Diff’rent Strokes

While it’s pretty cool to look back and see all the stats and improvements and things that went well with a hike, I think it’s also super useful to take a look at the things that didn’t work as well. If I’ve learned anything from reading other blogs, it’s that a long-distance backpacking kit is an ever-evolving thing, changing from hike to hike (or even day to day) based on the climate you’re expecting, the length of your hike, and your goals for the trip. I learned a lot on the Colorado Trail, not only about myself, but also about the way I thruhike; knowing what I know now, I’m thinking about making some adjustments that’ll work better for the way I don’t eat, oh god why don’t I eat do things and which’ll hopefully get some weight off my hips.

Cook System
Eating was my least favorite part of my hike – cooking was a chore, the thought of food made me (sometimes physically) ill, and actually consuming even a modicum of calories was a huge pain in the ass – but since I’m looking to hike the Pacific Crest Trail starting in 2017, that’s a bit of a problem. Sure, I can get by mostly avoiding food for a little over a month and 500-ish miles, but trying to pull that shit over 5+ times both the length and the mileage… yeah, not going to work so well.

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An egregious amount of pizza in town only gets you so far.

I found it a lot easier to eat on trail, however, when hiking buddies took pity on me and I was handed food; when all I had to do was chew and swallow, caloric intake didn’t seem so bad. So over the next year, I’m gonna try going stoveless. That gets the practically-useless weight of my pot, lid, mug, stove, and fuel out of my pack, and, since “cooking” will turn into “pouring water over dehydrated food that’ll be ready to eat when I am”, I’m hoping that will help the eating situation. I’m probably gonna miss the occasional hot meal, but then I didn’t cook that much on this trail anyway. I really, really, REALLY hope going stoveless works for me, because if it doesn’t, I’m not really sure what to do.

Shelter
So I wasn’t displeased with my Tarptent Rainbow – it offered plenty of space to settle all my things in and sit up with my tall self – but I wasn’t exactly pleased with it, either. I think I was particularly enamored of a tent-tent to begin with mostly because, well, privacy is a thing I like, and because bugs and other critters seem to love me for some reason. After hiking, though, I don’t know that a tent’s particularly necessary for me.

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Provided pretty solid protection from being blinded in the morning, though. At least, until I opened the flap.

I’m going to try experimenting with a friend’s tarp for future hikes, just because I’d like to be able to cut some weight and space in my pack; if I end up hating it, I’ll probably go back to my Tarptent or something like the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 1 that Crankster carried, though I don’t know that I’m so invested in changing my shelter as to buy a different one.

Sleeping Bag
Don’t get me wrong: I love my Marmot Plasma 15. Bag is love, bag is life. Still, by the end of my hike, I was sleeping in my down jacket, just because I found it to be warmer than my sleeping bag, and if I’m gonna do that, I should probably think about a quilt. It’d be lighter weight, and help me mentally justify the weight of my egregiously heavy coat1. It’s a nebulous thought at the moment – I’m not sure it’s worth the investment just to get something without a hood – but it’s something I intend to look into for 2017.

Sleeping Pad
I carried a full-length Thermarest Zlite Sol, and I kind of feel like it was overkill. I mean, I was able to fold it in half at night to give extra cushion to my hips (I start my nights on my side and sleep with my legs on my pack),  and I was able to offer other hikers space to sit on it, but at nearly a pound (14 oz), I’m not sure it was worth the weight. I’m thinking of switching to a small Neoair Xlite (8 oz), and then maybe carrying a section or two of a Zlite for solo sitting purposes. It’ll still probably weigh less.

Leggings
Soooo the Patagonia Capilene 3s I wore were warm, but not exactly accommodating of the junketh in mine trunketh. I’d like to get some leggings that are just as warm but have a little more room in the hip,  but I have no idea where to begin that search, as hiking companies apparently believe that women with butts are unicorns or some other similarly rare and/or mythical creature.

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Cropped out: Me, channeling a plumber

The only vaguely outdoorsy company that seems to think that women might possibly have butts is Prana, but to my knowledge, they don’t make anything warm like that. So I’ll keep my eye out, but I won’t hold my breath.

Hiking Shorts
I was gifted, and am thinking about permanently switching to, a Purple Rain Hiking Skirt. I’m a little worried about both cold and chafe; still, it’s more than worth a try. My only other lament would be the loss of a zip pocket for trash, but I’m sure I could find a way to make one of the skirt’s many pockets work.

My Shoes
I chose the Salomon Mission XRs for their wide toebox but narrow heel, and while they were fine – though I’d go with a wide fit next time – I’m wondering if there’s a better shoe out there for me.

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They never froze – maybe I wasn’t trying hard enough?

I was told to look into Altras, but I’m a little worried about my left arch flipping out on me again; I’m also working on my stride to try to fix the problem at the root rather than treating the symptoms. If that fails, I’ll definitely be getting Superfeet, or at least a Superfoot, to address that issue.

External Battery
I took an Anker Astro E1 5200 mAh External Battery with me on the Colorado Trail, and while it held up just fine and charged relatively quickly, it didn’t have enough juice to let me take pictures *and* check my Guthook app *and* blog on my sometimes-seven-day resupplies. I thought I was saving weight by taking a smaller one, but this is weight I’d absolutely rather carry – it’s so much easier (and more expedient!) to write in the moment than it is to try to piece together things months later. This is actually a pretty easy fix for me, since I’d bought the 16000 mAh one, and then chickened out because of the weight at the last moment. The 5200 is fine for weekend trips, but if I’m out for longer, I’ll be taking the 16000.

Everything else, I was actually pretty happy with. Prolly wouldn’t carry bear spray again, though2.

I’m not 100% sure I’m going to be making all/many of these changes, particularly since I’m, y’know, trying to save up to do the actual hiking/resupply part of hiking the PCT in 2017. I don’t know how much “extra” money I’m going to want to throw towards gear that I’m not going to want to allocate for things like hotel rooms, guilt-free town meals, and the like. But it’s good to at least be thinking about these things – the more tinkering and experimentation I do now, the less second-guessing I’ll do when I actually hit the Mexican border and squint up the dusty trail to Canada.


 

[1] Kidding. I don’t need to justify being warm and cozy.

[2] Unless I was on the CDT. I’d carry it in Grizz country. Otherwise, nah.

22 thoughts on “Diff’rent Strokes

  1. jimfetig says:

    Check out http://www.thumperwalk.wordpress.com “Karma on the Trail” for a woman who hiked the AT sans stove. Linda Daly is her real name. Shes a very experienced hiker and a good source.

    I hike cold for breakfast and lunch but gotta have my comfort food at night. Strictly dehydrated meals tho to save weight and pack space. Like you, food isn’t particularly important to me, but as the Army learned – taste isn’t the most important component of satisfaction. It’s temperature and volume. Go figure.

    Here’s a blog I recently wrote for the AT class of 2016. My point is set your priorities and carry what you need to achieve them. http://jfetig.com/2016/01/06/dont-practice-being-miserable/ Everybody needs “snivel gear.”

    Separately, I supervise six AT ridgerunners in the mid-Atlantic region. We’re hiring now. In the whole history of the AT ridgerunner program – 30 years – there never has been a person of color be a ridgerunner. If you know anyone who’s interested in seasonal employment hiking the trail, please direct them to http://www.appalachiantrail.org employment section.

    Love following your blog. Sisu

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    • Brown Girl says:

      So I wrote a reply to this a few days ago and my phone died as I hit reply and apparently it didn’t go through. Womp womp. Glad you’re enjoying the blog!

      I’ll definitely be checking out Karma’s blog this evening – I have a whole night set aside for hiking-related activities, and looking at ways to exist while stoveless is definitely at the top of my to-do list. (Finishing Carrot’s book is up there, too.)

      Yeah, I’m not particularly into avoidable suffering, which is why I carry things like camp shoes, a bombproof coat, a notebook/pen, and, now, an external battery that will hold as much energy as I need it to hold. Since I wasn’t cooking, though, I’m hoping that going stoveless will help me eat. Maybe being without a stove will be like having snivel gear – there will actually be food waiting on me when I’m feeling particularly snivel-y.

      And oh man, that Ridgerunner job sounds fantastic! (Un)Fortunately, I’m already committed to a local Youth Corps program for the summer, but I’ll definitely repost this to boost awareness.

      Cheers!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Connie Westbrook says:

    Try Columbia. They are one of a few companies that make larger sizes for women so maybe they have styles that are roomier.

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    • Brown Girl says:

      Stoveless folk coming out of the woodwork! I’ve set aside this evening to look more into recipes etc. for doing the same.

      I am considering carrying a stove through the Sierras though – thoughts? Did you find yourself wishing you had a stove on cold mountainous nights, or were you so exhausted at the end of those days that you were praising your stoveless forethought?

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  3. Sniffer says:

    I have a Tarptent Rainbow, the Flycreek UL2, and a ZPacks Twin Tarp and I’m never satisfied with the one I’m carrying and wish I had one of the others … I don’t think I could do the stoveless trip; I enjoy hot meals/teas/coffees too much, but as a trip progresses, I use the stove less. I love to go along with you as you travel … thanks!

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    • Brown Girl says:

      Haha, I imagine that’s the way I’m gonna feel if I end up with something different. I’ve been waffling back and forth on the idea of a different tent/tarp/some sort of crazy silnylon in-between contraption, particularly because mosquitoes and biting flies are things that exist, but I haven’t made any sort of decision yet. We’ll see this spring/summer/fall if I decide going stoveless is right for me. Fingers crossed!

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  4. Scrub says:

    You articulate a lot of the reasons that I prefer to hike stoveless — it’s not about weight savings or even preferring the types of foods you can eat without a stove, it’s about how the grab-and-shovel method is the most effective way in the long term to get calories down, because anything else is too complicated and I’ll get lazy and avoid it. I highly encourage trying it out; I have a feeling you’ll prefer it for the PCT.

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    • Brown Girl says:

      “…because anything else is too complicated and I’ll get lazy and avoid it.”

      This. Exactly this. So I’m definitely excited to try it out.

      Like

  5. Kathryn says:

    I think it is important to consider the psychological benefits of some items: a tent/real enclosed shelter can provide a deep sense of security and safety. Just being enclosed after a day battling wind or bugs can provide deeper rest, psychically. A stove can provide not just a hot meal, but the small tasks up setting up and having a flame to watch and generate warmth can provide a real sense of contentment before sleeping. Just something to consider.

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    • Brown Girl says:

      Yeah, that’s kind of why I’m waffling all over the place with the shelter, at least. If I do end up with a different shelter, I feel like it needs to be different enough from my TarpTent to actually justify the expense, which is why a tarp is at the top of my “Wanna Try It” list. I’m also looking at other, more enclosed shelters, just because mosquitoes are tiny wind demons whose only purpose is to harangue us.

      My issue with the stove is primarily what I like to call “using as many of my waking hours as possible to hike” but which is probably more accurately called “laziness when it comes to cooking”. Warm food is great, but it’s only great when you actually cook it, like most people do – me, I have this habit of not cooking and just eating cold snacks instead. So maybe I’ll fix my bad habits and use a stove, but probably not.

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  6. katjaellen says:

    I just stumbled across your blog and wanted to say – such a beautiful site and I’ve loved reading your writing! I’m looking forward to following how you’re prepping for the PCT. My partner thru-hiked the PCT in 2012, and I’m newer to the wild and woolly world of backpacking, so the longest trip I’ve gone was about 50 miles.

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    • Brown Girl says:

      Glad you’re enjoying!

      I think the longest trip I’d done before hitting the Colorado Trail was about 35 miles, and the longest I’d ever done in a day was around 15 miles. And I’d only ever done 4-5 backpacking trips before that, mostly just head-out-sleep-come-back, mostly about 20 miles total in length. The CT was my first real try at any intimidating distance. It can be done!

      (Admittedly, I wish I’d been in better hiking shape before I left. Still, even in only mild hiking shape, it can be done!)

      Posts are in draft-form about what I’ve been doing (already!) to start prepping/training – it’s writewritewrite tonight for me.

      Like

      • katjaellen says:

        Thank you!! And actually, just this weekend I started kicking around the idea of doing the California section of the PCT during my summer break from grad school next year, so I’ll definitely be really interested to hear how your prepping is going!

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  7. Alli says:

    I’m not sure how warm/thick your capilene 3 tights are but I’ve had good luck with REI brand and Eddie Bauer being cut a lot better for curves than others. I heard that Patagonia is changing their sizing this year to be more generous so it might be worth trying them again in a few months. Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Callie says:

    I just found your blog and binge read the whole thing last night. I am planning to do the colorado trail in 2017, and start section-hiking the PCT after that. I loved reading about your adventure!

    Just wanted to share a clothing item I have found very useful for hiking in dresses/skirts, which I do almost exclusively now. I wear jockey wicking slip shorts under dresses, and they completely eliminate chafe for me and at soooo comfortable. I just bring an extra pair and treat them like underwear, because I was always getting rashes where the leg-holes of regular underwear rubbed. and I prefer dresses over skirts since there’s no waist band to have to readjust so it’s not falling down or clashing with you backpack waist belt. Plus if it’s cold, it’s really easy to just pull on some long underwear bottoms without having to remove pants or shorts.

    Just my $0.02.

    Happy adventuring, I will be following along for sure!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. archaichoney says:

    Hah. We are like, basically in the same place. I am planning a 2017 PCT thruhike myself and pondering much of what you’re talking about here. Stove vs. stoveless is my biggest concern. I already eat like a beast (I’m a weight lifter) and food is a great comfort to me. I don’t know how I’d feel eating cold rehydrated food while everyone else has steaming pots of, whatever! (Mac and cheese). But that weight savings… no fuel fuss! Argh!

    Maybe I’ll bump into you on the PCT! I’m doing the Oregon Coast Trail this summer to cut my thruhiking teeth. If you ever wanna chatter, exchange ideas, nerd, hit me up!

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  10. livefreeorfry says:

    I’ve been considering ditching the trusty pocket rocket and going stoveless as well. I was thinking in the desert it would be preferred to just grab a bar, rehydrate beans, dry soup, oats/chia/hemp/protein etc. When I’m out there food is always on my mind, but having that much hunger sauce makes anything taste good. Plus, it would make getting into towns and having a hot meal feel like that much more of a privilege. I think I’ll just try it on some shorter hikes and see if “stoveless” feels fulfilling enough. We’ll see.

    And I heard a few people mention Eddie Bauer, LL Bean, Columbia as outdoor clothing brands that acknowledge humans come in sizes other than Barbie, and I’d have to agree. Sometimes (most of the time) men’s clothing is better about hosting a variety of sizes as well. Sometimes you can even get lucky and find stuff in thrift stores that offer more generous sizing options. Anyways, I look forward to reading more about your preparations for the PCT.

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