This time off the trail has allowed me to do an overhaul on my gear. Back on April 17th I posted a full accounting of everything I was bringing, which was accurate for how I started out in Campo a few days later. One right of passage that everyone goes through is the realization that you’re carrying too much gear, or the wrong gear. Either way your bag is too heavy and you have things that you don’t need or should replace.
I have actually been paring down as I go, but I haven’t done a complete overhaul until now. My first paring was in Julian when I decided that my ursack bear proof food storage bag was unnecessary and cumbersome, and so I dumped it along with a few small items into the hiker box (there is a free box for hikers located in every trail town – you can offload items you don’t want or need, or grab something useful the you see unaccounted for).
I was pretty stubborn though and hung on to plenty for far too long. Eventually when i met up with Sunny and Little Bites in Tehachapi, Little Bites made me go through my pack and was ruthless in deciding what I needed and didn’t need before the added challenge of the Sierra, but she was right, most it I didn’t need so I shipped a lot of things home, or dumped them in town before leaving.
That got my pack weight down to probably just under 20 pounds. Earlier in the trip I had weighed it and it was around 25 not including water and food, which means that when it was all loaded up I was probably carrying around 35 pounds or more, which is a lot. Ultra lightweight hikers easily have base weights of around 12 pounds or less. So I wasn’t doing myself any favors.
The biggest issue with my pack was the weight of the pack itself. I started with an older Gregory pack that I knew was heavier than newer packs but it didn’t seem worth the money to replace it. Over time I removed the top pocket (called the brain) to reduce the weight but couldn’t do much else. The pack also didn’t fit correctly, mainly because I lost so much length around my waist that the hip belt ended up being too large. The last issue with my pack was that the zipper on the main pocket started to fail as I entered the Sierra. I was still able to get it to close, but it was a struggle and was getting worse over time.
So I figured that if I was going to head back to the trail, I needed to finally get a new pack. I decided on a ULA Circuit, which is probably the most popular pack on the trail, but not the lightest, though it is more than 2 pounds lighter than my current pack.
I’ve also lost a bunch of other small items (everything comes in its own carrying case, don’t need those), and even pared down my first aid kit (don’t need 100 bandaids of multiple sizes). One thing I’m really happy with is that I have never liked my cooking pot set up, as instead of a lid it came with a small frying pan that fits on top like a lid, but I’ve never used it as a frying pan except for once, and it doesn’t allow you to drain the pot effectively. But I found a company that makes replacement lids for the pots that the company that I bought mine from make, which is brilliant, so I ordered that and swapped out the frying pan for a lid, which is lighter and takes up less space. After everything is done, here’s my new gear inventory:
Compared to the photo from April 17th, which looked like this:
Items I’ve dropped:
Umbrella (didn’t work effectively as a sunshade as the wind always turned it inside out).
Pump sack – brought it to save my lungs blowing up my sleeping pad overnight.
Pack cover – new pack is basically a large dry bag, don’t need a cover.
Kindle – don’t ever really have time to read.
Camera tripod – replaced this with a small adapter that makes my trekking poles a selfie stick.
Sawyer Squeeze accessories – my water filter came with a bunch of accessories, I dumped them all and just use a Platypus bag as a dirty water bag. Could probably use that and just attach the Sawyer directly to my drinking bottles but I get annoyed drinking through it.
Water Bladder – I’m adding it back after losing it for the Sierra when water was so plentiful that I didn’t need to carry that much. But this time I’m bringing a 2 liter bladder rather than a 3 liter one like I carried in SoCal.
All manner of individual storage bags. They are all thin and light but added together are a bunch of unnecessary weight.
Personal comfort items – I’ve dropped a lot of little things like allergy medication, sun screen (I cover all my skin from head to toe while hiking), ear plugs, emergency matches, etc. Some of these would be nice to have, but I didn’t ever use them so they are not making the cut.
Maps – Initially I was carrying print outs of the trail sections which were incredibly heavy and I never looked at them. Plenty of people swear by paper maps, but the GPS apps on your phone are really good now. Perhaps had it been a heavier snow year in the Sierra I would have regretted that decision, but I made it through without any need of paper maps, so I’m happy to not have that weight.
Not sure what my pack weighs now, but its a lot less than when I started. Plus with the hip belt fitting properly it will be easier on my back regardless of whether I dropped weight or not.
I’m still not happy with my choice of sleeping bag, but I made it through the sierra with it and its not going to be as cold from here on out so I’ll live with it.