold food while camping and forgo the weight of stove and fuel, but really you can only eat so many granola bars before you want a change! I've been using the Pocket Rocket by MSR for several years, and it's a great little stove. Very reliable and heats up water quickly.
- Water Purifier - you'd like to think that those mountain streams are pure and that you can drink straight from them, but the reality is that viruses and bacteria do exist and all water should be treated. I used to use a pump water filter to treat my water, but it weighed almost 1 lb so I've decided on this trip to test out the SteriPen Journey, which treats the water with UV light
- Hiking Shoes - in the old days we used to wear big, heavy, over the ankle leather hiking boots. Why did we do that? Now I just wear lightweight trail shoes. Mine currently are the Alamosa's by Keen, and they're great. Never had a blister, no break-in period, lightweight, quick drying.
I have lots more gear that I carry with me (maps, clothes, camera, 1st aid kit, cell phone, etc) but those are the big ones. All in, the weight of my gear carried (minus food and water) will most likely weigh around 17 lbs. I was hoping to get to 15 lbs, but can't find anything else to cut. I want a sleeping pad, and a spare T-shirt, and a camera, and sunscreen, sandals to wear at the end of the day. Some really ultra-light highers get their base back weight down to <10 lbs, but I'm not willing to sacrifice any more comfort! And when I add on the food and water that I'll need to carry (on average 5-6 days worth of food, and ~ 2L of water), that will likely take my total pack weight up to 30 lbs, which is probably what my old gear would have weighed BEFORE food and water! And my shoulders/hips/knees/feet will thank me for that