Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Gear Reviews from the 2013 PCT FKT: Part 1

A thru-hike always puts gear and clothing to the ultimate test. Daily use for months on end is more than most items are manufactured for. During my speed hike I added the quantity of hours per day used to that equation. Since I never took a day off and seldom stopped for breaks most of my gear was under constant bombardment except the 5 hours a night I was sleeping. Therefore the pieces of gear that stood out as all stars I can highly recommend. Other pieces I wasn't as happy with. However, keep in mind that these reviews are only about how these things worked for me. Every person is different, has different needs, a different hiking style, and may have different results. Analyze my kudos and complaints in light of how they would apply to your hike/hiking style. This is not an exhaustive list of my gear, just the items I feel deserve a review and/or people frequently ask about.

ZPacks Hexamid Solo+Vestibule
Grade: A+
What can I say? I LOVE MY TENT! I slept in it every night except one. I am not a cowboy camper. I don’t like bugs and spiders and ants. Blech. I was always envious of people with uber light tarps until I found this: A fully enclosed, single person tent that doesn’t feel like a coffin and weighs only 1 pound! (inclusive of stakes, guylines, and the manufacturer pole–I don’t use trekking poles). Having a home that is a constant on a long journey like this was very comforting to me. Crawling into my tent every night gave me a sense of calm and happiness.
Pros:   Lightweight
            Fully enclosed
            Easy set up
            Roomy…I have even squeezed another person in there on a different trip
            Well ventilated/minimal condensation issues
Cons:   I wouldn’t want to use this without the vestibule. My experience has been that in heavy rain
there is some splash/drip that comes in around the edges. The vestibule eliminates that issue on
one side so you can snuggle up to that edge if it’s really coming down.
            I haven’t had this out in pouring rain yet. Therefore I can’t say what it would be like in those
conditions. However, if you have in mind a hike like the PCT where foul weather is rare then I
highly recommend it.

Glacier Peak Wilderness

PatagoniaHoudini Jacket
Grade: A+

This jacket was the workhorse of my layering system. I wore it probably 50+ days out of the 60 I was on the trail. It offered excellent protection from everything: sun, cold, wind, bugs, etc. It weighs less than 2oz and packs to the size of a Clif Bar!! Despite constant use it shows no real signs of wear except some discoloration where it was under the pack straps.
Pros:    Extremely light
             Cute color (yes, this matters!)
             Dries in an instant
             Stash pocket
Cons:    None

Northern Terminus

Altra LonePeak (Note: I used the Original, but subsequent models are equally good.)
Grade: A-

I have been running ultras in these shoes for about a year. I love the roomy toe box and the neutral “Zero Drop” sole. These are a more minimal shoe however, and I noticed that on this hike my feet took a serious beating. A shoe with more cushion would have made them much happier, especially in the first 1,000 miles.

Pros:     Roomy allowing plenty of space for swollen feet to expand
              Neutral sole allowing a more natural, nimble foot movement
Cons:    Not much cushioning
Old and New

Grade: C
Let me say the grade for this pack is based on some serious issues *I* had with it. Hundreds of PCT hikers use ULA packs every year and love them. I’m not sure if the problems I had were due to the pack construction, the nature of my hike, or my own biomechanics. ULA is a great company and makes great products and I wholeheartedly recommend them. I think I might have bought the wrong size of pack and that it contributed to some of my problems.

Pros:   Hipbelt pockets–This was a major selling point for me. It gave me an accessible place for my
phone/camera, chapstick, sunscreen, snacks, etc.
Accessible slash pockets on the sides–Again, indispensable for me. This is where I put my food
for the day since I ate while I walked.
Bombproof construction–I’m not nice to my pack…and it has held up beautifully. The main mesh
pocket is shredded from brush and wear, but otherwise the pack is in great condition.

Cons:  Painful shoulder. Despite a balance and light packweight my right shoulder strap dug in and
chafed me something terrible. I have scars, not to mention the days of pain. I don’t know
whether the strap was not properly padded or whether it had to do with my biomechanics, but it was miserable.

Back sores/chafing. I had incredibly painful chafing and sores on my back nearly the entire hike. I believe part of this was due to my back never getting to air out or a recovery day to heal. I think the pack size was too large for me and therefore hung down too low as well.
Southern Terminus


  1. I have not looked back since finding the Patagonia Houdini jacket. Now if Patagonia would make the Houdini pants again, I'd have the perfect set.

    1. Patagonia does make the Houdini pants again:

  2. I'll second the review on the ZPacks Hexamid Solo + vestibule. I LOVE my tent, too!

  3. would like to know what your diet was like during the hike

  4. Just curious, did you use the ULA j-curve strap or the S-curve strap? seem like most people with your problem switch from the J to the S.

    Also, you might consider switching to the OHM pack instead, as the frame might take a little weight off those shoulder straps.

    1. I have no idea. It was given to me as a gift several years ago.

  5. I have hiked only 300+ miles in my New Balance Minimus trail runners & had the same pros & cons as you with your "barefoot" shoes. Despite the sore soles, though, I will not go back to a more padded shoe because I so much appreciate the increased balance when doing off-trail or boulder-scrambling. And I am so happy to hear that you do not use poles!

  6. I'll definitely take a look at that tent. Hope to hear about your food intake too. Thanks for posting.

  7. did you cook?
    if so, what did you use for a cook system?
    what was in your food bag?
    did you use a bear canister?
    what was your actual pack weight after resupplying?
    what did you use for water filtration/purification?

    You're absolutely awesome, Anish!

  8. My wife and I have the ZPacks Hexamid Twin and love it! I am surprised that you don't like to cowboy camp though. Having a clear, starry sky for a view as you slip into slumber is pure trail magic.