TL/DR: I’m getting new gear! <Leaps around house for joy.>
In light of our new plan to hike the PCT in Oregon, I have ordered a new, lighter and less bulky sleeping bag, and a new, lighter and less bulky tent. I expect to receive both of them today, along with a new Dyneema bag for my clothes.
When we were in California on the PCT, everyone noted how heavy and big our packs seemed to be, and while we did send a few pounds back home, our packs were still inordinately (I thought) heavy. I was using the ULA Catalyst pack, which is a 75-liter pack that can carry 40 lbs maximum. I bought this larger pack in anticipation of having to carry a bear canister on the PCT while in the Sierra. While I don’t know how many pounds I had in the pack, especially with food and water, the pack wasn’t comfortable and after about 4 miles would start to feel like it was hanging from my shoulders. I think it was more from the heaviness of the things in the pack than the pack itself, as I have carried my ULA Circuit (68L, max load 35 lbs) on more than one backpacking trip and found it to be very comfortable.
Last year before our summer backpacking I did tons of research and bought a new tent (Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 – 2lbs 3 oz) and a new sleeping bag (Sierra Designs Women’s Cloud 20, a zipperless bag – 2lbs 4 oz). I anticipated using both on the PCT this year. While the tent is awesome (didn’t leak, only got condensation when we camped near a lake) it takes a long time to set up, weighs over 2 lbs., and is bulky. Also, the zippers are hard to open and since it is silicone-impregnated nylon (sil-nylon) it sags when it gets wet and takes awhile to dry. And while the sleeping bag kept me warm, I found that the zipperless design was inconvenient for me to wriggle in and out of, especially in the night when nature called. Plus, it kept losing feathers all over the place. Since it is 800-fill down, it doesn’t pack down as small as I’d like. (Note to those interested: 800-fill down is usually duck down, while 900-fill down is goose down, which packs smaller. Why? I don’t know.)
As many hikers/backpackers do, I like to watch videos on YouTube about other hikers’ gear lists. One of these hikers is Condor, or Tiki Bird Tracy, who is thru-hiking the PCT this year. While watching her 2022 PCT gear vid I noticed that she also has the ULA Circuit pack, but while I struggled to get all my goodies in the pack she could fit hers in with no problem. In the video, she stuffs her sleeping bag, tent, and clothes bag in the bottom of her pack and everything fits with what looks like plenty of room for the rest of her stuff. When we got home from our PCT thru attempt I started researching lighter, less bulky gear and I went back to Tracy’s video and studied her gear, especially her tent and sleeping bag.
Tracy is using a ZPacks Classic sleeping bag, which is fancy and expensive. She is also using the ZPacks Duplex tent, which is even more fancy and more expensive. After more research on tents and sleeping bags, and after watching videos of Tracy on the PCT, I decided to order from ZPacks the Duplex tent (spruce green, it’s a thicker material and more opaque than the blue – 20.5 oz) and the 10F Full Zip sleeping bag with 900 fill power goose down in green – 26.9 oz, because I surmise it will be easier for me to get in and out of. The tent and sleeping bag each come with a dedicated Dyneema dry bag.
* The Duplex is fancy!
* The Duplex is made of Dyneema, which means it is strong, it doesn’t absorb water and is easy to dry off (There can be a problem with condensation in the inside, but according to my research it isn’t as much of a problem as I thought it would be when I bought the Tiger Wall instead of the Duplex last year.) When using a Dyneema tent, you also don’t have to use a separate groundcloth to protect the bottom of the tent. More weight savings there.
* The Duplex sets up with trekking poles so I won’t have to carry tent poles (now, the reason I didn’t buy it last year is because I didn’t think I wanted a trekking pole tent. What if one of my poles breaks? I have decided that if one if my poles breaks I will use one of Marnie’s poles to set up my tent, har.)
* The Duplex is quick to set up and you don’t have as much worry about getting rain in it since it is a single wall tent and all sets up at once.
* The Duplex rolls up pretty small.
* The Duplex is green instead of orange-y like the Tiger Wall.
* The Duplex has line-loc adjusters on the guylines, which make it simple to pitch.
* The sleeping bag is fancy!
* The sleeping bag is a 10-degree bag, better than the 20-degree rating of my current bag.
* The full zipper on the sleeping bag will make it easy to extricate myself from the bag and get into it, especially in the dark.
* The sleeping bag will pack down smaller than the bag I have.
* The Duplex is expensive. Although, I did save $50 during the Memorial Day sale.
* The Duplex can get condensation inside, and it can drip on your head or your down sleeping bag. I will bring a “shammy” super-absorbent towel to alleviate this problem.
* The Duplex does not come with tent stakes, so you have to order theirs or supply your own. Since I would be using my MSR Groundhog stakes anyway, this is almost not a con.
* The sleeping bag is expensive.
* The sleeping bag doesn’t have a hood, so it might be hard to keep my pillow on my sleeping pad. I will look for ways to fix this. But since it is six feet long and I am only 5’6″ I should have room to pull it up over my head, so the lack of hood won’t be missed by my ears.
* There is not a sleeping pad sleeve to keep the bag on the pad, like on my Sierra Designs bag. While that is a great feature, it is really difficult to get the sleeve around the pad when you’re sitting down in the tent anyway, and I didn’t want to try wrassling with it outside of the tent and dropping it in the dirt.
In using the new tent, new sleeping bag, and (old) ULA Circuit pack, I will actually be saving about 4 lbs in weight! That may not sound like much, but when you’re carrying it on your back (and your knees, ankles, feet, etc.) it’s a good amount. My base weight (pack weight without food and water) has gone down to around 16 lbs., which, while certainly not ultralight, is acceptable. I am anxiously awaiting my new gear today (hurry up, UPS man!). Unfortunately it is going to rain here until next Tuesday so I won’t set the tent up until after the rains, I want to set it up on dry ground first just in case. I have been blessed to receive a whole lot of work in the last couple of months, which allowed me to pay for the new gear without stressing about it. God is good, all the time!
The moral of the story is, when researching and buying backpacking gear, weight and bulk should be a big part of your consideration.
I also got some fun little things to backpack with. I’ll share those in another post!
Just keep walking!