Now that I’m back from the first section of my John Muir Trail hike, it’s time to evaluate what I brought out there and decide… what worked and what didn’t. What was useful, and what was dead weight? Will I need to make any changes because of the different seasons when I finish the trail in September? Did I wish I had anything that I didn’t have? Do I want to try any new gear just for the hell of it? Yes, I’m a gear addict and I love to try everything. You can read more about my addiction in my Tales From a Backpacking and Hammock Gear Addict post. So here it is; my gear on the JMT.
- Backpack: Kakwa 55 – This was a new piece of gear for me. Previously I had been using the ULA Circuit, which I do love, but I wanted to cut some weight. Plus, this backpack is water resistant, so I don’t need a pack cover. What did I think of it? Well, I think it’s a winner! I don’t love it more than my Circuit, but I’d say it’s about equal. I love that it’s water-resistant and ultralight which are the top reasons I purchased it. I will say that my Circuit fits more gear in all compartments which is good because my gear is slightly bulky, but for the previous two reasons, I will be sticking with my Kakwa 55 for the rest of the trail. Another thing to mention is that the backpack was very comfortable. I always thought my Circuit was comfortable, but the Kakwa might have been even more so. I’d have to test both again to be sure, but I loved the fit!
- Backpack Liner: Nylofume Pack Liner – Ok, this is one of those items that I always bring and never use. I did use it on this first section of the JMT, but not for what it was intended. It was great to store my shoes in at the bottom of my sleeping bag so that they didn’t freeze over in the middle of the night. That won’t be an issue in September… but I’ll still be bringing it. You just never know what the trail may bring your way.
Shelter and Sleep System
- Hammock & Underquilt: Superior Gear Elite 15-Degree Hammock – I LOVE my hammock! That being said, I can’t imagine using anything else unless I absolutely have to. It may weigh a bit more than using a tent, but the comfort is worth it for sure! I can also set this up in no time at all, and I don’t have to look around for flat land. I just need two trees… which in my opinion is easier to find most of the time. That being said… I will be switching out my shelter for the very last section of the trail. I’ve decided to ship out a bivy sack to my hotel in Independence and ship my hammock back home. The reason for this is that in the final push, up to Mt Whitney there will be no trees. I do have a Lunar Solo tent from Six Moons Designs, but I really hate setting up tents. Instead, I am going with the OR Helium Bivy Sack. It looks super easy to set up. I’m all about quick setups and I don’t really care about space. Plus, I love to try new gear. Bonus!
- Hammock Underquilt Protector: Superior Gear Lite Underquilt Protector – For the first section of the trail, this extra feature was a win. It really helped to add a few extra degrees to my sleep setup. There were also a few times that my hammock brushed against the ground and the underquilt protector helped to keep my hammock dry and clean. Now will I take it for this next section to finish the trail? I’m still debating on that one. The weather should be a lot warmer, so I don’t really need the extra insulation. That being said, it’s only 4 ounces. Hmmm… I’m on the fence with this one.
- Hammock Suspension System: Superior Gear Elite Suspension Sling – I love Superior’s suspension system. It’s light, easy, and packs down small. I’ll be bringing it again for sure!
- Hammock Tarp Stakes: Superior Gear Ground Stakes – I lost two of these in the icy snow this past section, but I love how small, bright, and light they are. I’ll be bringing them again.
- Hammock Tarp: Hammock Gear Standard Tarp with Doors – This was a new item for me that I had never even set up before this trip. What did I think about it? I loved it! I love the large size and the ultralight nature of it. I also like that it’s not opaque, so when I wake up, there is light that shines in. I love the doors as well. I didn’t use them, but I love having the option. This will be my new go-to tarp from now on.
- Hammock Storage Gear Loft: OneWind Peak Storage – This has been on my gear list for a while now. It’s small, light, very useful and takes no space at all. I’ll be bringing it again for sure!
- Top Quilt: Trailheadz Ethereal 0 Degree 1000 Fill Top Quilt – If you read my other posts, you’ll know that this quilt came in the mail about 2 hours before I headed out to the trail. I’m glad it made it because I LOVE it! Not only is it gorgeous, it’s also comfortable and super warm. I hope it won’t be too warm for September, but I guess we will see.
- Pillow: Big Agness Sleeping Giant Pillow – This was another new piece of gear that I bought last minute. I found it at REI in the garage sale area. It weighs ever so slightly more than my other pillow, but boy is it a million times better!!! This pillow is discontinued, but I bet you could make one that is similar, or some other company might have one. I love that I can store my clothes in it, so it has double function, plus it is way bigger than my last pillow. I never lose it in my bed and it just feels so good!
- Bear Can: Bearikade Weekender – Was the price of the Bearikade worth it? It’s lighter, so I suppose so. One thing that I didn’t like, or rather that I need to get used to, is the way you open it. To open, you need to unscrew 3 locks on the top. I was using a quarter, which I seemed to have a hard time locating once in a while and one time I really thought I lost it. Luckily I found it in one of my pockets. I’m going to try and find a new system next time that is secured somewhere. The other thing that I didn’t like was the size. I really think I could get by with something smaller and then it might fit in my backpack. I’m not sure. I think I’m going to try my BV450. I can pack food really small and I’ll be resupplying fairly often in September.
- Stove: BRS3000t – I’ve used this stove for a few years now and I don’t think I would change it. It’s light, easy, and all I boil is water. If I changed anything I would go stoveless, but I’m not sure I’m ready to make that leap. Maybe over the next month I’ll try some stoveless meals and get a feel for it. I could save a lot of weight that way.
- Cooking Pot: TOAKS 650ml Pot – I’ve been using this pot for about a year now, and the size is perfect for what I need it for… just boiling water. I tried a new lid this time because I brought my bowl, but since I don’t plan to bring the bowl again, I’ll just bring the regular lid next time. I’m pretty sure it’s lighter.
- Bowl / Cup: GSI Pinnacle Soloist Bowl – Ok, I brought this bowl because I thought I’d want it to drink coffee. Normally I drink coffee, but lately I’m just too lazy or I just want to get out on the trail. I didn’t make coffee once on this trip, so I’m almost 100 percent positive that I will ditch this piece of gear.
- Spork: GSI Folding Spork – I like my little spork. It does the job, it’s the lightest option I can find, and it fits in my pot. It’s a keeper for sure!
- Fuel Canister – Unless I go stoveless this piece of gear is a keeper. The 110 size was perfect for this length of trip and I had a lot left over.
- Water Storage: Smartwater 1L Bottles – Ever since I switched from a water bladder to water bottles I’ve used the Smartwater brand. If it’s not broken then don’t fix it… so I’ll be staying with this option.
- Water Filter: Katadyn BeFree .6L Water Filter – Fast and easy is my motto on the trail. The BeFree is both, so it’ll stay on my gear list. Amazingly enough it did not freeze or get clogged on this trip like it has in the past.
- Trash Bag – I bring just a simple 1-gallon ziplock bag to store my trash in. It’s a trash bag. What do you want? It works and I need it. It will go with me next time.
- Lighter – I brought a mini Bic. Yep, I’ll bring it again unless I go stoveless.
- Cleaning Cloth – I just have a small blue cloth to wipe out my cooking pot and spork after using them. It works, plus it keeps things from rattling in my pot while I’m hiking. It’ll be going again for sure.
- Breakfast – For breakfast I had dehydrated cereal, dehydrated biscuits and gravy, and oatmeal. I put each meal in its own bag for easy prep. I also have individual packets of coffee with creamer included. As for breakfast, I had a few leftover meals since I don’t always eat breakfast. I might bring less next time knowing I will just eat a bar some days. Surprisingly, I didn’t drink one cup of coffee even though I was in the snow. I don’t have the time for sitting around when trying to beat the sun. I’ll be leaving those at home next month.
- Lunch – For lunch I had tortillas, peanut butter, string cheese, and salami. This is my go-to lunch on every trip. Amazingly I have not grown tired of it. It’s easy and fast. Like I said, that’s the way I roll, so I’ll be sticking with it.
- Dinner – For dinner I had various dehydrated meals that I divided out into their own bags and marked with how much water they needed to be cooked. Removing the original packaging really saved space and the smaller bag was easier to eat out of. I’m not sure the food cooked as well in it, but I’m not picky about that. I’ll be sticking with this method.
- Snacks – For snacks I had various energy and protein bars. I think next time I will bring some trail mix, maybe some gummies, and beef jerky. I was slim on the snack variety this time.
- Dessert – For the most important meal of the day I always bring Snickers bars. They are my favorite for sure! I always eat this right before bed to give my body something to work at digesting and keep me warm. I never hike without them!
Toiletries / First Aid / Survival
- Medical Kit: Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight / Watertight Medical Kit .5 (customized) – This is one of those what-if types of items that I bring with me. I never use it, but I always bring it. I might try slimming it down again, but I always use the Advil PM to help me sleep and soothe my sore body each night.
- Toothbrush – Nothing to see here. It’s a toothbrush. I don’t like fur on my teeth, so it’ll be going with me again.
- Toothpaste – Hmmm… like I said above. I don’t like fur on my teeth, so the toothpaste will be coming with me.
- Comb – Despite how much hair I have, this little comb does me well. I’m sticking with it.
- Hand Sanitizer – I rarely use it, but for the few times that my hands get icky, I was glad to have it. Oh! I just realized looking at my photo that it’s not the correct one. Right before heading out on the trail I found my hand sanitizer that hangs on my pack. It was so much more convenient, plus I didn’t have a spillage accident like I have had many times before.
- Sunscreen (body): Banana Boat Travel Size – This is the perfect size for what I need. I really just use it on my hands.
- Sunscreen (face): Colorscience Face Sheild – Ok, I had this great idea to save weight and transfer just a little to a travel container. Bad idea! It cracked almost instantly, and I had a hard time opening it the rest of the trip. By the last day it totally broke and I had to throw it in my trash. Boo! As for the color added to my sunscreen? I’m not sure it made a difference. It’s pretty much the same as my Clinique face sunscreen. I’ll bring it again, but once I run out I’m going back to Clinique. It’s less expensive.
- Chapstick: Colorscience Color Balm – Ok, this did not happen. I really wanted this cute colored chapstick/blush, but the office was closed. Boo!!! I ended up just picking up some aloe lip balm at the Yosemite market. That being said, I will be bringing my cute Colorscience Color Balm in September!
- Deodorant – Yep, I did it. I brought deodorant. This is the first trip I have done that since I found this super small travel stick and I will say that I am a fan. Who says you have to be a stinky hiker? I officially can no longer call myself an ultralight hiker.
- Pee Cloth: Animosa Pee Cloth – This pee cloth is totally basic, but it does the job. That being said, I lost it on the last day. It must have fallen off my pack. Luckily I have more at home and will bring one of those next month.
- Pooper Scooper: The Deuce 2 – Used it. It worked. Enough said.
- Toilet Paper – I felt good about the quantity, so I’m sticking with that.
- Wet Wipes (dried out) – I brought a little too much since I didn’t use them on the days I was too exhausted, but I really should have. Next time I don’t think I’ll bring extra. I’ll just bring what I think I’ll need knowing I won’t always be up for a wipe-down.
- Gear Repair Kit – I’ve never used it, but I’ll always bring it.
- Pocket Knife: Swiss Army Victorinox Nail Clip – I love my little pocket knife! I always use the scissors, knife, and nail clippers. Never leave home without it.
- Cell Phone: iPhone 13 pro – I always go backpacking with my phone. It doubles as my camera, map, journal, and entertainment (books and podcasts).
- Satellite Communicator: Garmin inReach Mini 2 – I normally go backpacking solo, so having an emergency satellite communicator is essential. It helps my family feel at ease and allows me to give updates along the way. I just had a lightbulb moment as I write this though! I was upset on the trail because my map was not keeping up in real time like it usually does. I just realized that I normally look at my AllTrails map and not my Garmin map. I think this was the problem! My Garmin map was only updating every 10 minutes. Gah! Good to know for next time I’m hiking in the snow.
- Battery Charger: Nitecore NB10000 Gen 2 – I’m not sure if it was user error or product defect, but I had a lot harder time charging with this charger than my Anker charger. When I plugged it in, it did not always start charging. By the last two days, it stopped charging all together. Luckily I threw in my other charger at the last minute as a backup. I don’t know what I would have done had I not. I’m going to test both of them before heading out in September. I don’t want that to happen again.
- Charging Cords: Anker Powerline II 3-in-One Charger – The charging cord worked pretty well, except for the one time that I accidentally left it dangling in the snow. It then would not let me charge my phone. I had to blow on the plug until it dried out. That was almost tragic!
- Flashlight: Nitecore Thumb 85 Lumens – This was my first time with this tiny flashlight and I loved it! I don’t really use my flashlight much since I don’t do anything in the dark, but it’s good to have just in case. I think I turned it on once or twice for a minute. It has both white light and red light, plus a clip if I want to hang it in my hammock or walk around with it on my hat.
- Headphones: Acoustic Sheep Headband – These are great! Normally I bring ear pods, but I hate when they fall out or start irritating my ears. The headband is so much more comfortable and I can lay with it while on my side. The sound is not quite as good, but it’s good enough.
- External Keyboard: Samsers Foldable Bluetooth Keyboard – Ok, this was a dumb idea. I used it the first night before heading on the trail and never again. Wasted weight! I preferred to just use talk-to-text to write in my journal because I was so tired at night. This will not come with me ever again.
- Microphone: PowerDeWise Lavalier Microphone – Ok, another dumb idea. I didn’t use this at all. I’m just too lazy to plug it in for good sound. LOL! I’m sorry if my videos suck.
- Trekking Poles: Black Diamond Womens Trail Trekking Poles – As a hiker back in the day, I never used trekking poles. Now that I backpack, I always use them! I even convinced David of how great they are despite how dorky he felt they looked. He rarely hikes without them now. Not only do they help me go up hills and down hills, they also hold up my tarp in porch mode during the day, and when I’m taking a break on the trail, they are my forehead rest, or if behind me, I can prop them under my backpack to take off the weight for a minute.
- Snow Baskets for Trekking Poles – Wasted weight. I never used them.
- Climbing harness: Blue Ice Choucas Light Harness – Wasted weight. I ended up not hiking Half Dome.
- Via Ferrata Lanyard for Climbing: Petzl Scorpio Vertigo Lanyard – Wasted weight. I ended up not hiking Half Dome.
- Climbing Gloves: Wells Lamont Work Gloves – Wasted weight. I ended up not hiking Half Dome.
- Micro Spikes: Black Diamond Access Spike Traction Devices – These were the best purchase ever! I used them for about half of the trip and loved how easy they were to put on and take off. They didn’t help a lot in the slush, but when I got up early in the morning they made all the difference!
- Rain Jacket: REI Co-Op – This is one of those just-in-case items that I never use, but always bring. I was glad I had it on this trip though. The mist trail was more of a downpour and my rain jacket finally proved to be worth the weight.
- Rain Skirt: Lightheart Gear Rain Wrap Ultralight Rain Skirt – Like my rain jacket, this piece of gear proved to be very useful on the Mist Trail. I doubt I’ll really need it, but I’ll be bringing it again anyways. Luckily it packs down super small.
- Insulated Jacket: Enlightened Equipment – Torrid Apex Jacket – Normally I bring my fleece jacket, but this was my first time with the Torrid. I love it! It’s lighter than my fleece, packs down smaller than my fleece, and has a hood.
- Insulated Pants: Enlightened Equipment – Torrid APEX Pants – For my winter trek these were amazing! I slept in them and completed my morning and evening routines in them. That being said, I’m not sure if they will come with me on this next trip. I doubt it will be cold enough for them… especially since I took them off most nights because I got too hot, and that was in the snow! I haven’t decided yet.
- Base Layer Top: Smartwool Women’s Classic Thermal Merino Crew Base Layer Top – This top comes with me on every trip and it will be coming with me again.
- Tank Top: Vuori Women’s Energy Crop Tank Top – Because of how cold it was in the snow, I never used my tank top, but I know I’ll be bringing it again next time for sure! Having a tank top to relax in at the end of the day when it’s hot out is essential and it’s sure to be hot in September.
- Underwear (x1): Ridge Merino Bikini – This is my first time using this brand and I liked them a lot. They were comfortable and easy to clean.
- Hiking Socks (x1): Injinji Artist Designed Women’s Crew Sock – LOL! I’m such a goon. I was so excited to wear my Artist series toe socks. These were the high socks, but I might bring my ankle socks next time since it’ll be hot outside. I have a cool alien pair of ankle socks!
- Sleep Socks: These have been my sleep socks for years, and I don’t plan on changing them. They’re nothing special. I just love how fluffy they are and super loose so my feet don’t feel constricted.
- Fleece Hat: Outdoor Research Peruvian Fleece Hat – This was a new hat for this trip and I loved it! I was tired of my beenie always falling off in the middle of the night and with the ear flaps and necktie, I never have to worry about that again.
- Mosquito Head Net: Anvin Mosquito Head Mesh Nets – Luckily this doesn’t weigh anything, because there were no bugs at all. I’ll be bringing it next time for sure though! I hear the bugs are raging now.
- Sandals: Xero Shoes – Naboso Trail Sport Sandals – They definitely are not a fashion statement, but they work. I only ended up wearing them at camp which makes me think I should just bring regular sandals next time. We’ll see. This is one I’m going to think about. It’ll depend on the weight difference between the two.
- Sun Hoodie: Ridge Merino Solstice Lightweight Wool Hoodie – OMG! This sun hoodie is my new bestie! It’s cozier than my crater lake hoodie and definitely kept me from stinking. I also liked the dark color that hid any ounce of dirt. This one is a winner!
- Hiking Skirt: Purple Rain Skirt – I like my skirt, but I’m debating. I love the option of great airflow if I don’t wear the leggings, but that being said, I never took off my leggings. I love the pockets, but I could live without them. Hmmm… It’s not really extra weight since I always wear it. I’m just trying to think if it’s necessary.
- Hiking Tights: Ridge Merino Crowley Compression Tights – These were thicker than I thought they were going to be, but they worked great on this trip. I’m worried they will be too thick in the heat though. Maybe I should get a thinner pair? I love wearing pants so that I don’t get burnt. Regardless, I’ll definitely use some sort of stretchy pants. These are great because they are partially wool… so I never got stinky even though I wore them every day without washing.
- Underwear (x1): Ridge Merino Bikini – Same note as above in my underwear carried… loved these.
- Hiking Socks (x1): Injinji Artist Designed Women’s Crew Sock – Same note above in my socks carried. Love them, but I’ll probably bring the short version in September.
- Bra: Ridge Merino Seamless Sports Bra – Wool rules! I wore it all the time except when I was sleeping, never washed it, and there was no stink to be had. I think I’ll buy more of these. This is my new favorite hiking bra!
- Trucker Hat: I always bring a hat, but I really don’t have a favorite. Who knows what I’ll wear in September. I do like the “Be Kind” saying on the hat though.
- Hiking Shoes: La Sportiva TX4 – I brought these shoes for more grip on Half Dome, but didn’t end up hiking Half Dome. Oh well. I did like them and I’m sure I’ll use them again. It won’t be on my next trip though. I’ll be bringing my Hokas in September. I need something that will dry out fast with those water crossings.
- Shoe Gaiters: Ultra Gam Gaiters – Smart idea… dumb execution! I forgot to prep these for my shoes, so I couldn’t even use them. Will I bring them in September? I don’t know. I doubt it’s necessary.
- Knee Brace: Cho Pat Knee Brace – My knees suck and Cho Pat is always there for a little support. I never hike without it! For those that wear a brace, I like that this one velcros on and off so I can get a tight fit and easily put it on and take it off throughout the day.
- Sunglasses (prescription): Nike – Ok, I love being able to see… I hated these sunglasses though. When I first bought them I could have sworn that they fit well. Well, I guess I was not paying attention, because they are way too big! Gah! I need to see if I can fix them. Otherwise I will need to get a new pair. What a waste! Other notes… I’m not sure that I like the tint-changing type of glasses and I think maybe I should have gotten the progressive type (bifocals).
So there you have it! Those are my thoughts on all the gear that I brought on this trip. For the most part, I think I made great decisions, but I’m glad I had this short trip to test everything out. I’ll be making a few changes for sure! Not only will the weather be different, but so will the terrain. Those are my excuses at least. In reality, I just want an excuse to buy new backpacking gear. Gah! That’s the addict in me.
As I look at the date on my computer, my heart races with excitement and clenches with anxiety. I can’t believe that in a month I will be back out on the trail, and this time it will be for 3 weeks to cover 211 miles! I can’t wait to be out there, but I don’t feel ready yet. Luckily reviewing my list will help me get started on any purchases I need to make. I still need to put together my resupply boxes and confirm a few logistical issues. Not to mention, I am swamped at work and I need to get everything in order. Gah! Heart attack! Breath! You can do this. Four weeks and some change to go. Eeeek!
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