Gear Review – Clothing

Clothing Brand Photo
Shoes Salomon XR Crossmax Guidance Women’s Salomons
Review: These were the shoes I trained in and started with. They gave me terrible blisters. Would I have got terrible blisters at the start of the trail through the desert anyway? Possibly. Saloman’s have a heel cap which seemed to rub a lot and gave me terrible blisters on the inside and outside of my heels. I also had blisters on my toes and on the pads of my feet. The desert is brutal on feet. I think my merino wool socks were too hot and my feet couldn’t breathe. There is barely anywhere to wash or cool off your feet or wash your socks. I ended up having to wear my Frocs, sandals, and even tried walking in socks when I became so desperate. But finally from Aqua Dulce I started wearing the Brooks Cascadia 9.5 men’s shoe. I still had bad blisters, but by Kennedy Meadows the old ones had healed and I barely ever got a blister after that (until I bought random new shoes in South Lake Tahoe, some light pair of Merrell’s). Lessons learned, when you find a shoe that works for you, don’t wait until they wear out completely to buy a new pair. I think a pair of shoes should last up to 1000 miles. So if you have the perfect shoe bank on three pairs. It could be good to send a new pair to Kennedy Meadows for the Sierras, then maybe one to Ashland. The bigger towns do have gear stores, but don’t count on finding your exact shoe. Order online and have it shipped well in advance or have spares at home that someone can send to you when you need them. Score: 4/10
Socks Kathmandu merino wool socks Kathmandu socks
Review: I tried every kind of sock out there and my favourite were the Dry Max running socks. They wore out pretty quickly (every 200 miles) but they kept my feet cool and comfortable and never gave me blisters. If you want a good thick sock the Darn Toughs are meant to be the best (I used them as sleeping socks), and once your feet toughen up (they WILL, even if it takes 700 miles), you can actually wear a regular dress sock. I would NOT wear merino wool through the desert. No way. Take thinner socks that you’ve tested and take at least 3-4 pairs as they will be incredibly dirty and you can’t use the precious water at the caches to wash them. Merino wool could be good for WA. Wright socks were good but I got holes in those too pretty quick. REI socks are terrible (although if you buy your socks at REI and they get holes, you can return them for new socks). Keen socks were the worst, people complained about them all the time. I tried toe socks but I think they gave me toe blisters. A thin liner sock under a thicker sock could work, but the issue is HEAT in the desert. Keep your feet as cool as possible, air them frequently and take lots of moleskin and tape! Score: 3/10
Gaiters Dirty Girl 20130605-162049.jpg
Review: My Dirty Girls worked perfectly for the stones that sneak in the tops of your shoes. You’ll still get dirt in your shoes especially around your toes but I think wearing the Dirty Girls even helped reduce my blisters. I stopped wearing them in WA when it was so wet they were just soaked all the time and the trail was so wet there was no dust and less stones flicking up off the ground! I needed long waterproof gaiters when I hit the snow. For this I used the OR brand. All of the profits from Dirty Girl gaiters go back to the PCTA which is also another good reason to buy a pair (plus you’ll look ultra stylish wearing them!) Score: 9/10
Pants The North Face – Paramount Peak Convertible Pants Pants
Review: North Face is an awesome brand and I loved these pants, but when I grew too small for them I found a cheap pair of kids convertible pants and they worked just as well. For me the most important feature was the zip off legs to convert them into shorts, and the cargo style pockets on the sides. I carried my iPhone, Yogi’s notes, lip balm, Advil and a deet wipe in my pockets at all times plus a handkerchief to blow my nose. I didn’t like wearing a belt because it wouldn’t sit well under my hip belt so you need a pair that fits comfortably, but don’t slip down when there’s extra weight in the pockets (test this!). These pants were very light weight and when it got cold I would just wear long johns underneath. Score: 10/10
Shorts Veloxa Shorts Women – Black Shorts
Review: I loved having a lightweight pair of shorts to wear in town through SoCal. It was disgusting to wear rain pants while my laundry was being done once I got rid of these. I would probably keep a pair of town shorts until WA or whenever it’s too cold to wear shorts in town anymore. You could also wear them on trail but you shouldn’t need to if you have zip off pants. Any shorts will do, just make sure they’re light and have a pocket for your phone and wallet. Score: 9/10
Tank top Patagonia Hotline Top Singlet
Review: This was another item I saved for town. You don’t want to wear your rain jacket when it’s stinking hot and you’re waiting for your laundry. I started with this Patagonia top but ended up wearing a plain cotton one which was a lot lighter. I kept this singlet with me the whole way and sometimes used it as a cover over my stuff sack for a pillow case as it was softer than sleeping on the waterproof fabric. Score: 7/10
Short sleeve t-shirt Icebreaker GT 200 Women’s Base Layer 20130702-112712.jpg
Review: I loved my Icebreaker t-shirts. I was amazed that this t-shirt did not smell (maybe a tiny bit after a while) despite how much I sweated in it each day. Because it’s made from merino wool it also dries incredibly fast and just feels good to wear. I went through two of these shirts by Dunsmuir, CA (basically the rubbing of my pack eventually created holes in the shirt), and then I bought a slightly different style Icebreaker t-shirt which lasted me until Cascade Locks, OR (just before I entered WA). I had a terrible cotton t-shirt for a few weeks until I ended up getting a long sleeve base later from REI instead of a t-shirt for the last 200 miles of WA, but I missed my Icebreaker t-shirt every day. Score: 9/10
Long sleeve top Smartwool Women’s NTS Micro 150 Crew Green top
Review: I purchased this top in Mt Laguna to replace the synthetic one I purchased in Australia. This Smartwool top became one of my favourite pieces of clothing. I had planned to wear it in the desert to shield my skin from the sun but like a true Aussie I ended up just wearing my t-shirt. I actually wore this long sleeve top for sleeping most of the time and sometimes if it got a little cold in the morning. I finally ended up losing it after it went missing in the laundry at Timberline Lodge, CA. I was heartbroken, but luckily had another long sleeve Icebreaker top waiting for me at Cascade Locks. Score: 10/10
Sports bra Champion Sports Bra Sports bra
Review: Most comfortable sports bra on the planet. It dried quickly, never rubbed on my skin because of the pack straps, and just felt great. I barely needed to wear a bra by the end because I’d lost so much weight, but I enjoyed wearing it anyway. Score: 10/10
Underpants (3) Patagonia Active Briefs Underwear
Review: These were the most comfortable and long lasting underwear I have ever worn. I started with three and reduced to two pairs at the Kick Off. One pair actually started fraying (this was the one I sent home), but the other two lasted the entire trip. I used to wear the same pair for the entire section (yes hikers are filthy), and then change into the other pair when I was doing my laundry in town. Then I would just stay in the clean pair until the next change over in the next town. When you get a chance to swim you can clean the pair you’re wearing while you swim, but otherwise don’t even bother turning them inside out, upside down etc. If you change your underwear mid section the other pair will be dirty within seconds so save a clean pair for town! Score: 9/10
Bandana Matt – buff/Head Gear Multi Scarf Buff
Review: I used one bandana for my head to hold my hat on in wind, to hold my hair back when I didn’t wear a hat and as an ear/neck warmer when it got cold. I also used it to cover my eyes at night when the moon was bright and when I hoped to sleep in on trail and didn’t want to be woken by the sun (this was obviously rare!). I used the other bandana for peeing. This is obviously a girl thing so guys you probably only need one bandana. It sounds gross but I would just hang my pee bandana on the side of my pack under the strap so i could easily grab it and it could air in the breeze. I sometimes didn’t use it, especially when I learned how to pee with my pack still on my back (you need strong legs to be able to stand up again), but I would recommend having two bandanas the entire way. I don’t think specific brands are of importance. Score: 10/10
Sunglasses Cancer Council Australia Sunglasses
Review: I had this $40 pair of sunglasses the whole trip. They fell off my head about a billion times and ended up with many scratches but they were good the whole way. You definitely want something that blocks glare and that is light on your face. I used them the entire way, especially in the desert and the snow. I didn’t have a cord to hang them around my neck but saw people who used such things. I didn’t carry a case and used to have them on my head all day and then hang them on a clip at the top of my tent at night. Again don’t think brand matters too much but I wouldn’t go for a super cheap pair. You’re outside for 5-6 months, you’ll get more wear out of these sunglasses than any other pair in that time. Score: 8/10
Sun hat Cancer Council Australia 20130606-125739.jpg
Review: I had many different hats throughout my trip. The one I used in the desert had a wide brim and a huge flap that covered over my ears and the back of my neck. It didn’t have a lot of ventilation so I often found my head got very hot even though it was a light colour. A neck flap is good (especially in the desert), but you basically want a lightweight hat with ventilation that sits well on your head. My Nike hat that I got in Redding became my favourite. It was a cap but by the time I got it, it was perfect. I sometimes used my head bandana as a back flap when it was really sunny and my neck felt like it was getting burned. Score: 7/10
Rain jacket Kathmandu 20130603-182022.jpg
Review: My rain jacket wasn’t great. I borrowed my mum’s and soon realised I should have invested in a good lightweight rain jacket that actually breathed and stopped me from getting wet. I also borrowed UB’s Patagonia jacket at the end but this was way too big for me and seemed to allow water in as well. I think if you’re in the rain for 10 hours most jackets will have a hard time protecting you completely, but if you have the money invest in a good rain jacket that you don’t mind carrying the entire trip. I got rained on in SoCal, in fact I wore my rain jacket on Day 1, so yes, carry it with you at all times unless you want to risk getting cold, wet and miserable. Score: 5/10
Rain pants Blizzard – Storm waterproof pant rain pants
Review: This $5 pair of rain pants lasted me until Stehekin, WA. My suggestion would be to invest on a rain jacket, but you can probably spend less on rain pants unless you finish in snow like I did. Oh and I guess if the Sierras are snowy too. UB had a pair of Frog Togs which were cheap but seemed to work incredibly well. I would suggest giving those a try. I picked up my rain pants in Kennedy Meadows, CA and risked wet legs prior to that (I only felt like I wanted them once). In Stehekin, WA I was given a pair of North Face rain pants which were falling apart but in good enough shape to last me through the final section. You could probably use Frog Togs for the entire trip except for deep snow (although if you have a high pair of gaiters you should be good). Score: 5/10
Fleece The North Face – Women’s OSO Hoodie fleece
Review: I used my fleece in the Sierras and through Washington. I was thankful for the extra warmth in the colder climates. I sometimes wore my fleece hiking under my rain jacket when it was really cold, but I tried to keep it as dry as possible so I could wear it to sleep in at night. You could send your fleece to Kennedy Meadows, CA, and then probably bounce it ahead again to Cascade Locks for WA (this is what I did). I also liked this fleece because it had a hood and gave my head extra warmth. It was great wearing the hood at night because my beenie would always fall off my head when I slept but the hood remained on all night. Brand doesn’t matter too much but try and get a lightweight fleece which isn’t too bulky to carry. Score: 10/10
Puffy jacket Arc’teryx Women’s Ceva Hoody puffy jacket
Review: I got this jacket on sale for half price on an REI discount rack and loved it. I chose a synthetic jacket because I was worried about it getting wet or damp and didn’t want to have to worry about the down getting wet. I carried this jacket for the entire trip, even through the desert as it can get very cold at night and I like to keep warm. I wore this jacket almost every night, even if it was just at night cooking dinner. I hiked in this jacket a couple of times, but only on a couple of occasions either at night or when it was freezing cold. I liked having the hood for the same reasons as my fleece. This jacket was super light and warm enough with my other layers even through freezing cold WA. Score: 10/10
Windbreaker Marmot Original Windshirt DriClime® for women wind breaker
Review: This incredibly lightweight windbreaker was a magnificent piece of gear I never should have sent home. It was perfect for blocking out the cool morning or evening breeze and was good on a damp day when there wasn’t heavy rain, but a bit of drizzle here and there, and the wet plants would brush against you. I hiked in it, I slept in it, I wore it in town. The reason I sent it home was because it was the only long sleeve shirt I had to hike in through Yosemite to protect me from the mosquitos, and the trauma of hiking in it during the heat wave made me choose to hang onto my hiking shirt rather than the wind breaker. Big mistake. I really should have kept both, considering how little it weighed. Score: 10/10
Beenie Icebreaker – Pocket hat beenie
Review: I probably wouldn’t worry too much about the brand of your beenie, however the Icebreaker one I carried was great. It wasn’t too hot but kept me warm enough when the temperatures dropped in the Sierras and WA. I wore it every evening when I set up camp and cooked dinner and only slept in it on the very cold nights. I would take something that covers your ears that is lightweight and a fabric like merino wool. Score: 9/10
Gloves Advenction – Windstopper gloves wind gloves
Review: I used these gloves at the beginning but didn’t find they provided me with enough warmth. I switched to a pair of soft shell Black Diamond gloves which I really liked but they had no kind of water resistance to them. When it started to rain a lot I bought a waterproof pair from REI for about $30. These gloves were anything but waterproof. In WA I ended up buying an $80 waterproof OR pair that had the ET 3 finger mit/glove style. We really needed good gloves in the snow. The Black Diamond gloves with latex gloves over the top worked alright, but the OR gloves at the end were lifesavers. I kept the Black Diamond gloves to sleep in on the very cold nights. One feature I would look for in a future glove would be the ability to text or use my phone whilst wearing them. I didn’t like having to take my gloves off to take photos or video with my phone. Score: 5/10
Glove liners Icebreaker – Oasis glove liners liner gloves
Review: I sent this pair of thin liner gloves home at Kick Off but in hindsight I should have kept them for days when I didn’t need a full glove but something to keep my hands slightly warm with the ability to still use my phone. They would have been good through mosquito land too without making my hands too hot! Score: n/a
Camp shoes Imitation/Fake Crocs (Frocs) 20130716-173346.jpg
Review: This $5 pair of fake Crocs were the best camp shoe I saw on trail. They weigh less than half the weight of a real Croc, I was able to hike approximately 50 miles of the trail in them when my blisters were bad, and used them for river crossings when I wanted to keep my shoes dry. The strap on one of them broke at Red’s Meadow , CA, but I was able to fix it with a safety pin and both shoes ended up surviving the entire trail. I would DEFINITELY recommend taking camp shoes. Let your poor feet breathe when you end the day and walk around in town. These shoes weigh next to nothing and, cost next to nothing, but made a world of difference for the part of my body you want to keep the happiest, your FEET! Score: 10/10
Knee braces Mueller Knee Stabiliser knee braces
Review: I begun the trail with some basic elastic knee braces which kept my knees warm and happy while hiking. I don’t have terrible knee problems, but my knees would hurt after a long day, especially on the downhills. The Mueller knee braces were much better than the basic elastic ones I had at the beginning. These ones had a hole around your knee cap and didn’t fall off like the other ones. This pair had supportive steel springs down each side of the knee but I ended up cutting these out because it restricted my knee movement too much and cut into my leg. Plus I just didn’t need that much support. Score: 8/10
Sleeping pants Mountain Design – Brass Monkey Fleece pants fleece pants
Review: I loved these fleece pants. I used them through the Sierras and wish I didn’t send them home afterwards. They would have been ideal for WA too. I used two pairs of long johns through WA which worked well, but these fleece pants were so cosy. The only downfall is that they’re a little bulky and don’t roll up as tightly as a pair of long johns. I would definitely call these a luxury item, but hey, you need to spoil yourself a little out there. Score: 8/10
Sleeping top Icebreaker – Pace Long Sleeve Crewe sleeping top
Review: This was the other long sleeve top I sent to myself in Cascade Locks. It was slightly heavier than the Smart wool long sleeve I’d carried previously, but it did the job given I’d lost the other one. This is a great top but I would probably go for something a little lighter for a thru hike like the Smart wool version. Score: 7/10
Sleeping socks Kathmandu – Fleece socks fleece socks
Review: I had sent these socks to Kennedy Meadows, CA for the Sierras but ended up bouncing them ahead and never actually wore them. It was much more practical to use a pair of socks to sleep in that I could actually hike in too if necessary. I ended up wearing a pair of Darn Tough socks as my bed socks and sometimes hiked in them on the final day into town. It’s good to let your feet breathe at night, but on the really cold nights I needed bed socks to be able to stretch my legs out and not get freezing cold feet. Score: n/a

2 thoughts on “Gear Review – Clothing

  1. Thanks so much for posting this! It’s tough to find a good gear/clothing list from female hikers and I’m trying to put together my own hiking outfit for my thru in 2014. I’m tossing around the idea of hiking in leggings instead of zip off hiking pants. Thoughts?

    • I’ve seen it done with shorts over the top, is this what you mean? Zip offs are awesome because it’s so easy to change between hot and cold. You can zip off leaning on a rock with your pack still on but with leggings you have to take everything off to change into shorts. Trust me you get super lazy and want to save every second for hiking so I would either suggest zip offs or maybe leggings under a shirt? I wasn’t the skirt type but many girls rocked them and loved them!

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