What I'll bring on my AZT yo-yo
For a little while I desperately tried to avoid the cliche of a thru hiker who is obsessed with gear. It seems that most conversations between thru hikers center around all things gear. I didn’t want to just be another gear guy. And while I don’t think I am, I must admit that I do really freakin’ like gear and am excited to share my AZT kit with people. You will probably find it to be way too long for a simple backpacking kit rundown but hopefully you find something useful or interesting in this mess!
For reference, here is my LighterPack link: https://lighterpack.com/r/368goi
Big shoutout to LighterPack for providing an awesome (free!) resource for any backpacker who wants a better idea of what they’re carrying and where they can shed weight. Without LighterPack my load would probably be at least two full pounds heavier.
I am officially going to the dark side and carrying an ultralight kit for the first time! On all past thru hikes (and shorter backpacking trips for that matter) I have never much cared to shed every possible ounce in my pack, and have even proudly carried, “luxury” items that I was often mocked for. Hardcover journal, 1.5L cook pot, wet wipes…the list could go on. Being mocked by other hikers is not why I’m switching to ultralight for this hike! It just makes sense based on the miles I’m hoping to do this Spring in Arizona. I have to average 32 miles a day to achieve my goal. That just feels a lot more feasible with 10-20 lbs on my back on a given day rather than 20-30. But my resistance to ultralight remains strong, and I will happily carry my luxury items again on future hikes. But that’s not what this blog is about.
OK, actual kit now. Hopefully you checked out the LighterPack link but if not, the main stats are a 13.16 lb total weight, 0.49 lb consumable weight, and 3.4 lb carry weight. Basically 0.49 lbs of my stuff will be consumed and thus become lighter, and 3.4 lbs of my stuff is worn/carried so it’s not directly on my back. This leaves the base weight at 9.27 lb. I am really proud of this number! At under 10 lbs, this does qualify as an ultralight kit. It took a lot of work, planning, thinking, and help from some friends to figure out how to get my base weight down this low. Some people may laugh at this, I myself know hikers who easily get down to sub-8 lb base weights. But I’m coming off of a 17 lb base weight last year on the PCT. So I’m proud of 9.27. OK, here’s the full breakdown…
Backpack - Zpacks Nero (10.7 oz): This pack, which I will be using for the first time, is the real, logistical reason I am going ultralight. It is designed specifically for sub-10 base weights; it does not have a load baring hip belt, so putting much more than 20 lbs total in this thing can really kill your shoulders. If I carry full 4L of water and 4 days food my weight will be about 26 lbs. Hopefully I never have that much at any one time but it’s nice to know that is the worst it could possibly get.
Quilt - Enlightened Equipment Enigma, 20 degree, 950 fill (16.1 oz): After thru hiking with a ten year, 3 lb sleeping bag for the last few years, I have finally moved into the new age of outdoor sleep gear and boy am I happy about it. This is an upgrade I was going to make even if I never decided to go for an ultralight kit. This quilt kicks ass, is super light, easily packable, and I’m so excited to sleep in it every night.
Mattress - Thermarest NeoAir Xlite (12.7 oz): I picked up this mattress in South Lake Tahoe last year on the PCT after dealing with durability issues with the REI Flash. It hasn’t disappointed, and I’ve already gotten a good 100+ nights out of it.
Tent - Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 1, Tarp+Poles+Footprint only (24.2 oz): I am expecting mostly to cowboy camp on the AZT, but if I do deal with some rain/snowstorms I have full confidence in this setup. I’ve been using the Fly Creek for two years now, and the tarp-only setup I’ll be carrying is perfect when you don’t anticipate bugs to be much of an issue.
Jacket - Montbell 850 Down Jacket (13.1 oz): I bought this on day 3 of my AT thru hike in 2016 at Mountain Crossings at Neels Gap. I never could have known how much this jacket would go through with me over the next few years. It has never disappointed in all of those miles. Glad to be packing it up for another new trail.
Worn clothing - Salomon Cairn t-shirt, Brooks 5” Sherpa shorts, Darn Tough Vermont quarter socks: Pretty much a repeat of my desert getup last year on the PCT.
Packed clothing - REI Merino Midweight baselayer bottoms, Outdoor Research Helium ii rain jacket, Enlightened Equipment Copperfield Wind Pants, Sherpa Renzing hat, Outdoor Research PL400 Sensor Gloves: The REI tights are a lighter tight than the Under Armour 4.0 tights I’ve hiked with in the past. I’m hoping if they don’t keep me warm enough on really cold days the EE wind pants will come in handy. I got those, and the OR Helium courtesy of Outdoor Evolution. It’s a new online community centered around promoting outdoor adventures/content, and I’m proud to be a small part of it. You can check out their website here: https://theoutdoorevolution.com/ They were nice enough to help me out with some gear that ended up being the final push I needed to get my base weight where it needs to be. I feel so so thankful to OE.
Water bottles - 1L Smartwater bottles ( 1.3 oz): A lot of people I know will probably give me shit for this. I have SWORN by Nalgenes for pretty much my entire hiking career. And I still do! I freakin’ love Nalgenes! But they’re heavy. I have to admit it. And in going ultralight the Smartwater bottles just make sense. Plus they fit perfectly with the Sawyer Squeeze that I’ll be carrying. Alas, I’ll be back to the Nalgenes soon enough.
Filter - Sawyer Squeeze (3.2 oz): I really liked the Katadyn BeFree that I used on the PCT last year. My only knock on it is that it can be a bit more of a timely filter than the Sawyer Squeeze. These filters are finicky and can break kind of easily, but if you’re careful with them they work great, and make for quick drinking, good for adding a mile or two to your total every day.
Bladder - CNOC Vecto 2L (2.6 oz): Another piece of gear from OE - so much better than my original bladder plan!
Full cook kit - spork, cold soak jar, knife: Yep, I’m going stoveless. After proudly cooking three meals a day to the laughter of other hikers all last summer on the PCT, I will go to no cooking at all. I’m not happy about it. But I’m going for miles and speed. Cooking and the extra time, weight and water it requires just aren’t conducive to that.
Phone charging system - Anker PowerCore 10000 mAh charger + Anker dual port 12W wall charger: Anker hands down makes the best charging products, and I doubt I’ll ever go with another brand. I’m going with the 10000 mAh over my 5000 mAh, even though it’s slightly heavier. I don’t think I’ll ever have to get close to worrying about my phone dying with the 10000 so it seems worth the extra 2 oz.
Shoes - Altra LonePeak 3.5 (11.5 oz, each): Switched to these from the Brooks Cascadia 12 and will never look back. This shoe is amazing, plain and simple. I bought three pairs for this hike, which should be enough. I was getting 700-800 miles out of each pair last year, so I’m estimating 600-700 given that the AZT terrain will be tougher in general than the PCT.
Poles - CNOC USA-made Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles (PROTOTYPE): Here’s a cool thing. CNOC is sending me a prototype for their new carbon fiber poles to field test on this hike! I’m pretty stoked to see what they have to offer. This will be the first time I use carbon fiber poles, so I’ll be eager to see how they compare to poles I’ve used in the past, and if they’re worthy of a buy or not in the future. Plus it’ll be fun to do a write up for CNOC after the hike.
If you clicked the LighterPack link you surely notice that I did not breakdown every single piece of gear I’m carrying. This blog is already long enough, and do you really want me to give you details on why I’m carrying toothpaste? So yeah, that’s my kit. I’m really excited about it. There will definitely be some discomforts I have not dealt with on past hikes because of how little I’m carrying, but discomfort is the key to success on a thru hike. If you can learn to embrace the fact that you will generally not be comfortable, you can accomplish some pretty amazing stuff out there.