Post Hike Gear Talk (Newfound Gap to Max Patch)

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I recently headed out for a (much-needed) 4 day section hike along the Appalachian Trail. I covered 50 miles, starting at Newfound Gap in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, and finished on the beautiful bald called Max Patch. This hike was a bit different for me in that I actually added a few “luxury” items to my pack to increase my overall weight. I know, that’s weird, but I did so intentionally due to the GORUCK Challenge that I am preparing for in December.

Now, this doesn’t mean that I threw a bunch of unnecessary junk in my pack that was totally uncalled for, but instead, I opted for some of my heavier options when packing. For example: being that this was somewhat of a solo trip, I decided to download some movies to my iPhone 6 so I would have something to occupy myself at night should I need it, so I carried my New Trent Powerpak Xtreme 12,000 mAh battery pack to keep my phone juiced up. As well, instead of carrying my usual ZPacks Blast food bag to use as a bear bag, I opted to carry a BV450 (which I picked up at a great price from a friend just a few weeks ago), which weighs about 16x heavier! However, both of these items still had legitimate uses…

So, for a full gear list of what I carried, you can click HERE. But, to run a few numbers by you, my BPW was 15.4 lbs, and my consumables weight was 8.32 lbs. This means that my TPW was 23.72 lbs… And yeah, this is a lot for me! This was actually just a little heavier than what I carried for 7 days in the Olympics last year (with no resupply), and about 6 lbs heavier than what I would typically carry for the same conditions, and time out, had I went with my lighter options.

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I will admit, I won’t be carrying much of this, extra, added weight, very often, but it was kind of fun to take it out this time. Obviously, there were a few completely new items that I carried with me on this hike, but also a few older items that hasn’t seen much use on the trail. So, I wanted to share my extended thoughts on a few of these items that I carried…

  • ZPacks 60L Arc Blast Backpack: I bought this pack almost a year ago, and have used it on a few hikes. Each time, it seems to have only gotten better, and better, and better. Saying that, on this hike, I did notice a bit of soreness at my hips on the second morning of my hike, however, I attribute this to the fact that after loosing weight, the pack actually rides on my hips, as it should, as opposed to squeezing around my hips. After each hike though, I really do love this pack, more and more. It really is becoming a go-to pack, in all but the warmest of weather, and that is due to the size… 60L is a lot of room… maybe a reason to get a slim though…  🙂
  • ZPacks Hexamid Solo Plus Tarp & Hexanet: The same as my pack, I have used this a number of times, however, I didn’t get to use it on this hike… at least not all of it. I ended up suspending the Hexanet from the rafters in one of the shelters to help keep some of the creepy crawlies out of my sleeping gear. But, this is why I have enjoyed it so much… being 2 separate pieces, it screams versatility! And for this reason, it will remain a vital piece of my kit…
  • Thermarest NeoAir XLite: It’s not my original NeoAir, but the comfort of the horizontal baffles is what keeps me coming back. Due to the tapered cut of this pad, I went with the large, but it turns out that the extra width really is nice. As well, the 3.1 R-Value, and 15.5 oz weight is unbeatable. There are a lot of reasons to love this pad, and I sure enough do…
  • GooseFeet Gear Down Pillowcase w/ Large Exped UL Air Pillow: Another oldie, and definitely goody, especially when paired with my XLite! The Exped Air pillow is the lightest air pillow in its size range, and provides me with adequate lift/support as a side sleeper. Then, the soft 10D material of the GooseFeet Gear pillow case, has a smooth, very comfortable feel next to skin. As well, the oz of down stuffed into the top of the pillowcase covers up the hardness that comes from air pillows. I have also strung a piece of shock cord around the bottom of the pillow that wraps around the XLite, which holds the pillow in place, no matter how much I move around. At 3.6 oz, it is very respectable in terms of weight, and IMHO, offers more than any other pillow combo in this same weight range… Also, I should admit, a pillow is very important to me… and no, a stuff sack with “extra” stuff inside it just doesn’t work…
  • Montbell Down Hugger #3 (2014 version): This was one of my new items, and the one I looked forward to the most. I have wanted to try a Montbell stretch bag for a number of years, and this year my wife bought me one! However, I had to wait until it was cool enough to actually be able to use it… This trip supplied a few cool nights to break it in. The coldest it got was around 43 F the last night. The other nights was high 40’s, and then low 50’s. Each night I slept with a thin pair of liner socks, my Patagonia Capilene 2 long bottoms, and either my Patagonia Capilene 2 top, or my Patagonia Capilene 4 1/4 Zip Hoody (but never both). Each night I never needed to zip the zipper on the bag all the way up, although, around 5 am on the coolest morning, I did zip it all the way up until I crawled out and started to pack up. I never cinched the hood tight, not did I wear a hat. (Not even my beloved down socks…) Based on this, I fully expect this bag to keep me comfy to mid 30’s with the same amount of clothing, however, I could easily supplement my down pants, socks, jacket, and hood and I am pretty confident it will keep me warm to mid 20’s at least… maybe less. As for the “stretch” I am not too thrilled with that aspect. IMO, it seems to be more of a selling point rather than a real point. I expected this bag to actually hug me a bit more when relaxed, but that isn’t the case. As well, while it will stretch, a little, it just isn’t enough to really do anything worthwhile, at least IMO. But, it is a comfortable bag, the quality is outstanding, and it seems to be a pretty accurately rated bag (for me). For these reasons, I am excited to continue using it for a while longer!
  • Jetboil Sol Ti: This is another oldie for me… This cook kit was actually supplied to me when they were first released by Backpackgeartest.org for a review. After the review period, it sat in my gear closet waaaay more than it was used. However, in the last year or so, I have brought it out a couple more times. When it comes to canister stoves, IMO, the Jetboil Sol’s are one of the best canister kits. It is fast, very fuel-efficient, and somewhat lightweight. However, I recently had to send my stove back to them as the aluminum threads were worn out (they only used aluminum threads in the Sol Ti’s for a short while, and eventually went to brass threads due to the fact that all aluminum threads will wear out a lot faster than brass). Jetboil CS was good to get my stove back out to me within a months time, and also replaced the valve. The brass threads work perfectly, however, I am not sure if I am happier with the new valve. There is a ton more flame control with the new valve, but actual cooking is not really why I like this cook kit. In the past, a half turn would almost set the stove to full blast, whereas now, it takes 2.5 turns. This means turning it off takes a bit more time, and with the way this thing boils, when it does boil, I want to be able to turn it off as fast as possible so it does not boil over. Before, a quick half-turn did just that… now, not so much. However, it still seems to be just as fuel-efficient (~3 – 4 g of fuel per 2 cup boil), although, it also seems to take about 30 seconds longer on average per boil now. Either way, I am quite happy with this stove, and hope to have it for a long time yet…
  • ZPacks CloudKilt: This was one of the first pieces of cuben fiber kit that I ever bought! And I am happy that I did. I have used it for a number of different uses, and for this reason, I love it. It works great as a kilt to wear when raining to keep my upper legs dry, but it also works great as a ground cloth, a porch, a sit cloth, and even as a beak on the end of a tarp. All it is, is a rectangular piece of cuben with some velcro, some loops at the corners, and a drawstring in the top hem, but it is awesome!
  • GoLite Chrome Dome: I have been using this for a while now too, and the more I need to use it, the more I like it. On this hike, I used it the entire 3rd day of hiking. The rain was coming in waves… so not having to pull my rain jacket on and off, constantly was great. I ended up stashing my trekking poles in the side pocket on my pack all day long, so both of my hands were free. It was easy enough to keep the umbrella opened, leaned against my shoulder. It covered my head, and my pack. Another cool thing about it is that it would kind of catch breezes, and circulate them around my head a little more. It made hiking a bit cooler than without it, which was nice too. Anyway, if there is any chance of precipitation on a hike, it will undoubtedly be in my pack before heading out!
  • Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles (Mod’ed): These are still holding up pretty good, although, over the last few hikes, I have been experimenting with not using my trekking poles while not hiking, and quite honestly, I have been enjoying not using them. The grips are still holding in place with no slipping, nor are the poles poking through the top of the grips. But, I did find that I had to tighten the lock on the lower section of one of the poles 3 different times on this one hike. I am not sure why, but, I am curious to see how it does in the future… Considering this though, I am thinking that for my next hike, I will only carry one, and start with it strapped in the side pocket on my pack. This will allow me to have a pole for my ZPacks Hexamid Tarp, as well as a pole should I need one while hiking.
  • Bear Vault BV450: I had been thinking about picking up a bear canister for a while… somewhat to just check it out, but also, to have should I ever need one. Of course the Bearikades are the lightest option, but wow! The price is out the roof on those things… As it turned out though, one of the guys that I hiked with in the Olympics put his BV450 up for sale, for only $30, shipped. So, I jumped on it. This thing weighs 33 oz, which is pretty heavy for a “food bag” however, it does have some nice benefits. Also, for this particular hike, since I was adding (reasonable) weight to my pack, this was a great opportunity to actually use it. It fit in my 60L Arc Blast very easily (in fact, the pack swallowed it, and then asked for more!). Opening and closing it is easy enough (for me, hopefully not the bears), and I was able to fit about 90% of my food for 4 days inside it. I gotta admit, it was nice not having to worry about hanging a food bag, real nice, but, due to the weight, it still won’t make it out on a majority of my hikes… I am happy to have it though and think it is a nice compromise between weight and cost.
  • Thermarest NeoAir Mini Pump: I have been wanting one of these for quite a while, and finally got around to picking one up. To be honest, the $40 suggested price is a bit hard to swallow, for what it is… but luckily, I picked it up off of Amazon for only $30. Not much of a savings, but still, some. It weighs 2.3 oz with 2 Lithium AAA batteries, and is small enough to fit pretty much anywhere. I have used the same batteries to fill my large XLite about 10 times so far, and it seems to still be going just as strong as when I first put the batteries in. This is a bit of a “luxury” item, however, it is nice to have, and can actually be used for a few different things (such as blowing up an air pad, help getting a fire going, and even as a fan for those times it is hot). Also, it is a nice thought to think that by using the mini pump, I am introducing the least amount of moisture into the pad as possible, which makes me think that in the winter, this may also help somewhat with the R-Value as there won’t be as much moisture inside the pad that *could* freeze. For the weight though, I think that I will continue to carry the Mini Pump with me on any hike that I use my XLite, which is only in cooler weather.
  • ZebraLight H51: I can’t say enough good things about this light. For me, it just works. Since picking up this light a couple of years ago, I haven’t had any desire to even try another light… That is saying something, a lot actually, considering how much gear I rotate through, looking for that one… With my DIY headband, and a single AA Lithium battery, the light weighs only 1.99 oz. It has 6 different light settings, that are for me, easy to click-through. Also, IME, batteries have lasted quite a long time, and even if it does need replacing, being that it is a screw cap end, and only 1 AA battery, swapping it out in the dark is much easier than with other headlamps I have used in the past. This light will remain in my pack until I have to swap it out… and when that time comes, it will very likely be with another one (although, the current ZL is a newer “model.”)
  • iPhone 6: I have been a (happy) android user since my Blackberry about 6 years ago. However, after personally witnessing so many others using iPhones on the trail to take pictures, among other things, I decided it was time to give the iPhone a try. So far, it has been a bit of a change getting used to using the iPhone vs the Galaxies, but so far it is not too bad. I figure after another couple of weeks, it will be a much smoother experience for me. As for the phone itself, the battery life seems to be pretty good, and I have been pretty happy with the camera when on the trail. To be honest, I have kind of thought about leaving my actual camera behind, and carrying my phone and the battery pack… Time will tell though…
  • New Trent Powerpak XTreme 12,000 mAh Battery Pack: New Trent sent this battery pack to me about 2 years ago for a review. Due to the weight (11 oz), I knew right off the bat, this wouldn’t be in my pack very often, if at all. However, I really enjoyed having it on this hike. With 12,000 mAh of energy storage, I had no concerns about using my iPhone as much as I wanted, because I knew I could easily replace that juice. I ended up charging my phone 2 times while on the trail, both times my phone was around 50%. Also, Craig plugged his phone up to it for a bout 25 or 30 minutes one morning. After these 3 charges, the lights on the charger still indicated that I have greater than 75% of the power in the battery… So, I could easily keep my phone charged with this thing for a couple of weeks… However, I wouldn’t mind having one that isn’t quite so overbuilt. This thing could take a huge beating, and still keep going, which is nice, but, I am just not that rough with my gear, so I would rather trade some of that durability for a lighter weight if possible. I do like the large storage capacity of it though… Anyway, this potentially will be in my pack in the future…
  • Packit Gourmet Texas State Fair Chili: Food is a tough subject, and is in fact, one of the most subjective topics when it comes to “backpacking.” It all depends on what we each like, or enjoy eating. Saying that, in the past, most of my experiences with Packit Gourmet meals weren’t that great. However, I was already ordering the Burger Wrap meal from them, so to keep from having to pay for s&h from multiple places, I decided to give the Chili a try. And as it turns out, I am glad I did. I ordered the Chili with all the fixings, which was cheese, crushed Frito’s and some Texas Pete. I considered cooking it in my Jetboil, but to keep from cleaning up, I decided to cook it in the supplied bag. It was quite easy, empty the chili mix into the larger bag (and removing the gel pack), then boil 374 ml of water, and add it to the bag. Let it sit for about 10 or 15 minutes, then add the fixings, and eat. This meal will be added to the cart should I order more Packit Gourmet, however, I would like to try to find some powdered Sour Cream to add to the mix too. Maybe a little cayenne pepper too rather than the Texas Pete. Overall though, it was easy to make, it tasted good, the ingredients all completely rehydrated, and clean up was easy enough. Not the best chili ever, but good enough to eat again for sure. (For me anyway.) Also, the serving size was plenty for me.
  • Packit Gourmet All American Burger Wrap: I have eaten this twice in the past, and have enjoyed it both times. It is easy to make, and what’s best, only requires 2 tbsp of water! (Although, I think I may have used a tbsp more, just to make sure the ground meat was completely rehydrated, which in the past it all wasn’t.) I purchased this with plans to eat it on top of Max Patch (which, we ended up not staying on top of Max Patch anyway), so I wanted something that required as little water as possible, and was easy to clean up after. This is just the meal for that. This time though, I found that the ground meat seemed a bit saltier than before, and again, it seems like some of the ground meat chunks didn’t fully rehydrate again. Despite this, I still enjoyed it, and would order it again. I use 2 of the “burrito” soft tortilla shells, and this was enough to fill both shells, as well as my belly.
  • Cesar’s Pad Thai: I originally found this recipe on Cesar and the Wood’s blog, and immediately knew that I wanted to try it. I picked up the ingredients and tried it at home, and found that I really enjoyed it. Since then, I have eaten it on the trail once or twice before, and knew that I wanted to carry it on this hike too. Due to the fact that the ingredients are relatively easy for me to find, inexpensive, easy to prepare, even easy to clean up when cooking in the pot, and I really like the way it tastes, this is a go-to meal for me. I wish I could find more meals like this so I wouldn’t have to buy anymore of the pre-made meals…
  • Jiva Cubes Coffee Cubes: There are many ways to make coffee on the trail, and I have tried a few of them. Not really a coffee connoisseur, but I know what I like, and what I don’t. A couple of months ago, there was a Kickstarter project going for these, which I happily backed. These looked very appealing for backpackers. There are a number of different flavors, are individually packaged, and only weigh ~ 4 g per cube. Also, many are kind of pre-sweetened, so, depending on your taste buds, these may not require any extra sugar or creamer. So, about 2 weeks before my trip, I messaged the creators and asked when these would be ready to ship. Unfortunately, they were still waiting on a couple of the new flavors to come in before shipping out the rewards, but they were happy enough to send me a sampler pack (7 different flavors & 4 of each cubes) before my trip so that I could carry them on the hike. I have now tried the Caramel Hot Cocoa and the regular Hot Cocoa, which I enjoyed, although, as with most other hot cocoa’s, they do taste better if I use milk as opposed to water to prepare them. As for the coffee cubes, I have tried the Caramel, Hazelnut, and French Vanilla, and have really enjoyed them all. Particularly the Caramel… it’s a little sweet and kinda heavy tasting… just right for me. Also, I didn’t find that I needed to add any extra sugar or creamer to them. Preparing them are quite easy too: just boil about 4 – 6 oz of water, then add a cube to the water and let sit for about 30 seconds, then stir until the cube is fully dissolved. I am looking forward to getting the rest of the flavors, and these will likely be in my food bags for a long while.
  • GreenBelly Bars: Chris from Greenbelly bars sent me these about a month and a half before the hike. I really wanted to try them before the hike, but waited. I carried them with the intention of eating them as my lunches. They are packed with a whopping 640 calories per package (which is actually 2 bars), and are made from “all natural ingredients.” Now, let me begin by saying that there are very few bars that I actually enjoy eating, especially while on the trail. Something about me and bars don’t really jive to well on the trail. But, I had hopes. The idea of this kind of bar is exactly what I would like to have when on the trail… easy to eat, good, natural ingredients, and filling. However, I found that for me, I didn’t enjoy the one that I tried (which was peanut apricot). The taste was actually ok, and I much preferred the texture of these bars to both the Clif bars, and even the Probars, but I found that I had to force myself to eat these, and in doing so, made me enjoy them even less. So, after the first one, I didn’t eat the other 2 packages, and ended up carrying them home. Once I got home, I tried the dark chocolate banana, and found it to taste better than the peanut apricot, but I think I still would have struggled to eat them both on the trail. Some pb would have likely made them better though… However, I am almost to the point of giving up on larger bars like this and going with some other sort of lunch. So, despite all of this, I would still recommend the Greenbelly bars over both (any) Clif bar, and the Probars.

So, that’s about it… Overall, I was very happy with the way my entire kit worked, both when on the trail, as well as when at camp. As I said though, some of these items won’t be routine in my pack, but it is nice to have them as options for the future.

Thanks for stopping by!

~Stick~

Disclaimer: The Jetboil Sol Ti was provided to me by Backpackgeartest some years ago for the purpose of a review. The New Trent battery pack was supplied to me some years ago by New Trent for the purpose of a review. The Greenbelly Bars were supplied to me by Greenbelly prior to the hike, for the purpose of general feedback, and if I so desired, a review. The Jiva Cubes were sent to me to have in time of this hike, however, I have backed their recent Kickstarter project, so I had some of those coming to me anyway. All the remaining items I have purchased myself, with my own, hard-earned money. The few items that were sent to me for the purpose of a review, save the Greenbelly bars, have already been fulfilled. I am not being compensated in any way, for any reviews on any of these items. The statements in the above text, and video, are of my own opinion, which I personally formed, after using the items myself.

About Stick

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, Bear Bag System, Bear Canister, Camera Gear, Coffee, Cook Kits, Food, Gear, Gear List, Gear Reviews, Headlamps, Pillows, Rain Gear, Sleeping Bags, Sleeping Pads, Tent, Trekking Poles, Umbrella, XLite, ZPacks and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Post Hike Gear Talk (Newfound Gap to Max Patch)

  1. Pingback: Greenbelly Meal Bars | HikeLighter.Com

  2. Tollermom says:

    I’m really liking your Hikertrash cup/pot!

    Like

  3. Chris Chapman says:

    Did you leave your vehicle at the Newfound Gap parking area? I’m thinking of doing a 30 miler starting there and going north over Veterans Day weekend. I still need to get a permit, of course.

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    • Stick says:

      Chris,

      I sure did, and it turned out all good. Of course, I can’t say that this is the norm though. Of course there is a lot of traffic through this area, day and night (I slept there the first night in my car…)

      Anyway, good luck with the parking, and enjoy your hike. It is a fun section!

      ~Stick~

      Like

  4. Steve says:

    What was the name of the other tent you were thinking about for the future

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    • Stick says:

      Steve,

      I am not sure which tent you are referring too, however, one that is on the top of my list to get is a MLD Duomid with a solo inner net tent. Not saying that I will be getting it any time soon, and honestly, not sure if I ever would… but I would like to. It is similar to my current ZPacks Hexamid Tarp and Hexanet set-up, but it has a little bit larger interior space, and the tarp coverage goes all the way to the ground. For the moment though, I am more than happy enough with my current set-up.

      Hope this helps.

      ~Stick~

      Like

  5. #TeamUmbrella I bring mine on every trip now. Rain or shine. Infact it even gets carried while going to town for supplies; since I dont drive. Glad you see your ditching the trekking poles as well.

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    • Stick says:

      Jake,

      I agree, the umbrella is a really great piece of kit, especially when it is called for! 🙂

      And yeah, the no trekking pole is kinda nice too… I figured you would appreciate that… However, I am not going to completely chunk them at the time…

      ~Stick~

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