Weighing the options for the CDT…

I’ve always been aware that my base pack weight(weight before food and water) is a little on the heavy side for a thru hiker at just about 16lbs. I’ve always accepted it and not really thought about it because I never thought of myself as being on the same level as those with the lightweight packs. I’m not out there to be a minimalist and I have plenty of things that could fall into the “luxury item” category that I am not willing to part with. I’ve been given the lectures many times on how lighter is better and more fun. That it’s just the initial fear I need to get over, but for some reason I didn’t really listen until this week. I’m going to give you all the whole background to how this came about because, like many of you who read this journal, I never thought I’d be able to make this leap…

All of this started three months ago when I started corresponding with another hiker named Swami. We met through my friend Rockin’ who met him on the PCT last summer while he was in the midst of an unbelievable journey. If you haven’t heard of Swami, here is a video. In December he completed a trek like no other. Over 18months, Swami consecutively hiked 12 of America’s long trails including (the AT, PCT, and CDT) to complete 14, 302 miles of hiking in 545 days. His daily mileage, not including rest days was 31.1mi/day…AMAZING!!! Swami holds the hiking records for most miles hiked in a calendar year and the completion of a triple crown in a calendar year having completed the AT, PCT, and CDT in just 236 days. Keep in mind, that I took 148 days just to do the PCT. His stats page is really cool, so check it out (also “like” Swami on Facebook as he is just getting started there). Swami carries a BPW of about 7lbs and over the last couple weeks, he has encouraged me to take a closer look at my gear and how I could lighten up without sacrificing my comforts or safety. Knowing that the Continental Divide Trail often requires longer stretches between food supplies and water sources, I knew I’d be consistently carrying more weight in food and water than I did on the PCT…I was intrigued…

I still felt unsure that I could take that leap until he mentioned that our mutual hiker friend, Why Not (who hiked the CDT last year and just started the Appalachian Trail this week!) was able to do it and encouraged me to talk to her. Why Not is similar to me in size and experience so I was really interested in how she made the transition. The day before she left to hike the Appalachian Trail this week, Why Not took the time to talk to me about my doubts and fears with lightening my load. It turned out that Why Not was just like me on the PCT and that she hadn’t always been so lightweight. After hearing how much the lighter pack enhanced her hiking experience on the CDT, I decided to go for it! Doing this kind of major overhaul at the last minute before a hike is ill-advised and very expensive, but after realizing it was possible, I couldn’t hike without at least giving it a try. I know I’ll still have my old gear to go back to if it doesn’t work out for me.

Below are the new backpack, tent, and sleeping bag I’ve purchased. You can click on each item to go to the website where they are sold. Just by upgrading my “big three” pieces of gear, I’ve been able to cut almost 2lbs of weight. I’ve bought a digital scale to weigh and seriously consider all my other gear. For example, I will be replacing my 10oz camp shoes with cheap flip flops, ditching the 6.3oz Platypus bladder, tossing the 5.2oz dry bag for my sleeping bag since my new one comes with one, and stripping that extra 3.5oz sports bra…With all the changes I’m going to make, my final BPW should be close to or under 13lbs…what?! I never thought I’d be in the 12lb BPW range, wow! Considering the exponential impact that a few ounces is said to have on your body over a thru hike, I’m pretty excited to be dropping multiple pounds! It also lightened my wallet quite a bit as the order for all three was $1,200…about $39/ounce I saved on them…hopefully worth every penny! I want to thank Swami and Why Not for being so instrumental in this process. Be sure to check out both their journals/blogs I’ve linked on their names. THANK YOU!!!

So here are the big…er, little changes….NOTE: 1lb=16oz

ZPacks Hexamid Solo Plus(18.6oz)
**Saving 8oz(including the groundsheet) from the Tarptent Contrail
 Probably the most challenging adjustment will be my tent. I absolutely LOVE my Tarptent Contrail Tent and will probably continue to use it on shorter trips. The Hexamid Solo Plus is less luxurious in space and requires a bit more strategy to stay dry, but it is used by many of my friends and they give it positive reviews. What makes it so much lighter is that it is made out of Cuben Fiber, a pricey lightweight material that is strong, waterproof, and breathable. Since my order for the tent was made at the last minute, my first night in the Hexamid will probably be on the CDT. Crazy to do that, but Drop-N-Roll and Ninja (who will be starting the CDT with me) will each have the Hexamid and used it on the PCT. They will be there to give me pointers on the best ways to set it up in different conditions. I expect it to be most challenging in wind blown rain, but it will be okay. I am not looking forward to a smaller tent, but I have to sacrifice something to save the weight. From what I’m told, it’s that initial change that’s hard, but then you adjust and it becomes your new normal.

 ZPacks 10 Degree Sleeping Bag(19.8oz)
**Saving 9.2oz from the Marmot Helium
I’m not quite sure what makes these bags lighter than the more mainstream sleeping bags, but there are a couple of overt physical differences. One is that this bag doesn’t have a hood. The plan is to use my down hoodie and beanie to keep my head warm and they recommend that you purchase the bag a size up in length to be able to cover your head if needed. Also, the foot box is very slim and the zipper is a half zip that does not go all the way to the foot. Rockin’, Balls, and Sunshine will also be using this sleeping bag on the trail and it is new to all of us. Why Not used it on the CDT last year and really enjoyed it…I just can’t decide if I will be using a liner with it too…

Gossamer Gear Mariposa Backpack(25.75oz)
**Saving 13.25oz from the ULA Circuit
This one item is saving me 13.25oz! I chose this pack because it was the one that fit all my criteria in that it is lightweight without sacrificing the volume and pockets I need for all my crap. From what I’ve heard, it may not have the lifespan of my heavier pack, but it will make it through the hike. The good news is that the pack will arrive next week, so I’ll have plenty of time to test it out and make sure it’s a good fit for me. Balls, Sunshine, and Drop-N-Roll use Gossamer Gear Packs, so I’m confident that it’s a good choice.

*Bonus Gear Update…

Eye-Fi SD Card 
I am super pumped about this little thing! This is replacing the AirStash I mentioned in a previous post. It’s an SD card that has a
wi-fi signal in it. I’ll be able to easily transfer my photos on my
camera to my iPhone so that I can post high quality photos on my blog
each night. In the past I would have the stressful and time consuming
task of taking
pictures with my camera & iPhone if I thought they were blog
worthy. Now I can just put the iPhone away and snap away all day with my
Lumix. Then, at the end of the day, I just select the ones I want and wirelessly
transfer them to the iPhone to be blogged each night. Amazing!

As I mentioned, most of this new gear will not get to me until right before I leave for the trail. I’ll be working out the kinks as I go and will keep everyone updated on how it all works out. I’m pretty excited about it. I hope it also encourages some of you out there to make that intimidating (and pricey) lightweight leap.

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