Friday, May 4, 2012

The Gal’s Side of Gear

One of the things I had some trouble with in my initial gear hunt was that there seemed to be so little information on hiking gear for women. Even when I looked at sites like REI, the reviews were largely complaints about things like the color not matching the photo on the website or the fit not being flattering enough in the bust area. I wound up doing a lot of searches for the men’s equivalent of what I wanted, as I found the odds of finding technical reviews to be much higher.

Eventually I stumbled on the mecca site of AT hikers: It doesn’t look like much at first, but this is a gold mine of hiking information. AND it has a forum dedicated just to women. This has been a huge help with gear & prep questions I’d been pondering, many of which guys are unlikely to consider (except, apparently, for the random creeper who chimes in on the forum).

Our gear is very nearly finalized now, and much like Andy, there are some things in there that are just so awesome I have to stop myself from using them too much before the trail. Here are my gear highlights:
  • Deuter ACT Lite 60+10: I have a pretty crummy back, yet somehow my back hurts worse after a day at work than after a day of hiking with this pack at 20+ pounds.
  • REI Sub Kilo +15 Sleeping Bag (750 fill down, 1 lb 15 oz): I always thought I slept warm, but without the furnace of Andy next to me I guess my own body heat just doesn’t measure up. This is my first down bag, and I just can’t get over how something so light can keep me SO warm. **Side note: Ideally, we'd want a double sleeping bag--as a couple, sleeping in separate bags feels somewhat like a 50s style return to two twin beds. But have you ever tried looking for a lightweight, reasonably priced couples sleeping bag? Awful. We tried the Big Agnes King Solomon ($400, 600 fill down, 5lbs 3oz), but it was so bulky and heavy we just couldn't justify carrying it over our current bags. The only decent alternative we've found currently on the market is the Feathered Friends Spoonbill (900 fill down, 2lbs 11oz) at a gasp-inducing $800.
  • Smartwool clothes: If it wasn’t so expensive, I would wear this stuff pretty much all the time. And while I wouldn’t call it odorproof, it’s light-years better than synthetics.
  • Salomon Quest 4D GTX Hiking Boots (+ green Superfeet insoles): I decided on a taller boot for the ankle-support, and leather would have left my feet disgustingly sweaty. Somehow, perhaps by magic, I haven’t gotten blisters yet in these boots (combined with my Smartwool socks) despite hiking some very long distances. Speaking as someone who gets blisters with nearly every new shoe I wear, this is pretty incredible. The Superfeet are surely a huge help in keeping my back from hurting, too.
One thing that recently changed in my gear plans—when we were hiking into the backcountry in Arches, I felt this shocking chill on my backside. My Camelbak was leaking so badly that water was dripping from my pack. I had never had trouble with it before, but between it being full and the contents of my pack pushing on it, I guess it couldn’t hold up. Apparently this problem isn’t uncommon with their new latch design; Andy has the older version, which doesn’t leak but is next to impossible for me to open. So I swapped it out for a Platypus Big Zip. One thing I already have to say I like about it is the detachable hose. This means you can pull the bladder out of your bag without dealing with pulling the tube back through the pack. In any case, I hope this is a good alternative!
Gear I took on our Grand Canyon trip (pretty similar to what I'll have on the AT)

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