While we're sitting around I might as well write a gear review.

I can't believe I forgot to mention Meghan   Molnar in my post yesterday, because she's letting us crash at her house on the Sunshine Coast in B.C. To recover and get our lives together a little bit in the next few days. And this is her view: 


Sorry, never leaving!

There will likely be some more thoughtful writing in the future, but for now how about a little gear review from the PCT?

Big stuff:

Tent: Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2. 
Grade: A

It is affordable, really light, good in rain (never got wet inside it), and the company has amazing customer service. Downsides: It was cozy for two people and we could barely fit our gear under the vestibule.  And it isn't that durable: we broke everything in the kit at least once, including the poles which could have been a major problem if it hadn't happened in the middle of the trail's driest section. But for an ultralight tent it's a great option (which is probably why it is a really common tent both for individuals and couples.)

Sleeping Bag: Big Agnes Cold Mountain 18 degrees 
Grade: B

I wanted a synthetic bag, which meant bigger, heavier, and not as warm as comparable down bags. It was borderline not warm enough through a lot of nights in September. The upsides: durable, affordable, no worries at all about throwing wet clothes in to help dry overnight (a tactic that only really works if you sleep in the clothes though, exacerbating the 'not warm enough issue '). Overall it worked, but for a hiker planning to extend into October it might not be warm enough.

Pack: ULA Catalyst 
Grade: A+

The ULA Circuit, a frameless pack, is maybe the most common pack you see on trail. But for me the Catalyst, which has a light frame and  larger 70 liter capacity, was amazing. Weight distributed well to hips even though I don't pay much attention to how I pack it. Comfortable at 45 pounds, no chaffing the whole way, convenient pockets and bottle straps on the front. My favorite piece of gear and I'd highly recommend it to through hikers or weekend warriors. I even ran 15 miles in it in a slack packing day when we weren't carrying much weight, no problems.

The Little Stuff 

Hat: Outdoor Research Papyrus Sun Hat
Grade: A+

I'm reviewing this first because I'm amazed by it. Bought it for the desert expecting that it would disintegrate like most straw hats, and its sitting on the table right now after 2650 miles of heat, rain, snow and hail, and a trip through the wash. No snags or holes. Made of paper. Not sure how OR did it. And it was only $30.

Poles: Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z  Poles.
Grade: B-

Upside: super light, and they fold up conveniently. Downside: not durable enough for whatever I was doing to them. I broke 2 of them - or rather 2 failed on me in the same place, where a connection point between two pole segments failed. Black Diamond was awesome and replaced the first one with no questions asked despite the warranty being expired. Haven't tried to replace the second yet because it broke in Washington. A caveat here is that Angel hiked the whole way with one pair and no issues. I'm hard on gear, but these are some of the most expensive poles out there so it's a bummer to have multiple failures. 

Shoes: Brooks Cascadia 10
Grade: D+

My most disappointing piece of gear. I'm one of the few people who stuck it out with Cascadias the whole way, though half the hikers in the trail started in them. I've worn Cascadias for years trail running, and never had foot or injury issues ( which is why I stuck it out). But this model was made with a mesh that started to disintegrate after as little as 100 miles, leaving holes all over the upper. Used a product called Aquaseal for patching to some effect, but I'm really disappointed in Brooks on this model, and hoping they fix the issue on the next edition. 

Wind shell: Patagonia Houdini
Grade: A+

I have the jacket and wind pants, and love them both. I've worn the jacket across both Spain and the U.S. now, and in hundreds of miles of trail runs and it's still great. Started to have some zipper issues towards the end of the trip but nothing catastrophic, and the company has a great repair or replace policy, so I should be able to get that fixed when I get around to it. Tore a hole in one of the pairs of pants somehow in the Sierras, then promptly lost them, but replaced and wore them most days in WA to keep the brush off of my legs with no issues. Lightly water resistant and incredibly light - think the weight of a roll of toilet paper for both together.

Socks: Darn Tough
Grade: A

Amazingly durable, and they replace for free with no questions asked. I pulled the ultimate hiker trash stunt and sent a pair back dirty, and they still replaced them. Only used 4 pairs total the whole way. Can't beat 'em

Rain gear: Ugly Brown Frogg Toggs
Grade: C+

Upsides: super cheap and light, and plenty waterproof for about two hours of steady rain. Warm, but didn't actually sweat that much in the jacket despite zero breathability. Easy to repair tears with duct tape. Also have a pleasant comically large appearance. Downsides: seemed to have a saturation point and soaked through after a couple hours of rain. Pretty easy to tear. The pants were pretty hot and created a greenhouse of humidity in your shorts. Overall I think if I were hiking into October, or going on a rainier through hike, I'd get something better. But a great value at $20 if you're trying to save money without losing that much function over something like Goretex.

Stove: Snow Peak Lite Max Titanium. 
Grade: A-

Got the 'minus' because one of the arm extenders fell off. Otherwise light, affordable, durable, functional in all weather. No complaints.

Pot: MSR Alpinist 2 pot. 
Grade: A-

Gets the 'minus' because it's a bit too big for most through hiking purposes, and the lid cracked by the end of the trip. Otherwise great for two people. Not heavy, nonstick surface worked great the whole way, not easy to dent, distributes heat well. 

All of my other gear was pretty generic, so I'll just give one line ratings:

Polyester hiking shirts: good for wet conditions.

Cotton hiking shirt: good for heat because you can wet it down and it stays that way.

Shorts: wore running, then board shorts. Nothing notability exciting about either.

Tights: a couple cheap pairs worked fine.

Base layer shirts: one Patagonia and one Smartwool. Nice to have quality to keep the core warm.

Kuhl puffy. Started with a fleece, prefer the down puffy, though I worried about getting it wet all the time so it didn't do me any good in the rain the way a fleece did. Wore it mostly overnight to bolster warmth in the sleeping bag.

Black Diamond gloves: paid a lot, tore lots of holes in them. Not worth the brand name premium.

Polyester sock hat. Nothing fancy, worked fine.

Cheap sunglasses: always stylish.

Synthetic underwear: perma stink, but no chaffing.

Titanium Poo trowel: worth the extra few bucks!


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