I may have only just decided to embark on this journey, but I am already prepared in certain ways for a thru-hike of this magnitude.
Not due to any physical or mental strength. Not because I’ve done something similar. But because I have a weird obsession with the Ultralight hiking blogs and PCT blogs in general.
I’ve been reading about these mysterious American adventurers for years now. 3kg base weights. Speed records. Cowboy camping in the desert and throwing up a tiny lightweight shelter in the mountains.
These crazies are fascinating to me. And I’m about to become one (almost).
I started hiking as a hobby when I moved to the UK. And by ‘hiking as a hobby’ I mean one trip to Dartmoor where I was injured and woefully unprepared, a couple of country-side getaways, a trip to Kerry National Park and a number of visits to Richmond Park. So, I would say I’m Te Araroa-ready.
Perhaps not and I will cover my fitness plan in another post. But I do have, as a result, a number of hiking goods that will serve me well for the trip. Anything I don’t have, I guarantee is already saved to an Amazon list so it won’t be hard to put things together (provided I put together the money, of course!).
I’ve included my draft gear list below with estimate costs (GBP) and weight for those curious! Justifications and thoughts on the list will follow.
Tent – I already had a tent. Kathmandu solo beast weighing 1.73kg but that’s heavy if you have to carry it on your back for 4 months so I have been looking into tents for a while. The ultralight go to is a Zpacks Hexamid solo in all its Cuban fibre glory but it’s a wee bit out of my price range. I was going to bet on a PCT finisher wanting to sell their’s off but that wouldn’t be until Sept/Oct time and given it would have to ship to the UK or NZ it’s just too much of a risk to take. So I moved on to the cheaper Six Moon Designs lunar solo. Two weeks before payday it sold out.
Gah! So on to one I hadn’t heard of before; Big Sky International’s Bivy Tent. Cheaper than both of the previous options and only 544g (*no pegs or guy-lines included). It arrived two days later. I’m pretty happy with my little forest green tent. It’s super light and packs up small. It’s almost smaller than my sleeping pad (Alpkit Numo). I have yet to give it the good old road test but am planning on a few weekend trips. I have stakes and guylines from my Kathmandu tent but I may just invest in some ultralight ones instead – we shall see.
Bag – AlpKit Gourdon 30. That’s 30 litres. This is how I will attempt to keep my weight down. The less space I have in my bag, the less useless crap I can fill it up with. And yet, I’m sure I’ll still manage one or two things that I’ll dump in less than a week. This bag is lightweight and given what I’ve heard about the trail conditions will hold up well in the rain. It’s a waterproof stuff sack essentially. There’s a few mesh pockets on the side which will carry my water. But other than that there really is nothing to it. So, I’ve bought some mesh and some elastic cord and I’m going to fashion a couple of extra modifications which I will blog about here in a few weeks.
Quilt – I’ve been obsessed with the new wave of quilts for backpacking for a while now. I always wanted my own but with the prices being not-so-reasonable I could never justify purchasing one for myself but now, the Te Araroa is the perfect excuse! So, I’ve ordered my own Enlightened Equipment Enigma Quilt (short, wide, 20deg f, 850 fill, grey exterior, burnt orange interior). It’s just been whipped up and sent over and I love it. I don’t so much love the extra £61 I had to pay in customs…. but I do love the quilt.
Clothing is tricky. To be honest, I have no idea how much I’ll weigh at the start of my Te Araroa journey. I’m on my way to losing half my current weight. The thing is, I’ve never weighed what I am projected to weigh in November (even when I underestimate my losing power). So, while my outer-layers and tops will remain oversized I’m going to have to buy my inner-layers and bottoms closer to the departure date. Ultralight is all about commitment!
Even though I will be eating very little cooked food on the trip (I will write about my low-carb situation at some point) I still can’t survive without my coffee addiction. So, I’ve nabbed myself a Kraku (so tiny!) and 400ml cup to cook up coffee and the occasional cuppa-soup.
Other than that I’ll be eating hard cheese, almonds, jerky, dark chocolate, low carb protein bars and other such items. That might sound rather plain but I’ve been known to eat the same meal 3 times a day for a month so I think I’ll be okay. I’ve yet to give this a go so will do some training trips over the next 7 months to test it and measure my calorie intake on a diet of these items.
I’m also aware peanuts and peanut butter are a great low carb backpacking item but I’ve always hated peanuts. I intend on attempting some experiments to see if it really is ruled out.
I’d like to take some good ol’ vegemite with me though.
I’m still deciding whether my heart lies with blogging or vlogging. I have done both since my teenage years – since LiveJournal and the YouTube early years – but with this trip its tricky. Both are a big commitment. Blogging would mean daily blogging presumably and that’s quite the task if you are trudging through bogs and up mountainsides in the rain all to pitch up a wobbly tent and much on almonds while your frozen hands type out your woes of the day.
Vlogging, on the other hand, means stopping frequently to get a good shot, carrying a heavy camera (only because I hate mobile phone quality), and also means a massive delay in my ability to get the content out because there is no way I’m carrying a laptop and charger with me on the trail.
I’m leaning towards a bit of both. I’d really like to film the journey so I think I’ll send my laptop to one of my family pit stops and edit part way through. I’ll also blog as much as I can meaning if I’m not up for it I don’t need to do it. As much as I love reading others daily blogs on trail, I think filming the trip is almost more important to me as it has yet to be done in a comprehensive way on the Te Araroa.
This means I’ll need batteries and SD cards. I’m gunning for the Aukey quick charger and Anker battery pack (20100mAh because I’m terrified of losing power) with an additional battery or two for my Canon. Alternatively, I have a travel wall plug that includes one socket and two usb ports but it is rather heavy and wouldn’t charge as fast… but I’m a cheapskate to it might have to do.
Bits and Bobs:
Ladies Talk – I’m already a cup user so that’s an easy decision. It’s perfect for hiking, lightweight and sanitary. Also, I intend on creating a back-country bidet rather than carrying toilet paper.
I have a tiny lightweight knife to carry with me for general cutting assistance. It’s not necessary but I’d like to have it for convenience and its small enough to put on a string around my neck without me noticing.
There’s a few things that might change given the lead up to the trip being 7 months and I intend on testing everything relentlessly in that time but for now this will do and I will update should something happen to convince me to alter the list.