While I’m certainly no backpacking gear expert, I did spend quite a bit of time researching, testing and living with the gear I used on the trail. It may have been just luck, but all my gear worked, for the most part, flawlessly. In case you are interested, here’s what I brought.
Pack – Osprey Exos 58, size large. The pack weighs only 2 lb, 12 ounce and has a 61 liter volume. It was comfortable handling my 30-35 pound load, but I believe that is near the top end of the range for the pack.
Tent – Big Agnes Copper Spur UL 1 which only tips the scale at 2lb, 3 ounce, is self standing and was big enough that, at 6 ft, 3 inches, I didn’t feel overly cramped. It set up quick and held up to some significant storms. Ventilation could have been better, but it wasn’t bad. For another 4.5 ounces, I got the footprint as well. You can read the full review of my tent at a site called Trailspace.
Sleeping Bag – Sierra Designs Zissou 23 with “DriDown.” The bag weighs 2 lb, 3 ounce in long. The EN comfort rating is 34 degrees for women and 23 for men. When combined with a silk liner (4.5 ounce), I could sleep comfortably to around 30 degrees before needing to wear my fleece. Long underwear would have helped, had I brought any. I never “wet the bag” to test the DriDown, though it stayed warm when damp from condensation.
Pad – Therm-a-Rest Neo-Air. This was an older version that weighs 12 ounces. I was worried it might spring a leak, but it held up just fine.
Cooking kit – GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Soloist Cookset. The pot, lid, cup and a foldable spork weigh in at just under 10 ounces (leave the storage sack at home). The no name, folding canister stove fits inside the pot, and weighs 4 ounces. My stove cost less than 6 bucks yet nothing, including the built-in igniter, ever failed. Google “cheap camping stove” and it should be at the top of the list. A small gas canister also fits in the pot, weighs 8 ounces full, and lasted me five days or more when heating water for instant oatmeal in the morning and a wholesome freeze-dried dinner at night.
Water Filter/Storage – Sawyer Mini Filter with a one liter and three liter squeeze bag. I also used a small “bottled water” bottle to dip in the creeks to fill the squeeze bottles. Filtered water was kept in a one liter Nalgene bottle (the soft ones are lighter) and a one liter Gatorade bottle (lighter still). I also brought some chlorine dioxide tablets for back up. Everything together, except the actual water, weighed in at 12 ounces.
Small “essentials” – Petzl Tikka Plus headlamp weighed 4 oz including the one set of lithium batteries that lasted the entire trip. Small folding knife at 2 oz. Plastic shovel at 2 oz. Twenty five feet of rope to hang food at 3oz. Pack rain cover at 4 oz. Colorado Trail travel size Databook (and pen) at 4 oz. Small first aid kit at 4 oz. which included a few Band-Aids, a gauze pad, tape, alcohol pads, anti-bacterial pads, sting relief pad, blister covers and a small anti-friction stick.
Smaller “essentials” – compass, mini camera tripod, 3 feet of duct tape, small spray bottle of Deet insect repellent, 2 lighters (never used), bug head net (never used), small multi-tool, small pepper spray (to irritate bears…never used), sleeping pad repair kit (never used), sewing needle (never used) and Neo-Air inflatable seat (which sprung a leak). Everything together weighed 12 oz.
Toiletries – Toilet paper, sanitizer, contact lens solution, case and mirror, toothbrush and paste, Aleve, aspirin, Advil PM, Imodium (never used), Wet Ones hand/face wipes and sunscreen. Total weight of 16 oz.
Clothing – Typically I was wearing North Face nylon zip off pants/shorts, Smartwool lightweight t-shirt, short wool socks, nylon ball cap and Exofficio underwear. Boxers or briefs? It depends. Spares in the pack were one pair of underwear, two pair of socks, lightweight Columbia nylon pants, a 100 weight Columbia fleece pullover, Under Armor t-shirt, cheap rain pants, Outdoor Research packable rain jacket, nylon gloves and watchman’s cap. Crammed, as most items were, in Ziploc bags, the extra clothes weighed 3 lbs, 2 oz. I never suffered from a lack of clothes, but at one time or another, I did use every item of extra clothing.
Shoes – I read somewhere that an extra pound of weight on your feet is like carrying five extra pounds in your pack. This may or may not be accurate, but for me, heavy boots are a significant drag on my ability to hike long distances. I went fairly lightweight by wearing waterproof trail running shoes, specifically Saucony Xodus GTX. Even with the neuroma inserts the size 13 pair weighed just over 2 lbs, and held up admirably. In the pack was a 1lb, 6 oz pair of “camp” sandals. Because the shoes were comfortable and the inserts helped my feet feel better, I rarely wore the sandals. Eventually they were left at Lake City in an attempt to lighten the pack for the final push.
Electronics – This is where I might have gone a tad overboard. In fact, I’ll leave the details of the 3 pounds of battery powered “stuff” for another post.
Add everything up and my pack, including the sandals I later abandoned, started out at just over 21 pounds, plus food and water. Filling the 2 water bottles added 4 lbs. The food I packed weighed approximately 22 oz per day, and it wasn’t enough. However, four days’ worth would bring the total weight of my pack to around 31 lbs.
There are ways to lower this weight, and many easy ways to increase it, but other than needing a bit more food, I felt like I had all the equipment necessary to stay comfortable on the trail under normal circumstances.