Each long distance trail I hike seems to have as many new toys as experiences in general. Hiking gear has pretty much always been of particular interest to me because every different piece of equipment adds another level to each person’s individual experience. I also find my familiarity with gear and techniques for using certain things are good measures for my confidence as a backpacker.
Here’s a list to show how my hiking gear has progressed on my last three long-distance trips (the Appalachian Trail in 2007, Maine Appalachian Trail in 2008, and New England Trail in 2009), and what I will most likely use on the Pacific Crest Trail.
-Appalachian Trail: Granite Gear Nimbus Ozone. Great introductory pack for lightweight hiking, although at three pounds it’s not tremendously light.
-Maine AT: Nimbus Ozone, again.
-New England Trail: Mountain Laurel Designs Exodus. Lighter, frameless, and more functional than the Nimbus Ozone.
-Pacific Crest Trail: Granite Gear Vapor Trail. Has a frame, but lighter than the Nimbus Ozone. Bigger than the Exodus for longer resupply stretches and using a bear canister on the PCT.
-AT: Mountain Equipment Co-Op Scout sil-nylon tarp. Used four times, tied between two trees with corners staked out. Sadly, MEC doesn’t seem to make the sil-nylon version of this tarp anymore.
-ME AT: Same tarp, but used five or six times with hiking poles instead of trees.
-NET: Same tarp, again, but used about fifteen times, with hiking poles.
-PCT: Probably the same tarp, but someday I might upgrade to the Mountain Laurel Designs Grace.
-AT and ME AT: The North Face Beeline. A zipperless mummy bag, quite warm and light but not as versatile for warmer weather.
-NET: Golite Ultra quilt. About the same weight as the Beeline, but more versatile.
-PCT: A modified Western Mountaineering Apache sleeping bag, bought used from its previous owner. Heavier, warmer, and probably more useful than the Golite, and probably much higher construction quality.
Not everything has become lighter, but I’ve learned how to use all the equipment more effectively over the years. When I started the Appalachian Trail, I had little idea what I needed from a pack, shelter, and sleep system. Now I can go on for hours about the minutiae involved in picking each one out, modifying it when needed, and using it to its fullest potential.