Post Hike Gear Talk: March 2015 – Carver’s Gap to Kincora Hostel (Dennis Cove Rd)

P1050686I recently met up with a few friends to hike a 40 mile section of the AT (for those that don’t know, that’s the “Appalachian Trail”) from Carver’s Gap to Dennis Cove Rd (or more accurately, to Kincora Hostel on Dennis Cove Rd). We hiked in rain, snow, sleet, and sunshiny heat. On ice, in mud, wet leaves, and some almost dry ground. We stayed in shelters 2 nights, and set up our own shelter on 1 night (and technically, 1 other night inside the Overmountain Shelter). The temps ranged from 32 F to mid 50’s, and for 2 solid days I hiked in my rain gear. On another day, I shed most of my clothing, rolled up the sleeves on my base layer shirt, and opened the “vents” on my convertible pants, because it was kinda warm…

Overall, this hike exposed us to a lot of different situations, so all of my gear got used, one way or another. So, as normal, I wanted to do another “post hike gear talk” installment. I won’t talk about all of the gear I carried (although, I do kinda hit on most of it in the video), but some stood out and I wanted to talk a little (or a lot…) about them in particular. For a complete gear list, you can check out my spreadsheet I created for this hike on Google Docs by clicking HERE.

Note that in the video (below), I am quoting a TPW of 23 lbs, whereas the spreadsheet lists a weight closer to 21.5 lbs. The bathroom scale was about 23 lbs, so for the sake of the argument, I am going with 23 lbs total.

So, on with the video (followed by a brief summary below):

  • ZPacks Arc Blast Backpack – This has been my go-to pack for all cold weather hikes since it showed up in the mail. On this particular hike I carried approximately 23 lbs in it (which included a BV450 Bear Canister), and have carried even more weight than this on previous hikes, and it has carried like a dream each and every time. For me, this pack has been nothing but blissful at weights of 25 lbs or less, and I whole-heartedly recommend it for the same. In fact, I am planning a hike next summer which will likely exceed 25 lbs and am planning to use this same pack for that hike. It’s by far the best pack I have ever owned!
  • Exped Schnozzel Bag – If I am carrying the SynMat UL7 pad, then this bag comes along. The Exped pad is filled with synthetic fibers, and they don’t do well when exposed to moisture, so this bag is the answer. Sure, there is still moisture in the air, but there is a lot less moisture in the air than there is in my breath! And of course, this bag pulls double duty by acting as my pack liner for my down items during the day.
  • ZPacks Cuben Pack Cover (1st Gen) – This is one of the first cuben items I ever purchased, and it is finally showing its age… Between being cram-packed into the tiny stuff sack when not in use, and then being snagged by passing briars when on the pack, or supporting the weight of the pack when set down, it is finally starting to show a few tiny holes. So, after returning from this hike, I took a few minutes to hold the pack cover up to the light and apply cuben tape to areas that looked worn, or were indeed rubbed through. The newer models are made from heavier, 0.74 oz/sqyd cuben, however, mine isn’t quite yet ready to throw in the towel. There is still some use left in it, but once it is done, it will be replaced with another…
  • ZPacks Hexamid Solo Plus Tarp & Hexanet – I used the Hexanet only inside the Overmountain Shelter, and then the entire set-up the last night at Moreland Gap Shelter. Nothing but love for this set-up…
  • Exped SynMat UL7 – Several months ago, I found my older SynMat 7 pad to actually feel comfy, so I broke down and added the UL7 pad to my wish list, and my wife obliged by getting the pad for me for Christmas. Since then, I have used it on 2 hikes, and a total of 5 nights on the trail (amongst countless other hours at home). The pad is definitely more comfortable than I remembered them being in the past, however, IME, it falls short in every other aspect when compared to my NeoAir XLite (and even my older Original model). The thing that really drew me to it was its shape… I love a rectangular pad (and have cursed TAR since going back to mummy shape NeoAir’s… at least they seem to slowly be making a come back). Other than this though, it’s smaller than my XLite (72 x 20 vs 77 x 25), heavier than my XLite (16 oz vs 15.5 oz) and less warm (3.1 vs 3.2 R-Value). Now, I take listed “R-Values” with a grain of salt as my Original NeoAir kept me warm to temps around 20 F and had a listed R-Value of 2.5, and the XLite has proven to be the same, if not a little better, at a listed R-Value of 3.2. So, with a listed R-Value of 3.1, I assumed the SynMat UL7 would be about the same, but I was wrong… On this hike, I found I was a bit cool from underneath at temps around mid 30’s…and that’s with a 1/8 ccf pad underneath it! So, overall, the Exped pad is way lesser of a pad than my XLite, however, the rectangular shape is more comfy for me than the mummy cut (otherwise, both pads are equally comfy). Another thing I found is that my arms tend to slide off the Exped pad more than they do on my NeoAir’s… Due to the higher, rounded baffles on the edges, it actually makes my arms slide off way easier than it did on my older, 20″ NeoAir… In the end, this pad will still see some use, but after this spring, it will likely see very little use…
  • Montbell Down Hugger 800 #3 – I have used this bag about 10 nights in the field now, and I find it to be pretty accurately rated. Saying that, on this hike, I found I was a little cool in temps around lower 30’s, however, to be fair, it was underneath me that seemed cooler (see my thoughts on the pad above). With a warm enough pad, I still believe that this bag is actually a 30 F bag for me. However, the more I use it, the more I have to laugh about the “stretch” feature on this bag… it’s a total hoax… these is no stretch that I can tell. According to the specs, it has a relaxed shoulder girth of 59″, which should be hugging me pretty close when lying inside the bag, zipped up. That is not the case, instead it drapes loosely over me… Also, it should have as much as 13″ more shoulder girth when stretched out than my Marmot Helium sleeping bag, and that’s a big fat lie. There may be a hair more room than in my 62″ Marmot Helium, but not much at all, and certainly not 13 inches more! Still though, it’s a pretty nice bag, and I will continue to use it in similarly expected temperature’s. I just need to carry a better pad than the SynMat UL7…
  • Exped UL Air Pillow & GooseFeet Gear Down Pillow Case – Still, nothing but love for this set-up, however, as ironic as it is, it sucks when used with the Exped SynMat pad… It works much better with my NeoAir’s…
  • Trail Designs Sidewinder Caldera Cone – Super cool status, and excellent functionality. Enough said!
  • Evernew 0.9L UL Ti Cook Pot – Very nicely sized for actually cooking in. Really is the ideal pot for a solo hiker…
  • Starlyte Alcohol Stove – I love this stove, but will admit, I had some problems lighting it on this hike. I have heard of others having troubles lighting it, but never experienced it until this hike. It was just difficult to do so… Once I got it going though, it worked great with the cone set-up. When it comes to alcohol set-ups, this is still my favorite.
  • Good To Go Smoked Three Bean Chili – After eating their Thai Curry meal, I was thrilled, however, after eating this one (Chili), I was anything but thrilled. This was probably the blandest meal I have ever eaten. There was not a sign of any chili flavoring to be had, and the beans didn’t even come close to rehydrating, even though I added boiling water, and let it sit for just over 25 minutes (more than the listed 20 minutes). If it wasn’t for the salt and pepper I got from one of the other hikers, I may not have been able to finish even the single serving size… Won’t be ordering this again for sure…
  • Montane Minimus Smock – This is the most rain/wet conditions I have used it in to date, and it did well. Yes, it did wet out in some areas, but inside, I was still dry. The areas that wetted out were area’s that seemed to hold water, such as where the sleeves bunched up, and the torso area above the hip belt was bunched up. As well, the Kangaroo pocket only gets better… It was the most ideal place I have found yet to hold my toilet paper and hand sanitizer when making #2 in the woods. It’s just right there… not on the wet ground, or balancing on a log… but right there with easy access!
  • GoLite Chrome Dome Umbrella – The wind turned my umbrella inside out twice on this hike, but overall, it did pretty good considering how strong the winds were blowing. None of the frame on mine broke, although a couple of times I did have to put the ends of the spine back in the rubber end caps around the edge of the umbrella (they likely came out when flipped inside out). However, I think I realized on this hike, that there is certainly a time and place for even an umbrella. On the morning of the second day, it was more of a mist than a rain, so I didn’t use it. As a result, I got pretty wet, but to be honest, the umbrella wouldn’t have made a difference. However, that afternoon, once the mist turned to drizzle, then rain, it did make a difference again. I was able to open it up, and my head and shoulder area actually dried out after some time, even though I was still hiking in the rain. Umbrella’s rock!
  • ZPacks Rain Kilt (1st Gen) – I believe this was the very first cuben fiber item I ever bought, and it is still holding up well. This is made from 1 oz/sqyd cuben, and it has been used as a beak/wall on tarps, a ground sheet under my pad/Hexanet on both the ground, and wooden platforms in shelters, a “porch” in front of my tents, and of course as a rain kilt, and in every application, it does its job as perfectly as it can be done. As I mentioned, mine is the 1st gen kilt, so it doesn’t have the zipper and what not, but honestly, I think I like it without the zipper better. That’s one thing less to fail, and if I needed another one, I would either order it without it, or simply order the ben and make my own. I have even mod’ed this one by adding some velcro to the bottom to help secure it when not taking long strides, and extra loops at the corners for using as a beak. This was my first, and has been one of the best…
  • North Face Verto Wind Jacket – This has been extraordinary in some situations, but for this hike, there was no need for it. The first 2 days, it was too much moisture in the air for it, and the last 2 days, it was too warm. For this reason though, I appreciated its light weight… At 2.9 oz, it is one of the lightest, fully featured wind shirt on the market, and that mattered on this hike since I never used it…
  • Montbell Ex Light Down Anorak – Selling my UL Down Inner Parka AND my Ex Light for the Ex Light Anorak was the best decision I could have made (for myself). The EL Anorak offers the best of both the UL Down Inner and the Ex Light. Lots of features, and a low, low weight… As well, the material on the Ex Lights is much more down proof than my UL Down Inner was, which thrills me. I love this piece, and while there may be other that come out which “oh’s & ah’s” me, it will take a lot to make me actually give something else a try when this is filling my needs so fully…
  • Lawson Kline Ti Deuce Scoop – To be totally honest, I don’t find myself using trowels very often. Many of the shelters on the AT have privies, but not all… On this hike, the one night I needed a privy, there wasn’t one, so let me just say that the Ti Deuce Scoop got put to good use… A total of 3 times in a single night, and finally the Lomotil kicked in… I dug a cat hole the next night too, but alas, I was stopped up… which was fine by me! Anyway, the edges are clean and smooth, but digging into the rocky and rooted soil can still be less than pleasant, however, this trowel is very sturdy and had no problem cutting through the roots, and sliding the rocks over so that I got the hole I needed. Definitely better than using a rotten stick, but obviously heavier… thankfully, not by much though! Only 0.8 oz. Anyway, it will likely be hanging around on my pack for a while from here on out…
  • Bear Vault BV450 – I only decided to carry this because I expected lots of rain and didn’t want to be hanging my bag in the rain, then having to go out in the morning and retrieving a wet food bag. Honestly, on this trip, bears didn’t worry me, but mice always do. Needless to say, my food/smellables were very much so protected. However, one morning, I found out what all the folks complain about when trying to open it in the cold. As it is, the top doesn’t screw on buttery smooth, there is some friction that makes it just a little less than easy, and with cold fingers, and a cold can, I wasn’t so sure I was going to get it open one morning… but I did. To be fair, the was bought used, and I actually bought the BV500 from REI with my dividend & the sale coupon, so I am anxious to see how the lid compares on it to the one I already have… Anyway, it’s a luxury item for sure on the hikes here on the east…

On another note, there are a couple of things that I didn’t carry, that I wish I would have…

P1050605

  1. Powder – I have never really carried powder on a hike, but on this one, I used some of Jeff’s and it was bliss. First off, my feet were basically soaked for 2 days, so after
    “cleaning” then up a little, it was nice to sprinkle a little on them before putting my clean, dry socks on. As well, after cleaning up the nether regions, a dab of powder is also beneficial to help with the smell… to be fair though, these UA boxer briefs are the stinkiest underwear I have ever used… but they fit great, and the long, 9″ inseam is great for not riding up… I hear Ex O’s make some that are magic… Anyway, when refilling my ditty bag after the trip, I grabbed a small bottle of Gold Bond, stuck it in a Ziplock bag, and put it in my ditty bag. It will now be a part of my kit…
  2. My GooseFeet Gear Overbooties – I don’t know why I didn’t think of these before leaving… but I sure did when I was at camp. As I mentioned, my feet were soaked the first 2 days, as were my shoes, so after snuggling up in my sleeping bag and trying to get warm, the last thing I wanted to do was take off my down socks to get up, let alone slide my “clean” feet into those cold, wet, muddy shoes… This was lack of thought on my end somehow… They normally go with me, but for some reason, I overlooked them this time… they weren’t even on my spreadsheet…
  3. Rain pants – I know why I left these behind, because I carried my rain kilt, however, I prefer to carry my pair of DriDuck rain pants when carrying my down pants. I can then slide them over the down pants, and it will help protect them (the material is fragile) and keep them dirty. I can say that they didn’t get damaged on this hike, but they did get a bit muddy because I didn’t take them off when going out the first night at Overmountain Shelter to the potty and there is mud on the insides near the ankles… must have been from my shoes rubbing against them when walking… Ah well…

So, there it is, my post hike gear talk installment. If anyone has any other questions about the gear listed above, or even on my spreadsheet, feel free to post a comment below and I will be more than happy to reply!

~Stick~

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with any of the companies listed above, nor am I being paid in any way to talk about these products. These are my thoughts that I formed after actually using these items.

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, Bear Canister, Cook Kits, Food, Gear, Gear List, Gear Reviews, Gear Talk, Hexamid, Hexanet, Jackets, Pillows, Rain Gear, Sleeping Bags, Sleeping Pads, Stoves, Tarp, Thoughts, Trowels, Umbrella, Wind Shirt, ZPacks and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Post Hike Gear Talk: March 2015 – Carver’s Gap to Kincora Hostel (Dennis Cove Rd)

  1. THunt says:

    Doing some research on used BV500 or 450. You said that you got yours pretty cheap from a friend. How much should I expect to spend used? Thanks!

    Like

    • Stick says:

      It’s been a while, but I think I paid $25 or $30… Which was a good deal. I have seen them go more often for around $40. But you never know…you might come across a good deal on one. Good luck!

      ~Stick~

      Like

  2. Metz says:

    Thanks for sharing your gear reviews. I had a similar experience with the exped ul7, I set up my tent on a platform and the temperature dropped to about 3-4 Celsius overnight and I woke up a few times feeling a bit of a chill. I did buy the long wide so my arms stay put but I did expect I to keep me warm at that temperature.

    Like

  3. Nice write-up Stick. hey, did you take my advice and buy a lumbar pad for your arc blast? If so, has it helped? (love that zpacks ditched the design of the arc blast on the new arc haul and have gone to a full wrap-around hip belt)… but was wondering how that lumbar pad has helped you, if you have gotten one yet.

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    • Stick says:

      John,

      I actually got the lumbar pad when I initially ordered the pack, so have been using it since day 1. And while I can’t say if it helped, I can say this pack has fit me better, and carried a load better than any other pack I have used. And I generally recommend the lumbar pad when talking to others about this pack…

      ~Stick~

      Like

  4. John Higgins says:

    great trip report,those little bottles of gold bond do wonders fyi the tops pop off and are refillable hope that saves someone from buying a bunch of little bottles it’s always in my ditty bag

    Like

    • Stick says:

      John,

      Thanks for the tip! I will remember that when the one I have runs out. It’s already about half empty since it’s an older bottle…

      ~Stick~

      Like

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