Here is my gear review for the gear I used on the CDT this past summer. Much of my primary gear was upgraded just before the CDT and I’m really happy with my changes. For a complete list of my gear with prices and weights, you can go to my gear tab. I’ve attached links to some of the primary gear so you can easily click and find it online. I just want to say that gear
preferences are a very personal thing and that everyone needs to find what fits
them the best. Just because I use it doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed to work for others. There’s a great variety out there and this is what has worked for me.

Gossamer Gear Mariposa(1lb, 9.8oz)
Pros: This pack is perfect for me! The only pack I’ve ever had that didn’t give me pain when it was fully loaded. I realize this may also be due to the fact that I lightened my pack load, but there were times I didn’t even feel like I was wearing a pack! I also had no problem carrying my full water capacity of 4.5L when necessary. I like the variety in pockets and pouches of different sizes. There were multiple ways I could organize my gear/food/water as my weight and quantities changed over a leg. An added bonus is that the back pad can easily be removed and used as a sit pad or extension to my sleeping pad.

Cons: Somehow the way I wore the pack, the side hip belt pockets got rubbed by the bottom of the shoulder strap. This is not a common occurrence for most other hikers. Over time and with the extreme use of a thru hiker, the strap wore through the zipper and broke both pockets making them unable to zip. I’ve been told the way to fix that is to lower the adjustable position of the belt and I will try that. Some other hikers found the straps to fit uncomfortably in their neck/shoulders, but it is a matter of different body types and that’s why there are so many packs out there.

ZPacks Hexamid Solo-Plus (1lb, 2.6oz)
Pros: Light and spacious. Took some getting used to, but grew on me more over time. For me, it held up well in inclement weather. It helps to setup in a sheltered spot, but I was in multiple thunderstorms/hail storms and it did great. I loved that the cuben fiber didn’t stretch or sag like silnylon tents do, so I didn’t have to readjust the tautness throughout the night. I liked the large side entry door and the way the tent could adjust slightly to match the elements or terrain. I got the extended beak and really liked that added protection. Getting the plus gave me the space I wanted too. One pretty cool thing is that the floor can be unattached and packed separately. I would pitch it in a storm a few hours before camp and when the rain let up, I could separate the floor and pack it dry into my bag so the rest of the tent didn’t soak it…then I’d have a dry tent floor when I pitched the tent a few hours later…makes me think I’ll be using it this way a lot on the Appalachian Trail…

Cons: I complained a lot about missing my Tarptent Contrail for a couple of reasons. Learning to set it up the Hexamid in the windy desert is not recommended, but I eventually caught on and really learned how to properly set it up around day 70 when Mtn Rat gave me pointers! Many find the mesh to be a positive thing, but I DID NOT like the cold air and dust blowing into the tent. I like to feel like I’m in a home and be warmer fully covered, but most hikers don’t have that same opinion and enjoy the openness. The material is slightly translucent, so there isn’t a ton of privacy.
Bottom Line: I will probably use this tent on the AT for its protection against rain, but my tent of choice for weekend backpacking is probably still my Tarptent Contrail.

ZPacks 10 Degree Down Sleeping Bag (1lb, 3.8oz)
Pros:Oh man, I didn’t think it could get any better than my Marmot Helium bag and then I found this baby! It is sooo warm and puffy. Very light and small. It is so warm that I was able to eliminate my sleeping bag liner and save even more weight. I was warm enough using my down jacket hood, beanie, or buff for my head, but if I had to, I was short enough to cinch it around my head easily. It is very warm and I often would just use it as a blanket and lie directly on my sleeping pad. It was nice as a claustrophobic person to feel less restricted and still be warm. Just heavenly!

Cons: Expensive…but worth it! The zipper does not extend all the way to the foot to save weight, but I like to stick my feet out the bottom as I sleep, so that was an adjustment. I would just pull my feet out and use it as a blanket sometimes.

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Women’s Sleeping Pad
Pros: Quite possibly my favorite piece of gear! Allowed me sink into the comfort of a bed every night. Light and compact. I upgraded to the XLite Women’s because it is lighter, shorter, and tapered so I had more room in my tent. Also, there is a reflective layer withing the pad that reflects body warmth back to the person laying on it. Really amazingly warm!

Cons: Also expensive, but totally worth it! I know it could get a hole in it easier than other sleep pads, but I didn’t have a problem all trail.

Caldera Cone Stove Set
Pros: Light, efficient, simple, and sturdy. I’m a big fan of this setup and also used it on the PCT.

Cons: Took some practice to use properly. It doesn’t have a
simmer setting, so care is needed for doing more than boiling water. Hard
plastic container can take up space, but I used the top as a cup. The base of
the container gets way too dirty/sooty to use as a bowl as advertised. I bought a larger bottle to hold fuel for longer legs, but it still fit in the container. Sometimes the fuel would leak a bit in the casing and it just air dries when I open it.

Evernew Titanium Pot (.9L)
Pros: Wonderful! Small, light, gets the job done.
Cons: Careful not to burn things to the thin bottom.

Sawyer, Evernew, and Platypus Water Bladders
Pros: Light and collapsible.
Cons: I had to carry a lot of water and tried all three of these bags. I carried multiple bags in multiple sizes. All broke eventually at the mouth where the bag connects to the mouth. The Evernews and Platypus bags were the best of the options. Evernews may not be worth the hassle of the price and effort of finding them. They lasted about two months before wearing out and leaking a bit. They seemed to break from both squeezing for the Sawyer Squeeze and the organge bands rubbing on the plastic when I’d wrap them up for storage dry. The Platypus ones were almost perfect. Strong and good size, but over a month or two used with the Sawyer, the threads stripped and leaked slightly when I’d try to squeeze through the filter.
Bottom Line: Nothing will last a whole hike, but go with the Platys or Evernews for best lifespan.

Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter

Pros: Really small, reliable, light, versatile, and as fast (if not faster) than other filters. It can be backflushed in the field. I could grab water and then choose to filter it at my convenience…often in the warmth of my sleeping bag in my tent at night.
Cons: For an impatient thru hiker not wanting to sit still, it takes time to filter through any filter and I preferred bleach drops to save time. With the really gritty stuff, my filter was slower, but that’s understandable. Take extra care to sleep with it at night when it’s below freezing so it doesn’t freeze. As mentioned above, the bags will break given the repeated squeezing.

Aquamira Water Treatment
Pros: Reliable, small, and light.

Cons: Need to wait 5mins for it to mix before putting it in
water and another 20-30mins before drinking. Somehow I always squish or bang the little bottles enough to cause one to leak and leave a bleach mark (or even hole!) in my pack.
Bottom Line: I ended up using just one Aquamira container to
hold Clorox bleach to save time/effort (two drops/liter and wait 30mins).

Panasonic Lumix DMC ZS19
Pros: A great wide angle that captured more than any other camera I’ve ever had. Great quality video. Sturdy shutter over the lens that is less likely to get dented or stuck opening/shutting with the bumps of a thru hike. I loved the powerful zoom that also worked in video mode. Also, loved the ease with which I could take panoramic shots.

Cons: Early on I got a finger with sunscreen on the big lens and I felt like there was always a spot in certain lighting. Somehow in Colorado my camera stopped fully functioning and it seems to be due to the elevation/cold because it is fine now and would randomly work on trail. It wouldn’t zoom and needed to be shut off and back on in between each picture I wanted to take. Also, wouldn’t take timer delayed photos during that time. This version does not have built in wifi and newer cameras now have that to transfer pictures to phones for uploading. With how much I paid for it, I hope it will continue working and last through my AT hike. Really torn and thinking of upgrading.

Eye-Fi SD Wi-Fi Card
Pros: Nifty little SD card that gives me the ability to transfer my pictures from my camera to my iPhone for blogging or sending out pictures.
Cons: This particular card would load ALL my pictures from the day, but I found out (from a blog follower below!) that you can set it to transfer selected photos. Here is the link to load select photos on an Eye-Fi Card. I heard other SD cards (EZ Share) let you choose individual photos and some cameras now have this function built into it.

SanDisk Sansa Clip MP3 Player
Pros: One of my favorite pieces of gear! It would greatly impact my hike if I didn’t have this little guy. Held all my songs and
audiobooks easily. Also, small and clips to clothes or pack for easy
use. Plus, it plays and records radio! Even takes mini sd cards so people were able to send me more songs and audiobooks.
Cons: Doesn’t hold as many songs as more expensive players unless you buy a mini sd to put in it.

iHome Speaker
Pro: My luxury item for Montana. This tiny speaker plugs right into my phone or MP3 Player and plays it out load in great clarity. Great for two reasons. One was to warn bears that I was coming. The other was to listen to music and audiobooks aloud with fellow hikers. Another big plus is that it came in my “wired green” color! Lots of fun:)
Con: Added weight that really isn’t necessary. I wouldn’t recommend carrying it the whole hike…maybe just NM(if you are with a partner) and MT(for the bears).

I had a lot of people ask how I shot my videos while I was walking. I
used the awesome StickPic. It allows you to attach your camera to the
end of your hiking pole for both pictures and video. Love it! You can order it online.
Careful, they are easy to lose, so I recommend putting it on a
carabeener. Also, if you lose the nut that tightens it to your camera,
you can use medical tape on the screw and it tightens just fine.

Sea to Summit
Ultra Sil Dry Sacks

Pros: My sacks have lasted me three years and two complete thru hikes. They come in various sizes and colors for organizing small
things. Light, resilient, and water resistant. Those who used Cuban fiber sacks
had difficulty with them shredding apart.

Cons: Not waterproof…even if they say they are. The black
one I had drove me nuts at night and in the early morning because I always had
trouble finding it in my tent or pack.

iPhone5 (with LifeProof Case)
Pros: Amazing! Service is best with Verizon. It was my own personal computer, phone,
camera, alarm clock, and GPS all in one. Quick and easy panoramic shots and I really liked how vivid some of the
scenic pictures were too. Good video when my real camera wasn’t working. I loved being able to Skype or FaceTime family or friends. Of course watching TV in my tent is a great plus! Just amazing, love it!

Cons: It can drain quickly using the GPS or having it on LTE (if you have Verizon). Just
keep it in airplane mode whenever possible. I wouldn’t use it as my primary camera or video recorder, but it works great if you are looking for an all-in-one option.

LifeProof Phone Case
Awesome! Kept my iPhone protected from dirt, dry, free from scratches. I dropped my phone many times and it was
always protected. It says it’s waterproof, but I never fully submerged it for an extended period of time. Totally worth carrying!

Black Diamond Spot LED Headlamp

Pros: Did great! Honestly, I rarely used it and only changed the batteries once all trip.
Cons: Probably not the lightest one out there, but it’s what
I’ve always had and I haven’t had a need to replace it. I’d recommend something lighter.

MSR Packtowel Nano
Nice to have for washing off in streams. Dried very quickly. It is a bit of a luxury item as my bandana often did the trick just fine.

SPOT-Personal Locator Device

Pros: Reassure your family that you are okay on a regular
basis. I know of hikers who had to use theirs to get emergency help from Search
and Rescue, and it works. The customer service is very attentive and helpful.
Cons: Make sure you let it flash for a long time (possibly 15mins) to make sure it sends. It will go from flashing two lights to just one if it works. It worked every night on my trip, but would take longer under trees. There is no way to check for sure that it sends, but that’s how all PLBs work. They are intended for use when there is no other way of contacting help. I trust it and think it’s completely worth carrying.

Sea to Summit Insect Shield Head Net

Pros: It saves you from bugs!
Cons: Don’t accidentally rub your eyes with the head
net…trust me! Using a fully brimmed hat is the most effective. My neck and ears
were covered in bites until I started using my buff to cover them. I hardly used it the whole CDT, but was very happy to carry it the whole way just in case!

 iFlash 4 USB Quad Port Charger
Pros: Allowed me to charge four different things at the same time from one outlet.
Cons: Added weight and took up space in my pack. Didn’t charge as fast as directly plugging one USB into a socket because it splits the charge.
Bottom Line: Great to have on the CDT! Can’t tell you how many times other hikers used it. There are just limited sockets in those small towns. 

Leatherman Style CS Multitool
Pros: Small, light, has multiple tools (including
scissors!), and has a carabeener to clip it to my bag for easy access.

Cons: Could be considered by some to be a luxury item that
just adds extra weight…but those were the same hikers who borrowed mine many times!

Suntactics sCharger-5 Solar Charger
Pros: Gave me pretty unlimited power when in direct sunlight. Was like plugging my devices directly into the wall! Pretty sturdy.
Cons: Pricey. You could charge smaller things like an MP3 in intermittent sunlight or overcast, but not an iPhone. The iPhone needed direct sunlight for extended periods of time. If I was going in and out of sun, it would be draining the phone battery instead of charging it.
Bottom Line: Best option out there for more sun exposed trails. Perfect for the CDT! I’d say Good for the first half of the PCT and then maybe consider an independent rechargeable battery.

Garmin eTrex 20 GPS
Pros: A reliable GPS that worked and had a very long battery life of 35hrs or something like that…I also think it’s the lightest option out there today that gets the job done.
Cons: A pain to learn, but simple once you get it. Also, a pain to load the maps/waypoints. I give a tutorial here. It generally took about 30sec to load if I was using it frequently. If I hadn’t turned it on recently, it could take multiple minutes to load and get oriented. With this version, you have to be moving fort the arrow to point where you’re standing. I believe the eTrex 30 will orient as you spin in one place.
Bottom Line: I was glad I had it and used it more than my phone’s GPS just to save phone battery because I used it often.

Johnathan Ley Maps
Pros: Great to have paper maps with alternates and little notes updated each year from current hikers.
Cons: Took some getting used to with red and purple likes everywhere. I still don’t get it, but apparently, the trail should be in red and the alternates are in purple…the thing is that there is so much changing that sometimes the red was the alternate and the purple was the official…either way it was nice to have options.  The scale of the maps is so large that they do not provide much detail. More of a general direction to head.
Bottom Line: I rarely used them during the day and would scan them at night/morning for important notes/info. Then use my GPS and mostly the Bear Creek Waypoints. Some used these as their sole maps and loved them. Pretty impressive considering J Ley hiked the CDT in 2001 and has updated the maps through hikers and Bear Creek updates each year.

Bear Creek Waypoints/Maps
Pros: I chose not to carry the Bear Creek maps (created by Jerry Brown) because I felt one set of maps was enough to carry and the waypoints on my GPS would be enough. I LOVED having waypoints for the trail since I am directionally challenged. It is very kind of Jerry Brown to offer them for free.
Cons: The paper maps are nice, but pricey. They don’t include external notes/details like J Ley’s maps have. They also don’t have the alternates, but this winter, Jerry Brown is adding many of the main alternates to the maps! The Bear Creek maps are much clearer to read for actual navigation.
Bottom Line: I recommend saving money by getting J Ley’s maps (which also has helpful notes and fun alternates/side trips) and then loading the Bear Creek waypoints on your GPS…but be sure to donate for those waypoints! Some people chose to carry both sets of maps. Some people only carried Bear Creek and added J Ley notes to them in pencil before the hike…all a matter of personal preference.

Yogi’s CDT Handbook
Pros: The
details in trail towns change often and Yogi does a good job of keeping things
as up to date as possible. Every year, there are a ton of questions
asked on the CDT-L about preparation, mail drops, trail towns, etc. My biggest confusion was all the routes and where it splits and that’s all in there. Some hikers (and I’m not saying I’m one of them) found it very useful to
have a digital scanned copy of the Town Guide on their phone. Those
people were able to look ahead to any town to help with planning and
decision making while others had theirs boxed up in future resupply
boxes. Yogi clearly says it is not legal to do such a thing, so I’m not
saying I did that…just that hikers who did found it very
convenient…those rebels!

Cons: The book is as updated as a printed book can be, but things change so often in these small towns that some info is wrong. There aren’t as many trail tips in the Town Guide as the PCT Town Guide and I missed having those. The mileage was off a great deal between some towns if you were hiking the bear creek miles, which most of us were doing most sections. Just double check the bear creek miles because those using Yogi’s guide for mileage were sometimes low on food thinking they had less miles to hike.
Bottom Line: Get the handbook. I actually don’t know a hiker that didn’t use it this summer. I agree that it isn’t essential to
have the handbook to successfully hike the trail, but it will make the
experience much more enjoyable.

Beacon’s CDT Data Book
Pros: Ah-mazing! It was so nice to have this quick cheat sheet to glance at the day ahead of me. beacon basically took all the Bear Creek waypoints and water sources and listed them in order along with mileage differences, elevations of each waypoint, and what map they correlate with on the J Ley maps.
Cons: Not all inclusive. Missing many water sources listed on the J Ley maps and also does not include the alternates. I’m talking with Beacon to see if he is updating this for next season…I’ll keep people posted as all these maps are always evolving.
Bottom Line: Get it if it still matches the waypoints for 2014…TBD…

OR Helium II Rain Jacket
Pros: VERY light and compact. LOVED the color!

Cons: If you sweat a lot, it may not be the jacket for you
because it has no vents. Also, to save weight, there are no side pockets. I used it almost every morning as my wind breaking jacket until I warmed up. By the time I got to the end of the trail, I had worn through it on the shoulders and hips and didn’t expect it to be full waterproof, which it wasn’t. It did get me through steady rain many times just fine…but not perfect.
Bottom Line: Great jacket! It is not meant for cold heavy rain. If you use it the whole trip and
find yourself finishing closer to October, I recommend sending yourself a warmer
jacket in MT or waterproof it again before you hit the northern rain. For the AT, where rain is almost daily, I’m getting a much heavier rain jacket.

Sierra Design Hurricane Rain Pants

Pros: Kept me warm on cold nights and mornings. Some days in Colorado, I’d wear them much of the day for warmth!
Cons: Worked great most of the trip. Wear tights under them to stay warm if you end up in late season rain/snow. The
zippers at the ankle got stuck with mud in them.
Bottom Line: I didn’t use them for rain much, but they were totally worth carrying for the few times I really needed them for warmth and/or rain.

Mountain Hardware Ghost Whisperer Jacket
Pros: Small, light, compact, warm, resilient, awesome! I think it is still the lightest down jacket on the market. Made for a great pillow at night too!

Cons: Expensive.
Bottom Line: Loved it! I used the one with the hood because
I get cold easily, but many hikers saved the weight without the hood.

Balega Socks
I loved these socks. They are just basic running socks. My feet had bad reactions to wool and
these were great. They would generally last three legs or more depending on the terrain/distance.

Seirus Hyperlite All-Weather Gloves

I really liked these gloves! No gloves are truly waterproof,
so I suggest getting a pack of latex gloves to wear over the gloves in the rain
or in the mornings when taking down a wet tent. The latex ones lasted a long
time, but I threw a new set in each resupply just in case. A simple thing that
made my days so much more enjoyable!

ExOfficio Underwear

Loved em! I only needed two pairs that I rotated on the trip
and I had a third for sleeping.

Diva Cup-Feminine Hygiene
Okay ladies, just like you, I worried about how I’d handle
my monthly period on the trail. If you have to deal with it, then I suggest the
Diva Cup. Look it up. I would definitely practice using it before going on the
trail if you’ve never used it before. I like it because it’s minimal, I don’t
have to worry about accumulating trash, and depending on the day, I could go
the whole day without having to worry about it. I love that it is
environmentally better AND saves me money. I have converted to using it in
everyday life and I really recommend it.

Nike Pro Core Sports Bra

I rotated two the whole trip and they were great! Also, it
doubles as a great swim top.

SmartWool Heavy Cushion (Sleep Socks)


Teva Mush II Thong Sandals

Pros: Some consider camp shoes a luxury. I can’t imagine enjoying
backpacking if I didn’t have dry clean sandals to put on at the end of the day
and middle of the night for bathroom runs. I saved a lot of weight switching to these from Crocs and they were super comfy!
Cons: Wearing them with socks is a pain. I usually just slipped all my toes to the side of the thong when I needed to walk at camp.

Montrail AT Plus Hiking Shoes

LOVE these shoes I used on both the PCT & CDT…but they are discontinued! I’m working on finding shoes to replace these, which fit my wide feet perfectly…

Lynco L405 Sports Orthotic Insoles
I knew I’d need some type of added support to hike the trail and another
hiker told me about the Lynco Insoles. I am a neutral walker and tend
to need something for the ball of my foot. These are very unique and I
recommend using them for a good month before the trail if your feet are
new to them. They have a lump under the upper part of the arch of your
foot. There are other styles for different needs. The unique form takes
some getting used to, but I found them to feel great and also relieve a
lot of the pressure on the ball of my foot. Totally worth the price for
me. I bought a new pair with each pair of shoes. Many people bought
insoles more/less often than that though. It’s a matter of personal preference.

Black Diamond Trail Ergo Trekking Poles

I chose to go cheaper and heavier with my hiking poles, but
they worked out great. I like the ergonomic cork handles and flick locks. I didn’t have to replace the tips all trail! Also used one as my main pole to support my tent and they were great! There are pricier versions of these made of carbon. Mine were aluminum. 

 White Sierra Teton Trail Convertible Pants

Awesome pants! They hung on with a few minor repairs and
made it through the whole trail. It was nice to have the option of shorts or
pants. They have lots of pockets for my gadgets and snacks. The only pants I
could find that weren’t form fitting and tight in the thighs. I wish they came
in XS because they ran a bit big in the waist for me and became very loose toward the end of the hike.

Patagonia & Brooks Shirts
I was determined to find my green/navy combo again and came up with these two polyester meshy shirts. A navy long sleeved running tech Brooks shirt I ordered from my local running store…and LoveNote found me the greet Patagonia shirt. Both did great! The lighter colors show sweat stains.

Smartwool Microweight Pajama Top/Bottom
It took me forever to buy these pricey pajamas, but they were perfect and saved me many ounces off what I was using before. The pants are slightly sheer and I’d only wear them in my tent. Sometimes they were surprisingly too warm and I wouldn’t wear them. Both could be used in emergency for extra warmth. I used the top once as a base layer in a cold unrelenting rain and it worked!

Andiamo skins (unpadded) biker shorts(black)

Great for added warmth and those who experience chafing. I
bought two pairs and only needed one the whole trail. They were also great to
wear for swimming. A suggestion from the maker is that if they are being used
for hiking, cut off the tight elastic band on the thighs. Worked great for me!

Dirty Girl Gaiters

Love em! I was able to use the same pair the whole hike, but
I recommend buying two pairs and switching in N Cal. I once tried to go a week
without them and I couldn’t stand all the debris that got in my shoes. Also,
without them, my socks were quick to get holes in them.

Katoola MICROspikes

Awesome! Perfect for thru hiking. The compromise between the less effective Yak-Trax and unnecessary crampons.

Black Diamond Raven Ice Axe

I really liked my Ice Axe and a lot of other hikers had it too.
Some hikers used the C.A.M.P Corsa or Whippet to save weight, but it’s all up
to personal preference and how much security you feel you’re comfortable with.
As for length, I personally feel like longer is better. I like to have something I can plant into the snow on long traverses and if it is too short, I find myself bending over and off balance. There is no point in saving on weight
if it negates the point of having an ice axe to begin with. It is used to self arrest if a fall occurs, but also helpful for support along a traverse. Everyone has their own preference of what works well for them.

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