Post Hike Gear Talk: January 2015 – Hot Springs to Max Patch

Last weekend I met up with a few friends and continued my hike a few miles farther north along the Appalachian Trail. On day 1 we began our hike from the parking lot below Max Patch, and hiked ~7 miles to Walnut Mtn Shelter, in which we spent the coldest night I have ever spent on the trail, 6 F (inside the shelter, and minus wind chill). On the morning of day 2, we continued to follow the snow-covered trail for 9.9 miles, where we set up our tents near the blue-blazed trail leading to Deer Park Mtn Shelter. The highs for the day were maybe mid 30’s, however, that night, the temps only dropped to 22 F. On the last day, we continued dropping elevation for the last 3.2 miles of the hike, before being dumped right into the middle of Hot Springs, NC.

As per my norm, there were a few new items I carried with me on this hike, which I discuss in the video above, as well as a few older items which I continue to use, and seem to get better and better with use. Being that this hike was one of the coldest hikes I have been on in quite a while (despite getting out every January for the past 4 years now), most of the gear I discuss in this video is gear that helped keep me warm…

My overall TPW was about 20.5 lbs, which included all my food, water, fuel, and of course, my base pack gear. My BPW was around 13.84 lbs, which is pretty high for me, but with the cold weather forecast, and the fact that some of my gear was new, I would rather carry a little extra to make sure I stayed warm. And, as it turns out, everything I carried worked rather well, save my repackaging process for my Aqua Mira drops. My gear kept me warm enough to remain comfortable, even in temps as low as 6 F, and despite my heavy BPW, still light enough so that I hardly even knew it was strapped to my back!

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For those interested, HERE is a link to my gear list. As well, following is a brief summary of the gear I discuss in the video:

  • ZPacks Arc Blast (60L): This has been THE best pack I have ever used. It carries great and I find myself rarely ever needing to make adjustments while hiking. I put it on, and forget about it…
  • Using Trekking Poles: Over the last few hikes, I have been weaning myself off of using trekking poles, however, I think that it wasn’t a great idea, for me. I have experienced lots of neck pain after recent hikes in which I did not use poles, and after a brief experiment on this hike, I think it is due to me not using poles. My shoulder/neck area simply takes a beating and the stress from hiking all day, but doesn’t get to stretch out. Using trekking poles keeps this area of my body active, which erases the pain…
  • Aqua Mira Drops & Repackaging/Premix Bottles: I decided to leave my trusty Sawyer Mini at home due to the constant cold temps predicted for this hike. As it turns out, I had a bad experience trying to use the little premix bottle on this hike and have decided that for cold weather hikes, I will still repackage the drops, but I will just carry the little cap to premix the drops in rather than the tiny premixing bottle.
  • AcuRite Thermometer: With the super low temps forecasted for this hike, I wanted to know what they were. My watch will work, but it requires me to wake up and check. This suction cup thermometer was $6 at Wal-Mart, and after removing the suction cup and installing a mini-biner, it comes in at 1.4 oz. Plus, it stores and displays the min/max temperature for a 24 hour period! Definitely a great buy, and worth its weight to me!
  • Jetboil MiniMo: Overall, it is a great little set-up, however, compared to what I already have (Sol Ti), other than the 0.2L volume difference, it only offers me an additional 4 oz of weight. After replacing the threads and valve in my Sol Ti, it simmer’s as well as the MiniMo, not that I really ever really require simmering for much of my cooking on the trail anyways…
  • Good To Go Thai Curry Meal: One of the better curry meals I have tried on the trail, however, next time, I would go with a single serving as opposed to a double. Not that it was too much, it was just that I wasn’t that hungry…
  • Cesar’s Pad Thai: Hands down, my favorite trail meal. Easy to make, very tasty, and easy to clean up after, even when cooking in the pot! Only cost’s about a dollar per serving too…
  • ZPacks Solo Plus Hexamid Tarp & Hexanet: To date, has been my favorite shelter I have used. Light, stupid easy to set-up, adequately sized for me and all my gear, and so far has kept me dry.
  • Exped SynMat UL7: This was my first hike with it, so I didn’t know what to expect (hence the 2 other ccf foam pads I packed). I didn’t even try using this pad on its own, but instead it was sandwiched between the 2 ccf pads. I slept warm, and good though. I don’t see it replacing my XLite by any means, but it will remain in my gear closet.
  • Marmot Helium 15 F Sleeping Bag: I don’t get to use this bag enough, but when I do, it shines! Of course, supplemented with other down clothing, it has now kept me comfortably warm down to temps of 6 F, a full 10 degrees less than it’s EN Rating! This is a serious bag, and I love it.
  • Feet: For this hike I opted to use my SmartWool medium weight crew length socks and my Inov-8 RocLite 315 trail runners. The combo, along with the dry snow, managed to keep my feet warm for most of the hike. There were a few times my toes got cold, but that was to be expected in these temps… I pushed these pieces to the limit, and was happy with them.
  • Hands: I used a combination of my OR PL150 gloves, ZPacks fleece mittens and MLD eVENT over-mitts, and they worked fine. I will admit, I had cold fingers a bit more than cold toes, but I came back with all 10 of them, fully intact. I haven’t perfected this set-up yet, and plan to continue to work with this area. But I was sure happy to have them all on the trail!
  • Legs, hiking: Due to the cold weather forecasted, I opted to simply wear my Patagonia Capilene 2 long bottoms in place of my undies. Over this I wore my Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible pants. The long bottoms weren’t as comfy as my undies, and I am not sure that I would leave them out again, but overall, it worked well enough.
  • Legs/feet, sleeping: For sleeping, I simply slipped off the Columbia pants and slid my GooseFeet Gear down pants and socks on. I also had an extra pair of the SmartWool socks that I could change into, however, the first night I didn’t need to since my feet stayed dry and warm, and clean, while hiking.
  • Top, base layer: My go to base layer in cold weather has always been my Patagonia Capilene 2 long sleeve crew shirt. It works great, and after 5+ years, is still holding up, although, it is showing some wear… It will be replaced with the same when the time comes.
  • Top, mid layer: This is the third winter that I have been using my Patagonia Capilene 4 Extreme Weight 1/4 Zip Hoody, and I love it. I almost went with my R1 and a grid fleece knock off balaclava in place of the Cap 4 hoody on this hike due to the expected temps, but last minute I decided to stick with the Cap 4 hoody. No knock against the R1, but I have been very happy with the versatility of the Cap 4 hoody every time I have used it. Definitely remains a go-to piece!
  • The North Face Verto: I choose the Verto over my Patagonia Houdini (despite my love for Patagonia pieces) because it is not as breathable as the Houdini (so it would keep me warmer) and it is lighter by 1.5 oz. I am happy to have it, and as some of my other pieces, I enjoy it more and more with each use.
  • Montbell Ex Light Down Anorak: I have only used this piece of a few hikes now, but it is awesome! The weight of the Ex Light, yet with a hood and no front zip, and a kangaroo pocket! I actually hiked in this jacket for a while on this hike, which is the first time I have ever felt the need to hike in my down pieces. I wore the Verto beneath it to help keep moisture from getting into it should I start sweating, but I never did in these temps (and the hike was a pretty easy section). Plus, it doesn’t leak down near as bad as the UL Down Inner pieces I had… The only down fall is the lack of adjustments around the hood, however, with my Black Rock Gear down boggin, the hood from my cap 4 hoody and the Verto wind jacket, the hood on the Ex Light Anorak was a little more fitted, and not an issue.

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So, this is a brief run-down on several pieces of my kit that I used for this hike. Overall, I am really pleased with how it all worked out. The only problem I had was with the premix bottle for the Aqua Mira, however, I simply used the MP1 tabs I always carry as back up. As for my sleeping set-up, I feel fully confident that I can take the same items I used on this hike (although, I would likely swap the SynMat pad for my XLite and only carry the extra 1/8″ pad) that I could go to 0 F and still be comfortable. Past this point though, and I may start to get some cool spots…

And of course, there is other gear that probably deserves a mention too… I still absolutely love my ZebraLight. I actually had to change the battery in the dark and it went off without a hitch (and it was the same battery that has been for several months). My long handle REI Ti-Ware spoon is still rockin’. My Suunto Core battery finally hit low again (and I really need to do a follow-up on it anyway…) My Lawson Kline Shepherd Hook Ti stakes continued to shine, whereas I ended up loosing an MSR Mini Groundhog to the frozen ground. My GooseFeet Gear down pillowcase and Exped UL Pillow still kept my head comfy while sleeping, although, it squirts off of the Exped SynMat UL7 something fierce! And so on…

Anyway, the hike was exciting… I got to tick off another section of trail, and got some great experience with some of both, my old, and new gear. Not to mention, great time in God’s great outdoors, with some good company… and of course, a great breakfast at the Smoky Mountain Diner on the way out!

Thanks for stopping by!

~Stick~

Disclaimer: I am not receiving any sort of compensation from any of the companies listed above to write these things. These are my personal thoughts after using the above gear on yet another hike.

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 Arc Blast, Backpacking, Backpacks, Base Layers, Clothes, Cook Kits, Foot Wear, Gear, Gear List, Gear Reviews, Gear Talk, Hats/Beanies, Headlamps, Hexamid, Hexanet, Jackets, Lights, NeoAir, Pillows, Rain Mitts, Sleeping Bags, Sleeping Pads, Socks, Stoves, Tarp, The Trail, Thermarest, Thoughts, Trail Runners, Trekking Poles, Water Stuff, Wind Shirt, XLite, ZPacks and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Post Hike Gear Talk: January 2015 – Hot Springs to Max Patch

  1. Olof says:

    Hey.
    Thanks for keeping up the great work with sharing your thoughts and experiences!

    About shoulder pain, backpacks and trekking poles:
    A few years ago (before the current myog backpack) i used a Mammut Trea guide 40+ pack for just about everything. Loved the thing, really versatile and well built. But for hiking just more than an hour ore with heavier loads, it left my back really tens and hurting. With all fairness it is an alpine pack and not made for plain hiking. I do not use trekking poles.

    However, when cross country skiing and ice skating (is there a proper word for that? nordic ice skating, long distance ice skating?) i felt NO pain what so ever. I also figured that it was from moving and working more with my upper body. Interesting that this is the first time i have come across anyone else reflecting over it!

    thanks again!

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Olof,

      Yeah, since mentioning it, there has been at least one or 2 others that have also chimed in with similar issues. As well, John Abela was telling me about another hiker he knows that has mentioned the same issues. I am not sure why it is this way, but I am pretty sure that not using poles has been the reason for my neck pain… which is a bummer since I was really enjoying not having to deal with poles…

      ~Stick~

      Like

  2. Rodger says:

    Hey Stick

    Love the blog, thanks for all the work on it. I’m sure it just kills you to always have to upgrade all that gear to report to us on it – wink wink. Thanks to you and Cesar for the Pad Thai, Ive come to love that vegetable seasoning packet now for all kinds of recipes. One little note on your gear list: a fl oz of water doesnt weigh exactly a dry oz. So 40 fl oz weighs more like 42 dry oz. Its actually 1.043 dry oz per fl oz for water. One is volume the other is a weight so many liquids are different. One reason lots of guys like using de-natured alcohol is it weighs less than an oz per fl oz. – close to .8 of an oz!

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Rodger,

      I knew that alcohol was less by weight than by volume, however, for the life of me, I never stopped to think the same about water! I don’t know why, but it never dawned on me to think of water that way… Wow. Thanks for the heads up, I appreciate it!

      And good to hear that you have enjoyed both mine, and Cesars, info! Thanks for your support, and your kind words!

      ~Stick~

      Like

  3. polaroidblog says:

    Hey Stick, really enjoyed this post and thanks for sharing your gear and experience with it.

    I thought I’d chime in on the Acu-rite thermometer. I have the same one as you, and just a couple days ago I decided to pry apart the bulky clear plastic housing, leaving just the white thermometer unit. I ordered a few 3″x2″ 6mil thick zip-top bags (on ebay $1.89 for 12) so I could use that as a new “waterproof case.” Then I just double-wrapped a rubber band around the unit vertically so it keeps the battery door nice and tight to the unit (still easy to pop out and reset the 24h min/max).

    Before (w/o the suction cup) it weighed 34g, now in the bag it weighs 18. I plan on putting in a small hole above the zip portion of the bag for hanging it. Gotta shave grams where you can!

    Here’s a photo: http://tinypic.com/r/11lhs13/8

    Keep up the good work!

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Nice! I was wondering about taking that clear case off… I may have to tinker with that… It is pretty convenient though to just put the mini biner through it, but still, weight is weight! Thanks for the tip, and the photo!

      ~Stick~

      Like

  4. milligan308 says:

    Really like your post gear reviews, good job on the YT videos btw. Also thanks for sharing your gear list, I am always looking for ideas to simplify my gear list. What kind of jumped out at me was why you decided to use the inner on your shelter? For the mitt situation have you considered the BRG fold-back for camera use etc? Thanks again!

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Thanks Donny! Glad that you enjoyed it, and I am the same way about looking over others gear lists…

      As for your questions, I took the inner for a little extra warmth, and to help keep all my stuff together. I know I didn’t need it in these temps because the bugs aren’t an issue, but I enjoy having it, and even though it’s an extra 9 oz, I am happy carrying it. Then again, with my pack weight as low as it is, it isn’t like it’s that much extra anyway…

      As for the mitts, yes, I did look at those, but they sold out while I was debating them, which is fine by me. I am kind of wanting synthetic for mitts anyway… However, I do like the fold back design, and messaged Tim about it, but he is too busy to do them. He has actually taken the mitts down from his site at the moment and is tweaking them somehow… I don’t think the fold back feature is one of those things, but I can hope… 🙂

      Thanks again for stopping by!

      ~Stick~

      Liked by 1 person

    • milligan308 says:

      That’s the beauty of going UL 9oz extra isn’t tough to handle and if it allows a piece of mind and better sleep, totally worth it. I forgot to ask, you said you used “Hot hands” were they worth it / do the job adequately?

      Like

    • Stick says:

      Considering I wasn’t sure exactly what kind of temps I was going to be in before heading out, as well as how warm the Exped pad would keep me, yes, I think it was worth it to carry them. I ended up opening one as I was settling into bed the first night (which was the coldest) just to have it already open should I needed it. I had another laying outside my sleeping bag for quick finding in case I needed more heat! Turns out, it was one that was sticky on one side, so I simply stuck it to my cap 2 shirt in the middle of my chest. I can’t say I felt noticeably warmer, but I am sure that it helped, even a little.

      Then, about 2 am I had to get up to pee… when taking off my overbootie before climbing back into my sleeping bag, I accidentally left my down sock inside one of them, but didn’t notice. A little later though I did notice my right foot was a little cooler than my other… rather than investigate it, I reached for the second hot hands and stuck it to the sleeping bag at the foot end. It helped if my foot was touching it, but otherwise, I noticed no difference.

      The second night, I went ahead and opened another and again, stuck it to my chest, however, it didn’t stay there long. I ended up taking it off, along with my BRG down hat and my down socks, and still left my bag only half way zipped up until about 2 am again, when I finished zipping it up. I did not put the hot hands back in my bag though, nor did I use the BRG down hat or my down socks. I slept so well that night…

      Anyway, in retrospect, I do not regret carrying them. It was a safety call that I made before leaving out, and I am fine with that. Besides, it was only an extra 5.5 oz. (Add that with the Hexanet though, and it’s almost an extra lb!) Knowing what I now know, I feel sure that I would have been fine without them though. I will say though, I wasn’t too fond of them being sticky… I was afraid that it would leave residue behind on my clothes or sleeping bag, but I can’t tell if it did… Next time I carry them though, I will make sure they are not the sticky kind…

      Hope this helps!

      ~Stick~

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Martin Rye says:

    Good summary of the kit you used and cold conditions use feedback. I am going to try your Pad Thai receipt. Thanks for sharing that.

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Thanks Martin, and as for the Pad Thai, I actually got that from Cesar over on Cesar and The Woods blog. I have really enjoyed it… Let us know what you think after you try it.

      ~Stick~

      Like

  6. I have trouble getting a taunt pitch on my Hexamid, but it really saved my bacon in the High Uintas once…really high winds, heavy rain.

    Like

    • Stick says:

      That is interesting that you have trouble getting a good pitch on your Hexamid. I have had no trouble at all with either the tent version, or with the tarp version. Saying that, I will say that if the area isn’t at least close to flat, that then it can sometimes make it a little bit of a challenge to get the all wrinkle free.

      Anyway, it sounds like it’s working out well enough to keep you dry though, so that is good!

      Thanks for stopping by!

      ~Stick~

      Like

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