Backpacking, Gear, hiking, PCT, Reviews

The Tent

I didn’t make a video of the “unboxing” or setting up my new ZPacks Duplex tent, but here is the finished product:

ZPacks Duplex tent with vestibules not staked out.

Tent with vestibules staked out.

End of tent.

The tent wasn’t hard to set up when I followed the instructions on the ZPacks video and some other tips and tricks videos I found, although there is a learning curve. I wasn’t sure it looked right so I contacted ZPacks to find out if I was doing something wrong, and the representative seemed to think that the top was sagging too much and said that it should be taut, although when I tugged on it it seemed taut to me. I will set it up again this week and experiment. It could be that I set my trekking poles too high.

Here’s a video that shows how to set the tent up in good weather:

How to Setup a Backpacking Tent / How To Get The Perfect Pitch EVERY TIME for Zpacks Duplex Setup

And this one for setting up a Duplex in inclement weather:

Setting Up Your Tent in the Wind – Pitching the Duplex Tent in Bad Weather (Tenting in a Storm)

Tent with doors open.

Inside of tent.

I got into the tent and sat there for awhile to see how I liked it. The Duplex is a two-person tent, which I prefer for myself because I like to keep all my gear in the tent with me. If you keep things in the vestibules critters will come around at night and nibble your backpack or your shoelaces, and nobody wants that! It feels very roomy and there will be enough room for me to have myself and all my gear organized, although I’m sure it will still look like my backpack exploded. Marnie came over and saw the tent, and she thought it looked much larger than my Big Agnes tent. I don’t know if it’s that much larger, but my Big Agnes Tiger Wall tent has a larger end and a smaller end (head and foot ends), while the Duplex is the same size at both ends, so it does make it seem larger.

Door toggle.

Above you can see that the system for holding the doors back consists of just one toggle strap on each door. It seems to hold securely, but it is hard to maneuver from the inside of the tent. I plan to attach some magnets to hold the doors open, and perhaps some on the front of the doors to hold them closed, if I can figure out how to do it. The idea is to use Dyneema tape to attach the magnets to the tent and place them so the magnets hold through the tape and not through the tent itself, to avoid damage to the tent.

That’s all I have to say about the tent right now. I will update after I set it up a second time. For more info about the tent, see my other blog post here.

Just keep walking!

~Ninja

Backpacking, Food, Gear, hiking, PCT

So. Much. Food.

Hey, remember how I was talking here about how much food I have and how I need to organize it before I go hiking? Well, looky here at the food that was in the resupply boxes in my office.

Each box contained at least 5 days of food, and various other supplies.

Here is a large pile of assorted snacks:

Probably more snacks than necessary…

Let’s just look at it from another angle, shall we?

Yeeks.

Wish me luck!

Just keep walking!

~Ninja

Backpacking, Gear, hiking, PCT

In Case of Emergency

In light of our hiking trip next month, I have set up a file in OneDrive (and on a thumb drive for the Hubs who doesn’t want to deal with OneDrive) with any information needed in case something happens to us. In this file I have included:

  • Instructions on what is in the file and how to find the information, plus instructions to use the map on the Garmin website to track us and follow along with our hike. We use Garmin InReach satellite communicators to communicate with our families if we have no phone signal and to track our hikes, and the InReach has an SOS button that alerts Search and Rescue (SAR) if we have an emergency. These instructions include Marnie’s and Linda’s phone numbers and their husbands’ phone numbers, and the address to message my InReach directly in case my family can’t get me by phone. There is also a sheet detailing the way to find us by latitude and longitude from the InReach. I keep these instructions on the bulletin board in my office so the Hubs can find them easily.

  • Photos of me and the clothes I’ll be wearing.

  • Photos of Marnie and Linda who will be going with me.

  • A document with copies of my ID and the cards I will be carrying with me.

  • A copy of the emergency document I carry with me, which includes my emergency contacts, doctors’ names, and a medication list. “NOBO on the PCT” is noted on this document. I also wear a RoadID ID band on my watch, which has an ID number and PIN to enable first responders to find my pertinent medical info.

  • An information sheet with my description and descriptions of the clothes I’m wearing and my gear, with Marnie’s and Linda’s contact info. Both my big toes have weird toenails, and that is included in the description. (Edit: I just had the right big toenail removed, so one weird toenail and one naked toe.) I also include a photo of my toes!

  • Instructions to follow if we go missing (2 files). Those instructions can be found here and here. They are also printed out and attached to the initial instructions.

  • Photos of all my clothes and gear labeled in alphabetical order. The Fowler-O’Sullivan Foundation , a foundation that helps look for missing hikers, has suggested taking photos of everything down to your toothbrush in case something happens and SAR needs to look for you. The Fowler and O’Sullivan families each have missing hikers on the PCT who still haven’t been found.


A photo of me in my hiking clothes taken shortly after I bought them in Julian, CA. The sunshirt is by the Town Shirt company and it is awesome.

My ditty bag and contents.

My first aid kit.

I have tried to think of anything and everything that could possibly be helpful if something should happen to me or us. Can you think of anything else that I should include?

Just keep walking!

~Ninja

Backpacking, Books, Gear, hiking, PCT

Book Recommendation – Adventure Ready

I recently ordered the book Adventure Ready, A Hiker’s Guide to Planning, Training, and Resiliency, by Katie Gerber and Heather Anderson, and I wanted to say that it’s a big win in my opinion! I just received it a couple of days ago and haven’t had the chance to read the whole thing, but the parts I’ve read are very helpful for pointing both new and experienced hikers in the right direction. If you are interested in any kind of backpacking adventure, this book is a gold mine of information! And if you are interested in reading about awesome rockstar backpacking, I would also suggest you read Heather’s other books, Thirst, about her FKT (Fastest Known Time) hike on the Pacific Crest Trail, and Mud, Rocks, Blazes, about her FKT hike on the Appalachian Trail. Also, check out Katie’s website KatieGerber.com, where she offers online courses, coaching, and other resources.

From the Amazon description:
“In Adventure Ready, renowned hikers Katie “Salty” Gerber and Heather “Anish” Anderson take what they’ve learned both on the trail and through teaching their online classes to a new level: preparing long-distance hikers for all the challenges–physical, emotional, and mental–they may encounter while on the trail for weeks or months. This clear and comprehensive guide sets backpackers up for success with detailed information about everything from the basics of gear selection, navigation, safety, and trip planning to nutritional and physical preparation and body resiliency to how to readjust after returning home. Worksheets and checklists make it easy to stay on top of all the planning a long-distance hike requires, while thoughtful prompts to address the “Why” of your adventure help to keep you motivated.”

I highly recommend this book!

Just keep walking!

~Ninja

Backpacking, Food, Gear, hiking, PCT

Hike Prep

Since we leave for the Oregon/California border of the Pacific Crest Trail in a few short weeks, I have started to prepare for various aspects of the hike. This means ordering assorted gear and attempting to organize food for the trip. The most recent order that arrived for the hike is this “vet” tape, or self-adhesive first aid tape. It can be used to affix a piece of gauze (or a ladies’ panty liner) for a bandage in case you fall and skin your knee and most of your shin, like I did a couple of years ago. The vet tape sticks only to itself instead of pulling off all your hair and 6 layers of skin like regular paper first aid tape will. Also, it comes in all sorts of nifty colors for fun.

Vet tape

When you order it on Amazon it comes in bulk, but I got all this for just $5.99. I obviously will not be bringing all of this tape with me on our hike, probably just one roll (pink), but what a deal, right? And there is plenty to give some to my friends who might like it to put in their first aid kits as well, with enough left over to have some in the home first aid basket and have plenty for next year’s hiking.

The food organization is another thing entirely. I am not a foodie, I don’t know how to food, in fact I stopped eating dinner because I was just tired of trying to figure out how to food. I like to eat food, I just don’t really like to deal with it.

This is 90% food.

Do you see all of this? This is my bedroom corner full of food. It is all food that I bought to fill resupply boxes for me to send myself on trail when we thought we were going to hike the whole PCT. There are also five large flat rate USPS mailing boxes in my office full of food, each box filled with five days’ worth of food. This week I need to go through all of the food, and figure out what I need for meals and snacks to fill boxes to send to the places we will be stopping where there is no food. We often carry too much food, since we aren’t usually very hungry the first couple weeks of hiking. Can you tell that I find this the least fun part of organizing the trip?

I absolutely love putting together my lighterpack.com gear list (which I will share upon request) with links, photos, and weights. I enjoy making the list of things to take on the hike so I don’t forget anything. I like making lists of things I need to buy. I am tickled to death to put together cute little “calling cards” for my friends and me to carry with us, and labels for our gear. Writing up emergency instructions and filling a file full of photos of me, my friends, and all my gear in case something happens to me and they can’t find me just makes me happy as a clam. But food? Nope. Do not enjoy, do not love, don’t like, not tickled, and not happy. It is certainly high up there on the importance list, but it is a chore. Your prayers for me as I organize my food are much appreciated!

Just keep walking!

~Ninja

Backpacking, Cool Stuff, Fun, Gear, hiking, PCT, Tuffy

It’s The Little Things…

Here is the post I promised about some little things I have now for backpacking. I call them “little”, because they will probably seem tiny and unimportant to many, but it makes me happy to have them 😀

First, before we left to start the PCT in California I decided it would be nice to have a card that had my name, trail name, phone number, email address, and Garmin InReach message address to give to people I wanted to keep in touch with. Also, I figured a card like that would make a good label for things like trekking poles. Since my trail name is “Ninja”, I had bought the rights to use this ninja girl image on Etsy awhile back and decided it would make the perfect theme for my little cards. I also made some for my friends Marnie and Linda, with their info and an image especially for them. It was great fun making these!

I had seen on the Hilltop Packs website awhile back that they will make you a dry bag out of Dyneema with your own picture or photo on it! And I mean, ever since the personalized t-shirt craze of the early 80’s I have been fascinated by personalizing my gear, ha. I wasn’t happy with my little ditty bag and other stuff sacks that I had used, so I decided to see what the Hilltop Packs bags would look like. I ordered 2 medium-long bags for electronics and medication, and a medium bag to use as a ditty bag (comb, mirror, pen, toothbrush, etc.) I had the ninja girl and another ninja-themed image I got on Etsy, and I sent one for the ditty bag (to be pink) and one for the electronics bag (to be white). For the medication bag (to be black), I sent them a photo of Tuffy, my old kitty, who passed away last year. And they printed the images on both sides! Here are the bags:

Didn’t they turn out amazing?!

THEN, as I was browsing more ninja things on Etsy, I found a matching key fob, but the posting was only for a pattern and not something I could make myself. I asked the seller if she could make it for me, and she did! It came yesterday. Isn’t it perfect?

Goodness, I do love a theme! 😀

Just keep walking!

~Ninja

Backpacking, Cool Stuff, Fun, Gear, hiking, PCT

New Stuff

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.

Some Pros:
* 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.

Some Cons:
* 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!

~Ninja