A pack is the most important piece of gear on a backpacking trip, and I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail with the Gregory Z55 (2010 model). This pack worked wonderfully for me.
The L-size is actually 61 liters, which fit all my gear perfectly -- sleeping bag/pillow in a compression sack went into the bottom, and it slipped right in with no problems, despite the curved frame.
The adjustable hipbelt was helpful since I, of course, lost weight on the AT. The entire hipbelt and harness system was quite comfortable on me once properly adjusted. And the suspension easily handled loads up to 40 pounds. Beyond that, there was a nice creaking with every step I took.
Most thru-hikers wear out their packs on the AT. Not so with this one. It's ready to go again.
Powerful, efficient, convenient, and lightweight. This light shines very bright, but you can go with a lower setting to conserve battery power if you're just reading a book or cooking dinner. I was carrying backup batteries in my backpack for a long time, but I realised after a while that it takes a really long time for this thing to wear out its batteries -- they last almost forever. And I love that the headband is retractable, making it unobtrusive when stored in my pack.
I never had a problem with the light accidentally turning on in my pack. The red light was great when I was sharing a lean-to shelter with other backpackers who had already gone to bed.
AT thru-hiker tested and approved. (Plus, green is my favourite colour :)
I used this system on the entirety of my solo Appalachian Trail thru-hike. Works like a charm. I got rid of the flimsy "foon" (spork) before even using it, and instead carried a Lexan spoon separately. Over the course of months while using the pot with an alcohol stove, I managed to melt a little of the insulation on the handle closer to the pot, but nothing too significant.
You can carry a good bit inside the pot. In addition to the included bowl, I had a 1-cup plastic mug, a small bottle of Dr. Bronner's soap, a tiny salt/pepper shaker, and my dish towel, with room to spare. In a separate mesh bag, I carried my spoon, sponge, scrubbie, and toothbrush/toothpaste/floss.
Take note that this pot does have a Teflon-like non stick coating on the inside. That means that you shouldn't use metal utensils, although it does make it easier to clean.
I loved the folding handle to keep the lid on while stored, and the pasta strainer built into the lid was helpful on the rare occasion that I actually used more water than was needed. The lid also includes a slot to leave your spoon sticking out of the pot, but I usually just watched the water through this slot to see when it was boiling.
This was indeed the most popular cook system for solo hikers on the AT, and for good reason.
There's no such thing as a waterproof pack cover, so there's no reason to expect that this one will keep your pack fully dry in a downpour. But it does keep the pack dry in light, short rains, and merely damp when the rain is heavier or longer.
But the major problem with this pack cover is that there is no drainage in the bottom of the pack cover, which means that the water just pools in the bottom of the pack cover, soaking whatever is at the bottom of your pack, and adding weight on your back.
Not recommended. Look for one that has a small hole in the bottom of the pack cover to release any water that finds its way inside.
I carried two 2-liter Platypus bottles (along with a single 1-liter Nalgene bottle) on the entirety of my Appalachian Trail thru-hike. I used them every night in camp to carry back water from the water source. During the day, I just folded up the empty bottles and stored them in my pack. But in the rare instances that I needed to carry more than the one liter of water in my single Nalgene, I could fill up one of these and carry it in my pack.
It's not easy to fill up one of these by dipping it in a spring or stream, but if there's water falling from above (ie from a cascade), it'll fill right up. Otherwise, I'd just fill my Nalgene then pour the water into the Platypus. (Or if you're using a filter, just pump directly into the Platypus.)
Do take note that the 2-liter version of this bottle comes with soda bottle-style caps, not as pictured.
These still haven't worn out, even after 2181 miles -- although they are a little dirtier :) Recommended.
Through all my years of backpacking, I never found the perfect water purification system. Water filters give you clean water that's ready to drink immediately, but they're heavy and have a tendency to break and clog. Chemicals are lightweight, but you have to wait at least thirty minutes. And boiling -- forget it; it uses too much fuel.
But after using this device on my entire Appalachian Trail thru-hike, I've found the perfect water treatment system for one to two people. (For larger groups, a filter is probably your best bet.) The water is ready to drink after 90 seconds and the device is relatively lightweight. Plus, it's not too hard to use.
All along the trail, people were curious about this new-fangled little device, and I was happy to tell them how wonderful it was. The Adventurer Opti is definitely the model you want to use; the older models such as the Classic and Journey have been known to have problems, and they're bigger and heavier.
As for the batteries, they're a little harder to find. I ordered the LITHIUM batteries online before my trip, and mailed them to myself up the trail (which may or may not have been against postal regulations, but...). Don't expect to find them in small towns, or even at your local big box hardware store. (And don't even think about using the alkaline version of these batteries; they won't last.)
My first SteriPen malfunctioned after about 500 miles, but Backcountry.com was nice enough to take it back and issue me a refund. I promptly bought a second one and have been happily using it since.
Synopsis? HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
In practicality, a single set of batteries usually lasted me around two weeks at five liters of water a day. So that works out to around 70 liters of water per set of batteries.
When I was carrying my winter gear on the Appalachian Trail, I stuffed my down jacket into this, along with a mid-layer, before I went to bed. Works well enough, and the material felt good on my face. This, of course, went in with my laundry whenever I got to town.
I used these through my entire thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. I replaced about 3/4 of the way through since they were wearing down. These provide extra support for your feet under heavy loads while hiking, but most importantly, they almost completely solve the problem of your toes banging against the toebox of your shoe when you're going downhill (which can mess up your toenails). Highly recommended -- throw out your hiking shoes' factory insoles, because these are what you need.
I wore these shoes on the portion of my Appalachian Trail thru-hike from Pearisburg, VA, to Port Clinton, PA -- 582 miles. As always, I substituted the insoles with a set of Superfeet to add extra support while carrying a heavy pack. Although the sleek design made me feel more athletic, these shoes wore out pretty quickly compared to my Merrell hiking shoes. What did them in finally was a hole on the side of the shoe. They felt great, but make sure you know your European shoe size -- these run a little small. (I cannot speak to these shoes' effectiveness in trail running, however...) Overall, recommended if you want something extremely lightweight, you don't expect them to last forever, and you don't need ankle support.
In the picture, you can see the dental floss holding together my Fireblade until I got into the next town to replace the shoes.
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