Thanksgiving AT Section Hike Post Hike Gear Talk

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So last weekend I met up with a group of pretty good guys and spent a night on the Appalachian Trail. As I mentioned in my previous trip report, we had a great time. The weather was dang near perfect, the views were good, and everything went pretty much as planned (which is saying a lot…) However, other than just hanging with the guys and enjoying being outside, this was also a good time to try out some gear, both old and new…

When I was packing for this hike, I actually decided that I wanted to go a little on the heavy side… Now, hold on! Don’t get me wrong! I have a reason for this… One of the new items I was trying out on this hike was my new ZPacks Arc Blast backpack. For those of you that are not familiar with this pack, this is the “load-hauler” of the packs offered from ZPacks. It has an external frame, and I opted for the 60L, high-volume pack. This is the pack that is meant to be a “UL” work-horse… so, I wanted to see what it could do.

Being that this was late November and we were going to be in the mountains overnight, this was a great opportunity for me to carry all of my cold weather gear, such as my large XLite sleeping pad, my Marmot Helium sleeping bag, and all of my down, insulated clothing. As well, I opted for a bit larger than normal cook kit, an extra mug, an extra ccf sleeping pad, a double wall tent, and even a cooler with 4 bottles (not cans!) of beer!

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(For my complete gear list, click HERE. However, note that I changed some items before heading out, such as my cook kit. So, the list is not exact, but is about 97% correct.)

So, what was my total weight?

Once I got to my buddy Gizmo Joe’s house, we weighed my entire pack, minus the cooler with the beer. The pack weight was about 16.5 lbs. After I added the 5.5 lbs of beer (including the cooler) I was around 22 lbs. Then, on the way to the trail I decided to grab an extra 20 oz water bottle, which put me over 23 lbs. Considering this was an overnight hike, this was a lot of weight (for me). As well, I did not use stuff sacks for my clothing or my sleeping bag, but rather just stuffed them in the pack and let them loft up. So, packing this way, I easily filled up the 60L volume…

I have got to say that the pack was awesome! Sure, I only hiked about 14 miles with it, but it was a very comfortable pack for those few miles. I typically find that I will fiddle with all the straps throughout the day in order to shift a little weight from my shoulders to my hips, and especially so with a heavier pack such as this one was. But, I rarely, if at all, did this with the Arc Blast. Once I put it on and got it all set, it was set.

I really think that the lumbar pad has helped by adding a little more bulk to my back side. I generally have to cinch down on my hip belts pretty tight to keep the pack from sliding down (this is because I really don’t have a butt for my pack to sit on), but the lumbar pad seemed to make up for a lack of this. As well, the mesh back panel really felt comfortable against my back. The arched frame did allow a small amount of ventilation between my back and the pack, however, I found the actual feel of the mesh resting against my back to be the most impressive. I can’t explain it, but believe me when I say that (for me) it was very, very comfortable.

As for some of the smaller things on the pack, I again found that I was not a huge fan of the fold over hip belt pockets. Trying to get things in/out of the pocket via the elasticized opening was a bit difficult for me, and still so, buckling it closed was even harder. In light of this, I plan to see about getting some of the (older) zipper style hip belt pockets to replace these with. Other than the hip belt pockets, I also used one of the ZPacks shoulder pouches for the first time on this hike, and surprisingly, I found that I was really happy with it. Despite how happy I am with my DIY solution for carrying my water bottles, I believe that I am going to order a second shoulder pouch and start carrying my water this way…

Another new item that I tried on this hike was my shoes, or better yet, my Inov-8 Roclite 243 trail runners. I got these a few weeks ago to replace my Roclite 315′s… which I am very fond of. However, I wanted to go a bit more minimal on my footwear after wearing the 315′s for a while, so I settled on the 243′s. And for those that don’t know, the way Inov-8 labels their shoes is by model & weight. So, mine are the “Roclite” model, and the 243 represents that a mens size 9 (US) weighs 243 grams (for one shoe). Although, mine are size 12.5 (mens, US) so they weigh a little more.

What I found about the 243′s is that they are definitely built on a different (smaller) last (or “fit”) than the 315′s are. And from what I understand, Inov-8 actually changed their lasts somewhat at the start of 2013, so they may be tough to compare the pre-2013 models to the ones now, but I will say that the last on my 315′s are likely closer to the current “Natural” fit (and please, correct me if I am wrong). The “Natural” fit is more of a roomier fit than the “Precision” fit last, which is what my 243′s are built on.

So, all that to say that, the 243′s are a bit more form-fitting than my 315′s are. Now, please, don’t confuse this with being too tight. The 243′s are a smaller fit, but I would say that they fit me perfectly, similar to the way an athletic cut shirt is supposed to fit. But, I don’t find that they are squeezing my feet by any means.

As far as I can tell, Inov-8 has managed to cut 72 grams off the 315′s by using less upper materials, and likely also due to the closer fit. The sole’s are the same, as are the shanks in both models. However, to me, the uppers on the 315′s just feel a bit tougher. As well, after wearing them with a 23 lb pack, walking up and down the mountain trails with rocks and roots hiding beneath leaves and snow, I can also tell that there is a little less to the uppers on the 243′s when compared to the 315′s. Considering this, along with the closer fit, I have found that I definitely notice it more when I stump my toe against one of those hidden rocks, or roots…

I will admit, I started this hike with an ingrown nail on my right big toe (which always seemed to be the one that I would jam into those hidden rocks), so that did put me at a bit of a disadvantage, however, despite this, I am not so sure that I will be using these much more on the trail. I like the more minimalist uppers, but when pairing this with the closer fit, I just may not be ready for these. At least with the wider toe box like on the 315′s, my feet had a little room to bump around without bumping against the edge of the shoes…

I also decided to break out my brand new Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork trekking poles on this hike. Some may remember that I picked these up a couple of months ago at a smoking hot deal on Steep & Cheap for only $65, brand new! Sure, they have the 2012 style flick locks on them, but they are reliable flick locks, they just may not look as cool…

Let me begin by saying that I love my Gossamer Gear LT4′s, for no other reason than they are super light, and I love the grips on them. While the LT4′s are not perfect, I have found that they are what I measure all other poles by. So, immediately, the BD poles have a knock against them because they are heavier, but I am willing to look past that as they have a few other features I like, specifically, the flick locks and that they are 3 piece poles which will collapse down smaller than the LT4′s. As well, the BD poles “should” be stronger due to the shorter, and larger diameter carbon fiber shafts, than the GG shafts.

However, after using them for just a few minutes on this hike, I found what I feel to be a big knock against them, which are the grips. I have no intentions of arguing with anyone about straps, or the manner in which I grip my poles, but I will say that I don’t use straps, and I tend to more so palm my poles when using them. Considering this, I found that I hate the grips on the BD poles… The biggest problem is that the top of the grips are made from a hard plastic with a more rubbery plastic insert, and the edges of these lines are rough on my hands. They are not smooth at all, and I can feel the edges pressing into my hands when using them. I found them to be very uncomfortable after only a couple of miles…

I will say that the texture of the cork areas on the grips are nice, but I don’t really use the handles the way they are designed to be used, in order to benefit from them. As well, the entire black foam extension grips under the cork handles are a waste for me. I set my poles at 42-ish inches tall, which is too short for me to ever need to choke down that low on the pole. So, it is really just extra, unnecessary weight.

Despite how unhappy I am with them though, I have no intentions of getting rid of them. Instead, I am thinking about picking up some of the GG LT4 grips and trying to install them on the BD poles to see if that makes them better suited for me. At this point, all I can say is that I am very glad that I did not pay full price ($159) for these poles, as I would have been very disappointed had I done so…

Other than these three items, I also talk about a few other items, both new & old, that I carried with me on this trip…

I finally got to take my Simple Outdoor Solution Escape Pod Cooler with me on this hike! The cooler is designed to hold either 6 cans or 4 bottles, or other items of course. I decided to use it for drinks, and I opted for bottles since I like my beer better from bottles, and, they were heavier too. However, I think next time I will use it to stock pile some frozen foods in…I am thinking of things to maybe make some Hobo Meals with… All in all though, it is a nice little cooler. I wouldn’t carry it all the time, but for short hikes in which I don’t mind carrying a little extra weight, this sure is a great “extra” to carry!

I also carried the Aqua Clip with me on this hike. I used the Aqua Clip on my left shoulder strap and the ZPacks shoulder pouch on my right shoulder strap. As I mentioned in my previous write-up about the Aqua Clip, I think it is a great idea, however, I wasn’t sure if it would fit my needs simply because I prefer to use wide mouth bottles. However, I used it anyway, and what can I say? It worked great, although, I admit that I still prefer to sue the wide mouth bottles. Because of this little detail, I doubt I will continue to use the Aqua Clip on my hikes, however, I plan to keep some around for other activities…

I will say that I handed a few more of them out to the others that hiked with me. My buddy Gizmo Joe actually used 2 of them, one on each shoulder strap. He tied smaller loops than what I did, and while it took a little more effort for him to get them into the loops, he found that they were super stable once they were in place. He did not even use a stabilizer strap at the bottom like I did. I believe that he will continue to use them from here on out…

P1020984After watching a video by John Abela, I decided to pick up a Finum (M) Brewing Basket to make some real coffee with (not any of that chemical infused crap from a packet!) Again, this is not something that I would carry all the time (despite that it only weighs like, 0.5 oz… so who knows, I may decide to go ahead and do so…) but I will admit, it does make a damn good cup of Joe. So for this hike, I figured, why not? It is easy to use, easy to clean, and while it does have a slightly durable plastic frame, I still worry about packing it up due to the mesh wire filter on it. So, to help protect it, I carried my MLD mug to store it in and protect it. Anyway, I gotta say, it is a pretty cool filter, and I like its results…

And of course I carried my new Sawyer Mini with me! That thing is just awesome! Being that it was such a short hike, I really only used it twice on the hike, once that night, and then again the next morning. I will also say that I don’t really like carrying filters with me when I am anticipating temperatures below freezing just so I don’t have to worry about keeping the filter from freezing up (and I don’t think that the temps ever got below freezing anyway). However, even for those hikes, the cool thing about the Mini is that it is super small, so it is pretty easy to keep in my pants pocket, and then at night when I throw it in my sleeping bag, it is small enough to actually lose!

The filter performed flawlessly though, and I am not sick yet, so it must have done its job. I was able to easily fill my 2L Sawyer bag from an iron pipe that had excellent stream of water flowing from it. Then I simply screwed the Mini to the top of the bag and then started rolling the bottom of the bag down, forcing dirty water through the filter and the clean water was squirted into my water bottles. Easy as that.

P1020918Another thing I talk a little about are my GooseFeet Gear Overbooties. I am still trying to find a way for these to be less slippery to walk around camp in. On this trip, I tried cutting soles made of thicker pieces of ccf pad, however, I think that this proved to be even more slippery. I will admit, I love the idea of the overbooties, and really want them to work, but as hard as they are to walk around in, especially on sloped surfaces, they may be more trouble than they are worth… I dunno…  but I am not giving up on them yet… I just hope I can find something that will make them easier to use soon… on level ground, they do rock though!

Other than this, I also talk a little more about my Marmot Helium sleeping bag, as well as my Thermarest XLite sleeping pad. Both are excellent pieces of kit for me. I almost forgot how nice it was to be wrapped up inside that thick, downy goodness called the Helium. And as much as I hate that Thermarest has decided to cut weight by cutting corners on the XLite’s, I will also admit, having the slightly wider pad at my torso is just pure bliss. Comfy and warm… what more can I ask for? Lightweight too? Well, that it is!

And of course I cannot forget the most important part of my sleeping set-up, my pillow! I am still using the GooseFeet Gear down stuff sack pillowcase and the large Exped UL Air Pillow. What I like so much about using this pillow set-up with my XLite is that they work exceptionally well together. The horizontal baffles work excellent in conjunction with the piece of shock cord that I have attached to the pillow and really does well at holding my pillow in place. This, along with the height of the air pillow, and the downy pillow top of the pillow case make this a very comfortable set-up for me.

So, that pretty much wraps up my post hike gear talk from this hike. Of course there was plenty of other things that I also carried on this hike, but these stood out to me, and I wanted to mention. If you see anything else on my list, feel free to ask me about them, and I will be happy to tell you more…

Until next time, thanks for stopping by!

~Stick~

Disclaimer: The Escape Pod Cooler, Aqua Clips, and the Sawyer Mini were all provided to me free of charge, in exchange for a review, which I have already completed. However, I wanted to mention them again after using them to share my thoughts on them. All other items in the write-up I paid the full price for, excluding the Black Diamond poles which I bought from Steep & Cheap, with my own money. I have no obligations to write about these things. The statements within this post are of my own opinion, which I formed after personally using/handling these items.

 

 

 

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About Chad “Stick” Poindexter

My blog is essentially a record of my hiking career. Through it, I, and others, can see how I have evolved from a heavy weight backpacker, to a smarter, more efficient, lightweight backpacker. Through the use of video, still photos, and of course writing, one can see my progression, as well as check out some of the places I hike, and not to mention some cool, lightweight gear options. For me, my blog is a journal, but for others, I hope that it is an interactive learning tool to aid them in their own progression towards lightweight backpacking.
This entry was posted in Backpacks, Coffee, Foot Wear, Gear, Gear List, Gear Reviews, Gossamer Gear, Pillows, Sleeping Bags, Sleeping Pads, Trekking Poles, Water Filter, ZPacks and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Thanksgiving AT Section Hike Post Hike Gear Talk

  1. Kurthwood Parish says:

    Stick, are your feet slipping around inside the Booties or the Booties slipping on the ground?
    I’m going to buy the socks but don’t want the booties if they are slippery.
    What if you painted some Silnet stripes on them, would that stop the slip?
    Thanks for the reviews,

    Kurt

    • Stick says:

      Yes, my feet are slipping around inside the booties. The bottoms are dyneema and actually do pretty well on the ground, even on snow.

      The ccf pad that came with them was a bit stickier than the pad I supplemented for this hike, so it was tougher to walk in. And funny that you mention the Silnet… I was actually thinking about trying some of that next… I have a trip in January that I will carry them again, so I will try that then.

      Hope this helps some!

      ~Stick~

  2. Steve says:

    Before you remove your grips on your poles maybe grind and try to shape them to your liking. I don’t think shoe companies make a light weight and minimalist shoe with a lot of protection on the uppers.

    • Stick says:

      Steve,

      No, I just don’t like the grips at all on them, so for me, removing them and putting the LT4 grips would be a much better solution.

      As for the shoes, I have got to hand it to my 315′s, they were tough, lightweight, and did a great job at protecting my feet. I feel like if the 243′s were built on the same last then they would be fine for me, however, with the closer fit, I don’t have as much room to absorb blows, instead I feel them right on my foot. I think I will be saving up for the TrailRoc 245′s to try next. They are similar in that they are pretty minimal, but they are built on the Natural last, so I should have more room inside them. I’ll see though…

      ~Stick~

  3. Rick Stroupe says:

    Hi Stick great video. I would be interested in those belt pockets possibly from zpacks. can you email me a price? I left the load adjusters off my arc blast when i got it back in the early fall thought it might have been a mistake but so far i don’t miss them at all. I live in Charlotte if you come up this way again would love to Hike with you guys, the AT is my favorite place to go. Again thanks for sharing your insights, gear, and your trips.

    Rick

    • Stick says:

      Rick,

      Hi, thanks for stopping by. As for the hip belt pockets, I am thinking about putting those on my old Blast pack and selling it all together, however, I already have someone interested in it. Surprisingly, I have had a number of folks inquire about these pockets…

      As for the load adjusters, I think it is safe to say that I could have left them off of mine and been just fine… But, they are there, and the additional weight is pretty minimal, so I won’t cut them off…

      As for trips, I don’t have any planned up that way for a while, but eventually I will… so maybe we will be able to meet on the trail sometime!

      Thanks for stopping by!

      ~Stick~

  4. Pat C says:

    I put strips of Silnet on the CCF sole and on the outside bottom of the Dyneema covers. This makes the overcovers a little better than they were. I guess M50 is pretty darn slippery stuff. Well, I read your thoughts, now it is time to check out the vids. Thanks Stick. You test, so we don’t have too :)

    • Stick says:

      Pat,

      I will be applying some Silnet to mine before my next hike… looking forward to seeing how it works out. And yeah, the M50 is pretty slippery, but it is super downproof, and I like that it’s not super breathable… makes my little toes warmer!

      ~Stick~

  5. Chad, I could just pick up some of the bathtub stickers that prevent people from slipping in the tub/shower- you might even be able to get little fishy shapes…. LOL… they should add no real weight our thickness to the overbooties and keep you from sliding around-

  6. C_nugget says:

    Just wanted to say I really enjoy your spreadsheets. Good food for thought for those of us who like to ponder/plan. Glad to hear you like your new backpack too. I’m a fan of load lifters but have always wondered if they would be more effective if they came up and over the top of the pack or at least originate further away from the top of the shoulder strap.. Sort of like a lid closing compressing/load lifter.

  7. Silky says:

    Stick – I read BPL frequently and, of course, since most of those posters are in the west, they discuss a lot about bear canisters. Since we have good cable systems on the AT, most of us don’t think in terms of bear canisters; however, last summer there was a southern section of the AT that was requiring canisters. Have you ever used one? Been with folks who use one? Considered using one? I wonder if, down the road, we AT hikers are going to have to get into the canister mode. Where do we start? With the pack models we have? I’d be interested in your thoughts …

    Silky

    • Stick says:

      Silky,

      I have never personally used one, but have been with others that have. However, because of this, it is kind of hard for me to really comment on them. I can say that according to the ZPacks website, my Arc Blast (especially being the 60L version) can handle a bear canister. And after stuffing it full on my last hike with it, which included the little cooler with a few bottles of beer inside it, I feel confident that I could get a bear canister inside it with all of my gear. As for my other packs…

      As for that section of AT that required a bear canister, it was a very short section, and can easily be bypassed if needed. IIRC, it is only about 10 miles between Woody Gap & Neels Gap. The shelter that required a bear canister was Woods Hole I believe, which was around the middle point between the two. Also, the bear canister is not required the whole year around, just when all of the thru hikers are going thru.

      I know that there are various sizes/brands to choose from too, so should have decent options. Also, being that the AT has so many resupply stops along the way, it would likely be easy to get by with one of the smaller ones. Now, for folks not thru hiking, and just wanting to spend a week or so in an area, they may need to go with a larger one…

      But, I don’t know what will happen, and will just take it as it comes I guess. I hope we don’t have to start using them more, but I think that will require more responsible users on the trail… I guess we’ll see though.

      ~Stick~

  8. Silky says:

    Stick – I have a ULA Ohm (early model) and the ULA Circuit. I think the Circuit would take a large canister, but not sure about the Ohm. I stayed at the Woods Hole shelter last June and saw only pigs — no bears. Woods Hole has a good cable system, so I wasn’t too concerned about bears except that someone had strung up a big sack of garbage on the cable system which I could smell from down below. I wanted to carry it out for the jerks that left it, but didn’t think I could stand the smell all the way over Blood Mtn to Neels.

    Silky

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