Trail Gear

Below is a very short video panning my equipment kit. The second video is a longer discussion of my Continental Divide Trail gear and break down I did with Baskets, posted on his YouTube channel. Each piece is also detailed below with links to the source and extensive comments, including specific comments about the CDT. With a few exceptions this is the kit that I carry when guiding multi-day backpacking trips in Washington, Arizona, and Utah.

Here’s a 60-second video showing everything I carry above.
Gear discussion and break down of my 2018 Continental Divide Trail gear. Basically, same kit I carry guiding. Details below…

1. Hyperlite medium roll top bag.

On the CDT in 2018, I eventually sent home the small Hyperlite Pod (#32) which was carrying all my extra clothing. I briefly carried a silk sleeping bag liner (from Chama, NM to Lake City, CO), and a few different pair of gloves and stored it all in the Pod. By northern Colorado, at the end of June I just used the roll top bag for different scenarios:

  • Storing tent shelter when wet
  • Storing extra food items and/or smelly items in like chapstick, sunscreen, etc. in bear country and hanging or sleeping with it
  • Extra clothing storage – which was it’s role most of the time
  • Occasional stuff sack for sleeping bag when I need to compress to allow space for additional food carry.

2. Feathered Friends Flicker UL20.

  • My body is not laying on – and therefore compressing – any of the valuable insulation I have paid for.
  • I have more room to shift and adjust while I sleep.
  • I no longer need to constantly readjust my head area of the bag every time I turn over. It all stays in place. I love this set up.
  • Additionally, the bag and loops mentioned can be used as an under quilt in a hammock system. Or, unzipped and used as your comforter in your hammock system.
  • Why haven’t you bought a Feathered Friends Flicker yet?
Originally, I had the bag wrapping around the bottom like you see in this photo. I liked this, but the only problem was I couldn’t completely cinch up the top collar of the bag when it was cold and this allowed for a bit of draft air to enter via my shoulders.
Click on an image below to view full size…

3.  Thermarest Neo Air XLite

Was until recently, the lightest of the air mattresses out there until they came out with the Uber. This piece is well documented so I won’t add much except to say that I use these hard and they are surprisingly durable for what they are. And, when one fails, you can usually patch it successfully. And when you can’t, Thermarest is no-B.S. awesome with their warranty.

Lots of photos of my Neo Air above.

4. Tyvek ground sheet. 3’x8′. Goes under by ZPacks Duplex. If I don’t pitch the tent, I used it under the air mattress to cowboy camp. Lots of other creative uses as well, like wrapping around your pack at the airlines when traveling, and writing signs with a Sharpie for hitch hiking. I used exactly one piece for 4+ months on the CDT.

Look at that Tyvek-wrapped bag ready to get loaded on this plane! Want some TYVEK?? I purchased a big 4′ x 160” roll and will cut you any dimension and any amount you would like. Just email me . You can also buy them for twice the price, precut from ZPacks here.


5. Fuel container for denatured alcohol stove. Playpus 0.5L bottle, Red.

Impossible to find the red ones anymore. I liked them because red means ‘fire!” I used the closure cap variety, and carried my fuel inside my folded Tyvek in the outside of mypack.

6. Feathered Friends EOS down jacket

Again, there are a few lighter pieces out there but the fabric that is used in these is often not “calendared,” which means the down can be more prone to poking through. Also, companies with lighter models tend to put less down in as a rule of thumb. And FF is awesome company!  I will share with you a great little spreadsheet that you can use to add your own specs and compare down garments. A little algorithm made by Mountain Man. Note on the spreadsheet: Montbell Plasma 1000… I LOVE Montbell’s stuff. They have designed with an ultralight ethic for decades.  Anything at all from them is great.

7. Montbell Tachyon Anorak (windshirt)

They don’t make the pull-over Anorak anymore with the half-zipper which I prefer. Now it’s made with a full zipper. However, this newer version breathes better with a back panel that’s shingle-cut to allow for more air movement.This is an indispensable layer. I bring it everywhere, no matter what as it weighs less than one ounce. Slip this on to cut wind and add warmth to your mornings, on a cold descent, along the top of a ridge line, or over your down jacket to add serious warmth. In the summer when the sun goes down and you just have a short sleeve shirt on, this will save your booty from chills…

8. Montbell Torrent Flyer Paclite rain jacket

Again, this piece is absolutely outstanding! I carried this on the AZT, Continental Divide Trail, and PCT. At 6.5 ounces, it’s made of paclite GoreTex – there is no other GoreTex rain jacket this light in the world. Not yet, anyway. Mine is three years old, size Small and weighs in at 7.5 ounces, (the latest iteration eliminated the pit zips). In 1994 I carried a Montbell Storm Cruiser on the Colorado Trail. I still have it. Sits in the back of my vehicle trunk for emergencies!

9. ZPacks Duplex tent

At one point along the CDT at the Idaho/Montana border, a group of five of us were travelling together and we all stopped to camp for the night. Up went two ZPacks Duplex’s and two ZPacks Soloplex’s. The fifth was a Mountain Laurel Designs.

Can you find the black sheep in the photo? Centennial Mountains along southern ID/MT border.

I absolutely love this tent, and along with the entire CDT and AZT, this has been carried for four years and well over 5000 miles. I always protect the floor with a Tyvek groundsheet and that’s paid dividends by the few puncture/abrasion spots in the tub floor. It is developing pin holes in the thinner DCF fabric, but I just circle the spot with a Sharpie when I see it laying in bed at night and then at some point get around to putting a small piece of 3M/Dyneema repair tape on it. Good to go.

In my opinion, the Duplex is the flagship product of ZPacks. The design and all around utility of the Duplex is the cornerstone of Joe growing his business from shelters into packs, sleeping bags and a bevy of accessories. It’s absolutely palatial for one and it’s perfect and cozy for a couple. At 17 ounces, it’s really light. Yes, their are lighter options like the Soloplex or going with a tarp only. But you can’t beat the Duplex for picking one shelter that will do it all for you. Both users of the Soloplex’s lamented it’s lack of vestibule space and shrunken size vs. the Duplex. The black sheep of our group got plenty of teasing as his shelter did not include bug netting and got got absolutely ravaged in Wyoming by mosquitoes. I won’t go too much further with details of the actual tent as their are plenty of videos out there.

CDT Notes

If I were to do one thing differently on the CDT, I might have taken just a tarp for New Mexico and then swapped out the tarp for the Duplex upon reaching my Chama resupply. Once we left Chama into Colorado it was nice to have the full wind and rain protection and of course the bug netting. April in New Mexico is bug free and I cowboy camped the entire way while schlepping the Duplex in the bottom of my bag.

Stakes

MSR Mini Groundhog stakes -Best tent stakes out there for the price. You can find them at REI and along the way at a lot of the small outdoor shops. Titanium aren’t worth the price and they tend to fracture. These aluminum MSR stakes can take a pretty good beating with a rock as well – just make sure to hit squarely on the head!

10. Anker solar panel 15w

On the CDT, I topped off my power hungry iPhone 7+ with the Anker 15w charger just about every day when I sat down for lunch, or made camp. Sometimes I had it strapped to the back of my pack on top. Like all solar chargers, the more cell surface area you have the better and the most direct angle to the sun the more efficient the charging. It practically eliminates the need for a battery backup, though a small one is nice to have just in case of inclement weather. Also good for car/base camping.

For the CDT, I hacked off this third panel you see on the right and used SeamGrip to glue the USB port onto the back . I cut off the velcro and repositioned it so it closed as a duo-fold rather than tri-fold. This trimmed the 12.5 ounce weight down to 11. Worth it? Nah. Leave it be. Anker could really make this 4-5 ounces lighter by eliminating the Cordura, but the surface area to weight ratio on this is great. Read more at Backpacking Light.

Thru Hike Notes

There’s a popular YouTube blogger that knocks carrying solar panels on the CDT – even though he doesn’t tell you he hasn’t actually hiked the trail (hiking a short section of the trail in New Mexico does not validate the opinion he takes in this video). I hike the entire AZT and CDT with the Anker. I liked it, and there is PLENTY of sun and exposure on these trails. Yes, the Appalachian Trail and some others are a different story. Carrying solar panels is not for everyone. It’s cheap and it’s worth a try. You can always ship it home if it’s not for you. Everyone has a few items that are personal choices. Let me tell you how many hikers were happy to plug into my panel as well! A little juice is like trail magic out there.

11. ZPacks “BIG food bag”

I struggled to fit more than four days of food in this and would absolutely recommend the larger “LARGE” food bag.

CDT Notes

WAY TOO MANY CDT hikers did not hang their food. Even in Grizzly country. I was guilty of this a few times as well. Don’t do what I do. Hang it. The main strategy I employed was stopping to eat around 4 or 5pm, then hiking another hour or so and setting up camp. I usually hung food anyway – and you should too. But a few times I slept with it. I always put anything at all with a smell into the food bag or the extra roll top bag I carried which could fit my extra items. I carried an OPSack as well, and put food in there, and then in the ZPacks food bag. The food bag alone will not prevent smells. Neither is the OPSack a guarantee – but you bet your ass it helps. Mitigate your risk.


An URSACK Major is another good option if you don’t want to hang. Tie it to a small tree.  https://www.ursack.com/product/ursack-major-formerly-s29-3-allwhite/

12. Odds and ends

Petzl eLite for a backup, Gerber STL 2.0 knife, backup AAA Lithium batteries, mini-Bic lighters


13.  Aqua Mira water treatment

After one week on the CDT one of the stupid caps broke and leaked into my pack. I then found a small one-ounce Nalgene dropper bottle, filled it with bleach and used bleach for the next four months all the way to the end. Two drops per liter, wait 30 minutes. I’d wait a lot less if I was confident in the source, but I always treated my water. Drink mixes like lemonade, KoolAid mitigate “tap” flavor if you’re sensitive. I don’t mind at all.

6% (0.06) sodium hypochlorite is standard bleach and the 2-drops/1L is the ratio. Don’t get the stuff with lemon scent or additive.

14. More odds and ends.

Itty bitty bottles of campsoap, sunscreen, chapstick, eye drops, sample size toothpaste, RITE AID travel toothbrush (or variants of it from CVS and other). Made for hikers!

Lightsmith.com, curates some good odds and ends. I’ve tried a few that I didn’t like (like the toothbrush, bungies, toothpaste tablets). His various little bottles are awesome for packing your own supplies and he’s got lots of thoughful stuff.

15. Fluxmob Bolt2

16. Medical kit

These are the items I carry and it’s based on my comfort level and experience. I don’t make recommendations for what to put in your medical kit and I won’t judge people for what they do or do not carry.

  • Footcare
  • Bandaids
  • 1 small Ace wrap
  • 1 roll tape
  • small stainless scissor
  • nitrile gloves
  • steri-strips
  • ibuprofen, aspirin, antihistamine, anti-diareal, 
  • KTTape

17. Personal Items

  • Menicon Miru 1-Day Flat Pack Contact lenses – if you wear them, these are brilliant! No bubble packs. Carry a month worth at a time on a thru hike and you barely notice them and trash is minuscule.
  • Earplugs – OMG! DO NOT HIKE WITHOUT THESE
  • Nail clippers
  • emory board for toe nail maintenance
  • gear repair (superglue “minis,” tube of SeamGrip, air mattress repair kit for Thermarest, extra Smartwater bottle cap…)
  • https://outdoor.mcnett.eu/seamgrip/

18. 1L AquaHydrate, Smartwater or Lifewater bottles

Why spend $15 on a Nalgene wide mouth bottle when they weight about a third of a pound each? Carry lightweight sport cap bottles you can buy and replace anywhere… It’s one of the fastest, cheapest, and easiest ways to shave weight of your pack: A Nalgene weighs 5oz per bottle (4 = 1.3 pounds -vs- 0.5 oz per bottle weight of an AquaHydrate, or Lifewater bottle. I like the AquaHydrate bottles because they are just slightly thicker-walled plastic and hold up better to UV light and constant squeezing. My four lasted 4.5 months on the CDT. Never replaced a single one of them. I carry one extra replacement cap.

19.  Altra Lone Peak 3.5.

I do the 4.0 now. No difference in durability between the two, although I really like the outsole compound and the lacing system better on the new 4.0. I’ve written more about these here.

CDT Notes

I used 6 pairs on CDT and ordered them from Runner’s Warehouse, shipping them to motels along the way via two-day Priority (included 🙂 RW was great.

Altra Lone Peak 3.5’s with two layers of SeamGrip over the toe area keeps that toe-piece intact way longer.
New Altra Lone Peak 4.0 (left) next to a used pair of the 3.5s

20. Snowline Chaisen Light

21. Camp Corsa Axe

Lightest out there

Also THE most UNCOMFORTABLE axe to carry in your hand. I hate it. Hate it. Hate it.

I highly recommend a Black Diamond Raven pro. The Grivel Mont Blanc (pictured) is no longer available.

22. Keith Titanium double wall mug with lid. 7.4 oz

I really dig Keith’s drinkware and I use this as water scoop as well. The convenient lid snuffs out alcohol stoves too. Not essential, but I like to carry because I enjoy coffee and occasionally hot chocolate and Crown Royal.

23. Toaks long handle Ti spoon

24. Tentlab poop trowel

Straight up the strongest of the light trowels out there. Use as a backup tent stake. Great for a sand or loose soil tent stake.

25. Black Diamond ION headlamp

  • There’s 1000’s of lights out there. Many lighter ones. This is pretty darn light, small, and powerful. 
  • Has lock feature to prevent running batteries down.
  • Redlight for using in a tent and not blinding people

26. Sawyer Squeeze filter

  • Removes protozoa, cysts like E. coli, Giardia, Vibrio cholerae, Salmonella typhi 
  • https://sawyer.com/products/sawyer-squeeze-filter/
  • Dont waste time with the mini, or the “kit”. The pouches are pieces of junk
  • Don’t carry the plunger. In the field, you can use your Smartwater bottle with a sportcap to backflush
  • I mailed this home and only carried bleach on the CDT

27. Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z trekking poles

  • My favorite! I use 155cm and they are perfect as tent poles for my ZPacks Duplex (165 are good too)
  • Can be used for arm or leg emergency splints in the field. 

28. Hyperlite 2400 Windrider

  • In my opinion, the perfect CDT pack. Mine was the older, slightly smaller model with older side pockets
  • I use the 3400 when guiding commercially
  • My hiking pal Twisted here scoffed at me and rolled his eyes at the Hyperlite, detailing his love of his Palante pack. By the time we got to Cuba, NM, I think he saw how well mine worked for me and he had a Hyperlite of his own 😉
Twisted sports a shiny new Hyperlite Southwest 2400 out of Cuba, NM.

29. Thermarest Z-Lite pad – cut down

  • People always asked me if I slept on this! Ha! I cut the pad vertically, then cut of four sections and use this as…
  • kneepad when filtering
  • a sitpad when I stop
  • under my bum, under my air mattress for extra protection against sharp protruding things
  • emergency wrist or ankle splinting
  • store on the very top, outer porton of Hyperlite pack

30. Trail Designs Sidewinder Ti-Tri cook system and alcohol stove

I like to cook. It gives me something to do at camp. Warm food makes my attitude much better and we all know how important attitude is on a long trail. I use a 600ml Evernew short titanium cookpot with this. Best way is to buy this kit. Add whatever titanium pot and size from their dropdown menu. Ti windscreen is matched to your pot.

I use the Modified Starlyte Burner from Zelph’s stoves.

I use dentatured alcohol or Heet. I find that Heet is available even in the smallest convenience stores and gas stations everywhere you go. I can’t tell you how many times I watch others stress about canister fuel and where to get it when they’re on a long trail. No stress for me. Ever.

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