Gear Review – Equipment


Equipment Brand/Type Photo
Tent Tarptent – Moment Tarp Tent Moment
Review: I absolutely loved my tent. It was incredibly easy to set up, light and compact. The beauty of a single wall tent is it’s easy to set up in the rain. I’m 5 ft 6 and fit perfectly lying down and sitting up in the centre of this tent. If you’re any taller I’m not sure it would work so well. The new version of the tent has a door on either side which is awesome! The only downfall is not being able to look out at the stars at night, but in good weather I cowboy camped without using a tent so you can get the best of both worlds. Score: 9/10
Ground cloth Tyvek offcut Tyvek
Review: Tyvek worked great as a ground sheet. It will gradually become softer as you use it but you can also wash it before use so it doesn’t crincle like baking paper. Ensure you have a piece big enough to cover the entire base of your tent. You’ll probably also use it to sit on when the ground’s wet or really dirty during the day. I got a new piece in WA when my first piece completely wore out. Score: 10/10
Backpack ULA – Catalyst 75L IMG_5498
Review: I think everyone has a love/hate relationship with their pack. But I have to hand it to ULA, my pack withstood a lot of abuse, and other than the zip of the hipbelt breaking (which they replaced, no questions asked) it survived the entire trip. It might seem heavier than some of the super ultralight packs on the market but it has a good frame, can carry up to 45 pounds comfortably (if YOU can), and fit everything I needed in it including a bear canister and up to 10 days of food! The side pockets were hard for my small t-rex arms to reach sometimes and I didn’t like the way it always falls over when you set it down (unless you place your sleeping mat on the outside of the pack under the elastic straps). If you’re going to chose ULA I would get the Catalyst opposed to the Circuit (why not, a little extra room is a blessing in my eyes), but shop around. If you’re going to carry more than 45 pounds then you may as well get a heavier pack with more support. If you’re looking to go super ultralight then there are probably better options; but if you’re somewhere in the middle like most hikers I think it’s a great pack, especially if you sew some sheep skin on the shoulder straps! This saved me a lot of agony. Score: 7/10
Backpack cover ULA – Pack cover ULA Pack Cover
Review: Don’t expect any pack cover to keep your pack dry if the rain is coming down strong. I always carried one, but the top of your pack and the bottom with still get wet in the rain. Where a pack cover comes in handy is it keeps the items strapped to the outside of your pack somewhat dry (and if you’re anything like me, half of your things are strapped to the outside of your pack). Some people just used a garbage bag, which I would probably do in California, and then maybe upgrade to a pack cover for OR and WA. Just make sure you line your pack with a heavy duty garbage bag or have all of your items in dry sacks (which I would recommend anyway). Score: 3/10
Sleeping bag ULA – 20 degree, 550 down sleeping bag ULA sleeping bag
Review: I liked my bag, a 20 degree bag is perfect, although you might need a liner in the High Sierras or WA if you sleep very cold (which I do). I got this bag for $80 with my pack so I have no real complaints for that price, however it was a little heavy compared to other bags that were even warmer than mine. It also has this draw string plastic clip in the hood that I would sometimes lie on which annoyed me. It was perfect for my height, I think I ordered the small size, and it wasn’t claustrophobic like some other bags. Great for the price, but I would probably choose a lighter bag next time. Score: 6/10
Sleeping bag liner Mountain Design silk liner Silk liner
Review: I sent this home before using it, but ended up borrowing one in WA. If you sleep in all of your layers and have a 20 degree bag or warmer you probably shouldn’t need one. I got very tangled sleeping in a liner, so warmer long underwear would probably be my recommended alternative. Score: n/a
Sleeping pad Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol Sleeping Pad Thermarest Zlite
Review: This mat is a true identifier for a thru hiker. I would say 80% of thru hikers have this sleeping pad. I used the same pad for the entire trip (because I’m incredibly stubborn and wanted to), which meant it was like sleeping on a piece of cardboard by the end, but despite that I slept relatively well. If you’re going to use a foam pad this is the BEST! You don’t have to worry about the corners curling up because it folds rather than rolls up, and when it was new it was actually pretty comfortable. People who need real cushioning used this pad and a Therm-a-Rest Neo Air on top. I didn’t want to take a blow up pad in case it got punctured and because I didn’t want the hassle of inflating and deflating it each day. If sleeping on the ground doesn’t bother you too much, this is a great pad and is cheap to replace. If you want a blow up mat, the Neo Air is incredibly light and comfortable, but a little pricey too. Score: 10/10
Pillow case Homemade from a fleece blanket Fleece pillow case
Review: My mum sewed me a fleece pillow case that I could fill with clothing to use as a pillow. I loved it, but as I became more of a hardcore hiker :), I ended up using my clothing dry sack with a t-shirt over the top for a little added comfort. As the temperatures dropped and I wore more and more clothing to bed, my pillow got smaller and more uncomfortable, but I would try to keep my puffy jacket in the dry sack to give it extra volume. Score: 8/10
Stove Caldera Cone System 20130702-122725.jpg
Review: I loved my Caldera Cone alcohol stove and never had any issues with it during my trip. It is incredibly lightweight, compact and fuel efficient. I used HEET for fuel, with one bottle lasting me up to 7 days, boiling up to 600ml of water twice a day. I used the Caddy (plastic casing) as my cup and bowl, and packed the cone and my spoon inside it. I believe this is the most efficient alcohol stove out there, and the guys at Trail Designs are incredibly quick to respond if you have any questions or need a replacement. I saw a lot of people on trail using Jetboils and Pocket Rockets which run off gas canisters. I chose to go with an alcohol stove as I knew you could purchase HEET in almost every trail town. The Jetboil may be quicker in bringing water to the boil, but I’m not sure how much gas it chews through over a 7 day stretch and if the canisters it runs off are available in every town. Score: 8/10
Pot Evernew Titanium Non-Stick 600ml Pot (ECA421) 20130712-221302.jpg
Review: Awesome pot, leighweight and durable, but 600ml was a little too small even for one person. I would get a similar pot next time but a little bigger, 800ml to 1L. Score: 8/10
Spork Light my fire – Spork spork
Review: I broke 3 of these hard plastic sporks until I finally decided to invest the $10 on a titanium spork. Yogi suggests to carry two spoons/sporks so this could be a good backup, but a plastic spoon from McDonalds could also fill that role. Go with a titanium spork, you won’t be disapointed. Score: 1/10
Fuel HEET heet
Review: HEET was incredibly cheap (up to $3), reliable and easy to find in almost every trail town (the only place I couldn’t get it was Stehekin and that was because they had run out and didn’t re-order because of the government shutdown. I just carried HEET in it’s yellow bottle. Some people reported of leaks, it only leaked for me when someone else used it and probably didn’t put the lid on correctly. I sometimes carried two bottles for long sections, but one bottle should last 7 days if you only boil one pot of water twice a day. Score: 10/10
Lighter Bic lighter bic-lighter-profile
Review: I started off with a turbo lighter thinking I would need an incredibly strong flame if it was windy. In reality a Bic lighter was all I needed the entire trip. I took two small lighters incase one failed, and these both lasted from Warner Springs until the end of the trail. Amazing! I carried waterproof matches at the beginning as a backup, but got rid of them after my pack shakedown at Kick Off. Two small Bic lighters is all you need! Score: 10/10
Pocket knife Swiss multi tool pocket knife
Review: I probably had the smallest pocket knife on the planet. It had a mini little blade, a small scissor and a file. This is actually all I needed, but I would possibly take a slightly bigger one with a bigger blade next time (mainly to fight off the mountain lions). I initially had one with a nail clipper which I missed from time to time, but you could always just pack a light nail clipper if scissors don’t do it for you. Score: 7/10
Water bottle 1L Nalgene bottle nalgene water bottle
Review: I changed water systems like I changed socks. I started with a Nalgene bottle then posted it home. In the desert I had a 4L water bladder and two 1L Gatorade bottles for additional water capacity. I went back to a Nalgene bottle when I got my Steripen as it only just fit in the mouth of the largest Gatorade bottle, but then I changed to Smart water bottles when I changed to my Sawyer Squeeze water filter. I don’t think Nalgene bottles are worth the extra weight. You can use the same Gatorade bottle forever depending on how hygienically picky you are, and the Steripen will just fit inside the mouth piece. The Smart water bottles are more narrow though and work a little better in the side pockets of your pack (and are perfect for the Sawyer). I also used a half litre Gatorade bottle to mix my drink mixes in and wore it on the front of my pack. Score: 2/10
Water bladder 4L MSR Dromelite water bladder
Review: Best water bladder on the planet. The material versus plastic bag means that you can push out the air and the bag will fit smaller in your pack. It never leaked, and has a small and a large opening where you fill it with water so you can use it to pour easily into your pot for cooking. I loved having a drinking hose (not pictured) in the desert so I could constantly take little sips and remian hydrated, but in the Sierras and later in the trail when you carry less water and have more water sources to fill from, I preferred having the ability to easily fill up my water bottles without having to open my pack, pull out the bladder and fill it up. If I were to do it again I would definitely use the 4L water bladder in the desert, and would possibly consider keeping it for the remainder of the trail. Score: 9/10
Water filter Katadyn Hiker Pro katadyn-hiker-pro-microfilter-water-purification-320x320
Review: Water pumps are heavy compared to other water filtration methods, but through the desert I was extremely happy with my Katadyn water pump. Out of all the pumps I saw on trail, this was the easiest to use. We had to filter water out of concrete guzzlers which are basically drains filled with yellow looking water at one point. Everyone borrowed my water pump. It’s immediate, so the only downfall is the additional weight. It would have been useful in some parts of Oregon, but by then I don’t think I would have wanted to carry the extra weight. I pretty much tested every water filtration method (pump, drops, Steripen and Sawyer Squeeze), but the pump was perfect for SoCal (until someone broke it) 😦 Score: 8/10
Water treatment Pristine Water Purification drops & Aquatabs Pristine
Review: Drops are cheap to buy, but I never liked having to wait 5 minutes for the two ingredients to mix (same with Aquamira), and then 15 minutes until you can actually drink the water. If you can afford the $100 for a Steripen then I would definitely recommend it. I used the rechargeable version (Steripen Freedom) which takes 90 seconds to filter 1L of water. I liked the Steripen when the water was already clean looking, I wouldn’t have wanted to use it through the desert. My Steripen broke after it somehow melted in the heat and then I dropped the whole device in my water bottle without the cover over the charging connector. I went to the Sawyer Squeeze after this because it was half the price and I liked the idea of being able to drink straight out of the bottle with no wait time at all. I didn’t like squeezing the water out of it into my pot though. I also carried Aquatabs which are tablets I used as a backup. I would use a pump in the desert and a Steripen for the rest of the trail in future. Score: 3/10
Hiking Poles Black Diamond Ultra Distance Trekking Pole Hiking poles
Review: Best poles on the planet and a little pricey because of it. Lightest poles I saw on trail and extremely durable even though both of mine snapped after 5 months (keeping in mind I would sometimes swing my entire weight on them when juming puddles and racing down hills). They are not adjustable, so you need to buy the correct length, which may be a downfall for some, but for me having one length was awesome. They fold up kind of awkwardly, but I only folded them when hitching in and out of towns. I loved these poles and was sad I didn’t have them anymore after they snapped. Score: 9/10
Hiking pole ends Black Diamond Z Pole Baskets and Metal Tips black_diamond-z-pole-carbide-tips
Review: I started off with rubber tips and wore through them way too quickly. I needed to get the whole basket changed at a gear store because they use hot glue to attach them. They advised me to use the mental ends and these worked a lot better for much longer. The metal ends probably last around 700 miles depending on how much you use them. I used my poles ALL the time. Don’t bother carrying extra tips with you, change them when you get to a town with a gear store. Awesome tips for awesome poles! Score: 9/10
Bug head net Outdoor Research Deluxe Spring Ring Headnet BUG HEAD NET
Review: Although headnets are my most hated piece of gear, this one was a beauty. I had read in Yogi’s guide to get one with a ring around it to hold the netting off your face. This is a must! It was hard to see through when the sun is shining in your face and when hiking at night with a headlamp (not recommended), but it does the job of keeping bugs away from your face. The ring is a little annoying because it’s right in the middle of your line of sight, but without it mosquitos will bite you through the netting if it’s touching your skin. Score: 7/10
Stuff sacks (4) Kathmandu Stuff Sac (XL, L, M, S) StuffSac
Review: These basic draw string stuff sacks were pretty useless. I discovered the only items I needed to put in a stuff sack were my clothes and my sleeping bag. You may as well put your clothes and sleeping bag in separate dry sacks which will save you much pain when you start hiking in the rain. I used an 8L Sea to Summit dry sack for my clothing (I carried lots of clothing) and a 20L Sea to Summit dry sack for my sleeping bag (I probably could have used a smaller one, but you can squeeze the air out of it and I liked the extra space so you don’t have to waste muscle squishing it into a tiny bag each morning. Score: 2/10
Headlamp Petzl elite petzl-elite-whistle
Review: This is a very lightweight headlamp, but it’s only useful around camp and inside your tent. You CANNOT night hike with this headlamp. I ended up buying a Black Diamond headlamp which had three settings, strong, medium and red. You could also fade the light on each setting to the correct strength. I loved my Black Diamond headlamp and used the red light inside my tent and when talking to people and the white light for night hiking. It takes three AAA batteries which last quite a long time depending on your use of course. The Petzl could be a good backup headlamp if you wanted to carry two. Score: 2/10
Mini bike light Turtle white LED light bike light
Review: I used a tiny little white LED light hanging from the top of my tent which was perfect in lighting up my tent enough to see where things were. I couldn’t read in this light, but enjoyed having the whole tent dimly lit and only using my headlamp if necessary. This little light lasted 5 months. This would have been an adequate emergency backup if I ever lost my headlamp too. Score: 8/10
Rope (hanging food) 3mm static cord (8m) static cord
Review: We only ever tried hanging food once. I don’t know any other hiker on the entire trail that hung food. I sent this rope back at the Kick Off. The only time I thought it might come in handy was for a washing line to dry clothing, but trees can usually perform that action, or the back of your pack while hiking if it’s not raining. Score: n/a
Whistle Fox 40 classic whistle whistle
Review: I only used this whistle once when I couldn’t find UB but knew he was close by. I blew it as loud as I could but he didn’t hear me. Some packs have a built in whistle on the pack strap. I would either get a very loud whistle or not take one at all. I don’t think I would take one again, but I carried a SPOT device for emergencies which gave me greater comfort. Score: 1/10
Compass Suunto A-10 Recreational Compass compass
Review: I sent my compass home from Kick Off. I had a compass app on my phone and only used it twice on the entire trail. I also didn’t carry paper maps and only looked at the ones I had PDF’ed on my phone once or twice; so for me, a compass wasn’t really necessary. Score: n/a
Bear cannister Bearvault BV 500 bear vault
Review: Most bear cannisters are the same except for their volume. I was rarely able to fit all my food in the biggest cannister you can get when I left town. Eventually it would fit, but I used an odor-proof OPSak for my additional food. I’m not convinced these really mask the odor of food. You will need to carry a bear can through Yosemite, and you’ll be happy you have one as people do have their food taken by bears (or marmots). Take a big one, use it for the 120 or so miles you MUST carry one, and then be happy you never have to carry one again. Some people continued to carry them for the rest of the trail. I thought these people were insane but then again they never had to worry about their food storage, and it would have been good to fend off the mice in WA. I borrowed one from a friend, but you can rent them too which is easy to do. I used mine from Kennedy Meadows until South Lake Tahoe. Score: 8/10
Ice Axe Charlet Moser Snowalker ice axe
Review: I ended up sending this home from Lone Pine. You cannot send international mail from Kennedy Meadows, so I couldn’t send it back to Canada from there. I had no idea what the snow levels would be like, but the snow in the Sierras was very low this year. I thought about getting one in WA, but I was advised against it. Do I know how to use an ice axe? No. I’m very glad I didn’t need one, but if you do, this one was nice and light and probably would have done a stella job! Score: n/a
Snow footwear Yaktracks yack tracks
Review: I wore these in Washington instead of crampons on light snow, only a few inches deep. I had just bought new boots with good tracton, so I don’t know how effective they really were. I wore them when I crossed rocky areas too, and was too lazy to take them off when there was no snow, so they broke pretty quickly. I felt a little better having them, but if it was really icy I would have wanted crampons (or microspikes which I guess do the same thing). Unless you know it’s an incredibly heavy snow year, I would almost hold off on this kind of snow gear and purchase or rent it along the way. I ended up purchasing and renting all of my snow gear (snow shoes, long gaiters, warmer gloves, ski poles, boots) in Washington when I discovered it was impossible to go on without it. All of the snow gear I sent to Kennedy Meadows I didn’t use. Score: 5/10

10 thoughts on “Gear Review – Equipment

    • I went to a Backpacker Mag gear demo a few weeks ago at A16 — they showed a smaller & lighter version of the Sawyer Squeeze coming out this year — might be worth waiting to check that out.

    • I used down and think it’s the way to go. Much lighter, much warmer, and you need to keep your bag as dry as possible anyway. I only washed it properly once during the trip in special down wash. My 20 degree bag was good, but a 15 degree bag would be better for Washington if you’re there in the snow.

  1. Very helpful to read all this. I am in full preparation of this season’s PCT SoBo thru-hike and your website provides so much info. I find myself keep coming back to this site again and again.
    Thank you!!!

  2. Love the review. Because of what you said about being able to see the stars at night I ended up buying a Nemo 3 person moki tent(The review at seemed to really like the windows up top). I couldnt be happier. Thanks for reminding us to look at the little things when buying tents.

    • Thanks Dave! I may have to look into that option myself (although I’m incredibly attached to my Tarptent and still classify it as my home!) Enjoy your star gazing!!

  3. Did you end up buying most of your “big” gear in the States (i.e. sleeping bag, tent etc), or did you purchase it at home and take it over with you? I’m so sorry about all the questions over the last few days- I’m just so excited to have found an Australian who’s completed the trail! 🙂

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