For Trail Geek Eyes Only, Part I: Gear

After seven combined thru hikes between the two of us, and countless hours of trail talks about what we would do differently each time, we are now organized and hopefully better prepared.   In our little “For Trail Geek Eyes Only” series, we’ll be covering the important CDT planning topics that have occupied a large part of our time over the past few months:  Gear, Food, Technology, Maps, and Resupply.  Our aim is to be thorough and helpful for those interested in potentially doing this hike and informative for those that really want to know some of the nitty gritty of thru hiking even if they never plan on actually getting out there themselves.

Gear is one of the most important decisions with any hike and for us over the years, and with many other hikers, there has been a focus on weight.  As Julie wrote in the chapter “Less is More” in her book The Trail Life, the less we carry on our backs, generally the better our experience is. – as with anything, there are extremes where this is no longer true.  We are continually searching for the balance between the comforts of a light pack and the comforts we potentially give up by leaving things behind.  We feel good about what’s in our packs and hope we’ve found the right balance. (Post-trail gear review here)

SHELTER AND SLEEPING                                                               

-Tarp tent by Henry Shire with stakes and bag:  35.7 ounces

-Enlightened Equipment sleeping quilts (2):  19 ounces (each)

-6 ft Ridgerest sleeping pad (cut in half, 3 ft each):  7 ounces (each)

Total weight per person:  2.8 lbs

We tried this shelter system on the Colorado Trail last summer and as soon as we figured out how to set up the tarp tent optimally for wind and condensation, it worked well; we expect good things from it on the CDT.  The sleeping quilts are a new test.  We’re a bit skeptical about being warm enough (25 to 30 degree rating).  We have our heavier REI Sub Kilo bags waiting to be mailed if these don’t work out.

COOKING AND WATER                                 

-One large and one small empty peanut jar:  2 ounces

-Two camp sporks:  0.5 ounces (each)

-2 ounce bottle for bleach with eyedropper (2):  4 ounces (each)

-Gatorade bottles and platypus (2x2L & 3x1L) for H2O:  4 ounces (each)

-Opsack odor-proof food storage sacks (2):  1.5 ounces (each)

Total weight per person:  0.8 lbs

All cold food is a big deal for us.  We’ve tried many systems and opted for the lighter, less complicated system of no cooking.  We have meals that we can rehydrate with cold water such as beans, hummus, tabouli, ramen.  We’ll get into detail on this topic in our food post.  Also, we’re back with bleach after a stint with Aquamira on the Colorado Trail.  We feel like they’re so similar, and we don’t mind the slight hint of bleach.  Lastly, we’ve heard conflicting reports on the efficacy of the odor-proof sacks for our food.  If they work, great, if they don’t, it’s not much of a loss or extra burden on our part to have them.


Gossamer Gear G4 packs16.5 ounces (each)

-2mm 20 gallon trash compactor bags (pack liners):  2.2 ounces (each)

-Waterproof stuffsacks (2):  2.3 ounces (each)

-Random Ziplocs for storage and wallets               :  1.6 ounces (each)

Total weight per person:  1.4 lbs

Trying something new with the lighter Gossamer Gear packs.  We’re hoping they’re comfortable and sturdy for the long haul.  We have our Granite Gear Vapor Trail packs as backups.  We’ve found that heavy duty trash compactor bags have been a better alternative than pack covers going around the outside of our packs during weather.  Everything stays dry on the inside and the packs dry quickly.

SMALL ESSENTIALS                         

-Toothbrush, floss, toothpaste (we share):  3 ounces

-2 ounce bottle of Dr. Bronner’s soap:  3 ounces

-Sunscreen :  4 ounces

-Baby wipes (travel size packs):                 3 ounces

-Glasses, contacts, and solution                :  8 ounces

-First Aid Kit:  7 ounces

-Toilet paper (20 sheets per person per day):  2 ounces

-Bug headnet (2):  1 ounce (each)

-Mach 3 razor:  4 ounces

-Bug spray (carrying when needed):  4 ounces

-Bear spray (carrying when needed):  8 ounces (each)

-24 Lumen Black Diamond headlamps:  3 ounces (each)

-Prescriptions and vitamins:  0.5 ounces

-Rope:  3 ounces

-Lighter:  1 ounce

Total pack weight per person:  2.2 lbs

Some of these weights are estimated.  We had a scale at one point and weighed everything but some things here are new additions, and hence the weight is only an estimate.  We’re focused on hygiene this time around.  We plan to wash ourselves and our clothes each day with soap and use 1 to 2 babywipes each per day to stay clean.  We’re also bringing a razor to keep away the grizzly hiker beard and hairy woman legs.  Most everything is light, we know it adds up, but it’s a trade off we’re willing to make.  Plus, we share lots of this weight – like our one toothbrush!

TECHOLOGY AND MAPS                                                              

-Cell phone::  4.6 ounces

-iPad mini:  12 ounces

-Sandisk MP3 players (2):  0.8 ounces (each)

-Garmin eTrex 20 GPS:                  4 ounces

-Cords and chargers:  2 ounces

-Bushnell Solar Charger:  3.1 ounces

-Sony Bloggie Camera:  4.4 ounces

-Bear Creek Survey and Ley maps and databook (sectioned):  8 ounces

-2 backup batteries:  1 ounce

Total weight per person:  1.5 lbs

It seems like we’re carrying tons of maps and technology.  However, we learned on the CT last year that we really do like staying connected to the world and our families.  I like reading up on the markets, we like keeping up on our website, and it’s worth a few extra pounds to do this.  We’ll share more insight on these topics in a future post.


-Running shorts (2 pairs each):  13.4 ounces total

-Dryfit runnings T-shirts (2 each)               :  12.4 ounces total

-Socks (2 pairs each):  4 ounce total

-Brooks Cascadia shoes:  10.7 ounces per pair

-Bandini sports bra (2 – for Julie):  2.4 ounces total

-Visor (Matt) and Hat (Julie):  4.3 ounces total

-Dirty Girl Gators (Julie):  1 ounce

-Hiking poles (Cascade Designs and Black Diamond):  36 ounces total

-Watches (Stopwatch has a massive Suunto):  3.3 ounces total

-Sunglasses:  1.7 ounces total

-Wind jackets (Montane Featherlite & Stoic Thrive Luminous):  8 ounces total

-Rain jackets (Marmot Precip & North Face Bella):  23 ounces total

-Puffy jackets (REI puffy & Cascadia puffy):  26.8 ounces total

-Patagonia Houdini pants:  6.2 ounces total

-Fleece glove liners:  4 ounces total

-Waterproof glove shells:  2.4 ounces

-Beanie, bandanas, and buff:3.1 ounces total

Total weight per person:  5.3 lbs

This one is a bit deceiving on the weight because much of what is included is stuff we carry or wear.  We’re wearing our shoes, not carrying them on our back, but technically our bodies are still carrying and lifting those shoes plenty.  Same story with our hiking poles.  We plan on hiking with clothes on too so again, not all in our packs, but still on our backs.  Our method is to wash one set of clothes and socks each day along with some personal bathing.  This is our attempt to lessen the hiker stench that trail-goers know so well.

We’re also going for a layering approach.  We’re hiking during the summer months so it should be warm and sunny for much of the hike.  However, it can and does get cold, especially at night so we’re prepared with different jackets and pants for when it comes.  We’re really excited about our waterproof glove liners.  It’s our attempt at fixing a long standing problem we’ve both had with having cold, non-functioning hands during cold hiking days and cold camp nights.

Total weight carried minus food and water:  14 lbs

Total weight minus clothes on our backs, shoes on our feet, and poles in our hands:  10.5 lbs

Again, these are estimates on the weight, but this is everything I could remember and think of that we’re carrying on this trip minus food and water.  Along with estimates on some weights, there can certainly be user error on the math for adding this all up.  End point though is that we’re confident we’re between 9 and 12 pounds base weight each and we’re happy with that.  We are trying to be lightweight hikers but we’re also trying to have all the essentials and comforts we know and love.  By taking the time to do this accounting of what we’re carrying, we feel confident that the things we have kept to carry on our journey are things that are important to us and to our success.  We could probably get rid of more, but the cost to the experience we’re looking for seem too high.  We hope we got the balance just right! (Check out our post-trail gear review here)

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One Response to For Trail Geek Eyes Only, Part I: Gear

  1. Pingback: For Trail Eyes Only, Part 4: Food Urbyville

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