Shoe satisfaction

How many times am I going to write about my shoes you ask? Well it has to be said that I’ve finally reached a level of satisfaction in my shoe choice well above any other piece of gear or preparation so far. Thanks to the Outdoor Gear Store on St Kilda Rd in Melbourne (they really deserve this free plug), I’ve now got two pairs of shoes that I feel very confident in taking on the trail, for the small price of $120.

Salomans

I’ll be taking the two bottom pairs on the PCT starting with the green pair.

The pair pictured at the top above was the initial pair my parents picked up for me, and although it’s a great shoe, I needed a full size larger bumping me up from my original UK size 5, Euro 38 to UK 7.5, Euro 41. It seems extreme but I think my feet must have simply grown and will further expand with the heat and excessive use.

Both shoes are Saloman XR Crossmax but the green pair is the ‘Neutral‘ style (flatter) and the blue pair is the ‘Guidance‘ style (slightly bigger arch providing more support). The first green pair I bought started to fray a little so they gave me a brand new pair when I went in for the second time to purchase the blue shoes which only cost me $50. I was blown away. It’s the only piece of gear I’ve managed to save any money on! Now the only question lingering is will two pairs be enough?

Backyard camping

It’s one of the cooler nights in Melbourne this month (currently 18 degrees), and with a sprinkling of rain coming down I thought it a perfect night to test out the tent.

Backyard camping

Outside

I set it up as soon as my nephew went to bed otherwise he’d insist on sleeping in here too. I also hit my research maximum limit today and without brain capacity to ingest more advice the only practical thing to do was put it all into practise.

Backyard camping 2

Inside

My initial concern is a pinky size hole at the top of the mesh zip which I only discovered because a moth was trying to enter the tent through it. I’ll need to fix it before the mosquito swarms hit me in the Sierras.

I’m curious to see if my pack stays dry under the outside cover. There seems to be plenty of room to bring it inside if necessary. I’m also hoping I wake up sweating in my down sleeping bag otherwise I’m going to be freezing when I hit the snow or require at least 20 more layers!

VERDICT:

– Sweating is an understatement. Sleeping bag proved itself.

– Woke up to a few droplets of water on my face, assuming these were condensation.

– Stuff sack pillow not ideal, worked ok with fleece pants on top.

– Pack stayed dry under outside cover despite rain all night.

– Woke up with a swollen, itchy eye. Hoping it’s a bite and that I’m not allergic to down or any random tent fabrics.

– Foam sleeping pad I used was useless. Woke up lying next to it, didn’t even notice.

– Very noisy when windy – BUY EARPLUGS!

– Crocs are good. Must find a way to attach them to my pack.

– No idea how everything will fit in my pack. It was practically full for just one night in the backyard without food or 50% of my gear. Eeeeeek!

Ensure you’re insured

Travel insurance for thru-hiking, is there such a thing? The issue I’m coming across in my search for appropriate cover is the definition between hiking and mountaineering. Apparently if you’re not carrying specialised equipment you’re just hiking, which means you’re covered. But if you’re not carrying specialised equipment (ice axe, crampons) aren’t you more likely to have an accident? The trail is the trail after all, how can they offer you cover for being less prepared?

I’ve spoken to 3 providers so far:

Screen Shot 2013-02-26 at 6.22.06 PM1. Simply Travel Insurance: The guy I spoke to was super friendly and very helpful. Their product disclosure statement (PDS) states that if you’re trekking or hiking over 3,000m but under 5,000m altitude, special condition 1 applies. These activities must be: (i) With a commercial operator; and (ii) Available to general public; and (iii) Not considered extreme risk; and (iv) Not require any special skills or a high level of fitness. The guy was honest and said I wouldn’t be covered and directed me to call 1 Cover Travel Insurance.

2. 1 Cover Travel Insurance: The girl I spoke to helped clarify the general exclusions in the PDS: Sport & Leisure – Your claim arises because you hunt, race (other than on foot), engage in open water sailing, play polo, go mountaineering or rock climbing using ropes or climbing equipment (other than for hiking). This is where carrying an ice axe or using crampons takes hiking to mountaineering status. Not covered!

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Screen Shot 2013-02-26 at 6.19.52 PM3. WorldNomads.com: Even though this insurance is for ‘adventurous travellers’, there is still a question mark over if I’ll be covered while hiking the PCT. Hiking up to 6,000m is covered under additional level 2 cover but mountaineering is not covered at all. I’ve emailed them with the following information so the underwriter can make a final decision on whether they cover me or not:

I am attempting to thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail (http://www.pcta.org/discover-the-trail/long-distance-hiking/) through California, Oregon and Washington from April 15 – September 15 2013. I will not be travelling with an organised group or guide. I want to ensure that the Level 2 cover will be adequate for hiking through the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Mountain ranges when there is still snow present and that this is not considered ‘mountaineering’. Some people take an ice axe or crampons to walk through the snow affected areas, however not everyone who completes the 5 month journey operates the same. Thanks for your clarification. 

There really doesn’t seem to be much info out there on travel insurance for PCT hikers and it’s probably the only subject Yogi doesn’t cover in her handbook. I’ll report back once I hear back from World Nomads.

My first gear modification

I finally received my backpack, pack cover and sleeping bag yesterday from ULA. The ladies at the postoffice know me by name now and curiously handed me the large but light box with my gear inside.

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I carefully opened the box, without scissors this time (I almost put a hole in my tent) and took out the contents one by one. The sleeping bag is black despite the shiny silver version on the website, the pack cover blue, and my Catalyst the traditional green.

The backpack was packed flat at the bottom of the box and was so stiff I thought there had to be a piece of cardboard inside holding its shape. When I looked inside I realised the stiffness was actually two pieces of foam inside the back panel, which after searching a few forums discovered is in fact the frame.

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Before

There are two mental stays (rods) in the foam to strengthen the frame and that’s basically it. What I didn’t like was the squareness of it all. When I put the pack on I had this big wide flat bit above my head which seemed unnecessary.

In a very non Rozanne fashion I took scissors to my brand new pack and trimmed the sides of the foam. It’s a small change but to me it’s made all the difference.

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After

Urban Hiking

Firstly I’m impressed that WordPress has finally updated their phone app just as I’m testing out posting from my iPhone. Today I was on my own and decided it would be easier to train close to home than take the bike all the way to Sugarloaf Reservoir as I’d planned to do. My hike began from home, detoured past the coffee shop for a small soy cap (this is urban hiking after all), then headed down to Karkarook Park to circle the 2.5km loop around the lake.

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Self portrait whilst waiting in Bentleigh’s busiest Sunday morning cafe in my hiking get up.

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Karkarook Lake.

This ended up being an exercise of heat and distance conditioning as I walked in the heat of the afternoon between 10am – 3pm on a 30+ degree day, managing a total of 23km in 5 hours.

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More of the typical scenery enjoyed during my hike.

I have to say I was waddling the last few kms home after doing 30 mins on the elliptical machine earlier this morning and taking the dog for a leisurely stroll before the hike.

The new shoes were a hit except for a few stones that got stuck in the base of the shoe and rubbed my heel (should have worn gaiters!) May have to order another pair this week. I should also add that after only 5 hours of walking in the heat my shoes and clothes absolutely wreaked. There’ll be no jumping into a hot shower and throwing the clothes into the washing machine on the trail. Thank goodness I’m doing this hike solo!

Back on the gear hunt

With a little over a month until I head off to Vancouver, Sarah advised I should get myself a second pair of shoes to start wearing in. Sarah only went through two pairs of shoes on her 2004 PCT hike, however I’ve heard different accounts from people going through 6-8 pairs over the 5 months. Today I went to the store where I purchased my first pair of Salomons online and actually tried on a different pair this time, another full size bigger than the ones I have.

Salomons

New Salomon XR Crossmax 1 Vs Old Salomon XT Wings 2

The guy in the store wasn’t able to articulate what the major difference between the two shoes is, however for me the obvious advantages are the bigger size (UK 7.5 Vs UK 6.5), more toe room, seems slightly lighter and more breathable, and I’ll blend in when hiking through fluorescent grass and shrubbery.

I also went back to Krapmandu yesterday to spend the $170 odd I still had of store credit. I bought the most lame and inconsequential items I could, knowing that the quality and price are both questionable at best. Even with a 40% discount for being a Summit Club member I spent $145 on an ugly bucket hat, four stuff sacks of varying colour and size, wind and water resistant gloves, a nail clipper tool with a few extra gadgets and a waterproof passport holder. $145 with a 40% discount!!! The guy at the store was super nice though, I went in like a woman on a mission with a long list and a ‘let’s make this quick and painless attitude’. I still have $28.35 to spend there, perhaps on another stuff sack should I require it.

Kathmandu items

New items from Kathmandu.

And last but not least I got a full refund on my Aarn backpack – thank you Ben! My new backpack is waiting for me at the postoffice but sadly I have to wait until Monday to collect it!!

Wilderness First Aid

firstaidkitThanks to Amy and Katie’s persistance I’ve finally prioritised First Aid on my To Do list! The urgency was sparked while reviewing the PCTA website where First Aid features on their homepage. Reading through the list of topics I realised just how little I knew, and just how much I’m lacking in any kind of First Aid expertise.

Conveniently for me the Wilderness Medicine Institute recommended by the PCTA has a Wilderness First Aid Course in San Diego, CA on the 13th & 14th of April (concluding one day before I plan to hit the trail). For $250 USD the course will cover the following topics:

  • Patient Assessment System
  • Evacuation Plans and Emergency Procedures
  • Spinal Cord Injuries
  • Shock
  • Head Injuries
  • Wilderness Wound Management
  • Athletic Injuries
  • Fracture Management
  • Dislocations
  • Cold Injuries
  • Heat Illness
  • Altitude Illness
  • Lightning
  • The Medical Patient
  • Anaphylaxis
  • Wilderness First Aid Kits

I figure it’s a small price to pay for my own (and likely your) piece of mind. Plus I’ve already learned what Anaphylaxis means so it’s already paying off!