J and I have been relaxing, eating blueberries, and hanging out with adorable three-year-olds. It’s everything I hoped and dreamed. While I have a moment, I thought I’d give a call-out to my favorite pieces of gear so far.
Favorite piece of gear #1:
My rainpants. I thought about leaving these at home – why would I need rainpants in Southern California? They’ve been a super wind layer. They’ve been the one extra piece of clothing when the puffy jacket just isn’t getting the job done. They’re my in-town pants when the rest of my clothes are in the laundry. Worth the weight.
There are so many tiny odds and ends that I still need, that I just know I need, for this trip. I keep acquiring these bits, flotsam and detritus of gear, tiny LED lights, bitty leathermans, featherweight mirrors, lengths of skinny cord. I don’t think I’ve made it all the way to the lightweight mentality yet – what’s lighter than lightweight? Nothing. Oh well. I’ll shake the crumbs out as I go. Can’t turn myself into hiker trash overnight.
Today I went to REI to fill my need for consumer goods. The aisles filled with nifty gadgets and ingenious gizmos failed to contain almost everything I was looking for. Shiny items all down the row and an empty hanger for me. I paid for most my new, pricey crumbs with a refund on a broken water filter (if anyone decides to buy the katadyn vario, be careful with it – the intake nipple broke off on the first use). Despite having had the filter for years, the first time I tried to use it was a few weeks back, and it broke. Looks like I’ll be replacing it with something else.
Then when I tried to take it back at the checkout, the manager at REI informed me that the return policy had changed. What?? Isn’t the magical return policy the entire reason anyone shops at REI? I always wondered how that policy was working out for them; turns out it wasn’t. (For the curious, you can now only return items within the first year after purchase.) After hassling me a bit the manager ended up giving me the refund anyway, looking the whole time like I’d spat in her breakfast. Serving up favors with a side of scowl, I guess. I can’t see the point of helping somebody out if you’re just going to be mean about it, but I’ll take the refund and skedaddle.
I wish it was time to go, that all the chores were done and apartments cleaned and boxed and licensing exams writ and nowhere to go but forward.
Deciding to hike the Pacific Crest Trail turned out to be just one of many decisions. My initial online sleuthing sent me out into deep morass of innumerable options. The internet quickly informed me that the backpacking gear I already owned wasn’t good enough, light enough, or awesome enough, but couldn’t seem to come to a consensus about just what gear WAS good enough, light enough, or awesome enough.
About this time, I ended up randomly chatting with a guy at a coffee shop who had hiked the PCT the year before. Not only that, he’d managed to squeeze all 2,660 miles in his summer break from med school. His secret? The Ray-way, pioneered by Ray Jardine.
“He’s the king of backpacking ultra-light,” said random guy. “I carried less weight and hiked 30 miles a day.”
I’d heard Ray Jardine’s name before, but only in a climbing context. He invented a new piece of gear, the “Friend”, that ended up revolutionizing traditional rock climbing. I’ve taken falls on them before myself, and a Friend in need truely is a friend indeed.
Anyhow, gotta trust somebody.