Two months and counting… where did the time go?!
As we have been excitedly preparing for our John Muir Trail adventure, one of our main focal points has been assembling our gear.
Backpacking gear is a topic of huge discussion among thru hikers, with many varying preferences, opinions, and choices to be made. Some hikers go “ultra-light” and carry only the bare essentials, while others focus more on creature comforts at the price of a couple extra pounds. We chose to fall somewhere in the middle – striving to keep our packs as light as possible, without sacrificing comfort or necessity.
The Big Three
Often considered the three most important choices when selecting gear, the “Big Three” includes one’s tent, backpack and sleeping bag.
This tent is worth its weight in gold (although that wouldn’t actually equal out to much!). This ultralight tent weighs in at just under 3lb, and comfortably fits the two of us with some wiggle room to spare. Durable, breathable, and easy to assemble, this tent has already stood up to some serious tests on our prior adventures. We swapped in some lightweight ground stakes to complete the package.
Backpacks: Osprey Atmos AG 65 (men’s) / Osprey Aura AG 65 (women’s)
Yep, we have matching backpacks 😉 but as soon as we both tried these on, we were sold! Osprey’s new anti-gravity (AG) suspension positions the pack weight so effortlessly across your shoulders, back, and hips that the bag truly feels lighter as a result. While not considered an “ultralight” pack, this is an area where we chose comfort/stability over weight. Jamie had dabbled in the ultralight pack method before, and found that the lack of support actually made the pack harder to carry, and caused more muscle fatigue. These bags, while weighing more, carry our pack weight much better, leading to a more comfortable hiking experience.
Sleeping Bags: Western Mountaineering UltraLite 20 / Western Mountaineering Apache MF 15
Okay, we match again… almost. Western Mountaineering is a California-based company known for its lightweight, high quality products – but in keeping with the above gear triangle, their gear does come at a cost. We splurged on these items, but hey, we’ll be sleeping in them for almost a month straight! Jamie opted for the slightly lighter, 20-degree rated UltraLite, while Brenda sacrificed a couple ounces to ensure a warm night’s sleep in her 15-degree rated Apache. These down bags are both super light (weighing in at less than 2lb each), compress down into a small stuff sack, and offer many features such as water resistant fabric, a zipper guard, and *bonus* – they can zip together to create a double-sized bag! Sleeping in them is like floating on a cloud 🙂
Big Ticket Items
Camera Gear: GoPro HERO4 Black and Canon EOS 70D DSLR
Jamie will be manning the GoPro, while Brenda carries her DSLR (with a EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens for you camera junkies). Documenting our adventures is one of our main passions, so the added weight of the cameras will be well worth it to us. The GoPro will give us on-the-go action shots, while the DSLR will help us capture the landscapes and nightscapes of the JMT, along with everything else in between.
GPS/Satellite Beacon: Garmin Rino 650 / DeLorme inReach SE
Jamie will be carrying the Garmin, while Brenda carries the DeLorme. The Garmin Rino GPS features a two-way radio, NOAA weather information, and a full array of downloadable topographic maps. The DeLorme inReach combines an emergency beacon with route tracking and two-way satellite texting capabilities, so we can keep in touch and broadcast our position while we are on the trail. While not everyone carries items such as these, we would rather be safe than sorry; plus, our family and friends will be able to track our position from home, and we will all benefit from the additional peace of mind!
Solar Charging System: Instapark Mercury 10 Solar Panel + RAVPower 16750mA Portable Charger
In order to keep our electronics charged on the trail, we will connect a lightweight solar panel to an external battery rated at 16,000 mA. Attaching the panel to our backpack during the day will provide a constant source of power we can use later on at camp to charge all of our batteries. This system is only 2lbs combined and will supply us with more than enough power to document the trail the way we would like.
Water Filtration System: Sawyer MINI Water Filter + (2) 2L Platypus Bags
Our water filtration needs are being met by a DIY gravity-fed system we stumbled upon while trying to find solutions for the slow rate of filtering when using a squeeze pouch. We bought 2 platypus reservoirs (one as a dirty water bag and one as a clean bag), cut the hose supplied with the bags, and put the Sawyer in between. Hanging the dirty bag 4 feet above the ground allows the 2L clean bag to fill up in about 2 minutes.
The Big Picture
We could talk gear for days (and believe us, we have been for the past several months)… but thankfully, LighterPack.com lays it all out nicely for anyone interested in taking a closer look:
In the end, Jamie will be carrying a base weight (without food/water) of roughly 22lb, while Brenda’s is roughly 20. Not bad! Our pack weights were slightly affected by our camera gear and other electronics, but that is weight we are willing to carry in order to ensure a more safe and fulfilling trail experience.
Our gear lists are sure to change as our start date draws closer – every day we check and recheck our bags, trying to tweak this and adjust that, so we are optimally prepared come August. But one thing’s for sure: the butterflies are starting, and the clock is ticking! Two months and counting!!!